Friday, February 17, 2006

Nonie Darwish: Brought Up To Hate

Nonie Darwish
February 17, 2006

The controversy regarding the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed completely misses the point. Of course, the cartoons are offensive to Muslims, but newspaper cartoons do not warrant the burning of buildings and the killing of innocent people. The cartoons did not cause the disease of hate that we are seeing in the Muslim world on our television screens at night - they are only a symptom of a far greater disease.

I was born and raised as a Muslim in Cairo, Egypt and in the Gaza Strip. In the 1950s, my father was sent by Egypt's President, Gamal Abdel Nasser, to head the Egyptian military intelligence in Gaza and the Sinai where he founded the Palestinian Fedayeen, or "armed resistance". They made cross-border attacks into Israel, killing 400 Israelis and wounding more than 900 others.

My father was killed as a result of the Fedayeen operations when I was eight years old. He was hailed by Nasser as a national hero and was considered a shaheed, or martyr. In his speech announcing the nationalisation of the Suez Canal, Nasser vowed that all of Egypt would take revenge for my father's death. My siblings and I were asked by Nasser: "Which one of you will avenge your father's death by killing Jews?" We looked at each other speechless, unable to answer.

In school in Gaza, I learned hate, vengeance and retaliation. Peace was never an option, as it was considered a sign of defeat and weakness. At school we sang songs with verses calling Jews "dogs" (in Arab culture, dogs are considered unclean).

Criticism and questioning were forbidden. When I did either of these, I was told: "Muslims cannot love the enemies of God, and those who do will get no mercy in hell." As a young woman, I visited a Christian friend in Cairo during Friday prayers, and we both heard the verbal attacks on Christians and Jews from the loudspeakers outside the mosque. They said: "May God destroy the infidels and the Jews, the enemies of God. We are not to befriend them or make treaties with them." We heard worshippers respond "Amen".

My friend looked scared; I was ashamed. That was when I first realised that something was very wrong in the way my religion was taught and practised. Sadly, the way I was raised was not unique. Hundreds of millions of other Muslims also have been raised with the same hatred of the West and Israel as a way to distract from the failings of their leaders. Things have not changed since I was a little girl in the 1950s.

Palestinian television extols terrorists, and textbooks still deny the existence of Israel. More than 300 Palestinians schools are named after shaheeds, including my father. Roads in both Egypt and Gaza still bear his name - as they do of other "martyrs". What sort of message does that send about the role of terrorists? That they are heroes. Leaders who signed peace treaties, such as President Anwar Sadat, have been assassinated. Today, the Islamo-fascist president of Iran uses nuclear dreams, Holocaust denials and threats to "wipe Israel off the map" as a way to maintain control of his divided country.

Indeed, with Denmark set to assume the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council, the flames of the cartoon controversy have been fanned by Iran and Syria. This is critical since the International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to refer Iran to the Security Council and demand sanctions. At the same time, Syria is under scrutiny for its actions in Lebanon. Both Iran and Syria cynically want to embarrass the Danes to achieve their dangerous goals.

But the rallies and riots come from a public ripe with rage. From my childhood in Gaza until today, blaming Israel and the West has been an industry in the Muslim world. Whenever peace seemed attainable, Palestinian leaders found groups who would do everything to sabotage it.
They allowed their people to be used as the front line of Arab jihad. Dictators in countries surrounding the Palestinians were only too happy to exploit the Palestinians as a diversion from problems in their own backyards. The only voice outside of government control in these areas has been the mosques, and these places of worship have been filled with talk of jihad.

Is it any surprise that after decades of indoctrination in a culture of hate, that people actually do hate? Arab society has created a system of relying on fear of a common enemy. It's a system that has brought them much-needed unity, cohesion and compliance in a region ravaged by tribal feuds, instability, violence, and selfish corruption. So Arab leaders blame Jews and Christians rather than provide good schools, roads, hospitals, housing, jobs, or hope to their people.

For 30 years I lived inside this war zone of oppressive dictatorships and police states. Citizens competed to appease and glorify their dictators, but they looked the other way when Muslims tortured and terrorised other Muslims. I witnessed honour killings of girls, oppression of women, female genital mutilation, polygamy and its devastating effect on family relations. All of this is destroying the Muslim faith from within.

It's time for Arabs and Muslims to stand up for their families. We must stop allowing our leaders to use the West and Israel as an excuse to distract from their own failed leadership and their citizens' lack of freedoms. It's time to stop allowing Arab leaders to complain about cartoons while turning a blind eye to people who defame Islam by holding Korans in one hand while murdering innocent people with the other.

