Sunday, July 31, 2005


Sorry for the lack of posts the last few days. I've been busy with work and with a big real-life development. Also, to be honest, I needed a couple days away. Look for more posts later tonight. In the meantime, I once again offer the latest from Dr. Victor Davis Hanson:

The other lesson is that the war the Arab autocracies thought was waged against the West by their own zealots has now turned on them. The old calculus of deflecting their failures onto us by entering in an unspoken unholy agreement with the Islamists is coming to an end. George Bush’s “You are either with us or against us” is belatedly arriving to the Middle East’s illegitimate regimes.

And the governments of Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other autocracies are in worse shape than we are. At least we are promoting democratic alternatives to their dictatorships, in the hopes that when such strongmen fall, there is another choice besides the jihadists. But the autocrats themselves have nowhere to go. Since they never allowed a loyal democratic opposition, there is only the unsavory choice of either liberalizing while they are in the middle of a bombing war with extremists — or the fate of the shah.

Quite simply, Islam is not in need of a reformation, but of a civil war in the Middle East, since the jihadists cannot be reasoned with, only defeated. Only with their humiliation, will come a climate of tolerance and reform, when berated and beaten-down moderates can come out of the shadows.

Reformation or Civil War?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

More from Michael Yon

If you're at all interested in the situation in Iraq, you need to read Michael Yon's dispatches from Mosul. Michael provides sober, candid reports that avoid the extremes of cheerleading and defeatism. His two most recent updates are especially worth a look:

The enemy in Iraq does not appear to be weakening; if anything, they are becoming smarter, more complicated and deadlier. But this does not mean they are winning; to imply that getting smarter and deadlier equates to winning, is fallacious. Most accounts of the situation in Iraq focus on enemy "successes" (if success is re-defined as annihiliation of civility), while redacting the increasing viability and strength of the Iraqi government, which clearly is outpacing the insurgency.

Empty Jars

Part of the persistence of the insurgency results from a staggering availability of fighting materials. There are tons of explosives and munitions here in Mosul, with more streaming in every day, though mounting evidence strongly suggests this flow is abating. For example, the street price of 60mm "mortar bombs" was about $3/shot 9 months ago. Now it’s up nearly seven-fold to over $20. Car bomb incidents in Mosul, while still causing major damage to both military and civilians, have been declining. Whether this is a temporary dip or steady trend remains to be seen. Even if the ongoing flow were completely cut off, there is still a deep well of materiel on hand.

Stemming the flow of munitions has been an ongoing challenge, one that’s been met with varying degrees of success. It begins with intelligence about how material moves in and out of a city. Mosul has 34 “major” land routes, consisting of 11 roads and 23 “rat lines.” The so-called rat lines are usually no more than hard-packed dirt trails, but they are navigable avenues into Mosul.

The Devil's Foyer

The Forgotten Front

USA Today has a good overview of the forgotten front of the War on Radical Islamism: Afghanistan:

Four years after they ousted the radical Islamic regime, U.S. forces are still locked in a deadly contest with Taliban holdouts in the badlands of southern and eastern Afghanistan. The ongoing war here, overshadowed by the chaos in Iraq, defies easy analysis.

The Taliban fighters have suffered devastating defeats in battles with U.S. and Afghan government troops in Zabul province since May. And they have little chance of overthrowing the pro-U.S. government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai or reversing slow progress toward democracy here.

By Afghanistan's rock-bottom standards, this is a period of relative peace and prosperity. Hundreds of thousands of refugees are coming home, convinced that their country has a future after three decades of war.

In the rugged terrain along the Pakistan border, the Taliban can still play the spoiler — terrorizing the countryside with assassinations and bombings, attacking aid groups and making villagers like Mohammed think twice about openly supporting the Americans and Karzai's government.

The Taliban, fueled in part by increased assistance from al Qaeda, have launched a summer offensive designed to disrupt September's parliamentary elections. It is unlikely that they will succeed. Taliban violence will probably continue for some time, especially as long as the movement continues to enjoy relative safe haven in Pakistan. The Taliban are all but finished, however, as a serious threat to Afghanistan's nascent democracy.

Monday, July 25, 2005

No, the US did not Create Bin Laden

London Mayor Ken Livingstone recently made some remarks in which he blamed Western policies for creating Islamist terrorism. Such comments are par for the course for the man know as "Red Ken". Still, one particular passage from Livingstone's comments stood out:

"I think the particular problem we have at the moment is that in the 1980s the Americans recruited and trained Osama bin Laden, taught him how to kill, to make bombs and sent him off to kill the Russians in Afghanistan and they didn’t give any thought to the fact that once he had done that, he might turn on his creators," he said.

The idea that the US "created" Osama bin Laden is a popular one with the anti-American left. For one thing, it feeds their desire to be able to blame America for everything that is wrong with the world. It also allows them to make the thinly-veiled claim that the US got what it deserved on 9/11, and has no right to feel aggrieved or claim the moral high ground, let alone fight back.

There's just one problem with this theory: it is completely and utterly wrong. Peter Beinart explained why in an October 2001 piece for the New Republic:

As bizarre as it may sound to the antiwar left, the CIA was deeply wary of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. The Agency didn't think the mujahedin rebels could beat Moscow, and it feared that if it ran the war, it would take the blame if things went awry. As Vincent Cannistraro, who led the Reagan administration's Afghan Working Group from 1985 to 1987, puts it, "The CIA was very reluctant to be involved at all. They thought it would end up with them being blamed, like in Guatemala." So the Agency tried to avoid direct involvement in the war, and to maintain plausible deniability. For the first six years following the 1979 Soviet invasion, the U.S. provided the mujahedin only Eastern-bloc weaponry, so the rebels could claim they had captured it from Soviet troops rather than received it from Washington. And while America funded the mujahedin, it played barely any role in their training. To insulate itself, the U.S. gave virtual carte blanche to its allies, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, to direct the rebel effort as they saw fit.

This is where bin Laden comes in. After Moscow invaded, he and other Arab militants went to defend Afghanistan in the name of Islam. The Pakistani government allowed them in, and the Saudis gave them money, hoping to foster a Sunni Islamist network to counter the Shia network of rival Iran. Riyadh thought the network would espouse the monarchy's brand of conservative, rather than revolutionary, fundamentalism. And that idea seemed less naÔve in the 1980s when bin Laden was still a loyal Saudi subject, and before Islamist rebellions had broken out in Algeria and dramatically intensified in Egypt.

Had the U.S. been present on the ground in Afghanistan, it would have known about this. And it probably would have tried to stop it--if only because the Arab volunteers were aiding a virulently anti-Western Afghan rebel leader named Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, who opposed not only the Soviets, but the Western-backed mujahedin as well. But the U.S. wasn't present on the ground, and it had only the vaguest knowledge of the Arabs' presence and aims. In retrospect, that might seem hard to believe. But remember, contrary to bin Laden's later boasts, the Arabs were few in number (most came after the war, once bin Laden's network was established) and played virtually no military role in the victory over the Soviets. And the skittish CIA, Cannistraro estimates, had less than ten operatives acting as America's eyes and ears in the region. Milton Bearden, the Agency's chief field operative in the war effort, has insisted that "[T]he CIA had nothing to do with" bin Laden. Cannistraro says that when he coordinated Afghan policy from Washington, he never once heard bin Laden's name.

As Beinart pointed out, bin Laden and the "Afghan Arabs" were a mere footnote to the anti-Soviet war. More importantly, they had their own support network, pursued their own agenda, and had nothing to do with the CIA. Peter Bergen, in his book Holy War, Inc., lays this out in detail. In short, the notion that the US "created" bin Laden is easily disproved by the historical record. Sadly, though, I doubt we've heard the last of this canard.

"These need to be slaughtered"

Stephen Ulph of the Jamestown Foundation has unearthed yet more evidence of the jihadists' literally murderous opposition to intellectual freedom:

On July 17, al-Qaeda in Iraq issued a death threat to the Egyptian author Dr. Sayyid Mahmud al-Qimny, famous for his historical and anthropological works examining critically the origins of Islam. The text of the threatening letter, given in a report by the Arabic liberal website Shaffaf al-Sharq al-Awsat, stated how a team of five assassins had been gathered for the purpose of "ripping his head off" in order to "cleanse their own sins through his blood". It added that he was now "one of the walking dead" and "prey to the Lions of Islam," from "the bullet of a passing car or a nearby rooftop." The declaration gave the author a week to "repent and repudiate his acts of disbelief which he had openly put to writing" in the Roz al-Yusuf newspaper which had published his works. This, the author has agreed to do [].

