Iraq, of course, is by far the story of the hour. The magnificent rescue of Jessica Lynch; the awful death of columnist Michael Kelly - perhaps the best columnist of the time, and a top thoroughbred in any newspaper's columnar stable (a columnist who, if pure writing and not ideology were the principal measure, would have won the Pulitzer). Herewith, some brief items about Iraq and other items in the news, domestic and foreign....
Mohammed (rest of name undisclosed) of Nasiriyah, Iraq, who gave American troops news of Jessica Lynch's existence and drew five maps that led American Special Ops troops to her rescue, has this to say about, well, everything: "Believe me, I love Americans."
The Lynch incident raises the question once more: "Should a virtuous, civilized society, which values its women as it should, routinely allow its women to serve in roles that may put them in combat situations?"
It's interesting that in the secret cabinet war rooms, where Winston Churchill dwelled much of the time at the height of World War II, there appears this quote from Queen Victoria next to a water carafe - a quote likely seen by President Bush when he visited the war rooms and sat in Churchill's chair some years ago: "Please understand there is no depression in this house, and we are not interested in the possibilities of defeat. They do not exist." Could Bush have adopted it as his own?
How lamentable - given the recent stories about Cuban defectors making it by boat and airplane, by hook and by crook, to Key West - that those fleeing Castro's concentration camp are still being locked up here or returned to the arms of Comrade Fidel. The sadness is compounded by the new wave of terror in Cuba, wherein authorities are rounding up dissidents and giving them life sentences in prison.
And consider this, from a New York Times story about life in Africa's contemporary Ivory Coast: "At Maquis Le Tirbo, a saloon of sorts in this rebel-held town, the air is thick with porcupine stew, and a boy, no more than 10, barely taller than his AK-47, strolls in for lunch to a thumping reggae beat. Dancing between the tables, another boy, his dirty T-shirt stenciled with the face of the lewd American rapper Sisqo, dangles a Kalashnikov from one hand, a loaded clip from the other. A third child soldier sits clutching a hand grenade the way a teenager in a saner place might hold a cell phone. At the next table a group of young mercenaries from Liberia, pouring each other rounds of cheap rum, wear stars-and-stripes bandannas, tucked under baseball caps like Los Angeles gangsters..."
Three items relating to the courts: (1) From the good-news front, in case you missed it, in San Diego a state judge has thrown out a lawsuit by 12 California jurisdictions, wherein the jurisdictions sought to hold gun manufacturers liable for crimes caused by their products - following the example of the judicial liability placed on tobacco companies. Also good news (2) the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that managed health care plans (aka HMOs) must accept all qualified doctors who agree to an HMO's terms for inclusion. At last doctors have won a biggie against the HMO onslaught.
(3) And outside the much ballyhooed hearing on the University of Michigan affirmative action case at the U.S. Supreme Court, a demonstrator for affirmative action held a sign summarizing the case: "Clarence Thomas - how did you get into law school?" Affirmative action forever denies individuals the self-worth of certain knowledge whether their acceptance is (or was) based on their intellect and other intrinsic virtues - or on their race.
National Public Radio, which these days is oxymoronically advertising itself as "balanced" in its coverage, had a segment the other day claiming Arab reporting of Operation Iraqi Freedom is fairer than American coverage.
Maybe one reason France and Germany oppose Operation Iraqi Freedom is that they are typical of what has happened to the military budgets of old-line European countries. Germany's defense budget is 1.5 percent of gross domestic product, France's 2.4 percent; America's is 3.3 percent. In fact, America's annual defense budget is now nearly double that of the 18 other NATO countries combined.
Maybe one reason Canada is foundering is the diminution there of religious belief. In the United States 59 percent indicate religion is very important to them, compared with just 30 percent in Canada. Canadian novelist Yann Martel (Life of Pi) notes, "America is a very religious, almost puritanical country. In Canada, secularism is triumphant, and to talk (there) non-cynically, non-ironically about religion is strange."
And then there was the troubling Wall Street Journal story - headlined "Is Venezuela the Guerrilla in Colombia's Midst?" - about intelligence documents indicating the quasi-Communist Venezuelan regime of Hugo Chavez is giving aid and comfort to Colombia's quasi-Communist guerrillas, thereby raising the prospect of a wider war.
Quote of the Week: Secretary of State Colin Powell, responding to a remark by Britain's archbishop of Canterbury suggesting Operation Iraqi Freedom is but another example of empire-building by an imperialistic Bush administration: "Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in (consequence) is enough to bury those who did not return."