Tag Archives: The Outpost

We Mustn’t Build It or They Will Come

But build it we did and the enemy did come.

As many individuals who served in the American military believed, building an outpost at the bottom of a valley in Afghanistan was an absurd and terrible idea.  Even when respectful apprehension at the plan was met with agreement, the commands from higher pay grades and ranks superseded all forms of reconsideration.  Jake Tapper’s book The Outpost opens with the lunacy of building an outpost in a valley and not atop a mountain when he relates a conversation between “a young intelligence analyst named Jacob Whittaker” and his “superior officer, Second Lieutenant Ryan Lockner” in the “summer of 2006” (3).  Lockner gave Whittaker an assignment to create a visual aid for a morning presentation detailing the location of a new outpost.  After verifying that he had the correct information for its exact location, Whittaker confirmed that he could make the requested Power Point, “But sir…that is a really awful place for a base…it’s located at the base of a mountain peak…and flanked by a river on the west and another river to the north?”

Lockner added, “And there’s no good road to get to it — they’re still building that…”

To which Whittaker responded, “And it’s an eternity away by helicopter if something goes wrong..Sir, this is a really bad idea…A. Really. Bad. Idea. Anyone we drop off there is going to die.”

Jake Tapper’s summary of the exchange between Whittaker and Lockner includes more information on the topography on the area that Camp Kamdesh (eventually renamed Camp Outpost Keating) would be built no matter how tactically nonsensical.  Orders were orders after all.

OTPST

I finished reading Jake Tapper’s book recently and loved it.  I experienced a substantial pang of sadness and “what the hell?!” afterwards because of current events.  So many lives lost, so many dollars poured into plans, projects, and good intentions that evaporated just like that.

I had wanted to write a blog entry about it after I’d rewatched the The Outpost (Rod Lurie, 2019) and re-read some of the passages in Clinton Romesha‘s account of being at Camp Outpost Keating when it was breached by the enemy….but, I didn’t feel like waiting any more.

If you’ve not seen the film nor read either of the books but would like to plunge into the triumvirate of texts, I recommend you watch the movie first, then read Red Platoon, and then read The Outpost.  Most of the book consists of establishing geo-political and historical contexts that preceded, facilitated, exacerbated what happened at COP Keating.  If you have seen the movie and read Clinton Romesha’s book (or have consumed just one of them) and you want a more compare-and-contrast reading experience of Jake Tapper’s book, then I suggest you read the final section, Book Three entitled “Enemy in the Wire: The End of Combat Outpost Keating”).

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I do want to re-watch the movie soon and organize my notes and thoughts for a blog post.

And, the Atlanta Falcons were in merry ole London over the weekend for gridiron action against the New York Jets.  The Falcons moistened the Jets’ towelettes 27 to 20.  Final score.  Get game summary, stats, and play-by-play here.

Respecting Thine Enemy and more on War Trash

I finished reading Ha Jin’s War Trash yesterday.  My initial impressions held, although, like the narrator, my opinion of Commissar Pei lessened in exuberance as time went on and it became apparent that genuine positive regard towards a fellow POW can still be guided by ulterior motives.  Among the many observations, contemplations, and quoting of other characters, this articulation (of another character’s words) made an an impression: “History has shown that the Communists always treat their enemies more leniently than their own people.  Only by becoming their significant enemies can you survive decently” (103).  Why should that be the case?  Is the yearning for a suitable antagonist really that important to keep the balance of power in check?  I suppose a scientist or mathematician would nod because you can’t keep a see-saw or a scale in balance if the weight of the objects on either end aren’t equal.

Just as the “prologue” of War Trash mentions real places in Atlanta, the last chapter also points to real places, specifically Georgia Tech and Emory [University] Hospital (347, 349).  I took notes while reading War Trash so that I could do some light research on how authentically some of the events were depicted.  To my delight, the author’s note asserts that “this is a work of fiction and all the main characters are fictional.  Most of the events and details, however, are factual” and includes a list of books Ha Jin consulted (351).  One of the books is Korea: The Unknown War (1988), written by Jon Halliday and Bruce Cumings.  Interesting.  I retrieved my copy of Cumings’s The Korean War and flipped to the index, and sure enough, there was Ha Jin’s name.

WT  bcKW

Cumings’s book, published in 2011, has saved me some time in the light research department by praising War Trash as it “rings true on every page” (75).  Special attention is paid to one passage where “Ha Jin re-creates faithfully the notorious episode when North Korean POWs captured Brig. Gen. Francis T. Dodd on May 8, 1952 during riots on Koje Island” (76).  The book depicts this scene on pages 163-164, where a fictional General Bell is captured on May 7.  I’m fairly certain now that the reason I wanted to read Ha Jin’s novel was due to Cumings referencing it.

The Korean War also mentions David Halberstam‘s book The Coldest Winter and speaks less enthusiastically about it.  I have it but haven’t read it yet.

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I watched The Outpost (Rod Lurie, 2019) a week ago and picked up a copy of Red Platoon, the book that Clinton Romesha (whom Scott Eastwood portrays in the movie) wrote about his experiences leading up to the events of October 3, 2009.  The film is based on Jake Tapper’s book about the incident and I plan to obtain it in the near future.

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Here’s a clip of Jake Tapper talking with Clinton Romesha:

And now for something else just as sobering:



Pic creds: Amazon