Saturday, May 10, 2008
May 10, 2008 -
by Kathy Shaidle
“I write the books that I want to read,” says Daniel J. Flynn. After four years of writing and research, Flynn — whose previous books includeIntellectual Morons and Why the Left Hates America — is back with the irresistibly titled A Conservative History of the American Left.
“Conservatives, unfortunately, have been content to rely on some variant of ‘It all started in the 1960s’ when tracing the origins of the Left,” Flynn continued when reached by email just before the book’s release. “My book goes back to Plymouth Rock.”
Leftists, too, are often content to believe that history began at Little Rock rather than Plymouth Rock, and no wonder: they’d rather forget their one-time embrace of eugenics and other crackpot fads.
For example, in researching early birth control advocate Margaret Sanger’s papers for Intellectual Morons, Flynn told Pajamas Media that he “came across a vile 1932 speech calling for a vast system of concentration camps in America. What do her biographers say about this, I wondered. Nothing. All of the biographers, who had access to the exact information that I had access to, decided to leave that rather consequential information out of their books. Historians shouldn’t be cheerleaders. They should be truth tellers.”
And the truth, according to Flynn, is that the Left has always attracted very peculiar people who’ve preached very peculiar “solutions” to life’s “problems.” In fact, the sameness of the Left as chronicled by Flynn actually illustrates the conservative view of life: that human nature is fallen, universal, and cannot be permanently altered for the better through education or engineering.
Certain leftist types turn up again and again through the centuries, brought back to colorful life in Flynn’s book: fanatics, altruists, adventurers, splitters, spiritualists, free spirits, and one particular type Flynn dubs the “puritanical perverts”: Alfred Kinsey, Timothy Leary, and other “overbearing personalities whose zeal for sex, drugs, or whatever other pleasure made them paternalistic libertines.”
What they all have in common, Flynn writes in Conservative History, isn’t a “laundry list of complaints and wishes” so much as “an attitude”: “It is, in its simplest form, scorn for what is and hopes for what could be. The ideology’s appeal exists in neither the experienced past nor the concrete present, but in the imagined future.”
The Left boasts enthusiasm and energy to spare, but its inability to learn from the past is its fatal flaw. As Flynn explains in the book’s introduction, “because of the suspicions of tradition inherent within radicalism, [the Left] largely ignores that past.” After all, visionaries “preoccupied with the triumphal future cannot pause to learn from the mistakes of the past.”
This refusal to check the rear-view mirror is reflected in the Left’s compulsion for coining extravagant, inapt, and frequently offensive historical analogies: these days, every conservative leader is “Hitler”, every war is “Vietnam,” and every petulant protester is the new “Rosa Parks.”
As Flynn points out to devastating effect, the sheer stupidity of such comparisons should, by rights, be enough to cripple them as rhetorical devices; alas, widespread historical illiteracy and an aversion to criticizing “protected” identity groups render healthy mockery almost impossible. Hence these poor analogies metastasize, bringing the level of public discourse down yet another notch. To cite just one of many examples throughout the book:
Gay groups, for instance, were the fiercest defenders of the bathhouses that served as incubators of the [AIDS] virus. … The publisher of New York City’s main gay newspaper, once health officials managed to order the baths closed (a move opposed by all but one San Francisco gay group), castigated a Centers for Disease Control official: “Now that you’ve succeeded in closing down the baths, are you preparing boxcars for relocation?” That the baths themselves so closely paralleled the death camp “showers,” ostensibly hygienic chambers in which victims entered oblivious to the death that awaiting them, seems never to have occurred to the miasmic authors of wildly stretched analogies.
“The conflict between a Force Left and a Freedom Left is another theme,” Flynn explained in our interview. “One Left says, ‘Smoke whatever, bed whomever, work whenever’. Another Left says, ‘We will tell you how to run your business, we will spend your money better than you do, we will uplift your behavior to conform to our ideal.’ Often, frustrated by their inability to attain their desired results, those on the Freedom Left will convert to the Force Left. The transition from Yankee anarchism to anarcho-communism in the 1880s and the mutation of some freedom-loving hippies to New Left radicalism in the 1960s would be two good examples of the friends of freedom defecting to the friends of force.
“Another theme would be the difficulty of [establishing] an American Left. The first word stands for freedom, faith, flag, family. The second word stands against all that. How to reconcile an ideology against capitalism, the nuclear family, patriotism, and traditional religion with a country so closely identified with those ideas? That’s the constant conundrum of the American Left.”
What surprised Flynn most during the research for A Conservative History of the American Left, he told me, was the influence the Bible had once had upon leftist theory and practice:
Christianity once served as the primary influence upon American leftists. … Secular reformers admired the sacrifice and the communal unity of the early religious fanatics but not, generally, the religious beliefs. Religion and politics mixed in the Social Gospel, whose enthusiasts ultimately reached for more social, less gospel. … The secular Left kept the forms without the function.
So, I asked, will liberal reviewers criticize Flynn’s latest book with the same venom they recently unleashed upon Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism?
I think honest leftists will like A Conservative History of the American Left. It outlines the Left’s failures and shows examples of success, providing a guide of what to avoid and a template for better results. The book frees the Left from the manacles of Marxism by focusing on an American Left that often has nothing to do with the European contagion spread by Karl Marx. In other words, there is a much more honorable tradition on the American Left that includes people like Henry George, Edward Bellamy, and J.A. Wayland that gets overlooked by leftist historians too preoccupied by Marxism to acknowledge that leftism and Marxism are not synonymous. By focusing on people, the book humanizes the Left. It’s clear from reading it, I think, that I admire many of the people — free-love advocate Mary Gove Nichols, Appeal to Reason publisher J.A. Wayland, and SDS founder Al Haber to name a few — I write about even if I disagree with them. I think the title of the book is truth in advertising. Alas, most leftists won’t like the book because it takes a critical view of a movement and its activists that, in their view, are above criticism.
Conservative readers, on the other hand, will appreciate Flynn’s accuracy, readability, and humor. Even longtime Left-watchers will discover new nuggets, such as Michael Moore’s old civics teacher remembering the future filmmaker: “He’s always been ugly, fat, and obnoxious, a troubled child with no close friends to speak of.”
It’s a testament to Flynn’s talent that reading A Conservative History of the American Left is as enervating as it is entertaining. In almost every chapter, the Nation issues another ridiculous prediction, another utopian starts another doomed commune, and another idealist promises the end of all war, famine, and bigotry — and attracts legions of foolish followers. Throughout, very few of Flynn’s “characters” express regret for the lives they’ve ruined or outright ended.
“People die, but the Left will endure,” Flynn told me. “The ideas of a brotherhood of man, heaven on earth, and human perfection are too beautiful to perish as ideas, even if they’re too utopian to succeed in reality. Leftists are idealists, and the havoc their ideas cause in the real world doesn’t seem to affect a rethinking of their ideas in their imaginations.”
Saturday, May 10, 2008; E01
Eventually, your wins, like your sins, will find you out.
In San Diego tonight, Greg Maddux will try to win his 350th game. Later this year, he may pass Roger Clemens's total of 354. But whether Maddux hits either number, the verdict is in. It arrived in the Mitchell report. The greatest right-handed pitcher since Walter Johnson is no longer the tainted Clemens but the mesmerizing Maddux.
Just as Barry Bonds's 762 homers will always be a smaller number -- arithmetic be damned -- than Hank Aaron's 755, so Maddux already has forever outdistanced Clemens.
Searching for silver linings in a steroid age is hard work. But there are some. Perhaps none is brighter than the realization that Maddux, and two of his former teammates, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, all of them presumptive Hall of Famers, will now be among those who move up most dramatically as we reevaluate the stars of the past 20 years.
Last summer, Glavine won his 300th game; last month Smoltz got his 3,000th strikeout. Yet, Maddux and Glavine, both 42, and Smoltz, 41 next week, are all staggering to the finish. Glavine just ended his first trip ever to the disabled list and Smoltz is currently on the DL. This will be Maddux's fifth try for No. 350.
"It's coming to an end soon," the Braves' Chipper Jones said. So enjoy and value it.
"We all deserve what we've gotten," Glavine said. "Maybe people will finally pay attention to us. You don't want to be elevated on somebody else's mistakes. That's hard to deal with. I don't know Roger well. But this era is what it is and now you've got the greatest pitcher of our time caught up in it.
"But we have done it right. Hopefully, that will be appreciated more and the three of us will be a better example to kids. Maybe we will be the inspiration that you can run your miles and work in the weight room and still be successful."
"Nothing bad will come out about them," Manager Bobby Cox said of the trio that pitched for him for 11 years. "They won their games on hamburgers."
Presumably. But let's add the disclaimer that now defaces baseball: No player of this generation can be proven innocent. Thanks to Clemens and Bonds, nobody can be declared clean. What we can do is refuse to use their impossible achievements as baseball's proper benchmarks. Their seven Cy Young and most valuable player awards should never again dwarf their peers.
Now, when we look at numbers, the stats can tell us an entirely different story. We discover that, for players such as Maddux, there is circumstantial evidence of honesty.
The season when Clemens was 36, his ERA was 4.60; Maddux's was 2.62. After that, Clemens somehow pitched younger, going 18-4 at 41, then posting a preposterous 1.87 ERA at 42. Now, from baseball's own report, we assume we know part of the reason. Maddux, on the other hand, got old just as players had for the previous century. In his last five full seasons, his ERA has ranged from 3.96 to 4.24, yet he's still averaged 15 wins a year (14-11 in '07). His diminishing fastball has, at times, barely broken 80 mph.
Yet even with the anchor of age, Maddux's career ERA is now 3.12, the same as Clemens's.
"When it comes to the art of pitching, you can't out-think Maddux," Jones said. "He's the best chess player ever. He takes being smart about baseball to a different level."
In Clemens's final seasons, as he changed teams, celebrated multiple retirements, played in the World Series for both the Yanks and his hometown Astros and signed enormous contracts to play fractions of seasons, the man with the Texas-size ego did everything imaginable to attract attention. Like Bonds, he was a glutton for glory. Now, with his shadow greatly diminished, others can step into the light.
