If you’re in the mood for a mind-bending experience, read about Michael Totten’s visit to Hezbollah’s Disneyland

Michael Totten is a true journalist — an endlessly curious, extremely brave, open-minded but opinionated man who doesn’t just sit in a field office taking information from locals who have an agenda.  Instead, he goes out there and investigates.

Totten’s most recent foray took him to Hezbollah’s very own theme park, an homage to Hezbollah’s fight against the “evil Zionist entity.”  The description of the theme park reads almost like parody, except that the parodists have guns (and possible WMDs), and aren’t afraid to use them, preferably (from their point of view) in a genocidal fury against Jews.

I’m very interested in your views about Syria

Barack Obama chose to sit out the first two years of the civil war in Syria.  When it started, he could have helped out the rebels before al Qaeda co-opted them, but he didn’t.  Now, Syria is in a full-scale civil war with the Assad regime as the proxy for Iran and Hezbollah, and the rebels as the proxy for al Qaeda.  It is a war with no good guys, but with plenty of victims in the form of ordinary civilians (especially children, the elderly, and helpless women) slaughtered wholesale or turned into refugees.

Bret Stephens, writing at the Wall Street Journal says that a very prevalent mindset (and I have to admit that it’s been my view) is that as long as they’re fighting each other, they’re not attacking Israel, America, or Europe.  He thinks this is a dangerous attitude, first, because these regional Shia versus Sunni fights can spread until the entire Arab world is aflame and, second, because these wars radicalize Muslims.

I think Stephens has a point that there is a danger that the entire region goes up in smoke, which could suck in other parts of the world.  I don’t agree with the radicalization, though, because that horse has already left the barn.  In the 1980s, during the Iran-Iraq war (which was another Sunni versus Shia fight), the Muslim world wasn’t yet so radicalized and the war did change things.  Now, though, with 9/11 and ten years of war in the Middle East, not to mention the Arab Spring, the name of the game is “radicalized Muslims through the world.”

Accepting as true that Obama has already screwed up by letting the situation get this far, is there anything that can or should be done now?  Or are we fated to sit here helpless and watch the whole world get sucked into the Middle Eastern black hole?

Uh-oh. I think Hezbollah’s been reading my blog. *UPDATED*

Day before yesterday, I wrote:

Reader Lulu send me an email pointing out something interesting, which is that Hezbollah is doing nothing right now.  You’d think that this would be a perfect time for Hezbollah to force a two-front war on Israel.  That it’s not doing so might be a good indication that, all propaganda to the contrary, Israel may have inflicted serious damage on it back in 2006.  Iran can replace the arms, but maybe she can’t replace the men.

And today I read the Hezbollah is starting to fire rockets from the North.  I wish I’d kept my mouth shut.

UPDATE:  And just idle curiousity, here, but why is no one shrieking about Hezbollah’s unprovoked attack on israel.  (Don’t bother with the answer.  I know it.  Israel by its very existence provokes attacks, right?)

A mish-mash

It’s been an incoherent day, one that never gave me the opportunity for contemplation and writing.  Instead, I’ve been bopping here and there, and dealing with one thing and another.  Nevertheless, I have been tracking the news, so I thought I’d just write up a mish-mash of thoughts about current issues and events.

Gaza

The top issue/event, obviously, is Gaza.  By now you’ve all seen the hysterical headline about Israel having blown up a UN school, killing scores of civilians.  At the exact second I read the words “UN school,” I knew it wasn’t a school at all but was, instead, a weapons storage facility and a headquarters for fighters.  Why did I know this?  Because the UN in Gaza is completely complicit with Hamas.  In that part of the world, the two are one and the same entity.  I also knew that the school wasn’t really a school because Gaza intentionally places fighters and weapons around children precisely so that it garner this type of scare headline.  Michelle Malkin has a fact-filled post detailing all the many ways in which my instincts on this one were dead on the money.

Speaking of Hamas setting its children up as targets so that it can further vilify Israel in the eyes of the world, you really must read Ron Rosenbaum’s article explaining why, to the extent there are differences between Hamas and the Nazis, Hamas is infinitely worse.  As part of that line of thinking, it’s worth noting that even the Nazis weren’t willing to sacrifice their own children merely to score propaganda points.

