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Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Myths of Oslo

July 26th, 2011 - 7:33 pm

The more I look at the Oslo massacre, the more I am struck by how archaic it all is. The killer fancies himself a noble defender of a Western world that no longer exists, and has not existed, really, since the First World War destroyed it. He is the sort of fascist who believes in the myth of a Golden Age that must be restored, and vaingloriously sees himself a member of the elite chosen by history to defend the mythical West.

He fancies himself a warrior fighting against two mortal enemies: “Marxism” and “Islam.”  He needn’t have bothered;  they both died a long time ago.

The first was effectively demolished in the Cold War with the defeat of the Soviet Empire. Yes, there are certainly Marxists around, and even communists, but there is no longer a worldwide mass movement challenging the West in the name of dialectical materialism. Their contemporary warriors are intellectuals, not workers, and they are more often masked as liberals or moderates than openly leftist revolutionaries.  That’s because there is no market for revolutionary Marxism, as Van Jones can explain to you.

The second, “Islam,” has been moribund for centuries.  Virtually all the countries calling themselves “Islamic” are failed states whose citizens are starving, whose industries are generations behind those of the contemporary West, and whose most talented young people are mostly eager, even desperate, to live and work in infidel countries.  Yes, there are certainly plenty of murderous jihadis around, but although they work very hard at killing us (typically often blowing themselves up instead, or setting their own underwear on fire), they are most effective against other Muslims. Even outside the “Muslim world” — as President Obama called it during his unfortunate address in Cairo in 2009 — the hard-core pro-jihad, let’s-create-a-new-caliphate crowd visits misery on correligionaries packed into ghettos and force fed a particularly nasty version of shariah.

Anders Breivik’s demons did not drive him to attack Muslims, although there may have been some among his victims; his targets were his own people, those he called “traitors” for betraying the mythical West to the mythical global forces of Islam and Marxism.  Quite a bizarre tapestry:  A fight to the death among and within three spent forces which had already died.

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To My Coptic Friends

July 12th, 2011 - 3:30 pm

You’re having a tough time in what our president likes to call The Muslim World, I know that.  Even in Egypt, where you’re 12 or 13% of the population,  and where you’ve been living since long before the creation of Islam.  Your churches are being torched, your faithful are being killed, your people are headed for exile.

I care a lot about the Copts.  Barbara and I — two American Jews — were introduced by a Coptic fashion designer in Rome, a beautiful woman named Isis.  She performed a miracle for us;  she thought we’d get along well…and we sure have.  So my support for you is not just political.  It’s personal as well.  Romantic, even.

You’re asking for the support of the West against your killers and oppressors.  You want American help, and you would like Jewish help too, although not too publicly, lest your killers cite it as additional justification for their acts.  We’ll try to help.  But we’d be in a stronger position if you’d fought on our side when the same gang of thugs threw us out of Arab lands.  But you didn’t.  Not you Copts, not your hundreds of millions of Christian brothers and sisters.  You know the famous Bonhoeffer quote, don’t you?  It’s all too appropriate for you today:

First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I did not speak out.  Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out.  Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out.  And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.

So there you are.  Bonhoeffer joined the failed conspiracy against Hitler, and was executed.  His terrible confession can be echoed by a sea of new victims, all guilty of an awful sin of omission, the sin of remaining silent while others are being mudered or brutalized.  That sin, as you and your brethren know all too well today, has terrible consequences, that go far beyond feelings of guilt and expressions of remorse.  It costs even more lives.

We hear echoes of Bonhoeffer in the words of Maziar Bahari, a one-time Newsweek contributor in Tehran, when he was thrown into the ghastly prisons of the Iranian tyrants:

I thought I had done everything I could to avoid the suffering that Maryam, and my father before her, went through as political prisoners, and yet the authorities came for me shortly after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial reelection in 2009.…I had taken every precaution to stay below the radar. But my time had come, and they tortured me for 118 days before I was released because of a global campaign spearheaded by my wife….

Bahari lived to write his prison memoirs, even as his employer, Newsweek magazine, often pumped out all manner of anti-American disinformation, as the infamous libel according to which American soldiers threw a Koran down a toilet.

Notice why Bahari’s life was spared:  “a global campaign spearheaded by my wife.”  She, at least, fought back, and she found others willing to fight alongside her.  That’s the way it works.  It’s easier to find allies when they can see you’re on the battlefield.  It’s a lot harder if you’re just making the “moral case” and begging to be saved.

There is every reason to believe that your — our — current fight will end well, because our enemies are hollow bullies who aren’t very brave and have mastered the art of declaring victory while retreating.  Remember Moshe Dayan’s line shortly after the 6-Day War, when someone asked him to compare the victorious Israeli armies with the great armed forces of the past, including Caesar and Alexander?  “Nobody knows,” he dryly remarked, “we only fight Arabs.”

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At first, I thought all the statements — about Iranian support for terrorists (in both Iraq and Afghanistan) who kill Americans — were parting messages from government officials on their way out, and therefore free to say such things. They knew the facts all along, but repeatedly soft-pedaled them and on occasion even denied having such evidence.  So when Secretary of Defense Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen (finally) said “the Iranians are killing our guys,” I wasn’t impressed.  “NOW you tell us!” was my gut reaction.  “So how come we didn’t hear about this many years ago?”

And that’s still my reaction, up to a certain point.

Along with other military families, and a tiny handful of pols and pundits, I have been adamant about this matter for many years of Democrat and Republican administrations. I once sent a personal note to a senior government official in which I asked why he should not be considered in violation of his mission for failure to act, or at least speak out, against the Iranian regime’s murder of Americans. All to no obvious effect. The Gates and Mullen statements seemed altogether too easy to me, a sort of conscience-balm for two men who had failed to do their duty over many years.

But then came a similar statement from Ambassador Jeffrey in Iraq, and I had to say “whoa!”  And then Panetta said the same thing.  Those are different, those come from officials who are there right now, and their words count for a lot more than those of guys entering retirement. Indeed, I think we must now read the Gates and Mullen statements as part of an administration campaign to raise public consciousness.

It looks like the sort of campaign that is designed to lay the groundwork for a policy shift.  Can it be?

Lest you forget, here’s the baseline:

Question: “Aren’t you concerned that your outstretched hand has been interpreted by extremists, especially [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, [Hizballah leader] Nasrallah, [Hamas leader] Meshal, as weakness?”

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it’s not clear to me why my outstretched hand would be interpreted as weakness.

It would be churlish to blame Obama and his minions for the ongoing Iranian-sponsored assault against Americans — it’s been going on for decades.  And every president since Jimmy Carter has appeased the Islamic Republic, believing that a “grand bargain” was days away.  But the other presidents’ search for rapprochement with Iran was, for the most part, conducted secretly, while Obama put himself in front of the appeasement bandwagon.

Caveat:  There have always been Obama officials who said privately that the president has known all along that his call for good relations with Iran would fail, and that sterner measures would be necessary.  It may even be true (although I doubt it;  I think that he believed that his “special gift” would bring the mullahs into a big tent of peace and love).

Whatever the original intention, its failure is manifest to us all, isn’t it?  So now what?

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The mullahs have stepped up their tempo of killing, both at home and abroad.  The main difference is that the Iranian citizens who are tortured and executed are slaughtered by fellow-Iranians.  Our guys and our friends and allies are gunned down, or, more often, blown up, by proxies.  As I have said before, the Iranians dread direct confrontation with other countries, both because they have no confidence in the loyalty of their armed forces (including the thoroughly corrupted Revolutionary Guards Corps), and because it’s not their way.  They prefer to kill stealthily, not openly.  You may have noticed that when the Saudis sent troops to help their neighbors in Bahrain put down an Iranian-inspired insurrection, the Tehran regime first thumped its chest  and promised to send the Guards to fight it out.  Then… nothing happened.  They just slinked away, back into their caves.

Call it the mullahs’ way of war.  Let someone else die for you, avoid exposure, and never ever risk your own skin. And  they pay heavily for it. As some Israeli analysts have written,

It can be assumed that the Sunni camp, headed by Saudi Arabia, is fully aware of the political and military significance of Iran’s weakness and its unwillingness to initiate face-to-face conflict. This will have ramifications on both the regional and the global levels.

The proxy killings are on the front pages: Iraq and Afghanistan, with American forces on the way out, are prime targets for Iran’s clients, as our military commanders—including Robert Gates, now departed from the Pentagon—and yesterday, Ambassador Jeffries in Iraq, have been telling anyone who cares to listen.  If my information is right, we will see lots more of this, as well as similar havoc in Africa, where the Iranians have considerable appetite for terror bases, commercial agreements, and basing rights.

The direct slaughter at home is not so well covered in the popular press, but Iranians see it every day.  Over the weekend, more than fifty executions were publicly announced, and poor souls are rounded up for outrageous prison terms.  Crackdowns on “immoral” behavior (the wrong sort of haircut, the wrong sort of head scarf) are intensifying, and women are now forbidden to enter coffee and tea bars where hookahs are in use.

Have a look at this interview with one of the country’s leading human rights lawyers, who was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment. He told the interviewer he felt fortunate to have escaped with his life.

For those who have chosen to believe that the Tehran regime is stable—and therefore that we should appease it–this is the good news.  It shows that Persia is ruled by mass murderers who are determined to kill anyone they fear.  You’ll recognize the recent application of these methods in Syria, which is because the Iranians are “guiding” Bashar Assad through his time of troubles.  The mullahs know that if Syria falls, Iran is suddenly without its favorite fighters, from Hezbollah to Hamas, from the Brothers to the Islamic Jihad.  As if they weren’t frenetic enough, they are also counseling Qadaffi (so sayeth Le Monde ).

On the other hand, it is hard to imagine any group wrecking a country, and its own ability to rule, more effectively than the tandem of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, now the political equivalents of colliding sub-atomic particles.  In recent weeks, several of Ahmadinejad’s appointees have been sacked, and some even arrested.  He was subjected to the startling indignity of being censored by the official state broadcasting network.  He tried to recover by announcing that every Iranian family would receive one thousand square meters of land (think sand, there’s quite a substantial desert in the east), only to have Khamenei himself diss the scheme.  Meanwhile, the Middle East’s evilest empire attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of State, for its generous toleration of human trafficking, mostly in women’s bodies.

No surprise, then, that Ahmadinejad lost it.  This regime has been a fascinating example of reciprocal payoffs and blackmail for years, but the facts have usually been hidden from public view.  No more.  Ahmadinejad made an amazing speech, accusing the Revolutionary Guards (hitherto almost universally believed to be the president’s most reliable base of support) of smuggling two billion dollars’ worth of cigarettes into the country via ports and piers outside the purview of Customs.  Such enormous sums, he said “invite all the smugglers of the world, not to mention our own ‘smuggler brethren.’”  The last two words are code for the Guards.

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