Last night I spent a lot of time thinking about the documentary Restrepo that we watched last night on NatGeo. My father and I talked for quite a while about it after it ended.
Dad is staunchly conservative, served in the Army at the time of the Korean War (though he saw no combat) and typically defends the need for our country to use force when our leaders feel we are threatened. But this was a tough film to watch not just for me but for Dad as well.
This is not a film that has an "Anti-War" point of view. I feel the film makers did a great job of just capturing the 15 months this unit was in the Korengal Valley, just showed it like it was. The missions, the living conditions, talks with individual soldiers about a variety of things. It captures the Grunts point of view, certainly not the big picture. The leader of these men Captain Dan Kierney is also featured as the camera follows him as he makes life and death decisions, on the spot. And sometimes men die as a result....The Captains honest, frank and emotional comments are gut wrenching in the context of everything we are seeing. A very honest attempt by the film makers in my opinion to be as objective as possible.
That's what made this tough to watch....it's hard to try and understand what we are doing there. That region in Afghanistan is so vast, so remote and forbidding that I have no idea how one can conquer or tame it or it's inhabitants. It becomes increasingly frustrating has we follow these guys in their dealings with the locals who are caught in an impossible situation. When they cooperate with us, the Taliban kills them and when they cooperate with the Taliban, we kill them....what the hell are they supposed to do. Its an oversimplified but accurate description of the catch-22 they find themselves in every day.
I felt overwhelmed after watching this film even though these events now are 3 years in the past. I have no idea if the situation there is any more favorable now then it was then. All I can say is that it looked like an impossible job to try and win the hearts and minds of those local Afghans after watching this film. I suspect from our talk that my father feels the same way.
I really recommend this documentary even more now that I had a night to think about it. I thinks its important for us to see and learn as much as we possibly can about the War In Afghanistan. Though far from a perfect film or an objective one, I think it captures those moments in time, those men and their mountainside as it was for them. And it let's the viewer decide for themselves what they think about it all....