Through Thick and Thin, Emphasis on Thick
The Bush administration’s foreign policy illustrated.
George Bush once again demonstrates his world class case of “not getting it.” He has announced that Syria and Iran can participate in talks on Iraq…if they meet certain conditions first. Telling people they have to meet conditions in order to engage in talks is not diplomacy, it’s delivering an ultimatum. Threatening people to get them to do something generally has no good outcomes. They will most likely refuse, and even if they agree it’s not going to be a serious and sincere agreement. In the current Middle East mess, Bush’s attitude is beyond belief, he apparently doesn’t realize that he simply isn’t holding any more cards. Bush needs Syria and Iran at this point if he wants to bring the US involvement in Iraq to any sort of sensible conclusion. Insulting them and threatening them and generally acting like the lord and master didn’t work in the past and is even less likely to work now. Bush simply doesn’t grasp how badly he has screwed up with his misbegotten invasions, and what a regional catastrophe is unfolding before our eyes. If this is his idea of how to fix the mess he has made, the situation will to continue to get worse. Mark my words.
Just as alarming, the “not getting it” paradigm seems to extend to other levels of the US occupation of Iraq. It was just reported that of the over 1000 US embassy personnel in Iraq, only thirty three speak Arabic and only six speak it fluently. We are going to rebuild a nation with only six people who speak the language? Five years after 911 and the government still doesn’t have enough Arabic speakers in its employ? This is incompetence of an almost frightening degree, no wonder the occupations have turned to bloody crap under our noses.
Moving right along, the rich continue to get richer. I guess this is good news for Bush, I don’t think any of his friends are poor. About one percent of the world’s population own about forty percent of the world’s wealth and property. The bottom fifty percent of the world’s population own about one percent of the world’s wealth. And with some exceptions this trend appears to be getting worse, not better. More effort needs to be made to get this money back in circulation, because if the rich continue to get richer and the poor continue to get poorer…bad things will happen. It is this sort of inequality in wealth that feeds much of the world’s violence. And it should be noted that most people are in one of the above categories because of the accident of birth, not merit and hard work. It took centuries for the wealth to become as concentrated as it has.
I suppose the Christian poor can take comfort in the fact that St Paul’s tomb has been uncovered in Rome. The Church has always known where it was, but it was buried for centuries. Due to popular demand (I didn’t make that up) the tomb has been uncovered so that pilgrims can view it. A cynic might say that this is simply another way for the church to fleece poor pilgrims of their money, but I’m not quite that cynical. At some point the Church may open the tomb to scientifically investigate the contents, but for now it will remain undisturbed. And they sealed the hole that early pilgrims used to lower a cloth into the sarcophagus to touch Paul’s bones. The Catholic fascination with bits of dead people has always struck me as a bit macabre, I don’t recall anything about Christ venerating bones. Whatever floats their boat though.
There was an unapproved coup in Fiji. I know that all coups are unapproved, but it is a fascinating insight to how the world really is to see official reactions to coups. In Thailand the world’s governments quickly looked the other during the coup a few months ago. In Fiji, the world has been quick to condemn the legitimacy of the coup. A cynic might say that coups that are about protecting the rich get ignored, even approved by the world’s governments, those that don’t get condemned. In this case, I’m proud to counted among the cynics. And it should be pointed out that many of Fiji’s problems stem from the colonial era when Britain settled huge numbers of Indian laborers on the islands. Half the population is ethnic Indian, and the conflict between them and ethnic Polynesians has been a problem for decades. Another fine mess.
In horrible news out of Africa, over 5000 gorillas have died of Ebola. Ebola is a terrible disease that kills its victims by dissolving them from the inside out, it’s usually fatal and there is no known cure or vaccine. It’s killed over a thousand people in the past decade, fortunately it doesn’t spread very easily between humans, so the outbreaks have been limited. Back in the early nineties Ebola enjoyed a brief moment in the spotlight as the bogeyman du jour, there was even a movie made about the terrible threat it posed. I dimly recall Dustin Hoffman chasing a monkey around, not one of his finer on-screen moments. One can see why the Ebola threat didn’t catch on in the media, there’s only so many plot devices that can be had with a sick monkey. In any event, bad news for the gorillas, this may signal their extinction in the wild. And still scary news for us, someday a highly contagious form of Ebola may emerge from Africa’s brush, if that happens we are all in le doo doo deep as the French would say.
Finally, some exciting news from Mars. Recent photos show that within the last few years there have been fresh flows of liquid on the surface of Mars. We know that there were once seas and lakes on Mars, the big question recently has been whether any liquid water still exists. If there’s liquid water, there may very well be life. So this is certainly something that needs to be looked into further. To be fair, not all scientists are convinced that water is the culprit, liquid carbon dioxide is also a possibility. Myself, I’m hoping it’s a combination of the two: seltzer water. Then if future astronauts just bring a little gin and quinine with them, they can make the first interplanetary drinks! Who says we can’t party and explore Mars at the same time?
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is an historically important image, it is not being used for profit, and it is central to illustrating the post. I apologize if anyone’s sensibilities are offended, I suggest taking it up with the people who sent our friends/family/children to die a meaningless death on a dusty street on the other side of the planet.)