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PHOTON COURIER
 
Saturday, March 29, 2003  
MAKIN' MOCK O' UNIFORMS IV

Little Green Footballs asked the question: "Are any of you losing friends over the Iraq war?" Among the 500 or so responses was the following, from someone who calls herself "Lurker Louise."

Funny you should mention this -- I ended a years-long friendship over this today. Oh, it's been a long simmering thing, I suppose, but it finally came to "f*#$% you" today.

I have a brother serving in the USMC in Iraq. I was expressing my fears for him today since I saw that his unit was involved in a heavy firefight recently, and my "friend" chose that as the time to tell me she hopes the US gets a major ass-kicking to "teach Bush a lesson" and to prevent his re-election. When I pointed out (calmly, I think) that said ass kicking would involve the death of people like my sweet little brother, she got all indignant and accused me of being the real warmonger since I hope the US wins now that they're in it, whereas she had the sophistication and global elan to espouse a truly unbiased hope that the Iraqi partisans would defeat the "aggressors."
(Excerpt)

Who are these people? How did they get to be this way? What kind of human being would say such words to anyone, let alone to a friend who had a close relative at risk?

A clue can be found in another comment that Louise makes. She says that her ex-friend is "a person who is positively preening with self-righteousness."

Many on the "anti-war" left consider themselves to be part of the noble tradition of dissent. They see themselves as the spiritual heirs of the American Civil Rights movement, the small German resistance against Naziism, and similar acts of courage. But those who behave like Louise's ex-friend -- and there seem to be a lot of them -- are in fact the heirs of a very different tradition. They are the spiritual heirs of all those who have used self-righteousness to justify cruelty. They are in the lineage of those who burned and hanged witches, those who mocked those of other religions and races, the small-town Pecksniffs who drove unmarried pregnant girls to suicide with their condemnations.

Many people on the anti-war side may at least deserve credit for "meaning well." On the other hand, it's increasingly clear that many do not.



7:21 PM

Wednesday, March 26, 2003  
IDIOT OF THE DAY

Religious leaders in the Bay area have favored us with their thoughts on the issues of war and peace, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. There are vacuous comments from clergymen of many denominations; however, for sheer idiocy, this one takes the cake:

What those who hate us will be doing, is what we've done ourselves, in the way we've portrayed Saddam Hussein. . . . What we do when we demonize the enemy is project everything we feel bad about ourselves onto the "other." This justifies doing things to them we'd never be able to do if we thought of them as equally the "children of God," to use religious language -- as brothers and sisters in the same human race. (Rev David Sammons, Mount Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church)

The logical and moral confusions in this passage are almost beyond belief. "..the way we've portrayed Saddam Hussein"...Doesn't it matter what Saddam Hussein actually is? What he actually does--the shredding machines used on live human beings, the babies starved to death before their mothers' eyes, the "rape rooms"? Does Sammons have any evidence that "the way we've portrayed Saddam Hussein" is incorrect? If not, why should he not be portrayed as he is?

"What we do when we we demonize the enemy is project everything we feel bad about ourselves onto the 'other.' " What does Sammons mean when he says "demonize the enemy?" If by "the enemy" he means ordinary Iraqis--including Iraqi soldiers--then the U.S. government has in no way demonized them -- quite the contrary. American soldiers, too, are doing their best to recognize the humanity of these people. And if by "the enemy" he means Saddam himself, then the man has demonized himself--no outside assistance necessary.

Sammons also said: I know there are people here this morning who have served our country as members of the military. Some of you were asked to do things that resulted in the death of people who were no less human, no less entitled to life, than you...But you had taken an oath to obey the orders you were given and felt honor- bound to do it.

This is patronizing and insulting. Does Sammons think these former military personnel don't already know that members of enemy forces are human? Does he think one has to be a "reverend" to know such things? And can he not imagine that many have fought, not just because of "orders," but because they believed that a specific campaign was necessary and just?

