Monday, April 30, 2007

GMU campus coverage of the John Lewis event

Here's a link to the GMU campus paper's coverage of Dr. John Lewis's talk on Islamic totalitarianism. You have to savor the reported remarks of Jasper Conner, the front man for the "Students for a Democratic Society" attempting to defend the rude and disruptive conduct of the members of his organization.

"That's a message not of 'we don’t accept your right to speak,' but of 'we will not be an audience for your call to violence and your intolerance and your ethnocentric view of the world,” says Conner.

If Conner and his ilk were not going to be an "audience," they would have stayed at home. Instead, they acted like savages, ignoring the reasoning of the speaker, misrepresenting the speaker's actual position, and then somehow attempting to justify their behavior in the end.

One thing is certain: the name of Conner's group is fittingly appropriate: it is the New Left all over again, complete with the same ignorance, intellectual deceit and outright thuggery.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Laying the foundation for attacking Google

Below is a quote from Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein excerpted a column he wrote on Google titled "How Much More Should It Be Allowed to Grab?"

[P]recisely because of its success, it's fair to ask if Google should be barred from furthering its dominance through acquisitions or collaborations. At issue are the recent purchases of YouTube, the leader in online video sharing, and DoubleClick, the leading broker of online advertising; in both instances Google used its gusher of profits to outbid rivals. There are also new joint ventures with Clear Channel, the giant radio broadcaster, and EchoStar, the satellite television operator.

Consider this: There may never have been a Google without the government's antitrust suit that prevented Microsoft from crushing upstart rivals. By the same principle, isn't it time to begin restraining Google to increase the odds another Google will come along?
I think it is safe to say that Steven Pearlstein will never be as productive or successful as any of the top leaders at Google. After all, if Pearlstein had real business acumen, he would not be a mere newspaper columnist hawking his opinions in a sea of opinion.

Nevertheless, Pearlstein feels himself competent enough ask if it is appropriate to regulate a massive company with thousands of employees and tens of thousands of investors—on the grounds that this company is now too successful and represents a coercive threat to others. Never mind that Google cannot outlaw or regulate its competitors; its mere success equals an act of violence that must be squelched.

Yet consider this: smashing the ability of the successful to reap the benefits of their good judgment and hard work creates a powerful disincentive for the successful to produce. Just what kind of innovation does Pearlstein think will come when the super-productive and super-innovative realize that all their best efforts guarantee them is an antitrust suit?

I suspect that Pearlstein doesn't think that deeply about the issue. The simple idea that there is some imaginary innovator out there who is somehow denied the right to outflank Google is probably justification enough. And that's what you get when you enshrine need as a value—and when great producers fail to justify their right to exist for their own sake.

PBS airs “Islam for Dhimmis”

A spell of insomnia saw me up early Wednesday morning (April 25). I poured a glass of milk and tried to read Taine's "Introduction to the History of English Literature." But my mind was too restless to concentrate, so I switched on the television to see what anyone else up at so ungodly an hour would be watching, aside from Jay Leno, "infomercials," or national news. I would settle for anything that would induce drowsiness.

Lo and behold, what did I encounter at 3:05 a.m. on Channel 15, the local Public Broadcasting System station out of Norfolk, but propaganda for Islam. I have not been able to learn the actual name of the program. Several calls to the station's program director asking for its name have not been returned. In the newspaper TV listings, a block of hours from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. was marked simply "Varied Programs." Not "various"? But, never mind.

However, if it is to have a name, it should be dubbed either "Islam for Real Dummies" or "Islam for Dhimmis." Billed certainly as a "documentary," it left out a great mass of very crucial documents, leaving one with the question in one's mind: If Islam is such a mellow, benign creed, how could anyone hold a brief on it? It was such a solemn yet saccharine encomium it could just as well have been a promotion for the Rotary Club or the Knights of Columbus.

But, my tax dollars were at work, shilling for Mohammad.

This is the kind of "educational" film doubtless shown to gullible, impressionable, ignorant teenagers in high schools, in the same rank as films shown them about environmentalism, recycling, tolerance, sex, global warming, and "democracy." Perhaps it is even shown in middle or grade schools, our Comprachico-trained public school authorities having a policy of brainwashing children as early as possible.

Now, I had not seen such a "puff piece" (thanks to Richard Brinsley Sheridan's The Critic for that term) since Michael Moore's last effort at disinformation and Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," so "Islam for Dhimmis" was a special experience. I will not recount everything that was in the film, but focus on some highlights.

One image sticks in my mind, that of a comely young Muslim woman, appropriately attired in an immaculately white hair-and-neck-hiding scarf, being interviewed about the Islamic notion of charity. "If you can't give someone money, then Mohammad says you should reward him with a smile. Mohammad is such a wonderful role model!" She said it with her best Moonie smile, as well. That whole segment of the half-hour program was devoted to the Fourth Pillar of Islam, of giving alms to the poor as a matter of duty and as "purification" of one's wealth. (I immediately thought of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, and the penance they haven chosen to perform with their wealth.)

Smile? No mention was made anywhere in the program of all the smiles hidden by the ski masks worn by the troops of Hezbollah or Hamas or by the murderers of Nick Berg, Daniel Pearl, or of any other "infidel" Westerner similarly subjected to such compassion.

Another image that sticks in my mind is the footage of Hajj pilgrims thronging by the tens of thousands around the Kaaba in Mecca, a veritable sea of wild-eyed manqués who hope to hike around the place seven times and press their lips to the Black Stone, and by kissing it, add their own sins to its likely unsanitary surface. No footage, however, was shown of the usual stampedes of the faithful that result in hundreds of them being crushed to death as surely as if the Black Stone fell on them from the sky, leaving behind mountains of empty sandals. So much for the Fifth Pillar of Islam.

The program's take on the early history of Islam was interesting in that it was a model of how to gloss over historical facts. After Mohammad captured Mecca and died shortly thereafter, his followers spread the faith throughout the Middle East, Africa, and into parts of southern Europe - by the sword. In the program, however, this was not called "conquest" by force of arms and threat of annihilation. Islam's history was presented in so slick a manner that an uncritical mind would have gone away thinking that it was a peaceful spread of the creed, involving no slaughters, mayhem, destruction, or the enslavement of whole populations.

It was left to the dhimmi mind to infer that the success of Allah's gospel was the work of just hard-working imams and mullahs and Sufis preaching the Word in pagan lands, just like St. Patrick in Ireland. It implied that the conquerors respected the religions of the populations they subdued, and all was well. There was no mention of the fact that those populations the Islamists permitted to keep their religions, were obliged to pay jizya, protection money that was a sign of submission and dhimmitude, a condition of "coexistence" which meant little more than dhimmis getting the hell out of the way of any Muslim.

The narrator did not broach the subject that Islam could spread only because the final collapse of Greco-Roman civilization created a political/military vacuum that allowed Islam to sweep through the known world in the south and the Huns and Visigoths to sweep down from the north, probably because it was history that did not fit the thesis.

Another segment on "colonialism" was equally interesting. For some strange, unexplained reason, Islam declined in the 19th century, allowing Western powers to colonize great portions of the expiring semi-caliphate of Islam, overrunning North Africa, the Middle East, and as far away as Indonesia. There was a peculiar focus on British, French, and Dutch colonialism, complete with old footage of soldiers dispersing mobs of presumably Muslims with guns, bayonets and swords. In the late 19th century, according to the program, "resentment" over Islam's decline and the power of the West grew. I am supposing that was the program producer's way of cocking a snook at Britain, France and the Netherlands, which now have the most contentious, unassimilated Muslim populations.

That "resentment" covers a lot of territory not even hinted at in the program, including fatwahs, jihads, and anti-Semitism. "Resentment" was probably the softest term the program's scriptwriter could come up with and have approved by his Islamic script consultants to stand in for "hatred," that is, for hatred of the West for being the West and for being superior, as well.

Interestingly, not once was the role of oil brought up during the program. The footage of the 1930's and 1940's suddenly depicted Arab emirs and princes debouching from airplanes and taking part in international conferences, with no explanation of how or why tribal chieftains could suddenly do these things. No mention was made of all the expropriated, Western developed oil fields in the Mideast that Western governments neglected to defend for their owners (and whose owners capitulated and "cooperated" with the expropriations to form such bastard entities as ARAMCO). All those skinny Bedouin emirs and princes grew very fat; look at the members of the House of Saud today.

