A four-point plan for winning in Iraq

A solution to America’s troubles in Iraq came to me the other evening while listening to an audio version of The Iliad, Homer’s classic account of the Trojan War.

The Greeks curried favor with their gods by sacrificing bulls, oxen and goats, ultimately winning their war. With an equivalent sacrifice, I believe we can win ours.

The Greeks offered hecatombs of bulls, oxen and goats—a hecatomb is 100 slaughtered beasts—to win the favor of their gods. I reasoned that if we sacrificed an equivalent amount of food, we’d win, too.

I called Bill Moses, manager at Prime Selection, a wholesaler of gourmet foods, to find how much food the Greeks were giving up to win in Troy.

“You can probably figure a thousand pounds of meat off the hoof,” he told me. He was talking about cows, but so what? “Gross weight, you divide it by two. That gives you the edible pounds.

“The only thing I’ve done with goats is put them on a spit and made goat tacos,” he added. “A goat weighs maybe 100 pounds. You might get 130 meals out of it.”

Now, my thinking went like this: There were 50,000 Greeks who sailed to Troy in 1,000 ships. If 100 goats were good for 13,000 meals, and 100 2,000-pound oxen and bulls filled 50,000 plates (a hearty pound of meat on each), that’s 63,000 meals. The Greeks were sacrificing .26 meals per man when they sacrificed goats, and one meal each when they sacrificed oxen and bulls. We could match that easily. (Editor’s note: Author Frank Marquardt is not a mathematician.)

I considered faxing the president.

Instead, for authenticity, I e-mailed Stanley Lombardo, a professor at the University of Kansas and a translator of The Iliad. Turns out those soldiers weren’t giving all that meat to their gods like I thought.

“Most of the edible portions would have been eaten by the men (the gods mostly liked the smell),” is what he e-mailed me.

Discouraged that giving up food wouldn’t solve our predicament, I pulled on my hair shirt and wandered around Sacramento with tacks in my shoes. I found myself downtown, near Blue Diamond Growers, watching smoke rise from smokestacks, and the solution I wanted bolted through my brain like lightning: To win in Iraq, we need to give our God better-smelling air.

Here’s my thinking: The United States is the world’s leading producer of carbon-dioxide emissions. China and Russia, No. 2 and No. 3, come 7 million tons of pollution short of our annual spew. The scientific community thinks all this carbon dioxide is causing global warming, but leaders in the Bush administration think the scientific community has it wrong. If the Bush folks are right—and I’m pretty sure they think they are—then what must be happening is that our God is provoking a quagmire in Iraq because fossil fuels don’t smell so good.

The Greeks understood a timeless principle of war: You’ve got to sacrifice to win. In our case, the death and wounding of thousands of troops have not been sufficient. What we need to do is to sacrifice so that our atmosphere smells good to our God again.

I spent a night in contemplation, and I offer my results here: Patriot Air, a four-point plan to curry our God’s favor and assure we win our Iraq war. It is a compassionate, clear-sighted, freedom-loving plan I am sure will appeal to patriotic Americans from sea to shining sea. Sacramentans now and in posterity will feel pride this plan originated here:

(1) Build a giant parking lot and call it the Parking Lot of Victory. Drive 500,000 American SUVs into it, park them and leave them there forever. We’ll decide the SUVs that go into the structure by lottery and build the lot in Los Angeles to show California’s willingness to lead the sacrifice. Result? We’ll reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by more than 25 million tons a year and reduce carbon-monoxide, hydrocarbon and nitrogen-oxide emissions, too.

(2) Revoke the corporate charter for Exxon Mobile, our nation’s biggest oil company, demonstrating our commitment to cleaner air. We’ll dump the company’s equipment into a huge pit.

(3) Retrain the employees of Exxon Mobile as butchers, barbecue masters, oxen raisers, goat herders and bull-meat distributors, teaching them the ins and outs of raising, distributing and cooking meat. Bring in George Foreman to lecture about the merits of his grill. Their lives forthwith will directly involve them in helping to waft the aromas of roasting meats heavenward.

The Greeks were pagans. Thanks to the Romans, we’re a Christian nation, so it’s entirely possible our God will find the aroma of meat unsatisfying. Our God may prefer something softer, herbal in essence, like the frankincense and myrrh carried by the three wise men. My fourth point, which draws on California’s robust and esteemed New Age tradition, involves hedging our bets with aromatherapy. I believe point 4 makes my plan bulletproof.

(4) Citizens allied with blue states will freshen up their homes and workplaces with citrus oils and myrrh, and those allied with red states will use lavender and frankincense. Nader voters will use Higher Being Spiritual Synergy oil from Green Valley Essential Oils, sold in 5-milliliter bottles for a mere $3.52.

Let me assure you, God will be pleased.