Swofford_Remember_Gulf - D I S P A T C H REMEMBER THE GULF...

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A s I disembark, the oven heat of the Arabian desert grips my throat. In the distance the wind blows sand from the tops of dunes, beige waves that billow through the mirage. The tarmac is crowd- ed with American civilian jumbo jets—Delta, American, United. We Few United. The air±eld looks like an ordinary interna- tional airport, only we passengers wear fatigues and carry loaded ri- Fes, our gas masks strapped to our hips. Just beyond the tarmac, ar- tillery batteries point their guns east and north. ²ighter jets patrol the sky. We’re marched toward a series of large, bright green Bedouin tents. Inside the tents Marines drink European springwater and drape wet shirts over their heads. Men from other units who’ve been in-country a few hours af- fect the air of grungy desert vet- erans, saying, “You better drink a lot of water. It’s hot here,” as if offering religious insight. After we sit for an hour, the colonel calls a battalion formation and announces that we are taking part in Operation Desert Shield. He ex- plains that the Kuwaiti-Iraqi conFict is not yet our concern. Currently our mission is to protect and shield the deep, rich oil ±elds here in the Kingdom of Saud. We’ll be shielding enough oil to drive millions of cars millions of miles, at a relatively minor cost to the American consumer. We joke about having transferred from the Marine Corps to the Petrol Corps, and while we laugh at our jokes and think we’re damn funny jarheads, we believe we might soon die, and this is not funny. We have been deployed to protect oil reserves and the pro±ts and rights of American companies, many of which have direct ties to the White House and oblique ±- nancial entanglements with the secretary of defense, Dick Cheney, and the commander in chief, George Bush, and the commander’s progeny. We know this because Kuehn, one of our group from Texas, says, “All those old white fuckers from Texas have their fat hands in Arab oil. They drink it like it’s beer.” B y late September the Amer- ican troop count in the Persian Gulf has reached 150,000; the price of crude oil has nearly doubled since the in- vasion. Over a million refugee guest workers from the Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and India have humped across the dry desert from Kuwait to the relatively safe haven of Jordan. Our days consist of sand and water and sweat and piss. We walk and drive over the sand, and we drink gallons of water. We look north toward what we’re told is a menacing military, 400,000 or more war-torn and war-savvy men. Some of the Iraqi soldiers who fought during the eight-year war DISPATCH 43 DISPATCH REMEMBER THE GULF Scenes from the last war with Iraq By Anthony Swofford Anthony Swofford served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1988 to 1992. In April 2003, Scribner will publish his memoir Jarhead: A Marine’s Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles.
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Swofford_Remember_Gulf - D I S P A T C H REMEMBER THE GULF...

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