02/22/2007 01:30 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Asking the Wrong Question to the Right People

The other day, the news blared the same refrain heard for the past several years from the President, Administration officials, Republican Congress and right-wing radio and TV pundits whenever a Democrat proposes some way to get of the quicksand disaster that is Iraq.

"What kind of message does that send to our enemies?"

Never mind that out of the other side of their mouths they continually challenge anyone who dares be critical of the President's ill-conceived war efforts to come up with their own plan. But whenever someone does, the response is always the same.

"What kind of message does that send to our enemies?"

Anything to defend the course that has 70% of Americans against it. Be a part of this growing, united, national voice, and the response is the same.

"What kind of message does that send to our enemies?"

Repeatedly. Endlessly. The same challenge to anyone daring to offer some idea, any idea on how to get out of this war.

"What kind of message does that send to our enemies?"

And only one response comes to mind whenever I hear this question -

Who in the world cares what kind of message we're sending to our enemies??

Aren't we supposed to care more about the kind of message we send to our friends?

When we're dealing with pressing issues in our lives, what are our first concerns? How our family will react. Our loved ones. Those closest to us. "I had to talk things over with my wife first." "With my husband." "I sat down with my family to discuss my options."

How many of you, when facing a crisis, have stopped a moment, pondered the situation and thought - "What kind of message will my decision send to those who dearly hate me?"

Hands? Anyone?

When we're in a difficult corner, don't we always try to figure how to get as much support as possible? Don't we try to get our friends as close as possible, and as many of them as possible?

Who in their right mind instead leaps to wondering, ""What kind of message does that send to my enemies?"!!

And since that's the way we live our lives - and by "we" I'm using that as code for "every single human creature who has ever lived on the face of the earth in all of time and history - then why should this particular moment in time, this "comma" (in the words of press secretary Tony Snow) be any different?

It shouldn't. It isn't.

The question isn't "What kind of message does that send to our enemies?" The question is "What kind of message does that send to our friends?"

Okay, I'll admit that the actions of the Bush Administration have screwed over so many people that we don't have as many friends as when his Administration started, but that's all the more reason to hold those few we still do have. And, hopefully, those who had been friends but ran screaming for cover might then see it's safe to return.

Beside, the question isn't just about "our friends," but "our country" and "ourselves." When we make these Big Life Decisions, what kind of message does that send to all these? Us.

What's even more bizarre is that the same people asking this question about sending messages to our enemies...they're the exact same people who've been insistent about not talking to those very enemies. President Bush has made it abundantly clear he doesn't want to speak to Iraq, rebel nations or anyone he has check-marked an enemy. So, in a moment worthy of Lewis Carroll and nonsensical Wonderland, how is that that the President and his minions care about what message gets sent to people they refuse to talk to??!

The goal in Iraq would seem to be to end our involvement safely, end it properly - but end it - and get our soldiers back home. Safely. Most people can reasonably agree on that. And when trying to reach that goal, when trying to do what's right for America, the only question to ask first, the only question that means NOT -

"What kind of message does that send to our enemies?"

The question is way down the list. It's right after, "Do I want to chew on this ball of aluminum foil?" and right before "Which opening in my body do I want to stick this pencil?" Yes, sometimes you ask the question - but it's usually when trying to decide what color clothes to wear prior to walking into a gang neighborhood.

But other than that, you start with your friends. And you make sure you ask the right question and send the right messages to them. Or you might find you have fewer friends to ask anything to.