Sunday, July 31, 2005

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Stephen Pollard, who writes in the London Times (among other places), notes that he has had word - as yet unconfirmed by a second source – of a memo from 10 Downing St. to the Department of Education which, in his words, "spoke explicitly about 'appeasing' the Muslim community, and to that end suggested placing Arabic on the curriculum - and making it compulsory in certain schools."

Hmm. If this information proves out, that is rather stunning considering the events of the last few weeks.

At the same time, I note in passing an event that garnered a certain amount of attention last week among British press and bloggers. After one of the raids made by the police in an attempt to round up the British bombing suspects from 7/21, the police gave a Press Conference in Birmingham to which, in an attempt to be inclusive, multicultural and politically savvy, they invited Mohammad Naseem, chairman of Birmingham's Central Mosque. He is regarded as one of the elder statesmen of Islam in Britain, who, according to the BBC, has for many years been a leading figure among Muslims for many years in Birmingham.

What was his response to the ongoing investigation?
"I don't think al-Qaeda exists because we Muslims all over the world have not known this organisation," he said.

"The only information about this organisation is coming from the CIA. Now, the CIA is not known for telling the truth."
Thus, the voice of what has long been considered moderate Islam in Britain.

Let's continue.

In an op ed in the NYTimes, Steven Vincent notes that currrent British policy may eventally lead to the creation of a deteriorating situation in the police stations in Basra, the area where the British army has been stationed. This is an area that has been underreported in the American press, because there are not bombs going off steadily, as in Baghdad. Hence, on the surface at least, not enough bad news to necessitate ongoing media attention.

Yet, Vincent notes what may prove to be an eventual shortcoming in the way the British go about training the Iraqi police and security forces in how to do their jobs in Basra. While these Iraqi forces are proving "adept at marksmanship and arresting techniques," the British have not attempted to instill a sense of the independence of these forces from religious institutions.
Fearing to appear like colonial occupiers, they avoid any hint of ideological indoctrination: in my time with them, not once did I see an instructor explain such basics of democracy as the politically neutral role of the police in a civil society. Nor did I see anyone question the alarming number of religious posters on the walls of Basran police stations. When I asked British troops if the security sector reform strategy included measures to encourage cadets to identify with the national government rather than their neighborhood mosque, I received polite shrugs: not our job, mate.

The results are apparent. At the city's university, for example, self-appointed monitors patrol the campuses, ensuring that women's attire and makeup are properly Islamic. "I'd like to throw them off the grounds, but who will do it?" a university administrator asked me. "Most of our police belong to the same religious parties as the monitors." ...

...[T]he British stand above the growing turmoil, refusing to challenge the Islamists' claim on the hearts and minds of police officers. This detachment angers many Basrans. "The British know what's happening but they are asleep, pretending they can simply establish security and leave behind democracy," said the police lieutenant who had told me of the assassinations. "Before such a government takes root here, we must experience a transformation of our minds."

In other words, real security reform requires psychological as well as physical training. Unless the British include in their security sector reform strategy some basic lessons in democratic principles, Basra risks falling further under the sway of Islamic extremists and their Western-trained police enforcers.
In contrast, I note, there has been a great deal written about American soldiers attempting to instill a sense of the neutrality of the police in a Iraqi functional democracy. Only these efforts, as chronicled, have only been partially successful.

Still this notion of being asleep was recently mentioned elesewhere. By Tony Blair, in fact, in a press conference last week.
"September 11 for me was a wake up call. Do you know what I think the problem is? That a lot of the world woke up for a short time and then turned over and went back to sleep again," he said.

"We are not going to deal with this problem, with the roots as deep as they are, until we confront these people at every single level. And not just their methods but their ideas," Blair said.

While rejecting suggestions he had claimed the London bombings had nothing to do with Iraq, Blair said there was no justification for terrorism.
Vincent's anonymous source seems to have the right of it though about the British lack of will in confronting Islamists across Britain. Which, for example, is one way to understand how someone like Mohammad Naseem could be considered a moderate, and thus invited to speak to the press about the British terrorists at a Police press conference. So it was only there that he revealed his true opinions about Al Qaeda and the British suicide bombers in a way that embarrassed the police chiefs and council members present with him.

But if Stephen Pollard's information proves correct, and someone in 10 Downing Street appears to believe that the way to handle the Islamist threat at this time is by direct appeasement, it may be that the wake up call has been heard at the highest levels of the British government, but the policy dictated in response is simply wrongheaded.

Anthony Browne, writing in the Spectator, on The Left's War on Britishness, may, indeed, be onto the truth of the matter.
No, the real answer to why Britain spawned people fuelled with maniacal hate for their country is that Britain hates itself. In hating Britain, these British suicide bombers were as British as a police warning for flying the union flag.

Britain’s self-loathing is deep, pervasive and lethally dangerous. We get bombed, and we say it’s all our own fault. Schools refuse to teach history that risks making pupils proud, and use it instead as a means of instilling liberal guilt. The government and the BBC gush over ‘the other’, but recoil at the merest hint of British culture. The only thing we are licensed to be proud of is London’s internationalism — in other words, that there is little British left about it...

But self-loathing in a nation, like self-loathing in an individual, is alienating. Someone who despises himself inspires greater contempt than affection, and a country that hates itself cannot expect its newcomers to want to belong.

Only in the last few years has it dawned on the government how dangerous the Left’s war on Britishness really is. Labour ministers now queue up to declare that we need a new sense of British identity. But the ability to learn a few sentences in English and a knowledge of how to claim benefits do not create a national allegiance.

