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Works and Days

More of the Same

February 19th, 2007 - 12:13 pm

More Al-Qaedism?

Over four years ago, I wrote of a phenomenon I dubbed “Al-Qaedism” to explain why random violence and terrorism by individual Muslims—while not connected with al-Qaeda per se—were still a danger. Often the ill or unhappy try to justify their own failings of inadequacy with a sort of cosmic Islamic rage against the West—one also often abetted by our own failure to counter our enemies’ rhetoric or eagerness to hush up the psychology of such attacks:

“Rather than confront the reality of past character flaws, mental instability, failed marriages, or the bleak future of no money, dead-end jobs, or social ostracism, the al Qaedist — whether an erstwhile Black Muslim, a Middle Eastern immigrant with a criminal past, or mixed-up pampered suburbanites who dabble in fundamentalism — seeks notoriety for his crimes, and therein perhaps at last a sense of importance.”

Beside the numerous examples I listed in that 2002 article, we have witnessed since a number of similar killings—especially Muslim drivers trying to run down others in a sort of politicized road rage, that were officially not listed as acts of terrorism. In this regard, I remember especially the 2006 attack in San Francisco by Omeed Aziz Popal, who apparently chose the area around a Jewish community center to run over people. And then the same year, there was the similar car ramming at the University of North Carolina by Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, a graduate student apparently furious over our treatment of Muslims abroad.

I recall all this in the context of the latest shootings in Utah by Solejman Talovic, a Bosnian Muslim, and the recent ramming of Tennessee students by cabdriver Ibrihim Ahmed.

None of these are organized terrorist acts, much less orchestrated by al Qaeda. Rather, the constant furor against the West and sense of victimhood that reverberates in the radical mosques, madrassas, and in worldwide Islamic media, often enhanced and abetted by Western Leftist hysteria, reaches many in a vague and haphazard way to instill a sort of paranoia and desire to lash out at “them”.

And now and again, those with mental problems, or plagued with a sense of failure, or angry about some such grievance, will strike out in terrorist fashion. Likewise we now learn that the sick Ali Abu Kamal, who in 1997 went up the Empire State Building to kill random Americans (he murdered one and wounded several others), was not just despondent over financial losses as reported. But, as his family now brags, Kamal was furious at Israel and America—again a way of rationalizing personal setbacks through cosmic issues that once again reflects the effects of Islamist propaganda on unhinged minds.

The only mystery is that in our politically-correct efforts to deny the possibility of any and all links between such random violence and formal radical Islam, we then go to the other extreme, and deny there is any loose connection at all with perceived Muslim grievance. And that sadly only results in wide scale public cynicism that once again authorities appear hedging for political reasons.

Keep Quiet

U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton announced to the world that she wants a 90-day deadline to start pulling American troops from Iraq. Other Democrats in Congress, according to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, will soon declare their intentions to cut-off of US funding for all military deployments in Iraq.

Well aside from the paradox that the Congress had just approved unanimously the appointment of Gen. David Petraeus (the hero in the recent spate of anti-Bush books on Iraq) to take command of coalition forces in Iraq—the planner of a surge over 20,000 American troops into Baghdad—it is always a mistake in war to assure enemies of our intention not to fight any longer (unless of course you are indifferent to losing).

Do We remember all that?

The most famous example was the 1974 Foreign Relations Act. Passed in the wake of Watergate scandal, the congressional resolution cut off all military assistance to the South Vietnamese government. But that pubic stand-down only encouraged the North Vietnamese communists to violate the Paris peace accords and renew the war—without any more worries of U.S arms shipments or air strikes.

The Neutrality Acts of the 1930s, passed by an isolationist Congress, forbade U.S. military assistance to, or trade in war material with, any belligerent, regardless of whether they were aggressors or victims. Such actions of “conscious” only emboldened Nazi Germany, Italy, and Japan to attack democracies and other neutral states. Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo were convinced that whatever their provocations, the United States had no stomach to stand up to any of them, or even to join Britain and France in a united front of resistance. World War II with its 50 million dead followed.

Often even mere assurances of restraint by American officials, that suggest either inaction or weariness, have had the same effect as congressional resolutions in assuring interested observers that the United States would either not act in the face of aggression—or tire more quickly of ongoing fighting than their our enemies.

In a routine policy address Cold War warrior and Secretary of States Dean Acheson once warned the communist bloc that the American defensive perimeter in the Pacific went from Aleutians to Japan to the Ryukyus and onto the Philippine Islands. But Acheson, perhaps inadvertently, left out the Korean Peninsula. Many argued at the time that this omission gave the green light for the communists to invade South Korea in 1950 on their erroneous assumption that the United States would not intervene in an area outside its sphere of influence. Three years and hundreds of thousands of war dead followed.

Jimmy Carter had a far worse habit of telegraphing his intention to enemies. In 1977 he declared that America had outgrown its “inordinate fear of communism”. But by that time, global communism from Stalin to Mao had killed nearly 100 million of its own and invaded dozens of natural countries. Nothing “inordinate” about that.

So next when Carter made it clear that he would not retaliate immediately against Iran for storming of the US embassy in November 1979, it was not much of a surprise that the Soviet Union quickly invaded Afghanistan—unafraid of an America that wouldn’t use force to free its own diplomats or punish those who took them.

