You ask the questions: P J O'Rourke

(Such as: P J O'Rourke, do you understand why the Muslim world despises America? And have you bought a gas mask yet?)
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The Independent Online

The right-wing satirist PJ (Patrick Jake) O'Rourke, 54, was born the son of a car salesman in Toledo, Ohio. He says he wanted to be an architect or an industrial designer but couldn't draw, so instead he studied English at Miami University. In the early 1970s, he wrote for and edited several "underground" publications, including a Baltimore weekly called Harry, before moving to New York in 1973 to join National Lampoon.

After leaving the Lampoon in 1981, he became a freelance writer, working for Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and Playboy, among others. Like Hunter S Thompson, he embraced the principles of gonzo journalism, writing comic, drug-and-drink-fuelled reports of his escapades, culminating in the 1987 piece "How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink".

That same year, a collection of essays entitled Republican Party Reptile became a worldwide bestseller, and since then he has written nine books, including Eat the Rich, a jokey guide to right-wing economic thinking, and All the Trouble in the World, in which he scoured the earth for solutions to today's most vexing problems.

O'Rourke's favourite targets include Hillary Clinton, Eminem and absolutely any form of political correctness. He is a master of finding humour in the most unlikely places and, in his current position as Rolling Stone's foreign-affairs desk chief, has reported from countless war zones, including Beirut, Bosnia and Nicaragua.

His latest book, The CEO of the Sofa, is a collection of essays and musings loosely based on his home life. He lives in New Hampshire with his second wife and two young daughters.

Dropping bombs on Afghanistan doesn't really sound like an answer. Do you agree? And if not, what, in your opinion, is?

S O'Hanlon, by e-mail

I'm in favour of dropping bombs, but I'm also in favour of dropping food aid – on the theory that a can of peas can do considerable damage if dropped from high enough.

Starting wars is easier than ending them. How do you see this one panning out? And do you see nuclear attack as a possibility?

Paul Dillon, London

Ask the Albanians in Kosovo. They had a heck of a time getting that war started. Ending wars is very simple if you surrender. As for nuclear attack, it depends on who's doing the attacking – them or us. They'd like to but keep getting plutonium caught in their beards. We'd also like to but can't find anything in Afghanistan that doesn't look like a nuclear blast site already.

If vengeance for the lives of 7,000 innocent Americans costs the lives of 50,000 innocent Afghans, is that a price worth paying?

K M Manson, Sheffield

I have no idea what this question means. Is the questioner possessed of some kind of death Visa card? Are they over the death limit and about to get their card snipped?

Have you bought a gas mask yet?

Eileen Mayors, by e-mail

I already have one from when I was covering the Korean student riots back in the Eighties. I use it only to talk to left-wing journalists (Christopher Hitchens excepted – he's suddenly started making sense).

How would you describe the mood in America today?

S Tyler, Cardiff

Moody, but with an undertone of elation due to the cancelling of the Emmy awards.

What do you say to those who claim that the situation we find ourselves in today is the inevitable fruit of aggressive foreign policy from both the USA and the UK?

K Pierce-Lynham, by e-mail

To whom have the USA and the UK been aggressive? Maybe Vietnam – but that was a generation ago, and the North Vietnamese and the VietCong (let alone the Khmer Rouge) were no basket of warm puppies. In the main, our foreign policy has been ridiculously pacifistic, and you gave up your whole empire after the Second World War. I would say it's the success of modern liberal secular society all over the world that is making these people so angry. It's terrifying to fundamentalists of every kind – whether Christian, Islamic or Jewish. They're all terrified of the society that we live in. The one that is so rich and successful, it's come to run the world.

Who would you like to see leading your country at this benighted hour?

Nicholas McPhail, by e-mail

The beauty of democracy is that an average, random, unremarkable citizen can lead it. And we've found him.


Can you still drive fast on drugs while getting your wing-wang squeezed and not spill your drink?

Philip Jones, by e-mail

A proper answer would require a long discussion of the English verbs "can", "may", "will", "shall" – all so closely related but, like royal brothers in Ottoman courts of yore, tending to fatal differences. The short answer is no.

A title of one of your early books was Give War a Chance . In the light of recent events, do you still hold to this credo?

Sally Lee, Bucks

"Credo" is as it may be. But "Give Communications Intercepts, Intelligence Agent Penetration of Terrorist Cells, Limited Special Forces Covert Actions and Suppression of Worldwide Money-Laundering Activities a Chance" will never be a book title.

Which rich person would you most like to eat?

Rob Byatt, Newcastle upon Tyne

No polite response to that question can be given in a family newspaper. Patsy Kensit.


Tony Blair's done everything except send candy and flowers. Will GWB return his phone calls some time soon?

Dom Hogan, Urmston, Manchester

It's always about commitment, isn't it? I'm sure, in the light of current events, George W will be willing to go under-the-sweater-over-the-bra with Tony.


Do you understand why the Muslim world despises America? And if you understand, do you think they're being silly?

S P Amos, Gloucester

I've never seen evidence that the Muslim world despises America, at least any more than I do when I see N'Sync or have to visit Los Angeles. In Beirut in 1984 I was held at gunpoint by a young Shia militiaman, who lectured me for half an hour about how America fathered Zionism, was the Great Satan and caused all the trouble in the world generally. Then he told me that, as soon as his green card came through, he was going to Detroit, Michigan, to study dentistry. The people who despise America are the editors of the New Statesman. Their green-card applications must have been turned down.

When is vengeance morally defensible?

Holly Chaplin, by e-mail

When it is meted out to the editors of the New Statesman.

Do you imagine that the 'war against terrorism' can be won?

A Heyward, Nottingham

If we can rid the world of the Macarena, we can do anything.

You have appeared on British TV screens, advertising a transatlantic airline. What do you think are the prospects for the industry now, and will you be cancelling any flights?

Maureen Fines, Harlow, Essex

I didn't walk here Jesus-fashion and I don't intend to swim back. I remain a BA fan. As for domestic US flights, I've spent two decades in the middle seat, between the 400lb Jehovah's witness and the screaming child covered in peanut butter. How much more horrifying can air travel get?

Who do you think were the funniest guys in the National Lampoon office when you were there?

Scott Campbell, Beeston, Nottingham

The fellows selling advertising. One of the ad salesmen wandered into the editorial offices during the 1970s cravat-width-and-pattern crisis, and George W S Trow said to him, "Some say it's a necktie; others think it's a new board game."

What makes you laugh?

T Singh, Brighton

The New Statesman.

The last piece I saw of yours about the Clintons must have been written in 1994. Now he's retired and she's doing good in NY state, will you find time to re-evaluate their contribution to American society?

Dom Hogan, Urmston, Manchester

Any temptation to re-evaluate Bill Clinton can be cured by imagining him still in office on 11 September – crying copiously (for a minute), lobbing a cruise missile at the Kabul recycling centre, declaring victory and going back to snapping the elastic on the knickers of adolescent volunteers in the West Wing.

Do you think the world will ever be the same after the events in America?

T Mardol, by e-mail

What's that Housman line, "The world is still the old world yet"? I can't remember exactly, but it comes from the poem "Terence, This Is Stupid Stuff", which contains the even more pertinent couplet: "And malt does more than Milton can/ To justify God's ways to man."

'The CEO of the Sofa' is published by Atlantic Books, priced £16.99