Friday, February 18, 2011

Egypt Gets Its Khomeini

By Barry Rubin
February 17, 2011

Friday, February 18 may be a turning point in Egyptian history. On that day Yusuf al-Qaradawi (pictured above), the best-known Muslim Brotherhood cleric in the world and one of the most famous Islamist thinkers, will address a mass rally in Cairo.

Up until now, the Egyptian revolution generally, and the Brotherhood in particular, has lacked a charismatic thinker, someone who could really mobilize the masses. Qaradawi is that man. Long resident in the Gulf, he is returning to his homeland in triumph. Through internet, radio, his 100 books, and his weekly satellite television program, Qaradawi has been an articulate voice for revolutionary Islamism. He is literally a living legend.

Under the old regime, Qaradawi was banned from the country. He is now 84 years old -- two years older than the fallen President Husni Mubarak--but he is tremendously energetic and clear-minded.

It was Qaradawi who, in critiquing Usama bin Ladin and al-Qaida, argued that Islamists should always participate in elections because they would, he claims, invariably win them. Hamas and Hezb'allah have shown that he was right on that point.

Symbolically, he will give the Friday prayer sermon to be held in Tahrir Square, the center of the revolutionary movement. The massing of hundreds of thousands of people in the square to hear Islamic services and a sermon by a radical Islamist is not the kind of thing that's been going on under the 60-year-old military regime that was recently overthrown.

The context is also the thanking of Qaradawi for his support of the revolution, an implication that he is somehow its spiritual father.

Qaradawi, though some in the West view him as a moderate, supports the straight Islamist line: anti-American, anti-Western, wipe Israel off the map, foment Jihad, stone homosexuals, in short the works.

One of Qaradawi's initiatives has been urging Muslims to settle in the West, of which he said, "that powerful West, which has come to rule the world, should not be left to the influence of the Jews alone." He contends that the three major threats Muslims face are Zionism, internal integration, and globalization. To survive, he argues, Muslims must fight the Zionists, Crusaders, idolaters, and Communists.

What is his view of both the Mubarak regime and the young, Facebook-flourishing liberals who made the revolution? As he said in 2004: "Some Arab and Muslim secularists are following the U.S. government by advocating the kind of reform that will disarm the nation from the elements of strength that are holding our people together."

Have no doubt. It is Qaradawi, not bin Ladin, who is the most dangerous revolutionary Islamist in the world, and he is about to unleash the full force of his power and persuasion on Egypt.

Who are you going to bet on being more influential, a Google executive and an unorganized band of well-intentioned liberal Egyptians or the world champion radical Islamist cleric?

- Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The GLORIA Center's site is and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

Apocalypse Now: Wisconsin vs. Big Labor

In bankrupt and near-bankrupt states, fiscal discipline can’t wait.

By Michelle Malkin
February 18, 2011 12:00 A.M.

Welcome to the reckoning. We have met the fiscal apocalypse, and it is smack dab in the middle of the heartland. As Wisconsin goes, so goes the nation. Let us pray it does not go the way of the decrepit welfare states of the European Union.

The lowdown: State-government workers in the Badger State pay piddling amounts for generous taxpayer-subsidized health benefits. Faced with a $3.6 billion budget hole and a state constitutional ban on running a deficit, new Republican governor Scott Walker wants public unions to pony up a little more. He has proposed raising the public-employee share of health-insurance premiums from less than 5 percent to 12.4 percent. He is also pushing for state workers to cover half of their pension contributions. To spare taxpayers the soaring costs of byzantine union-negotiated work rules, he would rein in Big Labor’s collective-bargaining power to cover only wages unless approved at the ballot box.

MADISON, WI - FEBRUARY 16: Protesters filled the steps and grounds surrounding the State Capitol building on February 16, 2010 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Getty Images)

As the free-market MacIver Institute in Wisconsin points out, the benefits concessions Walker is asking public-union workers to make would still maintain their health-insurance-contribution rates at the second-lowest among Midwest states for family coverage. Moreover, a new analysis by benefits think tank HCTrends shows that the new rate “would also be less than the employee contributions required at 85 percent of large Milwaukee area employers.”

This modest call for shared sacrifice has triggered the wrath of the White House–Big Labor–Michael Moore axis. On Thursday, President Obama lamented the “assault on unions.” AFL-CIO and Service Employees International Union bosses dubbed Walker the “Mubarak of the Midwest” while their minions toted posters of Walker’s face superimposed on Hitler’s. Moore goaded thousands of striking union protesters to “shut down” the “new Cairo” while the state’s Democratic legislators bailed on floor debate over the union reform package.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan spurned the opportunity to condemn thousands of Wisconsin public-school teachers for lying about being “sick” and shutting down at least eight school districts across the state to attend capitol protests (many of whom dragged their students on a social-justice field trip with them). Instead, Duncan defended teachers for “doing probably the most important work in society.” Only striking government teachers could win federal praise for not doing their jobs.

Yes, the so-called progressives truly believe that bringing American union workers into the 21st century in line with the rest of the workforce is tantamount to dictatorship.

Yes, the so-called progressives truly believe that by walking off their jobs and out of their classrooms, they are “putting children first.”

If ever there were proof that public unions no longer work in the public interest, this is it. Big Labor dragoons workers into exclusive representation agreements, forces them to pay compulsory dues that fatten Democratic political coffers, and then has the chutzpah to cast itself as an Egyptian-style “freedom” and “human rights” movement.

Meanwhile, union leaders elsewhere are quietly forcing their low-wage members to share the sacrifice in order to preserve teetering health funds. In New York State, Skidmore College campus janitors, dining-service workers, and other maintenance employees received late notice from the SEIU that 4.15 percent of their gross earnings will now be deducted from their paychecks to cover the cost of the health plan provided through the behemoth 1199 SEIU Greater New York Benefit Fund. (If the name sounds familiar, it’s because this is one of several privileged SEIU affiliates that have received an Obamacare waiver.)

These workers are forced to join the union in order to preserve their jobs, and unlike non-union workers, they are locked into a single health plan. The SEIU has now decreed that they must pay new fees to include spouses on their plans and has hiked employee co-pays for doctor visits and prescription drugs.

What’s necessary for New York union workers is necessary for Wisconsin union workers — and for the rest of the protected union-worker class in bankrupt and near-bankrupt states across America. The “persuasion of power” so ruthlessly and recklessly exercised by the SEIU and its thuggish allies must be broken by the moral courage of fiscal discipline. It’s now or never.

— Michelle Malkin is the author of Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies (Regnery, 2010). © 2011 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

Obama's Louis XV budget

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
Friday, February 18, 2011

Five days before his inauguration, President-elect Obama told The Post that entitlement reform could no longer be kicked down the road. He then spent the next two years kicking - racking up $3 trillion in new debt along the way - on the grounds that massive temporary deficit spending was necessary to prevent another Great Depression.

To prove his bona fides, he later appointed a deficit reduction commission. It made its report last December, when the economy was well past recession, solemnly declaring that "the era of debt denial is over."

That lasted all of two months. The president's first post-commission budget, submitted Monday, marks a return to obliviousness. Even Erskine Bowles, Obama's Democratic debt commission co-chair, says it goes "nowhere near where they will have to go to resolve our fiscal nightmare."

The budget touts a deficit reduction of $1.1 trillion over the next decade.

Where to begin? Even if you buy this number, Obama's budget adds $7.2 trillion in new debt over that same decade.

But there's a catch. The administration assumes economic growth levels higher than private economists and the Congressional Budget Office predict. Without this rosy scenario - using CBO growth estimates - $1.7 trillion of revenue disappears and U.S. debt increases $9 trillion over the next decade. This is almost $1 trillion every year.

Assume you buy the rosy scenario. Of what does this $1.1 trillion in deficit reduction consist? Painful cuts? Think again. It consists of $1.6 trillion in tax hikes, plus an odd $328 billion of some mysterious bipartisan funding for a transportation trust fund (gas taxes, one supposes) - for a grand total of nearly $2 trillion in new taxes.

Classic Obama debt reduction: Add $2 trillion in new taxes, then add $1 trillion in new spending and, presto, you've got $1 trillion of debt reduction. It's the same kind of mad deficit accounting in Obamacare: It reduces debt by adding $540 billion in new spending, then adding $770 billion in new taxes. Presto: $230 billion of "debt reduction." Bialystock & Bloom accounting.

And what of those "painful cuts" Obama is making to programs he really cares about? The catch is that these "cuts" are from a hugely inflated new baseline created by the orgy of spending in Obama's first two years. These were supposedly catastrophe-averting, anti-Depression emergency measures. But post-recession they remain in place. As a result, discretionary non-defense budget levels today are 24 percent higher than before Obama - 84 percent higher if you add in the stimulus money.

Which is why the supposedly painful cuts yield spending still at stratospheric levels. After all the cuts, Education Department funding for 2012 remains 35 percent higher than in the last pre-emergency pre-Obama year, 2008. Environmental Protection Agency: 18 percent higher. Energy Department: 22 percent higher. Consider even the biggest "painful cut" headline of all, the 50 percent cut in fuel subsidies for the poor. Barbaric, is it not? Except for the fact that the subsidies had been doubled from 2008 levels. The draconian cut is nothing but a return to normal pre-recession levels.

Yet all this is penny-ante stuff. The real money is in entitlements. And the real scandal of this budget is that Obama doesn't touch them. Not Social Security. Not Medicaid. Not Medicare.

What about tax reform, the other major recommendation of the deficit commission? Nothing.

How about just a subset of that - corporate tax reform, on which Republicans have signaled they are eager to collaborate? The formula is simple: Eliminate the loopholes to broaden the tax base, then lower the rates for everyone, promoting both fairness and economic efficiency. What does the Obama budget do? Removes tax breaks - and then keeps the rate at 35 percent, among the highest in the industrialized world (more than twice Canada's, for example).

Yet for all its gimmicks, this budget leaves the country at decade's end saddled with publicly held debt triple what Obama inherited.

