Flashbacks: pre-Iraq war jitters, that damn smoking ban, and the growing clout of the local Hispanic community

5 years ago
February 21, 2003| Seth Gitell wondered if the imminent invasion of Iraq could turn into a quagmire of urban combat like the 1993 debacle in Mogadishu, Somalia.

“There are scores of optimists (mainly in the Pentagon) who believe the Iraqi army will evaporate into the ether. According to this optimistic scenario, the American entry into Baghdad will resemble the Allied liberation of Paris in 1944. Most experts believe US forces will quickly take control of the countryside, an event, they figure, that will have a demoralizing effect on the rest of the Iraqi military. ‘When an army loses the countryside and finds itself reduced to just defending a couple key cities, they tend to just melt away,’ says retired Marine Corps general Bernard Trainor, a senior MSNBC military analyst.

“But what if that doesn’t happen? Baghdad is a city of almost five million people; it’s roughly the size of Chicago. While most military experts don’t think the ordinary citizenry will take up arms (if they even have them) in Hussein’s defense, the dense urban environment could provide formidable cover for members of Iraq’s Special units, including its Special Republican Guard and various intelligence services. ...

“The US has good reason to fear city battles. The last time American soldiers fought in a city, in 1993, in Mogadishu, Somalia, the US lost 18 servicemen, in a battle that saw some of their bodies dragged through the streets. Even though they were ultimately victorious, the difficulty American troops had in securing the Vietnamese city of Hue during the Tet Offensive in 1968 (remember the combat scenes in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket?) helped the public lose confidence in the war in Vietnam.” Read Article here
10 years ago
February 20, 1998 | The Phoenix commiserated on Mayor Thomas Menino’s public smoking ban proposal.

“There is no compelling reason for this kind of far-reaching change. The ratio of smoking seats to non-smoking ones already tilts heavily in favor of those who don’t smoke. Some establishments ban smoking entirely. And the few that do cater to more tobacco-loving crowds still obey government guidelines. Choices abound for diners. ...
“Boston is supposed to be a sophisticated city, not a nanny state. Let businesspeople decide how to best meet the demands of the public. And let the public make up its own mind about where it wants to eat and drink.” Read Article here

25 years ago
February 22, 1983 | Alan Lupo wrote about the growing clout of the Hispanic community in Boston.

“ ‘The only power we have is through the ballot,’ says Maria Sanchez, a social worker who spends her time off registering her Latino neighbors in the sprawling Mission Hill projects. When Sanchez arrived there, nine years ago, very few were registered. She began knocking on doors, driving around with a loudspeaker on her car encouraging neighbors to register and to vote, and taking people to the polls. Now, she estimates, about 75 percent of the potential voters are registered. To her, there is a direct connection between voting and getting services. ‘Politicians have told me that people in public housing don’t vote. The funding comes to neighborhoods with registered voters who vote. I can’t tell a person to vote and she’ll get the food the next day. I’m talking in general — politicians are concerned with neighborhoods that do vote.’ ” Read Article here

35 years ago
February 20, 1973 | Charlie McCollum sounded off on the city budget.
“Governmental budgets are the funniest animals. The federal budget is all but incomprehensible and it can be years before the general public and the Congress find out they have been dealt a dirty hand by some bureaucrat. The state budget is only slightly more understandable. That budget, a state rep once observed, is designed for maximum confusion and minimum comprehension.

“And then there’s the budget for the City of Boston. The federals can spend billions on useless jet planes and petty dictatorships. The state can pour millions down Account 03 tubes. But the city catches all the flak. Budget allocations for police, schools, firemen and street repairs are far more comprehensible to the average city dweller than the defense budget and 03 accounts. When state and federal taxes go up, the average citizen shouts. When Boston property taxes go up, he screams.”

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