Politics & Policy

Inexhaustibility, &c.

Recent news out of Iraq says that we have struck blows against al Qaeda. And this prompts the following reflection: Since September 2001, we have put a lot of these Qaeda people out of commission — which is to say, we’ve killed them. (Here I’m channeling Donald Rumsfeld.) For all this time, I — and many others — have had a question: Are they inexhaustible, these Qaedists? Or, eventually, as we keep at it, do we discourage the others — the would-be Qaedists?

I believe the latter, but it will be nice to have it proved.

‐And if they still keep coming — what do we do, give up? The answer to that one seems easy. I believe there was a slogan, from American streets: “How long will we fight? As long as it takes.” Sometimes, in some cases, that slogan has merit.

‐Over the weekend, I was talking to a Republican politician, a man well connected to several Republican senators. And he said they tell him, grimly, “You have no idea how bad it is” — no idea how bad the terrorist threat, the Islamofascist threat, is.

Said I, “Well, why don’t we hear about the extent of that threat? Why should the general public be shielded from the most alarming information? Also, the Democratic senators see the same data. Why do they pretend that the greatest threat we face is a civil-liberties-destroying George W. Bush?”

One can only shake one’s head.

For many years, President Bush has said that the public can afford to be somewhat complacent — but he cannot be, because he gets a threat assessment every morning. And often that news is very bad. He has to remain on the alert while everyone else blasts him, coasting along in their 9/10 dream world . . .

‐A language note: You don’t like that “their” in the previous sentence? Well, I do . . .

‐The Sunday talk shows provided a study in contrasts — between Bush and the Democratic presidential field; between Bush and the longstanding way of doing things — the way that prevailed until 9/11.

Here is Bill Richardson on the Iranians and us: “Calling them names, labeling them terrorists, drawing up military options is just making the situation worse and inflaming the Muslim world.” (Story here.)

And here is Bush in his West Point address of 2002:

“Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak the language of right and wrong. I disagree. Different circumstances require different methods, but not different moralities. Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time, and in every place. Targeting innocent civilians for murder is always and everywhere wrong. Brutality against women is always and everywhere wrong. There can be no neutrality between justice and cruelty, between the innocent and the guilty. We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name. By confronting evil and lawless regimes, we do not create a problem, we reveal a problem. And we will lead the world in opposing it.”

(That speech in its entirety can be found here.)

‐As readers of NR know, I have a piece in the current issue on Jian-li Yang, the Chinese democracy and human-rights activist. I have known him for some time. On April 27, he was released after five years’ imprisonment in the PRC. And, in yesterday’s Washington Post, he had an op-ed piece on the Burmese situation. It was titled “Echoes of Tiananmen Square.”

Jian-li wrote, “All of us in the Chinese democracy movement stand in solidarity with the Burmese people, who are engaged in a life-or-death struggle to free their country from years of oppression and decay. Everything is at stake for the Burmese, but the outcome in Burma will also have a major impact on our struggle in China.”

He went on to note that the Burmese and Chinese governments are very close. With Russia, the PRC vetoed a measure in the U.N. Security Council that would have done as little as condemn violence inflicted on innocent protesters. Jian-li further noted that “China is the principal arms exporter to Burma, providing 90 percent of its weapons.”

More Jian-li:

“While China’s initial response to the protests has been to defend the junta vigorously, it is unclear how long that support will last. The more that the international community highlights the blood on China’s hands — for arming the junta and steadfastly defending the regime’s tactics, which include systematic rape and murder — the less likely it is that Beijing will stand firm. Particularly when combined with activists’ efforts to highlight China’s role in funding the Sudanese regime and thus the atrocities in Darfur, China’s culpability for the violence in Burma will only reinforce attempts to brand the 2008 Olympics in Beijing the ‘Genocide Games.’”

Good luck in getting the “international community” to see, or care about, the blood on China’s hands. But then, Jian-li is far more optimistic than I am — always has been.

‐Barack Obama made a striking statement: “On the single most important foreign-policy issue of our time, I got it right.” He was talking about his opposition to the Iraq War. (Story here.)

Forgetting the substance of the question — can you imagine yourself, in public, saying, “On the single most important foreign-policy issue of our time, I got it right”? I mean, I realize there’s a certain amount of hyperbole and self-promotion that goes into a campaign — into putting oneself forward for office. A lot of it.

But “On the single most important foreign-policy issue of our time, I got it right”? I thought this guy was supposed to be known for his eloquence and originality . . . Moreover, that is a very crude statement for an alleged Mr. Smooth.

‐A disheartening headline, to put it as mildly as possible: “Rebels Overrun AU Peacekeepers in Darfur.” The first sentence of the article: “Rebel forces stormed a small African Union base in northern Darfur and killed 10 peacekeepers in an unprecedented attack on the beleaguered mission . . .”

In a 2005 piece on Sudan, I wrote, “We must now ask whether there is anyone standing between the innocent and the murderous — and the answer is, Precious few. Troops from the African Union are in Darfur, about 2,000 of them, to cover an area the size of Texas. Their number is to rise by autumn . . .”

And if the AU troops fall — who indeed is standing between the innocent and the murderous? Not “the international community,” that’s for damn sure.

A federal judge refused Friday to dismiss a defamation case against Rep. John P. Murtha and ordered the Pennsylvania Democrat to give a sworn deposition about his comments alleging “cold-blooded murder and war crimes” by unnamed soldiers in connection with Iraqi civilian deaths.

A Marine Corps sergeant is suing the 18-term congressman for making the charge, which the soldier claims is false. Murtha, who opposes the Iraq war, made the comment during a May, 2006 Capitol Hill news conference in which he predicted that a Pentagon war crimes investigation will show Marines killed dozens of innocent Iraqi civilians in Haditha in 2005.

Murtha’s office declined to comment on the ruling.

(The rest of this article is here.) Yes, its attraction, don’t you think? A little push-back — a little calling-to-account — isn’t bad . . .

‐I nominate this for the most unfair headline of the recent period: “Sen. Craig’s Fall May Benefit Salmon.” The article says, “The surprising fall of Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, removes a longtime obstacle to efforts by Democrats and environmentalists to promote salmon recovery on Northwest rivers.”

Oh, give me a frickin’ break.

‐Speaking of giving me a frickin’ break: Is there a worse event in golf than the Presidents Cup? I mean, the pretension of it, the meaninglessness of it, the purposelessness of it. The main problem is, it’s all about the United States. There’s nothing to unite the other team — the rest of the world, minus Europe — other than its not-American-ness. You have an American team versus an “international” team. But the “international” team is nothing but a not-American team.

On it, you have Retief Goosen (South Africa), Mike Weir (Canada), Vijay Singh (Fiji), Stuart Appleby (Australia), K. J. Choi (South Korea). What do they have to do with one another? What, except that they’re not American (and, it is true, not European — there we have the Ryder Cup, another problem issue)? For the “international” team, the gallery in Quebec cheers its head off. Why? There’s not much the crowd is in favor of, except Weir, a Canadian sporting hero. It’s merely an against-America deal.

Come to think of it, the Presidents Cup is probably worse than benign foolishness; it might do some harm. The last thing the world needs is a coming-together strictly on the basis of un-American-ness, or — more injurious, to be sure — anti-Americanism.

Besides which, golf is, fundamentally, an individual sport. It is way, way beyond nationality, and certainly beyond big multinational blocs. Long ago, I wrote a piece on this very subject, using the Ryder Cup as my point of departure. Someday I may spring it on you . . .

‐A little music? For a review of the New York Philharmonic, under Lorin Maazel, with guest soloist Simon Trpčeski, piano, please go here. The review was published in the New York Sun.

‐By the way, speaking of music: If you did not catch a “Don’t tase me, bro’” note — related to opera, and involving NR editor Rich Lowry — consult Thursday’s Impromptus.

‐Lois Maxwell, the Canadian actress who played Miss Moneypenny in the Bond movies, passed away at 80. I direct you to this obituary, mainly for its photo: It shows the actress at 20, receiving her Screen Actors Guild card from the union’s president, Ronald Reagan. Kind of cool.

‐And speaking of cool: I suggest that you try Stilesboro Biscuits, in Marietta, Ga. I went in there on Saturday morning. A sign said, “Good morning, y’all. Thanks for coming in. Try our pork tenderloin, fresh off the grill. It’s soooo wonderful.” Another sign said, “Angels Gather Here.”

A five-piece band played — I mean, live. And it was hot. Excellent. The pieces were a fiddle, a mandolin, two guitars, and a double bass. They played versions of Johnny Cash songs, and even a version of “Turkey in the Straw.” Thrilling stuff. I could have sat for an hour or so. (There’s very little seating in this shack.) After one song, a guitar player said to his mates, “I don’t think I sped up that time, did I?” He had not.

In a bookcase were volumes of the Encyclopedia Americana; not sure whether it was complete. And, before, I was talking about signs: Another one said, “Sometimes I Wake Up Grouchy, Sometimes I Let Him Sleep.”

The biscuits, I’m here to tell you, were A-1. The cinnamon rolls? Merely okay (but definitely choke-downable).

It was sweet to discover a slice of southern and American heaven. The line was out the door. I’m told that Stilesboro Biscuits is open only a few days a week, and that it closes at 11:30 — A.M.

A biscuit hut with live music. Made me like this country, anew.

‐Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema passed away, at 90. He was a hero of the Dutch resistance. Immigrated to America, and returned to his native continent to work for Radio Free Europe. He published a book, Soldier of Orange. It was made into a film, by the famed director Paul Verhoeven. I will quote from the AP’s obit:

In an interview with De Telegraaf in July, Roelfzema said he knew that he had received a disproportionate amount of recognition for his wartime exploits. He bears a Distinguished Flying Cross from Britain and the Military Order of William in the Netherlands, the country’s highest honor, which bestows knighthood for bravery in battle.

“I became a war hero because I stuck out, because I wrote about my experiences. But behind every soldier decorated with military honors there are a hundred anonymous heroes, some of them greater,” he said. “I had the fortune to be recognized, and to grow old.”

What a wonderful man.

‐Friends, it may be a while before I can talk at you again, in this forum. Heavy schedule. But thank you for reading (as always). And I’ll see you “ere long,” to quote an old lyric.

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