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The President’s Greatest Fear

By Doug Soderstrom

22 August, 2005

It has been said that “Love hath no fear” which I believe means that if one is committed to finding the truth, that one wants to understand, wants to know the truth more than anything else in the world, then through such conviction one will find the courage, the fearlessness, to pursue what must be done.

Next to the president’s Crawford, Texas vacation compound Cindy Sheehan has indicated that she will not leave until President Bush takes the time to meet with her concerning a belief that he is leading our country astray. Two standing eye to eye, neither willing to budge an inch. Titans each. One, in the name of democracy and freedom, defending his right as the president to move a nation toward empire, even to dominate the world, and, if necessary, by military means. The other a mere citizen, defending her right (even here responsibility) to question a president whom she believes is destroying a once great nation. No doubt two very different worldviews, a microcosm… a tiny mirror, reflecting a nation once again in a desperate struggle to find itself.

Four decades ago our nation was divided, torn from within. On the one side: the so-called hippies (most of them college students with long hair), blacks (nearly all of them poor), and white-skinned liberals most of them below the age of 40, except for a few old men (George McGovern, Eugene McCarthy, and Hubert Humphrey) unfortunately on their way out; the other, a “more respectable” group, folks with good manners (but not necessarily good morals), most of them old (some older than the hills), most all republicans and likely rich (or at least well-to-do), and not a single homosexual or black (in those days, you see, these folks apparently had a good deal of sense!). And, of course, the backdrop for all that was going on in those days was that of the Viet Nam War. Sure there were other issues all of them no doubt important, but in one way or another always under the all-inclusive umbrella of the Vietnam War; our darker-colored brothers were well on their way to achieving a modicum of civil rights, women in the beginning stages of comprehending their long-held status of inferiority in relation to men, environmentalists had just begun to understand just how terribly the world had been ransacked by pollution. Religion in America was being toward asunder by those who believed in a merciful God of love and understanding versus those who sided with a Caucasian God of war-like vengeance and intolerance.

Perhaps what we are seeing now is nothing more than an extension of the 1960’s, a continued attempt to resolve problems that have been “put on hold” for the past forty years. Except this time around the world has become much more complex and difficult to understand. The same old problems, but framed in a world with a far different set of rules. This time there are many more players (not simply the United States versus Russia) with vastly different ways of looking at the world; one motivated by expedience (a desire to win, yet subdued by an unwillingness to sustain a significant loss of life, the other inspired by that of religious conviction (a desire to win, no matter what the cost).

Herein lies the problem. In their drive to rule the world, the bush administration, with a military policy of preemption, a kind of “God-given” right to attack anyone who seems to threaten their right of domination, is leading our nation into a place it should not go, especially if it chooses to attack Iran which it looks like it is eventually going to do. Because such a move would likely lead to an intensification of hate for America, an Iranian oil embargo, an exacerbation of our country’s mounting debt, an increased influx of terrorists into Iraq, a greater likelihood of civil war, conflict with Russia and China (nascently merging military partners with large investments in Iran), and a spread of the war throughout the Middle East, an attack upon Iran has within it the potential to decimate our country. All of this compounded by an ever increasing realization that the president has lied to the nation in regards to why we entered the war in Iraq along with a recognition that those who are profiting most from the war are his “good buddies,” many who seem to control the purse strings of the petroleum and weapons industry.

In his rush to war, it seems that the president has forgotten a rather important point. He has neglected to ask what might happen if the people of “our nation” lose faith in him as “our president,” if they become convinced that he has not been honest with them, if they come to the conclusion that he has essentially lied to them, that he is, in fact, a liar, and all of it in order to pave the way toward a war of “his own” choice.

Correspondingly, a recent worldwide poll has indicated that a vast majority of countries around the world have more respect for China than they do for the United States. But why? Perhaps the reason is that the world is beginning to realize that under the Bush administration the United States has become a rogue nation, a terrorist, one that is no doubt out of control, and, due to its arrogance, seems on the verge of bringing chaos, in the form of war, to the rest of the world. Consequently, in his march to war, there is little likelihood that our president will be able to count on the support of countries around the world, little likelihood that they will lend live bodies in which to fight “his” wars.

However, even at home, things seem no better. Because of the ever increasing slaughter associated with decreasing morale amongst our troops, reenlistment rates have plummeted to an all time low, while military recruiters at home are finding it very difficult to meet their quotas due to insipid attempts to convince young people that they should sign up to fight in a war that makes no sense, one in which they would rather not die. So, even though the president is unwilling to admit it, he must be in a virtual quandary trying to figure out what to do; where in the hell he is going to find enough soldiers to do his bidding in this, much less, the next war. Well, believe me, the president, like it or not, knows exactly what he is going to have to do. He understands that there is but one avenue left to find enough soldiers (enough live bodies) to fight his wars of planned aggression: that of forced military conscription, better known as “the draft!” But, there is no way he will ever tell the American people such a thing, because if he does he knows that there will be hell to pay. Not only will republicans loose many seats in congress, but even worse, shit will literally hit the fan and chaos will reign down like fire coming to visit the streets and corners of every city, shantytown, and village across our nation!

