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Guantanamo Winter
It all depends on what your meaning of barbarism is.


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Jonah Goldberg

EDITOR’S NOTE: I have to rush through this column today because I have to give a speech this evening at West Chester University. However, in light of the ongoing campaign, led by Andrew Sullivan, to expose every pundit with a conflict of interest due to Enron’s lavish support of the punditocracy, I feel compelled to offer full disclosure. Lord knows I don’t want to become the next Paul Krugman. So, let me tell you here and now: Any comments I make regarding issues that might touch upon areas of concern to the students, faculty, or administration of West Chester University are my opinion and my opinion alone. Their largesse in no way has influenced my positions on on-campus parking, library hours, or the ability of Saheeb’s Falafel and Grinder Emporium to deliver on campus after midnight. (Also, please see the announcements below.)

Now that the fighting in Afghanistan is largely over, the sophisticated have emerged, blinking into the new sunlight to explain — again — why America is bad. As is usually the case with such storms, the America-bashing wind blows in from the East, picking up speed in Western Europe before it reaches our shores. But, not surprisingly, there are plenty of people watching Europe and nodding their heads like Weather Channel addicts.

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I had to read about them while I was writing about this absurd controversy over our treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo yesterday. I don’t want to spoil that column for you, but I’ve got to mention that in Britain, and throughout Western Europe we’re being accused of “torturing” these poor fellows. “These prisoners are trapped in open cages, manacled hand and foot, brutalised, tortured and humiliated,” reads one typical British editorial. Apparently, after living at several thousand feet in the wintry peaks of Tora Bora, it’s “torture” and “barbaric” for us to store these murderers and thugs in the same Cuban climate millions of pasty white Canadians and Germans flock to every winter in order to enjoy the workers paradise.

Activists and Muslim spokesmen denounce the forced shaving of these murderers, in the words of former attorney general Ramsey Clark, as “a gross violation” of their “sensitivity and their religious beliefs.” Recall, that these guys are the same people who arrested practicing (American) Christians and shot, stoned, crushed, folded, spindled, and mutilated all sorts of people for deviating from even the smallest religious orthodoxy.

Moreover, all of these guys, we were told, aren’t really Muslims. Time and again, enough Muslim clerics here and abroad to form a crowd scene in Lawrence of Arabia, explained to us that “Islam means peace.” They said these jerks from al Qaeda are nothing more than criminals and terrorists flagrantly violating Muslim law. So why, you might ask, are we treating their “religious beliefs” as so sacred?

Dr. Sayed Aziz Pasha, of the Union of Muslim Organizations, wrote recently in a British paper that shaving their beards “is not the action of a civilized country.” I am deeply curious about what Pasha has to say about Muslim countries which remove beards of Christians the old-fashioned way — by taking off the whole head. (Okay, now I’m really stealing from my other column.)

I wonder what Dr. Pasha thinks of Safiyatu Huseini a Nigerian woman, profiled in the British Daily Mail. According to the Muslim laws of Sokoto, the northernmost state in Nigeria, she must be executed for adultery. That she claims she was raped by her cousin, is irrelevant to the Sharia law committee which enforces the Koran literally. But, hey, these aren’t uncivilized people. The baby girl she gave birth to 11 months ago as a result of the rape is being permitted to suckle from her condemned mother for one year before she has to surrender herself to the “morality police.” At which time the law committee will arrange an execution of Huseini by public stoning. Of course, Sharia law forbids the stone-throwers to aim for her head, so the execution will probably take a long time, at the very least an hour according to the Mirror. But, hey, that’s a small price to pay for civilization.

Now, it may be unfair to hold the people complaining about our treatment of these terrorists accountable for the stoning of some woman in Nigeria. But, it’s worth noting that across the globe, the Koran is a ubiquitous justification for cruelty, repression, and torture. And yet, as sure as a thud follows every Saudi beheading, I will hear from some Islamic activist about this column, charging me with bigotry against the Islamic world for pointing out this obvious fact. I will also hear from any number of liberals perfectly willing to say Bob Jones University is evil, but would be horrified at the idea of saying the same thing about some madrassa in Pakistan.

