Pearsall's Books

This blog is defunct! Check out my new music blog at

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Our Wars

Via Gene, Bartle Breese Bull on life for the 506th Infantry in Iraq: is the Fashion TV of the 3rd Platoon’s cyberlife — Bang Me and its online meat-market cousins, and They are places you can go online to see pictures of women, read what they say about themselves, and meet them or the weirdos behind the perky personas. If someone "bangs" you on, it means they like your photo and profile and want to be part of your Bang Me string. Then you e-mail each other back and forth and meet in a Wendy’s back home. Joseph Baggett, a 20-year-old Tennessee Wiccan, has a 98 percent positive response from 418 women on the site. His Bang Me portrait shows himself without his spectacles, holding erect an enormous M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon in the barracks bathroom. His Bang Me tag is "MentallySick."

The four-screen computer room is packed 20 hours a day with soldiers instant-messaging their women or parents, shopping for pickup trucks, and watching one another coax chatroom hotties into sexual -favors with lines like "Excuse me while I lock the door to my room." The wallpaper on the computers is always changing: a psychedelic pot plant, an Arby’s roast beef sandwich that morphs into a vulva, an altered Family Circus cartoon with the little blond kid pointing to his dead friend and telling his mother, "I’m Rick James, bitch." A nun smoking a bong, an advertisement for

As the soldiers surf for knives, baby strollers, old Ford Mustangs, and inflatable German nurses, their talk hangs in the room like smoke, dissipated only when someone is killed and communications are shut down for three or four days while the family is notified. Outside it could be a freezing, muddy night or a warm spring afternoon. In the windowless room the fluorescent light and the disembodied chill of cyberculture never change. "Check out this site, You can shoot the fuckin’ deer from Iraq and the company will send the meat to your family…. That’s a man, dude. That’s definitely a man…. Hey man, that slut banged me, too…. This is what I got waiting for me back home. [On the screen is a photo of a pretty four-year-old girl in a pink tutu.] Just five more months of good luck and I see my daughter. [A loud knock on wood] It’s a shame her mother is such a cunt, though…. Jesus, my driver and gunner from when I came here with the 3rd Infantry in the invasion, they just came back to Iraq, got re-deployed — they just got fucking blown up. Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ. [I hear the soldier breathing in and out through his nose for ages, behind me at his computer while I work at mine.] Jesus Christ…"

Dipping back in time, have a read of this 1996 story about the US military presence in South Korea from, I think, Rolling Stone:

A civilian employee of the Army, Public Affairs is the official source of information on relations between U.S. soldiers and Koreans and is regularly quoted in stateside newspapers and appears on CNN and NPR as a spokesman for the military. He's a heavy set, ex-military man in late middle age who doesn't seem too keen on helping me report. In fact, he seems to despise me. His attitude is basically: Reporter, shut your mouth and listen to me, there are absolutely no problems here. Anything short of th at enrages him.

Public Affairs' attitude is consistent with the army chain of command's reluctance to acknowledge any type of deviant behavior in the ranks. Every incident is dismissed as an aberration, a few bad apples. When I asked a Pentagon public affairs officer f or the numbers on crimes committed or on UCMJ actions, he tells me that's the old army, those problems are such a small part of today's military he's not even sure if they keep track of things like that. When I persist I find out that of course they do.

Public Affairs keeps me waiting in his office as he talks openly to his buddy on the phone about where to get a good Korean prostitute nowadays. He complains that some of these girls won't even touch an American guy now, preferring the rich Koreans and Japanese with their BMWs and asks rhetorically if his buddy can imagine how it feels to be snubbed by a whore.

Access to post means seems to mean listening unquestioningly to Public Affairs lecture me on Korean culture, offering "uh-huh" when he says Korean is "a completely fucked up language," "uh-huh" to "Korean women aren't used to foreigners because most Asian men have small penises."

Public Affairs insists that all the problems between GIs and Koreans are caused by the irresponsible reporting of the Korean press. In May of 1995 a large brawl broke out among American soldiers and Korean passengers on a subway train, the latest incident in a series of crimes involving GIs and Koreans. Eight months later, when the issue was still resonating in the press, Public Affairs' stateside newspaper quote was: "The American guys were giving better than they were getting."

Er, incidentally, I'm moving back to London on Wednesday (long story).

|| RPH || 10:38 PM || |