Oh, No! Don't Tell Me I Have to Eat Humble Pie for Supper Again Tonight!

    Yes, sir! 'I'm afraid that's the size of it. If I just had the good sense to avoid reading the news after I've reached an opinion, I wouldn't be contaminating myself with other truths. Sigh... 
    Late last night, I found several good articles in the New York Times and the Washington Post that discuss the possible war with Iraq:  The Liberal Quandary Over Iraq, A Crude View of the Crisis in Iraq, and Report From Iraq- "Fear in the Streets". Hot on the heels of these articles came Carter 'completely in agreement' with Bush UN approach to Iraq, and Carter says US policy towards Iraq not dictated by oil interests.
    I believe Jimmy Carter. I trust his good intent, his judgment, his experience, and his intelligence. Between the above articles and his comments, I've decided that I'm wrong. Again. There are many things about the current administration that concern me, but my real concern, which is that of estranging our friends and our allies, apparently isn't the danger that I thought it was. I'm withdrawing my diatribes, since I'm afraid they're unfair.

12/9/2002 - Coda:
    Well, shiver my timbers! Today, addressing the Nobel Prize Awards audience, Jimmy Carter, although not naming names, again assailed the Bush administration's plans for war on Iraq. How can that be, after endorsing Bush' current policies the night before? I suspect Mr. Carter's address had been written and rehearsed, and couldn't be rewritten the night before the Nobel Price ceremonies. Besides, Mr. Carter's remarks were about war in  general, and (I believe) didn't mention Mr. Bush or the situation in Iraq..

More U. S. Foreign Policy

    I've found that everyone of my older, wiser friends is horrified and terrified at what the Bush administration is doing. (Perhaps I should emphasize at the outset that I, and, I suspect, the people to whom I'm referring, would have no qualms about the UN deciding to invade Iraq and force a regime change. The issues are not about what is to be done, but about how it is to be done... the difference between taking the law into one's own hands, and supporting the law when it is carried out by one's elected and law-abiding representatives.) 
    Among the potential dangers are:

(1.)  Runaway global warming
The thesis:
    The melting of methane ice on the sea floors (METHANE HYDRATE ICE, ICE AGES AND GLOBAL WARMING), and the just-announced (Study finds excessive carbon dioxide may slow plant growth) are generating concerns about the possibility of runaway global warming (ECES - Global Warning - 'Runaway' Global Warming.). We know precious little about about climatic mechanics, but from observations of our sister planet, we do know that a runaway greenhouse effect is possible.. If we combat global warming and it isn't necessary, we will have reduced our dependencies upon fossil fuels and upon Mid-Eastern oil before or as world oil production peaks. Our mad scramble for oil has taken us to extreme investments in extreme locations, so in the future, oil won't be cheap or easy to get, but at least, we'll have some oil reserves remaining at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico and on Alaska's North Slope. 
    If we don't combat global warming and it is necessary, the result may be a cooked planet unable to support life of any kind.

The Response:
    But of course, this is absurd. If there were the slightest chance that global warming were real and  human-induced, our oil companies would be doing everything in their power to see to it that we switched from using fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. And so would all the other purveyors of fossil fuels. Actually, there are some energy-company-sponsored studies of global warming in (of all places!) Texas that show that global warming isn't really happening. It's a plot by climate scientists to scare the public and bring more research funding to their field. And even if global warming were real, it would have to be the result of natural fluctuations rather than the billions of fires and furnaces that are burning around the world. We know that's true because President Bush' advisors have said so. (See Global Warming Is Good for You, written by a reader in space science at Salford University.)
    This reminds me of the vile canards that the tobacco industry had to face... canards alleging that smoking cigarettes increased the chances of lung cancer. The cigarette companies had to hire medical researchers and fund expensive studies to prove that there is no relationship between the rising incidence of cigarette smoking and the matching rise in lung cancer. But of course, they finally prevailed, and we now know that cigarette smoking is perfectly safe, and that the explosive rise in lung cancer deaths is the result of rising air pollution.
    The butter and egg industry faced similar challenges regarding the role of cholesterol in promoting coronary artery disease, but they faced them valiantly, and were able to show that there's no correlation between dietary cholesterol and hard fats, and cardiovascular disease. 

