Monday, 8 February 2010

Military Mentality

My life has been ordained to be a joke. A cosmic comedy.

My head still hurts, but the reason i came to this conclusion was a simple meeting of friends. I smile as soon as i see them huddled in the bunch, blocking the path for everyone else. Before even we have asked how everyone is, we begin arguing about the colour of my nail varnish. We spend a whole 20 minutes arguing about this -they say it is black, but I stand my ground that its dark purple or it just looks black but its not. A few emo jokes are made, before i finally snap out of my denial and admit perhaps it is black with purple tint...One day i might look back at today with a feeling of shock at my trivial waste of 20 minutes.

I know we're supposed to be celebrating an occasion, but i'm just not sure what it is yet. As everyone else knocks back ice cold vodka's, i patiently wait for the news.
It turns out one of my friends- A has been promoted to be an officer or something in the army (or was it the RAF?). The conversation naturally turns to wherever he works, and what his new position includes. Travelling, lots of paperwork, shouting at cadets....the list goes on.

I joke about seeing him in Iraq in the holidays, and he smiles. The smile that tells you there's more to it. It turns out he might be stationed in Iraq for 'a few weeks'. I think I speak first, asking A what his duties will include in Iraq. He jokes that perhaps me and a few of my friends should go with him. Since its going to be an 'experience'. Well at least i think he was joking... until i realised he wasnt. Naturally one of his friends tries to convince me its a good idea to spend a few weeks in a military camp, translating and 'helping'. One of my closer friends shoots a look that tells them they're not thinking right.

The UK has its bases in the south. I've never been to there, and i almost like the idea of this new 'experience' until A opens his mouth.
Their subconversation was about safety, and I hear the sentence of 'i'd shoot an iraqi child easily if it looked like it was going to hurt me or one of my guys'.

I miss my mouth and instantly spill ice cold water down my neck and chest. I dont gasp or jump up...i don't think i even noticed myself shiver.

They'd shoot a child if it looked like it would hurt. Even without being sure. They called an iraqi child 'It'. I don't think i can describe what happened at that moment, which is my soul became devoid of any emotion. A and I stare at each other for what seems to be an eternity. He's a good guy, but I realise at that moment each values their own more.

'try not to shoot everyone', I mumble to A, even though I have a feeling that he won't shoot anyone.
He nods, and I spend a few brief minutes teaching him nice words.

A few hours later, A tries to mess my (now long) hair, while i swat his hand away repeatedly, like it was a fly. For years and years, they've only seen my hair around shoulder length, so now its novel to them.
Unfortunatley he succeeds in messing my hair up, and despite my angry glares, I give up stopping him, and i also give up tidying it. I occasionally blow my hair out of my face every few seconds.
He continues to mess it up, with my female friends deciding to start tidying my hair up for me.
What ensues is a battle where A (and occasionally a few of his friends) mess my hair up, while my female friends tidy it up, and slap A's hand away.

I'm too busy laughing to notice the bewildered stares of those around us. I'm also too busy laughing to realise it hurts.


Ihsiin said...

"What ensues is a battle where A (and occasionally a few of his friends) mess my hair up, while my female friends tidy it up, and slap A's hand away."


On a more sombre note, there is a lot of this in the military; this attitude that one must be able to do anything, no matter how morally bankrupt, if required. I can't really blame them, to be honest. War is a horrible business.
That said, I don't think your friend really would shoot a child if he thought it was necessary. Not easily, anyway. It's all very well saying one would do such and such, it's a different matter entirely to commit.

And for the record, black is a beautiful colour. Wear it with pride. ;)

Touta said...

I understand that its a common mentality etc, but i suppose i cant get rid of idealistic thoughts and morals. War is horrible, but it seems to get more horrible through the decades, perhaps because the idea of 'honour' and 'innocents' is now invalid.
So do we blame human instinct on war being horrible? I'm not sure to be honest.

"And for the record, black is a beautiful colour. Wear it with pride. ;) "
hehehe thanks, and black is a beautiful colour :) and i do wear it...
though i can't help feeling you're biased :p

Bryan said...

Hello Touta,

My name is Bryan Semaan, and I am a PhD Candidate at the University of California, Irvine, in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Science. I am an Iraqi born in America – my mother was born and raised in Basra, and my father was born and raised in Northern Iraq, in a village near Mosul called Telkaif (Tel Keppe). I came across your blog because I have been going to Iraq Blog Count for some time now to learn more about what my fellow Iraqis are experiencing back home.

I am currently working on my dissertation research, where I am trying to better understand the ways in which Iraqis are using technology (i.e. the Internet, mobile phones) to repair various practices, e.g. social life, work, and education, despite living through war. My ultimate goal will be to develop technologies that will lessen the effects of war on civilian populations.

I was wondering if you would be willing to participate in an interview? All of the data I collect, as per University policy, will be confidential and anonymous. If you would like to participate, please let me know which method you would prefer. I can call your cell phone, or we can talk over Skype.

Please let me know if you would like to help a fellow Iraqi! Thank you very much for your time, and I hope to hear from you shortly.


Bryan Semaan, PhD Candidate
Department of Informatics--Collaborative Technologies
Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences
University of California, Irvine

programmer craig said...

Touta, I assume your friend is young and maybe hasn't even been overseas while in the military yet. I also assume (since you mentioned Vodka) that he may have been at least slightly under the influence. My interpretation is that he was trying to impress everyone with how "hard" and "tough" he is. He probably really means it that he'd shoot a child if the child was about to do conduct a potentially lethal attack. During the Vietnam war the VC figured out that American soldiers were very hesitant to treat children as potential threats, and there were many cases of kids being sent out to throw grenades into tents or jeeps and then run off. When I was in bootcamp in the Marines they spent a lot of time talking about that and the importance of being aware of everyone around you, no matter how harmless they seem. He's probably received the same training and he's probably thought about it quite a bit, but all that tough talk is just a bunch of hot air. I used to do it too, that's how I know :)

Touta said...

its very admirable that you're trying to find a solution to lessen the impact of war victims, and it would be nice to help. talk to you soon. :)

programmer craig,
i didn't look at that aspect to be honest with you, but you're right, although at the same time it makes me question whether we at such a young age should be involved in war, but then again war affects even the unborn, so there's not much we can do about that. (unless we revert to fighting on battlefields, which isnt realistic because of rising populations).
i can't also but help feeling torn between '2 sides' as it were in this case, and generally children in iraq haven't been used much during attacks as much as women have - its quite clear the value chain in our society is men-children-women. but thanks for letting me look at it with more 'understanding'. :)

melicieuse said...

unfortunately not too shocking coming from a military. Your post made me think, if one of my friends someone I'd known for years grows up to have morals contradicting my own od we stay friends and avoid topics of conflict....but will the friendship really ever be the same, or do I break away. I donno

Touta said...

although i know confrontation is not best, i do have a habit of not avoiding subjects...and you're right, its sometimes difficult to assess friendships, or control which route they take. :)

melicieuse said...

well, 2 trees don't give the same fruit ;-)