Thursday, June 28, 2007

Vatican on Islam: 'We're Really Just Friends'

It’s often said that God is in the details.

With that in mind I draw some encouragement from Pope Benedict XVI’s new appointment of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran to head the Vatican office, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID), specializing in relations with Muslims. (“Vatican to back moderate Muslims”).

The reason I’m encouraged is that Cardinal Tauran’s first remarks, as reported by the AP, point to a badly needed dose of realism in the Church’s approach to Islam:

"We must help our Muslim friends rediscover the roots of their religion and therefore favor these moderate Muslims achieve a dialogue that will bring a civil and harmonious cohabitation," Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran said.

Okay, it comes across a lot like the same old skim-milk at first. But for a Church that has raised the bond of husband and wife from a mere human contract to the status of a sacrament, the purely earthbound, provisional, and civil arrangements captured by the expression “cohabitation” couldn’t be more clear. This is not a relationship made in heaven.

More important still, Cardinal Tauran refers to “our Muslim friends,” a sea-change from the way Church leaders until recently, and for far too long, have blithely referred to Muslims as our “brothers.” No more pretense of a spiritual bond here. Mohammed is not Christ’s brother, nor ours. Instead, let’s see if we can just manage to co-exist on the same planet without too much bloodshed.

The PCID was formerly headed by Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, whom lots of credential-happy experts praised as “terrific” (“From red Guccis to flip-flops”). The most prominent, Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese, called the decision to reassign Fitzgerald as “The Pope's worst decision so far.” The leftist press loves to call Fr. Reese “an expert on the Vatican,” (“Quiet pope confounds expectations”). But that’s like calling Chuck Schumer an expert on George Bush’s Justice Department. Virulent hatred hardly qualifies as expertise.

The truth is that Fr. Reese, and critics like him, subscribe to the view that the Church would be much better off in the hands of real experts, and kept out of the hands of amateurs, presumably to help correct Christ’s culturally-conditioned shortsightedness two thousand years ago when he turned things over to an unschooled fisherman and a tentmaking Pharisee with anti-intellectual tendencies.

This kind of snobbery is why Fr. Reese could see nothing more in Pope Benedict’s brilliant speech in Regensburg last year than the Vatican saying “something dumb about Muslims.” Fr. Reese thinks "It would be better for Pope Benedict to have Fitzgerald close to him," (“Pope remarks reveal harder stance”), Benedict preferably wearing a leash the Archbishop could yank whenever the Vicar of Christ was about to say something wrong.

Yet I wonder where Fr. Reese and those who covet so deeply the valuable Islamic-Christian dialogue can point to any progress, anywhere, that has resulted from it?

Pope Benedict reassigned Archbishop Fitzgerald as papal nuncio to Egypt in February 2006, I'm figuring as a polite way of deposing him as head of the PCID, which the Vatican then said it was re-organizing. After a respectful pause, the Pope then installed the Cardinal.

I’m not a follower of Vatican intrigues, generally. I do know that, just as an American President, in spite of his best intentions, is constantly being foiled by the obstruction and disobedience of lifers at the State Department, so too do Popes find themselves swimming against the tide of the traditions, obstructions, and intrigues of the world’s oldest bureaucracy in Rome. Getting something big accomplished in Rome isn't always easy, and usually is a sign of supernatural intervention. (And supernatural intervention is invariably accompanied by yowls of pain from all the Reese-types declaring that the bold action was not approved by the scholars and the experts).

So I view this change in the Vatican's attitude towards Islam as a long-awaited victory of common sense, (not to mention sound theology), over the experts. If possible, the ecumencial experts on Islam have been even more wrong about Islamic brotherhood with infidels than the climate experts have been on global warming.

I'm wondering, too, if, along with wanting just to reform the PDIC on a more rational basis, the Pope’s reassignment of the Archbishop also had a pastoral end in mind.

Perhaps the Pope sensed that one of the dangers of expertise in a foreign culture is over-identification with the other, and a loss of memory of one's own identity. Perhaps the Archbishop needed a break from discussing the finer points of Arabic and the hadiths over tea with the world’s imams and sheikhs, and a reminder of the people being ground unseen beneath their feet.

There’s no way for me to know for certain is this is what the Pope had in mind. Yet, (Fr. Reese’s endorsement of Archbishop Fitzgerald’s qualifications as the Church’s premiere expert on Islam aside), I have no reason to doubt that, as a simple cleric, the Archbishop has every intention of accepting his new assignment with joyful obedience, (not something Fr. Reese has much expertise in).

And the way the Archbishop describes his new assignment is very interesting:

“’My task is to gather information on the political and social situation in the region which is useful for the Holy See, and to present the position of the Holy See on issues like human rights, religious liberty and the question of peace to the government of Egypt and the Arab League.’”
(“Dialogue with Islam”).

It’s easy for me to imagine that, between his mission to gather, first-hand, the facts on religious liberty and human rights in Egypt, (where there are neither), and the mission to stand for the Church’s exalted view of religious liberty and human freedom, (to which Islam is diametrically opposed) he is not going to be able to avoid having some of his more sanguine opinions about Islam revised a bit.

And if you wanted to send someone on a tour of of dhimmitude, and Islamic social and political dysfunction, all in one spot, one could not pick better than Egypt.

Freedom House’s Nina Shea’s most recent briefing to the House of Representatives in May of this year, “Religious Freedom in Egypt: Recent Developments”, describes religious freedom conditions in Egypt as “poor,” where violations against religious minorities and even non-conforming Muslims are widespread, along with “societal intolerance of and violence against Coptic Orthodox and other Christian denominations by Muslim extremists,” and the continued prevalence of anti-Semitic materials. The government consistently fails to prosecute growing Muslim violence against Christians.

As for Islamic-Christian “dialogue” in Egypt, Muslim-Egyptian Mona Eltahawy describes the dialogue as needed, but still non-existent:

“When an Egyptian nun coming out of a prayer service at St. George's Church in Alexandria is stabbed by a Muslim man in his 20s shouting the requisite ‘God is great,’ we need to talk.

“When thousands of Muslims attack seven churches in two Alexandria neighborhoods after someone distributes a DVD of a play deemed offensive to Islam (a play that was staged two years ago), and when three Muslims die and dozens are injured after riot police fire tear gas and use batons to dispel 5,000 protestors outside St. George's, we need to talk.

“When Christians in Alexandria, once a cosmopolitan home to Muslims, Christians and Jews alike, are afraid to leave their homes and when women remove crucifixes out of fear of violence and insult, we need to talk.

“I could go on, but you get my drift.”
(“Egypt's Christian-Muslim divide”)

And then a spokesman for an Egyptian organization called the Coptic News has said the following to WorldNetDaily:

“[B]ecause Egypt's constitution says that laws derive from the Quran, the persecution of Christians there is not only allowed, but endorsed, by government officials.

"’In the last 10 years, more than 5,000 Christians have been massacred in Egypt,’ he told WND. ‘Hundreds of businesses and homes first have been looted, then burned and destroyed. Churches have been burned and destroyed.

"’And you know what? Not one Muslim has been indicted, let alone convicted,’ he said.” ("Christian Fears Torture If Deported to Egypt”).

Nina Shea also describes the classic features of Egyptian Christians reduced to dhimmi status:

In addition to violence, Christians face official and societal discrimination. Christians are rarely found in high-level government and military posts, or in the upper ranks of the security services and armed forces. There are only a handful of Christians in the upper ranks of the security services and armed forces; one Christian governor out of 26; one elected Member of Parliament out of 444 seats; no known university presidents or deans; and very few legislators and judges. In addition, for all Christian groups, government permission must still be sought to build a new church or repair an existing church, and the approval process for church construction is time consuming and inflexible. Under Egyptian law, Muslim men can marry Christian women but Muslim women are prohibited from marrying Christian men. In February 2007, Muslim groups reportedly set fire to several Christian-owned shops in southern Egypt due to rumors of a relationship between a Muslim woman and a Coptic Christian man. Seven Muslims and one Coptic Christian were arrested on suspicion of taking part in these attacks. As in other case, it remains to be seen if justice will be served.

I don’t doubt that Archbishop Fitzgerald is now spending much of his time listening to the pleas of Egyptian Christians and other nonMuslims detailing for him the other side of the religion and the culture he has spent so many years loving, as only an expert and scholar can love.

But scholarship aside, the Archbishop started out long ago as a missionary to Africa, and if he’s in any way worthy of the title of bishop, he’ll take a lesson from the persecuted Egyptians he meets; maybe someday he’ll have something better to contribute to a genuine dialogue with Islam. Maybe he'll learn to look behind the deceitful smiles of the imams and the sheikhs.