I don’t mind the U.S. being held up to a higher standard than other countries — we’re better (that’s right, better) than most other nations and have a responsibility to lead. But, those who criticize the U.S. for not living up to their (always unattainable) expectations must be expected to have a similar standard for other cultures as well. If they don’t, I really don’t care what they have to say about the United States. So I salute Dr. Pasha and others for calling the U.S. uncivilized — if they’re also willing to say much worse about Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, Iran, the Sokoto province of Nigeria, and numerous other places. But, if such people think criticizing those nations is just so much bigotry, then they are opportunists or fools or both.

But, considering that Dr. Pasha warns that Muslims around the world might feel justified in exacting their rightful “revenge” on the U.S. because of our “uncivilized” cruelty in Guantanamo, I’m not holding my breath.

This infuriating pattern — of calling Americans cruel, repressive, arrogant, racist, etc., for pointing out the cruelty, racism, repression, and arrogance of others — goes to the heart of the Mobius-strip logic of multiculturalism today; all bad things must eventually wend their way back to America. Radical chic and boutique third worldism is so pervasive it’s considered “intolerant” to point out the heinous intolerance of other societies.

Frankly, I have no more patience for it. This is a war on terrorism. It just so happens that the terrorists aren’t extremist Anglicans, fundamentalist Buddhists, militant Mormons, or a radical faction of Up With People. They’re Muslims. Poor Muslims and rich Muslims. Educated Muslims and uneducated Muslims. Again, there is no philosophy to “terrorism.” That’s just a word for killing civilians to achieve political aims. The political aims in question stem directly from radical Islam. Of course, most Muslims are not terrorists, but most if not all of the terrorists we need to worry about are Muslims. This means Muslims are going to be disproportionately on the receiving end of our freshly opened cans of global whup-ass. If our subsequent treatment of these terrorists infuriates other Muslims, they need to either get over it or stop telling us that the Osama bin Laden doesn’t represent Islam.

If the majority of Muslims of goodwill and the legions of patronizing multiculturalists are embarrassed by the fact that our adversaries are Muslim, I can sympathize. Truly. But my sympathy runs out at precisely the same moment they exhaust their honesty.

Announcements
1. My apologies. The teaser for today’s column was “Occidentalism Vs. Orientalism.” I decided to save that for another day, in part because I wanted to make room and time for the big news of the day…

2. The Corner has arrived! “Wahoo! Wait, what is the Corner?” you ask. Excellent question. Well, the Corner is something a bit different. It’s not a blog-site like AndrewSullivan.com or Kausfiles or any of the other one-man-bands popping up across the web. It’s not quite a bulletin board, chatroom, news forum, or lava lamp either. What it is precisely, I cannot tell you, because, well, we don’t know either. Suffice it to say, this is a bold experiment. I don’t like to exaggerate, but this may be the most daring journalist enterprise since they started using “scratch-n-sniff” ink in Jonathan Alter’s columns. Oh, wait, they haven’t done that yet, and that wouldn’t be a good idea, now would it.

But — get this! — the Corner may not be a good idea either! But there’s only one way to find out.

Here’s how it will work, at least in the beginning. Starting tomorrow, we will have a link to something called — you guessed it — “the Corner” on the homepage. Inside, Rich Lowry, Rod Dreher, and myself will be filing observations, arguments, complaints, interesting links, jokes, commentary — perhaps even recipes — throughout the day. If there’s news we’ll be there offering every half-baked theory and career-destroying spontaneous reaction you can imagine.

Others will be joining us too — from within the NR family and without (in fact, I plan on baiting Ramesh so relentlessly he’ll be terrified to leave his desk). Over time, your notes and observations might be included too. We will invite quotable notables for their observations or reactions. We will post at midnight, 2:00 AM, even at bathroom breaks during Dawson’s Creek (I’m speaking for Rod here). The Corner will grow organically into such a captivating, entertaining, and attention-grabbing forum, most of you will lose your jobs and have to panhandle for change just so you can get enough coins to purchase a few more sweet, sweet minutes online at some seedy Internet café.

Or, it will fail and we will never discuss this again. Who knows? There’s only one way to find out, and we’ll start that process tomorrow.



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