A more cynical budget is hard to imagine. This one ignores the looming debt crisis, shifts all responsibility for serious budget-cutting to the Republicans - for which Democrats are ready with a two-year, full-artillery demagogic assault - and sets Obama up perfectly for reelection in 2012.

Obama fancies his happy talk, debt-denial optimism to be Reaganesque. It's more Louis XV. Reagan begat a quarter-century of prosperity; Louis, the deluge.

Moreover, unlike Obama, Louis had the decency to admit he was forfeiting the future. He never pretended to be winning it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Today's Laugh Track: Tim Allen

Today's Tune: Reckless Kelly - Nobody's Girl (Live)

Cuban Filmaker Stonewalled in Trying to Tell the True Story of ‘Che’

Agustin Blazquez has produced a compelling film that demolishes the radical heartthrob’s reputation as a brave guerrilla fighting on behalf of the oppressed.

February 17, 2011 - by Mary Grabar

Ministry of Interior building, adorned with a steel sculpture of Che Guevara, a replica of the iconic image, originally shot in 1960, by the celebrated photographer Alberto Korda. Wearing his famous black beret, wild flowing hair and messianic stare, this potent image of Che came to represent the physical embodiment of the Cuban Revolution. The 30-metre tall steel effigy hangs from the building where Che served as minister, underneath, the motto “Hasta la Victoria Siempre” (Always, every day revolution).

Among Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s final requests before he was executed by Bolivian forces in 1967 was that a message of hope be sent back to Fidel Castro: the revolution would come to America.

Che immediately became the martyr for the radical left, with his image seized by American protestors of the 1960s. Since then another, cultural, revolution has taken place. Wikipedia catalogs references to him worldwide from restaurant names, to advertising campaigns, to music, to pop culture. His image adorned an Obama Texas campaign office in 2008. Che’s image is now displayed by average college students and even toddlers. No one blinks an eye when a student garbed in clothing bearing his iconic upward gaze takes a seat in my classroom. Students get their fashion cues from music, movie, and sports stars, and follow professors who display Che on office doors and websites, and teach courses about him. Students can find online guides to writing papers about the 2003 New York Times bestselling translation of Che’s Motorcycle Diaries, which was made into the 2004 box office hit.

Those who document the reality of the Castro regime, however, do not find themselves well received in the academy. For example, Juan J. Lopez once taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago but was denied tenure in spite of a teaching award and a well-received book published by The Johns Hopkins University Press titled Democracy Delayed: The Case of Castro’s Cuba. Lopez had escaped Cuba with his parents and moved to the United States in 1967.

Agustin Blazquez who wrote about Lopez’s predicament in 2002 also is a Cuban exile frustrated by the artistic/academic community that, while ostensibly worshiping all that is “Latino,” shuns those who expose the communist Castro regime. In Cuba, Blazquez had been apprehended twice on bogus charges, and saw the inside of El Castillo del Principe prison that he calls a “dungeon.”

In 1965, at the age of 21, he used the offer of an acting school scholarship in Canada to request an exit permit and managed with some finagling of the communist bureaucracy to leave. After living in Spain and Canada, Blazquez arrived in the U.S. in 1967. He was greeted with warmth by Americans — except those in the art world.

He learned that grants and prizes for documentaries in his series “Covering Cuba” would not be forthcoming. The latest, and seventh, titled Che: The Other Side of an Icon, was produced on a budget of $14,000. Only about $4,000 of that was from a non-profit that he had started himself. He had submitted a more typical budget of $494,000 to CPB-PBS (Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Public Broadcasting System). Blazquez had no success with the publicly supported organization, nor did he with the taxpayer-supported American Film Institute in his other projects. In fact, he could not even get an airing on POV (Point of View), the program created by PBS specifically for the purpose of airing “controversial” films.

Still, Blazquez, by changing his approach and scaling back, and doing his own editing on his own equipment, has managed to produce a compelling film that demolishes the radical heartthrob’s reputation as a brave guerrilla fighting on behalf of the oppressed.

Testimony comes from survivors, relatives of victims, and scholars. For example, Jaime Suchliki, history professor and director of the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, presents U.S. concerns about “many Vietnams” in the region. Antonio Jorge, chief economist of the Ministry of Treasury, from 1959 to 1960, who received Guevara’s requests for government funds in person, testifies to Che’s looting of the government as National Bank president.

The Argentinean-born Che’s contemptuous attitudes towards Cubans, blacks, and peasants are revealed by those who knew him and are backed up in his own writings. Wheelchair-bound Margot Menendez, whose brother was executed, describes the treatment she and other women received as they waited futilely to visit relatives in prison. Strip searches and arbitrary cancellations are recalled. So are the beatings by guards when the women rushed “Che’s” car as it entered the prison yard. Blanca Rojas recalls learning of her father’s execution by seeing it on television the same night she gave birth to her son. The dramatic footage is shown of Col. Cornelio Rojas — made an “example” — who stands tall and defiant up to the point when the gun shots in the head bring him down.

