Politics & Policy

Bush and Blair in the dock, &c.

Friends, let me begin with a message similar to the one I delivered yesterday: I’m writing this column days in advance, so if I’m “behind the news,” forgive me. In fact, I’d like to start with an item concerning an interview given on April 14. It was given to Al-Jazeera TV by Clare Short. Who’s she? You remember: She is a longtime Labour MP in Britain, and served in Tony Blair’s cabinet. Would you like to know what she told her Arab audience?

As you know, there is an international court, which is new. But America is against this court, and did not ratify its establishment, because this court will try criminals around the world. So in the short term, it will be impossible to try George Bush in this court.

But on the other hand, if you remember Pinochet, he was a cruel military dictator in Chile. It took a very long time — many years — after the signing of the [U.N.] Convention Against Torture that a judge in France [sic] issued a ruling against Pinochet, and he was arrested there.

Let’s be realistic — I don’t believe that Blair and Bush will be arrested right away, but this issue may haunt them, because, after all, they will not die very soon, since they are not old. Just like Pinochet was tried — who knows? There are brave lawyers who are waiting for this opportunity, which will come one day.

This information comes courtesy the Middle East Media Research Institute, here.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a sickness in the West, as manifested by Clare Short on Al-Jazeera. She is one of those who repeatedly condemn Israel as an “apartheid state.” In fact, she has stated that Israel is “much worse” than the old South Africa. Yes, there is a sickness, one of whose most powerful symptoms is a deep misunderstanding of Israel, and a hatred of it. Will the West recover?

‐To add insult to injury, Clare Short was talking to people — Arabs — whose governments are world-class torturers, and whose officials are certainly never held accountable in any international court. Yet she was talking about Bush and Blair, who have done more to help Arab people than a billion Clare Shorts ever could.

‐Here’s some good news, though: Bill Cosby. In Georgia, he talked to an audience filled with “at risk” teenagers — black at-risk teenagers. And he lamented the casualness with which people treat the horrors afflicting black Americans, in particular. He said,

“Well, the mother’s on crack cocaine. Pass the salt. That girl’s baby has no father. Pass the salt. Oh, he shot him in the head? Pass the salt. We look at failure, and we’re like, ‘Pass the salt.’ ”

Cosby is well aware that many criticize him for airing racial dirty laundry. In response, he said, “That’s crazy. There are black people who have to walk around this dirty laundry.” And so on.

To read more, consult this AP article. And nice going, Cos.

‐Speaking to 60 Minutes, Col. Ziv Levy made a common point, but one worth repeating. He is an Israeli air commander. And he said, “We spend a lot of time and a lot of effort in training and being prepared for the worst. We cannot lose a single war. The first war we lose, Israel will cease to exist.” Yes, indeed. Arabs wage wars of annihilation against Israel. They lose. And then they go back and wait or prepare for the next one. This has happened over and over in Israel’s brief history. Will it happen always?

It seems that Israel’s enemies are in the catbird seat: They can lose and lose, and still survive. Israel is not interested in eliminating a single state. But Israel’s enemies: the opposite.

I remember meeting with Saif Qaddafi, the Libyan dictator’s son, along with other journalists in Davos. He had an explanation for why the Arabs had lost all their wars against Israel: Because Israel is a democracy, and those other countries are not democracies. In a democracy, explained young Qaddafi, merit is key, so that those who rise to the top levels of the military are apt to be capable. In the Arab countries, said Qaddafi, cronyism prevails, so the commanders tend to be no good. That’s why Arabs keep losing wars.

“May you never have democracy,” said an Israeli journalist under his breath. I have never forgotten it, and one can certainly understand it.

‐You want your regular dose of Che Guevara news? You got it. I quote from an article at Bloomberg.com (here):

Admirers of Ernesto “Che” Guevara have contributed more than three tons of bronze keys, kitchenware and old instruments for a statue to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Argentine revolutionary’s birth.

“My idea was to do a collective work,” said sculptor Andres Zerneri, 35. “I wanted thousands of people to send small pieces of bronze to be involved in the production of the sculpture.”

Zerneri received about 15,000 donations from as far away as Australia and Mexico — as well as from Cuba, where Guevara fought in Fidel Castro’s revolution.

By the way, would any of those “old instruments” be torture instruments? And I ask what I’ve asked many times before: Is there any totalitarian thug-murderer more celebrated than Guevara? How did the Nazis come to be so stigmatized? It must frustrate them that they can’t get any of the lovin’ lavished on Che.

The article at Bloomberg, by the way, is absolutely disgusting — bearing no hint of the real Guevara, who gloried in murdering people at La Cabaña, his abattoir, and who set up the Cuban gulag, where homosexuals, intellectuals, and others whom the Left normally looks out for were confined and brutalized.

An old story, but one that still burns . . .

‐Often, when I meet ordinary voters, I’m amazed at what they say. Whom do I mean by “ordinary voters”? People not in the “business”: not journalists, not activists — just folks. At the airport the other day, I talked to two ladies who work for an airline. The conversation turned to politics. They are staunch Democrats, and supporters of Hillary.

One said, “McCain’s going to raise our taxes. I just know it.” She talked about the onerous tax burden on her family, particularly at the state and local levels. And she said again, “McCain’s going to raise our taxes. We have to keep him out of there.”

She talked much like a Republican — but the Republicans are anathema to her.

I make the simple point that the electorate is a very strange beast.


‐About the above-advertised book, a reader wrote to me, “I really enjoyed it. I’ve passed it on to a few relatives. I guess that doesn’t help book sales. Sorry!” No apologies necessary: Pass it on at will!

‐A little music? For a review of Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio at the Metropolitan Opera, go here. And for a review of the bass-baritone Bryn Terfel in recital, go here. These reviews were published in the New York Sun.

‐In Friday’s Impromptus, I talked about presidential cussin’. I said that Clinton, Truman, and Jackson were all fearful cussers. Many readers wrote in to say, “What about LBJ?” So, so right — an unthinking omission on my part. And several readers wrote in to say, “Nixon!” Actually, not.

When I was in graduate school, Stephen Ambrose, who had written a multi-volume biography of Nixon, came to talk to us. He said that everyone assumed that Nixon was a great cusser, because of “[expletive deleted]” all through the transcripts. But Ambrose made a discovery: Nixon had given the tapes to his secretary, saying, “Take out the rough stuff, Rose.” Rose Mary Woods was a woman of some probity. And what was the “rough stuff”? A lot of hells and damns.

‐A letter from a reader — making a striking point:


I found it interesting that Obama thinks blue-collar voters “cling” to guns and the Bible while ignoring their economic interests. Why? Mainly because it is San Francisco rich people who cling to cultural matters — abortion, gay rights, etc. — and vote in direct contrast to their economic interests. Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?

As I said, striking.

‐I liked this, too:


I just wanted to say that I’m sick of the political experts — particularly on MSNBC — saying that the middle part of Pennsylvania is like, gasp, Alabama. They say it with such utter contempt and disdain. Talk about elitist comments. The last time I checked, Alabama was doing pretty good for itself. Manufacturing jobs, nice coastal region, low taxes, great weather . . .

Roll, Tide (Roll).

‐Several readers sent me a particular video, independently. I’ll share one letter:

Greetings, Jay,

I know you don’t have much time for goofy Internet stuff, but this is right up your alley: the Red Army Choir singing the refrain to “Sweet Home Alabama” (in English) with a Finnish rock band — here. The Cold War is over. We have prevailed.

And I didn’t realize until now that that would be two Alabama items in a row!

‐As I think I mentioned, I was in southern California recently, speechifying, and would like to share a few things. Was driving — being driven, actually — between Palm Springs and San Diego. And there suddenly appeared windmills, hundreds of them — the modern kind, white, simple, and sleek. (The old Dutch kind are much more attractive.) It looked like a giant art installment — indeed, something Christo would do.

The windmills also blighted the land. I wonder: Do these things generate enough energy to justify this blight?

Another story. A friend in Palm Springs told me that the American Indians are the richest people around — they own lots of land, which they lease. There was an Indian couple who went shopping for a home. They liked something that cost a million. And, in the next couple of days, they came around and paid in full — cash. And they wondered why the owners couldn’t vacate the home that day.

A charming story — and it makes perfect sense! You buy a loaf of bread, you pay in full, and you pay cash. You buy a house . . . same thing.

Finally, I want to take you to the town of Temecula, in Riverside County. In a parking lot, I saw a blast from the past: a huge, long, wide Olds Ninety-Eight. (Is there any other kind?) What a glorious boat of a car. On a window of the backseat was a sticker: “Pray for America.” Now, this message could come from the right or the left, I suppose. In this instance, it came from the right.

The back of the car had some stickers, too. One said, “Free Iraq,” showing the Iraqi flag and the American flag. Another said, “I’m Proud to Be an American.” And there was a Republican sticker.

Ladies and gentlemen, this auto was one stirring sight. And it conveyed a world of sociology.


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