Did they or didn’t they?

In the end, we may never know, but today an article in the Washington Times reports:

The CIA’s chief weapons inspector [Charles Duelfer] said he cannot rule out the possibility that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were secretly shipped to Syria before the March 2003 invasion, citing “sufficiently credible” evidence that WMDs may have been moved there.

Maybe they did:

“…on the question of Syria, Mr. Duelfer did not close the books. “ISG was unable to complete its investigation and is unable to rule out the possibility that WMD was evacuated to Syria before the war,” Mr. Duelfer said in a report posted on the CIA’s Web site Monday night.
He cited some evidence of a transfer. “Whether Syria received military items from Iraq for safekeeping or other reasons has yet to be determined,” he said. “There was evidence of a discussion of possible WMD collaboration initiated by a Syrian security officer, and ISG received information about movement of material out of Iraq, including the possibility that WMD was involved. In the judgment of the working group, these reports were sufficiently credible to merit further investigation.”

And maybe they didn’t:

“Arguing against a WMD transfer to Syria, Mr. Duelfer said, was the fact that all senior Iraqi detainees involved in Saddam’s weapons programs and security “uniformly denied any knowledge of residual WMD that could have been secreted to Syria.”

But maybe they did,

“Nevertheless,” the inspector said, “given the insular and compartmented nature of the regime, ISG analysts believed there was enough evidence to merit further investigation.”

Maybe they did, but it wasn’t official:

“He said that even if all leads are pursued someday, the ISG may never be able to finally determine whether WMDs were taken across the border. “Based on the evidence available at present, ISG judged that it was unlikely that an official transfer of WMD material from Iraq to Syria took place,” his report stated. “However, ISG was unable to rule out unofficial movement of limited WMD-related materials.”

Is a picture worth a thousand words?

“Speculation on WMDs in Syria was fueled by the fact that satellite images picked up long lines of trucks waiting to cross the border into Syria before the coalition launched the invasion. Mr. Duelfer previously had reported that Syria was a major conduit for materials entering Iraq that were banned by the United Nations.”

Perhaps only the Shadow knows.

” Saddam placed such importance on illicit trade with Syria that he dispatched Iraqi Intelligence Service agents to various border crossings to supervise border agents, and, in some cases, to shoo them away, senior officials told The Washington Times last year.”

Some people think they know:

“…Several senior U.S. officials have said since the invasion that they thought WMD went to Syria.”

Other people say they’re wrong:

Iraq Survey Group head Charles Duelfer said Iraq’s nuclear capability had decayed not grown since the 1991 war.

That’s the same Charles Duelfer quoted at the top of this post as citing credible evidence indicating he “cannot rule out the possibility that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were secretly shipped to Syria before the March 2003 invasion…”

So some say yes, others say no, and I’m inclined to agree with them.

Update: The Captain already blogged on this, and he’s always worth reading. Says Captain Ed,

“Duelfer and his team did not stop because the WMD didn’t exist; they stopped because they had run out of time, resources, and jurisdiction. Duelfer recommends further investigation, a clear indication that he believes the question remains open on WMD transfers to Syria, a recommendation that CNN and other media sources predictably leaves out of their reports.”

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Political Sleight of Hand?

From Lucianne:

Senators Byron Dorgan, John Kerry and Richard Durbin pulled a fast one last week on their congressional colleagues. They tried to bury forever documents alleging that senior government officials tried to transform portions of the IRS and the Justice Department into a goon squad for attacking political enemies and aiding political friends.

Original article here, complete with phone numbers of people to call if you are so inclined.

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Books and Character, Part the Second

Part one appears here. I’ve been writing some version of the following post for the last year or two, reposted it in various forums, with a bit of tweaking to keep it fresh each time. Here is the latest version, nipped and tucked here, expanded a little there, freshened up a bit all over.

Charlotte Mason, in common with many classical educators, suggests reading good books for their moral lessons as well as for their literary value. The better the literary quality, the more likely it is that the reader will gain something of moral value from his reading.

Miss Mason thought that children should be put in touch with the great ideas, with information clothed in literary language provided by great minds. Good books- meaning well-written books, contribute good material for moral growth.

I was first introduced to this idea rather late in life, when a friend explained to me why she thought her daughter should read Sense and Sensibility. She said it would be invaluable in showing our daughters how _not_ to act, and that they could benefit from learning that lesson through the reading of this book rather than through heartbreaking experiences of their own. She pointed out some rich examples, both good and bad, in this book.

For those of who have, sadly, not read this delightful book, allow me to give a bit of the background. Marianne is all sensibility- that is, passion and feelings. She believes it is somehow not ‘honest’ to be led by her feelings and to act without thought upon what she is feeling at the moment. Her sister Elinore is sense- she has passions and heartfelt feelings, too, but she understands the value of self-control.

Marianne’s passions and lack of self-control have led her to compromise herself in the eyes of London society. In those days, for a maiden to write letters to a young man who was not either a close relative or a fianceeĀ“ was disgraceful. She has permitted herself to go too far in her feelings for a young man who encouraged her- and has now married another for money and publicly repudiated Marianne. It’s all very heartbreaking, and the young man in question has behaved dreadfully. Marianne’s heart is broken. Elinore has also fallen in love with a man who turns out to be engaged to somebody else, but because she has kept her heart’s counsel, behaved with restraint and prudence, she is not shamed before others as Marianne has been. In fact, Marianne is so distraught that her health is compromised, and she nearly dies. The passage that particularly stood out for my friend comes in chapter X, following Marrianne’s near fatal illness.

