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Feature Story October 18, 2001
By John Dolan Browse author Email
Page 2 of 5

Take the B1: how many sorties did the B1 -- which was then the most expensive aircraft ever built -- fly in the Gulf War? Answer: zero. Zero! Every single heavy-bomber sortie was flown by B52s that were 10 years older than the average eXile reader. You know why? Because the brand-new, absurdly expensive B1 couldn't fly in weather over 75 degrees fahrenheit. Of course, they've let the B1 fly a few sorties over Afghanistan, but that was the equivalent of the garbage minutes tossed to a first-round draft choice who can't play. The weather is nice and mild in the Afghan winter -- and more importantly, the Taliban couldn't shoot down a mallard.

Star Wars was even closer to Reagan's heart (so to speak), because it was even more expensive than the B1 and could be launched into space, where no one would notice that it was utterly useless -- the ectoplasmic extrapolation of the useless alarm systems around those "gated retirement communities" which are the Republicans' true dreamworld.

The Republicans have always actively opposed any weapon that might be useful in a real conflict. The bizarre Congressional history of the Osprey, one of the few useful weapons in the U.S. arsenal, demonstrates this. After all, why would they want to fund useable weapons? Those things might get into the wrong hands -- hands willing to pull the trigger.

The best example of such a weapon is the cheap, simple, deadly RPG-7. This simple Soviet design meets the key test of a real weapon: every minute of every day, somebody fires one of them at somebody else with the straightforward intention of killing the fucker. When the Somalis discovered that they could take down $60 million Blackhawk helicopters with a ten dollar RPG, they used them; when Americans found out that Somalis were willing to fire RPGs against our Blackhawks... we fled. So the RPG-7 is a weapon, and the Blackhawk, in our hands, is a very expensive scarecrow -- but the crows aren't scared any more.

Right-wing Republicans are much more at-ease keeping the Blackhawks safely stowed in NATO bases far from trouble, where they impress passing Congressional delegations and visiting diplomats. The same with the Apache, perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing death system ever manufactured. And the most coddled weapon in our arsenal, protected from danger as if it was the hemophiliac Tsarevich himself. Remember those daily reports during the Kosovo War about how NATO was going to send those Apaches in "any day now" if the Serbs didn't back down? Newsweek and Time promised an Apache-led "Inferno of Death" if the Serbs didn't take our threat seriously. Welp, after 78 days, those Apaches were still pretending to gear up for slaughter. A Panamanian drunkard asleep in his shanty or a starving Iraqi irregular holding a "Will Surrender For Food" sign makes a choice target for the Apache, but the odds that an Apache could be shot down by Serb forces were somewhat higher than the zero percent ceiling American commanders were willing to tolerate under the Powell Doctrine. In other people's hands, American-manufactured helicopter gunships might be fearsome weapons; in Republican-guided hands, they are as threatening as Ben Stiller's Cybex-sculpted biceps. As for the B1... that's not a weapon. And Star Wars? That's not even a pretend-weapon. It's a vaporous Maginot Line designed to coax the proverbial knife-wielding Latino somewhere out to the edge of the Milky Way.

Our leaders fear above all simple, useable weapons in the hands of men too dumb to know that they and their weapons are obsolete. The image that haunts Rumsfeld's nightmares is a dozen grimy villagers with AKs on a Toyota pickup truck loaded with RPG-7 rounds and fitted with an old Soviet 14.5mm anti-aircraft gun -- because those weapons get used.

We have nothing to counter such weapons, because the American arsenal now consists of unusable apocalypse weapons -- from the B52 to cruise missiles -- which have been expensively refitted with small, ineffectual conventional warheads.

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