Iranian students are massing in the streets, and we should wish them lots of luck. But should we do more than wish them luck? In the mid 1950s, the Eisenhower administration was accused of encouraging the Hungarian revolutionaries and then leaving them to the slaughter. The charge was untrue, but it was heavy.
I raised this issue with Condoleezza Rice, in an interview last summer. (You may find that session here.) I said, “I wonder whether the demonstrators on the [Iranian] street are to be encouraged. One thinks of Hungary in 1956, China in 1989 . . .” The national security adviser answered, “I think you always have to speak up for your principles, and you always have to let people who are living in tyranny or oppressed know that there’s somebody who is concerned about them. And the president did issue a statement a couple of days ago. And I think such statements strike an important balance. I mean, you don’t want to promise things that you can’t do, but you have to speak up for freedom. You can’t just ignore it.”
Hear, hear. That answer mixes both realism and heart, which is typical of Rice (and, I think, of the administration overall).
There is a big Iranian demonstration scheduled for July 9. How will the mullahs respond? With violence? Or more meekly? That day may tell us a lot, and in the meantime: a lot of nervous eyes are on that country (including the Iranians’ own).
It so happens that I have a friend who joined the USIA — the United States Information Agency — in its infancy. Before that, she was a Ph.D. student and then a teacher at Columbia (and Barnard). At lunch the other day, I asked her how she happened to leave academia to begin a Foreign Service career. She said, “I had a lot of foreign students, and I was appalled at how ignorant they were about the United States. I thought they were actually dangerously ignorant. So I thought I had to reach these people earlier — to spread the word about the U.S. and democracy before they reached adulthood. I wanted to do something, to have a part in this. So I leapt at the USIA.”
Not many people are as idealistic, clear-eyed, and just plain good as my friend — but truth about the United States is more important than ever, particularly in the Middle East, as we all know. A glance at MEMRI.org — site of the Middle East Media Research Institute — is enough to tell us that.
On a related subject: It was good to see President Bush answer his war critics two days ago, in New Jersey. He did so fairly forcefully. He’ll have to do more of it. Sure, the American public is with the president on the war, by and large. But the media and his political opponents are so hostile — especially on the issue of whether he “lied us into war” — that he’s going to have to get moving, rhetorically. He’s going to have to speak out and speak out, or else those opponents will make a dent: or maybe more than a dent. The president and his lieutenants are going to have to defend the war and its conduct until the cows come home. Complacency could do them serious harm.
Check out the note that Marc Racicot, outgoing chairman of the Republican National Committee, sent to John Edwards, about embattled, filibustered judicial nominee Miguel Estrada: “Your suggestion that Miguel Estrada’s nomination is based on his surname and not on his record not only distorts the evidence, it reveals a willingness to diminish your obligation to perform a fair review of the record. It is my hope that as an experienced trial lawyer, a United States Senator, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and an aspiring presidential candidate, you will value accuracy and fairness in your deliberations.”
Speaking of something else the Republicans aren’t doing enough of: They should defend Miguel Estrada and point out the injustice of what the Democrats are doing with his nomination. It’s not only the smart thing to do politically, it is, quite simply, right.
(The only thing wrong with Racicot’s little valentine, it seems to me, is that phrase “aspiring presidential candidate.” Edwards is not that; he is already a presidential candidate; he is an aspiring president.)
Not long ago, David Horowitz’s FrontPageMag.com did the service of reprinting a speech Chaim Herzog gave in the 1970s on the floor of the United Nations. It concerns Israel, its “settlers,” etc.
The whole thing bears reading, for its startling relevance — and illumination — but I wish to single out, for now, one paragraph: “It is conveniently forgotten that the Arab states maintain that a state of war exists with Israel. [This is no longer true of Egypt and Jordan — but there are plenty of others.] Nevertheless, when Israel takes steps to ensure its security, they are deplored. [Yes, when Arabs strike, it's merely war — and war is hell; when Israel responds, this is an outrageous, "unhelpful" measure.] As long as its neighbors maintain that a state of war exists, it is the duty of the Israeli government — a duty which is clearly recognized in international law — to do what it sees fit to protect its inhabitants. Israel certainly cannot be expected to pretend that time stands still and to ignore its security requirements while the world waits until this or that Arab leader deigns to open negotiations instead of sending his delegate to the U.N. to engage in name-calling and abuse.”
A stirring and thought-provoking document.
Did you all catch Dick Morris’s extraordinary piece in yesterday’s New York Post, spilling the beans about a New York Times reporter who, in 1996, fed to Morris all the (exceedingly softball) questions he would ask of President Clinton? (Remember that Morris was the president’s chief political adviser at the time.) There is a word for Morris’s revelation: confirmatory. In fact, that word was invented for just this instance.
It’s a good thing that Morris and the Clintons fell out, isn’t it? We have learned a good deal from him — most of it all too confirmatory.
A lot of people are displeased with Secretary Rumsfeld’s hints that maybe NATO should be headquartered somewhere other than Brussels: more saber-rattling, they say, more machismo, more lack of diplomacy. Baloney. This is exactly what the Belgians should hear. Besides which, why should NATO be headquartered in what has become so un-NATO-ish a country? I, for one, would prefer Warsaw.
At issue, primarily, is Belgium’s penchant for attempting to prosecute perfectly civilized people as war criminals. As Ambrose Evans-Pritchard wrote in The Daily Telegraph, Belgian law “has already been used to launch criminal prosecutions against General Tommy Franks, the commander of American forces in Iraq, over the use of cluster bombs, which claimed civilian lives.”
