Wednesday, August 28, 43 A.B.

Dear George...

I hate to bother you.  I know you're a busy man.  I'm a busy man, too.  You have an executive branch to run.  I have a groundhog to watch for and a cat that needs a good talking to.  For the benefit of both of us, I'll try to keep this as brief as possible.

It's all this Iraq talk, George.  And your extreme eagerness to launch another war.  I just don't get it.  OK?  I just don't get it.  And - quite frankly - it's scaring the hell out of me.

I don't think I've ever seen anyone so eager to launch a war.  Maybe Ariel Sharon came close with his invasion of Lebanon in the ‘80s.  Maybe Yugoslavia's Milosevic with the whole "ethnic cleansing" thing.  But you're an American, George.  We've always been taught here in Ohio to expect more of our national leaders.  Yeah, they keep disappointing us, but that doesn't change the fact that I keep expecting more.  And for some reason, I especially expect more from those American leaders who present themselves as holier-than-thou Christians.  Why am I getting less?  How do I square "We gotta get Saddam!  We gotta get the bastard NOW!" with "Blessed are the peacemakers" and "Turn the other cheek"?  How do you square ‘em in your own mind, George?  I'd really, really like to know....

The theologies of Christianity and Americanism aside, George, a lot of other people would like to know exactly what's motivating you here, too.  Our European allies don't see the logic behind your talk.  Neither do our Middle Eastern allies.  Not  Egypt.  Not Saudi Arabia.  Not even Iraqi-abused little Kuwait.  Russia, China, and India pretty much ok'd your Afghan War and the Gulf War, but they've changed their tune this time around - big time.  Even many Republicans in Congress and your daddy's old advisors are telling you to knock it off.

You just shrug and keep saying the same old thing: "We gotta get Saddam!  We gotta get the bastard NOW!"

It's becoming unseemly, George.  It's verging on obsession.  And it's about two steps away from talking to a giant rabbit only you can see.

And it really, REALLY doesn't help when you send people out to claim you don't need Congress's ok to wage this war.  You're commander in chief, you say.  You can do it all yourself.  Riiight.  That's why the Founders explicitly put the power to declare war in the hands of Congress.  Just so a president like yourself could come along, say otherwise, and they'd have an excuse to pop up out of their graves and say, "Yep! You called our bluff!  ‘Bout time someone saw through our deliberately poor way with words!"

No, George - I'm not really agreeing with you.  That's what's known as sarcasm.  I know, I know - it only slows things down.  I'll dispense with it from here on out.

Let's look at the record.

About a year ago you said "We gotta get Osama!  We gotta get that bastard NOW!  Dead or alive!"  Did you get Osama, George?  Apparently not.  Recent reports from multiple sources suggest that he's still alive and most definitely NOT in U.S. custody.  You turned Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan upside-down trying to get him, but no cigar.  You weren't even able to capture or kill the top Taliban leaders who were harboring him.  And now you want to try for another target?  And a more clever, better armed target at that!  Aren't we kinda getting ahead of ourselves?  Aren't we asking for permission to run when we still haven't mastered the fine art of crawling?

Did you get into a lot of fights when you were in school, George?  Did you look at ultimatums and violence as the solution to every problem back then, too?  I gotta wonder, George, because it seems to be your solution to almost every problem now.

In case you haven't noticed, it just isn't working.

Your own experts say we're no safer now than before your last war.  That's according to an article in the New York Times that my newspaper reprinted on June 16.  "Classified investigations have concluded that the war in Afghanistan failed to diminish the threat to the United States, the officials said. Instead, the war might have complicated counterterrorism efforts by dispersing potential attackers across a wider geographic area."

I know, I know - in the wake of Sept. 11, you felt you had to do something.  Afghanistan is a country, the U.S. is pretty good at bombing the hell out of countries - it seemed like a good fit.  But, you know, it just doesn't seem to be working out so great in practice.  And what's that they say in Alcoholics Anonymous?  Come on, you really ought to know this.  Isn't it something like "A fool is someone who keeps doing the same thing over and over again in the hope of achieving a different result?"

And of course in this case, George, the result we're talking about is disgustingly ironic in the extreme.  I mean, we went to war to avenge the deaths of 3000 innocent people who lost their lives on Sept. 11 and to try to prevent such horrible things from ever happening again, and what's been the result?  U.S. bombs have killed more than 3000 innocent people in the process.  Children, old people, wedding parties....  Although the names of these victims haven't been commemorated in special boxed columns in my newspaper or tearfully intoned by any of the network anchors, they were real people, George, with real next of kin, and their deaths have been well-documented.  Click here or here and see for yourself.  Please.