Ulph also quotes a chilling posting from a jihadist web site:

"These need to be slaughtered," the posting read, "where are the slaughterers?" It went on to proscribe the entire Egyptian press: "all of them without exception, even those journalists calling themselves Islamists", and even included in the list women's magazines. It then published a detailed list of individual journalists, "all of whom are secular, and former communists. We ask the mujahideen to make preparations to assassinate these agents and enemies of the Faith, since they are the mouthpieces of the Crusader and Jewish occupation." The one exception was made for Tayseer al-Allouni, the Syrian journalist currently on trial in Spain for alleged links to al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq has long been highly sensitive to media coverage and the commentaries of liberal thinkers. In the past, journalists from Arabic media channels working in Iraq have been attacked or killed for using the term ‘terrorist' to denote the Islamic resistance. But this posting, and the threat to Sayyid al-Qimni, are the first indications of a potential strategy to widen the terror against the media outside Iraq. The targeting of authors was explicitly suggested as an option in the strategy document Idarat al-Tawahhush (The Management of Barbarism). It posited the advantages of such action: "If two apostate authors are simultaneously liquidated in two different countries," the document explained, "it will require the security for thousands of writers in the Islamic world." This, the treatise explains, is part of the strategy "to variegate targeting in all parts of the Islamic world and beyond it" [see Terrorism Focus, Volume II, Issue 6].

We are at war at with an enemy who openly plots the murder of "apostate" authors, yet many American librarians regard FBI agents with subpoenas as the main threat to intellectual freedom. And you wonder why I get frustrated with librarians.

Uniting Against Terror

I have been remiss in not earlier linking to this online statement posted in the wake of the July 7th London atrocities. Please read it and consider adding your name to the list of signatories:

Unite Against Terror

Words Fail Me: Part II

Here's a thoroughly disgusting story I found via Instapundit:

Not even 24-hours after Private First Class Tim Hines's wife and family said goodbye at his funeral, American flags that had adorned their Fairfield yard were piled beneath a car and burned.

Hines' sister-in-law woke up to hear her car alarm around 5:30 a.m. and saw her car on fire.

As firefighters brought the fire under control they discovered a pile of around 20 American flags underneath the car.

Neighbors say Hines' wife's family had flags line their front yard and on the porch.

Those were taken as well as flags in neighboring yards.

Hines was injured in Iraq and flown to Walter Reed Hospital in the Washington, D.C. area, but succumbed to the injuries before he could return home.

Hines' wife Katy is eight-months pregnant with their second child. She buried her husband on Friday.

Katy Hines had just moved back into her parents' home and woke up to find her sister's car consumed by flames.

This is another instance where PG language is inadequate to the task of describing the people who would commit such an act. The perpetrators of this vandalism are nothing more than vile, narcissistic cowards who only live in freedom because of men and women like Pfc Hines. My thoughts and prayers are with the Hines family on their loss, and I hope that those involved in the flag burning and vandalism are caught and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

VDH: Yes, This is a War

As usual, I offer a link to Victor Davis Hanson's Friday column for National Review Online. Dr. Hanson reminds us that Islamist terrorism did not start as a result of the Iraq War, will not be appeased by any concessions we might make, and is the mortal enemy of the entire Western world. Ideally, people wouldn't need to be reminded of such facts. Unfortunately, the current political and intellectual climate in America and Western Europe is less than ideal:

So it is was becoming clear that butchery by radical Muslims in Bali, Darfur, Iraq, the Philippines Thailand, Turkey, Tunisia, and Iraq was not so tied to particular and "“understandable"” Islamic grievances.

Perhaps the jihadist killing was not over the West Bank or U.S. hegemony after all, but rather symptoms of a global pathology of young male Islamic radicals blaming all others for their own self-inflicted miseries, convinced that attacks on the infidel would win political concessions, restore pride, and prove to Israelis, Europeans, Americans - and about everybody else on the globe - that Middle Eastern warriors were full of confidence and pride after all.

And Then They Came After Us

Dr. Hanson also wrote a similar piece for Friday's Washington Times that's worth a look:

In the West, the new orthodoxy is that removing the theocratic Taliban in Afghanistan was the "correct" war that enjoyed widespread European and American support. In contrast, George W. Bush, in a "unilateral" and "pre-emptive" fashion, unnecessarily attacked the "secular" Saddam Hussein.

The terrorists, unlike us, make no such distinctions. Both actions, they insist, were equal affronts to radical Islam.

Enough is Enough

Bad Video Alert

I hereby interrupt my coverage of the pressing issues of the day because VH1 Classic has just chosen to show the worst music video ever made. No, not Vanilla Ice, though he certainly comes close. No, I speak of the video for "Balls to the Wall", the 1984 signature song from German metal "legends" Accept.

A thoroughly mediocre song accompanied by an even worse video. It starts with the guitarist standing there "playing" in front of the drums. He is quickly joined by the bassist and other guitarist. Finally, just when you think it can't get any worse, out comes the pathetic Rob Halford wannabe to start lipsynching the horrible excuse for vocals. Besides showing the band, the rest of the video shows a bunch of metal freaks banging their heads against a concrete wall, which eventually collapses. Wow, I'm really impressed. I'm sure the director intended to make some profound point about breaking down the walls that we are confined in by modern industrial society. Or not.

Overall, this video has no redeeming value other than having inspired one of the greatest moments in the history of Beavis and Butthead. I know, most metal videos suck. This one, however, takes it to the Hoover Deluxe level.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Terrorism in Egypt

My condolences go out to the victims of today's terrorist bombing assault in Egypt, and their families. For news and analysis of the attacks, please visit the Counterrorism Blog, and read this excellent post from Dan Darling at The Fourth Rail. While not part of a single plan, it is clear that the jihadists behind the Sharm-el-Sheikh atrocities were, at least in part, trying to capitalize on the momentum resulting from the July 7th London bombings.

The Middle East is in the early stages of a long and wrenching process of democratic change. It will be neither quick nor easy, but its outlines are clearly visible. The spectre of democracy is al Qaeda's worst nightmare. Democracy is the antithesis of the totalitarian vision of radical Islamism, and it represents our most potent weapon in the ideological struggle for the future of the Muslim world.

The only way the al Qaeda movement can try to stop the move towards democracy in the Middle East is to draw attention back upon itself and its agenda by committing acts of terrorism that dominate the headlines. Just as the 9/11 atrocities pushed the radical Islamist vision to the forefront and served as a tool for recruiting and proselytizing, so the jihadists hope that these additional bombings will serve to persuade Muslims to forget about democracy and pursue jihad against "infidels" and "apostates".

Unfortunately for the terrorists, this strategy is unlikely to work. Terrorism experts like Evan Kohlmann may well be right when they state that the jihadist movement has been able to use the Iraq War as a recruiting tool. Yet the overall result of al Qaeda's 18 month campaign of terror of Iraq has been to reduce popular support in the Muslim world for both Osama bin Laden and the concept of suicide bombing. At the same time, support for the idea of democracy among Muslims is almost overwhelming.

Al Qaeda has failed to derail the process of political change even in Iraq. It is unlikely that they can stop democratic reform from continuing elsewhere in the Middle East. As I've written before, the jihadists can murder and destroy with terrifying effectiveness, but they have no compelling vision to match that offered by democracy. That will be their ultimate downfall.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Sins of the Father

Here's a charming story from earlier this week, via CNN:

The father of one of the hijackers who commandeered the first plane that crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, praised the recent terror attacks in London and said many more would follow.

Speaking to CNN producer Ayman Mohyeldin Tuesday in his apartment in the upper-middle-class Cairo suburb of Giza, Mohamed el-Amir said he would like to see more attacks like the July 7 bombings of three London subway trains and a bus that killed 52 people, plus the four bombers.

Displayed prominently in the apartment were pictures of el-Amir's son, Mohamed Atta, the man who is believed to have piloted American Airlines Flight 11 into the north tower of the World Trade Center as part of the attacks on the United States.

El-Amir said the attacks in the United States and the July 7 attacks in London were the beginning of what would be a 50-year religious war, in which there would be many more fighters like his son.

So the father of one of the most vile mass murderers in recent memory has nothing but praise for the July 7th London atrocities. Sad to say, this comes as little surprise. In the views of Mohamed el-Amir we can see the real root cause of why his son and 18 others were inspired to commit an act of sheer barbarism that would take their own lives in the process. No, not poverty, for Atta and most of his compatriots were middle class. It was not US foreign policy either, or the existence of Israel, for these serve merely as short-term grievances and pretexts for jihadist terrorism.

