Friday, September 30, 2005

The Chronicle Forum

If you haven't read the Chronicle forum on my article, you should, because it's certainly entertaining if nothing else. The thoroughly unhinged comments of Communist Party USA archivist Mark Rosenzweig and other radical leftists provide a far better illustration of why I had to write the article than anything I can say.

To those liberals such as John Berry who have defended my right to speak, you have my gratitude. As for Rosenzweig and company, know simply that I don't give a damn what you say about me. For five years I was silent while you sought to hijack this profession in pursuit of your own far left agenda. No longer. If the price of speaking my mind is to be subjected to the infantile taunts of an aging Stalinist, then so be it. It's nothing I can't handle.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Thank You

I just wanted to once again thank everyone who has taken the time to e-mail me regarding my article. The piece certainly seems to have produced an impact, as evidenced by the Chronicle's own discussion forum. Reaction there is mixed, but certainly entertaining.

What the Sunnis Fear

I hope my newly increased librarian readership will forgive me if I change topics momentarily. Middle East scholar Dr. Fouad Ajami has a superb essay in today's Wall Street Journal that is well worth a look:

The remarkable thing about the terror in Iraq is the silence with which it is greeted in other Arab lands. Grant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi his due: He has been skilled at exposing the pitilessness on the loose in that fabled Arab street and the moral emptiness of so much of official Arab life. The extremist is never just a man of the fringe: He always works at the outer edges of mainstream life, playing out the hidden yearnings and defects of the dominant culture. Zarqawi is a bigot and a killer, but he did not descend from the sky. He emerged out of the Arab world's sins of omission and commission; in the way he rails against the Shiites (and the Kurds) he expresses that fatal Arab inability to take in "the other." A terrible condition afflicts the Arabs, and Zarqawi puts it on lethal display: an addiction to failure, and a desire to see this American project in Iraq come to a bloody end.

Zarqawi's war, it has to be conceded, is not his alone; he kills and maims, he labels the Shiites rafida (rejecters of Islam), he charges them with treason as "collaborators of the occupiers and the crusaders," but he can be forgiven the sense that he is a holy warrior on behalf of a wider Arab world that has averted its gaze from his crimes, that has given him its silent approval. He and the band of killers arrayed around him must know the meaning of this great Arab silence.


It was the luck of the imperial draw that the American project in Iraq came to the rescue of the Shiites--and of the Kurds. We may not fully appreciate the historical change we unleashed on the Arab world, but we have given liberty to the stepchildren of the Arab world. We have overturned an edifice of material and moral power that dates back centuries. The Arabs railing against U.S. imperialism and arrogance in Iraq will never let us in on the real sources of their resentments. In the way of "modern" men and women with some familiarity with the doctrines of political correctness, they can't tell us that they are aggrieved that we have given a measure of self-worth to the seminarians of Najaf and the highlanders of Kurdistan. But that is precisely what gnaws at them.

Heart of Darkness

Read a Burned Book

Ironically, my 15 seconds of what passes for fame has fallen right in the middle of Banned Books Week. To mark this event, the FREADOM blog has a terrific suggestion that I wholeheartedly endorse:

To mark this year’s celebration of Banned Books Week (BBW), a nationwide group of librarians is encouraging readers to protest cases of censorship and human rights abuses by reading literature that has literally been burned.

But first a quiz.

“What do The Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., the US Constitution, certain works by José Martí, The Power of the Powerless, by Vaclav Havel, Your Body is Yours, and Time magazine have in common?”, asks Steve Marquardt, the co-founder of FREADOM, and Dean of Libraries at South Dakota State University.

“They are among the hundreds of books, pamphlets, and personal papers that have been judged ‘subversive’ and ordered burned by Cuban authorities in recent years in their crackdown against independent libraries and independent thought,” says Marquardt, a long-time human rights activist.

FREADOM, a 2-year old group of librarians, writers, and human rights activists, is calling on libraries to display these and other burned books during BBW, and is asking patrons to read such literature to celebrate American liberties.

Please read the rest.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Reactions to the Chronicle Article

So far I've received about 20 e-mails in response to my Chronicle of Higher Education piece on being a conservative librarian, plus a number of comments on this thread. Surprisingly, all have been positive. I have been especially gratified by a number of messages from moderate or liberal librarians who differ with me on several issues yet agree about the negative impact of the politicization of our profession. Apparently, the overall response to the article has been respectful, for which I am very appreciative.

If I have one complaint, it's with the way that the Chronicle has chosen to promote the piece. Here's one example:

“The more his colleagues within the American Library Association declare their leftist views, the more David Durant feels left out.”

Please, that makes me sound like I'm miffed about not getting picked for Dodgeball. Still, it's a small concern. In fact, the Chronicle actually solicited the article, and I'm grateful to them for the opportunity.

