All Hands on Deck | Opinion | Salt Lake City Weekly

All Hands on Deck 

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When the Twin Towers were hit on 9/11 and America reeled from the very notion that it could be attacked on its own soil, we all faced a shared reality: Vast oceans and thousands of miles were not the formidable barriers we had believed them to be. Even Utahns, living in their isolated pocket of clueless bliss were confronted with the realization that we live in an unsafe world.

More horrifying was the understanding that Americans were not defending against armies, but against something that the best killing machines can't vanquish—a religious ideology twisted into a philosophy of hate.

Of course, we've since had our quiet lulls. But there is no question that, like in A Christmas Story, the yellow-eyed Scut Farkus will punch us in the gut when he feels like it. The prayers of the "righteous" won't prevent it. It will happen again.

The assertion has been made that true character is best revealed by how a person acts when things aren't going well. For instance, some say you never really know a spouse's character until divorce. Similarly, how our country behaves when things are rough determines its stature in the world. Frankly put, our nation's recent behavior—in national and international affairs—has been deplorable, but Utahns simply shut their eyes.

America has descended from its untouchable status of world leadership to one where its traditional friends cringe at the idiotic blunders of its leaders. Unfortunately, GOP sheep wearing MAGA hats can't stall the country's precipitous slide from grace.

Our country was once the unquestionable world leader—but that was only until fear drove Washington to suspend certain civil rights, create self-serving intelligence fables, institute renditions and torture, and engage in multiple undeclared wars. Sadly, we the people, the ones who could have made a difference, have remained a bleating bunch of wooly chumps.

Getting to the bottom of it, just how did a group of Islamic extremists pull off 9/11? One thing was sure: Iraq was just an unlucky, innocent bystander against whom President George W. Bush held a grudge. He allowed his intelligence people to fabricate a story about weapons of mass destruction and duped allies into the fray. Utahns heartily supported W.—whose dishonesty was quickly forgiven—and he survived his presidency donning the well-deserved cloak of a congenial fool, rather than appearing at the Hague as one of history's worst mass-murderers.

Here we are, 17 years later; the Islamic Jihadists are anything but eradicated. W.'s banner waving "mission accomplished," was kindly attributed to his personality, and despite the gargantuan monetary cost and hundreds-of-thousands of lives, the world is no safer. America's misplaced retaliative aggression accomplished one thing—the destruction of a previously prosperous Iraq.

Remarkably, the country which actually spawned the attack (supplying 15 of the 19 attackers) remains a highly favored ally and trading partner. Despite a long list of human rights violations—including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last October—President Donald Trump has delivered billions of U.S. dollars to the Saudi kingdom. Instead of censure, Trump has lavished Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with compliments, declaring recently he was "doing an incredible job." (If Trump's use of the word "incredible" referred to the 19 meat saw-toting Saudi "tourists" who attacked, sliced and dissolved journalist Khashoggi in acid, I guess you could say that the compliment was well-deserved.) Not a single hair of the award-winning Washington Post opinion columnist—a vocal critic of the Saudi regime—has ever been found and U.S. intelligence has concluded that bin Salman's to blame. Trump couldn't give a damn.

As a raging pathological narcissist, Trump's only concern is to keep the smiles and accolades coming; his predictable response to flattery is well documented. Consider these: Vladimir Putin assassinates with impunity; Kim Jong-un has murdered his own uncle and half-brother; Benjamin Netanyahu's hands are covered with Palestinian blood; and Trump loves them all—they appeal to his ego. His mantra is simply, "Feed me." If birds of a feather flock together, POTUS fits nicely into that band of tyrant brothers. Somehow, Utahns avoid the fact that Trump worships the world's worst thugs and does business-as-usual with countries condemned by most of the world community.

Now, I realize that Trump claims to be a Christian, though his canine teeth show he's not really one of the flock. Interestingly, there's a passage in the Bible that reads, "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness." Obviously, that scripture caught Trump's eye, but hasn't he gone just a little too far?

One thing is crystal clear: The ship of state is all but capsized. Despite Trump's new title of "The Chosen One," we must make the choice whether to allow him to continue tweeting his chaotic, knee-jerk decisions, or insist that our leader charts a moral, ethical and educated course through a troubled sea. It's time, folks, to either man the lifeboats or toss the captain overboard.

The author is a former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and one mongrel dog. Send feedback to

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