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The War Nerd April 6, 2003
Down We Go!
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email

I'll start by saying what Bush and Rumsfeld won't: "I was wrong." Some of you emailed to remind me I said the Iraqis wouldn't fight and the campaign would be easy. Yup, I was wrong about that. You may remember that I also said the war was a really bad idea, so I want credit for getting that part right. Not like I expect real "credit" - even a $50 tab at the local AM/PM mart would be nice. After all, Cheney, Perle and the other war hogs are in for millions of payoffs no matter how disastrously wrong they turned out to be. Wounded US soldier evacuated

It still blows me away that our brilliant leaders managed to turn Saddam's Army into an effective military force. If Saddam survives this mess (and he might; depressing, huh?), he should put up statues to Bush and Rumsfeld, the geniuses who performed a real miracle by creating the conditions (bad strategy, even worse diplomacy) that inspired the Iraqi Army to put up a fight.

It's hard to remember now how much fun all of us war fans hoped the invasion would be, even if we were against the war itself. And there actually were a few cool moments in the first day's footage. Let's face it, nothing is as beautiful as a city under bombardment filmed through a nightscope. The night is green, kind of a Halloween luminous-paint green, a vampire's-eye view. You've got tracers zooming up into the sky...of course AA is totally useless against our planes, but damn it looks good. I love the way tracers arc like curve-balls in slow motion, the way they move so slow to the target and then hit so fast.

It's the oldest war of all: earth vs. sky. And while the tracers try to find the planes, the bombs are already lighting up the skyline. God, the way the explosions seem to sort of open up slow, like green Jiffypops. I was happier than I've been in years. Had the phone off the hook, door locked. Just me, my two-liter Diet Coke, Doritos and Toblerone (ever notice how Toblerone bars look just like those WW II German tank-traps the Nazis called "dragon's teeth"?) watching Baghdad burn again.

It's been a long time-12 years--since we got to see Baghdad burning, and the networks have really improved their video tech since then. Early on I noticed that the BBC was more honest (and hard to get), but CNN was more stern and war-nerd friendly with its serious military command headquarters feel. But Fox was the funnest of all, pure shameless love of weaponry, graphics and the kinds of war vids that make you want to run to your local recruitment office. So I kept the remote clicking between them, trying to get some honest info from the BBC, then whiffing a few minutes of the flagwaving chatter on CNN before cooling off in a bath of Fox's hi-tech propaganda machine. I even called in sick one day to make sure I wouldn't miss anything.

But it all started going bad pretty quick. You didn't have to be Clausewitz to figure out that the invasion was a total failure. ABC fired Peter Arnett for saying that on Iraqi TV, but let's face it, he didn't exactly blurt out the world's biggest secret. Everybody who listened to BBC or NPR knew it by Day 3. The rest didn't want to know it.

After a day or two even CNN was passing on some scary downers. The first really shocking news I heard was a Marine talking about how Iraqi militia attacked M1 tanks in Somali-style "technicals" (pickups with bed-mounted heavy machineguns). He couldn't believe anybody would charge M1s in pickup trucks. "That's crazy!" he kept saying. "They just kept coming!" Iraqis in suicide attacks? That sure wasn't what Rumsfeld and his little pets Wolfowitz and Perle promised.

By the fifth day, Nam-level bummer stories started pouring in. US forces actually retreated from an-Nasiriyah when Iraqi troops attacked. Retreated--from Iraqis! The Shiites were cursing us instead of dancing in the streets. The BBC recorded the first Shiites receiving food aid chanting to the Brits, "Up with Saddam! Down with Bush!" The first Iraqi suicide bomber killed four GIs. And after ten days we hadn't (and still haven't) taken one Iraqi city except, apparently, Umm Qasr. The only people we seemed to be able to kill effectively were the poor Brits.

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Gary Brecher
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Email Gary at, but, more importantly, buy his book.

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Save The eXile: The War Nerd Calls Mayday
The future of The eXile is in your hands! We're holding a fundraiser to save the paper, and your soul. Tune in to Gary Brecher's urgent request for reinforcements and donate as much as you can. If you don't, we'll be overrun and wiped off the face of the earth, forever.

Scanning Moscow’s Traffic Cops
Automotive Section
We’re happy to introduce a new column in which we publish Moscow’s raw radio communications, courtesy of a Russian amateur radio enthusiast. This issue, eXile readers are given a peek into the secret conversations of Moscow’s traffic police, the notorious "GAIshniki."

Eleven Years of Threats: The eXile's Incredible Journey
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Good Night, and Bad Luck: In a nation terrorized by its own government, one newspaper dared to fart in its face. Get out your hankies, cuz we’re taking a look back at the impossible crises we overcame.

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Russia's freedom-loving free market martyr Mikhail Khodorkovsky answers some of this week's letters, and he's got nothing but praise for President Medvedev.

Clubbing Adventures Through Time
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eXile club reviewer Babooshka takes a trip through time with the ghost of Moscow clubbing past, present and future, and true to form, gets laid in the process.

The Fortnight Spin
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Jared comes out with yet another roundup of upcoming bardak sessions.

Your Letters
Richard Gere tackles this week's letters. Now reformed, he fights for gerbil rights all around the world.

13 Toxic Talents: Hollywood’s Worst Polluters
America By Eileen Jones
Everybody complains about celebrities, but nobody does anything about them. People, it’s time to stop fretting about whether we’re a celebrity-obsessed culture—we are, we have been, we’re going to be—and instead take practical steps to clean up the celebrity-obsessed culture we’ve got...


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