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Monthly Archives: August 2010

We Are All Prostitutes Today

August 30th, 2010 - 6:19 pm

The mullahs have declared Carla Bruni, aka Mrs. Nicholas Sarkozy, aka France’s First Lady, a prostitute, in response to her letter to an Iranian woman sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery. If ever there were a case of the pot calling the kettle black, this is it.  The Islamic Republic is a thoroughly corrupt regime that pauperizes its people while the top dogs live in luxury that would be the envy of a Hollywood star.

I use “top dogs” carefully, because in recent days a leading ayatollah has banned all advertisements for dogs, their food, stores that cater to them, or indeed anything having to do with them, in Khamenei’s domain.  This is the latest in a series of ukases or fatwas devoted to the elimination of the pursuit of happiness.  Music and fun haircuts have been recently banned, and of course the color green has been banished long since.

On the other hand, prostitution is blessed.  It’s not called prostitution, mind you, but it’s hard to call the “temporary marriage” center operating out of a shrine in Mashad as anything other than that.  The man pays some money and gets some sex.  What do you call that?

Don’t forget that the Islamic Republic rests on misogyny.  Khomeini, the founding tyrant, hated women and undid a century of Persian progress in a few years.  Someone on Twitter the other night said that Supreme Leader Khamenei had counseled some of the regime’s torturers and rapists to make sure the women they violated were properly dressed.  It may have been an attempt at humor, I don’t know, but it does reflect a state of mind.

It’s hard for Westerners to imagine what’s going on in Iran these days, namely a state that has lost all legitimacy in the eyes of its subjects, in which the rulers are fighting each other for shards of power and scraps of graft.  Perhaps the most revealing recent anecdote comes from a newspaper report about the Revolutionary Guards spying on political leaders:

Rah-e-Sabz claims  that the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps had installed monitoring systems in a seven-story building frequented by high-ranking politicians.

Last week some of the politicians detected the surveillance and, unaware of who carried it out, asked the Ministry of Intelligence to check the building. The Ministry denied responsibility and sent technical specialists, who inevitably discovered many IRGC cameras and microphones. As the specialists were leaving, they were accosted by a group of Revolutionary Guard. A fight followed, with guns even being drawn.

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The Terror Imams and Their Mosques & Schools

August 26th, 2010 - 10:43 am

Whatever we may think about Imam Rauf and his Manhattan project, sooner or later we are going to have to face a serious problem: what to do about the hundreds of radical mosques in this country. It’s a serious problem because, as Bernard Henri Levi wrote some years ago, every terrorist has a mosque.  Indeed, some became terrorists because of what they were told in mosques.  Many young, alienated Muslims found the meaning of life by joining jihad, and they were encouraged to become terrorists by radical imams and ayatollahs.

We in Greater Washington know a thing or two about this process, through the story of the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church.  The Center employed Imam Anwar Awlaki as its prayer leader from 2000 to 2002. Awlaki met privately with two of the 9/11 hijackers in closed-door meetings, and radicalized three American terrorists: the Fort Hood killer, Major Nidal Malik Hasan; the “Christmas Day bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab; and the would-be Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad.  Now designated as a key member of al-Qaeda, Imam Awlaki is hiding in Yemen.

Take another local case: An Iranian-American imam named Muhammad al-Asi was for several years the head of the Muslim Community School and the Islamic Education Center in Potomac, Maryland.  He was also briefly the imam at the Islamic Center of Washington.  The Islamic Education Center distributes literature direct from Tehran, including the Ayatollah Khomeini’s celebrated death sentence on the novelist Salman Rushdie, and sells anti-Semitic tapes from Switzerland that praise Khomeini as a latter-day Hitler.  Al-Asi has been honored at an official dinner in Tehran, with Iran’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khamene’i, presiding.

We’re not talking about a handful of mosques, and the schools associated with them.  As of 9/11, there were at least 1,200. Most are radical.  The American Sufi leader Sheik Hisham Kabbani, who founded the Islamic Supreme Council of America to combat the influence of radical (Saudi) Wahhabis in the United States, testified at a State Department hearing that 80 percent of the nation’s mosques were under radical influence or outright control.

