Back to the Jungle
We pause in our regularly scheduled programming to bring you the following announcement from the White House: Diplomacy is for wimps. In the new millennium, might makes right. It's back to the jungle time, folks. Have a wonderful day!
The good news is, Coach Tom Brennan and his UVM men's B-ball team climbed Everest for the first time Saturday, winning the league championship and sending Vermont to the NCAA playoffs for the first time ever. The hearts of Vermont fans go with them.
But on Monday, St. Paddy's Day, we were quickly brought back to Ground Zero. The big, bad world is a freaking mess.
At 10 a.m. that morning, our United Nations ambassador John Negroponte announced the U.S. had abandoned President George W. Bush's declaration that we'd seek Security Council backing for a fresh war resolution before unleashing Armageddon.
France and Germany, old friends from the world wars of the last century, had made their opposition perfectly clear.
So had old enemies from the Cold War, Russia and China. The votes Dubya needed simply weren't there.
On Sunday, King Bush II flew all the way to The Azores to have his picture taken alongside the only friends he could round up for a photo op: British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the prime ministers of Portugal and Spain, gentlemen few Americans have ever heard of. Not even Canada and Mexico are on board for this one, folks.
And last week, as Irish Prime Minster Bertie Ahern presented Dubya with the traditional bowl of shamrocks, the Tao-iseach also gave our president a little heads-up.
Mr. Ahern told Dubya that if the Yanks and the Brits go into Baghdad without a fresh U.N. resolution behind them, he shouldn't count on continued landing rights for military planes at Shannon Airport.
So where does that leave us?
In a not very nice place.
The United Nations was founded almost 60 years ago because the survivors of World War II -- a horror in which an estimated 61 million people got wasted -- put the rights of the Earth's citizens ahead of the right of their rulers to slaughter them at will. Peace is a human right.
But on worldwide television Monday evening, our president publicly thumbed his nose at the United Nations. Diplomacy is henceforth irrelevant. Under the new Bush Doctrine, America will do what it damn well pleases.
"I think that any time killing and violence have got to be used to resolve conflict, [it] indicates a failure of human intelligence and a failure of the human spirit," said a sober Rep. Bernie Sanders Monday.
Ol' Bernardo was at the H.O. Wheeler School in Burlington's Old North End to announce a $100,000 federal grant that will open a dental clinic at the school. Tooth decay is a serious medical problem among the poor, noted Sanders. Many of the children of refugees at Wheeler rarely see a dentist. That'll soon change.
But like a toothache that won't go away, the unfolding events on the world stage were bugging Bernie.
"If the U.S. defies international law," said Sanders, "and if the U.S. and Britain defy the United Nations, then we are establishing a horrendous precedent for the future." Any country that wants to go to war for any reason will feel justified in doing do. Mr. Sanders called the Bush Doctrine "a movement toward international anarchy."
The invasion of Iraq, warned Bernie, will end up "helping a fanatic like Osama bin Laden attract more recruits."
At the Statehouse Tuesday, the morning after President Bush gave Saddam Hussein 48 hours to get out of Dodge, the impending fog of war was distracting many from their appointed rounds.
A staffer working for the Legislative Council's office handed us a copy of an antiwar letter to the editor she'd sent The Burlington Free Press a month ago. She wanted to know if yours truly could explain why it hasn't been published.
Sen. Susan Bartlett (D-Lamoille) stopped in the hallway and remarked on the "disconnect" between her duties as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and "a federal government that's bleeding the states dry financially while spending billions of dollars" on the destruction of Iraq.
"It's like this absurd take-over-the-world routine," said Bartlett. "It's irresponsible in so many ways."
Sen. Mark MacDonald (D-Orange) sauntered by and handed yours truly a copy of the email he'd just received from a constituent. It was Shakespeare:
"Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind... And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind is closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry.
"Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded with patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader, and gladly so. How do I know?
"For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar."
Yes, indeed, this conquer-the-world stuff has been around a long, long time. When, oh, when will we ever learn, eh?
"It's always the old who lead us to the war," sang Phil Ochs in the '60s, "always the young who fall." And as we turned the corner in the Statehouse cafeteria, we were reminded just who the "young" are.
Business lobbyist Gerry Morris of Charlotte has been working under the golden dome since the 1980s. Seems only yesterday his little girl Bridget Morris was knee-high. Time sure flies.
Last May, Morris the Cat watched his darling daughter graduate from UVM. This week, Lt. Bridget Morris commands 24 soldiers on a Patriot missile launcher somewhere in the war zone. Morris told Seven Days he hasn't heard from Bridget in the last 48 hours. We inquired if he knew where his daughter was.
"I don't," answered Mr. Morris, "and even if I did I wouldn't say."
Bridget was an ROTC student at UVM. She majored in political science. Her father shook his head in amazement that it's not even a year since her graduation and she's about to be in a war.
