Volume 32, Number 1

Community College

Richard Krause

The Death Following the Destruction of the 25,000–50,000 Iraqi Soldiers

It started in the History Department. Quite innocently, for they were only the recorders of the past and couldn’t play any part in the battlefield horrors, so they left it to the Sociology Department. Its Chairman was from Iraq, so there was little more than an accommodating echo of what was heard. He too felt obligated to put the yellow ribbon on his office door, and as a concession to his conscience they let him keep the American flag inside on his desk.

And the Economics Professor, he came from Bangladesh. He had daily calls from his friend in Washington that kept him apprised of the news about twelve hours before it was released to the public. But he was awaiting citizenship, and so could only speak up so much. He also taught Statistics but gave that up in regard to the war when the school paper reported, “Not twenty Iraqi women and children were worth one American soldier’s life.” He knew the cause was hopeless.

The Accounting Professor who could do a rapid-fire cost analysis lost all her flair for figures when it was civilians halfway around the world with their faces buried in countless grains of Iraqi sand. She knew it was wrong, but what could she do? She was only one person, and a pragmatist. And besides, she had to take her daughter down to the mall that very afternoon to try on a new dress for the one that had to be returned, not to mention her son’s weekly visits to the orthodontist to tighten his braces.

And the three Psychologists: not a murmur of the war dead. One, the man was young enough to get called up as he was already in the Reserves, though he strained to listen to both sides his head was canted to one side already anticipating bullets whizzing past his own ear.

The two History Professors cosied up to the Iraqi to get first hand information and instill in him their own values and historical perspective. He adopted their opinion, did “a 180 degree turn” the Bangladesh Professor accused him of, while admitting to his own 45 degree turn.

The two Computer Professors had all the gravity of their equipment behind them, one an ex-Marine, and were solidly in support of our troops.

The secretary of one department started the flags and yellow ribbons on everyone’s door. When one member of the faculty was asked if he wanted a flag and ribbon, he said, “No thank you.”

The Nursing Professor quickly said, “Who said that?” But it went no further. They didn’t gang up on him. He kept his views to himself and was overruled by the constant television the Secretary watched for war news ten feet from her desk.

The deaths started in each of these departments and spread up to the English Department which was worrying about the next play, the horrors of Greek tragedies, African-American literature, their own publication successes and the alarming erosion of skills in student writing. The death spread too to the Department of Biological Science, to the cats and frogs dissected in the labs and to the chemistry of what was already a corpse of life and on into the Nursing Department where the mock cadavers got overwhelmingly attentive care that seemed as meaningless as the cases of pneumoconiosis from the local coal company when miners came out of the hollers to be treated.

Finally, Death stalked in the Math Department and in the heady achievements of Physics. They too applaud the imaginary numbers, direct hits on the television, the exact trajectory through doors on the top of buildings.

It is here where the Death started at the local Community College along with the School Administration that feared the student body. Even though over seventy-five percent had relatives or friends serving in the Middle East, and so on the Administration office doors were placed yellow ribbons in support of the troops.

They couldn’t have done otherwise when Death got underway, in full swing, scythe in hand, and circulated through student body; the institution of higher learning became an almost communicable disease that few believed they were the carriers of, or had originated, and finally it wandered the air passageways and rested inside the epiglottis and down the tracheal vents and caused a black lung nobody could quite diagnose outside that found on the local miners. For everyone went on with their careers.

By March 3 when asked at a briefing how many Iraqis were killed on the road to Basra, General Richard Neal said, “There is nothing to be gained by talking about wartime causalities.”

The small Community College went on with its life. No blood dripped out from under their doors connecting each Department. There were no footprints left from having stepped in it, for the hot sands had already soaked it up, blew it dried across the desert granule by granule. Their hands too were clean attending to their labs, balancing chemical equations, marking errors in sentences, reading even about the horrors confined to World Literature and History courses.

At best the red Kentucky dirt told of another story of Educators whose blood flowed not red, nor moist, nor drained in desiccated bodies, but was alive in the minds of all who pictured American life in their warm houses, in the food they prepared on holidays, in the electricity and running water that Baghdad was deprived of; all these things were evident along with the smiles on everyone’s faces and their sense of humor as they embraced their children, fathers, mothers, unlike the Iraqis who we claimed, “don’t value life like we do.”