Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Bob Herbert: From 'Gook' to 'Raghead'

(courtesy of pooponpolitics)

From 'Gook' to 'Raghead'
By BOB HERBERT
NY Times

I spent some time recently with Aidan Delgado, a 23-year-old religion major at New College of Florida, a small, highly selective school in Sarasota.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, before hearing anything about the terror attacks that would change the direction of American history, Mr. Delgado enlisted as a private in the Army Reserve. Suddenly, in ways he had never anticipated, the military took over his life. He was trained as a mechanic and assigned to the 320th Military Police Company in St. Petersburg. By the spring of 2003, he was in Iraq. Eventually he would be stationed at the prison compound in Abu Ghraib.

Mr. Delgado's background is unusual. He is an American citizen, but because his father was in the diplomatic corps, he grew up overseas. He spent eight years in Egypt, speaks Arabic and knows a great deal about the various cultures of the Middle East. He wasn't happy when, even before his unit left the states, a top officer made wisecracks about the soldiers heading off to Iraq to kill some ragheads and burn some turbans.

"He laughed," Mr. Delgado said, "and everybody in the unit laughed with him."

The officer's comment was a harbinger of the gratuitous violence that, according to Mr. Delgado, is routinely inflicted by American soldiers on ordinary Iraqis. He said: "Guys in my unit, particularly the younger guys, would drive by in their Humvee and shatter bottles over the heads of Iraqi civilians passing by. They'd keep a bunch of empty Coke bottles in the Humvee to break over people's heads."

He said he had confronted guys who were his friends about this practice. "I said to them: 'What the hell are you doing? Like, what does this accomplish?' And they responded just completely openly. They said: 'Look, I hate being in Iraq. I hate being stuck here. And I hate being surrounded by hajis.' "

"Haji" is the troops' term of choice for an Iraqi. It's used the way "gook" or "Charlie" was used in Vietnam.

Entire Column

5 comments:

Susannity! (Susanne) said...

I read many things that essentially register shock on how some soldiers act in the field. From my experience in the military, these kinds of actions are not as rare as some would like to think. During Desert Storm, I encountered many soldiers from different parts of the country. The thing to remember is that when you look around at the people in this country, there are "all types", what-have-you. That doesn't change when the uniform goes on. Bigotries, ignorance, and aggression don't disappear, and can sometimes be enhanced.

Thivai Abhor said...

Yes, definitely, and we should put this attitude under the microscope as it seeps into the mainstream culture (and reflects already present racist impulses).

We are a military culture--it shapes the wa we view others.

Thivai Abhor said...

Susanne ... you were a soldier?

Susannity! (Susanne) said...

yes served 12 years, most of it in the reserve.

memsamechnun said...

In the enlightened state of Connecticut, The Park's Garage in particular, they call Arabs "Sand Niggers." And they will say it in the presence of a fellow employee who is black. What a country!