What is needed is something to make the people who live in these islands feel good about being British, but the war on Britishness has imposed a nationwide amnesia about our national story.
Only if Pollard's information proves true, the new sense of Britishness that the Labour ministers are queuing to declare includes compulsory Arabic instruction in the old appeasement spirit.

UPDATE: On a related note, David T at Harry's Place remarks about the Aslam Affair, that, "most newspapers manifest a pretty shocking laziness when it comes to analysing the nature of the various strands of Islamist ideology.

I would agree but note only that this nexus of events shows that laziness seems to be endemic not only to the world of journalism, but to politicians and senior army staff, as well as the police forces. The mindset appears to have developed over quite a period of time, and dissipating its fuzziness it is going to take some good, straight shooting, clear minded thinking. And quite a bit of retraining on the level of instinctual reponses.

[Hat Tip: Clive Davis on the Steven Vincent op ed]

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Something Rather Marvelous

I've just noticed something rather marvelous.

There's an ad for Aish Ha Torah - an Orthodox Jewish Yeshivah, that seeks to familiarize unreligious Jews with the history of their tradition - at the very top of Iraq The Model, which is a blog written by two Iraqi men thankful that the Anglo alliance rid Iraq of the rule of Saddam.

The ads, apparently, are chosen blindly, so this was not planned. Still, it's a beautiful juxtaposition. And it works as advertising as well, because the War on Terror has swayed many Jews from left to right, or at least into being leftist hawks. And that has also made them more self-conscious of their Judaism and more conscious of the exposed position of Judaism in the world right now. And these are exactly the kind of people who might become curious about learning more about their own religious traditions.

This service is vital, because I believe we may be entering a time once again when Jews will have to wake up from their short nap following upon the Holocaust to defend their position in this world giving the rising anti-semitism, disguised as anti-Zionism once more emerging.

So even though I do not agree personally, theologically speaking, with the mainstream Lithuanian Orthodox position, I do think Aish is performing an invaluable task in the world simply by helping to educate and interest Jews in their own history.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Over There from Over Here

So I watched Over There the other night, Steven Bochco's new series on the War in Iraq, showing on FX.

Frankly, I didn't think it was that bad. It had some very pretty shots. But more importantly, none of my anti-war, anti-redstate mentality sirens went off. Although I admit to falling asleep for a while during a commercial break, so that I missed a segment.

But, heh! Apparently, I'm way, way too soft core, because the military types over at BlackFive sure thought it sucked; not least because it used trademark, military stock characters and situations, familiar to viewers, and thereby comfortable to them, from the anti-war tradition of film begun in response to Vietnam. Well, now that they mention that, I can see the point they are making.

And here's some critical detail beyond my paygrade from Citizen Smash:
Simple, stereotypical characters. Not much depth. Unrealistic battle scenes, with poor understanding of fire & maneuver tactics. Too much inane chatter. Anachronisms abound, including a Vietnam era "Huey" MEDEVAC helicopter.

Bottom line: total crap.
Now that you mention it, the maneuver tactics were extremely poor, even from a dramatic standpoint. Completely static: but that is likely an image the show is trying to generate. In other words, this confrontation stands as a symbol of the War in Iraq's futility. But, then, translating tactics into symbolism is not the kind of thing I would notice right off, not without a nudge, that is, since I'm lacking that military eye – and the confidence to critique military action – myself.

And it's the kind of thing the writers and show runners would like, since it obviously flies under the radar of most viewers, except upon post-hoc analysis. And most tv viewers ain't stickin' around for that.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

In Other News, Aw, Come On, Give Them Money Anyway

Well this is plenty unsettling:

U.S.: Iranian Cadre Training Hezbolla

A top State Department official informed Congress on Thursday that Iranian cadre were training Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon.

Assistant Secretary of State David Welch told the House International Relations Committee the information was provided by "our own sources."

Welch also testified there was "a continuing covert Syrian presence there" despite the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.

And, Welch said, there are armed Palestinian groups in Lebanon, as well....

Meanwhile, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora pledged to protect Hezbollah, saying the Lebanese government considers it "an honest and natural expression" of resistance to Israeli aggression and threats.

Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., called the statement "profoundly disturbing." He said he was not aware of any Israeli threats to Lebanon.

Welch agreed. Challenging Saniora, whose government has the Bush administration's support, Welch said "there is no part of Lebanon occupied by Israel."

"I don't know what they would be resisting," he said.

"Hezbollah admits its material support for Palestinian terrorist operations, which undermines the Palestinian leadership's goal of stopping violence in israel and the Palestinian territories," Welch said.

Still, Welch and James Kunder, an assistant adminstrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said the administration had asked Congress to approve $35 million in U.S. aid and $1.7 million in other support.

He said plans would be made for an international donors conference in Beirut this fall.
In other words, let the corrupt status quo continue, however damaging this attitude may be in both the short term and the long. Well it is the State Department, after all. So it should not be surprising. But it is disappointing.

A Tale of Two Judges

Yesterday we learned that JUDGE JOHN COUGHENOUR, a Reagan appointee, and a federal district court judge in Seattle, Washington, sentenced Ahmed Ressem, the would be Millennium bomber, arrested during the Clinton administration, to 22 years in prison, 5 already served. During the sentencing, Coughenour delivered himself of the following anti-Bush administration screed:
"Okay. Let me say a few things. First of all, it will come as no surprise to anybody that this sentencing is one that I have struggled with a great deal, more than any other sentencing that I've had in the 24 years I've been on the bench.
"I've done my very best to arrive at a period of confinement that appropriately recognizes the severity of the intended offense, but also recognizes the practicalities of the parties' positions before trial and the cooperation of Mr. Ressam, even though it did terminate prematurely

The message I would hope to convey in today's sentencing is twofold:

"First, that we have the resolve in this country to deal with the subject of terrorism and people who engage in it should be prepared to sacrifice a major portion of their life in confinement.

