George Bush’s war against Iraq came and went more quickly than most people expected, but its consequences will be with us for years to come. This is true first and foremost for the tens of thousands of Iraqi families who lost loved ones, or saw their homes and livelihoods destroyed, but it is also true for millions of other Arabs who will certainly draw conclusions from the willingness — indeed, the eagerness — with which the US unleashed its military might against an Arab country whose leader had stepped out of line.
Apart from the cost in human suffering and Arab anger, however, the rapid US military victory left debris of a different kind in its wake: a lot of war-related merchandise which may now be hard to dispose of.
The American Bible Society, for example, sent 50,000 vest pocket-size copies of the New Testament, in desert camouflage, to the troops. Meanwhile, a British company won a contrast to supply the troops with 500,000 condoms in camouflage colors, just like the bibles. The company claimed the condoms were intended solely for the purpose of stopping sand from getting into rifle barrels.
Toy manufacturers emulated George Bush and rushed to war. Companies stepped up production of war toys, especially model planes and helicopters, and brought out new board games pitting the United States against Iraq. One enterprising toymaker even produced a toy Patriot missile with a range of 600 feet, and, of course, suitably attired toy soldiers flooded the market.
In Jordan, entrepreneurs sought to take advantage of the “Scudmania” that erupted in mid-January by producing Scud lapel pins, key chains and similar paraphernalia. Amman pastry chefs turned out cakes shaped like Scuds, and cassette tapes with songs about Saddam Hussein and his missiles briefly displaced Michael Jackson on the local pop charts.
We probably shouldn’t worry about what will become of those who invested in making these once-hot items. Merchants may have to unload their now-unsellable stock at bargain-basement prices, but perhaps new markets can be found. The New Testaments can be sold to US churches, with offensive passages (“Blessed are the peacemakers…”) excised. The condoms might be a hit in this country’s urban combat zones — one more emblem of military chic.
The US war toy manufacturers will simply have to change the camouflage colors they use back to jungle green, suitable for El Salvador or the Philippines, while businessmen supplying the Palestinian market can go back to making molded hands clutching stones, a popular item since the start of the intifada.