Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Fifteen Years After Shock and Awe in Baghdad and Vintage Murfin Verse

Americans watched the gloies of Shock and Awe live on their cable new stations.

Yesterday marked the 15th anniversary of George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq and the unleashing of Shock and Awe on Baghdad, all covered live for your entertainment on your favorite cable news network.  Like a quickie Vegas marriage there was an initial thrill but things began to go very, very badly after a while.
We Americans tend to think of our own wasted lives and years, and the chaos that roils the region to this day.  But as Iraqi author Sinan Antoon who was a dissident in his country and who has lived in the U.S. since 1991 reminded us in an op-ed piece  on the anniversary in the New York Times reminds us, it is time for Americans to stop thinking about the Iraq War as a blunder.  He reminds us of the real victims, “15 years ago America destroyed my county.”
With typical narcissism I often thought of the invasion of Iraq as George W.’s nasty late birthday present to me—coming just three days after I turned 54 years old in the safety of McHenry County.
Less than a month before the bombs fell record numbers marched against an Iraq War in Washington and in cities around the world.
When it began, the huge anti-war movement that mobilized beforehand—and in which I took a very active part—kind of collapsed for a while into despair and disappointment. Americans, as are wont to do, rallied around their President and the troops and watched the cake walk to Baghdad with pride. In no time at all George was up there strutting on an aircraft carrier and declaring victory.
A moment of glory!  Americans were told jubilant Iraqis pulled down this statue of Saddam in Baghdad.  It turned out to be a stage propaganda photo op and American agents were on the other end of the rope
The Pundocracy of print, the cable news cowboys, the radio ravers united in both gloating and mocking the Left and the anti-war movement. To wit:
Tommy Franks and the coalition forces have demonstrated the old axiom that boldness on the battlefield produces swift and relatively bloodless victory. The three-week swing through Iraq has utterly shattered skeptics’ complaints.—Tony Snow, Fox News
The only people who think this wasn’t a victory are Upper Westside
and a few people here in Washington.Charles  Krauthammer, Inside Washington, WUSA-TV
We’re all neo-cons now.—Chris  Matthews, MSNBC

I hate to be an “I told you so.” But I did. So did thousands of others before the war ever started. The war transpired pretty much exactly a we said it would—a quagmire of guerilla insurgency, the shattering of the country on ethnic and religious lines, the inspiration to wider hatred of the America among Muslims worldwide, the recruiting engine for Islamic terrorism on the Bin Ladin model, the shattering of traditional ties among allies, the isolation of America in the world, and even the devastating drain on American military power. We predicted it all before the first “Shock and Awe” bomb was dropped.
If an (at the time) elementary school custodian from an obscure Illinois county could have foreseen this, what the hell was our genius leadership thinking?
They were blinded by a combination of arrogance, hubris, righteousness, and greed. To this day they cannot admit to any fundamental error and only grudgingly own up to slight tactical miscalculations.
Worse, the current rhetoric against Iran mirrors that they used to build a case for war on Iraq.  We are actively meddling militarily in a cluster fuck multi sided civil war in Syria.  And despite multiple declarations of victory, we still have troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan that still occasionally take casualties and may blow up into greater conflict at any time.  Our rulers apparently learned nothing.
But the American people, as so often in the past, have learned. The thrill is gone. We recognize the plain disaster wrought by the original cabal in power, perpetuated with technological refinement by Barack Obama, and flouted with bluster, heedlessness, and utter incompetence under the Cheeto-in-Charge.

A year or so after the war began when  blood ran in manageable rivulets in the gutter and had not yet saturated to the bed rock, I wrote a poem.  The occasion was the unseemly, fly-by night evacuation of L. Paul Bremer, the Ambassador and American Administrator of vanquished Iraq. He had created  something called the Iraqi Provisional Authority—a collection of bought and paid for American clients, local war lords, cleptocrats, and questionable representatives of ethnic groups and religious sects. I put mock heroic the words into Bremer’s mouth. 
Ambasador L. Paul Bremmer leaves his apropriately regal headquarters in one of Saddam's golden palaces with a senior U,S, commander.  Bremmer prefered a bodyguard of expensive mercinary contractors to the usual Marines--he didn't trust grunts.
Bye Bye Baghdad

Oh, what glory there should have been!
            What herald trumpets in gilded flourish
            should have proclaimed,
            what dressed ranks of might in splendor
            should have processed in measured dignity,
            what sleek and fleet air armadas
            should have shattered heaven in their salute,
            what Princes of the New Imperium
            should have strutted before an astonished world,
            what Hosannas sung as He, wrapped in purple,
            should have deigned wave His hand,
            and what cringing minions
            should have crept to kneel before Him,
                        pledging fealty, and better, oil,
                        in exchange for the blessings of fiefdom!

Yet these wretched sand niggers never got the memo.
            They failed to be appreciative of our sacrifices
            on behalf of grand ambition for an ordered world
            safe alike for Halliburton, Exxon/Mobile, and Franklin Graham,
            in cheeky ingratitude bit the hand that fed
            the satraps put in place for them, after all,
            refused to bow before our manifest Goodness,
            as if we had not told them over and over
            just how fortunate they were.

Can you believe they want to kill Us?          
            Well, not us exactly, not Us who live to rule,
            but those brave boys and girls who we call to our service,
            the sons and daughters of the irrelevant Them,
            who had nothing better to do with their lives anyway
            but bleed for the greater glory of Us!

The ungrateful the fickle folks back home desert us!
            Did we not offer our gleaming sword and shield
            to defend them from swarthy menace,
            did we not carry the mangled bodies of New York,
                                    and Pennsylvania’s unsuspecting field
            before them, beating our chests and pledging vengeance.
            What more could they want?

A simple roadside bomb here, a beheading there un-mans them.
It leaves them trembling and unwilling,
asking craven questions of our majesty,
assuming they have some kind of voice
when our manifest brilliance should have
swept aside mere doubts
and hearty patriotism silenced traitors.

And so, on a dusty hell hot day in June
            As bombs and bullets punctuate our urgency
            we must call a furtive meeting,
            toss the hot potato to whoever will catch it,
            then run like hell to the first fast plane
            that will take us out of here.

So long, Suckers.

—Patrick Murfin

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