Heat by Rob O’Neill

Five minutes ago

The war is boring. I was just talking to a journalist on the media beat, and it is so. After the first few obsessive days, viewers are tuning out and turning off.

It’s back to situation normal: reality TV, sitcoms, soaps. The ratings are soaring. In the words of a popular song, the war was “so five minutes ago.”

It’s hard to pick when this happened and it probably happened at different times and for different reasons with different people. Some aren’t interested. Some don’t want to know – it’s all too nasty. Most are just bored, they’ve moved on.

It’s so five minutes ago.

The troops are getting close to Baghdad and the inevitable result. Sure, there were hiccups along the way, but nothing too serious. That’s one powerful war machine out there.

In the timeless fertile valley between the Tigris and the Euphrates the troops are cleaning up. The shadow “civilian” administration is already ensconced in a hotel nearby, ready for a sudden collapse in resistance. It's a collapse that could come at any moment.

Most of the farmers in the valley have moved on, temporarily at least. It’s not the first war that’s been fought through there, far from it, and farmers have a long collective memory. They have a memory stretching back hundreds of years. Thousands of years.

Their stories are told, sometimes sung, around a fire or in a rough café after hard days in the fields. In this valley it is still, as it once was for farmers everywhere.

It’s been a good year in the fertile valley between the Tigris and the Euphrates. The tomatoes are ready. They’re fat and they’re juicy. The cucumbers are growing big. But you can’t pick them too soon. You have to be patient.

Farmer Bakhat Hassan started harvesting his crop two weeks ago. His was going to be a good crop too. It needed to be.

But the war kept getting closer and closer and eventually the family had to leave. Hassan’s father put on his best suit “to look American”. They had to leave some of their crop in the ground, but maybe they could get back soon and harvest that too.

Near Najaf bullets ripped their vehicle apart. Lamea, Hassan’s wife, saw the heads of her two girls ripped off by gunfire. Ten of the fifteen people in the old Toyota died instantly. Hassan’s father died later.

Hassan and Lamea survived. They went back later, to bury their family before the dogs arrived. The soldiers gave them 10 body bags and offered some cash as compensation.

Maybe that was one of the stories that made people tune out. We always knew it was going to happen. It happened again two days later to the family of Razek al-Kazem al-Khafaj, fifteen in all, after their utility was rocketed near Baghdad. It has happened in the working class markets of Baghdad too. It has happened in every war fought across and through the fertile valley between the Tigris and the Euphrates. It has happened in every war ever fought.

But the war is boring. It’s official. We’re tuning out.

And the family of Hassan and Lamea Bakhat and the family of Razek al-Kazem al-Khafaj? Well, they were so five minutes ago.