Subject All's fair in war and commerce All's fair in war and commerce By Bruce Koepple The

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Subject: All's fair in war and commerce ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- All's fair in war and commerce By Bruce Koepple The Storm may have passed, but its receding squall lines are still visible on the national horizon. It may be decades before the real impact of the Persian Gulf War is known, but what is known now is that the conflict has profoundly changed the way this country responds to its military. One reflection of Operation Desert Storm's aftermath can be seen in the nature of war toys and other commercial items of a military nature. Kay-Bee Toy and Hobby Shop in Plaza Pasadena has a line of Desert Shield (note the pre-January 17 appellation) toy guns and other war paraphernalia, such as walkie-talkies (items which at least teach young Norman Schwartzkopf wanna-be's Morse Code). According to the manager of the store, the guns are selling very well. Kay-Bee also offers three sets of Desert Storm trading cards, manufactured by the Topps Company. (Try to imagine two little boys sitting on a concrete curb talking, with one saying to the other, "Trade you two Colin Powells for a Norman Schwartzkopf and a Patriot missile battery"). According to the manager of the Pasadena Kay-Bee's, the cards are selling like hotcakes. Almost none of the cards, interestingly enough, features a human face (the only card that does is the one of George Bush and it is labelled simply "The Commander-In-Chief"). The subject of most the cards is the military hardware which gave the U.S. an overwhelming edge in the war. The House of Tyrol mail-order firm offers a "Stormin' Norman Desert Storm Teddy Bear", a stuffed ursine critter whose lines and contours strongly resemble those of the U.S. Persian Gulf commander. The bear-general comes dressed in a full battle dress uniform (or, as the girl on the phone described it, a "B.D.U.") and stands over 15 inches tall. The Georgia-based mail order house is letting them go for 39.95. But perhaps the greatest commercial reflection of the war's success can be found in--where else--Army/Navy surplus stores. The Golden West Army/Navy Surplus Store at 1192 E. Colorado Blvd. is such a place. There you can find items including the famous Desert Storm floppy campaign hat, the camouflage-mottled "Schwartzkopf Cap", mounted medal displays (for the Walter Mitty Desert Stormer) and T-Shirts which proudly proclaim "We came, We saw, We kicked ass!." Oddly enough, the proprietors of Golden West say that they were better supplied when the U.S. military contingent in Saudi Arabia was still code-named Desert Shield. After January 17, they claim, their government sources of material dried up (the government itself was so strapped for desert warfare garb that people with relatives stationed in the Gulf would come in to Golden West, buy camouflage fatigues, and ship them to Saudi Arabia). The best-selling item in the store is a relic from the United States' only military defeat. They are thick black-leather jungle boots, manufactured in Korea, for the Vietnamese Army (for which Vietnamese Army, the sales rep tantalizingly does not specify). These boots are very popular with laborers and others who need good solid support for their feet and ankles. Needless to say, thick black leather was neither practical, nor comfortable, for the Saudi desert. So the U.S. government came up with something new in military footwear--a desert boot which laces high and has a very absorbent heel. Of course, anyone who would willingly wear combat boots in civilian life probably loved to finish all the broccoli on his plate as a kid and in high school couldn't wait to get to home to do his geometry homework. A number of toy stores surveyed for this article said they do not carry war toys, bringing to mind the Jesuit saying, "Give us the boy and the man is ours for life." One woman said that her store only carries replica of war planes and that they "don't shoot at anyone." This refusal to give in to a resurgence of gung-ho pro-war machismo may indicate that public attitudes and opinions have not completely reverted to their pre-Vietnam status. A lack of desire to have children imitate war is probably the healthiest indicator of where America may stand at the end of its most recent military endeavor.


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