Gaylord Guenin: Letter from Woody Creek
Aspen Times Weekly
We are just six months away from inaugurating a new president and I have the uneasy feeling that I’m actually going to miss George W., our mission-accomplished president. It seems obvious now that W., especially after the horrible attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, desperately wanted to be viewed as a John Wayne type ” a swaggering, gun-toting sheriff who would face down the most vile of terrorists and tyrants.
Our invasion of Afghanistan in search of Osama bin Laden and his terrorist group, Al Qaeda, hinted at the possibility that W. might actually be a strong and determined leader. Osama had managed to kill more than 3,000 Americans with his barbaric attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11, an act that shocked the entire free world. When we attacked Afghanistan, we had an amazing amount of international support and then the inexplicable occurred: George W. abandoned his search for Osama and decided to invade Iraq.
Instead of having John Wayne at the helm, it appeared we were suddenly under the direction of Deputy Barney Fife, who was a leading character on the old Andy Griffith television show. Deputy Fife was the personification of ineptness, but at least he was a delightful touch of comic relief. George W. proved himself to be rather inept also, but he was only funny when he didn’t mean to be.
The New Yorker, in its “The Talk of the Town” section in the June 30 edition, reflected for a moment on George W.’s desire to invade Iraq and on a speech made about the same time by Barack Obama.
The speech W. delivered was on Oct. 7, 2002, in Cincinnati, in which he was trying to justify invading Iraq, with pretty faulty intelligence, as it would turn out. It was at this time that he made his infamous “smoking gun” remark, telling his audience, “We cannot wait for the final proof ” the smoking gun ” that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”
Now five days prior to W. speaking in Cincinnati, Barack Obama spoke to a group in Chicago and told them “I don’t oppose all wars,” adding the following (and it is worth remembering that this was 2002 and Obama was still an Illinois state legislator): “I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.”
History will evaluate W.’s decision to invade Iraq and while it may not achieve the status of a “dumb” war, it is doubtful it will ever be seen as a “brilliant” move on W.’s part. And suddenly the war in Afghanistan, the war W. and his neo-con buddies abandoned so Iraq could be invaded, has once again become a hot spot. We entered Afghanistan in 2001 and rather quickly dispatched the Taliban and dealt a major blow to Al Qaeda; and in May of 2003 we announced an end to major combat operations in that nation, without laying hands on Osama.
And while we were desperately trying to maintain order in Iraq, Al Qaeda was busy rebuilding its war machine in Afghanistan, and apparently in Pakistan; and now those terrorists are on the verge of bringing down the very government we helped to establish. It is almost as if we have returned to the beginning once again.
According to Vice President Dick Cheney, the coalition forces were to be welcomed in Iraq as “conquering heroes,” which they were for a brief period of time. Then the shit hit the fan and we discovered that we hadn’t invaded just a single, unified nation, we had invaded a hornet’s nest of divergent groups who seemed to hate one another as much as they hated us. So while we were trying to keep the Sunni, the Shiite and Kurd factions from killing each other, we also were burdened with the task of keeping them from killing us.
Iraq turned out to be an ugly tar pit from which we continue to try to extract ourselves. And as a boot is drawn from that tar pit, we may have to set it down in yet another messy bog, into the mire of Afghanistan, where Hamid Karazi’s government is under threat.
It seems reasonably obvious that George W. and his neo-con friends invaded Iraq with (to quote The New Yorker) “a fatal disregard of political reality in the Middle East.”
The good news is that Deputy Fife and his cowboy approach to international affairs will be out of office in January. But who will replace him? John McCain and Barack Obama are the presumptive candidates for their respective parties, but which one can clean up the mess created by Deputy Fife? That question will be angrily debated in the months to come, so it truly does behoove all of us to pay close attention to what these two men have to say.
McCain and the GOP will hammer Obama on his “lack of experience.” Looking back on the past eight years, one has to wonder just how valuable experience actually is?
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