A Cautious Man
November 26, 2003
 
Chaplain Yee's Scarlet Letter
Okay, who thinks that this whole Chaplain Yee case is now just an attempt to ruin the man? News reports now indicate that a case that used to be about espionage, is now about having pornography on a government computer, and adultery. Last month we learned that the original spying charges would not be going forward; that doesn't keep some members of the press from continuing to refer to him as an accused spy. From day one, this case seemed to be the result of unhappiness with Chaplain Yee for just doing his job as a Muslim chaplain, which for him including presenting a more balanced face of Islam to counter the "Islam=Terrorism" mindset of so many inside and outside the military.

So, an adultery charge well serves the interests of anyone who wants to discredit Chaplain Yee in the eyes of the public. Assuming he did cheat on his wife does the military prosecute all of these cases? Apparently not. Even before recent changes, literature on military law shows that adultery was viewed as a crime only to the extent it harmed order and discipline in the armed forces.

The National Institute of Military Justice issued a report (the Cox Report, named after its chair) in 2001 recommending revisions to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Among the recommendations:
The Commission concurs with the majority of these assessments in recommending that consensual sodomy and adultery be eliminated as separate offenses in the UCMJ and the Manual for Courts-Martial. Although popular acceptance of various sexual behaviors has changed dramatically in the fifty years since the UCMJ became effective, the Commission accepts that there remain instances in which consensual sexual activity, including that which is currently prosecuted under Articles 125 and 134, may constitute criminal acts in a military context. Virtually all such acts, however, could be prosecuted without the use of provisions specifically targeting sodomy and adultery. Furthermore, the well known fact that most adulterous or sodomitical acts committed by consenting and often married (to each other) military personnel are not prosecuted at court martial creates a powerful perception that prosecution of this sexual behavior is treated in an arbitrary, even vindictive, manner. This perception has been at the core of the military sex scandals of the last decade.
The elements of the offense are set out in Article 134 of the UCMJ:
(1) That the accused wrongfully had sexual intercourse with a certain person;
(2) That, at the time, the accused or the other person was married to someone else; and
(3) That, under the circumstances, the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces. .
In 2002, President Bush issued an Executive Order adding an explanations to the UCMJ, including guidance for adultery prosecutions:
To constitute an offense under the UCMJ, the adulterous conduct must either be directly prejudicial to good order and discipline or service discrediting. Adulterous conduct that is directly prejudicial includes conduct that has an obvious, and measurably divisive effect on unit or organization discipline, morale, or cohesion, or is clearly detrimental to the authority or stature of or respect toward a servicemember. Adultery may also be service discrediting, even though the conduct is only indirectly or remotely prejudicial to good order and discipline. Discredit means to injure the reputation of the armed forces and includes adulterous conduct that has a tendency, because of its open or notorious nature, to bring the service into disrepute, make it subject to public ridicule, or lower it in public esteem.
Private conduct may or may not meet this standard, and therefore commanders were instructed to consider factors such as: "The impact, if any, of the adulterous relationship on the ability of the accused, the co-actor, or the spouse of either to perform their duties in support of the armed forces; … The misuse, if any, of government time and resources to facilitate the commission of the conduct; … Whether the conduct persisted despite counseling or orders to desist; the flagrancy of the conduct, such as whether any notoriety ensued; and whether the adulterous act was accompanied by other violations of the UCMJ; …The negative impact of the conduct on the units or organizations of the accused, the co-actor or the spouse of either of them, such as a detrimental effect on unit or organization morale, teamwork, and efficiency; …" It remains to be seen what aggravating factors the military has found in Chaplain Yee's case, to justify a court martial.

When adultery prosecutions have come to the attention of the public, it has involved awareness of a double standard. For example, in 1997 Army Major General John Longhouser, the commanding general of the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Maryland, was allowed to retire early at reduced rank after admitting he had had an adulterous relationship with a civilian. At practically the same time, there was the very contentious case of Air Force officer Kelly Flinn, who was threatened with prosecution for adultery, but who was in the end allowed accept a general discharge.

