29 May 2006


The Better USA

Andrew Sullivan has a sweet Memorial Day post up here -- most of it is an e-mail from one of his readers -- about what a great country this usually is. And how that greatness is reflected in and a result of the men and women of the armed services.

28 May 2006


For Mike McC. and Bryan T.

More YouTube goodies:

27 May 2006



While recently at Ft. McHenry, I saw the display shown below. (Click on the image if you want to see it at its home on Flickr in full-size (1752px x 1115px) and read the posters making up the display.)

The "one moment" idea, suggested by The White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance, is to stop whatever you're doing on Monday, 29 May 2006, at 3:00 p.m. local time, and remember those who have died performing armed service to the USA.

Chris Michel at Defense Tech has more:
Memorial Day is meant to be a solemn occasion, a uniquely military holiday—the only one that honors fallen soldiers. But since the first one on May 30, 1868, a little after the Civil War (then known as “Decoration Day”) when flowers were placed on the graves of soldiers from both the North and the South, Memorial Day’s quiet reverence has slowly been lost to the noise of commerce and the American pursuit of recreation. This didn’t happen overnight; it snuck up on us. And it’s not necessarily the fault of the American people who time and again have proved themselves patriots.


Losing brave Americans on fields of strife is not a new phenomenon. It’s part of our heritage. For over two hundred and twenty five years, our troops have made the ultimate sacrifice for what they believed was worth more than their own lives: Freedom. Not just the notion of freedom or the sound bite called forth in politically expedient ways, but freedom practiced by Americans every day.

This freedom is a gift across time, given most often anonymously. And now it is Memorial Day. How can Americans take it back and do right by the valor that created this day?

By action. For starters, the National Moment of Remembrance resolution asks that at 3 PM local time on Memorial Day all Americans should “voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence.”


Visit the graves of fallen soldiers. Leave a flower on the stone. Consider the grave and behold the cost of freedom.

Or simply shake a Soldier’s hand. Support for the troops is more than a sticker on an SUV. Whatever we do, let’s make it personal, not commercial.
It's Memorial Day weekend. Remember the fallen ones.

26 May 2006


Ichi Ni San Shi....

From YouTube, it's The Plasmatics on The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder in 1981.

"A Pig Is a Pig," with interview.

"Butcher Baby"

I have the VHS of this, but someone had already uploaded to YouTube. I also have the PiL interview referred to below, from the Wikipedia entry on Snyder:

Also memorable was the 1980 appearance of Public Image Ltd.'s John Lydon and Keith Levine, whose thoroughly uncooperative twelve minute appearance on the show is still talked about to this day.

Also, King Crimson on Fridays, Devo on Fridays, and The Tubes on The Midnight Special performing with... Olivia Newton John. I suppose these are also on YouTube, but I am too lazy to search for them right now.

24 May 2006


My Hope: Janet Reno: 16 Tons

Madeline Albright: 400 lbs.
Pat Robertson: 2000 lbs.

Thanks to Mike Silverman for the reminder.


Food Snobs Trying to Get Their Low Brow On

Exhibit A (a failure): Sara Dickerman, at Slate, considers jerky.
I wouldn't want anyone to watch me tear my way through a piece of jerky—it is not a pretty sight. Jerky is better eaten surreptitiously, in the privacy of the outdoors, or in the cabin of my imaginary 18-wheeler. Eager as the big jerky vendors might be to diversify the jerky audience with swanky packaging, tender cuts, and an emphasis on protein, beef jerky is not made for social snacking the way tortilla chips are. Jerky's appeal comes from its gnarled backwoods history—the slightly feral feel you get when you eat it. If jerky becomes too heavily processed, too tender, or too crispy, it might lose its crass charm without gaining any fans.
No mention of buffalo jerky, something that Mack's dad always has a supply of.

Oh yeah, the title is "Jerky, the Great American Charcuterie." WTF is a "charcuterie"? Hello? www.dictionary.com? A little help, please?

(I love Slate, but sometimes, it is just too highfalutin' for its own good.)

