“Mission Accomplished” Is Old Enough to Drive. We’re Still in Iraq.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, my friend Dan and I were the lords of all we surveyed … by which I mean we were regulars at an excellent Boston sports bar whose bartenders and staff loved us and took wonderful care of us.

Strange as it sounds, when you find yourself in an arrangement like that, snuggled in the warm embrace of an establishment that has a line to get in stretching around the building, over the bridge and all the way down to Kenmore Square, and you ain’t never been in that line, not for one second, the sensation of feeling 10 feet tall is not uncommon. Think the kitchen scene in Goodfellas.

You meet some fascinating people when a bar like that is your living room — the kind of folks you don’t meet anywhere else. Most of them are amazing, unique, altogether badass, and their qualities more than compensate for the clustered fools who are just a fact of life whenever and wherever there is Bud Light for sale on the cheap. The clusters come and go, but the good ones tend to be eternal.

I observed on Wednesday the 16th anniversary of George W. Bush jut-strutting his codpiece across the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln to announce “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq, and thought a great deal about my old friend Fix.

Fix was a regular at the bar, a street hustler and ticket scalper straight out of central casting. He never laced on the gloves, but wore a boxing pug’s face that was pushed this way and that by the beatings he had taken out there in the dark places while the rest of us stuck to the pooled light of the streetlamps.

Fix got his name because he believed down to his DNA, and would argue the point until last call, that every single professional-level sporting event was fixed. All of them, all the time. After a while, he had me half convinced.

His catch-phrase — of course, Fix had a catch-phrase — was humorous gospel among the rest of us. Every time a winning touchdown, home run, three-pointer or goal unfolded on the televisions, the crowd would cheer while Fix shook his head at them all and said, “They think it’s real,” before going back to counting the dog-eared singles in his scarred hand.

And then, there came this:

“Bush wanted to remove Saddam Hussein, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

— The Downing Street Memo, 23 July, 2002

July 2002, eight months and three days before “Shock and Awe” was unleashed 16 years ago in a war that has been going on in one form or another for 28 years, to the tune of millions of lives lost and displaced, and trillions of dollars squandered. Today, conservative Republicans and far too many Democrats preach the gospel of austerity economics while deliberately avoiding a discussion of the lives and money poured into the depleted uranium sands of that brutalized nation. This is how the memory hole feeds.

“We forget what he was,” I wrote about George W. Bush and Iraq in 2017, “we forget the aftermath of what he did, but how? Whence comes this shallow grave of memory? The corporate ‘news’ media, for their part, are all too happy to help us forget, because in that forgetting they are absolved of any culpability for their harrowing judgment and insatiable desire for ratings. The politicians are thrilled we forget because they want to do it all over again, because that’s where the money is. In the end, however, we forget because we choose to, because horror is hard to hold in the heart for so long, because all this is our shame, too, and that is a grueling fact to face.”

“Mission Accomplished” is now old enough to drive a car. A few people got rich, a lot of people got killed and the carnage rolls on because too many people thought it was real. My old bar friend was right. The fix was in, and still, too many forget.