In ’75, in the Anti-Atlas mountains, my waking eyes were crammed with rubble strewn slopes pock marked by brittle grey bushes: children scampered between boulders the size of buses cracking in petulant heat: rivulets between ridges trickled southwards through a broad valley of almond trees onward into wasteland stretching its dry fingers into finely sifted Sahara.
In the autumn of ’75 my friend Mohammed was 19. I picture him in his father’s house in Tarfaya, sitting cross legged on the carpet, eating, talking, drinking tea. I picture him in a khaki uniform climbing into the flat-bed of an armed Landrover and watch as it’s diminishing tail rush to join the endless column of desert dust. I remember being told two days later how he died, how they all died, and I picture the battle the authorities tried to convince us did not happen.
In the spring of ’75 the Vietnam war ended, 19 had been the average age of US soldiers sent there to fight.