As is always the case, everyone in the world outside of America is urging Israel to back down.  (In America, while Obama is ominously quiet, even Dirty Harry Reid has acknowledged Israel’s right to defend against the non-stop rocket attacks that have poured death and destruction on the land for years now.)  In the past, Israel has listened.  This time, I’m hoping against hope that she gives the world the middle finger and does what she has to do to defend herself.  I’ve never understood why Israel, rather like the pathetic nerdy kid in high school, keeps twisting herself into damaging contortions to satisfy people who will despise her regardless.  Eventually, the nerd just has to go it alone and the hell with the critics.

Incidentally, although the world doesn’t deserve good fortune, if Israel is wise enough to give it the finger, it may just get good fortune anyway — the good fortune in this case being that an Israeli victory against Hamas in Gaza is also an Israeli victory against the mad Mullahs in Iran.  As has been the case for decades now, Israel is our proxy, and we should be grateful that she’s putting her bodies on the line so we don’t have to.

And one last word on the subject:  Reader Lulu send me an email pointing out something interesting, which is that Hezbollah is doing nothing right now.  You’d think that this would be a perfect time for Hezbollah to force a two-front war on Israel.  That it’s not doing so might be a good indication that, all propaganda to the contrary, Israel may have inflicted serious damage on it back in 2006.  Iran can replace the arms, but maybe she can’t replace the men.

God

In England, the atheists have launched an ad campaign encouraging people to abandon religion so that they can be happy.  One of the brains behind this initiative is Ariane Sherine. She decided to launch the ad campaign because “she became angry after noticing a set of Christian advertisements carrying a website address which warned that people who reject God are condemned to spend all eternity to ‘torment in Hell.’”

I’m perfectly willing to admit that trying to scare people into religion may not be the smartest way to go about things.  I do find the ad campaign peculiar, though, because I was under the impression that polls show religious people are more happy, not less happy, than the average atheist (putting aside the fact that the average vocal atheist always seem to be a pretty darn angry person).

As you all know, I’m a big believer in the many virtues of religion, although not particularly religious myself.  Aside from liking the core moral aspects religion brings, I’ve also always appreciated (and envied) the way religion brings meaning to life.

In a religious world, man is not just a random collection of atoms, molecules, cells and organs, put on earth to procreate and scrabble for food until he dies.  Instead, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition with which I’m familiar, man’s life has meaning and purpose.  Whether God used evolution as his tool or instant creation, man exists in God’s image.  His corporeal body may not necessarily be the mirror image of God’s being, but he is in God’s image to the extent that his mind and spirit are attuned to justice and a higher purpose.  We’re not just meaningless bugs.  We are something special and our time on earth has meaning, whether we emphasize that in our own lives or not.

All of which is to say that it strikes me as mighty darn peculiar to advertise an absence of religion as the answer to the search for happiness.  You might as well say, “You’re a meaningless bug.  Get used to it.”

Tolerance

While the first wave of hysteria following the passage in California of Prop. 8 has finally died down, hard feelings continue.  A Catholic Church in San Francisco was covered with offensive graffiti, likening the church and its parishioners to Nazis. The beautiful irony of this story is that this particular church, located near the Castro district, has always been a welcoming place to gays.

Aside from the fact that vandals, by their very nature, can’t be expected to be intelligent (I guess), I find it strange that we live in a world in which hewing to unexceptional traditional values that span all cultures and all times is an invitation to vandalism.  As you know, I’d be perfectly happy to see the state get out of the marriage business, leaving that to religion, and instead get into the domestic partnership business, with an emphasis on encouraging stable behaviors that strengthen society.  Pending that unlikely situation, however, I can’t help but wonder if the gay marriage advocates realize that offending ordinary people who support ordinary values is not likely to advance their cause.

Hezbollah turned over mutilated bodies

In my post yesterday about the corpse/prisoner swap in which Israel exchanged, I noted that an inviolate body is a very important part of Jewish religious law, going back to the ancient Jewish revulsion against pagan sacrifice and the subsequent desecration of corpses. (I also noted that I didn’t think that was a sufficient reason to put a whole nation at risk by making it appear very weak in front of an enemy that lives in a hierarchical world, where one is either king of the hill or dirt beneath the enemy’s feet.)

