Sunday, June 30, 2002

One of the more troubling news stories of recent days was the poll indicating that a substantial majority of Americans don't think we're winning the war, with nearly half considering the war a "stalemate." In fact, it is hard to see how we could be doing much better. Afghanistan has been liberated with stunning speed and astonishingly little loss of American life; the enemy has been deprived of its only geographic base; al Qaeda is under daily attack around the world, and many of its key operatives have been killed or captured. This article by James Robbins sums up the situation very well. In light of the facts, it is hard to know what to make of the poll data. Maybe it's a fluke, or maybe lots of people won't be satisfied until bin Laden is known to be dead. (Based on the publicly available evidence, it would appear that he died late last year, but comments from Administration officials suggest that they may have information confirming that he is still alive, somewhere in Pakistan.) What's troubling is this: Our enemies have always based their strategy largely on what they see as a spoiled American public's impatience with long and seemingly inconclusive conflicts, which the war against Islamofascism likely will be. If many Americans really don't consider the present situation to constitute successful prosecution of the war, what will they think when the next terrorist attack occurs in the US? There is a real danger that impatience and unrealistic expectations could hobble our effort to bring the war to a successful conclusion.

Friday, June 28, 2002

It was a good day in the Supreme Court. In a relatively little-noticed decision, the Court held that it violates the First Amendment for a state to elect judges but prohibit judicial candidates from saying anything on any topic that would be relevant to the election. This bodes well, I suppose, for the fate of McCain-Feingold and its effort to make it illegal to criticize incumbents. And the Court rejected the teachers unions' fanatical effort to keep poor children down. George Will writes: "The opposition to school choice for the poor is the starkest immorality in contemporary politics. It is the defense of the strong (teachers' unions) and comfortable (the middle class, content with its public schools and fretful that school choice might diminish their schools' resources and admit poor children to their schools) against the weak and suffering--inner city children."

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Nothing highlights the surreal madness of the Palestinian death culture better than this searing--because apparently sincere--offer to buy Palestinian children.
Astute readers of the Power Line, such as the families of Rocket Man and yours truly, will note that I have expressed ambivalence about President Bush's Monday speech, articulating contradictory views in successive posts. Charles Krauthammer also has a characteristically excellent column today on President Bush's speech. The column praises the speech while noting the practical difficulties that will ensue in adhering to it.
Richard Brookhiser has a terrific column on the war in the weekly New York Observer dated July 1. He makes several points in the column, one of which is the unlikelihood that the war against us is being directed by "the dirt poor kakistocrats of Khartoum and Kabul." He acknowledges that Osama bin Laden is charismatic, "if you find dream interpretation
and Koranic midrash charismatic." He is a fine writer in addition to being an outstanding teacher of American history, as he has become through his biographies of Washington, Hamilton, and the Adams family.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

As a former stockbroker, Martha would understand the rules relating to insider trading. That would put her in a very small minority of Americans. I was listening to a radio program on my way to work this morning, and one of the hosts said Martha was in trouble for allegedly selling her stock after the CEO told her the FDA wasn't going to approve a drug. Another host, a young woman, was completely puzzled and said, "What's wrong with that?" There ensued a highly confused effort to explain the law of insider trading, or more properly, trading on the basis of non-public information. Which reminds me that "insider trading," now a universally-reviled although dimly-understood phenomenon, was legal until the Supreme Court decided the Texas Gulf Sulphur case in the 1960's. That case held that trading on the basis of non-public information violated the SEC's Rule 10(b)(5), which prohibits fraud in securities transactions. This in turn reminds me of a funny story: After the Texas Gulf Sulphur decision came down, my law firm's corporate department put on a seminar for the firm's lawyers on the implications of the new rule barring trading on the basis of non-public information. On the way out of the room after the seminar, one of the lawyers turned to another and said, "That just blew my entire investment philosophy." Funny, but telling: until quite recently, it was widely considered foolish to buy or sell securities unless you thought you had some knowledge that was not generally available.
Say it ain't so, Martha. I know she's a Democrat, but I really like her. I have no idea whether there is a case against her or not. It is hard to believe that she would risk everything to avoid a relatively small stock loss. Of course, people who get as far as Martha don't make normal calculations.
This is interesting. The war comes to North Carolina.
The Pledge decision isn't just a joke--it is actually very revealing of the contemporary liberal mind. You've probably read the paragraph where the Court says that "one nation under God" is the same as "one nation under Zeus," or "under Vishnu," or "under no god." These guys weren't kidding; they knew their decision would be greeted with outrage and they thought they were writing for the ages. And this is the best they could come up with. It must be great to be a liberal--no contact with reality required.
One thing about the 9th Circuit, you can't accuse them of playing to the gallery. It would be hard to think of a worse time (not that there would ever be a good time) to declare the Pledge unconstitutional. Fourth of July next week, September 11 fresh in our memories, etc. Even Tom Daschle felt obliged to denounce the decision. It will undoubtedly be reversed, either by the Circuit en banc or by the Supreme Court, but I think it will have significant repercussions. For one thing, how can the Democrats continue to feign grave concern when they talk about Republican judicial nominees being "out of the mainstream"? That particular strategy would appear to be history. Emails to Patrick Leahy and Daschle wouldn't hurt.
Yeah, the Trunk is right. Given last week's death penalty decision, the Supreme Court could hold that the Constitution is unconstitutional to the extent it violates the consensus of liberal opinion. When I started typing this I meant it as a joke, but now that I think about it, the Court has been doing exactly that for several decades.
This afternoon the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit released a decision holding the daily recitation of the pledge of allegiance in a public school classroom to be unconstitutional with respect to its reference to the United States being "one nation under God." This decision is absurd. The first two of the founding laws of the United States are the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. The Declaration invokes God in manifold capacities including as Nature's God, as Creator who endows man with unalienable rights, as Supreme Judge of the World and as Author of Divine Providence. The Constitution concludes above the signature of George Washington and the founding fathers that it was "Done in Convention...in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven." How long will it be before the Declaration and the Constitution are declared unconstitutional?
Rocket Man's use of the adjective "execrable" below with respect to the previously anonymous Swedish Foreign Minister--the foreign minister of the country that couldn't choose sides between Hitler and Churchill, right?--reminds me that on the list of those whose disapproval of President Bush's speech must encourage us to think highly of it, I should have added the truly, deeply execrable Kofi Annan.
An elected Palestinian government may or may not continue to make war on Israel. I think that in the short term, that depends mostly on what happens elsewhere in the region. But if it does, at least there will be a clearly accountable government to hold responsible. At a minimum, we will be out of the post-Oslo fantasy world, with its surreal debates about whether the Palestinian Authority is doing enough to stop terrorism.
It's always reassuring to know that we are on the opposite side from Sweden and the United Nations. The same Arab News article quotes the execrable Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh calling Bush's demand for Arafat's ouster "neither acceptable nor politically wise," in part because "we don't know what risks coming after Arafat." Kofi Annan sounded the same note, warning that Palestinian elections might be won by "radicals." So we should be stuck with Arafat forever for fear the situation could get worse? God forbid the Palestinians should fall into the hands of radicals!
Certainly the Arabs don't think President Bush is rewarding them. The Arab News reports that "U.S. President George W. Bush's new Middle East policy yesterday stirred anger and despair among Palestinians and throughout the Arab world but delighted Israel as it pressed on with its massive military offensive in West Bank and prepared for operation in the Gaza Strip."
I have as much respect for Daniel Pipes as anyone, but it seems to me that his habitual pessimism--so often justified with respect to the Middle East over the years--has led him astray now. I agree with much of what he says about the Palestinians, but don't understand how Bush's approach, as outlined in his speech, "rewards terror." The Palestinians get nothing, including a provisional state, unless they install new leadership, reform their institutions, open up their economy and cease all terror activities. How can this be said to be rewarding terror? And while it is easy to see how far the Palestinians have to go before they have anything like a normal society, what basis for hope in that part of the world can there be, other than the hope of a normalized Palestine? The only alternative I can see to working toward a normal Palestinian government and society is nuking the West Bank, which isn't going to happen. So we may as well get started. In addition, as George Will pointed out this morning, Bush's approach has the merit of "kicking the can of this crisis down the road," so that attention can again be re-focused on Iraq and other theaters of the war. And finally, a reformed Palestine may seem like a pipe-dream now, but for President Bush this is only one (relatively small) aspect of a larger strategy for the Arab world. If new governments are installed in Iraq and Iran, and maybe Syria and Saudi Arabia, and those states no longer support terrorism, reforming Palestine will not seem such a difficult task. President Bush is a big thinker and his intentions are breath-taking in their scope. But we have no viable alternative to boldness. And since we have no direction to go but forward, we may as well be optimistic about the results.
On the other hand, and I am afraid there is another hand, the Arafatistan terror state/terror gangs need to be defeated and Arafatistan needs to be denazified. It is striking to me that of all the many intelligent commentators writing about the president's speech yesterday, only the incomparable Daniel Pipes noted the problems at the heart of President Bush's speech:

"U.S. President George W. Bush has been adamant since Sept. 11 about stopping terrorism, but he took a firm step in the opposite direction in his speech yesterday.

"He should have told the Palestinians clearly and unequivocally that their 21-month campaign of violence against Israel is unacceptable and must conclude before any discussion of rewards can be started. Instead, the President outlined his vision for a "provisional" Palestinian state and demanded an end to what he called "Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories." Both of these constitute very major benefits to the Palestinians; as such, they represent rewards for suicide bombings, sniper attacks, and the other forms of terrorism.

"This not only does grave damage to the President's proclaimed war on terrorism but it sends a signal to the Palestinians to expect further rewards for yet more violence. True, there was much in his presentation about the virtues of local elections, independent auditing and market economics, but the only message that will stick is a cruder one: Terrorism pays.

"Bush's outline for action then went on to make a large number of mistakes about the specifics of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Here are some:

- Misreading Palestinian opinion: Bush declares that only a small minority of Palestinians subscribe to the means or views of the terrorists. "The hatred of a few holds the hopes of many hostage." But this is false; nearly every opinion survey, political speech, mosque sermon and other indication suggests that a substantial majority of Palestinians enthusiastically support the campaign of violence against Israel. This has the ominous implication that practising democracy, as the President calls for, would lead -- ironically -- to a more aggressive policy toward Israel.

- Moral equivalence: Bush implies a basic commonality between the plight of Israelis who suffer terrorism and the Palestinians who inflict it. "It is untenable for Israeli citizens to live in terror. It is untenable for Palestinians to live in squalor and occupation." To see the error of this statement, change it to "It is untenable for American citizens to live in terror. It is untenable for Afghans to live in squalor and occupation."

- Victimology: Palestinians have "been treated as pawns" says the U.S. President. Not so: Since 1967, the Palestinians have had an increasingly autonomous and powerful voice in running their own affairs. Especially since the creation of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, they have been in control of their own destiny. To portray them as victims suggests they would behave differently once they have a formal state. In fact, every sign points to a continuation of the present policies.

- Good governance the key: "True reform will require entirely new political and economic institutions based on democracy, market economics and action against terrorism." This is a touching but naive belief in the wonders of decent ruling institution. To be sure, autonomous local leaders, multi-party elections and honest politicians are all to the good, but how might they lead to a reduction of hostilities? This view has things precisely turned around: Democracy, market economics and anti-terrorism will only follow on a far more fundamental change, namely a Palestinian willingness to accept the existence of Israel. A Palestinian state that continues to seek the destruction of the Jewish state by nature cannot be democratic.

- Overemphasizing terrorism: "There is simply no way to achieve [Palestinian-Israeli] peace until all parties fight terror." Palestinian terrorism has caused terribly tragedies but it is not the heart of the problem. Terrorism, after all, is but a tactic in the service of a war aim. That war aim -- the destruction of Israel -- is the heart of the problem. For example, it is perfectly possible to imagine a future Palestinian state that does renounce terrorism and instead builds up a conventional force of planes, tanks and ships with which to attack and destroy Israel. Along these lines, it is noteworthy that Bush did not call on the PA to reduce the size of its armed forces.

"A house cannot be built from a blueprint that gets wrong the terrain, the size and shape of the plot, and the building materials. Likewise, a political program cannot work if it is premised on errors.

"By rewarding terrorism, the Bush speech sets back the current war effort; by misunderstanding the Palestinian-Israeli war, it is rendered unworkable as a serious effort at conflict resolution. In all, it represents a disappointment and a missed opportunity."

