Libertarian Jackass

"Life is short, but truth works far and lives long; let us speak truth." -- Schopenhauer

Saturday, February 19, 2005


Gentlemen's Quarterly, one of three magazines arriving regularly to the Jackass compound, runs an article on the pieces of work the U.S. military sends abroad to spread democracy. It seems that, when they aren't sexually assaulting female soldiers, military guys are trying to enjoy the spoils of war. Quote:
They find another door, and Jamal, Matt, and Moyer work on it. As soon as it opened, it was stale air, like a closet you hadn't been in for a long time. There were two sheets coming down at real weird angles, covering the windows. And it looked like the floor was tiled with metal boxes. There is a total of $200 million in $100 bills in fifty galvanized-steel crates, riveted shut, with blue nylon bands around them. And then it just, one box began to -- we had to know what it was -- one box began to be opened. [This is how Matt says it. You can tell on the Novak tapes when he's getting close to the money -- his vocal cords tighten, he searches for words. The actions become disembodied.The box is opened. Like there is a ghost in the room, a spirit brought to life by the Novak Eight, made up of the shadowy parts of themselves none of them want to own, and this spook does the dirty work.] The top comes off awkwardly, and money spills to the floor in a great avalanche. Jamal can hear his heart beating in his ears.Is surreal the word? Just fantasy, you know what I mean? When the first box was opened I was like, There's no way this shit is real. I think I said, "Holy fuck."

At almost the same time, a vehicle pulls up, and in walks First Sergeant Wilson and, depending on whom you ask, First Sergeant Burns. [While first sergeant is a pretty high rank, it's not higher than lieutenant, which means that Greenley still has de facto responsibility. But Wilson has about twenty years' experience on Greenley, which leads to a bit of confusion about who, exactly, is in charge. Right here, you see the notion of rank and the circumstances at that moment in Baghdad, undoing the normal sense of right and wrong. This is a common occurrence in war. Because what war does is turn what we accept as the unimpeachable rules of morality on their head: We can say that incinerating people is right, that exploding skulls with .50-cals can be an average event after which one eats an MRE and watches Happy Gilmore. And what we use as synthetic filler for that internal, hardwired moral structure is military discipline. It's right because your superior officer tells you it's right. And Matt's crime was rejecting the synthetic filler, choosing himself over the system, being an individual. Saying, if it's okay for you to blow people up, it's okay for me to take a few million bucks that doesn't really belong to anyone. War invites nihilism, after all, and Matt Novak simply opened the door when it came knocking.]

Matt throws a stack of hundreds to First Sergeant Wilson. Say, First Sergeant, aren't you getting ready to retire? Everyone's passing money around the room now. Don't you have kids going to college? Maybe you need this for a new vehicle. Some gets shoved at Greenley. Hey, Lieutenant, this isn't right. You're senior here! They're just testing it out. They don't know themselves if they're serious about it yet.

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