Tuesday, April 15, 2003

The Looting of Baghdad

Western newspaper proprietors have been inundated over the past few days with a looting problem of their own – high-minded writers running off with precious column inches. The Op Ed, Letters and even the News sections have all been done over.

At first, this looting was thought to be the lower orders (otherwise known as young men), on an ill-educated rampage. It soon became clear, however, from the thoroughness of the job that the looters were rational capitalists after all – they generally knew what they were doing, and in particular, that their fat, 1,500-word booties would be immensely valuable, and easily monetised on the international black market.

Why didn’t the Americans stop them? Or, as the looters themselves wrote in their columns: “Why don’t you guys stop us – we’re doing this in front of your faces, don’t you even care?!”. The taunting didn’t stop there however, with one looter-columnist noting that the Americans were protecting the payroll offices (but no more) of the newspapers. This fact, spreading like wildfire, soon became a compulsory inclusion in all looters' columns.

“They’re protecting the payroll office – which must mean that they want it just for themselves”, the looter-columnists voiced unanimously, as they cashed their pay cheques – for first rights in print only – in disgust.

Meanwhile, experts worldwide are already trying to cut through to the looters hip pocket nerves, by appealing to the better side, or instincts of the international black market – asking them to shun any prose that contains the rare phrase “cradle of civilisation”. Some would say that the horse has bolted, on this front. Others, lead by the well-known collectors (and, according to some whispers, manufacturers too) of funerary-ornament prose, Phillip Adams and Christopher Pearson, protest that the pending black-market bonanza will ruin the value of their existing holdings.

One thing is clear: the looters are now on notice, and will be even more circumspect than usual in peddling their wares on the black market. Local police have warned that the most likely scenario for a secondary resale of the looted column inches will be at a dinner party, after several bottles of red have already gone down. “A cunning looter will offer their column up in oral form at first, disguising it as an ‘I told you so’ anti-Iraq-war anecdote”, the police spokesperson said. “Assuming that the dinner party guests have already self-righteously boycotted their own employer’s payroll offices, in protest against the Americans' outrageous conduct, their urgent need for cash, and alcohol-impaired judgments may cause them to speculatively purchase the print rights of the looted column from the anecdote-teller. After all, the guests will be given the impression that the host got away with it, easily”.

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