On punishment (contd.)

My big research project these days looks at how societies deal with the multiple legacies they’re left with in the aftermath of atrocious violence. In the interests of synergy, the last two columns I’ve written for Al-Hayat have been applications of this question with respect to Iraq.
Interesting question. De-baathification is the watchword of the day for many of my friends there. But how? Who? Based on what theory?
Well, I’ve been studying theories of punishment fairly closely over the past three years. My instincts go strongly against the notion, in general, since I deeply believe that in general a healing approach is more effective at dealing with wrongdoing (repairing relationships and right order; making the world whole again) than punishment is. I truly can’t buy into the whole retribution thing. The only possibly acceptable rationale I can see for the deliberate application of punishment (=the intentional curtailment of the rights and liberties of another person) is the incapacitation of proven offenders for the protection of society. But even that would need to be done with great caution, and with a clearly compassionate and reformative aim in mind.
Anyway, enough of my Buddhism here. In line with my great new theory or posting interesting out-takes from my articles onto this blog, I thought I’d post the following out-take from the piece I sent to Hayat yesterday:

    In the west, “punishment” is often talked about as though there is universal agreement to the idea that this is the only correct response to wrongdoing, and on the general principles of how it should be administered. The assumption of universal agreement on these things then often serves to obscure the very solid fact that any move to “punish” other people is actually a power play. Within a family, parents punish their children, but children do not punish their parents. Within a nation, governments punish citizens, but citizens do not punish governments (except when citizens, through a ballot-box or other more brutal means, get to remove a government from office; and then, too, it is self-evidently a power play.) At the international level, George W. Bush has asserted a right to “punish” any government that he and he alone deems to be “evil”; but no other government in the world– except perhaps Israel?–agrees that he has the right to do this.
    In all these cases, asserting a “right” to punish another party is part of a broader power play.

    Continue reading “On punishment (contd.)”

Thinking about atrocity

This week I’ve gotten seriously into writing up, in as definitive a way as possible, the findings of the research project I’ve been working on, off and on, for the last three years, the “Project on Violence and its Legacies: A Challenge for Global Policy” (the VAIL project).
Between all the notes I have on the four larger and numerous minor research trips I’ve made in the past three years, and the mounds of smaller notes, Post-Its, and other comments I’ve accrued on all the readings I’ve amassed– well, I certainly have enough material for at least one book!
The thing is, though, I don’t have all the funding I’d been seeking, in order to pull all my findings together into a big, heavily theoretical study of the topic. But that’s okay. I have a couple of months of funding. So I’ll take the material I already have, and start writing what I can. It will be more empricial, more experiential than the tome I’d originally been thinking of…
But that’s not all bad, either. Maybe this way it’ll be more accessible and can gain a wider readership. And the interview material and other empirical stuff that I have is already informed by a lot of heavy cerebration and theoretical reading. So at this point, I really just need to trust the material I have in hand. And what unbelievable riches I do have! So many note-books stuffed with interviews and personal notes– from Rwanda, from the ICTR in Arusha, from Mozambique, and from South Africa.

Continue reading “Thinking about atrocity”

