Jung (War) in the Land of Mujaheddin (review)

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Whether you support or oppose the current U.S. military actions in Afghanistan, you’re unlikely to be unmoved by this disturbing documentary about a people forced back into the Middle Ages by their unwanted rulers, who have taken religious fanaticism to its disgusting extreme. As a group of Italian aid workers struggles to set up a hospital for war wounded in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in 1999 and 2000, we bear uncomfortable witness to the abject poverty of ordinary Afghans: to kids who miss the days when they could go to school; to women reduced to nonpersons, forced to wear the depersonalizing burka; to men hideously wounded in battle and by landmines, treated in appalling hospital conditions with primitive surgery. It’s “the most devastating of forgotten wars,” one aid worker calls the Afghan civil conflict, but the old Soviet tanks that litter the harsh countryside are reminders of a neverending battle for this land… and the knowledge that not long after this film was completed, the Afghan people came under new attacks from without does not sit easy. The Taliban “bring us only grief,” says the mother of two little girls whose limbs were blown off by land mines; “they are servants of Pakistan and America,” says another man bitterly, his words cutting for Western audiences. But one member of the Taliban reminds us why they scare us — and the Afghans as well — so much: “Everyone in the world has to accept Islam,” he says matter-of-factly. Everyone in the world should see this film, to be reminded that there is a human price to be paid for every action as well as every inaction.

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