Journalist Humberto Fontova recounts Che’s 1962 terrorist bomb plot that would have likely exceeded the devastation of 9/11. It was planned to explode in New York City’s shopping district on the day after Thanksgiving, the busiest shopping day of the year. The plan was foiled by the FBI.

Fontova exposes “Che” not only as a sadistic killer but as an incompetent revolutionary. Che, who had inherited his father’s social and ethnic pretensions as an Argentinean of mixed European heritage, as well as his mentally unstable mother’s radical tendencies, had severely bungled his work as the head of banking and as minister of industries in collectivizing farms. It was then that Castro sent him to what he knew would be his death in Bolivia, for Che could not even “put compass to map.”

Nevertheless, the narrative put out in a press release by the AFI for the 2008 film by Steven Soderbergh simply titled Che, describes Che “galvanizing poor peasants into a military force that can take on trained professionals.” The same AFI turned down Blazquez’s third film on Elian Gonzalez, the young Cuban refugee who was forcibly sent back to Cuba under President Clinton after his mother had drowned during their escape.

Contrary to AFI’s depiction, Che’s delight was in shooting 240 defenseless victims, some as young as 15. Political prisoners say the real number is much higher. Che also delighted in having people and their children rounded up off the street and forced to watch executions.

Such facts and testimonies presented in a straightforward manner show the real “Che.” One sees the horror melded over the decades into a resigned sadness in the faces of family members of his victims. Such understated testimony should make any Che-t-shirt-clad student pause.

But to get an airing on a college campus is no easy task. The dissenting intellectual on today’s campus, if he gets past the gatekeepers, is met with stonewalling. Dead silence is what mostly greeted Blazquez when he contacted over 100 campuses for the screening of his first film. Subtle impediments in the form of last-minute room changes and announcements torn off walls were placed in his path at the two campuses where he did manage to get permission to air his documentary.

Nor could he make headway with PBS that has a division for “educational media.” The late Reed Irvine in 1996 recounted Blazquez writing directly to 65 public television stations after getting nowhere with PBS, but getting only four responses — all rejections.

Blazquez then testified at a hearing before a House of Representatives appropriations committee about PBS. Still, the censorship and bias continue. In 2007, Blazquez charged PBS with airing the documentaries of Castro-collaborator Estela Bravo, a native New Yorker, who has lived in Cuba since 1983 as a member of the pro-Castro privileged elite. He documented instances of PBS airing other documentaries that showed individuals maligning the Cuban exile community as “the right-wing fringe” and the “Miami mafia.”

Despite the hostility, Blazquez is working on his eighth documentary. It’s about an exiled Cuban-American ballad singer who has similarly found American TV and show business doors closed to her.

The DVDs in his “Covering Cuba” series are sold at

Mary Grabar earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of Georgia and teaches in the Atlanta area. She is a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet and published fiction writer. Visit her website and get on her mailing list at Mary blogs at the

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bangladesh Today, Egypt Tomorrow

The long-term strategy for enforcing sharia law.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
February 16, 2011 4:00 A.M.

James Clapper issued a clarification last week. Within hours of testifying to Congress that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “largely secular” organization, he clarified that he had meant to say the Muslim Brotherhood is not a secular organization. Clapper, the Obama administration’s national intelligence director, did not clue us in on whether he’d been tipped off by the organization’s name or by its motto proclaiming devotion to Islam, Mohammed, the Koran, sharia, and jihad — the final term being one he may have missed thanks to ongoing government efforts to purge it from our lexicon.

If Mr. Clapper’s information was a tad off, his timing was even worse. And not just because even giddy Western pundits were occasionally pausing from their dance on Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s political grave to admit that the pharaoh’s demise could pave the way for a Brotherhood-led Islamist ascendancy.

What might an Islamist ascendency look like? Consider this: Shortly before Clapper’s faux pas, a ghastly report out of Bangladesh began making the rounds: A 14-year-old girl named Hena had been killed by fewer than 80 lashes of the 100-lash whipping local sharia authorities had ordered her to suffer. It’s difficult to contain one’s anger at the details. Hena had been raped by a 40-year-old Muslim man, described in news accounts as her “relative.” The allegation of rape got the authorities involved, but that turned out to be even worse than the sexual assault itself.

Under sharia, rape cannot be proved absent the testimony of four witnesses. Rapists tend not to bring witnesses along for their attacks. In any event, moreover, sharia values a woman’s testimony as only half that of a man, so the deck is stacked and rape cannot be proved in most cases. Yet that hardly means the report of rape is of no consequence. Unable to establish that she’d been forcibly violated, the teenager became in the eyes of the sharia court a woman who’d had sexual intercourse outside of marriage. Thus the draconian lashing sentence that became a death sentence.

What has that to do with the Muslim Brotherhood? It turns out that these not-so-secular “moderates” spend a great deal of time ruminating on the subject of sharia’s brutal huddud laws — those prescribing sadistic penalties, such as whippings and stoning, for extramarital fornication, adultery, and homosexuality.