"There's never been a better one-two-three on a staff -- ever. The numbers are staggering," Jones says of the trio's 862 wins, plus 154 saves by Smoltz. "When I look back, playing with them will be the good old days."
The three seem to exist for counterpoint. Glavine was homegrown, Smoltz came in trade and Maddux was a free agent. The three even adapted to age differently. Glavine learned a cut fastball to get inside on right-handed hitters, especially after baseball eliminated the "Maddux-Glavine strike" just off the outside corner. Maddux learned to change speeds at even lower speeds, and accepted that he'd never be dominant again. After arm problems, Smoltz went to the bullpen to reduce his innings by 140 a year, then suddenly became the game's best closer, a career cherry-on-top that will presumably put him into Cooperstown. Then, his arm feeling stronger, he went back to starting.
"Smoltz might be a closer again before he's finished," said Cox, whose bullpen has been demolished this season. "You never know."
Though friends and addicted golfers, the three have few personality traits in common. "Smoltz is the most competitive, the best in the playoffs," Jones said. "Glavine is the smart guy, represented the union" in '94.
"The union didn't pick Tommy Glavine out of a hat," Cox said. "He was the chosen one. They got the right one, too. . . . He could take the heat."
As for Maddux, no major star is more camouflaged or enjoys the sly sardonic mischief of anonymity more. Out of uniform, in glasses and a ballcap, Maddux could take tickets and not be recognized. "He's just really, really crazy," Jones said. "No Mad Dog stories for print," Glavine said. "He's so goofy you can't believe it's the same guy who's so studious, a perfectionist, when he pitches. . . . He's Clark Kent and Superman."
Only in the last year, as landmarks have fallen, has it become difficult to imagine that any of the three will be left out of Cooperstown.
"There's more satisfaction now," Glavine said. "It makes some of the tougher days easier to take, because we know where we are going.
"Everything hasn't always gone swimmingly for us. That's the beauty of what we've done. More than once we've all been counted down and out, had to prove people wrong. It's a testament to our pride."
Apparently, a testament to their integrity, as well.
Orange County Register
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Almost everywhere I went last week – TV, radio, speeches – I was asked about the 60th anniversary of the Israeli state. I don't recall being asked about Israel quite so much on its 50th anniversary, which, as a general rule, is a much bigger deal than the 60th. But these days friends and enemies alike smell weakness at the heart of the Zionist Entity.
Assuming Iranian President Ahmadinejad's apocalyptic fancies don't come to pass, Israel will surely make it to its 70th birthday. But a lot of folks don't fancy its prospects for its 80th and beyond. See the Atlantic Monthly cover story: "Is Israel Finished?" Also the cover story in Canada's leading news magazine, Maclean's, which dispenses with the question mark: "Why Israel Can't Survive."
Why? By most measures, the Jewish state is a great success story. The modern Middle East is the misbegotten progeny of the British and French colonial map makers of 1922. All the nation states in that neck of the woods date back a mere 60 or 70 years – Iraq to the Thirties, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel to the Forties. The only difference is that Israel has made a go of it.
Would I rather there were more countries like Israel, or more like Syria? Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East (Iraq may yet prove a second), and its Arab citizens enjoy more rights than they would living under any of the kleptocrat kings and psychotic dictators who otherwise infest the region.
On a tiny strip of land narrower at its narrowest point than many American townships, Israel has built a modern economy with a GDP per capita just shy of $30,000 – and within striking distance of the European Union average. If you object that that's because it's uniquely blessed by Uncle Sam, well, for the past 30 years the second-largest recipient of U.S. aid has been Egypt: their GDP per capita is $5,000, and America has nothing to show for its investment other than one-time pilot Mohamed Atta coming at you through the office window.
Jewish success against the odds is nothing new. "Aaron Lazarus the Jew," wrote Anthony Hope in his all but unknown prequel to "The Prisoner Of Zenda," "had made a great business of it, and had spent his savings in buying up the better part of the street; but" – and for Jews there's always a "but" – "since Jews then might hold no property … ."
Ah, right. Like the Jewish merchants in old Europe, who were tolerated as leaseholders but could never be full property owners, the Israelis are regarded as operating a uniquely conditional sovereignty. Jimmy Carter, just returned from his squalid suck-up junket to Hamas, is merely the latest Western sophisticate to pronounce triumphantly that he has secured the usual (off-the-record, highly qualified, never to be translated into Arabic and instantly denied) commitment from the Jews' enemies, acknowledging Israel's "right to exist." Well, whoop-de-doo. Would you enter negotiations on such a basis?
Since Israel marked its half-century, the "right to exist" is now routinely denied not just in Gaza and Ramallah and the region's presidential palaces but on every European and Canadian college campus. During the Lebanese incursion of 2006, Matthew Parris wrote in The Times of London: "The past 40 years have been a catastrophe, gradual and incremental, for world Jewry. Seldom in history have the name and reputation of a human grouping lost so vast a store of support and sympathy so fast. My opinion – held not passionately but with little personal doubt – is that there is no point in arguing about whether the state of Israel should have been established where and when it was" – which lets you know how he would argue it if he minded to.
Richard Cohen in The Washington Post was more straightforward: "Israel itself is a mistake. It is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable, but the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now. Israel fights Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south, but its most formidable enemy is history itself."
Cohen and Parris, two famously moderate voices in the leading newspapers of two of the least anti-Israeli capital cities in the West, have nevertheless internalized the same logic as Ahmadinejad: Israel should not be where it is. Whether it's a "stain of shame" or just a "mistake" is the merest detail.
Aaron Lazarus and every other "European Jew" of his time would have had a mirthless chuckle over Cohen's designation. The Jews lived in Europe for centuries but without ever being accepted as "European." To enjoy their belated acceptance as Europeans, they had to move to the Middle East. Reviled on the Continent as sinister rootless cosmopolitans with no conventional national allegiance, they built a conventional nation state, and now they're reviled for that, too. The "oldest hatred" didn't get that way without an ability to adapt.
The Western intellectuals who promote "Israeli Apartheid Week" at this time each year are laying the groundwork for the next stage of Zionist delegitimization. The talk of a "two-state solution" will fade. In the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, Jews are barely a majority. Gaza has one of the highest birth rates on the planet: The median age is 15.8 years. Its population is not just literally exploding, at Israeli checkpoints, but also doing so in the less-incendiary but demographically decisive sense.
Arabs will soon be demanding one democratic state – Jews and Muslims – from Jordan to the sea. And even those Western leaders who understand that this will mean the death of Israel will find themselves so confounded by the multicultural pieties of their own lands they'll be unable to argue against it. Contemporary Europeans are not exactly known for their moral courage: The reports one hears of schools quietly dropping the Holocaust from their classrooms because it offends their growing numbers of Muslim students suggest that even the pretense of "evenhandedness" in the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process" will be long gone a decade hence.
The joke, of course, is that Israel, despite its demographic challenge, still enjoys a birth rate twice that of the European average. All the reasons for Israel's doom apply to Europe with bells on. And, unlike much of the rest of the West, Israel has the advantage of living on the front line of the existential challenge. "I have a premonition that will not leave me," wrote Eric Hoffer, America's great longshoreman philosopher, after the 1967 war. "As it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us."
Indeed. So, happy 60th birthday. And here's to many more.
Friday, May 09, 2008
The Visitor: The New McCarthyism
Different faces, same condescension from Station Agent director
By SCOTT FOUNDAS
Wednesday, April 9, 2008 - 3:20 pm
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A lonely dwarf, a wisecracking Cuban-American and a grieving mother walk into each other’s lives, laugh together, cry together, grow, change and heal each other’s emotional wounds all in a mere 90 minutes of screen time. Cue Sundance prizes, Miramax pickup, torrent of glowing reviews and surprisingly robust indie box office. The movie was The Station Agent, and it was the sort of exercise in forced whimsy and catharsis that managed to coast by on the charm of its performers, as long as you didn’t stop to ponder why the film’s writer-director, Tom McCarthy, had his characters become apoplectic upon their first encounter with Peter Dinklage’s vertically challenged train hobbyist, or just what Bobby Cannavale’s latter-day Ricky Ricardo was doing operating a coffee cart in a supposedly unpopulated stretch of industrial New Jersey in the first place. Clearly a believer in leaving well enough alone, McCarthy has, for his second feature, brought together another unlikely threesome — except this time, he’s decided to get political, making a liberal guilt-trip movie about first-world ignorance of Third World culture.
They've got rhythm.
Like The Station Agent, The Visitor opens in a state of mourning, with 62-year-old economics professor Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) staring longingly out the window of his Connecticut home, wine glass in hand, while a solemn piano sonata plays on the soundtrack. Even before we know exactly what it is, we know Walter’s lost something; as with almost every other scene in the movie, this one wears its meaning on its sleeve. Then Walter reluctantly travels to New York to deliver a paper at an NYU conference, only to find his long-untended Manhattan apartment occupied by ... a young Syrian emigré, Tarek (Haaz Sleiman), and his Senegalese girlfriend, Zainab (Danai Gurira), who have been swindled into thinking the place is theirs. At first, Walter kicks his unexpected houseguests to the curb; but of course, there wouldn’t be a movie here if Walter didn’t think better of that decision and tell the couple — what the hell — they can stay with him for as long as they need to. That’s when things take a turn for the pious.
I’d call Walter’s meet-cute with Tarek and Zainab accidental, but pretty much nothing in The Visitor happens by accident. It’s a screenplay that seems to have been sown, fertilized and harvested in one of those how-to screenwriting seminars you see advertised in the backs of movie magazines. That mournful piano music? It turns out to be a performance by Walter’s late wife, a classical concert pianist. And Tarek, wouldn’t you know, is a musician too, only instead of piano he plays the African drum. And before long, he’s teaching Walter how to play. And not long after that, this supposed East Coast intellectual who lectures at seminars on “economic growth in developing nations” is chowing down on his first-ever shawarma and stopping on his lunch break to listen — really listen — to the black kids beating on their plastic buckets in Washington Square Park. It’s like he’s noticing them for the first time, the way everybody in The Station Agent seems to have never seen a little person before.