Am I exaggerating the significance of the Vatican describing Muslims as friends instead of brothers? Would I be better off just crabbing that Islam has shown itself no more capable of friendship with the Christian west than it has of brotherhood, and that the idea of friendship is just as naïve as that of brotherhood?

I think the distinction is an important one. At least it's a small step in the right direction. And, I’m making a choice to be optimistic.

In a war that one side has been losing for a long time--losing from unawareness and ignorance of the enemy--to those trying to stave off final defeat any reversal of trend is a welcome step towards victory .

Monday, June 25, 2007

Deja Vu at the Beeb

The BBC has just conducted another study reaching a conclusion that its reporters are biased, displaying anti-Americanism, partiality towards Islam, and advocating on other pet issues. ("BBC report finds bias within corporation ")

Yes, we've been here before.

Previous slanderous statements against Tony Blair's government about "sexing up" intelligence to justify the decision to go to war in Iraq were thoroughly demolished by two independent inquires in the UK, first by Lord Hutton, ("Davies threatens to sue Campbell for libel"), and then by Lord Butler. ("Biters Bit").

The Lord Hutton report led to the resignation in disgrace of the chairman of the BBC. The Butler report settled once and for all that the infamous sixteen words about Iraq's effort to buy uranium from Africa were "well-founded," and not lies at all. "In the resulting furor, Gavyn Davies, the chairman of the BBC, and Greg Dyke, the BBC director general, along with the journalist responsible for the report, Andrew Gilligan, resigned."

The latest report finds that

"The BBC has failed to promote proper debate on major political issues because of the inherent liberal culture of its staff."

The report further states,

“There is a tendency to 'group think’ with too many staff inhabiting a shared space and comfort zone.

"A staff impartiality seminar held last year is also documented in the report, at which executives admitted they would broadcast images of the Bible being thrown away but not the Koran, in case Muslims were offended. "

In September 2005 Tony Blair attacked the BBC over its coverage of Hurricane Katrina, which he characterized as "'full of hatred of America' and 'gloating' at the country's plight." ("Blair attacks BBC for 'anti-US bias'"). Even Bill Clinton agreed, attacking the tone of the BBC's coverage of Katrina at a media seminar he was hosting, "He said it had been 'stacked up' to criticise the federal government's slow response."

(Which is nothing, really, to what the American press has done with Katrina, that is to turn it into a myth of racial genocide only slightly worse than Stalin's forced starvation of the Ukraine).

Yet it is the right that is forever being accused of being out of touch with reality, and it was George Bush whom Newseek portrayed on its cover inside a bubble, and called "the most isolated president in modern history." ("Newsweek’s Bush-In-The-Bubble Cover"). As we have been told for six years now, the President listens to no one (except in his worst moments, according to the more bilious and hysterical commentators, to Jesus), and consequently never hears a word that doesn't conform to his own hidebound policies.

On the other hand, we have also been told for six years that a large minority of the President's closest advisers, generals, intelligence chiefs, and foreign policy experts, (a minority that somehow is always "growing"), are soundly contradicting him all day long on every point of policy, but to no avail.

There's a minor historico-critical controversy over whether or not the famous New Yorker movie critic Pauline Kael ever actually said, of the 1972 landslide victory of Richard Nixon, that she was amazed by it, as she didn't know anyone who voted for Nixon. The revisionist version of this remark is that she didn't express amazement at Dick Nixon's election, but merely abstained from commenting on him, replying "I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don't know. They're outside my ken. But sometimes when I'm in a theater I can feel them."

I don't see how this version makes her look any better, as the latter comment is a frank admission that she lacked a single personal acquaintance amongst any of the 60% plus of the American electorate who voted for Nixon over George McGovern, (including New York state)--except she felt some kind of bad-vibe shudder when forced to occupy the same movie theater with one. This was the whole point of the jibe: liberals simply don't come outside their cliques to show any interest in the townies or the kitchen help--the great unwashed who are simply outside the ken of the progressives and the know-it-alls.

I really don't think even Bush's most vicious attackers could ever put words in his mouth to the effect that "I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who wants us to withdraw from Iraq, who frets over the US's popularity level abroad, or who thinks my tax cuts are a bad idea. I can just feel them out there."

Nor do the rest of us enjoy the protection of bubbles, as we are absolutely forced to confront, day in and day out, people who disagree, disrespect, and seem vowed to destroy everything that we hold valuable and worth saving.

But I digress. It is the liberal press, of which the BBC, CNN, and the New York Times, are only the most notorious examples, that once again find themselves on the hot seat for showing bias, sympathy for our enemies, and for letting themselves out cheap as spokesmen for our worst enemies. (E.g., Eason Jordan's refusal to report bad news from Saddam's Iraq, the New York Times and the Washington Post providing platforms for Hamas to justify their bloody coup in Gaza, and now the BBC, for the second time since 9/11, being caught out "sexing up" its news coverage of the war on terror to fit in with the personal biases of "too many staff inhabiting a shared space and comfort zone.")

It is a tried and true tactic of the Left to always accuse opponents of the very faults and failing with which the Left themselves are most beset, from bigotry to intolerance, and not least with refusal to consider other points of view.

Clearly they're the the ones in a bubble.

So anybody got a pin?

Fred Thompson Has an Opinion About CAIR

This is refreshing. Not only does former Senator, and possible presidential candidate Fred Thompson have a welcome forthrightness when he speaks on the issues, he doesn't seem to be afraid to give specifics.

In his column on last week he got right into it about CAIR. He veen went to the length of asking the obvious question about who finances this extremely troublseome organization.

After all: how does an organization that's lost 90% of its membership in the past six years manage to open 25 new chapters in major American cities at the same time?

Good News about CAIR

By Fred Thompson
Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I've talked before about the Council on American-Islamic Relations -- most recently because it filed that lawsuit against Americans who reported suspicious behavior by Muslims on a U.S. Airways flight. Better known just as CAIR, the lobbying group has come under a lot of scrutiny lately for its connections to terror-supporting groups. This time, though, The Washington Times has uncovered some very good news about the group.

For years, CAIR has claimed to represent millions of American Muslims. In fact, they claim to represent more Muslim in American than ... there are in America. This has alarmed Americans in general as the group often seems to be more aligned with our enemies than us -- which isn't surprising as it spun off from a group funded by Hamas. As you know, Hamas has been waging a terrorist war against Israel and calls for its total destruction. It also promises to see America destroyed. Nowadays, Hamas is busy murdering its Palestinian political rivals.

Even with this history, and CAIR's conspicuous failure to condemn Hamas by name, it has been treated as if represents Muslim Americans by our own government. The good news is that the financial support CAIR claims to have among American Muslims is a myth. We know this because The Washington Times got hold of the group's IRS tax records.

CAIR's dues-paying membership has shrunk 90 percent since 9/11 -- from 29,000 in 2000 to only 1,700 last year. CAIR's annual income from dues plunged from $733,000 to $59,000. Clearly, America's Muslims are not supporting this group -- and I'm happy to hear about it.
Of course, every silver lining seems to have a cloud; and this cloud is that CAIR's spending is running about $3 million a year. They’ve opened 25 new chapters in major cities across the country even as their dues shrank to a pittance. The question is; who’s funding CAIR?

CAIR's not saying. The New York Times earlier this year reported that the backing is from "wealthy Persian Gulf governments" including the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Obviously, we have a bigger problem here than the one with CAIR.

Foot-Washing Facilities at Stony Brook U

Here’s an interesting, rather amusing video introducing the Muslim Student Association (MSA), at Stony Brook University, which is part of the public State University of New York system (SUNY). The guy who made the video has a sense of humor, as you can see when he plays the role of all the MSA members himself.

The MSA is the ostensible movement pushing for ritual foot-washing facilities in public universities and colleges across the country, though the actual driving force we suspect is CAIR, which has taken full ownership in defense of the foot baths here at UM-Dearborn. (“The ACLU’s Non-Agression Pact with CAIR”)

The video gives a look into the prayer room provided to the Muslims at Stony Brook, (including the dividing screen behind which the Muslim “sisters” remain unseen). It also shows the “special wudu stations provided by the university,” of which the narrator is particularly proud.

Hamas in Gaza: 'Bowling for Columbine Really Got Us Thinking'

After declaring an Islamic state in the hell-hole on the sea known as Gaza, triumphant Hamas fighters showed a more progressive, right-thinking side to themselves by immediately undertaking efforts to rid Gaza of illicit guns.

As American gun-control activists know, and now even suicidal terrorists are aware, the mere existence of firearms causes violence to erupt spontaneously.

Still mistrustful Gazans have not been going along with Hamas's gun roundup.

