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by Ron Cruger
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The President pushed back on his chair, placed both of his feet on the massive desk in front of him, crossed his legs and said to his Vice President, “So, Dick, what do you think? We have to get even with them, don’t we? I mean, they attack the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and that plane that crashed in Pennsylvania! We gotta do something. Who the hell were the people who attacked us? The American people are going to expect us to do something, aren’t they?”
“Mr. President, if I may talk openly. We’re going to have to do something and it’s going to have to be big. The American public won’t endure this administration standing still. We are going to have to reply to the attacks and we will have to reply big time.”
The President grimaced, as though he had sat on a burr on his saddle. He squirmed uncomfortably. “Dick, I agree. I’m ready to get even big time.”
“Mr. President, with the attacks only a few weeks behind us, we don’t know who masterminded the attacks. The FBI, the CIA, all the spy and intelligence agencies aren’t sure of who was behind the attacks. For God’s sake, all the terrorists are dead. We’re not exactly sure of who attacked us.”
“That may be, Dick, but we have to do something and do it fast. What about that guy in Iraq, that Hussein. Could he be behind the attacks? What do you think?”
“As far as we can tell, Mr. President, Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the attacks. It most likely was Al –Qaeda, led by bin Laden. If we’re going to do anything we should probably go after that guy, bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.
“You sure?” That guy Hussein is slimy and hates the United States. You sure it wasn’t him that directed the attacks?”
“Mr. President, as far as we can tell Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the attack.”
The President uncrossed his legs, slid them off the desk, pushed his chair back and stood. He paced back and forth behind his desk. The Vice President’s eyes followed his every step.
Finally, the President halted and said, “What about those nuclear bombs and the other chemical bombs that Hussein has. You know, those weapons of mass destruction. Isn’t he dangerous to America?”
“Well, Mr. President. The United Nations and our own intelligence people can’t find any evidence of Iraq and Hussein having any nuclear or chemical weapons. Our best sources say that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction of any kind. Hussein is a terrible, murderous dictator, but he poses no serious threat to anyone anymore other than citizens of his own country. I’d say forget about going into Iraq. We must go after Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.”
“Okay then, Dick. That’s it. We’re not going to go into Iraq. We’re going after Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. We won’t rest until we find that guy and his cohorts. Wherever they are we’ll hunt them down and string ‘em up.”
The Vice President stood, straightened his tie, smoothed his jacket, walked over to the president and said, “Mr. President, you’ve made the right decision. There is no reason to attack Iraq.”
With the decision made to go after Osama bin Laden and to not attack Saddam Hussein and Iraq the President sat back down in the chair behind his desk. There was a look of relief on his face and his Vice President noticed it.
“Mr. President, if I may, I have a suggestion.”
“Yes, yes, go ahead. What is it?”
“Well, I think we ought to make an announcement tonight, over all the networks about the fact that we are accusing bin Laden of masterminding the September eleventh attacks and that we are posting a reward for his capture – dead or alive. We should also tell the American public that we have it on good authority, from our own sources as well as the United Nations that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction.”
The President nodded his assent, and quietly thought for a moment.
“I have an idea, Dick. You know, if we went to war with Iraq, what do you think it would cost us, two billion dollars a week or more. And how long would a war like that take, five to ten years? We’re talking about trillions of dollars. Instead of starting a war against Iraq we could declare war on cancer. We could take a few billion of those dollars we would spend in a war and create a crash program against cancer. Don’t you think that American scientists could find a cure for cancer if they had enough money to do the job?”
“Mr. President, what you have just said is one of the most creative and bold plans any president of the United States has ever uttered.”
“Dick, I just lost an aunt to cancer. Last year it was a cousin of mine. Our family has suffered a lot from cancer. I just read that this year there will be twelve million people around the world diagnosed with cancer. Almost eight million souls will die of cancer this year. That means that 20,000 people a day will die of cancer. Unbelievable, isn’t it.”
The President looked pensive. He stood and began pacing around the Oval Room. He stopped walking, put his hands in his jacket pockets, looked towards his Vice President and said, “Dick, I want that bin Laden brought to justice for what he did. He killed thousands of Americans and he’s going to pay for it. That’s our first priority. We have to strengthen our military and be sure that terrorists will never again take an American life. But right up there in importance, I want to eliminate cancer during our lifetimes. Maybe our monument to those souls who lost their lives on September eleventh will be our finding a cure for cancer and saving millions of lives in the future. Maybe we’ll be remembered more for that than any other thing we’ll do.”
The Vice President slowly walked to his President, placed his right hand on the President’s left shoulder and told him, “Mr. President, I feel that the decisions you have made today will put you in the ranks of our greatest presidents – like Washington, Lincoln, F.D.R. You’ve done the right thing!”
The President of the United States permitted himself a slight grin.