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Current leadership contrary to what U.S. should be about

At the moment, the best concept the Bush administration can come up with to demonstrate leadership in world affairs is to effect a regime change in Iraq by the use of superior military force. The tribal drums are beating loud and clear.

Simultaneously, and rather quietly in comparison, George W. himself boycotted, and belatedly sent Colin Powell to, the World Summit on Sustainability and the Environment in South Africa. U.S. bureaucrats in attendance were successful in blocking the adoption of specific targets regarding the development of wind and solar energy. When put together with our rejection of the Kyoto Accords, which place limits by specific target dates on harmful greenhouse emissions, and the Bush energy plan in general, which relies heavily on the burning of fossil fuels far into the future, a clear picture emerges – a picture that has left most thinking people, world leaders and eco-economists baffled and appalled -a picture that should give us great pause. And we should not for a moment think that these two issues – war on Iraq, and war on the concept of a sustainable energy policy – are unrelated.

Of course, Saddam is a bad guy and cannot be trusted. He has broken his word and been “evasive” and “crafty” regarding U.N. sanctions and weapons inspections. He has used weapons of mass destruction on his own people, and is currently getting ready to use them somewhere, anywhere, anytime. He is a threat to the stability of the region and the world. Therefore, the single most powerful nation in the history of the planet must take it upon itself unilaterally to rid the world of this evil menace. A wise display of world leadership, says Mr. Cheney.



Translation: We want better access to and control over the second largest oil fields in the Middle East. These oil fields, ravaged during the Gulf War, and 10 years of war with Iran, have been partially rebuilt through subsidiaries of Halliburton, dancing neatly around the U.N. imposed sanctions. Halliburton is the country’s leading oil-services firm, headed during much of the ’90s by CEO Dick Cheney. Since the Bush energy (non)vision for the next 20 years revolves almost exclusively around oil, it is in our nation’s best interest to just “take it.” Translation of our nation’s best interest: profit for the inner circle.

So we need a regime change.




Never mind the real issues in the Middle East. Let’s just forget about the festering, eight-decades-running unresolved dilemma of a free and independent Palestine co-existing with a free and independent Israel. Let’s just forget our role and acquiescence to overt state sponsored terrorism in that conflict. Let’s just forget that we have replaced the Taliban with a penniless and fragile coalition of warlords in Afghanistan, killing more civilians in the process than were killed on September 11. Let’s just forget that the continuing effort in Afghanistan is running a tab of $2 billion per month, and has perhaps done little to eliminate Al Queda. Let’s just forget that much of the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa faces staggering population growth and a diminishing capacity to house, feed, and water their own people; let alone find them meaningful work.

All this in the midst of huge wealth generated by the world’s No. 1 commodity. Most of the oil is of course exported to the thirsty engines of the Western “automobile economy.” This has proven to be a great blessing for the unparalleled economic prosperity of the second half of the 20th century. It has also become a curse – as the burning of fossil fuels is the primary contributor to global climate change and worldwide environmental degradation. We sit longer and longer in our cars, as traffic delays and gridlock shut down our heavily subsidized urban highways, and create “rage.”

And so here we are. Stuck in a mindset which on one hand recognizes that the oil- based economy is not only poisoning the earth and ourselves, but is in itself unsustainable in the long run: and on the other hand says let’s go to war so we can control the flow of that oil, and continue down the roads of denial.

I submit that this concept is bereft of anything resembling leadership, and is in fact symptomatic of a colossal failure. It is a failure primarily of a visionless energy policy for the 21st century. It is also symptomatic of a failed political system. We have long known, but ignored the enormous influence of money on domestic politics. Here now, right before our eyes, is this same corruption of public policy in the international arena. War on Iraq is nothing more than oil thuggery, and a diversion of attention from many solvable foreign and domestic problems.

So we need a regime change. Yes. But would a Democratic administration (one hopefully duly elected) do any better. Most likely not. And those that hold out that hope, would end up being disappointed. Again.

What we need is leadership. Leadership which recognizes that nothing, repeat nothing, of any consequence can be accomplished in the Middle East until there is a bona fide, lasting peace settlement defining a Palestinian state. Leadership which recognizes the immense role the United States can play in shaping and enabling the worldwide transition from the fossil fuel economy to a sustainable hydrogen-based economy. Leadership which recognizes that transportation can mean more than highways and cars. Leadership which expands, rather than cuts, funds earmarked for rural family planning clinics in poor nations. Leadership which provides health care coverage for everyone. Leadership which abolishes the personal income tax. Leadership which admits that the war on drugs is a failure, wasting billions of dollars, choking the criminal justice system, and creating criminal organizations which make Al Capone look like a petty thief. Leadership which …

Leadership which recognizes that unilateral military action by the world’s only superpower against a sovereign nation is an appalling thought; one contrary to everything the United States is supposed to be setting the example for.

Bruce Herring resides in the Rattlesnake Creek Watershed.


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