Comms for Miles Lagoze & Combat Obscura: you don’t speak for me

Interpreter turned US citizen and Marine
| April 19, 2019
Categories: Op-Eds

Miles Lagoze: You do not speak for me

An Afghan-American Marine’s Response to Combat Obscura

Last week I had to go to an Orthopedic doctor’s office because of Traumatic Arthritis in my left heel. I got it from an IED attack on our MRAP during my employment as a local national interpreter with the US Military in Afghanistan, but it recently worsened because of my frequent running and other high impact training. Ten years ago I was a local national terp (interpreter). Today I’m a US Marine infantryman, and I push myself pretty hard.

Interpreter turned US citizen and Marine

Obaid before becoming a US citizen and enlisting in the Marine Corps.

Afghan interpreter earns citizenship.

Obaid, now a Marine, becomes a United States citizen.

I had to go through the usual paperwork process and waiting ordeal at the doctor’s, so I scrolled through my Facebook feed hoping to find something interesting to read. I came across a video, shared by a friend, that portrayed gory scenes of combat, violence and U.S Marines from a supposedly “narrative-free” documentary called Combat ObscuraCombat Obscura is mainly the personal perspective of a Marine Combat Cameraman named Miles Lagoze, and goes in depth about Lagoze’s feelings on the futility of the war and his contribution to it. The video’s violence and combat weren’t unusual to me, given the nature of our jobs as Marines, but what intrigued and later disappointed me were the drug use by the Marines and general narrative behind the video.

Interpreter turned US citizen and Marine

Obaid, at right in Afghanistan, long before he began running missions as a translator.

After leaving the doctor’s office I shared the video with my friend, Afghanistan combat veteran, author and writer Chris Hernandez, and my Marine brothers in my platoon, to ask how they felt about it. I watched the full Combat Obscura documentary twice on Amazon to make a sense of it, but I couldn’t come up with anything other than feeling personally targeted in several ways: first as an Afghan-American, second as a former Afghan local national interpreter for the coalition forces, and third as a current U.S Marine infantryman. Because I feel like Combat Obscura attacked me personally, I’ll respond to Lagoze on a personal, Marine-to-Marine level.

Afghan interpreter turned US Marine.

Obaid today.

Mr. Lagoze, you enlisted in the Marine Corps and took the same oath just like the rest of us. You went through the same rigors of Boot Camp and were forged into a Marine just like the rest of us. You had unprecedented and unlimited day and night access to the Marines in your documentary.

A screenshot from Combat Obscura.

A screenshot from Combat Obscura.

You filmed the Marines smoking hashish amid mind-bending boredom and sporadic moments of absolute chaos, during what could be considered the craziest and most intense times of their lives, in a strange country 7000 miles away from home and life as they know it.

I am not sure if it was your intention from the beginning to take advantage of the Marines’ vulnerability by filming them while they were using hashish. However, you eventually made your ultimate intentions very clear when you decided to release the footage as a documentary for self-interested reasons, for glorifying your future career in the film industry.

A scene from Combat Obscura.

Another scene from Combat Obscura.

Let me be very clear, I do not condone or justify the use of hashish by the Marines in your documentary, but I do condemn your breach of trust in releasing the footage and making the Marine Corps look like an undisciplined and drugs-dependent organization.

It certainly is not.

Interpreter turned US citizen and Marine

I was born during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and raised in Civil War. Unlike you, Mr. Lagoze, I didn’t have a choice whether or not to be personally involved in the conflict. My childhood was robbed from me and I spent my early adulthood trying to make it different for the generations after me. I learned while very young that my choices made a difference, even if the difference was minor.

In your short video with NowThis News, you claim you didn’t help anyone by your service and that you shouldn’t be thanked for it. While that is your personal feeling and you are entitled to it, you cannot simply say that you “just perpetuated a system of senseless violence” in order to allure common Americans and the ever-growing audience who loves scrutinizing the military and our sacrifices.

Obaid then and now.

Obaid then and now.

What your documentary and interviews regarding the documentary fail to mention is that most of the Helmand province was and still is the very forefront of the Taliban insurgency. The impact and the difference of fighting the Taliban are hardly ever noticed in the hotbeds of the insurgency, but it’s strongly felt in the densely populated urban areas. In those urban areas, women are now allowed to be humans and not just reproduction machines or sexual objects; they can go to school, be employed and have a say in who they want to marry.

Afghan women achieving independence and success.

Image courtesy of Afghan Herald.

People in the cities are no longer slaughtered like subhumans because they belong to an ethnic minority. None of that would have been possible without the selfless sacrifices of thousands of coalition and U.S servicemen, like Lance Corporal Jacob Levy.

LCpl Jacob Levy, USMC

LCpl Jacob Levy, KIA in Afghanistan in 2011, to set other people free.

I am in no way trying to sanitize the war. Of course it is ugly. Of course there is guilt and remorse with it. But war is not for pacifists; every veteran, fully understanding the hazards of enlistment, made their choice.

You Mr. Lagoze, feel your contribution to Afghanistan was worthless, but you don’t speak for me. I know I made a positive difference in the lives of millions of Afghans, and am willing to do it again and again.




