Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Women's Rights in Iraq

Among the various justifications for invading Iraq, many have turned out to be false: W.M.D.'s, W.M.D. programs, W.M.D. program-related activities, uranium sought from Africa, and connections of any sort to 9/11. False, false, false, false, and false. Then came the ideological options: democratization of Iraq and, by domino effect, the entire middle east. This one denied the conventional wisdom that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to peace in the region, which seems as true as ever now. Thus, that neo-con theory appears to be false. Then we also heard about women's rights. We are there to liberate women. Two reports today, however, put this into question. First, Juan Cole writes:
The . . . juvenilization of women, the rendering of them wards of men, can be seen in Bush's Iraq. Contrary to the propaganda Bush's team is so good at producing, the secular, Arab nationalist Baath Party had passed some of the more progressive laws and regulations about women in the Middle East. Iraqi women in the 1970s had unprecedented opportunities for education and entry into the professions. The Bushies like to pose as liberators of Muslim women, but they have brought to power Muslim fundamentalists who are obsessed with subjugating women.
Second, the NYTimes supports Cole's assessment in reporting that the new Iraqi Constitution (Article 14, to be exact) will curb previously held rights for Iraqi women:
A working draft of Iraq's new constitution would cede a strong role to Islamic law and could sharply curb women's rights, particularly in personal matters like divorce and family inheritance.

...Article 14 would replace a body of Iraqi law that has for decades been considered one of the most progressive in the Middle East in protecting the rights of women, giving them the freedom to choose a husband and requiring divorce cases to be decided by a judge.

...[W]omen's groups are incensed by Article 14, which would repeal a relatively liberal personal status law enacted in 1959 after the British-backed monarchy was overthrown by secular military officers. That law remained in effect through the decades of Mr. Hussein's rule.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Frank Rich

Frank Rich puts the focus back where it belongs:
This case is about Iraq, not Niger. The real victims are the American people, not the Wilsons. The real culprit - the big enchilada, to borrow a 1973 John Ehrlichman phrase from the Nixon tapes - is not Mr. Rove but the gang that sent American sons and daughters to war on trumped-up grounds and in so doing diverted finite resources, human and otherwise, from fighting the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. That's why the stakes are so high: this scandal is about the unmasking of an ill-conceived war, not the unmasking of a C.I.A. operative who posed for Vanity Fair.

So put aside Mr. Wilson's February 2002 trip to Africa. The plot that matters starts a month later, in March, and its omniscient author is Dick Cheney. It was Mr. Cheney (on CNN) who planted the idea that Saddam was "actively pursuing nuclear weapons at this time." The vice president went on to repeat this charge in May on "Meet the Press," in three speeches in August and on "Meet the Press" yet again in September. Along the way the frightening word "uranium" was thrown into the mix.

By September the president was bandying about the u-word too at the United Nations and elsewhere, speaking of how Saddam needed only a softball-size helping of uranium to wreak Armageddon on America. But hardly had Mr. Bush done so than, offstage, out of view of us civilian spectators, the whole premise of this propaganda campaign was being challenged by forces with more official weight than Joseph Wilson. In October, the National Intelligence Estimate, distributed to Congress as it deliberated authorizing war, included the State Department's caveat that "claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa," made public in a British dossier, were "highly dubious." A C.I.A. assessment, sent to the White House that month, determined that "the evidence is weak" and "the Africa story is overblown."

As if this weren't enough, a State Department intelligence analyst questioned the legitimacy of some mysterious documents that had surfaced in Italy that fall and were supposed proof of the Iraq-Niger uranium transaction. In fact, they were blatant forgeries. When Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said as much publicly in the days just before "shock and awe," his announcement made none of the three evening newscasts. The administration's apocalyptic uranium rhetoric, sprinkled with mushroom clouds, had been hammered incessantly for more than five months by then - not merely in the State of the Union address - and could not be dislodged. As scenarios go, this one was about as subtle as "Independence Day" and just as unstoppable a crowd-pleaser.

Once we were locked into the war, and no W.M.D.'s could be found, the original plot line was dropped with an alacrity that recalled the "Never mind!" with which Gilda Radner's Emily Litella used to end her misinformed Weekend Update commentaries on "Saturday Night Live." The administration began its dog-ate-my-homework cover-up, asserting that the various warning signs about the uranium claims were lost "in the bowels" of the bureaucracy or that it was all the C.I.A.'s fault or that it didn't matter anyway, because there were new, retroactive rationales to justify the war. But the administration knows how guilty it is. That's why it has so quickly trashed any insider who contradicts its story line about how we got to Iraq, starting with the former Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill and the former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke.

