It has come to my attention that there is widespread ignorance in America about the Middle East.
We're spending $100,000 a minute in Iraq and the administration is looking for another $100 billion to spend there, so we should at least know where our money's going. I want to clear up a few things about the Middle East.
First, you should understand that the Middle East isn't really in the middle of anything. "The East" is a vague area in itself so no one really knows where the middle of it is. Many Americans of course don't care either.
The two countries we're most deeply involved with are Iran and Iraq, and their confusing. One reason for that confusion is the two countries sound so much alike. Just one letter difference. It's as if we had two states - one called Utah and the other called Utaq.
In ancient times, it was easier to tell Iran and Iraq apart because Iraq was called Mesopotamia and Iran was called Persia.
We're lucky that, for the time being anyway, we're fighting Iraq and not Iran because Iran is four times as big as Iraq and we're having enough trouble with the little country.
Iraq is estimated to have about 25 million people. That figure is in question though because only one third of all Iraqis can read and it seems likely that if they can't read, they may not count too good either.
Iraq is only two-thirds the size of Texas, even though it has more people – and that accounts for why Iraq is crowded and Texas is not.
Another difference between Iraq and Texas is, President Bush doesn't go to Iraq on vacation.
The Middle East is where Omar Khayyam's stories about magic carpets came from. We use helicopters there now instead of magic carpets and that may be a mistake because you have never heard of a magic carpet being shot down.
I hope I've cleared up some of the confusion in your mind about the Middle East.
Copies of my talk are unavailable on either the Internet or the outernet.
[Editor's Note: Oh, yes, they are – right here on CBSNews.com!]
By Andy Rooney