THE GERMANS GET IT

Perhaps one of the best analyses of Bush’s superb speech last Thursday night can be found in the Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung. As the author Frank Schirrmacher observes, the patience and resolution of the president’s message was completely not what the terrorists were expecting. They wanted Armageddon, a massive, sudden Clinton-like counter-strike that they could use to foment further disruption. What they got was a deadly serious, internationally conscious, militarily patient call to arms.

HITCH AGAIN: Christopher Hitchens and I disagree about many, many things, but I’ve always regarded him as a decent man of the Left who can tell the truth as he sees it. He’s also a chum. In the current climate he is doing us all a favor by seeing more clearly what needs to be seen by his comrades. Hitch was absolutely right in being one of the first people to recognize the dark evil of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, right to see the moral stakes in Bosnia, right to expose Bill Clinton for the negligent charlatan he was. So I’m not exactly surprised by his clarity in the Nation. Here’s the critical passage for which he deserves warm support: “[T]he bombers of Manhattan represent fascism with an Islamic face, and there’s no point in any euphemism about it. What they abominate about “the West,” to put it in a phrase, is not what Western liberals don’t like and can’t defend about their own system, but what they do like about it and must defend: its emancipated women, its scientific inquiry, its separation of religion from the state. Loose talk about chickens coming home to roost is the moral equivalent of the hateful garbage emitted by Falwell and Robertson, and exhibits about the same intellectual content. Indiscriminate murder is not a judgment, even obliquely, on the victims or their way of life, or ours. Any decent and concerned reader of this magazine could have been on one of those planes, or in one of those buildings–yes, even in the Pentagon.”

MARK BINGHAM’S LEGACY: I normally post letters in the letters section. But I want to make an exception for the following. It says a great deal to me and, I’m sure to others. It suggests that this war may lead to a better world, as long as we fight tenaciously and intelligently to win:
“I am a pretty conservative native Arizonan. I thought I was middle of the road until I went to college, where I found out that, at least compared to most of the “elites” in my generation, I’m right of center. I was a football and rugby player in college as well, which further differentiated me from most of my classmates in that such sports were viewed with suspicion by most of the liberal-types on campus (which would be a sizeable majority). I also hold pretty conservative Christian views on most matters (I guess I’m a conservative Methodist, which is a bit of an oxymoron I’ll grant).
“The issue I wanted to talk about is gay rights, and gays in the military in particular. As you might imagine, growing up in Arizona in a family with strong military ties (my grandfather dropped out of medical school in WW II to be a medic), I agreed with the majority sentiment in my state that gays had no place in the military, especially if they were open about it. I played football in high school with several guys who ended up as combat vets of the Gulf War, and they were all in agreement that admitting gays would undercut morale and unit cohesion. Since this jived with my preconceptions, it just reinforced my position. I’ve read your arguments to the contrary (based on the similar problems with integration of the African Americans after WW II), and while I understood the merits of them, I still disagreed. What changed my mind was Mark Bingham.
“You see, whether I admitted it consciously or not, one of my problems with gays in the military was not only the unit cohesion issue, but also the sense that gays just couldn’t cut it. This perception is based in part on the media portrayal of gays (lots of it by gays themselves) as effeminate, etc., as well as my personal experience with gays my age, most of whom seemed little interested in military service or aggressive pursuits in general, unless it was protesting something (a daily occurence at Pomona).
“Well, as we found out last week, Mark Bingham could cut it. He played rugby for Berkeley in the early 90’s, when they had the best team in the nation and won the national championship three times in 5 years. I played against them twice during that time period, and we got killed both times. I’m sure I met Mark and had a beer with him after these games (Rugby can be pretty social that way), and I have no doubt that he crushed me once or twice, and vice versa, out on the “pitch.” Last week during the aftermath of the attacks, the thought that kept occurring to me was, what would I have done if I had been on one of those planes? I know (without really knowing) that I would’ve attacked the terrorists and gone down swinging. It seems that had I been on the same plane as Mark, he would’ve been right there with me, and would have certainly been a formidable ally to have. His reaction (fight the bastards) to this horrible assault was the same as mine, and he probably helped save thousands of lives, and perhaps our Capital or the White House as well. He’s a hero, plain and simple. I simply can’t say to myself anymore that gays have no place in the military. I thought you should know.

EDWARD SAID VERSUS RUDY GIULIANI

A sharp reader noticed an interesting difference between Edward Said’s piece for the Observer and the same piece as it appeared in Al Ahram, designed for Arab audiences only. In the Observer, Said notes that “Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a normally rebarbative and unpleasantly combative, even retrograde figure, has rapidly attained Churchillian status.” In al-Ahram, the sentence appears as: “Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a normally rebarbative and unpleasantly combative, even retrograde figure, known for his virulently Zionist views, has rapidly attained Churchillian status.” Hmmm. I wonder who is responsible for this. Said, playing both sides of the aisle, like Arafat? The Observer, worried that Said’s swipe at Giuliani might alienate even their readers? Or Al Ahram, eager to denigrate even a man such as Giuliani? None of the possibilities is very encouraging. But then with Said, what else could we expect?

