Originally posted on the Red Bull Rising blog here!
Inspired by the March 2011 air-assault "Operation Bull Whip," conducted in Eastern Afghanistan by the Iowa National Guard's 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34th BCT), the poem "Night Vision" first appeared in Waterwood Press' 2015 war-themed anthology "No, Achilles." A brief analysis of the work was mentioned in that book's introduction.
The poem is reprinted in my print and e-book anthology "Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire," from Middle West Press. It also appears on-line at Poets and War, where Stephen Sossaman writes, in part:
I know of no other poem from the war in Afghanistan as likely to be canonized in future high school curricula: the poem is accessible, apolitical, spoken from the point of view of an American soldier—and it illuminates what might be the central fact of the long American military operation in Afghanistan.In a recent artistic experiment, I combined an audio narration of "Night Vision" with U.S. Army photographs of Operation Bull Whip. Hopefully, the resulting 75-second video will provide another way for others to discover and access the work. Check it out in the embedded video, above in this blog-post!
This poem quietly shows the unreconcilable clash of cultures, languages, and levels of technology that have frustrated American military efforts in Afghanistan for 15 years.
Sophisticated technology (night vision goggles) gives Americans enough illumination to see the land immediately beneath the helicopter ramp, something the Afghans without that gear cannot see. But any American confidence that they can see the future of the war, or see and understand Afghan circumstances on the ground, is illusory.