Archive for July 5th, 2007

Outdated Notions

“We are not there because of oil and we didn’t go there because of oil,” Mr Howard told Sydney Radio 2GB. “A lot of oil comes from the Middle East – we all know that – but the reason we remain there is that we want to give the people of Iraq a possibility of embracing democracy.”

Pre-internet, useless information was not so easy to come by. You had to consult books written by the likes of Gyles Brandreth to unearth it. In one of said publications, I learned that something like 4/5ths of the world’s dates were produced in Iraq. This was in the 1980s however, before Saddam Hussein had incurred the wrath of successive American presidents, who kicked his ass no end.

Well, it looks like things are on the up in Iraq in terms of date production, at least if this 2004 Iraq Fact of The Day from the White House is anything to go by:

Date palms from Iraq were once the envy of the Middle East, but production and quality waned under Saddam Hussein’s mismanagement. Now, a helicopter from the former dictator’s military has been converted to a crop duster by the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture, and the helicopter has already sprayed almost 30,000 acres of date palms. This is a key part of a long-term plan to revitalize Iraq’s date production.

Useless dictator, and a useless manager of dates to boot. A proper dictator/date-manager would have sought out new export markets for the jewel in his country’s production. A dynamic mover and shaker would have found innovative ways of circumventing UN sanctions. Indeed, this is precisely what one expects of people who earn 100s of times the average wage of the workforce.

Sticky dates are delicious, and they are used to make the most divine biscuits: like Fig Rolls, only 1 billion times nicer.

Fig Rolls, as anyone who has paused to taste them whilst cramming them into their maw will be aware, are disgusting. They taste of hoover bags filled with half-chewed Fruit Pastilles.

But, more important, as now deceased In Fact, Ah noted:

Employing almost 80,000 people worldwide and with a revenue of $14 billion the Danone Corporation (that’s weird, the Microsoft Word’s auto-correct function just capitalised corporation) are market leaders in food products.

See, the real story behind the Iraq war is not oil, but dates. There is intense speculation that Saddam Hussein had a fiendish plot to flood world biscuit markets with a cheaper, more delicious Fig Roll substitute. And -it hardly needs disclosing- he planned to publish full details of how he got the dates into the biscuits. On. The. Internet.

This would have prompted a rapid contraction in Danone’s market share, not simply because of the naturally declining popularity of Fig Rolls, but because of the fact that the idea of a ‘secret formula’ -a mere artifice to persuade consumers to part with their money- would have taken a hell of a beating.

There was a real potential that people -especially the gazillions living in emerging markets such as China and India- would be immunised against such extravagant claims of ‘secret ingredients’, much in the same way that L. Casei Immunitas works its magic via those little tubs of waxy white liquid that remind one of the hormone injections given to bulls.

The mystique of advertising would be lost, and the very fabric of consumer society would have been wrought asunder. It barely needs emphasising that it was not only Danone that would be affected: not only did this go all the way to the top, to the likes of Coca-Cola and the US State Department with their ‘democracy’ brand, but it went all the way to the bottom too. It would come to light that the famous secret ingredient in Granny’s Apple Tart, as sold at the rural tea shop, was also a lie. Entire civilisations teetered on the precipice. Democracy needed to assert itself in order to maintain control.

It was therefore inevitable, under these circumstances, that Western forces had to intervene, and overthrow Saddam Hussein. Yet entire nations of useful idiots still think it’s about oil. How fortunate we are to have the likes of John Howard around to speak some degree of sense on these matters.

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July 2007