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We can be good

My name is Christopher and I served for a bit over 10 years in the US army, spending 27 months in Iraq over
the course of two deployments. I also served several weeks in Afghanistan. If, at this point, my experience isnt
the same as in Duba, it seems close to me. I can easily imagine the way the 33rd battalion had to acclimatise
to the heat. In those regions, you have the impression youre melting. The sweat is everywhere, all the time. If I
had to resume my experience in two words, Id use sand and sweat. Thats the reason why the army makes
us train with all our gear. In time, we can only admit that it feels like a second skin, that we get used to it. Then
I also comprehend the water rationing as well as the food. In Iraq, for example, we had to make sure we drank
and ate enough, not forgetting to control our salt intake. The conditions were overall good except during my
second deployment where the food was disgusting., so much that we had to add loads of soja sauce and drink
a few gulps of soda. No Spirit Cola or Paradise Splash sadly

By Christopher Westmoreland, US Army veteran.

At the time when I was deployed in Iraq, my squad and I were


doing motorised patrols to assure the security of the roads. We were
looking for IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), relatively safe inside
our MRAP armored vehicles (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected).
Nevertheless, you can imagine our fears. Of course, I also had to patrol
on foot, accomplish other missions such as escorting VIPs to their
meetings, securing the zone then escorting them back. Nothing very
exciting. Anyhow, nothing worth the trip. And, to tell the truth, I now
see my deployments, in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan, like some sort
of punishment, a retribution for not having been capable of imagining
a different life, for not having made a choice. In this case, why did
I join the army? Thats the true question. Im not sure of the reason
why Walker, Adams and Lugo volunteered but maybe, just as I, they
volunteered for the wrong reasons. Honestly, I was only an 18 year
old kid and, like all kids, I thought I was invincible, I was dreaming
of living adventures. I was also living with my girlfriend. It was like a
dream ! And yet, I didnt feel satisfied. I had a shitty job and, when I
wasnt working, I went out with stoned friends to, basically, do stoned
things. It couldnt have lasted long. I wanted something else, I wanted

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to prove to myself that another life was possible. Like a necessity.


Furthermore, I was furious after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. All my
anger and my hormones had to go somewhere, converge on someone,
something. Towards an enemy. So I volunteered. I was, in a certain
way, following on the footsteps of my father, a Marine. Of course, I
saw myself at the time like a hero. And, between you and I, I was as
proud and arrogant as Lugo at the moment he enters Duba But,
as for him, the feeling didnt last. I understood what war really was
by brutally discovering that we were not the heroes I imagined. I had
just been deployed when I learned about how one of our squads had
brutally raped and killed an Iraqi family. According to my information,
those soldiers acted by themselves. Of course, they were taken to court
but not before trying to bribe and scare members of their unit, hoping
to silence them. Strangely, I thought about it again when playing Spec
Ops. Because the actions of the 33rd had for me a precise meaning.
Without supervision nor discipline, with the rampant pressure and
madness, those soldiers returned to their primal instincts. Thats also
a part of war. You have to prepare for the truth, burry your illusions.
In fact, the murder of this Iraqi family allowed me to see the situation

in a new way: we werent infallible heroes anymore. All the heroes I


know are either dead or in prison said Solid Snake in MGS. I think
its true. Obviously, there are a lot of good men who fight and die, but
most of us are only kids, often coming from modest families, looking
for a way out. The army presents itself as a way to escape, to avoid a
life of crime, of boredom or simply rotten. It represents another world
for those who are eighteen, who are looking for themselves or whove
only seen war through the prism of Call of Duty or Rambo. But nobody
seems to understand that Rambo is a broken man, pathetic, who kills
himself at the end of the book. Nor that all the games or films - except
for a few such as Spec Ops - dont tell anything of the true experience
of war. Is there any way to represent it ? There are so many moments
of inactivityw, of dead calm. You can very well not do anything at all
for weeks. In fact, you simply exist in a foreign country where its too
hot and people want to kill you. So maybe the 33rd simply collapsed,
understanding that the situation was going to last forever. What could
be worse than waiting for no reason and no purpose ? I know that, for
me, the hardest part was always to count the days and the hours until
I went back home. No, sorry, the worst was literally when I tried to go

