Hezbollah’s West Coast media office

A child’s death is always a tragedy, but this SF Chron report about Qana sounds like a Hezbollah PR office press release:

The tiny, lifeless bodies were laid out in a row on a black straw sheet in the concrete courtyard of the Tyre Government Hospital. Twenty-one of them, all still in the pajamas they were wearing before two Israeli bombs tore through Ali Hashem’s home in this southern Lebanese village early Sunday.

Dozens of members of the Hashem and Chalhoub families had sought refuge in the unfinished house about 10 days ago, thinking it was safe. Only eight survived.

After several sob stories with Lebanese pointing out the obvious — which is that their infants aren’t terrorists — we get to the article’s real point — the Israelis are cold-blooded civilian killers, who’ve murdered before:

There have been almost daily tragedies involving civilians since Israel unleashed its fury against Lebanon for Hezbollah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers on July 12. In the days and nights since, the civilian death toll has sharply increased; the Lebanese Health Ministry now estimates nearly 550 people have been killed in air strikes.

But Sunday’s bombardment and killing of at least 56 helpless civilians — 37 of them children — is resonating with the Lebanese in a way that others did not: It occurred in Qana, the site of a bloodbath 10 years ago that is annually remembered with bitterness.

Just over 100 civilians cowering in a U.N. shelter were killed in an Israeli strike on the town on April 18, 1996. The attack sparked widespread international outrage and resulted in the “April Understanding” — an agreement by Israel, Lebanon, France, Syria and the United States that Lebanese and Israeli civilians would not be targeted in Hezbollah’s drive to end Israel’s decadeslong occupation of southern Lebanon. Four years later, the Israelis withdrew.

The story then flips back to the horrors, the horrors! As I’ve said, it is a horror when children die. Funnily enough, the story makes no mention of how the children ended up in a combat zone. You have to go beyond this MSM forum, which I was able to do thanks to a link that jg gave me (which took me from Dr. Sanity; to NRO’s Corner; to Rampurple, a Lebanese blogger, who wrote the following):

The situation in Ain Ebel is unbearable. Thousands of civilians have fled to the village from nearby villages and more than 1000 rockets have hit the village, there is no more food neither clean water and diseases r spreading.

Now here comes the most sickening part:

Hezbollah has been firing rockets from the village since Day 1 hiding behind innocent people’s places and even CHURCHES. No one is allowed to argue with the Hezbollah gunmen who wont hesitate to shoot you and i ve heard about more than one shooting incident including young men from the village and Hezbollah.

Urgent appeals have been done through phone calls from terrified people who wouldnt give out their name fearing Hezbollah might harm or even eliminate them.

This is the true image of our brave Islamic Resistance, putting the civilians and their homes as body shields to the Israeli bombardements.

Let the message spread and let those criminals move out of the village once and for all.

Free Ain Ebel from the terrorists !

The tragedy of villages held hostage to Hezbollah terrorists is not an isolated story. I’ve blogged — indeed, hundreds have blogged — about the fact that Hezbollah has made a strategic decision to use children to shield its military operations. Indeed, even a maverick at the UN has expressed disgust with Hezbollah’s tactics. You’d never know it, though, to read the Chronicle story. Instead of blaming the terrorists who trap children in the line of fire, the story, without saying so in so many words, clearly likens the Jews to the Nazis, the Khmer Rouge, or any other 20th Century totalitarian killers. I would say that the Chronicle should be ashamed of itself for printing that kind of thing, but the Chronicle has no shame.

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Death by propaganda

It’s beginning to look as if those children’s deaths in Qana are a replay of the family death in Palestine. You know the latter — it was the one where the Palestinians, swiftly joined by the world media, blamed Israel when a family died while on the beach (complete with posed photographs of mourners). It was only Israel’s high tech surveillance that demonstrated that, in fact, the family died when Hamas bombs blew up under them. It may be that the same thing happened in Qana, only with higher casualties:

An IDF investigation has found that the building in Qana struck by the Air Force fell around eight hours after being hit by the IDF.

“The attack on the structure in the Qana village took place between midnight and one in the morning. The gap between the timing of the collapse of the building and the time of the strike on it is unclear,” Brigadier General Amir Eshel, Head of the Air Force Headquarters told journalists at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, following the incidents at Qana.

Eshel and the head of the IDF’s Operational Branch, Major General Gadi Eisnkot said the structure was not being attacked when it collapsed, at around 8:00 in the morning. The IDF believes that Hizbullah explosives in the building were behind the explosion that caused the collapse.

Another possibility is that the rickety building remained standing for a few hours, but eventually collapsed. “It could be that inside the building, things that could eventually cause an explosion were being housed, things that we could not blow up in the attack, and maybe remained there, Brigadier General Eshel said.

Read the rest here.  Little Green Footballs has lots of other stories about how Qana is being manipulated and exploited to feed the Press’ insatiable demand for horror stories about Israel.

Hat tip: Little Green Footballs

How to pander with elan

You can’t say that the French lack style. When they pander, they do so with panache. Take their homage, as Reuters reports it, to one of the world’s major terrorist states:

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy says Tehran is a significant, respected player in the Middle East – ‘a great country, a great people and a great civilization’

Iran is a significant, respected player in the Middle East which is playing a stabilizing role, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said on Monday.

“It was clear that we could never accept a destabilization of Lebanon, which could lead to a destabilization of the region,” Douste-Blazy said in Beirut.

“In the region there is of course a country such as Iran – a great country, a great people and a great civilization which is respected and which plays a stabilizing role in the region,” he told a news conference.

The United States blames Iran and Syria for destabilizing the region by backing Hizbollah in Lebanon which have been battling Israeli forces for nearly three weeks.

