Saturday, June 10, 2006

Well, it’s been a quiet week in Lake Al-Wobegon…

Not really.




That’s right—the only thing he’ll be torturing these days is that rhyme I just tried to achieve.

Infamous IRA (Iraq-based Raving Abomination) terrorist Abu Musab O’Zarqawi (seen at right in his "Jean Lafitte" period) has hoisted his last Guinness (we understand from his family he wasn’t the world’s most ascetic Islamoid). He has also hoisted his last decapitated human head.

News travels fast i
n the age of Global Communications, so naturally it took very little time for Certain People to realize and proclaim that this guy was just a figurehead, bogeyman, Bush administration invention, a nobody, and his passing wouldn’t slow down or change or mean much of anything. I guess that’s why they were CHEERING and ULULATING at the press conference when Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki announced his unlamented demise. (Picture Helen Thomas ululating about anything… Wait— no. Bad idea.)

Most Frightening Thing Heard on Zarqawi D-day (death day—when a combination of CIA, American troops, Iraqi army, sin
ging detainees, and fed-up insurgents invaded the Normandy Coastline of Zarqawi’s arse)—
Congressman Jo
hn Kline (R-MN) speculating on the future of the new Iraqi government, which has just appointed its Minister of Defense: “They don’t have an Iraqi Pentagon yet…” Allah spare them one of those!

Most Depressing Thing Heard regarding the Recently Martyred

American Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on Zarqawi’s recent career:
“He personified the
dark sadistic and medieval vision of the future -- of beheadings, suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings.”

Oh Don—it would be so good if you didn’t talk about stuff you don’t know anything about— you and the 99.999% of the people who use the word “medieval” as a pejorative. Oh those wicked Middle Ages, which saw the birth of our most revered traditions of tort law and laws of evidence (the latter specifically the product of the Inquisition, which produced a surprising number of acquittals). Not to mention eyeglasses, Romanesque sculpture, and Thomas Aquinas. Give it up, Don. Please.

There’s an upside and a downside to a Presidential administration peopled by those who are “just folks”—in this case, just folks like the vast majority of their constituents who don’t know squat about the history of much of anything prior to the Beatles’ first gig on Ed Sullivan.

One can’t reasonably expect all the politicians to be keen students of history, but it’s painful to see them cornered by practitioners of ignorance, the worst of whom can be those whose credentials make them seem reliable.

Take, for instance, the annoying little co-ed who was permitted to lecture/question the President during a town-hall forum at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University in Washington D.C.
Her speech went thus:

Morning, Mr. President. I have a more general question about the United States' work to democratize the rest of the world. Many have viewed the United States' effort to democratize the world -- especially nations in the Middle East -- as an imposition or invasion on their sovereign rights.

Considering that it was, in fact, the Prophet Mohammed who established the first known constitution in the world -- I'm referring to the constitution he wrote for the city of Medina --and that his life and the principles outlined in his constitution, such as the championing of the welfare of women, children and the poor, living as an equal among his people, dissolving disputes between the warring clans in Arabia, giving any man or woman in parliament the right to vote and guaranteeing respect for all religions, ironically parallel those principles that we hold most precious in our own constitution... I'm wondering how might your recently formed Iraq Study Group under the U.S. Institute for Peace explore these striking similarities to forge a new relationship with Iraqis and educate Americans about the democratic principles inherent in Islam? (emphasis added)

Bush’s answer was lengthy, somewhat disjointed, and painful to listen to. He did not, in fact, answer the question because he didn’t know enough to recognize the STUPIDITY of it.

Apparently neither the co-ed nor the President ever heard of, say, ARISTOTLE and the Athenian Constitution of the 4th century B.C.? Or if you want to go all Mesopotamian, you could call the Code of HAMMURABI a constitution dating from the 18th century B.C. Go crazy and call it “B.C.E.” if you want! But if Mohammed invented the constitution, Al Gore invented the internet.

God help us, the girl’s a
graduate student, in international affairs! Bush never claims to have been anything but a sort-of student who managed to graduate (with consistently better grades than contemporaries Gore and Kerry). But anyone who doesn't know that constitutions and democracy pre-date Mohammed has a pretty loose grip on the world we live in (and probably shouldn’t have the right to vote).

The Constitution of Medina, by the way, is a list of 57 simplistic proscriptions which read like a peace pact about who fights, who kills, and who pays between Believers and un-Believers (primarily the local Jews)—a list of specific statutes on a small range of subjects, not the sort of treatment of the nature and principles of government worthy of the name “constitution.” (Even calls it a "social contract.")

