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Arguing With The Insane
Seeing through the legitimatization fog.


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Jonah Goldberg

On September 15, 1999, eight Christians were slaughtered in a church in Fort Worth, Tex. The killer, Larry Ashbrook, shouted things like, “What you believe is bulls**t!” The media covered the story almost entirely as a gun-control issue, much to the chagrin of conservative media-watchers who’d seen Matthew Shepard and James Byrd — victims of particularly heinous murders and “hate crimes” — celebrated for their status in the identity-politics pantheon even as white Christians slaughtered by a religious bigot were dismissed out of hand.

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Whether this was a fair criticism or not, the gun-control issue was absurd. Ostensibly sharp folks in editorial rooms in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., believed, for some reason, that if a sign had been posted outside the Church saying “No guns allowed” this deranged maniac wouldn’t have killed anybody. Laws against murder have no teeth, you see, but laws against handguns are a serious deterrent.

This was, in essence, the selective application of reason typical of reformers of all stripes. The thinking behind such movements — be they for prohibition, gun control, or campaign-finance “reform” — is always the same: New laws will somehow deter people who were perfectly willing to break old laws. Perhaps the greatest example of such a mindset was the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which “outlawed” war. “Now, why hasn’t anybody thought of outlawing war before?” the intellectual class seemed to ask itself, smacking its collective head in what amounted to an international “V8 moment” (don’t tell me you don’t remember those commercials).

PROVING THE OBVIOUS
Put all that aside for a few moments. Right now the professional foreign-policy types — hawks and doves alike — are having a huge argument over whether or not the documents seized in Israel by the IDF “prove” that Yasser Arafat is a terrorist. These documents include detailed invoices for suicide bombs, some bearing Arafat’s own signature. Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo and most other officials are simply pretending the documents don’t exist. “This talk is baseless and worthless,” he told Reuters. Other Palestinians flatly refuse to comment.

When asked on TV, many Palestinians claim that these “invoices of terror,” as the Israelis call them, are either forgeries or meaningless. Of course, what’s funny about this is that some Palestinians claim they are forgeries and others claim they are meaningless. So which is it? Do the Palestinians who think they’re forgeries believe that if they were real, they’d be incriminating? Or is the charge that the Israelis went to the trouble of forging meaningless documents? This would be like forging perfect counterfeit U.S. money in the denomination of “zero.”

Of course, the documents are real. But in the larger sense, who cares? The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades repeatedly claims credit for various suicide bombings, and neither Yasser Arafat nor the Brigades deny that they are affiliated with Arafat’s Fatah organization. “Our group is an integral part of Fatah,” Maslama Thabet, 33, a leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, told USA Today. Mohammed Odwan, Arafat’s foreign media spokesman, confirmed that its operatives are “loyal to President Arafat. The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are working for the interests of the Palestinian people,” Odwan told reporters. “They are fighting because they think these kind of operations — and I agree — will push forward their independence and their dream of freedom.”

Why isn’t that good enough?

Because nothing is sufficient for those unwilling to see.

Take Yasser Arafat’s statement “condemning terrorism” Sunday. It was given in the aftermath of another maniac bomber in Jerusalem on Saturday. Secretary of State Colin Powell threatened to call off any meeting with Arafat if the bombing wasn’t condemned. So after what numerous reporters have called vigorous internal debates eventually won by the “moderates” around Arafat, they issued the following statement: “We strongly condemn all attacks targeting civilians from both sides, and especially the attack that took place against Israeli citizens yesterday in Jerusalem.”

Now, there was nothing “special” to that Jerusalem attack. Six people died. That’s a lot fewer than in other similar attacks. Indeed, the only thing that made that attack exceptional in any way is that it threatened to keep Colin Powell away from Yasser Arafat’s office. In other words, if it hadn’t been for Powell’s presence, there’d be nothing worth condemning. More to the point, this was a serious argument within Arafat’s inner circle. According to various reports, the hardliners were worried that such a statement would alienate Arafat’s “core constituency.”

