NOTE: This is a column I first published in The Moscow Times on October 18, 2002 -- six months before the invasion of Iraq. I'm no prophet -- it didn't take much to see that Bush was goose-stepping into a quagmire. Still, it's eerie to note that so much of the hell we see in Iraq today was already discernible long before. Of course, we've not yet seen the use of nuclear "bunkerbusters" described here; then again, this piece of proleptic fiction is set in 2006.
The Base: Annals of Occupation
NSA Echelon 33, CentComm: Email monitored 10/22/2006. Dispatched DC.
Yo, Ed! I'm looking out the window of Watchtower 19 in Force Zone Seven. They're loading up the dead wagon. Three friendlies, two uncardeds, the usual collateral - and one bug. We zapped the market before the bug got his hard-on - another one of those Czech AK-47 knock-offs that our friendly neighborhood warlord keeps bringing in. He says he doesn't know how the bugs get hold of them - they drop down from heaven, I guess.
Last night Chrome and Dietrich got clipped by two bugged-up pseudo-friendlies outside the Halliburton whorehouse. They'd just finished three weeks on kyptonite duty, guarding the perimeter where those baby-nuke bunkerbusters went in. It's still space-suit city over there, your wang wired up to the piss-bag for ten hours while you watch the Pentagon geek squad calibrating the kill ratio and the Guantanamorons in their plastic chains, suitless and bootless, bagging up body parts.
Chrome was telling us how some bug hacker got into the helmet frequency one day and flooded their gourds with Donny Osmond songs. Four hours of it. What could you do? You couldn't take the helmet off or you'd over-geiger like the morons. Nearly drove them crazy. "And they call it puppy love." Chrome was crooning for us, laughing, riding high. He'd just bagged Laila, the one who used to be on TV here - half a week's pay, but they said get her now because some wheel at CentComm was about to privatize her. Then he stepped outside with Dietrich and was gone.
Four more guys got shipped out this week for going burqa. Bent their knee to the bug god. It's the damnedest thing. Officially, it's not happening and there's no punishment for it either. The Press Office gave us soundbite cards on it for media days: "Faith and freedom go together; each makes the other stronger. The Forces of Liberation welcome all faiths within our ranks." Non-denial denial. But everybody knows it's spreading like the clap, and they'll rotate you back to Homeland or Eurodisney the first time you step inside a mosque.
I guess I can understand it. I mean, personally, I don't see the point of trading one load of lies and fairy tales for another. But we're all wading through a cesspit here, you feel it on your skin all the time. You can't wash it off, you can't buy it off, you can't drink it away. For some guys, the bug-god bull looks new, pure. However hokey it is, it's not the same thing that led them into this stinking mire. So they snap, they turn - they shut off their brains and submit. Hell, isn't that what they teach us to do in basic training? But I feel sorry for the suckers. It's gonna go hard for them when they realize the bug god is just like all the others: one big rotting empty skull, staring down at you with those black holes, those no-eyes that see nothing and give back nothing.
I tried talking about it with Captain Davis the other night; he's about the only officer who doesn't strut around here like a Wal-Mart floor manager among the peons. I'd just come off night patrol in Deep-City Zone, hardcore bugland, backing up some Special Ops doing a Guantanamo run on terrorperp suspects. Banging down doors, barrel in the face of some shrieking bug-woman in her black bag, children scuttling in the dark like rats, the perp calling down an airstrike from Allah on our heads. You know the drill. You know the jangle. Not even the new meds can keep you blanked out completely.
So there's always the overstep somewhere. Woman's cheekbone cracking from a backhand, some kid stomped or booted out of the way. Some perp putting his hand in one of those damned dresses they wear, going for who knows what - Koran? Mosquito bite? Scimitar? Czech special? - and you open up. More shrieking, more screaming - and then the splatter on the wall.
Is this what we're here for? I said to Davis. These bulging eyeballs, these reeking guts, this splatter? And the deals, the grease: the trade in whores, the pipeline siphons, the warlord bribes, CentComm and DefSec and BigVeep cutting their buddies a slice of the pie? Mr. Homeland Headboy talks about Jesus and Jefferson all the time - is this what Jesus really wants us to do? Is this what Jefferson had in mind?
Davis shook his head. Don't go all Gandhi on us, Jim, he says. Ideals are fine, but you've got to make an accomodation with reality. You can't have civilization without power. Nothing will hold together if you can't back it up with force. That splatter - those guts - that dead girl in the ditch over there, with the flies and the dogs - that's what power is. That's the foundation, the base, of civilization. It ain't pretty, but I just have to believe that we're a special nation, and now that we hold this dreadful power, we'll use it wisely, so that one day we'll make those ideals real. I've got to believe that - because otherwise, Jim, it's just nothing but crap. Crap, chaos, murder and noise. And what the hell can you build on that?
So that's the answer then. We're special. Our grease is special. Our bunkerbusters are special. Our pissbags are special. Our splatter is the most special thing of all.
May No-Eyes have mercy on us all.