"Secondly, though, I would like to convey the message that our system works. We did not need to use a secret military tribunal, or detain the defendant indefinitely as an enemy combatant, or deny him the right to counsel, or invoke any proceedings beyond those guaranteed by or contrary to the United States Constitution.

"I would suggest that the message to the world from today's sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart. We can deal with the threats to our national security without denying the accused fundamental constitutional protections.

"Despite the fact that Mr. Ressam is not an American citizen and despite the fact that he entered this country intent upon killing American citizens, he received an effective, vigorous defense, and the opportunity to have his guilt or innocence determined by a jury of 12 ordinary citizens.

"Most importantly, all of this occurred in the sunlight of a public trial. There were no secret proceedings, no indefinite detention, no denial of counsel.

"The tragedy of September 11th shook our sense of security and made us realize that we, too, are vulnerable to acts of terrorism.

"Unfortunately, some believe that this threat renders our Constitution obsolete. This is a Constitution for which men and women have died and continue to die and which has made us a model among nations. If that view is allowed to prevail, the terrorists will have won.

"It is my sworn duty, and as long as there is breath in my body I'll perform it, to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. We will be in recess."

In other words, the Judge was abusing his discretion to give a relatively light sentence considering the nature of the crimes because HE PERSONALLY disapproved of administration policies. This was his way of taking a bold stance and showing his disapproval publicly.

What courage! What judicial restraint!

Meanwhile, over on the other side of the country, today in NYC, Sheik Moayad, 56, a prominent Cleric from Yemen as the NYTimes terms him, was sentenced by Judge Sterling Johnson Jr. to 75 years in prison for conspiracy to support Al Qaeda and Hamas by seeking to provide financing for their terrorism.

This judge spoke about Al Qaeda's aims and methods and repeated the narrative of 9/11. A fact which the defendant's lawyer found "terribly unfair."

One of these judges is using the War on Terror as his personal platform to do battle against the administration. The other one is helping to fight the war by presenting the stern and unflinching face of justice to our enemies.

Compare and contrast, kiddies.

UPDATE: Another point of comparison to Judge John Coughenour:

Here are the sentences for the crew of miscreants at Abu Ghraib:

Charles Graner: 36 years old -- 10 year sentence
Ivan Frederick: 8 year sentence
Jeremy Sivits: 1 year sentence
Armin Cruz: 8 month sentence
Lynndie England: pled guilty, facing 11-16 year sentence

Although I think it is absolutely outrageous that Charles Graner, clearly the ringleader of this sadistic clique and against whom there are allegations of prison abuse in the US in his job as a prisoner guard before he was sent to Iraq, got a lighter sentence than Lynndie England, his follower.

[Hat tip on the Abu Ghraib sentencing: Hugh Hewitt]

Previous Posts relating to Torture at Abu Ghraib:

1) Walking Through Walls and Other Feats of the US Military

2) Considering Torture

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Covering The British Scene

This week's Private Eye cover pretty much says it all, doesn't it.

Hat tip: Normblog

Friday, July 15, 2005

Cat Blogging

Grass Carpet
Rocky in the grass.

Who Are You

I gakked the Which Fantasy/Sci Fi character are you quiz from Powerline. And just like Hugh and John, I'm Yoda. Which is probably even less correct than me being Karl Barth.

But hey! It was fun taking the test, wasn't it. Wasn't it?

I have a consistent problem with these personality tests, however. And that is there is never a choice for both a and b. I always want to answer at least some of the questions by saying both are true.

An ambivalence meter should be a requirement on all of these things!

Which is only one of my brain defects. Another one is the same as that noted recetly by Virginia Postrel:
Because of a brain defect, I'm unable to spend my time surfing the Web and writing blog posts and still get any real work done
She's dealing with her problem by courageously not surfing the web, at least recently. I, unfortunately for me, am not yet that mature.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

More Stories on the Plight of Women Worldwide, Or Aren't You Glad You Live in the West

Two sickening stories about the plight of women in the world:

The ongoing fight against female genital mutilation on Africa. The good news is that incremental progress is being made. The sickening aspect is reading about the details of what is done by women to girls because of tradition based on ignorance and superstition and false interpretations of the Koran.

And in Pakistan, a separated woman's feet are chopped off by her husband and in laws after they accused her of promiscuity. God knows what trivial infringement that means in central Pakistan, the same region that sentenced Mukhtaran Mai to gang rape. Just because they can apparently.

In a really backhanded kind of way I suppose that it counts as progress that so many of these stories are finally getting out to the West, seeing the light of day. In the past, I'm sure they were simply covered up – and there was no hope of stopping these traditions at all. So the fact that these stories are getting a public airing is actually hopeful – embarrassing the Musharraf regime represents the greatest hope for arresting these traditions.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

New Investigative Thrust In Britain

Correction to yesterday's post about a connection between the Mike's Place Bombing in Tel Aviv and the London attacks: This morning Haaretz reports that are no connections although it does not make clear whether that means these connections were never investigated or whether they were investigated and did not pan out:
Halutz: No ties between London attacks, Mike's Place bombing in TA
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Dan Halutz and another senior officer confirmed on Tuesday there are no connections between the terror attacks last week in London and the April 2003 bombing of the Mike's Place bar in Tel Aviv.

Halutz was speaking during his first appearance before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee since taking over as head of the IDF.

