Politics & Policy

The potential of an initial, &c.

Fidel Castro has shown up, speaking to his adoring worldwide public, wearing what has become his trademark tracksuit, holding up Alan Greenspan’s book (of course).

(By the way, Greenspan began his career worshiping Ayn Rand; he is ending it being promoted by Fidel Castro. Nice going, Mr. Chairman. He did, however, have some good years in between.)

Anyway, a reader sent me a clever letter about Castro and his new duds: “An article I saw said the tracksuit had ‘F. Castro’ on it, in small block letters. I thought, ‘How appropriate! And I wonder how he’d treat Cubans who wore clothing that said “F. Castro” once he came to understand the double entendre.’”

As I said, clever.

‐You will not want to have missed this article in yesterday’s Sunday Times (London). It begins, “Israeli commandos from the elite Sayeret Matkal unit — almost certainly dressed in Syrian uniforms — made their way stealthily towards a secret military compound near Dayr az-Zawr in northern Syria. They were looking for proof that Syria and North Korea were collaborating on a nuclear programme.”

For many decades now, we have read tales of Israeli derring-do — Elie Cohen and all that. (By the way, if you haven’t seen The Impossible Spy — and don’t hate Israel — you have a treat in store.) Israel has had to perform acts of exceptional courage and wit; its survival has depended on it.

Who knows whether this story is true — the story the Sunday Times has published? It is all very murky and speculative, at this point. But even if the story is not true in every particular, it gives us plenty to chew on.

The Times continues: “Israel was determined not to take any chances with its neighbour [Syria]. Following the example set by its raid on an Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak [in] 1981, it drew up plans to bomb the Syrian compound.”

There is a “but” in here, however — and here it is: “But Washington was not satisfied. It demanded clear evidence of nuclear-related activities before giving the operation its blessing. The task of the commandos was to provide it.”

That is not beyond believability — for Israel is the only nation in the world not allowed to go ahead and destroy mortal threats against it. Israel, uniquely, has to dot every “i” and cross every “t.” It has to risk its men and women as no other nation must (see Jenin, and countless other instances). And, for all its trouble, it is still almost certainly the most despised nation in the world — “ahead” of even North Korea.

More Times: “Today the site near Dayr az-Zawr lies in ruins after it was pounded by Israeli F15Is on September 6. Before the Israelis issued the order to strike, the commandos had secretly seized samples of nuclear material and taken them back into Israel for examination by scientists, the sources say. A laboratory confirmed that the unspecified material was North Korean in origin. America approved an attack.”

Well, that was good of us, if so!

And one more point or two from the Times story: “Diplomats in North Korea and China said they believed a number of North Koreans were killed in the raid, noting that ballistic missile technicians and military scientists had been working for some time with the Syrians. A senior Syrian official, Sayeed Elias Daoud, director of the Syrian Arab Ba’ath party, flew to North Korea via Beijing last Thursday, reinforcing the belief among foreign diplomats that the two nations are coordinating their response to the Israeli strike.”

People love to laugh at the phrase “axis of evil.” Comedians, Democrats, and others have had a field day with it for years. Ultimately, though — and even in the near term — it’s no laughing matter. And Israel, please note, is doing important work for all of us, no matter where we live. A disproportionate amount of the fight against Islamofascism is being carried on its slim shoulders. (Israel is a nation of about 5.25 million Jews, 1.75 million Arabs.)

This is disgraceful, in a way, in addition to being admirable. Frenchmen, Germans, Belgians, Greeks, Americans — all of us benefit from what Israel is doing. And the freer the world remains, the freer we are to hate Israel.

You remember the old definition of appeasement: “the hope that the tiger will eat you last.” And the tiger of Islamofascism will not be satisfied with 5.25 million Israelis in its belly, I assure you — even if you were inclined to feed it those souls.

Occasionally she comes across a gem, such as when she found a recent Osama bin Laden video — before al-Qaida had announced it.

“I realized, oh my gosh, I’m sitting here, I’m a fat 50-year-old mom and I’ve managed to scoop al-Qaida,” said Mansfield, who uses that name as a pseudonym because she receives death threats.

Yeah, I bet. Anyway, “Laura Mansfield” said, “It’s really important to understand what the jihadists think and how they’re planning on doing things. They’re very vocal. They tell us what they’re going to do and then they go out and do it.”

Here is a citizen who’s not content to let the professionals fight the war, carping all the while from the sidelines. She is an active participant in it. Doing a helluva lot more than I am, that’s for sure.

And that point I quoted is one of my favorites, and always has been, since I studied Arabic and the Middle East many years ago: They almost always tell you what they’re going to do. If I can resort to basketball language, they telegraph their passes. It’s all written down, it’s shouted, it’s all bragged about. Same with the Nazis. But who listens?