Muslims need jobs - not jihad. Apologies about cartoons will not solve the problems. What is needed is hope and not hate. Unless we recognise that the culture of hate is the true root of the riots surrounding this cartoon controversy, this violent overreaction will only be the start of a clash of civilisations that the world cannot bear.

Nonie Darwish is an American of Arab/Moslem origin. A freelance writer and public speaker, she runs the website

Bill Madden: Rivera keeps rolling along

NY Post

TAMPA - Mariano Rivera arrived at spring training yesterday, pronouncing himself rested, fit and raring to go, and if you were George Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman, Joe Torre or any card-carrying member of the Yankee legions, this was the only proclamation of spring that mattered.

Because no one in the Yankee universe is prepared to think about life after Mo, even though, at age 36 and his place in the Hall of Fame assured, it's agreed these now are all gravy seasons.
Good as he feels, even Rivera concedes the inevitable could happen at any time. A pitcher's arm can withstand just so much toil and stress. In his case, his durability has been almost as remarkable as his dominance.

"The last few years I've been feeling good," Rivera said after completing his physical. "Last year (in which he posted a 1.38 ERA with 43 saves and finished second in the Cy Young Award voting to Angels starter Bartolo Colon) I felt especially good. But only God knows where I'll be next year. I'll pitch as long as God lets me."

Torre can only hope that's at least two more seasons, to the end of his own contract. After watching veteran free agent Scott Erickson audition for the Yanks, Torre was asked if he ever has allowed himself to think about the impact Rivera has had on his life.

"You mean how much money he's made me?" Torre said. "How could you not? But I don't think in terms of who's in waiting because he's been here and he's been the same the whole time."

That in itself is a testament to Rivera's greatness. Somewhere on his plaque it will have to be noted that no reliever in the history of the game faced more pressure situations than Rivera. He has appeared in 72 postseason games, logging an ERA of 0.81 and if he ever has felt a case of the "yips" (as Sparky Anderson used to call them), he never showed it.

"He's done it so many times, he doesn't have to prove to himself he can handle the pressure," Torre said. "The only way you can be brave is to be afraid. Don't you think it took bravery on his part to come back from the Sandy Alomar homer in (the AL division series in) '97? Or the way he came back after the Red Sox got to him those couple of times (in the 2004 ALCS). It's the same as with (Dennis) Eckersley after he gave up the homer to (Kirk) Gibson (in the first game of the 1988 World Series). The great ones are all able to respond to adversity."

Another way to put it is that the great ones crave the pressure and feed off it. In discussing last season, which may have been his best statistically, especially considering his streak of 22 consecutive scoreless appearances and the fact he yielded more than one run only once, Rivera expressed a sense of emptiness because he never got to experience the ultimate pressure.

"I've had a lot of good years and even though last year was a very good one and got me consideration for the Cy Young Award, it wasn't the one I wanted," he said. "I would trade that good year for a World Series victory."

For that reason, he does not allow himself the luxury of reflecting on his career. His 379 saves are fifth on the all-time list, 99 away from Lee Smith's record. Rivera could eclipse that in 2-1/2seasons, but it is of little matter to him.

"I don't check stats and numbers," he said. "All that stuff (the Hall of Fame) is up to you guys. I've been successful and I thank God just for being here."

So does everyone in the Yankee organization - and does he ever think about how important his well-being is to all of them?

"I don't want to put too much pressure on how valuable I am," he said, rubbing his forehead. "I take care of only what I can control. Otherwise, there's too much stress. I don't think that way. I'm losing my hair already!"

With that, he abruptly stood up and walked away, out the door into Torre's office, where the two of them would go over Rivera's special work program for the spring and privately count their blessings.

Originally published on February 17, 2006

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Washington Orcas Listed as Endangered Species

By PEGGY ANDERSEN, Associated Press
16 February 2006

SEATTLE - Already designated a depleted species under one federal act, Washington state's killer whale population is getting more federal protection under another.

Since 2002, the orcas have been protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which kept them from being killed or harassed, but their listing under the Endangered Species Act gives them the highest protection available under the law.

The listing was announced in November but goes into effect Thursday.

A female orca, or killer whale, travels with a calf near the San Juan Islands in Washington

The three pods of orcas that live in Puget Sound from late spring through early fall, known as the southern resident orca population, total 89 whales. That's down from more than 100 in the middle of the last century but up from a low of 79 in 2002. The decline has been blamed on pollution and a drop in the population of salmon, their primary food.

The National Marine Fisheries Service will upgrade its orca conservation plan because of the new designation. One of the first steps is defining the whales' critical habitat, said Bob Lohn, the agency's Northwest regional director.

Federal agencies will need to consult with NMFS to make sure activities they plan in areas designated as critical habitat don't harm the orcas, Lohn said.

"If you don't protect the homes they need to survive, you can't expect them to start recovering," said Brent Plater, with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Lohn said NMFS officers would start monitoring whale-watching operations more closely. There are no proposed changes in its rules, which bar harassment of orcas and operation of engines within 100 yards of the mammals.

Some environmentalists cheered the listing.

"People are beginning to understand just how unique and amazing they are and how lucky we are to have the southern resident population in this urban fishbowl," said Susan Berta of Orca Network.

Others, however, were more cautious, noting that the Bush administration has been pushing to reshape the Endangered Species Act.

If the act is rolled back, "you can rest assured that the legal protections that the southern residents need and deserve to survive and recover will be lost," said Plater.
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Hamas vows to 'drink' Jewish blood

See terrorist group's video with messages for Israelis
Posted: February 16, 20061:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2006

Shortly after its stunning election victory, Hamas posted on its official website parting video messages from two suicide bombers, including one who vowed the terrorist group would drink the blood of Jews until they "leave the Muslim countries."

Another terrorist urged his mother to be joyous over his death and his "wedding" with the "Maidens of Paradise."

The terrorist act glorified in the video, which can be viewed here, took place Dec. 7, 2004, reported Israel-based Palestinian Media Watch. Hamas, responsible for more than 100 suicide bombings and scores of shooting and rocket attacks, won overwhelmingly in the Jan. 25 Palestinian parliamentary elections and will form the next government.

Each terrorist had a separate message for Jews. The first said:

"My message to the loathed Jews is that there is no god but Allah, we will chase you everywhere! We are a nation that drinks blood, and we know that there is no blood better than the blood of Jews. We will not leave you alone until we have quenched our thirst with your blood, and our children's thirst with your blood. We will not leave until you leave the Muslim countries."

The second terrorist declared:

"In the name of Allah, we will destroy you, blow you up, take revenge against you, [and] purify the land of you, pigs that have defiled our country... This operation is revenge against the sons of monkeys and pigs."

The second terrorist also told how he saw his death for Allah as a wedding:

"I dedicate this wedding to all of those who have chosen Allah as their goal, the Quran as their constitution and the prophet [Muhammad] as their role model. Jihad is the only way to liberate Palestine – all of Palestine – from the impurity of the Jews."

He then spoke directly to his mother.

"My dear mother, you who have cared for me, today I sacrifice my life to be your intercessor (on Judgment Day). O my love and soul, wipe your tears, don't be saddened. In the name of Allah, I've achieve all that I've aspired. Don't let me see you sad on my wedding day with the Maidens of Paradise. So be happy and not sad, because in the name of Allah, after death is merciful Allah's paradise."

The clip has a farewell scene in which the mother helps the terrorist don his explosive vest. The scene is accompanying by a song with the lyrics, "My dear mother, don't cry over us."

Palestinian Media Watch notes the lyrics are similar to a music video that ran on Palestinian Authority television for years in which a boy asks his parents to be happy over his coming death: "My beloved, my mother, dearest to me most. Be joyous over my blood and do not cry for me."

The Israeli news monitor commented that on numerous occasions, the final messages of Palestinian suicide bombers reflected what they had been hearing in the PA media.

After filming their goodbyes, the two Hamas suicide terrorists went to the Gaza Strip's Karni Crossing and killed an Israeli soldier.

The clip also has scenes of terrorists preparing a tunnel and hiding explosives in it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Paul Sperry: Ticking Saudi Time Bomb in the U.S.?

Paul Sperry
February 15, 2006

A former top Homeland Security official reveals in a forthcoming book that the FBI failed to examine "stacks of boxes" of potential evidence containing the applications of thousands of young Saudi men who had applied for and received visas to travel to the U.S. around the same time as the 15 Saudi hijackers.

