Thursday, May 31, 2007

PBS Newshour on Robert Zoellick

Someone I know said this discussion of Robert Zoellick, President' Bush's nominee for head of the World Bank, on the PBS Newshour, moderated by Ray Suarez, was interesting, so here's a link.
RAY SUAREZ: What do people understand the purpose of the World Bank to be?

SEBASTIAN MALLABY: In a very general sense, everyone says -- and that's right -- the World Bank's purpose is to relieve poverty. The difficulty comes when you try to define, what do you do to relieve poverty? Because it's a multifaceted problem.

You know, more roads in some areas in rural Africa can help you to get farm goods out to the market, and that can relieve poverty. Or it could be that you need to have more clinics, so people are well enough to actually work. Or perhaps they need education.

Or maybe the macroeconomic environment around all these things need to be right, because if you've got hyperinflation, no one can get out of poverty. Or maybe it's corruption. So there are all these different issues under the heading of poverty relief, and that's where I think Zoellick needs to pick a theme, partly just for sort of inspiring people to believe in it. You can't just say, "I'm for everything." You've got to say, "Here's where I'm trying to focus. Here is my vision."

RAY SUAREZ: Well, Professor, with more than 180 members, does an answer to the question, "What is the World Bank for in 2007?" Does the answer depend on who you ask?

KENNETH ROGOFF: Absolutely. I mean, it's an incredible muddle. The World Bank is a sponge for every do-good idea to relieve poverty. I think Sebastian is absolutely right that the next president, Zoellick, needs to regain its focus.

They haven't just experienced mission creep; they've had mission sprawl. They're just all over the place in religion, in gender and development, health and development, education development, microstructure and development, all good things, and there are dozens others, but they simply can't do it all. They need to have more focus.

And I think that the top priority for Zoellick is very quickly to get an idea, "In five years, where do I want the bank to be? What is my vision?" And try to execute it in a way that brings everybody on board and doesn't just try to, you know, do it by himself, but he has to think about it.
Zoellick is an alumnus of the same college that someone I know and yours truly attended--Swarthmore College, a small Quaker liberal arts school, where he graduated with "Highest Honors" a few years ahead of us. He was already known for being the smartest student on campus. One legendary story has it that at his Honors examination, he ran out of time. When the proctor asked for his blue book, he snapped that he wasn't finished yet--and the proctor allowed him to take more than the alloted hours. Good for him.

Yet, given his "Highest Honors" degree from Swarthmore, and his track record as aide to James Baker and other Bushies, one might predict that Zoellick would make an intelligent and hardworking head of the World Bank (Swarthmore traditionally churns out grinds to do the scutwork for Harvard and Yale graduates, which is where George W. Bush went to school). On the other hand, his very Swarthmore success indicates that Zoellick probably would make a rather unimaginative and conventional president for the international lending institution...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

James Taranto Talks To Benjamin Netanyahu

I ask Mr. Netanyahu if the U.S. made a mistake in liberating Iraq. He says it did not: "I think it was right to bring down Saddam Hussein, who murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent people." But he brings the discussion back to Iran. "It would have been prudent to use the rapidity of success of victory--that is, the fact that the U.S. had accomplished in three weeks what Iran couldn't accomplish in 10 years and a million casualties--to deliver a stern warning to Iran to dismantle its nuclear program. In a way, this was achieved without design with Libya's nuclear program that had been much more advanced than anyone understood. . . . That same leverage could have been used on Iran."

If Mr. Netanyahu seems preoccupied with Iran, it is not because he is dismissive of other threats, including al Qaeda. "Of the two, Iran is more dangerous, because the Sunni militants so far have not gotten their hands on a nuclear weapons program. . . . If the Taliban were to topple the current regime in Pakistan and get their hands on nuclear weapons, I would say they're more dangerous than Iran, or equally dangerous."

He sees al Qaeda as existing on a continuum with Tehran's Shiite fundamentalists: "They're now competing with each other on the soil of Lebanon to gain paramountcy--al Qaeda in the north and Hezbollah in the south. But both of them practice suicide attacks, both of them have the cult of death, and both of them are absolutely uninhibited in the use of force against their chosen enemies. Now, is there a difference? Yeah, I suppose. I think one wants to send us back to the ninth century and one wants to send us back to the seventh century." The Shiite extremists, Mr. Netanyahu quips, "give us two centuries extra."

Yet he is careful to distinguish between "militant Islam" and the broader Muslim population. "Militant Islam condemns and intimidates and kills Muslims before anyone else. That's what they're about. The infidels are defined first as the renegades of Islam--that is, Muslims who do not practice some . . . pre-medieval religious creed that is hopelessly antiquated for most Muslims and most Arabs."

Because of the militants' power to intimidate and the weak civic institutions in Arab societies, Mr. Netanyahu is wary of pushing those societies too quickly toward electoral democracy. He thinks it was a mistake to allow Hamas to compete in last year's Palestinian voting. "But I think that one element that should be expedited as rapidly as possible is the democratization of markets. I think that expanding economic freedom is just as important--in some cases more important--in moderating societies than accelerated moves to political freedoms without the proper democratic institutions."

I ask if he can point to any positive examples in the Arab world. "How about Dubai? How about the Gulf states? What you see there is quite remarkable. It also tells you that Arabs and Muslims are not inherently or genetically programmed to oppose free markets. That's just nonsense. With the right system of incentives and economic freedoms, you see this explosive growth that I, frankly, admire. . . . We always said that if we have peace, then we'll have prosperity. It may be the other way around."

Christopher Hitchens on Jimmy Carter

From Slate:
Leave aside the sophomoric slackness that begins a broken-backed sentence with the words "as far as" and then cannot complete itself. "Worst in history," as the great statesman from Georgia has to know, has been the title for which he has himself been actively contending since 1976. I once had quite an argument with the late Sen. Eugene McCarthy, who maintained adamantly that it had been right for him to vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980 for no other reason. "Mr. Carter," he said, "quite simply abdicated the whole responsibility of the presidency while in office. He left the nation at the mercy of its enemies at home and abroad. He was the worst president we ever had." ...

...Here is a man who, in his latest book on the Israel-Palestine crisis, has found the elusive key to the problem. The mistake of Israel, he tells us (and tells us that he told the Israeli leadership) is to have moved away from God and the prophets and toward secularism. If you ever feel like a good laugh, just tell yourself that things would improve if only the Israeli government would be more Orthodox. Jimmy Carter will then turn his vacantly pious glare on you, as if to say that you just don't understand what it is to have a personal savior.

In the Carter years, the United States was an international laughingstock. This was not just because of the prevalence of his ghastly kin: the beer-sodden brother Billy, doing deals with Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi, and the grisly matriarch, Miz Lillian. It was not just because of the president's dire lectures on morality and salvation and his weird encounters with lethal rabbits and UFOs. It was not just because of the risible White House "Bible study" sessions run by Bert Lance and his other open-palmed Elmer Gantry pals from Georgia. It was because, whether in Afghanistan, Iran, or Iraq—still the source of so many of our woes—the Carter administration could not tell a friend from an enemy. His combination of naivete and cynicism—from open-mouthed shock at Leonid Brezhnev's occupation of Afghanistan to underhanded support for Saddam in his unsleeping campaign of megalomania—had terrible consequences that are with us still. It's hardly an exaggeration to say that every administration since has had to deal with the chaotic legacy of Carter's mind-boggling cowardice and incompetence.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Martin Kramer on the Wilson Center's Iran Hostage Crisis

From Martin Kramer's Sandstorm article about Haleh Esfandiari:
The reinvention of the Wilson Center began in 1999, when Lee Hamilton took over. Coming straight from 35 years in Congress, he knew how to manage the critics on the Hill. But more important, he came with a vision of a different kind of Center, one closely attuned to informing foreign policy debates. When I returned to the Wilson Center as a public policy fellow in 2000, the Hamilton era was well underway. The Center had moved into spanking new quarters, and every program had been realigned with the mission of policy relevance. Personally, I liked it, and it's where I wrote about a third of my book Ivory Towers on Sand--to be precise, the chapter on the policy irrelevance of Middle Eastern studies.

The Wilson Center today is a privileged conduit between government and academe, and it's now urgent to defend that space against its enemies, foreign and domestic. Abroad, there are Middle Eastern governments like Iran's, which cannot imagine an institution like the Wilson Center as anything but a front for espionage and subversion. But the academic left in America is as doctrinaire as Iran's fanatics in shunning the United States government as though it were the Great Satan incarnate.

An example is Ervand Abrahamian, an Iran specialist at the City University of New York, who said this in response to Esfandiari's arrest: “It has to be stressed that scholars such as Haleh have nothing to do with U.S. policy of ‘regime change.' We academics need to distance ourselves from policy makers in D.C.” Abrahamian is right about Esfandiari--she hasn't been an advocate of regime change--but he's utterly ignorant of the Wilson Center's mission, which is to engage policy makers on a continuous basis. If Wilson Center fellows distanced themselves from policy makers, there would be no point in the taxpayer maintaining them in Washington. The Center's fellows and staff could be dispersed to the universities, where they could talk to one another and to Abrahamian--on someone else's tab.

So the Esfandiari affair is really about this: her right, and the right of all scholars, to enjoy open and private contacts with U.S. policy makers and U.S. public officials. This too is an element of academic freedom, and it's precisely this element that's under assault by Iran in Esfandiari's case. This is why I'm pleased to see the likes of the Middle East Studies Association rising to Esfandiari's defense: inadvertently, no doubt, they're defending the mission of the Wilson Center, and the right of every scholar to enter and inhabit that space between academe and government, without being accused, Iran-style, of espionage, collusion, or complicity.