Earlier reports indicated London's Metropolitan Police and intelligence services were examining a possible link between the two terror attacks. British press reported the investigation was focusing on Muslim religious figure Omar Bakri Mohammed whose two students, Asif Hanif and Omar Sharif, carried out the terror bombing of Mike's Place on the Tel Aviv waterfront on behalf on Hamas.
Instead, right now, one thrust of the investigation is focusing on the outcome of a raid on five apartments in Leeds, W. Yorkshire which may have been a point of departure for the bombers.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Terrorism: The Continuing Story

The Times of London has a list of the dead and missing here

Apparently the bombs were so powerful that hardly any identifications have yet been made.
Officials said the bombs were so powerful that none of the 49 known dead had been identified over the weekend. They said the four bombs were detonated within 50 seconds.

British officials said authorities have determined that the four bombs that blew up in subways and a bus in London on July 7 were composed of less than 4.5 kilograms of explosives each. They said the bombs were small enough to fit in a knapsack and were detonated by timers rather than suicide attackers.
There is also speculation that these powerful explosives were the same kind as used by the British terrorists at Mike's Place in Tel Aviv last year.
TEL AVIV – The terror attack in London last week may be tied to a suicide bombing on Tel Aviv’s beachfront in April 2003, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported Monday.

According to the paper, Mossad officials informed British security authorities that the explosive material used in the Tel Aviv attack on Mike’s Place pub was apparently also utilized to stage the series of bombings in London on Thursday.... 

After analyzing the explosive material used in the Mike’s Place attack, the Mossad concluded it was produced in China and later smuggled into Britain, the paper reports. The explosives were apparently stashed by terrorists connected to al-Qaeda who were able to evade raids by British security forces.

According to the newspaper, Mossad Chief Meir Dagan said the explosive in question is very powerful, and “much more lethal than plastic explosives and can be smuggled undetected due to its composition. 

The Mossad was also able to determine the substance was developed and produced at the Chinese ZDF arms factory, located about 65 kilometers (about 40 miles) from Beijing, the paper reports.

The Mike’s Place attack claimed the lives of three people, Yanai Weiss, 46, Ran Baron, 24, and Caroline Dominique Hess, 29. The bombing was carried out by two terrorists, Asif Mohammed Hanif and Omar Khan Sharif, who were recruited by Hamas in Britain.

UPDATE: Now the Times of London is reporting that the explosives were of a high-grade military calibre.
Similar components from the explosive devices have been found at all four murder sites, leading detectives to believe that each of the 10lb rucksack bombs was the work of one man. They also believe that the materials used were not home made but sophisticated military explosives, possibly smuggled into Britain from the Balkans.

“The nature of the explosives appears to be military, which is very worrying,” said Superintendent Christophe Chaboud, the chief of the French anti-terrorist police, who was in London to help Scotland Yard.

News of the breakthrough comes as a Times poll conducted in the aftermath of the bombings indicates that an overwhelming majority of the British public favours a tough approach to terrorist suspects. Almost 90 per cent of people want the police to be given new powers to arrest people suspected of planning terrorist acts, tighter immigration controls and strict baggage inspections.

Londoners, who bore the brunt of last Thursday’s carnage, were not as supportive of draconian measures as people in the rest of the country.
Though that last statement could be for all sorts of reason. Not only do liberals tend to flocks to urban centers but, I take it that the demographic mix is different outside of London. It is pretty clear from various articles that not all of London's denizens experienced the bombing as a tragedy.
Hours after the bombings, Helbawi logged onto an Internet chat room run by British Muslim extremists. "They were all congratulating each other on the attacks," he said. "It was crazy. They were talking about how they had won a great victory over the infidels, as if they had just come back from a battle."

Although so far, there is no evidence that British Muslims were involved in the bombs, there is little doubt that many British Muslims feel that Britain "deserved" the attacks for supporting the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Justice for Women, Indian and Pakistani Style

I never much enjoyed Salman Rushdie's novels. Too post-moden to appeal to my tastes. But here he writes an incisive article about the treatment of women in the tribal regions in India and Pakistan. And it is a must read.

The story of Mukhtar Mai is already becoming well known in the west. Here is a tale about her Indian counterpart.
Now comes even worse news. Whatever Pakistan can do, India, it seems, can trump. The so-called Imrana case, in which a Muslim woman from a village in northern India says she was raped by her father-in-law, has brought forth a ruling from the powerful Islamist seminary Darul-Uloom ordering her to leave her husband because as a result of the rape she has become "haram" (unclean) for him. "It does not matter," a Deobandi cleric has stated, "if it was consensual or forced."

Darul-Uloom, in the village of Deoband 90 miles north of Delhi, is the birthplace of the ultra-conservative Deobandi cult, in whose madrassas the Taliban were trained. It teaches the most fundamentalist, narrow, puritan, rigid, oppressive version of Islam that exists anywhere in the world today. In one fatwa it suggested that Jews were responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Not only the Taliban but also the assassins of The Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl were followers of Deobandi teachings.

Darul-Uloom's rigid interpretations of Shariah law are notorious, and immensely influential - so much so that the victim, Imrana, a woman under unimaginable pressure, has said she will abide by the seminary's decision in spite of the widespread outcry in India against it. An innocent woman, she will leave her husband because of his father's crime.

Why does a mere seminary have the power to issue such judgments? The answer lies in the strange anomaly that is the Muslim personal law system - a parallel legal system for Indian Muslims, which leaves women like Imrana at the mercy of the mullahs. Such is the historical confusion on this vexed subject that anyone who suggests that a democratic country should have a single, unified legal system is accused of being anti-Muslim and in favor of the hardline Hindu nationalists.
The truth is, thank God, I can't even imagine living in a land where the rulings of these tribal judges is accepted as justice. It puts into a truer perspective the Supreme Court drama we are about to engage in in the next few months. This other world, in contrast, is Kafkaesque. Justice punishing the victim for the crime in a land where the victim has no power at all, except the power to cower inside and not to engage with the world. And in this case, in doing just that, her father-in-law violated her even there.