Tragedies, tragedies

I was stunned by yesterday’s bombing of the UN HQ in Baghdad. Why the UN? Why Sergio Vieira de Mello, and so many other members of his team?
I was relieved to learn this morning that our dear friend Ghassan Salameh, now working as the UN mission’s top political advisor in Baghdad, managed to survive. He was described in a story in Lebanon’s Daily Star this morning as pretty distraught over the death of his friend and boss de Mello, and said he’d spent the past four hours scrabbling through the rubble looking for survivors.
Another massive bombing on Jerusalem’s No.2 bus yesterday, as well. When I see the footage of these events, wherever they take place, I remember what it’s like to experience the immediate aftermath of such an attack. Body parts flung into unlikely places. Screams of anguish. Dust and rubble. A universe turned upside down. And then, the enduring sense of loss and of anguish.
International humanitarian law tries, quite rightly, to afford special protections to civilians (and to former combatants who are currently hors de combat.) That distinction is at the heart of the Geneva Conventions and all the rest of international humanitarian law. When you reflect on such horrifying actions as those that created yesterday’s carnage in Baghdad or Jerusalem, you see why such protections are particularly valuable, and why the standard of working hard and actively to avoid harm to noncombatants has to be a vital value for our world.
People who are combatants have taken a special vow when they entered the military. Their special status allows them to kill (people who are other combatants), with impunity. But it also means they accept the risks of being killed or wounded in the line of duty. Civilians have taken no such vow.
These two events were, it seems to me, the result of deliberate actions, designed, planned, and executed by sentient human beings. And these actions aimed deliberately at bringing death and mayhem to noncombatants.
We can, and should, discuss the role of intentionality in all this. Is death as a result of the intention of the perpetrator any qualitatively different– for the victim, for her survivors, for the rest of society–than death by as a result of the perpetrator’s reckless or even wilfull inattention?
After all, many more deaths worldwide are caused through the reckless inattention of decisionmakers who in many cases would not even see themselves as perpetrators of wrongdoing than are caused through the perpetrators’ focused intention.
But there is something about the intentional infliction of harm that I, and I suspect most other people, find particularly revolting. The intentional harm-causer will, after all, fine-tune his actions precisely so as to cause the maximum of harm. (I think of the driver of the cement-mixer in Baghdad carefully easing his explosive-packed vehicle into the right place to cause the maximum death and destruction.) The reckless harm-causer, by contrast, may adjust his actions to minimize harm if the possibility of harm is brought to his attention. The person whom I would describe as the wilfully inattentive harm-causer lies somewhere between those two…
But regardless of the role of intentionality, the proscription against causing harm to civilians has to be stressed again and again.
These two bombings have a clear potential to radically change the course of events in the Middle East, and throughout the world. They bring us several steps closer to the worldwide clash between militant Muslims and the rest of the world that is, I believe, one of the main goals of their perpetrators.
I deeply, deeply do not want this clash to develop further. If it does, the main casualties will be caused not amongst the rich, comfortable segment of global society, but amidst the poor and downtrodden, the communities where people’s social and economic situations have already been chronically troubled for decades, and where inter-group hatreds that are pursued under the banner of values that are claimed to be “religious” can cause almost unimaginable harm.
Think of much of the Third World being transformed into Lebanon. While the arms dealers and other chaos merchants of the comfortable world rake in their tidy profit.
Can we avoid this outcome? Yes, I believe we can. We need urgently to open a dialogue of conscience and of values around the world. The current decade is supposed to be the UN’s Decade of Nonviolence. Now that one of the UN’s finest has been killed by the forces of chaos and confrontation, it would be great if Kofi Annan would lead this new call for conscience and values. It would involve restating some important values on which the UN was founded, like those of national independence (for Iraqis) and of human equality (Israel/Palestine), and of peaceful and speedy resolution of outstanding conflicts…
Along the way, though, we also need to restate the core values of international humanitarian law, and work hard to re-establish the global consensus– in the Middle East, in Africa, and elswhere– that regardless of the nature of the conflict or oppression, causing damage to civilians is always wrong.
I note that this a core value of much of traditional Islamic writing on the constraints to be observed in times of war. We urgently need to initiate a global dialogue with Muslim political activists of all stripes on this issue.

Ending cycles of violence

I just got done writing my mid-June column for Al-Hayat… It’s one I’ve been thinking about for many days. Maybe as a sort of slightly philosophical commentary on the resurgence of violence in Palestine/Israel. Anyway, the idea is to take some of what I was looking at and discussing on my recent Africa trip, in terms of trying to figure out what it is that permits a serious peace negotiation to (1) start and then (2) succeed.
The main two examples of that that I looked at were, of course Mozambique and South Africa. In Rwanda, the outcome was notably NOT negotiated; and has anyway been less successful.
Well, mainly in the column, I wrote about South Africa. And since that won’t come out for another 10 days or so, I can’t write much about it here. (Buy the paper!) But there were also a few interesting and relevant things that I learned in Mozambique, that I didn’t have time to write about there…

Continue reading “Ending cycles of violence”


