Dumb question

I’m about to show my youth and ignorance here with regard to the Vietnam War (’cause even though I lived through it, I was truly a child then). But first, let me back up a bit. Mr. Bookworm rented Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a film with an interesting conceit: Ms. Taymor takes 33 of the Beatles songs and interweaves a story around them. As a musical, it’s pretty successful. Bucking trends in musicals for the last 40 years, she chooses actors who actually have really good singing voices. Also, showing her background in theater and puppet work, it’s a visually impressive movie, if you don’t mind that she goes over the top sometimes. That’s the praise.

Now for the criticism: The movie is set during the Vietnam War era and is totally anti-War. American soldiers are shown as brutal robotic types who work for a military that takes sweet, innocent young men and throws them into the maw of hell. Anti-war protests are shown as seminally important events that simultaneously reveal the grossness of American policy in Vietnam and that allow wholesome, moral young Americans to find a place for themselves in opposition to the evil war. In this regard, the movie is both a babyboomer nostalgia trip and a nudge-nudge wink-wink anti-Iraq War movie. So, even as the movie is beautiful to look at and lovely to hear, it offends me. It’s blithe acceptance of the 60s Leftist tropes is so facile as to be almost grotesque — but it did leave me thinking.

The street protest I mentioned above culminates with a speaker talking about American imperialist aggression and Americans as baby killers. What I wondered very much was how and where this angle on the war started. Truth to tell, it sounds precisely like the kind of talking points you can see brooded over by a handful of people attending some secret Communist meeting in a grimy NY basement apartment.

Looked at objectively, from the point of view of a whole nation, the “our nation is evil” idea is kind of fringey. That being the case, how did it gain so much currency? Why did Americans embrace this paradigm about the war instead of viewing the War — as John F. Kennedy, their hero, viewed it — as a necessary (for America) way to stop worldwide Communist aggression and as an act of decency to keep the Vietnamese free? Where did Americans get the idea, stated in this movie, that the Vietnamese wanted us to go? Maybe the North Vietnamese, who were Communist puppets did, but I was under the impression that the South Vietnamese were desperate for us to stay there and protect them from a Communist takeover — a takeover that, when we pulled out, was even more horrific than anyone had anticipated. (One of my most vivid pre-teen memories is of the extraordinary panic on the ground, amongst ordinary Vietnamese, when the Americans pulled out.)

In the current War, from the first second, the Leftists just leapt upon the Vietnam War template, dragging their old signs out, and replaying the identical scenario, with a sympathetic media to help out and spread it amongst people who normally wouldn’t give too much of a rat’s ass one way or another. It’s been like watching a re-run. But who created the original 1960s script, and how did it spread so rapidly and effectively that it became the accepted view that our American men and boys were brutal, imperialistic babykillers — end of story?

Did the original script come from the Kremlin, which was gleefully spreading misinformation, or was it an organic, homegrown Leftist process? Was it embraced so quickly because, after the Korean War, we were sick of getting involved in jungle fighting in the Far East? Or was the draft the problem, with articulate, well-read, generically liberal/Leftist students suddenly having a vested interest in saving themselves — and shooting further Left in the process? And if it’s the latter explanation — that is, the draft created self-interested young people who would rather attack their own nation and leave the Vietnamese in hell than put themselves at risk — why didn’t the draft create precisely the same problems with WWII?

I know I’m asking a lot of questions, but it suddenly occurred to me that, while I’ve always seen the end result of anti-Vietnam War agitation, I’ve never understand how the theme came into being and how it got a toehold in the American psyche and the American body politic.

UPDATE: I’ve switched to a new server, so you can feel free to look around here or check out my new site, which not only has the old stuff, but also will move forward into the future with all my new material.

Letting Berzerkley hear from you

My expectations of Berkeley have always been low.  Already when I was a student there many, many moons ago, I figured out that few people there actually engaged in independent thinking.  They were simply radical liberal lemmings.  I was also pretty disgusted by the professors who lived in their multi-million dollar homes in the hills; who commanded huge taxpayer funded salaries for working a few hours a week; and who had their black and Hispanic maids and Japanese gardeners, but who nevertheless felt comfortable preaching Marxist class warfare and castigating students for their middle-class upbringings.  Still, even for a town that normally functions at a low intellectual and moral level, Berkeley’s government seems to have found new depths to plumb with its council resolution likening a Marine recruiting station to a porn shop — the only difference being that, while Berkeley would no doubt welcome a porn shop, it’s doing its damnedest to rid itself of the Marines.

If you think there’s good reason to slap down this newest candidate in Berkeley’s perpetual game of “How Low Can You Go,” you now have the perfect opportunity:  a petition that Move America Forward’s Melanie Morgan intends to submit to the Mayor and City Council next week.  Of course, since Berkeley follows the paranoid style of American politics, it will only cement them in their belief that they’re right and everyone else is wrong.  Nevertheless, it seems like the right thing to do so feel free to go do it.

Hat tip:  Michelle Malkin

Quick picks *UPDATED*

The kids are back in school and I thought the house would fall silent and I would blog again. However, it turns out — and this is very flattering — that there were a lot of people who wanted to talk to me but felt they couldn’t while the kids were around. I’ve spent the last two hours on the phone with people who really, really needed to have my ear. So, blogging this morning will be somewhat abbreviated, and will boil down to my sharing with you somethings I found interesting.

The first thing I found interesting was the fact that both the WaPo and the WSJ expressed real dismay at the fact that the Dem candidates are engaging in truly unseemly contortions in their efforts to deny the Surge’s success. If this is just political expediency, it reflects poorly on their character. If it’s a genuine psychological inability to recognize the situation on the ground, its very scary that people who propose themselves as our Commander in Chief are laboring under that kind of mental handicap. At minimum, I’d like the person with his (or her) finger on the button to exist in the real world, and not suffer from monomaniacal delusions.

Speaking of delusions, Dennis Prager challenges the claim that Barack Obama is a “uniter.” This claim is, of course, ridiculous on its face. Obama is bound and determined to withdraw troops from Iraq instanter, if not sooner, as a colleague of mine used to say, while I’m an equally firm believer in staying in Iraq until the situation is completely stabilized for the US’s benefit. Where’s the middle road on that one? How in the heck is he going to “unite” his and my entirely disparate views? Here’s Dennis’ take on the real meaning behind the “unity” claim:

If those who call for unity told the whole truth, this is what they would say: “I want everyone to unite — behind my values. I want everyone who disagrees with me to change the way they think so that we can all be united. I myself have no plans to change my positions on any important issues in order to achieve this unity. So in order to achieve it, I assume that all of you who differ with me will change your views and values and embrace mine.”

If people from opposing viewpoints listening to Barack actually think he stands for their position, it’s because Barack is prevaricating and obfuscating. If he were clear and honest about his positions (and he is clear and honest about the War), approximately half the electorate would not view him as a uniter, but would view him as someone who could not possibly represent their interests.

Incidentally, Fred Siegel addresses much the same issue — Barack’s alleged universality — when he points out that those he knows who like Obama are completely unable to articulate what it is they like about him beyond a pretty face and nice voice. Many are also impressed by his Ivy League credentials, something that utterly fails to impress me. As I’ve mentioned before, while I’m sure there have been lots of good lawyers who emerged from Harvard Law in the last 20 years, I haven’t met them. Without exception, the Harvard lawyers I have met, have been almost stunningly inept. Many have been smart and nice, but all of them have ranked in the bottom 5th of lawyers I’ve worked with or appeared against. For me, a Harvard Law degree is like a big red warning sign. And if you are a wonderful, intelligent, incredibly competent Harvard lawyer reading this, my apologies. Clearly, I just haven’t met you, so you haven’t been able to un-skew my view.

On a completely different subject, let’s talk about vaccination. I’m a huge proponent of vaccination, something I think results both from the fact that I’m a history lover and I have older parents. The history part means that I’ve read about all the horrible epidemics that decimated childhood populations. Even in the 20th Century, although the US was able to reduce the 50% child mortality that existed in all prior eras and other places, polio was still a nightmare disease that hung over childhood until the Salk vaccine came along. My parents had measles, scarlet fever and diphtheria. I carry a discrete chicken pox scar on my face. The diseases are real and the consequences can be significant. As the diseases receded, though, people started fearing the vaccines’ side effects, even though those side effects, in all cases, have been minute compared to the disease risks. The latest fear was the fear that the preservative in many childhood vaccines caused autism. Yet another study has dis-proven this fear. I hope that finding encourages parents who were holding off on vaccines to give the subject another thought.

Here’s another wild jump in topic. The New York Times has a moderately interesting article about gephyrophobia — the fear of bridges. I’ve always found bridges concerning, perhaps because I grew up in earthquake country. My vague fear solidified completely when I saw the first Superman movie, back in 1978. (PLOT SPOILER HERE FOR ANYONE WHO HASN’T SEEN THIS MOVIE.) As you may recall, Lex Luthor’s nefarious plot involved creating a massive earthquake to get rid of California entirety, so that the Nevada property he’d purchased cheap would become valuable beach front property. When he successfully gets an earthquake going, the Golden Gate Bridge collapses. (SPOILER OVER.) As a kid in San Francisco, that image stuck with me — and was reinforced during 1989’s Loma Prieta earthquake, when a section of the Bay Bridge collapsed, killing one woman. I never got to the point where I avoided bridges, but I can’t say that I enjoy them.

Another topical leap: Your child and mine can now get college credit — at a taxpayer funded college — learning how to be gay. Yup, it’s truly no child left behind, or no child’s behind left alone, I’m not sure which. The famous university-level Mickey Mouse classes have just risen (or sunk) to a whole new level.

Whenever honor killings occur, whether in Canada or Texas, the usual suspects emerge to explain that honor killings and other acts of abuse against women have nothing to do with Islam, and that it’s just a bizarre coincidence that they keep cropping up in the Islamic community. Robert Spencer, however, got wind of a Yemeni columnist who wants nothing to do with this politically correct horse pucky. He’s quite clear on the fact that Islam demands the physical abuse of women — for their own good, of course.

And for now, th-th-th-that’s all, folks!

UPDATE: Whoops! I missed it. Fred Barnes also tackled the Dems’ peculiar aversion to the truth about the Surge.

UPDATE II: I like Bret Stephens’ take on the silliness of Obama’s constant promise to end American division in future:

Barack Obama, still fresh from his victory in Iowa last week and confident of another in New Hampshire tonight, has as his signature campaign theme the promise to “end the division” in America. Notice the irony: The scale of his Iowa victory, in a state that’s 94% white, is perhaps the clearest indication so far that the division Mr. Obama promises to end has largely been put to rest.

Of course, Barack’s Iowa victory may also cast into the light something I’ve already noted: Barack’s not really black. Sure, he’s got a genetic black inheretence, and he likes obsessing about his blackness, but his youthful influences and his education were mainstream white — something American blacks might notice.

UPDATE IIIChristopher Hitchens also examines the icky obsession with Obama’s race and suggests that, if you have questions about his racial views, you might want to check out the website for the Church with which Obama is publicly affiliated.  (Hat tip:  The Anchoress.)

That critical gap

I wrote generally about the gap between critics and the rest of us.  Patrick has taken one critic, deconstructed his criticism, and explained precisely why that gap looms so large.

The War at home

When I say “the war at home,” I’m not taking of the home front, a la WWII. I’m taking about Americans at war with the War. One young American, fighting (and, ultimately, dying) in Iraq, had his fill of that war:

Published: Oct 19, 2007

A Soldier’s Last Words: Listen Up CBS, CNN, Cindy Sheehan, Al Franken by Louisa Centanni

SGT. Edmund John Jeffer’s last few words were some of the most touching, inspiring and most truthful words spoken since the tragedy of 9/11 – and since our nation went to war.

SGT. Jeffers was a strong soldier and talented writer. He died in Iraq on September 19, 2007. He was a loving husband, brother and son. His service was more than this country could ever grasp – but the least you can do for the man who sacrificed his life for you … is listen to what he had to say. Listen up and pay attention to all of the Cindy Sheehans and Al Frankens of the world. To MSNBC, CNN, and CBS. To all who call themselves Americans … Hope Rides Alone.

Hope Rides Alone

By Eddie Jeffers

I stare out into the darkness from my post, and I watch the city burn to the ground. I smell the familiar smells, I walk through the familiar rubble, and I look at the frightened faces that watch me pass down the streets of their neighborhoods. My nerves hardly rest; my hands are steady on a device that has been given to me from my government for the purpose of taking the lives of others. I sweat, and I am tired. My back aches from the loads I carry. Young American boys look to me to direct them in a manner that will someday allow them to see their families again…and yet, I too, am just a boy….my age not but a few years more than that of the ones I lead. I am stressed, I am scared, and I am paranoid…because death is everywhere. It waits for me, it calls to me from around street corners and windows, and it is always there.

There are the demons that follow me, and tempt me into thoughts and actions that are not my own…but that are necessary for survival. I’ve made compromises with my humanity. And I am not alone in this. Miles from me are my brethren in this world, who walk in the same streets…who feel the same things, whether they admit to it or not.

And to think, I volunteered for this… And I am ignorant to the rest of the world…or so I thought. But even thousands of miles away, in Ramadi , Iraq , the cries and screams and complaints of the ungrateful reach me. In a year, I will be thrust back into society from a life and mentality that doesn’t fit your average man. And then, I will be alone. And then, I will walk down the streets of America , and see the yellow ribbon stickers on the cars of the same people who compare our President to Hitler.

I will watch the television and watch the Cindy Sheehans, and the Al Frankens, and the rest of the ignorant sheep of America spout off their mouths about a subject they know nothing about. It is their right, however, and it is a right that is defended by hundreds of thousands of boys and girls scattered across the world, far from home. I use the word boys and girls, because that’s what they are. In the Army, the average age of the infantryman is nineteen years old. The average rank of soldiers killed in action is Private First Class.

People like Cindy Sheehan are ignorant. Not just to this war, but to the results of their idiotic ramblings, or at least I hope they are. They don’t realize its effects on this war. In this war, there are no Geneva Conventions, no cease fires. Medics and Chaplains are not spared from the enemy’s brutality because it’s against the rules. I can only imagine the horrors a military Chaplain would experience at the hands of the enemy. The enemy slinks in the shadows and fights a coward’s war against us. It is effective though, as many men and women have died since the start of this war. And the memory of their service to America is tainted by the inconsiderate remarks on our nation’s news outlets. And every day, the enemy changes…only now, the enemy is becoming something new. The enemy is transitioning from the Muslim extremists to Americans. The enemy is becoming the very people whom we defend with our lives. And they do not realize it.

But in denouncing our actions, denouncing our leaders, denouncing the war we live and fight, they are isolating the military from society…and they are becoming our enemy. Democrats and peace activists like to toss the word “quagmire” around and compare this war to Vietnam . In a way they are right, this war is becoming like Vietnam . Not the actual war, but in the isolation of country and military. America is not a nation at war; they are a nation with its military at war. Like it or not, we are here, some of us for our second, or third times; some even for their fourth and so on. Americans are so concerned now with politics, that it is interfering with our war.

Terrorists cut the heads off of American citizens on the Internet…and there is no outrage, but an American soldier kills an Iraqi in the midst of battle, and there are investigations, and sometimes soldiers are even jailed…for doing their job.

It is absolutely sickening to me to think our country has come to this. Why are we so obsessed with the bad news? Why will people stop at nothing to be against this war, no matter how much evidence of the good we’ve done is thrown in their face? When is the last time CNN or MSNBC or CBS reported the opening of schools and hospitals in Iraq ? Or the leaders of terror cells being detained or killed? It’s all happening, but people will not let up their hatred of Bush. They will ignore the good news, because It just might show people that Bush was right.

America has lost its will to fight. It has lost its will to defend what is right and just in the world. The crazy thing of it all is that the American people have not even been asked to sacrifice a single thing. It’s not like World War Two, where people rationed food, and turned in cars to be made into metal for tanks. The American people have not been asked to sacrifice anything. Unless you are in the military or the family member of a service member, its life as usual…the war doesn’t affect you.

But it affects us. And when it is over, and the troops come home, and they try to piece together what’s left of them after their service…where will the detractors be then? Where will the Cindy Sheehans be to comfort and talk to soldiers and help them sort out the last couple years of their lives, most of which have been spent dodging death and wading through the deaths of their friends? They will be where they always are, somewhere far away, where the horrors of the world can’t touch them. Somewhere where they can complain about things they will never experience in their lifetime; things that the young men and women of America have willingly taken upon their shoulders.

We are the hope of the Iraqi people. They want what everyone else wants in life: safety, security, somewhere to call home. They want a country that is safe to raise their children in. Not a place where their children will be abducted, raped, and murdered if they do not comply with the terrorists demands. They want to live on, rebuild and prosper. And America has given them the opportunity, but only if we stay true to the cause, and see it to its end. But the country must unite in this endeavor…we cannot place the burden on our military alone. We must all stand up and fight, whether in uniform or not. And supporting us is more than sticking yellow ribbon stickers on your cars. It’s supporting our President, our troops and our cause.

Right now, the burden is all on the American soldiers. Right now, hope rides alone. But it can change, it must change. Because there is only failure and darkness ahead for us as a country, as a people, if it doesn’t.

Let’s stop all the political nonsense, let’s stop all the bickering, let’s stop all the bad news, and let’s stand and fight!

Eddie’s father, David Jeffers, writes:

I’m not sure how many letters or articles you’ve ever read from the genre of “News from the Front,” but this is one of the best I’ve ever read, including all of America’s wars. As I was reading this, I forgot that it was my son who had written it. My emotions range from great pride to great sorrow, knowing that my little boy (22 years old) has become this man.

He is my hero. Thank all of you for your prayers for him; he needs them now more than ever. God bless.

Though Eddie is no longer with us, you can help to let his voice be heard.

Thanks to News Media Journal and David Jeffers for print permission.

Hat tip: W “B” S

The failed Democratic anti-Surge

I’m not giving away anything by quoting here the concluding paragraph from Noemie Emery’s long and fascinating article about the Democrats’ desperate and, at the moment, unsuccessful anti-Surge efforts in the last year.  If you read only this paragraph, good as it is, you’ll have missed all of the really interesting stuff:

As they took control of Congress at the start of 2007, the Democrats vowed this would be a year of historic importance, and it seems they were prescient: Seldom before in the annals of governance have so many politicians fought so long and so hard to completely screw up a winning strategy being waged on their country’s behalf. Some cruelly define this as treacherous conduct, but this is imprecise and unkind. They tried, it is true, to do serious damage, but were compromised in the event by their chronic incompetence, as well as by being too above-board and open to try to do things on the sly. A stab in the back as a concept was wholly beyond their capacities. This was not a stab in the back that works via guile and subterfuge. It was 41 different stabs in the front, that always fell far short of serious damage, unless you count the damage they did to their own reputations (the approval ratings for Congress are now in the twenties). It was the Stab in the Front, the Surge-against-the-Surge, the Pickett’s Charge of the Great War on Terror. It was a year to remember, that will live in the annals of fecklessness. It was historical. It was hysterical. It was the Stab that Failed.

The gap between critics and the rest of us

Rotten Tomatoes is an aggregator that assembles movie reviews and then, depending on the number of positive or negative reviews, assigns any given film a “freshness rating. ” The higher the rating, the more favorable the majority of reviews are.

For example, as of today (11/25 at 18:06 PST), Enchanted gets a 93% freshness rating (which is a percentage point higher than yesterday). In other words, there’s a fair degree of critical unanimity that Enchanted is a really nice movie. That unanimity carries over to the non-professionals too. At the bottom of each movie’s Rotten Tomatoes page, non-professional critics can add their two cents, either by writing a review or simply by voting for the movie. The non-professional critics give the movie a 92%, while the user rating is 8.4/10 — pretty high. And if you get away from the rarefied world of professional critics or people who take the time to contribute to sites such as Rotten Tomatoes, the news is still good. By voting with their feet, film-goers gave the movie a $50 million opening, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Things are a little different for famed director Brian de Palma’s Redacted, both in terms of box office revenues and, most strikingly, in terms of the way the professional critics see the movie and the way the rest of the world sees the movie. In this last regard, it is, once again, a striking reminder that our media is populated by people who are very anti-War — which, as I always say, is their prerogative, if only they didn’t pretend to some Olympian objectivity.

So, back to Rotten Tomatoes, this time to the Redacted page (again, as of 11/25 at 18:06 PST). Generally, the movie hasn’t been well-received. What’s fascinating is that, the more “important” the publication (in a declining scaled from the New York Times down to the Podunk Review, and yes, I made that last one up) the more likely it is that the critic approves of the movie. Thus, while the critical average for the movie is 47% (that’s aggregating all professional critics) the top critics (or, as they’re called, “the cream of the crop”) gave it a 54% rating. Even more strikingly, some of them acknowledge that it’s a lousy movie. They just like the message so much, they really think you ought to see it. For example, David Edelstein, who reviews movies both for NPR and New York Magazine, has this to say:

Critics have called the movie crude and punishing. All right, the defense concedes all that, but the movie does a harrowing job of depicting the psychological toll of the occupation on both Iraqis and U.S. soldiers. Despite the presence of two American sociopaths (one named Rush, perhaps in honor of the radio commentator who likened torture at Abu Ghraib to frat-house antics), this is not an unsympathetic portrait. In the film’s best scene, we watch a car approach a checkpoint from the Americans’ point of view. It takes a long time, and who knows who’s inside it? All at once, you understand the corrosiveness of living all the time with that threat. And is it unpatriotic to point out that soldiers on their third tours of duty in a place where they have little knowledge of the culture, where they can’t tell who is on their side and who wants to blow them up, stand a good chance of losing both their moral compass and their minds?

If I read Edelstein correctly, he’s saying that Redacted is a lousy movie, but you should see it anyway, because it shows that our soldiers are going insane in Iraq. Okay. He may have framed it in the guise of compassion (those poor babies at the checkpoints), but I think the underlying message is pretty unmistakable, don’t you?

While the faux-intellectuals may be impressed, the public is not. The bottom of the Rotten Tomatoes page starts to give the game away. Non-professional reviewers give the movie only a 30% approval rating, which is enough to drive anyone away from the box office. Likewise, those who merely vote (without a written review) give it a 3.4/10 — again, a singularly uninspiring showing. But that’s the world of words. How about the marketplace? Therein lies the real story (H/T Power Line):

IT’S hard for Hollywood pacifists like Brian De Palma to capture the hearts and minds of America if Americans won’t see their movies. While the public is staying away in droves from “Rendition,” “Lions for Lambs” and “In the Valley of Elah,” audiences are really avoiding “Redacted,” De Palma’s picture about US soldiers who rape a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, then kill her and her family. The message movie was produced by NBA Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who insisted on deleting grisly images of Iraqi war casualties from the montage at the film’s end. Cuban offered to sell the film back to De Palma at cost, but the director was too smart to go for that deal. “Redacted” – which “could be the worst movie I’ve ever seen,” said critic Michael Medved – took in just $25,628 in its opening weekend in 15 theaters, which means roughly 3,000 people saw it in the entire country. “This, despite an A-list director, a huge wave of publicity, high praise in the Times, The New Yorker, left-leaning sites like Salon, etc. A Joe Strummer documentary [of punk-rock band The Clash] playing in fewer theaters made more in its third week,” e-mailed one cineaste. “Not even people who presumably agree with the movie’s antiwar thesis made the effort to see it.” (Emphasis mine.)

It kind of gives you hope for America, doesn’t it? We may be bombarded by intellectually superior people urging us to do our moral duty by seeing a movie that implies — heck, that says straight out — that American troops are so morally and psychologically weak that serving in Iraq has turned them into monsters, but we, the People, ignore that type of crap. Good for us!

UPDATE: Hot Air reminds me that America was never the real target market in any event. It’s sad when anti-American propaganda, rather than being created abroad and sent here, is created here and sent abroad. It’s an inversion of the normal way people should feel about their home.

One movie, two views

Dennis Prager likes to say (and I’m paraphrasing here) that liberals and conservatives have entirely incompatible world views. They understand facts in such a different way that there are few points of intersection. I had a reminder of that truism the other day when I watched Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center with a liberal friend.

As you may recall, WTC, which came out last year, tells the true story of two Port Authority police officers (John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno) who got trapped in an elevator shaft when the Trade Center buildings collapsed. The movie traces their day from its ordinary beginnings, to their bewildering mission into the building, to their entombment, survival in the wreckage and ultimate rescue. It also looks at how their families cope with both the news and the complete absence of news, and how they are discovered and extricated. I found it a very moving experience to watch. My friend did not. He thought it was sentimental and pedestrian, despite learning at the end that much of the dialog was lifted right out of newspaper stories and quotations from the people actually involved in the events.

My friend’s perception in that regard could just be an artistic, movie-making quibble. What was more interesting was his emotional response to the movie. As I watched events unfold, especially when the planes hit the buildings and people began to realize that America had been attacked, I became furious all over again at those who had attacked us, and at those who masterminded and funded the attack. I was sorry that the Saudis in the plane died, and that they died fulfilling their hearts’ desires, because it would have been so much more emotionally satisfying to subject to them to some horrible medieval style torture. (And, in that way, it’s probably good for America’s soul that we didn’t get the opportunity to flay them alive, and remove their intestines and burn them before their eyes, which is what they richly deserved.) That was my response.

My friend’s response was this: “Bush is going to go down in history as the worst president ever. He squandered the opportunity to go after the terrorists.” I didn’t want to talk politics during the movie, so I let it drop, but I had a few thoughts: As to the source of this attack, which was Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Bush didn’t squander the opportunity. Instead, he went in and destroyed the Taliban. And as to the fact that it was Saudi Arabia that provided the manpower, the money and the ideology, I doubt my friend seriously believes anyone could attack Saudi Arabia without destroying the West in a single, oil-dripping stroke. In other words, once Bush went after the Taliban, which was a low level player in world Islamism, although a high level players in this single attack, what should he have done vis a vis the Twin Towers?

There will be, for a long time, debate about the wisdom of Bush’s next responsive choice — invading Iraq. I’d like to avoid the justification given for the war — violating UN sanctions, creating a Potemkin nuclear village (although some of the village’s real components seem to have drifted into Syria), funding terrorism, etc. — and focus on the strategic benefit of going into Iraq.

George Friedman, who is the founder of Stratfor, a company that produces intelligence analysis, wrote a book in which he opined, based on information available to the public, that Iraq was a proxy attack on Saudi Arabia. That is, Bush used information available at the time built up a credible and honest case that Iraq was a threat (and I say honest because most of the information was, in fact, true and, as for that which was untrue, there was no way to know at the time that it was false). Neutralizing Iraq, though, was only one goal and, perhaps, even a secondary one. What he really wanted to do was to create a strong American military presence, both short and long term, that was breathing over Saudi Arabia’s shoulder. Saudi Arabia got the message, by the way, and after the War began, Saudi Arabia instantly stepped up its own attacks against Al Qaeda within Saudi borders.

Bush also hoped to create– and, in fact, may have created — a stable pro-American bulwark in the heart of the Middle East. He almost incidentally created a honey pot that attracted Al Qaeda fighters from all over the Muslim world (especially Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia), men who rendered themselves useless by becoming dead. While there may be other fervent anti-American Muslims around the world, not all are willing to die for their beliefs, so the fact that they hate America (as they have done for decades) may be less important than the fact that they’re suddenly not so willing to throw themselves in front of American bullets to demonstrate their hatred.

That’s my view, but I willingly concede that there is room for intelligent disagreement, both about the War’s origins, its conduct, and its eventual results. Nevertheless, I still found peculiar that my friend, watching in almost real time a Muslim/Saudi attack on America that killed 3,000 people, rather than venting at the attackers, used the opportunity to vent against George Bush.

My friend also had one other interesting take on the movie. I’m not giving anything away here, since it was well publicized when the movie came out, but the two police officers were discovered because an ex-Marine, living in Connecticut, recognized that the US was at war, pulled on his old uniform, and went down to the ruins to hunt for survivors. And because he was not affiliated with any official organization, he wasn’t constrained by orders from headquarters calling the search off for the night. He just went in. Once there, he found another ex-Marine, exactly like himself: someone who pulled on his uniform and did his duty. It was these men who, in the dark, dusty, dangerous smoke, went around yelling for survivors to call out or tap. And it was these men who, when they found McLoughlin and Jimeno, assured them that, as Marines, these survivors had become their mission, and the Marines would not abandon them. Since you know how I feel about the Marines, I was really moved by that moment.

Interestingly, when my friend was talking to my son, and telling him about the movie, he described these two rescuers thusly: “These ordinary guys decided to go looking for survivors.” I interrupted to say, “They weren’t ordinary guys, they were Marines.” My friend insisted that I was wrong. They were ordinary guys, he said, because they weren’t fire fighters or police officers or FBI agents or anyone else working with an organization. They just went in on their own. My friend is technically correct — both men were ex-Marines who showed up without orders — but I think he missed something profound, which is that it was their Marine identity and training that drove them there. Strikingly, both of them showed up in their uniforms, which I think was more than just a way to avoid police cordons. I think it was a statement about their identity and their goals: they were Marines, and they were on a mission.

So, one movie, two very different responses.

What Bush hath wrought

Next time someone tells you about the intractable Civil War in Iraq, you might take a moment to show them this photo. It’s by no means the factual clincher to an anti-War argument, but it is a wonderful insight in a society that hopes to mend itself, even as the anti-War crowd in America, by demanding the instant withdrawal of troops or, at least, their bankruptcy, and by focusing obsessively on the War’s genesis, rather then its progression and best outcome, hopes to throw it back to the anarchistic Islamic wolves.

First, they didn’t come for the officers….

A few days ago (although I only just got to it now), I read over at Confederate Yankee that troops are not fragging (i.e., killing) their officers, something popular during the Vietnam War. CY comments that the report’s author sounds almost, I don’t know, disappointed that the troops aren’t slaking their blood lust against their own officers but, instead, seem to be doing a fine job of adjusting to and working within the military hierarchy on the ground in Iraq. I guess it’s part of a package of MSM disappointments. After all, just the other day, weren’t we all laughing at — er, sorry, saddened by — the sad saga of the underemployed cemetery worker’s in Iraq? The absence of bad news is getting challenging for the MSM, and they’re spinning harder than usual.

The brainwashing worked

Michelle Malkin has a good photo essay about the gathering in front of the Marine Recruiting Station in Berkeley the other day. The San Francisco Chronicle also ran a story about the protest, which I found interesting only because of this quotation from one of the anti-War protesters:

“They represent the social base that’s giving rise to this imperialistic war. Their so-called patriotic attitude,” he said, “just shows their blatant disregard for humanity and what the flag stands for. The very fact that they’re holding it up is enough for us to be out here.”

You caught that those few sentences have all the familiar Progressive bullet-points: imperialistic war, xenophobic patriotism, disregard for humanity, etc., etc. It would be an unremarkable statement from the Progressives if it weren’t for the person who said it: “David Santos, 15, of Oakland.”  Do you wonder, as I do, where a 15 year old got such a firm grasp of Leftist rhetoric?

Giving aid and comfort to the enemy today and yesterday

During any other war, the following list that Vasko Kohlmayer complied would show treasonous conduct. In this War, it’s politics as usual:

• They have repeatedly conceded defeat in Iraq with Harry Reid claiming ‘this war is lost;’
• They purposefully downplay any and all American military successes;
• They have sought to portray our troops as violent and brutal thugs;
• Jack Murtha accused our soldiers of being cold-blooded murderers while John Kerry alleged they terrorize women and children at night;
• Dick Durbin compared our military personnel to Nazis and Pol Pot’s henchmen;
• The have sought to paint our military commanders as stooges of a manipulative president (the Petraeus hearings);
• They have called our Commander-in-Chief ‘stupid,’ ‘loser,’ ‘incompetent;’
• They seek to extend constitutional protections to foreign terrorists and enemy combatants;
• They have outed and obstructed an important eavesdropping program designed to monitor terrorists’ phone calls and e-mails;
• They are trying to eliminate crucial components of the Patriot Act;
• They have repeatedly leaked classified information;
• They lobby for the release of most Guantanamo Bay detainees most of whom are dangerous terrorists;
• They have sought to destroy the reputation of the American military by making scandals out of minor incidents (Abu Ghraib);
• They have portrayed America’s main terrorist detention facility (Guantanamo Bay) as a torture chamber even though it is the most supervised and inspected prison in the history of warfare;
• By manufacturing bogus scandals they have seriously damaged their country’s reputation in a time of war;
• They have forced the resignation of an effective defense secretary (Donald Rumsfeld) and a number of other administration officials committed to winning this war;
• They visit and praise America’s enemies even those responsible for the deaths of American troops (Nancy Pelosi in Syria);
• Dennis Kucinich called the Iraq war ‘wrong’ and ‘immoral’ in the presence of Bashar Assad, the head of the Syrian regime that is a sponsor of terrorism
• They want to run and cut from the battlefield in the middle of a war.

You can read here the rest of what Kohlmayer has to say.  (H/t:  American Thinker.)

We live in a topsy-turvy world.

In a somewhat similar vein, because it involves dealing with the enemy — although I’m thinking of dealings, not during the war, but once victory is achieved — I have to comment on something that flashed through my head yesterday as I was watching Ken Burns’ The War (which I’ve been slowing getting through, courtesy of TiVo).   One of the guys interviewed was a Marine pilot during the War, and for that, he gets kudos forever.  However, the things he said during the show make him sound as if, in the here and now, he’s a kind of ordinary anti-War Democrat.  Since I haven’t walked a mile in his battle tested shoes, I’m loath to criticize his viewpoint, but I can and will criticize something stupid he said.

Speaking of the enemy, he said that, by 1944, word was getting out about the atrocities the enemies were committing.  He added, though, that he wasn’t rushing to blame them, because he always wondered what Americans would do under similar circumstances.  A little “stupid bomb” popped off in my head, because we don’t need to wonder, we know.

During World War II, when it came to the Japanese taking over a territory, official policy (not the aberrant behavior of individual troops) resulted in the Rape of Nanking, the Bataan death march, and the civilian concentration camps in which tens of thousands of civilians were tortured and died.  (No link for that last.  I grew up hearing those stories from my mother, who survived the camps.)

During World War II, when it came to the Germans taking over a territory, official policy (not the aberrant behavior of individual troops) resulted in the Death Camps, which not only wiped out 6 million Jews, but sought to enslave and/or destroy whole populations of Gypsies, Poles, Communists, Homosexuals and other “undesirables.”  That doesn’t even count the horrors the Nazis visited on civilian populations without the bother of a death camp.  Mass graves still reveal themselves today outside of forgotten villages once under Nazi control.

During World War II, when it came to the Russians taking over a territory, official policy (not the behavior of the much tried Red Army troops, behavior that was indescribably cruel, but perhaps understandable after what the Germans did to the Russians) was to turn the territory into one giant Communist prison.

During World War II, when it came to the Americans taking over a territory, official policy was the Marshall Plan.   And you can’t downplay American humanity in this regard by saying that the Americans hadn’t suffered the way the Russians had, for example, so they were going to be softer and kinder to their defeated enemies.  To begin with, when the Japanese and Germans engaged in their inhuman conduct, they were on the ascendant in their wars, and hadn’t suffered either.  This was their standard M.O., and not the results of soldiers pushed to the brink.  And to end with, the Americans had suffered terribly.  The Marines and Navy in the Pacific, the Army in Europe, and the Air Force all over, had suffered unimaginably.  But at the end of it all, our goal, the American policy carried out by American troops, was to build up the countries taken in war, not to engage in the wholesale slaughter and enslavement of the civilians.  (The same holds true, by the way, for the Brits.)

And so I’ll say here and now that American and British values, at least as they played out during their peak during WWII, were better than other values.  They’re still better, although most Britains, and many Americans (notably House Democrats) seem to have forgotten that fact.  You won’t hear any moral relativism from me.  When American values are good, they’re the best.

Naomi Wolf continues to weave her conspiracy fantasies

A few weeks ago, I used Naomi Wolf’s latest anti-American article as the springboard for a larger post about the new conspiracy theorists among us.  Well, she’s back, and this time the Confederate Yankee is leading the attack, exposing her ignorance about matters historic, as well as her logical fallacies and paranoid fears.  She’s very, very smart (and always has been), but my God, does that girl lack common sense.

Death and the moonbat

All religions, at all times, in all places, have one of two goals: to give meaning to life, something usually tied to morality, or to allay the fear of death. Some religions, of course, serve both goals. It is the second goal — defusing death — that I write about today.

People who do not have a religion have no comforting philosophy about death, whether the philosophy is an immediate ascension to Heaven, resurrection on Judgment Day, or reincarnation. All they’ve got, when thinking of death, is plenty of nothing. For that reason, while it is human nature to fear dying (otherwise, how would the species survive?), the atheists among us have a particularly well-developed fear of death. I think this fear of death has a significant impact on the war against Islamic terrorism.

First, the atheists, who tend to the secular, anti-War Left, do not take the Islamists very seriously. They know, of course, that Islamists can and do kill, but they keep thinking that, if we in the West could just strike upon the magic formula of apology and empathy, the Islamists’ hostility will magically cease. Part of this willful obtuseness is almost certainly the fact that, historical evidence to the contrary, atheists simply cannot understand a culture that is not only unafraid of death, but embraces it. They can’t wrap their minds around the fact that a few groveling apologies from an uninspiring middle aged woman parading in pink is nothing compared to the allure of luscious virgins draped around you in an eternal Paradise. Atheists, staring fearfully at their post-death nihilism, are incapable of grasping how strong a draw those nubile virgins are to men steeped in a culture that celebrates dying and the rewards of death.

Second, the secularists utterly fail to understand our military. Thankfully, our military is not a culture that is steeped in or embraces death.  It is a religious culture, though, with the majority of military men and women embracing some form of Christian faith.  Indeed, 40% of Americans in the military describe themselves as Evangelical.

Christianity, of course, doesn’t encourage suicide, but it is a religion with a comprehensively realized theology about the afterlife.  For those in the line of fire, that theology may not diminish the fear of dying, which is often an unpleasant process, but it must bring with it a more comforting view of death than the void atheists face.  In other words — and feel free to correct me here — I’m supposing that, while our troops do not want to die, they have a philosophy that supports them as they contemplate the possibility.

And just as the atheists on the Left cannot recognize how fiercely the Islamists embrace a martyr’s death, creating a complete willingness to die to achieve that Paradise, so too are they incapable of recognizing that many, if not most, of our troops are more sanguine about the inevitability of death than the average atheist.  Indeed, it’s probably the fact that they are sanguine that helped them enlist in the first place.  People who fear death too much wouldn’t expose themselves to the inevitably increased risk that goes with military service.

It’s this inability to bridge the gap between their own beliefs and the beliefs of others that leads our secular Leftists to don their silly pink clothes and try to save adult men and women from freely made choices that the pink-clad non-believers would never make for themselves.  At one level, you have to appreciate the anti-War crowds’ kindness in trying to save others from that which they fear the most (assuming that they are indeed motivated by that goal); at the other level, you really have to worry about their complete inability to imagine the mind of the “other,” and to recognize that people guided by religious beliefs (or the absence thereof) make choices and get to abide by the consequences.

Respecting the dead

One of the things the anti-War movement does is obsess on the war dead. They say they do it out of respect but, their protests notwithstanding, their antics always look remarkably as if they’re pushing bodies in front of the American public so as to advance their agenda that war, any war, is evil. As in: “See how evil war is. People die.”

It seems to me that true respect for those who have died in Iraq is to appreciate the sacrifice that these men and women were willing to make so that those of us comfortably ensconced on the home front can continue to live our lives of safety, freedom and comfort. I don’t see these men and women as lambs to the slaughter. I see them as adults who willingly gave of themselves for the benefit of the rest of us.

Why I’m I restating my principles on this subject, since they’re familiar to anyone who has read this blog for a while? Because Dr. Rusty Shackleford, at the Jawa Report, asked people to do so out of respect to Ginger Gilbert, the widow of Maj. Troy Gilbert. And if the latter’s name sounds familiar to you, it’s because it was he whose body was shown being desecrated in the most recent Al Qaeda production. The problem is that the MSM, in conjunction with the activist anti-War crowd, has glommed onto the video as yet another entry in their “lambs to the slaughter” scenario. But that’s not how Maj. Gilbert’s friends, family and colleagues see the video. Instead, for them, the video should be seen so that those of in the comfortable American home-front bubble can “see just what it was that Troy was fighting in Iraq.”

Ginger Gilbert is especially incensed at the way in which her husband’s death is being used by the anti-War crowd:

“When media chooses to use Troy’s plane crash as a political catalyst to generate anti-war sentiment, it only serves to degrade the moral integrity my husband possessed and the morale of those still selflessly serving,” Gilbert said at news conference at Glendale’s Falcon Dunes Golf Course, across from Luke.

“Every time the press lends credibility and significance to terrorist propaganda clearly designed to erode public support or questions the validity of our brave soldiers’ selfless acts of service and the war itself,” she added, “it only serves to damage our country from within its own borders and embolden those who would do us harm.”

In other words, Mrs. Gilbert sees her husband, not as a pathetic, infantile victim of Al Qaeda, but as a victim of the anti-War crowd’s relentless denigration of the service our armed forces render to America.

UPDATE:  Confederate Yankee has compiled a list of news outlets that have ignored Mrs. Gilbert’s statements.

The lunacy of pretending we’re all one big happy family

This is the beginning of yet another must-read Mark Steyn column:

This year I marked the anniversary of Sept. 11 by driving through Massachusetts. It wasn’t exactly planned that way, just the way things panned out. So, heading toward Boston, I tuned to Bay State radio talk-show colossus Howie Carr and heard him reading out portions from the official address to the 9/11 commemoration ceremony by Deval Patrick, who is apparently the governor of Massachusetts: 9/11, said Gov. Patrick, “was a mean and nasty and bitter attack on the United States.”

“Mean and nasty”? He sounds like an oversensitive waiter complaining that John Kerry’s sent back the aubergine coulis again. But evidently that’s what passes for tough talk in Massachusetts these days – the shot heard around the world and so forth. Anyway, Gov. Patrick didn’t want to leave the crowd with all that macho cowboy rhetoric ringing in their ears, so he moved on to the nub of his speech: 9/11, he continued, “was also a failure of human beings to understand each other, to learn to love each other.”

I was laughing so much I lost control of the wheel, and the guy in the next lane had to swerve rather dramatically. He flipped me the Universal Symbol of Human Understanding. I certainly understood him, though I’m not sure I could learn to love him. Anyway, I drove on to Boston and pondered the governor’s remarks. He had made them, after all, before an audience of 9/11 families: Six years ago, two of the four planes took off from Logan Airport, and so citizens of Massachusetts ranked very high among the toll of victims. Whether any of the family members present Tuesday were offended by Gov. Patrick, no one cried “Shame!” or walked out on the ceremony. Americans are generally respectful of their political eminences, no matter how little they deserve it.

We should beware anyone who seeks to explain 9/11 by using the words “each other”: They posit a grubby equivalence between the perpetrator and the victim – that the “failure to understand” derives from the culpability of both parties. The 9/11 killers were treated very well in the United States: They were ushered into the country on the high-speed visa express program the State Department felt was appropriate for young Saudi males. They were treated cordially everywhere they went. The lap-dancers at the clubs they frequented in the weeks before the Big Day gave them a good time – or good enough, considering what lousy tippers they were. Sept. 11 didn’t happen because we were insufficient in our love to Mohamed Atta.

This isn’t a theoretical proposition. At some point in the future, some of us will find ourselves on a flight with a chap like Richard Reid, the thwarted shoe-bomber. On that day we’d better hope the guy sitting next to him isn’t Gov. Patrick, who sees him bending down to light his sock and responds with a chorus of “All You Need Is Love,” but a fellow who “understands” enough to wallop the bejesus out of him before he can strike the match. It was the failure of one group of human beings to understand that the second group of human beings was determined to kill them that led the crew and passengers of those Boston flights to stick with the obsolescent 1970s hijack procedures until it was too late.

It would be so nice to say that Steyn’s point — there is an “us” and there is a “them” — falls into the “duh” category, if it weren’t for the fact that so many Americans seem incapable of understanding it, and do still try for the la-la-la kumbiyah school of international relations.  Of course, these warm fuzzy types are better (if only slightly) than the 30% of their compatriots who have decided that there is an “us” and a “them,” with the “us” being their Birkenstocked selves, and the them being their own government.  That’s not mere denial, that’s insanity.

There’s usually a reason

My readership has flatlined.  I’m only complaining a little mind you, because I’m really quite happy with the regular conversations I have with those of you kind enough to visit here on a regular basis and then to stick around and talk with me when you come.  Still, I have been wondering for the last few days — no, make that weeks — why, after a long period of slightly sustained growth, the numbers are just doldrum-y.  I’ve concluded that, since I’m not a “breaking news” kind of blog, my strength has got to be writing.  And as for that, while I’m a pretty lucid writer, with occasional flashes of elegance and even wit, when I read something like the following, which manages to have pitch perfect content, complimented by equally pitch perfect writing, I realize why some of the competition is definitely above my league:

The title — the headline of a Breitbart story on Gen. David Petraeus’ and Ambassador Ryan Crocker’s testimony before Congress — says it all, doesn’t it? “Surge a failure, Democrats tell General.” I’m sure Petraeus was properly grateful for being instructed.

This is our first post from the Noordam, a Holland-America cruise ship. It turns out to be a bigger pain than expected to post from here: The connection fee is horrendous — we just dropped $100 for 250 minutes (of which 180 remain); so we must go online, save a bunch of web pages we intend to use, then logout. Then we read the material we downloaded offline and write the post (I’m writing in Netscape Mail). At the end, when the post is finished, I will log on again, paste this text into Movable Type, edit it and check the links, and then post. Yeesh!

Here’s the fuller quotation from the story:

Anti-war Senate Democrats bluntly told Iraq commander General David Petraeus Tuesday his troop surge strategy was an abject failure in its prime objective — forging an Iraqi political settlement. [Or rather, giving Congress a playable reason to surrender.]

Several Senate Republicans [read: RINOs] also expressed unease with US war policy, as the general and US ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker endured a roasting on a second day of high-stakes testimony to Congress.

Resorting to the last refuge of a cowardly scoundrel, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE, 100%) asked Petraeus two direct questions about the efficacy of the “surge”… then he proceeded to answer them himself, without inviting the commanding general to confuse matters by participating in the interrogation.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT, 95%) went Biden one better, furiously asking a rhetorical question that tortured the English language until it begged for mercy: “What makes you possibly think that anything further like this is going to produce the results that anybody else has failed to do?” (Senate aides are still trying to pick up the broken pieces of syntax and semantic content Dodd left strewn on the Rotunda floor.) Sen. Lieberman (I-CT, 75%D) must have slid further down in his seat, hoping folks wouldn’t think he was with the other fellow at his table.

Isn’t that great writing?  I especially enjoy the last paragraph I quoted, where good writing is used to attack bad speaking.  You can read this rest here.

I knew I didn’t like them

Mr. Bookworm has liked the singing duo Indigo Girls for as long as I can remember, and I’ve disliked them, very much, for equally long.  To my ear, there is a bullying, hectoring tone to their singing that is just a complete turn-off.  Considering how little I like them, I somehow was not surprised to find them the headline act at the Communist sponsored “Power to the Peaceful Festival” held in San Francisco this past weekend and documented perfectly at a Zombie post.

Internet synergy

One of my favorite sites in the blogsphere is American Thinker — and I don’t say that just because it’s been kind enough to publish a few of my longer articles. I think that, on a daily basis, editor Thomas Lifson offers readers a wonderful potpourri of quality writings about politics, war and society. I also love the blog, which I check at least once a day, ’cause it’s always got something fresh and interesting.

Another one of my internet favorites is Chris Muir’s delightful and witty cartoon, Day by Day. The only reason it doesn’t run on my blog on a regular basis is because I can’t make the darn code work in Word Press.

Given that I think the world of these two sites, I was really chuffed when Muir took note of a recent J.R. Dunn article at American Thinker and highlighted it in a cartoon:

This kind of intellectual synergy is just pure fun.

This is how they decide to celebrate the High Holy Days?

Through a reader, I just got wind of the shenanigans (or, should I say, the Sheehan-igans) going on at Beyt Tikkun, the ultra Left wing synagogue in Berkeley. It turns out that the special guest at this year’s High Holy Days is going to be none other than Cindy “get Israel out of Palestine!” Sheehan.

Let me backtrack a little so that you can see what a travesty this whole thing is, and how (to my mind) it really shockingly mixes religion and politics — or, should I say, uses politics to destroy religion.

First, let’s talk about the High Holy Days. As the name implies, these are not little holidays in the Jewish calendar. In the middle and at the end of September we’re coming up to the big ones: Rosh Hashanna, or Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. One Jewish website neatly summarizes their importance:

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the most important of all Jewish Holidays and the only holidays that are purely religious, as they are not related to any historical or natural event.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is celebrated the first and second days of Tishri. It is a time of family gatherings, special meals and sweet tasting foods.

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the most solemn day of the Jewish year and is observed on the tenth day of Tishri. It is a day of fasting, reflection and prayers.

Thus, while American merchants in December are kind enough to decorate their stores with Menorahs, all of which remind us of a great military victory (that would be Chanukah), it’s these Fall holidays that are the real deal for even the most marginally observant Jew.

Second, let’s talk about Michael Lerner, a man who is both a far Leftist and (at least in his own mind) a rabbi. Lerner has long been a well-known figure on the Left, especially since he always favored highly wrought symbolic acts to make his various political points:

A former 1960s Berkeley radical, Michael Lerner (b. 1943) is the founder of Tikkun magazine, a publication whose philosophy is an admixture of Old Testament teachings, medieval cabala mysticism, and 1960s-style campus Marxism. Though Lerner identifies himself as a duly ordained rabbi, many of his critics dispute that claim – on grounds that he was given a controversial private rabbinic ordination by “Jewish Renewal” rabbis, whose ordinations are recognized only by those within the Jewish Renewal community and Reconstructionist Judaism. Orthodox Judaism, the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly all consider such ordinations invalid.

Lerner’s radical politics and counterculture mindset were nourished during his years at Berkeley and have remained with him ever since. At his wedding reception, the wedding cake was inscribed with the words, “Smash Monogomy,” a slogan popularized by the Weathermen terrorist group that rose to prominence in 1969. During the marriage ceremony itself, Lerner and his bride exchanged rings fashioned out of metal extracted from a downed U.S. military aircraft. Shortly after the birth of the Lerners’ first child, the couple separated – the mother and son going to live in Boston, and Mr. Lerner returning to Berkeley. When asked why he had chosen to move so far from his young son, he answered without hesitation, “You don’t understand. I have to be here. Berkeley is the center of the world-historical spirit.” (Sha’i Ben Tekoa Israel National News – “Deprogram Program” June 4, 2001).

Lerner might have remained a fringe figure, running the Berkeley beat, if it weren’t for the fact that, during the 1990s, he sprang into the public view as the Clintons’ rabbi friend:

For some time, Lerner had a warm relationship with Hillary Clinton – and, by extension, with Bill Clinton also. Lerner’s 1997 book titled The Politics of Meaning was the source of Mrs. Clinton’s widely publicized use of that phrase. In a spirit reminiscent of the inscription atop Lerner’s wedding cake, one of his book’s chapters is entitled “The Tyranny of Couples.” In Hell To Pay, her biography of Hillary Clinton, author Barbara Olson reports that Lerner, during his years of friendship with Mrs. Clinton, liked to frequently invoke the phrase, “Hillary and I believe” as a prelude to identifying points of agreement he shared with her. However, as the Clinton presidency progressed, Lerner, a devoted far-leftist, lost interest in Bill and Hillary when he saw that polling data and focus groups were leading the administration toward moderation on such issues as welfare reform and social welfare spending.

Of course, in the 1990s, when the media was fawning over him, we never heard about (or we heard little about) Lerner’s Marxist politics and anti-American animus. Instead, we read fawning articles about his deep spirituality and his amazing ability to renew Jewish thinking amongst yuppies searching for meaning in their lives. And when he tired of the Clintons, the press ignored him and he just faded away.

Because Marxism always triumphs over all other religions, Lerner’s nominal role of a rabbi is always going to be subordinate to his political beliefs. Thus, while most Jews support Israel in her life and death struggle with the Palestinians (even Jews who acknowledge that Israel hasn’t always made the right practical or legal decisions over the years), Lerner, based upon Marxist misreadings of history, would see Israel destroyed entirely on the ground that she’s an imperialist U.S. puppet:

With regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of recent decades, Lerner has consistently aligned himself with the Palestinian side. He characterizes Israel as a nation whose “repressive” and “fascistic” leadership uses “disproportionate force to repress an essentially unarmed population.” He exhorts Jews everywhere to “allow themselves to hear the cries of pain of the Palestinian people” – as a first step toward atonement for their own transgressions. When asked about a barbaric October 2000 lynching of two Israeli reservists by Palestinian police in Ramallah, he replied that he understood “how Israel’s occupation can lead to such violence.”

“I believe,” says Lerner, “that the Israeli people will never be safe until the Occupation ends and a new spirit of repentance and generosity spreads through the Jewish people” He urges Jews “to atone for the pain we have inflicted on the Palestinian people in [many] years of brutal occupation, and in forcing so many Palestinians out of their home and not allowing them to return in 1948-49.” “Israel needs an atonement for what it has done,” he adds, “for the way it has failed to recognize the humanity, the sanctity of life, of Palestinians.” He lists, among Israeli transgressions, their responsibility “for expelling hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians during the War of Independence in 1948″; “for not having fulfilled the terms of the Oslo Accord, which envisioned granting Palestinians an independent state several years ago”; “for not being able to recognize themselves as the superior force with the greater responsibility to compromise and respect the needs of the less powerful”; and for “the deep racism in their society.”

Notably, Lerner does believe that the obligation to pay restitution to victims of injustice is a two-way street. Thus, while calling for Israel to provide “significant compensation for the families of Palestinians who were forced to leave their homes in 1948,” he similarly advocates a “corresponding compensation from Arab lands for Jews who fled Arab oppression in 1948-1954.”

Given all this, would it surprise you to know that the guest of honor at Beyt Tikkun’s High Holy Day services this year is going to be Cindy Sheehan, who is also completely hostile to Israel? At Free Republic, someone who is on a mailing list received this invitation to Beyt Tikkun’s services:

You may not live in the SF Bay Area, but there is a very good chance you know someone who does and who would love the High Holiday services conducted by Rabbi Michael Lerner. Cindy Sheehan will speak on Yom Kippur.

This year, all of America needs repentance and atonement, not just Jews. The failure of Americans to give an unequivocal message to their elected representatives that they must immediately cut off fund for the war, prevent a US attack on Iran, reverse the decision to expand the President’s power to tap our phones and invade our privacy, and stop the assault on immigrants provide an immediate focus for repentance, but the larger context of materialism, self-centeredness and environmental irresponsibility add dimensionality.

You don’t have to be Jewish to use the repentance and atonement traditions of the Jewish High Holy Days this year. So even if you can’t come to Rabbi Lerner’s High Holiday services, you can still use some fo the resources below, and you can tell people you know in the Bay Area about the services and expose them to a spiritual progressive version of religion. This is a Judaism of love, generosity, kindness, social justice, environmental sanity and peace. Rosh Hashanah is the evening of Sept. 12th and then Sept 13 & 14th. Yom Kippur is eve of Sept. 21 and all day Sept 22nd. Also note the course on A Judaism of Love being offered by Rabbi Lerner the weekend of Nov.9-11 (see below).

To get a better sense of what Jewish High Holidays are about, and how they can provide a spiritual practice even for people who don’t believe that there is such a thing as “spiritual” (much less God), please go to this website and download the High Holiday Guide (which also appears in Tikkun Magazine between pages 16-17. http://www.beyttikkun.org/article.php?story=HHDmain

Information and registration at http://www.beyttikkun.org. Take it from us, it’s a life changing experience for those who come to all the services and then use the High Holiday Guide above during the week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (which is why some people have flown to our services from Miami, NY, Boston, Minneapolis, San Diego and Chicago?and were happy they did! So, let your friends in this area know about the services by urging them to go to http://www.beyttikkun.org. They do NOT have to be Jewish to get a huge amount out of this practice.

It’s worth traveling for!

The one bummer: we have to charge for this. We believe all religious services should be free, as should health care, higher education, utilities, the internet, public transportation and legal costs. Unfortunately, we aren’t there yet, and in order to pay our yearly expenses we have to charge (sliding fee scale). In exchange for some volunteer work and commitment to attend the Global Judaism of Love course in Nov (but see http://www.beyttikkun.org for all conditions), people 21-34 can become a member of Beyt Tikkun for free and then don’t have to pay to go to services at all.

Mearsheimer and Walt Speak on The Israel Lobby for Beyt Tikkun and the NSP

(I hope you caught that bit at the end, which has Beyt Tikkun avidly supporting Walt & Mearsheimer’s repackaged Protocols of the Elders of Zion.)

Is it just me or does this announcement have absolutely nothing to do with religion? As I read it, it’s the usual Leftist/Progressive anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-Administration blather with a thin coating of religion painted over it. Why do these people even bother with the religious veneer? This is politics, pure and simple. It reminds me of the way in which the former Soviet Union used to pretend it had a Russian Orthodox Church by propping up a few old churches, and staffing them with KGB clergy.

There are a lot of people who hate Israel and who hate Jews but it always seems to me that some of the worst (sadly) are Jews themselves.

Just have to ask

Why isn’t anyone in Hollywood making movies about the abuses the terrorists within Iraq perpetrate against Americans and Iraqis? How honest is it to take one incident involving Americans and then to build a Riefenstahl-esque propaganda film about it, when you have hundreds, perhaps thousands, of incidents in which Islamists have engaged in mass execution style killings of bound Iraqis, civilian bombings, beheadings, kidnappings, child burnings, etc? Or what about the little matter of Hussein killing hundreds of thousands of his own citizens, as well as leaving many others to the tender mercies of his clinically sadist sons?

Why am I asking stupid questions? De Palma, who is an anti-militaristic one trick pony, made a propaganda film that is playing well before a credulous audience that never hears the truth anyway. (On this last point, see Bruce Bawer’s While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within, which gives a detailed description of anti-American government control over the press.) Shame on him. Shame on them.

Aw, forget that too. They have no shame, only hate and cultural self-loathing.

UPDATE: Thoughtful summary from the Confederate Yankee about De Palma’s anti-American propaganda.

The Gospel according to the New York Times

Mr. Bookworm and I watched Obsession, the Movie Tonight, something that ought to be required viewing for all Democrats and, especially, for all members of the MSM (assuming any difference between the two groups). At the end, Mr. Bookworm acknowledged that, of course, radical Islam is a threat, but that my “beloved President Bush” (his words, not mine), is making the situation much worse. I should have held my tongue, but I didn’t.

Me: Well, the Surge is working.

Mr. BW: No, it isn’t. The NYT says so.

Me: But even Democrats are beginning to acknowledge it’s working.

Mr. BW: No, they’re not. The NYT says so. If you want evidence, what about that Times article by the seven soldiers?

Me (thinking to myself): (Oh, the one I blogged about and as to which I got a lot of information from military analysts?)

Me, to Mr. BW: I followed up on that. It turns out those guys are serving in one narrow sector that hasn’t yet seen the benefit of the Sur….

Mr. BW: You don’t know what you’re talking about. The NYT says the Surge isn’t working.

I have to admit that, at this point, I flounced off after having told him that, as long as he read and acknowledged only the Times, I didn’t see much point in discussing the matter. In 20/20 hindsight, I should never have taken the bait. After all, if you get between a man and his Gospel, you’re likely to end up on the hot end of the auto de fe.

UPDATE:  In a comment, DQ asked how one tells if the surge is working.  I bumbled on for a while in an attempt at a responsive comment, only to start my morning reading by discovering a couple of articles that are much better on that point than anything I could come up with.  Joseph Klein writes about the on-the-ground benefits of the surge, and the need to give the Surge more time to produce political benefits.  Deroy Murdock compiles a list of those Democrats who have honestly conceded that the Surge is changing the situation on the ground, although they are (for obvious reasons) less sanguine about its having any political ramifications.

Methinks the lady doth protest too much

The Confederate Yankee rightly points out that all dishonest war reporting, whether it paints Iraq as a grim hellhole populated by evil US soldiers, or a glorious victory for American-style peace and democracy, is a very bad thing and must be nipped in the bud:

If we’re to make any sort of sense of the Iraq War at all, we need to know that those who are providing us information on the conflict are being as honest in their reporting as inherent human biases allow. As it has often been said, we can allow people to have their own opinions, bu not their own facts. On that point, I think we can all agree.

Because of this shared desire for facts, those dissemblers who falsify accounts and events in that conflict should be brought to light and discredited so that the can no longer easily spread lies.

CY would therefore like to know more facts about something Scott Horton, a Harper’s writer, describes in a Harper’s blog post. Horton is concerned about the anti-Beauchamp phenomenon, since he claims to have witnessed a neocon writer whitewash completely a particularly bad day on Haifa Street in Baghdad:

I have no idea whether Beauchamp’s story was accurate. But at this point I have seen enough of the Neocon corner’s war fables to immediately discount anything that emerges from it. One example: back last spring, when I was living in Baghdad, on Haifa Street, I sat in the evening reading a report by one of the core Neocon pack. He was reporting from Baghdad, and recounted a day he had spent out on a patrol with U.S. troops on Haifa Street. He described a peaceful, pleasant, upscale community. Children were out playing on the street. Men and women were out going about their daily business. Well, in fact I had been forced to spend the day “in the submarine,” as they say, missing appointments I had in town. Why? This bucolic, marvelous Haifa Street that he described had erupted in gun battles the entire day. In the view of my security guards, with which I readily concurred, it was too unsafe. And yes, I could hear the gunfire and watch some of the exchanges from my position. No American patrol had passed by and there were certainly no children playing in the street. This was the point when I realized that many of these accounts were pure fabrications.

Horton, having described a journalist committing a blatant, propagandistic lie, is surprisingly coy about the journalist’s identity. CY has therefore taken the first step to finding it out — he’s written Horton. If this journalist is indeed spewing untruths, we need to know:

Horton establishes last spring as the rough time frame and Haifa Street as the location in Baghdad where this story of press duplicity allegedly took place. I’ve taking the liberty of contacting Mr. Horton via his Harper’s email address, and I’m asking him to provide as much detail as possible about the fraudulent reporting of which he was a near-eyewitness. The more detail he can provide, the more concrete of a case we can make.

We need good reporting to understand the wars to which we’re committing our nation’s soldiers, and we need to discard those journalists that either can’t tell truth from fiction, or prefer not to make the distinction.

I’ll keep you posted as to what CY finds or, of course, you can simply make his excellent site part of your regular reading.

So far, all I’ve done is recount someone else’s news — that is, that CY found a blog saying pro-War journalists are lying too and that he is following up on that. Here’s where I take off on my own, which is to focus on something I found very interesting about Horton’s post. You see, Horton doesn’t just claim that neocon journalists are “thugs” who lie. Instead, he’s very, very, very angry about the Beauchamp story, and especially about The Weekly Standard‘s role in that story:

What’s interesting about this whole affair is not the Beauchamp story, but the response to it from William Kristol, the Weekly Standard, and their quite amazing ability to exercise total command and control over the public affairs operations at the Pentagon throughout the process. Pentagon public affairs operated as an extension of Kristol’s publication, giving it exclusive access to special reports and data (most of which, incidentally, proved an exercise in fiction writing). Beauchamp himself was detained and placed under pressure to recant. Had all of these facts been reported to me as something done by Glavlit and the Red Army in Brezhnev era Russia, I wouldn’t have been surprised. But this was the United States.

From that tirade, Horton repeats approvingly parts of Jonathan (“I hate Bush”) Chait’s attack on William Kristol for exposing Beauchamp.

There are a few striking things about Horton’s red hot attack on the conservative media and on the US military. The most obvious thing is how he glosses over the core fact, which is that Beauchamp lied. Beauchamp, perhaps with help from his wife (shades of Wilson/Plame here), got himself a huge forum in a nationally respected magazine to tell lies about the American troops. There was no witch hunt here, which implies that the person being hunted is innocent. Instead, what happened was that the new media instantly exposed a con man, a scam artist, someone who in the old days would probably have been derided and shunned for what he did.

Horton also goes on the liberal trope of “we’re living in a police state” as if Beauchamp was an ordinary citizen being hunted down by the Bush government and its military industrial complex. In fact, Beauchamp wrote the lies he wrote while actively serving in the military. Given that one of its own grossly slandered others of its own, I think that the military might actually have a legitimate interest in conducting an investigation into Beauchamp’s charges. And, since Beauchamp made those charges public to the world, the military had not only an interest in rebutting, but a right to rebut, them nationally as well.

And please note how carefully Horton writes that Beauchamp “was detained and placed under pressure to recant.” First of all, recanting makes it sound as if Beauchamp had taken an ideological position and, having been accused of heresy, was forced to retreat from a moral truth. (Think Galileo here.) In fact, Beauchamp was confronted with the ever increasing pile of objective facts showing that what he wrote was false, and was asked to admit that he’d lied. Kind of different.

Also, to coyly say he was placed “under pressure” and then instantly to analogize that to the Soviet Union is an outrageous act of writerly sleight of hand. In the Soviet Union, pressure involved interesting things like torture, imprisonment in Gulags, starvation, threats to ones family, and execution. Beauchamp has not alleged, and no one else anywhere has claimed, that anything more happened to Beauchamp than that his employer (that would be the US military) questioned him, and, yes, probably hounded him, to admit that he’d grossly slandered the organization.

Horton’s rage, in other words, is manufactured. What he can’t admit apparently, even to himself, is that someone told a lie that he hoped was the truth, and that this lie was then exposed. All he can do, therefore, is create a swirling sea of anger about everything but the initial lie, in the hopes of obscuring the truth at the core of it all — Beauchamp fabricated just about everything. Horton’s other tactic, that which started this post, is the tried and true playground strategy of claiming “but so and so lied too” (or “hit too,” or “kicked too,” or whatever else you or your playground buddy stand accused of having done.) Horton may well be right about the latter point but, given his intellectual approach to the first lie, I have my doubts.

UPDATECY notes that, while Horton is busy blogging, he doesn’t seem to have gotten around to giving detailed answers — heck, any answers — to questions about his assertion that a neocon journalist lied just as badly as Beauchamp did.

The dog is barking

As you may recall, a couple of days ago I asked why there had been no comment whatsoever in the conservative blogosphere about a New York Times op-ed piece in which seven active duty soldiers criticized the Iraq War. In updates to that same post, I was able to point to a couple of bloggers who had commented upon the article, but their numbers were definitely limited.

I’m beginning to think the silence was because the article’s authors were soldiers on the ground opining about policy based on their personal observations. This meant that ordinary civilian bloggers (like me) were out of their league analyzing either the facts or the conclusions drawn from those facts. It was no coincidence, in retrospect, that the two bloggers I found who discussed the article are current and ex-military.

As more vets get the chance to process the article, I think we’ll get more insights into its strengths and weaknesses. Today, in The Weekly Standard, several Iraq Vets have analyzed and (politely) critiqued the article:

ON SUNDAY, seven soldiers from the 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division stationed in Iraq penned a passionate opinion piece in the New York Times that further illustrates the complexity of what is “really” happening in Iraq. Of the almost 3,000 soldiers from the Army’s storied 82nd Airborne Division currently serving in the hottest of Iraqi neighborhoods, seven felt confident enough in their misgivings to sign an opinion piece. They should not be surprised that many of their comrades–including the seven undersigned here–find their work to be misguided.

The 2nd Brigade is responsible for two dangerous areas of Baghdad: Adihamiyah and Sadr City. Airborne troopers there have seen the worst al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army can throw at them and the Iraqi people. But the whole story is that the Iraqis and soldiers in their sector have not yet been fully affected by the surge of troops and operations, which have barely been in place two months.

Currently, American and Iraqi Forces are clearing sections of southern Baghdad before turning north to the 82nd Airborne’s neighborhoods. As such, the portrait these soldiers painted, while surely accurate and honest, is more representative of pre-surge Baghdad: sectarian strife, lawlessness, and indiscriminate slaughter.

This is not, however, the picture elsewhere in Iraq, or even most of Baghdad. Additional American combat brigades first surged to the outlying areas around the capital, disrupting the flow of suicide bombers and car bombs and denying haven to al Qaeda.

Read the rest here.

UPDATEPhibian explains that the only thing newsworthy about the New York Times Op-Ed is that it is in the New York Times.  As Mike Devx pointed out in a comment, out of more than a hundred thousand people, you’ll always find some with one opinion or another, and you’ll always find an audience for that opinion.

Hillary is being very weird

In a bizarre speech yesterday, Hillary wittingly or unwittingly admitted that the Republicans are best when it comes to security against terrorism. Here’s what she said:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday raised the prospect of a terror attack before next year’s election, warning that it could boost the GOP’s efforts to hold on to the White House.

Discussing the possibility of a new nightmare assault while campaigning in New Hampshire, Clinton also insisted she is the Democratic candidate best equipped to deal with it.

“It’s a horrible prospect to ask yourself, ‘What if? What if?’ But if certain things happen between now and the election, particularly with respect to terrorism, that will automatically give the Republicans an advantage again, no matter how badly they have mishandled it, no matter how much more dangerous they have made the world,” Clinton told supporters in Concord.

“So I think I’m the best of the Democrats to deal with that,” she added.

The former first lady made the surprising comments as she explained to supporters that she has beaten back the GOP’s negative attacks for years, and is ready to do so again.

Yes, it’s true that, after hypothesizing that there might be a terrorist attack, Hillary goes on to say that the Republicans have, to date, mishandled terrorism. What’s peculiar is what Hillary goes on to say after that: “So I think I’m the best of the Democrats to deal with that.” (Emphasis mine.)

In that single little sentences, it’s obvious that Hillary intends to put down the other Democratic candidates. By framing it as she did — that is, by comparing herself only to Democrats — it makes her sound as if she is tacitly admitting that, while she’s the best amongst Democrats, she can’t compete against Republicans.

The fact is that, despite Hillary’s insult to the Republican administration, voters who are not true believers when it comes to the anti-War movement know three things: (a) There haven’t been successful terrorist attacks on American soil in almost six years of Republican control over security. (b) None of the Democrats have come up with an alternative plan for fighting terrorism beyond cutting and running in Iraq, which most sensible people know would be disastrous, a la the President’s recent Vietnam speech. And (c) the only thing Hillary has promised is to take the Republican war and, in some vague, unexplained way, do it better. At best then, she’s like a Republican — and knowing this, all she can do is assure voters that she’s better than the Democrats.

(If you think this little squiblet deserves some attention at Patrick Ruffini’s 2008 Presidential Wire, please click **here**.)

UPDATEBest of the Web caught the same inadvertent (?) admission.

Now I know why I’m a coward

As I’ve freely admitted over the years, I’m quite a cowardly person. I’m a physical coward insofar as I assiduously avoid physical risks, and I’m an intellectual coward to the extent that I blog anonymously. I’d like to be brave, I truly would, but whether I’m confronting the specter of sky-diving or announcing my real name, I just crumble. Indeed, just about my only act of bravery is to acknowledge, instead of dissemble about, my own cowardice.

I’ve always assumed that part of my fear stems from growing up in a home with one parent who escaped the Nazis only to be tumbled into the worst fighting North Africa and Southern Europe had to offer, and another parent who spent the war years interned in a Japanese concentration camp. Quite unsurprisingly, the oft repeated lesson in my home was to decrease risk at all costs and to seek the quiet life.

Turns out that the fact that these early childhood messages may have gained reinforcement from my verbal skills, skills that helped me prosper in school. Stephen Rittenberg, who served in the Navy as a psychiatrist during the Vietnam War, contrasts two approaches to fear he frequently saw, one from the Ivy League draft avoiders, and the other from the regular Joes who went into combat. The former dissembled:

When I served as a Navy psychiatrist during the Vietnam War, one of my weekly duties was interviewing and assessing potential draftees who were seeking to avoid service by claiming mental illness. Many of these were recent Ivy League graduates, students of the humanities, who were active protesters of what they insisted was an immoral war. They thought of themselves as idealists.

Yet they were not principled conscientious objectors. Instead, they were glib, had read up on symptoms of psychosis, and could feign the manifest behavior of any disqualifying syndrome-including homosexuality. Their efforts to dissemble were usually rather obvious. They were predicated on the arrogant assumption that they were smarter than any military psychiatrist.

Once it was pointed out to them that if they avoided the draft, someone else, less educated and less favored by fortune would go in their place, they quickly revealed their true motivation: fear. I realized I was observing cowardice masquerading as idealism. These young men would do anything to avoid the risk of fighting and dying for their country.

The latter, having faced their fears, ignored their fears, or failed to recognize their fears, were quite honest about, and not limited by, their emotions:

I then would return to my hospital responsibilities, working with wounded vets. These were not glib wordsmiths. It took real effort to get them to talk about their experiences. They didn’t think of their courage in battle as anything special. When they did talk about it, they often worried that they’d let down their comrades. The contrast with would-be draft evaders was striking. There was absolutely none of the self-preoccupation of the Ivy Leaguers. Instead these were men who had done deeds, fought battles, rescued other wounded platoon members, risked their lives. They readily acknowledged having been afraid, and many paid a high emotional price. They felt fear, but unlike our Ivy Leaguers, the force that propelled them was courage, not cowardice.

Why the difference? Had the Ivy Leaguers spent their childhoods with parents who rewarded them for cowardice, or had they been raised with a cowardly ethos? Rittenberg doesn’t think so. Instead, he sees something more subtle, which is the fact that the academic world rewards skills different from those that are actually useful in the real world, with the reward favoring those who are more adept at rationalizing away their failings:

In his great essay Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?, Robert Nozick pointed out that wordsmith intellectuals-writers, journalists, liberal arts professors, film makers, television pundits-had frequently been children who achieved success in school, based on their verbal skills. They were rewarded with elite status within the school system. As adults, however, they were not similarly rewarded. Capitalism rarely gives its greatest rewards to the verbally skilled.

***

Nozick also observed that there is a childhood forerunner to capitalism — the world of the playground. There, verbal intellect is far less important than action. On the playground aggression is as important as intellect. Being able to utilize aggression in the service of solving problems produces leaders not designated by authority figures, but by one’s peers. Physical courage is valued highly. Cowards are mocked and shunned as “scaredy cats”. Willingness to fight for oneself, without appealing to authority becomes a measure of status. It also provides real world lessons in human nature.

As girl, of course, you can get away with a certain amount of playground cowardice without having to turn to the classroom as your only resource. As a boy, woe unto you if you can’t take your licks. For all those kids who found the playground an intimidating place, rather than an exciting challenge, the classroom was a haven — and one in which a very different set of values was taught than was on the curriculum out of doors:

In that freewheeling world of the schoolyard, the good little girls and physically timid boys who craved teacher’s praise were at a disadvantage. The schoolroom was their utopia, where physical aggression was banned and all problems had a verbal solution. Girls are usually more verbally adept in the early childhood years and gain surplus praise from teachers. In addition, such children, including boys who crave teacher’s approval, receive moral approbation for being “good” while aggression is, “bad”. Hence the future wordsmith intellectual grows up feeling smarter, morally superior, a caring idealist.

The wordsmith is an idealist so caring, of course, that he’s always happy to see the other man die in his place.

Incidentally, while Rittenberg’s is a thoughtful and well-informed article, the product of both a learned and experienced man, it can actually be summed up in one sentence, an apocryphal attribution to the Duke of Wellington: “The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.”

The dog that didn’t bark in the night….

On August 19, the New York Times ran an op-ed by seven military personnel, who were described as follows:

Buddhika Jayamaha is an Army specialist. Wesley D. Smith is a sergeant. Jeremy Roebuck is a sergeant. Omar Mora is a sergeant. Edward Sandmeier is a sergeant. Yance T. Gray is a staff sergeant. Jeremy A. Murphy is a staff sergeant.

These seven slam the surge, saying that military victories really count for nothing against an insurgency, and that any American self-praise simply represents American self-centeredness. Here’s a sampling:

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

***

Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.

Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful. The morass in the government has fueled impatience and confusion while providing no semblance of security to average Iraqis. Leaders are far from arriving at a lasting political settlement. This should not be surprising, since a lasting political solution will not be possible while the military situation remains in constant flux.

The Iraqi government is run by the main coalition partners of the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, with Kurds as minority members. The Shiite clerical establishment formed the alliance to make sure its people did not succumb to the same mistake as in 1920: rebelling against the occupying Western force (then the British) and losing what they believed was their inherent right to rule Iraq as the majority. The qualified and reluctant welcome we received from the Shiites since the invasion has to be seen in that historical context. They saw in us something useful for the moment.

I’m not there (“there” being Iraq), so I don’t know if their facts are right. As I understand it, these soldiers are saying, in part, that the situation on the ground in Iraq is confusing, and if everything’s not going our way, then nothing is going our way. The story is also already a little dated, because it looks as if one of the major disgruntled insurgent groups just decided to give up. If that’s the case, the fog of battle, with divergent factions all over Iraq, may just have cleared up a bit. That’s just deconstructing the writing though and comparing three day old conclusions to today’s facts. For all I know, everything in the article could, in fact, be dead-on correct. (And if it is dead-on correct, why in the world is the Army letting its guys undercut it this way in a major American publication? But that’s a question for another blog post.)

What really intrigues me right now is the dead silence in the conservative blogosphere about this one. I don’t recall any of my favorite conservative sites discussing this article. That’s really unusual. And for those of you who count yourselves among my liberal readers, and are inclined to think badly of conservatives, let me assure you right away that the reason for that silence isn’t simply because this story goes against the prevailing wisdom in the conservative blogosphere — namely, that that the War can still be won and that the surge is working. One of the things I’ve loved about the conservative blogosphere is its willingness to tackle all fact and opinion articles, whether the bloggers see the articles as occasions for celebration, deconstruction or despair. No matter the article, if it’s about a hot topic, as this one is, silence is never the response.

Given the reality of the conservative blogosphere, I have to ask if I’ve missed the response to this article or if, for a reason unclear to me, this article has been met with resounding silence? And if the latter is true, why is that?

UPDATE: Blackfive has respectfully challenged some of the authors’ conclusions. Has anyone else of the big guys?

UPDATE II: In addition to Blackfive, I’ve got a couple more links. Greyhawk, writing at Milblogs, which is part of the Mudville Gazette, takes some time out from getting the job done in Iraq to comment on the op-ed’s perspective. His major point is that, while the op-ed’s authors have their facts right, he disagrees with their conclusions. Here’s a sampling:

We are indeed working to straighten out a hell of a mess in Baghdad, and any number of things can foil our objectives. In fact, failure is easier and quicker than success, our failure can bring success to others (is, in fact, prerequisite to their success as they currently envision it) and not all of these “others” are ready to develop new definitions of personal or group success more compatible with ours. (Or at least, definitions of “success” that can be achieved following our success rather than only after our failure).

But, in fact, that’s exactly what’s happened in most of al Anbar, and during the bloody campaign to get there such an outcome was far from obvious. (Such an outcome is far from a done deal now, too, but at least it can be mentioned without drawing sneers.) It’s entirely possible that all hell may still break lose there. But it seems (at best) that the general population has had enough of al Qaeda and their ilk and are willing to cast their lot with us, or (at worst) have finally realized that the best way to get rid of us is to let us finish and leave – after gaining whatever edge they can against their future rivals from us before our departure. (Said edge being training, money, weapons, and perhaps a bit of thinning of the rival herd before we depart.) One can’t rule out some middle ground between those two possibilities.

That being the case, our best hope is that prosperity (or at least being on a recognizable path thereto) will prove incentive to keep the peace without the presence of American guns. Said peace being more conducive to such prosperity, a positive spiral can develop, and we’re beginning to see the early indications of that spiral now in Anbar as months of positive developments have at least resulted in people noticing the positive developments and in turn developing at least some semblance of hope.

This seems to be a more lucid statement of the bone I had to pick, which was my comment that the op-ed seemed to say that, since all things aren’t going right in Iraq, than everything must be going wrong. I incline by nature to Greyhawk’s view that, if enough is going right, that can change the momentum — and you certainly don’t abandon the fight just as you’ve got a policy in place that is tilting more and more things in the winning direction.

Bill at Bill’s Bites has touched on this issue, since he hunted down the articles mentioned above and well as this one — posts I wouldn’t have found without his help.

What the Surge is really about (with a little Rudy thrown in for good measure)

Clifford May has an excellent article about the Surge. It begins with the doomsday scenarios the anti-War people in politics and the press spelled out before the Surge happened, and then points that the more honest amongst them are admitting that the Surge is working. What makes May’s article very good is that it explains why the Surge is working. It’s not just more bodies being thrown at a failed military tactic. Instead, under General Petraeus’ skilled leadership, it’s an entirely new approach, bolstered by more military personnel:

Because of scant media interest, most Americans don’t even realize that the so-called surge is a new and different strategy, implemented by General Petraeus because the approach of his predecessors — not least former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield — failed.

Rumsfeld wanted a “light footprint” in Iraq, not an intrusive military occupation. He thought more troops would mean more targets for our enemies. He pushed hard for Iraqis to provide their own security as quickly as possible.

Under the Rumsfeld strategy, most American forces spent most of their time in Forward Operating Bases (FOBs). Cut off from the local population, they received little intelligence. And since they were providing security for themselves but not for Iraqis, Iraqis turned to sectarian militias which grew larger, stronger, and more violent.

Meanwhile, al Qaeda in Iraq deployed suicide-bombers to mass-murder civilians as a way to stoke sectarian violence. Al Qaeda calculated — not unreasonably — that Americans would withdraw rather than remain in the crossfire of a civil war.

General Petraeus, the Army’s top counterinsurgency expert, decided it was time for a different approach. He moved troops out of the FOBs and put them into Iraqi cities and villages where they have been providing security for Iraqis — who have shown their appreciation by providing intelligence that spy satellites can’t retrieve.

He is targeting al Qaeda, as well as the Shia militias trained, funded and equipped by Tehran — their cells, strongholds, and bomb factories. And with added troop strength, he has been able to hold the neighborhoods he has cleared.

It also is true that most traditional Iraqi leaders have been repelled by al Qaeda’s brutality and extremism. Americans, by contrast, have shown the local sheiks respect, while training and partnering with Iraqis — making it clear they would like nothing better than to see Iraqis take charge of their own security as soon as they are ready.

On top of all that, U.S. soldiers have been doubling as diplomats: helping to reconcile Sunni and Shia tribal groups, and even bringing insurgents — those not affiliated with al Qaeda or Tehran — into line with the Iraqi government.

Petraeus’ leadership genius, which the media refuses to acknowledge, is that he’s not insane. And by insane I mean the definition attributed to Einstein that views insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Petraeus is doing something new, and he’s getting new results — and good ones too.

It helps, of course, that General Petraeus is a counterinsurgency expert. As an aside, that’s why I’m pleased about Bibi Netanyahu’s resurgent political career. Whether people like him or hate him, he’s long been understood to be Israel’s top counter terrorist thinker.

Rudy Giuliani is also showing signs of that same clear eyed realism in dealing with terrorists, a realism untainted by the multiculturists’ bizarre and dangerous mix of romanticism, condescension and self-loathing when it comes to viewing Islamists. Here’s Caroline Glick, that astute observer of Islamist terrorism, talking about Giuliani’s latest foreign policy pronouncement:

The strongest voices calling for the US to apply the same policies toward the Palestinians that it applies to terror forces throughout the world are heard in President George W. Bush’s own Republican Party. Former New York mayor and Republican presidential frontrunner Rudolph Giuliani has been the strongest Republican voice calling for change.

In an article published this week in Foreign Affairs, Giuliani supported Bush’s view that the aim of the US war is to destroy both the global terrorist movement and its radical Islamic-fascist ideology. But Giuliani expressed deep misgivings regarding Bush’s actual policies, which he believes have been inconsistent and insufficiently strong.

Giuliani makes his call for consistency most clearly in his discussion of the Palestinians and Israel. In his words: “Too much emphasis has been placed on brokering negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians – negotiations that bring up the same issues again and again. It is not in the interest of the United States, at a time when it is being threatened by Islamist terrorists, to assist the creation of another state that will support terrorism.”

He added, “America’s commitment to Israel’s security is a permanent feature of our foreign policy.”

By so couching his argument, Giuliani made clear that, from his perspective, there is no difference between the jihad against Israel and the jihad throughout the world. As a result, in his view, the US should align its policy toward the Palestinians with its policy against jihad everywhere in the world.

Glick’s praise for Giuliani, who is the Republican candidate who has been most recent and most explicit in his foreign policy stance should not be understood to cut out the other Republican candidates. As far as Glick is concerned, Romney and Thompson get it too:

While Giuliani has been the most candid in his critique of Bush’s policy toward the Palestinians, his views are not out of sync with the general tenor of the Republican presidential debate. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former senator Fred Thompson have similarly made clear that they believe the US must be more forthright and consistent in fighting the war.

Overall, as the Islamists continue to overreach themselves, getting by force what they could simply have had handed to them in time through demographic growth and Western cultural suicide, it seems as if leaders are emerging who understand the issues and who have reasonable tactics and strategies for addressing a problem long present and finally recognized.

(If you think this post is worthy of greater airplay on Patrick Ruffini’s 2008 Wire, please click here.) 

Rage Boy has a new friend, Anguished Woman

Remember Rage Boy, the Mick Jagger of Pakistan, who showed up at every rally, with his wide mouth screaming its outrage at America?

Turns out that Rage Boy has a friend, Anguished Woman. She’s the one who roams around in the middle of chaos screaming, and she’s now got the shiny new bullets to justify her pain. American Thinker first published her false bullet story, a story that quickly got updated as sharp-eyed readers recognized the owner of those nice, neat bullets. Here’s the story as Thomas Lifson first reported it:

Rocco DiPippo, AT contributor and blogger at The Autonomist, spotted enemy propaganda in the press, as delivered by the incompetent information warriors at French news agency AFP. Although we don’t like to post news agency photos out of respect for copyright laws, this particular photo is the subject of the news story, so we violate our normal policy and post it.

 Iraqi woman with
The caption run by Yahoo News, and presumably supplied by AFP states:

An elderly Iraqi woman shows two bullets which she says hit her house following an early coalition forces raid in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad suburb of Sadr City. At least 175 people were slaughtered on Tuesday and more.

Now anyone who has actually held a gun and fired ammunition understands that a bullet which has been fired looks nothing like the unfired cartridges the woman holds. If I recall, the difference between bullets and cartridges was the first thing taught in the NRA firearms safety course I took decades ago when I first took up shooting as a sport and bought my first guns.

To help understand the story, Mr. DiPippo also sent along pictures of bullets that have actually left a gun. You can see them here.

But wait, there’s more. It turns out that a month ago, this same woman found that the evil Americans, without using a gun, had thrown shiny new bullets at her bed. The poor woman is being deluged with shiny, unshot bullets. What are we to think?

The excitement about this pathetic new bullet victim picked up as people started feeling that this woman looks remarkably like the woman from photos purportedly taken in Lebanon during last summer’s war. (Although it’s easy to confuse elderly women in burqas, isn’t it?) What made those Lebanese photos interesting was the fact that they purported to show two separate women, on two separate dates. In these photos of two allegedly separate women, each is shown with her head flung back and mouth wide open, as she screams out her anguish about the horrors of the destruction Israel wrought against her home(s) in Lebanon. Again, what are we to think?

Well, one of the things we might think is that, once again, Arab stringers are selling the credulous American media a bill of goods and that media, perfectly content with its fairy tale narrative about the Iraq War, is passing on manifestly silly stories and photos to the American public as if they are actually real news. We can also be concerned that, because most people scan stories quickly, without thinking too deeply about them, these manifestly false images are nevertheless creating the operative paradigm that will force our foreign policy in dangerous directions.

Hat tip: Rocket’s Brain Trust

Others blogging:
Blackfive
Little Green Footballs
’Victim’ Of US Sadr City Raid: American Troops Are Now Throwing Ammunition At People!
Hot Air: Credulous photojournalism of the day
The Autonomist: Terrorist Propaganda Picture of the Week
Dang! – snapped shot
Confederate Yankee: What is It?
Gateway Pundit: BUSTED!… Bogus Baghdad Bed and Bullet!
Captain’s Quarters
Michelle Malkin

AN IMPORTANT UPDATE: From Confederate Yankee (who’s got good coverage generally):

The picture seems to show common commercial 55-grain civilian ball ammunition patterned after the Vietnam-era M193. With this in mind, I’d state that this ammunition wasn’t even dropped by American forces, as they don’t carry such ammunition.

