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(January 28, 2003 // link)

If I were writing the presidentís annual state of the union address, it would probably sound very different than what you will hear tonight.

First, I would talk about the fact that war with Iraq now seems inevitable. But I would talk about why. There must be better reasons than we are being told, and before we send our sons and daughters to fight a war we need to know why. If I recall, this was supposed to be a war on terror, however there has been no credible link established between Iraq and any recent terrorist attacks. If our government has a reason, other than oil, for starting a war we need to know what those reasons are. If it is about oil, or getting rid of Saddam Hussein, then we need to be upfront about why those are good justifications for our actions. I admire decisiveness as much as anyone, and I think that one could make a good case for action without delay, but our government needs to respect the people whose sons and daughters will be put in harmís way. Itís time for the president to lay his cards on the table. If this war is about oil, the president needs to say so.

Our allies are asking that we wait for the UN weapons inspectors to finish their work before we invade. We need to let the process put in place by the UN take its course. We need to respect the rights and opinions of other nations and the UN. We are a part of this international community; we need to play by the rules. The reason why we need our allies is not to fight the war, but to establish a credible and long lasting peace. I understand that you canít leave troops parked in the desert forever but the tail should not wag the dog either.

I would also tell congress that the war will have a destabilizing effect on the middle east and that there will be more world wide terror attacks. We have not succeeded in our mission to capture or kill Osama Bin Ladin, and terror is still a player on the world stage, despite our best efforts. By accepting this reality we can develop a strategy for the long range elimination of the causes of terrorist attacks and not just the terrorists.

For every evil dictator we stamp out, three others will pop up somewhere else. We may be able to make the case for war as a good short-term strategy, but it is crucial to our survival that we start talking about a long-term solution.

The centerpiece of the speech tonight should be an urgent call-to-action for the best and brightest minds in our nation and the rest of the free world to develop, without delay, an alternative fuel source. We must extricate ourselves from our dependence on oil as a fuel. As long as our country has an unquenchable thirst for oil, we destabilize the situation in the middle east. Imagine what the world stage would look like if there was no oil market. Out from under bloated, oppressive regimes that our thirst for their oil keeps in power, life for ordinary citizens in Yemen, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iraq would improve and stabilize.

It has been thirty years since the first gas crisis and we are right back where we started; driving big gas guzzling cars and developing foreign policy around the acquisition of resources that belong to other countries. This technological challenge needs to have the urgency of the space race, and a similar commitment of resources.

On the domestic front I would talk about race and how the issue of race relations is still the single biggest issue facing this country in terms of domestic policy. Today, 140 years after the Civil War and 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education, we are again moving toward segregation in our schools and our society. We are making public policy decisions based on the desires of large corporations who regularly demonstrate that they are not very good citizens but that they are big political contributors. Finally, and perhaps at the root of all of our domestic woes, is campaign finance reform. One need only look at the devastating reversals of hard won environmental legislation to understand the benefits reaped by large corporate political contributors.

I hope that my version of the State of the Union address will not be very different than the Presidentís. I am not optimistic.


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