3/31/2003

 

Smoke rising to heaven

 

This whole situation in Iraq just stinks. It’s the result of an unbroken chain of terrible leadership over decades, and may lead to decades of problems, and it all just stinks.

 

President Carter made a serious attempt at starting the country moving away from dependence on oil. Every president since then has either actively thwarted such a plan or done nothing to further it except a few token efforts of window dressing.

 

The basic technology has been around for decades. The Department of Energy says that if we put solar panels over one third of one percent of the U. S. (a small corner of one average size state) we could get all the electricity we need. I’ve seen similar figures for planting crops, like corn, that could produce fuels such as ethanol which could replace gasoline. These are theoretical numbers, and each of these technologies has its problems. The point is, it is doable. The problems could be surmounted if we produced these technologies on a massive scale and made it an absolute must that we achieve this goal.

 

It’s hard to fathom how different our circumstances might be now if we’d been serious about this policy for the last couple of decades. So much of our time, money, and effort that goes into dealing with the Middle East would be unnecessary. If we hadn’t been dependent on their oil we probably would not have cared much about the Iran/Iraq conflict in the ‘80s and wouldn’t have supported Hussein. We likely wouldn’t have ended up with the first war in Iraq, and much of the hatred of the U. S. in that part of the world would be lessened. All the money and military technology that’s gone into two wars and the battle against terrorism could have gone into energy policy.  All the money that’s gone to the Mid-East to buy their oil could have stayed here. The stock market would no longer take a hit any time there’s a disturbance that threatens the flow of oil. Just how much different things might have been with good leadership is hard to imagine.

 

But instead, besides the lack of a real energy policy, we had Bush Sr., in the last few days before Hussein invaded Kuwait, giving repeated diplomatic signs that we didn’t care. Then within a few days after the invasion he did a 180-degree about-face and decided it was so intolerable we’d go to war over it. At the very least that constitutes an almost criminal level of incompetence.

 

Then Clinton and the U. N. in the intervening years never took seriously enough the task of making sure Hussein was disarmed, which might have avoided this whole situation. Then Bush Jr. refuses to allow any form of disarmament other than war, and manages to so bungle international relations that we have the people of the world turning against us when after 9/11/01 they were rallying around us.

 

Now the civilian casualties in Iraq and the soldiers are paying the price. You and I will pay the price for a long time to come, in money, in the compromises made to thwart terrorism, and quite possibly new terrorism. I don’t doubt we’ll win the war in short order and spirits will be high. But what price we finally pay may not become apparent for a long time. We are only now paying some of the price of supporting Hussein in the ‘80s. It’s quite possible terrorists would not have found enough support to pull off 9/11 if it weren’t for the anti-U. S. sentiment stirred up by the first Iraq war and our continued, intensified presence there. It can take time for the chickens to make the long trip home to roost.

 

Without taking anything from the guilt of those who perpetrated 9/11, we could have been smarter and been less entangled in that whole part of the world in the first place. But we are, and heaven has seen the smoke rising from the collapse of the World Trade Center, and smoke rising from Iraq now. It’s the smoke of atrocious leadership. When Cain gave a burnt offering that was rejected and the smoke wouldn’t rise anyone present must have been tainted by the smell. We’ve voted in atrocious leaders, or not voted, which is the same. We’ve acquiesced while they didn’t take care of business, or followed when they led us into trouble. Now people are dying for it and there may be victims for decades yet to come. In the truest meaning of the phrase, this must all just stink to high heaven.