In a July 1990 in a meeting with Saddam Hussein, then American ambassador Arpil Glaspie purportedly assured the Iraqi government that “ we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.” Saddam attacked Kuwait a little more than a week later.

In everyone of our wars, there have been terrible setbacks—winter 1776, summer 1864, spring 1918, winter 1942, autumn 1974, and now winter 2007. In almost all of these weeks of depression, there were terrible blunders, and ensuing grumblings about the conduct of the war. Any time we announced our intention in advance to quit or scale back, we later came to regret it; and on the far more numbers occasions when we did not, we did not.

If in peacetime it is wise to keep quiet and carry a big stick, in war it is even more critical not to assure our enemies that we won’t fight to achieve victory.

No Man A Slave—Trailer #2: Melon’s hallucination and the last moments of the Spartans at Leuktra

This is a passage from the earlier part of the story, the muster and fighting at Leuktra. A few Thespians agreed to join the outnumbered Epaminondas at Leuktra to force back the invading Spartans. But despite the odds, the Boiotians manage to surround the Spartan right and close in on the enemy King. Melon surges ahead to be the first to cut down Kleombrotos—and is almost killed for his efforts.

All order collapsed in these final moments. But still the surrounded Spartans brawled from their circle. Hoplites went at each other with bare hands and teeth. Some kicked. Others slapped and clawed when their spears and swords were lost. Melon noticed now that all the enemy flute players were long silent. He then saw two of them at his feet—one youth without a beard, but with a cracked reed, stuck like a dart right through his cheek.

A crazed Spartan threw himself at Melon. No shield or spear. This poor Eurypon was trying to tear off an arm. Or at least he wanted a bite out of his wrist. But Melon had put both hands on his sword, pointed it upright, waited, and caught the Spartan in the lower belly as he had came on, lifting him a palm or so high, as his blade went through the groin and hit the black plate. Then he pulled out and kicked the shrieking Spartan off with his good knee, stepped on this Eurypon’s shoulder, and lumbered ahead.

Melon and Chion then saw something that froze them—something not Antander nor Malgis nor Melon himself had ever witnessed. Not more than a few feet behind the king’s guard, right ahead of them were the crests of his own Boiotians!

Even this final pocket of King Kleombrotos was now completely surrounded.

The Sacred Band of Pelopidas headed toward Chion and Melon, slicing in two what was left of the final Spartan circle. Just for an eye blink, Melon slowed at the sight of these last efforts of the red capes and their Spartan empire. A mistake. In that one pause he forgot that Spartans never do.

The worst of the king’s tent mates, Kleonymos, the son of the dead Sphodrias, came from his side and bashed Melon with his shield. It was a hard blow with the boss to the side of the head. That concussion sent his helmet banging against his temple and cheek, and nearly knocked him off his feet. How Melon caught his balance, he would later wonder, since his skull’s insides crackled deep from within at a hit that Kleonymos knew usually killed others.

He could no longer quite make out all the blurred shapes of battle. In this new nether world of shadows and smoke Melon strained to hear the garbled cries of Epaminondas “One step more”.

But then he thought he at least heard clearly the screeching of the dreaded Keres. And next, for the first time this day, he seemed to make out these hazy shapes that been hovering all along above the battlefield. Yes, there flew, as the old wounded veterans warned, still in this age the winged daughters of Night, who swooped down over the heroes. With their sharp talons they plucked up any who were tottering, assured that the threads of these victims were already cut, and that the Moirai had nodded to these fanged women that the doomed now could be stripped, feasted upon, and whisked off to Hades.

Only the blood-spattered and dying were given the final vision of these winged vultures. They stunk and vomited flesh out of their full craws, as they dove man-level over the battlefield, with their pale breasts, bloody tunics and long white fangs—eyeing any falling hoplites that could be grabbed and torn apart.

But the son of Malgis managed to stay on his feet and so cleared his head. He beat these harpies off, and sent his sword right through the mouth of the closest apparition fluttering above him. She without flesh let out a shrill laugh at the silly effort, veering away more in anger at her lost meal. Yes, swinging his sword in frenzy the Thespian kept both these carrion and the hoplites around off him as he regained his senses. Not quite yet was his thread cut. Blood still was kept safe inside his veins and gave no taste to these daimons.

So he lived for now, after taking the last and best blow of the fading Spartan elite. His head had stopped ringing, as the Keres knew when they alighted instead on that nearby groaning Eurypon far closer to death.

Chion later swore that his master had been stabbing at shadows, like old Ajax in his madness, but not when Melon beat back the shower of Kleonymos’s spear jabs, which after four or five tries still could not quite go through the good oak of Helikon. Even without another hit, still the heat and pounding rushed into Melon’s eyes. Drops of blood ran out his mouth. He knew that what he had done to ten or so Spartans that day, Kleonymos had nearly done to him—but with far greater strength and youth behind the Spartan’s shield hit.

Still, Melon was alive. After these moments of daze he discovered there was nothing now but this towering Kleonymos between him and Kleombrotos. For all the Spartans stabbing furiously at the oncoming Thespians and their efforts to restore a solid front, the old Thespian had got by them all—ducking his way to within one man, one brief nightmare of their King. Was this all there was to the end of Sparta? No more music, no more long lines of oiled breastplates, no more files of tall crests, just a few terrified Spartans shuffling around their trapped king, all about to go down beneath the men of Boiotia?

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