Saddam International Airport has been renamed. Perhaps in an effort to stay ahead of the news, reporters were calling it Baghdad International Airport even before it was renamed. Or perhaps they were doing that simply to compensate for the fact they always abbreviate Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport so as to leave out the any reference to the Gipper. Perhaps they consider it an equal-time thing, as in “we won’t mention their tyrants — or ours.” Regardless, seizing BIA — as the tag will soon say on our checked luggage — is fantastic news. The C-130s will be able to stack up outside Baghdad like Southwest Airlines cattle cars over the Las Vegas skyline on the first Friday night of spring break. Of course, rather than carrying randy Sigma Chis from Vanderbilt University, the C-130s will be stuffed to the gills with the arsenal of democracy — food, water, medicine, and giant shiny drums of galvanized whup-ass paid for, I’m proud to say, with our tax dollars.
Other good news this morning comes in the reports that our troops have found not one, but two locations with “thousands of boxes” containing “white powder and vials of liquid.” Presumably these are not just signs that Keith Richards spends more time in Baghdad than previously believed. Hopefully, this is more proof that Saddam has the smoking gun that everyone — even France and the New York Times (one’s a country, the other a newspaper, after that the distinctions are negligible) — agreed would justify forcibly disarming Saddam.
Of course, nobody’s holding their breath at the idea that the French or the Times might see it that way. Both of them have been behaving like Cuba Gooding Jr.’s grousing brother in Jerry Maguire — always complaining about how they could have done it better, or how if only the U.S. followed their advice, etc., etc. Opinion polls in France reveal that only a third of French citizens want the U.S. and Britain to win the war and another third actually want Saddam to win. In fact, the few signs of joy I’ve seen from the Times have been when A) they could celebrate the feminist victory implied when female soldiers are killed or captured (Sing it, sisters!); B) when a brief bathroom break and oil change for the fastest military advance in human history was interpreted by the Times to be a full-blown “quagmire”; C) when they could jollily note that Pfc. Jessica Lynch didn’t join the army to see combat; and D) when the terrorized and demoralized Shia of Southern Iraq weren’t happy to see U.S. troops, perhaps in part because the Fedayeen were executing anyone who even smiled in Uncle Sam’s direction.
Which brings us to the even better news. As our troops get closer to patrolling Baghdad — proving that the “special” in Special Republican Guard refers to the fact that they have to wear crash helmets before they get on the school bus — average Iraqis are welcoming American troops with cheers and applause. This will hopefully put the naysayers in the uncomfortable position of either waxing nostalgic for Saddam’s policy of car-battery interrogations and mass rape, or shutting their pie holes. Only time will tell.
There is still major fighting to do and we shouldn’t revert to cakewalk talk until it’s over. Memo to hawks: Nothing is a cakewalk except in retrospect. Indeed, the Iraqi Minister of Information who Thursday announced that American troops were nowhere near Baghdad announced just this morning — or whatever time it is in Baghdad — that Baghdad will devour the foreign devils at the gates of his city. Obviously, I hope — and believe — that he’s wrong. But that doesn’t mean things won’t get uglier before they get prettier.
Still, I’ve got to say I love this Information Minister guy. He’s like a Muslim Michael Moore on the Atkins diet. But, as numerous readers have suggested, his press briefings are Monty Pythonesque. It’s as if he’s borrowing from both the Dead Parrot sketch and the Black Knight scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. We say the Medina division has been degraded by 70 percent, he insists: “‘Tis but a flesh wound.” We say the Baghdad division has been destroyed, he says: “We have Coalition forces exactly where we want them.” We say there’s no fight left in the enemy, he says: “We’re just resting.” Terry McAuliffe should offer this guy a job.
Alas, one guy who’s now virtually unemployable is this joker Ali Hassan Al Majid. He goes by the nickname “Chemical Ali” because he used poison gas on the Kurds and because he has a great method for getting ground-in stains out of carpets. Note to evil henchmen everywhere: Don’t take on scary nicknames unless it’s absolutely necessary. Some of these Baathist schmucks will be able to claim they were just following orders. But the name “Chemical Ali” is the sort of thing war-crime prosecutors love — plays great with the jury.
While we’re on the subject of names, I would like to return to this Baghdad International Airport thing. When we announced this morning that we’d unilaterally changed the name of the airport, I didn’t see any protests. This is significant because changing the names of places is one of the hallmarks of conquerors. And since so many people claim this is an imperialist war of aggression, you’d think someone would have pulled out the “What right do you have!?” card.
I find the lack of objections encouraging. You see, my dad and I have been kicking around an idea for a long time. We should rename Iraq. The country desperately needs a fresh start. And changing its name would go a long way towards that end. If you think the idea is crazy, keep in mind that a name is just a name. Our plan is to change their whole way of life: Bring democracy, the rule of law, and prosperity to these desperate people. Which is more difficult? Changing a few letters on a page or rewriting the habits of 22 million hearts?
Pops wants to rename it Babylonia. I’m sympathetic — it would certainly be great for tourism. But I think we’ve got better options. Something peaceful and friendly is important, for obvious reasons. Renaming it “Cobra Fang,” for example, would only encourage more fear and hostility in the region. So I’m thinking about something more euphonic.
My first choice is “Shady Acres.” First of all, there’s no way the United States would ever invade again. You will never see a New York Times banner headline: “U.S. Forces Launch Air War on Shady Acres.” Indeed, all sorts of phrases become impractical. “Martyr yourselves sons and daughters of Shady Acres. Never let it be said that Shady Acreans fear death!” And so on.
But this may elicit a backlash from the Iraqis. After all, it would be more than a little emasculating. Another approach would be to borrow a page from the Saudis. After all, calling their patch of sand “Saudi Arabia” was merely an attempt by the House of Saud to lay claim to the whole place. Like Phil’s Carwash, the “Saudi” gave it a personal touch. So we could call it Bush’s Iraq, or even Blairabia. But again, the arrogant conqueror vibe is pretty strong here too.
Or we could borrow from Prince and just give the place an incomprehensible symbol as a name. Which, of course, would result in the press using phrases like “the nation formerly known as Iraq” — which would get clunky very quickly.
Plus, there’s another consideration. As readers of NRO are no doubt more than vaguely aware, there are some countries which have been less than supportive of our efforts. Indeed, there is one in particularly which stands out as being in need of payback. The United States must make it clear to the world — as it has with Saddam — that we take illegitimate opposition seriously and that there are consequences for those who make our work more difficult.
So, let’s recap. Iraq has a bad brand name, marketing-wise. The country needs a fresh start. Any new name should be one a people can take pride in, while at the same time sending a positive, Western-oriented message to the world and its citizens alike. Also, we need to make it clear that we will not allow others to henpeck us. It seems to me there is one name which satisfies all of these requirements.
We should rename Iraq, France. If the current “French” object, we can tell them it’s a compliment. Already, antiwar Arabs are reportedly naming their kids after Jacques Chirac — we just want to take that principle to the next level. Colin Powell could tell them, “We take you at your word that you are the role model for the Arab world you’ve always claimed to be! What better way to say so than by naming a country after you?”
If having two countries both called France becomes a logistical or bureaucratic problem, we can follow Don Rumsfeld’s lead and call the current “French” Old France and Iraq, “New France.” Or, my preferred course would be to call the European France, “Euro-France” — a la Euro-Disney. The country’s been turning into a theme park for years anyway.
Regardless, all of this can be worked out. Besides, as we’ve learned from this war already, there’s nothing the French can do to stop us.