So, East meets West and everyone is a little bit the better for it, until the ugly face of post-9/11 racial profiling intrudes upon Tarek and Walter’s return from an impromptu Central Park jam session, landing the undocumented Tarek in a subcontracted government detention center lined with murals of the Statue of Liberty and posters that say things like, “The strength of America ... America’s immigrants.” Irony alert! That’s Walter’s opportunity — and ours — to become outraged that such things can happen in the supposed Land of the Free (who knew?), while Tarek and Zainab marvel, wide-eyed, at the fact that some rich old white dude could possibly care about their well-being.
You have to hand it to McCarthy: He’s nothing if not an equal-opportunity patronizer. When Tarek’s doting mom, Mouna (played by the excellent Israeli-Arab actress Hiam Abbass), shows up and sees Zainab for the first time, she turns to Walter and exclaims, “She’s very black!” (Even dark-skinned people, you see, have their prejudices.) Then everyone piles onto the Staten Island Ferry for an illustrated tour of relevant New York landmarks — Ellis Island, Ground Zero — just in case we didn’t get the point that this is a movie about liberty under siege. Like every other Moslem character in the film, Mouna practically walks on water, but Abbass, to her credit, brings an emotional gravity to her scenes that does much to counterbalance the movie’s epic banality. Jenkins isn’t so lucky; one of the most resourceful character actors out there, finally given a meaty leading role, he’s been hemmed by McCarthy into a fussy, mannered performance in which everything is externalized — crippling grief in the first part, righteous indignation in the second.
McCarthy unquestionably means well, but he’s made one of those incredibly naive movies (like last fall''s Rendition) that give liberals — Hollywood liberals especially — a bad name, and which do more to regress the sociopolitical discourse than advance it. “I was struck by how little I knew about the region,” McCarthy says in the movie’s press notes, remarking on his trip to the Middle East for a U.S. cultural-outreach program. “With all the news and the headlines and the drama, we can forget that there are human beings on both sides of this. How can I eliminate that a little bit? That always is my call to arms.” A curious last choice of words there, to be sure. As for the rest, is McCarthy really this dense, or does he think he’s the enlightened one here and we are in need of his counsel? I hope it’s the former, but on the basis of The Visitor, I fear it’s the latter.
THE VISITOR | Written and directed by TOM McCARTHY | Produced by MARY JANE SKALSKI and MICHAEL LONDON | Released by Overture Films | ArcLight Hollywood, The Landmark
By WILL HERMES
(Posted: May 1, 2008)
4 stars (out of 5)
Even a dude with a track record as golden as Tom Petty's needs to reflect on paths not taken. Mudcrutch, Petty's pre-Heartbreakers band, released a single and little else in the mid-Seventies. And that's too bad, since they reunite here for a hot country-rock set that clearly aspires to, and gets within spitting distance of, genre classics like Sweetheart of the Rodeo, The Gilded Palace of Sin and American Beauty. If the Heartbreakers had never happened, this band would have worked out just fine.
Mudcrutch has more jammy, expansive guitar work than any Petty record ever. Yet the leader doesn't play a lick, shelving his Rickenbacker to play bass, as he did back in the day. The twin-guitar front is Heartbreaker Mike Campbell and Tom Leadon, a dazzling player who found less fame than his brother Bernie (Eagles, Flying Burrito Brothers). The pair duel on the hot-pickin' traditional tune "June Apple," run Allman Brothers tandems on the boogie-rock "Bootleg Flyer" and space-waltz Dead-style on the organ-swathed, nine-minute "Crystal River." Heartbreaker keyboard whiz Benmont Tench and journeyman drummer Randall Marsh complete the original lineup; everyone's back, and better for it.
Mudcrutch takes a bow at the Fillmore Theater, 3-16-08
The songs are mythic Americana: With help from his bandmates, Petty creates a vivid cast of road dogs, strippers and junkies that conjures Gram Parsons' Bible-haunted Southerners and Robert Hunter's cosmic Westerners. And his weathered harmonies with Leadon make them flesh; though his voice is frayed, Petty's never sounded more real. Two country-rock covers nearly match their models: The Byrds' "Lover of the Bayou" and "Six Days on the Road," a Burritos fave. If they fall a tad short, that's appropriate: Mudcrutch's ragged enthusiasm is the sound of a hungry gang getting its first taste, just a few decades late.
May 09, 2008
WASHINGTON -- By the time Hillary Clinton figured out how to beat Barack Obama, it was too late. When she began the race in 2007 thinking she was in for a coronation, she claimed the center in order to position herself for the real fight, the general election. She simply assumed the party activists and loony left would fall in behind her.
However, as Obama began to rise, powered by the party's Net-roots activists, she scurried left, particularly with her progressively more explicit renunciation of the Iraq War. It was a fool's errand. She would never be able to erase the stain of her original war vote and she remained unwilling to do an abject John Edwards self-flagellating recantation. It took her weeks even to approximate the apology the left was looking for, and by then it was far too late. The party's activist wing was by then unbreakably betrothed to Obama.
But going left proved disastrous for Clinton. It abolished all significant policy differences between her and Obama, the National Journal's 2007 most liberal senator. On health care, for example, her attempts to turn a minor difference in the definition of universality into a major assault on Obama fell flat. With no important policy differences separating them, the contest became one of character and personality. Matched against this elegant, intellectually nimble, hugely talented newcomer, she had no chance of winning that contest.
She tried everything. Her charges that he was a man of nothing but words came off as a petulant, envious attack on eloquence. The power to inspire may not be sufficient to qualify for the presidency, but it is hardly a liability.
She tried a silly plagiarism charge, then settled for the experience card. In a change election, this was not a brilliant strategy. It forced her to dwell on the 1990s, playing candidate of the past to Obama's candidate of the future. Her studied attempts to embellish her experience led her into a thicket of confabulated Bosnian sniper fire.
It wasn't until late in the fourth quarter that she figured out the seam in Obama's defense. In fact, Obama handed her the playbook with Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, Michelle Obama's comments about never having been proud of America and Obama's own guns-and-God condescension toward small-town whites.
The line of attack is clear: not that Obama is himself radical or unpatriotic, just that, as a man of the academic left, he is so out of touch with everyday America that he could move so easily and untroubled in such extreme company and among such alien and elitist sentiments.
Clinton finally understood the way to run against Obama: back to the center -- not ideologically but culturally, not on policy but on attitude. She changed none of her positions on Iraq or Iran or health care or taxes. Instead, she transformed herself into working-class Sally-get-her-gun, off duck hunting with dad.
The gas tax holiday was never an economic or policy issue. It was meant to position her culturally. It heightened her identification with her white working-class constituency. Obama played his part by citing economists in opposing it. That completed her narrative: He had the pointy-headed professors on his side; she had the single moms seeking relief at the pump.
It was an overreach. It not only deflected attention away from the amazing Rev. Wright at the height of his spectacular return. It also never played as the elitist-versus-working-folk issue she had hoped, because it isn't just economists who know the gas tax holiday is nothing but a cheap gimmick. Ordinary folks do too. And the gas tax idea had the unfortunate side effect of reinforcing Hillary's main character liability vis-a-vis Obama: cynical Washington pol willing to do or say anything to win votes versus the idealistic straight-shooter refusing to pander even if it costs him.
The lightness in Hillary's step in the days before Indiana and North Carolina reflected the relief of the veteran politician who, after months of treading water, finally finds the right campaign strategy. But it was far too late. And the gas tax overkill, one final error of modulation, sealed the deal -- for Obama.
There's only one remaining chapter in this fascinating spectacle. Negotiating the terms of Hillary's surrender. After which we will have six months of watching her enthusiastically stumping the country for Obama, denying with utter conviction Republican charges that he is the out of touch, latte-sipping elitist she warned Democrats against so urgently in the last, late leg of her doomed campaign.
Raleigh News & Observer
May 9, 2008
Drive-By Truckers are, from left, Brad Morgan, Spooner Oldham, Mike Cooley, Patterson Hood, Shonna Tucker and John Neff. (Oldham isn't playing with the band in Carrboro.)
Things are pretty pleasant nowadays for the Drive-By Truckers, who play next week in Carrboro. Back in February, the Truckers hit a chart peak with their latest album, "Brighter Than Creation's Dark" (New West Records), which made it all the way up to No. 37 on the Billboard 200. Interpersonal relations within the band are better than they've been for a while. And the band even took a little time off this spring for drummer Brad Morgan to tend to his new baby.
But you'd never know that from the grim tone of "Brighter Than Creation's Dark," which has the Truckers' usual combination of earthy swamp-rock and desperate characters who can't seem to get out of their own way. No matter how well real life is going, the Truckers always sound downright gothic. Asked when the band might start writing cheery songs, guitarist Patterson Hood laughs.
"I sure would like that," he says over the phone from his home in Athens, Ga. "I do write one every now and then that's kinda happy, and it's not like I'm a gloomy person. But the songs on this last album were written during a pretty dark period. There was a lot of drama, plus the political and national situation, which is certainly something we've all got strong feelings about. So there are plenty of reasons why it's so dark. But to me, it's not without a certain amount of hope and faith. You just have to look for it."
Much of the Truckers' real-life drama in recent years centered on the married couple in the band, guitarist Jason Isbell and bassist Shonna Tucker. They divorced, and Isbell subsequently left for a solo career. Tucker stayed in the Truckers, and the new album has the first songs she's written for the band.
Blessing and curse
In retrospect, you can hear evidence that all was not well in the Truckers' orbit on their last album with Isbell, 2006's aptly titled "A Blessing and a Curse." While it had some solid performances and decent songs, "Curse" was still the first Truckers album that felt like a holding pattern. No one was happy with it, including the band.
"Some people do hate 'Blessing and a Curse,'" Hood says. "I don't, but I can understand why some of our longtime fans turned on it. That whole record was about us trying to find common ground at a time when there was just not much to be had. What's on the record is the closest we could come to agreement to move forward and keep it from flying apart. It was not fun at all. We knew we had serious problems coming to the surface, and we didn't know what to do about it."
Improbably, the Truckers found salvation through Bettye LaVette, the great soul veteran. LaVette's record label commissioned the Truckers to back her up, Booker T. & the M.G.s-style, on last year's "Scene of the Crime." But the collaboration got off to a rough start after LaVette was presented with a compilation of Truckers songs to get a feel for the band.
