Iraq Invasion Time Capsule: March Madness Redux

This is the week to remember the invasion of Iraq and the climate of opinion 10 years ago, per “The Ides of March, 2003.” Can’t let it pass without recalling what I posted at the time on, links included. (Miracle of miracles, many still work).

Looking back, I see the posts are very tame. I tried not to be, but I knew I could go only so far. Most of the stuff did not sit well with certain company-minded bosses to whom I reported. I was never asked to take a particular point of view, but I was called on the carpet for the viewpoint I took. They wanted me to stick strictly to entertainment commentary without harping on the war or emphasizing antiwar views.

What they didn’t choose to acknowledge was the blog’s popularity. It was among the most-trafficked pages on the site, with tens of thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands of daily hits.

Anyway, here’s a taste of the times from the mashup of the coverage: “war branding,” The Dixie Chicks, Norman Mailer, Oriana Fallaci, columns by Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert, Robert Creeley’s poetry, anti-war petitions, the Oscars, Michael Moore, the Roman historian Livy, celebrities for and against the war, the philosopher Martha Nussbaum, Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Lennie Kravitz, The Beastie Boys … I’ll stop there. Read on …

March 13, 2003 / 12:59 p.m. ET
       The case for war branding: Selling war to the public depends on branding. Well-branded wars include the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War I and World War II. Poorly branded wars are losing or less-than-winning propositions. They include the War of 1812, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War.
       Is this nutty thinking or what? If you answered “or what?” you would make Tracey Riese, 46, a happy branding warrior.

“As we move daily closer to war in Iraq, President Bush might benefit from examining how America has branded major wars in the past — and how each branding strategy contributed to the outcome,” says Riese, whose corporate clients have included Revlon and RJR Nabisco, Scholastic Inc. and Schwab.
       Her notion of war branding sounds like commodified propaganda. And in our society, commodification is the way to go. But Riese says “the process of branding is the opposite of commodification. It’s the opposite of sloganizing. It’s finding the true meaning of things. It’s not about finding a snappy slogan for war.”
       She says, “Really great branding connects the product, if you will, with some very powerful emotional need on the part of the people who must pay for it or who you want to pay for it.”
       For instance, the War for Independence was transformed from a contest between a colony and a great power into a struggle for “liberty” by enlightened citizens. The brand went global as France picked up the idea and went to war in 1789 for “liberté, fraternité, égalité.” That’s strong branding.
       “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death was a fancy rhetorical point,” Riese says. “But it was not just sloganizing. It had an underlying meaning. In the face of war, citizens are asked to pay the highest price. And so they need to make a fundamental connection to the purpose of any war.”
       The American Civil War began as a struggle between two economic systems over constitutional rights. But it took on new meaning — and vigor — when Lincoln was able to characterize it as a battle for the soul of a nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Strong branding.
       World War I, the tragic, outsized result of a series of petty miscalculations, was redeemed when Wilson transformed it into the “War to End All Wars.” Strong branding.
       World War II became a moral test of humanity. So pervasive was that brand that it was reflected even in the post-war peace, when the victors revitalized their former enemies and laid the foundation for the modern global economy and the growth of democracy. Its later characterization as “the good war” was strong branding, too.
       By contrast, she says, calling the Gulf War Operation Desert Shield and then Desert Storm was “just creating a name or logo. That’s an expression of the brand that isn’t the brand itself. The underlying meaning was that it was not really war, that it was nothing for anyone to worry about. It was just a military operation. The administration wanted to create the sense that it would all be over in no time.” Weak branding.
       So what about President Bush’s “axis of evil” slogan? And what about the expensive set now being built in the desert by the military for branded TV press briefings? A no-brainer.
       “Right now the brand the administration has established in the minds of Americans and in the global community — whether it meant to or not — is that war in Iraq is an American prerogative,” Riese says. “We are threatened, and we do not have to be threatened, and so we are going to eliminate a threat to us, regardless of how it affects others. That’s the brand.”
       Full disclosure: Riese also gives branding advice to the World Wildlife Fund. In some quarters that would mean she’s a tree hugger.

