Wednesday, August 20, 2014
A WAR BY ANOTHER NAMEThe Geography of Horror
We are in effect at war with Islamist radicalism. It is very unhelpful if this reality is denied, as the Obama administration has tried to do.
Two news items, spread within days over all the media, must be seentogether so as to disclose an ominous reality. One was the news that Meriam Ibrahim and her family had finally arrived safely in the United States. The other news was that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was proclaimed Caliph of the new Islamic State. The story of Meriam Ibrahim tells of yet another horrendous cruelty perpetrated in the name of Islam. The new Caliphate expresses the intention of globalizing the horror.
There are two ways of looking at the record of these atrocities. One is to see them as intrinsic to Islam, the other as an aberration of genuine Islam. The first view is rarely proposed publically in the United States, though it may be quietly held by some Americans less affected by the prevailing culture of tolerance. It is more openly stated in Europe, for example by the Dutch populist Geert Wilders, who admitted that he hated Islam as an enemy of freedom (among other things he proposed that the Quran, like Hitler’s Mein Kampf, should be banned in the Netherlands). It is also interesting to compare the different attitudes to Islamist terrorism by the successive administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Immediately after the attacks of September 2001 President Bush made a speech in which he declared that we are not at war with Islam but with terrorism. (He also said that “Islam means peace”, which it does not. A linguistically challenged White House speech writer must have confused two Arabic words—salaam/”peace”, a common form of salutation among Muslims, andaslama/”submission”, the root of the religion’s name. Not that this matters; Bush meant well.)
The “war against terror” unleashed by the Bush administration has not gone well, to put it mildly. But the domestic reaction to the aforementioned speech was very positive. Numerous churches and synagogues went out of their way to express friendship for Muslims, courses on Islam proliferated in academia, and there was hardly any violence against Muslims (one terrible exception was the murder of a Sikh taxi driver, who was wrongly identified as a Muslim because of his turban). Early after his election President Obama gave a speech in Cairo in which he expressed his admiration for Islam (barely stopping short of apologizing for not being a Muslim). The response to the speech in the Muslim world was decidedly muted. Obama had no problem with Bush’s Islamophilia; he did have a problem with the word “war”—ever since the Cairo speech the Obama administration has maintained either that there was no war to begin with, or (presumably because of Obama’s wise foreign policy) the war was now over. Both Bush’s and Obama’s approaches are in tension with empirical reality. To suggest that Islamist terror has nothing to do with Islam is rather absurd. There is a great shortage of Presbyterian suicide bombers; the Muslim ones, as they blow themselves up, shout “Allahu akbar!”/”Allah is great!” To deny that radical Islamism (aberration or not) is not at war with us is also quite absurd. Barack Obama may not think that we are in a war, but the news has not reached Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Let me say what I think about this matter: Islam is one of the great world religions, and it has created one of the world’s great civilizations. The resurgence of Islam in our time is not coterminous with Islamist terrorism, but is grounded in the fact that millions of people have found meaning and moral direction in this faith. One must never forget this. However, as a courageous Egyptian commentator wrote some years ago, most Muslims are not terrorists, but most terrorists today are Muslims. Radical Islamists have committed unspeakable horrors. And the Al Qaeda of 2001 has morphed into a global alliance of kindred movements and organizations, who constitute a real threat to the United States and its allies. It cannot be defeated or contained by “soft power” alone, but must be met, if necessary, by “hard power” or its credible threat.