Once upon a time, the Unitarian Universalist church was home to many people of independent spirit. But in Sammons' remarks, I see no independent spirit -- just a sheep-like parroting of trendy academic and West Coast views.

(Hat tip: Stefan Sharkansky)

UPDATE: Mean Mr Mustard watched Bush speak at Central Command headquarters and noticed that there were some unexpected cheers and hollers when Bush said, "The Iraqis are a good and gifted people." This wasn't the monotonous applause at the natural pauses of the speech, where Bush almost halted, waiting for it. This was a spontaneous outburst from the ranks of the servicemen assembled who were moved to unexpected cheering specifically from Bush's reference to the humanity and goodness of the people whose country we're invading.

What does this say about our failure to think of the enemy "as brothers and sisters in the same human race," as alleged by Sammons?


2:40 PM

Tuesday, March 25, 2003  
WHY THEY'RE THE WAY THEY ARE

George Koch gives one reason why so many entertainers and other celebrities are "antiwar" -- they don't like the competition.

In war, the celebrity no longer matters to anybody, while the nobody suddenly matters to nearly everybody. When Tank Engine Oil Changer (4th Class) Earl Beerguzzle from Trailer Park, Arkansas, goes missing, millions of people care. Genuinely. They care about the life of a young man who's doing something real and is prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice in the service of his country.

Our usual neurotic interest in what the stars are doing in the service of themselves -- like, say, how Salma Hayek's eyebrow management program is coming along ...is cast aside...Instead of the normal display of the aesthetically perfect preening before the assembled cameras and ringed by adoring throngs held back by rented cops and bodyguards, we see front-lawn interviews with slightly overweight, somewhat awkward, a little bit rumpled and overall marvellously imperfect people. They're the families and friends of those killed or missing in Iraq. Real people sharing real emotions about real events. And we unselfconsciously cry with them. In this light, it just doesn't matter what Nicole Kidman is wearing to the Oscars -- or whether the damned things are even held...

In short, objective reality has made a roaring comeback -- about as subtly as a barrage of those 155-mm shells screaming overhead that left even TV reporters agape. War has a way of doing that. Oliver Stone's masturbatory obsession with the grassy knoll in Dallas just doesn't stack up against whether or not the 3rd Infantry boys actually seized that bridge across the Euphrates.


From National Post via Kathy Shaidle.



6:08 PM

Monday, March 24, 2003  
IDIOT OF THE DAY

A talking head on TV tonight spoke approximately as follows: the attack on the command bunker during the first night of the war proves that this is personal between Saddam and the Bush family.

Right. The reason for the attack couldn't have been to shorten the war and to save American and Iraqi lives. Just like the shooting down of Admiral Yamamoto's plane during WWII must have been motivated by some long-standing feud between Yamamoto and the Roosevelt family.

And what's this "family" angle, anyhow? Presumably, the reference is to Saddam's attempted assasination of Bush I -- little Georgy is mad because Saddam tried to kill Poppy, as Maureen Dowd might put it. But wouldn't any sensible U.S. leader view an attempt to kill a former U.S. president as showing hostile intent toward this country -- and resolve to make sure the would-be perpetrator's fangs were drawn? Wouldn't this be the case regardless of whether or not the former president were a relative of the current president?

Off-hand comments like the one discussed here are made all the time, on TV and in print media. Usually, they cannot survive 15 seconds of actual analysis. But the steady diet of such things breeds an easy cynicism which can only be destructive of the social fabric. Maybe, at some level, that's the intent.

7:13 PM

 
ACADEMY AWARDS UPDATE

Mindles H Dreck (the co-conspirator of Jane Galt) has a few words to say about Michael Moore:

If you glimpse a large tush
And hear screaming of Bush
Then an animal comes to the fore,
Who is basically pig
But more sweaty and big
You will know you have met with a Moore.


Read the whole thing.

7:20 AM

Sunday, March 23, 2003  
MORE MISQUANTIFICATION

In today's New York Times article, "Weighing Your Risks of Becoming a Terror Victim," writer John Tierney falls into the same logical fallacies which I wrote about earlier ("Misquantifying Terrorism"). He states that "The probability of a terrorist attack occurring in the United States might be high, but the risk to any one person seems relatively low," and quotes Barry Glassner (author of "The Culture of Fear") as saying that even in that "singularly bad year" of 2001, the worldwide death toll from terrorism was less than a tenth of the death toll from car accidents in the United States alone.

Of course, we don't really know whether 2001 was a singularly bad year until we know what the next 10 years or so look like. It is not valid to extrapolate future probabiities of an event from past probabilities unless you can credibly argue that the phenomena that produce the event will remain in a steady state. In 1910, you could have argued that the odds of being run over by a car were lower than the odds of being kicked to death by a horse--would that have justified assuming that this would remain true in the future? Of course not. In the early stages of an epidemic, you might say that your chances of catching the disease were very low--but they might become very different as the disease spreads.

Dr Glaser is by and large correct that people tend to worry about the wrong things--for example, worrying too much about airliner accidents and not enough about car accidents. But in assessing risk, factors such as trend line and feedback loops must be considered--not just steady-state probabilities. John Tierney's shot at President Bush ("how likely is an unprecedented catastrophe on the scale envisoned by Mr Bush?") is unjustified. The real answer to "how likely?" is, it's not written in the stars. It depends upon the actions that we as a nation take or fail to take.

There is one good point in the article. Why was there so much negative reaction to the advice from Homeland Security on how to prepare for a terrorist attack? Peter Sandman, a risk consultant, says it was because of an "infantile yearning to be allowed to remain passive while the government takes care of us." The result, I would say, of too many people who think of themself primarily as consumers and who have an excessive sense of entitlement.

12:16 PM

Saturday, March 22, 2003  
MEANWHILE, ON ANOTHER FRONT...

In the battle to improve the generally-dismal U.S. education system, there are a couple of hopeful signs.

Joy Hakim is the author of the acclaimed childrens' history series A History of US. This multivolume series is notable for its readable, conversational tone. The author was able to achieve this because she actually wrote the books -- unlike most textbooks, which are not truly "written," but are assembled by committee. It took Hakim a long time to get her series published, and many battles to actually get it into schools. Now she's working on a new project -- a series of science books.

Tentatively titled "The Science Story," the first three books focus on key scientists from the early Greeks to today's contemporaries, explaining how scientific thought has changed.

"Science is a process, it's not static, and so many books don't explain that," said Hakim, who expects to sign with a publisher in the next few weeks. "I try to help students understand that through stories, showing the way ideas and knowledge have changed through the ages. I want kids to become detectives, so I try to get them interested enough to want to learn more." (Quotes from The Washington Post.)

Given her track record, she'll probably find a publisher more easily this time--but there will likely still be major battles required to get the books into the schools.

The U.S. public education system is, of course, highly bureaucratized, and that is why it is so difficult for work like Hakim's to gain acceptance. It is also a major reason why Rod Paige's new initiative is so important. Paige, who is U.S. Secretary of Education, has called for an end to the virtual monopoly on teacher certification which is now maintained by "teacher's colleges."

"Some people will argue that this change is too radical, that it's too risky, that we should maintain the status quo," Mr. Paige said at a National Press Club event with board leaders. "Well, I agree that it's radical. It's radically better than the system we have now, a system that drives thousands of talented people away from our classrooms." With alternative certification, people with a wide range of experience and knowledge will be able to become teachers more readily.

Predictably, the education establishment reacted by saying that the proposed reforms "devalue professional knowledge." What professional knowledge? The teacher's colleges themselves largely devalue any subject matter knowledge -- yet there is little evidence that their teachings in "pedagogy" consist of anything other than jargon, untested theory, and political posturing. (Read Rita Kramer's Ed School Follies for a valuable and depressing view of what really goes on in America's "teacher's colleges.") Teaching is a skill and an art; not everyone can do it well. But it's not an esoteric field like quantum physics which is accessible only to those with extensive indoctrination in its mysteries. Honest and committed teachers should welcome the help from new entrants to the field, even if these people come from backgrounds very different from their own.

