Thursday, September 28, 2006

Fouad Ajami on Iraq Intelligence

Today's Wall Street Journal has an interesting op-ed about problems with American intelligence reports on Iraq:
But this brutal drawn-out struggle between American power and the furies of the Arab-Islamic world was never a Western war. Our enemies were full of cunning and expert at dissimulation, hunkering down when needed. No one in the coffeehouses of the Arab world (let alone in the safe houses of the terrorists) would be led astray by that distinction between "secular" and "religious" movements emphasized by the Senate Intelligence Committee. They live in a world where the enemies of order move with remarkable ease from outward religious piety to the most secular of appearances. It is no mystery to them that Saddam, once the most secular of despots, fell back on religious symbols after the first Gulf War, added Allahu Akbar (God is great) to Iraq's flag, and launched a mosque-building campaign whose remnants--half-finished mosques all over Baghdad--now stand mute.

No Iraqi agents had to slip into hotel rooms in Prague for meetings with jihadists to plot against America. The plot sprang out of the deep structure of Arab opinion. We waged a war against Saddam in 1991 and then spared him. We established a presence in the Arabian Peninsula to monitor him, only to help radicalize a population with religious phobias about the "infidel" presence on Arabian soil. The most devout and the most religiously lapsed of the Arabs alike could see the feebleness of America's response to a decade of subversion and terror waged by Arab plotters and bankrolled by Arab financiers. The American desire to launch out of Iraq a broader campaign of deterrence against the radical forces of the region may not have been successful in every way, but the effort was driven by a shrewd reading that, after Kabul, the war had to be taken deep into the Arab world itself.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Kwame Anthony Appiah on Cosmopolitanism

Not too long ago, driving in my car, I heard a soothing British voice that sounded much like Tony Blair's on WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi call-in show. The speaker turned out to be Kwame Anthony Appiah, Laurence S. Rockefeller professor of philosophy at Princeton University, author of Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Stangers Thanks to Google and Wikipedia, I later found out that Professor Appiah is the grandson of Sir Stafford Cripps, Britain's ambassador to the Soviet Union. His defense of cosmopolitanism as an alternative to religious fundamentalism was nice to hear on NPR. You can listen to the Kojo Nnamdi interview by clicking here. You can buy a copy of the book from by clicking here:Here's a link to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's definition of Cosmopolitaism.

Dmitri Simes on Clinton and Al Qaeda

From The National Interest:
As I have written in The National Interest, then Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin proposed U.S.-Russian cooperation against the Taliban and al Qaeda in 1999. Frustrated with Moscow’s opposition to the NATO attack on Yugoslavia earlier that year—and, more generally, increasingly concerned by Russia’s newly assertive foreign policy—the Clinton Administration dismissed Mr. Putin’s overtures out of fear that cooperation with the Kremlin would legitimize Russia’s own presence in Central Asia. So, even after the al Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998, the Clinton team’s focus was on containing Russia, not on working with Moscow against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Even the 2000 al Qaeda bombing of the U.S.S. Cole did not persuade Mr. Clinton or his advisors that working with Russia in defeating the common threat was more important than curbing Russian influence in Central Asia. By that time, Russia was explicitly suggesting using its links to the Northern Alliance in order to defeat the Taliban. Later, President Putin acknowledged in an interview with Barbara Walters that he did not “know whether it would have been possible to prevent these strikes on the United States by the terrorists,” but added that “at that time, we certainly were counting on more active cooperation in combating international terrorism.” Both U.S. and Russian sources confirm that Russian approaches to the United States on joint counter-terrorism action in Afghanistan were largely ignored by the Clinton Administration.

Cooperation with China was also a casualty of the U.S.-led attack against Yugoslavia. Milosevic led the last self-proclaimed socialist regime in Europe and the Chinese leadership could not be expected to approve an attack on Yugoslavia any more than the United States would have been expected to endorse a Chinese attack on some democratic state, even one that had committed human rights violations in the course of a civil war. The accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade did not help either, since Beijing took the view that even if it was accidental, it occurred during a bombing campaign that was both bad policy and, because it had not been approved by the United Nations Security Council, in violation of international law. China was another key player in central and south Asia and had considerable influence over Afghanistan’s neighbor Pakistan.

If Russia and China were in America’s corner in 1999 and 2000, the U.S. could have taken action against the Taliban and either driven them from power or at least severed their links to al Qaeda. This would have made the September 11 attacks much more difficult to organize.

Declassified National Intelligence Estimate Key Findings

Here, in PDF format(ht LGF). An excerpt:
We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.

• The Iraq conflict has become the “cause celebre” for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.
Michelle Malkin analyzes the significance of this document on her blog:
Putting aside how the outdated portions still refers to Zarqawi in the present tense, the big thing that strikes me about the key judgements is that they reflect a dhimmi, historically ignorant view of jihad more suited for the moonbat Left than our premier intelligence agencies.
Here's Andrew McCarthy's analysis from National Review Online:
Osama bin Laden claimed in 1998 that President Clinton’s policy was a “continuing aggression against the Iraqi people”; a “devastation” that continued the “horrific massacres” of the 1991 Gulf War. For the world’s leading jihadist, Clinton’s purported “eagerness to destroy Iraq” was the “best proof” of America’s intentions toward the Islamic world. None of it was true, of course, but that didn’t stop him from saying it.

Now, did the Clinton Iraq policy endanger the United States by providing bin Laden with a valuable tool for recruitment and incitement? I suppose if I were a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, I’d have to say it did. After all, adopting what passes for this line of reasoning, the 1998 fatwa was followed by the bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing well over 200 people. The following year, plots against Los Angeles International Airport and the U.S.S. The Sullivans were thwarted by sheer luck. In October 2000, the U.S.S. Cole was attacked, resulting in the murders of 17 American sailors. And in the run-up to the 9/11 atrocities, Bush did not change Clinton’s Iraq policy; he continued it.

If we’re to be honest, however, it would be preposterous to claim that anything President Clinton did — in Iraq or anyplace else — “caused” jihadist terrorism. Just as it is inane to argue now that our current Iraq policy is the “cause.”

Whether we wish to acknowledge it or not, jihadism is attractive to tens of millions of people in what is called the Muslim world. Out of a total population of about 1.3 billion, that may not be a very high percentage (although I daresay it is higher than we like to think). But it is the ideology that attracts recruits. Grievances are just rhetoric. If the bin Ladens did not have Iraq, or the Palestinians, or Lebanon, or Pope Benedict, or cartoons, or flushed Korans, or Dutch movies, or the Crusades, they’d figure out something else to beat the drums over. Or they’d make something up — there being lots of license to improvise when one purports to be executing Allah’s will.

It is bad enough when the Muslim charlatans opportunistically use American policies they don’t like for militant propaganda purposes. It is reprehensible when American politicians do it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

President Clinton's Uzbekistan Connection

Former President Clinton's mention of the centrality of Uzbekistan to his plans in fighting Osama Bin Laden leapt from this trasncript of his Fox News interview with Chris Wallace:
CLINTON: No, no. I authorized the CIA to get groups together to try to kill him.

The CIA, which was run by George Tenet, that President Bush gave the Medal of Freedom to, he said, He did a good job setting up all these counterterrorism things.

The country never had a comprehensive anti-terror operation until I came there.

Now, if you want to criticize me for one thing, you can criticize me for this: After the Cole, I had battle plans drawn to go into Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban, and launch a full-scale attack search for bin Laden.

But we needed basing rights in Uzbekistan, which we got after 9/11.

The CIA and the FBI refused to certify that bin Laden was responsible while I was there. They refused to certify. So that meant I would’ve had to send a few hundred Special Forces in in helicopters and refuel at night.

Even the 9/11 Commission didn’t do that. Now, the 9/11 Commission was a political document, too. All I’m asking is, anybody who wants to say I didn’t do enough, you read Richard Clarke’s book.

WALLACE: Do you think you did enough, sir?

CLINTON: No, because I didn’t get him.


CLINTON: But at least I tried. That’s the difference in me and some, including all the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try. I tried.

So I tried and failed. When I failed, I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clarke, who got demoted.

So you did Fox’s bidding on this show. You did your nice little conservative hit job on me.
I'm interested to learn more--why the CIA wouldn't certify Bin Laden as a terrorist mastermind, why Uzbekistan wouldn't give the US basing rights, and so forth. Inquiring minds want to know. I'd say that based on my students views, Bill Clinton was very popular in Uzbekistan. And Hillary Clinton's photo was on display in an honored place in the foyer of the main auditorium at the Unviersity of World Economy and Diplomacy in Tashkent. (I saw Madeleine Albright's photo at the Keljak Ilmi Business School)...

Cat Massage Video from You Tube

Someone I know sent me this very funny cat massage video from You Tube...

Michelle Malkin on the Associated (with terrorists) Press

It seems like Michelle Malkin has uncovered a scandal involving terrorists associated with the Associated Press's photographer Bilal Hussein. She's upset that the Washington Post seems to be in full coverup mode, publishing AP president Tom Curley's op-ed defense of the AP--but not the story itself:
Let me repeat: According to the US military, Hussein was captured by American troops in a Ramadi apartment with an alleged al Qaeda leader and a weapons cache, and tested positive for explosives.

More Curley if you can stand it:

U.S. journalists are severely limited in their ability to move safely, make themselves understood and develop sources in such areas. AP has learned to overcome those limitations, using techniques honed over decades of covering sectarian confrontation and bloodshed in the Middle East.