While the FBI says it can find no evidence of al-Qaida cells here, the agency has not looked at all the Saudi-based evidence since 9/11, warns former Homeland Security Department Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin.Ervin, who resigned early last year, says he discovered several unexamined boxes of Saudi visa applications in a storage room at the U.S. Embassy during a trip two years ago to Riyadh, the Saudi capital. He was told by consular officers there that FBI agents neglected to go through the boxes and pull the files to see if there might have been any connections -- tribes, families, villages, occupations, addresses, phone numbers and so on -- between those applicants and the hijackers.Even in the aftermath of 9/11, "predictably, the FBI fell woefully behind in vetting these applications," Ervin says in the galley proof of his soon-to-be-released book, "Open Target: Where America Is Vulnerable To Attack" (Palgrave MacMillan). The FBI missed clues to the first World Trade Center terror plot in 1993 because they were buried in boxes of unexamined evidence from an earlier terror case. Ervin says a team of FBI agents did visit the embassy in the months after the 9/11 attacks and asked the consular section to pull some of the files.

But for some unexplained reason, he says the agents left the embassy in Riyadh without examining the thousands of other applications stored in the stacks of boxes, even though Saudi Arabia is a known al-Qaida hotbed."As I write these words today," Ervin says on page 45 of the galley copy I've obtained, "these applications have yet to be examined, and the more time goes by, the less potentially useful any intelligence they might contain will be."
Even when the FBI has screened visa applicants, it hasn't done it fast enough to weed out terrorist suspects and prevent them from entering the U.S.

For example, in the months after 9/11, the FBI and CIA scoured the visa applications of all males between the ages of 16 and 45 from predominantly Arab and Muslim countries for any terrorist connections, Ervin says. They found some 200 applicants with terrorist ties.But by the time they made the connections, the State Department had already issued the men their visas, he says. The department duly revoked the visas, but it was too late -- the men had already entered the U.S.

"Our government had no idea whether any of these terrorists were still in the country, and if so, where," Ervin says. "It is possible that all 200 of them are in America somewhere today, waiting for just the right moment to launch another attack."

Osama bin Laden recently warned that al-Qaida is making final preparations for another massive attack on America. Assuming the terrorist kingpin isn't bluffing, experts say, he could have terrorist cells secreted inside American cities.

While the FBI says it's found no evidence of such terror cells here, it also said much the same thing before the 9/11 attacks. And Ervin points out that the bureau nonetheless figures there are at least 1,000 al-Qaida sympathizers in the U.S. today -- a number that he calls "low." It's possible there are thousands of sympathizers supporting and facilitating hundreds of terrorist operatives inside the U.S., he fears, and the FBI has yet to make the connections."It's safe to say, then, that a not insignificant number of suspected terrorists are known to be in the country today," he says.

Ervin speculates that the FBI chose not to examine the other Saudi visa applications because "doing so was too much trouble."Asked about it, FBI spokesman Bill Carter says it's the first he's heard of any unexamined boxes of Saudi visa applications. He says generally it's the State Department's duty to check out visa applicants, and the FBI plays only a minor supporting role in the process.

"The State Department is usually responsible for the processing of visa applications. And generally what happens in that regard is there's a name-check process," Carter says. "In other words, they would send the names over to the FBI, and we run it through our case files to determine if there's anything in the FBI databases that would preclude or prevent that individual from coming into the United States."

"But," he adds, "I'm not familiar with the fact that there are boxes that remain unreviewed."Carter says the FBI's legal attache office in Riyadh -- which has come under fire recently -- may have been involved initially in reviewing the visa files. But he maintains it was not ultimately responsible for running down terror leads on Saudi individuals after 9/11. "Most of what that [office activity] had to do with was tracking financial issues with regard to support of terrorist groups," Carter explains.

FBI agents in Washington have complained that they received little help after 9/11 from the bureau's office in Riyadh, which was run by two Muslim agents. One, Egyptian-born Gamal Abdel-Hafiz, says they were understaffed and hobbled by an antiquated computer system.

But he and his boss Wilfred Rattigan, a black convert to Islam, nonetheless found time to travel to Mecca for the hajj pilgrimage, where they surrendered their FBI cell phones to Saudi nationals and were out of contact with officials back in the U.S. who were trying to ring them up about investigations into al-Qaida and 9/11.

Both Rattigan and Abdel-Hafiz, who have since been reassigned within the bureau, wore traditional Muslim headgear and robes while on the job in Saudi Arabia, further annoying fellow agents.

When a senior FBI supervisor paid a visit to the Riyadh office nearly a year after 9/11, she found secret documents strewn about the office, some even wedged between cabinets. She also found a huge backlog of boxes each filled with three feet of paper containing secret, time-sensitive leads. Much of the materials, including information on Saudi airline pilots, had not been translated or reviewed.

