(first published in Mobius Magazine, 2005)

The sky glowed amber, snugly tucked behind the sand and rock in the distance. The oppressive heat threatened to once again soar into the 120’s, driving millions into their comfortable, air-conditioned high-rise apartments. Still, most of the lawns at the lush complexes in downtown Baghdad glowed a vibrant green, having been watered during the night. It was hard to believe that a mere sixty years ago, this was a vast, desert wasteland.
George, the newly elected President of Iraq, stared out of his oval office window, the Iraqi secret servicemen obstructing his view of the sunrise. Named for Iraq’s liberator, George Bush Muhammad Al Salim, descendant of a prominent Iraqi cleric, had been groomed for leadership since his grandfather was asked to serve as a representative on the first Iraqi Congress. Now, the first grandson, born the very day the American bombs fell on the Baghdad, was the ruler of the second largest nation in the world.
Following the liberation of Iraq from the evil Hussein regime in 2003, the world, led by the United States of America, undertook the challenge of rebuilding the devastated country, spanked and scolded at the hands of the “Coalition of the Willing.” Though the
war itself only took a matter of weeks, the undoing of the damage caused by years of insurgency lasted over a decade. The entire infrastructure of the country had to be replaced. Everything from elections to electricity underwent a massive and almost continuous overhaul, but by the year 2020, Iraq, with the help of its new big brother, the U.S.A., had been transformed into an oasis in the desert.
Fundamentalist Muslims and Saddam loyalists resisted the most fiercely…at first, but eventually fell victim to the seduction of Coca-Cola, fast food, and MTV. With their first taste of the excess and the freedoms of “the infidels,” Iraq, almost overnight, began its transformation into the bastion of capitalism and luxury it is today.
With the help of their U.S. brethren, the new Iraqi government struck up peace treaties (which became outright alliances) with Israel, who also took its cues from the Americans. Together, they realized that the key to success in the region was to set aside their differences and work together to turn their small speck of the world into the paradise that many believed it once was. Other nations, including Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and so on, upon the sudden mysterious deaths of their ruling families, began to fall in step with the noble Iraqis and over the next twenty years they formed together the United States of Iraq, paying homage to their new-millennium liberators.
However, wary of the power the people of the Middle East had gained through their solidarity, the Americans (who took over custody of Mexico and most of South America during the same twenty year period) sought to maintain their fingers in the collective pies. Trillions had been made as a result of the oil seized in Iraq, pulling America out of its Republican-inspired depression, which hit the middle class the hardest.
For over a decade after the occupation of Iraq, the American economy had come to resemble the Cold War Soviet Union, a wealthy upper class and a struggling, starving lower class. American Presidents began dumping billions into the stabilizing and rebuilding of Iraq. Social programs across the board were hacked and slashed, or simply outright eliminated. Few people survived Depression II without owing thousands in “Survival Loans” to the swelling banks across the country, and the world.
Education also fell to the turn of the century Republicans. In 2003, the government vowed “no child would be left behind.” In an attempt to save the underachievers, educators were forced to focus their attention to meeting the “bottom line.” Students were drilled and drilled and drilled on “the basics.” The arts were entirely abandoned, replaced by classes like “Test Taking Techniques” and “Multiple Choice Mastery.” Despite Einstein’s declaration that “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” the youth of America were stripped of their creativity, and the dreamers were slowly converted into “test bubblers.”
The number of scientific advances in America came to a standstill. Each year, the new cars, like the Volkswagon Beetle of the past, were just  rehashed versions of the previous year’s models for the next fifty years. In fact, very little had changed since the early 2000’s, so far as the nation’s technology was concerned. Americans continued to drive bigger and bigger gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles.
In 2010, Japan, continuing to make technological advances, switched over all vehicles to electric-powered, then to water-powered engines. In 2070, the Japanese began production of flying vehicles, but that program was abandoned as being too costly for the Japanese public, and was implemented only by government agencies, until a more efficient means of production was devised. Despite these advances, American oil cartels continued to hamper the switch to more efficient and cleaner-burning fuels. Besides, the sale of oil was the saving grace, pulling the Americans out of the financial quagmire created by the liberation of Iraq.
“Mr. President,” a voice called from the doorway. George turned to greet it.
“Yes, John?”
“I have those recent revenue figures and surplus analysis for the oil industry,” he John reminded.
“Great. What’s the news?”
“Well, it doesn’t look good,” John sighed.
John Hikmet Al Sahaaf had grown up with George in the once small town of New Dallas (formerly Tikrit). They attended the first American-built schools in the country and received the type of education once given in America, with the new and most gifted teachers from the U.S. now living in the New Iraq to escape the stringent restrictions on public education back home.
They were both gifted artists in their own right- George a painter, John a writer. All Iraqi students were, actually. In the early days of the new Iraqi democracy, the arts flourished as a result of their new freedoms. At last, self-expression was allowed, regardless of the content, and no longer were artists required to work only for the edification of egomaniacal dictators. The liberation gave birth to a Middle Eastern Renaissance, and with the absence of arts in the West, Iraq became the Mecca of artistic trends. Even Middle Eastern films had taken the forefront at worldwide box offices, audiences having grown tired of the predictable and substandard scripts produced by Hollywood.
