A group of ex soldiers, all convicts now, gathered for a small and humble prison birthday party of an ex officer.  A man of forty, the subject of their attention is battle weary, shell-shocked, and disillusioned - a sad, over aged ex-lieutenant now considered to be mentally and emotionally unstable.  His bearing reveals a man of military training.  His face, deeply lined, is shinning with pleasure to be remembered by this event.  The rest of the company, deserters mostly, are simple soldiers who still obey him and perhaps fear him a bit although they are all equal now, here.  He had been transported here from Afghanistan many years ago.  His crime was that in response to fire from a village, he gave an order to his tank unit to destroy the village, causing the death of more than forty civilians.

"I seldom talk about war, guys.", the lieutenant begin his story that everyone had heard many times.  "I volunteered for Afghanistan," he started, speaking as much to himself as to them... "No hang-ups from that - some of it was fun - some not so much.  But a soldier should go to war at least once.  Should have a little war now and then to keep in practice.  Why would you want to be a soldier and never have the experience of war?  Where else can you kill people and be rewarded for it?  Where else can you bare the basic, raw me against you?  Do not believe anyone who says there is not a thrill, a high, an exhilaration, a racing of blood when you are still alive and the enemy is not.  Men are made that way."  At this point everyone dropped their eyes.  They are deserters and he is a war criminal and, although they are all criminals before the law, they feel guilt for not having been in action.

"I caused the death of many women and children when I gave the order to destroy that village, but we had been killing them before, we had been killing everyone whose shoulders were bruised from using machine guns.  When I went on this war, they told us 'You are fighting a group of religious fanatics,' but I saw different.  In that land of enemies you must fight everyone.  You can expect fire from every bush and when you pass by, civilians smile at you and then shoot you in the back," he continued, a slight smile on his thin lips.  As everyone listened to the lieutenant, they see that the initial pleasure of his birthday party is being transformed into anxiety.

"Here in jail, I have read their book the Koran.", he continues.  "It calls for the death - utter destruction - of all infidels, that is all non Muslims.  If you are Muslim, it is your duty to kill all infidels.  That is what it says.  So, well, I kind of take it personal if someone wants to kill me... guess I am overly sensitive like that - but that's how I am.

When I was at war I had no time to think much, but here in prison, I have plenty of time and I realized that the true enemy is mainstream Islam, not some fanatic splinter group.  If you believe the Koran, their Bible, then you believe that it is your duty to kill us, all of us.  This is reasonable and understandable when you recognize the methods Mohammad used to establish the movement in the first place.  I do not call it a religion.  He did it by force...  by joining a group of outlaws after he was chased out of his city...  and by assisting them in conquering the city.  After that, the inhabitants either 'chose' to become Muslims or were killed.  And it has been that way since.  They know they can't compete and they won't compete.  It is punishable by death to attempt to convert a Muslim to any other religion - why - because it can not compete," the Lieutenantís voice became vibrant with emotion.

"In Afghanistan I subconsciously knew they were our enemies, but here in prison I comprehended why they were our enemies.  When I get out of jail, the first day, I will join my comrades in arms, but on the second day, I shall go to military registration and enlistment office and volunteer for war in Chechnya.  Annihilate...  kill them...  Kill."

He speaks furiously, caught up now in the passion of his conviction.  His eyes do not see this band of deserters, they see the mangled bodies of his men scattered on the plains of Afghanistan.  As anger overcomes reason and his fists clinch in rage, the deserters understand the party is over and that it is time to depart.

As they leave, one remarks, "Well, at least this year we got past the birthday toast"


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