Ervin, now a homeland security expert at the Aspen Institute in Washington, insists that someone in law enforcement -- whether the FBI or an agency within DHS -- still needs to review the unexamined boxes sitting in the embassy in Riyadh."Why hasn't anyone from the Department of Homeland Security bothered to look through them to see whether there might be links between any of those applicants and any of the hijackers?" he complains in his book.

DHS, for its part, says it has introduced a program meant to add another layer of security to State's visa application process. Two years ago, under the Homeland Security Act, it deployed so-called Visa Security Officers (VSOs) to Saudi Arabia, still a hotbed of terrorism, to review applications for people who could be considered national security threats.

But the Saudi program has been plagued with problems. The Government Accountability Office last year reported that officers assigned there are spread too thin by a heavy workload. And the case volume is expected to grow. Reportedly, the administration recently agreed to a request by the Saudi royal government to ramp up the number of student visas issued to Saudi nationals, a process that was slowed after 9/11.

Making matters worse, only one of the first 10 VSOs sent to Saudi Arabia could speak Arabic. "Needless to say," Ervin says, "the officers' effectiveness was severely limited by their inability to speak and read the language of the visa applicants."While it remains unclear how many other Saudi terrorist suspects have received visas to travel to the U.S., authorities have identified several Saudi nationals associated with the hijackers or al-Qaida, or both, who are still at large and may pose a potential threat to America.

Here are a few:

Ali Abd al Rahman al-Faqasi al-Ghamdi: Originally a candidate for the 9/11 operation, he was held in reserve by bin Laden for a later, even larger operation. He was recently given amnesty by the Saudi government.

Saud al-Rashid: He also trained for the suicide mission.
Photos of him were found with those of three other hijackers. Saudi authorities released him from custody in 2002.

Adnan al-Shukrijumah: U.S. investigators consider the former Florida resident -- a.k.a. "Jafar the Pilot" -- to be "the next Mohamed Atta." The Saudi national, who conspired with dirty-nuke suspect Jose Padilla, was last spotted in Central America.

Ervin warns that al-Qaida is "bound and determined to hit us again, and even harder than last time."

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Paul Sperry, formerly Washington bureau chief of Investor's Business Daily, is a Hoover Institution media fellow and author of "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington" (Nelson Current, 2005).

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Thomas Sowell: Two Crises

February 14, 2006
Thomas Sowell

This nation is facing two crises -- one phony and one real. Both in the media and in politics, the phony crisis is getting virtually all the attention.

Like the French official in "Casablanca," politicians and much of the media are shocked, shocked, to discover that the government has been listening in on calls involving international terrorist networks. Congressional leaders of both parties have in fact known this for years without saying a word.

Only after the New York Times published the news and made a big noise about it have politicians begun to declare their shock.

That is not the only thing that makes this big uproar phony. The same people who are going ballistic over what they spin as "domestic spying" never went ballistic over one of the most gross examples of genuine domestic spying during the Clinton years.

Hundreds of raw FBI files on Republicans were sent to the Clinton White House, in violation of laws and for no higher purpose than having enough dirt on enough people to intimidate political opponents. But domestic spying against Republicans did not shock nearly as many people as intercepting phone calls from terrorists.

The current hue and cry that is being whipped up into a media crisis is part of a whole pattern of short-sighted political obstruction and a futile venting of spleen.

What could have been more short-sighted and petty than the Congressional Democrats holding up the official electoral college vote last year confirming the re-election of President Bush? It was the first time such a challenge was made since 1877.

Democrats knew from the outset that they had no chance of preventing Bush's re-election from being confirmed in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Moreover, since he was already President, they could not even delay his taking office.

It was obstruction for the sake of obstruction -- and to "do something" to appeal to the Bush-hatred of their political base. It was the same thing when the Democrats obstructed and delayed the confirmation vote on Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State and later the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

They knew from the outset that these were just futile temper tantrums that would not affect the outcome in the slightest.

One of the ugliest examples of the same mindset was painfully visible at the recent funeral of Coretta Scott King, where a solemn occasion was turned into a series of political cheap shots against a President who had come to honor the memory of Mrs. King.

The truly dangerous aspect of this temper tantrum politics is its undermining the government of the United States in its dealings with foreign powers and international terrorist networks.

There are nations and movements that respect only force or the threat of force. Regardless of anyone's politics, the President of the United States is the only one who can launch that force.

In the early days of the Iraq war, when it was clear to all that American military force would be unleashed against our enemies, Libya suddenly agreed to abandon its nuclear program and other countries backed off their hostile stances.

