The warriors in waiting

'Weapons inspectors start as the person who searches people at airports, then become editor of "Jane's Explosive Devices of the World"'
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The Independent Online

You are through to the Iraq War Help Line. If you have any questions about the forthcoming war against Iraq, please go ahead and put your questions to our experts...

You are through to the Iraq War Help Line. If you have any questions about the forthcoming war against Iraq, please go ahead and put your questions to our experts...

I have been out of the country for a few days. Did I miss the war against Iraq?

No. But it has already started.

Who's winning?

Oh, it hasn't got as far as military engagement yet. We are in the honeymoon period of the war. If we were in the cinema, we would call this the Pearl & Dean prelude. If it were a boxing title fight, this would be the procession to the ring. If it were a wedding, we would be getting the guests seated...

And if it were sex, this would be foreplay?

Right! And if it were a restaurant meal, this would be the bit before the meal where you're still studying the menu and when the waiter brings those tiny, little tasters to tickle your palate.

Oh, you mean, like a single prawn on a glazed bit of toast?

Yes, or a tiny spiral of pate on a baby biscuit...

...Or a delicious miniature vol- au-vent?

Mmmmm! I sometimes think those bits are the best bit of the meal.

Me, too! So, is this the best bit of the war against Iraq?

Oh, yes! It's like when you're studying the menu in a restaurant, and before the waiter comes to take your order, everything is possible! You can choose anything! The meal could take any shape! That's how it is right now with the war against Iraq!

If there is a war against Iraq, how will it affect us in Britain? Doesn't Blair's support for Bush mean that Saddam Hussein will single us out for retaliation?

Yes.

What form will this take?

Everyone in London will die of a mystery disease.

Oh. So, it's not all bad news, then?

No. Of course, the mystery disease will then spread to rest of the country as well.

Oh. I wish you hadn't told me that.

Change the subject, then.

I'm intrigued by these weapons inspectors. How do you become a weapons inspector? What is the promotion ladder like for a weapons inspector?

Well, you start at the bottom as a person who searches people at airports and says, "Sorry, I'm afraid you can't take corkscrews on the flight, sir." Then you become a fireworks inspector. Then you get experience as an umpire at shooting competitions. Then you do a six-month stint as an editor on Jane's Explosive Devices of the World. Then you get trained by the CIA in a course that will enable you to evade detection as a CIA agent. Then you learn practical skills, such as saying goodbye to the director of a chemical warfare research laboratory at the front door and zipping round to the back door to get in and have a look round before anyone has noticed. Then you buy lots of good books...

Why?

Because weapons inspectors are very seldom working, and spend most of their time on standby. So they do a lot of reading.

Why don't weapons inspectors practise by inspecting other countries beside Iraq? We hear a lot about Israel's build-up of weapons. Why doesn't the UN inspect them?

Because President Bush has already inspected them and says they're fine.

No, but seriously...

But seriously. Don't ask.

Why not?

It makes me get nervy when you ask questions about Israel.

Why? Because the Jewish lobby is amazingly powerful and effective and has President Bush in its pocket and you don't want to say anything to upset them?

That's it. That's torn it. We were doing very nicely, and then you had to spoil everything. Listen, there's a real situation out there! We've got a dangerous hard guy in charge of big-time weapons, a guy who has already ordered military operations, a guy who won't listen to any doves...

You mean, Ariel Sharon?

Right. That's it. You are being cut off from the Iraq War Help Line. Next caller, please...

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