>Monty Python aside, I'm not a fan of the Spanish Inquisition. It killed and tortured far too many members of my faith. That said, Kevin James of the Goliard Blog makes a pretty convincing case for an inquisition, as the term is properly understood, in the context of the current American Catholic Church.
If it can make me say that, imagine how interesting it could be for you.
"CHICAGO (AP) - An Islamic charity and its director were charged with perjury Tuesday and accused of supporting terrorists, including a man who allegedly tried to acquire nuclear weapons for Osama bin Laden." (emphasis mine)Leader Enaam M. Arnaout was arrested at his his home in - where else - "Justice, IL".
I swear, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.
Apparently, the charges are just the latest fallout from the Bosnian raids in March. The name of this "charity"? Why, "Benevolence International," of course! What else would one call such an organization?
My good friend Ian Brodie is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Western Ontario. He's also a local organizer for Canada's conservative national political party, so his understanding of politics isn't just academic. I asked him what he thought of the UPI analysis, to which he responded thusly:
"There's no question that by fiddling around about crime and immigration, Chirac has left himself vulnerable to LePen. This analysis is unduly alarmist, though.Which makes sense.
"First, it's not clear what the turnout will be in the next round. Will those socialist voters go to Chirac or simply stay home? Chirac wants to whip them up into a frenzy to make sure they vote. We'll see. The far-far rightists - will they back LePen, a man they see as a sell out, on Round 2 or will they stay home? True, they have a chance to send a powerful signal if they vote LePen, but for many of them they have probably fired their shot and will now retire.
"A very low turnout helps Chirac, of course. Assume that only Chirac and LePen voters return to the ballot box in Round II - Chirac wins by ten points."
UPI's analysis only said that a Chirac victory isn't a sure thing. Chirac may have obstacles, but Le Pen's are far greater. In order for him to win, nearly everything has to go right for him - and a lot has to go wrong for his enemies. It's unlikely that everything will go wrong for Le Pen, but highly likely that some things will go wrong at any given time.
Anyone who has watched my Toronto Blue Jays stumble through the first month of the baseball season knows exactly what I'm talking about. At times it all clicks, and they look impressive. More often, something blows up somewhere and they lose.
Now, in politics there are many kinds of "victory." I'm sure Le Pen would love to be President of France. I'm equally sure that he would happily settle for movement status, where he is still despised by the establishment but becomes a force too large and too set to safely ignore.
To succeed, Le Pen needs the same 3 things anti-establishment groups have always needed:  apologists and/or 'friendly neutrals' outside their political circle;  some defection from 'edge mainstream' individuals into the cause; and  the ability to tie all that into a coherent, focused organization. Put the first two together, and you have a movement. Achieve all three, and winning becomes thinkable.
Let's use some North American examples. Pat Buchanan had #1, but ran aground on #2. Ross Perot had #1 & #2, but his ego blew up #3 (not uncommon - the movement-to-organization transition is even more famously hazardous than the "family firm" to "professional management" transition). In Canada, the Canadian Alliance picked up #1 and #2 quickly, but has always had trouble with #3 and ran into some regional difficulties stemming from our system of representation. Until they solve the organization issue, they'll remain a conservative movement and the Liberal Party will run Canada. Jesse Ventura had all 3 elements, and is now Governor of Minnesota.
My concerns around Le Pen were that the strategies used by his opponents may well hand him more 'edge mainstream' defections, something that may already be happening if current polls are any guide. If the tactics used are seen as unfair and indirect, they risk handing him apologists and friendly neutrals as well. Which would make him a movement. As for #3, only Le Pen himself holds the answer.
Final caveat: We can put forth our best analysis, but no-one's claiming Delphic Oracle status here. If it's interesting and thought-provoking analysis, good. Events have a way of moving with a life of their own, and time, as always, will have the last word.
My take? No, I still don't think Le Pen will win. But it does validate my April 22 analysis that the ingredients are there for Le Pen to go from a protest to a movement. So far, France's "leadership" has lived down to my expectations. And if the vote turns out to be as close as Sieff thinks, the odds on my predictions of real violence also go up.
Oh, I dunno. Once the House of Saud is gone, maybe we should let these folks have a go at the place (more to come about them on Saturday). Naaah... we have much better options.
On the other hand, ISIS looks like a good group to work with for the rebuilding of Iraq v3.0, where the dominant culture is historically sympathetic to this viewpoint. Thanks for the pointer, Gunner!
So one of my valued readers emails me yesterday, mentioning how much he resonated deeply with my "Hating America, Hating Israel" blog. Apparently, the tactics described reminded him rather keenly of his wife. From whom he's now separated.
I congratulated him, then noted that the solution for America when dealing with two-faced, woman-hating bigots like the Saudis is identical. Well, almost identical. Unless you're O.J. or a powerful empire, you don't get to enjoy "separation with extreme prejudice."
Hmm, hold that thought...
Most people seem to agree that it's time to communicate a clear policy statement on the Mideast. There's also general agreement that our representation in Saudi Arabia should be high-profile, and uniquely qualified for the job of steering the relationship through its coming phases.
Which is why I'm recommending O.J. Simpson for immediate appointment as the U.S. Ambassador to Arabia and the House of Saud.
Think about it. He's a famous, high profile American, tested and successful at dealing with media pressure and crisis situations. Besides, he's innocent until proven guilty - and the finding of the law was 'not guilty'. Case closed.
Indeed, O.J.'s appointment would be perfect for all concerned:
For added fun, have President Bush start to use phrases like "reluctant to just let go of such a long-standing relationship," trying to avoid the dangers of a complete separation" and "fidelity is an important value to us" when talking about relations with the house of Saud.
I like it. I think it has legs. Help us promote gainful work for an unemployed American legend, and a coherent Mideast policy at the same time. Spread the word! Tell your friends! Email them a link to this blog!
Paging Colin Powell... Paging Colin Powell....
>Wow, I knew things were less than ideal there... but this was something else. Thanks again, MuslimPundit.
Still laughing at Le Pen via my new "Pepe Le Pen Name Change Petition." Go read it, then please sign this uniquely Canadian form of democratic mockery!
* Saudi Societal Sickness
* Ambassador O.J. - A Modest Proposal
* After O.J., Then What?
* UPI Analysis: How Le Pen Can Win
* UPI Analysis: A Second Opinion
* A Chicago Islamic Charity With Nuclear Osama Connections?
* Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!
David's article does the best job I've yet seen when it comes to explaining the fallout from the "F-16 friendly fire" deaths of 4 Canadians in Afghanistan... and the shocking government mentality at play.
While our Governor General (Note to Americans: representative of the Queen, not an elected position) surprised me by having enough clue to note that deaths and sacrifice are an inevitable consequence of these commitments, David's assessment of the general mentality in government here is spot-on.
This time, famed hackers "Deceptive Duo" broke into a database at the Defense Department's Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). Information available to the hackers (who told the DLA about the breach themselves) included the names, ID numbers and encrypted passwords of DLA employees. Thanks to the Duo and their media strategy, a fix is underway instead of a coverup and the databases are now offline.
Wonder what goodies a terrorist hacker could have ordered up with that information?
Donald Rumsfeld has a published set of rules and aphorisms that he lives by in his job as Secretary of Defense. They've been around for a while, but if you've never seen "Rumsfeld's Rules" before, you owe it to yourself to check them out. They will give you a clearer insight into Rumsfeld's thinking... and some worthy guidelines for success in your own endeavours.
Energy matters. Not just because it drives our economy, though it does. Not just because of its links to our war against Islamofascism, though the links exist. It matters because it quietly shapes both our global foreign policies and the destinies of many countries who may become important future allies and adversaries.
In business and politics, the adage is "follow the money." With oil, a better adage is "follow the pipelines." This is a very interesting field, even without some of the nutbar conspiracy theories floating around (the dumbest one I've ever heard was definitely the "pipeline through Afghanistan is why we're going after the Taliban" theory).
Recently, STRATFOR did a profile on pipeline developments around the Caspian Sea basin. This area has substantial oil reserves, larger in fact than Saudi Arabia's... but until recently, the technical difficulties of shipping it made Siberia's wells the focus. Now there are a whole bunch of "-stans" in the region (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, etc.), who see development of these reserves as their ticket to the good life.
Unsurprisingly, there are many competitors for influence in that region. Russia, of course, which wants to keep as much control (and revenue) as possible by holding most of the pipeline routes. Post Sept. 11 there's the USA, which now has military relationships with many of the "-stan" states. The EU is involved, and so is BP. Not to mention Turkey, a major alternative shipment route and ethnically linked to the Turkic peoples of "the -stans".
So what's in the cards? Who's winning? Who's losing? STRATFOR's briefing is a good starting point... and I'll be covering this subject in future issues as well. Meanwhile, here's a useful map:
From Zen Master Tasien Deshimaru:
"We must let our thoughts and illusions go by
like clouds in the sky,
like the reflection of the moon on the water.
The moon doesn't move.
The moon's reflection doesn't move."
Still laughing at Le Pen via my new "Pepe Le Pen Name Change Petition." Go read it, then please sign this uniquely Canadian form of democratic mockery!
One of the books that has made a significant impact on me is Viktor Frankl's work "Man's Search for Meaning." One of its key tenets is that we may not have the power to control our situations, but we always have the power to control how we will respond to them.
Rabbi Boteach brought this phrase back to mind when he talked about anti-Semitism recently:
This does not mean that our religion is any better than anyone else’s. It means only that our time has come. That this religion is perfect for this most interesting of times..... But all this is dependent on one crucial belief: that the nations of the world are our brothers rather than our destroyers, our partners rather than our adversaries.I think he gets a bit optimisitic in places, but there's something to this.
Let's be clear: Judaism does not believe in turning the other cheek. It believes in confronting evil, in acknowledging the reality of it and taking action. We can afford to pay those costs, and we will; we have seen the price of the alternative. What we cannot afford, however, is for the hate of others to paralyze us. Or keep us from reaching out to people of good will. Of whom there are many. In all religions.
It is no exaggeration to call the Islamofascists and their appeasers evil. Every day, they remind us why that label is justified. But unless we reach forward with the light of spirit as well as material defenses, we will cheat ourselves of valuable friends - and miss a key weapon against our enemies.
Thanks for the reminder, Rabbi Boteach.
Damian Penny recently linked to an article by Canadian commentator Rex Murphy. Published a day after my own piece, it also talked about the connection between hating Israel and hating America.
With respect, Rex is in the right area but missed the target. He sees people whose position on Israel and lack of moral context re: the Palestinians is wholly determined by their feelings about the USA. Like me, he concludes that Israel is a convenient proxy - especially when Anti-Americanism is out of fashion.
This is correct as far as it goes, but Rex fails to take the thought to its logical conclusion. As a result, he misses both a full expose of the underlying dynamics at work and the reason America should take notice.
But then, that's why we blog... Rex may miss these things, but you don't have to.
Charles Johnson of LGF points us to this Fox News item, which notes that documents found in recent Israeli raids show payments from the Saudis to suicide bombers. If 20,000 riyals apiece doesn't seem like much to you, you need to read my "Suicide Economics" post to understand the American equivalent (over $150,000).
You'd think Arafat and the Saudis might have learned a thing or two from Al Capone's experience. Didn't they see "The Untouchables"? Guess they were too busy reading the same Nazi procedure manuals that produced the Harz mountain find in WWII. Keep that documentation coming, you bastards....
In my recent post about the South Palm Beach Cartoon Controversy, I noted that the cartoon was fair comment in light of what we know.
Actually, it's even worse than I described. To get an idea of just how bad, read this San Francisco Chronicle story. I can't do this justice, except to say: just read it for yourself.
HonestReporting.com has compiled a set of quotes and exposes from PBS, the Washington Post, and the Times of London that are almost as horrifying.
These exposes serve to establish two things, beyond a shadow of a doubt:
1. Only those who do not believe in evil can fail to call this by its proper name. This is simply organized hate, on a level not seen since the Nazis. In many ways, it even exceeds them; my readings around the Holocaust and the Nazi youth don't show anything that compares to this.
2. As Privateer notes, no reasonable person can read these and still believe that desperation drives the terrorists. His material is very worthwhile, because it undermines that myth in other ways too.
Steven Den Best writes that it may be necessary to defeat Islamofascism more or less the way Japan and Germany were defeated, in order to win the war started on September 11. Gunner20 looked at history, and said much the same thing, as did John Derbyshire. Stuff like this report makes it hard to see any other alternative.
Al-Buraik, a Wahhabi cleric with close ties to the king's youngest son Prince Abdul Aziz Ben Fahd, has some fascinating views. He's not a fringe kook, either; Al-Buraik was a member of the Saudi delegation accompanying Crown Prince Abdullah on his visit to the USA. Here's what he had to say in a recent sermon:
"Muslim Brothers in Palestine, do not have any mercy neither compassion on the Jews, their blood, their money, their flesh. Their women are yours to take, legitimately. God made them yours. Why don't you enslave their women? Why don't you wage jihad? Why don't you pillage them?"Click here to listen for yourself. All this, from a guy who probably wouldn't last 30 seconds at a Hadassah meeting. He also doesn't read his history.
As Damian Penny and Ed Collins point out, the list of women who fall under this admonition includes Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman, Alicia Silverstone, Debra Messing, Selma Blair, Jennifer Connelly, Shiri Appleby, Cindy Margolis and Lisa Loeb. Boys, you forgot Gina Gershon.
Now, lust has a way of making guys do and say some funny things. A list that includes Natalie, Jennifer and Gina would surely test the most stable of men - and Al-Buraik doesn't exactly qualify. Ms. Portman in particular already has a record of turning boyfriend-wannabes to The Dark Side.
