Briton Ben Anderson is a documentary filmmaker (the BBC, HBO, the Discovery Channel), but he turns to the written word in No Worse Enemy: The Inside Story of the Chaotic Struggle for Afghanistan. The book offers a gritty – and grim — assessment of the war.
Anderson embedded with U.S. and British troops for months in the southern part of the country from 2007 to 2011. He details corruption, incompetence, fear — by both allied troops and Afghan civilians — and a Groundhog Day kind of existence., where a battle fought for days has to be fought again, later. Most distressingly, he argues that the American and British publics are getting a misleading picture of progress on the ground. Battleland conducted this email chat with Anderson last weekend.
Why did you write No Worse Enemy: The Inside Story of the Chaotic Struggle for Afghanistan?
I’d been travelling to Helmand for five years, first in 2007 with the Brits, then later mostly with the U.S. Marines, covering every major operation since the war in the south was taken seriously.
Despite new troops, extra resources and new polices, it kept getting worse.
It was more dangerous for me and the troops I was with, Afghan security forces didn’t seem to be improving, and perhaps most importantly, locals were not being won over but instead were complaining of civilian casualties, damage to their homes, being inconvenienced and disrespected, or preyed upon by the Afghan police.
Yet in the second half of 2010, statements from Kabul, Washington and London kept talking of progress, goals being met and the Taliban being on their last legs.
This was the exact opposite of what I had been seeing, so I felt that I had to write this book.
Phi Beta Iota: The imagination of the five billion poor is the one infinite resource we have to work with, and INTEGRITY is how we leverage that resource. Lies are toxic. Lies kill our comrades, deplete our treasure, gratify our enemies, and diminish our spirit. We have sworn an oath to defend the Constitution of the USA against all enemies, domestic and foreign. In our view, civil servants and uniformed officers who agree to lie for political purposes that are not in the public interest are betraying the public trust and failing to defend the Constitution against domestic enemies far more threatening to our values and our prosperity than any combination of foreign enemies. The truth at any cost lowers all other costs. Telling lies for political reasons is NOT patriotic, nor is it professional.
Bob Seelert, Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide (New York): When things are not going well, until you get the truth out on the table, no matter how ugly, you are not in a position to deal with it.
Editor, “Afghanistan: The truth behind the revelation,” Workers World, 25 July 2012
Kevin Foster, “Truth in war: what the ADF won’t tell us about Afghanistan,” The Conversation.edu, 3 May 2012
Jill Reilly, ‘How many more must die supporting a mission that is failing?’ Senior U.S. officer breaks ranks to expose ‘truth and lies about Afghanistan‘, MailOnline, 8 February 2012
LtCol Daniel L. Davis, “Truth, lies and Afghanistan:How military leaders have let us down” (Armed Forces Journal, February 2012)
Mike Baker “The Ugly Truth About Afghanistan,” FoxNews (Text), 13 November 2011