Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm just trying to develop an online body of work (even if the work is throwaway nonsense) to advance my writing career.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

How To B Lame

George W. Bush and Exxon-Mobil probably don't deserve much of our sympathy. One is a wealthy fisherman who moonlights as Leader of the Free World and it's difficult to deny he would not have achieved his current status without family connections; the other is a multinational conglomerate that just took in record profits last quarter and is billed as--not quite accurately--the largest oil company in the world. Even in the best of circumstances, most of us struggle to muster much compassion for aristocrats and huge corporations. And that's fine. But a lot of the grumbling about the aforementioned might be a bit overstated. This could be because we love to pile on, to find who's responsible for one thing and then open the floodgates, to simplify a complicated problem so we can solve it in a water cooler conversation. Call it Microwave Resolution.

Mr. Bush has taken a great deal of heat over the past few years, relinquishing nearly every scrap of the seemingly boundless political capital he possessed immediately after September 11, 2001. Now, with his approval rating hovering around 30 percent, it appears he caused everything from Hurricane Katrina to avian flu. Clearly, though, the President is most hampered by the War on Terror and its myriad tangential consequences and concerns, of which the recent immigration controversy is yet another example.

Make no mistake, the decision to invade Iraq, overthrow Saddam Hussein, and attempt to build a fledgling democracy was made by the Bush administration and, by global standards, a scant collection of allies, most notably the United Kingdom (albeit with even less support from its populace than the United States could muster). Ultimately, it is this relatively small group which must answer for the consequences, so count on this: if the situation in Iraq stays about the same or worsens, almost no one will admit to being on board from the beginning and we'll witness enough finger pointing to baffle a three-armed traffic cop; if ,on the other hand, Iraq stabilizes and security improves, there will be a four hour line to get on that rollercoaster and more "I told you sos" than heard during a marital spat.

And don't assume I'm sparing the general public, either. We have a knack for dodging blame ourselves, and because most of us wield almost no power on an individual basis, we often get away with it. Many of the same people blaming Bush for what's happened supported the war at the beginning and are now finding quite glib pretexts to claim their endorsement was earned through deceit. The phrase "scare tactics" crops up quite frequently; the Administration employed "scare tactics" to make us think the Iraq invasion was necessary. I have no interest in defending scare tactics as a strategy to achieve desired results, but since when is this new? This is what politicians do! They do it to get elected, to justify policies, to explain errors.

Another category of war supporter turned critic is WMD Guy (or WMD Woman, but that's not as catchy). WMD Guy insists he would have been against the war if he'd known Iraq did not actually have Weapons of Mass Destruction in their possession. I cannot tell you definitively that everyone who makes this statement is a liar; some are probably being true to their word. But I remember the days shortly after 9/11 and those leading up to the Iraqi invasion in March , 2003. The eagerness to blame Saddam Hussein for something--anything--was palpable. On September 11th itself, several of my co-workers seemed certain Hussein had something to do with the bombings. And Saddam did nothing but exacerbate this sentiment by reacting to the news of the attacks with glee. Let's face it, Saddam Hussein was a butcher and remains a despicable human being. So it's safe to say that a fair number of us wanted Hussein gone whether he was hiding Weapons of Mass Destruction or just a cache of Reese's cups.

On a related note, when you hear someone say "I didn't know he didn't have WMDs; that was why I supported the invasion in the first place", this person might mean instead, "I didn't know it would take more than three years, kill so many people and cost billions of dollars." You see, many of us are very deft when it comes to circumventing blame, but blind to realities of war, occupation and nation-building. Of course it's messy. War is messy! It's not a secret and it shouldn't be a surprise.

Exxon-Mobil has been vilified by politicans, media and the public for reaping record profits during the first quarter of 2006. I shed no tears for them and I, like everyone, would appreciate a magnanimous gesture on gasoline prices, but listen: this is what companies do! They make money. That's why they become companies. And a move toward lower prices would be difficult for Exxon to make unilaterally. For while they are the largest privately-owned oil company in the world, they are not the largest oil congolmerate. Not by a long shot. National governments are big players in the oil industry and state-operated petroleum entities like those in Russia, China and Venezuela have a greater influence on pricing and production than BP, Shell or Exxon. This doesn't mean you have to support Exxon. Do whatever you want; shop elsewhere, buy a hybrid or use ethanol, take the bus, the train, a bicycle, or your feet. But don't think punishing Exxon is the answer to all your problems.

Now that this entry has nearly ended, you may be asking what I'm to blame for. After all, I've taken up several paragraphs explaining why these things are never as simple as a matter of good guys and bad guys and that we often share blame ourselves for things we wish could be attributed solely to others. So what can be blamed on me? Well, I write the blog, don't I?



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18 May, 2006 09:42  

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