Politics & Policy


Another (Israeli) 9/11. Answering Chirac. Something in the water — and more

Bear in mind that these endless attacks on Israel are tough for that small country to take. They’re like mini-9/11′s — only not so mini-, because there are only 6 million people in Israel, 4.5 million of them Jews (for some reason, the other Israelis don’t seem to get hit that much).

In much of the world’s mind, Prime Minister Sharon is a blood-loving bully. But he has taken a great risk, and who can deny his attempts to answer those who organize murder? Sharon says, “We will continue to fight terror so long as there is no one doing so on the other side.” (That means the government of the PA.) “We will fight the leaders of terror organizations who instigate, finance, and dispatch terrorists setting out to murder Jews.” That would seem to me elementary, in fact, uncontroversial.

Natan Sharansky points out that no government, anywhere, can sit by while its citizens are wantonly cut down. Again, I find this hard to argue with. Sharansky, incidentally, is one who knows a thing or two about looking evil in the face and not flinching; he learned these lessons — in fact, demonstrated them — in the Soviet Union, as Anatoly Sharansky. Then again, a lot of people in Israel know a thing or two about not flinching.

Reason 8,637 to Love and Appreciate Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld: While in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Rummy said, “It is no surprise that many of the nations with fresh memories of tyranny and occupation have been among those most willing to face the new threats, and contribute to dealing with them.” That — need I point out — is a reference to the “New Europe,” meaning the former Iron Curtain countries. He went on, “They are bringing new vision and new vitality to our old alliance” — meaning NATO.

The SecDef continued, “Let me be clear: Those countries have not been invited as junior partners, allowed to join the grown-ups’ table so long as they sit quietly. No, they have been invited to lead.”

Why did Rummy put that in exactly those words? Obviously, we were made to think of President Jacques Chirac, who said that — in supporting the United States on Iraq — the Eastern Europeans were not “well brought up” and should “shut up.”

Oh, oh, what a difference it made that Bush, not Gore, won out in 2000. (How else could we right-wingers have pumped the arsenic “back” in the water?)

Speaking of water issues: You may wish to read an article I have in the new NR, which concerns the ongoing fight against fluoridation — waged, not by the kooky Right, but by the environmentalist Left! Yes, the tables have turned (thank goodness). The monkey is off our backs. Think of it this way: Whenever you see a “latte town,” you are likely to be seeing an anti-fluoridation town. And many of the anti-fluoridationists are using rousing democratic arguments. How dare those public-health “experts” impose “mass medication” on the rest of us!

In fact, I have thought of a slogan for them (which they may use free of charge): “No Fluoridation Without Representation.”

Did I mention Garmisch-Partenkirchen? I just remind you that this was the site of the 1936 Winter Games, which were Hitler Games, just as those that summer, in Berlin, would be. In fact, Hitler had a smash success there.

But enough about the 2008 Games in Beijing.

The administration promised, after Sept. 11, that it would do everything it could to keep Americans safe, although there were no guarantees. Broadly speaking, I think the administration is surely keeping its promise. The war against the Taliban. The war against Saddam. The efforts — lawful, democratic, and republican, in my judgment — of the Ashcroft Justice Department. And so on.

Now comes news that the administration will place American inspectors at major seaports in Muslim nations. This is aimed at preventing the smuggling of WMD in cargo containers. It is just a small step, you might say. But most of these steps are small, and they add up to a no-stone-unturned effort to guarantee American security. We can all be grateful for that, I would think, regardless of party.

At a meeting of the Organization of American States, Colin Powell showed some lead in his pencil, when he challenged the organization on Cuba: He asked his fellow foreign ministers to help the United States “hasten the inevitable democratic transition in Cuba.” (I don’t know about “inevitable” — that talk is almost Marxian, although Reagan engaged in it a lot too, with happy results.) He also reminded the ministers that the OAS’s charter “declares that the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy. It does not say the peoples of the Americas except Cubans have the right to democracy.”

Yes, that was Powell, not Rummy, and hats off.

Then the OAS, “in a symbolic rebuke to the Bush administration,” voted for the first time “to exclude the United States from representation on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, considered the most prestigious human rights monitoring body in the Western Hemisphere.” (I’m quoting from the New York Times.) The OAS’s decision “appeared to reflect widespread doubts about the qualifications of the American candidate, Rafael E. Martinez. Born in Cuba [ah — you practically knew it!], Mr. Martinez is an Orlando, Fla., lawyer best known for his expertise in medical malpractice and health law. He is a brother of Melquiades R. Martinez, the secretary of housing and urban development . . .”

