Down at the rodeo, fighting "nice," dead Reds, and more


Couple of days ago, my friend Bill Kristol remarked that we were in a “two-America moment” — that’s exactly right. (Incidentally, his maman, Gertrude Himmelfarb, published a book called One Nation, Two Cultures.)

Evidence that this is a two-America moment is abundant. I’ll recite a little. At the Spirit Awards — the Oscars of the independent-film industry — Michael Moore et al. demonstrated that they consider President Bush a greater threat to peace, freedom, and love than they do Saddam Hussein. Meanwhile, down in Houston, at the Livestock Show and Rodeo, the Dixie Chicks were booed vigorously, by thousands of Americans unhappy with one of the Chicks’ antiwar rhetoric.

Besides which, you can listen to NPR and Fox News — and see the Two Americas in their media expressions.

I will toss at you one rather paranoid concern: that the Left — or let’s call them NPR liberals — “own” most of American education, K through graduate school, giving the NPR America more weight than it might naturally have.

We have heard, endlessly, of the cost of the war, and that’s as it should be — cost is not nothing. But it’s time for a couple of elementary points. First, Democrats and liberals rarely fret about government expenditure, so their worries merit some skepticism. Second, this is what government is for: what the central government is for. The physical protection of the nation, first and foremost. Not midnight basketball, not “free false teeth,” as Bill Buckley would say. The physical defense of the nation. Everything else is gravy.

The individual states can’t provide national protection on their own; this is Washington’s job; and it is doing it. Midnight basketball can be the province of a town. Or, better, some church or YMCA.

Besides which, why the hell should young people be up at midnight playing basketball anyway?

One nice change from the first Gulf War to the second one can be seen in Jordan. Back then, the king — Hussein, aptly nicknamed by William Safire “the little king” — sided with the Butcher of Baghdad. (He paid no penalty, of course: He jetted into the Mayo Clinic for his treatments; his widow, the Princetonian née Lisa Halaby, is now a society lady in New York and elsewhere.) Now, Hussein’s successor, his son Abdullah, is booting Saddam’s “diplomats” from Amman, even as Saddam-loving, America-hating Jordanians are demonstrating in the streets.

Good for him.

Incidentally, when we say “Jordanians,” think “Palestinians” — Jordan is a Palestinian state, of course. But that’s “a whole nother” discussion.

Are we playing too nice? Are we sacrificing and endangering our troops by “asymmetrical warfare,” as the New York Sun puts it? (By the way, Israel does this, on the West Bank — but gets no credit for it, of course.)

“I lost a scout this morning to sniper fire, and my first sergeant was hit by a mortar yesterday. That means I am taking it a little bit personally. How am I meant to protect my men when the generals are denying me the ability to bomb enemy positions?”

Those are the words of Captain David Waldron of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team. I realize that these are the typical complaints of war, but it sounds a little Vietnam-y to me, which is troubling.

And here is a tank commander, Robert Byrd (no, not a West Virginia senator): “It’s time to stop trying to be Mr. Nice Guy. They are bombing us. Let’s start bombing the hell out of them.”

The Sun points out that Iraqi propaganda is still on the air because the U.S. and its partners have refused to bomb television stations, etc., for fear of injuring or killing civilians. Very well. But the paper also points out that President Bush has said, “I assure you, this will not be a campaign of half-measures, and we will accept no outcome but victory.”

Very well to that, too.

A question, from someone not at all a military strategist (i.e., me): Did we lose quite a bit by delaying this war for a year, year and a half, thus depriving ourselves of any element of surprise? What has the eternity in which Saddam was able to gear up meant in these days of fighting? Would a quicker, Afghanistan-like strike have delivered even more “shock and awe,” thus felling the Iraqi regime sooner, and sparing lives, both allied and Iraqi?

Believe me, I understand all the complications. But this is an interesting question (though perhaps for after, huh?).

I learned something remarkable from a recent Laura Ingraham column: that Al Gore, visiting the Dominican Republic, said, “In your presidential election here, does the candidate who gets the most votes win the election?”

