Mangala gnashed his mighty teeth, pockmarked by years of gritting amid the sand storms of Iraq, in a fit of rage and fury.
"Laid off!," he cried with a roar that broke windows from Basra to Babylon to Baghdad and beyond. "Eight years I've given all I had to this mighty enterprise, and I'm given a pink slip like a redundant file clerk."
"How good of the Americans to close the steel gate behind them as they steal south into Kuwait, declaring the war over and leaving me -- the God of War and Empire -- slouching in a sidewalk cafe like a useless old pensioner."
Mangala took a dainty sip of his tiny cup of strong caffeinated brew.
"But I am merciful," he spake, in gentler tones. "I do not seek revenge against the Americans who have given me the axe and denied me gainful work."
He paused, with steely glint in his godful eyes.
"For I know full well, having walked hand in hand with them in this enterprise, that they cannot succeed without me, and they know it as well."
The God of War and Empire gave a small, knowing smile as he surveyed the varied Baghdad crowd -- Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Kurd, friend of democracy, friend of Iran.
"The Americans?" he said. "They'll be back."
A new world
"Aiyaaayiyaaaa," he said, in a more analytical mood than usual."I have slept for six years. And now, the Sleeper Awakes, tossing capital letters hither and thither as though the century were decreased by twain or thrice.
"I awake. And the World is born anew. No more suffering in Mesopotamia, which lives in peace, thanks to Mooncalf Bush. Perhaps it has become a state of the Great Imperial House of Amerique.
"I awake. And the Afghans are at peace. The Taliban and the Northern Alliance lie down on the grassy slopes as doth the lion and the lamb, teaching the World to sing in Perfect Harmony.
"I awake. The World is happy and prosperous in its Busyness. Quick! I must arise, and see the miracles that Time hath wrought."
So spake Mangala, God of War and Empire, upon the Day on which He Awoke.
King Georgie's Warning
When Janet Jackson bared her breast
And showed she did not suffer lack
King Georgie cried, "For shame! For shame!"
And gave poor Janet a mighty whack.
When in old Saddam's Abu Ghraib
American torture ruled the day
King Georgie cried, "So bad! So sad!"
And hurried left his desk to play.
O Prince! You are not well defined
By words or looks but by the facts
For when you stand before Heaven's bar
Salvation hangs upon your acts.
King Georgie's Warning, by Julien Soleil
O Americans! How quickly thou hast embraced that which thou hatest. How rapid is thy transmogrification. For when thine intelligencers did settest up the liberated Abu Ghraib Prison as a place of naked torture and humiliation, thou didst insitute a system that differs from Tyrant Saddam's by merely the tenth part of the width of a camel's fart. It is a question only of degree, not of kind.
"Our Empire!", thou exclamest in thine overweening pride.
"An gang of evil children playing helter skelter with living dolls," I reply.
Thou deservest not thy name, "Americans", which hath in better times nurtured, taught and raised up a suffering humankind.
A Rich Tangle
Mangala, it should be told, is not the most intellectual of Gods. Yes, Mercury was well positioned at the time of his birth (if a GoWoE could indeed be said to have been "born"), but Mars, sad to tell, cast his violent and brutish influence throughout. Such is the luck of the spermish draw (or deish, should you prefer). So it goes in Valhalla's dysfunctional family.
Yet, there are times when Mangala uses his head, and so he did:
How interesting, this tangled skein. Army upon army, plot upon plot. My godson Frank Herbert, did he live, would be beside himself with happiness at so much fodder for future literary success. Baron Harkonnen would be in transports of delight.
Here is a truth for you: Empires are built on power, power on money, and money flourishes best when it is dampened by blood. Too little, and empire crumbles to dust. Too much, and empire drowns in the ambition of its undertaking.
Here is another: The great magnates of empire waste not a moment weeping for the dead, theres or the other's, nor a second wringing their hands over the fate of theories, such as democracy, or human rights, or love. Ask a magnate, Why empire?, and this is the reply: There's the profit.
Such is the paradigm that informs the Empire's acts in all times: Empire provides profit, profit requires power, power demands money, and money needs a sprinkling of blood, like incense to ward off malevolent fate.
The managers of intifada follow those truths and that paradigm, as relentlessly as does the Moon Calf who reigns over Empire today. They neither weep nor wring, and the Dark Robes write their own definition of profit, not as oil but as top power and the ability to control the bodies and thoughts of men.
Behind each--be it Moon Calf or Dark Robes--stands the inchoate folk, following only the paradigms of joy, fear, hatred, false memory, and, when their better natures rise, the paradigm of love.
(Mangala paused thoughtfully.)
All very pretty, but frankly, my worshipers, one can scarcely follow the game without a program. It's like this:
Moon Calf and the other stock in Empire's barnyard decided last year that their people would not stand for a long sojourn in this lovely land between the rivers. So they hatched a plan to turn Iraq over to minions cut to their own specifications.
From the folk of Iraq the plan drew outrage, for having been promised freedom, they saw themselves rewarded with unending slavery. If one is not free--and the occupied by definition are not--then one can only be a slave. My eyes see no gradations at the boundary: Sort of free is a lot like sort of dead, or sort of pregnant.
The Empire bided its time, for of time, it thought, it had abundance, and from its armed bunkers espied a youthful Dark Robe much louder and more courageous than the rest, a man who said to Empire: This must not stand. We are not your chattel.
And from Empire came a quiet and secret thought: This man must go. Using the tools of bureaucracy and law, Empire sought to wrest the levers of growing power from the young imam, and felt little surprise when that act stirred up a dust eddy. They saw it as an opportunity to rid themselves of a problem and thereby ensure their success.
For the money was growing a little bit dry, and it was time to moisten it again with a sprinkling of blood.
Others among the Dark Robes--armed and brutal men who remembered the days of Saddam with more than a little nostalgia, and other men, equally armed and technically proficient, thought briefly and concluded that this was an excellent opportunity to move closer to the Caliphate's return--joined the imam's revolt against the occupiers. The magnates of Empire had not been surprised by the revolt, but its vehemence was slightly more than their planners had expected.
And so the sides were drawn: "This Must Not Stand" in mortal combat against "This Man Must Go", now increased to "These Men".
From now, it is only a question of Empire applying well tested procedures, tested in Palestine by the Israelis and in Iraq itself during the push to Baghdad. It is only a question for the Dark Robes of applying equally well tested procedures tested in Palestine by Palestinians against the Israeli occupiers. Events will move forward with all the predictability of surgery once the scalpel has made its first slice.
For the folk, of Empire and of Iraq, it is a far more stirring drama: Freedom vs., well, Freedom.
For has not the Moon Calf said, "These people hate freedom and we love freedom and that's where the clash occurs."?
And is not the man who, upon finding an intruder who has forced his way into the house, seeks to throw the bastard out, also seeking freedom?
Where does freedom lie? In a ballot box, or in running your own country free of outside interference?
(Mangala shrugged his shoulders, his mighty and impressive burst of intellectual brilliance having run its course.)
Freedom, for this god of war and empire, is to have none above me.
But please, don't tell Zeus or Yahweh I said so, OK?
War by Another Name
. . . gave a shoulder-cracking stretch, then looked around at the bleak and littered Mesopotamian countryside with a grin.
"Ah, if it looks like a war and barks like a war, is it indeed a war?" the mighty God of War and Empire exclaimed, scarcely able to contain the glee in his voice. "Pink-slipped by peace, rehired by intifada. Time to get to work!."
A gentle laugh. "Those crazy Americans. They should have known that outsourcing would never work here.".
U.S. Forces Take Heavy Losses As Violence Spreads Across Iraq
Thus it was written.