In explaining the character and content of Islam, the narrator said that Islam recognizes only one God (Allah), and that Mohammad is his prophet. He did not go on to point out one major implication of that belief, to wit, that if Mohammad is not any other creed's prophet, then it is a false creed and consequently a legitimate target for repression and ultimate elimination by Islam. This theological Catch-22 is blatantly obvious, yet it is astounding that it is not grasped by most who comment on Islam (including Pope Benedict). It is a central tenet of Islam; remove it, or demote Mohammad to just one of a gaggle of Muslim prophets, and Islam would implode as a religious/political ideology.

(Similarly, Jesus Christ was not the only religious "savior" of his time to be crucified by the Romans; imagine the consequences throughout Christianity if that icon were shattered, as well. How many candidates for the role of "son of God" were there originally? Did the authors of the Bible draw up a short list, or hold an "American Idol" style talent contest to judge who was the most pacific?)

This, neither the Islamic "extremists" nor the "moderates" will or can allow to happen. No one but an unbeliever or an apostate would propose the idea, because doing so would immediately earn him a fatwah or death sentence. (Call it the Muslim "Wanted: Dead or Alive" bulletin board.). Re Salman Rushdie, Wafa Sultan, Oriana Fallaci, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Steve Emerson, and others. The roll call of those with the intellectual honesty and courage to excoriate Islam grows daily, but it is not given much press.

Also mentioned by the narrator with great deference in this segment was the fact that neither humans nor animals are permitted representation in Islamic art. This, he and some imam explained, is to discourage icons and to encourage the perception of Allah and Mohammad as "abstractions." The narrator spoke dozens of words about the beauty of Islamic architecture and the grace of Islamic calligraphy, but did not once allude to the Danish cartoons and the uproar by thousands of "tolerant" and "compassionate" Muslims calling for the cartoonists' deaths.

In all the program, no breath of suggestion was made about: the bestial strictures of Sharia law, honor killings, fatwahs on apostates and defamers of Islam, beheadings, the regular slaughter of infidels, the jihad against the West, 9/11, the London, Madrid and Bali bombings - all that and more credited to Islam, about Islam, in Islam's name.

The end credits were not surprising. The half-hour program was made possible by "The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia," "The Government of Kuwait," and "The Islamic Center," and was produced by Delphi Productions. The credits rolled down so quickly I may have missed a few other sponsor names.

I do not know if "Islam for Dhimmis" was ever aired during prime time and if this was just a rerun to fill a dead time slot in the wee hours. If my queries to WHRO Channel 15 are ever answered, I will report what is told me. It would be interesting, however, to learn who funded the production of this instance of catholic cosmetology and vetted the final cut. Probably the usual suspects, here and abroad.

It would be pointless to protest the use of my tax dollars to advance a religious doctrine by a government-funded entity such as PBS, especially a doctrine so antithetical to the principles of freedom on which this country was founded. The high Pooh-Bahs of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, like their counterparts in the BBC, would dismiss such a protest with scorn. PBS broadcasts so many programs that are antithetical that it would be churlish to upbraid it over this program alone. As have the private broadcasters - ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, etc. - it has bought into the collectivist/altruist ideological axis without the least sign of discrimination or fastidiousness, without the least regard for its totalitarian potential. All that is protected by the sacred cow of "public service."

Given the ongoing Islamist jihad against the West, the airing of "Islam for Dhimmis" is an unforgivable public "disservice," and for that offense alone, PBS should be defunded and abolished.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Crass and Class at George Mason University

Dr. John's Lewis' lecture last night at George Mason University on Islamic totalitarianism was one of the most surreal public experiences I have witnessed in all my years as an activist and advocate. It evidenced in no uncertain terms that rationality and common decency are under assault at even our most distinguished forums. Academic freedom means tolerating opposing views and countering them with reason and facts in an atmosphere of respect and civility. It is not an orgy of rude and abusive mindlessness—a description that defined the conduct of many in the audience that evening.

The philosophic theme of Lewis' talk was that individual freedom is a value and that the free have the right to protect themselves from the initiation of physical force. Lewis defended religious freedom on explicit grounds, including the freedom of those in attendance who stood up, turned their backs to him and attempted to shout him down to peacefully practice their respective creeds without fear of threats or physical coercion. Lewis contrasted the exercise of freedom in America with life in the totalitarian Islamic regimes, where there is no distinction between the power of the state and the practice of religion.

Quoting various Islamic theocrats in power today, Lewis showed how these theocrats define themselves as advocates for the initiation of force, including one chilling quote from the leader of the Indonesian Islamic fascists that called for Islamic control of the government and the ruthless imposition of Islamic law upon non-believers. Drawing upon the same right of self-defense that allows a woman to defend herself from her would-be rapist, Lewis argued that a free America has an unassailable right to defend itself by destroying the connection between Islam and the state. Lewis pointed to the example of post WWII Japan to show how fighting for such an enemy's willful surrender led to an era of peace, happiness and freedom, for both us, and the peaceful people who had previously suffered under totalitarianism's boot. War may be hell, but a quick and decisive war is far, far better than living in a state of permanent terror.

For this, Lewis was decried as a racial bigot and murderer, and was taunted with endless interruption, bile and obscenities. That Lewis was even able to keep his focus and not throw his hands up in despair was testament to his moral courage and his unwillingness to concede the floor to any heckler's veto.

The lowest point of the evening came during the Q&A, when a GMU campus administrator took the podium in an effort to settle the audience down. He chose his words poorly though, for he ultimately thanked the audience for their behavior, which was little more than failing to engage in an all-out riot. It is one thing to be thankful that there was no riot; it is another thing altogether to thank people for obeying the law and for (barely) respecting the rights of others in attendance. Furthermore, by thanking rude and abusive students for their thuggish behavior, this administrator all but guaranteed that the next controversial speaker will face a similar rude treatment from those who may happen to disagree with him.

The questions asked during the Q&A could hardly be described as that; rather then even attempt to challenge Lewis by a thoughtful or revealing question, many "questioners" simply grandstanded and repeated non-sequiturs that reflected their own refusal to consider any aspect of his thesis. And in a disgusting and contemptible display of arrogance and hypocrisy, an attorney from the Council on American-Islamic Relations frothed to Lewis that he was "too angry" and needed to "lighten up" a bit; it was this same gentlemen who had worked to press the university into denying Lewis a venue when his talk was originally scheduled for February.

Yet the most telling event of the evening was when Lewis, after being pummeled with interruptions and derogatory remarks implying that he was a lackey for the political status quo, simply noted that he did not support the current political administration in Washington on the grounds laid out in his speech. He was not without interruption long enough to be able to fully explain why he disagreed with Washington's current war fighting-strategy, but knowing Dr. Lewis, his position can be distilled as follows: the President's religious sympathies have blinded him to fully realizing the pernicious threat caused by the union of religion and state, thereby weakening his resolve to defeat the cornerstone of religious intolerance today, which is the Islamic Republic of Iran. Rather than propel him to lead America to victory against religious tyranny, Lewis argues that the President's philosophy undercuts his very ability to identify the enemy and fight him accordingly.

Such a statement criticizing the President's philosophy and policies may have challenged the ideas and comfort zone of many of the College Republicans in attendance, yet these College Republicans neither screamed nor howled, nor did they interrupt Dr. Lewis and yell that he didn't understand the President and his creed like others in the audience had done. Instead, the College Republicans were nothing but polite, respectful and thoughtful, even as their own thinking was being challenged by their guest and under less than ideal circumstances.

The politeness and thoughtfulness of the GMU College Republicans evidenced the key difference between the civilized and the savage in attendance that night. The civilized can tolerate differences of opinion and they seek to understand why these differences exist in the first place. In contrast, savages are simply unable to tolerate any thinking other than their own emotion-laden opinions. If the police had not been there to preserve order with their overwhelming presence, I am convinced that Dr. Lewis would have easily been strung up from the nearest tree. That from students at my alma mater.

It was not lost upon me, the event's organizers, or Dr. Lewis himself that our men and women on the battlefield have it far, far worse than anything we may have experienced last night. Our defiance and refusal to yield to any form of intimidation or heckler's veto is an act of solidarity with these men and women; it is our determined effort to say that we will fight for them just as they fight with courage for us.

And bravo to Dr. Lewis and the GMU College Republicans for standing fast in the face of intolerance. More than anyone last night, they earned the title of GMU Patriot.

