From America's most outrageous foreign correspondent, a no-holds-barred tour of the new world order
As the Los Angeles Times has hailed, "when it comes to scouting the world for world-class absurdities, P.J. O'Rourke is the right man for the job." In his classic best-sellers, O'Rourke has reported from the front lines of world history, braving the bad traffic, weak drinks, and less than stellar golfing of countless hot spots of war, poverty, and repression. Now with his latest collection, Peace Kills, P.J. casts his ever-shrewd and mordant eye on America's latest adventures in warfare. Imperialism has never been more fun.
To unravel the mysteries of war, O'Rourke first visits Kosovo to find out what happens when we try to have one without hurting anybody: "Wherever there's injustice, oppression, and suffering, America will show up six months later and bomb the country next to where it's happening." He travels to Israel at the outbreak of the intifada. He flies to Egypt in the wake of the 9/11 terrorists' attacks and contemplates bygone lunacies. "Why are the people in the Middle East so crazy? Here, at the pyramids, was an answer from the earliest days of civilization: People have always been crazy." He covers the demonstrations and the denunciations of war. "French ideas, French beliefs, and French actions form a sort of lodestone for humanity. A moral compass needle needs a butt end. Wherever direction France is pointing--toward collaboration with Nazis, accommodation with communists, existentialism, Jerry Lewis, or a UN resolution veto--we can go the other way with a quiet conscience." Finally he arrives in Baghdad with the U.S. Army and, standing in one of Saddam's palaces, decides, "If a reason for invading Iraq was needed, felony interior decorating would have sufficed."
Peace Kills is P. J. O'Rourke as both incisive reporter and absurdist, relevant and irreverent, with a clear eye for everyone's confusion, including his own. O'Rourke understands that peace is sometimes one of the most troubling aspects of war.
O'Rourke has made a career out of telling people off. As a foreign correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly and Rolling Stone, he has demonstrated a flair for sarcasm and an aptitude for making people laugh. In his 11th book, however, this provocateur par excellence presents a more sober and, alas, less funny, take than usual, this time in essays on American foreign policy, including visits to several important countries on the international scene. Starting with Kosovo, he comments on the Serbian-Albanian conflict, then makes his way to Israel, Egypt, Kuwait and Iraq. Other entries look at the effects of September 11 on the U.S. home front, which includes poking fun at airport search techniques and a clever deconstruction of a 2001 statement on peace and social justice signed by 103 Nobelists. O'Rourke's book does many of the things a conservative bestseller is supposed to do: it's irreverent, in-your-face and often offensive (Hillary Clinton: "the furious harridan on the White House third floor"). Yet O'Rourke, the funny man of foreign politics, seems less interested in humor here than in slightly skewed reporting. His articles on Israel and Egypt, for example, are basically descriptive, a diary account of where he went, what he saw, the hotels he stayed in, the food he ate, interrupted every so often by O'Rourke's trademark non sequitur humor. The author's fans probably won't mind the slight shift in direction, though they will wish for more laughs; O'Rourke is one of the most popular conservative authors around and this book, like his others, should find a happy nest on national bestseller lists.
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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April 10, 2005
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Excerpt from Peace Kills by P. J. O'Rourke
Why Americans Hate
I was in Berlin in November 1989, the weekend the wall opened. The Cold War was over. The ICBMs weren't going to fly. The world wouldn't melt in a fusion fireball or freeze in a nuclear winter. Everybody was happy and relieved. And me, too, although I'm not one of those children of the 1950s who was traumatized by the A-bomb. Getting under a school desk during duck-and-cover was more interesting and less scary than the part of the multiplication table that came after "times seven." Still, the notion that, at any time, the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. might blow up the whole world-- my neighborhood included--was in the back of my mind. A little mushroom-shaped cloud marred the sunny horizon of my future as an internationally renowned high school JV football player. If On the Beach was for real, I'd never get tall enough to date Ava Gardner. What's more, whenever I was apprehended in youthful hijinks, Mutually Assured Destruc�tion failed to happen before Dad got home from work. Then, in the fall of 1962, when I was fifteen, Armageddon really did seem to arrive. I made an earnest plea to my blond, freckled biology-class lab partner (for whom, worshipfully, I had under�taken all frog dissection duties). "The Cuban missile crisis," I said, "means we probably won't live long. Let's do it before we die." She demurred. All in all the Cold War was a bad thing.
Twenty-seven years later, wandering through previously sinister Checkpoint Charlie with beer in hand, I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I remember think�ing just those words: "I feel like a weight has been lifted . . ." A wiser person would have been thinking, "I feel like I took a big dump."
Nastiness was already reaccumulating. I reported on some of it in ex-Soviet Georgia, ex-Yugoslav Yugoslavia, the West Bank, Somalia, and Iraq-ravaged Kuwait. The relatively simple, if costive, process of digesting the Communist bloc was complete. America needed to reconstitute its foreign policy with--so to speak--a proper balance of fruit and fiber. The serious people who ponder these things seriously said the new American foreign policy must include:
A different approach to national security;
Universal tenets of democracy.
This didn't occur to me. Frankly, nothing concerning foreign policy had ever occurred to me. I'd been writing about foreign countries and foreign affairs and foreigners for years. But you can own dogs all your life and not have "dog policy."
You have rules, yes--Get off the couch!--and training, sure. We want the dumb creatures to be well behaved and friendly. So we feed foreigners, take care of them, give them treats, and, when absolutely necessary, whack them with a rolled�up newspaper. That was as far as my foreign policy thinking went until the middle 1990s, when I realized America's for�eign policy thinking hadn't gone that far.
In the fall of 1996, I traveled to Bosnia to visit a friend whom I'll call Major Tom. Major Tom was in Banja Luka serving with the NATO-led international peacekeeping force, IFOR. From 1992 to 1995 Bosnian Serbs had fought Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Muslims in an attempt to split Bosnia into two hostile territories. In 1995 the U.S.-brokered Dayton Agreement ended the war by splitting Bosnia into two hos�tile territories. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina was run by Croats and Muslims. The Republika Srpska was run by Serbs. IFOR's job was to "implement and monitor the Day�ton Agreement." Major Tom's job was to sit in an office where Croat and Muslim residents of Republika Srpska went to re�port Dayton Agreement violations.