A Letter from Across the Pond
Let me start by saying that I am the world's best chess player. Well, in a way. I'm flawless when I am watching other people play. I can see the board really well, and I can spot a mistake a mile away. Somehow, when I'm playing, I get so wrapped up in my point of view, that I'm stunningly average - if not below average. Okay, I'm pretty bad.
Yesterday, a friend forwarded to me a letter that was written by a gentleman in Switzerland to a woman in Ohio whom he does not know. The letter was written to convince her to vote against George Bush next Tuesday. I loved the letter so much, that I wrote to the Scottish author (to make sure he is real and to get his permission), Scott Henderson, and asked him if I could publish it on my humble blog. He said yes. You can read it in a moment.
What does this have to do with chess? Well, I wonder if our friends overseas - our friends who are very concerned about the outcome of the election - might not be better chess players than we are. I wonder if they don't benefit from detachment and a broader perspective.
Like John Kerry, I don't think we should give foreign governments a veto over our national security, but I do believe that the actions of most nations (and especially nations with the influence of the United States) have an impact on the larger world. That impact requires our consideration. If there is to be role for diplomacy in the resolution of our war against Iraq, then we must rely on some regard in the international community. This is particularly true in the case of allies who, like England, have joined the coaltion of the willing. Every year, the world gets smaller and smaller. In recognition of this, although we must not defer to our friends from other countries, we must respect them, and we must consider thier opinions. Who knows, they may have wisdom and insights that might benefit us (as is the case below).
Tuesday, 19 October 2004
I hope that you don’t mind me writing to you, my name is Scott Henderson and I live in Switzerland. I am in my mid-thirties and originally from Scotland.
I got your name and address from the electoral roll in Springfield, this is a list of all of the people entitled to vote in the upcoming Presidential Election. An English Newspaper (The Guardian) feels that the result of the Presidential Election is so important to the rest of the world that its readers should do some ‘doorknocking’ on US Voters like yourself, so that we can try and convey to you, just how significant this election is.
Unfortunately, I am unable to come and knock on your door personally so I hope that you do not mind me writing. If you are offended by my actions or do not think that I have any business interfering in US politics; please accept my apologies and throw this in the garbage. Please be aware that your name is only provided once, so you will not receive another letter or communication like this.
If on the other hand, you feel as I and Millions of others do throughout the world that this result is important to the whole planet then please take a little time to read my letter :
My Parents fought alongside US Servicemen in the Second World War and they brought me up to have nothing but respect for your Nation. They told me of the honest and brave men who died to protect Europe from an Immoral Dictatorship. Nazi Germany was a country where ‘Freedom of Speech’ was curtailed, people were harassed and killed for their religious beliefs and the leaders declared that you are either ‘with us – or against us.’
Of course many normal people then went on to do terrible things because they were afraid of what might happen to them and so they gave in to peer pressure and perhaps thought that they were right because they believed the propaganda they saw in the media.
I myself have lived and worked in the US on several occasions and have many good friends who live there. Infact I am planning to spend Christmas in Minnesota this year. I love your country and all it has to offer but I am very afraid for its future.
I am deeply concerned over the result of the upcoming Presidential Election. Outside of the US we are able to have an objective view, we are able to see the impact that the US has on the world. Do you know that the most recognisable things in the world are all American ? Coca-Cola, MacDonalds, Muhammad Ali, Elvis Presley the list goes on.
More recently the impact of the US in the outside world has not been too impressive. Unfortunately, the reputation of your current President Mr George W Bush is not great.
Now that the truth has come out regarding the Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq we can see that Iraq Invasion was planned well before 9/11. Osama Bin-Laden was just an excuse and sadly the Iraqi people paid the price.
Please don’t get me wrong, I believe that 9/11 was a hideous crime and the perpetrators must be brought to justice. There was just no Iraqi connection, most people knew this before the invasion and everybody should know this now. Infact there is more evidence of collusion between the Iraqi Govt of Saddam Hussein and the CIA than there is of collusion with Al-Queda. (BTW – Al Queda was actually established with CIA money to fight against the Russians in Afghanistan).
If you don’t believe me, I suggest that you read a copy of ‘Dreaming War’ by Gore Vidal it is comprehensive, well researched and balanced. Or even look at some International Newspaper sites for example www.guardian.co.uk. The truth is there, it is just that the US news networks refuse to show it.
