Why is the average American confused about Iraq? Let me count the ways:

One side says Saddam Hussein is a madman aiming for our destruction.

The other side says he is a fourth-rate dictator who can barely threaten his neighbors.

One side says in three months Hussein could have a nuclear bomb ready to use against us.

The other side says Hussein is five to 10 years away — and only if he gets help.

One side says Saddam and Al Qaeda are buddy-buddy terrorists, united by a thirst for American blood.

The other side says Saddam and Al Qaeda have long been enemies and would like nothing better than to see the other destroyed.

One side says Saddam will share his weapons with Osama bin Laden.

The other side says: “Come on. Why arm a man who might use those arms against you?”

One side says Saddam has chemical and biological weapons.

The other side says the best way to ensure he uses them is to attack him.

One side says the war on Iraq would require only 50,000 troops and be quick, tactical and efficient.

The other side says the war would be quicksand, sucking 250,000 troops into street-to-street combat.

One side says “remember 1991” and how no one thought we could do that either.

The other side says in 1991 we had half the world supporting us and helping to pay the costs.

One side says a Sept. 11 hijacker had some kind of Iraqi connection, reason enough to take out the regime.

The other side says 15 of those hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, and we’re not threatening to blow that country to pieces.

What about the economy?

One side says, “Wait for the UN.”

The other side says, “Bleep the UN.”

One side says, “Saddam has violated UN resolutions!”

The other side says, “We’re about to violate a UN resolution!”

One side says: “Come on. We can easily find and kill Saddam Hussein.”

The other side says, “We haven’t found Osama bin Laden yet.”

One side says a war in Iraq could cost up to $200 billion and would sink our already wobbly economy.

The other side says our economy is strong and look how much Sept. 11 already has cost us.

One side says an attack on Iraq would turn the Arab world against us.

The other side says an attack on Iraq would privately please many Arab nations.

One side quotes the president, who last year said, “We are not in the business of nation building.”

The other side quotes the president, who last week said, “We will help rebuild a liberated Iraq.”

What about assassination?

One side says it would never politicize the war, that the stakes are too high for that.

The other side waves a memo from the president’s top political adviser that says, “Stress the war.”

One side says it’s un-American for three Congressmen to go to Iraq and they should “come home and shut (their) mouths.”

The other side says what’s really un-American is to tell elected officials where they can’t go and what they can’t say.

One side says U.S. law prohibits the assassination of any foreign leader.

The other side says assassination “costs a lot less” than a war — wink, wink.

One side says this is about freedom, security and the American way.

The other says this is all about oil.

One side says, “He who hesitates is lost.”

The other side says, “Fools rush in.”

And so the people in this great country say: stay, go, trust, don’t trust, be patient, be proactive, kill, don’t kill, protect, endanger, attack, prepare, depose, disarm, listen, don’t listen, war, peace.

You want to know why the average American is confused about Iraq?

Ask our leaders. On both sides.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. “The Mitch Albom Show” is 3-6 weekdays on WJR-AM (760).

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