Saturday, November 29, 2008
From the Los Angeles Times
November 27, 2008
John Landgraff, FX cable network president, poses with actor Michael Chiklis as they arrive for the finale screening of the network's drama television series "The Shield" in Hollywood, California November 25, 2008.
REUTERS/Fred Prouser (UNITED STATES)
Michael Chiklis always knew the end of FX's "The Shield," which revolves around his portrayal of a corrupt renegade cop, would come. But how it would end constantly weighed on him.
Would his Vic Mackey get his comeuppance? Would he pay a price for his evil deeds, including murdering a fellow detective in cold blood, or would he get away? Would he live? Die?
With Tuesday's airing of the series finale of "The Shield," in which Mackey, his ruptured strike team and their campaign of brutality and murder finally hit the end of the line, Chiklis and devotees of the drama finally have their answer. And the actor who played Mackey with a pit bull's ferocity couldn't be more pleased with the final act.
"I had many thoughts about where Mackey might end up," Chiklis said as he enjoyed a bacon-and-eggs breakfast a few days before the conclusion of "The Shield" aired. "None of them matched up perfectly with what finally happened. But Shawn [Ryan, the show's creator] and I have been on the same page through all of this. Specifics aside, my general notion of what would happen is what happened."
Now that the series has run its course, Chiklis, who scored an Emmy for outstanding lead actor in a drama after the show's first season, is dealing with life post-"Shield."
He is currently filming a "stoner" comedy back east. His character, the dean of a high school, "is about as far from Mackey as I can get," he said, fingering the rust-colored mustache he's grown for the part. "It's just silly and fun."
But while Chiklis has said his formal goodbyes to "The Shield," it's clear that he hasn't yet loosened his grip on the series, its significance both personal and professional, and the joy and pain of playing the antihero role that redefined his career.
"How many times in an actor's career does a role like Vic Mackey come along where you have to live with it for years?" said Chiklis, who went from playing a sitcom dad in "Daddio" and a puffy official in "The Commish" to the muscular, tightly wound Mackey. He continually marveled at the complexity of the character and his twisted sense of right and wrong: "It was almost symphonic. Vic has this tremendous conscience at the same time he has these sociopathic tendencies."
At the end, Chiklis is most proud that he, Ryan and the other creative forces behind "The Shield" were able to fulfill the mission that they mapped out when it launched in 2002. "From the very beginning, it was never about creating a great pilot or a great series," he said. "It was about putting on a series that never fell below the bar, from the beginning to the end. And I believe we've done that."
Even critics and longtime fans of "The Shield" who have praised Chiklis' performance throughout the show's seven seasons say the actor surpassed himself in the last two episodes, when Mackey finally confronted the dark abyss of his soul and faced the tragic consequences of his brutality on himself and his beloved family.
Many point to last week's dynamic, poignant scene in which Mackey, sitting in a stark room, confessed all of his sins to a federal law enforcement officer in an effort to gain full immunity and save his wife (Cathy Cahlin Ryan), who had been caught up in a police sting operation. Chiklis' Vic was silent for nearly a minute, his face a multilayered mask of darkness as he struggled to finally give voice to his inner demons.
Filming that scene, he recalled, was tense. "The air was very thick in the room that day," he said.
About Chiklis' performance through the years, and how it led to that confessional scene, Ryan said: "Michael has been the Clydesdale that has pulled this show's wagon. The amazing thing is his range. The fact that he would be in all these 86 episodes, and show all these different sides of Mackey, and then show a new side of the character -- three or four different things we haven't seen before -- is astounding. And he did so much just with his eyes."
The last two episodes, Chiklis said, rank as his favorites of the series: "They are the quintessential 'Shield' episodes."
Chiklis became more animated as he reflected on the experience of "The Shield." He heaped affectionate praise on the work of all the cast and crew members: "We all became this incredible family, and their work was just extraordinary." He credited Scott Brazil, one of the show's executive producers and directors, who died in 2006 of complications due to ALS, for hiring personnel who put ego aside in the interest of creating the best possible show.
In some ways, Chiklis is relieved to be done with Mackey. "By nature, that character is so relentless and so unflinching. I'm a happy guy, and I always had to go to these consistently dark, dark places. Sometimes I just didn't want to go."
But leaving Mackey behind doesn't mean he has closed the door on the detective. Chiklis smiled when asked about a possible "Shield" movie.
" 'The Shield' is over, it's done," he said. "As for Vic Mackey . . ." The actor threw his head back and chuckled. "I'll just leave it at that."
Braxton is a Times staff writer.
By Mark Steyn
National Review Online
November 29, 2008, 9:00 a.m.
An Indian soldier holds positions outside the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai. Indian commandos have killed the last remaining gunmen in Mumbai's Taj hotel to end a devastating attack by Islamic militants on India's financial capital that left 195 dead, including 26 foreigners.
When terrorists attack, media analysts go into Sherlock Holmes mode, metaphorically prowling the crime scene for footprints, as if the way to solve the mystery is to add up all the clues. The Bombay gunmen seized British and American tourists. Therefore, it must be an attack on Westerners!
Not so, said Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria. If they’d wanted to do that, they’d have hit the Hilton or the Marriott or some other target-rich chain hotel. The Taj and the Oberoi are both Indian owned, and popular watering holes with wealthy Indians.
Okay, how about this group that’s claimed credit for the attack? The Deccan Mujahideen. As a thousand TV anchors asked on Wednesday night, “What do we know about them?”
Er, well, nothing. Because they didn’t exist until they issued the press release. “Deccan” is the name of the vast plateau that covers most of the triangular peninsula that forms the lower half of the Indian sub-continent. It comes from the Prakrit word “dakkhin, which means “south.” Which means nothing at all. “Deccan Mujahideen” is like calling yourself the “Continental Shelf Liberation Front.”
Okay. So does that mean this operation was linked to al-Qaeda? Well, no. Not if by “linked to” you mean a wholly owned subsidiary coordinating its activities with the corporate head office.
It’s not an either/or scenario, it’s all of the above. Yes, the terrorists targeted locally owned hotels. But they singled out Britons and Americans as hostages. Yes, they attacked prestige city landmarks like the Victoria Terminus, one of the most splendid and historic railway stations in the world. But they also attacked an obscure Jewish community center. The Islamic imperialist project is a totalitarian ideology: It is at war with Hindus, Jews, Americans, Britons, everything that is other.
In the ten months before this week’s atrocity, Muslim terrorists killed over 200 people in India and no-one paid much attention. Just business as usual, alas. In Bombay, the perpetrators were cannier. They launched a multiple indiscriminate assault on soft targets, and then in the confusion began singling out A-list prey: Not just wealthy Western tourists, but local orthodox Jews, and municipal law enforcement. They drew prominent officials to selected sites, and then gunned down the head of the antiterrorism squad and two of his most senior lieutenants. They attacked a hospital, the place you’re supposed to take the victims to, thereby destabilizing the city’s emergency-response system.
And, aside from dozens of corpses, they were rewarded with instant, tangible, economic damage to India: the Bombay Stock Exchange was still closed on Friday, and the England cricket team canceled their tour (a shameful act).
What’s relevant about the Mumbai model is that it would work in just about any second-tier city in any democratic state: Seize multiple soft targets and overwhelm the municipal infrastructure to the point where any emergency plan will simply be swamped by the sheer scale of events. Try it in, say, Mayor Nagin’s New Orleans. All you need is the manpower. Given the numbers of gunmen, clearly there was a significant local component. On the other hand, whether or not Pakistan’s deeply sinister ISI had their fingerprints all over it, it would seem unlikely that there was no external involvement. After all, if you look at every jihad front from the London Tube bombings to the Iraqi insurgency, you’ll find local lads and wily outsiders: That’s pretty much a given.
In this Friday, Nov. 28, 2008, file photo, a commando fires at suspected terrorists holed up in a house owned by Israelis in Colaba, Mumbai, India. Teams of gunmen stormed luxury hotels, a popular restaurant, hospitals and a crowded train station in coordinated attacks across India's financial capital,taking Westerners hostage and leaving parts of the city under siege.
(AP Photo/Saurabh Das, File)
But we’re in danger of missing the forest for the trees. The forest is the ideology. It’s the ideology that determines whether you can find enough young hotshot guys in the neighborhood willing to strap on a suicide belt or (rather more promising as a long-term career) at least grab an AK and shoot up a hotel lobby. Or, if active terrorists are a bit thin on the ground, whether you can count at least on some degree of broader support on the ground. You’re sitting in some distant foreign capital but you’re minded to pull off a Bombay-style operation in, say, Amsterdam or Manchester or Toronto. Where would you start? Easy. You know the radical mosques, and the other ideological-front organizations. You’ve already made landfall.
