Jim Austin's Vermonter at Large
Jim Austin
Jim Austin
is a freelance writer from Putney, Vermont.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 02.10.03


The best and the worst of us

"Yo Mustapha, how's the wives and kids?"

"Same old same old, my colonel, whassup?"

"Nada, Mucho Musty, Saddam wants you to tell Osama that his order of nerve gas is ready."

"No problem, my colonel. Did you remember to switch on the scrambler?"


Burlesque aside, the above dialogue is worth about the same as the taped conversations that Secretary of State Colin Powell trotted out last Wednesday before the United Nations. Equally unconvincing were the photos of mobile labs that could have been doctored or taken years ago.

I'm not saying that our government has faked evidence or otherwise lied throughout Colin Powell's comprehensive presentation on Wednesday. The point is that this "evidence" will convince those who are already convinced and make little impression on those who are not in favor of war.

What is clear and has been from the start of this affair is that Hussein is not cooperating with the weapons inspectors and is thus in violation of the U.N. resolution.

The question is this: Does passive resistance to the resolution mean that Iraq should be invaded, cities destroyed, thousands killed, and an occupation begun that will cost the earth and further alienate the Muslim world?

There is no doubt that Hussein is a fiend. In the 80s he was our fiend just like Noriega of Panama and Pinochet of Chile. Now our government clasps their bosom and recoils at the evil this man does to his own people.

Well, according to most sources, we are the ones that are responsible for thousands of deaths in Iraq through our 12-year sanctions program. The hypocrisy shown by this and previous governments on the foreign policy front is and remains almost cartoon-like.

France has been the butt of late night talk show morons and newspaper columnists nationwide. On Wednesday, the French spokesman showed a healthy skepticism for Powell's evidence. They think that war should be a last resort after all else fails. They suggest tripling the number of inspectors and using Powell's evidence to pursue violations.

Republicans and other imbeciles in our government don't want to hear this. They want the oil.

Eventually, according to the talking heads, France will cave and start dancing to the war drums. The French won't want to be left out of the bonanza available to the victors of this war. If this is true, then their current intransigence is a fraud and they are worse than the Bush administration who isn't hiding its imperialist ambitions. The war on terrorism has been taken off the front burner as have, the failing economy, education, social security, health care, and other issues that have not even made it onto the stove.

Muslim countries are about to erupt into violence that will undoubtedly swell the ranks of anti-US terrorist fanatics.

Wouldn't we be better off if everyone on earth were either an atheist or a Presbyterian? Then we could deal with world issues on their merits without checking in with a panoply of Supreme Beings, each with a different set of immutable values.

On a different note we see serial killings in Baton Rouge, a factory explosion in North Carolina, and deaths from more mundane causes daily. Why does the country stop and the nation mourn when seven anonymous (to most of us) astronauts die in space?

The reason is that these people are the best of us. They are supremely dedicated, highly educated and gifted with intellect beyond the mainstream.

Astronauts have never demanded a mega-salary for their efforts. They used to bask in glory for their pioneering spirit but not any more. Did you know the names of any of these astronauts? Did you even know that the space shuttle Columbia was on a mission?

These exceptional people were in it for the intellectual adventure and a desire to push the edges of humanity's potential. All of these people richly deserve to be remembered as the best that humans have to offer.

There are people with brains to burn who toil among the test tubes and centrifuges to try and discover a cure for diseases that ravage humanity. There are test pilots and rodeo riders who take calculated risks as part of their jobs. The astronauts combine both. They possess a fearless intellect that makes us proud to be human.

Most of our news blares the escapades of politicians, the perverted dalliances of Hollywood icons, and the insipid greed of business leaders. Isn't it a shame that we only acknowledge the dedication and courage of astronauts in the wake of a tragedy that wipes them out?