March 14, 2003 / 1:28 p.m. ET       
       George Bush and Humphrey Bogart: I’ve been trying to find the apt movie metaphor that evokes the reality of President Bush, and now I’ve finally got it: “Capt. Queeg.” I wish I had thought of it myself, but it’s Paul Krugman who came up with it this morning for the title of his column: “George W. Queeg.”
       The reference, of course, is to Capt. Philip Francis Queeg, the tough-talking, ship-shaping, mind-boggling, nervous-making Navy martinet that Humphrey Bogart played so perfectly against type in the 1954 movie “The Caine Mutiny.”
       “Aboard the U.S.S. Caine,” Krugman writes, “it was the business with the strawberries that finally convinced the doubters that something was amiss with the captain. Is foreign policy George W. Bush’s quart of strawberries?”
       If you’ve never seen the movie, you must. It’s based on Herman Wouk’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, and it gives us Bogart’s last great role. (He died of cancer three years later. He also lost the best-actor Oscar to Marlon Brando in “On the Waterfront,” which aced “Mutiny” for best picture.)
       You’ve got to read Krugman’s column, too. It’s the best summary I’ve read about the U.S. commander-in-chief’s strange command. By his account, Bush is a Capt. Queeg for our time.
       And just to be even-handed, here’s a very different sort of opinion: the rambling but impassioned Oriana Fallaci’s thoughts on the eve of battle. Which is not to say that she’s confident of Bush’s leadership either.
       Finally, a poem by Robert Creeley, called “Help!” It reads like rap, which is totally uncharacteristic of his poetry. This is the way it begins:
       Help’s easy enough
       If it comes in time.
       Nothing’s that hard
       If you want to rhyme.
       It’s when they shoot you
       It can hurt,
       When the bombs blast off
       And you’re gone with a squirt.
       Sitting in a bunker,
       Feeling blue?
       Don’t be a loser,
       It wasn’t you–
       Wasn’t you wanted
       To go kill people,
       Wasn’t you caused
       All this trouble.
       I can’t say, Run!
       And I can’t say, Hide!
       But I still feel
       What I feel inside.

March 17, 2003 / 7:43 a.m. ET       
       Norman Mailer nails it: Just when critics like Michiko Kakutani pretty much dismissed him as an old cuckoo, calling him a writer full of “wacky mumbo jumbo” who could barely cobble together his latest book, the old cuckoo has shined a clarifying light on the American dilemma and the “liberation” of Iraq.
       In a powerful speech he gave recently in San Francisco, now published in the New York Review of Books, Mailer asserts: “Behind the whole push to go to war with Iraq is the desire to have a huge military presence in the Near East as a stepping stone to taking over the rest of the world. That is a big statement, but I can offer this much immediately: At the root of flag conservatism is not madness, but an undisclosed logic.”
       Read the article and see if you don’t agree. Mailer offers straightforward thinking in plain language. His diagnosis of the dilemma as the Bush Administration’s dream of an “American empire” may be more frightening than ancient Rome’s worst nightmare, but it doesn’t sound like “mumbo jumbo” to me.
       (By the way, a note to all the folks who prefer to think of George W. Bush as Capt. Ahab rather than Capt. Queeg: That’s giving Bush far too much stature.)