It’s missing the point to get into debates about whether this is the “Deccan Mujahideen” or the ISI or al-Qaeda or Lashkar-e-Taiba. That’s a reductive argument. It could be all or none of them. The ideology has been so successfully seeded around the world that nobody needs a memo from corporate HQ to act: There are so many of these subgroups and individuals that they intersect across the planet in a million different ways. It’s not the Cold War, with a small network of deep sleepers being directly controlled by Moscow. There are no membership cards, only an ideology. That’s what has radicalized hitherto moderate Muslim communities from Indonesia to the Central Asian stans to Yorkshire, and coopted what started out as more or less conventional nationalist struggles in the Caucasus and the Balkans into mere tentacles of the global jihad.
Many of us, including the incoming Obama administration, look at this as a law-enforcement matter. Bombay is a crime scene, so let’s surround the perimeter with yellow police tape, send in the forensics squad, and then wait for the DA to file charges. There was a photograph that appeared in many of the British papers, taken by a Reuters man and captioned by the news agency as follows: “A suspected gunman walks outside the premises of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus or Victoria Terminus railway station.” The photo of the “suspected gunman” showed a man holding a gun. We don’t know much about him — he might be Muslim or Episcopalian, he might be an impoverished uneducated victim of western colonialist economic oppression or a former vice-president of Lehman Bros embarking on an exciting midlife career change — but one thing we ought to be able to say for certain is that a man pointing a gun is not a “suspected gunman” but a gunman. “This kind of silly political correctness infects reporters and news services world-wide,” wrote John Hinderaker of Powerline. “They think they’re being scrupulous — the man hasn’t been convicted of being a gunman yet! — when in fact they’re just being foolish. But the irrational conviction that nothing can be known unless it has been determined by a court and jury isn’t just silly, it’s dangerous.”
Just so. This isn’t law enforcement but an ideological assault — and we’re fighting the symptoms not the cause. Islamic imperialists want an Islamic society, not just in Palestine and Kashmir but in the Netherlands and Britain, too. Their chances of getting it will be determined by the ideology’s advance among the general Muslim population, and the general Muslim population’s demographic advance among everybody else.
So Bush is history, and we have a new president who promises to heal the planet, and yet the jihadists don’t seem to have got the Obama message that there are no enemies, just friends we haven’t yet held talks without preconditions with. This isn’t about repudiating the Bush years, or withdrawing from Iraq, or even liquidating Israel. It’s bigger than that. And if you don’t have a strategy for beating back the ideology, you’ll lose.
Whoops, my apologies. I mean “suspected ideology.”
Friday, November 28, 2008
Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America Without Guns or Bombs.
Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2008. 282 pp.
The irony of Robert Spencer’s new book, Stealth Jihad, is that he will now have to prove to his opponents that they were partly right about Islam. For years, apologists for the Religion of Peace have argued that the correct understanding of jihad need not imply terrorism or violence; it is merely a quest for justice, according to the dictates of Islamic law. Now that Spencer documents in great detail the broader attempt to impose Shari’a on America and the West through non-violent means – in the media, the courts, the workplace, schoolhouses, universities, and the government – another redefinition will be required.
Spencer confronts the unusual terminology on the first page of his book. “For many people,” he writes, the term Stealth Jihad “will be nonsensical.” This is only so to those with little understanding of the tenets and dogmas of Islam – which is most of the American public.
Contrary to post-9/11 spin, Islam does not mean “peace” but submission. Thus, the Koran states conquered People of the Book” (Christians and Jews) must pay an extra tax to “feel themselves subdued” (9:29), a concept repugnant to Western notions of personal conviction and freedom of conscience. Muslims believe the Koran is the literal word of Allah, which demands obeisance from all, even those who reject its authority.
Spencer marshals evidence of Islam’s universal scope from the Koran and the hadiths, from early Islamic jurists and current representatives of American “Muslim civil rights” organizations. Chief in importance is Hasan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, that international fount of stealth and frequently conspicuous jihad, who wrote, “Islam is an all-embracing concept which regulates every aspect of life, adjudicating on every one of its concerns and prescribing for it a solid and rigorous order.” Spencer quotes influential, contemporary Muslim scholars who state Islam is “by its very nature a universal state” that “tolerates the existence of no other state than itself.” Its goal, they declare, is “the establishment of an imperial world state,” realized through “absorption” of the secular West. To this end, the Brotherhood has had a chapter in Paris since 1937…and allies on hundreds of college campuses, funded by taxpayer dollars.
Lest he be accused of seeing jihadists under every burqa, Spencer states the obvious: just as there are varying degrees of fervor among adherents of any religion, “there are innumerable Muslims in this country today who are happy to live in a pluralistic society in which there is no established religion.” Al-Banna acknowledged there are many levels of jihad, including mere “interior spiritual struggle” – which he deemed the lowest level. Waging warfare against the infidel was the highest expression of fidelity. Stealth Jihad documents those who pursue the myriad gradations in between.
The author begins by noting the concerted effort to portray all those who tell the truth about Islam as “Islamophobes,” followed by legal and sometimes physical intimidation. He relates Muslim threats in the wake of the publication of cartoons depicting Muhammad, Geert Wilders’ film Fitna, the thought-crime of Theo van Gogh, and a number of lesser known events. (Conspicuously absent is the case of Pim Fortuyn, the assassinated Dutch politician who addressed the book’s thesis head-on from a socially progressive standpoint in his own book, Against the Islamization of Our Culture.) At other times, leveraging their allies on the multicultural Left, stealth jihadists make use of speech codes and nuisance legal cases. The author’s personal persecution could fill a book-length volume, but Spencer cites merely a smattering of his own experiences, focusing instead on the legal harassment of FrontPage Magazine contributor Rachel Ehrenfeld, NRO’s Mark Steyn, and the late Oriana Fallaci (FrontPage Magazine’s Woman of the Year 2005).
However, one need not be a critical opponent of Shari’a to experience the wrath of al-Banna’s middling moralists. One can merely be a Catholic employee who dares to eat pork in the workplace. Or an employer who refuses special privileges to his Muslim employees to take prayer breaks while their dhimmi co-workers continue laboring away.
…Or the parent of a young child who attends public school. Textbooks teach schoolchildren that, while Crusaders plundered and slashed their way through the Middle East (to reclaim the land the Crescent subjected by the sword), Islam “spread” peacefully, aided by its “tolerance for other religions.” Others force boys and girls to parrot Islamic religious dogmas. His exposé of the Muslim organization tasked with censoring textbooks is an eye-opener. His chapters on public education, university professors (especially John Esposito and the Middle Eastern Studies Association), and the growing industry of Shari’a-compliant finance are worth the price of the book.
None is as chilling as the infiltration of the Department of Homeland Security and the nation’s intelligence community in general.
Spencer lays bare the underground network of Muslim “advocacy” organizations who work in concert to promote their supremacist agenda. Stealth Jihad includes the most comprehensive and irrefutable portrait of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) yet written. (Its partners are organizations Jihad Watch, FrontPage Magazine, and DiscoverTheNetworks.org have been exposing since going into print.)
His coverage reveals another cause for concern: for jihadists, peace and violence are not polar opposites, as they were to Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X; they are two sides of the same jihadist coin, pursued cyclically, or in tandem, to promote the goal of an Islamic-compliant world. As a result, he often finds those involved in non-violent jihad have ties to terrorism, which he also documents.
Spencer, a religious scholar who has lectured the U.S. Central Command and the U.S. intelligence community, is editor of this website’s sister publication, Jihad Watch. In 2006, al-Qaeda offered him an ultimatum: convert to Islam or die. (To date, Spencer remains a faithful part of the Church Militant.) No one is more qualified to comment on the topic, as this well-written, thoroughly documented volume demonstrates. After systematically presenting the theology of Islamic supremacy, he examines each area of influence, proving the drive to bend all Americans to follow Shari’a with one example after another.
Analyzing the problem is one thing; solving it is another. Spencer’s prescriptions on what to do will rankle some and lead to his further character assassination. He is at his best when calling for the government to impose existing laws – and most gets to the point when he calls for a revival of patriotism, the self-assurance necessary to deny Islamic encroachment, white liberal guilt, and multiculturalist recriminations of the greatest nation in the history of the world. He is at his most questionable in calling on the government to “End Muslim immigration into the United States.”