“I’m meeting with the American ambassador in two minutes so give it to me straight, without all the usual formalities,” George instructed. “How bad is it?”
“Our oil surplus is two-thirds depleted, which in turn has driven the price through the roof, causing profits to plummet. When you factor in the taxes and tariffs imposed by America, we’ll be lucky to make any profit at all.
“I see.”
“What?” George asked with growing exasperation.
“There are rumors that America is finally going to pass legislation mandating the use of alternative fuel sources,” John added mournfully.
“This could mean, quite possibly, the end of Iraq as a major player on the world stage,” George reflected, more to himself than John. “Without the revenues generated by oil sales our economy will crumble.”
“Yes, Sir.”
“Yes, Sir? That’s all you have to say?”
“But, I’m not sure what…”
“Solutions!” George yelled. “What are our options? How can we fix this mess? Please tell me you have at least some ideas.”
“Well, Sir, our analysts have been doing projections and crunching numbers for weeks. There’s nothing fool-proof yet, but we’re hopeful that a solution will present itself.”
“Present itself? Hopeful?” Sweat was beginning to congregate on George’s brow. “What are we talking about here?”
“Mr. President, we are starting to consider the worst-case scenarios. Unless immediate action is taken, we are looking at the financial collapse of Iraq.”
“And your analysts have come up with nothing?” George pleaded.
“Well…there is one possible solution,” John confessed, hesitation permeating each syllable.
“From the tone of your voice, I don’t think I’m going to like this.”
“No, I don’t think you will.”
George turned and walked intently to the window. The sun was peeking over the rooftops. All was quite still in the city. Iraqi citizens had finished their morning prayers and were now sitting down to enjoy a hearty breakfast with their families.
“What is it?” George asked finally.
“War, Sir.”
George turned his head slowly and glared at him from the corner of his eye.
“Is that supposed to be some kind of joke?”
John froze, silent.
“War? With whom?”
“Have you lost your mind?” George spun to face him squarely.
“With all due respect, Sir, we’ve carefully analyzed the situation, and a war with America would generate the capitol needed to save this country from utter ruin.”
“America? You can’t be serious.”
“I’m afraid so, Sir.”
“Let me get this straight. You’re suggesting that we send our young men and women off to die in an unprovoked war against America, the mightiest nation on the planet, to pull Iraq out of financial peril?”
“Mr. President, I know this seems a bit rash, but if you’d let me explain…”
“What is there to explain? America, as corrupt and lazy as she may be, freed us from the tyrant. Need I remind you?”
“With all due respect, sir, that’s ancient history now,” John insisted. “America is not the savior it once seemed to be.”
George eyed him threateningly, cautioning him to tread lightly, and concluded, “I’ll not listen to any more of this.”
“Mr. President, you must. We have no other option.”
“I don’t see how taking on the most powerful nation on the planet is a realistic option.”
“I agree. However, America is no longer the sleeping giant it once was,” John smirked knowingly.
“I think you grossly underestimate them.”
“On the contrary, Sir, I think I may be overestimating them.”
George shook his head in disbelief, and returned to the window behind his desk.
“Mr. President, I have been secretly reassured by the leaders of China, France, Germany, Russia, Italy and Korea that they will give their support, both financially and militarily.”
“Do you have any idea what you have done?”
“Yes, sir. We are now part of the mightiest alliance in world history.”
George fell back, limp, into his chair, the weight of this latest revelation falling on him like the toppling of the great wall.
“Do you so quickly forget history? Do you not remember the result of the secret alliance Germany sought with Mexico during the First World War?”
“I remember all too well, I assure you,” John said, sitting in the plush chair opposite the president. “And I also remember that every time America fell into economic trouble, they went to war to resuscitate their economy.”
The president swiveled his chair so that he might once again catch a glimpse of the tranquility of sunrise.
“George,” John added, his tone softer now, “the time for the American Empire is over. We must not fear to pen this new page in history.”
“And if we fail? The Americans are known for their iron will and their deadly resolve.”
“Sir, their forces are spread so thin around the globe, policing the countless impoverished nations and chasing fanatics in their war on terror that their ability to defend against an all-out assault is gone. They are at their most vulnerable, and with the support of our allies, we can cast out the colonials, save our nation, and finally be free.”
“Surely there must be another way,” the president pleaded.
“George, this is our only option.”
The president leaned forward and with his elbows on the desk, cradling his head in his hands.
“You’re sure China and the European Union are with us?” he asked finally through his spread fingers.
“They stand to gain as much or more than we do,” John assured him. “I am sure they will not falter.”
The president rose slowly and returned to his familiar perch in front of the window. He thought of all the mothers who would mourn their fallen children, the widows who would curse his name for taking their loved ones from them. He envisioned the skies stained with the blood of the sons of Iraq, and sighed heavily, expelling the surfeit of sadness that welled up inside him.
“Assemble my cabinet,” George commanded, “and reschedule my meeting with the American ambassador.”
“Yes, Mr. President,” John said and scurried out the north-end door.
George stood at the window, admiring the countryside as downtown Baghdad came alive with the first, unfettered rays. Watching the desert sun climb from behind the clouds on the horizon, he welcomed, with quiet trepidation, the new dawn.

CONTACT: chris@christhayer.com