I’m thinking about that poor family whose rooftop was turned into a public bathroom by the entire company, what an awful thing. What’s this story?
At some point you need to take a crap, and at first we weren’t given the bags one stashes in one’s helmets, which are really uncomfortable, so one of the guys found a plastic chair, a simple classroom one, and unscrewed its seat, and that chair was moved from one shaded place to another shaded place. The entire battalion had diarrhea and was throwing up. How awful, I thought, it would be to come back home and discover your bathroom is clogged and half the pots in your kitchen have shit in them. Your entire roof is covered in shit, and there’s shit in your garden. People shat in pots?
Yes. There were lots of disputes among the commanders about this. At a certain point we entered a house that had working cooking gas. First thing everyone thought was, ‘Let’s make ourselves some coffee.’ So then there was a very, very heated argument among the company commanders over whether it was legitimate or not to use it. There were some commanders who thought it was legitimate to use their coffee pot if we washed it afterwards. ‘I made a hole in their wall and floor, so what, I’m not going to make some coffee in their pot?’ So did you make coffee?
Yeah, and it was tasty. But the shitting in pots bit was very clear to everyone. There were some assholes who were just like, “What, I don’t like shitting in a helmet.” So they just shatin pots. There were very few houses that had running water in them, and in most houses there, what you have are squat toilets. But once in a while you would get to a house with a real [seated] toilet, which is a whole other world, proper hospitality... There was no running water the entire time we were in Beit Hanoun. There were some houses where I think the residents had prepared for the situation in advance – bathtubs filled with water and all kinds of things like that. The residents there saved up water because they knew what was coming. But in most houses the sewage system didn’t work and it usually overflowed very quickly. When you shit in the toilet it stays there, the water doesn’t go down. That’s on the one hand. But then on the other, if there is a toilet there – why shouldn’t I shit in it? So the simple soldiers, like good soldiers, found the ‘middle path’ themselves; they got their hands on some laundry detergent and whoever finished taking a dump would throw a handful on it. Eventually I figured out that there are some battles where it’s you fighting a wall. You need to decide where you’re going to invest your energy, with regard to discipline. Successfully upholding a routine of discipline within the platoon, while in a combat situation, is a very difficult, complicated thing. It was clear to me that I couldn’t win everything. If I wasn’t going to discipline soldiers, then besides creating a bad atmosphere and frustration for both them and me, I wouldn’t get much accomplished. So I would tell them my opinion, and explain what I thought wasn’t OK, and ultimately I let each man decide for himself, whether he sees it as OK or not. I know there was one platoon where everyone – from the commander all the way down – took dumps in pots, out of some kind of operational principle. Whatever.