Wednesday, June 30, 2004

What Would Ayn Rand Say?

If there are any Ayn Rand type libertarians out there who believe that the U.S. had no business launching Operation Iraqi Freedom it might be interesting to get their response to the words of the master herself on the subject. In 1963 she wrote:

Dictatorship nations are outlaws. Any free nation had the right to invade Nazi Germany and, today, has the right to invade Soviet Russia, Cuba, or any other slave pen. Whether a free nation chooses to do so or not is a matter of its own self interest, not of respect for the nonexistent "rights" of gang rulers. It is not a free nation's duty to liberate other nations at the price of self-sacrifice, but a free nation has the right to do it, when and if it so chooses. From "Collectivized" Rights (Emphasis hers)

Her argument, I think, was that rights do not inhere in nations, rather they inhere in individuals. The nation has a "right" to exist only insofar as it embodies the collective rights of the individuals which comprise it and freely choose its leadership. The chief right of the individual is the right to one's life which entails the right to be free. Any government which denies these rights to its people has no legitimacy and no right to exist. In short, the destruction of such a government violates no right possessed by the tyrant government.

Rand, I think, would say today that the Bush administration was not duty-bound to liberate Iraq, but they had the "right" to do it. I wonder how many of her libertarian devotees would agree.

Standard Muslim Pedagogy

Little Green Footballs has a piece that shows that the beheadings we've seen of American "infidels" at the hands of terrorists is not an aberration, but is a tactic taught to Muslim schoolchildren throughout the Arab world.

What Do They Know?

Undecided voters who might be considering a vote for John Kerry in November should ask themselves what it is about the Massachusetts senator that has won him the support of pornographers like Howard Stern and Larry Flynt, Hollywood ditzes like Barbra Streisand and Michael Moore, raving wild men like Al Gore and Howard Dean, the Communist Chinese, North Korea, Vietnam (Hanoi), and the French. What do they all know that maybe the rest of us should?

Progress in the War on Terror has a report about part of the 9/11 Commission's Staff Statement #15 that has been pretty much ignored by the media. The report notes that:

"Since the September 11 attacks and the defeat of the Taliban, al Qaeda's funding has decreased significantly. The arrests or deaths of several important financial facilitators have decreased the amount of money al Qaeda has raised and increased the costs and difficulty of raising and moving that money.

"Some entirely corrupt charities are now out of business, with many of their principals killed or captured, although some charities may still be providing support to al Qaeda.

"Moreover, it appears that the al Qaeda attacks within Saudi Arabia in May and November 2003 have reduced - perhaps drastically - at Qaeda's ability to raise funds from Saudi sources. Both an increase in Saudi enforcement and a more negative perception of al Qaeda by potential donors have cut its income."

This is not to suggest that the war on terror is anywhere close to being won, but it does suggest that things are certainly moving in the right direction.

Avoiding Armageddon

My brother calls my attention to this essay by Pat Buchanan concerning the United States' unfortunate capitulation to the United Nations in the matter of whether the International Criminal Court would have legal jurisdiction over American troops. Buchanan is surely correct to be alarmed at the prospect of the same people who incessantly condemn Israel while giving the Palestinians a pass, the same people who put Libya and Iraq in positions of oversight of human rights violations, the same people who stood by impotently while Hutus butchered 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda and did nothing to stop the slaughters in Bosnia and Kosovo, he is surely correct to be alarmed at the prospect of these same people, most of whom come from countries which are themselves failed, corrupt oligarchies, hauling Americans before a court and imposing legal penalties against them.

The thought of Americans being tried in a court of law by representatives from states like Syria, Iran, Somalia and other precincts in the semi-civilized world is ludicrous. It is just as ludicrous to think that our soldiers could expect a fair hearing from states like France, which would like nothing more than to slap us in the face, and the Peoples' Republic of China which would do whatever it could to weaken the ability of America to project power around the world.

The United States, with all its flaws, is still the glue that is keeping the world from collapsing into chaos. The attempt to gain more and more control over the application of American power will, in the long term, diminish the ability and resolve of the U.S. to maintain that power. If, as is fervently hoped by many, the United States were eventually to be reduced to the military and/or political level of, say, France, it is almost inevitable that the Mideast and subsequently the entire world would go up in flames.

If one doubts this consider what would happen in Asia if the U.S. ceased to be able to project power into this region. North and South Korea would quickly be at each other's throats, as would the Peoples' Republic of China and Taiwan. Japan and other states in the region would be unable to stay neutral and would get sucked into a hellish vortex of war that would consume the entire Pacific rim.

Meanwhile, in the Middle East, Israel's Arab neighbors would seize an opportunity they had been denied by American might for fifty years and invade Israel spawning a conflict that would almost certainly result in the detonation of nuclear weapons.

A similar scenario would doubtless play out on the Indian subcontinent between India and Pakistan, and would also almost certainly culminate in a nuclear exchange. Africa, too, would break out in renewed tribal and racial violence.

Europe would be thrown into turmoil by its Arab populations and by renewed fighting in the Balkans. These stresses would exacerbate old hatreds and open old wounds between the countries of Europe which have warred repeatedly against each other for two thousand years, and would doubtless bring at least some of them into conflict with each other again. It's hard to imagine the carnage that would result from all of this. The world teeters on a tightrope over a hellish chasm and it is only the balance pole of American force that has kept us from plunging into that abyss.

None of this is to say that submitting our troops to the jurisdiction of the ICC will cause the world to collapse immediately into a cauldron of unprecedented killing and destruction. It is to say, however, that submission to the ICC is a step in a process of weakening the hope and threat that American force will be employed to preserve peace and justice in the world. It's a step toward making the application of military might less credible since the United States will inevitably grow more reluctant to exert its power for fear that her sons and daughters will be held legally accountable by those who despise us for our values, success, and power. To the extent that we find ourselves unable or unwilling to act when circumstances warrant, to that extent we hasten a world-wide Armageddon.

Keeping America militarily strong is a necessary condition for maintaining peace and justice in a world filled with people who would like nothing more than to precipitate a global orgy of death and destruction. Military power, however, is not a sufficient condition. We must also have the will to use that power, and, most importantly, we must have moral goodness to match our military might. We need to be willing to use our power, unencumbered by constraints imposed upon us by those whose motives are less than exemplary, but only when the cause is right and just.

There are many at the U.N., and in the ranks of the American left, who think that the best hope for world peace is to make America weak. They are tragically mistaken, in my view. The way to keep the world from destroying itself, the way to keep the world from realizing the death wish it seems to be consumed by, is to keep America strong and to ensure that she is good. If we fail in either of those the future of the world is a nightmare.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Doing Good With Other Peoples' Money

Senator Hillary Clinton in a speech yesterday in San Francisco:

"Many of you are well enough off that ... the tax cuts may have helped you," Sen. Clinton said. "We're saying that for America to get back on track, we're probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."

Give her credit for honesty. Most liberals are not this forthright about their plans for your pocketbook. My question is, though, why don't the people who always want to take money away from the rest of us just give away their own wealth instead? Hillary is very well off since her husband struck it rich with his new book and can certainly afford to donate a fat sum to the U.S. treasury.

Her party's standard-bearer, John Kerry, who has probably never worked a day in his life and is certainly not working at his current job in the U.S. Senate, is rolling in his wife's former husband's millions. They don't need all that. Why don't they just give their fortunes to the government if they want Washington to have more and let everybody else keep what they've had to work to get?

Of course, that'll never happen. It's a lot better to just rape the taxpayer.

Why the Media Underreports Religion

There is a piece in the Columbia Journalism Review by Gal Beckerman about why religion, a matter of such importance to so many in this country, and a matter which impacts so heavily upon our society, gets such paltry coverage from journalists. She writes:

However central belief and faith might be to the American populace, our news media seldom puncture the surface in their reporting on religion. The various institutions are scrutinized, sometimes with great rigor, as a former cardinal in Boston might confirm. But it generally takes scandal or spectacle to get even the large denominations on the front page. And even then, the deeper belief systems of these religions are left unexamined. The theology and faith of the believers is kept at arm's length, and the writing is clinical. The journalist glances at religious community as if staring through the glass of an ant farm, remarking on what the strange creatures are doing, but missing the motivations behind the action.

The bulk of her essay describes what most religion coverage is like and explores the reasons why the media doesn't do a better job covering it. She dismisses the possibility, rather obvious to some of us, that journalists are simply hostile to the religious world view:

[A]lmost 80 percent of journalists [have] some religious affiliation. This also confirms what journalists report anecdotally: that there is a wide range of religious belief inside newsrooms, that many reporters and their families are deeply involved with their religious communities....[So that] while a lack of empathy and literacy might very well contribute to the problem, this can't be the whole story. Not only, as the recent polls show, is it not true that reporters are too secular to get faith, but it shouldn't really matter. No religion writer would say that one has to be a believer to understand believers. And although the knowledge problem is real, more and more religion writers are specialists and could potentially be a source in the newsroom for reporters who aren't. The "secular newsroom" seems to be a myth, and the knowledge gap certainly surmountable. Something else seems to be at work here, something more systemic.