The following from the AP:

Hamas faces tough road in trying to collect guns, leaving plenty of weapons in Gaza Strip

SARAH EL DEEB Associated Press Writer

(AP) - GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip-Instead of great quantities of weapons, the only items dropped off at a Hamas collection point were a metal door, a window frame and a faucet.

That scene in Gaza City on Thursday, the Hamas deadline for turning in illicit weapons, showed that the Islamic militant group faces serious trouble in getting its hands on Gaza's estimated 400,000 firearms.

The three discarded items fell under the category of "looted government property" that Hamas also demanded be turned in, but it was arms the group really wanted.

Hamas leaders threatened harsh punishment for anyone caught with guns after the deadline.

But in chaotic Gaza, where defeated Fatah militants are hiding out and clan grudges can flare into open warfare at any moment, few believe Hamas will recover even a fraction of the territory's arsenal.

Some Fatah fighters said they hid their weapons away from their homes so Hamas gunmen would not find them in searches. Some buried their weapons, including one who said he put his gun under the family chicken coop.

Others said they threw their rifles into the sea rather than risk them falling into Hamas hands.

"I prefer to shoot myself rather than give them my gun. I don't trust them at all," said a 33-year-old Fatah-affiliated security officer. He gave his name only as Abu Subhi for fear of retaliation from Hamas.

The Islamic militants scored a major success last week by securing many of the weapons held by Gaza's security forces, most of which were loyal to Fatah, analysts said. Hamas fighters captured the arms stored at security headquarters and used lists of officers to collect weapons at their homes.

"It looks to us that Hamas has succeeded in collecting the majority of the registered weapons that belong to the Palestinian security forces," said Hazem Abu Shanab, a Gaza-based political analyst.

Jamal al-Jarrah, commander of the Hamas militia known as the Executive Force, said Hamas had collected 90 percent of the security force weapons.

But the security forces had only 15,000 firearms - a number that pales against the 400,000 weapons estimated to be inside the Gaza Strip, analysts and former security officials said.

A measure of the difficulty of disarming the myriad private gangs came over the weekend in the southern city of Khan Younis, where Hamas forces and a clan known for drug smuggling fought a five-hour battle with mortars and automatic weapons. Two people were killed, but Hamas came away with only a fifth of the family's arsenal, a Hamas official said.

As part of its weapons collection campaign, Hamas sent cars with loudspeakers into the streets and made announcements from mosques warning defeated security officers not to keep their weapons. It also phoned them at home demanding their weapons and asked tribal leaders to negotiate an arms handover.

The group set up seven sites around Gaza City for people to drop off their weapons, including the Shafei mosque in the eastern part of Gaza City.

In the mosque's courtyard, young boys eagerly waited at a reception table with scrap paper, a pencil and a Quran, ready to collect and list guns or looted government property. All they got was the metal door, window frame and faucet. Someone also turned in a pocket knife.

Elsewhere, the group got back a truck that had been stolen from the intelligence security post.

Hamas said it wants only to gather weapons that might be used against it, and has no interests in firearms used for fighting Israel.

"Only those with clean hands should carry weapons. All the organizations that are using these guns to defend themselves against the occupation will be welcomed and supported," Mahmoud Zahar, a top Hamas official, told The Associated Press.

"But if people use guns to cause strife between families or to attack the official and unofficial institutions, they will be collected."

Hamas' mission has been made far more difficult by the rampant smuggling that brought arms into Gaza through tunnels under the Egyptian border - the source of much of Hamas' own arsenal.

The inflow of arms allowed many clans to build up their own militias with firepower and training rivaling the official security forces, a situation that was evident in Hamas' battle in Khan Younis last weekend.

Militants found themselves fighting a bitter battle in narrow alleys when they besieged the clan compound of the drug-smuggling clan, which was known for supporting Fatah.

Hamas stopped the fight after a clan leader agreed to hand over his fighters' weapons, said a clan security officer, who gave his name only as Abu Mohammed to keep his identity hidden from the militants.

The clan eventually turned over five rifles and a handgun. When asked if that was the family's whole arsenal, Abu Mohammed only smiled.

Maybe Hamas should consider an American-style buy-back program, which Iran should be only to happy to pay for.

Hamas's Friends in New York

We've always known that the media played favorites in its news and opinion pieces, but this is even more glaring an example than even we'd expect to see. We saw the following piece by Tom Gross at NationalReviewOnline:

Congratulations Hamas: Getting an opinion piece into the NY Times and Washington Post on the same day is unprecedented [Tom Gross]

While Hamas was still executing people in Gaza last week, including civilians, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the NY Times-owned International Herald Tribune all rushed to promote the propaganda of one of the world's most murderous terrorist groups.

Getting an opinion piece into the Times and the Post on the same day is unprecedented.

Congratulations Hamas!

Even Reuters acknowledges the achievement.

Hamas scores publicity coup in U.S.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Shunned by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization, the Islamist group Hamas scored a publicity coup this week by defending its policies in Gaza with opinion pieces in two of the country's most influential newspapers on the same day.

The New York Times and The Washington Post gave space to Ahmed Yousef, a senior Hamas figure, on Wednesday to argue that the United States should not interfere in Gaza, where Hamas took control after six days of bloody fighting against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah fighters.

Yousef is senior political adviser to Ismail Haniyeh, who became Palestinian prime minister after elections last year. He is now contesting his dismissal by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who formed a new government in the West Bank after Hamas took over Gaza.

[Gross continues]: Hamas leaders rarely have access to major U.S. media to express their views unfiltered, and getting an opinion piece into the Times and the Post on the same day appeared unprecedented.

Here is what the New York Times and the Washington Post didn’t put on their editorial page. This is what Ha'aretz reports this weekend:

Hamas was not using a random hit list. Every Hamas patrol carried with it a laptop containing a list of Fatah operatives in Gaza, and an identity number and a star appeared next to each name. A red star meant the operative was to be executed and a blue one meant he was to be shot in the legs - a special, cruel tactic developed by Hamas, in which the shot is fired from the back of the knee so that the kneecap is shattered when the bullet exits the other side. A black star signaled arrest, and no star meant that the Fatah member was to be beaten and released. Hamas patrols took the list with them to hospitals, where they searched for wounded Fatah officials, some of whom they beat up and some of whom they abducted.

Aside from assassinating Fatah officials, Hamas also killed innocent Palestinians, with the intention of deterring the large clans from confronting the organization. Thus it was that 10 days ago, after an hours-long gun battle that ended with Hamas overpowering the Bakr clan from the Shati refugee camp - known as a large, well-armed and dangerous family that supports Fatah - the Hamas military wing removed all the family members from their compound and lined them up against a wall. Militants selected a 14-year-old girl, two women aged 19 and 75, and two elderly men, and shot them to death in cold blood to send a message to all the armed clans of Gaza.

Reuters banished the word "terrorist" from its style book in 2001 in favor of less judgmental terms from its correspondents when they write about murderous or suicidal jihadists. For Reuters to notice that an outfit like Hamas is getting special treatment from the Establishment press speaks volumes.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Jimmy Carter Is Not Great, (With Apologies to Christopher Hitchens)

Former US President Jimmy Carter’s latest attack from foreign soil against the Bush administration was made this week in Ireland, where he proclaimed falsely, in addition to stupidly, that the Bush administration’s “refusal to accept the 2006 election victory of Hamas was ‘criminal.’” ("Carter: Stop favoring Fatah over Hamas").

Exercising the universal party perk enjoyed by all Democrats, Carter was free to make allegations of criminal wrongdoing without bothering about the customary meaning of the term “criminal,” which is that someone broke a law. Nowadays if you're a Democrat, anything you don't like in politics ipso facto qualifies as a “crime.” (You know how this works. AG Gonzales fires 8 at-will attorneys, so that’s a crime; Scooter Libby remembers a conversation with Tim Russert differently than Russert does, so that’s a crime; the US Congress authorizes the President to go to war in Iraq, and when he does so, that’s a crime.)

Strangely enough, Egypt has undertaken the exact same kind of isolating efforts against Hamas that the Bush administration did, to the point of calling a regional summit for next week (a summit to include Israel, no less), attempting to boost Mahmoud Abbas, and isolate Hamas, for substantially the same reasons:

“More than seeking peace with Israel, Egypt and other U.S. Arab allies are seeking to prevent the new power of Islamic radicals in Gaza from strengthening fundamentalists on their own soil. They also fear Gaza will become a stronghold for Iranian influence on their doorsteps." (“Egypt fights militancy at home with summit to isolate Hamas”),

We will wait to see if Carter extends his indictment of criminality to Egypt. Perhaps he can accuse Egypt, as he accused Tony Blair, of being "loyal, blind, apparently subservient" to the United States. ("Abominable. Blind. Subservient. Ex-President Carter lambasts Blair for support").

