Skip navigation
Help

Military history

warning: Creating default object from empty value in /var/www/vhosts/sayforward.com/subdomains/recorder/httpdocs/modules/taxonomy/taxonomy.pages.inc on line 33.

As Myanmar emerges from a half-century of isolation under a dictatorship, President Thein Sein's new civilian government has launched a series of reforms. At the top of the list is the eradication of widespread opium poppy farming. Myanmar produced an estimated 610 tons of opium in 2011, making it the world's second-biggest supplier after Afghanistan, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. In an unusually open gesture, Myanmar officials allowed a Reuters reporter and photographer to visit former conflict areas, hoping they will examine the campaign and help shed Myanmar's image as one of the world's top drug producers. But the eradication process threatens the livelihoods of poor farmers who depend upon opium as a cash crop. With those concerns in mind, and with recent ceasefires ending years of conflict between the government and ethnic insurgents, Myanmar police and United Nations officials are traveling through the countryside to ask farmers what assistance they need. [31 photos]

Policemen and villagers use sticks and grass cutters to destroy a poppy field above the village of Tar-Pu, in the mountains of Shan State, on January 27, 2012. Myanmar has dramatically escalated its poppy eradication efforts since September 2011, threatening the livelihoods of impoverished farmers. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj)

0
Your rating: None

America’s troops too often come home from war only to remain a step apart from the rest of the nation. The chasm between the military and civilian populations has never been greater. It’s simple math: Less than one percent of Americans now serve in the military, compared with 12 percent during World War II. So after a decade of unrelenting war, with some soldiers and Marines serving four or more combat tours, many Americans still don’t know a single soldier, sailor or airman.

Veterans will tell you that one of the most jarring experiences of their service is the sudden immersion back into a society seemingly unaware that there are any wars going on at all. While they fought, their country went about its business. So they must find their own ways to acknowledge their experiences. A common ritual is the commemorative tattoo. Troops honor fallen buddies, venerate their units, reiterate war mottos, engrave themselves with religious prose, or dream up art that reflects experiences they might not talk about.

Since 1992, Capitol Tattoo has been inking the bodies of returning soldiers in a storefront shop on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring, Md., just north of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the massive Army hospital that is in the process of closing. “They are our family,” says owner Al Herman, of the soldiers who come in for artwork, or just to hang out.

On one day this summer, Herman opened his door to photographer Peter Hapak. The veteran clients rolled up their sleeves, stripped off their shirts, and revealed their scars, hoping that the resulting images would help bridge the chasm of understanding.

Mark Benjamin is an investigative reporter based in Washington, and a contributer to TIME, as well as TIME.com’s military intelligence blog Battleland. You can follow him on Twitter at MarkMBenjamin

MORE: Read Mark Benjamin’s magazine story, “The Art of War,” from this week’s issue of TIME [available to subscribers here]. 

0
Your rating: None

The night before the tenth anniversary of September 11, I flew out to San Antonio to begin a three-week road trip across America with TIME columnist Joe Klein, from Laredo, Texas up to Des Moines, Iowa.

In the seat next to me, a beautiful woman sat caring for her quadriplegic son, who was sitting in the adjacent row with her daughter. Susan Bradley and her daughter were tender and attentive with Matt in a way that made me think his injuries were new. I, shooting my first assignment in the U.S. after 11 years of covering conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Congo, Darfur, Lebanon, Somalia and Libya, assumed he was injured at war. Matt was 24, the age of so many young, American men I have spent years with on military embeds in Afghanistan, documenting the war unfolding over the years and witnessing heavy combat and brutal injuries.

As it turns out, Matt had nothing to do with Afghanistan. Like almost everyone Joe and I would meet on the road trip, the war rested on the periphery of their lives, and their primary concerns were here at home. Matt, a football player in college, and the son of a professional football player, had been rafting in Sacramento, California, when he stepped in to rescue a woman being abused by her boyfriend. As Matt walked away, the man allegedly followed him with a mag-light, and beat him on the back of the neck with the heavy flashlight, causing spinal cord injuries that left him paralyzed.

I don’t know why that moment stuck with me. I just immediately connect everything to the wars I have been covering overseas, and that’s not the case back home. I wrongly assumed all Americans at home were as consumed with our troops in Afghanistan as I was abroad.

Over the last decade, I have come to know details about most Afghan warlords, the infinite humanitarian crises across Africa, statistics of maternal mortality rates of women around the world, but I’ve become a stranger in my own country, unfamiliar with the pertinent issues at home and with what Americans are thinking the year before another presidential election. I generally don’t follow domestic news that much aside from how it relates to the stories I’m covering abroad, like what Americans think of the War in Afghanistan.

