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Wed, Feb. 26

Maybe I should reconsider, maybe not

I have chewed on the points made in my last column for several days that we should favor welfare over warfare, that we should divest our $500 billion war budget, using it to revive social services and enhance border security.

The thought whizzed through my mind to take it all back, but at whiz speed I was too slow. I did try considering that I'm an ignorant, close-minded kid who wasn't taught Middle Eastern religion and geo-political relations for a significant portion my college career. But those things aren't true. Then, when the "brutally honest" Iraq Study Group members (as Thomas Friedman described them) issued their report this week, I did somersaults over their recommendation that diplomacy with Iran is a necessity in dealing with Middle Eastern conflicts. So there's no way I'm changing my mind now. Sorry, folks.

The fact is, we've avoided talking with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and have belittled him every time he attempts to communicate with us. We have portrayed Iran as evil because of its president's radical words, we scoff at the personal letters he writes to President Bush, and then we act like we have some authority in advising him against Iran's nuclear enrichment program, a program the U.S. and her allies initiated in the late '60s and early '70s, by the way.

Since the Iranian revolution, when students acted on their discontent with the Shah being putty in the hands of U.S. diplomats, Iran has "been relatively conservative and careful" for the last 15 to 20 years, according to Scott MacLeod, the Time magazine Cairo bureau chief who has interviewed Ahmadinejad among other Middle East leaders.

"It's not the radical revolutionary regime that its own rhetoric would have you think and what American political rhetoric would have you think," he told national columnist Bill Steigerwald earlier this month.

For Americans who are bombarded with political and media propaganda, it's difficult to believe Ahmadinejad and his country have stayed away from terrorist attacks, wars and pretty much any other conflict in the last two decades. But that's also true, and it's more than I can say for the U.S. government, which prefers keeping enemies rather than working toward peace.

The point is that my opinion, to engage in diplomacy, was agreed upon by the 10-member Iraq Study Group this week.

My suggestion, "at least listen to what the guy has to say."

The study group's finding: "... that U.S. relationships with Iran and Syria involve difficult issues that must be resolved. Diplomatic talks should be extensive and substantive, and they require a balancing of interests."

Sure, the panel put it a bit more eloquently with all the impressive bureaucratic jargon that brings it clout, but the idea was the same.

"How do you solve problems without talking with people?" asked Lee H. Hamilton, the co-chair of the study group. According to an article in the Washington Post, the panel "flat out" rejects the idea that talks should depend on good behavior, Hamilton added.

I fear our president's hubris may be fueling terrorism more than extinguishing it; that he may be putting America more at risk than he is keeping it safe. He's losing all credibility with Congress and with his constituents. Because of his actions, when I think of him walking around the White House brainstorming ways to police the world, my delusional brain creates flashing images of a Big Bird-slipper-wearing monkey in G.I. Joe pajamas trying to flick a Zippo while chasing a gallon of propane that's rolling down the West Wing. I'm sure I'm not alone. (Keep the letters coming, folks.)

I'm embarrassed that after nine months of touting the credibility of the Iraq Study Group members, our president scoffed at their conclusions. I laughed out loud when Bush said the panel's proposals were "very interesting," because that is the same thing I said to my neighbor's 4-year-old son when he brought me a rock and said, "This is my friend, Rocky."

I'm sorry that Bush hasn't the capacity to see that he is directly responsible for having servicemen and servicewomen in conflicts around the world, that he's responsible for pushing the big, red button that dropped bombs on Baghdad on March 20, 2003, and that the nearly 3,000 murdered troops and 30,000 permanently wounded are both results of his radical, pre-eminent foreign policies.

Perhaps I'm crazy, which would explain the G.I. Joe monkey delusions, because I want Bush to talk with our "enemy" to try and resolve conflicts to which he is contributing.

But consider this, not one of the terrorist hijackers in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was from Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan. The majority was from Saudi Arabia. So consider this, but while doing so remember the war on terrorism was Bush's slogan for finding those responsible for Sept. 11: if our enemies are the terrorists responsible for Sept. 11, and the terrorists responsible were Saudis, then Saudis would be our enemy. To my surprise, we continue to be "partners" with Saudi Arabia, yet we're unwilling to do the same with Iran. Why? Because the Iranian president is crazy? I don't know about you, but to me that just sounds, well, plumb crazy.

The Iraq panel wrote, "… It is our view that, in diplomacy, a nation can and should engage its adversaries and enemies to try and resolve conflicts and differences consistent with its own interests."

John F. Kennedy, at his inaugural address in Washington Jan. 20, 1961, said, "Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate."

And later in the address he said, "Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us."

I ask, as a patriot in its truest form - as a critic and watchdog, that Mr. Bush recognize his influence in the conflicts dividing the Middle East.

And I ask that he consider this phrase, a different take on the words of Malcolm X: "You can't hate the tree and not hate the roots."

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