GAYS IN THE MILITARY: Some of you have asked me for a link to the fact that gays can now serve openly in the military – as long as there is a war on. Here’s one piece from the San Francisco Chronicle.

THE SPEECH

Nothing since Reagan has been as good in presidential oratory. The president’s speech writers crafted a luminescent call to arms. It was measured without being weak; it was moving without a trace of melodrama; it was stirring without being jingoist. And there was something about the president’s demeanor that suggested to me at last that he knows why he got this office. To speak of his growth at this point would be to condescend. He gets it. He means it. He knows what this war is fundamentally about. My cherished moment was when he rightly described this threat – and its twisted ideology – with the other great evils that have threatened freedom in the last century and before. “The unmarked grave of discarded lies” is a phrase that resonates deeply and truly. God bless the man and the country he finally indisuptably leads.

A NEW LOW FOR THE FAR LEFT

I probably shouldn’t write this right now since I am literally shaking with anger. A memorial service for San Francisco’s victims of the World Trade Center massacre was essentially hijacked by America-haters. San Francisco supervisor Amos Brown took advantage of the occasion – in front of families of the victims – to deliver an anti-America tirade. Paul Holm, the partner of Mark Bingham, the heroic gay rugby player who may well have played a part in downing one of the planes in Pennsylvania, stormed off the stage in protest. “America, America,” Brown ranted. “What did you do — either intentionally or unintentionally — in the world order, in Central America, in Africa where bombs are still blasting? America, what did you do in the global warming conference when you did not embrace the smaller nations? America, what did you do two weeks ago when I stood at the the world conference on racism, when you wouldn’t show up? Ohhhh — America, what did you do?” As the leftist crowd cheered, Paul went over to Senator Dianne Feinstein and said to her “This was supposed to be a memorial service.” He also went up to Senator Barbara Boxer and Governor Gray Davis and told them he thought Brown’s remarks were a disgrace, as they truly were. Then he quit the stage, and will always be forced to remember his husband’s memorial service as a place of anger and despair. Brown’s sentiments are completely inappropriate in any case. But to express them in front of grieving spouses, people who may well not share Brown’s hideous politics, is simply vile. (To her great credit, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, hardly a conservative, disowned and criticized Brown’s remarks.) Maybe it’s because I know some of Bingham’s friends who do not share this perverted politics that I feel so angry right now. I feel as if this hero has been violated after his death. What on earth could possess people to do this at a moment like that?

AMPLIFICATION: The quote from James Dobson cited in a previous item has not been confirmed. It was posted on a gay news service but there is no independent confirmation. I’m trying to nail it down with a second citation, but until I do, I’ll remove it.

APPEASEMENT WATCH

Two missives from the far right that are well worth airing, and that I have so far missed. The first was noted by James Taranto on OpinionJournal.com. It’s from a man called Anthony Lobaido, published on a major conservative news site, WorldNet Daily. Here’s a choice passage: “In the West, we most often see Islamic people as crazed and irrational. But have we considered that the Muslims might not be irrational when they consider America to be akin to Satan? Let’s look at the Satanic Bible. What are the values of Satan? Lust, greed, gluttony, revenge. Hmm. Sounds like American society. Is New York the head of the “Great Satan”? All that is evil in the world can be found in New York: MTV, the United Nations, the U.N. abortion programs, the Council on Foreign Relations, New Age Church of St. John the Divine, Wall Street greed, Madison Avenue manipulation and of course more confirmed AIDS cases than the rest of America combined. Let’s remember the filthy sodomite gay parade last summer in New York. Let’s remember all the New York politicians falling all over themselves to praise this sick spectacle.” Perhaps Josh Marshall will forgive me for pointing out something that is, as he would put it, “slightly off-message.” How about “disgusting,” Josh, or have you too lost a sense of the difference between “off-message” and “evil”?

MUST READ

Fascinating and devastating piece in the London Spectator on the Wahhabi Islamic sect that is responsible for the crazed intolerance fostered by bin Laden. It’s not Islam, properly speaking; its hostility is directed as much to Islamic traditionalists as the West. It’s a purist form of Islam that seems to have particular resonance among a few of the displaced and confused Muslims living in the West. And it is based in and funded by Saudi Arabia. As well as getting a grip on the terrorist networks in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere, the administration should surely have a word with its friends among the Saudi leadership. This sect must be exposed, countered, defunded, and defeated. They are in Stephen Schwartz’s words, “Islamofascists.”

