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Not opposed to all war; just opposed to this war

By MARY JO MELONE, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 9, 2003

Some years back, in a search with a purpose I still can't explain, I tried to become a Quaker.

Off and on for two years, I attended Society of Friends' meetings in St. Petersburg.

It didn't work. A wise older woman who had taken me under her wing gently said one day that the Society of Friends and I were a bad fit.

It was true. I was, and am, incapable of turning the other cheek. If you hit me, I want to hit back.

This is not the Friends' way of seeing the world. They believe in pacifism. I don't. Some wars are just, aren't they? Or should we just have let Hitler alone?

I say this in self-defense, to respond to the readers who wear their patriotism on their sleeve and expect everybody else to do the same.

Yes, I believe in war. Just not this one.

Going after Saddam Hussein strikes me as a campaign for a consolation prize with which to heal the hurt done to us on Sept. 11, 2001.

Pursuing the mastermind of that horrible day, Osama bin Laden, is a most just cause. Trouble is, we can't find him. Saddam is the next best thing in bad guys, so he becomes our Plan B.

But speaking of bad guys, why don't we do something about the monster on the other side of the planet, North Korea's Kim Jong Il and his nuclear arsenal? Why don't we say he also needs to be ousted and his country disarmed? He certainly threatens Asia as much as Saddam threatens the Mideast.

I have a particular and old-fashioned faith in my country, that we're permanently planted on the side of what's good and what's true.

Or at least that is what I want to believe. I believe in it so much that I feel a kind of shock as I watch what we're becoming, a warlord bullying our way through the United Nations and then across the globe.

We are a bully abroad and are becoming one at home, where we bully one another.

Doubting the war is regarded as un-American. (You should see my mail.)

So is speaking up on behalf of all matters Muslim.

War protesters are dismissed as -- to borrow from Tampa Mayor Dick Greco -- "idiots."

Nearly 13,000 poets have put pen to paper to speak out against the war. What insults shall we hurl at them?

I listened to the president the other night speak in somber tones. I have no doubt he believes in his mission, and that the decision to send troops into war will weigh on him heavily.

I wonder what it must feel like to lead a country divided. It's not just the poets. We are divided and it doesn't appear that the president gives a rip for what his countrymen think -- although he is glad for those of us who pray for him. I'll bet. He needs all the prayers he can get.

The president never answered (or more precisely, was never asked) a question I can't get out of my head. What has Saddam done in the two years that Bush has been president that made him a greater threat than he was before? If the answer is that he's building more weapons, why haven't the inspectors found them? If the answer is he had something to do with Sept. 11, where's the proof?

There is no proof but that fact is irrelevant. Bush appears to believe quite simply that Sept. 11 gives us the right to chase down threats whenever and wherever we feel like it, whether or not other nations support us.

That kind of thinking has led us to this moment, this anxious place called the brink of war.

Stepping back at this point appears impossible. Too many soldiers are in position. Too many ships are ready to launch, too many planes are ready to fly, too many bombs ready to fall. The only direction is to go forward, then down, into the hellhole of combat.

-- You can reach Mary Jo Melone at or (813) 226-3402.

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