Saturday, July 22, 2006

David Horovitz: When It's Over

Jul. 20, 2006

Immediately after the soldiers were abducted, grabbed from their vehicle as they patrolled the northern border inside Israel, the IDF used tank and artillery fire to try and thwart the kidnappers' escape and sent assault helicopters and fighter planes up into the skies over Lebanon. The prime minister, furious, declared that he held Hizbullah, the Lebanese government and the Syrians to blame, and vowed that Israel would not rest until the boys were safely home. Within hours of the attack, the Israeli army had massed a vast array of forces at the northern border, poised to strike.

And then?

And then nothing.

And that was the original sin.

Omar Sawayid, Benny Avraham and Adi Avitan were seized by Hizbullah gunmen on October 7, 2000, and the IDF did not go heavily in after them. The IAF did not pulverize Hizbullah targets in southern Lebanon, or bomb the roads used by the convoys bringing vast quantities of Iranian and Syrian weaponry into Lebanon for Hizbullah's arsenal.

It had been only five months since the government of Ehud Barak, elected in large part because of a pledge to bring the army back from south Lebanon, had made good on that promise. The last thing it wanted was to embroil itself again in the Lebanese quagmire. So it trumpeted its anger. It issued threats. But it held its fire.

And a little over two years later, the bodies of the three soldiers, who had evidently died in the course of the original attack or soon after, were returned to Israel for burial, along with captured "businessman" Elhanan Tennenbaum, in what had become one of Israel's trademark asymmetrical exchanges, the latest evidence of its readiness to do anything to get its soldiers back, dead or alive. The country that would not meet then-Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas's entreaties to release prisoners into his hands, and thus strengthen his professed anti-terror position, instead released 400 Palestinian prisoners into the hands of the proudly terrorizing Islamic extremists of Hizbullah.

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizbullah leader who was responsible for both the October 2000 attack and last week's very similar incursion at Moshav Zar'it, which saw eight soldiers killed and Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser whisked off into Lebanon, might reasonably have believed that a similar scenario would play out this time - Israel huffing, puffing and, ultimately, bluffing. He might never have dreamed that Israel's peacenik defense minister, Amir Peretz, would unshackle the IAF and permit it to fire into the homes in south Lebanon where locals had Nasrallah's missiles stored, and into the Dahiya neighborhood in southern Beirut where Hizbullah had built up a vast command and control center.

He might, as both Peretz and his chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, are known to believe, have miscalculated and overplayed his hand.

But he certainly served the cause of his Iranian masters admirably - distracting all attention from Iran's relentless march to a nuclear capability when the GA met earlier this week. And for all the unarguable superiority of Israel's military forces, much of his missile capability was still intact late this week, after a week's pounding by the IAF. Much, maybe most, of his fighting force was still alive. And, crucially, so was he.

Peretz and Halutz, like President George Bush when it comes to Osama bin Laden, have striven to avoid personalizing this war in the north. Killing Nasrallah, the word is, would be a heavy blow to Hizbullah. But just as Israel's killing of his predecessor, Abbas Moussawi, in 1992, didn't destroy the organization, neither, now, they would have us believe, would the permanent dispatching of Hassan Nasrallah. Except that, as even they would concede, the grey Moussawi cannot be compared to the charismatic Nasrallah. And for the sheikh and his followers, his crowing emergence from the bunkers - no matter how battered his organization - would constitute victory.

IN OCTOBER 2000, Halutz was just a few months into his job as head of the air force. Doubtless he had ideas of what the IAF could do to cut Hizbullah down to size and deter it from further military adventurism along the new, UN-guaranteed Israel-Lebanon border line. But any such suggestions, if they were made, were plainly discarded. The days and weeks passed, and that massed IDF presence at the border slowly filtered away.

Emboldened by Israel's inactivity, Nasrallah's men settled in on their side instead, building ever-more permanent positions right up against the fence year by year, under the unthreatening eye of UNIFIL and the constrained gaze of IDF soldiers spitting distance away.
Colossal explosive devices - hundreds upon hundreds of kilos - were planted to deter IDF incursions that never came; one of them, detonated 70 meters inside Lebanese territory when an Israeli tank ploughed across the border in pursuit of last week's kidnappers, ripped the tank to shreds, spreading debris over hundreds of meters, killing the four-man tank crew instantly.

If Halutz, promoted to chief of staff in June of last year, ever toyed with the idea of initiating the kind of onslaught necessary to destroy those border emplacements and much more of Hizbullah besides, he would have told himself that he would be wasting his time in even suggesting it. Attack Hizbullah out of the clear blue sky? The world would never stand for it, every politician would have told him. He'd have been laughed out of the cabinet room.

But Halutz evidently did seriously prepare for the day when Nasrallah would provide, not the pretext, but the trigger for action. The battle plan the IDF has been following for the past nine days was finalized four or five months ago, around the time the new government was taking shape.

And when Nasrallah murderously provided that trigger last Wednesday morning, Halutz found in Peretz an improbable ally. Told that the IAF would be largely incapable of tackling Hizbullah's short-range missile capability in south Lebanon unless it fired into the residential areas where the missiles and launchers were stored, but also told that the IAF had other, less sensitive targets in its plans that could be hit first, Peretz responded that while every effort should be made to limit civilian casualties, people who had rockets in their living rooms could not be considered non-combatants, and that the short-range missiles should be an early and prime focus.

The war Israel is fighting in the North is the consequence of a fundamental change in mind-set, both at the top of the army, and at the top of government, in the six years since Souad, Avraham and Avitan were abducted - a newly aggressive approach to fighting terrorism born of the bitter realization that Israel's enemies were laughing at an army perceived as impotent, not because it lacked strength but because its leaders were incapable of unleashing it. Its commitment to its soldiers, regarded in Israel as so central a component of the national ethos, was derided as weakness, as evidence of a nation gone soft. Grab a few soldiers, ran the thinking, and Israel, even under the loathed Ariel Sharon, would capitulate to any demand for their return.

In the Nasrallah conception, Israel was a spider's web, to be brushed away. Hit us hard enough and we'd break. The theory had worked in southern Lebanon. It emboldened Palestinian terrorists in the second intifada. It helped prompt the pullout from Gaza. So enthralled was Nasrallah himself by the notion that he may have missed the fact of the Israeli public's remarkable resilience in the ongoing second intifada/terror war. The population was weak, he believed. Fire missiles into the cities and the Israelis would be crying out for relief.

After Gilad Shalit was kidnapped on June 25, Arab cartoonists were drawing Israeli soldiers not as butchers but as geeks. The army's much-vaunted deterrent capability was diluting by the day.

The IDF and the government saw the critical imperative to change those perceptions. The approach is playing out not only in Lebanon but also in Gaza. What is still uncertain is quite how far the politicians, and the army, are prepared to go, and how much long-term significance they will achieve.

THREE OR four days into the IDF's offensive, Israeli commanders were assessing that perhaps 25 percent of Hizbullah's military capabilities had been destroyed. And Peretz was talking about needing another week to break Nasrallah's organization.

A week into the operation, the assessment was that 40-50% of the Hizbullah capability had been smashed. But tellingly, IDF chiefs were now suggesting that another week or two were still required before Israel should be contemplating accepting a cease-fire. Another week or two, at least. And they were also stressing how hard it was to assess how much damage they'd really caused, and that their evaluations were based in large part on such unreliable indicators as how many rockets had been fired in the previous 24 hours and from which areas.

An IDF with an air force man as its chief of staff is understandably confident in the capacity of the IAF to conclusively prevail in this conflict. Unarguably, furthermore, Israel's air force in recent years, of necessity, has become increasingly skilled in pinpointing key targets and hitting them with precision. With the narrow refugee camp alleys of the Gaza Strip a death trap for Israeli ground troops, the IAF is by far the most critical component of the IDF in waging war on Palestinian terror there.

But air power, however precise, has its limits. Hizbullah has a fighting force estimated at about 1,000 men and reserves of 7-10,000. How many of them have been killed in the relentless sorties being flown by Israel's combat planes in the last nine days? Nobody really knows. How many of Nasrallah's estimated 11,500 rockets - a quite staggering figure, simply unprecedented for a terror group - have been destroyed on the ground? Again, nobody really knows. Even the task of clearing a one-kilometer strip of territory all the way along the border fence, a job Halutz intends to have completed by Saturday, has been proving highly complex given the overwhelming reliance on air power.

In Gaza, using intelligence information and contacts built up over many years, the IAF has intermittent success in hitting alleged terror kingpins from the air; it is rare, even at the height of such activity, for more than a handful of such strikes to take place in the space of a week or two. In Lebanon, with no comparable intelligence structure, and no open-ended time frame, it may be unrealistic to expect the IAF to wipe out a significant proportion of Hizbullah's fighting force.

But the chief of staff emphatically does not want to send in the ground forces. The fate of that tank crew last Wednesday is probably giving him nightmares. That and all those other colossal explosive devices his troops have unearthed as they've been dismantling the Hizbullah border outposts this week. The other day, a D9 tractor rolled over one of those bombs, detonating it. Immensely robust, the D9 survived the blast; not many other vehicles would have.

Hidden explosives apart, IDF ground forces would, of course, be fighting in Hizbullah territory, against gunmen intimately familiar with the terrain, gunmen who have been salivating at the prospect of the Israelis coming at them.

Halutz is fully aware of the terrible price Israel's citizens have been paying in this conflict. The North at times resembles the eerily quiet set of one of those alien invasion movies, where the traffic lights still change but all the people have disappeared. The death toll is mounting. And Halutz knows that it's the men and women in uniform, not the civilians, who are charged with bearing the brunt of military conflict.

