Top Administration and military officials sat around a conference room table poring over reams of mimeographed sheets of paper and sipping on Perrier.
[quoteright]An Army general rose and began the meeting: "Gentlemen and gentle ladies, in a nutshell, a new weapon
has been developed, one that will be more effective than the atomic bomb, will be easier to put into effect than the Star Wars program, and will be cheaper than any form of sea, air, or land strike."
White House aides eyed each other nervously. Was this fool considering perfecting Agent Orange or some such Viet Nam-era substance? Disabled veterans were still giving them the dickens about that!
A cabinet member harrumphed and interrupted with, "What exactly is it, general?"
"It's a bit like anorexia nervosa, but more sophisticated."
"I beg your pardon?"
The general leafed through his papers to find the appropriate page. "We've got an herbicide that shrinks whatever it touches to the point where nothing is left."
Twelve men and three women let out a collective groan. A White House aide asked, "Does this mean more of our boys might be accidentally, uh, wasted?"
"No, no, of course not!" the general cried. "We're going to tell the Commies the stuff will be good for their crops — kill the weeds and all that — then let them do the wasting bit to themselves. That way, we make a huge profit in the sale of the herbicide and don't have to get involved in any of the messy aspects of mass extermination. Or perhaps elimination would be a better way of saying what we have in mind."
The Secretary of Agriculture chimed in, "It had better not kill the crops! If it does, we'll just wind up shipping over our surpluses for a song."
"We're adding a secret ingredient so it will do in any person who comes into contact with it or ingests it. Think of the possibilities! If the cloud of poisonous fumes doesn't get them, the food they eat will. The herbicide will be in not just the vegetables, but in animals that graze in the fields and are fed the grain. They, like the plants, will be immune to the harmful effects of the substance. I want to repeat that only weeds and humans will disappear."
"What's the next step after that?" the forward-thinking President inquired.
"Then we go in and take over all the Commie countries. It will be twenty-first century imperialism — much more complete than the twentieth-century attempts."
"Shouldn't the Federal Drug Administration try out this herbicide before we send it around the world?" an official from that agency asked.
"Do you want to be the guinea pig when they see if it blows away humans?"
So the new herbicide was shipped to all Communist countries, but, true to form, the Communists sold it and used the profits to buy guns. Now some farmer in Iowa is getting ready to kill his weeds.
Some days, it doesn't pay to get a good idea.
More about SUSAN PACKIE's book, mentioned last issue. It is a collection of 141 poems and 11 illustrations about the Unami Indians, based on her own archaeological field work in New Jersey.
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