I couldn’t wait to get to Iraq – after all, that’s where all the action is (not to mention the oil). So much to write about. (And yes, deep down, I did harbor vainglorious notions of returning with enough material to write a Great American Novel, should I survive, but I don’t know what it is about writing novels – they seem so damn hard to put together, I can’t quite figure out why, can’t figure out what makes it work. Is it my style? Maybe my mode, or linguistic orientation or something. I start writing about the novel bravery of our troops and the interminable perfidy of the enemy and everything starts sounding like cardboard, even to my own tin ear. All I can say is there must be some extra sense to writing a novel that I have as not yet developed. I don’t mind really since I know being a reporter and pamphleteer is a noble and great thing when performed in service to the mighty state – of, to, by and for the state. Besides, who’s not to say our work is not more powerful, more important, more moving, and – dare dream it – even more artistic in its own bare bones and muscular way than any novel can hope to be? And so I continue to write reports with conviction and daring-do, if I must say so myself. I continue to spread the good word about the great US invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the US conquest of the oil-endowed bulk of western Asia in general, that is, the Middle East.
No I am no novelist, for it is far too difficult for me to get away from facts – and facts galore you shall have! facts we all need, and the world too. I feel that the vital facts of the world are far too crucial, far too staggering for me to much care if I have any difficulty mustering a novel or much of any novelistic psychological insight – nice but essentially superfluous – or special profundity of atmosphere, or virtuosity of setting, or mastery of plot details and events, or any extraordinary capacity for arranging the panorama and thrust of the world in any compelling narrative sweep, in any arc of explosive insight and delight. The overrated overblown novel! And so we shall have none of that fancy business here but instead engage in something equally momentous – the crucial facts of the main matters at hand facing all the world as expressed in sheer actual telling detail. And so I gladly rise to the occasion of settling for reporting as best I can about the world it is my great privilege to know and encounter by way of the most relevant and matter-of-fact details of our day, as borne out in the myriad crises and happy challenges of our time. The novel has nothing on me but what I lack, which, in any case, is of no real concern to anyone but myself. And possibly my employer.
So off to Iraq I went to embed as deep as I possibly could into everything Iraq related. I took off in that great and honorable tradition of an independent journalist embedding with an invading and occupying military force of unparalleled power blasting through an impoverished and stricken land. We blew up the country and thus conquered it, subdued it, destroyed it – no matter that they started blowing us up right back. We can handle it. We’re survivors – most of us.
Iraq may not make it, frankly, but we will. Most of us. Probably. There’s a real possibility.