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THE CASE FOR WAR

John Chuckman

Well, the evidence just keeps accumulating. I think it is a remarkable testimonial to President Bush’s restraint that he has waited this long.

After reading Tony Blair’s dossier on torture in Iraq, the impulse to launch everything the Pentagon has must have been almost irresistible.

Imagine, torture taking place in a brutal dictatorship? Good Lord, this comes as a shocking revelation.

But perhaps the President was reminded of tens of thousands tortured by America’s friends, or by Americans themselves, in Iran or Chile or Nicaragua or El Salvador or Vietnam when he paused, thinking a less-than-perfect case had been made for sending millions of pounds of high explosives and depleted uranium raining down on the people of Iraq.

Perhaps he was reminded of the way that beacon of democracy and human rights in the Middle East, Israel, has quietly tortured its captives for half a century, and, in more than a few cases, outright murdered batches of them.

Or he may have recalled reports from Amnesty International about the common brutality of American law enforcement. A prominent lawyer’s disgusting campaign to establish formal procedures for torture in America may just have slowed his hand. Or it may have been thoughts of the abysmal treatment of Afghan prisoners kept chained in Cuban cages, not to speak of the way his brutish allies in Afghanistan were encouraged publicly by the Secretary of Defense to murder prisoners en masse.

But I doubt it. Bush is simply not a wimp where other peoples’ lives are concerned. He seems capable of sustaining his equilibrium – with its quirky mix of being on a mission for God and nasty frat-boy sense of humor – even in the face of great adversity, so long as it is someone else’s adversity.

I’m sure his hand again started for the red phone when he heard recent, damning reports on the evils of Islam, coming as they did from such towering figures as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Jimmy Swaggart. An outsider might be forgiven for regarding the good gentlemen’s remarks as something akin to theology lessons from the shriveled lips of retired Imperial Wizards of the Klu Klux Klan.

But the words of these men carry weight in several important Bush constituencies including Beany Baby collectors, survivalists living in abandoned Air Force missile silos stocked with tons of ammo and freeze-dried rations, and folks who take their annual vacations watching cartoons and shopping channels on satellite TV from recreational vehicles parked next to the cinder-block splendor of a Wal-Mart.

Jimmy Swaggart, for example, shares the President’s character-building experience as recovered reprobate, having had his rather arcane sexual practices with a prostitute exposed in magazines some years ago. It was the kind of publicity that hits the collection plate mighty hard. But old Jimmy’s a fighter. Equipped as he is with tear ducts capable of gushing on command and an amazing rubbery face that mimics any known expression of mock piety, once again he made the revival-tent crowds roar for more.

Jimmy came back to collect again, just as the President came back from his former, well-publicized life of rude, drunken abuse and failure to do anything worthwhile – although some might argue he succeeded only in removing the word drunken from the description. Still, in the President’s circle, people with such character credentials are regarded as authorities when it comes to recognizing evil.

And now, an amazing piece of evidence comes to light. We have a previously-obscure reporter who knows someone at the FBI whose second-cousin on his mother’s side made an important discovery. A few years back, in the course of taking rolls of souvenir snapshots of the smoldering ruins at Oklahoma City, the second-cousin happened to spot a couple of shady characters with moustaches.

She knew instinctively they were shady, because they didn’t take one souvenir snapshot of the smoking destruction streaked with blood. They just stood there talking and looking. Is that the way a real American acts? Besides these guys just didn’t look like real Americans.

Well, just to be sure, she snapped a picture of them, and, for a while, she kept it pinned to the big, pink, stuffed satin, heart-shaped bulletin board over her bed, right next to her autographed picture of Lt. Calley smiling in front of a burned-out hut in Vietnam. But eventually, word got around the trailer park, and, sure enough, her cousin from the FBI stopped by one day to ask for the picture.

Everyone at the Bureau was convinced immediately that the men in the snapshot were Iraqi agents – after all, the key to future promotion in the Bureau today is one’s ability to recognize such things – and they’ve leaked their views to the press, just as they did in their memorable struggles against Richard Jewel and Wen Ho Lee. Well, almost, but this time the New York Times or the Atlanta Constitution weren’t quite so interested, so the FBI had to dig up an obscure reporter who needed a break in life to become somebody. When they found a struggling, former reporter for her high-school yearbook at a faith-healing in Altoona, Illinois, they knew immediately they had the right person for the job of getting the story out.

This happy discovery also means America’s own son, Tim McVeigh, only did what he did under the insidious, all-reaching influence of Iraqi agents, an innocent lamb led astray by agents of the Antichrist who now strides the earth posing as the second Hitler – although there appears to be a modest disagreement in Bush circles on this exact description of Saddam since good old ‘Rev’ Falwell earlier proclaimed that the Antichrist was in fact Jewish.

The President is convinced he has the goods on Saddam. Now, he just sits back to wait for a formal casus belli. He knows Saddam will leave out a semicolon or mix a metaphor or give a pronoun an ambiguous antecedent somewhere in his thirty-thousand-page document describing Iraq’s weapons’ programs. After all, you can’t expect a bunch of damn Arab peasants to get such things right. And when the President’s team of shrieking, fanatical advisors finds the error, it will prove to the world that Saddam still tries to hide the truth the President has always understood.

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