The US action that Carter denounces as “criminal” was that

“Far from encouraging Hamas's move into parliamentary politics…the US and Israel, with European Union acquiescence, has sought to subvert the outcome” of that election “by shunning Hamas and helping Abbas to keep the reins of political and military power.”

Carter’s comments ignore completely the intervening event that swung the US, Israel, the EU, and now even Egypt, into feverish efforts to prop up Fatah, namely, Hamas’s armed coup of last week, a coup that was followed immediately by Hamas’s cold-blooded executions of many of their political foes, and establishment of an Islamic state in Gaza. Even Carter, were he man enough to grapple with actual facts rather than his delusional worldview, should be able to recognize that shooting Fatah fighters in their legs is not a traditional parliamentary procedure--even in the Middle East.

Nor does Hamas's violence say much for the genuineness of Hamas’s desire to “move into parliamentary politics,” if they would exploit their superior arms, discipline, and cunning to vanquish their own partners in the now-dissolved unity government.

Carter conflates the US’s perfectly consistent foreign-policy decision after the 2006 elections--to deny support and aid to a known terrorist entity--with this week’s post-coup response to try to salvage Abbas’s government as the lesser of the two evils with whom, sooner or later, Israel and the rest of us are going to have to try to deal.

Only an act of (criminal?) obtuseness by Carter could prevent him betraying any awareness of Hamas’s own belligerent decision to violently seize one-party control and “subvert the outcome” of last year’s parliamentary election by means of a bloody coup. Carter has always been able to render invisible what he didn't want to see.

That, or he continues to show how he scorns mere earthly evidences in favor of the Inner Light that has always guided him.

Carter’s dangerousness is not that he holds a strict moral vision to which he always strives to measure up, but that he holds a strict moral vision that he thinks he reached long ago--reached it easily, in fact-- and has been impatiently missionizing the rest of us ever since.

Carter’s presidency was typified by this puritanical refusal to besmirch his immaculate self through any truckling with political uncleanness, preferring to scold the rest of the world from the high vantage point of his “absolute” commitment to “human rights.” To those who remember the Carter years, they weren't distinguished by any actual advance of human rights, and in fact saw them in serious retreat. But he was always true to the principles of his superior moral agenda, even if it was a disaster for the country and the world.

That’s what enabled him to sell out the Shah, (and along with him Iran, and what little was left of America’s post-Vietnam honor), and yet remain completely unable to understand the Ayatollah Khomenini and his fanatical Islamic revolution. He thought he could work with Muslims, sensing in the Iranian fanatics a similar 100% commitment to Higher Things.

In a 2004 article in the New York Post, ("America Can’t Do a Thing”), Amir Taheri described how even Khomeini couldn't believe Carter’s impotence in the wake of Iran's seizing of our embassy personnel:

According to his late son Ahmad, who had been asked to coordinate with the embassy-raiders, the ayatollah feared "thunder and lightning" from Washington. But what came, instead, was a series of bland statements by Carter and his aides pleading for the release of the hostages on humanitarian grounds.

Carter's envoy to the United Nations, a certain Andrew Young, described Khomeini as "a 20th-century saint," and begged the ayatollah to show "magnanimity and compassion."

Carter went further by sending a letter to Khomeini.

Written in longhand, it was an appeal from "one believer to a man of God."

Carter really thought he was on Khomeini’s wavelength, just one spiritual powerhouse to another.

Comments Taheri: “Carter's syrupy prose must have amused Khomeini, who preferred a minimalist style with such phrases as "we shall cut off America's hands."

And Carter's sense of his own rightness hasn't ever wavered from his last day in office until now. If anything, he has grown more certain of his message, of his absolute moral power, of his prophetic mission, even while growing more and more bitter at being outshined by such clear moral inferiors as Ronald Reagan and the hated George W. Bush.

It is this unteachable moral certainty, mixed with gall, that explains the petulant absurdities that come forth, as Christopher Hitchens has trenchantly observed, “Almost always, when former President Jimmy Carter opens his big, smug mouth.” (“Peanut envy”).

As a matter of fact, Hitchens’s recent attacks on religious belief makes use of Jimmy Carter as a handy exhibit--too handy, by far. To be sure I still have more in common with Carter’s religious views than Hitchens’s nasty atheism, but the latter really puts his finger on how Carter’s self-righteous certainties make him so shameless in his public comments. Describing how Carter not only messed things up in Iran, Iraq, and just about every place else in the ‘70s, while at the same time digging us into many of the same holes we're still in, Hitchens says:

If I had done such a thing, I would take very good care to be modest when discussions of Middle Eastern crises came up. But here's the thing about self-righteous, born-again demagogues: Nothing they ever do, or did, can be attributed to anything but the very highest motives.

Here is a man who, in his latest book on the Israel-Palestine crisis, has found the elusive key to the problem. The mistake of Israel, he tells us (and tells us that he told the Israeli leadership) is to have moved away from God and the prophets and toward secularism. If you ever feel like a good laugh, just tell yourself that things would improve if only the Israeli government would be more Orthodox. Jimmy Carter will then turn his vacantly pious glare on you, as if to say that you just don't understand what it is to have a personal savior.

If Hitchens had limited his infidel attacks to Carter and other similarly puffed-up jackasses, one could almost sympathize with his antipathy to any god who would send such sorry examples through the Earth as his prophets. Unfortunately, no doubt a bit carried away himself with the sound of his own English, Hitchens feels he has to attack even Mother Teresa.

At any rate, since Carter got himself de-selected by a fed-up electorate in 1980, he has continued pressing on the upward way to his personal Zion, in his own mind at any rate, achieving status as probably the second-holiest, and first most obnoxious, of the mystics of the Christian Left, following closely behind Bill Moyers. (Moyers’s wins out thanks to the miraculous gall he showed by going, practically straight from working as LBJ’s press secretary during Vietnam to permanent fixturedom at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, where he has been indoctrinating PBS viewers ever since. calls him the “conscience of American journalism.” (“The Salon Interview: Bill Moyers”) Gag me!)

Bush is going to get a mountain of criticism for throwing support behind Abbas and Fatah as “moderates,” when Arafat’s Fatah has never been anything but a gang of terrorists and thieves. I expect Bush figured the only alternative was to wash our hands of the tatters of Palestinian government all together, and let Israel have civil wars across two borders, and refugees fleeing over from noth east and west.

But I long ago figured out that the mark of being grown up is not the ability always to choose the absolute good over the obviously evil, but to choose between evils when no good choice presents itself--and then live with the consequences. Bush has been proving his manhood that way for seven years. And whenever something doesn't work out, he doesn't accuse Americans of suffering from malaise, or wag his finger from a high horse.

Carter never had any such fetters against which to struggle. Carter never had to grow up. He always found the choices stark and obvious, and he could sleep nights as long as he selected the right one, consequences be damned.

Now, as he flies from one peace confab to another, we all get to hear how he grows more prophetic and outspoken as he ages (though not more correct, because that would suggest he had ever been wrong). His utter lack of capacity to be wrong is where his authority comes from, and his self-confidence.

For criticizing the retiring Tony Blair on the BBC, calling him "loyal, blind, apparently subservient," Hitchens addresses Carter thus:

Show us your peanut envy. Heap insults on a guest in Washington: a thrice-elected prime minister who was the first and strongest ally of the United States on the most awful day in its recent history. A man who was prepared to risk his own career to be counted as a friend. A man who was warning against the Taliban, against Slobodan Milosevic, and against Saddam Hussein when George Bush was only the governor of Texas. Leaders like that deserve a little respect even when they are wrong—but don't expect any generosity or courtesy from the purse-mouthed preacher man from Plains, who just purely knows he was right all along, and who, when that fails, can always point to the numberless godly victories that he won over the forces of evil.

I think it is going to be Carter's smallness that determines his legacy in the end. He'll need two libraries: one to document the dismal record of his years in the White House, and one to memorialize his insufferable prattling in the years after. Even the simple things of the office that he could have preserved at no cost he was unable to keep intact, like the custom that ex-presidents don't criticize sitting ones, or that prominent Americans don't attack US foreign policy from foreign soil.

Not enough that he failed as President, (a difficult job for much better men than him), why does he have to keep reminding us of why we were so glad to see him out of office? (Full disclosure, I voted for him, twice. But I was still glad to see him go. Every sinner has a past, as Bill Bennett likes to quote).

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The ACLU's Non-Aggression Pact with CAIR

Dawud Walid, Executive Director of CAIR-Michigan, was making the rounds yesterday to WJR, the Detroit News, (“Muslims won't fund footbaths”), and on his own blog. (“Regarding funding of the "footbaths"). He was explaining the ACLU’s position on publicly-funded Muslim foot baths at UM-Dearborn.

