Once upon a time, there was a profitable company called America. It had a rich and storied history, starting out as a pitiful little colony of the British Empire and ultimately breaking off on its own to become one of the most successful countries on the world stage, until the Halliburton Corporation saw its potential and acquired it in a hostile takeover as one of the conglomerate’s most valuable subsidiaries.

But America’s profits had started to fall off when its Board of Directors improvidently invested in Weapons of Mass Destruction futures in Iraq, and when Dick Cheney, the company’s CEO, only narrowly retained control at a shareholder’s meeting in November, he knew he had to do something spectacular to get back the confidence of his investors.

“We’re screwed!” shouted the CEO. “My court jester told me that God spoke to him personally and said that the streets of Iraq are paved with Weapons of Mass Destruction. But when we sent our weapons inspectors in there, they couldn’t find a thing. It’s just the same as calling God a liar. They deserved to get their heads cut off on the Internet!”

“We’re screwed!” shouted the CEO.

“What are we going to do, Chief?” asked the Undersecretary of Housing and Urban Development, who had only just been promoted from being the Registrar of Voters in Ohio after doing the CEO a favor by seeing some ballots fell off the truck on the way to the counting center. “We can’t press our luck by hoping that the opposition will keep running colorless automatons against us. We’ve got to do something to get the shareholder’s trust back, or we’ll be seeing Hillary Clinton running the corporation in four years.”

“It will never come to that,” growled Cheney with sinister glee. “When the shareholders learn that we were right about the Weapons of Mass Destruction, our popularity will skyrocket so highly that they won’t think twice about our rewriting the company charter making it legal for Arnold to succeed me as CEO. That way we’ll have another one of our men back in this office for another eight years, and we can go to war against whoever we want. Belgium has really been getting on my nerves lately!”

“But, chief,” stammered the Undersecretary, his eyes widening in terror at the fiendish glare on Cheney’s twisted face. “We’ve scoured Iraq for Weapons of Mass Destruction, and we haven’t found so much as a copy of Soldier of Fortune Magazine.”

“Exactly,” scowled the CEO. “And since the Iraqis weren’t cooperative enough to supply us with the Weapons of Mass Destruction we needed to find, we’ll have to plant one ourselves. We’ll send in a new weapons inspector who will search in an area no one thought to look in before, and he’ll find a cache of WMDs so colossal that it would be enough to wipe out the entire human race. And to prove to the shareholders that God is on our side, he’ll find the stockpile on Christmas Day itself.”

The Undersecretary stood dazed in horror at the fiendishness of the plot.

“The only problem is,” continued Cheney, foam streaming from his thin lips, “no one with any intelligence would ever believe that he would find such a forbidding arsenal after we’d already gone over the country with a fine-tooth comb. Who could we possibly get that’s stupid enough to go along with our plan?”

At about this time, a young muse named Jonny M. was being fired from his job as a Chippendale’s dancer. The flabby muse had only gotten the gig after providing a glowing description of his chiseled physique over the phone, but when he arrived at the club with his grotesque paunch sagging over the licorice thong that barely covered his shriveled midsection, the club owner vomited and stuffed him into a nearby dumpster. Undaunted, the muse grabbed a copy of Backstage West and (after rereading the rave review he received for his recent appearance in The Author’s Thumb), scanned the want ads for an exciting new gig. His eyes were drawn to a patriotic image of Uncle Sam, underneath which was the caption “Earn good money while you practice your craft! Weapons Inspector wanted in Iraq.”

Jonny high-tailed it to the Corporate Headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, ready to stand in one of the long lines that always make for an amusing illustration in these idiotic stories. But when the noble muse arrived at the CEO’s office, he was surprised to find that he was the only applicant.

Jonny high-tailed it to the Corporate Headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue.

“Hey, what gives?” asked the muse, regretful that he only choked back three bottles of vodka so that he would be sober enough for the interview. “In all the other stories, there’s always a long line of freaks so that the interviewers are despairing at finding anyone qualified to fill the job when I walk in. Not to mention that it’s an excellent opportunity to sneak in photos of various Jonny Pals standing in line. How come there aren’t any other applicants?”

