09/26/2006 04:19 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Reading The Pictures: Helmand Security


With the leak of the National Intelligence Estimate this past week, America's "culture of propaganda" might finally be giving way to a new candor. If that's the case, however, it seems much of the fresh light is going to be shed from the inside.

Following along the same lines, the image above -- shot on a cell phone -- would have been nonexistent, if not for the desire of British soldiers in Afghanistan to get their story out. Operating in what the Guardian has bluntly termed a government reporting ban, soldiers in Helmland Helmand province are now resorting to email and personal video to relate the fact they are undermanned and facing surprisingly intense resistance from the Taliban. (The British have lost 40 soldiers in Afghanistan since 2001, but half of those losses have come in the past two weeks.) In their communications, the soldiers emphasize that insubordination is not their aim. They just want people to know they are making a best effort despite inadequate support.

When things were going their way, the U.S. and British military were more than happy to have documented nearly every aspect of the GWOT. Five years out, however, with the battle front now as ambiguous as the battle strategy, the only thing the U.S. and Britain seem to have firmly accomplished is a state of censorship.

And now, for the greater good, they're about to lose that.

(For cell phone video from Helmland Helmand, see link in Daily Mail article here.)

For more of the visual, visit

Update 9/27/06: Thanks to all for the "Helmand" correction. Maybe it should be "Helmet-land" but it is certainly not "Helmland," although the correct spelling makes it a lot closer to "hell" than "homeland."

(image: private video. September 2006. Via via BBC)