Meriam Ibrahim was born as the daughter of a Sudanese Muslim father and an Ethiopian Christian mother. The father deserted and Meriam was raised as a Christian by her mother’s family. She subsequently married Daniel Wasi, a Christian holding U.S. citizenship, with whom she had one child and was pregnant with another when she was arrested. The charge was apostasy and fornication. Under Islamic law the father’s religion determines the child’s, so Meriam is a Muslim. Unless she recants her professed Christianity she is guilty of apostasy. Marriage between a Christian man and a Muslim woman is prohibited, so her union with Wasi is fornication. She refused to recant her Christian faith. She was sentenced to death by hanging for apostasy, and for fornication to be whipped with one hundred lashes. Both sentences were to be suspended for two years after the birth. Her first child, a son then aged twenty months, was kept in prison with her and became sick under the brutal conditions prevailing at Omdurman Women’s Prison. [I cannot refrain from noting that in 1898 the self-styled Mahdi, a messianic title, was defeated by British troops at the Battle of Omdurman. These of course were the bad old days of colonialism. I am always intrigued by hidden connections.] Meriam was kept in shackles throughout her imprisonment and remained so while giving birth to a daughter, who may have been damaged as a result. [In fidelity to balanced reporting it should be noted that the practice of keeping pregnant women in shackles through labor occurs in some American prisons, although this is prohibited by law in several states. I am not suggesting moral equivalence between American democracy and the Sudanese dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir, who incidentally was indicted in 2009 by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in Dafur. I merely observe that there are underworlds of barbarity even in basically decent democracies.]
The Caliphate was proclaimed in the large territory seized by the rebel movement that called itself ISIS—the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The name has now been changed, quite simply, to IS—the Islamic State. The name change is significant: It implies that this territory straddling the border between what have been two sovereign states, is now the Islamic State, potentially with universal jurisdiction. The title of Caliph (khalifa) designates a successor of the Prophet, by definition Commander of the Faithful demanding allegiance by Muslims anywhere in the world. The name of Abu Bakr is also significant: He was the very first Caliph after the death of Muhammad in 632 CE; under him began the creation of an empire which at its height stretched from Spain to the borders of China. The imperial fantasy seems unreal now and is unlikely to be achieved in the foreseeable future, but it has a transcendent aura that will appeal to many potential holy warriors.
The list of Islamist atrocities is a long one. No useful purpose would be served by compiling one here. I will only mention some egregious ones. One should distinguish between two different phases—when Islamists are insurgents fighting governments (this has been called “asymmetrical warfare”) and when they have become governments themselves. The trajectory from ISIS to Caliphate is exemplary. ISIS committed many atrocities before it set up a (still rudimentary) state: indiscriminate massacres of (mostly Shia) civilians, persecution of Christians, assassinations, torture, imposition of the cruel penalties of sharia law on populations even temporarily under its control. What happened when ISIS conquered Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, gives a good idea what the Caliphate would be like if it became a more established state. Immediately ISIS imposed the harsh rules and penalties of what it understands Islamic rule to be. In the footsteps of the Taliban in Afghanistan, it destroyed historic monuments dating from pre-Islamic times. But the most horrible atrocity was the treatment of the large Christian community, one of the most ancient in the world. At first ISIS seemed ready to extend to Christians the traditional protection of “People of the Book” if they accepted the status of dhimmi (second-class subjects paying a special tax). The new ISIS authorities then changed their mind. Christians were given the options of conversion to Islam, execution or exile. Most chose exile, preferably in the nearby Kurdish-controlled area (about the only part of Iraq where something like law and order prevails). On the way there they were robbed of the few possessions they were allowed to take with them. The atrocities of Sunni ISIS were duly reciprocated by Shia militias operating in collusion with government forces. The spillage into Syria of the Shia-Sunni civil war in Iraq is what made the Caliphate possible.
When Islamists actually run a state, they commit horrors in a more orderly fashion. Iran and Saudi Arabia have become the big states supporting, respectively, the two sides of the Shia-Sunni conflict now dominating much of the Middle East. Domestically Iran brutally persecutes Baha’is and hangs homosexuals; it is a major sponsor of international terrorism, such as the massive attack a few years ago on Jewish institutions in Argentina); and it has been playing a delaying game with the powers that want to stop its project of acquiring atomic weapons (which would make it the hegemon in the region). Saudi Arabia has also been a source of funding (by the government and by wealthy individuals) for various terrorist groups. Domestically the Saudi regime does not allow any non-Muslim public worship; its criminal law imposes stoning for adultery and amputation for theft; let me not go into its treatment of women [Saudi Arabia is also a more or less reliable ally of the United States.]