Let me predict that Pipes's brilliant analysis will prove the most perspicacious of all those ventured yesterday, and will prove so sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Rocket Man is on to something regarding President Bush's speech yesterday. As I hear the reservations about it expressed by "the Europeans," by the media punditocracy, and by the Palestinian terror gang, I realize that the speech had a thrilling Reaganite audacity to it, an audacity not unlike President Reagan's Berlin speech. If President Bush can keep America's conduct consistent with the principles articulated in the speech, over the incredible pressures that will be exerted on him, he stands to join the company of the heroes of America's freedom. Rocket Man, keep it coming...and keep the president in your prayers.
Ahmed Tibi, an Arab member of Israel's Knesset, says that "George Bush today...is the most hated person among Palestinians. He is competing with Ariel Sharon for this title."
Benjamin Netanyahu calls Bush's speech a "big gift to the people of Israel after two years of terror."
The Arab press seems to share the view that with Bush's speech yesterday, the Administration has come down squarely on the Israeli side. Debka File is quoting a Syrian newspaper decrying the "worst speech in the history of US-Arab relations," and quotes an Egyptian commentator saying "The Arab world won't sleep tonight." No links, however.
Hmm, no idea why part of that last post showed up in bold, but it doesn't seem to be fixable, so ignore it.
The Trunk and I have different views of President Bush's speech last night. Mine is optimistic; I read the speech as abandoning the pretense (or maybe reality) of neutrality between Israel and the Palestinians; requiring the demise of Arafat and the rest of the PA terrorists; and giving the Israelis a green light to do whatever is necessary until such time as the Palestinians get their act together by dumping Arafat, adopting normal institutions, and ceasing all terror activity. I think that's how the Israelis are viewing it, at least according to this article in the Jerusalem Post.
The Trunk can explain his more pessimistic view better than I can, but I take it that the main risk he sees is that these principles will be betrayed in their implementation. A huge risk, I agree, but now that Bush has (as I read it) broken free of the State Department's policy of evenhandedness, I'm hopeful it won't happen. The other fundamental question, obviously, is whether acceptable leadership will emerge, and more broadly, whether the Palestinians as a whole really prefer peace and freedom to the opportunity to continue being mass murderers. I think we have to have faith that even in the crazed world of the Palestinian Arabs, most people, given the opportunity, would like to enjoy peace, freedom and prosperity. If that's the case, then I don't think it is unrealistic to hope that responsible leadership can emerge over time.
Nice book review, Trunk.
In structuring my account of Irving's book around the Oscar Wilde trial I have not exactly exhibited the skills of a born story-teller. I have destroyed any possible suspense about the outcome of Irving's case. But Evans makes his investigation of Irving's work fascinating, introducing it with a summary of representative reviews of Irving's books by professional historians including such distinguished authorities as Gordon Craig (in the pages of the New York Review of Books, no less), who have credited Irving with significant contributions to the field. Through his own dogged research and backtracking over Irving's sources, Evans finds that Irving's willful distortion of the record extends back to Irving's first book, The Destruction of Dresden, published in 1964, in which Irving inflated the number of German civilians killed in the 1945 Allied bombing raid by a factor of 10 or so. Evans traces the development of several of the other themes of holocaust denial through editions of Irving's most famous book, Hitler's War, originally published in 1977, revised and supplemented several times since, through the manipulation and fabrication of evidence. Evans's research also suggests that something snapped in Irving in 1988, when his work really went over the edge. He does not reconcile this insight with his discovery of Irving's dishonesty (all in the direction of alleged Allied guilt, German victimization, and other themes of Holocaust denial) dating back to his very first book. The impression nevertheless vividly remains of someone going around the bend as a result of his staring too long at the face of evil. Evans persuasively suggests that Irving came to fancy himself as Hitler's ambassador to the future. It would perhaps take an artist of Wilde's caliber to capture the transformation of Irving that Evans intimates. And when in his closing argument (Irving represented himself at trial) Irving addresses the presiding judge as "Mein Fuhrer," we appear to have entered the realm of fantasy or comedy; it would take a more dignified character than Irving to approach tragedy. In any event, the judge finds that Lipstadt's characterization of Irving as a holocaust denier is true, dismisses Irving's defamation claim, and enters judgment (British-style) awarding humongous defendants' attorneys' fees against Irving.

Sunday, June 23, 2002

While the Rocket is giving his memory a work-out recalling the Ford administration's Whip Inflation Now campaign, we should not forget that President Ford's speech announcing the program did include helpful advice to average Americans struggling with the effects of his own (and Nixon's) bad economic policy: be sure to eat all the food on your plate. Thank you, Mr. President! And thanks also for commissioning that wonderful Whip Inflation Now theme song by Meredith Wilson, played live on television by Wilson following your speech, and making all us midwesterners so proud!
OK, while we're on the subject, here is my favorite example of vindication in one's own lifetime. Robert Conquest wrote the definitive history of Stalinism, titled The Great Terror. Based in part on the then-underground accounts of anti-Communist Russians, Conquest estimated that Stalin had killed about 20 million people. This calculation was almost universally deried by academic historians--Conquest is a poet, not a university historian. Liberals at that time viewed anti-Communist Russians the same way they view anti-Communist Cubans today. Anyway, for many years Conquest's book was one of the few that told the whole truth about Stalin. After the Communist government fell and Soviet archives were opened, it turned out that Conquest's numbers had been close, but actually a bit low. He prepared a new edition of The Great Terror that incorporated the newly-available archival material. While the revised book was being readied for publication, Conquest was talking to his agent on the phone; the agent asked whether Conquest wanted to give the new edition a new title. Conquest thought for a moment and then said, "Yeah. Let's call it, 'I Was Right All Along, You Assholes.'" He didn't, though; it's still called The Great Terror and it's still the definitive work on Stalin.
Milton Friedman, like Alfred Dreyfus, lived long enough to be vindicated, and at least he wasn't sent to Devil's Island. Nowadays everyone agrees that Friedman was right all along--just like Dreyfus was innocent. But if you want to get invited to a dinner party in Georgetown, don't ever mention the fact out loud. (If the Friedman/Dreyfus connection is obscure, go back and read my earlier post about the parallel between the Dreyfusards, as described by Proust, and America's anti-Communists.)
These last posts about the 1970's are stimulating a walk down memory lane--which, when we're talking about the 70's, is not for the faint of heart. One thing that stands out, with hindsight, about the Nixon and Ford administrations is the sheer incoherence of liberal Republicanism. Does anybody remember Gerald Ford's "Whip Inflation Now" campaign? I'd love to have one of those "WIN" buttons; there must still be some around. It was never clear, of course, how we citizens were supposed to go about Whipping Inflation, but if you weren't a monetarist, that was about all you could come up with by way of an inflation policy. In those days, Milton Friedman was considered an eccentric, out of date ideologue. It was Ronald Reagan and Paul Volcker who Whipped Inflation, not with buttons but with sound monetary policy. Reagan ignored, as he so often did, the Democratic pundits who told us we should just get used to a permanent 10 to 15% annual inflation rate. If Reagan had done nothing else, his Administration would have been a success. But you already know that story. I mean, the newspapers are just full of articles about the 20th anniversary of the restoration of sound monetary policy, and how it kicked off two decades of unprecedented prosperity.
Say, are you all as excited about the 30th Anniversary of Watergate as I am? Hoo boy. It's been fun watching the Washington Post trying to explain the historical significance of Watergate to a new generation. I mean, forget about the fall of Communism; the fall of Nixon is something to really remember fondly. Of course, I have to admit I have a little nostalgia for Watergate myself. I'm nostalgic for the days when perjury was an impeachable offense. No wait, Nixon never actually committed perjury. I guess I'm nostalgic for the days when it was an impeachable offense for a President to seem like he might have committed perjury, given the opportunity.
Way to go, Trunk. Arafat will never get what he deserves--that wouldn't be possible, in this life--but at least he is finally being made irrelevant as a political figure. And I would bet that George Bush is one person who hasn't forgotten about Noel and Moore, or about Leon Klinghoffer, or Arafat's other crimes against Americans and others. Bush is such a simple-minded guy--he just can't help disapproving of murder. I've read (can't remember where) that one reason why he hasn't engaged in any personal Mideast summitry is that he can't bring himself to shake Arafat's hand. By the way, here's a prediction: Arafat will eventually be murdered by a Muslim zealot, reprising the fate of a number of history's washed-up fanatics.

