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The Column

Guerillas in Our Midst
4/27/03

I don't have a problem with there being soldiers in the New York City subway. I just want to know why they're wearing camouflage.

Think about it - it's a green man and a white wall. This tactic would be brilliant if we're ever invaded by a horde of colorblind. Which would make for an interesting government. We'd become the red, white, and “hey, is that blue?"

We're going to be invaded, and a fleet of Iraqi soldiers will be walking around the subways thinking that the coast is clear. "It's just a wall," they'll say. "With a green thing coming out of it. And it's holding a gun." If you want to look like you belong in New York, wear all black, never look up, and give attitude to everyone you meet. Carry your gun in a guitar case, replace your canteen with a coffee cup, and wear something that might blend in a bit more with the subway system (See tile, urine-soaked).

How stupid would someone have to be to mistake a man for a wall? This is the same person who thought his train was coming, only to find out it was two guys with flashlights running really, really fast.

And there’s no way for us to know whether or not they're real soldiers. The two things they have to identify themselves are camouflage and machine guns. The only thing easier to get a hold of in New York is a slice of Original Ray's Pizza.

I do understand that the premise here is not to actually blend in, rather to stand out. But couldn't they have looked just as militarily in dress blues? Now that would be scary - a bunch of guys dressed nicely in the subway. Instead, they're all in their jungle clothes. My guess is that we hadn't been in a war in a while, and those uniforms had been gathering dust in their closets. We should be thankful - these guys were one hanger away from wearing a Members Only jacket.

I get the impression that we're supposed to feel safer with these guys around. No matter whose side they're on, guns in the subway do NOT make me feel safer. And just for a moment, lets explore what would happen if we do get invaded.

These soldiers, very few of whom grew up within two states of a subway, will be fighting forces raised in a terrain with caves. And the soldiers that they will be fighting against will have a commanding officer smart enough to dress them up as regular New Yorkers, completely eliminating the element of surprise from our boys. If given the choice between a guy mumbling in another language and a muscular corn-fed, well-dressed gentleman, who would you think is the New Yorker?

It's safe to reason then that these guys are not combat soldiers - these guys are for show. If New Yorkers complain that were are not being protected, the politicians can point to all the soldiers and speak of the increased security. "See?" they'll say. "On every train platform, you've got two guys standing around not doing much of anything. Doesn't that make you feel safer?"

It doesn't, because these guys are effectively statues. I was in Union Square and I saw a guy playing the bagpipes next to two of these soldiers. The bagpipes! In a subway! And the soldiers did nothing. Those guns must not be loaded, because if I were equipped with a loaded rifle in cramped quarters next to a guy playing a bagpipe, I would shoot the sucker. And the bagpipe.

But I shouldn't criticize the soldiers too much - it's not their fault they're stationed in a, well, station. It's got to be embarrassing for a soldier to get those orders. When he's sitting around with all his soldier friends discussing being shipped off, you know he doesn't want to admit where he’s going.

"Where are you stationed?"

"Jalabad."

"And you?"

"Baghdad."

"And you?"

"125th street."

"Dude, you're going to die."

Someone up there wasn't thinking this through. And no matter what they're wearing, soldiers in a subway will never follow orders. Because there's no way to get them. There's no satellite signal in the subway, and you'd be better off listening to the teacher in Charlie Brown than to a subway announcer.

"Attention all military personnel! Attention all military personnel! Wahwahwah wawah wah wahwah wahwah wah wahwahwah. And there is a delay in the downtown E train service. Two guys are on the tracks with flashlights running really, really fast. And one of them is wearing a blue hat with a big E in the middle of it."

At least I think that's blue.

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