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A metaphor for Iraq: Mississippi Mayor Melton

Jackson Mississippi’s popular Mayor, Frank Melton was acquitted of using sledgehammers and sticks (link) to destroy a home that he suspected as a crack house. The funny thing was; Melton was wrong but destroyed the house anyway. Melton’s crack house is George Bush’s Iraq.

Much like Melton, when President Bush took Saddam Hussein in his sights and made the decision to invade Iraq, he did so out of personal conviction and subjective vengeance. He used selective intelligence to support his own opinions and grandiose outcomes. Solicited only opinions that agreed with his and publicly attacked anyone that disagreed with those his assertions (link). Even the whole ‘Slam Dunk” (link) story is now being challenged.

There are many who would claim that faith and conviction are valid motivators. And for many things, such as volunteerism and social projects, those qualities are extremely valid motivators. But when you’re in charge of a nation or a city, objective thought and thoroughness should be the driving deciding force for any and all hard decisions, not faith and conviction.

Melton, is a flamboyant Mayor that was elected in a landslide based on his agenda of ridding Jackson of crime. However he made more of his photo-ops than of clear policy changes. He was more known for his gun-toting antics than of solid solutions for encouraging business back into the floundering city. When he and his bodyguards decided to demolish a house that he suspected to be a crack house, this was just another photo-op gone bad.

The parallels to George Bush, albeit apples-to-oranges, are evident with Melton. George Bush, for whatever reason, had the conviction and faith that Saddam Hussein was the Alexander to his Napoleon. It was George Bush who unilaterally decided that Iraq was the center of the war on terror. It was George Bush that wanted to known for the Bush Doctrine; “the we will strike you before you strike us”, model of foreign policy. It was George Bush that decided that Iraq, with Saddam Hussein as its leader, was a threat to the American way of life.

Regardless of facts, Melton and Bush were wrong.

Even though Melton was ultimately acquitted of malicious mischief and two counts of conspiracy. He was acquitted because the jury felt that Melton’s actions lacked the malicious intent required for conviction, not because his actions of entering a private residence and destroying it in the name of ‘cleaning up the streets’ was acceptable.

Melton said that his intentions were good, that he wanted to rid the community of a drug haven. Bush said that his intentions were sincere; he wanted to rid the world of maniacal dictator. Both, by taking the law into their own hands have proved that vigilantism is an ill-conceived and sophomoric approach to complex governing issues.

There are no shortcuts Mr. Melton and Mr. Bush. No shortcuts.

Posted by john trevisani at April 27, 2007 8:30 AM
Comment #218595

John, much as I detest the man, there might be some grounds for saying that while this is quite clearly George’s War now, at the beginning it may not have been.

Bob Woodward’s comprehensive ‘State of Denial’ actually paints a fairly sympathetic picture of Bush at the outset of the war. It is far less flattering when describing Rumsfeld and Rice, and of course the neo-con brigade headed by Wolfowitz. Bush is depicted as a slightly confused but reasonably inquiring President at the time, even if he directed his staff to ‘look at Iraq’ repeatedly.

The advice he was given was wrong, on all counts, but it was on this advice that Bush went to war.

Now of course, it’s different - Bush is the intractable maniac bent on repairing his reputation and place in history, and he no longer listens to anyone. Woodward makes this very clear.

Posted by: Jon Rice at April 27, 2007 11:03 AM
Comment #218597

John Trevisani,

You are only half right. The Melton crack house would be Bush’s Iraq if Melton had begun tearing down the alleged crack house with a majority vote of approval from a bipartisan city council. Then, halfway through, the Democratic side of the city council began ridiculing Melton for political gain, and stepped in to take away the sledgehammers from Melton’s work force demanding them to go home.
After having forced Melton and the workers to leave with the house in utter disrepair, drug pushers moved in and the neighborhood went down the toilet with the likes of violence, crime, and terror that Jackson Mississippi had never in their wildest dreams imagined before.

Then, and only then, would it be likened to Iraq!


Posted by: JD at April 27, 2007 11:16 AM
Comment #218598

When someone insulates themselves with nothing but ‘yes’ men that will do nothing to please their President, the only result can be poor results. Iraq is a result of all the kings horse and all of the kings men wanting to please their king by providing anything and everything to justify his wants and wishes. Bush wanted to go to Iraq before 911 (remember Paul O’Neil?). Everyone else in his inner circle just wanted to please him.