In three weeks of extensive interviews and casual conversations, I don’t remember a single person, except for veteran Anthony Smith, who was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq, bringing up the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, without being prompted by a pointed question. Almost everyone spoke about the economy, healthcare and unemployment. People are polarized. Some are angry, and many say they are disillusioned with President Obama.

Working with Joe was quite an honor—for me, it was like a free education of politics in America. I sat in a lot of his interviews and asked him a lot of questions. Of course, I felt incredibly ignorant, because so often they were questions I should known the answers to—about politics in the States, who was running, what their platforms were. But I honestly hadn’t been following them that closely because I’ve been gone.

In fact, I’ve been gone so long that it took a while to familiarize myself with what the scenes were of the story in each city, and what the reoccurring topics of discussion were. Once I did that, I felt like I needed more time to go back and actually shoot because we moved so quickly. The pace of traveling to one city a day made it difficult for me to figure out what there was to shoot. It’s not like there was a specific protest or news event going on. It was just the city, or a gas station, or a diner, so I had to really talk to people and find out where I need to be as a photographer.

Overall though, it was really nice to be home. It was nice to be in my own country, where I didn’t need a translator or a driver. Where I didn’t need to figure out cultural references or what hijab I needed to wear to cover my hair. Americans are really lovely people—friendly, kind and willing to help you out. For me, it was incredibly humbling to come back and spend three weeks just talking to Americans all across the country and listening to what they had to stay.

Lynsey Addario is a regular contributor to TIME. See more of her work here

Read Joe Klein’s cover story from the Oct. 24, 2011 issue of TIME [available to subscribers] here.

0
Your rating: None

Since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, NATO and Afghan troops have relied on outposts, tiny bases erected in some of the least hospitable terrain to ever see combat. The outposts are places of refuge; the troops sleep, fight and sometimes live behind their makeshift walls. Many are no bigger than a tennis court and could only hold perhaps a dozen troops at a time. To protect them from the bullets and rockets of their enemies, NATO troops built walls from tightly-stacked sandbags or Hesco barriers, wire mesh baskets they fill with dirt and rocks that absorb the projectiles.

Donovan Wylie’s new book, Outposts: Kandahar Province and an accompanying exhibition at the U.K.’s National Media Museum show us some of the tiniest such bases in the remote areas of southern Afghanistan. Built by Canadian and American troops over a five year stretch from 2006 to 2011, the photographs in Wylie’s collection explain the practical requirements of the outposts–they are often built on high ground with open fields of fire to overwatch troops patrolling below–and show the crude architectural beauty that accompanies structures designed for practicality and the limits of the terrain. In one photograph, a tiny collection of barriers stands on an escarpment just below a towering peak. Because of their temporary construction, these outposts aren’t likely to survive, as Hadrian’s Wall and Masada, which beckon visitors as remnants of ancient war. That is why photographs are so important—to document how the first war of the 21st century was waged, with the most sophisticated weaponry, often utilized from fortifications that have changed little throughout the centuries.

Donovan Wylie is a photographer with Magnum Photos. See more of his work here. Outposts: Kandahar Province will soon be published by Steidl. The accompanying exhibition will be on view at the National Media Museum in Bradford, the U.K. through Feb. 19.

Nate Rawlings is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @naterawlings. Continue the discussion on TIME‘s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

MORE: Afghanistan: The Photographs That Moved Them Most

0
Your rating: None

From continued “Occupy Wall Street” protests and Amanda Knox’s appeal verdict to Steve Jobs’ passing and the tenth anniversary of the U.S. War in Afghanistan, TIME’s photo department presents the best images of the week.

See last week’s Pictures of the Week.

0
Your rating: None

Africa-based Reuters photographer Finbarr O’Reilly has been going on embeds with Canadian and U.S. forces since 2007, documenting the military struggle in southern Afghanistan. On the war’s tenth anniversary, he recounts his experiences covering the daily lives of soldiers and tells of Sir Elton John’s interest in one of his images of a dusty Marine.

“One of the biggest challenges of being embedded involves finding ways to illustrate the story without showing the Western military in an overly sympathetic or even heroic light. The opening image of this selection feels both honest and representative of the conflict: Despite all their machinery, muscle and technology Western forces have become bogged down in a complex war against a resilient enemy — insurgents who wear lightweight traditional robes and sandals and fight with Soviet-era or homemade weapons. The physical imbalance is striking. But the Taliban have drawn their Western opponents into a battle of attrition and wills on their home turf. Perhaps the most effective weapon the Taliban has is time. Will Western troops still be there in another 10 years?”

0
Your rating: None