Reserve generals like Doron Almog have this week been urging that he send in the troops, all the way to the Litani River, as the only way to truly clear out Hizbullah from the south. But the palpable sense around Halutz is that he fears he would be sending too many of his troops to their deaths, that an increased use of ground forces would turn this into a blood-soaked conflict.

And when it was all over, would it have been worth those lost lives?

Or put another way, no matter how many weeks the international community gives Israel before it shuts the "window" of military opportunity, will the IDF truly be able to prevent the reconstitution of Hizbullah anyway?

OUR DIVIDED Israel has been all-but unified behind the IDF's fighters and the government that sent them into action. The sheer numbers and lethal impact of Hizbullah's rockets and missiles left few Israelis unconvinced that here was a threat that had to be defused. Ehud Olmert's "moment of national truth" speech in the Knesset on Tuesday unfolded to a sound no prime minister has heard when making an address of genuine import for years: respectful silence. With the Saudis, Egyptians and Jordanians leading the way, even much of the international community internalized the need for action and understood the nature of Israel's military campaign (though not, of course, much of the European media or, needless to say, the French).

Such disunity as there has been at home, indeed, has come from critics, left and right, who question the focus and declared goals of the conflict, and specifically the decision to grant immunity to Damascus. (On the left the question is also being raised as to whether a more energetic pursuit of perceived possibilities for peace with Syria in recent years might have crippled Hizbullah more effectively than any military offensive can today.)

Syria both supplies Hizbullah with its own missiles, and ferries Iran's missiles to Nasrallah via Damascus airport. A limited attack on Syrian army positions might pull Damascus into a conflict Israel could reasonably expect to win, or signal to Bashar Assad that worse would await him if he chose to refurbish the Hizbullah supply lines when this conflict is over. But the IDF has thus far spared him the choice, and thus done nothing to deter him from picking up where he left off before hostilities began.

Halutz is adamant that fighting in Gaza, thwarting terror in and from the West Bank, and tackling Hizbullah is enough of a stretch. Iran, in his view, is a problem for the international community to tackle. For now, at least. And far from seeking to draw in the Syrians, his concern has been that a desperate Nasrallah might try to do so, perhaps even by firing on Syrian positions in the hope that jumpy Assad might blame Israel and leap into the fray.

The chief of staff has also been careful to limit the declared aims even of the conflict with Hizbullah. After Sunday's Katyusha attack on Haifa, in which eight Israelis were killed, Peretz vowed to "break" it. Halutz doesn't use that kind of language. He remembers what the Syrians did to the Moslem Brotherhood in Hama in 1982, when Hafez Assad sent his troops to crush the growing threat of Moslem extremism by killing 10,000, perhaps 20,000 people. He looks at the Egyptians' eight decades of battles with the fundamentalists. Ideological groups cannot be broken, he argues. There will always be 10 or 20, or 100 or 200 adherents to keep the flame alive.

In fact Halutz believes that it might be a mistake to try and force an abject Hizbullah surrender. It will never raise the white flag. Persuade the Lebanese public that Hizbullah is bad for them, and simultaneously drastically reduce its capability - the twin aims of the Israeli offensive - and it will have to bend and concede, he believes. Publicly humiliate it, and it will determinedly reconstitute itself.

It's a strangely forgiving attitude to a ruthless terror group. But it will be vindicated if, as Halutz promises, when this conflict is ultimately resolved, around a table, Hizbullah has no seat. It will be vindicated if, once this war in the North is over, Regev and Goldwasser come safely home, Hizbullah is prevented from again bringing murder to the border, from regaining its missile capabilities, from reconstituting itself as a military threat.

For what, otherwise, will Israel have gained?

Debra J. Saunders: A Global Body Parts Bazaar

The San Fransisco Chronicle
Saturday, July 22, 2006

Is China harvesting organs from Falun Gong practitioners -- who are killed in the process? David Kilgour, a former Canadian member of parliament, and Canadian human-rights attorney David Matas admit that they cannot prove or disprove allegations that China has killed thousands of Falun Gong practitioners in order to harvest their organs, but they fear and believe it is happening. So they wrote in a report released this month for the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of the Falun Gong in China.

China denies the allegations. An embassy spokesman reminded me that U.S. officials toured a site in Shenyang allegedly used for these operations, but a U.S. State Department official said they found "no evidence that the site is being used for any function other than as a normal public hospital." The official U.S. position on the controversy is that the administration is "concerned" about Chinese persecution of Falun Gong, as well as allegations of organ harvesting.
On the other hand, last year a Chinese health official admitted that the organs of executed prisoners were sold to foreigners. A new law now prohibits taking organs without written permission -- even as China has launched a new fleet of execution vans that are turning lethal injection into a movable feat.

There is no question that China is persecuting Falun Gong members. In 2004, the U.S. State Department reported that, "tens of thousands of practitioners remained incarcerated in prisons, extrajudicial re-education-through-labor camps and psychiatric facilities. Several hundred Falun Gong adherents reportedly have died in detention due to torture, abuse and neglect since the crackdown on Falun Gong began in 1999."

Falun Gong is a meditative practice -- sometimes dubbed "Chinese yoga" -- which, practitioner Steve Ispas of Los Altos, Calif., tells me promotes "truthfulness, compassion and tolerance."
Nonetheless, the People's Republic of China refers to Falun Gong as an "anti-humanity, anti-society and anti-science cult" and claims that practitioners refuse needed medical treatment -- which apparently makes it acceptable for the government to jail, even torture, believers.
You don't have to take the word of Falun Gong members to believe that the Chinese government is killing adherents for their body parts.

China has seen a steep rise in transplants over the past six years -- from 18,500 in the six-year period 1994 to 1999 -- to 60,000 in 2000 to 2005. (That figure was extrapolated from the China Medical Organ Transplant Association.) With no sign of a rise in brain-dead donors and family members donating organs, the report found, "the source of 41,500 transplants for the six-year period 2000 to 2005 is unexplained."

Websites for Chinese medical facilities demonstrate that it is quick and easy to get a human organ in China. One site boasted, "It may take only one week to find out the suitable (kidney) donor." Maximum wait time: one month. One clinic advertised an average waiting time for a liver of two weeks, another clinic cited an average wait of one week for a liver. That's fast service for an operation that requires a fresh, healthy and compatible corpse.

The median waiting time in Canada for an organ was 32.5 months in 2003.

The report also relied on testimony from witnesses, including a woman who claims her ex-husband harvested corneas from some 2,000 Falun Gong members. The report also cited transcripts of phone calls to Chinese hospitals in which doctors offered up healthy organs from live Falun Gong donors.

America has a role in China's human-parts boom. As the Chronicle reported in April, a San Mateo, Calif., father of six plunked down $110,000 and walked away with someone else's liver. He didn't bother to find out if the donor was an executed prisoner, but after the fact, he did bother to go online to inform other affluent Americans how they can buy fresh Chinese organs.

Speaking on the phone from Washington, Kilgour told me that while the buyer of Chinese organs may tell himself that his organ donor was a criminal who was going to be executed anyway, he believes that when foreigners buy a kidney, a Chinese official then "chooses a healthy Falun Gong practitioner who would die in the process of giving you a new kidney."

Kilgour and Matas penned 17 recommendations to thwart what they believe is happening.
Countries need to pass laws that require doctors to report patients who obtain trafficked organs. Medical groups should not invite Chinese transplant surgeons to conferences. Meanwhile, if the PRC wants to convince the world that it is not harvesting organs from Falun Gong members, it needs to allow human-rights organizations to inspect re-education camps and interview prisoners.

According to the report, one transplant doctor volunteered to a caller that he had 10 "beating hearts" available at his hospital. If western democracies do nothing, if they continue allow their citizens to buy Chinese organs from unwilling donors, the developing world threatens to devolve one big organ bazaar -- with human life itself as a hot commodity available to the highest bidders.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Film Review: 'The Lost City'

[Be sure to check out Mr. Hunter's novel "Havana"'s one of the Earl Swagger/Bob Lee Swagger tales set in Cuba during the late '50s...I recommend reading these books in order starting with "Point Blank"...they are smart, rousing and blood-drenched yarns...and usually, the correct fella's blood is doing the drenching.]

'Lost City': Halcyon Havana
Andy Garcia's Take On the Revolution Era
By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 19, 2006; Page C05

Nobody remembers pre-revolutionary Havana more clearly than those of us who weren't there. We remember the whores, the gangsters, the dirty movie palace, the spies, the strippers and Havana's Shanghai Theater (actual magazine line: "A Cuban Has Cracked the G-String Barrier.") After all, we all saw "Godfather II" or read Graham Greene's "Our Man in Havana."

But Cubans remember it differently. They remember an elegant Spanish city of grand architecture, crashing surf against the sea wall at the Malecon, the palm trees, the broad boulevards, the pulsating music -- and the families, their own and others, that formed a dense interrelationship of love and rivalry and angst and fear and pity.

Those actual memories are at the heart of Andy Garcia's "The Lost City," a tribute to that time and place, an elegy on what was lost, a little payback for a regime that drove them out, and, best of all, a synthesis of the driving Afro-Cuban rhythms of the extraordinary music.

The big news in the movie will be Garcia's portrait of the young, ruthless, movie-star handsome Che Guevara (Jsu Garcia), so beloved by the American (and world) left. They should know; after all, they saw "The Motorcycle Diaries." Andy Garcia -- an emigre who fled with his parents when he was 5 1/2 -- and the late Cuban novelist-screenwriter G. Cabrera Infante have a different take. They see a punk killer who knows how beautiful he is, how cool, how sexy. He's Mick Jagger with a .45 automatic and plenty of notches in the grip.

Good Lord, what will this do to the T-shirt sales?

But that's only a tiny part of the movie, which is really the story of a family. And the truth is, the movie is pretty fair: It also shows the brutality and corruption of the Batista regime in full frontal frankness, and if it laments the direction that history happens to take, it doesn't question the idea that a change was necessary.

