FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Doctor Watson in Afghanistan

It’s said that there is nothing like being hung in the morning to focus the mind. An oncoming war in Afghanistan serves the same function. Doing research on the country, I came across a literary curiosity. It is central to the creation of two of literature’s most famous names, Sherlock Holmes & John H Watson, MD.

The details are in Thaddeus Holts ”’You have been in Afghanistan,’ I perceive,” in the Military History Quarterly, W 94.

Doctor Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, is supposed to be a reprint from the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, MD, late of the Army medical Department. Watson tells us how,

“In the year 1878 I took my degree of Doctor of Medicine of the University of London, and proceeded to Netley to go through the course prescribed for surgeons in the Army. Having completed my studies there, I was duly attached to the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers as assistant surgeon. The regiment was stationed in India at the time, and before I could join it, the 2nd Afghan war had broken out. On landing at Bombay, I learned that my corps had advanced through the passes, and was already deep in the enemy’s country. I followed, however, with many other officers who were in the same situation as myself, and succeeded in reaching Kandahar in safety, where I found my regiment, and at once entered upon my new duties.

“The campaign brought honours and promotion to many, but for me it had nothing but misfortune and disaster. I was removed from my brigade and attached to the Berkshires, with whom I served at the fatal battle of Maiwand. There I was struck on the shoulder by a Jezail bullet, which shattered the bone and grazed the subclavian artery. I should have fallen into the hands of the murderous ghazis had it not been for the devotion and courage shown by Murray, my orderly, who threw me across a pack-horse, and succeeded in bringing me safely to the British lines.”

Conan Doyle tells us that Watson, in England on convalescent leave, was introduced by a medical friend to Holmes (according to “Consulting Detective,” by Wendell Scherer. Holmes comes from Holmes Row, near Waterloo Rd in London.) and they shared lodgings at 221B Baker St. Recall Watson’s introduction to his friend & hero:

“‘You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive,’ said Holmes. ‘How on earth did you know that?’ asked Watson in astonishment. ‘Never mind,’ Holmes replied, chuckling to himself.”

Holt, who serves on the advisory board of the excellent scholarly journal, traces both Watson & Holmes to 2nd Afghan war vets, and their disaster at Maiwand in July of 1880. Watson was Surgeon-Major A F Preston, wounded there. Holmes was based on a gunner an artillery man, named Sherlock, in the retinue of a Veterinary-Major with the Royal Artillery, who escaped from the slaughter.

In A Study in Scarlet, it is only Watson who is an old Afghan hand. Via literary & military detective work, worthy of Holmes himself, Holt found that Sherlock had his Afghan tale to tell. This being the case, we will allow ourselves to call on the twosome, so knowledgeable on the ground, to lead the investigation into the whodunits, the guilty American politicians and military who turned Afghan fundamentalism, a declining force, into a world power, in their zeal to defeat the Soviet regime in Afghanistan, 1979-89.

Equally crucial, we must remember that, as with the Vietnam war, we have a message for today’s gunner Sherlocks. The pols are leading them into wars and politics they know nothing about. They more those American grunts learn about how they got into this ultimate far off war, the more they will say to their misleaders, “you got us into this horror. You have no right to send us off to our deaths, trying to put out fires you started. US out of Afghanistan. Politicians out of Washington.” CP

More articles by:

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

June 25, 2019
Rannie Amiri
Instigators of a Persian Gulf Crisis
Patrick Cockburn
Trump May Already be in Too Deep to Avoid War With Iran
Paul Tritschler
Hopeful Things
John Feffer
Deep Fakes: Will AI Swing the 2020 Election?
Binoy Kampmark
Bill Clinton in Kosovo
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Japanese Conjuncture
Edward Hunt
Is Mexico Winding Down or Winding up the Drug War?
Manuel E. Yepe
Trump’s Return to Full-Spectrum Dominance
Steve Kelly
Greed and Politics Should Not Drive Forest Policy
Stephen Carpa
Protecting the Great Burn
Colin Todhunter
‘Modified’: A Film About GMOs and the Corruption of the Food Supply for Profit
Martin Billheimer
The Gothic and the Idea of a ‘Real Elite’
Elliot Sperber
Send ICE to Hanford
June 24, 2019
Jim Kavanagh
Eve of Destruction: Iran Strikes Back
Nino Pagliccia
Sorting Out Reality From Fiction About Venezuela
Jeff Sher
Pickin’ and Choosin’ the Winners and Losers of Climate Change
Howard Lisnoff
“Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran”
Robert Fisk
The West’s Disgraceful Silence on the Death of Morsi
Dean Baker
The Old Japan Disaster Horror Story
David Mattson
The Gallatin Forest Partnership and the Tyranny of Ego
George Wuerthner
How Mountain Bikes Threaten Wilderness
Christopher Ketcham
The Journalist as Hemorrhoid
Manuel E. Yepe
Yankee Worship of Bombings and Endless Wars
Mel Gurtov
Iran—Who and Where is The Threat?
Wim Laven
Revisiting Morality in the Age of Dishonesty
Thomas Knapp
Facebook’s Libra Isn’t a “Cryptocurrency”
Weekend Edition
June 21, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Brett Wilkins
A Brief History of US Concentration Camps
Rob Urie
Race, Identity and the Political Economy of Hate
Rev. William Alberts
America’s Respectable War Criminals
Paul Street
“So Happy”: The Trump “Boom,” the Nation’s Despair, and the Decline of Joe Biden
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Ask Your Local Death Squad
Dr. Vandana Shiva
Fake Food, Fake Meat: Big Food’s Desperate Attempt to Further the Industrialisation of Food
Eric Draitser
The Art of Trade War: Is Trump Winning His Trade War against China?
Melvin Goodman
Trump’s Russian Problem
Jonathan Cook
Forget Trump’s Deal of the Century: Israel Was Always on Course to Annexation
Andrew Levine
The Biden Question
Stanley L. Cohen
From Tel Aviv to Tallahassee
Robert Hunziker
Permafrost Collapses 70 Years Early
Kenn Orphan
Normalizing Atrocity
Ajamu Baraka
No Dare Call It Austerity
Ron Jacobs
The Redemptive Essence of History
David Rosen
Is Socialism Possible in America?
Dave Lindorff
The US as Rogue Nation Number 1
Joseph Natoli
The Mad King in His Time
David Thorstad
Why I’m Skipping Stonewall 50
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail