Sept. 14, 2010 -- In his book "Infidel," author and photographer Tim Hetherington relates a gripping tale of brotherhood and war. Hetherington profiles a single American platoon based in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan, one of the country's most violent areas, as they live in exposed outposts and fight through gunfire.
Read an excerpt of the book below.
From the Foreward by Sebastian Junger
Their name for us was 'Infidel'. We were in the Korengal Valley, in eastern Afghanistan, and the US military could listen in on enemy radio communications in the area. 'The infidel are at their base.' Sometimes they called us much worse things, but 'infidel' was thier favourite, and after a while the men began to tattoo the word in huge letters across their chests.
A certain amount of warface is posturing, in the Korengal the fighting happened at several hundred metres, so for the most part this posturing was lost on the enemy. It was mainly meant to be appreciated by the other men in the unit.
Along with 'Infidel', the soldiers also tattooed bullets and bombs and eagle wings and names of their dead on their arms. then on quiet days they lifted weights so that these tattoos were stretched across masses of muscle that Achilles would have balked at.
"It seemed to be the definition of a moment where there's no story to tell, and yet that wasn't quite true. Creeping through the outpost came Tim, camera in hand, grabbing photographs of the soldiers as they slept. 'You never see them like this,' he said to me later. 'They always look so tough, but when they're asleep they look like little boys. They look the way their mothers probably remember them.'
He was absolutely right. I opened my notebook and wrote a description of what it was like to be at one of the most exposed outposts in the entire American sector with virtually every man asleep.
The truth was that Tim saw things very differently from the way I did; he wasn't looking for dynamism so much as for beauty or strangeness or even ugliness. There were a lot of pin-up girls in the hooches, for example, and there were also a lot of flystrips and a lot of ammunition. Sometimes those three things converged on a bedpost in ways that were easy to overlook until you noticed Tim staring at them intently while adjusting the aperture on his camera.
I'd watch this and realize that what he was capturing on film was utterly essential to the experience out there. There was the most potent thing you were deprived of -- sex -- there was the ugliness and discomfort of the place itself -- millions of flies -- and then there was the one thing that made it feel important and, yes, worthwhile: the ammunition. The guns. The combat."
Foreward © 2010 Sebastian Junger.