Monday, October 29, 2001

Week of 10/29/2001

Halloween’s Deadly Tricks
- by David Matthews 2

"We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them." - Livy

They came pouring out of homes and parties. They clogged streets trying desperately to escape the horror. Some tried to load their cars up with as many personal belongings as they could. Others simply fled into the streets, covering their mouths with wet rags to avoid breathing any of the poisonous gas. Police stations were besieged with panicked citizens. Telephone switchboards were jammed with frantic callers trying to get information, as well as doctors and nurses calling hospitals to volunteer their services to areas affected by the attack.

Is this a hypothetical response to some new act of terrorism?

No, the response to this attack was very real.

The attack, however, was not.

Nor was the attack either "new" or the work of terrorists. These were actual accounts of people responding to the 1938 radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’ story "The War Of The Worlds", where New York and New Jersey were "destroyed" by alien invaders. But even thought it was a wonderful piece of radio theatrics… and a cheesy one even by their standards… its effect on the masses surprised everyone.

Halloween has always been seen as sort of the release valve for our fears, where we emerge ourselves in horror movies and ghost stories and haunted houses. And by viewing or hearing or reading about that which scares the crap out of us, we quite often feel a little bit better.

But this time of the year has also been full of haunting stories of a different kind. Stories of terror from the media, or from our politicians, or from special interest groups. People who don’t really want us to feel better… in fact, they quite often want us to feel so scared of our own shadows that we’ll be begging for their help.

Of course, it helps that election season is just a week or so away from Halloween that these spinmeisters can create all of these "tricks" tailor-made for government "treats." It’s a case of simple cause-and-effect for these folks. They create the need, then offer us the solution… and quite often only one solution… for us to take.

Our current Anthrax scare is no different in approach. Deadly? Oh yes it is. Even more wider-spread that once believed? No doubt.

But let’s get brutally honest here and start to put things in a little more realistic perspective. Unless you happen to work in the mail facilities that handle mail going to the major networks or to Washington DC, or if you happen to be working for either the major news services or the federal government, you’re probably NOT going to get Anthrax. The pig bastards responsible for this form of bio-terrorism just do not have the means to spread Anthrax to every citizen in America.

Nor to they have to, as has been evident in the hysteria surrounding this scare. These pig bastards really put some thought into where to send their poison to generate the maximum amount of terror. After all, what better way to generate mass hysteria than to hit members of the mass media?

And as much as we would not want to give these pig bastards the satisfaction, unfortunately, their efforts have succeeded. The minute the Postmaster General put his tail between his legs and publicly said that no piece mail is secure, and that the general public should take measures to protect themselves from Anthrax infestation, the terrorists won.

Adding to this hysteria are all of the numerous counts of fake Anthrax threats. Anti-abortion terrorists have taken it upon themselves to send threatening letters to hundreds of women’s clinics all over America with suspicious white powder in them. A mail facility intercepted a letter addressed to radio talk show host Neal Boortz with a suspicious white powder in them. No doubt from one of his not-so-cheerful "admirers".

And it has spread to the most absurd cases of outright hysteria. See some white powder on the table? Call the Center for Disease Control, get that table salt or coffee creamer tested! One boy in Cobb County, Georgia was arrested for simply putting foot powder in his shoes. Even though it was witnessed by other students, the hysteria was more than enough for the government to charge that boy with trying to commit an act of terrorism!

Look, folks, there is a difference between being vigilant and being paranoid. A person who is aware of what is going on and thinks things through is vigilant. A person who simply and mindlessly gives in to their fears is paranoid.

It is very easy to surrender to the hysteria generated by members of the media and our government. They are all power-mongers who don’t like being threatened by anything, much less a bunch of pig bastard terrorists. But that doesn’t mean that WE should give into their hysteria and further aid those pig bastard terrorists.

So the Postmaster General says that the mail isn’t safe. Hey, the mail has NEVER been safe! Our mail system has always been vulnerable to thieves looking to steal Social Security checks or credit cards. I’m more afraid of getting a paper-cut from opening junk mail than from getting anything even remotely resembling Anthrax.

Wash my hands after opening mail? Why not just jump into the shower? Emerge myself in antibacterial soap, scrub every pore of my body with steel wool, shave off all of my body hair, and seal myself into a plastic bubble? Guaranteed that will save me from any kind of biological threat, including contact with the biggest biological threat of them all – other human beings.

