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saturday, october 4, 2003

David Kay: A Fool and His Errand
"It Was Never About a Smoking Gun," 

by David Kay

Maha note: This is an article by David Kay published last January in the Washington Post. It is on the web site of the United States Mission to the European Union. A note on the web page says permission is granted to republish. Well, thanks, USEU! I hope you won't mind if I boldface some stuff and add commentary! Those who want to read the article without my improvements can click here.

Date:  January 19, 2003

The following article by former United Nations weapons inspector David Kay first appeared in The Washington Post January 19. Permission has been granted for distribution and further republication, in English and in translation abroad and in the local press outside the United States.

Below is the byliner:

It Was Never About A Smoking Gun 

By David Kay

(David Kay is a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. In 1991, he served as chief nuclear weapons inspector of UNSCOM, the U.N. Special Commission on Iraq.)

When it comes to the U.N. weapons inspection in Iraq, looking for a smoking gun is a fool's mission. That was true 11 years ago when I led the inspections there. It is no less true today -- even after the seemingly important discovery on Thursday of a dozen empty short-range missile warheads left over from the 1980s.

So what have you been doing in Iraq these past three months, Dave? And why do you need $600 million to continue doing it?

The only job the inspectors can expect to accomplish is confirming whether Iraq has voluntarily disarmed. That is not a task that need take months more. And last week's cache is irrelevant in answering that question, regardless of the U.N.'s final determination. That's because the answer is already clear: Iraqi is in breach of U.N. demands that it dismantle its weapons of mass destruction.

Can we take this as an admission that you've had enough time already, and since you haven't found anything we can spend the $600 million elsewhere? I guess not.

I am no apologist for the Iraqis, but not only are those warheads irrelevant to the larger argument, they could well be remnants that were overlooked, found as they were in a 25 square mile site that has a huge number of conventional warheads and rockets on it, rockets used principally in the Iran/Iraq war. The discovery was small -- the kind of thing inspectors often find -- and there's not much to be made of the warheads unless the testing shows they were once filled with VX gas.

Except as I recall, Dave, it wasn't the UN weapons inspectors who made a big bleeping deal out of the empty war heads. It was George W. Bush's and his staff of empty war heads who handed out the press releases.

The real problem lies with the way the searches are being conducted, period. The fact that day after day, the inspectors go to sites, most of which were inspected in the 1990s and put under long-term monitoring, has served Iraq's claims that it is complying with the inspections. It also ensures that these non-threatening inspections will continue for some time. Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, said last week that his required Jan. 27 report (stating whether Baghdad is fully complying with U.N. demands to disclose and dismantle any weapons of mass destruction program) will simply be an interim one. It will mark, Blix said, "the beginning of the inspection and monitoring process, not the end of it."

So let's see -- Hans Blix and the UN weapons inspectors began their prewar round of inspections November 27, 2002. This article I am commenting on was published January 19, 2003. That means, Dave, you gave Hans Blix just two months before you declared his mission a "fool's errand." Now you've had three months before your interim report, and you want more time -- and you've been a little hazy about how much. 

So you want a little roast crow to go along with that $600 million, Dave?  

That statement no doubt came as a surprise in Washington: Many members of the Bush administration have told me they were expecting the report to provide the basis for Security Council endorsement of military action to compel Baghdad to disarm. Blix appears to be drawing a very different conclusion: In the face of Iraq's denials that it has weapons, the inspections must continue.

I love this. Hans Blix, who was actually in Iraq, drew a conclusion about weapons that was different from what a bunch of hothouse ideologues in Washington expected, which means Blix must have been wrong. Uh-huh.

What Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), are not doing is even more damning. Recall that Iraq was required to submit a "full and complete declaration" of all its weapons programs to the U.N. Security Council early last December. But that 12,000-page declaration was hardly complete, and its omissions (as well as gaps identified in 1998 -- more about that in a moment) should have become the focus of the inspections process.

So what about it, Dave? Don't you have that same 12,000-page declaration, too? Hans Blix did say there were inconsistencies in the report, and that more information was needed. And now it appears the report was inconsistent not because the Iraqis were hiding weapons, but because they had no documentation to show that the weapons had been destroyed. Whoops!

UNMOVIC, the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, should use its limited resources to examine the seven gaps in the United Nations' knowledge and understanding of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, which were identified in 1998 by UNSCOM (the now defunct U.N. Special Commission) and an independent technical evaluation group. The gaps were alarming. They had to do with such things as anthrax, artillery shells filled with mustard gas, mobile biological weapons agent facilities and efforts to procure uranium.

And now we all know about those mobile weapons facilities and the efforts to procure uranium, don't we, Dave?

By failing to address these concerns, Iraq mocked the United Nations with its declaration. It rejected what the Security Council, in Resolution 1441, insisted it must do -- that is, answer all outstanding questions about the program. And it had the gall to contend that it hasn't had a prohibited weapons program since the end of the Gulf War.

And you had the gall to call 'em liars before you knew the facts.

How quickly the experience of the first attempt to disarm Iraq by international inspections has been forgotten. That attempt, starting in 1991, also began with weapons declarations filled with lies and misstatements. As a result, the UNSCOM team I led was also forced to search for a smoking gun. It is a nearly impossible task, which is why it should never be the standard of mission success. Only two smoking guns were found during all the UNSCOM inspections in Iraq in the 1990s. The first -- Iraq's nuclear weapons complex -- came quickly in the summer and autumn of 1991. We were going after very large physical complexes that had been designed to deceive spy satellites -- but whose purpose could be detected by inspectors armed with good intelligence and aided by key Iraqi defectors.

And the lesson is that it's easier to find stuff that actually exists than it is to find stuff that doesn't.

In the next six years of UNSCOM inspections only one other such discovery was made -- when the existence of an Iraqi biological weapons program was finally uncovered in 1995. But it is often forgotten that the weapons themselves were not found by the inspectors. Iraq told the inspectors that it had destroyed the biological munitions, which, it said, had been stored inside abandoned railroad tunnels and buried along the runways at two military airfields. Even the best inspectors have almost no chance of discovering hidden weapons sites such as these in a country the size of Iraq.

