Qualifications

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Even back before the United States invaded Iraq, some people on the left were pointing out how the current administration wasn’t talking about Osama bin Laden that much. At the time, though, those voices were kind of on the fringes; the nation as a whole was still not far enough removed from the terrible events of 09.11 that it was all too trusting of the administration’s words and actions. It’s only been in the past few years that there has been widespread understanding that overthrowing Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden, and that nearly seven years since 09.11 we still can’t catch a man who needs thrice-weekly dialysis treatments who was behind one of the largest atrocities ever perpetrated on American soil. It is, quite possible, one of the biggest lessons of our political age that the administration was able to conflate Iraq and 09.11 so successfully in the minds of so many people. It is also one of the biggest annoyances of our time that some of the people who first questioned that link so long ago, only to be silenced and scorned back then, won’t shut up about how right they were back then whenever there’s a TV camera trained on them. Yeah, you got it right, big whoop, now can we actually talk about solving these problems?

If making the American public forget about Osama bin Laden after 09.11 was the biggest accomplishment of the right-wing media machine, then making everyone forget about the post-09.11 anthrax scare was pretty darn close. Granted, 09.11 saw far more casualties than what happened with all that anthrax afterwards, but at a time when our national morale and certainty was at the weakest I can ever remember it being, the thought of someone sending a deadly powder through the mail only heightened our fears and insecurities. My maternal grandmother even got an envelope with white powder in it, although said powder turned out to be the colour-changing Kool-Aid that they were selling back then. (Yeah, the kids in my grandparents’ neighbourhood are real jerks.) Although there were no further anthrax scares after the initial outburst, the inability of the administration and its officials to figure out who was behind the anthrax scare was another of those glaring deficiencies that should not have gone under our national radar like it did for so long.

The only way anthrax even made its way back to the front page was when the guy that the feds finally pinpointed as the likely culprit, Bruce Ivins, committed suicide just before he was about to be arrested. We’ll never know for certain if he was behind the attacks, but given the details that are emerging about Ivins, it’s pretty clear that he was a bad seed. (AP story) His therapist is saying that she was "scared to death" of him, and that he had previously attempted to kill people by poisoning them as far back in 2000, mostly in the form of revenge killings. Now, my pacifism is already well-established in these quarters, but I’m also enough of a pragmatist to realize that full pacifism is just not possible given the current climate of the world, and that our armed forces need people who are willing to kill other people should the need arise. However, there is a huge difference between killing others in the defence of one’s self and/or one’s country, and killing others out of some twisted sense of revenge.

For approximately eight years, the United States Army hired someone who, according to his therapist, "[had] been forensically diagnosed by several top psychiatrists as a sociopathic, homicidal killer," in a research laboratory where he had ready access to a large number of biological agents. I can understand his therapist, and perhaps a few of his co-workers, not saying anything out of fear of retaliation, but I find it impossible to believe that no one noticed that Ivins was just about the last person in the world you’d want to leave alone with anthrax and other biological weapons. For that matter, it seems all too convenient that this all would get resolved on a Friday afternoon, which even people who aren’t political junkies knows is the best time to dump bad news so not that many people will read about it. Even by modern standards of government incompetence, this really takes the cake; now all we have to do is wait until Monday morning for the administration and its cronies in right-wing media to start their old tired dance of buck-passing and deflecting any and all responsibility.

I’ll tell you what pisses me off the most about this right now. The Army has no problem hiring this nutjob, but it cut loose several of its top Arabic translators, in the middle of a large-scale campaign against Middle Eastern terrorist cells, because the translators were homosexual men. The regulations against openly gay men and women serving in the military have always been stupid, but never before have they looked this absurd. Apparently poisoning people who felt have wronged you in your spare time is okay, but not loving someone of the same sex. Perhaps it shouldn’t be such a surprise that our military hasn’t been able to find Osama bin Laden yet, given the ridiculous conditions they’re operating under.

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