Sunday, January 15, 2006

Final Post (for now)

I just want to thank everyone who has taken the time to read this blog or any part thereof, and especially those of you who have taken the time to comment. I would also like to thank all other bloggers who have actually linked to this site, and/or to some of my individual posts. Just a few final thoughts:

-A big thank you to Jack Stephens of Conservator, for his gracious support of my service.

-A reminder for those of you still involved in ALA and going to Midwinter this week to please support Greg McClay's candidacy for ALA Council.

The site will still be here, so please feel free to keep visiting. Helpful hint: if you want to search my archives, use Google. The Blogger search engine at the top of the screen sucks.

The grand reopening will probably be in April, and I will have interesting stories to share. If not, I'll just make some up.

Thanks again,
David Durant

Library Blogs Worth Reading

For those of you looking for other conservative librarian blogs to read while I'm away, here are a few I recommend:

Collecting My Thoughts



Oyarsa's Observances


If you have a blog of any kind, feel free to shamelessly plug it in the comments.

Islamism and Anti-Semitism

Today, the Iranian Islamist dictatorship of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad announced yet another step in its campaign to make Iran the world capital of Holocaust denial:

Iran, whose president has labeled the attempt by Nazi Germany to exterminate Jews during World War II a "myth" and called for the destruction of Israel, announced Sunday it will hold a conference on the Holocaust.

"There will be a conference that will research the topic of the Holocaust and all its dimensions in the future," according to a statement on the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

It is a safe bet that any connection between the opinions to be voiced at this conference and historical truth will be strictly coincidental.

The danger posed by Ahmedinejad's espousal of Holocaust denial is that it is symptomatic of a much larger and extremely dangerous ideology of hate, that in Iran's case is well on the way to obtaining nuclear weapons. MEMRI and the Anti-Defamation League have long documented the disturbing rise of anti-Semitism in the Muslim Middle East, a phenomenon that goes far beyond mere dislike of the state of Israel. As Joseph Loconte noted in a recent essay for the Weekly Standard, anti-Semitism has become an essential part of radical Islamist ideology, in both its Shia and Sunni variants:

The rise of Islamo-fascism in Tehran, in fact, is not at all beyond comprehension. Its emergence is perfectly predictable--given the political theology of radical Islam and the culture of victimization that sustains it. Like his mentor, the Ayatollah Khomeini, Ahmadinejad embraces an extremist Shiite view of purity, obedience, death, and redemption. Bush deserves much credit for recognizing this ideology for what it is: the totalitarian impulse, inspired by utopian illusions and sanctified by the pathology of anti-Semitism.

Osama bin Laden and his allies, after all, have repeatedly expressed their hatred not only of America but of Israel and Jews everywhere. In a tape that surfaced recently in Cairo, bin Laden deputy Ayman Al-Zawahri again urged Muslims to take up arms against the "malignant illness" of Israel and the Christian West. Bush critics imply that this message resonates with the "Arab street" because of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians (and America's support for Israel). More likely is the fact that anti-Semitism rises like a vapor from the political and cultural swamps of the Arab world. Television programs, newspapers, internet cafes, universities, mosques, religious schools--here and elsewhere Jews are regularly depicted as "satanic" enemies of Islam and instigators of U.S. intervention in Muslim lands. Holocaust denial is routine. A columnist for the Egyptian paper Al-Masaa, for example, defended the Iranian president's outbursts with these words: "What this truth means is that these massacres . . . never happened. The famous execution chambers were no more than rooms for disinfecting clothing."

When anti-Semites try to deny the Holocaust, it is usually because they one day wish to reenact it. Those who believe that we can "live with" a nuclear-armed Islamist Iran would do well to keep this in mind.

China and the Internet

Today's New York Times has a good overview of China's attempts to censor the Internet, and the complicity of American companies such as Microsoft in this effort:

IT wasn't so long ago that the Internet was seen as a trap for China. The country desperately needed to foster economic growth, and in the early 1990's much of the globe was plugging itself in.

Sooner or later, the thinking went, China would have to plug into the Web, too, and however efficiently its leaders might have controlled information in the old days, they would be no match for this new democratic beast, decentralized and crackling with opinion and information from the four corners of the earth.

Things didn't exactly turn out that way.

The following passage best expresses my views on this issue:

"When is 'the long run'?" said Julien Pain, head of the Internet desk at Reporters Without Borders, which tracks censorship around the world. "Because I don't see the impact of Microsoft over there. The situation is not improving. Microsoft is behaving just as a Chinese company in China would."

The Jyllands-Posten Affair: It's about More than Cartoons

According to the European blog Brussels Journal, two Norwegian newspapers have now run the controversial series of 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed that were originally published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten:

„We are ourselves a nation that has been exposed to increasing Muslim violence against freedom of expression,“ said Vebjørn K. Selbekk, the editor of Magazinet, and referred to the 1993 murder attempt on Willam Nygaard, the Norwegian publisher of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. Consequently, Selbekk said, Norway has a special responsibility to confront this problem. He said that Norwegian illustrators were tending towards the same self-censorship as their colleagues in Denmark. They do not dare to depict Muhammad for fear of a violent Muslim reaction.

