Saturday, July 12, 2003

Tensions Between Soldiers Start to Show, Man Arrested for Wearing Saddam Hussein T-shirt

12 July, 2003

It’s been an ordinary few days, and an extraordinary period of longing for and missing you. I’m caught between extremes of setting adrift on that grey sea and dark sky of loneliness so familiar to me now at times of depression, and then absolute ecstasy of talking to you on a good night, of getting excited over a letter or package. I love putting some music on and writing you – I actually feel as if we are together then, in heart. I see the day I come home clearly, and I’m so happy! So it’s a balance, but I’m getting more stable over time. It’s not that I don’t miss you, I’m just finding ways to deal with it. All of those ways have to do with staying positive and writing you. I love you so dearly, it’s so real, and it will not only survive, but grow while I’m in Iraq.
I’m looking for a creative force to take hold of me – kinda like looking for a lost good luck charm in a messy room! I know it’s there, but I have to find it. The Army makes you dull, these people make you dull, and it makes you tired. So with all of that in the way, I am trying to write better and with dedication. We’ll see.
I’ll go over what happened only this morning, then work back a bit. SSG Choy was already ranting and yelling. His problem this morning was my room (it is usually with someone or something). My room was completely clean and very nice. He’s jealous of that, not to mention a childish loudmouth with a Napoleon complex. He looks about 3 feet tall, a little flexing ball of tiny masculinity with a close-cropped haircut and shaggy shave. He is always yelling. He is always stressed, and he targets things arbitrarily to attack. Unpleasant as of late, but he turned on me. That was a mistake. So, this morning he said he was going to write me and Foley up. I asked him what was wrong with my room. He couldn’t reply. Then he (just to add drama to his act) asked 1LT Frasier to act as a witness. I then said, as was reasonable, he was only stressed and should learn to handle his stress and not make me a victim of his madness. He said, or yelled, that I could go see the chaplain. I said, ‘No, I want to talk to a business man.’ I meant someone who could tell him he was wrong. He continued his nonsense until he said the word “court marshal.” That was when I knew he lost his little hot-head. So I said, ‘Sergeant Choy, I need your information so I can report you for animal cruelty.” He shut up and got nervous, probably regretting that he had even asked for a witness. I have been too nice to SSG Choy, ignoring his faults because I felt sorry for him, but he kept attacking anything in sight.
‘I am going to report you for injuring Knight (our dog), for throwing a puppy out of the second story window, for slamming doors on dogs, and for pouring boiling hot coffee on dogs – sending them yelping like tortured children,’ I said. He is notorious, and people here despise him for it. All of this is well known, as well as his tangents, so I told him I would report him. He is also big on pornographic videos that he downloads from home, I suppose, instead of talking to his children. His wife must be a saint, she must hold that whole family together. Anyways, I suspect he’s distributing porno video disks here too – porno is something I despise. So I told him this, and he said, “Get out of my face!” He was miffed, and I called his bluff. If I’m wrong, I’ll admit it, but if I am unjustly treated because of someone else’s lack of character – I will defend myself fully. Hopefully he will chill out and shut up. I don’t really like him anymore, for reasons that have always been present, but reasons I can no longer stomach.
The same is true of Sweeny, who I’ve come to find is an absolute creep. Constantly lying and talking about sex like a sick animal. I don’t get good vibes from him – something is not right. He was caught on guard two nights ago masturbating when he was supposed to be watching our perimeter. Just another creep. When we were in Camp Udairi, I had to back the truck up. A soldier came along the side of the truck and talked to Sweeny really quick and left. I told Sweeny, ‘Get out and guide me back.’
“That one guy is back there, I see him, he’s backing us up,” he said. I thought he may be lying, but I decided to trust him. I started backing up.
“WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!” said a medical officer to us.
‘Our guide is back there, Sir!’ I yelled over the noise of the truck, and past Sweeny’s face, he looking straight ahead, as if thinking of something in the distance.
“No one is back there!” the medic said. Immediately I knew Sweeny was lying again, and had flat out lied to me, we could have killed someone, and it would have been my fault. So I said, ‘GET OUT! GET THE HELL OUT!’
Since that time, and after, he’s been buying animal porno from Iraqi kids, I’ve decided to completely cut him off and keep him away. The people I socialize with are limited to Conroy and Foley and 1LT Orr. I think more than ever that you should know evil in order to be able to identify it, but keep company with good people – always. Keeping people of questionable character in tow can only lead to your demise. Charitable works should be practiced, but prudence is essential.
In other news, yesterday we were rocked by two explosions that caused paneling in our ceilings to come crashing down on our office. All you could see were shattered plaster panels lying about and a plaster dust cloud. It wasn’t an attack, it was only our own guys blowing up trees with C-4 explosive. It unleashed an amazing force. It also unleashed an amazing mess, and an ensuing fire near our barracks. To add to this, some trees were wrongly blown up, while the problem trees (the ones posing the security risk) remained standing. Windows were also blown out. Seconds before, someone ran in and yelled, “THERE’S A KID OVER THERE!” then BOOM! and down came the tiles. If there was a kid there (both explosions going off near squatters and their army of children) he would have been killed. I got sick to my stomach. Some soldiers ran to the explosion site, but found no body. That was a relief.
