Hello to all my internet friends!
In honor of the five-year anniverary of Thomas Friedman's infamous "Suck. On. This." rationale for the Iraq War, I present an EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT from my book about the War On Terrorism! (I'm writing this book for my personal edification.)
This excerpt touches on Friedman's remarks, placing them in the larger historical context. For that reason, this excerpt is extremely long.
ENJOY IF POSSIBLE.
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"Mr. President, it's a SLAM DUNK!"
CIA Director George Tenet slammed a basketball on President Bush's desk, as if emphasizing the point. "An absolute slam dunk-- in fact, it's a touchdown!" Tenet spiked a football, then dropped to one knee and crossed himself. The president looked up--"Whuzza?"-- he liked football!
The DCI seized the moment: "It's a home run, sir!" And with that, he dramatically swallowed a baseball. (A brilliant intelligence officer, Tenet had used his modem to determine the President once owned a team of baseball players.) "TENNIS AND CROQUET ARE ALSO RELEVANT!" screamed Tenet as he smashed a tennis racket over his head and swung a croquet mallet into his nose.
President Bush's mind raced like a three-legged dog with four minutes to live: This 'Tenet' guy said he's in charge of the CIA. . . my dad was once in charge of the CIA. . . that means this guy was once my dad. . . that means this guy STILL IS my dad. . . that means I must prove I'm more of a man than he is. . . that means I've gotta smash a croquet mallet into my face harder than he did--
Ladies and gentlemen, would it surprise you to learn that President Bush then tried to smash his face with a croquet mallet, but the mallet slipped from his hands and slaughtered thousands of innocent bystanders? (If so, you should go back to college and take the seminar, "Huge Piles of Dead People: The Subtle Art of the Political Metaphor.")
Tenet was a soft-spoken analyst-- a coward, technically-- rarely given to outbursts. So this intelligence briefing had definitely gotten President Bush's attention. In fact, the president was now fully alert, blinking and breathing with the unstudied competence of a man in the prime of his turd. (FOOTNOTE: Unbeknownst to President Bush at the time, Tenet had spent days rehearsing his presentation, repeatedly slamming basketballs on desks and swallowing baseballs until his belly was full of baseballs and he had to wipe his butt with a catcher's mitt and his wife started calling him "Fartie McBaseballs-Alot, the Amazing Spy Who Farts Baseballs.")
The bloodied DCI decided to go for broke, slamming a second basketball on the desk: "I repeat: It's a slam dunk! THIS IS MY FINAL BASKETBALL!" Tenet punched the air: "Saddam Hussein has Weapons of Mass Destruction!" Then he started sort of laughing and crying.
It wasn't a dramatic moment, but it was significant: A debate that had roiled the capital for months was finally coming to an end. To the question of whether Saddam Hussein possessed W.M.D.s, the answer was, Yes. And we finally had the sports metaphors to prove it.
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Readers with long memories will recall that in late 2002 and early 2003, America was still recovering from the wounds of 9/11. We were no longer reeling from the attacks, but we weren't exactly thrilled about 'em, either. In Afghanistan, we celebrated our lightning-quick military triumph over the Taliban and the new freedom that blossomed: the freedom to forget about Afghanistan. We had decimated Al-Qaeda's command structure-- what was once a sophisticated, hierarchical matrix of caves was now just a smoldering smorgasbord of mountains with holes in the sides of 'em. The Taliban had been permanently "Tali-BANNED," never to be seen again, certainly not before 2004. The brave women of Afghanistan enjoyed newfound liberty as long as they didn't act like total sluts. The Kabul horizon was once again choked with children's kites, hanging low in the sky like grim thunderheads of optimism and opportunity. And finally, Osama bin Laden was on the run, as fast as his little legs could carry him. (In fact, "Dr. Chicken Legz Quarterly" had voted his the Scrawniest Legs of 2002, with a 3-D centerfold that actually appeared in 2-D because his legs were so scrawny!!!)
High-profile arrests in Pakistan and other weird places had given new life to the legal prosecution of the War on Terror. Suspected terrorists were yielding valuable intelligence by definitely not being tortured. Meanwhile, here in the homeland, certain people were hearing the telephone conversations they needed to hear, and reading the email messages they needed to read, and if certain other people were whining about it, those certain other people needed to shut certain particular pie-holes (i.e., theirs).
It seemed like we were back on track, cruising towards the End of History, after a little detour called "9/11 and the Subsequent Never-Ending War on Terror." Political scientist Francis Fukuyama's 1992 bestseller "A Child Called 'It'" once again looked prophetic: If a nation lives in the basement long enough, it will learn to overcome the odds and teach itself kung-fu and it will become a light and inspiration unto others.
In the midst of the non-stop victory parade known as 2002, Americans weren't thinking about Iraq. So why were the president and the DCI swallowing baseballs and bashing themselves in the face with croquet mallets?
The answer was simple: Iraq.
And the reason was even simpler: 9/11.
Years from now, when the first definitive history of President Bush's War on Terror is written-- and it turns out to be an exact word-for-word plagiarism of this book, and I hunt down the author and kill him with my unstoppable stabbing machine-- we will learn of the shift in focus from Afghanistan (Land of Terror) to Iraq (Terror's Homeland). Until then, we have only speculation, until we read the next sentence, which provides the answer:
We invaded Iraq because we had to.