A Cuban-American on the rights-monitoring commission would be a terrible offense, wouldn’t it? To Castro and all his (many) supporters.

The administration is making human-rights noises about Cuba both in U.N. councils and at the OAS. And this is making a lot of Fidel-protectors — not all of them Communists and fellow-travelers; plenty of them don’t-rock-the-boat people and dullards — nervous.

The Castro government is ordering protests against the Spanish and Italian embassies in Havana, in retaliation for some mild criticism issued by the Europeans of that totalitarian regime. Europe’s offense? According to Reuters, “The European Union, responding to the Cuban government’s toughest crackdown in decades on dissent, decided last week to limit high-level government visits and reduce the participation of its 15 members states in cultural events in Cuba.” Ooh: There’s a ferocious stand (but in comparative terms, maybe so). The EU may also invite “opponents of the Cuban government to embassy receptions in Havana celebrating European national days, a measure that particularly angered the Cuban authorities.”

The Reuters report further points out that the EU is Cuba’s largest trading partner and foreign investor. But the Euros give signs of scaling back, at last embarrassed by their thug friend in Havana. Castro is particularly peeved at Spain, and its prime minister, José María Aznar. Castro’s foreign minister called Aznar “a minor ally of the Yankee imperial government,” who, of all the suddenly-troublemaking Europeans, is most responsible for the EU’s “treacherous escalation of aggression.” Yes, that’s the way Communists talk, still and always. The “aggression,” of course, would be the welcoming of a few dissidents at embassy receptions.

Keep the pressure on. Any at all rattles Castro and his increasingly light-sleeping band.

From time to time, I report on Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, the incredibly brave and inspiring Cuban oppositionist who has suffered in the Communists’ dungeons for years. (The website devoted to his effort is found here.)

I thought I would publish, in this column, part of the letter written on June 1 by his wife, Elsa:

“Dr. Biscet is in solitary confinement since April 23, 2000, for refusing to wear the common prisoner’s uniform, and all his rights are suspended. His family hasn’t seen him since then. Since April 23 he has been wearing a pair of shorts and bath slippers. He is imprisoned in a cell 3′ by 6′ with insufficient light and ventilation, no running water, a hole for the toilet, and unsanitary conditions. He is prohibited from receiving visits or having contacts with the outside world. He has no access to fresh air or sunlight. He is sleeping on the floor. He cannot keep any personal belongings such as books, including his Bible. He cannot have access to any writing material or receive any mail.

“My husband is a peaceful, God-loving, nonviolent human being and not an animal. . . . The prison measures against him violate the international human-rights treaties against torture and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading punishments [to] which Cuba is signatory. They violate his physical integrity and . . . lead to negative consequences such as serious illnesses. . . .

“My husband’s health was good before he went to prison in 1999, but now he is suffering from high blood pressure and gum disease. . . . His crimes are: honoring the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, opposing the death penalty and abortion, and organizing pro-democracy movements to demand his fellow countrymen’s human rights through nonviolent civil disobedience. This man does not deserve to die in a dungeon. This man and his family have lost everything except God for the noble cause of human rights. He deserves a just treatment. He is not a danger to society and deserves to be free with his family and his people. I KNOW THAT MY HUSBAND’S LIFE IS IN DANGER AND WELCOME THE URGENT INTERCESSION OF ALL MEN AND WOMEN OF GOOD WILL IN THE WORLD, INCLUDING CUBAN AUTHORITIES.”

Well, if you can find someone among Cuban authorities of good will . . .

One last Cuban note: A pop star, Carlos Manuel, has defected, coming into Texas from Mexico. This 30-year-old had performed in Mexico City with his band — Carlos Manuel and His Clan — and made his move. He said that celebrities such as he get special privileges in Castro’s state, but that he was disgusted by the degradation of the country and wanted properly to pursue his destiny, in a free land.

So, good for him. Such defections drive certain liberals nuts, of course: but they can always call him a racist, fascist, capitalist Batista stooge.

That’s some consolation!

I was astonished to read the following in a New York Times book review. It was not by a Timesman, but by Michael McFaul, a poli-sci prof at Stanford. The book under review was Anne Applebaum’s Gulag: A History.