But a few paragraphs before this Beckerman had acknowledged that:

[R]eligion writers remain a tiny minority in the newsroom (there are about 200 of them working at secular newspapers). More of these journalists are coming to the job with theological training from seminaries and divinity schools, and many of them are fighting every day to get stories about faith on the front page. But with rare exceptions, such as The Dallas Morning-News, which has a weekly six-page religion section and a team of four reporters covering different aspects of belief, most papers have only one, maybe two, religion writers who can barely keep up with the hard news of religious institutions, let alone explore deeper questions of faith. Editors and owners simply do not make religion a priority, and journalists are not encouraged to make it a part of their stories.

It would seem, then, from this that a big part of the problem really is that the people who make the decisions, the people with the power, are indifferent to matters of faith however important it might be to the lowly reporters. Beckerman, however, suggests that the problem is more one of religion and journalism inhabiting to different epistemic worlds. She frames it this way:

On the one hand, there is journalism, premised on the notion of objective reality. To report is to write about what can be seen, heard, touched, smelled. Journalism is grounded in this world and embodies a belief that everything can be known. On the other hand is religion, which is fundamentally about mystery and the unknown. Faith is grounded in this notion, that we surrender ourselves to greater powers beyond our reach. How can journalism, then, welded as it is to the known world, contend with faith and belief?

But this just seems to be another way of saying that journalists, or their editors, working from a naturalistic worldview, are antipathetic toward, or simply not tuned into, religion and regard it as they might regard the horoscope page. Religion stories are a sop that they offer to the intellectually unwashed to entice them into buying a paper, but they have no intention of expending much of their resources on it.

What's the solution? Men and women tend to live out in their work what they believe to be ultimately important. Their beliefs infuse and suffuse their work and their lives. Thus religious believers, especially young people of faith, need to continue "the long march through the institutions" that has already been under way for some time. People to whom the gospel is personally crucial need to enter journalism, just as they need to enter the education profession, the profession of law, the film industry, the music industry, and everywhere their deepest beliefs can exert influence on their work and ultimately on our culture. When eventually editors and reporters are people for whom the core doctrines of religious belief are of paramount importance in their lives then matters of faith will be receive the attention they warrant.

Beckerman closes with these wise words:

By excluding faith, we miss the core of so many stories - What motivates people to act? What are the beliefs that give meaning to our lives? What ideas are we willing to live and die for? If journalism means to relay the day-to-day saga of our society, it can't continue to ignore these questions.

The CJR article is a little long, but anyone interested in media coverage of religion should read it. Thanks to Byron at Hearts and Minds for the tip.

Monday, June 28, 2004

The Handover in Iraq

For one Iraqi's thoughts on the turnover of political control see Mohammed at Iraq The Model. He concludes with a heart evidently overflowing with sincere gratitude:

A big greeting to the courageous and noble man; Mr. Bremer whom we saluted this morning. He proved that he's the right man for the tough times. He struggled together with his Iraqi brothers to overcome the hardships in a critical era for this country and the whole world. I'm going to miss his presence and so are many other Iraqis because we feel that who left today is one of Iraq's sons.

A big greeting to the men who decided to bear the responsibility of Iraq's safety and Iraq's future. They needed courage and faith to decide to work for Iraq in this hard time. May God help them guide this country with wisdom until the day when elections come.

It's hard to appreciate the efforts of all those who helped us to get our freedom and rebuild our country. We will never forget them. We will keep them in our hearts. God bless Iraq and her people. God bless America and her people.

God bless all the coalition forces who supported operation Iraqi freedom. May God bless the souls of all those who sacrificed their lives to free Iraq.

I don't know how many Iraqis Mohammed speaks for, but it's for certain he doesn't speak for the embittered souls at who are convinced the U.S. is "tucking tail and running" to escape a disaster of our own making. The good folks at Truthout are just distraught that all their predictions of inevitable catastrophe in Iraq have yet to come to pass, but just wait. They will. William Rivers Pitt of Truthout writes:

The American people are not comfortable dealing with words like "total failure" and "ruined credibility," but these are words that all of us are going to have to become accustomed to.

A process that began in September 2002 as a coordinated propaganda blitz to convince Americans they were on the verge of being gassed by an Osama-Saddam Axis of Doom, a process that was swathed in flags and a snarling, nationalistic patriotism, a process that has in the last 22 months delivered 855 dead American soldiers, thousands of gravely wounded American soldiers and over ten thousand dead Iraqi civilians to our collective doorstep, has now concluded with a farcical handover of 'sovereignty' in the dead of night.

"Total failure" and "ruined credibility" are the watchwords for the day. A process that never should have begun in the first place, a process which had nothing to do with defending the United States, has led us to a place where every 'goal' put forth by the Bush administration, no matter how stupid or simple, has turned to ash. This is the great gift Mr. Bush has delivered to us: A midnight deal, a washing of hands, and a quick exit out the back door. Honor and integrity indeed.

Pitt is right to mourn the deaths and woundings of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians, but the rest of this piece sounds more like the ravings of a fanatic who realizes he's about to be discredited before the whole world. I think Mohammed in Iraq probably has a better grasp of things there than does Mr. Pitt

Iraq and Yellow Cake

Remember the furor over President Bush's claim that Iraq was seeking Uranium ore from Niger? Remember the gleeful scoffing when one of the pieces of evidence turned out to be a forgery, putting large dollops of egg on administration faces? Well, it turns out that three European intelligence services had independent evidence of the truth of the administration's assertions. The Financial Times has the story. Thanks for the tip to Power Line which closes their piece with this:

The Bush administration has known this all along. So why did it withdraw the Niger claim, rather than defending it? Who knows. It's too late now, in any event. If the administration thinks it can pull this chestnut out of the fire at this late date, it is mistaken. What Bush said was true, but the facts ceased being important long ago.

Probably true. The public has only a limited ability to absorb new information once it has decided that something has been proven. The masses, unfortunately, base their opinions on impressions rather than upon reason or facts. The impression that Bush was bamboozled by a forgery about Iraqi attempts to buy Niger yellow cake has been fixed like a stain in the public consciousness and will probably be almost impossible to eradicate, no matter how much evidence accumulates.

The Irony of Abortion

Opinion Journal has a piece that argues that abortion in America cost the Democrat party about six million voters in 2000, that the cost will be even greater in 2004 and increase every election afterward. It's an interesting analysis and, if valid, extremely ironic.

Torture Redux

Viewpoint has argued before (6/6/2004) that much of what is being written and said about the awfulness of the Bush administration with regard to the matter of torture is hard to credit. Not only are his critics using this issue in a disingenuous fashion to hurt the president politically, but Bush himself is hard to take seriously when he says that he would never order torture.

If it is true that he would never permit someone to be tortured then what would he do in the very plausible scenario of a nuclear bomb hidden in a major city set to go off in ten hours. Suppose one of the terrorists has been captured but will not divulge the location of the bomb. If the President would not order him to be tortured to extract the information needed to save millions of lives then I suggest he is profoundly wrong and is derelict in his responsibilities as president.

Some readers may blanche at the suggestion that torture might ever be the right thing to do, but the question of torture is not as simple as sound bites on the evening news would have it.

For example, the terrorists in Iraq have recently kidnapped an American Marine. Suppose they threaten to behead him as they have done to others. Suppose further that the Marines have captured an insurgent they have good reason to believe knows where the kidnapped Marine is being kept. He will not divulge the information. Should he be subjected to physical or psychological coercion in order to get the information out of him?

That would be an interesting question to pose to the critics who are trying to skewer the president with this issue. If their answer to the question is no, would they say the same thing if the kidnapped Marine was their brother, or their son? If the critic knew that his/her son's life could be saved from the horror that befell Nick Berg and Paul Johnson and Daniel Pearl, but it was not because American forces were prevented from using methods which might cause pain for the terrorist, would the critic not think that something is out of moral kilter? If he would still say that torturing a terrorist would be wrong even if it were necessary to save his son's life then is he not saying that the physical and psychological well-being of a murderer is more important in his hierarchy of values than the life of his son?

In other words, the questions we should be asking about torture are precisely the ones which so shock the president's opponents. We should be asking not whether torture should ever be used, but rather what constitutes torture and under what circumstances, if any, is it morally permissable. Perhaps some pacifists would still insist that torture is never justifiable, but I suspect that most people would agree that if we found ourselves in either of the scenarios mentioned above torture would be not only morally right, but the refusal to use it would be morally appalling.

Iraq The Model

Ali, an Iraqi writing at Iraq The Model, makes an interesting observation about the economic circumstances of the average Iraqi in Baghdad. It goes against the grain of what has been reported about the employment (and security) situation there. He writes:

I found there that it has become very common that some restaurants and hotels are using work agencies to get workers from Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan and the Philippines. Moreover, many families in Baghdad started to hire maids through work agencies; the family would pay 1300 $ for the agency to cover the travel cost of the maid who will get a monthly payment of 100 $ at least.

The question is why don't these people hire Iraqis instead? And why do these people (workers) risk their lives in coming to work in such a "chaotic area"? I think the answer to the 1st question is that most Iraqis can easily find a job that pays more than 100 $ with less effort and commitments. For example a kid (in summer vacation)who help in cleaning the streets and river banks get paid about 120$ by the city hall a month for about 5 hours work.

The answer to the 2nd question can be explained in 2 ways; there seems to be lots of job opportunities in Iraq as a result of private businesses' improvement and an increase in the life standard of a good proportion of Iraqis that made this process (importing workers) a real business and that enabled Iraqis to pay reasonable amounts of money to those workers that make it worthy the risk. The other answer might be that the security conditions in Iraq is not that scary to prevent workers from coming to Iraq and also that Iraq job market seems better for simple workers at least than that in India, Philippines, Sri Lanka and many other Asian countries!!

For years before the war the opposite was true, and no foreigner workers were able or interested to come to work in Iraq, and after all this "destruction and chaos and imminent civil war" this seems to have changed and Iraq has suddenly become a place that attracts many jobless people from different countries! Can anyone give me a reasonable explanation other than what I suggested?!

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Death Throes of an Insurgency?

Robert Alt of No Left Turns makes a few interesting observations on the current state of affairs in Iraq from his perch in Baghdad. Key passage:

It now appears that Zarqawi may have been just outside the safe house bombed yesterday. If so, then he survived, but suffered a very close call. This is the third safe house that the Coalition has bombed this week. When coordinated attacks were launched in multiple cities, they were handily put down. The terrorists are making death throes. I have little doubt that they will launch more attacks in the next week which will be carried with splashy headlines by a hyperventilating press. But their objective will not be accomplished. The transition will proceed, and their attempt to relegate Iraq to despotisms of the past will fail.

Let's hope.


Genocide in Sudan has been on-going for over twenty years with hardly a peep out of the media or the U.N. Go here for an overview of this terrible situation (Thanks to Instapundit for the link). See also here.

Here's a test. The governing party in Khartoum, which is carrying out the starvation, displacement, slaughter and enslavement of millions of Sudanese, are (insert ethnicity) ________ . Their victims are (insert ethnicity) ________. The forces carrying out the bloody atrocities in Sudan are (insert religion) _________ and their victims are (insert religion) _________. If you're not sure of the answers you may go here to find them, but I suspect most readers won't have any trouble figuring them out.

Here's another question: Why do you suppose the media has been reticent about publicizing what is the worst case of genocide since, well, at least since the Hutus killed almost a million Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, and maybe since the Jewish holocaust of the early forties? For the answer to this question consult the answers to the questions above. Meanwhile, imagine the media reaction if the perpetrators of this horror were Israelis and the victims were Palestinians.

A third question: Should the U.S. intervene to stop the killing or should we merely try to negotiate an end to the genocide? What if negotiations fail? What if intervention means the loss of some American lives and the loss of some innocent Sudanese lives? Should we just walk away and excuse our indifference by simply saying it's none of our business, these people are no threat to us? How is this choice between intervention or non-intervention morally different than the decision the Bush administration was faced with prior to invading Iraq?

I assume that those who believe Bush had no business going into Iraq would look at the pictures of the starving Sudanese children and read the ghastly stories of butchery and say that, nevertheless, if negotiations don't work then we should do nothing more than pray for those poor people, and maybe try to send relief aid. I guess they would also be able to offer some moral justification for permitting a horrific evil that we have the means to end if we had the will to use it, although I don't know how convincing it would be.

I further assume that anyone who reads about the plight of these long-suffering, terrified and helpless people and decides that we should do whatever we reasonably can to help them, including sending in the Marines, will also agree that Bush did the right thing in going into Iraq to depose a tyrant whose murderous rule was no less brutal than that of the ruling party in Khartoum. If they don't I would like to know what the salient moral differences are between the two situations which would justify intervention in Sudan but not in Iraq because frankly I don't see them.

Darwinian Pagans

Yesterday I saw a bumper sticker that read: Pagan Pride - Doing Good Is My Religion.The car also had a Darwin's Fish on the trunk so I assumed the owner of the vehicle is a Darwinian pagan. I also assumed this means that he/she would deny that a personal, transcendent, creator of the universe, i.e. the God of classical monotheism, exists. This interested me. How does such a person, a Darwinian pagan, determine what Good is? How does he recognize it in order to do it? What and where is the standard to which an act can be compared to see if it can be considered Good? And even if the Darwinian pagan could recognize it, who would he think he should do Good for? The species? The race? Himself? How does one decide which it should be? Whichever it is, it certainly seems to follow that anything one does to promote one's self, race, or species over others is good. This, of course, means that charity, compassion, and altruism would be Evil.

If Good is whatever aids one's own survival as an individual or a species then there can be nothing wrong with ignoring the weak and the poor. Indeed, there can be nothing wrong with genocide. Is Good for a Darwinian whatever promotes the survival of the fittest? That's what the Nazis believed, of course. Perhaps our pagan friend would reply that good is whatever feels right to the person doing it, whatever does not offend his conscience, but if so, then if it feels right and doesn't offend the conscience to treat people cruelly then cruelty would be Good.

Even if some act did offend the conscience, why should that make it wrong for a Darwinian pagan? In the evolutionary scheme of things, after all, our conscience is merely a vestige of blind, natural processes that shaped us for life in the stone age. It's little more than a psychological appendix so why should it be allowed to determine our behavior today?

I know it's unwise to make too much out of bumper sticker slogans, but the Darwinian pagan seems to assume that Good is something that's just out there waiting for people to do it when in fact, there is no Good if the Darwinian pagan is right about there being no transcendent moral source and authority. If we've evolved from primordial slime then Good and Evil no more exist for us than they do for other animals. All there are are things people do, those things are neither Good nor Evil in a moral sense, any more than a cat killing a mouse is Good or Evil.If God doesn't exist then, as Nietzsche said, we need to get beyond our archaic religiously based notions of Good and Evil and realize that morality is just a matter of each of us deciding for ourselves how we should live, and no choice is any better or worse, in moral terms, than any other.

When the Darwinian says that doing Good is my religion he reveals a confusion deep in his thinking. He is appropriating a concept, moral Good, that makes no sense unless theism is true while at the same time he implicitly denyies that theism is true.

It seems each of us is faced with an alternative. If we believe that Good and Evil are real and not just our subjective interpretation of things, then we have to look for a basis for them outside of ourselves and the only adequate basis is the God of classical theism.

If God is a conclusion we wish not to accept then we need to face up to the fact that our talk of Good and Evil is literal nonsense. "If God is dead," Dostoyevsky wrote, "then everything is permitted." The choice, in other words, is between God and moral nihilism.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Proud to be an American

This interesting piece from the Belmont Club makes one wonder if there's any meaningful difference in the minds of our troops between CNN, CBS, et al. and Al Jazeera. In summarizing the fight against Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi army there's this:

In what was probably the most psychologically revealing moment of the battle, infantrymen fought six hours for the possession of one damaged Humvee, of no tactical value, simply so that the network news would not have the satisfaction of displaying the piece of junk in the hands of Sadr's men.

Another important detail comes in the next sentence:

'Squeezed into a few downtown blocks, Sadr militants began using children to shuttle ammunition,' soldiers said. Youngsters carrying large plastic bags darted from corner to corner, and the soldiers would not shoot them. 'We all grew up knowing you don't hurt women and children,' Taylor said. 'And they used that to their advantage.' The US estimates that 20 civilians were killed in operations around Najaf. The Najaf hospital claims 81. When the Russians retook Grozny after a disastrous first foray, they returned to the operational formula of Marshak Konev in Berlin and rained down 8,000 artillery shells per hour on the town, killing perhaps 27,000 before attempting it again. The vastly more powerful Americans did not, yet triumphed.

The comparison between the American view of war, and their skill at fighting it, and that of other nations, both today and throughout history, is truly gratifying for anyone who embraces just war doctrine. Read the whole analysis. It makes one proud of our men in our elite military, though certainly not of the civilians in our elite media.

Take That

Hindrocket at Power Line suggests that in light of the minor stir Vice President Cheney has created by his impolite advice to the good senator Pat Leahy on the floor of the senate the other day, perhaps what Cheney should have done was cut off his head. Then the media would have buried the story.

Friday, June 25, 2004

The Incredible Shrinking Man

Matt Drudge has Al Gore's speech from yesterday. It really is hard to take seriously a man who would imply that the Patriot Act and the incarceration of enemy combatants and suspected terrorists is a greater threat to democracy than terrorism itself. I wonder if the people in the World Trade Towers, seeing those planes coming toward them, would have agreed. This criticism of the Bush administration is coming, moreover, from a man who served as vice president in an administration which secretly collected confidential FBI files on anyone deemed a political threat. Al Gore called the president responsible for this invasion of privacy one of the greatest presidents of the twentieth century.

In his speech Mr. Gore referred to "America's strategic catastrophe in Iraq". How can anyone at this point honestly call Iraq a strategic catastrophe? It may ultimately turn out badly, but indications at present point to the Iraqis as being, by almost any measure, better off than at anytime in the last twenty years. See Belmont Club for a much more trenchant analysis of our strategic position in Iraq and Chrenkoff for a sweeping picture of the military, economic, and social situation in Iraq.

Mr. Gore proceeds, exhibiting profound symptoms of short term memory loss: "President Bush is now intentionally misleading the American people by continuing to aggressively and brazenly assert a linkage between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein," he scoffs, even as the evidence mounts that Mr. Bush was correct (see here and here) that Saddam was indeed plotting terror attacks against the U.S.