One wonders what the son of such a man thinks of his father.

And it's really disheartening that even in *Democratic* India, people are too intimidated to challenge the rulings from these madrassas.

As they say, read the whole thing.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Typical Clueless Hollywood

What does this story this story
LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Three-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone will direct superstar Nicholas Cage in the first major Hollywood movie about the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, producers announced.

and this story:
Mr. Spielberg's interest in the question of a civilized nation's proper response to terrorism deepened, aides said, after the 9/11 attacks, as Americans were grappling for the first time with similar issues - for instance, in each new lethal strike on a suspected terrorist leader by a C.I.A. Predator drone aircraft. In Mr. Kushner's script, people who have read it say, the Israeli assassins find themselves struggling to understand how their targets were chosen, whether they belonged on the hit list and, eventually, what, if anything, their killing would accomplish.

tell us about this story?

With box-office attendance sliding, so far, for the third consecutive
year, many in the industry are starting to ask whether the slump is
just part of a cyclical swing driven mostly by a crop of weak movies
or whether it reflects a much bigger change in the way Americans look
to be entertained - a change that will pose serious new challenges to

"It is much more chilling if there is a cultural shift in people
staying away from movies," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of the
Exhibitor Relations Company, a box-office tracking firm. "Quality is
a fixable problem."

But even if the quality of movies can be improved, Mr. Dergarabedian
said, the fundamental problem is that "today's audience is a much
tougher crowd to excite.

Numbers will continue to fall....

Do they ever wonder if the cultural shift in people staying away from the movies has to do with the fact that they disagree so sharply with the content of the films?

It's amazing how these people can't see how political they are.

Updating Spielberg

Apparently one of the actors working on the new "Munich massacre" film has spoken about it in an interview excerpted in the Telegraph more forthrightly than anyone wanted him to do.  And Dennis Ross has been troubleshooting ever since – hence the flurry of neutral and less than positive articles appearing about the film, even where such a reaction is surprising, like the NYTimes.

Daniel Craig, one of the British stars of the film, said that the screenplay is a less-than-flattering portrayal of Israeli tactics. "It's about how vengeance doesn't fucking work - blood breeds blood."

Craig said that Spielberg, creator of the Shoah Holocaust Foundation, was "incredibly aware" of his background "and that's why he wants to get it right".

Of course, if Spielberg really wanted to get the story of the Israeli response to the Massacre right, he would be using real sources, not relying on a specious account of the event by someone only seeking publicity for himself.

[Spielberg's] spokesman Martin Levy said this week that the director had done comprehensive research and did not base himself only on Aviv.

"The content of the film has been taken from many sources. We expect it will be a balanced film," said the spokesman, who refused to divulge the identities of these sources because of a commitment to preserve their anonymity. However, sources in the production team admit in private conversations that most of the film script is based on Jonas' book.

Sources at the Prime Minister's Bureau, which supervises the Mossad, say that so far no requests for help for a film about the murder of the athletes at Munich and its aftermath have been received. Zvi Zamir [who was head of the Mossad during that period] reiterated this week to Haaretz that Yuval Aviv is not known to him and added that no one on Spielberg's behalf has contacted him with a request for information about the subject of the film. "If it is indeed true that Spielberg is basing his film on the book, I am surprised that a director like him has chosen, out of all the sources, to rely on this particular book."

[Hat tip on the Telegraph article: Captain Ed]

Former post on this subject: Et tu, Brute?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Uday, Both Insane AND Brain Damaged

According to one of the physicians who treated Uday after the attempt on his life, on top of his developing insanity, Uday suffered brain damage as a result of his injuries.

The next morning, a CT-scan was reported to show some brain damage due to Uday's lack of blood pressure.

The diagnosis was extremely sensitive. What Uday least of all needed was brain damage added to his increasing mental instability. Bin-Sina's neurologists and neurosurgeons refused point-blank to confirm the scan report and, if they had, they would never have put it down on paper. It was safer to keep the bad news away from Uday and his family.
In other words, he was brain damaged, but it was never reported officially because doing so was too unsafe.

Sounds like he was shaping up as a Nero or Caligula just fine. Amazing. That's who the left wishes were still among the rulers of Iraq.

Bombs Bursting in Air and Underground

Originally uploaded by alcibiades.
Condolences to the Brits on the horrific terror attacks they suffered this morning.

Christopher Hitchens on the London Bombings:
My son flew in from London at the weekend, and we were discussing, as we have several times before, why it hadn't happened yet. "It" was the jihadist attack on the city, for which the British security forces have been braced ever since the bombings in Madrid. When the telephone rang in the small hours of this morning, I was pretty sure it was the call I had been waiting for. And as I snapped on the TV I could see, from the drawn expression and halting speech of Tony Blair, that he was reacting not so much with shock as from a sense of inevitability.

Perhaps this partly explains the stoicism and insouciance of those Brits interviewed on the streets, all of whom seemed to know that a certain sang-froid was expected of them. The concrete barriers around the Houses of Parliament have been up for some time. There are estimated to be over 4 million surveillance cameras in the United Kingdom today, but of course it had to be the Underground—"the tube"—and the good old symbolic red London bus. Timed for the rush hour, and at transit stations that serve outlying and East London neighborhoods, the bombs are nearly certain to have killed a number of British Muslims. None of this, of course, has stopped George Galloway and his ilk from rushing to the microphone and demanding that the British people be removed "from harm's way" by an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.
David from Harry's Place writes a powerful letter in reply to a Brit claiming Blair is responsible for today's bombing because of his Iraq policy. Typical. Many of us feel we are going to be inundated with claims like this in the days ahead.

