"Army fucked up my life": Was auf den Klos der US-Marines im Irak zu lesen ist

Unser Autor besucht zwei US-Marines in Bagdad. Um einreisen zu können, muss er lange in Kuwait warten - und studiert dort das Gekritzel der US-Soldaten
james-hagengruber

Im November 2007 beschrieb unser Mitarbeiter James Hagengruber in einer Reportage das Leben der Zwillinge Robert und Matthew Shipp aus Idaho, USA. Er hatte sie auf ihrem Weg von der High School zu den Marines, einer Einheit der US-Armee begleitet. James’ Geschichte endete damit, dass sich Matt Shipp von seiner Frau verabschiedete und, wie sein Bruder Robert, in den Nahen Osten aufbrach. Kürzlich nun ließ sich James „embedden“ und besuchte die Zwillinge auf dem Schiff „U.S.S. Germantown“ und im Irak. Für jetzt.de schreibt er in einer Kolumne über seine Erfahrungen und darüber, wie es den Brüdern ergeht. Sie erscheint in der Originalversion, als etwaige Übersetzungshilfe hier ein Link zu LEO, einem Deutsch-Englischen-Wörterbuch. *** Teil 3: To get to Iraq to visit U.S. Marine Cpl. Matthew Shipp, first I had to get myself to the Starbucks in the Kuwait International Airport. Along with bringing my own helmet and bullet-proof vest, those were about the only instructions sent to me by the U.S. military public affairs office after they had approved my request to become an "embedded" journalist with India Battery of the 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment. On the date specified by the military, my flight from Abu Dhabi arrived in Kuwait City. I found the Starbucks, ordered a latte and took a seat. About 15 minutes later, two muscular men with buzzcuts approached and offered handshakes. They wore blue jeans and t-shirts, but were clearly U.S. military. "You’re Jim, right?" They had been given my photograph and orders to fetch me. They carried pistols under their clothes and chauffeured me in an SUV to an Army base the size of a city. Wearing uniforms and driving official military vehicles away from these bases attracts unnecessary attention, they told me. At the base, I was taken to the public affairs office, where a friendly captain explained the "ground rules" of my visit to Kuwait and Iraq, including a requirement that I must not mention the names of several of the military bases in Kuwait where U.S. and coalition troops are stationed. The war in Iraq is essentially staged in Kuwait – each day, upwards of 2 million gallons of fuel, 10 tons of supplies and 3,000 fresh troops pass through this tiny country. The war is not very popular with other Arab states, so the U.S. and Kuwait try not to advertise their arrangement. I had to wait nearly three days in Kuwait before I could catch a nighttime military flight to Baghdad. This meant long, boring days at a base I cannot mention. The base was packed with hundreds of soldiers coming and going from the war. The fresh ones had pale skin and looked bewildered – they would spend about two weeks in Kuwait to get used to the searing desert heat before “heading up north,” as they say, to Iraq. The men and women going home looked tired, happy and sunburned. I shared cigarettes and meals with some of these troops, but I could not record the conversations (another ground rule: no interviewing troops in Kuwait without a military escort). Scattered around the base were air-conditioned toilet trailers. Each contained about a dozen toilets in private stalls. The walls of these compartments were loaded with handwritten messages from soldiers. I was transfixed by the harsh honesty of the graffiti. As far as I know, there was no rule stopping me from reading the writing on the walls. So, I guzzled water and made frequent trips to the toilet, where I read the sad, funny, vulgar, absurd and often disturbing writing of the men who were sent to fight in Iraq. Some random selections: “What I did to this toilet should be illegal.” “What I did in Iraq is illegal in the States.” “Fuck da Army X 2.” “Lick my balls 2.” “Goodbye Middle East! Never Again!” “I wish I was where I was when I was wishing I was here.” “Sometimes I wish I was dead.” “I got out while in Iraq.”

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Illustration: Julia Schubert

“Air Force women suck the best dick.” “Army wives suck the best dick.” “Barack!” “2nd Stryker Calvary Regiment 15 month tour.” (Hintergrund) “I can’t wait to go home so I can kill my whore ass wife!!” “Kill mine too!” “Mine 2!!” “Reenlisting is for those who fail in the real world.”

