Thursday, September 29, 2005


That's my nephew's nickname. I've posted about him before. The kid who signed up for Marine Reserve duty out of High School. He was lured in part by the cool commercials--you know, the one where the guy does like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible II, climbing sheer rock bare handed.

And he did it partly out of patriotism.

But mostly he did it for the money and the education.

Because that's one of the few ways kids of his economic class can get to college. So he joined up.

He got his nickname in boot camp. Because no matter what, he'd always be smiling like someone was taking his picture. I've got tons of pictures of him here in the house. At Christmas. Easter. Halloween. In his karate gi. Playing with my kids. Each one of them, he's got the big, shiteating grin going.

That stopped about 5 weeks ago. That's when his unit was ambushed. Big firefight. Something like 14 marines died. You saw the headlines. You may have even read the story.

I didn't.

Whenever I see 'Marines killed.' I move on. Because there's nothing I can do about it. If I read it, I'll just worry about him. If the bullet came for him we would know soon enough.

My nephew survived that attack.

Or at least, he didn't get killed.

Because after the attack, Cheese was gone. He didn't smile. He barely interacted. He did what he was ordered to do, and did it with a thousand-mile stare. He was counting the moments until he got out of there.

Which was supposed to be this month. In time for what could have been his sophomore year.

But he didn't. They extended his orders. For how long, we don't know. Or at least, no one's told me.

But the last report I heard was he was out of Baghdad, out of Iraq. His entire squad--or at least, what's left of them--is being shipped to Germany, while being investigated for murdering insurgents.

My nephew, who babysat my youngest two kids, being investigated for murder.

One of my daily reads is Tom Tomorrow's blog, which oftentimes will feature other writers. A frequent contributor is Jeanne D'Arc, who wrote this earlier today:

Captain Fishback went to Iraq believing that the Geneva Conventions did not apply there, because that was the impression his training left him with. It was only when he heard Donald Rumsfeld testify at the Abu Ghraib hearings that the letter of the Geneva Conventions were supposed to apply in Iraq, that he realized something was wrong, and began to act, assuming there should be some relationship between stated policy and what was happening on the ground. That's a reasonable and decent assumption. If anyone above Captain Fishbback's pay grade had believed Rumsfeld was telling the truth about the Geneva Conventions applying in Iraq, there would have been a whole lot of people realizing they were in trouble if they didn't get things cleaned up fast. Didn't happen. Captain Fishback wandered through a military maze for 17 months, trying to find someone to take his concerns seriously, before turning to senators and Human Rights Watch. And he wasn't just ignored, he was threatened, and denied a pass to leave his base in order to speak to senators.

So, a career military man, trained at West Point, doesn't know what does or does not constitute abuse in Iraq. Follow the links, and you'll read testimony that states prisoner abuse was one of the ways soldiers blew off steam in Iraq. Grab a baseball bat, and play whak-a-mole with the hajis.

Oh, and here's another nugget: an amateur porn website gives away free access to soldiers who send him pictures of dead bodies in Iraq: can see an Arab man's face sliced off and placed in a bowl filled with blood. Another man's head, his face crusted with dried blood and powder burns, lies on a bed of gravel. A man in a leather coat who apparently tried to run a military checkpoint lies slumped in the driver's seat of a car, his head obliterated by gunfire, the flaps of skin from his neck blooming open like rose petals. Six men in beige fatigues, identified as US Marines, laugh and smile for the camera while pointing at a burned, charcoal-black corpse lying at their feet.

Anything to boost our boys' morale!

It's Amok time in Iraq. Death can strike you or your buddies at any time, from any place. There's no front. There's precious few opportunities to strike back.

And the rules are as substantial as a dust storm.

I do not condone the actions of anyone commiting these horrible, unspeakable atrocities.

But I can understand how it happens.

If my nephew was home, he'd probably be halfway through his sophomore year. Remember sophomore year at college? I remember parts of mine. I remember being naive, I remember trying to act older and tougher than I was. I remember making stupid mistakes.

Because I was a kid. I didn't know how to act like an adult. I learned by fucking up, and went on to be a (relatively) productive member of society.

Imagine living day-to-day in a place where it's 100+ degrees even at night, where you have to wear 35 pounds of armor at all time, where you know that anyone not in your uniform is potentially your killer, where you watch fourteen of your buddies die in one afternoon, where there's no real sense of a battle beginning or ending, and where no one knows the rules of engagement. Can you imagine the stress you would be under?

And then, as you can see the end of your time in this godawful place coming closer and closer, it suddenly gets pushed back.

My nephew may be spending some time in prison. But even if he doesn't, he'll be spending years in hell.

For what?

Say Cheese, Mister President.


Blogger steff81 said...

I dated a guy nicknamed Cheese. Unfortunately, his wasn't anywhere near related to anything patriotic. He just liked cheese. This really doesn't have anything to do with your post and not the usual caliber of things put on here so if you delete it I'll understand.

8:40 PM, September 29, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

BP: The heart breaks. Then closes tight, wounded and running, yearning for somewhere safe. What is happening in Iraq everyday is a hell beyond our imagining and any reasonable content is ignored by the media. Thanks for your thoughtful words.
steff81: Think I'll leave your post. If that's the extent of your reaction to this post, it's much more telling and educational to others than anything I could write about lack of compassion, detachment or the classic American model of "who really gives a shit, it's not happening to me."

10:16 PM, September 29, 2005  
Blogger boni said...

I hope your nephew will be ok. It's obvious that we're living in an insane time. I can't believe how out of control the military is right now.
I've read on several blogs how the Pentagon won't investigate the porno site because they can't confirm
the Americans are actually our soldiers. How can they not investigate? You know this kind of behavior has approval from higher ups. It's like everyone is winking at the abuse, but no one is stopping it. Why isn't Congress up in arms about this? I'm so outraged about so many things I'm afraid my head's going to explode...

11:27 PM, September 29, 2005  
Blogger Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Clearence has been given to show the more explicit photos from Abu G so more shit will now hit the fan!

7:06 AM, September 30, 2005  
Blogger doodlebugmom said...

I didnt read past "Cheese was gone. He didn't smile"

Reminded me too much of my good friend who was in Vietman. And almost 40 years later still relives the hell


God Bless your nephew.


7:35 AM, September 30, 2005  
Blogger United We Lay said...

My childhood babysitter was killed last week. I don't know how much more I can take of this. It seems like there's nothing we can do.

7:57 PM, September 30, 2005  

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