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  1. Nasim Aalemi

    Hi all,

    Anything I wrote about Miles Lagoze’s relationship with me and his feeling toward Afghans and Afghanistan has been proven wrong. The man is a warrior and a great friend. I apologize for the confusion. However, the rest is my opinion and I still stand by it.

    Thank you Miles for being the loyal and caring friend! My apologies for misunderstanding you!

    PS: I had requested from the web admin to take down my comment, but they’ve NOT done so yet. Hope they remove it ASAP and/or let me revise it.

    Nasim Aalemi

  2. God, Corps, Country

    Check rog – So, Miles, lima charlie on your mission to show combat in Sangin, Afghanistan unfiltered. However, I guess the very Corps values of instilled in Marines, Honor, Courage and Commitment, apparently meant nothing to you. Courage, perhaps, if at best when no other choice was available. Honor and Commitment, on the other hand, ZER0, none.

    Stay again last? Miles, you fucking pog, where is your honor? How copy? Oh… radio fucking silence… with a hint of non gmo commitment radio shatter.

    Of course every fucking liberal gave this a 100% of a rating.

    The footage you captured contained potential for being a true living memoir in honor of the men who fought and dead.

    But I guess subconsciously you knew your true intentions were not in honor nor in commitment to such a cause, but to potentially gain financial means from the sacrifice of these men later.

    Death before dishonor – Not in your case Miles.

  3. Eric

    Thank you Obaid, for taking a stand and expressing so well how many of we recent combat veterans feel. Our brotherhood is rather exclusive, and the fact that one of us would take advantage of that trust and bond to their own benefit both saddens, and enrages me. While I am a retired Soldier, our experiences are very similar, and I have the distinct honor of being good friends with one of our Iraqi terps, who went on to become a US citizen, a Green Beret, and eventually a DIA operative. His sacrifice goes so much deeper than your typical American service member during war time that it’s quite disturbing. His family supported the US forces in Iraq, both personally and professionally, and because of that were targeted mercilessly. Out of three brothers, two sisters and his parents, my friend is the only surviving member of his family. His love of our country is the driving force behind his service, and paints a very different picture of patriotism than that claimed by so many politicians and celebrities. You, like him, know what true sacrifice and service looks like, and I am honored to call you both my brothers. Semper Fidelis, Marine. Charlie Mike, those of us on the homefront have got your six.

  4. Just Another Marine

    The movie never said it was speaking for you. The movie speaks to you and let’s you decide what you’re hearing. Maybe you should have watched it a third time to make complete sense of it. Take a chill pill and relax then consider for a second that there are a multitude of military experiences. Just because yours wasn’t presented here in Combat Obscura doesn’t mean it isn’t worth expressing but try not to piggy back off of someone else’s art to get your story out. Your entire article has a hint of narcissism throughout and a bit misinformed. I know Miles personally and it’s a bit naive to think this film was made for just the promise of fame and fortune when he has taken a giant risk in making it. Lagoze and his distributors are under fire for making the movie by the DoJ. They can potentially face jail time. You don’t think someone would do this if they didn’t have a message to spread? Something special to watch? It’s the sacrifice like yours and Miles Lagoze’s that allows a film like this to be freely expressed in the first place.

  5. Nasim Aalemi

    Obaid Jan,

    Thank you for taking the time to watch the horrifying “movie.” I was also an interpreter with the U.S. Marines in Southern Afghanistan from 2009 to 2013. I worked closely with Miles Lagoze and his battalion, 1st Battalion 6th Marines, in Kajaki, Helmand province. Sadly, I witnessed the images used in the Combat Obscura first hand as I was part of the operations that took place at the time of filming.

    I fully agree with the predictions you made about the guy’s personality and intentions. Yes, Miles Lagoze is just another immoral person who stole the Marine Corp’s and his friend’s images and is now using them to make money. I strongly believe that he does not give a shit a bout Afghans or Afghanistan at all. On the personal level, I have interacted with him quite a lot both in Afghanistan and here in the U.S. to know that he has zero damn to give about friendship at Micro-level or sympathy for a nation at Macro-level.

    Your sanctimonious points about the atrocities committed by the U.S. military personal in the movie are quite biased. First of all, no logic can justify the idiotic behavior those Marines in the movie show towards the innocent kids trying to supply their families with water on mules. This is a great example that the military leaders need to know. I highly doubt there will be enough civil pressure to help augment the military code of conduct. This is one positive aspect of the movie and my personal aspiration as someone who helped the Marines. Second, civilian casualties through bombing is the most horrifying act against humanity. To a much higher ratio, that is exactly how the Taliban inflict casualties upon the Afghan civilians too. Again, I find no logics to justify such crimes or simply say “oh that is just the cost of war.”