March 17, 2003 / 4:53 p.m. ET      
       Turning the Chicks into Chickens? It took a lot of guts for the Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines to say she was ashamed of the president of the United States. Foolish guts. And it would have been surprising, given the stakes for a group of platinum-selling superstars, if she hadn’t apologized.
       But the backlash against them — pulling them from radio playlists — is more than mere patriotic outrage. The indefatigable Eric Olsen, who’s been following the latest pro- and anti-war stories from Nashville with keen attention, points out that there’s been a concerted e-mail campaign orchestrated by “a radical right-wing online forum” to stoke the anger, manipulate the radio polls and pressure the Lipton company to drop its sponsorship of the Dixie Chicks’ upcoming U.S. tour.
       Do celebrities have a right to speak out on political issues? Should they? Do the media trivialize antiwar messages by providing a forum for celebrities? Media reporter David Shaw of the Los Angeles Times believes so. “We’ve paid too much attention to celebrity opposition to the war,” he writes.
       To correct the balance, my staff of thousands and I have taken a solemn vow to report on all the celebrities who favor war. Please help us carry on. Let us know when you hear of celebrities as famous and foolish as the Dixie Chicks going out of their way to praise the Bush team and war in Iraq. There’s Charlie Daniels, Bruce Willis, Kid Rock and Dennis Miller. Do I hear more?

March 18, 2003 / 4:43 p.m. ET       
       Martin Sheen strikes back: “The West Wing” star who plays fictional President Josiah Bartlet has written an Op-Ed piece, “A Celebrity, but First a Citizen,” in the Los Angeles Times. With eloquence, he defends his right to speak out against war in Iraq.
       “I am not the president; instead, I hold an even higher office, that of citizen of the United States,” Sheen begins, in reply no doubt to a story the paper carried by LA Times staffer David Shaw that said the media pay too much attention to celebrities who oppose the war.
       Sheen notes: “Although my opinion is not any more valuable or relevant merely because I am an actor, that fact does not render it unimportant. Some have suggested otherwise, trying to denigrate the validity of this opinion and those of my colleagues solely due to our celebrity status. This is insulting not only to us but to other people of conscience who love their country enough to risk its wrath by going against the grain of powerful government policy.”
       Yesterday, my staff of thousands and I took a solemn vow to report on all the celebrities who favor war — just so we could right the balance that Shaw complained about.
       Well, it turns out to be a burning issue. I’ve received hundreds and hundreds of e-mails, pro and con, about celebrity rights and the Dixie Chicks and famous people who’ve said this or that. I realize now that even with a staff of thousands I don’t have time to fact-check the allegations. So here’s a site where you can see for yourselves what some of Hollywood’s famous have said, pro and con, about the war and about President Bush and his policies.

March 19, 2003 / 10:37 a.m. ET       
       And now for the petitions: We’ve heard of famous Hollywood actors against the war (Susan Sarandon, Richard Gere, Sean Penn, Jessica Lange, George Clooney), and we’ve heard of famous pop stars against the war (Sheryl Crow, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks and Barbra Streisand, of course), but what about famous writers against the war?
       Well, writers tend not to be famous. But some of them are — Stephen King, Russell Banks, Amy Tan, Richard Price, Jonathan Franzen — and they, along with about 150 others, have signed a petition that says to President Bush:
       “Iraq, while led by a tyrant, represents no clear and present danger to our shores. We therefore see no sufficient moral or historical justification for a pre-emptive war. … As you yourself have noted, there are evildoers in this world. Let the United States not be one of them.”
       Of all people, writers who depend on precise language should know better than to use the term “pre-emptive war.” Perhaps they can be excused because everybody’s been using it, including President Bush, news reporters, pundits and even foreign-policy experts.
       But the proper term is “preventive war.” A “pre-emptive war” is undertaken to thwart an imminent attack. A “preventive war” is what we’re about to see in Iraq. (I notice that Tom Friedman at last uses the correct term this morning in his “D-Day” column.
       Bush has promoted the wrong term precisely because he has had to justify the urgency of an invasion. (It’s also why Bush has always made clear that Iraq is a threat to other shores and wants to depose Saddam for that reason.)
       Meanwhile, there’s another online petition out here in cyberspace. Called “Support of the Dixie Chicks,” it endorses the group’s right to dissent from President Bush’s style of diplomacy. Not many have signed it, only 126 people so far. Many more Dixie Chicks fans have e-mailed me in support of the group. I suspect the reason so few have signed is that they don’t know of the petition or can’t find it.
       Postscript: Whaddya know. At this time — 5:54 p.m. ET — many more people have signed: 1,697 … and counting.

March 20, 2003 / 8:27 a.m. ET       
       When Bush comes to shove: The number of people who have signed the online petition supporting Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks and her right to dissent has climbed to 2,642. When we first posted the petition’s address yesterday, the number was 126. So we may have helped people find the petition. We also may have flooded Hollywood on the March, a rightwing site that’s been listing what actors have been saying for and against war. At the moment, the site is down. Possibly can’t handle all the traffic.
       A quick note: Amen to this morning’s column by Bob Herbert. He writes: “Now that the U.S. strikes against Iraq have begun, we should get rid of one canard immediately, and that’s the notion that criticism of the Bush administration and opposition to this invasion imply in some sense a lack of support or concern for the men and women who are under arms.”

March 24, 2003 / 9:52 a.m. ET       
       Oh! What a lovely Oscar war: The real suspense of Sunday night’s Oscars was when or even whether the show would be interrupted by news of the invasion of Iraq and what, if anything, the stars would say about the war rather than what they would say about winning an Oscar.
       For a long while, you might never have known there was a war at all — except for Steve Martin’s opening monologue. The Oscar producers ought to get down on their knees and thank him. As good as the show became — only in part because of the classy production — it would have died without him.
       And let us all thank Adrien Brody for his stunning, unprepared remarks about the “sadness and dehumanization” of war. But let’s also thank him for his sense of humor, not to mention his wonderful grace under pressure. Before Brody ever got to his serious remarks, he reacted with charming wit to his surprise at winning the best-actor Oscar. “There comes a time in life,” he said, “when everything seems to make sense, and this is not one of those times.”
       Now, about Michael Moore’s outburst. I’m all in favor of tasteless outbursts at the Oscars. They lend spice. Tom Shales disagrees. What I wonder, though, is whether the boos his remarks provoked were the result of anger at his lack of taste or disagreement with his political views. Or was it both?

March 25, 2003 / 9:47 a.m. ET      
       Cheers, jeers and Michael Moore: Many readers hated my remarks about Michael Moore’s remarks about President Bush. They would like me to take a hike (preferably off a high cliff). Of hundreds of e-mails, this one was typical:
       Kelly Evitts
       “Of course you agree with Moore. I only hope that when we get attacked, you and he are the first to go. Why don’t you communists go over and join your ‘human shield’ friends. … God bless our troops, our president, and if there is any justice in the world, let God turn his back on you, and your fat friend.”
       Here’s one of the more pleasant jeers:
       Jeff Curran
       Oklahoma City
       “Michael Moore? Michael less, please.”
       Some flat-out cheered:
       Eduard Itor
       Tampa, Fla.
       “What Michael Moore did was brave and right.”
       One cheered with an explanation:
       Cleveland, Ohio
       “Politically, I agree with Moore, too, but in terms of PR value, he’s ‘our side’s’ version of Rush Limbaugh: a self-congratulatory clown who behaves like a braying jackass in front of an audience.”
       Here’s an e-mail exchange of March 20, as the U.S. invasion of Iraq began, with a thoughtful reader who doesn’t like my views about the war:
       Air Force TSgt. Gary J. Kunich
       Kenosha, Wisc.
       “I’ll take it as a small victory for me that you allotted at least one paragraph to give a nod of support for the troops, even if you don’t support the action in Iraq. Still think you’re wrong, and your column really ticks me off, so begrudgingly, I guess that means you’re doing your job.
        “Speaking from my personal experience during Desert Storm, public support was very important to us. We were afraid it would change once that war started, and were grateful that the support for us — and the war — never wavered. But not everyone fighting this fight is able to see the ‘support’ through the smoke and noise of the protest. There definitely was no support for the troops when several celebrities and pseudo-politicians signed that full-page ad in the New York Times comparing our military to the terrorists.
         “I — and the majority of Americans according to several polls — believe this to be a war to ensure our security. The war on terror cannot be summarized by just the face of Osama bin Laden. There are many facets, and this is but one of them. This isn’t Vietnam. This isn’t a gray area, or a murky quagmire. This is our only option. If you can add just one line in your column, add this on behalf of the U.S. military.”
       This was my reply:
       “I appreciate your point, especially since you are speaking from personal experience. I worry about the safety of U.S. troops. I want them to win — swiftly and with no loss of life or limb, if that is even possible — because I, too, am an American who believes in the ideals this country was founded upon. But I fear the motives of our president. I do not believe that this nation should be ruled by Christian fundamentalism or by the imperial mandate of corporate power, both of which I believe is at the heart of the president’s beliefs.”
       And here are words of warning: Though they were never intended as such, they ought to remind us of the perils we face not only from enemies who would destroy us but from leaders who would destroy our enemies.
       “Why of course the people don’t want war. … That is understood. But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship …Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
       Who said that? Hitler’s accomplice, Hermann Goering (commander of the German Air Force and president of the Reichstag), at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals in 1946.
       Postscript: For all you folks who think I’m making an implicit comparison between Hitler or Goering and President Bush, please put that out of your minds. I don’t believe that for a minute. I’m merely using Goering’s words to point out that people are too easily manipulated by leaders who are “good” and leaders who are “bad.” People are too easily led, period.

March 27, 2003 / 10:43 a.m. ET      
       Rock the protest: The war on the song front has heated up again, and it’s not a confrontation over the Dixie Chicks. Lenny Kravitz has joined the battle with a song titled “We Want Peace.” You can hear it or download it free at a get-out-the-vote Web site Rock the Vote.
       One major critic describes the song as reaching down deep “for a funky, Middle Eastern-flavored ode to peace.” What bothers this critic though, is that “it’s by far the best song to address” the issue of war in Iraq. So why does it bother him? Because, he writes, it’s “anti, and people, I am way pro!”
       Critic Eric Olsen, who is also a radio DJ, a music historian and a relentless blogger, further objects that Rock the Vote — which is dedicated to getting young people to participate in democracy — is perverting its mission by taking sides on Iraq. He wonders whether the site would give equal time to “equally heartfelt, pro-liberation” songs by — let’s say — Clint Black or Toby Keith, Darryl Worley and the Warren Brothers.
       Olsen contends that the issue dividing Americans on Iraq should not be characterized as “pro-war vs. anti-war.” His point is that both sides are pro-peace. When Rock the Vote’s executive director states: “We hope the war will come to a swift conclusion with a minimum loss of human life and that we can move on to build a better future for the Iraqi people,” Olsen counters: “Who doesn’t agree with this?”
       His formulation — “pro-liberation vs. anti-war” — smartly frames the issue with more nuance than “pro-war vs. anti-war.” If it ignores the deeper issues dividing American public opinion, well, you can’t expect a music critic-radioDJ-blogger to do what our clever leaders — Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the other geniuses leading the administration — haven’t done themselves, can you?
       Meanwhile, Olsen is not the only blogger seeking some sort of middle ground in the war debate. Here’s Ryan McGee, a Harvard smart aleck, prompted by a support-the-troops rally at Yale.

