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Between Iraq and Hard Place


Pop quiz. When you hear the expression “regime change”, which of the following best describes what you think it means:

A) bloody coup B) change of government C) leader of regime changes mind

If you said A) or B), you would be in the majority for once. Only one man believes the correct answer is C). Unfortunately that man is George W. Bush, the leider of the world. I was going to say the free world, but at this point Bush couldn’t give it away for free. He’ll have to pay a hauling company to dump it somewhere. Yes, children, our number one statesman has done it again: he has taken reality as everyone understands it and twisted it into a balloon animal, leaving us to determine if it’s a giraffe, a wiener dog, or a pretzel. I quote:

“[I]f he [Saddam Hussein] were to meet all the conditions of the United Nations, the conditions that I’ve described very clearly in terms that everybody [even a monkey] can understand, that in itself will signal the regime has changed.” (Italics mine.)

It looks like we’re not going to war with Iraq. The yellow ribbon industry is already sagging in early market reports.

Whenever this Administration starts redefining the English language and the concepts we hold in common, you know there’s a sea change coming. Elsewhere in his remarks, Bush refers to the regime as “he”, meaning Saddam Hussein:

“And that’s why the stated policy of our government. . . . is regime change — because we don’t believe he is going to change.” (Italics Kofi Annan’s.)

So now it’s not a regime in the traditional sense, meaning a government, but a regime in the newspeak sense, meaning one guy, the lone Bad Hat over there, Saddam Hussein. When Bush says ‘regime change’ means a change of heart by the one guy who is the regime, you can expect another seismic change of subject in our immediate future.

Normally I find this kind of thing disturbing, such as when ‘privatization’ became ‘personal accounts’, ‘the terrorists’ became ‘terror’, and Osama bin Laden turned into Saddam Hussein like a butterfly emerging from its Chrysler. But if it means we don’t have to make an oil grab in the middle of a double-dipshit recession, I’m all for it.

The foreign press, which can’t be relied upon because it’s full of foreigners and much of its work is published in some other language, is trying to figure out what this means. This is typical continental word-parsing. I’ll explain what it means. The UN just stood up, one nation after another, including our regional valet Kuwait, and said “ixnay” to the war despite Bush’s best efforts, which to be fair weren’t much. Saddam Hussein, meanwhile, has released every single Man Jack of his prison population. Every rapist, murderer, dissident, horse thief, and opposing candidate has been given a ‘get out of jail free’ card, and the population of Iraq, which already voted unanimously to keep his solo regime, is now leaping about with joy unconfined. At least in his own country, Saddam Hussein is the man. And seeing as he’s not allowed to go anywhere else, that’s good enough for him. Meanwhile Bush looks sillier and sillier, especially on the domestic front, where it might be said that Zero fiddles while Rome burns. And then North Korea stands up, digging its toes in the sand and mumbling with embarrassment, and admits it’s got nukes. This is the political equivalent of pulling Bush’s bathing suit down around his ankles, pointing amidships, and giggling uncontrollably. Strewth! The whole situation is a nightmare. Even Hitler didn’t have it this bad.

So- and I’m now addressing the foreign press again, having reviewed my text and noticing that I was originally going somewhere with this- what you need to understand is that whenever things don’t go Bush’s way, he changes the terms before changing the subject. If called on it, he claims everybody just misunderstood what he meant before. Thus Osama went from “dead or alive” to “I truly am not that concerned about him,” followed by “Oooh, look, there’s that nasty Saddam Hussein!” The tax cut for the rich that sank our economy went from a reward for all their hard work to a tonic which would revitalize the failing economy (because the rich all turned out to be criminals) to a key component of the war against terror; when the economy remained flaccid despite all this diddling, up went the stentorian cry, “Oooh, look, there’s that nasty Saddam Hussein!” You see? He makes it up as he goes along, pushing an ideological ball with his nose over every kind of terrain, regardless of what will come, or what has gone before.

Thus, fellow anti-war types, we can all be proud. Our nation will probably go to war with someone else (not North Korea, but maybe Singapore or Nepal), but if we go to war with Iraq, it will be a fluke. Bush has started changing the subject. And for those of you who argue our nation needs a regime change, if you simply adopt the new definition of the term, you can now claim victory. Because if a regime is one man, and regime change is when he changes his mind, it looks like we’ve got a regime change in Washington.

BEN TRIPP is a screenwriter and cartoonist. He can be reached at:


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