Dispatch from Iraq

(The following essay was written by Alex Limkin, an Army reservist serving in Iraq with the Multi-National Security Transition Command. The command is responsible for training and equipping Iraqi security forces to take over security operations for their country. Limkin will be submitting occasional dispatches to the Telegraph in coming months.)

I’ve already been thinking about what to wear on my two-week R&R away from Iraq next month. First off, I’m going to Paris, the City of Lights. I’m a dreamer, a sensualist­, I read; I should commune with my people. I will not follow the headlines or watch the telly, but wrap my uniform tightly in a plastic sack and stow it at the bottom of my bag. I will try to forget the dust and privations of Iraq.

In the last six months, I’ve consumed over $1,000 worth of Gatorade and the sugar mixture has gone to my brain. I drink it like a fish in the air-conditioned DFACs, wipe my mouth on the back of my sleeve and pocket two bottles on the way out into the triple-digit heat. The sugar mixture is free. Just like my plane ticket to Iraq and my sojourn with the coconuts.

In the most basic of terms­ I see this war – besides being the huge financial scam that it is – as tribal in nature. We are, after all, a bunch of primitives. Wary of the strange and queer. It’s no different than the way Suhail and Bashar, two of my Iraqi interpreters, look askance at our iced tea. “But tea is meant to be hot,” they exclaim. There is a certain indignation and incredulity in their tone. They cannot fathom the depths of my perversity, or the general folly and spiritual insipidness of Westerners in general.

We, in turn, find their daily ritualistic prayers smacking of the Dark Ages, the Inquisition, Latin chantings and backwardness in general. Where was their Reformation? Who was their Luther? Silenced? Killed? Who knows? And with it, any hope of progress and technological advancement. Content to stop with algebra and the abacus, their thinkers were left behind – while the rest of the world swirled onward in an orgy of scientific and medical advancements that continues to undermine religious paradigms to this day: stem cell research, cloning, implants, transgender operations, space travel, rock ’n’ roll, molecular biology, webcam porn, Halo. The list goes on.

But there’s obviously more to it than this simple tribal explanation, which is a bit simpleminded. Another factor is that Saddam Hussein was a nasty man. The Iraqi people I have dealt with are grateful for forceful American intervention and couldn’t care less if the motives are for oil, for power, or for revenge. Collectively, they suffered immensely under Saddam Hussein. He was a murderous egomaniac who victimized millions. If I were to spend any time at all thinking about it (which I don’t), I would take some comfort in the fact that this global villain has been reduced to washing his dirty drawers in a tin basin while awaiting justice at the hands of the World Police.

But of course, there’s more. You can’t talk about American involvement in Iraq without referring to our own holy mantra: 9/11. This is because although Iraq was not necessarily involved in that blow against our country (and by proxy the entire Western world – and it was a blow!), it doesn’t really matter who you attack after you lose your Twin Towers, as long as you attack someone. In the wake of 9/11, heads

had to roll.

It’s important that the nations of the world recognize that Americans are fighters: not just potheads and degenerates and Baptists and lawyers and millionaires and computer geeks and metrosexuals and couch potatoes and college dropouts and overpaid ball players and Wall Street brokers and used car salesmen and television actors.

Despite our white underbelly, and our pendulous man-breasts, we can still get in the ring and addle your brains. This is important to know.

Although nations and governments are capable of grand displays of civilized diplomacy, we are still collectively nothing more than a group of animals. The animal that does not show its teeth and exact revenge when attacked loses respect. Forget the ceremony of diplomacy. In unleashing the fury of our war machine, we placed all nations on notice: Don’t screw with us. Should it matter whether Curly is more to blame than Moe? Not really. Like Shemp, we pragmatically dole out punishment regardless of blame. This is how Shemp maintains respect and control as a leader.

Then there’s this, restricting terrorist violence to distant foreign lands. Imagine the following: You are a dedicated terrorist intent on killing Americans. You are from any place in the Middle East – Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, wherever. You have the following choices: You can either travel thousands of miles to America, or you can merely drive your car for a few hours across the border of Iraq and kill them (me!) right here in the Middle East, on hallowed Muslim soil. Perhaps nine times out of 10, you will opt to attack the infidel infestation right here in Iraq.

End result? Violence and killing in Iraq, but not in America. Disruption and turmoil in Iraq, but not in America. Kidnappings and throat slashings in Iraq, but not in America.

Sure, it’s costing us zillions of dollars, but apparently Americans feel it’s worth it. What’s not to like about our gigantic bug-zapper in the Middle East? It seems to be working; like bees to honey they keep coming at us and getting blown up. Americans voted Bush in for a second term largely because of his wizard strategizing: “We got to fat them over there, so we don’t have to fat them over here.”

In short, a zillion dollars and a few thousand American souls is a small price to pay for containing terrorist violence on foreign shores (thus allowing the balance of 270-plus million Americans to carry on with their Crunch workouts and salad bars, tee times and facials).

Not to mention the benefits of waging the greatest financial scam in the history of the world.

But the truth of the matter is that it doesn’t matter what I think. Only that I survive. I wish to go back to my little life in America, my lovely little America (that I have flexed my muscles for … since I love her … and this little sojourn has established this tender understanding). Let the fireworks of Baghdad continue, as well as the trumpets of Christian might – whether it be for revenge, global intimidation, oil, human rights violations or whatever. I will turn a deaf ear to it all and snuggle once more into the warm blankets of American contentment and self-satisfaction, couched in my happy stacks and the thrill of being lost and alone in the universe – but free. •

– Alex Limkin



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