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Chopping Off Heads

September 4th, 2014 - 7:33 pm

Decapitation isn’t nearly so rare or so “medieval” as many commentators apparently believe.  My favorite Italian newspaper, il Foglio (Rome), recently published an excellent overview of the practice.  If you read Italian, have at it.  If you don’t, here are the points that seem most useful to a contemporary person trying to understand what’s happening, with some of my own thoughts on this ghoulish subject.

Decapitation was a well-established method of enforcing the death penalty throughout Europe until fairly recently.  The French, to take the most recent example, only stopped beheading convicted killers in 1981 when Francois Mitterrand abolished the death penalty itself.  The French method–the guillotine–was famous, having been established during the period of the Revolution, in 1792.  It spread far and wide.

The guillotine–named after one of its designers, Joseph Guillotin–was a more humane method of execution than either hanging or beheading with a sword.  Both of the latter methods were subject to technical failure (the gallows did not always break the neck of the victim, prolonging the agony for several minutes, and the “execution sword”–with a sharp tip in Asia and Africa, but a blunt end in Europe–didn’t always do the job with a single stroke).  The guillotine nearly always worked.  It worked so well that it replaced previous methods, and was used to execute criminals from all social classes, kings to beggars.

Footnote:  Guillotin wasn’t the inventor;  that honor goes to another Frenchman, Antoine Louis, who of course wanted the device to be called the “Louisette.”

Another footnote:  over its “career,” the “widow” chopped off between fifteen and twenty-five thousand heads.

Yet another footnote:  The most famous failure was the bungled execution of French King Louis XVI.  It didn’t kill him right away — he suffered horribly,  to the delight of the mob.

Back to the very beginning:  The first systematic practice of decapitation was in Egypt at the time of the pharaohs, from the 4th millenium to the fourth century B.C.  It was adopted by Imperial Rome for full-fledged citizens (slaves and thieves were crucified).

Today, the only country (not counting the Islamic State) that decapitates as an official method of execution is Saudi Arabia (however some NGOs claim that it is still used in parts of Africa and Asia).  Terrorists do it regularly, as do Mexican drug cartels.  Almost all the decapitating states used swords (the current use of knives, which takes longer, combines torture with execution).

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Why Do They Join the Jihad?

September 3rd, 2014 - 7:24 am

Because it gives meaning to life, that’s why.

It’s a commonplace to anyone who’s studied the rise of fascism, of which Islamofascism is the most recent variety.  The main problem with democratic capitalism is that it’s so successful, and therefore very boring.  A generation or two of European intellectuals bemoaned the great triumph of science and industry, which they portrayed as relentlessly stifling the human soul, burying us under a hill of material things.

The Germans produced the most moving such literature — think Nietzsche, think Hesse, not accidentally the cult hero of the American revolt against materialism in the 1960s — and, seeking for paths to spiritual fulfillment, they often wandered off into Eastern mysticism.  (Californians dd, too, and sometimes still do, but that’s not fascism.  It’s Hollywood spirituality).

The spiritual path merged with politics, catalyzed by war.  All fascism, whatever version of social or political organization it advocates, insists that war is the true measure of human virtue.  A person’s valor and courage are measured by his performance in combat.  The Italian fascists insisted that Mussolini and his followers were superior people who had been molded in the trenches of the Great War.  Young men and women who believed they possessed heroic qualities raced to join the fascist movement, just as they now race to join the jihad.

It is not primarily a matter of social class, although there is a considerable literature on the recruitment of poor young Muslims to suicide terrorism, in which the recruiters offer money and security to the surviving family.  The primary passion is excitement, the thrill of fighting the enemy, of making a signal contribution to the creation of a new world, and joining an irresistible force.

How much more thrilling than plodding along in a bourgeois world with no spiritual fulfillment, but only…things.

This quest for the meaning of life is a leitmotif of human history. The British Empire was replete with them (Lawrence, for example) as was America as we marched West to fill out the continent.  Modern politics has enlisted such people in an enthusiastic mass movement that threatens democratic capitalism.  The 20th-century fascists were largely secular, substituting their own rituals for traditional religious ones;  Islamofascism turns it around, substituting religious rituals and beliefs for the largely secular ones that defined the “modern world.”

