Jewish World Review Oct. 15, 2001/ 28 Tishrei 5762

Wesley Pruden

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Consumer Reports

Here's a recipe for an Afghan Christmas -- GOOD DEEDS rarely go unpunished, as George W. and his merry bombers were reminded yesterday.

The groceries and medicines U.S. cargo planes are dropping on Afghanistan are making enemies, not friends. Any old-time Chicago alderman could have foreseen this. Distribute turkeys to the poor at Thanksgiving and they'll demand yams with the hams at Christmas.

"With all respect," Mohammed Arif, the administrator of a private Afghan relief agency, tells the Associated Press, "this is nonsense. You bomb on one hand, and drop food on the other. What are these poor people supposed to think?"

The uneducated peasants who learned the hard way to fear Soviet land mines dropped from the blue will run from the strange cartons of food and medicines now falling from the sky. Medicines retrieved from the packages are likely to be misused by Afghans who can't read.

We're right to do it, anyway. A suburb of hell is even now being readied for the men who are depriving children of the innocence and carefree happiness of childhood, and it's only the Christian thing to do to try to alleviate their suffering. But what we need is a larger vision of how to drown the poverty and want with an excess of the materialism that Osama bin Laden despises.

A glimpse of how this could be done is gleaned from the pages of "Texarkana Baby," a sadly slighted 1970s novel of what happened when an ambitious Arkansas undertaker accidentally became president of the United States - this was before Bill Clinton graduated from shadowing the girls' gym classes at Hot Springs Junior High - and inherited a new war in Vietnam. On the suggestion of his wife, the former Miss Norma June Riggins, once the reigning Miss Perfect Drumsticks of the Ozarks, President Joe Buck Elrod set out to fight a new kind of war by dropping not bombs, but wave after wave of American consumer goods on Vietnam. The result was entirely predictable.

This is how it happened:

"All across the paddy the farmers cheered as objects floated to earth. The sun struck fire and light off blinding chromium and turned to dazzling colors. A hundred eyes followed a Kawasaki KZ-200 four-stroke 'cycle as it drifted to a soft landing, buoyed on the breeze . . .

"The heavens exploded. Soon the road was covered with cycles: Hondas as yellow as ripe bananas, silver-and-black Yamahas, little Harleys and medium-sized Suzukis, dark-red Ducati Darmahs, burgundy-and-gold Maico Magnums. . . .Children screamed with discovery. Two little girls held to a smoked-glass pendant. A little boy clutched a Phone-Mate automatic telephone-answering console, the cabinet of polished black-and-white high-impact plastic reflecting the elation on the boy's face. . . .A woman in a bottle-green ao dais held her eight-quart Taichung thermostat-controlled rice cooker high over her head . . .a packing case popped open with a cadenza of bells, chimes, and a thrumming of wires. A Melody-Master Grandfather Clock fell to the pavement, striking, inaccurately, 2 o'clock. A case of Panasonic CS-34 stereo player-recorder decks, with Dolby noise-reduction systems and lighted meters encased in easy-to-clean simulated vinyl, banged onto the ground nearby, slightly behind their time. A young woman clutched an Early-Bird thermal sensor AC-DC Smoke Detector/Fire Alarm, batteries not included. Another packing case broke open across a banyan stump and six dozen battery-powered electric toothbrushes tumbled across the ground in a jumble of red, white and blue . . .a soft thump announced the arrival of a Styrofoam case of Hoover Upright Vacuum Cleaners. . . .A woman threw down her shoulder poles to chase after a case of Cuisinarts, bouncing along behind a bright green parachute. . . .The crowd became a mob, surging up the street . . .a man at the entrance to a tailor's shop reached into a broken package and plucked out a handful of Electric Bug Killers With Automatic Odor Eaters . . .an old woman held up two Children's Bed-Wetting Alarms, and grinned in toothless triumph. . . .Styrofoam, silk, bits of string, pieces of tape and cardboard packing littered the streets. . . .Compact disc players lay in jumbled heaps with guitars, ironing boards, Tide, Rinso, Ivory Flakes in family-size cartons and electric appliances for every task: tomato peelers, juice pressers, bean slicers, ice-cream freezers, butter churns, meat grinders, salad spinners, Teflon skillets and Dutch ovens in autumn brown, summer gold, mellow poppy and sunset avocado. . . .The peoples' revolution had flowered beyond the wildest dreams of the proletariat.

We could call it the Pentagon City solution. This would make Presbyterians of Osama bin Laden's followers in just about a fortnight.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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