Thursday, August 11, 2005

Playing Cowboy Amidst Death and Hunger

A certain amount of arrogrance comes with being President of the United States. Who wouldn't be a little full of themselves having climbed to the pinnacle of American politics and being "the most powerful man in the world?" But the current holder of that title has seemingly taken that arrogance to a new level.

George W. Bush, in the midst of his annual month long (plus) vacation in Crawford, Texas, is once again playing cowboy at his dude ranch. Dressed up like it's Halloween in summer the president plods around the ranch and pretends to be a real cowboy. Occasionally he will actually engage in the duties of the toughest job in the world and sign bills (like the light weight energy bill or the pork laden transportation bill) or make comments on world events (some of which he caused) but for five weeks he doesn't let the problems and the issues of the world, or the responsibilities or the duties of being "the leader of the free world" get in the way of his playing cowboy.

While the president plays, on a five week vacation that most working class families could only dream, millions are dying (many of them children) and nearing the end because of severe malnutrition in Africa.

In the west Africa nation of Niger one in five people are dying because the world has moved slowly to respond even though the threat, not the actually hunger, but the threat was predicated nine months ago. In November of 2004, the United Nations World Food Program and Doctors Without Borders warned of a deadly approaching food shortage, but by spring only a fraction of the needed food and money has been delivered. The world's slow response has left nearly a third of Niger's rural population on the doorstep of hunger and almost 900,000 inside the dark doorway in "urgent need...of food..."(1)

By the beginning of this month Doctors Without Borders had treated 14,000 children this year, more than double their total in 2004.(2) Despite this freighting number America, as it usually is on the issues of life and death in Africa, is silent. The president is too busily engaged in his personal Halloween to create a crisis plan for Niger, and certainly doesn't have time to leave his fantasy world to develop a long-term plan to assist the nation in dealing with the perennial issues of poor water quality (which may kill as many children as starvation), primitive farming, antiquated health care, stagnant economic development and oppressive social conditions.

While mothers cry, fathers mourn and children lie lifeless (sometimes literally) in their mother's arms, too weak to swat flies away from their face, the president of the United States of America plays cowboy. Full of arrogance, inattention and a horrific lack of caring that comes with the office.

1. Wines, Michael, Niger's Anguish is Reflected in its Dying Children, New York Times. August 5, 2005. page 1A

2. Ibid