How swiftly the Americans change. From fearful anticipation of war to come to a fear-inspiring cheer amid the charge to Baghdad to confused misunderstanding of events in a fallen capital to disgust over the ugly tasks of war's aftermath to--disinterest.
When the quest for political power and the bared breast of a singing goddess outshine the daily drudgery of occupation, then all will know that the Americans have returned to normalcy.
Mangala raised his head from the newspapers, checked his watch. Six months had passed, and the shame and horror of September 11th had somehow been washed away by the bath of blood.
Afghanistan, a land of peace and plenty.
Iraq, flourishing under the American's gentle tutelage.
Saddam. Teeth well checked, but badly in need of a haircut, as a guest of the Americans.
America itself. Engaged in lively Democratic debate.
Right, said Mangala, as he picked up his small drum, and began to sing:
September eleventh, on the day
America went limp
From the rigid heights
To Old Man Flaccid
We collapsed, and
When things go limp,
Guys get mean with
A blue-ball snarl:
Take that, Saddam bin Laden,
Evil French doer,
We stiff again. You lose.
Mangala set down his drum, and set forth to explore the brave, new world.
(Viagra 11th, by Julien Soleil, courtesy of DayPoems)
The Sleeper Awakes
Mangala sat up and, brushing the sand from his powerful form, gave a mighty yawn. The war had been a tiring affair, and even four months' sleep seemed somehow insufficient, even for a god of war and empire.
He blinked, rubbed his eyes, then looked about eagerly. What news, what great surprises might await him four months after the Coalition victory? With an Iraq at peace, guided swiftly to the ways of democracy by the beneficent hegemon, who knows what miracles the world had seen during Mangala's absence?
Israeli and Palestinian sharing the land as friends and colleagues, perhaps. Piles of weapons of mass destruction, uncovered in the Iraqi wilderness, now piled high, awaiting the cleansing flames that would burn them into mildly radioactive plowshares that glowed in the dark as an aid to nighttime farming. A new Saudi Arabia, guidng the faithful to a moderate view of ethic and morality. Perhaps, even, a penitent Osama bin Laden and his terror teams, brought to justice and proclaiming great sadness over their misguided deeds.
Ah, thought Mangala, after victory comes the fruits of victory. And he reached for a pile of slightly yellowed newspapers.
Mangala tired as the war wound down. Assured that major combat had ended, Mangala lay drowsily beneath the May sun shining brightly in the Iraqi sky. Mangala slept.
Does this look familiar? A crowd of innocents. A provocation from their midst. An exchange of fire. Many dead.
The Iraqi intifada has begun.
Problems of Empire
Mangala again left Washington and flew back again to Baghdad, like a demented commuter unable to find the proper spot. Looking down, he saw a commotion, an
These are the problems of Empire:
You know you are good. You know you have come to build democracy and the good life for those under your care. Though armed with a gun, you want most of all to help those in need. You are a big, friendly American soldier with stories of American altruism echoing in your skull.
When faced with civilian demonstrators who wish you gone, at a place such as the conservative Sunni city of Fallujah, when you see some before you armed with AK-47s, when you come under fire, even with death at your shoulder, you turn to your sergeant and plaintively ask, "Hey Sergeant, can we shoot?", seeking a moral compass for necessity. And with permission, you fire, and 13 civilians are dead and 75 civilians are injured, among them three young boys.
Perhaps you then pause, afterward, and ask, "What happened? Why am I here?" as the spinmeisters of either side praise your restraint or call you out of control criminals who shot anyone who moved.
You ask, like Pilate, "What is truth," and you no longer think quite as much of building democracy or bringing the good life or helping those in need. You are a big, friendly American soldier, trying to get through the day, each day, with a bit of idealism intact, until no one, not even you, knows what really happened outside that school in Fallujah on a fine spring night in Iraq, nor thinks about it, nor cares.
My poor friends, thus is life: You live awhile in idealism, hopeful of memories to come, and you live a while in cynicism, unhappy with the memories you've made, and you live awhile uncaring, sustained only by memories and making new ones no more.
And then you die.
U.S. Troops Fire on Iraqi Protesters, Leaving 13 Dead, Scores Wounded
Thus it was written.
Mangala, now back in Washington, D.C., listened intently as the squeaky voiced defense chief expounded on Iraq's future.
"You want the Iraqis to govern themselves," he said. ""f you're suggesting, how would we feel about an Iranian-type government with a few clerics running everything in the country, the answer is: That isn't going to happen"
Mangala smiled. "Ah, freedom!" the god of war and empire exclaimed. "Frank Sinatra-style. Free to do it my way. Thus has it always been with empires."
U.S. Warns Iraqis Against Claiming Authority in Void
Thus it was written.
If the Americans, having gone to war over weapons of mass destruction, fail to find such in Iraq, must they return the country to the former regime, with a graceful note of apology accompanied by flowers?
Empire, like its sires war and revolution, is not a tea party. Each births an altered future screaming in pain on a high mound of broken crockery, laced with bones and flesh, watered by blood.
France proposes U.N. end sanctions against Iraq.
Thus it was written.
Now Mangala, although mainly an Earthan god of war and empire, had a deep affinity for Mars and kept up his Martian connections, past, present and future.
He left the corner of 16th and J in Washington, D.C., launched himself out of the atmosphere, streaked through space and time, and soon found himself on his planetary namesake, eavesdropping on a conversation in a small, well camouflaged ground vehicle. He knew these men--Art, Coyote, Sax and Nirgal. Once, at a time in his present's past but our present's future, he had been introduced to them by a friend, Kim Stanley Robinson, who had done so much when Mangala was but a young god to explain the truth and meaning of the planetary Mars.
In the vehicle, the four seemed to be discussing a military action of some sort.Now Mangala had a deep interest in military affairs in light of events on Earth. He bent down and listened.
"Is there a chance we'll kill these miners?" Art asked, pulling at his big whiskery jaw.
Coyote shrugged. "It might happen."
Sax shook his head back and forth vehemently.
"Not so rough with your head," Nirgal said to him.
"I agree with Sax," Art said quickly. "I mean, even setting aside moral considerations, which I don't, it's still stupid just as a practical matter. It's stupid because it makes the assumption that your enemies are weaker than you, and will do what you want if you murder a few of them. But people aren't like that. I mean, think about how it will fall out. You go down that canyon and kill a bunch of people doing their jobs, and later other people come along and find the bodies. They'll hate you forever. Even if you do take over Mars someday they'll still hate you, and do anything they can to screw things up. And that's all you will have accomplished, because they'll replace those miners quick as that."
Mangala withdrew his presence from the vehicle and pondered what he had heard. In a sudden lapse from reality, he imagined the tight-voiced defense chief he had met in Washington, friend Donald, listening to Art, somehow transported to Iraq, say, "You go up those rivers and kill a bunch of people doing their jobs, and later other people come along and find the bodies. They'll hate you forever." And in his mind's eye, Mangala could hear friend Donald reply, "Henny Penny!" and "untidiness!"
Mangala sighed. Even on the old homestead, there was really no respite from Iraq. He launched himself from the surface and headed back to Earth.
Retired general Garner arrives in Iraq to begin reconstruction
Thus it was written.
Oh ye rich of the Earth, ye mourn the relics and productions of scribes and artists long dead, yet ye have little time in your heart to mourn the dead.
Museums and libraries are important for what they say to those now living. Thousand made dead in but a score of days past no longer possess the consciousness, the soul, the memes to serve as vehicles of enrichment.
Truly the lost treasures of Baghdad were the legacy of all human kind. Truly each man or woman of the World lost to the violence of war is also the legacy of all human kind.
