A particular barbarism, &c.


There was a time when I did a lot of reading about Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. Knew a fair amount about it. And one of the things that most jolted me was the cutting out of tongues for dissent. I could just see it, almost feel it. Do you know what I mean?

It came back to me when reading an article by Raymond Ibrahim, here. As Ibrahim tells us, a professor at Al-Azhar University (the Muslim Oxford) has gone on television to call for the cutting out of tongues:

I have sworn to Allah, that any dog — for that is how Allah described them, for they are like dogs that are constantly panting — that any dog who mocks the Sharia, or mocks Islam, or blames it, we will cut out his tongue. I say this without hesitation: We will cut out his tongue! That’s it. The time of transgressing against Islam, and speaking insolence, has passed — it is over.

And so on. Ibrahim proceeds to give examples of the cutting out of tongues — in Yemen, in Bahrain, and in Australia. Yes, Australia.

This makes for very grim reading. But I remind myself that, now and then, we should face up to it.

I kind of smiled at this — found at Tom Gross’s website: “An Israeli court this week awarded the country’s first divorce to a gay couple, which experts called an ironic milestone since same-sex marriages cannot be legally conducted in Israel. (The couple had been married in Canada.)”

Nothing says “just like the straights” like divorce!

A Republican friend was complaining to me about Paul Ryan. His complaint was this: At the same time Ryan was running for vice president, he was on the ballot for Congress. He had a fallback position: If the Romney-Ryan ticket lost, the vice-presidential nominee would go back to the House. His life would continue as before. Therefore, he wasn’t “all in.” He wasn’t 100 percent committed to the battle for the White House. That, said my friend, was bad — bad and demoralizing.

I think he has a point.

I winced on reading this story: “The House has voted to name a federal building after Thomas P. ‘Tip’ O’Neill, the Massachusetts Democrat who served as Speaker from 1977 to 1987.” I know how we’re supposed to remember O’Neill now: Cuddly Irishman, liked his liquor, told great yarns, buddied with Reagan to get things done.

I’m sorry, but I can’t get with today’s program: I remember O’Neill, very well. He said the most vile things about Republicans, slandering them as people who hated the poor, and who would blow up the world, if given half a chance. He stood in the way — or tried to stand in the way — of everything that contributed to America’s economic recovery and our victory in the Cold War. He thought far better of the Sandinistas than he did of his fellow Americans who were trying to oppose the Sandinistas.

I know that all this is supposed to fade away, and I know I’m unsporting. My problem is, I was there.

The spirit is supposed to be, “Gee, they get some, we get some. We get to have the airport named after the Gipper. They get to have a federal building named after Tip — and a federal building isn’t much. Come on, this is America! This is democracy!”

Again, I’m sorry: Being right or wrong, about extremely important things, ought to count for something.

Listen to this: “A senior commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard claimed Friday that Western sanctions are helpful because they promote Iranian self-sufficiency and insisted the country’s leaders should welcome the measures.” (Article here.)

I couldn’t help smiling, just a little: For years, I’ve heard, from certain quarters, “The U.S. ought to cut off aid to Israel. It’d be good for them.”

I understand, but I doubt it. Of challenges, of tests, Israel has no shortage.

As you may have heard, almost 100 members of the Ladies in White were arrested and beaten on Sunday. The Ladies are a Cuban democracy and human-rights group. For a story on the latest, go here.

I wish to name some of the women arrested and beaten. I will name, arbitrarily, three from the first half of the alphabet, three from the second. Marlene Abreu, Lisandra Farray, Tatiana López. Bárbara Pausa, Berta Soler, Olga Torres.

You want to know something cute? The dictatorship accused the Ladies of not respecting the “grief of the Cuban people” over the ill health of Comrade Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan strongman.

I’ve been noticing headlines you wouldn’t necessarily have seen before November 6, our Election Day. “Obama tax plan no small deal to small businessmen” (article here). “Surprise: New insurance fee in health overhaul law” (here). Yeah, “Surprise”! Then you got this: “With election over, less attention to jobs report” (here).

Anyway . . .

Here’s a funny headline: “Mugabe’s party plans for resounding poll victory.” I bet they do.

During the campaign, Mitt Romney often quoted Pentagon chief Leon Panetta on the prospect of “automatic” defense cuts: “devastating.” Oddly, Barack Obama did not quote his own defense secretary as much as Romney did. In this article, we see what a Pentagon spokesman, George Little, has said about these looming cuts: “devastating to our national defense.”

A question — a rude one, but a sincere one: Does the president care?

At National Review two days ago, we had two visitors from Congress — two Californians, with adjoining districts: Kevin McCarthy and Buck McKeon. Their visits were separate, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. It was just California Republican Day, I guess.

McCarthy is the majority whip; McKeon is the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. He makes an important point about the defense budget: The national defense is a big part of what the federal government is for. It’s in the Constitution. Food stamps, Pell Grants, other things — worthy as they may be, they’re not in the Constitution.