The “dirty” war of Afghanistan of the Soviets, becomes very topical

(B2) If we want to understand a little about the war currently being waged in Afghanistan under the colors of NATO – and which can lead soldiers to extreme acts such as Nangar Khel –, you absolutely must reread Svetlana Alixievitch’s “Zinc Coffins” (republished by Christian Bourgeois in 2002).

The author – as the publisher presents it – demolished the myth of war
from Afghanistan, in 1990 “liberating warriors and, above all, that of the soldier whom television showed planting apple trees in the villages when in reality he was throwing grenades into the clay houses where the women and children had come to seek refuge".

Since the years have passed, the protagonists have changed and the geopolitical and military context is different. It's certain. But the testimonies collected are very eloquent, and seem terribly current.

For example, on the attack-retaliation cycle.

• An employee : “Why did we start to hate? It is very simple. A comrade was killed even though we had been around him and had eaten from the same bowl. Now he was dead, burned. It's very clear. At those times, we would be able to shoot like crazy. We are not used to analyzing events to discover the causes and the culprits.”

• A lieutenant: “As for the douch, you are a Shuravi, a Soviet, there is no question of him having pity on you. Your artillery destroyed his kichlak, and he found almost nothing of his mother, his wife, his children.”

On discipline and silence:

• A signal soldier: “Before our return, the political instructor explains to us what we can tell and what we must keep quiet. No right to talk about the dead, because we are a great and powerful army. We must not dwell on anything that is not regulatory, because we are a large and powerful army, powerful and morally healthy. You have to tear up the photos. Destroy dandruff. Here we have not shot, not bombed, not poisoned, not blown up. We are a great, strong, morally sound army.”

• A sapper lieutenant: “No one has the right to judge us. (…) Nobody wants to understand this war, we have been abandoned alone with it. Let us manage in short. We are the guilty ones, it is up to us to justify ourselves. In whose eyes? We were sent there. We believed what we were told. We got killed for that. We have no right to put ourselves on the same level as those who sent us there.”

On the soldiers' equipment:

“The soldiers dressed themselves, put on shoes, and fed themselves on their own. Our bulletproof vest can barely be lifted because it is so heavy, while the American vest does not contain any metal parts, it is made of a special material.”

(Nb: ask a French soldier how our soldiers are equipped and you will be surprised to see that he might not completely deny this quote dating from 20 years ago… Also read a testimonial from norwegians).

Public chat eternal Afghanistan:

• A signal soldier:  “I discuss with a doukanier: “you weren’t living as you should. We will teach you how to live. We are going to build socialism.” He smiles: “I was doing business before the revolution and I will continue to do so. Go home. Here are our mountains. We will manage without you…”.”

Or as Spesserov says quoted by a military adviser "We can't buy Afghanistan, we can only buy it from others".

To meditate ! We can wonder when we will have identical work done on the intervention of FIAS-IFAS if we will not have the same testimonies...


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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