This isn’t just a a photo that just shows ignorance. It appears to show a willful deception using civilian ammunition.

The law of unintended consequences

From today’s Best of the Web:

Yesterday we noted the sad story of Nathan C. Gagner, a depressed 27-year-old Kittery, Maine, man who committed suicide by burning himself to death on a public street, and the ludicrous reaction of an unidentified resident of nearby Eliot, who wrote in a newspaper that he hoped Gagner’s act was a protest: “Was this an effort by this buddha of Kittery to stop the madness in Iraq?”

[A reader] offers some perspective:

I read “Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides” by Christian Appy (Viking, 2003). One aspect I’d never heard before was that one American Quaker, Norman Morrison, in November 1965 immolated himself on the grounds of the Pentagon to protest the war, as had the Vietnamese Buddhist monks. Apparently there would be seven other Americans who would do the same thing later.

The key aspect about Morrison’s story, unfortunately, is that contrary to his own intentions in protesting violence of any kind, the enemy took it as an act of camaraderie and solidarity with their struggle. He was protesting the war itself, his wish only to stop the carnage. However, the North Vietnamese and communists in the South took it as an inspiration to continue the fight, because they believed he had shown that normal, everyday Americans were on their side. Morrison’s widow recounts one story of how a Vietnamese grandmother shamed her grandson into fighting by holding up Morrison’s example, and describes how hard it was for Morrison’s family to realize how his immolation was being interpreted, although she lays no blame on the Vietnamese for doing so (p. 154).

I think this message is worth highlighting today to those who protest against U.S. actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Perhaps their motives are purely anticonflict and pro-peace–but when war is upon a country, it is zero-sum. Anything that adversely affects one side can only aid the other. Perhaps the “antiwar” protesters will realize whose side they have chosen.

As the Australians say, too right. I think of this unintended consequences problem every time I see the antiquated yahoos pouring out of a local Old Age home in my community to make their daily roadside protest demanding Bush’s impeachment and the troops’ withdrawal from Iraq. These people are too old for the instant gratification game, but they play it any way, completely oblivious to the consequences that will flow from their short-sided demands (such as a Cheney presidency and a holocaust in Iraq).

It’s “random thoughts” day

I’m on another vacation, sitting in a cyber cafe, working at a small computer with a microscopic keyboard, so it must be random thoughts day. Thank goodness DQ is doing the heavy lifting.

The first thing that caught my interest is what Mitt said at the debate, which I really liked:

But it was Romney forced on the defensive on the issue of abortion, when Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback defended automated phone calls his campaign had been making that highlight his rival’s one-time support for pro-choice policies.

“It’s truthful,” Brownback said.

Romney called it “desperate, maybe negative,” adding moments later, “I get tired of people that are holier than thou because they’ve been pro-life longer than I have.” (Emphasis mine.)

The fact is that many people who came of age in the 1960s have taken a long slow journey from one side to the other. As my own change in political convictions shows, the fact that I came late to the game doesn’t mean I’m not one of the biggest fans. In any event, as I keep reminding and reminding people, the best we can hope for is a chief executive who appoints strict constructionist judges, since it is they, not the President, who will change abortion policies.

Indeed, I’m reminded again and again that, probably, the most important thing the new President can do is change the Supreme Court — and we must really hope that the new President is a conservative. I think I’ve hammered hope the point that, if you haven’t already read Melanie Phillips’ Londonistan, you must. It points the finger of blame at activist judges who decided that the laws and traditions of their own country were irrelevant, because they were connected to a higher authority of human rights law, courtesy of the EU and the UN. (As you may recall, some of our more liberal and aged Supreme Court justices have been making tentative moves in the same direction.)

I’m now reading Bruce Bawer’s While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within, which describes in chilling detail what is happening, day-to-day, on the streets of Europe as a result of the multi-cultural, socialist, non-democratically judge ruled European nations that allowed unlimited Muslim immigration, with full funding no matter the fraud, and has proven unwilling because of  its doctrinal blinders to deal with the inevitable Islamist nihilism, violence and brutality.  Bawer is a liberal  gay man who is mad, frightened, and finally aware the America is the last, best hope for Western freedom  and democracy.

Continuing randomly, Confederate Yankee continues to eviscerate the once reputable TNR over the Scott Thomas propaganda piece.  It now turns out that when TNR did  it’s little “we were sort of wrong” mea culpa, it left out  a few pertinent facts.  Whoops!

TNR’s not  the only one covering up information to score political or ideological points (or just to cover up journalistic  malfeasance).  Turns out that, again, the Times is guilty of allowing the publication of an article attacking Orthodox Jews that used as its starting  point a known false anecdote.  Starting with Walter Duranty, journalistic integrity at the Times seemed to have morphed into, if we beieve the underlying ideology, we are acting with integrity when we lie about those  facts to support our ideological  beliefs.  Incidentally, that’s psychologically similar to the European Muslims who have no problems breaking European laws because, as far as they’re concerned, such laws don’t exist.

Incidentally, since I’m in Times bashing mode (it’s editorial policies make it an easy target), let me just  direct you to an American Thinker article exposing its decision to publish a piece by known  Israel  basher — and Canadian — Michael  Ignatieff as he explains  why he can’t support the war in Iraq. Surprise, surprise!  It’s all about the “Jooos.”  As Babu said to Jerry, finger rhythmically wagging, “You are a very bad man.”

And the last random thought, a surprising report today that more women are living with the fathers of their children!  We used to call that marriage, but they don’t because they aren’t (married, that is).   I  suppose this should be heartening, but I find it depressing, at least from the child’s  point of view.  Marriage says (even though it may not  mean) “we’re committed for the long haul.”  Living  together says (even though it may not  mean) “I can walk out at any time.”  I think the former is better for children’s sense of stability, rather than the latter.

Some things don’t seem coincidental

Ace deconstructs The New Republic‘s most recent attempt to explain away Scott Thomas’ rather strange, and almost impossible to corroborate, claims about his macabre and novelistic experiences in Iraq. The more one learns, the more it seems that Thomas wanted to write a semi-biographical version of the great anti-War novel, and therefore went to Iraq bound and determined to test his preconceived plot scenarios. In this way, he reminds me of Kerry, who pretty much did the same thing with his prosy little Vietnam diary (where he served, you know).

Anyway, there was one thing Ace wrote about that struck me as very peculiar. First, I give you Ace’s bit, including quotations from TNR, all of which is followed by my comment. This particular quotation has to do with the claim that the soldiers dug up a mass grave and one soldier spent the day wandering around wearing a child’s skull on his head (emphasis below mine):

Their next case of “confirmation” is curious. First I’ll give you their “confirmation.” Read carefully.

In the second anecdote, soldiers in Beauchamp’s unit discovered what they believed were children’s bones. Publicly, the military has sought to refute this claim on the grounds that no such discovery was officially reported.

Funny, I thought it had be reported far and wide, citing military sources, that a children’s cemetery had been dug up.

But one military official told TNR that bones were commonly found in the area around Beauchamp’s combat outpost. (This is consistent with the report of a children’s cemetery near Beauchamp’s combat outpost reported on The Weekly Standard website.)

Er, no it’s not. This deception disguises a key dispute between WS and TNR: WS confirmed “children’s cemetery.” Scott Beauchamp claimed mass grave — not in those words, but in words strongly suggesting a mass grave.

TNR claims vindication in that bones were found — that was known from day one or, I guess, day two, when army sources confirmed (and did not seek to “refute” Beauchamp’s story by claiming no bones had been “officially discovered”) a children’s cemetery had been routinely dug up to be relocated due to an engineering project. They prove here what is not disputed. Except that Beauchamp didn’t just call it “bones,” did he?

Here’s what he claimed:

No one cared to speculate what, exactly, had happened here, but it was clearly a Saddam-era dumping ground of some sort.

From the get-go, this has been challenged because the wording is clearly intended to suggest “mass grave,” and mass graves usually are dug after mass-executions. But no mass grave was found, and TNR’s “confirmation” does not claim it was. Now they only claim “bones” were found — which does then little good, as the Army has long confirmed “bones” were found. What they disputed was a “mass grave,” or as Beauchamp calls it, “clearly a Saddam-era dumping ground of some sort” where “no one cared to speculate what, exactly, had happened.”

There is no “confirmation” for anything other than children being buried in a graveyard where little “speculation” as to “what, exactly, had happened” was necessary, no more than one needs to speculate “what, exactly, had happened” in your local graveyard. What, exactly, had happened? People had died and then had been buried, as is usually the case with dead people.

The next claim of “confirmation.” Note how little is confirmed.

More important, two witnesses have corroborated Beauchamp’s account. One wrote in an e-mail: “I can wholeheartedly verify the finding of the bones; U.S. troops (in my unit) discovered human remains in the manner described in ‘Shock Troopers.’ [sic] … [We] did not report it; there was no need to. The bodies weren’t freshly killed and thus the crime hadn’t been committed while we were in control of the sector of operations.” On the phone, this soldier later told us that he had witnessed another soldier wearing the skull fragment just as Beauchamp recounted: “It fit like a yarmulke,” he said. A forensic anthropologist confirmed to us that it is possible for tufts of hair to be attached to a long-buried fragment of a human skull, as described in the piece.

Am I being paranoid here, or is there may than a whiff of anti-Semitism in the unknown corroborator’s claim that the bone fragment fit like a “yarmulke”? Maybe centuries of blood libel accusations have made me sensitive to negative connotations when people make accusations that link dead children and Jews.

Or maybe there’s something very peculiar about this description, one that’s simultaneously weird and esoteric. I doubt that most American soldiers are going around comparing bone fragments to yarmulkes. It’s also hard to imagine the practical reality of this claim, given that the curvature of a child’s skull is so much smaller than that of an adult’s. Smells bad to me, not to mention unnatural and as artificial as the rest of Thomas’ literary version of war.

Hat tip: LGF

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has put together an excellent collection of quotations and links regarding TNR’s latest attempt to explain away its decision to publish, apparently unread, Thomas’ novelistic confabulations.

Where to go for info about a possible media myth

If you’ve been thinking that I haven’t been blogging very vigorously the last couple of days, you’re right. I’ve had a big work project, that started out grim and got rather interesting, and I’ve been getting ready for a trip. I’ll probably blog during the trip, so I’m not signing off here, but blogging will inevitably be lighter. The upside, though, is that Don Quixote has valiantly offered (no, the truth is that I bullied him to volunteer) to take over some blogging duties while I’m away. Since DQ’s posts are invariably interesting, intelligent, thought provoking, and trigger the highest numbers of comments this blog sees, please don’t take the lighter number of posts as a reason to drift away. (I’m begging here. I always feel abandoned when my numbers drop dramatically, even if I’m the one doing the abandoning by going away for a while.)

Anyway, since this is a busy day, I haven’t had much time to post. I’ve still been reading, though, and the most interesting story I’m reading about is The New Republic‘s report “Shock Troops,” written under the nom de plume Scott Thomas, and purporting to be a soldier’s first hand description of various uncivilized acts by American troops, ranging from the schoolyard (teasing someone scarred by an IED), to the cruel (using large fighting vehicles to kill dogs), to the macabre (wearing a child’s skull as a decorative hat).

The story has the smell of propaganda about it, no matter how you look at it. Each story, on its face, is illogical. Considering that all troops face the daily risk of severe IED injuries, the likelihood that they would tease someone who falls into the “there but for the grace of God go I” category seems small. While fighting vehicles are powerful, if they’re big, they lack maneuverability. What are the odds, then, that they could be used as effective kill weapons against swift, agile dogs? And the wearing a child’s skull story as a decorative hat? I’ve heard of whistling past the graveyard, but it would be one sick puppy with too much time on his hands who would take a smelly, dusty, broken skull, work hard to affix it to his headgear, and then dance around it. That’s Marilyn Manson, not U.S. Military, kind of stuff.

But don’t take my sense of logic as your guide on this one. A lot of people with actual knowledge about the situation in Iraq, about wounded troops and contractors, about tanks, about provocateurs, etc., have been writing. Here are four of my favorite links:

Michael Goldfarb’s The New Republic’s “Shock Troops”: Fact or Fiction?

Ray Robison’s Who is TNR’s mysterious author ‘Scott Thomas’?

Power Line’s Fact or Fiction : An Update

Also, as always, Michelle Malkin is completely au courant, and keeps adding more and more links to debunking stories.

I really wonder if The New Republic is having another Stephen Glass moment. If so, this is more reprehensible than any of the silly things Stephen Glass did, since it libels all of our military forces and, with the baby skull story, puts them at ever greater risk of animus from the local Iraqi population.

I know that I blog anonymously, but I’m just advancing my opinions. It seems to me that if you put forward those types of inflammatory facts, you need to come out and face those you’ve accused, so that they have a reasonable opportunity to defend themselves by challenging your facts and understanding your motives.

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