Spencer will be criticized – but not merely for his immigration policy. The same people who denied the Soviet Union’s malicious designs now see no worldwide Islamic threat, neither at home nor abroad, violent nor voluntary. The intellectual heirs of those who defended Alger Hiss now bemoan the martyrdom of Sami al-Arian. Yet it is the irreligious and the “progressive” who should be most concerned about the growing influence – of thought, of action, and of silencing their critics – Islamists exert in secular society. Somehow, publications that have commissioned dozens of articles depicting omnipresent “Christian Dominionists” scheming with every school board in America to teach the Bible as literature maintain an agnostic indifference to Shari’a’s would-be enforcers, content to shoot the messengers. As Spencer proves, they would be better served casting a critical glance at those whose aim is submission, rather than salvation.
Robert Spencer’s Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America Without Guns or Bombs, is available from Amazon.com for $18.45, more than one-third off the cover price.
- Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and co-author, with David Horowitz, of the book Party of Defeat. He is also the author of the book 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving.
Friday, November 28, 2008
November 28, 2008
The End of Advent
By Joseph Bottum
Christmas has devoured Advent, gobbled it up with the turkey giblets and the goblets of seasonal ale. Every secularized holiday, of course, tends to lose the context it had in the liturgical year. Across the nation, even in many churches, Easter has hopped across Lent, Halloween has frightened away All Saints, and New Year’s has drunk up Epiphany.
Still, the disappearance of Advent seems especially disturbing—for it’s injured even the secular Christmas season: opening a hole, from Thanksgiving on, that can be filled only with fiercer, madder, and wilder attempts to anticipate Christmas.
More Christmas trees. More Christmas lights. More tinsel, more tassels, more glitter, more glee—until the glut of candies and carols, ornaments and trimmings, has left almost nothing for Christmas Day. For much of America, Christmas itself arrives nearly as an afterthought: not the fulfillment, but only the end, of the long Yule season that has burned without stop since the stores began their Christmas sales.
Of course, even in the liturgical calendar, the season points ahead to Christmas. Advent genuinely is adventual—a time before, a looking forward—and it lacks meaning without Christmas. But maybe Christmas, in turn, lacks meaning without Advent. All those daily readings from Isaiah, filled with visions of things yet to be, a constant barrage of the future tense: And it shall come to pass . . . And there shall come forth . . . A kind of longing pervades the Old Testament selections read in church over the weeks before Christmas—an anxious, almost sorrowful litany of hope only in what has not yet come. Zephaniah. Judges. Malachi. Numbers. I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: There shall come a star out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.
What Advent is, really, is a discipline: a way of forming anticipation and channeling it toward its goal. There’s a flicker of rose on the third Sunday—Gaudete!, that day’s Mass begins: Rejoice!—but then it’s back to the dark purple that is the mark of the season in liturgical churches. And what those somber vestments symbolize is the deeply penitential design of Advent. Nothing we can do earns us the gift of Christmas, any more than Lent earns us Easter. But a season of contrition and sacrifice prepares us to understand and feel something about just how great the gift is when at last the day itself arrives.
More than any other holiday, Christmas seems to need its setting in the church year, for without it we have a diminishment of language, a diminishment of culture, and a diminishment of imagination. The Jesse trees and the Advent calendars, St. Martin’s Fast and St. Nicholas’ Feast, Gaudete Sunday, the childless crèches, the candle wreaths, the vigil of Christmas Eve: They give a shape to the anticipation of the season. They discipline the ideas and emotions that otherwise would shake themselves to pieces, like a flywheel wobbling wilder and wilder till it finally snaps off its axle.
Maybe that’s what has happened to Christmas. The ideas and the emotions have all broken free and smashed their way across the fields. From Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s I heard the bells on Christmas Day / Their old, familiar carols play to Irving Berlin’s I’m dreaming of a white Christmas / Just like the ones I used to know, there has been for a long time now something oddly backward looking about Christmas music—some nostalgia that insists on substituting its melancholy for the somber contrition and sorrow of forward-looking Advent.
For a similar reason, the memoir of childhood has become the dominant form of Christmas writing. Often beautiful—from Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” to Lillian Smith’s Memories of a Large Christmas—those stories nonetheless deploy their golden-hued Christmassy emotions only toward the past: a kind of contrite feeling without the structure of Advent’s contrition, all the regret and sense of absence cast back to what has been and never will be again.
On the other hand, there are plenty of Christmas elements that remain forward looking. In many ways, the season has become little except anticipation—anticipation run amuck, like children so sick with expectation that the reality, when at last it arrives, can never be satisfying. This, too, is something broken off from the liturgical year: another group of adventual feelings without the Advent that gave them form, another set of Christmas ideas set loose to run themselves mad.
Back in the early 1890s, William Dean Howells published a funny little fable called “Christmas Every Day” in one of the most popular venues of the time, St. Nicholas Magazine for Boys and Girls. Once upon a time, the narrator explains as the story begins, “there was a little girl who liked Christmas so much that she wanted it to be Christmas every day in the year.” What’s more, she found a fairy to grant her wish, and she was delighted when Christmas came again on December 26, and December 27, and December 28.
Of course, “after it had gone on about three or four months, the little girl, whenever she came into the room in the morning and saw those great ugly, lumpy stockings dangling at the fireplace, and the disgusting presents around everywhere, used to sit down and burst out crying. In six months she was perfectly exhausted, she couldn’t even cry anymore.” By October, “people didn’t carry presents around nicely anymore. They flung them over the fence or through the window, and, instead of taking great pains to write ‘For dear Papa,’ or ‘Mama’ or ‘Brother,’ or ‘Sister,’ they used to write, ‘Take it, you horrid old thing!’ and then go and bang it against the front door.”
These days, by the time Christmas actually rolls around, it feels as though this is very nearly what we’ve had: Christmas every day, at least since Thanksgiving. Often it starts even earlier. This year the glossy catalogues of Christmas clothing and seasonal bric-a-brac started arriving in September, and there were Christmas-shopping ads on the highway billboard signs before Halloween. The anticipatory elements reach a crescendo by early December, and their constant scream makes the sudden quiet of Christmas Day almost a relief from the Christmas season.
I don’t remember this opposition of Christmas and the Christmas season when I was young. When I was little—ah, the nostalgia of the childhood memoir—I always felt that the days right before Christmas were a time somehow out of time. Christmas Eve, especially, and the arrival of Christmas itself at midnight: The hours moved in ways different from their passage in ordinary time, and the sense of impending completion was somehow like a flavor even to the air we breathed.
I’ve noticed in recent years, however, that the feeling comes over me more rarely than it used to, and for shorter bits of time. I have to pursue the sense of wonder, the taste in the air, and cling to it self-consciously. Even for me, the endless roar of untethered Christmas anticipation is close to drowning out the disciplined anticipation of Advent. And when Christmas itself arrives, it has begun to seem a day not all that different from any other. Oh, yes, church and home to a big dinner. Presents for the children. A set of decorations. But nothing special, really.
It is this that Advent, rightly kept, would prevent—the thing, in fact, it is designed to halt. Through all the preparatory readings, through all the genealogical Jesse trees, the somber candles on the wreaths, the vigils, and the hymns, Advent keeps Christmas on Christmas Day: a fulfillment, a perfection, of what had gone before. I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh.
- Joseph Bottum is editor of First Things. This essay originally appeared in the December 2007 issue of First Things.
November 28, 2008
THIS is a devastating assault on India, its democracy, its way of life and its brilliant economy, all of which excite envy and hatred from Islamic extremists.
But it is also a message from Terror Central to US president-elect Barack Obama.
A commando is let down from a helicopter onto the roof of the Jewish centre in Bombay
Despite everything you Americans have done, the terrorists are saying, we can still hit you. We can hit your friends in their economic heartlands, and we can hunt down your citizens in the commercial capitals of your friends.
Only last week, al-Qa'ida ideological boss Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a statement exhorting jihadists everywhere to continue hunting Americans and British.
These attacks, in which US and British passport-holders were singled out for individual murder - as well, apparently, as Jews - have the al-Qa'ida imprint.
They demonstrate once more the savage, sectarian nihilism of the terror movements. It will nonetheless take some time for the identity and the origins of the perpetrators of this terrorist atrocity to become clear.
But high-placed Indian sources told me last night they were certain of cross-border Pakistani involvement. They do not accuse the Pakistani military, but the failed-state-like dysfunctional tribal areas of northern Pakistan have become the new training grounds and operational headquarters of global terror.
