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  • I'm going to ask and try to answer,

  • in some ways, kind of an uncomfortable question.

  • Both civilians, obviously, and soldiers

  • suffer in war;

  • I don't think any civilian has ever missed

  • the war that they were subjected to.

  • I've been covering wars for almost 20 years,

  • and one of the remarkable things for me

  • is how many soldiers find themselves missing it.

  • How is it someone can go through

  • the worst experience imaginable,

  • and come home, back to their home,

  • and their family, their country, and miss the war?

  • How does that work? What does it mean?

  • We have to answer that question,

  • because if we don't, it'll be impossible

  • to bring soldiers back

  • to a place in society where they belong,

  • and I think it'll also be impossible to stop war,

  • if we don't understand how that mechanism works.

  • The problem is that war

  • does not have a simple, neat truth,

  • one simple, neat truth.

  • Any sane person hates war,

  • hates the idea of war,

  • wouldn't want to have anything to do with it,

  • doesn't want to be near it, doesn't want to know about it.

  • That's a sane response to war.

  • But if I asked all of you in this room,

  • who here has paid money

  • to go to a cinema

  • and be entertained by a Hollywood war movie,

  • most of you would probably raise your hands.

  • That's what's so complicated about war.

  • And trust me, if a room full of peace-loving people

  • finds something compelling about war,

  • so do 20-year-old soldiers

  • who have been trained in it, I promise you.

  • That's the thing that has to be understood.

  • I've covered war for about 20 years, as I said,

  • but my most intense experiences in combat

  • were with American soldiers in Afghanistan.

  • I've been in Africa, the Middle East,

  • Afghanistan in the '90s,

  • but it was with American soldiers in 2007, 2008,

  • that I was confronted with

  • very intense combat.

  • I was in a small valley called the Korengal Valley

  • in eastern Afghanistan.

  • It was six miles long.

  • There were 150 men of Battle Company in that valley,

  • and for a while, while I was there,

  • almost 20 percent of all the combat

  • in all of Afghanistan was happening

  • in those six miles.

  • A hundred and fifty men were absorbing

  • almost a fifth of the combat for all of NATO forces

  • in the country, for a couple months.

  • It was very intense.

  • I spent most of my time at a small outpost

  • called Restrepo.

  • It was named after the platoon medic

  • that had been killed about two months into the deployment.

  • It was a few plywood B-huts

  • clinging to a side of a ridge,

  • and sandbags, bunkers, gun positions,

  • and there were 20 men up there

  • of Second Platoon, Battle Company.

  • I spent most of my time up there.

  • There was no running water.

  • There was no way to bathe.

  • The guys were up there for a month at a time.

  • They never even got out of their clothes.

  • They fought. The worked.

  • They slept in the same clothes.

  • They never took them off, and at the end of the month,

  • they went back down to the company headquarters,

  • and by then, their clothes were unwearable.

  • They burned them and got a new set.

  • There was no Internet. There was no phone.

  • There was no communication with the outside world up there.

  • There was no cooked food.

  • There was nothing up there

  • that young men typically like:

  • no cars, no girls, no television, nothing

  • except combat.

  • Combat they did learn to like.

  • I remember one day, it was a very hot day

  • in the spring,

  • and we hadn't been in a fight

  • in a couple of weeks, maybe.

  • Usually, the outpost was attacked,

  • and we hadn't seen any combat in a couple of weeks,

  • and everyone was just stunned

  • with boredom and heat.

  • And I remember the lieutenant walking past me

  • sort of stripped to the waist.

  • It was incredibly hot.

  • Stripped to the waist, walked past me muttering,

  • "Oh God, please someone attack us today."

  • That's how bored they were.

  • That's war too, is a lieutenant saying,

  • "Please make something happen

  • because we're going crazy."

  • To understand that,

  • you have to, for a moment,

  • think about combat not morally --

  • that's an important job to do

  • but for a moment, don't think about it morally,

  • think about it neurologically.

  • Let's think about what happens in your brain

  • when you're in combat.

  • First of all, the experience

  • is very bizarre, it's a very bizarre one.

  • It's not what I had expected.

  • Usually, you're not scared.

  • I've been very scared in combat,

  • but most of the time when I was out there,

  • I wasn't scared.

  • I was very scared beforehand

  • and incredibly scared afterwards,

  • and that fear that comes afterwards can last years.

  • I haven't been shot at in six years,

  • and I was woken up very abruptly this morning

  • by a nightmare that I was being strafed by aircraft,

  • six years later.

  • I've never even been strafed by aircraft,

  • and I was having nightmares about it.

  • Time slows down.

  • You get this weird tunnel vision.

  • You notice some details very, very, very accurately

  • and other things drop out.

  • It's almost a slightly altered state of mind.

  • What's happening in your brain

  • is you're getting an enormous amount of adrenaline

  • pumped through your system.

  • Young men will go to great lengths

  • to have that experience.

  • It's wired into us.

  • It's hormonally supported.

  • The mortality rate for young men in society

  • is six times what it is for young women

  • from violence and from accidents,

  • just the stupid stuff that young men do:

  • jumping off of things they shouldn't jump off of,

  • lighting things on fire they shouldn't light on fire,

  • I mean, you know what I'm talking about.

  • They die at six times the rate

  • that young women do.

  • Statistically, you are safer as a teenage boy,

  • you would be safer in the fire department

  • or the police department in most American cities

  • than just walking around the streets of your hometown

  • looking for something to do,

  • statistically.

  • You can imagine how that plays out in combat.

  • At Restrepo, every guy up there was almost killed,

  • including me,

  • including my good friend Tim Hetherington,

  • who was later killed in Libya.

  • There were guys walking around

  • with bullet holes in their uniforms,

  • rounds that had cut through the fabric

  • and didn't touch their bodies.

  • I was leaning against some sandbags one morning,

  • not much going on, sort of spacing out,

  • and some sand was kicked into the side of,

  • sort of hit the side of my face.

  • Something hit the side of my face, and I didn't know what it was.

  • You have to understand about bullets

  • that they go a lot faster than sound,

  • so if someone shoots at you

  • from a few hundred meters,

  • the bullet goes by you, or hits you obviously,

  • half a second or so before the sound catches up to it.

  • So I had some sand sprayed in the side of my face.

  • Half a second later, I heard dut-dut-dut-dut-duh.

  • It was machine gun fire.

  • It was the first round, the first burst

  • of an hour-long firefight.

  • What had happened was the bullet hit,

  • a bullet hit three or four inches from the side of my head.

  • Imagine, just think about it, because I certainly did,

  • think about the angle of deviation that saved my life.

  • At 400 meters, it missed me by three inches.

  • Just think about the math on that.

  • Every guy up there

  • had some experience like that,

  • at least once, if not many times.

  • The boys are up there for a year.

  • They got back.

  • Some of them got out of the Army

  • and had tremendous psychological problems when they got home.

  • Some of them stayed in the Army

  • and were more or less okay, psychologically.

  • I was particularly close to a guy named Brendan O'Byrne.

  • I'm still very good friends with him.

  • He came back to the States. He got out of the Army.

  • I had a dinner party one night.

  • I invited him,

  • and he started talking with a woman,

  • one of my friends,

  • and she knew how bad it had been out there,

  • and she said, "Brendan,

  • is there anything at all that you miss about

  • being out in Afghanistan, about the war?"

  • And he thought about it quite a long time,

  • and finally he said, "Ma'am, I miss almost all of it."

  • And he's one of the most traumatized people

  • I've seen from that war.

  • "Ma'am, I miss almost all of it."

  • What is he talking about?

  • He's not a psychopath.

  • He doesn't miss killing people.

  • He's not crazy. He doesn't miss getting shot at

  • and seeing his friends get killed.

  • What is it that he misses? We have to answer that.

  • If we're going to stop war, we have to answer that question.

  • I think what he missed is brotherhood.

  • He missed, in some ways,

  • the opposite of killing.

  • What he missed was connection

  • to the other men he was with.

  • Now, brotherhood is different from friendship.

  • Friendship happens in society, obviously.

  • The more you like someone,

  • the more you'd be willing to do for them.

  • Brotherhood has nothing to do

  • with how you feel about the other person.

  • It's a mutual agreement in a group

  • that you will put the welfare of the group,

  • you will put the safety of everyone in the group

  • above your own.

  • In effect, you're saying,

  • "I love these other people more than I love myself."

  • Brendan was a team leader

  • in command of three men,

  • and the worst day in Afghanistan

  • He was almost killed so many times.

  • It didn't bother him.

  • The worst thing that happened to him in Afghanistan

  • was one of his men was hit in the head with a bullet

  • in the helmet, knocked him over.

  • They thought he was dead.

  • It was in the middle of a huge firefight.

  • No one could deal with it, and a minute later,

  • Kyle Steiner sat back up

  • from the dead, as it were,

  • because he'd come back to consciousness.

  • The bullet had just knocked him out.

  • It glanced off the helmet.

  • He remembers people saying,

  • as he was sort of half-conscious,

  • he remembers people saying,

  • "Steiner's been hit in the head. Steiner's dead."

  • And he was thinking, "I'm not dead."

  • And he sat up.

  • And Brendan realized after that

  • that he could not protect his men,

  • and that was the only time he cried in Afghanistan,