If the best inspectors can't be expected to find weapons, then what hope does a fool like you have, Dave? No wonder you need more time and $600 million.  

We UNSCOM inspectors simply did not have the resources to win a game of hide and seek. The same is true today. The number of inspectors was always terribly small -- seldom more than 300 in the country at any one time. And we were totally outclassed by Iraqi security, which had managed to infiltrate the United Nations in Vienna and New York, as well as the Bahrain office of UNSCOM. In late 1991, when we seized more than 100,000 pages of information on Iraq's nuclear weapons program, we found one particularly surprising document. In it, the head of Iraqi security warned the chief security official of the facility holding the documents that in 10 days I would be leading a team to search his building and he should remove all sensitive material from this facility. The document was dated less than 48 hours after the decision had been made that I would lead this team! At the time fewer than 10 people in the United Nations and IAEA knew about this mission.

Ah, the good old days are gone, never to return. But let's haul ourselves back to the recent past and present. Your argument appears to be that since Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in 1991, he must have them in 2003. By that logic I should still be able to touch my toes. Unfortunately, as the Buddha taught, the physical universe is always in flux. You really can't justify going to war in 2003 because of the way the world was in 1991, can you?  

Much has been made of the value of surprise inspections, but little has been said about how hard they are to conduct. Between 1991 and 1998, UNSCOM conducted almost 500 inspections. Of those, only about six truly surprised Iraq. Then as now, the inspectors operated in an environment that was thoroughly monitored by Iraq. Hotel rooms, restaurants, offices and cars were all bugged. We understood that only with the most extraordinary measures could any of our conversations or documents elude Iraqi security officials.

Fine. So what's your excuse for not finding weapons now?

By 1996, UNSCOM and the IAEA had switched almost entirely from searching for specific weapons to trying to limit the ease with which Iraq could use its permitted dual-use facilities to produce them.

First you say that looking for weapons was a fool's errand. Now you complain that the UN inspectors were spending less time looking for weapons than they were preventing Iraq from producing weapons. And today the Bushies have their panties in a twist over weapons programs and dual-use facilities.

Sounds like you are about to catch up to where the UN inspectors were in 1996. Way to go, Dave!

The former inspectors I know react with disbelief to the list of sites the current inspectors have visited in the past seven weeks -- Taji, Daura, Al Hakam, Fallujah, Tarmiya, Rashdiya, Al Furat, Al Muthanna. No one, they say, should have believed that Saddam would ever let inspectors back into the country without ensuring that these sites, well monitored by UNSCOM until it left in '98, were thoroughly sanitized. Let's not forget that UNSCOM was never denied entry to a site it was monitoring. Far from denial, Iraq wanted UNSCOM and the IAEA to concentrate on the monitored sites and stop searching for clandestine facilities.

Let me guess -- the former weapons inspectors you've been talking to are also neocon ideologues. Am I right?

How did the inspectors get back into a game of hide and seek with the Iraqis?

How did you get into the game of "cover Shrub's butt"?

This time, the Bush administration was determined that, rather than a search and find mission, the inspections would verify Iraq's willingness to be disarmed.

Now that we know they already were disarmed, the Bush administration looks pretty damn stupid, doesn't it?

This would be completely unlike the long, frustrating game the Iraqis played and ultimately won with the first U.N. inspection regime. This was to be Iraq's last chance. Any "false statements or omissions" in its December declaration were, according to Resolution 1441, supposed to "constitute a further material breach of Iraq's obligations." And "material breach" is the Security Council's standard for measuring whether military force is required to compel disarmament.

Sure would have saved us a lot of trouble if Shrub had given Hans Blix more time before he decided to disarm Iraq with military force, since Iraq really didn't have WMDs. So when do we, the citizens of the United States, get an apology from the White House for making one of the most colossal blunders in all of our history?

Inspections were not supposed to begin until 15 days after the declaration was due, in other words on Dec. 21. Instead, and this has gone almost completely unremarked, Blix and ElBaradei began the inspections on Nov. 27, 11 days before Iraq was to submit its declaration.

So you wanted them to wait to give Saddam more time to hide stuff if he'd had something to hide? Do you want to start making sense one of these days? Oh, wait, I'm sorry. Your point was that looking for actual weapons was a fool's errand; instead, the inspectors should have looked for evidence of disarmament. Well, these days, that ought to be real easy.

So much for President Bush's injunction that the inspectors were there to confirm Iraq's voluntary disarmament. Thus the hunt for the smoking gun was on. The United States did not object to this change of strategy. In fact, it urged Blix and ElBaradei to make their search more effective, use their full powers and find the smoking gun.

Can you explain to me now why George Bush was in such an all-fire rush to go to war last March? Why giving Blix and ElBaradei a few more months would have hurt anybody?

It is easy, if painful, to see how the United Nations slid back into the fool's game of trying to find a smoking gun inside a totalitarian country such as Iraq. What is much harder to understand is why the Bush administration, which so clearly seemed to have understood that this was not a game that they wanted to play or could win, let itself be trapped like this. But trapped it is.

They weren't trapped, really, then. But they sure as hell are trapped now.

Even such tantalizing discoveries as last week's should not be seen as a promise of more compelling evidence to come if we would only give the inspectors more time. The only evidence of Iraq's weapons program we need has been clear since early December, when it filed yet another weapons declaration that was anything but full, final and complete. Iraq continues to ignore its international obligations. Let's not give it more time to cheat and retreat.

No more time to cheat and retreat. I like that. So let's apply it to you -- no more time, no more money. We're done playing this game. Go home.

