A man acting as the voice of the President said that Iraq is a “catastrophic success.”
In a matter of 55 minutes of stage time, 10 men and women used direct quotations that detailed the last years of war and preparations for war in Iraq. The stage, set simply with 10 chairs and 10 water bottles had volunteer actors who wanted to speak about Iraq sitting behind 10 music stands that each held the script adapted by Simon Levy from Eliot Weinberger’s article “What I Heard About Iraq.”
A woman on stage said, “this was the first American President in wartime who had never attended a funeral for a dead soldier. I heard that photographs of the flag-draped coffins returning home were banned.”
Monday’s audience of about 40 were sparsely scattered around the quiet theater atmosphere. The distant banging of drums from practicing ensembles permeated the silence that evening rains created on the CSUN campus.
Many audience members didn’t know what to expect. The reading began slowly and methodically. The readers took a few minutes to grapple with the slow of the script as the rapid-fire progression of quotations from reports and officials about Iraq.
It took almost 15 minutes to begin to absorb and change mindset to critically analyze each quote as the actors boldly announced it.
A man acting as a Pentagon official said “call the military plan ‘ADay,’ or ‘Shock and Awe.’ Three or four hundred Cruise Missiles launched every day, until “there will not be a safe place in Baghdad,” until “you have this simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but in minutes.”
The same actor said in his next breath, “You’re sitting in Baghdad and all of a sudden you’re the general and 30 of your division headquarters have been wiped out. You also take the city down. By that I mean you get rid of their power, water. In two, three, four, five days they are physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted.”
The quotes used in this article brought the largest reaction from the audience, which produced gasps and uncomfortable laughter. It was as if they were hearing this information for the first time, and it may have been. It was the first time they had heard this read without emotion, without political charge but read as a series of quotations that painted a comprehensive story of how the government administration has eluded telling the complete truth to its citizens.
I heard each actor name a country in the coalition of the willing which left Iraq and revoked its support of the war. I heard an actor who quoted the president say, “Two years from now, only the Brits may be with us. At some point, we may be the only ones left. That’s OK with me. We are America.”
As the play ended the actors said how they had heard more than 100,000 Iraqis died, 2,317 U.S. soldiers were dead, 16,653 wounded, so far.
Director Peter Grego ended the play with an open discussion among the actors and audience. With the battles still ongoing in Iraq, Grego had to constantly update the play.
“We would come to rehearsal having to change the death count, for what? Three more died in the last two days, and for what?” Grego asked.