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Monday, 24 July 2006 02:52

Bill Burkett: Feeling the Flood Waters Rising in Lebanon

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by Bill Burkett

Just last fall, we watched on national television as the levees of New Orleans first breeched and then trickled; with waters rising to engulf an entire major metropolitan area. We watched while the residents waited and well over 1000 died.

We said it would never happen in America.

We said it just wasn't possible that the richest nation in the World; the most technologically advanced would simply stand by and watch New Orleans literally drown; an entire society; an entire people.

We got that sick feeling about us all.

To me I was reminded of that rising nausea within my stomach; of the pre-vomit taste and the cold chills and sweats. I was awakened to the pungent odor within the nostrils, and the weakness of the knees; the total feeling of helplessness and discomfort.

Israel was on the attack. Hezbollah was holed up and lobbing missiles. Every other nation of the world moved rapidly to move their expatriot citizens and tourists out of harm's way as indiscriminate and reckless fires from Israeli artillery and air strikes pulverized cities and indiscriminately killed and maimed.

Yet 25,000 Americans sat strangely by awaiting the promise of America; like the New Orleans Convention Center; awaiting the promise of America to render aid to their own citizens; to hold proud to the tradition that never an American would be left behind.

Just last August, the President dined, played golf at a world class resort and sat idly by. This week, he spoke smirkingly with his mouth full of bread and the word that captured the press was in fact, the content of his verbage - S.H.I.T.

Three days passed. The President had already flown over New Orleans and dipped his wings as he was enroute to his constant high profile fundraising at taxpayer expense.

Three days passed and he returned from St. Petersburg, Russia to Washington.

On both occasions, there was no mention of the crisis, nor of the calamity of policy, voids of leadership, nor danger to world peace and the balance of the Middle East.

Similarly, we recall during the French Revolution that the ruling class was ambivalent to the strife, poverty and starvation of the French poor. Was this the same ambivalence of arrogance and detachment or was this policy - the policy of letting the Israelis make advances under the cloud of American resolve?

There are two arguments here. The first argument has no ability to even muster two protagonists. It is the argument of the constipation of the American relief system; which has been even outdone by Bangladesh in extracting Americans from harm's way under this President. Who can alibi or excuse the total stupidity and arrogance of this administration's first response that they would get there "soon" and that all evacuees would be billed later for the trip out? And soon became one day, two days, three days, four. How many more days until Condi and GW can break from their stoop to "make it happen"?

I know the limitations and capabilities of the US military and what can be done as an emergency action to evacuate our citizens from anywhere in the world. There is no nation even in the same league of capability.

You'll never convince me that the CENTCOM Commander wasn't up to speed or ready to evacuate.

You'll never convince me of that.

But he had to have an order from the President. He must have authorization to violate or even coordinate such extractions.

Such was also the case in New Orleans, wasn't it?

And while Rome burned, Nero fiddled. While New Orleans drowned, George played golf and languished.

And while Lebanon was bombed and pulverized, we did what?


So what is the threat of Hezbollah? Is it Lebanon? Is it the Middle East? Or is it America herself?

And is our war becoming an active war on ourselves?

At one point in my military career I worked for a III US Corps commander named LTG Pete Taylor. He was known to eat nails. But it was within the plans process that you saw the wisdom and logic of this true leader. As he noted, "the objective is not to wage war at everything that moves, but only at the truly confirmed threats; the ones that truly threaten our troops, actions and being."

Isn't it strange how true military leaders seem to understand the meaning of war far better than those who have only known it in the movies?

We've seen it in politics as we hear the voice of strength and resolve, but always discipline when we hear a Chuck Hagel or Bob Kerrey. We hear it in the media when we hear the voice of experience as an occupied citizen in Peter Jennings or of the witness of war in Dan Rather as compared to the button down inexperience of Tom Brokaw. And we see it in the lives of those who have known the world as compared to those isolated within their own world of television only.

At some point, this world has to learn to respect and co-exist. There will never be a single ruling party or faction. History has taught that to those who read. To the rest, it is hopeless.

And we watch the tides move out and move in; and the water rises to rooftops; and we hear the cries of need and pain and sorrow. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow.

Bill Burkett