EVIL AND TRAGEDY IN IRAQ. One of the reasons I'm sympathetic to John Kerry is that his agonized stance on the war in Iraq reflects my own. By no means have I always agreed with him. I thought he should have voted against giving George W. Bush the authority to go to war, but for the $87 billion in reconstruction money for Iraq and Afghanistan. Still, I agree with his fundamental stance that we needed to work closely with the international community in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein, truly one of the most evil people on the planet.
That's why Bush's swaggering, unilateral invasion of Iraq was such a tragedy. The goal shouldn't have been to deprive Saddam of his non-existent weapons of mass destruction. As Kerry and numerous others have argued, if the UN weapons inspectors had been allowed to do their jobs, it would eventually have become clear that Saddam didn't have any. Rather, what was needed was some sort of intervention to stop what was an ongoing human-rights catastrophe.
Perhaps a US-backed coup would have done the trick, although Bill Clinton supposedly pushed for that during his presidency and wasn't able to penetrate Saddam's inner sanctum. Perhaps the world community could have been persuaded to drive Saddam out of power - a dubious proposition, I'll acknowledge, given that some of our would-be allies, including the French, were on the take, as New York Times columnist William Safire explains today.
Regardless, Bush's policies have left us with the worst of all possible worlds. Yes, Saddam is gone, but Iraq is in chaos, on the brink of civil war, with its people in far more danger than they were when the dictator was in power.
Yet, every so often, we're reminded of the horrors of Saddam's Iraq. Today the Boston Globe's Thanassis Cambanis - who has managed to find a way to do courageous, enterprising reporting from Iraq despite the dangers - has a gut-wrenching piece on a mass grave being excavated in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq. The excavation is taking place to amass evidence to be used against Saddam when he is put on trial. This passage tells you everything you need to know about Saddam Hussein:
At the end of the process, the team will produce evidence packets for each individual case in the form of slide presentations. Kehoe showed some of the slides:
One series showed a boy, first in the grave holding a red-and-white-striped ball, then his skeleton and clothes laid out in order.
Another showed a mother and her infant son. The mother's severed hand was found in her child's blanket with the baby's skeleton. The forensic pictures show his T-shirt, which bears the legend "Summer," and the mother's five pairs of gold earrings.
What should we have done? I don't know. I don't think Kerry knows, either. What's clear is that we shouldn't have done what Bush did. An evil dictator today sits in prison. But the Iraqi people are less safe than they were before the war, and so are we.
Kerry has acknowledged repeatedly that we can't possible pull out now. If we did, Iraq would complete its transformation into a haven for terrorists. All we can do is keep fighting and hope for the best.
ME UPON MY PONY ON MY BOAT. I did not immediately appreciate the loathsomeness quotient of Irene Sege's Globe profile yesterday of former network news personality Jane Clayson Johnson. But after my fellow Phoenicians started screaming about it, I took a closer look.
I'll skip the full analysis, but do check out this passage on Johnson's decision to give up her career in order to become a full-time mother:
Over and over, Johnson says she respects whatever path mothers take. "I want to talk about my choice," she says, "and not make judgments about other people." She recognizes that she has more financial means than most. "I'm very aware and very respectful of single moms out there who are working two and three jobs to make ends meet. I respect what they're doing. I put enough money away where I could make this decision. I understand that. And I have a husband who makes a good living." What about married mothers who work outside the home? "I don't know," she says. "Sometimes there are two incomes and maybe it would be important for the kids to have a parent at home. Sometimes to forego a new car or a boat or some sort of luxury, and maybe live in a more modest fashion so you're not sacrificing at home, is an important thing."
And kudos to whoever wrote what I assume (hope?) was the deliberately sly headline, "Focus on the Family." Dr. Dobson would be pleased.
WE DO IT ALL FOR YOU! Outsiders may assume that it's nothing but craft-brewed beer and mushroom pizza with extra cheese here at Media Log Central. In fact, our duties sometimes weigh heavily upon us. Such will it be tonight, when I'll be watching the third debate between Kerry and Bush rather than the Red Sox-Yankees playoff game. Although I imagine I'll steal a few glances at the game.
Kerry's got work to do. According to this roundup of state-by-state polls, he now trails Bush in the Electoral College by a margin of 291 to 228. That's a turnaround from just a few days ago, when Kerry, if I recall correctly, had 270 electoral votes.
Your pre-debate assignment for today is to read this Salon piece on whether Bush was wired for sound in the first two debates. I have no idea what to make of this story. But that's no ordinary bulge, is it?