John Lewis and the Battle of George Mason

Now that's it's done, that's how I frame John Lewis' talk tonight at George Mason on the need to confront Islamic totalitarianism. There were probably 250 people in attendance to hear Lewis speak (although I use the word "hear" loosely, for a re-invigorated "Students for a Democratic Society" turned their backs in protest the second Lewis took the podium, and even more were simply closed to any of the arguments presented, whatever they may have been).

Never in my life have I been witness to such a seething display of hatred and bile in response to a calm, sober and rationally presented argument. All this for a man who argues for religious and philosophic freedom and against religious tyranny. Lewis is a hero just for having been willing to speak before such a rude and hateful audience.

At the same time, the GMU College Republicans who hosted the event conducted themselves with such grace and class that I haven't the vocabulary to express how grateful I am to them for all their efforts. I'm also grateful to the campus police and local law enforcement who gave Lewis the VIP treatment and were probably all that stood between the mob and an all-out riot.

I'm utterly drained by the evening, so I offer this following account of the night that was posted earlier on the blog:

I just got back tonight from Dr. John Lewis’ lecture on state-sponsored Islamic-Totalitarianism at George Mason University. There were countless police officers around the building providing security. Needless to say an entire mob mentality broke out as “demonstrators” in the audience disrupted the entire event. Islamofacist groups and their Marxist dhimmi associates hurled invectives, howled, and spat as if in a possessed frenzy. The professor and his supporters, much to their credit, behaved with complete restraint and respect for different viewpoints during the Q&A session. The same absolutely cannot be said of his opponents. So much for tolerance and diversity. Their attempts to disrupt and shut down the talk were a disrespectful, uncivilized display of hate that supported the argument that you cannot reason with or appease this kind of enemy.
I'd be hard pressed to disagree with this assessment. It was not a great night for the civil discourse of controversial ideas. I'll have more to say when I can put my thoughts together tomorrow.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Cambridge University Adopts a Prayer Rug

In February this year, the general and guest editors of a Cambridge University newspaper, Clareification, were disciplined by the school’s authorities for having published one of the Danish cartoons in a satire on religion, and were required to publish an apology to Muslim students.

Worse, the student/guest editor was “interviewed” by the local police for having putatively committed a “hate crime” (as defined under Section 5 of the Public Order Act), otherwise deemed, in hyperbolic British nomenclature, as an act of “harassment, alarm or distress.” It was Muslim students who were said to be “harassed, alarmed and distressed” by the cartoon, not the general and guest editors. (FrontPage Magazine, April 18)

The apology was extorted from the student on pain of not only being expelled from Cambridge, but of possible arrest and imprisonment by the authorities for the alleged “crime.” The student has had to go into hiding, à la Salman Rushdie.

If the student must go into hiding, isn’t that an acknowledgement of – and concession to – the role of and sanction of physical force in the “belief system” by not only those who might want to kill or harm the victim, but by the university authorities and the British government? What would be required of the “harassed, alarmed, and distressed” Muslims to leave this individual’s life untouched by their “anger”?

Asim Mumtaz, president of Cambridge’s Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, said that he was “satisfied with the way the college [Clare College at Cambridge] had dealt with the situation.” He said: “Religion teaches us that God is merciful and forgives, and we should forgive others as well, so long as this student realized the impact of their (sic) actions and that this was wrong. This student has a full life ahead of him and if he had been thrown out of the university that would have had a huge impact.”

What are the implied alternatives in Mumtaz’s statement? Assassination, Theo van Gogh style – unless the student “groveled” before his potential murderers with an apology, or a life on the run, or even imprisonment. What kind of “full life” has this student to look forward to now, or any student who dares speak his mind about Islam or any other creed? What “impact” will the cowardly resolution of this crisis have on this student’s willingness in the future to exercise his freedom of speech or stand by his convictions?

Mercy and forgiveness are doled out only to the submissive – that’s the Koranic way to let live or let die.

It is an error to think that the submission of Cambridge University to potential Muslim violence and its sanctification of alleged “hurt feelings” is a measure of Muslim power and influence. Evil by itself is impotent.

Instead, it is a measure of the abandonment of reason and objective values that gives the Muslims the appearance of power and influence to suppress freedom of speech. Any compromise between good and evil – or between reason and mysticism, or between the principle of freedom of speech and censorship – always will result in a victory for evil, mysticism, or censorship.

Ayn Rand made several crucial observations on the subject of compromise.

“Contrary to the fanatical belief of its advocates, compromise [on basic principles] does not satisfy, but dissatisfies everybody; it does not lead to general fulfillment, but to general frustration; those who try to be all things to all men, end up by not being anything to anyone. And more: the partial victory of an unjust claim, encourages the claimant to try further; the partial defeat of a just claim, discourages and paralyzes the victim.” (“The Cashing-In: The Student ‘Rebellion’” – Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 255, 1966)

A principle by its nature is what it is, a recognized truth requiring consistent action. Failure to act on it when it conflicts with its antipode can only result, by default, in the establishment of the antipode as an ingredient of policy. If a principle, especially a rational one, is not defended and upheld in such a conflict, then it may as well not be recognized, and the appeasers and compromisers responsible for defending and upholding it must concede to that principle’s enemies: “We are open to any pressure, to any threats of violence, to any brazen thuggery in the name of….” In this instance, it is in the name of “diversity.”

Ostensibly, Cambridge acted from the “principle” of diversity, of trying to be all things to all men. In reality, it was a pragmatic, veiled capitulation to fear of the mob – more noisy Danish cartoon protests – that required the sacrifice of a lone individual to the mob’s emotions.

“Diversity,” as it is promulgated throughout Western culture, is the mantra of subjectivism, whim worshipping, and non-absolutes. In this instance, the violation of the policy of “diversity” can best be expressed from the Muslim standpoint: “You have mocked my icon, my particular ghost, and made him the subject of levity. My icon is sacred, and you must be punished. Never mind that he was a pedophilic, murderous, tyrannical bastard – the Koran and Hadith confirm these facts about him – Mohammed is my prophet and I will feel unworthy of his favor and of Allah’s blessings unless I take umbrage to slanderous insults to or slurs on their persons.”

“A Clare College spokesman said: ‘Because of the gravity of the situation and the diversity of views expressed about the best way to handle it,’” the College settled for “’a course of restorative justice and reconciliation.’” Which meant the guest editor’s apology and his mandated browbeating by “senior representatives of Cambridge’s religious communities.”

A noted outspoken foe of Islamism remarked: “Note that ‘diversity of views’ does NOT include the right to criticize Islam.”

The Clare College statement said that a “note of apology was distributed to all college members. The college is now arranging a meeting for next term to discuss the problem of maintaining free speech while avoiding offence….”

The “problem” will prove to be insuperable. Freedom of speech and de facto censorship cannot be reconciled.

Rand stated three rules that govern the issue of compromise. Two of them are:

“In any collaboration between two men (or two groups) who hold different basic principles, it is the more evil or irrational one who wins”; and “When opposite basic principles are clearly and openly defined, it works to the advantage of the rational side; when they are not clearly defined, but are hidden or evaded, it works to the advantage of the irrational side.” (“The Anatomy of Compromise,” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 145, 1966)

In the Cambridge instance, it is the Muslims – the irrational group – who have won (again). The Cambridge authorities could be accused of collaborating with the Muslims to abridge freedom of speech. And, because the concept of “diversity” is not clearly defined, but hides and evades – or abandons – the idea of freedom of speech, it worked to the advantage of the Muslim students.

This makes it possible for Muslims to consider “diversity” a one-way street, or a policy from which they demand, and are granted, exemption.

Under a headline not wholly coincidental with the Cambridge cave-in or submission to Islam, “Universities ‘targeted’ by Islamic extremists,” the Daily Telegraph(London) on April 17 reported that Prof. Anthony Glees, of the Center for Intelligence and Security Studies at Brunel University in Britain, warned a conference of university security officers that Islamic “extremists” have targeted British universities as recruiting grounds for terrorists. “We must accept this problem is widespread and underestimated,” said Glees. “Unless decisive action against campus extremism is taken, the security situation in the UK can only deteriorate.”

Cambridge is one of the universities Glees identified as infiltrated by an allegedly disbanded “extremist” group, al-Muhajiroun, in addition to Oxford, the London School of Economics, and the Imperial College. Prof. Glees stated that a rabble-rousing imam who preaches the Islamic conquest of Britain and death to infidels, and who was founder of al-Muhajiroun, contradicts the official government line that the group has been disbanded and claims it has a presence on several university campuses.