Drawing cartoons of Muslim religious leaders suffices to become the target of threats and even death threats, as Morten M. Kristiansen, illustrator at the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang, has experienced. He says he often received remarks from Christians when he depicted Jesus Christ and from Muslims when depicting their religious leaders, but in recent years the Muslim remarks have turned into threats.

“We cannot tolerate this in a democratic society,” said Selbekk. Asked if he was himself afraid of reprisals he said: “We have gone astray if we begin to concede on this issue out of fear. Many have already done much to prevent this problem from being hushed up. We hope that by publishing the cartoons we can do our bit.”

Unfortunately, the two Norwegian papers are now facing the same onslaught of threats that the editors of Jyllands-Posten have confronted. Sadly, as Brussels Journal noted on Saturday, this time it has produced results:

Now Magazinet has received threats via e-mail from around the world. One of these, sent anonymously through a popular e-mail service in the Middle East, was mailed to the editor, Vebjørn Selbekk, simply stating: “You’re a dead man!” Other staff members have also received threats. Selbekk said it looked as if the newspaper’s e-mail addresses were being distributed in an organized campaign. One of the e-mails Selbekk received contains a couple of pictures showing a burnt body, sent through an e-mail address in France.

Giving in to the threats, Magazinet decided today to remove the cartoons from its webiste. “The e-mail with the pictures of the burnt body is the most frightening. But I am not afraid. This is of course unpleasant, especially for a family man. But I cannot go around being afraid,” Selbekk told the Norwegian daily Dagbladet which also published the cartoons on its website last Tuesday. However, a number of other Norwegian newspaper editors have said they do not intend to follow the two newspapers’ example, claiming it to be an unnecessary provocation. Arab newspapers around the world have also reacted sharply to the publication of the cartoons. Selbekk, however, said the purpose for his decision was not to provoke anyone, but to highlight the status of freedom of expression in Norway.

Magazinet also interviewed two leading Norwegian cartoonists: Finn Graff and Morten M. Kristiansen. Graff, who was known in the 1960s and ’70s for his satirical drawings of Jesus Christ, said that he does not draw pictures mocking Muhammad. He does so out of fear for Muslims, and also “out of respect.” Muslims, he said, are very sensitive about their religion and their prophet, which is something one has to take into account and one has to respect. Kristiansen said he had received many protest letters in the past whenever he mocked Christ. The same applies to cartoons about Muhammad, but lately the protest letters from Muslims had increasingly become threats, including death threats in e-mails from places such as Iran. Unlike Graff, Kristiansen said he will not change his behaviour because of these threats because it is important to defend the right to freedom of expression.

Carsten Juste, the editor of Jyllands Posten, the Danish paper which published the cartoons first, told Magazinet that he does not regret that decision. “We cannot regret it. We live in a country where freedom of expression is recognized and we live and work in Denmark under Danish laws. The nature of the reactions has shown how necessary this debate is.” Juste said.

Asked if Jyllands-Posten had received any support from the Danish media after the decision to publish the cartoons Juste said at first there was not much support. Most of them believed this was something Jyllands-Posten did just to provoke. But after all the arbitrary demands that the newspaper apologize for the publication their attitude began to change. “Fortunately most people now realize this is an important issue about freedom of expression and, as a consequence, we have been getting more and more support.” He added that support has come from all over the world, but, unfortunately, threats, too.

The Danish cartoon controversy is about far more than a few offensive drawings: it is yet another battle in the effort by radical Islamists to export their murderous suppression of intellectual freedom from the Middle East to Europe. In a January 10th piece for FrontPage Magazine, Daryl Cagle laid out what is at stake:

Muslim countries expect the press in Denmark to suppress cartoons that would be offensive to them, but they don't extend the same cartoon courtesy to others that they demand for themselves. Cartoons in the Arab press are typically so ugly and racist that American audiences have never seen anything like them. Middle Eastern cartoon venom is targeted toward Israel, often depicting Jews with hooked noses and orthodox garb, sometimes with fangs and bloody teeth, often in the roles of Nazis. The Jews are sometimes shown crucifying Arabs in a "Jews killed Jesus" scenario, or enacting their own concentration camp Holocausts on their neighbors, along with their henchmen, the Americans. The cartoons are designed to be as offensive to Jews as possible, and are seen as nothing out of the ordinary by Middle Eastern newspaper readers.

Unless we defend our funny little drawings with the same zeal that we see from the victims of our irreverence, we'll continue to see our freedoms constricted by the loud voices of those we offend.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Issue 3 of Democratiya

The third issue of the online journal Democratiya is now available. The journal is a forum for the pro-democracy, anti-Islamist left, and as such makes for interesting reading. The journal is available at

Friday, January 13, 2006

Messy Choices on Iran

Dr Victor Davis Hanson lays out in stark detail the unpleasant set of choices raised by Iran's Islamist dictatorship and its pursuit of nuclear weapons:

When a supposedly unhinged Mr. Ahmadinejad threatens the destruction of Israel and then summarily proceeds to violate international protocols aimed at monitoring Iran’s nuclear industry, we all take note. Any country that burns off some of its natural gas at the wellhead while claiming that it needs nuclear power for domestic energy is simply lying. Terrorism, vast petroleum reserves, nuclear weapons, and boasts of wiping neighboring nations off the map are a bad combination.

