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Fri

16

May

2008

My brain hurts!
Friday, 16 May 2008 09:34
by Ed Naha

Have you noticed that, as the Bush presiduncey drags ever onward, the feeling that one’s brain has totally turned to tapioca is now a 24/7 deal? And with good reason.

In the past two weeks, for instance, news stories have been written about a new Disneyland-esque theme park slated for Baghdad, the Pentagon backing a $5 billion swanky “Zone of Influence” in the Green Zone replete with luxury hotels and spas and the fact that all the foul names the U.S. has been lobbing at Islamic radicals are actually the highest compliments one can garner in the Muslim world.

To quote Monty Python’s learned T.F. Gumby: “Owwww. My brain hurts!”

The Pentagon’s bright-eyed and Bushy-failed “Zone of Influence” is quite a doozy, even by nutjob standards. (Note: this project is not to be confused with the “Zone of Depleted Uranium and Nasty Bits,” which starts two blocks down the road and extends for another fifty miles nor the “Zone of Delusion,” which begins in the White House and extends across the Earth.)

The idea is to transform the Green Zone into a tourist magnet, as opposed to a mortar magnet, within five years. The centerpiece of this new mercantilist Mecca will be the $1 billion U.S. Embassy, the largest and biggest U.S. home away from home on the planet.

“When you have $1 billion hanging out there and 1,000 employees lying around,” explains Navy Captain Thomas Karnowski, apparently known for his bad choice of words, “you kind of want to know who your neighbors are. You want to influence what happens in your neighborhood.” Never mind that it’s not your neighborhood but Iraq’s - goldurnnit, Americans need a Moq’Donalds nearby to keep ‘em happy.

Apparently awash in homesickness, Karnowski developed his dreamy development plan. Supposedly, Marriott International Inc. has already signed on, ready to build a ritzy hotel. Also waiting to kick in a possible $1 billion is MBI International, a resort-happy conglomerate led by Saudi Sheikh Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jabar. (Known as “Moe Money” to his friends.)

At present, there are a few wrinkles to iron out in terms of transforming the Green Zone into Paradise Lost. Says Karnowski: “There is no sewer system, no working power system. Everything here is done on generators. No road system repair work. There are no city services other than the minimal amount we provide to get by.”

Okay. So, with raw sewage rampant, a spa guest may want to think twice about the mud baths. And the room service deliveries may have to pass through metal detectors. Aside from that? Smooth sailing. Kind of.

One American diplomat doesn’t think Iraqis would appreciate a chunk of Baghdad being turned “into downtown Kansas City.”

A top adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki opines, “The Iraqi government wants to limit U.S. power in the Green Zone.” Some critics even see America’s efforts as being similar to those of Saddam Hussein, who once jammed the area with his own family and supporters, forcing out long-time locals.

Karnowski isn’t too concerned. While conceding that the critics’ assessments are “partially true,” he adds, “The intent is until such time as it’s much safer around here, you want to be able to influence what goes on.”

I don’t know about you, but when I think, “pacifying Sectarian strife,” I think: “Putting a big fat American footprint in the capitol of a nation we illegally invaded and are now illegally occupying.”

Adding to the hilarity, a group of addled American businessmen are bent on transforming fifty acres just outside the Green Zone into a Disney-esque amusement park, sort of a TragedyLand on the Tigris.

According to British news reports, California-based companies C3 and Ride and Show Engineering are set on funding, designing and building the $500 million “Baghdad Zoo and Entertainment Experience.” The theme park will use the old Baghdad Zoo as a reference point. The area’s entertainment experience, right now, falls into the “notso hotso” category in that, after the U.S. invasion, the zoo was looted and left without power. Only 35 of the 700 animals survived. Some starved to death. Others were stolen. Still others were eaten by hungry locals.

Still, the Americans exude the sense of sheer optimism known only to true entrepreneurs and people who talk to their hands.

C3’s Llewellyn Werner envisions throngs of happy Iraqis flocking to the park. “I think people will embrace it. They’ll see it as an opportunity for their children regardless if they’re Shia or Sunni. They’ll say their kids deserve a place to play and they’ll leave it alone.”

Yeah, like those markets McCain, Graham and Lieberman pranced through are being left alone. (To be fair, this is a variation on the old American adage “A chicken in every pot.” “A gunship hovering over every child,” is pretty catchy, when you don’t stop to think about it.)

Says Werner, “The people of Iraq need this kind of positive influence. It’s going to have a huge psychological impact.”

As in PsyOps?

Nearing completion is the theme park’s first attraction, a $1 million skateboard haven, replete with concrete ramps and 200,000 colorful skateboards. As we all know, the skateboarding sub-culture is as Iraqi as apple pie.

After skateboarding catches on, Werner plans on selling skateboards to Iraqi kids, with the words: “Ride Baghdad Skate Park” emblazoned on them in Arabic. No doubt the skateboards will be flying off the shelves, either because of mortar fire or looting. Iraqi kids aren’t long on cash, these days.

Werner promises the theme park will be culturally sensitive, explaining, “I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t making money. I also have this wonderful sense that we’re doing the right thing – we’re going to employ thousands of Iraqis. But, mostly, everything here is for profit.”

Sniff. Kinda chokes you up, don’t it?

“Iraq, to me, is an open field. I have never in my life seen an opportunity with the potential that Iraq has with its skilled workforce and oil reserves,” gushes Werner. So much for the water slides.