Upon her recovery, she and her sister return to their country home. One afternoon while discussing the past, Marianne says that she does not wish her former young man ill, but hopes that his private thoughts and feelings are not worse than her own, because that will be suffering enough. Her sister Elinore asks,

“Do you compare your conduct with his?”

And Marianne’s reply is what so struck my friend,

“No. I compare it with what it ought to have been; I compare it with yours.”

I was impressed, and inspired by that thought to look for more instances of both good and bad examples in literature. For several reasons, I think the bad examples in literature are actually more useful to my children, but I will explain more about that later. First I’d like to explain more about how to use books in this way.

As I read I try to notice when I am reminded of some person or situation that I have personally known or experienced in real life-. This is why _good_ literary standards are so important, or at least one reason why. It is only in well written literature that you find such realistic characters and situations that you can say, “Why, that’s just like…” If the book is not well written, the characters are not lifelike enough to remind you of anybody.

Having noted such a character or episode, I make the opportunity to discuss it with my young reader, and without naming real life names, explain that there are people in real life just like this character, or that sometimes events like the ones in this book really do happen to real people.

Stepping Heavenward is that rare gem, an utterly Christian book that does this well. Every young lady of 13 or more should read this book. Every married woman should read this book. It is so well written that we will all see something of ourselves, and we will be able to laugh a little, even while twisting uncomfortably in our chairs and blushing a bit over our sinful foibles.

Sometimes I have an opportunity to use literature to teach by example when the children ask me a question. Often their question leads to a discusssion which leads to a living idea. For example, one of our girls was eleven and reading Oliver Twist.

Oliver Twist is the story of a poor child from an orphan’s home and all the twists and turns in his life. At one point he is alone and starving in London. He is befriended by two characters called Fagin and the Artful Dodger. They bring him home, feed him, play games with him, and promise to do more for him later. Things seem to be looking up for the formerly friendless lad.

But my daughter came to me and said that she couldn’t tell if Fagin and Artful were really Oliver’s friends or not. Sometimes they seemed to be, and other times, she said, she just felt funny about them. She wanted me to tell her if they were truly Oliver’s friends, or if he should be suspicious of them. Instead, I suggested that she continue to read, but to watch and think carefully about all they said and did. I explained that it was important to do this in real life as well- that sometimes those who first appear foul are really fair and those who appear fair are truly foul (to butcher a phrase from Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring).

She did as I suggested. She reached a very accurate judgment of the characters of Fagin and Artful Dodger very shortly.

A well written book will have many ideas for the mind to feed upon. With such a banquet of ideas set before us, we may each bring away a different dish from any given book. In reading Oliver Twist, this child brought away the idea that sometimes people pretend to be friends for selfish purposes. When I first read it, I was struck by Dickin’s message about the need for compassionate charity. Somebody else might focus on the issues of hypocrisy and false piety in the book.

It is valuable to recognize the power of literature to offer both good _and_ bad examples, sometimes in the same character. Take Beowulf, for example (there is a wonderful children’s version here, which I have read aloud to children as young as five). Beowulf is brave, and he is a loyal friend. Bravery features strongly in all the characters in this tale, but not all the characters make wise choices. It’s good to know that one can be admirably brave and still make bad choices. It’s important for children to understand that even otherwise reprehensible people can excel in raw physical courage. We tend to admire bravery, young children especially so- but they need to learn that raw courage is not enough, nor is great bravery always proof of great wisdom.

Another good lesson to learn is that love of country is not a substitute for character, nor for Christianity. I hope the Common Room Scholars learned this when they read a biography of As Edith Cavell, who prior to her execution in WWI said, “Standing as I do in the view of God and eternity, I realize that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness toward anyone.”

I mentioned earlier that I think the bad examples in books can be more useful than the good examples. I’m sure this raised some eyebrows in at least a few of my readers, and I’d like to explain more about I think that is. But it will have to keep for another post.

Part One
Part two
Part Three

See also:
Books and Literature in The Common Room  (March 27, 2010)
Reading and Literature in The Common Room (March 20, 2010)

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Tsunami Relief

See this blog.

See this blog count.

This blog counts the money.

The money Americans donated for Tsunami relief.

Did the Americans donate many dollars?

Yes, yes, they did.

“Over a billion dollars in private donations for tsunami relief.”

Americans have many, many faults. Stinginess is not and never has been one of them.

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Political Dances

Who was in favor of ending the filibuster option a few years back? Who was oppposed?

REad this article.

When Republicans balked at some of President Clinton’s nominees, Democrats spoke forcefully about the injustice of it all. “An up-or-down vote, that is all we ask,” said Sen. Tom Daschle in 1999. “Our institutional integrity requires an up-or-down vote,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein the same year. “If our Republican colleagues don’t like them, vote against them. But give them a vote,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in 1998.

It’s not just partisan politicians who switch sides. The New York Times editorialized in 1995, “Now is the perfect moment…to get rid of an archaic rule that frustrates democracy and serves no useful purpose.” Nine years later the Times discovered that useful purpose: “The filibuster…is a rough instrument that should be used with caution. But its existence goes to the center of the peculiar but effective form of government America cherishes.” The Times did have the good grace to note, “To see the filibuster fully, it’s obviously a good idea to have to live on both sides of it…. We hope that acknowledging our own error may remind some wavering Republican senators that someday they, too, will be on the other side and in need of all the protections the Senate rules can provide.”

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