Parenthetically, it seems that whether the terrorists actually call themselves al Qaida or not is irrelevant, especially to their victims. Why Mr. Gore and others are so obsessed with this point escapes me. One doubts whether Paul Johnson and Nicholas Berg really cared whether the orcs who were sawing their heads off were actually members of a group called al Qaida or some other group of psychopaths. The term al Qaida has come to be a generic designator for terrorists in general and the Bush spokespeople may have been using the term in that sense. I don't know why that little molehill should be elevated into such a mountain.

Mr. Gore continues: "If he is not lying, if they genuinely believe that, that makes them unfit in battle with al Qaeda. If they believe these flimsy scraps, then who would want them in charge? Are they too dishonest or too gullible? Take your pick." The former VP, however, needs to check his own previous speeches before making such intemperate remarks. Power Line has done the research and here's what they turned up:

IN 1992, AL GORE ATTACKED PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH FOR IGNORING IRAQ'S TIES TO TERRORISM. SEN. AL GORE: "[W]hen George Bush took office, he should have reevaluated what our relationship was with Iraq ..." CNN'S LARRY KING: "Well ..." GORE: "Let me finish, just briefly. Instead, he stepped up the foreign aid to Iraq, and he looked the other way when there were repeated incidents of terrorism in which Iraq had a part, terrorists operating openly in Baghdad, and repeated warnings from our national security people telling the Bush administration that Saddam was on a crash program to develop nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, and other weapons of mass destruction. And he overruled a lot of his advisers and extended another billion dollars of foreign aid, and the U.S. taxpayers are right now having to bail out Saddam Hussein for almost $2 billion. Just like the savings and loan bailout, now it's the Saddam Hussein bailout, and it shouldn't have taken place." (CNN's "Larry King Live," 10/5/92)

IN 1992, GORE SAID BUSH ADMINISTRATION WAS "CODDLING" SADDAM AND IGNORING HIS PURSUIT OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. "Democratic vice presidential nominee Al Gore Tuesday attacked what the Bush campaign views as its strongest asset, as he charged the president caused the gulf war by 'coddling' Saddam Hussein. .. He said recent evidence - including published reports and documents from congressional hearings - contradicts Bush's assertions he did nothing to enhance Saddam's development of weapons of mass destruction before Saddam invaded Kuwait. Gore said both the Reagan and Bush administrations received regular intelligence 'warnings' that Saddam was aiding terrorists and was bent on building such weapons." (Sam Vincent Meddis, "Gore Assails Bush On Iraq Policy," USA Today, 9/30/92)

Mr. Gore, throwing shame to the winds, added this: "The last time we had a president who had the idea that he was above the law was ... Richard Nixon...."

Actually, the last time we had a president who thought he was above the law was about six years ago when Mr. Clinton thought he should be able to perjure himself and bend campaign finance laws with impunity. Mr. Clinton, recall, is the man Mr. Gore obsequiously named one of the best presidents of the twentieth century.

Finally, Mr. Gore builds toward a denouement: "The two top Justice Department officials under President Nixon, Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus, turned out to be men of great integrity, and even though they were loyal Republicans, they were more loyal to the constitution and resigned on principle rather than implement what they saw as abuses of power by Nixon."

This raises a question. If this is, indeed, what men of honor do, why didn't Mr. Gore himself resign from the Clinton administration when it became obvious that Mr. Clinton had committed perjury?

Mr. Gore's speech was a screed. There were no positive proposals as to what should be done on the war on terror, no policy suggestions for handling terrorist suspects, no specific evidence to support the allegations he makes. The whole thing amounts to squeezing one's eyes tight shut, clenching one's fists and teeth and hissing, "Bush is evil" over and over until the mindless audience, mesmerized by the mantra, goes wild with approbation.

With every appearance Mr. Gore diminishes himself as a serious spokesperson for the Democrat party. He has transmogrified himself into the incredible shrinking man. He seems to have accepted the unseemly role of keeping Howard Dean's followers in the Kerry fold while Kerry pretends to be a more moderate, well-reasoned voice within the party. What a circus.

The Religion of Peace

If you have a strong stomach read this outstanding piece by Australian Andrew Bolt (Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the tip). Bolt finds a putative interview on an Islamic web site with a leader of the recent terrorist atrocities in Saudi Arabia. The man's name is Fawwaz bin Muhammad al-Nashami, and he's one of the terrorists who managed to escape after participating in the slaughter of innocent foreign workers. Bolt quotes him as he recounts the psychopathic violence:

The terrorists then stormed a second compound, and found an "American infidel".

"I shot him in the head, and his head exploded. We entered another office and found one infidel from South Africa, and our brother Hussein slit his throat. We asked Allah to accept (these pious acts) from us, and from him."

The terrorists then killed guards at a third compound, where al-Nashami says they found Johansson: "Brother Nimr cut off his head and put it at the gate, so that it would be seen by all . . ."

They caught other workers and checked their religion. "We found Filipino Christians. We cut their throats and dedicated them to our brothers the Mujahideen in the Philippines. We found Hindu engineers and we cut their throats, too, Allah be praised . . ."

There is much more, but this is enough to give one a sense of the horror these sick people were willing to inflict in the name of God. As Mohammed at Iraq the Model so eloquently puts it the terrorists' victims are much closer to God than are these "pious" Muslims. Their offerings and praise of Allah must be a stench in his nostrils as must be their very lives or else Allah has nothing important in common with the God of Christians and Jews. Indeed, if this sort of cruelty and bloodthirstiness is pleasing to Allah then Allah is the devil.

As Sullivan suggests, it's ludicrous to argue, as some have, that the savagery of Islamist terrorists is more political than religious. They are driven by their interpretation of Islam to do what they do, not by political ideology, and the Koran, as Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis points out in his book The Crisis of Islam, need not be twisted all that much to be made compatible with their interpretation.

In any society, brutes and thugs seek power. If they attain it they will strive to impose their interpretation of the guiding myths of their society on everyone else, and theirs is almost certainly going to be the most brutal interpretation of all the alternatives. This is the history of twentieth century Europe and of the contemporary Middle East.

The Islamists are fascists, to be sure, but they are Muslims first and foremost. If other Muslims wish us to believe that the jihadis do not represent Islam they better start shouting their condemnations from the high spires of their mosques. It may be that the thugs have the "moderates" intimidated in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Muslim world, but that shouldn't stop the Imams in America from proclaiming their fatwas and execrations against those who perpetrate such unspeakable crimes in the name of God.

Bolt ends his column with a discussion of the media's reception of the findings of the 9/11 Commission. A few excerpts:

"This week also saw the release of two interim reports by the commission US President George W. Bush set up to investigate al-Qaida's September 11 attacks. In a little-reported passage, they warn: 'Al-Qaida remains extremely interested in conducting chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attacks..'"

"This spectre, of course, is what drove us to invade Iraq. Not only did Saddam house and help terrorists, including Abu Abbas, Abu Nidal, Palestinian suicide bombers and a bomb-maker of the 1993 World Trade Centre attack, but his scientists worked on chemical and biological weapons up until the war, as the Iraq Survey Group now confirms. The day would surely come when Saddam's weapons and the terrorists who wanted them finally met."

"So there were links between Saddam and al-Qaida, not to mention other terrorists, but no proof (yet) of active collaboration or co-operation in the September 11 attacks. This is almost word for word what Bush has long said. Yet ABC TV news said this week's reports prove al-Qaida 'had no links with Saddam Hussein, as suggested by the White House', and ABC's The World Today added: 'One of the Bush administration's central arguments for going to war with Iraq appears to be in tatters.' As if Bush had blamed Iraq for the September 11 attacks. The liar."

"More of this and al-Nashami can take it easy. We'll have cut our own throats already."

Zayed at Healing Iraq is an Iraqi Muslim who fears that "we are going to see more beheadings, the Mujahideen seem to appreciate the publicity and attention they receive with each new execution. Don't count on any public demonstrations of Muslim outrage though, there won't be any."

Chilling stuff. A very important question we should be asking ourselves is how would a president John Kerry protect us and our children from these people?

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Sheik al Sadr

A month ago the press was deep into its "Sky is Falling" mode as it reported that Muqtada al Sadr had taken the measure of our troops and was leading Iraq into chaos. Meanwhile, some journalists could scarcely conceal their satisfaction as they contemplated the impact the cleric's successful uprising would have on George Bush's reelection hopes.

Then suddenly al Sadr disappeared from the news reports. The Mahdi army went silent. What happened? We were never really told, but Rowan Scarborough of the nation's best newspaper, The Washington Times, gives us some interesting insight. The key passage:

"When the division got word April 8 that Sheik al-Sadr's uprising meant most 1st Armored soldiers would stay and fight, rather than going home as scheduled, it touched off a series of remarkable military maneuvers."

"Soldiers, tanks and helicopters at a port in Kuwait reversed course, rushing back inside Iraq to battle the Shi'ite cleric's 10,000-strong army....Once he had targets [provided by a growing network of Iraqi spies and informants], Gen. Dempsey could then map a battle plan for entering four key cities - Karbala, Najaf, Kufa and Diwaniyah. This would be a counterinsurgency fought with 70-ton M-1 Abrams tanks and aerial gunships overhead. It would not be the lightning movements of clandestine commandos, but rather all the brute force the Army could muster, directed at narrowly defined targets."