Paul Brinkley, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Business Transformation, says General David Petraeus is a big fan of the proposed park, although he reportedly wanted a Roller Boogie area in lieu of skateboards.

“There are all sorts of investment opportunities all over Iraq. But it’s not just hydrocarbons. Half the Iraqi population is under the age of 15. These kids really need something to do.”

At present, these kids have only one game to play: “Kill the Occupiers.”

Still, the theme park does have some Iraqi supporters. Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh theorizes, “There is a shortage of entertainment in the city. Cinemas can’t open. Playgrounds can’t open. The fun park is badly needed for Baghdad. Children don’t have any opportunities to enjoy their childhood.”

In should be pointed out that many Iraqi children don’t have the opportunity to enjoy the use of all their limbs either, but that’s another story. The government spokesmen added that the entry to the park would be heavily patrolled and secured…because nothing promotes sheer pleasure more than barbed wire and tanks.

Ride and Show Engineering’s John March, isn’t at all worried about the possibility of mayhem. Heck, skateboards are sheer California. So’s violence. “Well, you live here in Southern California and there’s drive-bys and everything else,” he philosophizes, “so, there’s danger everywhere. I think the key thing is this will be tremendous for Baghdad.”

I wonder how the tune “Money Makes the World Go ‘Round” translates into Arabic?

At present, plans for the theme park attractions are top secret, although it is rumored that three of the big draws will be “Mr. Toad’s Wild Checkpoint,” “It’s A Frail World” and the ever-popular “Tilt-A-Humvee.” A large, 3-D map of Baghdad is also tentatively planned wherein patrons can point to locations to see the logo “This no longer exists” appear in rainbow hues.

Even Dick Cheney is all atwitter.

Here is a portion of an actual radio interview between Mississippi radio host Paul Gallow and Cheney conducted last week. (Start cringing now!)

GALLOW: “…Every once in a while we’ll see a story, Mr. Vice President, things like an amusement park opens in Iraq or in Baghdad, which is totally counter to what we’re hearing over here, as far as the marketplaces being open, the schools, and things such as that. But I saw a story several weeks ago about an amusement center maybe over there, and I’m thinking this is not what you get in today’s media.”

CHENEY: “No, that’s true. It’s — what gets covered obviously is bad news. That’s — you know, if EVERYTHING IS GOING SWIMMINGLY, then that’s not news, so it doesn’t get that kind of attention.”

Granted, this is a Cheney interview wherein he also dropped such flatulent frag bombs as “The surge has clearly worked,” “We are making significant progress,” and “It’s very important that we get it right, that we not walk away and let Iraq turn to the dark side…and be taken over by the likes of al Qaeda,” but get a grip, dude!

Per Cheney, al Qaeda is out but Dinar Duck is “in.”

So, between the Pentagon’s Pleasure Zone and BaghdadLand, everything MUST be going swimmingly in Iraq, right? Sure.

Last week, the Pentagon released a report saying that more than 43,000 troops categorized as medically unfit for deployment were sent into combat because there were no replacements available. Also, between 2002 and 2007, 58,300 soldiers were given stop-loss orders, forcing them to remain in the service past the end of their enlistment periods, many sent back into battle. (This is what’s known as “the backdoor draft.”)

On the plus side, if they’re stationed near Baghdad, they’ll get discounted tickets at the skateboard park.

Probably the most telling evidence of America’s plunge down the rabbit hole was shown via a paper issued recently by Federal agencies, including the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counter Terrorism Center, instructing all American gasbags to drop such taunts as “jihadists” and “mujahedeen” from their lexicons.

The reason?

Well, after five years of warfare, somebody finally figured out that these sneered words were actually compliments.

The report states that U.S. officials may be “unintentionally portraying terrorists, who lack moral and religious legitimacy, as brave fighters, legitimate soldiers or spokesmen for ordinary Muslims.”

“Jihad” is interpreted as a noble, principled war to defend honor.

“Jihadist” describes a person who is part of the struggle to do good.

“Mujahedeen” is a synonym for jihadists.

“Islamo-fascism” translates into “I don’t know dick about anything and I’m culturally, historically and politically ignorant.” (Or, according to the report, “Don’t insult or confuse them with pejorative terms such as ‘Islamo-fascism,’ which are considered offensive by many Muslims.”)

And terms such as “Islamist” and “holy warriors” are compliments of the highest order.

The report also advises blowhards to cup their ears, close their eyes and chant “Nah-nah-nah. I can’t hear you. I can’t hear you,” whenever bin Laden or one of his flunkies issues a statement. “Don’t take the bait,” it urges. “We should offer only minimal, if any, response to their messages. When we respond loudly, we raise their prestige in the Muslim world.”

Sheesh! That doesn’t leave Republicans ANYthing to talk about. Terri Schiavo’s dead!

The long-overdue paper was entertainingly entitled: “Words that Work and Words that Don’t: A Guide for Counterterrorism Communications.” Unfortunately, it didn’t come with an activities book thus decreasing the chances of anyone in the Administration actually reading it.

Reviewing the above stories, one’s heart goes out to whomever becomes the next president and inherits this phenomenally deconstructed Bizarro World.

It makes one nostalgic for simpler times, when men were men, women were women, children were annoying, dogs played poker and the only thing one had to fear was a nuclear attack or weird Uncle Harold. As philosopher R.J. Gumby, cousin of T.F. Gumby, romanticized, “In the old days we used to make our own fun. At Christmas parties I used to strike myself on the head repeatedly with blunt instruments while crooning.”

Pass the tapioca.
 
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