Monday, April 07, 2003

A 'McGuffin' is a term for the device or plot element in a film that catches the viewer's attention or drives the logic of the plot. It is a term associated with the films of Alfred Hitchcock, who invented the term, and Hitchcock explains (or see here) it with a famous story:

"It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men in a train. One man says 'What's that package up there in the baggage rack?' And the other answers, 'Oh that's a McGuffin.' The first one asks 'What's a McGuffin?' 'Well' the other man says, 'Its an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands.' The first man says, 'But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands,' and the other one answers 'Well then that's no McGuffin!' So you see a McGuffin is nothing at all."

The McGuffin in the attack on Iraq is Saddam's supposed weapons of mass destruction. The United States has started this attack on Iraq on the basis of the McGuffin, and has been unable to find it, but of course a real McGuffin doesn't have to actually exist, it just has to drive the plot. Now, it appears that the next part of the story, which continues to drive the plot and explains why the Americans have found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, is that Saddam moved them to Syria. Here is a quote of Mark Shields from a Jim Lehrer interview with Mark Shields and David Brooks:

"One cynical former military person said to me, you know, you've been around enough city police departments, they always find the cigarette in the suspect's raincoat or the illicit substance. No, I mean, I think Jim, probably the most disturbing report I got all week is that the Pentagon now is working on a contingency plan for the invasion of Syria and that the argument is that the weapons of mass destruction, one of the rationalizations is that the weapons of mass destruction have been transported to... across the border."

So now that Syria has the McGuffin, presumably it will receive the next American attack. The McGuffin will then presumably be found in Iran, and so on, driving the Pentagon's dangerous plot around the world.