Saturday, July 26, 2003

Captive of the One

Wyatt Erp, the new sheriff came to town.  Most just call him W.  He's a real tough cookie and it doesn't take much time till he plasters the trees with the picture of his most wanted – that singular bad guy whose demise will transform Dodge into a safe a peaceful place.  "We're going to get him, dead or alive!"  W sends forth his posse, canons in tow, guns a ‘blazing.  Lot's of destruction, lot's of bodies "theirs" and "ours" – fortunately fewer of ours.  But no enemy number one.  No matter, just as the townsfolk are getting antsy, beginning to ask questions, W has the perfect distraction.  Down come the old pictures to be replaced by another, a guy sporting a mustache and hiding untold boxes of TNT or worse.  The posse will have to go out again, but there is good news -- less mountains and (shhh) lot's of oil.  More loud noises, more destruction and, guess what, no bad guy dead or alive.  We could have sworn that we got him eating in a restaurant, driving in a wagon train, but things just didn't turn out.

I don't know if Osama or Saddam will be caught.  I don't care, nor should you.  W's bravado notwithstanding, it is of little global consequence.  Leaders do make a difference, but in large measure they simply reflect those whom they lead.  Sure some of them are tyrannical, but even the most evil example Adolph Hitler, represented prevalent public sentiment.  Demonizing and personifying the "enemy" makes for good sound bytes and PR, but is totally out of sync with the current reality or with history.  It leads to the illusion, astoundingly expressed in Washington, that one simple act, the elimination of an individual, will turn things around.  What is so disconcerting about the current situation is that W's team talks with certainty and feigned erudition, but is so clueless.

Ask the Israeli's about the impact of their leadership assassination program?  Did the killing stop when we "got The Sons?"  Of course not.  Five more young Americans have died so far this weekend.  We have lost more kids since W's war ended early in May than during the hostilities that preceded his proclamation of victory.  Perhaps Saddam was a threat, but the fact is that Iraqi's, like almost every other people in human history, don't like being occupied, even by "friends."  Look at the dismal history of Colonialism, and you'll find that not one occupation proved successful long term.  People may not like their own dictators, but they seem to like dictation from the outside even less.  And it's people, not a single individual.  There are no magic bullets in deep seated human conflict.  The idea that there is a "one" has made us all captives – we are the one's imprisoned by circumstance.  And it isn't the first time.  Remember Ho Chi Min?

Paul Bremer was in town.  He made the talk show circuit like someone on a book tour or touting a new Hollywood film.  It was clearly a piece of theater aimed at reassuring us that we had a sound man on the job.  Meanwhile, people are still getting killed (something that's escalating rather than receding), water and electricity remain problems, the kind that hurt ordinary Iraqis, and there seems no discernable light at the end of the tunnel.  So W and the guys (excuse me Condi) keep on talking about the One, when they should be sending Bremer back to Saigon (oops, Baghdad) to figure out how to get us out of the Iraqi's hair and of our own captivity of the one, sooner rather than later.

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