This Train is Bound for Glory – With Stops in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan

It is 1991. I am driving east on I-10 on my way to Joshua Tree. On the right side of the Railroad Crossing Signfreeway I see a train ahead. Four locomotives pull this train, which is the most I can remember ever seeing. As the train approaches I can see the first of the flat cars behind the engines.

There are tanks, one per flatcar. I don’t mean tank cars. I mean tanks. We are months into the Gulf War. I assume this train is taking its load to March Air Force Base to be loaded onto C-17s. The train lumbers under the weight of all this mechanized armor.

I see past the first cars as the train moves around a bend. Behind the flat cars carrying tanks are – more tanks. And more. I’ve never seen so many tanks. And they keep coming.

More and more pass me by as the train continues on its way to March. I’m not counting but I wouldn’t be surprised if there weren’t fifty tanks behind those locomotives. Then I see something in the distance that changes things up a bit. The flat cars are no longer each carrying a single tank, but a single asphalt spreader.

The asphalt spreaders come on, car after car. As I watch another fifty flat cars pass, it occurs to me that this train is a symbol of what it is we are doing in Iraq. We are blowing shit up, shattering the infrastructure. And then we’ll come along with a dustpan and broom and clean up.

Suddenly I see the caboose. That there is only one seems strange, considering the overwhelming number of everything else on the train. As my car passes the caboose, a man in denim overalls stands at the back with a gigantic screwdriver, turning a gigantic screw.

Suddenly I realize that I have been fooled by an optical illusion. The train isn’t moving at all. It appears that this man has ultimate control over it. All of this destructive power is under his hand, controlled by that gigantic screwdriver. For all of its power, it goes nowhere if he does not want it to.

That’s a lot of power for one person to have.


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