Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Now What?

My New York Times was at the door this morning. Above the fold was the huge face of someone who had a remarkable resemblance to the Unibomber. A gigantic photo as large as I've seen on that page and tucked in the right hand corner, a dwarf sized image of George W. Bush. Is there a message in that? And it looks like Saddam, unlike those hundreds in Guantanamo, hasn't been taken to such a bad place. An undisclosed location, isn't that where our Vice President lives a lot of the time? I have been a little worried whether Paul Bremer is really in tune with his boss, but when I heard his eloquent words of announcement "we got him," I knew he was right in there.  A message for the moment.

Now don't get me wrong, this is the capture of a really horrible monster who rightly belongs in the pantheon of the most despotic murderers, but his arrest really doesn't change the basic facts one iota. This war, in which thousands have died, and are dying, was still launched on bent truths, and the aftermath continues to be a colossal mess. Yesterday's Times carried a blistering column by Tom Friedman (one of the War's boosters) contending that our government still has no plan all these months after. Perhaps Saddam had symbolic value for those still resisting the occupation, but don't put too much stake in it. The fact is that dictatorships function in the British system, "The King is Dead, Long Live the King." We shouldn't be fooled by our own infatuation with stars and the cult of the personality. Conditions make for unrest not any individual leader.  Conditions remain poor.

The noise will quiet down. You can count on the media to move on as soon as the story gets a little tired and ratings slide. And then we will be back to reality. Nothing has really changed over the weekend. We've made a mess out of the world, we've alienated our friends, and we've taken an ominous turn toward repression of liberties and, as Bill Moyers' Now pointed out, pervasive secrecy at home justified by that unassailable catchall excuse, The War on Terrorism.

So the pundits are now in aircraft carrier mode – mission accomplished. They are telling us unpatriotic naysayers that it's all over. I fully expect to see a life size photo of Howard Dean on the front page of The Weekly Standard – he is the real enemy isn't that right?. Hell, why wait till New Hampshire, why delay until November. This thing is all over and, if not, there always those five crucial votes. Perhaps it is over. I don't think so. For our sakes, I hope it's not. I continue to worry for my children.

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