by Adam Engel
September 21, 2003
After decades of Killing Hope all over the world, you would think the American people would have watched the last helicopters lifting reporters and refugees out of Saigon and stopped to think long and hard. Then again, time is relative. About fifteen minutes, half hour tops, of hard thinking is way more than Boobus Americanus can handle before lunging for the remote.
Bullshit $87 Billion to “rebuild” a country we had no right to destroy in the first place!
Rebuild what for whom? (don’t hold your breath for museum exhibits featuring first edition cuneiform tablets of the Enuma Elish or Code of Hammurabi). Oil of course – “everybody” knows that. But who else? Everybody else, as long as they’re incorporated (it’s not hard; I once incorporated myself to make some extra cash on insider trading; also, it’s the only way to get The Law to recognize you as a person). If Halliburton and Brown and Root build it, Disney, McDonalds, Starbucks, the Gap and all the rest are sure to come. It’s called “gentrification.” Used to be “urban renewal.” Played the same game on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Wouldn’t be surprised if Baghdad becomes THE hot night-spot in 2013, despite the “criminal element,” which in this case wouldn’t mean muggers or what have you – though there’ll be lots of drugs – but “terrorists” and other unruly natives ready to spill their own blood (and lots of ours) to get back their land. Their land, their country, their history. That we seized by force. We beat them up and stole their lunch money. Now we’re gonna build a whole new cafeteria that maybe some of them can work in, if they’re qualified. One day, after much struggle, boycotts, lunch-counter sit-ins, they might even be allowed to eat in the cafeteria as well.
But why get all bent out of shape? It’s only “another thing.” There are so many things. I’m sure sweatshop workers in Vietnam, or Coffee Serfs in Central America, or all those pain-in-the-ass poor people ruining the quality of life all over this planet aren’t giving much thought to Iraq. Americans might, since everything from Healthcare and Education to Veterans benefits (!!!) and Transportation is being taken away from them and given to their “enemies” in Iraq. But who cares what Americans think? Congress?
Bush: I need unlimited war powers.
Bush: I need at least $87 Billion to clean up the mess I made with my unlimited war powers.
Bush: Get naked. Touch yourselves. Tell me who you love.
Congress: Okay. Okay. Okay.
But while we can and should blame Republicans and Democrats alike (very alike) for being either raging, blood-thirsty Chicken Hawks or spineless, poll-sniffing lap-dogs, all our “elected representatives,” though they seldom represent us, sure do care about what the folks at home think when decisions must be made or elections won (stolen). They want to be liked. They have to be liked; it’s their job. It stands to reason that if the greatest danger they face is being disliked, they sure aren’t going to risk taking a position that will make them unpopular with their constituency. Hence, the Patriot Act, the annihilation of Iraq and Afghanistan (remember them?), pledging allegiance on the steps of the Capitol, and all the unspeakable depredations they allow Bush Inc. to pull off on behalf of cronies and business associates are the result of their fear of being disliked, either directly, by people who actually follow what they say and do, or indirectly, via the Media, which can poison an ambitious Senator’s persona before you can say “sound bite.” The PACS and Lobbyists may rule business-as-usual, but come election time, allegedly, it’s the voters these craven tax-suckers fear most.
If this is the case, then the responsibility for the nightmare America has become might possibly lie with the “American People,” or a large percentage of them. Our “democracy” is a laughingstock, true, but only once the bums are in office and wrecking stuff at the behest of corporate sponsors, PACS, the parents they can never impress, etc. It’s quite possible that the much ridiculed American people are more powerful than they appear. If a Senator is afraid of looking like he’s “soft on terrorism” or “unpatriotic” because he or she would rather not follow an unelected thug and his band of gloomy sociopaths into the abyss, whose fault is that? Could it be that they’re afraid of the American people? That all those flag-waving yahoos, whether they vote or not, put the fear of god in them (which they passed like a hot potato onto unsuspecting school children)?
True, less than half the people vote, but you don’t have to be a registered voter to scare a Congressman. Waving a flag, draping your car or house in flags, talking shit about cherished freedoms you no longer have or can say good-bye to soon…these things make an impression. They infect the mood of the country. Voters too don’t want to appear “soft on terrorism” or “unpatriotic,” if only in their own befuddled heads. Thus, in order to get elected by the half of the population that votes, you have to appease not only them, but the flag-wavers who help create a climate of fear, hatred, jingoism, and overall dismay.
Again, who gets blamed for this? The voters and non-voters, who form a kind of symbiosis of willful ignorance, or the Representatives who serve them, on election day, then bow before more sophisticated, moneyed masters?
We can scold The Media, but really, that’s like blaming a used-car salesman for selling you a lemon. You knew the guy was a hustler, a liar, a fake, but you bought the car anyway. Why? Only dealer in town? Go to another town, or get together with other potential buyers, boycott the bastard, and run him out of business. Nobody has to watch TV or read Corporate Monopoly-owned newspapers. There are literally thousands of news outlets on the internet, domestic and foreign, of all political persuasions and points of view. So being an ignoramus is no excuse. Unless you’re a willful ignoramus, in which case you’ll follow whatever instructions are barked by the telly so long as you don’t have to think. But willful ignorance can be a crime itself. Like willfully ignoring Auschwitz or Guantanamo Bay.