The Brotherhood’s emir for such ruminations is the famed Egyptian sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a sharia scholar who graduated from the storied al-Azhar University. He is probably the ummah’s most influential Islamic cleric — just ask such admirers as Ground Zero mosque imam Feisal Rauf. Qaradawi is sold as a Muslim modernizer by his many Western fans, particularly the Islamic-studies programs that the Saudis, longtime patrons of the Muslim Brotherhood, pay institutions like Georgetown University to operate. What the academy avoids telling you is that the sheikh, who has endorsed suicide bombings in Israel and the killing of American troops and support personnel in Iraq, also supports female genital mutilation (euphemistically called “circumcision”) as well as sharia standards that discount a woman’s testimony, limit a woman’s inheritance rights to half of a man’s share, and permit men to marry up to four wives (who may, of course, be beaten if they are disobedient).

Qaradawi is also quite opinionated when it comes to the matter of rape. He agrees that a woman must be punished not only if she cannot show that she was the victim of sexual assault, but also if, as they say, she was asking for it. “For her to be absolved from guilt,” he has explained, “a raped woman must have shown good conduct.” If, for example, she has dressed immodestly — particularly if she has dressed in the Western style — she is deemed to have brought the attack upon herself.

To the extent that influential Islamist views about huddud laws are known in the West — which is not much — it is a big problem for the Brotherhood. Their motto declares that “the Koran is our law,” and it’s not an empty slogan. The Brothers believe in these behavioral strictures and in the savage penalties meted out for transgressions. That complicates life for an organization struggling to put on a happy, secular face for the West (at least when it’s not writing memos about its “grand jihad” to destroy our civilization from within). Not everyone in America is as desperate to be convinced as our intelligence agencies.

So the more wily Islamists struggle to thread the needle. None is wilier than Tariq Ramadan, grandson of both Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna and Said Ramadan, the Brotherhood legend who established its extensive European network. Tariq Ramadan is now free to visit the U.S., the Obama State Department having reversed the Bush administration’s decision to bar him for alleged terror support. In 2005, while this bar was still in effect, Ramadan endeavored to demonstrate his “moderate” credentials by proposing a moratorium on the huddud laws.

Naturally, there was wild applause from the Clappers in the Western commentariat — a cheap date if ever there was one. Note, however, that Ramadan was not condemning huddud or calling for its repeal — just a moratorium. As he framed it, the problem was not sharia but society: The benighted world that is still mired in jahalia, the dark ages before Mohammed. It had not yet seen the wisdom of adopting Islam’s legal system. For Ramadan, the huddud laws themselves were fine; it was just that until countries fully adopted sharia, the conditions would not be in place to assure that huddud would be justly imposed. In the end, the answer for Islamists is always the same: more Islamic law, not less.

Still, it seemed to be a masterstroke of Brotherhood dissembling that would have made his grandfathers proud. It would enable Islamists to appear positively evolved even as they urged adoption of their seventh-century blueprint for society. Except you’ll never guess who wasn’t buying: all those wonderful secular moderates who guide the Brotherhood.

To put it mildly, Qaradawi and his conglomerate of academic and media acolytes went berserk. There were blistering diatribes condemning Ramadan. His proposal was belittled as an “unfounded innovation” that was “juristically baseless” and threatened to sow discord throughout the ummah. That last, by the way, is an extremely serious charge. Sowing discord is often construed as treason, the functional equivalent of public apostasy. The penalty for that under sharia is — you’ll never guess — death.

Here’s what you want to remember: Tariq Ramadan is widely revered in Brotherhood circles, for both his heritage and his service to the cause. When he stepped off the sharia reservation, though, that did not stop Qaradawi and the Brothers from slapping him back into his place. You, on the other hand, don’t enjoy a similar reservoir of good will with these alleged secular moderates. You are not an Islamic jurist of legendary standing.

You’re more like Hena.

— Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.

Today's Tune: Bruce Springsteen - Dream Baby Dream

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Today's Laugh Track: Bill Cosby

On Egypt the Left are all neo-cons now

By Melanie Phillips
The Australian
February 15, 2011

The future of Egypt following the departure of president Hosni Mubarak remains opaque.

No one can currently predict whether it will end up as a democracy with free elections, a military dictatorship, or an Islamic theocratic tyranny.

But the Western Left has known one thing for certain from the very start of the protests: that the tyrannical dictator Mubarak had to go, that the protesters in Tahrir Square were all on the side of freedom and that the convulsions presaged a joyous new dawn of democracy and human rights.

This was despite the serious risk of an Islamist takeover in Egypt, with the consequent extinction of human rights for the Egyptians worse than anything under Mubarak's clearly repressive regime. And it was also despite the fact that opinion polls have suggested that many, if not most Egyptians harbour Islamist, anti-Western and ferociously anti-Jewish ideas.

Nevertheless, Western progressives were shouting for regime change. At which point it began to seem that, like Alice, one had somehow been transported through the looking-glass.

For during the past seven years, Western liberals have fulminated without remission that George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Tony Blair were criminally out to lunch to pretend that democracy could ever come to Iraq through ousting a dictator.

The neo-con article of faith, that the Arab or Islamic world, could or should embrace democracy and human rights, was held up as an example of cultural imperialism, racist bigotry or insanity, or all three.

