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Violence in Iraq, Violence Next Door

In fact, minimizing violence in Iraq is what the U.S. and Iraqi governments are hoping for as the deadline arrived for U.S. combat troops to leave Iraqi cities.

The stand-down for American troops means the Iraqi forces will be stepping up. What was much on the minds of our three guests, all military experts, was whether the manifold pressures of sectarian conflict, the trouble-making by Al Qaeda in Iraq, and the simple question of preparedness and equipment will invite more strife and death in Iraq's cities.

American troops will henceforth be what they themselves call Fobbits, living in big forward operating bases as a kind of ''911'' backup for the Iraqis. Both the military and the political considerations in this changeover occupied a good part of our time today.

As for violence next door, the documentary ''Sin by Silence'' takes a part of the huge story of spousal abuse that's often overlooked: women convicted of killing their batterers. One of my guests was Brenda Clubine, who's free now after serving 26 years for killing her abusive husband. Until laws changed about 15 years ago, courts were disinclined to admit evidence of battered spouse syndrome. As we heard, self-defense laws were originally written to cover the ''reasonable man'' standard, conflicts between brawling men, not the ''situational self-defense'' circumstances described years ago by the bill's author, a former prosecutor and deputy AG for former GOP governor George Deukmejian.

The documentary's director and a domestic violence counselor joined Clubine in studio, but the calls from listeners were just as harrowing. Hearing women's desperate voices come through the headphones simply reinforced the nightmare of domestic violence portrayed with such anguish in the documentary.

Clubine and director Olivia Klaus will be attending screenings of the film throughout Southern California, answering the audience's questions. So many people turned up at one, Klaus told me, that they had to be turned away, and another screening scheduled for them.

As for the HBO documentary ''Shouting Fire,'' about the limits of free speech in the U.S., it was nifty to have both the director and one of her subjects: Liz Garbus and her father, renowned First Amendment lawyer Martin Garbus.

They agree on a lot, but years ago, they had a falling-out over the expulsion of a student at Liz Garbus' alma mater, Brown University. She says now that her dad was right. Martin Garbus has promoted the First Amendment across the board, defending comedian Lenny Bruce, Pentagon Papers figure Daniel Ellsberg, and the Nazis' quest for a permit to march through Skokie, Illinois. He said the only case he refused to take was that of a Holocaust denier in Europe, where the case would have had to be argued on the merits, not on the principle of free speech.

Quite the father-daughter duo!

Tomorrow, New Yorker writer Jane Mayer is here with the new edition of her book, ''The Dark Side,'' about the struggle between the Constitution and executive power after 9/11. And as of Wednesday, chain restaurants in California will have to tell you exactly the fat, salt, carb and calorie content in your favorite meals. Do you really want to know? Call tomorrow and spill the fat-free beans!

-- Patt Morrison