This article was first published in The eXile on November 5, 2007
FRESNO, CA — By the time you finish this column you will be able to destroy huge buildings, kill hundreds of people in a few minutes, and strike terror into your enemies. And all you need is stuff that I guarantee you already have around the house.
Sound too good to be true? Well, hold on to your hard-ons, because there’s more! This weapon is so impossible to trace that well-trained terrorists all over the world use it to clean up evidence after an operation.
When you realize its potential, you’ll wonder why more irregular armies aren’t using it already. If you’re me, you’ll wonder why you haven’t done it yourself.
You’ve probably figured out what I’m talking about by now. It’s our oldest weapon: fire.
Beavis’ dream come true
I got the idea watching Malibu burn. Oh, man, that was the best day off I’ve had in years. Regular porn doesn’t do much for me, but those clips of “heartbroken house owners” sobbing—man, I was just about creaming in my expand-o-waist black slacks. And talk about guilt-free porn! There’s no downside to watching movie producers’ mansions turn into toxic smoke. Don’t tell me I’m the only Inland Californian who laughed his head off at those follow-up pictures of the Prez hugging teary-eyed billionaires. They all looked like my bank manager. I can’t think of anybody whose houses I’d like to see burned up more, and I wouldn’t mind if their precious purse dogs happened to get forgotten in the big BMW bug-out once the flames made it past those “This Property Protected by….oooh owww hot!” signs. Those properties were protected by zip, nada, a whole lotta nuthin’. You can’t scare a fire, you can’t shoot it. The Mongols and Wehrmacht combined would have to run from a good ol’ SoCal brushfire. That’s a weapon, baby.
And there’s Bush streaking cross-continent on Air Force One to hug the “victims,” with his aides hissing into the ear unit: “Psst! Do ‘compassion’! Squirt some tears, dammit!”
Some websites are already saying what went through my head the second I saw those flames: somebody got smart and stopped playing with bombs and went back to basics, back to what works. Mighta been al Quaeda, but might just as well have been some nut who got fired for not showering because God told him not to. Lotta what they call “agendas” out there. Lotta Bic lighters too. Which means about half the population of this nuthouse qualifies as a suspect.
That’s the beauty of fire: anybody can do it. Actually that’s just one of about a dozen advantages that arson has over bombs. Let’s run ’em down, info-mercial style, Bomb vs. Arson:
Bomb: very tricky to make; easy to score an “own goal” (blow yourself up learning the trade); requires a detonator, very tightly controlled—”not sold at any store” as they say on those sad Oldies Compilation ads; requires electrical expertise, the one thing even most handyman types can’t handle; leaves traces on bomber’s hands, clothes and car; often fails to work; takes a truckload of fertilizer to bring down big buildings; can’t spread beyond immediate target area.
In an infomercial, this is where Christie Brinkley pops up to say, “Gosh Chuck, that sounds way too complicated for me! Isn’t there an easier way for me to lay waste to an enemy city with no risk or obligation?”
And the MC, some unemployed alkie who used to be on Days of Our Lives, says, “There sure is, Christie! Just look at all the advantages you get with our Arson package:
Fire: so easy a caveman, or Douglas Feith, can start one
*So easy to make a little kid can do it. In fact, they do, all the time. Mommy’s Bic plus Daddy’s La-Z-boy equals no more house and BBQ baby. Oldest story in the world. Ever see a toddler make an effective pipe bomb? (Pipe bombs are the worst weapons in the world anyway. The only thing they’re good for is quick amputation of the pipe bomber’s hands and eyes—Nature’s way of saying, “thy genes ye shall not pass on!”)
*Unless you’re one of those toddlers, you won’t get killed by your own arson. Not that hard to walk away from a brushfire—when it’s just getting started. Later, not so easy. But that’s the whole point. In other words, very safe for the arsonist.
*No detonator needed. In fact, no tricky electronics whatsoever. So easy a caveman could do it, and did.
