Ed Colby: It’s like writing about the sun | AspenTimes.com

Ed Colby: It’s like writing about the sun

When I talk about war with Iraq, I refuse to discuss kids’ arms and legs getting blown off. I won’t talk about Operation Desert Storm and the misguided missiles that went down the ventilation pipe at the Amaria bomb shelter and incinerated those children.

If we fretted over such things, would war ever be possible?

I really don’t want to talk about Iraq at all. Writing about Iraq is like looking at the sun. I’d rather look away. Wouldn’t you?

An intelligent and principled Carbondale woman recently returned from Iraq. She speaks clearly and unambiguously. She calls Saddam misunderstood. His people revere him.

But Stalin had his followers, too. So did Hitler. Brutal megalomaniacs both, their countrymen revered them.

The war drums mesmerize me. The earnest men in dark suits and red ties outline a doctrine of pre-emptive self-defense. “Saddam won’t cooperate,” they say. “He won’t come clean. We have classified information. Now the game is up.”

Interviewed in the press, our soldiers and sailors and airmen pledge their readiness to risk the ultimate warrior’s sacrifice.

Maybe the hawks are right. Maybe we should just “take out” Saddam. Something akin to patriotism stirs me. In my mind’s eye the battle unfolds:

“Hey, Saddam, here’s one for the Kurds.” (An F-16 drops a 500-pound laser-guided bomb on an Iraqi infantry position.)

“Hey, Saddam, maybe you won’t get away this time.” (A Tomahawk cruise missile slams into a presidential palace.)

“Hey, Saddam, you want mass destruction? We’ll show you mass destruction.” (A tank column sweeps down from the north. Destination: Baghdad. The rout is on.)

I awake from my reverie. My heart pounds.

On the West Bank, in the town of Nablus, an occupying army bulldozes Palestinian homes and olive groves to make way for a fundamentalist Jewish “settlement.” For the settlers, this land is a gift from God, the fulfillment of an ancient promise. The bulldozers are a gift from Uncle Sam.

On the West Bank, in the town of Nablus, a teenage Palestinian girl says her morning prayers. After breakfast, she kisses her mother, and her mama never sees the tears in her daughter’s eyes. In a crowded Israeli market the girl pulls the igniter on her chest pack and explodes into a thousand pieces. Afterward her grieving parents collect a $10,000 check from Saddam Hussein.

At the Capitol 100,000 people march, in Florence, Italy, half a million. They don’t understand how war can bring peace. They don ‘t see the cold logic of the men in the dark suits with the red ties.

In a cave deep in a mountain somewhere in Pakistan, Osama bin Laden sips his sweet coffee. He thinks perhaps he could purchase a nuclear bomb from a certain lightly guarded Russian depot. (The depot guards haven’t been paid in months.) Osama strokes his beard and bides his time.

At the UN the French and the Germans throw up a firestorm of protest. (They can be so difficult.)

The Iranians, the Turks, the Saudis, the Jordanians, the Syrians, and the Egyptians all urge Saddam to cooperate with the inspectors. They see war not as the end of trouble but as the beginning. They foresee chaos and the rise of yet more extremism and terrorism.

All the players comprehend the politics and the momentum and the conundrum. (Turkey opposes the war but will still allow the United States to launch a land invasion from its border. It cannot say “no” to America.) Everyone understands that the men in the dark suits and the red ties remain determined, and that the hour draws near.

Finally I climb down off the fence and break my silence. I sit with the doves and the Italians and the nuns. We break bread together, and we pray.

[Beekeeper and ski patroller Ed Colby’s column runs every other week on Tuesdays. His e-mail address is esc@sopris.net]

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