Secretary Paige and the Bush administration will have a major fight on their hands with this. Teachers' unions represent important sources of contributions and foot soldiers to the Democratic Party, and the party is usually willing to do their bidding. The administration needs to take this battle to the people, and make clear just how ridiculous the current system is -- and how high the stakes are.

(Hat tip: Joanne Jacobs and Number Two Pencil.)
















8:03 PM

Friday, March 21, 2003  
PARALLEL UNIVERSES

A sign at an "anti-war" protest this week said "We support our troops when they shoot their officers."

However, it's not our troops who are shooting their officers. British soldiers today found a group of Iraqi officers who had been shot by their own men so that the latter could surrender.

The world as it actually exists is a very different place from the world as it is imagined by many on the left.

7:17 PM

Thursday, March 20, 2003  
WHY DO THEY HATE US SO MUCH?

An interesting e-mail on andrewsullivan.com. Speaking of the recent behavior of those on the Left, the writer says:

I am afraid that my generation learned too well to love their enemies without ever learning how to stop hating their fathers. So that now, hatred of the father takes the form of love of the enemy. And inside all that is a toxic self-hatred that appalls me.

8:16 AM

 
WAR IN IRAQ OPENS

Let me see
Can this be real?

Can this be real?
I shall know soon

Gods everywhere
Wherever you live,
Can this be real,
Living my life,
Loving my life,
To ride alone along
This lonely path
Toward war and death?


(Pawnee song)


8:04 AM

Tuesday, March 18, 2003  
1936 REDUX

I've written before about the Rhineland crisis of 1936--when Britain and France failed to take the last opportunity to stop Hitler at a low human cost. I've recently come across some information about the actual discussions that took place within the French Council of Ministers at the time these decisions were made. Many of the comments sound almost exactly like those emanating from certain politicians and pundits of today.

Although several of the Ministers favored armed intervention, others were vehemently opposed. Some spoke out of concern for multilateralism: "The United States will accuse us of imperialism," said Flandin. Flandin also shared the concern, expressed today by so many on the left, about stirring up a hornet's nest: "The hate of the Germans for us will increase." He also expressed concern that Britain and Belgium were not willing to send troops in support of any French action.

Deat seconded these views, and also raised political considerations, saying: "If, this very night, two months before the elections, a general mobilization is decreed, we shall be swept out of Parliament...And we shall have given the world the hateful spectacle of war-mongering. Abandoned morally by all the great Powers, we are risking, moreover, if we answer back, the worst of moral and material disasters."

It is now known that, had France intervened in the Rhineland with its superior forces, the German troops would have withdrawn--and there very likely would have followed a military coup against the Hitler regime. But this was not done...and the real "worst of moral and material disasters" still lay ahead.

Many of the French Ministers of 1936 would be right at home on today's talking-head shows. They would need only to change "Germany" to "Iraq" and "Rhineland" to "Weapons of Mass Destruction," and they would be applauded for their balance and good judgment.

(Information and quotes are from Paul Reynaud's book, "In the Thick of the Fight.")




9:06 AM

Monday, March 17, 2003  
DASCHLE'S DISGRACE

When I first saw this statement by Tom Daschle on the Internet, I thought it was a parody--that even Daschle was not capable of this level of irresponsibility. Sadly, it's not. The Senate Democratic leader really did say the following words today:

"I'm saddened, saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war," Daschle said in a speech to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "Saddened that we have to give up one life because this president couldn't create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical for our country."

Has Daschle never heard the saying "It takes two to tango," and, by extension, does he not know that it takes willing partners to engage in diplomacy? For quite some time now, it has been obvious that Saddam Hussein has no good-faith intention of disarming or of reducing the brutality of his regime. Thus, these goals are attainable only by military action, or credible threat of same.

Would it have been desirable to have UN endorsement of such action? Certainly--but once again, it takes two to tango. Isn't it just possible that the difficulties in establishing a coalition might have something to do with economic interests and regional power-games on the part of the leaders of Germany and France, rather than being due to the diplomatic ineptness of our President? Why is the failure of others to cooperate automatically assumed to be the fault of "this president?"

I am reminded of the French Deputy of 1940 who, when his district was bombed by the Germans, reacted by shouting: "I will denounce the government on the floor of the Chamber of Deputies!"

And consider the venue in which Daschle made his statement -- in a speech to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. These are people many of whom will bear heavy responsibilities in a time of war and terrorism. What a wonderful morale booster to tell them that it's all unnecessary, all due to incompetence on the part of the President.

Disgraceful.

7:27 PM

 
DASCHLE'S DISGRACE


7:25 PM

Friday, March 14, 2003  
REPENT NOW

The Episcopal Bishop of Chicago, William Persel, used his Ash Wednesday homily to call for the nation to repent its sin of arrogance and put more effort into seeking peace and justice. At a time when the government pleads scarcity of funds for health care, education, and the environment, he said, there appear to be unlimited funds "for buying allies, for weapons and for deployment of an expensive missile system that has not been proven to even work." He noted that those who choose to question a war with Iraq are often belittled. "If we cannot convince other nations that we are right, we threaten them or seek to buy their support," he said. There is more along the same lines.

Bishop Persel needs to read a little essay by C S Lewis (an Anglican, by the way) on the "Dangers of National Repentance." When Lewis wrote (March 1940), there was evidently a movement among Christian youth to "repent" England's sins (which evidently were thought to include the treaty of Versailles) and to "forgive" England's enemies.
"Young Christians especially..are turning to it in large numbers," Lewis wrote. "They are ready to believe that England bears part of the guilt for the present war, and ready to admit their own share in the guilt of England...Most of these young men were children...when England made many of those decisions to which the present disorders could plausibly be traced. Are they, perhaps, repenting what they have in no sense done?"

"If they are, it might be supposed that their error is very harmless: men fail so often to repent their real sins that the occasional repentance of an imaginary sin might appear almost desirable. But what actually happens (I have watched it happen) to the youthful national penitent is a little more complicated than that. England is not a natural agent, but a civil society...The young man who is called upon to repent of England's foreign policy is really being called upon to repent the acts of his neighbor; for a foreign secretary or a cabinet minister is certainly a neighbor...A group of such young penitents will say, "Let us repent our national sins"; what they mean is, "Let us attribute to our neighbor (even our Christian neighbor) in the cabinet, whenever we disagree with him, every abominable motive that Satan can suggest to our fancy." (Emphasis added.)

Lewis points out that when a man who was raised to be patriotic tries to repent the sins of England, he is attempting something that will be difficult for him. "But an educated man who is now in his twenties usually has no such sentiment to mortify. In art, in literature, in politics, he has been, ever since he can remember, one of an angry minority; he has drunk in almost with his mother's milk a distrust of English statesmen and a contempt for the manners, pleasures, and enthusiasms of his less-educated fellow countrymen."

It's hard to believe that this was written more than 50 years ago--it's such a bulls-eye description of a broad swath of our current "progressives." (The only difference being that many of them today are a lot older than "in their twenties.")

But now Lewis comes to the real meat of his argument. "All Christians know that they must forgive their enemies. But "my enemy" primarily means the man whom I am really tempted to hate...If you listen to young Christian intellectuals talking, you will soon find out who their real enemy is. He seems to have two names--Colonel Blimp and "the businessman." I suspect that the latter usually means the speaker's father, but that is speculation. What is certain is that in asking such people to forgive the Germans and Russians, and to open their eyes to the sins of England, you are asking them, not to mortify, but to indulge, their ruling passion." (emphasis added.)

And here is the two-by-four, right between the eyes. "The communal sins of which they should be told to repent are those of their own age and class--its contempt for the uneducated, its readiness to suspect evil, its self-righteous provocations of public obloquy, its breaches of the Fifth Commandment."