"Oh, she hated it," Hood says with a laugh. "Every bit. I think her plan was to agree to it and go down there, fire us and bring in session people instead. But it didn't work out that way, which I'm so thankful for because everybody was happy in the end."
"Scene of the Crime" was nominated for the best-contemporary-blues-album Grammy Award and it deserved to win, although it lost to J.J. Cale and Eric Clapton. But the album gave both the Truckers and LaVette a nice shot in the arm, setting things up nicely for "Brighter Than Creation's Dark."
One more song
The Truckers went into the studio last spring and cut 18 songs quickly, almost as rough as demos. The plan was to spend some time listening to those recordings and settle on 10 or 12 songs to go back and record with more care. But while listening to the songs on the touring bus last summer, they decided they already had the record -- almost.
"Crazy as we are, we were all saying, 'It needs one more song,'" Hood says. "We have our weird ways. There were reasons why this one was so long. All 18 songs felt like one big, interlocking piece that captured a mood and a vibe about where we were. And in listening on the bus, we were all in complete agreement: 'This is the record, except we need a real rockin' track three to sum up the loose ends and tie everything together.'"
At the last minute, Hood finally came up with the last piece of the puzzle: "The Righteous Path," which you might call a depiction of quiet desperation and trying to keep contradictions at bay. Except there's nothing quiet about it.
Got a beautiful wife and three towheaded kids.
A couple big secrets I'd kill to keep hid.
I don't know God but I fear his wrath.
I'm trying to stay focused on the righteous path.
They bashed out "The Righteous Path" in a single take and inserted it into the sequence as track number three, and the record was done. Given how rough and raw "Brighter Than Creation's Dark" is, its chart performance is surprising. It has sold a shade over 50,000 copies, a solid figure for this day and age.
"I never thought we'd get as far as we have," Hood says. "I'm ambitious and always wanting to move forward. But at the same time, if we can just maintain basically where we are, that could be OK. I'd like to sell more records, but the business has collapsed to the point where our sales look pretty good. We're still selling pretty much the same as we ever have, but everyone else is so much worse that we're in the top 40!
"It's like what Billy Joel told John Mellencamp when he inducted him into the Hall of Fame," Hood concludes. " 'Congratulations, John, you've outlived the music business.' I never liked Billy Joel, but I'll give him that one."
email@example.com or blogs.newsobserver.com/beat or (919) 829-4759.
Who: Drive-By Truckers, Dexateens.
When: Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 p.m.
Where: Cat's Cradle, 300 E. Main St., Carrboro.
Cost: $20 advance, $22 day of show
Details: 967-9053 or catscradle.com.
May 09, 2008, 4:00 a.m.
Imagine this. You’ve built the better mousetrap. (Because lasers and pneumatic tubes are cool, let’s imagine it uses them.) You’ve persevered through years of trial and error in your garage, enduring sleepless nights, the mockery of friends, the eye-rolling of family, and the non-lethal laser wounds to the family cat. But it was all worth it. You take your invention and, with your last few pennies, manage to bring it to market. It’s a smash hit. It starts flying off shelves. You earn back the investment in raw materials and maybe something close to compensation for your time. Now you’re ready for the big payoff. There’s just one thing left to do: make an appointment with the regional Reasonable Profits Board to find out how much of your windfall is reasonable for you to keep.
Picked by Congress nominally for their expertise in analyzing the mousetrap industry but actually for their vampiric lust for entrepreneurial blood, members of the Reasonable Profits Board will determine how much of your already-taxed profits cross the “rational threshold.”
Now that’s the American dream!
What this would mean for Mousetrap 2.0 may not be a big concern for members of the board, but odds are you’ll start to feel like you’re working for them.
Replace “Mousetrap” with “oil,” and you have a good idea of how some in Congress want to bring the oil industry to heel. Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa, is offering his “Consumer Reasonable Energy Price Protection Act,” which would make oil companies supplicants of a Reasonable Profits Board. Senate Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid, proposed their 25 percent windfall profits tax this week, while Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Alpha Centauri, has been calling for a 100 percent windfall profits tax rate for some time. Hillary Clinton is barnstorming the country talking about a windfall profits tax that will not only stick it to the corporate fat cats but will “pay” for a gas tax holiday.
“Windfall,” of course, is just another word for “undeserved,” which is why windfall profits are defined as the profits earned by someone other than you. If we were honest with the people having their profits yanked away, we’d call it the “well-earned and richly deserved profits tax.”
Now hold on a second, cry the unreasonable-profit confiscators. That analogy is bogus. ExxonMobil isn’t some garage-workshop Horatio Alger. ExxonMobil is a cold and impersonal multinational corporation!
To which I say: Exactly!
So why are Democrats keen on treating oil companies like they’re comic-book villains and the windfall profits tax is just a well-deserved enema that will teach Big Oil to pay its fair share?
In 1977, when Jimmy Carter proposed the first windfall profits tax, he said through those enormous teeth, we “will ask private companies to sacrifice just as private citizens do.” But corporations aren’t normal citizens.
If you tell oil companies that they won’t be able to keep their profits past a certain point, you know what they’ll do? They’ll make money right up until that point and then they’ll stop. Unlike the guy building the better mousetrap, oil companies aren’t in it for the glory, they’re in it for the money. No oilman will go home hungry and wake up like Scrooge on Christmas morning, having repented because of a windfall profits tax.
Now, there will be plenty of punishment doled out, more than at a Belgian S&M club during recess at the European Parliament. But the crack of the windfall whip will land in unintended places. “Corporate sacrifice” means sacrificing share value, jobs and, most of all, reinvestment.
So people dependent on pension funds — union workers, government employees and the like — will be asked to sacrifice some of their retirement income. Jobs dependent on oil and gas extraction would be cut. And, as Schumer explains, money that would otherwise be invested in exploration and improved efficiency will instead be diverted to “alternative” energies that politicians (like Schumer) think are better investments.
No wonder Schumer’s so cocky, given the boffo success of Washington’s “investment” in ethanol, which creates more greenhouse gases than oil does, contributes to deforestation, and is fueling the starvation of millions around the globe.
Meanwhile, less investment in exploration and efficiency will cause pump prices to rise (less supply = higher prices) and, as in the 1980s, cause us to rely on more foreign oil.
But, by all means, let’s do it, because Big Oil is bad and someone — or everyone — has to pay for it.
— Jonah Goldberg is the author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
By Diana West
Thursday, May 8, 2008
A few years ago, Harvard psychiatric instructor Kenneth Levin wrote "The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege." In this illuminating book, Levin examines the Israeli experience of concessionary negotiations with a "peace partner" openly dedicated to Israel's destruction. He also examines the historical Jewish Diaspora experience in which Jewish populations typically identified with their tormentors and even echoed their antisemitism.
Such interactions are driven by a permanent condition of siege mentality, Levin explains, and clearly manifest two kinds of delusional thinking.
First, there is the fantasy about the intentions of the aggressor (Arab Muslim or European Christian); then, there is the fantasy about changing the aggressor's intentions. Such thinking, Levin says, is common to victims of chronic abuse, particularly children. They fool themselves into thinking that they, the victims, control the abuser by linking the abuse they suffer to their own behavior.
In other words, they believe they cause their own abuse. This mind game, Levin says, actually gives victims a sense of control over situations beyond their control (an abusive parent, for instance). This allows them to avoid feelings of helplessness and despair.
And so the besieged victim pretends: Daddy doesn't really want to hurt me; if I'm a better girl, he'll stop. Israel pretends: Muslims don't really want to destroy our state, and so we'll give them land for peace. Jews in pre-Nazi Europe pretended: The anti-Semites are really right; we deserve a pogrom. Intriguingly, Levin writes:
"But the book's themes have a still broader relevance. Even ostensibly powerful and secure populations, under conditions that entail ongoing threat and vulnerability, can manifest similar trends."
I got a new one for the doctor: a trend of delusion so enormous as to beg for immediate hospitalization and a transfer of power of attorney. Problem is, the patient here is the United States government (USG), which now says: If we just stop talking about jihad, Muslims will neither become jihadis nor sympathize with them.
Such is the message of a crazy new government guide called "Words that Work and Words that Don't" urging federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, to eliminate all references to Islam when discussing, well, Islamic terrorism.
Islamic Jihad operatives praying in Gaza
Not only does that mean no more talk of "Islam," it also means no more talk of "jihad." ("Extremism" is the new "jihad.") And forget about the "caliphate." (Try "global totalitarian state.") Even such politically correct terms as "Islamist" and "Islamofascist," which take the traditional teachings of Islam off the hook, are now verboten. And so, more curiously, is the term "Muslim moderate." Says the government: "The term `moderate' has become offensive to many Muslims, who believe that it refers to individuals whom the USG prefers to deal with, and who are only marginally religious."
So "moderates" don't want to look like patsies next to "jihadists," and the USG doesn't want to be insensitive to their needs. Sounds like a rest cure for Uncle Sam is long overdue.
Of course, the no-Islam (no-"moderate") lexicon itself -- which reads like disinformation designed to confuse the American public -- is just scratching the delusional surface. Animating the directive, written with considerable input from unidentified American Muslim "experts," is the delusional belief that what we say (or don't say) has transformative power over Muslim attitudes and behaviors regarding Islamic terrorism, the Islamic caliphate, the advance of Islamic law (Sharia) and the so-called war on (Islamic) terror -- rebranded here, no kidding, as "A Global Struggle for Security and Progress." ("Liberty," Uncle Sam tells us, was "rejected" as "a buzzword for American hegemony.")
The basic idea is to shut the United States up. Or, more diplomatically: "The terminology ... should avoid helping the terrorists by inflating the religious bases and glamorous appeal of their ideology." (Glamorous?) For example, "When we respond loudly (to Osama bin Laden and other jihadists), we raise their prestige in the Muslim world."
"We" raise their prestige? Come on. If a human being thinks turning passenger jets into WMDs is an abomination, nothing anyone says can raise the perpetrators' "prestige." Could our government rationally think otherwise?
Alas, reason escapes the Oslo Syndrome sufferer.
