In Praise of Chickenhawks
Nothing so unnatural as “natural causes.” Look, I designed the whole system of demise, and I assure you, disease and old age were an afterthought. Ideally, men should kill men. I’ve been tweaking the man-killing-man scenario for millennia, and I’m not sure many of you recognize what I’ve had to go through to arrive at the current virtuosic state of affairs.
It’s not simply a question of invention. Lesser war theorists see everything in terms of this: the construction of greater and more sophisticated weaponry as the engine of escalation. Wrong wrong wrong. It’s an intricate balance, my friends, between potency of the weapon and strength of the stomach: get that right, and you have the foundations of mass slaughter.Take the American Civil War. The introduction of the machine gun was a bloody mess, literally and figuratively. It was a mistake. My mistake. Soldiers were still playing according to rules established via centuries of polite war: they stood lined up in cozy proximity, prepared to pick each other off in a friendly, limited manner.Unfortunately, one of my best students, Dr. Richard Jordan Gatling, was a touch ahead of his time. Too inventive, really. He patented his machine gun – an early, hand-cranked model – in 1861. Oops. Just as Americans were gearing up to really go at each other. So now you have men, trained in polite European ways, standing nose to nose, firing off 600 rounds per minute. Ugly ugly ugly.Now, you’d think that would be a good thing, no? If you’re me, that is, and get a kick out of reading entrails. But here’s where strength of the stomach comes in.
It’s hard to get men to engage in wholesale slaughter, when they have to look hard at the results of their weaponry. You’re limited to sadists and heroes (not mutually exclusive, those categories) – nobody else wants to see whole villages reduced to pulp in a morning’s work. It turns the stomach, and there’s a direct mechanical link between the stomach and the conscience (don’t ask me to explain; it’s complicated).
Now let’s say you want to get a man like George Walker Bush to kill on a mass scale. I choose him at random – an example drawn from a hat – I might easily have chosen any other tumescent warrior who has never set foot on a battlefield. (Say, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove, “Scooter” Libby… you know, almost anyone in the current or recent administration.)
Now, cokeheads are easy to turn into killers – many of my crack inquisitors in the Third World are partying hard at the waterboard. But the young George Bush is a tough case: cokehead and coward. Can’t get this guy near actual exposed intestines. He loves his weapons; he loves his uniforms; but he’s sure not crossing the ocean with that stuff (although he did swallow his fear, much later, for a crucial photo op.) So how do you get a boy like that to fight the good fight?
I’m a pretty modest guy, for an Eternal, Ineluctable Force, but let me briefly put modesty aside to trumpet my greatest achievement, an achievement integral to the mass slaughter of the 20th century: Distance.
Yes, Distance. A simple concept, with exquisite consequences. The Civil War taught me this lesson: men prefer to kill men from far away. They don’t want to see the whites of their eyes. In later wars I stuck with the Gatling Gun – now the fully automatic machine gun – but I introduced new concepts, new battle formations designed to keep people at a healthy remove from the arms and legs they were removing.
I won’t go into full detail here, as only real aficionados enjoy the minutiae (whereas we all dig slaughter); suffice it to say that, by the time George ambled along, I had men killing each other in the most abstract ways: they’d push a button, something vague would light up on a screen, and that was that. Nobody need know that the “something vague” was a wedding party, decimated, the bride’s eyes ruined by shrapnel, the groom howling at her feet, the children at their own special table burning with their own special fire.
Distance. I still pride myself on this very basic, ingenious concept. And with Distance, it was only a small step towards my greatest creation of the early 21st century: the Chickenhawk.
Let’s return to my random example, shall we? George Walker Bush, son of a military hero, gone a bit bad through alcohol, coke, and (quite possibly) lack of oxygen in the womb. Not the brightest guy, but essentially vicious; not the bravest guy (ha), but a man with real lust, nevertheless, for torture and mass slaughter.
This is not the sort of he-man you’re going to get on a battlefield, even if it’s just a matter of pushing buttons and staring at a video screen. Battlefields are dangerous. You can still get your guts blown out, even if you’re a mile from the serious action. No, a bruiser like George requiresreal Distance. “Big countries.” Whole continents.
Hence, the Chickenhawk. If you want to get ambitious bloodthirsty cowards in on the carnage, you need more than physical Distance: you need a division of labor. Guys like George know how to delegate. And this Republican administration, for me, marks the first truly successful application of my latest invention: poultromachy!
I’ve been coining words since the dawn of speech, but I’m really hoping this one excites the lexicographers: from “poultry” and “makhe” (Greek for battle), you get “poultromachy,” a war instigated and guided wholly by Chickenhawks. (By the “poulocracy,” if you will.)
Nobody in George’s inner circle has ever seen a wailing Iraqi mother; hell, these guys don’t even like the sight of coffins. And yet, they’re fully capable of delegating with the best of them. Lots of expendable eighteen-year-olds to do the dirty business; they’re like pages, these soldiers – you just tell them to do stuff, and they do it!
The Party of Death is, by no accident, a poulocracy. Actual warriors don’t have a lot of say, these days, in the Republican administration: seasoned warriors (I’m thinking Colin Powell, John McCain) aren’t generally big on mass slaughter, because they’ve been there, slipping on intestines, watching their teenaged charges lose arms and legs and sanity. I made a choice, with this administration, to limit power to poultry. (Murder most fowl! Ha! Yeah, I slay myself.)
It’s a complex thing, man-on-man action, and I like to think that I’ve finally got it right. Distance was a paradigm shift, and a major innovation; the Chickenhawk, for me, is Distance made flesh. An inspiration embodied. George Walker Bush isn’t just any dry drunk: he’s the personal incarnation of an idea whose time has come – the fumbling coward as intercontinental killing machine.
(Please visit the Chickenhawk Database, if you haven’t had the very real pleasure.)