Really, there are few things more stabilizing than a nuclear bomb in a madman’s hand.  That scenario removes all decision-making from surrounding countries.  You do what the madman asks, and you hope that you’re the last one on his hit list.  Sounds very peaceful to me, if you’re the kind of person or country that doesn’t want to be bothered with vexing little questions about right or wrong, or freedom, or respect for human-kind.

In any event, if you’re not as charmed with the French as the French are charmed with Iran, you might want to check out I-Hate-France.com, the ultimate site for those who view France with, at best, a jaundiced eye.

Thoughts from Israel

Since Israel is at the epicenter of events right now, I wanted to share with you two emails that I’ve received.  The first one is from an Israeli — an old Leftist — writing about the battle in Lebanon.  I’ve redacted it for privacy, and edited it for spelling (no criticism is intended here, since I can’t write in any language but English):

Hizbollah is the proxy of Iran here and both are fanatic Islamic people who believe that Palestine is a sacred ground and Jews should not stain this land and they have one common interest, which they say it openly – the annihilation of Israel. The only reason why they have accumulated near the border 12,000 rockets of mid and long range, threatening the whole country, is to deter Israel, deter from what?  From self defence when Iran is ready to attack us and achieve their goal.

They have turned the border with Israel into a fortress full with underground tunnels, ammunitions and rockets, and for the last six years since we left Lebanon there were quite a number of provocations, in which they shelled the Galilee with rockets, kidnapped and killed soldiers and civilians and Israel hardly retaliated. That way the deterrent force of Israel was reduced to a dangerous level.

At this stage, our deterrent force is the only guarantee to our existance here and I pray for the day that it will not be required any more. The situation reached to a level that after the last provocation we had to retaliate, with the goal to reduce the force of Hizbulla as much as possible, otherwise we can close the shop here, and this is also the reason that more than 80% here are unified and prepared to go through the destruction and shelling of their villages and town and risk their lives, in order to end this threat once and for all. So this is the situation here, how a leftist person like me sees it, as most of the the leftists in this country do.

The second is an email that intermittently surfaces when Israel is in the headlines.  It predates the current conflict, but does spell out well Israel’s (and the Jews’) sense of history and at least one Jew’s growing disdain with world opinion:

Dear World, I understand that you are upset by us, here in Israel.

Indeed, it appears that you are quite upset, even angry. (Outraged?)

Indeed, every few years you seem to become upset by us. Today, it is the “brutal repression of the Palestinians”; yesterday it was Lebanon; before that it was the bombing of the nuclear reactor in Baghdad and the Yom Kippur War and the Sinai campaign. It appears that Jews who triumph and who, therefore, live, upset you most extraordinarily.

Of course, dear world, long before there was an Israel, we – the Jewish people – upset you.

We upset a German people who elected Hitler and upset an Austrian people who cheered his entry into Vienna and we upset a whole slew of Slavic nations – Poles, Slovaks, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Russians, Hungarians and Romanians. And we go back a long, long way in the history of world upset.

We upset the Cossacks of Chmielnicki who massacred tens of thousands of us in 1648-49; we upset the Crusaders who, on their way to liberate the Holy Land, were so upset at Jews that they slaughtered untold numbers of us.

For centuries, we upset a Roman Catholic Church that did its best to define our relationship through inquisitions, and we upset the arch-enemy of the church, Martin Luther, who, in his call to burn the synagogues and the Jews within them, showed an admirable Christian ecumenical spirit.

And it is because we became so upset over upsetting you, dear world, that we decided to leave you – in a manner of speaking – and establish a Jewish state. The reasoning was that living in close contact with you, as resident-strangers in the various countries that comprise you, we upset you, irritate you and disturb you. What better notion, then, than to leave you (and thus love you)- and have you love us and so, we decided to come home – home to the same land we were driven out 1,900 years earlier by a Roman world that, apparently, we also upset.

Alas, dear world, it appears that you are hard to please.

Having left you and your pogroms and inquisitions and crusades and holocausts, having taken our leave of the general world to live alone in our own little state, we continue to upset you. You are upset that we repress the poor Palestinians. You are deeply angered over the fact that we do not give up the lands of 1967, which are clearly the obstacle to peace in the Middle East

Moscow is upset and Washington is upset. The “radical” Arabs are upset and the gentle Egyptian moderates are upset.

Well, dear world, consider the reaction of a normal Jew from Israel.

In 1920 and 1921 and 1929, there were no territories of 1967 to impede peace between Jews and Arabs. Indeed, there was no Jewish State to upset anybody Nevertheless, the same oppressed and repressed Palestinians slaughtered tens of Jews in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Safed and Hebron. Indeed, 67 Jews were slaughtered one day in Hebron in 1929.

Dear world, why did the Arabs – the Palestinians – massacre 67 Jews in one day in 1929? Could it have been their anger over Israeli aggression in 1967? And why were 510 Jewish men, women and children slaughtered in Arab riots between 1936-39? Was it because Arabs were upset over 1967?

And when you, dear world, proposed a UN Partition Plan in 1947 that would have created a “Palestinian State” alongside a tiny Israel and the Arabs cried “no” and went to war and killed 6,000 Jews – was that “upset” caused by the aggression of 1967? And, by the way, dear world, why did we not hear your cry of “upset” then?

The poor Palestinians who today kill Jews with explosives and firebombs and stones are part of the same people who ­ when they had all the territories they now demand be given to them for their state -attempted to drive the Jewish state into the sea. The same twisted faces, the same hate, the same cry of “itbach-al-yahud” (Massacre the Jew!) that we hear and see today, were seen and heard then. The same people, the same dream – destroy Israel. What they failed to do yesterday, they dream of today, but we should not “repress” them.

Dear world, you stood by during the holocaust and you stood by in 1948 as seven states launched a war that the Arab League proudly compared to the Mongol massacres.

You stood by in 1967 as Nasser, wildly cheered by wild mobs in every Arab capital in the world, vowed to drive the Jews into the sea. And you would stand by tomorrow if Israel were facing extinction.

And since we know that the Arabs-Palestinians dream daily of that extinction, we will do everything possible to remain alive in our own land. If that bothers you, dear world, well ­ think of how many times in the past you bothered us.

In any event, dear world, if you are bothered by us, here is one Jew in Israel who could not care less.

Don’t try this at home

I just learned that my cholesterol is slightly elevated.  It’s still in the normal zone, but on the high end of normal.  I’ve already cut a lot of fat out of my diet, so I was casting around for another way to control my numbers.  I know that people take Niacin to help lower their cholesterol.  I also know that Niacin is fairly benign, although it can cause unpleasant flushing as it dilates the blood vessels.

In any event, I dutifully went out and got some Niacin.  The bottle recommended two pills a night, so I took one.  About 1/2 later, I thought I was going to die.  I didn’t just flush; all of the blood vessels right under my skin swelled up so badly, I couldn’t move.  My heart was going a million miles a minute, and my head was clearly about to explode.  After about ten minutes of this, the symptoms abated somewhat, only to resume a half hour later, on a slightly lesser scale.  This pattern — cessation and resumption — kept on for two more exhausting, demoralizing cycles.  Today, I’m tired and feel as if I’ve been beaten by a big stick.  Is this really what Niacin does, or am I unusually sensitive?

Suffer the children, Part II

Drudge linked this morning to an article in Australia’s Herald Sun that displays a series of damning photographs showing Hezbollah terrorists, and their weapons of course, comfortably ensconced in a dense residential neighborhood.  The terrorists are dressed in comfy casuals, so that they can easily blend into the crowd.

Hezbollah didn’t end up in neighborhood by accident.  This strategic positioning is intended to deter Israel, which loaths civilian casualties, from destroying Hezbollah’s weapons.  And if that fails, it’s meant to increase civilian casualties, with the sheeplike Western media pointing the finger of blame at Israel rather than at Hezbollah, where it properly belongs.  In other words, Hezbollah is perfectly willing to see Arab civilians, especially children, die if it will make Israel look bad.

Suffer the little children

The press is all over Israel’s missile strike that killed children. Fortunately, LGF is all over the fact that Israel, unlike any aggressor in the history of the world, warned civilians days in advance that the strike was coming and begged them to leave. The reason Israel was striking that area was not to kill civilians, but because it was a Hezbollah stronghold. Hezbollah, true to its belief-system, was using those civilians for the twofold purpose of preventing an Israeli strike in the first place or, failing that, using the strike as a public relations event — something our credulous, ill-informed media is only too will to help with. (Note: I’m being nice when I assign stupidity to the media for its reporting here, rather than the malice that I think motivates so much of the reporting from European outlets, from AP and from Reuters.)

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Thoughts,words and deeds

Most people harbor bad thoughts. It’s the civilizing instincts we learn over a lifetime that help us tamp down those thoughts. Thus, while we may hate, really hate, the boss who destroyed our career, we don’t kill that boss — or at least most of us don’t. “Going postal,” for all the press it garners, is a rarity. For most people, their bad thoughts remain just that — bad thoughts.

The reason I’m thinking about thoughts is the latest story about Mel Gibson. Mel Gibson’s always been tied to anti-Semitism because of his father, who is an anti-Semite in the old-fashioned Catholic tradition. This is something the modern Catholic church is trying with great vigor and success to stamp out — and part of the reason why Gibson’s father has broken with mainstream Catholicism, which has no room for his hate mongering.

When Mel Gibson made his big movie, The Passion of the Christ, there was huge uproar about whether or not it was anti-Semitic. Although I didn’t see the movie, I came away with the impression that it was a fairly accurate retelling of the Passion as described in the New Testament, with all the attendant baggage that carries. It certainly wasn’t friendly to the Jews, but it was also insufficient to spark an American Kristallnacht. It’s impossible to tell whether the latter is what Gibson would have wished to occur.

Mel Gibson is once again in trouble for suspicions that he harbors ill will towards Jews, and this time he’s convicted out of his own mouth. According to a credible report, Mel Gibson made a wild, anti-Semitic tirade:

The report says Gibson then launched into a barrage of anti-Semitic statements: “F*****g Jews… The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” Gibson then asked the deputy, “Are you a Jew?”

The thing is, when he made this tirade, Gibson was rip-roaring drunk. In other words, remove the mask of civility that maturity and social constraints impose, and you discover that Mel Gibson is, in fact, the anti-Semite everyone thinks he is. However, that’s not where Mel Gibson wants to be in the public eye, either because he’s embarrassed by his deepest, darkest thoughts or (more likely, I think) because harboring those thoughts will affect his bottom line. In any event, he is now trying to distance himself from his statements:

“I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable,” the actor-director said without elaborating.

My question, and one I don’t know how to answer, is how far we allow bad thoughts, if they’re not accompanied by bad acts. Normally, I’d say we shouldn’t control thoughts at all, we care only about acts. This is why I find the thought police taking over American college campuses so despicable and 1984-ish. But what about a situation when someone does an act — say, making The Passion of the Christ — which seems to be a subliminal forum for the thoughts — such as anti-Semitism? If you’re scooting in the direction of bad acts, is it enough to deny your spoken thoughts? I really don’t know. And I’ll admit that I’m handicapped in this regard by the fact that I’ve never liked Mel Gibson at any stage in his long Hollywood career. I’m therefore not inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

In any event, I doubt that Gibson’s latest flirtation with anti-Semitism will affect him much. I think the movie The Passion was the big career divide for him, separating the fans from the non-fans. For me, the whole episode — the drunkenness, the major crime of drunk driving, the epithet spewing, the effort to avoid arrest, the anti-Semitic rants — is enough to condemn him for being a disreputable, unappealing, anything-but-admirable character, and if I hadn’t already stopped watching his movies twenty years ago, I’d stop watching them now.

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Romance novels are changing

Since I have a sometimes embarrassing fondness for romance novels (Mr. Bookworm teases me a lot), I’ve written about romance novels before (once about British chick-lit, which I think is demeaning to women; and once about the conservative morals underpinning American romances). I was therefore intrigued when AP did a little story about the Romance Writers of America’s 26th annual conference. The reporter chose to spin it by saying that the stories are changing, with more plot, and less frothy sex. That may well be true, and may explain why I like them more than I did twenty or so years ago. I’m a big believer in plot. What’s also interesting is the claim that, as the genre explands outwards, it’s attracting more male readers:

With the expansion of romance novels into science fiction and military tales, though, the male following is increasing, said Nicole Kennedy, a spokeswoman for the group. The 2004 market survey indicated that male readership jumped from 7 percent of romance readers in 2002 to 22 percent in 2004.

Kennedy cited the success of Suzanne Brockmann, who has written two series of romance novels featuring Navy SEAL teams, which Kennedy said are wildly popular among Navy SEALs.

Though romance writing remains an almost exclusively female vocation, some men have ventured into the field. Former Green Beret Bob Mayer, who has written many non-romance books under his own name and under the pen name Robert Doherty, teamed up with veteran comedic romance writer Jenny Crusie for a military romance called “Don’t Look Down,” released this year.

Mayer and Crusie met at the Maui Writers Conference three years ago. Both were looking to do something different, and they decided to collaborate. Crusie writes the parts that come from a woman’s point of view, while Mayer weighs in with the male perspective.

That’s a big leap in male readership, and one I find heartening, considering that I like the genre, and that I believe in the values system unpinning so many of these books.

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Being too powerful to win a war

Isn’t it judo where you use your enemy’s own power and momentum to destroy him? I know it’s one of the martial arts. I was thinking of that principle when I read Mark Steyn’s accurate diagnosis of the problems with the mighty American military:

We live in an age of inversely proportional deterrence: The more militarily powerful a civilized nation is, the less its enemies have to fear the full force of that power ever being unleashed. They know America and other Western powers fight under the most stringent self-imposed etiquette. Overwhelming force is one thing; overwhelming force behaving underwhelmingly as a matter of policy is quite another.

So even the most powerful military in the world is subject to broader cultural constraints. When Kathryn Lopez’s e-mailer sneers that “your contribution to this war is limited solely to your ability to exercise the skillset provided by your liberal arts education,” he’s accidentally put his finger on the great imponderable: whether the skill set provided by the typical American, British and European education these last 30 years is now one of the biggest obstacles to civilizational self-preservation. A nation that psychologically outsources war to a small career soldiery risks losing its ability even to grasp concepts like “the enemy”: The professionalization of war is also the ghettoization of war. As John Podhoretz wondered in the New York Post the other day: “What if liberal democracies have now evolved to a point where they can no longer wage war effectively because they have achieved a level of humanitarian concern for others that dwarfs any really cold-eyed pursuit of their own national interests?”

That’s a good question. If you watch the grisly U.S. network coverage of any global sporting event, you’ve no doubt who your team’s meant to be: If there are plucky Belgian hurdlers or Fijian shotputters in the Olympics, you never hear a word of them on ABC and NBC; it’s all heartwarming soft-focus profiles of athletes from Indiana and Nebraska. The American media have no problem being ferociously jingoistic when it comes to the two-man luge. Yet, when it’s a war, there is no “our” team, not on American TV. Like snotty French ice-dancing judges, the media watch the U.S. skate across the rink and then hand out a succession of snippy 4.3s — for lack of Miranda rights in Fallujah, insufficient menu options at Gitmo.

Oooh, icky

If you’re doing Yoga, be sure to bring the disinfectant:

In the last two years, Dr. Cohen said, he has seen a 50 percent spike in patients with athlete’s foot and plantar warts. The likely culprit? Unclean exercise mats, he said.

Gyms have long been hothouses for unwanted viruses, fungi and bacteria, a result of shared equipment, excessive sweat and moisture in locker rooms. Many facilities provide disinfectant so clients can wipe down machinery, but they are often less diligent when it comes to exercise mats. It’s common to see staff members clean a stationary bike. It’s rare to see them disinfect a mat.

This is starting to worry many yoga practitioners who go barefoot on high-traffic mats. Half a dozen kinds of yoga-mat wipes are now sold nationwide, and new products like hand and foot mitts, to protect serial mat borrowers, have hit the market.

Once again, solid evidence to back my gym avoidance complex.

What I believe

For several of my posts, there’s been a very vigorous exchange about American foreign policy. Just recently, one of my readers, who espouses what I would call a conservative viewpoint, commented about “fundamental truths” common to all people.  Another reader who, on foreign policy, is I think hostile to current Bush initiatives wrote this “I accept none of your ‘fundamental truths’, and disagree with the main point of every single one of your paragraphs. I don’t think there’s much point even arguing about them because we’d be at it for years and wouldn’t make any progress.”

I think that’s a great point.  That is, buried under every single argument, no matter the layers of facts, all of us have animating beliefs that function as our starting points for argument.  Regarding events in the Middle East (and, indeed, around the world), these are some of my fundamental beliefs, which affect everything I say and think:

I believe that, at this precise moment in time, American culture is more civilized and beneficent than Islamist culture.  (You’ll notice I was careful not to say Muslim, Islamic, Persian or Arab.  I’m comparing us to the radical Islamic movement cropping up in the new all over the world.)  I also believe that American values, which are grounded in Judeo-Christian doctrine, are better than the multiculturalist values that currently dominate Europe and that allow, I believe, fertile soil for the most hate-filled Islamists and the recent resurgence of aggressive anti-Semitism.