    Afghanistan is the most complicated current case of global conflict. Obaid Jan, simplifying the matter and compare the current time with the Taliban era is very subjective and quite unrealistic. To refresh your memory, I would like to summarize the ill-fated past four decades of Afghanistan’s war-torn history. Afghanistan in 1970s and early 1980s was used to be the world’s Paris from the point of view of stability and peace. It is very naive to simply say that the U.S. just revolutionized the country through their military invasion since 2001. Afghanistan was squeezed between the world super powers, U.S. and Russia, during the cold war era. The confrontation sadly left the byproducts known as the Taliban and the currently in power War Lords. There is no doubt that the U.S., as a global leader, and the NATO allies had great intentions in mind when they invaded Afghanistan in 2001. Though, the atrocities captured by Miles Lagoze’s camera are in no way justifiable using logics such as “freedom of Afghan women”.

    To that end what Afghanistan and the proud nation of that land deserves is a dignified peace and tranquility. The reality of Afghanistan requires the global players to carryout their moral obligation and support this dignified nation. The Afghans did not emerge from the Mars or the Plato. They are the inseparable members of this small home to mankind also known as planet Earth. As small of a nation the country might be considered, the Afghans have played a key role in the collapse of the foolish communism. Thus, the Afghan nation deserves a lasting peace under any cost through the global channels. They have proven their desire for living peacefully and free. The cost that they have paid thus far is monumental. It is the world’s highest moral obligation to put pressure on the serpents that have taken away the freedom and peace from the Afghan nation. Enough of bloodshed, abuse and dehumanizing such a proud nation.

    Obaid Jan, I understand that you have joined the U.S. military and I would like to congratulate you for your service and loyalty towards this country for a good purpose. Needless to mention, your remunerative statements are fully baseless as an Afghan representative. Neither Miles Lagoze nor the U.S. military personal in the Combat Obscura are the glorifying entities to vouch for and try to reap personal dividends. Otherwise, I wonder what would be the difference between you and the person you are trying to criticize?

  6. Mickey Campagna


    Welcome home! You are a valuable addition to the great American melting pot. I’ve had a father, uncles, and now a cousin stepping toward the dangers this county faces. This whistledick has no integrity. You and your comrades are better men.

    Semper Fi

  7. Russ

    PS; I want that rifle you’re holding with the wood furniture in the 1st pic!
    You Da Man Obaid!

  8. Russ

    *First of all;* Mr. Obaidullah, you are the epitome of a True American Citizen, and I thank you for your service to our country.

    You don’t have to be in the military to know that there are people like this Lagoze character, that will blame everyone else for their follies.
    Their expressions through movies, or what ever, is the way their small minds deal with failure.
    If only they can get the rest of the herd to see things their way, it will normalize their meager existence.

    Unfortunately, these pitiful souls come from all walks of life, and dwell in many nooks and crannies throughout the world.
    MSM is owned and operated by evil.
    They use the weak, and offer a podium to spew negativity from, hoping to cause dismay, and dread.

    People like you (and I) know better, and will perceiver in order to live well, while doing the opposite of them, by helping people.

    To you, and all reading this; Don’t ever let them bring you down, as this is their ultimate goal.

  9. Ed

    Excellent write-up and response to this sell-out.

  10. Tim Benedict

    I did not have the honor of serving in our military, but my dad was a marine, and I have friends and coworkers who have served. Each of them could relate stories of bad behavior or ineptitude, as well as stories of sacrifice and extraordinary courage. Trying to characterize an entire group by the actions of a few is one way to muddle the truth, and indeed, Is a pathway to our current political state, or even to racism. The majority of civilians will look up to a man like you, and recognize honor and purpose and hard work, instead of being dismayed by the disaffection of this filmmaker. Thank you for speaking out and for all that you have done.

  11. Tom Fugate

    As someone who grew up with Vietnam on the tv I have seen the effects of people who turn their backs on former comrades. There is something very wrong with people who sell out their brothers-in-arms for personal gain. I have and have had friends and acquaintances who served in every US war of the 20th and 21st centuries. I had the honor of knowing a man who flew in WWI and every conflict since then. As a writer I have been told stories by many veterans and others (intelligence and law enforcement) and would never break their trust for the sake of one of my books. I have borrowed things I have been told but never in a way that denigrated those who served. Thank you for your service and thank you for your intelligent well stated posting

  12. HM3 John Heidenreich

    I was an 8404 Corpsman from 82-86. On October 23, 1983, I was stationed at the National Naval Medical Center in DC; I was working in their ICU when the barracks in Beirut went up. Within 24 hours we learned of the bombing that killed 220 Marines and 18 sailors; the medical team assigned to BLT 1/8.
    Faster than I thought possible, I received orders to Camp LeJeune, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine regiment. I was one of the Corpsman who replaced one, who had died in that building. I spent 3 years and 4 months there.
    I regret none of it, as the men that I served with were exceptional in every respect. I am friends with some of them to this day. The slogans and the quotations that you read about the Marine Corp are true. Their history is filled with examples of their honor, courage and commitment…and I am witness to it myself.
    Mr. Lagoze dishonors the Corp, and yes, his contribution in Afghganistan was indeed worthless.

    • Andrew R Wathen

      We did way worst shit than that in Iraq we literally leveled whole cities.Lima 3/25

  13. Frank Stabler

    Thank you. Not only for your service and sacrifice, but also for being willing to stand up and tell the truth as you see it.


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