From Coleman Barks, the translator of Rumi,

to President Bush:


Just This Once President Bush, before you order air strikes, imagine the
first cruise missile as a direct hit on your closest friend. That might be
Laura. Then twenty-five other family and friends. There are no survivors.

Now imagine some other way to do it. Quadruple the inspectors, or put a
thousand and one U.N. people in. Then call for peace activists to volunteer
to go to Iraq for two weeks each. Flood that country with well-meaning
tourists, people curious about the land that produced the great saints,
Gilani, Hallaj, and Rabia. Set up hostels near those tombs. Encourage peace
people to spend a bunch of money in shops, to bring rugs home and samovars
by the bushel. Send an Arabic translator with every four peace activists.
The U.S. government will pay for the translators and for building and
staffing the hostels, one hostel for every twenty activists and five
translators. The hostels are state of the art, and they belong to the Iraqis
at the end of this experiment.

Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela, and my friend, Jonathan Granoff at the U.N.,
will be the core organization team. No one knows what might come of this.
Maybe nothing, or maybe it would convince some Iraqis and some of the world
that we really do not wish to kill anybody, and that we truly are not out to
appropriate oil reserves. We're working on building a hydrogen vehicle as
fast as we can, aren't we? Put no limit on the number of activists from all
over who might want to hang out and explore Iraq for two weeks. Is anything
left of Babylon? There could be informal courses for college credit and
pickup soccer games every evening at five. Long leisurely suppers. The U. S.
government furnishes air transportation, that is, hires airliners from the
country of origin and back for each peace tourist, who must carry and spend
the equivalent of $1001 US inside Iraq. Keep part of the invasion force
nearby as police, but let those who claim to deeply detest war try something
else just this once, for one year. Call our bluff. If this madman Saddam's
WMD threat is not, somehow, eliminated by next February, you can go in with
special ops, and do it that way.

Medical services, transportation inside Iraq, lots of big colorful
buses--let the pilgrims paint them!--along with many other ideas that will
be thought of later during the course of this innocently, blatantly, foolish
project will all also be funded by the U.S. government.

There's a practice known as sama, a deep listening to poetry and music, with
sometimes movement involved. We could experiment with whole nights of that,
staying up until dawn, sleeping in tents during the day. So instead of war
there's a peace period from March 2003 through February 2004. It could be as
though war had already happened, as it has, and the healing and rebuilding.
Now we're in the celebration afterward. I'll be the first to volunteer for
two weeks of wandering winter desert and reading Hallaj, Abdul Qadir Gilani,
dear Rabia, and the life-saving 1001 Arabian Nights.

I am Coleman Barks, a retired English professor living in Athens, Georgia,
and I don't really consider this proposal foolish.
Coleman Barks