But when our domestic obstructionists began undermining the President and dividing the country, they were undermining the credibility of American power. North Korea's government-controlled media gave big play to Senator John Kerry's speeches against the U.S. hard line on the development of North Korean nuclear weapons.

Obviously this all-out attempt to damage the President at all costs makes any threat of the use of military force less credible with the country divided.

Whether President Bush will in fact use military force as a last resort to prevent an unending nightmare of nuclear weapons in the hands of Iranian fanatics and international terrorists is something only the future will tell.

It would be far better if the threat of force were credible enough that actual force would not have to be used. But divisive politics have undermined the credibility of any such threat. That can narrow the choices to killing people in Iran or leaving ourselves and our posterity at the mercy of hate-filled and suicidal fanatics with nukes.

That is the real crisis that is being overshadowed by the phony political crisis.

Copyright 2006 Creators Syndicate

Ben Johnson: A Failure Fans the Flames

Ben Johnson
February 14, 2006

When David Horowitz and I wrote the article “AL GORE OR AL JAZEERA?” we intended the title as parody. Two years later, Gore has morphed into parody, and our parody has become prophecy fulfilled.

On Sunday, former Vice President Al Gore stood on the sands of the nation that produced Osama bin Laden – a nation where schoolgirls were herded back into a burning building so they would not appear in public without a burqa and where the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion is considered an appendix to the Koran – and criticized his own country. America, he told the sheikhs at the Jiddah Economic Forum, is committing “terrible abuses” against Arabs, who are being “indiscriminately rounded up” in a way that is “unforgivable.”

Gore warned that, under the Bush administration, Arab Americans are “indiscriminately rounded up, often on minor charges of overstaying a visa or not having a green card in proper order, and held in conditions that were just unforgivable.”

Forget that, as usual, Gore is completely off-base. Most immigrants who hail from nations that sponsor terrorism and who have violated U.S. immigration laws – whether by lying on their forms, overstaying their visas, or not being where they said they would be – are deported. The 500-odd detainees in Guantanamo Bay are being held because the evidence suggests they have familiarity with terrorists and may have knowledge of future terror attacks. There, these detainees are mothered by supportive, sisterly “interrogators” between prayer services and dinners of chicken and rice pilaf. As Lt. Gen. Randall “Mark” Schmidt and Brig. Gen. John Furlow told the Senate Armed Services Committee last July, “No torture occurred” at Gitmo.

Bill O’Reilly of Fox News invited Gore to enumerate specific episodes of “unforgivable” U.S. behavior. Given the opportunity to put up or shut up, Gore declined on both counts.

What is most disturbing is Al Gore’s traveling to a foreign – and hostile – country to denounce his commander-in-chief while we are fighting a War on Terror initiated by citizens and expatriates of that nation. However disconnected from reality Gore has become, he must know calling the president’s actions – which must, after all, be carried out by American soldiers – “unforgivable” invites and justifies jihad against our GIs. His words verify the Islamists’ every dark imagination about Judeo-Crusader perfidy. And when speaking in a religious theocracy that is also the world’s leading exporter of Wahhabi Islam, the term “unforgivable” carries a specific denotation: specifically, that these crimes cry unto Allah in the heavens and can only be atoned by the shedding of infidel blood. Standing a stone’s throw from Mecca (pun intended), Gore told Islamists they must give no quarter to the Great Satan.

The former veep then denounced Bush’s post-9/11 policy of denying visas to most Saudi applicants. “The thoughtless way in which visas are now handled, that is a mistake,” he said. “The worst thing we can possibly do is to cut off the channels of friendship and mutual understanding between Saudi Arabia and the United States.”

During the Clinton-Gore administration, when that “channel of friendship” was free to run its natural course, it yielded 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11. Many of those people, too, had overstayed their visas or had immigration irregularities, but Al, Bill, and Hillary had better things to do than “indiscriminately” chase down such petty violators. Bill was too busy fretting over “Clinton fatigue” to arrest Osama bin Laden; why would he track down a few Saudi students with an interest in aviation?

Gore reassured his Saudi audience that Bush’s Nazi practices do not “represent the desires or wishes or feelings of the majority of the citizens of my country.” In addition to sneaking in a gratuitous and megalomaniacal reference to his winning the popular vote in 2000, Gore signaled a willingness to overturn this policy, should anyone present want to make an investment in 2008.

Wherever Gore had given such an indefensible speech, it would have been indefensible: the fact that he chose to denounce his country on foreign soil during a time of war should make his asininities all the more repugnant.

