Feeling restless? Is 2004 looking just like 2003? Do you long to have your place in life very firmly defined by others and to wear a range of interesting hats? Do you have low financial expectations, a vigorous desire to travel and a functioning index finger? Then the US military could be for you.
Not a US citizen? Don't fret - the Department of Defense Inc. welcomes one and all. You can fight for a passport, fight for a green card, just fight for the Christian, God-fearing hell of it. And you'll be in good hands - Secretary of the Air Force James Roche is a former vice-president at Northrop Grumman; Secretary of the Navy Gordon England is a former executive at General Dynamics; and former Secretary of the Army Thomas E White came direct from those hard-fighting boys at Enron. You're only a few months of training from jury-rigging armour on your combat-unready vehicle, eating out of filthy, Halliburton-run kitchens, sewing patches on your Vietnam-issue flak jacket and tying plastic strips round the wrists of numberless fascinating strangers, often in their own homes. Brits also have local access to a subsidiary enterprise, run to the same exacting standards. French nationals need not apply.
Or perhaps you've just finished a tour for Uncle Sam. Maybe you're one of last year's lucky amputees, or you've suffered a recent "mystery illness" or "mental breakdown". Well, give yourself a shake, shine up those new prosthetics and re-enlist today. In other wars you'd have been left idle, but no matter what levels of physical and mental trauma you've endured, this time the Department of Defense Inc still needs you. And with veterans making up 9% of the US population but 23% of the homeless - and Veterans Affairs taking care of 40,000 out of 500,000 - what better options have you got? You have a 50% chance of substance abuse and a 45% chance of mental illness - and let's not even talk about Gulf war syndrome and depleted uranium. In fact, let's not talk about that, ever.
And who would miss the chance of serving alongside forces from Kellogg Root Brown, Northrop Grumman and DynCorp International - the war professionals? They can ignore the Geneva convention (they're not protected by it, either) and you can simply dodge round it. Feel like beating some prisoners in Camp Bucca? Confining whole villages as collective punishment? Shooting unarmed civilians? Gunning down a surrendered combatant in the street? Arresting the pesky journalists who'd film you gunning down a surrendered combatant in the street? Failing to establish and sustain civil order? Obtaining information "under duress"? Lifting harmless valuables during house-to-house searches? Then this war's for you.
Or are you a brave, decent individual with a trust in your country's leaders and a deep sense of duty? Obviously, you can sign up, too, but your disillusionment will cause no end of trouble. You might well suffer long-term psychological problems, send emails to Michael Moore, complain to your relatives that you're being forced into illegal acts for corporate profit, and generally reduce company morale. Your duty is to keep your head down and make sure those pipelines stay secure.
Of course, if you don't keep your head down, you may experience a period of negative good health. This is to be avoided, because it tends to depress voters at home, so you might find yourself being withdrawn for a while and stored in a variety of hospitals, barrack blocks and sheds with other inconveniently indisposed personnel, until you can be returned to the combat zone, or filtered quietly back into society.
Your secluded storage may also affect your ability to receive Purple Hearts and other awards. And you will, naturally, be expected to repay your $ 8.10 food allowance for each day spent enjoying hospital meals, while any disability benefit you receive later (subject to further cuts) will be reimbursed to the government out of your retirement pay. There are moves afoot to alter these nominal, reasonable burdens, but don't hold your breath.
And rest assured, for those of you who no longer have breath to hold, the Charles C Carson Centre for Mortuary Affairs will deal with your remains efficiently in tasteful surroundings. You won't be best placed to appreciate it, but the 70,000 sq ft, state-of-the-art facility at Dover air force base, in Delaware, has been expressly designed to process you and your comrades. It has a foyer with reflecting pool and rock-effect seating area and a glass Wall of Fallen Heroes, ready and waiting for your name.
Better still, no ceremony will be held there to mark your passing, in case your grieving relatives feel compelled to attend. Coincidentally, this means George Bush won't be attending, either. And nor will the press gain any access - your arrival will be entirely private, as if you had never been.
Vietnam and Korean war remains still arriving at Hickam air force base can be filmed, because they're Good News. But you, you're different - it's better for all concerned if you just disappear.
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