As we speak the terrible situation in Iraq continues with no real end in sight. I think that Saddam Hussein was a cruel and terrible man but there were smarter ways to remove him or reform him. At present the death toll rises on a daily basis, we will never know how many Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the war because, no-one is counting. It is as if their lives mean nothing. On the other hand we do know that over 1,000 US Soldiers have died in this conflict, for what ? Certainly not protecting the US from Terrorism, because as the commissions prove there were no terrorists in Iraq and no plausible link with terrorists either.
My Brother was in the Navy when he died aged 18 years and everyday now American and Iraqi families are going through the same horror that my family endured, please use your vote to stop this meaningless war ! No-one deserves to suffer like that.
I am also concerned about the US Economy. This is the engine that drives the rest of the world, when this isn’t running well the rest of the world suffers. One of the reasons for this lack of growth is fear of the future or uncertainty. This has meant that investors and managers are being risk averse as the world is such an uncertain place at the moment. You must ask yourself why that is ?
I feel that one of the main reasons is the size of the US Budget Deficit, this is how much your country owes (like an overdraft at the bank). Since coming to power George W Bush has created the largest deficit in history. It is so large that I worked out that if it were to be divided equally between everyone in your country it would be a bill of $30,000 for every man woman and child. Think about how suffocating that debt must be for an economy ?
Tax Breaks under President Bush seem to benefit only the Ultra-Rich and the large international corporations, ordinary people seem to have missed out. What this means is that less revenue will be spent on healthcare insurance and pensions for retired people. I can see that there will be huge problems ahead for both sick and retired people, unless action is taken now.
Uncertainty also causes markets to be volatile, people will pay a lot of money for something they need if they think that it may be in short supply in the future. A good example of this is Oil, currently this is the most expensive it has ever been. I can appreciate how crippling this must be for the American people and their big cars. But there really is no problem with the supply of oil, the problem is with the market. The traders are worried about the future and this has caused the high prices
Why are people uncertain and worried about the future ? Well, I believe that this is due to the ‘War on Terror’. Yes, terrorists must be dealt with but there is a ‘right’ way and a ‘wrong’ way. I believe that the US by acting unilaterally has only served to help the terrorists. Many Muslims are only now disaffected and willing to oppose the US. However, you need to remember that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are peace loving reasonable people rather like the American people themselves.
I grew up with terrorism, the IRA killed the Father of a close friend, and after more then 30 years of trouble in Ireland there has now been peace for over five years. The reason? Conciliation and Understanding, both sides have to live together and have come to an agreement. As a result stability has returned and Ireland is one of the worlds fastest growing economies.
The rest of the world wants to achieve this goal and is willing to help, but only if the American People want us to help. Sadly I believe that your current President is unwilling to reach out to rest of the world.
An early example of this was his rejection of the Kyoto Protocol for Global Warming. It may not have been the perfect solution but it was a start, by rejecting the agreement President Bush withdrew the one nation that could have made the system work and in the meantime the problem persists.
Finally, this ‘War on Terror’ makes peoples live difficult; for me I now have to give DNA samples every time I visit the US. I have no idea what purpose this serves and how this sample may be used. Infact I feel that it is an affront to my civil liberties.
However, this is nothing compared to being held without charges, without trial and without legal assistance for over two years. In a place where brutality and humiliation of prisoners is acceptable. This is exactly what is happening in Guantanamo Bay and is a total disregard of Human Rights. The same Human Rights that my countrymen and your countrymen fought and died to protect in the Second World War. Please don’t let their efforts go to waste.
Please make the right choice on November 2nd for everyones sake.
One parting comment: One night, after the second Presidential debate, I was channel surfing in an effort to find continuing analysis (it was a sickness with me). I stopped on PBS and they were showing BBC coverage of the day in Iraq. Without commentary or fanfare, they showed the coalition casualties for the day. They showed it. You saw the bombed Hummer and the smoke and the chaos. We don't have the benefit of that kind of reporting here, and I think it makes a difference. Would we, as Americans, support the war to the extent that we do, if we saw images every day? If there is a fatal car crash in the Twin Cities, the local news is there, "LIVE" with coverage and photos. Why is it different with the war?