The Grateful Dead, Wounded and Displaced

On Tuesday, Barack Obama touched down in Iraq to give a pep talk to US troops, praising their sacrifice in “just doing your job.” The president said:

And because of that, every mission that’s been assigned, from getting rid of Saddam, to reducing violence, to stabilizing the country, to facilitating elections, you have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country. That is an extraordinary achievement, and for that you have the thanks of the American people.

After these platitudinous blah, blah, blahs, Obama said that the Iraqis “need to take responsibility for their country and for their sovereignty.” In other words, the people of Iraq, whose culture we destroyed with our invasion and occupation, should get with our program and pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

The troops cheered.

Yep, Obama thinks it’s time the Iraqis showed some fortitude. And gratitude. After all, we shock and awed plenty of them to liberty. And by that, I mean freedom in the ultimate sense of the word. We’ve killed more than a million Iraqi civilians but this is okay because their relatives and friends know they’re in a better place.

And the wounded and maimed–well, people often derive deep meaning from adversity.

To the 4.5 million Iraqis who have been displaced from their homes and are, now, refugees, I say, “Take advantage of your situation. Think of this as an adventure. Carpe diem.”

Really, my advice is not unlike that given by Italy’s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, to the 17,000 Italian s whose homes were turned into rubble by Monday’s earthquake. When Berlusconi visited one of the camps set up for survivors, he told a reporter: “Of course, their current lodgings are a bit temporary . But they should see it like a weekend of camping.”

Or an excuse to redecorate. Isn’t that what so many Iraqis will be able to do when they can, finally, make their way back to their homes, or what’s left of them?

Surely, they’ll appreciate the money to be made and job satisfaction in rebuilding the infrastructure we’ve devastated.

And the sectarian violence we’ve unleashed could be a huge learning experience, a chance to debate differences and to practice anger management.

We have provided a veritable smorgasbord of opportunities. For this and so much more, we can be proud.

Why, the Iraqis should be placing flowers at our soldiers’ feet, hoisting the American flag, singing God Bless America, saying God bless America. In fact, they should be giving us oil. It’s the very least they can do.

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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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