But suddenly everyone in the bien-pensant world has apparently become a neo-con.

The US, they now fulminated, had been criminally obtuse in propping up the dictator Mubarak rather than helping turn Egypt into a democracy.

So what was the difference? Simple. Saddam Hussein was an enemy of the West; Mubarak was an ally. So progressives claimed that getting rid of the former was a crime against humanity, while not getting rid of the latter was a crime against humanity. Got that?

It would doubtless be uncharitable to add that, throughout this supposedly diabolical Mubarak presidency those same liberals saw no problem taking vacations rubber-necking round the Pyramids or steaming up the Nile. No boycott, divestment or sanctions movement there; such censure is never applied by the Left to any of the tyrannies of the Middle East, of course, only against the sole democracy in the region: Israel.

Nor do the double standards stop there. When the people of Lebanon made their pitch for democracy against the crushing oppression of Hezbollah, Western bien-pensants were totally indifferent. When the people of Iran made their pitch for democracy against the savage cruelties of the Islamic regime, the bien-pensants were totally indifferent. But when the Egyptians took to the streets, the bien-pensants all but wetted themselves with excitement.

What was the difference? If the Lebanese and Iranians had succeeded, the West would have been strengthened. But the risk still remains that the canny Muslim Brotherhood will bide their time before pouncing and coming to power in Egypt, which would of course furnish another major threat for the free world.

And this is the most frightening thing of all in this back-to-front universe: the way in which the West has sanitised the Muslim Brothers and even, in the case of the Obama administration, actually tried to push them into power.

When it wasn't flip-flopping over whether Mubarak should stay or go, the White House first said it wouldn't mind if the Muslim Brothers became part of the Egyptian government.

Then it urged the inclusion of "important non-secular actors" - code for the Muslim Brothers - in a "more democratic" Egypt. And then it was revealed that its proposal for the immediate transfer of power called for the transitional government to include the brotherhood.

What madness was this? The Muslim Brothers' goal is to Islamise the world. They are religious fascists. While certainly there are millions of Muslims around the world who do want to live under democracy, the Brothers are totally against any secular rule at all and stand for an extinction of human rights. They are fanatical Jew-haters. In the 1930s they were effectively created as a political force by the Nazi Party, with which they formulated a final solution for Palestine by ridding it of its Jews, an agenda continued today by their offshoot, Hamas.

Today, they are no less the mortal enemies of the free world. Their leaders have declared war on America, gloating that the US is "experiencing the beginning of its end and is heading towards its demise", and that "resistance is the only solution".

They support al-Qa'ida terrorism "against the Americans and the Zionists". They declared that after Mubarak they would dissolve the peace treaty with Israel.

They support Hezbollah, make overtures to Iran, and openly employ a strategy of simulating moderation to gain power though democratic means in order to destroy democracy.

If Egypt is eventually taken over by the brotherhood, Jordan will be next, and both will turn into Iran/Gaza in a matter of a few years. Oh, and the Brothers are also busy Islamising Britain and America. Yet on both sides of the pond, significant elements of the political and defence establishment have decided that the Muslim Brothers are basically peace-loving, sensible, pragmatic chaps who are useful allies against the men of violence.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the double standards of the Left result from its deep hatred of the Western society whose basic values they wish to overturn. Whether during the French Revolution or the Stalinist purges, the Left has repeatedly sided with the extinction of human freedom and refused to accept the monstrous evidence of its own credulousness.

Among political and defence elites, moreover, the stranglehold of multicultural victim culture, the influence of revisionist "scholars" such as John Esposito or Karen Armstrong who sanitise Islam, and the deep desire to take the path of least resistance - plus the reflexive view that the real threat to the world is not the Islamic jihad but the state of Israel - means that the establishment meets the Left on the same side of the looking-glass.

Has there ever been a civilisation more bent on collective suicide than the contemporary West?

- Melanie Phillips is the author of The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle over God, Truth and Power, published by Encounter.

Democracy is a Relative Term

By Robert Spencer
15 February 2011

Everyone is excited about the toppling of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. “This is a moment of huge opportunity,” enthused one noted analyst. Another agreed: “We will soon see a new Middle East materializing.” The two analysts in question are Tony Blair and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — and that sums up the reigning confusion about what exactly has happened in Egypt, and what is likely to happen next.

Blair opined that “this is a moment of huge opportunity, not just for Egypt,” but for the entire Middle East. “Despite all those challenges,” Blair added, “this is a moment when the whole of the Middle East could pivot and face towards change and modernization and democracy.”

Maybe. Ahmadinejad, however, is envisioning a wholly different scenario. He predicted that “we will soon see a new Middle East materializing without America and the Zionist regime, and there will be no room for world arrogance [that is, the West] in it.”

So who’s right? Will Egypt become a Western-style pluralistic democracy, with equal rights for women, as well as for its sizable and embattled Christian minority? Or was Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Ahmad Mersi correct when he declared that the Egyptian people want the rule of Islamic law?

