Politics & Policy


How Mod! Is San Francisco in America? Arab undies. And more

Folks, this is so perfect, you may think I’ve made it up. But no: It’s from an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. Honest, you could look it up.

A piece by John Harwood begins, “‘I didn’t support the president on Iraq,’ says former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, ‘and I’m not ashamed of it.’

”With that, applause breaks out inside an upscale Manhattan bar called Mod. For the 100 or so young professionals who paid $100 apiece to hear the Democratic presidential candidate speak here, that stance is making Mr. Dean more appealing than ever.”

An upscale bar in Manhattan called Mod. If I put this in a novel, you’d accuse me of being heavy-handed.

Don’t you just love it when life hands you something like that?

Where else would Howard Dean win his antiwar applause but in an upscale Manhattan bar called Mod?!

From Manhattan’s Mod to San Francisco. There, the police have been forbidden to wear “U.S.-flag bandannas or [other] patriotic clothing.” The populace has been indulging in anti-American passion.

If I were the Republicans — I mean, a party-strategist type — I would make an issue of San Francisco and Nancy Pelosi, the city’s representative who is the leader of the Democrats in Congress. Jeane Kirkpatrick used “San Francisco Democrat” as a metaphor, or shorthand. Now we have a real one leading that party on the Hill. This sort of America should make the Other America — so-called “red state” America — sick.

Shouldn’t the patriotic and conservative states be the blue states, by the way? (I know, I know: We had this discussion, long ago.)

While I’m digressing, do you disapprove of using quotation marks after you’ve said “so-called”? We’re not having that discussion, either.

It is simply perfection that Peter Arnett — fired by an embarrassed NBC — has been hired by the London Daily Mirror and Greek state television. There are hardly two more rabid entities on the planet — two more rabidly anti-American entities, that is. The Daily Mirror is so crazed that it pictured Prime Minister Blair with blood dripping from his hands — that was before the war began. And Greek television? Oh, my.

Last fall, I did a brief speaking tour of southeastern Europe, visiting Salonika, Greece, and Tirana, Albania, principally. As coincidence would have it, Greece is about the most anti-American country in Europe, and Albania the most pro-American.

The piece I published in NR after that trip was titled European Communities. In it, I remarked the alarming ignorance and anti-American vitriol of the Greek press. It was really a rather shocking experience, bad as I expected it to be.

I couldn’t help thinking about that when Peter Arnett was hired to educate the Hellenes about Iraq. He may be the most moderate man on Greek state TV!

On its front page yesterday, the Journal had an article entitled “Challenge in Shaping a New Iraq: Baath Party’s Climate of Fear.” It told of a university classroom in the (Saddam-free) Kurdish zone, where a teacher asked, “Do you fear Saddam?” Every student nodded yes, even though some of them were “only children when Mr. Hussein’s harsh rule was driven out of the region.”

To rid the Iraqi people of the fear that haunts them, this monster that has been around every corner, all their lives: that will be a hugely gratifying side-benefit of this war.

It should lift our hearts to see photos of, for example, Iraqi youths smiling as they walk past defaced posters of Saddam. Imagine that: the terrible god, ruler and destroyer of every life, defaced! Mocked! How many of us, living more ordinary lives (thank goodness), will ever know that type of exhilaration?

These are little Ceausescu moments — the toppling of a statue and so on. I refer to that unforgettable moment — captured on tape — when the Romanian dictator was speaking in that Bucharest square, and boos and jeers arose from the crowd. Ceausescu looked up from his text nervously, wonderingly: He had surely never heard those sounds, directed at him. It marked the beginning of the end.

The Journal ran a little chronology of Baath-party rule in Iraq. The first line said, “1947: Arab students, influenced by the national socialist movements in Europe, founded the Baath party.” That’s what they are, isn’t it? National socialists. Nazis. Arab variety. And the Iraqis have lived with Hitlerism for all this time, longer, now, than the Germans did.

The chronology also said, “1979: Saddam Hussein becomes Iraqi Baath leader, executes 500 rival party leaders.” He was just warming up.

You want to read a really, really strange story? Stranger than fiction? Try this article on Latif Yahia, a former “double” for Uday Hussein. Mr. Yahia has lived around Europe since escaping from his homeland in 1991. A mind-boggling story. As a friend of mine once said, “Oh, the things that people go through!”

Speaking of doubles: The following joke — said to be current in Iraq — has been making the rounds here:

“The eight Saddam body doubles are gathered in one of the bunkers in downtown Baghdad. Tariq Aziz, the deputy prime minister, comes in and says, ‘I have some good news and some bad news.’ They ask for the good news first.

“Aziz says, ‘The good news is that Saddam is still alive, so you all still have jobs.’

“‘And the bad news?’ they ask.

“Aziz replies, ‘He’s lost an arm.’”

An article in the Journal said, “After two weeks of war, the Pentagon finally got some pictures yesterday of cheering Iraqis . . .” That’s a rather grudging and sour way of putting it, isn’t it? “The Pentagon finally got some pictures . . .” It may be that some people would rather see other people persecuted than the Pentagon pleased.

