Bob Hope has been entertaining American combat troops for nearly 50 years, but he never made a road trip like the one this year. Not only are reporters forbidden to report the location of his Operation Desert Shield shows; they are forbidden to report all his jokes. It is said that his brand of humor ("This is Bob -- '110 in the shade and no beer allowed' -- Hope, and I wanna tell yah. . .") might offend or insult deeply religious Saudi Arabians -- and be used by Iraqi propagandists to create Arab resentment of the United States and of our Arab allies.
We find this censorship strange. For one thing, NBC is taping the shows and will broadcast a special on Jan. 12. For another, some of Mr. Hope's famous gags rely on such a very special American decoding of his sly and brilliant combination of leer, wink, whistle, shrug, mock innocence, double take and double entendre that the best cryptanalysts in Baghdad wouldn't even know that local mores were being mocked.
The Hope tour was also forbidden to take scantily clad female singers and dancers into the Arabian desert. This restriction is understandable, since Saudi women must be veiled and their bodies covered in public. It is probably a harmless restriction, too, since no power on earth can keep Bob Hope from communicating the idea of the pinup to the imagination of GIs.