Oh, and at the time Senator Trent Lott had this to say about the adultery prosecution:"I think she is being badly abused. . . . The Pentagon is not in touch with reality on this so-called question of fraternization. I mean, get real. You're still dealing with human beings. . . . I don't understand why she is being singled out and punished the way she is. I think, at the minimum, she ought to get an honorable discharge."

People should consider whether Chaplain Yee's alleged conduct actually constituted a chargeable offense of adultery, or whether he, too, "is being badly abused."

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November 25, 2003
 
Declared Unfit to Live
The trial of John Allen Muhammad, the "D.C. Sniper Mastermind", ended first with a conviction, followed by a recommendation by the jury for the death penalty. It's clear that Mr. Muhammad is responsible for those terrible crimes, and should be put away. But, news reports have shown once again how the death penalty is an imperfect vehicle for society to deal with the worst criminals among us. News reports (such as this one in my local paper) show the toll taken on the ordinary men and women of the jury, who were asked to recommend a sentence of death. One juror "said videotapes shown by the defense of Muhammad playing with his children made him think Friday that Muhammad should be spared the death penalty. But after a sleepless Sunday night, he changed his mind. " Another "said that the defense offering of home videos showing Muhammad playing with his young children, as well as letters his children wrote to him, 'weighed on this jury a lot.' "

It appears that the jurors were ultimately convinced that Mr. Muhammad was totally and unredeemably lost as a human being. "I think there is no chance of rehabilitation for him," one said. "If he can't be rehabilitated and he's a future danger, I could not live with myself if somebody else got hurt and I'd had the chance to stop it." That person also said: "I'd have a difficult time living with myself if he ever hurt or killed another person. There's no way anybody can guarantee he could not do that if he got life in prison."

It's sad to think that our justice system relies on this dehumanizing mechanism. We are told that it's apparently easier to kill someone, than it is to punish them for life. Our system requires jurors to feel that they would themselves be responsible for Mr. Muhammad's actions, if they were to choose to stop the killing by sentencing him to life in prison. One would think that we could find a better way.

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November 21, 2003
 
The Kobayashi Maru
Saavik: "Sir, may I ask you a question?"

Kirk: "What's on your mind, Lieutenant?"

Saavik: "The Kobayashi Maru, sir."

Kirk: "Are you asking me if we're playing out that scenario now?"

Saavik: "On the test, sir. Will you tell me what you did? I would really like to know."

Kirk: "I reprogrammed the simulation so it was possible to rescue the ship."

Saavik: "What?"

David: "He cheated."

Kirk: "I changed the conditions of the test ..."
From Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Q. Are you saying you want him dead or alive, sir? Can I interpret --

THE PRESIDENT: I just remember, all I'm doing is remembering when I was a kid I remember that they used to put out there in the old west, a wanted poster. It said: "Wanted, Dead or Alive." All I want and America wants him brought to justice. That's what we want.
President Bush, September 17, 2001. Meanwhile, today in Iraq:
General Peter Pace, vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at U.S. military headquarters just north of Kabul on Friday that the 11,500-strong U.S.-led force hunting al Qaeda and Taliban militants was not focusing on individuals.

"He (bin Laden) has taken himself out of the picture," Pace told reporters after visiting U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan.

"It is not an individual that is as important as is the ongoing campaign of the coalition against terrorists," he said.

