The following are the comments received from readers of The Daily Astorian who were asked "After hearing the president Monday night, are you more reassured or less reassured about his tough stance on Iraq, and why? Did President Bush make a compelling case for war? If so, please explain."

The comments are published here in the readers' own words, where possible, although they have been edited slightly for spelling, grammar and Associated Press style.

Rick Baumann of Salem: "I strongly believe that President Bush and his advisors have made a strong case for action in Iraq. The current Iraqi regime continues to be a threat to Mid-east regional stability as well to world peace. Saddam Hussein has flaunted 17 U.N. resolutions calling for him to disarm since the end of hostilities at the end of the Gulf War. Every time a new resolution comes up, the Iraqi government feigns cooperation to appease the U.N. Saddam has murdered thousands of his own people, many with chemical weapons. He continues to use the proceeds from oil sales, which are supposed to be going to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people, to build palaces for himself and his cronies. While there is some opposition here in the United States to any action in Iraq, that opposition is small. In Astoria a few weeks ago, 300 people protested the possible war. Three hundred out of a county wide population of 36,000 leads to a very small percentage (8/10ths of 1 percent). Most of the United States has been in support of the president from the beginning. While no sane being wants war, most believe in their duly elected officials. Many believe that the only reason our president wants to go to war is for oil. Here's a little economic lesson. After Iraq is liberated and starts producing oil at pre-invasion levels, the supply of oil will rise dramatically and the price will plummet. To say that any President of the United States would intentionally send our troops into combat for the sake of money is just downright asinine. At some point we all have to decide if we want to believe those who are legally elected to office. I, for one, do believe the case has been made."

Fred Thaller of Salt Lake City, Utah: "I would feel better if Bush took the same strong position with all the world's dictators. Kim of North Korea presents a much greater threat to us than Saddam. There are 15 to 20 dictators in the world who are greater threats to their own people than Saddam is to his. Why can't the U.S. have a fair, but firm, foreign policy that never waivers with the political winds? One that isn't subject to every political whim. Perhaps, if we based our policies on truth, fairness and equality, instead of self-interest, we would gain more respect around the world. We need to give more people in other countries a chance for informed democracy. We need to stop supporting dictators of any stripe just to further our own often misguided goals. There has to be a better way to remove dictators, like Saddam, than causing great harm to the people of Iraq and our own soldiers ... If Bush's daddy hadn't armed and trained Saddam against Iran, we wouldn't be facing the monster we are today. If his daddy had allowed the military to finish the job during Desert Storm 12 years ago, Saddam wouldn't be here today. I think the Bushes, daddy and baby boy are basically idiots."

Philip Morrill of Astoria: "I believe President Bush has made a clear case for going against Iraq, and I feel comfortable with his explanations for this. I think it should have happened some time ago, even when his father declared war on Iraq last time. Our fight is not with the people of Iraq, but with the leader of Iraq who has worked to establish himself as a demagogue, not caring at all about the Iraqi people, but only what will help him reach his goal of re-establishing the Babylonian kingdom with himself as king. He is not a Muslim leader, but has joined their ranks to get them on his side for his purposes. Unfortunately he has brain-washed most the citizens of Iraq into thinking he is looking our for their good. My hope is that the conflict will be even shorter than the last one, and that Hussein can removed from power with a minimum of loss of life for the Iraqi people. However, every day we delay in dealing with him gives him more chances to hide himself behind innocent people. The element of surprise is needed to catch him off guard. If we even wait the full 48 hours, I am afraid many more innocent lives will be lost. By way of explanation, I normally would count myself more of the pacifistic side, however, when we are dealing with a madman, we must do what is necessary to stop him or many more lives will be lost."

Fred Gates of Carlsbad, Calif.: "President Bush's address Monday night has still not made a compelling case for war and in fact, is chilling in its single-minded drive to flex his might. But that isn't what stood out in his rallying cry for war. What the world may long remember is the subtext that charts a new course of justification to attack anyone, anywhere - by anyone.

