Monday, November 1, 2004

Osama's Choice

Yigal Carmon, the president of the highly respected Middle East Media Research Institute, calls our attention to the correct translation of bin Laden's words on the video which was made public last Friday:

The tape of Osama bin Laden that was aired on Al-Jazeera on Friday, October 29th included a specific threat to "each U.S. state," designed to influence the outcome of the upcoming election against George W. Bush. The U.S. media in general mistranslated the words "ay wilaya" (which means "each U.S. state") to mean a "country" or "nation" other than the U.S., while in fact the threat was directed specifically at each individual U.S. state. This suggests some knowledge by bin Laden of the U.S. electoral college system. In a section of his speech in which he harshly criticized George W. Bush, bin Laden stated: "Any U.S. state that does not toy with our security automatically guarantees its own security."

The Islamist website Al-Qal'a explained what this sentence meant: "This message was a warning to every U.S. state separately. When he [Osama Bin Laden] said, 'Every state will be determining its own security, and will be responsible for its choice,' it means that any U.S. state that will choose to vote for the white thug Bush as president has chosen to fight us, and we will consider it our enemy, and any state that will vote against Bush has chosen to make peace with us, and we will not characterize it as an enemy.

By this characterization, Sheikh Osama wants to drive a wedge in the American body, to weaken it, and he wants to divide the American people itself between enemies of Islam and the Muslims, and those who fight for us, so that he doesn't treat all American people as if they're the same. This letter will have great implications inside the American society, part of which are connected to the American elections, and part of which are connected to what will come after the elections."

Another interesting aspect of the speech is the fact that while bin Laden made his specific threat to each U.S. state, he also offered an election deal to the American voters, attempting to influence the election by these means rather than influencing it through terrorist attacks.

In other words, bin Laden joins Kim Jong Il and a host of other tyrants, terrorists, and lesser whackos around the world in telling Americans that it is in our interests to elect John Kerry as our president. Vote for Kerry, the terrorists' choice.

One of the most interesting aspects of MEMRI's analysis is this:

Another conspicuous aspect of the tape is the absence of common Islamist themes that are relevant to the month of Ramadan, which for fundamentalists like bin Laden is the month of Jihad and martyrdom. Noticeably absent from the Al-Jazeera tape was his usual appearance with a weapon, and more importantly the absence of references to Jihad, martyrdom, the Koran, the Hadith (Islamic tradition), Crusaders, Jews, and the legacy of the Prophet Muhammad on the duty to wage Jihad against the infidels. For the followers of the Al-Qa'ida ideology, this speech sends a regressive and defeatist message of surrender, as seen in the move from solely using Jihad warfare to a mixed strategy of threats combined with truce offers and election deals.

This strongly suggests that George Bush's strategy for fighting terrorism is working. Al Qaida is demoralized and hoping to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat by effecting a change in the way the United States is fighting the war against him. Their best hope, evidently, is to get John Kerry elected. Good grief.

Will We Be What We Have Been

Charles Krauthammer refreshes our memories regarding one of the greatest feats of liberation in the history of world civilization. We refer to the victory over the exceedingly repressive regime imposed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Krauthammer writes that:

In 2001, we had nothing there. What had the Clinton administration left in place? No plausible military plan. Virtually no intelligence. No local infrastructure. No neighboring bases. The Afghan Northern Alliance was fractured and weak. And Pakistan was actively supporting the bad guys.

Within days of Sept. 11, the clueless airhead president that inhabits Michael Moore's films and Tina Brown's dinner parties had done this: forced Pakistan into alliance with us, isolated the Taliban, secured military cooperation from Afghanistan's northern neighbors, and authorized a radical war plan involving just a handful of Americans on the ground, using high technology and local militias to utterly rout the Taliban.

President Bush put in place a military campaign that did in two months what everyone had said was impossible: defeat an entrenched, fanatical, ruthless regime in a territory that had forced the great British and Soviet empires into ignominious retreat. Bush followed that by creating in less than three years a fledgling pro-American democracy in a land that had no history of democratic culture and was just emerging from 25 years of civil war.

