WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES Syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer used her regular op-ed column this week ( to look back upon the remarkable international events of the past twelve months. In that column, Geyer calls 2003 a "watershed year," suggesting it will come in time to be regarded as a turning point in our nation's history, although not necessarily a good one. Check out her thoughts on the subject, and then try to remember what you were doing and thinking last New Year's Day. Then ask yourself the following questions: 1) Last New Year's Day, we all knew that a presidential decision to embark upon a preemptive war against Saddam Hussein and Iraq was very much in the cards. But could any of us have anticipated the Bush Administration's launching an invasion of that country with such minimal international support, against the clear opposition of several long-time American allies, and without anything remotely resembling a United Nations' consensus? 2) This time last year, we all could have expected that President George W. Bush would tell Americans at some point that he was going to war because he was certain that Iraq possessed "weapons of mass destruction." But could we have ever imagined that, nine months later, the U.S. government would fail to produce a single piece of evidence that those weapons actually existed? 3) Could we have possibly comprehended last New Year's Day that the administration's planning for war in Iraq would be so simplistic and so inept as to not anticipate the guerrilla uprising that followed the military "victory" celebrated by President Bush on an aircraft-carrier deck in San Diego Harbor last May? 4) Could we actually have imagined last January 1st, not only the Bush Administration's failure to anticipate this guerilla-warfare scenario, but also the failure of its key players to understand how their own actions and inactions helped create an ideal environment for chaos, disorder and rebellion? 5) Could we have believed that our senior military leadership -- experienced generals most of whom had witnessed, as young officers in Vietnam, what happens when powerful armies fight far away from home in hostile and unfamiliar environments -- would go along with a decision to invade Iraq, without first insisting upon a coherent plan for that country's post-war stabilization, along with a viable American exit strategy? 6) Could we have imagined, just 365 days ago, that President Bush would embark upon this country's most ambitious military endeavor in four decades -- an undertaking with costs spiraling into the hundreds of billions of dollars -- while continuing his previous policy of drastic tax cuts? 7) Could we have imagined a Republican Party congressional leadership ignoring altogether the balanced-budget concept that has been a traditional cornerstone of its economic policy, rubber-stamping Administration tax cuts and collaborating with the White House in its continued redistribution of American wealth in favor of our country's richest citizens? 8) Could we imagine ourselves lending any support to a President whose "war on terrorism" policies would allow Osama Bin Laden to remain at large, the Taliban to regain its strength in Afghanistan, and American military and economic resources to be consumed by the invasion and occupation of a country whose link with 9/11 has yet to be established? 9) Could any of us have imagined that President Bush's response to critics who raised some of these very questions would be to continue wrapping himself ever more tightly with the American flag, and to keep repeating the mantra: "You're either with us, or with the terrorists"? 10) Could we possibly have imagined that this President would play the patriot card so stridently that his actions would hinder and obstruct the efforts of an independent commission, chaired by a former Republican governor, trying to get to the bottom of 9/11 tragedy? 11) Last New Year's Day, could we have comprehended this President, his nation at war, continuing to polarize the country on myriad domestic issues ranging from gay rights to the environment, so much so that this polarization of American politics would appear to be a deliberate part of his 2004 re-election strategy? 12) We could certainly have believed on the first day of 2003 that any invasion and occupation of Iraq would cost the lives of several hundred GIs. But could we have imagined, after that invasion was launched and American soldiers started dying, that the President of the United States would not attend a single one of their funerals? 13) Could we have believed that one of the best-selling toys of the 2003 holiday season would turn out to be an "action figure" of George W. Bush as "U.S. President and Naval Commander," commemorating his May carrier-deck landing and his declaration there of "victory" in an Iraq war we have not yet and may never win? 14) Could we have possibly believed that the national media would devote countless broadcast hours and thousands of newspaper line-inches to celebration of this San Diego Harbor event, without hardly mentioning the fact that "Naval Commander" Bush was AWOL from his Reserve unit for over a year in the early 1970s? 15) Could we have imagined that, in April, a top New York Times reporter (Judith Miller) would write and be allowed to publish on Page One of that newspaper a banner-headlined story reporting the "discovery" of weapons of mass destruction, deriving her report entirely from an "unnamed source" in the U.S. military? 16) Could we have been able to comprehend that, once that story was shown to be completely fraudulent, that on this New Year's Day 2004 Judith Miller -- unlike Jayson Blair -- would still have a job with the Times? 17) Could we have believed that, as part of its endless summer gushing about our Iraq "victory," the media would celebrate the "heroic" rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch ad nauseum, until Private Lynch herself -- a true American hero -- demonstrated courage and integrity by saying "enough!" to the military spinners and their media co-conspirators? 18) Could we have imagined, last New Year's Day, that George W. Bush would have been delusional enough to do many of the things mentioned above, all the while creating a domestic political environment built around fear, and an international one in which America has become more loathed in more corners of the globe than ever before in its history? 19) Now here comes the hard part: Could you or any other sentient being actually have stretched your imagination widely enough to comprehend that, after all this, George W. Bush would be marching merrily into 2004 with a swagger in his step, as an odds-on favorite for re-election next fall? 20) And last but not least: Could you have this time last year imagined that, instead of rising up en masse against the incompetence and wrong-headed policies of this administration, America would have so lost its ethical and political bearings that a majority of the electorate now appears ready, willing, and able to vote for more of the same in November 2004? The President may be delusional, but a significant portion of the American populace, clearly, has simply lost its collective mind. Kenneth Neill is the publisher/CEO of Contemporary Media, Inc., the parent company of The Memphis Flyer.

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