Politics & Policy

Impromptus

The way it ought to be, the glory of Albania, the abuse of "civil rights," &c.

Last week, many people asked, How could the mainstream press, and punditry, have gotten the Sami al-Arian case so wrong? How could they have been so far off-base?

Remember, al-Arian was the Florida professor accused of being a terrorist ringleader. (I sort of like the similarity of his name to “Aryan.”) He was finally arrested last week; the indictment against him is devastating (not only of al-Arian, but of his defenders and apologists). Many in the press — most notably New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof — had rallied around al-Arian, claiming that he was being harassed because he was an Arab, because he assailed Israel, and because a scared America needed scapegoats. They said that his was a case of academic freedom — under attack.

Let me attempt an explanation: Liberals want certain things to be true, and even if they aren’t true, they ought to be true, because, in a way, they’re truer than true. They represent some higher truth. So much of liberal thought and liberal commentary is a morality play. Joseph McCarthy is always knocking on the doors of the innocent, and blacks are always one step away from Bull Connor’s fire hoses.

No, Tawana Brawley wasn’t raped and tortured by the white power structure, but it ought to have been true. No, there were no racist burnings of black churches, but it ought to have been true. No, there were no such burnings when Clinton was a child, but there should have been, and he’s entitled to his “memories.” No, Prof. al-Arian wasn’t the victim of a Security State and a Jewish lynch mob, but he should have been — it makes so many people feel so much better.

Anyway, that’s my attempt. Dr. Nordlinger is now out.

Say, now that al-Arian has been found out and picked up, can we take a closer look at . . . ? Nah: I’ll let you fill in your own favorite, terror-supportin’ professor.

In my last Impromptus, I wrote of certain liberals’ denigration of Albania, and how, especially given my experience there, I was particularly pleased that the Bush administration had the support of that nation. Several people wrote to remind me that Albania is a majority-Muslim state — which should make their support all the sweeter.

One reader wrote, hilariously, “Does our media establishment belittle this small nation because they aren’t proper Muslims? Are Albanians a nation of Islamic Miguel Estradas?”

Check out this letter from an Albanian-American, typically moving:

“I wanted to say a couple of words about Mark Shields’s comments. For many, many years, I was shocked and surprised that in every election in Italy, the Communist party got 30-35 percent of the votes. That the French Communist party got 20 percent or more. Same in Spain and Portugal. In Greece, there were and still are two Communist parties, with 10 percent of the vote each.

“I was wondering why these people voted for Communism. We were a country of 3 million inhabitants with 30,000 political prisoners, 100,000 in reeducation camps and forced labor, and 10,000 executed. Churches and mosques were destroyed in the cultural revolution of 1968, and listening to rock ’n’ roll was punishable by jail. A family of four was entitled in a month to two pounds of beef, 24 eggs, half a pound of butter, 100 grams of coffee, half a liter of oil, and a pound of feta cheese. If police heard you complain about conditions, you got seven years in jail. In the meantime, millions of Western Europeans voted for Communism, over and over again.

“Four years ago, I bought a house and since then have been flying two flags at the entrance, an American flag and an Albanian flag. Both of them had been flying in my heart for many years, even in middle of a Communist dictatorship. (The Albanian flag, in my heart, was without the Communist star on top.)

“So, 3 million Albanians should mean something to Mark Shields. But, of course, they do not.

“P.S. Six months ago, I went to see a Rolling Stones concert with my brother. A dream came true, and my brother and I left the concert crying. It reminded us that not too long ago, listening to them was punishable by jail. When are people going to know about Communism? When?”

Here in New York, Mayor Bloomberg has opted not to sign on with those who are supporting the University of Michigan in its fight for racial preferences. One of his Democratic opponents said, “The mayor is having problems protecting civil rights because of his alliance with the Bush administration and the Pataki administration.”

Did you catch that? “Civil rights”? This is, of course, the age-old liberal and Democratic tactic. Anything you like, call a “civil right.” Because civil rights are good, you see, and opposition to them is iniquitous. Actually, the civil-rights side is the anti-Michigan, pro-equal opportunity side. But this is not the way it usually works in today’s America, when all the “civil rights” rhetoric is on the left.

(This is why it’s important and wonderful, in my view, that Ward Connerly calls his group the “American Civil Rights Institute.” I take every opportunity to refer to Connerly as a “civil-rights leader.”)

Also, I saw a sign that said, “Save Brown v. Board of Education! Defend Affirmative Action & Integration!”

Notice the brazen linkage of the Brown decision to today’s reverse race discrimination. To be on the left is always to be on the side of the angels, and liberals will always wrap themselves in Brown and other cozy things, even if their ideology and actions are inimical to those things. Brown, of course, had to do with equality of opportunity and colorblindness; the Bollingerized University of Michigan is dedicated to bald racialism.

But the language persists in the mouth of the Left. Whatever you do, it will always be for the sake of Brown; and whatever your opponent does will always be for the sake of Plessy (or worse). This is why Jesse Jackson invokes “Selma” in every other breath — he means it as a perfume to whatever foul thing he happens to be doing at the moment.

Why oh why do they keep doing it? Why do Democrats, and others, keep referring to President Bush’s “unilateral war on Iraq”? And why do the media let them get away with it?

