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The beginning of the Iraq War in 2003

[This article was written in 2004. It was never published, and I have decided, fifteen years later, to post it online here.] The invasion of Iraq was declared for the purpose of ending the decades-long dictatorship of President Saddam Hussein — which was suspected of producing weapons of mass destruction and sheltering terrorists who threatened the US — and to replace it with a democratic government. The U.S. military’s mission objectives were:End the regime of Saddam HusseinIdentify, isolate, and eliminate Iraq’s WMD, systems, and facilitiesCapture or drive out terrorists sheltered in IraqCollect intelligence on terrorist networks and on Iraq’s illicit WMD activitySecure Iraq’s oil fields and natural resources for the Iraqi peopleEnd sanctions and immediately deliver humanitarian relief and assistanceHelp the Iraqi people rapidly transition to a representative form of self-government that does not threaten its neighbors and is committed to the territorial integrity of IraqThe United…
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The 'quid pro quo' in the Trump/Zelensky call transcript

Gordon Sondland, testifying publicly on Nov. 20, said:...members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a 'quid pro quo?' With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.In late September, a week after news broke that a whistleblower had reported an inappropriate call President Trump had with Ukraine's President Zelensky, Trump attempted to defend himself by releasing what he referred to as a "transcript" of the call.The document itself says it is "not a verbatim transcript."Yet, beginning on Oct. 2, Trump has repeatedly referred to the document as an "exact" transcript of the conversation, Philip Bump explained in the Washington Post.Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who was on the call, subsequently testified that he remembers elements of the call that are not included in the transcript.There is a quid pro quo in the interaction even if …

Praying with the U.S. president

In 1950, the evangelical preacher Billy Graham, then 31 years old, landed a brief private meeting with President Harry S. Truman at the White House. Graham offered to pray, and Truman consented.Outside, on the White House lawn, reporters were waiting for Graham. Graham eagerly revealed details of the conversation. Tell us more about the prayer, the reporters asked. And Graham, not realizing the reporters were looking to sensationalize the story, knelt in prayer for the cameras. Image caption: From left to right, Jerry Beavan, Billy Graham, Clifford Barrows and Grady Wilson. Photo by the Associated Press.Truman was furious. He thought the preacher's prayer stunt looked ridiculous and made him look ridiculous by association.What changed in the assumptions of proper presidential behavior?Flash forward nearly 70 years. Today, the President allows people to pray for him — not just one preacher in private, but multiple preachers, touching him, with official cameras in the room. Image capt…

On handling negative emotions with purpose

If we dwell on negative emotions too heavily, they can consume us. "At least one must keep one's head out of it so as not to be eaten up entirely by emotional ape-men," C. G. Jung wrote in a personal letter. But, at low levels, they may simply endure as conditions of our being. "Ressentiment is not rash, but sluggish; it is a mood or a low-energy state in opposition to the vehement nature of violent rage, horror, or grief," wrote Thomas Brudholm. "More interestingly, the diminution over time that seems to be an essential feature of the passions contrasts with the excessive duration or endurance of emotions and memories taken into ressentiment."Intense negative emotions exist for a reason and are not necessarily bad. They may need to be named and released, not cured or erased. The Zen teacher Alan Watts said: "Such words as anger, depression, fear, grief, anxiety, and guilt suggest uniform states which tend to persist if no action is taken to chan…

Quotes: On the symbolism of scars

"Most of my body lives,
But the scars are dead like the grooving of a frown,
Cannot be changed, and ceaselessly record
How much of me is already written down."
- William Dickey, Memoranda, Of the Festivity, 1959"I have heard the [Native American] tradition said in this way: When you die, you meet the Old Hag, and she eats your scars. If you have no scars, she will eat your eyeballs, and you will be blind in the next world."
- Robert Bly. Iron John: A Book About Men. New York: Vintage Books, Random House, 1992 (originally 1990). p 216. Also quoted as "Carved on a bus bench on Hawthorne" from http://devrandom.net/~aidan/sphere.html Accessed August 31, 2003"Although a man has the scars of healed wounds, when he appears before God they do not deface but ennoble him."
- Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, Long Text, Chap. 39. Trans. E. Spearing (Harmondwsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1998), p. 96. Quoted in Martin Laird, O.S.A. Into the …

Quotes: On the effort of gender transition

I was aware, during the time of boygirl, that I had been given a rare and precious gift, to see into the worlds of both men and women for a time and to be able to travel almost effortlessly between them. ... It was like being Clark Kent and Superman, in a way.* * *I think it is hard for me to be with people that I love for whom my transition is something other than a cause for unbridled celebration. I feel great these days, like somebody who just got out of prison after 40 years for something she didn't do, like I got pardoned by the governor. When dear friends deal with me with mixed emotions, it is a little like being told, 'Well, Jenny, we're glad you got sprung, really, but quite honestly we did kind of like you better when you were in jail.'Jennifer Finney Boylan. She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders. New York: Broadway Books, 2003. p. 153, 179-80....the psychiatric disorder of transsexualism [means that one has]...agreed to go through life with an official …

Is Trump's time up?

Trump admits that he brought up the Bidens on a phone call with Ukraine's president. A Trump adviser said, as CNN reported on Sept. 23, "This is a serious problem for us. He admitted doing it." More specifically, the whistleblower's Aug. 12 claims have been corroborated, as shown by the New York Times on Oct. 26. And witnesses have begun to testify against him (see my blog post published yesterday).Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani is reduced to arguing that Trump referred to the Bidens only briefly on the phone call. Exactly how that is supposed to help, I don't know.Out of all the days he was president, Nixon only spent a handful orchestrating a burglary and cover-up https://t.co/bAC9NJdzPB— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) November 13, 2019Tomorrow (Oct. 31), the House plans to vote on formalizing the inquiry. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said that having procedures will "eliminate any doubt as to whether the Trump administration may withhold docume…