The deeper the Pakistani fingerprints on this, the greater will be the Indian demand for retaliation. These attacks will have dangerous consequences for intercommunal relations within India, especially Muslim-Hindu relations. Part of the purpose of the attack may also have been to try to drive the country away from Washington.
Ultimately this will be unsuccessful, but the Indian Left will argue that this trouble comes to the nation in part because of its friendship with the US, evident in the recent US-India nuclear deal.
The most important ally the US has acquired over the whole of the war on terror has been India.
For example, New Delhi's aid program in Afghanistan is by far the most effective per dollar. This has led to great hostility to India from the Taliban-al-Qa'ida network that ranges across the tribal areas of Pakistan and through large parts of Afghanistan. The two most active terror groups within India, the Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Indian-based Indian Mujahideen, have close contacts with al-Qa'ida.
There is also certainly an agenda to disrupt warming Pakistan-India ties.
Pakistan's civilian Prime Minister, Asif Ali Zardari, has recently made peace overtures to India, declaring Pakistan would drop its first-nuclear-strike doctrine and re-energise its efforts to bring terrorist bases in tribal areas of Pakistan under control.
When civilian Pakistani prime ministers make peace with India they enrage two groups - Pakistan's military establishment and its country's Muslim extremists.
This assault was exceptionally well-organised and co-ordinated, suggesting a substantial degree of training for its participants, and elaborate planning. It may be that we are looking at a template for future terrorist attacks.
In the past year or two, Southeast Asian intelligence agencies have been warning that Jemaah Islamiah terrorists have been considering moving away from bombs to shooting people, as a way of sowing maximum terror.
Bomb-makers are often detected merely by the purchase of bomb ingredients. Accumulating rifles is much easier.
And these attacks held Mumbai in terror for the better part of 24 hours. Although the cost in terms of terrorist lives is high, it gives the perpetrators a big return on their effort.
During the US presidential campaign, Joe Biden said that the US's enemies would challenge Obama in the first months of his presidency. Biden's prediction has come true sooner than even he expected.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
The national holiday actually began at a dark hour during our war for independence. Here's the story.
November 26, 2008
When was the first Thanksgiving? Most of us think of the Pilgrims at Plymouth in 1621. But if the question is about the first national Thanksgiving holiday, the answer is that the tradition began at a lesser-known moment in 1777 in York, Pa.
In July 1776, the American colonists declared independence from Britain. The months that followed were so bleak that there was not much to give thanks for. The Journals of the Continental Congress record no Thanksgiving in that year, only two days of "solemn fasting" and prayer.
For much of 1777, the situation was not much better. British troops controlled New York City. The Americans lost the strategic stronghold of Fort Ticonderoga, in upstate New York, to the British in July. In Delaware, on Sept. 11, troops led by Gen. George Washington lost the Battle of Brandywine, in which 200 Americans were killed, 500 wounded and 400 captured. In Pennsylvania, early in the morning of Sept. 21, another 300 American soldiers were killed or wounded and 100 captured in a British surprise attack that became known as the Paoli Massacre.
Philadelphia, America's largest city, fell on Sept. 26. Congress, which had been meeting there, fled briefly to Lancaster, Pa., and then to York, a hundred miles west of Philadelphia. One delegate to Congress, John Adams of Massachusetts, wrote in his diary, "The prospect is chilling, on every Side: Gloomy, dark, melancholy, and dispiriting."
His cousin, Samuel Adams, gave the other delegates -- their number had dwindled to a mere 20 from the 56 who had signed the Declaration of Independence -- a talk of encouragement. He predicted, "Good tidings will soon arrive. We shall never be abandoned by Heaven while we act worthy of its aid and protection."
He turned out to have been correct, at least about the good tidings. On Oct. 31, a messenger arrived with news of the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga. The American general, Horatio Gates, had accepted the surrender of 5,800 British soldiers, and with them 27 pieces of artillery and thousands of pieces of small arms and ammunition.
Saratoga turned the tide of the war -- news of the victory was decisive in bringing France into a full alliance with America. Congress responded to the event by appointing a committee of three that included Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia and Daniel Roberdeau of Pennsylvania, to draft a report and resolution. The report, adopted Nov. 1, declared Thursday, Dec. 18, as "a day of Thanksgiving" to God, so that "with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor."
It was the first of many Thanksgivings ordered up by Samuel Adams. Though the holidays were almost always in November or December, the exact dates varied. (Congress didn't fix Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November until 1941.)
In 1778, a Thanksgiving resolution drafted by Adams was approved by Congress on Nov. 3, setting aside Wednesday, Dec. 30, as a day of public thanksgiving and praise, "It having pleased Almighty God through the Course of the present year, to bestow great and manifold Mercies on the People of these United States."
After the Revolution, Adams, who was eventually elected governor of Massachusetts, maintained the practice of declaring these holidays. In October of 1795, the 73-year-old governor proclaimed Thursday, Nov. 19, as "a day of Public Thanksgiving to God," recommending that prayer be offered that God "would graciously be pleased to put an end to all Tyranny and Usurpation, that the People who are under the Yoke of Oppression, may be made free; and that the Nations who are contending for freedom may still be secured by His Almighty Aid."
A year later, Gov. Adams offered a similar Thanksgiving proclamation, declaring Thursday, Dec. 15, 1796, as "a Day of Public Thanksgiving and Praise to Our Divine Benefactor." He recommended "earnest Supplication to God" that "every Nation and Society of Men may be inspired with the knowledge and feeling of their natural and just rights" and "That Tyranny and Usurpation may everywhere come to an end."
These statements were greeted with cynicism and derision by some of Adams's younger political opponents, who saw them as archaic. One of them, Christopher Gore, wrote a friend that it would be an occasion for a real day of thanksgiving when Adams finally retired.
It turned out, though, that the ideas of thanking God for America's blessings -- and of praying for the spread of freedom everywhere -- would long outlast Adams's career. The concepts still meet with skepticism from time to time. But they are reason enough to pause during tomorrow's football game or family feast and raise a glass to the Founding Father who began our Thanksgiving tradition.
- Mr. Stoll, formerly the managing editor of the New York Sun, is author of "Samuel Adams: A Life," published this month by Free Press.
November 26, 2008
I thought the rest of the world was going to love us if we elected B. Hussein Obama! Somebody better tell the Indian Muslims.
As everyone but President-elect B. Hussein Obama's base knows, many of the Guantanamo detainees cannot be sent to their home countries, cannot be released and cannot be tried. They need to be held in some form of extra-legal limbo the rest of their lives, sort of like Phil Spector.
And now they're Obama's problem.
If Obama wants his detention of Islamic terrorists to be dramatically different from Bush's Guantanamo, my suggestion is that he cut off -- so to speak -- the expensive prosthetic limb procedures now being granted the detained terrorists.
Far from being sodomized and tortured by U.S. forces -- as Obama's base has wailed for the past seven years -- the innocent scholars and philanthropists being held at Guantanamo have been given expensive, high-tech medical procedures at taxpayer expense. If we're not careful, multitudes of Muslims will be going to fight Americans in Afghanistan just so they can go to Guantanamo and get proper treatment for attention deficit disorder and erectile dysfunction.
After being captured fighting with Taliban forces against Americans in 2001, Abdullah Massoud was sent to Guantanamo, where the one-legged terrorist was fitted with a special prosthetic leg, at a cost of $50,000-$75,000 to the U.S. taxpayer. Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, Massoud would now be able to park his car bomb in a handicapped parking space!
No, you didn't read that wrong, because the VA won't pay for your new glasses. I said $75,000. I would have gone with hanging at sunrise, but what do I know?
Upon his release in March 2004, Massoud hippity-hopped back to Afghanistan and quickly resumed his war against the U.S. Aided by his new artificial leg, just months later, in October 2004, Massoud masterminded the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers in Pakistan working on the Gomal Zam Dam project.
This proved, to me at least, that people with disabilities can do anything they put their minds to. Way to go, you plucky extremist!
Massoud said he had nothing against the Chinese but wanted to embarrass Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for cooperating with the Americans. You know, the Americans who had just footed -- you should pardon the expression -- a $75,000 bill for his prosthetic leg.
Pakistani forces stormed Massoud's hideout, killing all the kidnappers, including Massoud. Only one of the Chinese engineers was rescued alive.
