Thursday, December 16, 2004

In the book Catch-22, there's one part where Yossarian - the main character, a very pessimistic, cynical and cowardly airman on the Italian front in World War II - goes on a bombing run and misses the target. He was too scared of the anti-air guns, so he dropped his bombs and turned around too soon. So he leads his planes around a second time. This time he hits the target, but a plane with him gets shot down.

When he gets back, his immediate superiors can't decide what to do with him. He screwed up and caused the loss of a plane and deaths of some men. But he got the job done. And the whole thing makes his superiors look bad. (I forget why, maybe they shouldn't have promoted him in the first place or something.) So what do they do? Well, they can't punish him or anything, because they, in turn, would get punished for what he did by their superiors. But they have to do something, or else they'd just be ignoring some gross negligence. What he did was too big and too unorthodox to possibly go unnoticed.

So they give him an award. He got the job done, after all, despite the odds, and at great personal risk. People can hardly criticize him for screwing up if it's in black and white that it was an act of heroism, right?

I finally understand Bush's decision to give Medals of Freedom to Bremer, Tenet, and Franks. Well, they say life imitates art... I guess it was only a matter of time before it imitated a cynical, dark comedy about the chaos and insanity of war, right?

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