FRESNO -- First I'll get the gloating out of the way. Remember how I said in a column a year ago that all this talk about Zarqawi as the Mister Big of the Iraq insurgency would turn out to be sheer nonsense? Remember how I said the real reason we kept hearing so much about the Z-man, all those long articles on his childhood, school chums, favorite color, favorite IED etc, was because both sides, the US Army PR corps and Al Quaeda's press corps, had reason to build up this little Jordanian extra as the second coming of General Giap? I said that our interests and Al Q's dovetailed perfectly here: we wanted to pin a local, Iraqi-manned, neighborhood-based insurgency on an outside agitator like Zarqawi, and Al Quaeda wanted to show its donors in Pakistan and the Gulf that it was the real force behind all the fuss in Iraq.
Well, durned if the Washington Post hasn't come along and said the same thing, only one year later. Gentlemen, I congratulate you on your quick reactions. It took you only one calendar year to pick up on what I just plain figured out for my own self, sneaking around the war-web during work hours.
Never let it be said that you mainstream journalists are slow on the uptake. Why, within three yearsthat's three years, three zillion roadside bombs, and 2,300 dead American troops, you'd begun to catch on that the invasion wasn't such a good idea.
Back Stateside, we've had the Moussaka trial for entertainment. I know that's not his name, but no matter how I try to spell it, it keeps coming out as something you'd order at a Greek diner with cheap broken pillars and plastic grapevines. Problem is, he's not just Arab, he's a French Arab, so he spells his name the French (most annoying possible) way. I guess "Moussaoui" is the preferred version.
Anyway, Moussaoui seemed like a pitiful losertill this week, when he started talking back. Before then, he was always "the 19th hijacker," which is like "the fifth Beatle"the loser, the guy who didn't make it to the gate in time, had to watch the planes take off and then change the NYC skyline sitting in a Minnesota cell thinking, "Damn, missed my chance! That flake of ash floating down the East River coulda been me!" One of those tragic show biz tales.
His looks didn't help. In the one photo they released pre-trial, Moussaoui looks like an Islamic puppy, mooning up at the camera through a fisheye lens like he's begging for a Soy-based artificial bacon strip. He looked exactly like a 19th hijacker, if not a 20th or lower. I figured he'd look even more pathetic when he came to trial last month.
I mean, if they haven't been working him over, 24/7, in custody all these months then God damn it, why not? Where have my tax dollars been going if not to buy lengths of hose to be applied to the feet and kidneys of this bastard? I was looking forward to seeing him creep into that courtroom like a man who got a crash course in Anatomy 101 by having all 206 bones in his body broken by experts.
Instead, Moussaoui blew into court looking like Bluto from Popeye: this big, burly, hairy, shouting blowhard full of Koranic piss'n'vinegar. It was shameful to watch the way he talked back to the useless prosecution team. It ruined the whole point of the trial. Look, this trial isn't exactly a whodunit. Moussaoui boasts non-stop that he was in on the plot, so that's settled. The point is to make him look weak and terrified and get him to renounce his Al Quaeda ties in public, preferably while crying like a little bitch.
Insteadand it shames me to say thisit was our guys who cried. I can't believe it! There was a serving US Army officer on the stand, CRYING while he talked about people being (sob!) killed, yes, KILLED when Moussaoui's pals from the "How to Fly a Commercial Airliner without Landing" aviation school slammed that commuter jet into the Pentagon. This dude was soaking his hanky while Moussaoui looked on and sneered.
Now don't start telling me about how manly it is to cry. In the first place, no it isn't. In the second place, even if you think so, they sure don't think that way in Waziristan and Yemen and Java. In those places, a US Army officer weeping while he talks about casualties means one thing: w-e-a-k. Trouble is, we're so used to all this boo-hoo crap about 9/11 for home consumption that we don't see that when it's time to put on a show for the Muslim hordes (and that's what this trial is).
We gotta think more coldbloodedly about the difference between war propaganda for the home front, where sobby stuff is OK, and for broadcast to the enemy, where you absolutely do not want to seem like a crybaby. One of the worst mistakes a propaganda guy can make is mixing domestic and foreign speeches. That's what the Arabs did, time and again, when they were having one of their backyard yelling matches with Israel. The Arab leaders would come up with these blood-curdling lines about slashing every Israeli throat and tossing the bodies into the sea for bait, that kind of crap, hours of it. Now everybody knew damn well it was pure woofing, classic Arab loudtalking, no more dangerous than a cocker spaniel barking.
But the Israelis could take those quotes, play them to the Americans, and we'd be so shocked we'd instantly give them all the tanks and bombs they needed. When the IDF shells started falling, there'd be poor ol' Nasser or Sadat or Assad cowering in the special Presidential bunker muttering, "Aw, c'mon, you knew damn well I was just trying to be popular! You didn't have to take it all so serious!"
Well, in any contemporary war propaganda IS serious, way more serious than pure military hardware. Sorry, hardware freaks, but that's the truth and you better face it. War is PR. And the Moussaoui trial is a classic case of bad PR, so bad the idiots who staged it should, in my not-all-that-humble opinion, be stood up against a wall and shot, just a few times, to show them the error of their ways. It would give them to know that we are serious, at least.
Their job was simple: break Moussaoui. Make him cry on the stand. Make him wave a cross, maybe, talk about how he'd found Jesus. It's not hard. Just put him in a cell with a 300-pound AB or MM or BGF member and give the gorilla a carton of Marlboros to do whatever he has to to break the little bastard. Wardens and guards do it all the time.
But nooooooo! Thanks to the tie-wearing DC incompetents who must've been playing dominoes with him instead, Moussaoui didn't break, didn't beg forgiveness, didn't look weak at all. He looked, I hate to admit it, pretty strong. I mean he even got off some one-liners when the prosecutors tried to get him to back down. When they asked him whether he regretted hurting us, he answered like he was explaining to a bunch of idiots that "the whole POINT was to hurt you." It kind of scares me that the people running his trial didn't expect that answer. It's like nobody will admit there are people out there who don't like us. Why is that so hard to get? I can't think of any two tribes that actually like each other; why do people think we're the one huge exception, the tribe everybody in the world has to like?
The low point came when some fool in a suit asked him, "Why do you hate America?" Now why would you ask a card-carrying Islamist crazy man that question in open court? What was the point, purposely giving him the ultimate pulpit on world TV? Well, that's what happened anyway. Moussaoui started by sighingsighing!and saying, "Well, my answer will be long."
Of COURSE it's gonna be long! He's been waiting his whole life to give this speech! What idiot of a prosecutor would give him the chance? People like him spend their worthless stinking lives dreaming of a moment like that, standing up there and givin' it to the Man live on Al Jazeera. And we let him do it, the whole court sitting through an hour while he ticked off all the usual grudges, from Jerusalem to Kabul.
Do the morons in charge have any idea how proud that must've made millions, and I do mean millions, of young suicide-bomber types sitting in front of cheap Chinese TVs in Gaza, Karachi, Ramadi, Sana'a and for that matter Ann Arbor? Jeez, sometimes I get the feeling the people running this GWOT don't have any idea about the "W" part of it. It doesn't stand for the Prez, boys, it stands for "World," and there really is one out there. You should check it out sometime, maybe start with a few old issues of National Geographics, and not just to look at those native girls' chests this time around.