Sitting by, &c.


Noticed what Condi Rice said about Darfur the other day: “We’re not going to sit by and allow this kind of death and destruction to continue. We’ll use whatever tools are necessary, through the U.N, to be able to stop that.”

All right: But if the tools of the U.N. are insufficient (and, boy, will they ever be) — then what?

Nothing, right?

Donald Rumsfeld received a rare and prized endorsement on Wednesday when Jimmy Carter said, “I think he’s one of the worst secretaries of defense we’ve ever had.” That must be a relief to Rumsfeld. For, as they say, “consider the source.”

And for my recent interview with Rumsfeld — on a variety of topics, including, of course, the most pressing ones — please go here.

I wonder if you saw a highly interesting story out of Arizona. I quote the AP: “The Republican candidate for governor says the state’s recently dedicated 9/11 memorial should be torn down, calling it an insult to America because of wording that he says criticizes the United States . . .”

The Democratic governor responded with the weaselly “I’m just sorry that they’re trying to politicize 9/11. That’s just wrong.”

Yeah, yeah, of course. Let’s just not talk about anything, ever, if it makes any Democrat uncomfortable.

Anyway, read the whole story — or at least the AP’s report — here. I haven’t seen the memorial, but, from what I know, I’m with the Republican. (That’s a major surprise to you, I know.)

And do you remember when Tom Wolfe called the Vietnam Memorial a “tribute to Jane Fonda”? I still believe he was right.

In Virginia, the “N-word” has become a major campaign issue. That is really painful – maybe not unnecessary, but painful. What matters most, of course, is a candidate’s – a person’s – disposition now. The only people who ever use liberal hero Robert Byrd’s KKK past against him are snotty right-wingers. (Ahem.)


You know what would be kind of cool? If a politician, somewhere, said, “The N-word is the ugliest word in the English language. I wish it would disappear. I hate it so much, I don’t even like it when black people use it.”


That could cause a few heart attacks.


You recall that one of Dick Gregory’s books was called Up from N***** (but without the asterisks). (The word is so disgusting, I have trouble writing it out.) That was a powerful, arresting title, I must admit. And his autobiography was called just plain N*****.

I’d like to quote from a column by Michael Gove, the British journalist and MP. The context isn’t terribly important, for I have one, simple point to make. (Actually, it’s more like a story to tell.)

Wrote Gove, 

In my discussion I referred to [another columnist’s] arguments, although without attributing them to him, as evidence of what greater devolution could mean. I was underlining the truth that decentralisation would inevitably lead to greater diversity and that, by definition, would throw up results which were uncongenial to some. But the essence of democracy is the acceptance that you can’t always have it all your own way. And the test of your commitment to pluralism is accepting the right of others to differ.

Gove reminded me of an experience I had in Davos. I was speaking to an audience on the subject of “the Religious Right” — the three scariest words ever, for some — and someone raised a question about ID (meaning, intelligent design). In the course of my answer, I made a broad point about education. I said that — at least for America — I believed in local control, and, you know: You win some, you lose some.

I also said, “In a democracy, sometimes people have the right to be wrong.”

And I thought that certain members of the audience would faint. You should have seen the looks I got, and the groans I heard. The anti-democratic spirit is very, very strong in some — probably unbudgeable.

I wish to quote the great Victor Davis Hanson: “[T]his is an age in which we in the West make smug snuff movies about killing an American President, while the Taliban and the Islamists boast of assassinating the Pope.”


I wish to quote the great Tony Blair:

[The War on Terror] is a struggle that will last a generation and more. But this I believe passionately: We will not win until we shake ourselves free of the wretched capitulation to the propaganda of the enemy, that somehow we are the ones responsible.

This terrorism isn’t our fault. We didn’t cause it. It’s not the consequence of foreign policy. It’s an attack on our way of life. It’s global. It has an ideology. It killed nearly 3,000 people, including over 60 British, on the streets of New York before war in Afghanistan or Iraq was even thought of.

It has been decades growing. Its victims are in Egypt, Algeria, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Turkey — over 30 nations in the world. It preys on every conflict. It exploits every grievance. And its victims are mainly Muslim.

This is not our war against Islam.

Gracious, I’ll miss him. The Tory seems more disappointing every time he opens his mouth.

Did you catch President Karzai of Afghanistan at the press conference on Tuesday?

[T]errorism was hurting us way before Iraq or September 11th. . . . These extremist forces were killing people in Afghanistan and around for years: closing schools, burning mosques, killing children, uprooting vineyards, . . . forcing populations to poverty and misery.

They came to America on September 11th, but they were attacking you before September 11th in other parts of the world. We are a witness in Afghanistan to what they are and how they can hurt. You are a witness in New York. Do you forget people jumping off the 80th floor or 70th floor when the planes hit them? Can you imagine what it will be for a man or a woman to jump off that high? Who did that? And where are they now? And how do we fight them, how do we get rid of them, other than going after them? Should we wait for them to come and kill us again? That’s why we need more action around the world, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, to get them defeated . . .

