The hard working people at CNN just ran a story about a young man blogging from Homs. As I’ve said before, I trust CNN because working in intelligence we always referred to CNN for breaking news. There are a lot of blogs out there and a lot of hoaxes, but CNN has the resources for extensive fact-checking.

The blogger “Big Al” (as he is called to protect his identity from Assad’s security forces) chronicles everyday life in one of the most war-torn Syrian towns. Al describes the most repetitive and monotonous soul-grinding deprivation, being stuck in the house without electricity. He tells of the danger of wandering out for food, with bombs dropping and bullets flying, and bravely perseveres in letting the world know details of a war receiving little official media coverage.

An astonishing moment in the story struck me the most. During the escalation of the government siege on the town, Al wanders out of his house and hears a voice nearby:

“I walked towards the voice and found a member of the security forces, he was wearing his uniform and holding his rifle and standing behind a wall. He asked me what I wanted and why I was there, and then he told me not to walk in that area at night and to be careful. He was nice to me and he even offered me some water if I didn’t have any at home. I asked him what he thinks will happen next, he hesitated to answer, but it was obvious what he was trying to say.

“He mumbled something about Libya and Egypt, and that was enough. He’s a good guy, but he was too scared to leave his barrier and join the free army. I asked him if he needed a place to stay in and I was hinting that I can help him leave Assad forces, but he didn’t answer. I walked away from him without saying another word. I wish I could protect him, but I can’t even protect myself.”

What an amazing moment. A simple exchange between a soldier and a citizen. A simple moment that poignantly encapsulates the pain of civil war. Soldiers are also human beings. Human beings bound by an organization where they must follow orders or be put to death. I’m sure that soldier wanted to run away from the army in that situation but simply could not take that course of action.

I’ve been in situations like that. Exhausted, granted a moment of respite in the middle of a battle, and yet forced to remain vigilant and awake. You want to just get away! Cry! You grip your rifle. You grit your teeth.

“How did I get here?” you ask yourself. “How could I be so stupid to get myself in this situation? Why do I have to wear a uniform and carry a rifle and continue to march on when I don’t believe in what we are doing any more?”

There were times I was a gung-ho U.S. Marine in Iraq: dedicated to the Mission.

But, I remember at some point in 2004. I was stationed at an airbase. I came into work one morning at the detention facility. My duties required processing detainees and translating for interrogations. For some reason I got my ass chewed by some sergeant. I went back to the barracks and I cried my eyes out. I gritted my teeth.

At times they would abuse detainees. Nothing severe or grotesque like Abu Ghraib. But the interrogator would sometimes slap them around. I knew it was wrong. I did not hit the Iraqis, but I would translate. I told the Marine interrogators I did not want to translate for such interrogations. (These weren’t CIA, they were Marine counterintelligence.)

They ignored my complaints. I really wanted to run away the day that sergeant chewed me out. I seriously thought of stealing a humvee and fleeing to Syria, selling it, throwing away my uniform. But I would become a fugitive. Desertion during a time of war is a serious offense. Because I’m an Arab, it’s likely the Marine Corps would suspect I joined the insurgency. I knew things. Worked in counterintelligence. Had access to classified information. In the end it would have been a stupid decision and I surely would have ended up kidnapped and killed by Al-Qaida.

In fact, one of the Marines I studied the Iraqi dialect with before deploying in 2004, a Lebanese-American by the name of Wassef Hassoun, did exactly that. Because of our Arabic skills, Hassoun was attached to Marine counterintelligence/interrogation teams like myself. He deserted the Marine Corps while we were in Iraq and fled to Lebanon in 2004.

However, after he disappeared a video appeared online and it looked like he had been kidnapped by Islamic extremists. Nobody really knows what happened. There were even rumors he joined the insurgents and fought against the U.S. during the Battle of Fallujah, that they found his uniform and military ID in an insurgent stronghold in Fallujah. But I don’t believe that. I think he just wanted to get away from the war and he did not believe in what we were doing any more. Eventually, he reported to the U.S. embassy in Lebanon and went back to the States, where the Marine Corps charged him with desertion. They then let him go on leave. Of course, he fled and last I heard he lives in a heavily Shi’a Muslim area of Lebanon. The FBI is after him, but I’m sure he will never return to the U.S.

My point is that being a soldier is hard, and when you are put in a situation like a civil war, or an invasion or occupation, you are faced with tough decisions. Perhaps I should have run away from the Marines the moment I saw an Iraqi get slapped in the face.

Perhaps I’m just a coward. During the Battle of Fallujah, I slapped an enemy prisoner of war and was sent back to the base where I got a slap on the wrist by the colonel and got sent home. I was so tired and miserable. After an eleven month tour in Iraq, I was at wits end. I was just as afraid as that Syrian soldier at the barrier talking to Big Al.

In that moment, that Syrian soldier wanted to help his fellow Syrian, though as part of Assad’s security forces that soldier was an instrument of the destruction and murder. He might even have wanted to join the rebel army. Perhaps he did, perhaps he didn’t. We will never know.

In the end, moral courage is hard to define. The courage to stick with your mission, with the uniform you have donned, or to abandon it when you become part of something immoral. When the pain and misery of a war blurs the lines of right and wrong, of good and evil, of sacrifice and murder, the very idea of personal liberty and integrity becomes hard to understand.