"Justifying his actions, Mr. Bush said, regarding his reasons to invade Iraq, 'The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundred of thousands of innocent people in our country or any other.' The key word here is 'Could.' Remember it. He went on, 'Before the day of horror can come, before it is to late to act, this danger will be removed.' Remember the word 'before.' And finally, 'The United States of America has sovereign authority to use force in assuring it' s own national security.' In justifying his reasons to attack Iraq, the president has established a philosophy that if a country 'could' possibly attack, strike that country 'before' a possible attack. Future security demands it.

"Following that pronouncement, we now live in a world where any country can attack any other country if it feels that country could possible attack it sometime. And since the United States is the biggest, strongest country and perhaps the world's newest bully, we're justified. Actually, there' s nothing new here. Not only countries but people act this way to get their will accomplished. And while we may well be justified in this case, what happens when other countries use this pretext to attack other countries? We've opened the floodgates for any other country to use our justifications for aggression."

Dick Thompson of Astoria: "To answer your question about President Bush: YES, HE MADE A VERY COMPELLING SPEECH. The only problem that I have is he should not have said '48 hours.' Rather, he should have said 'get the hell out now or suffer the consequences.' If the world leaders would have done this to Hitler in the 1930s, we would not have had to lose so many lives in World War ll.

"While I'm on my soapbox, I watched the news on channels 2, 6, and 8 last evening and all three of them very pointedly announced that there would be a peace rally at 4 p.m. at Pioneer Square. I'll bet Saddam would have loved to hear all that free advertising. This is certainly a case of the media aiding and abetting the enemy!"

Jaeson Koszarsky of Boalsburg, Pa: "Thank you for including me in your panel. After hearing the president Monday night, are you more reassured or less reassured about his tough stance on Iraq, and why? Did President Bush make a compelling case for war? If so, please explain. Less assured. Bush's tough stance goes far beyond an old debt to settle with Iraq. The fundamental problem and danger is the broader agenda of pre-emptive intervention worldwide to impose our views upon other peoples with the use of force. When we follow this path, democracy has failed, peace has failed, America has failed. Democracy & freedom must be chosen by the people, not forced at gunpoint.

"Bush claims to have exhausted diplomatic solutions but in reality, he only ever offered war as a solution. You either supported his agenda or you are labeled as anti-American or told that you support the terrorists. 'If you aren't with us, you are against us' is a very dangerous mentality. His use of diplomacy amounted to buying time to set up a war of his choosing. His attitude is 'feel free to join the party, we're throwing it with or without you.' Saddam is not a wonderful guy but how much of a threat is he? Bush has failed to demonstrate why the United States will strike first, with or without consent or support of other nations. He wants to be a world leader but refuses to work with anyone that opposes him. The events of 9/11 did not require weapons of mass destruction. They demonstrated how easy it is to disrupt a nation without need for those weapons. How could that have happened when so much warning was present? Maybe it was allowed to happen to further an agenda that would otherwise face much greater opposition from the public. The Bush administration was elected by a vary narrow margin and not by the popular vote. It already faced a much divided country. How can you unite a divided people? One very convenient way is to present a common threat.

"On 9/11, the World Trade Center was destroyed. Another plane hit a newly reinforced and sparsely populated section of the Pentagon. A fourth plane crashed in south-central Pennsylvania prior to reaching its intended target, the White House. At first glance it may sound unbelievable that our government would have a hand in this event. But look back through our history. How many times has the government used denial as a standard practice until enough evidence was presented to show otherwise? Those in power have demonstrated this time and again. We have even tested chemical, biological and radioactive agents on our own people.

"Why not allow a terrorist plot to strike big at home if the losses were deemed acceptable and it furthered a crusade. Was the plane downed in Pennsylvania by the passengers revolt or by U.S. defenses? All reports that support the latter are played down and left unexplored. Investigations afterwards clearly display the amount of information available warning of this event. Was it lost in the shuffle or used to gain an advantage?

"After 9/11, we experienced the dispersal test of anthrax through our mail system. In the end, it was determined that the strain of anthrax used was of U.S. origin. This event has faded from memory. Was it another test on the American people? Throw out those suggestions for a moment. Look at the events and ask yourself, 'Who benefited most?' Another question to ask is, 'If the threat is so great and obvious, why can't the Bush administration convince other nations?'