Especially fatuous is the young student’s claim that this document “champions the welfare of women”— the sole item respecting women states A woman will be given protection only with the consent of her family (Guardian). (a good precaution to avoid inter-tribal conflicts). Wow— Susan B. Anthony couldn’t have said it better. And I couldn’t find a thing about children in it.

What a shame our President took at face value the twaddle being spouted by this mal-educated student, probably based on the assumption that she had been well-served by her $28,000 a year Master’s program (that’s tuition— $45,000 including all the trimmings).

Just a little teeny “What about Aristotle?,” Mr. President?—is that to
o much to hope for? Yes. Read or watch the rest of the townhall, if you dare. Painful.

AWAY – REND al-RAHIM FRANCKE surfaced in the news this week, first ambassador to the United States from the new Iraq. An impressive and formidable woman, never foolishly optimistic but given to a contagious hope.


Conservative Queen of Mean Ann Coulter ha
s been making the rounds this week, selling her new book Godless: The Church of Liberalism. (Would someone get this woman a sandwich? Now?)

As usual she’s pretty much on
the nose about everything left-vs.-right, but just so NASTY. We had a two-word expression for chicks like her when I was in college: the first word was “barracuda.”

Coulter has been taking the most heat for her comments on the “Jersey girls” – four 9/11 widows who in their distress have become activists in search of someone to blame—anyone other than the perpetrators, though, because what the blame game is really about is fixing on a formula by which the tragedy could have been prevented. Since man is not Superman, but a fallen and blinded creature, this is usually a fool’s game—sometimes evil just triumphs, whether good men do everything, something, or nothing.

Coulter is completely right that these women’s widowhood has metamorphosed into a bulletproof, argument-proof cloak, which stacks the
deck against intelligent assessment of what they have to say. The same thing goes for Cindy Sheehan (endowed by Maureen Dowd with “absolute moral authority”) and (for better or for worse or when it’s useful to the left) the Johns, Murtha and McCain.

But their (the girls) husbands are still dead, Ann. Dead. Not "killed"-- murdered. That’s the word used by Maureen Basnicki, one of two Canadian 9/11 widows I had the privilege of meeting on July 4, 2002. She made me feel ashamed because I teared up when I talked to her—I who had lost no one— and she was so graceful and composed. I’m not sure whether Ms. Dowd would endow Maureen Basnicki, or fellow-Canadian widow Cindy Barkway, with absolute
moral authority, because both these women were adamant that the American government, and the American President personally, had taken more care with them than any Canadian counterpart. The Basnickis haven’t scapegoated the Bushies, but are seeking remedy from a more logical source, the Saudi Arabian government. More power to ‘em, I say.

But all their men are dead, Ann, as is Cindy’s boy. Go ahead and say their political opinions are crazy, but it’s a really bad idea to tell them they’re getting off on their grief.

I miss Barbara Olson at times like this—the original beautiful blonde conservative bombshell with a law degree, and fearless and brainy— but graceful and straightforward, and way more likely to win friends and influ
ence people than Boadicea Coulter.

Al Qaeda got Barbara that day, incinerated in the wall of the Pentagon on Flight 77. (At least I think this actually happened, despite the fact that the internet is awash in conspiracy theories that she never called from the plane, and there was no plane, and she was subsequently arrested last year in Germany with a fake Vatican passport and a fortune in counterfeit Italian lira. Don’tcha love those cyber-space-cadets???

Barbara’s seat on the panel is remains empty.


>Number of domestically-cultivated terrorists arrested in Toronto

>Number of fruitful raids on festering insurgents carried out simultaneously with Zarqawi hit

>Number of severed heads
(give or take a few) Zarqawi recently left in banana boxes as his
last calling card on behalf of “the Word of Allah” (he said it, I didn’t)

It seems all very neat, so I suspect those numbers won’t turn out to be exact. Well, except for the Toronto terrorists—seventeen were definite
ly picked up, but their circle of friends on various continents is growing daily.

Canadians tend to enjoy hearing a Canadian angle on international news in Real Big Countries, but the last time the affairs of Canada got this much coverage was the SARS epidemic, so the thrill is pretty much gone. It’s been a useful occasion for re-thinking both the National Bird (right), and perhaps the feeling of self-satisfaction customarily engendered by the evidence (often fairly fanatical) of the great many foreign loyalties comfortably at home in Canada every time the World Cup rolls around. Flags of the world are everywhere-- for sale from vans in empty lots near major intersections, flying from bobbing mini-poles perched on car windows.