The real root cause, as reflected in the words of Mr. al-Amir, lies in the culture of perpetual victimhood that exists in much of the Muslim world, especially the Arab Middle East. According to this worldview, Islam is constantly being victimized by the evil infidels, whose vicious conspiracies are the only reason Muslims have been deprived of their rightful place as the world's superpower. One manifestation of this mindset is the adolescent refusal of many Muslims to take responsibility for their own lives and the state of their societies. Instead, the infidel Jews and Crusaders are held accountable for all problems. Concurrent with this is an infantile belief in the most ridiculous conspiracy theories concerning said infidels.

Most importantly, this culture of victimhood leads to an appalling double standard when looking at the world. The US liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan is treated as aggression against Muslims. Yet the fact that the previous regimes in those countries enslaved, brutalized and murdered hundreds of thousands of Muslims, or that the Muslim peoples of those two countries have now had the opportunity to vote in the first free elections of their lives, is ignored. Israel is made into the very symbol of evil, yet a Sudanese regime that has killed an estimated 180,000 Muslims in Darfur is given a pass. Reports that the Koran was mishandled a few times at Guantanamo spark outrage, yet terrorist suicide bombers detonating themselves in mosques are barely worthy of note.

You could argue that this attitude stems primarily from a rejection of foreign occupation, but this ignores the example of the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Saddam Hussein invaded an Arab and Muslim country, murdered thousands of its citizens, ruthlessly pillaged it, and tried to literally erase Kuwait out of existence. Yet in most of the Muslim world, it was the American-led liberation of Kuwait that was the aggression. Saddam, on the other hand, was treated as a great Arab and Muslim hero for standing up to the infidel. At the same time, America's actions in going to war on behalf of Bosnian and Kosovar Muslims against Christian Serbs are either ignored or dismissed. Such is the worldview of all too many in the Islamic world. The infidel is always wrong, while the Twentieth Century's greatest killer of Muslims is embraced because he is nominally a Muslim himself.

It is the culture of perpetual victimhood that has created fertile ground for the spread of totalitarian ideologies such as Baathism and radical Islamism in the Muslim Middle East. It also provides much of the cultural and intellectual framework for jihadist terrorism. After all, if Islam is beset by infidel enemies who are responsible for all kinds of outrages, real and imagined, and who are to blame for all the Muslim world's problems, it can hardly come as a surprise when some Muslims start to act on this belief by engaging in terrorism. Until Muslim societies can overcome this mindset, a process that will take many years, the threat of radical Islamism will continue.

More on the Iraq-al Qaeda Relationship

Having given us Stephen Hayes' groundbreaking reporting on the connection between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and al Qaeda, the Weekly Standard is now running daily updates highlighting various aspects of the relationship:

-On Monday, Stephen Hayes discussed the failure of US intelligence to adequately investigate Baathist Iraq's ties to terrorism:

Among the many reasons journalists today don't seem particularly interested in covering the Iraq-al Qaeda connection, three stand out. First, the mainstream press long ago settled on a storyline to describe the case for the Iraq War: the Bush administration lied, or at least exaggerated, to take us to war. Second, the Bush administration is doing little to encourage journalists to write a corrective. Third, intelligence sources, as the DIA example makes clear, have no interest in setting the story straight.

We know from a variety of reporting--including the Joint Congressional Inquiry, the 9/11 Commission, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee--that the U.S intelligence community had no firsthand credible reporting on the leadership of al Qaeda or the Iraqi regime. One IC analyst explained the intelligence community's view of Iraq and terrorism in an interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee: "I don't think we were really focused on the CT [counterterrorism] side, because we weren't concerned about the IIS [Iraqi Intelligence Service] going out and proactively conducting terrorist attacks."

-On Tuesday, Thomas Joscelyn noted that it was only a few years ago that the existence of ties between Iraq and al Qaeda was the conventional wisdom, and with good reason.

Indeed, as the current war in Iraq approached many forgot or ignored Saddam's response to the four-day war of December 1998. It is a shame because his response to that four-day bombing campaign--the largest since the first Gulf War--was telling. In his quest for revenge he had few options, but one of those was Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda.

-Finally, on Wednesday, Dan Darling provided a terrific piece on Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Saddam Hussein's number two man and the highest ranking Baathist still at large. Al-Douri was the driving force behind the Baathist regime's Islamization campaign of the 1990's, and is reported to have strong ties to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi:

AT FIRST GLANCE, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri does not appear to be the most likely candidate to serve as an ally of militant Islamists. The former vice chairman of the Iraqi Baath Party's Revolutionary Command Council, al-Douri was the only member of Saddam's inner circle not in Baghdad when the city fell, having had the luck or foresight to set up his headquarters in the northern city of Mosul. One of the earliest members of the Iraqi Baath party and one of the three survivors of the 1968 coup that brought the Baathists to power inside Iraq, al-Douri has emerged since the fall of Saddam Hussein as a key leader within the insurgency. As Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz explained in June 2004, the insurgency "was led by Saddam Hussein up until his capture in December. It's been led, in part, by his No. 2 or 3, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, since then."

No one disputes al-Douri's brutality or his reputation for ruthlessness. Following the first Gulf War, al Douri was one of the chief architects of the campaign to suppress the uprising that followed the conflict in the south. In addition, he helped to supervise the al-Anfal campaign against the Kurds during the Iraq-Iran War, including the use of chemical weapons against Kurdish settlements in 1987. Yet evidence has surfaced since the fall of the insurgency that in addition to assuming command of at least some of the remnants of the Iraqi military, security, and intelligence forces as well as the surviving Baath party cadres, al-Douri has also been able to maintain ties with the Islamist elements of the insurgency.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Farewell, Scotty

A sad day for sci-fi geeks such as myself, with news that James Doohan, who played Montgomery "Scotty" Scott on Star Trek, has passed away at age 85. Endearing characters such as Scotty were the main reason I enjoyed the original Star Trek, no matter how bad the special effects or how cheesy the dialogue. In addition to the series, Doohan appeared as Scotty in all six Star Trek films featuring the original crew, and in the Next Generation episode "Relics". For my money, "Relics", which appeared during Next Generation's 6th season, was the best standalone episode of that series.

RIP Scotty, and thank you.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Censorship, Islamist Style

A week ago, in a Dutch courtroom, the jihadist murderer of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh admitted his crime. As his chilling comments made clear, Mohammed Bouyeri felt neither guilt nor shame for his actions:

After the prosecution's closing statement Bouyeri, who had refused to say anything about his motives during the trial, took the opportunity to make a final statement.

"I can assure you that one day, should I be set free, I would do exactly the same, exactly the same," he said, speaking slowly in sometimes halted Dutch.

He said he felt an obligation to Van Gogh's mother Anneke, present in court, to speak, but offered no sympathy.

"I have to admit I do not feel for you, I do not feel your pain, I cannot -- I don't know what it is like to lose a child," he said as Van Gogh's family and friends looked on.

"I cannot feel for you ... because I believe you are an infidel," he added.

"I acted out of conviction -- not because I hated your son."

(emphasis added-DD)

Van Gogh was an outspoken, controversial critic of radical Islam. In cooperation with a former Muslim and Dutch member of parliament named Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Van Gogh made a short film on the status of women in Muslim society called Submission. On November 2nd, 2004, Bouyeri, a Dutch-Moroccan who had embraced radical Islamism and was involved with a jihadist terror cell known as the Hofstad Group, walked up to Van Gogh on an Amsterdam street in broad daylight. The terrorist ignored Van Gogh's pleas for mercy, shooting him 15 times, stabbing him, then cutting the Dutchman's throat. After completing his grisly task, Bouyeri pinned a note to the body with his knife. The note was addressed to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and its five pages included the following:

Islam will celebrate victory by the blood of the martyrs. There will be no mercy for the wicked, only the sword will be raised against them. No discussion, no demonstrations, no parades, no petitions, only death will separate truth from lies.

I know definitely that you, Oh America, will go down. I know definitely that you, Oh Europe, will go down. I know definitely that you, Oh Netherlands, will go down. I know definitely that you, Oh Hirsi Ali, will go down.

The murder of Theo Van Gogh was more than just another jihadist atrocity; it was a horrific, blood-stained act of censorship. As Bouyeri has openly admitted, Van Gogh was murdered for his opinions and his film. He was an infidel who dared to speak ill of Islam.

