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Posted Monday, April 12, 2004

John Ashcroft had a lucid but not entirely convincing explanation for why he had ceased to fly by commercial airliners in July 2001.

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April 13, 2004 (Tuesday)
Key West

UP at 8 a.m. after a miserable night, fierce banging headache again. Terrific tropical thunder-and- lightning storm during the night.

[. . .]

8:45 pm I write to my counsel, in London: "I attach the material for the further witness statement we discussed on the phone today. [. . .]"

Several good donations, totalling around $500 over the last twenty-four hours, via the website button. The legal fund for the oncoming battle with Deborah Lipstadt, which is scheduled to take up five days in the High Court in London this autumn, is filling. And Jessica needs a new school uniform, she is changing schools next week. My headache, which plagued me last night, comes back in the evening.

John AshcroftI watched some of the hearings during the day, of John Ashcroft and Mr Pickard, a short time acting director of the FBI. Pickard was too blue eyed and eager to pass the buck; Ashcroft had a trapped-animal look about his intelligent, westernized features -- he had probably taken the al-Qaeda threat too easily. He had a lucid but not entirely convincing explanation for why he had ceased to fly by commercial airliners in July 2001.

Nobody has yet put, and no witness has himself volunteered an answer to, the Big Question: "Can you think of any change to US foreign policy in the Middle East that could have made the United States people much safer in the long run, and at far less cost to the taxpayer?" With that lovable prime minister, Ariel Sharon, just visiting Washington today and tomorrow such a question and answer might have been considered indelicate.


BEING just about to shake the hand of The Devil's Lieutenant, it is perhaps not surprising that at the President's evening press conference, which I watched live on TV, he seemed more dim-witted, slow thinking, and mumbling than ever.

Some of the journalists asked tougher questions than usual, and one suspects that more than one was unscripted (don't expect to get invited there next time, fella). One intrepid journalist pressed George Bush to apologise for Sept. 11, 2001 and all that has happened since. The president winced, and went off at a tangent.

Another reporter asked if he could think of any mistakes he had made since election, and after snapping that he wished he had had written notice of that question -- implying that the other questions were on written notice -- he thought for a second, then mumbled he couldn't think of any mistakes right now.

Most of the awkward questions he just ducked, and evaded answering, turning to quite a different matter. He stated over and over again that the US will stay the course, for the sake of those who have already died. He made no mention of the tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis his action has killed, other than a passing reference to the actions of "Muslims" and "brown-skinned" people.

He repeated that he, or rather his army, was in Iraq, and it would be staying in Iraq, for freedom, peace, freedom and peace, and peace and freedom, and other combinations of those words which seemed to empty out all their real meaning as he spoke them. He has confused steadfast with stubborn.

He was bringing peace to Iraq, he said. According to my memory the country was at some semblance of peace before the American bombers and cruise missiles arrived -- may-be the peace of the cemetery, but it was a lot more peaceful than the "coalition" have made it since. The British Army's cemetery, a proud relic of our own failed occupations of Iraq, or Eye-Rack as George Bush calls it, has literally been razed to the ground, all the tombstones uprooted and stacked higgledy-piggledy against a wall.

Tiring of his remarks, I waited for him to blunder across the "nuclear" tripwire, and sure enough it was there, and he said "nucular" as usual.

Somebody asked, "Mr President, why are you and the Vice-President insisting on appearing together before the Sept. 11 Commission?" Because, he answered insolently, the Sept.11 Commission had invited them: the equivalent of "To get to the other side." The questioner angrily repeated the inquiry, pointing out that the Commission had invited them to appear separately. Bush again ducked the answer.

The most probable answer is that he is apprehensive that he might say something that will contradict what Dick Cheney says. There is no properly established criminal court in the world that would allow two witnesses to testify in tandem like this, no matter how august.

Thus spake the President of a great nation, a man in denial. What an ******* the American system elected (or didn't elect, as the case may be).


FROM Ramstein Air Base in Germany -- that's near the military cemetery that President Ronald Reagan insisted on visiting although it contained the graves of hundreds of fallen Waffen SS men -- comes an e-mail. click to enlargeAn officer there tried to log on to, having no doubt read The New York Times article about the controversial website. He got a screen advising him that that computer could not access the website, which reproduces articles both pro and con the global Jewish community.

I received a similar email a couple of years back from a US Army officer in Croatia. He got a screen advising him that my website was deemed "not mission-related", that his attempt to log-on had been noted, and that any further attempts would be reported to the appropriate authorities.

Things have changed since I worked for the US Air Force's Strategic Air Command (as a clerk-stenographer, in 1960). The slogan stamped across my base Photo-ID was "PEACE IS OUR PROFESSION." Now it would be Peace-and Freedom. But not freedom of thought, apparently.


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