May 29, 2007

Desperate indeed

Boston Globe columnist H.D.S. Greenway is in rare form today, once again displaying his abiding sympathy for Arab solidarity over Israeli survival. Greenway writes -- "Today there is an offer on the table ..." -- is it ticking, by chance? -- "... from all 22 countries of the Cairo-based Arab League. Return to the 1967 lines and peace with full recognition will follow.

"The Arabs are desperate to just get it done!" Greenway goes on to write (exclamation point in the original!). "Let's forget all the suffocating confidence-building measures and phased withdrawals that in the past have been the death of peace, they say."

Yes, and let's overlook the suicide bombings, the rocket attacks and kidnappings of soldiers, the emboldened aggression in response to Israeli's withdrawal from Gaza and southern Lebanon ...

Annals of hypocrisy: Exhibit A

The AP reports today that Barbra Streisand canceled a concert in Rome next month after "protests by Italian consumer groups angered by what they said were excessively high ticket prices" -- from "just under $200 to more than $1,200."

A tour promoter claimed the cancellation was due to "unexpected production delays" -- code, perhaps, for Streisand's dwindling number of fans in Italy willing to produce sufficient lira to watch the diva perform.

May 28, 2007

No greater love

The letter written by Major Sullivan Ballou of the 2d Rhode Island unit to his wife in Smithfield, R.I., which I first heard during the initial television broadcast of Ken Burns' superb documentary, "The Civil War," in the fall of 1990 --

July 14, 1861
Camp Clark, Washington

My very dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days - perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American civilization now leans on the triumph of the government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution. And am willing - perfectly willing - to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt ...

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grown up to honorable manhood around us.

I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me - perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar, that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often times been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness ...

But, oh Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights ... always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think that I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.

As those who familiar with the documentary and Civil War are aware, Ballou was killed a week later in the first Battle of Bull Run.

May 23, 2007

Going for jugular by way of Achilles heel

From another story in Monday's Boston Globe, this one under the headline, "McCain blasts Romney for immigration stance change" --
"Maybe I should wait a couple weeks and see if it changes," McCain said of Romney's immigration position, according to McCain's campaign. "And maybe his solution will be to get out his small varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his yard," an allusion to illegal immigrant laborers working as landscapers at Romney's home in Belmont, as reported by the Globe last December.

The odds of McCain saying something along these lines in the next GOP debate -- about 100 to 1 in favor.

May 21, 2007

There they go again

A dutiful heads-up about Democrats in Congress by way of the observant editorial page editors of the Wall Street Journal, from an editorial in the May 19-20 weekend edition of the paper --

"With all the other news this week, the media barely noticed that Congressional Democrats passed a budget outline that envisions more than $200 billion in tax increases over five years. Seems worth reporting to us." (emphasis added)

This at a time when the cumulative effect of the Bush tax cuts have federal revenues climbing so rapidly "that this year they may reach 19 percent of GPD -- above the 40-year average of 18.3 percent. Apparently, Democrats think this tax windfall isn't enough."

May 17, 2007

Ron Paul's sliver of truth

First off, what Texas Congressman Ron Paul actually said in last night's debate about 9/11:

"I think the party has lost its way because the conservative wing of the Republican Party always advocated a non-interventionist foreign policy. Sen. Robert Taft didn't even want to be in NATO. George Bush won the election in year 2000 campaigning on a humble foreign policy, no nation building, no policing of the world. Republicans were elected to end the Korean War, Republicans were elected to end the Vietnam War. There's a strong tradition of being anti-war in the Republican Party, it is the constitutional position, it is the advice of the Founders to follow a non-interventionist foreign policy, stay out of entangling alliances, be friends with countries, negotiate and talk with them and trade with them.

"Just think of the tremendous improvement in (our) relationship with Vietnam. We lost 60,000 men, we came home in defeat, now we go over there and invest in Vietnam. So there's a lot of merit to the advice of the Founders and following the Constitution. And my argument is that we shouldn't go to war so carelessly, because when we do, the wars don't end."

Which led to a follow-up question from Fox newsman Wendell Goler -- "Congressman, you don't think that changed with the 9/11 attack, sir?"

Paul: "What changed?"

Goler: "The non-interventionist policies."

Paul: "No, non-intervention was a major contributing factor. Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us? They attacked us because we'd been over there, we'd been bombing Iraq for 10 years, we've been in the Middle East. I think Ronald Reagan was right, we don't understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics. So right now we're building an embassy in Iraq that's bigger than the Vatican, we're building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting. We need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us."

Golen: "Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attack, sir?"

Paul: "I'm suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reasons they did it, and they are delighted that we're over there because Osama bin Laden has said, I'm glad you're over on our sand because we can target you so much easier. They've already now, since that time, have killed 3,400 of our men and I don't think it was necessary."

To which Rudy Giuliani responded: "That's really an extraordinary statement, an extraordinary statement. As someone who lived through the attack on Sept. 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don't think I've ever heard that before, and I've heard some pretty absurd explanations for Sept. 11" (followed by the biggest applause of the night, all but sealing the pundits' later verdict that Giuliani won the debate).

But lost amid the gnashing of teeth over Paul's suggestion that al Qaeda was justified in slaughtering 3,000 Americans was the kernel of truth at the heart of his remarks -- the undeniable connection between Iraq and al Qaeda's motivation for the 9/11 attack.

For years now we have heard the singsong of a claim, mainly from the Left but also from conservative isolationists like Paul and Pat Buchanan, that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. To the extent that Iraq was not involved in the planning and execution of the attack, this remains a plausible assertion due to lack of evidence to the contrary (that such a link may eventually be proven, however, would not surprise me).

But this assertion has morphed into something entirely different -- that Iraq had nothing remotely to do with al Qaeda's motivation for attacking the US -- and this claim is not only false, but deceitful. In fact, US and United Nation policies toward Iraq -- yes, United Nations -- constituted two of the three reasons cited by bin Laden for the 9/11 attack when al-Jazeera broadcast its first post-9/11 video of bin Laden on Oct. 7, 2001, the same day US forces began bombing al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden's statement, all of a dozen paragraphs, wasted little time in getting to Iraq -- it's in the fourth paragraph, according to the copy I saved from the New York Times.

"A million innocent children are dying at this time as we speak, killed in Iraq without any guilt,"
bin Laden said. What he was referring to were economic sanctions against Saddam's Baathist regime -- sanctions imposed by the UN, not US -- for Saddam's refusal to comply with every single one of 16 UN resolutions for him to disarm after the first Gulf War and renounce his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. A war precipitated by Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, followed by a coalition of 30 nations led by the US ousting Iraq from Kuwait -- but not dishonoring the purpose of that coalition and taking ground forces all the way to Baghdad.

Here is how bin Laden ended his statement:
"Every Muslim must rise to defend his religion. The wind of faith is blowing and the wind of change is blowing to remove evil from the Peninsula of Muhammad, peace be upon him.
"As to America, I say to you and its people a few words: I swear to God that America will not live in peace before peace reigns in Palestine, and before all the armies of infidels depart the land of Muhammad, peace be upon him. God is the greatest and glory be to Islam."

The "evil" that bin Laden refers to on the "Peninsula of Muhammad"? American military forces in Saudi Arabia -- sent there at the invitation of the Saudi government after Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990. Forces that remained in Saudi Arabia, as requested by the Saudi government, for the decade to follow -- due to Saddam's continued defiance to disarm in good faith.

As for Paul's claim that we'd been "bombing Iraq for 10 years," he was conspicuously negligent in elaborating. Allow me to fill in the gaps. Shortly after the first Gulf War, and in a move to prevent Saddam from slaughtering thousands more Kurds and Shiites rising up against him, no-fly zones were imposed over huge swaths of north and south Iraq -- by the US, Great Britain and -- are you sitting down for this? -- France -- without -- still sitting down? -- UN authorization.

Two years after the first Gulf War, then-President Bill Clinton ordered aerial attacks against Saddam's regime after evidence was uncovered of an Iraqi plot to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush during a visit to Kuwait.

In December 1998, Clinton ordered another attack on Saddam's regime one month after UN weapons inspectors were ousted from Iraq -- an absence that remained right through 9/11 and leading up to the months before the second war. The reason many people don't remember the four-day Desert Fox campaign? It neatly coincided with the House vote to impeach Clinton.

I have nothing but respect for the strength of character exhibited by Giuliani on 9/11, and for Giuliani's resolve in the difficult weeks and months followed. And Giuliani's anger toward Paul's suggestion that America had it coming on 9/11 is entirely justified.

But I find it disheartening that Giuliani, of all people, a man nearly murdered by al Qaeda on Sept. 11, 2001 and who may well become our next president, is oblivious to the obvious role that Iraq played in al Qaeda's rationale for attacking us.

May 15, 2007

Reviving the Bubba Doctrine

Revisiting Hillary Clinton's response to the debate question last month on how she would respond to an al-Qaeda attack on American cities -- what Clinton suggested sounded vaguely familiar, as if we'd done this before. In fact, we have, and with disastrous consequences.
First, Clinton's response:

"Well again, having been a senator during 9/11, I understand very well the extraordinary horror of that kind of an attack and the impact that it has, far beyond those who are directly affected. I think a president must move as swiftly as is prudent to retaliate. If we are attacked, and we can determine who was behind that attack, and if there were nations that supported or gave material aid to those who attacked us, I believe we should quickly respond.

"Now that doesn't mean we go looking for other fights," Clinton went on to say. "You know, I supported President Bush when he went after al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. And then when he decided to divert attention to Iraq, it was not a decision that I would have made had I been president because we still haven't found bin Laden. So let's focus on those who have attacked us and do everything we can to destroy them."

In other words, do exactly what Bill Clinton did in response to the bombings of two American embassies in Africa in August 1998. After quickly determining that al Qaeda was responsible, then-President Clinton ordered cruise missile attacks against al Qaeda targets in Sudan and Afghanistan two weeks after the bombings -- followed by withering criticism that Clinton was engaged in "wag the dog" chicanery to divert attention from the Lewinsky scandal.

And what happened after the cruise missile attacks ...? Nothing much, at least for the remainder of Clinton's lame-duck, post-impeachment presidency. Come to think of it, Saddam Hussein booted UN weapons inspectors out of Iraq a few months after the embassy bombings, not that Iraq and al Qaeda had anything remotely to do with one another, as we've heard claimed ad infinitum ad nauseum for years now. Clinton responsed to Hussein's ouster of weapons inspectors by lobbing cruise missiles into Iraq, postponing the congressional vote on his impeachment for a day, before the status quo of American timidity was quickly restored.

Then in October 2000, al Qaeda fanatics struck at the USS Cole in Yemen, killing 17 American sailors, followed by Clinton doing ... nothing. All the while, al Qaeda grew emboldened by the specter of a paper tiger worried about looking like it was looking for a fight.

What was it that line from Trotsky? You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.

May 14, 2007

Of politicians and perfection

From last night's "60 Minutes" segment on Mitt Romney, as reported by Mike Wallace --

Wallace: "The rap on you, of course, is that you are too smooth, too handsome, too polished. Are you really known as 'Matinee Mitt' ...?"
Romney: "That's the rap on you, Mike ..."
Wallace: "No, no, no ..."
Romney: "... Too smooth, too polished ..."

Then, as to be expected, the rapid-fire edit away from the conversation before the inevitable smile from Romney to show he was having a little fun at Wallace's expense. When I first saw the exchange in the previews that open the show, I thought Romney was criticizing the media, as epitomized by Wallace. It wasn't until I watched the actual segment that I realized Romney was being irreverent, just as he'd done when Jay Leno posed a similar question on "The Tonight Show."

The "too smooth, too polished, too handsome" rap could also be leveled at another presidential contender from Massachusetts, albeit one from decades ago -- John F. Kennedy. Difference being, Kennedy was a Democrat, though I doubt he'd be one today.

Smooth, polished and handsome isn't acceptable in actual politicians running for president, only for a long-dead icon who provided the template.

May 12, 2007

Romney on a roll

Cover of Time magazine and an interview with Mike Wallace on tomorrow night's "60 Minutes," both on the heels of Mitt Romney's solid performance in last week's Republican debate.

What we are seeing is belated recognition by the mainstream media that Romney is a candidate to be reckoned with. Eventual recognition to follow that he's the most formidable presidential contender since Clinton in 1992.

May 11, 2007

Somewhere Dan Quayle is smiling

The nation's divorce rate drops to its lowest level since 1970, reports USA Today and numerous other media outlets ...

Unacknowledged birth of punk rock

First encountered this awesome photoshop revisionism of "Sparky" Ruby's decision to off Oswald on national TV in a Missouri poster shop several years ago, but held off due to its steep $10 price tag.

Tip of the hat to fellow Bay State blogger at wavemaker for this one, and for pointing out that the graffiti on the wall behind Oswald was the emblem for the punk band Dead Kennedys.

Still waiting for mainstream media references to "far left"

From a Reuters story out of Paris yesterday on demonstrations and arrests following the victory of conservative presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy --

"Some 300 to 400 demonstrators gathered on the Boulevard St-Michel in the Latin Quarter of Paris," writes Reuters' Gerard Bon, "ostensibly to protest against a march by far-right supporters."For the uninitiated, allow this former left-winger to translate -- "far-right" is code for "Nazi," invariably tossed about in abundant ignorance that the Nazis were national socialists. The demonstrators, Bon writes, shouted slogans like "Sarko fascist! The people will have your hide" and "Police everywhere, justice nowhere."

The French have hardly stopped counting the votes in Sarkozy's impressive victory and his more unhinged critics are already dragging out that smoldy standby of the intellectually barren, "fascist," as if Sarkozy's proposal to lengthen the work week for a stagnant French economy is akin to tossing Jews in ovens.

But it's standing-room only in the "Peace Studies" courses

From an article in the May 7 issue of The New Republic on the dearth of college courses focusing on military history --

"At Harvard this spring, for instance, only two of 85 history courses focus mainly on war," writes David A. Bell, author of "The First Total War: Napoleon's Europe and the Birth of Warfare As We Know It."

"This is not surprising, because Harvard does not have a single specialist in military history among the 58 members of its history department," Bell writes. "Neither does my own history department at Johns Hopkins; just two of our 61 spring courses are principally concerned with war."

Not to worry, though. Should liberals succeed in their fervent desire for America to lose the war in Iraq, we'll see lots of collegiate offerings about that in the future.

May 10, 2007

Change in jihadist tactics

Anyone else find it significant that the Fort Dix Six allegedly targeted an American military base -- as opposed to American civilians?

Whether the suspected terrorists would have carried out their plot had the feds not intervened is impossible to know, but it's hardly a stretch to surmise that the plotters would have encountered much less resistance -- and firepower -- had they targeted a shopping mall, commuter rail station (or college campus) than a military base.

Then again, why target civilians when the likely effect would be to unite Americans against the jihad? That's the last thing terrorists want. Far better for them if Americans remain divided on the true nature of the threat we face. For example, a Rasmussen poll released last week found more than one-third of Democrats, 35 percent, believe President Bush knew the 9/11 attacks were coming. Another 26 percent of Democrats "weren't sure" while 39 percent doubt that Bush knew of the onslaught in advance.

What's the point of killing American citizens if jihadists can already count on Democrats acting as useful idiots in losing the hearts and minds?

May 9, 2007

Name that Jihadi!

Time for yet another round of that drearily predictable game that's all the rage in the new millennium .... Name That Jihadi!

The rules are simple and straightforward -- every time I hear of terrorist suspects arrested here or abroad, I guess how many have the name "Muhammad" or any of its innumerable variations.

As for the so-called "Fort Dix Six" allegedly involved in a plot to attack American military personnel at Fort Dix, N.J., I guessed that at least two of the suspects had "Muhammad" as part of their names. Turns out only one did -- Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer -- but he's the alleged ringleader, so that counts as two, at least according to the evolving rules of ... Name That Jihadi!

Mussolini would be pleased

From today's "This Day in History" column published by the Associated Press --

"In 1936, Italy annexed Ethiopia."

"... annexed ..."?

May 8, 2007

Also known as a purge

Not content with Democrats holding all six constitutional offices in Massachusetts, a 5-1 advantage over Republicans in the Legislature and all 10 of the state's seats in Congress, Bay State Governor Deval Patrick wants 50 commissioners and agency leaders appointed by Patrick's Republican predecessors to reapply for their jobs, according to today's Boston Globe.

"The governor has asked each secretariat to build a team that shares this administration's priorities and visions," Patrick spokesman Kyle Sullivan was quoted as saying.

Once the purge is complete -- by the end of the month, Sullivan told the Globe -- political diversity in Massachusetts will rival to that achieved by the late and unlamented (but not on Beacon Hill) Soviet Union.