» 2007 » April

Works and Days

Monthly Archives: April 2007

Don’t Give Up

April 26th, 2007 - 3:36 pm

On Losing

Sometimes no comment is needed. So it was of Vietnam when victorious Col. Bui Tin later remarked that that the American Left was “essential to our strategy.” He elaborated to the Wall Street Journal: “Every day our leadership would listen to world news over the radio at 9AM to follow the growth of the antiwar movement.”

And Tin added that anti-war activists, “Gave us confidence that we should hold on in the face of battlefield reverses. We were elated when Jane Fonda, wearing a red Vietnamese dress, said at a press conference that she was ashamed of American actions in the war.”*

So now read the official al Qaida response to Sen. Harry Reid’s declaration that the war is lost:

“This comes on the heels of an important statement by House Majority Leader Harry Reid who previously said, “The Iraqi war is hopeless and the situation in Iraq is same as it was in Vietnam.”

Then came Bush’s stupid statement where he emphasized that his strategic goal in Iraq is more than a military victory but also to prevent the Mujahideen from benefiting from the fruits of the Jihad to ultimately achieve victory.

This is how the cross worshipping occupiers and their henchmen live. Their morale continues to collapse as the result of the increasing strikes of the Mujahideen, carried out by the grace of Allah. From downing their aircraft to penetrating their fortified Green Zone and targeting the heads of apostasy and agents, all this has pushed the American army to repeat what it did in Vietnam.”

Vietnam Redux

How odd that the ongoing evocation of Vietnam by the Left in connection with Iraq has proven silly in every aspect—we’ve lost 5% of the fatalities of the Vietnam War, have been in Iraq as third as long, have witnessed a popularly-elected government in place, are fighting primordial reactionary religious fundamentalists—except one: the reoccurring liberal effort to cut-off funds and end American support for a consensual government. If this succeeds, so will follow the Vietnam-era sequelae: mass exodus, mass killing, American humiliation, and regional realignment with the winners. Who would want that—and why?

What Mistakes?

Everyone talks about key mistakes in the war—the disbanding of the Iraqi army, Abu Ghraib, the proconsulship of Paul Bremmer, the sending of too few troops, etc. I don’t want to concentrate on these old questions and old debates, and have already written about most of them. But there seems to me to have been five critical and pivotal crises that were turning-points of sorts, and have been left relatively unmentioned, both in and beyond our power.

1. The decision of Turkey on March 5th-6th 2003, just days before the invasion, to deny some 60,000 American troops, including the 4th ID Mechanized Division, passage into northern Iraq. Such a simultaneous north and south approach would have brought thousands of Americans in the very first few days of the war right down into Anbar Province, the heart of the later insurrection.

2. The resignation of Tommy Franks as Centcom Commander in July 2003, just as the insurrection was starting. I think his successor Gen. Abizaid was by far the more gifted commander, but the departure of the most senior theater commander a little more than 60 days after the fall of Saddam’s statue, to seek a lucrative post-Army speaking and writing career, gave the wrong impression: he was to be praised for winning Iraq and then retired just as the supposed achievement was increasingly in question. Again, it gave the demoralizing impression that Franks was getting out of town before the proverbial something hit the fan, a sense reiterated when newly appointed Gen. Abizaid almost immediately announced for the first time that we were facing a classic insurgency.

3. The April 18, 2004 decision by the new Zapatero government in Madrid to withdraw Spanish troops. It wasn’t the number or capability of such an ally that mattered. Rather the Madrid train bombing toppled the Aznar government, and then proved that such terrorism could not only end a Prime Ministership, but, worse, force a nation to flee Iraq in fear—which only gave the jihadists more credibility and set the stage for more efforts to fracture the coalition.

4. The April 2004 assault on Fallujah, abrupt cessation, and then turning security over to the so-called Fallujah Brigade. That initially successful assault, and then subsequent withdrawal, gave the impression of American weakness, and worse, that our military efficacy could be nullified by over concern for pre-election public relations. When Fallujah later became a “no-go” zone sanctuary for bomb-making and terrorists rearmament, the stage was set for another, more costly siege, and a permanent impression that we talked toughed but carried a little stick.

5. The reprieve in August-September 2004 given to Moqtadar Al-Sadr when his Mahdi army was surrounded and nearly crushed. By letting him go, we took all the criticism for confronting him, and yet ensured that he would come back emboldened for years to come, reassured that even in extremis he would always have a pardon.

I don’t know whether at present our effort in Iraq would be far easier had we barreled down from Turkey in the very beginning, or had Franks at least stayed on through the insurgency and apprised his staff of its significance, or Spain defiantly stayed on and set an example of an imperviousness to blackmail, or had we crushed those in Fallujah the first time, or eliminated Sadr, but all that couldn’t have hurt.

The Candidates

On the one-hand the Republican candidates are in large part older, with a history of illness (Giuliani, McCain, and Thompson have all had some sort of cancer), and at times appear less hale, but are talking tough (cf. Giuliani’s comments about the Democrats’ acceptance of defeat, and McCain’s “get a life” retort to Murtha).

But the younger and more robust Democrats reveal how inexperience is equally problematic. Fresh-faced John Edwards (of “two-nations” fame), we learn, lives in a 30,000 sq. ft home with a special (“John’s room”) yuppie sanctuary for the candidate’s relaxation, while he worries about the poor (between getting $400 haircuts). Hillary Clinton, now for the third time, adopts a strange imitation Black southern slang in front of African-Americans, a patois between a Wellesley nasal preppie and someone who prepped twang-talking in Arkansas for a few years, while Mr. Obama worries that the slaughter at Virginia Tech has something to do with outsourcing and Imus. It should be an interesting campaign.