Again, though, that's not the movie, which aspires to be more universal. The model is classic and transcends culture. You can see it in such diverse works as "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Legends of the Fall" and, I suppose, "The Three Little Pigs." It tracks the fate of three siblings across a turbulent era and watches each fate as it transpires, leaving, ultimately, a melancholy survivor lamenting what and who have passed.
The film focuses on the Fellove family. Papa (Tomas Milian) is a college professor but a man of means. They live in a hacienda that could easily be confused with paradise, a vast white house with gardens and servants and billowing curtains at the windows. But they know that change will come: It's 1958 and the Batista government is getting more and more repressive, just as the scruffy rebels are getting more and more bold. Batista had lost the middle class and the aristocrats; he holds only the army. Of course, secret policemen hunt the bad boys in the shadows of the city and the game is played as hard as any revolutionary struggle.

Each brother has a different attitude toward what is happening around them. Fico (Andy Garcia) the eldest, is proprietor of El Tropical, a thinly disguised version of the still extant Tropicana. He is, like so many in show biz, apolitical, as the demands of running the club are so intense they leave him little time for the larger picture. (His profession also gives the movie a platform to offer up almost 40 Cuban songs.) At the same time, he is a traditional Spaniard, who believes in the patriarchal system, and nothing makes him madder than when his two younger brothers disrespect the grave, kind idealist who is their father.

Son No. 2 is Luis (Nestor Carbonell), a pacifist like his father but a man who abhors the politics of now. He yearns for a democratic Cuba but comes to conclude that one man stands between that and reality -- Batista. Thus, he joins the March 13, 1958, assault on Batista's palace by an anti-communist revolutionary group calling itself The Directorio (the details aren't from the movie, but from Hugh Thomas's "Cuba or the Pursuit of Freedom"). Castro had been approached by the group but refused to pitch in; a veteran of an earlier shootout at Moncada Barracks, he sat this one out in the mountains, a wise decision as the attempt ended in failure and massacre. (Even an American tourist got shot by Batista's trigger-happy guards!) "The Lost City's" re-creation of this twisted battle is the most dynamic sequence in the film.

Son No. 3, Ricardo (Enrique Murciano), at least knows which way the wind is blowing. Chastened by the results of that engagement, he joins Castro and soon adds beard and fatigues to his look. Meanwhile, Fico takes it on himself to obey his middle brother's wish and take care of his wife, Aurora (beautiful Ines Sastre), and soon the older brother and the widow have more on their minds than politics.

Some of the tropes of "The Lost City" are ineffective. Bill Murray plays an unnamed "writer" who befriends and hangs out with Fico, offering a comic subtext to all the revolutionary gloom and doom. Murray is always funny and when someone puts him in that forgotten '50s outfit of the short-pants suit, he looks particularly hilarious. He says a lot of things, too, but somehow his character, meant to represent the offbeat stylings of G. Cabrera Infante himself, doesn't quite work.

Then there's Dustin Hoffman in the movie briefly as the famous Meyer Lansky. His is a different version of the character played by Lee Strasberg in "Godfather II," the visionary genius fixer ("Hyman Roth" was the nom de guerre), but again the movie's not about the Cuba of Mafia corruption, sleaze, gangsterism and commercial sex that was at the center of "Godfather II" and more than a few novels. Lansky's appearance, and that plotline, doesn't come to much.

What does work is the sense of loss. Infante finds a brilliant device in the love affair between Fico and Aurora, in that Aurora in some way becomes Cuba. She is absorbed by it and the revolution, and though she loves Fico (who doesn't love a revolution that imparts its discipline on his entertainment enterprise), she cannot tear herself away from a dream of a glorious revolutionary future.

As a director, Garcia's best skill is in evoking great work from his cast, particularly Milian, Murciano, Sastre and Carbonell. They are the heart of the film, the doomed, damned Felloves, victims of the classic wrong time, wrong place tragedy. The movie makes one thing achingly real: the fact that it isn't fun to be born in the cross-hairs of history.

The Lost City (143 minutes, at Landmark's E Street and Bethesda Row) is rated R for violence.

Daniel Pipes: A War to Win

Daniel Pipes
Los Angeles Times
July 21, 2006

A leading Israeli philosopher some years back referred to his countrymen as "an exhausted people, confused and without direction." Before he became prime minister, Ehud Olmert publicly declared these extraordinary words: "We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies." In that demoralized spirit, the state of Israel retreated twice in five years under fire, from Lebanon and from Gaza — and now, as a consequence, is fighting wars in precisely those places.

Individual members of congress have noticed this problem; I suggest that the executive branch take Olmert at his word and buck up this fatigued but exceptionally close ally. Even if Israel can very capably defend itself (as recent events have confirmed), it lacks the will to make the protracted efforts to defeat its enemies. And Israel's enemies — Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran — are also America's enemies.

Building on this assessment, I suggest that the administration make the following requests of Tel Aviv, to protect American interests. Specifically:

* Do not engage in exchanges with terrorist groups, such as the 2004 trade of one rogue Israeli civilian and the remains of three soldiers for 429 living terrorists and criminals. This returns terrorists to the field while encouraging further abductions.

* Do not allow Hezbollah to acquire thousands of Katyusha rockets from Iran and station them in southern Lebanon. The estimated current arsenal of nearly 12,000 Katyushas not only threatens all of northern Israel, as recent days have proved, it provides Iran with a strategic threat with implications for the entire region.

* Do not permit arms to reach the terrorist Fatah organization, as recently happened, according to the Jerusalem Post, when an estimated 3,000 American rifles and a million rounds of ammunition were delivered to it out of a misguided ambition to help one Palestinian faction beat out another.

* Do not turn the West Bank over to Hamas terrorists. This endangers U.S. interests in several ways, notably because it would threaten Hashemite rule in Jordan.

Israel has a significant role in the U.S.-led war on terror; it can best defend itself and help its U.S. ally not by aspiring to agreements with intractable foes but by convincing them that Israel is permanent and unbeatable. This goal requires not episodic violence but sustained and systematic efforts to change regional mentalities. Therefore, U.S. policymakers might suggest to Olmert that he view the current fighting not as a momentary exception to diplomacy but as part of a long-term conflict.

With the emergence of an aggressive and perhaps soon-to-be nuclear-armed Iran, the strategic map of the Middle East is in the throes of fundamental change. This overarching threat should provide the backdrop for every Israeli decision going forward — whether to retake territory in Gaza, what to target in Lebanon and whether to launch military actions against Syria.

Paradoxically, developments of the past week bring good news: Many Middle Easterners, not just Israelis, fear Iranian ambitions. Worries about Iran prompted the Saudi kingdom to take the lead in condemning attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah on Israel as "rash adventures." As the Jerusalem Post's Khaled Abu Toameh has documented, Israel's counterattacks have prompted "an anti-Hezbollah coalition." Sound Israeli policies will greatly influence the evolution of this nascent force.

As Arabs worry more about Iranian Islamists than Israeli Zionists, a moment of opportunity presents itself. Close coordination between Washington and Jerusalem is needed, including timely reminders to Israelis that they have a war to win.

Mr. Pipes ( is director of the Middle East Forum and author of Miniatures (Transaction Publishers).

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Leftists: Born to Run

By Ann Coulter
July 20, 2006

I knew the events in the Middle East were big when the New York Times devoted nearly as much space to them as it did to a New York court ruling last week rejecting gay marriage.

Some have argued that Israel's response is disproportionate, which is actually correct: It wasn't nearly strong enough. I know this because there are parts of South Lebanon still standing.

Most Americans have been glued to their TV sets, transfixed by Israel's show of power, wondering, "Gee, why can't we do that?"

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean says that "what's going on in the Middle East today" wouldn't be happening if the Democrats were in power. Yes, if the Democrats were running things, our cities would be ash heaps and the state of Israel would have been wiped off the map by now.

But according to Dean, the Democrats would have the "moral authority that Bill Clinton had" – no wait! keep reading – "when he brought together the Israelis and Palestinians." Clinton really brokered a Peace in Our Time with that deal – "our time" being a reference to that five-minute span during which he announced it. Yasser Arafat immediately backed out on all his promises and launched the second intifada.

The fact that Israel is able to launch an attack on Hezbollah today without instantly inciting a multination conflagration in the Middle East is proof of what Bush has accomplished. He has begun to create a moderate block of Arab leaders who are apparently not interested in becoming the next Saddam Hussein.

There's been no stock market crash, showing that the markets have confidence that Israel will deal appropriately with the problem and that it won't expand into World War III.

But liberals can never abandon the idea that we must soothe savage beasts with appeasement – whether they're dealing with murderers like Willie Horton or Islamic terrorists. Then the beast eats you.

There are only two choices with savages: fight or run. Democrats always want to run, but they dress it up in meaningless catchphrases like "diplomacy," "detente," "engagement," "multilateral engagement," "multilateral diplomacy," "containment" and "going to the UN."

I guess they figure, "Hey, appeasement worked pretty well with ... uh ... wait, I know this one ... ummm ... tip of my tongue...."

Democrats like to talk tough, but you can never trap them into fighting. There is always an obscure objection to be raised in this particular instance – but in some future war they would be intrepid! One simply can't imagine what that war would be.

Democrats have never found a fight they couldn't run from.

On "Meet the Press" last month, Sen. Joe Biden was asked whether he would support military action against Iran if the Iranians were to go "full-speed-ahead with their program to build a nuclear bomb."

No, of course not. There is, Biden said, "no imminent threat at this point."

According to the Democrats, we can't attack Iran until we have signed affidavits establishing that it has nuclear weapons, but we also can't attack North Korea because it may already have nuclear weapons. The pattern that seems to be emerging is: "Don't ever attack anyone, ever, for any reason. Ever."

