'My Camel Ate the Manifest'
Our readers explain it all to Colin Powell.

BY JAMES TARANTO, Monday, January 14, 2002

"Powell Wants Explanation From Arafat"--Associated Press headline, Jan. 11

Friday's Best of the Web Today invited readers to help Yasser Arafat come up with an innocent explanation for the arms shipment the Israelis seized two weeks ago. S.E. Brenner kicked things off by floating the Winona Ryder excuse: Arafat was doing research for a film part.

The response was impressive--more than 200 readers had ideas for Arafat, and many of them were quite witty indeed. Here are our favorites:

Ed Poniatowski: "We bought the stuff to keep it from falling into the hands of the Taliban."

Michael Gleeson: Recent gunfire by Palestinian officials, apparently directed at Israelis, is actually all accidents, misfires and the result of guns being dropped. Israeli propaganda has promoted the false notion that they were intentional. Cargo aboard the ship from Iran was for use in gun-safety classes.

Dan Dressel: There has been a really bad roach problem in Gaza, and they don't trust the locals with poison.

Cliff Thier: "The property that the Israelis stole in international waters were guns that the Palestinian Authority was buying to keep off the streets of American cities and out of the hands of American children. We are outraged that the Israelis, not content to murder thousands of Palestinian children, wish to kill American children as well."

Neal Sanders: It's all a simple ordering error. Arafat, seeking a nonviolent, creative outlet for the Palestinians under his authority, had requested a "shipload of art supplies." Someone in purchasing read it wrong and sent in an order for a "shipload of arms supplies."

Gina Graham: The guns were for the 21-gun salute that Arafat will have to celebrate his next Nobel Peace Price.

Richard Hunter: "Goat season starts Monday."

Charles Austin: "Well, you see, Colin, we acted in the fine tradition of sanctimonious journalists everywhere trying to sneak weapons through airport screeners. Naturally, we had no intent to use any of these weapons. We had already scheduled the press conference to announce how the armed forces and the intelligence services of Israel were clearly not competent to defend the people of Israel without substantially more state assistance. I mean, if they could not keep out a large shipment of arms like this, how could they possibly defend themselves from individual suicide bombers. At the now cancelled press conference, the Palestinian Authority was going to ask the state of Israel to implement programs that would turn all workers into government employees."

Talbot Thrasher: Arafat has in the past, on several occasions, pledged to follow the road of peace. Well, any biblical scholar knows that this entails turning swords into plowshares. So Mr. Arafat had secretly ordered a shipment of "real" weapons, since the Palestinian Authority did not have any of their own, to use in a soon-to-be-announced publicity stunt. They were going to disassemble all the Katusha rockets, use the residual explosives in the blasting required for wells for the new water system, and weld all the now-empty tubes into pipelines to carry the water. Then they would melt down all the shell casings and use the brass for woodscrews for the new housing projects and the remaining electronic components could be converted into thermostats.

Duane Speight: "We need the weapons for self-defense, Mr. Secretary. In case you haven't heard, Palestine is lousy with trigger-happy terrorists!"

Mike Albrecht: "I did not have relations with that vessel, the Karine A."

Pablo Gersten: The Washington, D.C., police department accidentally put the wrong address in their "Guns for Toys" promo, in which inner-city gang members trade their guns for basketballs and Nintendo machines. So unwitting gang members mailed their guns to the Palestinian territories and are anxiously awaiting their new Nintendo Gamecubes.

Geoff Colton: Arafat needed the weapons to seek out and capture the real murderer of Nicole Simpson.

Gregory Taylor: He thought they were pomegranates.

Billy Watson: The shipment was no doubt undertaken when Arafat was distracted because it was his day to be governor of New Jersey.

Bob Mugele: The rifles were obviously for training the Palestinian Olympic team for shooting events such as the modern pentathlon.

Alan Glosson: It was "art" for the lobby of a new Palestinian Authority Headquarters.

M. Farrar: "It was for my daughter's dowry."

Jonathan Brown: The Bush administration was secretly shipping them to Enron.

Marc Rosaaen: Why did he do it? To impress Jodie Foster!

Marc Bielec: Arafat had a coupon that was about to expire for "buy one Katusha rocket, get 10,000 weapons of your choice free."

Brad Randall: "I was planning to use the explosives in a giant fireworks display to celebrate the coming peace agreement with Israel."

