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Iraq Muted
Deaf Men's Dialogue

PIERRE TRISTAM / DAYTONA BEACH NEWS-JOURNAL, October 25, 2006

The optimist: The justice! The hand of justice everywhere, and in places where you least expected it.

The pessimist: What delusions you speak now?

The optimist: No delusions. Saddam is on trial in Baghdad. Assad's lion's roar is down to a kitty's whisper in Damascus. The special prosecutor in Washington has Dick Cheney running back to his favorite undisclosed locations and George Bush considering another "Pet Goat" reading tour. It looks like justice speaks after all.

The pessimist: I see bodies burned and bandied like trophies in Afghanistan, murdered defense lawyers in Baghdad, abetted rapists in Darfur, corruption as usual in DC. Not to mention another October without the Yankees. And Wilma. What's the use of trying a mass murderer if murders en masse are taking place outside the courtroom, some of them compliments of the prosecutors' patrons? At Nuremberg you could at least buy a dozen eggs at the market and make it home before they turned into an omelet with your entrails for fixings.

The optimist: Occasional convulsions are the collateral of the grand plan. You cannot, since you brought up the metaphor, make an omelet without breaking some eggs.

The pessimist: A 2-year-old child turned to a bloody pulp in the name of "occasional convulsions" is not a metaphor, nor were my eggs. There's been nothing "occasional" about the daily massacre of two dozen people in the name of three dozen competing bigotries, the one about "freedom and democracy" among them.

The optimist: Freedom and democracy -- bigotries?

The pessimist: Sloganeering in any form is the velvety language of bigots.

The optimist: Look at the panorama for a change. Saddam's trial is the introductory shock of many happy quakes to come. The fraternity of tyrannies known as the Arab League is finally being deloused. It's a different sort of revolution than we're used to in our smugly enlightened West, but a revolution nonetheless. They're already dancing the rumba in Beirut. They'll be dancing the Macarena in Cairo next.

The pessimist: And the mambo in Mecca, I suppose? I don't dispute the tyrannies' bankruptcies. I dispute your method of cleaning house. Destroying a house in order to save it may foment a revolution, but not the kind you can set ballroom tunes to. Islam's fascist brigades don't give a hoot about Saddam's trial. He was on al-Qaida's most wanted list too, you forget. So is Syria's winterized lion. So is the House of Saud for that matter. By putting Saddam on trial we're doing Osama's bidding for him. We're his executors. That's the supreme irony of this trial, of this whole war. To the fanatics, it is a gift that keeps giving.

The optimist: Would you have rather seen Saddam and his sons still in power?

The pessimist: And let rot devour him from within? Yes. Instead here we are fertilizing a whole new generation of tyrants and fanatics from Indonesia to Algeria via Operation Iraqi Foul-up.

The optimist: There are no clean wars. The invasion was the Arab world's Normandy. Sure it's been ugly. So was Normandy, where, need I remind you, 2,400 GIs died on Omaha Beach alone in the first hours, which makes the 2,000 deaths in Iraq not such a bad show for two and a half years' work. We're doing it much more cheaply in Iraq.

The pessimist: Spoken like a true cutthroat shopper for democracy: Even lives at a low price. Always.

The optimist: Would you rather keep filling mass graves until your knights-in-shining-armor-from-within ride in to save them, who knows when?

The pessimist: I would rather your happy premise spoke less Oxford English and more Baghdad Arabic, or any Arabic for that matter. Maybe then you'd hear the gibberish in your gloss.

The optimist: You speak of deferring to the Arab Street, but you're only deferring to its gutters, and drowning western ideals with you. I refuse to concede that we have nothing to give the East.

The pessimist: Give them jeans. Give them triple-decker burgers. Give them high-platform shoes and Lindsay Lohan's lowbrow pops. Those are universal currencies anyone is happy to deal in from Vancouver to Sanzhou. Just spare them the effluents of the Heritage Foundation and the creepy-crawlies of hubris dribbling out of whatever's left of the Bush politburo.

The optimist: I'll be sure to let Thomas Jefferson know you disapprove of human rights exports.

The pessimist: He'll be sure to let you know that "With nations, as with individuals, our interests soundly calculated, will ever be found inseparable from our moral duties; and history bears witness to the fact that a just nation is taken on its word, when recourse is had to armaments and wars to bridle others." Our word, right now, is as good as our morals.

The optimist: A quote is no substitute for reality.

The pessimist: Reality is no excuse for irrigating folly.

.

a test.
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