Here is the beginning of the review:

In visiting Poland last month, President Bush took the time to go to Auschwitz and tour one of the most ghastly assaults to humanity in the history of mankind. After finishing his tour, he remarked: “And this site is also a strong reminder that the civilized world must never forget what took place on this site. May God bless the victims and the families of the victims, and may we always remember.”

The next day, Mr. Bush was in St. Petersburg, Russia. While there, he did not make it up to the Solovetsky Islands, the site of the first camp of the gulag. Nor did he call upon the world to “always remember” the millions of people who perished in the Soviet concentration camps well before Auschwitz was constructed and well after Auschwitz was dismantled. The families of the victims of Soviet Communism — much more numerous than the families who lost loved ones in Hitler’s camps — received no special blessing from the leader of the free world.

Mr. Bush should not be singled out for failing to remember the innocents killed in the gulag. Rarely do visiting dignitaries take time to remember the tragedies of Soviet Communism.

Wow, wow, wow. Some of us have long dreamed of a statement like that in a venue such as the New York Times. People should hear more of that. Of course, if any president did something along the lines that the author suggests, it would be — in my view — GWB.

I read a brief New York Times report that left me blinking. See what you think. Apparently, Egypt has banned the new Matrix film, because, according to the censorship director — Madkur Thabet — the movie offends ideas about creation “linked to the three monotheistic religions that we respect and which we believe in.”

Huh? I’m trying to count the monotheistic religions: 1) Islam; 2) Christianity (a nod to the Copts); and 3) . . . could it be? The Egyptian censorship director? A religion “that we respect and which we believe in”?

Maybe I’m missing something.

In the New York Sun, editor Seth Lipsky wrote up an interview with Ahmad Chalabi, of which I give you the following slice: Reviewing the history of America and its (temporary) allies — Rhee, Diem, the shah — Chalabi said, “Washington is like a fire in winter. If you get too close, you get burned. If you don’t get close enough, you freeze.”

A reader said to me, “I noted another odd choice of words from Hillary’s book. She said, ‘As a wife, I wanted to wring his neck.’ As a wife. That’s just weird.”

No, not in the Hillary mindset. She’s only partly a wife; she is mainly, it would seem, a Democrat.

While I’m on a Times kick, let me share with you this remarkable soupçon: In an article yesterday, a reporter described Rep. John Dingell as “a vocal backer of the Second Amendment” — not “a gun nut,” which you might expect from Howell Raines’s paper (oh, yeah — he’s not . . .), but “a vocal backer of the Second Amendment.” That’s pretty good!

Keep it up, guys.

My colleague Emmy Chang forwarded to me a terrific item from Reuters (here): It relates to L.A. and its attempts to ban a certain kind of “dancing” in strip bars. Here is the money paragraph (to coin a clunky phrase): “But the measure, which must win the approval of the full city council, was compared by the thriving adult entertainment industry in Los Angeles to draconian morality laws imposed by the former Taliban government in Afghanistan.”

As we’ve said many times: If only you had to live there! (In Afghanistan, under the Taliban, not in L.A. — where you have the distinct privilege of listening to Larry Elder on the radio.)

I’ve got lots, lots more, folks, but we’re running long, and you’ve got to get started on your weekend (I imagine). Let me close with something a little poignant (or something — you can be the judge). William Christie is the founder and leader of Les Arts Florissants, an early-music group in France, specializing in the French Baroque. Christie was born in America — in Buffalo, actually — and moved to France in 1971. He became a French citizen in 1995. Currently, he is conducting “Les Boréades” — a Rameau opera — at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, in a fabulous, truly sensational production (which I review in today’s New York Sun).

Anyway, I was leafing through the press kit when I noticed an interview with him reported in the New York Times. Christie was extremely, extremely concerned about life in the land of his birth. He said, “Ordinary citizens [in America] are told things about the world by rather unscrupulous and, I think, evil people, and they believe them. I find many aspects of what’s happening in the States today rather frightening.”

Well, I just hope that William Christie made it back to his hotel all right, after that performance in Brooklyn. You never know, with the Ashcroft secret police lurking behind every corner, in this age of Terror. (Oh, hang in: In what country was Terror perfected? Never mind — just being cheeky.)

Later, y’all.


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