Saturday, July 31, 2004
SEPTEMBER 11 COMMISSION REPORT
I watched the official release of the Sept. 11 commission report last week -- thankfully, the BBC continued covering the live event even after it was apparent that the conclusions were something other than "It was all Bush's fault."
After watching the often disgusting degree of partisanship and attention seeking earlier this spring, on the part of some of the commissioners, I had certainly become somewhat less than a fan of the panel's work. That criticism is really only deserved by a few of the members, but they seemed to me to have tainted the whole process. Well at this official release press conference, the main offenders were pretty subdued, but it remains to be seen how they will conduct themselves during the self-described publicity and lobbying phase to come.
The statements by Chairman Tom Keane and Vice-Chairman Lee Hamilton were both strong and non-partisan, as apparently is the report itself. The findings and conclusions were unanimous, and without dissenting additional views which are common with such panels (see the recent Senate Intelligence panel findings for the opposite example). But during this short question and answer session, the panel redeemed itself somewhat for me, and I was quite happy that the three worst previous offenders in the sickening showmanship department -- Benveniste, Kerrey and Gorelick -- pretty much kept their sanctimonious pontifications under control. I heard the first two make brief and restrained comments, while Gorelick looked exactly like she might have knocked back a handful of valium in advance, having a huge grin on her face for the whole time and making eyes with the audience in a very strange way.
I was very interested when one questioner identified himself as Stephen Hayes, the Weekly Standard writer who I've been following lately on the Saddam - al Qaeda relationship issue, and who is the author of a recent book on the subject. He asked Chairman Keane about their report's fine-tuning of it's language on this issue (a single paragraph in the earlier interim staff report had become a much misused political football by the media). Where the earlier wording had been that the committee found "no collaborative relationship" related to the Sept. 11 attacks (and this is what prompted the mass media to incorrectly blare "NO LINKS" from every available platform), the final report changes this to "no collaborative operational relationship". Tom Keane clarified, "We have found evidence of a very definite relationship between al Qaeda and Iraq, what we say in our report is that we found no evidence of collaborative operational relationship of Iraq with the Sept. 11 attacks."
While this is going on, the BBC has been flashing their normal "BREAKING NEWS" banner over the lower part of the screen, and rolling out bite-sized snippets of the "findings" as quickly as some guy in the control room can type them up, rapidly replacing one "headline" with another. So there came the delicious coincidence of Chairman Keane saying in plain language that the committee had found very definite evidence of a relationship between the previous Iraqi regime and al Qaeda going back many years, while BBC flashes a headline which stated "911 COMMISSION: NO CONNECTION BETWEEN IRAQ AND AL QAEDA". And it was as if nobody in the studio or control room even noticed this plain-as-day mistake. It just doesn't matter any more what is actually happening or what is actually being said -- that is their headline and they're stickin' to it. The BBC's special reporter on the scene had an intel "expert" to talk to on the sidewalk outside, who persisted in saying report was a whitewash. Never mind that the consensus of reaction from most quarters (apart from the Michael Moore wing of the MoveOn party) has been positive and praising the committee's recommendations, the BBC managed to find someone to call it a "whitewash."
The following day, C-SPAN's Washington Journal had the commission's Executive Director Philip Zelikow as a guest. The guy is a little off-putting, with his habit of overly softening his voice when explaining something, like he's talking to a young child or a puppy. I guess it's just how he is, as I noticed this even when he was testifying to his own commission in one of the later sessions. There was a phone-in question about Moore's F-911, regarding one of his chief conspirazoid points touted in his movie. This is the issue of a number of Saudis, including some members of the bin Laden family, who were flown out of the country shortly after Sept. 11. (And everybody knows that Osama has been seriously estranged from the rest of his half-siblings for a long time, right? Naturally.)
And of course, the commission has found, just as the folks who have been looking into the claims Moore makes in his movie have found, that practically everything he claims (or infers with the intent of making his audience believe) which can be checked out, is wrong. There were no flights before the re-opening of national airspace, no political interference in the permitting of the flights, and no lack of checking before letting the Saudis leave. It just simply didn't happen the way Moore says it happened. Indeed, Richard Clarke, who Moore relies on for a lot of his ammunition, is actually the highest official who was even aware of this matter, and he personally permitted the flights. Naturally, Moore doesn't tell you this in his flick.
Host Brian Lamb then followed up with, "How did you go about determining the answer to these questions?" Zelikow simply answered that, "It was easy," and proceeded to describe what they did and who they interviewed to reach the answers. He wouldn't actually come out and say that what is in Moore's movie was a lie ("I can't comment as I haven't seen the movie."), and he of course didn't say that Moore himself was a liar in so many words. He used quite a few more words, and elaborated on the issue on two separate occasions during the interview, stating the facts quite plainly. The end result of course, the inescapable conclusion is that Moore is indeed a liar, since the truth is quite opposite from what he claims. I wonder if Moore's F911 "war room" will pursue the Sept. 11 commission in court, like he promised he would do to anyone questioning his honour?
Perhaps not -- his "war room" chief, Chris Lehane has been busy these days spinning the Sandy Berger story -- he's on loan!
Well I hear that our multicultural and tolerant country has been advised by its lovely and talented defenders of Can-Con (Canadian Content ™), also known as the CRTC, that thou shalt have al Jihad TV to enjoy in your homes. Read some of the intelligent Iraqi bloggers linked on the sidebar, to get some idea of how they feel about al Jazeera network, and you might come away wondering why such a hate-mongering anti-Semite and pro-Wahabist Islamic jihad propaganda outfit is so essential for multicultural balance in Canadian television. I mean, you've already got the BBC on cable, right? OK, I'm being slightly sarcastic on the BBC there.
And I understand (though I'm sure I'm not up to speed on this at all) that FOX News has been rejected by this same CRTC bunch. So let me get this straight: al Jihad TV is just fine, but FOX is too partisan and dangerous? I thought it was a joke that one of the MoveOn type groups in the states is launching a suit against FOX for false advertising, based on their slogan of "Fair and Balanced". Now the Canadian bureaucracy has taken the joke one step further, to the point of farce. Especially after this spring's national attention on recent anti-Semitic attacks in Montreal, how can they be considering to put "Wahabi Madrassa On Air" as a mainstream media offering from coast to coast? Sheesh, this is the intolerant ideology that we're trying to find ways to educate against over here in Thailand and Indonesia, and you want to pump it into every household? And while you can't find even a slightly "conservative" point of view in television public affairs in Canada, and everybody gets the similar news angle of PBS, CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, Global, CBC, CTV and so on and so forth, the powers that be have decreed that allowing FOX would tip the balance too far to the right!
Last weekend, the Washington Journal showed cable ratings in the US for that week. FOX's rating was 1.3, which was the highest for a news cable channel. It is more than double the rating of CNN. MSNBC gets about half the ratings of CNN -- so CNN and MSNBC together don't get as many viewers as FOX News. It means Americans are going there to get some balance in their news, but evidently this is the kind of balance Canadians are not supposed to have access to. Yeah, al Jazeera, that's the balance that's good for Canadians to have.
Meanwhile in the UN General Assembly, for the vote I mentioned last time (and my feeling that Israel should just ignore the idiotic decisions of both the International Court and the GA), I now find that Canada abstained. That's real brave, makes me proud. We can't even give moral support to the Israelis to protect themselves from homicidal / suicidal maniacs by means of a barrier as last resort (it's effective at saving lives, and contrary to popular misconception is mostly fence rather than wall), because it would mean siding with the United States and Australia along with some tiny countries with moral principles. But we can't exactly stomach the idea of siding with the blatantly anti-Israel creeps pushing the issue. So we'll just have no opinion, shall we? Yeah, that's the ticket.
So I guess I wasn't really all that surprised to learn that our flag isn't treated with any more respect than it is these days, seeing as how it appears we don't really stand for much of anything anymore. So what does it matter that the red and white will be carried at the Olympics by someone who doesn't even feel like a Canadian -- he feels more patriotism and identity as a Quebecois. Our flag bearer is a proud supporter of Quebec separatism, and says he doesn't compete for Canada, he only competes for himself. H/T to Damian Penny for that one.
WHAT WAS HE THINKING?
I'm just wondering: was it something like ...
"Gee, this old chair in the National Archives top security reading room is really hurting my butt, I guess I'll just take these top secret highly classified papers home and read them on my nice comfy couch."
"Gee, I hope Bill doesn't come out with his usual, "Hey, Sandy! Are those national security top secret codeword documents in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?" comedy routine again when I get back to the office. That old line gets tired after the fourth or fifth time."Let me get this straight: this is the guy in the Clinton administration who, when presented with opportunities to kill Osama bin Laden, was concerned about whether it was "legal" or not? And so on multiple occasions, he nixed the idea of getting the principle terrorist enemy of his country because he deemed it "illegal". But yet he'll do illegal stuff frivolously and "inadvertently", or just because his butt is sore? This is how a guy once in charge of national security (and might well have been again under a President Kerry) acts with highly sensitive national security material?
The people who obvserved Berger stuffing the highly classified stuff into his pants and socks in the archives secure reading room, raised their concerns last October 2. Criminal investigations were going by sometime in November. So Berger knew he was being investigated for many months, and it seems his former boss Bill Clinton had known almost as long. (Bill joked to reporters that "Yeah, we were all laughing about it on the way over here." I'm just sure.)
This guy was the National Security Advisor! This is the job Condoleezza Rice has presently. Can you imagine the hoo-hah if she had done such a thing? Berger swiped all drafts of the same report, which was an after action report on the handling of the so-called "millenium plot" (which was stymied by an alert border official at the B.C. - Washington border). There were several drafts of this document, and Berger was after all copies. He secretly returned some of them, while some others he admits now, were lost or destroyed. Or the dog ate them, or something. The partisans of the "Moore-ista " camp of the Democratic Party, so quick to see conspiracy under every stone on a normal day, are now "troubled" by the "inadvertent" actions, which are "inexplicable". And as I mentioned before, Moore's attack dog Chris Lehane is now on loan from his F-911 war room to work the spin on this.
Some perspective, from an email published by Instapundit:
In a nutshell, the security system from least classified to most classified was: Confidential, Secret, Top Secret, Top Secret codeword). When we worked on Top Secret codeword (it might read something like Top Secret Fishhook), it was in a vault and our notes were put in burn bags. We were not allowed to take any notes out -period. We clearly understood that you didn't screw around with Secret, much less TS or TS codeword. For us a slip-up meant the slammer. What Berger did is so far removed from accepted security procedure, that I can only see two possible explanations: dishonesty with an ulterior motive (political CYA [cover your ass - ed.], I would guess) Or he's crazy. There is no way a veteran in the security business doesn't understand the gravity of walking out with TS codeword data.The stuff Berger took, on multiple occasions, were Top Secret Codeword class. He had known about the investigation into his actions for months, Clinton knew for months, and yet candidate Kerry didn't know? Berger worked for Kerry campaign, he was described in the media as a "top security advisor to the Kerry campaign." After this story broke, he suspiciously became transformed in these same media, into an "informal advisor to the Kerry campaign." By keeping this matter secret from Kerry, Bill Clinton cannot be seen as being very helpful to the campaign. By the way, the penalty for being found guilty of this offence, is a fine and/or prison for up to 10 years.
But wait! This part is too funny! The LA Times evidently tried to out-perform the New York Times in the predictability stakes: NYT put the breaking Berger story on page A16 (Mickey Kaus is a Slate political analyst type):
A-16: Even cynical New York Times-bashers must be amazed that that is where the paper ran the news of the Sandy Berger criminal investigation. ... I guess they wouldn't want to bump that late-breaking piece on untucked shirttails from the front page. ...... while the LAT cuts it down even further, relegating this major story to a blurb in the "In Brief" section! "In Brief", geddit! [smeagol-voice-on] Preh - shus! [smeagol-voice-off] They could have at least changed the section title to be "In Briefs" just, you know, because.
Another interesting question: did the Dems leak this now (it's been under wraps for 10 months) to pre-empt it coming out say, at the end of October? Some Dems are blaming the Repubs for the timing (presumably to taint the Dem convention), and yet I've heard nothing about it during the event this week. Most observers seem to think the Dems leaked it themselves. Could it have been to take the heat off Joe Wilson's credibility problems? You know, they guy who said he proved Bush lied and debunked the Niger uranium thing, but it turns out that he was the liar in the end? I don't think anyone now would do that guy any such favour, except if he did it for himself. But perhaps Wilson can come out and declare that the documents never existed in the first place? Anyway, if the media buries the story, where's the benefit or damage to anybody?
Amazing how readily the media helps out some people: one day Sandy Berger is "the chief foreign policy advisor and spokesman for Senator Kerry" and the next day he withdraws in shame from his lowly position as "an informal Kerry advisor". One day, Joe Wilson is a principled man exposing the lies of the Bush administration, hot stuff on the talk show circuit. After all these official committees found that he was the actual liar, the media suddenly finds him a singularly uninteresting subject. By the way, Joseph Wilson was also a "senior advisor to the Kerry campaign", prior to his recent embarassment. Both of these embarassments -- Berger and Wilson -- could have been likely considerations for high office had these shameful activities not been exposed.
PSEUDO RADICALS FOR A NEW CENTURY
I had a very entertaining hour or so last weekend, watching a "press conference" by a group called the "Bl(A)ck Tea Society" to explain their proposed radical protest activities during the Democratic Convention. I haven't laughed so hard in weeks! This is real moonbat territory here, a full panel of them.
No, they assured the assembled media representatives, we are not an anarchist group (I guess it must be the (A) in their name which accidentally creates the false impression). The Society is more like an umbrella group, containing some anarchist groups and some other kinds of radical revolutionary activists. They were admirably uncompromising in the face of the propaganda tools of the oppressor: We will make our statements, and will answer some questions afterwards. Following this event we will not be available for any further information or interviews, so don't even try.
One spokespersonage had an unfortunate self-inflicted speech impediment, owing to the large piercing adornment protruding from his lower lip. They have no leadership structure of course, and the organisation of the press event showed it. Take turns sitting on the centre chair at the table of 7 or 8 members, because that's where the mikes are. Everybody gets a turn. Stand up, shuffle the chairs around (metal legs on linoleum screeching each time), sit down again. All the predicable canards you can imagine, everybody's heard the script. Stand up, shuffle, screeeech, trade places again.
The coordinator of the onsite "Wellness Center" affirms the availability of important ministrations for the brave comrades who will protest in the face of the inevitable police brutality -- including the provision of emergency hugs and chocolates. I guess these are effective antidotes to the anticipated verbal abuse they might be suffering from the pigs, or something. Another question from the media: everybody stand, shuffle, bump and screeeech (the table is pushed back almost to the wall with not nearly enough room for all this shuffling back and forth across each other, but they soldier on bravely, managing to pass in front of each other and around the chair-like obstacles in an admirable and comradely way, with every shuffle, scrape and bump suitably amplified in the PA system), and finally sit again with the proper spokesperson before the mikes to answer the newsman's question. "I'm afraid I don't have the answer to that question." Just excellent entertainment, it would be absolutely impossible to satirize these people.
IT'S ABOUT TIME
I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again: Iraq the Model should be carried daily on the op-ed page of the New York Times and the Washington Post, and whatever passes for "national papers" in every other country. Well it hasn't happened yet, but the brothers recently got a shot at a newspaper column thanks to Tim Blair who I sometimes quote or link to here. I gather that Blair must have a column in an Australian paper, The Bulletin. A few weeks ago he turned his column over to the Iraqi bloggers, and this is part of what was published:
How is life in Iraq? Depends on your point of view. A bunch of us were talking the other night; one friend, very angry, said: "Did you see what happened today in Antar Square? The Americans came, blocked the street and attacked the toy store. They were smashing kid's bicycles!" Another friend, listening carefully, asked: "Was there a big loading truck with them?" Yes, came the reply. The second friend then told his version: it turned out he'd been at the store buying a bike for his son. "I was in the middle of tough bargaining with the shopkeeper when two Humvees and a truck stopped out front. One of the Humvees waved all the cars to pass. Soldiers from the second Humvee said they wanted to buy some bicycles. It didn't take a long time, as they didn't bargain, and they bought a huge number of bicycles and filled the truck with them and left." Whom to believe? Here are two good friends and both were on the scene. As for me, it didn't take a lot of effort to figure out who was closer to the truth. Those bikes have probably been delivered to a local school.Meanwhile (and exclusively on their own page), Omar laments the ongoing slanging matches outside his country, over the legitimacy of their liberation. Iraqis have got a lot going on right now, and care more about results and progress than the legalistic and politically motivated wrangling that sophisticated foreigners continue using to bash each other. One can surely understand why he might sound ticked off that his life, that of his family, friends and his entire people are still being kicked around like a political football.
You cannot tell a man that saving him and his family from torture, humiliation and death was a mistake and it should've not been done because it's illegal. This is almost an insult to Iraqis to hear someone saying that this war was illegal. It means that our suffering for decades meant nothing and that formalities and the stupid rules of the UN (that rarely function) are more important than the lives of 25 million people.Omar continues the piece with his now recurring feature, where he translates for us the comments of Arabic language entries from a BBC website "talkback forum". I have to say that even I am often surprised at how strong and determined are many of the Iraqi views, with the stereotypical "Arab resistance" type of views only seeming to come from some small subset of certain Arab countries -- from this example it was one Syrian and one Palestinian.
While these Iraqi "non-journalists" continue informing the world with their actual concerns and crystalizing the picture with vivid anecdotes, the Sydney Morning Herald's former Baghdad correspondent has high-tailed it out of there, so he can safely continue spreading rumours that PM Allawi is personally shooting criminals in cold blood. Maybe he didn't like Iraq very much, and wrote the story so he'd have to leave for his own safety, who really knows. All I know is, he wrote it, and then loudly proclaimed something to the effect of, "I have to leave the country now, because it's too dangerous for me to continue here with my fearless style of journalism." Looks like a good strategy if you really, really want to get back to good old Sydney, eh? Well, a blogger I've been reading for a long time, Zeyad wrote in Healing Iraq back on July 1 about the usefulness of rumours:
In fact the performance of the IP [Iraqi Police] until now is encouraging, a number of gangs were surrounded and arrested at Al-Battawiyeen by an Iraqi SWAT force, and people claim that the police used satellite images to locate the gangs, such rumours do have a benefit though. Another widespread and preposterous rumour is that Ayad Allawi has been showing up at IP stations and executing criminals himself, and I have heard this one from a very large number of people.A bit of Rock 'n Roll History from ancient times - the period known as the early "shock-rock" era. Alice Cooper was rumoured to have bitten the head off a live chicken on stage and drank the blood (a similar rumour had Ozzy doing likewise to a bat). Frank Zappa apparently phoned Cooper and asked him if it was true - it wasn't. Zappa then said to Cooper, "Whatever you do, never admit that you didn't do it."
While we're at it, Arthur Chrenkoff has the latest installment of Good News from Iraq posted on his page - and this time, it also appears on the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal. Well done, Arthur!
UPDATE: Well it looks like that Sydney Morning Herald link is about to expire -- I'm still waiting for it to come through, it looks like it will but it first takes you to a page warning you that you'll soon need to register for it. Oh well.
CULT OF ANTI-AMERICANISM
Sometimes it seems to me that the anti-Americanism I see so frequently, and so frivolously expressed, is some kind of faith-based ideology that the pronouncers more often than not seem to have given very little critical thought to. An article which I read recently, and will quote from a little later, pegs Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky as two different kinds of priests, of the same cult. This angle seems to strike a resonant chord with me, I think he's on to something here. Moore is the less substantial of the two, something like a "revival-tent grifter". Remember, he goes around the world proclaiming that Americans are the stupidest people on earth, arrogant, violent idiots and so on. He has become very rich doing this, including from Americans. He is taken seriously by many, even while he tells people (whenever he gets nailed on his misleading shenanigans with no logical way out) not to take him seriously ("I'm an entertainer."). Moore is proud that Linda Ronstadt dedicated the song "Desperado" to him (before she got booed off a stage for it) -- both of them seeming to think of it as a tribute to a hero. Isn't the desperado in question (who evidently enjoys "riding fences"), asked in the song "Why don't you come to your senses?" What's so heroic about that, anyway?
And one more thing about that guy: why is he, who claims to be not acting for any political party (even though he was prominent in Wesley Clark's nomination bid), so ubiquitous at the Democratic Convention? A convention that has them stepping over each other to be more militaristic and heroic and steeped in wartime credentials? Of course, not to mention unanimous and enthusiastic about supporting the troops! And there among all the patriotic hubub is Michael Moore, who says the vicious terrorists beheading people and blowing up masses with car bombs in Iraq, are in reality the heroes of Iraqi anti imperialist resistance, the Iraqi "Minutemen" (yes he used that term, and does not that mean something in Boston?) who, he claims, will be victorious against US aggression. Just asking.
Anyway, more to the point is this little thing that Pejman quoted recently. He finds an interesting piece explaining the Moore genre:
Of course, the documentary form doesn't always function this way. At its best--e.g., Frederick Wiseman's films on high schools and hospitals, the weird constellations of "Crumb" and "Capturing the Friedmans," the Vietnam-centered "Hearts and Minds"--it is propelled by a sense of discovery. Neither filmmaker nor viewer knows what he is getting into until he really starts busying himself with it.Flockumentaries: yeah, that one works. I've experimented with a few different alternatives -- feeling like I don't wish to debase the honourable term documentary by attaching it to Moore's kind of junk.
Movies like "Outfoxed," "Control Room" and "Fahrenheit 9/11" work differently. They begin by knowing their thesis--and their audience--and operate backward. In the process, artists keen to point up the propagandistic efforts of others show themselves all too willing to take part in such efforts themselves.
Yet to call these films propaganda is also to misunderstand them. They don't seek to convince the unconvinced or herd the untamed. They aim directly at the sheep....Call them flockumentaries, movies people attend en masse, to nestle together in easy confirmation of their most cherished beliefs--to learn, really, what they already know.
Well that was actually a slight diversion from where I was going here. Anti-Americanism as religious-like faith; with Moore as Elmer Gantry and Chomsky as the "Ayatollah" of the anti-Americanist religious dogma. I've mentioned David Horowitz previously -- the formerly arch-radical founder of Ramparts magazine, now publishing FrontPage Mag. As Horowitz describes the tenets of this aforementioned faith, "Those who oppose socialism, Marxism, Communism, Chomskyism embody evil; they are the party of Satan, and their champion, America, is the Great Satan himself. Chomskyism is, like its models, a religion of social hatred." The article which explores this idea and got me really thinking about all this, was found on Victor Davis Hanson's page but written by Bruce Thornton. It's a review of a book (which I think I'll add to my next buy list), and Horowitz is co-author. The Anti-Chomsky Reader, ed. by Peter Collier and David Horowitz (Encounter Books)
Thornton writes that Collier and Horowitz ...
... are the thinkers suited for such a task, for they are apostates from the sixties New Left sect of Marxism who have in subsequent years devoted their lives to exposing the lies and crimes of modernity's most lethal delusion. The nine excellent essays they have collected cover the whole spectrum of Chomsky's political views, including his numerous apologies for mass murderers, his flirtation with Holocaust deniers, his hatred of Israel and support for her enemies, and his obscene interpretation of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.How curious it is that Chomsky's main thesis, which seems to form the basis for most of his work, depends upon the mentality of the mass herd, and their witless acceptance of what is fed to them by the mass media (which thus forms the foundation for his own claim to be opening their eyes and offering them the alternative, and thus actual truth). The masses need to be fed "bread and circuses" to keep their minds away from the "real truth", for which they need "intellectuals" like Chomsky to point it out to them. What he hopes people remain too confused to realise, is that this mass media which he claims is constantly manufacturing all this artificial consent, seems to be subliminally infused with Chomsky's very own ideology.
I found this very interesting article, and thus learned about this very intriguing book, only because I try to visit Victor Davis Hanson's page regularly so as not to miss anything there. So I have to take an aside here to mention three of his own pieces, all of them well worth reading. A historical comparison of periods separated by 6 decades -- 1944 and 2004 -- in History's Verdict; the purported populism of the two Johns (Kerry & Edwards) in Faux Populism; and a look at who might be the true Allies, Friends, Neutrals, or Enemies? -- in international affairs today. Hanson is truly terrific -- he leaves ideologues like Chomsky back in the dust.
By the way, Chomsky himself once said, "The Internet is an elite organization. Most of the population of the world has never even made a phone call." Since Noam now also has his own blog, does that mean that he would now cop to being an elitist himself? Hah! Fat chance... speaking of which, it would be about as likely as a certain rhino-hipped flockumentarian saying no to a triple bacon cheeseburger.
Hat tip to Chomsky Watch for that little Internet elitist quote. And don't miss diary of an anti-chomskyite too, if Chomsky-debunking fact checkers are of interest to you. The latter's review of an actual Chomsky essay recently drew the ire of the cunning linguist himself -- a weird non-responsive response whereby he claimed to have been so annoyed by his critic's choice of words (he had referenced one of Chomsky's points by calling it "my favourite howler"), that the honourable tenured academic took the cheap way out and pretended to refuse to read any farther:
The rest is just a hysterical tantrum. Impossible to comment on such crazed frothing at the mouth.And I must say here, that similar to my recent realisation that Michael Moore is basically the real-media-world equivalent of a Usenet troll, this technique by the great scholar Chomsky is nothing more than that which is used by innumerable, run-of-the-mill Usenet cowards (a ubiquitous species which doesn't even merit its own special term, the way "trolls" do). It goes something like this: "Ha ha, all your stupid arguments and citations were in vain, because I didn't even read them and they are hereby deleted from my response and flushed where they belong, nya nya!" Pathetic. The old standby slogan Question Authority really ought to apply to all "authorities" -- even the radical anti-authoritarian ones who place themselves on pedestals to be worshipped by proletarian masses. And Lenin died in a syphlitic dementia, so there.
What's below that brilliant insight I'm afraid I won't discover.
UPDATE: Is anti-Americanism as an article of faith or superstition? Something based on loopy conspirazoid theories, a set of "received wisdom" canards unquestioned by masses of ever-willing dupes, merely because they hope it's true? I've just found something else relevant to this question, resulting in this late addendum -- it just seemed to fit better here than putting it in a separate item.
Before the October 2001 military action which overthrew the medieval Taliban regime from Afghanistan, Chomsky predicted -- and I believe, hoped for as a proof of America's vileness -- millions of Afghan refugees fleeing American aggression, hundreds of thousands of casualties of American bombing, mass starvation of epic proportions, a quagmire and disaster at every turn (and of course the same for Iraq too), based entirely on faith (or wishful thinking, which I think is more likely in his case). None of that happened, of course as we know now. Most realistic people didn't expect anything like that to happen, either. But the predictions of Chomsky, and a few others like him, were so completely overboard that they could only have originated in feverish minds seized by a faith that wherever the United States goes, only massive and total disaster can follow. It's a kind of unshakeable bigotry that is explored by Rob Foot in Australia's Quadrant Magazine. Foot writes:
Anti-Americanism has become a superstition. Fear, loathing, fury and resentment have combined to produce something that resembles nothing so much as a new form of virulent anti-Semitism. Within the USA and without, tirades are daily directed against America, its values, its founding fathers, its policies past and present, its very being. Intellectuals as notable as Gore Vidal have allowed themselves to descend to conspiracy theories about September 11 that would shame even an undergraduate. "Bush knew about it in advance and allowed it to happen in order to give him a pretext for invading Afghanistan and seizing its oil" - this summarises, I think, the startling truth Vidal unleashed on the world. Such a construction would do the authors of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion proud. And Vidal didn't even have to forge anything; his audience was never going to ask to see the evidence.Here I think is the interesting example of likemindedness between these two outspoken camps. Comparing anti-Semitism with anti-Americanism might seem like a rather crazy idea to begin with -- but not really when you stop to think. The example of the "Protocols" is a case in point of this type of willful ignorance -- a crutch on which to support something which can't stand very solidly on its own, so a fallacy will serve well enough to support a world view that its adherents so fervently wish was true. This supposed ancient proof of the Jewish conspiracy, The Protocols of the Sages of Zion (as I've also seen it translated, as I recall, from the original German), has been debunked long ago as a complete fraud. I don't think there are any serious historians which still dispute that, at least that is my understanding of the current scholarship on the subject. The "Protocols" is recognised as a forgery, written with the sole aim of demonising Jews, and is no more authentic than the "Hitler Diaries" were. Yet in the Arab world, virtually 100% of people believe them to be true, historic documents proving the ancient Jewish conspiracy to rule the earth. In fact there was recently some kind of 48-part super mini-series (produced by, as I recall, Egyptian television), dramatising the "Protocols" for Arab audiences. It was a smash hit across the Middle East. (OK, so maybe it wasn't actually 48 parts, but it was a lot.)
Foot describes when he thinks that socialism died: for him it was a day in 1989, when Czechoslovakia opened its borders with Austria.
At about that time, the Australian media reported a demonstration in Prague, which included an old Czech woman's bitter malediction upon socialism. As I remember it, the cameras captured her shaking fists, her contorted face and angry tears attesting more eloquently than words to a lifetime lost to misery and terror as, furiously, she shouted - in English! - "They should have tried it on animals first!" It had probably never been possible to tell her that George Orwell had done just that, in Animal Farm, but had not been widely enough heeded. It seems not too bold a prediction to say that no sovereign state will ever again choose socialism for its forward pathway.I'm going to remember that mental picture. I hope someday I can be lucky enough to see that historic film: the old Czech woman's lament, "They should have tried it on animals first!" Priceless.
This is the font and source of the Left's rage and hate. The wrong side, the wrong ideas, the wrong attitudes and the wrong people had somehow contrived to win. And then, on top of the political and economic victories heralded by end of the Cold War, unsupportable enough in themselves, there came the USA's seemingly effortless military victory over Iraq in 1991 - in a war, as we remember, that the hard Left was unanimous in opposing, despite the fact it was unarguably just. The Left's fury and frustration boiled over. Who to blame for its immense, unimaginable defeat? To its question, "Why did the right side, the right ideas, the right attitudes and the right people not win?" the Left found a single, simple, one-word answer: Amerika. The rest, as they say, is polemics: the unending regurgitation of that helpless, futile response.
Anti-Americanism doesn't depend on George W. Bush, any more than anti-Semitism depends on Ariel Sharon. They were building giant paper mache Uncle Sam puppets to set fire to, when Clinton used force to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, and when he destroyed a Sudanese chemical weapons plant (yes, the same one news media still insists to call the "baby aspirin factory"). They smashed US embassies and consulates in China long before they heard of Dubya.
The "facts" of American evil and the hatred felt for it are not argued from circumstance or evidence: they are derived from an intellectual horizon wholly indifferent to logic. The evil is pre-assumed, cosmic and all-encompassing. It impacts the very basis of our reality, evidenced by the philosophies by which we understand it. America's evil is inherent, insistent and inevitable. And it is intended, deliberate and engineered, out of a spirit of pure, unadulterated malignance towards the non-American world. To [the authors of 'Why do People Hate America?', published in 2002], America is not a country at all, but rather a poisonous psychic space, and an infectious effluvium.H/T for the U/D: LGF, quotes courtesy of Damian of Cornerbrook. And yes I will read the whole thing.
JIMMY IN BOSTON (AND JAKARTA)
I did watch much of the Democratic Convention this week -- C-SPAN got extra time on the Worldnet feed each day, and from 4 - 7 pm carried a replay of PBS coverage with Jim Lehrer, Shields & Brooks, Gwen Ifil, and the excellent historians' panel. The commentary was usually much more interesting than the speeches, with one exception.
No, it wasn't Jimmy Carter -- all the known people were as predictable as could be. The first day was for past champions, Al Gore still whining that "I wuz robbed." Carter, both Clintons, all pretty forgetable. The next day was for lions of the lefties I guess -- Ted Kennedy (somebody actually said, "The lion roars." groan), Howard Dean, and I forget now who else. Theresa the billionairess. Flat, flat flat ... I expected some fire and brimstone from Dean but he was flatter than a glass of week-old Pepsi. Of course the delegates want to be inspired and excited and have a reason to lift the roof, but I didn't see much for them to genuinely get excited about.
About Carter though: he had an interview with Lehrer in the booth right after his speech, and I just want to point out some things he said that were wrong (not that more than 3 people will notice, but what the heck). He was talking about progress in democratic development in the world which he has been part of, through his Carter Center. Very admirable, bravo, good work Jimmy. He referenced the issue of democracy in the Islamic world, and the misconceptions many people have regarding incompatibility, etc. Again, good and valuable things to remind people about. He had only just returned from Indonesia, where he and his group had been observing the presidential elections this month, and expressed a lot of praise for the Indonesians showing real commitment for pluralism, freedom, tolerance, democracy and so on -- all the good stuff that we should be giving them credit for. Again, excellent points. The public eye, as focussed by the mainstream media, basically ignored the whole thing, and it helps when somebody like Carter brings it up.
Jim Lehrer said something like, "That was their first democratic election there, wasn't it?" Carter replied, "No Jim, that was actually their second one since the end of the Suharto dictatorship -- the first one was the parliamentary election which we helped with earlier this year." Then Jim says, "Oh right, this was their first direct election for president." In reality, the election on July 5 was the third election conducted under non-dictatorship conditions. Carter should have known this because I'm sure he observed the 1999 elections also -- more than 40 parties participated, it was acknowledged to be fair and legitimate, and it produced a parliament which then selected Gus Dur (Abdurrahman Wahid) as president, with Megawati as vice president. For some reason, Carter has a mental block on this, because when he was in Jakarta this month, he held an interview session with SCTV (which I taped along with Colin Powell's session with the students). He praised Indonesia's progress toward democracy, reminding the interviewer of the 1999 election which brought Megawati to the presidency. Which is totally wrong, but she didn't correct him. Megawati took the president's chair two years later, in a concerted multi-party parliamentary coup which included several acknowledged corrupt forces, and which many people still consider to have been unconstitutional (and I am one). But really, Jimmy should know the story a little better than he tells it ... but then again he is 80 years old.
Day three in Boston was John Edwards day, and Thursday was John Kerry's day. But I do feel glad that I monitored most of the main events, as uninspiring as even the big stars turned out to be. Oh they both rocked the rafters and so on, Edwards maybe trying not to upstage his partner, and Kerry pulling out all the stops to seem to possess a real and genuine heart. "Reporting for duty" with a salute, made me groan. They way overdid the swift boat war hero thing, and I hear that we will be getting more of the other side of the "highly decorated" and "wounded in action" heroism stuff in the times ahead. I don't know -- touting one's own "heroism" just seems most unbecoming, and I've heard several real veterans say much the same. Guys like that generally don't like people calling them heroes, it makes them uncomfortable. Not so with Senator Lurch at all.
But in my opinion, Kerry and everyone else, including Ted the Lionhearted and past presidents, were all seriously upstaged by the keynote speaker. I feel like I might well have seen the very first self-introduction by the first black president of the US. Barack Obama is simply amazing. He sounded so completely different from all the others, because he had not a single streak of meanness anywhere in his address. No backhanded or subtle slurs on anyone (plentiful in Kerry's speech). They talk about divisions in their party, between the parties, between ideological opponents in the society, who can best be a uniter not a divider etc. Barack Obama came across to me as a transcender -- all the labels and categories just don't fit. He didn't convince me that John Kerry is the proper guy for the job, but he did move me quite considerably. His delivery, his gestures, his choice of words -- his heart was conveyed absolutely transparently by it all working together perfectly. This guy is going places, this is the one who deserves to inherit the title of "The Great Communicator".
The Republicans have a couple of smart, young African American figures coming up now, and here is the guy who will match them on the Democrat side. Forget Al Sharpton, they should be ashamed of that shrill goof. Jesse Jackson and Sharpton both discredited themselves with the glowering, pouty performance they offered in response to President Bush's generous and good natured welcome to them, when he spoke to the Urban League last week. That audience offered frequent -- not raucous, but frequent and apparently genuine -- applause to the president, while Jackson and Sharpton sat resolutely on their hands with long, mean looking faces. Obama is not like that at all, and one gets the feeling that he would be as at home and comfortable with Bush, as Bush clearly was in a room full of African Americans last weekend.
While African women in Darfur region of Sudan were being raped, while their men and boys were being slaughtered by the Sudan government backed Janjaweed militiamen, Arab women stood nearby and sang for joy, according to an Amnesty International report published recently. This according to an account of the AI report in the Guardian (I hope the link still works). According to an African chief quoted in the report, the singers sang:
"The blood of the blacks runs like water, we take their goods and we chase them from our area and our cattle will be in their land.Yikes. All that and badly dressed too -- these singers are truly vicious, eh? But no laughing matter, the racism of Sudanese Arabs against the black tribes has been known for a long time. This is one of the last areas on earth where the slave trade has been practiced up to the present day, much as it was in centuries past when the cross Atlantic slave trade was booming. We think slavery had been stamped out a long time ago, but somehow the news never actually reached into the Sudan.
The power of [Sudanese president Omer Hassan] al-Bashir belongs to the Arabs and we will kill you until the end, you blacks, we have killed your God."
"You are gorillas, you are black, and you are badly dressed."
Almost a month ago, I thought the world was alerted to the immediacy of this crisis. The new US ambassador to the UN, and the UN official responsible for the Sudan crisis, both emerged from a closed Security Council meeting, with very strong positions. They would require action by the Sudanese government immediately -- not in weeks or even days, but right now without delay. The tough talk was immediately tempered by France, China and some others encouraging Sudan to stand up to the bullying. Meanwhile perhaps hundreds of black Sudanese continue being killed every day, attacked by by the Janjaweed and Sudanese military. Now with a lot of arm twisting, there's finally a UNSC resolution -- warning of sanctions within 30 days. It passed, with two abstentions -- China and I don't know who else. Most likely France I suppose. What a tragedy! This has been clearly identified as an unambiguous genocide, this is an example of when military force -- as much as is needed -- should be sent in immediately to put a halt to what is going on. But no, we have to play by the rules of international consultation, blah blah blah.
And are the "progressives," who are supposed to be the ones to stand firm and fearless to stop racism and genocide, doing anything to affirm that here is an absolutely legitimate case for the immediate use of force in an emergency situation? No. Because that would mean taking the same side as the vile imperialist USA. Couldn't do that -- better to stand alongside the highly principled French and Chinese. Stand up to the American aggressors you determined and resistant government of Sudan ... this is pathetic! Now let's wait another month and see if they will play nice while we demonstrate how nice and consultative we can be over here in the civilised world. What happened to the Annan Doctrine about the limits of national sovereignty when such vile things are going on? Whatever happened to the The Responsibility To Protect, a Canadian supported initiative of the International Commission On Intervention And State Sovereignty? This is exactly the time to put these new international humanitarian intervention ethics into practice!
IS SIR ELTON BECOMING SENILE ALREADY?
Well, he's been making me wonder that for some time. After the Sept. 11 attacks, and the well-justified and well-supported overthrow of the Taliban, liberation of Afghans from the medieval dark ages ruled by intolerant, sword-happy religious fascists, Sir Elton John distinguished himself by crying out in a tormented way (as truth-speakers-to-power are wont to do, even while standing fearlessly against the awesome force of the oppressor), "Where is the Dalai Lama? What an a@#hole!"
One might be forgiven to wonder why Sir Elton was so angry with Dalai Lama. Well I can't explain it, and apparently neither could Sir Elton with any measure of coherence. The man of peace didn't stop the war, or something, so the aging rock star decided he needed to withdraw his support for a Buddhist Peace Park somewhere or other. You know, George Bush attacked those poor Afghanistan folks who never hurt anyone, and Dalai Lama didn't stop it, so he's a hypocrite a@#hole, or something like that. I read the original interview at the time, and the old boy sounded like nothing more than simply sloshed, without any rhyme or reason connecting the thoughts. Either that or just spouting what he thought were the proper radical canards that he's, y'know s'posed to say. I don't know, it was puzzling.
Now he's at it again, attacking the McCarthyite "era of censorship" in America. You know the one, the familiar place where there are no protest songs like in the old days, and nobody can make movies that call the president a moronic liar, where Madonna and Ozzy are prevented from doing things like singing "War Pigs" in front of a screen comparing Bush to Hitler. Yeah, that's the place. Leno and Letterman are not allowed to poke fun at the ruling dictatorship, and of course books like Richard Clarke's, Maureen Dowd's and Joseph Wilson's are burned in massive piles on the street. You got it, that censorship in America. Say, is that the America where the entire entertainment industry and all its glittering cultural icons are not only prevented from holding big shindigs where they can scream obscene things about the president which could never be aired either on tv or radio (and even the Washington Post couldn't print 'cause it would be way worse than the vice president's own four letter word, which they did print), but they're also not allowed to campaign for the opposition? Oh yeah, that censored America. Right.
Read Cornerbrook's own Damian Penny, and his take on this, in This is McCarthyism?
IT'S ALL(WAYS) CHIMPY'S FAULT
Rich Lowry on why President Bush can never be right. Heh:
Sometimes a political figure becomes so hated that he can't do anything right in the eyes of his enemies. President Bush has achieved this rare and exalted status. His critics are so blinded by animus that the internal consistency of their attacks on him no longer matters. For them, Bush is the double-bind president.And so on, and so forth, etc. etc. Without looking at the rest, I bet you could come up with your own! Mix 'n match! The possibilities are endless!
If he stumbles over his words, he is an embarrassing idiot. If he manages to cut taxes or wage a war against Saddam Hussein with bipartisan support, he is a manipulative genius.
If he hasn't been able to capture Osama bin Laden, he is endangering U.S. security. If he catches bin Laden, it is only a ploy to influence the elections.