(2)  The Utter Trashing of the U. S. Image Abroad, and the Alienation of All Our Allies
    My older, wiser friends think that the arrogant and imperialistic statements uttered by President Bush are calculated to infuriate and frighten friend and foe alike. 
    Short-term, backed whole-heartedly by the American people and by the world's largest thermonuclear-armed military machine, the American government is in a position to dictate terms to the rest of the world. The alternative is destruction of all higher life on Earth through all-out nuclear war, and the ensuing nuclear winter. The United States is demonstrating its willingness to be as rash as necessary to get its own way, and to dominate the rest of the world. Phrases like "benign hegemony" and "Pax Americana" (like the "Pax Romana" that Rome enforced upon its neighbors), together with efforts to get Americans (e. g., paranoids) to snitch upon those their neighbors whom they might suspect of terrorist tendencies, mark the end of the principles upon which the U. S. was based, and the beginning of a new era of Nazi policies within and outside the United States.

    Of course, this is again the work of liberal, pinko, intellectual wimps... traitors who should be locked up and eventually, executed. The United States has a right to rule the world. Might makes right. The rest of the world doesn't have the balls to stand up to us. We're Christians, and God is on our side. You know that Jesus would nuke his enemies. Besides, you've seen what the American military did in Kuwait and and Afghanistan. We're the greatest! There are a lot of nations and groups that need to be headed off at the pass before they can become strong enough to challenge us. The Romans called it, "Divisa et impera" ("Divide and conquer"). The Brits called it "The Balance of Power", and reinforced it with an endless series of wars, until they became so risk-averse that they joined the European Union. And speaking of the European Union, the Europeans got their act  together strictly because they couldn't compete by themselves and against each other with the U. S. and other regional powers. You know they're going to give us competition, and potentially have the power to threaten us if we don't stop them before it's too late. And that certainly includes Russia, China, and Japan. We need to export the superior culture of the United States to them by force, if  necessary (and we both know that force will be necessary). Eventually, we'll have to annex them, and make them U. S. territorial possessions. That's the only way to insure our safety in the Age of Terrorism. And we'll certainly have to take over Canada and Latin America so that no enemies can get a foothold here in the Western Hemisphere. That's just an extension of the Monroe Doctrine. (If only Joe McCarthy were still alive to see this happen! He would be so pleased!) 

(3.)  World War III.
    The rest of the world would be crazy to take on the U. S. without adequate preparation. Even then, it could mean the end of animal life on Earth. However, the alternative is to openly knuckle under to U. S. blackmail. If we were foreign leaders, surely we would have decided that the U. S. is now in the hands of right-wing extremists, the moral equivalents of Osama bin Laden and the al Qaida, who are backed by the American people and the American power structure! If we were foreign leaders, we would be quietly  re-arming and preparing for World War III. The world learned at Munich about the dangers of appeasement and "peace in our time" And what would World War III mean? Two generations have grown and passed through public life since 1945. There is now a new crop of cannon fodder who have forgotten about total destruction and nuclear winter. It's been forty years since "On the Beach" appeared, and dramatized nuclear holocaust. (In the movie, one hard-line U. S. refugee, knowing that every child, cat, and dog is going to die of cancer or radiation poisoning, says, "Well, at least we got the bastards who did this to us. The USSR is in worse shape than the U. S." ) Our brightest and wisest believe that the rest of the world may launch World War III against the U. S., perhaps using unanticipated weapons that are subtle, and not readily imaginable just now.... weapons that are smuggled into the U. S. and take us from the inside. (One possibility would be some new, highly contagious viral disease against we had no protection.)

    Same old, same old. The same old liberal, terrorist-minded, intellectual wimps.... the kind we need to jail and later, execute. They're too smart for our own good. 
    Hey, the rest of the world isn't going to take on the U. S.! We can lick 'em all with one hand tied behind our backs! Who's going to bell the cat? We'll take 'em over before they get the power to stop us. Besides, when it gets eyeball-to-eyeball, we're meaner than they are. They've gotten soft. ("And the Uebermensch shall come upon the scene of human history with violence in deed and demeanor...") They're either for us or they're against us. So how many do you think are gonna' stand up and tell us they're against us? You need to push 'em so they don't have time to think. We're men of action. Get 'em running, and they'll not have time to turn and defend themselves! Once people begin to accept outrages, they'll keep retreating if you keep pushing them, and keep emphasizing how you're protecting them from danger. That's how it works with abused women.
    Hitler's problem in World War II was that he tried to take on too many enemies at once. He should never have gone into Russia. He should have conquered the British isles, and driven the British and French out of North Africa. Then he might have tackled Russia and won. 
    And if somehow, these foreign bastards manage to destroy life on Earth, at least they'll fry with us when we fry. We'll nuke 'em if they try anything. Besides, President Bush and his cabinet will go to ground if there's any danger of all-out war. It'll only be our stupid American sheep that will be blasted. (You idiots don't have the sense to come in out of the rain. If you did, you'd never have let us steal the Presidential election. Once you get people in the habit of saying, "Yes" and pushing their envelope, you can literally get away with murder.)