Sometime later, I'll post a snippet of some of the responses I've received, with the permission of the authors. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read the article, and especially those who have taken the time to share their reactions.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Life as a Conservative Librarian

I was recently asked to write an article on life as a conservative librarian for the Chronicle of Higher Education. That essay is now available:

Much has been made of the left's domination of college and university faculties. Yet in terms of political composition, the library profession makes your typical Ivy League faculty look like the Heritage Foundation. Had the 2004 election been confined to librarians, I firmly believe that the presidential race would not have been between Kerry and Bush, but between Kerry and Nader.

When David Brooks did some research into political donations by profession for his September 11, 2004, column in The New York Times, he found that for librarians "the ratio of Kerry to Bush donations was a whopping 223 to 1." By contrast, the corresponding ratio for academics was 11 to 1. As one of those rarest of beasts, a conservative librarian, I can attest firsthand to the stifling left-wing orthodoxy of modern American librarianship.

The Loneliness of a Conservative Librarian

I wish to publicly thank the Chronicle for the opportunity to do this piece. Hopefully, it will have a positive impact.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

VDH on Staying the Course

Sorry for the lack of recent posting. In the meantime, I offer a link to this week's column from Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, who again provides some badly needed perspective on the state of affairs in Iraq:

Our current policy is not just correct because we are now wedded to it. In fact, it is a reaction to our past strategy of realpolitik coupled with appeasement. That strategy led us to 9/11 and a quarter century of terror originating in Iran in November 1979 — whether we define that history as cynical support for dictators, leaving after lobbing a few shells and bombs in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Somalia, or Iraq, or allowing wounded tyrants like Saddam to stay in power.

Second, our efforts after 9/11 represent not the worst, but the best of America abroad. Millions just voted yet again in Afghanistan in one of the true revolutionary events of our time — mostly unnoticed by Western media.

We forget that Iraq was not liberated until almost 15 months after Kabul. Yet it is already progressing down the same constitutional road. Despised Kurds and Shiites have achieved equal representation. And that topsy-turvy world has infuriated a once oppressive Sunni minority, formerly associated with Saddam Hussein, now in sympathy with al Zarqawi , the terrorist killer. Once unpopular because we were alleged to be cynical in our support of dictators, we are now even more suspect because we are proven proponents of downtrodden Kurds and Shiites in their efforts for political equality. Most Americans — since they are going to be disliked either way — prefer to be hated for their idealism rather than their cynicism.

Billions in American material aid has flowed to Iraqis, even as the price of oil has skyrocketed, costing us billions more — so much for oil conspiracies and stealing Arab resources. In short, Iraq is not an imperialistic venture, but a messy, unappreciated attempt to make the United States more secure by removing dictators from their petrodollar-funded arsenals and leaving constitutional governments in their wake, while promoting social justice for the formerly marginalized.

Note that so far there are none of the indications that would rightly tell us it is high time to leave Iraq: Polls don’t suggest that Iraqis want us out immediately; the parliament has not asked the United States to depart; President Talabani does not order us home; American military commanders and diplomats on the ground in Iraq have not concluded that success is impossible, and there is not a grassroots popular movement across religious and tribal lines to oppose the American-sponsored democratic reforms.

Strategy, Strategy Everywhere…

Monday, September 19, 2005

Wrapping up Hitchens v. Galloway

FrontPage Magazine links to a transcript of last week's debate between author Christopher Hitchens and pro-Saddam demagogue George Galloway. National Review Online has a good article about the proceedings from Alex Massie. Meanwhile, blogger Tigerhawk attended the debate and scored it a clear victory for Hitchens.

While I haven't had the chance to watch or listen to the debate, it seems clear that Hitchens at least made arguments based on fact and logic, while Galloway did little but trot out the favorite shibboleths of the anti-American left. Considering that Galloway's entire political career has been built around embracing the cause of anti-American tyrannies, from the Soviet Union to Saddam's Iraq, this should come as no surprise.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Al Qaeda and the House of Saud

One of the key issues involving the War on Radical Islamism is the place of Saudi Arabia in the conflict. Is the Saudi regime an aider and abettor of jihadism, or an essential ally in the struggle? The answer, as laid out by John Bradley in a superb essay republished by FrontPage Magazine, is that the House of Saud is both part of the problem and part of the solution:

There were thus two polarized reactions to the conference, reflecting the diametrically opposed views among Saudi observers in the West when it comes to the question of the kingdom's role in the "war on terrorism". On one side are those such as Townsend who, believing Saudi Arabia to be a crucial ally, focused on the conference's powerful symbolism. They stressed that one of its important objectives was to dispel persisting doubts in the West about the Saudi royal family's commitment to combating terrorism. On the other side are those who see duplicity in every al-Saud statement [4] and were especially critical of the conference's high symbolism, as it allowed the regime to showcase its purported counterterrorism successes without having to engage in substantive debate on broader, more controversial issues.