Let CBS News (just to pick a symbol) choke on that.

Okay, let’s make a quick switch to the David Letterman show — yes, the David Letterman show. I was reading one of his Top Ten lists the other day. The heading was, “Top Ten Questions to Ask Yourself Before Ordering the Burger King Quad Stacker.”

Mmmm, Quad Stacker.

Anyway, #7 was, “Could this have anything to do with why the rest of the world hates us?”

I thought I was back home in Ann Arbor. That’s the kind of thing one perpetually heard there.

Oh, I realize Letterman is a comedy show, but I thought #7 was a perfect expression of the wrongheadedness that afflicts so many elites. The world doesn’t hate us. Certain elements do — and always have, and always will. I love quoting V. S. Naipaul, to the effect that the seething Third World masses are united in one thing: the desire for a green card.

Second, it just kills some people that, when hamburger joints open around the world, people flock there. They vote with their feet, stomach, and money.

Let me be Joe Libertarian for a second: If you don’t like Burger King or McDonald’s, don’t go there. And if you don’t want to order a Quad Stacker — don’t order one.

The older you get, the more you realize how rare and precious a democratic spirit is — a great many have dictatorship in their hearts.

You know what I’m saying?

Let’s have a little music criticism, published in the New York Sun. For a review of Ponchielli’s La Gioconda at the Metropolitan Opera, go here. And, yes, there is more than “Hello, Mudda, Hello, Fadda” (“The Dance of the Hours”) in the score.

In response to my write-up about Rumsfeld, a reader contributes the following, highly interesting letter:

Dear Mr. Nordlinger,

Permit me to add something to Secretary Rumsfeld’s observations on the different results in North and South Korea. (Living in South Korea for a year was one of the things that cured me of my youthful leftism.)

The Korean people may be the most ethnically homogeneous people on earth. About 60 percent have one of only three surnames: Lee, Kim, and Park.

North and South Korea h
ad the same history from the dawn of history until 1945.

The Korean peninsula is small, and about 45 percent constitutes the South.

At the time of partition through about 1960, I’d say, the economy of the North was more developed than that of the South. The North had a smaller population, but one that was arguably better educated than the South’s. The North had more industry, too. During the 1950s, the South was absolutely destitute, and survived on food donations from the United States.

Thus, in 1945, an “experiment of nature” was carried out. Take a small, homogeneous country and divide it arbitrarily more or less in half. Then install one kind of government in the north and another kind in the south. Close the curtain. See what happens.

The results speak for themselves, don’t they? Fifty years of Communism produced famine, or near famine. Fifty years of an increasingly free-market system produced prosperity and wider political freedom.

What more does anyone need to know about socialism?

Ah, yes, but “the dream will never die,” unfortunately. And from socialist dreams come real-life nightmares.

Another reader responds to a note I had on Wednesday, dealing with the charge that America is trying to impose democracy at gunpoint. The reader is an American soldier in Iraq:

Dear Mr. Nordlinger,

With the uproar over the National Intelligence Estimate, far too many people believe it is our presence in Iraq that promotes chaos and violence in Iraq. But, as you said, it is not we who are inhibiting progress in Iraq.

I find myself frequently thinking about what would happen if our “enemy” — I prefer “those bastards” — were miraculously to have a change of heart and lay down their arms. I suspect there are some in this world — I hope very few — who believe that it would open the gates for the U.S. military to start pursuing the spoils of war: raping, pillaging, burning, etc. But I suspect that, if they are honest, even opponents of the war understand that America’s intent for Iraq is not malicious — far from it.

Playing my mind game, I can’t help but wonder, “Don’t these bastards know how good it could be if they’d just stop?” The impact would be immediate. American fighting-men are generous souls, and if we were able to move about the mean streets of Iraq without worrying about IEDs, snipers, and suicide bombers, I can easily imagine the schools constructed, the infrastructure rebuilt, the police enforcing the law (not warring with the lawless). And, call me a sap, but there’s also the whole handing out of candy, toys, and school supplies to smiling kids.

Hell, we’re trying to do these things now, even with the bastards shooting at us and trying to blow us up.

I’ve got to believe that, if people simply accepted that the United States and its allies want good things for Iraq, it would become easier to put a face on those who are truly evil, and to place blame on them for screwing it up for everyone else. Arguments can be made concerning whatever missteps brought us to the current pass. But, from this soldier’s perspective, no one can say we’re in Iraq to bring the Iraqi people harm, for heaven’s sake.

People should pray not only for the safety of our military in Iraq and elsewhere, but for our success as well.

No kidding. See you real soon.