AT A certain stage of my compulsory military service serving as a clerk to the commander of a large air force base – a prestigious post I earned merely for being seen by the administration officer reading a book in English, though he didn’t notice that the paperback was Joseph Heller’s anti-war novel “Catch 22” – I was sent for a weeklong stint of guard duty at the rear gate of the compound somewhere in the south.

Having no proper training in handling firearms or in identifying potential assailants, I figured that for the sake of all parties involved, I’d better separate the rifle from its magazine – hiding the latter at the guards’ shack. Having me carry around a loaded semi-automatic¸ I explained to the officer in charge, would place innocent passersby at risk of an accidental discharge of a bullet. Whereas in the case of an attack on the camp, I continued, my chances of defending it were, in any event, much better using the gun as a bat.

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