And then read the recent Newsweek cover story on how some of our good Afghan allies packed hundreds of other people in shipping containers and allowed them to bake to death in the hot sun.  What kind of people can do such things, George?  Nazis?  Al-Qaida?  Saddam?  Whoever they are, they must be bad people - right?  Except when they're our allies?  Then they're suddenly good??  Is that the way it works, George?  If not, why haven't you condemned this brutal action the way you condemned the Sept. 11 attacks?  Why haven't you condemned it at all?  Why haven't you even requested an investigation?  Why am I reading a story today about how even an investigation is simply too "sensitive" to be broached?  I'm getting the queasy feeling that good and bad for you just happen to be whatever you decide they are, George - that there are no objective standards here.  This is NOT a feeling I enjoy....

If you get your way and launch a war against Iraq, will things be any better?  The fact that you're now saying Saddam's possession of chemical weapons makes him a must-go target when the actual use of those weapons didn't keep Reagan and others from allying the U.S. with him back in the ‘80s doesn't augur well.  The fact that virtually every scenario I've heard of envisions U.S. forces taking on Saddam's army in the streets of Baghdad - a city of 4.5 million people - just about clinches it.  Do you have any idea what urban warfare is like, George?  Do the words Stalingrad and Dresden conjure up no unpleasant associations in your mind?

Exactly how many innocent civilians are you willing to sacrifice, George?  Exactly how many nations are you going to invade in the name of peace and security?

My mind boggles at the hubris of it all, George.  Afghanistan remains a poor, violent hell-hole we refuse to rebuild or even adequately patrol, and yet some people like yourself seem willing to declare that war won - time to line up the next one.  Funny how little time we take to reflect on the actual results of all this violence, isn't it?  Funny how we love to concentrate on demonizing the forces of evil in Grenada and Haiti, Somalia and Libya, Panama and Bosnia until we simply MUST engage in an orgasmic surge of violence, and then... spent...  we in effect roll over, go to sleep, and slip away, never to look back to see what the long-term consequences of our actions might be.

I know what you're thinking.  Saddam is evil - EVIL!  He'll get The Bomb.  He'll use it.

Why?  There are easier ways to commit suicide.  And that's exactly what he'd be doing.  New York today - Baghdad tomorrow. It's a terrible Balance of Terror that's managed to keep the peace for the last 50 years.  What makes you think Saddam is suddenly playing by different rules?

Despite vigorous attempts by your associates to paint him as some wild-eyed al-Qaida fanatic with links to Sept. 11, the fact remains that Saddam is an old-style secular tyrant who seems quite addicted to the pleasures of this world - not some frustrated hot-head who can't wait to get to those virgins aching for him in some Islamic afterlife.  Yep, he's a bad tyrant, but the world is full of ‘em.  Are we gonna go around trying to get rid of them all on the off-chance that one of them might someday get The Bomb and then maybe use it on us?  Is that really the policy that stands the best chance of success?

Maybe the rest of the world thinks differently than I do, but if the U.S. starts bombing people because of what they might do - well, they might as well actually do those things.  Right?  And if a country like Russia, say, bombed Florida because  Putin thought Jeb just might bomb him someday - well, would YOU just sit back afterward and say, "Boy, that Putin's a real smart, macho guy.  Guess I better behave myself!"  Or would you start thinking, "Gawd Almighty, somebody better stop this nut before he ends up bombing EVERYONE!"?

I mean to say, if I were a Muslim youth in Egypt, say, and I saw you invade Iraq "just because" - well, I don't think you'd have endeared yourself or your country to me.  And I think you'd have taught me that might makes right, and it's better to strike first.  Is that really your intent??  I hope not.

Or look at China.  If I were the Chinese and I saw that U.S. policy had suddenly become "Let's take out other nuclear powers while the taking out is good!" I'd change a few things fast.  Like, expand my nuclear arsenal as quickly as possible.  And maybe go to a launch-on-warning policy.

What I'm trying to say is, taking out Saddam - even if successful - is likely to have all sorts of negative consequences that end up making the world a less safe place.

And if you really believe otherwise, you've done a piss-poor job of explaining why.

Sorry to have rambled on so long, George.  But when the driver of the bus one is on seems determined to plow into crowds on his way to the nearest cliff, I trust he can understand how an unwilling passenger might want to scream his bloody head off.

Sincerely Yours,


PS - Need more advice?  Just honk.  One blast for more of my foreign affairs expertise.  Two blasts if you want me to explain how you can repair the damage you've done here at home to our civil liberties, the economy, and sundry other areas.

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trying to recall the ending to "Speed")