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.

Children at risk

I have one more school children post I want to do today, and this one is scary and depressing. It’s also not new, because it’s an issue that’s been around and about which I’ve blogged before: the possible terrorist threat to our children. Danny Lemieux gave me the heads up about the latest column on this subject, this time from Jack Kelly. He spells out, first, some disturbing factual trends:

• U.S. forces seized in 2002 an al Qaida training tape of a practice assault on an abandoned school in Mir Bach Kot in Afghanistan. The terrorists were barking commands in English.

• U.S. forces in Iraq found on a captured al Qaida computer building plans for schools in six states.

• In May of 2006, two Saudi students at the University of South Florida boarded a school bus. They were “cagey and evasive” in explaining why they boarded the bus, said a spokesman for the Hillsborough County sheriff.

• In March, the FBI issued a bulletin to law enforcement warning that Muslims “with ties to extremist groups” were signing up to be school bus drivers.

• A Houston television station reported in August that 17 large yellow school buses have been stolen.

Al Qaida prefers middle schools because the girls are old enough to rape, but the boys aren’t big enough to fight back, says retired Army LtCol. Dave Grossman, who runs a private security firm.

Kelly believes that Al Qaeda’s goal, if it does attack schools, is to turn the American people into slavering anti-Muslim monsters, who can then be used for propaganda value to unite Muslims into a global jihad.

Kelly also thinks that, with the situation in Pakistan so inflammatory, this is a window of time in which Al Qaeda will act, since it wants to tip the balance on the global scene.

The rest of Kelly’s article looks at whether the Democrats can stand before voters and credibly claim to have protected them from this kind of threat, or to have thought through a response in case, God forbid, something does happen.  It’s the weakest part of his article, but you should read it anyway and draw your own conclusions.

Some think that the best defense is a “killer” offense

Samir Khan is a devoted jihadist who blogs viciously against America out of his bedroom in his parents’ home in North Carolina.  Apparently being a devout Muslim, though, hasn’t insulated Samir from the sin of theft (a small sin, I agree, compared to arguing for the violent overthrow of your country).  Thus, Samir hotlinked multiple images from The Jawa Report.  That kind of bandwidth theft doesn’t go unnoticed, so The Jawa Report set up a sting. Sammy didn’t take the sting well, and responded with the usual:  death threats.  Yup, he’s set up a devout prayer to God (no doubt with a nudge, nudge, wink, wink to his readers to help out) to kill Dr. Rusty Shackleford, who is The Jawa Report’s proprietor:

Jazakullah Khair to everyone for informing us of what the enemy of Allah, Rusty Shackleford aka mypetjawa (qatalahumullaah), had done with some of the pictures. We initially had a bad feeling of what he might do if we were to link the pictures from his blog.

So now that this true enemy of Allah has shown his ugly face, we say to him: we pray that Allah does not guide you, makes your whole life miserable, and that you are eradicated from the earth by a Mujaahid. We cannot wait to see your expression on the Day of Judgment when reality hits you in the face and the Angels who don’t know the meaning of Mercy will tear you apart into pieces for eternity. We hope that Allah gives you a severe torment in both worlds for your evil deeds. We pray that you die the way Pharaoh died… at the last minute, when his soul was about to be taken by the Angels, he wanted to become Muslim when he saw the truth (i.e., death)… but Allah rejected it and the Angel threw mud in his mouth so that he couldn’t pronounce the testimony which would take him to Paradise.

So let them laugh now, but we will be the ones laughing in the afterlife.

O Allah kill Rusty Shackleford and terrorize his family.

O Allah kill Rusty Shackleford and terrorize his family.

O Allah kill Rusty Shackleford and terrorize his family.

May this Kaafir rot in this world and be tortured forever in the Hereafter.

Part of me wants to laugh at how ludicrous it is for a 21 year old computer nerd living in his childhood bedroom to make this kind of threat.  It’s so overblown and hysterical.  I especially enjoy his admission, in his first paragraph, that he had some worries when he stole the photographs.

Most of me, however, knows that Dr. Shackleford and his family are now at real risk and that, no matter how foolish the face behind the threats is, the threats are real and must be taken seriously.  I hope that Dr. Shackleford has notified the FBI that he and his family are now the targets of very specific death threats.  And I hope that he and his family stay safe and well.

We live in a strange world when we’re side by side with people who consider pictures appropriate triggers for murder and torture — something I hope most of us already figured out with the Danish cartoon riots.

This is what multiculturalism can produce

I’m not saying this is the inevitable by-product of multiculturalism, but it’s very clear that, as to one Scottish young man, he failed completely to acquire a European/Scottish/British identity:

A British-born Muslim student has been jailed for eight years for a series of Islamist terrorism offences.

Mohammed Atif Siddique, 21, a shopkeeper’s son who has been described as Scotland’s first homegrown terrorist, was convicted last month of possessing and distributing terrorist material via websites.

He provided training material on bomb-making and the use of weapons, threatened to become a suicide bomber and showed fellow-students videos of beheadings and suicide bombers.

He was described during his trial as a “wannabe suicide bomber, and told friends that Osama Bin Laden was his god.

Police also believe that Siddique, from Alva, Clackmannanshire, may have been planning to take part in a series of al-Qa’eda inspired attacks planned in Canada when he was detained at Glasgow Airport en route to Pakistan.

Lord Carloway told Siddique at the High Court in Edinburgh: “You told fellow college students that you intended to become a terrorist and one of your targets would be central Glasgow.

“You told them also that you were going to be trained in order to achieve status as a suicide bomber.

An interesting movie review & what it says about American culture

There’s a new movie out about “homegrown religious fundamentalists who kill in the name of God” — and Manolah Dargis, who writes movie reviews at The New York Times really wants to like it. You’ve got to admire Manolah. After all, who in America doesn’t want a solid documentary about the homegrown Western Islamists who are engaging in an ever escalating kill cycle. I want to learn more about the very British boys who blew up 52 people and injured 700 others in 2005. Or about Lee Malvo and John Allen Muhammad, who killed 10 people and wounded 3 more in Washington D.C. And it would be interesting to get more information about the recent German discovery of a major plot to target American interests in that country, with one of the arrestees being a German man who had converted to Islam.

Frankly, I admire a Times journalist who appreciates a movie like this. It’s probably a good movie even if it doesn’t touch upon the homegrown terrorists in Iraq who are responsible for thousands of Iraqi deaths, or the homegrown terrorists in Bali who are responsible for hundreds of Balinese deaths, or the homegrown terrorists in the Philippines who are responsible for hundreds of Filipino deaths, or the homegrown terrorists all over Africa who are responsible for hundreds of thousands of African deaths, etc.

Wait! Gosh! I’m am sorry. Ignore everything I just said. I got so excited by the first sentence in Dargis’ review, and made so many assumptions about it, that (a) I didn’t read the rest of the review and (b) I read the first sentence wrong. Here’s what the first sentence of the review really says: “The first thing you should know about the documentary ‘Lake of Fire’ — an unblinking look at the violent fight over abortion in the United States, including those homegrown religious fundamentalists who kill in the name of God — is that it was made in black and white.” The terrorists Dargis is talking about are the people who target abortion clinics.

Now, before I get to the real review, about the real movie, let me riff a little about the attacks on abortion clinics. They were and are inexcusable and do indeed manifest the same religious craziness that characterizes the Islamists. Even if you believe abortion to be profoundly wrong and murderous, the people who work at abortion clinics are acting lawfully. In any civilized country, if you have a problem with legal acitivty, you don’t kill people, you work to change the law. That is, those who bomb clinics or kill doctors are no better than any other criminal. But the thing to keep in mind about the anti-abortion activists who went violent is that the heyday of that kind of violence is over.

Between 1993 and 1998, three doctors and four clinic workers were brutally murdered in four shooting incidents and a clinic bombing. There have been no killings since then. According to statistics kept by the National Abortion Federation, most violent acts have declined dramatically or vanished entirely in the last decade. Between 1977 and 2000, there were 17 acts of attempted murder. There apparently have been no attempted murders since then. The last, very isolated, bombing was in 2001, with bombings peaking before 1991. There are still random acts of arson but only 6% have occurred in the 21st Century. That doesn’t mean people aren’t still trying, but they’re trying less: while there have been a total of 93 attempted bombings and arsons since 1971, only 16% took place in this century. All the numbers are like that (declining) except for one — trespassing, which has increased dramatically. My suspicion is that what the NAF calls “trespassing” is what is reported in the papers as “picketing. ” That is, in lieu of violence, abortion opponents have opted for nonviolent protest instead.

Most importantly, the acts of violence come from loners. Every major anti-abortion organization condemns violence and the decline in violence means that their voices are the ones dictating conduct in the field. To the extent there is a violent arm of the abortion rights movement, it is small, discredited and increasingly ineffective. In this regard, the abortion rights movement is the exact opposite of the Islamic jihad movement which is encouraged from the top, which has almost no voices from within Islam speaking against it, and which is growing ever more aggressively violent. Keep those facts in mind as you read the rest of this post about the movie review.

The movie is a British 2006 documentary called Lake of Fire. One of the movie’s strengths, says Dargis, is that it interviews “heavyweights like Noam Chomsky” to make more “sober points” (presumably, given Chomskey’s presence, sober points about how bad the anti-abortion crowd is). These sober points are necessary because, in Dargis’ view, the filmmaker commits the unforgivable sin of showing abortion. Having teased you above with mere clauses and sentences from the review, let me give you the first three paragraphs, in full, including Dargis’ honestly stated reaction:

The first thing you should know about the documentary “Lake of Fire” — an unblinking look at the violent fight over abortion in the United States, including those homegrown religious fundamentalists who kill in the name of God — is that it was made in black and white. This is critical. Because the other thing you should know about this fascinating, discomfiting, at times unpleasant, confused and confusing film is that it sets off extremely graphic images of actual abortions against a notorious photograph of a woman who died after an illegal motel room abortion, visuals that are inflammatory if, for the most part, also germane.

Not everyone will agree about the abortion visuals, including, perhaps, those who worry that such explicit imagery can speak louder than any pro-abortion-rights argument. It’s an understandable concern. Because they are filmed (the dead woman is immortalized in a still photograph), the abortions are unnerving, which is why I suggest that the faint of heart skip the rest of this paragraph. After the first operation, a second-trimester abortion, the doctor sorts through a tray of fetal parts, including a perfect-looking tiny hand and a foot, to make sure that nothing has been left inside the patient, which might lead to poisoning or even death. The doctor then holds up the severed fetal head. One eerily bulging eye looks as if it’s staring into the camera and somehow at us.

My initial and admittedly angry first thought about these images was that the director, Tony Kaye, was just resorting to shock tactics. The film doesn’t employ narration or on-screen texts that reveal his views on abortion; instead, there are 152 minutes of talking-head testimonials, on-the-street interviews and archival and new visuals. This means that you have to pay extra-special attention to his filmmaking choices, to the way he juxtaposes sights and sounds and who gets to speak and when.

It is in this context that Dargis expresses gratitude for the fact that such Leftist heavyweights as Noam Chomskey and Peter Singer inject their ideas into the film. Incidentally, for those of you who know Chomskey, but not Singer, Singer is the Princeton ethicist who created the modern animal rights movement (PETA-style); who believes parents should have a 30 day window within which to euthanize less than perfect newborns; and who thinks bestiality is okay, provided that the cow consents.

Anyway, after this start, the rest of the review is a muddled mess about context and images and credibility. You can read it yourself, but you won’t learn anything.

For me, the review highlighted, not just the Left’s, but everyone’s unwillingness to look unpleasantness in the face. We no longer live a raw life. People don’t die at home, they die neatly in hospitals. Criminals aren’t hanged in public spectacles, they’re dispatched in quiet, clinical rooms. As a squeamish type, I don’t generally mind, but it does seem to me that it interferes with our ability to understand just how bad things can be. With the Iraq War, our dead or their dead are filmed discretely from afar, both out of respect for the family’s of American soldiers and for fear that it could inflame things.

But maybe people need to be inflamed. One of the fascinating things about Ken Burns’ show “The War” is the newsreel footage he shows, both from the late 1930s and the 1940s. Keeping in mind that this was an era when married couples were not shown sleeping in the same bed and when the word “pregnant” was considered practically obscene, I would have expected the news footage to be equally discrete. Surprisingly, it wasn’t. Starting in 1938 and throughout the war, the newsreels people saw in theaters graphically showed victims of the Nazis, the Japanese and the Italians. Whether dead or dying, there they were, skeletal bodies, whose missing heads, gaping wounds, or other terrible war injuries and insults were caught for eternity in black and white. Even more shocking to a modern American, audiences got to see equally horrible images of Allied soldiers too.

I think that the old-time filmmakers showed these images because they could predict the audience reaction: when the audience saw the horrors of war visited on the innocent and the Allies, they would be outraged at the perpetrators; and when they saw the horrors visited on the Axis powers, they would feel self-righteous vindication. Nowadays, we can’t be sure how people will react and, in the mainstream media, I think the Powers That Be are worried that people might in fact react precisely as they did in the late 1930s and the War years: with outrage at the deaths Islamists inflict, whether these deaths are civilian or military; and with grim satisfaction over the deaths of these same Islamists. And you certainly can’t have that type of reaction, since it is the antithesis of the multi-culti, PC thinking that has been drilled into us for so many years.

