Donald Morrison: The drums of war and the mouse that roared

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Throughout the kingdom, the drums of war were growing louder. The king, however, was vexed. He couldn't hear them.

To win the impending plebiscite and distract his subjects from the plague, he had ordered up a war against He never could remember the country's name. But why was everything so quiet?

In frustration, he summoned his counsellors. "Where's my war?" he thundered. "And where are my drums?"

The chief counsellor shrugged and pointed to the minister of war, who pointed to the foreign secretary. He in turn pointed to the new inspector general, an earnest-looking former village constable in his first day on the job.

"The drums of war?" said he. "That's just an expression. It means momentum is building for the war against, um " The minister of war chimed in: "Coco Rico." To which the foreign secretary corrected: "Costa Brava." To which the keeper of the seal interjected, "Macho Grande." A lively discussion ensued about the actual name.

"Enough!" shouted the king, the only man in the room not wearing a protective mask. "I want a war. With lots of drums!" He stormed out, already running late for his inspection tour of a mask factory and a weekend at one of his sporting retreats.

There was a long silence, broken eventually by the new inspector general: "Anyone here ever been to this country? Maybe we should send somebody down there to, you know, look around and see what we're dealing with?"

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The chief counsellor sternly reminded the new inspector general that his four immediate predecessors in the job had been beheaded for asking too many questions. "Be my guest," the chief counsellor said. "You're the inspector, go inspect. Be back in a week."

Seven days later, the new inspector general returned, bearing charts, graphs and a killer hangover.

"It's called Costa Rica," he told the counsellors. "The good news is that it abolished its army 60 years ago to avoid military coups. It also has one of the region's highest per capita incomes, best education and health systems, cleanest beaches, prettiest women and strongest liquor. Oh, and it gets 99 percent of its energy from sun and wind."

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From the back of the room, a counsellor muttered, "Why can't we have a kingdom like that?"

"The bad news," continued the inspector general, "is that instead of an army, Costa Rica has a small but very competent civil defense force. The very bad news is that it just landed on our southern shore."

From the back of the room, a counsellor gasped, "The mouse that roared!"

"It gets worse," said the new inspector general. "The Costa Ricans are here for training exercises. With us. You see, our countries are longtime allies. Also major trading partners and mutual tourist destinations. Who knew?

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"They buy arms from us, we send them retirees looking for cheap real estate. Besides, the population is 90 percent Hispanic, and most have relatives here. The king needs the Hispanic vote in November. Bottom line: Invading Costa Rica would be political, diplomatic and commercial suicide."

More silence. Costa Rica was the last country left on the list of invasion candidates, all others having been eliminated for political, diplomatic or commercial reasons. Grim-faced to a man, the counsellors began drawing lots to see who would break this news to the increasingly petulant king. After the latest round of plague numbers was announced, the royal executioner had to hire an assistant.

Suddenly, the new inspector general brightened. "By Jove, I've got it!" he exclaimed, snapping his fingers for effect. "The king is so busy promoting hydroxy-oxy-foxy his plague potion, that he doesn't read briefing papers. He'll never know the difference."

The counsellors breathed a collective sigh of relief and other clich s, including recognition. It was true: Though implacable and imperious, the king had the attention span of a hummingbird.

And so it began, the great, glorious, patriotic and totally fake war against

To be continued.

Donald Morrison is an Eagle columnist and advisory board member.


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