Al-Buraik just better hope that Darth guy isn't the jealous type...
This one from Howard Fineberg's KesherTalk is a classic. Apparently, Hosni Mubarak got a bit testy when some of his Arab "brothers" were pestering him about why he wasn't taking his army into Israel to help the Palestinians.
Unable to give the honest answer of "What, get our asses kicked for those Palestinian scum and their fundamentalist allies? Over here we torture those vermin..." Mr. Mubarak needed to say something to shut his critics up. So, he decided to do the next best thing: put a price tag on his help that no one would meet.
What's that price? Try $100 Billion.
"Paging Dr. Evil, paging Dr. Evil...."
Really, if I had $100 billion and really wanted to destroy Israel... I'd hire Bill Gates.
Mark Steyn, columnist-hero to many of us for his clarity of thought and vorpal pen, finally stepped up to the Le Pen issue. Eurosnots Learn Nothing" is definitely worth a read.
First things first: congrats to "Jane Galt" of Live from WTC, who cops a favourable mention in Steyn's column. As Steyn writes:
"The best response to this line of thinking was by the shrewd Internet commentatrix [Live from WTC]: "They're completely missing the point, which is that it's hilarious."Absolutely. Now please go participate in a Canadian tradition and sign the "Pepe Le Pen Name Change Petition."
Steyn's other comments were also bang on as usual, full of diamond-tipped flechettes like:
"Europe's ruling class has effortlessly refined Voltaire: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death my right not to have to listen to you say it."As they say in the newspaper business, "you read it here first!"
On April 22, Winds of Change made the following predictions: Le Pen's core issues will be ignored, media bias will be used to as the main weapon to counter his message, and the head-on confrontation of ideas that could actually deal with Le Pen will be shown once again to be beyond Europe's imagination or courage. The role of France's Muslims in this election and the implications for French politics and counter-terrorism were not covered by Steyn, but they were covered here.
Steyn also predicts the demise of the EU, which is a stretch based on his premises. It is true, but the reasons have far more to do with economic structure than 'Pepe' Le Pen or 9/11. Meanwhile, this election offers the best of all possible worlds for those of us fed up with the Euro-French worldview.
Read "Le Pen (Le Pew!)" for yourself, and you'll know why I say: "Ah France, where Neo-nazis will soon complain that they're being treated like Jews."
Hatred itself is a choice. That choice spawns other choices, on both sides of hate's chasm. Sometimes the hardest thing is to acknowledge hatred and evil - and then, clear-eyed, to choose wisely. Yet it must be done.
* Re: Le Pen - Mark Steyn Agrees
* Where's Dr. Evil When You Need Him?
* Saudi Cleric Wants Jewish Women as Slaves
* All They Are Teaching Gives Peace No Chance
* Saudis Financing Homicide Bombers
* Rex Murphy: Close, But No Cigar
* Anti-Semitism and the Power of Choice
As KISS reminds us all: "God gave rock and roll to ya/ Gave rock and roll to ya/ Put it in the soul of everyone..." Steven Den Beste reports that the USA has rediscovered this great truth, setting up a broadcast that mixes American rock n' roll with popular local artists, plus news bulletins that send messages other than "kill the Jews." (See "On Screen" for details)
Arab Street, meet "Dancing in the Streets". Personally, I see this one as no contest - for all the moral fulminations about it, Rock N' Roll has a very clear record as America's most effective weapon against tyranny. (As C.P. Freund notes in his outstanding article, even Paul Anka can be frighteningly effective.)
Here's my suggestion for "Radio Sawa." Please run it often...
CAIR gets the publicity, but they aren't the whole story. USA Today (March 25, 2002) notes that Arabic speakers, including hundreds of Arab-Americans, have flooded the FBI with translator applications since Sept. 11. Some of those hired are already playing key roles in terrorism probes.
Cuba, Sudan, Serbia form Axis of Somewhat Evil; other nations start own clubs. Read all about it!
Back to our investigation. It isn't conclusive yet, but I didn't want you to think I had forgotten this.
What We Know
The Arab News story gave the trigger incident as a pro-Israel demonstration April 7, 2002, in Paris. RSF (Reporteurs Sans Frontiers) did file an official complaint, as described on their web site and in a document sent to me. Apparently, journalists on the scene were harassed and some were roughed up. Based on the RSF's account, performance of the demonstration's security force can best be described as inconsistent - some helped protect reporters, while others are reported to have attacked them. One journalists went to hospital with bruises, and was out in 3 hours.
Violence against reporters trying to do their job is morally unacceptable. The cement-heads who did it aren't helping anyone's cause but Arafat's. We did just fine in Washington and Ottawa without any of that, and anyone tempted to offer this kind of "help" in future should do the cause a favour and stay home.
We also have the ADL's larger take on the situation in France. Which proves nothing, but does establish the environment we're dealing in.
To Be Determined
As one might imagine, the Arab News appears to have exaggerated matters. The response I got from Laurence DeGuitre of the RSF made no mention of weapons seized, or of a police officer being knifed as claimed in the Arab News. I had specifically asked him about these things before he sent me the RSF's response. This is not proof the Arab News was lying, but it does raise strong questions.
No reply from the French Embassy in Tel Aviv, asking for confirmation or denial of Chirac's remarks to the Israeli Ambassador. The Israeli Mission in Paris can only be contacted by phone, but I did send an email query in to the London Mission explaining the request. One imagines they might be a bit busy at the moment. A query to the B'nai Brith A.D.L. (who monitors such incidents) also went into the void, though they warn that they get a lot of stuff in these days and responses may take a while.
We may never know. I tend to believe it, but acknowledge that hard evidence will be tough to come by.
The comments in question (Chirac to the Israeli Ambassador) are, by definition, not a matter of public record. This makes the story hard to confirm unless the Israelis want it made public. Which would be a very serious diplomatic slap, and might raise eyebrows in many other capitols including Washington. As a rule, one does not discuss the specifics of diplomatic conversations.
The Arab News report was based on leaks from Chirac's aides. Is this standard two-faced French diplomacy, trying to position Dassault Aviation for the coming $6 billion Saudi fighter contract via a media source likely to be slip "under the radar" of mainstream Western media? Possibly. Could the leaks still be true, even so? That's possible too. Given other statements recently by French officials, I find the story quite plausible.
Which is not the same as proof. I will continue to try and get a break on this. Until then, I leave it to my readers to draw their own conclusions.
Here's the gist of what I wrote to him, expanded somewhat for the blog:
...As to why the left hates Israel, I'm pretty convinced that it's tied to hating America. It's just that Israel is an easier target. Note that the incidence and volume ramped up post-9/11, when hating the USA became a lot less acceptable. This was so even before Israel's military incursion into the West Bank.
Looks like America-hating has found another outlet.
This isn't a snap assessment, or something I read in the Weekly Standard (though their "Bourgeoisphobes" article was outstanding and relevant). No, this one has been building for a while. More than once over the past couple of years, I've listened to fellow Canadians talk about Americans and become angry because I saw it, essentially, as an expression of bigotry rather than any reasonable disagreement.
You know, before the meal the bigot sneers that the Jews will never tip his waiter friend, and when they leave a huge tip afterward it's "whaddaya expect, they've got all the money."
As soon as you hear that, you know the specific complaints aren't really relevant. They're just vehicles for something deeper, and far uglier.I look at the British coverage of Jenin, for example, and how the charges conveniently shift over time, and what comes back to me is:
The 'anti-globalization' protesters are certainly working hard these days to make my case for me (See Lileks' "WWIII" sub-section for that day). Dr. Frank's masterful dissection of leftist British anti-semitism also explains much. But if you want the very best article on "The New Anti-Semitism" I've seen over the last year, read this one.
All clear? OK, here's my follow-up punch... it's the same deal for Americans these days. The criticism changes, the target doesn't - and the bottom line is the same: don't defend yourselves. On September 11th, over 3,000 people die and the skyline of one of your great cities is changed forever. After much deliberation, the response begins in Afghanistan. So does the criticism. First, America is being too unilateral. Then, when allies are on the ground with them in Afghanistan, America is contributing to starvation. When starvation doesn't happen and is in fact averted by U.S. actions, it's all about civilian casualty figures. Which are proven to be bogus, but are still repeated. The focus also shifts to military tribunals (and will return there, once any are held).On to Iraq now. Where the Americans are criticized for being too unilateral....
And at every step, spoken in soft undertones with occasional slips into open voice, comes the real subtext: America asked for it. Defending yourselves is criminal. The real solution is for you to go away.
The differences, such as they are, are twofold:
1. America isn't going to vanish in the near term, and everybody acknowledges that reality. At this stage, therefore, the haters' rhetoric advocates only a "Gulliver strategy" of tying US foreign policy down and either reducing its role in the world or giving others control of America's foreign policies. That's annoying and debilitating, but easy enough to shrug off. In Israel's case, however, "going away" means the destruction of the state and most of its people. Like Hitler before them, the people who say these things really do mean them. Our temptation not to believe our own ears notwithstanding.
2. Hating America is a relatively recent phenomenon, with no concrete historical roots. Its size and polyglot makeup also means that there's also no identifiable group to give that hatred focus, and so it falls almost entirely on the political state. Hatred of Israel, on the other hand, taps into a far deeper historical well that targets a very specific, identifiable group: the Jews. Yes, there are black Jews and Indian Jews, Arab Jews and European Jews. The common denominator is clear, however, and this specificity allows those attacks to concentrate and pick up an energy and virulence that extends beyond even Bin Laden's hatred of America. As hysterical as anti-American condemnations get, you can see the difference in the examples linked from this very posting.
Which brings me to my bottom line. It's easy enough to see anti-Semitism these days, and to contemplate the dark reality of its course. What's less easy to see is that America is up against the same sort of thing, and that Israel and the Jews really are your "canary in the coal mine."
Right now, the bird is starting to gasp.
As many of you know, a posting of mine about Amir Taheri's "The Three Islamic Faces of Suicide Bombing" (pub. LA Times; abridged/edited versions in Arab News, Straits Times) turned into a whole discussion with MuslimPundit and Ideofact. The latest reply comes from Ideofact, and there are some very good and thoughtful points made.
This posting is going to recap the discussion to date, so that you can follow it easily. As to where it goes from here, it seems we're now at a point where the only person who can move the discussion forward and resolve our questions is the author himself. Having laid out the discussion, I'll be contacting him and asking him for his thoughts on the outstanding issues.
Amir Taheri's original article (LA Times site archives, April 17, 2002)
 Original posting on Winds of Change
 MuslimPundit's response
 Ideofact is less impressed
 Winds of Change: is Taheri being criticized unfairly?
 Ideofact doesn't think so, says questions remain
 Ideofact: More thoughts on Taheri (incl. other writings)
So, comes the question, what now. Yes, it's a war. Yes, we grasp the stakes - not just for Israel, but for many, many more. How to survive? How to win? How to hope, in the end, for peace? Good questions, all.
The goal is a posting that clearly explains Israel's options, lays out the attendant risks and payoffs, and talks about both the apparent choices to date and where this is going.
Bluntly, I'm not happy with this one yet. I'm going to hold it over until it's ready for prime time.
Ron Rosenbaum writes in the New York Observer, asking in his headline "Does Poison Le Pen Augur Yet Another European Darkness?" As a man who spent several years of his life writing about Hitler and how Euope made his success possible, he's well qualified to comment. Lots of thought-provoking material in this one, and his habit of quoting doves and noting the recent shifts in their opinions is revealing.
To use Ron's own words:
"Believe me, I’d much rather not be writing about this terrible subject.... What makes me feel a need to return to the subject is the need to express the despair and sadness I feel; to begin the mourning and to chronicle the number of distortions, untruths and, well, lies I find in the coverage of the crisis (and the reaction to my column)...."
Lie No. 1: There Is No Cause for Alarm
Lie No. 2: Self-Defense Is a War Crime
Lie No. 3: Being "Anti-Israel" is the same as being critical of Israel.
Lie No. 4: The Polite Form of Holocaust Denial
Needless to say, none of this is working to stabilize the situation. Quite the reverse.
The fact that Israel is always playing for annihilation stakes has been repeated until it no longer registers. That doesn't make it less true, and unlike 1973 we are now talking about a nuclear power. If a Second Holocaust does come, it will claim far more than just 6 million this time around.
Nice to see some commentators calling the Mideast situation what it is: war. The Vodka-man hands down this week's required reading. "It's a War." says the Washington Post article. "Now, To What End?" Good question, and along the way the author gives both sides their due.
Someone else who sees it this way is the great Victor Hanson. His hopeful April 19th article ends thusly:
"Let the Europeans be toadies and fear these abjectly bankrupt regimes; let Americans worry more about the poor half billion people who have had to suffer and endure under them. Europeans, not us, are on the wrong side of history — and it is more embarrassingly apparent each day of this present crisis. Like the weeks before the fall of the Berlin Wall, what is ahead is fraught with uncertainty and fear, but it is also, in some strange and macabre way, full of rare hope as well.Hanson 4:19, as they say in WWF parlance! And his story about the airport conversation with a badly outgunned Euro justifies the article all by itself.
Reader RG Fulton pointed me at this cartoon from the Palm Beach Post, which is now up on CAIR's site as a protest project. Here's the cartoon:
As for the protest etc., here's what I told the Palm Beach Post:
Editor,If you also feel like sending your opinion to the Post, by all means email them!
