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“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Thursday, January 16, 2003
    Hmmph. The LA Photo Show opens tonight. I have a ticket for the reception; I've gone for the last several years and I enjoy it, but I'm just too tired to go tonight. That's $40 up the spout. I suppose I must be punished for my hubris at thinking I could do anything remotely artistic/social on a weeknight.

    I have a few things on my mind. If you've been surfing around, you may have seen some comments on John Le Carre's recent letter to the Times criticizing the U.S. in general and Bush in specific. James Lileks has some particularly good analysis of what Le Carre wrote, and he cites an article that I read yesterday in the Wall Street Journal and couldn't believe.

    The area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in Iraq, has been a large swamp for thousands of years. Every year millions of migrating birds feed there. It has been truly called "the cradle of civilization" and was the founding site for many ancient cultures. Unfortunately, the Shiite rebels used it to hide from Saddam Hussein's attempts to eradicate them.

    So Saddam destroyed it. Literally. His engineering corps built a huge drainage channel and a series of dams that drained the place dry in under ten years (this is a swamp a hundred miles across we're talking about). It's completely gone.

    Had you heard anything about this in the news, prior to this week? I don't think so. I sure hadn't. We're talking about an ecosystem bigger than the Everglades completely gone, and no one who claims to care about the global environment (and critiques the US for not caring) has said a word about it. The damage to the environment, to historical and cultural evidence, to species is inestimable.

    What bloody hypocrisy. Name something the US has done to the environment (a single act we're talking about here) that equals this. The only remotely similar act I could come up with was China's dam which is flooding the Three Gorges, a beautiful area and also of immense cultural and historical value. Now the Hetch Hetchy dam in Northern California could be construed as a similar situation, but though a beautiful valley wound up getting flooded, I don't think that the surrounding area was poisoned, nor species destroyed, nor great historical and cultural relics obliterated. And why, why is no one saying anything? "Oh, it's unfortunate, but it's Saddam, you know, and he has autonomy..." Horse manure. This is an act of psychosis, pure and simple.

    Lileks does a better job analyzing this whole thing than I can - I'm too tired to write coherently - but go there and read him. (Yeah, I know, lazy blogger's trick, but really, read him.)



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