But, is it Islamic “extremism” that is widespread and underestimated, or is it the policy of “diversity” that poses the greatest danger, not only in Britain, but in the U.S., as well? Note the “extremism” which Cambridge took action against at the behest of its Muslim students: a student exercising his freedom of speech.

“Diversity” is an indiscriminate policy that treats as untouchable and exempt from criticism or rational scrutiny – and satirical cartoons are a form of criticism – any unsubstantiated belief or assertion. But since the nature of man requires rational, absolute evaluations and values in order for him to function and survive, a policy of “diversity” or of non-judgmental neutrality concerning those beliefs or assertions allows those with the most vocal assertions to fill the vacuum created by the abandonment of value judgments.

The Cambridge University authorities, like their diversity-bound, non-judgmental brethren elsewhere, refuse to condemn Islamic “radicalism” because it is too closely tied to Islam itself. Willingly or not, they must eschew any claim to neutrality and yield to the strongest, most vociferous pressure group.

A policy of “diversity” can only engender injustice, a pall of fear, and self-induced blindness. Ultimately, such a policy will impose the irrational by extortion or the point of a gun.

It would be unfair to single out a British university for adopting a prayer rug. When was the last time one heard of an American university or college newspaper offending Muslims? One could argue that fear-fueled political correctness and the prospect of official retribution for flouting it has moved Americans further along the path of moral decrepitude.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Islamic totalitarianism and academic freedom at George Mason University

NB: Below is the text of a letter that I submitted to the George Mason University's campus newspaper regarding Tuesday's talk by Dr. John Lewis on the defeat of Islamic totalitarianism.

To the Editor:

On the eve of the US invasion of Iraq, I participated in a debate at George Mason University with Professor of Conflict Resolution and Public Affairs Richard Rubenstein over the propriety of the invasion. This debate, hosted by the campus Objectivist Club, was remarkable in that rather than yell past each other as is often the fashion in debate, Professor Rubenstein and I sought to explain our respective reasoning in calm, deliberate and principled terms.

Afterward, GMU President Alan Merten, who was in attendance during the debate, remarked that "this is the reason we have universities." I wholeheartedly agree with him and I have always been proud that an event that I participated in warranted such a complement, for it encapsulates a goal of my public advocacy. At root, I seek to identify and defend my values rationally. If one seeks to be persuasive (especially on a controversial moral question), I don't see how one can afford any less.

Fast forward to the present, and you can imagine my surprise when a speaking event that I was helping to organize at GMU was canceled this February in large part due to pressure from Mason's Islamic community. Dr. John Lewis, a classics scholar and military historian from Ashland University, was to address the campus on his strategy for subduing militant jihad and Islamic totalitarianism. In working to prevent Lewis from speaking, these Islamists attacked the very foundation of the university as a realm where controversial ideas can be discussed and debated.

First, it would help to understand just what Dr. Lewis advocates and why some wish that his voice be silenced. Paralleling today's battles with Japan's war against the United States in WWII, Lewis argues that today's conflict is between those who seek to preserve secular government and religious freedom and those who seek to impose the creed of Islam by force. As was the case with the Japanese and the emperor-worshiping suicide-cult of Shintoism, Lewis argues that the advocates for freedom must compel their enemy's total surrender, i.e. they must secure from the enemy the large-scale admission that his cause is utterly futile if freedom and peace are to be restored.

Furthermore, Lewis rejects the argument that Islamic totalitarianism is mere "terrorism" that lacks a distinct center. Instead, Lewis maintains that the Islamic Republic of Iran is the fountainhead of jihad against the West. As such, Iran must be defeated, and Lewis believes that such a defeat will only come as a result of a ruthless war against the Iranian government and the people whose tacit support makes that government possible.

At root, Lewis' argument is built upon a moral principle: the good have full right to their lives and full right to take the action necessary to defend their lives against evil and irrationality.

It is interesting (and ironic) that GMU's Islamic population believes that Dr. Lewis should thus be denied the opportunity to present his case on campus. After all, don't these same Muslims argue that those who seek to impose Islam by force are perverting their "religion of peace?" Shouldn't these Muslims then be just as appalled at the murder and brutality of the Iranian regime as is Lewis? Shouldn't these Muslims be just as concerned about the threat of a nuclear-tipped Iran—on the grounds that they have a firsthand understanding of the evils of the Iranian regime?

Or is it that some in GMU's Muslim community are more sympathetic toward Iran than they are toward America? Perhaps that is why they choose to ignore Lewis' actual thesis against totalitarianism and attempt to twist his argument into an assault against all Muslims, peaceable or not. And perhaps that is why these Muslims are implying that GMU students are simply too ignorant to make up their own minds about what Lewis has to say and that they should serve as censors for what is and is not discussed on this campus. Had members of Mason's Islamic community sought to engage Lewis in honest debate, I would have gladly supported it, yet they have not offered this. Instead, they have attacked the very premise of the university itself.

I am heartened to see that one group on campus has had the moral courage to do what is right and ensure that Dr. Lewis is able to present his arguments to students. Lewis' thesis is non-partisan, yet sensing the larger issue at stake, the College Republicans have risen up in defense of academic freedom and offered a venue for Lewis to speak. I admire them for it, because they have evidenced a better grasp of this issue than many of GMU's professors and administrators. No one has a right to bar anyone who seeks to peacefully discuss his or her ideas from speaking at this campus, and any attempt to do so is an attempt to hijack the mission of university in the name of a cause other than truth-seeking.

I hold that George Mason University has an important role to play in the upcoming debates that will challenge our nation. I hope that every one of its students and faculty, regardless of their philosophic leanings, will affirm their commitment to the academic freedom that is needed for Mason to successfully fulfill that role. Quite frankly, anything less is surrender to irrationality.

Nicholas Provenzo
Center for the Advancement of Capitalism
GMU Alumni, BIS '05

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A killer's clues . . .

More spot-on analysis on the Virginia Tech Massacre, this time from psychotherapist and psychologist Dr. Michael Hurd:

Here are three clues to what contributes to the attitude of a killer--chillingly, illustrated in the aftermath of the disaster.

The killer's roommate: "If I was told before he was depressed or suicidal, I definitely would have kept an eye open ... I definitely would have tried harder to be his friend or know a little bit better."

Dr. Hurd: You can't be friends with a nihilist hell-bent on destruction. Evil is not the same as emotional conflict. If you still don't understand this in the aftermath of the tragedy, then you're never going to understand it; and the way is paved for another one, and another one after that. Killers flourish in a psychological atmosphere where their potential victims think like this. This man didn't need counseling, and never would have benefited from it. He needed to be stopped, back when he was stalking women and making threats, and otherwise violating the individual rights of those on a campus.

The killer's creative writing teacher: "He was so distant and so lonely," she told ABC's "Good Morning America" Wednesday. "It was almost like talking to a hole, as though he wasn't there most of the time. He wore sunglasses and his hat very low so it was hard to see his face."

Dr. Hurd: Many people are lonely. They can't find people with whom to connect; they can't find people on their "wave length," if you will--that is, people who share their philosophy or sense-of-life. Yet they want this connection, and they generally seek it out. Cho didn't want it or need it. He only wanted and needed to destroy. Don't try to understand it; it's too irrational and sick to contemplate. But, at the same time, don't try to relate it to the realm of the reasonable, either.

The killer's poetry teacher: "I know we're talking about a youngster, but troubled youngsters get drunk and jump off buildings," she said. "There was something mean about this boy. It was the meanness — I've taught troubled youngsters and crazy people — it was the meanness that bothered me. It was a really mean streak."

Dr. Hurd: Come on, professor. You can say it. Go ahead, I dare you. Say it. He was EVIL. He was BAD. He was not quantitatively different from your average, stressed out college student...he was qualitatively different. He acted with choice, no less so than the 9/11 killers, the Columbine killers, or the Oklahoma City killers. It's not mental pain or anguish. It's hatred and evil.
Yet as Hurd indicates, look just how reluctant these three individuals are to describe evil--that is, a substantive threat to the living and the good--as the thing it is.

If the take-way from this tragedy is that people like Cho--that is, the viciously amoral and depraved--are helpless victims who only need our "love," "compassion" and "understanding" to deter them from their path, I think we will only pave the road for the next unspeakable tragedy. There are people who choose to be utterly nihilistic, and it is our right to defend ourselves against them.

A string of failures

I just read a report saying that Cho had in fact been taken to a metal hospital by his parents on the grounds that he appeared to be suicidal.