Both work so long as the movement succeeds.  Both fail when they are defeated.  That’s why we have to crush the jihad — we kill the jihadis before they kill us, and we shatter their ideology by demonstrating that their leaders are false prophets.

Faster, please…

Latest Big Lie: ‘We Have No Strategy’

August 29th, 2014 - 10:05 am

They DO have a strategy, but they prefer to appear indecisive.  That’s because the strategy would likely provoke even greater criticism than the false confession of endless dithering.

The actual strategy is detente first, and then a full alliance with Iran throughout the Middle East and North Africa.  It has been on display since before the beginning of the Obama administration.  During his first presidential campaign in 2008, Mr. Obama used a secret back channel to Tehran to assure the mullahs that he was a friend of the Islamic Republic, and that they would be very happy with his policies.  The secret channel was Ambassador William G. Miller, who served in Iran during the shah’s rule, as chief of staff for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and as ambassador to Ukraine.  Ambassador Miller has confirmed to me his conversations with Iranian leaders during the 2008 campaign.

Ever since, President Obama’s quest for an alliance with Iran has been conducted through at least four channels:  Iraq, Switzerland (the official U.S. representative to Tehran), Oman and a variety of American intermediaries, the most notable of whom is probably Valerie Jarrett, his closest adviser.  In recent months, Middle Eastern leaders reported personal visits from Ms. Jarrett, who briefed them on her efforts to manage the Iranian relationship.  This was confirmed to me by a former high-ranking American official who says he was so informed by several Middle Eastern leaders.

The central theme in Obama’s outreach to Iran is his conviction that the United States has historically played a wicked role in the Middle East, and that the best things he can do for that part of the world is to limit and withdraw American military might, and empower our self-declared enemies, whose hostility to traditional American policies he largely shares.

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Save Mickey From The Terrorists

August 24th, 2014 - 12:18 pm

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Saudi Sheikh Muhammed Munajid:  “…according to Islamic law, Mickey Mouse should be killed in all cases.”

With all the excitement in the Middle East, you probably missed the call for the assassination of Mickey Mouse by a leading Saudi sheikh.  Mr. Munajid doesn’t much like Tom or Jerry either — indeed, he’s eager to extirpate the whole species — but Mickey particularly upsets him, and he wants the world’s most famous mouse taken out.

Saudi Arabia has long been one of the epicenters of radical Islamist doctrine.  Saudis fund a global network that indoctrinates young Muslims to hate the West.  That network is active within the United States.  Saudi-funded textbooks are an open call to violent jihad:

Saudi textbooks teach, along with many other noxious lessons, that Jews and Christians are “enemies,” and they dogmatically instruct that various groups of “unbelievers” — apostates (which includes Muslim moderates who reject Saudi Wahhabi doctrine), polytheists (which includes Shiites), and Jews — should be killed.

So when a Saudi cleric of no small standing — he previously served as a diplomat at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C. — issues such a statement, we should take it seriously, despite the healthy impulse to laugh at him.

If Munajid’s followers decide to fulfill his call to mayhem, who should pay most attention?  It all depends on where they think the infidel mouse can be found.  Maybe they will try to track him down at Disneyland or Disneyworld, or even at the Disney studios.  Security experts at the Disney Network should worry, too, since the satanic pictures emanate from there.

And of course there are the Disney stores, which sell maleficent idols of The Mouse in order to corrupt little children.  Malls, in other words.

I know it sounds nuts, but they ARE nuts.  If you want to thwart them, you’d best try to see the world through their eyes.

No kidding.

(Artwork created using multiple Shutterstock.com images.)

Why can’t Hamas abide by the ceasefire?  Because of the possible consequences of defeat for themselves, the Qataris and the Iranians.

