With the awful situation in Iraq, it’s very difficult to understand why some people I know plan to vote to give George Bush another four years in the White House. While one friend and I were talking about the war, he suddenly told me that we ought to shoot every Muslim. I told him there probably weren’t many Osama bin Ladens but there were a billion Muslims, but he just continued to praise Bush for sending our soldiers to Iraq.
I’m not overly impressed with John Kerry, but I am surely going to vote for him. While George Bush has done some good things — his "No Child Left Behind" would be an estimable program if he had been able to provide enough money to make it work. But it makes no sense to give a president another term who has made a mistake as large as the one Bush has made.
Now research even by Republicans says that Iraq had nothing to do with bin Laden’s attacks that killed 3,000 Americans and that Iraq had no nuclear weapons ready to fire — the two major reasons Bush said he sent our soldiers to invade Iraq. The cost of the war, the recession and the deep tax cuts have made Washington "a fiscal ditch," according to syndicated business writer Neal Peirce. He says that whoever gets to be president, states and cities will suffer for years for federal aid. It would have been quicker and much cheaper if Bush had sent whatever it took to find and destroy bin Laden’s terrorists rather than invading Iraq.
Now that our country is so deeply involved in Iraq, where dozens of people are killed almost every day, the Bush administration doesn’t know a successful way to get out, and there probably isn’t one at this point. If our troops are simply brought home, many knowledgeable people believe the result will be a civil war between Muslims of different Islam religions that would see thousands killed. That might please my friend, but wouldn’t that be a sad salute to the American soldiers who are being sent to Iraq to help its people?
So far, more than 1,000 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq. The New York Times tabulated the figures and counted the numbers from each state and listed them as each state’s percentage of its population. Arkansas, with 13 fatalities, was in 14th place. The U.S. doesn’t keep track of civilian deaths but Iraqi organizations (who say families often bury their dead without informing anyone) estimate that the number is somewhere near 12,000. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told NPR, "We don’t do body counts like they used to in the old days."
Bush is not the first president to send American soldiers into pre-emptive battles. In 1898, William McKinley, who, like Bush, was surrounded by people who were imperialists, sent the navy into the Philippines and then to Cuba, starting the Spanish-American war. Before it was over, 4,200 Americans, 20,000 Filipino soldiers and at least 250,000 civilians were killed.
The latest of these wars was in Vietnam. Presidents had sent weapons and supplies to South Vietnam, which was at war with communist North Vietnam. But in 1965, after a report that North Vietnam torpedo boats had fired on U.S. destroyers, President Lyndon Johnson began, with Congress’ approval, sending the U.S. Air Force and army to Vietnam. Riots against the war broke out in the United States like the one in Detroit where 43 people were killed.
Johnson wanted to continue the fight, but in 1968, after 58,000 Americans and about 300,000 Vietnamese had lost their lives, Johnson finally ordered the bombing of North Vietnam to stop, which eventually brought about peace. To prove that he didn’t do this just to regain popularity and win a second term, Johnson announced that he would not be a candidate for a second term and retired to his Texas ranch.
Earlier in the war, Johnson had told a reporter, "I’m not going to be the first American president to lose a war." If things happen as they should, soon Texas will have another one of these former presidents back on his ranch.
The all-powerful National Rifle Association showed its muscles again last week in the House of Representatives. By a vote of 250 to 171, the legislators did away with a 28-year-old law in the District of Columbia that banned handguns and semiautomatic weapons and required registration of ammunition and weapons in homes or workplaces. The bill’s supporters said the district’s people should be free to own guns because they lived in the "nation’s murder capital."
The only Arkansan to vote no was Rep. Vic Snyder. The other three — Marion Berry, Mike Ross and John Boozman — were happy to show their hunting buddies that they were on their side. And why shouldn’t they be? Everywhere a congressman goes in Washington is always heavily guarded. Besides, nobody thinks the Senate will pass the bill.