Let Mr. Bush Explain the War to High Schoolers

I’d like to see President George W. Bush go on live television before a tough crowd. Like a high school class in my hometown that includes Iraqi students and boys who are preparing for boot camp. These Seattle kids are still able to exercise their Constitutional right to freedom of speech. My guess is that they’d have some questions.

The president has already proven he’s got the time to sit in a classroom. After all, that’s what he did after being informed that this nation was under attack on 9-11, something he mentioned repeatedly in his speech, even though he’s acknowledged that there’s nothing whatsoever linking Iraq to that day.

If ever there was a president who needed flashcards to keep his facts straight, it’s Mr. Bush.

Maybe the president can discuss his statement that “terrorists respect no laws of warfare or morality.” Did not this administration violate international law and it’s own policy against pre-emptive strikes when it invaded Iraq on false pretenses? Perhaps he can clarify for the kids why he clings to the dream that the U.S. invasion is supported by a sizable coalition of the willing despite ample proof to the contrary. As the President inadvertently pointed out, the only real coalition of the willing is the one that has developed amongst terrorist cells converging in Iraq as the result of the American presence.

Since the president thanked the soldiers and military families for their service and sacrifice, I’m sure the students would be interested in learning more about just how grateful the administration is. Is it grateful enough to provide all of the troops with tetranike vests and up-armored tanks? Is it grateful enough to help the thousands of military families who’ve had to apply for food stamps to feed their children?

Is it grateful enough to deal with the fact that Tri-Care, the military’s medical coverage for soldiers and their families, is rapidly becoming obsolete, as fewer and fewer providers accept it? And does the administration’s gratitude mean that they will take care of the Reserve and National Guard troops who are already exhibiting much higher rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder than active-duty military?

Possibly the president would like to explain why this country enforces truth in advertising laws, and considers bait-and-switch sales tactics poor business practice, but plays shell games with the mission in Iraq. And whether he would like to tell the children they’re more valuable as consumers than as citizens?

Speaking of citizenry, perhaps he’d like to discuss the Iraqi citizens that have died during this war; many more than were killed during any comparable time frame of Saddam Hussein’s reign. The tens of thousands of dead Iraqis dispel any pretense whatsoever that this war can ever be called “moral.” Yet, it was President Bush’s moral values that got him elected to a second term. I’m sure the Seattle high schoolers would like to hear an explanation of how a moral person justifies it when he creates, rather than alleviate, suffering.

Since high schools have strict policies against fighting, I’m sure they’d like to hear the president, a ‘compassionate conservative,’ reconcile the New Testament’s command to “turn the other cheek” with his decision to respond to violence with violence. Then the president could talk about democracy, explaining how, counterintuitive though it may be, it actually can be imposed. The president could tell the kids that when he said a totalitarian regime is one that “despises dissent,” he wasn’t referring to his administration.

After reviewing the national polls showing that at least half the U.S. population wants troops withdrawn and 60% believe the war in Iraq wasn’t worth fighting, the president could specify which country he was talking about when he referred to a “Constitution that upholds the will of the majority.” Because the children should be forgiven if they want to know how we can presume to do that in Iraq when we seem unable to do it here.

The president made it to Fayetteville and talked to the troops at Ft. Bragg in June. Now, he should take his act to Seattle. And don’t forget to bring the cameras. The world will be watching.

Stacy Bannerman is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus and on the Advisory Board of Military Families Speak Out. Her book When the War Came Home: The Inside Story of Citizen Soldiers and the Families Left Behind, will be released by Continuum Publishing in 2006. Her husband deployed to Iraq in March 2004, and returned home in March 2005.