Exactly. Many "progressives"--and not just the religious ones--have uncritically and without reflection adopted the ideas and values of "their own age and class"--and, while doing so, they have congratulated themselves on their courage and independence of thought. Thus, they can enjoy a great feeling of righteousness without running the risk of condemnation by those whose opinions really matter to them. Who cares if the Bush Administration and its supporters would disapprove of your statements (if they ever heard of them, which they likely won't), when there are so many nods of agreement in the faculty lounge or among the other associates at the law firm? Those are the people you see ever day, after all, and the ones who really matter for your career...

Read the whole essay. You can find it, together many other insightful pieces, in the collection of Lewis essays titled The Grand Miracle.

Thanks to Midwest Conservative Journal for surfacing the Persels item.

8:05 PM

Thursday, March 13, 2003  

NEW FRONTIERS IN STUPIDITY

How can we insure lasting peace in Iraq? One way would be to establish a Middle Eastern Disney World, according to self-help guru Deepak Chopra.

"These children are in enormous peril, not just from bombs but from cultural isolation," Dr. Chopra says. "Let children breathe free air at a place where fun and joy abide [Disney World]. What better way to reduce fear and anger?"

The Disney World proposal is one of ten suggestions for peace in an article by Chopra that appeared in several European newspapers. Other ideas include more aid, withdrawal of troops in favour of a peace corps, student exchanges, and using Pope John Paul II and Nelson Mandela as human shields in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.

I am reminded of the old question:

Were you born this stupid, or did you have to study?

In Dr Chopra's case, I would guess he had to study. Nobody is born with this particular kind of stupidity.



7:15 AM

Wednesday, March 12, 2003  
INTELLIGENT IBERIANS

The prime minister of Spain has a few things to say about the situation in Iraq:

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, an active supporter of the United States on Iraq, on Monday linked the "material interests" of France, Russia and China in Iraq to their opposition to the use of force there.

Spain, currently on the U.N. Security Council, has joined the United States and Britain in backing a tough new resolution giving Iraq little time to disarm or face military strikes.

"We don't have any material interests in Iraq...France has material interests in Iraq. Russia has material interests in Iraq. China has material interests in Iraq. We don't have any," Aznar told Telecinco television in drawing a distinction between governments on opposing sides within the U.N. Security Council.

Asked by the interviewer if those interests explained the French, Russian and Chinese positions on Iraq, Aznar said, "That's a question only they can answer."

"Simply, it seems to me they are on the wrong path and should be adding more pressure on (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein...They have the wrong orientation," Aznar said.


"If in the end military intervention is unavoidable, I will not shed a tear for that regime because it is a threat to everyone, Spain included," he said.

The Foreign Minister of Portugal, Antonio Martins da Cruz, was even more forthright. If Portugal were attacked, he said "it would be unlikely France and Germany would come to our rescue."

"How curious is this:," he continued, "in Bosnia, when we were called to send soldiers urgently to that region, the U.S. had C-17 and C-130 planes, and France leased ferry boats, which during the summer are employed in tourist services to Corsica.

"Is this how we are supposed to project our forces in Europe? Are they planning to defend us with ferry boats? I cannot envisage the European Commission protecting us from an attack in which highly developed weapons were employed," the foreign minister said.

2:25 PM

Tuesday, March 11, 2003  
FROM FRANCE, A DIFFERENT VOICE

Bernard Kouchner hates war. As one of the founders of the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders, he has seen the human effects of war at first hand. But in an interview with Le Monde, he has this to say:

"War is a very bad solution. But there's something worse than a very bad solution, and that's leaving in place a dictator who massacres his people. I hope we can listen to the most important actors in this whole drama, the first in the line of fire: the Iraqis who are suffering under this dictatorship."

Concerning France's threats to veto a new U.S. resolution on Iraq, he says: "This causes me infinite regret. It was extremely harmful."

"The role of France, after all," he reminds his countrymen, "is to involve itself where there are violations of the rights of man, and to fight dictatorships."

