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Friday, December 29, 2006
By Steven L. Taylor

The NYT’s editorializes on the Saddam execution, and raises a legitimate set of issues (The Rush to Hang Saddam Hussein):

The important question was never really about whether Saddam Hussein was guilty of crimes against humanity. The public record is bulging with the lengthy litany of his vile and unforgivable atrocities: genocidal assaults against the Kurds; aggressive wars against Iran and Kuwait; use of internationally banned weapons like nerve gas; systematic torture of countless thousands of political prisoners.

What really mattered was whether an Iraq freed from his death grip could hold him accountable in a way that nurtured hope for a better future. A carefully conducted, scrupulously fair trial could have helped undo some of the damage inflicted by his rule. It could have set a precedent for the rule of law in a country scarred by decades of arbitrary vindictiveness.

It could have fostered a new national unity in an Iraq long manipulated through its religious and ethnic divisions. It could have, but it didn’t. After a flawed, politicized and divisive trial, Mr. Hussein was handed his sentence: death by hanging. This week, in a cursory 15-minute proceeding, an appeals court upheld that sentence and ordered that it be carried out posthaste. Most Iraqis are now so preoccupied with shielding their families from looming civil war that they seem to have little emotion left to spend on Mr. Hussein or, more important, on their own fading dreams of a new and better Iraq.

What might have been a watershed now seems another lost opportunity.

Now, I think that the editorialist imbues the situation with more wasted power than is warranted, but the basic point is correct:  the trial was clearly a wasted opportunity.  What should have been a very dramatic event that underscored what the Iraqis had lived under became a footnote, a sideshow, a semi-forgotten bureaucratic process.  It seemed almost insignificant.  Part of the reason for that is that the violence outside the courtroom walls was far more significant to the daily lives of Iraqis.  Likewise the violence may have made it less likely that the trial would receive the media attention that it needed.

Still, the event it itself had a smallness to it that I think does bespeak of a lost opportunity.  The trial was never going to forge national identity (indeed, it could have indicted the Sunni minority for complicity in Saddam’s rule and created bigger fissures).  However, had there been a more unified approach to Saddam’s crimes that focused on how he had wronged Iraq, not just specific persons, then perhaps some sort of unity could have been forged. 

Ed Morrissey takes the editorial to task, focusing on the “nurturing hope” line, which is rather cliche, but looking at that issue does miss the broader point:  that this trial could have been a useful tool in helping build a new Iraqi state.  Instead it has been a perfunctory exercise that will serve as much as a rallying point for more violence as it will as a symbol of justice.

Ed also focuses on the “rush” issues.  While a three-year process may not be a “rush” I will say this:  the irony is that Saddam is going to be executed before he is tried for all of his crimes and before he is even convicted of  some of his more heinous acts.  The incompleteness of the process underscores the fact that the situation was not used to its fullest potential.  Saddam has come across as a semi-comedic, semi-pathetic figure at the end of this process rather than having been demonstrated to have been the bloody tyrant that he was.  Perhaps that is indicative of a rush job or, more likely, it shows that the entire system was flawed.

There is no other way to describe this situation than as a lost opportunity, and in that regard, the NYT very much gets it right.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via WaPo: TV plans tasteful coverage of Saddam execution.

I find that headline snicker-worthy. For one thing, we are talking about TV news. For another, I am not sure that the word “tasteful” and “execution” belong in the same sentence.

Of course, the WaPo reporter could help himself in terms of making a pun in the first paragraph of his piece:

Television networks face a killer of a conundrum with the impending execution of Saddam Hussein, whose hanging could be videotaped and perhaps aired on Iraqi TV.

While I think the man is deserving of death, I have to say that silly jokes aren’t in order out of respect for his victims, if not for any other reason.

And there is another question: while the networks and cable channels may decide not to show all of the gory details, how long before unedited video and stills make it to the internet? Will this be another Nick Berg situation, or will the fact that US military is taking the video mean that it won’t leak out?

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Thursday, December 28, 2006
By Steven L. Taylor

If you still haven’t gotten into the habit of checking out The Collective (upper left-hand portion of your screen), then I would note there is some good stuff up at PoliSciFi.

And don’t forget: each of the sideblogs can be blogrolled as well! (if you want to give me a New Year’s gift of link love!)

Some new Colombia stuff today as well (and some sports, too).

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By Steven L. Taylor

We return for a moment to the issue of the swearing of oaths that has recently gotten under the skin of both Dennis Prager and Representative Virgil Goode.