Everybody in the Middle East sees that Hamas lost the latest round in the Gaza War.  Its rockets were nullified, its tunnels are largely destroyed, and its top leaders lived shamelessly in luxury hotels far away from the battlefield.  It was not only a defeat, but a humiliation, and Hamas now faces challenges to its rule.  Sharing power with Fatah is unacceptable — a defeated Hamas would be the junior partner, especially after the revelation that Hamas was organizing the assassinations of Fatah leaders — and turning Gaza over to Fatah would likely doom Hamas.

In contrast to its previous armed conflicts with Israel, this time Hamas’ support from the Arab world was quite limited.  Important Arab governments, such as Egypt’s, were openly rooting for, and even working in tandem with, Israel.  Indeed, two of Hamas’ most boisterous and bloodthirsty foreign supporters were not Arab at all, but the Persian regime in Tehran and the Turkish regime in Ankara.  This cannot fail to have an impact on the Sunni Arab citizens of Gaza.  They know the majority of their brethren have turned against Hamas, and that their fighters are supported in large part by non-Arab Shi’ites.

Proof?  The Israelis’ successful operations against top Hamas military commanders and a colleague in Islamic Jihad bespeak good human intelligence.  They were betrayed by fellow Gazans, who delivered them to the Israelis.  Hamas knows this and have already executed three of their own for collaborating with the enemy.  Just as victory in battle attracts new recruits, as we see with ISIS, defeat discourages support and encourages defections and betrayals.

Iran — a source of weapons, money, intelligence and training — may well have similar problems.  Iranian leaders have been quite outspoken in support of Hamas.  Ergo, the defeat and humiliation of Hamas will also be seen as a defeat and humiliation of the Islamic Republic, both regionally and domestically.  President Rouhani has just suffered a notable Parliamentary defeat at the hands of the hard-line faction, which impeached his minister of science and technology.  The former minister, Reza Faraji-Dana, is one of the most respected reformers, very popular among university students, very well educated, and not particularly controversial.  His purge must be seen as a blow aimed at Rouhani’s government.

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It may well be that ISIS is one of at least two too-clever-by-half operations masterminded by our enemies.  At the beginning, ISIS spun off from Al Qaeda because, we were told, Zawahari was too moderate for them.  AQ didn’t slaughter enough, didn’t crucify enough, wasn’t psychotic enough for their taste.

It seems that Iran gave ISIS support, in keeping with its well-documented practice of supporting all sides in other countries’ internal conflicts, the better to a) figure out what’s going on, b) penetrate organizations that might win, and seem actually or potentially dangerous to Tehran, and c) spread riot and ruin, figuring that the Quds Force and/or Hezbollah can dominate most any regional battlefield this side of Gaza.

If you want a lively and accurate picture of this Iranian strategy over the past decade or so, read this Foreign Policy piece by Michael Weiss.

Thus, the Iranians were in cahoots with ISIS, an organization that seems to have recruited the worst of the worst killers, torturers, rapists and megalomaniacs.  In a world unfortunately over populated with evil men, ISIS finds lots of would-be General Zods to demand everyone kneel and worship them.  And they love to kill everyone, Muslims, infidel Christians, the whole lot.  Perfect clients.

Except that the Iranians should have been more careful what they wished for;  ISIS did altogether too well, and declared “the Caliphate,” which excited still more followers.  The Iranians don’t like this at all (they like the idea of “the Caliphate” just fine, but under the rule of their very own supreme leader, not some nut case named al-Baghdadi).

So the Iranians are now fighting ISIS, but they’re over-committed in Syria and all over Iraq.  Ergo, when you ponder President Obama’s decision to (maybe) intervene against ISIS in Iraq, keep in mind that such a move would please Tehran.  At least for the moment.

Keep another thing in mind, too.  Please.  The Iranians are not nearly as brilliant as a lot of pundits think they are (I mean, they’ve thoroughly wrecked their own country, after all), and on this one, if I’m right, they unleashed a real monster that is threatening some of their most basic interests (above all, Bashar Assad).  And now there’s the possibility of a new monster on the block:  American military operations right next door.  To the great benefit of the Kurds.  Who are yet another threat to Tehran…

Too clever by half.