INTO THE VIOLENCE CYCLE: So here’s how it goes. Leader X (call him George Bush, call him Ariel Sharon, call him whatever you want) perceives that his nation/group/whatever is experiencing a security problem. He proposes a large-scale application of violence as a way to end this problem. He applies the violence. The problem doesn’t stop. In fact, it gets worse. (Duh! This is what srategic-affairs experts call “the security dilemma”.)
So our intrepid and wise (!) leader needs to explain the fact that his group’s security problem continues, and has gotten worse. That is, that the “solution” he earlier proposed to the problem has notably failed to deliver what it promised. How does he do that? Why, easy! He argues that the fact of the continuation of the security problem–despite the wise measures he took to end it– just proves that “the opponent” is even more heinous and threatening than anyone had realized.
Therefore, even more violence is needed to deal with him!
And so it goes… Escalation piled upon escalation. Casualties, grief, and human needs shamelessly exploited for what becomes (if it wasn’t already) a highly ideological agenda. On both sides.
How to get out of this spiral of violence? That’s one of the things I am looking at in my current project on “escaping from violence” in Africa. In Mozambique, the escape from the violence of the civil war (which came after 500 years of ruthless colonial violence) took the relentless grinding-down of both the “sides” to the civil war to the point that mass starvation and pauperization was already a present reality. And then, it took some smart and compassionate diplomacy from church bodies and the UN to get the two sides to a peace agreement.
In South Africa, according to Fanie du Toit of Cape Town’s Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, it took a deep pragmatism from elites in both core communities (“black” and “Afrikaner”) as well as the extremely smart and disciplined leadership of the black rebel movements. (Some black South Africans with whom I spoke argued that their side’s ability to maintain a small military/violent component in their movement was also important in bringing the Afrikaners to the negotiating table.)
So what will prevent George Bush and his advisors from exploiting the fact of the latest anti-Western and anti-Saui bombings in order to justify launching even more belligerent and violent policies against targets in the Muslim world?
How do we pull him back from plunging the whole world into the abyss of a longterm inter-group confrontation that almost inevitably, if it continues, will take on an increasingly “religious”, Christian-vs.-Muslim aspect?
Violence begets violence. There are many, many better ways to build a world safe for all than trying to build the “security” of one small group of people on the insecurity of others. Maybe someone should introduce Pres. Bush to some of those pragmatic Afrikaners.
South Africa really is, in many ways– in the struggles it continues to face against poverty and inequality as well as in the steps it has already taken towards political democratization and multiculturalism– a microcosm of the situation of the whole world. And the Afrikaners have great lessons to share with the “powers that be” in the global west about what has worked better to preserve their people’s sense of security: violence, or respectful negotiation and problem-solving.
For more than 40 years, from 1948 through 1990, the Afrikaners tried to apply imposed solutions to their non-white fellow-citizens, backed up by the massive application of physical and administrative violence. It didn’t “work”. Oh yes, apartheid’s policies worked in that they inflicted untold misery, deaths, maimings and massive disruptions on the lives of millions of black and other South Africans, as well as on millions in neighboring countries (Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, etc) who were the target of the apartheid regime’s deliberate and largescale destabilization campaigns. But they didn’t “work” in the sense of bringing to Afrikaners themselves an abiding sense of security and wellbeing…
Violence, as I said, has this strong tendency to stoke the flames of further violence.

