Photographing the Backs of Sailors’ Heads
It’s 1982 and I’ve got a gig on a Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Ranger. I climb aboard at Coronado Island across the San Diego Bay and get off seven days later in Honolulu, Hawaii. Three or four layers below deck I set up a portable portrait studio: three strobes on stands with a battery pack—two with umbrellas and one to spot the painted backdrop. I have an adjustable posing stool and a Beattie Coleman Portronic camera with a 100-foot roll of 70-millimeter color negative film. The Portronic sits on a roller tripod and has a slot for cards to ID the negatives. Approximately 3,000 men, who for the most part are still just boys, are slated for their yearbook portraits. These lucky sailors will hopefully purchase prints for the proud parents and girls in waiting back home in Dudvillie. I’ve borrowed the equipment from the storeroom of a portrait studio where I worked for a while and somehow ended up with my own key. I’m hoping to make a bundle.
The USS Ranger is a bustling city of men, many of whom live like cave dwellers and go for weeks at a time without seeing natural light. I think they’re all a bunch of idiots, but I can be quick to judge and tend to bristle around people in uniform. Enclosed in gloppy gray gloom, everything is narrow and riveted together. Heavy metal clanks echo from the walls but voices remain stationary. I eat with the officers in the mess hall and I’ve gone exploring and been lost three times by the second day.
Last spring, the remains of 10 missing Afghan villagers were dug up outside a U.S. Special Forces base – was it a war crime or just another episode in a very dirty war?
You who judge me
I hope you burn alive and become dust
I hope you are destroyed and disappear from this universe
Your days and nights filled with sorrow and pain
Tear open my chest and see what is inside
Only then can you understand
—Reading Taliban Love Poems in an Afghan Prison
Reading Taliban Love Poems in an Afghan Prison
We twisted up into the sky beneath a blur of rotors—mum in the numb motor din. The shadow of our helicopter flit below, yawing in the undulations of the sorrel earth, hurtling peaks, and hurling into dark valleys.
My military escort Lieutenant Cartagena and I took off from Mazar-i-Sharif, a city built 900 years ago in desolation—the site revealed in a prophetic dream. From the scattered earthen villages that passed beneath our craft to the army outpost we sought, every settlement seemed tinged with that same fantastic quality—accidents of life in a dead land.
We reunited with our shadow on the airstrip of a base in Baghlan province that I am not permitted to name. I jumped onto the tarmac, squinting through the heat blast. We had come to witness the successful passage of a NATO prison and military base into Afghan hands.
The American soldiers of Blackfoot Troop bounded out to meet us. They were tall and strong, engendering visions of Thanksgiving dinners in places like Battle Creek, Michigan, and Louisville, Kentucky. There was Lieutenant King, Sergeant Morgan, and their corpsman Specialist Singer. They welcomed us by asking our blood types—something practical and still somehow strangely intimate. They hustled us away, out of sight of the mountains, through the gauntlet of concrete T-walls and gravel-filled HESCO barriers that formed the outpost.
I Toured Cairo’s Muslim Brotherhood Protest Camps Just Before the Military Crackdown
This morning, the Egyptian Army finally followed through on threats it had been making for days and launched a full-scale assault on Muslim Brotherhood protest camps, including the main one at at Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo’s Nasr City district. For the past month, thousands of supporters of recently deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi had been holding sit-ins to protest his ouster by the military after widespread protests, and even before this latest incident, there had been clashes between government security forces and protesters that left as many as 130 dead. The Egyptian government claims 13 people have been killed in today’s violence, but that number is probably much too low. Protesters fleeing the sit-ins fought back by throwing stones and bottles and lighting fires, but obviously they are no match for the army’s machine guns, tanks, and tear gas.
In the days leading up to the brutal crackdown, Egypt’s liberals called for the military to act more aggressively on the sit-ins, and the Rabaa camp was accused of being a terrorist camp harboring foreign fighters where immoral sexual activities and child abuse took place. Though some international organizations refuted those claims, Amnesty International found evidence that the Brotherhood was torturing their political opponents. Some protesters decided to push back against these rumors by inviting anyone who was interested to come in and have a look around.
