Mr. Answer Man, I notice that R. W. Apple, chief front-page analyst of the New York Times, got caught again predicting another quagmire, though he had the wit to avoid the exact word this time. Why does he keep doing this?
A. Quagmireology is not an exact science. Perhaps he was using outdated tea leaves or defunct chicken bones. Maybe he got the brutal Afghan winter confused with the brutal Iraqi summer. All we know is that from now on, every general hoping for victory anywhere in the world will crave one of Apple's dire predictions. It's the only sure way to know you're going to win.
Q. I also noticed that the Times said President Bush sat by as Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney watched the toppling of Saddam's statue and "barely disguised their glee." Aren't Republican officials allowed to feel joy and satisfaction when a tyrant falls?
Q. When it came time to explain why Jessica Lynch and her brother wanted to join the Army, both print and TV reporters paddled over quickly to a purely economic motive--there aren't many other jobs around these days in West Virginia. Would it have been too much to say that the Lynches appear to be a close-knit, traditional family with a strong sense of patriotism and high respect for the military?
Q. As you know, both the BBC and National Public Radio have been criticized for their heavy-handed antiwar tilt. The coalition victory must be a terrible disappointment. How will they cope?
A. The possible re-emergence of Gulf War syndrome may revive their spirits. Some analysts want to talk about the war's possible damage to crops in the Fertile Crescent. That could be kicked around awhile. There are lots of negative things to feature--troubling developments and understandable Arab turmoil as the United States strives to impose its imperial will on an ancient land, and so forth. They could keep saying it was obvious the allies would win, then add a lot of "but" clauses about things that could well go wrong. If any looters get shot, correspondents can always produce stories on how the Nazi occupation troops shot civilians in France and the Netherlands. There's plenty of room here for creativity.
Q. Didn't a lot of celebrity war critics make concern for Iraqi kids a centerpiece of their opposition to war? I notice they didn't say much about the horrific mutilation of Kurdish kids in Saddam's gas attacks. Now it turns out that Saddam had a children's jail. Some kids were in there for years for refusing to join the Baath Party's children's group, an Iraqi version of Hitler Youth. They came out signaling with both hands together to show that their wrists had been bound. Do you think the stars will comment and perhaps give the allies some credit for freeing the children?
A. You ask a lot. These are difficult days at Hollywood's Foreign Desk. Vicious cable reporters are digging up old TV clips of entertainers talking nonsense about Iraq. The reporters are showing this stuff on the air, thus creating the impression that these stars are ignorant fools! Next thing you know, people will not want to watch Susan Sarandon, Janeane Garofalo, and Rosie, thus violating the First Amendment and re-establishing the McCarthyite era in America. What was your question again? Was it something about children?
Q. Never mind. Well, if Hollywood hasn't got much to say, what about feminists? Saddam had state-run rape teams and sent videotapes of the rapes to families. He had gender-specific tortures for women, and his son Uday had more than 200 women beheaded. He hung the heads on the doors of the women's homes. Surely feminists said something about all this.
A. I'm afraid not. The leadership of the women's movement is deep into postcolonial relativism and not inclined to say much about Third World despots. Besides, men are bad everywhere. National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy put Saddam and Bush on the same moral plane: "This has become an issue of one dictator vs. another."
Q. Isn't there something simple minded about that? How many women has Bush tortured and beheaded?
A. I guess you would have to ask Kim Gandy to check her figures.
Q. Well, what about Amnesty International? Surely they must be relieved by Saddam's overthrow.
A. If so, they are keeping their relief to themselves. Actually, Amnesty was very strong in indicting Saddam up until 9/11. But since then it has basically shut up and looked the other way. Apparently it didn't want to keep making a case against Iraq that the West might act on. It issued only two complaints about the current war, both against the allies.
Q. You mean nothing on the horrors of Saddam during the war--fake surrenders, shooting civilians, the revelations of jailed children, and all the rest?
A. Not yet. Apparently they're thinking about it.
Q. Do you sometimes think we need an entire new left side of our political spectrum?
A. Not my call. I report. You decide.
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