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"Gander Sauce"

Back when I was writing plays for serious production, I prepared a file called, "Gander Sauce." Into it went all those choice vignettes, derived mostly from intimate family life, in which someone would be tempted to mutter, or scream, that old proverb "What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander!" If you can do it, so can I. If she can't do it, neither can you.

Lately the old proverb comes to mind as we observe current geopolitics. Two different areas require further pondering.

[1] WMDs. It appears that the American view is that no one is allowed to have weapons of mass destruction but us. We have them, thousands of them, of every conceivable kind. But Iraq is not allowed to have any. We invade, saying they have them, when they do not, and we justify it by saying that they wanted to have them.

We threaten Syria and Iran, and would invade except for the fact that we have no soldiers to send. We have not threatened to invade North Korea or Pakistan, even though they do constitute a real menace to their neighbors. We don't threaten these dangerous countries, because they really do have some WMDs, even though we wish they didn't.

But if they shouldn't have them, why should we? What are they for, atomic bombs, for instance? Why do we need to invent new ones and then make thousands of them? The old ones were for deterrence. These new smaller ones are intended for actual use in hostile action, which was unthinkable before. Why isn't the world ganging up on the U.S., insisting on gander sauce? No one should be permitted to have any. Period.

This concern could help explain why three-fourths of our country has become much like the third world -- it's the impoverishing effect of militarism and military spending. We can't afford health care and education for all, because we're spending our wealth on WMDs. We are in huge debt, because of our wars and our "weapons systems." Globalization can hardly help much, because what we have to sell to the world -- WMDs, F-16s, that sort of thing -- are products which increase the militarization of the planet, which won't alleviate the problem.

[2] War casualties. THE WASHINGTON POST quotes a Reuters report. "An emotional former President George H. W. Bush has defended his son's Iraq war and lashed out at White House critics in a speech to the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association annual convention in San Antonio. The former president appeared to fight back tears as he complained about media coverage of the younger Bush..." THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS summed it up "He sounded like a new father protecting his toddler from a playground bully." It was almost as if all the criticism made "W" a casualty of the war.

But war casualties hurt in all cases, even though Americans often pretend that they hurt only when we suffer them. But what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

General Colin Powell gave a televised public briefing, maps and all, during the first Gulf War in the early 90's. He said, "When confronting an army, our task is to kill it." He proceeded to do just that, with a marvelous disregard for massive Iraqi casualties. When asked later, he stated flatly that he had no numbers, and that he wasn't interested in those numbers.

Now, in another Iraq war, our media keep careful track, almost daily -- 598 as of this writing -- of U.S. troops killed. The Pentagon and the media are much less precise about American troops wounded. No media pictures are allowed of dead or wounded. And there is no reckoning at all, no interest in even trying to count the number of Iraqi dead, military and/or civilian. As if they didn't count. But they do.

Iraqi parents, siblings, offspring and neighbors feel these casualties. Sooner or later those feelings will account for some of the hostility our troops encounter. The pretense that only we are virtuous enough to handle WMDs and invade other countries whenever we feel like it, and that only we are sensitive enough to feel any loss or injury incurred, is both arrogant and foolish. Reality is there, confronting us, and what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, in spite of our pretending otherwise.

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Copyright © 2004 Harry Willson

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