Every few days over the next several months I will be posting installments of a novel about life, death, war and politics in America since 9/11. Through the Darkest of Nights is a story of hope, reflection, determination, and redemption. It is a testament to the progressive values we all believe in, have always defended, and always will defend no matter how long this darkness lasts.
All installments are available for reading here on Docudharma’s Series page, and also here on Docudharma’s Fiction Page, where refuge from politicians, blogging overload, and one BushCo outrage after another can always be found.
“I don’t want to watch this, Jericho. I don’t need to watch it. I’ve seen too many lies and too much treachery. Another dose of poison, that’s all this will be. Well I’ve seen people swallow that poison too many times, and I’ve seen the consequences too many times. So watch this if you must, but I won’t.”
“Maybe we should just go for a walk instead.” I reached for the remote as the image of George W. Bush appeared on the TV screen.
“Let’s do that . . . we need to talk, Jericho.”
“About the pendant.”
“Yes. And about Travis.”
“He’s . . . I’ve been meaning to tell you about him . . . about the pendant, about commitment, about consequences, about everything, but–”
The sound of Bush’s voice silenced Shannon. She turned towards the TV with loathing in her eyes . . . .
My fellow citizens, at this hour American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger. On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein’s ability to wage war.
Shannon’s contempt was visceral. “Bush is going to defend the world from grave danger . . . grave danger from a country so weak it doesn’t even control its own airspace. This is nauseating.”
These are opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign. More than thirty-five countries are giving crucial support, from the use of naval and air bases to help with intelligence and logistics to the deployment of combat units. Every nation in this coalition has chosen to bear the duty and share the honor of serving in our common defense.
“Bear the duty and share the honor . . . ” Shannon glared at Bush in revulsion. “You coerced and bullied them. You bought them off and bribed them, lined them up for your PR parade and trotted them out as your grand coalition. Samoa, Iceland, the Fiji Islands, standing side by side with America to defend the world against the global might and menace of Saddam Hussein.”
As Shannon seethed, Bush kept on reading the words scrolling across his teleprompter . . .
To all the men and women of the United States armed forces now in the Middle East, the peace of a troubled world and the hopes of an oppressed people now depend on you. That trust is well placed. The enemies you confront will come to know your skill and bravery. The people you liberate will witness the honorable and decent spirit of the American military.
“I remember standing in the center of Hiroshima, Shannon. I remember standing where fathers, mothers and children stood when they were confronted by an honorable and decent B-29 crew and their honorable and decent atomic bomb. I saw an elderly survivor pray for peace at the Hiroshima Memorial, I saw her bow in sympathy for the souls of the lost, and kneel in tribute to the men, women, and children burned to ashes by honorable and decent American airmen dropping honorable and decent kilotons of death on them.”
“Bush is burning peace to ashes, Jericho. If he isn’t stopped he’s going to keep playing with those Neocon matches Cheney handed him until this whole world is ashes.”
America is facing an enemy who has no regard for conventions of war or rules of morality.
“It certainly is, and Americans are looking at him right now.” Shannon got up from her chair. “I can’t watch any more of this. I’ll be out in mother’s garden . . . I can still feel her presence there . . . her love . . . her wisdom . . . her courage.”
“I’m sorry, Shannon, I’ll turn this off.”
“No, watch the rest of it. I have friends in Canada who might have something in their garage Bush considers a threat to America’s survival, so let me know if Canada’s going to be attacked too so I can make some calls and say some goodbyes.”
Saddam Hussein has placed Iraqi troops and equipment in civilian areas, attempting to use innocent men, women and children as shields for his own military, a final atrocity against his people.
As Shannon closes the door softly behind her, I think of the hundreds of Air Force bases, Army bases, Navy bases, and Marine Corps bases in and near towns and cities across the United States. I think of the tens of millions of Americans who live and work near Boeing plants, North American Rockwell plants, General Dynamics plants, Northrop/Grumman plants, nuclear weapons depots, biological weapons facilities, chemical weapons plants, conventional munitions factories, and thousands of defense subcontractor sites targeted by the Pentagon into every congressional district in the United States.
I remember President Eisenhower’s warning that Americans must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence by the military industrial complex. I remember his warning that the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. I remember him warning that Americans must never let the weight of this combination endanger their liberties or democratic processes. I remember him warning that we should take nothing for granted, that we must be alert and knowledgeable, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
No one listened to him. No one cared. Well they’ll start caring soon enough . . .
I want Americans and all the world to know that coalition forces will make every effort to spare innocent civilians from harm. A campaign on the harsh terrain of a nation as large as California could be longer and more difficult than some predict. And helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country will require sustained commitment.
Not to mention sustained carnage, sustained war profiteering, sustained corporate media hackery, and sustained lies from the lips of every Republican politician bought and paid for by the boardroom masters of this dying democracy. Sustained killing, sustained horror, sustained hatred inciting more hatred, until hatred is all that’s left.
War is knocking on America’s door, like a raven, whose eyes have all the seeming, of a demon’s that is dreaming. War is knocking on all our doors, like a walking nightmare with places to go and people to see, like haunting lines from the tortured soul of Edgar Allen Poe, like a specter from the past. War is rapping on America’s door just like it did in 1812 and 1846 and 1861 and 1898 and 1917 and 1941 and 1950 and 1965 and 1991, but it will never quit rapping now, it will rap forever until humanity is nevermore and insects inherit the earth.
I think of the 50,000 names etched into the black marble of The Wall, names of young men sent to their deaths by a lying president from Texas. I think of all the innocent blood about to be spilled, as I watch another lying president from Texas lie America into another war . . .
We come to Iraq with respect for its citizens, for their great civilization and for the religious faiths they practice. We have no ambition in Iraq except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people. Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly, yet our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. We will meet that threat now with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of firefighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.
How long will Americans live at the mercy of the outlaw regime of George W. Bush? How long will that outlaw regime be allowed to deceive and kill and destroy? Americans won’t meet the threat of that regime, most of them don’t even see it. Those who call themselves conservatives will never see it, they only see what they’re told to see. As it is now, as it ever shall be in that cult of self-delusion they call an ideology.
Now that conflict has come, the only way to limit its duration is to apply decisive force. And I assure you, this will not be a campaign of half measures. And we will accept no outcome but victory. My fellow citizens, the dangers to our country and the world will be overcome. We will pass through this time of peril and carry on the work of peace. We will defend our freedom. We will bring freedom to others. And we will prevail. May God bless our country and all who defend her.
Far from that scrolling teleprompter in the Oval Office, far from God’s blessing, a statue of Lyndon Baines Johnson stands alone in a small courtyard in Stonewall, Texas. I’ve seen it. I can see it now. Its right arm is raised, pointing into the distance as if to warn of some impending calamity. I saw a rattlesnake slither past that day, paying no heed to that cold stone monument to a war criminal. I can see it now. Its reptile brain has no awareness of the past, no concern for the future, it only knows that to keep its belly filled, it must kill, and kill, and kill.
I can’t see the tanks crossing the Kuwaiti border right now, but I don’t need to seem them. The orders have been sent, and the orders will be obeyed. The belly of Wall Street must be filled, the belly of the oil industry must be filled, the belly of the weapons makers must be filled, so those tanks are spearheading this invasion, they’re bound for the southern oilfields of Iraq, bound for the ruins of Eden, bound for Baghdad and an endless ordeal of carnage and horror.
I walked out into the garden, where love and wisdom and courage still abide, where a Seeker of Peace stood alone under the stars, as weary of solitude and loneliness as I am.