06/15/2006 01:13 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Senator Clinton, May I Ask a Few Questions?

Dear Sen. Clinton:

Forget Zarqawi. The real problem in Iraq is that most Iraqis want us out, and many of them want us dead. They don't believe that we'll leave when we're asked. Nearly half of them (and almost all Sunnis) support the attacks on American troops. Although 70% of them want us to set a timetable for withdrawal, neither the Republicans nor you want to establish one.

And what are we supposedly fighting and dying for in this faraway land? The Iraqis' right to make their own decisions. Hmm.

The Shi'ites fear us for our opposition to Iran, and because they think we want to keep control over their oil-rich country. Sunnis hate us for overthrowing their leader.

Hate. Fear. Lack of trust. And the operative word is "trust." The more trust we gain, the less they will hate and fear us.

The University of Maryland polled the Iraqis, and their report (warning: pdf) raises some questions:

Most Iraqis want a deadline for US troop withdrawal. Senator, here's what you said on Tuesday:

"I do not think it is a smart strategy for the president to continue with his open-ended commitment ... nor do I think it is smart strategy to set a date certain."

You say that it's wrong to be "open-ended," and equally wrong to "set a date certain." I'm confused -- is there a third option, besides "setting a date" or "not setting a date"? Continued combat without an end date is an "open-ended" commitment, just like Bush's. Or isn't it? Please clarify.

Most Iraqis believe we want to stay there permanently, and don't trust us when we say otherwise. Senator, a schedule for withdrawal would address this problem, yet you say it's not "smart" to comply with the wishes of most Iraqis and provide one. Why not? Please be specific.

Conversely, what are we accomplishing by staying there without a timeframe for withdrawal? In today's upside-down logic, we don't need to justify continuing a war but we need to justify ending it. That's backward. I want to know what you think we're achieving by staying in Iraq.

"Nearly half of Iraqis approve of attacks on US-led forces--including nine out of 10 Sunnis." That means that lots of Iraqis want our soldiers to get killed. We're not exactly winning hearts and minds by staying there. What do you think we are winning?

Most Iraqis accept the validity of their elections, but "the overwhelming majority of Sunnis do not". That's a recipe for civil war. Do you think we can end another country's civil war? If so, what's your plan and how does it differ from the President's?

Or do you support the current Bush war strategy? Please answer "yes" or "no." If "no," please list the differences between his strategy and yours.

How will you measure the success of your strategy and keep the public informed on your progress?

The Iraqi people overwhelmingly want us out of Iraq, but don't believe that we'll leave. The American people feel pretty much the same way. How can you win the trust of either if you won't take a clear position on the most critical issue a leader can ever face -- war and peace?

There's a widely held belief that your position on the war is a political calculation, designed to offset your "liberal image." To paraphrase a question asked long ago: How can you ask someone to be the last man or woman to die for your ambition?

If you feel that question's unfair, please give us your vision for Iraq. Make it clear and honest, without finessing or posturing. If you continue this gamesmanship you're going to fall -- hard. I may not be Carville or Begala or Shrum, or anyone else you know and respect, but I'm right about this.

Trust me.

A Night Light