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One Riot, One Ranger: The Lowdown on the Showdown in Iraq
by John David Powell
20 March 2003

The Ranger stepped off the train and was asked, "They only sent one Ranger?"  To which he replied, "You only got one riot, don't you?"

To: Mr. Answer guy
Subject: War

Come on, now, Mr. Answer Guy. It's time to share some
of your great thoughts. What do you think?

Your biggest fan.

Dear Mom: Thanks for asking for great thoughts
expressed in 700 words or less.

One expects our leaders, in the hours preceding war, to remove Doubt from the world's psychological portfolio, leaving only Confidence, Resolve, Anxiety, and a page filled with Moral Justifications. This, sadly, is not the case as men and women from allied nations prepare to kill and to die in self defense.

Or so we are told. For this to work, we must believe in the clear and present danger to our lives and homes, because to believe otherwise at this late hour casts into doubt our nation's purpose and calls into question our moral justification.

Hope is a word heard a lot these days, but it is not the hope of optimism. It is the hope of trust. We hope our leaders possess evidence of Iraqi plans for horror. We hope our armed forces find arsenals filled with weapons of mass terror. We hope our righteous actions abroad do not result in anguish and death at home.

We hope that we should not have waited just a little longer. After all, we have drawn enough lines in the sand to box all sides into diplomatic corners.

As a speechwriter, I appreciate the fact that folks in my profession sample from others and borrow heavily from ourselves. Presidential speechwriters during the last dozen years have nearly worn out the Handbook of Justification, resulting in fill-in-the-blank war speeches. For example:

Some may ask: Why act now? Why not wait? The answer is clear: The world could wait no longer.
-- George Bush, Jan. 16, 1991, at the start of the Persian Gulf

We are now acting because the risks of inaction would be far greater.
-- George W. Bush, March 18, 2003, on the eve of the War against Saddam.

The dangers of acting are far outweighed by the dangers of not acting.
--Bill Clinton, March 24, 1999, at the start of the War against Serbia.

The military action . . . follows months of constant and virtually endless diplomatic activity . . .

For the last four-and-a-half months, the United States and our allies have worked . . .

Over the last few months, we have done everything we possibly could . . .

The task this week was not easy for Bush speechwriter Michael Gersen. He had to craft a speech that was succinct, yet explained in simple terms why we fight, who we fight, how we tried not to fight, and what we will do after we fight. The message had to be unambiguous to the nation, to our allies, and to our fair-weather friends. And each word chosen had to survive translation, especially into Arabic.

The result was the latest chapter in the continuing saga of The Tough Talkin' Texan. You remember last time, Bush set the scene when he called during the diplomatic poker game and told members of the U.N. Security Council last week to put their cards on the table. He continued the theme this week by giving Saddam and his boys just 48 hours to git outta town. Then he called some members of the Security Council cowards, a more direct term for those who lack resolve and fortitude to act against this threat to peace. Next, he explained to Saddam's gang that those who run with outlaws hang with outlaws when he said, "your fate will depend on your action." Finally, he told the Iraqi people that help is on the way, and that "the day of your liberation is near."

One is reminded of the great story behind the "one riot, one ranger" image of the legendary Texas Rangers. It is told that a Ranger stepped off a train in a riot-torn town and was asked, "They only sent one Ranger??" To which he replied, "You only got one riot, don't you"

In this case, it's one Iraqi, and a posse of rangers and marines packing GPS-guided Bushwackers.

Published originally at; republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact.

John David Powell is an award-winning writer and Internet columnist, professional speechwriter, and contributor to the Christian Millennium History Project. He is a regular columnist for Ether Zone.

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