Jeff at Peace Like a River had an account the other day of a Pentagon briefing where Donald Rumsfeld openly speculated on the types of questions Al Qaida leadership might face from a similar press corps (if the Arab world actually allowed such a thing). Using Rumsfeld’s questions (in italics, below) I imagined the following scene:
(Setting: a subterranean cavern. The hum of generators powering the lights for TV cameras neutralizes the echoes of the voices of the press corps as they await the briefing. At one end of the cavern a man emerges from behind a tapestry, and approaches a lectern already set up. He is flanked by three guards. He is the senior minister of military activity for Al Qaida.)
Minister: Thank you all for coming today. Our illustrious leader, Osama bin Ladin, sends you greetings from his undisclosed location. He has asked me to speak to you today to brief you on the most exceptional progress of our war against the Great Satans of the West and our impending, glorious victory.
We are making progress. We are winning. Our enemies cower in hiding, afraid to venture outside their compounds. Their media daily broadcast the news of their defeats and the numbers of their killed and wounded. Weekly the people in America take to the streets by the millions calling for their soldiers to surrender. Our own people are so inspired by our cause that now even women and children are being pressed…I mean, are volunteering to be martyrs. As for our own leaders, the jihad is going so well that they have been permitted to take vacations in order to rest up for our final victory, so don’t be concerned if you don’t see some of them around. I am now permitted, ensha’allah, to take a few questions.
Reporter: Minister, it appears your insurgency has failed to stop millions of Afghans and Iraqis from voting in free and relatively orderly elections. Could you explain how this advances your cause?
Minister: (turns to one guard and whispers; the guard takes out a notebook and writes briefly) Those were not elections. In fact, we encouraged our brothers to take to the streets en masse to show that they are not afraid of the terroristic actions of the imperialists swine. And, of course, they did so with smiles on their faces.
Reporter: Yes, but we have reports that even the Iraqi Sunnis, who are supposedly the natural allies of the insurgents, have chosen, albeit belatedly, to energetically embrace the political process, registering in large numbers.
Minister: Look, who are you going to believe – me, or your lying eyes, for as ever long as they remain in your head? Next question. Yes, you from Islamic Week.
Reporter: Minister, can you tell us why the insurgency has failed to prevent nearly 200,000 and some 75,000 Afghans — 200,000 Iraqis and some 75,000 Afghanis — I think it’s technically 194,000 Iraqis — from joining the Afghan and Iraqi security forces, despite their very best efforts at intimidation to prevent them from joining those forces? Or why the vast majority of Afghans and Iraqis have rejected twisted ideology and, instead, are supporting efforts to build new societies? Or how you expect to succeed militarily when you cannot rely on sanctuaries in places like Fallujah or Najaf or Tall Afar to plan operations and to train recruits?
Minister: (menacingly) “Look, don’t get stuck on stupid.” (Guard writes again in notebook.)
Reporter: Um, uh, so do you have an exit strategy?
Minister: An excellent question. (Turning to a guard) Hassan, will you help our friend here exit the room? Take him down to our new media center where I can, um, explain things more personally.
Now then, I’d like to take some questions from bloggers. Any bloggers here? (A few hands go up. Guards immediately descend and remove those who raised their hands). I’m sorry, I meant to say, “I have a few questions for bloggers.” Pardon my slip. Are there any other questions?
No? Well then, thank you all again for coming. We have arranged special transportation for each of you to get you safely home. A number of cars are waiting for you outside this complex; please take them back to your cities.
Oh, one piece of advice: no smoking.