Who can blame them, Bush? The dreadful loss of life in the gasoline pipeline explosion yesterday in Nigeria reminds us once again--as if such a tragic reminder were needed--of the seemingly unending agonies suffered by our fellow-humans on the African continent. With pipelines running through their homelands carrying liquid wealth to the already wealthy, who can blame these impoverished and desperate villagers for risking their very lives in the attempt to divert some of it into their jerry-cans in order to supplement an income insufficient to support their families? Their desperation was such, they chose to ignore the history of previous disasters--including one in 1998 that took over 1,000 lives--and tap into the pipeline with dangerously primitive tools to steal a pathetic dribble from the flow.
The result of their reckless assault on the property of the oil companies? A vast explosion, powerful enough to incinerate everyone in the assembled mob of vandals within 20 yards. The picture on page A3 of today's New York Times is ample testimony to its violence and its dire consequence: a seared skull, a heap of ribs and bones and a charred mass of flesh and organs is all that remains in the sand of what was once a human being. Above this pathetic remnant runs a section pipeline undamaged in the blast and, beyond, a posse of civilian officials and military men, whose leader is busy communicating elsewhere on his cellular phone.
Such tragedies are the direct result of poverty, hunger, disease and desperation, Bush. When I think of the billions mis-spent on your Iraq adventure, with the world crying out for so much subsistence aid, I'm not sure whether to rage or weep. What's your choice, Bush? Perhaps both. But is it not time we re-evaluated our priorities? Is it not time we found less damaging and more practical ways to exorcise this demon, oil, with all the human suffering it has already caused, along with the promise to cause infinitely more in the years to come as we recklessly continue to derive our wealth from it and squabble over the diminishing supply?
We understand you're going to talk to us on Monday night about immigration. The promised theme, to placate your conservative supporters, is supposedly the use of National Guard troops to protect the borders. I'd much prefer to hear you talk about the deeper issues involved: world poverty, overpopulation and the pressing need for birth control, climate change, the disparity of wealth, the need for work among the world's many millions of poor and destitute... A few thousand troops to stem the flow is not going to do it, Bush. There are systemic problems here, that demand system- rather than symptom-driven solutions. I hope that those who instruct your speechwriters will bear these things in mind. It's not just about reversing your popularity and saving Republicans from disaster at the polls. As I keep saying until you're sick of hearing it: it's about the human race.