This is all barely remembered and barely noted. Most amazing of all, John Kerry has managed to transform our Afghan venture into a failure - a botched operation in which Bush let Osama bin Laden get away because he "outsourced" bin Laden's capture to "warlords" in the battle of Tora Bora.

The liberation of Afghanistan is quite literally an astonishing feat, one that could not have been accomplished apart from force of arms, a fact that those on the left who say that war never settled anything might do well to ponder. Nor could it have been accomplished without extraordinary leadership from the Commander-in-Chief on down. It is almost impossible to imagine this achievement, for which Americans should be extremely proud, having occured under a Kerry administration. Senator Kerry's whole approach to terrorism and his disdain for the military make an expedition such as the Bush team put together in Afghanistan quite unthinkable under a President Kerry.

Krauthammer's essay, which has a lot more to say than the excerpts quoted above, implicitly reminds us of how much is at stake in tomorrow's election. Tomorrow we will decide what kind of nation we will be for the next decade. Will we continue to be the hope of oppressed peoples everywhere as we were under Ronald Reagan and as we have been under George Bush or will we be a nation fashioned after the image of Michael Moore? Will we continue to be the hope of those who live in fear of Islamo-terrorism as we have been under George Bush or will we withdraw from the fray and become a reactive force, as John Kerry has suggested he prefers, rather than the proactive force we have been under President Bush? Will we continue to be a nation that does what is right even if others refuse to join us or will we be a nation which must pass John Kerry's "global test", i.e. get approval from the French, before we can act to oppose terrorism and other threats against our security? Will we be a nation whose president has the endorsement of most of the world's worst tyrants and anti-semites, will we be a nation whose president is the man Osama Bin Laden has recently tacitly endorsed, or will we be a nation whose president is a threat to tyrants and terrorists everywhere? We'll know in thirty six hours.

Why Not Kerry

Saint Augustine speaks in his Confessions of his eagerness to meet and hear the Manichean hero Faustus who had a great reputation for eloquence. Upon finally hearing him explain the Manichean philosophy, however, Augustine was disappointed, not in Faustus' agility with the language, but rather in his ideas. He writes:

"[Faustus' ideas] seemed to me no better merely because [they] were expressed better, nor true because eloquent....[People] thought him wise simply because they liked his speaking....[Yet] a thing was not bound to be true because uttered eloquently, nor false because the utterance of the lips is ill-arranged....plain or beautiful language may clothe wisdom or folly indifferently."

These words come to mind as we reflect upon the political campaign which is heading for its denouement this Tuesday. John Kerry has said much these last twelve months and much of it he has delivered with great oratorical flourish and skill. President Bush, on the other hand, will never be considered to be the second coming of Demosthenes. Even so, eloquence has nothing to do with either truth or wisdom, and we shouldn't be blinded to the import and truth of one's words by the raiment in which they are attired.

To assess whether Senator Kerry has the "Right Stuff" to be president one needs to attend not merely to what he says or how seductively he says it, but rather to what he has accomplished in his public life.

In the early seventies the young John Kerry played a significant role in getting the United States to abandon the South Vietnamese to the armies of Ho Chi Minh resulting in the slaughter or imprisonment of tens of thousands of people who had placed their hope and trust in the U.S. to defend them. John Kerry's efforts to end our involvement in the war included defaming the American military and indirectly making life worse for the P.O.W.s being held in North Vietnam. For his contribution to an eventual N.V.A. victory he has had his photograph placed on a wall of honor in a North Vietnamese war museum.

We may argue about the quality of his judgment, or whether his behavior was actually treasonous or not. But what seems to be beyond dispute is that the North Vietnamese saw him as an ally, or, in Lenin's terms, at the least a "useful idiot", in their struggle against the United States.

Moreover, Mr. Kerry saw that war as a colossal mistake, a tragic blunder, and his prescription was to pull out immediately. Today we're engaged in another war which Senator Kerry regards as a colossal mistake and a tragic blunder. He says that as president he will nevertheless prosecute it until we win, but what in his record gives us reason to believe he's being truthful? If he was right about Vietnam he has no reason to treat Iraq any differently, and if he now thinks he was wrong about Vietnam he has never said so. If personal history is a reliable guide, a President Kerry will pull our troops out of Iraq as soon as he can, and the Iraqi people will be at the mercy of the brutal thugs who circle like hyenas waiting for the opportunity to destroy the Iraqi experiment in freedom and all who have put their trust in America to see that experiment through.

