This past spring, the American military tried a new strategy in the war in Iraq by releasing a videotape of the late terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi that showed him fumbling with a machine gun and surrounded by bumbling aides.
I first saw the story in the right-wing Washington Times and figured that airing a “Zarqawi blooper” tape, as the newspaper dubbed it, was just another weird side road on the long, strange trip that has been our Iraq adventure. But on reflection, it occurred to me that everything else we’ve tried has failed. The war is a disaster, wildly unpopular— even among Republicans. So, given the desperate straits we find ourselves in, as they say in the freedom game, Let’s roll. As in: Let’s roll tape. America is not just the land of the free and the home of the brave— it’s the home of the blooper. We invented the genre. I know that drives the French nuts, but for them I have two words: Jerry Lewis. Mr. Blooper. The blooper is as American as Freedom Fries. Go to a baseball game— the national pastime— or any athletic event for that matter. How do they entertain Mr. and Mrs. America and the kids during lulls in the game? Bloopers.
Bloopers are at the very core of American humor, from vaudeville and pratfalls and pies in the face, to Candid Camera and MTV’s Punk’d. We gave the world Marx (Groucho, Harpo, Chico, et al.) and Laurel and Hardy and Max Sennett and the Keystone Kops and the Three Stooges. Americans like this sort of humor. And American humor, long may it wave, is global humor (whether the French like it or not).
We’ve been spending crazy amounts of money without success when all the time we’ve had the capability to fight— and win— right in our own back yard. How hard can it be for a nation that produced “America’s Funniest Home Videos” to develop “World’s Wackiest Despots”? Is it that difficult to go from “When Animals Attack” to “Tyrants Gone Wild”?
Bloopers, the not-so-subtle melding of physical humor and screwing up, are simply a variation on an old theme— propaganda. Think Tokyo Rose meets Lucille Ball— with a side of reality TV. (The Pentagon loves bureaucracy, so naturally it will create a Department of Blooper Defense that will, in addition to dreaming up strategic bloopers, determine if “they’ll play in Basra.”)
Let’s face it, it’s much cheaper to lampoon our enemies than to spend billions on complex military gadgetry that often does not work and often winds up getting innocent people killed. Hell, two teen-agers with purple hair, a case of Red Bull and a good Mac can make it look like Saddam Hussein is singing the “Macarena” or that Moammar Qaddafi is a female impersonator. Those guys want to play rough? Bring it on.
And why limit this strategy to the Middle East? What about North Korean strongman Kim Il Sung? He’s already made some blooper tapes and didn’t even know it. For God’s sake, the man’s hair is a blooper! Not to mention his wardrobe. He was born to be bloopered.
And for the pacifists in the house, don’t worry. There’s very little chance of anyone actually getting hurt with bloopers. A blooper is bloodless— not like mustard gas or biological warfare. It’s not chemical warfare, it’s comical warfare!
Many Americans oppose keeping detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for months and even years. But no one will object to blooper warfare. There’s no good reason to. The United Nations, Amnesty International and the Swiss Red Cross have never taken a formal position on bloopers. The coast is clear.
Charlie Chaplin made himself famous by imitating and mocking Adolf Hitler. So there’s some historic precedence. And here’s the beauty of the thing: the tape of Zarqawi was a real tape of the guy, but who says we can’t manufacture tapes of terrorists doing goofy stuff? Where is it written that’s illegal? Unemployed actors can impersonate our enemies.
Let’s start with Osama bin Laden. He’s in a cave someplace issuing occasional videos, right? Well, let’s show Osama who rocks when it comes to making videos. Video didn’t just kill the radio, pal. First off, we could have a contest for an Osama bin Laden impersonator. Like “American Idol,” people would compete and viewers would tune in every week. I think you are looking at some ratings here. (There is a powerful commercial angle to this plan. Isn’t that the American way?)
Then we could start making the videos and sending them to the Arab TV station Al Jazeera. They have a lot of airtime to fill, and we’ll help them fill it. Is it just me or do you think Osama bin Laden could do a Cat Stevens impersonation? “O Baby, Baby It’s a Wild World.” I guess to hell it is.