Exhibit B (a success, albiet kinda sloppy): Frank Bruni, in the New York Times (registration required), considers fast food in a cross-country sense from the front seat of a Taurus. The writing is just as pretentious, if not more so, than Dickerman at Slate, but his write up reflects the reality as many of us know it of eating fast-food (in constrast to Dickerson's encounter with jerky which, to me at least, lacks any kind of genuineness).

I made comparisons. The fries at Hardee's were better — crisper, more substantial in feel and taste — than the fries at McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King and Jack in the Box.

But the tots at Sonic, a chain prevalent in the South, were the sultans of spuds. Since all of these potato variants are about exterior crackle, not interior vegetable, the tot configuration, with more crests and buttes and ridges, won the day.

Mmmmmm. Sonic. I'm getting dinner ideas. (For those of you in California, Sonic's food tastes in many ways like In-N-Out Burger's food. But, it's delivered to your car on roller skates.)

23 May 2006



Einstein can't be classed as witless
He said atoms were the littlest
When you did a bit of splittingness
Frightened everybody shitless

There ain't half been some clever bastards...
From "There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards," by Ian Dury and the Blockheads.


Who Writes of Such Things?

Over at the American Prospect's TAPPED blog, Garance Franke-Ruta writes:
I know nothing of the Clinton's marriage, but I have watched enough families over the years to know that those couples who run up to the brink of divorce and then chose to reject it enter a territory few people ever see, and that there is much goodness to be found on the other side of that decision. Couples do recover from the unrecoverable and they can reforge bonds of love that transcend not just past difficulties, but, in a really profound way, even embodiment itself. Yes, marriage is a contract for the conduct of mundane life, but it also has the potential to be a spiritual pact, and as marriage has lost more and more of its material grounding, its psychic and spiritual functions have loomed ever larger. That's not news story material -- who writes of such things outside the Style section, or novels? -- but it's part of the larger human story we ask our politicians to be part of, and in which, ultimately, all of us can't help but be interested.
"Who writes of such things outside the Style section, or novels?" (1) People interested in the idea of gay marriage, for whom such ordinariness is denied. Not just denied, but denied with a "by the way, you homos aren't really people, and your relationships aren't as authentic as ours" aspect, even if you did manage to stay together for umpteen years in spite of each other and a homophobic world that's still not ready, to a degree that would make for downright comfort, for gay couples on a day-in, day-out basis. An aspect that would be blood curdling if it weren't so commonplace. (2) Children of couples who've been to the edge of splittingness for one reason or another, and who value that their parents stayed together, as trying as it was.

I'm in both categories.

I like the idea that the Clintons stuck it out, not in some kind of tabloid purient way, but in what I hope is a mature appreciation for the importance of making a relationship succeed. And I know that not only straight people, but plenty of gay people who are committed to each other, have found themselves at that edge of break up, pulled back, made new committments to each other, and found new joys in each other's company, in being part of a pair.

Which is not to denigrate or send to steerage those for whom that wasn't the outcome. There may be a character component to it -- and if so, that component isn't timeless, sometimes has to grow -- but there are also aspects of luck and situation that lead to the final outcome.

So let's hear it for successful "marriages," whether legally recognized or not, but especially, at least for this moment, for the ones that made it through darker days and found something better on the other side.


Dog, wearing Goggles, Riding Motorcycle

I was pulling onto a street and waited because I saw the guy on the motorcycle coming. When he passed, I saw the dog. I caught up with them at light at the next intersection and was lucky to get this shot with my phone cam.

22 May 2006


The Origins of Homosexuality

Some of my proto-thoughts posted in a comment to this post over at my buddy TRJ's blog.

Quoting what I wrote there:
(1) There's a genetic component to both male and female homosexuality. Almost certainly.

(2) There's an in-utero environmental component, too. Effects of masculinizing hormones probably, almost certainly?, have a role in all this.

