'Not From Here,' stories by Nathan Deuel

You are not alone; we are all alone

Northwestern Afghanistan

Northwestern Afghanistan is both real and more real than you can imagine. (Image via Wikipedia)

Another dream. I’m at a crowded airline terminal, and all the other waiting passengers are American high schoolers: Rowdy, urban, multi-cultural, coiled with teen-aged energy.

Under the fluorescent lights, against the soft hush of the industrial carpet, a hefty boy with tanned skin, dark hair, and pimples stands to give a Heil Hilter salute.

He’s rooted there there, tall — is he Mexican, from Latin America? he’s a citizen, though — ramrod and with a blank face, giving this awful salute.

Catcalls ensue. “No he didn’t!” “Oooooh.” “Damn, that boy crazy!”

But he just stands there, rigid, unmoving, this real boy doing something real. Read the rest of this entry »

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Filed under: Afghanistan, U.S. Military, War, World, Writing, , , , ,

I dream of war

John McCain waits to deliver speech in Denver,...

Image via Wikipedia

Woke up early this morning with John McCain slapping me on the back. I was in fatigues, standing among fellow soldiers for some sort of honor guard ceremony. I leaned uninjured against crutches, trying to fake my way out of fighting. McCain, his big scarred face a plastic mask of fellowship, slapped me on my back again and nearly knocked me over. Then a towering, super-buff Latino General — of higher rank somehow than McCain — came over and laid his crushing, buff arm over my head. This Latino General regarded the field of soldiers, the gleaming guns, the spectators in the stands. How was I lucky/unlucky enough to have the two important guys on either side of me? Then I realized the Latino General thought McCain was a bullshit pussy, and I — with my glasses and touch-typing fingers — was someone just as bad.

“Nerds better be giving up on robots,” the Latino General said, crushing my head and making my fake crutches crumble. He looked at McCain and sneered. “This war is among men.”

***

Surrounded by war these days: Saudi with Yemen, America in Afghanistan, and maybe soon, Israel versus Lebanon, and my oldest friend heads to an Iraq FOB this summer. Feels like there’s no refuge, especially late at night.

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Filed under: Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Military, War, World, Yemen, , , , , ,

David Rees is unstoppable

David Rees is unstoppable.

Rees: Still getting his war -- with what? -- on.

After 9/11, when we were all flailing and searching for direction, I drank too much. We all did. We hand-rolled cigarettes, listened obsessively to NPR, and got really familiar with all the -Stans.

In the midst of all the epic Sy Hersh stories and On Point broadcasts from Boston, there began circulating these insane cartoons. Illustrated only with clip art, the strips were searingly critical, explosively funny — digs at us, at you, and at them. No cow was sacred.

The name of the new phenomenon was as strange as the content was sophisticated: My New Fighting Technique Is Unstoppable. We were entranced. Then suddenly it was Get Your War On. We still sought it out, even trying to make contact with the writer. Then just as quick, the work was appearing on the editor’s letter page in Rolling Stone.

We moved on. But the writer kept working. I lost track.

Now — and for some time — he’s lived on True/Slant, where his fiery production continues. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: 9/11, Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Entertainment, Journalism, Writing, , , , , , , , , ,

The two best pieces you'll read about Afghanistan and Pakistan

In this image released by the New York Times, ...

David Rohde in Afghanistan in September 2007. (Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife)

If Iraq is increasingly the forgotten war, I fear too that memory and foresight could soon fails us in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Given news that NATO ministers have endorsed General McChrystal’s plans for more American troops, clear-eyed vigilance is even more urgent. Here are two sources to sharpen your knowledge.

The first is New Yorker writer Jane Mayer’s devastating assessment of the growing U.S. “drone” program. The twin military and CIA programs use a convoluted web of contractors, official authorizations, and shady Bush-era kill commandments to seek out and assassinate key Al Qaeda operatives. The thing is, scores of civilians have been killed or injured in Afghanistan and worse, in Pakistan, with whom we are not at war. And earlier this year, one of the drones, called a Predator and armed with Hellfire missiles, went astray and had to be shot down. Even with important enemies taken out, is this program worth the collateral damage?

Helping answer that question is David Rohde’s stunning five-part account of his capture, seven-month detention, and ultimate escape attempt from the Taliban. The drama of his personal ordeal is riveting enough. Better still is his almost revolutionary access to Taliban in their natural habitat. Moved by his kidnappers from southern Afghanistan into the Talib microstate in northern Pakistan, this New York Times reporter has first-hand intelligence on the cold-blooded leaders, fanatic underlings, and tragic malevolence of a little-understood movement. Guess what? His captors are terrified of being vaporized by a drone. But when one strikes nearby, more recruits join the Taliban fold.

This is Obama’s war. It’s confusing; it’s heartbreaking; it’s not going away. The least we can do is our homework. And Mayer and Rohde are essential sources.

Bonus: My friend Adam B. Ellick makes video documentaries for The New York Times. This is his harrowing, heartbreaking story from Swat.

Filed under: Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Media, New York Times, Pakistan, Taliban, The New Yorker, , , , , , , ,