I am astounded by the controversy surrounding the issue of debating a possible war with Iraq. I can't imagine that such a debate in Congress would even be questioned, let alone objected to by either the administration or the public. Yet such is the case. The administration reluctantly agreed to take its case to Congress for its consideration, asking for its support to invade Iraq.

The administration's reluctance appears odd in an election year. Perhaps it is just posturing. Republicans prefer that the country focus on war issues versus the declining economy, while Democrats continue to try and revert attention back to the economy. This is the traditional strategy in an election year. It is very suspect and disconcerting that war is the great vote-getter. At a minimum, the clear diversion away from bin Laden (who is still unaccounted for) to Saddam Hussein as the primary threat to the United States deserves deep scrutiny, especially when it concerns the lives and safety of our sons and daughters.

The most patriotic thing citizens can do is to employ a healthy skepticism toward our government when contemplating any war. The administration should be able to justify such a strategy with hard facts, unimpeachable science that leaves no doubt on the part of Americans. But this is not occurring. There is a lot of rhetoric, but little tangible evidence to make the case for war. If Hussein is the terrible threat the administration claims he is, then prove it. It isn't enough to say it, over and over again, in the media. The media no longer has the confidence of the people for the veracity of its information. The Gulf War was a perfect example of contrived news coverage, produced by Cheney, procured by the mainstream media, and delivered as news to American viewers. This wholesale fabrication of that war's coverage by our government is well-documented. Much of the news we received was fiction, yet the media broadcast it because reporters were literally banned from covering the war in any meaningful way. This policy was Cheney's directive as Secretary of Defense. So why should the public be convinced that this same manipulation isn't occurring again?

I have no doubt that Saddam Hussein is a political menace. To what degree, though? What hard facts support his amassing weapons of mass destruction? What weapons? Where is this amassing taking place? If this is absolute, why are other countries not convinced? How reliable is our information? What is the evidence? Beyond an immediate threat, what is our exit strategy? Is it truly the wish of the American people to entrench the country in the politics and governance of other countries? Could threats to our national security be a result of such policy?

In addition, I think the public should demand a full disclosure of the interests of President Bush's family and Vice President Cheney with regard to any holdings relative to oil. The oil component of this issue is apparent, and any financial stake has the perception of conflict of interest and needs to be addressed openly and accurately. To insist on this disclosure is reasonable and completely patriotic. The sad thing is that it reflects the core distrust of politicians that infects our political system. Unfortunately, the distrust has been well-earned. Any disclosure should be painless for the administration if it plays no role. Otherwise, if no disclosure is forthcoming, Americans should not endorse any aggression.

Americans are somewhat willing to be sheep if their own lives are not dramatically affected. But there are few of us who would risk our children's lives for the sake of a few special financial interests, or for political gain. However, if we are convinced that Hussein is the genuine threat our leadership is claiming, then our support would be heartily given. In an effort to be convinced, however, we are told that intelligence cannot be divulged because of national security. We are expected to take it on faith that the claims are legitimate. But doing so would depend on a public trust that simply doesn't exist. So the administration should be compelled to provide its due diligence to Americans if it is to prove its case for war beyond any reasonable doubt. This should be relatively easy to do because truth is self-evident. Show us the evidence. I repeat; we are willing to be convinced.

The estimated cost of a war with Iraq is $6 billion to $9 billion a month! Never forget that American taxpayers will be the financiers of this action. Are we able to afford it? Can we absorb this cost, and for how long? How was this estimate arrived at? Where is the necessary information for our collective consideration?

There is enough collateral evidence to suggest that our skepticism has merit. It is our patriotic duty to question our government's actions, especially when they endanger lives. We are only willing to be convinced via an open and frank process that shares information for the purpose of making informed decisions. We are not likely to abide deliberate manipulation of data to force us in a direction that only advances hidden agendas. But we must be smart enough and alert enough to know the difference.

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