You can read more excerpts from the interview in The Weekly Standard (March 17 issue.)







2:12 PM

Friday, March 07, 2003  

MAKIN' MOCK O' UNIFORMS III

Donald Sensing received the following e-mail:

My Name is Josh [last name withheld - DS], and I am a Second Class Petty Officer in the Navy.

While out on my off day, sporting my Navy t-shirt and ballcap, I decided to go downtown to get some food and take a walk at the Riverwalk here in San Antonio, while there, a "Peace" protest started, I sat back on a bench and listend to their rally, and after a bit decided I'd had enough and to leave. Standing up, and turning around to leave out from the rear of the crowd, I was soon noticed, and began to be harrassed. Lucky for me, two police officers on duty (who evidently happened to both be ex-military) helped me get out of the crowd.

On some of the banners I noticed NCC [National Council of Churches - DS], and saw a few people from ministry there. From these same people, minus the ministers, I was called vial names, and according to them I have killed little children and babies.


Commentary would be superfluous.

5:57 PM

Tuesday, March 04, 2003  
ENEMIES OF CIVILIZATION

Suppose you had a neighbor who to went act as a "human shield" for the Palestinians (against the Israelis). And suppose she said, referring to suicide bombers "..I am very good friends with the family of the two who went on the mission to Tel Aviv. One saw the other explode, and then he walked away and blew himself up. They are such lovely families and very proud of their sons."

Twenty-three people were killed in those bombings. But your former neighbor says, about the suicide bombings in general: "I agree that it is a strategic mistake, but I understand why they do it. Let's not blame the victims. It's clear who the real terrorists are here.." (emphasis added)

And now, suppose you were asked by your local newspaper to write an article about this person. I bet you wouldn't refer to her, in the headline, as a FREEDOM FIGHTER. (unless you were a professor at Berkeley or an equivalent university, that is.) And I bet the first sentence wouldn't read like this: "Anne Gwynne is conducting her own war on terrorism" Yet this is how the The Guardian, a major UK newspaper, treated this story. "WELSH PENSIONER TURNS FREEDOM FIGHTER" reads the headline, and note that there are no scare quotes around FREEDOM FIGHTER. And the first sentence really does read as I quoted it above.

Since this story broke on the blogosphere, considerable outrage has been generated. In an e-mail to the Guardian, Oliver Kamm said "The inaccuracy - I understate on a grand scale - is 'freedom fighter'. That term doesn't appear in the interview: it is your own designation of the attitudes expressed therein. In normal speech the term applies to those whom a unanimity - not even merely a consensus - of civilised opinion would recognise as defying hardship and persecution in order to transform an unfree polity into a free one: a Mandela or a Sakharov. You apply it instead to a woman who defends the bombers of buses, restaurants and discotheques: mass murderers whose targets are selected specifically in order to cause civilian deaths." (See Stephen Pollard's site.)

Alan Rushberger of the Guardian defended the article as "good journalism," and said: "Where's the inaccuracy? The woman is not a terrorist. It can hardly be in doubt that she considers that she is fighting for the freedom of the Palestinians. She does not "defend the indiscriminate killing of Jewish civilians". She says she "understands" the motives of whose who do so. They are, as I'm sure you yourself understand, different things."

If "considering that she is fighting for the freedom of the Palestinians," qualifies her to be called a FREEDOM FIGHTER in the headline, then "considering that he was fighting for the freedom of Germany" would have qualified any Wehrmacht soldier of WWII for the same title.

Chris McGreal, the actual author of the article, responded that he didn't ever refer to her as a freedom fighter--no doubt correctly, as headlines are often written by someone other than the original writer. But then he goes on to say "I think you miss the point of the story. Neither the headline nor the views expressed by Ms Gwynne are the "paper's position", as you put it. They are Ms Gwynne's views..." This seems to me to be disingenous, to put it mildly. If a newspaper calls someone a FREEDOM FIGHTER in a headline, without quotes or other qualifier, they are clearly expressing an editorial opinion.