They’re not the only ones…

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“The whole world knows that the main source of the weapons serving the resistance is Iran.”

The Islamic Jihad spokesman knew what he was talking about.  His own terror organization is part of the Iranian proxy army that includes Hezbollah and, with some ups and downs, Hamas.  Islamic Jihad is very much in that network, and undoubtedly worked alongside Hamas in the recent Gaza fighting.  If you have any doubts, Iranian leaders — especially at high levels of the Revolutionary Guard Corps — have bragged about their role in the Gaza war, one of the most reliable Israeli think tanks has written about it at length, and Congressman Ed Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, confirmed it.

Moreover, as the region becomes more tumultuous, the Iranians have taken a big step:  they have sent their own fighters and commanders into battle in Iraq and Syria.  Lots of them have been injured or killed.  I have been told by usually well-informed Iranians outside the country that there have been several demonstrations against the regime’s strategy (this is not a “Sunni vs Shiite” thing;  Iranians generally do not love the Arabs, and don’t want their men sacrificed for an Arab “cause” of whatever doctrinal convictions).

Iranian commanders are bragging, but Gaza can’t have done much for the domestic popularity of the Iranian regime.  Like most of human life, political support is all about winning and losing, and Hamas quite clearly lost to Israel.  Therefore, the regime is in bed with losers, and all that bragging and chest-pounding can’t conceal the facts.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani know this, and they are keenly aware of the hostility of the Iranian people.  You don’t need public opinion polls to prove this.  Just look at the behavior of the regime.  It’s been about a year since Rouhani became president.  In that time, the regime has executed more than a thousand people, making Iran the worldwide #1 killer of its own people.  If Khamenei and Rouhani were confident of popular support, they wouldn’t be arresting, torturing and killing so many Iranians.

There is a second indicator.  On that death list, two names are notably missing:  opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.  Both are under “house arrest,” but the regime hasn’t dared to put them on trial, fearing uncontrollable protests.

And there is a third element:  even the pathetic pretense of press freedom hinted at by Rouhani and his claque has now been crushed.

Finally, the editor of one of the best Iranian human-rights groups was just found dead in Turkey, and it looks suspiciously like a regime assassination.

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I’d been reading about those Hamas tunnels, and I certainly noticed that the Israelis lost plenty of their boys in the ground campaign to destroy the tunnel work, and I wondered if there had been some sort of intelligence failure.  As usual in such cases, I turned to a higher authority — or maybe it’s a lower authority, since I don’t know which area of the nether regions is inhabited by the spirit of my old friend, James Jesus Angleton, the late chief of CIA counterintelligence.  So I set up the notoriously unreliable Ouija board, and lo and behold, there was the gravelly voice (decades of Camels will do that):

JJA:  “Nice to be remembered.”

ML:  “Good to talk to you, as always.”

JJA:  “What’s up?  Snowden, I suppose.”

ML:  “Not really. I wanted to talk about the tunnels in Gaza.  However it all turns out, the Israelis were pretty clearly surprised.  It seems they didn’t know the full details, even including Hamas’s plot to send hundreds of killers into Israel via the tunnels for a mass massacre next Rosh Hashanah.  They were in a terrific position to know what was going on in Gaza, but they seem to have missed a biggie.  It sounds like an intelligence failure, so here I am…”

JJA:  “It does, indeed.  But careful with those broad brushes…everybody knew there were tunnels into Gaza from the south, against which Israel and Egypt were operating.  Those tunnels were used, inter alia, to smuggle weapons from Iran and other suppliers through Sudan into Gaza.  And the Israelis say they knew there were tunnels across the Israel/Gaza border as well.  And they also say that they knew some of those tunnels were designed to infiltrate Hamas forces into Israel to attack and kidnap Israelis, especially if they were in uniform.”

ML:  “Gilad Shalit being the obvious case in point.”

JJA:  “But obviously they didn’t know all the details.  Which should not totally surprise US.  It’s normal, intelligence is invariably imperfect, even in this case, where the Israelis had exceptional coverage–aerial, electronic, agents on the ground etcetera, etcetera.”