Here's a sample:

Perhaps you think that Islamism is the same thing as Islam. Perhaps you think that it is some form of national liberation struggle, or a reaction against imperialism or Bush's failure to sign up to Kyoto.

It is not.

Radical Islamism - in its most important strain - is a political doctrine which was developed principally by two arab thinkers in the first part of the 20th century - Qutb and Banna - who were deeply immersed, not in the culture of the middle east, but in the theoretical perspective of the European romantic movement. It is not an alien, exotic or even really an "oriental" doctrine. It is directly inspired by the same intellectual currents which gave rise to romantic nationalism in the 19th century, and fascism in the mid 20th century.

You might think that its main aim is to oppose military action in the middle east.

It is not.

Its main aim, explicitly, is to restore the Caliphate, abolished by Ataturk when modern Turkey was established. It is not an anti-imperialist movement. It is an imperialist movement, yearning for an imagined golden age which it hopes to recreate.

Qutb saw the primary enemy, not as the foreign policy of Western states, but as Modernity: and in particular materialism, liberalism, and democracy. This is the primary reason that London has been bombed: not because it has "attacked muslims" but because they fear that materialism, liberalism and democracy are damaging to the values which Islamists hope to promore: piety and submission to the will of god.

The greatest man alive is dead

The NYSun has an amazing tribute to Admiral Stockdale this morning.

On the morning of the day he died, it has been said of a few individuals over the years, he was the greatest man alive, and among Americans this could well be said of Admiral James Stockdale, who died Tuesday at the age of 81. He won the Medal of Honor for his leadership of the American prisoners of war held in Hanoi during the years of the Vietnam War, and his death, coming as America is in the early years of a new war, offers much about which to think.

The Medal of Honor, which is impossible to alloy, is usually awarded for acts that disclose the courage of an individual in a few split seconds - in the time it takes to save the lives of one's comrades by throwing oneself on a grenade, say, or by leaping from a foxhole to attack an enemy machine-gun nest. Such medals are worth no less for the fact that the character that won them was glimpsed in an instant.

Admiral Stockdale's courage, however, was disclosed over and over again, and was sustained for the entire span of the seven and a half years he spent in the infamous prison known as the Hanoi Hilton and other dungeons, where he was held four years in solitary confinement and two with his legs clamped in irons. He was a prisoner of one of the most savage enemies America has ever fought. It was Stockdale who invented the code prisoners used to communicate, and he told other prisoners, as Los Angeles Times put it, to defy their captors at every turn and never act like helpless captives.

The Medal of Honor citation refers to Stockdale's efforts at "self-disfiguration to dissuade his captors from exploiting him for propaganda purposes." In plain English, what he did was use a wooden stool to beat his face to a pulp so he couldn't be used in an enemy film. One reason that he is so admired by his fellow prisoners is that, when he inflicted what the citation calls "a near-mortal wound to his person in order to convince his captors of his willingness to give up his life rather than capitulate," the enemy backed off in its torture and harassment of other Americans it was holding.

Stockdale's story has never been more relevant than now, when America is in the early years of a new war against an even more savage foe and a new anti-war movement is testing America's resolve. He has been quoted as voicing doubts about the Tonkin Gulf Incident after which was named the war resolution that passed, almost unanimously, in the Congress. But he fought for his country nonetheless.

Years after being freed, Stockdale presented himself for vice president on Ross Perot's ticket. He began his campaign by asking, "Who am I? Why am I here?" - only to be mocked by the press as a bumbler who was out of his depth.

Speaks to the glory of the American press. I remember those days. They were in such a dizzy tizzy in the hope of ridding the county of Republicans and bringing in a Democrat as President after what they considered 12 years of exile that they were perfectly happy to do Clinton's job for him.

I'm happy to believe they couldn't get away with that kind of thing now – not to the same degree. They might start it. But the milbloggers would stop thm dead in their tracks. And other informed voices would take up the cry. And hopefully shame the pants from a few of them.

Previous post on Admiral Stockdale here.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Originally uploaded by alcibiades.

The leaves of a smoke tree, weekend of July the Fourth, North Salem, NY.

Damn It. Redux.

Damn it. Just as I started thinking that The Inside, Tim Minear's new show on Wednesday's on Fox at 9:00, was the most sophisticated drama currently on TV, the thing looks to be cancelled. Again. Its the fate that appears to befall all his shows.

Like Wonderfalls, the other series he made that was cancelled after only several episodes, it took me several shows to start liking the show. In both of them, I initially found the storyline of the main character offputting. It took a few shows before The Inside's lust for moral ambiguity surfaced in a way that appealed strongly enough to me to show me the way in.
"My staff is just a bunch of fat writers who don't know anything, so we just make up stuff. Our stuff tends to be more about the big, giant, morally ambiguous character moments, and less about 'bag it and send it to the lab,' because we don't know anything about that," Minear says, grinning.

And it's the big, giant, morally ambiguous character moments that interests me more than just about anything else. The final moments of Pre-filer just reached out and grabbed me -- it was a perfect tableau of ambiguity.

I also found this article about this show, by Alyson from Popgurls, gave me insight into what Minear was doing with the main character. I was initially uncomfortable with the way the actress was coming across, because it wasn't working for me. But that, instead of being a problem, was supposed to be the point of actress Rachel Nichols' performance. She is supposed to feel off because Rebecca Locke is off. She's not capable of normal emotional bonds. Which makes her problematic. And thus interesting. Once I twigged to this, the show made a whole lot more sense. It finally stopped suspending my suspension of disbelief and became enjoyable. This sounds like a big problem about the show. But we are talking about 2-3 episodes before settling into the show. In the course of things, that's rather good. I didn't like Buffy, in contrast, until a third of the way into the second season.

