By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
By Raillan Brooks
War is in the air. The nation has been placed on "high" terrorism alert, with warnings about possible chemical or biological attacks by Islamic extremists. Police and military patrols have been stepped up at crowded or sensitive sites. An anti-aircraft missile launcher is parked next to the Washington monument. Many people, especially in big cities like New York where these steps are quite visible, are exhibiting anxiety and fear. Overseas, more than 150,000 Americans in uniform are poised in the Persian Gulf region for a war against Iraq, a dictatorship targeted by the United States for its refusal to destroy all its terror weapons.
But at the same time, paradoxes abound. The president, slashing taxes despite the looming war, says the ailing economy will soon rebound. In fact, it may be the first American warmaybe the first war everwhere, despite the huge cost, the taxpayers will get money back when it's over. You've got to admit, this is the weirdest Armageddon man has ever seen.
Here's how President Bush says it will work. First, we'll defeat Saddam Hussein's military forces with a juggernaut attack from air, land, and sea. The Pentagon estimates this will cost between $100 billion and $200 billion dollars, depending on the war's duration. Then our military will stay behind in Iraq for another couple of years to clean out all of Saddam Hussein's loyalists and prepare the country for democracy. This will run up another big bill.
In the meantime, the president will have pushed his latest round of "stimulus" tax cuts through Congress so that the average family in America will have an extra $1000 or $1500 a year in their pockets.
The president does grant that some brave American men and women will die in the Iraq war (and in other "rogue state" regime changes to follow), but he says somberly that they will have given their all for the greater good.
Mr. Bush also acknowledges that his global mission against "evildoers" plus the tax givebacks to our lucky citizens will produce enormous annual deficits and create an unprecedented national debt. He assures us, however, that over time the tax cuts will stimulate such a surge in new investment and jobs that even with the lowered tax tables, the nation's coffers will be refilled and then some. Neat, huh? But, hey, this is America. We can have it all.
It's almost too good to be true. In fact, it's preposterous. But I've been reading and listening closely to the texts of the president's statementsand also those of his confident aidesand this is indeed President Bush's blueprint. You could look it up for yourself. True, I've used some irony to highlight the scenario, but only so as to see it more clearly.
Without any irony, let me say that I served in the army and as a reporter later in life covered two wars up close. And while I know better than to measure a new military mission by the lessons of wars past, I believe it fair to say that Americans have never experienced anything like the undertaking we seem to be embarking on now. It is truly uncharted territory.
Other than to urge the citizenry to stock up on survival supplies such as duct tape, plastic sheeting, radio batteries, and bottled water, our government has asked no sacrifices of the civilian population. No rationing of scarce goods. No call on the nation's youth for compulsory national service, either in the military or at other essential jobs like teaching or health care work or helping the disadvantaged. National service would make the sacrifice a shared one and would do something actually concrete about "bringing America together"that empty political slogan we get gassed with every four years at campaign time. In brief, if we're at war, then why isn't the home front being mobilized?
As someone who remembers World War II from a schoolkid's perch in a New England mill town, I feel the need to ask: Why aren't all of us being asked to pitch in? Why is the White House saying nothing about the possibility of hard times ahead?
It's no wonder so many Americans are confused over how they should feel about initiating a "preemptive" war against Iraq. The language-spinning on all sides has been intense. Almost from the day of the terrorist carnage of September 11, 2001, the president has said that we are at war. But for several months, he never mentioned the Iraqi dictatorship as a suspect. For good reason, since there is still no evidence that the tyrant Saddam Hussein, despicable as he is, played a role in the planning or execution of the suicide attacks that brought down the World Trade Center towers. It was the followers of another maniac, Osama bin Laden, nesting in Afghanistan, who threw New York City and all of America into a convulsion of panic, bravery, rage, and mourning on 9-11-01.
Bin Laden and most of his coterie have so far escaped the military and intelligence assaults that Washington retaliated with. From time to time, he taunts America with taped messages, calling on Muslims everywhere to rise against the United States and its ally Israel.