- The Washington Times - Friday, December 13, 2002

The link
What to make of the anonymous leaked report that U.S. intelligence has picked up evidence that Iraq has transferred VX nerve gas to al Qaeda? The report, cited yesterday by The Washington Post, suggests that this could have happened as recently as this October. One obvious conclusion: If it's true, then the war against Iraq is now inevitable. Such a transaction shows that the Dec. 8 declaration that Saddam had no chemical weapons was a lie, and, as such, is an unequivocal material breach of U.N. resolutions, requiring the United States and other nations to act. More profoundly, it shows that an Iraq-al Qaeda connection is not a fantasy. It's real. We don't even need a a U.N. resolution for an attack on these grounds, since an alliance with al Qaeda makes an attack on Iraq a de facto act of self-defense after September 11. So what now? Obviously, we need to verify the report. But it may be that Saddam has decided on one last gamble. If so, it truly will be his last.

Lott's damage
This story is gaining momentum. A whole bevy of respected conservatives have now called for Trent Lott to step aside as majority leader, including Charles Krauthammer, Richard Brookhiser, Thomas Sowell, Linda Chavez and the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune. The younger generation sick of being baited as closet racists by the left is particularly enraged. If Mr. Lott is allowed to remain in his office, it's a direct slap in the face to all those who have taken the Republicans' word that they have a big tent, that they welcome minorities in their ranks, that they have left any trace of racism behind. Mr. Lott's refusal to step aside is also an affront to older Republicans who have come to terms with the past especially from the South. Here's an e-mail I got this week summing up the sentiment:
"Hold on about there being a generation gap in the reaction to Lott's comments. I'm a 65-year-old white male Southerner (Louisiana). I was 11 when Thurmond hit the scene, perhaps four years older than Mr. Lott. No one, certainly no Southerner, of our generation can possibly have any recollection of the significance of Thurmond other than his embodiment of political resistance to desegregation 'forced integration' was the preferred pejorative. To extol Thurmond's political contributions as the Dixiecrat candidate against that dominant theme is akin to waxing nostalgic for Bull Connor's commitment to law enforcement or the contributions of Ross Barnett to higher education. Or Lester Maddox's artistic appreciation for axe handles. Those of us who lived through, and escaped, all that garbage resent … Lott's morally corrupt comments. He doesn't speak for us…. Maybe there is a gap, but I would like to think that in the South it's the reverse of what you heard described in Ohio. Ours was the generation that changed, and we would like now to embrace conservative politics without Mr. Lott's stupid distractions."

Thomas on Lott
Do you think that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' incandescent comments on cross-burning on Wednesday had anything to do with Trent Lott? I sure do. "There's no other purpose to the cross, no communication, no particular message," Justice Thomas inveighed. "It was intended to cause fear and to terrorize a population." I'm not sure I agree with Justice Thomas on the notion that cross-burning does not deserve any constitutional protection as an act of free expression. But his revulsion at the phenomenon and the culture it comes from certainly brings to mind Trent Lott's nostalgia for a candidate, Strom Thurmond, who campaigned against anti-lynching laws in 1948.

Does it reach the pope?

MSNBC, Reuters and the Associated Press are reporting on what might be an explosive turn in the Catholic church's sex abuse crisis. Amid the blizzard of documents made public recently in Boston, one is a document from Rome spelling out the Vatican's own view of what to do with a sexually abusing priest, Robert Burns. A May 25, 1999, document outlines a papal directive that the defrocked priest should be reassigned from areas where his "condition" was known or stay in his parish as long as it was not an occasion for "scandal." Joseph Gallagher, co-founder of a group called the Coalition of Catholics and Survivors, argues that this was a direct Vatican endorsement of the Boston Archdiocese's policies of moving abusive priests around and caring more about the church's reputation than protecting kids. I wonder if that's why Rome has supported Cardinal Law for so long. They know the scandal comes back to them in the end. As long as Cardinal Law is in place, the blame is kept an ocean away. But for how much longer?

Correction of the week
"Because of an editing error, an article yesterday about heightened alarms over terrorism in Europe misstated the location of a bombing in Tunisia last spring that killed 21 people, including 14 German tourists. It was at a synagogue, not a mosque."
The New York Times, last Monday. Does it get any more priceless than that?

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