On the way into and out of Iraq, US troops stop in Kuwait to re-organize or regroup or whatever the military does to waste time before heading into the ridiculousness.
Danny stopped there in March 2004, on his way into Baghdad, and found himself on a makeshift rifle range. (Danny, as I am writing this, claims that much of Kuwait is a makeshift rifle range, all open desert with nothing for miles. Except that one time, when they shot a bedouin’s camel by accident.) His executive officer — a man the soldiers ironically called Superman — had already relocated their squad once. They were setting up their equipment, glancing at their watches and painfully aware (as Superman seemed not to be) that they needed to be off the range by 10:30 am, when Kuwaiti troops had scheduled the range for their own artillery practice.
And then came the smell.
On the range was a birthday cake. And a recently decapitated camel head. Next to each other.
(“The flies were after the cake,” notes Danny. “Not the camel.” Which seems reasonable enough to me. Who wants camel head when there’s birthday cake?)
It was at this moment that Danny and the others noticed the sand rising on the horizon, the debris kicked up by a herd of wild camels, and heard the blast of Kuwaiti fire miles in the distance. They couldn’t see the dusty mushroom cloud the first missile created. But then there was another. And another.
I always find this story fascinating, because it’s so surreal — like a Salvador Dali painting. It seems like a drugged-up dream sequence an artsy director would plant in the middle of a movie, a not-so-subtle commentary on the absurdity of war. You see this birthday cake? Next to the camel head? In the middle of the desert? Crazy, right? Well so is war! Stick it to the man!
We were talking about the carcass/cake incident because Danny is designing some concert posters for a friend who’s in a band that will be touring in the Texas area. They have this big-open-spaces sensibility, and one of the posters Danny is designing features, in part, a desert landscape. He refuses to incorporate cacti or scorpions, despite my insistence.
So I suggested that he include a camel head and a birthday cake.