Displaying your kill is an old cowboy custom. There are hundreds of daguerreotypes and primitive Kodak snaps of bullet-marked badmen laid out, sometimes in the coffin and sometimes not, on dusty western streets. In later decades, the newspapers were filled with half-tone pictures of bloody gangsters, splayed half-in and half-out of LaSalle automobiles. The practice of making a show of dead bodies is in keeping with what the politicians and neocons call our “values.” Thus the Hussein boys-Uday and Qusay-got a good old-fashioned American send-off lying there in a morgue on sheets of plastic to have their pictures taken.
The fastidious objected on grounds of taste, but Christians love dead bodies; they’re always gawking at them. Unlike Muslims, they let corpses lie around for days while they photograph them, walk gravely past them in long lines, gussy them up with cosmetics, pump chemicals into them and pray in front of them. For an Iraq which Washington says is soon to be a miniature America, this way of saying bye-bye to Uday and Qusay may have given undead Iraqis a look at what lies ahead: a conspicuous-consumption/supply-side way of death which, you may be sure, they will come to enjoy more and more as they take to the better life being prepared for them by the American authorities.
There is one aspect of the extinguishing of Uday and Qusay which gives pause: These two men had a bounty of $15 million apiece on their heads, and yet it was months before someone dropped a dime on them and stepped up for the money. These are all Muslims, right? Practitioners of an inferior religion, right? Vice Leader Dick Cheney calls it “a hateful ideology.” It is, doubtless, unimpressive compared to Christianity.
For proof, look at how the three Bible religions handled getting God offstage after he started their faiths. Jesus makes a dignified exit: He gets himself crucified in the approved manner, taken down, put in a cave and vanishes. Jews don’t have a Son of God situation, so they don’t exactly have the problem of getting him offstage and upstairs. Now regard the Muslim Big Guy-he jumps on a horse, a Pegasus or a Seabiscuit, and amscrays to heaven. A horse? He goes to heaven on a horse? A little too rococo, theologically speaking, wouldn’t you say?
But get this: For months, these Muslims have resisted the temptation of the immensely large sum awaiting the first stool pigeon to turn in the two bloody brothers. Compare that to the Christians. Their Big Guy was sold out for a few pieces of silver at the first opportunity. It doesn’t look good.
Nevertheless, some very prominent Christians hate Arabs and Muslims. One such is House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas, a man famous for his Bible-babble, who belongs to one of those Christian churches where they take Kool-Aid for communion. The Bible, as the majority leader would have you read it, says that God has ordered America to stamp out the Arabs so that the Jews can get all of whatever real estate God told them to take because it belongs to them. If that doesn’t make sense, I ask you, what does?
For those reasons and more, Mr. DeLay is against a Palestinian state. “I’m sure there are some in the administration who are smarter than me, but I can’t imagine in the very near future that a Palestinian state could ever happen,” he told The Washington Post . “I can’t imagine this President supporting a state of terrorists, a sovereign state of terrorists.” For those who might find his reasoning somewhat strained, the Texas holy man explains, “I recognize that my faith came from that part of the world …. And in my faith, fighting for right and wrong, and understanding good and evil, is pretty apparent and pretty straightforward.” It ain’t exactly the Nicene Creed, but you can catch his drift.
Palestinians-terrorists though they all may be-do agree about having their own state. They’ve been terrorizing for years to get one, but they might want to stop and ask themselves whether or not Mr. DeLay has a point. What kind of a state are they going to get, assuming they get one?
Its boundaries will be impossible to define. The area which is generally referred to as Palestinian territory is pockmarked by hundreds of thousands of Israeli squatters living in towns, villages and hamlets, defended by high walls and high technology. The Palestinian “state” will have no drinking water, since the Israelis have taken it. Palestinian “citizens” will be able to enter and leave their toy state only at the pleasure of the Israelis. The chief executive of this play-school democracy will of necessity be a stooge whose tenure in office is dependent upon the approval of Israel and Washington, whose slight benefactions will constitute the Palestinian state’s not-very-gross domestic product. Other than receiving charity from whomever might be so disposed, the Palestinian state will have no economy-not even olive groves, which have been chopped down to give Israeli machine guns a field of fire. The citizens or inmates of this sandbox republic will not be able to go to school, work, hospital or take a crap without having to pass a checkpoint manned by the Israeli Army. Should a Palestinian state come into existence, it will be toothless, penniless, waterless, schoolless, foodless and useless. If I were a Palestinian terrorist, I’d sign up with Mr. DeLay and shout, “Better to be a serf in old God-given Israel than free in man-made Palestine.”
The United States has said that it would be willing to take part in some kind of international entity patrolling the boundaries of the putative Palestinian weenie state. That may be some ways off, since we’re merely on President Bush’s “road map” and we know what his road leads to: the “peace process.” Yet just supposing some American troops are required along the edges of Israel-Palestine: Where might they come from? That brings us back to Iraq, a place which soaks up soldiers.
Currently, some of those soldiers are unhappy enough to give interviews in which they say their morale is saggy and their spirits mopey because they’ve been away from home too long and they don’t like playing the clay-pigeon part in the Iraqi shoot-athon. Vice Leader Cheney explains that the boys and girls in uniform are out there in the desert whanging away at the bad guys in the name of freedom, but a lot of them signed up to get college money. They won’t be able to spend it if they’re riding in a Humvee when the terrorists blow it to kingdom come.
The Pentagon is also trying the patience of the National Guard weekend soldiers who have jobs and family and did not sign up to be regular army. If the word gets around that you may not see home again when you join the Guard, enlistments may drop. The Guard is indispensable back home, where it exists not only as a military organization, but as a general-purpose emergency organization in cases of fire, flood, epidemic, riot, earthquake and any other condition which calls for good people very fast.
Our people cannot be indefinitely employed on extended Uday and Qusay hunts. Since the “coalition of the willing” means the United States helped by a few tokens from countries sucking up to George W. Bush, we’re going to have to use rent-a-troopers. And why not? The list of tasks once done by native-born Americans but which they don’t do any more is long. It encompasses everything from gardening to nursing to engineering. Add one more to the list: fighting.
We don’t need to call the rent-a-troops “mercenaries.” Call them Bulgarians or Romanians; call them valiant members of the coalition of the willing. Just don’t call the National Guard.
Follow Nicholas von Hoffman via RSS.