The Short Stories of Edward R. Doughty
Peggy recalled attending protest rallies against the Vietnam War when she was a college student at Bryn Mawr. She recalled having read numerous books on the subjects of Indo China and Vietnam. In particular, she recalled reading a book by Bernard Fall. The basic conclusion of that book was that the United States was actually fighting on the wrong side. The North Vietnamese were really nationalists who wanted to run their own country --- whereas South Vietnam was still more of a French Colony rather than a truly independent nation. But back then three American administrations believed in "the Domino Theory" and concluded that if North Vietnam prevailed over South Vietnam, all the other countries in the area would start to fall to Communism, one by one. Of course that was utter nonsense. When the North finally conquered the South in 1975, Communism made no further gains in that area --- or in any other area of the world. And many years later even Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense during most of the war, admitted that we had been wrong.
Peggy was now in her early 50's but still maintained her slim figure and attractive face. Her marriage was still strong and the last of their three children had just graduated from Yale the previous June. Peggy's husband was also a Yalie and almost every year they and a few of their old friends had returned to Yale each fall for either the Harvard game or the Princeton game.
Peggy and her husband now lived in Washington, D.C. and they lived there when the Pentagon and New York City had been attacked by terrorists on September 11th, 2001. Before that attack Peggy had actually enjoyed living in D.C... Peggy and her husband had enjoyed dining at Sam & Harry's and Smith & Wollenski's. She had enjoyed shopping in Georgetown and she had loved attending performances at the Kennedy Center. She had enjoyed the politics in this city of politicians. But 9-11 had changed much of this. Of course, there was always the real possibility of another terrorist attack on D.C. --- and Peggy and her husband no longer got out to those fine restaurants as often as before. Her shopping became less frequent as well. And her government job had become somewhat more difficult.
Now the big question was whether or not her country should bring a war against Iraq to free that country of "weapons of mass destruction" (Man, was she ever getting tired of that phrase!) and to free that country of Saddam Hussein and his regime. United Nations inspectors had returned to Iraq about four months ago, but they hadn't found much so far and Iraq had not been very cooperative, to say the least. The U.N. Security Council had unanimously passed Resolution 1441 which ordered Iraq to disarm immediately or face "serious consequences". America and Great Briton read that phrase to mean "war". But many other countries felt that war would require a separate and additional resolution. International lawyers were all over the proverbial map on this point of law. The resolution that had been used to permit the first Gulf War had employed the term "all available means" as a euphemism for "war". Peggy guessed that lawyers could debate this difference for years to come.
France, Russia, China and Germany strongly opposed a war. All were on the Security Council and three of them possessed the veto. On the Council only Britain, Spain & Bulgaria supported the U.S... The American public was split on the issue with a slight majority in favor of war --- but even most of them preferred U.N. approval for war. World opinion was another matter entirely. Demonstrations numbering in the millions had taken place around the globe in recent months. Over 300,000 American and British troops were in countries and seas surrounding Iraq right now --- plus a 2000 strong contingent of Aussies. They were now called the "Coalition of the Willing", but Peggy wished that the coalition had included a hell of a lot of more nations. Not that we needed such nations to defeat Iraq militarily --- but we sure could use them politically and in a post-war construction of Iraq.
Turkey had presented another problem. For months now they had dragged their heels on granting us permission to station our troops in southern Turkey to launch a Northern Front if and when a war began. We had even offered them 15 billion dollars to compensate them for the economic loses they would suffer in the event of such a war. But it was to no avail --- and now the $15 billion had been taken off the table. It was now getting close to "crunch time". Peggy had to make up her own mind as to the best course of action. She was no longer a college student reading books, carrying placards and shouting, "LBJ, LBJ --- how many kids did you kill today?"
On the one hand, she seriously doubted that Iraq was an "imminent threat" to America or anyone else --- except, perhaps, to its' own people. Nor did she believe that there was a real connection between Iraq and 9-11. Peggy could conceive of future cooperation between Iraq and terrorist organizations and she could clearly see Iraq attacking other countries once it had nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. But these were both long term threats. Was that reason enough to go to war right now?
There was also the question of whether America would lose its' credibility if it now brought its' troops and ships home without accomplishing anything over there. But was "face" enough of a reason to go to war? We are America --- not some Asian country that was always worried about "saving face". France and the others wanted to give the U.N. inspectors more time --- but Iraq had over eleven years to fully destroy their chemical and biological weapons and they hadn't.
No, we weren't talking Vietnam here --- this was a lot more complicated. Peggy's husband, a lawyer, was out at a Bar Association meeting tonight and Peggy was pondering these important issues in their master bedroom. Peggy knew that important decisions had to be made very soon. She was relieved that none of their children were in the service and this was due almost solely because there was no longer any draft. It had been abolished shortly after the Vietnam War. But there were many thousands of young men and women who were in the service and most Americans were concerned about them as if they were relatives.
Peggy had also thought of the threat posed by North Korea. But no one was suggesting that we attack them any time soon because they clearly had nuclear weapons and could easily devastate South Korea. Perhaps there was an answer there. If a regime run by a madman and a butcher was on the verge of developing nuclear weapons and had a history of attacking its' neighbors --- it was better to take them out now --- while we could --- and save many lives in the future.
Of course Peggy had thought through all these issues before tonight. She had to. Her conscience --- and her job --- required it. This was sort of a last minute review.
Now she had it. In this world --- at this time --- a country did what it could do to preserve world peace and security. No more could be asked of it. Diplomacy had been exhausted here. Coalition troops were ready to strike. All that was needed was the word of the President of the United States.
Peggy picked up the phone and pushed three numbers. A familiar voice answered. Peggy then said in a calm voice, "Rummy --- it's a go." Secretary Rumsfield responded, "Yes, Madam President --- I will pass the word and action will commence at 0400 Iraqi time." Peggy then added. "May God bless America."
There was no point in getting ready for bed, Peggy thought, because it was going to be a long night at the White House. Life had sure been easier at Bryn Mawr.
Overseas, General Tommy Franks had just gotten the word. He would have a busy night, too. But a smile crossed his face as he recalled an attractive co-ed from Bryn Mawr many years ago. One of his friends from Princeton had dated her once and had dubbed her the "Iron Lady" --- presumably because the friend had not even gotten to first base with her. But this girl --- this woman --- this President --- was surely made of Iron. General Franks chuckled as he thought, "Sadaam had not known who he was dealing with".
At precisely 0400 cruise missiles and bombs began falling all over Baghdad and most of Iraq. The Iron Lady --- the first female elected President of the United States --- had just begun a war. Peggy sipped her coffee and waited for the many phone calls that would come tonight.
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