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November 19, 2003
 
That Massachusetts Decision
There will be a lot of discussion about the decision (you know, this one). As it is discussed, whether in terms of politics, morality, religious faith or economics, it would be a good thing to keep in mind the following, from Justice Greaney's concurrence:
I am hopeful that our decision will be accepted by those thoughtful citizens who believe that same-sex unions should not be approved by the State. I am not referring here to acceptance in the sense of grudging acknowledgment of the court's authority to adjudicate the matter. My hope is more liberating. The plaintiffs are members of our community, our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends. As pointed out by the court, their professions include investment advisor, computer engineer, teacher, therapist, and lawyer. The plaintiffs volunteer in our schools, worship beside us in our religious houses, and have children who play with our children, to mention just a few ordinary daily contacts. We share a common humanity and participate together in the social contract that is the foundation of our Commonwealth. Simple principles of decency dictate that we extend to the plaintiffs, and to their new status, full acceptance, tolerance, and respect. We should do so because it is the right thing to do.
Reasonable people will differ, but in doing so will have to confront the simple truth that this issue does not affect strangers, but "members of our community, our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends".

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November 17, 2003
 
Just Another Roll of the Dice
It's ba-ack …

Remember the Terrorism Futures Market? Sorry, the "Policy Analysis Market" ("PAM"). That's the one which, as described by CNN, would "allow traders to buy and sell contracts on political and economic events in the Middle East, including assassinations, the overthrow of regimes and terrorist attacks. " As Government Computer News noted, "The market, which is intended to be an analysis tool to track and predict events in the Middle East, was developed for DARPA by Net Exchange of San Diego. The storm of congressional and public protest when the program was revealed resulted in its being shut down within 24 hours " It's now been reconstituted as a purely private venture. So, no problem, right?

Well, wrong, IMHO.

The "Policy Analysis Market" is based on the theory that this mechanism would develop better "guesses" as to likely terrorist activities. "It originally was developed and funded with the assistance of the Defense Department, where officials cited the uncanny ability of other futures markets to predict election results, weather patterns and other complex events." Let me suggest that you don't need any background in statistics or other mathematics to spot the flaw in this theory. Prediction is basically an attempt to discern patterns within a system, or to put it another way, to "model" that system. An electorate or the weather are two examples of systems which can be modeled, with the hope of finding such patterns. The financial markets are another example of such a system.

The key concept, though, is that these are "systems". As such, it is possible for some action to take place within the system, and have an effect. With weather, well, we can try but we can't do much about what will happen; it's classic "chaos theory", with uncountable inputs making up the system. Elections may be more easily manipulated, but in the larger picture it would take a concerted effort to overcome all of the other inputs in the system.

What about terror? Well, first off, it is a system with fewer inputs than the weather or a national election. Suppose one of the intrepid prognosticators does see a pattern developing, such that there is a possibility of a terrorist action? Although in weather there is nothing that can be done, and in an election there is little (if anything) which can be done with any certainty, this is not the case with the PAM. The whole idea is to find a way to determine where a terrorist activity will take place, and prevent it. Thus, action is taken, based on the modeling, and such action then, itself, becomes an input into that modeling.

To put it another way, if PAM is showing that a particular event is becoming possible, then action will presumably be taken to prevent that event. The fact of such action may, itself, influence the potential events which might be imminent. So, where does that leave us? "The observer becomes part of the observed system." It is an inexact analogy, but this is the same dynamic encapsulated in the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: The outcome of an experiment depends on the view of the observer. The observer has an effect on the actions of the observed.

Or, to put it another way, unlike the weather or elections, the developers of PAM want to predict actions in a system on which they, themselves have a major effect. Would you take that bet? Another way to say this is, PAM may provide a false sense of security, not because anybody will bet on his own terrorist actions (and clean up), but because the purpose of PAM is to change the inputs, in the very areas it is trying to develop predictions. That may make PAM more like Laplace's Demon, a very theoretical creature. But, that also means that maybe we can't know what is going to happen.

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November 14, 2003
 
The Worst Sort of Conversation
There are some signs that political discourse is going to take an even nastier turn in the next year. As an example:

Ted Rall wrote this piece, in the "voice" of an Iraqi attacking Americans, but really as a critique of how the Administration has approached and conducted the war. It's pretty close to the line in terms of taste, but it raises an important issue: Perception is a big deal, if the people decide to attack and kill our people based on how they view us.