Sadly, it turns out that Israel received two badly (and manifestly intentionally) mutilated bodies:

Rabbi Yisrael Weiss, former Chief Rabbi of the IDF, who was present during the transfer of the fallen soldiers yesterday, said that “the verification process yesterday was very slow, because, if we thought the enemy was cruel to the living and the dead, we were surprised, when we opened the caskets, to discover just how cruel. And I’ll leave it at that.”

I can only hope for the sake of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev that this mutilation took place after their deaths.  It’s too horrible to contemplate that it may have happened before.

Incidentally, based upon my parents’ tales of dealing with Arabs in Palestine/Israel in the 1930s/1940s, I can make one guess as to the type of mutilation involved.  In a routinely used act of desecration that doesn’t need Freud to explain, Arabs who slaughtered Jewish men sliced off the men’s genitals (either before or after death), and stuffed them into the men’s mouths.

Hat tip:  Power Line

What prisoner swap?

I’ve been moving around the internet a bit looking at stories about the way in which Israel turned a brutal, mass murderer over in exchange for two bodies.  What’s fascinating is that the stories keep calling it a “prisoner swap,” as if there’s parity in the exchange.  Prisoner swap, after all, implies that Israel gave prisoners and Israel got prisoners — living ones.  Instead, all that Israel got were two bodies, and it’s still unclear to me whether they were dead all along, in which case Hezbollah engaged in a massive and extraordinarily successful bluff, or whether the poor boys were killed (and, I bet, tortured) during their captivity.

Here are some examples of this “prisoner swap” language, including one from an Israeli paper:

From the British Telegraph: Israel and Hizbollah complete controversial prisoner exchange

From Israel’s YNet news (although I think the prisoner swap might be a heading that simply refers to the whole history of news stories about this sordid transaction):  Prisoner Exchange

From the Spiegel: Israel’s Delicate Prisoner Swap with Hezbollah (although it has the alternative caption of “two coffins for a murderer”)

The New York Times, which always gets ambiguous when it comes to Israel reporting, says “Israel frees prisoners in deal with Hezbollah.”

The Christian Science Monitor says that “Despite delays, prisoner swap leaves Hezbollah emboldened.”

The UK Times Online at least puts sarcastic quotations around the word “prisoner”:  Israel and Hezbollah “prisoner” exchange.

And so on.

Interestingly, only the Guardian had the reportorial honesty to call this what it was:  Killer released in Israeli bodies swap.

In a way, and for once, the MSM is using story captions that favor Israel.  When one reads the Guardian’s caption, one realizes what a terrible deal Israel made.  It’s terrible not just because of this particular deal.  It’s also terrible because of the precedent it sets.  Hezbollah, Hamas and Fatah have now lost all incentive to keep prisoners alive.  Dead Jewish bodies have suddenly become an incredibly valuable commodity.

Think of it:  Israel used to have a policy that it would not ransom hostages so that there would be no incentive to take hostages.  Then, it started ransoming hostages, so there was an incentive for the terrorists to take them, but a concurrent burden on the terrorists to keep them alive.  Now, the whole game has changed:  the terrorists can kidnap and kill, and still get ransom.

Israel used to win because she was tough, smart and principled.  She’s going to lose now — and lose on a scope inconceivable even with the flames of the Holocaust still burned on our retinas — because she’s become indescribably stupid.

The rabbis were right *UPDATED*

In a post I did yesterday about the way in which liberals cherry-pick religious writings to support their ideological viewpoints, I discussed Rabbi Gamliel’s ancient edict about hostages, to the effect that the general good (tikkun olam) mandates that families may not pay a premium for a kidnapped family member, even if they can afford to do so, because that will simply create more hostage situations.  In a hostage market economy, the higher the price, the greater the incentive to kidnap.

As part of that discussion, I made a parenthetical, unsupported reference to the fact that modern Israel, which has reversed its long-standing policy of refusing to negotiate for hostages, is giving Palestinians and Hezbollah ever greater incentive to kidnap soldiers and civilians. Today, in a long, well-supported article, Bret Stephens makes precisely the same point about the market Israel is creating for the kidnapping of its own citizens.

