Paging Tom Cruise

Is Washington Post reporter Steve Vogel covering the war in Afghanistan or
pounding out a script for Top Gun II? "Kabul had flashed by, and Cmdr Morris
'Moby' Leland rolled over the target area north of the city, looking for a
Taliban bunker to destroy with his F/A-18 Hornet, a trusted fighter he had
nicknamed War Admiral," Vogel writes in a breathless October 29 dispatch from the
USS Carl Vinson.

Moby loosed one of the 1,000-pound laser-guided bombs under the jet's wing. It
homed in on the laser spot and exploded in a flash of orange fire. The operative
on the ground radioed confirmation: "That's a shack," slang for a direct hit.
Moby could see a satisfying string of secondary detonations from exploding
ammunition. He then saw something else--enemy fire coming his way. It was a good
time to be leaving.

Moby, you can be my wingman anytime.

--Natasha Hunter

Three Cheers for the Crusades!

When our friends at the National Review sacked the hysterical, overrated
Ann Coulter recently, we always assumed--although they wouldn't admit it--that
even staunch conservatives couldn't stomach the kind of thinking that would
produce a line like "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and
convert them to Christianity" (Coulter's inspired suggestion for a U.S. response
to the terrorist attacks). We were wrong.

"Since September 11 the crusades are news," Thomas F. Madden writes in a
recent piece in the online incarnation of National Review. "Ask a random
American about them and you are likely to see a face wrinkle in disgust." Not
Madden's: "The crusades were a defensive war. They were the West's belated
response to the Muslim conquest of fully two-thirds of the Christian world."

This is true--and totally irrelevant. Modern distaste for the Crusades does
not, as Madden argues, denote a politically correct distaste for Western
imperialism. It denotes a sensible distaste for bloody, vicious religious wars,
whether waged by Christians against Muslims, Muslims against Christians, or
Catholics against Protestants--not to mention Serbs against Bosnians, Islamists
against secular liberals, or Ann Coulter against Afghanistan. Indeed, what's
especially sad about Madden's recitation of all the wrongs inflicted on medieval
Europe by tenth-century Ottomans is that it mimics, probably unintentionally, the
self-serving invocation of ancient defeats and insults by which strongmen like
Slobodan Milosevic and Osama bin Laden have sought to inflame their followers.
We're used to the likes of Milosevic prattling on about the Turkish siege of
Vienna. But why is the National Review joining the crusade?

--Nicholas Confessore

Second Thoughts

In the days after September 11, it seemed, quite a few Americans were stirred
to think about joining the armed forces. "We can't give actual numbers," says
Captain Robert Neave, a U.S. Army recruiting officer based in Landover, Maryland.
"But there was an increase in interest in the volunteer spirit." Alas, says
Neave, most of the volunteers were too old or otherwise did not fit the
military's initial qualifications.

Meanwhile, Generation X seems to be hedging its bets. J.E. McNeil, executive
director of the Center on Conscience and War (a clearinghouse for
conscientious-objector information), reports that the number of calls to her
organization since the attacks have doubled--with half of the callers concerned
about a possible draft and half wondering how, as current members of the United
States' all-volunteer army, they can get out of the service.

--Nicholas Confessore and Noy Thrupkaew

Look Who's Talking

"I don't think it's a damn bit funny. I don't think it's cute... . [It's]
ill-mannered and rude."

Republican Congressman Dick Armey of Texas on learning that Democratic
lawmakers had begun referring to him as part of "the Republican Taliban"

"Barney Fag"

Armey's nickname for openly gay Democratic Congressman Barney Frank of
Massachusetts

"A misguided specialinterest organization"

Armey's nickname for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People

"A Marxist"

Armey's nickname for Hillary Clinton

"Your president"

Armey's nickname for Bill Clinton

--Nicholas Confessore

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