(3) There's a cultural developmental component. You ever read those studies about tamed foxes, and how they exhibited all kinds of external and behavioral traits -- color schemes, sounds -- that aren't observed in foxes in the wild. The thinking is that the lack of stress allows certain genetic components to get expressed that ordinarily wouldn't get expressed under the more stressful conditions of the wild.

Tie those three together into one knot, and you get gayness that's genetically predispostioned, brought into play by certain interuterine conditions (birth order can have an impact here, but it's statistical, not deterministic), with certain cultural developmental levels necessary for the genetic predisposition [enabled by the exposure to masculinizing hormones -- just added this here] to occur.
Like I said: Proto-thoughts.

Regardless of why and how -- and why and how are interesting questions, no? -- aren't what and how interesting, too? Maybe more interesting, in some ways.

I'm gay, what do I do?

I'm not gay, how do I act regarding people who are gay?

There are gay people in this world, what do we do? How do we do it?

21 May 2006


79 Years Ago Today

"...and for a moment people set down their glasses in country clubs and speakeasies and thought of their old best dreams." -- F. Scott Fitzgerald, quoted at The Writer's Almanac, on the event of Charles Lindbergh's solo trans-Atlantic flight, 21 May 1927.

Old best dreams: Embers of flames long died down that should be stirred and fanned every so often until they glow again. Even the once painful ones.

20 May 2006


"China Is Old Couch Heaven"...

...featuring Chapstick for dinner, the local refuse transfer station, survivors of an awful fire, eBay Reserve, a rescue/attack by Airwolf, and the head of Keith Moon preserved in vodka. With a guest apperance by Robert Smith of The Cure.

It's all in a recent thread at the highly entertaining Achewood. Starts here; ends here.

Too long for your tastes? Try this one, then.


Reefing the Oriskany

Kit at PaperFrog (my virtual sangha) has complete coverage, with photos, on the transition of the aircraft carrier Oriskany to an artificial reef off the coast near Pensacola.

My intention is for a similar fate.

More from the Pensacola NewsJournal.

"Reefing"? Hey, it's English. Any noun can be verbed.

19 May 2006


We Do Too Have Fun!


Flight/Airline from Hell

I mentioned our MD-88 from Hell below.

After visiting Fort McHenry, we had lunch at the Rusty Scupper -- Chesapeake Bay Oysters, mmmmm -- on Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Then we made it to the airport -- remembering, just barely, to refuel the rental -- with perfect timing: one hour before our scheduled 3:30 p.m. EDT departure time. Security was no problem. Getting onboard was no problem.

The problem was that one of the ground crew accidentaly hit the wing of the plane with a baggage cart. This meant inspections. This meant repairs. This meant we didn't get off the ground until 7:40 or so, a delay of over four hours.

There was no particular ineptness in the accident or the repairs involved, at least as far as I could tell. But there is a general ineptness to Delta Air Lines these days. There was no local Delta maintenance crew: It was farmed out. So the paperwork for every major decision, just like a dead Southerner on his or her way to Heaven, had to go through Atlanta. Ugh.

They let folks off the plane fairly early, and quite a few, including one of our group, rescheduled flights right then and there. (He was on his way to Boston the next day, and was convinced by the Delta gate agent that he'd never make his scheduled flight out of Daytona Beach.) And finally, they opened up the bar, giving complementary drinks to all who chose to partake (see photo of folks stading in the aisles at the galley). Things did reach an absurd point when the repairs were finally effected, and they had to get the passenger manifest/count in order. It only took them three tries to get it right. And then they had to take some fuel off the plane to get the weight/balance right.

When we got to Atlanta, we had just missed the last flight out for Daytona Beach. But we got ourselves onto a flight to Orlando, rented a car one-way there, and drove to Daytona Beach. After dropping off my remaining travel companion, I got to drive back to Debary, getting home about 2:30 a.m.