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)

9:54 pm | link

Hot Links 8:30 am | link

friday, october 3, 2003

Guilt by Association
I hope you won't mind if I dredge up another history lesson. When you get old you get more past than future stuffed in your head. 
My plan is to go on for awhile about John Glenn, and then I will get around to what's happening now in the Democratic candidate race. And yes, there really is a point to this.
Slime Past: The John Glenn Rant
Until he was caught in the "Keating Five" sting operation, Senator John Glenn (D-Ohio) had an unimpeachable reputation for honesty. Navy pilot Glenn holds five Distinguished Flying Crosses for his service in World War II and Korea. Astronaut Glenn was the first American to circle the planet in outer space. In The Right Stuff, author Tom Wolfe portrayed Glenn as the Ultimate Eagle Scout even as the other astronauts came off a bit tarnished.  
But in 1989, his reputation was flushed down the toilet by his association with the Keating Five.
For you young people who don't remember, the Keating scandal was part of the larger Saving and Loan scandals of the Reagan Administration. In a nutshell: In the 1980s the Savings and Loan industry was in a slump, so naturally Congress deregulated it. And with much oversight gone, con artists took over the industry and approved billions in insider loans for worthless projects. By the end of the 1980s S&Ls were collapsing, and Congress eventually bailed out the industry at taxpayer expense, to the tune of nearly $500 billion.
The longer history of the Savings and Loan scandals reveals connections among lots of people in the Reagan-Bush administrations, organized crime, Muslim oil sheiks with connections to terrorists, big-time money laudering, CIA covert operations, and much of the evil of the world. But I don't have the energy to go into that now.
Anyway, in the late 1980s, major S&L shyster Charles Keating enlisted the help of five senators through campaign contributions to intervene in an investigation of his Lincoln Savings & Loan. The Five were Alan Cranston (D-CA), Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ), Donald Riegle, (D-MI), John Glenn (D-OH), and John McCain (R-AZ).
Sounds bad. However, eventually charges against Glenn and McCain were dismissed, and they were only mildly faulted by the Senate Ethics Committee. Glenn had pulled out of the scheme -- actually walked out of a meeting in progress -- as soon as he realized quid pro quo was expected. McCain's involvement was a little more dubious -- along with the campaign contributions, he had had accepted free flights aboard Keating's corporate jet and free vacations at his Bahamas home. Still, McCain says today that it was his experience with Keating that inspired him to work for campaign finance reform.
Senator Cranston was reprimanded, DiConcini and Riegel were rebuked (no, I don't know what the difference is between a Senate "reprimand" and a "rebuke," either, but I think a "reprimand" is worse), and Keating himself eventually went to prison. Of the five, only Glenn and McCain won re-election and remained in the Senate. [For more information, start with and the Ohio University Online Library.]
The "Keating Five" affiliation haunted Glenn through the rest of his political career, and to this day plenty of people assume he MUST have been corrupt because, after all, he was one of the Keating Five! Never mind that he walked out of one of Keating's meetings when he realized he was being asked to do something unethical -- he went to a meeting, so he was guilty.
For example, when Glenn rode the Space Shuttle in 1998, some flaming asshole who should be ashamed of himself wrote:
Six astronauts are escorting one of the Keating Five into space for one very simple reason: NASA is willing to prostitute itself for the senior Senator from Ohio. ...

Now it seems that NASA doesn't mind having scum ride the space shuttle. The farce of his trip being for scientific purposes was recently laid to rest when Glenn was found unfit to swallow a melatonin pill for one of the experiments he is supposedly involved with. There is no question that Glenn is going into space for political reasons.

Was John Glenn ever an American hero? I would say not. In the 1950s he drew the national spotlight onto himself by appearing on Groucho Marx's quiz show, "You Bet Your Life" while he was a Marine Aviator. Had he been dedicated to the dream of spaceflight, there is little doubt that he would have remained in the program after his first orbital flight. Instead, he entered politics, joining thousands of other scum who prefer to spend other people's money rather than create any wealth of their own. ["Scum on the Shuttle," In Space Today, October 25, 1998]

Let's see -- 59 combat missions in World War II, 63 missions in Korea, five Distinguished Flying Crosses, first American to orbit the earth, and a productive career in the Senate -- but he's only a "hero" because of an appearance on "You Bet Your Life"? (Let it be noted that I loved "You Bet Your Life.")
Dear reader, can you see where I'm going here? Glenn is guilty by association -- he went to a meeting -- but he didn't go through with Keating's scheme. You might argue that he's guilty of not ratting out his fellow Senators. But the assholes of the world slime Glenn, a genuinely good person and good Senator, because he was one of the Keating Five.
Slime Present: What's Happening Now
In past blogs I've criticized Democratic candidates who slime other candidates to get attention. For example, last Monday's blog featured Dick Gephardt's implication that Howard Dean had signed on to a Newt Gingrich scheme to cut Medicare. Although not an out-and-out lie -- in 1995, Gingrich and Dean did share similar ideas on Medicare -- but when you learn the details, you see the demagogery.
But what I'm upset about today is the way "Democrats" on the web are spreading scare stories about candidates they want to knock off. The main target du jour seems to be Wesley Clark.
Some of the sliming of Clark is just absurd. When he registered to vote in Arkansas he didn't declare a party -- most Arkansans don't. But this has been spun into wild conspiracy theories that Clark is a stealth Republican.
A number of Clark slimes are being spun out of his tenure as Supreme Commander of NATO during the War in Kosovo. Some of these are addressed in an article in yesterday's New York Times:

It is no secret that General Clark's relationship with the Pentagon was strained during that conflict. So it is also not surprising that reporters have begun to mine that period for the sort of score-settling anecdotes that often serve as fodder for political profiles....Since General Clark announced his intention to run for the presidency last month, a number of partial and even misleading accounts of the war have emerged. [Michael Gordon, "Wes Clark's War," The New York Times, October 2, 2003]

Gordon, who covered the Kosovo war from NATO headquarters and was able to observe Clark closely, came away praising Clark's judgments and the way he handled the job. There's no question Clark was a controversial figure, but anyone doing that job effectively would be a controversial figure. Most Clark slimers have very little understanding of what was at stake or what Clark's role actually was; they just take whatever negatives they can find and turn them into slime.

Somebody found out that Clark (in his civilian occupation of investment banker) is on the board of directors of the National Endowment for Democracy. And Frank Carlucci of The Carlyle Group is on that board, too. Omigosh -- Clark is associated with The Carlyle Group! But other members of the board include Senator Bob Graham (how come they aren't sliming Graham, too?), former ambassador Richard Holbrooke, and the vice president of the United Steelworkers of America.