The Democrats are in a snit about North Korea having nukes, with Howard Dean saying Democrats are tougher on defense than the Republicans because since Bush has been president, North Korea has "quadrupled their nuclear weapons stash."

It wasn't that difficult. Clinton gave the North Koreans $4 billion to construct nuclear reactors in return for the savages promising not to use the reactors to build bombs. But oddly, despite this masterful triumph of "diplomacy," the savages did not respond with good behavior. Instead, they immediately set to work feverishly building nuclear weapons.

But that's another threat the Democrats do not think is yet ripe for action.

On "Meet the Press" last Sunday, Sen. Biden lightly dismissed the North Koreans, saying their "government's like an eighth-grader with a small bomb looking for attention" and that we "don't even have the intelligence community saying they're certain they have a nuclear weapon."

Is that the test? We need to have absolute certainty that the North Koreans have a nuclear weapon capable of hitting California with Kim Jong-Il making a solemn promise to bomb the U.S. (and really giving us his word this time, no funny business) before we – we what? If they have a nuclear weapon, what do we do then? Is a worldwide thermonuclear war the one war Democrats would finally be willing to fight?

Democrats won't acknowledge the existence of "an imminent threat" anyplace in the world until a nuclear missile is 12 minutes from New York. And then we'll never have the satisfaction of saying "I told you so," because we'll all be dead.

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Ann Coulter is a bestselling author and syndicated columnist. Her most recent book is Godless: The Church of Liberalism.

Iran's Proxy War Against America

By Kenneth R. Timmerman
July 20, 2006

Make no mistake about the nearly month-old hot war between Hezbollah and Israel. This is the opening salvo of Iran’s global assault on the United States and its allies over Iran’s “right” to possess nuclear weapons.

The Iranian-backed attacks are aimed at deterring an Israeli military strike against Iranian nuclear and missile facilities.

A secondary Iranian goal is to deter Europe from backing U.S. efforts to build a broad-based coalition to take Iran back to the United Nations Security Council for its failure to respond clearly to a Western ultimatum over its nuclear program.

French President Jacques Chirac was the first to bite on Iran’s poisoned apple. Instead of blasting Hezbollah for abducting Israeli soldiers and launching rocket attacks on Israeli towns and cities, he blamed Israel for retaliating. "One could ask if today there is not sort of a will to destroy Lebanon, its equipment, its roads, its communications,” Chirac said on Sunday at the St. Petersburg summit.

The Iranians created Hezbollah in 1983. Unlike many parents, they never let their “child” alone, and have carefully nurtured it with funds, weapons, ideological guidance and military orders ever since.

When Hezbollah damaged an Israeli gunboat off the Lebanese coast last week, Iranian officers supervised the launch of the Iranian-built C-102 radar-guided missile.

"We see this as very profound fingerprint of Iranian involvement in Hezbollah," Israeli General Ido Nehushtan told the Associated Press.The C-102 appears to be an Iranian version of an anti-shipping missile provided to Iran by China initially more than a decade ago.

Just as Iran supplied its own versions of Chinese missiles to Bosnia in the mid-1990s, so Iran is providing home-grown versions of far more sophisticated missiles to Hezbollah today. And no one seems intent on making Iran – or China – pay a price for their deeds.

George W. Bush gets the global war on terror. He understands that many other nations will join the war against the Islamo-fascists if only the United States takes a firm lead. But the president got it wrong in private remarks that were reported on international television during the G8 summit in St. Petersburg.

"See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this (expletive) and it's over," Bush reportedly told British Prime Minister Tony Blair as he chewed on a buttered roll over lunch on July 16. Neither leader was aware that their conversation was being picked up by a live microphone.

No one doubts that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is continuing to provide logistical assistance to Hezbollah in Lebanon, just as his father did for nearly twenty years before him.

After all, Syria had used Hezbollah repeatedly as a semi-proxy against Israel and against the United States.But Syria does not “control” Hezbollah. Iran controls Hezbollah. And President Bush’s advisors need to get that one straight.

Lebanon’s minister of telecommunications, Marwan Hamadeh, is no friend of George W. Bush or of Israel. In earlier crises, he has been quick blame Israel or the United States for Lebanon’s ills.

But in an interview with French state radio on July 17, just one day after Bush’s comments in Saint Petersburg, Hamadeh took issue with a French commentator’s analysis that Hezbollah had become an “independent” player in Lebanese politics.

Hezbollah “depends directly on Iran for its weapons and for its orders,” he said. “And it depends logistically on Syria.”

Hamadeh also swept aside accusations that Israel had somehow orchestrated the latest round of Middle East fighting. “Hezbollah is entirely responsible for the violence,” he said.

The escalation of Iranian-backed attacks against Israel has been steady, and has been aimed at demonstrating new military capabilities that Iran is hoping will eventually deter an Israeli attack against Iranian nuclear and missile sites.

As several Iranian military and strategic affairs analysts explained to me in recent interviews in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the Iranians are hoping they can demonstrate Israel will face encircling attacks from Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria should Israel press forward with military strikes on Iranian nuclear targets.

Yasser Arafat’s PLO launched Soviet-built katyusha rockets into northern Israeli towns in 1982, prompting Israel’s “Peace for Galilee” operation that ultimately led to Israel‘s first-ever siege of an Arab capital that summer.

But Hezbollah’s latest rocket attacks against Israel have been far more precise. A May 23 rocket attack by Hezbollah hit an Israeli command and control position at Meron Air Force base in northern Israel. More recently, Hezbollah has launched rocket attacks against Haifa, a major industrial city in northern Israel. And Syrian leaders have warned publicly that Hezbollah also could strike against Israeli nuclear sites in the south of the country.

Some Israeli analysts believe that Iran is using Hezbollah as a classic Cold war deterrent.“Iran knows that if their nuclear sites are attacked, they will be destroyed. And they know that they will not be able to destroy Israel,” one Israeli analyst said. “So Iran is using Hezbollah to its advantage.”

Iranian arms deliveries to Hezbollah through Syria have increased during the first half of 2006, Israeli sources told me. This has occurred despite the fact that the Syrian army –, the UPS trucks who deliver the weapons to Hezbollah posts in Lebanon – has withdrawn from Lebanon.

Iran used to maintain around 1,500 Islamic Revolutionary Guards troops in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. While Iran has withdrawn most of the IRGC troops from Lebanon, it still maintains around 100 highly-specialized trainers and intelligence operatives in Lebanon, to coordinate operations with Hezbollah.

“Consider the IRGC presence in Lebanon to military attaches,” one Israeli analyst suggested. “They are terrorist attaches.”The United States and like-minded countries have a clear weapon to use against Iran (and Syria) in their effort to ignite another Arab-Israeli war in Lebanon.

They can demand that the United Nations enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which not only calls for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon), but recognizes Lebanon’s international border with Israel and demands the immediately disarmament of all militias, including Hezbollah, in Lebanon.

If a formerly anti-Israeli member of Lebanon’s government – Marwan Hamadeh – can demand the enforcement of UNSC resolution 1559, what’s stopping George W. Bush, Vladimir Putin, or Jacques Chirac?

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Kenneth R. Timmerman is the author of Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran (Crown Forum, New York), and Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran.

Instigator of Steroids Inquiry Is Said to Be a Target

July 20, 2006
The New York Times


SAN FRANCISCO, July 19 — While national attention has focused on a possible federal indictment of Barry Bonds as early as Thursday, the grand jury in the case is also investigating one of the world’s top track coaches, according to people with knowledge of the proceedings.

The coach, Trevor Graham, set off the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative steroids case when he anonymously mailed a syringe to the United States Anti-Doping Agency in June 2003. Chemists found a new type of steroid in the syringe, prompting the biggest drug scandal in the history of sports.

The Balco investigation has led to four criminal convictions, sanctions against 14 track and field athletes, the return of one Olympic medal and the storm of doubt that has followed Mr. Bonds as he approaches the major league career record for home runs.

Mr. Graham is the head coach at Sprint Capitol USA in Raleigh, N.C., and he has trained some of the world’s top track and field athletes, including Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery and C. J. Hunter. He is the current coach of Justin Gatlin, who jointly holds the world record in the 100-meter dash.

In a lengthy statement to federal investigators in 2004, Mr. Graham denied setting up any of his athletes with illegal performance-enhancing drugs. While at least six athletes for Mr. Graham have received suspensions for drug use, he has always denied direct knowledge or involvement.

But a man who worked with Mr. Graham has told the grand jury here and federal investigators that he was the main supplier of performance-enhancing drugs to Mr. Graham and many of his athletes, including Ms. Jones and Mr. Montgomery, the onetime holder of the 100-meter world record, according to people with knowledge of the testimony. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation had not concluded.

The man, Angel Guillermo Heredia, 31, of Mexico and Laredo, Tex., an athlete and a nutritionist, has testified that he provided steroids, human growth hormone and the performance-enhancing drug EPO at the direction of Mr. Graham from about 1996 through 2000, the people with knowledge of the testimony said. Mr. Heredia told investigators that he split with Mr. Graham over a financial dispute.

Mr. Heredia’s account contradicts what Mr. Graham told investigators in June 2004. Mr. Graham said he had never met Mr. Heredia in person and had not spoken to him since 1997, according to a summary of the interview prepared by Jeff Novitzky, an I.R.S. agent who is leading the Balco investigation.

Unlike Mr. Bonds, Mr. Graham did not testify before the grand jury and thus would be unlikely to be charged with perjury. But he could face charges of making false statements or obstructing justice.

Mr. Graham did not respond to e-mail messages Wednesday summarizing the testimony against him and seeking his comment. Lawyers for Mr. Heredia and Mr. Graham also did not return multiple telephone calls and e-mail messages seeking comment.