Look, the big thing about terrorism that people tend to forget is that it is mostly a psychological game. They don’t have to do anything to you in order for them to get to you. It is no different than the mind games carried out by members of the media and our politicians around this time of the year. The only difference is that terrorists don’t offer a ready-made government solution at the end of their threats.

Halloween has long been considered a time of celebration. It is a chance not only to remember the dead but to also celebrate the living. What a pity it is to know that our seasonal fascination with lost souls can be used against us not only for the sake of generating more need of government, but also simply for the sake of generating fear.

Monday, October 22, 2001

Week of 10/22/2001

American Patriotism – Real and Faux
- by David Matthews 2

"Group extremely important as an element giving satisfaction to the members of the group and particularly to those who have few other reasons to feel proud and worthwhile." - Erich Fromm

I know this is going to come as a shock to some people, but there are quite a few Americans who are not as patriotic as they think they are.

No, I’m not talking about the members of the US House who scurried away like scared little mice while members of the Senate stuck through an Anthrax sweep. That kind of overriding self-preservation has a long history. Even Thomas Jefferson – the third President of the United States, and author of the Declaration of Independence – didn’t stick around to defend his own home in the face of the advancing British troops. What members of the House did may not be acceptable, but it was understandable.

And no, I’m not talking about all of those peaceful protesters out there who think somehow that we should do nothing while terrorist groups continue to prey on Americans and cause chaos at every turn. You know which ones I’m talking about… the ones who think that pig bastards like Osama bin Laden should be sued, not shot. The ones who sit in academia pontificating with leaps of rational faith that would make even Robert Ripley choke about how WE are responsible for the deaths of 6000 innocent Americans and the destruction of the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon. The ones who, for perhaps personal or religious beliefs, are opposed to any sort of violence, even in response to violence inflicted upon us. Though we may strongly object to such views, they are no more a threat to American patriotism than they are a nuisance.

No, my friends, the biggest threat to American patriotism comes not from those who would rather flee than fight, nor those who would protest the people who would stand and fight. Rather, from those who would consider themselves to be patriots and yet not know what they are patriotic about.

You can’t really call these people "false" or "fake" patriots, because what they feel is as genuine as anyone else is. They are passionate about what they feel… but it isn’t for the same vision of America some of us would hold.

I would call it "faux" patriotism. It looks genuine, just like imitation crabmeat looks like the real thing; or just like Astroturf looks like real grass. But under close inspection, you know these things just are not the same as the real deal. So is the same with faux patriotism.

Oh, it looks the same. They’ll wave the same flags, sing the same patriotic songs, and pledge the same unending, unyielding, undying support for America. But underneath all of that pomp and flag-waving lay a stark contradiction to everything America stands for.

For instance, not too long ago, there was a push by many of these so-called "patriots" to force students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Not encourage, not teach, but force, whether or not that student has objections, or if that student’s religious beliefs prohibit taking such oaths or pledges. Ironically, it is a Pledge that was written by a self-professed Christian socialist… a political ideology that many of these so-called "patriots" would proclaim to hate.

Strange - don’t you think - that a country based on principles of freedom would force people to recite a pledge even if their religion opposed it? But that is what faux patriots believe in.

How about a country that prides itself in the freedom of speech, and then goes to great lengths to curtail that speech? Remember all of those protesters and dissenters who object to striking out against terrorists and the countries that support them? Well there is many a faux patriot who would like to have those with dissenting opinions tried for treason. They wouldn’t mind resurrecting the unconstitutional Alien and Sedition Act just to silence anyone that disagrees with our current course of action overseas.

I don’t even have to get into the issue of flag burning, because you know these faux patriots are quick to turn the American flag into a false idol. If the founding fathers hadn’t already designated a national animal, these faux patriots would have easily chosen a golden calf over a bald eagle.

Of course, these faux patriots are all for the freedom of religion… provided it is one of those religions that THEY approve of. Of course, these are the same patriots who would then demonstrate outside of Muslim mosques, and proclaim that this ongoing War on Terrorism is really some resurrected combination of the Crusades of the Dark Ages and the Spanish Inquisition.

