Kassabian, Joseph. “The Hooligans of Kandahar: Not All War Stories are Heroic”, TCK, 2018.
“Not Every War Story is Heroic”
A group of soldiers were dropped by helicopter into the remote mountains outside of Kandahar City during the war in Afghanistan. Hey soon realized that command was not present and that they would have to depend upon each other if they were to survive. It was their mission to train and advise the Afghan National Police and help rebuild the country of Afghanistan. What was left of the Afghan Police station where they were was in terrible condition and it seemed that disease was evident and many of the police officers they are supposed to train were either secret Taliban agents or came from families of Taliban warriors. The rest of them were drug addicts, unable to red and write and child slave smugglers. Taliban sleeper agents or the family of Taliban fighters. The ones that aren’t are often addicted to drugs, illiterate, or smuggling child slaves.
Slim, a Staff Sergeant in his late twenties who was their leader had many mental issues and was, quite basically, insane and an alcoholic who enjoyed war more than peace. One of the men was Joseph Kassabian (the youngest and most junior fire team leader in the squad) and it was his charge to lead a group of young soldiers and he, himself, is only 21-years-old. Before this assignment, he had been a combat veteran and assumes he has seen it all. Actually, he had no idea how bad things can get in war-torn Kandahar.
I must admit that I am such a pacifist that I do not read books about war but nonetheless decided to give this a try. I was immediately pulled in by the realistic way that writer Kassabian paints the war. We see what the men and women of our Armed Forces have had to deal with while on foreign soil. I fought in the Israel Defense Forces so I knew war but the difference was that in Israel we were fighting for survival while in Afghanistan we were fighting for the State Department.
This is a sensitive look at war today and Kassabian has written about it with sensitivity and often with humor. This is really a book about people at war. The soldiers here came together to form a combat unit and found ways to fill the hours of boredom. We read about what our soldiers dealt with every day in a war with seemingly no end from their internal challenges of sleep deprivation, toxic or inept leadership, poor facilities, limited information and false “allies”. We become very aware of the stupidity and boredom of daily existence while deployed.
Here is America’s longest war in all of its realism and honesty yet this is also a story of camaraderie and respect. It is an entertaining and horrific story and gives us a look at what a very small percentage of Americans experienced in Afghanistan.