Just This Once
President Bush, before you order air strikes, imagine the first cruise missile as a direct hit on your closest friend. That might be Laura.
Then twenty-five other family and friends.
There are no survivors.
Now imagine some other way to do it. Quadruple the inspectors, or put a thousand and one U.N. people in. Then call for peace activists to volunteer to go to Iraq for two weeks each. Flood that country with well-meaning tourists, people curious about the land that produced the great saints, Gilani, Hallaj, and Rabia. Set up hostels near those tombs.
Encourage peace people to spend a bunch of money in shops, to bring rugs home and samovars by the bushel. Send an Arabic translator with every four peace activists. The U.S. government will pay for the translators and for building and staffing the hostels, one hostel for every twenty activists and five translators. The hostels are state of the art, and they belong to the Iraqis at the end of this experiment.
Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela, and my friend, Jonathan Granoff at the U.N., will be the core organization team. No one knows what might come of this. Maybe nothing, or maybe it would convince some Iraqis and some of the world that we really do not wish to kill anybody, and that we truly are not out to appropriate oil reserves. We're working on building a hydrogen vehicle as fast as we can,
Put no limit on the number of activists from all over that might want to hang out and explore Iraq for two weeks. Is anything left of Babylon? There could be informal courses for college credit and pickup soccer games every evening at five. Long leisurely suppers. The U. S. government furnishes air transportation, that is, hires airliners from the country of origin and back for each peace tourist, who must carry and spend the equivalent of $1001 US inside Iraq.
Keep part of the invasion force nearby as police, but let those who claim to deeply detest war try something else just this once, for one year. Call our bluff. If this madman Saddam's WMD threat is not, somehow, eliminated by next February, you can go in with special ops, and do it that way.
Medical services, transportation inside Iraq, lots of big colorful buses--let the pilgrims paint them!--along with many other ideas that will be thought of later during the course of this innocently, blatantly, foolish project will all also be funded by the U.S. government. There's a practice known as sama, a deep listening to poetry and music, with sometimes movement involved. We could experiment with whole nights of that, staying up until dawn, sleeping in tents during the day. So instead of war there's a peace period from March 2003 through February 2004.
It could be as though war had already happened, as it has, and the healing and rebuilding. Now we're in the celebration afterward. I'll be the first to volunteer for two weeks of wandering winter desert and reading Hallaj, Abdul Qadir Gilani, dear Rabia, and the life-saving 1001 Arabian Nights.
I am Coleman Barks, a retired English professor living in Athens, Georgia, and I don't really consider this proposal foolish.