Mr. Heredia testified twice before grand juries in San Francisco, once in 2003 or 2004 and again on March 24. The New York Times has reviewed a copy of Mr. Heredia’s most recent grand jury subpoena.

The subpoena ordered Mr. Heredia to bring records since 1997 and testify about eight people. Mr. Graham led the list, followed by seven athletes from his camp: Ms. Jones, Mr. Hunter, Antonio Pettigrew, Garfield Ellwood, Michelle Collins, Duane Ross and Jerome Young.

Mr. Heredia testified that all had used steroids or, in Mr. Graham’s case, had dispensed them. Mr. Heredia testified that he knew that because he had provided the drugs, sometimes having them carried across the border from Mexico.

Mr. Heredia’s home in Laredo is just across the border from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, where pharmacies flourish. Street agents beckon visitors into storefronts. They offer prescriptions for a variety of controlled substances without having to see a doctor or receive a medical check-up.
Some of these drugs are legal in Mexico but not in the United States. They are, however, still banned in athletics.

Mr. Heredia provided the grand jury with receipts and other financial records, e-mail messages and the results of blood and urine tests of athletes.

He testified that he made a drug plan for Ms. Jones, provided the drugs to her and worked with her in preparation for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where she won a record five medals, including three golds.

“Ms. Jones has always been emphatically clear that she has never used performance-enhancing drugs,” Richard M. Nichols, Ms. Jones’s lawyer, said in a telephone interview Wednesday night. Mr. Nichols said he had never heard of Mr. Heredia.

Ms. Jones’s career faltered badly after the Balco investigation in 2004, and she missed almost all of last year because of injuries. She has returned to top form this summer, though, and earlier this month ran her fastest time in the 100 meters in four years.

Mr. Montgomery has been suspended from competition until June 2007 for using a steroid, and his world record in the 100 meters was taken away.

Mr. Hunter is Ms. Jones’s ex-husband and a former world champion shot-putter who was disqualified from the 2000 Olympics after testing positive for steroids. Ms. Jones and Mr. Pettigrew hold Olympic gold medals. Mr. Young, a sprinter, was ordered to return his gold medal after a steroids finding and was barred for life by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
Mr. Ellwood was a runner and coach. Ms. Collins and Mr. Ross were sprinters. Last year, Ms. Collins accepted a four-year ban for doping violations.

Mr. Heredia has also talked with federal investigators more recently about some of the athletes Mr. Graham is currently coaching, including Mr. Gatlin, a gold medal winner who tied the world record in the 100-meter dash, and the fellow sprinters Shawn Crawford and Lisa Barber. But Mr. Heredia told investigators that he had no knowledge of steroid use by them.

Mr. Heredia told investigators that many professional and Olympic athletes cheated with drugs because their competitors did, that it was easy to beat testing procedures and that he would like to help clean up sports.

His account echoes many of the statements made by Victor Conte, the founder of Balco, who is serving the end of a sentence of four months in prison and four months of house arrest for money laundering and steroid distribution.

Mr. Heredia told the grand jury that he set up drug usage by Mr. Montgomery and then had his blood tested at a Mexican laboratory. The Mexican blood tests were independently corroborated by documents found in Balco offices.

Mr. Heredia told investigators that he provided drugs only to international and professional athletes, not to younger amateur athletes. He also told investigators that he was a major supplier of performance-enhancing drugs and was an expert in developing programs to take them safely and avoid detection.

In interviews with The Times, John Burks, Mr. Graham’s former assistant coach and close friend, said that he did not have firsthand knowledge of steroid use but that he knew Mr. Heredia and Mr. Graham well and that he believed there was illegal drug use at Sprint Capitol USA. Mr. Burks said he testified before the grand jury once.

Mr. Burks has known Mr. Graham since they ran on the track team together at St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, N.C., and lived together there. Mr. Burks was an assistant coach at Sprint Capitol from 1999 to early 2001. Mr. Burks also split with Mr. Graham over a financial dispute.

Mr. Burks said he told the grand jury that Mr. Graham instructed him to prevent unannounced drug testing at the training track.

“He was away from town with other athletes, and he said don’t let anybody test anybody,” Mr. Burks said. He recalled athletes dodging the tests when alerted. “At Sprint Capitol, drug testers would show up, and athletes would run and jump fences and hide,” Mr. Burks said in an interview.

Mr. Graham, a quarter-miler who won a silver medal for Jamaica at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, became a famous coach by nurturing the career of Ms. Jones. He later admitted that he had sent authorities the Balco syringe, which he said he obtained from an athlete who purchased it from Mr. Conte.

“I was just a coach doing the right thing,” Mr. Graham told reporters at the 2004 Athens Games.

Mr. Heredia and Mr. Burks have told the grand jury that Mr. Graham did not turn in the syringe to clean up sports, but rather, to try to knock out Mr. Conte’s Balco operation, which was setting up athletes with other coaches and competing with Sprint Capitol. Mr. Conte has said the same thing.

Mr. Graham denied any involvement with banned drugs during an interview with federal investigators on June 8, 2004, according to a nine-page summary of the interview, attached to a court file in the Balco case.

Two paragraphs of Mr. Graham’s statement deal with Mr. Heredia, who is nicknamed Memo.
“Graham never set up any of his athletes with drugs obtained from Memo LNU,” the interview summary says, using a designation for Last Name Unknown. “Graham is not aware of any of his athletes getting drugs from Mexico. Graham has no connections with a Mexican laboratory. The only contact Graham had with Memo was over the phone, when he was trying to assist him with entry into St. Augustine’s. Graham last spoke with Memo on the phone in approximately 1997.”

Mr. Heredia testified that Mr. Graham strongly encouraged some of his athletes to take performance-enhancing drugs and had personal contact with him, provable by photographs.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Michelle Malkin: Hezbollah is Here
Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Sheeple thought of the day: "Hezbollah is not my problem."

You think Hezbollah is only Israel's headache? Wake up. Iranian Hezbollah's spokesman Mojtaba Bigdeli's threat on Tuesday to dispatch 2,000 operatives "to every corner of the world to jeopardize Israel and America's interests" is more than just idle Islamic heavy breathing.

The Jew-hating terrorists of Hezbollah who call themselves the "party of God" are already here. In America. Plotting attacks. Raising money. Slipping through the cracks.

In May, the New York Post reported on Hezbollah's plans to activate sleeper cells in New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Detroit as the nuclear showdown with Iran heats up. One focal point: "the Iranian Mission to the United Nations, where there have already been three episodes in the last four years in which diplomats and security guards have been expelled for casing and photographing New York City subways and other potential targets." Heightened alert comes in the wake of reports that Iranian crackpot president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Hezbollah leaders in Syria earlier this year.

Four years ago, I reported on how information-sharing walls between federal immigration and law enforcement agencies created a path to citizenship for at least one known Hezbollah member. He walked through our figurative front door. The then-assistant district director for INS investigations in New York City and two FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) officials were placed on administrative leave when the bungle was discovered.

Sources informed me the unidentified Middle Eastern male -- now a fellow American -- appeared on terrorist watch lists and is a member of the Hezbollah terrorist organization.
Despite numerous calls from adjudicators in Newark, N.J., handling the alleged terrorist's naturalization case, the FBI and INS reportedly did not respond to requests to turn over the individual's "alien file." The A-file includes biographical and status information and investigative data. It is unclear why INS and the JTTF did not turn over the file, or why the New York office neglected to order the adjudications branch in Newark to put the naturalization process on hold.

Why did INS adjudicators in Newark proceed without viewing the alleged terrorist's file? Adjudicators to this day remain under intense pressure to meet naturalization "quotas." Job-performance ratings and cash bonuses are based on the number of naturalization approvals processed. It's standard operating procedure.

Hezbollah has also enlisted the aid of gullible American women to ease their way into the country.

Jessica Yolanda Fortune hooked up with Lebanon-born Chawki Youssef Hammoud in 1994. The marriage enabled him to obtain a green card -- and the cover to operate a Charlotte, N.C.-based cell that smuggled cigarettes to raise cash for Hezbollah. The terror cell reportedly answered to a senior Hezbollah leadership in Lebanon and was part of a broader North American network responsible for also obtaining dual-use technologies for Hezbollah -- including goggles, global positioning systems, stun guns, naval equipment, nitrogen cutters and laser range finders.

Fortune was convicted of marriage fraud in October 2001. Hammoud was convicted of smuggling, credit-card fraud, money laundering and racketeering in June 2002. Fortune's brother-in-law, Mohammed Hammoud, married three different American women. After arriving in the United States on a counterfeit visa, being ordered deported and filing an appeal, he wed Sabina Edwards to gain a green card. INS officials refused to award him legal status after this first marriage was deemed bogus in 1994.

He then married Jessica Wedel in May 1997, and while still wed to her, paid Angela Tsioumas to marry him in Detroit. Tsioumas entered a plea agreement in March 2002 on charges of conspiracy. Her "husband" was convicted on 16 counts that included providing material support to Hezbollah. A total of 25 people connected to the ring were nabbed.

Does the name "Hammoud" sound familiar? Earlier this month, the FBI announced the capture of Assem Hammoud -- also a Lebanese-born Muslim like the members of the cigarette-smuggling Hammoud gang. He is suspected of working for al Qaeda on a plot to blow up PATH train tunnels between New Jersey and lower Manhattan with a team of suicide bombers. The 1998 terrorism indictment of Osama bin Laden notes al Qaeda's forged alliances "with the government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezbollah."

Together, they've killed American servicemen and civilians around the world.

Not in your backyard? Think again.

Thomas Sowell: A "Cycle" of Nonsense

Thomas Sowell
July 19, 2006

Now that Israel has responded to rocket attacks and the abduction of its soldiers by terrorists by making military strikes into areas controlled by those terrorists, much of our media are deploring another "cycle of violence" in the Middle East.

