Tuesday, April 15, 2003


I was standing in one of those lines today, where someone important is always calling out "next." It got me thinking, isn't that exactly where we are today? I know "it's not over till it's over," but the active war in Iraq appears to be winding down. The fierce resistance wasn't that fierce. which means only a few (still uncounted) thousand humans lost their lives and we have yet to uncover the great cache of weapons of mass destruction. They are saying the world has been rid of imminent threat, at least from this sorry Regime, though we will never know how large or immediate that threat was.

Our leaders are trying hard not to gloat on their rapid victory, trying hard not to place too many American flags up on foreign soil — let them sit on our lapels, they seem to say. We're seeing some happy Iraqi's in the street, some not so happy. We're seeing pathetic medical services, suffering patients and much of a country without power or water. But again, that's not unique — that's war. But what really seems hanging in the air is that call of someone up front saying "next."

All of us are looking for what's next in terms of building this utopian Iraq, a democracy in the heart of the Fertile Crescent. It will be like Turkey they say, a Muslim democracy. They are eager to tell us the two, Muslim and democracy, are not inconsistent, but who ever thought they were? How successful this all will be is yet to be determined in a Balkanized country that heretofore needed a strong dictator to hold it together. How Iraqi it will be, not in name but in reality, is still, despite the rhetoric, an unanswered question. Think about America how many corporate boards that have long been portrayed as independent comprise handpicked buddies of Chief Executives. The only time they really take hold is when their pal screws up badly, really badly. So what will this democratic Iraqi government be? Time will tell.

But the most alarming "next," the one that has worried some of us from the start is how we are talking about Syria. Sure General Powell says we have no intentions, and Tony Blair probably wouldn't invade, but look at the words. Remember, I think words are very important. Chemical Weapons, that's what they are saying about Syria. Remember those guys, those WMDs that got our kids onto ships and planes. Chemical Weapons, the big ones, the immediate threat to neighbors. Those weapons about which we've never heard a word before in connection with Syria.

No one in her right mind would hold a brief for Saddam, wherever he is. No one doubts that he tortured and oppressed his people. We are all well rid of him, but no one with any sense of the world thinks he is alone in that regard. And there is the rub. George Bush's poll numbers move up and the doting press which has given him a pass from day one says he has become a real leader. All true. The question is not whether he is more popular or that he is more of a leader, which he certainly seems to be. The question is where is he leading us. I don't particularly admire George Bush, but that also isn't the point. What I question is a foreign policy with imperial tones by a country that was born of rejecting imperial rule. It troubles me that we're pointing our metaphorical and real missiles at countries with whom we disagree and at the same time dismissing countries who essentially share our values and our democratic practices. We are the United States and we're disuniting everyone.

Next. We really don't know. My level of concern has not diminished and with good reason.

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