I work in a profession where most people believe that the biggest threats to intellectual freedom come from the FBI theoretically having the right to view library transactions, or from the local hicks who want to ban the Harry Potter books. Meanwhile, the Islamists openly seek to murder authors and filmmakers such as Van Gogh, Salman Rushdie, and Naguib Mahfouz. Yes, the jihadists do hate our freedom, and they would gladly destroy it if given the opportunity.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Iraq: "Their Own Fourth of July"

Arthur Chrenkoff updates us on the progress being made in Iraq despite the terrorists and their campaign of atrocities:

Nation building is never quick and never easy; hard work and heartache are today, and the results often years if not decades ahead. But the Iraqi people, with the assistance of the coalition, have commenced their journey, and despite all the hardships, every day is another step forward. Below, some of these often much under-reported and unappreciated steps from the past three weeks.

'Their Own Fourth of July'

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Miscellaneous Links

I'm busy trying to wrap up an article, so no time for anything lengthy, I'm afraid. In the meantime, here are several links worth checking out:

-Donklephant is an interesting new centrist blog for those dissatisfied with both major parties.

-Winds of Change has posted its new Iraq Report and Winds of War update.

-Finally, Michael Yon has published several gripping yet sobering updates from Iraq. Please visit his site and give them a look.

Thomas Jefferson: Neocon

Christopher Hitchens wrote an interesting piece for the July 12th Wall Street Journal on Thomas Jefferson and his commitment to "export" democracy:

All through the years 2003 and 2004 one used to hear it: "So, you think your Iraqi friends are about to adopt Jeffersonian democracy . . ." (pause for hilarious nudge, sneer, snigger or wink). After a bit too much of this at one debate in downtown New York, I managed to buy some time, and even get a laugh, by riposting that Iraqi democracy probably wouldn't be all that "Jeffersonian," since none of my Iraqi comrades owned any slaves. But I was conscious, here, of trading partly in the stupid currency of my opponents. (I would now phrase matters a little more assertively: The United States has yet to elect a black or Jewish president, while the Iraqi Parliament chose a Kurd as its first democratically selected head of state, and did so even while the heaped corpses of his once-despised minority were still being exhumed from mass graves.)

If hypocrisy is the compliment that vice pays to virtue, then the frequent linkage of the name "Jefferson" with the word "democracy" is impressive testimony, even from cynics, that his example has outlived his time and his place. To what extent does he deserve this rather flattering association of ideas?

The Export of Democracy

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Groupthink@Your Library

Over the last several years, the "intellectually diverse" group of speakers at ALA's annual convention has included Ralph Nader, Naomi Klein, Rep. Bernie Sanders, Richard Clarke and E.L. Doctorow. Not to mention last year's showing of the delightfully nonpartisan Fahrenheit 911. In keeping with ALA's tradition of left of center partisanship, this year's convention speaker was Senator Barack Obama. Writing for Library Journal, Steven Bell exposes the ideological herd mentality behind this phenomenon:

Having survived the 2004 Orlando conference where Farenheit 911 and E.L. Doctorow combined for some good old administration bashing, I left Barack Obama'’s opening keynote wondering when ALA will develop some backbone and seek out a keynoter who will challenge, anger, or confront us. We are always being professionally encouraged to step out of our comfort zones, yet ALA provides a steady diet of keynote speakers all too willing to keep us in a safe and warm groupthink cocoon.

As a profession, does our hunger for recognition and positive reinforcement compel us to subject ourselves repeatedly to the same "you'’re so special and yet so underpaidÂ" spiel? Sitting through these politically overt keynote addresses feels eerily like listening to a Presidential State-of-the-Union address. Librarians stand, cheer, and clap wildly with every word of praise for our causes and every denouncement of conservative policies and practices. Obama barely had to work to get more standing ovations than a classic rock group giving their final reunion concert. Librarianship is supposed to be about balance, recognizing divergent viewpoints, and providing a platform for all sides of issues. But, given ALA's reputation as a bastion of liberalism, I can't imagine any conservative speaker (and please, let'’s stop shuffling out Colin Powell as an example of our open-mindedness) daring to step into the ALA lion's den. For what? A healthy chorus of boos, catcalls, and derision?

As I waited in a long shuttle bus line after the Obama speech, along came Steven Cohen of Library Stuff fame. I took the opportunity to rant about another cookie-cutter ALA keynote address. With his usual insight, Cohen said, "But ALA is giving the crowd what they want so they'’ll keep coming back for more. What do you expect?" I expect speakers who do more than toe the company line while librarians lap it up, giving as much thought to what'’s being said as lemmings give to what they'’re doing as they follow their leader right off a cliff. I expect a speaker to inspire me, challenge what I think, and get me to ask some tough questions. The best this audience could come up with for Obama was the old "What book inspired you the most?"” softball.

A Tale of Two Talks

One of my greatest frustrations is working in a profession that preaches intellectual freedom, yet practices the worst kind of ideological groupthink and conformity. Unfortunately, I have no expectation that this will change anytime soon.

Friday, July 15, 2005

VDH: False Narratives

If it's Friday, it's time for Dr. Victor Davis Hanson's weekly column for National Review Online. As usual, he is spot on in his analysis. I would only note that there are a courageous few on the Left such as Paul Berman and Norm Geras who have refused to fall into the blame America mindset that Dr. Hanson so eloquently describes in his piece:

Ever since September 11, there has been an alternative narrative about this war embraced by the Left. In this mythology, the attack on September 11 had in some vague way something to do with American culpability.

Either we were unfairly tilting toward Israel, or had been unkind to Muslims. Perhaps, as Sen. Patty Murray intoned, we needed to match the good works of bin Laden to capture the hearts and minds of Muslim peoples.

The fable continues that the United States itself was united after the attack even during its preparations to retaliate in Afghanistan. But then George Bush took his eye off the ball. He let bin Laden escape, and worst of all, unilaterally and preemptively, went into secular Iraq — an unnecessary war for oil, hegemony, Israel, or Halliburton, something in Ted Kennedy’s words “cooked up in Texas.”

In any case, there was no connection between al Qaeda and Saddam, and thus terrorists only arrived in Iraq after we did.

That tale goes on. The Iraqi fiasco is now a hopeless quagmire. The terrorists are paying us back for it in places like London and Madrid.

Still worse, here at home we have lost many of our civil liberties to the Patriot Act and forsaken our values at Guantanamo Bay under the pretext of war. Nancy Pelosi could not understand the continued detentions in Guantanamo since the war in Afghanistan is in her eyes completely finished.

In this fable, we are not safer as a nation. George Bush’s policies have increased the terror threat as we saw recently in the London bombing. We have now been at war longer than World War II. We still have no plan to defeat our enemies, and thus must set a timetable to withdraw from Iraq.

Islamic terrorism cannot be defeated militarily nor can democracy be “implanted by force.” So it is time to return to seeing the terrorist killing as a criminal justice matter — a tolerable nuisance addressed by writs and indictments, while we give more money to the Middle East and begin paying attention to the “root causes” of terror.

That is the dominant narrative of the Western Left and at times it finds its way into mainstream Democratic-party thinking. Yet every element of it is false.

Please read the rest:

Our Wars Over the War

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Helping Iraq's Medical Libraries

Contrary to what the majority of ALA Council seem to believe, most of Iraq's libraries were in anything but good shape when US forces liberated the country from Saddam Hussein's tyranny. This was not because of UN sanctions or a lack of funds. After all, the Iraqi dictator brought in billions of dollars in illegal oil revenues. Unfortunately for Iraqi libraries, however, Saddam preferred to spend the money on palaces, rebuilding his military infrastructure, and sponsoring terrorism.

Particularly hard hit were Iraqi medical and scientific libraries, whose collections were allowed to become dangerously out of date. Michael Yon, who is in Iraq, explains in this terrific post:

In the months immediately following the collapse of the Saddam regime, but before the tumor of insurgency invaded the body, medical officers attached to the 4th Infantry Division met with doctors and professors of the region's medical schools and hospitals, to assess needs and find ways to share resources to facilitate the rehabilitation of the health care system. Two of the key medical officers of the Division, LTC Kirk Eggleston, the Division Surgeon (and hence the principal medical staff officer ) and Major Alex Garza, the Division's Civil Affairs Medical Officer, visited the Medical College of the University of Tikrit.

During initial visits, they were taken aback by a discovery that Iraqi doctors and medical students were relying on photocopies of outdated medical texts for information. Initial inquiries revealed that what looked like an isolated case of an improvised library was actually the presenting symptom of a systemic deficiency--Iraq's scientific and technical resources were dangerously malnourished. All over Iraq, teachers and students were using photocopies of outdated textbooks and had been doing so for decades.

This was not about saving money; the cost of making the photocopies can be higher than purchasing books and journals. The issue was availability. Iraqi physicians and professors could not simply shop online and purchase a title for shipment to Iraq. Basic medical science textbooks as well as those relating to the medical specialties were only available as well-thumbed copies of out-of-date editions. Medical journals were similarly unavailable.