It’s safe to say that most of Awlaki’s words, like al-Asi’s, were religious, and that, even if law enforcement officials had known about them, they could not have acted.  That’s because we avidly defend free speech, and religious speech is specially protected.  All manner of self-proclaimed religious leaders are free to preach. I wouldn’t change it; I cherish it.  On the other hand, I don’t want the likes of Mr. Awlaki exploiting “protected speech” to inspire and recruit terrorists.  And there is no doubt that those schools and mosques are breeding grounds for future terrorists. In some cases they are actual pieces of the terror network itself.

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Imam Rauf’s Love of ‘Iranian Democracy’

August 23rd, 2010 - 10:29 am

Imam Rauf is a fan of the tyrannical Islamic Republic of Iran.  He said so in the Huffington Post within a week of the phony “elections” of June 12th, 2009, when thousands of protesters were being tortured and killed all over the country.

He proclaimed that calm had returned to Iran, and that the “official” results — Ahmadinejad in a landslide — were correct.  Indeed, the whole system, according to Imam Rauf, is admirable:

The Iranian Revolution of 1979 was in part to depose the shah, who had come to power in 1953 after a CIA-sponsored coup overthrew democratically-elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossaddeq. And in part it was an opportunity to craft an Islamic state with a legitimate ruler according to Shia political theory.

After the revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took the Shiite concept of the Rightly Guided Imam and created the idea of Vilayet-i-faqih, which means the rule of the jurisprudent. This institutionalizes the Islamic rule of law. The Council of Guardians serves to ensure these principles.

Actually, by traditional Shi’ite standards, Khomeini’s totalitarian doctrine — the Guardian Council ensures that only politically correct candidates can run for office — is a heresy, as grand ayatollahs from Montazeri to Sistani have ruled.

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Superman

August 20th, 2010 - 6:36 am

For those who need stories to use in a) speeches or b) sermons or c) opeds or even d) dinner or cocktail party chitchat, this one seems perfect.

In a thumbnail, it tells the story of some guy in Pennsylvania–most likely Superman in early retirement, as you’ll see–who visits out of town, drinks a good deal, and wanders outside to find a good place to sleep.

No, the story doesn’t give any hint of an answer to one of the many obvious questions:  why didn’t he sleep INSIDE?  This seems appropriate, especially since the guy is stark naked (does it seem to you that there are more and more stories about naked men?  It does to me, and, for the record, I want to state that I have nothing against nudity, and in fact there are many circumstances in which I welcome it and those who indulge in it, but mostly I would prefer naked women, and if I have offended anyone with these words I repent and apologize).

He ends up sleeping–deeply, it seems–in the alley.  At a certain point a neighbor parks in the alley, in his usual spot,  which is where the guy is sleeping.  It’s a Toyota (these details are good for exploitation in your speech/oped/sermon/whatever;  you can remark “good thing it wasn’t a Hummer” for example).  The guy wakes up, and–mirabile dictu–says “hey, get your car offame.”  This reminds me of Mel Brooks’ classic answer to Carl Reiner’s question (to the 2000 Year Old Man) “what was the most important thing for a doctor to know two thousand years ago?”  Brooks:  “Mainly you had to know how to say ‘I think he’s dead.’  You’d stick your fingers in (the patient’s) nose, and if he didn’t say ‘hey, get your fingers out of my nose,’ he was dead.  Right?”

Superman is fine, of course.  “Good condition,” according to the local hospital.

It’s a great story.  What a country.  What a guy.

Oh, almost forgot.  It does not tell us what he drank.  We need to know that.

Bomb Scares

August 18th, 2010 - 3:56 pm

I think the world of John Bolton, but this business about if-Israel-doesn’t-bomb-Iran-within-a-week-it’s-over has me scratching my head.  The thing about it that most agitates and perplexes me is this tacit assumption that the Sarkozy Option exhausts the policy alternatives.

According to this view, either we acquiesce to a nuclear Iran, or we bomb it.  I’ve always taken a dim view of bombing Iran, because there are better ways to deal with it.  And I don’t think it would be good for us, or for common decency, to appease an Islamic Republic with atomic bombs.  But those are not the only options.  Indeed, they are both lousy policies.

I thought it was better to support democratic revolution.  I figured that if we could bring down the Soviet empire by helping the dissidents, it should be a lot easier to topple the mullahcracy in Tehran.  This policy has not attracted enthusiastic support from the political and intellectual elites, to put it mildly.  For many years the consensus was that, well, I was nuts.  There could be no revolution in Iran.  There were no revolutionary leaders, there was no revolutionary mass, and the regime was in firm control.  Kinda like what the elite analysts said about the Soviet Union until two minutes before midnight.

