Thursday, August 18, 2005

Death in Afghanistan

It’s all over the news. A helicopter of the Spanish Army went down near Herat and with it seventeen Spanish soldiers. They were recently arrived to the outpost, belonging to the 29th Airborne Regiment based in Pontevedra, in Galicia, that is Northwestern Spain.

(You would not mind if I turn to GI slang. Would you?. This way whenever the ECHELON watchdog hits this blog would have not much trouble translating…)

Tough shit for our guys. Still one wonders: what the hell were they doing in that god-forsaken piece of real state in the middle of nowhere. Sure, they are NATO forces in some ill conceived mission to defend fucking democracy no-one cares for in a land good only for goats, rag-heads and fucking terrorists, whichever is the order of preference.

Mind you, they were all volunteers. The Spanish army is now a full professional outfit, the draft way gone and forgotten. The armed services provide shitty jobs and poor pay, but there are plenty hogheads that wanna be a hero. A warrior life in the barracks is a bore, but warfare is a deadly shit anyone in his right mind should stay away from.

The brass and the “politicos” are now head over heels to justify the death toll.

Hypothesis 1: a fucking accident. Shit happens. Of all the casualties of he Spanish armed forces in foreign missions, 3 out of 4 have been accidents, traffic or airplane. The largest figure the 62 dead in a plane crash over Turkey back in 2003, on their way back home from Afghanistan in a Ukrainian operated Russian derelict aircraft. The old bureaucratic shit pushing to save on rentals.

Choppers go down. It’s the fucking gravity, you know: the only law to be respected. This taxi was a French built Cougar HT-21 UC, a school bus-size sleek thing with two turbo engines, that weights 10 tons and hauls 24 guys around up to 180 mph. Surely good to fly over la Cote d’Azur but that may doubtfully navigate the sandy Afghan air. Once sand gets into the propellers gear, the grinder clogs up and down you go.

Hypothesis 2: enemy action. This is a war zone, no shit. All households store an RPG-7 grenade rocket launcher, right over the mantle piece, don’t they? This is fucking Indian country, with warlords armed to their teeth and thousands of mother-fuckers ready to do you in just for kicks. They’ve been at war for some thirty years and collected military surplus from the Russians and CIA supplied American goodies like the FIM-02 Stinger surface-air rocket missiles.

You don’t need a helluva lot of training to shoot down a chopper. The RPG’s do it well. These are Russian invented and now cheaply manufactured anywhere contraptions meant to give good firepower to small units, platoon size. They come with up to seven different warheads, depending the use you’re gonna give’m. The most common one, the so called “offensive”, has a contact fuse, but also blows itself after flying half a mile (800 meters). When a chopper just flies overhead, you just have to shoot the thing in the general direction the chopper is flying. The rocket initially overtakes the chopper but after some 500 yards it starts slowing down and, by the time the chopper gets close to, it goes “boom!”. You may be a lousy shot, but if the pilot is not keen and watches for the fireworks he’ll do it for you.

Choppers are vulnerable things. The Cougar has some armor, but a few bits of shrapnel hitting the tail propeller may be enough to bring the thing down to mamma earth.

Either hypotheses won’t matter much to the poor 17 souls that got their bones splattered in the sands of Afghanis-fucking-tan.

It’s the history of the empires. To keep some outposts just in case the barbarians are coming, being those the Parts, Attila the Hun, the Tartars of the Golden Horde, the Zulu, the dervishes in Khartoum, the Sioux in Little Big Horn or the Red Army tank divisions over the Elbe. But is it there anyone that still believes we are going to find Bin Laden there?. Shadow boxing. For all I know he could just as well be in Marbella, basking by a pool, or in a cozy bungalow in Bermuda, or in the Watergate Apartments. Or admitted in the Mayo Clinic under any other name to care for his alleged renal failure.

In the meantime the soldiers will stand fast and watch for our fucking security… That’s the soldiers feat. I wonder if the Galician bag-pipers will play "Amazing grace" for them.

No comments: