Politics & Policy

Their best and brightest, &c.

For many years now – since before 9/11 — I have been running a series that might be characterized as follows: “How can the Arab world ever hope to reform when its best and brightest believe this? Or when its best and brightest peddle that?”

I’m afraid I have another item in this long-running series. Abdallah al-Ashal isn’t your typical rabble-rouser kook. He was deputy foreign minister of Egypt. He is currently professor of international law and political science at the American University in Cairo. On March 19, he said this on television: “I claim that since the events of 9/11, which were created by Sharon and Bush – the two of them shared a secret. This secret caused the U.S. . . .” Etc.

For more, please go to MEMRITV.org: here.

How does the Arab world have a chance when its former deputy foreign ministers and professors believe this — or are peddling this? What chance does the man on the street have, if his superiors are talking this way? What chance has the fruit vendor or garbageman?

This can all get terribly discouraging (and I am one to write fairly positive reports from the Middle East – perceiving and welcoming glimmers).

I remember something that David Pryce-Jones told me, after my first visit to Egypt, some years ago. He said, “Yes, another wonderful people, betrayed by its intellectuals.” Truer, sadder words were never spoken.

By the way, MEMRI continues to do its job, or one of them. Before, people such as Abdallah al-Ashal spread their poison throughout the Arab world, without the West’s knowing anything about it. Because of MEMRI, now we do. As I said in this piece – published in 2002 – you may not want to hear what MEMRI is exposing. But you have no excuse for ignorance.

‐I meant to say something in my Impromptus last Thursday, but forgot – that happens. Shortly before Obama’s big speech on race, but after the text had been released, I was looking at “The Hotline.” This is National Journal’s daily tip sheet on politics. And the front page said, “Unlike Romney, who mentioned ‘Mormon’ just once, Obama says ‘race’ over 10x’s and even discusses slavery.”

So, they’re still hawking this line about Romney and his religion speech. I loved what he said to some reporter who interviewed him after that speech. This lady – the reporter – said, What were you doing, mentioning “Mormon” only once? Were you ducking or something? And Romney responded coolly – again, I am paraphrasing – Actually, we don’t call ourselves Mormons. I just threw that one reference in there for the likes of you.

Besides which, the speech was on religion in America, not Mormonism. Duh!

‐This is related, sort of. Late last week, I was flying from Frankfurt to Salzburg – Austrian Air. And, as we were landing, the stewardess (oops) said, “Happy Easter.” And I’m thinking, Okay: In America, she would definitely be fired. The ACLU, the New York Times, and CBS would wet their pants. But would she be executed, too? What degree of torture is acceptable, in the case of a flight attendant who says “Happy Easter”?

Anyway . . .

‐Playing his part as Junior Castro, Hugo Chávez is out to destabilize and communize South America. He has now turned his gaze to Peru – and its president, Alan Garcia, has called him on it. (See this news article.) Good: It’s important not to keep mum, when Chávez and his supporters go about their work. Stop them early.

‐So, Saddam Hussein funded the trip of three anti-Bush congressmen to Iraq. (See here.) Let’s play a little game: What would the right-wing equivalent be? That is, where would three conservative congressmen go, and who would fund them? Also: How great would the media reaction be?

Let it not be said that this column never proposes a game. (Granted, we’ve had few . . .)

‐This is kind of interesting. Otto Reich is advising John McCain on Latin American affairs. And it’s more than interesting – it’s heartening. Very few people are as clear-minded as Reich on Latin America, and other regions of the world.

You remember that he served the Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II administrations. W. nominated him to be assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere. But Senate Democrats, led by Chris Dodd, refused to allow him a hearing. I think they knew how impressive he would be. So Bush gave him a recess appointment. And then Reich became a special envoy.

As I’ve remarked in this column before, “Otto Juan Reich” is a curious name. How did he get it? His father, Walter Reich, was a refugee from Nazism. He eventually made his way to Cuba. His family back in Europe was killed – murdered.

He married a Cuban woman, and they had children – including Otto. When Castro and the revolutionaries took over, the family went to the National Hotel, to welcome and hail them. It seemed to be a new, better day for Cuba. But Castro quickly showed his true colors – and Walter Reich knew it was time to flee again. People in Europe had waited too long; he would not repeat the mistake.

So they went to America.

Otto Reich hates tyranny, whether it is black or red. It makes no difference to him. He’s a liberal democrat – a Reaganite. He has been demonized by Democrats, including apologists for the Sandinistas and other Latin American Marxists. If you need to feel better about the McCain candidacy, you may want to think of Reich.

#JAYBOOK#

‐The other day, someone sent me an article from a publication called Lawyers Weekly. It is shocking. The article is a review by Kate Gibbs of Martin Sieff’s new book: The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Middle East. According to Gibbs, this book is “unfathomably racist,” “ignorant,” and “verging on evil.” She compares it to Mein Kampf. I have never seen a book review this condemnatory.

That got me to thinking, What in the world does Sieff say? Gibbs writes this: “The hateful farce begins on page one, paragraph one.” Reading this sentence, I buckled my chin strap. I prepared for the worst. And here is that paragraph: 

Think of the Middle East at the start of the 21st century: home to the richest, highest quality, most easily accessible oil deposits on earth; cockpit of an extreme Islamist movement that wants to topple moderate regimes and wage aggressive war against the United States and the West; nexus of an unending conflict between Israelis and Palestinians; and widely regarded as the most dangerous area for confrontation between the major powers.

Gibbs remarks, “It’s enough to make any liberal-minded, educated or intelligent reader burn hotter than the oil in the region would.”

What in the world is wrong with Sieff’s paragraph? It seems to me completely uncontroversial, even unremarkable. It is almost boringly true – truistic, even.

What is remarkable – astounding – is this Lawyers Weekly review. Honestly, I had to rub my eyes. I trust it is not parodic.

‐The current issue of NR will provide some relief from Lawyers Weekly. It contains much of interest, including a piece by Pryce-Jones on Israel (and from Israel); a piece by Theodore Dalrymple on hookers; and a piece by Anthony Daniels on Edward Said, who has done no end of harm. Also, there’s a piece by Ramesh Ponnuru on Senate Republicans. What is that minority band doing? What are its hopes and fears? This piece tells you exactly.

And, of course, there’s loads more good stuff: 60 pages or so.

My own contribution is a profile and interview of Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. You may remember him from my Davos journal. (Sounds like Troy McClure of The Simpsons, talking about himself, I know.) Donnersmarck is the writer and director of The Lives of Others, that remarkable film about East Germany and the Stasi. Donnersmarck was a toast of Davos, hailed and lauded everywhere he went. And I spent a few hours with him.

Would you like a taste of the piece – just a taste? Okay, you twisted my arm: 

What about Donnersmarck’s politics? He is clear and direct: “I want the government to stay as far out of my life as humanly possible.” . . . 

He has a frustration shared by many: the success of socialists in portraying the Nazis as diametrically opposite them. He says that people ought to be reminded that socialism was part of the Nazis’ very name. He is against any system that forbids the individual to live his life to the full. And he is determined that Communism, in Europe and elsewhere, will not be perfumed.

“We must make sure to remember that it was a nightmare, because, as we know, ideologies do make cyclical reappearances. It’s incredibly important that we don’t allow people to romanticize Communism, and that we call it what it is: an anti-man religion, completely contrary to freedom.” . . .

He is brimming with opinions, and I ask him about the United States. Donnersmarck says, in the course of his remarks, “I really, really hope that America will not make the mistake that has so weakened Europe: looking toward the government for answers to all problems. I hope that America will continue to respect the principle of subsidiarity, which is to say: The state should do only what the individual truly cannot do on his own” – and even then, the government that acts should be the most local government possible.

Anyway, I hope you will want to read up on this extraordinary man.

