restricted access One: Managing Affect in Mock Afghan Villages
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21 One |  Managing Affect in Mock Afghan Villages The MASCAL A foot patrol of soldiers enters the Afghan village in a relaxed posture. They smile at the villagers but their hands remain on their guns, eyes scanning the scene continuously with a gaze that conveys caution. How you enter the village is key, a sergeant major tells me: “Always look like you could flip the switch one way or another. You can’t look like you are slacking off. It’s usually your eyes that are always moving. . . . You aren’t taking your hand off your pistol, but you are showing respect.”1 Suddenly, a loud blast. Gray clouds of smoke billow out from a car parked at the end of the village. The soldiers move into place, establishing a defensive perimeter around the scene, guns at their shoulders. A bloodied body becomes visible through the plumes of smoke; arms and legs have been amputated from the blast. The body is clothed in an Afghan National Police (ANP) uniform —­ a local national. The soldiers begin shouting, “Man down! Man down!” Local villagers, men and women, rush to the scene wailing and shouting. They know the man who was hit. In a desperate frenzy they try to get to the body by pushing past the soldiers’ safety cordon. The soldiers yell, “Stay back!” in Pashto, but the villagers don’t listen. ANP officers, working with the Canadian Forces, start firing warning shots recklessly at the ground, in the air, attempting to scare back the villagers. The women scream and cower. A man from the village, with a familial tie to the ANP officer killed in the blast, runs through the village and rushes toward the soldiers screaming the ANP officer’s name, “Kamal! Kamal!” emotionally distraught. He is tackled and held down by the soldiers. He tries to resist, wailing and shouting “Kamal!” at the top of his lungs. Three ANP officers restrain and remove him from the scene. My hands shake as I try to take notes. I try to conceal a rush of emotions, conscious of my present company: I stand on top of a shipping container that has been turned into a viewing tower for the military VIPs who have gathered to watch this afternoon’s spectacle. I look to my right at two com- 22 immersions in cultural difference manding officers and overhear fragments of their conversation: “. . . the traffic can be a bit of a nightmare getting there, but it’s a great property right on the lake. I try to get there with the kids as much as I can over the summer . . .” As “warriors,” they have been through years of intensive military training designed principally to curtail affect in conflict situations much like these, and the grim realities they have seen firsthand in theater—­ which is to say, the theater of war2 —­ no doubt foreground the fiction of this scene, which they view with ease and critical distance. A man breaks free from the throng of villagers gathered at the scene of the blast and gets through the soldiers’ safety cordon. He walks in an unsteady , almost drunken manner toward a soldier who stands alone in a relaxed posture. The soldier seems to have slipped out of the scene into spectator mode, bedazzled or, perhaps, impressed by the spectacle. The villager is now about six feet from the soldier. He reaches emphatically into his vest, as though trying to give the soldier one last opportunity to take notice and do something. Suddenly, another loud blast. The villager has detonated. The soldier is covered in a white powder, signaling that he has been hit by the suicide bomb and is dead. He drops to the ground to screams and cries of horror from the villagers and shouts of “Man down! Man down!” from his fellow soldiers, who rush to his aid. A commanding officer looks on from the viewing platform at the downed soldier who failed to notice the suicide bomber’s approach and shakes his head: “We need poker players in the CF [Canadian Forces]—­ they’re the best at reading faces.” The deputy commander at his side expresses his pleasure that one of the soldiers in training got hit—­ a good lesson to learn here, in the safety of a simulation, rather than out there, in theater. This simulated “mass casualty” event (or MASCAL, as it’s referred to in military acronym speak) took place five days into the ten-­ day, force-­ on-­ force...


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