Your response in sounds all too familiar? You forgot to use the word “embolden”. It reminds me of the Cheney method. Where everyone who is critical of this administration’s policy is an anti-troop-supporter and is supporting the enemy. If Cheney had any measurable data to support these allegations, he would be regurgitating it everyday on FNC. This is Bush’s war. This is his mess. You can’t blame the Democrats for finally waking up and trying to stop the bleeding.

Posted by: john trevisani at April 27, 2007 11:40 AM
Comment #218601


Interesting story, but was there lose of even one life at this house in Jackson compared to the well over 3,000 Americans that have died consequent to the sophomoric vigilantism of George Bush? Your analysis, unless it is satire, is sophomoric indeed—apples-to-oranges is a grave understatement. Americans voluntarily give their lives every day in Iraq so their heroism deserves more than this trite comparison of circumstances.

As much of your post is the criticism of GWB, why not state it plainly as it is? Why bother to downplay such recklessness by comparing it to the politics of a small southern city.

Let me give you an example:



Regardless of who has the “president’s” ear, he is the “commander and chief,” and he is totally responsible for this debacle from it’s inception as well as his egregious abuse of the American Armed Forces who VOLUNTEER to protect our nation from all legitimate enemies, both foreign and domestic.

Posted by: Kim-Sue at April 27, 2007 11:49 AM
Comment #218614

I’ve seen a couple people state that a majority of Americans favored the Iraq War at the start. I’d just like to remind them that the favorable opinion was contingent upon the war being a UN operation.

Go back and look at the polls:

In questions that ask about military action, you get very high levels of support. When that’s broken out, that means to people air strikes, special forces operations, that kind of thing gets very high levels of support.

When you talk about invasion with ground forces, which would actually be the most likely form of action, then it drops all the way down to the low 50s, even 50 percent, and then when the question of casualties comes up, it goes lower. And when it comes to the option of doing that on our own, then it goes down to a third or even 20 percent

People generally favored military action against Saddam — IF NECESSARY — but certainly not the way Bush did it. Americans favored a more measured Clintonian response.

Posted by: American Pundit at April 27, 2007 1:44 PM
Comment #218627

Power, postion, and celebrity status does strange things to men in political office. They take on an importance that is bigger then themselves!

Posted by: Danny L. McDaniel at April 27, 2007 3:45 PM
Comment #218706

john trevisani,
I know Frank Melton personally. Going on drug raids was not a photo op for him. He knew the risks but he did it because he believed he needed to show the residents of the community that he was “in the trenches” to stop the criminals who were terrorizing them. He’s also the former head of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics.
Frank is eccentric for sure, but he’s honest and straightforward, and he genuinely cares about helping the people of Jackson improve their city and their lives. Our modern cynicism about politicians doesn’t fit Frank.
I don’t agree with his methods but I understand why he did the things he did. He’s learned some valuable lessons in the process.
The residents of the neighborhood told Frank about the drug dealing from that house and he witnessed it himself before he tore down the wall. He did it to put the dealers on notice in a way no one could miss that it wouldn’t be tolerated any more. He was acquitted because his constituents approve of what he did.
Frank has made a difference, too, with clear policies that are beginning to bear fruit. I don’t know the statistics, but people aren’t as afraid as they used to be and business is coming back. In fact, we’ve begun work on a $1.3B downtown revitalization, mostly with private money.
Frank Melton is not a metaphor for Iraq or anything else.

Posted by: traveller at April 29, 2007 12:58 AM
Comment #218727
Frank is eccentric for sure, but he’s honest and straightforward, and he genuinely cares about helping the people of Jackson improve their city and their lives.

You can say that about President Bush too, but good intentions are no substitute for competent and effective leadership.

Posted by: American Pundit at April 29, 2007 1:45 PM
Comment #218754

Frank Melton IS a competent and effective leader.
George Bush isn’t.
We agree on almost nothing but we agree on this. I’ve never liked Bush, and I didn’t like his father, either. They’re cut from the same cloth.
They’re both internationalists who stand to the left of Clinton in the policies they’ve supported as president-and that is certainly no compliment.

Posted by: traveller at April 29, 2007 6:20 PM
Comment #218790

As a resident of a suburb of Jackson, I believe Frank Melton is the best thing that has happened to Jakcson in the past twenty years. The solution for encouraging business back into Jackson, is to rid the city of crime. The reason Jackson has been losing residents and business’s left and right is because of the crime. Melton has made crime his #1 agenda. The reason he was put on trial is because of the city attorney(Faye Peterson) who despises him. I am a republican but I feel that your comparison of Bush to Melton is not correct.

Posted by: David at April 30, 2007 11:00 AM
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