2002-12-19 / Arts & Entertainment


©2002 Tribune Media Services, Inc.


The majority of Americans support and approve of George W. Bush as their President. It seems strange then that while he is apparently intent on invading Iraq, Americans who voted for him and would vote for him again tomorrow, are not so enthusiastic about it as he is.

President Bush seems almost eager for war. It’s as if he knows something about Saddam Hussein that we don’t know and for some reason won’t tell us. He’s asking us to trust him on this and we don’t trust him. Bush’s critics accuse him of using Iraq to take our minds off the economy which has been so bad during his time in office. However, it seems unlikely that the Republicans are responsible for the downturn any more than President Clinton and the Democrats should get all the credit for how good things were during Clinton’s regime. The economy is something that doesn’t ever respond predictably to any effort economists make to influence it.

We’re all asking each other now how we feel about attacking Iraq. People ask me what I think, as if I knew more than they do because I’m on television. There is a tendency to invest people in the public eye with an intelligence they don’t have — and whether or not we should go after Iraq is beyond my ken.

The idea of using our great power to straighten out the world appeals to most of us. We think that in attacking Iraq, we are the good guys and have the best interests of mankind at heart. The trouble is, war has never done much for mankind.

Americans like the idea of taking action, as if action was always good, but we know that action has often had bad results, too. The administration is calling this current phase "the war on terror" but it is not war. Attacking Iraq would be war.

My own feeling about attacking Iraq is colored by my embarrassing past, which is so much on my mind that I keep writing about it. In college, I had a pacifist professor who convinced me that I was one. I accepted his opinion that it would be wrong for the United States to get involved in the war in Europe against Adolf Hitler. Stories of Nazi persecution of the Jews seemed like hard-to-believe propaganda designed to get America involved in someone else’s war. I didn’t believe rumors of the persecution of Jews that were oozing out of Germany. They seemed too far-fetched to accept. I did not have the courage of my convictions, however, and after registering for the draft I was inducted into the Army. It was three years later, after I entered Buchenwald, before I realized what a stupid college student I had been. The only way for me to relieve myself of the guilt I feel is to talk about it like this.

And so I am ambivalent about attacking Iraq to eliminate Saddam Hussein. I don’t like the thought of so many people being killed—and don’t kid yourself, a lot of Americans and a lot of Iraqis are going to be killed if we go in. It’s even conceivable that such an attack could provoke a retaliatory biological war by Hussein that would kill millions.

But then I turn over in bed and get thinking that those Americans who oppose an attack on Iraq are making the same mistake I made in college. It occurs to me that it’s probably a good thing we have a President who can make up his mind about Iraq…because I can’t.

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