Fear at low ebb in the High Country | VailDaily.com

Fear at low ebb in the High Country

Don Rogers

So what am I thinking about? Pretty pedestrian stuff, actually: The girl’s lucky strike on the race course a weekend ago that stunned the family – especially her – with an invitation to Crested Butte for a statewide snowboard competition in the little league ski-snowboard group Buddy Werner. She does go, that one.

The boy’s asthmatic nadir at the end of his high school Nordic season, whipped into a wheezing fit on the first climb of his last race. A big disappointment and a little scary. But it’s on to track, and so far so good in the lung department.

What else? Jumpshots, books to read, hamstrings to heal, the wonders of aging. And work, always the work. Of course. Oh, and the snow. Every day a fresh blanket, that way it ought to be. This is paradise, other than working the weekend to make up for that, um, business meeting on Vail Mountain Thursday morning.

Somehow I doubt many people in Eagle County have felt wigged enough to stock up on duct tape and sheet plastic as talismans against airborne weapons of mass destruction. But the rush in the cities offers a clue about the background fear of terrorism permeating metro America.

The cost here lies in the potential for tourism to drop off as the troops move in to Iraq. Still, the early season has been great for just about everyone. If the snow keeps coming, there’s an even chance that the Vail Valley economy will benefit from a strong finish. It won’t take much to eclipse the past couple of seasons, anyway. Maybe we’ll even have a drought-easing snowpack, too. Hopes pile up high. Snow may well trump what passes for a war in Iraq. We’ll see.

The debate I think I hear up here about Iraq is largely academic, intellectual, partisan, free of the fear that animates the conversation in “normal” places where a nut might conceivably strike. I’m not sure we understand in our bones the undercurrent of terrorism at home, the sense in the cities and suburbs that a weapon could well be unleashed in the neighborhood. I know I don’t.

Maybe I’d be first in line for duct tape – a way I could pretend to take some control, futile as it may be – if I lived in New York or Washington, D.C.

In reality, Americans are in far more danger from everyday driving, eating themselves to heart disease, and even catching a fatal case of the flu than getting caught in the next terrorist attack. You and I have more to worry about skiing or boarding than we do about Saddam slipping one terrorist cell or another a vial of something nasty.

Still, Iraq – focus of our fears emotionally if not entirely accurately – sits out there, looming in minds all the way up to our mountaintop nest. And the drumbeat toward war is picking up. Even The New York Times last week rolled out a tough-talking editorial supporting “stern measures” if Saddam keeps dancing instead of disarming.

Russia and China are sounding more like U.S. allies of late than France or Germany. It’s beginning to dawn on NATO and the United Nations that their credibility is on the line, more so than that awful, awful United States, which has been clear about what should be the consequences of a dozen years of flouting the terms of surrender in the last Gulf War and continuing on that path of amassing weapons of mass destruction.

The dismal failure of the inspections and sanctions of the past 12 years has served only to enrich Saddam and hurt the Iraqi people. Ironically enough, the use of force would punish the criminal in this case and spare the innocent further harm. Too bad U.S. and world resolve wasn’t stronger back in, say, 1993-94. A few million of those babies and young children we hear about would have lived.

The oh-so-noble doves have this one dead wrong. Their “solution” keeps Saddam fat and happy; his people under his boot, dying; and his neighbors and world with one more source of mass murder to tickle the mind.

The sanctions clearly haven’t worked. Maybe they should just be lifted, and Saddam could go back to killing in the good old pre-Gulf War ways, by invading his neighbors and gassing dissident groups. What would we care?

No, this guy needs to go the way of Slobodan Melosevic. The sooner the better. For the hate-American-action crowd, we were on the Muslim side in stopping the Yugoslavian civil wars and attempts at genocide, which the United Nations lacked the fortitude to support and which for all the glitches ever since has proven a lifesaver for the region.

If we have a few less visitors in the Vail Valley during the next bit of police work, so be it. More snow for the locals. Better chance of life – and real peace – for the Iraqis, their neighbors and possibly on out to New Yorkers, with luck left to wonder what to do with all that tape.

Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or editor@vaildaily.com

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