St. Crispin’s Day

And Crispine Crispian shall ne’re goe by,
From this day to the ending of the World,
But we in it shall be remembred;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers:
For he to day that sheds his blood with me,
Shall be my brother: be he ne’re so vile,
This day shall gentle his Condition.
And Gentlemen in England, now a bed,
Shall thinke themselues accurst they were not here;
And hold their Manhoods cheape, whiles any speakes,
That fought with vs vpon Saint Crispines day.

    Henry V, William Shakespeare

The Binary Game: Saddam Hussein

In the black and white world of George W. Bush and his followers, one mantra is endlessly repeated: “The world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.” My own thought is that this may be but is not absolutely true. I can think of a few situations, for instance, in which the world might not have been better off without Saddam Hussein in power:

  • If Hussein had actually had WMD, and had shipped them to terrorist cells around the world before dying in his sleep.
  • If a comet hit the Earth, obliterating all life, including Saddam Hussein.
  • If a country invaded Iraq, toppling the Hussein regime, leaving chaos, civil war, and tens of thousands of dead Iraqis in its wake.

Letter to TIME

To the Editor:

I’m surprised that in talking about his appearance on Crossfire, you replaced Jon Stewart’s reference to Tucker Carlson with “[male appendage].” It seems unnecessarily prim considering that in the same paragraph you left Carlson’s prior namecalling untouched. Perhaps you’d care to explain to your readers what Carlson meant when he called Stewart Kerry’s “butt boy”, and how it’s less of a sexual reference than calling someone a “dick.” And perhaps you could mention Time/Warner’s stake in CNN, Crossfire, and Carlson’s career.

From the October 25, 2004 issue of TIME‘s People section:

Comic Gets Cross, Fires
Usually when the competition’s biggest star is accused of abusive sex talk involving a fibrous sponge (see story, this page), you’ve had a good week. That was before CNN’s Crossfire invited on JON STEWART, below left, of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. Hosts Paul Begala and TUCKER CARLSON, below right, expected some light yuks but got a pointed lecture when the fake news anchor likened their political shout-a-thon to “pro wrestling.” There followed one of the most uncomfortable talk-TV showdowns since Harvey Pekar did David Letterman. The audience laughed and applauded as Stewart called the stunned hosts “partisan hacks” who were “hurting America” by dumbing down the political discourse. Carlson countered that Stewart had acted like Senator John Kerry’s “butt boy” by throwing him softball questions. “You’re on CNN,” Stewart said. “The show that leads in to me is puppets making crank phone calls.” “I was just shocked by how sanctimonious he was,” Carlson later told TIME. “I thought, This must be some elaborate routine, and there’s going to be a punch line at the end.” Which there was, sort of. “You’re more fun on your show,” Carlson told the comic. Shot back Stewart: “You’re as big a [male appendage] on your show as you are on any show.” Easy there, guys. That kind of talk can get a TV star sued nowadays.

Republicans Are Wimps

Vice President Dick Cheney is pressing the fear button by claiming terrorists could set off a nuclear weapon in the U.S. That’s why we’re supposed to support the administration’s wars. That’s why we have to give up our hard-won civil liberties. That’s why we need to vote (assuming they’ll let us vote at all) for George W. Bush.

Now, I’m not as old as Cheney, but I personally remember a bit of the last half of the 20th century. During much of my early life, this nation lived under the threat of total nuclear annihilation — not just one city being wiped out by a nuke, but most of the country, along with the rest of the world. As far back as the late 1950s and early 1960s this concern was so prevalent that it spawned a whole slew of movies and books still remembered (by some) today: Fail-Safe, A Canticle for Leibowitz, and Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, among others.

Oddly enough, we were able to weather that threat without wholesale abridgement of the ideals of the nation. In fact, civil and sexual rights were expanded during the era of the Cold War. Various administrations fought change — it’s what administrations do — but there was overall progress.

Nor were we locked into a single party’s candidates. From the time the Soviet Union developed its first nuclear weapons to the fall of the USSR, control of the White House changed party hands five times: in 1952, 1960, 1968, 1976, and 1980.

I’d love to see someone ask Cheney why America under Bush and the Republiwimps is so weak that it can only deal with the threat of terrorism by clamping down on dissent when we once we able to simultaneously expand our freedoms and stare down the threat of global destruction.

The World of Bob Schieffer

What world has CBS’s Bob Schieffer been living in all his life? As the moderator of the third debate this was his first question:

Senator, I want to set the stage for this discussion by asking the question that I think hangs over all of our politics today and is probably on the minds of many people watching this debate tonight.

 And that is, will our children and grandchildren ever live in a world as safe and secure as the world in which we grew up?

Schieffer was born in 1937. John Kerry was born in 1943. George W. Bush was born in 1946.

Schieffer was born in the midst of the Great Depression. For most of Schieffer’s first decade of life, war raged across North Africa, Europe and Asia, as well as the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Hundreds of thousands of American soldiers were killed.

When Schieffer was 13, the US and its allies went into Korea. In just about three years, over 44,000 American troops died. Following Korea, the Cold War went into one of its greatest periods of buildup, causing the paranoia and angst that led to movies like Fail-Safe and Dr. Strangelove. The period of Schieffer’s late teens saw the beginning of the end of legalized discrimination, with decisions like Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka and actions like the Montgomery bus boycott.

Has Schieffer really forgotten what happened in this country in the 1960s? There were riots across the country in cities like Detroit, Los Angeles, Newark, and more. The US and USSR came to the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. President Kennedy was assassinated. The US jumped into Vietnam full-force, where we’d lose nearly 60,000 troops and where more than 150,000 (including John Kerry) would be wounded before the war ended in the 1970s.

By the end of 1970, Schieffer was 33. Schieffer was grown up. Does he truly consider the world of his youth to have been “safe and secure?”

Military “Success”

In the debate last night, GWB reveals how military success was defined to him in the Texas Air National Guard back in the ’70s:

LEHRER: New question, Mr. President, two minutes. You have said there was a, quote, “miscalculation,” of what the conditions would be in post-war Iraq. What was the miscalculation, and how did it happen?

BUSH: No, what I said was that, because we achieved such a rapid victory, more of the Saddam loyalists were around. I mean, we thought we’d whip more of them going in.

But because Tommy Franks did such a great job in planning the operation, we moved rapidly, and a lot of the Baathists and Saddam loyalists laid down their arms and disappeared. I thought they would stay and fight, but they didn’t.

And now we’re fighting them now.

What kind of a plan is it when you let the people you’re fighting get away? Particularly when your next move is to put yourself in a position where you’re surrounded by them? Was that Franks’s plan?

Imagine a law enforcement comparison. You’re a cop in Iraqtown. You and a bunch of other officers are involved a shootout with criminals holed up in the Baghdad Building, which is a long way from the nearest station. You move in fast and hard, shooting out windows, blowing off doors, etc. A couple of fires break out. You kill several of the perps, capture a couple others, but most of them scramble off into nearby buildings. Some drop their guns, some don’t. You move into the partially-destroyed building. As night falls, the criminals who escaped start shooting at you every time you step outside or go past a window. Is that a success? Ask your local police officer.