Speaking to the Detroit News, he said that at one point CAIR “’was concerned a public outcry would cause the university to back down from the project.

"’If the ACLU had decided to take legal action against the UM-Dearborn, we probably would have called for the university to raise the funds privately, just so that the UM-Dearborn wouldn't have to go through the trouble of having to defend its position against the ACLU,’ Walid said.”

This awfully curious comment raises several other questions for me.

First off, what’s CAIR got to do with any of this? Terry Gallagher, flak catcher for UM-Dearborn on this issue, told Debbie Schlussel that “the foot baths are the result of 'years of ongoing negotiations with the Muslim Student Association.'" In other words, the proposed foot baths are supposed to be a “reasonable accommodation” provided in response to requests for same by actual UM-Dearborn students. The MSA, a shady organization with links to the Muslim Brotherhood, is at least on its face a national student organization with a chapter at UM-Dearborn. But now it is turning out (and we’re all shocked, shocked) that CAIR is the outfit taking ownership for this whole thing. Ever since this received any press in early June, Dawud Walid has been doing almost all the talking.

Which only leads to our next question: Why does Dawud Walid and CAIR-Michigan presume to speak, not for the MSA and the Muslim students at UM-Dearborn, but for “the Muslim community” in its entirety? In addressing a secondary issue of whether or not area Muslims, instead of taxpayers, should be paying for the foot baths, Mr. Walid says on his blog (“Regarding funding of the "footbaths"), quote:

The Muslim community has not stated that it would not fund the foot washing area. It would if need be.

“Since the school's position is that this is a public safety issue, which is not promoting one religion over others and that civil rights lawyers, Muslim and Non-Muslims, have informed us that the 'footbaths' being built with student activity fees is not unconstitutional, the need to privately fund the 'footbaths' does not appear to be incumbent.”

In spite of last week’s embarrassing revelations that CAIR has dwindled 90% down to only 1,700 paying members, CAIR still doesn't hesitate to speak for the entire Muslim community. (1,700 is CAIR's nation-wide membership, by the way. We don’t even know how few actually belong in Michigan, besides Dawud Walid). No matter. He seems to think there’s enough to entitle him to speak for all Muslims.

Our next question is, Why is it that Mr. Walid, CAIR, and “the Muslim community,” are all so confident of the legality of their demands for foot baths, simply because the ACLU says so? Isn’t it the American judicial system that makes determinations over whether a given action is constitutional or not?

Yes, indeed, but that’s only if someone files a legal action and forces the point, which is not always as easy as it sounds. And as far as Mr. Walid, the MSA, and CAIR seem to be concerned, the only potential party in this country who ever gets to file suits torpedoing other people's religious expressions or accommodations is the ACLU--and for some odd reason they aren’t interested in this one. In fact, their commentary on the matter has been laughable. Kary Moss, director of the Detroit branch of the ACLU, sloughed off the whole question of the foot baths by claiming the ACLU views "it as an attempt to deal with a problem, not an attempt to make it easier for Muslims to pray."

There really isn't any question any more that this is all intended to make it easier for Muslims to pray; Dawud Walid, Tarek Baydoun, and every other advocate of the idea wittingly or unwittingly admits as much every time they comment on the subject.

But it's wondrous to see how the eagle-eyed defenders of the First Amendment at the ACLU can overlook an 800-pound gorilla if they simply choose to "view it as...a problem," rather than "view an attempt to make it easier for Muslims to pray." Imagine if they chose to view intelligent design in public schools as an "attempt to deal with a problem" of inconsistencies within classical Darwinian evolution. You know: intelligent design's not a religious thing, it's an education thing.

For all that, one of Ms. Moss's colleagues in keeping religion out of public space, Hal Downs from the Michigan chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, disagrees with Kary Moss on the legality of the foot baths, telling the Detroit News that the Muslim advocates for the foot baths have "got a problem, because it's public money they're using to pay for this."

Which is only common sense, now, isn't it?

Except that neither CAIR, nor the MSA, nor even UM-Dearborn gives a damn if this is constitutional or not. Their only concern has ever been whether or not, all things considered, they can just get away with it.

All things considered, that is, meaning a University decision made in the shadows without public comment, a compliant press playing see-no-evil, and the most potent civil-rights advocacy group neutralized in advance by a non-aggression pact with CAIR, motivated by who-knows-what collateral advantage the ACLU hopes to obtain in return.

The proof of it is when Mr. Walid admits to the Detroit News:

"If the ACLU had decided to take legal action against the UM-Dearborn, we probably would have called for the university to raise the funds privately, just so that the UM-Dearborn wouldn't have to go through the trouble of having to defend its position against the ACLU.”

In effect saying, "if the ACLU isn’t going to drag us into court on this one, we couldn’t care less who else doesn’t like it."

Are you starting to get the feeling this whole thing has been rigged? Are you starting to feel taken advantage of? (Those questions are for you reading this, not for Dawud Walid).

Still I've got one more for him. The whole point of national CAIR, allegedly, is to “advocate for justice and mutual understanding,” and CAIR-Michigan states its mission is to "promote...the image of Muslims."

So the question is, How is forcing unwilling taxpayers to fund Islamic foot baths going to contribute to mutual understanding and promoting a favorable image of Muslims?

Mr. Walid never claims that the Islamic community, hundreds of thousands strong in this area, and by no means, in the aggregate, impoverished, is too poor to take on this expense themselves. Instead, he just says they're only going to pay for the UM foot baths if they have to. And they will only have to if they can’t get the public to pay the bill for them; and that's going to happen, for all practical purposes, only if the ACLU fights them on this. To wit, Mr. Walid says:

“Since the school's position is that this is a public safety issue, which is not promoting one religion over others and that civil rights lawyers, Muslim and Non-Muslims, have informed us that the 'footbaths' being built with student activity fees is not unconstitutional, the need to privately fund the 'footbaths' does not appear to be incumbent.”

Not incumbent? How about this for an alternative to not incumbent: it is incumbent for PR that the Muslim community doesn't once again stick its finger in the eye of the nonMuslim community CAIR and the rest are always claiming they want to build bridges to. Wouldn't it be a damned sight better for the Muslim community--the same community Mr. Walid and his cohorts at CAIR are endlessly telling us is so misunderstood and unappreciated by America’s nonMuslims--to at least offer to take this on themselves?

But in the end, they won't bother. This was never about building bridges or promoting image. It's about gaining one victory at a time. It's about jihad, inch by inch.

And the arithmetic is all on their side.

One unaccountable public official
one watchful press
zealous legal scrutiny
you and me paying somone else's freight bills to Paradise.

And that's just how easy it is to turn an 800-pound gorilla into a problem solved.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Islam in Miniature

The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to One. He advanced towards it trembling. The Phantom was exactly as it had been, but he dreaded that he saw new meaning in its solemn shape.

"Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point," said Scrooge, "answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?"

--Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Didn't conventional wisdom always hold that everything that’s wrong in the Middle East stems from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and (formerly) the Gaza strip?

Which was always nonsense, of course. The Arab Middle East’s biggest problem is not Israeli occupation, but Islam.

Friday’s CNSNews reports the following (“Gaza Residents Anticipate an Islamic Future”):

After days of violence, the Gaza Strip was quiet on Friday as citizens there awakened to a new Islamic reality.One Gaza resident said that while he and his family are physically fine, they feel "terrible" because they don't know what the future holds."Hamas militants are behaving politely," said an economist who asked not to be named.

Since Thursday night, people have been allowed to go out, he said. Hamas members allowed Gazans to visit a prison formerly controlled by the Fatah faction, showing them the jail cells and implements of torture in an effort to paint themselves as the good guys, the man said.Hamas has vowed to bring strict Islamic law to the Gaza Strip.

Remember: the ousted Fatah party was formed as the political sock-puppet of Yasser Arafat’s terrorist P.L.O. Overnight, the corrupt Palestinian Authority that Fatah inherited from its founder, and which it continued to administer in imitation of Arafat’s thieving, murderous, obstructionist, and duplicitous style, is now the clearly more moderate of the two feuding terrorist groups.

“Moderate” in this context is a purely relative term. Fatah was always more secular than Hamas, and when backed into a corner was finally willing to say it recognized Israel’s right to exist (not say it and mean it, of course, just say it); but even that was too much for Hamas. Fatah's failings are why Hamas feels so little compunction in making war against Fatah and executing their former partners in a unity government.

What we are witnessing in this tiny strip of geography is what happens when a “moderate” Islamic terror organization comes up against a better funded, more ruthless, and more fanatically Islamic terror organization: the formation of an Islamic terror state.

Moderates always lose against fanatics with Iranian bankrollers.