And woe be the person who objects to them putting the government’s "unofficial" seal of approval on their religious beliefs! After all, wasn’t America "founded" on religious crusaders who were pissed off because THEY weren’t allowed to expunge other religious believers? That is, after all, why the Puritans made their way to Plymouth Rock, right?

And then there is the "need to know" crusade to make sure the government finds out everything going on with "We the People". After all, they would argue, didn’t we get INTO this mess because we didn’t know what the bad guys were doing? If we knew what they were doing, then we would’ve stopped them from carrying out their plans. Privacy, they would argue, is for people who have something to hide.

These are trying times, these faux patriots would say, and if you aren’t with us – unequivocally, unconditionally, and unquestionably – then you’re with THEM!

To be fair to these people, faux patriots really do believe in a vision of America. It’s a crystal-clear vision of the way things used to be. The way things were once upon a dream. The way things they think OUGHT to be. And if it takes an act of international tragedy, an act of aggression that any rational human being would consider to be an act of pure evil, to change the course of a great country like America into their image… well then these faux patriots would say "so be it." They may never ever consider themselves the instigators of such evil, but they have no qualms capitalizing on it.

But let’s get brutally honest here… their vision of America is that of the 1950’s. A society made paranoid by fears of a nuclear holocaust and wild rumors of communist spies in every neighborhood. Comparisons refreshed by today’s fears of terrorism both conventional (if such a term can ever apply) and biological, and wild rumors of possible nuclear terrorism. A paranoid America that gave rise to publicity whores like Joe McCarthy, and allowed bible-thumpers to further instill their religion into government to supposedly "counter" the god-less Soviets.

Is that the kind of America you want to give to your kids? Is that the legacy our generations wish to leave the next? A society that fails to learn the lessons of the past, and is thus condemned to repeat them? Do we really want to turn America into a nation whose only freedom that is truly defended is the right to be a Lemming?

If we truly care about freedom, we have to make sure that those who would take that freedom away don’t do so under the guise of patriotism. It’s easy to march down the path towards tyranny when that path is paved with pomp and flags and banners and colorful slogans. That’s how all tyrants get to power in the first place, not by coercion, but rather by appealing to one’s sense of patriotism, and then twisting that path to their liking.

So let’s see what real Americans patriots do that make them differ from the faux patriots.

Real American patriotism is based on freedom. There is no room in freedom for tyranny, coercion, or fear.

Real American patriots TEACH freedom in schools. They don’t try to force it, because they know you cannot force others to be free. Freedom comes from a free mind.

Real American patriots don’t try to make idols out of patriotic symbols. They appreciate the real value of symbols and don’t try to place them above what they represent.

Finally, perhaps it is best if we remind ourselves of the words of Mark Twain as he talked about patriotism:

"Each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak. And it is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catchphrases of politicians. Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn't. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let man label you as they may. If you alone of all the nation shall decide one way, and that way be the right way according to your convictions of the right, you have done your duty by yourself and by your country- hold up your head! You have nothing to be ashamed of."

Monday, October 15, 2001

Week of 10/15/2001

Target: Governing by Fear
- by David Matthews 2

"It is appropriate here to recall that the so-called Dark Ages began with the flight of the individuals into the protection of lords or chapters and came to an end when the individual again found it to his advantage to set forth on his own. We live at a time when everything conspires to push the individual into the fold." - Bertrand de Jouvenal

When it comes to emotions, there is probably nothing more powerful than fear.

Fear is irrational. It is unreasonable. It makes us do even the most stupidest of things.

Ever automatically toss spilled salt over your left shoulder? Avoid stepping under ladders or cracks on the sidewalk? Try not to have black cats cross your path? Go to pains to make sure a mirror isn’t broken? Sleep with a night on? Ever try to rationalize logically why you do that? Go ahead. You’ll only make yourself sound ridiculous.

Fear cripples and paralyzes even the most powerful of creatures.

We’ve all heard of the stories of mighty elephants being terrified of the tiniest of creatures such as mice. Rationally, you wouldn’t know why the big and powerful can be so afraid of the tiny and fragile… until you realize that these little creatures can roam in places the mighty creatures cannot see. How would you like to have something small scamper around in sensitive places you can’t see?

Fear is the mind’s response to uncertainty. You don’t know what’s in the dark. You don’t know what’s scampering underneath you. You don’t know what will happen if you try to do something you haven’t done before.