Both interpretations contain elements of truth. When it comes to the issue of fighting al-Qaeda, the al-Saud regime has been and continues to be part of the problem in fundamental ways. Yet, it is equally undeniable that, considering the absolute nature of the al-Saud family's rule and the dearth of acceptable alternatives, at least in Western eyes, the regime is indispensable to any solution to terrorism. Townsend implicitly acknowledged in Riyadh that, if bin Laden's goal was to overthrow the House of Saud and subsequently to gain the prestige that would come from the custodianship of Islam's two holy mosques and control of one-quarter of the world's known oil reserves, then the main US policy objective in response must be to guarantee the royal family's survival.

As Bradley lays out in detail, the Saudis are engaged in a double game; cracking down on individual jihadists while continuing to encourage the Wahhabist belief system that helps foster jihadism. While the United States should not try to induce precipitate change in Saudi Arabia, we need to push for long-term reform in the kingdom:

Riyadh's relentless fight against militants and repeated calls for national unity have conveniently provided a facade behind which the monarchy can abandon the few reform initiatives previously in place and reverse any movement, at least in the short term, toward democratic change. By remaining complicit with the regime, particularly at a time when Saudi citizens remain oppressed, unemployed and in some cases even impoverished, Washington is essentially allowing the kingdom to become a recruiting ground for al-Qaeda.

The United States is dependent on Saudi oil, but the Saudi regime is dependent on the US for its survival. Current US policy toward the kingdom should use that leverage to call for genuine reform, rather than just supporting the royal family in the belief that it will keep terrorists at bay. If the US does not look beyond the short-term benefits of stability resulting from its relationship with the Saudi regime, it will face far more severe, long-term consequences.

Al-Qaeda and the House of Saud

As is the case elsewhere in the Middle East, the status quo in Saudi Arabia is ultimately untenable. If we do not foster change that is compatible with democracy and pluralism, bin Laden and his allies will bring their own brand of reform to the Arabian Peninsula.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Perspective from VDH

This week's column from Dr. Victor Davis Hanson is a solid overview of the status of the War on Radical Islamism:

Where does the United States stand in its so-called global war against terror, four years after the September 11 attack? The news is both encouraging and depressing all at once.

Our Rock of Sisyphus

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The IRA: As Criminal as Ever

An infuriating article from today's Washington Post informs us that the IRA and its supporters have unleashed a sickening wave of violence and intimidation against the McCartney family, in retaliation for their heroic campaign to pursue justice for their murdered brother:

The family of Robert McCartney, a Catholic whose death at the hands of Irish Republican Army members in January caused international outrage and brought White House condemnation, said Wednesday it was being subjected to a campaign of violence and intimidation for speaking out forcefully against the IRA.

Paula McCartney, Robert's sister, said her two teenage sons were beaten recently by family members of a high-ranking IRA officer who they believe was involved in McCartney's killing. On Monday night, one of Robert McCartney's closest friends, Jeff Commander, was beaten with metal rods by a gang of men the McCartney family also contends are IRA members linked to the killing.

On Tuesday night, at least 50 people, mostly women, demonstrated outside the home of Bridgeen Hagans, McCartney's fiancee, vowing to return every night until she moves out of the neighborhood.

The IRA recently announced that it would disarm. However, much of its membership has clearly not abandoned criminality:

Even as the IRA has disarmed and lost much of its former clout, individual IRA members still "act as if they can do anything they want," said Jim Arnold, Paula McCartney's husband. "It's an absolute disgrace," said Arnold, a house painter. "They are dinosaurs. They live on the back of the IRA, but the IRA are finished, and they cannot grasp it. They won't move on."

Arnold said the people who took part in the McCartney killing are well known in the Short Strand. And he said that despite the IRA's claims that the men were expelled, they are still deeply involved with the paramilitary group. "This district is sickened by these people still parading around who were involved in Robert's murder," he said.


"They're trying to tell our family: Shut up or this is going to happen again," Arnold said. "The McCartney family opened a lot of eyes in Belfast."

Tragically, the efforts of the thugs are having some results:

Arnold and Paula McCartney, as well as Bridgeen Hagans, are making plans to move out of the neighborhood. "I can't live in a community where it is perfectly acceptable to murder an innocent man and still walk around freely," Paula McCartney said.

As long as the IRA refuses to abandon violence and intimidation and continues to prevent the murderers of Robert McCartney and others from being brought to justice, it and its political front organization Sinn Fein should be isolated and shunned. If the IRA cannot be trusted to comply with the rule of law, how can any other commitment it might make be believed. Any Irish-Americans who persist in donating to this pack of thugs should be deeply ashamed.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A Parody...Or is it?

