July 26, 2010
Brevity is the hallmark of military reporting, but even by those standards the description of one disastrous event is remarkably short: “The patrol returned to base.”
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
It started with a suicide bomb. On 4 March 2007 a convoy of US marines, who arrived in Afghanistan three weeks earlier, were hit by an explosives-rigged minivan outside the city of Jalalabad.
The marines made a frenzied escape, opening fire with automatic weapons as they tore down a six-mile stretch of highway, hitting almost anyone in their way – teenage girls in fields, motorists in their cars, old men as they walked along the road. Nineteen unarmed civilians were killed and 50 wounded.
None of this, however, was captured in the initial military account, written by the marines themselves. It simply says that, simultaneous to the suicide explosion, “the patrol received small arms fire from three directions”.