Ephemerides (October 2003)
October 29, 2003 The favorite Democratic shibboleth at the moment is that President Bush, to quote Senator Lieberman's latest New Hampshire ad, "had no plan to win the peace". Had there only been a plan, we are invited to conclude, all would today be peaceful in beautiful downtown Baghdad.
Never do we hear what the plan should have been. The Administration's critics now have the benefit of six months of hindsight, yet not one of them has put forward any more concrete proposal than "call the U.N.", a step that, whatever else it might accomplish (not much if Annan ineptocracy's record is any indicator), certainly would not discourage Ba'athist and non-Iraqi terrorists from continuing their campaign.
On matters like taxes, Messrs. Dean, Clark, Kerry, Lieberman et al. can say what they would do differently from George W. Bush. Their silence on alternative policies for Iraq is strong evidence that they have none to offer. It's a pity that the phrase "nattering nabobs of negativism" was wasted in the mouth of Spiro Agnew; its moment has now come.
Meanwhile, for the benefit of those who think that somebody (other than the terrorists themselves) must be to blame for the "Sunni Triangle", John Derbyshire
offers a useful historical analogy:
Baghdad, Belfast. When Sinn Féin’s terrorist campaign against Northern Ireland’s Protestants was at its height, there was a certain phrase current in British government circles. The phrase was only uttered behind closed doors, and politicians were embarrassed when it showed up in the press, but everyone knew it caught the essence of government policy. The phrase was: "an acceptable level of violence." The implication of it was: "We can never root out all of these lunatics, not without taking actions that our own electorate would find unacceptable. They will always be able to pull off the occasional car bombing or assassination. We just have to keep things down at a level where everyday life can continue more or less normally." My guess is that this phrase resonates rather strongly with the people currently trying to administer the affairs of Iraq. If Britain, a stable and wealthy nation with a centuries-long tradition of public service and well-equipped and experienced security forces, could not prevent occasional atrocities by a few hundred crazy terrorists, what are the odds that downtown Baghdad will resemble downtown Stockholm any time soon? What it will actually resemble, for the foreseeable future, will be downtown Belfast circa 1974 (deaths from terrorism in N.I. 303)... or at best, downtown Belfast circa 1984 (deaths from terrorism in N.I. 72). Given the state of affairs in the Arab world, I wonder if anything better can be expected of any Arab country that is not a despotic police state with a vigilant secret police force unrestrained by any considerations of constitutionality.
October 28, 2003
In late 2001, when a series of forest fires ringed Sydney, there were suspicions of terrorism
, never confirmed or refuted by an apparently lackadaisical Australian investigation. Now fires threaten the suburbs of Los Angeles, and Little Green Footballs
reports that the FBI has been taking arson-terrorism seriously. Certainly the tactic is an easy one to conceive and carry out, and policing millions of acres of forest is impossible.
Once again the moral is that passive defense against terrorism won't work. A free society is too large and has too many points of vulnerability to be made secure without ceasing to be free. That is why the only safe course of action is to take the offensive against terrorist groups and their enablers. Many people, including, if polls are to be believed, most Democratic primary voters, would like to pretend that terrorism isn't a problem, so that they can avoid having to advocate any method of dealing with it. (Vide
Byron York, "Do Democrats Really Care About Terrorism?"
) Unhappily, whether or not we care about terrorism, terrorists care about us. [To comment, click here.
October 28, 2003
While the Anglican Communion's civil war over homosexual bishops and same-sex marriages makes headlines, there is religious news of much greater significance to the City of God and, potentially, to the City of Man. Last week, the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation adopted an agreed statement on the Filioque, the most intractable dogmatic issue dividing traditional Christianity. The document hasn't yet appeared on the Consultation's Web site
, but here are excerpts from a summary distributed by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
The original version of the Creed most Christian churches accept as the standard expression of their faith dates from the First Council of Constantinople, in 381, and has been used by Orthodox Christians since that time. Towards the end, this Creed states that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father.” The word Filioque (“and the Son”) was later added to the Latin version of this Creed used in the West, so that the phrase as most western Christians know it reads that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” This modification appeared in some areas of Western Europe as early as the 6th century but was accepted in Rome only in the 11th century. This change in the wording of the Creed and the underlying variations in understanding the origin and procession of the Holy Spirit within the Trinity have long been considered a church-dividing issue between Catholics and Orthodox. The Consultation had been studying this question since 1999 in the hope of eventually releasing an agreed statement.
Entitled “The Filioque: A Church-Dividing Issue?”, the ten-thousand word text has three major sections. The first, “The Holy Spirit in the Scriptures,” summarizes references to the Spirit in both the Old and New Testaments. The more lengthy second section, “Historical Considerations,” provides an overview of the origins of the two traditions concerning the eternal procession of the Spirit and the slow process by which the Filioque was added to the Creed in the West. It also shows how this question concerning Trinitarian theology became entwined with disputes regarding papal jurisdiction and primacy, and reviews recent developments in the Catholic Church which point to a greater awareness of the unique and normative character of the original Greek version of the Creed as an expression of the faith that unites the Orthodox East and Catholic West. The third section, “Theological Reflections,” emphasizes our limited ability to speak of the inner life of God, points out that both sides of the debate have often caricatured the positions of the other, and lists areas in which the traditions agree. It then explores the differences that have developed regarding terminology, and identifies both theological and ecclesiological divergences that have arisen over the centuries.
