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Weapons of Mass Distraction

At Miami's Winter Music Conference, P. Diddy blows up dance music while the U.S. blows up Iraq

The U.S. Army pushed its product in the days before the start of the war with a street team of hot enlisted chicks in camouflage who distributed mock dog tags to spring breakers outside the Raleigh Hotel. They're missing in action now that the bloodshed has begun. Their mobile recruiting unit has been replaced by a sunshine-yellow H2 with two lions painted in black on its doors promoting Firdosi, purveyors of women's lingerie.

Just what is it about combat chic that helps sell negligees?

"It's big, strong and powerful," says the manly sun god behind the wheel.

The pretty young thing nestled in the passenger seat agrees: "This is a safe car."

Shock and Awe

1:30 p.m. EST, Friday, March 21The U.S. and Royal air forces drop more than 1,500 missiles and bombs on Iraqi targets.

Six swimsuit models sashay down a runway jutting over the pool at the Playboy party at the Raleigh Hotel. Dressed in hot pants, each girl wears a Playboy Bunny insignia with an American flag in the middle stitched on her ass.

Mass Surrender

10 p.m. EST, Friday, March 21Message sent to Iraqi generals: "Surrender now and live; the outcome is not in doubt."

After a long day of interviews, the Iranian-born DJ duo Deep Dish is hosting a party for its own record label, Yoshitoshi. Anything is better than sitting in the hotel room, watching CNN and getting depressed, says Ali Shirazinia. "There's nothing anyone here in Miami can do. The real reason for what's going on is only known by a few. Obviously I hate what's happened to my country." Still the DJ is hopeful. "Maybe inadvertently from what's going on [in Iraq] something will happen [to change Iraq] from within. Change should come from within."

Give Peace a Dance

11 p.m. EST, Saturday, March 22U.S. Marines report "fewer than ten" casualties in a firefight outside Nasiriyah.

Outside the main entrance to Bayfront Park, a single demonstrator carries a placard that says, "Shocked and Aweful." It's unclear if he's commenting on the war, or the sensory bombing campaign beyond the gates where more than 25,000 vibe troopers march between five staging areas. Bodies lie scattered on grassy knolls, casualties of pharmaceutical friendly fire, fallen into cuddle puddles.

Ten hours into this 14-hour megafest, the faithful await the Miami debut of British live techno duo Underworld. Sitting in the garden of the Royal Palm hotel at sunset the day before, front man Karl Hyde said he hoped to offer the crowd deliverance.

"I feel uncomfortable and powerless," said Hyde about the war. "But you know, I came to dance, and that's my job today. It's not [to] preach. Dance is creating positive situations where tens of thousands of people have got happy for hours and hours on end. It's like ripples in a pond, isn't it?"

Hyde says his father was worried about him boarding a flight for a gig in the United States. "Can't they postpone it?" his father asked, reaching his son at the airport where just a few days earlier two men had been stopped carrying homemade bombs. Hyde knew what his father meant, but he egged him on. "Postpone what? The war?"

As a Brit, the heir of an already fallen empire, Hyde has lived with terror his whole life. He remembers seeing a bartender blown up when he was a young man in the IRA Birmingham pub bombings of 1974. "Do you think the world is any less safe now than at any other time?" he asked his father. "Postpone what?" he repeated to himself in the garden at the Royal Palm.

"Postpone life?"

Going on after dark, Underworld transforms the amphitheater into an orgy of the perpetual beat. Waving hands in the air, the crowds dance ecstatically in the aisles, on the benches, against the barricades, and spin in circles beneath green lasers skittering like tracer fire. They have been liberated.

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