As a result of the kidnapping, the Chinese pulled all 100 engineers and dam workers out of Pakistan, and work on the dam ceased. This was bad news for the people of Pakistan -- but good news for the endangered Pakistani snail darter!
In none of the news accounts I read of Massoud's return to jihad after his release from Guantanamo is there any mention of the fact that his prosthetic leg was acquired in Guantanamo, courtesy of American taxpayers after he was captured trying to kill Americans on the battlefield in Afghanistan.
News about the prosthetic leg might interfere with stories of the innocent aid workers being held captive at Guantanamo in George Bush's AmeriKKKa.
To the contrary, although Massoud's swashbuckling reputation as a jihadist with a prosthetic leg appears in many news items, where he got that leg is almost purposely hidden -- even lied about.
"Abdullah Massoud ... had earned both sympathy and reverence for his time in Guantanamo Bay. ... Upon his release, he made it home to Waziristan and resumed his war against the U.S. With his long hair, his prosthetic limb and impassioned speeches, he quickly became a charismatic inspiration to Waziristan's youth." -- The New York Times
He's not a one-legged terrorist -- he's a freedom fighter living with a disability. I think we could all learn something about courage from this man.
"He lost his leg in a landmine explosion a few days before the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in September 1996. It didn't dampen his enthusiasm as a fighter and he got himself an artificial leg later, says Yusufzai."-- The Indo-Asian News Service
Where? At COSTCO?
"The 29-year-old Massoud, who lost his left leg in a landmine explosion while fighting alongside the Taliban, often used to ride a horse or camel because his disability made it painful for him to walk long distances in hilly areas." -- BBC Monitoring South Asia
Side-saddle, I'm guessing. And you just know those caves along the Afghan-Pakistan border aren't wheelchair accessible.
"He was educated in Peshawar and was treated in Karachi after his left leg was blown up in a landmine explosion in the Wreshmin Tangi gorge near Kabul in September 1996. He now walks with an artificial leg specifically made for him in Karachi." -- Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Karachi? Hey, how do I get into this guy's HMO?
They can't lick leprosy in Karachi, but the Gulf News tells us Massoud got his artificial leg at one of their specialty hospitals.
Anyone who thinks the Guantanamo detainees can be released without consequence doesn't have a leg to stand on.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
November 27, 2008
By Michael Evans, Defence Editor
Bombay: a history of violence
Fire gutted part of the Taj hotel where scores of American and British guests were being held hostage
Western intelligence services have been expecting an al-Qaeda spectacular terrorist attack in this crucial period between the end of President George Bush’s administration and the succession of Barack Obama.
Signals intelligence “chatter” in recent weeks indicated that Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organisation might be plotting an attack “to grab the headlines” before Mr Obama takes over in the White House on January 20.
British security and intelligence sources said there had been increasing concern, particularly in the United States, that a “terrorist spectacular” was on the cards.
The multiple attacks on Westerners in Bombay last night showed all the signs of an al-Qaeda strategy — picking on vulnerable Western “soft targets” but not in a country where there would be maximum security. The attacks on Western targets in Bali in 2002 when al-Qaeda-linked terrorists planted bombs in tourist-favoured restaurants and clubs was another example where the group switched its resources to achieve maximum impact.
Counter-terrorist experts last night said that India would have been selected for the latest spectacular “probably because that’s where al-Qaeda has sufficient resources to carry out an attack on this scale. They don’t choose for the sake of it, they look to see where they have the greatest capability and then order an attack,” a counter-terror expert told The Times.
The key to this latest attack was the search by the armed terrorists for American and British passport holders. With a reported 40 Britons held hostage, the terrorists have the upper hand. The counter-terrorist sources said targeting Bombay’s most luxurious hotels and a crowded railway station had all the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda operation.
Bombay has been targeted before when 180 people died during a bomb attack on the railway station in 2006, but that incident was put down to militants, not al-Qaeda, and the Indian government suspected that the attackers had links to Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI.
This attack, however, involving the taking of Western hostages made it more likely that the operation’s masterminds were from the core leadership of al-Qaeda, which is based in the lawless tribal regions close to the Pakistan/Afghanistan border.
The gunman, armed with automatic weapons and grenades, targeted British and American tourists in the city’s luxury hotels
The Americans have been expecting an atrocity partly because of the recent CIA success in eliminating figures in al-Qaeda, using Predator unmanned drones, firing Hellfire missiles at hideouts in the tribal regions of Pakistan. About a dozen al-Qaeda figures have been killed this year.
Although an unknown group claimed responsibility last night, the taking of Western hostages and the deliberate seeking out of American and British citizens indicated a “typical al-Qaeda-style activity”, according to security sources.
Other sources said India was the home of a complicated network of terrorists and it might be too early to jump to the conclusion that it was an al-Qaeda operation. “It seems to be a highly opportunistic attack,” one source said.
However, this is traditionally the way al-Qaeda works. The leadership decides an attack should take place and leaves its franchise operators to decide how best to carry it out. Many of the gunmen appeared to be young but they also seemed confident, suggesting that they were well trained.
As the unprecedented scale of the attacks became clear last night, it looked to be the most co-ordinated terrorist operation since the targeting of the Twin Towers in New York in 2001.
Dozens of gunmen were involved in up to 19 different attacks, although the main focus seemed to be the taking of foreign hostages and detaining them in two of Bombay’s most prestigious hotels.
Judging by the apparent cockiness of at least one of the gunmen caught looking into television cameras, these terrorists were clearly prepared to die for their cause.
Al-Qaeda as an organisation has proved in the past that it has the capability to coordinate multiple attacks. Last night an organisation calling itself Deecan Mujahideen claimed responsibility but, as in the past when unknown groups came forward to admit involvement, the name was neither recognizable nor relevant.The sheer audacity of the terrorists are all familiar elements of al-Qaeda’.
1979 Militant Islamic students in Iran stormed the US embassy in Tehran, taking 90 hostages. They demanded the extradition of the Shah of Iran from the US, to stand trial in Iran. The hostages were freed in 1981, after 444 days
1993 A car bomb exploded under the World Trade Centre, killing six and injuring more than 1,000. The mastermind, Ramzi Yousef, had been trained in Afghanistan
1995 Sarin nerve gas attack in Tokyo subway kills 12 and injures about 6,000. Shoko Asahara, founder of Aum cult responsible, sentenced to death in 2004
2001 Two aeroplanes hit the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre, a third crashed into the Pentagon and a fourth crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. Excluding the 19 hijackers, 2,974 people died in the attacks by al-Qaeda
2002 A terrorist attack on the island of Bali killed 202 people. Two bombs ripped through a nightclub area in Kuta district
2004 Ten bombs exploded on four commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 and leaving 1,800 injured. A group affiliated with al-Qaeda claimed responsibility
2005 Explosions on London’s transport system killed 52 and injured 700
(Source: Times archives)
IN DEPTH: 'They were very young, like boys really'
ANALYSIS: a new tactic by Islamist militants
Intelligence chiefs expected Al-Qaeda spectacular
IN PICTURES: Bombay terror
November 26, 2008
[For more on these and other key issues, I strongly recommend Robert Chandler's new book "Shadow World"...it is a chilling and extremely relevant must-read for those who really want to know what is happening out there while we're fiddling around. - jtf]
Today’s arrival of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on a two-day visit to Venezuela to meet with President Hugo Chavez is a stark reminder that potential problems aren’t always “Over There.”
The assertive political, economic and security overtures by Russia - and China, by the way - in the Western Hemisphere mean we had better pay close attention to our own ‘hood in the coming years.
First, Russia. Medvedev’s Venezuela whistle stop is just one of several scheduled, including Brazil and Cuba, around his attendance at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in Peru last weekend.
The Latin American jaunt is clearly meant to exert Russia’s self-image as a world - not just regional - power. (Moscow is jousting with Beijing, Washington and Brussels for influence in places like Africa, too.)
It also sends a crystal clear signal to Washington - and president-elect Obama - that Moscow won’t abide by US activities that displease it in its “near-abroad” without a bit of nose-tweaking right here in our own hemisphere.
A Russian warship arrived yesterday in La Guaira port, Venezuela, near Caracas. It is Russia's first such deployment in the Caribbean since the Cold War. (Fernando Llano/Associated Press)
Realizing that the White House’s national security plate closely resembles something of the Thanksgiving sort, the Kremlin doesn’t mind adding a side dish or two to create some indigestion when it can.
Not surprisingly, Medvedev’s visit coincides with the arrival of a Russian flotilla for some gunboat diplomacy in Caribbean waters. It’s also a bit of chest-thumping over US warships sailing in the Black Sea during the Georgia crisis.