Over the course of Egypt’s revolution, the mainstream media has been intent on downplaying the popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egyptian presidential contender Mohamed ElBaradei also minimized both the Brotherhood’s commitment to the draconian elements of Islamic law and its popularity, saying, “This is total bogus that the Muslim Brotherhood are religiously conservative. They are no way extremists. They are no way using violence. They are not a majority of the Egyptian people. They will not be more than maybe 20 percent of the Egyptian people.”

ElBaradei’s claim that the Brotherhood is not “religiously conservative,” although echoed by Obama’s clueless intelligence chief, James Clapper, is ridiculous on its face, and contradicted by numerous statements of past and present Brotherhood leaders, including Mersi. Nonetheless, the Brotherhood has an 80-year history in Egypt, and in the course of 80 years, one may make a lot of enemies — so ElBaradei’s lowballing of the Brotherhood’s likely post-Mubarak support within the country may not be very far off the mark.

Nonetheless, it may be able to steer post-Mubarak events in Egypt its way precisely because it is the foremost exponent of political Islam in Egypt. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in Egypt in spring 2010 found that no fewer than 85% of Egyptians thought that Islam was a positive influence in politics. Fifty-nine per cent said they identified with “Islamic fundamentalists” in their struggle against “groups who want to modernize the country,” which had the support of only 27% of Egyptians. Only 20% were “very concerned” about “Islamic extremism” within Egypt.

In light of all that, it may seem puzzling that 59% of Egyptians affirmed that “democracy is preferable to any other kind of government.” But while Westerners may assume that democracy refers in all cases to the implementation of Jeffersonian principles of limited government, tolerance, the free press, and popular accountability, all too often nowadays it has been reduced to mere head-counting — and in Egypt as well as elsewhere in the Middle East, the advocates of political Islam are the ones who have the heads.

That’s why Mohammad-Javad Larijani, secretary-general of the ironically named Iranian High Council for Human Rights, was able to express unqualified support for the Egyptian uprising: “In my opinion, the Islamic Republic of Iran should see these events without exception in a positive light.” He characterized the already-toppled Ben Ali government in Tunisia as “anti-Islamic,” and predicted that soon Tunisians would have a “people’s government.” And in Egypt, Larijani said, “Muslims are more active in political agitation and, God willing, they will establish the regime that they want.”

The regime they want, by all indications, is an Islamic one. A Kerensky-style interregnum featuring an uneasy democratic coalition enjoying little popular support may follow Mubarak, or the military may clamp down entirely on the protests. But if the Egyptian people are allowed to express their will, almost certainly an Islamic regime will follow — with consequences that should give even Tony Blair reason to regret his enthusiasm.

- Mr. Spencer is director of Jihad Watch and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), The Truth About Muhammad, Stealth Jihad and The Complete Infidel's Guide to the Koran (all from Regnery-a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).

Monday, February 14, 2011

Whither Egypt?

by Daniel J. Flynn
Posted 02/14/2011 ET

The storming of the Bastille, July 14, 1789

Egypt’s revolution has overthrown Hosni Mubarak. What comes next? Much hope and little thought have gone into the answer. This seems always the case with revolution.

The inability to anticipate tomorrow correlates to our unwillingness to remember yesterday. If there is a lesson to be gleaned from Egypt at this early stage it is that nobody bothered to learn from past revolutions. This isn’t for lack of lessons. History offers thousands. Here are a few:

Lesson # 1789: Don’t judge a revolution by its slogans. The Jacobins spoke of liberty, equality, and fraternity. But, as Chamfort observed, this soon became “Be my brother or I’ll kill you.” Reading slogans and not seeing events, Americans an ocean away envisioned a revolution similar to their own. “The liberty of the whole earth was depending upon the issue of the contest,” Thomas Jefferson, a former U.S. minister to France, reflected, “and was ever such a prize won with so little innocent blood?” Was ever so much foolishness compressed in so few words? Jefferson, who saw some of the events of 1789 firsthand, opined that “rather than it should have failed, I would have seen half the earth desolated.” The revolutionaries agreed. Even wise men are idiots on their worst days.

Lesson # 1917: Revolutions create dangerous power vacuums. Western optimists insisted that since the Muslim Brotherhood had little to do with the initial demonstrations in Egypt, they would have nothing to do with a new government. Anyone watching the Russian Revolution unfold might have said the same thing of the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks didn’t overthrow the czar. Lenin was in Zurich; Trotsky, New York. They overthrew the people who overthrew the czar. When people rightly point out that the Muslim Brotherhood was late for the revolution, they wrongly assume that the protestors in the beginning become the government in the end. The Bolsheviks, who waited like vultures to feast on the withered state, proved otherwise.

Lesson # 1979: The overthrowers are often worse than the overthrown. It is hard to imagine Westerners, let alone left-wing Westerners, seeing themselves in the Ayatollah Khomeini. But in the late 1970s, Michel Foucault, the Manchester Guardian, and The Nation were among those predicting great things from the Iranian Revolution. Mother Jones, for instance, embarrassingly foresaw “democratic reforms, freedom for political prisoners, an end to the astronomical waste of huge arms purchases, and a constitutional government” should the Ayatollah take power. When we see a ruffian, be it the Shah or Mubarak, we assume the righteousness of their adversaries. Alas, they’re usually just other ruffians.