Iraq Democrats Disappointed

Back last summer, I got into a heartfelt exchange with a friend of mine who’s an Iraqi democrat. His name is Siyamend Othman. He’s a wise and good person, an Iraqi Kurd who’s lived in exile for many, many years, and who worked for a bunch of them as a researcher for Amnesty International in London.
Understandably, he loathes Saddam Hussein. In our exchange last August or so, I was commenting critically on articles he was writing about how an American military victory over Saddam could usher in an era of democratization in Iraq.
I wrote to him, based on my experience of having lived in a war-zone–in Lebanon–for six years back in the 1970s: “I have never believed that democracy can be brought to any country on the tips of bayonets (or the nose-cones of cruise missiles, come to that). I guess for me it is also, to a major degree a human-rights question, since I consider that war itself constitutes a massive assault on people’s rights, and always, always, brings in its train conditions that constitute a continuing assault on human rights for a very, very long time after…”
He wrote back, “I understand where you are coming from and respect the proposition that ‘war (I presume you mean any war) itself constitutes a massive assault on people’s rights’. However, would you hold the same position regarding World War II – the bloodiest confrontation in the history of Mankind? But that was different, I am repeatedly told. Hitler was a menace to humanity; Saddam is a small-time Third World tyrant who has been effectively ‘contained’… Needless to say that establishing the foundations of democracy in post-Saddam Iraq is by no means a foregone conclusion. In all likelihood, it would be a long and painful process with no guaranteed outcome. In my opinion, much will depend on American attitudes. That is why I keep repeating that winning the ‘Battle of Washington’ is as important as winning that of Baghdad. In this endeavour, Iraqi democrats are in dire need of all the help they can get from their Western counterparts, yourself included.”
As I said, Siyamend is a wise and good person. We agreed to disagree– but not before I warned him that putting any faith in the idea that this U.S. administration might have any commitment to democratization or democrats seemed an improbably long bet.
The most recent message I got from Siyamend indicated that he and his Iraqi-democratic friends feel they may now have lost the ‘Battle of Washington’. It included an article his friend Kanan Makiya wrote in the London Observer on Sunday, as well as an Observer article about the growing disillusionment of Kanan and Iraqi opposition boss Ahmed Chalabi over Washington’s recent pronouncements for their plans for a post-Saddam Iraq.
“The United States,” Kanan wrote, “is on the verge of committing itself to a post-Saddam plan for a military government in Baghdad with Americans appointed to head Iraqi ministries, and American soldiers to patrol the streets of Iraqi cities. The plan, as dictated to the Iraqi opposition in Ankara last week by a United States-led delegation, further envisages the appointment by the US of an unknown number of Iraqi quislings palatable to the Arab countries of the Gulf and Saudi Arabia as a council of advisers to this military government. The plan reverses a decade-long moral and financial commitment by the US to the Iraqi opposition… ”
This whole business is truly tragic. It is true that the “Iraqi opposition” is a diverse conglomeration of people. Ahmed Chalabi has been on the lam from Jordan for years for bankrupting thousands of Jordanians through the collapse of his Petra Bank more than 15 years ago. Kanan Makiya got catapulted to fame and fortune in August-September 1990 after he published–under the pseudonym Samir Khalil–a lengthy indictment of Saddam’s misrule that was a tad short on documentation if very long on emotion. In addition, there are ayatollahs-in-waiting massed in their hundreds in exile in Iran. There are Kurdish tribal leaders who wouldn’t even speak to each other for most of the past decade… And then, there are also among the opposition many serious people who are sincerely committed to building a real democracy in their country.
Why on earth did the Iraqi democrats ever put any faith in George Bush?
Makiya, for his part, may well have grown to love the attention he got from being lionized by some segments of the administration. In his Observer piece, he asks coyly, “Is the President who so graciously invited me to his Oval Office only a few weeks ago to discuss democracy, about to have his wishes subverted by advisers… ?”
Well yes, Kanan, maybe the Prez had any “wishes” he ever had for “democracy” subverted a long time ago.
But seriously: discussing democracy— with George W. Bush??