Next to White House courtiers of their rank, Mr. Wilson is at most a Rosencrantz or Guildenstern. The brief against the administration's drumbeat for war would be just as damning if he'd never gone to Africa. But by overreacting in panic to his single Op-Ed piece of two years ago, the White House has opened a Pandora's box it can't slam shut. Seasoned audiences of presidential scandal know that there's only one certainty ahead: the timing of a Karl Rove resignation. As always in this genre, the knight takes the fall at exactly that moment when it's essential to protect the king.

Medium Lobster

Medium Lobster gets this one just right:
As the Wall Street Journal points out today, the true tragedy in the Plame affair has been the burning of Karl Rove. Indeed, if there is any integrity left in Time Magazine, it must fire Matt Cooper. By outing Karl Rove as the man who outed an undercover CIA agent, Matt Cooper has selfishly, recklessly, and amorally endangered a top administration official, exposing Rove and those he works with to threat from political opponents, news organizations and the Justice Department, to say nothing of the damage done to Rove's career as one of America's hard-working partisan hacks. With his identity revealed, how will Rove effectively leak the leaks and spread the rumors necessary to serve his party? Such shameless and reckless abuse of partisan security cannot be tolerated. Matt Cooper must go.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


The Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported on the risks of publishing a blog under one's real name for professional reasons. Dan Drezner (under his own name) wrote about it here, and Kevin Drum (non-pseudonymously) covered the topic here and again here. Even though they have the temerity to publish their true identities and even though they have blogs that lots of people actually read, their discussion got me worried enough to omit my name and picture from the blog (at least for a while). However, pictures of the 16-month-old will continue to appear occasionally since I would lose a sizeable contingent of my readership if I deprived them of these granddaughterly sightings.

Sincerely yours,

W--- K--------

p.s. Clever readers will note that my picture appears occasionally in some previous posts, but fortunately I was incognito at the time.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Practical Reason Override

Should practical reason sometimes override theoretical rationality? When my daughter is reaching for the hot stove, I could pause to contemplate the warrant that I would need for imposing my views on her which would thereby limit her full autonomy to explore the world and perhaps lead to a debilitating sense of unfreedom as the world suddenly offers apparently irrational commands without warning, or I could stop thinking theoretically and yell, "No!" In the latter case, practical reason guides my action by overriding the theoretical reason which is trained on my beliefs.

In response to this question about overriding theoretical reason, the British philosopher William K. Clifford writes, "No, it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence." Is there sufficient evidence for this belief, Professor Clifford?

I Hate to Be Mean, But . . .

At the G-8 summit, the U.S. continues to deny the reality of global warming and its causes. The Post explains:
Every G-8 member except for the United States -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia -- has ratified the Kyoto Protocol.

U.S. officials managed to excise swaths of text that called for "ambitious" greenhouse gas reductions and committed G-8 countries to spending a specific amount on environmentally friendly projects. They managed to eliminate the opening sentence, "Our world is warming," as well as lengthy descriptions of how melting glaciers and rising sea levels reflect recent climate change.
Today's quotation from Goethe: "The masses fear the intellectual, but it is stupidity that they should fear, if they only realized how dangerous it really is."

Today's quotation from our President: "Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"


The real question is: Is our President learning?

I hate to be mean, but this is serious.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


Whatever else needs to be said about the terrorism in London today (and there is much mourning and eulogy to do), Brad DeLong is right to say this also:
We note that it is 46 months after September 11, 2001, and that Osama bin Laden is still alive and at liberty. That somebody can plan September 11, 2001 and remain alive and at liberty provides powerful encouragement to those who think of following in his footsteps--including those who planned, aided, and carried out today's atrocity in London.

More attention to Osama bin Laden and his ilk, please. And less attention to using Osama bin Laden as a pretext for launching hare-brained neoconservative schemes, please.
Editor's note: I corrected one rather humorous misspelling from the original. Link to it and see if you can find the error which brought to mind the coiffs of Richard Perle and Ahmed Chalabi.

Recurring Theme

Summer 2004 in Florida (days before hurricane Charley):

Fun at the beach

Summer 2005 in Florida (days before hurricane Dennis):

Florida Trip Summer 05 023

I know what your thinking: yes, I did change clothes between these two summer outings--at least a couple of times. The important thing, though, is that the little lady always look stylish. Her grandmothers see to that.

It Is to Resume

OK. I'm back. The family has now moved to Rock Hill, SC where the parents will be teaching at Winthrop University and the daughter will soon be riding a Big Wheel (yes!) in our driveway. Much labor has been involved in this project. Posting will resume with its previous schedule of moderate regularity interspersed among occasional unexplained hiatuses. More later (or sometime).