Except for the part that kicked my ass, by flicking an already exposed and raw nerve of guilt, making me cry and impairing the rest of the evening for me. And I don't blame them for that one bit.
About halfway through the show, Smith announced that the next song would be the only protest song of the night, and he and the band covered Bruce Cockburn's 1983 song, written after time spent doing religious charity work during the Guatemalan civil war: "If I Had a Rocket Launcher." You know, all these years, all the times I've heard that song, I never paid any attention to the lyrics?
The reason that I had an exposed guilt-nerve for this rocking performance to get on was that this was the week George W. Bush's war-crimes confessional, Decision Points, came out, and with my being a news junkie, he and people talking about him have been all over my television for the whole week leading up to WindyCon. All week, people have been admitting what I've known since 2003: my country invaded another country illegally, knowing that its propaganda justifications were lies, just to change the political leadership of that country in hopes of installing a more pro-American regime, and around the same time, on the direct (and now explicitly publicly confessed) orders of the President of my country, prisoners of war were being tortured.
"Here comes the helicopter -- second time today
Everybody scatters and hopes it goes away
How many kids they've murdered only God can say
If I had a rocket launcher...I'd make somebody pay
"I don't believe in guarded borders and I don't believe in hate
I don't believe in generals or their stinking torture states
And when I talk with the survivors of things too sickening to relate
If I had a rocket launcher...I would retaliate
"On the Rio Lacantun, one hundred thousand wait
To fall down from starvation -- or some less humane fate
Cry for Guatemala, with a corpse in every gate
If I had a rocket launcher...I would not hesitate
"I want to raise every voice -- at least I've got to try
Every time I think about it water rises to my eyes.
Situation desperate, echoes of the victims cry
If I had a rocket launcher...Some son of a bitch would die"
Bush has confessed to ordering the torture of three people, but even counting only the victims at Abu Ghraib and a few other well documented examples, we've known since very shortly after the torture began that the actual number of people tortured by my country and in my name was at least in the low dozens. And using the most conservative estimate possible, the bare minimum number of Iraqi people killed by our invasion is at least 40,000 Iraqi soldiers and resistance members who died defending their country from us, and at least 98,000 civilians that we can document killed in the cross-fire. Nor does that count medical experts' estimate of another half a million people who died from starvation, disease, and out of control crime from what our invasion of that country did to its public infrastructure.
So there are millions of people, probably very nearly the entire population of Iraq, who saw American soldiers take actions that resulted in the death of their son, their daughter, their mother, their father, their wife, their husband, their grandparents or grandchildren, their neighbors, the people they worshiped with at the neighborhood mosque. Millions of people who have every reason to want to pick up a rocket launcher and make some American son of a bitch die for what we did to them.
And if they killed me for it, I'm damned if I could blame them for it. I probably deserve it. We all do.
At the time, I did everything I could think of, everything that I thought would actually have the slightest effect, to try and stop that war. And obviously it wasn't enough. But did I do everything I could have done, really? Or did I only do the things I had the guts to do? To protest a CIA coup d'etat in their country, Vietnamese Buddhist monks doused themselves with gasoline and set themselves on fire, uncomplainingly dying to make sure that all Vietnamese, and all Americans, saw irrevocably that they were withdrawing their consent to live under American imperial rule. I didn't try that. I don't know if it would have worked. The few people I've talked with this about think the news media wouldn't have covered it like they did back in the '60s. One person tells me that anti-globalization protesters have staged public suicides over their own countries' policies and there's a reason I didn't know that.
So, maybe even the things I didn't do, didn't have the guts to even think of doing back in 2003, wouldn't have been enough. Maybe there was absolutely no way I could have saved even one of those dozens of people from being tortured. Maybe there really wasn't anything I could have done that would have saved even one Iraqi child from being murdered by American soldiers. But I will go to my grave, whenever that day comes, without ever knowing that for sure.
I picked up this visualization from Alan Moore & Bill Sienkiewicz' "Shadowplay - The Secret Team" from Eclipse Books' 1989 expose on Iran/Contra (and other CIA war crimes, including the ones Cockburn was singing about), Brought to Light: the blood from 20,000 corpses will just about fill a large swimming pool. By that estimate, the Iraq war has murdered at least enough people to fill 25 swimming pools with blood. Some nights, I feel as if I've swum the length of all 25 of those pools. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Doug Feith, all the people who ordered these crimes be done in my name say that they sleep the sleep of the just, still believing they were right. So do all of the pro-war cheerleaders who carried their propaganda to the public, from Fox News to the New York Times. The soldiers who did the killing sleep more poorly, and the suicides of those who could no longer live with what they were ordered to do in Iraq and elsewhere are more blood on my hands. I couldn't stop them. Or maybe I could have, but I didn't. And so, no matter how well or poorly or how long or how little those who ordered this done sleep, for the rest of my life, off and on, I will sleep poorly knowing that I didn't have a rocket launcher, and I didn't make somebody pay.