Taleban insurgents fighting German forces in northern Afghanistan have often lived to fight another day thanks to trilingual warnings that have to be shouted out before the men from the Bundeswehr can squeeze their triggers. The seven-page pocket guide to combat tucked into the breast pocket of every German soldier offers such instructions as: “Before opening fire you are expected to declare loudly, in English, ‘United Nations — stop, or I will fire,” followed by a version in Pashtu — Melgaero Mellatuna- Dreesch, ka ne se dasee kawum!”
The alert must also be issued in Dari, and the booklet, devised by a committee in some faraway ministerial office, adds: “If the situation allows, the warning should be repeated.” The joke going round Nato mess tents poses the question: “How can you identify a German soldier? He is the corpse clutching a pocket guide.”
When we will stumble about, our only eye burned to charcoal by a red hot pointed log, in horrible pain, crying “who did this to us?”, someone will answer: “Nobody!”, and he will be right.