One spin on the Esfandiari case actually undermines that right. Robin Wright of the Washington Post, who can be relied upon to get everything wrong, described the arrest of Esfandiari and other "soft hostages" as "an Iranian reaction to the Bush administration's $75 million program to promote democracy in Iran." The Wilson Center even felt compelled to note that it doesn't receive funding from that pot. Come on. For nearly thirty years, Iran's leaders have lived in the certainty that Washington is running a massive covert operation to subvert them, one that makes $75 million look like chump change. If they've decided you're a part of the plot, one more proof against you is that you don't get a share of the overt money. So repeat after me: It's not Bush's fault. If you split the responsibility for Esfandiari's fate, you're helping to seal it, and undercutting everyone else's academic freedom.

So what is to be done by the rest of us, beyond signing petitions? (I signed this one.) I don't support the idea of an academic boycott of Iranian scholars, but Iran's official representatives are another matter. For example, there's Iran's smooth-talking ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who's finishing his stint in New York. He did the rounds of universities and think tanks this spring, even as Iran barred Esfandiari from leaving his country. Zarif spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations (March 27), the Nixon Center (March 29), and Columbia University's Middle East Seminar (May 2), and I saw him perform via video link at Harvard University's Belfer Center (May 8--the day Esfandiari was thrown into prison). No academic institution or think tank should agree to host him, his successor, or any other Iranian official until Esfandiari is freed. Collegial solidarity demands no less, and allows no exceptions.

Beyond that, I recommend doing what I've just done: make a gift to the Wilson Center, from the sidebar here. You don't have to agree with everything it's sponsored over the last few years to cherish what it legitimizes: scholarship in the nation's service.

Finally, as someone who's appreciated the transformation Lee Hamilton has wrought at the Wilson Center, I'd like him to reassure the American people, as well as Ahmadinejad, that the Wilson Center won't depart from the course he set for it. Indeed, even as Esfandiari languishes in prison, it's incumbent on the Wilson Center to sponsor debate and analysis of what her arrest tells us about the situation in Iran (nothing good, I believe), and convey that to officials in Congress and the Executive Branch.

May Haleh soon be among us again.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Amnesty International Persecutes Israel

According to Gerald Sternberg in the New York Sun, while the NGO turns a blind eye to Islamist extremist terrorism, Amnesty International refuses Amnesty to the Jewish State (ht lgf):
For many journalists, diplomats, and political activists, Amnesty International is considered to be a highly reliable and objective source of information and analysis on human rights around the world. But the halo that surrounds its reports and campaigns is beginning to fray, as the evidence of political bias and inaccuracy mounts.

Recently, the Economist, published in Britain, noted that "an organisation which devotes more pages in its annual report to human-rights abuses in Britain and America than those in Belarus and Saudi Arabia cannot expect to escape doubters' scrutiny." Other critics, including law professor at Harvard, Alan Dershowitz, and the U.S.-based Capital Research Center, have been more pointed, providing evidence of Amnesty's systematic bias and reports based largely on claims by carefully selected "eyewitnesses" in Colombia, Gaza, and Lebanon.

As Amnesty releases its annual report on human rights for 2006, amid highly choreographed public relations events, and repeating the familiar condemnations of Israel and America, NGO Monitor has also published a report on Amnesty's activities in the Middle East. The result is not a pretty picture for those clinging to the "halo effect."

Using a detailed and sophisticated qualitative model for comparing relative resources devoted to the different countries, this report clearly shows that in 2006, Amnesty singled out Israel for condemnation of human rights to a far greater extent than Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria, Egypt, and other chronic abusers of human rights.

During the year, Amnesty issued 48 publications critical of Israel, compared to 35 for Iran, 2 for Saudi Arabia, and only 7 for Syria. Many of the attacks directed at Israel took place during the war with Hezbollah, but this terror group and state-within-a-state also got relatively little attention from Amnesty.

Furthermore, as Amnesty has almost no professional researchers, many of the "factual" claims in these reports were provided by "eyewitnesses," whose political affiliations and credibility can be only guessed. And the language used in these reports also reflects an obsessive and unjustified singling out of Israel, with frequent use of terms such "disproportionate attacks," "war crimes," and "violations of international humanitarian law."

And while Amnesty International was founded to fight for the freedom of political prisoners, the officials in charge of this organization failed to issue a single statement calling for the release of the Israeli soldiers that were kidnapped by Hezbollah and Hamas, and who have not been heard from since their illegal capture.

These and many other details published in NGO Monitor's report on Amnesty provide further evidence that this powerful NGO has lost its way, and is no longer a "respectable" or credible human rights organization.

Washington Post on PBS Censorship of "Islam v. Islamists"

From Paul Farhi's story in today's paper:
In an uprecedented move, the agency that oversees public broadcasting has stepped in to arrange distribution for a TV documentary on Islam that PBS had rejected as unworthy.

The federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting helped find a new distributor for "Islam vs. Islamists: Voices From the Muslim Center" after seven Republican members of Congress and one Democrat demanded that CPB ask PBS to air it or release it elsewhere.

The 52-minute film contends that moderate Muslims are being intimidated by radical Islamists in several Western democracies, including the United States.

The dispute over the film thrust CPB into the middle of a politically charged affair. The film's producers claim that PBS and its producing station, WETA, both of Arlington, are kowtowing to conservative Muslims in "suppressing" the film. In an interview yesterday, Frank Gaffney Jr., one of the film's executive producers, said PBS and WETA were predisposed against it on personal and ideological grounds.

"I am a person they regard as a conservative, and they regard the airwaves as a liberal domain," said Gaffney, a former Reagan administration defense official who now runs the Center for Security Policy.

WETA and PBS officials denied this yesterday. "We had no problem with the concept or ideology," said WETA spokeswoman Mary Stewart. "It was about filmmaking and documentary standards. We had no problem with the argument laid out in the film."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Andrew McCarthy Responds to Bob Kerrey on Iraq

In National Review:
Senator Kerrey is a principled liberal. Only a principled liberal could so vividly capture the cynical irony here. Though conceived as vital to our national security, the Iraqi chapter in the war on terror has been conducted, since Saddam’s expulsion, as a Wilsonian experiment. It assumes — against all reason and experience — that we’re all one human family, that everyone craves freedom, that everyone would use freedom the same enlightened way, and that we, the superpower, have a special obligation to make it happen. If the experiment were being conducted by liberals, rather than by George W. Bush, Democrats would be its staunchest defenders (and conservatives its wariest skeptics).

Iraq, however, is a frustrating slog precisely because it is an exercise in democracy building, not mere jihadist repulsion. Sen. Kerrey wants to have both Bush’s grandiose democracy project and Webb’s Spartan terrorist smacking … all without occupying anyone. It can’t be done.

We want, of course, to believe that we can democratize Islamic radicals into submission — it’s much more congenial than killing them or cooling their jets in Guantanamo Bay so we can get the intelligence needed to kill them before they kill us. But it’s a fantasy. The cold record shows that jihadists are much better at using democracy to pursue their ends than democracy is at quelling jihadist pathologies.

But let’s say you can’t or won’t believe that. Let’s ignore that jihadists planned 9/11 for months in the safety of Germany, Spain, and the United States. Let’s pretend that they haven’t attacked New York, Virginia, Madrid, and London because democratic freedoms made those places easy operating environments. The stubborn fact remains: If democracy is going to be your counterterrorism strategy, you’d better be ready to occupy. To occupy for decades in places where it is anything but clear that real democratic culture will take root despite your best efforts.

Senator Kerrey is to be congratulated for admonishing his party to stop denigrating a war its traditions counsel supporting. But if the politicizing ever does end, some adult reality will need facing — and not just by Democrats.

Much of the Islamic world does not want true democracy — and that’s by no means just the militants. If we really respected these Muslim millions, as we say we do, we’d concede that they’re not ignorant. They have, instead, made a different choice. They have chosen a submissive path, anathema to our sensibilities. If democracy is why we fight, then long occupation will necessarily be the price. And the attendant blood and treasure cry out for the compelling case no one has yet made: The case that democracy is likely to defeat jihadism. Faith may move mountains, but it is not a national-security strategy.

On the other hand, if occupation is a price we have neither the cause nor the will to pay, we must shun democracy imposition. Our finite attention should instead be focused on determining what measures are necessary to eradicate jihadist networks, and on bluntly considering how such steps square with our regnant international law infrastructure — the legacy of a world that no longer exists … if it ever did.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Oregon Public Broadcasting to Distribute Islam v. Islamists

This just in:
Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) announced on May 23 that it will distribute Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center to public television stations across the country under an agreement reached between The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and Oregon Public Broadcasting.

"Islam vs. Islamists addresses very difficult issues," said Steve Bass, president and CEO of Oregon Public Broadcasting. "We are pleased to facilitate a dialogue on one of the central issues in the world today in conjunction with the broadcast.”

"As stewards of the investment in public broadcasting, this fulfills our responsibility to the taxpayer," said Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Some OPB history:

OPB provides free access to programming for children and adults which is designed to give voice to community and connects Oregon and its neighbors to illuminate a wider world. Every week, over 1.5 million people tune in to or log on to OPB's Television, Radio and Internet services. OPB is one of the largest producers and presenters of national television programming through PBS, and is also a member station of NPR, Public Radio International (PRI), and American Public Media (APM). The OPB Web site is
Washington Times story here.

Bob Kerry: Iraq & the Democrats

From the Wall Street Journal:
American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq's middle class has fled the country in fear.