So we all agree on the extent of the crisis, but not on the solutions, which can be summarized by four general options.

The Multilateral Moment?

As Dr. Hanson aptly concludes, "the public must be warned that dealing with a nuclear Iran is not a matter of a good versus a bad choice, but between a very bad one now and something far, far worse to come."

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Criminalizing Holocaust Denial

In 2000, historian Deborah Lipstadt confronted Holocaust denier and pseudo-historian David Irving in one of the most famous trials in recent British history. Irving had sued Dr. Lipstadt for libel after she correctly labeled him as a Holocaust denier. By the time the trial was over, Irving's case, and the remnants of his reputation, had been thoroughly demolished.

Recently, David Irving traveled to Austria and was arrested under terms of a law that makes Holocaust denial illegal in that country. If convicted, Irving could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

Deborah Lipstadt has responded to these events not by gloating, but by calling for Irving's release, correctly in my view:

"Generally, I don't think Holocaust denial should be a crime," she says. "I am a free speech person, I am against censorship."

"I don't find these laws efficacious. I think they turn Holocaust denial into forbidden fruit, and make it more attractive to people who want to toy with the system or challenge the system.

(link courtesy of Harry's Place)

Holocaust denial is utterly repugnant and a vile affront to historical truth and memory. It should be shunned and condemned. But it should not be banned or censored.

The Irony of Censorship

Harry's Place has a terrific post on British Muslim leader Sir Iqbal Sacranie, who has "argued strongly in favour of a Religious Hatred Law that would have led to police investigations against people who wanted to criticise religion." It turns out that he himself has now come under police investigation for derogatory remarks about homosexuality.

I highly doubt that this is what Mr. Sacranie had in mind when he initiated his call for censorship.

Islamists and Intellectuals

MEMRI provides a chilling example of the Islamist hatred of intellectual freedom:

A three-volume treatise by Sa'id ibn Nasser Al-Ghamdi, titled Deviation from the Faith as Reflected in [Arab] Thought and Literature on Modernity, has recently gained publicity in the Arab world. The book, published in December 2003 in Saudi Arabia, is based on Al-Ghamdi's 2000 doctoral dissertation, submitted to the Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University, for which he received his degree summa cum laude. In his treatise, Al-Ghamdi names more than 200 modern Arab intellectuals and authors whom he accuses of heresy - thus making it permissible to kill them.

(emphasis added-DD)

Yes, this call for the murder of hundreds of intellectuals actually merited a dissertation with honors from a Saudi university. Not an encouraging sign for those of us who support the spread of freedom in the Muslim Middle East. The following passage in particular sums up the reasoning behind Al-Ghamdi's call for censorship:

In his dissertation, Al-Ghamdi explains that "since the arrows of doubt shot by the enemies of Islam have multiplied... and they have spread their intellectual and behavioral poisons among the Muslim youth in an attempt to drown them in deviancy, to bring them out from light into darkness, to replace their inner conviction and faith, and to cast them into the wasteland of doubts, skepticism, and vanities - [for these reasons] it is incumbent upon those who understand this to make clear to their [Islamic] nation and their community the danger inherent in this behavior...

"The most dangerous and vile thing that the enemies of Islam have done in order to achieve their deviant aims has been to use cultural means, which are outwardly manifest as literature, poetry, culture, and criticism, but which internally embody heresy, skepticism, and hypocrisy.

"The enemies of Islam have succeeded in sowing the seeds of their hatred in the land of the Muslims, and in growing the evil tree - the tree of accursed materialism. Muslims see and hear the people who openly call to heresy and to departure from the right path, and who openly spread intellectual and moral depravity, sometimes in the guise of 'modern literature' and sometimes under the slogan of 'human culture'..."

Yes, Islamists do hate freedom, especially intellectual freedom. As the example of Al-Ghamdi shows, they correctly diagnose the threat it poses to their totalitarian vision of Islam. By contrast, the current lack of intellectual freedom in most of the Middle East has been a major factor in the rise of radical Islamism, as it has allowed the Salafists to threaten and silence many of their critics. If Islamists like Al-Ghamdi are allowed to have their way, intellectual freedom will not only disappear altogether in the Islamic world, it will come under threat in non-Muslim lands as well. In the case of Europe, it already has.

Date of Reckoning

Sunday, January 15th will be my final day of posting before I ship for Basic Training and AIT. After that date, this blog will be on hiatus until at least April. I'll post a list of interesting conservative and other library blogs on Sunday, and belatedly add them to my blogroll. Thanks to everyone for your readership!


To be honest, I have had some second thoughts about this post, on a blogger who found an old circulation card showing that Judge Samuel Alito checked a journal out of Princeton's library in 1972. As one commenter noted, the post I was criticizing wasn't sinister in nature. Instead, the blogger, who is not a librarian, turned up the circulation card in his garage.

