(PU) Twelve Arab civilians, dressed in native garb and riddled with bullet wounds, caused a massive power outage in the nation’s capital today when they suddenly appeared on the Ellipse in Washington, DC. Silent and unmoving, each held a large color photo of Bradley Manning, the Army Specialist charged with sending the whistleblower website WikiLeaks a video of a July 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack, indiscriminately shooting down twelve Iraqis.
Troy Burns, an Associated Press reporter who happened by the scene, was the first to identify the group. “I thought I recognized Namir Noor-Eldeen, that Reuters photographer I knew back in Iraq,” Burns said. “I waved, but he didn’t wave back. Then I remembered he’d been killed, and saw there were eleven others. I thought, hey, what if these are the twelve Iraqis our troops murdered three years ago? So I put it on the AP wire.”
News of the sighting was met with universal waves of skepticism. “Those foreign dudes are totally faking coming back from the dead,” said a passing DC shopper. “Man, is there anything illegal aliens won’t do to stay in this country?”
As news of the so-called dead Iraqis and their apparent support for Private Manning spread, an energy brownout began to sweep over the metropolitan area. Lights flickered and computers dimmed, while Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called for calm.
“We have not determined whether these Arab individuals are, in fact, terrorists,” Ms. Napolitano stated in a televised address, “but they seem to want us to believe they were killed by U.S. firepower. Add to this the fact that they don’t fall over and bleed when our Secret Service agents shoot them. Then consider that they support PFC Manning — a person of interest in the leak of some 91,000 classified documents revealing years of NATO military atrocities in the Middle East. This probably means that other, similarly killed, Iraqis and Afghanis will show up craving attention. These twelve Iraqis are completely unacceptable — they strain our credulity to the breaking point. They are, therefore, a threat to national security.”
According to the records of Washington’s Pepco Energy Services, it was at this precise moment in Ms. Napolitano’s speech that a total blackout hit the metropolitan area. Lights and appliances failed utterly, and transportation ground to a halt. Washingtonians began to search for answers.
The Reverend Claude Cassock, pastor of the picturesque Church of the Good German, attempted to address the crisis in a sermon he delivered by candlelight. “Verily, in the metaphoric sense, Americans have lived alongside dead Iraqis and Afghanis for years, now,” intoned the pastor. “Yet there may be those among us who are tempted to ask, ‘Is God punishing me for pursuing business as usual?’ But God wants us to pursue business as usual. For God so loved Americans that He gave them His only begotten psychological defense mechanism — denial. That and the new Apple iPad.”
Parishioner Patricia Patchouli agreed. “I find something deeply life-affirming in the refusal to acknowledge the misfortunes of others,” she said after the service. “For years, I was a peace activist. I marched and chanted and signed petitions. Obviously, nothing worked, so I turned to denial. Which involved watching lots of TV cop shows. Now, I’m saved. It’s much easier to imagine Bradley Manning being tortured by NCIS agents than it is to contemplate how innocent civilians are killed daily by our troops. Thank you, Jesus.”
Reached by telephone, ousted BP chief Tony Hayward remarked on how nice it was finally to have his life back. “Especially as you Yanks begin to realize that your country is powered more by the refusal to acknowledge its global policies than by mere petrol. Amazingly, you haven’t figured out some windmill system for harvesting all the energy that fuels your denial. As it is, having to deny those annoyingly undead Iraqis could short out your government’s energy grid. If I were you chaps, I’d forget oil leaks and worry about WikiLeaks.”
Meanwhile, night deepened on the Ellipse, and a crowd of angry Americans began to gather around the twelve Iraqis.
“You monsters!” a motherly woman in her forties screamed patriotically at the silent, unmoving dozen. “How dare you ask me to believe that your souls weigh as much as mine? YOU are responsible for my clinical depression.”
“Right on,” called a young Senate Page. “If I have to deny that my government routinely kills innocent people who are just like my mom and dad, I won’t have any energy left to deny cancer and nuclear winter. Why can’t you just go to Never-Never Land and act like you never existed?”
“That’s it!” cried a theater professor whose Master’s thesis was on J.M. Barrie. “We’ve got to ramp up our magical thinking. Come on, everybody: let’s refuse to grow up. If you do NOT believe in Iraqis, clap your hands — clap, clap for all you’re worth!”
In a final, desperate energy surge, the deafening sound of good American applause, whistles, and foot-stomping rose up to fill the Ellipse.
As the lights came on and televisions jolted back to life, the twelve Iraqis vanished. In the spot where they had stood was vacant, empty air, surrounding the wordless possibility of more power outages to come. Slowly, the crowd dispersed, leaving Washington in the grip of yet another record heat wave.
(Dedicated to Marilyn Buck, 1947-2010)
Susie Day is Assistant Editor of Monthly Review.