Just some pickings from the list of atrocities perpetrated in the “asymmetric” phase: The Taliban, who operate in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, have specialized in the murder of young girls who commit the crime of going to school; they have recently been murdering health personnel giving polio vaccines to children, an activity they consider un-Islamic. Boko Haram, an Islamist movement in northern Nigeria, has killed thousands of (mostly Christian) villagers; its most spectacular coup has been the kidnapping in April 2014 of over two hundred Christian schoolgirls, who were forcibly converted to Islam and threatened with (presumably sexual) slavery (at this time of writing they are still in captivity). Kidnapping of Westerners for ransom has been a common practice in Africa, first by religiously unaccredited Somali pirates, now a major source of funding for terrorist groups linked to Al Qaeda-central (which, according to the Obama administration, no longer exists). The New York Times reported on July 30, 2014, that one of its reporters, Rukmini Callimachi, found documents in an abandoned Islamist site in Mali, which prove that European governments had used intermediaries to pay millions of dollars in ransom for captive citizens. Al Shabab, the Islamist movement that for a long time controlled parts of Somalia, has extended its activities to Kenya, supposedly to revenge the deployment of Kenyan troops in Somalia. Al Shabab terrorists occupied a mall in Kenya and interviewed all the patrons they managed to capture; those who could not credibly identify themselves as Muslims were murdered on the spot. Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority country, has traditionally had a moderate version of Islam. It still has. But radical voices have become louder. The Islamist group Jama’a Islamiya has been thought to be responsible a few years ago for the attack on a resort hotel in Bali. There was a massacre of its guests, most of them Australians.
One of the ugliest actions of radical Islam has been its important role in the revival of anti-Semitism in EuropeOne of the ugliest actions of radical Islam has been its important role in the revival of anti-Semitism in Europe, typically disguised as opposition to Israel. [I’m not implying that Israel does not deserve criticism, especially for its settlement policy in the West Bank.] On July 13, 2014 [on the eve of Bastille Day!] a crowd of between 10,000 and 30,000 people, mostly Muslims, demonstrated in Paris, supposedly to protest the Israeli campaign in Gaza. The crowd flnally besieged a synagogue, trapping worshippers inside. The crowd shouted “Death to the Jews” and “Hitler was right!” Some shouted “We are all Mohamed Merah”; this is the man who killed three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse. [It is remarkable that many who deny that the Holocaust ever took place are proposing to repeat it.]
Let me conclude: Islam is not the enemy. Radical Islamism is. It has spawned unspeakable horrors, a veritable “axis of evil”. Its global proliferation is a very real threat to the United States (though not, or not yet, like the existential one posed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War—a nuclear-armed Iran would change that). To say this is not to recommend any particular direction for US foreign policy. Obviously this country cannot intervene militarily in every place where horrors are taking place, or even where there are potential threats to American interests. I doubt whether an overall strategy can be devised that will fit all cases. But viable policy depends on a clear view of the empirical realities. One reality is that we are in effect at war with Islamist radicalism; it is very unhelpful if this reality is denied (which the Obama administration tries to do.) The denial is popular, because Americans are understandably tired of war. But another reality is that Americans want government policies to be morally charged; they will not easily accept a foreign policy based on sheer Realpolitik. To strike a balance between these conflicting realities requires political leadership in sparse supply on either side of the aisle.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
How Senator Jeff Sessions helped stop comprehensive immigration reform
By Eliana Johnson
(this is part 1 of Johnson's piece; use link to read the rest): http://www.nationalreview.com/article/384665/amnestys-worst-enemy-eliana-johnson
A Masters of the Universe drawing hangs in a frame above the desk in the Capitol Hill office of Alabama senator Jeff Sessions. It stands out among dozens of pictures of his three children and seven grandchildren. The protagonist of the comic-book series, He-Man, is depicted mounted atop his heroic lion, Battle Cat. His muscles are bulging; his sword is thrust into the air. Battle Cat’s mouth is open, his fangs exposed. They are a formidable pair.
