Ames asked me to write a column on how all the wars are going, kind of a war reviewer. And I said yes on one condition, that you people don’t send me emails telling me liking war is a sign of unhealthiness or some psychoanalytical crap.
I’m a war nerd. A backseat sergeant. I know what I am. All I have to do is look down at the keyboard and there’s my hairy white gut slopping over it, and there’s crumbs between the keys from the fake homemade soft’n’chewy big cookies in the vending machine downstairs. I mean they made me pay for the last keyboard because I spilled Diet Coke all over it. Diet Coke, the most fattening drink in the world. Every web pig in the world is swimming in it, farting off the side of the swivel chair, aroma-free carbonation farts, or at least you hope they are.
So I’m unhealthy. No shit, Sigmund. I live in Fresno which is a death sentence already, and I do about fifteen hours a day at this desk. 6 or 7 hours entering civilian numbers for the paycheck and the rest surfing the war news. I like war. So do you or you wouldn’t still be reading. So shut up or leave.
Anyway, war-wise it’s been a pretty good year. Let’s start with the WTC. Technically that wasn’t an act of war, and also it happened last year, but you have to mention it because it was just so beautiful. Come on, be honest, it was beautiful.
It was like a two-course dessert. First there was the towers falling down in slo-mo, over and over. Which was really, really beautiful. Don’t tell me you didn’t watch them fall about a million times in a row. That was the first time an office building ever got beautiful in the history of the world.
And secondly it was like permission to work out on whoever did it. Total permission. Total complete permission to do anything you want to them, like a movie that starts with the hero getting his farm burnt down or somebody killing his family. You just lean back and relax with a little grin and inhale those Milk Duds, because now comes the good part, 90 straight minutes of revenge.
The best war is when you can hate both sides, and that’s how it was with the WTC. I cheered those jets. I work in like a ten-story version of those towers, and I know for a fact that I’m not the only one who perks up every time a plane gets close to the building. Everybody cheers the planes now. Until those planes hit the WTC nobody dreamed you could knock down an American corporation building. Nobody ever thought one would come down. And when they did, damn! It was like the noche triste, when Aztecs made the Conquistadors bleed for the first time and said, “Hey these aren’t magic six-legged metal monsters, they’re just a bunch of victims like us!”
Then you saw the ragheads having tailgate parties to celebrate the big WTC bbq, and it’s like, Whoa! I get to cheer when Americans die but that doesn’t mean you can, you hairy-ass goats. Bad soldiers too, you could see that because they kept shooting AKs in crowded streets. That’s a 7.76mm round, you idiots, if you fire it into the air it comes to earth you know not where, like on some little kid’s soft-skulled head, and that’s the end of the kid. They’re too stupid to even figure that much out.
So they had it coming, and there was lots of good footage of the USAF getting ready to give it to them. It should’ve been perfect, the lead-up to bombing the shit out of Afghanistan, but Bush almost ruined it. He couldn’t even do a revenge speech right. Seriously, how hard can it be when all you have to say is, like, “We’re coming for you, towelhead fuckers!” How hard is that? And he couldn’t even do it right. If Coppola had been directing this he would’ve fired Dubya the first day of filming like he did Harvey Keitel the first day of Apocalypse Now. Bring Martin Sheen over, like from the West Wing, and let him do it, he’d have the Afghans converting to Presbyterianism in a couple of days.
It looked pretty depressing when the bombing started. Wimpy stuff. A bomb here and a bomb there. It was like the Afghans were laughing at us. They said so themselves, how the Russians used to vaporize a whole valley to make a point and now the Americans try to drop bombs one or two at a time without hurting anybody. Pathetic.
The Shomali Plain, remember that? For two weeks the network guys in their safari suits stood on mud huts talking, and the camera would follow an F-18 or F-16 down till it dropped its load in little bursts at the foot of the ridge. It was so damn slow and boring, like somebody trying to bomb Anaheim one house at a time. It was embarrassing to be an American then. They’d show a bunch of flat-hats hunkered down on the mud roofs going, “Aalllaaalaaa, such puny weak harmless bombs you Americans are dropping! We are ashamed to be on your side!”
And every time something went wrong the cameras were on it like flies, there’d be like five crews around a big dusty hole with some kid-parts scattered around the edges. Sloppy, really sloppy. I don’t know if we really blew up all those kids, because if I were running the Taliban Ministry of Make-Believe I’d set off a few shaped charges at an orphanage now and then to get the news crews excited, hire some old women to stand around crying and call it a USAF atrocity. But the USAF is pretty hopeless too sometimes, and they kind of have a thing about kids, like the old joke: “You don’t have to lead ’em as much.” So who knows? The main thing is how bad and weak we were looking.