Gazans may be sorry now they voted for Hamas, but this is exactly what they asked for when they voted for it, and now it is too late for regrets. Hamas promised Gazans both a destroyed Israel and a return to Sharia totalitarianism. Hamas is never going to achieve the first promise, but is already delivering on the second one. According to the CNS report, Hamas militants for now are being polite to the Gazans, but:

Arab affairs expert, Dr. Mordechai Kedar from the BESA Center for Strategic Studies near Tel Aviv, said he expects the situation in the Gaza Strip to worsen.In the beginning, Hamas may stabilize the situation but then support for the fundamentalists will decrease, Kedar said -- when Hamas starts closing down restaurants and cafes after sunset, for example.

And worse than that, I’m sure, if the example Saudi Arabia, Iran, Algeria, and other Islamic states tell us anything.

Defenders of Israel have long criticized as fatuous the “peace plan” approach to the Palestinians. To us it it was self-evident that creation of a Palestinian state that does not recognize Israel’s right to exist would mean a terror state on Israel’s doorstep--a state that will not only threatens Israel’s existence, but will further destabilize the Middle East, risking even European and American national security.

We are now watching this come true in tiny Gaza.

Critics of international jihadism have also insisted that the litany of Islamic complaints--chief amongst them the perpetual complaints about Palestinians' mistreatment at the hands of Israel--have never been anything more than useful excuses for a well-documented and perfectly transparent religious goal of imposing Islam on the unbelieving world, and the subjugation of the Christian civilization of the West.

We can see this war in a microcosm in nearly every armed conflict on the globe today, in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Kosovo, and on and on.

But in Gaza we can see the conflict with the fog of phony claims of injustice and the complex factors of religious demographics and dverse populations swept out of the way. This was Muslims murdering Muslims. The Hamas coup cannot fairly be blamed on Israel, nor on the Iraq war, nor on the plight of the Palestinians, nor on the persecution of Muslims by neighboring infidels. Hamas had to sweep Fatah out of the way in order to achieve its two irreducible objects: the destruction of Israel, and the creation of a Sharia state in alliance with the militant ummah throughout the world.

Hamas and its likeminded jihadist armies couldn't care less about creating a Palestinian state for the sake of the Palestinians. The only states that matters are Islamic states whose military and economic resources can be turned to the service of the borderless Islamic nation. Political entities are useful only insofar as they enable a more effective jihad against those in the House of War.

When demonstrators in Dearborn last week called for unity amongst Iraqis, Lebanese, and Palestinians, they spoke on behalf of the Islamic nation, the believers, the ummah. They were voicing their hopes for more and more of what is happening in Gaza right now. They want an Islamic theocracy for the Palestinians, just as they want one for the Lebanese for the Iraqis, and sooner or later for the whole world.

If there is a silver lining in this, albeit a blood-stained silver lining, it is that what we see now in this tiny, tortured microcosm on the Mediterranean is a simplified model of the struggle of Islam against the world, stripped of all the social, political, and historical complications we must sort through elsewhere in our tangles with Islam, especially with Iraq and Iran. In Gaza there can be no confusion about root causes.

We know now that Hamas’s first principle is not the liberation of Palestinians from Israeli occupation (there is no occupation), nor the formation of a just state based on a democratic model (they could have cooperated with Fatah), nor obtaining ecomomic and social advancement for Gaza’s people (Hamas knows full well Gaza will be more starved and isolated from the world than ever after this).

No, Hamas’s first principle is Allah demands imposition of Islam by force, setting up an Islamic state, and confining all within it under Sharia law. And such is the nature of its logic of force, so ferocious and all-demanding, that even after having won electoral success and significant representation in a unity party, Hamas still had to stage a bloody coup to eliminate even its only moderate partners, the merely secular crooks and terrorists of Arafat’s Fatah.

The ideologically blinkered will always find reasons to blame this on Israel, on George W. Bush, on the West, but it is very clear that Gaza today is the effect of the cause of Islamic radicalism. By no means is it exceptional. The situation of Gaza will not require mounds of sociological, political, or anthropological analysis on the order of Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Even being mindful of the risks of oversimplification, this is irreducibly simple. In Gaza a jihadist army took over, and imposed an Islamic state.

Gazans a year ago may not have anticipated waking up on June 14th under a new Taliban, but are any of the rest of us really surprised that, given the opportunity to prevail through armed force, Hamas would impose just this kind of religious rule? Was this unexpected? Was it something that none of us ever imagined?

You know the answer. There is nothing that just happened in Gaza that didn’t happen already in recent times in Algeria, in Afghanistan under the Taliban, in Iran under the ayatollahs, or that is not being attempted in southern Lebanon or Sadr City, or isn't now on the drawing board for London, Paris, or Your Town, USA, if we don't learn from this and watch out.

Like Scrooge’s being taken to witness his own wake, a vision of what may come to pass, but not what must come to pass, Gaza this week is a premonition of the future vouchsafed to the West. Jihadism is opportunistic, warlike, and single-minded. It does not mix with moderation. It therefore needs to be treated accordingly.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, we have a chance to stop the insanity in our own policies, even if we can do little for the insanity that Gaza has now become. We don’t have to continue trying to palliate Islamic fanaticism with diplomatic niceties, money, and tolerance of warlike trespasses, meanwhile expecting a different result. We don’t have to keep forcing Israel to work towards the impossible goal of a two-state solution that will lead to nothing more than permanent war against Israel.

The fall of Gaza is a tragedy that can serve as a warning if we let it. The warning is that this is Islam. This is what jihadists are fighting for. This is what they will settle for.

But if Scrooge can learn, why can't we?

"Am I that man who lay upon the bed?" he cried, upon his knees.

The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again.

"No, Spirit! Oh no, no!"

The finger still was there.

"Spirit!" he cried, tight clutching at its robe, "hear me. I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope?"

For the first time the hand appeared to shake.

"Good Spirit," he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: "Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life."

The kind hand trembled.

NYT on a Nuclear Armed Iran: 'Oh, Yes, That's Interesting.'

I guess the New York Times hasn’t got a dog in this fight.

The Times reports today on what it calls a debate behind the scenes at the White House between those who favor the diplomatic approach to reining in Iran’s nuclear program, and those who think military strikes are a better idea. (“Iran Strategy Stirs Debate at White House”)

The article offers this telling assessment of the recent trouble-making by Iran:

“Even beyond its nuclear program, Iran is emerging as an increasing source of trouble for the Bush administration by inflaming the insurgencies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and in Gaza, where it has provided military and financial support to the militant Islamic group Hamas, which now controls the Gaza Strip.”

Now has it occurred to anyone at the NYT that when Iran finally succeeds in toppling the government in Lebanon, or when it has helped re-establish the Taliban in Afghanistan, when it has finished helping to reduce Gaza to a Sharia prison, when it has facilitated the leveling of more mosques and provided more IEDs to murder GIs in Iraq, and then when it has finally obtained nuclear weapons to use against Israel and share with terrorists bent on destroying Americans, that it will be more than a source of trouble only to the Bush administration?

The Times seems marvelously disinterested by the whole mullahs-with-nukes scenario, while at the same time endlessly fascinated with the political Sturm und Drang inside the Bush White House.

In today's article the Times tries painting a picture of infighting between Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and her folks on the pro-diplomacy side, versus “the few remaining hawks inside the administration,” namely Dick Cheney and his guys. Cheney’s faction, the Times reports, “are pressing for greater consideration of military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.”

Well, let’s hope so. At a moment when there is so much bad news on nearly every front, I’m thankful somebody, somewhere, is still discussing hawkish options at policy meetings that don't open with shouts of "Death to America!"

And why should the Times find it noteworthy that there’s lively debate amongst the President’s counselors as they weigh the benefits between historically feckless diplomacy and the grave choice for war? If in the end we do strike Iran, you can just bet the NYT will be complaining that there “was no debate” leading up to the action, just as they mistakenly insist now that there was no debate before the Iraq war. Or, in the alternative, whatever his decision is, Bush later will be accused of having failed to listen to those on the other side. ("I do solemnly swear that I will protect and defend, and listen to, the views of those on the other side").

This kind of story also is meant to illustrate the leftist myth that George W. Bush is “isolated” behind an impenetrable barrier filtering out realities facing all the rest of us, realities painfully obvious to the sardonic Left. (You know: global warming, universal health care, America regaining popularity with all the really cool kids at the UN).

Not only can the Times count the rise of a nuclear armed and belligerent theocracy in Iran as nothing more than “an increasing source of trouble for the Bush administration,” the Left never tires of portraying how the “so-called” war on terror was never anything more than Bush’s paranoid invention, anyway, cooked up only to achieve the nefarious ends that caused him to seize power in 2000. Iraq is always “Bush’s war.” Al Qaeda latest moves are thwarting Bush. Hamas's takeover is a blow against Bush's efforts at peace in the region.

