When in doubt, whup somebody's ass. Anybody's. Remember Howard P. Beale, the aging news-anchor character played by Peter Finch in the 1970's film classic Network!, who, when he learns he's about to be fired, successfully retrieves his reputation and career by simply venting, ad nauseum, whenever it looks like it will play properly in tv-land? "I'm Howard P. Beale, and I'm as mad as hell, and not gonna take it anymore!" Well, I'm terribly afraid that Mr. Howard P. Beale has landed in the White House. How else do you make any sense of what George W. Bush, President of these United States, has had to say for himself in recent days? No doubt about it, the First Hawk is mad as hell, and he's not gonna take it anymore. And no doubt he was made even madder by the news reports coming out of the Middle East these first few days of the new year 2003. As the world gears up for near-certain war in Iraq, the BBC reported Wednesday that U.N. weapons inspectors who had scoured that country "have almost nothing to report." United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan added, no doubt irritating the Bush Administration in the process, that he saw no basis at present for the use of force against Iraq. "I don't see an argument for military action now," said Mr. Annan. Annan also told Israeli radio that Baghdad was co-operating with UN weapons inspectors, and that no military action should be considered by the United Nations Security Council, at least until the inspectors issued their full report. Making matters worse for the administration, one of those UN weapons inspectors told the Los Angeles Times that same day that not only had he and his colleagues found no concealed material in Iraq; they had not seen any of the so-called "intelligence reports" that Washington has said it will supply to help in the search for weapons of mass destruction. "We haven't found an iota of concealed material yet," the newspaper quoted this inspector as saying. All this was bad news, I'm sure, in Crawford, Texas, where President Bush was trying to enjoy the last few hours of his Christmas holidays. That same day, he was lashing out directly at Saddam Hussein, the administration's 2002 poster boy for evil incarnate, and odds-on favorite right now for the top spot again in 2003. "You know," said Bush somberly, "he (Saddam) is a man who likes to play games and charades." Clearly, the First Hawk has already seen and heard enough about Saddam for not one but two lifetimes, and wishes the Iraqi dictator would simply do the right thing and, well, allow himself to be blasted into oblivion. The President didn't mince words: "For 11 long years the world has dealt with him, and now he has got to understand his day of reckoning is coming..." Bingo. Sorry, that's a game, and the President has told us, it's Saddam, not us, who likes to play games and charades. Not us; we mean business. We're mad as hell and we're not gonna take it anymore. We mean war. We mean war, because... well, we're mad as hell, and for good reason. Damn it, Osama Bin Laden, 2001's "evil one," took down the Twin Towers and destroyed thousands of American lives, and what've we got to show for it? Well, about $39 billion dumped into the security industry, and maybe a few hundred sorry-ass Arab prisoners in Guatanamo, Cuba, prisoners whose greatest crimes wouldn't make the police blotters of most major American cities. But no Osama. No Mullah Omar. Nope, the Republicans may have won a significant victory in the 2002 Congressional elections, but they and we still haven't given anybody outside Afghanistan, as we say in the South, a real "whuppin'." And what good is all that power if you can't give somebody a whuppin'? No, this will never do. We can't have the the President of these United States looking like Yosemite Sam chasing around after Bugs Bunny, can we? Not when America, the world's only superpower and God's most-favored nation, is entitled, fully entitled, to whup some ass. In such circumstances, that ass needs finding. The appropriate posterior, of course, has been properly identified for months now. And the Bush Administration was all set, any day, to start wiping the floor with Saddam Hussein, until just last weekend, when things got a little complicated in the Far East. That pesky little devil Kim Jong-il, lord and master of North Korea, last Friday surprised the world by blithely announcing, axis-of-evil kind of guy that he is, that his country already has and will continue to develop the same kind of "weapons of mass destruction" the Bush Administration is hell-bent on finding in Iraq. Not only that: Kim acts like he could care less if the US is upset about his own WMDs. Just to show his true colors, he's made a point of turfing out UN weapons inspectors already in North Korea keeping tabs on his arms program. Not very sporting, that Kim. Doesn't he know we're mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore? Kim has certainly muddied the waters. He has thousands of artillery pieces trained on Seoul, the capital of South Korea, just a stone's throw away from the border. And even allowing for the fact that he has no oil (historically, the Bush presidents have been in the oil business, and have not unnaturally focused most of their foreign-affairs energies on oil-producing nations), messing with Kim would run the severe risk that all our military "might" would be rendered useless by Kim's 11,000 howitzers, weapons of not-so-mass-destruction whose clever positioning has allowed the North Korean dictator to make a city of some ten million people his virtual hostage. No, letting Seoul be smashed to bits would never do. Besides, those South Koreans don't exactly love us right now anyway, and they surely wouldn't be thrilled to see our foreign-policy blundering lead to a few hundred thousand Korean civilian casualties. Bad television, at the very least, for all concerned. So what is an angry President to do? He needs to do what any self-respecting, dysfunctional Southern father would do: he and his cohorts need to lash out wildly at the easiest target they can find. They'll feel a damned sight better after they've done so. It's not easy being the First Hawk these days. Poor George W. Bush is like the daddy with two teen-aged sons whom he's told, in no uncertain terms, that if he ever catches one of them smoking, he's gonna "whup their ass." Son Number One is the more crafty and malicious of the two; Daddy suspects he may be sneaking around behind the garage for a smoke, and swears he can smell the cigarettes on his breath everytime he comes in the house. But he can never quite catch him doing the dirty deed. Ah, but Son Number Two. The poor boy comes home from a party where he's had a drink or two, and, losing all fear, is out there sitting on the front porch smoking a big fat cigar, when Daddy throws open the door, screaming, "What in hell do you think you're doing?" You all know what happens next, don't you, in the topsy-turvy world of dysfunctional Southern fatherhood and twenty-first century international affairs? Daddy drags Son Number One out of his bed upstairs, takes him out back and gives him a thorough whuppin'. Doesn't make sense, you say? That's just because you don't get it. Daddy beat the stuffings out of Son Number One just because he could. And because he's mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore... Kenneth Neill is the publisher/CEO of Contemporary Media, parent company of The Memphis Flyer
UPDATE: Deidre Malone declares for County Mayor at Chism picnic.