I do think Delta has pretty much lost it. It reminds me of Eastern back when it was on its last sloppy legs. Recently, when I travelled to Birmingham, Alabama, Delta cancelled my connection from Atlanta to Birmingham hours before it was scheduled to happen. Mack was taking me to the Orlando airport to catch my flight to Atlanta, when I got an automated call on my cell phone telling me that I had been "protected" by being "reticketed" on a flight out of MCO the next day. We were almost to the airport when this call came in. When I tried to get Delta reservations on the phone, I was connected to outsourced -- somewhere on the Indian subcontinent I would say on the basis of the accents of the two different folks I talked to there -- customer service representatives who seemed not to have the slightest context for how to interpret my situtation. They seemed incapable of getting off the scripted interaction and dealing with me as an individual.

I don't fault the flight crew, cabin crew, or ground crew of our flight the other day: Shit happens. But I do fault Delta management and bean counters. I think their cost-cutting measures are reaching a point of having major impact on customer satisfaction. Next time we have to go to Baltimore on business, we'll take the United direct flight from Daytona Beach to Dulles. It'll be a longer drive compared to flying into BWI, but it'll be quicker overall. And it'll reduce the number of times I have to fly Delta.


U. S. Flag at Fort McHenry and Other Baltimore Photos

Two grad students and I recently had the opportunity to visit Baltimore on work-related matters. We had some spare time between finishing up and before our flight out. (More on that flight, the MD-88 from Hell, later.) We got to visit Fort McHenry, and on the way there, we accidentally discovered Federal Hill Park, too. (Okay: We saw a flag flying that had 15 stars, so we thought we had found Fort McHenry.)

The photo sets at Mack's and my Flickr site are:
If someone can explain why the War-of-1812 flag only had 15 stars and 15 stripes, I would be much obliged. I understand that they started adding both stars and stripes, then later decided to go back to 13 stripes for the original 13 colonies, but by 1812, Vermont, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, and Louisiana had joined the union. Why did they stop messing with the flag after Kentucky joined in 1792?


Number One, With a Bullet...

...at least as of 8:20 a.m. EDT on 19 May 2006.

Click here to experience the mystery of Google's ranking algorithm.

11 May 2006


Toot the Horn? How Loudly?

Say you were a faculty member, recently tenured (one year ago), at a medium-sized institution with a focus on aerospace/aviation. The faculty and student body there are somewhat conservative, what with the aerospace/aviation overlap with the military, etc. Of course, the military is not necessarily as conservative as many would imagine, since it attracts folks from all walks of our lives, but the perception, not necessarily the reality, is that it is a conservative institution.

Say you were an "out" faculty member. That is, you were gay, and you didn't try to hide that. You were or had been the faculty advisor for the LBG student group. You and your partner partook of most University social functions, and had since you started working there. Maybe you had written the University's domestic-partner policy and seen it successfully adopted.

Suppose you had made being out in that "In fact, I'm not married, but I do have a life and a love, thank you. I'm gay, and, believe it or not, we're pretty damned happy and have been, with the usual ups and downs, for going on twelve years now, longer than the marriages of some of our sibblings," part of how you conducted your professional life. Not arguing with people about homosexuality, but refusing to pretend that there was something wrong with it, tying to find the right line between activism in some forms and conformity. Not acting like your life was inferior to your straight counterparts, and insisting that they acknowledge your life, the one you loved, that you were just as much a couple as your straight peers who had married, had (or not had) childred, etc.

Now say you were elected Vice-Speaker of the campus faculty Senate. How loudly would you crow about it? How big a deal is it, considering that you're gay and the somewhat, in some folks' minds, conservative bent of your campus?

I figure it's a testimony to the mature sensibility of my peers that they wouldn't hold the fact that I'm gay against me, even as I could imagine that they might have choosen to do so, but I don't think it's groundbreaking or anything extraordinary. I think it speaks well for my institution, even if it is conservative in some ways. Trying to deliver the best education for the folks who pay us to help them develop professionally and personally is not an attribute of conservatism. Nor is hard work, care for others, and doing one's best to support one's family, communities, insitutions, and nation. Even to try to be a good citizen of the planet. That's not conservative, even if it is rooted in longer-term values than many might not respect today.

The folks I will get to work with are great people. I hope I do a good job.

10 May 2006


A Correction

It's United 93, not Flight 93.


