Jean, Saddam and Osama

Saving riverboat a duty to history

A massive -- if immobile -- steamboat moored at Riverview Park in Independence would be nice.

It could be used as a miniature convention center, restaurant or bed and breakfast. It might attract more tourists to the community.

There are a lot of reasons to tug Steamboat Jean from Asotin, Wash., to Independence. Most of them fall under the heading of "cute" and "quaint."

However, there is something more important to consider.

Unless Steamboat Jean finds a new home -- and within the next two weeks -- she will be torn apart and scrapped. Another piece of history will be lost.

Steamboat Jean sits docked at the Chief Lookingglass Marina on the Snake River in Asotin. The marina is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They need the space.

Engineers demand the boat leave by April 16. Or else.

Steamboat Jean's owner, 87-year-old Elmer Earl of Asotin, is willing to give the boat to Independence. The only problem is that the boat is 42 feet wide and the Willamette Locks are 40 feet wide.

Capt. Richard Chesbrough of the Willamette Queen in Salem thinks he might be able work a little magic and get Steamboat Jean to lose just enough width to fit through the locks.

Steamboat Jean has no motor. She she would have to be tugged to Independence while the river is still high enough.

If these details can be worked out, Steamboat Jean deserves another chance at life.

We have lost so much history already.

Up to 55 riverboats once roamed the Willamette, carrying people and cargo. None of the boats remain.

All were sunk or scrapped. The average life expectancy of a steamboat in the 19th century was 36 months.

Losing Steamboat Jean would be a crime against history.

Beyond all the practical considerations of getting a steamboat to Independence and making it economically viable, we have to remember our obligation to history.

A steamboat at Riverview Park would not only preserve the past but bring it to life for generations yet unborn.

We wish the effort and Steamboat Jean herself good luck and godspeed.

Public gets villains a little confused

Amidst all the arguments for and against the war in Iraq, a couple of points need to be cleared up.

Saddam Hussein did not bomb the World Trade Center or the Pentagon.

A lot of people seem to link Iraq to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. This is just not true.

As a matter of fact, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden hate each other.

That's because Saddam Hussein is not an Islamic extremist. He is a purely secular lunatic. The world will be better off without him. There's no doubt about that.

Whether or not the United States should be the world's policemen -- let alone its judge, jury and executioner -- remains to be seen. We will all find out soon enough.

In the meantime, we have an obligation to raise the level of the debate.

We are acting on the premise that we must stop Saddam now before he evolves into a more serious threat.

And not just Iraq. Under the so-called "Bush Doctrine," we may launch pre-emptive strikes against other nations that may pose a threat in the future.

Arguments can be made for and against this shift in American foreign policy.

Yes, Saddam Hussein is an evil man with no doubt evil intentions.

But we need to keep our enemies -- their characteristics and motivations -- clear. That's one of the first rules of warfare.

Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden come from the same region of the world. They are both psychotic killers. The similarities end there.

If we start lumping all people from the Middle East together, if we start writing them off as "those people," we are in for a lot of trouble.

Forget the implicit bigotry of that attitude. Forget that we may confuse friend with foe. We are misjudging our adversary -- a mistake which never goes unpunished.


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