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An Open Letter to Paul Harvey

Dear Mr. Harvey,

If a doctor amputated a healthy leg instead of a damaged one should he have to compensate the patient or should he be able to avoid any liability by saying “I made a mistake”? What if an oil tanker had an accident and spilled a large quantity of oil. Should the owner of the tanker have to pay for cleanup and be able to avoid it by saying “I just made a mistake”? If you run a red light and hurt someone should you be able to avoid paying for the victim’s medical expenses or only have to say: “I made a mistake”?

If the United States invades a country and overthrows its government, should the U.S. be able to say “we made a mistake” and leave the country without reestablishing a viable government?

Mr. Harvey the claim that the invasion of Iraq “was a mistake” doesn’t justify US running off and leaving them to fix everything themselves. As Secretary of State Colin Powell said the pottery barn rule should apply: “you break it – you buy it.”

A few weeks ago you mentioned several authors whose best sellers were initially rejected by numerous publishers. You talked about how those authors didn’t give up but kept trying to get their manuscripts published.

Should the U.S. give up just because we haven’t achieved immediate success in Iraq? Have we become so accustomed to the idea that real murders are solved in an hour just like on television, that we expect all problems to be solved immediately. Do we expect everyone to begin living happily ever after as soon as the war ends like in the movies? Well, I’ve got a flash for you, even the people who solve tv murders now admit that some “cold cases” may not be solved until years later.

The people of Israel haven’t given up on having their own country just because they have had to deal with acts of violence for 50 years. The British government didn’t give up on the idea of peace in Northern Ireland just because the extremists continued to kill each other and blow things up for 30 years after British troops arrived to bring peace.

Mr. Harvey you speak favorably of isolationism, but isolationism has never worked. The young United States tried to stay out of the Napoleonic Wars, but eventually felt it had to fight against the British practice of forcing American sailors to serve in the British navy. President Woodrow tried to “keep US out of war”, but the German U-boats sinking of American ships forced him to commit US to World War I. The United States tried to stay out of WWII, but the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor forced US to become involved.

We live in a dangerous world. Here in the U.S. some people must risk their lives to protect us from criminals and fires. The British Navy policed the world during the 19th Century. Now it’s our turn. It’s a dangerous job, but so is fighting criminals and putting out fires.

I wasn’t enthusiastic about President Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq. As an historian and Vietnam veteran, I knew that some type of terrorist activity would follow and people wouldn’t understand that it is relatively easy for small groups to take violent actions. Remember the D.C. snipers. They roamed around the Washington metropolitan area shooting people. They were never caught in the act even though all area police officers were looking for them. Instead, a discovery a continent away revealed their identity and a private citizen spotted their car.

Historians will debate the question of whether or not we should have become involved in Iraq for generations. That debate is now important now. The important question is will we carry through with our commitment to help the Iraqi people or abandon them because we are big and powerful and can do anything we want and don’t have to care about others.




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