The quality of the photo is such that I can't make out any details, which leads to me to believe that there's a strong possibility it has been “Photoshopped.” Giving it the benefit of the doubt, I'm going to make some assumptions based on what I see. First, I'm willing to bet that this little child is one of a handful of survivors, if not the only survivor, of an Amerikan bombing attack on an Afghan village (I'm assuming from the green combat dress of the troops that this is Afghanistan, not Iraq, where the troops usually wear desert camouflage dress). The child (I can't really tell from the photo if it's a boy or a girl) appears to be in a state of shock, probably traumatized by some recent event. The soldier appears to be a senior NCO, either a Sergeant First Class, First Sergeant, or Sergeant Major (if Army) or a Gunnery/Master/1st/ Master Gunnery Sergeant (if Marine Corps; again, I can't tell from the photo which service he is). He might, given his apparent age, also be a National Guardsman dragooned onto active duty. If this is the case, it would lead me to believe that, being a “weekend warrior” who has found himself yanked away from home, family, and day job and dispatched halfway around the globe rather than to somewhere within his own state, he is less than enthusiastic about his circumstances. He also probably, despite the danger around him, has yet to be fully desensitized and dehumanized, unlike his “regular army” comrades.
Note too the seeming indifference of the soldier's comrades in the background to the child's plight. Either they are “regular army” or have been “in country” for so long that they regard the lone soldier's compassion for a native as an anomaly worthy of ridicule or contempt. In fact, I seriously wonder if these soldiers launched or guided the attack that might have wiped out the child's family (a My Lai or Fallujah “redux?”). If this is the case, one wonders what miracle of God led to this child's life being spared. One also wonders what happened to the child after the picture was taken. Orphaned Afghan children cannot exactly look forward to the prospects of a happy, nurturing, carefree childhood even under the most benign of circumstances. This little war orphan's future is almost assuredly a dark one, even assuming he or she is lucky enough to find someone to raise him or her in a stable environment. Maybe someone familiar with the circumstances under which this photo was taken will someday shed more light.
So why am I crafting this conjectural narrative around a photo the circumstances surrounding of which I am utterly ignorant? Because the imperial propaganda machine delights in having us all believe that Amerikan troops manning the imperial outposts abroad are saviors, beneficent dispensers of Democratic good will, when in fact they are seen by the locals, and justifiably so, as brutal invaders and foreign occupiers. A camera snapshot captures only a single microsecond in time, very often under circumstances and conditions that are ambiguous without portrayal in a larger context. This makes the photographs easily manipulable for political and ideological purposes (and to be perfectly fair, this is true of both pro-war and anti-war individuals and organizations) that obscure rather than reveal truth.
So in closing, I will say that if I were to take this photograph at face value, the soldier holding the child is indeed a compassionate individual who merits our praise for “doing the right thing.” If this is indeed the case, my greatest hope is that the true horrors of war have manifested themselves to this lone soldier through his lone act of compassion. I also hope that if he still lives, he might influence his comrades to the point that they begin to realize the destructive role they have been duped into playing in the bankrupt, collapsing Amerikan Empire's desperate last-ditch attempts to save itself through foreign conquest and theft. If this can be accomplished, the thousand words this photograph equates to may have been among the thousand most precious words of the early 21st Century. Let us hope and pray that this is so.