Liberals Values are Universal

In an interview in the Independent, Roger Scruton, a British conservative thinker, boldly states the bare truth on how liberals and conservatives evaluate each other:

"One of the great distinctions between the left and the right in the intellectual world," says Scruton, who has held chairs in aesthetics at Birkbeck and philosophy at Boston as well as a fellowship at Peterhouse, "is that left-wing people find it very hard to get on with right-wing people, because they believe that they are evil. Whereas I have no problem getting on with left-wing people, because I simply believe that they are mistaken. After a while, if I can persuade them that I'm not evil, I find it a very useful thing. I know that my views on many things are open to correction. But if you can't discuss with your opponents, how can you correct your views?"

Yep. Applies equally on both sides of the Atlantic. I've been saying exactly that for years. It's hard to get them to admit it bluntly. Where it comes out strongly, though, is in the printed rhetoric.

This attitude explains, more or less, the reason that so many liberals are simply unable to see the great good of Bush's Iraq policy, despite its imperfect execution – although if they thought about it for 5 minutes they would realize there has never, in the history of the world, been a perfectly executed war plan. Things go wrong as soon as battle is joined. Measuring the war in Iraq with an impossible standard simply undermines the argument, since it points out the desired result –Iraq is a failure and a quagmire – as opposed to a meaningful historical measure. But since Bush and his administration is, by its very nature evil, so too are all his works.

As I keep saying, where conservatives have the advantage over liberals is that, because of the domination of liberalism in all kinds of media and the academy, conservatives understand liberal thinking far better than liberals understand conservative thinking. We've lived it and had to formulate our thinking in response to its overwhelming "consensus" presence in our intellectual environments, where to believe otherwise was an unthinkable heresy. We've had to figure out how to find refuge against it with other dissident thinkers before the invention of the internet (Thanks Al Gore).

In response, many liberals think conservativism is stuck in some kind of 1950s incarnation and thus ascribe to it the same multitude of sins that pertained years and years ago. They keep shoving the pitchfork in, killing the undead as it were, but it has no effect, except to warm the cockles of their own hearts. Simply put, it's a dead thing that describes very little of what animates today's changed conservatism – classical realism, aimed only at preserving the status quo, no matter how corrupt or evil, is, at least for the moment, revealed in its nakedness and consequently dethroned.

Remembering Admiral Stockdale

James Stockdale has died. He gave the commencement address the year I graduated at St. John's College.

I'm sad to say that, as I was deeply apolitical at that point in my life, I didn't pay much attention. And consequently had no idea who he was or why he was invited to speak at St. John's except that he was friend's with our new college president. Of course, at the time being a vague squishy liberal, I'm not sure how impressed I would have been with all of those military citations. Although I imagine the fact that he remembered and utilized Epictetus during his wartime prison confinement as a way to fight against the North Vietnamese would have made a lasting impression.
The Navy once sent [Adm. Stockdale] to Stanford University; he later said that from a philosophy course there, he learned of Epictetus, the crippled former slave whose motto has been given as "bear and forbear."...

On Sept. 9, 1965, his A-4 fighter-bomber was hit by antiaircraft fire, and he ejected over a small coastal village. A beating on the ground broke his left knee. It was broken again in prison, and he never regained its full use. In prison, he was tortured and suffered other injuries. He was placed in leg irons for two years and held in solitary confinement for four....

In prison, Adm. Stockdale recalled these words of Epictetus: "Lameness is an impediment to the leg but not to the will."

I remeber my sophomore year philosophy teacher saying of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius that Stoicism was a philosophy that made sense only if one existed at the extreme of slave or emperor. As prisoner of war to the North Vietnamese, Adm. Stockdale fulfilled these conditions, with an existence as mean as any slave of the Romans.

When Adm. Stockdale later ran on the ticket with Perot, it was my sister, not myself, who remembered that he gave my commencement address and pointed this out to me with a certain amount of irony. By then, I was political.

His wartime career speaks for itself.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while senior naval officer in the Prisoner of War camps of North Vietnam. Recognized by his captors as the leader in the Prisoners' of War resistance to interrogation and in their refusal to participate in propaganda exploitation, Rear Adm. Stockdale was singled out for interrogation and attendant torture after he was detected in a covert communications attempt. Sensing the start of another purge, and aware that his earlier efforts at self disfiguration to dissuade his captors from exploiting him for propaganda purposes had resulted in cruel and agonizing punishment, Rear Adm. Stockdale resolved to make himself a symbol of resistance regardless of personal sacrifice. He deliberately inflicted a near-mortal wound to his person in order to convince his captors of his willingness to give up his life rather than capitulate. He was subsequently discovered and revived by the North Vietnamese who, convinced of his indomitable spirit, abated in their employment of excessive harassment and torture toward all of the Prisoners of War. By his heroic action, at great peril to himself, he earned the everlasting gratitude of his fellow prisoners and of his country. Rear Adm. Stockdale's valiant leadership and extraordinary courage in a hostile environment sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Disengagement Blues

Here's an interesting poll that has, thus far, received very little publicity.

According to a poll commissioned by the ZOA, and carried out by carried out by McLaughlin & Associates, the Israeli Disengagement Plan is not at all popular in the US.

By 50% to 28%, Americans believe that "this Gaza plan sends a message that Arab terrorism is being rewarded."

Other findings showed that 63% of Americans believe "Jerusalem should remain under Israeli sovereignty – not Palestinian sovereignty," in comparison to only 5% who did not agree.

