Summary and Analysis
Like the other soldiers, Ishmael relies on drugs to power him through his duties. He begins smoking marijuana along with taking the white energy pills. He also snorts "brown brown," which is a mixture of cocaine and gun powder. The drugs cause sleeplessness, so he stays up late into the night watching violent Rambo movies. When the soldiers run out of drugs, food, ammunition, and gasoline, they raid rebel camps. They also attack civilian villages to force more young boys and men to join their army.
The army lieutenant justifies their attacks by lecturing that they are fighting for the defense of the country, whereas the rebels kill without cause. When he slits someone's throat and tortures rebels, Ishmael and the men cheer and enjoy the violence.
One afternoon, the corporal chooses a few rebel prisoners for a contest. He chooses Ishmael and other young soldiers for a throat slitting competition. The first to kill in the least amount of time wins. Ishmael quickly and deftly uses his bayonet to slice his prisoner's Adam's apple in a zigzag. He is awarded the title of junior lieutenant and celebrates with the other men with more drugs and more war movies.
The army techniques in this chapter seem just as brutal as the rebel forces. Though they justify their violence with the defense of their country, their actions seem the same.
Ishmael's innocence is completely gone. He writes that the combination of the drugs made him fierce and that killing had become "as easy as drinking water." His attitude toward violence now is one of numb acceptance. He seems almost to enjoy the task, in vast contrast to his earlier descriptions of his reaction to killing. The soldier he has become now is a completely different person than the boy who loved dancing and rap music before. The brainwashing from the military seems complete. Ishmael claims that being a part of something makes him feel special. He no longer has to run from anyone; he now has a place, and the belonging is enough to motivate his violence.
Violence as entertainment is a prevalent theme in this chapter as Ishmael and the soldiers make little distinction between the Rambo movies they watch and the wars in which they fight. Ishmael is asked to leave for war in the middle of a movie one day and returns to the screen after the killing "as if we had just returned from intermission." Like the drugs, the movies seem to alter the soldiers' realities.