Excerpt from a string of e-mails between members of our family concerning the current war in Iraq after a comment by Dennis Miller:

"It was just kind of funny, I thought. Comedians use one liners. How many simplistic shots are taken at Bush? Why is the left so strident, so humorless? They all take themselves so seriously. That's great fodder. For example, the left actually seems to believe, really believe, that the president of the United States is a horrible person who wants to do away with the constitution. They sound like the right in their exact same analysis of FDR--court packing, allowing the attack on Pearl Harbor, ad nauseum. That kind of overreaction is funny, and easy to poke fun at. Islamic states are theocracies. Do you actually believe that Bush wants a Christian equivalent? How about abortion rights in Wahhabist land? Comparing and contrasting that absurdity is easy fodder for comics. And like it or not, Bush is the legal, legitimate president. So you don't like that it went to the Supreme Court? So you don't like the way the Supreme Court voted? That's the way it goes. Lots of segregationists didn't like the way it voted on behalf of civil rights. I think Clinton should have been convicted and kicked out of office for lying to a federal judge about his involvement in a women's rights issue--ironically. A president committing perjury. But they didn't convict him after impeaching him, and most people accepted that. Finally, if only Gore could have won his home state, or Clinton's--both populated by all of those stupid fundamentalist rubes--he would be president today."
Jeff Merrik



Dennis Miller's piece is only funny in a smug, arrogant sort of way, only funny if you agree with his underlying position, but not funny if you don't. It was really a position piece--it took a clear stance on the war but, to someone on the left, it had an arrogant wrapper of humor. People who disagree have a right to be quite serious about this. It bugs me when you attack people for their lack of humor in such a discussion.

Jesus, Jeff, we're killing people in a war that we deeply feel is unjustified. The US has even been unwilling to rule out the first use of nuclear weapons in this conflict with a non-nuclear nation. It doesn't get any more serious than that. To me, this war is a serious matter. That does not make me a humorless person. Have a heart and discuss the issues straight up.

As for the Supreme Court decision (concerning the 2000 presidential election debacle in Florida), most legal scholars have concluded that the decision had no real basis in law, because the legal arguments given were shockingly flawed. (Basically, even the legal minds most sympathetic to the decision have admitted it was legally flawed and have tried to apologize for it or justify it on the basis that it was a "pragmatic" solution to a difficult situation.) When it comes to impeachment, which is done in the House and Senate, it is a POLITICAL matter, and the elected representatives can vote to impeach, convict, and remove the president for "high crimes and misdemeanors" or not, based on their opinion as to whether he is fit for office. People can disagree with the outcome of the Clinton impeachment, but in the end people have a recourse at the ballot box, voting out the politicians whose impeachment votes they disagree with. Like the outcome of an election, one can say that they didn't like the outcome of an impeachment, but they can't really say it was bogus unless laws were broken in the impeachment process itself. But a Supreme Court decision is a JUDICIAL matter, and it must be backed by plausible legal principles and precedents, because those justices are in there for life and there is no recourse. The decision in Bush v Gore has been widely condemned as bogus because it relied on clearly faulty logic and obvious misapplication of legal principles in pursuit of a political outcome. So, unlike the outcome of the Clinton impeachment, one can ethically condemn this decision--it violated the trust we place in the justices and in doing so it threatened our constitutional form of government.

To answer your question, when I say international law, I am referring to the UN charter, which we had a major role in creating and which we signed. According to the US Constitution, treaties we sign, like the UN charter, have the force of law for our government.