Courtesy of LGF, here's a dead-on satire from parody blogger Iowahawk, mocking the ultraliberal bloggers who rushed to make Hurricane Katrina into yet another outlet for their Bush-hatred:

That's why we in the online progressive community have teamed up to form the Angels of Indignation, a new charity dedicated to getting the survivors of Bush/Katrina disaster back off their feet and on the road to class action. Angels of Indignation is proudly supported by a coalition of some of the top reality-based political sites -- sites like FrenzyBloc, RetardedChimp, Don't Bogart That Truth, BushTard, ConspiraScream, Puke Uprising, Dubyacide, Sanity Underground, Zit Popper, ScreamPukeRageScream, Screamette, and my own online community diary, The Daily Shriek.

Together, we represent the "can-do" sites that millions of progressives like you turn to for clear, level-headed political insight and activism to help you survive the coming holocaust schemes of the Rupugnican Xtian Jihadis in Washington.

I highly recommend reading it all.

Speaking of Banned Books

Courtesy of Roger Simon, Cathy Seipp brings word that the "progressive" San Francisco bookstore City Lights refuses to carry the works of the "fascist" Orianna Fallaci.

As a private business, City Lights is free of course to carry or not carry any book they like. Still, it's extremely illustrative of how many on the left who are always complaining about the alleged "crushing of dissent" in this country are more than willing to themselves suppress viewpoints they disagree with.

Are There Books that Should be Banned?

With Banned Books Week once again upon us, Greg McClay at SHUSH raises an interesting if controversial question:

As I'm sure many of you know Banned Book Week is coming up at the end of the month. I think its only right that we celebrate it properly by coming up with a list of books that should be banned.

Now let's clarify. There is no censorship in this country. Just because schools and public libraries don't have it doesn't make it unavailable. We're not going to go bookstore to bookstore rounding up books. So when I say 'banned' I mean books that no public library or school library should waste money or shelf space on. What books should any honest librarian just say no to, no matter how many requests for it? Is it depraved? false? useless? What? There are hundreds of books published each year. Most aren't worth the paper they're printed on. Which ones are worth less then even that?

To be honest, I approach this question with a certain amount of trepidation. As librarians we are committed to provide our users with materials that reflect a variety of perspectives. I work in an academic library, and wind up regularly selecting or ordering books that I personally regard as nonsensical. A large percentage of what comes from academic presses is, IMHO, little more than postmodernist Chomskyite gibberish. Still, I try very hard not to let my personal opinions prevent me from ordering books I dislike or disagree with.

I do feel that librarians need to be very careful about allowing our own personal biases to shape our collections. As repellant as I find them, I will in fact order books by the like of Chomsky, Michael Moore, etc, for the simple reason that they are likely to be of interest to some of our patrons. In short, I believe our users have the right to explore a variety of ideas, both good and bad.

As someone with a background in history, I even believe that academic libraries should keep books that are proven to be shoddy or even tendentious, provided they are relevant to the research interests of our users. Works like Arno Mayer's Why Did the Heavens not Darken, or Michael Bellesiles' Arming America are of great interest in historiographical research precisely because they are prime examples of how not to write about history.

So where do I draw the line? What books would I not order for our collection? Those that, to use a professional term, can only be described as crackpot literature. Here are some examples:

-Holocaust Denial
-9/11 Denial (i.e. the Pentagon wasn't really hit by a plane, etc.)
-Hate literature (Neo-Nazi, KKK, etc)
-Various other absurd conspiracy theories: the Earth is flat; the Moon landing was faked; AIDS was created by the CIA; everything is the fault of the Jews, or the Pope, etc.

In other words, works that dishonestly attempt to deny proven scientific and historical fact, usually in the service of a fringe ideology, and that are devoid of research interest.

Gruesome George

Tonight, the ever outspoken Christopher Hitchens will debate pro-Saddam demagogue George Galloway in New York. Mr. Hitchens promises to be in rare form, judging by his recent evisceration of Galloway in Slate:

My old friend and frequent critic Geoffrey Wheatcroft once tried to define a moment of perfect contentment and came up with the idea of opening a vintage wine while settling down to read an undiscovered work by P.G. Wodehouse. Another comrade identified bliss with writing or reading very hard in the afternoon, knowing that someone really, really nice was coming to dinner. I, too, have a taste for the simpler pleasures. Can I convey the deep sense of delight that stole over me when I learned that George Galloway and Jane Fonda were to go on an "anti-war" tour together and that the idea of this perfect partnership had come from Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues?

The pure silliness and risibility of the thing would have been quite beyond one's power of invention. And, oh, just to be present when they finally meet. Jane can shyly tell George, who yells daily about the rape of Jerusalem by Zionism, of the brave days in 1982 when she and Tom Hayden went to entertain Gen. Sharon's invading troops in Lebanon. He can huskily and modestly discuss (he says he's a great admirer of her role in Barefoot in the Park) his long record as one of Britain's leading pro-life politicians, and his more recent outrage at the judicial "murder" of Terri Schiavo.


