Friday, June 03, 2005

Frank Rich

Frank Rich's column in each Sunday's New York Times is truly a must-read. He can always be relied upon to identify the point of impact where politics and culture collide. In last Sunday's column, Rich draws a parallel between the failure of New York City to finalize a World Trade Center memorial with the "empty hole" that has become the so-called War on Terror that was launched as a result of the attack at that very site.
Bothered as New Yorkers may be by what Charles Schumer has termed the "culture of inertia" surrounding ground zero, that stagnation may accurately reflect most of America's view about the war on terror that began with the slaughter of more than 2,700 at the World Trade Center almost four years ago. Though the vacant site is a poor memorial for those who died there, it's an all too apt symbol for a war on which the country is turning its back.

Indeed a majority of Americans now believe the war in Iraq was not worth the cost, either in dollars or in human lives. But the polls are just one indication of the growing war fatigue.
Take a look at any recent poll you choose - NBC/Wall Street Journal, Harris, CNN/Gallup/USA Today - and you find comparable figures of rising majority disapproval of the war. Or ignore the polls and look at those voting with their feet: the Army has missed its recruiting goals three months in a row, and the Marines every month since January, despite reports of scandalous ethical violations including the forging of high-school diplomas and the hoodwinking of the mentally ill by unscrupulous recruiters. Speaking bitterly about the Army's strenuous effort to cover up his son's death by friendly fire, Pat Tillman's father crystallized the crisis in an interview with The Washington Post last week: "They realized that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a handbasket if the truth about this death got out. They blew up their poster boy."

It's a shame that one needs to turn to the OpEd page to read what should be covered on the front page, but Rich's column is full of mentions of such underreported stories as the Pentagon's lies regarding Tillman's death. We'll let Rich close us out with a few more:
Such lassitude about the day that was supposed to change everything is visible everywhere. Tom Ridge, now retired as homeland security czar, recently went on "The Daily Show" and joined in the yuks about the color-coded alerts. (He also told USA Today last month that orange alerts were sometimes ordered by the administration - as election year approached, anyway - on flimsy grounds and over his objections.) In February, the Office of Management and Budget found that "only four of the 33 homeland security programs it examined were 'effective,' " according to The Washington Post. The prospect of nuclear terrorism remains minimally addressed; instead we must take heart from Kiefer Sutherland's ability to thwart a nuclear missile hurling toward Los Angeles in the season finale of "24." The penetration of the capital's most restricted air space by that errant Cessna - though deemed a "red alert" - was considered such a nonurgent event by the Secret Service that it didn't bother to tell the president, bicycling in Maryland, until after the coast was clear.


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