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'W' Is Ruining My Travel Plans

The Vineyard Gazette - November 22, 2002
By Sam Low

While I disagree with just about all of Bush's polices - foreign and domestic - what really pisses me off is that he's interfering with my travel plans.

I fondly remember the sixties when I was greeted warmly throughout the world as an American. People everywhere remembered World War II, "The Last Good War" as some call it, and many recalled warm experiences with individual American soldiers. And so, when they discovered I was an American, they transferred all that affection and gratitude to me. While I certainly did not deserve any of their adulation, I nevertheless reveled in it. It's not the same today and that is a sad reflection on our recent foreign policy, as well as a reason why I don't travel outside of our borders as much as I once did.

It's not all Bush's fault, of course. I recall a conversation I had in the sixties with an Air Force Colonel, A WWII veteran, after I returned from a naval tour of duty off the coast of Vietnam.

"The big difference between my war and yours," he told me, "was that we were shooting Nazis off European soil and you were shooting Vietnamese off Vietnamese soil." It was a precise way, I thought, of calling my attention to the first American war in which we were not greeted with enthusiasm by the folks we were meant to protect. Instead, we were seen by many of our supposed allies as a foreign invader.

Sadly, the trend continues and has even been accelerated by Mr. Bush - albeit with a slight detour through the UN. As a final step in the progression from the last Good War through Vietnam - he seems ready now to take America on its first preemptive attack of another nation. At least in Vietnam we went though the charade of being "invited" into the country by a puppet government. The Iraqis are not about to issue any such invitation.

I don't know how much traveling Mr. Bush has done outside of America but if he has visited many foreign countries - and even studied a little of their histories - it doesn't show. A number of learned former presidential advisors and cabinet members - Brent Skowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski among them - have issued warnings to Bush the younger to reconsider his zeal to invade Iraq. The most recent was an opinion piece in The New York Times Sunday edition written a month or so ago by Mr. Brzezinski. His argument goes something like this:

" Bush is painting the war on terrorism as an abstract fight of good folks against evil folks - an argument that smacks of religious fundamentalism rather than rational logic.
" By so doing he ignores the subtle issues upon which ultimate victory will depend - an understanding of the histories of each area he has deemed to be "evil."
" To win a lasting victory requires that we deal not just with eliminating the "evil doers" who hate us - but also with eliminating the historical reasons that cause them to hate us.
" And finally, by ignoring the deeply rooted reasons behind that hatred - and instead focusing on a hazy definition of evil - our national foreign policy looses its rational underpinnings and causes us to ally with any country that may convince us they are "fighting terrorism" when they may actually be squashing democratic movements within their borders.

All that notwithstanding, I am amazed that every American has not risen in justifiable anger over the disturbance of their travel plans. If we cannot become agitated about the toll our polices are taking among innocent people abroad - at least we ought to be upset that all the good will generated by The Last Good War is being so effectively eroded - leading, I suspect, to the cancellation of many dream vacations in remote locations around the world.

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