A Great Sense of Relief

Early the next morning he presses a button and a family’s home, with them inside, is destroyed. He thinks nothing of it but duty, completing his assigned task. He could have sat in front of me in physics class, struggling with Newton’s laws just like me. And now Newton’s laws have been harnessed to kill.

The night before he laughed. He exchanged high-fives with his buddies and cracked jokes and passed the time to chase away the uneasiness all of them felt. On the brink of battle any soldier knows he is about to break one of the ten commandments and must prepare himself. Some atone in advance, some choose cowardice, and some hide behind a shield of humor and masculinity. It’s something they’ll shed tears over when their grandchildren aren’t looking, if they make it that long.

The jokes and insults and lies continue in a flurry, the young pilots trying to psyche themselves up for the task at hand. Markers are passed around and they gather around the instrument of death. Everyone is given a turn. Even the deck hands, the welders, the cook. They all want to share in the glory of battle, even if they won’t be pushing the button. But they can proudly tell their grandchildren they cooked the meal for the pilot who killed that family, if they make it that long.

Insults and provocations are written across the bombs, the missiles. “Die Saddam,” and “Suck This,” grace one of the few imports to Iraq that isn’t screened by a special U.N. committee in New York. Early the next morning it will be dropped from on high, like a child dropping rocks on the scattering ants, and then continuing to poke the crushed carcass for spite.

The bombs and missiles will fall on the few shreds of decency left in Iraq. The few remaining sources of water or power, whatever infrastructure is left to bomb. Most of it was destroyed long ago, and what’s left has been in a state of disrepair–spare parts being blocked by a special U.N. committee in New York that fears Saddam will use water purification parts to hurt his people or attack his neighbors.

And the bombs or missiles might miss. Or maybe they hit their target dead on, but the target isn’t what we thought it was. It isn’t an antiaircraft unit, it’s a family’s home–well, it used to be a family’s home. Apparently the family can “Suck This.” Even if it did strike its target, I wonder what the dying Iraqi soldiers thought about “Suck This.” Maybe they accepted the present with open arms, knowing that if a special U.N. committee in New York allowed this into the country, it must therefore bring a great sense of relief. And so it does.

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