I am a soldier. I am dirt. With Joshua I put the cities of Canaan to the sword while women screamed and tried to protect their babies. I spent long days in Nanjing butchering and butchering civilians because I enjoyed it. For I am a soldier. I am dirt. I fire-bombed Hamburg till the wind-fanned flames left nowhere to hide and the people burned screaming and their fat puddled in the streets. I am a soldier. I am dirt.
On the crumbling walls of Angkor Wat, the Cold Lairs, trees now crawling over the walls, you may see me carved, marching, marching to kill forgotten peoples, it matters not whom. In the sweltering heat of Chichen Itza and the terrible winter of Stalingrad and the flaming paper cities of Japan and on the Death March of the Philippines I killed and killed, for I am a soldier. I am dirt. I kill.
In this I glory. I spend my declining years drinking in bars with old soldiers I knew when Breda fell to us and we raped and killed and looted, when we torpedoed the troop ships and left the soldiers in their thousands to drown slowly as their strength gave out. The fierce exultation of watching Atlanta burn, Pearl Harbor, Nagasaki, these I remember lovingly. For I am dirt.
Crush their skulls and eat their faces, we say with remembered bravado. We remember the adventures fondly. They almost had us at Plei Cuy when a 551 arrived with beehive rounds, and that put paid to them, hoo-ah.
These are degenerate days. Once I breached the walls of Ilium or Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade and killed and looted and raped girls of seven in front of their parents—how they howled! Now perforce I say I do it for democracy, about which I don’t give a damn, or to end evil, though our allies are the worst tyrants we can find. Before, I could torture my captives between two slow fires, or by running a red-hot poker up their neither ends, and this in the public square for the amusement of a bored populace.
Now I water-board them, bringing them to the edge of drowning, screaming, begging, puking, yes, that does nicely, now a little more water as their minds break, and maybe I will masturbate over it later. For I am a soldier. I am dirt. I am the worst of a sorry species.
I am a soldier. I pride myself on my allegiance to duty, God, honor, country. My god is Moloch of the red fangs, who wills me to besiege a city into cannibalism, to catapult the severed heads of loved ones over the walls, with blankets infected with smallpox. My god, however named—Yahweh, Molloch, Satanas, Odin, imposes my duty, to kill, to rape.
But if my country says to butcher, then butchery were no crime, but a source of honor. To kill for pure enjoyment, as Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer, is most contemptible, but to do it because Bush II, Tojo, Bin Laden, or Netanyahu commands it—this is virtue at its highest. Killing for your own reasons is criminal. Killing someone you have never seen for the benefit of a politician you have never met is a source of medals.
I was a soldier once. I received certain medals. They were trivial medals. The meritorious variety are awarded for jumping into a trench of scared conscripted adolescents and bludgeoning them to death with a rifle butt. I lacked the character. But medals can be problems. If I put them in the toilet, they might clog it, but I certainly would not want children exposed to them. The military presents problems that Clausewitz did not anticipate.
Once, in a war of no particular importance, I lay in a hospital of little importance in a country in Asia that didn’t matter. It was just a country. Soldiers kill, who and where and why being beyond their capacities for thought. I was blinded. Soldiers are dirt, and sometimes they get what they deserve. I did. Across from me, though I couldn’t see them, were the survivors of a tank crew. An RPG 2, which you probably don’t know what is, had hit their M60, which you probably don’t know what is, and had cooked off the cherry juice, which you probably don’t know what is.
I couldn’t see them. I was a soldier. I was dirt. But I was blind dirt. I couldn’t see them under the plastic sheeting under which they oozed serum. But they spoke of the fire within, and the loader and gunner screaming as their skin sloughed off, and they desperately tried to find the hatches and couldn’t, and died screaming, screaming, fingers groping for hatches they couldn’t find in the smoke and agony and terror, which is why I hate you sonsofbitches that sent them and us to make money for McDonnell Douglas.
For this we hold reunions. We get together in Wyoming and Tuscaloosa and Portland and remember when we were young and the war held off the boredom of life and the star shells flickered in the night sky over Happy Valley and life meant nothing but was at least intense. I hated the H&I fire over the dark forests of a puzzled Cambodia and I hate you cocksuckers living soft at home for sending us and I hate what I did and I hate what my friends did who were there, who are really my only friends. And I hope you one day pay, what we paid, what our victims paid and you pay it as we did. And this will bring me the only joy in my life.
I am a soldier. I am dirt.