On Antiwar.com, I find a loutish American general, James Mattis, martial feminist, talking about the fun he has killing Afghans. Yes, fun, wheeee-oooo! and ooo-rah! too. He says, You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil, adding guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyways. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. What must he do with prisoners?
A joyous killer, possibly orgasmic. Note mandatory flagly background, pickle suit, and stupid colorful gewgaws so he looks like a goddam stamp collection. Stern gaze is necessary to become a general. From defending the Constitution to the pleasure of watching Afghans die: The military has come a long way.
I'll guess he fell just shy of graduating from third grade. He sure ain't much of a general, no ways, I reckon. Just the fellow I want representing me in the world.
Does General Dworkin-Mattis speak of manhood? Odd, since his military is being badly outfought by the unmanly Afghans that are fun to kill. By the Pentagon's figures the US military outnumbers the resistance several to one. The US has complete control of the air, enjoying F16s, helicopter gun-ships, transport choppers, and Predator drones, as well as armor, body armor, night-vision gear, heavy weaponry, medevac, hospitals, good food, and PXs. The Afghans have only AKs, RPGs, C4, and balls. Yet they are winning, or at least holding their own. How glorious.
Man for man, weapon for weapon, the Taliban are clearly superior. They take far heavier casualties, but keep on fighting. Their politics are not mine, but they are formidable on the ground. If I were General Dworkin, I'd change my name and go into hiding. Maybe he could wear a veil.
Perhaps the US should recognize that it has a second-rate military at phenomenal cost — an enormous, largely useless national codpiece. It is embarrassing. The Pentagon's preferred enemies are lightly armed, poorly equipped peasants, which makes for a long war and thus hundreds of billions of dollars in juicy contracts for military industries. Yet the greatest military in history (ask it) gets run out of Southeast Asia, blown up and run out of Lebanon, shot down and run out of Somalia, with Afghanistan a disaster in progress and Iraq claimed as an American victory rather than Shiite. Do the aircraft carriers intimidate North Korea? No. Iran? No. China? No. For this, a trillion dollars a year?
The reasons for the mediocrity are clear enough. First, the Pentagon has become a contracting agency for buying gorgeous and elaborate arms of little relevance to the wars the US fights. (If the Martians attack, we'll be ready.)
Second, the US is no longer a nation of hardy country boys who grow up shooting and loading hay bales into pick-ups for spare change. (For the uninitiated, hay bales are heavy.) I often see headlines such as More than two-thirds of Texas schoolchildren flunked the state's physical fitness test this year If Texas has gone all soft and rubbery, you can forget about Massachusetts. The American pool of hardy, manipulable kids without too much schoolin' isn't what it was. The lack of troops of course pushes the Pentagon toward more pricey gadgetry and greater imbalance.
Now, it is regarded as treasonous to question that Our Boys are the best trained, best armed, toughest troops in the world, and I'll probably get punched out in bars for pointing out the awful truth. Let's imagine an experiment. We take Killing-is-Fun General Mattis-Abzug, and a thousand GIs, and a thousand Taliban, and let them fight it out in any patch of wretched barren mountains of your choosing. On equal terms. What you think? Same weapons.
Good idea, General? You eat what they eat, wear what they wear, they have no medical care, and neither do you. If they get lung-shot and die the hard way, you do too. It will come down to guts and motivation.
Motivation: It counts, general. I believe it was Bedford Forrest who said of some of his troops, Them cane-brake boys jest plain likes to fight. I guess there must be just a whole lot of cane in Afghanistan. The Taliban will go to any length to cut your freaking throat because you have been killing their wives and children, fathers and brothers, and you will fight for for well. Uh. Big oil, AIPAC, Ann Coulter. Or a promotion for General Mathis-Abzug. Anybody want to put odds on the outcome?
Or what if they had the air power, the gun ships ?
And General, killing them might be a tad less fun when you couldn't do it from the safety of a gunship. Just a thought, General.
A digression here. Bear with me. It's just that General Mattis-Steinem makes killing sound like so much fun. And I guess it is, for some. You've seen the YouTube video of GIs machine-gunning people walking around a city street from a helicopter gunship. A hoot. But — can I offer a second opinion?
I went off to Viet Nam because I was young and dumb and adventurous and they told me that I was fighting for Apple Pie, and Mom, and White Christian Motherhood (which I spent my high-school days dreading, but never mind). Actually I was just another sucker from the small-town South. The Pentagon depends, utterly, on small-town suckers. They are brave, trainable, not real thoughtful.
Funny how things look if you think about them. Patriots talk about the tragic deaths of young Americans in Afghanistan. Well, okay. Other things being equal, young guys getting shot to death in a pointless war is not a swell idea. I'm against it. In fact, the more you see of it, and I've seen a lot, the worse an idea it seems. Of course, a logician might point out that if you didn't send them to Afghanistan, they wouldn't die there — would they?
The dead are not the only casualties. Go to a Veterans Hospital, and watch the leftovers come in. You might be surprised how much fun they didn't think it was. Or what they think of General Mattis-Firmstare. You might be very surprised.
But tell me: why is a GI's life, mine or anyone else's, worth more than the life of an Afghan child of three? Especially if you pretend to be a Christian, tell me. (I love this part. Military Christians are wonderfully funny frauds.)
A pretty good rule of thumb is that the attacking army is in the wrong, which would have made a Vietnamese kid's life worth more than mine. I'll buy that, though I'm happy it didn't work out that way. But the attacking countries always believe that Their Boys are sacred.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl, they figured a Japanese pilot's life was worth more than that of an American sailor. The Germans thought the same, mutatis mutandis, when the Wehrmacht went into Poland, as of course do Americans when they invade country after country. But why is the aggressor's life sacred, prithee? If I leap out of a dark alley and attack your daughter with a butcher knife, is my life worth more than hers?
But it is just so much fun to kill Afghans. Excuse me, I need to puke.
July 23, 2010
Fred Reed is author of Nekkid in Austin: Drop Your Inner Child Down a Well and A Brass Pole in Bangkok: A Thing I Aspire to Be. His latest book is Curmudgeing Through Paradise: Reports from a Fractal Dung Beetle. Visit his blog.
Copyright © 2010 Fred Reed