Politics & Policy

A strange reaction, &c.

Reactions to Saddam’s execution were most interesting — and fairly depressing, you might agree. It seemed to me that little thought was given to Saddam’s many, many victims: to the massive brutality of his regime. It further seemed to me that little thought was given to the unusualness of Saddam’s execution: Here was a Middle Eastern dictator who was given a fair and extensive trial.

Instead, the execution was an occasion — for many — to knock George W. Bush and our whole enterprise in Iraq. And to condemn the Iraqi government for botching the hanging.

Okay, fair enough. But what a strange way to view Saddam’s execution. If people could hate totalitarian dictatorship as much as they do George W. Bush — the world would be a happier place.

Is that permissible to say? Probably not, but I’m going with it anyway.

I like to read David Letterman’s Top Ten List, which is published after Dave has read it on his show. On January 2, he did “Top Ten Things Overheard at Saddam Hussein’s Execution.” A clever idea. And No. 1 was:

“He dropped faster than Bush’s poll numbers.”

I say again: Okay. But it’s interesting how a Bush jab must have pride of place, even when a monster has been tried and executed. “It’s just a comedy show,” you say. Sure. But from such phenomena as comedy shows comes a zeitgeist.

By the way, did you see, or read about, the recent exchange between Bill O’Reilly and Letterman, on the latter’s show? O’Reilly said, “Do you want the United States to win in Iraq?” Letterman rambled for a while, not answering. O’Reilly repeated his question, and added, “It’s an easy question.” Letterman responded, “It’s not easy for me, because I’m thoughtful.”

Couple of points: Have you ever, in your life, said, “I’m thoughtful”? And would you do so on television? If you are, in fact, thoughtful, isn’t that for others to say? And what’s so thoughtful about being unsure whether you want the United States to win in Iraq?

In my observation, liberals despise that question, and they often retort by saying, “What do you mean by ‘win’?” I will tell you what I think ‘winning’ means in Iraq: Helping the Iraqi government — indeed, the Iraqi people — vanquish the terrorists, beheaders, and totalitarians among them, so that they can proceed with a decent life. And so that the United States and its allies can be free of a menace in Baghdad.

And so that our invasion/liberation of March 2003 can stick.

‐I have a friend who, in a phone conversation last weekend, said the unsayable. Come to think of it, this friend makes a specialty of saying the unsayable. That is one reason he is invaluable.

He said, “The Democrats have to win in 2008 — I mean, the whole enchilada: House, Senate, and presidency.” You ought to know that my friend is a staunch conservative Republican. “Why?” I said. “Why do they have to win?” He answered, “Because that’s the only way they will be fully onboard the War on Terror. They won’t fully support it otherwise, because they will always be trying to trip up the Republicans. If you want the Democrats onboard the War on Terror, they have to be in charge. Period.”

A dark, dark proclamation. And redolent of ol’ Joe, the one from Wisconsin. I am not entirely convinced of its wrongness, however.

‐People in desperate conditions go to extremes. And that is what Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta has done. He was an independent journalist in Cuba, and now he is a political prisoner. That is what tends to happen to independent journalists in Cuba.

According to a report reproduced here, Herrera Acosta “sewed his mouth shut Tuesday afternoon, December 26,” at Kilo 8 prison, located in the province of Camagüey. Why would he do such a thing? In protest.

The article notes that Herrera Acosta is “under continuous psychological persecution,” is “tormented by dangerous common prisoners,” is “arbitrarily searched day and night,” and so on. His health is miserable, and he is “forced to sleep on the floor surrounded by insects and rodents.”

You may read more about Herrera Acosta and his case from Reporters Without Borders: here. And you may be interested in a statement of conscience from Herrera Acosta: here.

There are hundreds of political prisoners in Cuba — Herrera Acosta was trapped in the infamous crackdown of March 2003 — and it’s hard to know every name. But that is no excuse for not knowing a few.

‐Many of us have been reeling from Foreign Policy magazine’s current cover: “Was Castro Good for Cuba”? It shows the dictator at his coolest: young, beret, cigar, the whole attitude. The magazine has one writer say yes — Castro has indeed been good for Cuba — and another writer say no. Well, at least Foreign Policy is undecided on the question.

This got me to thinking about dictators and their longevity and the ends they meet. Benito Mussolini — to choose one dictator — took power in 1922 and relinquished it in 1943. He did not relinquish it voluntarily, needless to say. And he was ultimately seized and shot.

He ruled for 21 years, which is a pittance, compared with Castro’s reign: 48 years and counting. Mussolini did not die in bed, but Castro will. If Mussolini had hung on, for further decades, going away peacefully in his sleep, would a magazine such as Foreign Policy have run a cover that said, “Was Mussolini Good for Italy?” I think so, yes. In fact, I am sure of it.

‐A reader of mine was exercised by something that President Chirac said: “The priority, more than ever, is to restore full sovereignty to the Iraqi people.” Comments my reader, “Wasn’t that the point of the invasion in the first place? And didn’t France do everything possible to stop it? Or does Chirac (as I suspect) consider Saddam’s rule to have been legit?”

The answers to those questions: Yes, in part. Yes. And yes.

‐You may ask yourself the question, “Who’s at fault for the turmoil in the Middle East? Who is guilty of intolerance and inhumanity?”

Um, let me simply point you to a story — here.

Just two days after winning the Tiberias Marathon and speaking about how “people should live together in harmony,” Kenyan-born runner Mushir Salem Jawher was stripped of his Bahraini citizenship Saturday for competing in Israel. . . .

. . . Bahrain’s Athletic Union said in a statement Saturday that it had received the news that a Bahraini national competed in Israel with “shock and regret.”

“The union deeply regrets what the athlete has done,” the statement said.

A small story, yes. But one that “speaks volumes,” to use a hoary cliché (like “hoary cliché”).

‐You know the amazing thing about Wal-Mart, or one amazing thing — a chief amazing thing? It actually sticks up for itself, defends itself, as it is doing in current ads. Businesses attacked by the Left are not supposed to do that. They are supposed to whimper, accommodate, or shut up. But Wal-Mart is rebutting and succeeding.

A miracle.

Remember the title of that book, The Suicidal Corporation? Wal-Mart has decided not to be one. If there were a Union of Businesses, Wal-Mart would be kicked out of it. That’s how deviant and peculiar its behavior is.

‐I’d like to draw your attention to the current issue of The New Criterionhere. It contains the usual assortment of excellent and edifying articles. I would also like to say that my December “New York Chronicle” is available in the archive: here.

A concert review, from the New York Sun? For the New York Philharmonic, under its former music director, Zubin Mehta — and with Pinchas Zukerman, violinist — go here.

And some CDs? I review a reissue of the recordings that Arturo Toscanini made with the Philadelphia Orchestra here.

Knock yourself out.

‐Let’s close with a letter, which I hope (and think) you’ll enjoy:

Dear Jay,

You write in today’s Impromptus about the excessive attention being paid to the gender of the new Speaker of the House.

Since another female congressman, Jane Harman, is in the news, I’m reminded of the time in 2004 when she and Rep. Duncan Hunter visited Iraq. I was deployed there with my unit, an intelligence element with a lot of female personnel, including civilians from the various agencies.

Hunter made some appropriate comments of a rah-rah-go-get-’em nature. Harman’s comment was, “It’s great to see so many women involved here.” There was muffled applause, but it was a palpably awkward moment.

I wanted to shout out, “Yeah! Send us more women!” But I figured I’d get in trouble. Then again, what could they do to me? Send me to Iraq?

Have a great day, y’all.

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