Outrage expressed against the "Kids and Parents" cartoon might be convincing, if it wasn't accompanied by such deafening silence about the deep evil of encouraging child suicide bombers. Organizations like CAIR, who called the convictions for the 1993 WTC bombing "a hate crime", denied Bin Laden's role in Sept. 11 until December of 2001, and support individuals and charities with links to Hamas, can go ahead and be offended. Their offense at the cartoon rather than the reality it represents tells us all we need to know.
I'd like to step away from the topic of Israel and spend more time on other areas, but it's like that Sopranos/Godfather III line where "every time I try to get out...they pull me right back in!"
Still laughing at Le Pen via my new "Pepe Le Pen Name Change Petition." Go read it, then please sign this uniquely Canadian form of democratic mockery!
* "When I Grow Up..." Cartoon Controversy
* It's War.
* The Stakes: A Second Holocaust?
* Israel's Options: Wait, Wall, War, Wave Goodbye (held over, in progress)
* The Taheri Debate, recap & referral
* Hating America, Hating Israel
* Arab News Story Investigation: Interim Findings
"Jane Galt's" Live from the WTC is one of my favourite blogs, especially when she turns her insights and intellect to matters economic.
Two things you should know about my esteemed colleague:
1. She really does write from Ground Zero in New York
2. Her talents go beyond just economics
Take her "Remember When..." posting, for example:
"...So I still haven't comprehended it, in the sense of the word that means to develop full understanding. But I keep having these moments, like when I realize that I am sitting in a trailer, in a hole that contains nothing but the absence of two buildings, and that entirely unfamiliar objects in my line of sight are in fact the skeleton of a place that I did not particularly love when it was still around, but which was part of the fabric of my every day...."The picture that follows is priceless.
Not to mention her subsequent posting of Shelley's "Ozymandias," which seems oddly appropriate.
Sometimes, bloggers and other pundits can sound like Oracles, handing down definitive opinions and boldly predicting the future.
If you really want to be an Oracle, follow the all-time leader. The Oracle of Delphi was rich and famous in a way Miss Cleo only fantasizes about. The succession of Oracles who lived in the temple to Apollo at Delphi were infamous for their cryptic pronouncements... which frequently became clear only after the fact.
The Athenians figured theirs out in time for the Battle of Salamis, but one less fortunate instance comes down to us through a Delphic prediction given to Croesus, king of Lydia. In 550 BCE, Croesus was preparing to invade the Persian Empire when he consulted the Oracle about his chances for victory. After sending a mind-boggling array of wealth to the Oracle, Croesus sent his question: should he attack Persia?
The Pythia answered that, if he crossed a river, "Croesus will destroy a great empire." That fit the description of Persia, so the pleased Croesus invaded... and was crushed. The Persians then invaded and conquered Lydia, and the captured Croesus bitterly cursed the Oracle. He sent his iron chains to Delphi with the question, "Why did you lie to me?" Whereupon the Pythia correctly answered that her prophecy had been fulfilled. Croesus had destroyed a great empire - his own.
"Pretty good," you say. Well, it would seem that a group of modern scientists think the Oracles may have been a bit, ah...how shall I say this... stoned out of their trees. Go ahead and read for yourself. All I can say is:
1. The New York Times does have its moments.
2. These are my kind of scientists!
From ColdFury.com comes THE definitive essay on "tough chicks" and what makes them so great (April 20, 2002). This preference is apparently becoming more common if my TV is any guide... Kelly Hu, Sarah-Michelle Gellar, Jessica Alba, and of course the current title-holder Tia Carrere. Arguments about who's #1 tend to end once you've heard Tia sing "Ballroom Blitz."
On a related point, if anyone has tips on how to encourage this state of mind from childhood, please email me. I will thank you now, and my little niece will thank you later. Really good responses will be posted if permission is given.
A one hundred year old Javanese anaesthetic method will be remarkably familiar to fans of a certain pointy-eared TV character.
From Master Taisen Deshimaru, in "The Zen Way to the Martial Arts":
The sky disintegrates and turns to dust,(What Daichi taught the Samurai Kiksushi in the snow)
The great earth becomes peaceful, no-one can see it.
Abruptly, the dry tree opens its one flower.
Calling to another spring, beyond history.
I need to back away from the warblogging stuff, if only for a day. While I've never, ever been mistaken for a pacifist, I have to admit that it's draining to write about it all the time. Also less interesting to read, I'll wager.
Yesterday's postings featured the ongoing conversation with MuslimPundit and Ideofact over my recent piece on Amir Taheri's column. In a different thread, Michael Lonie replied to our "Israel and the Muslim View of Jews" exchange, and Adil posted Michael's thoughts on his blog. My short answer is that no, the self-government model Michael described won't happen - and no, expulsion of the Palestinians is not a near-term option either. Tomorrow, I'll explain why.
N.B. Tomorrow's blog will have my status report on my investigation of the Arab News report re: Chirac and the Israeli Ambassador to Paris. There are still some key sources who have not gotten back to me, but I'll tell you what I can.
This is decency, through and through. Like most British papers, The Sun runs a lot of stuff that doesn't usually attract the adjective "decent" as North Americans understand the word. But its instincts in this direction have now been demonstrated twice, which is more than its counterparts can say:
TWO days after September 11 The Sun ran a leader headlined: Islam Is Not An Evil Religion. ...In the light of yet another suicide bomber attacking Israel on Friday, and looking at the terrifying rise of anti-Jewish feeling — anti-Semitism — around the world we would like to offer an equally important thought: Judaism — the Jewish faith — is not an evil religion.The whole thing is definitely worth a read, if you haven't seen it yet.
On the other hand, how frightening that The Sun's editors believed they had to write this. Alas, it's not hard to see why... as Dr. Frank at Blogs of War explains so well.
Susanna Cornett's valuable Cut on the Bias blog brought the following item to my attention.
Wendy McElroy explicitly addresses the issue of decency in political debate, surely an overdue topic. While her article draws strongly on feminist politics for its examples, it has broader applications. Wendy writes:
You have the right to form an opinion and to express it. You do not need a diploma, permission from your spouse, dispensation from the Church, or a birth certificate listing the "correct" sex. Simply by being human, you have a right to reach conclusions and state them. For example, men have a right to independent opinions on "women's" issues like abortion.The rest of her column lists the rights and duties inherent in discussion of contentious issues. Definitely worth reading by any blogger or activist.
N.B. The best article I have ever, ever seen on the topic of effective and moral advocacy remains Owen Harries' Commentary Magazine article, "A Primer for Polemicists" (Sept. 1984).
MuslimPundit's reaction is a mixture of respect and despair, and so is Ideofact's. But the reactions are different, too. MuslimPundit:
I also thought that Taheri's article was one that spoke some much needed sense to Muslims, and yet reading it made me feel ever so disappointed on two counts. Firstly, the people who have read it probably did not need to hear it in the first place. Secondly, is this really how low Muslims have sunk, so much so that my co-religionists desperately need to seek guidance on such a self-evident and axiomatic concept?The question is rhetorical; he knows the answer is "yes," and this is what saddens him most of all.
Ideofact is less impressed:
"...or every suicide bomber, there are several people willing to strap the semtex around her waist and give her directions to the nearest pizza parlor. But Taheri never says anything of those who aid the bombers, or, more tellingly, of their victims, the people who, while sipping a coffee or buying bread or riding on a bus, are blown to smithereens by some crackpot, aided and abetted by the Palestinian "leadership."While this is true, I think it's an unfair slam against Taheri.
Having stripped the act of any religious justification earlier in his article, the ideas above become self-evident, inevitable conclusions. If there is no justification, then the act must be murder - both of the victims, and of the bomber by those who make these actions possible. Taheri doesn't say this because he has a limited number of words in the column, and belaboring these points would be an unnecessary waste.
"In Islam, however, it is not up to mortal man to decide to become a martyr. A martyr is either one who suffers at the hands of the enemies of Islam, often to the point of death, because of his or her faith, not politics, or someone who falls in a battle against aggressors. The martyr does not want to become one. He knows that the highest value is the preservation of life; he is put to death not by his own hands but by his oppressors."I have no comment on this, just wanted to highlight an excellent point by Taheri.
Taheri's follow-on point is that we can't know how representative the suicide bombers are until repression is removed and freedom allowed. Which means that "cult of death" characterizations of Islam are therefore unfair. Ideofact replies:
"Absolutely. But the whole civilization, which includes Mohammad and Averroes and Avicenna and Al-Ghazali, isn't being branded. Rather it's those who embrace such a practice as a means to a political end, who justify it in religious terms (as many do), who encourage young men and women to turn themselves into living (briefly) bombs, who dress up children in suicide bomber costumes, who pass blithely over those who arm the bombers, who -- above all -- ignore the victims -- that create the impression of a cult of death, particularly when you end this way: The key question in ethics is this: Are you prepared to practice what you preach? In this case: can you become a suicide bomber? Are you prepared to urge your offspring to become human bombs?"The first set of points Ideofact makes are perfectly valid, and a good rejoinder. The last bit is a misrepresentation of what Taheri said.
The ending to Taheri's article was not an invitation; it was a condemnation. It said, in effect, that too many Arabs are willing to promote a course of action for the Palestinians they would not accept for themselves or their offspring. It's the "fight to the last Palestinian" point, made in a particularly brutal way. Morally, that's a pretty serious charge. It's also very true, and I was impressed that he said it so unambiguously.
Ideofact then continues with:
"I think it is only a tiny fraction of Muslims in the Arab world who would answer that question with a yes. I desperately hope that to be the case. But it appears that a large majority, if they do not practice, nevertheless preach -- applaud, cheer, justify and even reward -- those who do urge their offspring to become human bombs."On this point, we are in perfect agreement. The reaction of the Muslim world, both abroad and in the West, is a mix of silence and complicity, to an extent that will be a deep moral shame on the religion down through the centuries. For Islam's sake, this phase of temporary madness had better be short. Ideofact continues:
"Which is why, I think, I'd rather read about the existential reality of Averroes' Islam than that of Amir Taheri's."Wouldn't we all. But we live in this time, and this is where our moral choices manifest and matter. Amir Taheri manifested his, and he did it in the teeth of an Islam that is not inclined to hear such messages right now. That environment inevitably creeps into his writing, rendering it in some ways less beautiful than Averroes'. For me, however, this fact is eclipsed by a different kind of beauty: the beauty of his clear moral stand in a hostile environment. It's admittedly a matter of preference, but that kind of beauty is exactly what I'd rather read.
Mr. Taheri, may Allah whom you hear so clearly watch over you and keep you. Adil and Bill, your comments are always enlightening. I look forward to seeing Adil's promised thoughts on why so many Muslims are impervious to reasoning like Taheri's. In the meantime, may G-d watch over you both and those you care for.
Will Hutton has a point of view I don't wholly agree with, but it's worth considering.
Here's my take: Will is right long-term, after the Palestinians and their Arab allies are soundly defeated militarily or enmeshed in a region-wide reshuffling/revolutions (see my recent dialogue with MuslimPundit). His flaw lies is the short term, and the naive belief that hatred already cultivated and supported at so many levels can be defused by empathy. Read the links in my "It Can't Happen Here Department" posting the other day, and ask yourself how realistic this is.
The thing is, empathy can win. Long term. But it wins only after the support structure and the people fuelling deep-seated hatred have been crushed so badly that even hatred's adherents begin to question the costs. Then, and only then, better things can flourish in its place.
The American South comes to mind as a recent example. Germany and Japan even more so. Keyn Ye'hi Ratzon (may it come to pass).
From Jerry Pournelle, "The Decisive War":
"One fundamental fact of dictatorship is that losing factions within its ruling structure forever lose their positions and power. They may retain their lives - the nomenklatura generally do - but they retain little else, and sometimes they do not survive. Thus, such rulers, whether sincere or cynical, have a powerful incentive to conform to the official ideology orline of the top man or group. Moreover, they compete with each other for power. If a powerful faction counsels aggressive expansion - whether out of sincere belief in the ideology, because expansion creates more opportunities for advancement, or because it expects aggression to prop up a tottering regime - failure is the only way through which its influence will be reduced. Every successful aggressive action increases the influence of those who counsel aggression."
"Decency" is one of those quintessentially Canadaian terms. It's often undervalued and considered boring - just like Canadians. Maybe so. Still, few commodities are as important to a civilized and democratic society. So long as people remain predominantly decent and fair minded, it's possible for even contentious issues to be settled and correspondingly difficult to extremism and hate to take root.
Monday, alas, was about the radically indecent in our societies. The Muslim Brotherhood, CAIR, Le Pen. Because of other commitments, the "decency" postings begun yesterday are carrying over to a third day... balanced by today's Quote, which reminds us again that indecency remains and must be dealt with.
A big thank-you to all the folks who linked to my comprehensive Jenin analysis - I continue to update it as new information rolls in (special thanks to Bruce Hill and Middle East Realities for the new tips).
Today's blogs also feature the ongoing conversation with MuslimPundit and Ideofact over my recent piece on Amir Taheri's column. In a different thread, Michael Lonie replied to our "Israel and the Muslim View of Jews" exchange, and Adil posted Michael's thoughts on his blog. My short answer is that no, the self-government model described won't happen - and no, expulsion of the Palestinians is not a near-term option either. On Friday, I'll explain why.
* Quote of the Day
* "Reason With Your Heart, Mr. Sharon"
* Amir Taheri: The Discussion Continues
* iFeminist's Bill of Intellectual Rights
* The Sun: Judaism is Not an Evil Religion
* Decency Note: Thank You, Mr. Evans, for Blogger!