Pentagon expects long-term access to key Iraq bases
Thus it was written.
Sunnis in Iraq protest U.S. occupation
Thus it was written.
Waterpipes, sewers and profit
It has been said, The business of America is business. Truly, it is the business of the world.
The award of a large $680 million contract to an American company to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure marks the true transition from war to peace.
When the story moves from missiles, tanks and death to waterpipes, sewers and profit, the normal has once again entered human life.
U.S. gives Bechtel a major contract in rebuilding Iraq
Thus it was written.
Power without end, Amen
Walking through the warm Washington night, cherry blossoms shining slickly in the dark, Mangala mused:
How to describe it? This event of overwhelming importance in the history of this world. How to show what the Americans have wrought?
Shock and awe, at the outset, tripped off the tongue, becoming the Shaq'n'al, a thing of monstrous threat and beauty. When it failed to produce the intended result, it became a joke, a potential trademark for a video game.
Yet the Shaq'n'al and that which followed were something new in the world. Think of this: A people now has the ability to cast terrible fire from the sky to destroy a single house, barely disturbing the structures on either side. A quiet spring day, a mild breeze, a flash, and death. A force unstoppable. Death without warning, without even a moment for dignified suffering or to make peace with one's god.
This is power on a scale wielded heretofore only by the gods, absolute, untamable power to be used without cost to the user. And if it can be wielded against the Iraqis, then how can the Koreans feel safe? Or the French? Or even Americans who dissent from the wisdom those who govern them?
Imagine a gathering of dissenters on the Washington Mall, and a government that wants them dead. One military order, one special bomb from the Shaq'n'al arsenal, and they are gone, turned to vapor, in a blink of time. The gardeners and the groundskeepers will have some work, but Lincoln's memorial will survive, intact and unharmed.
The Shaq'n'al means this:
The age of successful resistance is over.
The age of national liberation is over.
The age of revolution is over.
And, too, the ages of dissent, democracy and freedom.
What ages follow depends, largely, on the goodwill of those who govern. But be their will good or ill, it can no longer be successfully opposed by countervailing force.
Bush urges U.N. to lift sanctions on Iraq
Thus it was written.
Iraqi leaders gather under U.S. tent
Thus it was written.
Mangala strode the dark streets of Washington, D.C., the mockery of the squeaky-voiced defense chief ringing in his ears. "Henny Penny," the god of war and empire muttered. "The sky is falling. Henny Penny!"
He paused at 16th and J Street, an intersection accessible only to gods and wizards, calmed his thoughts, and spoke:
There is an arrogance to power. This comes as a surprise to none. But the nature of that arrogance is often less apparent. It is this: Power uses pessimistic means to achieve outcomes, and and insists that all within its ambit meet power with optimism. This is a form of unilateral disarmament. Power says, "I shall be effective because I anticipate the worst. You must bow, as an ineffective, because I command you to cheer my outcome with optimism and to put on a happy face. From these twin characteristics of power does much evil flow.
Major combat is over as Tikrit falls
Thus it was written.
Marines rescue seven U.S. prisoners
Thus it was written.
Looters ransacked the National Museum of Antiquities in Baghdad, smashing irreplaceable treasures from Sumeria to the Abbasid Caliphate. "Our heritage is finished," said the museum's deputy director, Nabhal Amin. "Why did they do this? Why? Why?"
Marines advance on Hussein's home town
Thus it was written
Mangala judged the war was well winding down and decided to leave for a time the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates. He launched himself up into the realm known only to gods and goddesses and flew to the west, to another capital city, much smaller and quieter than that of the land he had left.
Mangala aimed at a building designed in the shape of a mystic pentagram and entered a well-appointed office, where he found himself face to face with a gray-haired man declaiming into the phone in a voice wound so tight even the god of war and empire feared that it would snap.
"Friend Donald, friend Donald," Mangala said soothingly. "Calm yourself my friend! Hang up the phone and put your cares aside."
Mangala smiled as Donald Rumsfeld hung up the phone, gaped in disbelief, and exclaimed in a voice replete with disgust, "My goodness."
"Friend Donald, thee and thy troops have done well. Think of what thee and thine have accomplished! If I am the god of war and empire, as surely I am, then ye most certainly deserve to be known as the secretary of war and empire. A step up from defense, is it not?"
Rumsfeld continued to gape.
"I have come from the valleys of the Tigris and the Euphrates, my friend, where the people are going through an orgy of looting and reprisals. What thinkest though?"
Rumsfeld made a sound of disgust before the question had been fairly asked. "Well, I think the way to think about that is that if you go from a repressive regime that has -- it's a police state, where people are murdered and imprisoned by the tens of thousands -- and then you go to something other than that -- a liberated Iraq -- that you go through a transition period. And in every country, in my adult lifetime, that's had the wonderful opportunity to do that, to move from a repressed dictatorial regime to something that's freer, we've seen in that transition period there is untidiness, and there's no question but that that's not anyone's choice."
"But friend," Mangala countered."It seemeth thou wouldst defend the acts of criminals. No rule says a people must fall to looting if the police are removed. No law in thine world or mine demands revenge and reprisals for evil done by others. My colleagues and I tossed out an eye for an eye ages ago." Mangala paused. "And what is happening looks very, very bad, akin to anarchy and lawlessness."
Another snort of disgust from Rumsfeld. "I picked up a newspaper today and I couldn't believe it. I read eight headlines that talked about chaos, violence, unrest. And it just was Henny Penny -- The sky is falling. I've never seen anything like it! And here is a country that's being liberated, here are people who are going from being repressed and held under the thumb of a vicious dictator, and they're free. And all this newspaper could do, with eight or 10 headlines, they showed a man bleeding, a civilian, who they claimed we had shot -- one thing after another. It's just unbelievable how people can take that away from what is happening in that country!"
"A narrow view, Mr. Secretary, unworthy of one who would govern others," Mangala said sadly. "With power comes responsibility and the need for wisdom. This is the first law of empire."
Turning away sadly, Mangala left the office of the gray-haired man, who was snorting and gaping still.
Rampant looting sweeps Iraq
Thus it was written.
Mangala watched the disorder between the rivers with growing disgust, turned his face toward London and Washington, and spoke in a mighty roar:
Idiots! Fools! Optimists! You thought your liberation would bring happiness and stability to Iraq. You thought all men were made in your Anglo-Saxon image.
You expected the 4th of July. You got Helter Skelter.
Fate save us all from those who fail to expect the worst!
Nasty, Brutish and Short
Mangala stretched his back--he had long been standing with one toe in the Tigris and one in the Euphrates as the Iraqis, Americans and British had worked out their common destiny and he was tiring of it all.
Glancing down he saw looters in Baghdad emerging from a hospital with heart monitors, gangs forcing their way into private homes and emerging with loot, women raped, a 16-year-old boy caught out of his neighborhood beaten to death, and Uday's prize horses galloping free down the expressway pursued by disappointed looters. Glancing down at Najaf, he saw followers of one Shiite cleric converge on two other Shiite clerics and hack them to death, putting a damper on the planned reconcilliation meeting.
Mesopotamia was becoming a bit crowded, a tourist destination of sorts, as the famous dead and still-living thinkers dropped by to see how the affray was playing out.
In the crowd Mangala picked out Richard Wrangham and Dale Peterson, whose book "Demonic Males" Mangala had read with great admiration, strolling through the country arm-in-arm with Thomas Hobbes.
"Hail, friends!", Mangala said. "A shocking scene is it not."
