(To read the entire "War Memoirs" series, please click here.)
“We’re carrying on our backs the overseas sins of generations of fighting American GIs--gang rapes in Vietnamese jungles, the same in Seoul and Pusan, pregnant Englishwoman abandoned after World War II, Japanese women raped and impregnated and abandoned during the occupation, thousands of French whores filled with syphilitic cocks while the Great War raged on.”
Page 92, Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead.
I open with this ugly passage because to make something clear from the very beginning: I do not think American soldiers are rapists. Anthony Swofford does.
Multiple passages across the book are written in a language offensive not just to feminists or liberals--I’m both--but to any person who respects women. Other passages openly encourage and endorse rape.
On pg. 7, Swofford writes about getting jacked up on Vietnam era war films to prepare for deployment, “Fight, rape, war, pillage, burn. Filmic images of death and carnage are pornography for the military man; with film you are stroking his cock, tickling his balls with the pink feather of history, getting him ready for his real First F***.” This is not meant ironically or satirically. While the average person gets upset after watching war films, Swofford and his fellow marines, “are excited by them...”
Frustrated on pg. 17, Swofford writes about what he wishes he could tell a reporter, “Rape them all, kill them all, sell their oil, pillage their gold, sell their children into prostitution. I don’t care about the flag and God and Country and Corps. I don’t give a f*** about oil and revenue.” He doesn’t follow this by saying, “I was wrong then,” or “Boy, was I f***ed in the head prior to the war.”
Nope, Swofford lets these sentiments stand. He doesn’t take a stand or offer any analysis of the situation. If there is one benefit to writing a memoir, this is it, offering your opinion.
We’re left with two options at this point. First--and this is the problem with memoirs--this description isn’t true. I’d like to think that is the case. I believe this is true. Just this weekend, while watching a Band of Brothers marathon, I saw a soldier steal watches off dead Germans.
“That’s f***ed up.” I told my dad.
“Raping and pillaging. Armies have been doing it for years.” My dad said.
“Not our military.”
“Oh no, we’re one of the best. The American military is known for not doing that stuff.” my dad assured me, as he has assured me before. (Ironically, in light of my post two week’s ago, I’ll admit that the above exchange is almost entirely made up from memory.)
It may be naive, but I’d like to think this is true. I’d like to think Americans have a moral character that goes above and beyond, or at least we have a democratic culture that keeps these violent impulses in check. I’d like to believe that American soldiers don’t rape or, at the very least, rape less than other militaries. Even if our Military has had soldiers lapse in the past into moral ugliness and evil, it has never been on the scale of Rwanda or the congo.
Which brings us to the second option, that what Swofford describes is true, that our military is filled with rapists. Even if this is the case, as I said earlier, Swofford’s refusal to take a moral stand is offensive.
Nathaniel Fick (who we’ll get to in a couple weeks) neatly sums up the film and the book Jarhead in five words, “Not in my Marine Corps.” As an American, I have to agree.
Not in America’s Marine Corps.