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“There’s a Craiglist Baghdad?”

So, you know how your local Craigslist board is, in addition to helping you sell couches and old mattresses, the go-to Internet spot for arranging NSA activities where NSA does not stand for any national agency (no strings attached)? A bootycall brokerage if you will. I think you know what Craigslist is really for by now, I needn’t dwell on that. Well, turns out our soldiers are quite gung ho for Craigslist, and with more emphasis on arranging the usage mattresses than the selling of them.

I had no idea until today (makes sense now that I think about it) when I found articles popping up about military police sting operations targeting soldiers looking to blow off steam through this channel. Perusing the personals myself for an interesting fifteen minutes, well, imagine your stateside local Craigslist personals section, but subtract all the prostitution (in stark contrast to demilitarized Craigslists I did not find any clear sign of prostitution on these boards of sand cities with our bases), add lots of military references in pretty much every post, add more tattoos to the pictures, sprinkle in a few posts penned by war brides from home sending their gratitude overseas in the form of dirty pictures, naughty short stories and Skyping offers — you get the idea. And quite suddenly the cat is now completely out of the bag on this whole thing.

It pleases me to learn that our brave men and women (there are indeed female soldiers doing this too, we’re all human, and these soldiers are young and for God’s sake in places like Afghanistan with their lives on the line sweating their asses off) are being resourceful like this and finding ways to blow off steam like the rest of us need to. That gladdens me.

It kills me that, if all these reports are true, our government (or perhaps just some military cops with nasty attitudes but without any formal orders) is going out of its way to bust them, disproportionately and deliberately targeting the gays, allegedly. Whether or not that’s true, there are now listings scattered about these boards from soldiers warning each other to be extremely cryptic and use very ambiguous euphemisms in email (or no figurative language whatsoever, just “let’s have a drink”) and then in person not to do anything to initiate relations until, with no provocation, the other person is obviously and undeniably in a state of readiness. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

So, on top of serving in the military, they are operating in additional fear and paranoia now and possibly getting punished for their carnal interests. And now with all this attention they are much more exposed than before. Maybe that civilian exposure will snuff out crackdowns as I’d imagine most of us share my strong disapproval of stifling their R&R, certainly with any element of discrimination, though at the very unfortunate least it will at worsen the signal to noise ratio on these boards and make them more challenging to be used effectively. That’s a shame. More chilling effect, more wasted time, more stress, more discipline (not the sort they’re after), less relief.

In whose interests could that possibly be? All I can come up with is homophobic officers in positions of authority over the other soldiers, and while I appreciate their serving the country too, I’m not that sympathetic to their plight against what they may perceive as traditionally deviant lighting up their packet sniffers.

Anyway, one of the posts that made me smile, that struck a patriotic nerve, was from (well, was purportedly from) an in-shape young lady in Philadelphia looking to arrange meet-ups (yes, plural) for returning soldiers so that she could thank them for their service “in person” with sincerity that would surely resonate. When I come across a veteran, like a lot of you, I’ll say the requisite “thank you for your service,” but this woman does it a bit more zealously, which I submit they deserve up and down. Atta girl.

Doug Simmons