In a final section, the Consultation makes eight recommendations to the members and bishops of the two churches. It recommends that they “enter into a new and earnest dialogue concerning the origin and person of the Holy Spirit.” It also proposes that in the future both Catholics and Orthodox “refrain from labeling as heretical the traditions of the other side” on this subject, and that the theologians of both traditions make a clearer distinction between the divinity of the Spirit, and the manner of the Spirit’s origin, “which still awaits full and final ecumenical resolution.” The text also urges theologians to distinguish, as far as possible, the theological issues concerning the origin of the Holy Spirit from ecclesiological issues, and suggests that attention be paid in the future to the status of councils of both our churches that took place after the seven ecumenical councils of the first millennium. And finally, in view of the fact that the Vatican has affirmed the “normative and irrevocable dogmatic value of the Creed of 381” in its original Greek version, the Consultation recommends that the Catholic Church use the same text (without the Filioque) “in making translations of that Creed for catechetical and liturgical use,” and declare that the anathema pronounced by the Second Council of Lyons against those who deny that the Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son is no longer applicable.
Why is this development important to non-Christians, as well as to Christians whose attachment to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed is vestigial? The reason is that the Orthodox Church has over the centuries come to see the Filioque as by far the most significant Roman divergence from the Orthodox faith. The Papacy claim to infallibility in matters of faith and morals is by comparison a side issue. Many other differences are widely recognized on both sides as variations in custom or in the symbolism used to express identical truths. But the Filioque, recondite as it may seem to those encountering the controversy for the first time, is a chasm. Orthodox thinkers have long seen it as a denial of the unity of God and a denigration of the Holy Spirit. If the Roman Church were to accept the truth of the Orthodox position, the relationship between the two Churches would be revolutionized. Reunion would become all but inevitable, though the inevitable in the life of the Church need not happen quickly.
The work of a day can take a thousand ages, but the first visible signs could well lead to a great reordering of Christendom. The prospect of closer association between Rome and "reactionary" Orthodoxy could only speed the exodus of modernist elements from the Catholic Church while offering an attractive refuge to anti-modernist Protestants. The upshot, within a generation or two, would be a far more cohesive traditional Christianity. Outside its fold, fundamentalist Protestantism would most likely follow its natural trajectory toward modernist "respectability" — all of today's liberal mainline churches were once ablaze with Falwells and Robertsons — and modernism, isolated in its secular ghetto, would wither away or devolve into New Age incoherence.
If the keynote of the 21st Century is to be militant Islam's jihad against the West, a less disunited Christianity is a Providential response. There are, of course, many reasons why the possibilities that I discuss here may come to nothing, yet it is conceivable that future historians will rank October 25, 2003, the date on which the Consultation completed its statement, as one of the turning points of the new millennium. [To comment, click here.
October 20, 2003
Slowly the American press begins to notice that Iraq is not a disaster or a quagmire but a country recovering with remarkable rapidity from almost half a century of misrule. Here are a few observations from the far-from-conservative Christian Science Monitor
under the headline "Progress Exceeds Prognostication in Iraq"
Not only was the war itself vastly less bloody and difficult than some predicted, but its aftermath has also been quieter. We were told by prewar prognosticators to expect a refugee flood, a food crisis, destruction of the oil fields, and public-health disasters. We were warned that Iraq's multifarious ethnic and religious groups would be at one another's throats. Environmental catastrophes, chemical poisonings, and dam breaks were predicted. It was said Turkey might occupy the north, that Israel could strike from the south, that the Arab "street" was likely to resist. . . .
Whatever the setbacks, we must remember that much of this war has been a case of the dog that didn't bark. . . .
The man I photographed in combat for the cover of my new book about the Iraq war, an 82nd Airborne Ranger named Sean Shields, has been bombed in his Humvee twice in a month. Localized resistance in the Sunni triangle is real. But Sean isn't discouraged: He believes he's doing historic work to stabilize one of the most dangerous spots on our planet. He and other soldiers I hear from believe they're making great progress in setting Iraq on the path of a more normal, decent nation.
Here are some signs they're right:
Stores are bustling, traffic is busy, and most services have now exceeded their prewar levels. A new currency went into circulation last week.
Large cities, home to millions — like Basra, Mosul, and Kirkuk — and vast swaths of countryside in the north and south, are stable, basically peaceful, beginning to bubble economically, and grateful to coalition forces who've set them on a new path. . . .
The Iraqi Governing Council has been well received by the country's many factions and ethno-religious groups. Sixty-one percent of Iraqis polled by Gallup in September view the council favorably. And by 50 to 14 percent they say it is doing a better, rather than worse, job than it was two months ago. . . .
Iraq's interim economic leaders recently committed the country to a wide-open, investment-friendly market economy. The prosperity and global connectivity this should bring will be the ultimate guarantee of Iraq's modernity and moderation. . . .
Iraqi public opinion is more moderate than suggested by the anecdotal temperature-takings in press reports. Four entirely different polls have been conducted in Iraq, and their remarkably congruent results show that the majority of Iraqis are optimistic about their future, and believe ousting Saddam Hussein was worth any hardships that have resulted. . . .
Meanwhile, the pouncing raids that US forces initiated two months ago have hurt the guerrillas. More than 1,000 fighters have been arrested and many others killed. The bounty paid by ex-Baathists to induce attacks on American soldiers has had to be increased from $1,000 to $5,000 to find takers. . . .
All of this has been accomplished in less than six months from the fall of Baghdad. Keep in mind that Germany — a much more advanced nation that already had a democratic tradition — didn't hold elections until four years after World War II ended. Gen. Douglas MacArthur progressed less rapidly in Japan.
Certainly, there remains an enormous amount to fix in Iraq. But there is something unseemly about the impatience of today's pundits, their insistence on instant recovery, and what my colleague Michael Barone calls the media's "zero defect standard."
October 19, 2003
Who in the blogosphere has not read about the Archbishop of Canterbury's declaration that terrorists have "serious moral goals" that America ought to respect? There is, it turns out, more to the story, as I try to delineate in "Just War Under Modern Conditions"
, an analysis of both Dr. Williams' remarks and the lecture to which they were prepared as a rejoinder. [To comment, click here.
October 19, 2003
The fighting in Iraq, as Cliff May reminds us ("War Story"
), is not a struggle for the control of territory. The pro-terrorists have no prospect of gaining and holding a square yard of ground or of winning a skirmish, much less a battle. Their strategy is to break the will of what they see as a decadent, cowardly foe:
Do Americans have the resolve, the staying power, the stomach to prevail in a war of wills, a war in which the enemy takes no turf but may manage to murder one American solider every day? It's Bush's job to see that we do.
If he fails, Americans may choose to retreat from this war. That wouldn't be a new policy. It would be a return to the policy that held sway for more than 20 years, when Republican and Democratic administrations alike responded to terrorism (e.g. in Tehran in 1979, in Beirut in 1983, above Lockerbie in 1988, in Mogadishu and at the World Trade Towers in 1993, in Saudi Arabia in 1996, in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, off the coast of Yemen in 2000) by running away and by attempting to appease the terrorists. That policy encouraged more terrorism and led directly to the terrorist atrocities of September 11, 2001. It was on that date that we finally began to seriously fight back.
The question now is do we continue to fight — or do we cut and run, as both Saddam and Osama bin Laden have always predicted that Americans will whenever they are faced with a ruthless and determined opponent. If we back down or back away, we may save the lives of some American soldiers in the present, but have no illusions: We'll be sending a message that terrorism works against us, and both our enemies and our friends will understand the implications — and act on them.
We should then prepare ourselves for more severe 9/11s in the future.
Much anti-Administration commentary is implicitly nostalgic for the pre-9/11 world. The nostalgia is understandable; nobody wants
the persistent drain of low intensity conflict. The mistake is to feel similar nostalgia for pre-9/11 policies
, which are what gave us the world we live in today. [To comment, click here.
October 17, 2003
Americans bashing the French — c'est tres passé
, and the French can do it better. Books about the decline of France are all the rage in Paris these days. Also the object of Parisian rage: The ridiculous Dominique de Villepin temperately likens their authors to Nazi collaborators. In the words of Paul Webster in the hardly pro-American Observer
("France: The Agony of Decline"
Having recently emerged battered from national education strikes and months of street demonstrations over reduced retirement benefits, Jacques Chirac's administration is looking on with dismay at media encouragement for right-wing intellectual claims that France is now the weak man of Europe, mired in hypocrisy nationally and internationally, indifferent to popular needs such as care of the aged, and shaken by the aftershocks of vain defiance of the US-led war in Iraq. In short, that France is going down the pan. . . .
And it is a pretty bleak picture, even by the account of the most rational of the 'declinists', Alain Duhamel, whose lugubrious face haunts every TV channel and serious newspaper column and charges that the country has been struck down by an 'insidious evil'.
'French democracy, the political balance and even the nation's personality are at risk,' he writes in Le Désarroi français
It is an argument bolstered by Nicolas Baverez, a historian and free-market evangelist and author of La France qui tombe
, who in only 134 pages trots out a thousand historical and contemporary statistics to claim that France is paralysed by 'economic, political, social and intellectual immobility and is plunging towards decline'.
Both pale into insignificance alongside L'Arrogance française
, where the journalist authors, Romain Gubert and Emmanuel Saint-Martin, state: 'With our sermons, our empty gestures and our poetic flights, we (the French) have pissed off the planet. Worse: we make them laugh.'
October 17, 2003 The Wall Street Journal
's left-leaning news editors ran a piece on October 8th
puffing French intervention in the Ivory Coast (partially corrected on the 14th
with a less a laudatory "French Speaking Africa Sends Colonial Master a Message — In English", about anti-French protests and grassroots African agitation for American assistance) [links for Online WSJ
subscribers only]. Today's paper carries an excellent letter to the editor, which I take the liberty of reproducing (hoping that the DMCA cops
won't bind and gag me):
Glaringly absent from your Oct. 8 front-page article "France Offers Model for Intervention With Ivory Coast" is any discussion of how France, the most outspoken foe of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, justifies sending troops to the Ivory Coast (1) without the benefit of an initial U.N. resolution permitting it to do so, and (2) in direct contravention of a defense agreement with its former colony that permits French incursions "only in cases of external aggression."
This patent duplicity on the part of the French government — haranguing the U.S. for its "unilateral" action in Iraq while seeking praise for its own self-seeking military presence in the Ivory Coast — is compounded by repeated allusions to its "humanitarian" aims there. Though such intentions would on their own be laudable, France glosses over its motivation to protect the billions that French companies have invested in the former colony; at the same time, it disingenuously downplays the clear humanitarian implications of ousting Saddam Hussein and rebuilding Iraq.
Without even the slightest hint of irony, you praise France for being "a rare example of a Western nation pouring in considerable resources and taking political risks to rescue an imploding African country," and for intervening in areas that could "easily become breeding grounds for terrorists who target the West." Why Africa has become some "special case" in these matters — and why those who vehemently opposed the invasion of Iraq then cheered on U.S. intervention in Liberia — is totally lost on those of us who understand (quite correctly) that the greatest terrorist threat to the West is centered in the Middle East, not elsewhere.
Against this backdrop, and keeping in mind France's track record in "resolving" conflicts in its colonial strongholds (e.g., Vietnam), the most anyone in the Ivory Coast can do is hope for the best. Meanwhile, more responsible nations in the West that have no imperial wrongs to right will simply have to suffer French mendacity as they forge ahead to address the problems that others — on the basis of pious self-interest — refuse to acknowledge.
Eric M. Jensen
October 16, 2003
My very own Congresscritter, the Hon. Rahm Emanuel, was a Clinton policy advisor and has a reputation for being a bright guy. Like many bright guys, he takes it for granted that other people are rather stupid and will swallow almost any assertion that is made with a sufficient air of authority. In yesterday's Wall Street Journal
[link for Online WSJ
subscribers only], he offered a liberal version of tax reform that he urged the Democratic Presidential contenders to pick up. The essence of his proposal is that upper income taxpayers should pay more and everybody else less. His underlying premise: "Democrats need to become the party of tax reform and make President Bush own the cumbersome and regressive tax code he has created
. The theme of the Bush tax code
is this: With the help of their accountants and lawyers, the special interests win subsidies, shelters and loopholes, while middle-class families are buried under a crushing tax burden and piles of complicated IRS forms. [emphasis added]"
That the Internal Revenue Code is cumbersome no one will deny. But does Rep. Emanuel expect any human being with the capacity to remember further back than the last MTV broadcast to believe that George W. Bush created the tax law's complexities? The Code was cumbersome before he was born, and any fair tally would show that the majority of the complications were inserted by Democrats.
The claim that "the Bush tax code" is regressive isn't so plainly implausible, but the evidence refuting it isn't hard to uncover. Statistics on the distribution of the income tax burden are readily available
[PDF file]. For 2001, the latest year for which the data have been compiled, here is how the "regressive" tax code affected various income groups:
Share of income
Share of taxes paid
Average tax rate
Or, more simply and starkly:
Share of income
Share of taxes paid
Average tax rate
Whatever else our tax system may be, it is not regressive. The tax cuts enacted in 2001 have doubtless made the curve a little less steep, but they did not level, much less invert, it. Even if one adds in payroll taxes (neglecting the fact that those who pay them receive Social Security benefits in return, so that they are more in the nature of a forced loan than a true tax) and omits other taxes that fall most heavily on the better off, "the rich" bear a strikingly disproportionate share of the tax burden.
Another interesting fact buried in the IRS data is the effect of the recession that began in March 2001. The downturn hit the upper tier of taxpayers hard. The aggregate adjusted gross income of the top percentile fell by $240 billion, or 18 percent. Meanwhile, the AGI of the bottom 50 percent increased
by $27.5 billion, 3.3 percent. Perhaps we have a new rationale for liberals' anti-growth policies: Recession is good for the poor! [To comment, click here.
October 16, 2003
Another humiliation for the Cubs: Tim Blair
discovers that Australian newspapers can't even get the species right in their accounts of the Curse. [To comment, click here.
October 15, 2003
The Billy Goat Curse
remains lethal. Disconsolate Cubs fans rally to the cry, "Wait till next century!"
October 15, 2003
Always worth another refutation, particularly because it has become a leftist urban legend, is "The Florida Myth"
, the claim that huge numbers of minority group voters were forcibly kept away from the polls in the 2000 election. As Peter Kirsanow demonstrates in detail, the legend is as absurd as UFO's:
There's absolutely no evidence that a single person was intimidated, harassed, or prevented from voting by Florida law-enforcement officials.
Despite claims of rampant police intimidation and harassment, the only evidence of law-enforcement "misconduct" consisted of just two witnesses who described their perceptions of the actions of the Florida highway patrol. One of these witnesses testified that he thought it was "unusual" to see an empty patrol car parked outside a polling place. . . .
The second witness had filed a highly publicized complaint with the NAACP regarding a police motor-vehicle checkpoint. In the hysterical recount period following the election, the complaint took on a life of its own and apparently became part of the basis for the legend that legions of cops were harassing thousands of black voters throughout Florida.
The evidence, however, shows that the checkpoint in question was two miles from the polling place. Moreover, it was not even on the same road as the polling facility. During the checkpoint's approximately 90 minutes of operation, citations for faulty equipment were issued to 16 individuals, twelve of whom were white.
Nonetheless, we'll hear these stories over and over again for the next 12½ months. As the old newspaper saw goes, "Some facts are too good to check". [To comment, click here.
October 14, 2003 Rush Limbaugh's medical problems don't interest me. What's important about political commentators (unlike public office holders) is the quality of their ideas, not the content of their character. Rush has, in any case, never hidden the dark spots in his pre-EIB life; it's no great surprise that fame and fortune didn't solve all of his personal problems. I hope and pray that he will overcome his addiction, but, if he doesn't, high taxes will not become good or the War on Terror unjust, and not a word that he has said on any subject will be refuted.
The glee expressed by many liberals at an adversary's troubles is rather pathetic. Perhaps they are embarrassed at the realization that they were having trouble holding their own against a guy who was arguing with half his brain distracted by a craving for pain pills.
One group whose reaction has been particularly grating is the drug legalizers. Whatever reasonable arguments there may be for relaxing our nation's anti-drug laws, they don't include this one, advanced by left-winger Jim Pinkerton and endorsed
by right-winger Andrew Stuttaford:
[T]here's a better path for Limbaugh. He can build upon his own personal experiences to strike a signature blow for liberty. He can get back on the air and use his mega-microphone to proclaim that personal freedom means that people should have a right to pursue happiness in their own way, so long as they don't hurt others. He can say that he escaped from the coils of justice — in truth, injustice — because he had money and influence, but that others, not so rich, are rarely so lucky.
In other words, Rush shouldn't try to kick the habit; he should demand his unalienable right to buy any quantity of drugs until he kills or incapacitates himself.
In truth, Rush has every reason to be grateful to our existing legal regime, for it was pretty clearly the threat of prosecution — hardly ever a risk for users who engage in no other criminal activities, but who knows what a DA will do with a high-profile case involving a celebrity? — that gave him the incentive to seek treatment in a serious fashion.
Personal freedom is a great good, but the freedom to use addictive drugs is like the freedom to sell oneself into slavery. Rush Limbaugh now knows that first hand. I doubt that the experience has led him to believe that drug users are "pursuing happiness in their own way". [To comment, click here.
October 14, 2003
This week's Hunt Watch
examines Al Hunt's reaction to the California recall election. He urges Governor-elect Schwarzenegger to model his policies on Ronald Reagan's — which doesn't mean what you might think. [To comment, click here.
October 13, 2003
We hear so much, so incessantly about prejudice against Moslems in the United States and other Western countries. The specifics don't amount to much — a minuscule number of physical attacks, minor harassment and alleged "profiling" of people from Moslem countries — but Islamic organizations in this country are quick to express their disapproval. Do they ever utter an unfavorable comment about their coreligionists' treatment of Christians in lands with Moslem majorities? If so, their condemnations are sotto voce
. It is not as if there were nothing to condemn. "The Muslim Persecution of Christians"
brings together four acute observers of the status of Christians under Islam: Bat Ye'or, author of Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide
(2002), Paul Marshall, a Senior Fellow at Freedom House, Habib Malik of the American University in Lebanon, and Walid Phares, Professor of Middle East Studies and Religious Conflict at Florida Atlantic University. A few highlights:
Marshall: [The persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is v]ery widespread, there are few Muslim countries where it does not occur. . . . First. there are direct, violent attacks by extremists on Christian communities. These occur in Egypt, Algeria, Iran, Yemen, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Phillipines, Nigeria, Indonesia (the list is not exhaustive). In most of these cases the Government is either unable or unwilling to stop the attacks. Second, there is civil war and communal violence where the Christian community has resisted the spread of radical varieties of Islam. . . . Third, there is widespread discrimination against Christians in Muslim countries. They are frequently at a disadvantage in marriage, custody and inheritance cases, are forced to subsidize Islam through taxes, are severly restricted in building and repairing churches, and are often excluded from government positions. . . . Fourthly, blasphemy and apostasy laws disproportionately target minorities.
Malik: In very few spots throughout the Islamic world where Christians live in Muslim-majority states do we find them enjoying an equal status with their Muslim counterparts. They are more often than not reduced to second-class status, or dhimmi status. In the Arab world, for example, the only place where native Christians have managed for centuries to avoid the dhimmi humiliation is in Lebanon. But even here matters have been deteriorating since the war in the country, which began in 1975 and since Syrian occupation and Islamist resurgence. All other Middle Eastern Christian communities (Copts, Palestinians, Syrians, Iraqis, etc.) are quintessential dhimmis. So if dhimmitude represents a recipe for slow and gradual liquidation of the targeted community, then this is the most subtle and most insidious form of persecution and it is quite widespread.
Ye'or: The oppression of Christians started from the beginning of the Muslim conquest of their lands. It is attested in the narratives before these rules became codified in laws from the 8th century. It covers all aspect of life and imposes vilification and insecurity. It has often included slavery, deportations, forced conversions and mass killings, although Christians like Jews are 'protected' by Islamic law providing their submit to their inferior and humiliating status. Those rules are inscribed in the shariah, and with the re-Islamization of the Muslim state, the traditional thirteen-century-old pattern is being reactivated, after its suppression by the European colonization of Muslim countries in the 19th and 20th centuries. Christians are persecuted also because they are secularists and oppose the return of the shariah.
Phares: There is a myriad of reasons [for the silence of the Western media about Moslem persecution of Christians]. One is ignorance. Western media has an educated membership but little knowledge of the oppression of minorities in general and Christians in particular in the Muslim world. It has even skipped the struggle of humanist, liberal and democratic individuals and forces from Morocco to Afghanistan. Who should you blame? Obviously those in charge of the education, i.e, university scholars. Which brings us to the second reason. As of the 1970s a flow of funding coming from the oil producing regimes in the Arab and Muslim world — mostly authoritarian ones — sunk on Western campuses, paralysing the process of information and education. These regimes blocked the circulation of knowledge as a way to avoid an international investigation of human rights and religious freedom in these countries. The direct result was that an army of scholars in the West participated directly in hiding the truth of persecutions, not only against Christians, but also against enlightened Muslim intellectuals.
October 10, 2003
Two excellent new essays summarize the lessons of the Kay Report
on Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear warfare programs: Charles Krauthammer, "WMD in a Haystack"
and Andrew Bolt, "Iraq: The Lies Go On"
. Dr. Krauthammer ends with a sharp refutation of those who assert that the U.N. was right and the U.S. was wrong:
Moreover, for those who care about the United Nations (I do not, but many administration critics have a weakness for legal niceties), Resolution 1441, unanimously passed by the Security Council, ordered Hussein to make a full accounting of his WMD program and to cooperate with inspectors, and warned that there would be no more tolerance for concealment or obstruction. Kay's finding of "dozens of WMD-related program activities" concealed from U.N. inspectors constitutes an irrefutable material breach of 1441 — and an open-and-shut justification for the U.S. decision to disarm Saddam Hussein by force.
