Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tintin at War

Again. Which makes us look really bad for like, putting one post up every six days. (But seriously, it's snowing here!) This one's a little, uh, lighter than the last one. (That could go for the snow, too; just ask Jim Kosek, who is awesome, about the weekend's storm.)
Like many who have spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have come to consider latrine graffiti as something of an art form — the only interesting entertainment to be found on many dismal patrol bases and outposts.

When I seat myself in a latrine and find that some arm of the military powers-that- be — a local contractor, a junior officer, I don’t really know — have spray-painted over the crude art that I so enjoy, I feel a bit frustrated. What else, after all, am I supposed to read in the cubicle? What other character does a largely prefabricated combat outpost have?

I first encountered latrine graffiti on my way north to Baghdad in the summer of 2007, at the Kuwaiti purgatory called Ali al-Salem Air Base. Odor aside, what I noticed was the vivid obscenity of the things scrawled there. Words were everywhere — poetry, rap, curses, illegible scribblings.

But what the eye jumped to were the drawings: huge, extraordinarily explicit pornographic drawings. Fifteen-month tours in a war zone devoid of Internet pornography, it appeared, brought out the artist in many soldiers. Evidence, I suppose, that for all the millions of dollars spent on it, training cultural sensitivity to traditional Muslim mores into American servicemen of the YouTube generation is something of a Sisyphean task.
Click the link to go see some Chuck Norris goodness with your own eyes. (No, there are no examples of the "huge, extraordinarily explicit pornographic" form, you sicko. (And to echo Starbuck's lament, now we're going to have a whole bunch of weirdos googling "Iraq pornography" and ending up on our site. Awesome. Thanks, Wes!))


  1. My own personal favorite: "The US Army is here to support KBR."

  2. Oh, for heaven's sake.

    I had to avoid Abu Muqawama, for a bit, after the degeneration of the DADT threads (seriously, I stopped reading after the "milk kin" person started rambling. And now this! Young people!)

    Actually, this is nothing. A few years ago a former fellow resident - who is a forensic pathologist - visited us in order to present a lecture. One of the cases she presented involved death by autoerotic asphyxiation. The details were, well, they were what they were and quite elaborate. Human behavior is complex and bizarre. I wish to know less, not more, about it these days, as long as we are being honest with ourselves and the entire internet.

  3. Hey, read the whole piece, Madhu, it ends on a touching and serious note!

    And Gulliver - no prob. Happy to help bring in the pervert readership.

  4. Actually, Tintin, I was thinking of forwarding your last piece to one of our deans - the students might enjoy reading it :)

    You are such a fine writer. I think I am a bit jealous.

  5. I always thought it was dumb to spraypaint over graffiti. We even had it in our outhouses at our patrol base. My CO demanded it be spraypainted over. I came up with a better idea. I started placing sheets of butcher block on the door and informed Soldiers to keep the graffiti on the sheet. As stupid as it sounds, they did it. And everyday it was torn down and tossed in with the crap during crap-burning detail.

  6. A friend who served in 3/1 and 3/6 Marines told me today after reading this that his battalion's sergeant major once got so furious with the graffiti that he had the doors ripped off all the shitters. The graffiti stopped but the whole battalion got super cranky and irritable because no one could, ah, blow off steam anymore.

  7. Watch it, Tintin, you're creeping Madhu out!

  8. I don't think it is possible to really creep a pathologist out - more likely, my stories (I'm holding back, actually) would creep you all out.

    You all do realized I'm not always 100 % serious, right? Because I seem to make a lot of jokey comments here, elsewhere, on my blog, and the reactions are that sometimes people are taking them seriously. Don't. Humor is a fine device for dealing with all kinds of stuff, you know? Yes, I know you all know.

    I have to email you guys and gals a cool article from our alumni magazine about the program we have for military medical students - HPSP or something is the program? I'll send you more info: it's one of the few in the country, apparently, in terms of formal lectures and stuff or so I understand....

  9. Madhu Didi's got stories. Hmmm. Might like to hear them some time.

  10. Anand! Good to see you around.

    Everyone has got good stories. Every. Single. Person.

    I am always amazed....

  11. Madhu,

    Quick question to help me with some writing that I'm doing.

    Is the fictional character Dr. Gregory House considered a medical pathologist? Is that what you do? Or am I way off base?

    I know this is random, but I'm trying to make some analogies to small wars.



  12. MikeF: I confess I've never watched that show so I can't answer that part. In general, I don't like "doctor" shows, unless it's Scrubs.

    You can become board certified in either Anatomic Pathology or Clinical Pathology (or both, which is more common and I am boarded in both fields). Many do a further subspecialty and I am further subspecialized. Basically, hospital based pathologists run the labs (microbiology, chemistry, blood bank, etc) and examine the tissues removed at surgery or in the office (surgical pathology) or perform hospital based autopsies (as opposed to forensic autopsies).

    I'm too rushed today to give a more complete answer, but you can email me at madhuonparkstreet-at-gmail-dot-com if you want a more specific answer.

    Take care and good luck with the writing. The analogies to small wars sounds interesting.

  13. Thanks Madhu. I'll email you tomorrow when I'm back focused on work. I'd tell you to watch House (as it one of my fav shows), but that would probably be like you telling me to watch The Hurt Locker :)



  14. Wait, The Hurt Locker isn't authentic? Aw, I was actually going to break out of the chick lit ghetto and watch that thing. Thanks a lot!

  15. Sigh, chick flick ghetto. Never mind.

  16. I was just kidding. I actually liked The Hurt Locker as an action movie. but no, I would not say it's authentic.

    You can split the middle and watch Dear John. Sparks does a good job of showing "the quiet professional" combat advisor that we hope to breed with our special forces.