In Shakespeare’s "Hamlet", Romeo considered either going through with his master plan, which was to expose his stepfather as a murderer, and thus be compelled to kill the man himself; or to simply end the insanity and kill himself. He pondered the options, and actually considered suicide in his great "to be or not to be" sililoquy. But then he asked himself what would happen after he died? What dreams would come from an eternal sleep? And that’s why he decided not to kill himself… because he was afraid of death more than he was of life.

Many a religion is founded on fear. The pre-civilized society was fearful of lightning strikes and tornadoes and earthquakes. They thought that they were being punished by some higher being if a comet streaked across the skies, or if the seasons are harsher than usual. Then some self-appointed "wise man" would say that they would have all the answers to what is going on, and if their words were not obeyed, the bad things out there in the world would continue. And the people believed them simply out of fear.

Think about all of the various deities of ancient days, governing various aspects not only of a person’s life, but also of their fears. What would happen if you disobeyed one of these deities? Well, that depended on whom you "offended". Some would "punish" people through lightning strikes. Others through flood, or famine, or drought, or plague. Or they would be stricken by hideous monsters forged from the depths of imagination.

Even when we no longer are fearful of the elements, that last fear of death still holds us. Consider the double-edged swords of modern-day Christianity and Islam. When you die, you are judged for everything you’ve ever done in your life. As long as you obey the tenants of their respective beliefs, you’ll spend eternity in paradise. But if you stray from those beliefs – some say even in the least – you will suffer endless torment.

Now you know why religions based on love, forgiveness, and understanding are quickly replaced by instilling fear. It’s easier to control people if you appeal to what they fear versus what they love.

It is also no wonder why the elderly are the most religious. They cling to their religion like a baby to a pacifier, afraid of what dreams may come when they take that final sleep of death.

Guess what else was forged by fear? Government.

That’s right. Not all tribal and clan leaders were wise, noble, and gregarious. Quite often, they were vain, egotistical, arrogant, self-centered, and power-hungry. They were bullies and thugs, who ruled by keeping others afraid. If they weren’t the strongest, they made sure they surrounded themselves with people who were.

Eventually, though, we decided that it wasn’t right to be governed by fear. We let our intellect rule instead of our fears, and started to set down the notion that government be run by trust, not by fear.

But that didn’t mean we still weren’t being governed by fear.

In fact, anytime we felt threatened, we cling to government like a child to his teddy bear. Like those so-called "wise men" in the caves, we blindly accept whatever sacrifices must be made, no matter what that sacrifice is. We’ll even let our own government snatch away our neighbors simply because of what nationality they came from. Anything to keep the "wise men" happy.

Let’s get brutally honest here… despite all of our beliefs that government should be handled on some intellectual basis of trust, we still end up being governed more by what terrifies us.

And fear is readily apparent today following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in America. We were terrified of air travel after terrorists struck. Even when the airports were made "safe" by instilling members of the National Guard, people would not fly. People would not take the bus after some nutcase tried to kill a Greyhound driver. There is still talk among the media of suitcase-sized nuclear bombs and even more terrorist attacks.

Now, the fear of the day is Anthrax. Envelopes with a strange white powder are being transported by mail. Some of those envelopes contain some form of Anthrax; other envelopes do not. The game is to figure out which ones do and which ones do not.

So don’t be surprised if someone comes up with the "novel" idea of wanting all mail searched. After all, it’s a public safety issue, right? If we search all envelopes and packages for Anthrax before they reach their intended targets, we’ll make sure that nobody else is infected by it.

To hell with the Fourth Amendment, they’ll say. We’re talking about public safety!

Oh, and while we’re going through the mail, why not see what else is being sent through the postal service. After all, we may unlock some new terrorist propaganda, or perhaps even a few coded messages from the terrorists themselves, right? That would certainly be worth looking through a few personal letters, right?

And, of course, we can’t forget to look for any other "subversive" messages as well. You know which ones we’re talking about… the ones that lead to the "corruption" of our youths. Let’s see who is getting all of those skin magazines and naughty video offers. Here’s our chance to resurrect the nightmare dreams of the anti-American moralist Anthony Comstock, once again in the name of public safety.

See how quickly something like that can start? And all of it because of fear.