Wrangham and Dale looked down at the violence, and as true Boston intellectuals, formed a theory. "Species with coalitionary bonds and variable party size--let us call them the party-gang species--are wont to kill adult neighbors," they said in unison. "The underlying formula that links the deliberate killers of the world looks clear, simple, and ignominious. Killing is possible in party-gang species because it is cheap. Power corrupts. Low risk breeds assassins."
Hobbes, standing next to them, sniffed at the ignominious scene before him, and said, "Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."
"Friend Thomas, thou hast said it best," Mangala said. "The life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."
Kurds seize oil hub in northern Iraq.
Thus it was written.
O Americans, O Iraqis! Now come the difficult days. War is easy by contrast with the tasks ahead of you.
America must choose:
Are you liberators come to help then make a speedy return home, before you outstay your welcome? Are you mentors, come to stay for half a year to get things started right before waving farewell as friends? Are you an imperial conquerer, prepared to stay forever to ensure the future goes your way?
Do you seek to mold the hearts of a people, as you did in Japan and Germany? Do you seek to install a corrupt gang, as you did in Vietnam? Do you seek to make Iraq safe for American business, to make it a fast-food bastion? Are you content to leave the Iraqis to work out their destiny, true to their culture and their history?
Iraqis must choose:
Do you welcome democracy, a rarity in Dar al Islam? Do you seek an Iraqi way, different from the rest? Will you split apart in violent struggles for power? Do you seek revenge on the former lords of misrule? Do you seek revenge on your American invaders or liberators?
You must ask, Who governs, and how? You must ask, Are we capable of governing ourselves?
Friends, you are both at the cusp, the decision point from which a thousand and one futures spring. You choose in the dark, but choose you must.
Pepsi and Hamburgers
Mangala glanced left to Lebanon and saw a man in distress, sipping coffee and shaking his fist at the television.
"Friend Mohammed al-Shahhal, what troubles you," Mangala asked.
Al-Shahhal looked up at Mangala and replied, "Those who applauded the collapse of Lenin's statue for some Pepsi and hamburgers felt the hunger later on and regretted what they did."
Mangala stood silent, lost in thought.
We Are Still Here
I hear you ask, "What is victory?", like a mob of small pilates concerned with matters less important than truth. Victory is easy to define.
For the Americans, victory means, "No one is shooting and we are still here."
For the Iraqis, victory means, "No one is shooting and we are still here."
Nothing more. Nothing less.
Change de Regime
Death, cheers and loot. Thus it is when the future comes crashing into the past.
Dancing in the Streets
Mangala looked down at the joyful scenes in Baghdad, people dancing in the streets, looters carrying off Compaq computers and dragging the head from one of Saddam's statues through the street, and his heart filled with a deep sense of relief that the killing was almost over and peace was nearly at hand.
For a god a war knows war, knows the pain of war, knows the suffering of war, knows the evil of war however good its results.
"No more war," Mangala said happily. "Next, empire."
Nature of the World
War is the great clarifier. It demonstrates best the nature of the Wir Auld, the realm of men and women.
Here is the nature of the world: It is a place where you can die for being in the wrong hotel or near the wrong restaurant at the wrong time by sincere people acting on the wrong information who later say, We did not target you.
Such is the nature of the world. Is that what you learned in civics class?
Authority melts in Baghhdad as U.S. forces tighten grip
Thus it was written.
War is a dangerous game, for the teams, for the spectators, for all near the field of play.
Journalists strive for non-involvement in the story, yet in war, they cannot help but be participants, because they are there. The deepest involvement in the war story is death, as reporters and photographers in the Palestine Hotel learned to their sorrow.
Be careful out there.
U.S. forces seize 2 Hussein palaces as armor reaches heart of Baghdad
Thus it was written.
Mangala sensed rather than saw a presence behind him.Wheeling around, he saw the glint of a axe, and holding it his fellow immortal Conan, newly arrived from Valhalla.
"Conan," said Mangala heartedly, if a bit nervously in the presence of the heavy weapon. "Behold this post-modern invention: humane war. They are liberating, these Americans, eliminating evil and building nations, all with great precision and kindness, as though they were gods. Such improvements over your day!"
Mangala paused thoughtfully. "Look around and tell me, Conan, what doest thou consider best about war?"
Conan rapped out an answer as though he had been asked the question many times. "Crush enemies," he said scornfully. "See them driven before you. Hear the lamentation of the women."
Mangala gaped at the legendary hero. "Conan, thou surely art a barbarian," Mangala said, and turned back to the face of humane war.
Mandate of Heaven
Like a debate, a rally or a burning flag, battle is political speech, an argument that must be answered. The American raids into Baghdad say this: We are here, we can go to any place of our choosing at the time of our choosing, and you can do nothing about it. It is a logic the Iraqis cannot answer.
Under the emperors Chinese governance held the theory of the "mandate of Heaven". When all went well, Heaven smiled upon a regime. When all went sour--corruption, famine and failure--the mandate of Heaven had been withdrawn.
O Saddam, the mandate of Heaven hath been withdrawn from thee and thine.
It is over.
Thus it happened: Having established a base at Baghdad's civilian airport, the Americans conducted demonstrations of force within the city, astonishing all.
U.S. tightens hold around Baghdad
Thus it was written.
Mangala watched as yet another group of American soldiers toppled yet another image of Great Saddam. "It is said that democracy can never be exported, but you have proven them wrong!" Mangala said, clasping his hands with glee. "Such playful boys. Know ye not that lasting revolution comes from the hearts of the people, not from the guns of outsiders? When the Iraqis were ready, they would have overthrown Saddam's icons themselves as a mark of their transition to democracy, as you did the statue of King George in New York at the outset of your own grand adventure. But you in your imperial haste have denied them the opportunity. To steal from another the opportunity to do right..." Mangala shook his head in disbelief.
U.S. troops open battle for Baghdad
Thus it was written.
U.S. forces put squeeze on Baghdad
Thus it was written.
Mangala bent down and lowered his face into Baghdad, into the secretmost hiding place of Great Saddam.
"O Saddam," Mangala whispered. "Surely thou seest that thy day is done. Why doest thou continue in this bloody, hopeless cause?"
Saddam looked up at the God of War & Empire, and said these words:
"In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate, fight on until there are no more troubles.
"O great people, O men of our valiant armed forces, O young men of Iraq, O mujahideen, who carry the honor and trust of jihad. O glorious women in your beloved, dear Baghdad, which is glorious with its people. Peace be upon you.
"The enemy, O beloved, tries in vain to shake your steadfastness and your heroic confrontations. Therefore, they started bypassing the defenses of the armed forces around Baghdad, just as in other Iraqi cities, avoiding confrontation, or testing and avoiding us where found us strong and holding fast.
"Instead, they pass us by and drop from the air here and there, just as we have expected them to do. The landings and the movement are mostly on the roads, in small numbers of vehicles and evildoers, in a way that makes it possible for you to resist and destroy with the weapons at hand. Perhaps you remember the valiant Iraqi peasant and how he shot down an American Apache with an old weapon.
"Strike them hard. Strike them with the force of faith wherever they come near. Relying on God, the powerful, the great, resist them whenever they come close to you and trespass upon your venerable city, O people of valiant and beautiful Baghdad. Stick to your principles, your patriotism, the honor of men and women, the faith and the honor of the oath.
"O people of Baghdad and Iraq, our beloved, you are now the tower of faith and glory. You will be victorious and God willing, they will be defeated and cursed.
"God is great. Glory is to God and victory is to Iraq. God is great. Long live our nation. Long live Iraq. Long live Palestine. On to jihad. Their dead will go to Hell, and the living will be covered with shame. Our martyrs will go to Heaven, and our living will have glory and pride. The glory and the approval of God, the merciful, the compassionate, will be yours, you Iraqi men and glorious women of Baghdad and Iraq.
