Do Not Kill: Afghanistan- Snapshots of a Fading War
The MPs stand by their armored trucks, waiting for a briefing before they head out on the road. The morning cold wanes as the sun rises, and on the base the day is taking shape. Civilian contractors resume their work, the details of material sustenance—food service, computer service—that keep the military running. Local Afghanis resume their jobs, too, emptying trash barrels, loading the coolers with bottled water, soda, and Gatorade, the official beverage of the war. Beyond the walls and blast barriers, smoke rises above the houses and villagers walk slowly along the solitary road, along the edges of fields, faces wrapped against the fading chill. In the cemetery, dogs bark among the jagged, unmarked headstones.
The soldiers smoke and tease, shift on their feet. Waiting. A pair wrestles until one suddenly seizes up and grabs his back; immediately the others pounce—oh, hurt your back again, pussy? Always the same. From the east a small dog trots into view, her face at ease, her tail held high. She is white with brown patches. The tip of her brushy tail is weirdly green, as though she’d been painting with it.
“Here comes Lucky,” a soldier says. “Means we won’t get shot at today. Yesterday she didn’t show, and we got fucked up.”
Lucky is sweet and hopeful, she curls between the camouflaged legs of the soldiers and they speak to her but are not allowed to touch. Regulations. I’m not bound by them so I kneel and whistle and she bounds over and folds herself softly into me. Someone has fashioned a collar for her. From the collar hangs a single silver dog tag. It reads DO NOT KILL.
“First Sergeant shot the last dog,” someone explains. The army does not allow mascots. The men discuss whether Lucky lives up to her name.