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Uncle Sam needs soldiers to protect his pipelines in Iraq - but they
shouldn't expect his help when it's all over
Wednesday January 7, 2004
Feeling restless? Is 2004 looking just like 2003? Do you long to have your
place in life very firmly defined by others and to wear a range of
interesting hats? Do you have low financial expectations, a vigorous desire
to travel and a functioning index finger? Then the US military could be for
Not a US citizen? Don't fret - the Department of Defense Inc welcomes one and
all. You can fight for a passport, fight for a green card, just fight for the
Christian, God-fearing hell of it. And you'll be in good hands - Secretary of
the Air Force James Roche is a former vice-president at Northrop Grumman;
Secretary of the Navy Gordon England is a former executive at General
Dynamics; and former Secretary of the Army Thomas E White came direct from
those hard-fighting boys at Enron. You're only a few months of training from
jury-rigging armour on your combat-unready vehicle, eating out of filthy,
Halliburton-run kitchens, sewing patches on your Vietnam-issue flak jacket
and tying plastic strips round the wrists of numberless fascinating
strangers, often in their own homes. Brits also have local access to a
subsidiary enterprise, run to the same exacting standards. French nationals
need not apply.
Or perhaps you've just finished a tour for Uncle Sam. Maybe you're one of
last year's lucky amputees, or you've suffered a recent "mystery illness"
or "mental breakdown". Well, give yourself a shake, shine up those new
prosthetics and re-enlist today. In other wars you'd have been left idle, but
no matter what levels of physical and mental trauma you've endured, this time
the Department of Defense Inc still needs you. And with veterans making up 9%
of the US population but 23% of the homeless - and Veterans Affairs taking
care of 40,000 out of 500,000 - what better options have you got? You have a
50% chance of substance abuse and a 45% chance of mental illness - and let's
not even talk about Gulf war syndrome and depleted uranium. In fact, let's
not talk about that, ever.
And who would miss the chance of serving alongside forces from Kellogg Root
Brown, Northrop Grumman and DynCorp International - the war professionals?
They can ignore the Geneva convention (they're not protected by it, either)
and you can simply dodge round it. Feel like beating some prisoners in Camp
Bucca? Confining whole villages as collective punishment? Shooting unarmed
civilians? Gunning down a surrendered combatant in the street? Arresting the
pesky journalists who'd film you gunning down a surrendered combatant in the
street? Failing to establish and sustain civil order? Obtaining
information "under duress"? Lifting harmless valuables during house-to-house
searches? Then this war's for you.
Or are you a brave, decent individual with a trust in your country's leaders
and a deep sense of duty? Obviously, you can sign up, too, but your
disillusionment will cause no end of trouble. You might well suffer long-term
psychological problems, send emails to Michael Moore, complain to your
relatives that you're being forced into illegal acts for corporate profit,
and generally reduce company morale. Your duty is to keep your head down and
make sure those pipelines stay secure.
Of course, if you don't keep your head down, you may experience a period of
negative good health. This is to be avoided, because it tends to depress
voters at home, so you might find yourself being withdrawn for a while and
stored in a variety of hospitals, barrack blocks and sheds with other
inconveniently indisposed personnel, until you can be returned to the combat
zone, or filtered quietly back into society.
Your secluded storage may also affect your ability to receive Purple Hearts
and other awards. And you will, naturally, be expected to repay your $8.10
food allowance for each day spent enjoying hospital meals, while any
disability benefit you receive later (subject to further cuts) will be
reimbursed to the government out of your retirement pay. There are moves
afoot to alter these nominal, reasonable burdens, but don't hold your breath.
And rest assured, for those of you who no longer have breath to hold, the
Charles C Carson Centre for Mortuary Affairs will deal with your remains
efficiently in tasteful surroundings. You won't be best placed to appreciate
it, but the 70,000 sq ft, state-of-the-art facility at Dover air force base,
in Delaware, has been expressly designed to process you and your comrades. It
has a foyer with reflecting pool and rock-effect seating area and a glass
Wall of Fallen Heroes, ready and waiting for your name.
Better still, no ceremony will be held there to mark your passing, in case
your grieving relatives feel compelled to attend. Coincidentally, this means
George Bush won't be attending, either. And nor will the press gain any
access - your arrival will be entirely private, as if you had never been.
Vietnam and Korean war remains still arriving at Hickam air force base can be
filmed, because they're Good News. But you, you're different - it's better
for all concerned if you just disappear.