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   Jeff Jacoby
Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe.

MUSINGS, RANDOM AND OTHERWISE
Copyright Boston Globe

Oct. 24, 2002

www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/297/oped/Musings_random_and_otherwise+.shtml

Stop me if you've heard this, but:

When Saddam Hussein emptied Iraq's prisons this week, he called it a gesture of gratitude for his unanimous "re-election" in last week's sham vote. A likelier explanation is that he is trying to bolster domestic support before the forthcoming US attack.

Iraqis massing outside the Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad went along with the "gratitude" charade at first, waving portraits of Saddam and loudly singing his praises. But when the prison gates collapsed from the pressure of the stampeding crowd, the pretense ended.

"Seeing watchtowers abandoned and the prison guards standing passively by or actively supporting them as they charged into the cell blocks," John Burns reported in The New York Times, "the crowd seemed to realize that they were experiencing, if only briefly, a new Iraq, where the people, not the government, was sovereign. . . . In one cell block, a guard smiled broadly at an American photographer, raised his thumb and said, 'Bush! Bush!' Elsewhere, guards offered an English word almost never heard in Iraq. 'Free!' they said. 'Free!' "

In November 1989, Nicolae Ceausescu ruled Romania with an unwavering grip. A month later he was dead, executed by firing squad after a sudden uprising. Sometimes all it takes is a crack in the wall, a tiny breach into which liberty can force its way. Saddam's fall is coming. And maybe sooner than we expect.


The 17th edition of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations is out, and this time the Gipper gets his due.

When the 16th edition was published in 1992, conservatives were incensed that none of Ronald Reagan's great utterances were in it -- not even his famed exhortation at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate in 1987, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" At the time, editor Justin Kaplan -- a staunch Cambridge liberal -- conceded that the omissions weren't inadvertent: "I'm not going to disguise the fact that I despise Ronald Reagan," he said.

Ten years later, Kaplan has had a change of heart -- not about Reagan, but about succumbing to his own ideological animus. "I admit I was carried away by prejudice," he told USA Today last week. "Mischievously, I did him dirt."

Bravo! Nothing shows character like a proud man admitting he was wrong. Liberals should do it more often. Conservatives should, too.


Antismoking crusaders in Massachusetts are furious about Governor Jane Swift's deep cuts in the state's tobacco control program. "To cut off funding for this program," one activist warns darkly, "will mean . . . that more pregnant women continue to smoke and that will have devastating effects on the baby."

In fact, cigarette sales in Massachusetts will keep right on falling. That's because it's the price of a smoke, not the amount spent on antismoking propaganda, that has the greatest impact on consumers' tobacco-buying behavior. And with the cigarette tax recently hiked to $1.51 a pack, the price of a smoke in Massachusetts is now higher than almost anywhere else.

For fans of the old antismoking empire, the budget cuts are undoubtedly a nightmare. But for those who simply care about smoking prevention, there's no reason to lose any sleep.


A side issue in the gubernatorial race, meanwhile, is same-sex marriage: Democrat Shannon O'Brien is for it, Republican Mitt Romney isn't. They could both strike a blow for clarity by refusing to call it "gay marriage."

Marriage is not just about sex, and it has never been limited to heterosexuals. Throughout history most gay men, it seems safe to say, have married women; countless lesbians have married men. Those unions may not always have been sexually satisfying, but that is often true of marriages in general.

At issue today is not whether gays should have the right to marry -- they already do. It is whether the definition of marriage should be radically changed. Argue pro or argue con -- but let the terms of debate be accurate.


At least 14 Israelis were murdered -- many burned alive -- and 65 were wounded when a car packed with explosives rammed a passenger bus near Hadera on Monday. Islamic Jihad promptly took credit for the slaughter, and once again that perfect silence you heard was millions of Muslims in America and Europe not crying out in protest against those who commit massacres in the name of Islam.

The night before, Islamic terrorists bombed a Catholic shrine in the Philippine city of Zamboanga, leaving one dead and 12 injured. Three days earlier, two terror attacks in the largely Christian city's shopping district killed seven and wounded more than 160. And from moderate Muslims in the West, the heartfelt expressions of revulsion and sorrow were -- inaudible.

Time and again we have been instructed that Islam is a "religion of peace." Over and over we have been assured that most Muslims are nonviolent and tolerant. And yet when Islamist fanatics commit acts of horrifying atrocity, and do so as Muslims, the peaceable Islamic majority has nothing to say. Why not?


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