Naturally, there are some people who will use this as a chance to "A Ha!". For example, James Lileks:
I suppose it's intended to help us understand the mindset of the enemy. Eh. The French have a saying: his head, it is filled with urine. Or they should have such a saying; I'm sure it would sound elegant and dismissive. These people aren't the loyal opposition anymore; they're just the opposition. They may say they love America, but they love some idealized nonexistent America that can never exist as long as there's individuality and free will. They're like people who say they love women and beat their wife because she doesn't look like the Playboy centerfold. I'm sick of the lot of them. As for Rall, who cares about him? He'll get his reward: the great yawning indifference of history. If people barely remember Kelly and Capp nowadays, what are the chances that they'll remember someone who appeared to draw with his thumb?
I wonder if Gnat knows he uses that kind of language? A different perspective comes from a lesser-known individual, whose weblog was pointed out by Bill Cork on Ut Unum Sint. Jason Van Steenwyk, on IraqNow, describes himself as a U.S. Army Officer corresponding from Iraq. He wrote an entry on the same Rall piece, in which he noted:
Ok, Rall's got a tin ear. Especially publishing something like that on Veteran's Day. He's a big boy. He's got no right to complain.

But, folks, there's also this thing called "irony." The classic, literary theory definition of "irony" is not quite the same as the sense in which the word has come into common usage. The literary theory definition of irony is this: irony is a construction whereby the ostensible meaning of the text is the opposite of the point the author wishes to convey.

(See, I knew that useless degree in literature would come in handy someday.)

Now, in this case, it can't be said that Rall wants to convey is the opposite of the meaning of the surface text. But the same is true of Jonathan Swift's classic of literary irony, A Modest Proposal.

I don't think Andrew Sullivan or any of the rest of the conservative pack of blogs currently chewing on Rall would suggest that Swift was a bowler-hat-wearing, crown-worshipping, Leprechaun-molesting, Ireland-hating Prod because he penned an essay proposing the killing and eating of Irish children.

So why is it necessary that Ted Rall must be a sniveling, terrorist-sympathizing America-hater because he pens his own essay encouraging the killing of American soldiers in Iraq?
I guess I liked that take on it, because I had also thought of Swift's Modest Proposal when I read some of the fulminating about Rall's piece. But, the above said it better than I could.

This is only one skirmish in what may be a longer, nastier dispute. As Jonathan Swift also wrote: Argument, as usually managed, is the worst sort of conversation, as in books it is generally the worst sort of reading.

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November 11, 2003
 
Hail, Freedonia!
I'd be unworthy of the high trust that's been placed in me if I didn't do everything in my power to keep our beloved Freedonia in peace with the world. I'd be only too happy to meet with Ambassador Trentino, and offer him on behalf of my country the right hand of good fellowship. And I feel sure he will accept this gesture in the spirit of which it is offered. But suppose he doesn't. A fine thing that'll be. I hold out my hand and he refuses to accept. That'll add a lot to my prestige, won't it? Me, the head of a country, snubbed by a foreign ambassador. Who does he think he is, that he can come here, and make a sap of me in front of all my people? Think of it - I hold out my hand and that hyena refuses to accept. Why, the cheap ball-pushing swine, he'll never get away with it I tell you, he'll never get away with it!
President Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx), in Duck Soup

And so the war began …

Recently, we heard something very similar from Richard Perle, concerning the reported peace overtures from Iraq:
Perle told ABC television's ''This Week With George Stephanopoulos'' that the offer by former chief of intelligence, Gen. Tahir Habbush made through Imad Hage, a prominent Lebanese-American businessman, was one of many approaches for a last-minute peace deal.

''There were a number of governments that were trying to broker something with the Iraqis,'' Perle said. ''So this was not credible, this offline approach, indirect as it was.''

The Bush administration has been accused by Democrats of being overeager to go to war with Iraq, ignoring possible diplomatic avenues to peace including that conveyed through Perle and exaggerating the threat from Iraq.

...

