The Breakfast Table

A Real Trial

Good ultimate day of this correspondence, Maud:

I shall miss waking up early to vent to you, as I shall miss your regular soothing doses of wisdom.

My last vent concerns Iraq. If you turn to this morning’s New York Times, you’ll note an inventory of all the skirmishes that have taken place since the U.S. missile strike last month. Yesterday’s, in which a U.S. jet hit an anti- aircraft battery that had targeted it, was the fourth. And I learn that, in these same few weeks, there have been more than 40 instances of Iraqi aircraft violating the no-flight zone in the south. The White House and Pentagon claim that the planes have been merely “darting” into restricted zones and pose “no real threat to American or British patrols.” But a senior defense official is quoted as saying that the violations have become “more frequent, complex, and aggressive.”

Presuming that there is some justice in thinking of these aircraft as a swarm of hornets rather than gnats, I find it odd that suddenly everyone and his mother is leaking information about spies on the U.N. inspection team. Let’s set aside for the moment the question of why, if intelligence was gathered about the location of hidden weapons programs and security networks, so little real damage seems to have been done to them, and focus instead on these strange bursts of candor.

I phoned a friend who works on national security issues in Washington and has lots of clearance. Pointing out that everyone and his mother knows that the U.N. is full of spooks, he suggests that this non-news is being offered by French, Russian, or Chinese U.N. officials who have been at odds with the U.S.-directed policy in Iraq and have learned something from Ken Starr in how to undermine it: “Reorganize action by collective leaks to the press of highly sensitive classified information.” In his op-ed column, Abe Rosenthal singles out Kofi Annan as the ur-culprit trying to discredit Richard Butler because the information that inspectors have discovered on hidden weapons systems guarantees that the U.S. will continue to insist on sanctions. Rosenthal speaks ominously about anthrax on our shores. I’m more concerned about a coming conflagration overseas.

On a cheerier note, I was delighted by the Mayo Clinic’s findings that fidgety people seem naturally to burn off more calories. It’s not just the study’s results that were pleasing–I’m a chronic finger-tapper and leg-waggler, and have no problem stepping up my twitching–but also the lively writing of reporter Denise Grady: “The fat content of [the subjects’] bodies was measured with exceptional precision, by a special X-ray machine calibrated with a six-pound block of human fat left over from someone’s plastic surgery.”

As for the circus in the Senate, I will leave it to you, Maud, to make comparisons between this Trial and Kafka’s.

I do hope Prince Edward and his bride will be happy.

I just glanced out my window and noticed cascades of snow. Thanks, pal. Give my love to Chicago.