In the eighties Mr. Kerry was elected to the Senate where he compiled a record noteworthy only for it's un-noteworthiness. After twenty years of service he has no significant legislation to his credit, he has served in no real leadership capacity, he amassed a voting record that has placed him among the most left-wing members of the Senate, and his attendance at committee meetings has been abysmal. He voted consistently to raise taxes, diminish the military, and weaken our intelligence gathering capabilities. There is nothing in his tenure in Congress which exhibits the grain of presidential timber, which is doubtless why his acceptance speech at the convention last July doted so lovingly on his Vietnam service and hardly at all on his Senate career.

Since the convention he has spent the campaign blaming George Bush for everything from vaccine shortages to alleged missing explosives in Iraq, as if Bush worked in the lab that produced the vaccine and was himself standing guard at al Qaqaa. His campaign has been marked by charges and allegations which have either a very tenuous hold on, or are completely divorced from, reality. He has faulted "this president" for a terrible economy despite the fact that unemployment is lower now than it was during the Clinton years. He has faulted "this president" for invading Iraq without the blessing of the French, even though the French had been bought by Saddam and nobody could have persuaded them to join the coalition that was about to derail their oil-for-food gravy train. He faulted this president for botching the post-war in Iraq even though the Iraqi economy is strengthening almost daily, Iraqis are on track to hold the first democratic elections in their history in a few months, and 25 million of them are free of state terror for the first time in generations. Moreover, the insurgency in Iraq is in its death throes as the Iraqi military and police gain in competence and numbers and assume the delicate task of killing the Islamo-terrorists without antagonizing the Muslim citizenry.

Mr. Kerry's attempts during the campaign to appear pious and "manly" seem contrived and spurious. He has made it a point to attend church services every Sunday the last few months, but this is in stark contrast to the pattern he has established throughout his adult life. His goose-hunting foray was made risible by his purchase of the required license when he asked a clerk if he could "get me a hunting license here."

He repeatedly gives the impression of being willing to say or do anything in order to squeeze an extra vote or two out of his audience. His eagerness to castigate the President over the al Qaqaa story without knowing whether the reports were true or not is but the latest example of a reckless opportunism that goes back at least to his military days.

The Senator has manufactured crises where no crisis exists. He has accused this administration of blocking stem cell research, of planning to suppress the minority vote, of planning to deprive the elderly of social security, of planning to reinstate the draft, but none of these allegations is even remotely true, or even plausible. Similarly untrue are claims he has made for himself such as the claim to have met with the members of the Security Council for in-depth discussions prior to the invasion of Iraq, a claim flatly denied by the relevant U.N. representatives.

John Kerry himself promises us that he has a "plan" for every ill besetting our polity, but either his plan looks very similar to what the President is already doing, as in his plan for Iraq, or the numbers in his plan don't add up, as in his plan to rollback the Bush tax cut and to use that revenue to pay for all the programs he has promised. Or, most often, the plan goes unarticulated and remains a mystery.

Mr. Kerry can lay claim to only a single qualification for the presidency, if it even be a qualification: He is an eloquent and persuasive speaker. But as Augustine pointed out over 1600 years ago, eloquence has nothing to do with truth. Nor does it have anything much to do with leadership. Like pumice stone which gives the appearance of possessing weight, but which, upon hefting, one is surprised to find so airy, John Kerry's rhetorical graces mask an inner lightness that is totally inadequate for the stresses and tests which lie ahead of our nation.

In these times we need a president who has demonstrated both leadership and character. George Bush is not perfect, but he possesses those two particular virtues in abundance. John Kerry, by contrast, is a "hollow man" who has never evinced either. He offers no compelling reason to elect him and numerous reasons to blanch at the thought of a Kerry presidency. Viewpoint urges its readers not to base their votes on Tuesday upon superficial eloquence but rather upon each man's character and the capacity each has demonstrated to lead us in the continuing war against Islamo-fascist terrorism.