Were America's kiddies watching TV the day Gen. Colin Powell came on vowing to isolate the Iraqi army and "kill it"? If so, not to worry. The same day, they had Barbara Bush to protect them from getting any wrong ideas about the Pentagon's killing machine. "Parents," she told reporters at a Washington reception, "should monitor their children and just be sure that they're understanding what they're seeing so they're not getting terrible nightmares."
Exactly. No bad dreams for the little ones. Instead of Dr. Seuss at bedtime, comfort them with Dr. Strangelove, currently played by Colin Powell. Explain that when the general says he will "kill it," he doesn't really mean ordering the slaughter of Iraqi human beings, only the Iraqi "army." He's killing an "it," as he says, not a "them." An "it" doesn't bleed or moan when bombed by U.S. pilots; no loved ones grieve at home.
Mrs. Bush neglected to provide the details on how parents should "monitor" their children during this war. Perhaps she'd like the kids to be given a daily breakfast briefing, a family version of the Pentagon press briefing where official lies, evasions and euphemisms are dispensed.
The message from Barbara Bush is to finesse it with the kids: "Be sure they're understanding what they're seeing." That's the trouble. They do understand, only too well. There on television is a general, a national leader bedecked in every medal and ribbon imaginable to prove it, saying coldbloodedly that killing people is America's way to solve problems. As if he were talking to a kindergarten class, Powell explained that his strategy of killing "is very, very simple."
Why wouldn't children have nightmares on hearing that? The message is reinforced by seeing Pentagon-supplied film clips of bombing raids and U.S. pilots describing the emotional highs of pulverizing Iraq. The First Lady expressed no worries about the nightmares of Iraqi children who, with U.S. planes on round-the-clock invasions of their homeland, would seem to have a bit more reason for sleep disorders. Or is it only America's children that Barbara Bush frets about, Iraqi kids being worthless because they happen to live in a country ruled by a monster.
In Washington, where Powell, solemn as a cleric at ordination, took his vow to kill, the city has been beside itself for years trying to get citizens to stop murdering each other. No city has a higher homicide rate. No city has a higher percentage of people who have been settling differences and scores exactly as Powell advocates: Kill the other guy.
On the same front page of The Washington Post that carried the general's thoughts, another story, a few inches down, told of a 14-year-old boy who shot and killed a 15-year-old boy. The two were arguing about a girl. The homicide wouldn't have rated more than a few back-page paragraphs, except that the victim was something of a local celebrity. He had been befriended two years ago by the chief of police. It was a mentoring relationship, with the boy often visiting the chief at his office or home. The media had paid full attention to the story of hope.
Now the child is dead, slain with a bullet through the chest from a Smith & Wesson revolver. The 14-year-old killer turned himself in and told police he kept the gun for protection. Which is what governments say: We're just using our guns, bombs and missiles to protect against those evil people over there.
What Barbara Bush asks parents to do to help their kids be "understanding" about the U.S. death machine, her husband is trying to do for all America, lest it succumb to a national nightmare if quick victory is not achieved. To show that God is on our side, Bush brought in the ultimate in evangelistic ground-and-air support, the Rev. Billy Graham. Two days after the war began, the preacher conducted a Washington prayer service for Bush and assorted politicians, generals and admirals. Long a sycophant to White House power, Graham went along with the war hysteria and blessed Bush's intervention: "There comes a time when we have to fight for peace."
He left out, as pious hawks always do, the rest of the sentence: We have to fight for peace by saturation bombing, by slaughtering Iraqi civilians and further bankrupting our own economy while we do it.
Better not say that. The children might be listening and they wouldn't understand.