Bang the War Drum Slowly

<B>WARNING: Do not read if non-football topics upset or annoy you.</B> At Bernie's Insiders, we allow some of our fan commentators the ability to occasionally stray from the topic of football. Doc does so today, as his mind wanders from a dull exhibition game to the situation it the Middle East. <I>Doc's opinions do not neccessarily represent the opinions of Bernie's Insiders, our sponsors, Art Bietz's bartender, or anyone else.</I>

Comment on this editorial in the WORLDWIDE RANT, which deals frequently with political topics.

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is far worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." – John Stuart Mill, English philosopher (1806-1873)

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing." – Edmund Burke, British statesman and orator (1729-1797)

EDITOR'S NOTE: As war drums along the Potomac again gain momentum, your narrator finds it painfully necessary to relive the tense moments of last year's opening volley of the War on Terror, which erupted moments before the Browns edged the much-ballyhooed San Diego Chargers. Taking advantage of the bully pulpit, the Gonz mixes up an assortment of football, politics, history in yet another of his notorious commentaries. Read on, if you dare.

FORT GRATIOT, Mich. – It's difficult to concentrate on football while the world teeters on the brink of catastrophic disaster.

While the Cleveland Browns were going through the motions in a meaningless preseason game against the bungling Carolina Panthers, generals warrened in some Pentagon bunker were planning an attack deep into the heart of the Arab world. Black-and-white scenes from Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove come to mind, but let's hope our generals are a bit more sophisticated than George C. Scott's Gen. Buck Turgidson.

The newspapers and television are overflowing at the moment with commentary, analysis and debate over the impending American attack on longtime foe Iraq. Outside of the sports channels, it's difficult to get but a few bits of information between blowhards arguing the pros and cons of an invasion that's already in motion.

Debate is good, especially in a Jeffersonian democracy. It's unlikely there's much public debate right now in Baghdad, where terror and fear govern in place of vox populi.

Fortunately, this is not Athens versus Sparta, or Rome against Carthage. It's the Last Great Power against a rogue madman who, as we speak, is feverishly trying to acquire the most terrible weapons imaginable. However, his military is a shell of its former self with just 425,000 ill-equipped, poorly trained and demoralized troops. They're the Carolina Panthers of the Middle East – fierce growl, no fangs.

So, as we continue our grim slide towards another war, I've been reflecting. Many of us use football – especially the elite Cleveland Browns kind – as an escape from the awful realities that are playing themselves out on the world's stage. Unfortunately, evil reality even permeates the sacred turf of the gridiron.

Last October, I was in the stands for the Chargers game when the strikes began on terrorist targets in Afghanistan. After the game, a motley MTV-styled rabble of anti-war protesters assembled near Tower City to inflict their infantile and misguided views on the locals. They were met with everything from bemused looks to downright nasty threats (and a single-finger salute from your narrator).

During the game, there was a low-current buzz simmering through the crowd. Although there was no official word (unlike most other NFL stadiums …), folks knew what was happening thanks to cell phones or the radio on the way to the game. The strikes had been launched about 12:30 p.m. our time, not long before kickoff, so the anticipation built itself to a boil throughout the afternoon. What was going on? Were we winning?

Almost a year later, it seems we're met with far more success than any critic thought possible – on the football field and in the fields of battle. But the war isn't over, and even football players (Pat Tillman of the Cardinals, now in training as a U.S. Army Ranger) have abandoned Sunday money and fame for glory in camouflage defending the Constitution and our way of life.

As the first anniversary of Sept. 11 approaches, a national sense of nervousness may again arise. Will our enemy, in whatever form of disembodied evil it make take, use that day – our darkest since Pearl Harbor – to again strike at us? The relative sense or normalcy that returned in recent months, that return to humdrum life that allows us to gleefully hate the Steelers each Sunday, may again be shattered.

Sept. 11 is a Wednesday this year, a day when Butch Davis and his players will be practicing in Berea for a home game against visiting Cincinnati. But what will be going through everyone's mind? Will we be thinking back to those terrible moments in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania?

There's also the distinct possibility our nation will again on a Sunday launch an invasion. Our enjoyment of Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren pummeling the bejesus out of Gus Frerotte could take a backseat to cruise missiles rocketing into the night sky … columns of Abrams tanks knifing through the desert … paratroops tumbling out of planes … artillery belching 155-mm bolts of death.

Who are we fighting this time?

Iraq isn't a hotbed of fundamentalist Muslim fervor, unlike neighboring Iran and the filthy little Saudi and Egyptian terrorists. Instead, Iraq is a secular dictatorship born of European colonialism (the dregs of the insipid Ottoman Empire) and Western oil-lust. The Mad Mullahs that run Iran and Saudi Arabia and other fun places are in the background in Iraq. Instead, we're dealing with an off-the-shelf dictator not up to par with Hitler (yet), but with more tanks than Papa Doc.

We're alone in this fight. Great Britain, and maybe Australia, will grudgingly fall in line, but the mighty coalition of 1991 will never materialize. Israel, or course, will get hit. They will be an unwanted ally because they've said they won't stay on the sidelines, but their participation will anger Arab populations.

Europe, which isn't a homogenized German or Russian state because of American might and dollars, is too busy with its usual internal political strife and anti-American envy to be of much use in the coming campaign. And this war promises to be a far bloodier affair than 1991. Iraq, while not home to great military thinkers, learned it can't go toe-to-toe in the sand with American divisions. Instead, they promise to turn cities like Baghdad and Basra into nests bristling with snipers, traps and suffering.

American troops have not fought a significant urban battle since the 1st and 5th U.S. Marine regiments, the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Air Cavalry Division and a battalion of the 101st Airborne Division liberated Hue City in central Vietnam during the Tet Offensive of February 1968.

Are we ready for real battle with real casualties? I just don't know. The American public is fickle. Support for the invasion isn't overwhelming because direct evidence hasn't linked Iraq with Sept. 11. The casus belli isn't as obvious as 1991, but is no less imperative.

That should be beside the point. Iraq, when it gets a nuclear weapon, will be a far greater danger than al-Quaida.

There's some sound logic behind a regime change by us in Iraq. Sanctions have been about as effective against Hussein as they have against Castro and Cuba, i.e. not at all. But if the U.S. and the U.N. stick to the path of sanctions, and they start to weaken Hussein's grip on power, how do you think he's going to react? Remember, this man used POISON GAS on his own people. He has a huge security apparatus in place to control his population, not repel invasion.

If sanctions suddenly become effective, Hussein will lash

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