"Grab a bottle and get dressed to go out

Steve Hammer is on vacation this week. The following column was originally printed in March 2003, during the week the Iraq war started.

By the time this column sees print, bombs may well be raining over Baghdad in the second war with Iraq. It's a time of global uncertainty, a time of angry words and a moment of truth for everyone involved.

While rummaging through some old boxes the other day, I came across a videotape recording of the first night of the Gulf War in 1991. The tape was worn and the audio was out of sync with the pictures.

Wolf Blitzer looked astonishingly young. And the reporting of Peter Arnett, John Holliman and Bernard Shaw from Baghdad was just as compelling as it was in 1991.

Besides the shocking primitiveness of the CNN coverage, several things stood out. One of the most important things I gleaned was the importance of the United Nations in the conflict. Over and over again, officials stressed that we were going to war only with U.N. approval.

Of course, there is no such approval for this conflict, which makes it quite a different animal. The U.N. is seen as an enemy organization these days, as are the governments of France and Germany.

Back in 1991, both those countries were fighting alongside us and shared our goals. The 2003 war has changed the entire geopolitical map.

So we now have the long-threatened Iraq war. What does it mean for you and me? It's hard to say right now, but it doesn't look good.

We're looking at a war that will last weeks and an occupation of Iraq that will last decades. Already, ominous noises have been heard out of Washington about the next war — Iran, perhaps, or Syria.

But there's no reason to despair unduly about the war, especially considering there's nothing you can do about it. In fact, there may be some unintended side-benefits to the war.

For one thing, times of unrest usually lead to a loosening of public morals. That means that the next few months could be some of the best party times of our lifetimes.

Liquor will run more freely now than ever before. There's no better time to party than when danger and doom dominates the public discussion. If there's a certain drink you've always wanted to try, now's the time.

Look for liquor stores and bars to offer great drink specials during the war. You should be able to stay tanked for very little money over the next few months. Look for prices to hit an all-time low.

War usually brings relaxed sexual morals as well. Literature is full of examples of debauchery taking place during wartime. The threat of death makes people live closer to the edge.

So while you may be unable to protest the war effectively, at least you can take advantage of what it brings. Now would be a good time to polish your pickup lines in order to fully enjoy this war.

Music and art usually get better during war as well. It's a sad fact that good economic times produce bad art. Look at the music of the mid-1980s and late 1990s. It sucked, precisely because times were good.

For those of us who've waited 10 years for a good Metallica album, our wait may be over. Perhaps even Pearl Jam can be coaxed to make a good record, now that the apocalypse is nigh.

Maybe for once the great writers of our times will come up with some awesome books. Maybe the great artists will be inspired to create masterworks again.

When it comes down to it, each of us is powerless to affect politicians. We can't stop Bush from prosecuting this war, just as we couldn't stop Clinton from cheating on his wife.

The only effective protest you can make is to register to vote and throw the rascals out come election time. If the war goes badly, Bush will be retiring to Texas two years from now. If it goes well, he'll be fitting himself for a golden crown come the 2004 vote.

So while you may be unable to change any of that, at least you can try to have a good time. The war may be bitter and harsh overseas, and we may face terrorist attacks at home, but at least we can party.

Democracy may be nearing an end, but hedonism is alive and well. It may be the worst of all possible times, but it can also be the best of times if you know what to do.

In other words, put away those protest signs and cancel the peace marches. They won't work anyway. The better thing to do is to grab a bottle and get dressed to go out.

It may well be the end of the world as we know it, but that doesn't mean it's the end of good times. Indeed, it may be the most intense fun you've had in years.

I'll see you at the bar.



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