Ned Thompson: "My intelligence people said the Taliban were relocating. We needed the arms to defend ourselves against those repressive terrorists."

Peter Hart: "After receiving the arms shipment, I was going to turn it over to Israel--one suicide bomber at a time."

Michael Flynn: "It was all part of my plan to clamp down on terrorists. See, it works like this. I get all the weapons in Gaza. I hand them out to whoever wants them. If they use them, bingo, we know they're a terrorist and we can round them up. It was perfect."

James Walsh: "Well, you see, Secretary Powell, it had come lately to my attention that Iran, which even your very own State Department has identified as a terrorist state, had accumulated a giant stash of weapons that might be used to support terrorist groups, and we in the Palestinian Authority thought that we would do our part to combat terrorism by taking custody of some of those weapons so that they wouldn't fall into the wrong hands. We weren't going to use them to hurt anybody--we just got intercepted by the Israelis before we could land them and get them to the incinerators."

An anonymous reader: Please attribute these to an anonymous reader. We are talking about a terrorist here, you know (or at least an international figure), and I don't want to be identified:

"Haven't you listened to that Johnny Cash song, 'A Boy Named Sue' (where Sue kicks everyone's butt)? I'm scared to death of a man named Sharon."

"Those were prizes for the Jerusalem Midnight Basketball League."

"Ship? What ship? Hey, did you see that story about the guy who beat up the hockey coach?"

"We were hoping to get some local women to pose for G. Gordon Liddy's 'Stacked and Packed' calendar. We've got to compete with that Jewish woman who was just in Playboy."

Rick Richman: He may have been at the meeting authorizing the shipment of the weapons, but he drank a lot of iced tea and may have been in the bathroom when the issue came up.

John Brothers: "Yeah, we ordered those weapons to kill . . . Hey look--over there! Osama bin Laden!" (Arafat scurries away.)

Steve Sturm: There were actually two ships in the Red Sea--the Karine A and the Karine B (or maybe it was the Anna Karine A). One was full of weapons, the other full of toys. The plan was for the Israelis to be lured into boarding the wrong ship, which would result in all kinds of negative publicity. As it was, the Palestinians got it wrong and let the Israelis get the right (wrong?) ship.

Toby Bianchi: "The shipment was clearly marked as SCHOOL SUPPLIES, K-12."

Paul Smith: The ship belongs to the U.S. Postal Service, and darned if they didn't deliver to the wrong address again.

"Katbyte": "My camel ate the manifest."

Gene Scow: The arms that were en route to the area of Israel were actually the arms the Reagan administration passed to Iran during the Iran-Contra deal. The Iranians were just trying to give them to the Israelis via the Palestinians so they could return them to America!

Thomas Macauley: "Was Tom Daschle responsible for the anthrax sent to his office?"

Jerry Dorethy: "The Israelis did this! Arabs are not smart enough to arrange such a shipment. It was brokered by the Israelis, then they doctored the paperwork to implicate us. Surely you can see the pattern after they destroyed the World Trade Center."

Brian Cronin: The Katayusha Rockets are to help with urban renewal--in Tel Aviv.

Brian Stern: It was a gag gift for Ariel Sharon's birthday.

Herve Wiener: Arafat read in Men's Health that chicks dig guys with big arms (shipments).

Scott H.: "Those weapons weren't mine. I was just holding them for a friend. Who? Um, just some dude I met at the gas station. John something. I don't know. Can I go now?"

Joe Chronister: Hoping to bolster his sagging ratings in the United States, Yasser Arafat has hit upon the idea of creating a sitcom about the wacky world of the Palestinian Authority. Knowing the American weakness for the golden days of television comedy and its current preoccupation with all matters military, he decided to shoot a pilot (figuratively speaking) based on the classic "McHale's Navy" in hopes of selling the concept to Hollywood. Arafat himself confidently assumes the role of the hapless and befuddled Capt. Wallace Binghamton, whose authority is constantly undermined by the boisterous high jinks of Lt. Cmdr. Quinton McHale (convincingly played by the Katrine A captain, Omar Akawi). Comic actors from the community theater milieu of Hamas and Islamic Jihad help round out the cast of "Arafat's Navy," their fresh-faced earnestness more than making up for their scant small-screen credentials.

Jim White: "Wait a minute, you just don't understand! Some poor, underprivileged Palestinian kids are having to use rocks!"

Fred deBros: "I totally forgot I ordered them from the shah."

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