There are web articles that indicate NED had a slimy past, and perhaps it did. But the Carlyle connection is silly -- it's right up there with the stories about Paul Krugman being a stooge for Enron. And it's only slightly less tortuous than the Wall Street Journal's labored efforts to connect Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda. (al Qaeda big shot Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is related to Ramzi Yousef, who worked with Abdul Yasin in the 1993 WTC bombing, and Yasin is an Iraqi who may have been given sanctuary from U.S. law enforcement by Saddam Hussein; and Kevin Bacon was in Footloose with Dianne West, who was in The Birdcage with Gene Hackman ...).

Anyway, I just left a rant by some slimers who are convinced Wesley Clark killed Caesar Chavez, which is what made me think of John Glenn. I say "guilt by association" is a hobgoblin of little minds. John Glenn is a genuine hero and was a good Senator. Paul Krugman was never a stooge for Enron. Saddam Hussein, for all his flaws, is not part of al Qaeda.

I don't know if Wesley Clark would be a good president or not; let's see how he does in the campaign. But if the slimers bring him down with lies and innuendo, it will be a great injustice.

7:15 pm | link

All It Takes Is an Apology?
While surfing around looking for fresh & juicy hot links, I came across this jaw-dropper from the New York Post. Deborah Orrin writes in "His Mea Culpa Defuses Attacks" that "Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday did what lots of analysts say Bill Clinton should have done about Monica -- he 'fessed up fast."
Deborah seems to think that Ahnold's "apology" to the many women he has groped over the years wipes the slate clean. Indeed, in Deborah World, Ahnold is a better man than Bill, because of the public apology.
Deborah, do you not see just a teeny distinction between a consensual act and sexual assault? One isn't really our business. The other is a crime.
And it wasn't much of an apology. First Ahnold dismissed the testimony of women he groped as "trash politics." He also said that most of the accusations were not true. But, of course, sometimes on movie sets things get a bit rowdy, and if he had behaved badly, he was sorry about that.
According to the Los Angeles Times, one of the incidents occurred in a gym -- Ahnold groped the breasts of a woman who was watching her husband lift weights. In another incident, Ahnold tried to disrobe a woman who was unfortunate enough to be alone with him in an elevator. This is not getting rowdy on a movie set; this is assault.
According to an email alert from, "Three years ago Arnold made headlines in the U.K. after a string of sexually abusive groping incidents -- one of which took place in an on camera interview. During the on-camera incident Schwarzenegger explained, 'If my wife saw this I'd be in trouble, I'd have to tell her it was a stunt double.'" The women, all reporters, were interviewed in Premiere magazine:

Anna Richardson of Big Screen claims that after the cameras stopped rolling for her interview segment, Schwarzenegger, apparently attempting to ascertain whether Richardson's breasts were real, tweaked her nipple and then laughed at her objections. "I left the room quite shaken," she says. "What was more upsetting was that his people rushed to protect him and scapegoated me, and not one person came to apologize afterward."

"You don't get it," said a producer who's worked with Schwarzenegger. "That's the way Arnold always behaves. For some reason, [this time] the studio or the publicists couldn't put enough pressure on the women to kill the story." [John Connolly, "Arnold the Barbarian," Premiere, March 2001, emphasis added]

Doesn't sound like Ahnold "fessed up" until he decided it was in his own best interest to do so.

Is it possible that some of these women are just making claims to get attention or to impact the California recall election? It happens -- the names Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey do come to mind.  But what is really worrisome is the way the application of "truth" and "justice" depends on what your politics are.

The very same "pundits" who crucified Clinton for a consensual act dismiss accusations of sexual assault against Ahnold. Does anyone really think Deborah Orrin of the New York Post would be so impressed with Ahnold's "apology" if he were a Democrat?

Hey, Deb, I have an idea. We'll check with the convicted sexual predators at Sing Sing, and if any of 'em are registered to vote as Republicans and willing to sign a statement of apology, we'll just let 'em go, since they must have been wrongly convicted. OK with you?

Hot Links

9:41 am | link

Hot Links Preview
Coming to a Friday newspaper near you especially if you live in New York City near the Times offices ...
Paul Krugman weighs in on the Plame scandal in "Slime and Defend."

The hypocrisy here is breathtaking. Republicans have repeatedly impugned their opponents' patriotism. Last year Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, said Democrats "don't want to protect the American people. . . . They will do anything, spend all the time and resources they can, to avoid confronting evil."

But the true test of patriotism isn't whether you are willing to wave the flag, or agree with whatever the president says. It's whether you are willing to take risks and make sacrifices, including political sacrifices, for the sake of your country. This episode is a test for Mr. Bush and his inner circle: a true patriot wouldn't hesitate about doing the right thing in the Plame affair, whatever the political costs.

Mr. Bush is failing that test.

And Bob Herbert writes in "Shaking the House of Cards,"

Iraq is proving to be a bonanza for the Bush administration's corporate cronies even as it is threatening to become a sinkhole for the aspirations of ordinary Americans.

The vicious release to news organizations of the identity of an undercover C.I.A. officer could serve as a case study of the character of this administration. The Bush II crowd is arrogant, venal, mean-spirited and contemptuous of law and custom.

Wow, Bob, don't hold back. Tell us how you really feel.

Joe Wilson replay -- here's the New York Times column that set off Wilsongate, reprinted from July -- "What I Didn't Find in Africa."

Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

Imagine. There's also a long piece called "The Legacy of Black Hawk Down" that looks interesting, plus an editorial on Rush -- "Not Ready for Prime Time" -- and another editorial on Bush's missile system, "Wishing Won't Make Star Wars So." Even better, no David Brooks! Yippee!

One more preview -- E.J. Dionne writes about Rush in the Washington Post: "I cannot resist saying that ESPN got exactly what it deserved."


