GB No. 4(15)/94
In the eighties, which saw a senseless arms race between rival blocs (one of which seemed to be very self-destructive), we could construct a vision of a world free from conflicts and wars and from the famine and diseases that have been tormenting people.
In order to accelerate the processes that are going to establish a new world order, the United Nations designated 1984 as a year of peace. For environmentalists, this was an announcement of a new way of thinking, one which takes into consideration preserving harmony in nature above all else. We have already written many times that contemporary wars and their modern weapons are tremendously cruel. In order to kill a man or to deprive him of food and water, many hectares of wood, fields, and surface water are poisoned. One of the examples was the Vietnam War, when defoliants were used to destroy the environment.
But it is not just wars that are dangerous for the environment. Army exercises are not neutral, either, especially those arranged for large scale maneuvers. In the article "Swords into plow-shares" (AURA 5/86), I quoted a balance of losses from some of the biggest maneuvers which took place in 1982 in West Germany. About 70,000 soldiers and a few thousand Caterpillar vehicles participated in these maneuvers: 12 were killed, 140 were wounded, and 600 suffered damages in some way. In addition, 2.5 thousand fields and buildings were damaged; thousands of trees and vineyards were destroyed; and soil and surface water were contaminated with propulsive oil. I used the German data because at that time nobody from the communist countries would have provided that information.
The optimists dreamed that finally the time would come when money so far spent on constructing rockets and tanks -- and this means billions of dollars -- would be used for building schools and hospitals and eliminating famine and disease from the planet.
It's been ten years since the Eastern bloc really fell apart, although some countries have preserved full weapon arsenals, including nuclear arms. However, the possibility of mankind governing rationally hasn't gotten any closer. New problems, conflicts and wars -- which at the end of the Twentieth Century are hard to understand and explain -- have appeared. Yugoslavia, Somalia, and Rwanda are good examples.
Only with Iraq's occupation of Kuwait did we manage very quickly. But let's not be deluded into thinking that the reason for this action was to defend the independence of Kuwait and its population. Rather, it was the endangered oil delivery to the big capital that was the reason for the fight with Saddam Hussein.
The helplessness of international organizations trying to solve other armed conflicts proves that not too much has changed since we started acting according to the principle "force before law". That's why we are so eager to have our country in a strongly armed bloc, which is in fact not so eager to welcome us. In order to become significant on the political map of the world, we cannot just stress that there are 40 million of us. We also have to be rich (have a strong economy) or have a strong army. The best would be to have both.
I'm not going to repeat the appeal to turn swords into plow-shares and to plow over the military training grounds. The training grounds must be put in order. Not only those which were abandoned by the Russian army and where the environmental damages amount to 50 trillion (1 x 1012) zł. We don't have the money yet to recultivate the destroyed areas. Still, they should be at least provisionally put in order now, and nature should be allowed to heal the wounds.
If there was such devastation in areas occupied by the Russian army, the question arises whether there is a chance that the same thing is happening at our army bases. The response will probably contain words of indignation and denial, along with claims that the Russian army was an occupier; that it had a different discipline and culture, etc. I'm not so sure. Armies have their own laws. I have omitted here problems of the sort faced by industrial and municipal management which the army also has: lack of adequate water treatment plants, outdated and polluting power plants, and poor waste management (of used oil and batteries, for example). The army needs the environment mostly for subjugating, for hiding and camouflage. "A good camouflage is half the battle," I was told during army exercises.
Organized maneuvers have the same consequences as those in the German examples (I've said before). That's why I don't know what kind of attitude our army officers have towards the environment while they declare their willingness to organize army exercises together with NATO in our country. I believe that making our country accessible to foreign army exercises is premature and unreasonable. Aren't we being a bit too hospitable? Environmentalists should fight against these intents. And our army should have a nature protection policy.
The army should have more than just a policy. The army should be a school of ecological thinking. In Western Europe at international expositions on environmental protection there are many examples of army's activities and achievements in this field. This kind of exhibition took place in a fair called ENVITEC in Dusseldorf. One section was dedicated to rationalization of exercises which would decrease use of petrol and limit emission of pollutants. Another section presented work on modernizing the technical infrastructure of army bases: changing of boilers, building and modernizing water treatment plants, and waste recycling. Other sections showed various activities undertaken to recultivate devastated areas, to benefit civilians, and to educate young people.
The army should be a real school of life and should take into consideration environmental aspects. The army should teach young people about natural resources management and teach them to respect nature. I don't know why reluctance towards serving in the army is growing among young boys. Time spent in the army shouldn't be just a school, but also an adventure. We have to eliminate myths (and maybe facts) of bad pedagogical methods and malice close to sadism in breaking young peoples' wills and characters. Army service has to be modified. It shouldn't be deprived of its masculine character, but made so attractive that boys will dream about serving, and be proud to have done so afterward.
P.S. I direct this apeal to the army board: Please, get rid of the tradition of young men just released from the army howling and hanging around drunk in embroidered shawls. Try to find another way of saying goodbye to the service.
reprinted from AURA 7/94
translated by A. R-H.
