The Day The War Starts

The day the war starts, the lady at the coffee shop will wish me a nice day as she hands back my change. The kids will go to school. We’ll drive to work listening to missiles hit Baghdad in SurroundSound. Wall Street will feel relief as investors are released from their “terrible uncertainty”.

The day the war starts, the usual gossip and laughs and little digs will course around the office. Lunchtime drivers will joust impatiently for position. The curious will tune in the news. They’ll wish they could see it on TV.

The night the war starts, we’ll take a walk around the neighborhood. The snow will flicker green from infrared scenes of the bombing, glowing from darkened rooms. Quiet trills of patriotic satisfaction will rise in private hearts, relieved to be on a familiar path to national success.

Down at the park, remnants of the opposition gather. Together we chant our small protest around the fire.

The day after the war starts, a rash of strange and deadly highway accidents will sweep the country. Surviving drivers report swerving to avoid starving Arab refugees trudging down the roadside.

Two days after the war starts, Iraqi children crippled by birth defects will be sighted just east of Denver, straggling down the shoulder of I-70, their hunched backs turned to the setting sun. By dawn, similar unexplained appearances are reported throughout the nation.

Three days after the war starts, the Secretary of Internal Perception will announce that there are no Iraqi refugees on America’s highways. The public should trust in the “rationality of our common Judeo-Christian heritage.” The Director of War dismisses the link between our weapons and Iraqi birth defects as “fantasies of the Old Left.” The highway carnage continues to grow.

Four days after the war starts, the flies will arrive. Swarms appear to descend from the skies. Buzzing black clouds settle over towns and cities, lighting and swarming on exposed skin, eyes, body openings. The evening news confirms the species: carnivorous blue bottles and flesh flies, cadaverina, vomitoria, sarcophaga, flies that feed on the corpses of the dead. Officials promise the sudden infestation will be “very temporary.”

Five days after the war starts, the fly population will continue to explode. A leading scientist says this event “would be expected in a place like Iraq, not America.” She is fired from her post. The highway death toll begins to recede as growing millions of haunted drivers stay home. The Arch Prosecutor warns that failure to report to work during wartime could aid and abet the enemy. “Rest assured”, he closes, as a blow-fly lights on his collar and crawls toward his ear, “we have the names of those whose behavior fails to support our troops.”

Six days after the war starts, rumors spread that flies have eaten babies alive. Most schools close. Flies darken the sky.

Seven days after the war starts, the spreading dawn triggers air quality alerts from coast to coast. By mid-afternoon, a mist of light crude oil has descended upon the nation, gently soaking every inch. Roads and highways close until further notice. People with breathing problems begin dying by the tens of thousands. The headlines trumpet, “Goodbye, fly! Will everyone be a millionaire?”

Eight days after the war starts, the mist grows to a torrent. The streets begin to seethe with silky rivers of dead brown oil. Rivulets of blood tremble like quicksilver over the surface.

Undaunted, Wall Street rings its bells and trades its shares. Proctor and Gamble continues to outpace the market. Oil futures begin to tumble.

The day’s editorials question whether all this oil may not be too much of a good thing. Scolding citizens who have scooped up unauthorized cans for themselves, they urge that more be done to properly channel and privatize the national windfall. Certainly by Spring we must be able to tend our lawns.

The following day, The One True Leader announces that anyone caught collecting “uncontainerized oil” will be shot on sight. The op-eds hail the splendid success of the administration’s war effort. The word “oil” does not appear.

That night, the crowd at the park overflows. Every last soul who still shelters some light of kindness or reason or decency has been driven into the street, maddened by shame, disgust, and betrayal. We surge together sobbing, shouting, shining with reclaimed power, until our throats begin to keen as one for the murdered soul of the Republic. Striking our torches to summon the conflagration, we roar back to the oil-drenched sky, “Enough! We refuse! It is finished!”

James Brooks of Worcester, Vermont is former marketing director of Vita-Flex Nutrition and was founding vice-president of the National Association of Equine Supplement Manufacturers. Currently Mr. Brooks serves as webmaster for Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel ( and publishes News Links, a daily e-mail digest of Middle East news and commentary. Brooks is also a member of the national Al-Awda coordinating Committee.