If Resolution 1441 was sincerely meant, its backers can no longer argue in good faith that its enforcement was an outrage against the international community. Their attempts to do so suggest that they really did want to keep an odious tyrant in power, regardless of his actions. I leave it to others to speculate about their motives. [To comment, click here.
October 10, 2003
The Census Bureau's report that the number of Americans without health insurance coverage rose to 43.6 million in 2002 prompted the usual outcry about the "crisis" in the U.S. medical system. Devon M. Herrick of the National Center for Policy Analysis has looked more closely at the figures, however, and argues that the situation is not so dire. In fact, a large percentage of the uninsured are "Uninsured by Choice"
. Much of the increase in their numbers over the past decade came in the higher income brackets, where the cost of insurance is unlikely to have been a serious consideration. While the number of uninsured individuals in households with annual incomes below $25,000 dropped
by 17 percent between 1993 and 2002, the uninsured count for households with incomes above $75,000 a year more than doubled. "Almost one-third of the uninsured now live in households with annual incomes above $50,000 and one in five live in households earning more than $75,000 annually."
Furthermore, 14 million of the uninsured, including 5 million children, are eligible for Medicare or the State Children's Health Insurance Program but haven't enrolled. The children could not have enrolled themselves, of course. The biggest obstacle to giving them proper medical care is not the lack of insurance but the absence of responsible adults from their lives.
Dr. Herrick argues that a large share of the remaining uninsured population consists of healthy youngsters who see little necessity for health insurance, while another significant group has ready access to free care (free to themselves, if not to society) and thus has little incentive to insure. When nne adds all of the "uninsured by choice" cohorts together, health insurance coverage hardly looks like an emergency demanding a revolution in American medical practice. [To comment, click here.
October 6, 2003
Courtesy of Kevin Hassett ("D Is for Deficit"
), here are fun facts about the states' fiscal crises:
Every one of the ten states with the largest per capita budget deficits voted for Al Gore in 2000, and the Gore states, with 50 percent of the nation's population, account for 70 percent of state red ink. Some of those states do, of course, have Republican governors and legislatures, but the Gore-deficit correlation surely isn't a complete coincidence.
Despite the fiscal crunch and wails about draconian cutbacks, aggregate state spending is two percent higher this year than last.
The ten states that now have the biggest per capita deficits averaged five percent annual growth in government revenue over the past decade. The corresponding figure for the ten states currently in the best
fiscal shape was 1.5 percent. Could it be that more tax receipts simply lead pols to spend more money?
Per capita tax revenue is 27 percent higher
in the ten worst-deficit states than in the ten with the healthiest budgets.
The author summarizes thus:
One could hardly attribute today's state deficit problems to "reckless tax cutting." If anything has been reckless, it is spending. Democratic elected officials in particular seem to have shown too little regard for taxpayers' money. Taxes have increased, but spending has increased more, and citizens are waking up to find themselves heavily burdened and in debt.
October 6, 2003
Rich Lowry of National Review
has helpfully summarized the Democratic Party credo
for the coming election season. A few highlights:
"That the United Nations is the world's last, best hope, and every jot of its writ should always be respected, unless it inconveniences Saddam Hussein."
"That President Bush isn't devoting enough resources to the reconstruction of Iraq, and that — in light of his $87 billion aid proposal — he is devoting far too many resources to the reconstruction of Iraq."
"That the U.S. military is overextended — and should be smaller."
"That Bush is bankrupting the federal government, but is a tightfisted ogre for countenancing only a $400 billion new prescription-drug benefit."
"That Bush is responsible for an economic downturn that began before he was elected and that Clinton is responsible for an economic recovery that began before he was elected (here at last — a kind of consistency!)."
October 5, 2003
The Plame-Wilson Affair has taken an ominous turn — not for the Bush Administration but for Valerie Plame-Wilson herself. Today's Washington Post
quotes her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, as asserting that "a leading former CIA official had said his wife 'was probably the single highest target of any possible terrorist organization or hostile intelligence service that might want to do damage'."
That statement is almost certainly a lie. If Mrs. Plame-Wilson were that important, the CIA would not have confirmed to Bob Novak that she works for it, her CIA employment would not come up in casual conversations around Washington (Clifford D. May, "Spy Games"
), and no "leading former CIA official" would reveal what she did. The work of high-level operatives is secret from all outsiders, including their families; if Valerie wasn't supposed to tell Joe, it is inconceivable that a third party took it upon himself to do so.
Lie though it is, the claim is a dangerous lie. Until today, no anti-American fanatic had any reason to think that Mrs. Plame-Wilson was anything higher than what Bob Novak said she was: a mid-level analyst in an agency swarming with such people. Now there is a risk that somebody will take her husband at his word and imagine that the Great Satan can be seriously wounded by timely assassination of this "single highest target".
Under these circumstances, Valerie Plame-Wilson certainly should receive governmental protection — and the man who has possibly endangered her life should receive governmental, beginning with psychiatric, attention of a different sort. [To comment, click here.
October 5, 2003 The Strategy Page
's newsletter (no doubt on their site, too, but I can't locate it) calls attention to a military problem that could be covered up during the era when U.S. armed forces were confined to police duties but can't be ignored in a more dangerous environment:
There is a growing feeling among U.S. generals and admirals that the "feminization of the military" during the 1990s has done serious and long lasting damage. This has expressed itself in many ways. The marines, which successfully resisted the worst aspects of feminization (training male and female recruits together in boot camp, lowering standards to accommodate women's different physical and psychological capabilities, forcing NCOs and officers to insure that women succeeded whether the women were capable of some jobs or not) are seen as the one service that successfully integrated more women into its ranks. But the marines took a lot of political heat for doing things their way, particularly when Bill Clinton was president.
