Dropping the bomb 

Six months after the terrorist attacks, the nation has been marking its losses and celebrating its newfound unity. There is also a near-universal sense that the war is going well and that President George W. Bush and his team are doing an excellent job.

Unfortunately, almost nothing could be further from the truth.

Within the last week, we’ve had proof that what we’ve been told about the fighting is probably as phony as what we were told for years about Vietnam. Worse, this administration has just revealed itself to be more dangerously reckless than any we’ve had since 1945 in the one area where there is no room for recklessness — nuclear war.

And finally, by imposing heavy tariffs on steel, our selected leader proved he is an utter hypocrite whose supposed free-market beliefs are utter bullshit. It is now clear the Shrub’s only belief, apart from the need to please his corporate keepers, is in the need to do anything that would help boost his own re-election chances.

Nobody wants to face these things. But we have to. Let’s look at the war first. Two weeks ago, it seemed the Afghan conflict was pretty much over. Our chests swelled with the belief we had completely defeated a bitterly divided, backward tribal nation.

But then we learned that, uh, wasn’t quite true. Suddenly, 10 days ago, from out of nowhere came the biggest battle of the “war.” Seven Americans were killed in the first hours, and many more were wounded in several days of hard fighting.

Suddenly, we seemed to be facing hundreds of what were described as al Qaeda fighters. (Curiously, I heard no speculation that Osama bin Laden might be among them, indicating the authorities know that he, like Mullah Omar, had gotten away clean.)

Eventually, though the Pentagon has done all it can to keep reporters from covering the war, the truth leaked out. Our forces were supposed to be there only as support troops. Our glorious Afghan allies were to do the hard fighting … but when the going got tough, our allies got going, all right. Led by one Gen. Zia Lodin, they ran away! Afghan reinforcements never showed up at all, making it a totally American fight.

Good morning, Vietnam!

What’s more, according to The New York Times, there is evidence our worthy allies tipped the enemy off as to what was about to go down. We should have known. The fact is, as anyone who has spent time in such places can tell you, these folks don’t think of “sides” and “nations” the way we do. They are frequently on several sides at once, and have scores of their own to settle. And they’ll happily use us to accomplish that. (Yes boss, that man who stole my goat, he’s a Taliban al Qaeda for sure!)

Well, if we want a low-level war we can scare the children and moderates with, this may serve for a while. But someday, likely soon, all the Afghans are likely to agree that we are now the bad guys. That should be fun.

Of course … we could always nuke ’em. We had a lot of odd characters running our government throughout the Cold War, but after the first few years, they all unhesitatingly agreed on one thing. A nuclear war — any kind of nuclear war — cannot be won. And must never be fought. By anybody. This was so clear that to keep our sanity we adopted a brilliant and seemingly insane nuclear policy, called MAD. Which meant, roughly: If the bad guys launch one, we launch them all, destroying the planet.

That worked perfectly. Nobody was ever seriously tempted to try. Gradually, terrified, the major nuclear powers agreed to start lowering the number of nukes.

The danger never really went away, even if we don’t think about it much anymore. But now George Bush’s Pentagon, in the most frightening policy initiative I can remember, wants to develop new nuclear weapons designed to strike targets in places such as Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria and North Korea. Not to mention our old pals Russia and China.

Thanks to a secret report that was “leaked,” (possibly intentionally) we have learned that our government wants to develop new “earth-penetrating” nukes that can do things like take out Saddam’s underground bunkers. Naturally, there is all sorts of pretty language indicating that this is just designed to “deter unforeseen threats.”

Yeah, right. What it really means is that we are designing a new generation of nukes that will be psychologically easier to use, forgetting that these aren’t like any other weapons, and that even the “cleanest” of them poisons the earth like nothing else.

And if one is ever used, all the inhibitions will be off. If the “bad guys” don’t have any, they will suddenly find it easier to get some. Not to be melodramatic, but down that way really does lie the end of humanity. By the way, the report almost casually says the United States may need to resume nuclear testing for our shiny new nukes.

If there was ever something worth fighting against, this is it, kids.

Trade winds: Robert Novak, the grumpy old conservative columnist, called it the worst decision the Shrub has ever made. And he’s right. Bush slapped tariffs of up to 30 percent on imported steel, guaranteeing you’ll pay a bunch more for your next car.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Bush is a hypocrite. After all, the pseudo-president may have secretly died. The Shrub, following in the path of his father, did say he’d allow taxes to be raised only “over my dead body.” And if you don’t think this is a tax on the rest of us to help out some inefficient steel executives, you ain’t too bright.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for the Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com

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