September 2003. Our war starts in Baghdad — six months into the war — at a pool party, held in the shadow of a presidential palace on the Tigris.
An army R&B band belts out a ’60s soundtrack.
Hot dogs are on the grill.
Soldiers cannonball into the water. When the band strikes up “My Girl”, the pool fills with bodies — white, black and brown — clapping and swaying to the music.
I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day…
Cut the background out of the picture, ignore the attack helicopters skimming along the river and they see the postcard America they wish they had…
…but unity is an illusion.
Fast forward five years later. 2008. The pool is empty. It was mortared years ago. The ground it stood on is called Fort Apache now. R&B has been replaced with the sounds of car alarms going off every time an IED hits the neighborhood.
Gone too are the young men who danced there — some dead, some wounded; all war weary.
Cut to an endless Texas highway. One hand on the steering wheel, the other holding a weapon that’s not there.
“We were asked to believe that the was was over.
We laughed. For we were the war.” Ernst Junger, 1920
In Baghdad, all they ever talked about was home. All they had to do was get there and everything would be OK.
But then they came home.
As if the war had never happened.