When I arrived in Kabul on August 6, after travelling about 24 hours, I was met at the airport by the other crew, and was then told about the suicide bomber in the yellow Toyota, the theft of the police uniforms, and about a scheduled flight the next morning — in 11 hours — to fly south to a Forward Operating Base (FOB) 65 miles northeast of Kandahar to take photographs of a bridge along the highway…
As G8/G20 world leaders met behind barricades and riot police lines in Toronto, Canada, I was in a run-down community hall in East Vancouver listening to people from one of the world’s poorest countries talk with pride about their gains in healthcare and literacy and refer to their leaders by their first names: Fidel, Che, Camilo, Raul.
Allan Cram had his assignment in Afghanistan: “to overfly some of the most perilous terrain in the world, where kidnap victims had little hope of being released alive, where Taliban extremists believed math should be taught to Afghan boys not by the adding or subtracting of apples and oranges, but by counting bullets and AK-47s.”
Helicopter pilot Allan Cram was used to flying in dangerous places, even war zones. But Afghanistan’s Kajaki Dam was considered by even seasoned military people to be, at that time, “the most dangerous place on earth”. Why would a sane pilot willingly fly there?
On April 25 each year, Australia pays homage on Anzac Day to its sons killed in war at Gallipoli. Vincent Ross recalls travelling to the land where so many thousands of Australians, New Zealanders, Turks, Brits, French, Indians and Canadians met their death because they were landed on an impossible stretch of coastline, the tragic casualties of British imperialism.
Working oversees as a helicopter pilot, Allan Cram has lived in some of the world’s most dangerous places, including Afghanistan and Sudan. But as he discovers, most people are just “working stiffs” like him, trying to put food on the table.
I never went to the war. Sometimes I think I missed something very important. Like the ripples on the pond echoing down the years, there seems to be no missing anything. All it takes is time.
My life is full of contradictions, or what I call my bi-polar activity. Not that I have some clinically diagnosed chemical imbalance in my aging grey matter; rather, unlike most of my friends whose work and home life are often inter-related, mine is completely disparate.
Does the Western world really get the truth about what is happening in far-flung countries? Do reporters overseas see the real picture – the big picture? These issues are explored in second installment of My Private Sudan from writer and helicopter pilot Allan Cram in which his recollections of Sudan differ dramatically from reports in some Western newspapers.