Given the Bush-lies that got us into the war, the fact of a military conflict that has gone all together wrong, the deaths of so many Americans, a communal sense of guilt associated with the killing of perhaps as many as half a million Iraqis, along with a haunting fear that such could lead to an all out war, perhaps even the advent of World War III, the American people have begun to turn their backs upon the Bush administration. Recent polls have shown that a majority of Americans are beginning to say that it was a mistake to go to war in the first place, that the Bush administration has not been honest with them, and that they want our troops to come home.

Without a doubt, the president is in a tremendous bind. He can hardly renege on his vow to destroy those who choose not to play according to his rules, as in the stern warning recently given to Iran’s newly installed president, Mahmoud Ahmandinejad; “Halt your program of uranium enrichment or we will nuke (as in “bunker busters”) the hell out of you!” On the other hand, he can hardly afford to expand the war, since the only way to find troops is through forced military conscription, which might well lead to mutiny. It’s almost as if the president has no place to turn. Something like a scared rabbit cooking on a spit! No matter which way the guy turns he is going to get burned! Perhaps his brother Jeb, in “helping him” to win the 2000 election, was no favor at all. Isn’t it odd how such sweet grapes in the short run can turn out to be such terribly sour lemons in the long run.

Forty years ago, at the height of the division that separated folks who supported the Viet Nam War versus those who did not, no more than 25% of the country was against the war. And most of these were young people going to college, those with nothing to loose. But in the world of Iraq II, things have changed rather dramatically! Now that we have become so horribly entangled in a war with virtually no support from anyone around the world, we find ourselves in an absolute mess. This time the polls show that not only does the rest of the world not support our involvement in Iraq, but, at present, most of our own people have become disillusioned by the lies of a president who forced us into war.

As a college teacher, one who grew up in, lived through, and perhaps even survived, the 1960’s, one who has been teaching young people of draft age for the past forty years, I see a slumbering, rather ideologically-challenged group of folks (not altogether different from their counterparts in the 1950’s who went on to spark a revolution) with little reason to live other than a need to make as much money as possible (or at least enough to make a rather decent living). No doubt, a sort of sleeping giant ready to move, but only if given a reason, a raison d’êre, a cause, something for which to live their lives. But don’t worry because such a cause may be just around the corner in the form of forced military conscription (the draft), something with the potential to transform this rather sleepy congregation of young people into an adversary worthy of respect. Believe me, there is nothing that will motivate one to move more than a gut-wrenching fear of death! Now, I am not saying that our youth are any more afraid of dying, any less likely to give their lives for their country, than any of the generations that have preceded them. However, what I am saying is that no one in his right mind is likely to put his life on the line for a war in which fewer and fewer folks are choosing to support.

Now, back in the time of the Viet Nam War, it was merely the kids who opposed the war, but this time around things have changed. In the world of Iraq II it is the parents, a group of folks who do not want to see their children brought home in coffins, who will be just as likely to oppose the war. So combining these factors; a rather sluggish group of young people primed and ready for a cause, loving parents unwilling to send their children into a war that makes no sense at all, and a commander in chief forcing our children to make the gut-grinding decision to either fight in a war they do not support, spend five long years in prison, or devote the rest of their lives to hiding out somewhere in the shadows of America, if not able to reach the Mexican border before being captured and imprisoned by the feds, and you’ve got all the ingredients necessary to create an explosion, a revolution in the making, a mutinous moment in time that will make the Viet Nam era protests look like mere child’s play!

Can you imagine… a commander in chief having committed his country to war, but with no one to command? You see a military leader’s worst fear is not that he will lose the war, but rather that, because he has lost the trust of his own men, no one is willing to follow. The flip side is the rather clever 1960’s quip, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the world gave a war and no one came!” Well such a reality may come to pass in our own country, and believe me it will not be pretty, because if such occurs, it will expose, for all the world to see, a country horribly divided from within by those willing to go to war and kill for their commander in chief versus those who have lost faith in their leader, those who no longer view war as an acceptable means to peace.

Which brings us back to the president of our country, George Walker Bush, and Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a son (Casey) killed in Iraq, having camped along side a desolate road somewhere in central Texas. And of the two, who is it that loves the truth? Who is it that wants to know the truth more than anything else in the world? Who is it that has nothing to hide? Who is it that has been willing to suffer indignity? Who is it that has the conviction, the fearless courage, to do what must be done? Who is it that we can trust and are willing to follow? That’s the dilemma. That’s what has been vexing the soul of our nation… trying to figure out whom to bet our future on: The man with a big stick or a grieving mother with a big heart?

That’s the question isn’t it!

Doug Soderstrom, Ph. D.


Wharton, Texas

August 21, 2005












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