"God is great, God is great, and damnation to the criminals."
Mangala stared a minute, and said, "O Saddam, I can see that thou art a poor strategist, but a rhetorician of renown. If high-flown words were missiles, thou wouldst have won already." And he stood up, withdrawing his face from Baghdad, and settled down to watch the end game of this great chess match called war.
Elan and Fear
Armies act and take their motive from elan and fear. The Coalition has known elan in its lightning thrust up the two rivers. The Republic has known fear as the invader sliced into its national body.
Now, at Baghdad's gate, each army learns its true worth.
For the Iraqis, all ambiguity has been removed: They known where the Coalition stands, they know the Coalition's goal, they know its power, and they need only to decide whether to sell their country cheap or dear.
For the Coalition, ambiguity abounds. For the mighty Republican Guards melted away, and where they stand and what their intention might be, the Coalition does not know.
Elan grows from the extremes of success and of failure, for in the end, when all is hopeless, an army discovers the inner sources of elan, discovers a willingness to fight to utter destruction.
Fear grows from the too little knowledge of the enemy's place and intentions.
Elan says, "We are at the gates of Baghdad. Victory is at hand."
Fear says, "It has been too easy. Where is the trap?"
This is the magic of numbers.
One 19-year-old American soldier, a woman, rescued from captivity.
Ten Iraqi women and children shot dead by American soldiers at a checkpoint.
Five hundred Iraqi soldiers killed in an attempt to retake a bridge.
This is the gradient of numbers: From heartfelt joy too a certain sadness to indifference. The life of one young woman from one side balancing 10 women and children from the other and overbalancing by far the deaths of 500 military men.
Five hundred lives! Five hundred lives!
What are 500 lives? Five hundred women, after 500 moments of passion, investing 375 years in carrying children in the womb. Five hundred moments of pain, then happiness at 500 first cries of life.
Five hundred first steps by 1,000 small feet.
More than 10,000 years of life, 120,000 dawns and 120,000 dusks, 360,000 meals. Family, friends, anger, love, innumerable prayers to the ears of God.
One battle. Five hundred deaths.
Baghdad-bound forces pass outer defenses
Thus it was written.
Justice of Nations
Mangala watched the preparations for the Battle of Baghdad, great movements of men and machines, explosions and fire by day and by night. A figure stalked past, drawing Mangala's attention.
"Thomas Paine! My friend!" Mangala called. "How goest the purest heart of the best of revolutions?" Gesturing, he continued enthusiastically, "What thinkest thou of thy countrymen's great justice?"
Paine sourly surveyed the scene. "No going to law with nations," he snapped. "Cannon are the barristers of Crowns, and the sword, not of justice, but of war, decides the suit."
Jamming his hat down hard on his head, Paine nodded briskly to Mangala, and stalked off in the direction of Philadelphia.
As the pace of action quickened south of Baghdad and battles raged near the site of old Ur, Mangala glanced to his left, toward Israel, and saw an extraordinary sight: Barristas in the Jewish State's six Starbucks, hurriedly packing cappuccino machines, coffee beans and scones, preparing to shut down operations as a result of war and lagging business. As Mangala watched, he could only think that this, perhaps, was a portent of cataclysm to come--when Starbucks pulls out, surely apocalyptic events will follow. But on further reflection, a portent of what, he was at a loss to say.
He turned his gaze back to the valleys of the Tigris and the Euphrates, which had never known a Starbucks, and whispered softly, "Soon, soon."
Forces resume Baghdad advance as Army takes on key defenders
Thus it was written.
Mangala surveyed the battlefield, and spoke:
The pattern is clear. The Coalition with the skill of a chessmaster shapes the board to its liking, and the Republic strikes here and strikes there like a snake pinned by a hoe, without purpose and without hope.
Saddam has fallen prey to his own illogic. If he stays in place, he shall surely perish. If his army attacks south, they will surely fail and die. If he moves troops to the north and withdraws, the city will fall and his moving will attrack fire from the sky.
O Saddam, thy days are numbered. Wilt thou bring down your people in your fall, and are they foolish enough to follow you into the abyss?
Clashes continue along supply lines
Thus it was written.
Mangala looked down at the scattering of corpses littering the Mesopotamian landscape, and his heart was disturbed. Seeking solace amid the small carnage done and the large carnage to come, Mangala nipped quickly up to one of the Buddhist heavens where he encountered the venerable Sariputra, who of course really wasn't, but to an unenlightened mind, possessed an illusory is.
"O Sariputra," said Mangala. "A few corpses now. Many corpses to come."
"Friend," said Sariputra. "What is a corpse but a body that has ceased to function? What is a body but a corpse that functions still?"
Scratching his head in puzzlement, as he often did when visiting the Buddhist heavens, Mangala nodded respectfully to the venerable Sariputra, and returned to corpse-spotting in the valleys of the Tigris and the Euphrates.
Suicide bombing kills 4 soldiers
Thus it was written.
Second Thoughts at Night
Mangala glanced down at the ruins of a market in Baghdad, the gutted buildings amid the midday bustle of the living city. His gaze slid along to a checkpoint where five had died, four young Americans armed with rifles and a young Iraqi armed with a bomb, and further to a place in Kuwait City where a missile had struck, and at Basra, where Iraqi men with guns in the name of Saddam had shot dead Iraqi civilians without guns trying to escape the city in the name of survival.
A sudden presence tugged at Mangala's consciousness. He expanded his mind, past the boundary of sunlight to the darkness one third a world away, and into a bedroom where a man lay in bed at 3 a.m., eyes wide open, muttering, "Why are we doing this?"
Mangala's gaze slid sadly back to the busyness of war before him. "War once begun has its own momentum," Mangala said. "Once war has begun, one should never ask why, but only how."
U.S. forces fight to protect supply lines
Thus it was written.
What Were They Thinking?
Mangala nodded sympathetically as Gen. William S. Wallace confided his frustration with the course of war and the irregular tactics of his enemies: "The war we're fighting is different from the one we'd war-gamed against."
"Yes, friend William," Mangala replied. "But what else did your leaders expect? Irregular tactics are the methods of the weak, and with such a power gradient on your battlefield, it is natural that your enemy would adopt them. Likewise, those who express dismay that the Shiites have not raised a revolt against the Iraqi government: The Shiites did so in 1991, and were massacred. Would they repeat acts that led to disaster?"
Mangala paused in thought. "Friend, from what I hear, one would think there are generals who are attempting to fight the last war."
You armchair generals! You set goals that true generals must meet, and then condemn them for having failed to match your expectations.
Success means catching Saddam. No, Saddam is irrelevant if the regime is changed.
Success means killing no civilians. No, war is killing, and civilians will inevitably die.
We are angering the Arab world. No, the Arab world will hate us in any case.
We have outrun our suppies. No, we are establishing a supplyline in good order.
We have too few soldiers. No, technology provides the punch for our present number to do the job.
We have failed to provide humanitarian aid. No, victory first, then succor.
I say to you, beware of such false goals, which drop from the lips like leaves from a sickly tree. Empires have goals large and small, long-range and close, local and universal, military and diplomatic, strategic and tactical, mandatory and optional.
In a world of complexity, goals change to meet circumstances, methods change to meet new goals. Such simple-minded analysis is unworthy.
Baghdad hit hard from air as ground forces regroup
Thus it was written.
Republican Guard units move south from Baghdad, hit by U.S. warplanes
Thus it was written.