This may explain why Uncle Sam is now actually assuming responsibility for jihad itself: "Our terminology must be properly calibrated to diminish the recruitment efforts of extremists (read: jihadists) who argue the West is at war with Islam."
News flash for Uncle Sam: Islam, in myriad forms, is at war with the West. And even if we never say the words, we can still darn well lose.
- Diana West is a contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of the new book, The Death of the Grown-up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization.
May 7, 2008
Well, it looks like it's the end of the road for Hillary. Time for her to pack up her pantsuits and go back to -- wherever it is she's pretending to be living these days. Now we just have to get rid of the other two. Perhaps if I endorse Obama ...
This week, Bill Clinton lost his second presidential election for a protege.
Ronald Reagan was so popular, he not only won a 49-state landslide re-election for himself, but he also won a symbolic third term for his boob of a vice president, George Herbert Walker Bush (who immediately blew it by breaking his own "no new taxes" pledge).
By contrast, in addition to not being able to get half the country to vote for him in two tries, Clinton's connection to any other presidential candidate spells utter doom. Both his vice president and his wife have been defeated in elections they should have won, but lost because of their unfortunate association with him. The country has spoken. It wants to be rid of the Clintons.
The reason two elections in recent history -- the 2000 presidential election and the 2008 Democratic primary -- were razor-close is that in both cases there was some strange, foreboding, otherworldly force dragging down the presumptive winner.
Clinton's vice president, Al Gore, lost an election that should have been his in a walk. In fact, he was the first incumbent president or vice president in 100 years to lose an election in peacetime with a good economy. Mind you, that was before we even knew that Gore was a deranged conspiracy theorist who believes the Earth is in serious peril from cow flatulence.
What was the mystery factor to explain such a historic loss?
The media's pollsters may have lied to the public about Clinton's vaunted popularity, but Gore's pollsters got paid not to lie to him. And they told Gore the truth: Clinton was killing him.
After the election, Gore pollster -- and erstwhile Clinton pollster -- Stanley Greenberg told Vanity Fair magazine that if Clinton had helped, he would have "had Bill Clinton carry Al Gore around on his back." (This was when one man could still actually carry Al Gore on his back.) But research showed that whenever Clinton was mentioned, Gore's numbers went down faster than -- oh, never mind.
Steve Rosenthal, political director of the AFL-CIO, also blamed Clinton for Gore's loss, saying polls showed that voters who cared about character voted for Bush. (I know, I know. Are there actually people who care about character and vote Democrat? Yes, apparently they exist.)
Poor Gore did everything he could to distance himself from Clinton, publicly criticizing Clinton's sexual exploits with an intern, refusing to allow Clinton to campaign with him and taking as his vice president Joe Lieberman -- the first Democratic senator to scathingly denounce Clinton's antics with Lewinsky from the Senate floor.
But voters couldn't forget Gore's boss, the purple-faced lecher.
As election predictors go, the Dow Jones has been remarkably accurate. If the Dow goes up from the end of July to the end of October, the incumbent president or vice president wins; if it goes down, the incumbent loses. It has been wrong only four times since the Dow was created in 1896.
Thus, on Nov. 1, 2000, an article in The New York Times began: "The verdict of the Dow Jones industrial average is in, and it says Al Gore is headed for the White House."
And yet Gore lost. It was only the third time in more than a century that the Dow went up in the three months before the election and the incumbent lost. The two other times were: (1) Herbert Hoover in the middle of the Great Depression, and (2) Hubert Humphrey in the middle of the Vietnam War. (The only time the Dow went down and the incumbent won anyway was for popular Dwight Eisenhower.)
So we have documented proof: Americans rank Bill Clinton with national misfortunes on the order of the Great Depression and the Vietnam War. (This, of course, is an overreaction: The Great Depression wasn't that bad.)
And now Bill Clinton has wrecked Hillary's campaign, too. He's like the creepy guy who graduated last year but still hangs around the high school cafeteria chatting up sophomores.
In a Time magazine poll taken earlier this year, more than twice as many voters said Bill Clinton's involvement in Hillary's campaign made them less likely to vote for her as said they were more likely to vote for her. (Some even said that "having Bill Clinton around makes me less likely to vote for What's-Her-Name." One-third of the respondents were upset Bill didn't call the next day, like he promised.)
So before remembering that we are now left with two dangerous choices for president -- a young liberal who is friendly with terrorists or an old liberal who is friendly with Teddy Kennedy -- take a moment to revel in the fact that our long national nightmare is over. It turns out getting rid of the Clintons was the change we've been waiting for.
COPYRIGHT 2008 ANN COULTER
Newark Star Ledger
May 08, 2008 1:43AM
Bruce Springsteen waves as he sings at the Count Basie Theatre Wednesday, May 7, 2008, in Red Bank, N.J., as he and the E Street Band play a benefit concert for the renovation of the Count Basie Theatre.
(AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Wednesday night's benefit show for the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, was one of those real special Bruce Springsteen performances, one that will go down in the history books as a great, great show.
For the first time, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed a whole album from start to finish, in the order the songs appear on the album.
But it wasn't just one album, it was two. Fans were treated to the entire "Darkness on the Edge of Town" album, then the entire "Born To Run" album. To cap off the night, Bruce played four fun, fun encores.
Before the show started, Patti Scialfa came out to talk to the audience. She said she goes back more than 25 years with the Count Basie Theatre. She told the crowd that she grew up in Deal, just north of Asbury Park and the movie theater she remembers was the Mayfair Theater in Asbury Park. "It was so beautiful. It has this arched ceiling with the stars and the sky. And they had little love seats in the balcony that everyone got their first kiss in. Not me though!," said Scialfa.
She said how it was so sad when the tore down the Mayfair in the early 1970s and she wants to make sure what happened to the Mayfair Theater doesn't happen to the Count Basie.
Patti Scialfa claps her hands as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band play a benefit concert for the renovation of the Count Basie Theatre Wednesday, May 7, 2008 in Red Bank, N.J.
(AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Scialfa then introduced Brian Williams of NBC News. Williams, a native of Middletown and a graduate of Mater Dei High School, said he goes way back with the Jersey Shore, to the Stone Pony and to the Tradewinds. Said he spent many a night seeing the band Fresh and hitting those places after hearing rumors that Bruce might show up and play.
He talked up Jack's Music Shoppe in Red Bank, as "they sold more rolling papers than records in the 1970s."
Williams said: "I've been all over the world and there's no better place to be than right here."
Williams then introduced Bruce who came on at 8:39 p.m.
"Good evening" Bruce said to the packed house. He said: "We're going to do something different tonight. We're going to take the Darkness and Born To Run albums and play them in sequence for you.
"So that should be interesting."
Bruce said he was going to play the Darkness album first, so "we don't send you home suicidal."
He talked about writing the Darkness album. How in 1977 he was livining in a house on farm in Holmdel and it was a tough period in his life. "
When the band broke into "Badlands" the first song from the album, things were a bit messed up and Bruce said: "We ******* it up already."
Bruce Springsteen looks on as Clarence Clemons plays the saxophone as Springsteen and the E Street Band play a benefit concert for the renovation of the Count Basie Theatre Wednesday, May 7, 2008 in Red Bank, N.J.
(AP Photo/Mel Evans)
2. Adam Raised A Cain
3. Something In The Night
4. Candy's Room
5. Racing In The Street
6. The Promised Land
8. Streets Of Fire
9. Prove It All Night
10. Darkness On The Edge Of Town
They took a 15-minute break and came back to play the "Born To Run" album.
Bruce talked about how it took him six months to write and record the song "Born To Run" and another six months to finish the rest of the album. He said it was make or break time for the band, as they were in danger of being dropped from Columbia Records.
Bruce Springsteen sings as he and the E Street Band play a benefit concert for the renovation of the Count Basie Theatre Wednesday, May 7, 2008 in Red Bank, N.J.
(AP Photo/Mel Evans)
11. Thunder Road
12. Tenth Ave Freezeout
They brought out a four-pience horn section for the song. Mark Pender, La Bamba, Jerry Vivino and Ed Manion played.
Bruce jumped into the crowd during the song. He jumped off the front of the stage in front of Little Steven, then walked over, past N.J. Gov. Jon Corzine, to the left side and jumped up on seats. As the crowd swarmed him, they lifted him up a bit. It was like a 1976 show again!
15. Born To Run
16. She's The One
17. Meeting Across The River
Beautiful trumpet on this song by Mark Pender.
19. So Young And In Love
Bruce had a lot of fun in this. He told the band to remind him that there was an instrumental part in there some where.
20 Kitty's Back
All the horn players did solos.
21. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
22. Raise Your Hand
Show ended at 11:14 p.m.
Bruce also jumped up on Roy Bittan's piano several times and did some dancing up there.
Bruce didn't talk between songs, he just right into one song after another.
New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine was sitting in the front row, just off center. He left during the start of the encores.
Great show, great night. One of my top Bruce Springsteen shows of all time.
To see Bruce in a 1,500-seat theater at this stage of his career is phenomenal.
A very special night.
A trip down Memory Lane for Springsteen, E Street Band
By Kelly-Jane Cotter
Asbury Park Press
May 8, 2008
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band so thoroughly rocked Count Basie Theatre Wednesday night that it seemed as if the noble old venue might crumble.
The set list was a music geek's dream as Springsteen brought to life his classic 1978 album "Darkness On The Edge of Town" in sequence, track by track.
Springsteen said he had been looking at photos from the band's six-night engagement at the Red Bank theater in 1976 when it was known as the Monmouth Arts Center. He was then inspired to do "something different for this show."
The concert, the brainchild of E Street Band guitarist and Springsteen's wife, Patti Scialfa, was a benefit show for the Red Bank landmark. Scialfa is honorary chairwoman of the theater's capital campaign.
Fans paid at least $1,000 per ticket in an online auction. Proceeds from ticket sales and other donations raised $3 million for renovations to the theater and other programs.
A donation also paid for 37 wounded veterans to be bused to the concert from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. The veterans received a standing ovation almost as lengthy as the one given the band.
The musicians put their hearts into every song, leading to many memorable moments, such as guitarist Nils Lofgren spinning in circles while playing "Prove It All Night."
