Taking Care of Peewee
October 15, 2002
Who can forget Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion in
The Wizard of Oz? Frustrated in his attack on the other
characters, he threatens Dorothys little dog, Toto:
Ill take care of you anyway, Peewee!
reminds one of the Cowardly Lion. Unable to make headway against the al-
Qaeda terrorists, he figures he can at least take care of a Peewee, Saddam
Hussein that supposed threat whose military forces
are at a fraction of their strength in 1991, when they were badly mauled.
The perverse genius of
al-Qaeda is that it doesnt depend on any single state for support.
Even if it has some ties to states, including Iraq, that doesnt mean
that destroying those states will seriously hamper its operations.
Millions of people in
and around Washington, D.C., have just learned how much panic and
disruption a single murderous sniper can create, baffling the combined
forces of the District, Virginia, and Maryland.
If one lone terrorist,
without support from Iraq, can wreak such havoc locally, imagine the
difficulty of defeating terrorism globally.
Even if the task is
impossible, we can count on our rulers to pretend theyre winning
the War on Terrorism. Writing in the London magazine The
Spectator, Matthew Parris offers some shrewd tips on how to tell
when the government and the media are bluffing us.
First, look for
imputations of guilt by association. Watch for the use of terms
like linked, possible links to, to beef up a
thin story. Slyly employed, such words suggest a hard link where only a
soft association exists.
Second, beware of
reports of front associations, again suggesting concrete
links where there are none.
Third, look for
the slither from sympathy to sympathizer.
Parris notes: I once wrote that we should try to understand the
grievances motivating terrorists, so I may find myself called an
al-Qaeda sympathizer. Or supporter, or
Fourth, watch out for news reports trumpeting the capture of
key figures or ringleaders,
henchmen, organizers, who usually turn out
to be nobodies.
big-sounding stories which mysteriously vanish. Again, we
are often told that the government has made a breakthrough
in the War on Terrorism, but the other shoe never seems to fall. The initial
impression is that the government is succeeding, yet nothing comes of it.
Sixth, be alert for
security as a justification for the apparent death of
a story. Has anything really been learned from all those
crack troops being held in cages in Cuba? Well never
know. But the Pentagon can always claim the information gleaned from
captives, however meager, is too sensitive to publish.
Maybe neither we nor
the government has any real idea of how well the War on Terrorism is
going, but the persistent official use of slippery, evasive, even
meaningless language isnt encouraging. We arent being
informed with the respect due to mature people who deserve the
unvarnished truth. Instead, were being treated like the dupes of
advertising hype like kids being sold on the latest sugared and
dyed breakfast cereal.
Bush keeps insisting
that the stakes in his prospective Iraq war are very high, but neither he
nor anyone else acts as if this were true. If Saddam Hussein really poses
an imminent threat to the United States, why isnt
the president urging us to take precautions to protect ourselves?
During the Cold War,
when Americans truly feared a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union,
schoolchildren were taught to take civil-defense measures, radio stations
broadcast practice alerts several times daily, and people built bomb
shelters in their yards. No such preparations are being made now against
Of course we
dont have to go back to the Fifties for pertinent precedents.
Immediately after the events of 9/11, we became obsessed with security
and took countless steps, at a cost of billions, to frustrate or avert more
terrorist attacks. We still do.
So why arent
we also bracing ourselves for an Iraqi attack? Why isnt the
government requiring or even advising us to do so? The answer is all too
obvious: because nobody believes an Iraqi attack is coming least of
That tells you how
seriously the president himself takes the threat which, he
insists, justifies his preemptive war.