Of course, there’s another possibility, horrifying to contemplate: maybe millions, perhaps tens of millions of Americans are just plain mean, selfish, frustrated, blood-thirsty clowns. You can joke all you want about our “un-elected President,” for Gore did win the popular vote. But it was hardly a landslide. Fifty-million people voted for George Bush. Fifty million people who knew about his record as a criminal, a thug, a dim-bulb who flickered but never shined at any time during the 2000 campaign; they knew about the shady business connections, the fact that this man failed in everything he ever attempted in life except his stunning success at vacating Texas’s Death Row.
The Terror began and ended on the morning of September 11, 2001. However, the Reign of Terror began later that evening and continues. The litany of self-inflicted domestic wounds, from budget cuts in favor of increased “defense” spending, to reactionary attacks on all things “un-American,” particularly the Bill of Rights, to a seemingly deliberate neglect of education, the environment, healthcare, workers rights (for those who have work) is breathtaking. How can a people allow itself to be so abused? Is this some kind of nation-wide S&M game, or has Uncle Sam exchanged his tri-color tuxedo for a hair-shirt?
We are indeed vicious, war-like savages, morally bankrupt, cowardly, corrupt. But you see, that was part of Saddam’s plan. First, in 1991, he provoked the U.S. into a massive slaughter of his people (he was/is a ruthless monster, no doubt about that). Boy did we have fun watching those smart bombs on TV, then gloating over the box scores the next day: 250 Americans killed (not all in combat) versus a whopping 100,000 Iraqis. After enticing Bush I to set The Beast loose, the cunning Saddam, recognizing our taste for blood (takes one to know one) built castles while we starved Iraq’s children. Drunk with Super Power, we went in for the kill, another major attack against a beaten, helpless “foe.” By letting Iraq become such an easy target for our aggression, a weak, hopeless punching bag for the Superest Power on earth, Saddam turned every one of us into a murderer or a murderer’s accomplice. He re-created us in his image.
Now comes the clincher: we didn’t even win. Sure, Iraqis are dying by the thousands, but who cares? We’ve been killing them for over a decade, they’re used to it. But we’re losing at least two Americans a day, and the longer we stay, the worse it’s gonna get. And let’s not forget about the money! That $87 Billion is merely a down payment. There’ll be no improvements in education, infrastructure, the power grid, or anything else – in the U.S. All the tax money Americans fork over to the IRS is going straight to Iraq. Now, if the money were going for reparations after all the damage we’ve done, it might be excusable in some way (though we should have considered the price tag in lives and treasure before fucking with a country that posed absolutely no threat to “our way of life” in the first place). But George Bush Junior wouldn’t give 87 cents, much less $87 Billion to turn a small mid-eastern train-wreck into a thriving “democracy.” No, that money’s going to Dubya’s oil pals and all the other corporations that make this world such a pleasant place to be. But still, with all these terrorists running around blowing stuff up, Iraq is no place anyone’s gonna want to do business. Might have to round up the natives and smoke ‘em all. Or at least manage them in camps and ghettos, like the Israelis do with those pesky Palestinians.
So Saddam was indeed a threat to the United States after all. He managed to bankrupt us morally, intellectually, and financially, and the real war has only just begun, for getting rid of him was the easy part. Now we have to take out the Iraqi people. But I have faith in the greed and endurance of the American public. They’re not gonna blow hundreds, possibly thousands of young American lives and tens, possibly hundreds of billions of dollars without a fight. “Someday this war’s going to end,” said Colonel Kilgore, ruefully, in Francis Ford Coppola’s timeless Christmas classic, “Apocalypse Now.”
It might take some time, but when this war does end, and we’ve solved the problem of the, uh, Human Element, Iraq’s gonna be THE commercial hot-spot. Paris, New York, London have all seen better days. Baghdad is going to be the place to be for the hip, the rich, the beautiful, not to mention arty expatriates, pot-bellied vacationers and tourists greased head to toe with Coppertone 30. Who knows, it might even replace Miami as the college crowd’s preferred party destination at Spring Break. I hear the interim dictatorship is already talking to MTV.
If you’re smart and have faith in America (you’re not un-patriotic, are you?) you’ll start investing now. Just think: when the oil’s flowing like the river Styx, and the natives have been pacified, you’ll be sipping a Pina Colada in your VERY OWN RESTAURANT. “Café Purgatory.” Or maybe “The Ninth Circle of Shell.” Still plenty of time to use that American ingenuity to think up a catchy name. Something to capture the imaginations of vacationers and hipster expatriates alike. Something killer.
Adam Engel awoke from the Nightmare of History only to be attacked in his own bed by a rabid, saber-toothed Future. Luckily he keeps a can of pepper spray and a blackjack on his night-table, beside the Morphine Sulfate. Unfortunately his attacker got away. If you see a dazed Future with bleary red eyes and a large welt on its forehead, please report to email@example.com.
* MAN Talk