What Ahmadinejad really said….

The media is congratulating itself for “exposing” Ahmadinejad with its constant focus on it’s “we have no gays in Iran” statement. Ha, ha, ha! Isn’t the man an idiot! Look, America, he thinks there are no gays in Iran!

Ahmadinejad is right, of course, when it comes to Iran. But he’s not right because he’s a silly little fool who doesn’t see what’s in front of him. He’s right because the Iranian government executes its gays — making it even worse than the Soviet Union, which “merely” sent them to Gulags and brutal “psychiatric” units.

What’s really important about the media’s coverage, though, is that all of it is besides the point. Whether it exposes Ahmadinejad as a laughable ignoramus or a murderous tyrant, it still misses what really happened during his speeches before the UN and at Columbia: he is an Islamic fanatic who is telling us that our culture is woefully corrupt and that his burgeoning nuclear weapon program is the way to purify our culture by destroying it, which in turn will pave the way for the glorious dawning of an Islamic takeover.

One person who totally gets this is Caroline Glick. In a wide-ranging article, she explains the text of his speech, explains how willfully world political leaders misunderstand it, and exposes how the Islamists are using the world’s antipathy to Israel as the wedge in their ongoing battle against the West itself. After detailing the Islamist’s explicit statement of their goals (statements we ignore at our peril) and the strides they have already made towards their goals, Glick says this:

THE POINT in all of this couldn’t be clearer. And Ahmadinejad made it at every opportunity. The Free World today finds itself embroiled in an ideological war for its very survival. Our enemies – whether Shi’ite or Sunni – are followers of a totalitarian ideology based on Islam which tells them that Allah wishes to rule the world through them. Israel is a central front in this war. Given the weakness of Western support for the Jews, jihadists see attacking Israel as a strategic tool for eroding the West’s ideological defenses and shoring up their supporters throughout the world.

The thing of it is that aside from blind narcissism, there is a reason that the West ignores the dangers facing it. The Western media ignored Ahmadinejad’s message, just as it has insistently ignored the messages of bin Laden and Fatah throughout the years, because Westerners have a hard time believing that anyone would want to abide by the Islamic world view which denies mankind’s desire for freedom.

But no matter how ugly an ideology is, in the absence of real competition it gains adherents and power. The only way to ensure that jihadists’ demonic views are defeated is by stridently defending and upholding the fundamental principles on which the Free World is based. And the West hasn’t even begun to take up this challenge.

As a result, it has handed its enemies two victories already. It has demoralized its potential allies in the Islamic world, and it has failed to rally its own people to defend themselves.

In spite of what the West would like to believe, Ahmadinejad and his allies from Ramallah to Waziristan, from Gaza to Kandahar to Baghdad, are not negotiating. They are fighting. Rather than ignore them or seek to find nonexistent common ground, we must defeat them – first and foremost on the battleground of ideas.

Right now, not only should we be afraid, by very afraid, of Iran, we should be even more afraid of our own leaders, who empower what should be an economically and intellectually disabled movement every time they negotiate with it and fail to send out an equally strong message supporting our own culture and world view.
Hat tip:  Paragraph Farmer

Ken Burns’ “The War”

Ken Burns’ new series about World War II is off to a good start although his stately pace can often be somewhat sleep inducing.  It’s one of those slightly bizarre situations where it’s worth your while to force yourself to stay awake.

Part of the first episode includes a run-down of what Americans were watching in the lead-up to the attack on Pearl Harbor:  they were watching three Axis powers, each of which considered its race superior to all others and each of which believed that its racial superiority justified its conquering lands and killing people.  It occurred to me that those who love the Bushitler analogy, and who constantly liken America’s current war to some imperialist Nazi act of aggression are missing something very fundamental.  Americans do have a superiority complex, but it’s not racial.  Instead, we believe that our values are superior.  But values, unlike race, are exportable.  We don’t need to murder to prove our superiority.  Our culture is what it is, and people who seek freedom inevitably drift in our direction.

In this regard, it’s worth comparing us to the Jihadists, who have taken a religion and elevated it to the same status as a race. They believe that they are so far superior to other people that it is totally okay to squash other people like flies, to murder them and their children, and to occupy their countries as if the native people were not there.  There is no moral equivalence between them and us.  In their outlook, they are precisely the same as the Nazis, and the World War II Japanese and Italians.  And we, in the 20th and 21st Centuries, have never changed:  our affirmative actions, when we’re not called upon to defend ourselves against attacks such as Pearl Harbor or 9/11, consist of exporting our freedom and our culture, and that is all.