At a concert last week in Massachusetts, Bob Dylan sang an old, old song called "John Brown," while I imagined his head spinning with whiplash from the deja vu.
Why? The song, which he wrote in 1963, is today's answer to "stay the course" and every dusty metal yellow ribbon stuck on cars and pick-up trucks in America.
A mother sends her son to war to do her proud: "Do what the captain says, lots of medals you will get, and we'll put them on the wall when you come home."
But her son comes home blind, his face all shot off, his hand gone, and a metal brace around his waist. He can't talk well, but he says, "I couldn't help but think, through the thunder rolling and stink, that I was just a puppet in a play." Then he drops his medals into his stunned mother's hands and walks away.
It's hard to fault the mothers and fathers who supported the Bush wars. They trusted their government. They trusted their president. They were lied to. They were terribly misled.
Thanksgiving is the day we're supposed to be thankful for things: for family, for the true bounty of America from sea to shining sea, for turkey dinners whether they are caged or free-range, and for the recent election that threw out one of the most corrupt Congresses we've seen in many years.
So why am I spitting mad this Thanksgiving?
Because there will be too many empty chairs and empty sleeves this Thanksgiving. Too many mothers and fathers with cold medals in their hands. Too many men and women not coming back, or living in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, or still serving in hostile lands.
And how can we give thanks without tears for the thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan people who've been maimed and killed in the six misbegotten years since George W. Bush and Dick Cheney came to power?
It's been a year since Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., correctly called the Iraq war a bungling mess and asked for the troops to be withdrawn. In the recent mid-term election, a majority of the American people wholeheartedly joined with him in that call. And in that year, 800 John (and Jane) Browns more have been killed, more than 6,000 have been seriously wounded, and we still don't know how many Iraqis are dead and dying on the ground.
Bush and Cheney are as deaf to the American people as they are to the message that from the beginning, the Iraqis didn't want us there. In April 2003, during the invasion, an Iraqi man told a U.S. Marine, "I'm going to exercise my right of free speech for the first time in my life - we want you out of here as soon a possible."
And just this month, on the website of Imad Khadduri, an Iraqi physicist now living in Canada, (abutamam.blogspot.com), a man wrote, "Does anybody doubt that there isn't a home in Iraq now which is not suffering the loss or injury of a loved one? When will this nightmare end? When will we regain our country and see the back of this occupation?"
The stupidity, the heartlessness, the macho, the incredible arrogance and the unspeakable cruelty of Donald Rumsfeld, Condeleeza Rice, Cheney, George W. Bush and George Herbert Walker Bush make my blood boil.
Why Bush I? Didn't he pull back from invading Iraq? Didn't Cheney, his Secretary of Defense at the time, say that invading the country would get the United States "bogged down in the quagmire inside Iraq?" Didn't Bush I say that dethroning Saddam Hussein would have only showed "our macho" and would have "incurred incalculable human and political costs... We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. "
Maybe but then he unequivocally supported Bush II and Cheney's insane new domino theory - that invading Iraq would "bring democracy to the Middle East."
Now that they have made a total mess of Iraq, driven America to bankruptcy, destroyed our good name around the world, probably destroyed Republican chances in the 2008 election, and perhaps started a religious war that will make the earth's oceans turn red with the blood of innocents, Bush I is sending in his own crew - James Baker, new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates - to try and salvage something from the mess.
As a former high-level CIA official told Seymour M. Hersh in The New Yorker this week, "The President finally had to accept adult supervision."
But are Bush II and Cheney truly chastised? Not in the least. According to Hersh, who has always been remarkably well-informed about the secret workings of the Bush Administration, the two seem to believe that by bombing Iran next, the Iranian people will rise up and overthrow their government. Talk about deja vu.
At the very least, Bush and Cheney believe that by showing Iran "our macho" they will stop Iran's progress toward nuclear weapons - which most analysts believe is far in the future.
"But many in the White House and the Pentagon insist that getting tough with Iran is the only way of salvaging Iraq," Hersh writes. They believe that a massive bombing of Iran would be like "doubling their bet" in a casino - ending up, perhaps, with two dominos -excuse me, democratic states - in the Middle East.
They're dreaming. Hersh quotes a source as saying, correctly in my view, that an attack on Iran could unite Shiite and Sunni and "paper over any differences in the Arab world, and we'll have Syrians, Iranians, Hamas and Hezbollah fighting against us - and the Saudis and the Egyptians questioning their ties to the West. It's an analyst's worst nightmare."
If Bush and Cheney are not stopped - and the recent election is only a baby step - we'll remain puppets in this tragic play for two more years. And there will be empty chairs and empty sleeves at many more Thanksgivings to come.
Joyce Marcel is a freelance journalist in southern Vermont. A collection of her columns, "A Thousand Words or Less," is available through joycemarcel.com.