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Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns are satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.

Riva Medea scowled at the dispirited protesters gathered in her parlor.

“We’re losing the public-relations battle on the coming war with Iraq,” she began. “We must redouble our efforts. We must take to the streets in mass demonstrations. We must shout the truth from the housetops. We must call talk radio. We must …”

“But, Riva,” a pale young man in a T-shirt declaring “Meat is Murder” interrupted, “We’ve tried all that, but Bush gave that great speech. We know he’s too dumb to have thought up that stuff himself, but he read it really well. How can anybody so stupid be so effective?”

Medea hesitated, then forged ahead, “We must not lose faith in the concept of Bush’s stupidity. And his avarice. Remember, he’s Big Oil’s guy.”

Her eyes seemed to glaze over, and she began to chant, as if to herself, “Stupidity and cupidity. A tool of Big Oil. And of the Jews – I mean, the Zionists. Though it would be fun to refer to his stupidity, cupidity and Jew-pidity. Yeah. Stupidity, cupidity and …”

“Riva! Snap out of it,” a woman shouted. “We have to focus on our issues.”

Medea paused, blushed, and tried to regain her hold on the sparse audience.

“OK! All right!” she cried, raising her right fist. “We do have a plan, and it’s really quite simple. We just have to remember to preface every argument with the following: ‘Saddam Hussein’s a monster, but …’

“This will give us credibility, because it will show we are sensitive to Saddam’s – shall we say – excesses.

“Then conclude every argument by saying, ‘Fighting is bad.’”

The audience gave an approving murmur, and Medea seemed to take heart.

“Let’s practice,” she commanded. “I’ll say, ‘Saddam Hussein’s a monster, but …’ and you chime in with your favorite arguments.

“Come on now: Saddam Hussein’s a monster, but …”

The pale young man stammered, “… m-military action against Iraq would destabilize the entire Middle East.”

“That’s right!” exclaimed Medea. Pointing to a woman in the back of the room, she repeated, “Saddam Hussein’s a monster, but …”

“… Iraq has committed no overt aggression,” the woman said.

You could feel the energy level rise in the room as the responses began to come more rapidly and without prompting.

“Saddam Hussein is a monster, but …”

  • “… no military action should be undertaken by the United States without international – and particularly United Nations – endorsement.”

  • “… Bush is in a “wag the dog” effort to divert our attention from our problems at home.”

  • “… military action would cost billions – and people would DIE!”

  • “… we haven’t exhausted diplomatic solutions.”

  • “… this is really about Big Oil’s desire to grab Iraq’s petroleum resources.”

  • “… we must first have a peaceful settlement of the Israel-Palestinian issue.”

  • “… our sanctions have killed a million Iraqi children.”

  • “… we haven’t caught Osama bin Laden yet.”

  • “… we haven’t finished off al-Qaida yet.”

  • “… what about North Korea?”

  • “… we helped him in his war with Iran and knew he did bad things.”

  • “… Colin Powell didn’t really produce the ‘smoking gun’ we need.”

  • “… we support other dictators.”

  • “… violence doesn’t solve anything.”

By now the little audience was on its feet, whistling and applauding each declamation.

Finally, Medea cried, “And how do we always conclude?”

And the assemblage responded as one, “Fighting is bad!”

“You’ve got it!” the leader exclaimed. “Now get out there and fight – I mean, don’t give up. If you falter, just remember the acronyms for Saddam Hussein’s a monster and fighting is bad. They’re ‘SHAM’ and ‘FIB,’ and they’ve always been our best arguments.”

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