While ALA Council chooses to depict our forces in Iraq as a horde of vandals who have all but destroyed that country's libraries and museums, Yon explains how it is American soldiers, in cooperation with civilian doctors here in the States, who have mounted a heroic effort to supply Iraqi medical libraries with current textbooks and journals. By contrast, the terrorists can be counted on to do everything possible to prevent Iraq's libraries from joining the 21st century, just as they have fought against every other element of progress in post-Saddam Iraq. A continued American commitment is the best hope Iraqi libraries have of becoming the kind of institutions that a democratic, pluralist country needs.

Thursday Updates

Here are today's War on Terror news roundups:

Global Jihad Monitor: 7-13-05 (Foundation for the Defense of Democracies)

Thursday Winds of War: July 07/14 (Winds of Change.Net)

In addition, the FDD has come out with a new biweekly update called the Middle East Democracy Digest. The digest is an interesting compilation of pro-democracy articles and opinion pieces from the Arab and Muslim worlds. It does a nice job of showing that such voices do indeed exist in the Middle East, and that they are worth supporting.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Virtual Great Wall

University of Virginia law professor Tim Wu has written a terrific article for Slate on how Communist China seeks to control the Internet. His point is that Beijing is trying to do far more than merely censor content: its goal is to isolate China's part of the Web. In effect, the Chinese regime is trying to erect a virtual great wall around its country's portion of the Internet:

Kristof is right that China's blogging rules can be sidestepped by experts. But what he and others overlook is a larger assault on the identity of the Internet itself. The Web was conceived as one global medium, by its nature open and free. But countries like China are pushing hard to divide that global network into a system of Balkanized national networks. Censorship of the sort Microsoft acceded to is grabbing headlines, but the more important restrictive measures are taking place quietly—and quietly succeeding.

Consider filtering. Blocking the Democracy Times at the Chinese border is kid stuff. The Chinese state accomplishes much more by filtering not just Web content, but the tools that allow the Internet to function: search engines, chat rooms, blogs, and even e-mail. The idea is to make filtering a basic fact of the Web. And filtering a tool like a search engine has the benefit of subtlety, because to most people searches will feel free even when they're not. How many of us can tell when something goes missing in a Google result?

Professor Wu's conclusion is not an optimistic one:

China's long-term vision is clear: an Internet that feels free and acts as an engine of economic progress yet in no way threatens the Communist Party's monopoly on power. With every passing day the Chinese Internet reflects that vision more closely. It portends a future for the Web that we're only beginning to understand—one in which powerful countries refashion the global network to suit themselves.

The Filtered Future

In the long run, I don't believe China's attempt to combine an information age economy with a Leninist one-party dictatorship will last. Part of me fears, however, that Professor Wu might be right. So far, the Internet has been a powerful tool for fostering the free exchange of information and ideas. If regimes such as China's are successful in changing that, the consequences would be felt well beyond Asia.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Appeasement Library Association

I have long since forsworn having anything to do with the American Library Association, for reasons I have previously explained. I have no wish to pay $155.00 a year in order to support the openly left-wing agenda the association is now pursuing. Now, courtesy of Greg McClay at SHUSH, comes news that at ALA's recent Annual Conference, ALA Council passed a resolution calling for America to abandon Iraq to al Qaeda. Or, as American Libraries delicately puts it:

The governing body also called for the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq in a carefully crafted resolution that succeeded where a similar attempt at last year’s Annual Conference in Orlando failed.

Greg has since posted the text of this "carefully crafted" resolution, and it is even worse than I feared. It is a "carefully crafted" monument to the moral and intellectual vacuity of the Blame America Left. The resolution can only be described as representing the worldview of those who live in some bizarre alternate reality in which radical Islamism and al Qaeda don't exist, where the Iraqi people enjoyed nothing but carefree days of kite-flying bliss under that delightful Saddam Hussein, and where the spectacle of 8 million Iraqis voting in the first free election of their lives never occurred. Everything that is bad in Iraq is America's fault, and if we only leave while agreeing to spend lots of money on Iraqi libraries, the nice jihadist fanatics and Baathist murderers who've killed seven times as many Iraqi civilians as they have American soldiers will put down their weapons , stop making car bombs, and all will be sweetness and light. Meawhile, the money we would no longer be spending in Iraq would instead be spent on libraries here at home, and we would all sing songs of joy and dance in a circle. All we have to do is simply stick our heads in the sand and pretend it's September 10th, 2001

This muddle headed resolution is the worst sort of nonsense. The terrorists in Iraq have imposed Taliban-style totalitarianism wherever they have gained control. They murder barbers for trimming beards. They kill human rights workers. This is the same enemy who murdered nearly 3,000 of us on 9/11. In the words of pro al-Qaeda Saudi dissident Saad al-Faqih:

I think the best way I can answer this question is to say that I don't think there are any differences –save those related to specific circumstances—between the jihadis in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the al-Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan. They all represent the same movement and the same ideology. I am not saying that all jihadi groups in Iraq are connected to al-Qaeda, but that their agenda and methodology does not conflict with al-Qaeda's.

If America should ever take ALA Council's advice and cut and run from Iraq, it would hand al Qaeda a victory that would sustain it for a generation. No, we wouldn't have to worry about Americans dying in Iraq anymore; they would be dying in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and in greater numbers in Afghanistan instead. Meanwhile, Iraq would return to the days of genocide and mass graves.

There are far worse threats to intellectual freedom in this world than the possibility of the FBI viewing library records. We are at war with the adherents of a totalitarian ideology of death that is the antithesis of everything ALA is supposed to stand for, an enemy who would destroy intellectual freedom everywhere and burn 90% of our collections, and yet ALA Council has now openly called for the US to abandon Iraq and the entire Middle East to their not so tender mercies. How any rational person could regard such an outcome as positive for American libraries, let alone America, escapes me.

Moral Blindness at the BBC

The Daily Telegraph reports on a mind-boggling instance of political correctness run amok in the UK:

The BBC has re-edited some of its coverage of the London Underground and bus bombings to avoid labelling the perpetrators as "terrorists", it was disclosed yesterday.

Early reporting of the attacks on the BBC's website spoke of terrorists but the same coverage was changed to describe the attackers simply as "bombers".

The BBC's guidelines state that its credibility is undermined by the "careless use of words which carry emotional or value judgments".

Yes, God forbid any "value judgments" should be made about fanatics who murdered over 50 innocent people in the name of a totalitarian ideology of death. We can't have that, now can we? I mean, how could those who deliberately murder civilians for political ends possibly be called terrorists? This, of course, from a network that has become notorious for its sneering anti-Americanism and strong bias against Israel.

British bloggers Norm Geras and Gene at Harry's Place have more on this story. In the meantime, I can only marvel at the BBC's moral and logical obtuseness. George Orwell must be spinning in his grave.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Putting Blame Where it Belongs

In Sunday's Observer, Nick Cohen brilliantly dispenses with the terrorism apologists who blame Tony Blair and George W. Bush for last week's terrorist atrocities in London instead of the jihadist barbarians themselves:

And so it went on. At no point did they grasp that Islamism was a reactionary movement as great as fascism, which had claimed millions of mainly Muslim lives in the Sudan, Iran, Algeria and Afghanistan and is claiming thousands in Iraq. As with fascism, it takes a resolute dunderheadedness to put all the responsibility on democratic governments for its existence.

I feel the appeal, believe me. You are exasperated with the manifold faults of Tony Blair and George W Bush. Fighting your government is what you know how to do and what you want to do, and when you are confronted with totalitarian forces which are far worse than your government, the easy solution is to blame your government for them.

But it's a parochial line of reasoning to suppose that all bad, or all good, comes from the West - and a racist one to boot. The unavoidable consequence is that you must refuse to support democrats, liberals, feminists and socialists in the Arab world and Iran who are the victims of Islamism in its Sunni and Shia guises because you are too compromised to condemn their persecutors.

Islamism stops being an ideology intent on building an empire from Andalusia to Indonesia, destroying democracy and subjugating women and becomes, by the magic of parochial reasoning, a protest movement on a par with Make Poverty History or the TUC.

Again, I understand the appeal. Whether you are brown or white, Muslim, Christian, Jew or atheist, it is uncomfortable to face the fact that there is a messianic cult of death which, like European fascism and communism before it, will send you to your grave whatever you do. But I'm afraid that's what the record shows.

