Sunday reading

We received in yesterday’s mail a warning (a very nice warning) that my 5th grader is struggling with geometry. As a former geometry struggler myself, I’m all sympathy. We did not get mad at her. What is infuriating, though, is her absolutely unwillingness to learn geometry. After 1.5 years in public schools, she believes that all she has to do is correct the questions she got wrong on the offending tests and, voila, she will have mastered geometry sufficiently to proceed to the next phase of her learning career. Such is the importance of tests in American education. Even the kids have figured out that, it’s not what you know, it’s how you test. She’s working with my husband now, so I had a few minutes to scan the internet, and came up with four interesting things that I’d like to share with you.

I

Mike Devx forwarded to me a link to a Long War Journal article entitled Iraqis begin to ‘despise’ the Mahdi Army. It’s not the kind of article you’ll see in the New York Times, something that probably makes it even more worth the read (“the news that is unpalatable to my ideologically opposed newspaper is my palatable news”). The article discusses the significant changes in Rusafa, a Baghdad neighborhood previously known for its Mahdi Army presence, danger and hostility to Americans. The article describes the inroads that the American and Iraqi armies have made in clearing out that neighborhood. More significantly, it discusses the citizen militias that aim, not to impose some sectarian rule on the community, but to make it a safe place:

But Thornburg attributes most of the improvement in his area in southern Rusafa to the Sons of Iraq, the local neighborhood watchmen who are paid by the US. The Sons of Iraq program was started here seven months ago by local leaders and the 82nd Airborne, the unit last responsible for the southwestern half of Rusafa, which is essentially downtown Baghdad. Local Sons of Iraq leaders claim they were “the first Shia Awakening” against militias and al Qaeda.

“The SOI have exceeded expectations. They’ve turned one of the most violent areas of Baghdad into one of the most quiet,” said Thornburg. “Specifically, they are looking for Mahdi Army. They know who comes into their area, they man checkpoints 24 hours a day, they do vehicle searches, they question people and they patrol. The locals trust them and they are happy with them. They’ve earned a lot of wasta [respect] from the citizens, and the results speak for themselves. It’s a real success story.”

The SOI’s success arises, not just because it’s paid by the US, but because its members hold the Mahdi in genuine dislike, and truly want to uproot this corrupt, thug-like organization from their streets and homes:

Above all, Hassan and his neighborhood watchmen do not like the Mahdi Army.

“Originally, the Jaish al Mahdi [Mahdi Army] in our area used to deceive people by using the name of the religion to do their purposes,” said Dhia, Hassan’s executive officer. “They were all corrupted. They have history in crime, robberies, murders, rapes, and all kinds of bad things. They even reached the level of kidnapping people and demanding ransoms just because they have money. It didn’t matter if he is Shia or Sunni; just because he has money. They gave a bad reputation for Islam.”

American officials assert that the final factor that has improved security is the citizenry’s fatigue with violence and the militias.

This kind of thing was predicted on the Right, and castigated as crazy American thinking on the PC Left — thinking that didn’t respect the unique, animalistic behavior of Iraqis, none of whom (according to the Left) could be expected actually to crave tranquility.  We would do well, in confronting problems created by the Palestinians and other mad mullahs, to start dealing with those who desire peace, rather than cravenly acquiescing on PC grounds to those who insist on slaughter.

II

Speaking of Palestinians, if you’d like an antidote to the crude Leftist history of Israel — which sees Jews as Nazi-like figures who began plotting at the end of the 19th Century to commit genocide against the Arabs, a plot brought to fruition with the creation of Israel — you must read Efraim Karsh’s 1948, Israel and the Palestinians — the True Story.  It’s a real history, based on contemporaneous documents, rather than a false history based on ideological belief and victim sensitivities.

For example, historical records establish that, even on the most extreme side of the Zionist spectrum, Jews anticipated living with a fully integrated Arab population — a population, moreover, that would have the full rights accorded all citizens.  Please contrast this with your average Imam speech likening Jews to apes and monkeys and calling for their total destruction.  Contrast it, too, with children’s television in Gaza, which seeks to brainwash innocent young minds into thinking that their highest role in life is to strap a bomb to themselves to kill multitudes of Jews.  Palestinians may call for a two state solution right now, but they clearly envision two states comprised solely of Muslim Arabs.

These same historical records (including British documents) show that, in the lead-up to Israel’s creation, most local Arabs were amenable to Israel’s full-integration plan.  The Jewish renaissance in what was then Palestine completely revived an economically torporous and backwards area, with huge financial and health benefits to the local Arab population.  The contemporaneous historical record establishes the truth of what my parents always told me (and they lived through those times):  it was distant Arab plutocrats, disturbed that their tyranny over their fellahin might come to an end who fomented the endless genocidal war against the Jews in Israel.

In other words, it was always about power.  Not Jewish power, a la the faked Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but Arab/Muslim political power over the illiterate, starving masses who kept them comfortably ensconced in their desert palaces and Paris flats.

III

Here’s a moving story about one Marine, his old Singer and many, many beautiful stars.  (H/t:  the Anchoress.)

IV

And let me end with my favorite, Mark Steyn.  Many words have been written about Obama’s “speech” (“I could no more disavow this nutty old uncle than I could throw grandma under a train”); the publics’ surprisingly intractable aversion to this same nutty uncle; and Obama’s inevitable narcissistic renunciation of said uncle.  All words written are good, but I happen to like Steyn’s the best.  There’s music to his writing:

It was never a great speech. It was a simulacrum of a great speech written to flatter gullible pundits into hailing it as the real deal. It should be “required reading in classrooms,” said Bob Herbert in the New York Times; it was “extraordinary” and “rhetorical magic,” said Joe Klein in Time – which gets closer to the truth: As with most “magic,” it was merely a trick of redirection.

Obama appeared to have made Jeremiah Wright vanish into thin air, but it turned out he was just under the heavily draped table waiting to pop up again. The speech was designed to take a very specific problem – the fact that Barack Obama, the Great Uniter, had sat in the pews of a neo-segregationist huckster for 20 years – and generalize it into some grand meditation on race in America. Sen. Obama looked America in the face and said: Who ya gonna believe? My “rhetorical magic” or your lyin’ eyes?

That’s an easy choice for the swooning bobbysoxers of the media. With less impressionable types, such as voters, Sen. Obama is having a tougher time. The Philly speech is emblematic of his most pressing problem: the gap – indeed, full-sized canyon – that’s opening up between the rhetorical magic and the reality. That’s the difference between a simulacrum and a genuinely great speech. The gaseous platitudes of hope and change and unity no longer seem to fit the choices of Obama’s adult life. Oddly enough, the shrewdest appraisal of the senator’s speechifying “magic” came from Jeremiah Wright himself. “He’s a politician,” said the reverend. “He says what he has to say as a politician. … He does what politicians do.”

Happy reading this Sunday!

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