Addams Family Mashups

This tidbit of teleplay was recently found in the Delta Quadrant:
Scene: Gomez and Morticia, fencing in the parlor.

Sexy banter between Gomez and Morticia.

The Addams Mansion "doorbell" rings. (Quaking camera...)

Cut to Lurch answering door. Shot of dusty Beatle boots materializing -- shiny salt effect -- at the threshold. Whirly sound effect with sproing.

Back to parlor, Lurch enters from right. Gomez and Morticia stop fencing.

Gomez: Who is it, Lurch?!

Lurch, disdainfully: Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock to see you, sir.

Gomez: Excellent, Lurch! Send them in!
(All of Gomez's lines end in exclamation points.)

Or how about this one:
Morticia, in the parlor, babying extra-large Preying Mantis.

Addams Mansion doorbell "rings." (Quaking camera.)

Benson: You want me to get that?

Morticia: Oh, Benson, if you don't mind.
You cannot play this game with The Munsters. Well, you can, but it won't be funny, because The Munsters was never funny!

Well once. Paul Lynde was playing a near-sighted physician who they had brought Eddie in to see. "I see you brought your little doggy." But that was only funny because Paul Lynde was funny. Intrinsically funny. Unlike The Munsters which was intrinsically unfunny.

(Hat tip to Solonor for thought provocation.)

09 May 2006


Bless This Checkout Line

Consider the image from left to right: "O.J. COCAINE OVERDOSE." "Camilla GAY Scandal." "Astrology for Your Cat."

Seriously, now: Which is the most scandalous?

06 May 2006



Salad from a bag, with added celery, radish, and green pepper. Add cheese, croutons, and bacon bits or artificial substitute thereof. Toss with Italian dressing.

Baked potatoes. Coat the potatoes in olive oil the rub 'em in margarita salt. Bake at 450 degrees F for 1 hour. My brother Ray taught me that one. They are really good that way.

Pepper steak: Put a couple of tablespoons of peppercorns in folded up wax paper, then get out the hammer and smash 'em up good. Then smush them into each side of some nice steaks -- New York strip is my choice, but rib eyes are good, too. Cook in a medium-hot skillet in several tablespoons of butter with one or two tablespoons of cooking oil added. About four or five minutes a side, depending on thickness and degree of rareness desired. Then deglaze the skillet with 1/4 cup bourbon and a couple of tablespoons of water. Pour over the steaks. This is from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

Rolls. Okay, these were Pillsbury frozen sourdough rolls.

Red wine. A Merlot. I know that is about as red as you can get. That is about the extent of my wine knowledge. That, and avoid White Zinfandel.

We will be having cheesecake with strawberries later.

I wanted to have shrimp as an appetizer, but in hindsight that would've been extreme, especially given how full we are pre-dessert.

No occassion.

Life is good.

04 May 2006


A Partial History of Adolesence, Featuring Seances and Schlitz Beer

A recurring activity at early adolescence church-group parties in my hometown -- parties in the church itself -- was to have a seance and try to call up the Bell Witch, in our fragile minds the meanest, nastiest, spirit on the Group W bench in Hell.

Basically it was an excuse to turn out the lights, make out, try to cop a feel, etc.

What? Yes, this was in a church.

What? Yes, it's no wonder we turned out to be a lot of heathens.

Regardless, the Bell Witch has a new movie (apparently there were others; who knew?) -- with Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek -- and it's getting bad reviews.

Maybe she wasn't so mean and nasty after all.

Later, after we aged a few years -- from 12 to 14 or so -- we gave up on seances at the church and took to drinking 40s of Schlitz, bought for us at The Worm Ranch (Google: "Your search - worm-ranch beer-joint - did not match any documents") by a buddy of my brothers, under the bridge when we were supposed to be at the dance at the National Guard Armory.


For Tricky Nicky

Hey, Tricky.

Remember that time we saw Jan Hammer at the Exit In? He was wailing Hendrix, "Manic Depression," on some kind of guitar/keyboard thing. Had all the guitar player's pitch bending and intermodulation tricks down cold. That would've been 1979 or something. I was still living in the trailer, I think.

