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Book Review March 4, 2004
 
Comrade Terminator
By John Dolan Browse author Email
 
Page 2 of 4
 
Falling for this sort of red-pulpit oratory, complete with Ciceronian periods ("there is Hitler..there is Hitler..."), marks Goff as a real hick, and I mean that in something like a complimentary way. To develop full immunity to this sort of chant, one must have spent hundreds of hours at Soviet-style seminars, muttering under one.s breath: "At the end of capitalism there is Gary Larson, there is Danny DeVito, there is Aurndhati fucking Roy,,," Goff was too smart to waste his youth like that. He was doing other, more strenuous things: meeting interesting people and killing them, as the old joke has it.

Somewhere along the line, Goff got pissed off with that job and was "purged" from Delta Force. He reenlisted with the Rangers, but was clearly already disaffected, making notes on all the vileness he encountered among the guys who do America.s most cinematic dirty work, or "wet ops" as he calls them.

Once Goff starts explaining how the Ameican empire is maintained, he's brilliant--not just a great storyteller, but a very smart analyst. There are lots of old soldiers who can tell a good story, but few who can fit their stories into the bigger picture as smoothly and intelligently as Goff does.

You can actually hear the change in tone when Goff stops blathering in second-hand jargon and gets to the point: "[I] launched a small boat on a huge, unfamiliar, and stormy sea of race, death, sex, class, and a 24-7 preoccupation with the possibility of armed combat." You.re cringing through that lame sailor metaphor, and its clunky laundry list: "sex, race--damn, I left out ageism!"--and then we're in the clear, with the deadpan ending: "24-7 preoccupation with the possibility of armed combat."

What.s most impressive about Goff's description of life as Imperial enforcer is the way it seems to apply so well to Iraq now, though this book was written before the situation there had really started to fall apart. Here's Goff's account of what it was like when, in 1994, he "acted as the shadow de facto dictator of a portion of Northeastern Haiti." (In fact, Goff was in charge of Gonaives, the city first taken by the current crop of Haitian rebels.) His description of the job explains the Iraqi situation depressingly well:

"The troops carrying out these occupations are carrying out seemingly contradictory directives...[They feel] confusion, [which] develops into frustration, then an indescribable psychic fatigue, and finally into hatred of the place and its people. Those who have no desire to collaborate with the occupiers will keep their distance.or more.attack them...Those who did approach the American troops had agendas. Lots of agendas...after every revolution, there is a scam period. It was a time to settle scores. A time to brown nose the new rulers. To maneuver for jobs and positions. And every time there is a conflict of interest between occupation grifters, they compete for the attention and credulity of the occupying troops. This begins to leave the impression.among the troops.that the whole society is a pack of scheming, pathological liars. They are, after all, being approached by the most unethical sectors of that society."

Every time he talks about what he's seen, Goff cuts through the crap from what he calls "the political correctness of the Right." One striking example is his version of returning from combat in Vietnam: "I've heard the stories about the poor, spat-on Vietnam vets, which is [sic] more urban legend than reality. No one ever spit on me when I got back from Vietnam. They didn't spit on me when I came back from other exotic places either: El Salvador, Guatemala, Grenada, Colombia, Peru, Somalia, Haiti...I got a chest full of fruit salad ribbons, free drinks in airports, and people just admired the fuck out of me. I got paid for my trauma. A lot more than our victims did."

Goff is painfully honest about why he took up soldiering: as "the smallest person, male or female" in his class, he noticed that if he showed himself more willing to inflict and endure pain than others, his height disadvantage was neutralized. From there to Delta Force was an easy progression, as he tells it.


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