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Squandering solidarity
An open letter to President Bush

By Alan Hale
October 17, 2002
The Iranian

Letter to President Bush from Alan Hale, co-discoverer of Comet Hale-Bopp and director of the
Southwest Institute for Space Research in New Mexico. He traveled to Iran on a science tour in the summer of 2000.

Dear Mr. Bush,

You will have to forgive me, but there is simply no way that I can honestly address you as "President," since I believe that title should be reserved for those who are elected to that office a statement that does not apply to you. I'll explain: as the son of a World War II veteran, the brother of a Vietnam veteran, and myself being a Naval Academy graduate and former Naval officer, I have a deep and abiding respect for the ideals upon which our nation was founded and which are contained within the Constitution.

I'm not sure you've ever read or understood the Constitution, but I have. There's plenty of language in there about the proper roles of the various branches of our government that you seem not to comprehend, but the most important words are the first three, "We the People." We the People did not consent to your "leadership" of this nation, but five of your friends on the Supreme Court said that that didn't matter, so I guess we're stuck with you.

And what has your "leadership" brought us? I could spend time discussing your performance on the environment or on our nation's economy, but those are long subjects. I'll mention, however, the irony in your promise this past weekend to "balance the budget." Mr. Bush, you were handed a balanced budget nineteen months ago, but you immediately squandered it on tax cuts and giveaways to your campaign contributors. As a result, my sons and I, and our respective generations, will be forced to waste hundreds of billions of dollars every year for the foreseeable future paying the interest on the national debt that you are running up.

What I'd really like to discuss is your performance as Commander in Chief of our nation's armed forces, which I believe has been abysmal, to the point of dereliction. As a point of reference, do you remember the USS Greenville, the submarine that collided with a Japanese fishing vessel a year and a half ago? Even though he was not personally culpable, the Commanding Officer of the Greenville, a fellow Naval Academy graduate, I might add, nevertheless accepted full responsibility for that tragic accident, because doing so is the very essence of what it means to assume command.

You should be held to at least the same standard. It has become quite clear over the past few months that you had received numerous detailed warnings, from both domestic and foreign sources, that an attack upon the U.S. was imminent, yet you did nothing to prevent it. Then, instead of accepting responsibility for the consequences of your inaction, as a true "Commander" would have done, you have in fact evaded all responsibility, to the point of blaming things on your predecessor and anyone who disagrees with you. Even worse, you have gone so far as to repeat sick jokes about "hitting the trifecta" that disgrace the memories of the 3000 innocent people who were murdered on that horrible day.

You have also completely squandered the goodwill and solidarity felt by the people of the world towards our nation after we were attacked. Because of your actions, people around the world now see the U.S. as, in the recent words of one British writer, "arrogant, hypocritical, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and contemptuous of others." As one who has been proud to represent America when I've traveled abroad, these words sicken me, because I know that they don't represent the American people ,but they do represent how you have portrayed us to the world.

Your actions have affected me personally as well. I have had the privilege of leading two delegations of American scientists and students on "science diplomacy" visits to Iran during the past three years. As a result of these and other such visits, we were making slow and painstaking, but nevertheless genuine, progress toward establishing a peaceful dialogue with the people of that country. But because of your insulting and, frankly, asinine "axis of evil" rhetoric you have managed to wreck our efforts, and render worthless all the time, energy, and resources many people on both sides have invested in trying to get this process going.

And now, of course, you are constantly beating the war drum about Iraq, even though that country has not attacked us and was not involved in last September's events, and even though you have offered nothing in the way of any hard evidence that that country poses a serious threat to us. You nevertheless seem intent on invading that country unilaterally and without provocation, apparently because, as your advisor Richard Perle put it, "the failure to take on Saddam after what [you] said would produce such a collapse of confidence in [you] that it would set back the war on terrorism."

So if I'm to take that at face value, my sons are supposed to go get killed in a war that you will start just so you can maintain some semblance of credibility after all your reckless rhetoric.

This is a family-oriented newspaper that will not print what I think about that. All I can do is humbly suggest that you go visit that black wall on the northwest corner of the Mall in Washington and read the names of the 58,000 Americans who died fighting in a war that you and Mr. Perle, among others in your administration who seem so intent on starting this new conflict, managed to wiggle out of.

If this is the kind of "leadership" we can continue to expect from you, then I fear for my sons, for our nation, and for our planet. These are all far too precious to entrust to someone who apparently has little, if any, understanding of the consequences of his words and actions and who moreover refuses to accept the responsibility for these consequences. So you'll just have to excuse this native New Mexican for not being among your fawning admirers as you make your visit to the Land of Enchantment. Perhaps some other time, if and when you ever manage to learn that this nation and planet belongs to everyone, and not just to those who pander to your worldview.

Alan Hale

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