Around that time the Palestinians were holding their general elections and a shit load of politicians showed up from the US to witness them and show their support for the free democratic process, I guess. For whatever reason, they were there, and we were on the hook to show them around. Jimmy Carter and his whole entourage showed up along with a smattering of Senators and Congressmen and other cats and dogs.
A little bit of background for you: Fatah was the party that the US backed and had been in power for quite awhile. Hamas (incidentally, started with the help of the US back in the day to counter the then unruly Fatah) was the other major party in the running and had, in the recent past, demonstrated a serious habit of lapsing into terrorist type methods to get attention and gain political leverage. No one really took Hamas seriously as a political entity, and their participation in the elections was looked upon by the west as just token in nature as most of their energies seemed to be focused on just fucking shit up. Well, somehow, right before the elections, there was a huge scandal that broke over Fatah’s gross misappropriation of funds that was intended for the Palestinian people and which had instead somehow found its way into the pockets of a select few Fatah officials. This kind of behavior was nothing new, as Yasser Arafat – Fatah’s founder - had pocketed a metric shit ton of cash for himself as well over the course of his illustrious career.
Suffice it to say that no one expected Hamas to win the elections, but half-way through election day, with US politicians scattered throughout the West Bank on their tours of various polling stations, and us along to ensure their safety, it started to become apparent that Hamas was winning. This in turn incited the more radical of Hamas’ supporters to tour the polling stations as well, no doubt to demonstrate their support of the democratic process. About the time this was all going down, me and my team and Senator Joe Biden, all of us totally oblivious to what was going on, showed up at a polling station in East Jerusalem – the Palestinian side of J-town – with all the good intentions that any American politician can muster. We showed up in our big armored SUVs and no sooner had the Senator begun shaking hands and kissing babies, than people started closing in around us and hollering about Guantanamo Bay and a bunch of other remarks and questions equally relevant. Joe started trying to answer the rapid-fire questions, but it soon became obvious that the growing crowd liked his answers even less than our presence at their polling station. The crowd was rapidly growing into a mob, and all indications were that it was not a flash dance. One of the instigators in particular was pressing in trying to get to the Senator, and I stepped in between them, my team creating a barricade around Joe as he continued to shout back answers to the crowd’s remarks. “Ok, Sir. It’s time to go now.” I said. And we got everyone back into the vehicles and got the hell out of there.
Angry mobs were probably our biggest threat in the West Bank. Personal accountability goes out the window and the mob mentality takes over in situations like that. People in a mob will do what they would never dream to do on their own. It’s viscous and scary to watch a mob at work, and in the West Bank they could form in an instant. Frankly, if we would have waited another minute or two the State Department guys would have been seriously pissed at me for letting us all get torn to ragged tattered shit.
Hamas won the elections that day, making the situation over there even more convoluted than it had been before. I used to think that the Israeli/Palestinian situation was pretty straightforward, but after living there for a year and a half, I saw what a quagmire it really is. There’s no one thread that can be pulled to unravel the whole knot and there are gross and idiotic injustices on both sides that have left deep scars and continue to do so. I was there during the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict in 2006 and while I didn’t participate, of course, I witnessed yet another war, first hand.
While I was home on one of my breaks in 2006 I married the pretty Costa Rican girl and we moved into my newly built log home in Estes Park. Shortly thereafter, she put the house in bubble wrap and came to Israel to be with me in a nice little apartment overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem and the park in the middle of town. It was a very homey and a pleasant time in my life. And after a few months I couldn't stand it anymore.
In March of 2007 I left Israel and got into a classified program working in conflict zones overseas for the next four years. There’s very little if anything that I can say about this time or what I was up to, but something very important happened in the midst of it.