“There were other applicants,” snapped Cheney. “But then word got out that the Iraqis had beheaded another war contractor on the Internet, and they emptied out of here faster than the people who watched the first two episodes of Joey.”

Word got out that the Iraqis had beheaded another war contractor on the Internet.

As Cheney spoke, he noticed a vacant stare in Jonny’s face that made him suspect that the noble muse might just be dumb enough to be the man he was looking for. He decided to lob Jonny a softball to see just how gullible he was.

“I’m only sorry,” whispered the CEO in a crocodile whine that was so insincere that it couldn’t have fooled a retarded moose (moose being among the least intelligent of all mammals), “that we won’t be able to find the Weapons of Mass Destruction in time to bring our troops home for Christmas!!!”

“Christmas?” asked Jonny, his attention momentarily diverted from checking out johnkerry.com on Cheney’s laptop. “Are you telling me that Christmas might be in jeopardy because of all this? And to think I almost took that job on the Suicide Hotline at Bedford Falls! With Christmas at stake, this is even more important. Get me on a plane to Iraq!”

The handsome muse was still chuckling at his rather forced reference to It’s a Wonderful Life in the preceding paragraph when his plane touched down at the Baghdad airport. Jonny was anxious to high-tail it to the duty-free shop to load up on Kahlua and then get to work saving Christmas for the brave men and women serving their country in this bleak desert. He hopped off the jet expecting to be greeted by a brass band playing "Star and Stripes Forever," but instead beheld a sad cluster of dead-eyed recruits who looked like they’d rather have been assigned to groom Ed Asner’s back hair.

“Hold it right there, you maggot!” screamed a gruff, intimidating voice before the handsome muse’s feet were on the runway. Jonny turned to see a very masculine looking figure in military attire staring disapprovingly at him. “I’m Colonel Mike Kirby, and I’m your guard while you’re looking for WMDs in Baghdad.”

A very masculine looking figure in military attire stared disapprovingly at Jonny.

The muse gulped nervously and started to introduce himself, but was stopped in mid-sentence by the no-nonsense soldier.

“I don’t need to know anything about you,” smirked Kirby. “Don’t ask, don’t tell is our motto; and I can tell about you with just one look, fruity-boy. Now get beside me in the jeep. I don’t want you behind me so you can sneak up on me and perform any sodomization.”

Jonny found that he enjoyed the work despite Kirby’s continuous challenging of his heterosexuality (which, given Jonny’s disastrous romantic history, the muse thought was perfectly reasonable). He would spend his days accompanied by Colonel Kirby by looking fruitlessly for signs of Weapons of Mass Destruction, and entertain himself at night by wondering if any of the readers got that Kirby’s name was the same as John Wayne’s character in The Green Berets. After a while, the noble muse despaired at finding anything more destructive than Kirby’s ego-bruising insults aimed at his masculinity, and cheered himself up by preparing for the inevitable approach of Christmas Eve. The noble muse stayed busy by happily trimming a cactus with tinsel, fastening Christmas stockings from combat amputees' leftover socks, and sharing with the soldiers the gifts of alcohol that he had received as birthday presents on December 15 from the readers of these cards. The muse was heartened to notice that the recruits’ sad eyes brightened at Jonny’s attempts to bring a yuletide feel to the lonely desert, although the Colonel continued to dwell only on his theories on Jonny’s fondness for same-sex perversions. But the muse took no mind, and even wrote a letter to Santa on Colonel Kirby’s behalf asking for a suit of bullet-proof body armor that the army had failed to provide.

The magic night finally came, and Jonny strained his ears to try and hear the faint sound of sleigh bells in the hot desert sky. What he got instead was the overbearing blast of Kirby’s shrill scream blaring in his ear.