UPDATEA little info on the type of people Israel is using as payment for this no-win hostage negotiation.

Evil is as evil does

Michael Ledeen has a written a wonderful article that uses the evil in the world’s recent past (Hitler, Stalin), as a springboard for discussing the West’s resolute refusal to see the evil in its midst. I think the following paragraphs are the core of his argument, but the whole article is well worth reading:

By now, there is very little we do not know about such regimes, and such movements. Some of our greatest scholars have described them, analyzed the reasons for their success, and chronicled the wars we fought to defeat them. Our understanding is considerable, as is the honesty and intensity of our desire that such things must be prevented.

Yet they are with us again, and we are acting as we did in the last century. The world is simmering in the familiar rhetoric and actions of movements and regimes – from Hezbollah and al Qaeda to the Iranian Khomeinists and the Saudi Wahhabis – who swear to destroy us and others like us. Like their 20th-century predecessors, they openly proclaim their intentions, and carry them out whenever and wherever they can. Like our own 20th-century predecessors, we rarely take them seriously or act accordingly. More often than not, we downplay the consequences of their words, as if they were some Islamic or Arab version of “politics,” intended for internal consumption, and designed to accomplish domestic objectives.

Clearly, the explanations we gave for our failure to act in the last century were wrong. The rise of messianic mass movements is not new, and there is very little we do not know about them. Nor is there any excuse for us to be surprised at the success of evil leaders, even in countries with long histories and great cultural and political accomplishments. We know all about that. So we need to ask the old questions again. Why are we failing to see the mounting power of evil enemies? Why do we treat them as if they were normal political phenomena, as Western leaders do when they embrace negotiations as the best course of action?

No doubt there are many reasons. One is the deep-seated belief that all people are basically the same, and all are basically good. Most human history, above all the history of the last century, points in the opposite direction. But it is unpleasant to accept the fact that many people are evil, and entire cultures, even the finest, can fall prey to evil leaders and march in lockstep to their commands. Much of contemporary Western culture is deeply committed to a belief in the goodness of all mankind; we are reluctant to abandon that reassuring article of faith. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, we prefer to pursue the path of reasonableness, even with enemies whose thoroughly unreasonable fanaticism is manifest.

This is not merely a philosophical issue, for to accept the threat to us means – short of a policy of national suicide – acting against it. As it did in the 20th century, it means war. It means that, temporarily at least, we have to make sacrifices on many fronts: in the comforts of our lives, indeed in lives lost, in the domestic focus of our passions – careers derailed and personal freedoms subjected to unpleasant and even dangerous restrictions – and the diversion of wealth from self-satisfaction to the instruments of power. All of this is painful; even the contemplation of it hurts.

Then there is anti-Semitism. Old Jew-hating texts like “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” now in Farsi and Arabic, are proliferating throughout the Middle East. Calls for the destruction of the Jews appear regularly on Iranian, Egyptian, Saudi and Syrian television and are heard in European and American mosques. There is little if any condemnation from the West, and virtually no action against it, suggesting, at a minimum, a familiar Western indifference to the fate of the Jews.

Finally, there is the nature of our political system. None of the democracies adequately prepared for war before it was unleashed on them in the 1940s. None was prepared for the terror assault of the 21st century. The nature of Western politics makes it very difficult for national leaders – even those rare men and women who see what is happening and want to act – to take timely, prudent measures before war is upon them. Leaders like Winston Churchill are relegated to the opposition until the battle is unavoidable. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had to fight desperately to win Congressional approval for a national military draft a few months before Pearl Harbor.

More Obama stupidity *UPDATED*

Not that they were ever really on, but when it comes to Obama, my gloves are off. I’ve concluded that the man is not just a liar and an ideologue, he’s stupid. With regard to the situation in Lebanon (where Hezbollah is using terror to topple the power of the democratically elected government), Obama has once again revealed that he is too dumb too live: except that, of course, he will live; it’s innocents in the Middle East (and the rest of the world, frankly) who will die. Richard Landes, at Augean Stables, has a great round-up of the various comments about Obama’s latest stupid foray in foreign policy.

UPDATE:  Not just stupid, but both actively corrupt and complicit in corruption, Chicago-style.  (H/t:  American Thinker)