Thursday, June 01, 2006


I have a triple header for you today, Bush. Check it out.

First, a great cause for celebration: our book is out! A handsome job, I think you'll agree, with a superb cover designed by my friend, the artist Jeff Koegel. I'm hoping that our many readers will rush to click the link and place their order--an easily accomplished feat at The Real Bush Diaries. I'm hoping, too, that they will alert all of their many friends and email contacts to this wonderful opportunity to lay their hands on a copy of our historical collaboration. If they wish to forward the URL, here it is: All they need to do is highlight, copy, and paste it in their email. If there are problems or questions, I'm sure they'll let us know. (Seriously, friends, I do need your help in getting a bit of a buzz going here, and will appreciate anything you can do to spread the word.)

Next, Iran. I'm not quite ready to buy in to the general celebration of this "dramatic reversal" of US policy, Bush. Your Rice delivered her statement yesterday with her usual icily dismissive demeanor and her familiar scowl. Its condition seemed calculated to invite rejection. Ahmadinejad has making such political hay out of his intransigeance, it would be almost impossible now for him to back away from his insistence that Iran will continue to pursue its nuclear ambitions no matter what the cost, or what the world may think.

The latest initiative of the US, it seems to me, is the kind of move you make when you simply want to make yourself look good, and the other guy look like the villain in the eyes of others. It doesn't surprise me that it was dismissed immediately as "propaganda." I could be wrong, of course. You could have China and Russia in your pocket, all ready to go along with UN sanctions. In which case, Iran could be in a tight spot. I guess it's a poker game. We'll see eventually who's bluffing. If you win, of course, I'll be eating crow--and not for the first time, Bush. Meantime, I'm playing wait-and-see.

And lastly, sadly, Everest. I used to think of mountaineers as the last great heroes in an otherwise much-debased world. I remember the very moment of the announcement of the conquest of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing: I was about seventeen years old, sitting with a bunch of friends on the tree-lined sidewalk on The Mall--that elegant avenue in London that leads from Buckingham Palace to the Admiralty Arch and Trafalgar Square. We had spent the entire night there, awaiting with a mob of patriotic Brits the passage of the carriage of Queen Elizabeth on the way to her Coronation.

What a moment, when the news about Hillary and Tensing reached us over the radio! Having long resisted, the mountain had finally succumbed to the assault of these two intrepid climbers. They seemed to us--to me at least--the highest of all mortals, men of such inestimable achievement that their heroism was above question. There was a moral dimension, too, to their ascent: these men must be gifted, I thought, with an extraodinary strength and purity of chracter, and the bond of trust between the Caucasian climber and his Sherpa guide must be powerful indeed to permit so great a human victory over nature.

Now it seems all it takes is a stake of ten to forty thousand dollars (according to today's Los Angeles Times) and you're on your way to the top of the world. We've talked a few times recently, Bush, about the win-at-any-cost ethic that drives the business world--an ethic that has now spread to the heady world of mountain climbers. It's dog-eat-dog, succeed-who-may, as climbers hike on past the dead and dying lying by the wayside without a thought for anything but their own success and their own survival.

It's understandable, perhaps, when you think that to stop and attempt to help an apparently dying man might well result in the loss of two lives, both rescuer and rescuee. And yet... well, I just have to wonder what they're doing there in the first place. When men are left to die and the dead left unattended, along with the rest of the trash accumulating on the mountainside, it's no longer about a moral victory over great odds and extraordinary human achievement.

Something important has been lost in the rush to the summit of our tallest mountain, Bush, and I suspect it's something not simply about mountain climbers, but about the rest of us too. We have learned that to get to the top it's okay to leave a few corpses in our wake.


David said...

Okay Peter, my order is in! Looking forward to getting the book. Congratulations!

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks, David! Cheers, PaL

denn said...

Congratulations on your book, Peter! Can't wait to see it.

PK said...

Just ordered your book, I'm really looking forward to it:D. Congratulations are in order!!! I'm going over to my book store and order another couple of them there... Rice did have a bit of a scowl didn't she, wonder what she had a headache about? All she does is the same as Bush, read off a paper given to her by either Rummy or Cheney. While watching news I saw the horror on Everest, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Where were there souls? How anyone could do that is beyond me. I couldn't believe humanity had sunk that low.