Politics & Policy

Guano War II

Old threat: ISIS; new threat: geese

The Goose Poop War has begun.

Canada geese have settled on the National Mall, and Canada geese, in the proud Canadian tradition of Tom Green and Celine Dion, spew excrement everywhere they go — up to three pounds per day per goose. (Celine Dion presented the scientific world with an interesting technical challenge: How to measure excrement in decibels.) Apparently, Canada is either still miffed about that unpleasantness in 1812 or — and this seems more likely — enraged about the acquisition of Tim Horton’s by Burger King.

Ergo, biologically engineered avian crap-bombs from Canada descend upon Washington.

Go ahead and draw up that treason indictment: I am siding with the enemy on this one.

If there is to be a plague of goose poop befouling an American city, it really could not happen to a more fitting municipality than our hideous national capital, and especially to the gallery of architectural malpractice and monumental grotesquery that is the National Mall, that eternal testament to the unfinished work of Major General Robert Ross, who had the good taste to put Washington to the torch but who tragically failed to salt the earth on his way out. General Ross later helped to establish what would become a proud American tradition: getting shot to death in Baltimore. His body was pickled in rum before being returned to Nova Scotia, an excellent end to a life well-lived.

If we could station a brace of geese outside Harry Reid’s place at the Ritz, then the former Senate majority leader could leave Washington with something to remember it by other than the campaign donations he sneakily diverted to his granddaughter.

Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo is set in the fictional Republic of Costaguana; Conrad was fond of multilingual puns (if you want to feel under-accomplished, consider that Conrad, one of the English language’s greatest novelists, did not learn the language — his fourth — until he was in his twenties), and was apparently much amused by the fact that Chile had gone to war with Peru and Bolivia over valuable deposits of bird poop in the Pacific War, also known as the Guano War. Costaguana is thought to be mostly based on Colombia, but the underlying narrative — imperialists and revolutionaries and caudillos and mercenaries fighting over vast deposits of bird byproduct — is damned near universal. Guano was used at the time to make gunpowder and explosives — which is to say, the South American military-industrial complex was all revved up to do what military-industrial complexes do best: secure more matériel for the military-industrial complex.

For Conrad, the guano was metaphorical. For us, it is simply literal. Nostromo was published in 1904, but it remains a tome for the times.

It is remarkable how efficiently Washington can rouse itself when the interests of its denizens are directly at stake. Washingtonians have developed a taste for the high life in the past few decades, and no self-respecting man about town wants to be up to his Kennedys in goose poop. The aggression of Branta Canadensis simply will not be allowed to stand. Ergo, Washington plans to unleash the hounds.

Not hounds, really: border collies. According to Reuters, Lassie and friends will be deployed to “harass the large and growing population of Canada geese from tourist draws like the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, the Washington Monument grounds, and John F. Kennedy Hockey Fields.” I like to imagine that John Kennedy, when he was being weaned on virgins’ blood and unpasteurized dairy products by the coven of megalomaniacs from which he hailed, dreamed that one day there’d be a hockey field named for him, and that it would be free of goose poop. I think we owe him that much.

The obvious question here — or at least the first thing I wondered about — is: Where do the all those border collies come from? We have a national strategic petroleum reserve and, hilariously enough, a national strategic helium reserve — in case we ever decide that we want to make all those Boko Haram throat-cutters talk like Alvin the Chipmunk — so it is not beyond all conception that we have a national strategic border collie reserve, too. I am sorry to report that my inquiries to the Department of the Interior late last week regarding this critical national resource went unanswered. But I will stay on the story.

In the United States, we have public debts and unfunded-entitlement liabilities equal to the value of all the stocks trading on all the world’s stock markets — combined and multiplied by three. We are beset by the very real possibility of atomic ayatollahs engaging in casual nuclear war — not only in the Middle East, but possibly also in Europe, in Asia, and, given the state of our border security, right here. We have a crime syndicate in charge of the Internal Revenue Service, and a Department of Homeland Security that can’t stop millions of people from crossing the border illegally but does an absolutely awesome job of making sure that you do not bring more than 3.4 ounces of Sensodyne onto an airplane. We have record numbers of people pushed into dependency on an ever-proliferating variety of welfare programs. Washington responds to this array of existential threats with the urgent dynamism and focus of Jabba the Hutt on a glitterstim bender.

But an anatid from up north drops a deuce on the site of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Field Hockey Tournament — “the oldest field hockey tournament in the United States,” hurrah! — and Leviathan arises from his dreamy slumber. Really, given what we know about Washington and how it works, can you blame the birds?

Canada geese: Doing jobs American voters won’t do.

Kevin D. Williamson is roving correspondent for National Review.


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