The smokeless gun

Jan 15, 2003 at 12:00 am

So little time, so much to rant about.


Rant No. 1: It seems likely our government is going to be at war with Iraq sometime within the next several weeks. There are bags full of reasons for not going to war and bringing home Lord knows how many body bags. But, at this point, one reason alone should be enough to keep the smart bombs from flying: no smoking gun.

Last week Hans Blix, the chief United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, told the Security Council, “We have now been there for some two months and been covering the country in ever wider sweeps and we haven’t found any smoking guns.”

It’s true that Blix also expressed concern that Iraq’s weapons declaration was “incomplete,” meaning he figures Hussein and company are probably hiding something. But there’s no proof. And what the hell is up with going to war without proof? Unless we think we’ll find it by leveling Baghdad.

I have no doubt that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is doing everything he can to short-circuit the inspection without crossing the line of direct refusal to comply, but is that enough reason to go to war?

But what if the absence of a smoking gun so far is because there is no gun? What smoke and mirrors do we use to justify the war then?

In the beginning of this thing it seemed like the hawks, such as Donald Rumsfeld, were running the show. The war drums were pounding at ear-splitting volume. Secretary of State Colin Powell was rumored to be considering taking his exit stage left since no one was listening to his argument that America shouldn’t go it alone. Then, suddenly, Powell was the man of the hour, and Bush decided against giving the finger to world opinion and agreed to work with the United Nations.

So who the hell has the reins just now? And who can imagine the backstage fight for them at the White House?


Rant No. 2: And while we’re on the subject of war, how about that legislation being sponsored by U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York City and supported by Detroit’s very own U.S. Rep. John Conyers? The bill, which calls for renewing the military draft, would allow only the disabled and conscientious objectors to avoid military service. Everybody else would be fair game.

I confess that I’ve never been in favor of the draft and have always thought that putting an end to it was one of the few accomplishments of the disgraced Nixon administration that I supported wholeheartedly. As one who has always been opposed to war except in the most extreme and unavoidable circumstances, my reasoning was that the military should be staffed by those who really don’t have a problem with agreeing to sacrifice their lives for whatever cause their government deems just — their own personal feelings aside. This is not in any way to cast a negative light on soldiers because it takes a lot to answer that calling.

Also, I also have to admit that it’s pretty hard to argue with the reasoning behind the proposed legislation. As was already stated in last week’s News Hits section, this legislation doesn’t stand a chance of becoming law. Doesn’t matter. The point to be made here is one that has been made many times before and that must continue to be made for as long as it takes: The poor, minorities and working-class citizens of this country continue to be cannon fodder for the rich, powerful and well-connected.

Bush can refer to the soldiers as heroes all he wants while the choir gently sings “Gloooory gloooory hallelujah” in the background for patriotic effect. In the end, whenever that end will be, you can rest assured that the children of all those wealthy donors who contributed to the Bush campaign will not have to worry about returning home in body bags.

That job is left to the peasants.


Rant No. 3: Moving right along, it seems that some folks in positions of leadership may be suffering from a severe learning disability. Make that one folk in particular. Make that our president.

You might have read about how Bush the Clueless has decided to try once more to push through his nomination of Judge Charles W. Pickering to a federal appeals court position in New Orleans, despite the screams of protest from Democrats, and even some subtle under-the-table shin-kicking from his fellow Republicans. That’s because Pickering, like his Mississippi homeboy, political patron and supporter Trent Lott, has a history of questionable positions on racial matters. Pickering once handled a case of a white man convicted of burning a cross at the home of an interracial couple who had a 5-year-old child. Pickering tried to prevent the prosecutors from asking for a five-year sentence, then later called the Justice Department to complain. When the matter came up during the first nomination, he claimed he did what he did because he thought others might have been more culpable. Sure. That makes sense.

Meanwhile, Bush the Clueless apparently thinks that just because he decided to spank L’il Lottie in public he now has some sort of Reagan-designed Teflon suit that will automatically grant him immunity from any and all claims of racial insensitivity.

Does it grant him immunity from stupidity too?


Rant No. 4: And finally we have Justice Clarence Thomas, who just last month had a blackness flashback. Musta hurt.

He’s the most silent justice on the Supreme Court, the one whose written positions more often than not virtually mirror those of Justice Antonin Scalia and who has no problem opposing just about any legal victory ever accomplished by the late Justice Thurgood Marshall.

But suddenly, in a case deciding whether Virginia’s law that makes it a crime to burn crosses is contrary to the First Amendment, Justice Thomas began spouting off about the Ku Klux Klan and Southern racism and all kinds of race-related things that should be taken into consideration as to why a burning cross should not be considered free speech but a threat.

“This was a reign of terror, and the cross was a symbol of that reign of terror,’’ said Thomas.

Well, yeah, Judge. We all kinda knew that.

And the cynics among us can’t help but wonder whether showing a little bit of life on the bench is calculated to boost sales of the upcoming Thomas memoirs and justify his $1.5 million advance.

But, oh, what the hell. Welcome home, bro.

Keith A. Owens is a Detroit-area writer and musician. E-mail [email protected]