President Bush constantly says that we need to resume our normal life before the 9/11 horror. But that cannot happen as long as we are being told to live in fear and in dread for what else might happen.

Another US president, Franklin Roosevelt, once said that we have nothing to fear except fear itself. In fact, he listed freedom from fear as one of his great goals in his "Four Freedoms" speech. But being truly free from fear will never come from the government, any more than a nightlight will free us from being afraid of the dark. There is a time when you have to face your fears, confront them, and not give in to them. Once that happens, those fears can’t hurt you.

The dark ages of man are always forged by fear. Those days end when we stop being led about by our fears and start looking towards hope and trust. If we really want to defeat the efforts of the terrorists, we need to stop being led by our fears.

Monday, October 8, 2001

Week of 10/08/2001

Brushed By E-E-EVIL-L-L
- by David Matthews 2

"Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men." - Ayn Rand

Ever since we found out who some of the key players were in the September 11th terrorist attacks on America, there’s been a really sick game being played by the members of the media. They want to know….

Have YOU been brushed by E-E-EVIL-L-L?

In their effort to show just how well insulated the unholy collection of terrorists were in America, the federal government and the media have been telling the public where these nineteen bastards were in the months, weeks, days, and minutes before carrying out their heinous acts of terrorism. They showed how they got into this country, where they lived, where they got their flight training, where they traveled to, even the gym where they worked out at, the ATM machines they used, and the kind of stores they visited. If they went someplace with a camera, it became part of the FBI’s file, and on the front page of newspapers and the leading story in the network news.

Yes, that’s right, my friends, you too may have been brushed by E-E-EVIL-L-L!

Now the government’s motive behind such a detailed investigation of these unholy bastards is simple: find out how they were able to carry out the attacks, who helped them – either knowingly or unknowingly – and who else might be alive and around to threaten America. Even a libertarian such as myself would have no qualms with the premise. It is, after all, a legitimate function of government to try to defend the people from outside attacks.

The media, on the other hand, seem to relish their sensationalizing this investigation. They’re following the places where these bastards were and talking to the people who may have known these terrorists. Did you know they were terrorists? Did they do anything suspicious? Did they reveal their plans to you?

In other words… they wanted to know what you felt like, now that you know that you were brushed by E-E-EVIL-L-L!

Yeah, like one of those bastards would go to Gold’s Gym and say "No, I cannot spot you! I am an Islamic holy warrior in training to destroy everything you evil Americans have ever created! Now leave me in peace, you worthless pig, so I may work out and prepare for the destruction of your satanic nation!"

Hey folks, here’s a hint: the real bad guys never reveal their plans until after they have been carried out! Okay? The only people who are stupid enough to do that are in the comic books and in the movies!

OF COURSE they’re not going to say or do anything suspicious to attract attention! Only the careless ones… like the idiot who only wanted to learn how to fly a plane and not go through take-off and landing procedures… are the ones that draw suspicion and get caught.

Then again, that seems to be something we Americans have a hard time grasping… we still think that bad guys are superstitious, cowardly people, who deep-down WANT to be captured and brought to justice. It’s hard for us to recognize that there really are some EVIL people in the world.

And it doesn’t help when the media sensationalizes those evil people by tracking down every aspect of their lives. Do we need to know that they went to the local Wal-Mart? Do we need to know that these bastards would figure out how to use an ATM? They learned how to fly commercial airplanes, it doesn’t take much to figure out the inner workings of an automatic teller machine! We have become so obsessed with this that I’m waiting for the media to report on what brand of toilet paper these bastards used, and a guess by some "expert" on how many sheets they would use to wipe their butts.

Yeah, I can see the headlines now: "TERRORISTS USED 2-PLY CHARMIN!"

Let’s get brutally honest here… as long as we continue to publicly look into the actions and the mentalities of those terrorist bastards, we glamorize their activities! We give credence where none should ever be given when we turn these people into media icons… even if it is for evil.

And this isn’t the first time we’ve done this either. We’ve glamorized the lives of many of history’s notorious bastards, from Al Capone on down to Ted Bundy, David Koresh, and Tim McVeigh. We’ve peered into their lives, partly to see what makes them tick, but also because we wanted to know just how evil these men can be.

