I’d like to see
President George W. Bush go on live television before a tough crowd.
Like a high school class in my hometown that includes Iraqi students and
boys who are preparing for boot camp. These Seattle kids are still able
to exercise their Constitutional right to freedom of speech. My guess is
that they’d have some questions.
The president has
already proven he’s got the time to sit in a classroom. After all,
that’s what he did after being informed that this nation was under
attack on 9-11, something he mentioned repeatedly in his speech, even
though he’s acknowledged that there’s nothing whatsoever linking Iraq to
If ever there was a
president who needed flashcards to keep his facts straight, it's Mr.
Maybe the president
can discuss his statement that “terrorists respect no laws of warfare or
morality.” Did not this administration violate international law and
it’s own policy against pre-emptive strikes when it invaded Iraq on
false pretenses? Perhaps he can clarify for the kids why he clings to
the dream that the U.S. invasion is supported by a sizable coalition of
the willing despite ample proof to the contrary. As the President
inadvertently pointed out, the only real coalition of the willing is the
one that has developed amongst terrorist cells converging in Iraq as the
result of the American presence.
Since the president
thanked the soldiers and military families for their service and
sacrifice, I’m sure the students would be interested in learning more
about just how grateful the administration is. Is it grateful enough to
provide all of the troops with tetranike vests and up-armored tanks? Is
it grateful enough to help the thousands of military families who’ve had
to apply for food stamps to feed their children?
Is it grateful enough
to deal with the fact that Tri-Care, the military’s medical coverage for
soldiers and their families, is rapidly becoming obsolete, as fewer and
fewer providers accept it? And does the administration’s gratitude mean
that they will take care of the Reserve and National Guard troops who
are already exhibiting much higher rates of Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder than active-duty military?
president would like to explain why this country enforces truth in
advertising laws, and considers bait-and-switch sales tactics poor
business practice, but plays shell games with the mission in Iraq. And
whether he would like to tell the children they’re more valuable as
consumers than as citizens?
citizenry, perhaps he’d like to discuss the Iraqi citizens that have
died during this war; many more than were killed during any comparable
time frame of Saddam Hussein’s reign. The tens of thousands of dead
Iraqis dispel any pretense whatsoever that this war can ever be called
"moral.” Yet, it was President Bush’s moral values that got him elected
to a second term. I’m sure the Seattle high schoolers would like to hear
an explanation of how a moral person justifies it when he creates,
rather than alleviate, suffering.
Since high schools
have strict policies against fighting, I’m sure they’d like to hear the
president, a ‘compassionate conservative,’ reconcile the New Testament's
command to "turn the other cheek" with his decision to respond to
violence with violence. Then the president could talk about democracy,
explaining how, counterintuitive though it may be, it actually can be
imposed. The president could tell the kids that when he said a
totalitarian regime is one that “despises dissent,” he wasn’t referring
to his administration.
After reviewing the
national polls showing that at least half the U.S. population wants
troops withdrawn and 60% believe the war in Iraq wasn’t worth fighting,
the president could specify which country he was talking about when he
referred to a “Constitution that upholds the will of the majority.”
Because the children should be forgiven if they want to know how we can
presume to do that in Iraq when we seem unable to do it here.
The president made it
to Fayetteville and talked to the troops at Ft. Bragg in June. Now, he
should take his act to Seattle. And don’t forget to bring the cameras.
The world will be watching.
Stacy Bannerman is a
contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus (www.fpif.org) and on the
Advisory Board of Military Families Speak Out www.mfso.org. Her book “When the War Came Home: The Inside Story of Citizen Soldiers and the
Families Left Behind,” will be released by Continuum Publishing in 2006.
Her husband deployed to Iraq in March 2004, and returned home in March
2005. She wrote this for the Institute for Policy Studies. The Institute
for Policy Studies is the only multi-issue progressive think tank in
Washington, D.C. Through books, articles, films, conferences, and
activist education, IPS offers resources for progressive social change
locally, nationally, and globally. www.ips-dc.org.