12:02 am | link

thursday, october 2, 2003

David Kay Speaks
Kay is speaking live on CNN as I keyboard. Here's the unauthorized transcript:
DAVID DAY: Blah blah blah blah programs blah blah interim blah blah blah blah blah need more time blah blah blah blah inconclusive blah blah blah blah blah blah still actively probing blah blah blah looking only three months blah blah blah blah blah we're working hard blah but strong evidence of intention to develop weapons blah blah.
In other words, they didn't find shit.
5:22 pm | link

Starting Over?
The week before the September 11 attacks, Zogby gave Bush's job approval numbers as 50 percent approve, 49 percent disapprove, and 1 percent not sure. 50-49-1.
Last week, Zogby reported the exact same Bush approval numbers -- 50-49-1.
How the overhyped have fallen. Bush has come down from the dizzying heights of the post-9/11 days and from the little bump he got by invading Iraq, and now he's back to where he started, numbers-wise. It's a 50-50 nation, just as it was during the 2000 "election."
Slowly, inevitably, people are coming to their senses. For most, the orgy of post 9/11 jingoism is over. People are waking with with record deficit hangovers and a stranger in their beds, to boot -- George W. Bush just isn't the handsome hero in a flight suit some thought he was. And what a mess to clean up in Iraq! Hand us the alka-seltzer.
Unfortunately, we're in a different place now than we were when Bush was inaugurated. We may wish we could turn the clock back to start over, but we can't. We have to start from where we are, and where we are seems pretty damn alien.
This is a moment of peril and opportunity. We can either (continue) to screw up America and lose it, or we can use this 50-50 moment to change our ways and maybe save it.
I say this is the time to fight back for America.
This is the time to clean up news media. We must turn our backs on the screamers and liars and walking freak shows that populate "talk news" programming. We must demand that people who call themselves "journalists" stop being enablers of spin.
I say we had better clean up politics in both parties. I'm tired of mindless, extremist partisanship. I'm tired of politicians who demagogue to tear down opponents (recent guilty parties include Dennis Kucinich and Dick Gephardt). And it's not just the candidates who are guilty. There are nutcases posting on Democratic Underground these days who are convinced that Wesley Clark is a stealth Republican. This is dumber than Safire's stalking horse theory.
('Course, it's no wonder we distrust politicians when we can't count on them to have a lick of sense. I'm very tired of elected representatives who lack the courage to take political risks when it's time to vote on legislation -- or war resolutions -- jammed through Congress during moments of national hysteria.)
At the same time, Republicans who haven't completely traded in their brains for Karl Rove implants must act now to take back the Party of Lincoln from right-wing extremists. This will be hard, because part of the price for taking back the party will be giving up the White House in 2004 and sending the Bushies home to Crawford. But by now at least some traditional Republicans must realize that the 2004 contest won't be between Bush versus a Democrat. It will be between Bush versus America itself.
If it were up to me we'd go directly to Liberal Promised Land, where labor is honored (and paid a living wage), and everyone has health care, and the environment is protected. But I don't think most of my fellow Americans have seen the light yet, and they may not be ready to go that far.
Even so, many Americans who supported Bush are sobering up and squinting at reality. Instead of partisan bickering, let us offer these people our hands and our hopes and show them what America can be.
2:26 pm | link

Rushing to Rush's Defense
You'll be relieved to know that the Freeps are standing up for Rush. A few hot threads from Free Republic:
"Why We Should Boycott ESPN" started by Libs R Evil. Mr. Evil didn't get many takers; it's the beginning of football season, after all.
"Harold Ford: Black Quarterback Cut By Democrats Joins Kick Off Squad As Rush Limbaugh Headhunter" started by Doctor Raoul. Doctor Raoul gets points for finding a connection between Rush Limbaugh's resignation from ESPN and (cue organ glissando, minor key) Hillary Clinton.
But the best comments are about Mr. Limbaugh's alleged addiction to prescription drugs. Rush is said to have been scoring pills in parking lots: "Rush Limbaugh in Pill Probe" started by Tracy Connor. This couldn't be true, of course, since Rush has enough money to buy his own doctor to write prescriptions! The Freeps also believe Rush needs painkillers to deal with his hearing loss problem (wasn't that a hoax?). And, of course, all the news stories are lies.
12:01 pm | link

Hot Links 8:59 am | link

wednesday, october 1, 2003

The End Is Near
As I keyboard, a reporter on CNN is saying that something historic is happening to the economy.
Economists are expecting 4 percent to 5 percent growth in the third quarter, and yet they don't think we'll have a single new job to show for it. That would make eight straight quarters of a growing economy with jobs lost in each of those quarters. ...
The numbers are not pretty: 8.9 million Americans unemployed. Another five million say they want to work, but are not counted as unemployed because they're not actively looking for work; 503,000 of that group are counted as -- quote -- "discouraged," not working and not looking because they believe no jobs are available. [Peter Viles, "Lou Dobbs Tonight," CNN, October 1, 2003]
Apparently, there have never been this many quarters of "jobless recovery" in a row. And although the "experts" keep saying jobs are just around the corner, we never seem to get to that corner. In other words, we're lost in unknown territory.
Last I heard, the economy is growing at a rate of more than 3 percent. Conservatives are quick to remind us of this every time a pundit speculates that, maybe, Bush's election chances (oops! I almost said "reelection") will be hurt by the bad economy. What bad economy? they ask. The economy is growing by more than 3 percent! What's the problem?
Just one more reason why there must be a Democrat in the Oval Office in 2005.
Still, people who really know something about economies are about the gloomiest people on earth these days. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote in The Guardian that Bush's economic follies could not only bankrupt the United States; they could destabilize the whole flippin' planet.

Three things are worth noting here. First, America's deficits are certain to sop up vast amounts of the world's pool of savings. ... It will mean higher real interest rates, lower investment and lower growth, all of which will be particularly costly for developing countries.

Second, America's huge trade deficit may be a source of global instability. Will the world continue to finance this deficit willingly, to put its money into a country with a demonstrable lack of competence in macroeconomic management (to say nothing of the corporate, banking and accounting scandals)? ...

