“Operation Iraqi Freedom” would not be complete without the combined power of war wankers. The wanker army, consisting of retired generals, TV reporters, administration fuglemen, and national pundits, stroke and soothe the polity with kriegfreude—war glee.
It conducts this operation by either suppressing pictures of naked horror—war blood and guts—or delivering only the most fleeting images of it. Into this void it jams a wealth of interesting and true stories, the tales that are interesting being not true and the ones that are true being not interesting.
In the category of interesting but not true:
• Iraqi Freedom will be an assault the like of which you have never seen. This is true only in that Americans have never been on the receiving end of a strategic bombing. In all other respects, it’s just the standard Pentagon method of overpowering a 98-pound weakling.
• The Pentagon is only attacking “military and leadership” targets in Baghdad, and since the Iraqi people don’t live near them they won’t be hurt . . . much. This can only be true if one believes those in the Iraqi military aren’t human beings and that multistory buildings blowing up, catching fire, or collapsing to the ground in a metropolitan area is relatively good news.
True but not interesting include:
• “Bunker bunker bunker.” You know this as the military call to run, hide, and put on the gas mask because Iraq has had the audacity to shoot back with a rocket, perhaps loaded with a chemical. War wankers wore snorkels on camera while armor advanced virtually unopposed into southern Iraq.
• U.S. troops are better equipped and trained than their adversaries, and this should help them in combat. Stupidly obvious, a more informative statement would have been to admit that in Iraq, the U.S. faces an enemy more outmatched than Poland in 1939.
War wankers agonize over American casualties but leave enemy dead invisible. They yak about violations of the Geneva Convention without considering that the dropping of thousands of tons of explosives from on high requires a good deal of cold blood and inevitably inspires awful retaliations.
The war wanker dwells lovingly on wonder weapons from the land of the brave, prattling on from a green television stage or a blacked-out flight deck.
But the best thing about the war wanker is that he or she comes cheap. Statements like “they’ll be feeling pain tonight in Baghdad” are pennies on the word, with salaries almost always less than the cost of machinery of destruction. And some in this army even labor for free—the joy of the work being its own reward.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 25, 2003