Face up to the truth

The moral blindness of those who talk about "Bush's war on terror", as if this is not America's fight, who believe that everything would be fine if we would just stop making the poor terrorists mad at us, who think there would be no terrorism if we had simply sold out Israel and left Saddam Hussein alone, continues to astound. The goal of the radical Islamists is to unite all Muslim nations into a single totalitarian superstate. This "Caliphate" would then seek to spread its barbarous perversion of Islam throughout the rest of the world. It doesn't matter who is president or what policies we pursue. This enemy cannot be appeased, it can only be defeated.

How Not to Help Africa

In a July 7th op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Max Boot makes the excellent point that Africa's problems are not due to a lack of development aid:

In the last 50 years, $2.3 trillion has been spent to help poor countries. Yet Africans' income and life expectancy have gone down, not up, during that period, while South Korea, Singapore and other Asian nations that received little if any assistance have moved from African-level poverty to European-level prosperity thanks to their superior economic policies.

Economists who have studied aid projects have found numerous reasons for the failures. In many instances, money was siphoned off by corrupt officials. Even when funds did reach the intended beneficiaries, the money often distorted local markets for goods and labor, creating inflation that drove local businesses out of business.

Only one major research paper in recent years has found any positive correlation between foreign aid and economic growth, and that only in countries "with good fiscal, monetary and trade policies," which excludes much of Africa. Most experts think even that conclusion is too optimistic.

As I've argued earlier, political reform is the key to solving Africa's afflictions. As long as the Mugabes and other corrupt thugs remain in power, no amount of money will end that continent's suffering.

News Roundups

Here are some recent news updates worth checking out:

-Arthur Chrenkoff's latest monthly "good news" update on Afghanistan is available from Opinion Journal.

-Winds of Change has its Monday Iraq Report and War on Terror update.

-Finally, last week's Global Jihad Monitor is also worth a look.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The "Nonexistent" Iraq-al Qaeda Connection

In the July 18th Weekly Standard, Stephen Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn provide a terrific overview of what we know about the relationship between Saddam Hussein's regime and al Qaeda. The piece is a must-read, especially for anyone who has bought into the ridiculous anti-Bush spin that Iraq and al Qaeda had nothing to do with each other:

FOR MANY, the debate over the former Iraqi regime's ties to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network ended a year ago with the release of the 9/11 Commission report. Media outlets seized on a carefully worded summary that the commission had found no evidence "indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States" and ran blaring headlines like the one on the June 17, 2004, front page of the New York Times: "Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie."

But this was woefully imprecise. It assumed, not unreasonably, that the 9/11 Commission's conclusion was based on a firm foundation of intelligence reporting, that the intelligence community had the type of human intelligence and other reporting that would allow senior-level analysts to draw reasonable conclusions. We know now that was not the case.

John Lehman, a 9/11 commissioner, spoke to The Weekly Standard at the time the report was released. "There may well be--and probably will be--additional intelligence coming in from interrogations and from analysis of captured records and so forth which will fill out the intelligence picture. This is not phrased as--nor meant to be--the definitive word on Iraqi Intelligence activities."

Lehman's caution was prescient. A year later, we still cannot begin
to offer a "definitive" picture of the relationships entered into by Saddam Hussein's operatives, but much more has already been learned from documents uncovered after the Iraq war. The evidence we present below, compiled from revelations in recent months, suggests an acute case of denial on the part of those who dismiss the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship.

The Mother of All Connections

Why Am I Not Surprised

The first movie about 9/11 is on the way, and who's going to direct it? None other than conspiracy monger extraordinaire Oliver Stone. Arthur Chrenkoff has a good roundup of blogger reactions. Personally, I think Instapundit comes up with the best take:

But hey, the inevitable scene of Jewish office workers staying home will be well received in some other parts of the world. . . .

My own reaction is similar. Theoretically, the movie is supposed to be about the rescue of two Port Authority officers from Ground Zero. You would think that this story would be hard to turn into a bizarre, overwrought vehicle for infantile conspiracy theories. I have full confidence, though, that Oliver Stone will find a way to do it.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Book Burning in Cuba

Walter Skold has written a great article for World Net Daily on noted author Ray Bradbury's condemnation of censorship and book burning in Cuba:

After giving a keynote speech this week at the American Library Association's annual convention, science fiction author Ray Bradbury joined a growing list of international writers and human rights activists in condemning the persecution of Cuba's Independent Library Project.

The American Library Association, or ALA, has ignored a request by imprisoned Cuban counterparts to demand leader Fidel Castro release them, but the author of "Fahrenheit 451" responded after viewing evidence of court-ordered book burning.

"I stand against any library or any librarian anywhere in the world being imprisoned or punished in any way for the books they circulate," Bradbury said. "I plead with Castro and his government to immediately take their hands off the independent librarians and release all those librarians in prison, and to send them back into Cuban culture to inform the people."

Seeking to stay out of internal politics, Bradbury did not make his comments during his ALA appearance. But he hopes the ALA will support him in his call for Castro to stop intimidating the independent library movement, which receives funding through congressionally-approved USAID and other agency grants.

As Walter notes in his piece, the Cuba resolution passed by ALA Council in January 2004 was a mealy mouthed compromise that failed to even call for the release of the imprisoned librarians. In addition, ALA has yet to acknowledge the Castro regime's destruction of books and other materials that it confiscated from the independent libraries. The section of the ALA web site that covers book burning doesn't even mention it.

I should point out, however, that ALA hasn't completely ignored events on the island of Cuba. The association's web page on book burning in the 21st century may not acknowledge the Cuban dictatorship's incineration of hundreds of books, but it does reference the five times that guards at Guantanamo mishandled the Koran. Nothing, of course, about the 15 instances in which imprisoned terrorists at Gitmo desecrated Korans. In short, ALA regards an American soldier who mishandles a book as more worthy of note than a communist despot who burns books.

Friday, July 08, 2005

VDH on the London Atrocities

Today's National Review Online column from Dr. Victor Davis Hanson discusses the terrorist attacks in London. As usual, Dr. Hanson's thoughts are well worth reading:

It is not that we don’t believe in Western values as much as we don’t even know what they are anymore. The London bombings were only a reification of what goes on daily with impunity blocks away in the mosques and Islamist schools of London.

The enemy knows that and thrives on it. That refuge in religion is why imams shout that “Islam doesn’t condone such things” — even as bin Laden has become a folk hero on the Arab Street. Jihadists sense that even here at home more Americans are more concerned about a flushed Koran at Guantanamo Bay than five Americans fighting for the Iraqi jihadists or Taliban sympathizers in Lodi, California.

As long as there is not any price to be paid for Islamism, either by governments abroad or purveyors of its hatred in the West, the propaganda works and the killing will go on. But when a renegade Saudi Prince, Pakistani general, London imam, or Lodi mosque leader screams out to the jihadist, “Stop that before those crazy Americans really do go to war,” the war, in fact, will be over and won.

The Same Old, Same Old . . .

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The London Atrocities

I was on the road yesterday and into the early hours of this morning. I arrived back here in Greenville shortly before news broke of today's barbarous terrorist attacks in London. I wish to extend my condolences to the victims and their families, and to the British people in general. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

I'll have additional thoughts on the atrocities this weekend, but I think it is clear that this was the work of either al Qaeda the organization, or local adherents of its Islamist ideology of death. It is a painful reminder that the War on Radical Islamism will be a long and difficult struggle. Setbacks will occur, as today, and sacrifices will be required. Losing is not an option.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

At the Movies

While on vacation, I've had the chance to see the following two movies. Here are my brief thoughts:

Warning: spoilers ahead

Batman Begins

-The latest entry in the comicbook superhero cinematic sweepstakes is actually quite good. The movie is mercifully free of the cheese that infected the last two Batman films. The story is reasonably logical, all things considered, the characters are believable (in a relative sense), and the dialogue is decent. Christian Bale is very good as Bruce Wayne/Batman, and Liam Neeson is excellent as the mentor/villain. The movie does have a few flaws. The climactic showdown drags on a bit too long, and the super Hummer/Batmobile was a little over the top. Overall, though, Batman Begins is welcome proof that comicbook movies are not required to suck.

3 Stars (out of four)

War of the Worlds

-People either love this movie or hate it. I hated it. I never bought Tom Cruise as a down on his luck blue collar type, and the kids were incredibly annoying, especially Dakota Fanning. Much of the dialogue was really bad, the story was weak, and the main characters behaved like complete morons for much of the film. Basically, having been chased from north New Jersey by the alien onslaught, Cruise and his character's two children try to make their way to Boston to rejoin his ex-wife and her family. Why? Because a major city is exactly where you would want to be during an apocalypse. "What's happening" the kids would annoyingly keep asking as everything was blowing up around them, when any halfway intelligent person would simply get the hell out of there and ask questions later. Many of the scenes, such as the confrontation between Cruise and his son during the battle, were melodramatic in the worst sense of the term. Finally, Tim Robbins' character, modeled on the soldier from the original H.G. Wells novel, is completely over the top.