Outtake # 13—No Man A Slave

The end of the novel. Melon walks to Thebes to witness the trial of Epaminondas. But the general is summarily acquitted, and he now heads northward—but spies Melon on the road

Melon walked Xiphos off the road. He sat under an old oak with new spring leaf to let the band pass by. He had come without a spear, much less his heavy breastplate. Indeed, for all his brag to the hooded Pelopidas he lacked even a knife. Melon certainly had no desire to try the lame Xiphos against this new horde of horsemen.

The riders halted right where Melon had left the road.

But this time there were no hoods and Melon saw Epaminondas at the head of the throng, proud and sitting erect on his pony. He yelled at them as he sat beneath his shade tree.

“You are not even back a month. Once more your riders dash up to Helikon, to tear folks from their farms and fill their heads with talk of three-day-rations and campfires. But I hear that jurymen of Boiotia have decided not to cut your throat or crush your head with the sharp stones, Theban. Instead you will end your days by the fire. With wine and your dog as you sing to the Thebans of freedom and the helots.”

“No,no, lazy man, sitting here behind these trees. I leave today to Thessaly in the north. You know the story of wasps and their nests and the head of the snake better now than I. I will put those folk down up there that would have us fight them even as we plan to battle others again to the south.”

He may have been on his horse and in a hurry, but the general kept smiling not at his reprieve but at the cure of the once lost Melon. “They still talk up north of our sinister plots of Pythagoras, and of their sadness at the end of Sparta. They threaten us with nemesis. Yes, they cry that their own serfs, the penestai, have been stirred up by the evil Epaminondas. And they say up north that I favor the sheep and dogs and other unfree folk to walk with heads higher than the freemen of Hellas. And they say, they say we have left a democracy for children and worse that loot and kill with their freedom that their wayward parents left them. Yes, yes, they charge we opened the playpen and then went home as toddlers destroyed what we gave. So no, I will not sit by the fire in Thebes and spin the tall tales about our past glory. Why would I when I have unfinished affairs as well the next harvest back down in the Peloponnese? Or have you forgotten that Agesilaos and the son of Lichas, that Antikrates have lived too long, and that oily ingrate Lykomedes bears us a grudge for too many good turns”

Melon laughed, “Folk like you always have unfinished affairs some where—you won’t let yourself or anyone else relax and enjoy the leisure of peace.”

Then quite unexpectedly Epaminondas reined around his horse, and turned it to ride on past Helikon to the pass at Chaironeia. He paused as he passed by, “So we will see you Melon, after all, next time? Yes, on our next march to the south to set things right again in Messenê. And we will deal with Mantineia, yes, when we muster in the pines over Kithairon next spring?”

Even more to his own surprise, Melon did not pause but even louder shouted back, as the cured patient to his doctor, “When the wheat is in ear, then I come down to meet you. Or maybe even earlier on the marching yard of Thebes. We will have a far better descent than the first, my general,. In the spring rather than the dead of winter. Always I follow you,. To Hades and back if need be. You’re my Orpheus.”

Melon laughed at his own words. But he would march and more than once. Finally the Thespian knew, said this now out loud to all, that Epaminondas had brought him back into the world of men, and given him a soul worth saving that he could not afford to lose twice.”We will march again.”

His general was not surprised at all by that final outburst from the quiet Thespian, but finished, “That we will, Melon, first citizen of Hellas, that we will.” Then Epaminondas bent over a little from his horse, two men clasped arms, and the riders were gone through the orchard shadows.

* Corrected: I orignally used a source for this quote that wrongly identified Gen. Giap as the speaker, when in fact it was a subordinate, Col. Tin who worked on the North Vietnamese Army general staff, and spoke in 1995 to Stephen Young in a Wall Street Journal interview. Gen. Giap is quoted often, but not always accurately, and his various memoirs have surprisingly little to say about the Americans during the Vietnam War, though he saw that Tet was a success not in military terms (it was in fact a terrible defeat), but in the ensuing political demoralization back in the United States: “And [after Tet] the Americans had to back down and come to the negotiating table, because the war was not only moving into the cities, to dozens of cities and towns in South Vietnam, but also to the living rooms of Americans back home for some time. And that’s why we could claim the achievement of the objective.” I owe thanks to a reader who pointed out that Giap was not the North Vietnamese officer who offered this assessment of the anti-war movement.

Crazy Campuses

April 20th, 2007 - 1:38 pm

Back at Duke

Houston Baker, the Duke faculty member who wrote the appalling letter about the alleged rape, got rewarded with a job offer at Vanderbilt where he is now distinguished professor. He has never apologized or retracted his Salem-witch trial like rantings.

Duke’s President Brodhead who cancelled the lacrosse season, lectured ad nauseam about racism and sexism, and pandered to the race/class/gender lobbies to preserve his own fides at the expense of the accused is still refashioning and repositioning his rhetoric in light of the present embarrassment (e.g., now saying of the wrongly accused, “They have carried themselves with dignity through an ordeal of deep unfairness”). Uh, uh.

Yet he should recall earlier statements such as, “ “We are eager for our students to be proved innocent.”

Mr. President, they were always innocent unless and until proven guilty by a jury.

