Many patriotic Americans have not spoken out because we want to support our President and our men and women in uniform. Others are simply confused and scared. Just as antiwar demonstrations started to gain attention around the world, our government declared Code Orange, and advised us seal ourselves in our homes with plastic sheets and duct tape.

Now the March 17 deadline for war is at hand, and we must finally speak up, as former president Jimmy Carter did today. Mr. Bush, we are not a focus group. We are hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions—of America’s most attentive and loyal citizens, using the best tools that our democracy allows. We urge you, as strongly as we can, to regroup. Do not open this Pandora’s box in Iraq.

Whatever happens on the ground in Iraq, it is not going to resolve what is really endangering America. CIA director George Tenet and FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley have both warned that this attack on Iraq will actually reduce our security as a nation, by fueling more terrorism against Americans.

In a breathtakingly short time, you have reversed the sympathies of most people post 9/11 and obliterated America’s true source of security—our over 200-year contribution to the world as a beacon for freedom, justice and truth. We have gone from being the world’s most favored nation, to its most hated one. We may end up turning Saddam from a monster into a martyr.

Your military bravado, your defiance of the United Nations and other international alliances that have been struggling successfully to contain an unruly world since World War 2, and your arrogant dismissal of treaties regarding international justice and the environment have contributed to a global backlash against America. Many people around the world see this defiance of the international community as worse than the defiance of Saddam Hussein, because we, too, flaunt international agreements, but we have far more weapons of mass destruction than he does.

The Democrats in Congress voted for the Iraq war resolution because it was a way to support America’s bid for an international coalition. That bid has failed. Because you do not understand the complexities of world power, you have left us isolated and vulnerable. It is not too late for you to lead effective multilateral efforts to contain both Iraq and North Korea, discrediting both regimes with incremental military pressure accompanied by a global campaign for democracy and justice, including aid to poorer nations. That will win us respect, instead of enmity. If instead you go forward as planned, with an all-out “shock attack” on Iraq, you will surely inspire more recruits to the terrorists’ cause. Our children will face generations of anti-American suicide bombers at home and abroad, and an economy crippled by this $95 billion mistake.

Please, Mr. Bush, turn back before it is too late. You are holding a lighted match to the tinderbox of the world.

Ellen Hume

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