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March 10, 2005, 7:30 P.M.

Reader Eric R writes:

Good Morning Mr. Philpot,

"... the withdrawl of Syria from Lebanon ...?" It might happen, and then again, it might not. There is a lot of skillful diplomatic work to be done yet. The good news is that the US is not alone, because the bad news is that our administration could not diplomatically resolve a dispute about buying cookies.

Eric R

Eric:

You make and excellent point about our government's ability (or inclination) to negotiate anything. The situation in Lebanon is promising because the push is actually homegrown and supported by nations and diplomats with a lot more credibility in the region than the US. Regardless of the details, the situation is promising, one of the few really positive developments in the region. One can only hope our government dosen't screw it up.

Ed

March 9, 2005, 8:00 A.M.

We received the following note from reader Brian M regarding the Iraqi elections:

Dear Ed,

I've been waiting on the sidelines to assess the outcome of the Iraqi elections so as to let the hype die down, allowing some more sober analysis to take place.

All spin from Bush, et al., aside, I don't see how a reasonable person could conclude otherwise than that the Americans suffered another significant defeat in the elections.

I'd be willing even to posit that the election results may be the death knell for what was the original American policy goal in the invasion, i.e., a stable Iraq which was impotent to throw its weight around the Middle East, invading countries such as Kuwait and rendering support and comfort to such organizations as Hisb'Allah.

Although trying to portray itself as an honest broker in the elections, there's little doubt that the Americans were backing the Ayad Allawi horse, who ended up an also-ran.

Now, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the Shi'a cleric and leader of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), i.e., the winner of the January 30 elections, says, according to Monday's Le Monde, "No one in Iraq desires the establishment of permanent bases on our land. The [UN] Security Council resolutions are clear: it will be up to the elected Iraqi government ... to give the [American-led coalition] forces a specific departure date. As soon as possible."

That such news as this is conspicuously absent from the mainstream American media speaks loudly as to just how concerned American policymakers have become over these developments. My guess is that Bush and his entourage don't know what to do, and they are groping for answers.

It appears to me that a majority Shi'a government in Iraq will become closely aligned with Iran, which is one of Washington's nemeses in the region.

Further, it appears that the elections haven't had much of an effect on the insurgency, at least up to this date. And it's no small wonder: the formerly powerful Sunni have been disenfranchised, and the UIA is even more intent on "de-Baathification" than was Chalabi. Thus former Baathists have nothing to lose by keeping up the insurgency.

Of course, it is still too early to tell what the end-point will be. But the trends are certainly in place, and they point directly away from what Bush and the neocons wanted out of this adventure. Perhaps it is too early to declare that Bush lost. But I feel that coming to this conclusion is only a matter of time.

Brian M

Brian:

While there is certainly merit to your position, I am not prepared to say that the elections represent a complete failure. As I said previously, the failure to win Sunni participation in the elections was certainly a blow to the credibility of the process, and the strong Shiite showing suggests much closer ties to Iran. Both of these developments were, and will continue to be, prolematic for the Bushies and may result in an entirely different outcome than they planned.

Where I disagree is in your assessment that the elections were a complete defeat for the US. A significant number of Iraqis did participate, in the face of serious personal danger and the elected government seems to be functioning fairly well and not much resembling a US puppet. This is evidenced by the fact that they are talking about establishing a timetable for the US withdrawal and the establishment of bases on Iraqi soil. Even if the elections resulted in candidates other than those backed by the US, there is victory in the process if the elected government is truly representative of those who voted. A US puppet government, which I originally feared, would, in the long run, have been far worse and far more of a long term defeat.

If this government survives, and no one knows if it will, the Sunni will have lost big. Stability, whether through a theocratic state aligned with Iraq or through the survival of this newly elected fledgling government, will eventually numb the Sunni resistance and insurgency one way or another. If that happens after a bloody struggle, there will be little sympathy for welcoming the Sunni back into the fold. In short, you can kick more dents out of a can from the inside than you can from the outside.