What's interesting (or iron
ic, as Canada's Alanis Morissette would sing, only this time the word is being used correctly) is that with millions of people across the country recently-enough immigrated to preserve intense loyalty to a far-away soccer team, and tens of thousands of schoolkids playing in the many available neighbourhood leagues-- many of them very skilled and very serious-- Canada doesn't generally field a world-class national soccer team that can find its way to the World Cup.

[By the way, there's a Saudi cleric who says that watching the World Cup could send people to hell. (British soccer hooligans may help.)]

It's not too surprising that this large and underpopulated country with a fairly hostile climate much of the year cannot maintain a professional soccer league-- (heck, it has never even maintained a whole major league for its own native sport, ice hockey-- in its earliest professional phase the National Hockey League was the "original six," four of which were Chicago, New York, Boston, and Detroit)-- but you would think all that soccer-generated energy and interest could be funnelled into an impressive national effort. I'm sure there are lots of reasons why this doesn't happen, but I'm convinced that one of the missing ingredients is the kind of national pride that could trump old ties to old countries.

But where would people learn that national pride in a country where the government hands out money to help your children take free instruction in the "heritage language" of the country you left b
ehind, to perpetuate yours being a non-English-speaking household? (okay, okay-- or non-French-speaking).

How can a national identity compete with the attention kids are reward
ed with when asked to bring in to school some artifact of their family's "cultural background" to discourse upon (often something rather moving, like embroidered hangings treasured and smuggled aboard by Vietnamese boat people)-- which can leave, as I have witnessed myself, some kid named Smith (with an all-Canadian family who have lived here so long that their cultural heritage artifacts, like great-grandpa's old radio and Scout badges, or even his Mason's apron!, have been declared "non-ethnic") to feel like he has nothing to contribute?

Not to mention the growing national ethos that lavishes protection and deference on a "cultural diversity" of every conceivable variation as long as it isn't Christian and heterosexual-- that being the formerly domi
nant, intolerant population which now deserves to be kicked in the shin (or maybe jailed) for the mere drawing of breath.

The pageant of self-deluded silliness ushered in by the arrest of t
he Seventeen is now the subject of much blogospheric comedy, especially the Toronto Star's $64,000 question about what common thread could tie together these men of such diverse ages, educations, professions, etc.-- LIKE MAYBE THE FACT THAT THEY ALL ATTENDED THE SAME STORE-FRONT MOSQUE IN THE SAME SUBURB BECAUSE THEY ALL FOLLOWED THE SAME FANATICAL VERSION OF ISLAM THAT WAS PREACHED THERE. GEE, D'YA THINK?


Check out the MSM and political left of all degrees, trying their best to downplay the importance of the Zarqawi hit
and hoping no one will remember that last week the inability to stop the guy (or his buddy OBL) was the best evidence of American impotence, failure, quagmire, yada, yada, yada.

I love the "meme" that O'Zarqawi is an "invention" of the Bushies, a concocted and demonized bogeyman set up to rally the brawling Iraqis against a common enemy and distract them from the real enemy, the wicked U.S.of A.

So what you folks are saying is... the behe
ading videos were directed by Spielberg, with special decapitation effects by Industrial Light and Magic? (Very worrying-- could take the wind out of Michael Berg's sails if he discovers it was all a hoax, and Nick, head and all, is really hanging out with Barbara Olson, taking in the World Cup in Munich-- with all the sausage a zillion counterfeit lira can buy). It's truly pathetic.

American anti-Americanism is always disturbing, but nothing beats British anti-Americanism for sheer loathsomeness. (Not even the French-- like, who cares, eh?) I refer, of course, to THE FISK.

I keep my finger on the unfiltered pulse of the loopy left mostly
through the news billboard at Perceval Press, which posts a wide variety of what passes for seriousness from that sector. Both the content and selection of articles are revealing. (On the glorious day of the first Iraqi election their lead story was about a water-diversion plan in North Dakota-- election not mentioned at all. Don't hurt yourself, people, bending over backward to avoid the truth hitting you in the noggin. What an insult it was to people who had risked their lives to vote.)

For awhile Perceval was a good way to check out what the New York Times axis of weasels was up to (Dowd, Herbert, Rich, Krugman, occasionally the less-weaselly Friedman, but never Brooks) without having to go through all that registration crap-- but now that the Times has decided to address its hemorrhaging circulation by charging fees (which make its major columnists even less accessible online--go figure), full articles are no longer available. But at least Perceval gives a glimpse of mo
re opening paragraphs than the Times site does.

