I read recently that, during our public-relations campaign last fall, we airdropped more than 2.5 million Pop-Tarts(R) onto Afghanistan. I knew we’d sent a lot, but until now I hadn’t seen hard numbers. That strikes me as a mess of Pop-Tarts(R).
This led me to wonder two things.
First, did we drop toasters as well?
I haven’t eaten a Pop-Tart(R) since about 1970, but as I recall, the only way to render this dubiously foodlike substance even remotely palatable was through toasting. Then, if you ate them before the warmth had dissipated, the taste became almost distinguishable from that of corrugated cardboard.
My second question is a more fundamental one: Why Pop-Tarts(R)?
I think we can safely assume that starving refugees in a country that has been sequentially bombed back to the Stone Age, the Pleistocene, the Cambrian and the Pre-Cambrian over the past 30 years are unlikely to have access to functioning electrical outlets — even if we’d had the foresight to supply toasters. And, keeping company with Pascal, I know that the bureaucratic “heart has its reasons, which reason knows nothing of.” But, really: Pop-Tarts(R)?
Why not Little Debbie(R) cakes? Little Debbies hail from the same nutritional wasteland as Pop-Tarts(R), but they taste almost like food without recourse to toasters, and they hardly remind the eater of cardboard at all. (This is not intended to diminish in any way the remarkable achievement of their maker, McKee Food, vis-a-vis microwaving — whose effect on the white, plasticular goo sandwiched between Little Debbies(R)’ chocolate layers is a wonder to behold.)
It also occurs to me that a populace lacking toasters and outlets is most unlikely to nuke Little Debbies(R) or Pop-Tarts(R), though Bush clearly thinks they want to nuke us.
Why not Bama Pecan Pies(R), for that matter? They actually contain some real food (nuts, to you) and the crust tastes just enough like cardboard to satisfy the most discriminating bureaucrat. In fact, if the millionaires who fill the president’s cabinet had put this question to their nannies, their cooks and their chauffeurs, they would have learned that modern supermarkets are full of prepackaged, non-nutritional foodlike substances, many of which are ideally suited for airborne delivery.
The answer turns out to be as predictable as the rest of what passes for government policy these days — corporate ties. Donald Rumsfeld, our heroic secretary of defense, our champion of liberty, our Knight Templar, recently served on the board of directors of the Kellogg Company.
Well, peel me off the pavement — I am so shocked!
Oh, I know it’s not as simple as that. I’m sure Don didn’t pick up the phone and order our troops into Safeway to requisition 450,000 boxes of Pop-Tarts(R). In these circles, influence is peddled much more subtly. Kellogg is a Fortune 500 company with annual sales of more than $9 billion, while McKee ($860 million yearly) and Bama ($50 million) are much smaller: successful operations, but still only bit players in the real world of power and politics, where who-you-know is the primary grease for nearly every big wheel.
Kellogg’s latest business plan reads like a Rumsfeld war-room manifesto. There are only three points to the scheme: “1. Prioritize to Win, 2. Set the Right Targets, and 3. Sweat the Execution.” This stuff could have been written by hacks in the current administration, though I doubt Bush ever sweated an execution in his manor-born life, having gone so far as to publicly mock one condemned woman’s plea for clemency.
Then, too, the Brits are major corn-flake fans. Huge. So, given their considerable fondness for Kellogg’s products, the adoption of Pop-Tarts(R) as the manna of choice in all of those cluster-bomb-colored containers we dumped must have left a warm and fuzzy feeling among Tony Blair’s constituents. Mom. Corn flakes. Pop-Tarts(R). Why, it all fits!
Except for the lack of toasters.
Has Donald Rumsfeld been too busy to chat with Tommy Thompson, our secretary of health and human services, who was lately on the board at General Electric? Surely the friendly folks at GE would have carved out a sweet deal on toasters for Thompson if Rumsfeld had just asked. Hell, Attorney General John Ashcroft would probably have cut GE some slack on their recent $9.5 million fraud fine if only they had shown a little patriotic zeal and thrown in some electrical generators to sweeten the deal!
Meanwhile, if we had ever been willing to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the World Court (which we helped create), we would now be in shackles, headed for the dock. After all, cold Pop-Tarts(R) constitute a crime against humanity.
[Cecil Bothwell is the author of The Icarus Glitch: Another Duck Soup Reader and the editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone.]