I had been kicked out of Afghanistan for a DUI. No shit. A buddy and I were shitfaced and driving to an illegal poker game held by some other civilians on Bagram Air Field around 2 in the morning. We were allowed to have booze because we were civilians, but the Army frowned upon it severely, nonetheless. I was driving in a 15 mile an hour zone - yes the speed limit on BAF was slower than the minimum standard of an Army person to pass a physical fitness test. Anyway, I was in a hurry to get to the poker game but an Army Dragon Wagon (a big ass truck) was ahead of me doing about 10 miles an hour. I changed lanes and accelerated, blasting by him at about 17 miles per hour and suddenly saw in my rearview mirror the red and blue lights of the Army’s finest: the Military Police. The speeding alone was a grave offense, but when the MP shined his flashlight in the back of the cab of the pickup and saw two cases of beer he immediately called for backup. The situation was tense. My buddy was a Special Forces guy who prided himself on the SF art of negotiation and attempted to talk our way out of the situation. The MP wasn't having any of it though because in spite of my buddy’s Special Forces fieldcraft and training kicking in, he was slurring his words so much that no one could really understand what he was saying. I could not believe it myself, but the MPs then went back to their car and produced a breathalyzer test. Yes, a breathalyzer test. In the middle of a fucking war zone. I proceeded to blow into the damn thing and apparently transcended the legal limit for driving in Afghanistan. In spite of their preparedness for such a scenario, they had not yet encountered one such as this, so they called their commanding officer for guidance. They brought us back to their Cop shop and said they were sorry, they knew that we were legally allowed to have booze, but their CO wanted to make an example out of us. So, they threw us in the slammer overnight and confiscated our beer. It wasn't that bad. I even had my own Koran to read. Anyway, I got kicked out of Afghanistan and had to sit on the bench for a few months before I could get back to work in a different war. I guess I was too drunk for that one.
It was really good the way it turned out though, because we were expecting my son David to be born in the next few months. In the months and weeks leading up to his birth I was very concerned. Unlike my wife who had a great deal of love and that tender beautiful feeling that a mother has for her yet unborn child, I felt nothing whatsoever. It scared the hell out of me. I thought: there’s something wrong with me I'm not going to be a good father because I feel nothing about this and apparently I should. As I watched David's birth in awe of that miracle that only life can produce: the beginning of another life, I still in spite of it all felt nothing. I was horrified with myself. The birth was in Costa Rica and there they do it a bit differently. As they were taking care of my wife they took me and David to an adjacent room where we were by ourselves then they handed him to me. I held him close to my chest to keep him warm as they instructed. And I still felt nothing. Then this little human who had never done anything for me, who did not know me at all, nor I him, reached his little arms out wide and clung to my bare chest. And in that instant I became a father. In that instant I knew that if anyone or anything ever tried to harm him I would lay down my very life in the pursuit of the swift and violent destruction of that thing. I felt a love that didn't come from me. It came from somewhere else and flowed through me like that river in Indonesia in flash flood. It was a raging deluge of love mingled with an intense determination to protect and teach this tiny new human life everything I knew about it. I told David that I would do so to the best of my ability. My face hurt from smiling. And I felt great relief. My life had just changed. There was great beauty in it now.
Again, there’s little I can say about what I was doing in those years, but suffice it to say that I worked with some exceptional individuals, and saw a lot more of war in new places and from yet another perspective. I also managed to find time to study in between missions, enough to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in International Business. That part was a hard grind, and somewhat surreal, switching gears mentally from gunslingin’ to things like Business Ethics, but I knew that I had to do it if I ever wanted to become proficient at anything other than the conduct of war and I did want that, very much. Being a gunfighter is like being a stripper. It’s great fun and great money but the longer you’re in it, the less marketable you are to do anything else and the more difficult it is to effect a transition. There’s nothing wrong with doing that kind of thing for your entire professional life, but I wanted to see if I was good at anything else. I’ve always thought it important to challenge myself in this way, which is why I moved around a lot even in the Marine Corps. This starting over from scratch is hard on you, but the result was that I was always among the best at my job because I always had to be. I had to continually prove myself at an elite level to those who held themselves and their peers to the highest possible standard. And I had to prove the same to myself because I held the same expectation of my peers as well. I wanted to be surrounded by people I could learn from and respect, so I strove to be someone who was the same. To me, this held true in every part of life, and I wanted to see if I could function at an elite level in business as well as in war. I had no idea, at the time, how much of what I had learned would serve me well in my future endeavors. Honestly, I thought I’d hate a “desk job”, but I had to try it for myself.
NOTE: Finally Somehow Home is a separate book from The Perfect Fucking Life, and is not yet in publication at the time of this post.
All this shit is written and created by Jason Lee Morrison © 2022