"Why is war the ONLY solution that the Bush regime can offer? When a superior military force attacks a weaker force, how does the weaker defend itself or counter attack? Look at the example that Israel offers us. It is a small scale version of what the Bush regime proposes for the United States. The weak will resort to guerilla warfare in which anything becomes fair game. They don't have stealth bombers and tanks so how will they fight? Terrorism. It is very effective. I am not justifying what they do, just pointing out a fact. Bush's agenda of global pre-emptive strikes, leadership changes, and forced democracy will result in bloodshed on a global scale. Hatred breeds hatred.

"Bush can ask for God's blessings on one hand and with the other disregard the teachings of what he supposedly holds in high regard. He lacks the wisdom and guidance of a leader. His present course of action is probably the biggest threat to global peace. Did Bush make a compelling case for pre-emptive war? Absolutely not."

Kate O'Neal of Astoria: "President Bush clearly has no grip on the reality of the situation. He's insuring further 'terrorist' attacks on our soil and the bitter enmnity of our allies while creating a police state here. Then again, perhaps that's the intent."

Kitty O'Keefe of Astoria: "After hearing Bush's speech Tuesday evening, I remain, as I suspect many citizens are, somewhat confused about the wisdom of invading Iraq. Since my background and experience is primarily economic in nature, I will explain my confusion primarily from this perspective.

"After his previous speech, Bush answered the question regarding the cost of war by referring the question to "the spenders," meaning, I believe, Congress. Looking to historic data in this regard, according to the Democratic staff of the House Budget Committee, the US need deploy approximately 250,000 personnel, about half that deployed in the Persian Gulf War. Before relevant comparable data is analyzed, two general outcomes must be analyzed: a quick victory, and a prolonged conflict.

"A quick victory is defined as between 30 and 60 days of war, followed by 75 days of post-war presence. A "prolonged conflict" is the result of a variety of potential complications to the quick victory scenario, including oil market disruption, international terrorist attacks, Israeli war escalation, unanticipated negative US economic impact, use of weapons of mass destruction, and/or significant post-war occupation, reconstruction, humanitarian, and rebuilding costs.

"Further, consideration of opportunity costs, i.e., the reallocation of talent and resources from the private economy to that of public spending on war, must also be considered. Prior to the Persian Gulf War, the technology developed for use in war was largely transferable to the private post-war economy.

"This was not the case in the Persian Gulf War, however, largely because the technological advances were too specialized, i.e., developed for weapons-only use with no alternative private sector application. The cost of diverting talent from research and development in the private sector is difficult to quantify, but is significant and worthy of thoughtful consideration.

"The House Budget Committee estimates the cost of the imminent war between $48 and $60 billion, excluding interest costs for this deficit spending. As a comparison, the Persian Gulf War costs totaled $80 billion in today's dollars.

"The estimated cost for this war does not include the following:

"Prolonged Conflict" expenses. Assuming the war lasts for one year, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cost would increase to about $140 billion.

"Reconstruction costs are dependent upon comparable neighboring GDP levels acceptable to the United States. Rebuilding to the level of, say, Iran, would total another $20 billion.

"Humanitarian assistance estimates range from $1-$10 billion dependent upon the number of people in need, and the length of time assistance is needed.

"Current macro-economics data indicated that GDP rose 1.7 percent in 2002, after an anemic .2 percent in 2001. If a negative psychological capital or consumer spending pattern were to arise from prolonged conflict or the like, a recession could result in the range of 2 percent - 5 percent of GDP, $200-$500 billion

"Using these data, the best possible outcome would be a cost of $48 billion. The worst? $170 billion, a recession, and lost productivity and research/development talent, diverted to the war effort from the private sector."

Thanks to all who responded so promptly. The staff at the newspaper consider this first attempt a success.

Please e-mail me with any additional feedback on how the system worked.

Patrick Webb

Managing Editor

The Daily Astorian


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