Rebranding War: What is it Good For?

What’s in a name? That which we call a war
By any other name would smell of death, destruction —
And a democratic resurrection
Of burning flesh dipped in oil
Buried deep in foreign soil…

FADE IN:

Uncle Sam’s hot-shot marketing machine (sponsored by the Military Industrial Complex: Where one soldier’s misery is another man’s bottom-line prophecy…), armed with the monumental task of re-branding the war in Iraq. Which begs the question:

How does one sell repackaged rotten meat
To an electorate that’s fast asleep?

That is precisely what Obama’s marketing machine intends to find out when it re-brands the war in Iraq in September with “Operation New Dawn.” A little too close to the 1984 film “Red Dawn” for my taste. That film has already branded itself into the nostalgic catacombs of my memory. Not only can I not make this marketing leap of faith, but the thought of imagining a bunch of high school students, hopped up on Molotov hormonal cocktails, running around the hills flanking Baghdad and shouting “Wolverines!”will only serve to undermine the objectives of the current mission — whatever the hell that is supposed to be.

"Red Dawn": The last line of defense standing between Capitalism and Communism (note the "Star Wars" product placement; George Lucas = merchandising genius)

By the way, the current US occupation in Iraq is known as Operation Iraqi Freedom, for those of you dear Civilians who did not know about the third re-branding since our troops were deployed to this oil-enriched wasteland. President Bush’s Marketing Team, deeply couched among the hidden branches of its Spin Machine, had initially branded the preemptive attack on Iraq “Occupation of Iraq,” which later evolved into “Second Gulf War” (a serious blunder, given the fact that everyone knows the sequel rarely lives up to the novelty of the first, not to mention the box-office profits tend to take a nose-dive). The D.C. Spinsters quickly realized their sinister marketing SNAFU and quickly plagiarized itself by pilfering its other major campaign in Afghanistan, “Operation Enduring Freedom” by replacing “Enduring” with “Iraqi.”

I confess, dear Civilian, I had no idea the “War in Afghanistan” (which is what most of us, including the media call it) was called “Operation Enduring Freedom” unit I saw it marketed, in of all places the mens bathroom at Sycamore Mall in Iowa City during the early stages of the US occupation. While standing above a urinal, I began relieving myself by thoroughly icing the pink urinal cake, but when I looked down, the obligatory urinal mint had been replaced by a plastic, webbed piss-deflector that looked like a badminton birdie that had been partially swallowed by the urinal beast.

Reminiscent of a mass-produced Andy Warhol portrait, Osama bin Laden’s bearded mug was stamped in the middle of the target and served as the bulls-eye for budding marksmen such as myself. The usual words on the outer rung of the target, “Please Don’t Eat the Urinal Cakes,” were replaced with “Operation Enduring Freedom.” At first I was impressed with the cleverness of the marketing strategy and product placement, but my temporary joy was hijacked by my trigger-happy and over-zealous prostrate which kicked in M-60 style and drilled bin Laden full of imaginary holes.

“Take that you terrorist bastard,” I shouted, while dropping several other f-bombs.

I will admit, dear Civilian, I did feel some satisfaction and sense of redemption through my actions, but in hindsight, was also relieved nobody happened in upon me while I was unloading on what they may have thought to be an unsuspecting urinal mint, while shouting obscenities at it.

My therapeutic sojourn in the john was quickly overshadowed an hour later during my trip to the grocery store. While standing in the check-out line, barricaded on both sides by Hollywood tabloid magazines, I saw a ten-year old boy in front of me who was wearing a t-shirt that had a mug shot of Osama bin Laden propped up behind the scope-end of a sighted rifle target. I remember wondering: What underlying message was more disturbing: the eye-for-an-eye violence promoted by the boy’s t-shirt or America’s preoccupation with who was having Michael Jackson’s love child?

While branding "The War on Terror," merchandisers set their sites on a new target market: kids

I realize that President Obama inherited these wars from his predecessor (an inheritance tax all of us are STILL paying out of our proverbial asses), but I am not sure why he wants to re-brand the war in Iraq, since he had already promised to bring our troops home. Maybe the O’ Man is pulling something from the Coca Cola marketing campaign, when the soft-drink giant injected New Coke into the market, only to see customers stockpile the old serum, just in case we were invaded by Commies from Russian and their Cuban counterparts.

“Wolverines!!!”

This way, if Obama’s new end-game strategy starts to go sour by winter, he can change the name back to “Operation Iraqi Freedom” and the electorate will not only clamor for more war but will savor how great the taste of war in Iraq was before “New Dawn.” Not to mention, voters will be consumed with a blind nostalgia for the catchy jingles of yester-yore:

I’d like to buy the world a democracy and furnish it with guns,
Build missiles and fighter planes and H-bombs measured in tons.
I’d like to teach the world to wage war in perfect harmony.
I’d like to buy the world a war and keep it company.
It’s the real thing, Democracy, that’s what the world wants today;
It’s the real thing, Democracy, that’s what the world wants today…

I’m not usually a sucker for marketing manipulations, but I confess, dear Civilian, that I do have an unhealthy thing for jingles.