Those illusions were destroyed in June, 2009, and the months of mass demonstrations against the regime.  The consensus then became:  revolution in Iran is inevitable.  The Green Movement has mass support, and good leadership, and the regime is shaky.  Even top Revolutionary Guards commanders are defecting.

Wrong again, because revolution is not a spontaneous event, it requires more than popular passion.  Most modern revolutions, including our own, have had outside support.  The events following the phony elections of 2009 screamed for an active Western policy of support for the dissidents.  But the policy makers did not do that.  If we did, there would probably be a freely elected, and quite reasonable, government in Tehran today.  Since we didn’t, the process is bubbling and the outcome is uncertain.  But the policy option is still “on the table.”

I wrote many years ago that the Iranians had made a grave strategic blunder in launching a crash program to build atomic bombs.  Why?  Because if they didn’t have that program, nobody would give two hoots about the evil they have unleashed on the world, from killing Americans to savaging their own people.  I argued that if Iran ever got the bomb, it would hasten the demise of the regime because it would make support for democratic revolution in Iran more urgent.

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Cossiga

August 17th, 2010 - 4:14 pm

Former Italian President Francesco Cossiga, 82 years old, died last night in a Roman hospital where he had spent the last week, mostly in and out of coma, unable to breath without assistance.  He was one of the most colorful Italian politicians and served in various key positions of the government, including Interior Minister and Prime Minister, during some very tough times in the 1970s and 80s.

When we were living in Rome, I saw quite a bit of Cossiga, who ran a sort of intellectual eating society where many of the country’s leading historians, philosophers, businessmen and artists congregated for great food and candid conversation.  As I recall, he organized these evenings every 2-3 weeks, and I was fortunate to attend several.  He was always generous with his time, and I think I was one of the few Americans to know him well.  During the period his friend Aldo Moro was held captive by the Red Brigades, Francesco suffered terribly.  I spent an entire day with him at that time, and I have rarely seen a man in such anguish;  he felt personally culpable for Moro’s fate, and when the terrorists killed him, Cossiga–in an act rare for men in power–immediately took responsibility and resigned.

He was a Christian Democrat and deeply religious.  He loved going to mass in the beautiful church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, and I wasn’t surprised to find that he had left very detailed instructions for his funeral (private, in his native Sardinia) and burial (alongside his father in Sassari).  No state funeral for him.

He was a rarity in many ways.  He was an outsider, like all Sardinians in Rome.  He had a terrific sense of humor.  He was a serious student of history.  He was an Anglophile, and read and spoke English fluently, which set him apart from almost all his peers.  And, as the story of his little salon shows you, he loved good conversation and of course good food and wine.

While prime minister, he tried to gain American support for “normalization” with the Italian Communist Party.  I think he did this because Moro had long argued that it was both good for Italy and inevitable, but perhaps he also believed it.  In any event, he organized a trip to Washington during the Carter years for two leading Communists, to talk to the “shadow government” of thinkers and scribblers.  It was a fiasco.

Then, during Reagan, Cossiga was one of the leaders of the Italian acceptance of the Pershing missiles that thwarted the Soviets’ design to intimidate Europe with their own big missiles.  The Germans had said they would take the Pershings, provided at least one other continental European country did the same.  Working in tandem with Prime Minister Craxi, Cossiga led the Parliament to vote ‘yes.’

In recent years, he acquired a reputation for eccentricity, and he became one of the most outspoken and beloved political leaders in the country.  I am sure that there is widespread grief today across the ideological landscape.  Francesco did it right, demonstrating good character, great wit, and serious thinking.  Not many like that.

Only in America

August 15th, 2010 - 7:45 pm

Over the weekend, I participated in one of those events that makes you feel good to be an American. Along with a close friend, I gave away the bride at a small wedding ceremony on Long Island. It was a secular wedding and most certainly mixed marriage. The bride was an Iraqi who had worked as an interpreter on the battlefield for American forces, first with the Marine Corps and then with US special forces. She had come to the attention of the terrorists, to the point where her parents were forced to move from Baghdad, and she had to find a safe haven somewhere. Our daughter, then in Iraq, heard about the case from military friends, and she found a way to have the young girl come to America, although the U.S. government was unwilling to foot the bill. But the necessary funds were raised, the necessary lawyers came forward to handle her case, and eventually she got her green card and found honest work.

