4/5/03

The Honourable John McCain
U.S. Senator, Arizona
241 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-0303

Dear John:

Thanks so much for responding to my note requesting that you use your influence to moderate the President's precipitous decision to override the objections of the world community and invade Iraq. I know there are great demands on your time, so to tell the truth I didn't expect a reply, let alone a two and a half page letter. Really, I'm overwhelmed!

I am puzzled that my remarks prompted this particular letter, which appears to be primarily a reiteration of Saddam Hussein's moral flaws. Most of us are aware of his shortcomings, having experienced a more or less nonstop recitation of his crimes by our government over the past twelve years. Since you have gone to the trouble of listing them once again, I do have a couple of factual questions you can clear up for me.

For example you say here: "Saddam Hussein holds the perverse distinction of being the only dictator on Earth who has used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and his enemies." It is a complex sentence with a lot of qualifiers, but I still think it is substantially untrue. Many of us were told in high school that Harry Truman dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, killing 140,000 civilians, and that a few days later he did the same thing to Nagasaki. Technically, atomic bombs are weapons of mass destruction aren't they Senator? A flotilla of B-17s carpet bombing Dresden and Cologne and Essen and Frankfurt and Hamburg, incinerating even greater numbers of civilians following the defeat of the German army, or the B-29s that got together and roasted 100,000 people in Tokyo in one night, would perhaps not be construed as a weapon of mass destruction if each plane and bomb were considered individually. Still, the effect was mass destruction of civilians wouldn’t you say? As for the destruction of our own people, the Union Army did quite a job on Georgia; General Sherman left a wide swath of dead citizens and barnyard animals across much of the South while in our employ - again, according to my high school history teacher. Ah, but then Truman wasn't a dictator was he? Nor was Lincoln, who sent his generals off to make sure our "own" people stayed that way. Like the Iraqis, we called that particular fratricide a "civil war", as opposed to an "indian war". But the indigenous people we exterminated were also technically "our own people" weren't they sir? I mean, many of them were acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase, were they not? Would the succession of presidents who killed them and took their lands properly be called dictators vis-a-vis the redskins? Or did the indians in fact get to vote about that? Do you suppose the Kurds know how lucky they are that their tribal homeland was not in Nebraska? Like cagey legal copy, your statement is correct if your language is parsed literally. But a plain-spoken man like yourself wouldn't try to mislead anybody in that way, which forces me to the impossible conclusion that you must not have attended high school. If you plan to stay in politics, you should recognize that many of your constituents are educated. We know that Saddam was on our side when he gassed those Kurds, and that we didn't do shit-all about it.

Daisy cutter bombs, John, and those godawful airburst incendiary devices, are performing a bit of mass destruction right now, and our indiscriminate use of cluster bombs is doing an ugly number on Iraqi civilians even according to state-controlled news. The US Armed Forces is itself as close to a weapon of terror and mass destruction as one could imagine, and the difference between an unelected president who dictates and an actual dictator is academic.

I was unaware that, as you assert, Iraq is in a position to cripple American interests and tilt the balance of power in the world, "putting us at the mercy of tyrants and terrorists." This is indeed alarming news, at odds with all appearances. During the Gulf War I can only remember one scud missile hitting its target, a shop front in Tel Aviv, causing several hundreds of dollars in damage. They must have vastly improved their weaponry over the past ten years, despite all the sanctions and monitoring, presumably for the purpose of dominating the world, or at the very least defending themselves in the event of an attack. Since an international coalition of Spanish, Bulgarian, British and American armed forces are at this moment entering Bagdad with the intention of annihilating Saddam's regime, I expect we will shortly see this horrific arsenal brought out of hiding and unleashed upon us at once very soon now. Not being a political scientist, I fail to see why a guy this ruthless would bring destruction upon himself by concealing weapons which he never intends to use, or why, if these weapons don't really exist, a compassionate superpower like ourselves would use the reasons you cite to invade his country and kill his people. PR-wise, it makes us appear a bit ruthless ourselves, don't you think?