Decency from the left is possible. Take Jonathan Freedland, whom Iain M. of "England's Sword" describes as "such a frustrating writer because there's so much good stuff buried there beneath a pile of 'liberal' orthodoxy." In Parallel Universes, he writes a good primer for anyone who wants to understand objectively the situation over in Israel as each side sees it.
A few folks were surprised at my post praising former Ontario Premier Bob Rae, though they did admit it was deserved on the merits. Let's talk for a moment about why I thought the article was significant.
Rae's comments about Canadian MP Svend Robinson and his visit to Arafat echo Michael Walzer's recent groundbreaking essay: "Can There Be A Decent Left?" Like Rae's piece, Walzer's analysis is well worth your time and attention. If you really want to understand the motivations that turn so many leftists into shills for (insert quasi-fascist regime here), Walzer is the place to start.
Some folks on the left seem to grasp this problem and work to avoid the trap, like The Nation's Christopher Hitchens and bloggers Matt Welch and David Artemiw. Seeing the moral state of so many of their allies must be painful to them, just as many of us are heartbroken by Europe's spiritual collapse.
And then there are some, like Orianna Falacci, who fall into both camps. Her crie de cour is rough-edged and raw, and perhaps for that reason it has recived a lot of attention lately.
That isn't Bob's style. Like Michael Walzer, Bob Rae writes as a committed socialist and a decent man. I really didn't like Rae's politics or their results here in Ontario, but I can't deny that the "decent" description fits him. His article shows a leading Canadian socialist who is willing to think about Walzer's assessments on some level, and take a stand for real values instead of nihilism. That means something.
When Rae was Premier of Ontario (American translation: "Governor") the "un-speech" he delivered after the Blue Jays won baseball's World Series in 1992 remains the single greatest political address I've ever heard. It took 50,000 people from a torrent of boos to a standing ovation, all in about 30 seconds.
Bob, you've just made me give you another one.
"Decency" is one of those quintessentially Canadian terms. It's often undervalued and considered boring - just like Canadians. Maybe so. Still, few commodities are as important to a civilized and democratic society. So long as people remain predominantly decent and fair minded, it's possible for even contentious issues to be settled and correspondingly difficult to extremism and hate to take root.
Yesterday, alas, was about the radically indecent in our societies. The Muslim Brotherhood, CAIR, Le Pen. Today we focus on the other side, where hopeful signs and examples of decency in action are visible.
A big thank-you to all the folks who linked to my comprehensive Jenin analysis - I continue to update it as new information rolls in (special thanks to Bruce Hill and Middle East Reality for the new tips).
Andrew Iain Dodge chimes in over my Le Pen analysis yesterday. I grant most of his points, except to say that Le Pen's Jewish supporters are not exactly numerous. As European history shows, it's worth being careful about your allies regardless of common enemies (Spanish Civil War, anyone?). ly, I'd rather laugh at this instead - hence my new "Pepe Le Pen Name Change Petition." Read and sign it!
By now, you've probably heard from a lot of bloggers about the far-right, anti-immigrant, anti-Jew Mr. Le Pen. Otherwise known as the runner up in the French Presidential Primary. Le Pen will now face off with Jacques Chirac for the Presidency of France, and Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin will be retiring from politics.
For some background and analysis, try this Instapundit entry and those below it. My quick 2 cents:
1. Le Pen has zero chance of winning the election. Chirac will remain as France's President for another term.
2. Le Pen's support is not way up. He usually polls between 10-15%; 17% is not a huge shift. Neither is the collapse of Socialist support to 16%, despite what folks may say. French primaries are where the French vote with their hearts, not their heads. A lot of fringe parties get votes in this stage, and many of their adherents normally back the Socialists in Round 2. Except this time, there's no Socialist Party to go back to in the run-off.
I'm no oracle, but let me go out on a limb here:
People are calling this a wake-up call. I doubt it. France's politicians, bureaucrats, and media will do all they can to roll over and go back to sleep. Socialist voters have nowhere else to go now, and addressing the underlying issues of crime and immigration can only fracture Chirac's support if he says the wrong thing.
Therefore, they will not be addressed.
Le Pen will be left shadow boxing as Chirac runs an "invisible man" campaign, a type not often seen in the USA but much more common here in Canada. When the victory coalition is pre-assembled and the biggest imperative is not to rock the boat, this strategy makes sense. Except that in this case, it leaves Le Pen completely owning the crime and immigration issues. These are growing public concerns.
The countervailing factor here will be media bias, which is much more open in France. Le Pen will speak, but his words will either not being carried or will be distorted. This is odd, because reporting him accurately should do him in anyway... but it's a consistent media pattern. Against Le Pen, it will be more like a reflex.
Now, fighting Le Pen is OK. As Bruce Hill points out, it's probably mandatory. But when you're certain to crush the guy in a clean fight, why fight dirty? These tactics will only feed the frustration of Le Pen's supporters, who may begin to conclude, with some justification, that they're playing in a rigged game. The danger is that 'softer right' elements, seeing all this, may start to come to the same conclusion. That's when a protest can start to attract the sympathizers and excusers needed to become a movement.
I'm with Bruce on the goal. But to work, it has to be a fight that comes right out and takes him on head-on, rather than relying on sleazy bias and obfuscation. One would think that Chirac's overwhelming position is exactly when one would use the direct approach. Alas, Europe's political mindset doesn't work that way (case in point: Iraq). My bet is on a campaign that relies on hiding, media bias, obfuscation, and lazy name-calling instead.
(Update: Kevin James' warnings in his worthy new Goliard blog run along similar lines.)
Expect widespread disgust and a low voter turnout in this election.
The Muslim Factor
Paradoxically, one major political loser as a result of this surprise primary outcome is Le Pen's nemesis the Muslim community. With the political coalition pre-set and no clash between the major parties, campaigning for its support is now unnecessary. Its sole usefulness may be as a 'cut out' for harsh attacks on Le Pen that the major parties or media would rather not launch themselves.
Which brings problems of its own. The climate created by these strategies and Le Pen's antagonistic prominence are likely to entice far left and Islamicist elements toward violence... which will be gladly returned in kind. I see violence as very likely in this election, possibly even extending to outright terrorist attacks. The temptation for radical Islamists will be considerable, especially as fellow Muslims take to the press and sound the warning horns.
If I were the DST (French FBI equivalent, unsung but probably the best-informed European agency re: Islamic terrorism), I'd treat this as a good time to up my surveillance activities and see which Islamic elements are drawn out of the woodwork. Investigations in response to specific acts against Le Pen supporters will seem half-hearted, however, and any crackdowns will fall more heavily on Le Pen's side if violence erupts. This will be justified internally as not tipping one's hand to Islamic extremists before "reeling in the big fish".
But the optics of it will look like bias, especially with everything else going on. That may feed the fears of the 'softer right,' but it's a price France's leaders and law enforcement will probably choose to pay in the short term. The magnitude of the longer-term terrorist threat to France leaves them little choice.
Ah France, where Neo-nazis will soon complain that they're being treated like Jews.
Another good one from Gunner20, who explains the nature of Islamic fundamentalism and the mindset chasm between it and western society. The problem is a fundamental clash of ideologies that goes far beyond any one policy... and it's not even Islam vs. democracy, it's Islam vs. science. (J. Bronowski, who wrote the excellent book "Science and Human Values," would argue convincingly that the one begets the other).
Gunner's post is long, but worth a read.
Just found a new posting from MuslimPundit that blasts the American Muslim group CAIR as a supporter of terrorism, complete with a number of disturbing examples. It also includes some writings by Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi, the Italian Muslim leader who was mentioned in my "Islam's Other Voices, part 1" blog on Saturday. In "Antizionism and Antisemitism in the Contemporary Islamic Milieu", Palazzi discusses a shadowy organization called the Ikhwan and explains its significance in America and Europe.
It would not be inappropriate to describe the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen (Muslim Brotherhood) as the ideological counterpart and companion of al-Qaeda.
The National Post prints great stuff sometimes, and I'm not just talking about Mark Steyn. Their April 6, 2002 issue has a story that is probably replicated in many American cities and campuses. Europe, of course, is even worse. Dodgeblog points out that Sweden has "Radio Islam," whose paranoid anti-semetism makes even neo-nazis appear moderate. Other European countries like Denmark have similar resident groups - the difference being that the Danes are horrified.
Anyone who sees the suicide bombings in Israel and thinks "it can't happen here" should think long and hard about these examples, and this story.
Founded in Toronto during the 1970s but now published in several countries and on the Internet from its location in Markham, Canada, Crescent Magazine has a weighty mission: to spread Iranian-style revolt to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and any other country where Muslims are in the majority. Take this August 2001 article on Pakistan, for instance. Or this editorial, which openly advocates the formation of a Muslim fifth-column in western countries that works with "the global Islamic movement and its struggle against Western domination."
The English-language publication fawns over Iran's fundamentalist regime, reprints verbatim the communiques of Palestinian terrorists and describes Osama bin Laden in terms that are, to put it mildly, understanding. Its founder Dr. Kalim Siddiqui "saw through the West’s self-image to understand its true nature at a time when many Muslims were still besotted with the ideas of democracy, universal values and the possibilities offered by working within western systems...."
Crescent obviously isn't fooled. I hate it when that happens.
It's bad enough that Crescent International is the brainchild of a Canadian. It's even worse that the Canadian government is now refusing to ban fundraising by Hizbollah. But the capper is that Crescent International magazine was recently honoured by the Canadian Islamic Congress with - wait for it - an award for media excellence.
Reality continues to outpace my capacity for satire.
"Decency" is one of those quintessentially Canadian terms. It's often undervalued and considered boring - just like Canadians. Maybe so. Still, few commodities are as important to a civilized and democratic society. So long as people remain predominantly decent and fair minded, it's possible for even contentious issues to be settled and correspondingly difficult for extremism and hate to take root.
Today's blogs are, alas, about indecency in our societies: The Muslim Brotherhood, Radio Islam, CAIR, Le Pen. Tomorrow we'll focus on the other side, where hopeful signs and examples of decency in action are visible.
A big thank-you to all the folks who linked to my comprehensive Jenin analysis - I continue to update it as new information rolls in.
Zweig's thesis in action: In the last week, there have been two columns in the L.A. Times. One was by a writer for the Arab News, a Saudi daily. Another was locally authored. One was a model of moral clarity. The other was a model of untruths and malice. Guess which was which?
In "The Three Islamic Faces of Suicide Bombing", Amir Taheri reveals himself to be a moral, civilized, and G-d fearing man. Which is a lot more than one can say for his American counterpart James Scheer.
I wonder if it would be possible to organize a trade? Scheer and a first round draft pick, for Taheri. I'm sure Amir's policy positions would be equally anti-Israel. But at least we'd have a columnist with a moral core, and the ability to think.
Gunner20 is on a roll lately. Following a pair of sobering but excellent posts on "The Carthaginian Solution" and "A Lebanese Sees This Clearly," he moves on to share some lessons from his latest readings about the Korean War. I'll let him speak briefly:
This is a lesson that we must remember: we will prevail over the enemies of freedom not chiefly because we have superior technology and weapons, but because we will "out-determine" them. Our will to prevail cannot be taken as a given. Our will to prevail must continually be reborn.There's a lot more to it, so go read the rest!
On the bus going down to Ottawa today, I took the opportunity to read "Black Hawk Down" cover to cover. First, it was even better than the movie. Second, the exact same points Gunner20 makes jumped out at me. Strongly.
The rally in Ottawa was very worthwhile - thanks to those who emailed me with best wishes while I was away. My bus happened to have a lot of members from a group called "Christians for Israel," a great bunch of folks whose presence (and guitar and bongo drum) cheered me enormously. I understand the blogging duo from Mideast Truth were at the rally, too - though alas I missed meeting them.
Rather than try to write a lot of prose about it, I'm going to let poetry speak for me. In a 1930s play by Viennese poet Stefan Zweig, the principal character, Jeremiah, bursts forth with these words:
Peace is not a thing of weakness.
It calls for heroism and action.
Day by day you must wrest it from the mouths of liars.
You must stand alone against the multitude, for clamor is always on
the side of the many.
And the liar has ever the first word.
The meek must be strong.
So here I am up at 3:30am, to get on a bus leaving at 5:00am for a 6-hour trip to Ottawa, our nation's capitol. I'm going in order to attend a demonstration in support of Israel.
Why am I going? No-one says it better than Arnold Kling:
"The moral state of things is this:
- If the Palestinians unilaterally lay down their arms and renounce violence, they will be given peace, dignity, and their own state.
- If the Israelis unilaterally lay down their arms and renounce violence, they will be slaughtered.
- As far as most of the world is concerned, either outcome would be satisfactory."
I don't know exactly what my part in all this will be. Probably a small one. But it won't be marked by lack of caring. Or lack of effort. History isn't just something that happens to us. History is something we make, together.
Leafs 2, Islanders 0. Well, they wanted us for Round 1. They got us. We aren't done yet. Hope they're happy now.
Jays almost blow it, then hit a homer in the 10th to drop the Yankess 5-4. Welcome to the bigs, Eric Hinske. Everything I've seen says this 3rd baseman will play in The Show for a while.
Oh, happy day...
Coal is a significant energy source in the USA, and we Canadians are a bit ticked off with you Yanks because of all the smog and acid rain it sends northward. This is a global issue, too - ever encounter the brown soup that passes for air in parts of China and Eastern Europe?
What if that didn't have to happen? Some scientists in Minnesota (who have the same issues we Canucks do) have developed Pahlmanite. Its uses? For starters, it seems to allow clean-burning coal.