Perle said it also included oil concessions and he thought it was part of an effort to use that offer to discredit U.S. intentions. ''This was a trap,'' Perle said. ''I think it was clearly a trap. It was intended to discredit the administration's policy, it was intended to discredit our effort to liberate Iraq.''
"A fine thing that would have been", to paraphrase President Firefly.

These meetings and other communications all took place just days before the start of military operations on March 19, 2003. According to the news stories confirmed by Mr. Perle, a Lebanese-American businessman, Imad Hage, met with Richard Perle. The meetings had been set up through Michael Maloof, who was working in the Pentagon as an analyst in an intelligence unit set up to look for ties between terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and countries like Iraq. Hage, in turn, had met in Beirut with Hassan al-Obeidi, chief of foreign operations of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, and later in Baghdad with Tahir Jalil Habbush, the director of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (and No. 16 on the United States list of most wanted Iraqi leaders). The key part of the story, and of the chronology, is this:
Working through Mr. Maloof, Mr. Hage finally arranged to meet with Mr. Perle in London in early March. The two met in an office in Knightsbridge for about two hours to discuss the Iraqi proposals, the men said. Mr. Hage told Mr. Perle that the Iraqis wanted to meet with him or someone from the administration.

Mr. Perle said he subsequently contacted a C.I.A. official to ask if he should meet with the Iraqis. "The answer came back that they weren't interested in pursuing it," Mr. Perle said in an interview, "and I was given the impression that there had already been contacts."

Mr. Perle now plays down the importance of his contact with Mr. Hage. He said he found it difficult to believe that Saddam Hussein would make serious proposals through that kind of channel. "There were so many other ways to communicate," he said. "There were any number of governments involved in the end game, the Russians, French, Saudis."

Nonetheless, Mr. Hage continued to deliver messages from the Iraqis to Mr. Maloof.

In one note to Mr. Perle in mid-March, Mr. Maloof relayed a message from Mr. Hage that Mr. Obeidi and Mr. Habbush "were prepared to meet with you in Beirut, and as soon as possible, concerning `unconditional terms.' " The message from Mr. Hage said, "Such a meeting has Saddam Hussein's clearance."

No meetings took place, and the invasion began on March 20. Mr. Hage, speaking in Beirut, wonders what might have happened if the Americans had pursued the back channel to Baghdad.

What's especially bizarre about this story is the fact that, at exactly the same time, the Administration was making a great show of giving the Iraq regime a "last chance", a "get out of Dodge City now" type of warning. The President spoke on March 17, 2003, saying:
Today, no nation can possibly claim that Iraq has disarmed. And it will not disarm so long as Saddam Hussein holds power. For the last four-and-a-half months, the United States and our allies have worked within the Security Council to enforce that Council's long-standing demands. Yet, some permanent members of the Security Council have publicly announced they will veto any resolution that compels the disarmament of Iraq. These governments share our assessment of the danger, but not our resolve to meet it. Many nations, however, do have the resolve and fortitude to act against this threat to peace, and a broad coalition is now gathering to enforce the just demands of the world. The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours.
In recent days, some governments in the Middle East have been doing their part. They have delivered public and private messages urging the dictator to leave Iraq, so that disarmament can proceed peacefully. He has thus far refused. All the decades of deceit and cruelty have now reached an end. Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing. For their own safety, all foreign nationals -- including journalists and inspectors -- should leave Iraq immediately.
So, the President told Iraq they had one last chance. A Presidential advisor, Mr. Perle, has indicated that he had communications from Iraq with an offer to avoid the war. But, that was "a trap". As President Firefly would say: "Who does he think he is, that he can come here, and make a sap of me in front of all my people?"

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November 10, 2003
 
Education Pundit
Anybody who's tried blogging has looked at Instapundit, either to "emulate the master" or to find topics to torque one off. Being in the latter category, this item just seemed to jump out. Specifically, it was Professor Reynolds' pithy entry today: THE GOOSE CREEK INCIDENT -- a commercial for homeschooling and vouchers? The referenced story is one you may have read, concerning a school in South Carolina where a drug bust was attempted. The police came in, searching for drugs. There were videos of the police with guns drawn, and students on the floor while searches were being conducted:
Graham Boyd of the American Civil Liberties Union says police officers should never have come into the school with guns drawn. Instead, the students suspected of having drugs should have been brought to the principal's office to have their bags checked.