Perhaps more telling, the army was appalled at how many of their non-combat troops were ill-prepared for combat when they ran into ambushes during recent Iraq fighting. In past wars, the non-combat troops were much better at dealing with this sort of thing. Questioning the non-combat troops revealed that there had developed an attitude of "we're not really soldiers, we just look like them" among a generation of troops. These men and women had gone though watered down basic training and served under NCOs and officers more concerned about being politically correct towards female troops than making sure everyone was combat ready. The marines never compromised on their rule that "every marine is a rifleman." The women got extra training if they needed it, but it was understood that they would be able to do what had to be done if they got involved in a fire fight. And that was how it played out in Iraq.
Perhaps the most galling sign of a growing problem appeared when the Air Force recently ran an opinion survey among cadets at the Air Force Academy. Some 40 percent of the cadets, both male and female, felt that the physical and psychological differences between the sexes made complete acceptance of women in the military unlikely, ever. Among male cadets, twenty percent felt that women don't belong at the academy at all. The survey showed that the longer cadets were at the academy, the more cynical they became about all the rules and regulations in place to make sure women are "treated equally." Senior cadets are much less likely to believe in the "Honor System" (turning in others for violation of regulations) than freshmen. After a year or two at the academy, most cadets realize that the way the system is supposed to work, and the way it actually does, [are] quite different. This experience is common in the other services, except in the marines. Back in the 1990s, one Department of Defense political appointee noted how the marines marched to their own music and called them "extremists." The marines took it as a compliment.
Still, things could be worse. The German Army is reportedly
looking for a few good "reflective candidates who are interested in contributing to world peace". [To comment, click here.
October 5, 2003
A minor storm arose in the Francophobic regions of the blogosphere when Reuters
reported that Polish troops in Iraq had uncovered a cache of Ba'athist regime weaponry including French anti-aircraft missiles manufactured this year
. Francophiles were relieved when Poland swiftly apologized for releasing the information. The Polish apology has been widely taken as proof that there was nothing to the story, but, according to the account in Le Monde
, the Poles did not withdraw the substance of their claim: that they had found Roland missiles bearing "2003" date plaques.
There is an innocent, and very probably correct, explanation of the date: that it records an Iraqi inspection rather than the date of production. But the Quai d'Orsay has added a bizarre coat of paint to the lily with its further assertion that "the assembly lines for the Roland 2 and Roland 3 were shut down in 1988 and 1993, respectively. It is therefore impossible for Roland missiles to have been produced in 2003." In fact, though, the Roland 3 went into service in 1995, and the French seem to still be marketing it actively, rendering it improbable that the last one was made ten years ago. (Vide
weapons reseller MBDA's press kit
[PDF file], pp. 27-29.) What's more, the Polish discovery is not unprecedented. According to a report
published on April 30th,
U.S. airborne troops from the 101st division recently stumbled onto a French-made Roland 3 missile system, complete with radar, computer and fire control electronics. The French army first deployed the Roland 3 advanced missile in 1995. The Roland 3 unit supplied to Iraq would be a clear violation of the U.N. arms embargo placed on Iraq after the first Gulf War.
French defense ministry officials recently denied that the Roland 3 was supplied to Iraq. However, French defense industry insiders speculated that Iraq might have acquired the Roland 3 unit illegally from "mafia" sources, suggesting that Paris has a problem with black market theft inside advanced military projects.
Iraq can only have acquired Roland 3's after the 1991 Gulf War, and therefore in violation of the post-war embargo. None of the theories about how the Ba'athists got them — directly from France, from one of the small number of countries that bought them from France legally, or through the black market — is reassuring. Whichever one is true, it is a further indication that the blockade of Iraq was porous and unlikely, in the long run, to prevent Saddam Hussein from obtaining whatever weapons, of whatever kind, he wanted. [To comment, click here.
October 3, 2003
The theory that large portions of the American media live in an alternate universe received strong confirmation today as the press put its gloss on weapons inspector David Kay's "Interim Progress Report on the Activities of the Iraq Survey Group"
. In his second paragraph, Mr. Kay stated bluntly, "Iraq's WMD programs spanned more than two decades, involved thousands of people, billions of dollars, and were elaborately shielded by security and deception operations that continued even beyond the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom." From the body of the report, one can draw three unambiguous conclusions:
First, there was never a possibility that nonviolent diplomatic pressure — the only weapon that the Democratic Presidential contenders and their thinkalikes will tolerate — could have brought Saddam Hussein's biological, chemical and nuclear programs to an end. He was determined to press on despite external obstacles and worked hard to conceal his efforts from the rest of the world. Eventually, his regime would either develop a dangerous arsenal of advanced weaponry or be forcibly disarmed. Saddam wasn't interested in any option in between.
Second, while pre-war intelligence, forced to rely on fragmentary data, may have overestimated the regime's capabilities in some respects, it underestimated them in others. We had no inkling of Iraq's "clandestine network of laboratories and facilities within the security service apparatus . . . suitable for preserving BW expertise, BW capable facilities and continuing R&D - all key elements for maintaining a capability for resuming BW production" or of its progress toward the acquisition of long-range missiles. The biological program is particularly troubling, as it would be most useful for terrorism and was evidently aimed at "surge production", the capability to manufacture large stocks of lethal organisms on short notice.