Although not omniscient, Mangala saw broadly. He had escaped the small mindedness that often afflicts both cable-news commentators and the pickier sort of god. ("Rules, rules, rules. Jehovah, enough with the rules!" Mangala would sometimes say to his colleague.)
Still standing with one toe in the Euphrates and another in the Tigris, Mangala surveyed the field of battle, a week into the war.
You have accomplished much. The pattern of battle is thus:
The Americans have thrust strongly up the west bank of the Euphrates and crossed over, and have begun a second thrust up the east bank of the river. Having thrust, they pause to consolidate, as is the usual practice in battle when lines are extended and hostile positions passed by.
The British besiege Basra, but barely budge from their badly battle-battered bunkers.
(This, while not strictly true in a mortal, does make an immortally interesting sentence.)
More Americans have landed in the north, either to prepare for a thrust down toward Baghdad or to mimic the proxy war of Afghanistan.
The Iraqis so far forego mass engagements, instead harrassing through guerrilla attacks, a tactic practiced with great success when the British invaded Massachussetts a short time back.
The campaign has been costly in treasure but cheap in lives. When in history has an army moved so far, so fast, with so few casualties on either side?
This is war as it should be practiced, an exercise in logic rather than video-game reflex.
Sandstorm delays Army's advance; U.S. reports fierce battle in south
Thus it was written.
Thus, the Iraqis: "Accursed be those criminal villains who claimed loftiness out of lowliness and falsely took pride in democracy and the leadership of the free world. Indeed, they turned out to be the most evil beasts on earth."
Thus, the Americans: "This war is an act of self-defense to be sure, but it is also an act of humanity. Coalition forces are eliminating a regime that is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of its own people and which is pursuing weapons that would enable it to kill hundreds of thousands more."
Thus, the dueling dualisms.
Basra has fallen. Basra resists.
The Americans are failing. The Americans are rolling to certain victory.
The Iraqis, demoralized, teeter on collapse. The Iraqis, brave, prepare a long resistance.
This is the dust of war, the storm that obscures vision and addles the mind. Each observer sips battle through a straw, and reaches flawed conclusions: What happens here is the totality; what happens there does not exist.
Such shows of knowledge are not the way of wisdom.
With such a disparity of power, can the outcome be in doubt? Can the relative cost in lives and treasure be questioned?
A huge dust storm blanketed the battlfields.
U.S. forces push closer to Baghdad as Iraqi resistance proves persistent
Thus it was written.
The Difficult Road
Empire is not a freeway. Empire drains treasure from your storehouse and blood from your young. Empire costs, and the road to hegemony is filled with ruts and holes. You who seek empire, be careful what you wish for.
Would you resist empire? The cost for you is heavier, for after your payments of treasure and blood comes the heaviest coin of all: submission.
Thus it happened: The Iraqis and Americans engaged in heavy fighting at the Euphrates River crossing of An Nasiriyah. Marines died in combat. A dozen American soldiers were taken captive, one of them a woman, and were exhibited on TV, along with corpses. Iraqis also died, in numbers unknown.
Clashes at key river crossing bring heaviest day of American casualties
Thus it was written.
Consuming Your Own
O Americans! Do you call yourselves soldiers? Forward of your advance you throw great flames from a distance to consume the guilty and the innocent. At the headquarters behind the lines, your own seeks to consume his brothers.
O Iraqis! Do you call yourselves soldiers? At your lines of defense you cower and ponder surrender. Behind the lines your own seeks to consume his brothers.
Thus it happened: A grenade was thrown into a command facility at the 101st Airborne Division's Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait. One soldier died. Another soldier was arrested as a suspect.
Troops advance halfway to Baghdad; others close in on second-largest city
Thus it was written.
As the earth moved from dusk to night in Iraq, at Mangala's feet balls of flame grew in Baghdad then collapsed into burning pools, and elsewhere in the land it was the same, and it went on, and on, and on, as though there would never be an end to it. Were there screams? No mortal knew, nor did the gods. No body would be found and buried by loved ones, nor eaten by maggats, nor by vultures. All was flame, then gas, then nothing.
"This is the Shaq'an'al," Mangala whispered, "the miracle of shock and awe that changes the hearts of men, or leaves them forever changeless."
He glanced to his left. Lunchtime at 21st and K in Washington, D.C. A young woman, well buttressed in her tights, stepped into the health club as a well-dressed man bought food from the cart of a woman who had much mustard but little English. A mother pushed her baby in a cart, and a young man at in front of a small cafe, sipping coffee mindfully. Men and women smiled, or frowned, or kept a cold public face amid the gentle showers of spring.
Mangala again looked at the flames. "Same planet, same instant, same children of the gods," he said, shaking his head sadly.
Strikes intensify as forces move north
Thus it was written.
Mangala looked down from his great height and saw flashes of light and plumes of smoke and bright contrails in the night. "Such beauty!" he exclaimed. "Neither shock nor awe can mar this glorious sight. The Mesopotamian lights!"
Thus it happened: The American military's "shock and awe" campaign of massive bombardment began in Baghdad and other cities in Iraq.
Ground war starts, airstrikes continue as U.S. keeps focus on Iraq's leaders
Thus it was written.
Incident at Kilo 160
Blessings upon you, Ahmad Walid al-Bath. At the age of 33 you parked your taxi at a building far west of Baghdad and stepped in to call your employer. While on the line a missile came and blew the building, the phone and you to Heaven. Blessings upon you, friend Ahmad, and your wife and your son of 10 months, for you have become the first human sacrifice in the liberation of the country next to your Jordan, thereby fulfilling the words of the prophet Jesus to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Be proud, my friend, for the day of your glorious death was sealed from the moment of your humble birth.
Mangala stood on the banks of the Tigris River in the dark hours before the Mesopotamian dawn. Looking up at the stars, he saw several cruise misssiles flash past in the direction of Baghdad.
"War's first salvo," Mangala said, and he sang:
Touch blades, touch blades, my gentleman warriors
Touch blades in honor my swordsmen true
A flash of the dagger, assassins at night,
Have merit aplenty before this great fight.
Thus it happened: The Americans launched a "decapitation operation" aimed at killing Saddam Hussein and his sons, Odai and Qusai.
U.S. opens war with strikes on Baghdad aimed at Hussein
Thus it was written.
Now you must not think that Mangala, just because he was the god of war and empire, particularly looked forward to war. Like the rest of the world, Mangala's stomach churned, his brows furrowed, he looked at men and women and wondered if they were already among the future dead.
For the job of a god of war is neither to promote war nor to prevent it. Mangala observes as a naturalist does the typical behavior of a species, admires the admirable and dismisses from the realm of beauty and truth that which is unworthy. For a god of Mangala's job description, as for a general or a president, war is a project, one of human relations for the president, of science for the general, and of art for the god.
So like the rest of the world, Mangala waited.
Hussein scorns ultimatum as war nears
Thus it was written.
When bickering has run its course, when great armies are assembled, equipped and poised to strike, when all are silent save endlessly chattering heads ripe for disregard, when choice has narrowed to do this or do that but not do nothing, then comes the pause, the day of furrowed brows, the day of churning stomachs and yet unnamed fear, the day of war still of the imagination but soon to be made manifest. On that day many among you will walk, dead already, though they know it not.
Dogs of War
Mangala heard in the distance a baying and yelping, and mingled therein, words to chill the blood of mortals: "... no certainty except the certainty of sacrifice ... we are a peaceful people, yet we are not a fragile people ... fearful consequences .... the security of the world ... just demands of the world ... human liberty... liberty and peace ... defend our people by uniting against the violent ... accept our responsibility ... 48 hours "
"Ah," Mangala sighed with a broad smile. "The dogs of war give cry this night. There will be bloody work afoot." And he quickened his pace, heading swiftly toward the Tigris and the Euphrates.
