[Viewpoint]A shameful anniversary

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[Viewpoint]A shameful anniversary

‘I’m going to be in Crawford with my feet up,” George W. Bush said recently, when reporters asked him about his plans after leaving the White House. With about 10 months left in his term, the U.S. president seems very tired, both physically and mentally. He wants to return to his hometown and get some rest. Considering his latest circumstances, it is only natural that he feels that way.
A few days ago, a reader from Menlo Park, California sent a letter to the editor of the International Herald Tribune.
American taxpayers will receive an average of $600 per household in tax rebates as the Bush administration gives out a total of $150 billion to stimulate the economy. The reader elaborated on how to spend the money.
“If we spend the money at Wal-Mart, it will all go to China. If we spend it on computers, it will go mostly to Korea or India. If we spend it on gasoline, it will go to the Arab countries. None of these scenarios will help the U.S. economy. We need to keep the money in America. Currently, it seems that the only way to do that is to drink beer, gamble or spend it on prostitution, the only businesses still left in the United States.”
Well, he should also be careful when choosing the beer or prostitute to make sure it is American.
However, the reader does not need to worry about how to spend the money.
Most Americans will use the check to pay off bank loans or credit card debt.
In effect, the taxpayers will spend the tax rebate to help save the financial institutions from the liquidity crunch caused by the subprime mortgage crisis.
Not many manufacturing industries are left in the United States. The financial sector, which is supposed to have the best competitiveness in the world, is sinking deeper into the quagmire.
In order to save banks on the verge of bankruptcy, the Federal Reserve Bank is injecting public funds at an unprecedented rate, despite the criticism it will be a moral hazard.
It has also lowered the interest rate to near zero, taking inflation into account. However, uncertainty about the American economy is still hovering.
The authorities are pulling all the strings to put out the fire, but no one knows when and where the flames will break out again.
People will not hesitate to say it is the worst crisis since World War II. Some have even made the frightening diagnosis that there are signs of a depression.
The United States is at the 10th stage of the 12 stages to total catastrophe. These days, even the laid-back president must not be sleeping very well.
What makes it harder for Bush is the Iraq war.
Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of the war. The U.S. marched into Baghdad with high spirits, but the Iraq war has turned into a failure without justification or gains.
All the war has left to America are enormous bills and a long list of victims.
About 4,000 U.S. soldiers have lost their lives and more than 29,000 have been injured. The civilian casualty in Iraq adds up to 90,000.
According to Columbia University professor and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, by the end of the United States would spent $845 billion on combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The total cost of the war, including indirect expenses, would be $3 trillion, he asserts.
Wouldn’t it be strange if the economy is still running fine even after pouring astronomical sums of money and resources into a useless war?
Probably because the war is so meaningless, the Iraq war has turned into a “forgotten war” to Americans.
According to the Pew Research Center, the Iraq war was the mostwatched news topic by the American public in the first half of last year, with the exception of only five weeks. However, the war fell out of the public’s attention in the fall and it never returned to the top.
In January, 36 percent of the respondents said the item in the news that they paid the most attention to was the presidential election, while only 6 percent said they followed the Iraq war most closely.
If George W. Bush gets the dishonor of being regarded the worst president in U.S. history, as some expect, the first reason has to be the Iraq war. The cost of recklessly going into a war initiated by being a superpower while ignoring international opinion is tremendous.
President Bush might want to go back to his Crawford ranch and forget about the Iraq war.
But what can he do about the damage and wounds the war has left on America?

*The writer is an editorial writer and traveling correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok
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