Saturday, July 9, 2005

Not a Fair Fight

Reading the transcript of the exchange between Ron Reagan, Jr. and Christopher Hitchens at Radio Blogger reminded me of watching Muhammad Ali pummeling some hopelessly inept opponent who had no business being in the ring with Ali in the first place. If he has any instinct for self-preservation, Reagan will avoid sparring with the likes of Hitchens again.

From MSNBC's Connected: Coast to Coast

RR: Christopher, I'm not sure that I buy the idea that these attacks are a sign that we're actually winning the war on terror. I mean, how many more victories like this do we really want to endure?

CH: Well, it depends on how you think it started, sir. I mean, these movements had taken over Afghanistan, had very nearly taken over Algeria, in a extremely bloody war which actually was eventually won by Algerian society. They had sent death squads to try and kill my friend Salman Rushdie, for the offense of writing a novel in England. They had sent death squads to Austria and Germany, the Iranians had, for example, to try and kill Kurdish Muslim leaders there. If you make the mistake that I thought I heard you making just before we came on the air, of attributing rationality or a motive to this, and to say that it's about anything but itself, you make a great mistake, and you end up where you ended up, saying that the cause of terrorism is fighting against it, the root cause, I mean. Now, you even said, extraordinarily to me, that there was no terrorist problem in Iraq before 2003. Do you know nothing about the subject at all? Do you wonder how Mr. Zarqawi got there under the rule of Saddam Hussein? Have you ever heard of Abu Nidal?

RR: Well, I'm following the lead of the 9/11 Commission, which...

CH: Have you ever heard of Abu Nidal, the most wanted man in the world, who was sheltered in Baghdad? The man who pushed Leon Klinghoffer off the boat, was sheltered by Saddam Hussein. The man who blew up the World Trade Center in 1993 was sheltered by Saddam Hussein, and you have the nerve to say that terrorism is caused by resisting it? And by deposing governments that endorse it?

RR: No, actually, I didn't say that, Christopher.

CH: At this stage, after what happened in London yesterday?

RR: What I did say, though, was that Iraq was not a center of terrorism before we went in there, but it might be now.

CH: How can you know so little about...

RR: You can make the claim that you just made about any other country in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia.

CH: Absolutely nonsense.

RR: So do you think we ought to invade Saudi Arabia, where most of the hijackers from 9/11 came from, following your logic, Christopher?

CH: Uh, no. Excuse me. The hijackers may have been Saudi and Yemeni, but they were not envoys of the Saudi Arabian government, even when you said the worst...

RR: Zarqawi is not an envoy of Saddam Hussein, either.

CH: Excuse me. When I went to interview Abu Nidal, then the most wanted terrorist in the world, in Baghdad, he was operating out of an Iraqi government office. He was an arm of the Iraqi State, while being the most wanted man in the world. The same is true of the shelter and safe house offered by the Iraqi government, to the murderers of Leon Klinghoffer, and to Mr. Yassin, who mixed the chemicals for the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. How can you know so little about this, and be occupying a chair at the time that you do?

RR: I guess because I listen to the 9/11 Commission, and read their report, and they said that Saddam Hussein was not exporting terror. I suppose that's how, Christopher.

CH: Well, then they were wrong, weren't they?

RR: No, maybe they just needed to listen to you, Christopher.

CH: Well, I'm not sure that they actually did say that. What they did say was they didn't know of any actual operational connection...

RR: That's right. No substantive operational connection.

CH: ...which was the Iraqi Baath Party and...excuse me...and Al Qaeda. A direct operational connection. Now, that's because they don't know. They don't say there isn't one. They say they couldn't find one. But I just gave you a number, I would have thought, of rather suggestive examples.

We don't agree with Hitchens on much, but on the WOT he's right on the mark. He makes a dilettante like Reagan look like a high school freshman in his first forensics tournament.

Blaming Blair

TruthOut.Org posts Robert Fisk's recent column blaming Tony Blair for the London bombings:

The Reality of This Barbaric Bombing By Robert Fisk

"If you bomb our cities," Osama bin Laden said in one of his recent video tapes, "we will bomb yours." There you go, as they say. It was crystal clear Britain would be a target ever since Tony Blair decided to join George Bush's "war on terror" and his invasion of Iraq. We had, as they say, been warned. The G8 summit was obviously chosen, well in advance, as Attack Day.

And it's no use Mr Blair telling us yesterday that "they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear". "They" are not trying to destroy "what we hold dear". They are trying to get public opinion to force Blair to withdraw from Iraq, from his alliance with the United States, and from his adherence to Bush's policies in the Middle East. The Spanish paid the price for their support for Bush - and Spain's subsequent retreat from Iraq proved that the Madrid bombings achieved their objectives - while the Australians were made to suffer in Bali.