By selling $4 billion worth of advanced arms to, plus offering to build nuclear power plants for, Palacio de Miraflores, the Kremlin is pushing back on issues like US missile defense in Europe, aimed at the Iranian nuclear threat.
Moscow also continues to lay the ground work for global energy hegemony as it tries to enlist producers in the Americas and elsewhere to sign onto its natural gas cartel, along the lines of oil’s OPEC.
And what about China?
Chinese President Hu Jintao left the region on Sunday, capping off visits to Costa Rica, Cuba and Peru with a free trade agreement and another in the works — evidence of China’s growing influence in the region.
Hu’s APEC entourage included more than 600 businessmen and officials, with 12 government ministers, highlighting the priority of Latin America in Chinese policy.
China’s regional focus is mostly economic with $100 billion in annual trade, predominantly carting energy and natural resources back to belching Chinese factories - which are still humming despite the global economic slow-down.
But it’s not just economics.
Mindful of the United States’ presence and activity in Asia, especially US support for cross-Strait rival Taiwan, Beijing doesn’t mind unsettling Washington by involving itself in America’s traditional sphere of influence.
Hu was thrilled to visit Costa Rica where China just recently flipped San Jose’s diplomatic recognition from US-friendly Taipei to Beijing, using $300 million in secret, soft-loans.
On security, China has a listening post in Cuba directed at America, and is starting to flack its advanced weapons systems in the region, which are now emerging on the world market.
Both China and Russia are looking for friends wherever they can pocket ‘em to, especially those disaffected with America, to balance US power regionally or in international organizations, where it’s one country, one vote.
As for the Latin Americans, they don’t mind having the Chinese and Russians compete for their affection. Intensive courting can result in favorable trade deals, aid, concessionary loans and political support.
Their no-strings-attached ties undermine Washington’s efforts to advance free markets, human rights and democracy in the region—not a high priority for Moscow or Beijing.
Conventional wisdom says our sway is declining in this hemisphere. If true, that’s bad news. Since geography is destiny, maintaining - or regaining - America’s influence in the region will be key for the next US president.
Meddling by Russia and China won’t help.
Heritage Foundation senior fellow Peter Brookes is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Left, Irwin Thompson/The Dallas Morning News, via Associated Press; Right, Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters
Ghassan Elashi, left, and Shukri Abu-Baker, two of the five leaders of the Holy Land Foundation convicted on Monday.
A federal jury in Dallas on Monday dealt the Stealth Jihad initiative in the United States a crushing defeat: it found five former officials of an Islamic charity, the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), guilty of funneling at least $12 million of the charity’s funds to the jihad terror group Hamas. The notorious “Muslim civil rights” group, the Council on American Islamic Relations, is involved as well, since Ghassan Elashi, a founding director of CAIR as well as founder of the group’s Texas chapter, was among those found guilty; Elashi and his co-defendants face prison sentences of up to twenty years for providing support to terrorists.
HLF was once the largest Islamic charity in the United States. According to the Investigative Project, “prosecutors say HLF was part of a Palestine Committee – a conglomerate of U.S. based Muslim organizations and individuals committed to helping Hamas financially and politically. HLF was its fundraising arm, a designation formalized by Hamas deputy political director Mousa Abu Marzook in 1994.” After September 11, CAIR carried a link to HLF on its website, under the heading, “Donate to the NY/DC Emergency Relief Fund.” It seems likely that some people gave money to this thinking they were helping the injured and bereaved in New York and Washington, when they were actually giving money to Hamas. This weblink earned CAIR the designation of “unindicted co-conspirator” in the HLF case – which designation the group has tried unsuccessfully to have the Justice Department remove.
Andrew McCarthy, who prosecuted the blind Islamic cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, told The Investigative Project: “This is one of the most significant victories the Justice Department has won in the war on terror. Financing is the life-blood of jihadist organizations like Hamas. With the assistance of willing co-conspirators, they conceal their activities and use the Muslim obligation of charitable giving to mask support that is actually channeled to their murderous agenda. Today’s verdicts say, loudly and clearly, that Americans aren’t fooled and won’t tolerate it. As a former federal prosecutor, I am especially proud of the assistant U.S. attorneys who persevered through some real travails in securing justice for the American people.”
Another unsavory link between the HLF and the global jihad came to light during the first trial of the charity, which ended in a mistrial last year. Found among the HLF’s documents was the Muslim Brotherhood memorandum about its “grand jihad in eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within” first came to light. It seems clear now that the HLF itself was one of the chief engines of this stealthy effort, enjoying a sterling reputation as a charitable organization while actually acting as a virtual fundraising engine for Hamas.
One chief operating procedure of this stealth jihad effort is constantly to portray oneself as being unjustly victimized by a racist and bigoted Justice Department. (Al-Qaeda manuals, similarly, advise imprisoned members to claim that they have been tortured whenever and wherever they may find themselves in an infidel prison.) The HLF’s allies began with this immediately as the verdicts were announced: a child of one of the defendants, unidentified in news reports, cried out in the courtroom, “My dad is not a criminal! He’s a human!” The tactic of portraying these jihadists as martyrs a la Alger Hiss was furthered also by William Moffitt, an attorney who represented the admitted Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative Sami Al-Arian. “I suspect,” Moffitt opined, “that they will be viewed much the same way that Mandela was viewed by the black South African population – as freedom fighters who have dedicated their lives to the liberation of Palestine.” The HLF trial was, he said, one of many “show trials,” the purpose of which was “to further, in the minds of the public, the so-called ‘war on terrorism.’ There are legitimate terrorist organizations out there. But we’ve tried to make every group that doesn’t agree with us like al-Qaeda.”
Is the problem with Hamas really just that it “doesn’t agree with us”? When Hamas has for years gloried in the murders of innocent Israeli civilians? The answers are clear; but to obfuscate what is straightforward is a hallmark of the Stealth Jihad. That effort – the effort to soften American resistance to Islamic jihad activity and to insinuate Islamic law piece by piece into the United States – has been dealt a blow in the Holy Land Foundation verdict, but although it is down, it is by no means out.
- Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of seven books, eight monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His new book, Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs, has just been released by Regnery Publishing.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
By BRET STEPHENS
The Wall Street Journal
NOVEMBER 25, 2008
It's a safe bet, dear reader, that the title of this column has caused you to either (a) roll your eyes and wonder, What century do you think we're living in? or (b) scratch your head and ask, Yes, why don't we? Wherever you come down, the question defines a fault line in the civilized world's view about the latest encroachment of barbarism.
Year-to-date, Somalia-based pirates have attacked more than 90 ships, seized more than 35, and currently hold 17. Some 280 crew members are being held hostage, and two have been killed. Billions of dollars worth of cargo have been seized; millions have been paid in ransom. A multinational naval force has attempted to secure a corridor in the Gulf of Aden, through which 12% of the total volume of seaborne oil passes, and U.S., British and Indian naval ships have engaged the pirates by force. Yet the number of attacks keeps rising.
Why? The view of senior U.S. military officials seems to be, in effect, that there is no controlling legal authority. Title 18, Chapter 81 of the United States Code establishes a sentence of life in prison for foreigners captured in the act of piracy. But, crucially, the law is only enforceable against pirates who attack U.S.-flagged vessels, of which today there are few.
What about international law? Article 110 of the U.N.'s Law of the Sea Convention -- ratified by most nations, but not by the U.S. -- enjoins naval ships from simply firing on suspected pirates. Instead, they are required first to send over a boarding party to inquire of the pirates whether they are, in fact, pirates. A recent U.N. Security Council resolution allows foreign navies to pursue pirates into Somali waters -- provided Somalia's tottering government agrees -- but the resolution expires next week. As for the idea of laying waste, Stephen Decatur-like, to the pirate's prospering capital port city of Eyl, this too would require U.N. authorization. Yesterday, a shippers' organization asked NATO to blockade the Somali coast. NATO promptly declined.
Then there is the problem of what to do with captured pirates. No international body similar to the old Admiralty Courts is currently empowered to try pirates and imprison them. The British foreign office recently produced a legal opinion warning Royal Navy ships not to take pirates captive, lest they seek asylum in the U.K. or otherwise face repatriation in jurisdictions where they might be dealt with harshly, in violation of the British Human Rights Act.
In March 2006, the U.S. Navy took 11 pirates prisoner, six of whom were injured. Not wanting to set a precedent for trying pirates in U.S. courts, the State Department turned to Kenya to do the job. The injured spent weeks aboard the USS Nassau, enjoying First World medical care.
