Just Above Sunset
October 24, 2004 - Alien Abduction or Breech of Security?

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World’s Laziest Journalist


By Bob Patterson


[Since this column will include some opinions and predictions, it might be best to first establish some credentials that make this columnist think he might be able to come up with some relevant and perceptive insights that no one else is producing.]


In the run up to the inevitable Shock and Awe TV Special, there was an article in the New York Times about how Americans should have some duct tape and plastic sheeting available for use in case of a chemical or biological incident in their neighborhood.  It seemed ridiculously illogical, so I watched the letters to the editor section for someone to point out the preposterous aspect of the suggestion.  No one did. 


Then on February 13, of 2003, the New York Times revisited the subject with a story that was headlined: “Duct Tape and Plastic Sheeting Can Offer Solace, if Not Real Security.”  This time I immediately fired off an e-mail letter to the editor pointing out the insane logic that would have caused near hysteria if my mother read it.  If you use duct tape and plastic sheeting to make an airtight pocket for yourself, then enter it, you will use up the oxygen and eventually suffocate yourself.  If the safe rooms weren’t airtight, then the chemicals and/or germs would get in along with the fresh air that was coming into the area. 


The next day, February 14, 2004, on the editorial page, there were several letters to the editor on the subject, including the one I wrote objecting to the logic of the suggestion. 


The New York Times included my last paragraph which read:  “It is to be sincerely hoped that the administration that promulgates the illogical suggestion of using this ineffective method is better at planning the logistics of the impending war.” 


As I recall, later that same day, an administration official, at a Pentagon press conference, noted that the duct tape and plastic sheeting was a metaphorical warning not to be taken literally, since the danger of asphyxiation was implicit in the actual suggestion (or words to that effect).


When I was reading the New York Times edition for Friday October 15, 2004, I noted the story by James Glanz (on page A-12 of the edition sold in Los Angeles) headlined:  “Finding Only Shadows In Hunt for Insurgents.”  Glanz went along on a patrol looking for insurgents hiding in Yusufiya, Iraq.  The story, datelined October 9, related the details of finding the target area virtually deserted.  The reporter wrote:  “… the sudden emptying of whole towns before unannounced raids appears to be a new phenomenon.”


It seems that there are only about three possible explanations (some more logical than others) that would explain the mystery.  It could be that is was: A.) a case of massive alien abduction, B.) a random occurrence where all of the villagers simultaneously and coincidentally decided to visit relatives in another area [the science of mathematics says that this explanation is unlikely but possible (the same principle applies when you buy a lottery ticket)] or C.) inside information because the area residents knew the sweep was coming  they all decided to get the hell out of there.


Back in the day, when this columnist was counting the days until his 21st birthday and the purchase of alcoholic beverages would be legal, there were wild unsubstantiated urban legend style rumors that, at various times, agents from the state’s Liquor Control Board would conduct a raid on a local tavern that was strongly suspected of breaking the law about selling the intoxicating liquids to underage patrons.  When the law enforcement officers arrived, they would find that there was not a single example of the rebellious youths to be found on the premises.  Some know-it-alls further maintained that the proprietor of the establishment would make some cash contributions (for a future attempt to run for some unspecified political office?) and be “tipped off” about any impending raid.


One case of massive alien abductions is possible but when there is more than one example of the mass disappearances to explain, it becomes very unlikely that’s the cause.  Again, a random occurrence explained by the law of chance, becomes less tenable when there are multiple examples to rationalize.  That leaves only one major logical conclusion: they were tipped off.


Assuming that is the correct explanation, (Yeah, yeah, yeah - this is a column so we can do all the assuming we want), what does that tell us?  It sounds like the integrity of the command structure has been breached and, if that is true, then it is only a matter of time (until after the election?) until some insurgent activity will confirm that they know what the thinking and planning at the command center is.  If they know that, then it would seem logical to conclude that eventually they will do something that makes it obvious that the insurgents knew the who, what, when, and where about the opportunity to make a big psychological point.  It would be the Iraq War’s psychological equivalent of the Tet offensive in the Vietnam War.


[Some historians allege that after the British obtained a copy of the “Enigma” machine from the Nazi they not only broke the code, they also knew ahead of time that the Germans planned to bomb the city of Coventry.  They also assert that it was decided not to take any precautionary measures because that would tip the German high command off to the fact that the Brits had broken the code.  Military historians and scholars will be debating the veracity of this explanation of the high casualty count in Coventry, for years to come.]


