META-PARODY….Honestly, I don’t know how important the story about those 380 tons of missing Iraqi explosives is. (That is, I don’t know how important it is in fact, as opposed to important as a campaign issue. Although I don’t know that either.) But whether there’s anything to it or not, conservative response to the news seems almost designed to prove that conservatives really are as bad as Michael Moore says they are.

In a mass email, RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie mutters darkly that what’s really going on is that liberals are trying to suggest that “U.S. troops were derelict in their duty” ? and over at The Corner the party line has already congealed in enthusiastic concurrence. Maybe the stuff was gone before the war, the Cornerites agree. But even if it wasn’t, it was just a screwup by the 101st Airborne anyway. “And count me astonished that if the 101st didn?t know what they were doing that should be an issue from which one candidate would dare attempt to take partisan advantage,” thunders Cliff May in full-blown mock outrage mode ? even though he’s the first to have actually suggested that. “High-ranking Bush-Cheney officials/surrogates, if not Bush himself have to ask: Does John Kerry trust the U.N. bureaucracy…more than the U.S. armed forces?” adds Kathryn Jean Lopez apocalyptically.

Got that? We don’t really care if the stuff is gone or what policy decisions led to it not being locked down in the first place. And anyone who criticizes those policy decisions is an unpatriotic opportunist who’s vilifying the U.S. military and cozying up to the UN.

I swear, it’s almost a parody. Any criticism of Bush’s war policy is actually a criticism of our brave soldiers. And any mention of the IAEA is tantamount to ceding U.S. sovereignty to UN bureaucrats.

If they weren’t so serious, it would be funny. Unfortunately, they’re serious.