All this legal exquisiteness stands in contrast to what was once a more robust attitude. Pirates, said Cicero, were hostis humani generis -- enemies of the human race -- to be dealt with accordingly by their captors. Tellingly, Cicero's notion of piracy vanished in the Middle Ages; its recovery traces the recovery of the West itself.
By the 18th century, pirates knew exactly where they stood in relation to the law. A legal dictionary of the day spelled it out: "A piracy attempted on the Ocean, if the Pirates are overcome, the Takers may immediately inflict a Punishment by hanging them up at the Main-yard End; though this is understood where no legal judgment may be obtained."
Severe as the penalty may now seem (albeit necessary, since captured pirates were too dangerous to keep aboard on lengthy sea voyages), it succeeded in mostly eliminating piracy by the late 19th century -- a civilizational achievement no less great than the elimination of smallpox a century later.
Today, by contrast, a Navy captain who takes captured pirates aboard his state-of-the-art warship will have a brig in which to keep them securely detained, and instantaneous communications through which he can obtain higher guidance and observe the rule of law.
Yet what ought to be a triumph for both justice and security has turned out closer to the opposite. Instead of greater security, we get the deteriorating situation described above. And in pursuit of a better form of justice -- chiefly defined nowadays as keeping a clear conscience -- we get (at best) a Kenyan jail. "We're humane warriors," says one U.S. Navy officer. "When the pirates put down their RPGs and raise their hands, we take them alive. And that's a lot tougher than taking bodies."
Piracy, of course, is hardly the only form of barbarism at work today: There are the suicide bombers on Israeli buses, the stonings of Iranian women, and so on. But piracy is certainly the most primordial of them, and our collective inability to deal with it says much about how far we've regressed in the pursuit of what is mistakenly thought of as a more humane policy. A society that erases the memory of how it overcame barbarism in the past inevitably loses sight of the meaning of civilization, and the means of sustaining it.
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The last thing we need is a Clinton in charge of foreign policy.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, Nov. 24, 2008, at 12:27 PM ET
It was apt in a small way that the first endorser of Hillary Rodham Clinton for secretary of state should have been Henry Kissinger. The last time he was nominated for any position of responsibility—the chairmanship of the 9/11 commission—he accepted with many florid words about the great honor and responsibility, and then he withdrew when it became clear that he would have to disclose the client list of Kissinger Associates. (See, for the article that began this embarrassing process for him, my Slate column "The Latest Kissinger Outrage.")
It is possible that the Senate will be as much of a club as the undistinguished fraternity/sorority of our ex-secretaries of state, but even so, it's difficult to see Sen. Clinton achieving confirmation unless our elected representatives are ready to ask a few questions about conflict of interest along similar lines. And how can they not? The last time that Clinton foreign-policy associations came up for congressional review, the investigations ended in a cloud of murk that still has not been dispelled. Former President Bill Clinton has recently and rather disingenuously offered to submit his own foundation to scrutiny (see the work of my Vanity Fair colleague Todd Purdum on the delightful friends and associates that Clinton has acquired since he left office), but the real problem is otherwise. Both President and Sen. Clinton, while in office, made it obvious to foreign powers that they and their relatives were wide open to suggestions from lobbyists and middlemen.
Just to give the most salient examples from the Clinton fundraising scandals of the late 1990s: The House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight published a list of witnesses called before it who had either "fled or pled"—in other words, who had left the country to avoid testifying or invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination. Some Democratic members of the committee said that this was unfair to, say, the Buddhist nuns who raised the unlawful California temple dough for then-Vice President Al Gore, but however fair you want to be, the number of those who found it highly inconvenient to testify fluctuates between 94 and 120. If you recall the names John Huang, James Riady, Johnny Chung, Charlie Trie, and others, you will remember the pattern of acquired amnesia syndrome and stubborn reluctance to testify, followed by sudden willingness on the part of the Democratic National Committee to return quite large sums of money from foreign sources. Much of this cash had been raised at political events held in the public rooms of the White House, the sort of events that featured the adorable Roger Tamraz, for another example.
Related was the result of a House select committee on Chinese espionage in the United States and the illegal transfer to China of advanced military technology. Chaired by Christopher Cox, R-Calif., the committee issued a report in 1999 with no dissenting or "minority" signature. It found that the Clinton administration's attitude toward Chinese penetration had been abysmally lax (as lax, I would say, as its attitude toward easy money from businessmen with Chinese military-industrial associations).
Many quids and many quos were mooted by these investigations (still incomplete at the time of writing) though perhaps not enough unambivalent pros. You can't say that about the Marc Rich and other pardons—the vulgar bonanza with which the last Clinton era came to an end. Rich's ex-wife, Denise Rich, gave large sums to Hillary Clinton's re-election campaign and to Bill Clinton's library, and Marc Rich got a pardon. Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory, convicted of bank fraud, hired Hillary Clinton's brother Tony and paid him $250,000, and they got a pardon. Carlos Vignali Jr. and Almon Glenn Braswell paid $400,000 to Hillary Clinton's other brother, Hugh, and, hey, they, respectively, got a presidential commutation and a presidential pardon, too. In the Hugh case, the money was returned as being too embarrassing for words (and as though following the hallowed custom, when busted or flustered, of the Clinton-era DNC). But I would say that it was more embarrassing to realize that a former first lady, and a candidate for secretary of state, was a full partner in years of seedy overseas money-grubbing and has two greedy brothers to whom she cannot say no.
Does this sibling and fraternal squalor have foreign-policy implications, too? Yes. Until late 1999, the fabulous Rodham boys were toiling on another scheme to get the hazelnut concession from the newly independent republic of Georgia. There was something quixotically awful about this scheme—something simultaneously too small-time and too big-time—but it also involved a partnership with the main political foe of the then-Georgian president (who may conceivably have had political aspirations), so once again the United States was made to look as if its extended first family were operating like a banana republic.
China, Indonesia, Georgia—these are not exactly negligible countries on our defense and financial and ideological peripheries. In each country, there are important special interests that equate the name Clinton with the word pushover. And did I forget to add what President Clinton pleaded when the revulsion at the Rich pardons became too acute? He claimed that he had concerted the deal with the government of Israel in the intervals of the Camp David "agreement"! So anyone who criticized the pardons had better have been careful if they didn't want to hear from the Anti-Defamation League. Another splendid way of showing that all is aboveboard and of convincing the Muslim world of our evenhandedness.
In matters of foreign policy, it has been proved time and again, the Clintons are devoted to no interest other than their own. A president absolutely has to know of his chief foreign-policy executive that he or she has no other agenda than the one he has set. Who can say with a straight face that this is true of a woman whose personal ambition is without limit; whose second loyalty is to an impeached and disbarred and discredited former president; and who is ready at any moment, and on government time, to take a wheedling call from either of her bulbous brothers? This is also the unscrupulous female who until recently was willing to play the race card on President-elect Obama and (in spite of her own complete want of any foreign-policy qualifications) to ridicule him for lacking what she only knew about by way of sordid backstairs dealing. What may look like wound-healing and magnanimity to some looks like foolhardiness and masochism to me.
- Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair and the Roger S. Mertz media fellow at the Hoover Institution in Stanford, Calif.
Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2205323/
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By George H. Wittman on 11.25.08 @ 10:40AM
The American Spectator
No matter how wild the mythmakers have depicted the life of the early days of Tombstone, Arizona, it never has come near the unvarnished brutal nature of the reality.
The basic activity of what became briefly the cattle and mining hub of the Southwest was -- not necessarily in priority -- rustling, thieving, fighting, killing, drinking, and gambling. The mining of the local silver deposits and the vast herds of unbranded cattle were simply the economic backdrop.
There were so many longhorn cattle grazing free in Sonora on the Mexican side of the ill-defined border that it is said that the rich Mexican grandees who owned the vast tracks of land couldn't count within a hundred thousand of their actual number. Across the border the "cattle business" of that part of southwest U.S. was built on a seeming unending stream of rustled herds driven north to the American railheads.
The "Anglo" bad guys attracted by the money and freewheeling life were legion: Curly Bill (Brosius or Graham -- whichever one prefers), John Ringo, Frank Stillwell, Joe Hill and Buckskin Frank Leslie were just a few of the top gunmen, among many, readily available for employment. The Clanton and McLowery families ran a sizable business in stolen cattle. County Sheriff John Behan was the protector of most of the illegal trade and the "ace-in-the-hole" for people designated by the cattle rustling families as worthy of special treatment.