A small gold plaque sits below the drawing in the same frame. Etched on it are a portion of the remarks Sessions delivered on the Senate floor in June 2007, two days before the comprehensive immigration-reform bill championed by President George W. Bush and several prominent Republicans was defeated in the Senate. Sessions led the opposition to that bill, and his efforts were among the reasons for its unexpected collapse. “No one small group of people have a right to meet in secret with special-interest groups and write an immigration bill and ram it down the throat of this Senate,” he told his colleagues. “I oppose it. It is not right.”
The artwork was a gift from Cindy Hayden, Sessions’s former chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, after the 2007 bill was defeated. Sessions called the “small group” that had hashed out the legislation — the politicians, political strategists, and special-interest groups — the “masters of the universe.”
It’s one of his favorite political put-downs. He refers to the CEOs and corporate interests that support amnesty for illegal immigrants as the “masters of the universe in glass towers and suites.” Politicians like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who have repeatedly tried to push a path to citizenship through Congress, are the “Washington masters of the universe.” Economists, too, are masters of the universe, and former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke was the “master master.”
Sessions, 67, is a low-profile guy. Though he is not well known nationally, he has for years now been the instrumental force in quashing repeated attempts to pass comprehensive immigration reform. He has a gentle, almost grandfatherly quality, but he doesn’t shy away from combat. He derided the 2007 bill as “no illegal alien left behind”; in a single press conference, he blasted it as a “colossal error,” an “absolute scandal,” and a “fiscal disaster.” He declared: “Good fences make good neighbors.” All of this prompted the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank to call him the “Lou Dobbs of the Senate.”
By the time Sessions was done, on the eve of the Senate vote, calls from the bill’s opponents had shut down the Capitol switchboard. “People were sending bricks through the mail and saying, ‘Use this to build a wall,’ that sort of thing,” he says.
When he was elected to the Senate in 1996, Sessions had no special interest in immigration but, as a career prosecutor, he says the 2007 bill, which would have granted amnesty to the millions of illegal immigrants already in the United States, “just went against my understanding of what law in America was about.”
Sessions grew up in the rural town of Hybart, Ala., where his family ran a country store and, he has said, he learned “the value of hard work and being honest.” He was a Republican even when the South was strongly Democratic. At Huntingdon College in the late 1960s, he was involved with the GOP, and in his senior year he became chairman of the campus chapter of the Young Republicans.
Even before he came to Washington he had spent much of his career in public service, first as a U.S. attorney in Mobile and then as state attorney general. In 1986, when Sessions was 39, President Reagan nominated him to the federal district court in Alabama.
Sessions has always been willing to take on unpopular fights. As U.S. attorney, he prosecuted a group of African-American civil-rights activists for voter fraud, and his nomination prompted charges of racism from local and national officials. Colleagues at the Department of Justice accused him of racism, too, and the late Democratic senator Ted Kennedy warned that he would be a “throwback to a shameful era.” A black colleague and even a local black journalist testified on his behalf. Ultimately, his nomination was defeated. In an unusual turn of events, Senator Howell Heflin, a conservative Democrat who was expected to support his fellow Alabamian, bucked tradition and cast the deciding vote against him.
Sessions ran for the Senate in 1996 after serving two years as state attorney general and got some revenge: He won the seat held by the retiring Heflin. His victory was important for the GOP, too, as part of Alabama’s political realignment and that of the South more broadly. In 1994, Republicans had won the governorship and several other statewide offices. The 1996 elections tested the permanence of those victories, and Sessions’s triumph helped to consolidate the GOP’s gains.