Upon reflection, I did overstate the matter. Still, I will offer this one caveat: one of the main objections to the Patriot Act has been that the privacy of library circulation records should be sacrosanct, and that preserving patron confidentiality is essential to intellectual freedom. When the FBI asked a library in Washington for a list of everyone who checked out a book about Osama bin Laden, it was considered a great affront to patron privacy. Yet here is a situation where a card listing all the people who checked out a particular item was simply thrown in a dumpster, found, and eventually published in part on the web. Yes, it was an old list, but my understanding is that there is no statute of limitations on patron privacy.

I highly doubt that Judge Alito would be upset by the revelation that he checked out an academic journal in 1972, and it certainly doesn't reflect poorly on him. However, let me offer one hypothetical: suppose this circulation card signed by the future Judge Alito had been for a book that could be perceived as embarrassing or damaging to his reputation? Is there any doubt that this information would have been used against him?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Thank You Steve

Last night, I celebrated the beginning of my last week of freedom by attending my first NHL game in 8 years. Unfortunately, my beloved Detroit Red Wings fell short against the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-2. The Wings came out flat, falling behind 3-0 before rallying to make a game of it. In fact, the Wings ended up outshooting the Hurricanes 38-25, including 19 shots in a 3rd period where Detroit did everything but score. To their credit, Carolina jumped out to the lead, and battled hard enough to make it stand up. In particular, their Swiss international goaltender, Martin Gerber, was brilliant.

Overall, though, I still enjoyed the game. It was a tense, hard-fought affair, played in a playoff-like atmosphere. I especially appreciated getting to see Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman play one last time. Yzerman has been with the Wings since joining the team as a teenage rookie in 1983. Back then, the team was not so affectionately known as the "Detroit Dead Things". Yzerman became team captain in 1986, and emerged as one of the NHL's top players in the late 1980's, just as the Wings rose to respectability and then dominance. He has become the embodiment of the Red Wings, second only to Gordie Howe on the team's pantheon of heroes.

In December, the Christian Science Monitor published a great Steve Yzerman profile, that I highly recommend to any hockey fan.

Last night, I was not disappointed as Yzerman scored a brilliant goal. Thanks Steve, for yet one more great moment to remember.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Library Records and Hypocrisy

Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy links to this post at the left-wing academic (yes, I know it's redundant) blog Crooked Timber, where Kieran Healy has found and publicized library circulation records of Judge Samuel Alito. I guess obtaining someone's library records must be okay as long as you don't work for the FBI. Of course, I eagerly await ALA's angry denunciation of this violation of Judge Alito's right to privacy in his reading habits.

(Found via Instapundit)

A Must Read Essay

Anyone who's seriously interested in the nature of the War with Radical Islamism needs to read a new essay by Tony Korn published on the web site of the journal Policy Review. While the piece is a bit jargon-heavy, and I disagree with Korn on the issue of the Balkans, it provides a really good overview of our jihadist adversaries and their strategic approach, and lays out what we need to do to defeat them:

Four years after the September 11 events, while many of the initial assumptions of the global war on terrorism (GWOT) have undergone an agonizing reappraisal, a new Washington consensus about the nature of the challenge facing the West and the moderate Muslim world has yet to emerge. Can the notoriously dysfunctional interagency process ever be fixed by organizational tinkering alone, without the elaboration of a common conceptual ground? However lively it may be at times, the Beltway’s ongoing “Operation Infinite Conversation” is no substitute for strategizing.

World War IV As Fourth-Generation Warfare

Denmark's Battle for Free Speech

Sunday's New York Times has a good piece on the Danish cartoon controversy:

When the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, including one in which he is shown wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse, it expected a strong reaction in this country of 5.4 million people.

But the paper was unprepared for the global furor that ensued, including demonstrations in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, death threats against the artists, condemnation from 11 Muslim countries and a rebuke from the United Nations.

The article does a decent job of putting the controversy into the broader context of free speech in a Europe confronted by the rise of Islamist radicalism. In particular, it quotes Jyllands-Posten's cultural editor Flemming Rose on his decision to run the cartoons:

Mr. Rose, once a journalist in Iran, said he decided to commission the cartoons for Jyllands-Posten when he heard that Danish cartoonists were too scared of Muslim fundamentalists to illustrate a new children's biography of Muhammad.

Annoyed at the self-censorship he said had overtaken Europe since the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered last year by a Muslim radical for criticizing Islam's treatment of women, Mr. Rose said he decided to test Denmark's free speech norms.

As the Times article points out, the cartoons did indeed offend many Muslims, both in Denmark and elsewhere. They have every right to be offended, and to express their unhappiness with Jyllands-Posten for publishing the drawings. However, the reaction of some Muslims has gone beyond mere verbal condemnation.

A coalition of 11 Danish Muslim organizations recently made an unsuccessful bid to force prosecutors to bring charges of racism and blasphemy against the newspaper. Other Danish Muslims have visited a number of Islamic nations and falsely accused their home country of attacking Islam in an effort to force the Danish government to condemn Jyllands-Posten. In the words of one Danish imam, "(w)hen someone offends the prophet, it is not only just a local problem but affects Muslims worldwide".

