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I blame the scapegoats, p.22

I blame the scapegoats, page 22


I blame the scapegoats

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  The idea is already a reality. To pilot the idea of 'free market forces' a small squadron of privatized vehicle immobilizers from the Bronx was recently despatched to secure strategic bases in Iraq. Admittedly, early reports of this covert operation have been disappointing. Although a number of key bridges, power stations, etc., were successfully neutralized, it seems that despite their extensive know-how the clampers destroyed major sections of infrastructure in the wrong country. Reports from Iran indicate significant levels of hostility were provoked by these private contractors blowing up the wrong nation. However, the former traffic officers were then able to bring all their experience to bear, refusing to enter into any dialogue or even make eye-contact with the so-called 'victims', and instead impassively filled out their paperwork before handing them a pro-forma letter explaining how to appeal against an allegedly erroneous carpet bombing.

  Teething problems are to be expected, of course, but by outsourcing military operations the Secretary of Defense will be freed up to concentrate on the more appropriate diplomatic work of central government, extending full spectrum dominance across the globe. It is not sufficient that the United Nations has been sidelined while there remain countless international organizations operating independently of American interests and security. It has come to our attention, for example, that every four years there takes place an event known as the Soccer World Cup, in which America has repeatedly been denied the freedom to field a team reflecting superior US economic and military strength. Instead FIFA has unilaterally decided that the US may only field just eleven players, the same number permitted to Third World countries such as Brazil and France. Like the UN, FIFA cannot be permitted to dictate the rules of engagement where American participants are involved and English President Toby Blare has promised he will back a rule change permitting a quarter of a million US soccer players on the field at any one time. Similarly, the organizers of the Miss World competition will no longer be permitted to allow winners from non-compliant nation states. France will only be allowed to enter a man.

  This will be a world in which opponents of liberty will be rendered inoperable. Enemies of free speech will be silenced. Iraq will be just the first country to benefit from the opportunity of reconstruction by US companies after the bombing has been completed. Saddam knows that our democratic ideals will not permit us to see his son installed as Iraqi leader. George Bush is against this and so was George Bush Snr when he was President. He cannot be permitted to cling to power without the democratic backing of his people. Saddam Hussein, that is, not George Bush.

  Gary T. Bush is the nephew of the President and owns an emergent enterprise opportunity taking over the executions of prisoners in private penitentiaries in Texas and Florida.

  [email protected]

  McDonald's to go, please

  11 April 2003

  This was truly a historic week as a much hated regime finally seemed to lose its grip amid scenes of jubilation across the world. The McDonald's Information Minister, dressed in the official stripy uniform and proudly wearing the three stars that he received for managing to work in one of their restaurants for more than a month, appeared before the world's press angrily denying that the fast-food giant had finally lost the burger war. 'Our heroic leader Ronald McDonald has scored another momentous victory,' he declared as the famous Golden Arches came crashing to the ground behind him. 'Our glorious Egg McMuffins have never been more popular!' he shouted as the share price tumbled and outlets were being closed around the world.

  Meanwhile, the whereabouts of Ronald McDonald himself remain a mystery. Some reports claim he may have died of heart failure after a lifetime of eating saturated burgers. Though the figurehead's iconic pictures are still displayed all across the crumbling McDonald's empire, many believe that it was a lookalike clown used in the recent propaganda film shown on Western television featuring him giving out balloons to young children. There is, of course, still much anxiety for the future. Huge reserves of oil can be found in their hamburgers and who knows what dangerous chemicals may yet be found when the inspectors go back into the restaurants. Ordinary McDonald's employees seemed dazed and confused in the midst of the crisis. Asked by a journalist if she could have evidence of the brutality of the regime, a pale and poorly fed looking young worker just stared blankly and said, 'Do you want fries with that?'

  There is a rather satisfying symmetry that the most symbolic American corporate brand should be plunged into crisis just as the US army are reasserting the military dominance of the world's only superpower. You might say that it was a delicious irony, but that adjective doesn't really feel appropriate here. The more aggressively the old 'military-industrial complex' asserts the rights of US companies to trade around the world, the less the global consumer wants to hand them their cash. Hostility to the brand is such that earlier this week a bomb went off in a McDonald's in Beirut. It could have been really dangerous, but fortunately no one bought any Big Macs because a bomb went off. A few years ago there was an extended battle as the citizens of London NW3 attempted to prevent a branch of McDonald's opening in their neighbourhood. The Hampstead residents wanted something more useful in their High Street, like an antique clock restorer's.

  The brand that says America' has lost its appeal. The world has taken a big bite of the American dream and is now feeling a bit queasy. In response to the first ever loss in its fifty-five-year history, the American fast-food giant has announced that it is going upmarket. So soon you'll be able to see teenagers hanging around in bus shelters eating McChateaubriand and McCaviar with their bare hands. Obviously, when the corporation say 'upmarket' they won't be going as far as indulging in unnecessary ostentatious extras such as cutlery. But in future you will get a better class of worm in your fillet of fish.

