Dear Mr. President:
I listened to your speech last week about going to war with Iraq
and there were parts I didn't get. I have nagging questions, some of them
probably pretty dumb, many of them indelicate and in bad taste. Help me
(1) Tell me again: why now? Why is Saddam more of a threat now
than he's been in the last decade? Yes, I heard you say he may be less
than a year away from having nukes, but three days before your speech,
U.S. intelligence agencies said he wouldn't have any until 2010.
Who to believe?
And if he does have nukes, when would he be more likely to use
them? When he's being left alone or when he's under attack? A new
intelligence report last week said that Saddam, if he were convinced we
were about to hit him, might decide an "attack against the U.S. would be
his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims
So wouldn't we thereby provoke what were trying to prevent?
And what would you say, Mr. President, to someone so crass he
thinks your timing is designed to keep Democrats from talking
pre-election talk about corporate corruption, Medicare prescription
coverage, and the economy?
(2) I understand that Saddam is a real S.O.B., but does that mean
we're going to war with all countries led by S.O.B.s? Won't that be a
(3) I also understand that Iraq has given aid and comfort to
al-Qaeda. But so have other countries in the region. Most of the
al-Qaeda big shots come from Saudi Arabia. Are we going to war with Saudi
(4) Here's a really dumb, indelicate, and tasteless question: If
Iraq weren't sitting on the world's second largest pool of oil, would you
give a damn about Saddam and his villainy? It's an awful question to ask,
Mr. President, but hey, I'd really like to know.
(5) Why are so many of our current and past military leaders so
unenthusiastic about a war with Iraq? Like Gen. John Hoar, former C.O. of
the U.S. Central Command, who warns of "a nightmare scenario" if we end up
using ground forces in Baghdad.
With all due respect, Mr. President, does he know something you
(6) How are we going to pay for this war? The first Gulf War
cost $61 billion, and our allies paid for all but $7 billion. Who's
bailing us out this time?
Like lots of other Americans, I'm pretty goosey about the economy.
We've gone from a $300 billion surplus to a $200 billion deficit during
your presidencymostly because of your tax cut for rich folk.
Are you planning to revoke that tax cut to pay for the war?
The Truth, Mainly
Maybe it's because I get selfishly alarmed when my retirement
fund, even though I'm not spending any of it yet, gets smaller every
quarter, but I worry more about that than I do about Saddam. And I'm not
According to last week's NY Times-CBS poll, "a majority of
Americans say that the nation's economy is in its worst shape in nearly a
decade and that President Bush and Congressional leaders are spending too
much time talking about Iraq while neglecting problems at home. . . ."
I know, Mr. President, that you don't care about polls, but you
might want to look at this one. It tells us that "the number of Americans
who approved of the way Mr. Bush has handled the economy41 percentwas
the lowest it has been in his presidency."
(7) And one last questionthe dumbest, most indelicate and
tasteless of all: Is personal revenge a major part of your reason for
going to war with Iraq?
I wouldn't bring it up, Mr. President, but you keep reminding us
that Saddam tried to kill your father back in 1993. That's enough to make
any son hold a grudge, but is it a good reason to go to war?
Here's a suggestion as dumb, indelicate, and tasteless as the
question: Instead of getting revenge by having our kids fight his
kidsthereby killing who knows how many thousands who share neither
Saddam's guilt nor your desire for revengewhy not just go one-on-one?
Just you and Saddam and a pair of dueling pistols.
P.S. Just thought of another question: Whatever happened to the
war we already had? You remember, the one against Osama bin Laden and
P.S. P.S. Just thought of another one: In your speech, you said
that "America speaks with one voice" on all this. Who told you that?
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail