|To: kemble s. matter who wrote (170871)||9/9/2002 12:40:34 PM|
|From: stockman_scott||Read Replies (2) | Respond to of 176342|
|Questions for the Commander in Chief |
By Zell Miller
The Washington Post
Sunday, September 8, 2002
When it comes to showing deference to our president in a time of war, I doubt there are many who have more respect for him as a leader and an individual than I do. As a Marine, I was taught to say, "Aye, aye, sir," do an about-face and go do the job my commander in chief ordered me to do.
That's just my nature, and that's why I'm with the president 100 percent on his homeland security bill now in the Senate.
I also believe he has gathered together the finest national security team since Harry Truman had George Marshall.
So, when it comes to expanding the war on terrorism to Iraq, I stand with the president and I will not criticize his judgment. He has already made the case with me, and I am convinced that Saddam Hussein has to go.
But I always like to run things by my focus group back home, and lately the comments from my focus group tell me that the folks out there in Middle America, sitting around their kitchen tables, have questions that need to be answered before we march our soldiers into Iraq.
Now, my focus group is not one of those formal meetings where you pay people to sit around a conference table in an office building. It's a very informal chat with the regulars at Mary Ann's Restaurant, up the street from my home in rural Young Harris, Ga. They are construction workers, retired teachers, farmers, preachers and the waitresses who chime in with their opinions as they pour coffee and bring more biscuits. Several of these folks have previously worn the uniform of this country, some in combat. Not an Ivy Leaguer in the bunch. Not a single one reads the New York Times, The Washington Post or the Weekly Standard. And their television time is devoted mainly these days to the evening news and to watching the Braves, who are close to clinching another division pennant.
I jotted down some of the questions that they want the president to answer in building a case for going to Iraq.
(1) Even if Hussein has nukes, does he have the capability to reach New York or Los Angeles or Atlanta?
(2) The old Soviet Union had thousands of nuclear missiles for decades, many of them capable of reaching our major cities, and yet we didn't get into a war with the Soviets. The president needs to explain why Iraq is different.
(3) Who will join with us in this war and what share will they be willing to bear? (There was also some grumbling about our boys in Afghanistan "just doing guard duty" to protect those warlords.)
(4) What happens after we take out Hussein? How long will our soldiers be there? And, again, with whose help?
(5) There is concern about too much deployment. We've got our soldiers stationed all over the world. Someone needs to bring us up to date on where they all are, why they are there and how long our commitment to keep them there is.
(6) How does our plan in Iraq fit in with the whole Middle East question? How will it affect Israel? How will it affect our war on terrorism? Does taking Saddam out help or hurt that entire messy situation?
(7) At Mary Ann's Restaurant, Tony is all right. But Putin is not. Why are we putting so much trust in him? Is he still with us in the war on terrorism, or was that just so much talk at a photo op?
(8) The people at Mary Ann's know very well who fights our wars -- the kids from the middle-class and blue-collar homes of America. Kids like their grandchildren. They want to hear the president say that he knows and understands that.
(9) Forgive my bluntness, but these folks also want to hear the president and the vice president say that this war is not about oil.
(10) They also want to hear an explanation of why we didn't take care of this in the Persian Gulf War, and why it is on our doorstep again so soon.
None of the above in any way should be interpreted as my backing down in my support of the president's effort. His position and his principles have already made the case with me. I write this in the spirit of trying to get a better explanation for the folks back home and the folks across Middle America. Those folks who love their country very much and who respect their president, but who need a few more answers.
The writer is a Democratic senator from Georgia.
© 2002 The Washington Post Company