"Techniques" such as turning a blind eye to widespread concern about the use of local stringers overseas? Or perhaps finely honed news-suppression techniques like those perfected by CNN during the Saddam regime?

Speaking of Eason Jordan's CNN, is Curley trying to pull an Eason in this incendiary paragraph:

Both official and unofficial parties on every side of a conflict try to discredit or silence news they don't like. That is certainly the case in Iraq, where journalists are routinely harassed, defamed, beaten and kidnapped. At last count, 80 had been killed.

Yes, you read that right. He is absolutely suggesting that our troops are retaliating against journalists whose work they don't like. Read the whole piece again and look at the context.

And his organization calls my reporting "incendiary?"


Will anyone at the Washington Post clue its readers into the real controversy over AP and Bilal Hussein? Anyone?

Robert Hughes on Journalistic Ethics

Time Magazine's legendary art critic tells how he got his job:
First, however, I had my trial run in Manhattan. AT Baker proved to be a bluff, weatherbeaten salt with an office on the 24th floor. Its perforated sound-tile ceiling bristled, porcupine-like, with red and green pencils, which he was in the habit of throwing upward to see if they would stick. They looked like something from the last Venice Biennale.

He sat me down and produced a packet of colour transparencies of the work of someone I had never heard of, a decorative artist named Felix Kelly. Baker pointed out with emphasis and regret that Kelly was a particular friend of Clare Boothe Luce, the widow of Henry Luce, Time’s founder.

Kelly was having a show in San Francisco. I would not, Baker added, be expected to fly over to see it. I could work from the transparencies, which were excellent. Mrs Luce would read my copy closely and with interest.

Felix Kelly turned out to be a stage designer whose speciality was pretty-as-a-picture late-surrealist perspectives — late Dali and eau-de-cologne — punctuated with stranded boats, Roman ruins and tottering, picturesque New Orleans–style tenements, embellished with much wrought-iron lace. I turned in 120 lines of falsely enthusiastic copy — unsigned, of course, in the Time style.

Those were the days. Mrs Luce was gratified and sent a note to Henry Grunwald urging that this new candidate be hired forthwith. And I was, at what seemed to me to be the munificent salary of $20,000 a year, plus expenses.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Girl in Black (1956)

Watched this Michael Cacoyannis drama last night. It is depressing, yet starkly brilliant. The cast was unknown to me, but probably well-known to Greeks. A sensitive Audrey Hepburn-like Ellie Lambeti played Marina, the "girl in black". Dimitris Horn was a darkly handsome, Pavlos. And George Foundas a creepy Christos, villian of the piece. The acting was striking, at times the faces looked like masks in a Greek tragedy. It is about a clash of civilizations, Greek style, when two cosmpolitan Athenians arrive on a small Greek island for a week's vacation. The island is completely backwards and medieval in its mentality. Gangs of youths prey on the villagers, enforcing a strict code of morality in a violent way. However, our two Athenians are unaware of the world of darkness they have entered. It is so sunny on the island--they have come to swim and have fun, after all. So, they rent rooms in the dilapidated mansion of a Greek widow and her two children--brought there by a dockside tout, who has diverted them from the more sterile tourist hotel. The two Athenian holiday makers are a study contrasts themselves--the bald one is a hardworking architect, who sketches by the waterfront. The good-looking one is a playboy who lives with his mother. I won't give away the plot, except to say it involves the two Athenians clashing with each other--and the remaining Athenian clashing with the entire town, except the title's girl in black. For all the talk about honor killings in Islam these days, the film shows that rural Greece was just as repressive, religious, and opposed to cosmopolitanism in 1956 as anywhere today. The tragic death of innocents that concludes the film has a symbolic message about the future of Greece, it would seem. Luckily, Greece seems to have made the transition to modernity. Which gives one hope that half a century from now, perhaps the violence accompanying the clash of civilzation we see these days will becomeas much of a bad dream as Cacoyannis's story of an Athenian "vacation from hell."

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Robert Hughes' Confessions

The Australian has run the best article so far on Robert Hughes' Agustinian-sounding memoir, Things I Didn't Know:
Five years later, the rest of New York continues to wallow in pained debate about how the victims of the attacks should be memorialised and what kind of buildings should be erected next to the void at ground zero. Not Hughes, though.

He is happy that what he calls that "great ugly scaleless box of a thing" no longer disfigures the New York skyline.

He never liked the twin towers, and he likes even less the endless "dickering" over 9/11 monuments and memorials. "Can you imagine how little would have happened to London after the Blitz if the same obsessive concentration on loss and sacrifice were placed upon every building that the Luftwaffe flattened?" Hughes asks.

He concedes that the initial shock of the towers' collapse was "deeply discombobulating". The post-9/11 view from his window was like "looking into a familiar face with a piece bashed out by some maniac with a baseball bat, which of course was the case". "But do I miss it aesthetically? Obviously not."

This was fighting talk from a New York resident on the day most of the city was weepily observing the fifth anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on the US. Yet Hughes has made a career out of the unflinching honesty of his opinions, as several prominent British artists know to their cost. As the vastly influential art critic for Time magazine for more than 30 years, Hughes was never much impressed with Brit Art celebrities such as Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, and he is not about to change his mind now he is ageing and injured.
UPDATE: Someone I know found this link to an excerpt in the Times of London,,,2092-2320105.html
Full disclosure: I have met Hughes, around the time he wrote about my work on the NEA and PBS issues rather critically, so I can't say he's exactly a friend--but he's a very good writer. I assigned his American Visions to my students in the American Culture course that I taught in Moscow. So I imagine this book is pretty interesting, too...You can buy a copy from Amazon by clicking here:

Blair Helps Shell

Tony Blair is lobbying Vladimir Putin to leave British-Dutch Shell Oil alone, in what is turning into an ugly business dispute over Sakhalin island wells:
Last week Russia's Ministry of Natural Resources suspended environmental permits allowing Shell and its partners - Mitsui and Mitsubishi of Japan - to operate the project, which is 80 per cent complete, and which has already secured contracts for a large proportion of the gas it is expected to produce. Sakhalin-2 has reserves totalling 4.5 billion barrels.

Downing Street, along with the Foreign Office and the Department of Trade and Industry, have made it clear they are not satisfied with the Russian government's explanation for the suspension.

Happy Ramadan!

According to Wikipedia, the month-long fast of Ramadan begins September 24th in Saudi Arabia and a day later elsewhere, ending October 23rd. It's not easy to fast for a month. When I taught in Uzbekistan, you could see the students who fasted were quieter and less energetic during class. Nights were noisier, as people ate. The Eid feast ending the fast was a big deal--the Indonesian Embassy slaughtered a bull, ordinary people slaughtered sheep.
Muslims believe that during Ramadan, the revelation of the Qur'an to Prophet Muhammad began. The entire month is spent fasting from dawn to dusk. Fasting during this month is often thought to figuratively burn away all sins. Furthermore, the Prophet Muhammad told his followers that the gates of Heaven would be open all the month and the gates of Hell would be closed. The first day of the next month is spent in great celebrations and rejoicings and is observed as the ‘Festival of Breaking Fast’ or `Eid ul-Fitr.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Melanie Phillips: Britain Must Do More

After Home Secretary John Reid's speech:
Whether this tentative throwing down of the cultural gauntlet in the face of creeping Islamisation does mark a more general shift away from the Whitehall strategy of appeasing extremism that has obtained until now remains to be seen. There is still a huge distance for the government to travel before it emerges from its state of collective denial. What is urgently needed, for example, is much more robust action against the fanatics doing the brainwashing. It is beyond belief that individuals are still able to parade on the streets of Britain calling for the murder of the Pope, or inciting hatred and murder against Jews or – in the words of the shiny new law on the statute book — glorifying terrorism. But despite such persistently high levels of paralysis within the establishment, there are now also signs in various quarters of a growing movement towards reality.

Tony Blair: L'Shanah Tovah!

From the British Prime Minister's Rosh Hashonah column in the Jerusalem Post:
As the latest report on anti-Semitism illustrates, the Jewish people have too often in history been victims of hatred. But they have also rightly inspired respect and admiration. We must not forget that the Jewish community - the oldest minority faith community in Britain - serves as an example of how identity through faith can be combined with the deep loyalty to the British nation.

As one of the children from the Naima Primary School wrote in the booklet presented to me at the thanksgiving service at Bevis Marks Synagogue in June, "Am I Jewish or English? This keeps me in confusion / I'm both, you see, that's my final conclusion / Judaism is my religion; I make it so, clearly / I adore England, I love it so dearly."

We shall continue to value our Jewish community and ensure that its members feel safe and security in Britain and know that they are an integral part of British society. We shall persist in the fight against anti-Semitism and racism, and our police will continue to work together with communities to ensure their safety and security.

The Jewish New Year is always an opportunity for renewal and new beginnings. My particular hope this year is that we can re-energize the peace process in the Middle East. But I would also like to say thank you to the Jewish community in Britain, which for the last three-and-a-half centuries has contributed enormously to Britain. I salute all they do for their community and country, their courage and endurance, their contribution and commitment to Britain, and Israel.

