Why? Because We Can

by Maureen Dowd

September 29, 2002

WASHINGTON — The Boy Emperor's head hurt.

All the oppressive obligations of statecraft were swimming through his brain like hungry koi.

He summoned the imperial war tutor to the oval throne.

"I'm confused, Wise Rummy," he confessed. "Is the war pre-emptive, preventive or preventable? Is Saddam fissile or fissible? What in creation is counterproliferation? Everything's moving so fast. It's a puzzlement. Why are we mad at Saddam?"

"Because he wants to attack our country," the mandarin replied.

"Why?" the Boy pressed.

"Because we want to attack his country," the tutor said.

"Why?" The Boy was insatiable.

"Because Saddam tried to destroy your dad."


"Because your dad tried to destroy Saddam."


"Because he's evil."


"Because he's pretending to go along with inspections so he can get bombs."


"Because we're pretending to go along with inspections so we can bomb."

"What is our smoking gun against Saddam?"

"Reply hazy. Ask again later."

"Why do you sound like a Magic 8 Ball, teacher?"

"We don't have the intelligence on Iraq or we don't want to talk about it. You decide."

"But can we really tie Al Qaeda to Saddam?"

"Goodness gracious! Al Qaeda is dangerous. Iraq is dangerous. We have to connect the dots of the future and not dwell on the dots of the past. It's unhelpful to get into a lot of detail because it just changes our capabilities."

"I don't understand."

"It is not possible to find hard evidence that something is going to happen down the road because you will have known it happened only after it happens. It's very difficult to get perfect evidence before an event occurs or even after it occurs. Pre-emption requires only pre-evidence."

"You've flipped your cap, Rummy," the Boy Emperor wailed. "Get me Condi!"

"The problem with it," Rummy continued, ignoring the Boy's outburst, "is that when intelligence is gathered, it's gathered at a moment, and then that moment passes and then there's the next moment and the moment after that. It is not possible to know whether the information that was accurate is still accurate. Do you follow me?"

"But aren't we just killing our own Frankenstein monsters, teacher? Didn't we help build up Saddam when he was fighting Iran, and Osama when he was fighting the Soviets? How do we know which people we like now might someday do something that we would hate if we knew what they might do?"

"Holy mackerel, my young Padawan! The risks of doing nothing are greater than the risks of knowing nothing and doing something."

"Why do we give intelligence to the terrorists in their jail cells, instead of getting intelligence on the terrorists that puts them in jail cells?"

"Our intelligence agencies are dumb."

"Why can't we make them smart?"

"Because we're too busy planning war with Iraq."

"Why are we attacking Iraq, which may someday team up with terrorists, instead of Iran, which has already teamed up with terrorists?"


"Multiple choice, right? I hate those essay tests. But haven't Pakistan and Saudi Arabia also supported terrorists?"

"Those creeps are our creeps."

"Can you explain the Bush Doctrine again, Rummy Sensei?"

"We start with self-defense, which is legitimate, and journey up to anticipatory self-defense, which has to do with history and real estate. Then we follow the rising path of wisdom to prevention, which sounds somewhat more acceptable than pre-emption, and which is about oil at $17 a barrel."

"Is Tom Daschle right that our war is political?"

"Is the White House white?"

"Why is President Gore running against me again?"

"He's unpatriotic. We should give that guy a one-way ticket to Guantánamo."

"What's the difference between Guantánamo and Guantanamera?"


Extracted 10/02/02 from The New York Times


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