Third, in searching for others to blame, America may again enter an era of protectionism, as it did under Reagan. Bush may trumpet free markets, just as Reagan did, but just as he may exceed Reagan in fiscal irresponsibility, so he may outflank Reagan in trade hypocrisy. [Joseph Stiglitz, "U.S. Economic Folly Should Worry Us All," The Guardian, September 17, 2003]

Stiglitz says the United States is borrowing more than a billion dollars a day. And here is the peril we are in: It is not impossible that the world will cut our credit, and the money flow will turn off, and we will have to live within our means.

Paul Krugman recently told CalPundit that this was not only possible; the numbers say that's where we are heading.

Just by the arithmetic, you can either have big tax increases, roll back the whole Bush program plus some; or you can sharply cut Medicare and Social Security, because that's where the money is; or the U.S. just tootles along until we actually have a financial crisis where the marginal buyer of U.S. treasury bills, which is actually the Reserve Bank of China, says, we don't trust these guys anymore — and we turn into Argentina. All three of those are clearly impossible, and yet one of them has to happen, so, your choice. Which one? [Paul Krugman, posted by Kevin Drum on CalPundit, September 16, 2003]

It's hard to tell people this. It's sounds impossible. That's because only the very elderly remember an America that was desperately poor. Most of us were born after World War II, which means most of us think of the United States of America as an absolute, solid rock of prosperity. Individuals may live in hardship, but the nation will always be rich, rich, rich. Because as far as we can remember, America has always been rich.

'Course, until September 11, none of us could remember being attacked by a foreign enemy, either. And we've never had so many quarters of  jobless recovery in a row.

11:26 pm | link

It's In the Stars
I was messing around on my favorite astrology site and learned for the first time that the USA has a sun-Saturn square in its natal chart. And I bet you didn't know that, either! Anyway, according to the astrologer, October is going to be a rough month for G.W. Bush.
First off, one of the reasons Bush has been off his game lately is that Mars was retrograde for most of August and September -- not a fortunate aspect for a commander in chief. But then on October 25 Saturn goes retrograde in Cancer, which is Bush's sun sign. The astrologer says his actions will be covert or murky (when are they not?) but the retrograde Saturn thing will really mess him up.
Remember -- you read it here. Sounds like the October 25 protest in Washington will be well timed, though.
8:53 pm | link

Who's the Useful Idiot Now?
Something about the Plame Flame reminds me of Peter Arnett.
You must remember Peter Arnett. He was the prize-winning war correspondent who suddenly disappeared from all U.S. new media -- print, broadcast, cable, whatever -- six months ago because he told Iraqi state television that U.S. war plans were not going well.
'Course, they weren't going well, but that wasn't the point. The boy just plain got off-message, and to the enemy, and he was dumped from his NBC job faster than you can say "Bob Novak."
"I think he should be brought back and tried as a traitor to the United States of America, for his aiding and abetting the Iraqi government during a war," hollered Senator Jim Bunning (R-Kentucky). "Mr. Arnett can apologize all he likes for being a `useful idiot' for Saddam and his barbaric regime. But that's not enough for me, and it's certainly not enough for our soldiers and many Americans."
Fair and balanced commentator Mona Charen wrote, "And so, ladies and gentleman, there is no doubt that Peter Arnett wins the useful idiot contest for this week...." Brent Bozell gave the fair and balanced opinion that Arnett was a "cretinous liar." Media Research Center editorialized that Arnett was a propagandist and his work as a journalist was shoddy (see September 30 Mahablog for origin of the word shoddy). I'm sure Media Research Center was just as hard on Geraldo Rivera of Fox News, huh?
NewsMax, in an article titled "NBC Fires Useful Idiot Peter Arnett," hoped that NBC's act would inspire CBS to "fire useful idiot Dan Rather for spreading propaganda for genocidal dictator Saddam Hussein." I guess they're still waiting on that one.
Today, the same folks at NewsMax who longed for Dan Rather's demise are saying that

The wife of Bush-bashing former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Joe Wilson is apparently not a covert CIA operative or an undercover agent, though she's been described that way repeatedly since the CIA asked for an investigation on how her identity was made public. ["Novak: Wilson's Wife Not a Covert CIA Agent," NewsMax, October 1, 2003]

Wow, that's quite a scoop, NewsMax! Everyone else says she was undercover! But ... oops ... this "scoop" is based on a misreading of a Bob Novak statement. Novak said that before he "outed" Ms. Plame he had been told she was not undercover. But, assuming Bob Novak is leveling with us, what he was told about Ms. Plame was not true.

That's a tad shoddy, NewsMax.

And then there's the Wall Street Journal. Last March WSJ ran a piece called "Benedict Arnett" that began, "Peter Arnett's career has been on a downward arc for some time now." You get the drift. Today, WSJ dismisses the Plame Flame as a nefarious Democrat plot to "get" the White House.

The media, and the Democrats now slip-streaming behind them, understand that the what of this mystery matters much less than the who. ... If they can take down Mr. Rove, the lead planner for Mr. Bush's re-election campaign, they will have knocked the props out of his Presidency.

Remarkably, WSJ appears to be in denial that any actual "outing" took place, and if it did, it was Joseph Wilson's own fault. Mr. Wilson was "somehow" hired as a consultant by the CIA, then he outed himself by writing an op-ed piece in the Times about what he learned in his investigations in Niger.

When an intelligence operative essentially claims that a U.S. President sent American soldiers off to die for a lie, certainly that operative's own motives and history ought to be on the table. In any event, Mrs. Wilson was not an agent in the field but is ensconced at Langley headquarters. It remains far from clear that any law was violated. ... The real intelligence scandal is how an open opponent of the U.S. war on terror such as Mr. Wilson was allowed to become one of that policy's investigators.

Not only is WSJ confused about who the operative was (Wilson or Plame?); WSJ is still in denial that the Niger yellowcake story was bogus. I'm not making this up; read the editorial and see for yourself.

All I know is that since September 11, 2001, we've been fed up to here with the storyline that only Bush supporters are patriots and only Bush supporters care about national security.

