They Said It Better Than I Ever Could...

These words that I write, they keep me from total insanity. -Charles Bukowski

Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived, or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed? -Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Mar 31, 2009


Now this time I don’t know if this is the electric strawberries or who decided this stupidity. My squad leader in his seemingly endless role as the bearer of bad and/or retarded news, just left my room. He had some new rules that the command just came up with to share with me.

First rule. No more bonfires. This is something we have done from time to time just to pass the time with a minimum of boredom. We get together, light up a bunch of old wood, and sit around the fire and talk. Well someone, I don’t know who, got a tad pissed about that. Apparently, they heard entirely too much laughter coming from the area of the bonfire. I guess when military leaders hear laughter they automatically swing into damage control mode and proceed to root out whatever the cause of said laughter is. In this case it was the bonfires.

It also probably has something to do with the electric strawberries because of the fact that they have already pissed us off to no end, we are going around and taking all the furniture that we built. Shelves and desks and tables and all of that stuff and we took that out to the bonfire the other night. Why would we spend all that time building this stuff just to give it over to this bunch of dickbags? However, my furniture has yet to be destroyed so sometime tomorrow I will make sure that all of this stuff is properly dismantled and the wood ruined. I could probably be the bigger man about all of this, but what fun would that be. To hell with all these guys.

Second rule. No more hat days. I don’t remember if I told you but the new commander had authorized us to wear any hat we liked on Fridays. This was kind of nice. Broke up the monotony. Gave people a chance to be themselves. Maybe even had a positive effect on morale. Which as anyone who has read my words for more than a minute knows is a big problem around here.

Well, this is the Army son, there is no room for individuality, and there is certainly no room for soldiers who are smiling, perhaps even happy for a minute or two. I mean, how are you going to kill the Taliban if you are wearing a White Sox hat?

Now that’s it for the rules I remember. I have a nasty habit of tuning my squad leader out when he starts to babble. But there are a few more things that we have to do that made me laugh.

First: We have to move out of our barracks tomorrow. Fun for us, thank God we got rid of all that other superfluous shit the other day. It will make moving infinitely easier. So we have to vacate our buildings by 1300 tomorrow. Making room for the new unit. I know that this is probably necessary, but I still don’t like it. We have been here for God only knows how long so far, we have been blown up a bunch of times, we have been in the shit with the Taliban (ish), and these pricks just showed up from the states. Not only that but we have to move to a place where we are going to be living right on top of each other for the duration of our time here. How about we just let us have our last few weeks in a place where we can actually breath when we sleep? No way Jose, you are moving 40 some guys into a few buildings built for maybe 15 a piece. Fun all around.

Now its back to missions for my platoon. Which means training this new unit, who has already made it abundantly clear that they have no interest in anything that we have to say. So we are going to have to deal with a whole bunch of active duty guys who have chips on their shoulders and think their shit doesn’t stink. I say this, to all the active duty guys, and this coming from a guy who was active duty for almost six years: Blow it out your ass. When you can make it on the outside then you can come and talk to me. Until then, keep sucking on the big green tit, and keep the Army as your really big, really bossy security blanket. (Yeah, I know there was a little bit of malice in there)

What is our first mission? A foot patrol through the village next to the FOB. Wow, is this going to take a while. I mean the village is probably maybe 150 meters long, and possibly 100 meters wide. So for an entire platoon to walk through it will take about 15 to 20 minutes. Come to think of it, by the time the first guy into the village reaches the end of it, the last guy will just be walking into it.

Then we asked, Why are we going into this village? Is there an actual purpose or something we are supposed to do there? We got the standard answer from our squad leader that we always get. Security patrol. Provide security for the FOB by patrolling the village. Okay, now I have been doing this sort of thing for a while and all the guys reading this who have been to Vietnam will know what I am talking about. A patrol through a village in a country like Afghanistan, where all your enemies dress, act, worship, eat, sleep and live, just like the regular people doesn’t do anything at all. As a matter of fact it might even work against you. Because it gives them a chance to get a good look at your weapons and equipment, and it gives them the chance to count you. All the while they will just stand there and stare at us because we can’t tell the difference between them and the townspeople. So they are in absolutely no danger unless one of the villagers rats them out. Which won’t happen because if it does, the Taliban will come right back in and cut someone’s head off. So we are going to spend, at most, 30 minutes giving the Taliban every piece of information they might need to attack the FOB. BRILLIANT!!! Not to mention, these villagers suck at small talk. Seriously, the last time we were out there I tried talking to a few of them and they looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language.

