Although the polls indicate that a large majority loves this war, far fewer people turn out for the pro-war manifestations than the rabble protesting it. The reason, it hardly needs be said, is that those of a patriotic disposition are home in front of their sets watching this largest and best of all reality TV shows, brought to us by sponsors such as MCI, Tylenol and-my favorite-Scott’s Turf Builder. Knowing that there are no dandelions in the lawn makes for the peace of mind to enjoy the bombing and the pretty girl war correspondents. There has been grumbling because a few Americans are being killed or wounded, but most viewers feel that knowing actual people are actually being harmed makes for better reality TV. Have you ever seen a war show or movie with higher production values than Attack on Iraq ?
Programs of this quality don’t just happen. For this entertainment we can thank the Office of Special Effects, a hush-hush operation code-named Freedom Dust. The O.S.E. is tasked, as the military is wont to say, with making Iraq look like the menace the President has been telling the world about for lo these many months.
It is a tricky business, however. How does the government explain the low number of casualties sustained by the Anglo-American armed forces? When the killed and wounded are totted up, more of our own people will have been lost to traffic accidents, defective helicopter maintenance and tripping over objects in the dark than to an enemy that couldn’t shoot straight if it had guns, which it hasn’t.
To extricate President Bush from the political consequences of Iraqi impotence, the people at the O.S.E. are contemplating cooking the books. They are tossing around the idea of using unemployed accountants from the now-defunct Arthur Andersen and Enron to exaggerate the number of killed and wounded. Using computer-generated fictitious names, lists will be compiled of nonexistent members of the armed forces who gave their all in the course of battles that were never fought. A Potemkin Village conflict, quite in accordance with Count Rumblesfeld’s oft-repeated observation that this is a new kind of war.
Such proposals are tasteless, to say the least, but this romp in the desert is like clubbing seal pups to death to get their fur-or, in this case, their oil. Not that we want the oil for ourselves. We don’t want a thing for ourselves. As our President and commander in chief-whom we are all, except for the snots, behind 100 percent-has explained, we are doing this for the Iraqi people, whose religion and culture we have the utmost respect for. Lord Almighty, God of Hosts, do we or don’t we love those dear Iraqi people! As per usual, we are sacrificing for others and, as per usual, it’s small thanks we get for our generosity. The more we do for others, the more they hate us. Why do they hate us? How dare they hate us? Let’s hate them back for hating us. We should slap them across their ungrateful faces until they stop hating us and say thank you.
So something has to be done to show that “Shock and Awe” is aimed at an army bearing only a vague similarity to a modern military establishment. Too many are refusing to believe that this eighth-rate, already once defeated and destroyed country, run by a homicidal despot, is a threat to anybody but itself. It has no air force, no tanks, and the Iraqi missiles displayed on television look like an exhibit the kids put together for a junior-high science fair. Not since Adolf Hitler invaded Denmark, or perhaps since Bush I attacked Panama, has so great a military power attacked so puny an opponent.
The impression of Iraqi weakness and impotence has been reinforced by television pictures of little men on their haunches who have just surrendered to hulking, Anglo-American soldiers about two times their size. Nor has the Iraqi reputation for martial distinction been enhanced by reports of their soldiers stripping off their uniforms, jumping on their camels and vanishing into the desert. The use of women and children as shields also has done little to add to the Iraqi military’s reputation for valor.
Two hundred and five years after Napoleon annihilated an Arab army at the Battle of the Pyramids with invincible Western military technology, the movie is being rerun-but dispatching the hapless natives with Gatling guns is not exactly a rare event. The American army used the repeating rifle on the Indians, and Mussolini’s fighter pilots had no end of fun machine-gunning the defenseless Ethiopians in 1936 as they helter-skeltered across their desert sands. Let’s brace ourselves, however. The natives do not always die easily. For confirmation, talk to Chief Sitting Bull.
It took more than a year for the Italians to gain control of Ethiopia, and in 1879, a Zulu army using short assegai spears defeated a modern British force under Lord Chelmsford in South Africa. In the right hands, even blow pipes and poison darts can hurt a 21st-century crusader army hell-bent on doing good.
The roll call of nations who have used advanced weapons on unadvanced people contains impressive names. Holland, Spain, France, Belgium and Germany have all used newfangled machines to butcher the benighted locals. The snuffing of the backward inhabitants is always carried out for a just cause, such as liberation, nation-building, improved sanitation, Rotarianism, the suppression of female circumcision, the bringing of civilization to savages, gold, therapy, nutrition, railroad construction, feminism, flood control, diamonds, literacy, oil and Christianity. In the last century, none has done more good work of this kind more often than the chief members of the Coalition of the Willing, who are once again squatting on the faces of the unwilling. Sometimes you have to kill them in order to free them.
The O.S.E. has another job to do, to make sure it looks like Saddam did have weapons of mass destruction. It has to drop the gun on the vic, to use the idiom of the Chicago Police Department when planting a weapon on the deceased as proof it was a legal kill. To frame the Iraqis, the O.S.E. is collecting truckloads of crossbows, hackbuts, ballestas, arrows, blunderbusses, harquebuses, matchlocks, flintlocks, arbalists and slingshots. These implements of war will be placed next to the recently deceased tyrant, after which members of the embedded media will be ushered in and shown the proof of the weapons of mass destruction. The reporter-gerbils will attest to the authenticity of the scene.
The past grandmasters of the big lie would disagree with this approach. A man like Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s clubfooted minister of Propaganda and National Enlightenment, knew better than to offer evidence to back up a whopper. An unsupported fib cannot be refuted, but evidence will sooner or later be impeached and discredited, even evidence certified by the war whores of American journalism. Never, never, never provide proof or proffer evidence; the unsubstantiated charge is the accusation which sticks. Nothing is more persuasive than a quiet announcement that the evidence against the accused is overwhelming, but that for reasons of national security, no one may see it. Try ’em in secret, sentence ’em in public. Nothing works better than guilt by association or by linkage. Never, never, never say why-just say they’re guilty, and say it over and over again. Repeat the lie: Saddam is a threat to our freedom, Saddam is a threat to our freedom, Saddam is …. In no time at all, this nation of over-entertained and under-informed fatheads will absorb the lie and take it as gospel truth.
If doubts creep in, there are many things you can do to keep your enthusiasm stoked. As an aid to the suppression of independent thought, you can turn up the volume of your TV: all patriotic pep rally, all the time. You can buy one of the new American rosaries with red, white and blue beads; as you finger each bead, recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Or you can go to the mall and buy a bigger flag.