something about afghanistan:
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Trip 459-2010. old vet, new vet
...what you whinin’ for?
Your terrifyin’ chemwar and yer spdrs and yer slot-ls in redux? Sheesh!
We fought back in the day where they had mosquitos! Fer cry-eye!
We didn’t even had no war. They called it "police action." One that cost 50,000 ‘Merikin boys dead and buried. Check it out. All they names on a big black rock a half mile long in DC.
So yer stupid winless "war" on terror cost us 5,000 boys [and some grrrls] dead and buried.
Desert wars are EZ.
I hear tell we both killed about the same # of non-combatants–you call collaterals. Geez-sheets!
What kinda word is that?!
2 million each.
Ours took longer, and they’re still dyin’.
Course, gotta admit yours’ll die for centuries, y’know, that DU stuff. Un-depleted you ask me. UDU. Or, you do. Voodoo. Sheesh! We used white phosphorous on peephole too.
Or you can drop a Daisy Cutter: you go an’ toss some fine spray napalm from a plane and kill ever’body ever damn thing that lives or breathes in a big circle. From six inches deep to twenty stories high. In a dome of death. That’s not war!
Don’t know the name...wanna call it a Daisy Cutter.
But that ain’t war....
Trip 56-2010. whippersnappers.
Young guy gets in my taxi at the airport with his wife and a little girl. He’s got a big black halo ‘round his head on stiff little poles attached to his shoulders. After a better look I can see the "halo" got some sticks stuck right into the skull and same for the shoulders. Sheeee-aye! When he turns to talk, which ain’t often, he has to turn his whole body. So his neck won’t swivel.
He’s got the Marine cut so I ask him. He says yeah. Get that apparatus from the Afghanis?
Wife blurts up first, "Yes, he did. IED. It killed his best friend and nearly killed him!"
Did not expect that outburst.
Shrapnel just missed my spinal cord. He explains. By a quarter inch.
I look the situation over as we pull out of the airport. Pretty hectic behind us tonite. Pretty wife to die for. I pause to check out with the mag card press it to the reader screen. Look back at the little girl about 4 hugging her dolly. Boy! I go. Sort of losing it. Sorry. But I say, Prettiest little girl I ever seen! What’s your name, angel? I fergit what she said. I flash one more glance at the wife–I swear. By this time. 10 seconds the A-hole driver behind me is honking. I flip ‘m off out the window so the young wife don’t think I’m a jerk. We head out.
Spent five and one fucking half hours waiting for planes here. If they don’t get their shit together...I dunno...tomorrow we gotta be in Fresno.
Why you gotta be in Fresno?
Relax. I tells 'im. One, you’re a national hero. The airline company is heartsick about your inconvenience, and I’m as sure as hell [on this planet is where you came from] about that. They are probably sick about disappointing you. But they do not want to kill you with a plane with mechanical difficulties or some other kind o’ dangerous flight when you are about two days away from paradise. You hear me, Marine?
He looked at me stern and full of macho indignation at me telling him shit. Any kind of shit.
Nobody has a better shot at happiness than you right now, I go on. Just look in that back seat! I was not lying and they all knew it. A woman knows how good looking she is...and how good she wants to be as a person as well. She spoke:
He got hit on the road. Just driving along. We are so happy to have him back with us...
And she trailed off.
I didn’t want this to get saccharine, nor worse, theoretical. For all I knew the wife was a lazy, ego-maniacal heroin addict whore. All I’m sayin’ is she did not look like that...and dammit I wanted it to have a chance as if some dumb cabbie’s tough love is gonna add to their chances...and not detract.
So I asked him, "What’s goin’ on over there? What’s it like? They never tell us anything."
"It’s fucked, he said. The people are fucked. The situation is fucked. It’ll never work. I think we oughta nuke the entire country and bring everyone home. Nuke the whole place!"
I felt I was in the tilt position to be able to have some positive input–as a random source of some sort of coincidology. Just one American speakin’ to another.
I felt if not pressure, then the seriousness of my imagined responsibility. Under the gun so to speak.