(4.)  War With Iraq
    There's horror among the brighter half of the population over the idea of launching a lawless, unprovoked attack on Iraq when the United Nations (or in other words, all the other nations on Earth, except, possibly, for Israel) would regard it as a criminal act by a once-ethical nation gone amok. Who's going to own the oil in Iraq? The Iraqi people? How about Bushido oil? How about other D. C.-owned oil companies? And won't Iran be next after Iraq? Or maybe it will have to be Saudi Arabia and the other Persian Gulf nations. How about North Korea? Pakistan? Indonesia? But wouldn't it be wiser to take on China and Russia first? How about Cuba, so close to our shores? And how about NATO and the European Union? How dangerous is Saddam Hussein these days? Everybody agrees that he would like to have weapons of mass destruction, and that there is absolutely no indication that he does. It would be suicidal for him at this point to support terrorists and to launch weapons of mass destruction, however much he might want to do it. In the meantime, there are other nations that are offer far more clear and present danger than Iraq. As for Saddam Hussein, we have killed one of his sons in our efforts to assassinate him. He would be mentally defective is he didn't want weapons to protect himself. In the meantime, if we will invade Iraq, who else will we invade? If we "force a regime change in Iraq", is there any reason to think that we will cavil at "forcing a regime change" in Iran? North Korea? Cuba? China? Russia? The UK? If we invade Iraq, it will obviously be the will of a few rabid reactionaries in Washington. President Kennedy said that we were a government of laws and not of men, but we're no longer making making any pretense that we're bound by law. It's clear that the administration has already decided that it's going to find Iraq in violation of the terms of its ultimatum to Iraq.  President Bush and our right-wing nuts will be invading Iraq.

    We've really got to silence these treasonous dissenters. It shouldn't take more than a few hits or "accidents" or "suicides" to scare Congress and the media into submission.
    Of course, we want Iraqi oil! Ands why shouldn't President Bush and his associates have a little sugar for their success? "To the victor go the spoils." Beyond that, Iraq is the first domino in our chain of dominos. We have to protect the Israelis. They're our allies against terrorists and Muslims in the Middle East. After that, we wouldn't have to invade anyone else until 2004, when we'll need the backing of the U. S. public for the elections. But a war is a great way to get the sheep to stand by their government. As long as there's a war on, governments have emergency powers, and people can't complain too loudly about what their government is doing. Look at the Germans in World War II! Besides, people become very patriotic if they think they're being threatened. When Hermann Goering was questioned at the Nurenburg trials about how  German boys could be induced to go out and risk their lives for conquest, he said,
    "Of course, they don't want to go to war. What stupid farm boy wants to go out and get himself shot or maimed? But you tell everyone that their country is in danger, denounce the pacifists as cowards, and imprison anyone who resists, and they'll go to war."
    War with Iraq is a way of intimidating the world, and keeping the world off-balance until we can establish our benign hegemony in  other parts of the world.
    Before this is over, the United States is going to rule the world, and you're either for us or you're against us. And if a little blood has to be spilled, that's just the price of being the toughest kid on the block.
    Which nation we invade next is something we'll announce after we've subdued Iraq. But anyone who resists our plans will be on our hit list 
     The Christians are supporting us to the hilt. Our strongest constituency is among conservative Christians. What's that? You'd expect Jesus' talk about "Love thine enemy", "Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord", and turning the other cheek would lead them to non-violence? Hey! Read your Christian history, boy! These "Christians" are as bloodthirsty as anybody anywhere in the world. We plan to get them into an all-out war with the Muslims. But don't believe that tabloid pabulum about the GWB or Rich Perle being the "Prince of Darkness" or the Anti-Christ. That's ridiculous. So it looks like a coincidence... the armies of the East and the armies of the West meeting in the valley of Armageddon. But it isn't even Biblical scripture. It's some nut's crazy idea. Of course, the Christians will think that God's bringing death by fire down upon them because they've let the rest of the world starve while they drove their gas-guzzlers, and bombed the poor, after he sent his only-begotten son to die for them.
    Stick with us and you'll have one hell of a good time.

