Thursday, March 29, 2007
i don't think hank done it this-a way:
KUWAIT CITY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT -- Not that I'm there now -- I have returned to the Flophouse -- but our story takes place in the airport's Zone Two concourse, next to the Harley-Davidson display. KCIA is a gaudy mall that brooks no capacity for embarrassment, but the Harley stall is something else: behind a plexiglass partition are two sportbikes, not even proper motorcycles, and an action shot of a lady, hair all windswept, wrapping her legs 'round these velvet rims and strapping her hands cross these engines. I linger too long.

"Hey, you're going to Dulles, right?" says Captain America. Captain America in this case is a 50ish crewcutted behemoth with a jaw you could park one of the sportbikes on. He's in his R&R gear, which means only a few shades out of uniform: cargo pants, standard-issue desert boots, t-shirt and light khaki jacket. Next to him is a shorter fellow in garish quasi-Hawaiian shirt, sunglasses and bad-muchacho handlebar mustache. For a second I wonder if I've just run into the legendary Jeff "Skunk" Baxter in his national-security incarnation, but then figure I should just answer Cap's question.

"Yeah," I say. "We've got kind of a long wait, huh." We do. It's an hour and a half until the United gate opens for check-in and then another three hours until our flight leaves for Washington. That means there's nothing to do but tool around in front of Harley-Davidson displays and hum Arcade Fire lyrics about no longer wanting to be an American.

"So, you know where our gate is?" asks Cap.

"Not really, no," I say, "but the United terminal is the next one over, and it's got to be pretty simple from there. I mean, we've made it this far, right?" You'll notice that my question doesn't make much sense -- one can easily "make it" through Iraq but get lost in an airport terminal -- but it volleys the conversation forward, so it's served its purpose. I don't like talking to strangers in airports.

"Yeah, I came from Mosul, so." Huh, that's funny, I reply: so did I. It turns out Cap saw me on the C-17 down to Ali al-Salem airbase in Kuwait. "You were the short spastic with the beard who looked like he had no place on military aircraft, and who held up the flight by trying to get to his old seat when we stopped to refuel in Baghdad. Asshole!" he doesn't say, but would have had a right to.

Cap mentions that he's happy to go on R&R. He's an interrogator in Mosul and could use a break. So how am I going to spend my R&R?

"Oh, I'm heading back home. I'm a reporter."

Captain America does not like reporters, and neither does Bucky the Handlebar. "You gonna report some good news?"

It's like the millionth fucking time I've been asked that question, and so I give the standard journalist line: I've seen a lot of interesting stuff, yeah. "Interesting" is what journalists say when we don't want to tell you what our take on something is.

"Well, the troops are tired of bad news." Huh, I say. I don't blame them; so am I. "You know, I'm an interrogator, and can we just stop all this we're-torturing people stuff right now? We're not, OK?"

I don't really know what to say to that. "Uh, good" is the best I can come up with. Cap mentions he worked at Abu Ghraib for a while -- "I went out on a mission, and then I saw it on TV and didn't even recognize it!" -- and I start looking around for the elevator. Instead, it's Handlebar's turn. "It's like with these pukes in Guantanamo Bay. Some of them have gained twenty pounds since they've been there. Some torture!"

"You know what they should show on TV?" asks the Captain. "The beheading videos. So people will get a sense of the difference between us and them."

I'm exhausted and should know better. "You don't think that comes through?" They sneer a fuck-no-you-dumb-liberal sneer.

"Huh, television. Well, good luck, guys, I'm going to get something to eat." It was true, but still an excuse.
--Spencer Ackerman
Glad you're back in one piece. Now go watch a few beheading videos before you head to Gitmo for some R&R.
Blogger Haggai | 11:16 AM

Speaking of America's Tropical Blackhole Paradise, when do you plan on going?
Blogger CharleyCarp | 9:31 PM

Great piece.

Sounds like there's a lot of Captain America's around Iraq. Since 2003, no less. I wonder if your Captain America is Evan Wright's Captain America.
Blogger Jeff | 8:52 AM

I liked your GTMO Captain America better.
Blogger Katherine | 7:31 PM