The Hooligans of Kandahar Author: Joseph Kassabian Genre: Nonfiction / War Memoir
During the peak years of the Afghanistan War, a group of soldiers is dropped by helicopter into the remote mountains outside of Kandahar City. Mismanaged and overlooked by command, how they survive is largely up to them. In the birthplace of the Taliban, some men lose their sanity, others their humanity. They are The Hooligans. Written in the months and years following his deployment, Joseph Kassabian recounts his time in the isolated and dangerous country of Afghanistan. Pulling no punches, The Hooligans of Kandahar is a sobering, saddening, and often sarcastic first-hand account of America's War on Terror.
Generally, when our squad went on patrol for hours at a time, we would set up Observation Points, or OPs. OPs were areas that were slightly defensible and allowed us to watch a large area while remaining concealed from sight. That’s what the manual says about OPs, anyway. What we really used them for was to duck away in the night for a few hours and take turns napping. A few soldiers stood watch while the others removed their overbearing gear and lay down in the dirt to catch a few minutes of much-needed sleep. The official mission was to watch over a Taliban “rat line,” or trail used for smuggling weapons into the area. We had watched the ratline and raided various houses in the last few months and found nothing. We were all pretty sure that the ratline didn’t actually exist anywhere outside of Scream’s head. Since Scream was adamant that something was going to happen in that village, he kept ordering us to sit in the darkness and stare at nothing. We established a primary OP on an elevated ridge that overlooked the trail that Scream was certain was a pathway for whatever nefarious deeds the Taliban did at night. During our first ten-hour watch of the area, Walrus—who was one of the laziest people I’ve ever met—found a couch in one of the cornfields. He dragged the furniture up the ridge and into the OP, giving the position its name. It was at that OP that some of us older soldiers had to teach the other guys the art of soldiering in the pitch darkness. Smoking without being seen became a skill. You could easily see a cigarette’s lit cherry over a mile away. If you weren’t careful, you could give away your position while feeding your terrible vice. You could stick your cigarette and lighter into your ration bag to light it. Then cup your hand around your mouth and cigarette when you need a hit to conceal yourself from whoever wants to blow your face off in the middle of the night. A few of us switched from smoking to chewing tobacco for night patrols. The first few times I tried it I puked on myself. There was only one guy in our squad who didn’t smoke or dip—Slim, but he made up for it in the states with a drinking habit that would make Hemmingway suggest rehab