Thoughts on Iraq: What do we do now?

On September 11, 2001, I was moved to write a commentary on the mind-bogglingly horrific disaster that was the World Trade Center attack. Its ramifications were and are as dramatic as I imagined they would be, but in ways I only
suspected would be true at the time.

On this eve, I am marveling at the audacity of our federal government and its leadership. They have been confronted with the reality of war in the very terms I was afraid would be true back when President Bush vowed to catch those responsible.

Shortly after the attacks of 9/11, I wrote a letter to President Bush and Vice President Cheney, begging them to consider very carefully their actions in pursuing the responsible individuals. In the letter, I said the following:

The President of the United States said, “This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing.” I fear that he may be wrong.

If we move without first being absolutely sure of our targets, we will disrupt the alliances we seem to have forged against the perpetrators of this horrible act. It does us no good to anger the people who have united with us, simply to slake the thirst of those who want blood now. Striking out blindly at targets that are not accurate, and doing no harm to the ones who deserve it most, makes us look foolish and incompetent. This we cannot afford to do.

And while I say that I do not want to explain to my daughter why her father did not come home, I do not want the deeds of September 11th to go unpunished. I cannot in good conscience tell my husband that he
must stay here. If he is called, as I am certain he will be, I must support him in any way I can.

But I say now, I will only feel good about making that sacrifice if the result is certain, appropriate and final.

So, I ask the President, the Congress, and the world to be sure that their actions are the right ones. Be careful about what you are doing, because what you could unleash may be much worse than what has already been done, as incomprehensible as that might be right now.

And, when you have decided, move swiftly, so that we can be sure that we do not miss the targets, and so our loved ones can come home.

This evening’s news speaks volumes about why my prediction remains true. As each minute passes, we find more individuals involved in the scandalous treatment of Iraqi prisoners. A Philadelphia man has been beheaded for our crimes. And at this writing Osama Bin Laden, the root of the original evil, is STILL at large!

What, in heaven’s name, are we doing? How can I be asked to support an action that brings our reputation to this? And how can anyone in this country even remotely contemplate supporting an action that has such consequences?

I am proud to be an American. My family has lived here for over a hundred years by choice. They fought hard and paid a price to live here. I have chosen to raise a family here. But when I can’t find it in my heart to respect our leaders because of their failure to respect my beliefs in the sanctity of humankind, when they abuse others in the name of liberty and freedom, what am I to do?

It is the responsibility of the United States to bring its own people to justice for committing some of the very crimes for which their foes have been accused. And it is the responsibility of our elected and appointed leaders to make a swift and sincere apology for the actions of those individuals who are supposed to be in our service.

The revolting photographs and discussions that litter every news service, including National Public Radio, are just the tip of the iceberg. Imagine how we must appear to the very people we are supposedly helping by continuing our presence in the middle east. How can we, in good conscience, continue to claim that we are helping the Iraqis?

To be blunt: This situation stinks. We have to get out of Iraq and quick, before we do any more damage to our already tarnished reputation, but we must avoid making an already horrendous situation even worse.

Regardless, we must spend the time with our military front line representatives and ensure that they clearly understand the Geneva Convention, and the ramifications of their actions. And we must do it before anyone else is killed.

I challenge George W. Bush to detail just how he intends to extract our troops without causing further damage. And for that matter, I challenge John Kerry to do the same. Should he win the election this coming November, Senator Kerry will surely inherit the mess that the Republican administration has left behind. We need to know now how he intends to clean it up.

It is our responsibility as citizens of the United States of America to elect leaders who will act in our best interests. There is simply no good that can come from an extended action in Iraq that will not ultimately result in ill will and financial ruin.

Please consider very carefully before casting your vote during this coming election. And remember that I have a husband who could easily be one of the individuals recognized nightly on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

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