Almost everything he was “worried” about was a lie. The real inebriated or drug-induced were the strippers, one of whom could hardly stand. The racist exchange, as little as it was, apparently started when a team member was called a racial and sexual epithet by the stripper to the effect that he was a white boy with a small penis.

The lying and perjury was all on the part of the “victim”. Sexual battery may well have occurred at some earlier point—since the “victim” had DNA evidence of sperm from several males—but we know not one was from a Duke student.

The sordid behavior was evident among his own faculty, some of whom signed a letter damning the students on no evidence, in efforts to promote their own agendas.

What Duke Should Say…

If the President were to reopen his mouth, he might tell the truth:

“The university advises strongly against students hiring “exotic dancers” at private parties. Besides the moral issues involved, many of such performers are habitual drug and alcohol users, and engage in dangerous promiscuous sexual activity, as well as having criminal records. Hiring such a performer only increases a student’s own exposure to a host of these obvious dangers, criminal, sexual, and drug-related.”

“As for as matters on campus, this sad travesty should be a reminder that the university especially must be a custodian of civil liberties and a protector of the right of individuals to due process. Instead the Duke community devolved to the rule of the mob, condemning the accused in print, rallies, and flyers in a way that was intended to cast pre-trial guilt upon their innocence. This is reprehensible. To the extent that I either participated in such a rush to judgment or, as your president, let it unfold without rebuke, I am deeply sorry. I failed the entire community. In efforts to appear liberal and unbiased I proved illiberal and prejudiced. At the very moment when the community was looking for a voice of reasoned calm I joined the storm of reckless emotion.”

Why won’t the Duke president or the culpable faculty apologize?

Because deeply entrenched among the Left is a notion of moral justice that transcends the law and is now to be adjudicated by elites versed in race/class/gender theories. In this way of thinking the “rape” is just a matter of semantics, the law an obstruction to the larger question still unresolved: a poor black woman performed sexually for white rich males.

De facto this is an indictment of our entire male-dominated capitalist system that put the poor, the female, the person of color in bondage to the white, male and wealthy.

In that prism, technicalities of law don’t matter and surely don’t address these larger pathologies so endemic in the United States, against which the university nearly alone exists to combat. That the “victim” lied under oath, ruined the reputations of innocents, was on drugs, was engaged in promiscuous sexual activity, and had a criminal record is simply proof of her victim status. This notion of a higher law unto themselves is used frequently by Left and Right, it is true, but never in such an injurious or hypocritical fashion as by the academic Left that on campuses has developed a real contempt for our laws of free speech and due process—again, seen as impediments to their version of heaven on earth.

Invade, Invade Everywhere?

Barrack Obama’s recent speech linking mass murder at Virginia Tech to everything from Darfur to outsourcing and Imus was about as pathetic an exegesis as one could imagine. And his calls to do something in Darfur were surreal, akin to the Democrats’ demands that we “get Osama bin Laden” as if invading or bombing nuclear Islamic Pakistan were a real option.

But we know both would be difficult, and the Democrats’ past record, from October 2002 to the present, would give us the script: vote for invasion, back peddle when things got rough (and they would in the Pakistani borderlands or the killing fields of the Sudan), and then blame others for brain-washing them. Five years from now I could imagine Mr. Obama assuring everyone that he was given faulty information about Darfur and thus, Kerry-like, was for the invasion before he was against it.

Wolfowitz, Don’t Resign!

There is a strange leftist fixation on Paul Wolfowitz. By any standard of DC protocol, he has done nothing even approaching scandal at the World Bank. Indeed, he seems to have taken inordinate lengths to apprise the Bank of his relationship with his companion there. And it almost appears that such consideration revealed to his enemies not moderation and conciliation, but politeness seen wrongly as vulnerability. During past administrations, Wolfowitz lobbied to pressure autocracies in the Philippines and Indonesia to reform. And in the 1991 War he was a lone voice of dissent, calling for support for the Shiia and Kurds, and the injection of some morality in US foreign policy.

Apparently, the left hates him especially because he is an intellectual and academic, and therefore de facto must be “liberal” in their own doctrinaire sense. The result is that he becomes for them some sort of mirror on their own ideologies, a professor that had the same training, education, and career, but instead reached far different conclusions about human nature and global morality. And that proves infuriating—‘How can a PhD and professor use our education to become like “them.’?

He should never resign, and will emerge stronger when this lynch mob subsidies. The existential question remains, however—in a world in which China has $1 trillion in foreign reserves and still champions itself as protector of the global poor, do we still need the World Bank?

The Killer

What do you have to do to get attention as a madman? Terrify your teacher? Empty a classroom by your creepy presence? Light fires? Be referred for mental health treatment? Have a judge review your dossier? Live a complete life of solitude?

I had a somewhat similar, though very minor experience with an unhinged student in 1971, in fact, with a roommate, my first semester at UC Santa Cruz.

He will remain unnamed (and eventually became quite successful), but when I moved in the first week, the room was full of weapons—knives, spears, clubs, brass knuckles, and various literature about martial arts, violence, killing etc. He slept most of the day, was up all night, skipped all classes, and bragged that he had not bathed in 6 months.

At first I wasn’t too worried, since in rural Fresno County where I grew up, those in high school with nothing left to lose, unlike this fellow, punched first, and talked second—and seemed a lot scarier, despite my new roommate’s hair to his shoulders, no shoes, strong odor, and large size.

He played Stones records all night long and drank 2 quart-sized beers each evening, after a prior long history of drug use. I told him that I would report him to resident authorities and preceptors, and finally did but they insisted that they couldn’t find another dorm room for him.

The university finally recommended counseling after he shot flaming arrows off the dorm roof at students. Then he fled from the orderlies who came to our room to straight-jacket him, and had to be forcibly removed.

A week at a mental detention facility seemed to help, but he was expelled or left school shortly thereafter. As I said, years later he straightened out, and is now a successful businessman, and likewise years later told me that he blamed the university for not providing a more structured environment.

That semester I’d call home for advice when the university at first did nothing, and my father would warn, “No one can protect you. Only you can do that. So be ready. Sooner or later you’ll have to defend yourself. He’s nothing any more dangerous than you’ve seen out here on the farm.”

This warning about the need for self-reliance was essentially a reiteration of what he had been saying since I went to a rural, wild school at 8 where fighting and intimidation were the norms, and he feared he could not be there to protect me nor had much confidence—he was an educator himself—in the school to do so.

My older brother earlier had been jumped in high school. My father helped the police track down the toughs who did it, and came away disgusted that they were turned loose after reprimands, despite his offer to both of having a go with them in “a fair fight” (a 45-year old versus two 19 year old toughs).

So back in the dorm I then put my bed on stilts, and slept with my uncle’s Louisville Slugger (36 oz.)

Finally, we had a 20-minute, all out-fight, knocking things all over the room, a real battle to the finish. Apparently, I had cleaned the room and he became enraged at me for using air freshener. Luckily I won—and after that he was quieter, at least to me, though the arrow incident soon followed.

All this lasted 15 weeks. His “problem” was known to the college at the time, to the point that former roommates had warned me on arrival that my assigned roommate was somewhat volatile.

I bring this up in real empathy with the students, since I don’t believe that the university can protect any of them. Its mentality is therapeutic. And in the age of law-suits, and fourth-chances officials always err in the direction of the accused’s rights. I say that not in hindsight or criticism, but in sadness that the best advice one could give a child going to the university would be something like: “You will meet very eccentric people there, with all sorts of problems and strong passions, most of them antithetical to your own. Don’t expect moral guidance necessarily from your professors, or physical protection from your colleagues or the administration. Ask for such help, but don’t count on it. Instead keep you eyes open and at all times expect the worse.”

I am sorry if that sounds pessimistic, but I find it better advice than something like the college brochures’ promises of four years of intellectual and lifestyle stimulation in a cordial tolerant environment.

Sadly, it just ain’t so.

The War, here and abroad, goes on

April 14th, 2007 - 2:48 pm

Insult to Injury

The worst thing about the global oil spike brought on by increased consumption is not worries over global warming, or the idea that the United States is not “energy independent” (Japan does not overly worry that it must rely on others for food), but that our thirst has driven up the world price–and with it the importance of the Middle East while sending half-a-trillion dollars in petroprofits to a primordial region.

And now we are seeing the wages of that circulating cash, as the Gulf monarchies are racing to acquire nuclear reactors ($4 billion a pop) to counter Iran’s soon to be on-line nuclear arsenal.

In other words, a region that has neither the innate economic resources to fund such a program nor the scientific expertise to see it through nor the stability that is the precursor for economic development, has the cash from oil (that someone else found, exploited, and developed) to buy Western help in creating the very weapons that might soon be turned against the West.

The idea of a nuclear Wahhabi State, nearby a nuclear theocracy in Iran, with nuclear Pakistan looking over their shoulders is horrific—especially when coupled with Western appeasement as evidenced by many European diplomats deploring the “militarization” of their continent by US offers to base an ABM shield in Eastern Europe, and the culturally relativistic arguments that if the Western powers are nuclear (US, France, UK, Israel), who is to say a Sharia-run Saudi Arabia or 7th-century Iran should not likewise be? The fact is that already we are confronted with the nightmare that the majority of nuclear powers in the world today is (with India) only democratic by a small margin, and the illiberal states are multiplying and may soon compose an antithetical majority—Russia, China, Pakistan, North Korea, Iran?.

We have the worst choice of leaving this mess to our children who will be faced with both oil and atomic extortion, or the bad one of dealing with it now when the will to is nearly nonexistent in the West. A 1939 all over again. When reading jihadist websites, one is struck not about their worries over the morality of preempting and using a nuclear device against a Western city but only the practicality of carrying it out.

The Re-Reconquista?

The recent explosions in Algeria and Morocco, coupled with al Qaeda’s boast that “We will not be in peace until we set our foot again in our beloved al-Andalus” and the fact that the Madrid train bombing was pulled off by nearby North Africans, should remind Spain that distancing itself from the US, withdrawing from Iraq, and electing a pacifist socialist Prime Minster will only ensure violence.

Jihadists believe that Europeans are weak and can be intimidated into concessions and near paralysis until demography and terrorism win over the continent—either by elections of pro-Islamist governments or by the creation on near autonomous Muslim enclaves as we see in Paris and in some cities in the Netherlands and Sweden. We already see the symptoms of such Jihadization in the European hostility voiced toward Israel, its cheap anti-Americanism, and virtual disarmament.

Our attitude toward all this? A hard call. Our hearts say, “Let them go, and pull out all American bases. Let them defend themselves and become emasculated neutrals now, and vassal state later if that is their wish.”

Our heads counter, “Not so fast. Only American engagement keeps Europe safe and for a while longer a neutral rather than an outright belligerent.”

