Schwarzkopf's Mystic Word

 

Correspondence of 22 March, 2003. The letter was sent me from Naples, Florida, that sprawling think tank of the new Bush Republicanism:

 

Dear Eric:

 

       My neighbors, Heidi and Dick R-----, went to a small dinner party two days ago.  One of the couples at the party was General Arnold Schwarzkopf and his wife.  He was the head general in Desert Storm.  As the evening passed the subject came up of the pending war with Iraq.  The general was pointedly asked if he felt war with Iraq was truly necessary.  His response was interesting.  He said that if the public knew what he, the president and his cabinet knew concerning what was really going on in Iraq, that there would not be one American that wouldn't fully support this war.  He said it was indeed terrifying.  He also said that he was not able to discuss things to a greater degree, but that the situation was critical. 

       That is how I have felt all along.  Within myself, I feel that there must be a lot that we do not know and it is perhaps good that it remains that way.  We have enough fear to live with; who needs more?

 

My Best,

 

T-----

 

*     *     *

 

Dear T-----:

 

If it's true that there is some horribly menacing weapons program or something of the like going on in Iraq, and if for some reason the CIA and the Administration can't presently reveal anything about it, then I'm sure that after the war is over the American people will be able to learn what the Iraqi threat *really* was--that, for example, it wasn't merely unaccounted-for stockpiles of anthrax and VX nerve gas.

     If, on the other hand, the war passes and this threat is not finally revealed, then we'd have to conclude my suspicion about this business is right: Schwarzkopf was talking a lot of baloney at a Naples dinner party.

     We will see.  We will see.  But remember this letter you sent me. It's characteristic of wartime, as the general's evocation of some phantom menace is characteristic of wartime government propaganda.

     "If you knew what we know you wouldn't even think twice about

supporting everything we do."

     It's a good thing that most Americans don't nod their heads in awe at such words.  If they did we'd soon be living in an Iraq of our own. 

     But you all down in Naples don't much worry about such things because you know Americans could never organize a repressive state there in the land of the free.  Good American people have an inherent virtue that makes such a thing impossible.  Besides which, we have so much to fear already that it's better to let the Bush Administration protect our liberties from any corruption by un-American forces.

     But don't take my skepticism personally.  It isn't only aimed at you, you know.  It's aimed at you and all your Naples neighbors too!

 

Warmly,

 

Eric

 

P.S.-- In fact the general in Desert Storm wasn't named Arnold Schwarzkopf, as you cite him in the letter, but rather Norman Schwarzkopf.  Probably Dick and Heidi got him confused with the Austrian movie actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Given the Florida sun, such confusion is understandable.  I wonder how often it happens to the general when he's down there. 

      I'm now trying to imagine their dinner conversation:

 

Heidi: We really admired you for your heroic actions in Desert Storm, General.  And I'm sure all those Croatians must be grateful that you liberated them from Saddam.

 

General: Well, M'am, you know it's important to stand up for freedom in the world.  Somebody had to chase out the Iraqis.  They'd overstepped the line.

 

Dick: And I loved you in *Total Recall* with Kathleen Turner.  That was probably my favorite movie of yours.

 

General: In fact I was in much better shape then.  I'll have to be getting back to the gym one of these days if I want to do any more films like that.

 

Heidi: What an exciting life you lead!  I think someday I'll have to read your biography.

 

General: Well, M'am, it really isn't all that exciting.

 

Dick:  You know, General, I understand that the first Gulf War was mostly about liberating the Croatians from Saddam Hussein.

 

General: Yes, it was.

 

Dick: Because Saddam invaded their country and there was no other way to get them out.  But this second war--I mean the one coming--there are many people that think it might not be necessary.  I mean, Saddam might have those weapons and all, but is there really any chance he'd dare use them against us?

 

General: In fact it's a very difficult case we're in right now.  And to speak honestly, most people don't understand all angles of it.

 

Dick: I see.

 

General: There are aspects of it that, well, for security reasons we can't reveal right now.  But I can assure you both right now, as I've assured all the good people I've talked to down here, if you all knew what the president and I know about what the Iraqis are really up to, I mean if people knew what we know, there wouldn't be a single American who wouldn't be one-hundred per cent behind this war. 

 

Heidi: Well, so it's confidential right now.  They're not revealing what it's really about.

 

General: That's right, M'am.  It's very sensitive just now.

 

Dick: I wonder if those French and Germans knew what was really happening in Iraq if they'd change their tune about supporting us.

 

Heidi: Those ungrateful Europeans, I find it disgusting how they don't support this war.

 

General: It is something we're all angry about.

 

Dick: How many times did we save their sorry asses from. . . .

 

And so on.

 

 

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