Our Lady Queen of Peace Bingo is closed due to the weather. All the pretty faces lost behind the cloth curtains across the surgery outpatient ward are chattering about medication times,healing,sickness and confusion. Keep this covered,you can shower,but don’t get the cast wet. Moose Lodge… closed.
The nurse is verifying sanity by asking the same series of questions for the hundredth time. Internal reduction radius fracture. I couldn’t work in a hospital with all its clockwork motion and careful procedures and tape, tubes,blues and whites and nakedness. The anesthetiologist is here,by I’m not interested in the same ongoing series of questions. Verification of the left arm. The markings there,and there,indicating the wrist. 2 Adversed. Anti-nausea. The room is setup quick,and some tweaks to anastesia to prevent the wretching upon waking from surgery.
Embasis, it’s called. The nasea caused by the large dose of narcotics. I remember projectile vomiting hard into the back of the toilet about an hour after snorting the Oxycontin. I had taken it before,in pill form, and drifting into a subtle nod along with the help of whisky & beer. It’s snowing hard now. Big flakes building up into thick piles and drifts across major roadways. The car slides and the tires spin aimlessly as I drive down the street looking for a hamburger or taco. Apparently visiting outpatient surgery makes me hungry.
What was wrong with the Bush Presidency? What defined this age of War and Terrorism? 9/11 tore back our eyelids and blasted our brains with the blowback of years of smart foreign policy. We had lived so long with our Russian Threat that once it collapsed with a wave of optimism and hubris and excitement,we went right back to war in the Middle East. We hadn’t been ignored during our struggle against the blight of communism – Afgahnistan was a key component against the Soviets. And Reagan was no stranger to radical Islamic Terrorism,coining the "War on Terror." But when Bush came into the Presidency riding the wave of Christians who felt on one hand slighted and marginalized,and on the other looking forward to the soon-coming apocolypse,he was looking for a fight. An economic fight wouldn’t do. This wouldn’t be diplomatic isolation nor a passing of sanctions. This was a bare-knuckle fight,broken glass and nails,all the blood that could be spilled and he could taste it. His God could taste it. His constituents,high off the rush from Saddam’s smoldering oil fields,felt confident in their rightous leader.
In some ways,it went all wrong. In others,it went like precision clockwork.
Now,it’s the end of this foul year of our Lord two-thousand and seven,and America is struggling through ignorance in Pakistan,uncaring in Afghanistan,and bloodshed in Iraq. In short,the Mideast is the most violent it’s been since it was cut-out haphazardly out of the foiled Ottoman empire after the old,great wars. And this has been Bush’s legacy to this nation. Two wars that continue to drag down our civilized mantle. Two failed nations left to rot in our own repercussions. Even Kissinger couldn’t bring a country down to its fundamental extremes like the Bush Administration.
Americans just don’t give one fuck about the lessons of history unless it’s a means to prop up their bruised egos. The high & mighty rhetoric on the discussions of our Nation’s Fathers is kept around to fuel the fire of patriotism,but no further. Few Americans would sit still for a discussion of Madisonian vs. Jeffersonian ideals in our country’s formation,and its application and relevancy today. The only thing that matters seems to be the constant belief that somehow the soldiers dying in Iraq are protecting our Freedom,a concept so vague to your neighbor as it is useful to a Palestinian dying in the West Bank.
In late 2002,Saddam Hussein was the tyrrant du jour. Colin Powel was leading the diplomatic and state department push for war. He was on the short leash of Rumsfeld and Bush who had their war plans front and center. Tommy Franks was working on the details,assembling the small force Rumsfeld allotted him to drive a spike into Baghdad and capture the momentum and firepower Bush Sr. had. Rumsfeld and Bush were confident. They didn’t care what Franks said about numbers and tactics and ground troops. They saw the light,and they knew what needed to be done. It was the hayday of Idealism. The coming of power for the neo-conservatives,the people who felt our foreign policy for too long had placated our enemies at our expense,and were ready to pull the trigger when faced with anything that stood in that idealism of the pure American Way. They took the drug hard and uncut and never looked back. They mainlined patriotism and the American right loved it.
It was Weapons of Mass Destruction – that key notion – that hooked Bush’s speechwriters. It was the banner they flew,our feathers raised high and scowling. The idea,fresh from 9/11,of extremists detonating a nuclear bomb in New York. That great specter of fear that tied in so nicely with our longing for a unifying threat. Something that took the comfortable place of our tangible Soviet enemy for so many years. It was the handle Bush could swing and we’d all follow. But it was spurious. Not everyone was so easily convinced of Bush’s perfect American enemy. Maybe it was the fact that the evidence went against common sense. Maybe it was the fact that our intelligence agency had been fataly abused by political pressures throughout the 80’s by the same idealistic neocons – people who felt we shouldn’t be spying on our allies like Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Maybe it was the way Bush always had of speaking to the blind-dumb Texan boy-king within him,of convincing himself that Saddam had tried to assassinate his father and that justified a lot… But it ultimately didn’t matter. We had our war,whether anyone was on board or not. Diplomatic and economic pressure ensured we’d have a handful of token members who traded in IOUs and favors to be returned once this Iraq business was over with. Begrudgingly,the world tolerated the American aggressor against Saddam Hussien’s stable yet deranged regime.
