During my long life, America has surmounted many severe challenges. As a teenager, I experienced the great depression. In World War II, I saw war close-up as a Navy Seabee. As a country newspaper editor, I watched the Korean War from afar. As a Member of Congress, I agonized through the Vietnam War from start to finish. During these challenges I never for a moment worried about America’s ultimate survival with its great principles and ideals still intact.
Today, for the first time, I worry deeply about America’s future. We are in a deep hole. I believe President George W. Bush’s decision to initiate war in Iraq will be the greatest and most costly blunder in American history. He has set America on the wrong course.
I must speak out. As best I can, I must bestir those who will listen to the grave damage already done to our nation and warn of still greater harm if Bush continues his present course during a second term in the White House.
When terrorists assaulted America on 9/11, killing nearly 3,000 innocent civilians, President Bush responded, not by focusing on bringing to justice the criminals who were responsible, but by initiating a war against impoverished, defenseless Afghanistan, a broad attack that killed at least 3,000 innocent people. Even before the dust settled in Afghanistan, the president initiated another war–this one in Iraq, a war planned long before 9/11.
In the name of national security, the president has brought about fundamental, revolutionary changes that threaten our nation’s moorings. At home and abroad, he has undercut time-honored principles of the rule of law.
Abroad, he has made war a ready instrument of presidential policy instead of reserving it as a last-resort should peril confront our nation. In public documents, he claims the personal authority to make war any time and any place he alone chooses and the authority to use force to keep unfriendly nations from increasing their own military strength.
His power is unprecedented. He directs a military budget greater than all other nations combined. At his instant, personal command is more military power than any nation in all recorded history ever before possessed.
He proclaims America the global policeman and for that role he has already expanded a worldwide system of U.S. military bases. Four new ones are in place in Iraq and four others near the Caspian Sea.
He orders the development and production of a new generation of nuclear arms for U.S. use only, meanwhile threatening other nations-“Iran and North Korea, for example-“against acquiring any of its own.
Unleashing America’s mighty sword, he brings about regime changes in Afghanistan and Iraq but mires our forces in quagmires from which escape seems unlikely for many years.
He isolates America from common undertakings with time-tested allies. He trivializes the United Nations and violates its charter.The president offers wars without end, and the Congress shouts its approval. But his use of America’s vast arsenal is so reckless that he is regarded widely as the most dangerous man in the world.
Here at home, in his frantic quest for terrorists, he stoops to bigoted measures based on race and national origin, tramples on civil liberties, and spreads fear and disbelief throughout the land. Those of Middle Eastern ancestry, and many others, buckle under government-inflicted humiliations and abuses with trepidation, sorrow and resentment.
Frustrated by Iraqi dissidents who protest the occupation by killing U.S. troops almost daily, the president reverts to war measures. He orders heavy aerial bombing in wide areas of the countryside.
Even as body bags pile high, the president seems oblivious to war’s horror. The rockets and one-ton bombs may kill a few Iraqi guerrillas and cause others to pull back and pause, but they kill and maim innocent civilians, level homes, turn neighborhoods into rubble, and permanently blight many lives. They create deep-seated outrage, not cooperation.
The Iraqi carnage is piled alongside the simultaneous destruction and blighting of American lives. More than 500 U.S. military personnel have been killed and, according to one estimate, nearly 10,000 have been wounded. Ponder that fact. Ten thousand American families permanently blighted in a war the United States initiated. Mark Twain, writing of war, once asked, “Will we wring the hearts of the unoffending widows with unavailing grief?”
The president overreacts to 9/11 by leading America into a lengthy fiery trial that may last far into the future-“years of U.S.-initiated wars designed to punish regimes believed to harbor terrorists.
This is not the America my generation fought to preserve in World War II.
Starting wars will not bring a just peace. The president should ponder deeply why many people in many nations engage in anti-American protest.
The answer: People worldwide, especially in Iraq and Palestine, are livid over grievances against America. Almost all Iraqis are glad Saddam Hussein is out of power, but many of them-“the total may be a substantial majority-“see America as arrogant, biased, untrustworthy, and bent on world domination.
Here are some of the reasons:
– In the l980s–the height of Saddam’s cruel treatment of Kurds and other Iraqi citizens-“the U.S. government served as the dictator’s silent, uncomplaining partner, helping him battle Iran by providing intelligence, and critical military supplies, even some components of weapons of mass destruction.
