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I had planned to write a funny – that’s right, a funny article – about Enron.

If you want to buy Enron stock through your broker, it’ll cost mere pennies a share. But if you want to buy an Enron stock certificate, it’ll cost you hundreds of bucks – on eBay. You heard that right. There are over two thousand Enron items for sale there, including the Enron Code of Ethics (I’m not joking), Enron pens, golf balls, luggage, shirts, stress balls, coffee mugs, everything – except simple justice for the fired and broke employees. America may have a big purse for the exploited and the miserable, but it’s also a purse sometimes fattened by exploiting the miserable.

But since Sept. 11, America has been introduced to the wider world, and yes, there are some things bigger than even Enron, campaign-finance reform or which party controls the Senate.

And right now, one of those larger things is the situation between Israel and the
Palestinians.

Everyone knows that since the Clinton peace initiative of 2000 failed, that situation has grown steadily worse. First, Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, then Arafat’s completely self-destructive intifada. Since then, it’s been a predictably bloody back-and-forth, reminiscent of a scene from “The Godfather” – we hit you, you hit us, we hit you back, and so forth. This is not to suggest equivalence between Israel going after Palestinian terrorists and the Palestinians deciding to ground burst a bunch of civilians on a bus. But, let’s face it, things had settled down into a rhythm, although a lethal one.

Until now, that is. The Palestinians, Yitzhak Rabin once observed, “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Arafat with his intifada, his wink-and-a-nod at the terrorists that he claims never to know about as well as the recent Palestinian pleasure cruise in the Red Sea (it wasn’t exactly Love Boat – the Israelis found 50 tons of illegal weapons). And all of this while Gen. Zinni is talking to Arafat about “peace in our time.” What troubles me is that these are just the preliminaries to an all-out war. Consider the following:

Item: Arafat marches in the procession for a bunch of Hamas terrorists, the same guys he swore he didn’t know just one week ago.

Item: Arafat has reportedly militarized the 20,000 man Palestinian police force into an army. And unlike the formless Taliban, Arafat’s “cops” are organized quite conventionally, with regiments, brigades, divisions and equipped with armored vehicles.

Item: It’s been reported that Arafat has ordered the distribution of “hard arms” – armor-piercing weapons, rockets and other items he has stashed secretly in the Gaza, all of which are illegal under the Oslo Agreement.

Item: It’s been reported that Arafat is just waiting for a time and place to launch his first conventional attack. Wherever the place may be, the time is rumored to be very soon.

Before anybody starts to yawn, consider not just the human wreckage that would result from total war between the Israelis and the Palestinians – one would be able to walk from the Lebanese border south to the Negev stepping only on bodies – but consider the following.

Iraq attacks. Believe it or not, this could be Saddam’s 15 minutes. Saddam, who is a dictator’s version of a serial killer, is reportedly slavering over the prospect of an excuse to start hurling missiles towards Tel Aviv. He would use the excuse of war between Jews and Arabs in a bid to assert his leadership over the Arab world by leading a jihad against Israel. Of course, as Iraqi tanks rolled towards Israel, they would probably stop by for a visit in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. (Gee, I wonder how seriously should we take the Saudi’s grumbling about U.S. troops over there?)

Bugs ‘n’ drugs. Saddam might not have The Big One, but we know he has a lot of Little Ones – deliverable diseases and the kind of chemicals you didn’t use in your high-school chemistry class. His Scud missiles can hit Tel Aviv; he proved that in 1991. Only this time, the U.S. won’t be telling Israel to fall asleep at the switch.

Nuke rebuke – Israel’s got ‘em. If it comes down to Iraqi anthrax being sprayed over the homeland and Saddam’s tanks driving through the West Bank, figure it out from Israeli’s point of view – Baghdad might just become “Boomdad” and the mushroom cloud would be visible for miles.

Arafat’s game plan is to hope that the U.S. and Europeans will see all of this and recoil – enough to send an international peacekeeping force that would save him and his corrupt dictatorship otherwise known as the Palestinian Authority. It’s a big gamble, but based on Arafat’s track record as a statesman, thinker, negotiator and chess player on the international stage, he’s not going to win it.

I care less for him than for his poor, misled and oppressed people. At the end of the day, all his charisma has blessed them with his own bad luck. Maybe if he goes, their luck will change for the better

Anthrax. Atom bombs. Chemical warfare. What a prospect.

It’s a lot easier to think about Sir “Kenny-Boy” Lay, the Earl of Shred, the Lord of PACs and the Viscount of Enron.

Let’s see … should I bid on the golf balls or the stress balls?

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