But what is fascinating is the continual European delusion that radical Islam is a consequence mostly of righteous hatred of George Bush’s United States, and thus that their own multiculturalism will win exemption rather than greater contempt for its cravenness. These Euros remind me of 1930s fascists in Great Britain or France who believed that their influential presence ensured Hitler would never attack their countries.

Lost Chances

Had Imus said the following he’d still have his job:

“There’s something sad about a 67-year-old, wealthy white man adopting the rap talk of the black underclass to playact at sounding hip. So I’m taking a voluntary two-week suspension. I need it to go back and review where I’ve gone wrong. This ‘ho’ comment was a wake-up call that I’ve been bullying too many for too long. It wasn’t just that I’ve allowed a lot of racist and anti-Semitic banter on this show, but they’ve all been cheap shots, aimed at those who didn’t deserve it or couldn’t fight back. So I’m going to stop it. I’ll be just as tough, but attack with a little more class and a little less cowardice.”

And had Jackson and Sharpton said the following they wouldn’t be the laughing stocks they’ve become after the latest round of notoriety.

“Don Imus’s fall reminded us that we’ve go to be careful too. We’ve both called Jews all sorts of things and gotten away with it when we shouldn’t have. We will stop that. Don Imus’s slurs can’t hurt black people, only we can do that. If ‘words matter’, we better start going after rappers and comics and all the rest who use ‘hos’ and ‘niggas’ more in one day than all white people do in a year. “

And had the Duke President written the following, he might restore some shred of respect for his fallen institution.

We all rushed to judgment on the Lacrosse team, no more than this president. The university is always interested in protecting women, minorities and the poor, and that laudable concern clouded our vision as we outdid each other to prove our liberality at the expense of the innocent, whose reputations we ruined as we did our own. Duke is devoted to creating a liberal society, but it can’t do that if it loses its higher allegiance to the truth. And for that lapse, the administration and faculty are profoundly sorry for their conduct.”

And finally the major media outlets and entertainment CEOs could offer their own mea culpas.

“Don Imus did not emerge in a vacuum. We knew what he had been saying for years, but we figured it earned us money so we let it go on. The same is true of the slurs and racist language of our recording artists. Likewise we put up it because it makes us profits That’s wrong too. So rather than just firing Imus, we simply won’t air or record anyone who uses filthy racist language. Call it censorship if you want, but we think belatedly changing the foul climate we’ve created by promoting such slurs is worth the risk.”

A New Low

Of all the past pathologies of the New York Times—Jason Blair, the leaks of classified information, the Bush-hating dressed up as news stories on the front pages, the monotony of the editorial page—nothing quite epitomizes its fall as the following quote in the midst of the Duke rape hysteria:

“The full files, reviewed by The New York Times, contain evidence stronger than that highlighted by the defense.”

Will they at least “leak” the “full files” and then explain to us how they make the now dropped case “stronger.” And if they won’t do that, will they at least apologize for their character assassination?

Outtake # 12—No Man A Slave

The battle of Leuktra is over. But there is an immediate furor over what to do with the trapped Spartan survivors. Let them go? Or attack again in the night to ensure the army is annihilated rather than merely defeated—and thus able one day to restart the war? Melon wants Epaminondas to take the army out again and storm the camp of the Spartans, despite the darkness and the Theban dead and wounded.

“Enough of this idle talk.” Melon wasn’t looking at Epaminondas, whom he had come, if begrudgingly, to see as a like spirit. No, he turned to his friends who advised caution.

So he arose again, picked up his shield, and barked, “Then go to Pelopidas. Reform the ranks such as they are. Tonight, we all together, one more time, all of us on this long day, we will kill this Lichas. And then the army must turn and meet the other army on the coast in the days to come. If the light is already gone, we can at least muster the troops by the fire of torches. So we wake ready for battle at dawn. I did not ask to fight this battle. But once here, I want to finish what we started. Yes, I prefer to go home to Helikon without worry that Lichas is waiting in my vineyard with more of the krypteria.”

Proxenos cut in. With the keen eye of the builder who sees a course of stone out of plumb, he let loose his own tirade at the sloppiness of his friend’s logic.

“With what? Count us! Most have gone home as we already said. We have no more than 2,000— if that still. Good men all. But not everyone is alive who was this morning. And fewer still can stand in battle like you Melon. The best are dead or will be. There are far more than Antitheos, and Peukôn and Charon that lay over there and the flies are on them already. My Plataian Lakon, of our city’s oldest family, has his throat slashed and he won’t make it until dawn. The work of Lichas again. And 100 of these men from the demes on the saddle of Kithairon are already gone. Sour Philliadas has done his hard work and taken his bunch back to Tanagra. No, our Ainias, even without his charts and maps is right. Have words with this Lichas and we will let him run in shame out of Boiotia to spread the word of our valor. ”

Melon gave a final try, “The Spartan lion is wounded. But he is not dead. And here we are like little boys repeating the fears of greybeards that such beasts are more dangerous when trapped and wounded. They are not. And we are not children who thrust sticks through the bars at caged animals. No, we are men with the greatest army Hellas has seen in our time! This Lichas and what is left of Kleombrotos’s army can be finished off now, right tonight or at dawn as it thrashes in our nets. But if it limps home, well then like every wounded beast of your fables, it will lick its wounds to healing. And, of course, it will come back stronger than ever and eager for revenge. Our leniency will win from this animal not thanks for the respite, but contempt for our hesitation—and as it should.”

