No jobs, no money – ordinary Afghans pay the costs of war

(Photo: Traditional market in Herat Afghanistan. 25-5-09
Copyright © Guy Smallman. All rights reserved.)

I spent a fascinating evening in London on Thursday listening to two men who have stepped away from mainstream political thinking and policy on Britain’s military adventures in Afghanistan, both of them having experienced the place for themselves.

The first was Ben Griffin, an ex-SAS soldier who served tours of duty with the British army in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2005, after three months in Baghdad, he quit in protest at the tactics being used by occupying forces in that country. He went on to set up Veterans for Peace UK, whose aim is to resist war through non-violent action, to support persecuted war-resisters and to counter militarism in society through education.

He spoke alongside the British photojournalist Guy Smallman, one of the few to work unembedded in the country, which is to say out on his own without military minders. Smallman’s choice of subjects breaks the mould of most UK press coverage out of the country, which focuses on British troops. He looks instead at the everyday lives of Afghans and the ways in which war and occupation have left many of them destitute.

“The big problem in Afghanistan is povery, poverty and unemployment. They affect everyone,” he said.

Smallman showed excerpts of an exhibition and a short film he compiled to mark the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan. It is now available for groups to host by contacting the Peace News office on +44 (0) 20 7278 3344.

Below is a brief smartphone video interview I did after the event, inspired by the VisionOntv mobile template. I got an audience member to shoot the pictures while I asked a couple of questions. The idea is to practice, and have others practice, doing the sort of public-interest citizen journalism I promote in Fraudcast News. The sound is more dogby than dolby, my fault, a problem I’ll have to remedy next time.