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Why Can't Mainstream American Journalists Tell the Truth About the Horrors of America's Wars?

Sebastian Junger's new documentary "Restrepo" presents the story of US soldiers at an isolated combat outpost, keeping Afghan suffering safely off the screen.

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In what passes for a poignant scene in Restrepo, Captain Kearney addresses his troops after a sister unit takes uncharacteristically heavy casualties.  He says that they can take a few moments to mourn, but then it’s time to get back into the fight.  It’s time for pay-back, time to make the enemy feel the way they’re feeling.  He then gives his men time for prayer.

If Kearney ever called his troops together and set aside a moment for prayer in memory of the civilians they killed or wounded, Junger and Hetherington missed it, or chose not to include it.  Most likely, it never happened.  And most likely, Americans who see Restrepo won’t find that odd at all.  Nor will they think it cold, insensitive, or prejudiced to privilege American lives over those of Afghans.  After all, according to Junger, “military callousness” has gone the way of America’s Vietnam-vintage F-4 Phantom fighter-bomber. 

If Americans care only sparingly for their paid, professional soldiers -- the ones A.O. Scott says deserve 90 minutes of our time -- they care even less about Afghan civilians.  That’s why they don’t understand war.  And that’s why they’ll think that the essence of war is what they’re seeing as they sit in the dark and watch Restrepo.

Nick Turse is the associate editor of  An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation , and regularly at TomDispatch. He is the author of The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives .  His latest book, The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso), which brings together leading analysts from across the political spectrum , will be published in September.   His website is

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