President tells Hussein to leave Iraq within 48 hours or face invasion
Thus it was written.
Thus it happened: U.S. President George W. Bush in a television address announced the end of efforts to win United Nations support for an invasion of Iraq.
Stumbling Into Empire
A people builds an empire out of fear or greed. Those are the raw materials of imperial ambition. Fear builds an empire of straw, for it is a fleeting emotion. Greed builds an empire of the strongest steel, for from human greed there is no surcease.
O America, thou art so rich, thou hast no need of greed. And thou art so powerful, thou hast little to fear but fear itself. Why, then, dost thou stumble toward imperial glory?
There was a time when but a single rule arbitrated clashes among great states: He who has the power wins all.
How far you have come since then. You now have a politics of international relations: Votes openly bought and sold, mid-sized barons able to shut down any endeavor, and the most powerful among you haggling in the bazaar for the authority to do that which its power is perfectly capable of doing alone. It is unseemly, this politics of the great transition from dog-eat-dog to brave new world.
For now, puissant states who once raved across the land swinging sword and club where they willed now find themselves entangled in delicate threads that bind them to something that begins to resemble a global rule of law.
Mangala lay stretched out on a sofa as Secretary of State Colin Powell completed yet another call to Guinea.
"Friend Colin," Mangala said as his friend hung up. "The Army is ready. The Air Force is ready. Your people is ready. The beer and wine and tanks have been delivered. The snacks and bombs are laid out and ready. The neighbors, if not happy, won't call the cops if things get noisy. But the snooty folks from the other side of town are theatening to stay home." Powell from his chair gave a hard stare.
"Friend," Mangala said. "What if you give a party and nobody comes?" Powell sat in silence. "No matter, friend Colin, the answer is plain." Mangala rose with a grin. ": Party on!" he said and strolled out the door, pleased with the comfort he had given his friend.
Cases of Conscience
In the Hudson Valley, sitting across from John Brady Kiesling, Mangala stared intently as the young man explained why he had thrown away a 20-year career with the State Department by resigning as political officer in the American embassy in Athens. "Is the Russia of the late Romanovs really our model, a selfish, superstitious empire thrashing toward self-destruction in the name of a doomed status quo," the young man said. "Our closest allies are persuaded less that war is justified than that it would be perilous to allow the U.S. to drift into complete solipsism."
Later, Mangala stepped across the pond to London and stared with equal intesity as Clare Short explained why she threatened to resign from her government post as minister of international development. "If there is not U.N. authority for military action or the reconstruction of the country, I will not uphold a breach of international law or this undermining of the U.N. and I will resign from the government," she said as Mangala nodded with understanding.
Mangala pondered the conversations. "Two people of conscience," he concluded. "But War will survive their consciences, and Empire their reservations."
A New Game
Mangala flew through the dark night of Europe. Glancing down, he saw a small bonfire and two men, who appeared to be passing a bottle between them, slapping their thighs and laughing uproariously. Straining his ears, Mangala faintly heard, "Da, da, Jacques! We make the hegemon dance. Ha ha ha." "Oui, Oui, Vladmir. We make the hegemon dance! Hee hee hee!"
Mangala wheeled about in the clouds to investigate the odd scene further, but he could no longer see the two men, or even a bonfire. "A strange illusion," Mangala muttered as he resumed his journey.
We ain't done yet
Mangala was striding through the Bay Pines VA Medical Center in Florida, when he stopped, transfixed at the feeling that someone among the veterans of wars passed had sensed his presence. He looked across the ward and his gaze halted on Alfred Pugh, blinded by mustard gas in the Argonne Forest.
(Mangala knows all veterans, and cherishes them for their sacrifice.)
As Mangala drew near, Alfred whispered, "We were told that my war would be the end of warfare, and yet here I am, the oldest living veteran of World War I, and we ain't done yet." Mangala stood silent, then, nodding fraternally at the 108-year-old man, he walked away thinking, "Nor shall we ever be."
A tightly reasoned argument
O my foolish friend Dominique de Villepin! Ye say that war is always an admission of failure. Was failure admitted when the Allies invaded Europe in 1944? Whose failure? Or when the Prussians invaded France? Whose failure?
War is an admission solely of victory or defeat. Success and failure are made manifest at the end, not at the outset.
Would ye know war, friend Dominique? Know thou this: War is a tightly reasoned argument, and the army with the best logic wins.
Several years ago Mangala was strolling along the beach in Florida when he happened to bump into his colleague Jehovah.
"Oh, Mangala," said Jehovah, with a look of great sadness. "I am sore wroth. At last with America my creation had a achieved a slight degree of goodness and civility, and look what they have done." He pointed at a slight man bathed in bright light as he stammered answers to questions. "This man George hath taken that which is not his and brought doubt and cynicism to this fine land."
"How sad, Jehovah," said Mangala with the great sympathy he is famous for. "What shalt thou do?"
Jehovah pondered, then raised his right hand and said with an air of grim satisfaction, "I shall turn him into a burning Bush, and thus shall he pay for his overweening ambition."
"Stay thy hand, friend Jehovah," said Mangala with some alarm. "Let him not suffer so. Show mercy!"
Jehovah gave Mangala a glance and thought of his friend's kindness. "I relent, Mangala," Jehovah said. "I shall not turn him into burning Bush. I shall make him merely a Shrub. And while he shall not burn, the world around him will. For mark this well: People are responsible for their governance. As they choose, so shall be their lot."
"A harsh philosophy, Jehovah," Mangala said to his friend, shaking his head, and as he took his leave, he glanced back and saw his friend Jehovah staring hard at Miami and muttering "Alas, alas, Babylon, thou might city Babylon," and much more in that vein.
Mercy and no mercy
As Mangala wandered about the good earth, he met his friend George, a man of passion and resolve.
"Well met, friend," Mangala said in greeting. "I have wondered this day about the good earth, and there is great turmoil here and there this day."
"There is, friend," good George replied. "I, too, have gazed about the earth, and there is much turmoil on the earth today. I must protect my people. I will not leave the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons."
"But friend," said Mangala. "When have your people ever known peace, and when have they ever not been at someone's mercy?"
Good George kept a moment of puzzled silence, and then said, "I must protect my people. I will not leave the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons."
Mangala smiled, and took his leave.
When Mangala came down from heaven he watched the carnage in Flanders Fields and in Normandy. Then, with a glance at his watch, which said 19:74, he strolled into Iraq, where he saw the French Premier Chirac negotiating nuclear reactor deals with the Iraqi Vice President Saddam. (For Mangala, a year is but a minute.) As Saddam rose and Chirac rose and fell and rose again, Mangala followed their progress and their profitable deals, and he thought, "What good friends. How happy they are together." By this time Mangala's watch had crossed 20:, and he saw the Frenchman once again helping his Iraqi friend. Mangala looked around with a smile and said: "Friendship is a beautiful thing."
Thus it happened: France, Germany and Russia sought to block the United States from winning United National support for an invasion of Iraq.
The power of preemptive war is the power to govern. What is government but the preemption of private violence? O America! By girding for battle by right on the possibility another might comptemplate evil, you are rushing pell-mell to seize the global imperium. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but would it not be better to open your eyes as you rush, lest you trip and fall?
