Have We Bin Ladened?

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Tell me I’m wrong. I gotta be wrong. Better be, anyway. But maybe we’re getting had.

OK. Mr. Benjamin Laden does his trick with the airplanes and hands the United States its maybe worst one-day defeat ever, whoo-eee. It was gorgeous, specta-whoppular, made for television. For practically ever those buildings collapsed over and over on international TV. The Pentagon smoked dutifully. Arabs danced in the streets and a whole lot of people who didn’t like the US sniggered in their sleeves because it wasn’t the best time to irritate the country.

Now, when I say it was beautiful, I don’t mean I approved of it. I don’t approve when the wrong quarterback throws a perfect sixty-yard pass and the wrong receiver one-hands it thirty feet in the air and scampers into the hen zone like a cocaine-crazed hamster. But I still recognize a good play. New York was.

So George leads us hollering and shooting and blowing into Iraq and Afghanistan — well, sends some other people, but then he’s one of our draft-dodging presidents, like Willy Jeff and Ron — and it worked better than lots of folks thought and pretty soon we owned both countries. For at least ten minutes. Historically owning Afghanistan has been a low-margin enterprise as everyone from Phillip of Mastodon’s kid through Elphinstone to the Russians has found out, but we’re different.

I’m just not sure how. Maybe it’s because we never find out in time.

Tell me I’m wrong. I hope so. But it looks to me like we’re getting out-brained again. While George orates at the teleprompter like a living, breathing bumper-sticker about how those Iraqi resistance people are all desperate and outside agitators and evil and hate freedom, it looks to me like the rascals know exactly what they’re doing.

Anyone, even with his head in a towel, can see that the US doesn’t have enough troops to squash Iraq if it doesn’t want to be squashed. So the first order of business for the bad guys was to persuade other countries not to help: Isolate the US, make the war an American baby, turn it into an unending mess, and watch the gringos twist in the wind.

Now, George huffs about random violence. How random is it? Australia helps the US, and Australians get blown up in Bali. Italy helps the US, and Italians get blown up in Iraq. Turkey was going to send troops, and large bombs go off in Istanbul, coincidentally blowing up places owned by England, which also helped the US.

I guess that’s random violence. No pattern at all. Countries that were going to send troops, like Japan and Korea and Turkey, suddenly aren’t. But probably the Arabs never thought of that.

So next the crazed desperate irrational resistance folk randomly target Iraqis who help the US, as for example police and the…when someone else does it, we call it a “puppet government,” but I suppose when we do it, they’re independent Iraqi democrats under our control. This discourages locals from co-operating with us; forces Christian soldiers allied with Israel to police a Moslem country, only incidentally stretching US forces ever thinner. It also robs the gringo regime of any pretense of legitimacy and, fascinatingly, keeps George from backing out. I mean, if he leaves without something that at least looks sort of like a government, he lost.

But I reckon the Arabs haven’t thought of this.

Somehow it all points the same way — though purely randomly of course. Blowing up the UN and Red Cross and driving them out difficultates the pretense of progress and forces the US to take up the slack, stretching us ever thinner. Poor fire discipline, probably the result of military training aimed at appeasing the usual, results in shooting up weddings, kids, women gathering wood. Hitting that civilian air-freighter with a SAM-7 threatens to make airlines stop flying to Baghdad, further isolating the country and making a graceful exit impossible. Blowing up the oil pipelines forces the US to pay for the occupation. All accidental.

Finally, the slow bleeding of American forces gnaws at the American public, oh yes, and makes the army lash out brutally, which enhostilates the Iraqis and — again — helps recruiting for the resistance. But this is all the unplanned result of random violence. Which is a good thing, or I’d think old Ben was sitting somewhere and laughing.

Now, tell me that after that we won’t be forced to pull out. Maybe we won’t. I’m wrong about a lot of things.

But…what if? Well, first of all America would never invade the Mideast again, leastways not for nearly ever. We’d be de-fanged. Nobody would be scared of us any longer. The A-rabs could do whatever they wanted. That would be it for the second American Century. Good move, George.

Now, I don’t know where Ben is. I figure he’s at Vail, waiting for powder, or a houseguest with some Saudi prince, or maybe grew dreadlocks and playing asphalt-court basketball in the Bronx. (That way NSA couldn’t recognize the top of his head.) You can’t tell about Ben. But if what he wanted was to whip the US, and get it out of the Moslem world, and bring us low, why, I guess he’d figure he’d done it.

What would happen in Iraq, God only knows, but the rest of us can suspect. I reckon either it would get a Moslem gummint that hated us like poison, priced oil in Euros and sold it to China; or fall into pieces and everybody would invade everybody for years. What matters is Iran. If it developed nuclear hay-bombs the region’s power balance would change whoo-bingo against Israel, which I bet the Israelis have thought about. And if we got run out of Iraq, I doubt we’d run into Iran.

Right now, Israel has the atomic trump card: No Moslem state is going to seriously threaten the Israelis because they know they’d turn into high-Geiger pork rinds. If Iran and the gang get the Big One, Israel will be under 24/7 threat of extinction. One on Tel Aviv would be the end of THAT adventure, like the fall of Acre. Maybe when a country has lots of nukes and a good air force, you don’t really want to get its back to the wall.

But what do I know? Not much. What worries me is what maybe I’m going to find out.

Fred Reed [send him mail] is author of Nekkid in Austin: Drop Your Inner Child Down a Well.

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