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Updated: 03/06/03

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"Titus Groan"
by Mervyn Peake



Thursday, 6 March, 2003

Another birthday to announce: Amelia Jane arrived yesterday at 3:30 p.m. - her mom, Anne and dad, Jeffrey are all doing well.

We also called Kathy today to see how she's doing. Her due date was Monday, but the baby apparently read the weather forecasts and decided to wait for warmer weather.

As we're all waiting around for the decision to be made about whether or not to go to war with Iraq, I read an amusing analogy of the situation. Whether you agree with it or not, it's pretty darn funny.

You know how it is when you are a teenager, and you have a hot date with a chick on, say, Friday. It has taken a lot of guts to organise, and you feel sure that, if you play your cards right, it could be your lucky night. Like the world at the end of the Cold War, you are in a state of pleasurable excitement, not unmixed with anxiety. And then round about Tuesday of that week, you notice something worrying. Somewhere on your left cheek - roundabout the place where Iraq is on the globe - something begins to throb. There is no getting away from it. The thing is a zit.

You begin, of course, with exhortation. You stand and gaze at it in the mirror, and offer little prayers that all will be well. But you know that all might not be well. So you face a tactical dilemma, very much like the one the world now faces in Iraq. As you inspect the throbbing red goofball, you consider the arguments for early and decisive action. The great thing about this option is that you are in charge, you are taking the initiative. Pre-emptive action can sometimes be accomplished swiftly and decisively, and with minimal casualties. On the other hand, you know that any such intervention is very risky. You might, in your efforts to eliminate the poisonous head, concealed in its evil lair, do more damage than you intend.

There might, to put it delicately, be collateral dermatological damage. That is why so many of us find the debate about "war" unsatisfactory. The argument is not really about ends. It is about means. Only the most foaming anti-American declares that there are no circumstances in which force can be justified, even when that is plainly the only way to make Saddam disarm. But some of us are still deeply worried that the action will not be proportionate to the problem; and even in the best-case scenario, you know there will be bloodshed.

Even if you take prompt action against your pimple, with Pentagon-co-ordinated stealth-bomber efficiency, there will be damage. It will be no use pretending to your date that you have yet to perfect your technique for sharpening pencils. She will see the destruction as soon as she claps eyes on you. In the same way, if we take pre-emptive action against Iraq, the world must live with the horrible reality that innocents have died. And that is why you yearn for the containment option. We all do.

You go on for as long as you possibly can with a regime of inspection, squinting at yourself in the mirror, turning off the lights and having another look, hoping it will just disappear. For a day or two, you can persuade yourself that the evidence is ambiguous. You may even call on outside experts to assess the position, chums with whom you can discuss things frankly. And these Blixes will tell you what you already know: that there may be the subcutaneous presence of lethal toxins, or there may not; but the symptoms do not seem entirely favourable.

It may be that this carbuncle will simply vanish, as they sometimes do; just as it may be that Saddam will slip fatally on the soap in his Jacuzzi, or find that one of his charming sons shoots him in the back of the head. And if he does, then the West would of course have been utterly wrong to go for the pre-emptive option, just as you would have made the wrong diagnosis about the condition of your skin. The trouble is that there is every likelihood that the pustule will not simply vanish. The molten throbber may go critical. It may build and build and build, causing more pain and suffering in the whole region.

It may seed other gumboils, passing poisons in the bloodstream of the face, just as Saddam may well pass his weapons of mass destruction on to the agents of global terror. And then, in the final humiliation of your containment policy, the great wen of Baghdad may erupt after all, doing damage far in excess of any that might have been caused by a pre-emptive strike. That is the risk. That is the calculation. Saddam is a great acne spot on the otherwise beaming face of the earth, and it is time he was squeezed.


Over the past week or so many of the "human shields" that went to Iraq have left the country after discovering that instead of protecting kindergartens and hospitals, the Iraqis wanted to deploy them to power plants and refineries. You know . . . targets.

Even as they began their Iraqi government-sponsored tour, several of the shields admitted that they didn't actually want to be "shields."

Despite the title of human shield, that is not how some of the activists see it. "I am not going to the power plant," says one woman. "It's too risky. I will go to a hospital. I don't want to be some place where my life will really be in danger."

"I am not saying I will see this thing through to the bitter end," says another, while some of them say that they will leave before an attack begins.

But despite the blatant yellow stripes down their backs, apparently not all the shields that are left are playing nicely in the Iraqi sandbox:(Via Daily Pundit)

Iraq sends five human shields home

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq has ordered five human shields out of the country after a dispute over where the Western peace activists should deploy to deter possible U.S. military strikes.

Accusing them of undermining the "noble and courageous" spirit of other volunteers, senior Iraqi official Abdul-Razzaq al-Hashimi told a heated meeting of about 100 human shields in Baghdad that the five should leave by Friday.

Activists at the meeting said the row centred on a disagreement over who should decide where they should deploy. Some had wanted to station themselves in hospitals or schools but were told instead to go to power stations.

Former U.S. marine Ken O'Keefe, one of those ordered to leave, said it was "absolutely unacceptable that human shields would arrive and immediately be taken to sites without our knowledge".

[And this was the guy complaining so loudly about the ulterior motives of OUR government.]

~ ~ ~

Quote du jour:

"The greatest braggarts are usually the biggest cowards."

-- Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712 - 1778)
French philosopher, author

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