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What's War and What's Not?
February 9, 2002
by The Rt. Hon. Sir Festus K. Mountebank, OBE, WAN, KAN, OBI

As President Bush's hair-rousing declaration of an all-out war against the hitherto-unknown 'Axis of Dr. Evil' trickled through my trusty 1938 Marconi XP 10-valve vacuum tube wireless last week, I came this close to transmogrifying myself. I was at home on my rambling Sussex country estate at the time, in the laundry closet with the door closed and firmly locked to be specific, helping dear old loyal Mrs. Beasley pressing and ironing against my fox-hunting togs.

"Just when we thought we'd never again see almighty America declare a real, true old-fashioned war on three fronts on three so disparate nations simultaneously, they have," I cried exultingly. "Let's do hope for all our sakes they get it right this time. And give us one that will carry the name proudly."

Because, let's face it, since that blasted Viet Nam fiasco, there haven't been any more what you might call 'real wars,' have there?

That was such a nasty piece of work, a total cock-up from start to finish. And if - which I very much doubt - future generations take time to look back and wonder what the heck the fighting was about, all they'll come up with are admittedly-breathtaking shots of helicopters flying-in low over beaches to the strains of Beethoven's Fifth (or was it the Brandenburg Gate Concerto), incomprehensible interviews with stoned-out-of-their-brains reluctant conscripts in impenetrable jungles and pontificating talking-heads telling them the war was lost because the nation didn't want to see the evening news stuffed every night with film of body bags being shipped on- and off- giant C-140 Starlifters.

But we who lived - and saw - through the lying presidents, generals and secretaries of defense and state, witnessed the agonising self-chastisement and imprisoning - and occasional shootings - of otherwise artful and able-bodied draft dodgers and students, we knew these weren't the real reasons why the much-stronger side took such a savage beating and eventually had to perform a humiliating evacuation of the ambassador from his roof. It was because they shouldn't bloody-well have been there in the first place.

As Prussian general and co-founder of Hertha BSC, Willi von Clausewitz so rightly said, "Unless you're stuck with a mad dictator at the helm, sleep on it, then think twice and if you still aren't sure, stay well enough at home."

But his wise tactical advice is so rarely heeded.

Sadly, that Ho Chi Minh - formerly Saigon - City debacle has had such a deleterious effect on how large superpowers with advanced night-vision goggle technology conduct wars nowadays. So much so that whole generations of Baby Boomers think they've been involved in wars, that frankly, just aren't.

In my opinion - and I've lived through every one since 1914 - you can only legitimately call it a war if you have an opponent roughly of the same size and strength - or, preferably, slightly weaker - and you're prepared to lose elegant-memorials-full of good men and women.

Take that so-called Desert Storm war. True, it prised Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait - another good example of someone not being where he should've - but for the rest it was much dropping of tons of miscellaneous flak on a rag-tag band of scattering Bedouins.

And this latest skirmish? They keep talking about a superb victory and how easy it was. My God, woman - I told Mrs. Beasly - if we blanket-bombed Scotland for three weeks from 30,000ft and had the Glasgow Celtic forces behind us - no matter how rag-tag and disorganised - we'd be uplifting burkas in Inverness inside days too.

So call me an old fuddy-duddy if you like - go-on, out loud, I don't mind - but if there is going to be a 'Big One' let's make damn sure it's genuine. I never thought I'd get to experience the sheer thrill of another in my lifetime and now it's about to happen I can barely contain myself. Or Mr. Beasley.

Of course, there'll have to be a few changes made. Cut the cloth to fit the wind. You can't go on living, as Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin put it so adeptly - separate - lives without making a few concessions. You can't just, as the president himself said, 'return to normality' flitting from one ethnic food stall to another at the mall, or popping corn at the Cineplex or paying $50 to stand all afternoon in line at Disneyland.

A real war means sugar, petrol and clothing rationing, like we had overcoming the Hun. And no candy or chocolate. Candles at night and a Lord Beaverbrook-type collecting old kettles and pans to melt-down to make helmets, battleships, tanks and heavy artillery.

There'll be a dusk to dawn curfew, which isn't as bad as it sounds, especially if Mr. Beasley gets called-up as a warden in Dad's Army working nights during the blackout.

And, yes, sorry to say, stuffed body bags. By the planeload.

So do Rumsfeld and Co. really have the bollocks for a real war against North Korea, Iraq and Iran?

Without the full unwavering support of NATO, the Christian Coalition, Arthur Anderson, the new Enron board, Fox News, the International Olympic Committee, Major League Baseball, Amnesty International, Denmark and Canada and the North American Free Trade Association? And when they waken-up and see the gleaming presidential golden chalice perhaps in 2004, but for sure in 2008, the Democratic Party, too?

I very much doubt it, but as von Clausewitz also said, "true war means never giving up hope and having to say you're sorry."

Next Week: Stern-faced, permanently-livid and hopping-quite-mad US Attorney-General John Ashcroft warns Roman Catholic titular heads to reverse their 2,000 year-old deviant habit of exposing however-beautifully-proportioned nude statues to tiny tots in Vatican cathedrals and artefact-sales grottos. Or else. Causing a very high cardinal in a lace cassock and purple surplice to react angrily by releasing rare fireside-surveillance footage of J. Edgar Hoover wearing satin pointe shoes, a frilly nylon tutu and Clyde Tolson.

Rear Admiral (Rtd) Sir Festus, is Chairman and CEO of 'All Jane's Ships, Shirts, Skirts, Shorts and Shags.' He was caught speaking on-the-cuff during the United Nations' lavish 'All-You-Can-Eat-and-Drink for $6.75' Buffet at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel during last week's World Economic Forum. If, like Jane, you feel like reaching-out to
to embrace his notions, well, nothing's stopping you.

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