‐I read this in a news article the other day: “[Bill Clinton] told crowds they shouldn’t vote for his wife based on his administration, but should take into account her plans for the country. ‘It’s not just my record, it’s Hillary’s conviction,’ Clinton said.”

And I was thinking, “Hang on, was Hillary convicted for something? There were so many court cases, investigations, scandals . . . I thought she completely skated.”

(Yuk, yuk, yuk.)

‐Let’s have a little language. A reader writes, “Jay, I know you’re interested in words that are lost to daily use. How about this one? In the first chapter of Moby-Dick, Ishmael circumambulates Manhattan. Says exactly what needs to be said.”

Indeed!

‐Let’s have a little music. For a review of Wagner’s Walküre, at the Salzburg Easter Festival, go here. For a review of the Berlin Philharmonic under Seiji Ozawa, with Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin soloist; and for a review of the Berliners under Sir Simon Rattle, with Heinrich Schiff, cello soloist – go here. For a review of the New York Philharmonic, under Kurt Masur, go here. (What the New Yorkers performed was the St. Matthew Passion.) All these reviews were published in the New York Sun.

‐In response to my scribbles on Barack Obama and his grandmother – here – many, many readers wrote in to say something like the following: Remember when Jesse Jackson admitted that, when he heard footsteps behind him at night, and turned around and saw that it was a white person, he was relieved?a

 

That was a very, very important statement: because it was heartbreaking – and heartbreakingly wrong – that it was true.

But remember how Jackson recovered from it, after a controversy ensued? He said all he meant was that, if it were a white person behind him, they would probably be in a white neighborhood, meaning that cops would be on the beat – because police departments ignore black neighborhoods.

Sure: That’s what he meant.

‐Finally, I wanted to be sure you saw an obituary of Jacob DeShazer, a great man. These are excerpts from Richard Goldstein’s obit in the New York Times:

Jacob DeShazer, a bombardier in the storied Doolittle raid over Japan in World War II who endured 40 months of brutality as a prisoner of the Japanese, then became a missionary in Japan spreading a message of Christian love and forgiveness, died on March 15 at his home in Salem, Ore. He was 95. . . . 

Corporal DeShazer, a native of Oregon and the son of a Church of God minister, was among the five-member crew of Bat Out of Hell, the last bomber to depart the Hornet. . . . 

The five crewmen bailed out over Japanese-occupied territory in China and all were quickly captured. In October 1942, a Japanese firing squad executed the pilot, Lt. William G. Farrow, and the engineer-gunner, Sgt. Harold A. Spatz, along with a captured crewman from another Doolittle raid plane. Corporal DeShazer and the other surviving crewmen from his plane, Lt. George Barr, the navigator, and Lt. Robert L. Hite, the co-pilot, were starved, beaten and tortured at prisons in Japan and China – spending most of their time in solitary confinement – until their liberation a few days after Japan’s surrender in August 1945. 

Amid his misery, Corporal DeShazer had one source of solace. 

“I begged my captors to get a Bible for me,” he recalled in “I Was a Prisoner of Japan,” a religious tract he wrote in 1950. “At last, in the month of May 1944, a guard brought me the book, but told me I could have it only for three weeks. I eagerly began to read its pages. I discovered that God had given me new spiritual eyes and that when I looked at the enemy officers and guards who had starved and beaten my companions and me so cruelly, I found my bitter hatred for them changed to loving pity. I realized that these people did not know anything about my Savior and that if Christ is not in a heart, it is natural to be cruel.” 

Corporal DeShazer gained the strength to survive, and he became determined to spread Christian teachings to his enemy. . . . 

In 1950, he gained a remarkable convert. 

Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese naval flier who had led the Pearl Harbor attack and had become a rice farmer after the war, came upon the DeShazer tract. 

“It was then that I met Jesus, and accepted him as my personal savior,” Mr. Fuchida recalled when he attended a memorial service in Hawaii in observance of the 25th anniversary of the attack. He had become an evangelist and had made several trips to the United States to meet with Japanese-speaking immigrants. . . .

Anyway, have a great weekend, y’all.

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