The Truth, Mainly - 10/14/2002

An open letter to the president
by Leon Satterfield

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 out.

(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 with him."

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 full-time job?

(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 Arabia too?

(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 don't?

(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 presidency—mostly because of your tax cut for rich folk.

Are you planning to revoke that tax cut to pay for the war?

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 alone.

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 economy—41 percent—was the lowest it has been in his presidency."

(7) And one last question—the 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 kids—thereby killing who knows how many thousands who share neither Saddam's guilt nor your desire for revenge—why not just go one-on-one? Just you and Saddam and a pair of dueling pistols.


Leon Satterfield

P.S. Just thought of another question: Whatever happened to the war we already had? You remember, the one against Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

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 address is:

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