Pining for proof

Welcome to war week here in the Neon Babylon. Speaking of Babylon, do you recall that the original Babylon was in the same valley, bounded by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, now being trampled by soldiers and tanks?

I’m not so sure our troops need to worry about getting hassled by Saddam’s chemical or biological weapons. The official position put out there by our warlords is that we are worried about our guys getting smoked by some hideously fiendish WMD, such as a nerve gas. Fair enough. In reality, though, it’s frightfully easy to imagine that the Masters of War would like nothing better than for one of our platoons somewhere in Iraq to encounter some kind of villainous chemical weapon attack. A small one, to be sure, preferably no casualties, of course, but … if we lost a few guys to nerve gas, the instant “vindication vibe” that would resonate in certain craniums in D.C. and London would provide soothing satisfaction. In one swift and telling move, there would be deliverance from all doubt and justification for the war itself.

It’s safe to assume, however, that Saddam, if not yet worm food, knows this and that the last thing he wants is to vindicate Bush and defuse the wave of distaste, doubt and cynicism that is building throughout the world every day the war digs in and carries on. Therefore, Saddam’s order, perhaps reluctantly given, but given nonetheless: nobody touch the stash of gases, powders, etc. The end result: our guys won’t ever have to don gas masks or chemical outfits.

If Saddam is not in charge, I take it all back.

You can take this proposition one step further, if you really want to get dark and weird and conspiratorial. Who would really be all that shocked if Washington, in its desperate impatience for this crucial WMD vindication, unleashed a nerve gas attack of its own near some of our troops who, fortunately, somehow had enough warning to get into their gas masks and anti-chem outfits. We could then shout it out to the world, while the Iraqis screamed they were framed. Who would the world believe? Who would Americans believe?

It’s not too late for Dubya and his posse to pull this thing off, this thing being the grandiose "best case scenario." But it’s also not too early to say that if this mess is not clearly and greatly improving by, say, the end of April, there will be a whole lot of us noticing our bullshit detectors beginning to tingle. This country was pitched, and pitched hard, the Best Case Scenario back in February, one that hinged on two key points: (1) This war would be over quickly. (Remember the Rumsfeld quote, "Five days, maybe five weeks. Certainly not five months.") (2) Our troops would be hailed as liberators by a grateful Iraqi nation. As of this writing, both premises are on somewhat wispy footing, and this is a disappointment to a significant minority of Americans.