And to highlight this isolation, the Times says Secretary Rice’s pro-diplomacy corps “appear to be winning so far,” while Dick Cheney and his side, “the few remaining hawks inside the administration,” seem to be dwindling.

Of course, the President himself is inside the administration, and whether or not he turns out to be a hawk regarding Iran, he has already shown himself a hawk in the fight against jihad, and he still is the one who consistently refuses to remove the military option for Iran from the table.

Nor are the hawks limited to the few remaining in Dick Cheney’s posse. Joe Lieberman, hardly a Cheneyite, recently has been quite outspoken on the subject of Iran, saying two weeks ago on Face the Nation:

"We can tell them we want them to stop that, but if there's any hope of the Iranians living according to the international rule of law and stopping, for instance, their nuclear weapons development, we can't just talk to them," Lieberman said. "If they don't play by the rules, we've got to use our force, and to me that would include taking military action to stop them from doing what they're doing." (“Lieberman: Bomb Iran If It Doesn't Stop”).

Lieberman even favors a military strike into Iran on the sole basis of their involvement in attacks on US soldiers in Iraq:

"I think we've got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq," Mr. Lieberman said. "And to me, that would include a strike over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers." (“Lieberman Favors Military Hit on Iran”).

As I said before, I’m gratified to read that military options against Iran are being debated in the White House, even if, as the Times gloats, the diplomacy side seems to be winning for the moment. The fact that discussions are happening at all means military-strike options are being presented to the President, and that those arguing for continued diplomacy have to do it with ticking wristwatches held up to their noses by opponents.

As has become quite obvious since 9/11, the Left’s obtuseness on the reality of global jihad is an incurable affliction. Until the Bush administration leaves office in 18 months or so, defeats and victories in the war against jihadism abroad will serve no other purpose than to point up the failures of Bush’s foreign policy, and domestic events in the fight against attacks at home will be used only for outlining Bush’s totalitarian usurpations of power. Bush will continue to be portrayed as out of touch with reality, “reality” being defined rather liberally by the likes of Al Gore.

Yet it is the Left that dandles and plays with the harsh realities upon which it reports daily with a clueless innocence, like the toddler curiously peering down the barrel of its father’s loaded handgun.

How else could people write anything like the following:

In the year since Ms. Rice announced the new strategy for the United States to join forces with Europe, Russia and China to press Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, Iran has installed more than a thousand centrifuges to enrich uranium. The International Atomic Energy Agency predicts that 8,000 or so could be spinning by the end of the year, if Iran surmounts its technical problems.

Those hard numbers are at the core of the debate within the administration over whether Mr. Bush should warn Iran’s leaders that he will not allow them to get beyond some yet-undefined milestones, leaving the implication that a military strike on the country’s facilities is still an option.

Why are “those hard numbers” only the core of a debate within the Bush administration, rather than the core of a worldwide debate amongst all the nations soon to share the peril of the Iranian threat? Or at least a debate within the New York Times, for crying out loud?

Why? Because terrorism is Bush’s problem, not ours. Because the Left has more important problems, like lowering the planet’s temperature, and making sure oil companies don't make too much money.

It has been too rarely pointed out since 9/11 that the West’s war against jihad is a defensive war, and we are the defenders--fighting to stave off Islamists who first declared war on us. In fact, have declared war on us repeatedly, from the 8th century to the 16th century and Vienna and right on down to Beirut and bin Laden and Ahmadinejad.

After January 2009, that “so-called” war on terror will no longer be Bush’s war. It will either be our war, belonging to all of us, or it will belong only to, and be decided only by, those who first declared it on us.

Friday, June 15, 2007

You Can't Lose By Blaming the Jews

From James Taranto’s June 14 WSJ “Best of the Web Today”:

Palestinian Family Planning

The Boston Globe editorial board looks at the Gaza civil war, and finds it's the fault of the Jews:

The people of Gaza are the true victims of the civil war most of all because the fighting is destroying their future. With the military wing of Hamas poised to seize complete control of Gaza in what Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has rightly called a "coup attempt," Gaza's residents stand to lose whatever hope remained of achieving independence and a decent life in a viable Palestinian state.

The Hamas campaign to eradicate Fatah from Gaza is certainly not the sole cause of Gazans' misery. They long suffered from Israel's suffocating occupation, and then from Ariel Sharon's foolishly unilateral withdrawal in 2005, a move that allowed Hamas to bid for power with the misleading claim that its rockets and suicide bombings had driven Israeli soldiers and settlers out of Gaza.

According to the Globe, Israel is to blame both for its "occupation" and for having ended it--the latter of which "allowed Hamas to bid for power." But "the people of Gaza" are innocent victims. It somehow escapes the Globe's notice that Hamas came to power because Palestinians voted for it. The Globe denies that Palestinians are responsible for their own actions, and thereby dehumanizes them under a pretense of compassion.

The Jerusalem Post, meanwhile, reports on a foiled terror plot:

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said Wednesday that it thwarted a double suicide attack set for Tel Aviv and Netanya last month, orchestrated by Islamic Jihad and meant to be carried out by two Palestinian women, one of them pregnant.

One of the women, Fatma Zak, 39, a mother of eight in her ninth month of pregnancy, has been director of Islamic Jihad's women labor department in Gaza City for the past four years. As part of her job, she was in direct contact with senior terrorists and served as a go-between for women interested in becoming suicide bombers. . . .

The two women admitted the plot and confessed to being Islamic Jihad operatives. They said they had used Israel's humanitarian policy to acquire entrance permits on a false medical pretext.

One wonders how the Globe editorialists would spin this one. Israeli occupation has made it so difficult for Palestinian women to obtain family planning services that some have resorted to desperate measures to exercise their right to choose.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Free Press Discovers a Patriarchy It Approves Of

Niraj Warikoo’s Detroit Free Press feature article on Tuesday about the increase in Muslim women wearing headscarves in metro Detroit (“A return to tradition: More Muslim women in metro Detroit defy stares and prejudice by wearing head scarves”) is more of interest to me for what I expect it will not do, than what I expect it ever will do.

What it will not do, is call down a storm of protest from feminists, defenders of women’s rights nor the usual critics of the injustices endemic in patriarchal society. I will be shocked if there is anything less than a category five hurricane of silence.

According to Mr. Warikoo’s article, the decision by Muslim women to go about in public wearing the hijab “comes with a price”: reactions of “stares and prejudice” from non-Muslims, and the usual tongue-wagging ignoramuses (ignorami) who reportedly cruise Dearborn’s streets endlessly searching for Middle Easterners to jeer at.

Mr. Warikoo quotes one young lady on the price she pays:

“Some "look at us, smirk, stick out their tongues or shout out the window, 'Why do you have that on?' " said Arrwa Mogalli, 29, of Dearborn, who has worn hijab since she was 11. "You have nuns totally covered ... and no one questions it. But when a Muslim does it, we're from outer space."

As a ten-year Dearborn resident and a longtime Catholic, I have a point of difference with Ms. Mogalli on whether she often sees “nuns totally covered” in or around Dearborn, since any such spectacle was swept from every American diocese years before Ms. Mogalli began wearing hijab, or was even born. American nuns now march around waving their “NO WAR” signs in modest J.C. Penney pantsuits, and generally despise veils as reactionary, pre-Vatican II mummery.

But speaking on my own account, the religious sisters who tried to educate me all those years ago still wore habits and uncomfortable veils, and it’s true we did not question it, and I have never questioned the logic of Islamic women wearing veils up until now. The sisters wore their veils for the same reason that Islamic women wear them now (that is, when they're wearing them without compulsion and with a free will, and not under orders from the religious police)--for reasons of female modesty.

But Mr. Warikoo is kidding us if he thinks that the big challenge of Muslim young girls and women wearing hijab is that they have to do it in defiance of curious outsiders.

As he quotes from one Roleen Nawwas, in the theme sentence he sandbags till the end of his story, “the underlying concept [of hijab] is…‘A woman is like a pearl that needs to be hidden.’”

Which of course is a completely revolutionary idea. Or, to go back to my comment about the nuns, it is not revolutionary, but reactionary. The Islamic hijab, and the entire concept of female modesty, no less than the concept that a woman is a priceless thing that must be protected and hidden away, are so nakedly alien and contradictory to western values and ideas about equality and the relationship between the sexes as to be practically a return to the 12th century. Or, what is probably even more upsetting, practically a return to the 1950s.

I wouldn’t know how to begin documenting how enthusiastically the Detroit Free Press, for the forty years or so I’ve been reading it, has championed (under the generic heading of “women’s rights”) things like unrestricted abortion, no-fault divorce, the Equal Rights Amendment, Title IX entitlement for female athletes, compulsory sex education, liberal access to contraceptives for minors, government-subsidized child care, and that whole thing generally known as the “sexual revolution,” and the whole thing that has been called “equality for women.”