As for the idea that the war in Iraq is a clash of cultures and religions, the idea that the Islamic faith and Christian faith are irreconcilable and must fight it out in war, now we're getting down to the subtext that is used to manipulate Americans with fear and get them on board with the profit motives of the powerful. To the contrary, I think American foreign policy in the middle east has not played fair and it is more plausible that we are hated for our actions than for our freedoms. You like to focus on the things Hussein might do in the future without taking responsibility for the things the US has already done in the past and is doing now. Take for example the CIA-orchestrated coup in Iran in 1953 that assassinated their elected *secular* president and installed the Shah of Iran to do the West's bidding (cheap oil) with military force for 26 years. (Like the assassination we did in Chile in '73...the old USA isn't lily white, folks.) How do you justify such a thing? Didn't this create justifiable hatred toward the US? Instead of a secular Iran, modernizing nicely, we installed a hated military dictatorship that gave rise to Islamic fundamentalism (the Ayatollah Khomeini) as a way to eject the Shah in 1979. Since '79, Iran has been slowly swinging back toward more tolerance of secular life, not more fundamentalist, but they have a long way to go--so there we have a huge nation whose very history was altered by our greed, and millions of lives were affected very negatively for the last five decades. Look at how today we back nondemocratic corrupt monarchies in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait etc. etc. The US has used the middle east as a chessboard, infusing it with weaponry and backing murderous dictators, including Saddam, who we knew full well was evil at the time, for our own economic and geostrategic ends (which are all about oil). So it is more plausible to me that US foreign policy has been fanning the flames of fundamentalism than the idea that fundamentalism is the natural organizing principle in the Middle East. Our backing of Israel's illegal occupation of and violent land grab in Palestine (violating many UN resolutions), after decades of Palestinians living in camps, rather than granting Palestinian statehood and a reasonable restitution for the land that was taken from them in 1948, seems to me a much more likely explanation than that "Islam is a medieval religion intent on destroying Israel and destroying our way of life." We are not going to be able to test your thesis that Muslims are intent on the destruction of Israel until the wrongs against the Palestinians are righted, which they never have been since Israel was created in 1948, and we give peace a chance, with security and justice for all guaranteed. To insist as Israel does that all violence stop before doing so is not wise--remember that the current Intifadah and the suicide bombing didn't start until decades of illegal occupation of Palestine had already gone down, and until years of expanding illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, in betrayal of the rules of Oslo, eroded all trust. Sure, we can point to illegalities by the Palestinians and get nowhere, or we can require Israel (who possesses clear military and economic superiority) to put something in place on the ground now that addresses Palestinian grievances (returning their land to pre-1967 borders, because it is illegal to take land in a war, and granting Palestinian statehood) as well as Israeli security concerns. I believe that the Middle East is (or at least was, before all these wars) modernizing and secularizing, and could have evolved (and still can evolve) peacefully to a higher standard of living and international cooperation, if we play fair all around instead of jockeying for oil. Rather than preventive war, we must strive for peace through justice and security for all. As we have seen in Northern Ireland, the way to end terrorism is to understand and address the injustices that underlie the conflicts.

Tim Boyle


Call me humorless if you like. I simply find nothing at all funny about George Bush and John Ashcroft keeping American citizens imprisoned indefinitely without charges and without benefit of counsel. Do you? I find nothing funny at all about Iraqis being slaughtered in contravention of international law. Do you? I find nothing humorous about warrantless searches and wiretaps without court supervision. Do you? I find nothing humorous about government seizure of property without due process of law. Do you? Apparently George and company get off on it.

Do I think GW wants a Christian theocracy? No, I think GW is an opportunist who would use any convenient group of loonies to further his power-grabbing agenda. I believe that Christian Evangelicals like Falwell and Roberts and their followers are easy to recruit to the cause. I believe that GW, like Saddam Hussein, will invoke the name of Allah, JC, or any god to rally the support of the not-too-bright zealots that keep him in power.

Yes, Islamic States are theocracies. So is the Vatican. And your point is? Gosh, maybe we should drop a "smart bomb" on the Sistine Chapel to soften up the Papal theocracy that has oppressed so many of its own people....or maybe, just maybe, it's none of our sanctimonious business. I think I'd like us (as did our founders) not to have a theocracy here.

Do I think that others in the Bush Administration would impose a Christian theocracy if they could get away with it? Yes, I do. I believe that the Pentecostal Reverend John Ashcroft would jump at the chance to save my queer soul by means that would rival the Spanish Inquisition---as soon as he finishes putting clothes on all the sinful naked statues in the nation's capitol.

As far as the "election," no, I don't mind that it went to the U.S. Supreme Court. I mind that the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the vote count, set an arbitrary deadline, and then sent the case back to be decided by the Florida Supreme Court with the disingenuous comment, "Oops, you mean we don't have enough time to count the votes? Oh, too bad! I guess Georgie is president, then." I mind that the Supreme Court announced, prior to its decision, that they were stopping the vote count because the result might prejudice the Bush presidency. I mind that the Supreme Court used the Equal Protection Clause (without Bush even having raised the argument) to justify the rip off of the electorate. I won't spend the time here to point out the hypocrisy of that argument. I mind that Antonin Scalia did not recuse himself even though both his wife and his son were involved with either the Bush campaign or the Bush suit pending before that very same Supreme Court. I mind, Jeff, the intellectual dishonesty of that process, not the result of the vote. I am used to courts voting in ways I don't like. It's the dishonesty and corruption I don't like. And, you are right: I do not find it funny.

Bush abrogates treaties with abandon and orders Iraqis killed in contravention of International Law. He tramples individual liberties .. and you want to convince me it's not as bad as lying about a blow job? Now, that is funny. Pathetically funny, I guess. It does offer additional evidence, though, of how many Christians seem to be more concerned with with what consenting adults do with their pee pees than with domestic and international policy.

Anyway, the discussion you started was not about Bill Clinton. It was about the war, and how all of us should, "without reservation" support our troops. That sort of mindlessness is scary. I am sorry you thought it was "just sort of funny." If that is funny, then I can only imagine the hilarity that will result from the thousands of dead from this war will bring.

John Clarkson