It was winter. I was sitting at a table in the guardroom and I was doing a crossword puzzle from the newspaper. Beside me sat a young man studying army regulations. There had been problems with him at the briefing, when the officer had asked him about the rights of a soldier on sentry. I told him to study the regulations aloud. At least that way I was sure he was studying.
"A soldier standing sentry has the right to give orders connected with performing..."
"F--- it!" shouted a deputy. "It drives me up the wall to hear the same stuff over and over again. I can't concentrate. You could go easy on the regulations." He was playing cards with the two guards.
"If he doesn't learn the regulations," I said, "it's I who will be in trouble, not you."
"I could teach him faster."
The bell rang twice, first short, then long. It was our agreed-upon signal meaning that one of the soldiers wanted to come in.
"You, the young one, open the door," I said.
Young stood up from the chair and went to the door.
"Who's there?" he asked.
"Don't you know who? Little Red Riding Hood, open the door!"
The young one opened the door and a battalion letterman came in. He had two letters in his hand.
"The letters have come," he shouted and sat down opposite me.
"Don't you know, you bastard, that letters are not to be brought into the guardroom!" I shouted.
"Look, look. You've become the guard commander for the first time and you're already a different person. Since when have you been so law-abiding? Anyway, you'll get your letter when you're off duty, you ---!"
"All right, gimme," I reached for the letter.
"But are you entitled to it?" the letterman laughed.
"Don't drive me nuts, just give it to me."
"Here," he tossed the letter onto the table. "There's one more for..." he paused. "For Young."
Young moved and began to stare in turns at me and then at the letterman. Suddenly the deputy stood up and snatched the letter from the letterman's hand.
"F--- off!" the letterman was furious.
"Silence! I don't talk with filce." Deputy was counting aloud. "Oh, f---! Young, here's something for you -- do push-ups... Fifty for the envelope; five stamps, ten each, so that means another fifty . . . Beata, is she your girlfriend? Three crosses mean thirty. One hundred thirty altogether..."
"Take a better look at it. What's here?" the letterman smiled.
"What? Damn it! Young, you're already dead. Living dead. Tell me, please, what "P.A." means. Polish Army??? Well, well that means at least a hundred. F---, I've never seen anything like this in the army."
"So that makes two hundred fifty altogether, am I right?" the letterman broke in.
"Silence! Koty i filce do not have the right to speak. Well then, Young, supper is in half an hour, so you'd better start now, if you want to make it in time."
I had finished reading my letter.
"Leave him. He's supposed to study the regulations."
"Rubbish. What sort of a guard is he? First, he'll do the pushs-ups for the letter and then I'll teach him the regulations myself. You'll see, he will learn them ten times faster and he will remember them for the rest of his life."
"I, a kot szaro-bury, ask the deputy to heighten the level of my physical fitness." Young sprang to attention.
"What's 'I'? 'I' in the army is an a---. You get an additional ten for that. Once more!"
When Young had recited the words correctly, Deputy said:
"Okay, let's get started!"
Young took the position for push-ups.
"Count out loud. Ready, go."
Young was doing push-ups.
"One, two, three..."
"One more time," Deputy interrupted.
"One, two ..."
"F--- it, Young. One more time!"
"One, two, three ..."
"Young, doesn't it get across to you?! One more time."
"See, that's much better."
Young was gradually losing strength.
"What's the matter with you, Young? To the floor, right down to the floor!" Young's elbows were shaking. "Wait a minute," he took out his army combination spoon and fork and stuck it between the buttons of Young's shirt.
"And now listen up. Every time you bend your arms, I want to hear two things: you saying the number and the spoon/fork hitting the floor. Understood? So get ready."
An orderly officer came into the guardroom.
"Attention!" I shouted.
"All right, all right," the officer waved his hand. "No theatre."
"What a f---ing guard commander," he said, and the rest of the guards laughed. "Commander for the first time?"
"Oh, Jesus, what a guard I've got." He saw Young motionless, not knowing what to do now. "What's his problem?"
"He wants to improve his fitness, lieutenant," Deputy answered.
"Clear. But what was it that I wanted?" he turned to me. "When you have somebody fetch supper, tell him to get from our cook sausages, some butter, and a few slices of bread."
"But our cook is on leave today."
"So nick some food. I get a stomach-ache from the grub they serve here."
"And we have to eat it, lieutenant," added Deputy.
"Listen, Deputy. I work here and you're only doing your military service. There must be some justice after all, right? Okay, I'd better get going." Once again he turned to me. "At the end of duty bring me the register to be signed. And don't forget about the food for me. See you."
Young's face had turned red from exertion and big beads of sweat were dripping to the floor. The containers with food were brought into the guardroom.
"Give him some food!" I said to Deputy.
"He'll eat when he's finished."
"Damn it, he has to hold guard in an hour."
"Too few of what? You've got too few brain cells."
"You know what? You'd better calm down, or else. And you, Young, what are you waiting for? For deliverance? Keep on going!"
Deputy ate soup out of an army canteen he held in his hand. A moment came when Young dropped to the floor and did not have any more strength to raise his body.
