Two Views

Two articles on the Iraq/al Qaeda connection. With the recent staff statement of the 9-11 Commission, commentators on either side of the issue are weighing in.

Here's the New York Times:
It's hard to imagine how the commission investigating the 2001 terrorist attacks could have put it more clearly yesterday: there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, between Saddam Hussein and Sept. 11.

Here's The Nation:
The connection"--neoconservative shorthand for the purported link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda--is crumbling. Two days after Vice President Cheney asserted that Saddam "had long-established ties with Al Qaeda" and one day after George W. Bush echoed his second-in-command, the independent bipartisan 9/11 commission said that no such bond existed.

And here's the National Review:
The 9/11 Commission's staff has come down decidedly on the side of the naysayers about operational ties between Saddam Hussein's regime and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. This development is already being met with unbridled joy by opponents of the Iraq war, who have been carping for days about recent statements by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that reaffirmed the deposed Iraqi regime's promotion of terror.
The celebration is premature.

I tended toward the views expressed in the Times until fairly recently. Earlier NR pieces (see here) have made me think the case isn't closed. Nothing that's come out today has changed that.

posted by Doug Brown
Partial Retraction

I'd like to spend some more time on something I wrote in haste the other day. On the subject of political speech in churches, I wrote:
While most of the political speech I've heard coming from the pulpit has been, to be generous, mediocre, I'm uncomfortable with the idea of silencing political speech in any forum.
This is hyperbolic, in the vein of "I may disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." Which, of course, really means, "I'm ignoring you."

There are times and places that are appropriate for political speech and others that are not. A standing question which has been answered in different ways over the course of American history is which kind of place a church is. As this book shows, political speech has not always been a stranger to American churches. Both the state and the church are, to some degree, ordered to the communal consideration of how we ought to live. This shared body of concern may obligate a church leader to speak out against political wrong.

That's what I was getting at.

posted by Doug Brown
Seems Reasonable

A NY Times editorial (via IHT) that makes a modest proposal:
The World Bank, which provided $18.5 billion in aid in 2003, should withhold money from governments that are antidemocratic or that violate their people's human rights.
Why not?

In fact, that the World Bank would be indifferent in its lending requirements to the type of regime it lends to serves as further proof, if you needed any, of international institutions' flight from reason. Ain't moral equivalency a bitch?

posted by Doug Brown


Acts of Self-Parody, UN edition

The sale of bulldozers by Caterpillar Inc. to the Israeli military could violate Palestinians' human rights, a U.N. human rights investigator has warned the U.S. heavy equipment maker.

Jean Ziegler, an expert on the right to food in the Geneva offices of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, wrote Caterpillar that Israel used the bulldozers to raze homes and destroy crops, preventing the Palestinians from obtaining adequate food supplies and aggravating their "already precarious living conditions."

[Pauses, collects self, clears throat, succumbs to fit of the giggles]

The fact that within the offices of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (whose Job Title is Far Too Capitalized for Belief) there is work to be done by an expert on the right to food boggles, utterly boggles.

Read the whole thing, if you must.

Posted by Doug Brown


Responding to Responsive Chords

A catchy little post by Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel this week in her "Editor's Cut" blog proposes a method to sway "those four-in-ten Republicans who now say they would reconsider their support for Bush in November." That method? Pluck at their "responsive chords," of course.

Read the whole thing, if you want. It begs for fisking, but I lack the give-a-damn. Here's how this Nader-last-year-now-leaning-Bush voter responds to a few of her items:
Would you rather have a President:

Who can change his mind when his vision of reality turns out to be mistaken? Or one who dares not change for fear of appearing weak?

I dare anybody to use this line in a pro-Kerry commercial. Just go ahead and remind everybody that the "F" in "John F. Kerry" stands for "changes his mind every Few minutes."
Who asks a variety of wise men and women to advise him as well as God? Or one who thinks that it is enough that he hears and recognizes God's voice

About the only people who'd buy this claptrap are planning a write-in campaign for Michael Moore. But, by all means, alienate people (Demorats and Republicans alike) with your disdain for religious belief.
Who, when considering healthcare policy, gives first priority to the health of children and parents? Or one who gives first priority to the interests of the drug and insurance corporations?

This is the first one that might actually get some traction, and it's something Kerry certainly would have brought up, on account of the fact that every Democratic candidates since Thomas Jefferson has complained about the Republicans' callous disregard for [ahem] the children. Anybody who was going to respond to this chord already has.
Who can remember his mistakes, hence moves to remedy them? Or one who says he cannot remember any, hence cannot do any remedying?

Apparently, vanden Heuvel (lit. "of the chin") thinks that this obscure reference to an awkward press conference moment will really resonate with Bush supporters who are having second thoughts. And, just so we're clear, trying to have it both ways is not admitting your mistakes, it's being duplicitious.

Posted by Doug Brown
[Insert Pun Here]

The International Herald Tribune plays host today to a pair of interesting editorials. I value the website primarily for its usefulness as an opinion clearinghouse rather than as a news source. The essays on view today illustrate why.

Beginning with the seemingly ridiculous, witness this interesting editorial on "The Ethics of Face Transplants." Surprisingly, it's thoughtfully considered, except for a couple of silly paragraphs that indulge in the bioethicist's cliché of choice: concern over "designer bodies." But skip the penultimate paragraph and you'll have an excellent example of the genre.

Passing to the seemingly sublime, IHT hosts a New York Times editorial with the title "Mocking Honest Clergy." Of three paragraphs, two are devoted to the state of affairs in the legislative branch. It is not until the final graph that we learn what mocks the honest clergy (other than the New York Times, every chance it gets): a rider on a bit of legislation that would enact a three-strikes rule for "churches that venture too zealously into politics." I suspect that by "zealously" is meant "conservatively."

While most of the political speech I've heard coming from the pulpit has been, to be generous, mediocre, I'm uncomfortable with the idea of silencing political speech in any forum. There are moments when one's religious beliefs are relevant to political issues. Clergy should be free to express these views, even as part of a religious service. Their congregations will guide them as to how much of it they will tolerate.

Posted by Doug Brown

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