Well, dig this video of the Miami Vice theme.

Video from YouTube via MusicThing (here). As noted there, dig the Fairlight, dig the gun, etc. Yeah, and dig the hair, and dig the shoulder pads, while you're at it!

p.s. If anyone knows how actually to get in touch with Tricky Nicky -- last time I saw him was Christmas 1994, and he was living in Costa Rica at the time -- let me know.

03 May 2006


Flight 93

This isn't a movie review. It's a meditation on whether to see a movie.

The movie? Flight 93, the documentary-style dramatization of the 9/11 events that culminated, supposedly (I believe it did), with the hijacked passengers trying to force their way into the cockpit and prevent the terrorists from taking out the White House or Capitol. The story is one of the heroism of the ordinary, of citizens understanding that they could fight back.

I have nothing but love and admiration for what those people did. I think their story should be told, and in a way, I'm glad it's being told. Glad that some may be recentered about the very real threats against our lives of that day and of now. I hope each and every one of us is so bold, so right, that if we were in the same situation we would respond similarly, do what is necessary, whatever is necessary.


I've never seen the videos of World Trade Centers collapse. I've seen still photos from 9/11, but I refused at the time to watch the videos -- the endlessly repeating video -- of the towers coming down. My imagination is perfectly fine to grasp the idea of 3,000+ people coming to their deaths in less than an hour through acts of will on the part of 2, 4, 19, 20 terrorists (the number doesn't matter -- the willfulness does). I don't want that imagination corrupted by seeing the reality.

And I'm not sure I want my imaginings about Flight 93 to be corupted by seeing someone else's imaginings.

So, I am not sure I have the heart to see Flight 93, as much as I appreciate the reality and the story. It's not that it's "too soon:" It's that I have my own story about that day, a day that matters to me. I don't want to take a chance on someone else messing it up for me.

Describing life under totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt wrote about "the banality of evil." In my mind, one way evil becomes banal, as opposed to shit-your-pants frighteningly extraordinary, is by putting it forward constantly. I'm not talking about video-game violence: I believe such an overwhelming fraction of kids know the difference between reality and fantasy that I don't worry about the moral implications of teenagers playing too many first-person shooters. But I'd rather not have a world where skyscrapers are brought down by religious nuts with regularity, or where you or I would expect to expect that. Or where we watch it happen with rapt attention.

Sometimes, it's okay to close your eyes and see what really happened.

I know that each and every one of us is likely capable of such atrocities and of the corresponding heroism response, but I'm glad that the overwheming majority of us manage to stay on the side of the line saying, "No thanks, I don't think I'll kill 3000 people today. Or start planning for it." If the day should come where someone else crosses that line, I'd hope to be like the passengers on Flight 93.



Someone (Robert Kagan, in a Slate dialog with Amartya Sen on "Is there a clash of civilizations"), who writes much better than I ever shall, answers the "Why overturn Saddam?" questions better than I could ever hope to. What follows is pretty much all of one of Kagan's missives in their correspondence:
I really have no doubt that removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq was the right thing to do. Even despite the Bush administration's poor decisions in the aftermath of the invasion, and despite the enormous difficulties that have arisen in bringing stability and security to Iraq, I don't think either the world or the Iraqi people would be better off with Saddam still in power. The one thing that would lead me to judge the invasion a mistake would be if the United States and its allies were to withdraw from Iraq prematurely and allow it to disintegrate, thus inviting interventions from neighboring powers and possibly making it a safe haven for terrorists. I don't believe that this will happen, however. I think both this administration and the next will maintain U.S. forces in Iraq, as well as the political and financial commitment to Iraq, and that, over time, the process of rebuilding the country will move forward.