Imus, Iran, and Illegal Aliens

April 9th, 2007 - 9:42 pm

Who is worse—the racist bully or the racist buffoon?

I never cared for Don Imus because he was always a bully, who tried to dress up his adolescent mind with two-bit cruelty, usually directed against some deer-in-the-headlights guest he assumed was too fawning to object. I liked Imus even less when I heard his latest stupid, racist remark. And I liked him least of all when I heard him fawning to the disreputable Al Sharpton to save his job—without reminding this racist huckster of Sharpton’s own past defamation in the Tawana Brawley case, his anti-Semitism and racism against Hasidic Jews in the Crown Heights theater (“diamond merchants;” “the blood of innocent babies”) as he fired up his mob followers (“Kill the Jews”), and the incitement in the shameful Freddy Fashion Mart violence, where his thugs yelled “Burn the Jew store”, and subsequently did leading to the deaths of seven innocents.

What are “ho’s”?

Part of Imus’s career implosion revolves around the phenomenon of out-of-touch stupid wannabes whose knowledge of black people (cf. Imus’s reiteration that he was “rapping”) comes from rap music, and therein they make the leap that because black thuggish youth use such despicable terms about African-American women, it therefore opens a window for others to use the same nomenclature—though perhaps with a different intent.

Should he be fired? Who knows? But the industry established the penalty long ago. Ask ESPN after releasing Rush Limbaugh for far tamer remarks that race not ability was a factor in the media support for Donovan McNabb.

More on Iran

Iran’s national security council, or what passes for it, at least has a consistent strategy: while the West hems and haws and a weaker UN issues sanctions, full steam ahead to nuclear proliferation, at critical intervals aided by inciting more violence in Shiite Iraq. Now provoke a war in Lebanon; now unleash Moqtadar Sadr, and always—remember the country is run by a hostage-taker himself—take hostages.

The general rule with Iran: no matter how barbaric and savage the Iranian provocation (take hostages, invite in Holocaust-deniers, promise to wipe out Israel, send out the Hezbollah thugs), they will always earn a pass due to fear of oil-price spikes or cut-offs, to lust for free-floating petrodollars, or the shrug that Iranian theocrats are like the crazy street people who scream and yell at the passer-by and so earn exemption from the rebuke given the more sane. In the end, their most clever ploy is to sound and act crazy. All the talk about the well, the 12th imam, no one blinking while Ahmadinejad spoke, etc sets the stage for nuclear acquisition: nothing works better than a nuclear power acting crazy, and thus apparently immune from classical deterrence.

The World Turned Upside Down

The news has not been kind to Great Britain the past few days: the discussion of omitting in some schools study of the Holocaust in fears of offending Holocaust-denying Muslim students; the BBC cancellation of a documentary about the most recent Victoria Cross winner in fears of being too positive about Iraq; the Iranian hostage taking that humiliated the Royal Navy, the mockery of British rules of engagement, the confessions of the prisoners, followed by the crass hucksterism of the former hostages as they elbowed each other to cash in. We might expect this from Swedes, French, or Spanish, but the British?

Various exegeses arise about what’s going on in the UK: creeping socialism, utopian pacifism, cultural relativism, rising Islamic unassimilated minorities in the large cities; deep jealousy and anger at the American upstarts who don’t play obedient Romans to the smarter British Athenians; fear that the Euros won’t like their adherence to the old “special relationship” with the U.S., etc. But these serial anecdotes are a thin scab that scarcely hide the deeper wound that for some time now Britain, well, is not the Britain we knew.

Illegal aliens and crashes

Recently Bill O’Reilly has been sermonizing about a spate of recent fatal auto accidents involving culpable illegal aliens, who either had no license, registration, insurance, or were under the influence—or various combinations of the four.

I wrote about this five years ago in Mexifornia. I now have had five “incidents” in which illegal aliens rammed cars at high speed into my roadside vineyard, causing thousands of dollars in damage. All fled the scene. None of the wrecked cars was registered or licensed under legitimate names or insured. I have experienced two incidents when non-English speaking aliens fled into my yard, police cars in hot pursuit through my driveway. In one case, the fugitive reappeared in my shrubbery after the police left empty-handed, and I made a citizen’s arrest (the detained was very polite, and later charged with meth production and sale), the returning police quite embarrassed that for all the macho high-fiving and tough talk they had lost their suspect.

Add two more attempted break-ins. As relish, an illegal alien ran a stop-sign, hit my truck broadside, tried to flee his totaled car, and was detained by me until police arrived. What is happening now, however, is that we are collectively approaching a critical mass, where the sheer number of illegal aliens, the complete lack of accountability by our politicians, the utter chaos in much of the American Southwest now ensure that well known, affluent citizens (cf. the recent deaths of a well-known Hollywood director and his son by an intoxicated alien) no longer enjoy an exemption. The problem of dangerous drivers here illegally from Mexico is no longer just found in Sanger, Selma, or Orange Cove, but reaches Pacific Palisades and Palos Verdes Estates.

Will anything be done? Probably not, since city governments usually cater to the needs of illegal aliens and employers, and have mortgaged their very souls to ignoring the present chaos.

Outtake # 11—No Man A Slave

The beginning of the novel. Right after the battle of Mantineia the Thebans carry out the fatally wounded Melon and his general Epaminondas to the heights of Skopê above the battlefield. As the two fade out, Melon remembers their first meeting a decade earlier in the spring before Leuktra, and how the crazy idea to free the helots all began.

