The Mad Year

It seems quite safe to say, with the past year now comfortably over and buried forever in the annals of history, that 2002 truly was the “mad year.” Politically, it is hard to salvage even the smallest silver lining from the year. The Arab world continues to hate us for killing Afghan civilians with seeming aplomb, and hope has turned to fear throughout the Middle East as we stand on war footing with Iraq. In the second half of the year, President Bush’s callous “Axis of Evil” phrase gained a new level of infamy as North Korea, still reeling from the public insult and new, hostile US policies toward it, pulled out of all arms-reduction treaties and reopened its nuclear power plants with intent to build nuclear weapons. Without direct and dignified negotiations, which the White House has stubbornly refused to grant the communist nation, another Korean War is nearly assured; at the very worst, experts are sure that inside of a decade the North Koreans will acquire the ability to hit every major US city, on either seaboard, with their shiny new nuclear weapons. At home we learned that our much vaunted homeland security seems to be anything but, as a maniacal sniper terrorized our capital and the Justice Department admitted that many terrorist cells continue to operate in our country and there is essentially nothing we can do about it. A nation’s collective nerves are being unfortunately rattled as the question of another, even more deadly terrorist attack appears not a matter of if but of when. Economically, our economy continued to slide, and it became increasingly clear to the public that corporate America and the rich who support it, confirming our worst suspicions, seem to hold themselves to the same moral standards as did Bonnie and Clyde in their noble journey through the west. Even Martha Stewart, America’s poster girl of purity and goodness, toed the dangerous line of insider trading; as all of her associates have taken plea bargains, it appears that evidence against her may mount, but nevertheless the arbiter of American culture dynamically proved her relevance with perhaps the most emblematic quote of the year: “I want to focus on my salad.” In a way, we all want to focus on our salads. We hope 2003 will be the year that all of our world’s much vaunted peacekeepers – we look to the United Nations and foolishly cling to the naïve idea of an American politician interested in the common good – race to the rescue, our knights in shining armor, to save a world which cannot save itself. But those realists out there such as myself believe in the time-tested law that everything will get worse before it gets better. So here, with no particular rhyme, reason or logic to it, is Jeremy’s Outlook o’Fortune for 2003: In late January, we will attempt to assassinate Saddam Hussein with our unmanned airplanes but will actually succeed in incinerating a Baghdad preschool. Iraq declares war and incinerates Israel before the United States incinerates and occupies the smoldering Arab country during the row losing several key Middle Eastern allies. In the early spring Bush will continue to inflame the nation’s working middle-class-turned-working-poor, cutting taxes for the rich in the name of economic stimulation; the only effect will be to stimulate the economies of American-friendly vacation spots around the world where the wealth and wary will move to escape various nuclear warheads whizzing toward our cities from (choose one): Iraq, Iran, Libya, North Korea, or al-Qaeda, stolen or bought from the Russian stockpile. In the early summer revolution will sweep through Iran as the restless young generation of the country, fed up with the oppressive theocracy, vows democracy and free trade; unfortunately this is what happened last time, and the resulting government will make the Taliban look as though it was led by Larry Flynt. The rest of the unstable Middle East follows and the entire region collapses to a sort of contained anarchy; the US, with all of its military resources fighting Korean War II, continues to get oil from the new regimes and turns a blind eye. In the rest of the year, Europe deploys its much-vaunted Rapid Reaction Force and finds itself with the same military strength as the war-weary United States. A newly confident Pakistan, emboldened by US monies, starts nuclear war with India and a Clash of Civilizations doomsday scenario plays itself out as various allies, drawn in by strategic or loyal interests, are drawn in and the world descends into World War III. On the other hand, the year could go much better. As they say, he who hopes for the worst is always pleasantly surprised; maybe the year will be a pleasing one after all.