The gunman blamed for the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history had previously been accused of stalking two female students and had been taken to a mental health facility in 2005 after his parents worried he might be suicidal, police said Wednesday. [ADAM GELLER, AP National Writer]
As I understand it, this hospitalization ought to have disqualified Cho from being able to legally purchase a firearm without a hearing under current law, so I can only imagine that somewhere there was a failure to keep the necessary records that would have made Cho fail his background test.

It also appears Cho was let off the stalking charge that had been made against him.

Cho Seung-Hui had concerned one woman enough with his calls and e-mail in 2005 that police were called in, said Police Chief Wendell Flinchum.

He said the woman declined to press charges and Cho was referred to the university disciplinary system. During one of those incidents, both in late 2005, the department received a call from Cho's parents who were concerned that he might be suicidal, and he was taken to a mental health facility, he said.
Like most disasters, it seems that the Cho massacre wasn't caused by just one failure, but by a string of failures.

Muslim Milquetoasts to the Rescue?

Early on the morning of April 12th, a Norwegian-Somalian "moderate" Muslim woman was attacked in downtown Oslo by a group of seven or eight "extremist" Muslims for publicly criticizing imams who advocated female circumcision. As she was beaten unconscious, her assailants shouted "Allah-o-Akbar and recited the Koran." (FrontPage Magazine, April 15)

The question to ask is: Is this why we do not see much in the way of "moderate" Muslims opposing "extremist" Muslims, or jihadists, or Muslims who advocate the subjugation of the West to Islam? Is it merely a fear of violent retribution for rewriting the Koran or criticizing Islam's more barbarous practices?

On April 1st, The New York Times reported that the six imams removed from a US Airways flight in Minneapolis last November 20th because other passengers were alarmed by their praying and chanting before boarding the plane are suing both the airline and the passengers whose complaints were documented. The passengers claimed that the imams praised Saddam Hussein, cursed the U.S., and when on the plane, asked for seat belt extenders.

A New York Muslim lawyer, Omar Mohammedi, is representing the imams, and claims that his clients were not praising Hussein, nor cursing the U.S., and that their regular seat belts did not fit. (Which poses a not irrelevant question: Where these imams so obese that they needed "extenders," and if so, why did the imams stow them under their seats?)

Of course, the lawyer can deny that the imams said anything that might have caused alarm in the other passengers. And, of course, a seat belt extender can be used as a weapon to throttle another person or gash his face with the metal end of it. This apparently does not concern the lawyer; he wants the passengers punished for exhibiting "prejudice" and the airline punished for acting on that "prejudice."

As a point of justice, "moderate," milquetoast Muslims deserve all the "prejudicial" flack they get. They have the option - call it volition - of repudiating the creed and discovering reason and individualism. They can neither swear to uphold the Constitution nor advocate a separation of church and state without violating central tenets of Islam, which are as irreconcilable with the idea of secular government as are Christian ones.

While the attack on the Norwegian-Somalian woman is regrettable, the incident simply underscores the problem with the creed; removing one facet of an irrational dogma will not address the fact that the creed sanctions such violence, and always will, until it is thoroughly and mercilessly debunked.

Presumably, the "flying" imams are "moderate" Muslims who just want to be left alone to behave bizarrely in public, and not be unfairly associated with the 9/11 hijackers who also prayed and chanted before driving planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and into a Pennsylvania field, shouting "Allah is great!"

On one hand, the U.S. has been targeted by jihadists of the violent and "civil liberties" suasions. On the other, the Christian religious right is gaining more and more power and influence in the U.S., and is allying itself with the environmentalists. It seems that the last vestiges of the Age of Reason and Enlightenment have been abandoned. Whether or not the West, and especially the U.S., will survive this triple onslaught, remains to be seen.

What will not help are articles such as Daniel Pipes' recent article in the New York Sun (April 17), "Bolstering Moderate Muslims," in which he reports and more or less endorses a RAND Corporation study, "Building Moderate Muslim Networks."

Before discussing the report and the goals of the individuals cited in it, Pipes writes:

"Moderate Muslims do exist. But, of course, they constitute a very small movement when compared to the Islamist onslaught. This means that the American government and other powerful institutions should give priority to locating, meeting with, funding, forwarding, empowering, and celebrating those brave Muslims who, at personal risk, stand up and confront the totalitarians."

Leaving aside the question of whether the U.S. government should be fund and "empower" such groups - which it most emphatically should not - what does he think the Bush administration has been doing for the last five years, but seeking out "moderate" Muslims at White House dinners to celebrate Muslim holidays and in other unlikely places?

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice won't meet directly with the shunned and murderous Muslim Brotherhood, but she will delegate that task to other American diplomats. (The World Tribune, April 12). Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, on the other hand, exhibits no fear by meeting with President Assad of Syria, an enabler of Iraqi "insurgents" who regularly slaughter American troops. One cannot make a fundamental distinction between these acts of appeasement.

I am no more interested in bolstering "moderate" Muslims than I am in encouraging "moderate" Christians or "moderate" environmentalists or "moderate" advocates of global warming. Islam and Christianity are certifiable creeds based on the notion of the unprovable, on the exempt-from-reason, on the irrational, on the belief of the existence of omnipotent, omniscient ghosts to whom one must account for one's actions. Both wish to exercise political power over all Americans. Environmentalism and "global warmism" are also fast becoming creeds, also founded on the rejection of reason, the instituting of irrationalism as a policy norm, and man hatred.

The authors of the RAND report, writes Pipes, "grapple intelligently with the innovative issue of helping moderate Muslims to grow and prosper.

"They start with the argument that 'structural reasons play a large part' in the rise of radical and dogmatic interpretation of Islam in recent years. One of those reasons is that over the last three decades, the Saudi government has generously funded the export of the Wahhabi version of Islam. Saudi efforts have promoted 'the growth of religious extremism throughout the Muslim world,' permitting the Islamists to develop powerful intellectual, political, and other networks."
Excuse me, but is the issue of which version of Islam is more "radical" or "dogmatic" relevant here? What religious creed is not "dogmatic" and "radical" in its fundamental tenets? All imams and mullahs are but Islamic Jerry Fallwells or Pat Robertsons, the one set wanting to be the messenger of Allah and the scourge of infidels, unbelievers and apostates, the other set starring "kinder, gentler" promoters of Allah, complete with good manners and winning, reassuring smiles.

The RAND study authors "review American efforts to fight Islamism and find these lacking, especially with regard to strengthening moderates. Washington, they write, 'does not have a consistent view on who the moderates are, where the opportunities for building networks among them lie, and how best to build the networks."

Networks? They mean ad hoc associations of "secularists, liberal Muslims, moderate traditionalists, and some Sufis."

"...The study proposes de-emphasizing the Middle East, and particularly the Arab world." It "urges Western governments to focus on Muslims in Southeast Asia, the Balkans, and in the Western diaspora, and to help make their ideas available in Arabic."

Pipes concludes,

"Although 'Building Moderate Muslim Networks' is not the final word on the subject, it marks a major step toward the systematic reconfiguration of Washington's policy for combating Islamism."
This is news to me. I was not aware, given the paucity of evidence over the last five years, that Washington was combating Islamism. And instead of proposing that "moderate" Muslims establish of network of talking heads, why doesn't the RAND Corporation take the Bush administration to task for, to name another instance of pragmatist lunacy, seeking to sell the Saudis "up to $10 billion in weapons, including new advanced platforms such as the F-15 and F-16. The negotiations," reports Geostrategy, "have been stuck over the Saudi refusal to accept any restrictions on the use of the U.S. weapons."

"Several U.S. newspapers said Israel has objected to the U.S. weapons sale to Riyadh. The Boston Globe and the New York Times said Israel has expressed concern that Saudi weapons would erode the qualitative edge of the Jewish state against its Arab neighbors."
Geostrategy went on to report that the U.S. "has moved to supply the PAC-3 missile defense system to Saudi Arabia," and that in 2006, "the administration approved about $10 billion in Saudi arms requests from the U.S....which included main battle tanks, combat vehicles, upgrades and aircraft systems."

Against whom is all this armament intended - paid for, by the way, by U.S. taxpayers through their gasoline prices? Israel? Iran? Or the U.S. itself? The Saudis are supporting the Sunni "militants" in Iraq, but then so is Iran, in addition to Iraqi Shiites. Remember that it is Saudi Arabia that is openly supporting the "extremist" Wahhabist movement in the U.S. through CAIR and other "moderate" Islamic organizations. Remember also that Saudi Arabia is an enemy of Israel. But, in the White House's view, Saudi Arabia is a "moderate" Arab state and an ally.