"Last week, Sheik al-Sadr surrendered. He called on what was left of his men to cease operations...."

Why, one wonders, would he do that? Scarborough's answer:

"The division estimates it killed at least several thousand militia members."

I don't recall hearing anything about that on the evening news, do you?

Good News From Iraq

Andrew Sullivan directs us to this site for the most comprehensive news on developments, military, economic, political, social, and otherwise, in Iraq and asks why we can't find information like this in a major media outlet. Good question, but I think you'll know the answer once you start to explore the site. It's must reading for anyone who wants to be informed about what's happening in that country.

The Horse Race

John Podhoretz argues that we shouldn't believe polls that show John Kerry ahead in the race for the presidency. My question is, other than being the UnBush, what reason has Kerry given for anyone at all to vote for him? Since the primary he has become less and less distinguishable from Bush on what to do in Iraq, the economy is taking off under Bush, Bush does what he says he'll do, so we know exactly what we're getting with him.

Kerry would provide a plausible alternative if what Bush intends is not what a voter wants, of course, but the problem with Kerry is that one has no idea what he will do. He's been all over the lot on Iraq and the war on terrorism. With Kerry the more he talks the less one knows about what he believes. He puts himself in the position of being able to do just what he says he'll do only because at some time or other he's covered every possibility.

Unless there is some major event between now and November, I'll be surprised if Kerry is still competitive by the end of the campaign.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Give Us Barabbas!

The other day I suggested that liberal contempt for Bush distils to two things: His Christian faith and the threat his strong pro-life inclinations pose to Roe v. Wade. The Belmont Club has a slightly different take:

The particular venom with which the Liberals regard President Bush is at heart a reaction to what they perceive as a coup d'etat directed against the carefully constructed edifice of their historical achievements. To understand why the President and individuals like Paul Wolfowitz are described as "illegitimate", one should not, like the man who doesn't get the reference, look to the Florida chads or US Supreme Court decisions. Liberals are not talking about that kind of statutory legitimacy. Rather they are referring to what is perceived as a brazen attempt to negate the cultural equivalent of the Brezhnev doctrine, the idea that certain "progressive" modes of behavior, once attained, are irreversible. In this view, an entire set of attitudes, commonly referred to as "political correctness" and their institutional expressions, like the United Nations, have become part of a social contract, part of an unwritten constitution....James Lileks described the intensity of the revulsion at the barbarians at the gates; not Osama Bin Laden, but rather someone else:

"I ask my Democrat friends what they'd rather see happen -- Bush reelected and bin Laden caught, or Bush defeated and bin Laden still in the wind. They're all honest: they'd rather see Bush lose."

This is surely symptomatic of mental illness. It's a form of insanity that has gripped the left which they seem unwilling and unable to shake off. How else to describe people who would rather see the perpetrator of the 9/11 massacre go free to commit more such crimes if it means the political defeat of George Bush. It's reminiscent of the cry of the mob in Jerusalem two thousand years ago to "Give us Barabbas!" Sick.

True Lies

Bush's critics have been relentless in their allegations that the President lied to us about the reasons for invading Iraq. Al Gore's speech tomorrow will be but the most current example of such accusations about which three things that can be said.

First, as much as they have been repeated there has never to my knowledge been anything to show that Bush deliberately said what he knew to be false in order to mislead the American people. A lie, to be a lie, must be deliberate, and the teller must know, or should know, that what he is saying is false. In the run up to Operation Iraqi Freedom the White House offered as two of several justifications for military action their conviction that Saddam was working on obtaining WMD and their belief that he was aiding and abetting terrorists, including, but not limited to, al Qaida. Both of these, critics allege, were lies.

The evidence at this point in time suggests that the administration may have been mistaken about the WMD, but even if it turns out that they were, being mistaken is hardly the same as lying. Furthermore, if administration spokespersons were mistaken then they were not the only ones who were. So were Bill Clinton, John Kerry, almost every other Democrat, the New York Times, and most of the leadership of Europe. All of the foregoing believed, and told us at one point or another, that Saddam had, or was working toward obtaining, WMD. If his critics are going to accuse him of lying they have a duty to show that what he said was not simply an error, that it was an intentional effort to deceive. This they have not done, nor do they evidently care to. The language of character assassination comes too easily to their lips.

The connection to terrorism which Bush alleged seems pretty clear. Saddam harbored Abu Nidal and al Zarqawi. He allowed terrorists to train at a facility at Salman Pak and he rewarded the families of terrorists who blew themselves up in Israel with stipends of several thousand dollars. There is other evidence which reveals Saddam's relationship to terrorists in the Middle East. Interested readers should check out Stephen Hayes' book The Connection or read this interview of Hayes by NRO.

The finding of the 9/11 commission that there's no evidence that Saddam was connected to the 9/11 attack and the oohing and ahhing that subsequently erupted in the media is a red herring. To suggest that this finding refutes Bush's claim that the Iraqis were assisting terrorists is like arguing that because there's no evidence that Kobe Bryant's agent was involved in the events of which Bryant stands accused that there's therefore no connection between the player and the agent.

Second, the implication that Bush has done something morally offensive by lying (if he did) to the American people is absurd coming from those whose concept of morality is purely pragmatic. The critics of the Bush administration are largely secular men and women who hold to an ethic that declares whatever works to be right. For many of them there is no transcendent basis for morality, there's no God who establishes a standard to which we can repair to see if our behavior is right or wrong. In the absence of such a standard the only meaning that attaches to moral claims like "Bush lied" is a subjective expression of distaste.

In other words, if Bush did lie, then, on the modernist, secular assumption that there is no transcendent moral law, he hasn't done anything really wrong, he's only done something his critics don't like, and why should anyone care about what his critics like and don't like? Unless there is a transcendent moral authority, a God and a divinely ordained moral law, all the moral outrage on display on the op-ed pages of our papers is so much childish ranting. The only people who have solid ground to criticize anyone else's moral behavior are theists.

Third, the charge of lying levelled against Bush is hypocritical because lying and defending lying are tactics leftists and liberals themselves don't hesitate to embrace whenever it suits their purposes. Marx wrote that there is no morality save that which promotes the advance of materialistic socialism. The left shares the Marxist assumptions and agrees with him on ultimate goals. For many on the left, therefore, lying is moral if it promotes world socialism and immoral if it hinders it. Thus the paroxysms of righteousness that southpaw political figures and journalists affect at the very thought that Bush might have lied in order to accomplish a political goal is little else than a cynical attempt to discredit a "capitalist" president in the eyes of the gullible, unsophisticated masses, not something they themselves actually find personally reprehensible.

An excellent example of the left/liberal embrace of the lie as a political weapon opens in our local theaters this weekend. However, before you pay money to see Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 you really should read Christopher Hitchens' devastating review of both the film and it's creator in Vanity Fair. Hitchens is certainly no conservative Republican. He's a former left-wing writer for The Nation who is disenchanted with his erstwhile colleagues' opposition to a war he believes to have been a moral necessity, an important step in the direction of establishing justice in the world. He begins his review with this:

"To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of 'dissenting' bravery"

Then, after having dispensed with the niceties, Hitchens takes the gloves off. Anyone interested in Moore's work in general or this film in particular should read the whole critique. It's a little long, but it's absolutely devastating in its analysis of Moore's integrity and superficiality.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Why They Hate Him

It's not a particularly trenchant insight to observe that the left in America despises George Bush. What is interesting is the question why this is so. The left, of course, has hated every Republican president at least since Eisenhower, and especially Nixon, Reagan, and George W. so hatred is perhaps an ugly allele in their political genome. Beyond that there are a number of ostensive reasons given as to why the left feels so much contempt for this president: his tax cuts, Iraq, his alienation of the French, the Florida election fiasco, and his allegedly sub-standard IQ all come to mind, but perhaps the real reason is none of these.

I suspect he's hated by the left primarily because he is feared by them, and he's feared because he is resolutely pro-life on abortion and because he is explicitly and unabashedly Christian. If Bush were a staunch defender of a woman's right to an abortion, and if he were more muted in his expressions of faith, the left would still oppose him, of course, but they wouldn't despise him. They would regard him as a reinstantiation of Gerald Ford. As it is, however, they see him as an imminent threat to two things which are of paramount importance to them. They see him as a clear and present danger to Roe v. Wade, and they see him as a serious menace to the realization of the secularist dream of a religion-free society.

They know that in a second term Bush will have the opportunity to appoint numerous judges to the federal bench and three, maybe even four, justices to the Supreme Court. Moreover, depending on how the senatorial elections go in November, the liberals may lack sufficient strength in the senate to continue to block his judicial nominations.

In other words, whoever is elected president in November may well establish the moral and spiritual direction this country will follow for the next two generations. The choice is between continuing the ongoing Europeanization of America or perhaps rolling back some of the more egregious Supreme Court decisions of the last sixty years. The left devoutly wishes the former and is horrified at the prospect of the latter. Thus Bush must be defeated at all costs, he is the closest thing to Satan which exists in the liberal mythos and their hatred for him is amply justified in their minds by the nature of the threat he poses.

John Leo thinks there is something of this political contempt underlying the recent failure of the Supreme Court to address head-on the question of the constitutional propriety of the under God phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance in the recent Newdow case. He writes:

"Call me a cynic, but I think the liberals on the court didn't want to cause an uproar that would help Republicans in an election year. Better to come up with a soothing but temporary political decision -- restoring "under God" for now while clearly inviting a future challenge that the court will be only too happy to grant once the political coast is clear."

The left is aware that there are a number of court decisions that would not withstand scrutiny from jurists committed to maintaining the integrity of the Constitution rather than wresting it to conform to contemporary ideological fashion. Roe v. Wade would certainly be vulnerable to a Court whose decisions were governed by what the constitution says rather than by what five justices think it should say.

Another awful decision, one whose reversal would go a long way toward restoring some measure of common sense to our understanding of the role of religion in society, and one which a conservative court might be expected to revisit, is Everson v. Board of Education (1947). This was the case which incorporated the language of separation of church and state into the legal understanding of the first amendment. The Everson court cited this particular phrase in an 1802 letter from Thomas Jefferson to Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut who were concerned that Jefferson intended to establish a national religious denomination. Jefferson wrote to reassure them that this was not the case, and he borrowed from another Baptist preacher, Roger Williams, the idea of "a wall of separation between church and state" to persuade the Baptists that the church should be protected from interference by the government.

It is hard to read the history of this episode and come reasonably to the conclusion that Jefferson wished to exclude all references to God from our public ceremonies and discourse. Jefferson, after all, within a year of writing this letter, signed legislation giving money to evangelize Indians. He also used state funds to establish a divinity department at the University of Virginia and declared that students of the university were expected to attend religious services.

To cite this letter as being somehow dispositive in revealing what the framers had in mind as they drew up the Bill of Rights is ludicrous since Jefferson was in France when the first amendment was being crafted. Just as pernicious, however, was the decision by the Everson court to extend the injunction against Congress' making any law which would establish a religion to the states and hence to every level of government. The logic of this ruling has led to the effort on the part of secularists to proscribe every reference to anything which could be construed as religious in any venue supported by public monies.

That the Founders never intended the first amendment to apply to other than the federal government is clear from the fact that many of the original thirteen states required their elected officials to declare a personal commitment to orthodox Christianity, and five of the thirteen states had official state churches. These states didn't disestablish their churches after they voted to ratify the first amendment. Indeed, they never saw themselves as in breach of it because the amendment didn't apply to the states until the Supreme Court finally discovered the apparent oversight in 1947. Now Everson is used to sweep not just sectarian religious references and symbols from every nook and cranny of the public square, but even mention of an abstract, generalized deity is taboo.

Thus Newdow was evidently really all about Everson. The crucial question lurking in the background was whether or not the Court was going to take Everson to its logical conclusion, and, if not, would Everson eventually be rolled back. It's hard to overstate the stakes here. If the Court followed the logic of Everson and found that the phrase under God, when recited in public schools, violated the separation of church and state and therefore decided in favor of Mr. Newdow, the winds of secularism blowing through our society would become a gale. This, however, would carry with it the risk of roiling the electorate into such a lather that Bush might be given the opportunity in a second term to restructure the Court in ways that would redound throughout the next fifty years.

On the other hand, if the Justices found against Mr. Newdow by upholding the constitutional propriety of the under God language they would have implicitly repudiated Everson and thus risked laying the ground work for the overturning of, not only Everson, but a string of subsequent decisions based upon it. So the Court did neither, ruling instead that Mr. Newdow did not have legal standing to bring suit against the defendant and leaving the door open, as Leo points out, for another challenge sometime in the future when the political risks are not as significant.

The Supreme Court has, by ducking a definitive decision in the Newdow case, poorly served our nation. As John Leo says, "We deserve a better, more honest Supreme Court."

Monday, June 21, 2004

Good Analysis

The Belmont Club continues to offer readers excellent analysis of, and insight into, the War On Terrorism. Sunday's posting analyzes what's behind the shift to attacks in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Good stuff.

After reading it you might want to scroll up to The Enemy Offensive Begins which discusses the Iranian seizure of three small Royal Navy craft. A couple of excerpts from Belmont Club:

"The origins of the seizure, which have no apparent operational rationale, are rooted in the April 2004 offensive against Coalition Forces in Iraq. Iran saw that the US was unwilling to engage in large-scale combat operations against either the Ba'ath in Fallujah but more importantly against Moqtada Al-Sadr in Najaf in an election year. Instead, American commanders attempted to finesse the situation by applying limited and targeted force hand in glove with political warfare. Teheran saw that if those were the rules they were willing to play."

"Although the Iranians may try to dominate the agenda with the usual television parade of hostages and prisoners, just as their terrorist counterparts in Iraq and Saudi Arabia do with their captives, the only real question should be how to humiliate the Mullahs. Tables were made to be turned. They should be made to remember this day so that if their miserable theocracy lasts another ten years they can never bring themselves to look at a calendar opened to the month of June without trembling."

The next few days will be interesting. Will this seizure serve as a pretext for an attack against Iran's nuclear weapons production facilities? Will the Brits handle this themselves or will they enlist our aid? What are the consequences for Iran if they don't release the eight crewmen? What are the consequences for the West if we let them get away with it?

Good News

"Americans are paying markedly less attention to Iraq than in the last two months. At the same time, their opinions about the war have become more positive. The number of Americans who think the U.S. military effort is going well has jumped from 46% in May to 57%, despite ongoing violence in Iraq and the widening prison abuse scandal. And the percentage of the public who believes it was right to go to war inched up to 55%, from 51% in May." From The Pew Research Center

A recent Harris poll shows Bush over Kerry by 10% among likely voters.

Ten Percent!!?? Viewpoint predicted last month that Kerry was going to do very poorly among minority voters and that this would be fatal in November. He hasn't given us any reason to alter that prediction, but we'll see how the summer goes. Maybe Kerry will claim to have been W.E.B. DuBois in a previous life.

Sunday, June 20, 2004


In Asleep at the Wheel? I lamented the administration's diffident response to the portrait being painted of it in the liberal media. David Horowitz, a former radical leftist at FrontPage has an excellent piece on this same theme. Some excerpts:

"As wars go, the conflict in Iraq was (and is) as good as it gets. A three week military campaign with minimal casualties, 25 million people liberated from one of the most sadistic tyrants of modern times, the establishment of a military and intelligence base in the heart of the terrorist world. What well-meaning person could oppose this? In fact there is none."

"The war has had enormous beneficial effects with minimal negative consequences. A terrible tyrant was taken down. The filling of mass graves with 300,000 corpses was stopped. Plastic shredders for human beings were deactivated. Prisons for four to twelve year olds were closed. A democratic constitution has been drafted. Two-thirds of al-Qaeda's leadership is gone. There hasn't been a terrorist attack in America in more than two and a half years, something no one would have predicted after 9/11. By any objective standard, the Bush war on terror is a triumph."

"The Times 'News Analysis' accompanying the [9/11 Commission report] draws this conclusion: 'In questioning the extent of any ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda, the commission weakened the already spotty scorecard on Mr. Bush's justifications for sending the military to topple Saddam Hussein.' Actually this Times reportage is several lies in one. First, the panel did not conclude that there was no al Qaeda-Iraq tie. It concluded that it could not find an al Qaeda-Iraq tie in respect to the attacks of 9/11. This is entirely different from the claim that there were no links between al-Qaeda and the Iraqi regime."

"These real world considerations are why the campaign waged by the Democratic Party and a Democratic press against the Bush war policy is based not on any analysis of the war itself, but on maliciously concocted claims about the prewar justification for military action. For purely political agendas, the Democrats hope to attempt to convict the Administration of 'misleading the American public' and wasting American lives through deception and fraud, and thus to defeat the President at the polls in November."

"This is the campaign of the Big Lie and its success depends on the very fact that it is a big lie. Its aim is to shift the very terms of the argument to a terrain favorable to the critics who have been refuted by the events themselves, a terrain entirely irrelevant to the reality of the war itself. To respond to this campaign would require of its targets candor and courage, because the only way to confront it is to impugn the integrity, honesty and goodwill of those who so maliciously prosecute it. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration does not seem up to this task of calling its critics to account. This is why it is on the defensive and in serious trouble in its political campaign."

"The critics of the Bush Administration have used their lies about the rationale for the war to call the President a liar, a fraud, a deceiver and a traitor. These are terms that apply to the critics themselves. But the Bush Administration has not had the gumption to use them (or their political equivalents). The Bush Administration had better rethink this reluctance if it intends on retaining power in November. American voters are not going to be able to sort out these lies for themselves in the absence of a strong case by the Bush team."

"What we are confronting in this spectacle is an unprecedented event in American political life. In the midst of a good war and a noble enterprise, a major American party is engaged in an effort to stab its own country in the back for short term political gain, and is willing to do to so by the most underhanded and unscrupulous means."

It's hard to improve on this. Horowitz has nailed the problem raised in Asleep at the Wheel? Fortunately, there have been signs this weekend that the administration is rousing itself from its slumbers. Time will tell whether this is just a stirring or whether the White House really is going to get serious. Maybe the strategy is to play a kind of political rope-a-dope until the convention and then start swinging furiously. I don't know, but if it weren't for the fact that John Kerry is no Bill Clinton images of 1992 would be filling the mind with foreboding.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Karma Chameleon

Senator Kerry, like Boy George in Karma Chameleon (Don't ask me how I remember that one), is a man without conviction. Nor can he tell a contradiction, he just comes and goes. Here's a piece which reveals, in his own words, Kerry's stance on Iraq in 2002, before he realized that he would have to be vigorously anti-war to go anywhere as a Democratic presidential candidate, and his position today when he has to distinguish himself as the un-Bush. Kerry seems as confused about his ideology as Boy George was about his gender.

