Soldiers often say they are not allowed to speak their minds on the war for fear that doing so might get them in hot water.
But at Kuwait’s Camp Spearhead at the Shuaiba Port — often the last stop for troops leaving the theater — soldiers have found a way to vent their feelings: Their graffiti covers the toilet stalls.
Markers ink crude drawings, deep statements and political commentary, making up one of the largest collections of graffiti in the theater.
Wit and rhyme range from thoughtful statements from introspective soldiers to profanity scrawled by some lonely young men. Some sound like well-memorized verses; others seem profoundly original.
“I pray not for money power or fame,” one troop wrote. “I only pray that when my time is over that I die a warrior’s death, so that I’m remembered as just that. A warrior, a soldier, a man.”
Another soldier wrote his rant on the war, spelling out ideas of hidden business interests behind the reasons the government gave for invading Iraq.
“The $150 billion could have been used for our own country — on poverty, job creation, the deficit, energy research and education. The list is endless. You may think I’m anti-American, but you’re wrong. I’m an American patriot questioning our government. America will be heard and wash its hands of this war, and realize it was all in the name of money and oil.”
Radical ideas, either conservative or liberal, are often shot down by moderate-minded soldiers. One troop gave voice to a highly conservative, and even twisted, notion.
“The world is overpopulated, full of worthless people that the bleeding heart liberals insist on helping. The solution: Kill all politicians. Kill tree huggers. Bomb all Third World countries and their worthless people into craters, take all their resources for the civilized world. In effect, eliminate all forms of terrorism.”
Scrawled in blue ink below was the response. “Hey dumb-ass, you sound like the terrorist. We should kill you.”
But just how serious can graffiti be?
Something as deep as “Patriotism is asking the question why, and demanding the answer,” is followed by “Steal from AAFES, it’s easy!”
Meanwhile, sex prevails over much of the graffiti, often written in crude language. Some artists draw elaborate pictures depicting naked women in various poses. There are even tips on how to attract the girl working at the mess tent.
While every male stall had graffiti, the women’s latrines were nearly untouched. One woman wrote in small letters, “I love Jeremy.” Another wrote, “Melanie loves Michael.”
But that’s it.
Women don’t have time for childish writings, said Pfc. Shameeka Gray, 20, of Stamford, Conn. She sees foul language in unisex port-o-potties, but it doesn’t bother her. She understands why the guys are so busy defacing toilets, she said.
“They’ve been out here a while, and men have needs,” Gray said. “That’s just their way of expressing it.”
Some troops are apparently frustrated.
One wrote: “We’re all animals. This animal is ramming its head into the doors of a small cage, at least once a day.”
Another wrote, “Welcome to Camp Spearhead, the armpit of Kuwait.” The word “armpit” was later crossed out, and replaced with various other locations on the body.
In contrast, a soldier from the Massachusetts National Guard’s 379th Engineer Company drew a tombstone near the Camp Spearhead scrawl with “R.I.P SFC Rooney. Nobody will be left behind.” Last September, Sgt. 1st Class Robert E. Rooney was killed at the port on the docks by a passing forklift.
But heartfelt sentiments often met crass responses.
“Why did my fellow Marines die over here? When I think about it, there is really no pressing threat coming from Iraq.”
The answer: “Because George Bush asked them to die and they were dumb enough to do it. It’s our job, get over it.”
Racism is certainly alive among the ranks. There was the random name-calling of minorities by a white troop, which brought dozens of responses shouting his ignorance and identifying his misspellings.
Interservice rivalry also made up much of the derogatory slander. The Army and Marine Corps throw most of the punches.
One Marine wrote, “U.S.M.C. — time to take over the mission. Sorry Army, you suck.”
A soldier replied, “Be my guest you loser, Take this job, so I can go home.”
Then there are troops who saw action telling the rear echelon soldiers that their opinions don’t matter as much. Even a Polish troop tried his hand at graffiti. Responding U.S. soldiers had no clue what he was trying to say.
Finally, one stern-faced cartoon character warned, “I’m watching you, don’t write on the walls.”