And it got worse with that “raid” on Mullah Omar’s house. Something you have to know about the US military is that it sucks at commando raids. Don’t believe that Chuck Norris bullshit, that Delta Force crap: we absolutely suck at high-risk small-unit actions. Always have, always will. One platoon of SAS is worth a battalion of Delta Force. Americans win wars with logistics and propaganda, not fancy stuff. It’s too bad that stuff doesn’t film very well, because it’s a lot cheaper to make Chuck Norris Delta movies than ones which show the US doing what it actually does: grinding people down by bombing and blockades and daily wham, wham, wham hammering.
The Delta boys turned into heroes when Ridley Scott made a movie out of the disaster in Mogadishu. Yeah, real heroes: “Turn left! Left! No, I mean MY left!” They fucked up in the Dust Bowl just like they fucked up in Mog. A hundred of them — yeah, really stealthy! Parachute in and start taking fire before they hit the ground. Good job, guys! Then they jimmy open Omar’s pool door and scuff around inside the house looking for spare change or plutonium or the keys to his SUV or something. Then the local security guards show up and America’s finest go sprint back to the choppers before they get arrested for loitering.
Oh yeah. Big bad Delta Force! Scary stuff!
Somebody in the Pentagon (hey, can they call it a pentagon now when it’s only got four sides? Don’t they have to find a new high school geometry name for that?) — somebody must have got angry because after the raid failed it was like we started to get serious. The war got better real fast. One day it was lies, lies, lies, real old-school Saigon-style lies about how everything’s fine…and then wham, we take Mazar-i-Sharif and it’s a toboggan ride to Kabul.
What happened up there? It seems really, really dubious to me. I was watching the news about 10 hours a day at that time and nothing I saw seemed to mean a big victory. I think maybe the US just sent a lot of cash. The Afghans, if you look at their history, they fight basically for two things: boys to rape, or money. Or both. So either the US sent over a few planeloads of cub scouts, which is something I wouldn’t put past a guy like Cheney, and sent them to the Taliban in Mazar with a note around their necks saying, “Here, you can have us if you let the ‘Coalition’ win.” Or they had a CIA bag man go in with a Samsonite full of gold bars. Either way something weird happened and Mazar collapsed and then it was all downhill.
Now that is when the US can do a good job: when the enemy cracks and has to start retreating. That’s when an all-weather air force comes in handy, and those laser designators really shine. You get a career sergeant on a hilltop lasering up a convoy of BMPs, with an F-15E vectored in by AWACS. You get each BMP jammed with dust monkeys worn out from fleeing. You get your Toyota pickups full of RPG rounds that make for some excellent secondary explosions.
And you have this whole caravan bouncing along with the headlights off and everybody feeling safe’n’sassy, snoring away after a big day of machine-gunning Shiites and blowing up Buddhas. Maybe like one raghead at the most wakes up and sort of wonders, “Hey, what’s that little red light bouncing along the side of the APC?”
Then it all goes cubist, and like fifteen legs and arms are corkscrewing into the night sky. And instead of a caravan you’ve got an auto disposal site. Not enough DNA left in the whole caravan to identify anybody. Barely enough meat left for the local jackals to have a KFC “Extra Krispy, Extra Sunni!” feast.
If you saw the target-cam images from that part of the war, you had to say, “Life is good!” There weren’t nearly enough of them, because the Pentagon (sorry, the Quadragon!) has this typical American bullshit attitude toward war: announce inflated enemy casualty figures but never show actual GORE. That might offend people. So officially the US kills lots of people but never makes a mess. Luckily, enough of the pilots started emailing gun photos that you could get a fair sample of Taliban arms and legs flying around in clouds of dust. Man, that was a good few weeks.
Then the “mature” people went in and it was time to start pretending that Afghanistan, the asshole of the world, is suddenly going to turn into Minnesota, where everybody’s nice and smiles all day, la dee da. Hairy Afghan girls delivering the six o’clock news in Kabul, that kind of utter crap. Like that girl who’s delivering the news is going to survive more than a week! Her own dad is going to cut her throat for appearing unveiled and unshaven.
But that’s part of the un-fun-ness of American wars, we always have to pretend there’s an ulterior motive, something about making the world a nicer place, the kind of place Jodie Foster would like to visit.
American peace truly sucks. (That’s what I live in and work in: American peace. Fresno. Townhouses in a dry riverbed. Scrub acreage with fancy British names. America the hot and stupid.)
That’s why we need a war now and then. You can drain your dick at every bondage site on the web, but you can’t really drain your head there, it takes something bigger like a decent war and some of those guncamera shots. I figure about one a year. Which is why this was already a good year. Next column I’ll tell about the rest of the wars going now and review them, which ones are crap and which are worth following. Because the Israeli/Pal slapstick can’t be missed either. What a hoot! And maybe we’ll get lucky and see the Indians do something besides talk (yeah, right!)
And there’s always Africa. Like I said: Life is good!
— Gary Brecher
This article was first published in April, 2002 in Issue #139 of The eXile.
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