Puppetry of the Persians:
Of course Geppetto wanted Pinocchio to be a real boy. The old puppetmaker was tired of plucking splinters out of his fingers, tongue, and cock. For no matter how much you sand the pine sphincter of a marionette, it's still just an asshole made of wood. But flesh, god, how Geppetto dreamed of young, tender boy flesh, even as he pulled Pinocchio to him tight and wept about how wonderful it was just that he had been cut from his strings. When that Blue Fairy finally granted the wish, when she made his sticks supple and changed his sap to blood, Pinocchio knew that he had to try, once again, to run away, even if it meant becoming a donkey. Better an ass than just a piece of ass for an old man whose breath stunk of Lambrusco. So, on his pudgy new boy legs, Pinocchio ran, with that vile cricket constantly pimping for Geppetto, whispering in the boy's ear that he would be better off home.

Geppetto, though, wasn't about to let Pinocchio free, oh, no. He'd faced the belly of a whale to bring him back last time. Pinocchio may have thought he was a real boy, just like he had wished for, but Geppetto was never going to let him forget that he wouldn't have existed without the hammer, nails, and cloth he was first constructed from by Geppetto.

Exactly how much did Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kanal al-Maliki speak at his joint press conference with President George Bush yesterday in Amman, Jordan? 'Cause even a quick scan of the transcript of the event reveals that not only did al-Maliki not have equal time with Bush, but that he was verbally swamped by the flailing Commander-in-Chief, who was making damned sure that everyone knew that puppet strings don't have to be visible to be very much present.

Here's one example: A reporter asked, "Hezbollah has denied that [its] forces trained Moqtada al-Sadr forces, but do you have any information if Hezbollah has actually trained the forces of Moqtada al-Sadr?"

Al-Maliki, who apparently doesn't realize that the key to answering questions of the press is not to answer the question asked, but to answer the question that the voices in your head have asked you, said, "[N]obody has the right, outside of Iraq, to interfere in the political or the security situation inside of Iraq. We invite everybody to cooperate with us, but as far as this issue related to training, Hezbollah denied and they're responsible for their denial." Not much of an answer, but, hey, at least it seems like he paid attention.

Then, without prompting, Bush jumped in, almost interrupting the Prime Minister, spewing talking points like a sliced jugular sprays blood: "Our objective is to help the Maliki government succeed. And today we discussed how to further the success of this government. This is a government that is dedicated to pluralism and rule of law. It's a government elected by the Iraqi people under a constitution approved by the Iraqi people, which, in itself, is an unusual event in the Middle East, by the way." And then, just to demonstrate just how deep his understanding of the region is, Bush started talking about al-Qaeda. Not Hezbollah. Al-Qaeda. Screeched Bush (no, really), "I know that we're providing a useful addition to Iraq by chasing down al Qaeda and by securing -- by helping this country protect itself from al Qaeda."

How embarrassing it must have been for al-Maliki, who had tried so hard just the day before to show that you can't treat a real boy like a puppet, to be dragged in front of the cameras with a hand shoved up his ass to make him turn and speak whatever the puppeteer had scripted. No wonder he couldn't manage a smile. No wonder he seemed a bit put off that Bush had let the whole thing go on longer than they had agreed, when he said, "We said six question, now this is the seventh -- this is the eighth -- eight questions," in response to Bush asking him if he wanted to answer more.

For al-Maliki, the whole event was the rhetorical equivalent of being forced to stand naked with women's panties on his head while the conquerors took souvenir snapshots.

Afterword: Yes, the Rude Pundit's aware that Iraq was not part of Persia, but the title, useless though it may be, made the Rude Pundit giggle. And, besides, are they not both Iran's puppets now?