FOOTNOTE: It took a lot of work and a lot of time to convince the government that people such as her should be embraced by this country. If they are good enough to risk their lives on the battlefield with our soldiers, they are certainly good enough to be offered sanctuary here when and if they become targets of our mutual enemies. Furthermore, they have unique cultural and linguistic skills that we badly need, but to this day the bureaucrats maintain ridiculous requirements (mistakenly imposed in the name of “security”) that often make it impossible for these precious resources to work effectively with us. Thanks largely to Senator Santorum, the numbers of such people have expanded considerably, but there’s much more that needs to change.

It wasn’t easy for her (for one thing, she’d mastered “Marine English,” which, while very colorful, isn’t highly prized in the employment market), and America is a different kind of society, with many very different rules, than the one she comes from, but she’s a determined woman, and if her luck holds, she’ll be a terrific American.

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The Coming Conflagration

August 10th, 2010 - 2:09 pm

I’ve always been fascinated by those brilliant souls who think they can see years ahead.  I usually warn my corporate clients that whenever they hear somebody talk about what’s going to happen in the next five years, they should run.  Fast.  Nowadays you’re doing well if you can anticipate the events of next month, sometimes next week.

That’s one of the features of living in a revolutionary moment.  Times of relative stability are different.  During the Cold War, for example, you could analyze a large part of the world according to the situations of the two superpowers.  We knew the rules of that game — within limits — and so did most of the world’s policy makers.  We also knew the rules of the international economy — again, within limits — and Wall Street called most of those shots, so one could make forecasts with some degree of confidence.

But the old paradigms are shattered, and if the new ones have taken shape, we don’t know what they are.  Thus, forget about the forecasters.  It all depends…

Above all, it all depends on leaders.  These are times when leaders have a greater-than-usual capacity to shape events.  Men can make their times.  Which is why the comings and goings of leaders are so important just now.  As they have been for some years, ever since Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, John Paul II, Lech Walesa, King Juan Carlos of Spain, and the others in that amazing generation dismantled the old paradigm and opened the floodgates to this age of revolution.

(ASIDE:  Interesting, isn’t it, that many, maybe even most, of those revolutionary leaders were branded “conservatives” at the time?)

So if you want to deploy your crystal ball, get it to focus on leaders, keeping in mind that, whatever they may be saying today, there is such turbulence in The Force that they may turn out to be very different tomorrow.  And keep in mind also that celebrity and leadership are very different.  Some leaders are very boring, and some celebrities can’t lead worth a damn.

Two examples:  Obama and Mousavi.

A recent essay in the Middle East Quarterly, relying on statements from Iranian Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi during last year’s election campaign, states flatly that “There is no hope at all that if Mousavi ever comes to power he will do more than a little regime house-cleaning.”

Yet anyone who followed the campaign of 2009 should have seen that Mousavi was changing, and becoming more outspokenly revolutionary.  In fact, even during the campaign — and much more thereafter, once the demonstrations started — you could see that he intended to dismantle the Islamic Republic.  The clearest evidence came from his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, who, while proclaiming her own Islamic convictions, called for toleration of all religions, and of non-religion, and said that women should be permitted to dress as they wished, even if that meant abandoning the veil on their heads.  Since the Islamic Republic is based on misogyny, the Mousavis’ intent to do away with the theocratic tyranny was quite clear.  And it has become ever clearer in the fourteen months thereafter.

To be sure, Mousavi and his associates often speak in code, but it isn’t very hard to see what they are up to:  relentlessly demanding investigations of the regime, exploiting the many divisions within its ranks, trying to produce an implosion.  Nobody knows if it will work, but it’s an audacious enterprise.  The mission is to create a new kind of government (he has often said that the Constitution is not a sacred text, and can be reformed whenever the people desire it) based on popular sovereignty.

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Peggy Noonan and the American Spirit

August 7th, 2010 - 3:42 pm

I’ve been reading Peggy Noonan’s latest, and it grieves me to find that I’m not convinced. I’m crazy about Peggy, and I have learned a lot from her, but it turns out that we actually live in different universes, and we believe very different things about America. Nothing very surprising there, you will say, and yet there were two themes in Peggy’s weekend ruminations that surprised ME.  A lot.