Paul Johnson

Matt Drudge has the awful pictures. We won't see them on the mainstream media, of course, because they still can't get over the ghastly photos of Iraqi men with hoods over their heads and leashes around their necks. One writer to our local paper last evening called the Abu Ghraib photos "horrific". If the media wants to show something "horrific" then they should show the Nicholas Berg or Paul Johnson videotapes, but they won't because that would strengthen the determination of the American people to fight the war on terror with even greater resolve which would mean four more years of George Bush, and that, for many of the port-siders in the media, is itself a horrific prospect. So we'll continue to see only photos that make the U.S. look bad.

If one does go to the Drudge site he/she should do two things: First, one should repeat over and over that this savagery doesn't represent true Islam because it's important that we convince ourselves of this while wondering why, in the wake of this unspeakable horror in the name of Allah, there is such a mystifying silence emanating from our mosques here in the states. And secondly, we need to keep securely in mind that this is pretty much what these people have planned for us and our children if we let up for just a moment in the war on terror.

The barbarians who perpetrate the evils we've witnessed in recent weeks in Iraq and Saudi Arabia are characters right out of J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. Anyone who could do these things to another human being is less than human, he is a morally hideous Orc-like savage that knows nothing of the human virtues. He lives in a bleak, dark Mordor-like land blindly following the toxic behest of Imams, more Sauerman than holy men, who preach a message of hate, blood and death. They live in Sauron's world and are firmly in his thrall. They talk of God, but the love and beauty of God are not part of their world. They despise and disdain them.

I read recently (I can't remember the source) that to use God's name to justify evil is precisely what the commandment forbids when it enjoins us not to take God's name in vain. This, however, is exactly what those who shout "God is great" while sawing off a man's head are doing. They praise God as if they are doing what He wants them to do. What can be a greater offense against the holiness and goodness of God than to make Him an accomplice, indeed a motivating cause, of such evil? These men are not righteous, they are not pious, they are not pleasing God, they are, if anything is, satanic.

All We Need To Know

Some time ago I wrote that all we needed to know about John Kerry is that if Osama bin Laden could vote in our election Kerry would be his choice in November. Most commentators, Democrat and Republican, tacitly acknowledge this when they discuss the possibility of a terrorist strike on American homeland this summer or autumn to pull the electorate to the left, as they succeeded in doing in Spain.

Now there is a runner-up for the honorific "All We Need to Know About John Kerry" An article in the Washington Times sums it up for us in a single sentence. In a piece discussing how Kerry is being advised to keep quiet about religious matters, the Times explains how Kerry's new religion advisor, a twenty nine year old Unitarian socialist named Mara Vanderslice, who majored in Peace and Global Studies at a Quaker college and who somewhat paradoxically participated in the violent rallies against the IMF in Seattle in 2000 and 2002, is now being marginalized by the Kerry campaign. The article then quotes the fateful sentence:

At first, Miss Vanderslice was given wide latitude to define Mr. Kerry's positions on spiritual issues and to hire assistants who would reach out to Muslims and black churches, the Kerry campaign source said.

Think about that for a moment. Someone who probably doesn't know Kerry personally, at least not well, is permitted to define his positions on spiritual issues. This certainly gives a new twist to the concept of "deep convictions". A man's spiritual beliefs, if they are genuine, are surely the most important, most personal, most profound beliefs he holds. How can someone else, someone who doesn't even know the candidate, be allowed to define those positions for him unless, in fact, they're not all that important to Senator Kerry in the first place? Perhaps for Kerry the only purpose religious beliefs serve is to endear him to whichever segment of the electorate he can bamboozle with them. Can you imagine George Bush having his spiritual beliefs defined by someone other than himself?

Friday, June 18, 2004

Asleep at the Wheel?

The biggest disappointment one feels with the Bush administration is its utter inability or unwillingness to explain or defend the positions it takes and the policies it pursues. If Bush loses in November it will be in large part, perhaps, because, despite all the good things happening in Iraq, despite all the positive news about the economy, a depressing number of voters still think that Iraq is in chaos and the economy is in the tank. It's possible, of course, to blame a mendacious media and an apathetic citizenry for much of this ignorance, but the presidency is not without resources. The administration could be doing far more than it is to make it all but impossible for the media to ignore their message. Instead the White House acts as if their successes are none of our business. See this article by Robert Kaplan in the WSJ for an excellent account of Marine operations in Fallujah and his perplexity at the administration's failure to inform the American public about it.

Now comes the 9/11 commission report and the media make it sound as if the document is an indictment of the president's rationale for going into Iraq in the first place. The commission has found no connection, we are told, between Iraq and 9/11, thus undercutting one of the chief reasons Bush gave for toppling Saddam. The problem with this is that Bush never, as far as anyone has been able to determine, said that Iraq was somehow connected to 9/11, so it is strange that the commission thinks this statement was necessary. What Bush did say was that Iraq supported terrorists and terrorism which seems pretty clearly true since there was a terrorist training facility at Salmon Pak and since several major terrorists had taken refuge in Iraq including Abu Nidal and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Bush's spokespersons also claimed that Saddam was involved with al Qaida, but they never said that Saddam was directly complicit in the 9/11 attack.

Nevertheless, the media, who themselves seem intellectually incapable of distinguishing between having a relationship with al Qaida and being directly involved in the specific acts of terrorism they perpetrate, is allowed to create the impression that somehow the 9/11 commission has shown the Bush administration to have been once again either dishonest or incompetent or both. The White House response to this absurd mangling of the truth is little more than a rhetorical yawn.

For an excellent analysis of the 9/11 commission's report check out the entire day's worth of posts for June 17 at Power Line. The last post in the queue has this remarkable statement which perfectly captures the frustration that a lot of conservatives must be feeling right now:

"Given that the Republicans ostensibly control both houses of Congress, I can't explain why the Sept. 11 commission and its staff consist mostly of Democratic Party operatives. But that isn't the real problem; the real problem is that President Bush is passive and inarticulate, and his administration is pathologically unable to engage in debate. The staff report is a juicy target--what movie is it where a soldier rides between rows of watermelons set on sticks, slicing them off with his sword?--but no one in the Bush administration has the courage or skill to stand up for the administration's policies. So, as always, the administration will keep its head down and try to weather another storm, hoping to slide its nose over the finish line in November. That really isn't good enough."

George Bush has been an excellent leader in many ways, but a big part of leadership is constantly reminding the troops, in this case the voters, of what the mission is, explaining why that mission is necessary, and how the mission is progressing. We're evidently a nation of people who need a lot of reminding. The apparent apathy in this administration about what the average American is hearing about the two issues which most commentators think will decide the election, Iraq and the economy, is astonishing and made all the more appalling and exasperating by the fact that the alternative to Bush is so dismal.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Reporting D-Day Today

This parody of the contemporary media's propensity to see imminent catastrophe in every national undertaking, particularly military operations, has been making the rounds on the internet. It's pretty good. I think the following address is the site where it originated, but I didn't see this particular piece when I went there. Spring 2004 If D-Day Had Been Reported On Today By William A. Mayer
Tragic French Offensive Stalled on Beaches (Normandy, France - June 6, 1944)

Pandemonium, shock and sheer terror dominate today's events in Europe. In an as yet unfolding apparent fiasco, Supreme Allied Commander, Gen. Dwight David Eisenhower's troops got a rude awakening this morning at Omaha Beach here in Normandy. Due to insufficient planning and lack of a workable entrance strategy, soldiers of the 1st and 29th Infantry as well as Army Rangers are now bogged down and sustaining heavy casualties inflicted on them by dug-in insurgent positions located 170 feet above them on cliffs overlooking the beaches which now resemble blood soaked killing fields at the time of this mid-morning filing.

Bodies, parts of bodies, and blood are the order of the day here, the screams of the dying and the stillness of the dead mingle in testament to this terrible event. Morale can only be described as extremely poor--in some companies all the officers have been either killed or incapacitated, leaving only poorly trained privates to fend for themselves. Things appear to be going so poorly that Lt. General Omar Bradley has been rumored to be considering breaking off the attack entirely.

As we go to press embattled U.S. president Franklin Delano Roosevelt's spokesman has not made himself available for comment at all, fueling speculation that something has gone disastrously awry. The government at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is in a distinct lock-down mode and the Vice President's location is presently and officially undisclosed. Whether the second in command should have gone into hiding during such a crisis will have to be answered at some future time, but many agree it does not send a good signal.

Miles behind the beaches and adding to the chaos, U.S. Naval gunships have inflicted many friendly fire casualties, as huge high explosive projectiles rain death and destruction on unsuspecting Allied positions. The lack of training of Naval gunners has been called into question numerous times before and today's demonstration seems to underlie those concerns.

At Utah Beach the situation is also grim, elements of the 82nd and 101st Airborne seemed to be in disarray as they missed their primary drop zones behind the area believed to comprise the militant's front lines. Errant paratroopers have been hung up in trees, breaking arms and legs, rendering themselves easy targets for those defending this territory.