The Future of US Foreign Aid

Last night, on the PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer, Paul Solman hosted an interesting debate between economists William Easterly and Jeffrey Sachs. I'd say that Easterly won hands down. Sachs came across a lot like a used-car salesman, even had a blow-dry haircut and fancy suit. There's no transcript on the PBS website--unfortunately. But there is a link to RealAudio and mp3 versions, so you can hear the discussion for yourselves.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Shawn W Crispin on Thailand's Coup

It's monarchic networks, stupid! As Shawn W Crispin explains in his article on events in Bangkok for The Asia Times Online:
The mainstream media have widely misinterpreted the potent but peaceful protests as being galvanized by the Thaksin family's controversial US$1.9 billion tax-free sale of its 49% holdings in the Shin Corporation to Singapore's Temasek Holdings. To the contrary, the protests, which were later co-opted by various special-interest groups aligned against the government, were first galvanized and primarily sustained by the explosive claims first made by firebrand media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul that Thaksin was on particular occasions disloyal to the throne.

Democratic-minded Thais have since loyally donned royal-yellow shirts to demonstrate their support for the King, months after the elaborate June celebrations that marked the 60-year anniversary of his accession to the throne. Thaksin, who had stepped down as prime minister in April hours after a closed-door meeting with Bhumibol, surprised many when he resumed his caretaker role the following month to plan and preside over the high-profile royal celebrations.

The ARC's statement on Tuesday accusing Thaksin of lese majeste has brought the long-brewing tensions between the prime minister and monarch into the open. A groundbreaking academic paper that has recently made the rounds among Thailand's intelligentsia, written by Thailand expert Duncan McCargo, argues that Bhumibol had over the years maintained his authority over elected politicians through so-called "monarchic networks" of loyal royalists strategically positioned inside the bureaucracy, including the highest echelons of the military.

Monarchic networks

Although the paper remains controversial, what is apparent is that Thaksin did move to sideline a number of top government officials, which in effect diluted the palace's influence inside the bureaucracy and, as one palace source believes, aimed to consolidate his power in anticipation of the post-Bhumibol era.

For example, when Thaksin ordered in 2001 the sidelining of Kasem Watanachai and Palakorn Suwannarat, two well-known royalist bureaucratic officials, the King within hours appointed both of them to his Privy Council.

In 2002, two reporters for the Far Eastern Economic Review, including this correspondent, were threatened by Thaksin's government with lese majeste charges and deportation for a report signaling tensions between his government and the palace. More significant, the premier regularly wrangled with the Privy Council over annual military reshuffles in which Thaksin bid to promote his loyalists to pivotal positions in the top brass.

In 2003, he controversially promoted his relatively unknown cousin, General Chaisit Shinawatra, to the post of army commander - the country's most powerful military position - while elevating many other of his allies.

Tuesday's coup significantly came against the backdrop of another hotly contested scheduled military reshuffle in which Thaksin had controversially vied to elevate a clutch of his pre-Cadet Class 10 loyalists to the pivotal 1st Army Division. That reshuffle list reportedly brought Thaksin into conflict with senior members of the top brass and the Privy Council, and his refusal to back down from the proposed personnel changes appears to have been a major factor behind the coup.

According to sources familiar with the matter, Thaksin had attempted to elevate Major-General Prin Suwanthat to commander of the 1st Army Division, which crucially is charged with overseeing security in Bangkok. Thaksin also reportedly pushed to promote Prin's ally, Major-General Daopong Ratanasuwan, to take over the 1st Infantry. With assistant army commander Pornchai Kranlert in place, the reshuffle, if accomplished, would have given Thaksin an unbroken chain of command over crack troops responsible for Bangkok's security.

Notably, without his allies in the top posts, Thaksin's order from New York to impose a "severe state of emergency" and remove Sonthi from his position as army commander went unheeded.

Meanwhile, the military has promised to return power to the people as soon as possible, and judging by past royally orchestrated extra-constitutional interventions, it will honor that vow.

Thaksin's ouster will pave the way for important democratic reforms, which under the military's and monarchy's watch will broadly aim to dilute the power of the executive branch, limit the power of large political parties, and strengthen the independent checking and balancing institutions that Thaksin stands accused of undermining.

With the likely legal dissolution of Thaksin's powerful Thai Rak Thai political party, the nation now seems set to return to the wobbly coalition politics composed of several competitive middle-sized parties that characterized Thai democratic politics throughout the 1990s after the last coup in 1991 and the restoration of civilian rule after the bloody street protests of 1992.

More significant, perhaps, Thaksin's departure from the political scene will allow the Privy Council and the palace to plan without worries for a dynastic transition that maintains the centrality of the monarchy in Thai society. Thai democratic history shows that the country often takes one step backward to take two steps ahead, and Tuesday's royally backed coup is consistent with that tradition.
BTW, here's a link to Prof. Duncan McCargo's website (though I can't find his paper on monarchic networks listed).

Martin Kramer on Islamic Fascism

Martin Kramer argues that Islamism is a form of clerical fascism:
Any student of my generation first would have encountered the comparison in the work of the late Manfred Halpern, who spent nearly forty years as a politics professor at Princeton. Halpern grew up with fascism: born in Germany in 1924, he and his parents fled the Nazis in 1937 for America. He joined the war against the Nazis as a battalion scout in the 28th Infantry Division, and saw action in Battle of the Bulge and elsewhere. After Germany's surrender, he worked in U.S. Counterintelligence, tracking down former Nazis. In 1948 he joined the State Department, where he worked on the Middle East, and in 1958 he came to Princeton, where he did the same.

In 1963, Princeton published his Politics of Social Change in the Middle East and North Africa. For years, this book was the basic text in the field, and included the only academic treatment of Islamism, which no one much cared about at the time. Halpern labeled it "neo-Islamic totalitarianism," and this is how he described it:

The neo-Islamic totalitarian movements are essentially fascist movements. They concentrate on mobilizing passion and violence to enlarge the power of their charismatic leader and the solidarity of the movement. They view material progress primarily as a means for accumulating strength for political expansion, and entirely deny individual and social freedom. They champion the values and emotions of a heroic past, but repress all free critical analysis of either past roots or present problems.

Halpern continued:

Like fascism, neo-Islamic totalitarianism represents the institutionalization of struggle, tension, and violence. Unable to solve the basic public issues of modern life—intellectual and technological progress, the reconciliation of freedom and security, and peaceful relations among rival sovereignties—the movement is forced by its own logic and dynamics to pursue its vision through nihilistic terror, cunning, and passion. An efficient state administration is seen only as an additional powerful tool for controlling the community. The locus of power and the focus of devotion rest in the movement itself. Like fascist movements elsewhere, the movement is so organized as to make neo-Islamic totalitarianism the whole life of its members.

At the time, Halpern was a central figure in Middle Eastern studies, and his book—reprinted six times—appeared in every syllabus for the next fifteen years. His critical analysis of Islamism very much cut against the grain, at a time when Cold War strategists ardently wooed Islamists as allies against communism. In the 1970s, he walked away from the field, and his reputation within it slipped. But his rigorous treatment of Islamism stands up well, and his comparison of it with fascism was a serious proposition, made by someone who had seen fascism up close.

The comparison of Islamism with fascism also made sense to the late Maxime Rodinson, the preeminent French scholar of Islam, who pioneered the application of sociological method to the Middle East. As a French Jew born in 1915, Rodinson also learned about fascism from direct experience. He moved to Syria in 1940, but the Vichy regime deported his parents to Auschwitz, where they perished. Rodinson was a man of the left—in his early years, militantly so—but he took his thinking from no one.

In 1978, during Iran's revolution, enthusiasm for Islamism began to spread among his colleagues on the French left, who romanticized it as the vibrant, new anti-West. The French philosopher Michel Foucault become famously enamored of Ayatollah Khomeini. Rodinson decided to set things straight, in a long front-page article in Le Monde, targeted at those who "come fresh to the problem in an idealistic frame of mind." Rodinson admitted that trends in Islamic movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood were "hard to ascertain."

But the dominant trend is a certain type of archaic fascism (type de fascisme archaïque). By this I mean a wish to establish an authoritarian and totalitarian state whose political police would brutally enforce the moral and social order. It would at the same time impose conformity to religious tradition as interpreted in the most conservative light.

By "archaic," Rodinson referred to the religious component of the ideology, largely absent from European fascism.

I'm not sure whether Rodinson ever repeated this precise phrase, but putting it once on the front page of Le Monde was enough. He had accused his colleagues on the left of celebrating a form of fascism, from his perch at the pinnacle of Islamic scholarship. This especially rigorous critic of Eurocentric distortions of Islam didn't shy from the comparison of Islamism with fascism, at a moment as politically charged as the present one.

In 1984, Said Amir Arjomand, a prominent Iranian-American sociologist at SUNY-Stony Brook, picked up the comparison and ran with it. With a nod to Halpern, Arjomand pointed to "some striking sociological similarities between the contemporary Islamic movements and the European fascism and the American radical right.... It is above all the strength of the monistic impulse and the pronounced political moralism of the Islamic traditionalist and fundamentalist movements which makes them akin to fascism and the radical right alike."

In 1986, he took took the comparison even further, in an influential article for the journal World Politics entitled "Iran's Islamic Revolution in Comparative Perspective." Arjomand entertained a number of comparisons, but in the end settled on fascism as the best of them. Islamism (he called it "revolutionary traditionalism") and fascism "share a number of essential features," including "an identical transposition of the theme of exploitation" and a "distinct constitutive core."

Like fascism, the Islamic revolutionary movement has offered a new synthesis of the political creeds it has violently attacked. And, like the fascists, the Islamic militants are against democracy because they consider liberal democracy a foreign model that provides avenues for free expression of alien influences and ideas. (Also like the fascists, however, the Islamic militants would not necessarily accept the label of "antidemocratic.")

