Mr. Funhahi smiles at me. Kindly, I think, but then I see the cockroaches and the ravens in his smelly, smelly moustache. "No," I revise, carefully. "This is not a good man." I could easily have added at the back of my mind: this is an evil place. Evil like death.
The United Nations inspectors haven't been back here since 1998, but their report at the end of that year was damning. 15,436 people worked in the plant at that time, processing approximately 17,843,340 animals a day. In the West, that figure is 0; amazingly, however, the release passed without any anger or outrage. Nobody said a word, the largely liberal press chose to ignore the story, and still the killing continued.
There is a sudden, loud mrow, and the spatter of another slaughtered kitten spirals its way towards our feet, comes within six inches and falls again onto the linoleum floor. I look down to see, briefly, a sea of tails and gloves and teeth. It's too much; I look away, my body inwardly vomiticating.
Eventually - after minutes pass - I find the shock has subsided; even this horror, universally offensive as it is, one can become accustomed to. The human spirit, when free and true, is unstoppable. I feel like Superman; "What do you do with the carcasses?" I ask Mr. Funhahi.
He smiles again, and a tiny maggot makes its way out of his moustache, up his lip and into his nostril. Perhaps it will work its way into his brain and become a wormy neuron. "We stuff them," he replies, "and we use them as pepper grinders and salt shakers. The larger animals can be used for storing balsamic vinegar or soy sauce; many people find it adds flavor, actually."
We have been bombing Iraq at the rate of at least one attack a week since 1991; many liberals, funded by old-world interests like humanity and selflessness, believe it should stop. However to do so, according to President Bush and many other free-thinking Republicans, would mean the loss of approximately 6.57 billion kittens in the next year alone.
While Mr. Fuhahi would welcome the ceasement of bombings, I'm sure, I spoke to others in Iraq who disagreed. "The liberal forces are going to do a very grave wrong," Bernard Feldman, a native Iraqi scholarizer, told me. "They must stop and take into account what the children will think. Yes; above all, they must think of the children. And then maybe they will redeem themselves - but until then, I truly believe they are evil."
Feldman, as Iraqi as an Iraqi can be, drives a Ford Taurus and eats at Burger King. "No fatwa," he told me, smiling, "can keep me from my Chicken Whopper". His belief is that the death of so many kittens - if one takes into account kitten deaths in the entire middle east, the death toll rises to an astronomical 785 billion a year - will forever impair the hearts of the world's young. "This is why," he grinnicated, "we must bomb Baghdad".
I would tend to agree.
Benjamin is biting at the heels of science.