Thursday, August 31, 2006

More of the Same

Was watching the end of the news tonight on CNN, or what passes for the news. Apparently, the President has issued a new war 'strategy,' or so the tagline said. I didn't hear what that strategy might be, although I can't imagine it's much more than a very slight variant on 'we're just gonna squat down in the sand until we win,' but the reporters all seemed to be trying to hide their incredulity. Suzanne Malveaux discussed it as part of an election strategy: to try to reach elderly voters and some other constituencies that tend to vote Republican.

I have to admit I'm very familiar with the blunt coldness of election strategies, having hung out with political people for most of my adult life, but I find that even I am shocked by this latest rerun of the, by now, not so secret playbook of the Republican hacks: have Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld (notice how Condi doesn't seem to be in the picture at the moment) run offense straight down the line on terrorism, with the President right behind, carrying the ball, but not actually running anyone down. If anything, can't they just shake things up a little to keep us all from getting bored?

I'm also unusually shocked because the same situation has been going on for about five years now. Absolutely nothing has been accomplished. And the only time these people even try to look like they're accomplishing anything is right before an election. I mean, they don't even make an effort anymore during the off-season. This isn't really about the usual non-critical aspects of domestic policy--taxes, health insurance, parental leave, abortion, etc. Supposedly, this is about an actual war.

But, every two years, the American people buy tickets for this, by now, very pathetic dog and pony show: the dogs are mangy and flea-bitten, with tics and shakes so that they can hardly stand; the ponies have chronic diarrhea and are covered in shit--their teeth are yellow and no one can keep them from biting the little kids. Children are wailing all over the cheap board bleachers, and the tent has rips in the roof that no one's bothered to patch. The circus master is so bored and lazy now that he shows up unshaven and in his underwear. The popcorn is stale and every year someone gets an e. coli infection from the hot dogs. But people keep buying the tickets, even lining up in the pouring rain. Although it does seem they've stopped cheering.

OK, pathetic set of metaphors. But after so many years of this, I don't hold out much hope for the Democrats, or anyone, really, to call the Board of Mental Health and drag these performers back to their hospital beds in straightjackets.

There's a really good article in the September issue of Vanity Fair about why the response of the Air Force on 9/11 was so compromised. I read it to Roger while we were driving on the Garden State Parkway and the the NJ Turnpike, down through Delaware--yes, I read slowly and we stopped to talk about it a lot. We were driving right by an exit for Newark Airport, in fact, could see the flights starting to go into their landing patterns when the article started talking about United 93, which was very creepy.

Did you know that at that point in time there were only 4 manned fighter planes on call to defend approximately 30% of U.S. airspace? And that American Airlines would not confirm, until the evening of 9/11 that American flight 11 was the first one to crash into the World Trade Center? Their refusal to confirm that tied up valuable NORAD resources and unbelievably confused the military situation and response. United Airlines, on the other hand, confirmed the demise of their flights as soon as possible. Did you also know that the FAA was, at that time, allowed to override the military if the military needed to enter commercial airspace?

The article was incredibly sad. Having grown up around military people, including my dad, I'd like to believe that they would actually be given the tools and resources to do their jobs, particularly when it comes to defending Americans on American soil. Oddly enough, I think I trust the military rank and file a lot more than the government, regardless of the name on the Administration.

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