Saturday, June 22, 2002

The Rocket's reference to the National Security Agency reminds me...The Rocket kindly noted last Sunday that the Star Tribune published a piece I wrote about the United States Department of State and Yasser Arafat. I noted the involvement of Yasser Arafat in the 1973 assassination of Cleo Noel, Jr., the former United States Ambassador to Sudan, and George Curtis Moore, his charge d'affaires, both former State Department employees. Given Arafat's involvement in the truly brutal assassination of its former colleagues, let alone his involvment in the murder of many other Americans, I found it difficult to understand why the State Department carries water so slavishly for Arafat. The department cannot bring itself to tell the truth about him and instead acts to conceal it, most recently in its Patterns of Global Terrorism report for the year 2001. In working on the piece I corresponded with the State Department's official spokesman for Near East Affairs, Gregory Sullivan, who observed that Noel and Moore had been assassinated by Black September and that no link had been established between Arafat and Black September.
In researching the piece, I found the following information relevant to the question of Arafat's link to Black September and his involvement in the assassination operation. First, the head of Black September was Arafat's number two man in his Fatah organization. There is simply no dispute about that. Arafat himself set up Black September to be his operational terrorist organization, albeit one to which he could deny his link. Second, in his book "Assassinaton in Khartoum," former State Department employee David Korn cites a State Department cable referring to intelligence information that Arafat had personally approved the operation. Third, one of the orders to assassinate Noel and Moore was broadcast over the PLO's Voice of Palestine radio station. Let me say it one more time: the murder order was broadcast over PLO radio. Korn quotes the order delivered over Voice of Palestine in his book as well as the coded order referring to the operation's name--"Cold River"--that was delivered via short wave radio. (I garbled my reference to Korn's information in the Star Tribune article.) Fourth, the coded short wave radio assassination order was reputedly intercepted and recorded both by Israeli intelligence (see Robert Pollock's Wall Street Journal column of a year or so ago) and the National Security Agency. The NSA's copy of the recording has mysteriously disappeared, but according to Pollock (if I recall correctly) Ariel Sharon brought a copy of Israel's recording with him on a visit to the US last year. According to one former NSA employee who was involved in intercepting the short wave radio order, the order was given by Arafat himself. Insight Magazine published an article regarding the former NSA employee by Kenneth Timmerman last year as well, and the foremer NSA employee has given interviews to the same effect to others, including a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. The State Department's denial of Arafat's responsibility for the assassination of Noel and Moore is...shocking, isn't it? Looking at the assassination of Noel and Moore with the perspective of 30 years and in light of current events, we can see clearly (if we look) that this is simply how Arafat operates.
And speaking of statesmanship, if there is a worse example of statesmanship since Neville Chamberlain's agreement with Hitler at Munich than Yitzhak Rabin's agreement to the Oslo Accords, I don't know what it is. And at least Chamberlain and Hitler were not awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their great work at Munich, as were Shimon Peres and "Chairman" Arafat!
Another example of a war-related song being barred from a July 4th program. No wonder our enemies can't figure us out: our elites are too sensitive to listen to songs that mention war at patriotic concerts, while at the same time our soldiers pitilessly rain down death and destruction on the enemy, with the enthusiastic support of virtually all of our people. We're an odd country. By the way, the same mentality that bars mention of war from 4th of July concerts accounts for the fact that we never sing "Onward Christian Soldiers" in church anymore.
Actually the NSA story has some personal resonance for me. One of my uncles was a spy. He worked for many years as an intelligence analyst for NSA. He was not allowed to say what languages he spoke, but I know that one of them was Arabic because of books he had in his house. He is retired now, but if he were still working he would be in the thick of intelligence activity. He is an exceptionally witty and charming man, and was always in great demand for dinner parties, in part because he could never talk about his work--which in Washington caused him to be considered a great conversationalist.
Congress always wants to be taken seriously in wartime, but it isn't going to happen as long as we keep getting stories like this one. Now Nancy Pelosi is suggesting (with no evidence, of course) that the leak about the NSA intercepts may have come from the Administration. Those who think the Democrats are capable of putting national security ahead of politics--if there are such people--haven't been reading the newspapers.
This is great. Arafat now wants to accept the settlement terms proposed by Bill Clinton two years ago. Sorry, Yasser, that was then, this is now. At some time in human history there may have been a worse-led group of people than the Palestinian Arabs, but I can't think of one offhand.
I'm back from Alaska after a miserable red-eye with no sleep. Whoa, Trunk, you've been busy! Now I've got to catch up on the news. It was good to be out of touch for a few days.
In order to evaluate Irving's work, Evans undertakes a study of the phenomenon of holocaust denial and of Irving's books. He also reviewed a trove of Irving's speeches and other incidental materials obtained in discovery from Irving prior to the trial.
Evans usefully summarizes the phenomenon of holocaust denial as comprising four elements that constitute the creed of its proponents: 1) the Nazis murdered far fewer than six million Jews; the number was a few hundred thousand, comparable to the number of German civilians killed in Allied bombing raids; 2) the Nazis never used gas chambers to kill large numbers of Jews at any time (the concentration camps were not death factories) and the supposed evidence of such instrumentalities after the war was fabricated; 3) Hitler and the Nazi leadership undertook no extermination program against the Jews, they only wanted to deport them to Eastern Europe; 4) the "holocaust" was invented by Allied propaganda during the war and carried on afterwards by self-interested Jews. In the United States, the principal organ of Holocaust denial is the Institute for Historical Review, an organization that seems to be experiencing something of a revival in connection with the war against terrorism.
How does Irving's work stack up against the tenets of Holocaust denial identified by Evans and Lipstadt? I hope to summarize Evans's findings in my next blog.