“Get up, you pansy maggot,” howled the gruff Marine as he shined a harsh light in the muse’s sleepy eyes. “We just got a tip that there are Weapons of Mass Destruction at the McDonalds on Saddam Hussein Boulevard. It’s probably just a moldy old Big Mac that guy from Super-Size Me left behind, but we’re going to check it out. Up!”

“Get up, you pansy maggot,” howled the gruff Marine.

“But it’s Christmas Eve,” pleaded Jonny. “Couldn’t we just wait until Santa gets here so I can be sure he liked the s’mores I left for him?”

After a quick visit to the infirmary to have Jonny’s broken collarbone set, the muse and Colonel Kirby were off to the McDonald’s to check out the threat. Jonny had been on hundreds of such missions, but this one seemed a little different to him somehow. Kirby usually spent the drive grilling the muse for his opinion of Ricky Martin, but on this trip the Colonel had the focus of a man with a divine calling. The jeep pulled up to the hamburger joint, and Kirby motioned the muse to go inside.

“Aren’t you going to go in first to make sure it isn’t an ambush?” asked Jonny nervously.

“That won’t be necessary this time, maggot,” responded the Colonel with a sneer. “Get inside.”

The noble muse nervously entered the McDonalds as Kirby casually followed. Jonny sized the place up to ascertain any potential hiding places, when he suddenly tripped over a massive black ball in the middle of the restaurant. Jonny didn’t need his half hour training course in identifying Weapons of Mass Destruction to know what it was; years of watching Warner Bros. cartoons had trained him to recognize the black metal ball with the ominous fuse as a deadly bomb!

“Oh my god!” shouted the muse. “There really were Weapons of Mass Destruction. You’d think someone would have spotted it in the middle of the busiest McDonald’s in Iraq, but I guess it’s true that you never think to look in the most obvious places. Hand me the wire cutters, so I can disarm the fuse.”

“You’re not disarming anything.”

Jonny turned around to find Kirby pointing an AK-47 at him.

“I’ve had it up to here with you liberal pansies not getting behind this war,” said Kirby as Jonny stared helplessly at the fuse of the Weapon of Mass Destruction burning ominously towards its explosive core. “It never occurred to you that the military needs to kick some third-world ass just to stay in practice. After this Weapon of Mass Destruction lays waste to Baghdad, the pussy Democrats back in the U.S. will realize that this war was a righteous one after all. I just thank God that we have leadership with the wisdom to know that if you can’t scrounge up enough evidence to go to war, you supply it yourself.”

It was only then that Jonny read the label of the bomb: Made in the U.S.A.!

“Are you telling me,” asked the rather dense muse, “that you planted this bomb yourself to make the American public think it was part of Saddam’s arsenal? I recognize this model of bomb from Road Runner cartoons, and it’s the most deadly model that ACME makes. When it goes off, it will kill all life for miles around, including the brave men and women of the U.S. military who thought that they came here to liberate this country.”

“That’s a price I’m willing to pay,” sneered Kirby. “Today’s military are just a bunch of light loafers who join up so that their tuition at hippie colleges will be paid for by Uncle Sam. After this bomb goes off, the U.S. will get a taste of what real warfare is about. And to win this thing, we’ll have to commit every resource the country has to offer for total victory. The loss of a few million lives is a price I’m easily willing to pay.”

The noble muse could stand it no longer. With an anguished cry, he threw his body over the Weapon of Mass Destruction.

With an anguished cry, Jonny threw his body over the Weapon of Mass Destruction.

“I can’t let you do it,” screamed Jonny as he tried to envelope the massive bomb with his scrawny frame. “The troops came over here in good faith, with the belief that the U.S. government would put everything they had into bringing them back safely. But after living through this debacle that saw us go in to Iraq for dubious reasons with chaotic military tactics and no plan of how to get out once we were in, no they have to feel forsaken by their own leaders on the most sacred day of the year? Christmas is a time when we must embrace our fellow man and live with in the belief that we can trust one another to do the right thing. You may call it naiveté, but I call it faith. And I won’t see that faith betrayed by you or anyone on this most special days. This Weapon of Mass Destruction may kill me, but I only pray that the sacrifice I make will show to others that the selfless spirit of Christmas lives, and must continue living not only in the safety and comfort of the United States, but anywhere that members of the human family live under God’s own sky!”

