Ghouta

I thought I knew him. I thought I looked into his soul. He was the first foreign leader to call my office personally after our country was under attack. He offered me extensive military intelligence, even troops, whatever it took to strike at the enemy.
”This is nothing to do with diplomacy,” he told. ”Sometimes two people from different worlds recognize a common enemy. This is about the greater good. This is God sending us a sign to stop being so stubborn and work together.”
On our first summit-meeting we spoke about God. History told me that his country despised religion, that it closed down churches, hunted down religious dissidents. The last century his country was dominated by a secular utopia. People had to confirm to a Godless universe or else the State will make you disappear. Like many great powers, it went too far to submit its people. The history of my country is in many ways similar. It’s build on blood like all others. The difference is that it was always founded on liberty, but in order to obtain this kind of liberty, a lot of people had to sacrifice themselves. Even now we haven’t perfected it yet. The fact that we are still so strong proves that at least some part of our dreams were true. The country of my foreign friend however, had to collapse before it realized it had to chase a different dream. But by then too many lives were lost and gone. Maybe the dream was beautiful to begin with. So say they all, after the nightmare is over.
You wonder when it’s too late., when redemption is no longer an option. The soul of a country depends on its people. We helped them out as much as we could. Send them money. Helped them create a new declaration. But the reports weren’t good. There was no democracy there. My foreign friend in question squashed any hope of this.
But after our hopeful meeting, I thought I judged too quick. A country that ran on such a troublesome history, needs the time to build its democracy. You can’t force it too quick or else it won’t work. He told me this; ”I know what you’ve heard doesn’t make me sound like a good guy. Some of it is true. I admit. Yet, my actions are not out of malice, nor are representative of the whims of a ruthless tyrant. It’s about creating stability in what is so far chaos. I make as many reforms as possible. Infusing a different mindset into the people so that Western-democracy can grow. I enforce it into our educational system, in our market system, into my speeches. You have to understand; I’m a good man that must do bad things in order to make sure the bad people don’t take over again. They spread an endless amount of propaganda about me because I’m screwing with their money. They want you to condemn me. They want you to take me out of the G8 meetings. Please believe me. I just want what’s best for my country.”
We spoke about God, mourning the loss of his presence in every continuing generation. He quoted my favorite verse: “but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” from Isaiah 40:31.His state made closer ties to its biggest Christian following, in order to popularize religion once more. It wasn’t the Christianity I follow but any Christianity, as long as it bases itself on his teachings, is valid. I believe, just as he said he believed, that evil can only be destroyed if we value the sacrifice Christ made. If we understand his selflessness and our willing to follow his path then maybe we can eradicate evil from our hearts and from our people.
In a way, though it sounds nonsensical now, I felt that I had to strike at the enemy as hard as I did, even with its massive collateral damage, in order to make the point to the enemy, despite my feelings about the innocent loss of lives. A part of me wanted to stop. Only send in drones perhaps. Maybe a few ground troops but not total war. I didn’t want all of it on my conscience. But in order to make this world a better place, just as he said, we have to do bad things just so the bad guys won’t take over. I had to sacrifice my virtue in order to make this world a better place. All this destruction and violence, I’m horrified to say, I thought it was what God wanted.
I thought what our country missed was idealism. Too much realpolitik. I thought we needed a return of exceptionalism. But maybe I went too far. Maybe I dreamed too much. I knew my presidency was a failure even before my second term. Maybe I shouldn’t have run, but I felt like I had to. I had to prove it to my father, my country and myself that I could uphold the promise of our nation. Make it exemplary in terms of uncompromising moral standing. I knew I couldn’t do it but I couldn’t let anybody else know this. I had to keep the charade and the people were dumb enough to vote for me again.
Then it happened; my so-called foreign kin, the man whose soul I misjudged, proved himself to be the monster that they said he was. Even worse. When I saw the pictures of all those kids with oxygen masks, all those tiny bodies covered in white cloth, I knew the devil had fooled me. See those eyes of those who survive: it’s too much horror too handle.
By then, it was too late. When I called him all his words seemed hollow. Kicking him out of the G8 didn’t matter to him, by then he had already achieved enough power to do what he wants in his country without needing the approval of me and the other G7 countries. The other nations needed him anyway for his national resources. He would be fine. They would tell him that they were concerned about some his actions but they would continue making deals with him anyway. Dead children aside, business is business.
I might have permanently weakened the enemy, though I could never kill its leader, but I wonder if any of it had any meaning. After the enemy was down, another enemy appeared from the dust. They just keep coming and coming. It resurrects; maybe it has a different name but it has similar rhetoric. Evil never goes away, I should have known that and maybe I did, but you get swept away in that all that patriotism that it’s easy to fool yourself. Evil evolves.
Now my replacement has to deal with the mess of the world. I’m glad I’ve become a civilian. I have no stomach for this anymore. I wonder if our country will hate him as much as they hate me.
Sometimes I’m not sure if I believe in God anymore. I don’t tell anybody this. Not even my wife. It’s best not to open this door.

I’m afraid my replacement will make the same mistake I made. I’ve seen him on TV, talking about how he (my former foreign friend) wants the same things we do. But he does not. He doesn’t care about the same things we do, he never did. He’s set to meet him soon. I’ve tried to call him but they keep telling me he’s unavailable.

I keep thinking about those children. Maybe if I saw the devil for who he was, maybe those kids would still be here. I dreamed about having one of those kids in my arms, surrounded by dust and rubble.  I put the oxygen mask into his mouth, turning the nozzle. I mouth a prayer.

Please. Just this once.

Nothing worked. It was too late.

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 ***

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