The school's principal says the raid sends a clear message to the students that those who bring drugs to school could wind up in jail. Principal George McCrackin stands behind the decision, "The high school has always had a reputation for being a safe, clean school. And I'll utilize whatever forces I deem necessary to keep this campus safe and clean."

McCrackin says several students were cuffed when they refused to get on the floor, "I don't think it was an overreaction on our part. I'm sure it was an inconvenience to those individuals who were in the hallway, but there is a valuable experience there."

School officials say there have been at least four cases of students bringing drugs to school. Officers also say they're sure drugs and a large amount of cash was floating around the school. Police say the school alerted them to suspicious behavior observed on surveillance cameras. Officers looked at tapes and watched live surveillance before they decided there was enough cause to enter the campus.
Obviously, not something which should have happened. The people involved should be held responsible, nobody could argue with that. Even the state is investigating the use of force.

Nevertheless, Professor Reynolds writes today that it's an advertisement for vouchers and home schooling:
Sadly, this sort of behavior is far from uncommon in government-run schools. But more and more parents are looking at private schools, vouchers, charter schools, and home schooling as alternatives. To a lot who haven’t made up their minds, I think that Principal McCrackin’s behavior may provide an incentive to move their kids out of public schools that are looking increasingly like prisons, and into more congenial environments.
One has to ask: Where the heck did that come from? It's a bit of a leap of logic to extrapolate that thought from the incident described. It seems to be the type of argument that would be made by someone who starts with the proposition that there is something "wrong" with the concept of a public school serving the community (which is just another way of saying "government-run", isn't it?). If the Professor believes that private schools are immune from the type of drug traffickers who were sought in he school in South Carolina, that's another leap of logic.

One could just as easily point to an extreme example, such as the recent case of adoptive parents starving their children in Collingswood, New Jersey:
In downtown Collingswood yesterday, Mayor Jim Maley said he has had conversations with school district officials making tentative plans to revamp the district's home-schooling policy.
The Jackson's sons were home-schooled, Maley said, which required little contact between the school system and the family.
Given that single incident, what sort of grade would the Professor give a student who declared: " Sadly, this sort of behavior is far from uncommon among the home-schooled. To a lot who haven’t made up their minds, I think that the Jackson’s behavior may provide an incentive to move their kids out of home-schools that are looking increasingly like prisons, and into more congenial environments." That's a ridiculous argument. But, it is the exact same type of argument as the first example.

Maybe it is the case that people with a preconceived notion, will happily spin any incident as providing an example reinforcing their worldview.

Indeed.

(Update on 11/11: The Professor had a follow-up today on this, noting that "there was hardly anyone who was prepared to defend the tactics involved there, though the lessons that people took from the event varied." Maybe other people couldn't figure out how he drew his conclusions, although it doesn't seem that the Professor often revisits his targets in this manner.)

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November 06, 2003
 
Politicizing a War
There's a lot of fuming going on this week about a memo from somewhere within the Democratic side of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The memo was excerpted on "NewsMax" (at this link), which describes it as follows: :
A memo circulated among Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence shows the committee's minority plotting to use classified information against the White House in next year's presidential campaign.
The excerpt from the memo concludes as follows:
"SUMMARY: Intelligence issues are clearly secondary to the public's concern regarding the insurgency in Iraq. Yet we have an important role to play in revealing the misleading, if not flagrantly dishonest, methods and motives of senior administration officials who made the case for unilateral preemptive war.
"The approach outlined above seems to offer the best prospect for exposing the administration's dubious motives."
The reactions to this will run the gamut, from those who view this as unpatriotic attacks on the Commander-in-Chief during wartime, to those who would like to see the loyal opposition do a lot more digging to find out how we got into this situation.

