On the left is a picture of Staff Sgt Olaf Schmid. He’s been described by his superiors as the “bravest and most courageous” man”, and died defusing a bomb on the last day of his gruelling 5 month tour of duty. He’d defused over 60 bombs while in Afghanistan and his commanding officer refers to him simply as a legend.
And this is President Hamid Karzai with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. After some muted and guarded congratulations from world leaders, President Karzai will try to legitimise his presidency with a crackdown on corruption and work with what his “Taliban brothers”.
Over in Pakistan, the government have taken the bold step of putting adverts in newspapers offering a bounty of $600,000 for the capture – dead or alive – of Taliban leader in Pakistan – Hakimullah Mehsud. He already has a bounty on his head offered by the US. Nearly 300 people have been killed by bomb blasts across Pakistan since mid-October and these attacks have been blamed on the Pakistani Taliban.
A day after world leaders called on President Karzai to implement a new chapter for the troubled country and for all the negotiations about more troops, increasing security and stabilizing the country, what exactly is the true cost of war? The three examples in this post happened on the same day, each one having a troubling effect on the families and friends of those involved.
Do soldiers’ families watch the news and remind themselves of the mission their loved ones are undertaking? Does freedom and democracy mean anything when lives are being lost? As Staff Sgt Olaf Schmid’s widow said “Oz was a phenomenal husband and loving father who was cruelly murdered on his last day of a relentless five-month tour. He was my best friend and soul-mate. The pain of losing him is overwhelming. I take comfort knowing he saved countless lives with his hard work. I am so proud of him.”
The human face of war can be illustrated in many ways, but where should the real focus be? On the families of those who’ve been killed – soldiers, Afghans and Pakistanis, or on the political processes that have caused, and can end these deaths?