Actually, I'm also wondering what it could do for cars. If this is true, American energy security and independence just took one big step forward. I'm a big backer of alternative energy sources, but as a transition step we need to figure out how to do better with our present alternatives. It's just like our Internet experience: fiber to the home is the ideal, and we'll get there, but for now DSL is a big improvement. Pahlmanite could be a dying man's great gift to the world.
(Thanks to Rand Simberg for pointing this one out, via his excellent space, science, and world events blog.)
On the roster of the righteous, this story about Afghani nuclear physicists who risked their lives in order to keep nuclear materials out of terrorist hands surely deserves its own special place. I'm talking about Mohammed Jan Naziri, Jora Mohammed Korbani, and other colleagues at Kabul University. Their story is at once chilling and inspiring, and they may have saved untold numbers of people.
These scientists would certainly be fit holders of a Nobel Peace Prize. I've signed the petition (#52), but we'll need much more than 281 names. I'd encourage you to sign it too, and this URL is worth distributing to get the word out. To send the petition to a friend, just click here.
It's hard not to feel respect for the Sufi tradition, which sings Islam's song in all its depth and richness. Fortunately, they aren't the only alternative voices out there. I've already talked about the late Abdul Ghaffar Khan and his Gandhian Khudai Khidmatgar movement. Here are three more:
Begin with Abdal Hakim-Murad, whose outstanding article "Islamic Spirituality: The Forgotten Revolution" deserves a whole blog post of its own. Want to know what's going on spiritually within the faith? This is your primer.
Or how about Khaled Abou El-Fadl at UCLA, whose focus is Islam and human rights. The L.A. Times has called him "perhaps the most articulate enemy of the Wahhabi creed that shaped Bin Laden's brand of Islam." He understands the jihadists...because he used to be one of them. What changed his mind? A Dad who deserves cards from all of us on Father's Day.
Over in Europe, there's Sheikh Palazzi. With so much depressing news coming from that continent, the Majlis al-Ulema (Council of Scholars) of the Italian Muslim Association are a welcome relief. Their recent declaration, reproduced on Naomi Ragen's site, is inspiring.
"I hope that Western journalists, enamored and respectful of suicide bombers and their parents, who talk of holy wars, and sacred sacrifices will read [the IMA Declaration] and stop spouting their nonsense. I hope that Moslems will return to the true faith, and join the Jewish people in seeking to do the will of our G-d, whose paths are the paths of peacefulness."
Great humanity and decency can be found in the ummah. If nurtured and supported, it can win.
As militant Islam does its level best to discredit the religion, it's important to remember that there are other voices within the faith. One such is the Sufis, the Islamic mystics who live islam (submission), iman (faith) and ishan (awareness of G-d, "to act beautifully"). Today's wisdom comes from the stories of Hodja.
One day Hodja went to see his rich friend and said to him,
"Please give me some money."
"But why?" asked the rich man.
"Well, I want to buy an elephant!" replied Hodja.
"Hodja, If you have no money, how can you afford to keep an elephant?"
"I came here to get money, not advice!"
Thus begins our first Sufi Challenge. Email me via kat -at- pathcom.com and tell me what you think this story is about. Circulate it to friends if you'd like (right-click on the Time at the bottom of this blog entry to get its exact URL), and see if they have any ideas. I'll publish some of your emails next Saturday.
P.S. I'm no Sufi, but here's a starting point: tell me what the elephant is.
As many of you know, Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath. On this blog it will always be "good news" day. We will share Sufi wisdom, highlight the acts of good and decent people, and point to amazing discoveries that could benefit humanity. Other blogging days include these things as well, but today we seek to fill our entire day with that.
The world isn't all doom and gloom. Here's one that will make you chuckle.
The April 17, 2002 Washington Post notes that Vice President Cheney and wife Lynne – whose 2001 federal tax return shows $4,356,625 in adjusted gross income and $1,740,798 in payments – may be in the market for a new accountant next year. The Cheneys' latest return was prepared by the Dallas office of... Arthur Andersen.
$1.7 million. What's the matter, didn't they have any foreign holding companies to hide their money in? Where are those Enron guys when you need them....
Good food for thought, from Slate's William Saletan on Hamas, the Israeli government, and a possible way out. Is this a better strategy for Sharon? It might work if he played "good cop, bad cop" using Peres.
I made that point about Jihadis and Nazis very deliberately. The New Republic has a very enlightening article entitled"From Fascism to Juhadism" that explains further, drawing the historical parallels between Europe in the 30s and the Mideast right now.
Unfortunately, there are many.
Fortunately, the parallels suggest useful policies and approaches to pursue. This article also happens to validate MuslimPundit's thesis, from the very mouths of Israel's enemies. To quote the author:
As one Yale-educated Saudi put it to me: "The State of Israel is the living embodiment of the castration of Islam and that is why it must be destroyed. To be defeated by America is one thing, but by Jews?"Get used to it, buddy. The Nazis went down, and unless you change - you're next.
Speaking of the ability to think... welcome back, MuslimPundit! In his April 17th posting, Adil writes:
As Horowitz points out, Islam has indeed provided a basis for the virulent anti-Semitism that, unfortunately, is now one of the main motivating forces trying to shape the Middle East. Although the roots of the conflict were stooped in political differences, Islam has played no small part in the development of this conflict, and befuddled Arabs now view the current conflict with the religious fervour of the Crusades, albeit with a different set of unbelievers this time around. The question is, why?Good question.
The remainder of Adil's long but very worthwhile article is devoted to answering that question. I recommend it highly.
Some key excerpts follow, along with my comments:
"...The Arab armies expected to succeed, not simply because of their power in numbers and resources, but because their basic religious view of Jews was that they were up against an inferior, weak and contemptible people, a view that for them had stood the test of religious sanction in the past."Pride goeth before the fall, as the saying goes. But why pay attention to Aesop, who after all was an unbelieving Greek?
"...Arabs were incredulous, and they desperately tried to somehow rationalise their humiliation."Ah, that word again. Remember what this really means next time you hear about Arab "humiliation" on TV.
"Clearly, the Muslim conventional "wisdom" of Jews, which had existed for centuries now, was not sufficient to explain these events. The Muslim vision of God’s redemption had been overturned, and shattered by a player who had been previously sidelined as irrelevant and not originally included in the game between competing rival world empires, on account of their alleged feebleness."MuslimPundit, you've hit the bulls-eye.
Click here to read this exact thinking and rationalization process in action, from none other than Georgetown University Professor Halim Barakat.
A culture that sees nothing new in the world beyond the idols of its doctrine can only lash out in rage when those idols are cracked. For those idols carry their very identity, and the loss of identity leads inexorably to violence. This characteristic is not unique to Islam, and can just as easily be seen on any "progressive" university campus.
Which brings up an interesting point. Until now, conservatives have seen the (one way) sympathy and winking between the university's radical left and Islamist jihadists as ideological in nature: a pinch of Marxism, 2 tablespoons of reflexive anti-colonialism, a quart of victimization politics as a sop to the failure of their doctrines to create anything but brutal slums and pest-holes.
Maybe we were wrong. Maybe the real bond is not ideological, but cultural in nature. Facing their cracked idols, lashing out at the common messenger of their failure, these two movements agree only to borrow what they can from each other in order to wound the common object of their hate. America is surely the most prominent messenger. Israel, with no oil but a per capita purchasing power twice that of Saudi Arabia, is another.
"In an environment where it is impossible to draw on any other source of enlightenment, such historical notions feed the Muslim vision of an inevitable Palestinian redemption along with the unconditional subjugation of Israel. This vision has locked itself into place, and now will not be moved."...and this is where it becomes truly dangerous to us all. Israel is a nuclear power. There is no way to fulfil this fantasy without provoking a nuclear Armageddon that will leave the entire Mideast a wasteland for generations and kill hundreds of millions of people.
History unfortunately suggests that MuslimPundit is right. Once attitudes like this become so entrenched, in general there are only 3 ways to change them:
1. Catastrophic failure in warOption #3 only works in a pre-nuclear situation. We haven't the time, and we haven't the luxury. If the vision of Israel's subjugation really is too locked to move, it must be broken. If it is not, the deaths of hundreds of millions becomes something close to a long-term certainty.
2. A revolution that brings opposing ideas to power
3. Civil or local wars lasting so long and costing so much that all sides eventually modify their belief systems.
Professor Halim Barakat of Georgetown wrote on April 4, 2002: "And in all pride, I say that Jenin is the city of the Arab future."
One thinks of ancient Cordoba, and one must weep. Alas, Barakat is probably right. And if not Jenin, Hiroshima.
The problem lies with the nature of the entrenched... public discourse that is so prevalent in the region - with the sole exception of Israel.... In the Arab regions, static public perceptions have lasted for an inordinately long time, and in the absence of any critique... those anti-Israel notions, as well as a whole host of other anti-modern reactions that feed this public perception, gradually gain genuine acceptance through a process of population renewal."Population renewal" is a fancy way of saying "teaching the next generation in elementary school to be suicide bombers."
For an concrete example of "entrenched public discourse," remember that "take your daughter to work" picture from the Berlin demonstration? Well, German authorities are unamused and want to talk to the parent involved. Can you imagine the same reaction in any Arab country?
Until you can, the war on terrorism isn't over.
In fact, for the same reason that "collaborators" in Palestine are publicly executed, Arab leaders have every reason to block efforts that try to establish an unconditional dialogue with the Jewish state. Thus, for those who ask Israel to stay put while the incitement of hatred continues to abate and intensify have entirely misread the seriousness of the situation, and the direction in which such animosity is constantly developing.I agree entirely.
I'll say it again. If the vision of Israeli subjugation is locked, it must be broken. If we don't, we face growing odds of an Armageddon in which millions would die. Arab regimes who demonstrate an interest in feeding this vision create a stark strategic choice, therefore, since allowing them to continue in power will only increase the likelihood of Armageddon.
Hearken back to Ali Safuri's quote in April 16th's "Jihad Revelations," and Iranian leader Rafsanjani's similar words. The fact that they are willing to sacrifice millions of their own people in order to achieve the desired Second Holocaust does not make them less evil than the Nazis.
If anything, it makes them morally worse. I hadn't believed that was possible, but here it stands before us.
Thus, to continue to avoid the implications of fully eliminating Palestinian terrorists is not simply just a case in engaging in an act of silent complicity with those Palestinians endorsing the unparalleled destruction of more innocent lives, both of Jews and Palestinians, but also signifies an acceptance of the exponential increase in the level of incitement that otherwise cannot be removed through any peaceful way. It is self-evident that to be pro-Hamas... and pro-Arafat, or even to act in tacit complicity with such people, is not to be pro-Palestinian at all, but to be in complicity with unconditional evil, immorality and wickedness.
April 18: "To be a liberal, you have to believe allowing American citizens to carry concealed weapons will turn then into crazed gunmen, but 30,000 AK-47s in the hands of Yasser Arafat would turn him into a "partner for peace."A hearty "thanks, matey!" to new blogger The Privateer for this quote. A friendly word to the Cap'n: post email contact information somewhere on the site.
A big thank-you to all the folks who linked to my comprehensive Jenin analysis - I've continued to update it!
"Robot Planes, Human Soliders" also got a fabulous response from Gunner20. He tells a hilarious and related story about a guy who won a medal and an "Article 15" for the same firefight!
* A detailed response to MuslimPundit's excellent article about the Muslim view of Jews, and the implications this psychology and its trends have for Israel.
* Does the Mideast look like Europe in the early 1930s?
* An Alternative Strategy for Sharon?
* VP Cheney's Tax Returns... and Acountants
Melana Zyla Vickers is that rare individual, a journalist who both understands the military and has the knowledge to place developments into historical context. In a democracy, such people are worth their weight in gold.
Her April 16th article deals with those remote-control planes (Predators, JSTARS) that played such a large role in Afghanistan. Are they the next big thing, or "exasperating nanny cameras"?
Making new technologies work with the people on the ground is the most important challenge, whether you're deploying a pilotless "UAV" or a web service URL. Drawing on analogies from the American Civil War and Iran, Ms. Vickers explains what it will take for these UAVs to become the troops' friend rather than their nanny.
(Note: Gunner 20 drew on his military experience in the field, and responded with a great follow-on posting. It includes a story about a soldier who had the "nanny problem" so bad he ended up getting a Silver Star and an Article 15 for the same firefight. Read it!)
(Updated May 10, 2002)
Combat is messy - anyone remember Saving Private Ryan? Remember that town they were in? Kind of looked like a wasteland, didn't it? Jenin was like that. In 1943, Canadian soldiers fought the Germans for 8 incredibly intense and bloody days in a small Italian town called Ortona. Go read about the Battle of Ortona, it will tell you all you need to know.
On the one hand, to have an Ortona-type situation and lose only 23 Israeli soldiers is remarkable. On the other hand, they didn't have to lose any. The Israelis could have just bombed from the air or use artillery. As the Israeli corps commander noted:
"I could have finished it all with a whistle. Full-corps fire on the center of the camp and the whole thing would have been over. But we behave differently."For those who don't know what "full corps fire" is, imagine about 100 tanks and/or an equal number of artillery pieces firing continuously on the camp center and its buildings, possibly backed by air strikes. The aftermath you saw on TV would be about three times worse. As it was recently in Grozny (Chechnya), for example.
The risk would have been nil for Israeli soldiers, and the terrorists would be dead. But hundreds of Palestinians would also have died. Now, Palestinian casualties were heavy regardless. This is normal in house-to-house urban fighting, and I'm sure there are more bodies in the rubble. But there are a lot fewer than there could have been. If the Israelis had really wanted to kill thousands of Palestinians in Jenin they could have done so easily, without risking a single soldier.
