American victory in Vietnam! That’s right! Iraq too! We always win!
by Dave Reeves
originally published in Arthur No. 31 (Oct 2008)
Hanoi, Vietnam: I’m in Vietnam picking out a baby for my Prius. Problem is, the damn babies all look the same. Needing to calm down, I pay fifty bucks for what looks like weed and smells like weed; but when rolled into Bob Marley blunts only gets me high enough to watch television. I’m mad, until I realize that getting ripped off for illegal drugs in a supposed Buddho/communist country indicates a total victory of the Judeo-Christian/capitalist cause.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t declare victory over nothing. It’s not about fifty bucks. I consider occasional rip-offs to be like union dues in the underworld. I’ve paid money for a baggie of gravel in Amsterdam, purchased placebos purporting to be mescaline in Texas and ingested sheets of Georgia rat poison acid. Besides, I get ripped off for real back in California all the time, what with the rolling blackouts, profit prisons and wars without end.
It’s the constant miracle of Hanoi traffic that got me open to the hustle. Vietnamese people tend to ride their mopeds at full speed, in a scrum, about as far from one another as you are from this page. The stoplights are but suggestions, hidden behind the foliage, way up on the periphery behind the “go” sign. The side of the road a driver chooses is dictated by whimsy. Nonetheless, at each intersection the masses of mopeds weave through each other unscathed,with no cursing, nor shots fired.
I thought this symbiosis indicated that Buddhism was The Answer, because it’s about respect for the value of human life and yadda yah. It only takes one terrible joint to realize that the reason the Vietnamese people can ride like that is because their weed sucks. Don’t try that shit back in California. Those motherfuckers are high.
The buzzkill joint proves that no matter how many temples they build, how often curfews are imposed or how many pictures of the Great Leader they tack up, there’s going to be a street urchin with a bag of unsexed weed running the bait-and-switch for the love of Money. And that is America, no matter where it is! So, get the banner out, George. We fucking won. We always win.
We’ll win Iraq, too. Don’t worry about how. There’s lots of ways to win a war. We used to win wars with kill ratios and body counts, but this one is different. How would one account for the Shia-versus-Sunni massacres which occurred in the security vacuum following the initial invasion? Hard to say. Better we don’t keep score. There’s no body counts in this war because nobody counts in this war. Don’t make me say it again.
I’m not comparing Iraq to Vietnam. They are very different wars. For one, in Vietnam we had “strategies.” Consider “Operation Linebacker II” a round-the-clock bombing for the entire ten days of Christmas in 1972. Not just because Hanoi had been a very, very bad city that year. Herr Kissinger was bombing them back to the negotiating table. Call it brutal, call it insane, but it was strategy. I challenge you to find anything as elegant in the current Mideast doctrine. Bomb who? Back to what table? Where? It’s useless talking to our Middle East leaders anyway. We know what our puppet will say because our hand is up his ass.
Lord Kissinger has been pulling this “bomb them and feed them, no exit” quagmire strategy to keep us in a war since he took control in nineteen hundred and sixty-two. Boom Boom. Apocalypse Now and Later. And the legacy of his foreign policy lays strewn about Hanoi to this day. The landing gear of a B-52 half-submerged in a flower district pond makes for a fresh propaganda victory every time the sun comes up on it.
Yet, within sight of the pieces of the downed plane, young men poke at flaming piles of fake hundred dollar bills on the sidewalk. For the love of money. I hear victory in the heels of working girls clattering after me, chanting a hustle mantra that plays on my insecurities and my ego all at once like a Madison Avenue zinger: “Mister mister sir sir, good looking, you wanna get sexy party with me? Mister, why not? You think you are made of gold mister, sir? You think you better than me? Maybe you are a gay. Do you have AIDS mister, sir? That’s why you can’t love me, mister?”
Suddenly, the Prius is cramping me. I feel boxed in, with the world on the other side of a windshield. I need to weave in with the people and have the smoke of burning money blowing through my hair. So I trade the old gas guzzler for a moped and head out to the bush looking for holes in the Victory.
But there is Victory everywhere. In the little bits of candy-colored confetti dotting the mulch at the dump on the edge of town, the beginnings of designer garbage. I crept from town to town along the power lines with the kudzu, into the highlands where the dynamo of English language entertainment has morphed the fluid folk dances of the Hmong into the robotics of “You Got Served.” America has colonized what the French and the Chinese could not.
I go from town to village to shanty camp, careful to avoid the temples and their caustic holy water. I ride until I run out of power lines, which is where I thought America’s total domination would run out. But our victory is infinite, inshallah. One dark night in the mountains, way out, past where the power lines stop, I catch a bunch of leprosy doctors in cowboy hats, sitting around a campfire singing their ABCs. Then they sang “Happy Birthday,” “Auld Lang Syne” and “Merry Christmas.” Then, having reached the limits of their English, they sing a local folk song about fishing. They ask me to sing an American folk song.
I teach them the “special sauce lettuce cheese” Big Mac song, the “wish I could buy the world a Coke” jingle and “Patience.” And they love every bit of it. Because we win. We always win.
My question is, why bother giving heathens the satisfaction of death? All the self-immolating monks and suicide bombers are just drama queens jockeying for the close-up on our entertainment news. Realize that all we really need to do is declare victory, and leave.
Leave all the guns and tanks back in Iraq. Let them kill each other over some dirt. Sell them nukes, too. They’ll get one anyway. Nobody is running Pakistan, and proliferation is a fact. If you don’t believe that, ask any fratboy where to get Rohypnol.
We don’t need superbombs or uberplanes. We don’t even need smallpox blankets anymore. We are smallpox blankets. Americans know, more than anybody, how the dollar corrupts. What we need to do is just step back and let that bitch work.
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