Dan Simpson: There’s something rotten in America
My Top 10 (plus one) list of what’s gone wrong, starting with the Iraq debacle
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Next week I am going to Southern Morocco and ride a camel into the Sahara desert.
|Dan Simpson, a retired U.S. ambassador, is a Post-Gazette associate editor (email@example.com).|
I am not joking and would add that it’s about time. My critics are free to say they hope I don’t come back. I am at the point where I am so exasperated by what is going on in this country, and at such a loss as to what to do about it, that it is time for me to take a break.
A camel is an appropriate partner for me in this enterprise. Don’t get in front of them: They bite. Nor behind them: They kick. My wife is going because she decides sagely when I am fit to come back.
Here is what is wrong, according to me:
1) The Iraq war. It is going on too long; the Bush administration will allow no open consideration of a way out, calling any eyeing of the exits treason, defeatism or betrayal of our brave forces. In the meantime, 2,000 Americans are dead, and money other than that being spent on the stupid war is being sought by the administration and the Congress to pay for Katrina reconstruction.
2) The Katrina deaths. Mostly old, poor African-Americans, we learn. President George W. Bush is back-pedalling away from his initial recognition that the profile of most of Katrina’s victims indicated a deeper problem in our society. Now it’s cut Medicare, Medicaid and other such programs that benefit such people.
3) More reports of abuse by Americans. Burning the bodies of those killed and broadcasting loud-speaker taunts to their colleagues, sacrilege to Muslims, forbidden under the Geneva Conventions. Recall our own reaction when Somalis defaced an American’s body in Mogadishu in 1993. What is in our people’s heads?
4) It is just wrong for companies to make a big profit, or a dishonest buck from the war or from Katrina. There is nothing new about this. It was a phenomenon in the American revolution and the Civil War. But it is completely inconsistent with Bush administration rhetoric about the war on terrorism. But that doesn’t cause either Republican or Democratic politicians to refuse campaign contributions from the companies that make these jumbo profits.
5) The Harriet Miers nomination is a sad spectacle. She might be a nice lady. But Mr. Bush has sent her out to stop arrows for him at a St. Sebastian level of mortification. The theory is that while the people watch that they won’t notice Karl Rove or Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby Jr., go down.
The religious right fighting among themselves over the Miers nomination reminds me of the Protestant congregations in my small Ohio hometown splintering into First and Second and Reformed this, that, or the other churches for reasons that in the end no one remembered or could explain.
6) Reporter Judith Miller of The New York Times, who went to jail for 85 days in the name of protecting journalists’ ability to protect confidential sources, is now being clawed to pieces by enemies she picked up along the way. I don’t expect anyone not to have detractors, but the way journalists are falling on Ms. Miller’s body like vultures on a dead camel’s body — just to choose an image — makes me wonder. Are they jealous and determined to deny her credit for what she did? Is the Bush administration’s habit of responding to criticism by seeking to destroy their critics or their spouses contagious? I have an old-fashioned inclination to honor people who go to jail for principles, particularly one of my principles.
7) The high price of gasoline — which we are now getting used to — just plain makes me angry, based as it is on irresponsible national energy policy, and on oil companies, closely allied to politicians of both parties, raking in obscene profits.
America’s rich are getting much richer, and the poor are becoming more numerous and a higher proportion of America’s population. That isn’t a liberal canard; it is just a fact. The only people who might be able to believe that to be a good thing for our country are, (a) the people who are becoming richer themselves, and, (b) Bush administration economic geniuses who think those people are investing their money in the American economy and that is why it hasn’t tanked deeper than it has.
9) An historical international political question was whether a predominantly Catholic country could be a democracy. Italy, Spain and Ireland settled that one. The current version is, can a Muslim country be a democracy? There aren’t many, but Turkey qualifies. Indonesia and Pakistan are working on it, gingerly. Another interesting question might be whether a democracy ruled by a religious minority can remain a democracy.
10) Why, when the United Nations is needed so badly, to deal with questions such as an appropriate global response to bird flu and the peppering of continuing world conflicts, is it in such a mess? Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s mellifluous tones might sometimes seem comforting, if one didn’t think too much about misdeeds, but, basically, in its 60th year, the organization falls far short of its potential for useful work in dealing with the issues in its portfolio.
11) To break the mathematical beauty of 10 complaints, I will add an 11th, as a Pennsylvanian. Our Legislature is huge, greedy, stupid and totally unresponsive to the population of our state. Its post-midnight 16-34 percent raise for its members is comparable, for me, in terms of larceny, to the Central African Empire’s Jean-Bedel Bokassa placing a golden crown on his own head.
So, scroll ahead to a message, sent from Pittsburgh to me, deep in the Sahara:
Mr. Bush has declared a timetable for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and will take the money saved to rehabilitate New Orleans and its poorest inhabitants. The first war profiteers have been indicted. Harriet Miers has withdrawn her nomination. The oil companies have been billed for excess profits. Kofi Annan has resigned, to be succeeded by Sen. John McCain. The Pennsylvania Legislature has repealed its sneaky-time raise.
The camel just bit me and stepped on me after I passed out.