home and that it took between 4 and 6 days to get to my front door.
The flight itself took forever: one day and a half.
Honestly, my vision of war didnt evolve with the field experience but
also after my wedding. I started reevaluating my role and my life. I
started imagining the consequences of my death, my wife receiving
her flag, forced to raise our children alone. Or even my grandfather
attending at my funeral. Luckily, in some way, I got to see his own
funeral: the right cycle of life. But if my wedding made me evolve, my
children allowed me to understand something else. Because the kids
and the adults dying in Iraq from our bullets or our bombs also have
families. They all have people they care for. Maybe some truly fight
for something they believe is right. And mostly, like the Delta unit,
I understood that my enemies were human, not simply muslims
that have to be defeated. And I realised that I was wrong to feel so
much angst, to dehumanize the enemy, that it would only continue
the cycle of violence. I believe Spec Ops is very clear on this point,
by presenting the true aspect of war: humans killing other humans
in an endless cycle. Even if the simple act of fighting isnt amusing,
entertaining or heroic. Nevermind what films or games show, fighting

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is a pain. Youre afraid, people die, you can die and your friends can
die. Or worse, you can survive. Death is easy. But you can lose an
arm, a leg like those soldiers of the 33rd that you cut into pieces. You
can also lose your face. War spreads much more horror than we can
imagine. And even if you dont die or that youre not mutilated, you
can still come home with your head twisted. I met soldiers that had
received so many shocks that theyd become totally crazy. Not only
you couldnt understand half of what they were saying, but the other
half didnt mean anything at all. Fucked up beyond all recognition.
I always wondered if they could remember who they used to be. Its
probably for that reason that I had no difficulty in understanding what
the developer meant by putting armed madmen in your way, running
towards you with their knives drawn. They are already someplace else
in their mind. Finally, it might be because I saw these horrible things
that killing off NPCs never presented a dilemma. Rather than leave
them agonize or become mad, I had the impression of doing them
a favor. Not in virtue of the laws of war but in virtue of the laws of
our humanity. By compassion. Its why I wondered what the men of
the 33rd would have become if theyd been able to leave Duba on
time. They could have had a nice life. Because its not being a soldier
that changes you, its war. You dont come back the same you left. But
if you dont have to fight, the army can be a great choice. Its even
the only way to not have any regrets. But, once youve seen war, you
cant do anything about it. You have to live with it. I remember, for
example, my grandfather telling me my lad, why dont you simply go
to college or do something else?. He was terrified. Im glad I saw him
again before his death. Of course, he was right: if you can aim higher,
then go higher. Dont be fooled by the hollywoodification of war, nor
that stupid notion of duty, specially towards veterans. You dont owe
the people who came before you anything. Even in Spec Ops, look at
what happens to Walker. Everything happens because he thinks he has
a debt towards Konrad, because the later saved him in Afghanistan.
But we dont owe anyone anything, even less to those we call heroes
nor to those who, like Konrad or Walker, think they are such heroes.
Sadly, very few works choose to question this vision of heroism. Its the
reason why Spec Ops is something incredible. On the other hand, a
lot of games are dreadful and use war like an entertainment, without
any consideration for the feelings of players or what the troops have to
go through. There is specially a scene in Call Of Duty or Battlefield,
Im not sure anymore, where you see a trapped soldier in a burning
Humvee. It was a simple dramatic cinematic but it really bothered
me. It reminded me of a friend who saw one of his comrades burning.
And now, its in some way trivialized forever. I hope the developers
will realize the influence they can have on people, the way they affect
them. Because the death of a soldier isnt a show. Its a weight you
have to carry forever. In any way, war always leaves a scar on you. In
my case, I came back broken from my ten years in the army, may it
be morally with a post traumatic stress disorder or physically, with a
hurt shoulder.
En fait, jai dchir mon labrum (une partie dune articulation de
lpaule) alors que jentranais des chiens la dtection dexplosifs.
Bref, je suis revenu cass. Or en jouant Spec Ops, jai surtout vu des
gens briss. Et je me suis demand ce qui avait men le 33me bataillon
aussi loin dans lhorreur. Indubitablement, je pointe la dpression et