Friday, June 21, 2002

Let's take a brief intermission in our consideration of Richard Evans's book, "Lying About HItler."
My oldest daugher (of three; would you be interested in joining my therapy group for fathers of three daughters? Just kidding, girls...) just graduated from Minnesota's finest private high school. Her graduating class had 18 (out of a total of only 90 students) National Merit Semifinalists. The Minnesota high school with the next highest number had two or three, if I am not mistaken.
The school shares one trait in common with almost every other high school in the country: an emphasis on having the "correct" attitude to social issues. Whether the subject was homosexuality, abortion, racism, or "affirmative action," in myriad ways both large and small the school made it apparent what the "correct" attitude was, and took a variety of actions to inculcate that attitude. One attitude the school demonstrated by its actions was "incorrect" is American patriotism. And insofar as politics was concerned, the analysis of every question turned on the identification of "victims" and "oppressors."
Putting every other consideration to one side, one would think that the crashing boredom of this approach to every question would be sure to induce some adolescent rebellion among bright students whose souls naturally yearn for some higher understanding.
Wouldn't it occur to these bright students in the context of any great goal: How may it best be achieved? Yet in the course of her entire high school education, my daughter never studied or discussed the subject of statesmanship as part of the curriculum. Another symptom of the problem I'm trying to describe is that the current Webster's II New College Dictionary lacks even a definition of the term! And its primary definition of the related term that it does define ("statesman") is "a national or international government leader." That certainly clears it up!
Over the past week, National Review Online has carried a five-part serialization of Eliot Cohen's analysis of Winston Churchill as a war leader, a chapter from Cohen's new book "Supreme Command." Each of the serialized excerpts presents a brilliant analysis of Churchill's incomparable statesmanship leading Great Britain to survival and victory in WWII. Cohen conveys Churchill's greatness as a war leader with something like Chuchill's own perspective. Cohen's book supposedly addresses the qualities of great war leadership in free societies and the virtues of appropriate civilian leadership. The Churchill excerpts available at NRO suggest that Cohen's true subject is the highest political subject--the statesmanship of freedom. Fondly do we pray that President Bush rises to join the company of the heroes of Cohen's study.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

David Irving is a fairly well known British historian of WWII from the German side. His book "Hitler's War" may be his most well known, but he has also written other highly regarded books such as a biographies of Rommel and Goebbels. Irving is a professional historian in the sense that he has made his living writing these books; he has no college education and holds no university post. Deborah Lipstadt is an American historian specializing in Jewish studies at Emory University. In 1993 Lipstadt published her book "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory." Lipstadt's book gave an account of the phenomenon of holocaust denial and described Irving as a holocaust denier consistent with the themes developed in her book. The topic is not one calculated to be of interest to a large audience, and when the book was published in England by Penguin it sold a meager 3,000 copies. Irving brought his lawsuit against Lipstadt and Penguin claiming that the book defamed him by calling him a holocaust denier.
Upon his retention as an expert witness by the defense Evans set out to read the corpus of Irving's work. Evans also tracked down the reviews Irving's books had received from professional historians as they were published over the years. Evans traces his efforts to evaluate Irving's use of archival sources in connection with some of the most notorious claims in his books, such as the claim that Hitler was unaware of the systematic extermination of Jews undertaken by the Nazis and the claim that the number of victims exterminated by the Nazis has been grossly exaggerated. Evans painstakingly documents the fact that Irving's renowned skills in using previously undiscovered archival sources are themselves grossly inflated and that Irving's use of such sources has been deliberately dishonest in every critical respect he examined.
But the most interesting part of the book is Evans's evaluation of Lipstadt's charge that Irving is a holocaust denier. In my next post I hope to explore that part of the book and return to the comparison with Oscar Wilde's lawsuit. With any luck, Hindrocket will be back in town and back fulfilling his duties as proprietor of the Power Line, giving me a little more time to collect my thoughts.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

In 1895 Oscar Wilde brought his infamous defamation lawsuit against the Marquess of Queensberry, alleging that he had been defamed by imputations of homosexuality made by the Marquess. The libel was of course true; the Marquess had taken after Wilde to deter Wilde from continuing his homosexual relationship with his son, Lord Alfred Douglas. For Wilde the lawsuit was a monumental act of self-destruction. When the Marquess proved the truth of his defamatory statements regarding Wilde, and Wilde was in turn prosecuted for sodomy, Wilde was convicted and imprisoned in Reading Gaol until 1898. He never recovered from the experience of prison and from the humiliation he had foolishly inflicted on himself. As a result of his incarceration he wrote "De Produndis," a kind of apologia for his life, and the poem, "The Ballad of Reading Gaol," the last worthwhile works that Wilde published.
Now comes Professor Richard Evans, professor of German history at Cambridge University, to tell the story of the second most foolish defamation lawsuit of all time: David Irving v. Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books. Professor Evans was retained as an expert witness to testify at trial on behalf of the defendants. Professor Evans has written a book, "Lying About Hitler," recounting the story of Irving's claims as well as Evans's experience as a witness at the trial. The book has just been published in paperback and makes for great summer reading. In my next post, I will discuss Evans's account of the trial and note a couple of the interesting issues it raises.

Monday, June 17, 2002

I'm leaving for Alaska tomorrow and won't be back until Saturday, so I won't be posting for a few days. Time for The Trunk to take over.
Tonight Arafat is being quoted as saying that the Israelis' building of a wall to block West Bank murderers from entering their country is "racist" and constitutes "apartheid." Let's see...killing people on account of their ethnicity is fine, but if they try to defend themselves by simply making it harder for the murderers to get at them, that's "racist." This guy is getting to the point where he's no longer worth abusing. You can almost hear him being flushed down history's toilet. Thank goodness we finally have a President who views him with the contempt he deserves. Now if only someone would tell the State Department....
Yesterday the Democrats were out in force on the Sunday talk shows, urging a harder line against Saudi Arabia and supporting the overthrow of Saddam. Is this a sign that the Democrats are trying to get to Bush's right on the war? Nah. They're just spooked by the appalling poll results they get whenever they criticize the Administration on the war or come across as squishy. They've concluded that for now their only viable course is to be pro-war. But as soon as something goes wrong, as it inevitably does in wartime, they'll have their knives out looking for political advantage.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

The Administration is leaking stories about the President's orders to the CIA to get rid of Saddam Hussein. Presumably, this is to encourage anti-Saddam elements in Iraq and to persuade those in Iraq who are now on the fence that they had better get onto the winning team. Meanwhile, Debka File is reporting that the goal of President Bush's statement on the Middle East, expected later this week, "will not be solving the Palestinian issue, but generating the best possible circumstances for the coming US offensive against Iraq." As for Arafat, for President Bush "a terrorist is a terrorist and not to be tolerated." Apparently this is why, according to Debka File, "the European Union as a bloc has finally decided that it does not like George Bush." EU taxpayers are once again funding Palestinian terror. Our path seems destined to continue diverging from that of the Europeans. Good for us.