For reasons unknown, some people seem to regard verbal equivalence as moral equivalence -- and the latter as some kind of badge of broadmindedness, if not intellectual superiority.

Therefore, when Palestinian terrorists ("militants" in politically correct Newspeak) attack Israel and then Israel responds with military force, that is just another "cycle of violence" in the Middle East to some people.

The "cycle" notion suggests that each side is just responding to what the other side does. But just what had Israel done to set off these latest terrorist acts? It voluntarily pulled out of Gaza, after evacuating its own settlers, and left the land to the Palestinian authorities.

Terrorists then used the newly acquired land to launch rockets into Israel and then seized an Israeli soldier. Other terrorists in Lebanon followed suit. The great mantra of the past, "trading land for peace," is now thoroughly discredited, or should be.

But facts mean nothing to people who are determined to find equivalence, whether today in the Middle East or yesterday in the Cold War.

Since all things are the same, except for the differences, and different except for the similarities, nothing is easier than to create verbal parallels and moral equivalence, though some people seem to pride themselves on their ability to do such verbal tricks.

Centuries ago, Thomas Hobbes said that words are wise men's counters but that they are the money of fools.

Regardless of fashionable rhetoric, there is no Middle East "peace process" any more than trading "land for peace" has been a viable option. Nor is a Palestinian "homeland" a key to peace.

During all the years when Arab countries controlled the land now proposed for a Palestinian homeland, there was no talk about any such homeland. Only after Israel took control of that territory as a result of the 1967 war was it suddenly sacred as a Palestinian homeland.

There is no concession that will bring lasting peace to the Middle East because the terrorists and their supporters are not going to be satisfied by concessions. The only thing that will satisfy them is the destruction of Israel.

Pending that, they will inflict as much destruction and bloodshed on the Israelis as they can get away with at any given time. This brutal reality is not going to vanish through verbal sleight of hand.

The terrorists have spoken in words and in deeds, including suicide bombers. They have what Churchill once described in the Nazis as "currents of hatred so intense as to sear the souls of those who swim upon them."

We saw that on 9/11 -- or should have seen it. But many, especially among the intelligentsia, are determined not to see it.

Of all the Western democracies, only two have no choice but to depend on their own military forces for their survival -- the United States and Israel. The rest have for more than half a century had the luxury of depending on American military forces in general and the American nuclear deterrent in particular.

People who have long been sheltered from mortal dangers can indulge themselves in the belief that there are no mortal dangers. Nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran or North Korea -- and, through them, in the hands of hate-filled terrorists -- may be all that will finally wake up such people. But that may be tragically too late.

Those who keep calling for an end to the "cycle of violence" are what make such violence more likely. "World opinion" in general and the United Nations in particular can always be counted on to counsel "restraint" in response to attacks and "negotiations" in response to lethal threats.

What that means is that those who start trouble will have a lower price to pay than if those they attacked were free to go all out in their counter-attack. Lowering the price to be paid by aggressors virtually guarantees more aggression.

Daniel Pipes: Israel's Unnecessary War

Daniel Pipes
July 19, 2006

The blame for the current fighting falls entirely on Israel’s enemies, who deploy inhuman methods in the service of barbaric goals. I wish the armed forces of Israel every success against the terrorists in Gaza and Lebanon, hoping they inflict a maximum defeat on Hamas and Hizbullah while taking a minimum of casualties.

That said, the rest of this column focuses on erroneous Israeli decisions that led to an unnecessary war and suggests the only way Israel can win that war.

For 45 years, 1948-93, Israel’s strategic vision, tactical brilliance, technological innovation, and logistical cleverness won it a deterrence capability. A deep understanding of the country’s predicament, complemented by money, will power, and dedication, enabled the Israeli state systematically to burnish its reputation for toughness.

The leadership focused on the enemy’s mind and mood, adopting policies designed to degrade his morale, with the goal of inducing a sense of defeat, a realization that the Jewish state is permanent and cannot be undone. As a result, whoever attacked the Israel state paid for that mistake with captured terrorists, dead soldiers, stalled economies, and toppled regimes.

By 1993, this record of success imbued Israelis with a sense of overconfidence. They concluded they had won, ignoring the inconvenient fact that Palestinians and other enemies had not yet given up their goal of eliminating Israel. Two emotions long held in check, fatigue and hubris, came flooding out. Deciding that (1) they had enough of war and (2) they could end the war on their own terms, Israelis experimented with such exotica as “the peace process” and “disengagement.” They permitted their enemies to create a quasi-governmental structure (the “Palestinian Authority”) and to amass hoards of armaments (Hizbullah’s nearly 12,000 Katyushas in southern Lebanon). They shamelessly traded captured terrorists for hostages.

In this mish-mash of appeasement and retreat, Israel’s enemies rapidly lost their fears, coming to see Israel as a paper tiger. Or, in the pungent phrasing in 2000 of Hizbullah's leader, Hasan Nasrallah, “Israel, which has both nuclear power and the strongest air force in the region, is weaker than a spider's web.” As I wrote in 2000, “their earlier fear of Israel has been replaced with a disdain that borders on contempt.” As Israelis ignored their actions’ effect on enemies, they perversely seemed to confirm this disdain. As a result, Palestinians and others rediscovered their earlier enthusiasm to eliminate Israel.

To undo this damage of thirteen years requires Israel returning to the slow, hard, expensive, frustrating, and boring work of deterrence. That means renouncing the foolish plans of compromise, the dreamy hopes for good will, the irresponsibility of releasing terrorists, the self-indulgence of weariness, and the idiocy of unilateral withdrawal.

Decades of hard work before 1993 won Israel the wary respect of its enemies. In contrast, episodic displays of muscle have no utility. Should Israel resume the business-as-usual of appeasement and retreat, the present fighting will turn out to be a summer squall, a futile lashing-out. By now, Israel’s enemies know they need only hunker down for some days or weeks and things will go back to normal, with the Israeli left in obstructionist mode, the government soon proffering gifts, trucking with terrorists, and yet again in territorial retreat.

Deterrence cannot be reinstated in a week, through a raid, a blockade, or a round of war. It demands unwavering resolve, expressed over decades. For the current operations to achieve anything for Israel beyond emotional palliation, they must presage a profound change in orientation. They must prompt a major rethinking of Israeli foreign policy, a junking of the Oslo and disengagement paradigms in favor of a policy of deterrence leading to victory.

The pattern since 1993 has been consistent: each disillusionment inspires an orgy of Israeli remorse and reconsideration, followed by a quiet return to appeasement and retreat. I fear that the Gaza and Lebanon operations are focused not on defeating the enemy but winning the release of one or two soldiers – a strange war goal, one perhaps unprecedented in the history of warfare – suggesting that matters will soon enough revert to form.

In other words, the import of hostilities underway is not what has been destroyed in Lebanon nor what the U.N. Security Council resolves; it is what the Israeli public learns, or fails to learn.

Mr. Pipes ( is director of the Middle East Forum and author of Miniatures (Transaction Publishers).

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Brigitte Gabriel: Thank You, Israel!

Brigitte Gabriel
July 18, 2006

For the millions of Christian Lebanese, driven out of our homeland, "Thank you Israel," is the sentiment echoing from around the world. The Lebanese Foundation for Peace, an international group of Lebanese Christians, made the following statement in a press release to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert concerning the latest Israeli attacks against Hezbollah:

"We urge you to hit them hard and destroy their terror infrastructure. It is not [only] Israel who is fed up with this situation, but the majority of the silent Lebanese in Lebanon who are fed up with Hezbollah and are powerless to do anything out of fear of terror retaliation."

Their statement continues, "On behalf of thousands of Lebanese, we ask you to open the doors of Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport to thousands of volunteers in the Diaspora willing to bear arms and liberate their homeland from [Islamic] fundamentalism. We ask you for support, facilitation and logistics in order to win this struggle and achieve together the same objectives: Peace and Security for Lebanon and Israel and our future generations to come."

The once dominate Lebanese Christians responsible for giving the world "the Paris of the Middle East" as Lebanon used to be known, have been killed, massacred, driven out of their homes and scattered around the world as radical Islam declared its holy war in the 70s and took hold of the country.

They voice an opinion that they and Israel have learned from personal experience, which is now belatedly being discovered by the rest of the world.

While the world protected the PLO withdrawing from Lebanon in 1983 with Israel hot on their heals, another more volatile and religiously idealistic organization was being born: Hezbollah, "the Party of God," founded by Ayatollah Khomeini and financed by Iran. It was Hezbollah who blew up the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon in October,1983 killing 241 Americans and 67 French paratroopers that same day. President Reagan ordered U.S. Multilateral Force units to withdraw and closed the books on the marine massacre and US involvement in Lebanon February 1984.

The civilized world, which erroneously vilified the Christians and Israel back then and continues to vilify Israel now, was not paying attention. While America and the rest of the world were concerned about the Israeli / PLO problem, terrorist regimes in Syria and Iran fanned Islamic radicalism in Lebanon and around the world.

Hezbollah's Shiite extremists began multiplying like proverbial rabbits out-producing moderate Sunnis and Christians. Twenty-five years later they have produced enough people to vote themselves into 24 seats in the Lebanese parliament. Since the Israeli pull out in 2000, Lebanon has become a terrorist base completely run and controlled by Syria with its puppet Lebanese President Lahood and the Hezbollah "state within a state."

The Lebanese army has less than 10,000 military troops. Hezbollah has over 4,000 trained militia forces and there are approximately 700 Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley. So why can't the army do the job? Because the majority of Lebanese Muslims making up the army will split and unite along religious lines with the Islamic forces just like what happened in 1976 at the start of the Lebanese civil war.

