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Thursday, February 20, 2003

Be Ready to Mess with Mesopotamia

by Clinton Fein

Click to Send PostcardFollowing a supposedly God-ordained firework display over Texas which ignited seven astronauts who were simply furthering the cause of science, the media gushed into sensationalist overdrive with headlines as unbelievable as “Closer to Heaven”.

“There was to the sadness today a sense of misfortunes multiplying, as America sorts through another tragedy and a national gloom deepens," The Washington Post editorialized. Whether the sinful scientists were attempting to work with stem cells to enhance life down here on earth that caused God’ wrath or were just on the losing end of a space invader turf brawl, we’ll never know.

One thing is certain – faith based foreign policy is the most creative decoy for the pursuit of oil, since snow-melting global warming inconveniently ruined the notion that oil drilling in the sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Northeast Alaska would not impact the few inhabitants and fragile ecosystem of the snow tundra.

The Iraqis were said to have danced in the street when news of the Israeli astronaut, who had once flown bombers over Baghdad, was blown to bits, possibly above a ranch in Crawford, Texas. The best thing to have transpired from the over-milked, sentiment-saturated media-coined national tragedy was the deflection – if momentarily – from experts and analysts providing preposterously boring insights into how the inevitable war will play out.

Colin Powell, powder puffed for television to look whiter than Michael Jackson (and more red-faced with celebrity-fading outrage than Gloria Allred), turned hawkish at the U.N. following a high-school quality presentation of evidence in a dog-and-pony show designed to convince, perhaps, the dullest of minds, that the correct, tedious hoops had been jumped through as a matter of protocol – a half-hearted attempt to mask America’s arrogant policy of unilateral pre-emption by force. As if somehow, anti-American sentiment, and the likely resultant spike in terrorism, will be dissipated by a reluctant, contrived endorsement by a fractured NATO or a strong-armed resolution by the United Nations.

George W. Bush, acting tough at a Navy base following an awkward meeting earlier that week with Australia’s Prime Minister, John Howard, could not stop him from being relegated to the ranks of former disgraced right-wing nutcase, Pauline Hansen, back home.

Australians, still reeling from a recent terrorist attack aimed at Australians in Bali, were outraged at the notion of their unpopular, lame duck, lame brained embarrassment promising unequivocal support to the United States prior to the furnishing of any real evidence, and adopting the role of second poodle to Britain’s prime minister, Tony Blair.

Tony Blair, scrambling to offer Britain a valid reason as to his unequivocal kowtowing to the Americans, had to overcome embarrassing revelations that his much-touted dossier of Saddam Hussein’s egregious weapon building program was plagiarized. Little more than a Digital Millennium Copyright Act felonious copyright infringement of outdated material, downloaded sans permission and without credit, from the thesis of an American PhD student. Skeptical Brits were given all the reinforcement they needed to support the growing perception that a war with Iraq may indeed be about weapons of mass destruction – namely oil guzzling, emissions-heavy sports utility vehicles.

The “boy crying wolf” shenanigans of Blair’s government has spawned an irreparable public relations disaster which began in the form of a career boost last August by George Michael with his “Shoot the Dog” hit and 2DTV animation music video. The overwhelming, and increasingly global, perception of Tony Blair as George Bush’s poodle is stretched further by an expression of sympathy for Cherie Blair, whom, Michael suggests, is no longer getting laid now that Tony’s sexual interests are being satiated by a red-necked, testosterone-gushing, swaggering Texas cowboy with Presidential seals on his boots.

Alone in bed, an animated Michael tries to distract an angry Cherie Blair from her fixation on the televised image of handsome soccer pin-up sensation and pop-cultural consumer icon (and England football captain), David Beckham. Bursting into tears, a devastated goalkeeper mourns after Tony Blair, donning an American football helmet picks up a round soccer ball with his hands and stretches into the shape of what else? -- An American football.

No less distasteful to the global audience watching the Security Council’s ratings-winning feature attraction, was Britain’s appropriately named straw man, Jack Straw, the Colin Powell-B-movie counterpart, whose Sporty Spice rhetoric is deserving of the same treatment of former Spice Girl, Geri Halliwell, in the George Michael video – a solid, unceremonious elbow shoving out of the picture.

