The Medal of Honor, &c.


At that meeting, I was struck by how smart Lay was. And as we were leaving the room, I remarked to a colleague, “You know, I grew up with the belief that businessmen were kind of stupid. Smart people were professors, doctors, lawyers, writers. And if you weren’t up to one of those jobs, you had to be in business. But when I began to know something about the world, of course, I discovered that some of the smartest people around are businessmen. I’m so glad I found that out, not long after my 20th birthday.”

As it transpired, Ken Lay did not act so smartly. And I’m sorry he did not quite have time to redeem himself. But then, it’s never too late.

It seemed to me that launching the space shuttle on the Fourth of July was a little risky. Say there had been a catastrophe — how would that have looked, to the world? Big, bad America, showing its clay feet, on its national holiday. Some people, sadly, would have taken it as a sign of an anti-American Providence.

Anyway, maybe a dumb thought, but . . .

I was quite interested in this article about the Iraq soldier who was awarded the Medal of Honor. His name is — was — Paul R. Smith. Actually, the article is more about the fact that only one Iraq or Afghanistan fighter has been awarded the medal, and why.

Far fewer soldiers are fighting in Iraq than fought in World War II or Vietnam, wars in which hundreds of the medals were awarded. Also, fewer soldiers are involved in the kinds of sustained fire from massive enemy forces that their fathers and grandfathers faced.

Instead, the attacks are often fast and deadly, like the blast of a roadside bomb.

This was not the case with Paul Smith. Anyway, let American children sing his name. Children aside, let me sing it.

So, we’ve put a $5 million bounty on the head of Masri, the successor to Zarqawi as boss of Al Qaeda in Iraq. (By the way, if the U.S. withdrew, as so many Americans wish, where would these Qaeda terrorists go? Would they say, “Okay, game’s up, we win, we’ll leave the Americans alone”? Right.) Anyway, we’ve offered this $5 million bounty. It’s not actually for Masri’s head — it’s for mere information (but information could well lead to that head).

I was reminded of a story. A famous writer said to me, of an even more famous writer, “He doesn’t move for less than 15,000.” We were talking about speeches — or simply public appearances, I forget which.

Will 5 mil be enough to jiggle some info out of an Iraqi or foreign jihadist? I think so. And let’s hope so.

Poland and Romania are in hot water, for — allegedly — allowing jihadists to be detained on their soil. EU “human rights” investigators are breathing down their necks. If they are found “guilty,” for aiding humanity in this way — can the U.S. Congress give them medals or something? We should at least pass resolutions, conveying the thanks of everyone who cares about survival, decency, liberalism, and civilization.

Like most “conservatives” and “hard-liners” — I think of us as realists, basically, but not in the silly Scowcroftian sense — I am not in the habit of praising Nicholas Burns, Condi’s undersecretary. (And why she chose someone who’s a Dante Fascell type, at best, I don’t know.) But I liked what he said about North Korea, and long-range-missile tests. He said, “That would be a profoundly unwise step.”

Hmm. Was it?

Read the lead — pretentious jerks would write “lede” — of this AP article: “Japan said Wednesday it is considering sanctions against North Korea in a U.N. resolution that would condemn the reclusive Communist nation’s missile tests and call for a return to six-party talks on its nuclear program.”

Class, what’s wrong with that sentence? That’s right: There are no Communist nations, only Communist regimes.

I see, also from the AP, that “a group of major music companies are preparing to sue Yahoo China over complaints the popular search engine violates copyrights by linking to Web sites that offer pirated music . . .” Oh, great. Yahoo, Google, and the rest can join with the ChiComs to screw dissidents, religious people, and everyone else, but heaven forbid they mess with entertainment profits!

And how about the lovely government of Switzerland? According to the AP, they “accused Israel of violating international law in its Gaza offensive by inflicting heavy destruction and endangering civilians in acts of collective punishment banned under the Geneva Conventions.”

Forget the veracity of this charge (dubious): Do the exquisitely neutral Swiss ever say anything about the Arabs’ campaigns of destruction against Israel? Are you kidding?

If I were the Swiss, I’d just keep my mouth shut, whatever arose. If you’re going to choose the position they do — at least have the decency not to preach.

