Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mr. Rocketseed, your witness

Judge: Mr. Rocketseed, your witness.

Johnny Rocketseed: Thank you, Your Honor. Mr. Lauer, you testified a moment ago that Iraq is in a civil war. Correct?

Matt Lauer: Yes, Iraq is in a civil war.


Counsel for Matt Lauer: Objection. Argumentative.

Judge: Sustained. It's also not a question. Please refrain from trying to testify Mr. Rocketseed.

JR: Okay. It's just that . . . well, never mind. Mr. Lauer, have you ever been to Iraq?

ML: Well yes, several times.

JR: Oh.

[uncomfortable pause]

Judge: Please continue Mr. Rocketseed.

JR: Mr. Lauer, I hand you what I have marked as Exhibit X for identification. [handing Lauer a single sheet with a big red "X" in crayon scrawled at the bottom] Can you tell me what this is?

ML: [after examining the document for some time, looking puzzled] I have no idea what this is.

JR: If I told you it was a blog post that I wrote criticizing NBC for calling the civil war in Iraq a civil war—strike that—if I told you it was blog post that I wrote criticizing NBC for calling the situation in Iraq a civil war, would that refresh your recollection?

ML: In view of the fact that I've never seen this before, I'd have to say no.

JR: All right. Nevertheless, would you read the document to the Court?

CML: Objection. The document hasn't been authenticated. It's not in evidence. Its contents are hearsay and an attempt to offer expert testimony without qualifying the expert.

Judge: Overruled. This might be fun.

[ML reads the document aloud, stumbling over the opaque syntax at several places]

JR: Mr. Lauer now do you admit that NBC is wrong and that it's not a civil war?

ML: Based on this specious twaddle? No, of course not.

JR: Objection! Scandalous!

Judge: Mr. Rocketseed, you can't object. You can move to strike, though.

JR: Then I move to strike the answer.

Judge: Overruled. Why don't you ask Mr. Lauer about some of the points you made in your little essay?

JR: That's a good idea. Mr. Lauer, didn't I write that Iraq was not in civil war because it's not really a war because there aren't soldiers marching around and stuff?

ML: It's absolutely true that you wrote that.

JR: Do you agree with it?

ML: No, of course not. The Lebanese civil war from about '75 to '90 was a guerilla conflict but a civil war nevertheless. You could say the same thing about the recent Balkan conflicts precipitated by the breakup of Yugoslavia. The overthrow of the French regime in Algeria was certainly a guerilla conflict, at least for the Algerians. And of course, let's not forget the Vietnamese campaigns by the Viet Minh and the Viet Cong in their civil war, the one you probably think of as being primarily about communism.

JR: Move to strike.

Judge: On what grounds?

JR: I don't like that answer.

Judge: Overruled. Move on, Mr. Rocketseed.

JR: I also made the point that Iraq is just not violent enough to be a civil war. Do you agree with that?

ML: [sighs] No, I don't agree. Over 3700 civilians were killed in Iraq just in October of this year. Look at it this way: Iraq has, or had, a population of about 26,500,000 people. Multiply 3700 by a factor of 12 to compare that figure to the US population, and you get 44,400 people. If that many people were killed here in a month, you can bet we'd call it civil war.

JR: Okay, we'll move on.

Judge: That's a good idea, Mr. Rocketseed.

JR: I also said that it couldn't be a civil war because the violence was isolated in a couple of places. Isn't that true?

ML: Cutting to the chase here, it's a specious argument. Moreover, it isn't factually true. All you have to do is read a couple of days of news reports, or a summary of them in a place like Informed Comment, and you'll see that there is sectarian violence all over the country. That's even true in the Kurdish north.

JR: I have no more questions for this uncooperative witness.

Judge: Mr. Lauer, you are dismissed.

JR: I would like to call a rebuttal witness, Your Honor.

Judge: Who?

JR: I would like to call Johnny Rocketseed to stand.

CML: Objection!

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