If ever there was a time I wished I was blogging its now. I stayed up late Wednesday night watching it all unfold, bouncing around the internet while listening to Fox on the TV headphones. It wasnt until I turned off the computer and started flipping to other channels that I realized the war was already lost. Well, no; exaggeration. But the tone was markedly different - Fox coverage had the feel of someone leaning into the wind, and the rest of the stations sounded like someone reporting from the kneehole of the desk. They seemed very worried and very concerned and very serious and very ominous, and they all had guests who agreed that this was a very delicate and perilous time.
They sounded like were under attack.
11:15 Press Conference with Rumsfeld, who really looks as if he has someplace better to be. Usual jabbering blather from the 4th estate. One fellow from Bloomberg asked a two-pronged question - the setup was so interminable the Senate actually moved for cloture. I forget what he wanted to ask, but we were all very impressed with his encyclopedic grasp of the front page of todays Washington Post, and touched by his conviction that a recitation of the same would cause Rumsfeld to reveal the entire war plan on the spot.
Best question: If we missed Saddam Hussein, what does that do for the Iraqi spirit, does it provide them with an early propaganda victory?
Oh, for heavens sake. The answer is obvious - if you define Iraqi spirit as the mood of the high command, those fellows blurted their last three meals down their pant-legs last night; learning that the Head Mustache is still up and and walking around would definitely be a mixed blessing. As long as hes alive, the government is still functioning, which means they are in no immediate danger of being ripped apart by aggravated citizens filled with their own unique brand of Iraqi Spirit. But it certainly means that more strikes are en route. We have five dollars for each of them, as the fellow once said.
As for the propaganda victory, well, laugha while you can, a-Monkey Boy! And do notice how the habitually prone Arab Street has not yet risen up in glee.
Was that bifocaled roué on TV last night actually Grampa Butcher himself? No idea. Id be happy if they got one of the sons. If you ever played Doom you know that the Martian base had hundreds of barrels of toxic waste conveniently placed around the installation, and when shot they would blow up reel gud. If there was an imp or a zombie standing nearby, the hellspawn were instantly converted to a pixelated smear of red-currant jam. It was a crude effect, cartoonish and blocky, but wed never seen anything like that in a game before; your first reaction was whoa.
Thats what I think of when I think of the Tomahawks slamming into Uday or Qusays Love Shack - immediate conversion to a Smuckeresque crescent. And Ill be frank - its not the way Id like them both to go. The ideal scenario would take place in some dank third-string bolthole, where the Lads and Dad had taken refuge because all the nice bunkers with the gilt-edged toilets and circular beds had been destroyed. At some point the boys get claustrophobia, and start yanking the handle to open the steel door. Thats when Saddam takes out a pistol and says I always knew you would disappoint me.
You may say Im a dreamer. But Im not the only one.
11:50 NPR is running . . . the BBC. Its interesting, listening to these guys - Im unsure how its possible to sneer the entire time youre speaking. I fear the announcers face will stay that way. Perhaps you can recognize an old Beeb hand by the permanently curled lip. Ive tuned in twice in half an hour; both times they were talking about the FAILURE to get Saddam, and what this FAILURE means for the war which might be hindered by this initial FAILURE. And then the reporter - a female one, with a sneerier sneer - says the question now is when the attack will come, and whether the President will give his generals permission to act with a free hand.
Um . . . havent we already settled that question? I know it conflicts with the Beebs view of Bush as a vulture with a bloody globe clutched in one claw, the other holding the leashes of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but I heard hours ago that theater decisions had been left to the folks who do this for a living.
Unbelievable: NPRs top of the hour theme is somber, downbeat, with a few disconsolate snare drums - music to lose by! Is it too much to ask of these people to play something that doesnt sound like the music youd use for the sinking of a f--king aircraft carrier? *$#%*(#$%$#5
1:20 PM One of the nations 23,340 retired military experts has just said that the reason we havent seen shockenaw yet is because theyve changed the plan, that the government may be coming apart. It would be amusing if the casualty total consisted of several dozen Baathists. As opposed to the 260,000 hypothesized by our paper on Wednesday.
The dog that has not barked or thrown up on the rug: SCUDs tossed at Israel.
Fox reporting Senior Iraqi Republican Guard want to surrender.
That would be the hardened, fanatically loyal Republican Guard.