It is frightening that a major newspaper could do what The Guardian has done here, and apparently not even see the monstrosity of it...just another day on the job. As Natalie Solent puts it: "Tip-tap-tip went the swiftly typing fingers and out came the words "freedom fighter", "her own war on terrorism", praise as easy and insouciant as a local reporter putting in a good word for the latest charitable efforts of the Womens' Institute or Rotary Club." What exactly is The Guardian guarding? It certainly isn't civilization.

By handling this story in the way that they did, The Guardian helped to undermine the moral authority of those who are truly fighting terrorism--and gave encouragement to those who commit murder. Is it possible not to believe that this kind of story is an encouragement to more terrorism? The next time someone blows up a bus, or a pizza parlor, or shoots a little girl in her own bed, don't the people at The Guardian--those who write it, edit it, and publish it--bear some kind of moral responsibility?

Hannah Arendt once spoke of "the banality of evil." She was speaking of German bureaucrats, who considered themselves to be merely transportation facilitators as they sent Jews to their deaths. I believe that the term is also applicable to the people at The Guardian who are responsible for this story. Tap-tap go the swiftly typing fingers, and another tiny spot is erased on the line that divides civilization from barbarism.

6:31 PM

Monday, March 03, 2003  
WORTH CONSIDERING

Love must be regarded as the final flower and fruit of justice.

When it is substituted for justice it degenerates into sentimentality and may become the accomplice of tyranny


This from the famed theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. The date is February 10, 1941. Worth considering especially if you are a religious leader who feels impelled to speak out on issues of international policy.

Read the whole thing here. Link is from Donald Sensing and Andrew Sullivan.

6:06 PM

Sunday, March 02, 2003  
WARRIORS AGAINST BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS

The American Indian publication Indian Country Today has this to say: "A U.S.-led invasion of Iraq appears inevitable. As in every American war since World War I, Indians will fight in the armed services in numbers far beyond their proportion of the population. But is there a special reason in this war for Native peoples to participate, beyond continuing a proud military tradition?" The article goes on to say, "We believe there is one..," and the reasons given are interesting. The article points out that Saddam likely possesses biological weapons, and that these may well include smallpox. American Indians, of course, suffered greatly from smallpox as a result of their contact with europeans. Most of these outbreaks were probably due to the fact that immunities had not developed among American Indians, since this disease had been unknown in the "New World." But there was at least one case of smallpox being deliberately introduced. "During the siege of Fort Pitt during Pontiac’s War in 1763, the English general Lord Jeffrey Amherst encouraged his agents to send smallpox-tainted blankets to the surrounding warriors of the Ottawa Chief Pontiac. The subsequent outbreak lifted the siege." This was one of the first applications of biological warfare against a targetted population, and given this history, Indian Country Today argues that "A war to prevent any future use of biological weapons will hold a special meaning for all Native warriors." (A copy of Amherst's order can be found here.)

The article reports some facts concerning Iraq and biological weapons which have not been very well reported in the mainstream media. Although there has been great focus on anthrax, "Anthrax is hardly the half of the story. Saddam has acknowledged work on a range of nasty diseases, including dengue fever, tularemia, gas gangrene and the plague. He has been accused of the battlefield use of mycotoxins, the poisons produced by microscopic fungi, including a mysterious attack near al Jubayl in Saudi Arabia on Jan. 19, 1991, against the Seabees of the 24th Mobile Naval Construction Battalion." And, concerning smallpox, "..one of the last natural outbreaks of the disease took place in Iraq. The World Health Organization claimed to have eradicated the disease worldwide in the 1980s, but known stocks of the virus were stored in the U.S. and the former Soviet Union and illegal stocks are suspected in the hands of rogue states like Iraq and North Korea. "

"When Iraqi archives are captured, and they will surely be sought for," the article continues, "the U.S. should throw them open for independent study. It should not shrink from following leads to the corporations that provided materials and the foreign governments that gave advice."

Read the entire article here.

12:38 PM

 
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