This attitude is precisely the problem. The right of free expression is meaningless without the freedom to offend. Once certain topics or viewpoints become off-limits, then free speech ceases to be free. There is no shortage of Europeans willing to mock Christianity or compare Israel to Nazi Germany. Yet, thanks to the murder of Theo Van Gogh and fear of Muslim reactions, relatively few Europeans are willing to publicly criticize aspects of Islam. This creeping form of censorship very much threatens free speech in Europe, as the editors of Jyllands-Posten have noted in explaining their decision to run the cartoons.

Thankfully, the Danish government, while seeking to conciliate Muslim sensibilities, has refused to abandon its resolute defense of free speech or to apologize for the actions taken by a private newspaper in exercising that right. As the Times article notes, the same laws that protect Jyllands-Posten also enable "peaceful" Salafist groups like Hizb-ut-Tahrir to pursue their agenda of turning Denmark into an Islamist state governed by sharia.

This is as it should be. As I have noted previously, the way to protect free expression against the Islamists is not to deny them their rights, but rather to prevent them from denying the rights of others. Hopefully, Denmark will prove able to do this successfully.

Library Gothic

Here's a fascinating article on a rather creepy and disturbing footnote to library history:

Brown University's library boasts an unusual anatomy book. Tanned and polished to a smooth golden brown, its cover looks and feels no different from any other fine leather.

But here's its secret: the book is bound in human skin.

A number of prestigious libraries-including Harvard University's-have such books in their collections. While the idea of making leather from human skin seems bizarre and cruel today, it was not uncommon in centuries past, said Laura Hartman, a rare book cataloger at the National Library of Medicine in Maryland and author of a paper on the subject.

(Link courtesy of Q&O)

I don't think my own library has any such books. At least I hope not...

Monday, January 09, 2006

Europe, Intellectual Freedom, and Islamism

In the wake of last Fall's riots in France's Muslim communities, Amir Taheri wrote a superb November 21st column about the status of Islam in that country. In his piece, Taheri pointed out that French Muslims actually enjoy far more freedom to practice their religion than they do in many Islamic countries:

What is remarkable is the rich diversity of the brands of Islam existing side by side in freedom and security. These include sects banned in almost all Muslim nations, where their members are persecuted, imprisoned and sometimes executed as "deviants." In one street, Pakistani shops run by Ahmadi, Jaafari and Salafi sects sit side by side; the owners have learned to talk together and even do business — something unimaginable in Pakistan, where militants of rival sects kill each other by the hundreds each year.

In this French haven of peace, you can live and practice your Islam the way you understand it — a gift rarely available in any officially Islamic country.

Such a gift exists because French society keeps the private space distinct from the public one. Your private space — home, business and place of worship — is protected by law, allowing you to organize and live your life as an individual in accordance with your beliefs and tastes.

Unfortunately, there is a growing and dangerous minority within France's Muslim community that wishes to change this situation. Taheri explains why:

The idea of religion as a private affair is abhorrent to most Muslims, for Islam aims to rule every single aspect of individual and collective life, from the most mundane to the most sublime.

On that basis, several Islamist groups in France have long tried to sow the seeds of anger in the community. Extremists regard France as part of the Dar al-Harb (the House of War), because political power is held and exercised by the infidel (kuffar). Moderates prefer the label Dar al-Sulh (House of Conciliation), implying a conceptual no-man's-land between war and peace. Still others use Dar al-Dawah (House of Propagation), which means that the chief Muslims are there is to convert the French nation.

All three concepts are based on the assumption that it is impossible for a Muslim to live in a society where secular law, not Shari'ah (Islamic jurisprudence), is in force. A Muslim could never regard himself as a Frenchman until France becomes an Islamic state.

While Salafists certainly hate specific policies enacted by European governments, Taheri convincingly argues that their fundamental motivation lies in a deep-seated rejection of liberal, Western society. In particular, Islamists hate the climate of intellectual freedom that is a hallmark of European democracy.

Radical Islamists have waged a long and brutal campaign of intimidation and even murder against writers and journalists who have produced works they regard as offensive or sacreligious. As shown by the Salman Rushdie affair, and more recently the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, Islamists are determined to suppress intellectual freedom in Europe as well as in the Islamic world. In the last year, Salafists have proven all too successful at creating a climate of intimidation and self-censorship in much of the continent. Many writers and opinion makers are now afraid to say anything negative about Islam or Muslims for fear of sharing the fate of Theo Van Gogh. Unfortunately, the Islamist threat to Europe's freedom promises to grow even worse.

Europe now has an estimated 18 million Muslims, with a birth rate three times that of non-Muslims. In the opinion of some experts, Muslims could comprise 20% of Europe's population by the mid-21st century.

As Europe's Muslim communities have grown, so has the level of Islamist radicalization. The recent riots in France were symptomatic not just of anger and alienation, but of an active desire among some Muslims not to integrate into French society. "Peaceful" Salafist groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir have made substantial inroads among Europe's Muslims, while jihadists have succeeded in making the continent an active front in their war against the West. In addition to their atrocities in Madrid and London, numerous additional terror plots have been discovered.