Fear not this move.
Speaking of Belgium, you may have read, and been sickened by, reports of slaughter in Congo. A French-led EU force is supposed to be preventing the murder there. In the Daily Telegraph, Adrian Blomfield wrote of a Congolese — Dieu Donne — who was to be executed along with his family and friends:
“They wanted to shoot us but were afraid they would be heard,” Dieu Donne said. “They said, ‘We are not going to waste our blitz on people without value like you. We are going to kill you with knives.’” The six were then forced to a former Ugandan army trench just outside the camp . . . and ordered to lie head-to-toe.
“There were other bodies in the hole covered with a little soil,” he said. “We saw their feet sticking out.” Dieu Donne was last in line, lying face down in the dirt. “There were ten soldiers. They took their bayonets and stabbed my father in every part of his body,” he said. “Then they moved on to my neighbor, then the two boys, and then my friend.”
As they went down the line, they mocked the prisoners, all members of the Bira tribe, until now not directly involved in Bunia’s bloody war. “They were shouting, ‘Call the French, tell them to set you free,’” he said.
So, “when they got to Dieu Donne, they stabbed him through his chin, throat, hands, chest, and torso, and he lost consciousness. But while the soldiers were away finding clothes to cover the bodies, he came to and managed to crawl into the nearby bushes, then fled.”
Friends, I have no comment to make. I just think, I suppose, that this kind of thing ought to be known.
A cartoon circulated by the Democratic National Committee depicted President Bush as Frankenstein — or “Bush-enstein,” as the DNC said — and this presidential fiend was saying, “I’m creating the perfect Supreme Court justice. A right-wing extremist the likes of which have never been seen before.”
I will repeat a common point, and exhortation, of mine: They’re going to say you’re brutalizing the country with right-wing extremists anyway. You might as well nominate — and fight for — principled, able, brave conservatives. Therefore, elevate Clarence Thomas to chief — and nominate Mike Luttig (of the Fourth Circuit) elsewhere!
Or, as a TV commercial once had it, “Try it — you’ll like it.”
David Corn of The Nation said something typical. He said, “When John Kerry wears a bomber jacket, it’s because he saw real combat and didn’t dodge duty the way that George Bush did.”
This oughtn’t to be worth bothering with, I realize, but just a couple of points. 1) It seems illogical that John Kerry should wear a bomber jacket “because he saw real combat.” 2) The issue of whether George W. Bush did a pansy thing by flying fighter jets in the National Guard has been discussed many times, including in this column, and won’t be rehashed now. I have a stack of mail from various servicemen attesting to the gutsiness of what Bush did back then. (And see how the military feels about him now.) I’d simply like to remark the extraordinary fact that the Left now praises war service, and condemns the likes of George Bush for cowardice (or whatever). It used to be, the Left praised the dodgers, to the sky. They were the real heroes. The soldiers in Vietnam were . . . well, you know what they were (“baby-killers,” etc.).
I guess it takes a Republican president or a Republican vice president to get the Left despising dodging, belittling National Guard service, and lauding combat service. I just wish they’d remember all this even out of season — when the Republicans have less power.
Michael Riedel had a funny and informative article in the New York Post about a production of Annie in Rhode Island that went all dark: “Annie woke up back in the orphanage and realized that her happy life with Daddy Warbucks was only a dream, and that she would never escape poverty, loneliness and despair.” The creator of Annie — Martin Charnin — heard about this and had a little chat with the theater. Said Charnin, “They told me they thought Annie was a classic, like Shakespeare, so they could reinterpret it. I told them there’s one difference: Shakespeare’s dead, I’m not.”
Oh, I have oodles more, but you’ve read a lot, and we’ve got to go. Let’s do a little mail.
I received many corrective letters regarding an item I had yesterday: When Barbara Walters asked Hillary Clinton what would happen if Bill cheated on her again, the former First Lady, now senator, responded, “You know, that will be between us.” I commented: “Will? Not would? Boy, that was an amazing tense.”
Readers rushed to inform me that I should have said “mood,” not “tense.” Perhaps I wasn’t in the mood?
Again yesterday, I happened to mention the actress Kirsten Dunst, who is . . . not ugly, put it that way. A reader wrote, “Kirsten Dunst is not the reason to watch Bring It On [a cheerleading movie — really]; Eliza Dushku is the main attraction. I’ll take Eliza’s bad attitude any day over the surgically enhanced perkiness of Dunst.”
This same reader — a brilliant man — made a point on a quite different subject: “Ever notice that the same multi-culti libs who constantly inform us that jihad means ‘inward spiritual struggle’ to your average Yusef are the same people who have no qualms about using jihad to describe any conservative cause? They’re not using jihad in the ‘inward spiritual struggle’ sense, they’re using it in the holy-war-conversion-by-the-sword sense.”
Wish I had thought of that.
Finally, I got several letters concerning my mention of Ft. Lauderdale yesterday. I had said — never mind the context, please — “Wild life, at the moment, could only refer to — say, Ft. Lauderdale at Spring Break time.”
One letter came in with the Subject heading “Um, hey old guy.” It went on to say, “Um, Ft. Lauderdale hasn’t been a hot spring-break spot since the late ’80s. City officials there changed the rules on loitering, cruisin’, etc. Now the hot Florida spots are Daytona Beach and Panama City (along the Redneck Riviera). Get with it, man!”
Last, thanks for your contributions to NRO and your subscriptions to NR. It means so much.
And thanks for reading.