The loud little handful - as usual - will shout for the war. The pulpit will--warily and cautiously--object--at first; the great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, "It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it." Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the antiwar audiences will thin out and lose popularity. Before long, you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men.....And now the whole nation--pulpit and all--will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open. Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.
Mark Twain, "The Mysterious Stranger" ( circa 1910)
To President Bush or anyone wishing to speak on his behalf:
- If, as some hawks claim, Hussein's army is a feeble pushover, much weaker than the forces he fielded during the Gulf War, what immediate danger does he pose?
- Weapons of mass destruction? Where's the concrete evidence that the arsenal we've always known he had has significantly changed? And be specific, please.
- Speaking of evidence, tell us again why the U.S. shouldn't give the U.N. a final chance to send in inspectors with full access, backed by stiff resolutions and the threat of force. Certainly, Hussein has an infuriating tendency to play responsible nations for fools. Still, wouldn't it make more sense to follow the model of the first Bush administration, which depended on an international coalition and U.N. resolutions to pave the way for a successful war?
- In fact, why should the United States abandon the policy of containment crafted by your father? Hussein hasn't launched a Scud missile since then--what makes you think he would do so now?
- Realistically, what would this war cost and how would the United States pay for it? How about the aftermath? What national and international programs would the nation sacrifice to compensate?
- Finally, perhaps most important, what do you envision a postwar Iraq looking like? Would we seek to keep Iraq a single state? Would it be a federation? What about a homeland for the Kurds? Who would serve as the interim leader of Iraq? Does anyone really expect a democracy to blossom in a nation with no such tradition? If not, what form of government does the U.S. hope would emerge?