It all boils down to a war of Islamic Jihad ideology vs. Judeo Christian Westernism. Muslims who are now the majority of Lebanon's population, support Hezbollah because they are part of the Islamic Ummah-the nation. This is the taboo subject everyone is trying to avoid.

The latest attacks on Israel have been orchestrated by Iran and Syria driven by two different interests. Syria considers Lebanon a part of "greater" Syria.
Young Syrian President Assad and his Ba'athist military intelligence henchmen in Damascus are using this latest eruption of violence to prove to the Lebanese that they need the Syrian presence to protect them from the Israeli aggression and to stabilize the country. Iran is conveniently using its Lebanese puppet army Hezbollah, to distract the attention of world leaders meeting at the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, from its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Apocalyptic Iranian President Ahmadinejad and the ruling Mullah clerics in Tehran want to assert hegemony in the Islamic world under the banner of Shia Mahdist madness. Ahmadinejad wants to seal his place as top Jihadist for Allah by make good his promise to "wipe Israel off the map.

No matter how much the west avoids facing the reality of Islamic extremism of the Middle East, the west cannot hide from the fact that the same Hamas and Hezbollah that Israel is fighting over there, are of the same radical Islamic ideology that has fomented carnage and death through terrorism that America and the world are fighting. This is the same Hezbollah that Iran is threatening to unleash in America with suicide bomb attacks if America tries to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapon. They have cells in over 10 cities in the United States. Hamas, has the largest terrorist infrastructure on American soil. This is what happens when you turn a blind eye to evil for decades, hoping it will go away.

Sheik Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, is an Iranian agent. He is not a free actor in this play. He has been involved in terrorism for over 25 years. Iran with its Islamic vision for a Shia Middle East now has its agents, troops and money in Gaza in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Behind this is this vision that drives the Iranian President Ahmadinejad who believes he is Allah's "tool and facilitator" bringing the end of the world as we know it and the ushering in of the era of the Mahdi. He has a blind messianic belief in the Shiite tradition of the 12th or "hidden" Islamic savior who will emerge from a well in the holy city of Qum in Iran after global chaos, catastrophes and mass deaths and establish the era of Islamic Justice and everlasting peace.

President Ahmadinejad has refused so far to respond to proposals from the U.S., EU, Russia and China on the UN Security Council to cease Iran's relentless quest for nuclear enrichment and weapons development program until August 22nd. Why August 22nd? Because August 22nd, coincides with the Islamic date of Rajab 28, the day the great Salah El-Din conquered Jerusalem.

Ahmadinejad's extremists ideology in triggering Armageddon gives great concerns to the intelligence community.

At this point the civilized world must unite in fighting the same enemies plaguing Israel and the world with terrorism. We need to stop analyzing the enemies' differences as Sunni-Hamas or Shiite-Hezbollah, and start understanding that their common bond in their fight against us is radical Islam.

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Brigitte Gabriel is an expert on the Middle East conflict and lectures nationally and internationally on the subject. She's the former news anchor of World News for Middle East television and the founder of

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Recalling the Twang That Was Alt-Country: A Genre Rides Into the Sunset

The New York Times
July 16, 2006

Whatever happened to alt-country?

You can still find the phrase, a 1990’s coinage, bandied about in press kits and album reviews, along with its even vaguer synonym, Americana. An abbreviation of alternative country, it generally identifies music that draws on American folk and country traditions but stands apart from commercial Nashville. But it has been applied so widely — to punk-rockers playing Hank Williams songs, bluegrass purists and all manner of singer-songwriters in between — that it has always been hard to tell whether it means much of anything.

Recent releases by artists once pegged as standard-bearers for the genre have veered well away from anything that could be called country music. For example, Jeff Tweedy got his start in the rootsy band Uncle Tupelo, which he formed with the singer and guitarist Jay Farrar (who now plays austere heartland rock with Son Volt). But Mr. Tweedy’s current band, Wilco, has ventured into a kind of hazy, sometimes experimental, rock. Ryan Adams, who led the neo-honky-tonkers Whiskeytown in the 90’s, has covered a lot of stylistic ground in his prodigious solo output, from punk to U2-like anthemic rock. And on the latest album by the singer Neko Case, “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood,” the twang and two-steps that colored her early efforts have been subsumed by noirish pop.

Even the magazine No Depression, which since 1995 has served as the niche’s devoted chronicler, recently dropped its long-running tag line — promising to cover “alt-country (whatever that is)” — in favor of “the past, present and future of American music.”

Then there are the Jayhawks, who called it quits last year after two decades. In a career that produced seven albums, a couple of minor hits and an enthusiastic fan base that never quite propelled them beyond cult status, the band traced the evolution and eventual dissolution of the idea of alt-country. And two new albums by Jayhawks alumni suggest how shaky that tag is.

Last month, the band’s longtime drummer, Tim O’Reagan, released his first solo album, “Tim O’Reagan,” filled with wistful, shimmering power pop. And Tuesday marks the arrival of “Another Fine Day,” the third full-length album from the sporadic side project Golden Smog, which includes the former Jayhawks Gary Louris and Marc Perlman, along with friends like Mr. Tweedy of Wilco and Dan Murphy of Soul Asylum. Although Mr. Louris is now 51 and almost everybody else on the album is over 40, it is the most electrified of the Golden Smog CD’s that have appeared at irregular intervals since 1992.

“It’s more of a letting go and saying, well, this is what we like,” Mr. Louris said in a phone interview from Spain, where he lives part of the year. “This one’s got a little more noise to it.”

Mr. Louris is having a busy year: besides his work with Golden Smog, he co-wrote four songs on the latest Dixie Chicks album and contributed music to the crossword-puzzle documentary “Wordplay.” Like a lot of artists identified as alt-country, he said he had always found the label suspect.

“Alternative country is just such a sweeping generalization,” he said. “We never did and still to this day don’t feel part of a scene or a movement. Really, we were all floating around in our own different band worlds.”

The Jayhawks’ world revolved around Minneapolis, where Mr. Louris met the singer-songwriter Mark Olson in the mid-80’s while both were in rockabilly bands. In a phone interview from Northern California, Mr. Olson said that he had been a fan of the city’s fertile punk scene, which produced Hüsker Dü, the Replacements, Soul Asylum and others, but that “it wasn’t really something that I felt like I could do that well.”

“I loved listening to Woody Guthrie records and Arlo Guthrie records and all that stuff, and I thought, well, hell, this is going to be what I listen to and try to emulate,” he said.

Two locally produced releases highlighted the loping melodies and reedy but rich harmonies of Mr. Louris and Mr. Olson. Their recombinant country-rock caught the ear of George Drakoulias, at the time an executive and producer for Rick Rubin’s label Def American. He signed them and produced their next album, 1992’s well-reviewed “Hollywood Town Hall.” Coming out within a year of Uncle Tupelo’s major-label debut, “Anodyne,” it seemed like a forerunner of a neo-roots movement.

But Mr. Perlman, the band’s bassist and third founding member, said in an interview from St. Paul that he saw the Jayhawks more as part of a continuum. He cited early-80’s California bands like Green on Red and the Long Ryders, who in turn were picking up the mantle of Gram Parsons, the Flying Burrito Brothers and the first wave of country-rockers.

“I just don’t agree with the idea that we were the progenitors of anything,” Mr. Perlman said. “We just kind of did what we did.”

In any case, hopes were high for the Jayhawks’ 1995 album, “Tomorrow the Green Grass.” With a fuller sound — courtesy of keyboards and vocals from a new member, Karen Grotberg — and a radio-ready single in the soaring “Blue,” it was the band’s most assured work to date. But it advanced their commercial prospects only marginally; as Mr. Olson noted, they were still consigned to opening slots on other people’s tours.

In a phone interview, Mr. Drakoulias said: “When ‘Blue’ didn’t take off, I knew they weren’t going to be any bigger. If people didn’t react to that, they weren’t going to react.”

But he said the Jayhawks helped create a space in the marketplace for what came to be called Triple-A (a k a adult acoustic alternative) performers like Counting Crows, the Wallflowers and Sheryl Crow. “The lesson is, whoever opens the door, other people come running through it,” Mr. Drakoulias said.

Fed up, Mr. Olson quit at the end of the “Green Grass” tour to write and record with the eclectic singer-songwriter Victoria Williams, whom he had recently married. (They have since divorced.) But, to the surprise of fans and even some band members, the Jayhawks did not disband. Their label encouraged them not to relinquish the fan base built over the past decade. As Mr. O’Reagan, who had joined on drums in 1995, recalled it, “The people with the money were like, ‘It’s brand recognition.’ ”

The decision to continue, with Mr. Louris as frontman and Mr. O’Reagan filling in the harmonies, angered Mr. Olson. “There were bad feelings,” Mr. Louris said. “We didn’t talk to each other for a long time.”

The rift still resounds on Internet message boards devoted to the band, where some argue for the primacy of the Olson-Louris era. But there are also fans who hold their final three releases — “Sound of Lies” (1997), “Smile” (2000) and “Rainy Day Music” (2003) — in higher regard than they do the earlier ones. (“I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” from “Smile,” became perhaps the group’s most recognizable song when it was licensed for a Ralph Lauren commercial.)

Those albums, especially “Lies” and “Smile,” found the band moving away from its heartland sound toward the British rock and 60’s pop that Mr. Louris counts as his earliest influences. The band was categorized as alt-country, but no longer sounded much like it.

Tift Merritt, a younger singer whose country-soul-pop has drawn the same tag, said alt-country has largely become a way to identify artists who “don’t have a place to go in a convenient bin in the record store.”

“Think about Ray Charles making a country record,” said Ms. Merritt, a Jayhawks fan who enlisted Mr. Louris for harmonies on her last album. “Is that country, or is that alt-country?”