"We are committed to Israel's security," said Sean McCormack in the Geostrategy article. "We are also committed to our historical relationships, good, strong relationships with other states in the region, including Saudi Arabia."

You can't have it both ways. In this instance, you can't ensure Israel's security by giving its enemies the means to destroy it. Or do McCormack and his colleagues in the State Department wish that Israel would just go away and stop posing such moral dilemmas? Or do they even see it as a moral dilemma?

"Networking" will solve all our problems. Link up all the tepid, "moderate," ghost-worshipping Muslims in networks to combat an enemy dedicated to destroying the West in the name of a ghost.

If you believe that idea will stop the Islamic onslaught on the West, then you will believe that salmon thrive in Martian rivers and flowers bloom on Venus.

Where do reason, individual rights, freedom and the security of this country come into play in this network? The authors apparently never heard of such ideas.

Struggling to make sense of the Virginia Tech Massacre

Like most, I am shocked and saddened by the news of the murderous rampage that left 32 innocent people dead and others injured on the campus of Virginia Tech. I am relived that I have heard back from the people I know personally at Virginia Tech and that they are safe; my heartfelt wishes go out to those who must endure the pain of hearing less fortunate news.

As I struggle to comprehend such a cruel and senseless tragedy, I cannot help but to notice how other people explain and comment on it. Much like the criticism surrounding Hurricane Katrina, some people are condemning the leadership of Virginia Tech for failing to lock down its campus at the first sign of trouble, the idea here being that institutions are expected to perform with prescient exactness even in the most unusual and paralyzing of emergencies. And as to be expected when any criminal tragedy of such a magnitude becomes known, some voices are already issuing the call for increased government regulation of firearms, the idea again being that it is our very freedoms that threaten our lives.

I am able understand these responses, even as I disagree with them. One of the more trying aspects of enduring such a tragedy is the invariable questioning that becomes part of the fallout. We all find ourselves asking how could a single man actually murder 32 innocent people. What perverted this man's mind to the point that he could commit so savage and brutal an act? What might have been done to prevent it all from happening?

I see that the newspapers in Europe are already blaming America's so-called "gun culture" for the rampage. I cannot help but think to myself that if only we had the culture that they describe. An undeniable fact in this tragedy is that one man confronted hundreds with his two pistols but was not confronted back in kind; not even one student or faculty member possessed the means to fight back in defense of their very lives. Monday's victims were not the victims of a "gun culture"—they were the victims of its polar opposite.

But why? Each of us knows that addled minds similar to that of Cho Seung-Hui walk among us and that we cannot rely solely upon others to safeguard us from their actions. What then explains the willingness of so many of us to leave ourselves vulnerable to outright murder, or worse, demand that others leave themselves vulnerable? I recoiled in my seat today as I watched the convocation at Virginia Tech where the Buddhist minister called for non-violence in her speech to the victims of this tragedy. Wasn't that just how yesterday's victims died—as non-violent pawns at the mercy of a raging gunman? Every student, faculty member and staff member was denied by rule of law the right to posses the tools necessary for self-defense on that campus. Is that not one of the horrors that we must now confront?

We must to be willing to stand up in defense of our own lives—we must be willing to take concrete action as we do it. And this case, we would have had to have been willing to arm ourselves as a matter of course—a position that is a highly contentious viewpoint, even in some Objectivist circles.

* * *

As this story unfolds, we are beginning to get a picture of the mentality of the gunman, Cho Seung-Hui. Ian MacFarlane, a former classmate of Cho's has posted two plays Cho wrote for a drama course they took together last fall at the news blog at AOL. MacFarlane, now an AOL employee, paints a chilling portrait of Cho:

When we read Cho's plays, it was like something out of a nightmare. The plays had really twisted, macabre violence that used weapons I wouldn't have even thought of. Before Cho got to class that day, we students were talking to each other with serious worry about whether he could be a school shooter. I was even thinking of scenarios of what I would do in case he did come in with a gun, I was that freaked out about him. When the students gave reviews of his play in class, we were very careful with our words in case he decided to snap. Even the professor didn't pressure him to give closing comments.
So here we are presented with a man operating with a disturbed and seemingly hair-trigger psychology. Yet it is MacFarlane's next words that I find to be the most troubling:

While I "knew" Cho, I always wished there was something I could do for him, but I couldn't think of anything. As far as notifying authorities, there isn't (to my knowledge) any system set up that lets people say "Hey! This guy has some issues! Maybe you should look into this guy!" If there were, I definitely would have tried to get the kid some help. I think that could have had a good chance of averting yesterday's tragedy more than anything.
Yet it seems Cho did more than write disturbing plays. The Chicago Tribune reports an anonymous source that says that Cho had recently set a fire in a dorm room and had stalked some women. If these allegations are true, I can only ask why wasn't Cho sanctioned for it? Why wasn't Cho expelled from campus and held accountable under the law (to include being institutionalized for mental heath treatment)? Why did the rights of the disturbed and unhealthy take precedence of the rights of the peaceable? This is not the kind of question that I think can be pointed at any one particular person or institution on the scene, but at our entire culture—and at ourselves.

MacFarlane continues:

While I was hesitant at first to release these plays (because I didn't know if there are laws against it), I had to put myself in the shoes of the average person researching this situation. I'd want to know everything I could about the killer to figure out what could drive a person to do something like this and hopefully prevent it in the future. Also, I hope this might help people start caring about others more no matter how weird they might seem, because if this was some kind of cry for attention, then he should have gotten it a long time ago.
Professor Carolyn Rude, chairwoman of the university's English department offers a similar account, saying that she read Cho's writing, reported its content to the authorities and even offered to take Cho to counseling herself if it would have helped him.

I thank MacFarlane and Rude for the courage it must have taken to offer such frank and obviously painful public statements, for these with the other reports begin to present us with the information we need to come to understand the roots of this tragedy. On so many levels people failed to assert their egoistic rights and responsibilities in defense against this deeply troubled young man. It was not to mere classmates, instructors and acquaintances to secure mental health treatment for Cho; either he or others with a more intimate relationships with the man ought to have recognized his issues and acted accordingly. Rather than patronize a seemingly violent person, people ought have asserted their right to be free of a man that obviously troubled and threatened them so. Rather than allow themselves to be victims of seemingly random and senseless violence, people ought have asserted their right to personally protect themselves.

It is not that I in any way blame the victims of this tragedy for their losses; they are and will remain wholly innocent and my heartfelt sympathy rests completely with them. It is that I cannot but help note the self-abnegation that seemed to infect people's thinking before this tragedy and that only served to exacerbate its fallout. I am reminded yet again that it takes egoism to live.

And for me, the failure of others to grasp this point (or even my own ability to grasp and apply it had I been in their shoes) is one of the hardest parts of this whole story to reconcile. Most if us understand that we each have a right to our lives—yet this truth requires both thought and action. It would not have violated any of Cho's rights to have held him to account for any of the warning signs he did give—even if the response was limited to merely saying that he could not act as he did and expect to be allowed to keep the company of peaceable men. Yet rather than confront his madness, people only tiptoed around it.

I can understand the error, for its one that I can see myself making. Would I, having been confronted with the likes of Cho, pressed the case like it deserved to be pressed? Or would I have been unable to imagine a tragedy like the one that unfolded and have let my guard down accordingly? Would I have allowed myself to be disarmed? I find it hard to offer a definitive answer that I am content with.

And therein lies the sad yet truthful moral of this story for both me and others: one cannot tiptoe around evil or madness—at least not if one seeks to live.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Chertoff the 'Crime Czar'

The strongest evidence that the U.S. is not only losing the "war on terror," but will be struck again with perhaps greater force, is the siege mentality of those charged with protecting the nation. Instead of destroying the states that sponsor terrorism, the U.S. is conducting the "war" as though the enemy was some kind of super-Mafia gang whose members had to be detected and deterred. All we need do, goes the thinking, is identify the bad guys and keep them from entering the country. It elects to fight enemies dedicated to destroying this country with the methods suitable to Eliot Ness in his pursuit of bootleggers.

The Daily Telegraph (London) on April 4th offered an insight to this mentality in an interview in Washington of Michael Chertoff, Director (or Secretary) of Homeland Security, "Briton 'could stage another September 11'," pending his visit to Britain for talks with John Reid, the Home Secretary.

