By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Sometime after we'd decided to give this year's Scariest People issue a Day of the Dead style and an Iraq War substance, I e-mailed a link to a Los Angeles Times story to the staff. I prefaced it with the note, "Exactly what we DON'T want to do with Scariest People."
The Sept. 24 piece by Nicholas Ricciardi was about the controversy surrounding a man who put the names of Iraq War dead on anti-war bumper stickers and T-shirts. Families of the dead, even those who oppose the war, were understandably upset, and some states have passed laws against the practice.
Now, the guy almost certainly has the right to do what he's doing. But that's not what we're doing here. It's not about names, or even numbers; too many more of both—whether American, Iraqi, Baptist, Shiite, Wiccan, atheist, Sunni, Reform Jewish or lapsed Catholic—will be added to the sad roster of the fallen between the time I type this and the time you read it. And it's certainly not about appropriating the sorrow of mourning families to make a political point.
Their grief belongs to them and them alone. But the death this war has wrought belongs to us all. It's all our fault, thanks to our oh-so-scary elected Congressional representatives.
In this space, we'll review just how our current and former congresspeople helped get us into this mess—or, at best, didn't keep us out of it. Also in this year's rogues' gallery are a few local cheerleaders and enablers of the war effort.
Non-Iraq-related evildoers don't get a free pass, though. We also offer a list of other assorted bad actors—Nazis, rapists and lawyers, oh, my!
Now, Orange County being Orange County, we have more than our share of loyal Republican legislators who, whatever their strengths and weaknesses on other issues, have wholeheartedly supported this country's greatest moral, legal and strategic foreign-?policy failure since Vietnam.
Our lone Democratic rep, to her credit, did vote against the original authorization for war in Iraq (which was signed into law five years to the day before this writing—weird), but has since consistently voted to fund a debacle that has now devolved into what liberal Middle East expert Juan Cole counts as three distinct civil wars. More broadly, she and our senators are part of an ineffectual opposition that, whether in the minority or the majority, has not provided any meaningful check to the Bush administration's war plans.
And where have those plans led us? To the abyss. It's beyond scary to contemplate the depth of the pit of immorality that is the Iraq War, so most people don't even look at it. Phrases like "Fight them there so we don't have to fight them here," "The next six months will be crucial," "The surge is working," even "Bring them home now" are defense mechanisms. They're about the idea of the abyss, not the abyss itself.
Just stare at it for a while, and as Nietzsche predicted, this one will stare back. I don't know what anybody else sees, but when I look at it, I see something that looks a lot like the grinning calavera Los Angeles artist Votan drew for this week's cover. Its empty gaze is an accusation. How do you plead?
So head down to your neighborhood botánica and buy a couple of candles, a sugar skull or two, a bouquet of orange marigolds. Set up a little ofrenda at home. Pour a shot of your favorite tequila, place it on the altar, then drink one yourself and say a little prayer against what should be your greatest fear: that politicians of such little wisdom as those who had a hand in the Iraq War will still be representing this county—and this country—when the next generation of soldiers turns 18.
—Ted B. Kissell
1) DANA ROHRABACHER
A onetime Orange County Registereditorial writer, dope smoker, Vietnam War dodger and Reagan White House speechwriter, Rohrabacher won a seat in Congress running as a "champion of term limits" because, he said, too much time in Washington, D.C., caused laziness, arrogance and corruption. Nearly two decades later, a cocky Rohrabacher is still holding his seat with no sign of leaving voluntarily. And corruption? Well, he's managed to keep that as far away as his wife (election fraud), his best friend (influence peddling) and his Huntington Beach protégé (bribery).
With few exceptions (medicinal marijuana, patent rights), Rohrabacher is a Republican sheep. That shouldn't surprise or disappoint us, but here's what does: Rohrabacher, who genuinely has a love of the Iraq-Afghanistan region, squandered his position, knowledge and contacts to become a rubber stamp for President Bush on the war.
This July 2004 statement on the floor of the House of Representatives demonstrates someone had inhaled from Dubya's doobie: "I say, thank God that we have a president who was willing to take this stand," Rohrabacher said. "What we are seeing in Iraq is a historic strategic move to outflank the radical Islamists. We are turning a dictatorship in the Muslim world into a democracy. . . If we do what is right and we stick to this, our enemy will collapse, just as communism collapsed, just as other evil forces collapsed."