Date: Sat, 12 Apr 2003
Excerprted from a letter from Barbara Atwood

I won't go into the reasons why I think your recent Iraqi adventures have been--taking the long view--an ill-advised tactical error. By the time you read this, Baghdad may or may not look like the craters of the Moon, and many more sheep entrails will have been examined.  Let's talk, then, not about what you're doing to other people, but about what you're doing to yourselves.

You're gutting the Constitution.  Already your home can be entered without your knowledge or permission, you can be snatched away and incarcerated without cause, your mail can be spied on, your private records searched.  Why isn't this a recipe for widespread business theft, political intimidation, and fraud?  I know you've been told all this is for your own safety and protection, but think about it for a minute.  Anyway, when did you get so scared?  You didn't used to be easily frightened.

You're running up a record level of debt.  Keep spending at this rate and pretty soon you won't be able to afford any big military adventures.  Either that or you'll go the way of the USSR:  lots of tanks, but no air conditioning.  That will make folks very cross.  They'll be even crosser when they can't take a shower because your short-sighted bulldozing of environmental protections has dirtied most of the water and dried up the rest.  Then things will get hot and dirty indeed.

You're torching the American economy.  How soon before the answer to that will be, not to produce anything yourselves, but to grab stuff other people produce, at gunboat-diplomacy prices?  Is the world going to consist of a few mega-rich King Midases, with the rest being serfs, both inside and outside your country?  Will the biggest business sector in the United  States be the prison system?  Let's hope not.

If you proceed much further down the slippery slope, people around the world will stop admiring the good things about you. They'll decide that your city upon the hill is a slum and your democracy is a sham, and therefore you have no business trying to impose your sullied vision on them.  They'll think you've abandoned the rule of law.  They'll think you've fouled your own nest.

The British used to have a myth about King Arthur.  He wasn't dead, but sleeping in a cave, it was said; in the country's hour of greatest peril, he would return.  You, too, have great spirits of the past you may call upon: men and women of courage, of conscience, of prescience.  Summon them now, to stand with you, to inspire you, to defend the best in you.  You need them.  


Margaret Atwood studied American literature--among other things--at Radcliffe and Harvard in the 1960s.  She is the author of ten novels.  Her 11th, Oryx and Crake, will be published in May.