"We need to build layers of protection," said Chertoff in the interview, "and I don't think we totally want to rely upon the fact that a foreign government is going to know that one of their citizens is suspicious and is going to be coming here."
"Layers of protection"? Is the U.S. to be turned into "Fortress America"? At what price? And with what consequences?

Chertoff told the interviewer, Toby Harnden, in an unintended but revealing admission of his ignorance of the nature of Islam and Islamic jihad:

"Our Muslim population is better educated and economically better off than the average American. So, from a standpoint of mobility in society, it's a successful immigrant population. To some degree, the whole country is a country of immigrants, and therefore there's no sense that we have insiders or outsiders. In some countries (Europe), you had an influx of people that came in as a colonial legacy and may have always have felt, to some extent, that they were viewed as second-class citizens, and they've tended to impact and be kind of clustered in some areas."
It is arguable whether or not "our" Muslim population is better educated and economically better off" than Britain's or any other European country's. Most of the 9/11 hijackers came from the educated elites of their countries - most prominently from Saudi Arabia - and the Madrid and 7/7 London Tube bombers were university students or graduates.

Post-colonial era "resentments" have little or nothing to do with Islamic jihad. Most Islamic suicide bombers and advocates of an Islamic conquest of the West are generations removed from the colonial era of the early 20th century, and as ignorant of that period as are most non-Islamic individuals. That history is irrelevant to them. Chertoff, an alleged expert on terrorism, ought to know better than to utter such a transparent misconception.

Further, being an "insider" or an "outsider" in any Western country has nothing to do with whether or not one subscribes to an ideology that sanctions mass murder and destruction. How many American Muslims work under the guise of "civil liberties" to convert this country from a secular one to an Islamic one?

Chertoff wishes Britain and Europe to let the U.S. know who is flying into the country from abroad, and to treat all visitors to the U.S. as potential criminals, complete with fingerprinting and the transmission of everyone's personal histories before flights depart from European airports. That will somehow will prevent the enemy from committing acts of terrorism and keep the country safe.

"We can do a good job with the known terrorists," said Chertoff, "if we have their name (sic), or if we've previously arrested them and have their fingerprint on file."

This is a crime-deterring mentality, not one committed to defeating the enemy or even acknowledging that it is recruited, funded and directed by states that sponsor terrorism. That is, Chertoff can determine that certain money is coming from Iran, Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia, but like his chief's, his mind blanks out those facts and refocuses on the recipients of that money, the "bad guys." (Orwell called this brand of mental gymnastics "doublethink.") Chertoff's policies perfectly complement President Bush's approach to national security, which is to defeat "bad guys" who have "hijacked" a religion by fighting fruitless police actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and not an ideology.

That ideology is intimately linked to a "great religion," and to attack the ideology would be to implicate the religion and slander its adherents. That is a politically correct prohibition. God forbids it, and so does Allah.

Neither Bush nor Chertoff (not to mention much of this country's political leadership) will allow himself to think of the enemy in terms of states or ideologies. That would be too intellectual, too taxing of their skewed epistemologies and their eclectic notions of cause and effect, and too politically risky.

If one proposed to either of them that instead of turning the U.S. into a police state, in which ordinary, productive citizens must undergo government scrutiny and submit to frisks and searches in the name of national security, the U.S. blast Iran and Syria, and turn the Kaaba in Mecca into a smoking hole of glass and likewise Mohammad's tomb in Medina, one would be answered with either blinks of incomprehension or of horror.

More of the Harnden interview of Chertoff can be found on Harnden's blog. In it, Chertoff remarked on the fact that 9/11 has not been repeated in five years:

"The ideological enemy here has one particular advantage over Western society - they have very, very long memories. They still get worked up over stuff that happened seven or eight hundred years ago. That persistence is the one thing we have to be mindful of, because if we as a society in the West lose interest or become impatient or allow wishful thinking to overcome reality, that is when we will drop our guard, and that is when they will strike again."
Which means that Americans must live in a state of perpetual crisis, and never hope to stop worrying about Islamic terrorists because their government will not deal properly and permanently with that ideological enemy. The molecularization of Mecca and Medina alone would disprove Islam, leaving Islamists and their self-sacrificing soldiers without a ship to sail, and the rank-and-file "moderate" Muslims the task of discovering, among other things, freedom and individualism.

Michael Chertoff looked nicer and more approachable with a goatee and moustache, when he was an assistant U.S Attorney General and a judge on the Third Circuit U.S Court of Appeals. The goatee and moustache are gone now, and his face is one that one would not want to open one's door to in broad daylight, never mind encounter in a dark alley. One can only speculate that the removal of his facial hair was a calculated ploy to look frightening.

Chertoff's career in law is checkered, if not shady. He is the archetype, amoral "careerist" who can rise in political appointments as federal powers expand. He was comfortable as an assistant U.S. Attorney General during the Clinton administration (and may have turned a blind eye on the Vince Foster cover-up and the Whitewater scandal) and is equally comfortable under the Bush administration. Today, he is viewed as a neo-conservative. Under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani he prosecuted with equal vigor the Mafia and Arthur Anderson, the accounting firm, leading to its collapse during the Enron episode. As Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, he was in charge of FEMA when hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.

As head of Operation Green Quest, created in October 2001 by Bush to run down Islamic money-laundering activities, Chertoff contributed to the enfeebling of the country's intelligence gathering capabilities by exacerbating existing agency rivalries. And, he was one of the chief drafters of Title III of the Patriot Act, which forces most Americans to account to the federal government for their financial dealings.

And, there is talk that he may replace Attorney General Alberto Gonzales if the latter is forced to resign as a result of his role the U.S. attorney general firings, about which Gonzales apparently lied.

A very frightening prospect, indeed. As Attorney General, Chertoff would view all Americans as potential "bad guys" until they could prove their innocence. He would feel very comfortable with that "crime fighting" approach, as well.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Marine opposed to war ordered discharged

I came across this story on the AP wire:

A Marine lance corporal who said he had an aversion to killing and participating in war must be released from the military as a conscientious objector, a federal judge ruled.

The Marine Corps Reserves must discharge Robert Zabala, 23, by mid-April, under the ruling.

Zabala said he was troubled during boot camp in 2003 when a fellow recruit committed suicide and a superior used profanities to belittle the recruit. Zabala said he was "abhorred by the blood lust (the superior) seemed to possess," according to a 2006 court petition for conscientious-objector status.

Another boot camp instructor showed recruits a "motivational clip" showing Iraqi corpses, explosions, gun fights and rockets set to a heavy metal song that included the lyrics, "Let the bodies hit the floor," the petition said. Zabala said he cried, while other recruits nodded their heads in time with the beat.

"The sanctity of life that formed the moral center of petitioner's life was being challenged," his attorney, Stephen Collier, wrote in a court filing.

U.S. District Judge James Ware, who served 13 years in the Army Reserves, said he was convinced of Zabala's sincerity about his struggles to "reconcile the demands of duty with the demands of conscience."

Zabala, a student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who followed some Buddhist-related traditions, was previously denied conscientious-objector status after applying in 2004, court records show.
I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about this story. The fact that Zabala's Drill Instructor thought that he had the right to engage in a profanity-laden diatribe against a dead recruit in front of a literally captive audience is appalling. The display of the "motivational clip" set to heavy metal music is equally appalling; it is an attempt to engender an emotional frenzy rather than develop the calm and professional demeanor that is the hallmark of the Corps.

At the same time, I think Zabala misses the forest for the trees. If you value your life, you must confront those who seek to take that life from you; the Marines are simply America's premiere institution dedicated to this principle. And while individual Marine leaders may do things that one may rightfully find appalling, the institution itself serves a clear moral purpose. Zabala says that "the sanctity of life" is his moral center, yet he ultimately blanches at what the Marines must do to protect that sanctity.

At the most fundamental, the enemy lives by a death code and we do not. In the face of this truth Zabala has elected to become a pacifist. He has taken a stand that if practiced by all in the West would allow evil to win without so much as a fight. Of all the evils presented in this story, it is this one that I find to be the most vicious.

Monday, April 02, 2007

In Memory of Stephen Speicher

Today I learned that Stephen Speicher, founder and moderator of the Forum for Ayn Rand Fans passed away over the weekend due to complications from a recent heart attack.

It goes without saying that Stephen passed before his time. My heartfelt wishes go to Betsy, Stephen's wife, as well as his son Matthew.