March 27, 2003 / 12:36 p.m. ET       
       What is patriotism? Are we born with love of country? Is it written into our genes, having proved useful for survival from earliest times like a trait expressed through natural selection? Is it hard-wired into our brains like a universal grammar theorized by Noam Chomsky, simply waiting to be applied in specific languages? Is it wholly learned?
       Writers, artists and philosophers have grappled with the issue of war and patriotism for centuries — as a theme in poetry and novels (Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”), as a pictorial force (George Washington Crossing the Delaware or The Flag-Raising on Iwo Jima), as a subject of academic inquiry and just this morning as a topic of debate in the media.
       The secret of Rome’s success, according to the Roman historian Livy, was its belief in the supremacy of country over family and — just as important — its ability to inculcate that belief in its citizens. “This, without question,” Lee Harris writes in Policy Review, “was the steady drumbeat of Roman pedagogical legend, the unquestioned primacy of one’s ethical obligation to the team, the origin of the specifically Western concept of patriotism.”
       Before that, the ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes had challenged the idea of a narrow, that is to say, national patriotism. Reputedly, when anyone asked him where he came from, he said: “I am a citizen of the world.”
       The noted contemporary philosopher Martha Nussbaum writes: “Diogenes knew that the invitation to think as a world citizen was, in a sense, an invitation to be an exile from the comfort of patriotism and its easy sentiments, to see our own ways of life from the point of view of justice and the good. The accident of where one is born is just that, an accident; any human being might have been born in any nation.
       “Recognizing this, his Stoic successors held, we should not allow differences of nationality or class or ethnic membership or even gender to erect barriers between us and our fellow human beings. We should recognize humanity wherever it occurs, and give its fundamental ingredients, reason and moral capacity, our first allegiance and respect.”
       Where does that leave us today as American and British soldiers fight and die in Iraq and as Iraqis fight and die? Basically nowhere. Certainly not with definitive answers, not even with tentative ones.