Well, the very large trees ended up crushing our perimeter wire in some places and one large tree destroyed our brick wall (an obstacle between us and the road). It also blocked the commercial road used by Iraqis on the other side. So in short, we created a mess. I consider it a metaphor for everyday events here. Good Plan – poorly executed. Or Bad Plan – bad execution. I just asked, ‘Why didn’t we use that huge bulldozer out front?’ There is a massive, armored bulldozer here, the kind you see demolishing houses in Palestine. Everyone looked at me and shrugged. Then a colonel, no, I think he was a major, from our neighboring unit came over fuming.
“What the hell are you doing?! Why don’t you use the bulldozer?!” he said. I had to chuckle to myself.
After the great tree demolition, a man was brought in for wearing a Saddam Hussein t-shirt. He turned out to be a translator working for the Army at another camp. I went to see him for myself. He seemed a bit effeminate and skinny, his trousers pulled up over his nonexistent belly. He acted impulsively, and it was clear he was not “normal.” Well, he spoke good English, especially when they told him he was going to jail. “FUCK! FUCK IT ALL!” he yelled. Then I went to the reporting sergeant who asked,
“What should I put as his offence?”
I thought, ‘Well, they are “free,” as we are in America, right? That is why I am here, right? Well, I’ve seen worse t-shirts worn in the barracks or people on the street. Shirts like “FUCK YOU” in bold white on black, or even one when I saw a young soldier father holding his young child in Taco Bell along with his wife wearing a t-shirt saying, “THE HEAD FOUNDATION –please give generously.” That’s not too nice.’ Well, what to do with him? What to charge him with? SFC Smith showed up, ready to judge our queer Iraqi (no pun intended) and hand out justice – especially since he was the highest ranking person as everyone was gone eating dinner at a restaurant. “OFF WITH HIS HEAD!” I expected to hear. To be honest, the shirt looked funny, everyone else thought so too. The funniest part for me was seeing everyone scratch their heads trying to come up with a charge.
“Umm, what should I put? Being a dumbass?” asked the sergeant. I thought,
‘Well, I think you could get him for Baathist propaganda.’ I didn’t say anything though. After all, Iraq is free now. I didn’t agree with the shirt, and if humor was its aim, I could taste it a bit, but it’s just not the right time for that humor. I guess that makes me a true American. Foley made me laugh when he said,
“Well, he is a college student!” That seemed to explain everything.
I went up to one of the guard towers the other day to see the kids and the new location of the “tower” (a corner of our barracks). Some lazy soldiers were up there, with a bunch of loud, demanding kids on top of the building only a few meters across from them. The guards were one black kid and one white kid, big and fat. He was sitting behind his machine gun talking to the kids in English. “No chocolate. Throw a rock and I’ll shoot!” he said (on a bullhorn), as if talking to himself.
“Mista, Mista, YES! GIVE ME!” the kids were yelling.
“SHUT THE FUCK UP! Bring me your sister!” the guards chuckled. “Hey?! You know Knight 6 said we can shoot anyone who throws rocks, right?” the white guard said. I wasn’t convinced that was legit, and figured he said it just to help time pass.
There was one lone kid, about 8 years, on the ground below (as opposed to the rooftops). He was yelling at us with his hands on his hips, obviously very angry because he hadn’t gotten anything from the guards. He screamed and threw rocks.
“Here you go!” said the black guard. A cigarette, lit, fell from his hand and floated towards the ground. The kid ran and picked up his treat. “Smoke! Like this!” the soldiers yelled. They made a smoking gesture as the kid looked up, holding the cigarette between his thumb and index finger of his left hand, upright like a candle. The kid put the cigarette to his lips, and the end of it glowed brightly. He then quickly threw the cigarette away from his face and resumed his pissed-off posture. The guards laughed. Right as I began to walk away, one of the fathers came out and shouted at the children, and they all immediately scattered. He then looked up to us on the roof and smiled and waved, “Hello! Hello!” I left.
Last evening, as kids gathered to watch the fire department (yes, the fire department, complete with lime green truck) fight a fire caused by our explosive tree cutting operation. I dropped them some pens that my mom sent. That was nice of her. I notice the price of sending a package is outrageous. Very expensive, it is. It’s nice though, and I think the kids enjoy the stuff though.
Well Foley and I are sitting here trying to figure out why the guy on the shift after us wrote Foley’s name on a notepad, surrounded by Gothic scribbling and a sketch of a dead girl. Then it says, “Kill Your Parents” and “I stand alone inside” and “I put my trust in you.” What the hell? There are some very strange people in the military – most are very strange, or hide something inside that reveals itself at times. It happens in the Army, you think you know someone, and then after a long time of knowing them, they say something or confide some type of desire or belief. Hmm, a sick little society this is. Well. Today is Sunday, church day. I would really like to go to Mass! I miss it. All I can do is read the Bible and do my own “Mass” from a book. I guess that is better than nothing. That is really a source of peace for me, especially here. The more you understand Catholicism, the more you see why it is structured and taught the way it is, why its standards are so important. You may not be able to change the world, but you may be able to be part of the process of change. Real change comes slowly. So one may think, “Na, that’s too idealistic!” or “That is out of date!” but it’s not. The only reason it may seem that way is if you have more faith in the world. You can’t have faith in the world if you don’t have faith in God. God is love, and love spreads, it heals. Faith in the world is only an abstract dream viewed from afar. Have faith in God, and you’ll never be let down – even when you think things are all wrong. See it through. See it through another day.


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