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November 2003

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A Curse of Iraq?

Here in the United States, in the game of baseball -- the “national game,” as it’s sometimes called -- there exists a mysterious, almost magical impediment to winning annual professional championships for one of the thirty major league teams, the Boston Red Sox. It has been a long, long time since the baseball players of the Boston club triumphed in the World Series, as championship playoffs are always called despite the fact that all but two of the teams are based in the United States. (The exceptions are Montreal and Toronto.) That long-ago occasion was 1918, the year the First World War ended.

In another saga, the last time the Chicago Cubs, another team suffering under a black cloud of ineptitude, won the Series was even farther back in the swirling mists of ancient history -- in the waning fall days of 1903. But that’s another story for another time.

Back to the Red Sox: Early in the twentieth century the team won five of the World Series held in October each year, winning the championship, that is, about every third year. In 1920, however, the owner of the Sox sold for $120,000 the contract of the team’s star pitcher and noted hitter, George Herman “Babe” Ruth, to the New York Yankees. The action caused much displeasure to the Boston fans, and well it might have. The Red Sox’s saga of futility thereupon began. Babe Ruth, given the nickname by the press of “the Bambino,” went on to earn recognition as the greatest baseball player of all time, hitting an astonishing sixty home runs in 1927, more than anyone else for the next thirty-four years. He was instrumental in his new team, the Yankees, winning five World Series in his fourteen years with the club. The Red Sox, on the other hand, drifted downward into last-place finishes and poor won-loss records.

The Boston club was jinxed. Ardent Boston fans berated the club owner who had divested himself of Babe Ruth just to make money. The club had fallen under an evil spell, the club’s supporters decided. It was the Curse of the Bambino, the curse of the ill-advised trade of the Babe, that is -- laid at the doorstep of the Red Sox front office. They had foolishly sent away to New York the future of the Boston franchise.

Babe Ruth himself, of course, had nothing to do with any such curse. The idea of the Curse of the Bambino nonetheless spread year after year as an excuse for the fact that Boston sometimes came close, but always managed to lose out, often at the tag end of the season. The Boston club won no championships after the Babe left town, long ago. This year, 2003, the Red Sox came oh-so close to beating the Yankees and thus entering the World Series, but managed to lose out by a slim margin. It was, everyone lamented, the Curse of the Bambino once again.

Which brings rather indirectly to mind the question: Is there a Curse of Iraq that applies, not to any baseball club, but to a Bush Presidency?

In 1991, the George H. W. Bush White House, backed by the UN and much of the international community, led this nation to a quick victory over Saddam Hussein’s military. Heeding the letter of the UN Security Council resolution authorizing intervention to free Kuwait, the U. S. and other allied troops withdrew without occupying Baghdad or toppling Saddam. President Bush the Elder had won decisively, but the victory availed him little not long afterward, in the 1992 elections. He lost a bid to return to the White House, due largely to a declining American economy. And he came in for criticism even then for not finishing off the job in Iraq.

Fast forward more than a decade to 2003 and a son of the former President sits in the White House. In the general aftermath of 9/11, he decided to take the nation to war with Iraq again, this time with little support internationally or from the UN. Again, U. S. forces were victorious, destroying the Iraqi military forces in short order. But of course this time the United State (with Britain) did not withdraw, and this time the UN and the great majority of the international community did not approve of either the intervention or the form of occupation. Further, as is well known, occupation of Iraq has turned out to be far more difficult, dangerous, and expensive than Washington anticipated.

That set of circumstances, along with a faltering domestic U. S. economy once again, unemployment problems, and wildly expanding national debt, are developments laid at the feet of the Man in the White House. These problems, seeming to parallel somewhat those of the early 1990's, are such as to raise a question about Curses.

Akin to the Curse of the Bambino, is there an Iraqi Curse that falls upon the President when a member of the Bush family occupies that office? As unlikely in reality, and as frivolous as such a construction would appear, one wonders. A Curse of Iraq rivaling that of the Curse of the Bambino?

Well, all right, so it's a reach. Still, I wonder....

The Editor
October 2003


Past editorials can be found here.

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