The Earp family business of law enforcement, saloons, and gambling had perhaps the deadliest "protector" of them all in the consumptive dentist, J.D. "Doc" Holliday, who had left bodies strewn behind ever since he left his family home in Valdosta, Ga. The cash brought in regularly by hard working miners was easy money for a professional gambler like Holliday and others. Holliday's proficiency with either gun or knife was useful when he acted as the "blocker" for his close friend, Deputy U.S. Marshall Wyatt Earp, when the latter was dealing faro.
TOMBSTONE ALREADY was a 24-hour town of unstoppable vitality when the blond, hard-faced, thirty-year old Wyatt Earp arrived there on December 1, 1879, just a little more than six months after Ed Schiefflin's first silver claim was filed in Tucson in April and thirty years since the famous gold discovery in California. Western America since then had been dotted with mining operations and all the rough men and women who followed them.
Ed Schiefflin had been told by the famed civilian scout, Al Sieber, that the only valuable rock he would find in the hills southeast of the San Pedro River would be his tombstone. As a result that was what Schiefflin decided to name his silver strike. Tough guys, crooks and charlatans of every stripe, along with eager miners, were drawn by the magnet of the dream of "shining rivers of silver" that had lured men since the Spanish expeditions of Francisco Coronado.
Soon the sun-bleached tents of the first arrivals in Tombstone gave way to wooden, brick and adobe buildings, some two or three stories high. The makers of homemade alcohol were replaced by rough saloons selling the better brew imported from Santa Fe in the east and California in the west. The madams soon followed with their strings of hardened prostitutes. Those months of evolution from settlement to settled town spawned all the criminality and contest that later would become legend.
Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday
But this was not the backward days of the pre-Civil War. The telegraph had brought near instant communication and the railroad carried whole families of merchants and artisans of all kinds to sustain and serve the miners. The cattle industry already had begun its expansion into the open range north of the Mexican/U.S. border country. Cowboys and miners challenged each other in fitful battles to the tune of dance hall music and clicking roulette wheels.
Within two years Tombstone was a thriving desert metropolis of truly schizophrenic caste. Churches sprung up nearly as quickly as had the saloons. During daytime playing children and ladies shopping crossed the dusty, rutted, horse-manured streets or clattered along the wooden sidewalks with their convenient slatted roofs giving protection against the elements. Four newspapers kept everyone up-to-date and politically divided. At night the slumbering saloons and music halls came alive with noise, booze, and battle.
THE FACT IS that it was the combustible nature of boomtowns like Tombstone that provided both the myth and reality of the western American ethos. Rawboned Americans primarily of North European ethnicity dominated the Native Americans as well as the Hispanic settlers who had been the first colonists emigrating north from Mexico. It would be decades before the southwestern border country truly would settle down to a relatively quiet existence.
Anytime a miner or a cowboy went into a bar for relaxation there was the danger of inadvertently becoming involved in a fight. Knives, guns, fists were just the beginning of the weapons used. The fair fights portrayed in story and on film never existed. If a person wasn't killed in a fight, it was because his opponent was too exhausted, disabled or already dead. Boot Hill Cemetery democratically welcomed all comers at the desolate north slope of the town.
Apache bands raided throughout the region with no regard for American or Mexican borders. Plunder was their objective and sex, age, or pleas for mercy restrained their murderous path. They were not out to fight; they wanted only plunder and scalps. Periodically the Army would swing out of their forts to chase down the latest marauders, kill as many as they could, and chase them back to San Carlos and other reserves. Eventually the Apache were reduced by hunger and disease to the point where they no longer had the strength to even steal. The overwhelming and deadly "white eye" tribe had won.
On March 25, 1882, Wyatt Earp and Holliday defiantly rode out of Tombstone never to return. The Earp dynasty had lasted less than two and a half years. In May of that same year a fire destroyed the town -- for the second time. Three years later the silver was mostly played out and the mines were flooded when one of the central pumps failed. A town that had briefly boasted a population of five thousand residents and ten thousand more passing through found itself like so many of its past denizens -- barely breathing. What was left has disappeared into barely recognizable history theatrically manufactured for the tourists.
There was a time, though, when Tombstone was damnably worthy of its name. The real Tombstone, like so many lodestones of the old West, truly drew "the good, the bad, and the ugly" of those rough people who gave life to the manifest destiny of America. The reality may be hard to accept now, but it's there to be seen if you try.
George H. Wittman writes from the great desert Southwest.
George H. Wittman, a member of the Committee on the Present Danger, was the founding chairman of the National Institute for Public Policy.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
The Ottoman harem in Western imagination.
A Scottish judge recently bent the law to benefit a polygamous household. The case involved a Muslim male who drove 64 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone – usually grounds for an automatic loss of one's driving license. The defendant's lawyer explained his client's need to speed: "He has one wife in Motherwell and another in Glasgow and sleeps with one one night and stays with the other the next on an alternate basis. Without his driving licence he would be unable to do this on a regular basis." Sympathetic to the polygamist's plight, the judge permitted him to retain his license.
Monogamy, this ruling suggests, long a foundation of Western civilization, is silently eroding under the challenge of Islamic law. Should current trends continue, polygamy could soon be commonplace.
Since the 1950s, Muslim populations have grown in Western Europe and North America via immigration and conversion; with their presence has grown the Islamic form of polygyny (one man married to more than one woman). Estimates find 2,000 or more British polygamous men, 14,000 or 15,000-20,000 harems in Italy, 30,000 harems in France, and 50,000-100,000 polygamists in the United States.
Some imams openly acknowledge conducting polygamous marriage ceremonies: Khalil Chami reports that he is asked almost weekly to conduct such ceremonies in Sydney. Aly Hindy reports having "blessed" more than 30 such nuptials in Toronto.
Social acceptance is also growing. Academics justify it, while politicians blithely meet with polygamists or declare that Westerners should "find a way to live with it" and journalists describe polygamy with empathy, sympathy, and compassion. Islamists argue polygamy's virtues and call for its official recognition.
Polygamy has made key legal advances in 2008. (For fuller details, see my blog, "Harems Accepted in the West.") At least six Western jurisdictions now permit harems on the condition that these were contracted in jurisdictions where polygamy is legal, including India and Muslim-majority countries from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia to Morocco.
The Iranian harem as depicted by an Iranian.
* United Kingdom: Bigamy is punishable by up to seven years in jail but the law recognizes harems already formed in polygamy-tolerant countries. The Department of Work and Pensions pays couples up to £92.80 (US$140) a week in social benefits, and each multiculturally-named "additional spouse" receives £33.65. The Treasury states that "Where a man and a woman are married under a law which permits polygamy, and either of them has an additional spouse, the Tax Credits (Polygamous Marriages) Regulations 2003 allow them to claim tax credits as a polygamous unit." Additionally, harems may be eligible for additional housing benefits to reflect their need for larger properties.
* The Netherlands: The Dutch justice minister, Ernst Hirsch Ballin, has announced that polygamous Muslim marriages should not be dealt with through the legal system but via dialogue.
* Belgium: The Constitutional Court took steps to ease the reunification of harems formed outside the country.
* Italy: A court in Bologna allowed a Muslim male immigrant to bring the mothers of his two children into the country on the grounds that the polygamous marriages had been legally contracted.
* Australia: The Australian newspaper reports "it is illegal to enter into a polygamous marriage. But the federal government, like Britain, recognises relationships that have been legally recognised overseas, including polygamous marriages. This allows second wives and children to claim welfare and benefits."
* Ontario, Canada: Canadian law calls for polygamy to be punished by a prison term but the Ontario Family Law Act accepts "a marriage that is actually or potentially polygamous, if it was celebrated in a jurisdiction whose system of law recognizes it as valid."
Thus, for the cost of two airplane tickets, Muslims potentially can evade Western laws. (One wonders when Mormons will also wake to this gambit.) Rare countries (such as Ireland) still reject harems; generally, as David Rusin of Islamist Watch notes, "governments tend to look the other way as the conjugal mores of seventh-century Arabia … take root in our backyards."
At a time when Western marriage norms are already under challenge, Muslims are testing legal loopholes and even seeking taxpayer support for multiple brides. This development has vast significance: just as the concept of one man, one woman marriage has shaped the West's economic, cultural, and political development, the advance of Islamic law (Shari‘a) will profoundly change life as we know it.
-Mr. Pipes (www.DanielPipes.org) is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.