So why didn't they do it that way? Why are we listening instead to Israeli soldiers' accounts like this one (Thanks, PejmanPundit) or this report from an infirmary commander (thanks, i330). More to the point, why are we hearing accounts like this one (CNN) and these (various Arab press)? Those are good questions to start with... and there are many more.
"This Really Happened to a Friend of a Friend..."
"Almost everyone talked freely of having seen mass graves or houses full of bodies - but upon questioning, acknowledged the information was secondhand, from a friend or relative. Many people turned to arriving aid workers and journalists, asking how many had died."This actually meshes quite well with the experience of a reporter from Canada's National Post:
"A grocery store owner near Jenin spoke in a hushed voice about seeing Israeli troops loading the bodies of massacred Palestinians into a refrigerated truck which he said was still parked on a nearby hill. Asked to elaborate, he declined. "The people that are sitting there are collaborators," he said.This behaviour, too, is perfectly consistent with a mind set and political culture that has at times believed that Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein were Israeli agents. In repressive political cultures where information is restricted and secret societies are a normal feature of the political landscape, conspiracy theories are normal.
"The refrigerated truck was parked on a grassy hill, where Israeli troops were resting with their tanks and armoured vehicles listening to Alanis Morissette on a stereo. When a National Post reporter inspected the truck, it contained not bodies but apples and other food and supplies for the troops."
Like all conspiracy theories, however, this one has holes. When you listen to the reporting and put the words of the Palestinians together, there are a lot of things that either don't make sense or reveal less than honest behaviour.
Let's pile up some of those incongruous reports and inconsistencies, shall we?
Fleet Street's Poorest Hour
The British papers take a real beating here. Irrepressible Iranian pundit Pejman Yousefzadeh looks at the accounts in those U.K. papers and sees some very odd things. HonestReporting.com finds even more to criticize, and then the great Mark Steyn picks up on these themes and leaves Fleet Street's credibility looking a lot like, well... Jenin. Then again, these are the same British papers who alleged torture at Guantanamo Bay and backed it up with... not much. Those Froot Loops they give out down in Gitmo are hell, I tell you.
What makes this apalling bordering on funny is the fact that the British also went into Jenin back in 1938. Government documents from that time include descriptions like: "Demolishing the homes of Arab civilians... Shooting handcuffed prisoners... Forcing local Arabs to test areas where mines may have been planted..." Of especial note:
"Even after the suspected assassin was captured (and then shot dead while allegedly trying to escape), the British authorities decided that "a large portion of the town should be blown up" as punishment. On August 25 of that year, a British convoy brought 4,200 kilos of explosives to Jenin for that purpose."And the British government thought this was just fine, despite pesky international criticism about allegations that eyes were being gouged out, etc.
Bruce Hill adds some recollections of his own from 1937 phrasebooks handed out to British officers. Stuff like:
"Have you seen the wanted men?"If Fleet Street had any decency, it would be embarassed. Then again, if Fleet Street had any decency, it wouldn't be Fleet Street.
"Do you have any weapons?"
"Tell me at once or your family will be punished!"
"Find the mukhtar and bring him before me immediately!"
"You will be taken to Haifa for questioning."
The Truth, Despite Themselves
National Review weighs in with an article that puts Jenin in perspective compared to other battle situations - including the 1970 expulsion of Arafat and the PLO from Jordan. Of especial note, however, is the way the article highlights the way the Palestinians' own spokespeople kept inflating the totals dramatically.
* The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights & the Environment, LAW, reported that 100 residents had been killed in three days of fighting. That was April 8th.Subsequent reports by Palestinian doctors put the toll around 200, a figure that has since been adjusted downward. Looks like LAW made the gaffe of inadvertently telling the truth.
* PA cabinet member Saeb Erekat told Newsday on April 11th that "he received reports of 500 Palestinians killed in the offensive, but said he could not confirm the figure." By this time, the fighting was mostly over.
* By April 13th, the figures being bandied about were in the thousands. The Israelis put the number under 100, but allow that it may rise as the rubble is cleared.
Which may explain why the Washington Post's reporters found a lot less than they thought. An assessment echoed by the senior UN representative they talked to:
"Everybody was thinking mass graves in the way we think of Kosovo," said Guy Siri, deputy director of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. "I don't think we have seen that."Guess not. and newspapers et. al. are beginning to backpeddle. Even virulently anti-Israel newspapers like The Guardian are noting that:
"...it is increasingly clear from evidence collected by this paper and other journalists, that the majority of those so far recovered have been Palestinian fighters from Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the al-Aqsa Brigades."That squares with The Washington Post's earlier reporting that:
"Residents said that the heart of the impoverished camp was home to many of the fighters for militant Islamic groups that put up resistance to the Israeli attack."As to why it was an impoverished camp in the first place, Damian Penny refers us to a revealing article in The Idler.
Behind the Battle
The Palestinians did indeed put up a very coordinated resistance, using explosives and weapons banned in UN refugee camps and whose possession violates relevant UN agreements. Self-defence arguments collapse in light of the findings of suicide bomb-belt factories, large-scale weapons caches, and other goodies we see on TV reports. This isn't surprising; a large number of suicide bombers had come from Jenin. It wasn't a defensive enclave, but an armed base for terrorism whose closest parallel is an urban Tora Bora. See Col. Miri Eisin's briefing for more details from the IDF perspective.
Now add this bit from the Guardian, which gives the game away:
"Palestinians admit the camp was liberally mined two or three days before the assault. But the strategy failed because Israel had no compunction about razing homes to make roads for its tanks.In other words, all that rubble and devastation you see was for a solid military reason. Blogger hero Sgt. Stryker found an even more detailed account, a great interview by Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper with a Palestinian combatant named "Omar the Engineer". It includes this revealing passage re: the use of civilians by the Palestinians...
"The thing we did not count on was the bulldozer. It was a catastrophe. If the Israelis had only gone one by one inside the camp, they would never have succeeded in entering," said Mr Damaj."
And what about the explosion and ambush last Tuesday which killed 13 soldiers?Read the whole account, then think back again to the Battle of Ortona to fully grasp what Ali Damaj and "Omar" were planning. Ortona left 1,400 Canadians dead in eight days of fighting.
"They were lured there," he says. "We all stopped shooting and the women went out to tell the soldiers that we had run out of bullets and were leaving." The women alerted the fighters as the soldiers reached the booby-trapped area."
Another valid comparison for the intended battle is the recent fighting in Chechnya between Islamists and the Russian Army. Looked at in that light, the Israelis seem rather restrained. Compare aerial photos of Grozny, Chechnya, before and after the battles there. Now have a look at similar aerial photos of Jenin, before and after.
Choices Have Consequences
Back to the Washington Post's story:
"Ali Damaj said he peeked through his kitchen window as a bulldozer leveled his entire neighborhood -- first one house, then two, then six. Suddenly, he said, he was watching the wall of his neighbor's house push his refrigerator across the room. "I felt the house shaking back and forth," said Damaj, whose house was left partially standing. "I was in a state of shock. My hair was standing on end."Hmm, is this the same Ali Damaj the Guardian quoted as being sorry the booby-trap strategy didn't work? The Guardian gives a very similar account from Mr. Damaj in its story, so we can assume it's the same person. Looks like Mr. Damaj was more than a casual bystander in Jenin. Which makes it kind of hard to feel sorry about his ruined house. Or to take statements like "They were shooting everything ahead of them, everything they saw, everything that moved" seriously.
The booby-trap strategy had real consequences in other ways, as the New York Times (April 16, 2002) reported:
"Palestinians returning to this ruined place recovered a wounded man today, skeletal and semiconscious, who said he had been lying in the rubble beside a body and waiting for help for nine days.... There was also ample evidence of the resistance put up here by the Palestinians. An eight foot wide alleyway near where the wounded young man was found was filled with long white wires that Israeli officials say Palestinians used to rig booby traps."Which might explain why he had been waiting for help for 9 days. It also explains this note from the New York Times (April 18, 2002):
"Teams from the International Committee of the Red Cross have removed only 14 bodies in the last three days and say they are hampered by a lack of bomb-disposal and search-and-rescue teams"They certainly were, as InstaPundit's harrowing quote re: the fate of Dr. Wael Omari notes. Makes it kind of hypocritical for the Palestinians to complain about the slowness of recovery efforts, doesn't it? I mean, they planted those bombs themselves. But that won't stop their leaders from trying, and too many people in the media will be too lazy to call them on it.
"Can't Anyone Here Play This Game?"
Unlike the Brits, Euroweenies, and of course Andrea Koppel, Canada's National Post put people on the ground and did some real investigative journalism. Their news report (April 15, 2002) had some revealing tidbits:
"The debate over the body count might have been settled yesterday by Israel's Supreme Court, which ruled that the army had to let Palestinians identify those killed in Jenin before they could be buried."You can read that ruling here. Doesn't sound like a very useful ruling if you're perpetrating massacres.
"Kiffah Moustapha said, on the second day of the fighting, her children were terrified so she made a run for it and the Israeli troops let her go. She walked roughly 10 kilometres to Ramaneh."Read that again. "Let her go." Pretty sloppy way to do a massacre, just letting people go and all that. Maybe they just wanted to get the males? But then we read this:
As he lay in the shade of the school, one young man described how he had been arrested by troops and taken by bus to a makeshift prison in Salem. The troops held him for hours and then took his photo with a Polaroid camera and released him, telling him not to return to Jenin.As bloodtirsty killers go, these guys are the 1962 Mets. This account makes sense, though:
"The contorted bodies of four Palestinian men, blackened by decomposition, were found in a living room apparently hit by a missile. Andeera Harb, 34, a child psychologist whose relatives owned the house, said the four men had been eating dinner. However, there was a helmet on the head of one body. What appeared to be pipe bombs were partially hidden under a coat."We're back to those Taliban media strategies again - military deaths being reported as civilian ones.
Hope Out of the Rubble
The one hopeful sign in all of this comes from the New York Times article of April 16th:
"It's a disaster," said Ruba Al Ruzi, a young woman who watched the scene. "I hope the Arab countries and the Americans who watched us being slaughtered will face the same situation."
They will indeed face the same situation - albeit from opposite ends.
(N.B. As my May 8, 2002 post notes, that last sentence may prove prescient. The Washington post recently published an article from a U.S. military commander who shares this view.)
We sure do spend a lot of time covering the Palestinians. ly, I'd like to see just 1/10th of that coverage devoted to an even more oppressed and poverty-stricken people we're sworn to protect: the Muslim Kurds of Iraq.
I wonder why there are no Saudi telethons for them? Maybe if they killed a few Jews....
More breaking news, folks, and this one's no hoax. Britain's Ministry of Defense has confirmed that it declassified the plans used to create Britain's first operational nuclear bomb.
Wait, it gets worse.
Recently, there has also been a release of papers to the Public Record Office describing how such a bomb could be smuggled into the country.
I believe the technical expression in such cases is: "HOLY S---T!!!"
Why don't you blokes just send Al-Qaeda the materials, too, then book them freight passage on a nice container ship? Conservative opposition spokesman Bernard Jenkin hit the nail on the head:
"Such information about may already be in the public domain, but why needlessly help rogue states and terrorist organizations with such comprehensive instructions...?"Thanks to John Paczkowski of Good Morning Silicon Valley for pointing this one out. I guess the Brits didn't want to lose to the American INS in the Bureaucratic Incompetence Olympics. This entry certainly makes them gold-medal favourites, though one can never count out the French...
Everyone seems to be in a lather these days wondering if the new Bin Laden videos are genuine or recent. "Who cares!" say I. If we approached this correctly, it might not matter.
Arab political cultures are wracked by paranoid conspiracy theories to an extent that would alarm the X-Files. Which explains why surveys even today show that majorities in the Arab world still don't believe Osama did it, or that Arabs were even involved. A former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia told Chris "Hardball" Matthews that Osama himself could appear on Hardball, look at the camera, say "I did it, I blew up the World Trade Center, and I'm glad"... and most people in the Arab world still wouldn't believe it.
You can argue with mind sets like this, or you can make millions catering to them on TV. The kat man sez: "bring on the starlets and cameras!" Because this idea is so crazy, it just might work.
Hmm, hire a couple of doubles who could be seen in the background of camera shots in Israel now and again, plant some questions about why he's disappeared since the intifada began again in earnest, and otherwise have fun turning "the big lie" technique back on its usual perpetrators.
Wonder how many Al-Qaeda recruits he'd get after that.
How about it, Osama? Any comments? After all, many Arabs already believe that September 11th was the work of the Mossad....
Much more to come in this space, but I'll start off with the (very) condensed version and repost the full examination here later.
Short version: Combat is messy - anyone remember Saving Private Ryan? Remember that town they were in? Kind of looked like a wasteland, didn't it? This fight was the same thing, an intense and bloody battle. Around 23 Israeli soldiers died, mostly because they didn't follow the American example and bomb from the air - though they certainly could have. Palestinian casualties were also heavy, which again is normal in house-to-house fighting. What we're seeing here is a repeat of the Taliban's tactics. When you listen to the reporting and put the words of the Palestinians themselves together, it clearly doesn't make sense.
For now, three sources.
The Washington Post sent some people in, and found a lot less than they thought. A conclusion echoed by the senior UN representative they talked to.
The irrepressible Iranian, Pejman himself, looks at the accounts in the U.K. papers and sees some very odd things. Then again, these are the same papers who alleged torture at Guantanamo Bay and backed it up with... not much. Those Froot Loops they get down there are hell, I tell you.
