Eerie to watch Baghdad blasted while fixing dinner

Monday, March 24, 2003 at 12:00am

In the hours and days since 7 p.m. Wednesday, the U.S. deadline for Saddam Hussein to leave his country or face American-made Armageddon, I've been like a guy on Super Bowl Sunday with the remote control, flipping channels madly looking for the latest play.

Everything is too much, and yet I can't get enough. The urge to know trumps the urge not to know. The compulsion to feel what's happening "out there" conquers the instinct to avert one's eyes. It is an altogether strange experience, even for those who were tethered to the TV during the first Gulf War.

Technology has taken yet another broad leap since those relatively innocent days. Today we not only have smart bombs, we have brilliant bombs. They're so smart we can practically chat with them as they make their way toward a faraway target directed by a distant satellite. I half expect to hear a missile remark just before kaboom: "Make my day!"

Back home the effects are dimmed and blurred by a physical distance that also permits a degree of emotional safety. Even so, just 12 hours after the first missiles were fired on what was believed to be Saddam's hideout, reports were trickling out that some Americans were feeling alienated, anxious.

Little wonder. It is not an easy thing to decide to go to war; it is a torturous thing to decide to go to war and then to wait.

Here is alienation. I am in the grocery store shopping for dinner early on the evening of the president's speech announcing his ultimatum to Saddam. At the meat counter, I listen while two ladies cheerfully explain to me how to cook meat in a "brown `n bag," or some such. You put meat in the inflammable plastic sack, and your meal cooks in half the time. Voil

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