I asked him. You ever hear of Malalai Joya? He said no. Remember that name, I told him.
She agrees with you. About gettin’ out anyway. Don’t imagine she’d go for the nuke ‘em part. She taught little girls to read in secret schools. When she was 18. She’s 25 or 6 now. She’s the youngest woman, of the few ever elected, in the Loya Jirga. She rocks, man. She wants us out. She says you cannot bring democracy. It has to grow up from people. And she would work to teach girls to read and vote and work and go to school like they never could before.
I went on a little roll: teach girls. That’s what you want, I bet. And let girls become all that they can. Let ‘em learn physics. Become doctors, scientists, architects, politicians. I can’t believe women would have got us into this mess...
He said yeah. I’ll look her up.
He said the hotel name they were goin’ Snarled a bit. I said, Paradise. You got one night of paradise. Great family. I had loved these guys at first sight. Man, I said, enjoy every breath of free air you get with these two angels. Take that hotel to heart. It’s free, huh?
Oh yeah, he goes.
Get smart, says I. It’s a holiday. Now tell me what’s it like.
You wanna know what it’s like?
OK. We got a report from a farm. The guy had been having trouble with the Taliban. Stealing his food and shit.
So we convoy up an head out there. It’s good intel. We get into a fire fight, and we chase them away. So it’s over quickly.
Yeah. Several. I didn’t see the count. Don’t matter. We didn’t get ‘em all. They fade into the hills. So we return to the farm. The owner is an ass-hole.
He’s pissed we upset his schedule. Says his goats and cows are upset. Gotta milk ‘em and the chickens are over the place. His wife is crying. The Captain is trying to pacify this idiot. Then in the middle of talkin’ he spits in the Captain’s face.
I look back at the wife. She is nodding at me. Positive. About the vocab-constab-ulary or what? The whole interrogation? This is de-briefing taxi style. I’m into it.
What did he do?
Do?! He did what he had to do?
Kill the guy!?
No. He ordered the house cleared. Then he had a tank run over it. Back and forth a couple times.
That shuts ‘im up.
I bet. Then what?
There was a bit of silence there. The little girl was looking out the window when I took a glance in the mirror. She was hugging her dolly and looking out her window at the night. At Millbrae, California, on the bay side of the freeway. Big expanse of darkness off to our left which was salty water.
I said, if you got time. You get up early. You go for a walk here cross this street. Big, long park. Goes for miles. I didn’t know that for sure. You can see the birds flyin’ in under the jets. See the jets flying in to come and get you outa here. I hope you come back.
Then it came to me. The farmer. The captain. Had they talked before?
Yeah. I suppose they had to. There would have been some questions. How many insurgent? Maybe some directions. I guess. Stuff like that.
And it was friendly?
I didn’t see that.
Y’know. The genius of those two is cool. We pulled into the driveway of a very nice-looking hotel. Wow! I go. I ask the girl if she ever stayed at a hotel before. Unt-huh, she says.
[I’m going bananas inside.]
But I tell the girl, "You gotta try room service and free movies and order a coke and try pancakes for breakfast...that’s what you do in hotels. Use everything. Use ‘em up!"
Mom was sliding over to the girl’s side to get out. Daddy was pulling an airline voucher for the ride. I’d seen those before. Heck, happened to me one time. I’d had an angel with me too.
Gettin’ them together like that, almost out of the taxi, I said to the Marine, "They did it so he wouldn’t get killed."
I mean, you guys couldn’t be there all the time. You had to return to base. So the Taliban would’ve killed this farmer if you hadn’t knocked his house down. It was survival. Your Captain only had to wipe off some spit and knock down a crappy house. He saves a family.
You got the same choice. Only you won’t get spit on. You get loved.
You’re the luckiest man in the world. If I were you, I’d wear that thing around your head for as long as it takes to never go back.
His wife touched my arm.
Peace, I said.
Driving back to the airport and the short line, I almost cried like a baby.
Joya. I kept saying it. Thinkin’ how I forgot her first name in the tears...