Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Mind of Mansel: JR & I in Iraq, Parts 3 & 4

JR and I in Iraq - part 3

Dodge city, that's what the Marine's called the area we were in. One marine, so young he shaved once or at least twice a week whether he needed it or not had already killed three people. When I asked whether or not they were insurgents or civilians he just answered, "Well, one was shooting back and the others weren't, but screw'em man. I say arm yourself, shit we're MWA bitch, Marines with attitude!" Raised on MTV this white marine was born in Tennessee and had served a tour in the KKK while still in high school he told me before I even asked where he was from. When I asked him how he liked serving alongside other Marines he laughed and spit at the burning sand.

"You want to know what I think about all these highly esteemed people of color? They're all marines ain't they?" Then he laughed and patted his weapon and slapped it down to his side and saluted me and added, "You think nobody fragged anybody since Vietnam?"

How bad an epidemic racial strife between soldiers serving in Iraq was we might never know. Jack had secured an interview with a Major and was coming back across the camp and looked worried. As he walked he looked around, his head looking this way and that the way someone does before they tell you a secret or avoid someone they do not want to see. In the soundtrack in my head I instantly heard "Peace Frog" by the Doors. I don't know why these things always occur to me but they do. I remember a time in Chicago when I was covering a story on the heated talks betwen labor and management and War's "Spill That Wine" hit me all of a sudden and within minutes violence broke out and I spent the night in a jail cell fighting for my life.

Jack got over to me and his voice was quiet which was unlike him in so many ways. "This Major I went to talk to just got a call about an ambush of civilians. They were targeted by security forces." I looked around now because I wanted to be the first to get there and because the security forces always have friends serving in just about every platoon in Iraq and many after their tour is up will join private security to cash in.

I asked Jack, "How do we get there?"

Jack replied, "That's just it, the guy that called him while I was sitting there is his brother, and his nephew was in charge of the group that opened fire. I just got out of the office before the crazy bastard could call a corporal to detain me."

I looked around and as far as I could see were Marines with weapons at the ready, well trained and loyal to their commanding officer, the chain of command. I stood to scout a method of transportation, a friendly ride to anywhere other than where we were and saw the Marine from Tennessee. I turned to Jack and looked back at the racist marine and I thought I might have a plan. Shit it worked in Hollywood.


Author's Note: (Before beginning to write this next installment I see this excerpt from the New York Times, and I am constantly reminded that the ugliest of man often occurs to me and as I see through their eyes it makes me want to close mine. I had no idea of this report before I wrote about the racist Marine but I am not surprised as human nature often tends to lean toward that line from Apocalypse Now that quotes Abraham Lincoln, you know the one, "Sometimes the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature and good does not always triumph." I don't see any good in this, after all where can there be good in starting out to shoot someone because of thier skin color?)

"Lance Corporal Woods is black. He smoked in the darkness and said it has been a topic of conversation in his unit, Mobile Assault Platoon Five. "Valdez and me talked about that," he said. "He's Hispanic. He said, 'Man, I'm going to paint my skin darker, man.' That's what he said. And the next day he got shot."

"I hate this place," he said..."Out here, it really makes you love your country. I love my country, man. I love my country. I didn't hate my country before, man. But I had some problems with it."

"The United States of America," he said. "That sounds like heaven right now."

C.J. Chivers, "Marine Unit and Iraqis Fend Off Attacks and Boredom," NY Times, 7 December 2006.

JR and I in Iraq - part 4

Jack and I came up with a plan. Racists are notoriously patriotic, reference most of America's history, governmental and citizenry for evidence of this, and certianly ignorant, so Jack approached the marine from Tennessee playing the role of a C.I.A. agent.

Jack approached the racist marine who was kicking at the sand and aiming his weapon at the horizon.

"Hey, you hear about that American got shot in Fallujah yesterday?"

The marine looked around and then looked Jack up and down. He didn't take but a second or two to size up Jack. "Yeah, terrible shot that guy, took'em two."

Jack laughed, "Yeah well, what are you gonna do, poor training."

They both laughed and Jack shot me a worried and disgusted look.

Jack went on, "Say, John Russell, C.I.A., in country to take care of some loose ends. Not saying we need some help but always looking for some willing participants, those who can be covert and keep their goddamn mouth shut. It's below the radar of course." Then Jack snatched the weapon from the racist marine's hands so fast he told me later it scared even him, "So, you got the balls to pull the trigger without caring where the rounds land or are you just another weekend faggot here till your wife fucks the whole town back home?"

The racist Marine stood up and drew a knife and said, "I'm an American, ever since 9/11 I wanted to do what was necessary for my country to fight terrorism!"

Jack didn't break a sweat and went back after him, throwing the weapon to the ground, "Since 9/11? What were you doing before that? Working in a conveinence store and cheating on your mother? Real American? Shit!"

The racist Marine was livid now and was ready to open fire on anyone. Jack knew he was ready and in less than five minutes.

Jack said, "Ok,you're what we need. What we need right now is a humvee. Think you can get one here and I mean now Marine?"

The Marine flashed a shit-eating grin, "Before you know it!."

- Chris Mansel

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