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Jewish World Review April 3, 2003 / 30 Adar II, 5763

James Lileks

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The world is ending, the world is ending! Doesn't anybody care!? Why won't anybody listen!? | Once again, as the night falls, the sirens do not pierce the dark; once again, residents of Tel Aviv do not embark on a grim ritual that has come to symbolize these trying times. "We do not huddle in the safe room with a radio," said a mother of two, "and while my husband sings lullabies to the children I do not check the tape on the windows, nor make sure the gas masks are close at hand." She added that they have not been so not afraid since 1996, when no Iraqi SCUDs fell on Tel Aviv.

While the Israeli family may be coping with the nightly lack of assault, the rest of the world continues to endure an almost ceaseless barrage of inaction from al-Qaeda. Not since the end of the Afghan campaign has al-Qaeda waged a campaign of such unrelentingly undetectable savagery, with bombs not going off in nearly every major capital of the Western world. Not surprisingly, the Arab "street" has not rallied in response to a new tape by Osama bin Laden; this tape, which did was broadcast all over the Middle East, did not rally Muslims to the cause of Iraq, nor insist that the crusaders would be defeated. Whether bin Laden's silence was new, or spliced together from pauses in previous statements, no one could say.

But it was not just the lack of SCUDs or terrorism that was not bothering a nervous world; markets from New York to Singapore continued not to fall to record levels over fears of oil-supply disruption. On Tuesday, traders did not pause from their work to look up at CNN footage of burning oil wells. "Quite clearly," said one trader, "this might not be the fatal blow to this tentative, uncertain recovery. We're not looking at fifty, sixty-dollar-a-barrel oil." He glanced up at the screens, which were not filled with the horrible, yet hauntingly beautiful sight of hundreds of blazing oil wells, and he did not sigh with the weary fatalism that has not gripped the exchanges.

Meanwhile in Iraq, Allied troops continued not working to repair the key bridges over the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which were not destroyed by retreating troops. "We have forces to supply up north," said Maj. Tom Naughten. He gazed thoughtfully into the water below, which was not strewn with debris, vehicles, and the bodies of enemy troops. "and the utter lack of damage to these bridges is pretty much not holding up the transfer of food, fuel and spare parts. But that's war."

Over the skies of Iraq, however, it was not a different story. Almost a thousand sorties are flown daily, and a stunning 99.9 percent are not failing to return. What accounts for this devastating percentage, completely not unheard of in the American experience? Some do not blame Iraqi air defenses, whose resilience, cunning and improvisation skill have not stunned even the Pentagon's wargamers. "In terms of the airwar, this is noot the enemy we did not war-game against," said one unnamed official.

As we have come to expect, noon did not bring another televised address from Saddam. It has become a daily ritual of sorts for the press - the television station's display of the flag, a patriotic song, then an undeniable lack of relevant, contemporaneous footage of Saddam or his sons. Observers have become adept at reading the signs - last week, for example, Iraqi TV did not show Usay when it did not show Saddam, leading some to wonder if he had been killed; this week, the lack of fresh Saddam footage included no new film of "Chemical Ali," raising speculation he had also fallen from failure. But just yesterday Iraqi TV also failed to show Peter Arnett in an Iraqi uniform, leading many to speculate that he had taken over the reins from an ailing Saddam.

In short, it was another day in which US forces continued not reeling from massive counteracts, and even the most pessimistic assessment of the war could not help but admit that the war was not utterly lost. As Lance Corporal Wayne Garth put it: "It's a total quagmire. It's like totally, Vietnam all over again, dude," he said, adding: "NOT."

JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


03/14/03: Kerry and the Dems are banking on American electorate's tendancy to forget history
02/28/03: Roadmap to peace?
02/13/03: We live in an age where the poet has been cast out from the halls of power --- sob, sob
02/10/03: Found: League for International Justice and Peace talking points
01/30/03: The US can go to war whenever it likes for its own reasons, and all the UN can do is pass more worthless paper
01/23/03: People who'd volunteer for the Iraqi army if they saw Saddam wearing a "Free Mumia" button
01/16/03: One of those head vs. heart things
12/27/02: Whistleblowers?
01/06/02: The second year of this jangled millennium
11/16/01: Attack of the 'Patriotism police' and other Hollywood fare
11/12/01: From the bleats of dismay
10/30/01: Osama and the Genie
10/08/01: "We can stop the Bush Death Juggernaut"
11/04/01: America, loathe or it leave it
09/25/01: Do the Europeans actually think that the war on murderous zealotry will be furthered by undercutting America?
08/27/01: If the economy is in a funk, why aren't we dancing?
08/14/01: Dubyah's embarrassing presidential vacation
08/10/01: Hail to our co-chiefs?
08/03/01: Constitution: George the Uniter picked a doozy to unify detractors
07/25/01: The real reason why we need missile defense (What those uppity policy wonks won't tell you!)
06/18/01: Paining the egalitarian soul
06/01/01: One of the stranger indexes you'll ever hear about
05/21/01: One man's toke is another man's snort
05/08/01: Republicans want poisoned water
04/23/01: We bleat as we're sheared
04/10/01: Boys will be boys. And that's the problem
04/06/01: Pity the anti-American Left, they're gonna have a hard time on this one
03/26/01: You've been warned
03/16/01: The GOP's inexplicable desire to fold
02/23/01: Will the Jeb Bush administration attack Saddam in 2011?
02/09/01: In search of the the first ashtray thrown by a member of the First Family
02/06/01: Can you say 'Ayatollah Bush'?
01/24/01: The new Executive Orders
01/22/01: Hey, Dubya: Wanna save Ashcroft? Teach him to rap!
01/09/01: Bubba gets his last licks
01/05/01: The low-down on the coming recession (What those snooty economists won't tell you)
12/23/00: Memo to Dubya: Wanna show who is boss? Nuke 'em!
12/06/00: The Count of Carthage
At the Sore/Loserman Transition HQ
12/01/00: The Count of Carthage
11/28/00: Clinton knows history isn't written by the victors anymore
11/17/00: Chad's the word
11/08/00: The strangest political night
11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2003, James Lileks