The film's other major flaw concerns the aliens, and their technology in particular. The idea that they had attack craft buried here for thousands of years, that just happened to be located near major cities, made little sense. For one thing, why did they wait so long to attack? As one of my friends pointed out, why not come far earlier in human history, when mankind couldn't even have attempted to put up a fight? Also, while it was a nice touch having the aliens use tripedal attack craft that traveled in groups of three, as in the Wells novel and 1953 movie, the mechanical octopi didn't strike me as the most logical form of weapon an advanced enemy would employ. I understand that the aliens were seeking to capture humans in order to drain their blood. Still, if they were going to destroy a ferry, for example, there had to be an easier way to do it than simply tipping it over. You would think that aliens advanced enough to travel halfway across the galaxy to attack us could come up with something more efficient and less labor intensive. Even H. G. Wells had his "Martians" using energy beams and poison gas. Frankly, as frightening as this is to say, Independence Day offered a much more "logical" view of alien invaders.

The movie wasn't completely bad. Most of the pure destruction/battle scenes were good, especially the one where Tom Cruise slipped the grenades into the alien craft. The special effects in particular worked well. Overall, though, War of the Worlds failed on numerous levels. The ending, where Cruise and his daughter find his ex-wife and her family happily at home in the one block in Boston that the aliens thoughtfully refrained from destroying, was indescribable in its cheesiness. At least Independence Day, with all its myriad flaws, was cheesy by design. War, on the other hand, was pretentiously cheesy, something that is far less forgivable.

1 1/2 stars

Iraq, 9/11, and the Bush Speech: Part 2

Click Here for Part 1

In my first post on this topic, I addressed the criticism directed at President Bush's references to the 9/11 attacks in his June 28th speech on the situation in Iraq. My point was that, as a sponsor of terrorism with ties to al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein's regime was a legitimate target of the War on Terrorism.

However, for the sake of argument, let's adopt the view of many Bush critics that invading Iraq had nothing to do with combating the jihadists. Does this mean that Bush was wrong to mention 9/11 in his speech? Absolutely not. If you look at the text of his remarks, it is clear that the president was referring to the struggle with the post-Saddam terrorist insurgency:

The troops here and across the world are fighting a global war on terror. The war reached our shores on September the 11th, 2001. The terrorists who attacked us -- and the terrorists we face -- murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent. Their aim is to remake the Middle East in their own grim image of tyranny and oppression -- by toppling governments, by driving us out of the region, and by exporting terror.

What does the Iraqi insurgency have to do with al Qaeda? Considering that the main terrorist organization in Iraq adopted the name al Qaeda in October 2004, and that its leader, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden at the same time, I would think the connection is obvious. In a tape released on December 27th, Osama bin Laden reciprocated Zarqawi's show of loyalty:

"The warrior commander [and] honored comrade Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi and the groups who joined him are the best of the community that is fighting for the sake of the word of Allah. Their courageous operations against the Americans and against the apostate Allawi government have gladdened us…

"We in the Al-Qa'ida organization very much welcome their union with us. This is a tremendous step on the path to the unification of the efforts fighting for the establishment of a State of Truth and for the uprooting of the State of the Lie…

"Know that the warrior comrade Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi is the commander [Amir] of the Al-Qa'ida organization in the land of the Tigris and the Euphrates, and the comrades in the organization there must obey him."

Bin Laden's chosen "Emir" in Iraq, Zarqawi, is an experienced Jordanian terrorist who has been involved in planning and organizing attacks on Americans since before 9/11. As early as February 2003, Zarqawi was designated by al Qaeda's military commander, Saif al-Adel, to organize the terror network's counteroffensive in Iraq against the US invasion. There has been a steady flow of foreign jihadists into Iraq, primarily through Syria, since before the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Al Qaeda's commitment in Iraq has only grown since then, to the point where some analysts believe that the network is making its "last stand" in the country. In places such as Fallujah and western Anbar province where al Qaeda has gained control, they have imposed a barbarous system of totalitarian control rivaling that of the Taliban. In short, the evidence is overwhelming that in Iraq we are in direct confrontation with al Qaeda.

Many in this country may regard the Iraq campaign as a "distraction" from the War on Terror, but that is not a view shared by al Qaeda. It is clear that, bolstered by the belief that America is a decadent, cowardly nation unable to accept casualties, al Qaeda is convinced that it can drive the US from Iraq just as the Soviets were forced from Afghanistan. In retrospect, I believe the Bush Administration's underestimation of the jihadists' willingness and ability to confront us in Iraq to be one of its greatest mistakes.

Yet, al Qaeda's campaign in Iraq is motivated by far more than anger at our presence: there is above all the fear that we will succeed in building a democratic, pluralist system in that country that offers a model for the broader region. As Yussef al-Ayyeri, a Saudi al Qaeda leader killed in June 2003, wrote after the fall of Baghdad:

"IT is not the American war machine that should be of the utmost concern to Muslims. What threatens the future of Islam, in fact its very survival, is American democracy."

Journalist Amir Taheri summarizes al-Ayyeri's attitude as follows:

The goal of democracy, according to Al-Ayyeri, is to "make Muslims love this world, forget the next world and abandon jihad." If established in any Muslim country for a reasonably long time, democracy could lead to economic prosperity, which, in turn, would make Muslims "reluctant to die in martyrdom" in defense of their faith.

He says that it is vital to prevent any normalization and stabilization in Iraq. Muslim militants should make sure that the United States does not succeed in holding elections in Iraq and creating a democratic government. "If democracy comes to Iraq, the next target [for democratization] would be the whole of the Muslim world," Al-Ayyeri writes.

Denunciation of democracy as an "infidel" institution, and fear of its spread in the Muslim world, are consistent themes in radical Islamist thought. This is why al Qaeda is determined to prevent the creation of a democratic Iraq. So far, despite all their atrocities, they have failed. In the words of President Bush from last Tuesday:

The lesson of this experience is clear: The terrorists can kill the innocent, but they cannot stop the advance of freedom. The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September the 11th, if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi, and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden. For the sake of our nation's security, this will not happen on my watch.

Iraq is indeed the central front in the war between America and radical Islamism. In that country, we are directly engaged with both the network and the ideology that produced the 9/11 atrocities. The outcome of this struggle could well prove decisive. To quote al-Ayyeri:

"In Iraq today, there are only two sides," Al-Ayyeri asserts. "Here we have a clash of two visions of the world and the future of mankind. The side prepared to accept more sacrifices will win."

If we are not prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to defeat al Qaeda in Iraq, we will have to make even greater sacrifices to defeat them elsewhere.

Supporting the Troops

In the wake of our nation's 230th Independence Day, please consider offering your support to the men and women who protect our freedom:

-The Department of Defense has a Web site called America Supports You. Find resources by state, or send a message of support to the troops.

-Winds of Change has a great guide to resources for offering support to US and coalition forces.

-The Helping our Heroes Foundation provides mentoring, financial aid, and additional help to wounded servicemembers. For more information, see this article from National Review Online.

-Finally, please take a look at the list of "Supporting the Troops" links to the right, and consider giving to the charity of your choice.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy 4th of July!

Just wanted to wish everyone a safe and happy 4th of July. In particular, I'd like to offer my thoughts and prayers to our troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Iraq, 9/11, and the Bush Speech: Part 1

On Tuesday night, President Bush delivered some remarks on the state of affairs in Iraq. Overall, I thought it was a good speech, competently delivered. The following passage was particularly Churchillian in tone:

America and our friends are in a conflict that demands much of us. It demands the courage of our fighting men and women, it demands the steadfastness of our allies, and it demands the perseverance of our citizens. We accept these burdens, because we know what is at stake. We fight today because Iraq now carries the hope of freedom in a vital region of the world, and the rise of democracy will be the ultimate triumph over radicalism and terror. And we fight today because terrorists want to attack our country and kill our citizens, and Iraq is where they are making their stand. So we'll fight them there, we'll fight them across the world, and we will stay in the fight until the fight is won.

Not surprisingly, many Democrats were less than enthusiastic in their response. In particular, some expressed anger over the president's references to 9/11, claiming that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks and that the president was exploiting the memory of September 11th for his own ends. Such reactions are sadly indicative of the current Democratic Party's utter lack of fitness to lead this nation in time of war.

