Sixteen good questions
Some web sites are asking readers to come up with debate questions they would like to ask the President. Most responses are pretty inane, in essence, the type of questions no moderator would ever ask a candidate.
These questions are pretty good and come from Thomas F. Schaller, Executive Editor of www.gadflyer.com. I'd love to see at least one of these asked on Thursday. But I ain't holding my breath. Here they are:
On December 21, 2002, in the Oval Office with then-CIA director George Tenet, you expressed shock to Mr. Tenet that the evidence regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was so thin. Yet just five weeks later, in your State of the Union address, you showed little if any doubt whatsoever that Iraq was a certifiable threat. What new information came to your attention that changed your mind so dramatically in just a few weeks during January 2003?
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz projected that, by the summer 2004, the United States could be down to as few as 30,000 troops in Iraq. It's now autumn 2004, and we still have almost 140,000 troops there. Was the administration wrong in its projections about how well the war would go? Looking forward, if you are re-elected how many troops can we expect there to be on the ground in Iraq one year from now?
More than a third of our troops stationed in Iraq are reservists. Though good and loyal Americans, part-time reservists are less familiar with up-to-date military methods and technologies, and they are not as in good physical shape as full-time personnel. Many are assigned to duties for which they are not specifically trained. They also suffer greater displacement risks because they have to leave their regular jobs, homes and families when called to serve. Do we have too many reservists serving in Iraq, and what are your troop rotation plans for the coming year?
In 2003, Americans accounted for 84 percent of the fatalities in Iraq, but in 2004 Americans have accounted for 93 percent of all fatalities. In 2003, the average number of casualties, including those wounded, was about 8 per day; thus far this year the average is more than 18 per day. The average number of daily attacks on American soldiers has risen lately to 70-plus per day, and the number of American fatalities in Iraq have gone up every single month since the sovereignty handover at the end of June - with July higher than June, August higher than July, and September now higher than August. How is this progress?
You said in 2000 that you were against nation-building. Now you boast that we are building schools and opening firehouses in Iraq. Isn't this nation-building, and if so, does that mean you've changed your opinion about nation-building? If re-elected, how much of the American taxpayers' money do you plan to spend building schools and other facilities in Iraq next year?
In the final weeks before the war, the Iraqi government submitted a nearly 12,000-page report on its weapons development. Citing national security reasons, the United States redacted about 8,000 words from that document. Now that Saddam Hussein is gone, can you tell us what information was so sensitive it had to be removed from that dossier?
Your Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, signed a memorandum authorizing the use of dogs to interrogate prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Did you know about this memo at the time it was issued, and whether or not you did, do you condone this technique? And if you don't condone it, why did you not know about it or ask for Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation once you learned about him signing it?
According to a recent government accounting, $8.8 billion of the approximately $150 billion appropriated thus far in Iraq - roughly six percent - cannot be accounted for. What happened to this $8.8 billion in taxpayer monies? If we hope to stabilize Iraq and move it toward democracy, can we afford to have six percent of the money go missing?
You often say that free societies are peaceful societies. But in the fight against terrorism you have developed cooperative, even cozy relationships with many societies, especially Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, that are neither free nor egalitarian countries. How do you explain this contradiction, and will you press leaders of these countries to enact democratic reforms?
You have said that, had you or anyone else in the Administration had "any inkling" that al Qaeda was preparing to attack the United States, you would have "moved heaven and earth" to stop them. Didn't the Presidential Daily Brief entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike In U.S." that you received on August 6, just five weeks before the attacks - and which mentioned hijacking of planes and New York City specifically - provide at least some "inkling" of a pending attack?
We know now that at least nine of the September 11 hijackers passed through Iran, not Iraq, before coming to the United States. We know that Iran has a more developed nuclear program than Iraq, and it is now rejecting requests by the world community to halt progress toward reaching nuclear capability. And we also know Iran is an undemocratic theocracy. Should we have toppled Iran, not Iraq, in 2003?
Vice President Dick Cheney continues to insist that there are connections between Iraq and the September 11 attacks, but you corrected him earlier this year to say there are not. Is there a connection, and can you cite for us what, in your view, is the single best piece of evidence linking Saddam Hussein directly to Osama bin Laden?
Your former counterterrorism adviser, Richard Clarke, has criticized your efforts in Afghanistan, saying you only devoted about 11,000 troops there - an amount not much larger than the Manhattan police force. After initially proclaiming that you wanted Osama bin Laden "dead or alive," you later said you don't really think about him that much. Did you send too few troops to Afghanistan, and are you focused on Osama's capture?
What was your Administration's response to the ethnic violence in Sudan? If humanitarian atrocities justify going to Iraq, don't they justify sending American troops to Sudan, and if not, why not?
Prior to September 11, your Administration proposed a missile defense system, which you are still promoting now. How would missile systems defend against hijackers with box-cutters or suicide bombers? Given that, as you often say, the world changed forever on 9/11, should we abandon Cold War-era systems like missile defense and spend the money differently to best ensure national security when fighting against shadowy networks instead of nation-states?
If re-elected, will you ask Colin Powell to continue to serve as your Secretary of State?
Posted by brettdavey
at 8:43 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 29 September 2004 8:44 AM EDT