But outing Valerie Plame was a real breach of national security that could have far reaching effects, including lost lives.

And if someone in the White House leaked the identity of an operative to get political revenge -- that's real treason, too.

9:26 am | link

Hot Links 7:17 am | link

tuesday, september 30, 2003

Hot Links, Valerie Plame Edition 6:44 pm | link

Waging War for Fun and Profit
Today, Paul Krugman compares postwar Iraq with the Marshall Plan:

It's rarely mentioned nowadays, but at the time of the Marshall Plan, Americans were very concerned about profiteering in the name of patriotism. To get Congressional approval, Truman had to provide assurances that the plan would not become a boondoggle. Funds were administered by an agency independent of the White House, and Marshall promised that priorities would be determined by Europeans, not Americans.

Fortunately, Truman's assurances were credible. Although he is now honored for his postwar leadership, Truman initially rose to prominence as a fierce crusader against war profiteering, which he considered treason. [Paul Krugman, "Who's Sordid Now?" The New York Times, September 30, 2003]

War profiteering! Y'know, after a while you get so worn down by all the crap coming out of the Bush Administration you get a bit numb to it all. It takes a jolt like this to remind us how far we've come ... down.
Certainly, war profiteering, like corruption in government, is nothin' new. During the Civil War, for example,
To fill contracts for hundreds of thousands of uniforms, textile manufacturers compressed the fibers of recycled woolen goods into a material called “shoddy.” The noun soon became an adjective to describe uniforms that ripped after a few weeks of wear, shoes that fell apart, blankets that disintegrated, and poor workmanship in general on items necessary to equip an army of half a million men and to create its support services within a few short months. Railroads overcharged the government; some contractors sold muskets back to the army for $20 each that they had bought as surplus arms at $3.50; sharp horse traders sold spavined animals to the army at outrageous prices. [Secretary of War] Simon Cameron became the target of just as well as unjust criticism of such transactions. He signed lucrative contracts without competitive bidding and gave a suspiciously large number of contracts to firms in his home state of Pennsylvania. The War Department routed a great deal of military traffic over the Northern Central Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad in which Cameron and Assistant Secretary of War Thomas Scott had direct financial interest. [James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom (Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 324]
No-bid contracts? Crony capitalism? Soldiers doing without essential supplies while their suppliers make fortunes? Does this sound familiar?
Note, however, that Cameron served as Secretary of War for less than a year. In January 1862, President Lincoln made him the ambassador to Russia, an offer Cameron couldn't refuse. "President" Bush only dumps people for telling the truth (i.e., Economic Adviser Larry Lindsey, who was dumped abruptly after he said the rebuilding of Iraq could cost between $100 to $200 billion dollars).
reallittleharry.jpgIn 1941, Senator Harry Truman was so alarmed at wasteful military spending he established the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program, better known as the Truman Committee. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt was urged to desolve the Truman Committee. Under Secretary of War Robert Patterson argued that it would "impair our activity if we have to take time out to supply the Truman Committee all the information it desires." But FDR disagreed, and the Truman Committee went on to play a vital role in World War II.

It would be called the most successful congressional investigative effort in American history. Later estimates were that the Truman Committee saved the country as much as $15 billion. This was almost certainly an exaggeration — no exact figure is possible — but the sum was enormous and unprecedented, and whatever the amount, it was only part of the service rendered. The most important “power” of the committee was its deterrent effect. Fear of investigation or public exposure by the committee was enough in itself to cause countless people in industry, government, and the military to do their jobs right, thereby, in the long run, saving thousands of lives. [David McCullough, Truman (Simon & Schuster, 1992), pp. 287-288)

Humankind throughout the ages to come will look back on those challenging times with admiration and pride. The United States of America was a nation great in every sense of the word.

But, my dears, that was then. It sure as hell ain't now.

How the Mighty Have Fallen

In interviews, the Iraqi leaders said they planned to tell Congress about how the staff of L. Paul Bremer III, the American occupation administrator, sends its laundry to Kuwait, how it costs $20,000 a day to feed the Americans at Al Rashid Hotel in Baghdad, how American contractors charge large premiums for working in Iraq and how, across the board, the overhead from supporting and protecting the large American and British presence here is less efficient than granting direct aid to Iraqi ministries that operate at a fraction of the cost. [Patrick E. Tyler, "Iraq Leaders to Press Congress for Control Over Rebuilding," The New York Times, September 22, 2003]

WWTD -- What would Truman do? Kick ass, I suspect. But we know the President will not kick ass on war profiteering in Iraq, because the sumbitch is in on it. Indeed, the profiteering was instigated by this Administration, which is dedicated to turning every crisis into personal profit for themselves, their supporters, and their business cronies. 
Shortly after the September 11 attacks, Kevin Phillips presented an essay on National Public Radio on the profiteering that had already begun:
Unrewarded patriotism is for firemen, policemen and ambulance drivers. The House of Representatives, in the phony name of economic stimulus, just voted $100 billion of largely corporate and upper bracket tax breaks, ones they wouldn't have dared to pass without the air cover of the September 11th crisis.
The few billions for the poor and the jobless are just camouflage. Over three-quarters of the $100 billion goes for business and upper income objectives. One focus is the elimination of the corporate alternative minimum tax and the rebate of $25 billion of corporate alternative minimum taxes previously paid. [Kevin Phillips, "Ecopnomic Stimulus and Unrewarded Patriotism," National Public Radio, October 25, 2001]
Regarding Iraq, today's Krugman column shows us that the Bushies consistently reject lower-cost programs that would provide immediate benefit to Iraqis in favor of expensive programs that do little but line the pockets of Bush cronies. Just one example: when some Middle Eastern entrepreneurs built a cell phone network in Baghdad that actually worked, U.S. authorities shut it down so that Baghdad's cell phone business could go to an American contractor. As I write, Baghdad has no cell phone network.
And I don't have the strength today to go into the saga of Dick Cheney and Halliburton. But check out the War and Profit page for past blogs on the subject of war profiteering.
"To match this White House's blithe lack of concern about conflicts of interest, you have to go back to the Harding administration," Paul Krugman wrote in today's column. But I disagree. Teapot Dome was nothing compared to the nonsense that's going on now. And most historians believe Warren Harding himself was out of the corruption loop and had no idea what was going on.
You can't say that about George W. Bush.
Related Links:

