Apr 09, 2007
Editorial: The Politics of Playing Army
From the GRD Editorial desk: Itís just two sentences in a story about US troops patrolling in Afghanistan. After stopping a local man that they think looks shady, a US soldier pats the guy down for contraband. At that, the Afghani trembles. "'Ask the guy why he's jumping around," [the] suspicious soldier tells the interpreter as he slides his hands up and down a farmer's pants. 'He thinks you are gay,' the smiling interpreter responds."
The reporter meant that as a toss-off. Weíre supposed to chuckle at one of those Ďfarcicalí little things that happen in a war. But itís a more telling anecdote that I imagine the writer, AP embed Denis D. Gray, meant it to be. And it reveals something about the attitudes of both the so-called good guys and the widely alleged bad guys.
Weíll leave aside what it says about Mr. Gray. That is, the notion that never accorded to him. That is, the possibility that the soldier doing the frisking actually is one of the thousands of GLBT soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines now serving. Surely Mr. Gray can be forgiven for it, right? That would be petty to bring up. So I wonít do it. Forget I said it.
No, letís stay fixed on the big picture. Itís Afghanistan. Weíre told that the bad guys are these lightly armed insurgents fighting the whole menu of American firepower. Itís AK-47s and a few RPGs versus US guns, US grenade launchers, US tanks, US mortars, US rockets, US artillery, US planes and helicopters, US tactical missiles... versus this gigantic array of US Stuff That Kills People... and yet, what the Afghani is worried about is whether itís a gay guy whoís trying to find out if he has ammo stashed in his britches. Never mind getting blown to bits, hey, I think thereís a fag touching my bum! Somebody do something!
It sounds mad. It sounds backward. It sounds hopelessly unsophisticated. These Afghani guys sure are weird, arenít they?
One would be quite tempted to think just that, to feel secure in one's Western liberalism, and move on to more interesting news, except... remind me again why the US military summarily discharges all the gay guys they can possibly chivvy out?