Finally, National Review weighs in with an article that puts Jenin in perspective compared to other battle situations. Of especial note is the way the article highlights the way the Palestinians' own spokespeople kept inflating the totals dramatically.
I'm deeply impressed by this April 16th National Post article. It was written by former NDP Premier of Ontario Bob Rae (for non-Canucks: Premier = Governor, Ontario is Canada's most populous province and physically larger than any U.S. state, and the NDP is our socialist party).
If you're in the room with someone who knows me, you can break out the smelling salts now and gently wake them.
Thierry Meyssan, meet Marc Herold. Professor Herold of the University of New Hampshire estimated the toll from America's recent war in Afghanistan at 3,800 Afghanis between October 7 and December 7 alone. Herold was quoted as saying that his estimate was very conservative.
"Completely bogus" is more like it.
Herold's methods involved a lot of double-counting, not to mention blind acceptance of deliberately-inflated Taliban accounts. Statistician Iain Murray has the definitive Marc Herold Afghan civilian casualties debunking, and other reports yield much lower estimates.
As the Newsday article of February 11, 2002 notes:
"Mohammed Ismail - then a Bakhtar reporter, promoted to acting director after the Taliban fled - told AP that in one typical instance, he went to the scene of an airstrike in Kabul's Khair Khana neighborhood on Oct. 20 and saw eight bodies. "But it was changed in our dispatch to 20," he said. When he heard the report later on Taliban-run radio, the figure had gone up to 30, he said. Bakhtar journalists also said they were ordered to report military deaths as civilian ones."This is what Herold based his figures on.
I'd like to think that unlike Meyssan, Herold is simply naive. I don't really believe that, alas, but I'd like to think it.
Thanks to University of Tennessee law professor Glenn "InstaPundit" Reynolds for help in digging these sources up.
There's a popular book out in Vichy France right now called L'Effroyable Imposture (The Frightening Fraud), which says essentially that the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon was staged.
If you've read a "Hunt the Boeing" spam over the last couple of weeks, you've read part of Thierry's Meyssan's despicable work.
Even the X-files would find this to be a bit much. So do the French media, not normally a critical audience for this kind of anti-American rant. To call the "proofs" unconvincing is to assume that there are some - basic engineering can answer all of the questions raised on those "Hunt the Boeing" web pages, for instance. With a bit of help, you can "Hunt the Stupidity" instead. Excuse me while I fetch your bazooka....
Paul Boutin and Patrick di Justo take up that challenge from an engineering point of view, and do a great job. The Urban Legends Reference site also offers a fairly thorough debunking, which satisfies the head if not the heart.
For something that satisfies the heart while offering its own kind of evidence, try the work of James S. Robbins, or the outraged lady who writes The Last Page blog. "I was there. I saw it." is a pretty powerful retort. As you may recall, there was also an ex-pilot staying in a nearby hotel who saw the whole thing, and described it to CNN that day.
Finally, I offer the writings of liberal-turned-asskicker Matt Welch. Hell hath no fury, and all that. But when you read his article on the subject, you might understand why. Matt makes an important point for all of us: that every time Thierry's lies spread, it spits upon the memory of the people - like my friend David - who were murdered that dark day.
Well, what can you do about that? How can you honour the memory of the friends and acquaintances you knew, and the heroes you saw?
It's simple. Fight back with the one weapon Meyssan and his despicable ilk are powerless against: the truth. Here's the URL for this piece. Every time some idiot sends you a "Hunt the Boeing" spam, send this link via "reply all" and bring truth to the discussion. It will help many spam recipients feel less upset, and as they spread the link themselves Meyssan will soon run out of gullible dupes:
We can't all be New York firefighters, but there are many ways to serve. Won't you join in?
UPDATE: See this excellent, methodical discourse, including numerous photos. Comprehensive, devastating... and educational.
My patience is completely exhausted with the frauds and conspiracy theories that seem so common right now.
At least that doctored "photograph" of the 2 kids atop the WTC with a Boeing in the background has stopped circulating, but its successors are less trivial. Some French idiot (quelle surprise) has written a book alleging that the Sept. 11 attacks either didn't happen or were an American plot. Afghan war casualty allegations that were torn apart long ago still seem to have an undead-like existence. And don't even get me started on the "big lie" technique at work over the battle in the Jenin camp.
On second thought, DO get me started. I'm going to spend today's blog posts tearing each of these frauds apart, one by one. And just for fun, I'm going to end with a proposal for a bit of "turnabout is fair play" that might make you chuckle.
Let's get started...
Tim Blair of Australia has a great piece on an amateur shark researcher. Seems this guy believed he could keep himself safe by modifying his heart rate. Alas, his luck ran out recently when a lemon shark bit off part of his calf during a class demonstration in Walker's Cay.
Rumours that Mr. Ritter has now left shark watching to become a member of Colin Powell's Mideast staff are probably untrue, despite his obvious qualifications.
(Actually, that's a mean thing to imply about sharks. I've been in the ocean with a bunch of them myself, including a large lemon shark on a night dive in Belize. They're very non-confrontational and don't scare me, but they are wild animals and it's useful to remember that.)
Jeffrey Harrow has long been one of my favourite people, and his Harrow Technology Report is a very useful way to stay on top of cutting edge developments in the new economy.
Lately, he's been writing a lot about nanotechnology. According to Yury Gogotsi,
"Nanotechnology allows you to do things that are impossible in the macroscopic world. Among the expected breakthroughs are order-of-magnitude increases in computer speed, enormous advances in health science, and the ability to create 'designer' materials [by] assembling atoms and molecules."Harrow reader Kimberly Allen points us to what she considers "the authoritative site on nanotube science." It's the work of Professor David Tomanek at Michigan State, and the site carries a vast number of links to the world of the very tiny.
It's a great site for researchers or people looking at the field in depth, but if you're just getting started try this June 2000 Scientific American article instead. Since then, progress has been steady. As always, the visions of super-strong materials, windows made of diamond, circuitry that's impossibly tiny compared to silicon, space elevators, etc. will take a while. In the mean time, the uses are likely to be less sexy: longer-lasting batteries, amazingly detailed flat-panel displays, and things like that.
This is normal for breakthrough technologies. Their short term impact is almost always smaller than predicted, but over the long term their hottest backers often underestimate the full extent of the changes they produce. Nanotechnology has that kind of potential, and nanotubes are one good indicator of how close that field is to changing our everyday reality.
Of course, the effect also goes the other way.
This picture sure looks like a tangle of that favorite pasta, but this photomicrograph depicts carbon nanotubes produced by Prof. Yoichi Hirose at Japan's Tokai University.
This wouldn't be of particular note, except that according to The Daily Yomiuri, these nanotubes were made by a new process that combines a heating element, a nickel target, and alcohol in a glass bottle to produce carbon nanotubes far more inexpensively than current techniques.
What kind of alcohol? Ninety-six proof vodka, and fifty-four proof whisky!
I hope it ends up having weapon applications. I think it's safe to say that this is one process we'll never find in the weapon labs of Islamic terrorists.
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Enough of the destruction. I hate writing about it, but it's real. Well, creation is real too. I've just finished writing about what we're up against - now read these next two articles and see what Osama Bin Laden and his ilk are up against.
Let's start with University of Central Florida researcher Henry Daniell. He thinks he may have a way to produce anthrax vaccine using tobacco and tomato plants. The vaccine has reportedly been proven to work in the university lab.
"You can grow 200 acres of tobacco and produce vaccines for the whole country," Daniell said. The vaccine from tobacco plants must be taken intravenously, but the anti-anthrax tomato can be eaten.
Yeah, you read that right. Just imagine: "Looks like Saddam just detonated another anthrax missile, dear. Better break out that special jar of Emeril's sauce, I'll start the spaghetti..."
And a big BAM! to you too, Saddam.
As a Republican President I'd be tempted to fund the tobacco option instead, if only to drive the liberals absolutely berserk. But I remember watching this a few days ago with my girlfriend, and falling down on the couch because I was laughing so hard. She didn't get it, so she asked.
"Osama is doomed. Doooomed. He's up against a culture that can take one of his best bioweapon options, and break out the Ragu. I'd sooo love to see his face the day they explain that one to him."
I've talked before about the dangers inherent in the suicide-murder blood cult that infects today's Islamic body politic like some bizzare strain of kuru.
Further proof, if any were needed, was recently provided by Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ali Safuri. Here's part of his interview transcript from the American TV show PBS Frontline:
"...Atomic weapons, and if the Zionist enemy uses atomic weapons, definitely, the Zionist enemy will cease to exist and Palestinian populations will be annihilated. ... If Israel were to annihilate all the Palestinian population here with atomic weapons, Israel itself would be automatically destroyed because of the scope of the atomic destruction. So we are proud to be martyrs and that our sons from outside come and continue our journey and live in this land...."
It's one thing to argue, correctly, that Palestinians seek the destruction of Israel and not peaceful coexistence. The fact that this probably involves large-scale massacres of Israeli Jews doesn't seem to bother a lot of world "leaders" and media types, who have consistently demonstrated in recent months that Jewish life means little to them.
To them, I say: it's reality check time.
When a number of influential people in the Islamic world talk about destroying the "Zionist entity" (translation: Jewish state of Israel and its non-Arab inhabitants), Safuri's quote is what some of them anticipate. It would represent the ultimate form of cleansing in fire and sanctified martyrdom, concepts that loom large in Islamofascist religious thinking.
Q: "Are you saying, Joe, that many suicide bomber instigators see Israel's use of atomic weapons as not just acceptable, but perhaps even desirable?"
A: Some important ones do. The others are "merely" reckless and fatalistic. But the result would be the same.
Q: Aren't you being alarmist?
A: Only if I'm wrong. Think it through for yourself. Read Safuri's quote again. Then read Rafsanjani's recent remarks. Now think about the widespread glorification of people who voluntarily blow themselves up in order to kill some of their enemies, and the systematic praise by political leaders and clerics who tout them as the highest exemplars of their culture and faith. Finally, throw in an Islamic populace heavily skewed toward the teenaged years - a stage of life that is not widely recognized for thoughtful rationality.
Alarmist? You tell me.
On Friday, April 12, I wrote "Armageddon Calling" as only the third post in the history of this site. It explains what's truly at stake, and the key principles behind our coming choices, as Islamic leaders incite the attempted destruction of Israel in order to maintain their pathetic dictatorships.
Q: "That's beyond frightening. Don't the potential consequences deter them?"
A: Not so far, apparently. Doug Turnbull has done some great game theory work explaining why, and here's the ten-second summary: If they're deposed from power, they're dead anyway. Better, therefore, to "ride the tiger" of Islamic terrorism and hatred, all the while hoping it doesn't eat them. Maybe the Jews will beat them as usual, in which case they can say they tried and get on with the high life. Maybe the Americans can snatch them from the back of the tiger they've so carefully raised, before they lose control.
Or maybe not. Or maybe not. And then... and then you have to look in a Christian text for a description of what comes next.
Personally, I've had it with this evil game. The sooner the USA and others come to a similar conclusion, the better our collective odds become. Do we know exactly how to fix this? No, we don't. Isn't that scary? Yes, it is. We're all scared - and we have to start anyway. As they said in Appollo 13: "Failure is not an option."
Whatever would we do without Fouad Ajami, Fareed Zakaria, and Bernard Lewis? With their combination of consistent sanity and in-depth understanding of the Arab world, these guys are the cream of the crop.
Don't Let Arafat Distract Us is a useful reminder of two things:
One, that we need to stay on course. Hussein and his proxy Arafat are trying to distract us, extending a pattern of support that began during the last Gulf War and continued into 2001. Some current news about that alliance (London Telegraph, April 7, 2002) is even more disturbing, but it does illustrate why we mustn't take the bait. The harder we bite, the more "distractions" we can expect.
Unfortunately, most of our media commentators have all the discrimination of a Rock Bass. Drop something shiny in front of them, and they just can't help themselves. Most aren't ill-intentioned, it's just the nature of the beast in a world of 24 hour news and talking heads. Hence the Abdullah plan. Hence the coverage we see of Arafat.
Great leaders and good spokespeople understand the media has its job to do - and they have theirs. The distractions won't stop. So they ignore them, or make use of them, and move on with the real work at hand.
As Ken Adelman writes: "My longtime mentor, Donald Rumsfeld, is fond of saying: When a particular problem is intractable, enlarge it." Hussein is playing that game, but it's Rumsfeld's saying. Two can play that way. Two should.
Ajami's second key point is also worth remembering. While ugly incidents and racism are endemic throughout the Muslim world, it's also true that many Muslims are quietly cheering for us, hoping we'll win. The more we succeed, the more success we'll have as these folks start to feel brave enough to come out of the woodwork.
Do I really believe that? Yes, I do. I believe it because of the things we saw in the Eastern Bloc, both before and after. Regimes built on oppression and terror are inherently unstable. Those who also preach an ideology incompatible with what Orwell's 1984 called "the spirit of man" are twice vulnerable, and Islamist ideology these days qualifies in spades. We've seen the proof in Afghanistan. We can hear it even now if we listen in the right places. And we'll see it again tenfold in Iran.
To mix a couple of Bush Sr. quotes for a moment, "stay the course". Otherwise, those "thousand points of light" might not be the ones we want to see.
This is from a demonstration in Berlin. Sometimes, a picture really is worth 1,000 words. Which is good, because nothing I could say would adequately describe this one.
Thanks so much to Moira Breen and Alan Carroll, who wrote in to express doubt about the Arab News report of a French discussion with the Israeli ambassador.
First things first. Alan, I apologize publicly for the trauma of forcing you to defend France. That said, you can both take comfort in the fact that your questions are valid ones.