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Courtesy of Tehran and the Whole Gang

July 29th, 2014 - 8:20 pm

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As Israel’s UN ambassador, Ron Prosor, said:  “Every rocket flying out of Gaza could bear the imprint ‘Courtesy of Tehran.’”

Good point.  It should make us think more broadly about the Gaza/Israel war. That war isn’t just a conflict between Israel and Hamas, because both stand for much larger parts of the world.  Israel’s ability to wage war depends in part on the military cooperation and assistance that comes from the United States (think Iron Dome, just for starters), while Hamas’s strength derives in part from help coming from Iran and Qatar.

So the Gaza war should be seen as a test of the two sides’ backers as well as a test of the actual combatants, in the same way the Spanish Civil War tested the abilities and resolve of the two sides that would shortly face off directly in the world war.  The West’s decision to stay out of the little war encouraged Hitler and Mussolini to be more ambitious, thereby making the big war more likely.

Pundits almost never put the several little wars now raging from Europe to the Middle East in global context, preferring to deal with each separate conflict as a separate event.  But even a short look at recent headlines about Hamas shows the extent of its support network (which should be the main issue).  Here are three, in addition to the one quoting Amb. Prosor:

1.  A secret arms deal between Hamas and North Korea;

2.  Deals between Iran and North Korea;

3.  Bragging by one of the most powerful Iranian leaders, Ali Larijani, taking credit for providing Hamas with rockets.

Eyes tend to roll at the suggestion that North Korea is a significant force in world affairs, but the leaders of the hermit kingdom do matter.  Take all those Gazan tunnels, for example.  One will get you five that a good deal of the expertise, and perhaps even a certain degree of manpower, came from Pyongyang.  The North Koreans excel at tunneling, as at nuclear weaponry. (Remember that Syrian nuke facility the Israelis bombed a while ago?  That was a North Korean public works project.  And they have worked hard on the Tehran subway system and on tunnels in Iranian mountains too.)  They are totally in cahoots with the Iranians on missiles and nukes, and evidently link up with the mullahs to help terror organizations.

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How Did We Get Here?

July 24th, 2014 - 1:35 pm

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Not so long ago, it was decidedly taboo to speak badly about Jews. Today, from tenured professors at major universities to mobs trying to burn down synagogues in Paris, people openly speak and write — sometimes cautiously, sometimes not — about the presumed malevolent power of Jews. Sometimes they carefully denounce “Zionists,” but open Jew-hatred is now commonplace, and the Jew-haters are getting a hearing.

It’s important to understand how we get from there to here, from a near-universal taboo against anti-Jewish remarks to toleration of nasty anti-Jewish incitement. And there’s no one who has provided as good a guide to that grim journey than Ben Cohen. It’s in his recent book, Some of My Best Friends.

Dramatic changes of this sort don’t happen quickly. Cultural paradigms — embodied in standards of “good manners” — change slowly, and it has taken several generations for antisemitic language to slither back into permissible discourse. One of the many great things about Ben Cohen’s book, which is a collection of his essays over the past several years — is his keen eye for the little watersheds along the way. Bit by bit, small event after small event, we got there. Kudos to Mr. Cohen for noticing them and doing the hard and depressing work of chronicling them.

These little events range from British court decisions to parliamentary debates, to administrative decisions at major and minor universities. Mr. Cohen writes with admirable restraint about the now-forgotten case of Ronnie Fraser, “an unassuming lecturer in mathematics at one of London’s further educational colleges,” who brought a court case against advocates of an academic boycott against Israeli academics and their institutions. He lost his case, thereby, as Mr. Cohen says, “(leaving) the definition of what constitutes antisemitism to (often hostile) non-Jews.” He quotes Fraser in a very important post-verdict statement:

For the court to say that, as Jews, we do not have an attachment to Israel is disappointing, considering we have been yearning for Israel for 2000 years and it has been in our prayers all that time.

Mr. Cohen warned at the time (2012) that the British decision would create a dangerous precedent, to whit that whenever Jews say that antisemitism is a major component of anti-Zionism, they are arguing in bad faith.

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