Who knows, maybe the Military Industrial Complex is looking for a few, good jingle writer to help spice up their “War on Terror.” It wouldn’t kill me to send a copy of my resume off to the Pentagon. I’m sure they pay is good, not to mention, it doesn’t look like the MIC’s new business venture will be closing up shop anytime soon – at least not in my lifetime.

Pssst…Don’t Tell Anyone I’m Hetero

Never in a million year did I imagine myself agreeing with former Vice President Dick Cheney, but I confess dear Civilian, I recently found myself taking my first step into the Dark Side by agreeing with Cheney that the military should repeal its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy. However, truth be told, which is not an option for gays currently serving in the military, it was Cheney who agreed with me — since I opposed this half-baked (but not exhaled) policy the moment President Bill Clinton bent over on his campaign promises in 1993 and let the homophobic Congress have their way with him. (I know: bad pun; but in my defense, I am not writing about the unwritten “Don’t Ask, Don’t Pun” policy.)

Now I entrust that you, dear Civilian, will not tell anyone about my dirty little secret, for public knowledge of my foray into the Dark Side will not only disrupt the unique conditions of my civilian service to humanity but will undermine the unit cohesion of my community, which includes but is not limited to my fiancé, three impressionable sons, extended progressive political family, fellow Cold War veterans, substitute mail carrier, the neighbor’s dog Pookie and my spiritual and economic adviser Therapist Bob. Most of these folks are still reeling from the psychological ripple effects from the day I jumped out of the closet and scared the crap out of them by outing myself by finally coming to terms with my repressed heterosexuality. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Since I served in the Army during the rear-end of the Cold War (yeah, yeah, sue me…the courts always side on behalf of bad puns) during the latter part of the ‘80s, before DADT kicked in and the wall in Berlin fell, I’m not sure what it’s like to serve under this policy now — especially while the current metaphorical war, “The War on Terror,” is being waged. You know, the kind of war where people actually get killed, rather than the metaphorical death by boredom while sitting around waiting, waiting for something – anything to happen.

The previous paragraph was underwritten by America's New WAR

Flash forward to today. One of the most commonly used arguments used by opponents against the repeal of DADT, including Republican Sen. John “What Happens in A Vietnamese War Prison, Stays in a Vietnamese War Prison” McCain of Arizona, is that it will disrupt unit cohesion and effectiveness. This, by the way, is one of the underlying arguments as to why the policy was originally implemented. Based on my firsthand experiences in the Army, if the military was genuinely interested in using a policy to keep unit cohesion intact, they would have expanded the DADT policy to include racists, bigots, xenophobes, homophobes, libertarians, Christians, Mormons, Jews, Muslims, Catholics, atheists, fundamentalists, bestiality aficionados, Pastafarians and your run-of-the-mill assholes who don’t think their shit stinks.

Once the military has silenced everyone whose ideologies and/or lifestyles pose a threat to anyone elses’ comfort zone, thus threatening unit cohesion, our country would be left with an army of mimes to defend our freedoms. And the last thing we need is an army of mimes plopped into a theater of war, where, using their white-gloved hands, they’re left to defend Democracy by boxing themselves inside miniature fortresses fortified with invisible walls. Besides, if the disproportion of hate targeted at mimes in America is universal, sending mimes into battle will only fuel the hate of our enemies, who no doubt will have no reservations shooting a mime.

An Army of One: "Saving Democracy One Mime at a Time"

(For the record: let it be known that I do not condone any form of violence perpetuated on the mime community.)

Moreover, the last people we need making life-and-death decisions about what does and what does not define a cohesive unit is Congress, most of whom have never served in the military. The current deluge of bipartisanship that has flooded the Hill in D.C. has carved out a gulf so wide that the entire 8th Infantry Division, Mechanized (You heard me right, dear Civilian, I said Mechanized!) could plow down the center aisle of either chamber during a pivotal debate and nobody would even notice, their childish shouts drowning out the division’s slow, methodical advance:

Democrats: We got the majority, yes we do. We got the majority, how ‘bout you!?

Republicans: We got filibusters, yes we do. We got filibusters, watcha gonna do?

Democrats: (like an army of mimes, remain painfully silent — their painted frowns looking pathetic)

Fearing the Republicans will push the bipartisanship to the brink of going nuclear, the Democrats will inevitably concede and return to the dark recesses of the chamber closet, where they look for their teddy bears or a secret door to Narnia.