At a recent Democratic conclave, candidate Howard Dean said, “What I want to know is, why is the Democratic Party leadership supporting the president’s unilateral war on Iraq?” Never mind that sly “war on Iraq,” when it’s a war to topple Saddam Hussein and free the people of Iraq. Dean knows that the United States has allies. It has Britain, for one, and Italy and Spain, and a slew of other European countries (over 20 in all), and Australia, and Turkey, Qatar, and so on. He may oppose the war; he may think it’s the most stupid and immoral thing to come down the pike in years. Fine. He’s free to say so. But he is not entitled to say that this war will be “unilateral.”

Does he mean, by unilateral, “not unanimous”? Does he mean that there are governments in the world that do not support the United States?

If he thinks the U.S. should be forbidden to go to war unless the entire world agrees to it (except for the prospectively warred-on party, presumably), he should just say so, outright. Otherwise, to claim that the U.S. is acting “unilaterally” is a clear falsehood. (Not that there would be anything wrong with that, by the way — acting unilaterally, in the American interest.)

For a fascinating New York Post story on “human shields” in the last Gulf war, please go here. And for a stirring and slightly outrageous story on the predicament of American widows who lost their husbands in the Afghan war, go here. Apparently, Americans who lost their loved ones as those loved ones were fighting in Afghanistan have received peanuts, while Americans who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks have received lots. The widows ask, “What’s the difference?”

Dick Gephardt has proclaimed, “I will give you a hydrogen car, and we will in ten years be energy-independent.” Aren’t you tickled? And should office-seekers in a republic really say things like, ‘I will give you a hydrogen car”? I mean, isn’t that what, well . . . not what democrats or republicans say?

According to this New York Post story, John Ashcroft is cracking down on white-collar criminals who are living the (relatively) good life at “Club Feds” — not that the AG will ever get any credit for it, from Club Fed-hating liberals.

I was reading an obit of Orville Freeman, the Minnesota politician who was ag secretary in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Amid all the facts of his life, the following appeared, almost casually, matter-of-factly: “[Hubert] Humphrey was then mayor of Minneapolis, and in 1945 he named Mr. Freeman a special assistant for veterans’ affairs. Mr. Freeman had just been discharged from the Marine Corps after many months of rehabilitation for a jaw wound inflicted by a Japanese sniper bullet.”

Ho-hum — almost bought it as a young man in the world war; was probably a matter of an inch or two. And this was true of thousands and thousands of Americans and others — not to mention those who actually did die.

It just brought me up short. And reminded me how lucky those in, for example, my generation have been. We’re so fat and happy. (I’ve got the fat part covered, if not always the happy.)

Every now and then — what with a worldwide war on and all — one is tempted to forget how awful — how mindbendingly, gutwrenchingly awful — trial lawyers can be. If you have forgotten — and if you have, pardon me for intruding — you may wish to read a recent Stuart Taylor column in National Journal. That’ll teach you.

On the streets of New York today, I saw a car with a sign on top of it: “Grand Prix Driving School.” Er, is that really a name one should desire for a humble little driving school? Grand Prix? Isn’t that on the order of calling a gun-safety course “Rampagin’ with Rambo”?

Many, many readers commented on my mention of this only-those-with-military-experience-should-decide-or-even-express-an-opinion-on-war business.

One man said, “If nothing else, you could remind Maureen Dowd and others that neither Thomas Jefferson nor FDR had any combat experience. Lincoln’s consisted of a few weeks of frontier militia wanderings without hearing a shot fired in anger or apathy. Me? I’m heading for Kuwait next week, for my third war. Do you have Ms. Dowd’s number so I can tell her that it’s okay?”

I adore that.

Here’s another:

“Someone should make a list of those war presidents who served as soldiers in the active military. They should start with the Civil War. Lincoln had no real war experience except the Black Hawk War which he himself parodied. On the other side was a former combat veteran of the Mexican War who also had served as secretary of war — Davis. Which of them was the better war leader?

“Neither Franklin Roosevelt nor Woodrow Wilson served; they were commander-in-chief during two victorious world wars. But Jimmy Carter, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon did serve, and presided over the debacles in Iran and Vietnam. . . .

“Of course, Dowd et al. wish to characterize our current leaders as old men who send young ones to die without ever having felt the horror of war. Again, one should consider the character of all our great presidents who sent young men to die in a just cause. Starting with Lincoln, they did understand the cost of war, and history marks their courage and their constant care for ‘him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.’”

Last on this subject, a reader writes, “[The sportswriter] Joe Falls says that he used to be berated by athletes who told him he’d never played the game. His response: ‘I’ve never been dead, but I’ve written a lot of obituaries.’”

That’s not logical, but it’s fun.

I have a bundle of highly stirring letters from Americans living abroad — especially in Europe — but I’ll save them for another time. Let me close with something brilliant. Said a reader,

“One of the rallying cries of the anti-Americans in Europe and here in America is ‘No blood for oil.’ The French motto, however, is pretty similar. They are averse to war given their large oil contracts with Iraq; in their case, it’s ‘No blood, for oil.’”

P.S. I know that many of you — most of you — are having trouble getting my column by e-mail, as NRO has promised. All I can tell you is: We’re working on it, and thanks for your enthusiasm and patience.

Later, ’gators.

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