Monday, June 26, 2006

Speaking of journalists—NON-STORY of the week:

Silly me. My prediction (below) seems to have spluttered. I was fool enough to think that the grisly details of th deaths of Pfc. Mechaca and Pfc. Tucker might prove irresistable fodder for the ongoing med
ia cannonade at the Bush administration, the perfect opportunity for humiliating him through this devastating tragedy: Was the President slow to react? Did he look like he cared? Will he apologize to the families? What kinds of mutilation did the soldiers undergo? Has there been video on Al-Jazeera?

Silly me—I thought the MSM would run with this one for sure. But for that they would have h
ad to look up from their lap-tops and notice. They would have to feel some stirring within that went deeper than their amnesia over Danny Pearl and their indifference to Nick Berg. And the federal Democrats gave them almost nothing to work with.

Only one floated a noticeable trial balloon. Senator Dick (the Turban) Durbin let fly a suitably grief-stricken reaction
to the reports.
Unfortunately, this is a grim reminder of the price we're paying for a failed policy in Iraq.
Okay, so he followed
by calling the news “heartbreaking” but not until he had barfed up the important death statistic—2500. (I almost wrote “combat death statistic,” but of course it isn’t— that would carve off the nearly 18% which are non-combat deaths, primarily from accidents, and take that nice round 2500 number out of the equation) It's a round “grim milestone” number Durbin had been waiting for-- dare we say “eagerly”?— ever since he announced:
At the time that we recorded the 2,000th military death in Iraq, I asked, along with other Senators, for a moment of silence on the floor of the U.S. Senate to acknowledge their great contribution to our country and in respect for their memory. When the time comes that 2,500 have given their lives, I will make that same unanimous consent request... Senators from both parties should come to the floor when we have recorded the 2,500th death in Iraq and observe a moment of silence in memory of our fallen warriors and in prayer for their families whose lives will never be the same because of their loss.
[Read into the Congressional Record 06/14/06]

Durbin’s politiciza
tion of the heinous murders of Private Kristian Menchaca and private Thomas Tucker prompted me to write him a little note, as follows:
Congratulations on being the first Democratic official to exploit the butchery of two American soldiers by Iraq-based terrorists, to score points against the current administration. Your statement regarding "the price we're paying for a failed policy in Iraq" implies that the degree of barbarity reportedly exhibited in these deaths represents some kind of zenith in a prolonged and escalating scale of violence, which might not have reached this height had we concluded our involvement earlier. You called it a "grim reminder"-- but DO you remember? This is the same band of global gangsters who beheaded journalist Daniel Pearl in Afghanistan more than FOUR YEARS ago. What did that have to do with failed policies in Iraq or anywhere else? They have been beheading adolescent girls in Indonesia for the offense of being Christian. Are you ready to hang that on our Republican President?

There is noth
ing escalating about this-- butchery is what these people do, and have done, irrespective of "policies." If there is any real American arrogance on display in our era, it is in the belief that Islamist savagery is primarily a response to actions taken by us. To anyone who's been paying attention, we are but one ring in their global target. Your use of our soldiers' deaths for political fingerpointing is not only shameful, it is myopic.
I emailed Durbin via his website, and then broke down and sobbed. For the first of several times that day.

I don’t know what it means that there has been no word of an Al-Jazeera video of the soldiers killings. I’m a little bit surprised. And very glad—I hope we never so much as hear about one, much less find that it is available to see.

When Daniel Pearl was beheaded his family knew that the video was circulating on the internet, and made a public plea that people would not watch it. Even if I had been inclined to, I felt their wishes should be respected and we should close the book on his horrific end, in favour of thinking about his accomplishments in life.

“Closing the book” had to do with the belief that this act had been a freak—a desperate game of chicken which the hostage-takers lost. It never occurred to me, or to many others I’m sure, that sawing off a head with kitchen-sized knife was something that would come so easy to anyone as to occasion repetition.

But occasions came: Eugene Armstrong, Paul Johnson, Nick Berg, Kenneth Bigley, Robert Jacob, Jack Lee Hensley, Kim Sun-il (Korean translator), Luqman Mohammed Kurdi Hussein (Titan Security employee), Shosei Koda (Japanese traveller), Ibrahim Mohammed Ismail (Egyptian drive
r), Georgy Lazov (Bulgarian truck driver), Mohammed Mutawalli (alleged Egyptian Spy), Durmus Kumdereli (Turkish Driver), Khudair al-Tamimi (26-year-old groom taken from his wedding reception in Muqdadiya, Iraq, with his father, uncle, cousin, and one guest-- all beheaded). And many others whose names have not been reported.

Nicholas Berg had the misfortune to have literally lost his head at the time when the world's most raving anti-Americans, including those in the United States Senate and many of their fellow-countrymen, were losing their metaphorical heads and tarring the whole American culture with guilt over the outrageous "tortures" committed at Abu Ghraib prison. Compared to stacks of naked Iraqi men and sadistic application of women's underwear, poor Nick Berg hardly merited the time of day. As Senator Zell Miller of Georgia put it at the time, "Why is it that there's more indignation over a photo of a prisoner with underwear on his head than over the video of a young American with no head at all?"

I decided at that point, when so many of those with the luxury of public platforms and public influence had let this horrific event pass with barely a raised eyebrow, that I was going to see what they refused to see. I figured some of us owed it to the slaughtered to see how it was during their last seconds on earth.

So I scoured the
internet (it wasn't too hard), and I watched. I watched them all, starting with Daniel Pearl, and searching out at least another four based on names known at the time. (Paul Johnson was one). Since then I have discovered one website that has every single known beheading video-- dozens of them. I won't name it here, and I certainly couldn't make myself look at any more of them, or at any of the early ones a second time. But it did help put names to the many, many victims, and to get an idea of the scope of these kinds of killings.

I remember as a fact that the sound of Daniel Pearl's death is the most horrible thing I've ever heard-- so horrible that I can't replay it in my memory even if I wanted to. I recall that there was only sound to begin
with, while the screen was blank; this was followed by the murderers' clumsy re-enactment of the decapitation because their camera had failed to function during the original act. For this second segment, the soundtrack had an overlay of pig squeals, considered appropriate because Pearl's ultimate crime was being a Jew.

All these videos are jumpy and out of focus for some reason-- maybe they are recorded on cell phones, or sent to Al-Jazeera by email. Or maybe Al-Jazeera imposes distortion on them so they will be clear enough to communicate their message without being so clear that they disgust even the jihadists who watch them. Nevertheless they are enough to teach any viewer that the imagination is no substitute for reality.

The news reports on Privates Menchaca and Tucker began with suggestions that they might have been beheaded. Since then I have heard different reports: of eyes gouged out, hearts cut out, throats slashed, genitals hacked off and stuffed in their mouths. The method could have been any, or all, of the above. Anyone capable of one such act is capable of anything, in any number and combination.

On the whole it is not i
mportant that the general public know the particular details of these deaths, or any of the others, as long as there is a willingness to understand that there is no moral equivalency between such acts and anything known to have been done by any member of the American military in Iraq.

Senator John Kerry claims our people committed similar acts during the Vietnam war. He may be right, though the ensuing decades have produced only accusations and no documentation. History points to Wounded Knee and Samar and My Lai as examples of American bloodlust in war-- we can't
deny them or downplay their gravity. But there is something about a conventional mass battlefield whacking with rifles that seems essentially different from what is required of a person to complete the job of carving up a human body-- in this case, sawing off a living human head with a knife too small for the job, usually after making a prolonged speech into a camera lens. One can imagine the mass shooting becoming easy-- fast and relatively clean, nearly mechanical after awhile, and conducive to emotional detachment. Not so the hands-on bloodletting.

Normal human beings have stood horror-struck at their own species when bearing witness to this kind of mad-sickness throughout history: the Roman genius for martyring Christians by flaying, cutting off br
easts, or igniting human torches coated with pitch; the Iroquois custom of biting off fingers and burning or extracting clods of flesh from the extremities, in the knowledge that they can endure tremendous damage without causing death; the uniquely English capital punishment whereby the condemned was dragged through the streets behind a horse, hanged until not quite dead, gruesomely disembowelled alive (including castration), and dismembered after death-- a penalty in use from the 13th to the 19th centuries; the experimental surgeries of Dr.Josef Mengele on the 3000 twins who passed through Auschwitz, including two Gypsy children whom he stitched together back to back just to see what would happen. (Their parents suffocated them to put them out of their misery once gangrene set in.)

Probably no bodily atrocities more resemble the actions of Al Qaeda in Iraq than those committed by the Japanese army during the 1937 "Rape of Nanking" where it is claimed that about 300,000 civilians were deliberately massacred (gang-raped, shot, beheaded, impaled, disembowelled) in about six weeks.

Our kind can do this stuff-- and once upon a time we used to be taught about it so we would not forget. But that kind of education is pretty sketchy these days.

Now that the basest kind of man-on-man butchery is happening again, our current state of historical amnesia ought to increase the shock and outrage, yet so many people in positions of prominence seem oddly blasé. When the mutilated bodies of Privates Menchaca and Tucker were discovered, Senator Harry Reid's outrage took the form of calling it "sad news." His reflection on the meaning of the tragedy?
One thing Democrats agree on is this war has taken too long, it's too expensive... We all agree that there should be redeployment starting sooner rather than later.
Okay-- crammed into that ellipsis was somethin
g about the cost in lives and injuries. But "too long" and "too expensive" were his first thoughts on the subject. What kind of robot is this man? Or any of the rest of them? Did we hear one single elected official (including the Commander-in-Chief) rail in fury and visceral digust, or display a millisecond of unguarded emotion? Where we should have seen barely suppressed impulses to vengeance, we instead saw and heard arguments over when and how fast to RUN AWAY!!!!. (Mona Charen
references Monty Python). Ah, timing is everything.

