Wednesday, November 26, 2003

FOUR QUESTIONS NOT TO FORGET
The president and his administration are counting on the short memory of the American people come Election Day 2004. While this is certainly not unprecedented nor, probably, unwise, it's the duty of us in the "Treason Lobby" (as Ann Coulter would say) to hold the administration accountable.

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What about Afghanistan?
Remember there? In case not, it was the first place we took it upon ourselves to invade in order to save them with freedom and liberty. (At least the self-defense justification in that war wasn't totally laughable) We promised to re-build the country, but quickly forgot about it once Saddam replaced Osama and the Taliban as the new boogeyman. Like Iraq, insecurity is the biggest obstacle to any sustainable economic or human development.

But we've been in Afghanistan two years (vs seven months in Iraq) and security is not really improving. International aid agencies operate with great difficulty outside the capital and are often intentionally targeted by militias. The national government is really little more than the Kabul city government. An Afghan woman medical doctor observed that the six years of Taliban extremist and conservative policy has affected our men’s way of thinking negatively, noting that she even knew of literate men who had refused to allow their women to work outside their homes or continue their education.

If you ask an Aghani the simplistic question, "Was Afghanistan a better place under the Taliban?", you might not like the answer. It seems obvious to us from the comfort of our centrally-heated homes and well-policed American streets. But however oppressive they may be, most dictatorships offer a certain degree of security. When forced to choose between authoritarianism and chaos, historically people would rather have the former becuase it at least offers token stability. The key is to not force them to make that horrible choice, to make it so democracy is not seen as the antithesis of security. Why is it America's responsibility to fix Afghanistan? Because this is what we chose.

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Who outed the CIA agent?
If a "soft on defense" Democrat had outed a CIA agent, there would be calls for inquisitions, impeachments and public hangings. (We do those things to a Democrat just because of his sex life)

Whoever outed the CIA agent (in relation to the Iraq-Niger hoax included in the president's state of the union address) did something patently illegal. They violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, which can result in 10 years of prison. Former President Bush, father of the current president, said, I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors. If so, then the traitor(s) must be found.

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What about the detainees at Guantanamo Bay?
The detention conditions at Guantanmo Bay was recently condemned by one of the most senior judges in Britain (our leading ally in the "coalition of the willing") who referred to Camp Delta as utter lawlessness and a monstrous failure of justice. He added that the detainees were beyond the rule of law, beyond the protection of any courts and at the mercy of victors. You'll note I referred to them as "detainees," not "the accused," because many of them have not even been formally charged with a crime! They can be held indefinitely without trial or access to lawyers and some have been for two years! It's simple. Let the detainees stand trial. If they're guilty, lock 'em up and throw away the key. Besides, if you try them, you can dangle a slightly more lenient sentence as a carrot for divulging information. If they're not guilty, release them some time between yesterday and the day before. This flagrant assault on the rule of law seriously undermines the administration's claims to be spreading freedom and liberty around the world. When you demand others live by moralizing rhetoric, you should be prepared to do so yourself.

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Where are the weapons of mass destruction?
Some will immediately dismiss this as after-the-fact whining or as "fighting the last war." Some will say that only Saddam-lovers would ask this question. But this is really the most fundamental question that needs to be answered.

The present failure to find the alleged weapons of mass destruction means one of two things.

a) Saddam did not have any at the time of the invasion. If this is the case, the war was predicated upon false information. Whether this information was patently falsified or manipulated or simply outdated, we need to find out why. My suspicion is some combination of latter two. But whether it was an honest mistake or intentional one, an investigation should be held. Hopefully this will discredit the already dubious concept of "pre-emptive" war, since "pre-emption" requires darn good intelligence.

b) The other possibility is that the weapons of mass destruction are still around. If this is the case, then it is imperative for us to find them. If they're still floating about, then we need to account for them before they fall into the wrong hands.

So accounting for the weapons of mass destruction is crucial, because until that time, we're left with two unpalatable scenarios. Either we were misled about the war or the weapons of mass destruction are still out there to threaten Americans and others.

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