March 31, 2003 / 10:33 a.m. ET     
       This is patriotism: It’s no secret that my staff of thousands and I receive a lot of e-mail messages. Some are more heartfelt than others, but I’d say that with few exceptions they’re all sincere. On Friday, we asked the question: “What is patriotism?” Below are a dozen replies. Some are frightening, others reassuring, and still others fall in between. Which are which? We leave that to you.
       Jim Nabors
       Baltimore, Md.
       “Patriotism is being WITH one’s country, right or wrong, especially if the overwhelming majority of its citizens are in favor of the government’s actions. It is NOT being a minority rebel-rouser who uses ‘free speech’ as a pretext for one’s fringe political leanings against one’s country or its leaders. The ‘free-speech’ argument is a crock, and is used by today’s anti-government newspapers, news shows, and ‘unpatriotic’ low lifes who have no life.”
       R. Guerrero
       San Lorenzo, Calif.
       “I believe patriotism is developed and attained by the way in which the government of a nation treats its citizens.”
       David Maddux
       McKinney, Texas
       “I firmly support our president and our efforts to remove Saddam Hussein and his oppressive regime. We live in the most loving, caring country on the face of the earth as we have given billions of our tax dollars to help suffering humanity. I respect dissent done in a civil manner but when celebrities or anyone else start getting personal with our leaders, they cross the line of being ‘un-American’ in my view. For example, Michael Moore’s comments at the Oscars. He was disgusting. My forefathers fought and died for his right to be ‘disgusting’ and my right to call him ‘un-American.'”
       Sandra Isaacs
       Oak Park, Illinois
       “I am not in favor of any government that chooses violence. I am a citizen of the world. I wave the flag of Mother Earth.”
       Brian Kiser
       Macon, Ga.
       “You quote Martha Nussbaum saying, ‘We should recognize humanity wherever it occurs, and give its fundamental ingredients, reason and moral capacity, our first allegiance and respect.’ Should we not also recognize inhumanity in the same way? Wherever it occurs, should it not be worthy of our disdain and efforts to remove it from this world? Surely Saddam and his Baath party are guilty of some of the most inhuman crimes against his own people, yet those opposed to this war want to look away believing that the United States and its allies should not get involved. Thank God for President Bush and our brave military men and women who are willing to be true citizens of the Earth!”
       John Smith
       Heathsville, Va.
       “Patriotism is loving your country and being willing to defend it. Our country was found on the principle: ‘Don’t tread on me!’ Liberals would change all that. Liberals would allow terrorists and tyrants to overrun us in the name of peace. They prove that by insulting their president at a time of war, and protesting in the name of peace while throwing rocks at service men, beating up policemen, and collaborating with the enemy by not having enough sense to find out who is bankrolling their noble effort.”
       Michael Anthony
       Calgary, Alberta, Canada
       “True love of country — especially a democratic one — should embrace the concept of keeping that country true to its ideals, and holding its leaders accountable for upholding its founding principles. It is our patriotic duty to blow the whistle on an unprovoked, illegal and shamefully ‘manufactured’ war. If we love America we will try to keep her hands clean. If we cannot do that then at least we should remember we have dual citizenship — we are also citizens of the world.”
       Daniel Hendriks
       Chico, Calif.
       “I think patriotism is good when you are rooting for your team in the World Cup, but when it comes to a war without support from the U.N. I question my love not for this country as a whole but I question my trust in the government. This whole situation is too fishy for me. … I will be able to vote come next election and if George Bush gets re-elected I will move to Holland and not come back until a Democrat is in office.”
       Letitia Little
       “We are as one. That’s why we are in Iraq. Justice and Freedom for all, is the key. We cannot stand back and allow a government destroy innocent people. And the manner that these people murder is like nothing I’ve ever heard of before and everything I’ve ever feared. While I do believe we should have done this long ago (1991) we are where we are. Let’s get the job done and get our boys and girls home.”
       Bob Johnson
       “We ARE recognizing humanity as it occurs in Iraq. And we are also recognizing man’s inhumanity to man and trying to stop it. After World War II, Harry Truman said, ‘We need to build a better world.’ We can help to build a better world for the oppressed people in Iraq. That is something that makes a lot of us proud to be Americans.”
       Tanya D. June
       Troy, N.Y.
       “Are we going to war with North Korea — because of lack of disarmament? NO
       “Are we going to war with Saudi Arabia — because of connections to terrorists? NO
       “Are we going to war with Iraq — because he tried to kill our president’s daddy? YES
       “Have we secured our homeland from future terrorist attacks? NO
       “Have we left our men in Afghanistan more vulnerable? YES
       “I am a proud Trojan. Because I am an African-American I see our country’s values much differently. We are a 226-year-old country trying to tell countries that existed for thousands of years how to live their lives — when our civil rights movements is barely 40 years old.
       “Did we get freedom from the Revolutionary War? NO.
       “Did we get freedom after our Civil War? NO.
       “Did anything change after we fought in both World War I and II? NO.
       “I think our government is so hypocritical. Thank you for giving me a forum to express my views.”
       Linda C. Strain
       Tucson, Ariz.
       “I am an American Citizen. Bred, born and reared here in this country. Some of my people were here to greet some of my people on the Mayflower. I love my country, and, yes would give my life for this country and it’s people. But I also consider myself a world citizen, and care greatly what happens to my sisters and brothers in other parts of this world.
       “The Iraqi leadership was not only a threat to it’s own people, but to all of us everywhere. We need to be there, and the rest of the world needs to be there too. It’s not about Islam, and it’s not about oil. It’s about the right of everyone to be able to live and speak freely about their own country and government without fear of reprisal. We are getting rid of a world threat.
       “Do I like war? No indeed. Everyone in my family has always served this country from the Revolution to the Gulf War. I considered it an honor, even if I couldn’t be sent to the front lines [at that time] because of gender. I still felt obligated to wear the uniform — for my country and my people, not the government. I still feel that way, and wished I were younger so I could join up. I am flag-waver, tree-hugger, and I break for butterflies.”

March 31, 2003 / 2:41 p.m. ET       
       This is satire: We’ve heard anti-war songs from Lenny Kravitz (“We Want Peace”) and from The Beastie Boys (“In a World Gone Mad”). Here, direct from England, is the latest entry: a Bush-Blair duet, “Read My Lips.” It’s also the funniest.

As I said, pretty tame stuff. But it’s not difficult to understand what bothered my company-minded bosses. The MSNBC cable channel, our corporate sister, was veering to the right. Phil Donahue had been fired several weeks earlier, on Feb. 23, ostensibly for poor ratings but really for being antiwar and anti-Bush. If Donahue could be fired, so could they. (And of course so could I.) Paradoxically, the popularity of the blog was cause for concern. It drew tens of thousands of hits on any given day, as many as 500,000 on its best day. This would have thrilled my bosses ordinarily, but not under the circumstances

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