On the beach front itself the landing area was missed, catapulting U.S. forces nearly 2,000 yards south of the intended coordinates, thus placing them that much farther away from the German insurgents and unable to direct covering fire or materially add to the operation. Casualties at day's end are nothing short of horrific; at least 8,000 and possibly as many as 9,000 were wounded in the haphazardly coordinated attack, which seems to have no unifying purpose or intent. Of this number at least 3,000 have been estimated as having been killed, making June 6th by far, the worst single day of the war which has dragged on now--with no exit strategy in sight--as the American economy still struggles to recover from Herbert Hoover's depression and its 25% unemployment. Military spending has skyrocketed the national debt into uncharted regions, lending another cause for concern. When and if the current hostilities finally end it may take generations for the huge debt to be repaid.

On the planning end of things, experts wonder privately if enough troops were committed to the initial offensive and whether at least another 100,000 troops should have been added to the force structure before such an audacious undertaking. Communication problems also have made their presence felt making that an area for further investigation by the appropriategovernmental committees.

On the home front, questions and concern have been voiced. A telephone poll has shown dwindling support for the wheel-chair bound Commander In Chief, which might indicate a further erosion of support for his now three year-old global war. Of course, the President's precarious health has always been a question. He has just recently recovered from pneumonia and speculation persists whether or not he has sufficient stamina to properly sustain the war effort. This remains a topic of furious discussion among those questioning his competency.

Today's costly and chaotic landing compounds the President's already large credibility problem. More darkly, this phase of the war, commencing less than six months before the next general election, gives some the impression that Roosevelt may be using this offensive simply as a means to secure re-election in the fall.

Underlining the less than effective Allied attack, German casualties--most of them innocent and hapless conscripts--seem not to be as severe as would be imagined. A German minister who requested anonymity stated categorically that "the aggressors were being driven back into the sea amidst heavy casualties, the German people seek no wider war."

"The news couldn't be better," Adolph Hitler said when he was first informed of the D-Day assault earlier this afternoon. "As long as they were in Britain we couldn't get at them. Now we have them where we can destroy them." German minister Goebbels had been told of the Allied airborne landings at 0400 hours. "Thank God, at last," he said. "This is the final round."

Hoist By Their Own Petard.

Check out Andrew Sullivan for a fascinating compendium of quotes about Ronald Reagan from lefties back in the eighties. It affords a fascinating glimpse of how the left got the man so wrong. They never learn, though, nor do they ever seem to be embarrassed by their dismal track record. They just keep on making the same mistakes. In the eighties the target of their errant sniping was RR, today the beneficiary of their foolishness is GWB. Someone once pointed out that neurosis is doing the same thing over and over, hoping that somehow you'll soon get a different result. The left seems to believe that if they beat their heads against the brick wall hard enough and long enough eventually the wall will collapse. We'll see, but I suspect they're more likely to suffer brain damage.

Monday, June 14, 2004

The Privileged Theory

The culture wars have finally arrived in our humble county. A local school board has balked at adopting a high school biology textbook because it gives short shrift to any metaphysical alternatives to Darwinian evolution. Our evening newspaper, always on the look-out for controversy, has decided to create one by opining that the school board's recalcitrance somehow flies in the face of Supreme Court decisions which forbid teaching Creationism in schools.

There are so many confusions here that one scarcely knows where to begin to try to clarify. It is true that the Supreme Court found in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) that it's unconstitutional to require that creationism be taught in public schools, but in his majority opinion Justice Brennan wrote: "The [Louisianna act mandating Creationism] does not grant teachers a flexibility that they did not already possess to supplant the present science curriculum with the presentation of theories, besides evolution, about the origin of life. Indeed, the Court of Appeals found that no law prohibited Louisiana public school teachers from teaching any scientific theory. As the president of the Louisiana Science Teachers Association testified, 'any scientific concept that's based on established fact can be included in our curriculum already, and no legislation allowing this is necessary.'"

It is not clear, therefore, why a school board would be in violation of Edwards in wishing to furnish district students with textbooks that present evidence of other explanations of origins besides the Darwinian account. Edwards struck down an attempt by a state legislature to enact a law requiring that a view of origins which is based upon a particular interpretation of the Biblical book of Genesis be taught by all schools. A school board, however, is not a state legislature. It is the task of a school board to select texts they deem suitable for their students and which will help them attain the best possible education. The board, in carrying out this responsibility, may exercise poor judgment, may be mistaken, may be unwise, but it's hard to see how it violates Edwards.

In rendering his opinion in the Edwards case Justice Brennan sites the three prong test established in Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971). He writes: "First, the legislature must have adopted the law with a secular purpose. Second, the statute's principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion. Third, the statute must not result in an excessive entanglement of government with religion. State action violates the Establishment Clause if it fails to satisfy any of these prongs."

One thing seems clear about this. Lemon addressed a law enacted by a state legislature, it's not clear that it applies to a school board displaying a preference for one textbook over another.

Brennan also writes that: "Families entrust public schools with the education of their children, but condition their trust on the understanding that the classroom will not purposely be used to advance religious views that may conflict with the private beliefs of the student and his or her family. Students in such institutions are impressionable and their attendance is involuntary."

Just so. The problem that Justice Brennan and the editorial writer for my local paper don't see is that neither Darwinian evolution nor "Scientific Creationism" are scientific in the classic Baconian sense of the word. Darwinian evolution is the belief that blind, purposeless processes, acting over long periods of time, gave rise first to living cells, and then ultimately, to all the diversity of life which inhabits this planet. The theory insists that all life, indeed all of space-time, can be explained solely in terms of material causes. Darwinism goes on to assert that the universe is closed to any non-material interference from any entities existing "outside" of it.

Now whatever this is it's not an empirical theory. It's not science. It's a philosophical assumption that some scientists make about ultimate reality. As such it is pure metaphysics masquerading as science, and as Justice Brennan implies, teaching this to a captive audience of impressionable young people is seen by many parents as a betrayal of the trust that they placed in the school when they enrolled their children.

In my view, the proper approach for a concerned, conscientious school board to take is not to look for a book that teaches Creationism because Creationism is indeed a view based upon a particular religious interpretation of the Bible. It holds that the world and life were created by God in six days some ten thousand years ago. This may well be the case metaphysically, but it is hard to see how it can avoid the charge of being a religious dogma dressed up in scientific drag.

A much better way to present a balanced approach to the issue and to truly educate our children without entangling public tax dollars in sectarian controversy is that employed by Intelligent Design theorists. What they advocate is that a teacher be encouraged to present to his/her students the standard Darwinian model and then explain the evidence both for and against it. There is no constitutional objection to this methodology. It's what education should be and the way many of the best teachers, going all the way back to Socrates, have taught. As Darwin himself said in the Origin of Species, "A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question."

There are many scientific, empirical challenges to Darwinism, but the major challenge is philosophical. Philosophers and scientists have been telling us for some time that there is a mounting body of empirical evidence that leads to the conclusion that the universe, including the biosphere, is richly endowed with information. They argue that since we have a uniform experience of information being produced solely by intelligent minds, it is reasonable to assume, in lieu of evidence to the contrary, that the information contained in, for example, the elaborate and intricate cellular assembly line machines that generate proteins, is an artifact of intelligence, of a mind. Teachers should teach the biochemical facts of cellular machinery, ID theorists insist, and explain the emergence of this machinery in terms of blind, undirected, mechanical processes, if they wish. But we need to recognize that the claim that this machinery came about through impersonal, unintelligent agency is no less metaphysical, nor any more scientific, than the claim that it came about through personal intelligent agency. Therefore, if teachers are to be free to explain the origin of life, the emergence of cellular machines, and the appearance of consciousness in terms of mechanistic processes, and they should be, school boards certainly should have it within their purview to provide students with textbooks which also present arguments for the contrary view that these phenomena can best be explained in terms of intelligent agency.

Claims as to exactly who, or what, the intelligent agent is, or was, are not apposite. It could be the God of the Christians and Jews. It could be Allah. It could be Zeus. It could be aliens from a distant galaxy. Neither need there be controversy over how long ago the original biogenetic event took place. Whether it was 10,000 yrs. ago or 3 billion years ago is irrelevant to the fundamental question at issue. Likewise, there need be no debate over what means the intelligent agent used to bring higher life forms about. It could, indeed, have been a long process of evolution. Intelligent Design theorists are methodological agnostics on all these matters. The only question of concern to them as professional scientists and philosophers is: Do living things show the impress of design or are they the sorts of things that could plausibly be generated by physical forces and serendipity?

Put this way, the debate is not one of religion vs. science rather it is a debate between two different schools within the philosophy of science. It's a debate between those who think the cause of all we find in the world is material and those who think it is mind. It's a debate between those who believe the universe is closed and those who believe it is open. Since these questions are philosophical some may think they have no place in a science classroom, but I think this would be a mistake. Let's have students examine the scientific evidence and let them draw their own conclusions. It would also be a mistake, and an injustice, to arbitrarily privilege one school of thought while excluding the other. This would cheat our children, but it is what Darwinians are all too happy to do to protect their theory and themselves from criticism and to perpetuate their privileged status.