Ralph Nader’s new book, Return to Sender: Unanswered Letters to the President, 2001–15, is a twofer: a spiritual exercise in citizen participation and a counterfactual history lesson in what might have been if only our government had hewn to democratic first principles and priorities over the last fifteen years. In the two letters that follow we see both sides. Imagine what the Middle East would be like today if we hadn’t invaded Iraq. Imagine if President Obama were to spend time highlighting the importance of the civil service, the contributions of low-wage workers and the importance of the Centers for Disease Control. If only our last two presidents had listened to Nader and others like him who speak not only truth but good sense to power, we might not be in the state we’re in.
* * *
January 2, 2014
Dear President Bush,
A few days ago I received a personalized letter from your Presidential Center that included a solicitation card for donations that actually provided words for my reply. They included “I’m honored to help tell the story of the Bush Presidency” and “I’m thrilled that the Bush Institute is advancing timeless principles and practical solutions to the challenges facing our world.” (Below were categories of “tax deductible contributions” starting with $25 and going upward.)
Did you mean the “timeless principles” that drove you and Mr. Cheney to invade the country of Iraq, which, contrary to your fabrications, deceptions and cover-ups, never threatened the United States? Nor could Iraq, under its dictator and his dilapidated military, threaten its far more powerful neighbors, even if the Iraqi regime wanted to do so.
Today, Iraq remains a country (roughly the size and population of Texas) you destroyed, a country where over a million Iraqis, including many children and infants (remember Fallujah?) lost their lives, millions more were sickened or injured, and millions more were forced to become refugees, including most of the Iraqi Christians. Iraq is a country rife with sectarian strife that your prolonged invasion provoked into what is now open warfare. Iraq is a country where Al Qaeda is spreading with explosions taking twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or sixty lives per day. Just this week, it was reported that the US has sent Hellfire air-to-ground missiles to Iraq’s air force to be used against encampments of “the country’s branch of al-Qaeda.” There was no Al Qaeda in Iraq before your invasion. Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were mortal enemies.
The Bush/Cheney sociocide of Iraq, together with the loss of tens of thousands of US soldiers’ lives, injuries and illnesses, registers, with the passage of time, no recognition by you that you did anything wrong, nor have you accepted responsibility for the illegality of your military actions without a congressional declaration of war. You even turned your back on Iraqis who worked with US military occupation forces as drivers, translators, etc. at great risk to themselves and their families and were desperately requesting visas to the US, often with the backing of US military personnel. Your administration allowed fewer Iraqis into the US than did Sweden in that same period and far, far fewer than Vietnamese refugees coming to the US during the 1970s.