You are correct to suggest that it may be too soon to predict the ultimate outcome, but I'm not prepared to see the worst just yet. There have been some promising developments in the Middle East recently, including the Israeli/Palistinian agreement and the withdrawl of Syria from Lebanon. These developments, together with moderating trends in Iran, may just be signaling the potential for some modicum of stability in the region.

I guess my point is that the very failure of the Bush policy in Iraq that you speak of could turn out to be a success for the region. It is doubtful, however, and certainly too soon to tell.

March 7, 2005, 8:40 P.M.

Why Protect Those Who Commit Hate Crimes? A bill was recently introduced in the New Hampshire House of representatives that would repeal the states Hate Crimes Law (NH RSA 651:6). The current law allows courts to impose longer sentences on defendants convicted of crimes where the jury finds, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the crimes are motivated by hostility to the victim’s religion, race, creed, sexual orientation, national origin or sex. The original Hate Crimes bill was passed almost unanimously by the legislature and immediately signed into law by Governor Judd Gregg. The attempt to repeal the law was defeated by a vote of 298-48.

Since no testimony was presented to suggest that the law was flawed or that it was being misapplied, I want to know what motivated 48 representatives to vote in favor of repealing this law, and what really motivated Senator Boyce in pressing for similar legislation in the senate. Included among those House members who voted in favor of the repeal of RSA 651:6 were Belknap county representatives Laurie Boyce, wife of Senator Boyce, Charles Clark, Ralph Rosen, Frank Tilton and Fran Wendelboe.

Ironically, the bill sponsored by senator Boyce was being argued on the same day that millions of people around the world quietly marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. Apparently Senator Boyce sees this as a free speech issue. He believes that the commission of a crime motivated by hate is somehow a constitutionally protected activity, and that the current law discriminated against people for certain crimes. How noble.

According to Ken Norton, writing in a recent letter to the editor of the Laconia Citizen, Senator Boyce Believes “… that the person who paints swastikas on a synagogue should receive the exact same punishment as the person who paints graffiti on the wall of an abandoned building.” Boyce’s claims regarding the free speech aspect of the repeal issue echo those of the “Free Staters” who, other than the sponsors, were the only people to speak in support of the bill. They, and Boyce, claim that the current law should be repealed because it is not possible to determine the intent and motive of a criminal act. Mr. Norton quite correctly points out that this is precisely what New Hampshire Juries have done successfully in Murder and other “intent” crimes for over 220 years.

While it is true that our states population is not among the nations most diverse, the original bill was a clear, concise and strong statement by our state that we will not tolerate violence motivated by hate. The law also required a specific finding by a jury that the particular crime was motivated by hate. There is more than adequate protection for the rights of this particular breed of criminal in the statute, and there really is no good explanation for seeking to do away with this particular enhanced penalty statute. The explanations given thus far in support of this action simply don’t make sense, and the claim that this is a free speech issue is a fraud and an insult. There is no institutional or constitutional protection for bigotry and ignorance when they are manifest in the commission of crimes, nor should there be. Think what you want, say what you want, and your actions are protected. But if you drag a man through the street behind your truck and kill him simply because he is black, you deserve to know that that action is sickening and repulsive and that because of your motivation you will suffer to the fullest extent of the law and then some. This is the message hate crimes laws are intended to convey. Even the American Civil Liberties Union disagrees with the claim that this is a speech issue. In responding to the free Speech Claims of the bills Sponsors and supporters the organization stated “Criminal acts based on hate are wounds to society…not just individuals are harmed.”

It is important that we, as citizens, are well represented in Concord. I don’t think that this legislative action in attempting to repeal hate crimes laws reflects very well on any of us and I am sickened that there was support, let alone sponsorship, of this legislation by members of our delegation. Free speech is a precious gift and a sacred right. To suggest that the commission of a crime against a person or property is legitimate expression of free speech is the ultimate perversion of the concept and to try to rely on the right of free speech in an effort to repeal an enhanced penalty law is a travesty.

So I want to know: Why are our delegates really supporting the repeal of this bill? I Intend to keep asking until I get an answer and I am not the only one. I hope that many others will join me.


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