Because we had no choice. Because it was impossible-- and fabulous-- and asking ourselves to do the Impossible -- and Fabulous -- is the price of being who we are: The people who live in America.
The 9/11 attackers had struck us where it hurt most: In the heart of our society; in our civilization's crotch. Our response had to be equally ambitious. Liberating Afghanistan and permanently vanquishing the Taliban for a few months was the first step, but it wasn't enough-- every civilization we didn't understand would have to be put on notice. That meant Iraq.
As famous New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman put it to Charlie Rose in that dark, featureless midnight in which Rose holds court:
"What (Iraqis) needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying, 'Which part of this sentence don't you understand? You don't think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we're just gonna to let it grow? Well, Suck. On. This.'" (REAL QUOTE!)
"Suck. On. This." Three little words every lonely, lovelorn Middle Easterner longs to hear. What Iraqi or Iraniani or Afghanistaniani doesn't secretly hope to open their shabby, sand-caked door to find American boys and girls leaning seductively against the wall, smacking their Zionist Bubbalicious, and inviting -- demanding -- someone suck upon their flawless American private parts? Atten-SHUN!
Or was Thomas Friedman suggesting that Iraqis needed to suck on the American boys' and girls' guns? In that case, when the American boys and girls go house to house, saying "Suck. On. This," maybe they should stick their guns right in front of the Iraqis' mouths, pressing the cold steel against their lips, so the appropriate response is obvious. Gives new meaning to the phrase BLOWBACK, doesn't it?
But wait, sports fans! Maybe I took too many "Left-Wing Dummy Dumb-Dumb Pills" this morning, and have misinterpreted what Friedman meant! It makes more sense that Friedman wants the Iraqis to suck on the very concept of American-ness, fellating the values and heritage that make our way of life the envy of the world. Or, perhaps he thinks the Iraqis should give even more ambitious blowjobs-- and suck not only on American-ness, but also on the principles of Western Enlightenment thought, with special emphasis on free-market, representative democracy. Talk about a mouthful! (YUM!)
Of course, knowing those stubborn Iraqis, they'd probably resent being forced to suck on something so awesome. I bet they wouldn't even swallow.
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"Suck. On. This." Every word of that phrase so important, so vital, it demands its own punctuation mark. And not just any punctuation mark: The period; the full stop of American resolve. No exclamation points for those American boys and girls -- ours is not a hysterical nation. We're the country of chilled-out, authoritative nonchalance: Gary Cooper; Gilbert Gottfried. Keep it cool, but let 'em know who's in charge; who is to be sucked; and who is to do the sucking. Again:
"What (Iraqis) needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying, 'Which part of this sentence don't you understand? You don't think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we're just gonna to let it grow? Well, Suck. On. This.'"
Looking back on Friedman's comment, another boo-boo pops out. Those American boys and girls going house-to-house in Iraq were asking a self-negating question. The answer to "Which part of this sentence don't you understand," can only be "No part of it," since understanding every part of the sentence-- or, more accurately, not understanding no part of the sentence-- is a precondition for answering it, which is of course implied in its being asked to begin with.
Indeed, the American boys and girls going house-to-house in Iraq should have asked, "Why don't you understand this sentence?" That would have gotten us somewhere; Iraqis would have immediately answered, "I don't understand the sentence because you're speaking English, and I'm so ignorant and dumb I only speak Arabic."
Or, the American boys and girls could have asked, "Which part of this sentence won't you will not un-answer?" to which Iraqis would have answered "Please don't kill me!" like a bunch of scaredy-cats with their noses running because they're whimpering and crying.
Or, finally, the American boys and girls could have shot first and asked questions later.
Perhaps that would have been most appropriate. After all, when's the last time you heard a hero demean him- or herself by asking a foreigner a question? What is this, "Pre-9/11 World?" If you've ever been lucky enough to watch your children play "War" in your backyard as the setting sun casts its amber light on the invisible carnage spilling out of their skulls, you know the game doesn't involve kids running around asking each other a bunch of stupid questions; it involves them running around pretending to shoot each other! An American boy or girl playing War doesn't pick up some huge, funky-looking stick and say, "Ooh, this looks like a cool question to ask!" He or she picks up the huge, funky-looking stick and says, "Ooh, this looks like a cool gun! BANG BANG, you're dead!"
Wars are not won by asking questions. . . because wars are won by heroes. . . and heroes don't have time to ask questions. You know that book "Blink," by that skinny guy with the crazy hair? That book was written for the hero inside all of us:
Don't ask questions-- BLINK.
Don't think-- BLINK.
Shoot your gun-- BLINK.
Kill the enemy-- BLINK.
Receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom-- BLINK!
It's easy to tell, in a room full of Americans, which one is the hero. He's the one who blinks the most. That's why the Army never awards the Most Awesomest Hero Medal without first holding a "Most Blinkiest Blink-Off" contest. It's a patriotic spectacle of fluttering eyelashes the likes of which no non-American could understand. The furious blinking of heroes' eyelashes. . . sounds like the rustling of flags. . . sounds like the end of tyranny. . . . sounds like American boys and girls saying "Suck. On. This."
ETC. ETC. ETC.
HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!