In fact, no rational and sane observer of the last two years — or twenty — could possibly conclude that Arafat or the groups around him actually condemn the practice mislabeled “suicide bombing.” In Beirut, in numerous Palestinian towns, public squares are named after these “martyrs.” Saudi Arabia runs telethons for them. Saddam Hussein cuts them checks. Yasser Arafat speaks all the time — in Arabic — about the glories of martyrdom, always in the context of young people strapping bombs to themselves in order to murder. A leading columnist in the “moderate” state of Jordan described Powell’s insistence that Arafat condemn the bombing as “American political terrorism.”

One risks becoming a repetitive bore by observing such things. But it’s worth noting, just as it was worth noting that Nuremberg’s laws spelled trouble.

INSANITY REIGNS
There’s no legitimate argument. The people who love this innovative way to murder are not rational. And, by extension, those who defend it are in denial. Look at this girl. She’s, what? Eight years old? In the United States it is increasingly believed that if you smoke or, even worse, use racial epithets in the proximity of your children, you are a bad parent. This guy thinks it’s noble to strap make-believe dynamite to his daughter, as if it’s some sort of dream that she might one day vaporize herself in the proximity of Jewish children.

This is insanity and it is evil. And if you think future generations won’t see it that way, you are fooling yourself or you are a fool or you are deeply, deeply pessimistic about the future of humanity. This death cult is so blatantly obvious for any who are not too enamored with such romantic notions as “wars of national liberation” or “anti-imperialism” that it honestly baffles me when people cannot see it.

Jews, Ismail Haniya — a senior Hamas official — told the Washington Post, “love life more than any other people, and they prefer not to die.” Normally, in America, “loving life” is considered a strength. According to these barbarians it is not only a weakness, but a gloriously fatal one.

Meanwhile, reporters in the West see what they want to see. “The fourth young woman to take her life in protest of Israeli treatment of the Palestinian people threw Jerusalem’s central commercial strip along Jafa Road into pandemonium,” reported NPR’s Julie McCarthy last Friday. Typically, the lead of a report is supposed to give the relevant facts. In this case they didn’t include the fact that this woman killed a half-dozen people and maimed countless more. No, what was most relevant was the “protest” and the “protester”’s gender. Time magazine, and of course NPR, call the recruiters of suicidal bombers, “activists.” Etc., etc., etc.

Look: You can spare me the rebuttal that I am being reflexively pro-Israel — as if being reflexively inclined to favor democracies and allies over crowds who burn American flags, who blow up innocent children, and who have enthusiastically supported the Nazis, the Soviets, and Saddam Hussein in their respective struggles against the United States is something to be ashamed of. Regardless, I do agree that the Palestinians must eventually have their state. I agree: They are in a struggle for national liberation.

But so what? Does that mean this death cult should be allowed to flourish? India was once caught up in a movement for national liberation, but the British were still right to destroy the Thuggee cult that extolled murder and robbery — and gave us the word “thug.” If the Thuggees rather than Gandhi had risen to power, would we be incapable of drawing distinctions between thugs and pacifists? I’d bet the store that today’s media would struggle with that challenge more than they could ever admit.

NOT RIGHT IN THE HEAD
Right now many people in the United States — and most people in Europe — believe that if we can just get Yasser Arafat or Saddam Hussein or the ruling family of Saudi Arabia to agree to a piece of paper or a “process,” peace will be at hand. I’m not saying that’s impossible, but it’s obvious these people believe such stuff because they want to, just as many believed the Kellogg-Briand pact would establish lasting peace because they wanted it to.

When Larry Ashbrook had finished killing as many people as he could in that Fort Worth church, he turned his gun on himself. It’s worth recalling that nobody called him a martyr. Nobody said he represented a cause (though liberals did claim he typified a need — a need for gun control). USA Today got it right in a headline when it noted, in the words of one of Ashbrook’s neighbors: “Killer ‘didn’t seem right in the head.’”

Right now, the United States is watching as killers who aren’t right in the head are poised to devour Israel. If you think they’ll stop once we post a sign banning suicide belts, you’re kidding yourself. Indeed, if you think they’ll stop with Israel, you’re probably kidding yourself about that too.



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