want to be a writer. I've always wanted to be a writer. I've
sucked at everything else I've attempted in life.
go ahead and be a writer, you might say. Go ahead and write
that's kind of hard to do when you're shoved into a uniform
and given a gun and told to go fight and by the way, if you
hear gunshots, duck.
a journal, I can do this, this I can do, and I might as well.
I might as well put this shit down. We've been sitting here
for at least a week now, coiled like snakes, waiting for somethinganythingto
it feels good, writingthe only bit of normalcy in a very,
very fucked up world.
if you're reading this, then you know it's fucked up.
right now, it's real fucked up. I don't even know where we are.
would guess we're near the al-Fakka border crossing, behind
the mounds of dirt the Iraqis piled up around their borders
during the 1980s. I can see Iranian soldiers massing just to
the east. Sometimes they come so close to us I can see the bones
stretching the dark skin of their long and narrow and bearded
came to Baghdad a few months ago, leaving Fort Stewart for the
fifth time in five years for what we thought was just another
tour in Iraq, going on patrols, doing the things we weren't
trained for and babysitting a bunch of fat reservists. We're
Raiders, the 1st Brigade of the 3D Infantry Division, and we're
supposed to be the ones that strike first.
all tense as we sit here in this city of tents and generators,
stuck on twelve-hour shifts of sentry duty, guarding the mess
and supply tents from ourselves. We all know or think we know
that we're here to attack Iran, or at least to give that impression,
and some guys are ready to fight. It's what they're trained
to do, and their hearts are pumping in an adrenaline-induced
bloodlust. I liken it to high school football; you practice
every day, running till you puke, pounding tackling dummies
and learning plays until Friday night when the coach grabs you
by the helmet and throws you into the game and you get to hit
somebody for real. In the Army, you train and train and do drills,
go to the range, and then they throw you into Iraq and you get
to shoot and kill for real.
there's another thing that's let us know some big shit is about
to go downthe treatment of the journalists, the people
from the newspapers and TV. They got locked up as soon as we
set up camp. The commander ordered the MPs to confiscate all
cameras and laptops and recording devices from any member of
the press that traveled with us. There were, of course, protests
from the reporters, so the MPs had to do their confiscating
by gunpoint, putting the journalists into the makeshift jail
consisting of a small row of tents on the periphery of our camp.
had never seen anything like that before. The sight of cameras
and reporters was a common one in Iraq, and they pretty much
had free reign; they could travel anywhere they liked, though
they were all but forbidden to talk to the common soldier.
a lot of us are former college students who were forced to drop
out, as our families could no longer afford to send us to school.
This life in the desert is a far cry from my days at Wayne State
University in downtown Detroit. I miss the quiet study of the
campus library; I dearly miss my literature and political science
classes and drinking coffee with my friends.
enlisted in the Army shortly after dropping out. I couldn't
find a job anywhere.
unemployment rate in Michigan back in 2009 was something like
fifteen percent, and my dad was an engineer working for GM.
He was forced out with no severance package at all, with a mortgage
and a wife and a son in college and a daughter in high school.
last time I saw a newspaper, the unemployment rate in Michigan
was something approaching thirty percent, a little bit higher
than the rest of the country.
was going to be a draft, but that of course became unnecessary
as some of the big corporations, companies like General Motors,
began falling down like dominoes and scores of people suddenly
became unemployed. The military had a huge pool of desperate
people available to sign up and put to work for Uncle Sam.
I write this. I write this even though we're not allowed to
write letters right now, and our email privileges have been
suspended, as our location and mission is secret. I just need
to write, I guess. It's kind of therapeutic, a way I can sort
this madness that's growing inside me, a madness born from sitting
in the desert for a week now with nothing to do except clean
my weapon and go through chemical warfare drills.
have to be careful when and what I write, I thinkmy XO,
a fresh-faced, pimply second lieutenant, just gave me a dirty
look. He asked me what I was writing, and I said a journal,
which is true. He stuck out his hand to take it from me, but
our CO called him away. He told me not to write about Army business
and walked away.
have to hide my journal somewhere in the miles of rock and sand
that never leaves my sight.