Mr. Olson, who recorded seven albums with his band the Creekdippers, said labeling the Jayhawks’ music was never his biggest concern. “We wanted to be really good songwriters,” he said, “and try to write songs that lasted.”

That, at least, seems to have worked out. After reconciling a few years ago, he and Mr. Louris toured together last year, resurrecting their old songs and harmonies for enthusiastic crowds. They have plans for a future album, although probably not under the Jayhawks name.
So what has happened to alt-country?

“I don’t think anything’s happened to it,” Mr. Olson said, cheerfully. “It’s probably just the same as it was then. There’s a certain amount of people who when they put on those old records go, ‘I gotta play something like this.’ And they start doing it.”

And if some of those old records are by the Jayhawks, that’s fine with him.

Diana West: Connecting the dots on Islam

Friday, July 14, 2006
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I was supposed to go to New York City this week, and found myself making travel arrangements on 7/11, the latest blood-red letter day of jihadist infamy. That was when bombers struck in Bombay, killing more than 200 and wounding more than 700 rush-hour commuters just trying to get home for dinner. I decided to fly.

But was that the best (read: safest) way to go? The plot to blow up Manhattan's Holland Tunnel had this same week been "disrupted," as they say, so maybe driving a car before another plot was cooked up was the better bet. But since not even the Department of Homeland Security could "disrupt" the heavy traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike, I still decided to fly.
Then again, aviation news was hardly confidence-building. The Houston Chronicle reported that a man with "a Middle Eastern name" and, as one airport screener put it, "all the components" of a bomb except for the explosives (a 9-volt battery taped to an alarm clock, a copy of the Koran, and "gutted out" shoes) was somehow cleared to fly the friendly skies by a local policeman. Which sounds quite nuts. And while the cop involved has been transferred to a desk job, that's no relief.

That's because this is just life as we know it, and, worse, life as we expect to know it in America, land of the free and stomping ground of the Islamic terrorist. Frankly, I hardly recognize the old place. The "home of the brave" becomes something else again when "brave" necessarily constitutes booking that domestic flight, taking that commuter train and sitting like ducks wondering whether we'll reach our destination in one piece -- unlike hundreds of innocents in Bombay. An Indian railway laborer made the carnage vivid to the Washington Post: "We collected scattered limbs with our own hands and put them in bundles and sent them to hospital."

Noting the ensuing security upsurge in American cities, Islamic expert Robert Spencer wrote the following at his must-read Web site,

"This is the effect of terror, and this is just what the terrorists want that effect to be. It ties up their enemies' time and money, and it strikes fear in their hearts, in accordance with the Qur'an: 'Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know. Whatever ye shall spend in the cause of Allah, shall be repaid unto you, and ye shall not be treated unjustly (8:60).'"

Spencer continued: "Of course, from the infidels' standpoint all anti-terror measures must be undertaken. But they should be accompanied by a strength of will that realizes that it is precisely fear and the loss of the will to resist that the jihadists are ultimately hoping to bring about."

He's right. The will to resist is indeed the target of jihadists from India to Israel, from New York City to London. But, as Spencer would undoubtedly agree, security measures alone -- walking through metal detectors (in our socks), submitting our belongings to random searches -- don't constitute policy. They don't solve the problem of global jihad: the war of terrorism. At best, security measures thwart acts of terrorism -- and thank goodness -- but only for another day, another trip, another short hop home.

Besides the will to resist, then, we need the knowledge to resist -- the knowledge that there is in the religion of Islam itself the historical, inexorable and driving force behind what the entire non-Muslim world is now experiencing as jihad terror. Whether most Muslims wouldn't hurt a fly is an increasingly irrelevant footnote to the hostile aggression of other Muslims who, in a very short time, have actually transformed civilization as we used to know it.

If the will to resist allows us to manage the threat of violence, the will to connect the dots would compel us to eliminate it. How? By carefully examining and, I would hope, reconsidering and reversing, through foreign, domestic and immigration initiatives, what should now be seen, gimlet-eyed, as the Islamization of the non-Islamic world. Such an assessment, however, is all too vulnerable to catcall-attacks of "bigotry," even "Nazism" -- a deceptively inverted assault given the doctrinal bigotry and similarities to Nazism historically promulgated by the Islamic creed.

But it's something to think about this summer -- on a vacation trip.

Mark Steyn: 'Great Men' Have Grating Effect on Mideast

July 16, 2006

I was on the road the other night and so found myself watching CNN's coverage of Israel, Lebanon, Gaza, etc. It was "Larry King Live," and it was one of those shows where Larry interviews great men about what needs to be done and the great men all agree that what needs to be done is that the president needs to get other great men involved to "broker" a "deal." Sen. Chuck Hagel proposed that Bush appoint Colin Powell or Jim Baker as his Special Envoy; Sen. Barbara Boxer proposed that Bush appoint Madeleine Albright as his Even More Special Envoy. Sen. George Mitchell, who himself served as Extra-Special Super-Duper Envoy a few years back, proposed that Bush involve the European Union. And someone else proposed the G-8. And Larry suggested Putin. Oh, and some smooth-talking apologist in Savile Row pinstripes proposed Chirac, because he and Bush had agreed a U.N. resolution on something or other a year or two back.

Aside from Larry's closing tribute to Red Buttons, I've never heard more rubbish in a single hour since . . . well, come to think of it, since the last time I saw "Larry King Live." But at least that was a special with Heather Mills (Paul McCartney's missus), with which subject Larry seemed rather more engaged, at least after Lady McCartney plunked her artificial leg up on the desk and invited Larry to feel its lifelike texture, which is more than one can say for Larry these days. But the point is that Larry and his Friars' Club Roast approach to geopolitics is about as irrelevant to what's going on there as could be devised, short of Sen. Hagel proposing Heather Mills as his Special Envoy, which may be just what Hamas and Hezbollah deserve.

It's easy to fly in a guy in a suit to hold a meeting. Half the fellows inside the Beltway have Middle East "peace plans" named after them. Bush flew in himself a year or two back to announce his "road map." Before that it was Cheney, who flew in with the Cheney plan, which was a plan to open up a road map back to the last plan, which would get us back to "Tenet," which would get us back to "Mitchell," which would get us back to "Wye River," which would get us back to "Oslo," which would get us back to Kansas.

And none of these Great Men meeting with other Great Men gets us anywhere. Some of the Great Men can't speak for their peoples (Mubarak) or their legislatures (Abbas). And a lot of the Great Men can't even speak for themselves: From the late Yasser Arafat to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, they say one thing in meetings with Western emissaries and something entirely different to their compatriots. And some of the Great Men we send to negotiate aren't all that great: the wretched Mohammed El Baradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Authority, is, in fact, a patsy for the nuclear mullahs. To reprise one of my all-time favorite Iranian negotiating positions, let's recall the perfect distillation of what Great Man diplomacy boils down to in the Middle East, as reported in the New York Times exactly a year ago:

"Iran will resume uranium enrichment if the European Union does not recognize its right to do so, two Iranian nuclear negotiators said in an interview published Thursday."

If we don't let Iran go nuclear, they'll go nuclear. Negotiate that, Chuck Hagel.

The forces at play in the Middle East are beyond the Geopolitical Friars' Club. The median age in Gaza is 15.8 years old. How likely is it that any of those bespoke Palestinian "moderates" who've been permanent fixtures on CNN and BBC Middle East discussion panels for 30 years have any meaningful sway over a population of unemployed uneducated teenage boys raised by a death cult? Israel withdrew from Gaza and, instead of getting on with a prototypical Palestinian state, Hamas turned the territory into an Islamist camp. Israel withdrew from Lebanon entirely in 2000, yet Hezbollah is now lobbing rockets at Haifa.

Why? Because in both cases these territories are now in effect Iran's land borders with the Zionist Entity. They're "occupied territories" but it's not the Jews doing the occupying. So you've got a choice between talking with proxies or going to the source: Tehran. And, as the unending talks with the EU have demonstrated, the ayatollahs use negotiations with the civilized world as comedy relief. They don't get Larry King's salutes to Red Buttons and Don Knotts on Iranian TV, so entering into talks with the French foreign minister is as near to big-time laughs as the mullahs get.

One of the interesting features of the present escalation is the circumspection of Israel's Arab neighbors. Once upon a time, it would have been Egypt and Jordan threatening the Zionist usurpers. But these countries have been, militarily, a big flop against the Zionist Entity since King Hussein fired Sir John Glubb as head of the Arab Legion. So after '73 they put their money on terrorism, and schoolgirl suicide bombers -- the kind of "popular resistance" that buys you better publicity in the salons of the West. And one result of that has been to deliver Palestinian pseudo-"nationalism" away from Arab influence and into hard-core Iranian Islamist hands. It's Iran that wants war, not Egypt or Jordan, So Jim Baker jetting in to shake hands with, say, Jordan's King Abdullah is a waste of time, because King Abdullah cannot impact on the scene in any useful way.

During all the time the Great Men were shuttling back and forth, a kind of toxic globalization occurred: The Palestinian "movement" (insofar as there ever was a genuine nationalist movement) became infected and eventually annexed by hard-core Islamism and the Palestinians' most depraved terror techniques were exported to every corner of the world. You can build a "security fence" in the region, but what we might call Palestinianism has leapt the psychological fence and incubated in radicalized Muslim communities worldwide: It's not just Palestinians but also Yorkshiremen who now blow themselves up on public transit. What's happened in Gaza, in Lebanon, in Syria and elsewhere is that the weaknesses of those polities were exploited by Iran and others through various client groups and a potent ideology that's really a virus.

That's a much more cunning and effective strategy than sending a fellow in a suit to concoct a plan in his name. We need to learn from the Iranians. We need to wage war on the ideology, because until we do, the reality is that the Middle East's fetid "stability," its demography, its remorseless nuclearization and proxy militarization all favor Israel's and our enemies.