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.