With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do? If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power. American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible should remember this: Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy.

The key question for Congress is whether or not Iraq has become the primary battleground against the same radical Islamists who declared war on the U.S. in the 1990s and who have carried out a series of terrorist operations including 9/11. The answer is emphatically "yes."

This does not mean that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11; he was not. Nor does it mean that the war to overthrow him was justified--though I believe it was. It only means that a unilateral withdrawal from Iraq would hand Osama bin Laden a substantial psychological victory.

Those who argue that radical Islamic terrorism has arrived in Iraq because of the U.S.-led invasion are right. But they are right because radical Islam opposes democracy in Iraq. If our purpose had been to substitute a dictator who was more cooperative and supportive of the West, these groups wouldn't have lasted a week.

Finally, Jim Webb said something during his campaign for the Senate that should be emblazoned on the desks of all 535 members of Congress: You do not have to occupy a country in order to fight the terrorists who are inside it. Upon that truth I believe it is possible to build what doesn't exist today in Washington: a bipartisan strategy to deal with the long-term threat of terrorism.

The American people will need that consensus regardless of when, and under what circumstances, we withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq. We must not allow terrorist sanctuaries to develop any place on earth. Whether these fighters are finding refuge in Syria, Iran, Pakistan or elsewhere, we cannot afford diplomatic or political excuses to prevent us from using military force to eliminate them.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Che's Idiots

Agustin Blazquez passed this event anouncement along for our readers in the Miami, Florida metropolitan area:

"Every American should read this book." --David Horowitz

Humberto Fontova
Reading and discussing
Exposing the Real Che Guevara...And the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him
(Sentinel, $23.95)
Monday, May 21, 8pm
Books & Books, Coral Gables

Who was Ernesto Che Guevara?
MYTH:  International man of the people. Humanitarian. Brave freedom fighter. Lover of literature and life. Advocate of the poor and oppressed.

REALITY: Cold-blooded murderer. Sadistic torturer. Power-hungry materialist. Terrorist who inspired terrorism and bloodshed through Latin America.  Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the mainstream media celebrate Che as a saint and a sex symbol--a selfless martyr with a love of humanity second only to Jesus Christ's.

But their ideas about Che--Fidel Castro's henchman whose face adorns hipsters T-shirts, posters, and ad campaigns--are based on a murderous communist regime's outright lies.

As Humberto Fontova reveals in this myth-shattering book, Che was actually a bloodthirsty executioner, a military bumbler, a coward, and a hypocrite. This biographical account proves it€'s no exaggeration to state that Che--who was captured and killed nearly forty years ago--was the godfather of modern terrorism.

And yet Che's followers naively swallow Castro's historical revisionism. They are classic 'useful idiots,' the name Stalin gave to foolish Westerners who parroted his lies about communism's successes.

Fontova interviewed the few people still alive who interacted with Che and can tell the truth about him, while overturning the myths and legends. You'll learn:

How Che longed to destroy New York City with nuclear missiles.

How Che promoted book burning and signed death warrants for authors who disagreed with him. (So why did Jean Paul Sartre praise him as a 'perfect' intellectual, and why did Time name him one of the 100 most influential people of the century?)

How Che made amazingly racist sentiments about blacks. (So why do Jesse Jackson, Jay-Z, and Mike Tyson say nice things about him?)

How Che persecuted gays, long-haired rock and roll fans, and religious people.

How Che, the devoted communist, loved material wealth and private luxuries. (So why do the mainstream media still depict him as an ascetic?)

After reading this book, the only question you'll still have is whether Che's fans are too ignorant to realize they've been duped--or too anti-American to care.

Humberto Fontova fled Cuba in 1961, at the age of seven, with his family. He is a journalist who resides with his family in the New Orleans area. Fontova holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of New Orleans and a master’s degree in Latin American studies from Tulane University. He is a frequent commentator on both English- and Spanish-language media and is the author of four books, including Fidel: Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant.For media inquiries, call Cristina Nosti at (305) 444-9044 or visit our virtual location at

Bernard Kouchner New French Foreign Minister

Dennis Broyles profiles the founder of Doctors Without Borders in National Review (ht lgf).

Friday, May 18, 2007

WSJ: Clean Up World Bank, or Shut It Down!

Which is why Wolfowitz thought he could get away with hanky-panky there, IMHO...

Today's editorial comment in the Wall Street Journal calls for greater scrutiny of the World Bank on the part of the USA. About time::
If there is a silver lining here, it is that the public has been able to get a glimpse of how the World Bank works and what it actually accomplishes. Among other lowlights, we've recently been reminded that the bank annually pushes billions in loans to countries like China and Mexico that can easily get credit in private capital markets. We've seen that many of those loans go to projects in places like India or Kenya that are riddled by corruption; the bank may have lost as much as $8 billion to corruption in 25 years of lending to the Suharto regime in Indonesia. We've also learned that the bank funds literally hundreds of projects from Albania to Niger that were ill-conceived and proved to be failures.

We've seen that senior bank personnel, such as former Indonesia country director Dennis de Tray, openly argue that corruption is no big deal and should not get in the way of the bank's "helping people." We've seen how the bank trashed the careers of longstanding and well-regarded employees such as Bahram Mahmoudi, who blew the whistle on a misamanaged project. We've seen how Shengman Zhang, the bank's No. 2 under former President Jim Wolfensohn, seems to think there's nothing amiss with calling for Mr. Wolfowitz's resignation despite the fact that Mr. Zhang's wife was swiftly promoted while working under him.

We've seen how the board of directors apparently covered for one of their own--British Executive Director Tom Scholar--when he was accused of having a conflict of interest because of a personal relationship with an employee at the bank. And we've seen how the bank has served as a well-paid sinecure for out-of-office politicians such as Dutchman Ad Melkert, who has moved comfortably within multilateral institutions making an enviable tax-free salary while performing incompetently and behaving dishonorably.

In a better world, the bank would shrink to perform only its core mission of helping the world's poorest nations. That's not going to happen, however, so the best that President Bush can do now to minimize the damage of the Wolfowitz putsch is by replacing him with someone who shares his agenda and will clean the place up. No European should have a chance to do that given what has transpired, not even Tony Blair. Nor should he name another well known member of the Council on Foreign Relations seminar circuit whom the Europeans and staff can quickly capture.

We've suggested former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who saw first-hand how these institutions function while investigating the U.N.'s Oil for Food scandal. But whoever it is, the core task of Mr. Wolfowitz's successor should be to clean the World Bank stables, or shut it down.

How To Save BBC Reporter Alan Johnston from his Gaza Kidnappers

Memo to the Director-General of the BBC:

Here's an idea to save BBC Reporter Alan Johnston's life that does not require giving in to Al Qaeda's demand to release its leader from a British prison: Journalists will simply announce that until Alan Johnston is released, the BBC and all sympathetic Westerm media outlets will no longer air any news from Gaza, nor any accounts sympathetic to any Palestinian cause.

If this embargo is activated, my guess is that Johnston will be released pretty soon--good p.r. from the BBC and other Western media is the oxygen these groups need to live. Cut it off, and they will die in short order.

So, rather than die, they will release Johnston.

Oh, what's plan B, if they behead Johnston, you ask? Simple: No p.r. for any Palestinian or Islamist cause, ever again. Total news blackout--and the end of the Palestian dream (IMHO, more of a delusion verging on nightmare).

Try it-unless the BBC is more dedicated to the Palestinian and Al Qaeda cause than to the life of its own staffer...

Heck of a Job, Wolfie...


Story from the BBC:
Mr Wolfowitz will step down after he was caught up in a bitter row surrounding the promotion and salary of his girlfriend, Shaha Riza.

The World Bank said that Mr Wolfowitz had acted in good faith, but admitted that a "number of mistakes" were made.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has been mentioned as a possible replacement.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

World Bank Sleaze Oozes Around Wolfowitz Scandal

In the light of Paul Wolfowitz's troubles, Bret Stephens reports in today's Wall Street Journal on a new allegation of hanky-panky at the World Bank:
"Please know," read the text of the email written by a bank employee, "that UK ED Tom Scholar is continuing an affair with [a bank employee]. This woman has been given preferential treatment in [the department] because of her relationship with this powerful ED, this affair is well known, and is in violation of the Bank Staff Rules and the Boards Standards of Conduct."

"ED" means executive director. There are 24 such directors at the World Bank; collectively, they form the board that oversees the bank's work on behalf of its 185 member countries. Mr. Scholar is the ED from the United Kingdom. This week, all eyes were upon these officials as they decided on Paul Wolfowitz's future as president of the bank. Whether their conclusion is fair is a subject for another time. But no less important is whether, while penalizing Mr. Wolfowitz, the board isn't also covering up its own multitude of sins.

I first became aware of the 37-year-old Mr. Scholar--a former private secretary to British Chancellor Gordon Brown who also serves as an executive director at the International Monetary Fund--following the publication of my May 1 column, "Notes on a Scandal." The column, which detailed the hypocrisy of some of Mr. Wolfowitz's public detractors, including former World Bank senior managers with conflict-of-interest issues of their own, clearly struck a nerve within the bank. Many former and current bank staff wrote me to share stories of other bank managers or directors who, they claimed, had violated staff rules with impunity. Mr. Scholar's name kept coming up.

In one email, a correspondent wrote to say that "just like Wolfowitz, Scholar has a romantic relationship with a female employee at the World Bank. Scholar has never officially disclosed this relationship even though it clearly interferes with his oversight responsibilities as a Board member." The author signed off by saying that he (or she) "regrets to have to stay anonymous for fear of reprisal and hope for your understanding in this respect." ...

