aPriL does feral sometimes 's Reviews > Green on Blue

Green on Blue by Elliot Ackerman
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I think given the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, the publishers could have more accurately titled this novel, 'Green on Blue, Green on Green, Blue on Blue, and Green on Blue on Green on Blue on Green on .....' The title and colors mentioned refer to the uniforms worn by American and Afghan soldiers. Green on blue means an unexpected attack by allied Afghan soldiers occurred against American soldiers.

According to the bio in the book, Elliot Ackerman, the author, served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart. He lives in Istanbul with his wife and two children and he is writing currently (2015) about the Syrian War.

I really liked the novel 'Green on Blue'. It is well-written and I found it difficult to put down once I began to read it. It is a fast read - I finished it in one day. The characters represent the different male archetypes Westerners meet in Afghanistan: the Warlord, the villager, the Afghan soldier, the American black-ops soldier, the Taliban. Basically, the book is a simplified, but realistic fable about an Afghan lad's coming-of-age in a world of endless tribal war, endless Afghan religious and political hypocrisy, and endless Afghan poverty. It may or may not reflect how Afghans see their conflicts, but it definitely reflects my view as a Western armchair participant (reads newspapers while drinking hot chocolate with stocking feet propped up). There is a female character, but she is emancipated for an Afghan woman, i.e., her guardian is kind and provides her with all of the opium she desires.

Aziz grows up, at least until maybe 11 (Afghans don't really do birthdays), as a happy village kid. He and his older brother Ali play and work in the only world they know until bombs and attacks by soldiers strike their isolated mountain village. After the deaths of his parents and later the crippling of Ali, Aziz becomes the breadwinner. To continue the 'rehabilitation' (not really) of Ali, Aziz joins the Afghan Army. By the end of the book, Aziz understands the conflicts of his country better. As a Western reader, I feel the book is an accurate representation of 'The Big Picture' in Afghanistan.

I have the deepest respect for American soldiers, who willingly joined an all-volunteer force to help themselves and their countrymen, especially when they go where they are ordered without having clue. However, I think it is a disgrace when the leadership doesn't have a clue either.

I have read at least four books about Afghanistan: one written by a journalist, two by Muslim writers, one by an ordinary American Christian entrepreneur. They have varied in tone and in depth. Three were novels. What they all have in common is references to the confused tribal alliances and the nature of a culture based on 'Honor' rituals (as in saving face) with death as the penalty for an insult.

As an ordinary American myself, what is clear to me is we need to avoid 'crusading': in countries which are not countries by any definition (especially with no centralized governance); in places with hundreds of multiple primitive non-literate small village tribes that practice a religion which is still practiced as it was around the turn of the century - the 8th century; and a culture which understands the occurrences of accidents, social misunderstandings and the breaking of religious rules as insults demanding the immediate penalty of murder or torture or slavery to satisfy a 'justice' which is nothing like Western culture's definitions or logic.

I'm reminded of a fable: http://www.snopes.com/critters/malice...

or more plainly,

A scorpion, being a very poor swimmer, asked a turtle to carry him on his back across a river. "Are you mad?" exclaimed the turtle. "You'll sting me while I'm swimming and I'll drown."

"My dear turtle," laughed the scorpion, "if I were to sting you, you would drown and I would go down with you. Now where is the logic in that?"

"You're right!" cried the turtle. "Hop on!" The scorpion climbed aboard and halfway across the river gave the turtle a mighty sting. As they both sank to the bottom, the turtle resignedly said:

"Do you mind if I ask you something? You said there'd be no logic in your stinging me. Why did you do it?"

"It has nothing to do with logic," the drowning scorpion sadly replied. "It's just my character."

Afghanistan is literally a medieval country. Period. They have no interest in the 21st century. Full stop.

The West got justice by killing Osama bin Laden (in Pakistan). Now we need to leave countries like this alone to their own ideas of governance. Yes, if my country is directly attacked, I think we should attack back. In the case of non-state terrorism directed against my country, yes, I would like to see the perpetrators caught and brought to legal justice, if possible. As an educated female Westerner, I am appalled and horrified by the culture of Afghanistan and other Muslim theocracies. Nonetheless, time and experience has proved - PROVED - Westernized beliefs cannot be imposed on other cultures, no matter how beneficial we think Western culture is.

I am VERY happy I was born into a mostly secular Western nation. I am VERY sad that women and children suffer from living in theocracies. I hate theocracies of any kind.

If you are an Afghan, this book is a great read to see how a sizable group of Westerners see Afghanistan and how they see American involvement is playing out there. It is a very simplified, sound-bite understanding, true, but that is how it is.

It is not that we Western citizens can't see how a war economy is corrupting Afghanistan, or how deep our ignorance is, and that we don't know we are ignorant of Afghan culture, but the novel shows the 'street' Western understanding of how corrupt Afghan tribal politics was and is, in the first place, LONG before the West invaded. We Westerners intensified what was already there. The economies of many neighboring Muslim countries surrounding Afghanistan are opaque, stratified and manipulated, but Afghanistan is a special case of impoverishment and systemic ignorance. The fact that different Muslim theocracies have different levels of education and wealth, even when tribes share cross-border family genealogies through marriages and births, appear to indicate governance policies have some contribution to the ignorance and poverty of a theocracy.

I personally don't believe the West can fix this on ANY level.
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Reading Progress

March 15, 2015 – Started Reading
March 15, 2015 – Shelved
March 15, 2015 –
30.0% "I'm loving it."
March 16, 2015 –
March 16, 2015 – Shelved as: illuminating
March 16, 2015 – Shelved as: macho-man
March 16, 2015 – Shelved as: politics
March 16, 2015 – Shelved as: poverty-and-ignorance-suck
March 16, 2015 – Shelved as: religious-terror
March 16, 2015 – Shelved as: unbearably-sad
March 16, 2015 – Finished Reading

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