Whether Europe's Muslims will be successfully integrated into liberal Western society, or seek to transform the continent in accord with the guidelines of Salafist-Jihadism is one of the crucial issues on which the struggle with radical Islamism will turn. As Taheri points out, the presence of so many Muslims in Europe offers an extraordinary opportunity to help Muslim reformers change their religion for the better. Preserving Europe's tradition of intellectual freedom in the face of the Islamist assault is crucial to enabling moderate Muslims to craft an alternative vision of Islam to that of the Salafists.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Saddam and the Jihadists

It has become an article of faith among many that Saddam Hussein's regime had nothing to do with al Qaeda or jihadist terrorism in general. Tonight, the Weekly Standard has posted a blockbuster article by Stephen F. Hayes that thoroughly demolishes this myth:

THE FORMER IRAQI REGIME OF Saddam Hussein trained thousands of radical Islamic terrorists from the region at camps in Iraq over the four years immediately preceding the U.S. invasion, according to documents and photographs recovered by the U.S. military in postwar Iraq. The existence and character of these documents has been confirmed to THE WEEKLY STANDARD by eleven U.S. government officials.

The secret training took place primarily at three camps--in Samarra, Ramadi, and Salman Pak--and was directed by elite Iraqi military units. Interviews by U.S. government interrogators with Iraqi regime officials and military leaders corroborate the documentary evidence. Many of the fighters were drawn from terrorist groups in northern Africa with close ties to al Qaeda, chief among them Algeria's GSPC and the Sudanese Islamic Army. Some 2,000 terrorists were trained at these Iraqi camps each year from 1999 to 2002, putting the total number at or above 8,000. Intelligence officials believe that some of these terrorists returned to Iraq and are responsible for attacks against Americans and Iraqis. According to three officials with knowledge of the intelligence on Iraqi training camps, White House and National Security Council officials were briefed on these findings in May 2005; senior Defense Department officials subsequently received the same briefing.

(emphasis added-DD)

On the one hand, this report merely confirms much of what was already known regarding ties between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and radical Islamists. For example, the Duelfer Report noted that Iraqi Intelligence had trained foreign fighters at the Salman Pak camp. In addition, the links between the Iraqi regime and Algerian Islamists are well known and date back to the First Gulf War, when the Islamist FIS movement openly supported Iraq against the U.S.-led coalition. Since the fall of Saddam, Algerians have provided a large portion (link in PDF) of the foreign jihadists fighting on behalf of al Qaeda against the coalition and Iraqi government. Finally, in April 2003, the Christian Science Monitor recovered documents showing that an African Islamist group called the Allied Democratic Forces had written to Iraqi Intelligence in 2001 requesting training and assistance.

What Hayes shows is the heretofore unknown extent to which Saddam's regime was prepared to go in order to support Islamist terrorism. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, between 10,000 and 20,000 jihadists were trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Now we know that at least 8,000 jihadists were trained in Iraq from 1999 to 2002, making that country a rival to Afghanistan as a training ground and safe haven for radical Islamists.

Hayes goes on to note that the documents revealing the existence of Saddam's training camps are just a fraction of the estimated 2,000,000 documents captured after the liberation of Iraq. The overwhelming majority of these items have yet to be translated and analyzed in full. Fortunately, it appears that most of these documents will soon be made openly available, so that media and research organizations will be free to translate and publicize them.

Just the small percentage of documents that have been translated, however, make clear the extent of Saddam's support for terrorism:

"As much as we overestimated WMD, it appears we underestimated [Saddam Hussein's] support for transregional terrorists," says one intelligence official.

Speaking of Ansar al Islam, the al Qaeda-linked terrorist group that operated in northern Iraq, the former high-ranking military intelligence officer says: "There is no question about the fact that AI had reach into Baghdad. There was an intelligence connection between that group and the regime, a financial connection between that group and the regime, and there was an equipment connection. It may have been the case that the IIS [Iraqi Intelligence Service] support for AI was meant to operate against the [anti-Saddam] Kurds. But there is no question IIS was supporting AI."

The official continued: "[Saddam] used these groups because he was interested in extending his influence and extending the influence of Iraq. There are definite and absolute ties to terrorism. The evidence is there, especially at the network level. How high up in the government was it sanctioned? I can't tell you. I don't know whether it was run by Qusay [Hussein] or [Izzat Ibrahim] al-Duri or someone else. I'm just not sure. But to say Iraq wasn't involved in terrorism is flat wrong."

(emphasis added-DD)

Finally, Hayes notes the story of a Syrian Islamist named Ahmed Mohamed Barodi, who has admitted being trained in guerrilla warfare in Iraq in the early 1980s:

Barodi comes from Hama, the town that was leveled in 1982 by the armed forces of secular Syrian dictator Hafez Assad because it was home to radical Islamic terrorists who had agitated against his regime. The massacre took tens of thousands of lives, but some of the extremists got away.

Many of the most radical Muslim Brotherhood refugees from Hama were welcomed next door--and trained--in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Spanish investigators believe that Ghasoub Ghalyoun, the man they have accused of conducting surveillance for the 9/11 attacks, who also has roots in the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, was trained in an Iraqi terrorist camp in the early 1980s. Ghalyoun mentions this Iraqi training in a 2001 letter to the head of Syrian intelligence, in which he seeks reentry to Syria despite his long affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Reaching out to Islamic radicals was, in fact, one of the first moves Saddam Hussein made upon taking power in 1979. That he did not do it for ideological reasons is unimportant. As Barodi noted at last week's hearing, "He used us and we used him."