Chapter One. On Lookout Mountain

Melon woke. He was off the battlefield. Four Theban hoplites had carried the two wounded on biers up to Skopê, among the tamarisks and scrub oak of the lookout mountain, high above the battlefield. Yes, he was now high above the killing. On the crest, in a strong Etesian breeze, they put down Melon near his general, on thick fleece with felt covers. He was growing cold even in this Dog-star heat.
For just a moment he was clear again. The Thespian had enough strength to raise his head. Look, look down at the chaos far below, around the great walled city of the Mantineians. The Thebans were filing out the valley. The defeated Spartans did the same. So all were chanting “Antikrates,” chanting as they marched behind their killer out through the other vale.
Then Melon thought he heard music. At least something like a Boiotian single piper, likewise far off in the distance, maybe even from the other side of the hill. He could hear from below still the music, and a goat song of Thisbe at that, its melody straining its way up the hill, just to him.
But then the cluttered field below went silent and nearly dark. One eye closed. The freeze in his right shoulder from the Spartan stab moved closer to his heart and below passed his groin to his thighs. His head crackled. Torch lights inside flared and went out.
But through the other lid, Melon could still make out something right next to him, a nearby crowd of men hunching over, shuffling about Epaminondas at his side. Or at least he heard the shouting of ten or so, cursing Antikrates.
Some of the Sacred Band had pulled the black shaft out. And with that yank, the general screamed, “Leuktra.” “Leuktra.”
Then a blink later followed, “Mantineia.” These were the twin victories, his two daughters that Epaminondas now left behind for his Boiotians to raise.
How, as the icy grip came on up his breast and neck and then downward on into his knees, did a lame farmer, and at sixty from Thespiai end up alongside a man like that, here of all places, here in the cursed highlands of the Peloponnese, caught up with helots, and on a rock above the old killing field at Mantineia?

Hunt. Hunt in your memory, quickly now, for that first chance talk.
Pictures and voices came, clearer on the god’s prompt with the growing stiffness. Still time, time still. Yes, they were shouting at each other ten seasons ago or about that now—arguing on his high farm on Helikon about the Spartan wasps and snakes, in their Boiotia so far to the north.
Now as the dark clouds piled up in the west, and the body cold came further on, the voice of his all-seeing Pythagoras consoled him with all the talk of that so long ago. It was whispering even more still, as the whole story came alive with pictures and voices of those heroes he knew now dead—just as if a bard, a vase painter, and a mason were all at work together. The lesson came in full in just an eye blink, for the first time without worry about time, from his one god who had seen, known them all, and now had come inside him. Even with the hole, and the iron deep inside him, Melon tried to nod, to listen to it all at once, now for the first, only time on his way back home to Helikon.

Chapter Two. Uninvited Guests

Ten seasons earlier a half-phyle of the Spartan krypteria attacked the farm of Melon

After that first blur of an arrow Melon felt a jolt from behind and went down. His slave Chion, that giant, suddenly tackled him. The sound of a piper, Neto’s Thisbean tune they had heard, was now lost for good in the tumult.
The far bigger dark man was covering him to keep him safe. Was there a centaur or something even worse loose in the vineyard? Helikon mountain, after all, was never quite tamed. So ghosts and monsters had landed on them both? And in daylight no less?
No. Men’s arrows! Javelins too pelted the vines around the two Thespian farmers. Both heard thuds. Hits on the stumps sounded not a cubit away. Then hard voices came. They were followed by loud screams. And in Doric no less. Foreigners! Now came the whine of sling bullets in the early spring mist. Lead pellets cut the air. The mud splattered around them.
Chion grimaced. A spent ball went into the backside of his calf. No matter. Tiny, no barb. Squeeze it out when the storm passed. It missed the bone. And the big vein too…


April 3rd, 2007 - 6:55 pm

Why It Bothers So…

One can make all sorts of clever arguments—indeed the Brits have, from blaming us to blaming their own—about why this crisis was someone else’s fault, due to a misunderstanding, due to media exaggeration, due to an accident. But what is missing is the simple fact that THIS IS THE BRITISH NAVY. Who would care if the Iranians had embarrassed the Italian Navy, the Russian Navy, or the Chinese Navy? But the Brits? We forget that the entire history of Western navies is predicated on the British experience at sea. The Brits had the greatest admirals, the Brits invented the Man-of-War, dreadnought, battleship, heavy cruiser, and aircraft carrier. The Brits created the very notion of modern seamanship and discipline, and its pantheon of naval heroes like Drake, Cook, Anson, Vernon, Nelson, and Fisher still resonates.

So like the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon and World Trade Center this was an iconic act that sent a message that the descendents of Xerxes finally upped Lord Nelson.

Pictures Worth a Thousand Words

Nancy Pelosi in a Scarf at the nexus of terrorism in Damascus

British sailors in cuffs being escorted by proud Iranian seamen

Sophocles 1974

One could make the argument that by early 1974 it was finally known that the prior Tet Offensive really had been a terrible defeat for the North Vietnamese, that the efforts to rid the South of the Viet Cong were mostly successful, that radically different bombing strategies and ordinance had redirected the damage from rice paddies to communist hierarchies in Hanoi—and that the public absolutely did not care, and could not be convinced that there was a chance to save South Vietnam, and so backed serial Congressional cut-offs of aid.