Arjomand's conclusion: "The emergence of an Islamic revolutionary ideology has been in the cards since the fascist era." (For much more of the comparison, go here. Arjomand later repeated the argument almost verbatim in his 1989 book The Turban for the Crown, Oxford.)

Joseph Hayes, 88

Hollywood screenwriter, fellow UCLA alumnus, and former teaching assistant to Professor Howard Suber (author of The Power of Film), Jefferson Dunbar emailed that Joseph Hayes, author of The Desperate Hours--Humphrey Bogart's classic 1955 film, directed by William Wyler--has passed away. Like Hayes, Dunbar is a writer, Hoosier, and Indiana University alum. You can read Hayes' New York Times obituary here.

How to Access Banned Blogs

I just found this website that serves as a gateway to banned blogs by following a link on my sitemeter hits counter. Somewhere in the world, for some reason, my blog seems to be banned--so someone got to it using

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Michael Freund on the Pope

From the Jerusalem Post blog (ht Daniel Pipes):
The question as to whether or not the Pope should have apologized is beside the point - it is a distraction from the main issue currently confronting Israel and the West, which is how to defeat the global jihadist movement. By focusing so much attention on this issue, while ignoring far more grievous incidents, the media is being selective and tendentious in its choice of what to report.

When Palestinian terrorists recently forced two abducted Fox News journalists to convert to Islam as a condition of their release, I don't recall the media pressing any senior Muslim clerics to apologize to Christians. When a Palestinian mob burned and destroyed the Tomb of Joseph in Shechem ( Nablus ) back in October 2000, journalists did not bang down the doors of Muslim sheikhs looking for expressions of regret and contrition.

And when Palestinian newspapers and television and filled with anti-Semitic vitriol on a near-daily basis, where is the demand for Muslim remorse?

So if the media were truly concerned about assuaging hurt feelings, they would do well to stop worrying so much about our radical Islamist foes, and start focusing more on the victims of their violence and intolerance.

Is the NY Times Censoring Books Critical of Islam?

A friend just sent us this email about the NY Times failure to review Oriana Fallaci's books on Islam prior to her death:
I just doublechecked. Times never reviewed any of Fallaci's post 2001 books.They also never reviewed Bruce Bawer, Claire Berlinski or Melanie Philips books about Islam and Europe. They didn't review Eurabia, either. But they did review Ian Buruma's new book, which said we have nothing to worry about.

Daniel Pipes on the Pope

Pipes writes in the NY Sun:
...the Muslim uproar has a goal: to prohibit criticism of Islam by Christians and thereby to impose Shariah norms on the West. Should Westerners accept this central tenet of Islamic law, others will surely follow. Retaining free speech about Islam, therefore, represents a critical defense against the imposition of an Islamic order.

Who Was Manuel II Palaiologos?

Wikipedia has more information on the Byzantine Emperor, who lived from 1350 to 1425, and has recently been cited by Pope Benedict:
Created despotēs by his father, the future Manuel II traveled west to seek support for the Byzantine Empire in 1365 and in 1370, serving as governor in Thessalonica from 1369. The failed attempt at usurpation by his older brother Andronikos IV Palaiologos in 1373 led to Manuel being proclaimed heir and co-emperor of his father. In 1376–1379 and again in 1390 they were supplanted by Andronikos IV and then his son John VII, but Manuel personally defeated his nephew with help from the Republic of Venice in 1390. Although John V had been restored, Manuel was forced to go as an honorary hostage to the court of the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I at Prousa (Bursa). During his stay, Manuel was forced to participate in the Ottoman campaign that reduced Philadelpheia, the last Byzantine enclave in Anatolia.

Hearing of his father's death in February 1391, Manuel II Palaiologos fled the Ottoman court and secured the capital against any potential claim by his nephew John VII. Although relations with John VII improved, the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I besieged Constantinople from 1394 to 1402. After some five years of siege, Manuel II entrusted the city to his nephew and embarked on a long trip to western courts (including those of the Kingdom of England, France, the Holy Roman Empire, and Aragon) to seek assistance against the Ottoman Empire.

Meanwhile an anti-Ottoman crusade led by the Hungarian King Sigismund of Luxemburg failed at the Battle of Nicopolis on September 25, 1396, but the Ottomans were themselves crushingly defeated by Timur at the Battle of Ankara in 1402. As the sons of Bayezid I struggled with each other over the succession in the Ottoman Interregnum, John VII was able to secure the return of the European coast of the Sea of Marmara and of Thessalonica to the Byzantine Empire. When Manuel II returned home in 1403, his nephew duly surrendered control of Constantinople and was rewarded with the governorship of newly recovered Thessalonica.

Manuel II Palaiologos used this period of respite to bolster the defenses of the Despotate of Morea, where the Byzantine Empire was actually expanding at the expense of the remnants of the Latin Empire. Here Manuel supervised the building of the Hexamilion (six-mile) wall across the Isthmus of Corinth, intended to defend the Peloponnese from the Ottomans.

Manuel II stood on friendly terms with the victor in the Ottoman civil war, Mehmed I (1402–1421), but his attempts to meddle in the next contested succession led to a new assault on Constantinople by Murad II (1421–1451) in 1422. During the last years of his life, Manuel II relinquished most official duties to his son and heir John VIII Palaiologos, and in 1424 they were forced to sign a peace treaty with the Ottoman Turks, whereby the Byzantine Empire undertook to pay tribute to the sultan. Manuel II died on 21 July 1425.

Anne Applebaum on the Pope

From The Washington Post(ht NRO)
I don't mean that we all need to rush to defend or to analyze this particular sermon; I leave that to experts on Byzantine theology. But we can all unite in our support for freedom of speech -- surely the pope is allowed to quote from medieval texts -- and of the press. And we can also unite, loudly, in our condemnation of violent, unprovoked attacks on churches, embassies and elderly nuns. By "we" I mean here the White House, the Vatican, the German Greens, the French Foreign Ministry, NATO, Greenpeace, Le Monde and Fox News -- Western institutions of the left, the right and everything in between. True, these principles sound pretty elementary -- "we're pro-free speech and anti-gratuitous violence" -- but in the days since the pope's sermon, I don't feel that I've heard them defended in anything like a unanimous chorus. A lot more time has been spent analyzing what the pontiff meant to say, or should have said, or might have said if he had been given better advice.

All of which is simply beside the point, since nothing the pope has ever said comes even close to matching the vitriol, extremism and hatred that pour out of the mouths of radical imams and fanatical clerics every day, all across Europe and the Muslim world, almost none of which ever provokes any Western response at all. And maybe it's time that it should: When Saudi Arabia publishes textbooks commanding good Wahhabi Muslims to "hate" Christians, Jews and non-Wahhabi Muslims, for example, why shouldn't the Vatican, the Southern Baptists, Britain's chief rabbi and the Council on American-Islamic Relations all condemn them -- simultaneously?

Maybe it's a pipe dream: The day when the White House and Greenpeace can issue a joint statement is surely distant indeed. But if stray comments by Western leaders -- not to mention Western films, books, cartoons, traditions and values -- are going to inspire regular violence, I don't feel that it's asking too much for the West to quit saying sorry and unite, occasionally, in its own defense. The fanatics attacking the pope already limit the right to free speech among their own followers. I don't see why we should allow them to limit our right to free speech, too.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Hitchens on the Pope

Christopher Hitchens says the Vatican is reaping what it has sowed (ht Andrew Sullivan):
The Muslim protesters are actually being highly ungrateful. When the embassies of Denmark were being torched earlier this year, Rome managed a few words of protest about … the inadvisability of profane cartoons. In almost every confrontation between Islam and the West, or Islam and Israel, the Vatican has either split the difference or helped to ventriloquize Muslim grievances. Most of all, throughout his address to the audience at Regensburg, the man who modestly considers himself the vicar of Christ on Earth maintained a steady attack on the idea that reason and the individual conscience can be preferred to faith. He pretends that the word Logos can mean either "the word" or "reason," which it can in Greek but never does in the Bible, where it is presented as heavenly truth. He mentions Kant and Descartes in passing, leaves out Spinoza and Hume entirely, and dishonestly tries to make it seem as if religion and the Enlightenment and science are ultimately compatible, when the whole effort of free inquiry always had to be asserted, at great risk, against the fantastic illusion of "revealed" truth and its all-too-earthly human potentates. It is often said—and was said by Ratzinger when he was an underling of the last Roman prelate—that Islam is not capable of a Reformation. We would not even have this word in our language if the Roman Catholic Church had been able to have its own way. Now its new reactionary leader has really "offended" the Muslim world, while simultaneously asking us to distrust the only reliable weapon—reason—that we possess in these dark times. A fine day's work, and one that we could well have done without.

Swedish Food Blogger Wins Election

The Swedish Blogger behind Anne's Food, who posts very nice recipes for baked goods, has been elected to local Parliament in the just-completed election.


Sam Harris: Liberals Must Fight Islamism

Opinion Journal's Best of the Web tipped us off to this interesting LA Times Oped by anti-religious writer Sam Harris:
In their analyses of U.S. and Israeli foreign policy, liberals can be relied on to overlook the most basic moral distinctions. For instance, they ignore the fact that Muslims intentionally murder noncombatants, while we and the Israelis (as a rule) seek to avoid doing so. Muslims routinely use human shields, and this accounts for much of the collateral damage we and the Israelis cause; the political discourse throughout much of the Muslim world, especially with respect to Jews, is explicitly and unabashedly genocidal.

Given these distinctions, there is no question that the Israelis now hold the moral high ground in their conflict with Hamas and Hezbollah. And yet liberals in the United States and Europe often speak as though the truth were otherwise.

We are entering an age of unchecked nuclear proliferation and, it seems likely, nuclear terrorism. There is, therefore, no future in which aspiring martyrs will make good neighbors for us. Unless liberals realize that there are tens of millions of people in the Muslim world who are far scarier than Dick Cheney, they will be unable to protect civilization from its genuine enemies.

Increasingly, Americans will come to believe that the only people hard-headed enough to fight the religious lunatics of the Muslim world are the religious lunatics of the West. Indeed, it is telling that the people who speak with the greatest moral clarity about the current wars in the Middle East are members of the Christian right, whose infatuation with biblical prophecy is nearly as troubling as the ideology of our enemies. Religious dogmatism is now playing both sides of the board in a very dangerous game.

While liberals should be the ones pointing the way beyond this Iron Age madness, they are rendering themselves increasingly irrelevant. Being generally reasonable and tolerant of diversity, liberals should be especially sensitive to the dangers of religious literalism. But they aren't.

The same failure of liberalism is evident in Western Europe, where the dogma of multiculturalism has left a secular Europe very slow to address the looming problem of religious extremism among its immigrants. The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists.

To say that this does not bode well for liberalism is an understatement: It does not bode well for the future of civilization.
Here's a link to Sam Harris's website.

Bill Donohue: Muslim Reaction Proves Pope's Point

Catholic League director Dr. William Donohue defends the Pope's comments in a recent press release:
“One of the points that the pope made in his speech at Regensburg University was the necessity of linking faith to reason. He warned that uncoupling the twin values had horrendous consequences, leading people of faith to resort to violence. Ironically, the violent reaction, and the calls for more violence, on the part of some Muslims underscores the pope’s point. The response of violence to non-violence is barbaric.

“In Somalia, Muslims were urged by a cleric to ‘hunt down’ the pope and kill him. ‘Whoever offends our Prophet Muhammad should be killed on the spot by the nearest Muslim,’ said Sheik Abubakar Hassan Malin. No doubt that this ‘man of God’ must be happy now that a nun was shot outside a children’s hospital in the nation’s capital. The Mujahideen Shura Council referred to the pope as ‘the worshipper of the cross,’ and pledged to ‘break the cross and spill the wine’ in the ‘house of the dog from Rome.’ The group, which posted its call to violence on the Internet, also said that God will enable Muslims ‘to slit their throats, and make their money and descendants the bounty of the mujahideen.’ Seven churches were firebombed in the West Bank and Gaza by gun-wielding Palestinians, using lighter fluid to burn the churches. And today, in the Pakistani-controlled section of Kashmir, Muslims took to the streets chanting ‘Death to the Pope,’ burning him in effigy.

“No wonder the pope has spoken against Turkey (where an official compared him to Hitler) joining the European Union. Not until Islam matures and Muslims come to reject the wanton destruction of innocent human life is there any chance of a real dialogue. The scene of Muslims calling for Jews and Christians to be murdered with impunity is all too common, as this latest demonstration of hate proves.”

Joshua Muravchik on Human Rights Watch's Silent Support for Genocide

From the Weekly Standard:
Most remarkably, Human Rights Watch did not take note of the contrasting goals of the combatants. Hezbollah's declared aim, in the words of its "spiritual" leader, Sheikh Fadlallah, is to "obliterate" Israel, while Israel's goal boiled down to not being obliterated. Human Rights Watch justifies this self-imposed moral blindness on the grounds that its touchstone is law, not morality. But why, then, was it deafeningly silent on the overriding legal issue that the conflict presented--namely, genocide?

International human rights law consists mostly of multi lateral treaties, called conventions. The most fundamental and important of these treaties, because it concerns the ultimate offense against human rights, is the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Presumably because of the weightiness of the issue and the overwhelming moral stakes, its enforcement provisions differ from those of most other human rights treaties. The usual treaty is simply a pledge of good behavior: Each signatory state promises to undertake or refrain from certain acts within its own jurisdiction. But the Genocide Convention enjoins its parties "to prevent and to punish" genocide wherever it may occur and whoever commits it. In other words, when a state signs, for example, the Convention on Racial Discrimination, it promises to stamp out this abomination within its borders, but when it signs the Genocide Convention, it in effect promises to go to war to stop someone else from committing genocide. (This explains the 1994 decision by the Clinton White House not to call the mass murder in Rwanda "genocide," for fear that this would obligate the United States to take action to stop it.)

The convention defines "genocide" as any of a variety of acts "committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such." Clearly, Hezbollah's announced goal of obliterating the state of Israel constitutes the intent to destroy a "national group," namely, Israelis. Even if one were to consider that destroying Israel is not the same as destroying the Jewish people, Hezbollah stands no less guilty under the terms of the convention. Some Hezbollah apologists might claim that the group intends only, as its spokesmen sometimes say, to drive the Jews "back" to Europe, i.e., that it intends "merely" ethnic cleansing, not genocide. But even if such a statement of intent is given credence, the reasoning is fatuous. Most Israeli Jews did not come from Europe. They either are native born or come from Arab countries where they would not be taken back and where they would find no safety if they were.

LeBoutillier: Bush Surrendered to Bin Laden

John LeBoutillier thinks the more Bush talks, the worse things get:
The President’s 9/11 speech commemorating the fifth anniversary of that tragic day points out why a solid majority of Americans no longer trust him - and believe his is already a ‘failed presidency.’

His pledge - dragged out of a dark, musty closet after several years of silence on the topic - to “get” Osama Bin Laden no matter how difficult it is - is no longer believable. And that is why GW Bush is not considered “honest and trust-worthy” by 58% of the American people in the most recent polling.

After Bill Clinton’s direct, finger-pointing lies to the American people, GW Bush had promised to “restore honor and dignity to the White House.”

In the view of many, he, too, has repeatedly lied to the American people about Iraq and WMD - and especially about how hard we are really trying to get Osama Bin Laden.

This Administration says one thing - and then does another. Case in point: while the President of the United States pledges to do everything possible to kill or capture Osama Bin Lden, his CIA disbanded the Bin Laden Unit which was created exclusively to hunt him down!

Yes, the White House tried to put a band-aid on that embarrassing revelation a few weeks ago by muttering some typical bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo about “shifting assets” and “changing lines of authority.”

But the facts speak for themselves: five years ago the president told the American people his administration would do everything possible to get Osama.

Five years later it is a fair question to ask: do you believe the President has woken up every day with getting Osama as his top priority? Even one of his top priorities? Or how about this question: which excited GW Bush, son of G HW Bush, more: getting Osama or getting Saddam?

Here is something we all need to remember: the President of the United States sets priorities and those priorities quickly filter down the bureaucracy and the chain of command. Everyone underneath the President wants to please him. So his top priority quicky becomes their top priority...

...1) When he got focused on Iraq in the summer of 2002, every single event and statement from all his subordinates was also focused on Iraq. Every speech, TV appearance, radio show - everything - was centered on toppling Saddam. Suddenly, Osama was the Forgotten Enemy. No mention of him...many months went by, measured by reporters, when Osama’s name was not even mentioned by GW Bush. Indeed, Mr. Bush had pivoted away from Osama and became obsessed with getting Saddam.

Bush’s own indifference to really bagging Osama filtered down and is reflected in the closing of the Osama CIA desk.

So Mr. Bush’s words in Monday night’s speech are indeed empty words - meaningless, useless statements.

Al Qaeda Responds to Pope's Call for Dialogue

From the International Herald Tribune:
CAIRO, Egypt Al-Qaida in Iraq and its allies warned Pope Benedict XVI on Monday that he and the West were "doomed" and proclaimed that the holy war would continue until Islam dominates the world.

The Mujahedeen Shura Council, an umbrella organization of Sunni Arab extremist groups that includes al-Qaida in Iraq, issued a statement on a Web forum about the pope's remarks last week on Islam. The authenticity of the statement could not be immediately independently verified.

"You infidels and despotic, we will continue our jihad (holy war) and never stop until God avails us to chop your necks and raise the fluttering banner of monotheism when God's rule is established governing all people and nations," the statement said.

US Recognizes Islamic Emirate of Waziristan

The US government, in the person of Richard Boucher, has surrendered to the Taliban in Pakistan, according to Bill Roggio:
As the Taliban flaunt their new-found power in Pakistan, the U.S. Department of State's [former] press secretary Richard Boucher has inexplicably endorsed the “Waziristan Accord”...

...Mr. Boucher has chosen to echo the Pakistani party line of Major General Shaukat Sultan, a government spokesman, and Northwest Frontier Province Governor Lt Gen. Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai, who has essentially thrown in his lot with the Islamists. Mr Boucher's second to last statement, “Talibanisation will not be allowed, in the area or in the cities near the tribal region,” is absurd on its face, as the recent release of over 2,500 Taliban and al-Qaeda, and their subsequent return to Wazriristan demonstrates. The Taliban has repeatedly violated the terms of the truce – only Pakistani government violations will lead to instability. Dadullah is clear the Afghan insurgency is being driven from safe havens in western Pakistan. And the Taliban's role in dictating the terms of the truce are clear.

Cyrus Nowrasteh on Why He Made The Path to 9/11

From The Wall Street Journal:
"The Path to 9/11" was intended to remind us of the common enemy we face. Like the 9/11 Report itself, it is meant to enable us to better defend ourselves from a future attack. Past is prologue, and 9/11 is merely another step in an escalating Islamic fundamentalist reign of terror. By dramatizing the step-by-step increase in attacks on America--all of which, in fact, occurred--we are better able to see the pattern and anticipate the future. That was the point of the series, its only intention. Call it the canary in the coal mine. Call it John O'Neill in the FBI.

Despite intense political pressure to pull the film right up until airtime, Disney/ABC stood tall and refused to give in. For this--for not buckling to threats from Democratic senators threatening to revoke ABC station licenses--Disney CEO Rober Iger and ABC executives deserve every commendation. Hence the 28 million viewers over two nights, and the ratings victory Monday night (little reported by the media), are gratifying indeed.

"The Path to 9/11" was set in the time before the event, and in a world in which no party had the political will to act. The principals did not know then what we know now. It is also indisputable that Bill Clinton entered office a month before the first attack on the World Trade Center. Eight years then went by, replete with terrorist assaults on Americans and American interests overseas. George W. Bush was in office eight months before 9/11. Those who actually watched the entire miniseries know that he was given no special treatment.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Somali Gunmen Kill Italian Nun in Pope Protest

From Reuters report:
MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Gunmen killed an Italian nun at a children's hospital in Mogadishu on Sunday in an attack that drew immediate speculation of links to Muslim anger over the Pope's recent remarks on Islam.

The Catholic nun's guard also died from pistol shots in the latest attack on foreign personnel in volatile Somalia.

The assassinations were a blow to Mogadishu's new Islamist rulers' attempt to prove they have pacified one of the world's most lawless cities since chasing out warlords in June.

The bodyguard died instantly, but the nun, from the Missionaries of the Consolation order based in Nepi near Rome, was rushed into an operating theatre after being hit by three or four bullets in the chest, stomach and back.

"She died in the hospital treatment room," doctor Ali Mohamed Hassan told Reuters. "She was shot outside the hospital, going to her house just across the gate."

A nun from the Missionaries order identified her as sister Leonella Sgorbati, born in 1940, in Piacenza in northern Italy. In Somalia since 2002, she trained nurses at the SOS Kindergarten hospital.

The Italian government said the nun and two other Italian nuns working with her had been repeatedly advised to leave Somalia, which was formerly ruled by Italy.

Sunday's death provoked scenes of mourning at the hospital.

"I was in class when I heard about six to eight shots, I ran out and saw sister bleeding," Fatuma Hassan, 21, told Reuters.

"We're so sad. It's a big loss."

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Pakistan Releases Daniel Pearl's Killers

The Daily Telegraph reports that Pakistan has released thousands of Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners, including killers of Daniel Pearl (ht Bill Roggio):
Five years after American-led coalition forces overthrew the Taliban during Operation Enduring Freedom, United States officials have been horrified to discover that thousands of foreign fighters detained by Pakistan after fleeing the battleground in Afghanistan have been quietly released and allowed to return to their home countries.

Pakistani lawyers acting for the militants claim they have freed 2,500 foreigners who were originally held on suspicion of having links to al-Qa'eda or the Taliban over the past four years.
On his blog, Bill Roggio says the Telegraph plays down the Daniel Pearl connection. So, Roggio lists the names of released prisoners directly involved in the Daniel Pearl plot:
Khalid Khawaja: "Khalid Khawaja is a retired squadron leader of the Pakistan Air Force who was an official in Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, in the mid 1980s. After he wrote a critical letter to General Zia ul-Haq, who ruled Pakistan from 1977 till 1988, in which he labeled Zia as hypocrite, he was removed from the ISI and forced to retire from the airforce. He then went straight to Afghanistan in 1987 and fought against the Soviets along side with Osama Bin Laden, developing a relationship of firm friendship and trust. Khalid Khawaja’s name resurfaced when US reporter Daniel Pearl was abducted and subsequently killed. Pearl had come to Pakistan and met Khalid Khawaja in order to investigate the jihadi network of revered sufi, Syed Mubarak Ali Gailani."

Mansour Hasnain: A member of the group that kidnapped and murdered Danny Pearl. He also was "a militant of the Harkat-al-Mujahedin group, is one of those who hijacked an Indian Airlines jet in December 1999 and forced New Delhi to release three militants -- including Omar and Azhar."

Mohammad Hashim Qadeer: "Suspected of being one of [Daniel] Pearl’s actual killers, was arrested in August 2005 and has notable al-Qaida links" and "ties with the banned extremist groups Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen and Jaish-e-Muhammad."

Mohammad Bashir: Another Pakistani complicit in the murder of Daniel Pearl.

Pope Protesters Firebomb West Bank Churches

The Jerusalem Post reports:
Two churches in the West Bank were hit by firebombs early Saturday, witnesses and clergy said, and a group claiming responsibility said the attacks were meant as a protest against comments by Pope Benedict XVI about Islam.

The firebombs left black scorch marks on the walls and windows of a Roman Catholic and an Anglican church in the West Bank city of Nablus. Father Yousef, a priest at the Anglican Church, said several firebombs hit the outside wall of the church.

In a phone call to The Associated Press, a group calling itself the "Lions of Monotheism" claimed responsibility. The caller said the attacks were carried out to protest the pope's remarks about Islam.

What the Pope Said

From the Guardian's transcript, it appears the talk was actually about the relation of reason and science to theology:
It is a moving experience for me to be back again in the university and to be able once again to give a lecture at this podium.

I think back to those years when, after a pleasant period at the Freisinger Hochschule, I began teaching at the University of Bonn.

That was in 1959, in the days of the old university made up of ordinary professors. The various chairs had neither assistants nor secretaries, but in recompense there was much direct contact with students and in particular among the professors themselves.

We would meet before and after lessons in the rooms of the teaching staff. There was a lively exchange with historians, philosophers, philologists and, naturally, between the two theological faculties.

Once a semester there was a dies academicus, when professors from every faculty appeared before the students of the entire university, making possible a genuine experience of universitas - something that you too, Magnificent Rector, just mentioned - the experience, in other words, of the fact that despite our specializations which at times make it difficult to communicate with each other, we made up a whole, working in everything on the basis of a single rationality with its various aspects and sharing responsibility for the right use of reason - this reality became a lived experience.

The university was also very proud of its two theological faculties. It was clear that, by inquiring about the reasonableness of faith, they too carried out a work which is necessarily part of the "whole" of the universitas scientiarum, even if not everyone could share the faith which theologians seek to correlate with reason as a whole.

This profound sense of coherence within the universe of reason was not troubled, even when it was once reported that a colleague had said there was something odd about our university: it had two faculties devoted to something that did not exist: God.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Has Pope Benedict Ignited a New Crusade?

That's the gist of charges by Islamic leaders reported in this article in Ha'aretz:
"We do not accept the apology through Vatican channels ... and ask him [Benedict] to offer a personal apology - not through his officials - to Muslims for this false reading [of Islam]," Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah told worshippers in his Friday prayers sermon.

Fadlallah's words were some of the strongest yet in response to the pontiff's remarks on Islam's prophet Mohammed and holy war, during a speech this week in Germany, which angered many in the Muslim world.

"We call on the Pope to carry out a scientific and fastidious reading of Islam. We do not want him to succumb to the propaganda of the enemy led by Judaism and imperialism against Islam," Fadlallah said.

Dmitri Simes on Bush's Torture Lobbying

From The National Interest:
So, here we are now in the United States, after a victory in the Cold War, where the President of the United States—and not just any President, but one who has made moralism his trademark—is asking Congress to approve legislation that would allow finding people guilty of serious crimes without revealing key evidence against them. Joseph Stalin used to say that “the [security] organs don’t make mistakes.” Do we really want to have a legal system making the same assumption about the CIA?

...It’s troubling that Mr. Bush does not accept as self-evident truth that torture is wrong and un-American. The argument that it may save innocent lives misses the point. Through the history of combat, most torture was not inflicted by pathological sadists, but rather by interrogators who wanted to get information that could save the lives of their troops and civilians. If the United States makes it acceptable to use “alternative techniques” against enemy combatants, it is a no-brainer that American soldiers and even ordinary Americans living abroad would be in great peril.

More broadly, in taking the positions he does on torture, President Bush should forget about the ideological struggle he has proclaimed to win the hearts and minds of Muslims. Since as a practical matter that the vast majority of those subjected to “alternative techniques” are likely to be Muslims—and in the age of the internet, their stories are bound to be quickly known all throughout the Islamic world—all Mr. Bush’s claims about his noble desires to make the world safe for democracy would sound hollow. Senator John McCain, Senator John Warner, Senator Lindsey Graham, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and retired Army General John Vessey are exactly right to insist on modifying the President’s military tribunal plans on the grounds of both security and morality. No improved homeland security procedures, no tighter screening of airline passengers, or even better examination of containers at American ports, can compensate for turning millions of Muslims into America’s enemies. Yet President Bush is proposing another step in that direction.

Agustin Blazquez on Kofi Annan's Cuban Visit

From Agustin Blazquez, this email message:
The "wonderful" United Nations at work!!!

Kofi Annan, the U.N. Secretary General visited with the totalitarian tyrant of Cuba, however he refused an invitation from the dissidents to meet with them in Havana. How thoughtful and sensitive to the over 100,000 Castro victims and about two million exiles worldwide. Agustin Blazquez, Sept. 15, 2006 ABIP

The Poetry International Web

Just found out about this international poetry website from Very Like a Whale (in our blogroll): Poetry International Web.

Nicholas Sarkozy Goes to Washington

The French minister of the interior, leading candidate in the French election, came to Washington and New York to demonstrate French solidarity with America, according to The Washington Post:
Sarkozy said the French remember American heroism in France's defense in two world wars. He also recalled that the United States and France have never gone to war, a situation that contrasts sharply with the violence that marked U.S.-British ties in early U.S. history.
He's certainly won my endorsement. Vive Sarkozy!

Orianna Fallaci

Michelle Malkin reports that Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci has died of cancer, aged 77. Here's the Reuters story.And here's a link to the AP. And here's the Times of London obit. An excerpt:
Fallaci, who had been ill with cancer for several years, died at a private clinic in her home city of Florence overnight, said Paolo Klun, of the RCS publishing group, which published Fallaci’s work. She had returned to Florence in the last days of her life after living for decades in New York. In recent years, she had gained a second notoriety for her vitriolic writings on Islam.

Small, beautiful, and extraordinarily tough, Fallaci was an Italian resistance fighter who became a war correspondent in the 1950s and 1960s, covering the Vietnam War and conflicts in the Middle East and Latin America. She was shot three times and beaten by Mexican police covering student riots in 1968.
I'd really like to see a TV movie-of-the-week about her life...

The Tin Star (1957)

Henry Fonda, Anthony Perkins, and Betsy Palmer star in The Tin Star, an Anthony Mann western that still resonates with today's war on terrorism. The tin star of the title is pinned to Tony Perkins' vest--but he's obviously not up to the job. Enter Henry Fonda as bounty-hunter Morg Hickman, riding into town with a dead body on his saddle to collect the reward for bringing back a criminal "Dead or Alive." It's a sophisticated film, about the meaning of justice. Neville Brand plays Bart Bogardus, a racist villian who has the town quaking--until Henry Fonda shows up. John McIntyre is Doc McCord, whose character represents what little goodness was left in the town before Fonda's arrival. The other players are all excellent, especially the cowardly and weak town elders--business leaders who mean to do the right thing, but when the going gets tough, cut and run. In keeping with Howard Suber's theme of American individualism in Hollywood movies, eventually Tony Perkins stands up to the town bully, and Henry Fonda rides off into the sunset, with his faith in himself restored, as well...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Will James Wolfensohn Move to Kazakhstan?

Shades of German Chancellor Schroeder working for Gazprom, the former World Bank chief has been offered a job in Almaty by Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbaev, according to
Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev has offered the post of advisor in a project to develop a regional financial center to the World Bank's former president James Wolfensohn, a financial expert said Thursday.

The Kazakh government is implementing the project in Almaty, the country's financial capital, to attract foreign investors and help Kazakh business enter world stock markets.

"The former president of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, met with the Kazakh president yesterday to discuss plans for the development of the center, and Wolfensohn was offered the post of advisor for financial development of the center in Almaty," said Arken Arystanov, chairman of the center's regulatory agency.

Russian Central Banker Murdered in Moscow

Andrei Kozlov, 41, who investigated money-laundering for Russia's Central Bank, was gunned down in the street yesterday, in what looked like a mob rubout. has the latest news updates:
Kozlov first joined the Soviet Union's central bank and rose to become the first deputy chairman of the Bank of Russia in 1997 before quitting for the private sector in 1999. He held several senior positions, including as chairman of Russian Standard Bank in 1999-2000, before returning to the Bank of Russia in April 2002.

The Central Bank said in a statement posted on its Web site, "He made a huge contribution to the reform of the country's banking system, making it more effective, transparent and stable."

And members of the banking community also praised Kozlov's efforts to ensure stability and clean up a system that was rocked by a default in 1998 that saw confidence plunge.

"He did a great deal to improve Russia's banking system, make it more transparent and conformant with international banking standards," said Mikhail Zadornov, a former finance minister and head of Vneshtorgbank 24, a subsidiary of the state-owned foreign trade bank Vneshtorgbank.

Daily Kommersant cited banking sources as saying Kozlov's activities had also targeted "gray schemes" used by importers to minimize customs duties and value-added tax payments, as well as by criminal and shadow groups to launder money.

Contract killings in Russia were frequent in the 1990s as gangsters sought to take control of lucrative assets in various fields, but a banking figure as senior as Kozlov has never been murdered before.

Ann Coulter on The Path to 9/11

Islamic jihadists attacked America year after year throughout the Clinton administration. They did everything but blow up his proverbial "bridge to the 21st century." Every year but one, Clinton found an excuse not to fight back.

The first month Clinton was in office, Islamic terrorists with suspected links to al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein bombed the World Trade Center.

For the first time ever, a terrorist act against America was treated not as a matter of national security, but exclusively as a simple criminal offense. The individual bombers were tried in a criminal court. (The one plotter who got away fled to Iraq, that peaceful haven of kite-flying children until Bush invaded and turned it into a nation of dangerous lunatics.)

In 1995 and 1996, various branches of the Religion of Peace — al-Qaida, Hezbollah and the Iranian "Party of God" — staged car bomb attacks on American servicemen in Saudi Arabia, killing 24 members of our military in all. Each time, the Clinton administration came up with an excuse to do nothing.

Despite the Democrats' current claim that only the capture of Osama bin Laden will magically end terrorism forever, Clinton turned down Sudan's offer to hand us bin Laden in 1996. That year, Mohammed Atta proposed the 9/11 attack to bin Laden.

Clinton refused the handover of bin Laden because — he said in taped remarks on Feb. 15, 2002 — "(bin Laden) had committed no crime against America, so I did not bring him here because we had no basis on which to hold him." Luckily, after 9/11, we can get him on that trespassing charge.

Although Clinton made the criminal justice system the entire U.S. counterterrorism strategy, there was not even an indictment filed after the bombing of either Khobar Towers (1996) or the USS Cole (2000). Indictments were not filed until after Bush/Ashcroft came into office.

Only in 1998 did the Clinton-haters ("normal people") force Clinton into a military response. Solely because of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Clinton finally lobbed a few bombs in the general direction of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

In August 1998, three days after Clinton admitted to the nation that he did in fact have "sex with that woman," he bombed Afghanistan and Sudan, doing about as much damage as another Clinton fusillade did to a blue Gap dress.

The day of Clinton's scheduled impeachment, Dec. 18, 1998, he bombed Iraq. This accomplished two things: (1) It delayed his impeachment for one day, and (2) it got a lot of Democrats on record about the monumental danger of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction.

Tony Blair on A Global Alliance for Global Values

The British Prime Minister's recent condemnation of "anti-American...madness" has made headlines around the world. We searched for the source, and found it in this pamphlet published by the UK Foreign Policy Centre, that you can download as PDF file,for free, by clicking this link. This excerpt indicates that Prime Minister Blair (or his speechwriters) may be on the same wavelength as Bernard Lewis, Daniel Pipes, or even Vladimir Putin:
But by the early 20th century, after renaissance, reformation and enlightenment had swept over the Western world, the Muslim and Arab world was uncertain, insecure and on the defensive. Some countries like Turkey went for a muscular move to secularism. Others found themselves caught between colonisation, nascent nationalism, political oppression and religious radicalism. Muslims began to see the sorry state of Muslim countries as symptomatic of the sorry state of Islam. Political radicals became religious radicals and vice versa.

Those in power tried to accommodate the resurgent Islamic radicalism by incorporating some of its leaders and some of its ideology. The result was nearly always disastrous. The religious radicalism was made respectable; the political radicalism suppressed and so in the minds of many, the cause of the two came together to symbolise the need for change. So many came to believe that the way of restoring the confidence and stability of Islam was the combination of religious extremism and populist politics. The true enemies became "the West" and those Islamic leaders who co-operated with them.

The extremism may have started through religious doctrine and thought. But soon, in offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood, supported by Wahhabi extremists and taught in some of the Madrassas of the Middle East and Asia, an ideology was born and exported around the world.

On 9/11 2001, 3,000 people were murdered. But this terrorism did not begin on the streets of New York. Many more had already died, not just in acts of terrorism against western interests, but in political insurrection and turmoil round the world.

Christopher Hitchens on the CIA's Responsibility for 9/11

Speaking on Australian television's Lateline, Hitchens called for the CIA to be abolished and its officials put on trial for their criminal negligence on 9/11:
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: The CIA has never got anything right. Actually, I think I know it's a trillion-dollar intelligence budget. Unconstitutionally, the CIA, which I agree with Senator Moynihan, should have been closed and abolished some years before now, doesn't have to reveal how much money it spends. But let's say it's a trillion dollars. The only American who was able to infiltrate the Taliban in that entire period was John Walker Lyndh, an al-Qaeda fancier from Marin County, California, and a drifter. The CIA has recently fired two or three dozen of its very few translators into a Arabic and Persian because they're homosexual. It is famously incompetent, corrupt and viral and it has never got anything right by either Iraq, Afghanistan or al-Qaeda. George Tenet on - this time, exactly this time five years ago, was watching the smoke with Senator David Boren, formerly of Oklahoma, and is quoted directly by Robert Woodward as having said, "Gee, I hope it's nothing to do with those guys in the flight schools in the mid-west," who the CIA knew about that and did nothing about. It's remarkable that the leaders of the CIA have not been impeached and put on trial for criminal and culpable negligence and this contribution to this fantastically mediocre Senate report is only the latest of their many failures. That's what I think about the CIA.

Individualism--Hollywood's True Religion

That's the argument made by Howard Suber, my former UCLA professor and author of the Power of Film, in a Huffington Post article entitled "Why They Hate Our Movies":
Societies that deny the power of the individual ironically tend to gravitate towards a single all-powerful individual who is allowed to hold the power of the nation in his hands. When this happens, there is no need to create heroic individuals in fiction because public squares, news broadcasts, postage stamps and flags all emblazon the image of the same hero on them.

Paradoxically, societies such as our own that trumpet a belief in the power of the individual seldom allow any single individual to acquire much power in real life. As popular culture in America demonstrates, there is an inverse rule that dictates that, the more power someone in real life has, the more there seems an urgent necessity to cut him or her down to size.

Individualist societies are uncomfortable with heroes in real life, and often don't know what to do with them. Perhaps, as a compensation, they produce a multitude of heroes in their movies and other popular media.

Everyone knows that American Individualism means that each person is expected to "look out for #1" -- himself. And yet, no memorable popular American film gives us a protagonist who is only concerned with himself throughout the film.

At the beginning of Casablanca, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) utters that famous line, "I stick my neck out for nobody" but by the end, he's given up the only person he's ever truly loved for "The Cause." In Gone With the Wind, Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), makes it clear early in the film that, "I'm the only cause I believe in," but he becomes a hero by running the Northern blockade to aid his countrymen, and joins the army even though he knows the Confederacy is doomed.

Early in It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey (James Stewart) tells his father that he wants to get out of the small town he lives in and scorns, but then he devotes his whole life to it. Early in On the Waterfront, Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) says, "Me? I'm with Me" and he advises Edie (Eva Marie Saint) that his philosophy is "Do it to them before they do it to you." By the end of the film, however, he is beaten nearly to death fighting on behalf of his fellow workers. Finally, early in The Godfather, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) says of the story he has just told his girlfriend, Kay (Diane Keaton), "That's my family, Kay -- it's not me." But Michael then joins his family's violent business in order to save his father's life.

The pattern here is clear: characters often begin their story being concerned only with themselves; but by the end, they sacrifice themselves for their family, community, or cause. This is not that different from those with orthodox religious or political faiths, who also believe in the importance of sacrifice.

The difference lies in where each thinks the most important power lies. When Orthodox Muslims talk about their plans, they usually say, Inshallah, just as Orthodox Jews say, "God Willing." For the religious, the power to make something happen lies outside individual will or control. But where in America's memorable movies, aside from Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ - about as orthodox a film as has ever been made - does a central character rely on God, Jesus, Mohammad, or some other force outside himself?

The sad fact is that, throughout history, and in much of the world today - even in so-called advanced societies - people do not feel they have power as individuals. It is no wonder, then, that they hunger for films that tell them that a single individual can matter, can be in control of his or her own destiny.

It is not surprising that those who believe the most important power lies in a deity, the state, or some idea should hate American movies. They are correct to see in them a competing belief system. What is surprising is that so many people who share the belief in the power of the individual fail to realize how powerful it is.
You can buy Howard Suber's book from here:

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Darfur--Not Genocide?

That's the argument of Gerald Prunier's book, Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide, reviewed by Yehudit Ronen in Middle East Quarterly. Instead, it is more accurate to call the situation mass murder in the midst of civil war:
Prunier claims that the killing in Darfur should not be seen as genocide, since the aims of the Sudanese government were not to eradicate a people but rather to carry out the brutal suppression of what was seen as an existential threat. Whatever term one uses, however, the carnage and misery unleashed by Khartoum and its Janjaweed cohorts remains just as horrific.

Washington's New Mayor

Councilman Adrian Fenty won the Democratic primary for Mayor yesterday. Since Washington, DC has essentially a one-party system (Democratic), that means he'll be elected Mayor come November. Since I'm a registered independent, I couldn't vote for him in the primary. But I'll do so in the election. I met him about a year ago at a crosswalk on Connecticut Avenue near the Chevy Chase Circle Safeway, where the city put in a flag system to protect pedestrians. It doesn't really work and he told me he'd try to get money for a stoplight (I think he said it costs $100,000). Now that Fenty's the new mayor, I hope it happens. His primary campaign was very well-organized. The student precinct walkers (one from DC and one from Connecticut, via Oberlin College) had Blackberrys, clipboards, and all sorts of organizational tools. They asked us if there was anything that needed doing. Then, Councilman Fenty took care of a dead tree on our street very quickly. He's promised to be the kind of mayor who gets things done. Hope he lives up to his promises...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My friend from New York Magazine recommended this link to, starring Robert Wright and Mickey Kaus talking about current events.

The First Published Profile of John O'Neill

My friend told me over the phone today today, after seeing The Path to 9/11, that he assigned the first story ever published about former FBI agent John O'Neill while working as an editor at New York Magazine. He pointed out the irony that Osama killed both Massoud in Afghanistan, and O'Neill, who was working in the World Trade Center on 9/11. Meanwhile, Osama is still at large. Robert Kolker's article, titled "O'Neill v. Osama," is available online, here:
Most of the victims of the September 11 attack seemed tragically random -- they were just going to work. Not John O'Neill. Until last August, he'd been the FBI's top expert on Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, a lead investigator of the USS Cole and African embassy bombings. Leaving the Bureau in frustration, he'd taken a job he thought of as retirement: World Trade Center security chief. But when he died it became clear: His own life contained as many mysteries as his enemy's.

David Horowitz Denies Path to 9/11 Conspiracy Charge

He responds to Max Blumenthal's accusations at
I've been amused over the past few days to see how powerful I am and to see how rapidly a fiction can be concocted and travel around the leftwing web, but not actually surprised. The author of this fiction, along with many others is little Max, whose posts begin on his blog but don't end there. Huffington Post, Yahoo News, Indymedia and a rash of others spread each and every fantasy he comes up with . . . In fact, I never heard of David Cunningham or his group before reading about them in Max's hilarious column. I didn't know about "Path to 9/11" until after it was made. In the 18 or so years I have been active in the Hollywood community I have never attempted to "discredit mainstream film and TV production" and in fact formed coalitions with liberals in the industry to defend films against censoship attempts like the V-Chip and critics like Joe Lieberman, Tipper Gore and many conservatives along with them.

This is just one of many of attempts by the left to create a right-wing caricature they can attack. Apparently the real David Horowitz -- a free speech liberal, a supporter of artistic freedom in Hollywood and academic freedom in the university -- is too much of a challenge for their feeble minds to handle.

A Swing and a Miss, for President Bush

President Bush interrupted ABC's broadcast of The Path to 9/11 last night. Despite what sounded like some phrases by Peggy Noonan (words like "cherish"), and what a friend of mine pointed out were self-conscious imitations of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address ("rededicate"), Bush had nothing new to say. He couldn't name the enemy America is fighting. He couldn't explain the link between Iraq and Bin Laden (Hint: if UBL could get away with 9/11, why wouldn't Saddam try something, too?). He was wrong on the "clash of civilizations" argument--what's the point of dissing Samuel Huntington when you clearly don't have anything better to offer. His "war for civilization" didn't tell us who was fighting on which side. How can Americans recognize those fighting "against civilization"?

Lest this seem nitpicking, I'll note that the overall context served to make Bush's speech look like a scene in The Path to 9/11, so that when the final grades from the 9/11 commission appeared in the end titles--giving the Bush administration several D's and an F--they also read like Bush's grade card for the President's Address to the Nation....

Was David Horowitz Behind The Path to9/11?

The Nation's Max Blumenthal claims there was a Christian conspiracy headed by ex-communist David Horowitz to get The Path to 9/11 broadcast on ABC:
Iger now bears ultimate responsibility for authorizing the product of a well-honed propaganda operation--a network of little-known right-wingers working from within Hollywood to counter its supposedly liberal bias. This is the network within the ABC network. Its godfather is far-right activist David Horowitz, who has worked for more than a decade to establish a right-wing presence in Hollywood and to discredit mainstream film and TV production. On this project, a secretive evangelical religious right group long associated with Horowitz, founded by The Path to 9/11's director, David Cunningham, that aims to "transform Hollywood" in line with its messianic vision, has taken the lead.

BTW, the worst part of the broadcast here in DC were CYA notices from WJLA crawling across the top of the screen saying that the station was not responsible for the views aired in the program. The second worst were the title cards explaining that the dramatization was a dramatization. It looked legalistic, bureaucratic, and cowardly--just like something those bureaucrats responsbible for 9/11 depicted in the film would come up with. America can't win until the nation stops apologizing for trying to do so.

IMHO, Although not bad--and admittedly, David Cunningham is no Frank Capra--the show really pulled its punches on both Bush and Clinton. The second episode didn't depict Bush flying all over the country, obviously not knowing what the heck had happened. This didn't exactly please those of us who lived in Washington, DC at the time. On the other hand, the show did a pretty good job of making the point that overpaid nitwits in suits with lots of fancy toys simply cannot defeat highly motivated fanatics, that the US betrayed Massoud, that the immigrant customs officer in Florida who turned back one hijacker--despite being told to lay off the Saudis (and which office in Washington did that come from?)--as well as the wife of the Flight 93 passenger who told him what was going on, did more for the US than all of the CIA, FBI, and National Security staffs put together. The media came out OK, not surprisingly, given that it was based in part on ABC News correspondent John Miller's book, The Cell. One good point in the film: that when the going gets tough in Washington, all they can think of is to call a meeting, or a videoconference. Cheney looked helpless, Rice looked hapless, Richard Clarke seemed to be a phony blowhard, etc.

Tellingly, CIA chief George Tenet, the villian of Act I, was still around working for Bush in Act II--how come?

Subtext: We're still in deep trouble.

The only politician who came off well in this story was my favorite: New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who wouldn't let the FBI shut down New Year's 2000 celebrations. Good call.

Now, can we survive as a nation until 2008?