Monday, December 13, 2004

Hess: The Poisoned Chalice

The poisoned chalice. It reads like a page from the thousand and one nights of Scheherazade -- Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. And boy, have they been making fabulous news, right here at home. But who can resist the tale of the poisoned cup that was handed to the handsome prince who claimed the throne of Ukrainia? And what was in it? Dioxin -- Agent Orange -- the stuff we rained on Vietnam. We thought it had been banned, after Love Canal and all, but last week we learned we’re still using it. That came to light only because a couple of helicopters crashed while spreading it over a field of opium poppies, in Afghanistan. That was news to the Pentagon, which said it’s investigating.

The big time cultivation of opium was developed in China by our British soulmates, who waged war on the natives when they tried to suppress it. Another form of chemical warfare was used in the Middle East by none other than Winston Churchill. As a war minister, he dropped mustard gas on natives of what was then called Mesopotamia. Lawrence of Arabia described it as a betrayal of promises he had made to sheiks of Araby to serve the British cause against Turkey. The upshot was a deal that put the French in control of Syria and Lebanon, the British in control of Iraq and Palestine, and Royal Dutch-Shell in control of the oil.

Now Americans have taken charge. And still, you know, it reads like Scheherezade. Ali Baba -- do we have thieves right here at home. Here’s a new page about Marc Rich and his secret pardon and his deals with Saddam Hussein. Here’s our Bernie Kerik and his secret harem downtown. He was at table last night with Bush, can you imagine? Anyway, these next four years are not starting out dull.