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.