May 19, 2013
War Is Betrayal
Posted on Jul 13, 2012
By Chris Hedges, Boston Review
Two years later, as a senior, Millard faced graduation after having been rejected from the only college where he had applied.
“I looked at what jobs I could get,” he says. “I wasn’t really prepared to do any job. I wasn’t prepared for college. I wasn’t prepared for the workforce. So I started looking at the military. I wanted to go active duty Marine Corps, I thought. You know, they were the best. And that’s what I was going to do.
“There were a lot of other reasons behind it, too,” he says. “I mean, growing up in this culture you envy that, the soldier.”
His grandfather, in the Army Air Corps in World War II, had died when he was five. The military honor guard at the funeral had impressed him. As a teenager, he had watched the burial of his other grandfather, also with military honors. Millard carried the folded flag to his grandmother after receiving it from the honor guard.
And nearly a century later it is the same.
When Millard told his mother he wanted to be a Marine, she pleaded with him to consider the National Guard. He agreed to meet with the Guard recruiter, whose pitch was effective and simple: “If you come here, you get to blow shit up.”
“I’m seventeen,” Millard says. “I thought being in the military was the pinnacle of what coolness was. I was just like, oh, I get to blow up stuff! I signed up right then and there on the spot. But the interesting thing he didn’t tell me was that the ‘shit’ that he referred to would be kids.
“They don’t teach you when you’re in land mine school that the overwhelming percentage of victims of land mines are little kids. Because, like, in the States, a little kid will chase a soccer ball in the streets. And overseas, a little kid will chase a soccer ball into a minefield. Whether, you know, it happens in Korea or Bosnia or Iraq, kids get killed all the time by land mines. They get maimed by them. And that’s just a reality of our military industrial complex. We put out these mines. We have no concern for what they do.”
Not that this reality intruded on his visions of life in the military when he began.
“I just thought of it like this stuff you see on TV where cars blow up and stuff like that,” he says.
For Anthony Swofford—author of Jarhead, a memoir about being a Marine in the first Gulf War—the tipping point came when the recruiter, who assured him he would be “a fine killer,” told him he could book a threesome for $40 in Olongapo in the Philippines. “I’d had sex three times and been the recipient of five blow jobs and fourteen hand jobs,” he writes. “I was sold.”
But sometimes there’s no need for a recruiting pitch. The culture does enough to make war, combat, and soldiering appealing.
Ali Aoun was born in Rochester, New York. His father is Lebanese. His mother is from the Caribbean. He says he wanted to be a soldier from the age of nine. He was raised watching war films. But even antiwar films such as Platoon and Full Metal Jacket celebrate the power and seductiveness of violence. He wanted this experience as his own. He says no one pushed him into it.
“I enlisted,” he explains. “It was something I always wanted to do, although I got more than I bargained for. You never really know a woman until you jump in bed with her. It’s just like the Army: you never really know about it until you enlist. It’s not about defending the country or serving our people. It’s about working for some rich guy who has his interests.”
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