– At the end of the 1991 Gulf War, Iraqis had a bitter experience with the president’s father. President George Bush, Sr. publicly urged the Iraqis to overthrow Saddam. His call prompted a strong uprising, but Bush refused U.S. support in any form. This bleak rejection prompted Saddam to use helicopter gun-ships to slaughter dissidents by the hundreds. He had retained use of these lethal aircraft in a provision of the U.S.-approved armistice.
– Iraqis also remember bitterly that U.S. fighter planes enforced sanctions on the people of Iraq for a decade after the Gulf War. This embargo was so harsh it led to immense civilian suffering, including the death of at least a half-million Iraqi infants.
– Today, Iraqis are wary of the President’s motives and dependability. Many doubt that his true objectives are, as he now states, establishing freedom and democracy in their country, or, as he earlier stated, destroying Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Aware that he ignored offers of conciliation from Saddam’s emissaries before the invasion, they believe he harbors dreams of an American empire and wanted the war in Iraq, come what may.
– Their greatest and most deep-seated complaint is Bush’s failure to make even the slightest move to halt America’s anti-Arab bias. For example, the president has made no effort to distance America from Israel’s colonialism.
He pays lip-service to statehood as a goal for the Palestinians, but he has done nothing to stop Israeli Prime Minister Sharon’s brutality of Palestinians–assassinations, military forays that leave vast death and destruction, high fences that confine Palestinians like cattle, and the steady usurpation of more Palestinian land.
Bush seems unconcerned by the worldwide outrage at America’s massive, unconditional, uncritical support of Israel, without which the Jewish state could never have carried out its humiliation and devastation of Palestinian society.
Bush is overwhelmed by the influence of religious zealots–both Zionist and fundamentalist Christian. He ignores America’s own heavy guilt for the plight of Palestinians. He fails to recognize that more than a billion Muslims worldwide, along with many millions of non-Muslims, are deeply aggrieved at this complicity.
Bush offers an exquisite example of close-in hypocrisy. On one side of a Middle East border, he tries to convince Iraqi Arabs that he offers them democracy and freedom while, at the same time on the other side of the border, he supports Israel’s violent denial of these identical rights for Palestinian Arabs.
Iraqis worry that U.S. occupation will become a new colonialism–indefinite U.S. control of Iraqi oil reserves, Israeli-style brutality, and a U.S.-forced treaty that will keep Iraq from helping the Palestinians.
President Bush is so befuddled by the awful carnage of 9/11 and rumors of more assaults to come that he does not see what is vivid to most of the world–the real ground zero of terrorism is in Palestine, not Manhattan. He ignores the real ground zero at great peril to America.
This issue surmounts all others in the presidential political campaign. It impels me to speak out against what George W. Bush is doing. I am a Republican, and I will remain in the Party of Lincoln. I feel no joy in making this case against the president. He may be sincere in his stewardship, but he is wrong-“dead wrong–in the direction he is taking our country.
What should be done? Must the president proceed with wars without end?
The president’s best war decision is purely political one, and it is plain, peaceful, generous and just. He must make a clean break from Israel’s scofflaw behavior.
If Bush has the will, he can easily free himself and America. If he acts, he will transform the grim scene in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East into bright promise. Any day he chooses, the president can instantly-“without firing a shot–quiet guerrilla warfare in Iraq and anti-American protests throughout the world.
All he needs to do is inform Sharon that all aid will be suspended until Israel vacates the Arab territory Israeli forces seized in June 1967. U.S. aid is literally Israel’s lifeline, so the ultimatum would be electrifying evidence that the United States, at long last, will do what is right for Arabs and Muslims. If Bush acts, the Iraqi people will have reason to believe, for the first time, that the U.S. government truly opposes colonialism.
The ultimatum would prompt rejoicing worldwide, not just among Iraqis and Palestinians. Opinion polls show that a large majority of Israelis, weary of the long, bloody struggle to subjugate the Palestinians, would welcome co-existence with an independent, peaceful Palestine.
An impressive foundation for this presidential ultimatum already exists. All member-states of the Arab league unanimously offered peace-for-withdrawal four years ago. A similar plan called the Geneva Accords was recently announced jointly by former officials of Israel and Palestine. Almost simultaneously, four retired heads of Israeli intelligence even urged full, unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza.
By standing resolutely for justice for Palestinians, who are mostly Muslim, Bush would virtually end anti-American protests and strengthen moderate forces worldwide.
Will Bush liberate America from endless wars and chart a constructive, peaceful new future for our nation? If he does so promptly, he will be a shoo-in for reelection. If he does not, I will join other Republicans-“there will be many of us–in urging his defeat.