Did he die like a lamb? Six months ago, having fought ‘like a miracle’ when his home town in Afghanistan was besieged by the Taliban – so says his uncle the pro-government militiaman, boy soldier Wasil Ahmad was feted, garlanded, photographed carrying a taped-up, hand-me-down AK47, and widely shared.
Does this mean Wasil was also fated, set up, all but sacrificed to the Taliban? Who came like priests only completing the ritual when they duly shot and slaughtered the wee boy walking unwillingly to primary school in Tirin Kot, capital of the southern province of Oruzgan.
But reports of Wasil Ahmad’s death may have grossly exaggerated the distance between his chronological age – 10 – and the paramilitary shoe-size he’d already stepped into.
Despite comments to the contrary in Western media, the police uniform which the boy soldier appears in, was not too big for him. In those photographs, widely shared, his head is not too small for the matching helmet. Eyes, nose and the set of his mouth are in proportion – well-balanced – with the rifle sitting comfortably on his arm.
In August’s local hero pictures and again in what appears to be a photo of his body shortly before burial last week, this boy’s countenance seems equally untroubled.
Strange to say but perhaps there’s less to be frightened of at 10 years old and under – before Consequences kick in and we are drummed with uncertainty and impermanence.
What simple innocence (we think) we hear in ‘Once In Royal David’s City’ – twilight on Christmas Eve and all things safe and sound in the voice of a King’s College chorister. But what if boyishly unadulterated is also supremely implacable; not only guileless but remorseless, too?
As death itself; meanwhile so pleasing to behold you cannot help but liken the boy to your own son to have and to hold.