Meanwhile, We’re Loaning the Elephants Out!

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The cost to the taxpayers of the Neocon-inspired U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq now stands at a staggering $83.3 billion, and climbing (costofwar.com). Iraqi civilian deaths are put conservatively at 7,800, and their seriously injured around 20,000 (Iraqbodycount.net). U.S. military dead are 378, of which 173 died after President George W. Bush’s burst of phony bravado, “Bring them on.” There have also been 2,192 brave American soldiers wounded in this Vietnam-like quagmire (lunaville.org).

All of the above brings me to a famous quote – “All politics is local.” Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, (D-MA), then, the powerful Speaker of the House of Representatives, spoke those words. His cogent remarks came to my mind when my home town paper, the "Baltimore Sun," (11/05/03), reported how the local municipal zoo, located within fabled Druid Hill Park, a 674-acre pristine forest of green, is in big financial trouble.

As a result of losing $700,000 in state aid, Zoo officials will be required to slash 20 jobs, and loan out about 400 reptiles, amphibians, birds and two prized elephants, “Dolly” and “Anna.” The city will save about $1 million with the budget move. Officials hope, if the zoo becomes financially stronger, to bring all the animals back home eventually. Sure, they will! The $1 million savings is equal to the cost of just one Patriot missile.

Both Baltimore’s Democratic mayor, Martin O’Malley, and Maryland’s Republican governor, Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. have endorsed the Iraq War and the occupation. The governor, a Bush lapdog, is a big cheerleader for it. O’ Malley is politically more clever on the topic. He has used the conflict, and also the 9/11 tragedy, to turn "Charm City," into "Security City." He regularly hounds the Congress for more money for so-called "anti-terrorism" projects, while pushing his dubious persona as a clone of NYC’s ex-Czar, Rudy Giuliani. The bottom line is: the taxpayers have to pay for the deeds of the warmongers and their complicit lackeys.

The Zoo has a special place in the hearts of most Baltimoreans. It is nationally known, too, for featuring over 2,000 species of birds, mammals and reptiles. For me, the feelings are even more personal. My late uncle, John Hughes, had worked for the the facility for many years. In fact, he died there of a heart attack, while at his job caring for the animals.

The American people need to also be reminded of what a former president believed. "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed," Dwight D. Eisenhower said this (04/16/53). The Bush-Cheney Gang should revisit this belief of one of our greatest World War II military leaders, on a matter that goes directly to what it really means to have a Republic, and not an Empire.

In the U.S., for that $83.3 billion that has already being wasted in the bottomless pit hole, falsely tagged, "Operation Iraqi Freedom": 850,000 additional affordable housing units could have been built in this country; 8.4 million additional children could have attended a year of Head Start; 25.5 million more children could have been provided with a year of health care; 1.1 million school teachers could have been hired for one year; and, 1.5 million additional four-year scholarships could have been granted to students for attendance at public universities (costofwar.com). What a sorry loss!

On a related matter, the Ehrlich administration, in MD, is looking to sell the state owned 30-story World Trade Center building, located at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. A critic blasted the proposal as a "fire sale." Now, doesn’t this sound familiar? Does the word "Oligarch" ring a bell?

Back in the 1990s, in Russia, slick operatives, a/k/a "Oligarchs," bought up state assets for a pittance, and made "shady fortunes" off of them ("Baltimore Sun," 11/04/03). One of these wily characters, Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, created a company known as "Yukos Oil," as a result of his suspected high crimes and thievery. He became Russia’s richest man. Presently, Khodorkovsky is in jail on charges of fleecing the Russian people, via complicated fraud, tax evasion and embezzlement schemes.

What makes one even more suspicious about the intrigues of the Oligarchs, is that (gasp), the slippery Richard Perle has come to their defense! The hawkish policy adviser, and "Mother of all Neocons," has called for Russia to be expelled from the "Group of Eight" industrialized countries over the arrest of Yukos’ CEO Khodorkovsky. "Russia should be excluded from the G-8. No [other] G-8 country is allowed to treat its leading ‘businessmen’ the way Russia treated Khodorkovsky," Perle said. Talking about "excluding." Why doesn’t the U.S. exclude the Neocons?

At the same time, one of Khodorkovsky’s top cronies, Leonid Nevzlin, who is now living in Jerusalem, has been granted (shades of the pardoned global fugitive, Marc Rich) Israeli citizenship! The icing on the cake on all of this chicanery is that the Bush-Cheney Gang is preparing to give Israel $2.2 billion "more" in military assistance for fiscal 2005.

As for Baltimoreans, they can say their fond good-byes to the beloved elephants, "Dolly" and "Anna." For a consolation prize, they can always visit the web site of U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD). She is a knee jerk supporter of Israel, funding $87 billion more for the Iraqi Occupation, the draconian "USA Patriot Act" and the Orwellian Homeland Security Law. There at her site, you will find a photo of a mugging Mikulski standing next to the puppet, (I’m not making this up), "Theo the Lion!"

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