Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why Old Men Should Fight The Wars: 5 Questions With A Soldier On Break From Afghanistan

Location: Bar, Flying Pig, Amsterdam


2 (hookers 100 euro richer)

1 (number of me a little bit worse for the wear of this conversation)

30 (college credits this kid might die with)

When I started to ask him if he’d visited any prostitutes he interrupted me mid-sentence. “Two. I really banged the crap out of them.”

The bravado was as false as the orgasms he claimed to have given the hookers. I pictured his scarecrow body naked, shivering. It was easy to imagine him putting his clothes back on, stopping at the door, and asking to be held until his time ran out.

Yes, the prostitute would have answered. Of course.

I met him at a hostel bar in Amsterdam. He was 23 and had completed one year of school before joining the service. He left me with no doubt that wars should only be fought by old men and the men who give the orders to go to war.

I asked him 5 questions and wrote down his answers. I’m not sure why. The first question is a carry-over of a story he was telling:

1.     You get solicited by male prostitutes in Afghanistan?

I was just walking along and he comes up to me like a panhandler or a cocaine dealer and he says, ‘Are you dirty?’ Except he said it in a Middle Eastern accent. ‘You want to get a dirty hotel?’ Dirty means that you’re gay. I just kept walking. He was wearing traditional Middle Eastern clothing, a little hat and a rope type thing. They look at you and have a big smile on their face. Really creepy.

2.     Have you been in fire fights?

A few. I’ve had bullets fly past me. They’re not very good shots. It’s more of a harassment. They want us all dead as far as I’m concerned. The lower level guys, they’re uneducated, they do what they’re told. They’re just like me.

3.     What do you do for fun over there?

They have a special tv program. Have you heard of Trailer Park Boys? It’s about guys in a trailer park trying to smuggle crack or something. It’s always small crimes. They’re not real, but it’s made to be like reality tv. It’s funny. The Internet is very restricted. It’s like going online at a high school. No porn sites. Very slow. You can get Internet in your room but you have to buy it from the Americans.

4.     Are you proud of what you do? (I let him write the last two himself)

Of course. Who wouldn’t be glad to help out a failed state get back on their feet so they have the same amount of freedoms to most people in developed nations. Understanding they are Muslim, but let them have as much as possible. They are people too.

5.     Do people get/appreciate what you do?

I find it’s hard for people to understand the situation in Afghanistan as the regular population (not military) cannot know all of the information, as it would give away things of operational security, which is in place to keep soldiers safe. So, I find there is a great mix of people: people who support the troops, but not the mission; the mission and the troops, or no support at all. I find a lot of people are misinformed simply because they form an opinion not based on facts, and don’t read into the complexity of things.

Bonus. (He wrote the question and answer himself)

Do you get homesick?

Yes, quite often, because you don’t see any of your family for many, many months of the hardest times of your life. I must make it clear that it’s not only hard for the solder, but his family as well. Your comrades become closer to you than ever, because you can talk to them about ANYTHING. I think that’s where the term brothers in arms came from. 

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