1:56 PM The President just made some brief remarks, and assured us he still had a domestic agenda - thereby infuriating liberals and conservatives alike.
2:05 PM Radio reporting that Basra has fallen. I dont think so. Umm Qasr has been taken as well. Sci-fi town names. Mos Ai-Zhley will be the next to fall.
3:10 PM NPR is interviewing a Saudi editor, who warns us that the average Saudi - who of course holds Saddam in contempt as a brutal butcher - will nevertheless be very angry if America kills fifty Iraqis and continues to block UN resolutions on Israel. I say when this war is over we couple the issue of Palestinian rights with Saudi womens rights. Self-determination for everyone. The Pals get autonomy; Saudi women get drivers licenses. Agreed?
4:26 PM. Went to Target. Deserted, but it didnt have that oh-crap mood it had the week of 9/11, when everyone was walking into walls and pushing their carts into poles. Got home; went upstairs: no TV, no LED lights, no nothing - powers out. But the garage door had opened. Id turned on the tunnel light. I went back downstairs: the light was off. I saw a neighbor peering through the window, no doubt looking to see if anyone else had power; I stepped outside, waved, made the finger-across-the-throat gesture, which is the international symbol for our power is out as well. She returned the gesture. I hope her power was off; otherwise, I think she means to kill me.
Well, who needs TV today, anyway? Who needs the internet? Who needs coffee? I do: my wife just called, and shell be late from work. No nap for me, and if ever I needed one, its today - Gnat has been a sassy, bouncy typical toddler today, with an attention span the length of what was I talking about? So Im making a cup of instant right now (had to light the stove with the Zippo) and listening to a small AM radio to ensure I miss nothing.
5:17 PM News report: Hans Blix admits that he would have never have found all the WMD. Thanks, Hans. Much obliged. Im guessing that he was paid by the week, not by the discovery; if wed given him a bonus for Finding Stuff, and the bonus exceeded what he would have made in a year of desultory squinting, we might have had the material breach in week one.
6:00 PM Still no power. Laptop down to 74 percent power. Unsure how long I can hang on. Reserves fading. They have power across the street, though. Greedy arrogant consumers of resources! I seethe with resentment! Still no wife, although that was expected. Checked in with NPR a while ago; they were playing an interview with a fellow from the Brookings Institute. General impression of the interview: we face many problems, difficulties, and problematic difficulties, and things are not as simple as the administration seems to believe. Apparently they get real-time theater intelligence at the Brookings Institute. I expected Chopins Funeral March as outcue music.
The big news seems to be disappointment that we dont get to see Shock and Awe. But you promised! You promised!
7:30 PM Gnat is watching her Colors, Shapes and Numbers video. I always commit the credits to memory in case I run across its creators, in which case I will pull out the length of piano wire I keep for just that moment. I will work quickly; the element of surprise will be on my side. I will say: this is for that Rollie Rectangle character who raps in a posh English accent. Hell go limp. I think in a way he expected it to end this way.
7:40 PM Gnat looked up at the TV and said Unca Bush! I didnt teach her that.
8:05 PM While batting around the hedgehog with Jasper I listened to more NPR / MPR; the news had a big segment on all the protesters, and a short interview with an earnest young woman who was amazed by the demonstrators energy and passion. She believed that it would be impossible to instill democracy in Iraq via war, because thats never worked before. You hear this a lot. Often the interlocutor brings up Japan or Germany, and the protester reacts as if the questioner switched the subject to new advances in lettuce hybrids: what does that have to do with anything? If you insist that they reply to the Japan / Germany example, they usually sound amused and exasperated, because were talking about now.
For these people there is no history before 1968, when the world sprang fully-formed from Timothy Learys forehead.
The local news said that many high school students had walked out and gathered at the U to demand that the war stop now - the King Canute Brigade, if you will. The most delicious line came at the end of the report, noting that the University itself was currently on Spring Break, but many students planned to leave class when they resumed on Monday.
God forbid you should leave St. Petersburg a few days early to assert your principles.
10:21 PM According to Fox news, Iraqis have been bombing the advancing troops with fully-loaded flour sacks for the last three hours. Either that or theyre running the same 16 seconds of APC / tank convoy footage over and over and over again.
10:54 PM Fox reporting that Saddams mistress says that wasnt him in the tape. My wife also says that wasnt him in the tape. Therefore . . .