By Tony Russell

Announcer: "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome, once again, to "Let's Pretend," the new Unreality TV show that the whole nation is talking about! And now, here's our host, Blip Barker!"

[Applause, digitally amplified to the level of thunder]

Blip: "Thank you! Good evening, everyone! Welcome to the show that explores the ways millions of Americans turn their backs on reality! Tonight we're going to focus our show on Gulf War II. We've gathered a great set of panelists, all ready to share their techniques with you. We hope each of you out there watching can take something away from the show that you can use in your own life. We'll get to it right after this important message from our sponsors.

[Cut to commercial by utility companies extolling the health benefits of mercury emissions]

Blip [Addressing panelists]: "All right! Let's get started! We have an exciting list of questions this week, submitted by our viewing audience! I'll read each question, and those of you who want to take a swing at it raise your hand, identify yourself, and jump right in."

Blip [Looking directly into the camera]: "Our first question is from a viewer in Strawberry Plains, Tennessee. He writes, 'I am having a hard time dealing with the fact that both of the major reasons we went to war against Iraq turn out to have been false. No weapons of mass destruction have been found, and the bipartisan 9/11 commission says definitively that there were no ties between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Can your panelists explain how they are able to continue to support an administration guilty of either criminal deception or inexcusable incompetence?'

"Well, panelists, there's a tough one for openers! Who wants to take the first crack at it?"

Panelist #1: "I'll give it a stab, Blip. What works best for me is blind faith. I just ignore the facts and put my trust in the President. When he says, 'The reason we said that there is a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda is that there's a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda,' that settles it for me! I mean, the whole definition of faith is 'trust in things unseen,' and nobody has actually seen any connection—or any weapons of mass destruction. You've just got to believe!"

Blip: "That's just great! Panelist number two, you had your hand up?"

Panelist #2: "Yes. I wanted to say that labeling and name-calling work really well for me. When somebody criticizes the President or his administration, I just dismiss it all as liberal propaganda. That way I don't even have to bother dealing with their facts and arguments, because I know they're wrong to begin with!"

Blip: "Good, good. Let me just ask a follow-up question, number two. If the criticism is from Republicans or former administration officials or bipartisan groups or retired military officers or former ambassadors or anonymous intelligence analysts, is it any harder to dismiss them?"

Panelist #2: "No, it isn't, Blip. Of course the liberal label doesn't work in those cases, but I'm able to dismiss critics like that on a variety of other grounds—people trying to promote a book they wrote, people disgruntled because they're out of the loop now, et cetera."

Blip: "And so that keeps you from hearing anything they might have to say?"

Panelist #2: "It does. It works great. In one ear and out the other!"

Blip: "Terrific! That's terrific! Before we tackle another question, let's hear from the people who bring you our show. Don't go away!"

[Cut to commercial by Halliburton showing smiling employees in immaculate kitchens and dining halls, preparing and serving sumptuous feasts to delighted men and women in uniform.]

Blip: "Welcome back to 'Let's Pretend!' Our next question is from a viewer in Cut and Shoot, Texas. He writes, 'I would like to know, from those panelists like me who voted for this administration, contributed money to its campaign, and support it politically, how they avoid feeling they have blood on their hands, now that it's clear the war in Iraq was totally unnecessary, and we're left with over 800 American soldiers dead, as well as maybe 10,000 Iraqi civilians—women and children as well as men, people who would be alive today if we hadn't invaded Iraq."

[Blip looks up.] "Well, how about it, Bush backers? Do you feel responsible in any way for all those corpses, those amputees, those body bags?"

Panelist #3: "Blip, I'd have to say I find that question offensive. So that's the way I deal with it. I get really defensive. The bodies don't bother me, but the question does. No way am I taking responsibility for the consequences of my political choices. I just disconnect. That way I can enjoy my politics without regard to their results."

Blip: "That's got to be a big help: just cut your conscience out of the equation! Thanks for passing that on, number three. Our audience is looking for tips like these that can help them navigate life's tougher challenges."

Panelist #4: "Blip, I've got to say that this whole Gulf War thing is just playing out the Biblical scenario for the end times and the Rapture. So none of it bothers me, because it's all working to fulfill God's plan."

Blip: "So you believe the war has a Divine Sponsor?"

Panelist #4 [Laughing]: "If you want to frame it in television terms, I guess you could put it that way."

Blip: "All right, I guess that about wraps it up for tonight. Hope you enjoyed our show. Join us again next week as we continue the unending battle to think well of ourselves on 'Let's Pretend!'

[Audience cheers as photo of huge American flag is gradually superimposed on screen while camera pans over the group of panelists. Fade to commercial featuring Enron executives encouraging people to invest in their company and 'America's Energy Future.']

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