• U.S.

People Who Mattered 2002

5 minute read
Lev Grossman


Could you stare this man down? General Franks is the officer in charge at U.S. Central Command, the nerve center for American military operations in 25 countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. That means he is responsible for running the war in Afghanistan, and, if it comes to that, he will be giving orders in Iraq. Franks has taken flak for wanting to wage war the old-fashioned way. But no one questions the strength of his resolve.


The situation called for subtlety, smarts and swiftness, and for a few days people wondered whether a man named Moose was the right person for the task. But with all eyes on him, the Montgomery County, Md., police chief led some 1,000 investigators in a 22-day manhunt for the snipers who haunted Washington’s suburbs. In the end, he got the duo believed to be the shooters, and America got a new hero.


Those impassive eyes do not judge. They merely observe. Blix may look like your grandfather’s accountant, but the affable Swede, who heads the U.N. weapons-inspection team in Iraq, is now the eyes of the world, which is counting on him to find out what Saddam has up his sleeve. Blix knows, however, that what you see isn’t always what you get.


The first woman to be elected party leader in either house of Congress, Pelosi has practical experience in doing the impossible. She will need it for her next assignment: an unapologetic liberal, she must bring unity and direction to a Democratic Party still smarting from its midterm spanking. As the daughter of an old-school Baltimore, Md., ward boss, Pelosi might just be the woman for the job.


When 2002 began, there were only two players in women’s tennis who mattered: Venus and Serena Williams. Now there’s only one. Serena took the last three Grand Slam events of the year, besting her older sister in all three, and crowned herself undisputed queen of the courts. She’s the Tiger of tennis–and she has the cat suits to prove it.


A rising star in a year of fallen priests, Bishop Gregory led the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in drafting a new, tougher policy to deal with clergy accused of sexual abuse. In December the Vatican approved it, albeit in modified form, but the heartbreak and the lawsuits will continue, and Gregory, whose home diocese is Belleville, Ill., must pray for guidance on the difficult road ahead.


How’s this for a balancing act? In 2002 Pakistan’s President cooperated with America’s war on terrorism while mollifying his fundamentalist Muslim subjects. He reasserted Pakistan’s claims to Kashmir while avoiding an all-out war with India. Washington can only hope the act lasts a long time; if Musharraf were to go, there would always be the chance a hard-line Islamic radical could rule a nuclear-tipped Pakistan.


A lifelong hawk who has fought for Israel since 1948, Sharon has reinvented himself as a centrist, at least by his Likud Party’s standard. But he hasn’t forgotten how to fight. As over 400 Israelis died in terrorist attacks in 2002, Sharon’s soldiers killed more than 1,000 Palestinians–some combatants but many civilians too. He came to power promising peace, but Sharon knows best how to wage war.


The name is short for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya (Islamic Resistance Movement), but in Arabic hamas simply means “zeal.” Throughout the year, the Muslim fundamentalist group showed that growing numbers of young men–and women–are willing to blow themselves up for their cause. But many Palestinians fear that with each attack international support for that cause withers.


With his engaging middlebrow charm, deep religious convictions and deceptive shrewdness, Blair has more in common with a certain Texan President than with some of his British colleagues. And Bush could ask for no more steadfast friend in Europe. But Blair’s close ties with America could cost him friends at home.


At times the Russian President seemed an enlightened leader, helping in the hunt for al-Qaeda and taking a junior membership in NATO. But when Chechen rebels seized a Moscow theater in October, Putin responded with an opiate gas that killed 129 hostages. His KGB days are behind him, but the West’s new friend can still be an enigma.


For 30 years Atkins preached the virtues of a low-carbohydrate diet; for 30 years steak-loving Americans wanted to believe him; and for 30 years their doctors told them not to. But in 2002 several studies appeared to support Atkins’ unconventional approach, and the medical establishment is finally starting to come around. Fortunately that crow they’re eating is strictly high protein.


A romantic comedy with indie-film credibility and big-studio profits? The stars of My Big Fat Greek Wedding are having their cake and eating it too. Vardalos, Corbett and producers Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson made the film for $5 million and change, then watched it become the biggest indie hit in U.S. history, pulling in more than $215 million at the box office. Now that’s a wedding present to love.


In one of the year’s more memorable TV moments, Tony Soprano lost his temper in the kitchen, and fellow made man Ralphie Cifaretto lost his head, which ended up in a bowling ball bag. Ralphie was a fellow of infinite jest but few other redeeming qualities, and Pantoliano played him with a loathsome relish that made him irresistible. He will be missed–but hey, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

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