Thus, and thanks in part to Eve and Jane, the "anti-war" movement has as its new star a man who is openly pro-war, but openly on the other side. A man who supported the previous oppressors of the region—the Soviet army in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq—who supports its current oppressors—Bashar Assad and his Lebanese proxies—and who still has time to endorse its potential future tyrants in the shape of the jihadists in Iraq and elsewhere. Galloway began his political life as a fifth-rate apologist for the Soviet Union, but he has now diversified into being an apologist for Stalinism, for fascism, and for jihadism all at once! All this, and Jane, too. One's cup runs over.

Please do yourself a favor and read it all:

George Galloway Is Gruesome, Not Gorgeous

The Hitchens-Galloway debate is being broadcast live on the web. It should be highly entertaining, to say the least.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Final Roundup

Today brings the last installment of Arthur Chrenkoff's invaluable "good news from Iraq" updates:

It has been almost a year and a half since I first started compiling the often under-reported and overlooked stories of positive developments in Iraq and, later, Afghanistan. Now I must say goodbye.

I have no doubt that good news will continue to come out of the Middle East and Central Asia, but a change in my work circumstances unfortunately prevents me from chronicling it in the future. The trend has been set, however, and I'm sure others will rise to the task of filling the news void and redressing the media's negativity.

Big thanks go to James Taranto, editor of this Web site, who alone in the mainstream media had the courage, imagination and foresight to provide a regular forum for the good news. Big thanks also to all the readers for your support and encouragement.

I do not know how Iraq and Afghanistan will look in five or 10 years, but I hope for the best. If, despite the horrendous problems and the enormous challenges, both countries manage to make it through and join the international family of normal, decent and peaceful nations, it will be all due to the amazing spirit and commitment of the majority of their people, and to the crucial help of the coalition members, their soldiers and their citizens. If that does indeed happen, many will wonder just exactly how these two countries, seemingly only in the news when the blood flows, have ever managed to get there. But you, having read these roundups, will not be surprised.

So here's another two weeks' worth of stories from Iraq that the great majority of news consumers won't hear.

Taking My Leave

Also offered for your perusal is Arthur's previous biweekly Iraq update, from August 30, which I neglected to link to previously:

Major's Frustration

Arthur has compiled a full list of his Iraq and Afghanistan "good news" updates on his blog. These roundups have proven to be an incredible resource for keeping up with the progress that the elite media has chosen not to discuss. I would like to thank Arthur for all the time and effort he has put into producing these updates, and wish him well in his new position.

Fortunately, a new site called Good News from the Front has been created to continue what Arthur has started. Rest assured that I'll be adding it to my list of links.

A Vision of a Reformed Islam

In Monday's Times of London, novelist Salman Rushdie offered his vision of how Islam needs to change in order to adapt to the 21st century and reject the barbarism of Salafist jihadism:

Reformed Islam would reject conservative dogmatism and accept that, among other things, women are fully equal to men; that people of other religions, and of no religion, are not inferior to Muslims; that differences in sexual orientation are not to be condemned, but accepted as aspects of human nature; that anti-Semitism is not OK; and that the repression of free speech by the thin-skinned ideology of easily-taken “offence” must be replaced by genuine, robust, anything-goes debate in which there are no forbidden ideas or no-go areas.

Reformed Islam would encourage diaspora Muslims to emerge from their self-imposed ghettoes and stop worrying so much about locking up their daughters. It would emerge from the intellectual ghetto of literalism and subservience to mullahs and ulema, allowing open, historically based scholarship to emerge from the shadows to which the madrassas and seminaries have condemned it.

There must be an end to the defensive paranoia that led some Muslims to claim that Jews were behind the 9/11 attacks and, more recently, that Muslims may not have been behind the 7/7 bombings either (a crackpot theory exploded, if one may use the verb, by the recent al-Jazeera video).

Having been sentenced to death by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989 for his novel The Satanic Verses, Rushdie has plenty of experience dealing with the intolerant fanaticism of the Islamists. The democratic, pluralist vision of Islam put forth by him and others, such as Irshad Manji, offers the best long-term hope for defeating the jihadists and their ideology of death.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Beslan: One Year Later

In the wake of the 9/11 anniversary, it is easy to forget that it was just over a year ago that an equally chilling jihadist atrocity took place: the Beslan massacre. On September 1, 2004, Chechen terrorists seized control of a school in the Russian city of Beslan, taking hundreds of children and their families hostage and planting explosives throughout the building. Two days later, the terrorists detonated those munitions. Between the explosions and a failed rescue attempt, 331 people were killed, including 186 children.