Hopefully, though, we can at least agree that issues of war and peace should not be used for partisan political advantage. For example, last year when the President wanted authority to go to war:
Democrats waiting for the U.N. to act? I can't imagine an elected United States -- elected member of the United States Senate or House of Representatives saying, I think I'm going to wait for the United Nations to make a decision. It seems like to me that if you're representing the United States, you ought to be making a decision on what's best for the United States. If I were running for office, I'm not sure how I'd explain to the American people -- say, vote for me, and, oh, by the way, on a matter of national security, I think I'm going to wait for somebody else to act.
And so I -- we'll see. My answer to the Congress is, they need to debate this issue and consult with us, and get the issue done as quickly as possible. It's in our national interests that we do so. I don't imagine Saddam Hussein sitting around, saying, gosh, I think I'm going to wait for some resolution. He's a threat that we must deal with as quickly as possible.
I don't think that memo can hold a candle to statements like that.

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November 05, 2003
 
Peace Stuff
You may be, or may know someone who is, a person who always thought that there had to be a better course of action than a full-blown invasion of Iraq. Therefore, you may or may not be interested in how this story develops:
As American soldiers massed on the Iraqi border in March and diplomats argued about war, an influential adviser to the Pentagon received a secret message from a Lebanese-American businessman: Saddam Hussein wanted to make a deal.

Iraqi officials, including the chief of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, had told the businessman that they wanted Washington to know that Iraq no longer had weapons of mass destruction, and they offered to allow American troops and experts to conduct an independent search. The businessman said in an interview that the Iraqis also offered to hand over a man accused of being involved in the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 who was being held in Baghdad. At one point, he said, the Iraqis pledged to hold elections.
The mention of the "man accused of being involved in the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 who was being held in Baghdad", may refer to this guy, whom we have previously discussed as being the most famous suspect "in plain sight" in Baghdad.

The whole story may or may not be true. But, somewhere in all of the distortions and obvious rush to war, is it so outrageous to think that there could have been another way?

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November 04, 2003
 
The Compassionate One
Driving home this evening, I heard the President's remarks in California, when asked about the recent, tragic loss of life in Iraq:
Q: Mr. President, as you know, Sunday was the deadliest day in Iraq since the end of major combat. What was your reaction to the downing of the Chinook and the 16 soldiers who were killed on board? And, also, should Americans be prepared for more such deadly days ahead?

THE PRESIDENT: I am saddened any time that there's a loss of life. I'm saddened, because I know a family hurts. And there's a deep pain in somebody's heart. But I do want to remind the loved ones that their sons and daughters -- or the sons, in this case -- died for a cause greater than themselves, and a noble -- and a noble cause, which is the security of the United States. A free and secure Iraq is in our national security interests. We are at war.
There is a reason I highlighted the phrase, "But I do want to remind the loved ones that their sons and daughters -- or the sons, in this case". That is because both men and women died in that attack on Sunday. That is a fact which anyone who read the news this morning would have known. That is a fact which greeted me in my morning paper, sitting with my cup of coffee after I walked back from voting this morning. That is a fact which, I would think, the President could have at his fingertips if he wanted to.

But, our President has admitted that it's not important to him to follow the news.

It's not important to him to actually find out what's going on in the world, if his advisors don't want to tell him about something.

It's not important to him to know anything at all about the people who die every day fighting this war.

So, even though he was speaking in California, the home state of one of our female soldiers who perished on Sunday in a terrible attack, our President didn't even care enough to know that, and he essentially denied she ever existed.

And in related news, the government is now taking steps to fully staff the draft boards.

(Update on 11/11: The web page mentioned just above is now gone. It had been a notice inviting applications to serve on local draft boards. Does its absence mean the boards are now fully staffed, or just that a decision was made that the whole "re-start the draft" planning was getting too public?)

(Newer Update on 11/11: The always-reliable Memory Hole has the old version of that web page here.)

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