Roy Bittan's elegant work on the piano also stood out, especially during "Racing In The Street" and "The Promised Land," as did drummer Max Weinberg's tension-filled opening on "Candy's Room."
Members of the Max Weinberg 7 provided brass instrumentation.
The evening also was historic because it was the band's first local performance since the April death of keyboardist Danny Federici.
The band currently is touring to promote the "Magic" album.
Patti Scialfa talks about her fondness for the the Count Basie Theatre before Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band play a benefit concert for the renovation of the Count Basie Theatre Wednesday, May 7, 2008 in Red Bank, N.J.
(AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Corzine in audience
After an uncharacteristic 10-minute intermission, the band returned and played every track on its 1975 album "Born To Run," the crowd favorite "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)," and more.
That must have pleased Gov. Corzine, who attended the show.
"This is rock 'n' roll history at its best, right here" Corzine said before the concert.
He added, "I tend to like the earlier stuff, though the Sept. 11 album — "The Rising" — really affected me, too."
Also in attendance was NBC News anchor and Middletown native Brian Williams, who introduced the band and reminisced on stage about growing up in the days of the Red Bank mini-mall and "when Jack's sold more rolling papers than records."
The set for the first half of the show was "Badlands," "Adam Raised A Cain," "Something In The Night," "Candy's Room," "Racing In The Street," "The Promised Land," "Factory," "Streets Of Fire," "Prove It All Night" and "Darkness On The Edge Of Town."
The set for the second half was "Thunder Road," "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out," "Night," "Backstreets," "Born To Run," "She's The One," "Meeting Across The River," "Jungleland" "So Young And In Love," "Kitty's Back," "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" and "Raise Your Hand."
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Willful Blindness: Prosecuting the War on Terror
Review of: Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad
By LAURIE MYLROIE
New York Sun
April 23, 2008
Andrew McCarthy prosecuted the blind Egyptian cleric, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, head of Egypt's "Islamic Group," in the wake of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. "Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad" (Encounter, 250 pages, $25.95) engagingly recounts that experience, for Mr. McCarthy is a good writer. He was also a sharp, aggressive prosecutor, and his book authoritatively makes several important points, correcting misunderstandings about the case and highlighting issues that have received insufficient attention.
To begin with, Al Qaeda was not, as many believe, involved in the February 1993 bombing, Mr. McCarthy reminds us, nor the subsequent "Landmarks Plot," which targeted the United Nations, New York's Federal Building, and two tunnels. Established in 1988, Al Qaeda was only in its infancy in 1993.
"Willful Blindness" presents a valuable portrait of the Islamic extremists in New York, although Mr. McCarthy does not make enough of his material, as he does not emphasize sufficiently the degree to which the extremists were penetrated by the intelligence agencies of several states that operated among them and used them for their own purposes.
Egypt had a spy within Sheik Omar's entourage — Abdo Haggag, a sympathetic neighbor who turned against Sheik Omar, and who came to see Sheik Omar as "a conniver" and "hypocrite," petitioning for asylum in America even as he railed against it. (The sheik was also a womanizer, and Mr. Haggag resolved to expose him for it.) Mr. Haggag began reporting to Egypt's U.N. mission, but American authorities did not know that initially, arresting and indicting him along with the others. The FBI had its own plant among the extremists — another Egyptian, Emad Salem — who also had ties to Egyptian intelligence. Mr. Salem's work after the Trade Center bombing — gathering intelligence and acting as agent provocateur — led to the Landmarks Plot, planned in conjunction with two Sudanese intelligence agents.
Such complexity is often lost in a trial, whose focus, typically, is very narrow. As Mr. McCarthy explains, "The legal system's job is not to produce the definitive version of history," but "a judgment about the provenance of facts the government chooses to put in dispute" to convict the accused. Whether the accused "may have been abetted by a rogue nation" is secondary, if not irrelevant, to a prosecutor's job. And this blind spot is the great weakness of Mr. McCarthy's work.
In April 1993, Siddig Ali, a Sudanese émigré, told Mr. Salem he wanted to bomb two armories. "Seeing he had a live one," the FBI's Salem "egged him on." Soon afterward, Ali said he wanted to bomb the United Nations instead, because "he had contacts in the Sudanese government mission who would help them obtain the credentials necessary to drive a vehicle laden with explosives into the complex." The Sudanese agents introduced Ali to a Palestinian, Mohammed Saleh, with whom they also had close ties. Saleh owned a gas station in Yonkers and agreed to provide fuel for the bombs. The trial transcript also shows one agent discussing with Ali a target for possible attack, with Ali taking direction from the Sudanese official.
"Willful Blindness" misrepresents a crucial exchange touching on just this point, leaving out key parts, although the entire discussion exists in court records. (The book regularly cites court records without providing references, diminishing its authority and usefulness.)
The transcript strongly suggests that Sudanese intelligence was far more involved in the Landmarks Plot than Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who was presented by the prosecution as the central figure. In late May, Mr. Salem met privately with Sheik Omar, who suggested forcefully that Mr. Salem discard plans to attack the United Nations and focus instead on the American military. Mr. McCarthy describes Sheik Omar as "slick" and ambiguous in this exchange, suggesting that he did not rule out the possibility of targeting the U.N., and fails to report a subsequent exchange, captured on the same surveillance tape: As they drove home from Sheik Omar's apartment, Salem related the sheik's response to Ali, who understood clearly that the U.N. plan had been rejected, telling Mr. Salem, "No, I'm not going to do it." Yet before the ride ended, Ali had decided to go forward anyhow, because, he said, "I have all the people in place from the embassy."
Despite the central involvement of Sudanese agents in the Landmarks Plot, they were not indicted. The reason, Mr. McCarthy once explained to me, was that Sudan would not lift their immunity. Yet federal prosecutors indicted Panama's ruler during the Reagan administration, and Bush 41 brought him to trial. But the Clinton administration would not likely have agreed to indict the agents and demand the Sudanese government produce them for trial; focusing attention on a hostile state would have risked stirring a public outcry for more serious action.
Sheik Omar is a loathsome figure, but the case against him was weak. The FBI opposed indicting him and wanted to deport him. Mr. McCarthy devised a clever strategy in which several crimes were linked together in a conspiracy ostensibly carried out by the "Jihad Organization" of which Sheik Omar was said to be the leader, and which included the Trade Center bombing and the Landmarks Plot. This allowed the prosecution to suggest to the jury that some defendants were involved in the Trade Center bombing without really making that claim. Consequently, many people think Sheik Omar was involved in that attack. Yet as Judge Michael Mukasey, now Attorney General, affirmed of Sheik Omar and his co-defendants: "[T]hey're not charged with committing the World Trade Center bombing."
Mr. McCarthy unwittingly illustrates how President Clinton's policy of treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue caused it to be understood as one: If Mr. McCarthy had indicted the Sudanese intelligence agents, Americans would have understood Sudan's role in the Landmarks Plot, and Sheik Omar would not occupy such a central role in our collective consciousness. Perhaps we would also understand that the government has never really explained what party was behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. And, finally, we might have better understood the nature and scope of the terrorist threat, including the real possibility that it did not change with that bombing, as the Clinton administration claimed, but remained just what we had known it to be — state-supported violence. The misunderstanding left America vulnerable on September 11, 2001, and may yet leave this country vulnerable to another major assault.
Ms. Mylroie is an American Enterprise Institute adjunct fellow and author of "Study of Revenge: The First World Trade Center Attack and Saddam Hussein's War Against America."
April 30, 2008, 6:00 a.m.
Still Willfully Blind After All These Years
Laurie Mylroie pretends to review Willful Blindness.
By Andrew C. McCarthy
I hate to seem ungracious, especially when a reviewer has had at least a few nice things to say about me and my new book, Willful Blindness — A Memoir of the Jihad. But I must confess to disappointment that the New York Sun, one of the best newspapers around, decided Laurie Mylroie would be a good choice to do the review.
BASIT’S NOT BASIT
Sometime in 1993 or 1994, a briefing at the Manhattan district attorney’s office was arranged for me and a few other federal prosecutors involved in the World Trade Center bombing cases. The briefer was Mylroie, then (if memory serves) a professor at Harvard, where she’d earned her doctorate in government. She was spouting a theory that the attack had been the work of Saddam Hussein and that we ignoramuses were completely missing the boat by charging Islamic terrorists, notwithstanding the overwhelming evidence that they had carried out the atrocity.
Mylroie’s theory was loopy. Indeed, for commentators (like Steve Hayes, Tom Joscelyn, and I) who have argued that there were, in fact, important ties between Iraq and radical Islam, Mylroie has been a thorn in the side for years — the analyst whose zany assertions are routinely used to discredit credible evidence of cooperation. Most notoriously, Mylroie has contended that Abdul Basit, the WTC bombing mastermind better known by his alias, Ramzi Yousef, is not really Abdul Basit. Instead, according to Mylroie, he is a shady Iraqi spy who was given the identity of Basit when the Iraqis invaded Kuwait and stole the identities of the “real” Basit family. In my book, I briefly discuss and dismiss Mylroie’s theory (at pp. 183-84 & 341-42, ch.14, n.3). Leaving aside various other implausibilities in her surmise, the government had several sources who knew Basit as Basit both before and after the time he spent in Kuwait.
Notwithstanding that at least 14 years have elapsed, I also well remember the Mylroie briefing because it was so shoddy. She contended our case against the jihadists was weak and ill-conceived, but her presentation actually had little to do with our proof that indicted defendants carried out terrorist acts. Rather, it focused on inferences she had drawn — some interesting, some daft, and none prosecution-worthy — that the conspirators were being guided by Iraqi intelligence. It was the work of a myopic academic who did not comprehend the difference between intrigue and evidence, between history and prosecution. On my questioning, she confessed that she had never read, and was otherwise unfamiliar with, the seditious conspiracy statute the defendants were charged with violating. I asked her how a student in one of her classes would fare if it turned out he hadn’t read the law used to indict a case he was attacking as unfounded. She mumbled something about planning to get to the statute soon.