The Russian record in Chechnya is worthy of condemnation, and Russian authorities were guilty of monumental incompetence in their handling of the Beslan situation. Make no mistake, however: the blood of Beslan's innocents is solely on the hands of the jihadists. They are the ones who seized a school and took hundreds of civilian hostages. They murdered children and other hostages even before the events of the 3rd. They wired the school with explosives. Finally, they detonated the explosives.

The Beslan atrocity is a window into the chilling depravity of al Qaeda and the rest of the radical Islamist terror network. The Chechen insurgency has been thoroughly integrated into the broader al Qaeda network, as Lorenzo Vidino has documented for Middle East Quarterly. Norm Geras has pointed out that many Islamists now openly justify the killing of children in the service of jihad. Not only have Islamist ideologues sought to legitimize the slaughter at Beslan, al Qaeda has openly celebrated it on jihadist web sites and used it as a recruitment tool.

Sadly, Beslan is just one example among many of the Islamists' campaign of barbarism directed against anyone who stands in the way of their nightmarish totalitarian vision. The jihadists proudly proclaim that they worship death, a faith that is amply borne out by their actions. This is why they must be fought and defeated.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Appeasement Watch

Today's London Sunday Times carried an article that left me almost speechless:

ADVISERS appointed by Tony Blair after the London bombings are proposing to scrap the Jewish Holocaust Memorial Day because it is regarded as offensive to Muslims.

They want to replace it with a Genocide Day that would recognise the mass murder of Muslims in Palestine, Chechnya and Bosnia as well as people of other faiths.

The Jewish Holocaust was unique in history. It was the only genocide in which the goal was the literal extermination of every man, woman, and child belonging to a particular ethnic or religious group. Only the morally bankrupt could be opposed to a day memorializing what happened. Yet the Times quotes one Muslim spokesman as saying the following:

The very name Holocaust Memorial Day sounds too exclusive to many young Muslims. It sends out the wrong signals: that the lives of one people are to be remembered more than others. It's a grievance that extremists are able to exploit.

So memorializing the Holocaust is a "grievance" that drives young Muslims to extremism. Is it any wonder that the jihadists were able to find eight British Muslims willing to blow themselves up aboard subway trains? Sadly, the Muslim community in the UK has proven susceptible to the culture of perpetual victimhood that afflicts all too much of the Islamic world.

Reflections on 9/11

I have just finished watching The Flight that Fought Back, and cannot recommend it highly enough. It is a superb and moving tribute to the heroes of Flight 93, who gave their lives to prevent the al Qaeda savages from achieving their goal of destroying the US Capitol. The Discovery Channel is repeating the program as I type, so please consider watching it if you have a chance.

Last year, I wrote about my own relatively mundane experiences on 9/11. Essentially, I channeled my own memories and emotions from that day. Some may be offended, but I choose to present them unedited.

Recommended Viewing

Tonight, the Discovery Channel is showing a docudrama called The Flight that Fought Back, about the heroes of United Airlines Flight 93. Those bloggers who have seen the film, such as Arthur Chrenkoff, have highly recommended it. The program is being shown at 9:00 PM, EDT and PDT. I plan on watching, and encourage all of you to do the same.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

How Not to Commemorate 9/11

As America prepares to commemorate and reflect on the 4th anniversary of the September 11th atrocities, here are three outrageous examples of how this should not be done:

-Writing in The Weekly Standard, 9/11 survivor Deborah Weiss describes the ridiculous plan to build a politically correct monument to moral equivalence called the "International Freedom Center" at Ground Zero. Debra Burlingame, whose brother was murdered on 9/11, first alerted us back in June to the IFC's plans. Fortunately, a group called Take Back the Memorial has been formed to work on behalf of a Ground Zero memorial that honors the victims of 9/11 instead of depicting their murder as just another act of inhumanity, on a par with the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

-Even more outrageous are the newly released plans for a memorial to the heroes of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania, who gave their lives to prevent the fourth team of terrorists from destroying either the White House or Capitol building. Incredibly, the monument is to be shaped like a Muslim crescent, and is even called the "Crescent of Embrace". The idea that you would build a crescent-shaped memorial to people who were killed by terrorists claiming to act in the name of Islam is mind-boggling. It can only be explained by either incredible obtuseness or the worst sort of politically correct abasement. As Ed Morrissey has pointed out at Captain's Quarters, this is the equivalent of building a memorial at Pearl Harbor in the shape of the rising sun.

-Finally, a friend emailed me several months ago to let me know about the "performance art" exploits of one Kerry Skarbakka. Mr. Skarbakka's idea for honoring the victims of 9/11 consists of photographing himself while falling, just like those who jumped from the Twin Towers to avoid being burned to death. In June, Skarbakka "put on a harness and had himself dropped, again and again, from the roof of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, tipped head-down and pinwheeling his arms for added effect while confederates snapped pictures that sell - he says - for thousands of dollars. 'I can't afford the work I make,' he quipped."

