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Marianne, France

Love According to the US Army


By Aude Lancelin

There remains no doubt that somewhere out in the Afghan highlands, two formidable sexual fundamentalisms are squaring off: the Taliban, who stone their women, and the Americans, who castrate their officers.

Translated By Joshua Kirby

1 December 2012

Edited by Natalie Clager


France - Marianne - Original Article (French)

“A staggering number of emails.” “A phenomenal correspondence.” “Up to 30 emails every day.” If we can take one, and only one, crumb of comfort from the storm currently engulfing the American military’s top brass, which has already brought about the resignation of CIA Director General David Petraeus, it must surely be the sprightly health of inter-personal correspondence, rumored to have been dying from the efficiency of modern communication.

We are as such pleasantly dumbstruck to learn that General John Allen, the other main player in this affair, reportedly exchanged “between 20,000 and 30,000 pages” with the brunette Jill Kelley, a sort of Madame Verdurin of the Tampa base, only racier. The concerned party insists that the relationship is platonic; his nomination to the post of NATO commander has nonetheless been delayed while we await the result of the FBI-led investigation into the flirtatious, or not, nature of the missives.

“Your tears take my reason, they burn my blood. You must believe that it is no longer in my power to think a thought that is not of you, to have an idea that is not subject to you.” It is not from the emails of the unfortunate Allen that these words are extracted, nor are they from those fatal messages sent by his colleague Petraeus, fallen hero of the Afghanistan war, to his physically impressive mistress. They are instead from one of the 260 unbridled letters sent by General Bonaparte to Joséphine, mostly during his Italian campaigns--campaigns that were among his most glorious.

In those days, it would have crossed nobody’s mind that a high-ranking officer ought to devote his life to that of an anchorite, with his eyes never away from the binoculars fixed on the enemy lines. Nor would anybody have thought that epistolary tantrism, adulterous or otherwise, should be subject to prosecution for the crime of “lack of honor,” as is stipulated by article 134 of the American military code. Does this regulation also provide for punishment for those onanistic practices that the Comte de Mirabeau recommended for any “good General” in the Errotika Biblion of 1782? American standards would have seen the arrest of the soldier Guillaume Apollinaire for the torrent of erotic correspondence sent from the front: no less than 220 letters addressed to “Lou,” a scandalous divorcee who he nicknamed, among other things, “my little muskrat.” It was an “inappropriate” relationship, to borrow the usage of the FBI.

This totalitarian inquisition into the personal relations of the leaders of one of the largest democracies on the planet is food for thought. Having experimented with zero-casualty warfare in the early 1990s, now the U.S. is trying to invent the “zero-sex war,” another attempt to escape from history. It’s a wasteland where even the most cerebral of web-forged fantasies would face eradication. There remains no doubt that somewhere out in the Afghan highlands, two formidable sexual fundamentalisms are squaring off: the Taliban, who stone their women, and the Americans, who castrate their officers.



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