Now, I understand this is a nice quip, and I feel sorry for Al Gore (sort of). Losing a presidential election in the Electoral College is a pisser. But doesn’t the former House rep, former senator, and former vice president believe in the U.S. constitutional system? Doesn’t he?

A reader sent me a link that was nauseating. It is here. Where does it lead you? To Sotheby’s, the auction house, which is selling off items from Chairman Mao. The show is called “The Mao Sale: Chinese Propaganda Art and the Cultural Revolution.” The storied house is peddling editions of The Little Red Book, “anti-imperialist” posters, and so on.

One of the things I like, in the Sotheby’s literature, is this: “Mao’s image was later sanitized somewhat by Andy Warhol, who turned the communist leader into an icon of Twentieth-Century Art.”

I’ll say!

Anyway, I wonder whether Sotheby’s would blithely stage a Nazi-kitsch sale. Mao may be said to have outdone Hitler in the genocide sweepstakes, killing something like 60 million. (Of course, he had more bodies to work with.) Longtime readers probably know that my friend Youquin Wang maintains a Cultural Revolution memorial, found here.

The Cultural Revolution is not art, or memorabilia, or an auction. It is one of the cruelest, most awesome acts of man’s evil toward man in history.

It’s been several columns since I mentioned the Ann Arbor News, hasn’t it? Ah, my good-old hometown paper, Pravda West, as it was sometimes known.

The other day, it had an article on Arianna Huffington, the former conservative who gave a Michael Moore-ish talk at the University of Michigan. But forget Arianna, here’s the beauty part of the News’s article: “. . . the conservative magazine The Nation had an in-house brawl over her authenticity . . .”

This is just a mistake, of course. The Nation is a leftist magazine, still admiring of Alger Hiss and all his like. But leave it to my hometown rag!

I shudder to think, however, that The Nation is a conservative publication, in the worldview of the Ann Arbor News!

Speaking of newspapers: The New York Times had an obit of Rem Krassilnikov (found here). Who was he? According to the Times’s headline, he was the “Russian bane of [the] C.I.A.”

This brings up a pet peeve — and pet point — of mine. Krassilnikov was a KGB big, responsible for some of their worst deeds. He was a “bane of the CIA,” sure: but he was also a bane of the United States, of the West, of freedom, of the Russian people, and of all those imprisoned in Moscow’s orbit. He was, in short, a bane of the whole world, just as the USSR itself was.

The KGB-CIA battle, over the decades, wasn’t some light game, between Team Red and Team Blue. It was, as John Kennedy put it, a great, twilight struggle, and thank heavens for its outcome.

(Incidentally, as the Times informs us, “Rem” was the acronym of the Russian phrase meaning “world revolution.” He married a woman named Ninel, Lenin spelled backwards.)

More about Times obits? As I pointed out in my recent review of Mona Charen’s invaluable book Useful Idiots — about the American Left in the Cold War — the Times is very queer about obits of Communists. The paper often describes those clear, unapologetic Reds as “progressives,” “radicals,” “civil-rights activists,” etc. — liberals-in-a-hurry, you know.

Over at, Ronald Radosh has a wonderful, stirring column on the Times’s obit of Herbert Aptheker, the old CP operator. The obit was written by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, who, I must tell you, is one of the best men the Times has. Perhaps he was under the editors’ discipline?

One delicious fact is that Ron was a student of Aptheker, way back, at a Communist school in New York.

Speaking of the Times’s editors’ discipline: Have you read Boris Johnson’s amazing, delectable article — in The (London) Spectator — on his experience of submitting an op-ed column to the Times? I intended to quote from it at length here, but I’m trying to keep this Impromptus short(er). Have a look. If there has been a more enjoyable article written in the recent period, I haven’t seen it.

The White House is circulating statements of support (for the allied effort in Iraq) — as well it should.

