Dear George

Dear Mr. President,

It was truly an inspiration that led you to create the Future Leaders of Iraq Program (FLIP). The fifty young Iraqi men and women who have come to America to see democracy in action will return at the end of the year with a new vision for their country. Already they are looking for ways to apply the lessons of Iowa to the Middle East – but sometimes raising questions that aren’t too easy to answer. I hope you can take time from your busy schedule to suggest ways of dealing with these problems out of your own familiarity with the American primary process and the challenge of creating new democracies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

One particularly difficult question was raised in our group meeting yesterday. We have tried to encourage them to see how democracy brings unity and stability, but the world news reports sometimes get them confused. The election a few months ago in Palestine that was encouraged by the United States but left that territory divided in two was not helpful. The more recent election in Kenya that has led to widespread rioting and destruction has raised further questions. Yesterday, one of the young men in our group said he had been thinking about the stability of China and Singapore where strong central leadership, such as Saddam Hussein provided but without the immoderate use of repression, has led to economic growth and prosperity. I told them the whole point of democracy is freedom and repression just doesn’t enhance freedom very much. That stopped them for a while but they came back to it later.

I and the other members of the FLIP team have, of course, tried to impress on the young Iraqis the importance of transcending religious divisions. People in democracies vote for secular programs without regard to religious belief, we told them – but now we’ve seen evangelicals turning out in Iowa to defeat a Mormon candidate and our group sees it as reminiscent of Sunni-Shiite divisions in Iraq and begins to question some of the most fundamental lessons we wanted them to learn.

The whole primary process also raises questions for many of them. We have tried to emphasize the importance of parties and candidates with a broad national appeal rather than a regional identity, but they ask me why it is then that we begin our primary process in states so untypical of the country. They are trying to apply the lessons of Iowa to a primary process in Iraq that would see candidates battling to win delegates first in Qum and then in Kirkuk so that one endorsed by the proper imams would have an initial advantage while the second round would go to one with Kurdish roots. A secular Iraqi without a clear tribal identity might have a broader appeal but would never survive the early rounds of an American style election.

I am grateful for the trust you placed in me when you asked me to provide leadership for the FLIP program but seeing our democracy through Iraqi eyes has made me aware of aspects of our democracy I may not have sufficiently understood. Any input from your wisdom would be gratefully appreciated.

Yours truly,

Sam Wilmott

Dear Sam,

It was good to hear from you and I’m really pleased that the FLIP program is off to such a good start. I just know that those brave Iraq people with their purple fingers want democracy and we just have to find ways to show them what it’s all about.

I can understand why your group would be confused by the way the press has played up the religious angle of the Iowa primaries, but they need to understand that the differences between Mormons and evangelicals aren’t like the ones between Shias and Sunnis. After all their divisions go back a thousand years and ours only go back 150 years. And while there was some unpleasantness about the way we dealt with the Mormons early on because of polygamy and things like that, they’ve learned to act like regular Americans and we all believe pretty much the same thing so that’s a good example for Iraqis to learn from. I sort of wonder whether the polygamy thing might even give Mitt an edge up as president in dealing with the Iraqis – something in common to help them understand each other. I’ll ask Condi what she thinks.

We have to make it clear to your group that repression isn’t good for people who love freedom. They don’t let people have guns in China and Singapore and that’s why the government can control their lives in a way that just isn’t acceptable. I’ve been talking to folks at the NRA about ways they can be helpful to us in opening up China for American products and they’re eager to get a chapter started in Peijing (if that’s how you spell it). Of course, they’re thrilled with all the guns the Iraqis have and just know when they get their act together it’s going to be a better place because of them. Somebody like Saddam can’t take over a country where enough people have guns.

Sorry I can’t write more but Dick Cheney wants me over at his office and he hates to be kept waiting.



Dear Mr. President,

I just knew you would have some good insights for me to share with our group. They really liked that stuff about polygamy and Romney – hadn’t really warmed up to him before that but it puts him in a whole new light for them. I don’t think they know a lot about Mormons in Iraq. Saddam didn’t appreciate American missionaries knocking on doors in Baghdad.

I got into trouble though when we started on the repression thing. They asked me how come they can’t have some repression along with democracy the way we do. Of course, I told them we have complete freedom here and no repression at all, but they started in about how come the government can listen in on telephone calls without even a court order. Somehow they thought all our phone calls get listened to and I had to explain it’s only when bad people are making calls that we listen in. And they asked how we know it’s the bad guys before we listen and it got kind of confused but I kept saying “You have to understand that this is America where we don’t believe in government control so nobody who behaves himself has to worry about a thing.” Then somebody brought up torture and I said you explained that Americans don’t do torture. And they got talking about water boarding and I told them even the Attorney General can’t say that that’s torture so how can they say it is. But then they began quoting Giuliani about doing “whatever it takes” and Romney about “enhanced interrogation” and I had trouble keeping up with it. It’s just amazing to me that anyone would think Americans do things like that and that’s what so great about this program that lets them see the real America where you can go into the Dunkin Donuts and just know the folks there wouldn’t torture anybody.

We’re off to New Hampshire now to give them a taste of old fashioned New England democracy in action. They keep asking me if we don’t have any warm states and why don’t they vote first and the cold states later. As I said, they always come up with new ways of looking at things and I sometimes just have to say it’s the American way and the whole idea is for them to learn something they can apply back home. They didn’t have much to say to that.

Thanks for keeping in touch.

Yours truly,


Dear Sam,

It’s just so heart-warming to hear about the way the FLIP program is getting along. It’s just a shame the way the media confuses people so they can’t see the difference between
dictators torturing people and a freedom-loving government doing what it has to do because we’re in a war with people who will do whatever they can to destroy us unless we do what we have to do to stop them.

Can’t take more time now. Dick has some new stuff I have to do. Keep in touch.


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