With that, the muse hugged the Weapon of Mass Destruction tightly to absorb its explosive power, as the burning fuse disappeared into the bomb’s deadly core….

Christmas morning saw Air Force One touch down at the Iraqi airstrip. CEO Cheney knew that the image of his delivering a somber Yuletide address from the carnage of the ravaged desert would be exactly what the United States needed to escalate the war into a truly manly conflict that any world leader could be proud of. But when Cheney looked out of the plane’s window, he couldn’t believe what he saw: not only was the countryside untouched by the Weapon of Mass Destruction’s explosion, but the military base was festively decorated with Christmas cheer. Cheney wanted answers, but when he looked for Kirby to provide them, he found the Colonel locked in a passionate embrace with Jonny M.

Christmas morning saw Air Force One touch down at the Iraqi airstrip.

“What’s going on, here?” demanded Cheney. “I gave strict orders to have Baghdad leveled by now. What happened?”

“I’m sick of living a macho lie,” shot back Kirby. “After seeing Jonny M. sacrifice himself by throwing his body over that Weapon of Mass Destruction, I finally realized the true meaning of Christmas lies in cherishing human life above all things, and to show your true self to the world and allow yourself to be accepted not for living some narrow definition of right and wrong that society handed down to me, but for the complicated, beautiful person that I really am.”

Cheney found the Colonel locked in a passionate embrace with Jonny M.

Kirby paused dramatically for effect.

“I’m a damned fine soldier, and…” the Marine shot a long, meaningful look in the muse’s eyes, “…a damned fine gay soldier to boot!”

“And what about you,” asked Cheney, turning to Jonny. “I thought you were straight.”

“I am,” responded the muse. “But after my disastrous romantic history with women, I thought I’d give this a try.”

“One final question,” summed up Cheney, trying desperately to pretend that he hadn’t heard that last statement. “The Weapon of Mass Destruction was timed to go off at midnight, and there was no way to disarm it. Why wasn’t there a massive explosion that leveled all of Iraq?”

“I knew we were all safe the second I looked at that thing,” replied Jonny sheepishly. “The bomb just fizzled out. The label said ‘Made with pride in the U.S.A., and we all know damned well that U.S, workers are all disillusioned burnouts who don’t do anything with pride. It the bomb had been made in Japan, I knew we’d all be toast. But anything that’s American-made represents shoddy quality.”

So all was happiness in the United States of America subdivision of the Halliburton Corporation. CEO Cheney was thrown out by the Board of Directors, and was replaced by Hillary Clinton (who really didn’t do a better job, but least wasn’t the subject of any obnoxious Michael Moore documentaries.) Colonel Kirby was discharged from the Marines for embracing his gay lifestyle, but found success as a personal stylist on a reality TV show. And everyone in America recognized that Peace on Earth really should mean Peace Everywhere on Earth, and never again declared a war just to show the rest of the world that we’re the most macho bad asses in the universe.

But happiest of all was Jonny M. As he looked around at his friend’s new dedications towards maintaining peace, he took some satisfaction at taking part in it. So, taking a deep breath, he disappeared into a pup tent with Colonel Kirby to see if he’d discovered his true destiny, only to be thrown out less than an hour later when Kirby realized that Jonny was as repellent to men as he is to women.

And happy holidays to you, my friend. Whatever holiday you celebrate, be it Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, or the always-popular Jonny’s Birthday on December 15 in which I cannot overstate the appropriateness of gifts of alcohol; remember that this is the time of year to remember that the phrase Peace on Earth is not only a wishful sentiment, but a challenge to all of us to do whatever we can to make that sentiment a permanent reality. And remember that you always have a loving friend in Jonny M.

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