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Tuesday, March 25, 2003


Three Little Words Dept.

If there's one thing that you must know about me by now, it's that I'm a gambling man. I've yet to meet the wager that I won't stare down, kick in the shins, and then throw gum in its hair while it writhes in pain.

And I thought I'd met my match in Rumsfeld. We rendezvoused in a little-used suite of offices in the level-5 sub-basement of the Pentagon to shoot some dice between press briefings. I'd been ghostwriting his spots ever since the first Mother of All Bombs (MOAB) dropped on the Iraqi high command's pajama party last week. The usual two-button-suited, Kennedy school updates were wanting for sizzle. And I brought the grease and the skillet to his stand-ups before the White House press corp.

Shock and awe? Yeah, that was mine. And it's already played. Next week's phrase is going to be big.

But now Rummy was blowing across the dice rattling in his hands like Saddam's rusty sabre. I threw a pile of twenties at his feet.

"You know, if you were to watch the news, you'd think we were losing this damn war," I said as he prepared to roll.

"Whatever." He rolled. Snake eyes. I picked up my money. "What do they know? MSNBC puts our own helicopter crashing by accident on a loop and neglects to mention that we've ground up the Imperial Palace like coffee beans."

"If I were a betting man, I'd put some serious money down on this turning into another Vietnam," I said, handing the dice back to him.

He rolled again. Snake eyes again. I take his money, again.

"Fuck you."

"If we're so damn tough, why don't we just roll over Baghdad tomorrow? Call in the airstrikes, light up the whole damn city like a book of matches in a fraternity bathroom. Get it over with."

"I could do that if I wanted to. But you know, those embedded reporters might notice a million charred bodies," said Rummy. He held the dice up to his forehead, trying to will them to boxcars. "Burned up civilians really luminesce on those night-vision cameras. PR nightmare."

He rolled again. You know what happened. Money changed hands Bunsen-ward. Rummy removed a wingtip and slammed it against the wall a dozen times, the slapping of his shoe-leather echoing through the empty hallway.

"No, you maniac, don't go barbecuing innocents" I said, flipping through my fattening stack of Andrew Jacksons. "You just need a new catchphrase to see you through the first round of casualties. Three words."

"'Shock and Awe?' We already did that."

"That's played." I waved a fan of twenties under his nose, knowing that makes it angrily, involuntarily vascular.

"Then what?"

"It's going to be fucking huge. Are you ready?"

He slapped my winnings away from his face. "Stop screwing around and tell me already."

"Three new words: 'Total Fucking Victory.'"

Rummy took the dice and heaved them down the hallway. I had the feeling that they landed out of sight, single white dots pointing north.

"I like it," he said. "That'll play in Tallahassee. Hell, that might play in Amman." He started to peel off more bills from his bankroll. Then, thinking better of it, handed me the whole thing. "That dove motherfucker Powell's gonna shit himself!"

"He just might."

"Total Fucking Victory. Man, that's just fun to say. I'm going to go call a press conference. No one will even think about the stubborn resistance in Nasiriya."

"OK, just don't go nuke Baghdad."

"Wanna bet I don't?" he asked.

Before I could answer, Rummy was dancing off up the hall, scooping up his dice on the way to the elevator.

About this site

This is the internet home of Mark Lisanti, a Los Angeles writer sometimes known as Bunsen. He is the founding editor of Defamer, a weblog about Hollywood, where he now serves in the nebulous capacity of "editor-at-large."
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