Monday, May 05, 2003

Kathleen wonders why an American-educated scientist would work for Saddam. I'm not sure this needs that much explanation. Most high-level scientists like that have at least some Western education, just because Europe and the United States - as well as perhaps the Far East - have the best facilities for it. Many of the world's dictators went to Western universities. Western education does not guarantee altruism.

There's another aspect to this as well: Service to one's country, regardless of who rules it. Americans tend to look at a country and see just its government. People in a country often won't have that option. At least during the 1980's, the Ba'athist regime was supported by people who saw it as modernizing the country and strengthening it in relation to other powers in the world, especially Israel. Saddam's oppressive dictator stuff was easy to ignore if it wasn't happening to you. The idea of Iraq as a potentially strong Arab country is what helped motivate some Arabs to support Saddam during the last war, just as most responded to the plight of the Iraqi people.

Kristin, meanwhile, is "getting rather fed up with the continuous claims posed by the White House that Iraq must have weapons of mass destruction stored away somewhere." I agree you would have thought we would have found something by now, but the fact remains the materials we know he possessed have to be somewhere, even if they're not in weapons form. And in the unlikely event Saddam did abandon his WMD programs, I suspect it will only have been under the pressure of containment, the humanitarian cost of which was in my mind unacceptably high. Remember: Before there was a war, people protested the sanctions, with good reason.

Today's challenge: Stop confusing the Persian words for "Hebrew" (ebri) and "eyebrow" (abru). Especially since over the next week I will do my oral exam tomorrow, leave for a conference at which I'm giving a paper on Wednesday, and return Sunday evening to sit for a 7 p.m. Persian written final.


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