March 17, 2003


"DO NOT DESTROY OIL WELLS"??? Does he even care how transparent he sounded? This statement was greeted by raucous laughter by the 500 or so people... hm, I should back up.

Tonight, Janet Reno gave a lecture here at Brown. There was, predictably, a packed house to hear her, and the line when I arrived at 6:15 (the talk was at 7:30) was already a couple hundred people long. Just before she was to speak, they announced a format change: instead of an hour-long talk, she'd just give a half-hour speech, then they'd display the President's speech live on the screen there in Salomon, then we'd go to fifteen minutes or so of questions.

It was a frustrating talk to listen to. She may once have been an excellent public speaker, but she seemed to have a lot of difficulty tonight; she clasped her hands or gripped the podium most of the time so that they wouldn't shake, and her speaking was definitely suffering as well. She kept losing her train of thought in mid-sentence, putting emphasis on strange parts of the sentence, totally forgetting details like Yaser Hamdi's name (which must have been in her notes, but she went off-notes a few times, and I wonder if she was having a hard time reading them). She also repeated herself a lot. She certainly had the strength of her convictions, though, a passionate belief in freedom of speech, privacy, and the importance of an informed populace.

At 8 we broke for W's little speech. It was good to watch it with a crowd---there was a palpable air of "did he really just say that?" A few times there was nervous laughter as he said something that was just too outrageous to be believed (of which "do not destroy oil wells" was but the most egregious). Predictably but depressingly, he lied to the populace several times, as when he claimed that France had declared its intent to veto any resolution that asked Iraq to disarm, when of course it had done no such thing (it was rather only going to vote against a resolution to send the US to go "peacekeep", or whatever we're calling it these days). He moved on to the second half of his speech, which was purportedly to the Iraqi people, who were listening "in a translated radio broadcast"---as if the Iraqi government would translate his subsequent remarks accurately, or at all---and gives instructions on what to do when we invade their country, namely that they should let us. This was, of course, propaganda directed at Americans, who can now feel guilt-free about the war: "well," they can say, "Bush told them we wouldn't hurt them if they would only throw down their weapons and follow our instructions." Of course, we've been there before, and the Iraqis would be stupid to believe us this time around (assuming they could even hear).

Perhaps he had some hope that they would actually hear what he said, hence the "do not destroy oil wells" command. Where some other statements got some nervous laughter from some of the audience, this was greeted with loud, raucous laughter from all present. Simply unbelievable.

I would like to warn the world of the consequences of letting Bush get away with invading Iraq, but someone else said it better:

The cause of peace requires all free nations to recognize new and undeniable realities. In the 20th century, some chose to appease murderous dictators whose threats were allowed to grow into genocide and global war. In this century, when evil men plot chemical, biological and nuclear terror, a policy of appeasement could bring destruction of a kind never before seen on this earth.
I suppose I should maybe cite the speaker of that quotation. That would be W, towards the end of his speech, about an hour and a half ago. Funny how that works.

After the speech, there was a dull shock and dead silence for a moment. The dénouement was bound to be banal, but I have to say that Ms Reno did a lot better with the off-the-cuff questions. One of which, I'm proud to say, was from me: I commented that a lot of government groups---and their records---had been merged under the Department of Homeland Security, and I asked her whether that was a net plus or minus, what the privacy implications might be, and generally what she thought of it. She said that she was particularly concerned about the role of the CIA in the new Department. "We are a nation that doesn't like to be spied on," she said, "especially by our own agencies." She further commented that we, the people, need to be vigilant and ensure that the DHS doesn't abuse its powers.

And that's about all. I still can't believe he said "do not destroy oil wells."

I don't care
if you really care
as long as you don't go. --The Cardigans, "Lovefool" Posted by blahedo at 9:54pm on 17 Mar 2003

Post a comment

Sorry! Spammers have temporarily overloaded the system. Reload this window in a little while to try again. [?]

Remember personal info?

Valid XHTML 1.0!