Of course, even assuming for argument’s sake that Saddam had choreographed the whole 1993 bombing operation, the government’s charging of some people with a crime does not discount the possibility that others — including even state sponsors of terror — are also complicit. Mylroie seemed unable to grasp this simple concept. In a jury trial, you naturally train your sights on the defendants you have charged, placed under arrest, and brought into the courtroom. You get into uncharged conspirators only to the extent it is necessary for the jury to understand the case against those standing trial. That co-conspirators have not been charged — whether because they have diplomatic immunity, or are fugitives, or are outside the country and beyond government’s ability to apprehend, or are actors as to whom the government has not yet developed proof beyond a reasonable doubt, or any of a thousand other reasons — does not mean that they are innocent, much less that the people who actually have been charged are not guilty.
In any event, although it was not particularly complex, Mylroie didn’t understand the law or the evidence back then. Her review demonstrates that things haven’t improved.
THE “WEAK” CASE AGAINST THE EMIR OF JIHAD
Mylroie has long been on a mission to trash the case against Omar Abdel Rahman, the Blind Sheikh known to his acolytes as the “emir of jihad.” Perhaps this is because she remains studiously uninformed about the jihadist threat. Perhaps it owes to the incorrigible delusion under which she labors, namely, that if the Blind Sheikh is guilty that somehow must mean the state sponsors she prefers to blame are off the hook. In either event, she asserts in the Sun that “Sheik Omar is a loathsome figure, but the case against him was weak.” He was convicted, she elaborates, only because I devised a “clever strategy” to link several terrorist plots together in what she refers to as “a conspiracy ostensibly carried out by the Jihad Organization of which Sheik Omar was said to be the leader.”
Plainly, even all these years later, Mylroie still hasn’t gotten around to reading the relevant statutes. And while I’d love to take credit for being extraordinarily clever, the truth is that the case against Abdel Rahman was overwhelming.
We did not charge the Blind Sheikh with just “a conspiracy.” We charged him with Congress’s seditious conspiracy statute (Section 2384 of Title 18, U.S. Code) — a Civil War-era law which targets those who confederate to levy war against the United States or use force against our government. Among other offenses, we also alleged that he’d solicited an attack on the American military. The proof, in part comprised of a wealth of Abdel Rahman’s recorded statements, included his brazen instruction to a government informant to develop a plan to bomb U.S. military installations. Far from weak, it was irrefutable.
The Blind Sheikh, moreover, was also convicted of both conspiring to murder, and soliciting the murder of, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. So insurmountable was the proof on these charges that Lynne Stewart, Abdel Rahman’s chief counsel, was reduced to arguing for jury nullification — i.e., conceding that the Sheikh wanted Mubarak removed “by any means necessary” but urging that the president had it coming. Nullification is always a desperation strategy, resorted to when there is no room for doubt. That Stewart was reduced to it was no surprise to anyone who actually followed the case: quite apart from the witnesses who had heard him call for Mubarak’s death, Abdel Rahman was on tape bragging about having issued the fatwa approving the murder of Mubarak’s predecessor, Anwar Sadat, and opining that Mubarak was worse and more deserving of the same fate.
“NOT INVOLVED” IN THE WORLD TRADE CENTER BOMBING
Mylroie also reprises her ignorant, oft-repeated claim that the Blind Sheikh was not involved in the World Trade Center bombing. To the contrary, the evidence showed that Abdel Rahman, emir of the Islamic Group, a vicious Egyptian terror organization, was the formative figure in the jihadist organization that emerged in the New York metropolitan area in the late 1980s. Conspirators like Sayyid Nosair (the murderer of JDL founder Meir Kahane) and Mahmud Abouhalima (a WTC bomber) reported directly to him even before he relocated to the U.S. in 1990. Nosair and Siddig Ali (supervisor of the organization’s Sudanese cell) both told a government informant that bombing attacks could not go forward unless he approved them.
Abdel Rahman called for attacks against the United States (“the head of the snake”) from the time he got here. The conspirators began plotting a major bombing campaign in 1992 (after Nosair received a lengthy sentence for firearms and other offenses despite being acquitted by a state jury of the Kahane murder). At a 1992 meeting in Attica Prison, Nosair emphasized to plotters (including a government informant) that a fatwa from the Blind Sheikh was required before any bombings could proceed. After the informant left the investigation in summer 1992, bomb-builder Ramzi Yousef arrived from Pakistan and settled in Jersey City with Mohammed Salameh (a follower of the Blind Sheikh and an intimate of Abouhalima, Nosair and Nosair’s cousin, Ibrahim El-Gabrowny). In the months before the bombing, telephone records showed constant contacts between and among the residences of Yousef/Salameh (where the bomb was being built), Abouhalima, El-Gabrowny, and Abdel Rahman. Salameh and Abouhalima took days off shortly before the bombing to make the day-long trip to meet with Nosair up in Attica (meetings that were arranged by El-Gabrowny, who had previously told the government informant that the organization was looking for “high-power explosives”).
Shortly before the bombing, the Blind Sheikh gave a major speech in Brooklyn, commanding his underlings to “perform jihad for the sake of Allah,” and not to shun the label “terrorist” because “we must be terrorists and we must terrorize the enemies of Islam and frighten them, and disturb them, and shake the earth under their feet.” The bomb was detonated from within a Ryder van Salameh had rented a few days before. After the bombing, though Salameh and El-Gabrowny were quickly arrested, others fled the country, including Abouhalima. He, however, was captured in Egypt because the Blind Sheikh’s circle had been penetrated by Abdo Haggag, an informant for Egyptian intelligence. The Blind Sheikh spent the ensuing months conducting an aggressive investigation to determine who had betrayed Abouhalima.
In the teeth of this evidence (all and more of which is laid out in detail in Willful Blindness, though Mylroie opts not to discuss it in her review), Mylroie offers a peremptory wave, “[A]s Judge Michael Mukasey, now Attorney General, affirmed of Sheik Omar and his co-defendants: ‘[T]hey’re not charged with committing the World Trade Center bombing.’” This thoroughly distorts a larger legal discussion Mylroie mulishly refuses to hear, no matter how many times it is explained to her. The defendants in the Blind Sheikh case — half of whom truly had no participation in the WTC plot — were not charged with the substantive crime of bombing the World Trade Center. They were instead charged, as relevant here, with (a) seditious conspiracy to levy war against the United States, and (b) conspiring from the late 1980s through June 1993 to conduct bombing attacks. In both of those counts, the World Trade Center bombing was alleged as an overt act in furtherance of each conspiracy.
To be sure, a defendant can be guilty of a conspiracy without being guilty of all the overt acts committed during the conspiracy. His degree of culpability is assessed at sentencing. Under the guidelines that were in effect at the time, then-Judge Mukasey had to determine whether the defendants convicted of the conspiracies had been complicit in the WTC bombing (it made a significant difference in the sentences imposed).
Contrary to Mylroie’s claim, Judge Mukasey made exacting findings at sentencing that Abdel Rahman (like several but not all of his co-defendants) was deeply involved in the WTC attack. Furthermore, in upholding the Blind Sheik’s conviction and life sentence, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recounted that Judge Mukasey had “ruled that the reduction [of sentence] would be denied to those defendants whom he concluded were involved with completed [overt] acts, notably the World Trade Center bombing ([Abdel] Rahman, Nosair, Hampton-El, and El-Gabrowny)[.]” United States v. Abdel Rahman, 189 F.3d 88, 143 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 982 (1999) (emphasis added); see also id. at 170 (“The evidence established that each defendant joined either the plot that resulted in the bombing of the World Trade Center or the plot to bomb major New York City tunnels and bridges, or both plots”) (emphasis added).
One might have thought reviewing a book that extensively recounts these details might have induced Mylroie to engage them. I guess it is to be expected, though, that if she won’t look at the dots, she can’t connect them. Thus, regarding the “Landmarks Plot” — a spring 1993 plan for simultaneous attacks on the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels and the U.N. complex — Mylroie continues to belittle the evidence against Abdel Rahman as equivocal and to complain that he was “presented as the central figure.” The prime mover, she maintains, was really the Sudanese regime, a fact she accuses me of intentionally obscuring by emphasizing Abdel Rahman’s role.
HOW I COVERED FOR SUDAN
Preposterous does not begin to describe how off base Mylroie is. To begin with, the Blind Sheik was presented as the central figure of the overall jihad organization that formed in the New York metropolitan area in the late 1980s. We did not portray him as the central figure in every plot — that was not his role (any more than the aloof, insulated mafia boss micromanages every button-man’s day-to-day). There was considerable evidence that terrorist attacks could not go forward without Abdel Rahman’s blessing. (And indeed, Osama bin Laden has since publicly credited him with issuing the fatwa that approved the 9/11 attacks.) Yet, the proof also showed that his underlings took pains to keep him above operational details, and that — except where Mubarak was concerned — Sheikh Omar carefully limited his conversations about specific plots, adopting a Delphic style with those he suspected of being informants. Abdel Rahman was the central figure in the overarching conspiracy to wage war against the U.S.; it was for him to flash the red or green light for large-scale initiatives; but he did not command jihadists in the field, and I’ve never suggested otherwise.
Nevertheless, even sillier than Mylroie’s recitation of the case against Sheikh Omar is her assessment of my role in what she fictionally portrays as the American government’s concealment of Sudan’s participation in the planned attack on the United Nations.
In 1993, our prosecution team disclosed tape-recordings which proved that Siddig Ali, a top Abdel Rahman aide and the Sudanese mastermind of the Landmarks plot, had received key assistance from Sudanese government officials. Specifically, two diplomats at Sudan’s U.N. mission in New York, Consul Siraj al-Din and Deputy Consul Ahmed Yousef, agreed to provide, among other things, the diplomatic plates that would enable Siddig to drive a bomb-laden car onto the U.N. complex. Just prior to the 1995 trial, I sent a letter to all defense counsel identifying the two diplomats and the Sudanese mission itself as potential unindicted co-conspirators.