*No traceable chemicals. What are they gonna say if they ever get lucky enough to identify you, “Hey, the suspect has handled gasoline! And a lighter!” Until they start taking smokers off jury lists, and they might in this fucked-up state, no jury on the planet’s going to convict you for handling a 98 cent Bic lighter. And as for gasoline, imagine the interrogation: “We found gas all over your hands, firebug!” “Uh, I used the self-serve and it spilled.” Long awkward silence, ending with you walking out into the daylight, smiling in quiet pride at that big black smoke column over Malibu.
*Unlike bombs, a fire can’t fail to go off. It doesn’t take an Edison to make sure your fire is working. You could send the dumbest guy on the planet to carry out the mission—and according to Tommy Franks, the dumbest guy on the planet is ex-Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith—and he’d get it right.
“Mr. Undersecretary, do you have ignition?”
“Mr. Undersecretary, is the brush now burning?”
Feith: “Oh yeah, hee hee… Pretty fire!”
“Excellent, Mr. Undersecretary, now please vacate the area.”
“Get in the car and go, ya moron!”
It would in fact be Feith’s first successful mission. That’s fire for ya: a real morale-builder, a real resume-packer.*And I’ve saved the best for last: fire is what the pros call a “force multiplier.” Meaning it goes on and on an on, long after that Energizer bunny is fricasee’d in the ashes, a gourmet treat for any coyote willing to get its paws burnt.
Unlike bombs, the size of the fire you set has no relation to its effect. You take a Bic and apply it to some dry weeds upwind of Malibu at the end of the dry season, and that two-inch flame ends up forcing some producer to reschedule his next pool party and restock his cocaine stash. (I bet that “toxic smoke” they warned about in LA was more than toxic, bet it was a real freebase reek.)
A fire that takes one second to start can burn a city five miles away, down to the ground. That makes fire way more effective than most nukes. And a lot easier to make.
Irregular warfare’s Agent Orange
The real question is why it isn’t used more often. Of course we have fire weapons like napalm, flamethrowers, and incendiary bombs, but all of them require hi-tech conventional weapons. And for the foreseeable future, conventional warfare ain’t shit. Until otherwise notified, we’re talking irregular warfare, the only kind that matters.
The Japanese tried sending fire balloons over the Western US in WW II, but that was sheer stupidity. The vector for fire is humans. You use people to start fires. And people, like I keep telling you over and over, are the only essential weapon for an irregular force. In this case, that means one clean-cut Al Qaeda sympathizer who’s learned to smile all the time, keep a job, avoid talking about politics and drive a neutral-looking car (my pick would be a Honda, nothing more boring or invisible than an Accord). There he is standing on a hill inland of Malibu. He’s been mowing his lawn, watching the NBA, blending in like a fanatic, and now that the Santa Ana’s blowing toward the prime real estate on the ocean, he’s ready. He takes a casual glance up and down the road, tosses a little sterno stove into the brush, drives on. Three days later Tori Spelling collects ten million for her beachfront mansion.
Now, in the interests of disclosure and transparency and all that good shit, I should mention that I’m sort of an accused arsonist myself. You may remember that my old friend Victor “-y” Davis Hanson took a few minutes off from his usual dayjob—sucking Cheney’s dick—in order to accuse me of trying to burn down his vineyards. As if. As if I’d work up a sweat lugging gascans into some dusty farm. I’m more the morale-building, inspirational type. I encourage people to find the inner arsonist trapped inside themselves; I don’t go out and wobble my flab doing torch jobs personally.
But Vic must be in love with me or something, because he won’t drop the grape-torching business. He’s written about it at least twice since he first dropped that dime on me in the pages of National Review. And there’s a lesson in that. What it shows is how the neocon mind works. First, they never ever admit they’re wrong–but we all knew that already. The more interesting lesson is how, even though they talk big, they think so small. So lame.
Because if I was going to do a burn on my pal Vic—which I’m not planning to, but if I was—it wouldn’t be some ridiculous, pointless try at burning his grape vines, especially when the poor fool wrote a whole book proving vines don’t burn too well.