    As I've mentioned previously, Rome began to fall when the Roman government sold its Carthaginian  captives to its patricians as slaves. In 146 B. C., the Romans entered the city of Carthage and butchered its inhabitants, selling a select few as slaves to be bought by the wealthiest Romans. This drove the independent farmers out of business, and brought them and their descendents to Rome to work at menial jobs, and to produce proles--offspring--for the Roman state. Twenty years later, in 123 B. C., anticipating the looming disaster, Tiberius Gracchus attempted to restrict the sizes of plantations, and to give the excess land to the poor. The Roman Senators, who were also the landed patricians, clubbed him to death. Nine years later, his younger brother, Gaius, tried to introduce reforms that would reinstate some rights of the commoners. This time, the Senate declared war upon Gaius, and killed him as well. Regarding all reforms as evil, the upper classes seemed to think that repression was their only remedy. After that, the government of Rome became a trophy for  whoever could militarily subdue it.
    Frederick Pohl wrote a science fiction story called, "Fermi and Frost". In it, Dr. Harry Malibert, a SETI scientist on his way to a British Interplanetary Society meeting in Portsmouth, is at JFK when an all-out nuclear attack begins. Since he's well-known and respected, an airline employee gets him on a plane to Iceland before the bombs hit. He makes it. Iceland is one of the few places on Earth where there is enough geothermal power to grow plants and survive the nuclear winter, as ice and darkness kill plant and animal life elsewhere. One of the conclusions he reaches is that we now know the answer to the Fermi Paradox. Species that achieve technical mastery aren't able to separate themselves from their animal heritage in time to handle the self-destructive powers that fall into their hands.
    Carl Sagan wrote, "The Demon-Haunted World", discussing the human need to believe in the occult and the supernatural in the face of scientific understanding to the contrary. People can dream up ghost stories and frauds far faster than skeptics can debunk them. It has just been revealed that "Bigfoot" just died (The man who used 16-inch feet-shaped carvings to create tracks that ignited the ‘Bigfoot’ legend has died. He was 84. - MSNBC). He was Ray L. Wallace. But don't worry. Bigfoot enthusiasts will find reasons why Bigfoot was real, anyway. To extract from the article,
    "Chervinsky believes the family's admission raises serious doubts about 'key proof' of Bigfoot's existence: the so-called Patterson film, with its grainy images of of an erect apelike creature striding away from the camera operated by rodeo rider Roger Patterson in 1967.
   "Wallace said he told Patterson where to spot a Bigfoot near Bluff Creek, Calif., Chorvinsky recalled. 'Ray told me that the Patterson film was a hoax, and he knew who was in the suit.'
    "Michael Wallace said his father called the Patterson film 'a fake' but claimed he'd had nothing to do with it. But he said his mother admitted she had been photographed in a Bigfoot suit, and that his father 'had several people he used in his movies.'
    "The disclosure is not fazing others who study such creatures.
    "'To suggest all these are explained by simple carved feet strapped to boots just doesn't wash,' Meldrum said, noting 19th-century accounts of such a creature.
    "Chorvinsky says those early reports were mistakes, myths or hoaxes."
    Having participated in a UFO hoax, and having seen it take on a life of its own after we'd thoroughly proved it was a fraud has convinced me of people's desire to believe the absurd. (I've mentioned here previously the story of Sally, the Huntsville ghost who haunted one of the houses not far from where we live. Then it was discovered that Sally had never made it to Huntsville... that the story was cut from the whole cloth. But I'm sure the story of Sally is still being sold in books to people who don't know that it never happened.
    We live in a world of everyday miracles. Our homes are heated and cooled by obedient djinns. We can look into a flat crystal, and can see and hear people in distant lands... the very embodiment of a crystal ball. We can get into the bellies of big metal birds, and can fly at breathtaking speeds that can, at need, magically  transport us to any point on Earth within 24 hours. We don't need to worry about dying of infections anymore. We can take magical pills that can cure us of infections within 48 hours. We can travel in heated or air-conditioned magic coaches that transport us without effort up steep hills and mountains, or to other people's houses. We can watch moving picture shows in full color about every kind of adventure. We have little devices that fit in our pockets that allow us to talk with other people anywhere... a kind of telepathy. We can even place a little plug in one ear and appear to be carrying on conversations with thin air.
    These, of course, are magical miracles. However, we're so accustomed to them that they don't seem like magic at all. Telepathy, if we had it, would be the same. Pretty soon, it would become commonplace and ho-hum. What we crave is change and the unexplained.
    Authors like to weave the supernatural into their writings because they know that users will like it. Readers will think about it afterwards, and wonder if it could be true. Unfortunately, trafficking in the supernatural may help to perpetuate the fantasy that fantasy is real.
    It's frightening that after thousands of years of progress, we're still superstitious savages. We've come out of a world of gods and demigods, of sacrifices (including human sacrifices), but we haven't come out of it far enough.
    This is why I think that the possibility that high-level civilizations always self-destruct may be correct. You can take the savage out of the jungle, but you can't take the jungle out of the savage.