Lost, bored and violent — US Marines in Afghanistan

Combat Obscura
Documentary by Miles Lagoze
Available here

This is a documentary the US Marine Corps did not want you to see.

At age 18, just out of high school, Miles Lagoze joined the Marines and had a video camera thrust into his hands. His role at the front line in Afghanistan was to supply the authorities with exciting footage that could recruit other naïve kids into the killing machine.

Lagoze did as he was ordered and some of his material, judiciously edited, was shown on CNN and other outlets.  In Combat Obscura you see the embarrassing bits that were cut out.

Lagoze kept the camera rolling at all times, before and after battle. When he left the military, he took the film with him. 

He cut the scraps together into this unvarnished depiction of the US invasion. The Department of Defence took him to court to stop its release, but he stared them down.

There is not a word of commentary in the film. The story tells itself. 

For the most part what you see is the boredom and stupidity of the US soldiers. They clearly have no idea why they are in Afghanistan, but they are armed to the teeth and are itching to blow things up – all too often they blow up the wrong thing.

The cash value of the equipment each Marine carries is probably equal to the annual income of the villagers whose lives they ransack.  We only see one example of a civilian killed - and the Marines’ crass responses when they realise what they have done.

However, it is pleasing to see them supporting the local economy by smoking heaps of Afghan hashish.

These are strangers in a strange land, lost and violent.  Their assailants are unseen, and their bravery is unremarked upon. 

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