Monday, April 11, 2016

War is a Game - part 3

[In case you missed it, read part1 and part 2]
    I found this piece in my Sketches folder. Not sure when I did this or why. It was labeled "whattheywontgofor", so I'm thinking I was probably venting that the company (my old -video-game-job) wouldn't go for this tone in their games. I vaguely remember I wanted the characters to be more flamboyant, like a Mad Max feel.



     And, with no good segue, here's a great anti-war article I just read:
http://www.salon.com/2016/04/10/the_things_i_still_carry_partner/
     Some excerpts:
[    "“Is the military like Call of Duty?” one of the students asks, referring to a popular single-shooter video game.
    “I’ve never played,” I respond.  “Does it include kids who scream when their mothers and fathers are killed? Do a lot of civilians die?”
    “Not really,” he says uncomfortably.
     “Well, then it’s not realistic. Besides, you can turn off a video game. You can’t turn off war.”
     A quiet settles over the room that even a lame joke of mine can’t break.  Finally, after a silence, one of the kids suddenly says, “I’ve never heard anything like this before.”

     "In part, it seems, I’ve been in search of creative ways to frighten myself, apparently to relive the moments in the military I said I never wanted to go through again — or so a psychiatrist told me anyway.  According to that doctor (and often I think I’d be the last to know), I’m desperately trying to recreate adrenalizing moments like the one when, as an Army Ranger, I jumped out of an airplane at night into an area I had never before seen, not sure if I was going to be shot at as I hit the ground. Or I’m trying to recreate the energy I felt leaping from a Blackhawk helicopter, night vision goggles on, and storming my way into some nameless Afghan family’s home, where I would proceed to throw a sandbag over someone’s head and lead him off to an American-controlled, Guantánamo-like prison in his own country.
This doctor says it’s common enough for my unconscious to want to relive the feeling of learning that my friend had just been blown up by a roadside bomb while on patrol at two in the morning, a time most normal people are sleeping. Somehow, at the oddest hours, my mind considers it perfectly appropriate to replay the times when rockets landed near my tent at night in a remote valley in Afghanistan. Or when I was arrested by the military after going AWOL as one of the first Army Rangers to try to say no to participation in George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror."
"I’m now explaining how the U.S. military handed out thousands of dollars to anyone willing to identify alleged members of the Taliban and how we would raid houses based on this information.  “I later came to find out that this intelligence, if you could call it that, was rooted in a kind of desperation.” I explain why an Afghan in abject poverty, looking for ways to support his family, might be ready to finger almost anyone in return for access to the deep wells of cash the U.S. military could call on.  In a world where factories are few, and office jobs scarce indeed, people will do anything to survive. They have to.
I point out the almost unbearable alien quality of Afghan life to American military officials.  Few spoke a local language.  No one I ever ran into knew anything about the culture of the people we were trying to bribe.  Too often we broke down doors and snatched Afghans from their homes not because of their ties with either the Taliban or al-Qaeda, but because a neighbor had a grudge against them.
“Most of the people we targeted had no connection to the Taliban at all. Some even pledged allegiance to the U.S. occupation, but that didn’t matter.” They still ended up with hoods over their heads and in some godforsaken prison.
By now, I can tell that the kids are truly paying attention, so I let it all out.  “The Taliban had surrendered a few months before I arrived in Afghanistan in late 2002, but that wasn’t good enough for our politicians back home and the generals giving the orders. Our job was to draw people back into the fight.”
Two or three students let out genuine soft gasps as I describe how my company of Rangers occupied a village school and our commander cancelled classes there indefinitely because it made an excellent staging point for the troops — and there wasn’t much a village headmaster in rural Afghanistan could say to dissuade history’s most technologically advanced and powerful military from doing just what it wanted to. “I remember,” I tell them, “watching two fighting-age men walk by the school we were occupying.  One of them didn’t show an acceptable level of deference to my first sergeant, so we grabbed them.  We threw the overly confident guy in one room and his friend in another, and the guy who didn’t smile at us properly heard a gunshot and thought, just as he was meant to, that we had just killed his friend for not telling us what we wanted to hear and that he might be next.”
“That’s like torture,” one kid half-whispers." ]

[On to part 4]