This is U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Sarah Baker with a group of children during a security halt in Qalat City, Afghanistan. Baker is assigned to the Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul’s security force and is deployed from Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.
It is a staged picture, obviously, directed by the photographer, or, worse, by headquarters’ PR person. They called the kids over and asked them to slap five, or worse, bussed the kids over from their neighborhood, or, worse yet, hired the kids and the soldier from Central Casting – we have no idea.
So that, strangely, this image of a female U.S. soldier joshing with a group of Afghani children represents bot a reality but a kind of visual wishful thinking. Because we know there aren’t in the world Afghani children joshing with U.S. soldiers, not in the wild, anyway. Because Afghanistan is quickly retreating into what it has always been, a backwards, mountainous, harsh land, with a warlike people who grow poppy and kill each other for sport.
Somehow, the U.S. leadership figured it could succeed in “civilizing” the Afghani, save their women from a life of slavery, educate their children, improve their hospitals – after the Soviet Union and the British Empire and half a dozen other invaders have failed.
Or maybe it just gave us something to do to while away the time and the budget. Folks got rich, nothing to scoff at.
So we’re looking at a soldier and some children pretending to be having some cross-cultural fun together, as dreamed up by a PR team in a conquered country soon to be left to its own devices at the whopping cost of many billions of dollars.
Your tax dollars at make-work?