Saturday, June 15, 2002

This interview with the Saudi ambassador to Great Britain, Ghazi Al-Qusaibi, is pretty chilling. This is the guy who wrote a poem praising the 17 year old girl who committed mass murder in Israel. About the poem, he says, "I knew that the poem would spark debate, but sometimes a man must take a stand." Yeah, you just can't look at yourself in the mirror if you haven't come out for murder. He looks forward to a happy future in the Middle East: "When the culture of martyrdom spreads among the Palestinians and the Arabs, the myth of Israel will come to an end." My favorite, though, is when he is asked about his own enthusiasm for martyrdom: "I do not fear death--on the contrary, I long to die as a martyr, although I am at an age that does not allow me to carry out a martyrdom operation. My weight does not permit this. But I still hope to die as a martyr..." Has anyone seen a picture of this guy? Is he saying he's too fat to be a homicide bomber? A teenage girl can do it but his "weight does not permit" it? These are hard people to embarrass. Somehow I suspect that the Ambassador's longing for martyrdom will go unsatisfied. The really amazing thing about this is not that Saudi Arabia has some citizens that are this fanatical and, frankly, nutty, but that they apparently consider Al-Qusaibi to be one of their most presentable specimens.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Tonight my wife and five year old daughter and I went to a concert at an amphitheater near our home. We drank some beer and listened to two very good blues bands I'd never heard of. It was a lovely summer night, only drizzling occasionally. I thought, What a great night to be alive. And that reminded me of something I hadn't thought about for a very long time. It was about 1984, and a group of us had sat down at a table at an outdoor restaurant on a beautiful summer day. We were talking about what a fine day it was, and as our waitress approached the table my then-father in law said, "It's a great day to be alive." The waitress, who wasn't more than twenty-one, smiled and said, as if mildly correcting him, "It's a great day to be alive in America." We all laughed and agreed she was right. And I thought to myself, That's Ronald Reagan's doing. Five years ago, a twenty-one year old girl wouldn't have said such a thing. At that time I had only recently switched over from being a Democrat, and I had no inkling of the momentous events that were yet to come. But Reagan's most lasting gift was already evident: he helped make it possible for young people to feel, once again, that it was great to be an American. Today that spirit is all around us. But to me, the time when it appeared to be almost extinct seems like only yesterday.
I’m no expert on Arab culture, but it seems increasingly clear to me that the gulf between our culture and theirs is wider than is commonly acknowledged. In particular, I question whether respect for truth plays the same role in the Islamic Arabs’ psyches that it does in ours. The search for truth is a fundamental theme—I would argue the most fundamental theme—of western culture. It has deep roots in both the religious (Judeo-Christian) and secular (Greek) sources of our culture. (If memory serves, it was Gennifer Flowers who complained in a television interview, “Whoever it was who said, ‘You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free,’ was full of s---.” Um, I believe that was Jesus.) A corollary of respect for truth is recognition of a duty to be logically consistent. As Aristotle put it, A is A.
Of course, many westerners lie and inconsistencies are common, yet virtually all westerners—all except a handful of college professors—at least profess to respect objective truth as a value. Is this true in Arab culture? I doubt it. I don’t know how else to explain the steady stream of patent falsehoods and laughable distortions emanating not only from the uneducated, but from carefully selected, English-speaking Arab spokesmen.
Here is just one example. Arab News is an English-language Saudi newspaper which is apparently intended to be read by westerners. It is currently running a series titled “Beware the Ides of May,” dealing generally with the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The second installment in the series begins with the statement, “Nothing would be more absurd than to claim, as the Western leaders often do, that Israel is a democracy (in fact ‘the only one’ in the whole of the Middle East).” This categorical assertion would puzzle most westerners since, by virtue of having elections and such, Israel would certainly appear to be a democracy. Without ever mentioning the inconvenient fact of a popularly elected government, the author of the series (one Afnan Hussein Fatani, described as a “Professor of Stylistics”) supports her claim by purporting to quote the American Heritage Dictionary’s definition of “democracy,” i.e.: “the principles of social equality and individual rights.” However, a quick internet check is sufficient to verify that this odd definition is not, in fact, how the American Heritage Dictionary characterizes democracy; rather, the first meaning listed is “Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.” Which explains the mystery of why people call Israel (but not the Arab states) a democracy.
Lexicography is not Ms. Fatani’s only weak point. Her analysis relies largely on an odd mixture of quotes from the Bible, the Talmud, the Apocrypha and the Koran, all of which religious authorities are cited to support various criticisms of Israel. Here again, Ms. Fatani’s use of sources is laughably misleading. She quotes Sanhedrin 57a for the astonishing proposition that “What a Jew steals from a Gentile he may keep.” A hitherto-unknown tenet of Jewish law. Actually, the line she quotes is a question, which could be freely translated as “May a Jew keep what he steals from a Gentile?” The answer, as given by Maimonedes, is “It makes no difference whether one steals the property of an Israelite or a heathen.”
Ms. Fatani concludes with a recitation of “horrendous facts” about Israel, most of which are obviously false. E.g: “Non-Jewish Israelis cannot buy or lease land in Israel.” Absurd. Arab Israelis enjoy full civil rights. “Millions of Palestinians are still forced to sit in the back of planes, trains and buses.” Ridiculous, as anyone who has visited Israel can attest. And my favorite: “There are 3.8 million Palestinian refugees in Israel registered in 59 scattered refugee camps.” This is a bizarre conflation of Israel with the Palestinian Authority. There are no refugee camps in Israel; nor, for that matter, are there 3.8 million Palestinians in that country. (The total population of Israel is under 6 million, of whom about 1 million are Arabs.) The refugee camps are in Gaza and the West Bank, where they have been maintained by the United Nations and more recently the Palestinian Authority as a breeding ground for anti-Israel activists and terrorists. (There are nothing like 3.8 million Palestinians in refugee camps within the PA either; the whole population of the West Bank is only around 1.6 million.)
This particular article is not noteworthy except insofar as it is typical of the Arab press, even that small portion of the Arab press intended to be read in the west. Now, western journalists are far from infallible, but there is something creepy about the absurd and transparent lies that are propagated in the Arab press—up to and including the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I can’t help thinking that the tin ear displayed by these writers—their failure to understand how most westerners will respond to obvious lies and distortions—reflects their culture’s fundamentally different relationship to reality. Specifically, a failure to recognize truth as an ideal or consistency as an obligation. I don’t know how else to understand people who cheerfully express a desire to destroy Israel and kill all the Jews, while at the same time, and with apparent sincerity, being outraged over purported “discrimination” by Israel against Palestinians.
A culture that doesn’t value truth is not likely to have much of a legal system, nor will it produce much in the way of scientific advancement. The Arab world certainly meets these expectations. More problematic in the current crisis is the difficulty of dealing in a diplomatic context with people who may not share our most basic assumptions about how their words and actions should relate to reality.
Tom Daschle is the lowest of the low. Now he appears to be suggesting that the Administration is obliged to withhold information on captured terrorists indefinitely, lest Americans' knowledge of the facts get in the way of his criticisms of the security agencies. This guy has an ego the size of Mount Rushmore.
The London Times, not usually a friend of the Bush Administration, is crediting the US with defusing the India/Pakistan crisis: "The Bush Administration has been almost faultless in its handling of the most dangerous nuclear confrontation since 1962. Its envoys, notably the astute Richard Armitage, have bluntly warned Delhi and Islamabad of the dangers and won commitmemts to restraint....[T]hey have acted with calm and brutal insistence." No such kudos yet from American newspapers.

