An Open Letter to President Bush
Please do not be offended by the way I address you with an acronym for President of the United States. I don’t know you well enough to call you “George.” To call you “Dubya” is to mock you. To call you “Mr. President” means that you are just another “Mister” among millions of “Misters.” But, as POTUS, you are a kind of abstraction embodying the past and future of a nation — or should be.
In that light we have two things of common concern. First, what POTUS does affects both of us and our progeny. Second, because that is so, I feel an obligation to share my thoughts, based on a lifetime in politics, with you in your hour of need. My first suggestion is to remind you of the solid, savvy saying that “the admission of ignorance is the beginning of wisdom.” So let’s agree that, through no fault of yours, Yale did not prepare you for an encounter with the oldest civilization on the face of the earth — ancient Mesopotamia, now called Iraq. If you wish to, fault Yale. A POTUS has the right to do so. Had you known Iraq’s history, you would have known that the Akkadians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Persians, the British all tried to rule this one-time Garden of Eden — without success. In the five years after the British left, there were seven new governments — each installed by a military coup.
It was not until Saddam Hussein came to power in 1979 that Iraq became something resembling a nation — thanks to Saddam Hussein and his inhuman hand.
You would also have learned that Hussein’s regime was not really part of the usual Islamic world. His government was secular. Because of that, the Osama bin Ladens of the world despised him. When Iraq found itself at war with fundamentalist and anti-American Iran, the United States under Reagan backed Hussein with weapons, including biological and chemical weapons of “mass destruction.” We did so for eight years.
To get some of this information and insight, you did not have to go back to Yale. Your old man knew the story, thanks to his adviser Brent Scowcroft. They decided not to go after Saddam following the Gulf War because to do so would have sucked the United States into a land overrun with a hostile people. You chose to do otherwise. It was a big mistake. But the people know that “to err is human and to forgive divine.” They are ready to achieve divine status if you admit that you erred and ask them to forgive.
To admit an error and to ask forgiveness, I should like to offer a simple suggestion. Bring in the United Nations! Don’t just ask them for money and troops. Ask them to come in as a partner with an equal voice on Iraqi policy. Slowly and, in consultation with the U.N., turn over responsibility for what happens in Iraq to the U.N. with the United States as a respected voice in making policy.
This does not mean that we — the U.S. — should just get out and turn the mess over to the U.N. Apparently, you learned something from our experience in Afghanistan. We chose a puppet without making certain that the Taliban would not resume the war as our presence dwindled. We cannot hotfoot it out of Iraq. But so long as we are the only effective voice in Iraq, to the Iraqis and to much of the Islamic world, POTUS seems to be aspiring to be POTEW (President of the Entire World).
Whether our suggested strategy will help re-elect you in 2004, we do not know. But, then, will your present course make or lose votes a year from now? Think it over, in your post as POTUS, in the absence of Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld.