Mr. Obama’s War: I Told You So

President Bush salutes in front of General David Petraeus
and Admiral William Fallon, September 2007, in Iraq

President Obama today announced an Iraq withdrawal plan that George Bush would be proud to call his own. Actually, it IS Bush’s own.

Don’t be fooled by the lawyerly language in his pledge to complete “the responsible removal of our combat brigades from Iraq” by August 2010. He’s leaving up to 50,000 troops in place until the end of 2011, and I guarantee that they’ll have weapons and the capability of responding with more than battalion strength. I’m not sure how he’s defining “combat brigades,” but he must be dancing close to an outright lie — a brigade is only 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers, it looks to me like he’s leaving three divisions in place.

Thank God.

Fully seven months ago, in July, I wrote the following:

If it’s going to become Mr. Obama’s war, I can take some comfort in the fact that at least he’s showing signs of an ability to think independently of the extreme pacifist wing of his party.

Candidate Obama already was tacking to the right on the war — his clarion call for surrender lost its usefulness as a wedge issue once Hillary Clinton withdrew from the race. The previously hapless George Bush had finally found the right general and the right strategy. Well before the election, even Obama had to acknowledge that the surge had “succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.”

After winning in November, Obama co-opted Hillary and her one-time support for the war by naming her Secretary of State. But the clearest indication that the grown-ups would be in charge of the war came when Obama announced that he was retaining Bush’s Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, who oversaw the turnaround in Iraq. I feel much better about the Obama Presidency now than I did on Election Day.

The Bush Administration won the war in Iraq just in time, making it too late for the Democrats to surrender. The real test will come with the war Obama says he wants to fight, in Afghanistan. I wish him every success.

(Photo: Associated Press)

My Kind of Dangerous Muslim Jihadi

Mad props to Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, better known as Dr. Fadl, for attacking al-Qaeda from the jihadi perspective. (Hat tip: Cliff May)

Half an hour ago I had not heard of Dr. Fadl, but apparently he is an al-Qaeda co-founder. Remember that when al-Qaeda was founded, its primary mission was not to terrorize America, but rather to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Dr. Fadl doesn’t approve of the course Osama bin Laden has charted since 1988.

Dr. Fadl has a new book out, written from what apparently is his cushy cell in an Egyptian prison. Cliff May’s column today is worth reading in its entirety, but here’s my favorite passage, quoting Fadl:

Every drop of blood that was shed or is being shed in Afghanistan and Iraq is the responsibility of bin Laden and Zawahiri and their followers,” he writes. “Was it not al-Qaeda that lit the fuse of sectarian civil war in Iraq, through
[the actions of al-Qaeda in
Iraq commander] Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, who killed the Shi’ites en masse? . . . Can the mentality that caused the loss of an Islamic state that existed in reality, in the Taliban
s Afghanistan — can this mentality be expected to establish an Islamic state in Iraq — in reality, and not on the internet? And have the Islamic peoples become guinea pigs upon whom bin Laden and al-Zawahiri try out their pastime and sport of killing en masse?

If America and the West are going to defeat Islamic fascism, one component of the struggle has to involve nurturing an alternate vision of Islam. That’s why al-Qaeda threw everything it had into the war in Iraq — a successful secular Islamic state is a much bigger threat to Islamic fascism than America itself could ever be.

Similarly, Dr. Fadl is arguably a more dangerous enemy for al-Qaeda than George Bush was. Fadl, a former leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, may not be a Boy Scout himself, but man, I’m liking him today.

Million, Billion, Trillion… Let’s Settle on "Zillion"


I’m becoming a fan of Politico, which has intelligent writing on politics without any overwhelming left or right tilt. Today the site notes that all of the big numbers start to blur together:

Human beings have a hard time differentiating between millions and billions and trillions, let alone the numerical subsets thereof. To most of us, it just registers as “a whole lot.” …

It is hard, then, to get people excited about the difference between $787 billion and $478 billion, both of which are equally abstract if not equally large sums — which is perhaps one reason why House Republicans’ alternate stimulus proposal, which carried the latter price tag, failed to gain much traction with the public.

As a public service, All That Is Necessary is pleased to present this statistical glossary, for use in explaining federal spending to your grandchildren: billion, trillion, quadrillion, quintillion, sextillion (which will lend itself to financial abstinence messages), septillion, octillion, nonillion, decillion.

(Custom word cloud graphic from wordle.net)

Al "Thug" Sharpton Takes His Incendiary Show on the Road

Al Sharpton, and the logos of some of his extortion victims

It is POSSIBLE, of course, to construe the NY Post “chimp” cartoon as a racist slam at President Obama — even though neither Obama nor his administration “wrote” the porkulus bill. That’s why I said in my previous post that the cartoon was “stupid” — in a city with a history of racial tension, the paper has no business comparing ANYBODY with a lower primate.

But to insist, in the face of the cartoonist’s denials, and in the face of the actual factual basis for the cartoon, that the cartoon was aimed at Obama is to believe that a long-time cartoonist at one of the largest newspapers in the country is consciously trafficking in the most contemptible kind of racial imagery. It is, quite literally, unbelievable.

A responsible black leader would acknowledge the Post’s apology and move on. In fact, a responsible black leader did exactly that. I would have preferred if Governor Paterson had explicitly criticized Sharpton, but his description of the Post apology as “very honorable” is a strong implicit slap at Sharpton. President Obama, who understandably had to cultivate Sharpton while establishing himself in politics, should repudiate Sharpton’s comments as well. (Click photos for sources)

These thoughts all are sparked by a comment “ockraz” made about my prior post. He first heard about the cartoon via NPR, which offered no explanation OTHER THAN racism. As ockraz said,

People who heard Sharpton (or NPR) first will probably be more responsive to that interpretation. It’s like holding up a Rorschach test and saying, “am I the only one who sees a bat?”

Exactly right.

It’s not possible to completely unring the bell, and because of Sharpton’s spin, some people will be saying for years that the Post called Obama a monkey. And that’s why Sharpton’s long history of racial demagoguery is so contemptible.

Whatever else he may be, Al Sharpton is not unaware of the effects his agitation can cause. He has used that knowledge to make a lucrative living for years, shaking down some of the largest and most well-lawyered corporations in America.

Sharpton HAS to understand that the cartoon was ill-advised rather than bigoted. He HAS to know that his incitements to riot can lead to riots. He HAS to know that he has blood on his hands from previous episodes of race-baiting.

I generally avoid expressing contempt for people on this blog, even if they are public figures. I’ve criticized President Obama’s actions and policies and I proudly voted for John McCain, but I will not express contempt for my President — and if he is not YOUR President, then you are not my countryman. The most derisive thing I’ve ever said about Obama as a person is to call him “The One” — and Oprah did it first.

I make exceptions to the no-contempt policy for people with a long history of reprehensible behavior. Sharpton has qualified as a “thug” (no, it’s NOT racial code) at least since 1987, when he was one of the architects of the Tawana Brawley hoax, and continued to endanger the life of Steven Pagones by branding him a racist, long after a grand jury refused to indict Pagones. Even Salon, a left-liberal bastion, has recognized that Pagones was “the Brawley case’s true victim.”

A black man has now been elected to the world’s most powerful position, leaving Sharpton desperately trying to protect his race-baiting industry. Instead of moving on, Sharpton has ramped up his condemnation of the Post and has started to peddle it in new venues. Today he repeated his phony charges in Syracuse, as part of what a local TV station called “a drive to boost membership in a local chapter of his National Alliance Network.”

As of yet there are no reports of rioting by the good citizens of Syracuse, so perhaps Sharpton is losing his mojo. One can only hope.

(Am I too hard on Sharpton here? If so, please comment to tell me how — I promise I will not bite or bark at you. If it is possible to make a thoughtful defense of Sharpton, I would really like to see it. I would especially welcome comments, pro or con, from black readers.)

How NOT To Talk About Race

This week brings two reminders of the fact that it is possible to make statements that are both a) intellectually defensible, and b) really, really stupid.

Reasonable people can disagree about whether Americans focus too much on race, or not enough. Attorney General Eric Holder believes that to make progress in race relations, “we must feel comfortable enough with one another and tolerant enough of each other to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us.”

OTOH, Jonah Goldberg argues today that:

Holder is wrong. America talks about race incessantly, in classrooms, lecture halls, movies, oped pages, books, magazines, talk shows, just about every third PBS documentary by my count, blogs, diversity training sessions and, yes, even mandatory Black History Month events. 

I lean toward Goldberg’s view, but Holder’s belief that we need more frank conversations about race certainly is intellectually defensible. The really, really stupid part occurs, of course, when Holder says the lack of such discussions means that America is “a nation of cowards.”

The statement is stupid because it undercuts the outcome Holder advocates. Now that one of the highest-ranking black people in America has said that Americans are cowards on racial issues, would you expect that I as an American and a white person would be a) more likely, or b) less likely to feel comfortable discussing racial issues with black people? (I suppose one could argue “more” on the evidence of this blog post, given that the blog has black readers, and that I would not likely be posting on racial issues today in the absence of Holder’s speech. But the answer I’m looking for is “less.”)

The other reason the statement is stupid is it undercuts Holder’s own boss — you know, America’s first black president, who appointed the first black attorney general. The guy whose election vividly demonstrates how far America has come from the days of his early childhood, when Barack Obama would have been forbidden to use certain public drinking fountains. The guy who admirably seeks to position himself not as a black president, but as America’s president.

This week’s other example of intellectually defensible but really, really stupid statements comes from the New York Post, in the form of the cartoon below:

(If you’re reading this from an RSS feed, the cartoon depicts a cop who has just shot a chimpanzee as saying, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”)

This is intellectually defensible as a criticism of the stimulus bill, and as anyone who followed the debate knows, President Obama did not “write” the bill — Congressional Democrats did. But in an environment where race-neutral terms like “socialist” and “inexperienced” have been described as racial code, it’s really, really stupid to compare anybody to a lower primate.

Perhaps the worst thing about the Post cartoon is that it has temporarily interrupted Al Sharpton’s descent into the obscurity he so richly deserves. Chris Muir sums it up more eloquently than I can in his cartoon today:


(Holder photo from Fox News)

The Beheading Victim Was Also Muslim

Nearly a week after her husband allegedly cut off her head, Aasiya Zubair Hassan still smiles confidently into the camera for the high-resolution publicity photo available on the website of the TV station the couple started.

If you download the photo, you’ll discover that the filename is “Mo – Assiya – 3 – High.jpg”. It’s not clear whether “Assiya” is an alternative spelling that Aasiya would have accepted, or if it’s just one last indignity at the hand of someone working for her estranged husband, Muzzammil Hassan. That’s “Mo,” on the right.

The caption on the Bridges TV website reads:

Aasiya Zubair (left), wife of Bridges TV CEO Mo Hassan (right) played an instrumental role in the creation of Bridges TV since she came up with the idea for the network.

As Daniel Pipes, who has followed Bridges TV since its founding in 2004, notes:

Two sorts of public reactions to the murder are emerging: Spokesmen on behalf of Islamic organization emphasize that domestic violence happens in all communities and Muslims must pay it more attention, while women’s rights advocates focus on the Islamic element.
  • Mohamed Hagmagid Ali, vice-president of The Islamic Society of North America: “Domestic violence is a behavior that knows no boundaries of religion, race, ethnicity, or social status. Domestic violence occurs in every community. The Muslim community is not exempt from this issue. We, the Muslim community, need to take a strong stand against domestic violence. Unfortunately, some of us ignore such problems in our community, wanting to think that it does not occur among Muslims or we downgrade its seriousness.”
  • Marcia Pappas, New York State president of the National Organization for Women: “This was apparently a terroristic version of honor killing, a murder rooted in cultural notions about women’s subordination to men. … Too many Muslim men are using their religious beliefs to justify violence against women.”

I’ve been critical in the past about what I saw as insufficient Muslim condemnation of terrorism, but I have no quarrel with the ISNA statement above. The spokesman calls for Muslims to condemn domestic violence and not to pretend it doesn’t happen in the Muslim community. I don’t blame him for emphasizing, correctly, that men in other cultures also kill their wives.

I’m late to this story, but it’s not going away soon. It’s coming out now that this was his third marriage, and he was violent with his previous wives as well. Phyllis Chesler, who after the murder apparently accelerated publication of her study “Are Honor Killings Simply Domestic Violence?” (she votes No), has called on bloggers and reporters to help advance the narrative.

In 2004, Hassan said the station was started because

“There should be a Muslim media so that Muslim children growing up in America grow up with the self confidence and high self esteem about their identity both as Americans and as Muslims.”

If “Mo” is in fact the killer, surely he must have known that the stereotypical manner of his crime would set that worthy cause back. At one time, Mo felt secure enough in his masculinity and his marriage and his culture to pose with his unveiled, lipsticked wife and credit her with the idea for the company he headed. It’s hard to reconcile that with what he allegedly did last week.

Ready, Fire, Aim: Obama Signs "Stimulus" Bill

No worries — Sasha and Malia’s kids will pay for it

Michael Gerson describes the porkulus legislation signed by President Obama yesterday:

The bill was written in monopartisan secrecy, weighed down by irrelevant spending, considered in a rushed, uninformed debate and passed on a virtually party-line vote. The law contains provisions that seem to weaken welfare reform and invite trade disputes. And it adds a massive burden of debt to existing massive entitlement obligations requiring massive borrowing from international sources — or, if such credit dries up, the massive printing of money to buy these bonds, leading to inflation. 

Sounds like Gerson opposes the bill. Well, no:

But while the legislation was deeply flawed, there was little alternative to action. The usual recession remedy — the lowering of interest rates by the Federal Reserve to loosen up credit and spending — is of little use when the credit system itself is broken and rates are already near zero. The president and Congress were left with one option: attempting a fiscal jolt to counter the economic cycle. Such efforts in the past have often been mistimed, with the cavalry arriving just after the settlers have been massacred. But one has to try. In this case, necessity was the mother of excess. 

For political reasons, I suppose it’s true that “one has to try.” But one does wish that one could be more confident about the outcome while saddling one’s grandchildren with debt.

After weeks of invoking the Great Depression, Obama performed what Politico referred to as a “rhetorical pirouette” while signing the bill:

In his remarks, Obama projected an air of confidence. “We will leave the struggling economy behind us and come out more prosperous,” he vowed. 

Well, one hopes he’s right. But since Obama brought up the Depression, let’s take a look at what has been learned from the historical record:

The recession that began in 2008 could turn out to be the worst slowdown since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. For three-quarters of a century, economists have been studying it diligently. And even now they cannot come to a definitive conclusion about the cause of that depression, the reasons for its severity and duration, or what cured it. In an introduction to a book of essays on the Great Depression he compiled in 2000, Ben S. Bernanke, then a Princeton professor and now chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, wrote, “Finding an explanation for the worldwide economic collapse of the 1930’s remains a fascinating intellectual challenge.” 

Today, of course, the challenge is more than intellectual.

My wife has threatened to stop reading my blog because it’s so depressing, so I’ve just spent 20 minutes staring at the screen, trying to think of a positive way to end this post. Here’s the best I can muster: I still think comparisons with the Great Depression are overwrought. But even after that dark period, America did “leave the struggling economy behind us and come out more prosperous.” I have no doubt we will do so again, eventually.

Sweetie, I’ll let you know when I’ve changed the subject.

(Photo: AP, via Washington Times)

Britain Bows to Terrorism by Banning Geert Wilders

Basmallah, 3 1/2, shares what she has been taught about Jews,
in the short film
Fitna

Last week, Great Britain shamefully denied entry to Geert Wilders, an elected member of the Dutch parliament, who had been invited to a screening of his film Fitna in front of the British House of Lords. It reportedly was the first time that Britain had denied entry to a duly elected legislator from a fellow European Union country.

Why did Britain take this drastic action?

The meeting of Mr. Wilders and members of the British Parliament had originally been planned for 29 January, but was postponed. Lord Nazir Ahmed, a Muslim member of the House of Lords (Labour), had threatened to mobilize 10,000 Muslims to prevent Mr. Wilders from entering the British Parliament. Lord Ahmed boasted in the Pakistani press that the cancellation of Mr. Wilders’ visit was “a victory for the Muslim community.”

More precisely, it was a victory for Islamic extremism, which once again successfully uses the threat of violence to push around a major Western power.

