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Unfiled August 23, 2001
In the Land of the Heroic Leeches
By John Dolan Browse author Email
Page 2 of 3
Take I-5 through Washington, as I did this summer, and you will pass right through Fort Lewis, one of the biggest bases in the country, without seeing anything more dangerous than stucco. Lots and lots of stucco, project-like housing for the invisible soldiers. Not a single one is visible.

Even after they've done their 20 year hitches, the lifers stay out of sight. They go back where they came from: nowhere. That's where the Army does its recruiting: all the Nowhere towns, like Fruitvale WA, where I saw them at the Safeway. The retired lifers go back to these nowhere towns for the same reasons they left in the first place: there's no money there. So things are cheap, and a Sergeant's pension goes a long, long way. In fact, a retired Sergeant can go back to Fruitvale WA and be something like a baron, in a very small way. Any American who lived in Moscow in the early 90s will know the feeling: out in the world you were nobody, but here, where nobody has any income, you're the leisure class. And if you joined up at 18, you've done your 20 years by the time you're 38. You can still pull in the gut, get a little extra height from the boots, and jingle into Safeway like Genghiz Patton.

It seemed lame but harmless at first -- til I saw how many of them there were. By the end of my first week in town every trip to Safeway was a hatefest. I'd do anything to get in line behind a harmless country wife or rural urchin -- anything not to stand behind one of these ex-Army fucks.

It took me a while to figure out what was so uniquely hateful about them.

First: the lies. They were too young for Vietnam. That meant that not one of them had seen anything like combat against a real army. (Please, don't mention the herds of primate slaves rounded up in the "Gulf War.") They were veterans of...what? Six weeks of basic training, followed by twenty long years of settling into the most corrupt, inefficient, pampered and unwarlike military in the history of the world. What did they have to strut about? Only a successful scam, and not a very demanding one.

But that wouldn't've been so bad in itself. It was the bumperstickers that really made me sick. Not just that they were all the dumbest Limbaugh taglines, but that without exception they testified to the glory of FREE ENTERPRISE and the evils of BIG GOVERNMENT.

You got that? "Big Government"? Reviled by these smug parasites who bedded down in airconditioned barracks for twenty years, never having to decide what to wear, where to shop, or what they going to have for dinner! These lumps, these sawed-off banty birdbrains, strutting around talking about "free enterprise"! These Government drones, Chichikovs writ small, using the bumpers of their never-been-mudded SUVs to rail against the gigantic Federal teat at which they've suckled drowsily through their lives, as inert as boarding-school brats!

These fat-cells of the body politic! These swaggering prairie dogs -- I swear to you that three out of five of them resembled nothing so much as ground squirrels -- prating to everyone unlucky enough to get behind them at a red light about the joys of private enterprise! How many of them ever held a job in their lives? How many would last one week in real employment, accustomed as they are to the Army's senile pace?

That's why I can't stomach McVeigh: the only place he was ever at home was the Army. "Living off the taxpayer." "Bloated bureaucracy" -- once the USSR closed shop there was not one bureaucracy in the WORLD as "bloated" as the US Army. So this lifelong drone, this unemployable yokel, blows up a government building while staying at Motel Sixes courtesy of his Army pension. And it never entered his beaky little head that he is the most Soviet, the least "free-enterprise" of men.

And there I stood in Fruitvale, having a most unwelcome epiphany about my homeland, with the Army pensioners coming and going with all the beer they could hold, proud champions of freedom, battleforged champions of the PX discount, free Government housing, room and board, and a big olive-drab Auntie Sam to tuck you in at night, brave little soldiers that you were.

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