Let's get into this business of Iraq's nuclear weapons program. I'm surprised that you would raise that issue at this late date, since the intelligence has been shown to be not only erroneous but an outright hoax. Mentioning the International Atomic Energy Agency reminds most of us of that statement President Bush gave to the American people, standing next to Tony Blair shortly after 9-11. Remember that? We do, because it was one of his more egregious videotaped lies. He looked the American people in the eye and told us he had a report from the IAEA that Iraq was six months away from developing a nuclear (excuse me, he said "Nookyuhler") weapon. The IAEA, we discovered, issued no such report. Honestly, John, if I were you I would distance myself from people with such poor credibility. You may want to run for office again someday.

As for Saddam's "record of aggression against his neighbors", I am appalled. He should not have invaded Kuwait, and we should not have told him it was okay with us if he did. But you have to be careful with that argument, John, because we have a bit of that aggression in our own history. You might be unaware of it because we don't call these things invasions. We call them "wars" and "interventions" and "liberations" and "police actions" and "operations" and so forth, but people living in places like Mexico and Hawaii and the Phillipines and Panama and Grenada and Haiti and Nicaragua and Somalia and Vietnam and Afghanistan call them invasions.

I don't have to remind you that Israel and Turkey hold the record for sheer non-compliance with United Nations resolutions. Trotting out this righteous insistence on compliance with the will of the international community would look a lot less like self-serving hypocrisy if it were applied equally, either starting with those countries most in violation, or in alphabetical order, or according to some other priority determined by the United Nations itself. Israel has been "thumbing its nose" at UN Resolution 242 (withdrawal from occupied territories) for 35 years, and defying UN Resolution 194 (right of return) for half a century so far, and everybody knows it. Waiting for the Jews to get out of the occupied territories is like waiting to find out what happened at that Cheney-Enron meeting, or for hell to freeze over.

Okay look Senator: I haven't preached to you about the sheer murderous piracy of this whole debacle. I'm just a curious Arizonan asking for a little clarification. I haven't demanded to know why the Congress and the Judiciary have disappeared into the Executive branch of our great democracy. I haven't brought up the obvious and embarrassing fact that we can only account for 19 actual terrorists (if you don't count that idiot with the shoe bomb), all of whom are dead, or the utter and absolute absence of evidence implicating Iraq in an equally invisible worldwide terrorist plot to destroy freedom. We have embarked on a solitary, demented rampage based on twenty box knives and a dozen hollow aluminum tubes. This will not end well.

Seriously, we have gone bonkers, sir. We are a paranoid schizophrenic with a gun. If Reagan proved that you don't have to be awake or educated to lead the free world, the Bush administration is adding that you also don't have to be sane. If we are going to impose the pax Americana as a solution to the problems of this unhappy world, let's at least bring some experts on board. A lunatic society with as few friends as we have right now is going down in flames.

You are one of the only people on the planet right now who could pull off a reversal of this disastrous course. The liberals are in disarray and the conservatives are in lock step. You have run against these flies and you know them for the illiterate, dangerous adventurers they are. 95% of the people I talk to would drop them like a bad habit if anybody with any credibility would step up to the plate with an alternative vision. You have had the credibility in the past, and also the courage. Turn on them, sir. Dump them. Think of saving American society as a step on the path to campaign finance reform.

What about Saddam? Fuck him, who cares? God will remove him and all the other legions of nasty assholes from the world at the Second Coming. Iraq is not a threat to anybody at all today, and neither is Syria or Iran or Libya or Algeria or Yemen or Sudan. And everybody knows it, sir! If the only way to take out Saddam is to burn Bagdad and butcher his people, don't take him out. Let him die of cigar smoke. Our China policy, which I have grudgingly come to see as enlightened, is the correct way to deal with outdated cultures and entrenched tyrants. Give them most favored trading status. Shower them with computers and business contracts and Starbucks franchises. Witches die when everybody is having fun. When our skyscrapers become a symbol of hope and shared prosperity instead of dominance and suppression, people will stop knocking them down.

If we're going to apply the threat of force, let's enforce UN inspection teams everywhere. Send them into the basements of bush-league police stations to stop the torture of political prisoners. Send them to free up food shipments to famine victims and rescue women from Islamic mobs who want to stone them. Let's have an end to slave labor and child prostitution and inhumane prisons. We could use some inspection teams right here at home. By all means we should chase the Iraqis out of Kuwait and the Serbs out of Kosovo and the Chinese out of Tibet and the Russians out of Chechnya. We make a great goon squad, but we need to let the UN run the world.

Respectfully yours,

Mike