The Head Heeb provides some excellent historical background on the swearing of oaths, noting the presence in British common law of allowing persons of different faiths to swear upon their own holy books dating back to the middle 1700s in Great Britain.  He further notes the existence of the practice as far back as 10th Century in Europe.

So, if it wasn’t already obvious, Prager and Goode are all wet on this subject, so to speak.

As the HH rightly notes:

The measure that Goode and Prager are describing as revolutionary and threatening has been part of the common law since before the United States even existed, and has been applied in countless trials, state legislative proceedings, citizenship ceremonies and other places where oaths are taken. And the last time I looked, the country was still here.

Actually, the principle at issue in the Ellison controversy goes back even further than that. Oaths have always been recognized as a personal matter, and courts from time immemorial have viewed it as critical that witnesses view their oaths as binding. Thus, the one thing that was never taken away from Jews, even during the darkest periods of persecution in medieval Europe, was the right to swear on the Old Testament.

[...]

What Prager and Goode seek to deny Ellison, then, is one of the most personal aspects of religious freedom, and one that would not only have been granted to a Muslim in eighteenth-century London but to a Jew in tenth-century Byzantium. Before the First Amendment existed, John Morgan and other Muslims took their oaths on the Koran, gave the testimony that their consciences dictated, and were thus recognized as participants in the public life of their countries. Now that the Constitution ensures not only the right to participate but the right to do so on the basis of equality, the case in Ellison’s favor is even more open and shut. There’s someone deviating from American constitutional principles here, but Ellison isn’t the one.

The entire post is worth reading.

h/t: e-mail from MSS.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Bob Woodward notes the following in the pages of WaPo: Ford Disagreed With Bush About Invading Iraq

Former president Gerald R. Ford said in an embargoed interview in July 2004 that the Iraq war was not justified. “I don’t think I would have gone to war,” he said a little more than a year after President Bush launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford’s own administration.

In a four-hour conversation at his house in Beaver Creek, Colo., Ford “very strongly” disagreed with the current president’s justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously. In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Cheney — Ford’s White House chief of staff — and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who served as Ford’s chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief.

I noted the story at OTB this morning, yawned and moved on. Somehow this struck me as neither a surprise nor a big deal. However, Memeorandum would indicate that I underestimated the story.

OK, I can see how the fact that it was embargoed until his death to be sort of interesting, and certainly any critic of the administration will love the fact that Ford directly criticized Cheney and Rumsfeld. However, it strikes me as utterly unsurprising that Ford opposed the war in Iraq. That comports with my basic understanding of his politics and foreign policy.

As such, I find this all to be rather ho-hum. Perhaps the response is an artifact of the fact that it is the holidays and a relatively slow news day?

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By Steven L. Taylor

The news leaked out yesterday, but I was so underwhelmed that I failed to blog it: John Edwards joins presidential race.

I have never seen Edwards to be in a position to actually win the presidency (indeed, not even his party’s nomination). He is telegenic and has a populist message, but beyond that, what does the man actually have going for him that suggests he can beat Clinton or Obama or any number of other contenders? His governmental experience is scant and he has nothing on his resume to suggest that he can make any claim to be the right person for the White House given the ongoing focus on foreign policy. And I simply don’t think his “two Americas” approach will take him very far.

It is true that his governmental service is essentially the same as Obamam’s, but Obama has the advantage of being a new, very charismatic face who, at the moment, seems to have the ability to transcend simple partisan squabbling. Edwards’ basic message is very much a divisive one: us v. them (i.e., the poor v. the rich), and I don’t think that that is a tone that he can ride to the White House. I think that Obama’s inexperience will catch up with him, and his veneer of being “above politics” will also crack. However, he can ride it for quite a while, and will distance himself greatly from Edwards as a result (assuming he does, in fact, run).

Further, what is to stop other candidates from finding a way to appropriate Edwards’ social justice message in a less overt form? It isn’t like Edwards is uniquely qualified for that approach. In other words, I find him to be a one trick pony whose trick can be learned and used by others.

And remember what happened to the last failed VP nominee from the Democratic party–and his ticket won the popular vote and had a potential sympathy factor going into ’04.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Ford to lie in state in Capitol Rotunda:

Ford will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda, where 10 other presidents have been honored. But he also will lie in repose outside the chambers of the House — where he honed his leadership skills — and the Senate, where — as vice president — he served in his constitutional role as the chamber’s president.