Mission Accomplished flew high above Bush on the carrier,surrounded by joyful faces that reminded everyone of those old great wars. That great national nostalgia for doing something Right and Winning. Bush wanted that,too. He could taste that,too. He ignored the bitter aftertaste of soldiers still fighting for peace in Iraq – the poison residue that he didn’t count on once he had his military victory over Saddam Hussein and his "feared" Republican Guard. The riots,the looting – what were these lunatic Muslims doing to their new-found Freedom we had so graciously given? Then the mounting insurgency.
Amidst this chaos,no one had found those stockpiled Weapons of Mass Destruction. That key that tied us and our war to Righteousness wasn’t there in Baghdad,nor in Saddam’s home,nor in the mobile facilities or in the weapons factories Powell had eloquently and precisely pointed to those months – and now years – before. It was harder to choke down,but Americans are resolute, and the right swallowed the news by arguing fiercly on the connections of Iraq to al Queda. But then this too proved hard to work out in detail. Sure,there were al Queda in Iraq,but there were al Queda all over the Middle East. It was America’s war with Iraq that drove them there,just as it had been what drove them to Afghanistan in the war against the Soviets. They were armed with our guns,of course,and we knew it. We kept swallowing those pills till we couldn’t feel the pain of our mistakes anymore,and until we couldn’t see the flags draped on the caskets of our dead soldiers,or see our blood on the streets of Fajula and Basra.
All the cards had been dealt. Bush didn’t have a full house or a straight to lay down. One by one,the cards were dealt with a harsh reality that he couldn’t bluff his way out of. No matter how tough his rhetoric,the following years would see him decline and falter. He played the only card he had left – the one we all knew we had to begin with. And he played it the only way he could – with all the Bush-bravado he could muster. "Saddam is a bad man." And that was it. That was justification for thousands of Americans dead. Chaos and instability within Iraq – sectarian violence and civil war that tore Shiite brother from Sunni neighbor. Iran only needed to watch as American ignorance built Amnenijad (sp?) into a Muslim icon of stability. Israel left the West Bank for dead. It looked like no one in America could understand the depth of Arab identity across the Middle East. America couldn’t see the invisible connections that ran from the ghettos of the West Bank across to Syria and into Iran,even into moderate Muslims who could see opportunity in a war-torn Iraq. Here, now,is that consequence of a Bush Administration. Is al Queda weakened by our failure to stabilize Iraq? Or did we just fuel the rational for jihad and religious extremism for generations to come? By separating and identifying religious rationalization in a Christian war,how could we assume Muslims would simply accept the losses of their bretheren and turn towards Westerners with open arms? We see democratic elections of Hammas in Palestine – a statement of Arab identity against Western principles – and Bush cuts off aid to Arab families who voted Wrong. We tolerate the House of Saud and its massive oil revenues riding along their corruption that keeps extremism at bay in Saudi oil fields. Meanwhile,radical militant Islam is very much alive and well and strengthening in the hidden lands of our Saudi and Pakistan allies.
Image is King in America. We somehow think that doesn’t apply to us in the Middle East. Have our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have brought Peace and Stability to the Middle East? Do you think an Arab child who has witnessed the death of his family at the hands of Westerners will grow to accept a Christian-dominated war-happy society? Or perhaps we’ve hit the right targets with the right laser-guided tactical weaponry and struck fear in the hearts of the fearless? Nope. Nada. We’re faced with a perplexity of failures across the vast Arab-Christian divide. Just like that crumbled divide that cuts Lebanon in two. Our matrix of fear, doubt,violence,and terrorism we have bred in Iraq and Palestine by ignoring the calls for help and instead aiming our guns against an insurgent enemy. We just pulled the trigger and hoped we got the right guy. But we asked the wrong questions. We had the wrong premise. Bush wanted to be a War President. Now he is. Selah.
The here & now inside America is no less filled with memorabelia of our War President. Like every time in war previous,we’ve sacrificed our personal Freedom for the War Effort. The bumper stickers shine a beacon of pride that my son is fighting for your freedom in Iraq. That privileged freedom young soldiers are dying for is being rewritten in confidential executive orders for wiretapping of American citizens. The suspension of habeas corpus. Torture. That’s your freedom,which is all fine and good say the right. As long as you are yourself privileged and safe,and trust the Government,your freedom is intact. Just like the question of the freedom of choice in a religion with an omniscient God, as long as we stay willfully ignorant we’re as safe as we were before. Unfortunately the price way pay for this conditional ignorant freedom is the sacrifice of the weird and dangerous,the estranged Muslims who are American citizens with families overseas. College students studying overseas. Vacations.