No, Vic, I don’t think like that. I think like a real irregular. If I wanted to introduce you to the possibilities of fire as a weapon I’d just attend one of those lectures you give to tell nervous old GOPers that Iraq is going swell, just swell. (Can’t believe the bastard gets paid to do that. Most of the people I know spend their lives lying for nothing.)
I wouldn’t even need a ticket in. Just a 55-gallon drum, a dolly to wheel it up to the entrance, an air conditioner repair guy’s overalls (size XXL, but then most air conditioner repair guys are XXL) and a couple of bike locks, with chains. I’d wait till all those gullible hicks had filed in to the hall, and I’d wait for the applause when VD took the podium. Then I’d tilt up the dolly and get to work, singing something in character—maybe “Ring of Fire”—you can’t go wrong with the Man in Black. First I’d padlock all the emergency exits, then I’d pour all 55 gallons into the lecture hall. The drum would be labeled “cleaning solution” and it’d be truth in advertising, because nothing cleans out a crowded lecture hall faster than burning gasoline. No sprinkler system in the world can handle that volume, and if the gas don’t kill ’em, the stampede when they see the first flames will.
What I like to imagine is Victor up there passing the optimistic word to the very end. As the flames try to get his attention, he’ll be using all that mental discipline he used since the invasion to deny there’s even a problem, “…aside from some lingering embers in a few provinces of the lecture hall, this fire is completely contained.” By this time the hall will be totally black with smoke, but Vic is a gamer and he’ll drop his favorite history bomb on anybody still alive: “Things looked black in 1864, too, you know! And what about the Battle of the—cough, ack!—Bulge? Iwo Jima? The Pusan…the Pusan…” Just about that time Vic’s mighty voice would be silenced for good because his larynx would be even blacker than 1864 and Pusan put together, blacker than a forgotten In-N-Out burger that’s sat all day on the flame broiler while the rookie cooks got high in the employee toilet…
And please don’t tell me this kind of atrocity would “backfire” on the firebug. Hiroshima, Dresden, Tokyo—some pretty big BBQs, and they didn’t backfire on anyone. We’re just talking about the lo-tech irregular-warfare versions of that, and to a serious guerrilla, there are no illegitimate targets. Everything is up for burning. And don’t tell me this kind of “brutality” doesn’t work, either. Let me tell you about the Cinema Rex. Ever see a movie there? I bet you didn’t, because for one thing it was in Abadan, the big oil-refining island off Iran. And for another thing, some of Khomeini’s holy warriors burned down the Cinema Rex just before the Old Man himself came back to Iran and booted the Shah.
See, the Rex had a special feature for kiddies: every Friday after school was out, all the foreign oil-workers’ children would pile into the Rex to watch cartoons. Even a Muslim couldn’t object to that, right?
Wrong. There is very little that a real Khomeini-ite can’t object to, and for them the idea of kids watching movies on a Friday was so horrible that it just naturally called for one of the Faithful to walk around the Rex that Friday afternoon padlocking all the doors, then pouring a couple five-gallon cans of gasoline under the doors and in the windows, and then setting it on fire. Hundreds of children dead.
I’ve never forgotten that story. Made me so sick, as if Carter’s disgusting puss-out wasn’t already nearly killing me, young as I was.
But nobody else remembers it. Did you? Betcha didn’t. Betcha never heard of it. And the Iranians weren’t bothered at all. A few weeks later, hordes of the stupid fucks swarmed over Tehran to welcome the glorious Imam Khomeini. And a few years after that, hordes of kids not much older than the ones that got crisped in Abadan ran through machine gun fire or volunteered to be human mine detonators for Iranian human-wave attacks across the Shatt al-Arab a few miles from Abadan.
Don’t tell me terror doesn’t work. Only amateurs think that. And if the Cinema Rex didn’t hurt Khomeini’s popularity, if Dresden didn’t stop London putting up a statue to Bomber Harris, you honestly expect me to even pretend I’m not giggling, damn near jerking off, watching producers’ houses burn?
Wake up and smell the ashes.
This article was first published in The eXile on November 5, 2007
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