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Jewish World Review Nov. 12, 2001 / 26 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762

James Lileks

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From the bleats of dismay -- WE'VE lost the war! Bush is a failure! Bin Laden has won! Or so you might think from the bleats of dismay coming from the media. The nation may have the heart, the stomach, and the spine for a long haul , but the daily news has bee full of handwringing, skittery pessimism and dire portents. Here's the script:

1. "The Anthrax Horror Gets Worse Daily!" For the small enclaves of DC and NYC, perhaps. But the rest of the nation has absorbed the psychological impact of the anthrax mass-mailing. The news that a rogue spore has popped up in a take-a-penny dish in an Anacostia cafeteria does not set the national heart thumping with fear any more. Next!

2. "We're not serious about the larger goals - no one's talking about Iraq!" True, there's much demurral about Saddam's role. Perchance the administration wants to keep Iraq guessing. It's a novel theory: don't spend nine months telegraphing your punches. The administration says they're considering domestic hate groups as a source, but this too might be a feint - if the militias were really to blame, FEMA and the IRS would have gotten flour sacks of anthrax on day one.

3. "The Air War Has Failed!" Only if you expected the air war alone to knock the Taliban out of power. News flash! First wave of soldiers die at Normandy! D-Day has failed! Look: the first phase of the air war took out the Taliban's ability to put things in the air and knock our things down. Once you have control of the skies, you can turn their HQs into pungent rubble and convert the ammo dumps into explosions that can be seen from the moon. The air war did what needed doing. The Taliban cannot grow SAM batteries in caves, or easily replace the material destroyed. The airfields aren't healing themselves. From here on in, it's a war of attrition. The Taliban is a noisy, flailing corpse - deadly, yes, but dead nonetheless.

4. "Civilians are dying!" It's not news when civilians die in war. It's news when they don't.

5. "Ramadan bombing will turn the Muslim world against us!" What will they chant next - Additional Death to America? Will they start shooting up more Catholic churches? If the Arab world has no compunction about killing each other during Ramadan, neither should we. In fact, it's time to blow up some mosques. The Taliban is reportedly hiding equipment in mosques, because they know - despite their constant villification of US perfidy - that we are loathe to bomb holy sites. Perhaps they need to be disabused of this notion. Message: if you want your holy places open for business, don't treat them like ammo dumps.

6. "The Pakistanis are rising up against us!" This story was absurd: thousands of Pakistanis were reportedly streaming across the border, ready to defend the Taliban. Some had guns; some had swords. Ooooh. Swords. Hope they're not those special night-vision sniper swords. If the story is true, then US planes ought to make short work of the first convoy. Let a rusting column of buses and trucks bristling with buzzards be a lesson to the next line of idiots. Y'all want to be martyrs? Take a number. Get in line.

One suspects that we will not bomb these convoys - perhaps out of deference to Pakistani sentiment, or because it would be overkill to use high-tech weapons on ululating simpletons armed with pointed sticks. Remember that awful footage in the Gulf War, when US planes hit the convoy of looters leaving Kuwait. People blanched at the carnage: Why couldn't we have just given them paper cuts and sprayed lemon juice? Killing the enemy is just so . . . unfair.

By this logic, the allies should not have attacked Berlin at the end of the war because it was defended by Hitler Youth. By this logic, the US should not accept the stated goal of the Pakistani volunteers to "drink American blood," because it's highly unlikely that they mean this literally, and even if they did, we must respect local customs, like vampirism.

The media has to have a spin. Their message is clear: even though the President warned of a long, hard-fought war with many casualties, it looks like we're not going to have a quick, easy, death-free campaign.

Imagine that.

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


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

© 2001, James Lileks