March 27, 2011
Ishtar II: The Audacity of the Artless WarBy Clarice Feldman
If you've ever eaten out in Los Angeles you know everyone waiting on you is just auditioning for a part or angling for someone to read his screenplay. My grand daughter whom I was visiting was hungry, and we stopped at the nearby In-N-Out for a carry out order of burgers and fries. It was the last place I expected to see this sort of thing but as we were exiting the drive-in a guy at the carry out window tossed what appeared to be a script into our car.
It landed in the fries so unfortunately by the time I got to read it at home, oil stains made parts of it unreadable, still, it seemed to have promise. If you have Elaine May's address, anyone, I'd be glad to forward it to her.
It starts out with the American Ambassador to the UN, the Secretary of State and the President singing in some third rate boite in New Jersey:
Telling the truth can be dangerous business. Honest and popular don't go hand ‘n' hand. If you admit that you can play the accordion, no one will hire you in a rock ‘n' roll band.
They are really awful but they had no idea how bad. They keep giving each other high fives and shouting, "when you're on, you're on," after each verse as the audience filed out shaking their heads .
As they amble off to their ratty dressing room a French and Italian duo buttonhole them and suggest they do a gig in Libya where they own a restaurant and bar. The three have nothing else on their plate but March Madness, some goodwill trips, two wars, a tanking economy and a pending piece of litigation which promises to undo the president's landmark legislative effort. Naturally, the Ambassador and the Secretary quickly agree The President busily working on his basketball picks and his Road to Rio appearance has to beg off, but says he'll phone in his part.
When the two arrive they are hustled into some dive in NATO wadi on the outskirts of Ben Ghazi where Fatima the resident belly dancer, begs them to help her rescue her family from the evil sheikh, Gaddafi. The singers agree if others will help them because being strangers they want this to be an effort of all the folks in the NATO hood and not just an outside job.
At this point the plot bogs down considerably. Lots of votes are taken and negotiations drag on considerably over who will be in charge, whose camels will be used, how the mission will be carried out. Some people make unreasonable demands; others leave just when anything is agreed on. No one can decide if the Gaddafi's tent should be stormed or whether the motley crew should just encircle it and keep him from buying any more dates and hummus until he gives up the hostages. While the debate continues, some of the plotters climb a tower and shower the Sheik's tent with donkey dung, but he and his men have surrounded themselves with kids so the bombardment is halted while deliberations continue.
The hostages can be heard crying out for help but the dissension among the would-be rescuers escalates. The German, who was the only solvent man in town, leaves in a huff because after all the discussion no leader has yet been picked. And the British expat who runs the dry goods shop said if would be okay to kill the sheikh ,but the Americans said that would be "unwise."
Soon the President calls in and now has everyone scratching his head in bewilderment:
"As long as the sheikh remains in power, and unless he changes his approach and there are significant reforms that result in the freedom of his subjects, there will be potential threats against his people unless he resigns."
No one knows what he means.
The Italian guy who got them into Libya suddenly realizes the sheikh will cut off the olive oil for his restaurant and says the camels for the expedition should probably set off from some other place than his, and the Turkish dancer now thinks the whole idea of attacking or even encircling the sheikh isn't such a good idea.
The fellow with the boat who was going to ferry supplies for the coalition of the now unwilling says, "We aren't sure what the next step is."
The only thing anyone can agree on is that they mustn't call whatever they are doing an attack on the sheikh and using one of those clever magnetic haiku sets someone found in the rear of the nightclub decides "kinetic military action" sounds "not too hot and not too cold, but just right".
My head started to spin because the plot was that confusing. I grabbed a drink and sat down, continuing to read. At this point some guy named Iowahawk drives up in some souped up camel rig singing:
At last, something in all this mess I could understand, but just then my husband turned on the television news and my attention was drawn to the newscast:
The Syrian people who had no help from the NATO hood nor from the singers nor the President were demonstrating in large numbers against Assad. Lebanon, which had been under the Assad boot, was watching intently. So were the people in Iran.
poster by Big Fur Hat of iOwnTheWorld