This is the classical language of appeasers. Let evil people alone, show them you mean them no harm, and maybe you'll escape their notice. It is the spirit of Neville Chamberlain who sought to mollify Hitler by groveling, and it's the antithesis of Edmund Burke who famously wrote that "All that's necessary for evil to prevail in the world is for good men to do nothing." It's obvious that Fisk prefers Chamberlain to Burke.

It is easy for Tony Blair to call yesterdays [sic] bombings "barbaric" - of course they were - but what were the civilian deaths of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the children torn apart by cluster bombs, the countless innocent Iraqis gunned down at American military checkpoints? When they die, it is "collateral damage"; when "we" die, it is "barbaric terrorism".

This again is classic Leftist rhetoric, and it is intellectually vacuous. Fisk wants to draw a moral equivalency between the loss of life due to accident and inadvertence, despite strenuous attempts to prevent it, in the campaign to liberate Iraq from Hussein, and the deliberate murders perpetrated by people who thank God that they were able to kill civilians. Fisk's logic would force him to conclude that the loss of life of German, Italian, or Japanese civilians in WWII was unjustified by the attempt to defeat Hitler and his allies and morally equivalent to what Hitler did to Jews in his extermination camps and the Japanese did to the Chinese in Nanking.

If we are fighting insurgency in Iraq, what makes us believe insurgency won't come to us? One thing is certain: if Tony Blair really believes that by "fighting terrorism" in Iraq we could more efficiently protect Britain - fight them there rather than let them come here, as Bush constantly says - this argument is no longer valid.

The British aren't fighting an insurgency in Iraq. They're fighting terrorists. The attempt to somehow ennoble the enemy by calling them insurgents is disingenuous. They are in large part thugs, former Saddamites, proxies for foreign terrorists or foreigners themselves.

Moreover, why does Fisk suggest that anyone believed that terrorism wouldn't come to English shores? Everyone knew it would just as we know they will strike again in the U.S. The tacit assumption of Fisk's question that some people thought they were secure from attack because terrorists are being fought in the Middle East is absurd.

To time these bombs with the G8 summit, when the world was concentrating on Britain, was not a stroke of genius. You don't need a PhD to choose another Bush-Blair handshake to close down a capital city with explosives and massacre more than 30 of its citizens. The G8 summit was announced so far in advance as to give the bombers all the time they needed to prepare. A co-ordinated system of attacks of the kind we saw yesterday would have taken months to plan - to choose safe houses, prepare explosives, identify targets, ensure security, choose the bombers, the hour, the minute, to plan the communications (mobile phones are giveaways). Co-ordination and sophisticated planning - and the usual utter ruthlessness with regard to the lives of the innocent - are characteristic of al-Qa'ida. And let us not use - as our television colleagues did yesterday - "hallmarks", a word identified with quality silver rather than base metal.

And now let us reflect on the fact that yesterday, the opening of the G8, so critical a day, so bloody a day, represented a total failure of our security services - the same intelligence "experts" who claim there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when there were none, but who utterly failed to uncover a months-long plot to kill Londoners.

This is a cheap shot at people who work under a terrific stress and do the best job humanly possible to protect individuals like Robert Fisk from harm. Because they're not perfect, because they're not omniscient, because the WOT is not a real life James Bond movie, Fisk holds them in contempt and piles them high with guilt for their failure and alleged incompetence. Nice guy.

Trains, planes, buses, cars, metros. Transportation appears to be the science of al-Qa'ida's dark arts. No one can search three million London commuters every day. No one can stop every tourist. Some thought the Eurostar might have been an al-Qa'ida target - be sure they have studied it - but why go for prestige when your common or garden bus and Tube train are there for the taking.

Having just faulted the British security forces for their "utter failure" he admits they have an impossible job. Mr. Fisk's essay is taking on the aspect of incoherence.

And then come the Muslims of Britain, who have long been awaiting this nightmare. Now every one of our Muslims becomes the "usual suspect", the man or woman with brown eyes, the man with the beard, the woman in the scarf, the boy with the worry beads, the girl who says she's been racially abused. I remember, crossing the Atlantic on 11 September 2001 - my plane turned round off Ireland when the US closed its airspace - how the aircraft purser and I toured the cabins to see if we could identify any suspicious passengers. I found about a dozen, of course, totally innocent men who had brown eyes or long beards or who looked at me with "hostility". And sure enough, in just a few seconds, Osama bin Laden turned nice, liberal, friendly Robert into an anti-Arab racist.

And this is part of the point of yesterday's bombings: to divide British Muslims from British non-Muslims (let us not mention the name Christians), to encourage the very kind of racism that Tony Blair claims to resent.

What the point of these sentences is is very hard to divine, although Fisk does seem to wish to cast doubt on Tony Blair's sincerity in opposing racism. He offers no evidence that Blair is insincere, but then evidence for someone like Mr. Fisk is not important. When you're spraying aspersions like machine gun fire you just try to hit as many targets as you can.

