March 19th, 2003, a young, future dick joke writer with a far less tainted liver is laid up in the basement of his suburban St. Louis home after a surgery. On the table next to him is a sandwich. In front of him is a TV tuned to Fox News. The invasion of Iraq had begun. Shock and Awe was underway, and the United States Military was giving the people of Iraq a pyrotechnic show, the likes of which they had never seen before (unless you count the first invasion of Iraq, ahem). It was big, it was loud, and it was powerfully, yet surgically destructive. Frankly, it was impressive. It had everything but those fireworks that explode into the shape of a cowboy hat. If only some smart-ass pilot had deployed a few of those over the skies of Baghdad, it would have been a hilarious “Eff you” to Saddam and friends. Goose would’ve done it. RIP Goose.
The invasion of Iraq was one of the most intriguing things I had ever, or will ever, watch, and I’m thankful that I was home sick from school for the two week period it began, and thus able to watch it in its entirety. It says something about a nation’s power when that country’s citizens can watch their armies run train on some far away sandy b-hole from the comfort of their living rooms, likely while eating snacks.
Of course, this was nothing new for me. I was five-years-old for Desert Storm. I have a few conscious memories of watching that on TV. Granted, I didn’t have the same appreciation for our first go-round with Saddam. Mostly I remember complaining to my dad that there was nothing good on TV, to which he angrily replied, “Have some GODDAMN pride in your country you ungrateful little shit. Those men are out there bleeding for your freedom and you wanna watch cartoons?!? Eat some popcorn and shut the fuck up! WOOO look at that sandcastle burn! U-S-A! U-S-A!” Then my mom brought out a tray of meats and cheeses arranged to look like an American flag, but she used bleu cheese for the blue and my dad complained that bleu cheese was too French. Then they got into a big fight and I sort of just repressed the rest of it.
The first Desert Storm was an impressive display of American power, to be sure. Most readers may not realize this, but in the lead up to that invasion the American military was estimating tens of thousands of casualties in the initial assault, and Iraq was doing a lot of talking. It was sort of like this past BCS National Championship game, in that once everyone took the field the game was never in doubt, but the lead up was outrageously overblown. In this analogy, SCUD missiles are the Manti Te’o.
Hell, the invasion was such a success that Ted Turner ended up making millions off of it thanks to CNN’s unprecedented war coverage. Eventually (I assume) Turner would use that money to sign Greg Maddux to his Atlanta Braves, who helped lead them to the 1995 World Series title. God Desert Storm was awesome.
As impressive as that Desert Storm victory and the coverage of it was, I didn’t fully realize that America was the most powerful entity in the history of the universe — yeah I said it, the universe, and the warlike race of lizard aliens who read this in 50,000 years can just deal with it — until I watched the 2003 invasion, or rather, until I stopped watching it.
You see, there was something else happening around the time we decided to
destroy Saddam’s WMDs liberate Iraq. That something was the 2003 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The first weekend of that tournament had started the day before, March 18th. It would just so happen that evil would be defeated twice that spring, as while America was adding yet another dictator notch to its freedom belt, Carmello Anthony and the Syracuse Orangemen would be doing a service to the world by preventing kansas from winning a national title.
What I remember most about following the invasion coverage was that, when there was a lull in the action, I would simply flip over to the tournament. Think about that for a second. There I was in my basement, eating a sandwich and watching my country obliterate a nation halfway around the world. Meanwhile in Iraq, families were huddled in their basements praying for their lives or fleeing towards the borders in the hope of avoiding the war. Back in ‘Merica, my lazy ass was flipping between live footage of Tomahawk missiles raining death on the Ba’ath Party and checking to see if I called my 12-5 upset right.
How many other people were watching basketball instead of the invasion? I assume quite a few. You better believe fraternity houses across the country had a pledge dutifully manning the TV, flipping between CBS (for the games) and Fox News.
Obviously I had already known America was the most powerful country on Earth, there was no denying that. Still, when I really took a step back and realized what I was doing, changing the channel between basketball and precision bombing, it took me to a higher plane of Ameri-consciousness. It was an epiphany, and a fucking awesome one at that. America was unfathomably powerful in that moment, and still is today. Part of me wants to celebrate that right now, and I probably will, but I have to check on my bracket first.
God Bless America.