Blood and Dust film

This summer the US plans to start reducing its troop numbers in Afghanistan - a sign many hope, that NATO's war against the Taliban will soon end. Despite this, the number of combatants and civilians killed and wounded is growing.

Among those best placed to witness this bloodshed are the medevac personnel, who helicopter out across the country to pick up casualties - often while under fire themselves. What is it like aboard one of these units?

Veteran freelance cameraman Vaughan Smith spent two weeks embedded with the paramedics of the US Army's 214th Aviation Regiment. He came back with footage that reveals both the harrowing consequences of war and the extraordinary skill, commitment and integrity of those providing care. Some of the images in the film are deeply disturbing.

Vaughan Smith
I have done a fair number of military embeds in Afghanistan over the last few years but was concerned that I hadn't filmed the suffering of war, just its machinery.

This being a grevious ommission I went back last winter to film US army air ambulances, 'Dustoff' helicopters, flying over Marjah in Southern Afghanistan. The pictures are strong and show both US marines and Afghan civilians being lifted off the battlefield in equal numbers.

I have been pretty busy since returning from this trip last year, what with Julian Assange coming to stay and all that that means. It is very much thanks to the Al Jazeera documentary chaps, John Owen, Diarmuid Jeffreys, Neil Cairns and last but certainly not least because he did the video editing, Ross Birkbeck, that I got it out at all.

I have worked with Al Jazeera on this because I couldn't find another news broadcaster in Britain that would show the film without cutting out the stronger images. I have huge respect for the way Al Jazeera as a broadcaster engages the world while many others appear to retreat from it.

Frontline Club - Vaughan Smith in Afghanistan: Blood and Dust film
Gripping viewing.


Book Reviewer
Good piece of journalism, and kudos to AJ for running with it.

There will always be a demand for "Boy's Own" media, but there is also a more important need for media to carry the unvarnished truth about war.

The latter is clearly adult viewing, but if other media channels declined to run this on the grounds of content, one has to question their integrity as news outlets.

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