A politician once said
In fact, I fear that in the run-up to the 2004 election, the administration is considering what is tantamount to a cut-and-run strategy. Their sudden embrace of accelerated Iraqification and American troop withdrawal dates, without adequate stability, is an invitation to failure. The hard work of rebuilding Iraq must not be dictated by the schedule of the next American election.
That was John Kerry speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations in December of 2003, (hat-tip Ca
ptain Ed at Captain's Quarters) In that same speech Kerry asked (rhetorically, I'm sure)
How is it possible to liberate a country, depose a ruthless dictator who at least in the past had weapons of mass destruction, and convert a preordained success into a diplomatic fiasco?
Isn't it astounding how a "preordained success" transmogrified into "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time" by the following September? And is it any wonder that people have so much trouble b
elieving Kerry's previous remarks to the other Foreign Relations folks (the Senate committee)-- the 1971 version-- when he said that Americans randomly dismembered and beheaded civilians in Vietnam. He's as phony now as he was then, only now his party has the good sense to know he's got political "cooties" and should be shunned. Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit summed it up: "Kerry will have his Iraq position all figured out by, say, 2016. This is one of many reasons why Democrats should be embarrassed that he was their nominee -- and why Republicans should be embarrassed that he came so close to winning." Amen, brother.

And they should ALL be embarrassed at how far short they fell of the proper level of SEETHING RAGE over the butchery of our guys. The New York Times continues to defend its national security nudism, apparently failing to make the connection between the fate of Privates Mechaca and Tucker and the implictions of their own premeditated loose lips. However, the connection was not lost on some of our fighting men. Check out Letter Number One from Lt. Tom Cotton (hat-tip Powerline), sounding off from Baghdad, and Letter Number Two where Sgt. T. F. Boggs weighs in from Mosul (hat-tip Hugh Hewitt).

Bottom line-- military
to New York Times: "Thanks for nothin', schmucks. Here's some newsprint to wipe the blood off your hands."

The New York Times should be boycotted and its editorial staff charged. The government leakers should be hounded out and prosecuted.


* * * * *

Speaking of late night TV offerings:

My channel surfing stopped, as it often does, on APTN, the Aboriginal Peoples' Television Network, a Canadian government-funded outfit which produces pretty respectable and interesting programming, as well as running old films and series that have some tangential connection to their mandate. Truth to tell, in any given week I expect my APTN viewing time ou
tnumbers my CBC time by about 5 to 1.

Friday night brought me a fashion show. It originated in Nunavut, and the models were attrac
tive (as in fresh-faced and smiling) Inuit girls (plus a couple of embarrassed-looking young men), with the lyrics to the appealing sooundtrack sung mostly in Inuktitut.

What was most appealing, though, was that the fashions being presented were all coats, jackets, and wraps made of seal fur (mature, of course-- the mottled black, grey, and greenish hides-- no snow-white babies have been harvested for more than a decade). And the clothing was a
bsolutely beautiful-- this was first-rate creative fashion design. I found myself feeling very proud for them-- the show itself had a pleasantly amateurish feel to it, but there was nothing amateurish about the work-- it was brilliant. [PHOTOS are from a different show, but clothing in similar style.]

Take that, (soon-to-be-not) Sir Paul and Mrs. McCartney! The only thing disturbing white baby seals these days is loud-mouthed celebrity
animal-rightists seeking a doe-eyed prop for their on-ice photo-op. Even if Sir Paul and wife had chosen to create a more honest photo-splash by posing with khaki-coloured mature seals (the only ones actually still hunted for their fur), it wouldn't have changed the fact that European PETA-loving do-gooders have all but wrecked a millennia-old aboriginal trade. I, for one, was no end delighted to discover, by chance, that somewhere on the Canadian ice-patch the fur trade is being unapologetically pursued and, even better, providing the raw material to feed the creative juices of contemporary artists drawing on ancient traditions.

"Here are the facts. It is illegal to kill whitecoats. Adult seals are killed with rifles. Many of
ose videos were staged and became so notorious, they created the term animal snuff films. Greenpeace, which originally promoted the sealing ban, has reversed its position. The World Wildlife Fund is trying to alert the public to the damage the seal ban continues to inflict on the people of the Arctic." (see

The real endangered species?: the Inuit hunter.

Saturday night's APTN Inuktitut feature: competitive clog-dancing and melodeon-playing for the whole damn town, in a rural gymnasium. GREAT STUFF! I loved it.
Nice seal-fur boots, by the way--lookin' good.