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

It is often said that history is written by the winners (with the implication that we should on that account be suspicious of it). This silly cliche sounds like it ought to be true, but isn't. On the contrary, it is interesting to observe how often the history that we know comes from the losing side. Most of what we know of the Romans' crushing of the Jewish rebellion comes from Josephus; our image of Sparta comes mostly from Athenians; we know little about the Visigoths, Huns, Vikings and various other conquering peoples other than what was recorded by those they defeated; for generations the principal historians of the American Civil War were Southerners. The war between freedom and socialism dominated the last century; it began with the Russian Civil War and did not end until National Socialism was defeated in 1945 and Marxian Socialism in 1989. One might expect that the story of this great contest, capped by the unequivocal victory of the forces of freedom and progress, would be written enthusiastically by the victors' historians. Just kidding. There is, of course, a grave danger that the lessons of the great war against socialism will be lost because that history will be told untruthfully. Not by Russian or Chinese historians, but by our own historians, journalists, moviemakers and television producers. Hence there can never be too much anti-Communism, even now that Communism has been defeated. A relatively small number of scholars have worked heroically for many years, and especially since the fall of socialism in 1989, to try to prevent the hijacking of the great story of the 20th story. One of the stalwarts of this effort has been Ronald Radosh. This review of two books, Orwell's Victory by Christopher Hitchens and Spain Betrayed: The Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War, edited by Radosh and others, nicely sums up George Orwell's role as a prophet of anti-Communism. Orwell's efforts brought him little but calumny in his lifetime; posthumous vindication, even on such a grand scale, seems rather cold comfort. The effort by objective scholars to set the record straight may or may not succeed. We live in a curious time in which virtually no one defends Communism, but premature anti-Communism is still grounds for a kind of intellectual ostracism. This is not without precedent. Proust writes about the fact that, after a long struggle, the Dreyfusards triumphed politically, but never did prevail socially. That is, even though everyone was ultimately compelled to admit that Dreyfus was innocent, and certain reforms followed, those who had argued all along that he was innocent were not received in the higher levels of society. It seems to me that we see a rough parallel in America today. The anti-Communists were indisputably right, but they are still largely scorned in both academic and popular culture. Still, whether conservatives are invited to Washington dinner parties or published in the New York Times is of little concern. What does matter is that the truth about the war between freedom and socialism be taught to our children and their descendants. History, in this case, must be taught from the perspective of the winners.
It's curious that our government is making a point of saying that they got information on the "dirty bomber" from Zubaydah. This is not the first time they have credited Zubaydah with being the source of useful intelligence. Why would they do this? If Zubaydah really were talking, wouldn't it be easier to use his information effectively if we kept his cooperation quiet? This is pure speculation, but I doubt that we're getting much out of Zubaydah. He is in our custody, not Pakistan's, and it seems unlikely that our mild methods of persuasion would have much impact on a fanatic like Zubaydah. It makes more sense to me that the government would falsely credit Zubayah with providing intelligence, in hopes that such reports would be believed by the Islamofascists, who might then cancel operations in progress out of fear that they may have been compromised.

Sunday, June 09, 2002

Debka File is reporting some optimistic rumors about progress in the war against Iraq. Debka says that the recent flurry of Israel/Palestinian activity is mostly a cover for more serious events in Iraq. Supposedly George Tenet, and even President Bush, have been meeting with Kurdish leaders planning a campaign against Saddam Hussein. Reportedly Special Forces and CIA units are already stationed in Iraq, and Iraq has been redeploying troops to defend against an expected joint US/Kurdish/Turkish strike from the north. And President Bush has reportedly given the Kurds his personal assurance that they will not be abandoned by the US as they were in 1996. We can only hope it's all true.

Friday, June 07, 2002

Meanwhile, as the world is focused on the Middle East and the Muslim world, Africa continues its downhill slide. The West's inexplicable reluctance to assert the moral and material superiority of its civilization has had many disastrous effects, but nowhere more so than in Africa.
The story about Mohamed Atta's attempt to borrow money from the federal government to buy an airplane is hilarious. The guy sounds like one of the characters in Mad magazine's "Spy vs. Spy" comics of the 1960's. The only thing he was lacking was one of those round black bombs with a burning fuse. I suppose the story must be true, even though it reads like something in the Onion, since no one would dare to make it up. Atta apparently went to a US Department of Agriculture loan office in Florida and said he wanted to borrow $650,000 so he could buy a six-seat airplane (that's a mighty big crop duster); he said he intended to take out all of the seats except the pilot's, and anything else inside the plane, so that it could be completely filled with chemicals. In the course of his conversation with the office manager, he tried to buy an aerial photograph of Washington, D.C., that had especially good views of the White House and the Pentagon; wondered aloud why someone didn't leap across the desk, slit the manager's throat, and steal the "millions of dollars" that must be in the safe; speculated about how Americans would like it if their cities were to be destroyed like those in Atta's native land; and said that Osama bin Laden was the greatest man in the world. The office manager thought he was a little odd but apparently conversed with him pleasantly. The story's crowning touch is when Atta returns to the same office for a second time, now "slightly disguised" by wearing glasses, gives a different name, and pretends to be an accountant applying for a loan on behalf of a client. Apparently none of this seemed suspicious to the office manager. A number of the Sept. 11 hijackers applied for loans from this same office; it doesn't seem to have sunk in that the USDA only lends money to American citizens. One oddity is Atta's purported reference to the destruction of the cities of his homeland. Atta comes from Egypt, and I believe you'd have to go back quite a few centuries to find Egyptian cities destroyed--was he still mad because the library got burned? Maybe he was delusional, or maybe the office manager didn't remember that part right. The office manager went public with the story because she wants people to know that it isn't easy to spot terrorists. That's really what she said.