Also, 80% said they opposed "the continuation of $350 million in US aid to Palestinian Arabs."

By 61% to 28%, Americans believe that "if Hamas members are elected or appointed to official positions in the Palestinian Arab government, US officials should not meet or negotiate with them."

In response to the findings, ZOA President Morton A. Klein said, "This national poll exposes the myth that Americans support disengagement. Americans realize that it's a bad deal for Israel to make these major concessions without getting anything in return.

According to Klein, "Americans also understand that the pullout rewards the Hamas and Fatah suicide bombers whose counterparts are killing Americans every day in Iraq."

Et Tu, Brute?

Right in the midst of the early momentum for Anglican disinvestment from Israel, there is news that Spielberg's next film is going to dwell upon the moral quagmire resulting from Israel's decision to use Mossad agents to assassinate members of the PLO who participated in the Munich massacre.

In other words, Spielberg is using Israel as a proxy to deal with his dis-ease with US foreign policy in the wake of 9/11. He feels he risks too much if he deals with the matter head-on -- by choosing an American subject. There would be far too much fallout and his popularity would suffer nationwide. So, instead, he chooses Israel, already a subject of so much venom worldwide. For him personally, it's creates a safer narrative.

Mr. Spielberg's interest in the question of a civilized nation's proper response to terrorism deepened, aides said, after the 9/11 attacks, as Americans were grappling for the first time with similar issues - for instance, in each new lethal strike on a suspected terrorist leader by a C.I.A. Predator drone aircraft. In Mr. Kushner's script, people who have read it say, the Israeli assassins find themselves struggling to understand how their targets were chosen, whether they belonged on the hit list and, eventually, what, if anything, their killing would accomplish.

Apparently Kushner and Spielberg believe these Mossad agents are modern American liberals questioning the fact that we are in Iraq.

No wonder Mr. Spielberg is afraid he is going to be misconstrued. In fact, it seems to me, the problem is just the opposite: that he's going to be understood all too clearly.

But he's taking steps to prevent that. By setting it up in a way that gives him deniability.

Uh huh.
"Viewing Israel's response to Munich through the eyes of the men who were sent to avenge that tragedy adds a human dimension to a horrific episode that we usually think about only in political or military terms," he said. "By experiencing how the implacable resolve of these men to succeed in their mission slowly gave way to troubling doubts about what they were doing, I think we can learn something important about the tragic standoff we find ourselves in today."

So it's an attempt to provide profound answers to the tragic standoff we find ourselves in today in Iraq...

No, wait a second, the tragic standoff we find ourselves in today in the Israeli/Palestinian situation. But interpreted In light of Mr. Spielberg's moral qualms post 9/11.

Of course, anyone who is a student of history realizes that the modern attitude of liberals – their reluctance to pursue defense matters in a muscular fashion – is an impulse that has grown weaker over the last several decades. And Israel, in any case, cannot afford such attitudes – especially not after an event like the Munich massacre. Which is to say, the subject is clearly revisionism dawning in Mr. Spielberg's brain in light of 9/11. But the target of all this animus is going to be Israel, not America. The translation is easy enough, as anti-Americanism is hot among the same people where anti-Israel attitudes hold sway. Did he think we would not catch on?

And how does Spielberg believe he is going to control the interpretation of his movie in Egypt and Lebanon and Turkey and all around the Middle East, where hatred of Israel has never receded? And any fuel thrown on that fire makes it burn brighter? So, too, in France and Britain, where anti-semitism, masked as anti-Zionism, is now rearing its head quite plainly amongst the modern left.

UPDATE: With understated irony, Debka agrees with my point that Spielberg is using this film to transcend discussion of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

But the director adds: “By experiencing how the implacable resolve of these men to succeed in their mission slowly gave way to troubling doubts… I think we can learn something important about the tragic standoff we find ourselves in today.”

Spielberg’s interest in making the film appears to transcend the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

A mirror into the modern American liberal soul. Indeed.

Debka also warns Spielberg that Malta may not be the safest place for him this week, lest Palestinian Jihad Islami use his visit as a way to commemorate the 10th assasination of their founder, Fathi Shikaki, in Malta. Apparently there has been some local chatter, worrying security officials, that they intend to hit an American or Israeli targets somewhere in the Middle East to mark the occasion.

UPDATE II: Ha'aretz takes an interest in whether Spielberg's film is primarily based on a specious account of the Mossad operation, written by George Jonas in 1984, and based on first hand accounts of the affair from *former Mossad agent* Yuval Aviv. Israel disputes that Aviv was ever in the Mossad. And indeed, Aviv's resumé shows that his only security experience came from working as a security guard at El Al in New York.
"The content of the film has been taken from many sources. We expect it will be a balanced film," said [Spielberg's] spokesman, who refused to divulge the identities of these sources because of a commitment to preserve their anonymity. However, sources in the production team admit in private conversations that most of the film script is based on Jonas' book.

Sources at the Prime Minister's Bureau, which supervises the Mossad, say that so far no requests for help for a film about the murder of the athletes at Munich and its aftermath have been received. Zvi Zamir reiterated this week to Haaretz that Yuval Aviv is not known to him and added that no one on Spielberg's behalf has contacted him with a request for information about the subject of the film. "If it is indeed true that Spielberg is basing his film on the book, I am surprised that a director like him has chosen, out of all the sources, to rely on this particular book."

Of course, given the points he wants to make about the evils of responding to terrorism, the fact that Spielberg is relying on a specious historical account is a perfect irony. In other words, if it didn't already exist, someone would have to invent it.

Ah, liberals. That's why we love you so much.