The speakers who followed Gore to the podium underscored the banality of his polemical rant. Cherie Blair, the wife of Tony Blair, said Saudi discrimination against women was “undermining economic potential,” a plea seconded by Irish President Mary McAleese. In a closed Kingdom, two women dared to call for freedom, while Gore used his bully pulpit to condemn the freest nation on earth.

Gore’s inflammatory remarks carried additional weight, coming from a former vice president who still harbors presidential aspirations.

The scathing, scalding excesses of Al Gore and Jimmy Carter represent deplorable departures from American tradition. Previous ex-presidents and ex-vice presidents have followed the longstanding custom not to criticize their successors. In modern history, most have not had to, due either to their personal popularity or innate human dignity. Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, and Walter Mondale were elected to – or at least nominated for – positions of national importance after their electoral defeats. Most American presidents have meekly followed George Washington’s noble example of retiring in solitude and turning the reins of power over to others. Bush-41 was exemplary; so, too, Gerald Ford. Both narrowly lost to faux moderate Southern governors, then suffered in silence through inept administrations that left America vulnerable to Islamist attacks. In modern history, only three ex-presidents have broken that cardinal rule not to criticize the current Chief Executive: Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, and, Bill Clinton.

Bill Clinton and Al Gore’s actions – or rather, inaction – when al-Qaeda warlords dragged the bodies of 18 U.S. soldiers through the streets of Somalia emboldened Osama bin Laden to attack again at the Khobar Towers, then the Twin Towers. The Clinton-Gore-Carter triumvirate’s appeasement of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions taught Iran a valuable lesson. And Al Gore’s 36-day public pouting session in November-December 2000 undoubtedly assured al-Qaeda that the West was so decadent, self-indulgent, and politically paralyzed by the Left that we were ripe for attack. Now, Gore is telling those jihadists and their financiers they are still on the side of the angels.

For radical Islamists, Al Gore has become the gift that keeps on giving.

Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and author of the book 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Film Review: Capote

Cold-Blooded Writer
Truman Capote's Ruthless Pursuit Of a Murderer's Tale Is Chillingly Told
By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 21, 2005; C01

Truman Capote was as corny as Kansas in November, which is to say not corny at all.
So what was the elfin, mincing, vicuna-wrapped, dowager-loving, gossip-mongering, gay, E.T.-looking writer doing in a small village in the western edges of the Jayhawk State in November 1959? (He probably didn't even know what a jayhawk was.) The answer is twofold, according to Gerald Clarke's great 1988 biography "Capote" and this terrific movie based on a substantial part of it: writing a great book and destroying himself.

That intertwined trajectory of creation and destruction is at the heart of the severe film, almost like a diagram of the primal Faustian bargain: The artist grows so much and gains so much, achieves immortality, really -- and it only costs him his soul.

Capote, a doyen of the salons (but never the saloons) of the Upper East Side and secure in his world and reputation as the New Yorker's best and brightest boy, saw an article in the Nov. 15 New York Times recounting the slaughter of a prosperous farm family named Clutter on the high wheat plains by persons unknown. Something provoked his imagination, perhaps the hugeness of the crime juxtaposed with the stolidity of the community and its solitude way out there where the rain is Tess, the fire's Jo and they call the wind Maria. Within days he was headed there in the company of his boyhood chum, the soon-to-be-published writer Harper Lee, who served as his enabler as he attempted to make contact with the sundered town, its law enforcement professionals and, ultimately, the perpetrators of the deed.

In "Capote," director Bennett Miller, writer Dan Futterman and most of all actor Philip Seymour Hoffman in the title role (all are boyhood friends, publicity materials say) capture this process with exquisite accuracy if minimal flourish: The genius of the film, besides Hoffman's stunning performance, is that it knows exactly how much is enough. It never overplays, lingers or punches up. It "writes," as it were, in the cinematic equivalent of the spare, eloquent prose the New Yorker is famous for.

Miller shrinks each sequence to its salient story point, then quits it in a rush. It's almost as if he went through Futterman's screenplay and cut the first half out of every scene. Meanwhile, he uses the severe landscape -- flat, the horizon a hundred miles out, the sky gray and mean, the wind making the sound like folks was out there dyin', the rustle of the dry corn, the frozen patches of snow -- to suggest the inner state of its title antagonist's mind.