We may be nearing that same crisis point; that is, at last we have made necessary adjustments in Iraq, are defeating the enemy—and no one cares any more for any news other than that of our departure.

It’s almost like a Sophoclean tragedy, since we know the script from 1974-2007 and can’t seem to stop it: we give up, the government collapses, hundreds of thousands are killed and exiled, our military and diplomatic reputation is shredded, and so we squabble for the next 30 years over the defeat and how we had almost won when we threw in the towel.

The British Vocabulary of the Iranian crisis

Rules of engagement: a diplomatic embarrassment waiting to happen

GPS coordinates: an outdated and inexact pseudo-science, of no value in adjudicating territorial or geographical disputes

Admiral Nelson: dead, irrelevant white male imperialist colonialist–fill in the blanks . . .

First Lord of the Admiralty: nothing first, lordish, or admirable about it

Naval vessel: a floating liability

Royal Marines: diplomatic personnel

Hostages: can instruct the enemy on power-point

The United States: your only ally, but you’d prefer it a neutral

Europe: neutral, but you’d prefer it an ally.

European Union: unified by profit, divided by principle

NATO: The Neutral anti-American Truce Organization

Captives of the Past

The success of a country is almost inextricably connected to the degree of its strangulation by the past: confident societies like Japan, Germany, Italy, Israel, China, etc. don’t dwell on the past in the context of victimhood.

But a stereotypical rule of thumb: when I talk to a Mexican national, he whines about the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo; when speaking to a Greek, the 1967 coup or the 1973 invasion of Cyprus starts the discussion, for an Iranian of any persuasion, it is always 1953 and Mosaddeq. A Palestinian talks only about 1947, and shows some strange rusted key to a house in Jerusalem.

The point is not that there are not legitimate grievances that have had repercussions, but that they are in the past and one must get on with one’s life. Americans don’t talk about the burning of the White House in the War of 1812, and are not obsessed with hating the Vietnamese for that lost war.

The only exception might be Southerners’ obsession with Longstreet at Gettysburg or Albert Sidney Johnston dying at the high water mark at Shiloh. But rarely now are any in the South captives to the Lost Cause, which is always a symptom of an insecure and angry mind, that faults others for the past rather than looks confidently toward the future. And nowhere is this more common than the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.

Outtake # 10—No Man A Slave

The great march to free the helots starts out in the last month of the year from Thebes. As Melon and Pelopidas trudge together up the pass at Kithairon, they discuss why they are attacking Sparta. Pelopidas tricks Melon into giving him a lesson about why wars break out.

The two talked and were interrupted often by the Sacred Band, especially the younger of the 300, who themselves cared little about the debate, only when they would arrive into Lakonia. Surely Agesilaos must be over the next mountain as they looked down at the great plain of Megara before them.

Melon ignored them all. Instead he laid out what he thought was the thinking of Epaminondas. “Sparta after the fall of the Athenians had to remain preeminent. We disagreed. So we fought battles for 20 seasons. And they ravaged our land each spring. War had no end. Hardly can we remember its beginning. So now the men of our age seek to end it for good. If we cannot make Sparta into a democracy, then we can ring it with democracies I suppose, thought the idea of those crazy hill folk Arkadians voting as if they were civilized is scarier than anything Sparta has done.”

Pelopidas laughed at that, but let Melon finish. “So I think that is why Proxenos and Ainias are already down south as we speak. And if we cannot kill all their hoplites, then we can starve them and make them work for their keep once we free their helots. And I am sure there are thousands already down there as well, to shake up the unfree to meet us at Sparta. So when we go over their pass, the Spartans will understand it is not wise to rile Epaminondas and that their war will always be down there, never again up here.

“If, “Pelopidas shrugged, “if, if we can do all that and more. If, if, if…Yet I fear even with war in Lakonia, and even with Messenia free, and even with the great cities you talk about on her flank, we will leave this war to our children unless we level Sparta and kill her kings. Yes, our Epaminondas must make war so terrible that she can never fight us again.”

Melon laughed “So this was a game all along, Pelopidas! You are no honest philosopher. Much less my pupil! No, you simply wished me to give back your own answers. Dumb farmer me. I say that you are more the fire breather than old iron-gut himself. I saw that the other day in the assembly.”

“I suppose,” Pelopidas offered, but then he took stuck his head closer to Melon’s and in a softer voice went on.

“But sometimes when we have private thoughts, we wish others to say them for us so we can hear how they sound. So others can give voice to the dark truth we prefer ourselves not to utter or even hear, but wish to be aired among all. And because you know war better even than I and you had no belly in the beginning for this great march, Melon, you have taken a great worry off my heart. I know now there is no other way to end this but the way we are marching.”

“No. No, there is no other way,” Melon answered.

Melissos mumbled after them, smiling, “No other way. No other way—no other way than to head south and cut them all down.”

Epaminondas now fell back with them, and taunted them, “Are you now Athenians of this age, who talk and sing while better men of action give them fodder for thought? Leave the world of the clouds of this pass. Come down to the earth beneath our feet. Just remember one thing: either we succeed and prove that Hellas in its old age, is still neither too wealthy nor too clever to play its all. Or we stew. We bicker. We harp finding fancy words about the “good” and what is “wise,” to cover the fear and weaknesses in our hearts. How I hate the cynic.”

With that, the talkers heard the trumpeters’ order to halt and pitch camp and to wait for the 20,000 men at their backs. Melon could already see well the Megarid below, and figured that they had gone some 120 stades while they had talked the first day’s march away.