One of the best suggestions to counter terrorism comes from a resident of Lake Wobegon. Author and radio personality Garrison Keillor said that ďlibraries are the best counter-terrorism tool we have.Ē

I think he said this at a librariansí convention. He knew his audience. Which got me to wondering how well I know my audience. It is part of the territory when appearing in public print to hear from those who love your words or hate them. (I plan in future to write my columns with a bit of salt, since many read my words with a grain of salt.)

When I get on my patriotic soapbox, Iím accused of being far from a patriot. (I still think without descent there is no freedom.) When I get on the religious soapbox, I am often misunderstood. (Too liberal for us and too conservative for others.) When I use my dry wit, folks donít know if I am serious or cracking a joke.

Once I answered a colleagueís question with a dry wit attitude and did not know that he took it serious and was angry with me for a year. When I learned of his misfortune (being angry is most unfortunate) I went immediately to explain.

I think my soapbox must have holes in it. Or tiny termites are eating away at its innards. The old stability seems missing. Maybe it is getting so old it canít hold me up anymore. With my new titanium knees it is still easy to step up on the soapbox. But does it have the strength to carry me through another tirade?

I have learned that my Bulletin columns fit nicely on the bottom of some birdcages (face up, of course). When my wife read that readerís e-mail she had the best laugh she has had in months. There is some good in everything.

Getting back to Lake Wobegon, thereís nothing like visiting the local library and learning about all sorts of subjects. America is blessed with free libraries. We have no excuse for being uninformed about the Mesopotamian plain or the experiences of heroes and villains which have come from there for over five centuries.

Most libraries also have a lot of newspapers and news magazines to keep us up to date. Columnist and friend John Young of the Waco Tribune-Herald enlightened me when he wrote that the Los Angeles Times reported the number of people employed by U.S.-hired private contractors in Iraq now exceeds the number of U.S. troops. These contractors get astronomical salaries (compared to the troops), and are siphoning away top-level retired military personnel.

I have read several places that these contractors operate outside Iraqi law. Not the way I want my tax dollars used.

These contractors are in Iraq primarily sharing with the military, protecting convoys, guarding reconstruction. When four of them were killed and burned on a bridge some time back was the first we had heard of these high-priced mercenaries

The Sunnis continue to boycott the Iraqi Parliament. They have not had a quorum for some months. And they are taking off the entire month of August - while our soldiers continue to try and protect them and the streets of Baghdad. Our Congress does not say much about the Iraqi Parliament holiday because they are off for the month too.

In the meantime our soldiers do their best to do their duty. A duty that is all but impossible. To have our people killed and hurt for a bunch of Iraqi politicians, and our Congress, who cannot agree to do anything is beyond the pale. Iím stepping gingerly off my soapbox.

Britt Towery is a former missionary, freelance writer and published author. He welcomes reader feedback at bet@suddenlink.net.