But here's the problem. To go on pretending that Britain's enemies want to destroy "what we hold dear" encourages racism;

It does? Again we have an unsupported assertion that we're just supposed to accept on Mr. Fisk's authority. We wonder, though, whether it encouraged racism when Mr. Fisk's parents' generation was told the truth about the Nazis. It would seem to more rational minds that telling the truth about one's enemies encourages a resolve to defeat them, as well it should. Only a liberal would fret that the truth might cause someone somewhere to entertain an ill thought about Muslims everywhere.

[W]hat we are confronting here is a specific, direct, centralised attack on London as a result of a "war on terror" which Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara has locked us into.

So, the fact that there are murderous savages in London who will kill commuters when given the chance is Blair's fault. If only Blair had stayed out of Iraq he might have been able to buy a few years of peace from the Islamists who don't really despise everything the crusader infidel British stand for, despite what they say. Fisk doesn't seem to have learned anything from English history. People like him were making the same argument in 1939 about Adolf Hitler. They argued vehemently against preparing for war because it would only provoke Herr Hitler who promised to be reasonable so long as he just didn't feel threatened. It wasn't the Fisk avatar Neville Chamberlain who understood the nature of German fascism and the intent of the Nazis, it was Winston Churchill, who would doubtless have done in Iraq what Tony Blair is doing.

Just before the US presidential elections, Bin Laden asked: "Why do we not attack Sweden?" Lucky Sweden. No Osama bin Laden there. And no Tony Blair.

Yes, Sweden is lucky. They're lucky because historically England and the United States have stood against tyranny and protected nations like Sweden whose military could scarcely quell a pub brawl. Sweden is lucky today because Tony Blair is in England and George Bush is in the U.S. or else Osama Bin Laden might very well be in Stockholm lopping off Swedish heads. If he were such as Mr. Fisk would find some way to blame the Swedes for it.

A New Holiday

It's not hard to understand why secular leftists don't feel at home in America today. Consider the major holidays we celebrate: New Years' Day, President's Day, Good Friday and Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Out of all of these there are only two in which a Leftist can feel comfortable: New Years' Day, a secular holiday, and Labor Day, a time to honor the nation's workers.

All the rest must be a source of irritation and alienation for someone who despises the successes of capitalism and who disdains Christian belief. Surely, socialists and materialists will not care to join in honoring dead white males like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln on Presidents' Day. Washington was a slave owner and Lincoln forced the nation to fight a war that took half a million lives. Nor do people of the secular left care to observe Memorial Day which honors American soldiers, a species many on the Left regard with barely concealed contempt. Fourth of July is especially unpleasant, full as it is of the detestable trappings of patriotism and "My country right or wrong" sentimentality.

The remaining holidays are celebrations for those lobotimized, uneducated "Christers" who seek to force their silly superstitions on the rest of the country. In the ideal secular society they would not even exist. Thanksgiving could be a decent enough holiday from a socialist perspective if the idea were to give thanks to the government for its manifold blessings, but it's a little inane to be giving our thanks to Someone who's not out there to receive them.

All in all, the calendar must be a source of dismay and annoyance for those who see nothing much worth celebrating, either in the history or the religion of this country. They would be far happier, presumably, if instead of honoring Washington, Lincoln, and God incarnate we instead celebrated the birthdays of Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche, and Freud.

They could, perhaps, lump them all into a single observance and call it "Screw Up the World" Day.

Compare and Contrast

Let's do a compare and contrast between how Taliban prisoners are treated by their captors at Gitmo and how American soldiers are treated by their captors in Afghanistan:

At Gitmo the Muslims are given prayer rugs, Korans, good food, exercise, and no physical suffering (as long as they don't get violent or abusive). Their religious requirements are catered to (To paraphrase Ann Coulter, finally there is a place where people are free to express their religion with American taxpayer support without the ACLU getting hysterical. Unfortunately, it's at Gitmo.). Many of the detainees have been released from their imprisonment and have turned up back on the battlefield (about a dozen have been killed there.)

Now what about how Muslims treat American prisoners:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (July 9) - A purported Taliban spokesman said Saturday that the group has beheaded a missing American commando....

"This morning in Shagal district in Kunar province, the Taliban killed the American soldier and cut his head off," Mullah Latif Hakimi, the purported spokesman, told The Associated Press in a telephone call. "We left the body on a mountainside in this area so Afghan or U.S. soldiers there can find it."

The difference between Americans and Michael Moore's "Minutemen" is the difference between civilization and barbarism, between human and sub-human. To use Tolkienian imagery these people are brainwashed Orcs in the service of a demonic theology. And Muslims who remain silent about such horrors done in the name of their blessed religion robotically recite the chant that it's America who is the Great Satan.

Maybe Darwin was right.