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September 16, 2003

QUITE A FEW PEOPLE HAVE EMAILED ME LINKS TO this speech by Judge Don Walter, one of the federal judges who was in Iraq this summer on a judicial-assistance mission. I wasn't sure if I could rely on it, so I phoned his chambers and verified that it was genuine. It's worth reading. Here's an excerpt:

Despite my initial opposition to the war, I am now convinced, whether we find any weapons of mass destruction or prove Saddam sheltered and financed terrorists, absolutely, we should have overthrown the Baathists, indeed, we should have done it sooner.

What changed my mind?

When we left mid June, 57 mass graves had been found, one with the bodies of 1200 children. There have been credible reports of murder, brutality and torture of hundreds of thousands of ordinary Iraqi citizens. There is poverty on a monumental scale and fear on a larger one. That fear is still palpable.

I have seen the machines and places of torture. I will tell you one story told to me by the Chief of Pediatrics at the Medical College in Basra. It was one of the most shocking to me, but I heard worse. One of Saddam's security agents was sent to question a Shiite in his home. The interrogation took place in the living room in the presence of the man's wife, who held their three month old child. A question was asked and the thug did not like the answer; he asked it again, same answer. He grabbed the baby from its mother and plucked its eye out. And then repeated his question. Worse things happened with the knowledge, indeed with the participation, of Saddam, his family and the Baathist regime.

Thousands suffered while we were messing about with France and Russia and Germany and the UN. Every one of them knew what was going on there, but France and the UN were making millions administering the food for oil program. We cannot, I know, remake the world, nor do I believe we should. We cannot stamp out evil, I know. But this time we were morally right and our economic and strategic interests were involved. I submit that just because we can't do everything doesn't mean that we should do nothing. . . .

We must have the moral courage to see this through, to do whatever it takes to secure responsible government for the Iraqi people. Having decided to topple Saddam, we cannot abandon those who trust us. I fear we will quit as the horrors of war come into our living rooms. Look at the stories you are getting from the media today. The steady drip, drip, drip of bad news may destroy our will to fulfill the obligations we have assumed. WE ARE NOT GETTING THE WHOLE TRUTH FROM THE NEWS MEDIA. The news you watch, listen to and read is highly selective. Good news doesn't sell.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Judge Walter's secretary was kind enough to email me the prepared text of his speech, which differs in a few minor points from the transcription above. I've posted it here.