Whatever, guys who make a lot more money than I do are responsible for this debacle.

Maybe if we were allowed to buy some things while we were out in the village it would be different. Not so much because I need anything that these people have to sell, but if we were spending money in their village they would be much more amenable to helping us because they would want us to keep coming back and buying their shit. Something that the leadership here fails to realize, or has realized and has chosen to ignore is the fact that if there is no enticement for these people to be on our side as opposed to the Taliban’s, then they will, at best be indifferent to our presence, and at worst they will help the bad guys. You see, we have done nothing to help these people. We have given all of our humanitarian aid to the villages where high ranking officials in the different Afghan military branches live. Big surprise there. Not a thing to the village that is right next door. All we have done for them is open up a little medical clinic for about 2 hours, once a week, and we have allowed them to come to the FOB for medical attention if their ailment threatens their lives, limbs or eyesight. Even that is only open for two hours per day. Allah be with you if you get sick after hours. Now there is a rumor going around that the new unit is planning on firing all the local workers when they take over. Oh, I’m sure that will do wonders for relations between them and the locals. I guess there is someone out there who wants to ensure that our commanders work, destroying any and all good will between us and the community, is continued.

You can think whatever you like of the people in this country. Personally, the hippy in me stubbornly refuses to think of them as animals that should be shot. However, that is the prevailing idea within the ranks. Problem with that is you have a mission here, a mission that requires the assistance of the local populace. There is no way around it, the locals are the ones who let you know when the Taliban is around. They are the ones who keep the mortar rounds from dropping on your head. They are the ones who will tell you where the IED’s are. Even if I am wrong about this, I could be, there is nothing to be lost from creating a good relationship with the locals around you. This is not a scorched earth war. We are not here to destroy Afghanistan. We are here to rebuild this country into something viable, and in order to do that we need these people on our side. No matter how distasteful that is to some.

In my humble opinion this may be one of the bigger problems that the US military has here in Afghanistan. You have a mission, which is to build the Afghan military and security forces into a functioning organization that can defend its land, and attack the enemies of that land. You also have a mission to build this country’s government into something that can actually govern this land. Now is there anyone out there who thinks that this can be accomplished without the cooperation of the Afghani citizenry?

...No one, okay good.

On the other hand you have military commanders who have no regard whatsoever for the Afghanis or their land, or their customs, or their religion, or their politics, or their tribal rivalries, or anything at all really. Or so it seems. I am not in those senior leaders meetings so maybe they are doing their best to maintain and further relations with these people, but somehow I highly doubt it.

This is almost like a car on the road. The mission is the road, the military is the car, and the commanders are the driver. So there is somewhere down the road that you want to get to. You have a car driving along, except the prick driving the car wants to turn the other way. Sounds to me like you are never going to get where you are going! Or maybe I just don’t know how to drive.

Anyway, that is probably enough for tonight. That one got deep, I just wanted to whine a little bit about not being able to wear my White Sox hat, and not being able to burn all my furniture before the new unit gets their hands on it. I ended up critiquing the state of affairs and politics between the US military and the Afghani population. Mighty strange how my mind works isn’t it.

I am done now.


I love you mom...

1 comment:

  1. Here are a few questions/comments on your post:
    1. What is/are electric strawberries? Did I miss this from an earlier post, maybe before I started reading your blog?

    2. Yes, it does seem like there is a "NO FUN" rule in the Army. The bonfires sound like lots 'o fun and the hat day is such a simple way to let people relax and be themselves. Is that why they call the Army the "mean green machine?" No feelings, no fun!

    3. Burning the furniture?? Why don't you just leave it for the incoming group? Because they are a bunch of active duty who think their shit don't stink? Well in that case, yes, burn the furniture. Let them build their own damn furniture. What is it about burning something that gives such a sense of satisfaction?

    4. Why do you guys have to move? Forty guys in a place that holds fifteen? Now that's some mighty close quarters! Claustrophobic even!

    5. Seems like you have a good handle on the state of politics there...too bad no one is interested in the opinions of those who may actually know something.

    Hang in there MP. Try not to let the madness drive you to insanity!