At trial, we proved that Sheikh Abdel Rahman had close ties to Hassan al-Turabi, leader in the early 1990s of Sudan’s de facto government, the National Islamic Front; that under Turabi’s influence, Sudanese jihadists were permitted to emigrate to America; that Siddig Ali was one of these, and coordinated his activities with both the Blind Sheikh and Sudanese officials; that Siddig used his Sudanese government contacts to facilitate the flight of 1993 World Trade Center bomber Mahmud Abouhalima; that when Siddig plotted in early 1993 to murder Mubarak, he obtained information about the Egyptian president’s itinerary from his Sudanese diplomatic connections; that Siddig coordinated closely with diplomats al-Din and Yousef on both the U.N. bombing plot and arrangements for his escape therefrom; and that when the conspirators needed help with financing and fuel for bomb construction, they turned to Mohammed Saleh, a Hamas associate whom Siddig knew through his Turabi connections.
I have spoken with Laurie Mylroie one time since the briefing she gave me in 1994. She called me out of the blue about three years ago. It had been over a decade since our testy exchange, and we had a long — at times amicable, at times difficult — conversation. She now reports that I told her al-Din and Yousef were not indicted because “Sudan would not lift their immunity.” I doubt I said it the way she seems to remember it. I am quite confident there is no way Sudan’s jihadist regime would have waived sovereign immunity if it had been asked to do so, and I would not have been shy about telling Mylroie that. But I don’t know if anyone in the U.S. government ever went through the motions of asking Sudan that question. I don’t recall ever hearing that that was done, and the decision whether to try would have been made by President Clinton and Secretary of State Christopher in Washington, not by a line prosecutor in New York.
To me, however, this is all beside the point. As I explained to Mylroie (though she does not mention it in her review), the Clinton State Department publicly and quite appropriately expelled al-Din and Yousef because of their complicity in the bombing plot. Moreover, contrary to Mylroie’s bloviating, a futile indictment of the two Sudanese diplomats would not have made a bit of difference to the public’s understanding of Sudan’s role. Whether or not al-Din and Yousef were in the courtroom as defendants, we would have presented the case exactly the same way: The evidence against Siddig Ali, his Sudanese cell members, and Mohammed Saleh — all of whom were defendants on trial — was such that the case could not have been proved without showing the Sudanese regime’s participation.
In Willful Blindness, I not only describe the Sudanese treachery against the U.S. at great length; I trace the working relationship between Abdel Rahman and Turabi back to the 1980s. Moreover, ten years ago, I wrote a lengthy, feature essay for the Weekly Standard entitled, “The Sudan Connection — The Missing Link in U.S. Terrorism Policy.” That essay (which is cited and drawn on in Willful Blindness) laid out in gory detail the Sudanese complicity in the Landmarks plot; argued that Sudan’s anti-American terrorism justified President Clinton’s decision, after the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in east Africa, to order a cruise-missile strike against a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum (believed to be a joint Iraq/Sudan/al-Qaeda weapons venture); and criticized the Clinton administration for appearing to apologize for the strike rather than recounting the rich record of Sudanese complicity in jihadist terror that had been established beyond peradventure in the Blind Sheikh trial.
A central theme of my book is the incapacity of the criminal-justice system to deal adequately with a national security threat. Another is that, while the threat that confronts us is fueled by a strain of Islamic ideology, terror networks would not be able to project power on a consequential scale absent facilitation by such rogue nations as Iran, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and Sudan.
Reading Laurie Mylroie’s review, a reader would come away figuring I must have argued, in contravention of what Willful Blindness actually says, that international terrorism is merely a crime and state sponsorship a trifle. Under the guise of reviewing a book, Mylroie ignores the book, using the opportunity instead to reprise her half-baked theories and cavalier dismissal of Islamic radicalism. It’s a shame the Sun let her do it.
May 06, 2008, 4:00 a.m.
A response to Andy McCarthy.
By Laurie Mylroiehttp://www.nationalreview.com/
1) McCarthy’s NRO piece introduces matters not in my review and misrepresents them. In the mid-1990s, I approached the Manhattan district attorney’s office, because I believed the federal government was gravely mishandling terrorism by treating it almost exclusively as a law enforcement issue. McCarthy, an unexpected guest at that meeting and one whose contribution then consisted mostly of shouting at me, errs on the date of my briefing there. It was not 1993 or 1994, but January 13, 1995 (as noted in my book on the subject, Study of Revenge, p. 277). The trial of Sheikh Omar had just begun, with jury selection underway.
In a mixed review of Andrew McCarthy’s Willful Blindness, I criticized the book for slighting the role of states in terrorism. McCarthy’s outsize response — a 3,000-word pejorative/adjective-laden assault in National Review Online — suggests the review hit upon a significant and sensitive point. Extensive name-calling typically obscures a weak argument, or at least attempts to do so, even as this debate involves the national-security issue of the day, including why the United States is engaged in its most serious military campaign in three decades and whether the decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime was correct. Few questions merit more careful consideration.
I had not expected to brief the federal prosecutors, but at the last moment, the Manhattan DA’s office decided not to take up the issue, but leave terrorism to the federal government (a policy reversed after 9/11.) My main point was that treating terrorism on the scale of the two very large and ambitious plots that had occurred in New York in 1993 as a law enforcement matter was so grossly inadequate, it would only invite more attacks.
Of course, that has now become conventional wisdom, embraced by McCarthy among many others. The essential points of that briefing were published as the lead article in The National Interest (Winter 1995/96) with Vincent Cannistraro (chief of counterrorism operations for the CIA) hailing it as “one of the most brilliant pieces of research and scholarship in the area that I have ever read.” Eric Breindel, in a New York Post editorial, endorsed the “important article” and its critique of the dangerous inadequacies of Bill Clinton’s law-enforcement approach to terrorism. And The Washington Monthly highlighted it with a “Journalism Award.”
With support like that, my briefing can scarcely be dismissed as “loopy.” Indeed, if that were so, why would McCarthy sit for nearly two hours, listening to me, particularly with his trial of Sheikh Omar in progress?2) The suggestion that Iraq was behind the February 26, 1993, bombing of the World Trade Center is supported by New York law enforcement. Indeed, New York FBI, the lead investigative agency, suspected the attack was a false flag operation carried out by Iraq. That was reflected in the contemporary reporting, including in the New York Times. That is also why, in 1994, when ABC News and Newsweek did a joint investigation into the WTC bombing, for which I was consultant, we focused on Iraq.
Jim Fox headed New York FBI and the WTC bombing investigation. As Fox wrote of Study of Revenge: “This work is the most comprehensive and best researched review of the bombing investigation. . . . I found it to be extremely accurate, and although we are unable to say with certainty the Iraqis were behind the bombing, that is certainly the theory accepted by most of the veteran investigators.”Gil Childers, the lead prosecutor in the WTC bombing trial (Mohammed Salameh, et al), was considered to be the U.S. official who knew the most about that bombing, and he also attended my briefing. Childers’s response was quite different from McCarthy’s. Childers later spoke at the book launch for Study of Revenge and described it as “work the U.S. government should have done.”
3) The case against Sheikh Omar was weak — as McCarthy himself states in Willful Blindness, “It would be a challenge to find charges that would both fit our evidence and overcome inevitable First Amendment protests against the purported stifling of religious conviction and political dissent.”So different acts of violence, including the WTC bombing, were somewhat artificially linked to make the charges against Shaykh Omar strong. Consequently, most Americans, including even U.S. officials, believe Sheikh Omar was behind the WTC bombing — which is also the impression that Willful Blindness gives.
Yet as McCarthy states in his NRO piece, his defendants “were not charged with the substantive crime of bombing the World Trade Center.” That is precisely my point — not something that I “mulishly [refuse] to hear,” as McCarthy perversely claims.4) Once that is understood — Sheikh Omar et al. were not substantively involved in the WTC bombing — we can ask the question: Who was?
The WTC bombing is of particular importance for explaining why we are fighting in Iraq. Of all the major terrorist attacks since the 1991 Gulf War in which suspicion might fall on Iraq, it is easiest to make a case for Iraq’s involvement in the WTC bombing. It was the first, and the cover was thin.By August 1993, U.S. authorities had arrested four Islamic militants for the WTC bombing. In addition, there were two indicted fugitives — both with ties to Iraq. It is a bit odd that we did not widely suspect Saddam’s hand then. The basic problem was that the Clinton White House did not want to hear Iraq was behind the attack, because it would be obliged to address the problem in a serious fashion (that became evident to me over the course of several meetings with Martin Indyk, Clinton’s NSC adviser on the Middle East, whom I knew well, as he had brought me out of academics to work at the Washington think tank he headed, before he joined the Clinton administration.)
By June 2002, U.S. authorities had identified the mastermind of the 9/11 assaults, describing him as the uncle of the WTC bombing mastermind, and both men were involved in a 1995 plot to bomb a dozen U.S. airliners. As CIA Director George Tenet told the U.S. Congress: “We now believe that a common thread runs between the first attack on the World Trade Center in February 1993 and the 11 September attacks,” explaining that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind, is the uncle of Ramzi Yousef, who masterminded the WTC bombing.Thus, if one can demonstrate Iraq was behind the 1993 bombing, one has also demonstrated it was behind the airline bombing plot. Most importantly, one has gone far in suggesting why a reasonable person might also think Iraq was behind the 9/11 attacks — and why the Iraq war is a necessary part of the GWOT.
5) A question of very broad strategic significance also looms: To what extent are the networks of Islamic militants penetrated and sometimes supported by states that use the militants for their own purposes? Despite all the injunctions against group-think issued after 9/11, McCarthy, et. al. want to impose just such a stifling consensus and silence the dissenting voices that may exist, like mine.The Reagan years saw a fierce fight over a closely related issue. The view that prevailed was promoted by figures like CIA Director Bill Casey and journalist Claire Sterling: Major terrorist attacks, particularly against the United States, are basically state-sponsored. That remained the consensual perspective through Bush 41. Are we really sure that this changed so radically a mere month into Clinton’s first term in office?
Considerable evidence exists to support the notion that Islamic networks are thoroughly penetrated by states, including evidence presented in Willful Blindness, highlighted in my review. Yet we are not allowed to consider this point and its implications, even as it, quite arguably, represents a dangerous strategic vulnerability: any enemy state that infiltrates the networks of Islamic militants can attack the United States with impunity, as long as that state takes sufficient measures to hide its hand from our incurious eyes.— Laurie Mylroie is an adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Study of Revenge: The First World Trade Center Attack and Saddam Hussein’s War Against America.