Bomb first, ask questions later
O America! Here is thy motto: "My country 'tis of thee, bomb first and ask questions later". In the short years since 1945, thou hast bombed these countries:
China 1945-46, Korea 1950-53, China 1950-53, Guatemala 1954, Indonesia 1958, Cuba 1959-60, Guatemala 1960, Congo 1964, Peru 1965, Laos 1964-73, Vietnam 1961-73, Cambodia 1969-70, Guatemala 1967-69, Grenada 1983, Libya 1986, El Salvador 1980s, Nicaragua 1980s, Panama 1989, Iraq 1991-2003, Sudan 1998, Afghanistan 1998 and Yugoslavia 1999.
Words for war
These are the words for war: War itself, conflict, armed conflict, military confict, intervention, armed intervention, arms, the sword, quarrel, struggle, warpath, real war, hot war, aggressive war, war of conquest, war of expansion, imperialist war, preemptive war, limited war, war of containment, localized war, all-out war, major war, general war, the disaster. Is there any good in these?
War on both hands
War on your right hand, war on your left hand. What's an empire to do? It comes as no surprise to Mangala that "imperial overreach" is a synonym for disaster.
How empire happens
You Americans! You differ not a whit from the British, or the Romans,
falling into Empire clueless of your path. Mangala saw their blind gropings,
and Mangala sees yours.
Empires are forced on a people by opportunity and necessity. Power expands
because that is the nature of power.
The most powerful dog on the block without effort accepts opportunities to
gain territory and authority. Ambition sees him and whispers, He is the dog
to beat. We wish to take his position and be free of his sway.
To survive, by unerring necessity, he presses to expand his power beyond all
reasonable bounds. So it is that republics, from the best of motives,
Thus is a dog's life. Thus is yours.
Global public opinion in the making
Mangala received an email one day from his friend Becca.
Date: Tue, 4 Mar 2003 06:45:09 -0500
Sender: Buddhist Academic Discussion Forum
Subject: [BUDDHA-L] Please sign emergency petition to the U.N.
I'm hoping you can join me on an emergency petition from citizens around the
world to the U.N. Security Council. The petition's going to be delivered to
the 15 member states of the Security Council on THURSDAY, MARCH 6.If
hundreds of thousands of us sign, it could be an enormously important and
powerful message -- people from all over the world joining in a single call
for a peaceful solution. But we really need everyone who agrees to sign up
today. You can do so easily and quickly at:
The stakes couldn't really be much higher. A war with Iraq could kill tens
of thousands of Iraqi civilians and inflame the Middle East. According to
current plans, it would require an American occupation of the country for
years to come. And it could escalate in ways that are horrifying to
imagine. We can stop this tragedy from unfolding. But we need to speak
together, and we need to do so now. Let's show the Security Council what
world citizens think. Thank you,
"How wonderful!", Mangala exclaimed. "This is truly global public opinion in the making."
Having captured the hapless Khalid, ye crow in triumph and speak of torture
to loosen his tongue. Know ye not that al Quaeda is a many headed hydra? A
master of netwar? Torture would gain ye little and cost ye a small corner of
One day a group of young people came to Mangala, fresh from a 17-hour session playing Ultima Online, and said, "O Mangala, tell us about war."
"War is simple," Mangala replied.
This is a warrior.
This is what warriors do.
The young gamesters walked away silently pondering Mangala's words.
Red meme walking
Walking past a television screen, Mangala heard CNN promote a debate on whether Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the #3 person in al Quaeda, should be tortured.
"Red meme walking!", Mangala exclaimed.
Rainbow of memes
The rhetoric of war is the toolkit of memes. When the tongue-tied son of a tongue-tied father finds his voice, when Cato the Elder deploys his troops with a sneer and a winning smile, when de Torquemada, having draped the nude statues of Justice in a proper modesty, promises to root all evil out of our midst, each speaks from a place in the spectrum of memeplexes that governs the Vir Auld, the root of the World, the fleeting “Age of Man” in opposition to the good Earth, which for us is eternal.
These are the ideas of Ken Wilber, who presented a rainbow of memes in his book
A Theory of Everything.
The red meme speaks of hatred and fear, the language of antique revenge. He tried to kill my daddy. He gassed his own people. Everything changed on September 11.
The blue meme speaks of rules and the judgment of a just god: He has had (pick a number) of (years or months or days) to come into compliance. Resolution 1441 says he must declare all weapons of mass destruction. It is too early for war; we must give the inspection regime a chance. Any recent statement of Osama bin Laden. Material breach.
The orange meme speaks of logic and profit: We will help the Iraqi people create a free and democratic nation. It's not about oil, but we cannot stand by while the world's economy is held hostage by a tyrant.
The green meme speaks of peace, consequences and conditional love: We are in Baghdad as voluntary human shields to protect the Iraqi people. War is an admission of failure, there is no excuse for war. Those who would make war are criminals.
The higher memes—yellow, turquoise and beyond—have been mainly silent in these mad days. Or perhaps they speak and we cannot hear. Yellow and beyond speak the language of value and acceptance. Each meme has its role in the Vir Auld, and each has value on its own terms. The higher memes guard against the runaway passions of the red, the rigid rule-making of the blue, the logical twists of the goal-pursuing orange and the self-righteous love of the green. They must be guided, and perhaps even warred upon, but always with unconditional love and with a deep appreciation of their merits.
Wars are sold like this: Politicians favoring war use blue meme rhetoric to achieve orange meme purposes and soothe red meme fears while politicians opposing war use green meme rhetoric to achieve orange meme purposes and revolutionaires use red meme methods to promote blue meme goals.
Empire and its handmaiden, War, are a moral dilemma of the highest order: How do you conquer evil without yourself doing evil? Is your evil more justified than your opponent's? How do you rank evil? What is its taxonomy, its genus and species?
If you can answer these questions questions with moral certainty, then you are not qualified to conduct war. Only the doubters are truly qualified to walk the path of Empire.
War of the Anglo-Saxons
Listening to National Public Radio at the start of the day, Mangala heard an interview with Nicholas von Hoffman: "This is the war of the Anglo-Saxons. The Anglo-Saxons are saying to the world: Your religion is no good. We'll get you a better religion. Your government is no good. We'll get you a better government. We'll get you better social arrangements. We'll show you how your marriages ought to work." And von Hoffman added that the war is a project of "American and British upper-class Anglo-Saxonism."
"Most interesting," Mangala thought "Three cheers for Empire. And keep a stiff upper lip."
Later, he read an article by Von Hoffman in the New York Observer, and looked at the web site o fthe NPR program that interviewed Hoffman, Been There, Done That.
Logic of empire
This is the logic of Empire: Throw down your weapons, for you need no defense from the righteous. Throw out your king, for he is evil and thinks not of your happiness. He will not step down without refuge? The unrighteous shall have no asylum. Revolt and cast him out. If his soldiers attack you, remember that our hearts are with you. You
hunger and have no food? You shall be fed in the hour of our victory. Trust us.
This is the logic of Empire: We demand. You choose. We win. You lose.
Tongue-tied son of a tongue-tied father
The tongue-tied son of a tongue-tied father, to the purple born, leads a mighty host against ancient tyranny and proclaims: We will do well by you. We will make you just like us, and you will know our happiness.
When the righteous forces gather
When the righteous forces gather, when evil raises its eyes from the swamp and sees enemies on every side, when the faint-hearted find silence and courage among their many words, when the mother hugs her first born son in parting and soothes his younger sister with whispered
promises, "All will be well, all will be well," when Babylon's long sadness is again rent by the sharp odor of fear, then shalt thou tremble, then shalt thou know that Empire is on the march, and its millstones grind exceedingly fine.
Thus it happened: U.S. President George W. Bush, in an address to the Congress, declares Iraq to be part of an "axis of evil".