May I offer you some of my favorites? Steady readers know I have had a love affair recently with Albania, that plucky, freedom-loving country that emerged a decade ago from 50 years of the blackest darkness imaginable. Here is what the Albanian prime minister said on March 20:

“We give unreserved support to the efforts by the United States, and we are proud to be alongside our allies in the fight for the liberation of the Iraqi people. . . . [Albania] is also proud to unconditionally offer our airspace, land, and ports to the United States and other countries taking part in the coalition against Iraq.”

Here is President Uribe of Colombia, holder of one of the toughest jobs on the planet:

“We are part of the coalition, along with countries such as the U.S., Spain, England. . . . Many of these peoples, like Colombians, have withstood terrorism, and, like us, they know that this scourge — terrorism — must be made to end so that we can live peacefully. . . . Fellow Colombians: To request solidarity, we have to express solidarity.”

How about plucky little Denmark, building on its reputation from World War II? Its prime minister said on March 21,

“If on every occasion we allow a ruthless dictator to go free, because we do not like war, we risk paying a very high price. . . . That is why we must move into action. We cannot simply stand by and watch as a ruthless dictator seriously and persistently violates U.N. decisions.”

And finally, I want to show you something moving from Rwanda. First, however, let me say that a liberal columnist recently mocked the support of Rwanda. I can’t remember who it was, however, and I can’t find it on the Internet at the moment.

Anyway, here is President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, on March 8 (before the beginning of the war, obviously). Consider the source, as we say:

“They should act when they are right to act because the Security Council can be wrong. It was wrong in Rwanda. . . . You might avoid war and have a worse situation. . . . That is why I was giving a comparison with our case. People avoided a war or doing very much and it ended up with a genocide.”

Time magazine referred to The Weekly Standard as “the Koran of neo-conservative thought.”

A couple of thoughts (of my own): First, the Standard is not neoconservative, in any meaningful sense. It is conservative. It is Reaganite. Besides which, Norman Podhoretz — one of the founders of neoconservatism — pronounced a “requiem” (his word) on neoconservatism years ago, saying that it was time to discard the prefix. And he was right, of course.

Second, how about that “Koran,” huh?! Was that a sneaking anti-Muslim remark? Or has the Koran taken the place of the Bible: “the bible of fishing”; “the koran of fishing”? And are we allowed to lower-case “Koran” in that instance, as we do (or should) for “Bible”?

A puzzle.

Folks, I was going to get into the Oscars today, but I should go. Let’s end with a couple of letters. First, we should perhaps start a Quagmire Watch (or has someone done that?). I’m told that the Chicago Tribune had the word on its front page yesterday. Another reader said “Diane Sawyer used [the word] on Good Morning America this morning [Tuesday].” Someone else says, “My totally unofficial prize for the first recorded use of ‘quagmire’ goes to Forrest Sawyer, on MSNBC [Monday] night, after five whole days of battle.”

Another reader writes, “Did you notice how often the BBC referred to the Iraqis’ ‘interviewing’ the American POWs? Wouldn’t the far more obvious word be ‘interrogate’ (not to mention bloodier things)?”

One more: “I, too, have wondered how the antiwar protesters could show so little regard for the Iraqi people. I was forwarded an enlightening e-mail by a leftist friend. I believe it came from an e-mail list at Brown.

“I realized two things: 1) They don’t think things are really as bad as reported, and 2) they value things like [purported] universal education and health care above freedom. Perhaps this helps to explain the long-running support of Cuba by the same sort of people!”

No, let this be the last: “Jay, today I filled my truck up at a gas station in a town I am sure you know, Saline, Mich. [Do I ever — love it.] The gentleman behind the counter who always takes my money with a smile and a ‘Thank you, my friend’ asked me what I thought about the war. I was a little unsure how to answer because this gentleman was of obvious Arab descent. I chose the truth. I told him I totally supported it for a number of reasons. WMD, terrorists, but mostly to liberate Iraq from that evil man. As it turned out, this gentleman was a Kurd. He told me of seeing firsthand family and friends being dragged from their homes and shot. Talk about pulling your heart strings. I have heard these stories numerous times on TV, but never directly. It makes you wonder what world these Hollywood people live in.”

Thanks, all.


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