Goodnight, Soldier

He couldn’t sleep. He didn’t want to know why.

Those images kept coming back no matter what he did; they kept filling his mind, leaving him no choice but to look at them. They were of men who had a hand missing, of others without a foot or a leg, some with no hands at all. They were lying in beds and sitting in wheelchairs, wheelchairs that were intended for the crippled, the defective, the elderly. But these were all young men, strong and healthy young men, with their whole great lives ahead of them.

He clenched his fists, as if to beat them away, but that didn’t work. Instead, he saw, with a hard, unmerciful clarity, a young man’s uplifted and cheerful face, the face of the man who had no legs. He had no legs because a roadside bomb had gleefully ripped them off. He had no legs because a vicious, mindless follower of Islam lived and breathed and ran about on his two legs in order that he could maim and kill and destroy. He had no legs because his leaders fought bombs with bullets and checkpoints and friendly diplomatic meetings and altruistic concerns for the dark temples of a savage religion.

“Something should be done”.

He heard it faintly at first, as he sat in the dim light. What was it? “Something should be done”. Yes, that was it, but it wasn’t outside, it was in his own mind, and it kept repeating, like a far away echo. Then it began to beat louder, getting closer and closer, marching, marching inexorably through the hallway of his mind. Other voices came to do battle: there were many voices crying, “What’s going to be your legacy!” “Think about your place in history!” “Make sure our allies are with us!” Don’t go it alone!” “Love thine enemy!” And he saw the hollow smiles, the glossy, too-wide, empty smiles of foreign leaders, of men who stood on two feet with two legs.

“Something should be done! Something should be done!” filled the whole room of his mind now. There was no escaping it. He twisted his way out of his bed through an aching pain that seemed to clamp his whole body. He stood up, switched on a light and looked into the mirror. He saw that he wasn’t smiling and that despite a life of compromise and capitulation, of actions not taken because of real and imaginary disapproval of others, there was still a trace of goodness, a last touch of honesty, a shred of genuine love for America, a few remaining faint lines of self-respect, in that face.

He then wondered if that young man, the man with no legs, had seen it. Is that why he had looked up with that full, innocent trust in his eyes and reached out an eager hand to shake his? “Something should be done!” There had been warmth and strength in that hand, an abundance of living will. Had his own hand transmitted the same warmth, the same strength? Then he thought, “He’s old enough to be my son.”


Darrell Cooper, the President of the United States of America, calmly picked up the special phone and, straightening his shoulders, looking at himself in the mirror under the bright light, said, “I want an atomic bomb dropped on Tehran, and another one on Mecca, simultaneously, within twelve hours.” He then hung up the phone, switched off the light and laid down. He pictured the young man’s face again, felt a responding smile in his own face, closed his eyes and went peacefully to sleep.

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