  Despite the attempt at rebranding, the McDonald's share price has failed to recover. Maybe they should make the shares a bit more attractive by giving away little free gifts with them. Then embarrassed middle-class parents would say, 'Well, we wouldn't normally buy a stake in the McDonald's Corporation but little Timmy had been desperate for the wind-up plastic dinosaur . . .'

  McDonald's remains the most potent symbol of the freedoms for which the American troops have been fighting these past few weeks. The freedom of choice to have the same food served by the same corporation in every high street in the world. The only minor rules are that any employees attempting to form a union will be instantly sacked; any workers attempting to speak out against the corporation will be hit with massive lawsuits; and if you haven't got chronic acne, well, don't even think about applying for a job. Their fast-food mentality has spread to everything: US foreign policy is quick and easy and don't think about the consequences; 'Big Mac to go . . . fries to go . . . United Nations to go'. And despite closing hundreds of outlets in the West, McDonald's are still seeking to expand in the Third World and soon there will be very few cities in the world without a discarded vanilla shake splattered across the pavement. The West has got wise, so let's force the stuff down the throats of the rest of the world. So that's what this war was all about. Opening soon, McDonald's Restaurant, Al-Takhrir Square, Baghdad. Surely the Iraqis have suffered enough?

  The thief of Baghdad

  18 April 2003

  The Baghdad branch of Neighbourhood Watch has been completely overwhelmed this week. 'If you notice anyone behaving in a vaguely suspicious manner, please contact the police immediately,' say their little signs on the lampposts, but these were all brazenly nicked along with everything else in the city that wasn't nailed down.

  As the war stumbled to a confusing and chaotic end, lawlessness swept across the country as thousands of people helped themselves to computers, stereos and other electrical goods. Such is the state of anarchy in the country that many of them haven't even sent off the little guarantee postcards yet. Western leaders have been reluctant to condemn the looters, perhaps because the clamour for material goods is partly what this war was all about: bringing We
stern-style consumerism to a former Islamic 'socialist' republic. With sufficiently aggressive advertising, within a few weeks the rioters will become vaguely dissatisfied with that Sony Playstation they seized and will feel the urge to go out and loot the new Playstation 2 with integral DVD player.

  Meanwhile, in Iraq's own version of Supermarket Sweep, the population have been fighting their way out of the stores with as much as they could carry (though there was a separate aisle for those looting eight items or less). Particularly popular were all the goods with special promotional stickers on: 'All this week - two for the price of none!' or 'Nick one - get another one free!' And then isn't it always the way - you load up the car with looted goods, check the wads of bank notes you grabbed when they said 'Do you want any cash back?', and then you realize you forgot to get your parking money back from the girl on the till.

  In the traditional Arab markets, traders attempted to haggle with the mob as they eyed the various trinkets and souvenirs on display.

  'That is a beautiful hand-carved statue, sir. That is one hundred dinar.'

  'Hmmm . . . tell you what - I'll give you zero dinar for it.'

  'All right, eighty dinar - I can't go lower than that, sir, look at the craftsmanship . . .'

  'No, I think I'm going to stick with zero dinar actually,' said the looter as he brandished an old Russian machine gun.

  'Um, well, you drive a hard bargain. Zero dinar is my final price -take it or take it.'

  The former palaces of the Ba'ath leadership were also stripped, and the gold taps and erotic paintings are expected to fetch a fortune if anyone can transport them to Romford market. In wartime the media have a duty to convey a certain number of disturbing images, but showing us Saddam Hussein's taste in art is probably going too far. Snakes wrapping themselves around missiles being ridden by naked women - surely the artist will have to stand trial for crimes against humanity. I suppose he was just grateful for the work after he lost that job designing all those 1970s heavy-metal album covers.

  Some commentators attempted to argue that this was the dispossessed taking back what was rightfully theirs - but the looting of the palaces probably had more to do with the mob knowing where all the best stuff would be. Once they'd symbolically pulled down one statue, they forgot about the politics and got on with helping themselves to as much gear as possible. Which is why their former dictator managed to hide so easily; in the midst of all the chaos, Saddam simply painted himself in metallic paint and is standing very, very still in a busy town square somewhere.

  Gradually, it seems, some sort of order is being restored in the cities, with some stolen goods even being returned (although the Baghdad branch of Marks and Spencer's are now refusing to exchange looted clothes for a different size). But just when we thought the lawlessness was over, even more blatant incidents of looting have begun out of sight of the television cameras. With handkerchiefs masking half their faces, two rioters roughly the height of George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld kicked in the gates of Iraq's largest oilfield and started to grab all the keys of the oil tankers. International onlookers were powerless to prevent the illegal behaviour of these heavily armed looters, and billions of dollars' worth of crude oil, gas and petroleum were seized, not to mention all the free glasses.

  'Yee-haw! It's all ours!' laughed the bandits.

  'Millions of barrels of the stuff! We can just help ourselves and no one can stop us!' shrieked the grey-haired one as he filled up the first tanker and headed for home.

  'Yup, and this mask guarantees my anonymousinity!' said his leader.

  So after all these years there really is such a person as the Thief of Baghdad. Except, strangely, his accent sounded vaguely Texan.