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Ne vous fates pas avoir


par lHollywoodification
de la guerre
un manque total de discipline. Comme je lai dit plus haut en voquant
le meurtre de cette famille irakienne, la nature peut ressortir avec
brutalit. Pourtant, en ce qui concerne le 33me, je voudrais ajouter
quelque chose. Car une personne peut changer sous leffet du pouvoir
quelle exerce sur les autres ou encore sous leffet de limage quelle veut
se renvoyer. Par exemple, mme si je nai tu personne, je fantasmais
sur le fait de tuer, dexercer ma volont pour satisfaire mes bas instincts.
Encore quassassiner de sang froid et tuer au combat sont deux choses
compltement diffrentes. En fait, je dirai que le combat, donc la
mort, est un fait dans la vie dun soldat. On ne peut pas lviter.
Comme on ne peut pas viter de tuer si les conditions sont runies.
Cela dit, pour tre tout fait franc, jai tu moi aussi. Jai cras un
chien sur une route irakienne. Ce maudit cabot dormait au milieu de
la route et je ne pouvais pas marrter. Alors jai klaxonn, klaxonn, et
il a fini par partir sur la droite juste sous ma roue. Squish ! Ctait
horrible et a a t mal vcu. Par moi bien sr mais encore par mon
ami Gross qui ne ma plus parl pendant une semaine. Il croyait que je
lavais fait exprs. Et a ma pris un temps fou pour lui faire comprendre
que ctait un accident. Cest aussi a la guerre : on essaye de faire les
choses bien, on crase un chien et ton frre darme te le reproche. Il
avait vu du sadisme en moi, comme si javais pu prendre plaisir tuer
des animaux. Quoiquil en soit, je suis rentr bris dIrak et je souffre
dsormais dun tat de stress post traumatique. nouveau, je ne vois
pas lhrosme dans mon exprience ni dans ma condition. Juste la
guerre. trangement, lun des premiers symptmes de mon stress est
apparu alors que je partais en permission. Javais quitt lIrak et je
mtais endormi dans un bus au Koweit. Puis le bus sest arrt pour
laisser passer un convoi. Cest cet instant que les phares mont
rveill. Je me suis mis aussitt hurler : Fates dgager cette putain de
voiture de la route. Putain de bordel, Neal ! Quest-ce que vous tes en
train de foutre ? Pourquoi est-ce quils viennent droit sur nous putain ?
Heureusement, le soldat sur le sige devant le mien sest montr trs
comprhensif. Il avait une voix apaisante, on aurait dit une sorte de
grand-pre. Il a mis sa main sur mon paule et ma susurr comme
un bb Shhhhh, shhh. Tout va bien fils. Tout va bien . Cest l que jai
ralis ce qui tait en train de se passer. Jtais extrmement embarrass
et je me suis forc me rendormir. Ce ne serait pas la dernire fois.
Ctait lun des premiers signes de mon tat. Puis, progressivement, je
suis tomb en dpression. Au dbut, jai eu beaucoup de mal la grer.
Je la noyais, elle et lanxit, dans la vodka. Beaucoup de vodka. Puis
jai fini par marrter, ce ntait pas la solution. En revanche, je continue
encore de les grer au quotidien en jouant aux jeux vido. Mme si jai
arrt, jai aussi fum de lherbe. Pas normment mais assez. Cela
madoucissait, me nettoyait la tte une fois que les enfants taient au
lit. Je me sentais tout drle mais a aidait. Cela dit, je vais mieux
depuis quelques temps. Encore que, mme sil y a des jours meilleurs,
le stress post traumatique reste un fardeau. Non seulement pour moi

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