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Editorials Jan. 20

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Where’s the exit? We always figured there was a better chance of O.J. Simpson finding the real killer than there was of President Bush finding the weapons of mass destruction. Sure enough, the Bush administration has now officially abandoned the search for the WMD that were supposed to be the reason we invaded Iraq, while O.J. still pursues that lone killer — at golf courses and USC games, anyway. The murderer O.J. is after did in “only” two people, incidentally. Two deaths would be hardly noticeable in Iraq, where 1,400 American soldiers and maybe 100,000 Iraqis — children, women and men — have died since Bush’s misjudgment. Apologizing would bring none of them back to life, though we wouldn’t object if Bush made a stab at apology anyway, just for decency’s sake. What the president is morally compelled to do, however, is to offer some plan for extracting America from this mess he has gotten us into. Exactly what are we supposed to be accomplishing, now that we have finally admitted Iraq is no threat to the U.S.A., and never was? Imposing democracy? It’s hard to sustain a participatory democracy when there’s nobody to participate, and at the rate we’re going, democracy will come to Iraq only when everybody there is dead. That’s when the Iraqi people will come to love us, too. Making another mess President Bush seems determined to do to Social Security what he’s doing in Iraq. And with the same tactics: Conjuring up a threat that isn’t there, destroying what one professes to be saving. Social Security is not on the verge of collapse. That is a fiction created by people who wish it were true — ideologues who oppose any government program, no matter how worthy; sharp dealers who hunger to get their greasy hands on people’s retirement money. A president worth his salt would defend the average American against such as these, not ally himself with them. Social Security is the only thing that keeps most elderly Americans above the poverty line. Bush’s proposed “privatization” would not only push them under, it would force an estimated $2 trillion in debt on future generations. That’s the cost of transitioning to the risky private accounts Bush proposes. For far less money, obtained far more fairly — by repealing some of Bush’s tax cuts for the very rich, for example — Social Security could get a comparatively modest infusion of cash that would assure the system’s safety as far into the future as anyone can see. The right-wing extremists and the Wall Street hustlers who seek to destroy Social Security have neither virtue nor reason on their side. All they have are the check stubs for their contributions to Bush’s election campaign. That’s enough to get Bush’s support. It’s up to Congress and the American people to repel the pirates.

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