I highly recommend watching Fitna, which is available online in English translation — although be warned that it contains gruesome images, many of which you have seen before. As described by National Review contributor (and former federal prosecutor) Andrew C. McCarthy:

Fitna runs about 15 minutes long. It depicts a phenomenon familiar to Britons who witnessed July 7 and Americans who lived through September 11: The faithful rendition of verses from the Koran, often recited by influential Islamic clerics, followed by acts of terrorism committed by Muslim militants who profess that they are simply putting those scriptures into action. To be sure, this is not the dominant interpretation among the world’s billion-plus Muslims, most of whom do not so much interpret their creed as ignore those parts that would otherwise trouble them. But to deny that Fitna reflects an intellectually consistent construction of Islam, adhered to by an energetic minority, is to deny reality.

Wilders leaves no doubt that he believes Islam itself is the problem, not just a small band of fanatics who have tried, as a recent president was known to say, to “hijack one of the world’s great religions.” Wilders ends the film with these words crawling up the screen:

For it is not up to me, but to Muslims themselves to tear out the hateful verses from the Quran.

Muslims want you to make way for Islam, but Islam does not make way for you.

The Government insists that you respect Islam, but Islam has no respect for you.

Islam wants to rule, submit, and seeks to destroy our western civilization.

In 1945, Nazism was defeated in Europe. In 1989, communism was defeated in Europe.

Now, the Islamic ideology has to be defeated.

Strong stuff, but as John O’Sullivan writes in the New York Post:

You may object that “Fitna” is one-sided or the Koranic quotations are wrenched from their context. If such criticisms have merit, surely the correct response is to debate with Wilders, not ban him.

Wilders is by no means above reproach, and he does the cause of free expression a disservice by calling for the Quran to be banned in the Netherlands. But his pending prosecution, under a hate-crimes law in the Netherlands that could send him to prison for up to two years, is an abomination in a nation that nominally values civil liberties.

Fitna is, in fact, filled with hate speech, and you’ll have no trouble spotting it in the film. It comes from the pages of the Quran and from the mouths of the Muslim extremists. There is plenty of room to argue that Wilders’ message is distasteful or overwrought, and Muslims and non-Muslims alike deserve every opportunity to make those arguments — peacefully. By prosecuting Wilders and declaring him persona non grata, the Netherlands and Britain are proving once again what Western nations have been demonstrating for years: terrorism works.

Live, From Maplewood:Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

OK, enough with the financial crisis, the porkulus bill, the new president, Iraq… we’re going local here.

Next weekend, Feb. 20-22, a talented troupe from my church, St. George’s Episcopal in Maplewood, NJ, will stage Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, complete with live music.

My wife, the lovely and talented Web Goddess, and I are not in the production, but we’ve been involved in helping to publicize it. By “we” I mean mostly her. Here’s the scale of our respective contributions — she conceptualized, designed and executed the colorful banner you see here, combining a stock image rainbow swirl with a coat outline she drew herself, and tweaking the words endlessly to get them to fit.

Me? I looked over her shoulder when she asked me to, talked through some ideas and made encouraging sounds. At one point near the end, I said “maybe you could put a narrow white border around the coat,” and then left her alone to figure out how to actually do it. If you look closely you can see the little white border, which really helps the coat pop out more from the rainbow background. That was my idea. I also sent a rehearsal photo, caption, and an ad to our local weekly. (The Web Goddess took the picture and designed the ad.)

Not that I’m proud of her or anything, but I actually think the poster my wife made is nicer than the official image from the London revival. It’s certainly easier to read. And the white line is a nice touch.

Oh yeah, the production itself… it’s gonna be great. There is some amazing musical talent in our parish, and a couple of the performers have done the show professionally. They’ve been preparing and rehearsing since October — our church puts on a musical show every two or three years, and it’s always fabulous. I strongly urge all of you to attend — even the 13% of you who live outside the U.S. Details on tickets and show times are here, and you can see a two-minute rehearsal teaser on YouTube.

That’s it from Maplewood — regularly scheduled political grumpiness will resume soon.

Photo of the Web Goddess by Kirk Petersen (I borrowed her other camera).