...Why does any of this matter? For one thing, it suggests the board lacks the most basic institutional mechanisms to police the conduct of its own members. This ought to call into question its fitness--and particularly Mr. Scholar's fitness--to judge the conduct of others. For another, the Daily Telegraph has reported that Mr. Scholar is likely to become Gordon Brown's chief of staff once the latter moves to 10 Downing Street.

But it matters most of all because the departure of Mr. Wolfowitz is being demanded by his most vehement critics to show that the World Bank is serious about setting the right example when it comes to governance. If it's a spring cleaning they want, why stop there?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Panda Sneezes

Just saw this on Google video...

William Stearman: Ken Burns Should Not Spotlight Latinos

The debate over Ken Burns' WWII film is heating up, it seems, from this letter published in the Washington Post:
'Red-Blooded Americans, Fighting for Our Country'
Wednesday, May 16, 2007; Page A14

As a World War II combat veteran, I was both disappointed and concerned that Ken Burns let himself be pressured into singling out Latino contributions in his World War II documentary [Style, May 11].

Our landing ship, which saw considerable action in the Pacific, had onboard people of ethnic origins including Italian, Polish, Latino, Greek, German, Irish, Armenian, British and African. Incidentally, the black sailors involved lived fully integrated with the white sailors, and all were on gun crews.

Had anyone sought, for example, to single out Radioman Campo for attention because of his Latino ethnicity, he, no doubt, would have been perplexed, if not affronted. We would all have described ourselves simply as true, red-blooded Americans fighting for our country.

As to Mr. Burns's documentary, I would support highlighting exclusively ethnic units such as the valiant and effective Army Air Corps/Force Tuskegee pilots in all-black formations, the brave and battle-savvy Japanese American infantry units (in Europe), and the invaluable Navajo "code talkers" attached to the Marine Corps.

North Bethesda

Agustin Blazquez Speaks!

On Google Video, about why he makes documentary films.

Daniel Pipes: Stop US Support for Turkish Islamists

Originally published in the NY Sun:
Each Turk must judge the AKP for himself, as must key foreign governments. If the polls show Turkish voters still quite undecided, foreign leaders have opted in Erdoğan's favor. The Council of Europe condemned military intervention and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has gone further, praising the AKP for "pulling Turkey west toward Europe" and specifically endorsed its efforts to make Turkey's laws conform to Europe's in the areas of individual and religious freedom.

But her statement ignores AKP efforts to apply the Islamic law by criminalizing adultery and creating alcohol-free zones, not to speak of its privileging Islamic courts over secular courts, its reliance on dirty money, and its bias against religious minorities as well as the persecution of political opponents. Further, European Union membership offers the AKP a huge side-benefit: by reducing the political role of Turkey's arch-secular military leadership, paradoxically, it eases the way to apply Islamic laws. Would the AKP's caution outlast its neutering the officer corps? Finally, Secretary Rice ignores AKP-induced tensions in U.S.-Turkish relations.

But her superficial analysis has one inadvertent benefit: given Turkey's fervid anti-Americanism these days, American support for the AKP might actually cause it to lose votes. Such cynical humor aside, Washington should stop bolstering the AKP and instead side with its natural allies, the secularists.

2nd Report of the World Bank Executive Directors Ad Hoc Group on Paul Wolfowitz

Read for yourself what the World Bank Executive Directors said about Paul Wolfowitz, here, as a PDF file.

Bernard Lewis on Al Qaeda's Political Strategy

In today's Wall Street Journal:
The Muslim willingness to submit to Soviet authority, though widespread, was not unanimous. The Afghan people, who had successfully defied the British Empire in its prime, found a way to resist the Soviet invaders. An organization known as the Taliban (literally, "the students") began to organize resistance and even guerilla warfare against the Soviet occupiers and their puppets. For this, they were able to attract some support from the Muslim world--some grants of money, and growing numbers of volunteers to fight in the Holy War against the infidel conqueror. Notable among these was a group led by a Saudi of Yemeni origin called Osama bin Laden.

To accomplish their purpose, they did not disdain to turn to the U.S. for help, which they got. In the Muslim perception there has been, since the time of the Prophet, an ongoing struggle between the two world religions, Christendom and Islam, for the privilege and opportunity to bring salvation to the rest of humankind, removing whatever obstacles there might be in their path. For a long time, the main enemy was seen, with some plausibility, as being the West, and some Muslims were, naturally enough, willing to accept what help they could get against that enemy. This explains the widespread support in the Arab countries and in some other places first for the Third Reich and, after its collapse, for the Soviet Union. These were the main enemies of the West, and therefore natural allies.

Now the situation had changed. The more immediate, more dangerous enemy was the Soviet Union, already ruling a number of Muslim countries, and daily increasing its influence and presence in others. It was therefore natural to seek and accept American help. As Osama bin Laden explained, in this final phase of the millennial struggle, the world of the unbelievers was divided between two superpowers. The first task was to deal with the more deadly and more dangerous of the two, the Soviet Union. After that, dealing with the pampered and degenerate Americans would be easy.

We in the Western world see the defeat and collapse of the Soviet Union as a Western, more specifically an American, victory in the Cold War. For Osama bin Laden and his followers, it was a Muslim victory in a jihad, and, given the circumstances, this perception does not lack plausibility

From the writings and the speeches of Osama bin Laden and his colleagues, it is clear that they expected this second task, dealing with America, would be comparatively simple and easy. This perception was certainly encouraged and so it seemed, confirmed by the American response to a whole series of attacks--on the World Trade Center in New York and on U.S. troops in Mogadishu in 1993, on the U.S. military office in Riyadh in 1995, on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000--all of which evoked only angry words, sometimes accompanied by the dispatch of expensive missiles to remote and uninhabited places.

Stage One of the jihad was to drive the infidels from the lands of Islam; Stage Two--to bring the war into the enemy camp, and the attacks of 9/11 were clearly intended to be the opening salvo of this stage. The response to 9/11, so completely out of accord with previous American practice, came as a shock, and it is noteworthy that there has been no successful attack on American soil since then. The U.S. actions in Afghanistan and in Iraq indicated that there had been a major change in the U.S., and that some revision of their assessment, and of the policies based on that assessment, was necessary.

More recent developments, and notably the public discourse inside the U.S., are persuading increasing numbers of Islamist radicals that their first assessment was correct after all, and that they need only to press a little harder to achieve final victory. It is not yet clear whether they are right or wrong in this view. If they are right, the consequences--both for Islam and for America--will be deep, wide and lasting.

Byron York on the Republican Debate

From National Review:
It all started when Paul was asked how September 11 changed American foreign policy. “Have you ever read the reasons they attacked us?” Paul answered. “They attack us because we’ve been over there; we’ve been bombing Iraq for ten years…”

Questioner Wendell Goler, of Fox News, asked, “Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attack, sir?”

“I’m suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it,” Paul said. “They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and we’re free. They come and they attack us because we’re over there.”

Enter Giuliani. “May I comment on that?” the mayor said, interrupting the orderly flow of things for the first time in the debate. “That really an extraordinary statement. That’s an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I’ve heard that before, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th.”

The audience loved it. As the applause built, Giuliani added, “And I would ask the congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn’t really mean that.”

Paul didn’t back down, but by cutting in, Giuliani had scored some of the best, and perhaps easiest, points of the night. So much so that advisers from rival campaigns couldn’t quite hide their frustration that Giuliani had moved so quickly. “I don’t think it takes a lot of courage to use Ron Paul as a prop,” said Charlie Black, the longtime GOP strategist who is backing Sen. John McCain. “But he [Giuliani] got his 9/11 credential in there, so congratulations.”

The Ron Paul moment was just one of Giuliani’s strong points in the debate. He was solid on terrorism, solid on the war in Iraq, solid on taxes, solid on lots of things. On abortion, he was not exactly solid, but his answers were more coherent than they had been in the first debate, held May 3 at the Reagan Library in California. Put it all together, and Giuliani’s aides seemed genuinely happy with his performance Tuesday night, in contrast to the way they seemed to be faking their happiness in California. “He was better,” said Jim Dyke, a top Giuliani adviser. “9/11 is very personal to the mayor. You can’t coach something like that.”
IMHO it is interesting to note that in his debate comments Paul linked Iraq directly to 9/11--just as Dick Cheney did at the time.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

St. Clair Bourne on Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez v. Ken Burns

The renowned African-American independent filmmaker, who helped bring Black Journal to PBS, is blogging about the Ken Burns scandal on Chambanotes.

Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez Debates Ken Burns' Supporter on PBS Newshour

I found this link to last night's debate between University of Texas journalism professor Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez and Ken Burns' spokesmodel Nancy Buirski (of the Durham, NC "Full Frame" documentary festival) on last night's Newshour with Jim Lehrer. They went head-to-head on the question of Ken Burns' anti-Latino bias in his upcoming PBS documentary about World War II. Maybe Buirski wasn't officially representing Ken Burns--but she appeared to be repeating talking points from his people, to this viewer. Here's a photo from Indiwire of Buirski with Michael Moore, giving an award to Ross McElwee, apparently taken at the Full Frame documentary festival: Here's another item about Buirski's Full Frame festival from INDYWEEK:
Indeed, Moore, who attended the 2004 festival, will participate in no less than four events. Along with presenting his Power of Ten choice, Kazuo Hara's World War II atrocity film The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On, Moore will attend a screening of his acclaimed film Roger & Me and a panel discussion involving all the Power of Ten curators, as well as help honor this year's Career Award recipient, filmmaker Ross McElwee (Bright Leaves, Sherman's March, both to be screened this weekend).