Older than “Old Europe,” Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, with the charm of Goebbels offering a heil Hitler salute at a ceremony at Israel’s holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, further insulted Germany and France, (following his remark that they represented “Old Europe” for refusing to hop, skip and jump into line behind America’s jackbooted thug war march to Baghdad which created the biggest rift ever among NATO allies), by excluding them from what the Bush administration now refers to as a coalition of the willing (COW) in maintaining world peace, blissfully unaware that modern day thinking, for the most part, would consider the pre-emptive dropping of bombs on innocent civilians somewhat antithetical to peace.

In New York, a court-ordered, First Amendment-precarious compromise to a planned antiwar peace march by a neurotic traitor named Barbara S. Jones of the Federal District Court in Manhattan, witnessed the mistaken puncturing of a 15-foot balloon of the earth brought to the rally by children from a public school they later, ironically, patched with duct tape. The same duct tape that earlier in the week, Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, accompanied by Attorney General, John Ashcroft, had suggested be used to thwart the deadly hazards that could result from a chemical or biological attack, by using it to tape sheets of plastic to windows and doors.

With almost the same fanfare as Ashcroft’s satellite announcement from Moscow announcing the capture of alleged “dirty bomb dreamer,” Jose Padilla (as much remembered as Osama bin Someone), the much criticized, color-coded threat level security alert went from Dijon mustard to terracotta orange (depending on the color settings of monitors and televisions). A sudden, dramatic spike in sales of plastic sheeting and duct tape suggested that Americans were taking heed of the advice represented by the threat level alert system -- which although previously had specified shopping as a response – had failed to add such blatant product specification. It’s only a matter of time before color-coded security alerts turn into full-scale branding opportunities. Burnt Orange brought to you courtesy of Dupont.

However, color coding is only the half of it. Be Ready, the new buzz phrase being flaunted by the biggest bureaucracy in the history of government (created to give Tom Ridge a real job and deflect attention from intelligence failures leading up to September 11), offers some practical advice as to how to spot one, never mind protect oneself, in the event of a chemical attack with the launch of a new web site www.ready.gov.

The presence of “many dead fish, birds and small animals” are “cause for suspicion,” but should not induce anyone to rush to conclusions that might be nothing more than the obvious symptoms of the Bush administration’s environmental policy. “If your eyes are watering, your skin is stinging, and you are having trouble breathing, you may have been exposed to a chemical”, or simply driving home from work in Texas. Or perhaps you were inhaling the toxic fumes of a private jet rushing Arianna Huffington to promote electric cars at an anti-SUV rally.

Other pearls of wisdom from the Homeland Defense team: “If the chemical is inside a building where you are, try to get out of the building without passing through the contaminated area, if possible.” Unless, of course, the duct tape already prevented the chemicals from getting inside the building -- or you from getting out -- or if you’re feeling a little dare devilish.

The graphical representation of a man serenely pondering the dead fish and then calmly walking away, as if on high-potency Quaaludes, Rohypnol or the same anti-depressants that allow Laura Bush to smile, read to children upside down and not so much as flinch as the world explodes around her, is enough to reassure the most cynical that a chemical attack is no more dangerous than a partisan one. The final image of the illustration figure lying down seeking medical attention makes it difficult to tell whether he collapsed from chemical exposure, slow reaction to his explosive surroundings or fatigue from trying to decide whether “the farther away from the blast and the fallout the lower your exposure” suggested he should go inside or outside, following a nuclear attack.

So ready we are, and ready we must be. As the proprietors of certain fast food venues change their menus to reflect “freedom” rather than French fries, (forgetting, it seems, who gave America the Statue of Liberty) and kids expressing anti-war sentiments on T-shirts are sent home from school, we can rest safely in the warm glow of Homeland Security and a commitment to a peace that would dangerously threaten the viability of Halliburton, Monsanto and all the other corporate cronies that bought and own W, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Blair, Howard and the gang. The most massive anti-war protests in history won’t change their minds anymore than a veto by the Security Council would, or the disbanding of NATO might.

We don’t need color codes. Blood is red.

Clinton Fein can be contacted at clinton@annoy.com


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