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They Fiddled While Nero Got the Matches


The thing that really gets my goat – and we’re talking about one of those big, shaggy goats with horns the size of a man’s arm and unblinking reptilian eyes, not some diminutive frog-belly from the petting zoo – is all this codswallop about how events in Iraq have gone so unpredictably wrong. Cacavi braccatum. The instructions for this war went as follows:

1. Drive to Baghdad
2. Proclaim victory
3. Accept tribute of flowers and sweets (do not eat sweets if unwrapped)
4. War pays for itself in oil revenues.

A pretty clever person would read this plan over a couple of times and wonder to himself (the person I speak of is male, and just happens to be a scratch golfer), “Gee whiz, what happens if they don’t offer loving tribute during step 3?” The answer is simple: push down the exhaust poppets by pulling out and giving 1/4 turn to the small wedge handles fastened to exhaust valve casing. No, wait. That’s step 3 for starting the 45hp OTTO marine engine of 1898. The correct answer is: fire at will until ordered to retreat.

Anybody who says the present situation couldn’t have been predicted is a liar, a knave, and a tergiversating poltroon. I predicted it, and what do I know? But don’t take my word for it, or my signature on a bank draft, for that matter. The entire international press and the two percent of the American press still in the news business predicted things would turn out this way. Additionally a vast majority of experts on the subject also predicted things would turn out this way, too, as well. The United Nations got it right, and so did France and Germany and everybody in Spain except the mustachioed dwarf who was running the country at the time. On hearing the American war plan, the people of Russia rolled their collective eyeballs with such force you could hear the squeaking noise as far away as Istanbul.

George Bush, Sr., the only member of his family to win a presidential election, predicted that things would turn out like this-and he did it in 1996 (Hebrew calendar year 5756: the Hebrew calendar is much older than the Julian in common use; on the other hand, try finding a Hebrew calendar with pictures of naked girls.) What I’m struggling to articulate is that we, meaning us, or everybody together including myself, who a long time ago predicted that invading Iraq would turn out to be a really bad decision up there with running off with Helen of Troy, were not only right, but our predictions were widely available through a variety of media including print, television, the Internet, and Morse code, so anybody now feigning astonishment should go soak their heads. Or more in line with the magnitude of the mendacity, go hang themselves. I can supply the cordage if required. With so many slack-jawed scoundrels stumbling about in mock-astonishment, Washington looks like Night of the Living Dead with neckties. Who knew?

Everybody knew, you damned fools. Everybody who was aware of ‘the situation on the ground’, to coin that hoary expression. But only those with nothing to lose would admit it. There are plenty of fork-tongued blandisheers abroad in the land who knew damn well things would come out this way, yet felt it was in their best interests to say elsewise from whatever bullies’ pulpit they occupy. Hey, things might have turned out okay. Miracles are real, man. Mortgage won’t pay itself. They are guilty of the vilest sin of all: expediency. Thousands are dead – the toll of the World Trade Center inflicted tenfold and arbitrarily – and yet, if truth be told (an outmoded idea) the people whose job it was to know what Iraq was up to, knew Iraq wasn’t up to much. They said nothing, or suggested the opposite was true.

A third-rate paparazzo with a two-stroke Vespa and a three-day weekend could have debunked the Bush administration’s claim that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat to our nation (or the British Home Counties, for that matter) before the next edition of Cronaca Vera came out. But we wouldn’t let him into Iraq, nor the weapons inspectors paid to do that kind of thing on a more formal basis. No, we had better sources. Possibly Tom Clancy was one of them. Certainly Ahmed Chalabi, the ultimate expedientationist in an age when such feckless creatures are as common as trilobites. As trilobites were, I mean, before even the Hebrew calendar. What I mean to say is the next time you hear someone lamenting how unexpectedly things have gone wrong, remember there’s a special room in hell reserved for people who found it convenient not to know. It’s going to be standing room only, at this rate.

BEN TRIPP is a screenwriter and cartoonist, who lives in a large human settlement 100 miles south of Bakersfield, which we cannot name for security reasons. Ben also has a lot of outrageously priced crap for sale here. A collection of Tripp’s essays, Square in the Nuts, will be published this summer. If his writing starts to grate on your nerves, buy some and maybe he’ll flee to Mexico. If all else fails, he can be reached at:

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