I believe that Islamists have declared war on us, dozens of times in the past 20 years, with the loudest declaration occuring on 9/11.  I believe we’d be suicidal idiots not to listen.  I believe that there is no meaningful negotiation available with someone whose end goal is your death or total subjugation — which is why I think the peace movement naive and misguided.

I believe that Israel absolutely, historically, morally, legally, whatever, has the right to exist unmolested by her neighbors.  I believe that her closest neighbors — the Palestinians — did not exist as a nation before 1948, and that the Arab nations in 1948 (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, etc), created the notion of a Palestianian nation state (when, before, there were merely Arab fellahins barely working land held by distant Arab overlords) to justify to the world the Arabs’ continued hostility to Israel; to play into the Marxist/Cold War desire for an imperialist enemy (Israel); and to detract their own citizens’ eyes from these nations’ overwhelming corruption and inequities.

Finally, I believe that I’ve got to get my kids up to go to the dentist, and I’ll follow with more later — if any more occurs tome.

The art of interviewing an anti-War expert

Today, in my mail, I found our local free paper, the Pacific Sun. This week’s cover story is on the cover as “A Farewell to Arms : Iraq war veterans reject their mission– and now may have to fight for their own freedom.” In the body of the magazine, it gets the title “Why We Won’t Fight : Fairfax author’s book spotlights Iraq soldiers who refused to return to ‘a terrible mistake.’

The cooing story profiles a book by Peter Laufer, who’s made a job of being an anti-War activist since the 1960s. His current effort is a book entitled Mission Rejected : U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq. It’s a love fest between Laufer and Jill Kramer, the interviewer, in which she throws him a series of softball questions that give him ample opportunity to expound on his favorite anti-War subjects.

Kramer gives her game away quickly, showing that she does not intend to challenge any of Laufer’s assumptions, when she poses this question:

It struck me as I was reading your book that the issues raised by the conscientious objectors are not just the immorality of wars in general or of killing in general, but specifically the illegality of this war that’s been based on lies. [Emphasis mine.]

Now, I don’t know about you, but when an interviewer asks a question like that, I’m going to assume that the interviewer believes that the Iraq war is an illegal war based on lies — a premise that, in her own mind, removes from her any obligation actually to challenge the subject of her interview. Kramer, playing the role of intrepid reporter, later lobbed this softball to Laufer:

I was very moved by the bravery of these soldiers. And it’s ironic because they’re being accused by war supporters of cowardice. I remember one of the men in the book who, despite his disgust with the war, chose to sign up as a sniper because he felt he’d be better able than somebody else to make moral decisions about whom to shoot.

With questions like that, the interview has all the credibility of those hagiographic star interviews in People Magazine or Vanity Fair.

On Laufer’s side, there aren’t really any surprises. He doesn’t know the numbers for troops who are opposed to the Iraq war, which allows him to assume it’s high. He distrusts the Pentagon numbers on those who have actually petitioned for conscientious objector status (rather than going to the Press first), especially since “[t]his is an administration that not only has shown that it lies, it’s an administration that has announced that it will lie in order to further its policies.” His proof for this last statement? A wee bit of bootstrapping, mixed in with a conspiracy theory:

They announced that they will lie when they created a department within the Defense Department that was designed as a propaganda office for the purpose of perpetrating false information. And when it was spotlighted as an element of the Pentagon, they then said, OK, we’ll close this down. Now, realistically, if the design of that office is to perpetrate lies, should we believe them when they say they’re going to close it down? And certainly we know they have lied about the reasons they have gone to Iraq. And that’s just Iraq. We have all the other problems with this administration that are blatant lies. It’s a criminal, immoral bunch of gangsters who have hijacked our country.

In other words, in Laufer’s world view, the Administration “announced” that it will lie because Laufer doesn’t believe anything it says. I mean, really, how can you trust the word of a “criminal, immoral bunch of gangsters who have hijacked our country.” (Calling Cindy Sheehan — someone’s plagiarized your script.) That’s not an argument, that’s a monomania.

The story has a lot of sobs for those soldiers who go AWOL. Some of these poor things actually have to get jobs as manual laborers because, having reneged on their voluntarily signed contracts with the United States government, the United States is actually doing mean things like denying them medical care through the VA. Indeed, the whole decision to go AWOL is fraught:

If you are a deserter or if you’ve gone AWOL, or if you are a conscientious objector, how this will affect your future certainly depends on what you do in your life. It depends on your career choice, it depends on how carefully an employer will do a background check. If you desert to Canada and you then want to come back here, you’re likely going to face those charges. And a lot of the people profiled in the book who have spotlighted their cases, when they’re adjudicated they get hard prison time. And that’s another record. There certainly are employers who would embrace someone like that—especially in our community—but elsewhere in the country, who knows?

The fact is, I doubt anyone disputes that being in the middle of a war is hellish and that there are lots of soldiers who regret their decision to enlist. (Although I have to admit that I grew up in a family where my father, while acknowledging the horrors of his time in North Africa and Southern Europe during WWII, considered his RAF and ANZAC service the most exciting, meaningful time in his life.) Indeed, there are often soldiers who not only want to get out, they don’t even want to get in, a fact evidenced by the notorious draft riots during the Civil War. Even the Good War, World War II, had its share of deserters — 21,000, to be reasonably exact — although they were certainly not accorded hero status.

As it is, I find conscientious objector status a little bizarre right now, considering that we have an all volunteer army. Normally, conscientious objectors, such as Quakers, aren’t the kind who enlist in the first place. After all, no matter how the military dresses it up (“Be All You Can Be;” “An Army Of One;” etc.) the ultimate job of the military is to kill to protect our nation. If that’s a problem for you, you shouldn’t be there in the first place.
Additionally, as Michelle Malkin regularly points out, the most recent crop of “conscientious objectors” have had some problems. One was apparently a confabulator who would have done John Kerry proud. Another one, Ehren Watada, a self-styled “dissenter,” rather than a true conscientious objector, enlisted after the war began for the sole purpose of objecting — that is, he was making a political point when he enlisted, rather than making a decision to join the American military.

Neither Laufer, the interviewee, nor Kramer, the interviewer, confine themselves just to the War. We also get to hear about Air America, with a full frontal attack on the kind of talk radio American’s like most — the conservative stuff:

What do you think of Air America?

I think it’s important that Air America is out there. It’s tragic for radio that something as compelling as talk radio has been largely co-opted by the selfish, opportunistic hate-mongers of the right wing. So anything that provides some balance to that is extraordinarily important to support—not just for political reasons, but for the art of radio. I wrote a book about this 10 years ago called Inside Talk Radio and it’s unfortunately still quite relevant. There are business reasons why the foaming-at-the-mouth type of talk radio is so prevalent. It’s easier for the holding companies that maintain the licenses for radio stations to accommodate the kind of programming that comes out of these shows than it is to accommodate shows that are not trying to paint complex issues simplistically. But there is some acknowledgment in the business community that there might be some money to be made with other types of shows, and that’s why we’re seeing Air America and other alternatives on more and more stations.

I guess calling America’s most popular talk radio hosts “selfish, opportunistic hate-mongers of the right wing,” is meant to be a companion piece to his description of our elected officials “a criminal, immoral bunch of gangsters who have hijacked our country.”

Laufer also has strong opinions on the immigration debate. He’s spelled it out in his book Wetback Nation, but isn’t shy about stating the book’s bottom line premise: Completely open borders (something it seems we already have, but that’s another story).

I won’t bore you (or me) any more with this kind of fatuous nonsense. You can read the whole thing at Pacific Sun‘s website, if you have the stomach for it. I don’t. Even if I agreed with his various premises (anti-War, pro-Air America, pro-open borders), this kind of pap, which is simultaneously maudlin and aggressive, as well as illogical and weak-minded, really puts me off.

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Advice from an expert — and thoughts on Saudi Arabia

Sometimes, you stumble across an expert who has such manifest expertise, it might be a grave mistake to ignore him. And sometimes, if you’re not the stumbling kind, you’re lucky enough to have someone tell you how to find information from that expert. Thanks to Kevin, I can tell you what a reformed terrorist has to say about Israel’s current actions against Hezbollah in Lebanon. He says, “You go, guys.”

“An international peacekeeping force in Lebanon will change nothing, and we will have chosen shame.

“We [not only Israel but the threatened West] need to choose war once and for all to eradicate that system,” a former terrorist told NewsMax in an exclusive interview about the current Middle East crisis.

His name is Walid Shoebat and he is a man with a tough message.

He is also a former fundamentalist Islamic terrorist who, incredibly, reformed. He is now an author, lecturer, and unabashed friend of Israel.

He travels the United States repeating, in a modern context, Winston Churchill’s warning to those who would appease Hitler’s evil: “We have a choice between shame and war!”

Shoebat was born in Bethlehem. As a young man, he entered the belly of the beast and became a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, participating in acts of terror and violence against Israel.

***

But then in a life-changing event, his wife challenged him to study Israeli history and leave behind the Jew-hating indoctrination of his youth. He did and emerged from the “detoxification” experience with the fresh orientation that Israel is not a demon but simply perennially on the defensive against extremists.

The Arabic speaker, who now makes a study of the fanaticism that once enveloped his life, told NewsMax that the West had better abandon its political correctness and worries about world opinion and get down-and-dirty in the war on terrorism. And the West should start with taming the roots of that terrorism, the “mosque clergy” that preaches the hate.

“We have to treat the problem by going to the source of the problem, and that is what we are not doing,” Shoebat said. “We are trying to destroy terrorist infrastructure – after it has been established. We have to look at the root causes of terrorism and the root causes spring from the mosque clergy.” Shoebat explained that in his opinion there are thousands of hate-dispensing Islamic clergy, including hundreds in the United States:

“We can’t touch it because we don’t want to invade another religion,” he lamented. “We have to treat this dogma – not as a religion – but as a political dogma.”

All over the world, Shoebat wants laws enacted that just say – no more hate-mongering from so-called religious leaders: “Once a religion goes beyond its borders, it has to be treated differently. It has to be shut down. You have to arrest these clergy. You’ve got to throw them in jail.”

***

He derided the European Union’s notion that if you can’t beat them, then include them, and maybe they will learn from us – from our way of life – to change their ways.

“This is a stupid thing,” he unabashedly concluded.

One of the things I really like about Shoebat’s advice is that, aside from stating the obvious, he attacks multiculturalism. I haven’t blogged about multiculturalism in a while, but those who have been following my blog know that it’s one of my pet peeves. I’m perfectly willing to respect cultures that are deserving of respect by any civilized norms, but I have no patience for pandering to cultures that have abandoned civilized norms.

By the way, this Shoebat story, to my mind, also goes some way towards answering Dagon’s question about Saudi Arabia. (I’m going to digress a bit here, but then I’ll wrap back around to Shoebat’s point.) In a comment, Dagon pointed out, rightly, that Saudi Arabia, along with sending out oil to the world, is also one of the primary exporters of some of the world’s most virulent Islamist thinking, and he wondered what I thought America could do to deal with that situation. The problem, of course, is that we’re dependent on the black gold flowing out of Saudi sand. To reduce the problem to a simple adage, when it comes to Saudi Arabia, we can’t cut off our nose to spite our face. While we know what the Saudis are doing, we can’t charge in to stop it without killing ourselves.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything. George Friedman, of Stratfor, believes that part of why Bush invaded Iraq was because it places America in a position where it’s breathing down Saudi Arabia’s neck. Certainly, Saudi Arabia has been more vigilant in going after Al Qaeda within its own borders. This may of course be because Al Qaeda is turning with increasing viciousness on S.A. After all the Saudi potentates never bought into the fundamentalist stuff themselves. It was their own deal with the devil, akin to the Lebanese deal with Hezbollah: we’ll fund you and let you do what you want, as long as you promise (a) to let the petrodollars flow and (b) to turn a blind eye to the fact that the parasitical Saudi royalty live lifes that have very little to do with Islamic dictates (aside from the plethora of wives).

Increased Saudi policing against Al Qaeda, however, may also be because the U.S. presence really is putting pressure on the Saudis. In addition, the US, by stirring up the slightly dormant Iranian hornets nest — that is, Iran got activated when it saw an opportunity in Iran — also put pressure on Saudi Arabia. The fact is, Iran is as dangerous to Saudi Arabia as it is to anything else in the region. That’s why we get interesting things like Saudi spokesmen denouncing Hezbollah. They do it, not for love of Israel, but for fear of Iran.

Another thing we can do is precisely what Shoebat suggests — shut down the hate speech. (See, I promised I’d get back to the Shoebat story.) I’m a true believer in the First Amendment, but I’m also a believer in Justice Holmes’ warning that the First Amendment does not stretch to falsely shouting “Fire” in a crowded theater. That is, freedom of speech does not extend to speech that is intended to destroy public safety. I think, therefore, that we need to — and have the Constitutional right to — police much more aggressively direct incitements to violence. Right now, as Shoebat states, we’re afraid to go anywhere near speech wrapped in a religious mantle. We have to overcome that fear and actually pay attention to what they’re saying — and when it’s actionable, we need to act.

Lastly, I would love to see us less dependent on foreign oil, which would free us from both Saudi and Venezuelan chains. Notwithstanding either Al Gore or the “No War For Oil” mantra, Americans don’t seem to have much desire to give up their oil loving habits. Clearly, we need a viable alternative fuel that will allow us our oil profligate ways, while shutting down the flow of petrodollars to people who really don’t like us. That would also serve as a solution for the burgeoning, polluting economies in India and China, both of which are singularly unimpressed by Al Gore’s message.

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Whether or not you see the movie, just read the review

When two people leave me messages saying I must, absolutely must, read a movie review, I take that seriously.  I therefore headed over to the Washington Post and read the review for Ant Bully.  I can now tell you that you must, absolutely must, read the Ant Bully review.  Even if, after the first couple of paragraphs, you’re thinking to yourself “La, la, la….  This isn’t my kind of movie, and I find some computer animation a bit frenetic, and this sounds silly, etc., ” don’t stop reading.  You won’t want to miss the last few paragraphs.

Logo-wear

Do you wear logo-wear?  By that I mean anything from a t-shirt that says “Drink Coca Cola” to a Mickey Mouse shirt or hat?  I don’t.  I’ve never figured out why I should pay to advertise someone else’s product.  It seems to be that, if the Coca Cola company wants me to walk around touting its drink, or Disney wants to use me to spread the word about Mickey Mouse, those companies should pay me.  But then again, I have no fashion sense, so the “everybody else is wearing one” mantra hasn’t worked for me.

What he said

Since I can’t say it better, I won’t try. Here’s just the opening of Charles Krauthammer’s most recent column about the world pile-up against Israel and what Israel should do it about it:

What other country, when attacked in an unprovoked aggression across a recognized international frontier, is then put on a countdown clock by the world, given a limited time window in which to fight back, regardless of whether it has restored its own security?

What other country sustains 1,500 indiscriminate rocket attacks into its cities — every one designed to kill, maim and terrorize civilians — and is then vilified by the world when it tries to destroy the enemy’s infrastructure and strongholds with precision-guided munitions that sometimes have the unintended but unavoidable consequence of collateral civilian death and suffering?

Hearing the world pass judgment on the Israel-Hezbollah war as it unfolds is to live in an Orwellian moral universe. With a few significant exceptions (the leadership of the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and a very few others), the world — governments, the media, U.N. bureaucrats — has completely lost its moral bearings.

The word that obviates all thinking and magically inverts victim into aggressor is “disproportionate,” as in the universally decried “disproportionate Israeli response.”

When the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor, it did not respond with a parallel “proportionate” attack on a Japanese naval base. It launched a four-year campaign that killed millions of Japanese, reduced Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki to a cinder, and turned the Japanese home islands to rubble and ruin. Disproportionate? No. When one is wantonly attacked by an aggressor, one has every right — legal and moral — to carry the fight until the aggressor is disarmed and so disabled that it cannot threaten one’s security again. That’s what it took with Japan.

Britain was never invaded by Germany in World War II. Did it respond to the blitz and V-1 and V-2 rockets with “proportionate” aerial bombardment of Germany? Of course not. Churchill orchestrated the greatest land invasion in history that flattened and utterly destroyed Germany, killing untold innocent German women and children in the process.

The perversity of today’s international outcry lies in the fact that there is indeed a disproportion in this war, a radical moral asymmetry between Hezbollah and Israel: Hezbollah is deliberately trying to create civilian casualties on both sides while Israel is deliberately trying to minimize civilian casualties, also on both sides.

There’s so much more, and it’s so well-written and compelling, that you ought to treat yourself to a trip over to the whole article.

UPDATE:  I realized that my quotation code vanished.  I’ve corrected it, so it should be easier to see what Krauthammer wrote, versus what I wrote (if the different content, depth, and style hadn’t already given that away).