"All right, " Deputy said. "See my good heart. I'll let you rest a little bit. But only on one hand. Put the other one on your back, stuck behind your belt. You can touch the floor only with the tips of your shoes and your palm. Understood?"
Deputy finished eating and became interested in the envelope.
"From Beata. Is she your girlfriend? We'll see what she's written." He tore the envelope open and took out a piece of paper. A photograph fell to the floor. It was a photo of a girl leaning against a tree. Deputy picked it up.
"What a babe! I guess boys keep her busy, what do you think, Young? That's how it is with these chicks when their boyfriends are in the army. There is nobody to keep an eye on them. Wait a minute, what is she writing? 'My dear...' I'll be damned, what a f---ing text!"
Young jumped to his feet and lifted his fist to strike.
"You just try," said Deputy and smiled.
Young stood there for a while, clenching his fists and teeth. Then he lowered his hand.
"Don't stop, keep on doing the push-ups."
Young snatched the letter with the photograph and ran to my desk. I stood up and pushed away Deputy, who was going after him.
"Leave him alone," I said.
"You're gonna die, you sprog. You'll see, you're gonna die you f---ing sprog. You're gonna die..."
I led Young to the post where he was to hold guard. He behaved as if he did not know where he was or what was going on around him. He looked at some distant, non-existent point. He stared as if into a void.
"Are you all right?" I asked when he took his post.
"Yes, I'm just fine."
I promised myself that when he was off duty, I would not let Deputy get revenge on him. I would not let it happen, no matter what. As soon as he was off duty, I would send him to the army infirmary, I thought. The command would be furious, but well, perhaps it would work somehow.
I got a call from the officer.
"Guard commander, come over here."
I woke up Deputy.
"What's going on?"
"The officer wants something."
"What??? He never controls anything."
"Well, perhaps he's gone nuts."
"Okay. I'll make a few phone calls to the other guards so that they watch out."
"And call 'one'. You know, that's Young. Explain to him how to behave and tell him to keep low profile."
"Cut it out, please," said the lieutenant.
He was sitting in an armchair, his uniform unbuttoned. He was drunk. There was a bottle of vodka on the table. He poured out half a glass for me.
"Here you are, drink."
"But lieutenant, I..."
"Drink, so that you won't tell on me that I've been drinking."
I drank the vodka.
"Listen," said the lieutenant. "My deputy, my deputy has gone to..." he had difficulty speaking. "He's gone to... It's not important where. You see, I want to get some sleep. You understand, don't you? So I appoint you the deputy of the battalion orderly officer. Sit down here in an armchair," he got up and staggered. "And hold guard. I'm going to hit the sack. In case there are any phone calls, just say 'peg' and pretend to be me and then wake me up. Understood? Carry on."
"What about the guard?"
"You've got that f---ing Deputy, haven't you?"
In the officer's guardroom there was a television set with a VCR hooked up to it. Every time the officer was on duty, he brought himself a couple of tapes to watch. I picked one of them and turned on the VCR. It was an American war thriller about Vietnam. Terribly boring. The vodka slowly warmed up my head. I heard a pleasant buzz in my ears. Something pulsated in my stomach. I fell asleep.
Suddenly something woke me up. But I didn't yet know what. It was already getting light outside. My head was aching.
I got up and went to the guardroom. Just in case, I left the door open.
When I reached the guardroom, I saw that everybody was still asleep. I looked around to check where the people were lying. I could not find Young anywhere. I looked at my watch. He should be on sentry duty now.
I woke up Deputy.
"What?" He rubbed his eyes.
"He's holding guard at the post."
"What post? He should be on sentry duty now. What the f--- have you done to him?!"
"It was as a punishment, so that he would remember that you are not allowed to lift your hand at your senior officers."
"You're not telling me that all this time Young has been holding guard at the post, are you?"
"It certainly won't do him any harm."
I quickly woke up the other sentry. We took guns and equipment.
"We're going to withdraw Young from sentry," I said to Deputy at the door.
"Get stuffed with your thoughtfulness!" he shouted behind me and slammed the door.
"Sentry!" I shouted at "one." "Sentry!"
"He's not here," the other sentry told me. "He must be in a car somewhere."
We were searching the cars. But doing this together made no sense, so we split up. I was looking for Young on the right side, and the other sentry was on the left.
After a while I heard, "Corporal, here, quick!"
Young was lying in the car seat. His head was broken. The whole inside of the car was soaked with blood. There was a gun between his legs. Behind the window pane a photo was stuck. It showed a girl leaning against a tree. The sentry brought me a crumpled piece of paper.
"Corporal, it's this, you know, this letter to Young, and she, you know, writes that she's dumping him. And that she's had an abortion."
"Show it to me."
I read a bit and realised that it was not his child.
"Lieutenant, lieutenant!" I pulled at the officer's arm.
"Leave me alone."
"Lieutenant, Young's shot himself dead."
"You're in the army now..." the officer was singing in his sleep.
reprinted from Zielone Brygady no. 9/94