I am reminded of this sculpture of Memory by Augustus Lukeman (photo by Lee Sandstead). This work was made in honor of Isidor and Ida Straus who lost their lives during the Titanic disaster. The statue of Memory does not ponder the tragedy of the Straus' loss. Instead, she thinks of the good lives that they lived and their continual love and warmth for each other while alive. It is a monument dedicated to fondness, and not suffering and sadness.

It is my hope that over time, such a sentiment can warm the hearts of those affected by Stephen's passing.

Update: Memorial info for Stephen may be found here.

The Fatal Art of Turning the Other Cheek

In my last commentary, "The Spreading Desert Sands of Islam," I discussed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1898 novel A Desert Drama: Being the Tragedy of the Korosko, and concluded with:

"Doyle's Colonel Cochrane was worried that the Mahdists might reach the shores of the Mediterranean and swallow Egypt. Over a century later, their desert sands have spread as far north as Germany and Norway, not only in Europe's legal systems, but in men's minds, as well."
I should have included Britain, as well. And the U.S.

What can account for the difference in Western policies concerning Islam between the 19th century and the present? Is there some integral relationship between a blind toleration of Islamic fundamentalism and the West's own drift toward statism and totalitarianism? Even in the 19th century, which was governed, as Ayn Rand observed, by an "Aristotelian spirit," the moral sanction men repaired to was Christianity and a derivative form of secular moral altruism that spawned the elements of statism. This was evident in Doyle's novel; it is a phenomenon that occurs in most 19th century literature.

I also referred in my "Desert Sands" commentary to the West's polices of vacillation, conciliation and accommodation when dealing with Islamists and virtually every other brand of totalitarianism, including Vladimir Putin's Russia, Kim Il Jong's North Korea, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran.

Iran has seized fifteen British sailors and marines. What has been Prime Minister Tony Blair's response to it other than a faint baring of teeth? In a recent TV interview, he stated that he doesn't understand why Iran keeps doing these things, because such actions are only making Iran unpopular. The only "justice" he can think of in the way of an ultimatum or retaliatory response is to apply economic sanctions against Iran - with the approval of the U.N. and the European Union, of course. That, and "quiet," behind-the-scenes "diplomacy" or compromise to "tone down the rhetoric."

God forbid that he propose unilateral action, such as ordering the British Navy in the Gulf to defend itself and remove a few Iranian ships or other military targets by way of persuasion.

God forbids? Or "world opinion"? With Blair's urging, Britain has progressively surrendered its sovereignty to the bureaucrats and parasites of the European Union, which explains Blair's tepid and arguably impotent "anger."

Ahmadinejad has called "arrogant" Britain's refusal to "apologize" for the alleged violation of Iran's waters. He knows, however, that it is the arrogance of a cream puff and a "has been" paper lion.

What has been the U.S.'s response to the piracy and hostage-taking? A "show of force" in the Persian Gulf, close to where the Britons were taken, wasting thousands of gallons of aviation fuel in planes from two aircraft carriers. That really impressed the Iranians. Yesterday, President Bush waved his rubber sword in the air, called the Iranian piracy "inexcusable," and insisted that Iran free the Britons. "Snake Eyes" Ahmadinejad must have laughed and remarked to his fellow thugs, "Yeah, right! Hey, guys! Look at me! I'm unpopular! I'm sad! Gee!! I'm so scared!"

Excuse me, Mr. Bush, but you excused Iran five years ago by not taking direct military action against that one member of the "Axis of Evil." Can you blame the tyrant for taking leave to commit more depredations? The Britons did "nothing wrong"? But it's your word against Ahmadinejad's about what is "right" or "wrong."

Last week, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, a so-called ally and special hand-holder of President Bush's, opened the Arab Summit in Riyadh by calling the American presence in Iraq an "illegitimate foreign occupation."

The White House's response? In another instance of a surrender of sovereignty, this time America's, a timidly worded disagreement that cited the approval of the U.N. Security Council. Perhaps even worse, with the administration's knowledge, great gobs of Saudi Arabian oil money are being funneled to a multitude of subversive, Wahhabist or Islamic organizations in the U.S., ranging in fields such as "civil rights" (CAIR) to educational textbooks that explain to helpless, indoctrinated American schoolchildren the blessings of Islam.

These actions - or non-actions - are evidence of turning the other cheek, a solely Christian virtue that goes far to account for the present state of the world.

Robert Mayhew underscored this point in his article, "The Rise and Fall of Greek Justice: Homer to the Sermon on the Mount" (The Objective Standard, spring 2007). In point seven in his explication of Christian morality, "Accept Divine Judgment," he notes in regard to Christian justice:

"The willingness to apply divine justice does not make Christians better or more admirable; it makes them much more dangerous."
The Christian virtue of turning the other cheek - of not resisting evil but refusing to judge certain men and their actions as evil - in especially our foreign policy over the last half century, has created a passel of parasitical, hostile states that can exist only by grace of semi-free Western nations, especially by grace of American non-judgmental pragmatism. Ayn Rand noted this in her notes for Atlas Shrugged:

"This is just like totalitarian economies that can exist only on the energy stolen from the free economies, who thus create their own Frankenstein monsters." (The Journals of Ayn Rand, p. 453)
Frankenstein monsters such as Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Iran, Putin's Russia (and before that the Soviet Union), Castro's Cuba, Hugh Chavez's Venezuela, Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe, the Sudan, and many, many more parasite states - including Iraq. Are these states in themselves dangerous, or is it the premises of Western leaders?

For example, is Islam a corrosive that possesses an indefinable but ineluctable power to suborn and ultimately destroy Western values, turning them and men's minds into wind-blown sand? Why does New Testament Christianity seem to be no match against an apparently virulent Islam? (Has a Moslem ever turned the other cheek?) What is the difference between the moral certitude of Christianity and that of Islamic fundamentalists? Should we blame the nihilistic subjectivism of pragmatism and multiculturalism, which inculcates in men a fear of defending themselves or their values?

In her Journals, Rand observed:

"The reason why people who start out with many virtues and a few flaws grow progressively worse, with the flaws winning, is the fact that an evil cannot remain stationary; it must either be eliminated or it will grow (like "a few" controls in a free economy). The question I ask myself here is: but what, then, happens to the virtues, which I consider indestructible (in the sense that a truth, once perceived, cannot be eliminated and replaced by an error)? (pp. 625-626)
Grasping the truism that flaws in a man's moral character - a character largely governed by reason - will win out if not checked and eliminated, one can say the same about a culture, as well. Christianity, or its partner, secular altruism, if unchecked and eliminated as an operative moral code, is bound to enfeeble the West in its conflict with Islamic jihad.

Rand stated in her Journals that unchallenged and uncorrected flaws are the result of either errors of knowledge, or a refusal to acknowledge a fact. In the second instance, a man "has closed the door to knowledge, therefore closed it to correction, and therefore his error (and his evil) will grow worse and worse." (p. 626)

Both Bush and Blair have refused to acknowledge the irrational nature of Iran, of Iraq, of Saudi Arabia - of virtually everything that imperils Western civilization, because they refuse to acknowledge the irrationality of their own policies. They have closed their minds to correction. Witness Bush's willingness to "stay the course" in Iraq, as though loyalty to an irrational, fruitless policy will somehow transform a quagmire into victory. This is how they jeopardize the existence of the West and allow Frankenstein monsters to exist, and be sustained, and set the terms of our existence.

It is not Ahmadinejad and Putin and Mugabe who are dangerous. It is the premise of Western leaders that the best morality is to be non-judgmental, to "love" (or tolerate as a difference in opinion or culture) totalitarians and sanction every brand of irrationality, including religious doctrines, and to surrender pro-life values in exchange for non- or anti-life values, such as "peace at any price," or environmentalism, or wealth -consuming foreign aid.

Arthur Conan Doyle, in his later years, after becoming famous for creating his evidence-gathering, reason-governed Sherlock Holmes, became an overt mystic, believing in spiritualism. He was an agnostic on the question of the existence of God (reason is impotent to answer the question of His existence, there is no "evidence" of it one way or another). That agnosticism logically allowed him to believe in the existence of a "lesser" realm of wandering souls of the dead who could communicate with the living.

The West has followed and continues to follow the same course, of abandoning reason in favor of the "spiritualism" of non-judgmental pragmatism/altruism. Reason is not an automatic governor of or check on one's actions. It requires conscious application in every action of one's life, including foreign policy. The West has systematically abandoned reason for over a century. We have political leaders whose minds are closed to correction, who refuse to acknowledge the disastrous facts of their policies.

The perilously bizarre results are plain to see to everyone but those who are comfortable with being blind.