So at the Perceval billboard you can take the temperature of the Left (usually a little on the high side?!) without having to sift through the kind of invective and raging obscenities likely to be found among the Kos kids, Huffington puffers, and the Move-on/DemUnderground types. (For example, I don't know if anybody's ever taken a whack at Michelle Malkin on the Perceval site, but when they do I doubt it will involve calling her a "chink" or a "slant-eyed c**t" as she has been labelled by the aforementioned offenders.)

Perceval Press is the small artsy publishing house [read: wil
l publish stuff no commercial place wants because it's too weird, politically extreme, not very good, and/or has a potential customer base of about two dozen] co-founded by chin-dimpled born-too-late-to-be-a-beatnik actor Viggo Mortensen (great 'spit-take' at right-- obviously not too obsessed with his own dignity) whose moonbat politics have turned up on this blog from time to time-- partly because I encounter them when he inserts occasional editorials on his own news board. He's a respectable prose stylist (that makes him at least more grammatically lucid than most of the Hollywood left), painfully sincere, presenting a moderate temperament which belies his totally way-whacked-out opinions and associates. He also provides periodic comic relief, like when he accused the Bush administration of "changing the subject" to the immigration question in order to distract the public from the Great Unjust War, a neat trick for a president who has been running away from the immigration issue like a madman for five solid years, until the public finally got fed up and rubbed his face in it.

It was at the Perceval site that I slammed into the latest from THE FISK, i.e., Robert Fisk of
Independent, which refers to itself as a "broadsheet"-- that's antiquarian for "tabloid." Fisk is the man who famously sobbed, after being attacked by Afghan refugees in Pakistan,
If I was an Afghan refugee in Kila Abdullah, I would have done just what they did. I would have attacked Robert Fisk. Or any other Westerner I could find.
(He seemed to think the beating was an anti-Western political statement. His own description would indicate either an ordinary robbery, or perhaps just a digusted response to his insufferably condescending pretense that he was their dear friend, while possibly murdering their language. Andrew Sullivan dishes him here.)

Fisk is a man so diseased with the heartworm of anti-Americanism that he has created for himself an alternate universe more stratospherically distant and self-absorbing than any of those we might spot in the scribblings of any other leftist.

Fisk's standard reportage is "fabrication" in the most literal sense: a shroud woven so thick with distortons and untruths that threads of reality are almost impossible to extract. Eventually his most outrageous work gave birth to the new expression "fisking" (noun and verb forms now in common use)-- that is, laying out (usually against one's will, and with many sighs) a detailed deconstruction of a composition so thoroughly false that it cannot be refuted in anything less than a lengthy line-by-line analysis. The blogosphere has made such exercises possible, because it does not limit the number of words required to do the job (although many professionals have polished the art of the Fisking to where they can sometimes get these things published in dead-tree form).

One is almost grateful to Fisk for never disappointing, never giving scope for even a glimmer of doubt that one has judged him aright. And in his June 4th piece in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (hat-tip Perceval Press), Fisk fulfills our worst expectations with The Way the Americans Like Their War. It is classic Fisk at his most poisonous.

It's about the still undetermined events at Haditha
, and it begins,
Could Haditha be just the tip of the mass grave? The corpses we have glimpsed, the grainy footage of the cadavers and the dead children; could these be just a few of many? Does the handiwork of the United States' army of the slums go further?
Gee, I don't know, Bob-- could Bono be a paedophile? Could Kofi Annan be a heroin dealer? We have no explicit evidence that they aren't-- so let's just go with it and raise the questions-- it might be all we need to do to initiate rumour and suspicion against them, or anybody. Wow-- that could be, like, so exciting. And it could prolong that visceral thrill you felt when you got away with the phrase "United States army of the slums," because, technically, that's a reflection on conditions in Iraq, not on the "Crips'n'Bloods" thuggishness of the troops-- but o-o-oh, how it rolled off the tongue there for a minute.

Speaking of mass graves, have you (Bob) EVER written about the ones created by Saddam Hussein, still being discovered in Iraq? The ones with HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of men, women, and children in them, most shot in the head? --just in the interest of balance, Bob, and perhaps out of respect for the English language, in which words like "mass" have always been assumed to have a reality-based meaning.

Fisk goes on:

It's no good saying "a few bad apples." All occupation armies are corrupted. [And all journalists are faced with the temptation to stack their work with categorical assertions so huge no one knows
where to start to disprove them.--ed.]

I suspect part of the problem is that we never really cared about Iraqis, which is why we refused to count their dead. Once the Iraqis turned upon the army of occupation with their roadside bombs and suicide cars, they became Arab "gooks," the evil sub-humans whom the
Americans once identified in Vietnam.
I think it's safe to assume that Fisk would have been somewhat disapproving of the MacNamara/Westmoreland taste for body counts as measures of success in Vietnam-- but he (carefully) misses the point that this is PRECISELY why we have not trumpeted counts of the dead in Iraq.

And check out how he slides over the words "the Iraqis turned upon the army," implying that they all put up resistance, down to the last man of them. But we know that didn't happen-- hey, all swarthy men don't look alike to us.

How would Fisk explain the fact that, immediately upon the June 29, 2004 from Bremmer to the interim government [read this account by Mohammed at Iraq the Model-- its' the best], the official U.S. military terminology for suicide bombers and other insurgent terrorists became, in all instances, the "anti-Iraqi forces." (Helps to read more widely than tabloid journalism to discover these things.) This term embodies respect for those Iraqis-- the majority-- who never turned against the coalition, and demonstrates our ability to distinguish between the butchers and citizens-- something Fisk keeps failing to do. His desire for all Iraqis to turn against America is so intense that he is blind to his own racist lumping of all of them together into a mob of raging street-fighters.

Fisk closes:
I can't help wondering today how many of the innocents slaughtered in Haditha took the opportunity to vote in the Iraqi elections -- before their "liberators" murdered them.
Well it's certainly a much more efficient use of time to write a newspaper column than to go through the complicated business of charges, and trials, and evidence and such, before convicting Marines (as yet unnamed!) of murder. Fisk plays the Queen of Hearts to the hilt (literally?): 'Sentence first-- verdict afterward!... Off with their heads!'

Fascinating that on the 10th of June, in the Independent, Fisk worries in print about fair trials for the Toronto seventeen in virulently "racist" Canada! Talk about comic relief!

And barely have I had time to cut and paste the Fiskaditha atrocity from Perceval's billboard, but it has been superceded there by Fisk's next entry on the demise of Zarqawi. Headline:
"Zarqawi's end is not a famous victory, nor will it bring Iraq any nearer to peace." (Reminds me of the old atheist-in-hell joke: "It's not hot, and I'm not here. It's not hot, and I'm not here.") He goes on:
So, it's another "mission accomplished". The man immortalised by the Americans as the most dangerous terrorist since the last most dangerous terrorist, is killed - by the Americans. A Jordanian corner-boy who could not even lock and load a machine gun is blown up by the US Air Force.
What are the most-repeated details about the Zarqawi hit, from every official source in all countries involved? That the hit was enabled by the
combined efforts of American, coalition, and Iraqi forces

Nowhere, never, not once, in any instance has the United States unduly credited itself with the execution of this execution.
As for the Jordanian corner-boy, it's worth remembering that Fisk observed of him last November (after he pulled off the Amman hotel bombing),
...56 dead, most of them Jordanians, is a devastating blow to the man [King Abdullah] who once ran the supposedly "elite" Jordanian special forces and who is King of that little sandpit Winston Churchill created and called "Jordan". And who was to blame? Why Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, of course. The same tiresome, odd, ruthless, nebulous Zarqawi who the Americans seem as little able to capture or kill as they do Osama bin Laden, or Mullah Omar...
For a little nebish, he dealt a "devastating blow"-- and now he's been killed. One down, two to go, for the marquee terrorists.

As I read THE FISK (which shouldn't be done too often), wandering his way in his own little world, inventing new sights when those his eyes encounter do not suit his virtual reality, I can't help thinking of that pitiful little journalista played so well by Geraldine Chaplin in Robert Altman's Nashville-- a hundred weird stories happening all around her to which she is utterly oblivious, and she wanders alone in a junky parking lot full of school-buses
(Ray Nagin, call your office) conjuring up poetic fanstasies to babble into her tape recorder about what the ghostly old vehicles are "saying."
(It's summer--school's out--they're saying, "Shut up and let me sleep.")

One would like to think that as events unfold over time, people like Fisk who have so gleefully butchered the facts will be held to some kind of public reckoning, and perhaps even acknowledge without coercion that they got it wrong. But the public is reliably amnesiac, and da Nile ain't just a river in Egypt. One wants to believe that truth will out, but I'm not holding my breath on it happening, even when my breath is one day long gone. But reckoning-wise, there is always the "other side."

"I may not be sure about God or the Devil, but I still believe in the United Nations," wrote Fisk on April 23, 2005. That's faith indeed!!-- even by Dan Brown's definition: "acceptance of that which we imagine to be true, that which we cannot prove.”

It's summer in Turtle Bay.
It's not hot, and I'm not here.