On Board

Written by Matt Taibbi on . Posted in Breaking News, Posts.


I should be man enough to admit it. I’ve
had a change of heart. After the events of last week, I realize I was all wrong,
all along. About everything. I understand it all now.

Watching that amazing scene of the Saddam statue
being toppled, I understood finally not only what this was all about, but who
I was and what my part had been. And I wasn’t ashamed the way one
is of a crime, but ashamed the way one is of having made some ridiculous and
embarrassing mistake of inexperience, like showing up for your first day of
college thinking you look suave in clothes that people stopped wearing three
years ago. We just didn’t get it.

With all this hand-wringing about the war, we
were acting like the shrieking chick in every horror movie ever made, freaking
out and always running stupidly upstairs away from the vampire, straight to
the room from which there is no escape. We can’t even run in a straight
line without knocking over furniture and tripping and falling and giving the
slow-moving monster time to gain; meanwhile, he’s moving effortlessly.
He floats up the stairs, arms folded calmly in front of him, while we
fall down five times on the way up. We lock ourselves in a room, turn around,
blink, and he’s there in an instant—he has some other way of moving,
one not known to us. And we want to scream, but nothing comes out as he leans
over and depresses his hot fangs into our neck, never guessing that…

It feels good. Yes, that’s what
I thought as I watched the statue scene unfold. I could almost feel the blood
mixing in my neck, and it was a warm obliterating rush like straight dope. I’m
an American. America rules the world. It feels good. No more need to be ashamed
now; it was useless to resist. More to the point, there’s no more need
to deny it: I want in. I want to be part of this awesome, destructive revolutionary
power.

Sign me up. Tehran. Pyongyang. Moscow. We Americans
must get used to all kinds of climates. I’m white and I went to college—that
ought to give me some kind of status. A member of the torturing class. Good
enough at the very least for administrative duty, somewhere at the far edges
of the empire.

Morning on a beautiful spring day on the shores
of the Black Sea. I am deputy mayor of a little town near what used to be Yalta.
Perfect for me—mountains, beaches, Slavic with an Asian minority and plenty
of disposable people. I am walking through town en route to the outdoor cafe
where I always have my breakfast. I’m dressed in my civilian uniform—crisp
khaki all over with glowing green alligator cowboy boots and a kind of wide-brimmed
outback hat bedecked with gold cord and four-foot ostrich feathers. Afraid of
what it might mean, no one on the street makes eye contact with me. Across the
street, an old babushka carries an armful of bread loaves, her eyes fixed
on the ground.

"Hey," I shout, in English. "You. How much for
a loaf of bread?"

She stops, then struggles to get out the words.
"Mmm…" she says. "Meester mayor. Tventy cents for breat!"

I strike her hard across the face with the back
of my hand and she goes flying. "Bitch!" I scream. "Not for me it isn’t!
For me it’s free!"

I bend down to snatch a loaf off the ground
and quickly lift up my head to look around. Just as I expected: Everybody pretends
not to watch. I walk on, spurs jingling.

Ah, this is the good life. I have everything
I want here. Days of leisure, and nights… Yes, how to describe the nights?
This used to be a resort town, and I entertain a lot of visitors. I often get
journalists on vacation here from tours at the front. They wear uniforms too,
now, sharp suits emblazoned with skulls. The other night, Aaron Brown and his
crew were here, and we stayed up all night at the Turtle Club, snorting coke
with strippers and drinking fine cognac and laughing about what a whiny little
pussy Russ Smith is. I had Aaron all wrong; he’s a great guy with a great
sense of humor. And he’s a professional. At the end of the night
I offered to take him out of town to the country, where we could get ourselves
a couple of farmer children, but he said no, he couldn’t, he had to get
back to his suite and file.

My house is a palace. Gravel driveway with two
Lincolns in it; full-size basketball court with plexiglas backboards in back;
pillars and servants’ entrances. I eat sitting in a high-backed, jade-encrusted
chair at the head of a long table 50 feet away from my wife at the other end.
We haven’t spoken in nine months. It’s ecstasy. I spend most of my
time in my quarters, either writing letters in the computer room (I have a personal
correspondence with star NFL safety Brian Dawkins) or lounging on the plush
leather furniture of my basement den, eating peanut butter and honey sandwiches
and jerking off to old videos of Gidget that I watch on the giant, high-resolution
digital television that stretches across a whole wall like a huge bay-window.

Sometimes I carry a sword and go walking through
the villages. There is a girl in Podelkino who is genuinely in love with me;
she dreams that I will give her an American child. Perhaps I will. I’ll
make this my own personal Little Rock, a faraway princedom full of children
bearing the leader’s face. But I can always have favorites, my Podelkino
girl.

There are problems, of course. The mountains
are full of rebels and I am, naturally, their prize target. It’s kind of
a game I play with them. When I first got here, I was afraid. Now I know they
wouldn’t dare. Sometimes I go riding on a horse, alone, right through their
territory as F-16s break overhead… Just trot right into a hovel, pull out
a young girl, slice her up like a lobster. And stand there. I dare you, you
fuckers. I fucking dare you.

Back at the cafe. Rolls, coffee, a fruit plate.
A boy has brought me my mail. There is a package. I open it. Finally: my Kontainment
Kubby SP-90 Deluxe Livestock Sorting Stick, special delivery from Grand Rapids,
MI. The top-of-the-line cattle prod. Three long feet of pure juice. Cost me
$99.95 of my own money. I wonder if it works.

"Waiter!" I shout. "Waiter!"

The polite young man with the parted hair whishes
forward, carrying a tray of water glasses. "Da, Meester Mayor?"

I zap him. He shrieks and tosses the tray straight
up in the air, water and glasses flying behind him like shrapnel. Screams in
the restaurant, panic, then sudden quiet. Like a beach at night after the tide.
He picks himself up off the floor, wipes his trembling hands on his apron, then
smiles, relieved he didn’t spill anything on me.

"Very good, sir," he says, nodding. "Ha, ha,
very good!"

Applause and breakfast. When I’m done,
I lean back in my chair with a glass of prune juice, throw on the Discman headphones.
My favorite album, then and now: Doggystyle. Perfect for the moment.
E Pluribus Unum, baby. Send me anywhere you want.

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