Prolific blogging about Israel’s war

I’ve rather slacked off on blogging about the war.  I’ve made my position very clear, and am only dragging in stories that particularly catch my eye.  At Seraphic Secret, however, Robert Avrech is blogging up a storm about the war itself, and about coverage of the war.  Since he’s an extraordinarily elegant writer, and a sophisticated thinker, you could do a lot worse than to go over to his site to educate yourself about things you won’t see in the MSM.

This time the NY Times is really in trouble

I love NY Times bashing, in part because I think it’s a dreadfully misguided paper that has way too much reach, and in part because it’s a cheap and easy target, and I don’t always have the time or energy to make subtle arguments against more challenging targets. What I did not know, though, was that NY Times bashing has moved out of the conservative blogosphere and into the mainstream. Thanks to a post at Political Fan, I learned that David Letterman (whom I never watch, since I prefer Jay Leno) has the Times in his crosshairs. Get a load of this list:

Top Ten Signs There’s Trouble At The New York Times

10. Extensive coverage of recent fighting between the Israelis and the lesbians

9. Pages 2 through 20 are corrections of previous edition

8. Every sentence begins “So, like”

7. TV listings only for Zorro

6. Weather forecast reads “Look outside dumbass”

5. Multiple references to “President Gore”

4. Obituary includes list of people they wish were dead

3. Headlines fold over to create surprise mad magazine-type hidden message

2. Restaurant critic recently gave IHOP four stars

1. Reporting that Oprah isn’t gay, but Letterman is

I don’t think the humor itself is that funny, but I really think it’s quite significant that the NY Times quality failures have hit the late night circuit.

Digging under ground

I’ve heard a lot in the past week or so about the underground tunnels Hezbollah has built all along Lebanon’s southern (and Israel’s northern) border. These reports led me to wonder why Israel, which has a very well equipped army, didn’t have bunker busters, of the type we heard about during the first Iraq War in 1991. It turns out they’re on back order. Already a couple of years ago, Israel placed an order for these weapons from the US, and Israel is now seeking to expedite that order (a not unreasonable request given the passage of time and Israel’s current exigent situation). Hashmonean has the whole story.Talking to Technorati: , , , ,

On moral equivalence

What’s the big deal, many ask? Hezbollah and Hamas kidnapped some Israeli soldiers, turning them into prisoners, and they’ll readily release these prisoners if Israel, in turn, will release some prisoners it holds. It all sounds so beautifully symmetrical. Except it’s not. The kidnapped Israeli soldiers had done absolutely nothing beyond being soldiers, which is a matter of status, not acts. How about the acts of those Israeli prisoners? Well, the BBC describes one Hezbollah prisoner as follows: “[Amir] Qantar . . . attacked a block of flats in Nahariha in 1979, killing a father and his daughter.” How marvelously clinical. Here are a few more details, from the victims’ wife and mother:

It had been a peaceful Sabbath day. My husband, Danny, and I had picnicked with our little girls, Einat, 4, and Yael, 2, on the beach not far from our home in Nahariya, a city on the northern coast of Israel, about six miles south of the Lebanese border.

Around midnight, we were asleep in our apartment when four terrorists, sent by Abu Abbas from Lebanon, landed in a rubber boat on the beach two blocks away. Gunfire and exploding grenades awakened us as the terrorists burst into our building. They had already killed a police officer.

As they charged up to the floor above ours, I opened the door to our apartment. In the moment before the hall light went off, they turned and saw me. As they moved on, our neighbor from the upper floor came running down the stairs. I grabbed her and pushed her inside our apartment and slammed the door.

Outside, we could hear the men storming about. Desperately, we sought to hide. Danny helped our neighbor climb into a crawl space above our bedroom; I went in behind her with Yael in my arms. Then Danny grabbed Einat and was dashing out the front door to take refuge in an underground shelter when the terrorists came crashing into our flat.

They held Danny and Einat while they searched for me and Yael, knowing there were more people in the apartment. I will never forget the joy and the hatred in their voices as they swaggered about hunting for us, firing their guns and throwing grenades. I knew that if Yael cried out, the terrorists would toss a grenade into the crawl space and we would be killed. So I kept my hand over her mouth, hoping she could breathe. As I lay there, I remembered my mother telling me how she had hidden from the Nazis during the Holocaust. “This is just like what happened to my mother,” I thought.

As police began to arrive, the terrorists took Danny and Einat down to the beach. There, according to eyewitnesses, one of them shot Danny in front of Einat so that his death would be the last sight she would ever see. Then he smashed my little girl’s skull in against a rock with his rifle butt. That terrorist was Samir Kuntar.

By the time we were rescued from the crawl space, hours later, Yael, too, was dead. In trying to save all our lives, I had smothered her. [Emphasis mine.]

Only people who have broken free of any type of moral anchor could find equivalence in the nature of these “prisoners.”

Hat tip: Best of the Web Today

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Picture = 1000 words

It took me three glances to get the message in this picture, and then I thought it was brilliant:

Hat tip: Michelle Malkin

UPDATE:  If you can’t see the image on my blog, just go on over to Michelle Malkin.  There’s prescient Oliphant cartoon, but that’s not what I was actually linking to.  Instead, I was caught by the images of “A soldier of Palestine” and “A soldier of Israel.”

Say it ain’t so, Joe

After crowing about the cheese-eating surrender monkeys losing against to an American in the Tour de France, I find very depressing the report that Floyd Landis flunked a drug test.  If a repeat drug test — with both samples drawn on the day of his extraordinary come-back — also test positive, he’s out.  All I can say, is given that the Tour de France, burned by drug scandals before, does take blood samples, what was he thinking?  Or, rather, why wasn’t he thinking!  Pheh!  And shame on him if these accusations are true.