I have a hard time understanding the argument that things would have been better had Saddam been left in power. I happened to read this morning the Human Rights Watch account of the atrocity at Halabja in 1985, when Saddam and his forces used chemical weapons against the Kurdish population of men, women, and children, just as he used chemical weapons against Iranian forces and civilians during the long Iraq-Iran war. This was not the only atrocity and massacre that Saddam ordered against his own people. (And the fact that we in the West, including in the United States, ignored these atrocities is a reason for shame but was not an argument for continuing to ignore Saddam's behavior in perpetuity.) Nor if he remained in power today would he hesitate to carry out similar atrocities if he felt he could get away with them. We often ask, looking back at slaughters committed by people known for their cruelty, why the world didn't act to stop them from striking again. I think if we had left Saddam in power, we would have been left asking ourselves that question after he committed the next atrocity or the next aggression.

To put this discussion somewhat in the context of your book, I'd like to make clear that I didn't judge Saddam as part of any category of people, culture, or "civilization." Saddam was a uniquely cruel and aggressive dictator but hardly of the kind to be found only in his part of the world. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once compared him to Hitler. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell called him "one of the leading terrorists on the face of the Earth." For more than a decade, he built and maintained an arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, which he was more than willing to use against his own people and against his neighbors. He attempted to build nuclear weapons in the years leading up to the first Persian Gulf War, and it was later learned that he had come very close to succeeding—ironically, a development that U.S. and European intelligence entirely missed. It now appears that he halted those efforts at some point in the 1990s, but weapons-inspections teams led by David Kay and Charles Duelfer determined that it was his firm intention to resume that quest as soon as international pressures abated. In the meantime, it seems Saddam wanted both his own people and the world to believe he possessed all manner of weapons of mass destruction. His deception was so elaborate that even his own generals believed he possessed these weapons. It is not surprising that the intelligence agencies of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, and many other nations believed he did, too. What can we say about a man willing to risk invasion in order to pretend that he had weapons of mass destruction, especially given that he had a record of both building and using such weapons? That it would have been better to leave him in power?

I would argue that such a man was too dangerous, both to his own people and to his neighbors, to leave in power, just as I felt that Slobodan Milosevic was too dangerous to leave in power and thus supported the American interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo. Unlike even today's Iran, which has committed acts of terror but has not yet invaded its neighbors, Saddam was a serial aggressor who launched unprovoked invasions against Iran and Kuwait as part of an effort to gain dominance of his region through control of its resources. He was a man with a mission, and he was determined to carry it out whenever the opportunity afforded. Indeed, I believe that even if the United States had not gone to war in 2003, Saddam would have provoked a confrontation at some point that would have put the international community in the position of either capitulating or seeking his removal from power. It is worth recalling that Saddam managed to provoke not one but three U.S. presidents to take military action against him: the first President Bush in 1991, President Clinton in 1998, and the second President Bush in 2003. Not only do I think the war to remove Saddam was right, I am not at all convinced that it was avoidable.

Let me add, finally, that I did not favor the invasion of Iraq primarily to bring democracy to Iraq or to push the broader Middle East in a more liberal direction, although I hope it may eventually do both. My reasons were and remain primarily strategic. I do think that Saddam's foreign policy was of a piece with his domestic rule: that he employed brutality at home to seize and maintain power and therefore employed brutality abroad to enhance his power. But had Saddam been a dictator like Egypt's Hosni Mubarak or Belarus' Alexander Lukashenko, I would have supported significant political, diplomatic, and economic pressures against him but not an invasion. Saddam was in a special class, not only because he was a dictator but because his genocidal, inhuman behavior moved him across a threshold of tolerance, and because he was a threat not only to his own people but to everyone around him, as the widows and orphans of hundreds of thousands of Iranians and Kuwaitis can attest. In these respects, he might be put in the same class as Milosevic, but I believe he was actually a good deal more dangerous.

Once having invaded, however, I think the United States had an obligation not to hand the Iraqi people over to the mercies of some new dictator, but to give them a chance to enjoy the rights we believe to be universal. Nor as a practical matter do I believe there is any other viable way to construct a government in Iraq. So, I don't understand those who argue that it has been a mistake to try to support democracy in post-Saddam Iraq. What alternative do they have in mind? Which dictator would they choose to put in place? And supported by what army?

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