March 25, 2002
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"It's a shame," I said to Yyuran, my Martian friend.
"What's a shame?"
"That a nation that hates war as much as we do has to get involved in this," I said, waving toward the TV, which was showing U.S. planes bombing the enemy in Afghanistan. Or showing the bomb blasts anyhow; the planes were too high to see.
"The United States hates war?"
"Of course. Americans are one of the most peaceful people on earth," I said proudly.
"You are in a war right now."
"Well, yes. But it isn't our fault; we were attacked."
"Afghanistan attacked you?" he asked with infuriating fake innocence. We'd been over that before. But before I could say anything, he rushed on.
"And you were in a war three years ago."
"Unh..." I had to think a minute. "Oh, yeah. A little bit of bombing of Yugoslavia. It wasn't much of a war."
"Your little bombing went on for 78 days, killed a lot of people, destroyed bridges, hospitals, TV stations...the Chinese Embassy," he said.
"I guess. Whatever. But it was in a good cause."
"What cause was that?"
"I don't know exactly," I admitted. "Something about genocide or something like that. But everything is straightened out now."
"Everything is straightened out...!" he said in what was almost a shout. Then he shrugged. A Martian shrug is something to see. It turns him into a corkscrew. Freaky.
"Before that there was the Panama War, the attack on Granada, the invasion of Haiti, the war against Iraq..."
"Desert Storm," I said.
"Pretty name," he said and I started to smile. But he was just being sarcastic again. "The war in Vietnam, Korea, the attack on Libya, Sudan..."
"Sudan?" I asked, puzzled.
"Cruise missiles," he said.
"Oh, that was Clinton, just trying to make us forget about the cigar and...never mind," I said primly. "A few missiles. Didn't amount to much."
"You blew up an aspirin factory."
"Exactly. No big deal."
"Not as long as it wasn't your factory," he said. Sometimes he was such a wimp. "And then there are the wars you have fought indirectly -- El Salvador, Nicaragua -- and the governments you've helped overthrow...Chile..."
"What's your point?" I asked. He was getting tiresome.
"Doesn't sound peaceful to me."
"Well, we didn't want to fight any of those wars," I said defensively. "They were forced on us."
"All 70 of them?"
"70! Where do you get 70?" I asked hotly. He was blowing smoke.
"I found a list on the Internet of 70 nations you've fought in or attacked in the past 50 years," he said.
I'm sorry I ever showed him how to use my computer. "Yeah, well, somebody has to keep the world in line. Somebody has to protect all the little nations."
He twisted his nose in a frown. "You're protecting nations by attacking them?"
"You just don't know enough of human history to understand," I said earnestly. He's a nice enough guy, but he's so naive. "And this new war, as you well know, only happened because we were attacked. If people would leave us alone, we wouldn't have to do so much fighting."
"Leave you alone? You have military bases in more than 100 countries around the world," he said. "I would think that would make it hard to leave you alone."
"I wish we didn't have to do that. But people keep asking us in to protect them."
"Or their governments do anyhow," he said.
"People, governments, what's the difference?"
He gave another corkscrew shrug; it made me wish I had a drink. "A lot of those governments are run by dictators who brutalize their own people," he said. "You're protecting tyrants."
"You can't make an omelette...." I broke off, remembering how he'd gone after me for that phrase another time. "Sometimes you have to deal with rather nasty people to achieve a greater end," I said.
"Defeating communism, destroying terrorism."
"Making the world safe for American corporations, making money for defense contractors, extending the American empire."
Damn it, sometimes he goes too blasted far. "I'm not going to talk to you about this any more," I said. "You just don't understand us well enough yet. But you will, if you stick around long enough."
He just smiled. I'm not even going to try to describe a Martian smile.
Deck Deckert has spent nearly two decades as copy editor, wire editor and news editor at several metropolitan newspapers, including the Miami Herald and Miami News, before becoming a freelance writer. His articles and stories on everything from alligator farming to UFOs have appeared in numerous U.S. publications. He has written two young adult novels under a pen name, and co-authored a novel about the NATO war on Yugoslavia, Letters from the Fire, with Alma Hromic, who he met in an Internet discussion group. Deckert and Hromic subsequently married and are writing a book about their experience with Internet romance, Cyberdance.
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