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Madness lays ahead

Kicking hornets’ nests will only get us all stung

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The recent announcement that President Bush is preparing to begin “preemptive strikes” on any country or group that is deemed a threat to the United States is terrifying in its implications for our nation. Kicking hornets’ nests under Bush’s “strike first” plan ensures that we will be swarmed by angry hornets willing to sting once then die. Only these hornets, as the news sadly reports every day, will be armed with explosive cars, briefcases, and waistbands. Do we really want our future to resemble Israel’s present? I don’t know about you, but being surrounded by people who are willing to die just to kill us is not exactly what I had in mind for our kids and the generations to come.

The logic (or illogic) of the so-called “Bush Doctrine” is obvious. Right now we are the biggest, baddest dudes on the global block. One on one, nobody can take us. We are looking down from space, flying Predator drones overhead, listening in on global conversations in every imaginable format, prowling the seas in enormous aircraft carriers and silent, invisible submarines with enough thermonuclear weaponry to turn most of the major cities on the globe into radioactive ash. Our troops are well trained and equipped with devices and weapons that only a few years back would have been in the realm of science fiction. There can be no doubt that the military power of the United States strikes fear into the hearts of those upon whom we focus our laser-guided enmity.

But so what? Israel is widely considered to have the best intelligence agency in the world—at least on a par with ours, maybe better. They have their own arms industry cranking out all the tanks, weapons, and armored bulldozers they could possibly need. And they, too, have nukes. Yet, in spite of all this, their citizens live in daily fear, and their nation is consumed by endless bloodletting and “eye-for-an-eye” strikes and counterstrikes. All their superior weaponry and intelligence has so far been incapable of stopping the determined man, woman, or adolescent wrapped in explosives, to whom the forfeit of life is an acceptable price to pay for inflicting casualties on their enemies.

If Israel, which is about the size of New Jersey, can’t secure its citizens and borders through force of arms, what chance is there to do so in the United States, which is about 452 times larger, with tens of thousands of miles of porous borders, and home to a highly mobile population? The answer nobody will say or wants to hear is “NONE.” Aircraft carriers, nuclear weapons, and a sky full of satellites have no more chance of deterring suicide bombers here than they do in Israel.

We can, and are, spending more than $1 billion a day on the military, much to the detriment of other vital national needs. Education funding continues to suffer. Our college students now stack up tens of thousands in debt just to make it through four years of school. Our seniors, and low-income families are becoming paupers trying to pay for health care and prescription drugs. Right now, in our nation’s capital, Congress is deciding whether we should shut down the country’s passenger rail service. We can bankrupt our treasury, beggar our future, and pass the debt off on our kids, but sooner or later under the Bush Doctrine of aggression, we will be targeted and struck by those that we have struck.

The cost of waging war, especially the global war Bush envisions and seeks to implement, is killing our nation. The stock market, already stumbling over telecom busts and economic recession, falls to new lows daily, wiping out the savings and investments of citizens across the nation. The headlines, as often as not, blame international strife and uncertainty for the “jittery” investment market. Wall Street, like the rest of us, is scared shitless by the portent of the dogs of war unleashed on an ever more violent, crowded, and dangerous globe.

In the meantime, the enormous pollution generated by the war machine is adding its own huge burden to global warming. Flying jets and helicopters, driving tanks, fielding the largest navy the world has ever seen, and dropping thousands of tons of bombs, is consuming vast resources of finite fossil fuels while concurrently producing greenhouse gases at a prodigious rate. Montana’s glaciers are melting, Alaskan permafrost is defrosting, insects are swarming over forests and croplands creating problems heretofore unseen and for which we have no remedy. Species are vanishing at a staggering rate. Wildfires, mostly the result of drought not “forest health,” are raging across the West. Even the East Coast is running out of water—an occurrence never before imagined or experienced.

President Bush and his administration tell us that terrorists seek to strike the United States because they hate freedom. Yet in almost the same breath, these nervous leaders seek to destroy the very freedoms that define our liberty—free speech, the right to associate with others, the right to challenge the government, the right to privacy in our own homes, and the right to know what our government is doing. While distracting us with warnings of threats from without, it is they, not the shadowy terrorists, who are destroying our freedom from within.

There is another way. We could decide to spend a billion dollars a day waging peace instead of war. We could put our ingenuity and wealth to work meeting the needs of our own citizens. Globally, we could lead in providing the implements of life: food, clean water, health care, education, and peaceful coexistence. It is hard to hate the nation that provides the medicine or food that saves your child. But it is easy to hate those who have killed or crippled your family members.

The choice is ours to make. We can take the path of peace to secure our future. Or we can follow the Bush Doctrine into eternal madness.

When not lobbying the Montana Legislature, George Ochenski is rattling the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Missoula Independent.

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