For one thing, the administration has never claimed that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks. What it has argued, correctly, is that Baathist Iraq was an active state sponsor of terrorism, including having links to al Qaeda and other jihadist organizations. As Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard points out yet again, there was indeed a decade long relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. Such ties also existed with al Qaeda affiliates such as Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Saddam Hussein's regime trained, harbored, and assisted anti-American and anti-Israeli terrorists. Baathist Iraq was also an active sponsor of radical Sunni Islam and source of anti-American incitement. Of all the regimes in the Middle East, Iraq's was the only one that openly celebrated the 9/11 attacks. Finally, the available prewar intelligence indicated that Iraq was actually increasing its involvement in terrorism directed at the United States. Yet many Democrats and much of the elite media bizarrely and obtusely continue to insist that overthrowing such a regime had nothing to do with fighting terrorism.

Andrew C. McCarthy provides the best overall explanation for why eliminating Saddam's dictatorship was an essential part of the War on Islamist Terror:

On September 12, 2001, no one in America cared about whether there would be enough Sunni participation in a fledgling Iraqi democracy if Saddam were ever toppled. No one in lower Manhattan cared whether the electricity would work in Baghdad, or whether Muqtada al-Sadr's Shiite militia could be coaxed into a political process. They cared about smashing terrorists and the states that supported them for the purpose of promoting American national security.

Saddam Hussein's regime was a crucial part of that response because it was a safety net for al Qaeda. A place where terror attacks against the United States and the West were planned. A place where Saddam's intelligence service aided and abetted al Qaeda terrorists planning operations. A place where terrorists could hide safely between attacks. A place where terrorists could lick their wounds. A place where committed terrorists could receive vital training in weapons construction and paramilitary tactics. In short, a platform of precisely the type without which an international terror network cannot succeed.

No, Saddam's Iraq was not involved in 9/11, any more than the Third Reich participated in attacking Pearl Harbor. However, just as defeating Nazi Germany was essential to winning the war against fascist totalitarianism, so ending the threat from Baathist Iraq was vital if we are to prevail against Islamist totalitarianism.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Africa's Real Problem: Tyranny

Today, the series of Live 8 concerts designed to promote increased development aid and debt relief for Africa are taking place. Problems such as disease, poverty, hunger, and lack of education are very serious, and I respect Live 8's efforts to help. My concern, however, is that Africa's major problem is not any of these issues, as serious as they are, but the corrupt, tyrannical regimes that rule all too much of that continent. The 1984-85 Ethiopian famine, for example, was a direct consequence of the Stalinist policies of the Mengistu dictatorship, and was deliberately used by that regime as a weapon against its enemies. Today, one need only look at Sudan, where the brutal Islamist tyranny in Khartoum has waged a campaign of genocide in Darfur that has cost an estimated 180,000 lives. Dictatorships such as the Sudanese regime not only cause an enormous amount of human suffering, they also exacerbate the very conditions that Live 8 is trying to address and make positive change virtually impossible.

There is no better example of the destruction wrought by barbarous, dictatorial regimes in Africa than the events now taking place in Zimbabwe. In a piece for the June 27th Weekly Standard, Roger Bate provides a chilling description of Robert Mugabe's attempt to become the Pol Pot of Africa:

Mugabe has lately been looking East for trade and financial support, but also for pointers on oppressing his people, as he follows the lead of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, which gutted towns to make for a more pliant populace. After Mugabe handed over white-owned farms to his cronies who didn't know how to farm, a million jobs were lost and the workers and their families migrated to cities and towns. There are now more people in the towns than in the countryside. This aggregation in urban centers has helped these rural people become more politically aware, and diminished the power held over them by the chiefs, headmen, and political councils--all people Mugabe has bought off.

The current attacks on urban centers are part of a corrective strategy to drive perhaps two million people back onto the land. Once there, they will be cut off from the rest of the country and at the mercy of government-controlled food supplies. It is more difficult to starve people in urban areas where the outside world might catch wind of what's going on. As one displaced farmer puts it: "The people don't want to go back to the rural areas because they are afraid and also they know the hardships they will face. In summer, it would be easier for people--even those who have lost the skills--to live off the land from berries and wild mushrooms--but it's the height of winter now and there is nothing."

But controlling this population becomes easier all the time, as millions have fled over the past few years, over 3,000 people die every week of AIDS, and most college graduates, many of whom are activists, leave the country. The result has been an astonishing decline in the population, which is down to around 10 million from over 13 million a few years back. Not that the government minds. In August 2002, Didymus Mutasa, today the head of the secret police, said: "We would be better off with only six million people, with our own people who support the liberation struggle."

For those who remain in Zimbabwe, a Cambodian experiment awaits. Thousands of people made homeless in the government's clean-up campaign are being herded into reeducation camps and told they can have a housing plot if they swear allegiance to the party of President Robert Mugabe. Those who refuse are loaded onto trucks and dumped in remote rural areas where food is scarce. Human rights workers say they are deliberately being left to die in an effort by the Mugabe regime to exterminate opponents.

"This is social cleansing to try to eradicate the opposition," says Trudy Stevenson, an opposition MP whose Harare North constituency includes Hatcliffe, where the homes of 30,000 people have been demolished along with an orphanage for children whose parents have died of AIDS. "It's horrific. They are dumping people in rural areas to get rid of troublesome elements to make sure they can't challenge the regime," she adds.

Working to rid the African continent of poverty, hunger, and other afflictions is a necessary and noble task. Without political change in places such as Sudan and Zimbabwe, however, all such efforts are bound to be futile.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Two from VDH

Once again, I submit for your approval the writings of Dr. Victor Davis Hanson. In today's piece for National Review Online, Dr. Hanson addresses the world's double standard vis-a-vis America and its enemies, and offers some modest proposals for how the US can respond:

While the world debated whether an American guard at Guantanamo really flushed a Koran down a toilet, Robert Mugabe may have bulldozed the homes of 1.5 million Zimbabweans.

Few seem to have cared.


The new general rule: Global morality is established by the degree the United States can be blamed. Millions of lives lost, vast corruption, thousands of refugees - all that can'’t quite equate with a U.S. soldier showing insensitivity or an American detention center with mere doctors, ethnic food, and religious accommodations.

American Zen

In last week's essay, Dr. Hanson observed that many of our intellectual elites base their attitude towards a particular war on whether a conservative or a liberal happens to be in the White House. As you might expect, such thinking has proven to be less than helpful in the present conflict:

As September 11 faded in our collective memory, Muslim extremists were insidiously but systematically reinvented in our elite presentations as near underprivileged victims, and themselves often adept critics of purported rapacious Western consumerism, oil profiteering, heavy-handed militarism, and spiritual desolation.

Extremists who would otherwise be properly seen in the fascistic mold were instead given a weird pass for their quite public and abhorrent hatred of non-believers and homosexuals, and their Neanderthal views of women. Beheadings, the murder of Christians, suicide bombings carried out by children, systematic torture — all this and more paled in comparison to hot and cold temperatures in American jails on Cuba. Suddenly despite our enemies' long record of murder and carnage, we were in a war not with fascism of the old stamp, but with those who were historical victims of the United States. Thus problems arose of marshalling American public opinion against the supposedly weaker that posited legitimate grievances against Western hegemons. It was no surprise that Sen. Durbin's infantile rantings would be showcased on al-Jazeera.

When Western liberals today talk of a mythical period in the days after 9/11 of "unity" and "European solidarity" what they really remember is a Golden Age of Victimhood, or about four weeks before the strikes against the Taliban commenced. Then for a precious moment at last the United States was a real victim, apparently weak and vulnerable, and suffering cosmic justice from a suddenly empowered other. Oh, to return to the days before Iraq and Afghanistan, when we were hurt, introspective, and pitied, and had not yet "lashed out."

If one examines the infomercials of a bin Laden or Zawahiri, or the terrorist communiques sent to the Westernized media, they are almost all rehashes of the Michael Moore Left, from "Bush lied" to "Halliburton" to "genocide" and "Gulag." This now famous "Unholy Alliance" of radical anti-Americans and reactionary jihadists is really a two-way street: Islamists mimic the old leftist critique of the United States, and the Western Left hopes that they in turn can at least tone down their rhetoric about knocking walls over gays or sending all women into burka seclusion — at least long enough to pose as something like disposed Palestinians minus the Hamas bombs laced with feces, rat poison, and nails.

The Politics of American Wars

Thank You Canada

As Joe Katzman reminds us at Winds of Change, today is Canada Day. While Canada's urban elites and chattering classes pride themselves on being fashionably anti-American, many ordinary "Don Cherry Canadians" remain stalwart friends of the US. In particular, Canadian soldiers have fought and died alongside Americans in Afghanistan. So to all of them, I say thank you and Happy Canada Day.