[...]

Funeral details for the nation’s 38th president were made public Wednesday. He will lie in state in the Rotunda, where the public and dignitaries will pay their respects. But the short stops outside each congressional chamber will set tradition aside.

“I know personally how much those two tributes themselves meant to President Ford,” said family representative Gregory D. Willard, who detailed arrangements in a news conference in Palm Desert, Calif.

Willard said this “unprecedented historic tribute” was designed to honor Ford’s 25 years of service in the House, where he rose to minority leader, and his term as president of the Senate while he was Nixon’s vice president.

This strikes me as a very appropriate honor for President Ford, given his career path and the unique way by which he came to the presidency.

The basic timeline is as follows:

On Saturday, Ford’s body will be flown to Washington in late afternoon, where another special stop is planned. The hearse will pause at the World War II memorial in joint tribute to the wartime Navy reserve veteran and America’s armed forces.

The state funeral will be conducted in the Capitol Rotunda that evening. The public will be admitted to pay respects — sometime after a 6:30 p.m. EST arrival ceremony — and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST Sunday and Monday.

Ford will lie in state until Tuesday morning, in a closed casket. Then, his casket will be moved to the National Cathedral for a funeral service. Interment will follow the next day in Michigan.

In regards to the trip to the Rotunda:

One open question was how involved the funeral procession to the Capitol, often the most stirring of Washington’s rituals of mourning, would be for a man whose modest ways and brief presidency set him apart from those honored with elaborate parades.

In contrast to Reagan’s funeral, Ford will not have a horse-drawn caisson but will travel by motorcade.

This, too, strikes me as appropriate, given his brief tenure in office and the route by which he obtained it.  Somehow it seems as if a muted approach is the correct one.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP we find that Senator Reid (and a handful of others) will miss the Ford funeral because of an already scheduled tour of three Andean countries, including meetings with the Presidents of Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru:

Reid, D-Nev., left Wednesday afternoon from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland with a bipartisan group of five other senators, including Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the incoming assistant majority leader, for what has been described as a weeklong visit to Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru.

The highlight of the trip is said to be separate meetings with the presidents of the three nations, with the last one scheduled in Peru on Tuesday afternoon.

This has caused some consternation in some quarters of the Blogosphere. James Joyner note:

Several in the blogosphere are incensed by this. Hugh Hewitt demands that they “Turn. The. Plane. Around.” Ed Morrissey calls it a “classless act” and says the Senators “should be ashamed of themselves.” Kim Priestap thinks it “disrespectful, not to mention classless.” Some of their commenters are less kind.

Perhaps I am just tired of outrage, but, like James, I can’t muster the necessary emotion to get all upset about this.  Ultimately, I would think that Senate leadership making connections with world leaders in a key area of the world is probably a better usage of their time.  While I suspect that the meetings could be rescheduled, one guesses juggling the schedules of three presidents is not all that easy.

Keep in mind:  we have recently signed a free trade agreement with both Peru and Ecuador, but are having some issues with Ecuador that need to be sorted out and it behooves us to foster good relations with both Bolivia and Ecuador, as both have pro-Chavez presidents.  There are also issues of our anti-drug policies in the region, especially in Peru and Bolivia.  Given the general neglect of the region by our foreign policy in recent years, there are some positive aspects of the trip, regardless of the funeral.

One has to wonder:  how much of this outrage is the result of the fact that Reid and Company are Democrats and Ford was a Republican?  Surely that’s  not the real issues here?  Hmmm.

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By Steven L. Taylor

I woke up this morning to the following:

WordPress database error: [Can't open file: 'poliblog_comments.MYI' (errno: 144)]
SELECT COUNT(*) FROM poliblog_comments WHERE comment_approved = ’0′

WordPress database error: [Can't open file: 'poliblog_comments.MYI' (errno: 144)]
SELECT COUNT(comment_ID) FROM poliblog_comments WHERE comment_approved = ‘spam’

While the blog was displaying, anything like up to calls to the comments section of the database was screwed up. Luckily I was able to use the “Repair” command in MySql to fix the problem.

Anybody out there have any idea what the problem was/what might have caused it? I am guessing some sort of comment spam attack, but if so, this is the first time I have ever seen a result like this.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006
By Steven L. Taylor

Happy Birthday to my Eldest.

The photos are from 12/7/96, 12/27/96, 12/27/01 and 12/27/06.

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