Third, it is not even slightly surprising that no stocks of biological or chemical weapons have yet been found. The report makes clear how vast an area is yet to be explored.
Any actual WMD weapons or material is likely to be small in relation to the total conventional armaments footprint and difficult to near impossible to identify with normal search procedures. It is important to keep in mind that even the bulkiest materials we are searching for, in the quantities we would expect to find, can be concealed in spaces not much larger than a two car garage. . . .
In searching for retained stocks of chemical munitions, ISG has had to contend with the almost unbelievable scale of Iraq's conventional weapons armory, which dwarfs by orders of magnitude the physical size of any conceivable stock of chemical weapons. For example, there are approximately 130 known Iraqi Ammunition Storage Points (ASP), many of which exceed 50 square miles in size and hold an estimated 600,000 tons of artillery shells, rockets, aviation bombs and other ordinance. Of these 130 ASPs, approximately 120 still remain unexamined. As Iraqi practice was not to mark much of their chemical ordinance and to store it at the same ASPs that held conventional rounds, the size of the required search effort is enormous.
If an investigator with a warehouse full of Enron documents found no evidence of accounting fraud in the few boxes, would the media start proclaiming Ken Lay's innocence? Yet the Iraq Survey Group's report was distilled into monotonic headlines: "No Illicit Arms Found in Iraq, U.S. Inspector Tells Congress" (New York Times); "Search in Iraq Finds No Banned Weapons" (Washington Post), "Weapons Hunters haven't found proof of a banned Hussein arsenal" (Wall Street Journal); "US report finds no illicit arms" (Boston Globe).
Leading Democrats reacted with statements like Nancy Pelosi's fatuous "Because of a lack of imminence of a threat, it is clear that there was time for more diplomatic efforts to be made before we went to war." No. What "is clear" is that the "diplomatic efforts" could do no good. The Ba'athists worked sedulously and successfully to hide evidence from U.N. inspectors, in the hope of deceiving their way to a "clean bill of health", an end to economic sanctions and an environment in which fulfilling the ambitions of their weapons programs would be easier. Rep. Pelosi is arguing, in effect, that we should have let that program play out until we faced immediate danger, condemning the people of Iraq to additional years of misery and our own country — if we just slightly misjudged the moment of "imminence" — to the risk of devastating attack.
October 2, 2003
If it had been up to me
, no California Republican would have run in the recall election, and if I lived in that unfortunate state I would be voting for Tom McClintock, so the revelations in The Los Angeles Times
about candidate Schwarzenegger's past sexual misconduct don't engage my emotions very strongly. Everybody already knew that Arnold had a past. The only surprise is that the dirt isn't a more shocking shade of gray. I do, however, have two observations:
First, many commentators (e. g.
, George Will
) predicted a last minute attack on Mr. Schwarzenegger's character. They erred, though, in predicting that the Democratic Party would be the attacker. Instead, California's biggest circulation newspaper is doing the Democrats' work for them. The Times
has every right to publish its story, which addresses a question of legitimate public interest. What is appalling is the timing: the Thursday before Election Day, the traditional window of opportunity for roarbacks. The paper obviously has been working on this story for a long time and could have printed it two or three weeks ago, giving the electorate an interval for reflection. Instead, it acted like an arm of the Gray Davis and Cruz Bustamante campaigns. Some elements of the media seem determined to prove that Bernard Goldberg was spot-on about Bias
Second, it is tempting to accuse Republicans of hypocrisy if they vote for Arnold after reading these revelations. Over at Reason
's blog, f'rinstance, Nick Gillespie
equates "Republicans who attacked Bill Clinton as unfit for office due to such behavior" with "Democrats who supported Bill Clinton but think Arnold is unfit for office due to such behavior". There are two things wrong with this analysis: (i) Republicans denounced Bill Clinton for perjury, not for sexual harrassment. Arnold Schwarzenegger hasn't lied even out of court, much less in one. (ii) Bill Clinton and the Democrats won the impeachment battle, and it isn't hypocritical for Republicans to ask that the winners judge Republican candidates by the same standards as Democratic officeholders. In an alternate universe in which Clinton told the truth in court and was removed from office simply for goatish behavior, Republicans would have established the standards for judgement and would be bound to apply them to Arnold. In this one, they are under no obligation to play a game in which the rules bind only one side. [To comment, click here.
October 2, 2003
Hodie obit, aetate lxxxii, pater meus
. Sit eo terra levis.
October 1, 2003
The combined forces of the blogosphere and mainstream journalism have already said almost everything that can, should or shouldn't be said about Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, the glamorous spy Valerie Plame. Almost
everything. While listening to the ambassador's speech last June in which he blamed the Bush Administration's subservience to Israel for the war in Iraq, I was struck by a small but telling point. Mr. Wilson said (as transcribed by HobbsOnline
We haven't yet found any weapons of mass destruction, though on that score I remain of the view that we will find biological and chemical weapons and we may well find something that indicates that Saddam's regime maintained an interest in nuclear weapons.
The implication is that suspicions of an Iraqi nuclear program were not ideological fantasy but had a solid, if not absolutely indisputable, basis. In his State of the Union address, President Bush likewise asserted that there was reason to believe, but not complete certainty, that Saddam Hussein was trying to acquire nuclear capability.
Mr. Wilson became a famous public figure by charging that the President's assertion was a deliberate lie. Yet he himself apparently believes it to be true. At worst, the President cited weak evidence for it, which may have been a rhetorical blunder but was certainly not a serious crime against truth. The ambassador's overheated reaction suggests that conveying the facts about Saddam's regime does not rank high among his priorities. [To comment, click here.