Also attending the festival will be infamous publisher and First Amendment crusader Larry Flynt in conjunction with one of the annual Center Frame programs, the world premiere of Larry Flynt: The Right to be Left Alone.
Hmm...(For some unknown reason, the website appears not to be working right now.)

Round One: Rivas-Rodriguez and Latino WWII veterans.

You can watch the debate online in streaming video, here.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Another Hero of the Holocaust

Varian Fry, subject of Pierre Sauvage's upcoming documentary And Crown Thy Good: Varian Fry in Marseille:
Varian Fry (1907-1967) was a New York intellectual who after the fall of France to the Nazis spent a year in the Southern port city of Marseille leading one of the most remarkable and successful rescue efforts of the Nazi era. The first American to be singled out by Israel's Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations...

Defying the Nazis, the French Vichy regime, and his own government, Varian Fry, a dapper, 32 year-old intellectual, led a unique mission that helped to save some 2,000 artists, intellectuals, and anti-Nazi refugees, Jewish and non-Jewish. Pierre Sauvage made the highly acclaimed 1989 feature documentary Weapons of the Spirit. His new documentary will provide a careful and dramatic account of what will come to be recognized as a crucial chapter in 20th century American and world history.

David Margulies Wins Actors Equity Award

For playing Rabbi Stephen Wise, in Bernard Weinraub's "The Accomplices" (and "a preternaturally wise gay john in New York Theatre Workshop's production of Alan Ball's 'All That I Will Ever Be'"). Seems I'm not the only one to think the actors were outstanding. Backstage's story here.

Leon Aron's Russia's Revolution

Just came back from a book signing at the American Enterprise Institute for Leon Aron's collection of essays, Russia's Revolution: Essays 1989-2006. Who should I see talking to Leon as I went to get my copy inscribed but Putin’s former economic guru and G8 "sherpa" Andrei Illarionov, talking (in Russian) to Leon. Of course with my bad Russian, I didn't understand a word they said--but did learn that Iliarionov now lives in Washington, DC--working for for the libertarian CATO institute as Senior Fellow, Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. Sounds like we may be hearing more from Iliarionov in the future...

While we are waiting, you can order a copy of Russia's Revolution from AEI by clicking on this link.

Shiva in the Shenandoah Valley?

Last weekend, someone I know and I went to Luray Caverns in Virginia's beautiful Shenandoah Valley, and were surprised to discover tour groups of Buddhist monks in saffron robes, as well as what looked like a large number of tourists from the subcontinent, among the middle-American types. "What would bring Buddhist monks on a pilgrimmage to a tourist trap on the outskirts of Washington, DC?", we wondered on the drive home.

A few minutes googling the internet provided the answer--stalactites, stalagmites, and the columns they form are sometimes considered to be naturally occuring lingams, representations of Shiva's power and the male principle (in some formations, the male + female principle). It seemed that the monks and visitors from the subcontinent were looking at an American variant of the Amaranth temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, located in Jammu and Kashmir, India.

Instead of garlands and milk, the only religious symbolism in Luray was the "Stalacpipe Organ" (really sort of a xylophone) that played "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" with its hammers tinkling the hanging stalactites. (You can listen to "Red River Valley" here. Or another tune here...)

The whole experience was somewhat supernatural--Luray Caverns are well worth a visit, for both the natural wonders and the human beings who experience them. There's also a car museum, which has a nice collection of sleighs, carriages, and vintage Hudsons, DeSotos, Model Ts, Stanley Steamers, as well as Rolls-Royces that belonged to Pola Negri and Rudolf Valentino--of all things, in all places...

360 degree views, here. And here.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Roger L Simon on PBS's "Islam v. Islamists" Ban

In the New York Post (ht :
I HAVE to admit the first thing that attracted me to Martyn Burke's "Islam vs. Islamists" was that PBS had suppressed it. As is now well known, the network rejected Burke's documentary - produced with Frank Gaffney and Alex Alexiev for the network's "American Crossroads" series - on the film's completion. PBS's initial explanation was that the film was not good enough, aesthetically.

Well, yes, I thought, that could be. Most things aren't. As a filmmaker, I know that well. Only one of the films I have written - "Enemies, A Love Story" - can I even watch today. Most PBS documentaries I find so stultifying I'd rather read the phone book.

So I assumed the criticism of Burke's film was valid. Still, I was curious. I had not been entirely satisfied with previous documentaries I had seen on related subjects - "Islam: What the West Needs To Know" and "Obsession" - because, like Al Gore's global-warming film, they were made in the old-fashioned, didactic style of the conventional documentary that always teeters on the edge of propaganda or special pleading. I assumed "Islam vs. Islamists" would be like that.

Boy, was I wrong. Burke's doc is a riveting and creatively made film about the most important subject of our time: What to do about radical Islam?

It confronts this dilemma in a sly, novelistic manner, inter-weaving the stories of good, moderate Muslims with the imams and supposedly "true Muslims" who, not surprisingly, accuse the moderate Muslims of not being Muslims at all.

Soon enough we learn these imams are apologists for terrorism and for the worst kind of medieval religious sadism. (One of them enthusiastically endorses the stoning to death of adulterers by holding up a Koran. "I didn't make this up," he says proudly. "It is written here.") The mostly mild-mannered moderate Muslims are shown to be at risk for their lives, some of them accompanied everywhere by bodyguards.

All this is done with the people talking about themselves and revealing themselves (including the imam responsible for the bloody Danish Cartoons riots). There are no so-called "terrorism experts" or other talking heads interpreting reality for us.

In other words, this is a film, not another one of those didactic docs referred to above...

...I hereby call on my fellow Motion Picture Academy members, whatever their political leanings, to protest this cowardly and un-American act of censorship. As artists, we should be appalled by such blatant disregard of our First Amendment rights. Public funding of PBS should be reconsidered if such reactionary behavior continues.

Happy Mother's Day!

On this holiday, Mark Steyn explains a song that means the world to him:
With Mother’s Day coming up (in North America, anyway: in Britain, it’s the fourth Sunday after Lent), a young lad’s heart naturally turns to thoughts of serenading his mom. And, when it does, he quickly discovers the heyday of mother songs was a century ago. From the Gay Nineties to the Great War, mother songs were a Tin Pan Alley staple and among the biggest hits of the day: “Always Take Mother’s Advice”, “A Boy’s Best Friend Is His Mother”, “Your Mother Is Your Best Friend After All”, “That Old Fashioned Mother Of Mine”, “That Wonderful Mother Of Mine”, “That Old Irish Mother Of Mine”. Old Irish mothers were a thriving sub-genre all by themselves – “Mother Machree”, “Ireland Must Be Heaven For My Mother Came From There”. So were songs for southern mammies, for whose smiles one would walk a million miles. There are songs about dads with excellent taste in mothers: “Daddy Has A Sweetheart And Mother Is Her Name”, “I Want A Girl Just Like The Girl Who Married Dear Old Dad”. There are mother songs about mothers who sang songs, like “Those Songs My Mother Used To Sing” (1912). And songs about elderly mothers – “There’s A Mother Old And Gray Who Needs Me Now” – and even a few that hint at senile decline - “Baby Your Mother As She Babied You, Back In Your Baby Days”.

Other people’s mothers are a different matter. One of my favorite mother songs is by Ivor Novello and Dion Titheradge, and was introduced with appropriate rueful resignation by Jack Buchanan in the 1921 West End revue A To Z. Although it’s brimming with period detail, most fellows of whatever age will have encountered this situation at some time or other. As the verse says, “There may be times when couples need a chaperone/But mothers ought to leave a chap alone”:

My car will meet her
And her mother comes too!
It’s a two-seater
Still her mother comes too!
At Ciro’s when I am free
At dinner, supper or tea
She loves to shimmy with me
And her mother does too!

I like the way Titheradge keeps the conceit going:

We lunch at Maxim’s
And her mother comes too!
How large a snack seems
When her mother comes too!
And when they’re visiting me,
We finish afternoon tea,
She loves to sit on my knee
And her mother does too!

And he caps the thing with a twist in the final line:

She simply can’t take a snub
I go and sulk at the club,
Then have a bath and a rub
And her brother comes too!

Call Your Nana, May 16th

From Cousin Lucy's Spoon:
Plugging in to the World--my Family

After Plugging into the World, and joining Fausta, Judith, and Noam in an impromptu podcast from my "blogging room," I got word from my cousin Miriam's granddaughter Hilary that she and Miriam will be doing a weekly show on blogtalkradio, Call Your Nana, starting this coming Tuesday, May 16, at 1PM Los Angeles time. If you want to hear it live, and have the opportunity to call in and be part of the show, you can tell blogtalkradio now to send you an email reminder then, based on your very own time zone. All shows are archived, so you can just listen any time after the broadcast. I listened to Hil and Miriam on their pilot show and it was really weird to realize that anyone on the Internet will be able to participate in the conversations we used to have in each other's kitchens.

Welcome to my cyberspace family!

Tony Blair Congratulates Nicolas Sarkozy

On YouTube:

Friday, May 11, 2007

And Now For Something Completely Different...

From The Telegraph (UK) report on Russian riot police (ht Drudge):
Techno music filled the air as officers formed a circle, picked a partner and then demonstrated dozens of different ways to disarm, disable and then finish him off with a gunshot to the back, an exercise that was accompanied by theatrical grunts.

With lengthy demonstrations of Kalashnikov firing, grenade tossing and Chechen killing, the sensitive bit of the exercise seemed in danger of being drowned out.

