By:  Nick Welsh

READ ’EM AND WEEP: With so many famous people
dying in recent weeks, it’s easy to see how Dustin Donica
got lost in the shuffle. In the past 10 days alone, we’ve said
goodbye to James — Mr. “Please, Please, Please” — Brown,
former president (and the world’s most dangerous golfer) Gerald
Ford, and Iraqi dictator and mass-murderer Saddam Hussein. Shortly
before they took off, we read the obits for Chilean tyrant Augusto
Pinochet and Jeane Kirkpatrick, the U.S. ambassador to the United
Nations back in the ’80s.

To be fair, I’d say Donica and Brown deserved better company for
their trip to the hereafter. Brown was one of the few genuinely
self-created American originals, endowed with a hyperkinetic
rhythmic audacity that surpassed even his gargantuan ego. But
during his 73 years on planet Earth, Brown was generous enough to
give us all a postgraduate course in booty shaking whether we knew
we had enrolled or not. Thank you, Mr. Brown. Kirkpatrick is
another story altogether. One of the original right-wing
gangsta-academics, Kirkpatrick’s frightening exterior masked an
even scarier interior. She achieved both fame and infamy
articulating the novel theory that America’s dictators were
superior to other countries’ tyrants because ours were somehow more
susceptible to democratic reform.

Most people would get laughed out of town with ideas like that,
but like I say, nobody laughed when Jeane was around. She was that
scary. We can only guess that Kirkpatrick was referring to the
likes of Pinochet, the Chilean general who overthrew Chile’s
popularly elected socialist president Salvador Allende in 1973 in a
military coup hatched in active connivance with U.S. Secretary of
State Henry Kissinger and the CIA. Before he was through, Pinochet
would murder untold thousands of Chileans and torture countless
more. At the time of the coup, Chile enjoyed a long history of
democratic elections. Pinochet was one of the few dictators ever to
be brought up on charges for his crimes against humanity, but he
hid behind the façade of diminished mental capacity and managed to
escape this mortal coil before facing his accusers in court. It’s
worth noting he died on International Human Rights Day.

Then, of course, there’s Gerald Ford, who radiated a calming
congeniality no matter how ferociously reality dictated otherwise.
When then-president John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in 1963,
Ford, then a congressmember from Michigan, served on the Warren
Commission, which sought to soothe the nation with sweet
lies — like the lone gunman theory — that not even an 11-year-old
could stomach. But what could you expect from a man who would later
proclaim (well before the fall of the Soviet Union), “There is no
Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a
Ford administration.” Ford got a bad rap for being a dim bulb, but
to a certain extent, he brought it on himself. “I watch a lot of
baseball on the radio,” he once said. “Things are more like they
are now than they have ever been before.” Ford’s political life
demonstrated not just that anyone can become president, but that
you can do it without even trying. Ford was appointed vice
president to replace Spiro T. Agnew, who was brought up on charges
of accepting kickbacks from the cement companies getting freeway
construction contracts while he was governor of Maryland. Ford then
got bumped into the Number One spot after Richard Nixon resigned
rather than face certain impeachment. Ford’s lasting legacy is not
how this accidental president pardoned Nixon for crimes against the
Constitution, but the cast of nefarious characters this
well-meaning man elevated to positions of great power.

It was during the Ford administration that Dick Cheney and
Donald Rumsfeld got their first tastes of serious power. These two
political pit bulls quickly reshaped the Ford White House, bringing
with them the likes of George Herbert Walker Bush and his longtime
fixer, James Baker. It was George I who gave us George II, and it
was Baker who led the successful legal fight to stop the Florida
recount that allowed the current president to steal the 2000
election. And it was Cheney and Rumsfeld who cooked the books and
repeated all the lies that got us into our increasingly bloody mess
in Iraq. If this crew felt a compulsion to topple Saddam Hussein
from power, it’s understandable. Since the early 1980s, these same
individuals conspired to break and circumvent a passel of laws in
order to keep Saddam as armed and dangerous as he could be. When
Saddam was using chemical weapons to kill not just the Iranians, on
whom he declared war, but the Kurds living in Iraq, we not only
looked the other way, we provided him the military coordinates
telling him where best to bomb. When the Senate passed a resolution
condemning the gassing, then-president Ronald Reagan vetoed it.
When the UN Security Council voted to condemn, U.S.

Ambassador Kirkpatrick voted against it. Back then, Saddam was
still one of our “good” dictators. And besides, he was killing
Iranians, then led by a group of crazy mullahs who had the nerve to
overthrow our bloody puppet Shah Reza Pahlavi. Maybe had the CIA
not overthrown Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 — who had been Iran’s
democratically elected prime minister not once but twice — then
maybe the crazy mullahs would never have come to power in the first
place. And maybe we wouldn’t find ourselves forced to support wars
of aggression waged by psychos like Saddam in the 1980s. But then,
Mossadegh wanted to nationalize Iran’s oil production, so we had no

I understand an investigation has been launched into the
taunting and jeering that accompanied Saddam during his execution.
By the standards of recent Iraqi history, he got off easy; at least
they didn’t drag his body from a car around the streets of Baghdad
and then hang whatever leftover body parts they could find. But I’d
rather know the extent to which the United States government aided
and abetted Saddam in his crimes against humanity.

And all this leads us to poor Dustin Donica, the servicemember
who was killed last week while on patrol in Iraq. Newspaper
accounts tell us little of Donica other than he was 22 and from
Spring, Texas. Donica’s claim to fame is not what he did while
alive, but that he was the 3,000th American killed during the war
on Iraq. If nothing else, Donica’s death disproves the old adage
that death usually comes in threes. In his case, it comes in three


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