Adam Mansbach 2008

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  A Brief History of the Recent War
by Adam Mansbach

That we as a nation wanted to be conquered is increasingly accepted. The freedom to say so without recrimination is proof enough for many that democracy was worth the bloodshed which induced it.

The American empire was distended, rotten -- our corrupt leaders elected by fraud, our press complicit. Our police force murdered citizens in hails of gunfire, on the flimsiest of pretexts and without consequence. Doomsday cults, with their religious zealotry, dominated the machinery of public discourse and the highest walks of political life. We hated each other and could not agree.

Only an economy falsely buoyed by an endless, shifting imperial war and a propaganda campaign touting the patriotism and sacrosanctity of consumption kept the populace docile. We believed every mendacity, embraced every frivolous distraction, worried incessantly about enemies we’d never seen and could not locate on maps. All the while, a foreign army of two million was infiltrating our borders, building fortified compounds that we, in our arrogance, never recognized until the first attacks were launched. The war was swift, precise, decisive. Only we, of all the world’s nations, were surprised at our defeat. The United States had not expected this of Sweden.

American military strategists -- the few who have not yet abandoned the profession -- agree that the Scandinavian power probably began planning for war years before the construction of the first covert military base. Scattered sleeper cells of Swedish immigrants had likely been in direct contact with their nation’s military since the election of President Reagan in 1980. But the 1985 opening of the first domestic Ikea outlet, in Philadelphia, marked the opening of Sweden’s major infrastructural and recruitment efforts, some twenty-two years before the commencement of hostilities.

Like all of Sweden’s thirty-six pre-war Ikea military bases, the Philadelphia ‘store’ was designed to withstand a six-month siege. Its exterior walls were built of fifteen-foot thick artillery-resistant adamantine; a vast interior network housed a maze of production and training facilities. The characteristically flat roof doubled as a landing strip for aircraft, and numerous radiation-proof sublevels hid troop barracks, tactical centers, and vast armories. While American shoppers perused the inexpensive home furnishings that provided the bases’ cover, the Swedish military conducted sophisticated psychological tests devised to probe the American mind for exploitable weaknesses, deficiencies, and futon color-preferences.

Through a gradual system of cultural inculcation, Swedish forces also made considerable progress in swaying American Ikea ‘employees’ against their homeland. These moles, as is well known, later proved invaluable in coordinating tactical strikes, breaking American resistance, and establishing popular support for the new government.

But Sweden’s acknowledged masterstroke, to which entire military histories have already been devoted, was the embedding of weaponizing technology in the hardware of every Ikea product sold in the United States from 1985 until the initiation of hostilities in late 2007. Ingvar Bergstrom, the Swedish army scientist credited with inventing the industrial polymer used to craft all Ikea metals, died of heart failure in late 2005, thus missing the opportunity to see his invention triumph. Upon remote activation, the Bergstrom polymer internally-combusted and transmuted to a gaseous form. Deadly if inhaled in large quantities, it was an effective incapacitant in a dosage of as little as one part-per-million; the fumes from a single Expedit shelving unit were enough to render a grown man immobile for twelve hours. And in the non-circulatory spaces where most Ikea furniture was stored, the Bergstrom polymer remained in the air supply long enough for repeated reingestion, leaving tens of millions of Americans unable to report to work, school, church and miltary duty, and setting off a widespread panic that the Swedish offensive exploited brilliantly.

It took the covert Swedish bases -- all of which closed under the guise of inventory-taking and restocking -- only forty-eight hours to convert to full military capacity. Even now, the elegance and efficacy of their operations is difficult to grasp; every stick of wood, every length of piping, had a second purpose, a wartime use. And yet, when American civilians began to understand the Swedish strategy and, attired in gas-masks to neutralize the effects of the Bergstrom polymer, attempted to reconfigure their own Ikea products, they succeeded only in breaking them. Solely through slavish devotion to the instructions handed down through the Swedish chain of command was it possible to create a usable product from Ikea parts.

The American military, spread thin across the global theater of war, proved unequal to the task of fleet response. New Orleans was the first to fall; Swedish forces swept north from Houston and secured the city’s borders within hours, meeting little resistance. In one of the war’s most memorable images, General Astrud Maria Larson, surrounded by paramilitary troops in blue and yellow Kevlar, delivered the formal declaration of war from atop a levee in the city’s Lower Ninth Ward. Her speech, delivered first in Swedish and then repeated in arch, flawless English, proclaimed the launch of a military campaign to spread democracy to a politically-isolated region long viewed as a threat to international stability and characterized by violent tribalism, human-rights abuses, and state-sponsored terrorism.

Such a campaign, it soon became clear, could not have been mounted without broad international approval. Much has been made of the enormous shock Americans felt at the first assault on sovereign soil since the War of 1812, but just as traumatic was the knowledge that the world community backed the invasion. The psychological impact of being attacked by an infantry wielding weapons emblazoned with the legends “Made in China,” “Made in Poland,” and “Hecho en Mexico” cannot be overstated.

The embattled American president, cuckholded by the frequency and vehemence of his previous calls to arms, was denied emergency war powers by a legislature wary of providing election-year fodder to its opponents. Before the National Guard could be mobilized, or battle-weary troops extricated from foreign commitments, it was too late. The Swedes had seized Chicago, Minneapolis, Arizona, most of Ohio. The vaunted ‘nuclear option’ was not one. Isolated militias took up arms and were mowed down.

Most stunning of all was the speed with which popular support for the American government began to crumble. In city afer city, the Swedes were greeted as liberators. Each battalion of troops was accompanied by a medical attachment; free health care was immediately made available, as were food and child-care supplies. The Swedish Prime Minister, in an international address, declared that the occupation would not be permanent, that Sweden harbored no imperialist ambitions and desired only to restore self-rule and representational government to a people long denied them. He was widely believed. Within two weeks of the initial military engagement, the Prime Minister’s poll numbers exceeded those of the deposed American president.

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