So long, farewell, and keep watching the bad guys

By David Conard

Well, this is it. This columnist is about to put on his cowboy hat, mount his white horse and ride off into the sunset as the theme music comes up. Except, I don’t have a cowboy hat or horse, it’s too freakin’ cold to go outside, you can’t see the sunset through the clouds, and the London Symphony Orchestra said they’re busy.

Yep, this is my last column as a Northern Star columnist. I’m sure a few people will miss my columns, some people will celebrate the fact that I’m gone, and other people won’t care.

In the end, my presence isn’t so important. What is important is some of the subjects I’ve dealt with. I mostly wrote about negative subjects, such as genocide, murder and corporate or government corruption. I always felt it was a disservice to people suffering around the world to write about fluffy clouds or dating. America and the world will only fix our problems by addressing them. I’ve tried my best to offer insights into these problems. I think I did all right.

There are a few major things I tried to show my readers. A big one is not to trust the Bush administration. Please don’t trust them, folks. They said Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was an immediate threat to the United States because of its weapons of mass destruction and ties to al Qaida. After we invaded, they found none of those.

Then the administration said the Iraq insurgency would be quickly defeated, and U.S. troops would come home. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told Time magazine in June 2003 that U.S. troop levels might be down to 30,000 by the end of the year. Here we are in November 2005, and there are still 155,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Maybe our troops are still there because the Iraq insurgency is “about where it was a year ago, in terms of attacks,” according to former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers in an April 27 CNN article. Or because the number of fully-independent Iraqi battalions dropped from three to one by September, as Gen. George Casey, the U.S. commander in Iraq, told The Associated Press Sept. 29.

They can’t even handle a domestic natural disaster. It would be great if the federal government had recall legislation for the presidency. I could have written another column about that.

But it goes beyond Bush. It goes beyond the political party, for neither of them are saints or demons. Our state just proves it. In Illinois, the former Republican Governor George Ryan is on trial for corruption. But the Democratic mayor of Chicago, Richard M. Daley, had many of his closest associates convicted in corruption scandals recently as well.

It goes to the fact that human beings remain the same and act the same as they have throughout history. When last pre-revolutionary queen Marie Antoinette was advised that the people of Paris had no bread, she reputedly said, “Let them eat cake.”

When former first lady Barbara Bush visited Houston’s Superdome, crowded with victims of Hurricane Katrina, she said, according to CNN, “And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway – this, this is working very well for them.”

I’m not sure if Antoinette, or Barbara Bush, were just out of touch or cruel. But the comment is pretty much the same. The response to Hurricane Katrina also had precedent. According to PBS’ Frontline news show, during the 1980s the Federal Emergency Management Agency became known as a backwater for political appointees. Frontline continued about Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

“This Category 5 hurricane – the first in 23 years – strikes southern Florida south of Miami. Thousands are stranded without food and water. Overwhelmed local emergency managers wait and wait for FEMA. It takes five days for federal troops to arrive.”

So political corruption remains the same. Indifference or cruelty remains the same. Government incompetence in the face of natural disaster remains the same. Only the names change.

If there is hope for the human race, it lies in understanding these cycles of history, and using our heads, hearts and guts to reform government and business. It’s what I’m going to try to do. And I hope you do, too.

Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff.