So I met a man yesterday, had lunch with him. He was a friendly, bald, gray moustached man, eating carrots out of a Tupperware case. We fell into conversation, and at one point he said that he was in Vietnam. We’d been talking about war. I’d mentioned that I’d read that soldiers in Vietnam were issued Dexedrine and various speed pills to get them through the next encounter. And he’d said that that was countenanced, but it wasn’t officially approved, then told me the tale of his war – and ended up by adding, as a little sidenote, that people do funny things in war. A friend of his, for instance. He blasted an eight year old girl. Came upon her in some go through the village maneuver. Little darling kept approaching him. He got out the rifle, warned her to go back, and she kept approaching like Viet bad seed, and he let her have it. And, he said, she exploded, meaning that she’d been wired.
Then the guy said, two war crimes there, really. One is killing the eight year old, one is the Cong wiring her up.
I said yes.
This was not supposed to be happening again. That girl, that bomb, that GI, those dreams, that crippled life, that ended life, that desolation wrought on a citizenry by its own government, intoxicated by power and lies – no, this was not supposed to happen again. I remember hearing stories like that man’s – who was placidly chewing his carrots – when I was eighteen, nineteen. In the seventies, you were always running into vets who were never coming home, you could tell it from their eyes and their raddled faces, and especially their laughs, and their stories. And you knew much of it was bullshit. But you also knew that so much external damage implied something had happened the way a crater implies a shell.
Here are pictures from Falluja. I don’t find images of viscera and blood particularly sickening. It happens. Nor am I against violence per se – it is no joke that liberty is purchased with blood. But this isn’t liberty. This is senseless retaliation, for purposes that have been so wound in a labyrinth of Bush’s photo op politics as to be long lost; as these pictures go out to Baghdad and Basra, they pretty much put an end to the ‘good feeling’ that Americans are always polling the Iraqis to pull out of them, our colonialism with a smiley face.
I admit it -- I was fooled. I thought there was something like a learning curve operating in the bowels of the CPA. That Bremer had recognized his mistakes. I was wrong. They have learned nothing. Nothing, amazingly enough. These are people on whom all experience is lost.