‐There was some stirring news out of Burma over the weekend — you can read about it here. Some 20,000 marched through the streets, representing what must be millions more. (It’s a big country, containing almost 50 million people.) The most touching thing about this march? “Monks shouted support for detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, while the crowd of 10,000 protected them by forming a human chain along the route.”

People forming human chains, to protect brave and freedom-demanding monks. I imagine we won’t hear anything better all week.

‐Talked to someone who knows Michael Mukasey, the new nominee to be attorney general, very well. My friend’s report could not have been more glowing: smart, principled, tough, savvy, conservative — devoted to the law. Was absolutely unflinching when presiding over a miserable terror case. Would actually make a fine Supreme Court justice. So, maybe if Bush gets another pick . . .

Still, I was hoping for the nomination of Ted Olson. And, while most of my reasons were honorable, one of them was not. Can you imagine the spectacle of the Democrats’ rejecting for attorney general a distinguished lawyer who lost a wife in the 9/11 attacks? You know: You can’t have Ted Olson as AG. You can’t have the ROTC on campus; but you can have Ahmadinejad. Etc. Those are the rules the Democrats write.

As I said, not very honorable of me. But you’ll perhaps know what I mean. Bush might have been smart to bypass Olson, not needing a bloody confirmation battle with only about a year to go. But still . . .

‐Saw a headline yesterday to delight Democrats, and dishearten Republicans: “Independent Voters Tilt Toward Democrats.” Yup, bad electoral news, as though the GOP needed more. (That story is here.)

Will the American people really elect Hillary Clinton, a product of the New Left, a production of the Left that agitated for the U.S. withdrawal from South Vietnam, and then the abandonment of the South Vietnamese government? Of course they will — I mean, we will. I mean, we could — because we have it in us.

I have a friend who thinks that everything “conservative” or “traditional” is really American, while everything Left is un-American. This is nonsense: the abandonment of allies in the field; race preferences; environmental hysteria; soak-the-rich taxation; abortion-on-demand — all of these things are as American as apple pie.

The VFW, the NRA, and Rotary are classic American organizations. But so are the New York Times, Bennington College, and MoveOn.org — and one should not forget it.

‐Speaking of the media, saw a classic, classic headline from the AP: “Bush: Kids’ Health Care Will Get Vetoed.” Of course! I’m surprised the headline didn’t say, “Bush to Send Kids to Die of Malaria in the Streets.” And bear in mind: The AP is a wire service, supposedly the most neutral media operation of all, not the Times or Mother Jones or something. And the author of the so-titled article? Why, none other than our old friend Jennifer Loven.

Can’t these people make honest men and women of themselves and go into opinion journalism — I mean, frankly labeled opinion journalism? Some days, the news services look like Impromptus. (Fewer parentheses, however.)

‐America has had Adamses, Harrisons, Roosevelts, Tafts, Kennedys, and so on. It looks like Japan, a very young nation (politically), is getting some of that mojo itself. The man in line to be the next prime minister — Yasuo Fukuda — is the son of a prime minister from the ’70s. (Story here.)

And what if one U.S. presidential run goes Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton? Too early to think about, I know.

‐The rifle team from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks won the NCAA championship. And who’d they beat? (“Whom did they beat,” actually.) West Point. Hailing them at the White House, Bush said, “Anytime you outshoot West Point, you’re really good at what you do.” (Story here.)

A typically charming, warming thing, uttered by our president. Will they quote him lovingly 20 years from now, the way they do Reagan, who, to so many, was once Satan? We’ll see.

‐Have a couple of concert reviews, published in the New York Sun. Both are of the New York Philharmonic. The first reviews an all-Dvorak concert, conducted by Lorin Maazel, with the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, guest soloist. The second reviews a concert also conducted by Maazel, with the violinist Lisa Batiashvili as the guest.

By the way, the print version of this review contained an error. Batiashvili played the Beethoven Concerto, and the program said that her cadenzas were Kreisler’s. I was a little troubled by this, but went ahead and named Kreisler anyway — which was dumb. I later learned that the cadenzas were actually by Schnittke (which made more sense). So the online version of the review was corrected; and it is to this version that I link.

Just so you know . . .

Mistakes in print are what haunts a writer’s sleep. (No, not “what haunt” — thank you.)

‐Finally, wanted to say a couple of things about Marcel Marceau, who died the other day. First, I learned from this obit that his father perished in Auschwitz. (“Perished” seems too prissy a word, doesn’t it?) And second, I loved this: “. . . Marceau played the entire range of human emotions onstage for more than 50 years, never uttering a word. Offstage, however, he was famously chatty. ‘Never get a mime talking. He won’t stop,’ he once said.”

See you soon.

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