Sessions says that proponents of comprehensive immigration reform, which would address many of the thorny immigration issues facing the country in a single bill rather than in smaller pieces, began redoubling their efforts on June 8, 2007, the day after a Bush-backed bill to bring it about was defeated. To the rest of us, it wasn’t until the day after Mitt Romney’s defeat in the 2012 presidential election that a new immigration bill began to look not just realistic but inevitable. Three days after the election, former George W. Bush aide Mark McKinnon opined, “The best thing about Republicans’ losing is that it will likely force them to cut an immigration deal.” An NBC News headline declared, “GOP resistance to immigration reform could be a casualty of 2012 election.” The Washington Post explained that “the GOP needs to do immigration reform — now.” The Republican National Committee, in its postmortem election report, came to the same conclusion.
A year and a half later, the landscape looks much different. House majority leader Eric Cantor is widely considered a casualty of the immigration issue. And, with Central American children flooding over the southern border, comprehensive immigration reform is, for the time being, all but dead.
More than any other national figure, Sessions is responsible for that turn of events. As the Senate debated the proposal of a group of eight senators — known as the “Gang of Eight” — for comprehensive reform last year, and then as the House toyed with passing it in various incarnations throughout the spring, Sessions’s office served as Ground Zero for the opposition. His staff circulated scholarly studies on Capitol Hill, sent dozens of policy memos to sway ambivalent lawmakers, and relentlessly hassled reporters about the perceived biases in their coverage.
THE WAY I SEE IT by Don Polson Red Bluff Daily News 8/19/2014
Liberal foolishness, mendacity
Thinking about the Ann Coulter book, “How To Talk To a Liberal (If You Must), which I briefly described last week as a compilation of her columns from the late 1990s through 2005, it seemed worth another column. If this were a liberal-dominated area, the regular derision she unloads on the Left might come across as gratuitous but, in our conservative part of Jefferson, I mean California, those easily offended can simply move along while the rest of us appreciate some of the foolishness, lunacy, hypocrisy and mendacity of liberalism from that period.
Since only Human Events regularly published her columns, this is, to me, original, rarely seen material. Regarding the “How to talk to a liberal” theme, her advice and warnings started with “Historically, the best way to convert liberals is to have them move out of their parents home, get a job and start paying taxes. But if this doesn’t work, you might have to actually argue with a liberal.” She warned that “when arguing with liberals, you are always within inches of the ‘Arab street.’ Liberals traffic in shouting and demagogy.” Their political Tourette’s Syndrome includes “Bush lied,” “racist,” “Halliburton” (or now the all purpose, mindless repetition of “Koch brothers”), and the recently fabricated “War on Women.”
Then there is their inability to follow one line of argument. Don’t take Ann’s or my word for it, just listen to any of the talk radio hosts trying to engage a liberal caller who can’t respond to one issue without jumping around to 3 or 4 other, usually irrelevant, talking points. Sunday show panels are notorious for stacking several liberals with one, lone conservative who politely allows the others to finish their thoughts; the conservative will usually get 2 sentences out before the liberals interrupt, gang up and shout him or her down.
That happened to Rich Lowry on “This Week” when he attempted to truthfully point out that it was President Obama’s singular obsession to leave no residual troops in Iraq to keep the relative calm that prevailed when President Bush turned Iraq over in 2009 (BTW, we’re still in Bosnia—result: no ethnic strife). The liberal harpies converged on Lowry mercilessly—how dare he lay any responsibility on Obama’s doorstep. In fact, the refusal by Obama to heed wise military advice for 20,000 troops was then cloaked in the duplicitous charade that Iraqis didn’t want them.
The Germans and Japanese probably didn’t want the Americans military, either; responsible leaders honor sacrifices by keeping troops stationed to secure peace in the midst of potential instability. That prevents subsequent chaos and bloodshed requiring going back into a country like Iraq—the vicious, slaughtering hordes of ISIS are Obama’s lasting legacy.
