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Mourning in America


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Grief and Honor

America is a big country, and yet when grief touches it, maybe not so big after all. Everybody seemed to be mourning together this weekend, not only in Florida and in Houston, but across the nation. My brother-in-law called to say that he had taken his 7-year-old son to watch Columbia lift off, on their Florida vacation; on the radio and television too, I heard voice after voice explaining how much the astronauts and the space program meant to them personally and to their community. And yet even in grief, the dominant emotion one hears is pride – in the courage of the crew and America’s achievements in space.

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I was moved too by the unspoken symbolism that six Americans died together with Col. Ilon Ramon of the Israeli Air Force – a leader of the raid that destroyed the Osirak reactor in 1981 and saved Americans from confronting a nuclear-armed Iraq ten years later. In space as on earth, Americans and Israelis share the same fate. Honor to them all.

They Call This Realism?

No honor though to the authors of a dismaying op-ed by Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in the New York Times this weekend making what has come to be called the “realist” case against the war – an example of misnaming if ever I heard one. Listen to this:

“Thus, Mr. Hussein has gone to war when he was threatened and when he thought he had a window of opportunity. These considerations do not justify Iraq’s actions, but they show that Mr. Hussein is hardly a reckless aggressor who cannot be contained.”

In other words, Saddam makes war in only two sets of cases: when he feels weak and when he feels strong! That’s supposed to be reassuring? Especially when he spends the few remaining hours when he feels neither weak nor strong acquiring the poisons he’ll use when it’s time to resume fighting.

More on Karla Fay Tucker

I received many interesting reader responses to the Q&A last week about Bush’s reaction to the execution of Karla Fay Tucker. Here is one from a reader who witnessed first-hand then-Gov. Bush’s personal reaction to the controversy over the case:

“I was on Governor Bush’s staff in Austin at the time of the execution; working in the correspondence section as a writer. The one meeting I had with GWB when I was a writer was when we were working on the response to the thousands upon thousands of letters we were getting. (The vast majority of Texans were calling for the execution; the majority of people outside Texas — and everyone in Europe — were anti-execution, and then there was the one poor confused woman who wrote in and asked the Governor not to execute figure skater Tara Lipinski.)

“Anyway, what I remember from that meeting was that GWB was the only person who really felt compassionate towards Tucker, and indeed everyone on Death Row. He pointed out that really, nobody in the media or in the anti-death penalty movement cared about her; they were just using her to attack the death penalty in general and George W. Bush in particular. He said that we never ought to be positive about the death penalty, that it’s always a tragedy, and always the last thing we should want to do.

“Having said that, I can see GWB making a joke about it after it was over. But, I think it overstates the point to say that it was 9/11 that made Bush more somber about human life. The man I saw after 9/11 was the same man I saw in Austin, and I was proud and grateful that he was there, and that I had had the chance to work for him.”

It’s Worse Over There

Whenever you feel ready to despair over the American press, be grateful you do not have to cope with Britain’s. Last week, the left-wing tabloid the Daily Mirror sponsored a poll of British opinion about Iraq. It offered readers three options: immediate war, war after further UN action, and no war under any circumstances. Results: 9% for immediate war, 41% for war after further UN action, 43% opposed to war under all circumstances. Most pollsters would read that as a 50-43 plurality in favor of one or another pro-war answer – especially since the same survey found that 34% of the British public felt more inclined to war after Hans Blix’s report of Iraqi cheating and non-compliance to the Security Council on Jan. 27.

But that’s not how the Mirror – one of Britain’s largest papers – reported the news: Instead, they treated their readers – and the even larger TV audience that heard the poll reported on the private broadcaster GMTV – to the information that “an astonishing 84 per cent of the nation oppose a US-British war on Iraq.” Reminds me of Evelyn Waugh’s joke about the English press lord who allowed his employees only two responses to his pronouncements: “Yes Lord Copper” when he said something that was not glaringly false, and “Up to a point Lord Copper,” when he announced, say, that Yokohama was the capital of Japan.

Tour News

I will be in Minneapolis on Feb. 18 to speak to the Center for the American Experiment. You can obtain tickets to the event at www.amexp.org.



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