An open letter to President Bush
By Alan Hale
October 17, 2002
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
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
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.