New York Demonstration

I was one of the lucky ones yesterday, at the anti-war demonstration in NYC. That is, New York’s finest (the cops) actually graciously allowed my daughter, her fiance, and me to join the stationary “rally” for which a permit had been given… That is, after the courts had denied a permit for an anti-war march.
We wanted to join a small “feeder march” being assembled by the Quakers at 53d St & 2nd Ave. We arrived on the V-line subway from Brooklyn, got out at 51st and 3d Ave, hoped to cross easily to 2nd Avenue to find the Quakers. (“We’ll just listen carefully for where there’s a big silence,” I told the future son-in-law.)
Fat chance. The cops were not letting anyone cross to 2nd Ave, even. (The rally was in 1st Ave.) At every intersection they had closely guarded barriers, and they funneled us ever further north with promises that we could cross eastward one or two blocks further up… Thousands of anti-war demonstrators from many parts of NYC and elsewhere were being herded north– away from the rally–but moving along good-naturedly. We became quite a large group of people moving north along the broad sidewalks. Why, it even looked like a march!
At 59th St, they finally let us cross east. By then, it was too late to join the Quaker group, so we walked right on over to 1st Ave and walked a couple of blocks south to join the main body of the rally between 56th and 57th Sts. We “arrived” there at just about noon, the time the event was scheduled to begin. We could not see the head of the rally at all, but watched the whole event on a large screen half a block ahead of us.
The prayers and invocations at the beginning were very moving: a black Baptist Bishop, a Muslim imam, a woman rabbi, a Hispanic Catholic, and the keening prayer of the Chief of the Lakota Sioux. Then, there was an amazing constellation of speakers, including my old favorite Archbishop Tutu. Pete Seeger came out, despite the intense cold and his advancing years, and led a song. The crowd around us stamped their feet or jogged in place to try to get warm. Some notable signs I saw: “Stop mad cowboy disease”, “Duct and cover!” and even a quote from Ovid pinned to someone’s backpack.
Shortly after 2 p.m., I needed to leave. Getting out of the pens the police had made for us was almost as hard as getting in. When I did make it back to 2nd Ave, and then again at 3d Ave– each time, there were barricades up with the police still preventing people from moving east to 1st Ave. Some of those people had been trying to get through for the past two hours. Mostly, the police just seemed businesslike and very firm, stamping their feet and exchanging grimaces about the dire cold.
At one of the intersections I passed on my way out, however, the police were all in riot gear, unlike all the others I’d seen. They were standing around seemingly just spoiling for a fight. Nearby were parked coaches from the prison department, ready, I surmised, to be loaded with arrestees. I didn’t have time to stop and make a clear assessment, however.
And just about all the way over to where I got on the F train at 63rd and Lexington, the traffic was at a complete standstill
The effect of the court order banning a march, and of the way the police then played their role, was that a lot of people who had come to join the event, including some who’d come hundreds of miles to do so, were prevented from exercising their right to assemble peacefully. Probably, the effects on traffic and on non-demonstrating New Yorkers, were just as bad or worse than what would have been caused by allowing a well-planned march. The police ended up making a hundred or fewer arrests. But they certainly cleaned up on their overtime.
* * *
DRIVING HOME WITH GARRISON KEILLOR: After the rally I drove south. I had dinner with a family friend at Haverford College, in Philly; drove some more; got in late to the home of another friend in DC; left the car outside; went to bed totally knackered
This morning, I found DC magically blanketed in 7 inches of fresh snow, and more coming all the time. I was eager to get back to my hearth and home here in Charlottesville, Va., and figured the going would only get worse for the next couple of days.
It took 40 mins to dig the car out. I knew the drive would be tough but I had warm clothes, food, water, a cellphone, and set off around the beltway to I-66.
The first couple of hours, I had “Prairie Home Companion” on the radio. Garrison Keillor was hilarious. I really haven’t listened much to him recently.
The most hilarious parts were when he was skewering the Bush administration. Lots of jokes about duct tape– of course. And then, a great riff when they were talking about reports that the “Rapture” long awaited by the evangelicals had just taken place. (Asked whether this was true, the ‘President’ said, “Well, I’m still here, aren’t I?”) I shouldn’t spoil the suspense, in case you’re waiting for the re-runs. But I will just reveal that most of the truly righteous souls taken to glory in the Rapture turned out to be Lutherans…
Here’s the thing, though. If even fairly mainstream entertainers like Garrison Keillor are so openly mocking of the Bushies’ present war preparations and scaremongering, shouldn’t the Bushies be paying a lot more attention to that?
Here’s another thing. I wasn’t around in the US during the Vietnam war. And I know the American involvement there grew up differently from the assembling and possibly imminent activation of a massive invasion force that we see around Iraq today.
But it strikes me that the kind of coalition that I saw firsthand in New York– labor unions, black and Latino organizations, churches and other faith groups, public intellectuals, members of the US Congress, etc etc– is a pretty impressive anti-war force to have assembled already… and thus far, the “really big” phase of the war hasn’t even been launched.
Plus, the international dimension of the peace movement is very evident, and very important. We were trying to rally near the U.N., where just the day before French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin received unprecedented applause for his plea to try to avoid war. We were rallying, too, on the same day as millions of other folks from all round the world…
This is not the 1960s. The worldwide anti-war forces are, I firmly believe, in far stronger shape today.
And then, duct tape??? These guys simply can’t be serious.

