Random thoughts for a disorderly world…4/16/2003



            I got a call yesterday from a pro-war friend. “You know they haven’t found any weapons of mass destruction?” Yes, I am well aware of that, I admitted, waiting to hear from my friend that he had finally seen the light. “So this proves it.” What? It proves he’s got weapons of mass destruction!” … ? ….  !!!??? “Go on?” I prodded. “Yes, because if he didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction, he wouldn’t have tried so hard to pretend he didn’t have any!”

            This conversation has caused me to rethink my whole approach to the war. I have been wrong all these months: logic was not the right tool for reaching you.


            The papers today are full of the news about the capture of Abu Abbas, the man behind the men who hijacked the Achille Lauro and murdered Leon Klinghoffer. It sounds as though they may be planning to bring him back to the States for a show trial. Now as a liberal I am fervently opposed to shooting cripples, and non-cripples too. (The conservatives are also against shooting them, since they find it so much more satisfying to cut their benefits and slowly starve them.) But I suspect that some may not have read all the way into the articles on Abbas, to a few interesting details. It seems that after he fled, and was convicted in absentia and sentenced to life in prison by the Italian court, a few things happened: the U. S. dropped its charges; Abbas quit terrorism, renounced the killing of innocents, and publicly apologized for the killing of Klinghoffer; he was granted amnesty under the Oslo accord; Israel (!) allowed him to take up residence in Gaza, because they viewed him as reformed. None of this excuses him, but if they try to parade him across your TV screen as a big fish, caught in freedom’s net, the fact is: he isn’t.


            Not long after they staged that phony photo op, while the clang of Saddam’s bronze head was still echoing in the square outside the Palestine hotel in Baghdad, the right-wing proclaimed: That was it! The war is over! Now it’s time for all you left-wingers to come forward and confess your sins. This means you Tim Robbins. You Sean Penn. And On Barbara! On Asner,! On Martin and Susan! (When the Red Guard under Mao made the intellectuals come forward to confess to … thinking, they called the events “struggle sessions.” Rush, Jonas Goldberg, Michelle Malkin – you’d make good Maoists!)

            Over is it? It ain’t over until the Ba’ath lady sings. It’s over when the troops have all come home, when the Iraqis really have their own government, and not something we have imposed upon them. It’s over when we know that no terrorists have targeted us because of the war. It is over when the last body is counted, and the last dollar is spent. Meanwhile, if you want to play the blame game, okay, let’s play. It’s all over? All over and no link to Al-Qaeda has been found. Ready to apologize, Cheyney? It’s all over, and no weapons of mass destruction have been found. Want to tell the world that “oops, I guess we invaded under false pretenses after all,” Colin? Want to go on TV, and say to the mothers of the thousand civilians that have died so far, “I’m sorry for ordering the killing your kids,” George? (Even Abu Abbas did that!) Hey! This “it’s over” game is fun after all. (Note. As of today April 16th, 2003, no WMD have been found in Iraq. That may change. I personally would be shocked if we don’t turn up at least a couple moldy canisters of nerve gas. But for those whose reading skills or logical abilities are – well, see paragraph one and two for details – should a canister turn up a few months from now, don’t come crying: “Aha! What do you say to now?” The rules are that they had to be found by last week, when the statute came down. If not, you have to apologize. “Not fair,” you cry. “They could still turn up.” Nope, sorry “it’s over.” I know it’s harsh, but your side made the rules, so you’ll just have to live with them.)


            Speaking of Tim Robbins…I heard him on the radio this morning. Seems like an intelligent guy, but it is hard to judge from just a few minutes how sharp he really is, and what he knows. I’ve been hearing for months about Tim Robbins, a fatuous celebrity using the war as a means of self-promotion. That, at least seems to be the rant of the right-wing. I guess if you are an actor who comes out and says you support Bush, you are a patriotic American, but if you come out against the war it’s a cynical career move? “I’m not really a guy who’s opposed to dead babies, but I play one on TV.” The odd thing is that I have been hearing for months about Tim Robbins, but these were the first words I’ve heard from Tim Robbins. I guess that’s the fair and balanced coverage. “We give the left plenty of air time – we’ve been denouncing them for months!” The pundits have taken show biz folk to task for daring to express their views. “These are mere actors, what makes them an expert on the Middle East?” A fair question. As near as I can tell, whatever Tim Robbins knows about the Middle East could have come only from reading about it, but he is no expert. Time to air a dirty little secret. What’s the difference between Tim Robbins  and George Will, as far as Middle East expertise goes? It is…well…there isn’t one. George Will is a former Republican speech writer, and what he knows about the Middle East he learned by…reading about it. (Okay, I don’t know who has read more, or understood the material better. My point is that while Robbins has no special expertise, neither does Will. And if you think I am being unfair, think again, I could have picked Rush to represent your side!)


            A final thought. Now that, as claimed a couple of paragraphs back, “it’s over,” aren’t I glad to be on the winning side? Hallelujah! We won (as though the defeat of Saddam’s meager forces was some sort of cliffhanger). I am glad, for several things. I’m glad the primary war campaign was shorter than I thought. I’m glad that Saddam didn’t use poison gas on our troops, and glad that there wasn’t more resistance in the cities. I’m glad that we lost fewer than two hundred coalition forces, when a figure of ten to twenty times that seemed likely. And I’m glad that fewer than half of our dead were killed by our own troops. (I think.) I am very glad that the administration seems to have used some restraint. So far the tally is guessed to be in the low thousands of Iraqi civilians, and possibly ten thousand troops. There are dire warnings that there could still be tens of thousands dead of hunger and disease, mostly the latter, but again, we were somewhat more careful of the infrastructure than last time. (Though knocking out the electricity also knocks out the water purification, so we could see massive tolls in the cities in the next few months.)

            The analogy goes like this. If my son mugs an old lady, yes, I’m happy she didn’t knife him while he was clubbing her. I’ll be very happy if she recovers quickly. I’ll be very happy if my kid doesn’t go to jail. If all that comes to pass, I’ll be happy for each and every one of those things. But if they do, will I be proud of the kid for getting away with it? If you can’t believe anyone would ask something so foolish, review paragraph one.