Instead of deploying an army of gay soldiers or mimes to the war front, maybe we should conscript our Do-Nothing Congress and ship them off to the front lines. However, I confess dear Civilian, the thought of dropping Congress on to the front lines of “The War on Terror” stokes more terror within the fiber of my being than the manufactured Terror that lurks in the shadows behind the Military Industrial Complex’s bloated budget.

But who am I to talk, I’m just a closeted mime. Please don’t tell anyone, dear Civilian. You know I won’t.

‘Confessions of a Cold War Veteran’ Sounds Off

And from the ashes of the Cold War, Confessions of a Cold War Veteran rises

Delay cadence/Count cadence/Delay cadence/Count!

One!…

I confess, dear Civilian, I am not a Catholic nor am I an active war veteran, rather I am a veteran of the Cold War, not to mention a narcissist. Regarding the latter, why else would I create my own blog, the fifth to date? If I weren’t narcissistic, I wouldn’t be able to convince myself that there is some niche of readers floating in Cyberland who gives a damn about me and what I have to say or what thoughts are trip-wired in my brain, especially when the primary subject is Me.

Hey everyone, look at me! Over here, look at me…!

Or maybe the niche I have created is a mere figment of my imagination that consists of an audience of one? In that case, please do excuse me, dear Civilian, if at times you catch me talking to myself; the theory being that if you cannot hold a conversation with yourself, the notion of carrying on a conversation with fellow members of your species is futile. At least that’s what Therapist Bob tells me. Speaking of whom, it was Therapist Bob, my psychological and spiritual and financial adviser, who recommended that I start yet another blog as a means of publicly purging my experiences while actively serving in the Army during the tail-end of the Cold War during the late ‘80s — thus tearing down the wall erected between the right and left sides of my brain.

Moreover, based on Therapist Bob’s recommendations, Confessions of a Cold War Veteran will provide me with a safe, nuclear-free space to share my insights as a Cold War Veteran on contemporary issues, military and otherwise.

Hence, a blog was born: Confessions of a Cold War Veteran.

Between you and me, dear Civilian, I think the ulterior motives underscoring Therapist Bob’s suggestions are that I can someday scoop these confessional musings up and sell them to some desperate publisher searching for the next “Catch-22,” so I can finally pay Therapist Bob for the backlog of services rendered on my behalf.

It’s true that I served in the Army during the “salad days” of the Cold War, most of my two-years of active duty planted in Dexheim, Germany – about a tank-of-gas away from the East German border – where I spent most of my on-the-clock time waiting, waiting for the Cold War to get hot again.

Like all my comrades, Uncle Sam, for reasons of emotional detachment, had quickly reduced my identity to the last four digits of my social security number: Two-Zero-Two-Zero. To help simply matters, the military halved my identity into two numbers: Twenty-Twenty. No, dear Civilian, I did not make this up to symbolize that I was some sort of visionary or Cold War prophet, who had been blessed — or cursed as is the case of most prophets whose life expectancy rates hover in the early thirties. If anything, since I crawled out of the womb wearing corrective lenses for farsightedness, Twenty-Twenty is one of those ironic nicknames like President Ronald “The Great MisCommunicator” Reagan inherited.

While in second grade an optometrist prescribed me lenses that resembled the bottoms of 1970s Coca-Cola bottles. Blessed with hindsight, I’m now convinced that optometrists are nothing more than snake-oil salesmen who sell a lifetime of corrective lenses and frames that are discontinued by manufacturers every nine months. But this is nothing compared to the racket the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) has been running since the Cold War was unofficially declared in the 1950s. Despite President Eisenhower’s final televised Address to the Nation in 1961 when he raised concerns about the Cold War and who makes bank on a weapons build-up, warning us that “…we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex…”

And remember: We Like Ike!

But we don’t like prophets. Today, the “Masters of War” (coined by Bob Dylan in song) consumes nearly half of the government’s budget each year – not including expenditures spent on the latest perpetual, metaphorical war: “The War on Terror.”

Although I did serve in the longest war, literal or figurative, in U.S. history, I must confess, dear Civilian, that I am not a proud Cold War Veteran, nor do I run around boasting about my service as if I deserve some sort of entitlement. Every once in a while, however, I do play the Veteran Card, whether it’s saving $75 a year on my property taxes or calling out some political-hawk clamoring for more war — who not only has never served in the military and is unwilling to put his own precious bodily fluids on the line as well, let alone sacrifice one of his family member’s blood for the greater good.

But who am I to judge, eh?

I confess, dear Civilian, because I am not Catholic, nor do I believe that the confessionals about to unfold on this Theatre of War Metaphors will purge me of any sins, nor will they whitewash my conscience and soul of any moral wrongdoings.

Without further adieu I present to you, dear Civilian: Confessions of a Cold War Veteran…