On Friday I returned to the Golden EIB Microphone for three hours of substitute-host-level Excellence in Broadcasting on America's Number One radio show. You can find a few moments from my guest-hosting stint here.
General Soleimani's instant dispatch at Baghdad Airport dominated the proceedings, with callers largely wary of Trump getting suckered by Bush neocons or (according to Tony from Chicago) "Zionists" like Jared into yet another pointless foreign war. I took a different view: This is the highest-ranking military officer America has blown to kingdom come since Admiral Yamamoto in 1943 - and, given that the NSA has got everyone on the planet under 24/7 surveillance, I don't know why we don't do more of it. Because that we can do.
In fact, not doing it was one of the things we got wrong in the first weeks of the Age of Endless War - as I touch on below with respect to Mullah Omar, an evil man who thanks to us lived longer than he should have. The piece below was first published on November 3rd 2001 and is anthologized in The Face of the Tiger:
It's not easy being a compassionate warmonger. This week, it came to the notice of the Bush administration that, because of poor communication at the design department, the TV dinners and the cluster bombs that they're dropping on the Hindu Kush are the same colour. That meant they had to rush out a new radio ad: 'Attention, people of Afghanistan!' began the announcer in what the White House hopes is fluent Pashto. 'As you may have heard, the Partnership of Nations is dropping yellow humanitarian daily rations. The rations are square-shaped and are packaged in plastic. They are full of good nutritious, halal food.'
That's the good news. On the other hand, 'in areas far from where we are dropping food, we are dropping cluster bombs. Although it is unlikely, it is possible that not every bomb will explode on impact. These bombs are a yellow colour and are can-shaped. . . . Please, please exercise caution when approaching unidentified yellow objects in areas that have been recently bombed.'
Please, please exercise caution; it could be a Big McHalal burger, fries and a vanilla sheik; it could he a cluster bomb. Or — most worrying of all — that unidentified yellow object could be Western resolve curdling under the klieg lights of Taleban media savvy. By the time you read this, the rumoured Hallowe'en atrocities may have come to pass in America, and we will have been reminded once again of why we're fighting this war. Alternatively, there will have been no nightmares on Elm Street; just more of the same of the last four weeks — air raids on selected Afghan targets; a couple more accidental hits of Red Cross warehouses, Taleban daycare facilities, the wheelchair ramp to the Kandahar lesbian outreach centre, etc., but absolutely no bombs dropped on Mullah Omar's frontline northern troops because that might help the excitable chaps in the Northern Alliance take the capital before Cohn Powell has time to put together a coalition government led by whoever the Kabul equivalent of Shirley Williams is. Meanwhile, back home on Anthrax Avenue, the spore bores at the networks will have driven even more of their audience away — CNN's ratings have apparently dropped 70 per cent in the last two weeks — and, among our allies, the clamour will have increased for a 'bombing pause', to enable the aid agencies to go in and restock their bombed warehouses so that the Taleban can steal all the supplies before the USAF blows the buildings up again.
And then there's Ramadan. As Bill Clinton remarked during one of his own desultory bombing campaigns, 'Military action during Ramadan would be profoundly offensive to the Muslim world.' Jack Straw and Geoff Hoon, speaking for the rear end of our pantomime coalition, have similar reservations. Unlike every other white-boy pundit, I'm no Islamic scholar, but given that, as I understand it, during the holy month of Ramadan Muslims are expected to live in simple fashion, it's hard to see in what way taking out the water lines, the food warehouses, the electric supply, etc., is disrespectful. Quite the contrary, one would have thought. Happy Holidays from the Great Satan!
But where are the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuits when you need them? If B52s taking Ramadan off isn't in breach of the separation of Church and State, what is? As Joshua Micah Marshall put it in a droll commentary, 'Some of my conservative friends must be wondering something like this right about now: if we wanted a war fought from the air, with strategy dictated by politics and not the military, we might as well have given Bill Clinton a third term.'
With hindsight, the turning point was the first night of the bombing raids, when (according to The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh) an unmanned CIA Predator reconnaissance aircraft identified Mullah Omar's car fleeing Kabul. Lacking the authority to 'push the button', the agency relayed the news back to Central Command in Florida, where General Tommy R Franks, the head man, replied, 'My JAG doesn't like this, so we're not going to fire.' A JAG is a Judge Advocate-General — i.e., a military lawyer — and the only reason I know that is because there's a show on CBS called JAG. It says something about our times that the only military adventure series on American network TV is about an army lawyer. So, rather than offing the mad mullah and worrying about ass-covering later, the ass-covering took precedence and the mullah got away.
No wonder Don Rumsfeld is reported, on hearing the news, to have kicked in a couple of doors. Had Mullah Omar been killed on the first night of bombing, what a message that would have sent! Wanna play host to guys who massacre US civilians? Fine, but you're in the last month of your life, pal; don't start any long books. It would have been an important psychological victory, a decapitation of the regime leading to political upheaval and defections and disintegration, in the light of which much of the indeterminate bombing of subsequent weeks would have been unnecessary.
And so after four weeks the US has somehow contrived to get blamed by world opinion for the 'humanitarian disaster' in Afghanistan. We need a 'bombing pause' to enable the Taleban to come to their senses, even though they don't have any senses to come to and the quickest way to end the 'humanitarian disaster' is to liquidate its direct cause: the weirdbeards. But, having framed the war in idealistic terms, Bush shouldn't be surprised that a lot of the world's most tedious self-proclaimed idealists want to muscle in on it.
The problem seems to be that the US has lapsed almost reflexively into global-policeman mode — treating Afghanistan as Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia, and itself as a benign sorter-outer of a troubled region. Whether or not you think America is qualified for such a role is irrelevant: this isn't that kind of war, and Bush was foolish to let it be gussied up into one. America is not engaged in what the columnist Charles Krauthammer calls a 'war of choice' — from Vietnam to Kosovo, conflicts in which America itself is not at stake — but a 'war of necessity', on which the fate of the nation rests. If that sounds overheated, why? If Osama had a nuke, he'd use it. So we have to kill him and destroy al-Qa-eda before the boys with the dreams of 72 virgins in paradise are wandering around Dallas and Atlanta with suitcase bombs. Bush made more sense when he was in cowboy mode, doing his 'Wanted Dead Or Alive' shtick. Now he's touring grade schools urging every American child to get a Muslim pen-pal. This is not the time for Islamic outreach: the US doesn't need to prove it's nicer than anybody else, just that it's tougher than anybody else.
~the above is anthologized in The Face of the Tiger, personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available from the SteynOnline bookstore - and with Mark Steyn from Head to Toe in one convenient bargain package. Oh, and if you're a member of The Mark Steyn Club, don't forget to enter the promotional code at checkout to enjoy even more savings.
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