But then Ajax the attack alsatian appeared and Omon's cuddly side suddenly shone forth.

An officer placed a cat on the ground just yards away from the panting dog.

If Ajax's soul was tormented by this feline temptation, it did not show. After all, this was a dog on whose shoulders lay the responsibility of reshaping Omon's battered reputation.

To the orders of his handler, Ajax proceeded to lick and nuzzle the cat, whose expression of nonchalance only started to slip when the dog lifted it into the air in its jaws, carried it several feet and then gently placed it back on the ground.

"You see," said Maj Gen Alexander Ivanin, commenting through a microphone, "our service dogs wouldn't threaten a thing."

Then it was back to what Omon does best: crowd control.

Judith Miller on George Tenet

From the NY Sun (ht
Mr. Tenet repeatedly tries to distance himself from catastrophes he helped create. While acknowledging that he "did not oppose the president's decision to invade Iraq," he hints that he considered this decision unwise. Yet invariably, he portrays himself, in the words of one national security expert, as "the cat that drops the mouse on the doorstep and then walks away."

While his portrait of the factionalism and distrust within the Administration's inner circle is depressing, so, too, is Mr. Tenet's alleged self-serving passivity in the guise of intelligence neutrality. He was never a policy maker, he contends, merely a provider of intelligence — "just the facts ma'am."

In some cases the claim is simply incredible. Mr. Tenet, after all, was a member of the policy-making "Principals Committee" — the White House inner circle. Though the word "torture" never appears in his index, he was an architect of the CIA's notorious interrogation techniques that have mocked America's claim to be a civilized democracy that abides by national and international law. Although he defends the procedures by arguing that, after September 11, the CIA was on "new ground — legally and morally," he fails to explain what precisely the agency has done to detainees in its custody, or how such repulsive, counterproductive, and illegal conduct was instrumental in "preventing the death of American citizens."

This is an angry book, written after the White House blamed him for the mess it created. Mr. Tenet portrays himself as the latest in a series of "fall guys." But where was he when those policies were being adopted and implemented? Why did he do and say so little at the time? And why, if he could not bring himself to criticize the president he served, did he not quietly resign? He contemplated resigning earlier, he now says, but the president asked him to stay. Only those who remain silently loyal, or at least avoid a ruckus when they go, receive Medals of Freedom.

Juan Gonzalez Documents Ken Burns' Anti-Hispanic Record

In the New York Daily News:
Worse, this is not the first time Burns has inexplicably erased or minimized Latino contributions to American society.

The same thing happened with "Baseball" and "Jazz," says Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin who runs an oral history project on World War II Hispanic veterans.

"Burns has done it again," Latin jazz musician and New School music professor Bobby Sanabria told me this week. Sanabria has criticized for years the distorted history of "Jazz," the 19-hour blockbuster film Burns produced in 2001.

"Burns doesn't even acknowledge we [Latinos] existed in Jazz," Sanabria said. "He's a serial eraser of Latinos."

"When you have 19 hours, you'd expect the definitive work," Sanabria said. "Latinos were there from the freakin' beginning of jazz in New Orleans, and he gave us less than three minutes."

From Louis Moreau Gottschalk in the 1850s to Perlops Nunez and Jimmy (Spriggs) Palau, who played with Buddy Bolden in the early ragtime bands, Mexicans and Cubans were major figures in New Orleans music in those early years. None were mentioned by Burns.

Then there is the legendary James Reese Europe, leader of Harlem Hell Fighters Army Band that electrified Europeans and Americans during and after World War I. Burns pays much attention to Europe's band, but never mentions that half the members were Puerto Rican and Cuban. They included Rafael Hernandez, the greatest composer and singer in Puerto Rican history.

Those Latinos created a pipeline of musicians that fed all the great jazz and Broadway bands of the 1920s and 1930s in New York City. But you find none of that in "Jazz," not Mongo Santamaria or Tito Puente or Chico O'Farrill or Machito or all the great Afro-Cuban musicians who so influenced American jazz.

But perhaps the greatest Burns revision of history occurred with his 1994 film "Baseball." In 18 hours of gripping drama, guess how much time Burns devoted to Latino ballplayers?

Six minutes: four to Roberto Clemente, and two to all the other Latinos.

As Milton Jamail, an expert on Latino baseball players, noted in a blistering criticism of the film back in 1994, Burns claimed Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson were the two dominant pitchers of the 1960s. Juan Marichal, the Dominican Hall of Famer who was their main nemesis, did not rate a mention. Marichal had more 20-win seasons and a lower earned run average than Gibson and 86 more career victories than Koufax.

Burns simply erased him.

Same for Luis Aparicio, the great Venezuelan shortstop, and Fernando Valenzuela, the Mexican wonder.

But this time around, even the mighty Ken Burns could not ignore the outcry from Latino politicians, national organizations and veterans groups who bombarded PBS with letters and phone calls.
BTW, Here's a link to a website memorializing one Hispanic Medal of Honor winner from the Civil War: Able Seaman Philip Bazaar.

Richard Holbrooke: Honor Heroic Diplomats

In a review of Diplomat Heroes of the Holocaust by Mordecai Paldiel in Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Holbrooke draws attention to the significance of saving refugees during World War II--and today...
Imagine that you are a consular officer in the middle of a diplomatic career that you hope will lead to an ambassadorship. There are two rubber stamps on your desk. Using the one that says "APPROVED" would allow the desperate person sitting in front of you to travel to your country legally. Using the other stamp, which says "REJECTED," could mean consigning that person to prison or even death.

It sounds like a simple choice, but there is a catch -- a very big one. The person in front of you is Jewish, and your boss has told you to devise ways not to use the "APPROVED" stamp. Your government does not want these people -- these people waiting outside your office, milling around in the street, hiding in their houses -- in your country. Approve too many visas and your career will be in danger. Follow your instructions and people will probably die.

What would you have done if you had been faced with this situation in 1940? Or if you faced a version of the same situation today featuring, say, refugees from Iraq?

In a movie, the hero would stare out the window, the music would swell, and he would do the right thing (like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, with the famous "letters of transit"). But in the real world, there are few heroes in such situations. Government service is based on the well-founded principle that career officials must follow instructions, lest anarchy prevail. But what happens if those instructions have horrible, or even fatal, consequences -- and not heeding them means jeopardizing your career?

We mocked the defense of many Germans after World War II when they said that they were just following orders or did not know about the death camps. But a similar rationale was used by an overwhelming majority of non-German diplomats in Europe during the 1930s to deny Jews entry into their countries. For every diplomatic hero, there were hundreds of consular officials who played it safe by following orders to restrict Jewish immigration. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Jews whose lives could have been saved were left to fend for themselves; most later died in concentration camps. And this was not just a case of officials passively following instructions. Some were enthusiastic in their rejection of Jewish visa applications. Take, for example, the Brazilian consul in Lyon, France, in 1940, who proudly wrote to his foreign minister that the people swarming around his office were "almost all Jewish or of Semitic origin, and only a few of them may be of interest to us. I therefore believe that by my categorical refusal to grant the visas they request, I will have done Brazil a great service."

Yet a handful of Brazilian, Chinese, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swiss, Turkish, Vatican, Yugoslav, and even Japanese and German diplomats risked their careers, their reputations, and sometimes even their lives to save those who were endangered, mostly Jews whom they did not know, because they believed that their instructions were immoral. Tens of thousands of lives were saved by these heroes. Were it not for the careful investigations carried out by the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, in Jerusalem), we would probably not even know most of their names.


As Mordecai Paldiel points out in his new book, it was not the Germans who punished these brave men and women. It was often their own governments. Yet in the face of such risk, a few diplomats showed great moral courage, knowing full well that they might pay dearly for it.

The most famous of these was Raoul Wallenberg, whose courage and creativity are now legendary. He paid with his life, not at the hands of the Nazis but at the hands of the Soviets, who thought that he was a U.S. spy. Wallenberg, a member of an aristocratic Swedish family, had been sent to Budapest on a special humanitarian mission by President Franklin Roosevelt, which he expanded to include an unauthorized crusade to save Jews.

Most of those in Paldiel's narrative had been given more routine consular or diplomatic assignments, only to find themselves in an unexpected moral dilemma of historic dimensions. Consider, for example, the astonishing story of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese consul general in Bordeaux. After the Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar prohibited the issuance of transit visas to stranded Jewish refugees, Sousa Mendes, a devout Catholic, visited the stranded Jewish refugees on the streets, then retreated to his house and tossed and turned in his bed for three nights, sweating profusely. Then he emerged and, according to Paldiel, "flung open the doors to the chancellery, and announced in a loud voice, 'From now on I'm giving everyone visas.'" Sousa Mendes later told his sons that he had "heard a voice, that of his conscience or of God." For a few weeks in June 1940, Sousa Mendes was in a frenzy, issuing visas as fast as he could, even going to the Spanish border to make sure that skeptical border police would honor them. He knew that he was racing against his own government. In July, he was removed from his post and subjected to a nasty investigation personally supervised by Salazar. But Sousa Mendes was unrepentant. "My desire is to be with God against man rather than with man against God," he told his superiors, one of whom later told the investigating tribunal that Sousa Mendes had gone crazy. He was dismissed from government service and, although supported by the Jewish community in Lisbon, died in poverty. Not until after the fall of the Salazar regime did the Portuguese restore his good name and honor to him. Today, there are schools and streets named after him in Portugal. Sousa Mendes' story is typical of those remembered in Paldiel's book -- but these are so few.
Full disclosure: A transit visa from Sousa Mendes saved my mother's family from Hitler...

Congress Grills Spellings Over Education Department Scandals

Will Margaret Spellings be the next Bush Cabinet secretary to fall? That's the implication of this account of her congressional testimony yesterday, from Inside Higher Ed:
Defiant where others might have been contrite, Margaret Spellings largely defended the Education Department’s handling in recent years of perceived wrongdoing in the federal student loan programs at a House of Representatives hearing on Thursday. Her defense did not go over well with the House panel’s Democratic leaders, who subjected the education secretary to intense and sometimes hostile questioning.

It’s possible that nothing Spellings might have said could have produced a different outcome; the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), has been stepping up his criticism of the department’s oversight of the loan programs in recent weeks, and his opening statement — written, obviously, before Spellings uttered a word — asked whether the department’s “monumental ... oversight failures” represented “simply laziness,” “incompetence,” “a deliberate decision to look the other way,” or “a failing more sinister than that?” Not exactly a tone suggesting that Miller and other Democrats were looking for a way to make nice with the secretary.

Even so, Spellings’s stance — vowing to work with lawmakers to fix the problems going forward, but insisting that the department had done pretty much all it could in the past — almost seemed designed to turn up the antagonism level in the room. It certainly had that effect.

Christopher Hitchens on Londonistan

In Vanity Fair (ht lgf):
They say that the past is another country, but let me tell you that it's much more unsettling to find that the present has become another country, too. In my lost youth I lived in Finsbury Park, a shabby area of North London, roughly between the old Arsenal football ground and the Seven Sisters Road. It was a working-class neighborhood, with a good number of Irish and Cypriot immigrants. Your food choices were the inevitable fish-and-chips, plus the curry joint, plus a strong pitch from the Greek and Turkish kebab sellers. There was never much "bother," as the British say, in Finsbury Park. Greeks and Turks might be fighting in Cyprus, but they never lifted a hand to one another in London. Many of the Irish had republican allegiances, but they didn't take that out on the local Protestants. And, even though both Cyprus and Ireland had all the grievances of partitioned former British colonies, it would have seemed inconceivable—unimaginable—that any of their sons would put a bomb on the bus their neighbors used.

Returning to the old place after a long absence, I found that it was the scent of Algeria that now predominated along the main thoroughfare of Blackstock Road. This had had a good effect on the quality of the coffee and the spiciness of the grocery stores. But it felt odd, under the gray skies of London, to see women wearing the veil, and even swathed in the chador or the all-enveloping burka. Many of these Algerians, Bangladeshis, and others are also refugees from conflict in their own country. Indeed, they have often been the losers in battles against Middle Eastern and Asian regimes which they regard as insufficiently Islamic. Quite unlike the Irish and the Cypriots, they bring these far-off quarrels along with them. And they also bring a religion which is not ashamed to speak of conquest and violence.

Until he was jailed last year on charges of soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred, a man known to the police of several countries as Abu Hamza al-Masri was the imam of the Finsbury Park Mosque. He was a conspicuous figure because, having lost the use of an eye and both hands in an exchange of views in Afghanistan, he sported an opaque eye plus a hook to theatrical effect. Not as nice as he looked, Abu Hamza was nonetheless unfailingly generous with his hospitality. Overnight guests at his mosque's sleeping quarters have included Richard Reid, the man in whose honor we now all have to take off our shoes at the airport, and Zacarias Moussaoui, the missing team member of September 11, 2001. Other visitors included Ahmed Ressam, arrested for trying to blow up LAX for the millennium, and Nizar Trabelsi, a Tunisian who planned to don an explosive vest and penetrate the American Embassy in Paris. On July 7, 2005 ("7/7," as the British call it), a clutch of bombs exploded in London's transport system. It emerged that one of the suicide murderers had been influenced by the preachings of Abu Hamza, as had two of those attempting to replicate the mission two weeks later.

Ken Burns Surrenders--Again...

According to this press release (ht Current):

WASHINGTON, DC / May 10, 2007 – The American GI Forum, the Hispanic Association of Corporate Responsibility (HACR), and Florentine Films reached an understanding yesterday that recognizes legitimate Latino concerns about Ken Burns’s upcoming documentary series, “The War,” and equally recognizes that the artistic decisions of what appears in his film are is and his alone to make. They announce today that the narratives and voices of Hispanic World War II veterans will be incorporated into Ken Burns’s artistic vision for his film “The War.”

The upcoming 141/2 hour documentary, due to air on PBS in September during Hispanic Heritage Month, tells the story of WWII from the perspective of veterans from four different American towns. “The role of Hispanic American veterans in WWII is one that lends itself to the universality of this film,” said Mr. Burns “and merits being included in my film.”

After listening to the concerns of the Latino community and political leaders about the lack of Hispanic stories, Mr. Burns and his team set out to find personal Latino stories and include them as supplemental material following the documentary. The proposed placement embodied in this approach, however was universally rejected by Latino groups.

Yesterday in New York, Ken Burns met with Raul Tapia of the Washington, DC-based C2 Group; Mr. Tapia represents the American GI Forum, the largest and oldest Latino veterans group in the United States, and the Hispanic Association of Corporate Responsibility, a coalition of the fourteen largest Latino organizations. At the meeting, Mr. Burns said he had collected interviews with Latino veterans that he considers very powerful and agreed to include their on-camera testimony, personal archives, and combat experiences into “The War.” As he did in the series, Mr. Burns will personally direct and produce the creation of this new material.

“I believe these additional stories will enhance our series and deepen the nation’s understanding of the sacrifices made by so many Americans during the war,” said Mr. Burns. “And I am confident that they can be incorporated in a way consistent with the film’s focus on individual experiences and in a way that means nothing in the film that already exists will be changed. This has never been about changing my vision for the film. It is adding another layer of storytelling that will only enrich what we already have.”

“We appreciate Ken Burns’s filmmaking skills and are pleased that he will apply his talent to include the narrative and voices of Hispanic veterans into his series,” said Antonio Morales, National Commander of the American GI Forum. “Latinos have never been an addendum to American history. They always have been, are and always will be an integral part of our nation’s military.”

Manuel Mirabal, chairman of the board of HACR, said: “Together, corporate America, Latino leaders and visionary artists can leave a lasting imprint on American culture that will resonate with the vast majority of Americans today and for generations to come.”

On behalf of the American GI Forum and HACR:
Lorena Chambers
Chambers Lopez & Gaitan LLC
(703) 527-8482

On behalf of “The War”:
Joe DePlasco
Dan Klores Communications
(212) 685-4300

On behalf of Florentine Films:
Dayton Duncan
(603) 756-3038

Ann Coulter on Nicolas Sarkozy

In celebration of France's spectacular return to Western civilization, I bought a Herve Leger dress on Monday, and we're having croissants for breakfast every day this week. This delicate French pastry, by the way, is in the shape of a crescent to commemorate the Crusaders' victory over Islam. Aren't the French just peachy?

"Sarkozy the American," as he is known in France, called Muslim rioters "scum." Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

He explained his position on Muslim immigrants in France, saying: "Nobody has to, I repeat, live in France. But when you live in France, you respect its rules. That is to say that you are not a polygamist. ... One doesn't practice female genital mutilation on one's daughters, one doesn't slit the throat of the sheep, and one respects the republican rules."

Sarko never issued an apology or entered rehab. To the contrary, he said: "I called some individuals that I refuse to call 'youth' by the name they deserve. ... I never felt that by saying 'scum' I was being vulgar, hypocritical or insincere."

Is there a single American politician who would speak so clearly without then apologizing to Howard Dean?

It looks like the Democrats are going to have to drop their talking point about Bush irritating the rest of the world. Evidently not as much as Muslim terrorists irritate the rest of the world. The politicians who hate Bush keep being dumped by their own voters.

At the Democratic presidential debate a few weeks ago, B. Hussein Obama carped that Bush had "alienate(d) the world community" and vowed that he would build "the sort of alliances and trust around the world that has been so lacking over the last six years."

Democrats are terrific at building alliances. Remember how Jimmy Carter won the love of the world by ditching our ally the Shah of Iran, allowing him be replaced by a string of crazy ayatollahs? Since then, we haven't heard a peep from that area of the world.

The smartest woman in the world sniped that she would "create alliances instead of alienation."

Yes, it was spellbinding how her husband charmed North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung and his sociopathic son Kim Jong Il by showering them with visits from Jimmy Carter and gifts from love-machine Madeleine Albright. And that was that: No more trouble from North Korea!

As I understand it, the center of the supposedly America-hating world is France. But now it turns out even the French don't hate America as much as liberals do.

Au contraire! (We can say that again!) Our Georgie is the most popular American with the French since Jerry Lewis.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Tony Blair's Resignation Speech

From the UK Labour Party website:
I have come back here, to Sedgefield, to my constituency. Where my political journey began and where it is fitting it should end.

Today I announce my decision to stand down from the leadership of the Labour Party. The Party will now select a new Leader. On 27 June I will tender my resignation from the office of Prime Minister to The Queen.

I have been Prime Minister of this country for just over 10 years. In this job, in the world today, that is long enough, for me but more especially for the country. Some times the only way you conquer the pull of power is to set it down.

It is difficult to know how to make this speech today. There is a judgment to be made on my premiership. And in the end that is, for you, the people to make.

I can only describe what I think has been done over these last 10 years and perhaps more important why.

I have never quite put it like this before.

I was born almost a decade after the Second World War. I was a young man in the social revolution of the 60s and 70s. I reached political maturity as the Cold War was ending, and the world was going through a political, economic and technological revolution.

I looked at my own country.

A great country.
Wonderful history.
Magnificent traditions.
Proud of its past.

But strangely uncertain of its future. Uncertain about the future. Almost old-fashioned.

All of that was curiously symbolized in its politics.

You stood for individual aspiration and getting on in life or social compassion and helping others.

You were liberal in your values or conservative.

You believed in the power of the State or the efforts of the individual. Spending more money on the public realm was the answer or it was the problem.

None of it made sense to me. It was 20th century ideology in a world approaching a new millennium. Of course people want the best for themselves and their families but in an age where human capital is a nation’s greatest asset, they also know it is just and sensible to extend opportunities, to develop the potential to succeed, for all not an elite at the top.

People are today open-minded about race and sexuality, averse to prejudice and yet deeply and rightly conservative with a small ‘c’ when it comes to good manners, respect for others, treating people courteously.

They acknowledge the need for the state and the responsibility of the individual.

They know spending money on our public services matters and that it is not enough. How they are run and organized matters too.

So 1997 was a moment for a new beginning; for sweeping away all the detritus of the past.

Expectations were so high. Too high. Too high in a way for either of us.

Now in 2007, you can easily point to the challenges, the things that are wrong, the grievances that fester.

But go back to 1997. Think back. No, really, think back. Think about your own living standards then in May 1997 and now.

Visit your local school, any of them round here, or anywhere in modern Britain.

Ask when you last had to wait a year or more on a hospital waiting list, or heard of pensioners freezing to death in the winter unable to heat their homes.

There is only one Government since 1945 that can say all of the following:

More jobs
Fewer unemployed
Better health and education results
Lower crime;
And economic growth in every quarter.

This one.

But I don’t need a statistic. There is something bigger than what can be measured in waiting lists or GSCE results or the latest crime or jobs figures.

Look at our economy. At ease with globalization. London the world’s financial centre. Visit our great cities and compare them with 10 years ago.

No country attracts overseas investment like we do.

Think about the culture of Britain in 2007. I don’t just mean our arts that are thriving. I mean our values. The minimum wage. Paid holidays as a right. Amongst the best maternity pay and leave in Europe. Equality for gay people.

Or look at the debates that reverberate round the world today. The global movement to support Africa in its struggle against poverty. Climate change. The fight against terrorism. Britain is not a follower. It is a leader. It gets the essential characteristic of today’s world: its interdependence.

This is a country today that for all its faults, for all the myriad of unresolved problems and fresh challenges, is comfortable in the 21st Century.

At home in its own skin, able not just to be proud of its past but confident of its future.

I don’t think Northern Ireland would have been changed unless Britain had changed. Or the Olympics won if we were still the Britain of 1997.

As for my own leadership, throughout these 10 years, where the predictable has competed with the utterly unpredicted, right at the outset one thing was clear to me.

Without the Labour Party allowing me to lead it, nothing could ever have been done. But I knew my duty was to put the country first. That much was obvious to me when just under 13 years ago I became Labour’s Leader.

What I had to learn, however, as Prime Minister was what putting the country first really meant.

Decision-making is hard. Every one always says: listen to the people. The trouble is they don’t always agree.

When you are in Opposition, you meet this group and they say why can’t you do this? And you say: it’s really a good question. Thank you. And they go away and say: its great, he really listened.

You meet that other group and they say: why can’t you do that? And you say: it’s a really good question. Thank you. And they go away happy you listened.

In Government you have to give the answer, not an answer, the answer.

And, in time, you realise putting the country first doesn’t mean doing the right thing according to conventional wisdom or the prevailing consensus or the latest snapshot of opinion.

It means doing what you genuinely believe to be right.

Your duty is to act according to your conviction.

All of that can get contorted so that people think you act according to some messianic zeal.

Doubt, hesitation, reflection, consideration and re-consideration these are all the good companions of proper decision-making.

But the ultimate obligation is to decide.

Sometimes the decisions are accepted quite quickly. Bank of England independence was one, which gave us our economic stability.

Sometimes like tuition fees or trying to break up old monolithic public services, they are deeply controversial, hellish hard to do, but you can see you are moving with the grain of change round the word.

Sometimes like with Europe, where I believe Britain should keep its position strong, you know you are fighting opinion but you are content with doing so.

Sometimes as with the completely unexpected, you are alone with your own instinct.

In Sierra Leone and to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, I took the decision to make our country one that intervened, that did not pass by, or keep out of the thick of it.

Then came the utterly unanticipated and dramatic. September 11th 2001 and the death of 3,000 or more on the streets of New York.

I decided we should stand shoulder to shoulder with our oldest ally.

I did so out of belief.

So Afghanistan and then Iraq.

The latter, bitterly controversial.

Removing Saddam and his sons from power, as with removing the Taliban, was over with relative ease.

But the blowback since, from global terrorism and those elements that support it, has been fierce and unrelenting and costly. For many, it simply isn’t and can’t be worth it.

For me, I think we must see it through. They, the terrorists, who threaten us here and round the world, will never give up if we give up.

It is a test of will and of belief. And we can’t fail it.

So: some things I knew I would be dealing with.

Some I thought I might be.

Some never occurred to me on that morning of 2 May 1997 when I came into Downing Street for the first time.

Great expectations not fulfilled in every part, for sure.

Occasionally people say, as I said earlier, they were too high, you should have lowered them.

But, to be frank, I would not have wanted it any other way. I was, and remain, as a person and as a Prime Minister an optimist. Politics may be the art of the possible; but at least in life, give the impossible a go.

So of course the vision is painted in the colours of the rainbow; and the reality is sketched in the duller tones of black, white and grey.

But I ask you to accept one thing. Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right.

I may have been wrong. That’s your call. But believe one thing if nothing else. I did what I thought was right for our country.

I came into office with high hopes for Britain’s future. I leave it with even higher hopes for Britain’s future.

This is a country that can, today, be excited by the opportunities not constantly fretful of the dangers.

People often say to me: it’s a tough job.

Not really.

A tough life is the life the young severely disabled children have and their parents, who visited me in Parliament the other week.

Tough is the life my Dad had, his whole career cut short at the age of 40 by a stroke.

I have been very lucky and very blessed.

This country is a blessed nation.

The British are special.

The world knows it.

In our innermost thoughts, we know it.

This is the greatest nation on earth.

It has been an honour to serve it. I give my thanks to you, the British people, for the times I have succeeded, and my apologies to you for the times I have fallen short.

Good Luck.

Vladimir Putin's Victory Day Speech

I don't see anything on this post directed against the USA--but do see phrases that might refer to a threat from Islamist extremism. Decide for yourself:
Speech at the Military Parade Celebrating the 62nd Anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War

May 9, 2007
Red Square, Moscow Printer-Friendly Version


Veterans of the Great Patriotic War,

Comrade soldiers and sailors, sergeants and warrant officers,

Comrade officers, generals, and admirals,

I congratulate you on this celebration of our great victory, on this occasion of tremendous moral significance and unifying force. I congratulate you on this date that is imprinted forever on the destiny of Russia and the heart of every Russian citizen.

The Great Patriotic War was an unprecedented tragedy for our entire people, sweeping its fiery way across our country and leaving scars in our families and hearts that have still not healed to this day.

But the war did not break our people’s spirit and it gave birth to numerous examples of mass heroism. Even as they faced all manner of torment and hardship, even as they saw their comrades fall, our soldiers nonetheless retained their faith in Victory.

Millions of people defended the independence and dignity of their country on the fronts and in the rear, under occupation and in underground resistance, and they proved that a people fighting for its freedom and its very right to live is invincible.

We bow our heads before their fearlessness and will, before the memory of those whose courage and unity defeated the aggressor and stopped Fascism in its tracks, before those who gave our country and the entire world a future.

This is an occasion to reflect on the destiny of our world, on its stability and security, and on the lessons of that terrible war which are gaining ever greater meaning and significance with every year.

Today we pay tribute to the countries that fought together against Hitler. We shall not forget their contribution to the defeat of Nazism.

Victory Day not only unites the people of Russia but also unites our neighbours in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. We are deeply grateful to the generation of people whose difficult fate it was to face this war. They have passed on to us their traditions of fraternity and solidarity and their truly hard-won experience of unity and mutual aid. We will preserve this sacred memory and historical legacy.

Those who attempt today to belittle this invaluable experience and defile the monuments to the heroes of this war are insulting their own people and spreading enmity and new distrust between countries and peoples.

We have a duty to remember that the causes of any war lie above all in the mistakes and miscalculations of peacetime, and that these causes have their roots in an ideology of confrontation and extremism.

It is all the more important that we remember this today, because these threats are not becoming fewer but are only transforming and changing their appearance. These new threats, just as under the Third Reich, show the same contempt for human life and the same aspiration to establish an exclusive dictate over the world.

It is my conviction that only common responsibility and equal partnership can counter these challenges and enable us to join forces in resisting any attempts to unleash new armed conflicts and undermine global security.

Dear veterans,

Through your tremendous endeavours, you vanquished Fascism and brought freedom to millions of people. And after the Victory was won, you toiled heroically to raise towns and villages from the ruins and rebuild peaceful life.

We bow low before you and express our gratitude to all who fought for and deserved this Victory. We cherish the eternal memory of all who gave their lives, all who fought to bring us peace.

Russia will always remember this great Victory and the great deeds of our fathers and grandfathers. Like them, we will selflessly defend the interests of our Motherland. We will work together to build a prosperous and peaceful future for Russia.

Glory to you, soldiers of the Great Patriotic War!

Glory to the victorious people!


Happy Victory Day!