Please accept my 1,024th example of Why It’s Utterly Amazing that John R. Bolton is U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Here’s an excerpt from a Q&A with the press the other day:

Reporter: And do you think the U.S. position is balanced by calling the kidnapping of the [Israeli] soldier a terrorist act while refraining from commenting on the [inaudible] civilian deaths [inaudible]?

Ambassador Bolton: There is no moral equivalency to, on the one hand, deliberate attacking of civilians, taking lives, taking hostages, versus the inadvertent and highly unfortunate civilian deaths that occur when a country exercises its right to self-defense. Those are not the same act, they are not motivated for the same reasons, they do not carry the same moral weight.

Enjoy it while you can, folks. We’ll be back to “evenhandedness” — illogical, immoral, insupportable — before long.

In a column the other day, Ann Coulter made an absolutely terrific point — I wish I had thought of it. She said, “When is the New York Times going to get around to uncovering an al-Qaeda secret program?” That is not only “provocative,” but penetrating. Is the Times devoting any of its (vast) investigative resources to uncovering the machinations of al Qaeda, as they go about attempting to kill us? Or is the paper entirely focused on the “real enemy”: George W. Bush?

I wanted to be sure that you saw this item, because good news from the Middle East is at a premium. The headline: “Women Vote in Kuwait for the First Time.”

KUWAIT CITY (AP) — Women in this conservative oil-rich emirate voted in parliamentary elections for the first time Thursday, a vote that also inspired surprisingly vocal calls for reform and criticism of the ruling family. . . .

Women, who won the right to vote and run for office last year, went to separate polling stations from men, choosing among 252 candidates competing for 50 parliamentary seats. Twenty-eight candidates were women. “Before, Election Day did not mean anything to us,” said Gizlan Dashti, 22, a university student wearing jeans and a red headscarf. “Now, women have a say.”

Have a gander at this news item, if you will, out of La Paz:

The fractious outcome of a vote on autonomy for Bolivia’s states and the government’s apparent failure to win enough backing to rewrite the constitution could dampen the leftist agenda of President Evo Morales.

Voters in Bolivia cast ballots on both issues Sunday. The wealthier eastern half overwhelmingly endorsed autonomy while those in the poorer and heavily indigenous western highlands, Morales’s power base, vigorously rejected it.

The results make it likely that Morales will face stiffer opposition as he seeks to improve the lot of Bolivia’s Indian majority by more evenly distributing wealth and exerting greater state control over the economy.

And that’s the immense sadness of it: because by redistributing wealth and centralizing the economy, he will mire and impoverish, where he means to energize and make prosperous. Hasn’t history taught that lesson often enough? I guess not.

While we’re on the Bolivian beat, a reader thought this story, from the EFE — the Hispanic news service — would interest me. He was right.

The article begins, “A small bomb partially destroyed a bronze bust of iconic guerrilla Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara on the ground floor of a labor federation in the west-central Bolivian city of Oruro.” This attack occurred “two weeks after President Evo Morales joined with the late rebel’s son to commemorate his birthday in the village where he was summarily executed by Bolivian forces in 1967.”

Farther down in the article, we read, “Earlier this month, Camilo Guevara March, son of Ernesto, visited the Bolivian hamlet where his father was killed to take part in celebrations of what would have been the legendary insurgent’s 78th birthday.”

And the article ends, “Che Guevara has long been a hero for Morales, the Socialist who this year became Bolivia’s first Indian head of state.”

Do you know what I like best about this article? Its reference to Guevara as an “insurgent” — for he has much in common with that murderous, anti-democratic crew in Iraq.

I’ve got lots more, friends, but I imagine you’ve had enough — with work to do, and perhaps left-over firecrackers to set off. Oh, I wanted to share with you this note from my colleague Mike Potemra (the literary editor with the mostest):

“I just got a huge anthology of ‘Dissent in America,’ which includes predictable figures like Tom Paine and Eugene V. Debs — but also Ted Kaczynski [the Unabomber]! It’s like a right-wing parody of lefties, in this sense: It would be like our putting out an anthology of conservative thought that included an excerpt from David Duke or George Lincoln Rockwell.”

And that would be very, very bad.

Oh, I also wanted to share with you my piece from the June New Criterion: Here it is, a season-in-review, which is to say, a review — a sort of highlights reel — of the 2005-06 music season in New York.

Anything else? That’ll do it for now — stay cool, if in smothering humidity, and even if not.


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