Some years ago, I offered the theory that the back-pages, business card-size ads and classifieds in any print publication constituted the id of its readers. It was always so amusing, back when the newspaper I worked for actually had the budget to subscribe to political journals, to turn to the back and see all those increase-your-word-power pitches in right-wing publications. (The lefties leaned heavily on meet-women-who-will-appreciate-your-genius dating services. Woody Allen got a laugh out of this in “Annie Hall”: Probably met by answering an ad in the New York Review of Books. “Thirtyish academic wishes to meet woman who’s interested in Mozart, James Joyce and sodomy.”
I’m still deciding what porn spam indicates. I get so much of it in my comments, 99 percent of it caught by filters, but occasionally I like to poke around (sorry) there and see what’s what. I can report two trends: 1) absurd sub- sub- sub-niche specialization (mature hairy black Texas Hold’em nudes); and 2) comical trickery. As to the latter, I just deleted a comment that said “fried chicken recipes here” and linked to you-know-what. Ah well. As Willie Dixon said, “I eat more chicken than any man ever seen.” He wasn’t talking about the wings.
Today is, we’ll be reminded approximately a million times, the four-year anniversary of President Bush’s “mission accomplished” speech. Alan just recalled the fond memory of sitting in the morning news meeting that day, gazing at the Page One proofs, which featured that memorable phrase in tombstone-size type. “We were discussing how to note the casualties,” he said. “There had been something like 66, and someone said, ‘We’ll run that on Memorial Day.’ I said, ‘I guarantee you there will be more dead by Memorial Day, and in two or three or four or seven years, we’ll still be fighting in Iraq.’ They looked at me like I was a communist sympathizer. Especially Name Redacted.” Ah, well. That was another country, and besides, the wench is dead.
What I recall of that time — invasion to Mission Accomplished, which petered out into counting the days to my Ann Arbor fellowship — was how strange that time was. Obviously our little newspaper didn’t have correspondents in Baghdad, or even Washington, or even Indianapolis by that point, but we were doing our part to cover the home front. There was a list of story ideas that boiled down to “How is (name of public institution) preparing for the war?” The schools, the police department, etc. I was baffled; what were we looking for, duck-and-cover drills for second-graders? Blackout exercises, lest we be bombed by the Iraqi Air Force? “Pray For Our Troops” signs covered lawns — freebies from the local G.O.P. — and every so often a tiny knot of anti-war protesters would show up at the Courthouse Green for a demonstration, and people would honk at them. I felt like I was speaking to my fellow Americans through a thick sheet of plexiglas.
In the midst of this, someone handed me a slip of paper with a name and a phone number, a local Iraqi of fairly recent immigration who might be willing to give an interview. I went to the guy’s house and we sat for a while watching the war on Arab satellite TV. (He was out of work, and watched it non-stop.) He switched between Al Jazeera and stations in Abu Dhabi and Lebanon. Obviously I couldn’t follow the audio, but I noticed the video emphasized not heroic images of soldiers in Hummers, but civilian refugees walking down the road with their belongings on their back. My subject, a Shiite, told of the ill-fated rebellion after the first Gulf War, how the U.S. had led the Shia to believe we had their back and then oops, we didn’t. He spent a couple years in a Saudi refugee camp before making his way to Indiana, which must have been a strange transition, to say the least.
He was of the opinion — this was April or May 2003, around that time — that now that Saddam had been booted, it was time for the U.S. to leave. He did not express gratitude; it was more like, “OK, we’ll take it from here.” He also said the longer we stayed the more we’d be resented, and that the prime reason we wanted Saddam out after all this time was to get our hands on the oil fields. He also shared his belief that the Mossad had used remote control devices to fly the planes into the World Trade Center. The copy desk cut that part, but they left most of the rest. At least one reader wrote a letter to the editor suggesting that my Iraqi should be more grateful.
A crystalization of the war, right there. Mission accomplished.
Readers frequently call the work of columnists “musings,” as in, “I was reading your musings the other day, and…” Jon Carroll is one of the very few who can muse, in print, and lead you along from the first word to the end. Today: Musings on miracles.
I was away with the Girl Scouts when this story broke, so I missed it until yesterday. If it weren’t so jaw-droppingly shocking — another GOP hypocrite caught with his pants down, literally — I’d have reported it then. As it was, I had to call for smelling salts to get off the floor.
Off to Flex Appeal. Back soon.