End of the empire | VailDaily.com

End of the empire

Matt Zalaznick

George W. Bush will go down as one of the worst presidents in American history. If the next few administrations don’t repair the damage he’s done to the country at home and around the world, they may mark Bush’s presidency as the beginning of the collapse of the American empire. When does an empire start to fail? When its elite grows tyrannically out of touch with the masses, when it can’t take care of needy citizens, when it exhausts its natural resources or its ability to afford them, when its international prestige erodes and, most disastrously, when it weakens its military with wars of glamor and greed rather than necessity or security. George Bush has achieved some of these benchmarks of mortality while infecting the nation with many other terminal symptoms. The country’s shock at W.’s French-monarch level of indifference toward the flooded, thirsty and starving in the wake of Hurricane Katrina was itself somewhat surprising, considering he’d spent the five previous years showing how little he cared for Americans who aren’t the CEOs of giant corporations or right-wing fundamentalists or named Schiavo. He was so not worried about those of us who might fall victim to hurricanes, earthquakes and other catastrophes, he gutted the agency meant to feed, shelter and house the distressed and dispossessed. Then, after he stripped and swept FEMA under the Homeland Security rug, he put a fellow dufus in charge. He cared so little about the parents of America’s Marines, soldiers and sailors that he lied to their children and sent them – about 1,800 so far to their deaths – to fight a pointless war that hasn’t made the homeland one weapon of mass destruction safer. One would have thought W. would at least protect the sacred oil industry. With all those oil platforms and refineries in Katrina’s crosshairs, one might have thought W. more sensitive to the destruction. Or maybe he was economically aroused by all the potential reconstruction profits for Haliburton. Because W.’s as giddy as a judge at a hot-dog eating contest watching Americans gobble up the nation’s fuel, forests and fish along with their own finances. W. could be a real leader and ask Americans to conserve while he sets in motion intensified development of wind power, solar power and other alternative energies. Not depending on backstabbing Saudi Arabian royals for our power would truly protect us, but there’s no money for that because W.’s sinking what cash we have left after filling up our Ford Explorers into his Iraqi money pit. Tough guy W. also didn’t give a hoot what France and Germany thought when he bungled off to bring democracy to all those restive Sunni windmills. If Toby Keith and Sean Hannity say America’s still awesome and powerful, that’s enough for the Crackpot of Crawford. But an empire is in the eye of the beholder. So when footage of flooded cities and floundering Americans makes the USA look like a Third World cesspool, that’s trouble. The French, the Germans and the Chinese – not to mention Iranians, Koreans, Thais, Ugandans and Comoros Islanders – won’t be so impressed next time Uncle Sam snorts and puffs up his chest if he’s standing in the swampy 9th Ward. Worst of all, Uncle Sam’s army no longer seems quite so indestructible – not only because a bunch of suicide bombers have our backs against the wall in the Sunni Triangle, but also because we have too many boots on the ground in the desert. Doesn’t look like we can protect the roaring economies of Asia, so those governments will give their lunch money to China. And the crumbling Central Asian countries, unimpressed by the mayhem, fear and stone-age atmosphere we’ve brought to Iraq, will let Shanghai tap their vast untapped oil and gas. And what happens when the next Sept. 11 hits if too many of our troops are still in Iraq, along with all of our helicopters and other vital equipment that could be used to deal with disaster? What happens if our Federal Emergency Management Agency is still being run by goons? Bush will make Herbert Hoover’s pre-Depression dithering look like Jeffersonian statesmanship. Because when the nuke goes off at Times Square, Disneyworld or the Las Vegas strip – or all three at once – the outpouring of philanthropy seen in the wake of Katrina will be replaced by a national nervous breakdown, and the racial, reglious and class faultlines of American society will rupture. Instead of bringing democracy to Iraq, W. will have succeed in bringing Iraq to our democracy. City Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at, mzalaznick@vaildaily.com or 949-0555, ext. 606. This column, as with all personal columns, does not necessarily reflect the views of the Vail Daily.Vail, Colorado