(emphasis added-DD)

Contrary to "experts" such as Michael Scheuer, who has claimed that "Saddam Hussein was one of our best allies" against al Qaeda, the evidence is now overwhelming that Baathist Iraq was an active sponsor of jihadist terrorism. Contrary to those who argue that the invasion of Iraq created a "breeding ground" for terrorism, it is now clear that Iraq was breeding thousands of trained jihadists before George W. Bush even set foot in the White House. Contrary to those who claim that confronting Saddam's Iraq was a distraction from the war against Islamist terrorism, it is now apparent that Operation Iraqi Freedom destroyed a regime that not only supported anti-American terrorism through propaganda and incitement, but actively trained and harbored jihadists on a scale rivaling Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Finally, Hayes's revelations show just how flagrantly Saddam's regime was violating UN Security Council resolutions requiring it to cease all support for terrorism.

In short, the argument that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with jihadist terrorism is simply no longer tenable.

Why We Fight: A Reminder

Norm Geras rounds up the last several days of jihadist atrocities from Iraq and Afghanistan. If you're still wondering why I felt it necessary to join the Guard, simply click on the link.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

More Patriot Act Paranoia

Courtesy of Jihad Watch, comes this truly ridiculous piece of hysterical nonsense from a Ms. Semeen Issa:

AS we headed to the public library to gather some information for my daughter's research paper, my husband clearly and adamantly relayed the message that we should not check out any books, whatsoever on the topic about which she had chosen to write.

My daughter initially looked at him with surprise and rebelliousness, but then a resigned expression appeared. "Oh yeah," she responded, "we're Muslim."

His fear was not unfounded because the topic she had chosen to research for her high school Comparative Religions class was "Jihad; The Conflict within Religion."

Actually, his fear seems utterly unfounded to anyone acquainted with the facts and not infected by left-wing paranoia. There is no evidence whatsoever that anyone has had their library circulation records checked by the FBI as a result of the Patriot Act, or that Section 215 (the so-called "library provision"), has ever been used in a library setting. The one confirmed use of the Patriot Act in a library appears to have involved one computer in one branch library in Connecticut.

The notion that there is a widespread program for monitoring the reading habits of Muslims or anyone else flies in the face of logic, common sense, and the evidence. The idea that checking out books on jihad will earn you a trip to Guantanamo is a laughable but unfortunate byproduct of the hysteria that groups such as ALA have generated over the Patriot Act.

Ms. Issa then goes on to dispute the notion that jihad involves violence of any sort:

The phrase holy war was originally invented by the Christian crusaders, who used it to mean the war against Muslims. The term Jihad in the broad sense actually means "an inner struggle" as in striving to rid oneself of immoral or unethical behavior. Along the same vein, resisting unhealthy habits can also be your jihad, or struggle.

Jihad, in its true from encompasses a much larger, moral implication than what the media has branded it. Along with Jihad, the American media has recently invented a new term. This new term, jihadist, is an American neologism that has a completely different connotation to Muslims than it does to the average American. As a Muslim, I had never heard the term jihadist before the media started exercising its use, and I was not able to translate it into Arabic to have the same negative connotation as it does in English.

Actually, as scholars such as David Cook and Mark Gould have shown, jihad has involved violent struggle against the enemies of Islam since the early days of the religion. This is not the only definition, nor does it mean that the jihadists have not distorted the term for their own ends. However, as Dr. Bassam Tibi has noted, "[i]t is wrong and even deceitful to argue that jihadism has nothing to do with Islam". In short, Ms. Issa is either uninformed or disingenuous when she implies that jihad has no connection with warfare or violence.

In my research through Muslim and non-Muslim sources, I found no mention of the word jihadist, except for one Internet source. According to Wikipedia, an encyclopedia Web site that can be controversial, "Jihadist is sometimes used to describe militant Islamic groups, including but not restricted to Islamic terrorismÖ"

A Google search for the term jihadist returns 704,000 matches.

Therefore, knowing that this term is quite complex to Muslims, it seems unjust that non-Muslims could oversimplify the principle of jihad to further a political agenda, such as the Patriot Act.

Actually, as noted above, it's Ms. Issa who's doing the oversimplifying.

The broad powers outlined in the Patriot Act are frighteningly unconstitutional in that they allow our government to create evidence that might not exist.

If, for example, my 17-year-old daughter checks out books from the library pertaining to jihad and this information is passed on to the FBI, she could be detained for questioning because her name is very obviously Muslim. This fact might also lead the FBI to wonder why she wants to learn more about jihad, which in their minds means "terrorism" and "holy war."

Yes, and then she'll have to go to one of the special camps for people with Muslim names who check out books about Jihad. I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I read this kind of absurd hysteria. It boggles the mind...

In the end, though, Ms. Issa and her family managed to overcome their fear of the Muslim-hating, jihad-misunderstanding FBI thugs who have nothing better to do than search her daughter's library records:

After coming home with about 15 books on the subject of jihad, checked out from our local public library, my husband very worriedly pointed out that we might be receiving a knock on our door from the FBI. We'll let you know if they show up, but they'd better not interrupt the Rose Bowl game between USC and Texas, or they'll hear my adolescent's wrath for showing up at such an inopportune moment.