That’s why I say we don’t give these bastards any more publicity than is really necessary. We did that with the two punks who terrorized Columbine High School, and made it into a media circus. Not only did it seem to inspire others to do similar acts, it also caused lawmakers, teachers, and principles to go on hysterical power trips.

But we didn’t do that with workplace violence, did we? When some office worker went nuts with automatic weapons, we didn’t make a big media circus about it, did we? There were no calls for a "violence-free workplace", were there? There was no demands on a "crackdown" on "possible weapons" at work, was there? No. We didn’t want to know who these loonies were, or what made them tick. They were nutcases, period. And for the most part, their tragedies were relatively limited. There were few copycat acts when there was really nothing to inspire copycats.

We also need to accept the fact that there is just no way we will be able to spot the next batch of terrorist bastards until they strike. In this vast, diverse country, just about anyone who keeps to himself or herself, and doesn’t do anything that would cause suspicion, can get away with just about anything.

Remember the New Age cultists who committed suicide so they could ride to heaven on the Hale-Bopp Comet? They certainly lived quiet lives, and nobody would have ever suspected that they would all kill themselves in such an orderly way.

Look, even if we all become good neighbors and knew who the person next door was, we’ll never know if they’re really quiet, peaceful people… or evil, sadistic monsters looking to destroy civilization. We’ll never know until after it happens. That is both the benefit and the curse of privacy.

Monday, October 1, 2001

Week of 10/01/2001

The Need For A NEW United Nations
- by David Matthews 2

"It takes time to ruin a world, but time is all it takes."
- Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle

Following the European horror that was World War I, there was an attempt at creating a worldwide organization that would prevent any future wars. This organization was called The League of Nations, and it was designed under a very creative concept: the collective security against the "criminal" threat of war.

Imagine that! Treating war – the favorite pastime of any government next to raising taxes – as a "crime"!

Unfortunately, the League was a dismal failure.

First, despite repeated attempts by President Woodrow Wilson, who was also one of the creators of this organization, the United States refused to join the League of Nations. Americans, for the most part, were still isolationists. World War I, they felt, was Europe’s trouble, and Europe was a whole ocean away.

Second, the League of Nations failed to resolve several key conflicts… most notably the events that led up to World War II. One of the key countries, Germany, quit the League in 1933 once the Nazis took power. Another key country, Japan, also quit that year following the League’s condemnation of that country’s attack against China. The Soviet Union, who joined the League in 1934, left it five years later after attacking Finland.

In 1940, with World War II well underway, all that was left of the League of Nations was just a handful of bureaucrats that quickly and quietly fled to the United States and Canada for their own safety.

But the idea of a global organization to try to stop war did not die. Instead, it was transferred in 1946 to a new governing body called the United Nations.

Nice idea…. but is it working?

Let’s look at the UN’s track record: the Soviet Union basically kept the UN from acting in Vietnam. It failed to stop the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980’s. It failed to keep the peace in Angola in 1991. The civil war in Somalia became an international fiasco after rebel troops killed 18 US soldiers working under the auspices of the UN and dragged their bodies in front of the media. (And you can thank Bill Clinton for us not carpet-bombing that country back to primordial goo over that incident.) And let’s not forget the refusal of the UN to step into conflicts in Rwanda, Burndi, and Kosovo, or even the taking of US hostages in Iran and other parts of the Middle East.

In fact, it wasn’t the UN that stopped the horror of what was once a country called Yugoslavia, but rather the introduction of US and NATO forces. The UN did absolutely nothing to stop renegade Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic when his people were committing acts of genocide. He had to be ousted by his own people first, and that was only after trying to steal their elections.

How about Panama’s political coup by Manuel Noriega? Did the UN step in and stop him when he invalidated that country’s election and took the duly elected leaders prisoner? Nope, it was the United States that sent troops in, chased Noriega all the way to the Vatican embassy, and then blasted his eardrums with rock music until he surrendered. Of course, we had our own reasons for doing that… Noriega was indicted in the US for drug trafficking.

How about the Gulf War? Well, no the UN did nothing to stop that from happening. America was the one that gathered a coalition of international forces and put an end to Saddam Hussein’s dreams of conquest. Of course, we also had our own reasons then… like oil prices going through the roof.

