In 2003, I was in Afghanistan for the first of many such trips.  I was the executive officer for our Special Forces company, and we got our mission to move to Camp Harriman, down in Orgun-e.  Back then, it was just a small camp, hesco barriers, triple-strand, with not much to it.  Oddly enough, it was placed at the center of a valley and not on the hillside, which we referred to as OP1.  That used to be the old Russian base, so the US thought it best not to occupy the best defensible site, so as to not stir the ire of the local inhabitants. To be fair, the rocket and mortar attacks were less effective because it was harder to vector on us, being just a blob of buildings on the floor of the valley and not on a nice hill, so we had that going for us.

I had, as one of my many duties, the unenviable task of supervising the burn-pit.  Well, not the type of burn-pit that civilians think, but a place, where all the cut-down 55 gallon drums full of shit and piss would end up to be topped off with gasoline and lit on fire.  There are few things in this world less appetizing than the smell of 100s of US military red/white/blue turds on fire.  Without exception.

Well, being good, damn Americans, we contracted the task of actually moving the drums and setting them on fire to trustworthy locals.  In fact, there was only one trustworthy local and his son, who accepted the job.  He was an Afghan of indeterminable age.  Life is hard there and he could have been 35 or 65 for all I knew when I first met him.  By the way, I did try my best to stay up wind of him at all times, but he always wanted to shake hands and hug.  I think it was his way of politely saying screw you.

I was so green and naive that I didn’t have the sense to be afraid.  It was all a big adventure.

Anyway, I got to know the shit-burner (sorry, I can’t remember his name) pretty well.  Found out that he fought the Russians as a mujaheddin fighter.  He would regal me stories of his time and his youth.  He was older, as I came to learn, than I had thought.  As time progressed, his roots on his beard would show through as white.  Seems he dyed his beard to show youthfulness.  Nice to know that America isn’t the only self-conscious group of people in the world, isn’t it?

Well, one particular day, a group of younger contractors came onto the base. I guess that they ran the cooks and other people on the base.  Anyway, they took to yelling and demeaning the shit-burner because he was a shit-burner and from a lower tribe.  They were Pashtun .  By the way, I was getting all this through my translator because I don’t speak Dari or Pashtun.  Although, I was getting pretty decent at understanding some of it by the end of my tours.  So, being a conscientious sort, I interjected into the conversation and took the Pashtuns to task for their behavior toward an elder and a hero of Afghanistan.

So, I won the shit-burner over as a life-long friend that day.  Don’t exactly know if that was a good thing, but hey, small victories in the greater game, right?  Well, after that encounter, the shit-burner, well, he opened up more to me about his past and life.  One story in particular that he told me, was his killing of this one particular Russian soldier.  I believe that the soldier was Tajik (Russians used a lot of relatively local inhabitants to fight the war, but mixed up the ethnicity to prevent favoritism).  Anyway, that soldier was captured by the muj, by my shit-burner specifically.  He told me that he threw him down a well and for several days, would throw stones at him until he died.  No questions were asked, no food or water given, my shit-burner just stoned the guy to death.

When I asked him if he did it for his religion or because the guy was Tajik, he said, no.  His response was that he just liked killing Russians –which he stated while laughing.

Some people kill and destroy for reasons that are understandable: hatred, envy, avarice, or simply to survive.  Others will destroy because they can.

I tell you this to make you ask yourselves whether we have a president, who will see our destruction for his own personal satisfaction?  Are we at the bottom of the well?