Somehow, I suspect they were able to watch the game undisturbed.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Case for Pessimism

I am an optimist regarding the ultimate outcome of the War with Radical Islamism: I believe that America and our allies will ultimately prevail, provided we don't succumb to the desire to give up and/or wish the jihadist threat away. Above all, I think we'll win simply because we have to, since the consequences of defeat at the hands of the Islamists are utterly unthinkable.

Mark Steyn is not an optimist:

Most people reading this have strong stomachs, so let me lay it out as baldly as I can: Much of what we loosely call the Western world will not survive this century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most Western European countries. There'll probably still be a geographical area on the map marked as Italy or the Netherlands--probably--just as in Istanbul there's still a building called St. Sophia's Cathedral. But it's not a cathedral; it's merely a designation for a piece of real estate. Likewise, Italy and the Netherlands will merely be designations for real estate. The challenge for those who reckon Western civilization is on balance better than the alternatives is to figure out a way to save at least some parts of the West.

Whether or not you agree, Steyn's thought-provoking essay is well worth reading:

It's the Demography, Stupid

Rewriting the History of the Little Red Hoax

Who else but former Communist Party archivist and ALA Councilor Mark Rosenzweig would try to rewrite the history of the Little Red Hoax (link courtesy of Jack Stephens and Walter Skold):

To the credit of the liberal and left press, the story of the interdiction of the Inter-library loan request for "Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung" by Homeland Security was treated with justified, appropriate skepticism.

Despite the fact that we know from investigating the student's claims that the technical,organizational and political premises for such an action by the government exists and such things happening remains very much a possibility, to my knowledge nobody of any repute in the opposition to Bush simply took the student's story at face value.

Contrary to Rosenzweig's claim, Jack Stephens has pointed out numerous examples of left of center bloggers, commentators, and even newspapers who treated this story with anything but "justified, appropriate skepticism." To this list I would add Professor Juan Cole, Senator Ted Kennedy, and the online publication Inside Higher Ed. This is undoubtedly just a small sample of those on the left who "took the student's story at face value."

(Inside Higher Ed has pulled the original piece from its archive, though you can download it as a PDF. In that article, the author, Rob Capriccioso, reported the allegation as fact, and even posted a response to a skeptical commenter in which he stood by the story.)

As to Rosenzweig's second point that "we know from investigating the student's claims that the technical,organizational and political premises for such an action by the government exists and such things happening remains very much a possibility", this is nonsense.

As usual, Rosenzweig presents not the slightest shred of evidence in support of his assertion. On the contrary, the available evidence is overwhelming that any kind of widespread federal monitoring of library users is highly unlikely. There has been only one proven instance of the government using Patriot Act powers to obtain library-related information, hardly the onslaught on patron privacy that some of the law's more hysterical opponents have claimed. Unfortunately, for many on the left, the existence of the "Bushist Police State" is an article of faith, impervious to empirical evidence or lack thereof.

Fittingly, Rosenzweig ends with a call to break out the tinfoil hats and wade straight into the fever swamp:

If the intelligence community wanted to create a scenario which could be used to de-legitimize protest against domestic surveillance, it couldn't have done better than this student who made up the Little Red Book story and then confessed to lying.

Or maybe the so-called "protest against domestic surveillance" has done such a wonderful job of spreading such black helicopter-type paranoia that it has delegitimized itself. It is both necessary and proper that America have a credible debate over where to draw the line between privacy and security in a time of war. Unfortunately, such ridiculous, paranoid rhetoric makes having such a discussion extremely difficult. Of course, considering Rosenzweig's long record of support for regimes and political movements that really do suppress intellectual freedom, I suspect that fostering such a debate is the last thing on his mind.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Microsoft Does Beijing's Dirty Work

Disturbing news from Rebecca MacKinnon: Microsoft is not only abetting China's censorship of blogs and other web content, they're actually shutting down "offending" blogs themselves.

(link via Instapundit)

Do Bill and Melinda Gates, who have donated so much to libraries, know that their own corporation has so disgracefully turned its back on the principle of intellectual freedom?

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Truth About Cuba

Courtesy of John J. Miller at the Corner, here's a link to a vitally important project called the Cuba Archive. According to their web site:

The Cuba Archive is developing and maintaining a record of the loss of life that is comprehensive as well as systematically expanded and updated. Independent efforts undertaken to date, though valuable, have mostly addressed a particular event or period in time, are not being updated, lack data needed for verification, and/or have not gathered archival evidence.

The Archive encompasses events onwards from March 10, 1952, date of Batista's suspension of democratic constitutional rule in Cuba and covers actions taking place inside or outside the island, and affecting Cubans and non-Cubans alike.

The site offers evidence of the numerous atrocities committed by the Castro dictatorship. According to Mary Anastasia O'Grady, the project has documented over 9,000 murders (link in PDF) committed by the regime.

The Cuba Archive is a vital resource for preserving the truth about Fidel Castro's Caribbean Gulag.