FROM NEW YORK, Valentine’s Day

I’ve had a busy couple of days of work here, talking to some really interesting folks about my ‘Violence and its Legacies’ project, and starting to make plans for the research trip I’m planning to Africa in April, as part of the project.
From time to time, the idea of going to Africa in April seems weird. Shouldn’t I be concentrating more on this terrible Bush War in (and around) Iraq??
But I think its important not to become too, too distracted by the Bush War. Other parts of the world do still matter– a lot. And this project I’m working on, which looks at how effective three countries in Africa–Mozambique, South Africa, and Rwanda–ended up being when they sought, eight to ten years ago, to deal with legacies of atrocious violence, is certainly one with lessons that will have relevance everywhere. Including Iraq.
Yesterday, I talked to Alex Boraine, who worked with Archbishop Tutu as Executive Director of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. He’s now head of an organization called the International Center for Transitional Justice, that seeks to advise countries in transition on setting up their own TRCs.  Well, since I was focusing on my African research, we didn’t specifically talk about the idea of a TRC for Iraq.  But it’s not a bad idea.
What the S. African TRC did was significant because it helped to allow the white-minority regime to give up power to the democratic will of the (non-white) majority–and to be reintegrated into the new S. Africa as part of Mandela’s new ‘Rainbow Nation’.
In Iraq and in Syria, we also have the problem of minority-based regimes hanging onto power– with one great motivation for them to do so being their fear of how the majority might treat them if the majority were given a democratic order.
In South Africa, the TRC, and the broader black-white negotiation of which it was a part, allowed the white South Africans to cede power to the majority without fear of bloody retribution…
Wednesday, I talked for the first time to Andrea Bartolli, an Italian national now at Columbia who first came to NYC in the 1980s as the representative at the UN for a Catholic lay-based social-justice organization called Sant’ Egidio.  In that role, Bartolli played a significant behind-the scenes role with the rest of the Sant’ Egidio team who were helping to bring an end to Mozambique’s long-running civil war.  They succeeded in 1992.
Talking to Bartolli was fascinating.  One of the key factors he mentioned that allowed the negotiations between the two sides to the Mozambique war to succeed was the fact that they proceeded largely out of the public eyeof the world’s media, big governments, etc.  Another factor was that at that time, “No-one was even thinking that criminal prosecutions for past atrocities should be part of a peace negotiation– unlike today.”
So instead of criminal prosecutions etc (which became the international flavor-of-the-decade just a few months after Mozambique’s October 1992 agreement), what the Mozambicans did at both the national and local levels, was to state clearly that “the era of war and violence is past”, and to get on with the job of healing and rebuilding.
Bartolli told me he thought it was really important to have a consciously transformative event like the one where the leaders of the two sides there made a joint announcement that the war had ended.  He also noted that while most Westerners have a view of war that is purely instrumental– that “man uses war for his own purposes, a la Clausewitz”– in Mozambique the most common view is that war and violence are forces that themselves take hold of and use people.
Hey, George W, are you listening??
* * *
UNCLE VANYA:  We went to a great production of Brian Friel’s version of the play last night at BAM’s Harvey Lichtenstein Theater.  It seemed as though friel had cut/adapted the play well.  It moved right along.  A wrenching performance by Emily Watson as Sonya; and both Friel and Sam Mendes, who directed, had really succeeded in keeping/capturing Chekhov’s general gestalt of inescapable social decline.
Of course, New York is exhilarating and fun!!!  I guess the anti-war gathering tomorrow is not getting a permit to move, so we’ll be standing around freezingat the rally, listening to Tutu and others speak.
Yesterday, walking around the financial district, we passed a vast, slowly-moving convoy of fully-filled police vans.  The police presence on the subways was not as heavy as the NYT seemed to have portrayed.  In general, the security measures around the city seem to have settled back somewhat from when I was doing similar kinds of meetings here in March ’02.
* * *
NOTES OF 2/13 (but posted a day late):  In New York.  Front pages of most tabloids screaming about Bin Laden’s latest tape.  Audio-tape, that is.  Then, there’s the issue of duct tape: photos of people cleaning out the store shelves of this item which will– Tom Ridge assures us– save our lives in the event of chemical attack.
Mainly, though, New Yorkers seem to be stayng indoors because of the icy grip of winter here.
Today, my latest column in The Christian Science Monitor.  A challenging one indeed.  I wrote it Monday, seeing as how Tuesday I would be driving here to NYC.  The main argument I was making was that in his Feb 5 speech to the UN Colin Powell definitely did NOT establish w/ any credibility that there is a ‘nexus’ between OBL and Saddam (see my previous musings on this, below.)
So the drive here from Virginia was a toughie: swirling snows etc etc.  I heard a few scattered news reports on the car radio, but mainly listened to some Hemingway stories on CD.  I was focusing 100% on driving safely.  Got in maybe 10:30 p.m.
Wed. morning my editor at the CSM calls early, in a panic about the piece. She was right, my careful argumentation did look a little OBE (overtaken by events) in light of the new Osama tape, and the use Colin and his friends were making of it.  (Did you see Maureen Dowd’s great column on that in Wednesday’s NYT? Fabulous!)
So I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and tried to write a new head-and-foot for the piece.  It probaby wasn’t the greatest piece of work I’ve ever done.  But I was under a very tough deadline at that point
The arguments I was making in the piece are little complex.  But duh!  The world is complex!  It cannot be reduced to the war hawks’ simple Manichean view of things.  Jerking the American public into this quite avoidable war on the basis of the administration’s phony argumentation about an OBL-Saddam nexus is still
a really dangerous path to follow.
Plus, as I wrote in the column, by talking up the alleged OBL-Saddam nexus so much, the Bushies seem to have ended up virtually daring OBL to try to make it a reality. A challenge which– surprise, surprise– he seemed eager to take up.
Except he never shook his utter distaste for Saddam and Baathist socialism…