If you saw the photos and video of U.S. troops having a Thanksgiving meal in Kabul that circulated a few days ago, they seemed to have a sad, orphan vibe to to them. (In particular, listen to Spc. Derek Biallas of San Lorenzo, Ca., defensively insisting in the AP clip how the troops are loved by the nationals, and they do want us there.)
With the war otherwise invisible, the fact these photos surfaced at all served as much as an awkward reminder of their scarcity. And then, the presence of the cameras seem so random and out of context, I wonder if the soldiers even knew there would be photographers present. Finally, on the heels of an election that focused so heavily on leadership, followed shortly by the Petraeus scandal which also tarnished top military brass, what’s also notable about the imagery is how anonymous the soldiers seem and how token their visibility. Certainly there is no Michelle Obama nor Dr. Jill Biden to foster connection or appreciation, nor can we tell who the commanding officers are or whether they are present. Many of the media stories, in fact (1, 2), hardly mention the name of the base, or bother to identify the divisions or units the soldiers belong to. Maybe it’s because security has become that bad the info is hush-hush, but it contributes to a depressing lack of ownership.
Buzzfeed, by the way, is one of the few sites that bothered to put together a cross-section of photos to see in one place.
(photo 1 & 3: Shah Marai/AFP/AFP/Getty Images. caption: US soldiers wait in line for their Thanksgiving Day meal on the premises of the Kabul International Airport on November 22, 2012. photo 2: A.P.)