During the holidays, I noticed there was an emphasis on the conservative viewpoint in the Opinion Section of the East Oregonian (Bill O'Reilly, Cal Thomas and others). This gives the appearance of Fox's "Fair and Balanced News" philosophy.

We are in a critical time in our history. Imagine what information will be in the history books of students 20 years from now. They will be bewildered trying to figure out how President Bush justified a war based on information from a single Iraqi refugee with the code name "Curveball" who fled to Germany and told the interrogators he had witnessed the production of weapons of mass destruction. There was never any research to verify what he had revealed.

The key to his testimony was the use of mobile labs placed in semitrailers that roamed around Iraq undetected where biologists created poison canisters of lethal gas. The United Nations sent a team, as did the United States, to find evidence of these vehicles of horror and they were unsuccessful despite searching throughout the entire country and paying people thousands of dollars for information.

Secretary of State Colin Powell was given the undesirable task of giving a speech at the United Nations justifying going to war in Iraq. He was very apprehensive about giving this speech, but was guaranteed by Medal of Freedom recipient George Tenet the facts were irrefutable. However, Tenet writes in his book "there was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat."

Powell performed like the loyal soldier he was and he even showed illustrations of how the mobile labs of WMDs roamed throughout Iraq undetected. This was the biggest hoax ever perpetrated in military history. War was declared, bombs were dropped (proudly labeled "shock and awe"), innocent people were killed and victory was claimed.

The decision to go to war has cost the lives of almost 4,000 Americans and 50,000 have been wounded. Most have witnessed unforgettable horrors causing mental illness.

President Bush made this statement in May 2005: "We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. ... We'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them."

Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are proponents of torture despite the opposition of the United Nations. The U.N. convention against torture was adopted by the General Assembly in 1984 and the treaty has been ratified by 130 countries, including the United States in 1994. Now we have the controversy of the erased tapes of the torture (waterboarding and worse) of suspected terrorists by the CIA. Any idea how the Muslim world viewed the treatment of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq? Those actions were not only illegal but despicable and polarized the world's view of Americans. It only facilitates recruitment into terrorist organizations.

Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has announced the formation of a "New Middle East" and we are seeing this philosophy unfold. It is about control. You have to keep in mind the 9/11 hijackers all were from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon or Egypt. There were no Iraqis. All planes were grounded immediately after 9/11 except for a flight by members of the Saudi Arabian royal family who were allowed to fly back to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is the No. 1 producer of oil and the United States is the No. 1 consumer. Fast forward to today. We have been involved in Afghanistan since 2001, substituting for the Russians who also unsuccessfully tried to conquer them for nine years. The administration is eager to go to war with Iran. Now the Bush administration is bellicose about Pakistan as the infusion of $10 billion has not yielded the targeted rate of return and Musharref is no longer an effective puppet and is desperately out of control.

Do we want to fight three unsuccessful wars simultaneously?

We have given Pakistan $10 billion to fight terrorists and there are 100,000 Pakistani troops dedicated to fighting terrorists. There are 125,000 American troops in the entire country of Iraq. Despite having a bounty of $25 million, bin Laden still has not been captured. Something is wrong with this picture and it may have to do with the fact bin Laden is Muslim and 97 percent of Pakistanis are Muslims. The missing element is a lack of understanding of cultural differences and corruption.

Middle Eastern countries each are different in their religious practices, languages and customs. Afghanistan and Pakistan are mountainous and the people live in isolation that results in the centuries-old practice of their individual tribal customs. In Pakistan, people speak more than 80 languages. Pakistan is 77 percent Sunni and Iraq is around 65 percent Shiite. Religion plays a major role in their societies. Pakistani youth are educated in "madrassas," which are based on religious fundamentalism and foment terrorism.

The candidate you choose for president needs to break from the status quo - an almost insurmountable task based on the "modus operandi" of the Washington establishment. Party bickering almost has brought our country to its knees. The expressed opinions are not an endorsement for any candidate. The winners should be the people and not the party.

There are so many other issues. Do you want to send 7 million undocumented residents to jail? That is one in 32 people. We cannot even accommodate our real criminals for lack of space.

Keep informed and base your decision for your candidate on the quality of life for the next generation. Will their lives be better than yours?

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Jerry Cronin graduated from Pendleton High School and has just retired from teaching at the Ione School. He has taught in K-12 and community college most of his adult life except for being employed by ARCO in Santa Barbara and in Alaska. He returned from San Francisco to take care of his ailing mother, Harriet Cronin, who was a supervisor at the U.S. Forest Service Office in Pendleton.

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