Earlier in the Iraqi war there had been a story on the TV news about the delivery of new currency to a bank there.  When two convoys coming from different directions rendezvoused in front of the bank, an ambush attack erupted.  Three possibilities presented themselves: A.) it was a big coincidence that the ambush occurred just as the money arrived, B.) it was a example of the concept of spontaneous combustion applied to the insurgency in that particular neighborhood, or C.) the bandits were pulling, as they say in the mystery novels, an inside job, because they knew the specifics and time schedule for the currency delivery mission.


If (more speculation coming your way, here) the insurgents know what is going on in the inner circle of the command bunker, that would not only explain the empty villages, it would also explain why many convoys are hit with pinpoint accuracy.  It could be that something more than randomly fired RPG rounds and haphazard detonations of roadside devices is producing the consistently effective results, seen nightly on the evening news programs.  It seems that there are never any news stories about Iraqi civilians being injured when a roadside explosive device is exploded prematurely. 


Could it be that their are not enough troops to staff the command bunker area and that the folks getting some of the “outsourcing” positions are picking up some extra cash by acting as “news tipsters” to Al Qaeda? 


[In his column that appears in the very same October 15, 2004, edition of the New York Times, Bob Herbert wrote about a conversation he had with a wounded Iraqi war veteran.  The way the soldier describes the action that occurred when he sustained his injuries, it would seem the Iraq troops with him acted suspiciously as if they might have known the what and where of something bad that was about to happen.  “I looked back and the Iraqi truck had stopped for some reason.”  Seconds later his vehicle was hit.]


The liberal talk show hosts did not mention Glanz story in the New York Times.  The big story for them on October 14 and 15 was the fact that John Kerry mentioned a gay person specifically by name.  The bloggers seem to have also focused their attention on that particular topic.


On Thursday, October 14, 2004, two suicide bombers struck inside Baghdad’s Green Zone.  This breech of security was the lead story in the Friday, October 15, 2004, edition of the New York Times.  The talk show hosts were ignoring the dual suicide bombers when this columnist made spot checks of the various talk shows on that Friday.


A grizzled and cynical columnist might set aside the front section of that particular edition of the famed New York newspaper and refer back to it subsequently, perhaps late in the 2008, campaign.  It could be that when that time rolls around Prince Jeb might be running for president and still harping on the fact that naming names in 2004 was inappropriate.  (“Mr. Democrat, sir, have you at long last no shame?”  That sort of thing.)  Frantic and pedantic columnists, in 2008, will probably still be adhering to the theory that there were, in the second full week of October 2004, more important topics than the one that all the conservative talk show hosts seem to have independently and simultaneously selected as the top topic to be discussed on that day.  (All of them choose the same subject at the same time?  Isn’t that as mathematically curious as the villagers who concurrently shuffle off to an appointment in Samara?) 


In deference to the regular readers who enjoy it when this columnist writes about innocuous topics and makes various irrelevant snide remarks about those unimportant subjects, we will make a very assiduously attempt to avoid making Chicken Little style references to the Bush administration’s logic.  Before we abandon this attempt at seriousness, we will make one more suggestion and prediction regarding the 2004 presidential election.  The voters should totally disregard any sensational story about either candidate that is revealed on late Friday afternoon of the weekend before the election.  If … (Opinion warning:  Columnist is about to make an educated guess) … if Karl Rove is earning his fee, he will uncork a spectacular (and most likely unfounded) allegation about the Democratic candidate at that time and then later, after November 2, admit that it was a bit premature and inaccurate. 


Having said that, we will now revert to form and resume the attempts to be informative, unique, and humorous.


President Bush has been quoted as saying (50 Reasons Not to Vote for Bush, by Robert Sterling, page 4):  “If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator.”  (Isn’t a sound bite of this quote used in the film Fahrenheit 9-11?)


This week the disk jockey is sending the closing song out as a dedication to Ron Suskind, who wrote Without a Doubt which appeared recently in the Magazine Section of the New York Times.  The song the man playing the records has selected is “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,” (words and music by Frank Loesser) which was recorded by the Kay Kyser band, and reached Number One on the Billboard chart in 1943.  We’ll shoot out of here and return with another column next week, if the good Lord is willin’ and the creek don’t rise.  Until then, have a blessed week.

Copyright 2004 – Robert Patterson


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
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