I joined the Army to see the world and live an adventure only to get stuck in a place stricter and squarer than my Jesuit high school. Afghanistan makes me nostalgic for the depravity of Vietnam.
A couple of Saturdays ago, a friend and I went to the most happening place on Kandahar Airfield, the Boardwalk, where we drank fruit-flavored slushies and split a bag of pistachios. We saw a few women, none dressed to provoke anything.
Forty years ago in Vietnam, we’d have been roaming Saigon’s Tu Do Street, where a soldier could tweak his head with the entire panoply of drugs, drink all sorts of alcohol and then catch a venereal disease from a prostitute.
Here in Afghanistan, where Allah runs the locals’ show and Jesus guides the invaders, pornographic internet sites are blocked. Soldiers have orders not to have sex, and to get high, they abuse over-the-counter allergy pills or take an ailment to the doctor and ask for something a little more magical.
In Vietnam, soldiers like my father mixed with the natives and were granted passes to visit Macau or Hong Kong where they could see some crazy shit.
In Afghanistan, we have walls separating us from the natives, and we don’t get a pass to go anywhere. We maybe the most sheltered, hen-pecked army in history.
A bunch of prigs and prudes dominate this war. No “Platoon” or “Full Metal Jacket” will rise out of Afghanistan. All of the animal wildness of the Vietnam War is suppressed here. Someone tuned in to the hidden tension, like Jane Austen, could write the great Afghanistan novel.
Soldiers, the younger ones in particular, look for adventure. They want risk because it’s fun, and if I were a young soldier in Afghanistan, I’d be pissed. They signed up for a big-budget action movie with sex and booze but wound up on a year-long Puritanical crusade in the desert. What a bummer.
Though fellow soldiers ask him what it was like in Vietnam, Sgt. Mike is not that old, although he was racing through bamboo slalom courses in the Colorado Rockies before high-speed, detachable quads existed.