At the same time, the Free Press has staunchly opposed any social or legislative scheme that sought, or could even be accused of seeking, to impose “traditional”, regressive ideas about the sexes, the family, marriage, sex, or society on the rest of the masses yearning to breathe free. I've seen the Free Press shown such a consistent antipathy to traditional Catholicism that I have come to believe they have a shadow job title of Anti-Catholic Issues Editor.

Of course the Detroit Free Press was just one of thousands of liberal publications, read by, and responding to millions of like-minded readers through the years. They don't invent this stuff. They just repeat it in their pages. Endlessly. By now we can all recite the prevailing philosophy backwards and forwards.

For instance, we know now that a woman’s social equality with a man is best manifested when she competes with men in the workplace, and is least apparent when she submits herself to “traditional,” “patriarchal,” ideas of home and family that condemn her to remaining only a housewife and mother, in other words, being a loser.

We also have learned that a woman’s sexual equality with a man is best manifested when she is just as free as a man to choose engaging in guilt-free, uncommitted sexual relationships with men (or, for extra credit, other women); a healthy female begins this career no later than her mid-teens, and abstinence and chastity are nothing more than holdovers of stupid repressive religions invented by men to keep women down.

Only on June 8 the Free Press ran an editorial taking the, for them, unremarkable position of opposing abstinence-only sex education. (“Teach sex education for the real world”). And why not? Liberal, sophisticated, unshackled by arbitrary rules and guilt trips, the Free Press understands that young people cannot be expected to abstain from sex, and, when they don’t abstain, there isn't anything wrong with that, except perhaps for the health angle. Only tight-assed fun-killing repressive religious nuts think otherwise. The creeps.

Yet now here we are with a front-page story that takes this whole philosophy and upends it into the nearest trashcan. To wit: “The purpose of hijab: preserving modesty”, “the underlying concept [of hijab] is…‘A woman is like a pearl that needs to be hidden.’” Not only does the point of view uncritically praise the virtues of sexual modesty, but, even worse, it unapologetically endorses female subservience in a traditional stay-at-home role.

It is describing, as the headline boldly claims, and again without a word of apology, a "return to tradition." And we know the term "tradition" itself is dirtier to most liberals than any four-letter word, and that the notion of returning to the past is absolutely verboten to any self-respecting, right-thinking, progressive. One doesn't progress by going backwards, does one?

And just imagine how much more hated he would have been, (if it is possible to imagine he could have been hated more), if Jerry Falwell, in life, had made a public statement that “A woman is like a pearl that needs to be hidden.”

Or imagine if Lawrence Summers, in addition to pointing out to his Harvard professors that innate differences may have explain the fact of fewer female professors in math and science, claimed "it was all good, anyway" because “a woman is like a pearl that needs to be hidden.” (“Summers' remarks on women draw fire”).

Rather than being fired and allowed to drive out of town at the wheel of his own Volvo, Summers would surely have been carried out of town on a rail, after being tarred and feathered, and the Free Press editorial board would have looked on, approving.

The issue of Islam and its treatment of women is a huge one, and I'm not even trying to tackle it here. Suffice it so say that neither traditional sexual roles, nor modesty and chastity, are exclusive to the religion of Islam.

But we do know that, regardless of what I may think about traditional sex roles and modesty symbolized in the hijab or the nakoor, those virtues in much milder form are utterly obnoxious to an entire society full of ordinarily outspoken and indignant feminists, liberals, freethinkers, and progressives of all kinds.

But they won’t speak out. They never do. Not if the women are Muslim, and not if the reactionary force is Islam.

I don't know exactly why this is, whether it is hypocrisy, fear, or a hatred for Islam's enemies that is greater than hatred for the West's heritage. But it is as certain as sunrise that the Left will not decry in Dearborn's headscarves what it despises in a much more light-handed form in America's Christian colleges, churches, and schools.

Local Arab Americans Call for National Unity-- Islamic National Unity

Osama Siblani’s Arab-American News reports on last week’s mass unity rally (60 people or so, including children, though some sources have disputed even that high number) in front of Dearborn City Hall. “Local Arab Americans call for national unity”). Organized by local activist Tarek Baydoun, the rally was billed as a call for “national unity” and solidarity among the local Lebanese, Palestinians, and Iraqis in the face of increasing infighting in the Arab Middle East.

Youngblood Baydoun has been getting around: from involvement in a student-election fraud investigation at UM-Dearborn last year, ("SG ELECTIONS UNDER FIRE AGAIN"), to working for the college to divest from Israel, ("U-M Dearborn Passes Divestment Resolution"), to attacking critics of the proposed UM-Dearborn foot baths as "ideologically charged, right-wing bloggers" spreading "vitriolic, Islamaphobic rhetoric over the footbaths."

Said Baydoun, “It is time for us to tell our own stories and plot our own destinies. Unity is needed…that will help us forge a brighter future for our community and the oppressed people in the Middle East and around the world.”

Fellow activist Rashid Baydoun said, “We are here in solidarity with the Palestinian, Iraqi, and Lebanese people. We want to let the American public know we are united.”

Attendee Imam Mohammed Ali Elahi also spoke out on the subject of national unity, actually quoting the Pledge of Allegiance, “I think unity and justice are the foundations of our faith. We are one nation under God, and we are one family.”

Except when the imam talked about being “one nation under God,” he wasn't talking about the American nation, but the Islamic nation, the ummah:

“We are one family under God, one humanity under God. Unity comes from God, disunity comes from Satan.”

The article portrays Imam Hisham Husseiny expanding on this idea.

"Quoting the Qur'an, he reminded the audience that, ‘The believers are like one body through their love, harmony, unity, and suffering. If one person suffers, the whole nation suffers. So wherever you grow a rose, it will bloom from America to Iraq to Lebanon to Palestine.’”

Any religion worthy of the name recognizes that obedience and devotion to one’s faith must come before even national loyalty. If forced to choose, I am a Catholic first, before I am an American.

But most of the time, we are not forced to choose, which is why people of almost every faith have been able to come to America and practice their various religions without having to renounce either citizenship or patriotism. It is also the reason we usually discuss our ultimate loyalties within our own religious communities, rather than wrapping them around bricks to throw defiantly at our benighted fellow citizens.

That's why I say, almost every faith has been able to blend into America, because there is always that exception one simply must make for Islam.

We noted the other day the self-defeating program of Muslim activists who engage in the most extreme rhetoric or tactics of intimidation against critics of any kind, while at the same time howling that Americans aren't any less suspicious of Muslims than they were immediately after 9/11.

Last week’s rally fits the pattern. The organizers say they wanted to “let the American public know we are united.” But united with whom? With the American public? No, but “… with the Palestinian, Iraqi, and Lebanese people.” With the “believers,” with the “one family,” with “humanity,” as defined by Islam. In other words, it's "Hey, America, we're united--WITH EACH OTHER. You go to hell! And what do you mean you don't trust us?"

By the way, the term “humanity” doesn’t include kaffirs like you and me.

And for all the talk about growing roses, Siblani drags the whole rainbow unity project back down to Earth when he prattles on about “how mature” these young firebrands are “regarding our causes. It is the first time in which Iraqis, Lebanese, and Palestinians stand together to condemn the same cause, the occupation. It is the occupation that is the source of all problems in the Arab world."

Siblani was unclear which “occupation” he had in mind, whether the old chestnut about the "illegal" occupation of Israel by Israelis, or the “occupation” of Iraq by a liberating coalition, both of which he hates. (For a better idea of where Siblani’s sympathies lie, take a look at a fawning pro-al-Sadr piece he just published in his newspaper. (“Iraq passes resolution to end occupation”)).

Or, there is always the occupation of Islamic lands by even a single infidel soldier--the ummah hates that one, too.

And it's not very encouraging to see that Siblani views the rally’s participants as “Iraqis, Lebanese, and Palestinians”--not as Americans.

Americans of all kinds, who owe no allegiance to the Prophet, can claim a respectable record of showing solidarity with “Iraqis, Lebanese, and Palestinians,” because as a nation we have shed blood to defend them (Iraq and Lebanon), or suffered through decades of costly and thankless frustration in an effort to foster the blooming of sanity in a wasteland of implacable hatred and revenge (Palestine).

We at Dearborn Underground are not in the business of advising Islamic leaders on how to do better PR with the American public. We’re much too busy commenting on the details of the bad public relations they’re already practicing as if by rote.

But for those who are trying to decide whether or not it’s true that Muslims in America are doing their best to blend in, this sort of public theater is worth a serious look.