Don Williams
Photo by Justin Williams

Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

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Before you fire off that next letter... consider this
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   03/10/2006)

A few words in my own defense...

I'm learning to love letters to the editor. Honestly, they help sell books, fill my writing classes, and they let me know who my friends are when we meet in public. Sometimes they prompt brave admirers to write lovely letters in my behalf—something I truly appreciate.

I'm also learning to appreciate angry emails. If emails full of bluster and indignation, along with others brimming with praise, didn't arrive weekly, I'd know I was doing something wrong. Besides, Jesus says bless them that curse you, and though I can't prove it, I suspect I'm a bigger fan of his teachings than most. So, as my Daddy used to say, God bless you, friends and neighbors out there in Radio Land. Keep those cards and letters coming.

One thing though—and trust me when I tell you this—some of you letter-writers have really made yourselves look bad over the years. Not all, by any stretch but some (you know who you are), so I'm writing the following for your own good. Before firing off your next letter, take a deep breath and look at some of the things you got pre-CISE-ly wrong in previous letters and emails. Didn't keep a list? Here, use mine. You were:

Wrong about Saddam's role in 9/11.

Wrong about weapons of mass destruction.

Wrong about Iraqis throwing flowers.

Wrong about oil paying for the invasion.

Wrong about the torture.

Wrong about a quick and total victory.

Wrong about Ahmad Chalabi.

Wrong about Halliburton.

Wrong about Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch.

I could go on, and that's just under the heading, Wrong About Iraq.

Now, as you thoughtfully compose your next epistle, ask yourself this. Should one be punished for being right? And doesn't history show that people like ole Donnie Boy—as some are wont to call me—were precisely RIGHT when you blasted us three years ago for predicting that this war, like many another war, would be:

Based on lies.

Become a quagmire.

Lead to civil war.

Cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

Cost tens of thousands of lives.

Cripple and maim thousands of brave soldiers.

Empower more terrorists.

And isn't it time you admitted we were right TWO years ago when we suggested that torture is a top-down policy and shouldn't be blamed exclusively on our troops? Now, to prove it we have threats of vetoes and lawsuits by Bush-Cheney, memos by Donald Rumsfeld, photographs of trained dogs and torture devices and worse. You say torture is necessary in the post-911 world? Fine, let's have that debate, but first acknowledge we didn't make this stuff up. Otherwise, how do we progress in our common quest to understand the world and how to use our nation's magisterial power in coherent ways?

With me so far? If so, then isn't it time you acknowledged we had a point when we suggested years ago that our nation is addicted to oil. That oil money can fund terrorists as well as friends, that we're paving paradise in order to burn more oil, that burning oil feeds global warming, which just might've been a factor in the storm that swallowed New Orleans? If all that's possible, then why attack us for saying so?

And isn't it conceivable that our nuclear weapons policy is incoherent? That it rewards India for accomplishing the very thing we're threatening to punish Iran for trying? That our own leaders are entangled in obvious conflicts of interest? That their extended families are profiting from war and weapons and secret energy deals and government access? That they've undermined a dozen international treaties that took five presidents of two political parties decades to achieve? That they've placed foxes in charge of our most delicate prize eggs in those hen houses known as Interior, Justice, Treasury and others? That Cheney got special consideration after shooting the old guy? That the Dubai Ports deal really smells fishy? Honestly, could I make this stuff up?

Shouldn't you admit our leaders are not conservative by any stretch? That, far from it, they're spending your children's retirement, while putting us all in hock to China, Japan and the Arabs for as far as we can see into the future?

Finally, isn't there just a sliver of a chance my heart's in the right place and I write what I write because it's mostly true and I love my country and our world?

Now go ahead and write that letter. I look forward to reading it.