Spot-on-the-Johnny: The Latest Anti-Terror Weapon
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers
December 28, 2002
The lobbyist for the industrial giant Takeheed-Martin had a giant grin on his face, as he placed his model on the Secretary of Defense's desk.
"With this device, America can be secure," said the lobbyist, Jack Tarter. "This identity-tagger will keep the bad guys away from our borders."
"How's it work?" asked Rumsfeld.
"It's so simple," said the lobbyist, who also was the CEO of TakeHeed-Martin. "With this identity-tagger, which can be focused via satellite on the bad guy's skin, we can detect him hundreds of miles from our borders. We either arrest him, waste him right there, or simply deny him entry when he gets to our shores."
"Or," said Rummy, "since he's wearing the tracer-spot, we could let him in and see where he goes and who he meets, get the whole lot."
"Ashcroft will love it," said Tarter. "You could invite all Arab-American males to register with the government and when they appear, they get zapped -- without them ever realizing it -- by the identity-tagger. Voila! You've got several million young men tagged and locateable at all times. Even the Secretary of Labor will love it: Tracing the potential bad guys will open up hundreds of thousands of new jobs -- non-union, of course."
"Sounds sweet," said Rumsfeld. "Lots of jobs working on the identity-tagger technology, lots of jobs searching for the guys outside our borders, lots of jobs tracing the guys inside America. Even the liberals will be hard-pressed to object, given the state of our economy."
"Right," said Tarter. "Few will bother to ask questions, other than a few fringe politicos and journalists, and those wackos on the internet claiming the billions we're spending on this project could go to education and cleaning up the environment and funding social programs."
"Right," said Rumsfeld. "It's a win-win all around. Great, Jack! Now tell me about the testing; what are the results?"
"Well, Rummy," said Tarter. "The identity-tagger, which right now we're calling 'Spot-on-the-Johnny,' is in the preliminary phases of development, and --"
Rumsfeld interrupted: "You're trying to tell me that it doesn't work."
"Not at all," said Tarter. "But the early tests have been inconclusive. When we've locked radar on the suspected targets before tagging them from the satellites, a few of the tests have proved quite successful. But more recent tries have not worked as well."
"Well, why not, for heaven's sake?"
"Well, Rummy, there are a few minor glitches," said Tarter. "Turns out we can't control the actions of the individuals once they've been annointed with the spot. Some take baths or showers and the effect gets too diluted to be useful. The ingestion of garlic seems to interfere with results, as does lettuce. And hummus. And Pepto-Bismol."
"Jack," said Rumsfeld. "We've been buddies since college, and I trust you. But what I'm hearing is that this miracle tagger has so many things that can go wrong that it's basically worthless in the real world."
"But we're working on it," Rummy. "We're in constant R&D with it, and we should have a prototype that works within, say, 10 or 12 years. But we've got this lovely little model here."
"That's good enough for me," said Rumsfeld. "We'll order six thousand satellite-taggers now and start deploying them, first in Alaska -- just in case something goes wrong. You guys need the money to keep that R&D going -- along with your donations to our re-election campaign -- and the American people, scared silly, will applaud our efforts at dealing with the terrorists and will go along, hang the costs and the fact that it doesn't work. It's not the economy, stupid; it's jobs and the feeling of security."
"Thanks, Rummy. We appreciate your faith in our efforts."
"And let me know, Jack, if you come up with any other sketchy schemes that we can fund that will be win-win all the way around: profits for you and the other defense contractors, political benefit (and donations) for us, the population feeling more secure. And, who knows?, these new technologies might even work some day?"
"Thanks, Rummy. Can I meet the President now?"
"Sure, let's go over and I'll introduce you to Rove."
Copyright 2002 by Bernard Weiner