Idiots like this are the reason I shun so-called "performance art" like the plague.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Katrina Blame Game

Charles Krauthammer says all that needs to be said regarding who is to blame for the shortcomings in responding to Hurricane Katrina:

In less enlightened times there was no catastrophe independent of human agency. When the plague or some other natural disaster struck, witches were burned, Jews were massacred and all felt better (except the witches and Jews).

A few centuries later, our progressive thinkers have progressed not an inch. No fall of a sparrow on this planet is not attributed to sin and human perfidy. The three current favorites are: (1) global warming, (2) the war in Iraq and (3) tax cuts. Katrina hits and the unholy trinity is immediately invoked to damn sinner-in-chief George W. Bush.

This kind of stupidity merits no attention whatsoever, but I'll give it a paragraph. There is no relationship between global warming and the frequency and intensity of Atlantic hurricanes. Period. The problem with the evacuation of New Orleans is not that National Guardsmen in Iraq could not get to New Orleans but that National Guardsmen in Louisiana did not get to New Orleans. As for the Bush tax cuts, administration budget requests for New Orleans flood control during the five Bush years exceed those of the five preceding Clinton years. The notion that the allegedly missing revenue would have been spent wisely by Congress, targeted precisely to the levees of New Orleans, and that the reconstruction would have been completed in time, is a threefold fallacy. The argument ends when you realize that, as The Post noted, "the levees that failed were already completed projects."

Where to Point the Fingers

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Rejecting Isolationism

Today's Washington Post reports that the "anti-war" movement plans to use Hurricane Katrina as part of their campaign advocating that America abandon Iraq to al Qaeda and the Baathists. The damage wrought by Katrina was devastating, and the reconstruction effort will be long and costly. Some will be tempted to believe the argument that if only we pulled out of Iraq we could spend the money helping the gulf coast to recover. This would be disastrously shortsighted.

We remain engaged in a global war against radical Islamists who seek our eventual destruction. As Jeffrey Bell and Frank Cannon pointed out recently in a superb overview of the struggle, Iraq is very much at the center of this war:

Yet the movements and statements of our most indisputable enemies have increasingly pointed in the other direction, toward bipolarity. Organizations claiming to be branches of al Qaeda are currently fighting the United States in Iraq and our key ally, Britain, in London. Like the Madrid bombings of March 11, 2004, which ejected Spain from Iraq, the London terror bombs aim to get Britain out of Iraq and out of its strategic alliance with the United States. Thus the two chief protagonists in the war, the United States and al Qaeda, are in complete agreement that Iraq is the central front of the global war, and that getting the United States' chief ally out of Iraq would thus be an enormous coup for our enemies.

Abandoning Iraq will not appease the jihadists. If anything, it will only confirm them in their belief that we are a cowardly, decadent society ripe for destruction. Having gained a huge victory by driving us from Iraq, Al Qaeda will only redouble its efforts to attack America and the West while also seeking to impose its barbarous brand of totalitarianism in the Middle East.

America remains the richest, most powerful country in history. This does not make us immune to adversity. It does mean that our 11 trillion dollar economy allows us to rebuild after Katrina while still continuing to pursue the defeat of the jihadists in Iraq and elsewhere. The sacrifices now being asked of Americans pale in comparison with those made by the generations that endured the Revolution, Civil War, Depression, and World War II. If 50 combat fatalities a month and having to pay $3.00 a gallon for gas are enough to break America's will to fight, then we have little hope of preserving our freedom in an increasingly dangerous world.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Blogging for Freedom in the Middle East

One of the tremendous things about blogs is the way in which they have enabled those living under repressive regimes to speak out. Nowhere is this more true than in the Middle East, as this recent article from the Christian Science Monitor makes clear:

The number of blogs worldwide has doubled in the past five months, and a new blog is created every second, according to a recent report by the blog-watchers Technorati. The Middle East is witnessing its share of that growth.

Many Arab bloggers are tackling sensitive political and human rights issues rarely broached by the state-controlled media. They are proving to be a powerful source of information, capable of reaching a few hundred like-minded activists, or of rallying international attention to a cherished cause.

After government supporters attacked and beat protesters in late May, Egypt's blogging community led the effort to publicize what had happened.

"I had never heard the word blogger until May 25," says Rabab al-Mahdi, a political science professor at the American University in Cairo, and an opposition activist. "But now I know them well because of all the amazing coverage they had of the protests. My friends overseas all followed what happened through the blogs, because they have more credibility than the mainstream media."

Activists in Egypt rely on blogs like Fattah's to find out the time and place of future demonstrations, to learn who has been arrested and where they have been taken, and to debate the effectiveness of opposition strategies. In short order, Egypt's bloggers have become a political force, capable of more than merely commenting from the sidelines.