IDENTITY POLITICS AND WAR

I was heartened but not surprised that the military has now lifted its ban on openly gay service members for the foreseeable future. When push comes to shove, we need everyone. They are not gay soldiers; they are American soldiers. In the same vein, the extraordinary Father Mychal Judge, the hero to the firefighters among whom he died last week, is not a gay hero. He is a hero. Similarly Mark Bingham, a burly 6′ 5″ rugby player, who almost certainly participated in the bravery on a plane destined for Washington that ended up in a field in Pennsylvania. He wasn’t a gay passenger, he was just a citizen with more courage than most. At this moment, identity shouldn’t matter – whether racial, sexual, religious or whatever. But we will perhaps remember at some point that these brave gay men and women were and are a part of this ordeal. They always were, but now, with our more open society, we can see them in the light of day. If and when we thank these gay service members for their service in defending freedom, perhaps we will find it within ourselves not to treat them with contempt when they return, by throwing them out of their service simply because of the gender of whom they love. And perhaps the rugby players and jocks will take a minute to remember Mark Bingham, a national hero who was also gay, and reassess some attitudes toward gay men and women in sports. Perhaps they will also readjust some prejudice that still sees gay men as weak, ineffectual or cowardly. Nothing could be further from the truth. And when the Church celebrates a man like Father Mychal, a gay man who was loved in a surpassingly male and masculine world, perhaps they will also ask themselves to rethink the pain and heartache and cruelty they have inflicted on so many gay men and women, people who have served the Church as deeply as anyone in history. Now is not the time to engage in the politics of identity; but it is a time to keep our eyes and hearts open, and to observe what we are seeing in this war, and ensure that what we remember leads to a fairer, juster society when this conflict ends, if not before.

HITCH RISES TO THE OCCASION: Not everyone on the left has been craven. My magazine, The New Republic, had a splendid editorial last week. And in the Independent, the house-organ of appeasement in Britain, Christopher Hitchens has a thoughtful and moving piece. He grasps what some other liberals haven’t: that the murderers of September 11 “are not even “terrorists” so much as nihilists: at war with the very idea of modernity and the related practices of pluralism and toleration.” I particularly liked this paragraph: “American society cannot be destroyed even by the most horrifying nihilist attacks. It can outlast or absorb practically anything … Last week, an entire population withstood an attempted rape and murder of its core and identity. It did so while the President was off the radar screen. But everyone, in an important sense, knew what to do, as well as what not to do. The whole point of a multinational democracy is that it should be able to run on its own power. In other words, if short-term foolishness can be minimized at home and abroad, then people will surely appreciate that, in the words of an old slogan worn out by repetition, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Amen, Hitch. Amen.

GET READY FOR YOUR JAW TO FALL OFF

According to the German radio station, Norddeutscher Rundfunk, the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen called the WTC assault “the greatest work of art imaginable for the whole cosmos.” According to a tape transcript, he went on: “Minds achieving something in an act that we couldn’t even dream of in music, people rehearsing like mad for ten years, preparing fanatically for a concert, and then dying, just imagine what happened there. You have people who are that focused on a performance and then 5,000 people are dispatched into the afterlife, in a single moment. I couldn’t do that. By comparison, we composers are nothing. Artists, too, sometimes try to go beyond the limits of what is feasible and conceivable, so that we wake up, so that we open ourselves to another world.” When a journalist asked him whether crime and art were interchangeable, Stockhausen remarked, “It’s a crime because those involved didn’t consent. They didn’t come to the ‘concert.’ That’s obvious. And no one announced that they risked losing their lives. What happened in spiritual terms, the leap out of security, out of what is usually taken for granted, out of life, that sometimes happens to a small extent in art, too, otherwise art is nothing.” Life is a cabaret, old chum.

MORE PERTINENT ORWELL: “In so far as it hampers the British war effort, British pacifism is on the side of the Nazis, and German pacifism, if it exists, is on the side of Britain and the USSR. Since pacifists have more freedom of action in countries where traces of democracy survive, pacifism can act more effectively against democracy than for it. Objectively the pacifist is pro-Nazi.” – from a review of Alex Comfort’s book No Such Liberty: “No, Not One,” Adelphi, Oct. 1941. The same, I think, can be said for the enclaves of leftist decadence celebrated among this country’s universities and elites, in response to the act of war prepetrated by men who hold many of the beliefs the Nazis proudly held.

ORWELL NOW

“[T]here is a minority of intellectual pacifists whose real though unadmitted motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration of totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writings of younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States. Moreover they do not as a rule condemn violence as such, but only violence used in defence of western countries.” -George Orwell, “Notes on Nationalism,” 1945.

THE FIFTH COLUMN

I hadn’t received Tim Noah’s email yesterday when I wrote “RETRACT WHAT?” below. It got lost in cyberspace. He re-sent me it this morning. I retract nothing, since the point I thought he was trying to make is simply untrue. I have absolutely nothing against the countless patriots in the blue zone, as my tribute to New Yorkers and the rest of the essay shows. I was talking about a few intellectuals and their cohorts who clearly do feel ambivalence about America fighting and winning this war. But these broad categories of “blue” and “red zones” can be misleading and unhelpful. I won’t use this shorthand again. Ditto the shorthand of “fifth column.” I have no reason to believe that even those sharp critics of this war would actually aid and abet the enemy in any more tangible ways than they have done already. And that dissent is part of what we’re fighting for. By fifth column, I meant simply their ambivalence about the outcome of a war on which I believe the future of liberty hangs. Again, I retract nothing. But I am sorry that one sentence was not written more clearly to dispel any and all such doubts about its meaning. Writing 6,000 words under deadline in the heat of war can lead to occasional sentences whose meaning is open to misinterpretation.