A lot of people have been asking me to do a column on what's happening in Iraq. Most of the emails go like, "Why are they shooting at us? We liberated them!"I have to admit, even though I hated the war (and will always hate Bush for making me hate ANY war), I was pretty pissed off at the Iraqis too. The ungrateful bastards, maybe they'd be happier if we brought Saddam back if that's what they want, then they'll smarten up.
But then I went to the 4th of July fireworks show in Lemoore, and driving home I suddenly realized how these ragheads probably feel. See, I always loved 4th of July as a kid. Favorite holiday. Only time of year you could get firecrackers. I'd buy enough to send a few frogs to Heaven early or use as FX in my toy-soldier reenactments. But it wasn't just the explosives, it was pure old love of country. We'd pile into the car, my dad yelling and my mom complaining, my sisters starting trouble in the back seat and blaming me. But when we got there and I heard them play the anthem, I'd get choked up, thinking about my favorite American battles, Jackson in New Orleans, Bastogne, Inchon. Pure glory.
So this week I went to Lemoore to see the fireworks, and it still got me choked up. That surprised me. I'm not a big sentimentalist usually. Nothing to be cheerful about: hate my job, hate my life, hate just about everybody I work with and every face I see on TV. They weren't great fireworks even. And the sponsor was a casino, if you can believe that -- sleazy fakes posing as big patriots.
But sitting there in my car I was ready to kill anybody who said anything bad about America. What that showed me is, the way you love your country is way deeper than how you feel about the people running the country. I hate W., the little draftdodging oil-money phony, but if any foreign army tried to "liberate" the US from him, I'd die trying to stop them. I realized how your country is so much to you, even if you hate the fuckers running it, you'd sooner have them than a bunch of foreign troops.
And then there's the wuss factor. Getting liberated means you couldn't handle the situation yourself -- you're a pussy. I've sat through a lot of action movies, and I didn't want to be the girl who gets rescued, I wanted to be the guy who rescues her. Getting liberated is like getting castrated: maybe it was necessary, but you have a hard time feeling grateful. Like the French when we liberated them from the Nazis. They thanked us, but....
Even when the locals welcome the army at first, they change their mind later on. The Ukrainians cheered the Wehrmacht in 1941, but changed their minds fast. The Catholics in Ulster cheered the British Army in 1969, but changed their minds after the Brits killed 14 demonstrators. And in case you don't remember, US troops killed 18 Iraqis in Fallujah a couple months ago. 18 dead -- that's a lot of pissed-off relatives who are going to start digging up the AK-47s they buried in the back yard, looking for some payback. No wonder Fallujah is now the least-pacified city in Iraq.
Occupations always go bad, because armies aren't nice things. They were never meant to be. Armies are scary. Armies are where you dump all the guys you hated in high-school PE, the ones who thought it was so funny when you were too fat to do the rope climb. Or they're the guys who got an option from the judge, "Either you go to the pen or you join the Army." Now you've got 100,000 guys like that marching down Saddam Street. Foreign thugs with guns who don't speak a word of the local language. You really think you'd be cheering?
Right about now I can hear all you angry patriotic types limbering up your typin' fingers to send me messages like, "Saddam was a monster! Any Iraqi who'd rather have Saddam than the US Army is a loser raghead!"
Well, calm down and try to think like an Iraqi for a second. The thing is, Iraq ain't Ohio. THEY AIN'T LIKE US. Why is that so hard for people to get? Saddam probably seemed pretty familiar, pretty natural and cozy to your average Iraqi. Like the editorial-page types love to say, "Democracy is not an Iraqi tradition." So maybe they never saw why Saddam was so horrible. Just like most of you out there don't think it's so weird that a couple hundred oil-billionaires from Bakersfield and Texas own everything in America. Everybody's life feels natural to them, and that goes for Iraqis too.