The Long View 2002-10-17: Expressions of Sympathy

Topical commentary from John in 2002 about the glee with which the North Koreans flouted the nuclear anti-proliferation treaty, the faux inspections leading up to the Iraq War, and the D. C. snipers, Lee Boyd Malvo, and John Allen Muhammad. In this case, John turned out to have a pretty good guesses about Malvo and Muhammad.

John was far too innocent to find things like this funny, but Somebody Blew Up America reminds me of Who Bitch this is?

Expressions of Sympathy
Let us pity Mohammed Aldouri, the Iraqi ambassador to the UN. This morning The New York Times finally ran his Op Ed piece, in which he gives his readers the assurances of unconditional weapons inspection that his government can never quite bring itself to give to the actual weapons inspectors. On the same day, the Times reports that North Korea says it is "nullifying" the 1994 arms control agreement designed to prevent that country from acquiring nuclear weapons. They also say that, yes, they have been running a clandestine fissile materials program, which they strongly hint has already produced usable weapons. Few events, short of nuking Osaka, could have more plainly illustrated the complete bankruptcy of the international arms-control regime. Perhaps the ambassador's only consolation is that some opinion-makers will surely argue that we cannot possibly deal with Iraq now, because of the new crisis in East Asia.
No such consolation is available to former US president, Jimmy Carter, who just a few days ago received the Nobel Peace Prize for doing things like helping to negotiate the 1994 agreement. At the time, it was obvious to all serious observers that the agreement was a US capitulation, and that it simply meant the North Koreans would acquire nuclear-armed missiles a bit more slowly. It may or may not have prevented a conventional war at the time. By allowing North Korea time to acquire a nuclear deterrent, it has certainly made a war appreciably more likely now. So much for containment, I think.
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Predictably, speculation about the identity of the DC Shooter has turned to the possibility of an al Qaeda link. This theory makes as much sense as any other. The shooter has obviously had considerable training as a marksman, and his ability to avoid capture to date suggests special-operations training. On the other hand, these shootings no more resemble what Islamicist terrorists normally do than they resemble what home-grown rightwing terrorists normally do, or for that matter what serial killers normally do. If there really were a connection to al Qaeda, one would expect several shooters to be operating simultaneously around the country. However, the terrorist connection was recently given some support by descriptions of the shooter, which say he is a swarthy fellow, possibly "Middle Eastern or Hispanic."
This is slender evidence. Swarthiness is an unreliable indicator of nationality, even assuming the descriptions are correct. The police have been handling the situation well so far, perhaps because, unlike the FBI in connection with the anthrax cases, the police don't seem to have become ideologically committed to any one theory. One trusts that the police, at least, will cut the swarthy of the world some slack, even if the swarthy are driving white vans.
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Most in need of sympathy of all may be Amiri Baraka, the Poet Laureate of New Jersey. That title was enough to open any late-night talkshow monologue with a laugh, even before the incumbent laureate gifted the world with his poem, Somebody Blew Up America. As we all know by now, that work is largely a list of rhetorical questions, such as "who murdered the Rosenbergs" and, most famously, "Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers/ To stay home that day." Media reports do not fully convey the scope of the questions. The poem goes on and on with such queries as:

Mr. Baraka's poem has excited so much hostile comment that the governor of New Jersey is seeking to strip the laureate of his laurels. A point that no one seems to have noticed is that the poem in question may be derivative. Both in style and content, Somebody Blew Up America mirrors the The Stone Cutters' Song from an episode of The Simpsons:

While this scarcely amounts to plagiarism, surely New Jersey deserves a poet laureate of greater originality? Or perhaps, instead of a state poet, a state animation?
Copyright © 2002 by John J. Reilly

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