Christopher Bollyn, "Halliburton Creating Iraqi Secret Police at Your Expense," American Free Press, September 2003

Christ Hartman and David Martin, "War Profiteering Starts at the Top," Center for Popular Economics, June 24, 2003

Paul Krugman, "Who's Sordid Now?" The New York Times, September 30, 2003

Dave Montgomery, "Cheney's Ties to Halliburton," Common Dreams, September 28 2003

John Nichols, "Topple the War Profiteers," The Nation, April 20, 2003

Statement of Congressman Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) on the House Floor, October 30, 2001

"War Profiteering," The Nation, April 24, 2003

12:04 am | link

monday, september 29, 2003

Krugman column!
What a relief--Paul Krugman is back on the Times editorial page after a brief hiatus.
Unfortunately, the Times persists in running op ed pieces by David Brooks. Nothing is perfect. 
11:29 pm | link

bobnovak.jpgWell, well. Bob Novak (photo at right) says nobody in the White House tipped him off that the wife of a Bush critic was an undercover CIA operative.
"Nobody in the Bush administration called me to leak this," Novak said today on CNN's Crossfire. "There is no great crime here."

Novak said Monday that he was working on the column when a senior administration official told him the CIA asked Wilson to go to Niger in early 2002 at the suggestion of his wife, whom the source described as "a CIA employee working on weapons of mass destruction." [CNN]

So, in other words, the source is a "senior administration official" but not someone in the George W. Bush administration. Maybe Bob was visited by the ghost of William Casey.
Josh Marshall is all over this story, so visit his blog regularly! See also Atrios at Eschaton.
Other notes: That famous pillarof moral rectitude Bill Bennett is on Scarborough Country tonight. I will not be watching.
Check out the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list:
1. Al Franken, Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them)
2. Madeliene Albright, Madame Secretary
3. Paul Krugman, The Great Unraveling
Hee hee hee!
6:50 pm | link

There they go again, says the Washington Times. The evil Democrats are demagoging Medicare.
Rep. Dick Gephardt, whose foundering presidential campaign will likely disintegrate on Jan. 19 if he fails to repeat his 1988 victory in the Iowa caucuses, is no stranger to demagoguery. He mastered the tactic during the 1995 battle to reform Medicare. Indeed, Mr. Gephardt and his Democratic colleagues were so unrelentingly demagogic in their "Medi-scare" campaign that even The Washington Post editorial page found it necessary — not once, but twice — to describe the Democratic Party as a collection of "Medagogues." [Gephardt's 'Medi-Scare' Campaign, The Washington Times, September 21, 2003]

That last sentence kills me. The "liberal" Washington Post found it necessary to describe the Democrats as "Medagogues." And twice!

But the Washington Times editorial raises two serious questions. One, is it true that as governor of Vermont Howard Dean supported New Gingrich's position on Medicare? And, what's going on with Medicare right now that should worry us?

The Gingrich-Dean connection? Gephardt alleges that in 1995, Governor Dean supported a Republican measure to cut Medicare. What Governor Dean actually supported back then was a plan to cut Medicare costs by making Medicare a managed care instead of a fee-for-service program; the money saved would have been used to provide prescription drug benefits. So it appears Gephardt really is demagoging just a tad.

"Gephardt doesn't differ much from Dean on Medicare, so he attacks the doctor for something he said about restraining the program's growth in 1995," wrote Howard Kurtz in today's Washington Post.

So, a virtual rap across the knuckles for Dick Gephardt. This stuff isn't helping us any, Congressman. While you're carping about what an opponent said eight years ago, Republicans in Congress right now are trying to kill the Medicare program entirely.

The Real Medi-Scare? A House-Senate conference committee is concocting a Medicare program overhaul that would provide a paltry drug benefit now at the cost of privatizing Medicare by 2010.

"We'd be better off with no bill at all," said Vicki Gottlich, Washington representative for the Center for Medicare Advocacy. "As it now stands, the bill would privatize Medicare, while cutting benefits, and sharply raising premiums and co-payments." [Saul Friedman, "Gray Matters," New York Newsday, September 27, 2003]

Both bills being considered in conference would give beneficiaries the option of staying in traditional fee-for-service Medicare or switching to a private plan. But, according to the AARP, the Republican-written House bill would phase in a much larger role for private plans. Under the House bill, Medicare would provide a subsidy to help beneficiaries purchase private health insurance, and the private health insurance plans would compete directly with Medicare.

This would work roughly the same way school vouchers work. Those who are able could use their subsidies to bypass the Medicare system in favor of private insurance, leaving Medicare with the sickest and poorest patients. This would drive up Medicare premiums and ultimately undermine the program, possibly killing Medicare entirely, which is probably the plan.

The Bushies and their ideological cohorts at think tanks like the Heritage Foundation are sworn to dismantle all remnants of the New Deal and Great Society programs, such as Medicare.

Here's what Edward Fuelner, president of the Heritage Foundation, wrote to supporters: ". . . today's policies are a product of the Great Society of the 1960s, which grew out of the New Deal of the 1930s, which was an assault on founding principles articulated in the 18th century. . . . Connecting the historical dots is no small task." For Great Society, read Medicare; for New Deal, read Social Security. And the real task is to connect the contemporary dots. [Paul Krugman, "Connect the Dots," The New York Times, April 2, 2002]

We can see where this is going. "President" Bush is eager to sign a Medicare drug benefit bill so he can go into the election cycle bragging about it. And if the Dems fight the provisions that would strangle Medicare down the road, the Pubs will claim that Democrats obstructed prescription benefits for seniors.

If you want to impress me, Congressman Gephardt, see what you can do to save your party from another Bush trap.

10:42 am | link

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sunday, september 28, 2003

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"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918


The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·

It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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