Thursday, June 06, 2002

You may have seen reports of this Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, which shows President Bush holding steady at a 74% job approval rating. But there are some interesting data if you keep reading. One oddity is that Bush's personal favorability rating has dropped rather suddenly from the upper 70's to 69%. Maybe this is random variation; there is no obvious explanation. It seems noteworthy, however, that Bush's job performance rating now may exceed his personal popularity. Another interesting data set relates to whether the respondent would be willing to "give up some of your personal freedom in order to reduce the threat of terrorism." The current numbers are 64% yes, 21% no. This is down a little from October 2001, but is way up from May 2001, when 33% said yes and 40% said no, which is not surprising. What's interesting is that in May of 1996, if the data are correctly reported, the numbers were almost the same as they are now-- 60% yes, 30% no. I can't remember what happened around May 1996 to generate so much concern about terrorism. But it is interesting that peoples' willingness to give up personal freedom apparently fluctuates so widely. Presumably that reflects the fact that "giving up personal freedom" has virtually no meaning in the abstract. Also, this poll adds confirmation that the Democrats' attack on the Administration has misfired, as hardly anyone blames Bush for the terrorist attacks. Generally, the poll data reflect a remarkable degree of good sense and considerable realism about the war.
For what seems to be an inside view of events in the Middle East, check out the Debka File. How reliable it is, I don't know, but its analysis of why various powers do not necessarily have an interest in peace between India and Pakistan is very interesting.
Richard Tofel argues that the Democrats should outflank Bush to the right on the war. He's right; there is plenty of room to be more hawkish than the Administration. If more attacks come, no one is going to be interested in watching the President visit mosques and talk about how Islam is a "religion of peace." But it will never happen. Many people, maybe most people, only learn one story in their lives, and forever after they interpret events, no matter how disparate, within the framework of that narrative. For the current generation of Democratic leaders, that story is Viet Nam. They will never get over it; it is the reason why they are in public life and the source of their assumed moral superiority. Daschle, Clinton, et al. would rather stop breathing than acknowledge that America is good and her enemies are evil, and the principal way the world can be improved is through the aggressive deployment of American military power. Maybe younger Democrats can get beyond the Viet Nam paradigm, but they're not in charge.
The oddest news item of the last couple of days was the EPA's release of a paper on global warming that undercut the Administration's position, followed by the President's observation that the paper had been ground out by "the bureaucracy" and didn't represent a change in position. I don't get it: I know the President isn't omnipotent and has to pick his fights with the bureaucRATS, but still, can't Bush tell Christie Whitman to follow the Administration's line (which, by the way, is clearly correct) on global warming? Is this another example of the Administration's use of creative ambiguity? Or is it just confusion?

Monday, June 03, 2002

Here is a sad commentary on our times, and especially on our educational system: Noam Chomsky's latest tract, 9-11, now ranks # 483 on Amazon's best seller list. To illlustrate how well Chomsky's latest attack on America is selling, my brother's current American history text ranks at # 1,988,922. What makes Chomsky's success on college campuses and elsewhere remarkable is that the man is completely insane. He pens invectives that preserve the syntax of logical argument, but are devoid of sense. (This is, I believe, a good definition of one type of insanity.) The works in which Chomsky denies the existence of the Holocaust are of a piece with his anti-American fantasies. They are quite literally devoid of sense, an endless torrent of calumny utterly unrelated to reality. And many college professors and students don't seem to notice.
Once upon a time, young readers enjoyed the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe. Poe's "tales of terror" are both horrifying and unforgettable; they bear the stamp of deeply felt nightmares. Poe's "tales of ratiocination" are fascinating as detective stories, and Poe was of course the inventor of the genre. Not even being required to read Poe in school could destroy the pleasure provided by his work. Does anyone now read Poe, either voluntarily or otherwise?
Professor Kenneth Silverman has written a classic, compelling account of Poe's life, Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance. In Silverman's telling, Poe's life is the counterpart to Poe's tales of terror. Poe lost both his mother and father by the age of three, was divided from his brother and sister to be raised by a family friend, and suffered the mortal illnesses and deaths of every other person he loved in the course of his life with the sole exception of his mother-in-law, to whom he was unfailingly loyal. At the same time, Poe struggled manfully with alcohol and destitution. Nevertheless, by the time he died at the age of 40, he had created the impressive body of fiction, poetry and literary criticism that stands as his monument. Silverman's reconstruction of Poe's life is itself a pleasure and an inspiration.
On May 21 the United States Department of State released its Patterns of Global Terrorism-2001report. At the time of its release the report's somewhat unreal discussion of terrorism in the Middle East was widely noted. The report continues the State Department's dishonorable practice of covering up the substantial and now thoroughly documented terrorist activities of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority with diplomatic double talk.
Almost unbelievably, however, instead of laying substantial reponsibility for terrorism at the foot of Arafat and the forces under his direct control, this year's report adds a sick twist to the usual double talk. Now the State Department finds that Israel's attack on the "security" forces operating and committing terrorism under Arafat's command has compromised Arafat's ability to prevent terrorism: "Israel's destruction of the PA security infrastructure contributed to the ineffectiveness of the PA['s counterrorist activities]." The State Department's report constitutes an exercise in Orwellian doublethink.
But other relevant facts that have not been noted in this context render the State Department report something worse than Orwellian. Many Americans have of course become terrorist victims of Arafat and his terrorist entities. The United States has its own unsettled score with him. Preeminent among the American victims of Arafat is the Honorable Cleo Noel, the former United States Ambassador to the Sudan. On March 2, 1973, in the midst of the first wave of PLO terrorism, the PLO took over the Saudi Arabian embassy in Khartoum, holding Ambassador Noel and his charge d'affaires hostage. At the express order of Arafat, reputedly intercepted both by Israeli intelligence and the National Security Agency, the PLO brutally murdered Ambassador Noel and his charge d'affaires. The story is told in detail in the book Assassination in Khartoum by former State Department diplomat David Korn.
Contrast the behavior of the State Department vis a vis Ambassador Noel with that of the American military forces depicted in Black Hawk Down and We Were Soldiers. Those American military forces engaged in acts of heroism and great personal sacrifice so as not to leave the remains of any of their fallen comrades behind. Not only is the State Department's double talk on behalf of Arafat and the PLO dishonorable in itself, it is a disgusting betrayal of the department's own fallen comrades as well as our own representatives as Americans.