The negative effects of combat were nightmares, and I'd get jumpy around certain noises and stuff, but you'd have that after a car accident or a bad divorce. Life's filled with trauma. You don't need to go to war to find it: it's going to find you. We all deal with it, and the effects go away after awhile. At least they did for me.
I don't think people would climb mountains or jump off bridges with parachutes or kayak Class V rapids if those things didn't offer the brief and horrible illusion of imminent death. They would just be complicated, time-consuming endeavors that we'd steer well clear of because they got in the way of real life.
Of the primary emotions, fear is the one that bears most directly on survival. Children show fear. Adults try not to, maybe because it's shameful, or, in some circumstances, dangerous. The fear response is automatic, though, and your body runs through its reflexes whether you want it to or not.
I decided to start a medical training program for freelancers, only freelancers. They're the ones who are doing most of the combat reporting. They're taking most of the risks. They're absorbing most of the casualties. And they're the most underserved and under-resourced of everyone in the entire news business.
People ask me about 'The Hurt Locker' a lot, and it's an incredible piece of filmmaking - as are 'Band of Brothers' and 'Platoon' and 'Full Metal Jacket' and 'Apocalypse Now.' But they're not necessarily true to war in a literal sense. What they are, really, are brilliant movies about Hollywood's idea of war.
I went to Afghanistan in '96 to write about terrorist training camps south of Jalalabad and Tora Bora, in the mountains. I was there right before the Taliban took over, literally a few weeks before they took Kabul. The frontline wasn't terribly active, but it was definitely there. And they swept into power.
I think human society for tens of thousands of years has sent young men out in small groups to do things that are necessary but very dangerous. And they've always gotten killed doing it. And they've always turned it into a matter of honor and a way of gaining acceptance back into society if they survived.
Well, you got to remember, bin Laden killed 3,000 Americans and, in some ways, he and his ideology killed tens of thousands of his fellow Muslims, including Pakistanis. I understand that that was provocative and complicated for Pakistan, but only if you accept the idea that he was an acceptable member of Pakistani society.
The only thing that makes battle psychologically tolerable is the brotherhood among soldiers. You need each other to get by.
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