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Apocalypse Next Week
March 8, 2003
By Mike McArdle

In a sure sign that the nation will be going to war with Iraq in the very near future the little man who purports to be America’s leader strode to a podium Thursday night to answer actual questions from actual members of the press. Usually the little man appears only before hand picked audiences - businessmen, religious broadcasters, conservative think tanks. Normally his handlers create him an attractive background to stand in front of for his speeches with catch phrases like “corporate responsibility” to delineate the theme of the speech for that evenings news broadcasts. When he appears before a military audience they dress the little man in a flight jacket to make him look like one of the troops. One would think he had similar jacket hanging untouched in his closet for a year and a half when he disappeared from his National Guard service.

But the audience this evening was not as controllable although they certainly gave it their best shot. The contentious Helen Thomas who has already relegated the little man to 43rd place among the 43 American Presidents was moved from her usual spot in the front to the third row and left off the list of those to be called on during questioning. Helen has an annoying habit of bringing up uncomfortable subjects like the inevitable deaths of innocent people that the little man's war is going to cause. We can’t have that.

Those who were permitted to ask questions were selected ahead of time by Presidential handlers who undoubtedly weighed the advantages of calling on each and disadvantages of not calling on them.

The questions were all different but the answers to all the questions were canned. It didn’t seem to matter what the subject matter was. He simply fished for the catch phrases he’d memorized even if it meant lapsing into interminable periods of silence.

If the administration has been sharing intelligence with allies why have they come to different conclusions about the need for war ?

Threat. Mass destruction. September 11. Disarm.

Recent demonstrations suggest that the U.S. is a threat to peace ?

Some people demonstrate against free trade. Free trade’s good. Disarm. UN resolution.

The financial cost of the war ?

September 11. Threat. Mass destruction. The cost in dollars ? “Well, we'll let you know here pretty soon.”

By my count there were 6 references to the number of years since the Gulf War, 10 references to weapons of “mass destruction,” 10 to September 11, and a whopping 53 uses of the word “disarm” or one of its variations.

When asked about whether capturing or killing Saddam Hussein was a condition for success in the war the little man tried to squeeze in his obligatory “liberator” answer.

“There are something like 55,000 oil-for-food distribution points in Iraq. We know where they are. We fully intend to make sure that there -- got ample food. We know where the hospitals are. Want to make sure they got ample medical supplies.”

Great. So you people who manage to survive the “shock and awe” onslaught of bombs, don’t worry. If the war ends with you still alive the little man has a copy of the Baghdad Yellow pages and well, the good stuff will get there, er, ah, when it gets there.

His cluelessness was positively frightening and his demeanor was insulting. On maybe the last occasion on which he would try to explain to those he allegedly serves why this war is necessary and why now he could only drone on in an absurd monotone that suggested sedation or alcohol use or simply a desire to dispense with the niceties of having to explain himself to the rest of us. He called out the name of the next questioner so quickly that it often sounded like the last words of his answer to the previous question. He wanted out of there as quickly as possible.

The pundits could, at best, say that Bush was “somber” in view of the gravity of the occasion. Somber. Terrific. In deference to the fact that the President is about to send thousands of people to their deaths needlessly he’s decided to forego his usual attempts to sound like Dirty Harry Callahan. I guess that passes for “rising to the occasion”.

Nobody wants to say, and I’m sure that nobody wants to believe, that the President is a mindless zombie ready to hurl the world into a possible planet-wide cataclysm with next to no thought and little understanding of the consequences but maybe somebody had better say something. We should all hope that he was drunk or sedated because if he wasn’t then the person who has his finger on the nuke-yoo-lar trigger is a simple-minded fool with no understanding of his role on the world stage or the power over life and death that is at his command.

And that’s the biggest threat we all face.

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