As her subtitle, “The World According to Ann Coulter,” suggests, her pithy, often caustic take on events, liberal actions and reactions is a tour-de-force of outrageousness from the political, media, judicial and cultural left. The largest section, “This is War,” organizes dozens of columns on the broad topic of the War on Terror, beginning with “How 9/11 Happened.” It is riveting to read a summary of President Carter’s timidity and appeasement of Muslim extremists, compared to Reagan’s decisive military response (Democrats, not Reagan, insisted on withdrawing militarily from Beirut after the Marine barracks were bombed). Bush 41’s less-than-Reaganesque response to the terrorist destruction of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Tarnished his record.
Then, through his 8 years, President Clinton had no less than 9 opportunities to respond to Muslim or other terrorist attacks or threats. On 6 of those occasions, Clinton did nothing. 18 dead American military in Somalia resulted in withdrawal, which Osama bin Laden referred to on ABC News as proving “that the American soldier was a paper tiger and after a few blows ran in defeat.” Then there were ineffectual responses like lobbing bombs hundreds of miles from Iraqi troops or just threatening to bomb until the UN objected.
After Clinton’s serial fecklessness, President George Bush, having no chance to deliver on his determination to eliminate al Qaeda, (told to his National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice), was faced with the previously unimaginable attacks on 9/11. (To be continued)
“Imagine” (with apologies to John Lennon’s version)
Imagine there’re no liberals;
It’s not that hard to see.
No Left to goad or force us
To give up living free.
Imagine all Americans
Living in liberty.
You might say I’m a dreamer;
But I’m not the only one.
Perhaps some day you will join us,
God-given freedoms shall be won.
Monday, August 18, 2014
Intolerance that fosters pogroms abroad is taking root in U.S. communities. Sobering and unforgettable images are projected across our television and computer screens. They should elicit the most basic instincts of both fear and compassion.
I'm referring to images of showing the persecution of hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of our fellow brothers and sisters by incomprehensible religious zealots. Their intolerance of Christianity is beyond horrible. People are beheaded for their faith. Women and young girls are sexually violated, and whole families are wantonly slaughtered in cold blood. Perhaps just as abhorrent is the profound silence of the current administration. Even though President Obama has declared that we are not a Judeo-Christian nation, we are still compassionate people who should not ignore humanitarian atrocities, much less ones where the victims are only guilty of maintaining a belief in the principles espoused by Jesus Christ.
We have an obligation as Americans to denounce these acts of persecution. Even those who do not worship a higher deity should be concerned. For when we stand up to such intolerance, we are defending the root of freedom. We are defending choice -- the ability to worship and call on the name of a heavenly being without fear of torture and abandonment.
The president, who very early in his tenure won the Nobel Peace Prize, now has an opportunity to truly be the broker of peace in a very troubled part of the world. He can be a champion of freedom of religion, a founding principle of our nation. As long as religious practices do not infringe upon the rights of others, he can make it clear that it is wrong to interfere with those practices.
In our own country, we must become more reasonable in disputes about religious symbols. For instance, if a Christmas tree or manger scene has been a long-standing community tradition, and a few offended people come along and claim that it must be removed, should those few individuals have the power to interfere with the seasonal joy of thousands who rejoice in the viewing of those symbols? If someone is offended by a menorah in a Jewish community, would it not make more sense to give them sensitivity training rather than disturb the entire community by removing the symbol? I could go on, but I think the point is clear. When we reward unwarranted hypersensitivity surrounding religious ceremonies or beliefs, we add fuel to the hatred and intolerance that subsequently produces religious persecution.
Some will say religious persecution in other parts of the world does not concern us and we cannot be the police for the planet. Certainly, there is some validity to the latter part of that statement, but if we continue to ignore or tolerate religious persecution elsewhere, it is just a matter of time before we will experience it here at home.
As far as the Middle East is concerned, we are not helpless and can dispatch the State Department to do all it can to help. Some conservatives and cynics might argue that such a move requires government dollars. Who's to say? We don't fully comprehend how besieged these people are, much less know what it would take to grant them relief.
Governments need to decry such persecution, and root it out wherever and whenever they can. The United States should lead in that effort -- just as it has with combating sex trafficking and other problems the world has decried in the past. It is hard to find an issue that demands a sharper clarion call for leadership now.