The Best Online Sex Ads Posted from Military Bases in Afghanistan
Despite the fact that military bases are often featured prominently in gay porn, I’ve never imagined there’s a whole lot of sex happening at them, IRL. Getting laid while on duty requires discretion, and propositioning the people you work with on a regular basis is about as sneaky as a Panzer. So you can’t really blame our soldiers (and civilian contractors) for posting dirty ads online complete with sexxxy requests and pictures of their junk. Everyone is looking for some NSA (No Strings Attached) action.
Unfortunately the Great Cock Block from the West, aka the US military, isn’t too happy about our soldiers’ online solicitation. It has become such a problem, in fact, that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) has started “tracking service members who are hooking up in the war zone via internet sites,” according toMarine Corps Times. Posting personals isn’t technically against the rules, but in Afghanistan sex between unmarried soldiers is “highly discouraged,” and posting pictures of your junk on the internet is against the Uniform Code of Military Justice (probably because soldiers can’t take one without removing their uniforms, hey-o!).
In the interest of military transparency and boners, let’s take a look at some of the ads our servicemen and women are posting.
This one seems nice and innocent. A grunt on Kandahar Airfield just looking for a nice lady for “conversations.” So puritanical.
After being stuck with 60 guys for nine months straight, this solider just needs some pussy. He’s not real picky, but he claims to have a big dick and he’s going to be at Bagram Airfield for a night. So, ladies, can’t you help a brother out?
Israel’s Killer Robots
Israel is the world’s biggest exporter of military drones, used around the world for everything from surveillance to precision rocket attacks on speeding cars in remote locales. Israel’s drone program hasn’t stirred as much controversy as its American counterpart, but not because their targeted killings are any less fatal. VICE sent Simon Ostrovsky to a drone testing airfield in Israel to find out what their latest eye-in-the-sky can see.
Watch the video
High Dives and Manicures at Saddam’s Presidential Palace
Baghdad, July 15, 2003 –
As far as I was concerned, the war was over. The president said so and we weren’t shooting anyone; we were just killing time, waiting for the word to go home. We spent our days moping around, trying not to sweat too much in our cement buildings as the Iraqi summer heat got hotter. We still did missions, but they felt more like a way of keeping us from going completely stir crazy than anything else—the way your dad might suddenly decide to take you to the park after spending the whole day watching cartoons.
One morning, our battalion chaplain came to our small firebase in Baghdad and told us that he had to go to one of Saddam’s palaces for meetings and wanted to take a couple of infantry squads with him so we could enjoy the facilities. He said there was a big pool and told us we could spend the day swimming, eating good food, and calling home.
It was an easy sell to our commanders, who were already looking for ways to raise morale. And, luckily for me, I was in one of the first two squads chosen to visit the palace.
That evening we excitedly packed all of our army-regulation vacation gear into camouflage assault packs. A good friend had a giant orange and yellow towel sent to him from home. We gave him shit for it, but he packed it anyway.
No One Knows Exactly Why the Canadian Military Is in Haiti
Perhaps understandably, the Canadian media has been having a hard time covering any news that doesn’t have to do with one of the following: the mayor of Toronto maybe smoking crack with a murdered drug dealer; the mayor of Montreal being charged with cavorting with the mafia; Calgary being swallowed by floods; and the Prime Minister allegedly paying off a corrupt senator to put out a political firestorm.
Which makes it the perfect time for the Canadian government to quietly announce the deployment of an infantry platoon of 34 soldiers to Haiti. The island nation, which is still dealing with the ramifications of the devastating 2010 earthquake, is currently controlled by the Brazilian troops who’ve led the UN peacekeeping effort in Haiti since 2004. The move to partake in a UN peacekeeping mission is significant: Stephen Harper’s conservative government is voluntarily getting back into the traditional peacekeeping game.
For a country that basically invented the concept of the peacekeeper, Harper has overseen a nose-dive to the point where the Canucks now rank 57 out of 114 troop-contributing nations worldwide. And throughout his time in office, Harper has rarely engaged in a foray abroad that he willingly signed up for. It was the Liberal Party that volunteered Canada for Afghanistan (and it was Harper’s decision to pull out), there was the limitedcontribution to the Nato Libya mission, and he’s been extremely hesitant of Syrian intervention. In fact, Harper has only seemed gung-ho about taking down Assad at the G8, when he was in a lion’s den of world leaders clamoring for Assad’s demise (although he still stopped short of advocating arming the rebels).
The change of heart for Harper certainly raises questions, even if 34 troops is only a minor contribution. So why now—and why Haiti?