If you haven’t yet read Orianna Fallaci’s interview with an Iraqi POW — from 1991, and as relevant as ever — please do. It is a powerhouse.

I will quote from one section: “In the Iraqi Army, we cannot wear white underpants. It’s forbidden, like wearing white vests or white socks or white handkerchiefs. Do you know why? Because with white underpants and white vests and white socks and white handkerchiefs, soldiers can make white flags and surrender.”

Speaking of the color of underpants in the Arab world: The New York Times had an extremely moving article about the persecution of gays in Cairo, supposedly one of the more liberal Arab cities (and, in fact, one of the more liberal: but one has to grade on a curve in that part of the world). When a bunch of gays were rounded up from a bar, “They were all ordered to pull down their pants and show their underwear, as officers from the government’s Vice Squad told them that colored underwear was evidence of homosexuality . . . All were wearing white underwear, they said, but that was only the beginning of interrogations that some said lasted for days.”

If sanity came to Arab governance, we might ring in the millennium.

On the op-ed page of yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, the great Bernard Lewis had a column explaining why the Iraqi people — except in particular instances — have yet to embrace American troops. He cited three main reasons: the experience of 1991, when Iraqis rose up only to be slaughtered — in the tens of thousands — by Saddam’s men, when we Americans would not protect them; the fact that those same men still wield power, making it unsafe to come out for the Americans (the liberators); and . . . the antiwar movement.

Who will accuse Bernard Lewis of McCarthyism?

He writes, “[The Iraqis’] understandable caution has been further reinforced by the strong and vocal opposition to the war around the world and more especially in the United States. This manifests itself in many ways and, under their very eyes, in the mostly critical questioning of the military by the media in the press briefings taking place on their doorstep.

“For us in the West, this is the normal free debate of an open society. But Iraqis, both rulers and ruled, have had no experience of any such thing since the overthrow of the parliamentary regime and the establishment of the dictatorship almost 50 years ago. What they believe they see is indecision, hesitation, even weakness and fear.”

That was Lewis, y’all, not me.

Regular Impromptus-ites know that I’ve written many times about Charlie Rangel: the Harlem congressman who loves Castro ardently and who charms the dickens out of the press corps, and everyone else. I myself have smiled at “Chollie” many times — always feeling ashamed for doing so, thinking, in part, of the prisoners getting the hell beaten out of them in Cuba.

Reading a column by Alicia Colon in the New York Sun yesterday, I learned of a Rangel moment on Hannity and Colmes.

Apparently, Rangel said, “I don’t believe that you bomb women and children in order to enforce” U.N. resolutions. Bomb women and children. Of course, the allied forces are carefully exempting the men!

Sean Hannity, as you might expect, challenged this, whereupon the congressman said, “You’re right. They’re shooting themselves. They don’t know they’re being liberated.”

This betrays a most callous mentality — one that I have seen before, with regard to the Cubans — and I resolve, once more, not to smile — ever — at the charming Charlie Rangel.

Folks, I have many, many more items, but you’ve got to go, getting on with your Friday, or weekend. Let’s conclude with a little mail.

“Dear Jay: I can sympathize with your [anti-Carter] mood. Reading Churchill’s account of WWII, I was struck by something important: Chamberlain may be a symbol of appeasement, but he eventually woke up and dedicated himself to victory.

“I doubt Carter will ever have the moral clarity of Neville Chamberlain.”

“Hey, Jay: Thought you’d like some more of the inside track on American universities. Here’s your typical run-of-the-mill PC story.

“I’m a student at Emory University, and when the war first started, the business school here hung a multi-story flag on the front of the building. That lasted about four days. Apparently we had two international students [that’s the way people say “foreign” now: “international”] claim that the overt showing of patriotism made them feel unwelcome.

“This is the same school that wanted to stop payment on David Horowitz’s speaking fee when he came and talked about why reparations [for slavery] were unnecessary.

“The only comfort is knowing that a lot of schools are even worse!”

“Dear Jay: I was eating lunch at work the other day, and the boss had a catered lunch featuring chicken french (which I love). My first thought was to decline, but that seemed silly. My second thought was to rename the meal, à la ‘freedom fries.’

“But after thinking about it for a moment, I figured maybe that Chicken French should be the one meal they get to keep!”

I don’t know what chicken french is, but I like it!

“Hey, Jay: A friend-of-a-friend here in Los Angeles has been dating a Frenchman. Both are in their mid-40s. My friend reported that the couple had a conversation over the phone in which the Frenchman expressed anti-American sentiments. The woman was shocked: ‘We came over and saved your country during World War II!’ The Frenchman said, ‘No one asked for your help. The Germans weren’t that bad.’

“She hung up and hasn’t seen him since.”


“Hi, Jay: My last name is French, and I noted the comments of a reader of yours who also suffers from this affliction. I do have some good news to report: The name, common in Ireland, Scotland, and England, is derived from ‘killer of the French,’ according to longstanding family legend. There is not a drop of French blood in my ancestry as far back as I have been able to trace.”

How ‘bout that!

And this!

“Jay, the original commander of British forces on the Continent in WWI was Sir John French. You may find further information here.”

Bless you all, folks.


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