I wanna be a man, mancub
And stroll right into town
And be just like the other men
I’m tired of monkeyin’ around!
– “I Wan’na Be Like You,” The Jungle Book
War is hell.
And the War in Afghanistan is its own particular brand of hell. The War in Iraq gets the bulk of our country’s attention and resources, the last guy in charge of the effort in Afghanistan destroyed his career and undermined our efforts by mouthing off to a Rolling Stone reporter and now a leak of classified Pentagon documents could put individuals and operations in that country in jeopardy. Not to mention the fact that we are fighting against an elusive enemy that is often tough to identify on their home turf.
It’s an understatement to say that things aren’t going well over there. But it could be so much worse. Fighting the Taliban is hard enough already, but imagine if the insurgents had a loyal army of monkey soldiers, armed to the teeth and ready to take down American troops on sight.
It may seem farfetched, but a newspaper in China was convinced it was actually happening. The Chinese newspaper The People’s Daily, citing unnamed British journalists and American troops, reported that the Taliban was teaching macaques and baboons to shoot at anyone wearing a U.S. military uniform. According to the paper, using a reward/punishment system, the Taliban “taught monkeys how to use the Kalashnikov, Bren light machine gun and trench mortars.”
As you would imagine, it didn’t take very long for this story to be debunked. A diligent reporter over at LiveScience even found an expert to weigh in on the chances of training monkeys to kill –a psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of California, Davis named William Mason. (I wonder how many times the reporter had to call Mason back to convince him he wasn’t a student prank calling him.)
“They can be trained to do things like turn off lights and open faucets and so on, but eventually that breaks down,” Mason said. “If we’re talking about animals going out into the field or a fortress with an AK-47 or whatever, it seems very, very implausible.”
(Implausible or not, I really hope that someone over at SyFy is hard at work on the script for a Monkey Soldiers movie. I picture Tiffany as the female lead.)
While it would be adorable to see machine gun toting monkeys in tiny little military uniforms, I have to admit I am relieved to know this story isn’t true. Sure, photos of these monkey soldiers would give the people over at I Can Has Cheezburger? enough material to last a lifetime, but the risks of training monkeys to kill are just too high. Once they are trained, what’s to stop them from taking over the world?
I think it’s safe to say monkeys have an ax to grind with humans. After years of forcing monkeys to accompany our organ grinders, clean our bathrooms and star in movies alongside Ronald Reagan, I don’t think it will take long for the monkey revolution to begin. Have you ever seen how quick monkeys are to fling poo at us from inside their cages at the zoo? Imagine those monkeys being freed by their militarized brethren, handed an automatic weapon and asked to join the cause. Do you really think they’d hesitate to take us down?
Before long, these damn dirty apes would take to the streets. It would be absolute pandemonium. Banana stands would be raided, the monkey who played Marcel on Friends would undoubtedly gun down David Schwimmer and it would only be a matter of weeks before the monkey mob headed to New York to blow up the Statue of Liberty.
While this monkey doomsday scenario will certainly keep me up at night, I don’t think all hope is lost when it comes to weaponizing animals. I just think we need to avoid putting guns in the hands of the only other animals on Earth with opposable thumbs. That being said, there is still room for animal innovation.
So let’s stop monkeying around and instead look to other members of the animal kingdom for troop support. To start, I suggest we send an army of black bears over to Afghanistan to help our soldiers win this war. Last Friday, a black bear in Colorado broke into a Toyota Corolla to steal a peanut butter sandwich, then began honking the horn of the car before slipping it into neutral and rolling it down a hill. While it is believed that the bear did this all inadvertently after accidentally trapping itself inside the car, clearly these bears have an aptitude for driving. I think if we get the right punishment/reward system in place (perhaps offering them a nice picnic basket if they succeed), we could train these bears to drive humvees for us. Undoubtedly, the Taliban would surrender in no time – finding their new enemies unbearable. (I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
And if the bear thing doesn’t work out, I plan on training an army of pugs to sing the Batman theme song on command. It may not help in Afghanistan, but they will certainly keep me entertained as I hide in my cellar to avoid being captured by our new monkey overlords.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.