And the filmmakers pull no punches (neither did Clarke's book, although Capote's did): Truman's a bitch. With an airy wave of his fat, moist fingers he disdains poor, square cop Alvin Dewey (played by Chris Cooper as if his first name were Gary) and then acknowledges, in a throwaway line as he Joan-Crawfords dramatically through the police station with a sweep of his stylish coat, "Oh, I don't really care if you catch them or not." Not exactly meant to endear himself to stoical law-'n'-order types. (Miller has great fun contrasting Capote's piping flounce with the doughy, so-butch faces of the Kansas lawmen.)

But Tru has charm and, though you can't see it under the gay bling, grit. And he's able to use his outsiderness to reach people from odd angles, for example playing up his New Orleans background to captivate Dewey's wife, a New Orleanian herself. You never heard N'Awleansean spoken with such high Tallulahesque zing! As he was with the Dowager Swans of the Rich Old Lady set in New York a few years later, he's able to ingratiate himself first with her, and by extension with the square-shootin' Dewey, which gives him almost unlimited access to the investigative machinery of the state and, in turn, the cred to get inside the prison system. Other than Dewey and Catherine Keener's grounded but hardly Alabama-seeming Lee, the movie has nothing nice to say about anyone. It views all humanity through Truman's jaundiced eyes, including himself. It suggests that not only was the killing done in cold blood, but, over the following few years, so was the writing.

"Capote" gets at the writer's ethical dilemma: Real people and their lives are never as tidy as a good story, and they must be nudged, shoved, manipulated to get with the program. Every writer of long-form nonfiction faces this issue; he also needs the cooperation of people his book will be unkind to, and so the manipulations are creative, as are, in his interior life, his justifications.

Throughout the long writing (close to six years) of "In Cold Blood," Capote plays these games with a grandmaster's finesse, even when they become clouded by emotional engagement, possibly even love. He falls for one of the killers, a forlorn and embittered loser named Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.). Yet even as he loves the poor wretched thing that Perry is, he must use him, first to find out what it is that enables a man to put a 12-gauge muzzle to the head of other humans and pull the trigger -- four times! -- and second, for the killer's account of the event, which he knew would form the climax of his book and make it great.

So he seduces Perry at least metaphorically (the picture avoids the suggestion that some others have made of a physical relationship) and guides him by offering and withholding love, by enabling the young man's fantasies of specialness and, cruelest of all, by denying the nature of the book he is writing, even to the point of lying about what the book's title will be. He also knows something more terrible: His book will be better if Perry swings at the end of the Kansas hangman's rope. He needs that scene.

Stories of ambition -- "Champion," "What Makes Sammy Run" -- usually turn on a sociopathic hero, following men without consciences who backslap, then backstab (the same backs) their way to the top without a qualm. "Capote" revises this formula; the point it makes, and almost as a dish of justice served hot, is that all this cost Capote everything. He did what he had to do, he wrote what he had to write, and he was left with fame and fortune -- and plenty of nothing. It ignores theories of alcoholism (the writer's clear problem, no matter what else may have afflicted him) as disease. Instead it treats alcoholism as a symptom of a deeper soul rot.

As a structure, the movie also has a weird resemblance to a basketball game. Wha? Well, yes, in this one sense: Remember in the old days of the 76ers, before there was a Michael Jordan or a Magic Johnson but there was a Dr. J? Remember Dr. J? The saying was: Back away and let him operate, and the best thing the Sixers did was cluster in one quadrant of the court, making way for the Doc's fabulous moves. He won them a championship that way.

That's what they do with Hoffman in this picture. No one fights him for it, no one stands against him. It's his picture, not merely because Hoffman interceded with the financiers to obtain money, not because he exec-produced, but because he is the movie. Every one else backs off and lets him do his moves, which include a simpering, unselfconscious effeminacy, a wrist that seems to be filled with helium and a voice that is somewhere between a lisp and a death rattle.

There's also some hypocrisy filtered through this, what you might call the movie's own corruption of ambition. The filmmakers judge Truman sharply for his use of Perry as a source for the murder scene -- Capote even overemphasized it by pulling it out of chronology and moving it to the rear of the book -- but they do the same. Though the movie isn't a remake of "In Cold Blood" (there's already been one), it uses that book's structure, beginning with the discovery of the bodies on the plain, ending with a powerful blast of violence (more violent than Richard Brooks's 1967 film), including an image of a twitching Mr. Clutter, his throat cut and gushing. Then there's the hanging, far more graphic than the original. So they may condemn Tru for his ruthlessness, but by using the product of it, aren't they operating in blood just as cold?

Capote (98 minutes, at area theaters) is rated R for scenes of violence and brief strong language.