Musings on War From THE MANIFOLD DESTINY OF EDDIE VEGAS

Day dreaming, driving, dementia without dolor, a fare without an affair, a frolic, oh the calm creep of crepuscule, safe on the sunny side of the Sierras, the sunnier side of the century, great grandmother Gravel, of whom our Donnie knew nought but of Nevada nativity and a taxi trade, while now Donnie, nude, feet on the patio table, coffee near, Hermione head nearer, nuzzling about his nethers, late morning of the third day of mating, reading the Review-Journal, ‘Christ, listen to this, after the usual drone strike kills militants in Pakistan, war crime enough, listen to this: US soldiers accused of hunting Afghan civilians, um, they made a game of it, picking out—it says at random—victims, taking turns, just killing whoever they felt like, shot kids in the head, old men, ladies, quote “There were few men of military age”, so the game was a sort of psycho roulette, as perverse as it gets, as if the least deserving, the most innocent’—now she lifted her head, ‘You’re serious?’ ‘If it makes the newspaper you can bet it was ten times worse. Normally this kind of shit gets hushed up…wait, here: for the last half year at least…reported by British, suspicious sequence of deaths…Ah: someone’s talking. That’s the thing. Unnamed. In protective custody. I wonder where that could be, the guy’s got more guns aimed at him now than the entire Taliban…’

Of course, Donnie had no way of knowing what went through his great-grandmother’s mind when she drove a regular from Virginia City to Carson City, the prescience wasted traveling from brain to mouth, but how utterly fulfilling it would have been to have known…and been able to fill her in on what happened since, perhaps even pick her brain for more thoughts. Did she know of the Maginot line? Did she intuit the Schlieffen plan or was she just vaguely correct in assuming a sort of Berlin to Paris route? Had she any notion at all, gathered from the practice wars leading up to the big one, that war itself had changed, that material technique had surpassed mental technique, that the war would be won by the rats and viruses? Her man was the last in the line to have foreskin: what would she have made of that? Maybe her son had foreskin, too, we can’t be sure. Donnie didn’t and he knew why and how ridiculous the procedure was. He was not a man for the trenches, not at all. Did she know how long it was all going to last, and did she know that the interment in trenches was unsustainable, so that the next big war—there would have to be two, anyone could see that—would of necessity be both bigger and necessitate the slaughter of civilians to end it. And that the extraordinary advances in civilian slaughtering techniques—accelerant bombing from the sky, factory gassings, nuclear bombings—would necessitate the fragmentation of wars, would have a multiplier effect on war itself, so that the civilian killing devices (there would be so many more—so many types of mines and ingenious combinations of cunning culling creations of new and ancient like cluster bombs and napalm) might be used more discretely, and more often, that areas of the globe previously of little concern outside colonial offices run by gin and quinine quaffing clubmen would of necessity require extraordinary concentrations of weaponry, that finally all these casus belli casuistree would castrulminate in a perfect symmetry of killing by drone whereby the machines flown by men at desks killed people who knew nothing of war—into the valley of death rode nobody anymore, and such had never made any sense anyway: when you’re at war with a country, what good does it to fight a fragment of that country called its military? That was never war at all. War, true war, is one side against the other, nation versus nation, and in that war one must recognize the nation as its people, and it is they one must defeat, not some mullah-picked army, not some upstart tribal chiefs soldiers, not some ideologue’s converts; what you want is the family of the enemy people at table, preferably an extended family, a family compound, twenty or thirty of them, round dinner time, and you unloose your typewriters on them and five or six or three hellfire missiles interrupt the meal, deal the people a blow; or you wait for a wedding, then you get fifty to a hundred, and you hit them where it hurts, right in the procreation, right in the virginity; and then you’ll have a funeral, attended at times by up to two hundred if you’ve done your job right, at which point your typists can strike at the very heart of meaning, the death ritual, which of course means nothing if it is accompanied by more dead than the dead, multiplies the dead, making of the funereal epic of tribe and nation a farce.

But tell me: would great-grandmother want to know? Would she consent to die as she subsequently did, self-somewhat-satisfied, disappointed as she was that her son was a drunk and yet poor roustabout, that is to say not one to come out on top in a brawl lest it occurred between he and his wife, and even then not so likely? The knowledge of the Great War’s surprises were now known to her, yes, but she certainly had no idea what they really meant, that such extravagant dementia was but a catalyst for suffering even trenchrats and gassed and shellshocked could not prepare one, for the factories, the flames, the evaporations, the one hundred civilians for the single Kraut, the famine of victors, the thousands eaten by sharks and crocodiles, the hydracockery of mass war rape, the six hundred in a valley narrowing to ravine and foibe yet increasing their catch to one hundred, one thousand times that number, a garish eldritchery of exponentional executionism.

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