Miles Kington: Why not fly the Paraguayan flag? Because of the Chaco War

Desmond bought two Dutch flags, stuck small golden circles on both of them, and hey presto, he had Paraguayan flags on his car!
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The Independent Online

Today, two short tales for our times.

1. The Paraguayan Flag

In the week before the World Cup started, Desmond noticed to his annoyance the proliferation of flags of St George's on people's cars. He was not sure why he was so annoyed, as he quite enjoyed football, and quite wanted England to win, and was quite glad that at least they had got the right flag. (He had recently seen some old footage of the 1966 World Cup Final and was taken aback to see that everyone had been waving Union Jacks.) But he was definitely annoyed by the ever-present flag of St George, in the same way that he had once been very annoyed by all those red noses on cars.

"And the curious thing," he thought to himself, as he drove to work one day, "is that you don't see any Paraguayan flags on any cars. Well, there might be some in Paraguay, but there aren't any here. Yet there must be some Paraguayans living in Britain!"

It only occurred to him when he got to work that he wouldn't recognise the Paraguayan flag anyway, so out of curiosity he looked it up on a website which depicted all the flags of the world. Ah, the flag of Paraguay was a red, white and blue flag, with one strip of each colour. Not vertical, as with the French flag, but running horizontally across the flag like ... like ... he browsed through the other flags until he found that the Paraguayan flag was the same as the Dutch flag, except that it had a small golden blob in the middle. Some sort of coat of arms, he imagined.

In a spirit of devilment Desmond went out that afternoon to a nearby flag and trophy shop and found that they did indeed sell small Dutch flags. He bought two, took them home, stuck small golden circles on both of them, and hey presto - in a moment he had the only Paraguayan flags on any car in Britain!

"Nobody is going to recognise the flag, so I am quite safe," he thought as he drove home, the flag of Paraguay flying proudly on his car.

In which he was quite wrong, because the next morning he found his car windows broken, and a scrawled message on the bonnet: "Death to Paraguay".

"English football supporters are more knowledgeable than I imagined," thought Desmond bitterly.

In which he was also wrong, as his windows had not been attacked by a football supporter at all, but by a passing Bolivian, in memory of the Chaco War (1932-1935), in which Bolivia had been humiliatingly defeated by Paraguay.

MORAL: Knowing thine enemy is all very well, but know thine enemy's enemy as well.

II. The Al-Zarqawi Effect

The Americans had not been doing well in Iraq. Their plans for peace were misfiring. Their plans to get their hands on all that lovely oil were going badly. Even the trial of Saddam Hussein was being ignored. So when the notable terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in an air strike, the guys in Washington DC were cheered up.

"Of course, it's not going to mean the end of the bombing and killing in Iraq," said a man called Dick Jnr at the big White House meeting. "But just for a moment it makes us look good."

"There must be ways of using it to make us look better," said a man with moustache called Fred.

"Like how?" said a man called the President.

"Well," said Fred, "it's well-known that although Osama bin Laden and al-Zarqawi were against us, they were also deadly rivals and were dead jealous of each other. Why don't we put it about that we were enabled to locate and destroy al-Zarqawi because Osama bin Laden gave us the intelligence about his whereabouts?"

"Can't do that," said Dick Jnr.

"Why not?" said the man known as the President.

"Because it's true," said Dick Jnr. "And we have to protect our sources. Even Osama bin Laden."

MORAL: Wow. Thou really dost have to know thine enemy's enemy.

Two more tales for our time tomorrow.

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