GOOSEBUMPS “SCARED TO SEE A DOCTOR” RECORD RELEASE SHOW AT 538 JOHNSON (FULL SETS FROM GOOSEBUMPS, AJAX, MERCENARY, LIBYANS, AND LA MISMA)

Like an episode of Jerry Springer, but with more fireworks.

FIGHT CLUB: THE BEST OF FRIDAY NIGHT THROWDOWN

Following the news of Throwdown’s return at SXSW this year with a Texas vs. NYC event, it seems only appropriate to take a look back at the history of Friday Night Throwdown, and the coverage we’ve had of it here on Superchief over the years. For the uninitiated; Friday Night Throwdown wasn’t just NYC’s best underground boxing event, it was NYC’s best underground party.

TEXAS VS. NYC: THROWDOWN RETURNS AT SXSW THIS YEAR

The organization that brought Ford models, Marines and Bloods together for New York’s best underground party is bringing their business to Austin, and bringing with them a Texas vs. NYC event…and Superchief will be covering the whole thing, from start to finish.

THIS APRIL: SUPERCHIEF GALLERY NYC PRESENTS JOHN FELIX ARNOLD III’S “EXCORRIGIA | THE SCOURGE”

From the world of UNSTOPPABLE TOMORROW, Superchief Gallery NYC returns this spring with John Felix Arnold III’s EXCORRIGIA | THE SCOURGE, an exhibition of new works in painting, drawing, mixed media, installation, and sound. The exhibition will run from April 3 through April 13, and there will be an opening reception on Thursday, April 3 from 6-10pm at CultureFix on 9 Clinton Street.

HIGH ON HUNGER: JANE CHARDIET

“High on Hunger” is Jane Chardiet’s new zine, featuring personal essay, photography and interviews with 12 artists, including some of our favorites, about their 2013 and their artistic goals in the new year, along with photographs of each licking fire. It’s good stuff, so I asked Jane about her 2013, because turnabout’s fair play and that’s how the game works.

12 O’ CLOCK BOYS (BALTIMORE STREETBIKE REALNESS)

Whatever your city is doing, what the homies out in B-More are doing is 10x as crazy. 12 O’ Clock Boys is one of the hardest movies we’ve seen in a long time, hands down, exploring a city and a culture that just doesn’t give a fuck (and featuring Baltimore himies like Schwarz on the soundtrack) the film gets more done in it’s 75 minutes than most documentaries do in twice that.

TAPE BAG #1: I HAVEN’T GOTTEN OFF MY COUCH IN DAYS.

Talking shit on random tapes cuz I wanna. Round one: Mongrel, Skinny Puppy, Madonna, Gowanus Mutant Kommandos, Temple of the Dog and MORE.

R.I.P RICKY LUANDA OF CHAIN GANG

Ricky Luanda of the experimental NYC punk band Chain Gang, one of the coolest bands ever, passed away earlier this week from esophogeal cancer. Watch 10 minutes of the bands’ rare, legendary, batshit crazy 1980′s film “MONDO MANHATTAN” right here.

ALWAYS KEEP THE CAMERA RUNNING: MAKS SUSKI’S VIDEOS OF THE NYC MUSIC SCENE

Maks Suski has been hard at work documenting live music in NYC on video for the last 4 years; we asked him to compile a list of some of his favorite videos that he’s shot, a list that includes Japanther, Action Bronson, Death Grips, Culo, Crystal Castles, Limp Wrist, Black Pus and more.

THERE IS A TINY LEG A QUARTER OF AN INCH BELOW YOUR TENTH RIB.

“Although Tiny Leg’s sound owes much of it’s inspiration to the Oakland glucose and thumbtrack scenes of the mid-nineties, and has been called by HotFridge magazine ‘a thumbcore homage to the sound of Velvet Curtis and Taco’ and ‘a slick-stale, neo-juicy, post-hipster alchemy, somewhere in between gluke-wave and puke-base’ by PeckerwoodsToday, those sentences are too journalistic and not souague enough, if one may permit my french.”

DAWN OF HUMANS, HANK WOOD & THE HAMMERHEADS, AND PHARMAKON PLAYED PS1 SATURDAY NIGHT (FULL SETS)

PUNK NOT ART NOISE NOT MUSIC ACK ACK ACK ACK

TOD SEELIE’S “BRIGHT NIGHTS” BOOK RELEASE & PHOTO SHOW AT SUPERCHIEF GALLERY AT CULTUREFIX (VIDEO)

Tod Seelie’s book release and photo show at Superchief Gallery at CultureFix was a celebration of the last 15 years of New York’s underground, for sure; but it also kept an eye on the future.

FUCKED UP CLOSED OUT 285 KENT’S LAST SHOW (FULL SET)

285 Kent finished it’s run last Sunday night; check out full video of Fucked Up’s headlining set right here.

SUPERCHIEF GALLERY AT MIAMI ART BASEL 2013: WILL SMITH CAN SUCK IT.

Superchief Gallery’s showing at Select Fair 2013 is even bigger, better and more batshit crazy than our 2012 showing was – check out photos here, and for homies in Miami, we’ll be at the Catalina Hotel all this week!

STACY KRANITZ’S SKATOPIA (50+ Photos From a Burnout’s Paradise)

Photographer Stacy Kranitz recently journeyed to Skatopia, a famed 88 acre skate park/commune in Ohio which was founded in 1995, documented in the 2010 film of the same name, and once described by writer Kevin Duffel as “a demented mess that meets halfway between an anarchistic Mad Maxian Thunderdome and a utopian skateboard society.” Goddamn if it isn’t one of the best things we’ve ever seen.