"She and a lot of other kids," said Mr. Morris, "are this day making the ultimate sacrifice. So on this day it doesn't matter if the president was right or wrong. On this day," said the dad, "these are the kids we have to support."
During the Vietnam War, the war of our youth, those who opposed the flawed policy of the Johnson and Nixon regimes were often at odds with those who supported the troops. That started to change around 1969. That's when many of those beloved troops were discharged and joined in the antiwar protests. That's when many Americans realized "supporting the troops" and "bringing them home" went hand-in-hand. The public learned to separate the war from the warrior.
Make no mistake, many Vermonters support King Bush II's War on Iraq. They believe the unsubstantiated claims that Saddam Hussein bears responsibility for 9/11.
Likewise, they believe he has chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons that nobody can find. And they share an overriding faith that this president would never do anything that would hurt us. Among them are our new governor and lieutenant governor, both members of the president's political party.
Gov. Jim Douglas told Seven Days Tuesday that he's "sorry it's come to this, but the president has the responsibility of defending the United States and defending the citizens of this country, and he's prepared to do exactly that."
Like Congressman Sanders, Gov. Douglas is concerned about the future of the United Nations, but for a much different reason.
"I'm concerned the U.N. will lose credibility if it fails to enforce the resolutions that it has adopted," said Douglas. "Time and again it has ordered Saddam Hussein to disarm and he has failed to do so."
Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie also is following the commander-in-chief on this one.
"The next 48 hours are critical," said Dubie on Tuesday morning. "And I and the president and America and the rest of the world are anxious to see if Saddam Hussein will make a move."
Dubie's an American Airlines pilot and a colonel in the Army reserve. If he's called to duty in the coming days and weeks, it will not be a good sign.
"My role as a reservist is to respond to acts of terrorism in the United States," said Dubie. "That's my training and that's what I do. I work for the National Security Emergency Preparedness Agency."
Let's hope Col. Dubie won't be needed. Let's hope for a miracle to stop King Bush II from lighting the fuse on this worldwide powder keg. Let's hope the law of the jungle is not America's new foundation for international relations.
At the Wheeler School on Monday, few noticed the display in the hallway outside the room where Congressman Sanders held his press conference on dental care for kids. It was produced by the fifth-grade class. The subject was peace. The students drew pictures and explained what peace meant to them. A sampler:
"Peace is a kitten when you're sad."
"Peace is green and playful."
"Peace is important if we want to feel safe."
"Peace is fluffy."
"I can think in peace."
Blessed are the peacemakers, eh?
Deanwatch2004 -- Our favorite presidential hopeful is certainly in the eye of the political storm on this one. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has emerged as the leading critic of President Bush's march to war.
Last weekend at the California State Democratic Convention, Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina were heckled and booed because of their support for Bush on invading Iraq. Vermont's Howard Dean drew standing ovations, chants and ecstatic applause. The major networks managed to ignore it all.
And Monday night, following the Bush TV address, candidate Dean issued a statement indicating he will not duct-tape his mouth shut as our new king sends in the troops.
"This is not Iraq, where doubters and dissenters are punished or silenced," said Dean, "this is the United States of America. We need to support our young people as they are sent to war by the President, and I have no doubt that American military power will prevail. But to ensure that our postwar policies are constructive and humane, based on enduring principles of peace and justice, concerned Americans should continue to speak out. And I intend to do so."
Ambassador Dubie? -- Both Gov. Douglas and Lt. Gov. Dubie are downplaying a report in the March 11 edition of Power Daily: "Vermont close to naming energy ambassador to Canada."
Power Daily, which tracks the energy business, reported Dubie "expects to be named the state's special envoy to take up energy concerns with Canadians, particularly Quebec authorities."
The industry newsletter quoted Dubie saying, "It's not something a state senator can go to Quebec and work on, but a lieutenant governor can."
As you know, the Lite-Gov's sole constitutional duty is to preside over the state senate and, in the case of a tie vote, break the tie.
But Dubie's role has already been expanded to watching our homeland security front and standing like a statue behind and to the left of Jim Douglas at the governor's weekly press conferences.
Asked about the report in Power Daily, Doobie-Doo told Seven Days, "There's some strained relationships between us and Quebec, and the governor's asked me to be a single point of contact on all issues concerning Quebec."
Dubie said he's already been in contact with the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., as well as the State Department and the Quebec office in Boston. He said he intends to become an "expert" on energy issues. "I'm going to educate myself on power."
Asked if he had appointed Dubie a "special envoy," the governor joked, "Envoy is a French word, isn't it?"
Pressed on whether Dubie will be negotiating energy contracts with Hydro-Quebec, Douglas said, "The administration will maintain principal responsibility for that, but it's very helpful to have the lieutenant governor involved, extending his good offices and opening doors."