Outside observers got France, Russia, and Iran wrong, horribly wrong. It’s possible that we got Egypt wrong, too, and for similar reasons. We judged Egypt by placard platitudes. We ignored the danger of the void. We imagined that the enemy of an autocrat was necessarily a democrat rather than an extremist. In other words, we repeated the mistakes that past revolution watchers made.

The person who understands this best is the one affected by it most. “They may be talking about democracy but they don’t know what they’re talking about and the result will be extremism and radical Islam,” Hosni Mubarak said of the U.S. government. “We see the democracy the United States spearheaded in Iran and with Hamas, in Gaza, and that’s the fate of the Middle East.”

One hopes not. One thinks maybe.

On the subject of upheavals of the state, there is no better guide than Reflections on the Revolution in France. Therein, Edmund Burke wrote that “it is with infinite caution that any man ought to venture upon pulling down an edifice which has answered in any tolerable degree for ages the common purpose of society, or on building it up again, without having models and patterns of approved utility before his eyes.” Egypt may again demonstrate Burke’s wisdom.

- Daniel J. Flynn is a columnist for HUMAN EVENTS and the author of numerous books, including A Conservative History of the American Left (Crown Forum, 2008), Intellectual Morons (Crown Forum, 2004), and Why the Left Hates America (Prima Forum, 2002).

Today's Laugh Track: Larry Miller

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lights Out for the Middle East’s Christians?

The tumult in Cairo may spell much worse to come for the Copts.

By Rich Lowry
February 11, 2011 12:00 A.M.

An Egyptian Muslim mob attacks a Coptic Christian

Hosni Mubarak can count on at least one loyal supporter. Coptic Christian leader Pope Shenouda wants the anti-Mubarak protesters to stand down. He has two inarguable reasons to stick with the dictator: fear and experience.

Even if the Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t take over, there is every reason to believe that a democratically elected Egyptian government will become more Islamist and more hostile to the country’s roughly 8 million Christians, who are overwhelmingly Copts. As a horrifying premonition, the Copts need look no farther than democratic Iraq, where the ethnic cleansing of Christians is still unspooling, slowly but inexorably.

It’s an irony almost too bitter to bear that George W. Bush, an evangelical Christian fired by a vision of freedom with religious overtones, waged a war of liberation in Iraq that led to the uprooting of the country’s Christians. And did almost nothing to prevent it, or even remark upon it. Iraq’s Christians are the collateral damage of the country’s post-Saddam revolution.

In a civil war, a small, defenseless minority hated by fanatics of both warring sides will not fare well. But even after the surge tamped down Sunni–Shiite violence, the war on Christians continued. One convent in Hamdaniyah in the north has been attacked 20 times since the start of the war, and as recently as last spring; according to USA Today, it was down to four nuns last year out of an original 55.

Before the invasion, roughly 1.4 million Christians lived in Iraq. About half of them have fled, with many more sure to follow. For a community that dates back almost to the inception of Christianity, this is nothing short of a historic cataclysm.

Iraq’s Christians have fallen prey to a one-two punch of terrorism and official indifference. Sunni extremists attack churches and assassinate individual Christians. In October, gunmen took 100 Christians hostage at Our Lady of Perpetual Help church in Baghdad and slaughtered more than 40 of them. The Shiite government can’t or won’t stop these depredations. By one estimate, 2010 was the deadliest year yet for Iraq’s Christians.

In Egypt, Copts are already targeted. A suicide bombing on New Year’s Day in front of an Alexandria church killed more than 20. Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute notes that “the context is a government that has failed to make the rights of religious minorities a priority.” And this was under the pro-Western, relatively secular dictator.

When the Muslim Brotherhood takes a place at the table, it will no doubt do all it can to imbue Egyptian government with Islamism’s enmity toward Christians. In terms of public opinion, the Brotherhood may be pushing at an open door. According to a Pew survey in Egypt last year, 84 percent of Egyptian Muslims — not yet familiar with Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists — support executing apostates.

If the fashionably tolerant deigned to notice any of this, they might call it “Christophobia.” They prefer, though, to avert their gaze from the rancid hatreds roiling the Islamic world and delude themselves with pleasant absurdities. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says the Muslim Brotherhood is “largely secular.” This is a description that doesn’t even quite apply to American Episcopalians, let alone to the militant Islamic group explicitly devoted to jihad.

In Egypt, we may see another collision between our democratic universalism and Islamic particularism. We rightly believe that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights. Many of the people upon whom we project this vision of universal freedom, though, believe justice prevails only if their faith and its believers rule. Unfortunately, they’re the ones who get to vote.

This is why Egypt could experience both a democratic opening and yet more Christian persecution. At 10 percent of the population, Copts are the region’s largest Christian community. If Egypt becomes intolerable for them, it’s lights out for Christianity in the Middle East.

— Rich Lowry is editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail, © 2011 by King Features Syndicate.