AUTHOR: Beth TITLE: DATE: 5/25/2004 11:42:00 AM ----- BODY:

Eye of a Hurricane

That's great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane - Lenny Bruce is not afraid. Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn -world serves its own needs, don't misserve your own needs. Feed it up a knock, speed, grunt no, strength no. Ladder structure clatter with fear of height, down height. Wire in a fire, represent the seven games in a government for hire and a combat site. Left her, wasn't coming in a hurry with the furies breathing down your neck. Team by team reporters baffled, trump, tethered crop. Look at that low plane! Fine then. Uh oh, overflow, population, common group, but it'll do. Save yourself, serve yourself. World serves its own needs, listen to your heart bleed. Tell me with the rapture and the reverent in the right - right. You vitriolic, patriotic, slam, fight, bright light, feeling pretty psyched.
"A great many people are going to die," I'm telling Christina over cigarettes, bad cheese fries and even worse coffee at Denny's, "within the next year." "It could be the end of the world, but probably not." "Really?" She's looking at me with the hugest, most earnest eyes ever. Christina can be very impressionable. "Well, I think so." She slumps to the table. "Oh, my God." "Well, look at it this way..." Look at it this way: The incidents at Abu Ghraib prison are the scandal that could begin our downfall. American soldiers, whether they truly represent the majority or not, now appear to Iraqis as just as brutal as the repressive agents of Saddam Hussein's regime. This is not necessarily fair, but what matters is not what we as Americans think but what they as the Middle Eastern region think, because that is what is acted upon. If our goal following "shock and awe" was to win hearts and minds, we're doing a piss-poor job. The beheading of Nicholas Berg mitigated the damage from the Abu Ghraib incidents somewhat (leading some to think it was a conspiracy, of course). But that doesn't change the thin line we walk between appearing to be a liberating force or another incarnation of oppressor. There are, of course, some people who want to kill us either way. Which leads to Beana's next question. "What if John Kerry is elected instead of Bush? Would that help?" she asks. "Yes and no," I answer. The election of John Kerry would help in that it would boost sympathy for the United States again among other Western industrialized nations like ourselves, and Western-focused governing bodies like the U.N. It would also help, in my opinion, in that Democratic Presidents tend to focus more on domestic issues than foreign wars, which we badly need right now. But do people who want to kill Americans separate Republican from Democrat? Not a chance. There were, you'll recall, three different major terror attacks--the bombing of the Kenyan Embassy, the bombing of the USS Cole and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center--while a Democrat, Bill Clinton, was in office. Sept. 11 was largely planned while a Democrat was in power, as well. There are people who want to kill us, rich, poor, liberal, conservative, religious and non-religious alike. Can you really picture Osama bin Laden saying, "Oh, well, as long as the United States has a President whose policies I support, I'll just back off." Which is what makes all the conservative moves toward censorship and enforced "patriotism" in this country so laughable. "So what's going to happen?" she asks, point-blank. In my opinion, what's going to happen is a United States pull-out from Iraq, followed by a near-immediate and bloody civil war in that country in which whatever Western-installed democracy is brutally overthrown, to be replaced either by warring factions or another Saddam-like dictator for many, many years to come. Kind of like the fall of Saigon meets the current situation in Israel. Aside from the fact that our "mission" in Iraq--from protecting Israel itself to securing oil to implanting democracy in the region to serve our own ends--will be a total failure, this likely scenario will be immeasurably damaging to the US on the home front. There are some who feel that Islamist anger toward the West has more to do with feeling entrapped by their own repressive governments or victimized by insoluble conflicts such as in Lebanon or the West Bank. Can you imagine if such a government or conflict could be shown to arise directly from a bungled United States foreign policy? As I've said, there are people who want to kill Americans regardless of race, color or creed, but there are even more people who stand in the middle of the political road over there--most people around the world do this, actually. If those people--moderates and average citizens--turn against the United States, they will constitute a force to be reckoned with. Our relationship with Europe is not too spectacular either. If we are faced with overwhelming resentment from the Middle East coupled with indifference from our traditional allies, we are in for some serious consequences. "So what's going to happen?" she asks again. "Suicide bombers," I say. Of course suicide bombers. I don't think the Dept. of Homeland Security has been very effective at much besides denying people basic human rights, but that's not to say that there haven't been any effective security measures taken in the last few years. Planes, for example--I think planes and the passengers on them have become much more of a challenge for a would-be hijacker nowadays. But then again... "Lightning doesn't strike twice", Beana said. "Exactly." But what are you really going to do about a legion of well-organized young men hell-bent on dying, walking into a Starbucks, a Borders, a grocery store? What if they did so all at once, in different cities, on the same day? How could they be stopped? So what, after all, is going to happen? In my opinion, an attack on a par with Sept. 11 will come in the next six months, before or during the next Presidential election. If it's bad enough, it could be used by the President to suspend elections or declare martial law. You can think I'm crazy if you want. This is just my opinion, and you're more than welcome to formulate your own. But you can't deny--something is coming. So what do you do? We're just another generation that lives with the Apocalypse. Saturday I went out, winding up at Partners' Pub, watching live bands, completely chemically incoherent, singing along with a cover of Nirvana's "Breed" like it was a nursery rhyme, striking up horrifyingly random conversations with complete strangers, rocking out to music I'm not sure was good or not, because it would have been good either way. Sunday I stayed in, watching baseball, cozy with my father, grandfather and boyfriend in the living room, tossing and turning for comfort on my grandmother's rust-flowered couch. The Red Sox won, and baseball is the most absurdly beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life, which doesn't solve anything but is good enough. Yesterday I listened to news talk radio, sports talk radio, constant chatter in the background like a lullaby. Last night I watched the President's speech and refrained from throwing things at the television, and then Andy and I drove around together aimlessly in a furious thunderstorm, just in case you needed a metaphor to make this whole story clearer.