Story last updated at 3:04 p.m. Thursday, October 3, 2002

War not the answer
I would like to tell you about my friend Bassam. His humor and kindness. The date-filled pastries his mom made. "Weapons of mass destruction," he laughs. I would like it if you could sit and listen in to stories of Iraq. Desert and sky, 4,000 years of culture, food, Iraqi MTV, family life, 400 kinds of dates.

There is no time. There is an imperative to speak out and act against the foolishness of an unnecessary war. Bush waves the flags of human rights, democracy, freedom and international law. At the same time he ignores and violates them when they conflict with his personal agenda. The principles and values of this country cannot be applied selectively.

The Bush presidency has painted itself into a corner where he urgently needs this war, politically. There is no justification to rush into attacking Iraq. The threat is undocumented hearsay.

Even if you ignore the opinion of friends and allies, it is not in our own interest, as Americans, to go to war. Bush has become a one-issue president, fear. As long as he can instill fear, he appears to lead. In fact, he is creating conditions that are leading to increased instability radiating out from the Middle East. His logic is circular. Sharon and Israel are a working model of using overwhelming military strength to solve a problem that goes much deeper.

The outcome of this war will not be a reduction of terrorism. It will breed it. It will pour fuel on the underlying regional resentments that breed terror as a response to frustration, to hopelessness. This will not eliminate chemical and biological weapons, it will spread them and increase the will to use them.

Bush portrays a war in which innocent people, Iraqi and American, will not suffer and die. There is no such war. As Afghanistan has shown, bombing does not make stability. The consequences of war will be long term, for the Iraqi people, the region and for us. It will not keep violence away from America, it will bring it.

George Bush is about to throw cold water in a pan of hot oil. If we don't want to get burned, we must speak out or accept the consequences.

In my pocket are the prayer beads Mahdi gave me. From his pocket. He went back to Iraq, to his wife and three children. To the five date trees his father planted, one for each son. At my door he put his hand on his heart and invited me to come to his home, to meet his family, in Baghdad. I would like to go

. More than that I wish you could see the soft light in his eyes.

Peter Kaufmann, Ha Noi, Viet Nam