That takes us up to today’s troubles. Remember the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan? Well, when the UN failed to deal with that conflict, the United States and other countries began training and supplying the rebel forces there. Some of those rebels, the more devout followers of Shi’a Islam, became the Taliban. When the Soviet Union was chased out of that country, the Taliban – most of whom came from neighboring Pakistan – took over most of the region. So essentially that country went from an invading communist force to an invading theocratic one. The Taliban then gave safe harbor to like-minded terrorist groups, such as Osama Bin Laden and al-Qua’ada. Those groups then spread out and waged a war of terror against the United States.

And guess who has to go in there now and fix that mess? The United Nations? Oh hell no! The United States does, working with the assistance of many nations. It has become our job to go in and root out al-Qua’ada and all of the other organizations that have been given safe harbor to terrorize the civilized world. Of course, here again, we’ve got our own reasons. About seven thousand individual reasons.

Oh yes, the United Nations has done wonders for all sorts for social causes. They do a wonderful job of organizing summits, such as the summit on AIDS, the summit on the environment, the summit on women, and most recently the summit on racism. They do a wonderful job bringing groups of people together to complain about the affairs of the world, and then make a million recommendations that go ignored. Simply smashing! Keep it up!

But let’s get brutally honest here… the United Nations, as peacekeepers, is failing in the same way as the League of Nations did. At peace, they’re wonderful administrators and coordinators of the world’s generosity. At times of conflict, however, they’re proving to be very ineffective bureaucrats.

Of course, let’s not forget that the UN’s hands are tied not only by poor resources, but also very little authority to carry out what they feel needs to be done. Five nations currently have veto power over the UN efforts, and when one of those nations happens to be one of the troublemakers (as the USSR was over Vietnam and Afghanistan), the UN can do nothing except serve as backseat drivers.

The UN is also hindered by the lack of solid military forces. Their vehicles and arms are limited, and their forces come from other nations. They are completely dependent on the stronger nations to provide any kind of real support. Once that happens, though, it is no longer considered a UN situation. It becomes an American problem, or a Russian problem, or a European problem.

Which is why both generations of men named President George Bush did not depend on the UN to handle their respective problems. The elder Bush knew that the UN would let the Middle East burn while the bureaucratic Neros in New York would fiddle away. That’s why he took charge and gathered an international coalition to stand up to Hussein. The younger Bush knows that the same UN that did nothing about Afghanistan in the 1980’s would also do nothing about the end result of that apathy except send aid workers.

I hate to say it, but I really think that the world just is not ready for world peace. There are just too many pissed-off people in the world for the kind of peaceful dialogue the people of the United Nations prefers.

Not to mention people are a bit leery of creating that "New World Order" that the elder Bush often spoke of after the Gulf War. They are afraid – and rightly so – that any kind of one centralized world government would become tyrannical. They point to all of history’s tyrants and their naked ambition to conquer the world. They may want peace on Earth, but they don’t want it to come from Big Brother.

Even regional organizations, such as the European Union, are not universally accepted. Several European nations, including Great Britain, have not yet signed on to the concept of one European body… or at least not signed on entirely. And how can we forget the resistance over the North American Free-Trade Act? Even a common commercial exchange between the United States, Canada, and Latin America was treated adversely.

That’s the reason why so-called "coalition" groups are preferred over one universal organization. Countries may not agree on everything, but when faced with a common threat – such as a terrorist thug like Osama bin Laden – they will work together to resolve that threat.

And maybe that is the way to deal with world affairs for now… not as one collective organization trying to solve all of the world’s problems, but as coalitions dealing with individual problems one at a time.

Perhaps now may not be a good time, but certainly at some point in the near future the whole purpose of the United Nations needs to be reexamined. If their job is to secure the peace and prevent war, then they will need to figure out how they intend to do that, and then get resources they can depend on so they will not be continually dependant on any one power. It probably would also help if they can find a way to override that one country veto power that has stymied the UN for all these years.

I have no doubt that someday we will have that optimistic "science-fiction" kind of future, one where the nations of the world are united in peace, and strive for the betterment of humanity. But the operative word is "someday". As H.L. Mencken put it, that day will only come when "babies begin to come into the world with larger cerebrums and smaller adrenal glands."

Until that day, though, we will have to deal with those whose only version of universal peace comes through universal death. And we cannot deal with them with our heads in the sand and our minds in the clouds.