Thursday, April 17, 2003

Syria's Friends Are Layabouts?

Periodically I encounter young people. And one of the things young people like to ask me is, "Why did you hippies screw up America back in the sixties?" "Ha, ha," I respond, "I wasn't a hippy, you ignorant child," but later I feel bad because I sense that I could have provided some insight to someone who was sincerely seeking answers. Then still later I watch the Simpsons and fall asleep.

Put another way, the question that arises is, what were all those long-hairs rebelling against back then? Well, now it can be known. Consider the following quote from Donald Rumsfeld.

"The (Syrian) government's making a lot of bad mistakes, a lot of bad judgment calls, in my view, and they're associating with the wrong people."

That, my friends, is a sixties dad. "That kid (alternately: my son, or that minority person, or that rock singer, or that protestor) is making a lot of bad mistakes, blah, blah, in my view, AND they're associating with the wrong people." Pure sixties dad.

Now multiply that by how ever many millions of sixties dads there were and count in the fact that most sixties moms were backing up this kind of clenched-teeth belligerence from the sidelines, and you can see what all the fuss was about. The long-hairs were rebelling against a zillion petty Donald Rumsfelds in various pants and skirts. (Women always wore skirts in those days. Or else.)

The one non-sixties-dad like thing about Donald Rumsfeld is that he writes poetry. However, when Donald Rumsfeld writes poetry, it is very recognizably the sort of poetry a sixties dad would write if he broke the stereotype and wrote poetry. So the stereotype doesn't really break.

In view of some recent events in the Middle East, some of Rumsfeld's poetry from the past starts to look like warnings of things to come. For example the 2001 "Situation" ends with the lines, " There will be some things that people will see. / There will be some things that people won’t see. / And life goes on."

Take the celebration in Baghdad when the statue near the Palestine Hotel was brought down by the tank. People saw the cheering Iraqis. But they did not see the limits of the crowd. Wide-angle photos that showed that the crowd consisted of fewer than two hundred people were available on the internet but not discussed in the major US media -- things unseen. Also unseen was evidence that the Iraqi participants in the celebration were primarily Iraqi freedom fighters brought into Baghdad by our military.

Credit has to go to our Army and Marines for doing such a fine job of propaganda. This is what we pay them the big bucks to do. It is of course desirable to convince your enemy that you have won the support of the people as soon as possible, so that they will give up the fight. It is unfortunate that in the process you also end up lying to everyone else in the world, including the people you are supposedly saving from future terrorism. But hey, life goes on, right?

Well, for some of us anyway. Not for Rachel Corrie and Tom Handoll.

You probably know Rachel Corrie was murdered by Israeli army bulldozer a while back, when she could have simply been handcuffed and arrested. You may not know that Tom Handoll, a British activist, was murdered a few days ago by means of a shot to the head, fired at him while he was trying to herd Palestinian children away from Israeli soldiers. When he could have simply been handcuffed and arrested. (They could have charged him with "giving a damn for Palestinian children," apparently a capital offense in Israel now. At least he would have had a trial.)

Shades of the sixties. I remember it now so well.

To Israel: Please find another way.

To the reader: Please support House Concurrent Resolution 111, AKA the Rachel Corrie Resolution, which calls for an investigation into her death.

By the way, I know this column hasn't been very humorous. But as Anitra puts it, "They're giving you hell to work with."

Thursday, April 3, 2003

Mainlined headlines

Let's hyperventilate!

Rumsfeld is right. I have become such a CNN junky. I watch the war news 16 hours a day on television and spend the rest of my time reading about it at I have strong opinions about what Aaron Brown has become. I recognize way too many retired army generals.

I know far more than I need to know about the 3-7th cavalry. Unofficial song: the Garryowen (I can even spell it!) Unofficial Martyr: General Custer. Battle cry: "Hoo hah!" And to think I used to credit Mad Magazine with inventing "Hoo hah!" along with "Axolotl?" and "What you mean WE, Kimosabe?" I know what a FARRP is. I know who the tip of the tip of the spear of the rolling wave of steel is, according to CNN's Walter Rodgers (namely the 7th cavalry, of course.)

Then, a couple of days into the conflict, I learned that "stay behinds are eating up our soft logistical tail" from retired Colonel David Hackworth. Thus I began to hyperventilate, precisely as Rumsfeld has described.

It's all those ups and downs of 24-hour coverage. It's the up of watching a rommel of tanks race across the desert a hundred miles unopposed, followed by the down of hearing about an ambush and capture of POWs, followed by the minor up of Gen. Myers calling our strategy "brilliant", followed by the extreme down of watching the British conduct "psychological warfare" as they bulldoze murals of Saddam. Like anyone's dumb enough to fall for that trick. ("Hey, where did big picture of Saddam go? Me guess war is over." – I wonder how much they're saying that in the outskirts of Basra.)

Is it any surprise I need a paper bag to breathe into? I am experiencing the fundamental stress that all thinking organisms experience when we need intelligence and all we get are unconnected facts. This is what I call an adventure in poetry. It's the anxiety that adheres to so-called military intelligence operations like peanut butter to the roof of a dog's mouth. We know all kinds of stuff, but we don't know what matters.

Let me give an example. According to our great spy agencies the Iraqis still had weapons of mass destruction as of March 19, when we started to shoot at them. The whole excuse for shooting at them was the presumed fact I just mentioned, coupled with the equally presumed fact that the Iraqis were willing to USE the afore-mentioned WMDs on us in the future.

But the question that mattered was HOW willing were the Iraqis to use those WMDs.

I mean, what the hell does it take to get an Iraqi to gas you? How much do you have to throttle one of these guys before he blows VX in your face? Don't they know we're conquering them?

OK, maybe by the time you read this the Republican National Guard will have gassed the 7th cavalry and given smallpox to the 101st Airborne, but that won't change the fact THAT THEY HAVE WAITED UNTIL WE WERE ON BAGHDAD'S DOORSTEP. That is not much of an indication of a "willingness to use weapons of mass destruction on us." That indicates instead an unwillingness to use weapons of mass destruction on us except as a last resort (which is by the way when I personally favor using them.)

Our "intelligence" got it wrong because the Saddam regime used weapons of mass destruction on "his own people", hence proving that he was evil, hence proving a willingness to use WMDs on us at the drop of a hat.

Well, that logic didn't work.

Apparently Saddam Hussein, who regards the Kurds as less than animals, respects Americans and British as moral equals who deserve better treatment.

Perhaps he sees himself in us.