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Illustration: Julia Schubert

“Laredo, Texas.” “Is full of beaners.” (Hintergrund) “Fucking your wife.” “Reenlistment papers” (with an arrow pointing to the roll of toilet paper) “Here I sit broken hearted, I tried to shit, but only farted, next time I had the urge to fart I pushed it out and shit my pants.” “Niggers: It’s not illegal to hang them in Iraq.” “What if it was vice-versa and blacks were being racist to whites? Think about it: could you fight for a country that enslaved you and to this day treats you like a second-class citizen?” “Pierced nips are the shit!” “Bush sucks.” “Hillary for President,” beside which was written “of Iraq.” “The Army fucked up my life.” “Kill all Haj” (Hintergrund) “I need a big, hairy bear man.” “I need some poon.” (Hintergrund) “Bear sex.” (Hintergrund) “Bear fur.” “Marines are fucking tools.” (Hintergrund)


Late one night in the middle of March, after eating several slices from the unnamed base’s Pizza Hut, I put on my flak jacket and helmet and walked aboard a C-130 transport aircraft. There were 30 other soldiers and civilian contractors on the flight, as well as a huge crate of equipment. We sat against the walls on seats made of nylon webbing. Next to me sat a very obese man who said he was a satellite technician. He had previously spent 38 months working in Iraq, earning about $225,000 a year. But then he returned to the U.S. and promptly lost most of his money in bad stock market investments. He was going back to Iraq, he told me, to get rich again. After learning that I was a journalist, he gave me a dirty look, “You aren’t going to put a liberal slant on the war stories, are you?” The flight to Baghdad was pitch black and loud. An Air Force crewman shouted at us to strap ourselves in. We were not offered peanuts. I could tell when we neared Baghdad because the plane went into a steep descent (to make it harder to hit with a missile, I’m told). The airport tarmac was crawling with heavy machinery unloading equipment from other airplanes. Soldiers carrying their heavy packs and their clanking weapons marched like ants from the back of some of these planes. We jogged from the open runway to a protected warehouse. Some of the soldiers would continue flying onward to their assignments in Kirkuk, Basra, Mosul, Tikrit or Ramadi. Others would join me on a late-night convoy through the streets of Baghdad to the so-called Green Zone, which is the heavily fortified neighbourhood that was once home to Saddam Hussein’s palaces and is now the headquarters for the U.S. operations in Iraq. To get to the Green Zone, one must travel through the Red Zone, which is another way of saying the dangerous areas of Baghdad, which includes pretty much the entire city. The convoy consisted of camper-van like vehicles covered by thick plates of steel armor. The vehicles are custom-built Rhino Runner buses and they are supposedly the toughest buses on the planet (Hintergrund). Still, I was nervous as we travelled down the notorious "Route Irish" (Hintergrund). We drove through the streets at high speeds, swerving randomly and never stopping. The Rhino Runner’s windows were tiny and few streetlights worked, but I caught a glimpse of Baghdad: broken street signs, spray-painted graffiti, smashed brick walls, apartment buildings ringed by barbed wire and palm trees rustling in the night breeze. We entered the Green Zone after driving through a complicated security checkpoint that I am not allowed to describe. The military told me I would spend at least a day in the Green Zone. They had to scan my fingerprints and arrange for my helicopter flights to the far-flung camp where Cpl. Matthew Shipp was stationed. But I ended up spending three days waiting. The military does not offer explanations for the delays, but on the day I was originally scheduled to leave, Vice President Dick Cheney arrived in Baghdad for a surprise visit. Lots of flights were being cancelled because of all the boosted security surrounding Cheney’s visit, according to the grumblings of soldiers who, like me, were late for their dates with the war. It would be another three days before I would finally arrive at Combat Outpost Norseman. At stops along the way – to drop off troops at other bases – I met a Marine who had spent time at Norseman and patrolling the nearby town of Rutbah. When he learned where I was going, he shook his head and said, “That place is a shit hole. It’s full of thugs.” Gulp. During the landing, the propellers kicked up huge clouds of orange, Anbar dust. After the dust settled, I saw a few small tents and shipping containers surrounded by piles of sandbags and three rows of barbed wire. Two cannons at the edge of base pointed towards a nearby town. A sergeant met me at the landing pad. Cpl. Shipp was not at the base, the sergeant said. He was out on a combat patrol. I followed the sergeant to a small plywood shack where I would be sleeping for the next week. I dropped my backpack on a lower bunk bed, but kept my helmet and flak jacket on. I didn’t get to bed until late that night. I was tired and my nerves were stretched thin after hearing gunfire coming from the nearby town. A Marine had also told me the base had been hit by mortar fire about a month earlier and that the insurgency was still going strong here. After zipping myself into a sleeping bag – the desert nights are unbelievably cold – I stared up at the bed above me. On the bottom of the mattress some soldier had had written Psalm 91 from the Bible: “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.”

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Illustration: Julia Schubert

*** Teil 1 der Kolumne: We're in the wild, wild West Teil 2 der Kolumne: Sleep 12 hours a day

Text: james-hagengruber - Fotos: jh

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