  An American in Paris (in a Sherman tank)

  25 April 2003

  This week another dangerous dictatorship has been added to the 'Axis of Evil'. Forget Syria, North Korea and Iran; the next rogue state on the United States hit-list appears to be France. Colin Powell declared on Wednesday that France will have to 'face the consequences' of failing to back the United States on the UN Security Council and all-out war can now be only a matter of time.

  A few weeks back, French fries were renamed 'freedom fries' -which is clearly a far more sensible choice than our awkward word 'chips'. Since then, American makers of French polish and French horns have gone bankrupt and teenage boys have been walking into pharmacies and plucking up courage to ask for 'freedom letters'. As Gallic food products are boycotted, exports of British cheeses to the US are up, with the finest Roqueforts and Camemberts being replaced by Asda's own-brand Microwavable Cheese Strings. No one can now say that the Americans haven't suffered as well.

  'May I order the Chateauneuf-du-Pape?'

  'I'm afraid not, sir, but we can offer you this British gooseberry Riesling as an alternative.'

  Now an extensive UN dossier has been published giving detailed accounts of French abuses of human rights. There are disturbing reports of nonchalant shrugging by French waiters. CNN has broadcast astonishing footage of French bureaucrats actually being-rude and obstructive to foreigners, though surely this must have been faked. American mothers have been appalled by photographs of French women having a glass of wine when pregnant, though there is also a certain amount of pity for a population forced to watch all those intellectual French films that won the oeuf d'or at the Bruges film festival. But what's really annoyed the Americans is the provocative way they eat all this fancy rich food and just don't seem to get fat. The French must fall into line with Western levels of obesity or face the consequences. George W. Bush is now drawing up a list of the most wanted Frenchmen, which so far names only Gerard Depardieu and Babar the Elephant.

  Hostility between the United States and France goes back quite a few years. A lot of bad feeling was created by the Louisiana Purchase when Napoleon's estate agent managed to get the price up by claiming that there was another couple who were also very interested.

  'They're bluffing,' said the American President, but Mrs Jefferson had fallen in love with the big garden with that pretty 2000-mile river frontage onto the Mississippi. Tm going to tell them that there's a few other properties that we're going to look at. I'll say we might decide to buy Florida off the Spanish instead . . .'

  'But, darling, we could lose it altogether - and look at the estate agent's details: "A rare opportunity to purchase this eight hundred and twenty-eight thousand square mile estate with its own mountain range, plains, lakes and several outbuildings." Oh darling, can we, please, please, please . . .' she begged, staring at the picture in Country Life. But, of course, when they moved in it was nothing like the description: half of it was swamps and deserts, and the neighbours were unfriendly and kept threatening to scalp everyone. America sulked for a century and refused to forward all the mail. Then in 1966 President de Gaulle took France out of NATO and said all American troops should leave French soil. ('Does that include the dead ones?' quipped an American cynic at the time.) The US then had to find another way to install American service personnel there, and this was the origin of Disneyland Paris. It was very hard to argue with Ronald Reagan at the best of times, but when he had this idea that thousands of US marines should be stationed in Northern France hidden inside Mickey Mouse and Goofy costumes, they thought he'd finally flipped. Battle-weary soldiers were kitted out in their new uniforms as Sneezy or Baloo the Bear. B52 pilots were retrained to man Space Mountain and the flying Dumbo ride, and amazingly the plan worked. The soldiers were delighted that the locals seemed to wave and cheer them every day as they rode past on the way to Sleeping Beauty's castle. Never before had US troops been hugged and photographed with their arms round the native population.

  But all this is now set to change when these agents suddenly reveal themselves at the outset of America's cunning plan to bring about regime change in Paris. The bombing of French cities begins next month, although no doubt those obstinate French politicians will find some reason to object to this as well. All the White Hou
se seeks is a French President who'll back the United States, a leader who'll support America whatever its policies. No wonder Tony Blair's been having those extra French lessons.

  Responsible owner sought for sawn-off shotguns

  2 May 2003

  The desk sergeant at Hackney police station is having a few days off. He has just had the most stressful month of his life - every day during the month-long gun amnesty he would look up from his paperwork to see hardened criminals striding through the front door brandishing automatic sub-machine guns.

  'Excuse me?' they would shout, waving their Kalashnikov around at an apparently empty desk. 'Oi, mate, I can see you; it's no good crouching down there with a computer cover on your head . . .'

  And the quivering sergeant would then stand up slowly with his hands in the air, having passed across his wallet and the keys to all the cells.

  'No, I've come to hand my gun in - to put it in safe hands.' And then various bystanders would say, 'So why are you giving it to the police then?'

  The Home Office's gun amnesty ended this week with over 20,000 weapons handed in at police stations around the country. There were old shotguns, antique duelling pistols and a 1970s Johnny Seven with all the original plastic white bullets recovered from under the piano. However, much to the government's disappointment, at no time did an Iraqi man with a moustache wander in and hand over a few weapons of mass destruction that he'd forgotten were still lying around in his attic.

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