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Entering 2005 with, well, anger and angst

Gaylord Guenin

“The difference between genius and idiocy? Genius has its limits.””Foolproof systems do not take into account the ingenuity of fools.”Those quotes are from Wendy Northcutt’s little book, “The Darwin Awards.” In her introduction, Wendy explains that her Darwin Awards “are bestowed upon individuals who improve our gene pool by removing themselves from it in a spectacularly stupid manner.”Michael, a Woody Creek neighbor and old friend, gave me the book as a Christmas present. I am assuming it was intended as something of a “self-help book,” as he is familiar with my own ability to do rather stupid things. I appreciated the gift and Michael’s “concern” for my well-being, but as I thumbed through this extraordinarily strange collection of bizarre and usually fatal tales of misadventure, I couldn’t help thinking of George W., our compassionate-warrior president. I was determined to enter 2005 on an upbeat note, to be filled with hope and optimism. In other words, I was determined to welcome this new year completely free of any thoughts about George W.An impossible task, I fear.No matter where I look, his ineptitude and blundering rise up like some mocking geyser, spewing death from his tragic fiasco in Iraq and spreading mistrust among our neighbors throughout the world. In December, Bob Herbert wrote in The New York Times, “From the earliest planning stages until now, the war in Iraq has been a tragic exercise in official incompetence. The original rationale for the war was wrong. The intelligence was wrong. The estimates of required troop strength were wrong. The war hawk’s guesses about the response of the Iraqi people were wrong, and on and on.” That is a rather grim assessment of things.And, as you must be aware, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has managed to make some rather ugly headlines recently, offering up a flippant response to a young soldier who asked him why his troops had to forage in military dumps in order to find armor for their unprotected vehicles. The good ol’ Rumpster deflected the question with his standard arrogance: “You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want to wish to have at a later time.” Apparently the Rumpster fails to understand that it was “his” Army that stormed into Iraq. He is after all the secretary of defense. He was the one who insisted on a “lean and mean” fighting unit. We didn’t purchase our Army from Wal-Mart, although it wouldn’t surprise me if we weren’t looking into such a goofy idea. The president quickly came to the Rumpster’s defense. At a news conference, George W. told the media, “I know Secretary Rumsfeld’s heart. Beneath that rough and gruff, no-nonsense demeanor is a good human being who cares deeply about the military and deeply about the grief that war causes.” That turned out to be a highly questionable assessment of his defense secretary’s compassion, because the next bit of news out of Washington was the admission that personal letters of condolence sent to the families of individuals killed in Iraq were being signed by an “auto pen,” a machine that duplicates the Rumpster’s signature. Apparently, Rumsfeld insisted he was too busy. Too busy to sign letters to grieving families? That is, at the very least, immoral conduct and it takes arrogance to an unheard-of level. We are beginning to understand precisely what “compassionate conservative” actually means. And speaking of compassion, isn’t it rather curious that it took our president four days to make a statement regarding that horrific and brutal disaster in southern Asia? According to a TV news report, the White House said it was somewhat slow to react because the tragic extent of the tsunami was not immediately known. That is probably fair because it is unlikely anyone could imagine the death toll would achieve the repulsive numbers now hanging over the scene – as I write, the estimate of the dead is more than 155,000 and rising. But even the earliest estimate of casualties, more than 10,000, was worthy of some compassionate words from this administration, words that were slow in coming. However, George W. has put his “foot to the metal” and it appears the United States is going to pour its all into the relief efforts. Our original offer of aid to the region was a piddling $35 million. It has since been increased to $350 million. That is a good sign. If the president sticks with his commitment, he deserves our applause. It is the morally correct thing for America, the richest and most powerful nation on the planet, to do. It also is a wise political move.The world’s largest concentration of Muslims is located in Indonesia and that includes serious pockets of Osama bin Laden followers. It is important for the United States to demonstrate sincere compassion to all those who have suffered immeasurably from the tsunami and its aftermath. Millions of Muslims since the invasion of Iraq have seen us as a pack of gunslinging killers. We now have an opportunity to let them see what I would like to believe is the true America. Race, religion and political views become invisible in great emergencies. We are simply there to do what we can amid one of the world’s most crushing disasters.If George W. can see this through, then maybe I will look forward to thinking about him during 2005.This is the 312th article in a two-part series devoted to the community of Woody Creek, a place where you can donate to the current humanitarian effort simply by dropping by the Woody Creek Store.


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