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The oil of war: 1991

By David B. McCoy
July 2, 2002
The Iranian

True wars are never won.
-- E. E. Cummings

Administration officials have least six overlapping reasons why American men and women may have to die in a war with Iraq.
-- U.S. News & World Report, 26 November, 1990

Day 10

From television news broadcasts
I learn the new total number
of successful sortie missions
allied forces have flown over
Iraq and Kuwait. To date, over twenty
thousand -- dropping more bomb tonnage
than that dropped on all of Japan.
But having learned a fatal lesson
from the media coverage
of the Vietnam War, Army
Intelligence experts release
only a few flashy game-like
videos of night-time bombing
runs -- being careful never to show
what must be horrendous damage. Even
the language of this war is quaint:
"Bombing missions" are now "sortie
missions;" the "battlefront" is now
the "theater of operations;"
"killing the enemy" has become just
"neutralizing the enemy."
To gain at least some perspective
of what destruction there must be,
I slide from under my desk a
box containing family papers
and World War II photographs my
father sent back from Nagasaki.
The scenes are familiar
to most -- a city leveled to
ruins. But one photo, always
the last, shows a man with his mouth
wide open in what must have been
his final scream as flesh was blown
from his body in one great flash.
Perhaps if there were some stead-fast,
clear-cut reason for declaring
war on Iraq, instead of all
those superficial reasons given
by President Bush (which seem to
change as regularly as the phases
of the moon), I would not feel in
my gut the wreckage of all those bombs.

Day 21

"squeeze your nuts and open your face!"
AMERICA, I said,
"squeeze your nuts and open your face!"
-- look at what you've done!
you've elected
the reigning champion of Republican rhetoric --
a sorcerer of sound bites:
"I see a kinder, gentler nation
with no new taxes;
I see a New World Order
with a Thousand Points of Light."
you've elected the prince of patriotism
who parades around draped in an American flag
stealing your heart.
we are at war, and you are STILL falling
for the same old rhetoric, sound bites,
and patriotic bullshit.
AMERICA, I beg of you,
"squeeze your nuts and open your face!"
Look past the propaganda
and see a failed energy policy,
a failed foreign policy,
a failed presidency.

Day 23

It's 2:30 P.M. and all of my history students
have boarded their buses and have gone home.
Again there was no talk of the war today
-- allowing me to avoid the inevitable question:
"Mr. McCoy, are you for the war with Iraq?"
A war, they would recite, that is being fought
to crush Hussein,
to crush the Republican Guards,
to crush the threat of nuclear warfare,
to crush the threat of chemical warfare,
to ensure democracy,
to ensure a New World Order.
Allowing me to avoid asking the question
whether we are, in fact, at war due to
a failed foreign policy,
a failed energy policy,
a desire to protect American oil interests,
a desire to advertise our high-tech military arsenal,
a desire to distract attention away from a slowing
economy and growing unemployment,
a desire to restore a sinking popularity rating.
Allowing me to avoid discussing the necessity
of dissent in this nation, and the impact of
the Sons and Daughters of Liberty,
the Abolition Movement,
the Labor Movement,
the Civil Rights Movement,
the Women's Movement,
the Youth and Anti-War Movements,
the Environmental Movement.
Allowing me to avoid being called down to the
principal's office and told to keep my mouth shut.

Day 24

Support the troops -- pray for peace.

In nearly every state
there were pro-war rallies -- people
singing and waving flags --
hoping to keep troop morale high through
a display of American support.
But there was something strange in
their support. They were not showing
support for war itself,
but only for the troops sent off to
fight a war no one fully understands.
Even those protesting the
war made a point of saying they
support the troops, just not
the reasons for the war. Could it be
that we are a nation racked with guilt?

Day 28

I guess it would be logical
to think that the people who
elected you to be president
solely on the issues of the
American Flag and A Thousand
Points of Light would believe
you when you said that our
argument is not with the
people of Iraq, that our war
aim stops at the borders of
Kuwait, and that once all
Iraqis are out of Kuwait
our troops will come home.
But the awful truths are
that the people of Iraq are
responsible for Hussein's
horrific regime, that unless
all of the internal security
services of Iraq are destroyed
there will be more and even
worse leaders than Hussein,
and that our glorious victory
will mark only the beginning
of our long-term military
occupation of the Middle East.

Day 36

Today, Iraq accepted
the Soviet Union's
peace plan calling
for a cease-fire
and the complete
withdrawal from Kuwait:
"And what I
wish to know
is how do
you like your"
New World Order
now, Mr. Bush?

Day 39

Shortly after the order to begin
the ground war was given, the battleship
Missouri (the ship on which Japan signed
the formal surrender of World War II)
let loose with 16 inch guns on Iraq's
front line of defense. Within hours, allied
forces crashed through the weakened front, and the
Missouri turned her guns on Kuwait's coast-
line and on Kuwait City. What brought a
sense of real urgency to the mission
were recent reports of executions
of Kuwaiti citizens -- but won't just
as many, if not more, Kuwaitis
be killed by the Missouri's massive guns?
A contradiction easily over-
looked, but this war's full of contradictions:
Like how Western nations sold Hussein high-
tech weapons only to then wonder how
he was able to become such a threat;
like how our defensive role before the
election changed to an offensive role
within minutes of the last polls closing;
like how allied nations can go to war
to restore a government which allowed
just eight percent of its people to vote;
like how Mr. Bush can claim he has no
ill feelings toward the Iraqi people
but insist they pay war reparations;
or like how the media, whose job used
to include interpreting the news, seems
content with only reporting the news.

Day 40

After forty days of war,
Mr. Bush took to the air waves
to announce that the victory
over Saddam Hussein's evil regime
was quick, decisive, and just;
that Hussein's military threat
to the region has been nullified;
that the al-Sabah family
government has been restored.
Later, as TV crews showed
the moon-scape damage of Kuwait,
my gut began to churn once again --
knowing that now the real war --
the political war -- has begun.


David B. McCoy is a social studies teacher in a township school near Massillon, Ohio His most recent publications include THE GEOMETRY OF BLUE, Prose and Selected Poems, and a chapbook entitled RICE FISH.

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