Egypt is not the only Middle East country that has seen a blogging boom:

The new threat is only beginning to dawn on Middle Eastern regimes, long accustomed to tightly regulating the flow of information. Bloggers and online journalists have been imprisoned in Iran, Syria, Bahrain, and Tunisia. Several others closely monitor and restrict access to Web content. Media observers expect the region's bloggers to face growing intolerance from governments.

"In the Middle East, the mechanisms of oppression are already there, and the number of bloggers is growing," says Curt Hopkins, director of the eight-month-old Committee to Protect Bloggers. "There's going to be a convergence in the not too distant future with a lot of cracking down on bloggers."

In 2001, Hossein Derakhshan, an Iranian emigrant to Canada, published directions on how to make a blog in the Farsi language. Seven months later there were 1,200 blogs in Iran.

Today, there are an estimated 75,000 to 100,000 Iranians blogging, including former vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi. During the 2003 student uprisings in Iran, Internet blogs and chat rooms allowed students to mobilize, organize, and communicate with one another, free of prying government eyes.

Iran has since adopted "one of the world's most substantial Internet censorship regimes," according to the Open Net Initiative, a partnership of researchers from Harvard, Cambridge University, and the University of Toronto.

Just as tape recorders and photocopiers helped enable dissidents to spread word of their cause in previous decades, so blogs and the web will hopefully play a similar role in helping rescue the Middle East from its seemingly endless cycle of tyranny.

Thoughts on Katrina

There is finally some good news starting to come out of New Orleans as most residents have been evacuated and the water levels have finally begun to drop. I have no wish to indulge in the tasteless sport of appointing blame before most of the bodies have yet to be recovered. Arthur Chrenkoff has again documented the truly vile attempts of some to exploit the suffering of others in pursuit of their own agenda. In another piece worth reading, James Robbins debunks the myth that the National Guard couldn't respond because "they were all in Iraq".

I have no doubt that the response of government at all levels to Katrina was far from flawless. People, however, need to understand that our government and our country are not invulnerable. Many Americans live in a bubble, complacently secure in the belief that we are somehow immune from the kinds of disasters that plague the rest of the world. We are not. Our national wealth and advanced infrastructure help insulate us from the effects of natural disasters in most circumstances, but in the case of a huge storm like Katrina they cannot prevent widespread destruction and even loss of life. As we have seen, it can indeed happen here. We are as vulnerable to nature as everyone else, and no amount of money or government bureaucracies can change this.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Afghanistan: "It's Raining Again"

Apologies for the lack of recent posts. Look for more regular blogging this week. I can think of no better way to start than with Arthur Chrenkoff's brand new monthly update on Afghanistan:

Whether or not God is finally smiling on the long-suffering people of Afghanistan and blessing their new democracy with rain, things are definitely becoming interesting for this, one of the poorest countries in the world. With parliamentary election coming up soon, the world's attention is slowly--though one fears, judging by the past experience, briefly--returning to Afghanistan. The political, security, economic and social challenges facing the country are enormous, but progress has been made, slowly and often painfully, much of it missed by the media and thus Western audiences.

If you have been following this series for the past year or so, this will not come as a surprise. Here are another four weeks' worth of stories from Afghanistan, which so often got lost in the usual media chatter about drugs and violence.

It's Raining Again

As Arthur notes, the September 18th parliamentary elections promise to be a major turning point. The Taliban, aided by an infusion of funds and foreign jihadists from al Qaeda, have intensified their flagging insurgency. They are unlikely to succeed. As long as America and the world stand with the Afghan people, the progress that Arthur has so extensively documented will continue.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Going to Germany

A little bit of good news in what has been a depressing week as the US national team beat Mexico 2-0 Saturday night to qualify for next year's World Cup in Germany. The US will now be going to its fifth straight tournament.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Dark Days of August

Dr. Victor Davis Hanson provides some perspective on what has truly been a dark, depressing month:

The Greeks believed that the rising of Sirius, the Dog Star, in August made the sun grow hot, and hence inaugurated a period when people acted a little crazy — as we ourselves all saw the past few weeks.

But beside the natural tragedy of Katrina, the panic of rising gas prices, and other assorted August calamities such as the stampede that cost hundreds of lives in Iraq, there were also other depressing events over the course of the month.

Our Dogs Days

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina Update

The damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina has turned out to be truly horrific. Even worse have been the shocking scenes of brutality and lawlessness taking place in New Orleans. In the meantime, as documented by Arthur Chrenkoff, some observers couldn't even wait for the bodies to be recovered before indulging in the most vile, disgusting partisanship. It is sad how such a disaster seems to have brought the very worst out of so many.

All I can do is humbly offer my thoughts and prayers to those affected by the tragedy, and make a donation to the American Red Cross. Instapundit has compiled a definitive list of charities and other links. Please make a donation to the charity of your choice.