Jewish World Review Feb. 12, 2002/ 10 Adar I, 5763

Wesley Pruden

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Weapons too awful even to think about | The situation in the War Room is considerably graver than anyone imagined.

There appears to be very little light at the end of the tunnel, and we're mired in some unusual quags. The dogs of war can't slip the leash. (Polish your own cliche.)

This couldn't happen. The Geneva Convention prohibits the cruel and inhumane treatment of the innocent in time of war (see Article 3, Paragraph 1, Subsection c, banning "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment").

But over the weekend, following hard on the examples of Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon and the Hollywood Rifles, unspeakable outrages were committed against we the innocent, or at least the not yet guilty.

Madonna, the material girl, warned that she would unleash her own inhumane weapon if George W. Bush continues to harass Saddam Hussein over his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. "Editing is in progress on a musical video concept which insiders say may be the most shocking anti-war, anti-Bush statement yet to come from the show business industry," one breathless correspondent of the culture war cabled the Drudge Report from the front. Miss Madonna was said to be "taking it all the way this time," pushing all the buttons in what was called "a sweeping political commentary on the modern American dream and how nothing is what it seems." The video goes out next week unless George W. cries "Uncle Saddam."

The material girl, decked out in commando togs tailored by the most expensive seamspersons on Rodeo Drive, will throw live grenades, or at least authentic fake live grenades, and bloody babies and random arms and legs of genuine foam rubber in realistic flesh tones will decorate the video attack of the sharps and flats.

In London, theater-goers are "flocking," in the words of the Reuters dispatch, to a new farce mocking George W. as a "buffoon" in pajamas "cuddling a teddy-bear while his crazed military chiefs order nuclear strikes on Iraq." The play is running in a "fringe theater" too small, actually, to accommodate a "flock," but it's advertised as "the only overtly anti-war play written in Britain during the Iraq standoff." So it is not entirely without distinction.

But the attack of sharps, flats and frets is as nothing compared to the iambic pentameters locked and loaded by the Poets Against the War. The poets have promised no quarter. They intend to take no prisoners and promise no mercy for anyone caught in the line of fire of their stanzas, caesuras and dangling participles. Sam Hamill, the commanding general of Poets Against the War, boasts that he has 5,300 poems, more poems than Saddam has Scuds, ready to fire. His troops are coiled like a spring, ready to pounce, or at least rhyme (if not reason).

"If the reasons for war were many times greater than they have been said to be, I would oppose anything of the kind under such leadership," says Balladeer First Class W.S. Merwin. "To arrange a war in order to be re-elected outdoes even the means employed in the last presidential election. Mr. Bush and his plans are a greater danger than Saddam Hussein."

One particularly determined damsel of doughty doggerel let fly with this 10-pounder of gruel and grapeshot: " 'God bless America' would be blasphemy/if there were a god concerned with humanity." Another mistress of the melancholy madrigal, contributor of more than a dozen odes to the obstructionists, vowed poesy without restraint, limericks without letup, couplets without pity until George W. gives peace a chance.

Quoth still another vixen of versification: "I'd rather live in France (or live anywhere)/there's literate debate in the newspapers)./The English language is my mother tongue,/ but it travels. Exile, anyone?"/

Well, not everybody can be Shakespeare. But as fearsome as all this is, the veterans of Vietnam protest now growing decrepit and feeble on the front porch at the Old Soldiers Home can only shake their graying heads in disbelief, recalling the din of streets now swiftly receding in fading colors into the shadows of distant memory.

The poets who were disinvited to the White House last month lest they relieve themselves on the carpet in protest of war in Iraq, may yearn for the riotous ferment of the Vietnam War years but they only think they want to wake up and smell the tear gas. The cooking-and-sewing community of the present generation couldn't have made the taxi squad in their mommies' and daddies' day.

Leonard Garment, the onetime White House aide writing in the New York Times, recalls that when Leonard Bernstein composed "Mass" as a fiery protest of the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon declined an invitation to attend the premiere, the composer demanded that the president show up to be insulted lest he be guilty of mixing art and politics.

That's authentic chutzpah. What we've got today is unimaginative bad manners.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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