Though I'm usually the last guy to believe The Arab News, I figured this one might be pretty safe. Of course, after reading your emails I thought twice about who I'm dealing with here... which is why I'm now looking into this very carefully. Once I know more, I'll get back to the blog and let y'all know too.
Thanks for keeping me on my toes. I hope to keep producing material worthy of such thoughtful readers.
Thanks to Jane Galt for pointing this one out. This great bit by Doug Turnbull really helps clarify a very confused policy situation. Even Colin Powell's actions made sense after reading this one, and that's saying something.
Game Theory grew out of some famous experiments around a situation called "The Prisoner's Dilemma." It was a simple way of analyzing conflict and cooperation, but Axelrod et. al. produced interesting results that showed both mathematical patterns and (better still) a lot of unexpectedly true-to-form insights into the dynamics of real human conflict. Game Theory has since been used to analyze a wide variety of political and business situations.
Doug does us all a great service by clearly explaining why each party is acting the way it does, and how their "payoff grids" relate. He argues persuasively that that the situation is not confused. Israel, The USA, and the Arabs are each acting in their own self-interest. Put them together, and the present situation is nearly inevitable.
Unfortunately, one of the most common results from prisoner's dilemma games is to produce the worst possible joint result for everyone, even though each party may be acting rationally on its own. That's happening here.
The overall dynamic that Doug describes encourages Israel's enemies, and badly undermines its ability to apply deterrence and prevent further escalation. Many people I know are on edge because they can sense this intuitively, though few do it as well as Peggy Noonan. Doug's contribution is to explain the dynamic's mechanisms and how it works.
On the other hand, Doug's game theory dynamic makes a lot of people in Europe and the Arab world happy. Here's why it shouldn't.
Just about every report coming from France over the last month or so makes me wonder if we could somehow persuade the Germans to have one more go at them. Pointed inaction and an official reprimand to the Israeli ambassador in response to numerous attacks perpetrated on French Jews (yes, you read that right) are bad enough. But this one takes the cake.
Seems the French are planning to destroy up to 400 Canadian war graves in order to make room for a new airport near Paris. Our mates the Australians were good enough to raise a ruckus, in response to which the French Ambassador to Australia refused to accept protest letters with the words: "I will not be taking part in your stupid, absurd little campaign."
From now on, I will be referring to that country's leaders as "The Vichy Government". It fit then, and it sure fits now.
(N.B. The alleged remarks to the Israeli ambassador are now under further investigation.)
As militant Islam does its level best to discredit the religion, it's important to remember that there are other voices within the faith. One such is the Sufis, the Islamic mystics who live islam (submission), iman (faith) and ishan (awareness of G-d, "to act beautifully").
The Wahabbi hate them, of course, which constitutes an endorsement in my books. The great poet Rumi was a Sufi, and so were many other figures of religious and cultural significance. I've come to love the Sufis for their poetry, their humour, and their body of wisdom. Every Shabbos, I will be sharing some of that via my Blog.
"I" and "you" are but the lattices
In the niches of a lamp
Through which the One Light shines.
"I" and "you" are the veil
Between heaven and earth;
Lift this veil and you will see
No longer the bonds of sects and creeds.
Indeed, the tension between the Sufis and more orthodox sects has strong parallels in Judaism (the Baal Shem Tov et. al. vs. classic Orthodoxy). For devotees of other faiths, the tension between Taoism and Confucianism provides another accessible parallel as one tries to understand some of the differences between the Sufi way and shariah-locked variants of Islam.
The lifting of the veil is available to all, and to understand the true spirit of the law is to join all sincere seekers in direct communion with the One Light.
Peace be upon you, and Good Shabbos!
Lately, there have been a couple of articles that finally pointed out the obvious: Arafat and the Arab world are toying with the attempted destruction of a nuclear-armed state. The implications of that are truly scary, and the dangers don't lie where the commentators seem to think.
Charles Krauthammer's recent piece put the danger focus on Lebanon. That's unlikely. If things get bad enough, the Israelis will use the Chel Ha'Avir (Air Force) to hit Syrian troops in Lebanon until they strongarm Hizbollah into compliance. Hizbollah understands the lesson of Hama, and Assad can't afford to risk a war he'd certainly lose. His power base isn't strong enough to survive that, and he knows it. He also knows the consequences of using chemical warheads on those SCUDs they're trying to build.
David Perlmutter, meanwhile, needs to see one of the Los Angeles region's infinite supply of shrinks. But that only helps HIM.
The rest of us must live with the fact that the last half of his thesis is true. Israel has a sizeable arsenal of nuclear weapons, and the Jericho missiles to deliver them, and the will to do so if faced with destruction. This is widely acknowledged. Yet Hamas, and Arafat, are foolish enough to think they're "winning" their war to destroy Israel. As the old saying goes, "be careful what you wish for".
The final solution sought by Hamas, Arafat, and many others in the Arab world and beyond would indeed be final - for the entire Mideast, and for millions upon millions of bystanders.
My bottom line flows directly from those premises. It's very simple:
Following Gandhi's way via the path of the Khudai Khidmatgar will give the Palestinians a viable state in short order. Pursuing the jihad for Israel's destruction courts apocalypse. This is the real choice, between which all other choices are simply gradations of risk.
To be effective, all of our actions must reflect that understanding.
Corollary #1: Iran's Rafsanjani has openly stated that he would like to precipitate precisely this kind of apocalypse. Which is exactly why he and his compatriots need to be annihilated. Not toppled. Wiped out, French Revolution style. No Tora Bora second chances, and be damned what the armchair pundits say.
A threat like that can never be safely disregarded. Ever. The longer Rafsanjani and company live, the more likely it is that hundreds of millions of others won't.
Corollary #2 is related. It says that support and encouragement of suicide bombing and religious hate, if it becomes a widespread meme, creates a collective mindset for whom no destruction-based deterrence is possible. This is therefore a mindset to whom no apocalypse gives pause. Rafsanjani's statements are simply the obliging proof.
In light of a nuclear-armed Israel, ponder the full implications of that. This is what Arafat and his Iranian and Saudi backers are playing with, as their meme spreads across the Arab world.
That's why the reaction to Mideast events drives me crazy. Too many people are acting too irresponsibly, and the danger level goes far, far beyond Sept. 11. The EU's stance of backing Arafat and demanding terms that equal Israeli suicide is, as President Bush says, "not helpful." The anti-Jewish incidents that have become common there (and official non-response) only worsen the situation by encouraging jihadist maximalists, and increasing Israel's sense of threat. All this, with a nuclear armed power. What are the Europeans thinking? ARE they thinking?
We face hard and risky choices ahead. But they are as nothing compared to the certainties we face if the Islamic world's spiral into darkness continues. And enough radioactive sand in the atmosphere would give us more than enough darkness to go around.
It's time to help our nations recognize the true extent of the danger we now face. It's time to step back from the uncaring moral equivalence that encourages the jihad, driving us ever closer to disaster on a biblical scale. It's time to take Israel's security needs seriously, as part of a larger Mideast strategy that includes a peaceful Palestinian state. Whatever that takes. Wherever that takes us. Failure has jaws we shudder to regard... but unless we are both wise and brave, it is a very real possibility.
As they say in L.A., "have a nice day!"
OK, you say, "nonviolence and real democracy... what does that really mean?" Well, for starters, it means more of Abdul Ghaffar Khan's Islamic philosophy, and a lot less of Arafat's philosophy in action. Alas, a look at recent polls of Palestinians and the bestseller status of Hitler's Mein Kampf in the Palestinian territories (London Telegraph, March 20, 2002) do not bode well.
As I've said, choices matter. The Palestinians have chosen poorly, both morally and in a literal sense. Right now, the CIA World Factbook lists the West Bank's per capita purchasing power at $1,200, and Gaza just $1,000.
Implications: Homicide for Hire
These figures kind of put the $25,000 Saddam Hussein offers the families of suicide bombers in perspective. To which one must also add programs from the Saudis and Islamic "charities," which inflate that award and subsidize other things like housing, food, etc. Let's say the resulting financial rewards are about 30x annual per capita purchasing power.
To make this same offer in America would require $36,200 x 30 = $1,086,000. That's right, over one million dollars.
Next time you hear the media talking about these rewards, remember that this is how much Arafat and his Arab backers offer the families of their suicide bombers. At least in equivalent American terms. Since the distribution of wealth in Arafat's domains is unequal just as it is everywhere else, contemplate the incentive that million-dollar payoff might represent to, say, a welfare recipient in south side Chicago. Or a trailer park resident in Oklahoma.
Arafat and his Arab backers are running a lottery, with suicide-murder as the ticket. "Sick" does not even begin to describe it.
Implications: Economic Cost
Now, let's begin to look at what this strategy of hatred and terrorism is costing the Palestinians. I'm not an economics sharpie like fellow blogger Jane Galt, but I can offer some figures and some thoughts.
Israel's per capita purchasing power equivalent lists at $19,800. That may seem like a shocking differential compared to $1,000 in Gaza, but isn't it interesting to note that even with all that oil, Saudi Arabia's figure is only $10,500. Neighbouring OPEC member Syria comes in at $3,200, Egypt sits at $3,600, and poor Yemen (Saudi Arabia's southern neighbour) is even worse off than the Palestinians at $820.
We hear a lot about the Arab street's sense of "humiliation" these days. $10,500. if I was a Saudi, I'd be humiliated too.
Fortunately for the Palestinians, their economic model is not Saudi Arabia. Indeed, in economic mindset terms the closest analogy to the Palestinians is... the Jews. Entrepreneurs, stress on education, willingness to back each other in business, a migrant's willingness to look and trade across borders. These traits helped the PLO build SAMED (trans. "The Palestine Martyrs Work Society") into a huge organization by 1982, and Palestinian control of Lebanon's industrial base was almost as much of a flash-point in Lebanon as Palestinian gunmen, the $100 million British Bank of the Middle East robbery, et. al.
[SOURCE RECOMMENDATION: "The Financing of Terror", James Adams. New York: Simon and Schuster c.1986]
Back to Israel. When an economy is based on investment and value-added rather than resource extraction, then barring extraordinary barriers it tends to transfer some of that wealth to its neighbours. Especially if those neighbours have a similar economic approach.
Imagine for a moment that Arafat and the Palestinians had adopted non-violence even as late as 1993. The economic transfers, investment, and advantage of being able to serve as "grey traders" between Israel and the Arab world would have been extremely significant. It's not unreasonable to imagine a Palestinian state today with per capita purchasing power higher than Syria's or Egypt's. In other words, about 3-4 times what it is now - and growing fast.
The Democracy Factor
As China demonstrates, real democracy is not required for this kind of growth if it starts from a low base. But real accountability is required in order to improve living standards beyond a certain point. Otherwise public services are a mess, corruption thrives, and a lot of economic output goes to privatized security and other services instead of into productive pursuits. This can all happen in democracies, too, but over time your odds against are much better in a democratic system.
As Frank Herbert puts it: "It is not that power corrupts, but that it is magnetic to the corruptible." It's hard enough to pry those leeches loose with democracy, a free press, et. al. at our disposal. Without them, it's damn-near impossible.
Alas, Arafat and his PLO cronies have remained absolutely true to form. As in Lebanon, anything not nailed down is theirs. Anything that can be pried loose or transferred through connections is not nailed down. The sad truth is that even a peaceful Palestinian state run by Yasser Arafat would probably still be a pest-hole... just a richer pest-hole than its current incarnation. Arafat being who he is, even in that happy "1993 peace" scenario we'd probably be looking at a Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe) clone by now.
Bottom line: for the sake of the Palestinians, Arafat has to go. Preferably to Allah, not Morocco. Why this is so goes far beyond economics, however, and is the subject of my next posting...
"Bulldozing Hope" is without question the most fatuous editorial I've yet seen from the NY Times - and that's saying something. One could just as easily have said the same about U.S. carpet bombing of Nazi Germany: "If these two proud and talented peoples are ever to live side by side... one obvious prerequisite will be a [German] economy that generates jobs and prosperity for its people and civil institutions...."
Oh, wait. The USA continued its war, and with the Nazis gone all of that finally happened.
Choices have consequences. Had the Palestinian leadership chosen nonviolence and real democracy instead of terrorism, corruption and hate, Israeli bulldozers would be building shopping malls in an independent Palestine instead.
Traditionally, people ask "who are you?" It's an impossible question to really answer, so I'll start with what I do. I talk business strategy on equal footing with the strategists, and technology on equal footing with the technologists. Mostly, I'm a translator - a very important role for organizations who want both a better understanding of their futures and a way forward that leverages the power of technology, marketing, and strategy. I used to do this with Ernst & Young and KPMG Consulting, but now my friends and I have Sensei Associates and we're excited about where we're going.
My background in business strategy grew from my background in international strategy, which included extensive studies of military and intelligence matters. So the subject matter of this blog really isn't much of a detour for me after all. I'm also a baseball nut, and a former SCUBA instructor, and an afficionado of live theatre. If you want to know more about my interests and inner state, well... you'll just have to read the blog.
On with the show - and welcome!
The war on terrorism occupies a lot of my atention these days, partly because I've been following it for a couple of decades and partly because I - like so many of you - lost a friend on Sept. 11th. Other areas slated for frequent coverage will include weapons of mass destruction, the potential effects of new technologies, the dynamics of a networked society, and sometimes things that just strikes my funnybone. There are more things in heav'n and earth than are dreamed of in my philosophy, after all, and some of it is pretty funny.
If you read my blog and think of words like "thoughtful," irreverent," iconoclastic," and "deep", I'll know that I've succeeded.