First, Peggy says that the biggest political change in her lifetime is that “Americans no longer assume that their children will have it better than they did.” I’m not at all convinced that Americans expected things to get better and better, uninterruptedly for the past 200-plus years. I doubt that most Americans felt that way during and after the Civil War, which was, after all, the bloodiest war in the history of the world to date. And I know, first hand, that lots of Americans were awfully gloomy during and after the Second World War.

Nor, it seems to me, were the Depression years particularly upbeat.

I was born a few months before the attack at Pearl Harbor, and my parents often told me that they wondered for many years if they had done the right thing by bringing a child into such a terrible world. Even in the years leading up to Pearl Harbor, I daresay that most Americans were deeply concerned about the future, including the American future. Earlier today, in our synagogue, a very wise Rabbi reminisced about his bar mitzvah in 1940. He painted a picture of dark gloom, which to be sure was felt more strongly in the Jewish community than among the Christians, but it was extremely widespread.

It seems to me that it took quite a long time to recover national optimism. As I recall the ’50s, the main themes in popular American literature, from The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit to Catcher in the Rye and the “beat” literature of Kerouac and his confreres, were full of alienation, not of “God it’s great to be an American, and our kids are going to have it better than we do.”

I went to college in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and I wasn’t at all sure that things were likely to get better in the coming years. My high school guidance counselor told me to forget about going to my number one choice, because of the tiny Jewish quota, most all of which went to legacy applicants. It all worked out, to be sure, but I think my parents were surprised, even though things were certainly easier for me than for them.  Until recently I haven’t had to worry about the country falling apart…

I think there was a brief moment during which Americans deluded themselves into believing that we were part of an irresistible progressive march into the future, until we finally brought an end to history. That particular derangement syndrome, which is very closely linked to a near-epidemic of narcissism, has now thankfully come to an end.

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The Hikers, the Mullahs, and Their Friends

August 1st, 2010 - 1:41 pm

Last week the president spoke out on behalf of the three American hikers who have been held in Iran for nearly a year. During that time, they have been able to make only one telephone call — to their families back in the U.S. — and write no letter at all. Sarah, Shane, and Josh are in Tehran’s infamous Evin prison, and Sarah is locked in solitary confinement save for once a day when she goes to the prison yard and sees the others.

“I want to be perfectly clear,” the president said.  And then he lapsed into incoherence.  “Sarah, Shane and Josh have never worked for the United States government.  They are simply open-minded and adventurous young people who represent the best of America, and of the human spirit. …They have never had any quarrel with the government of Iran, and have great respect for the Iranian people.”

I suppose that first gambit was meant to say “these kids are not spies,” which is what it means in Washingtonspeak.  He was trying to reassure the Iranians that they were not dealing with espionage agents (of which they are no doubt already convinced, not that it has anything to do with the current situation).  The line about “open-minded and adventurous young people” will certainly not win any points in Tehran, since the Iranian regime is currently under siege from people just like that, and is arresting, torturing, and executing them with record speed.

Finally, the Iranian tyrants don’t give a damn about real or imagined “respect for the Iranian people,” since they detest the Iranian people.

It’s hard for the family and friends of the poor kids — and, apparently, for the president as well — to acknowledge that the Iranian regime is at war with the United States, and hostages serve a useful purpose. The parents, whose pain and anguish can best be compared to those of parents of soldiers on the battlefield, say much the same thing as the president:

We do not know why Shane, Sarah and Josh are still being held without charge, why their human rights are being violated, why they are not allowed regular consular visits or to make calls and write letters home and why they have had no access to their lawyer. Most mystifyingly and cruelly of all, we do not know why Sarah remains in solitary confinement, denied any human contact other than brief periods each day when she is allowed to meet Shane and Josh in the prison yard.

Which I find a bit baffling, since the three Americans are getting the same sort of treatment as anyone else who falls into the clutches of the evil regime. There are six American hostages in Iranian hands right now, and there are thousands of Iranian hostages, many of them treated much worse than the three hikers, who are undergoing psychological torture, but not the ghastly physical ordeals that we know all too well.

They are entitled to be angry — and of late, they’ve expressed some anger — but they are not entitled to be perplexed, any more than the president is.  Doesn’t anyone understand what the Iranian regime is all about?

Apparently not.

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