THE SUCCESS WE FORGET

Here’s a lefty terror expert on a liberal website, describing the Bush administration’s global campaign against al Qaeda:

You can either have Al-Qaeda as this small group I’m talking about, this hardcore around bin Laden, that evolved very late on in the development of modern Islamic militancy, and to my mind has now disappeared. Since 2001, I would say that their role in what is happening today, or their role in the threats and various bombs there have been, is negligible. Bin Laden is peripheral. His practical ability to commission or organize terror has been minimized. Many of those operatives who were drawn to him in the late 1990s have been killed or imprisoned. Others have had their efficiency vastly curtailed by the hugely enhanced monitoring by various secret services and cooperation between security authorities. So the hardcore Al-Qaeda…defined in that narrow sense, is over effectively as a really powerful force in modern Islamic militancy.

He doesn’t argue that the terrorist threat is over, just that its more organized and deadly forms have been stymied. And here’s another piece that puts together more of the good work the government is doing to combat terrorism across the globe. Useful and necessary perspective.

SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE

“Was this inaction simply the result of key people disregarding, or being ignorant of, the evidence? Or could US air security operations have been deliberately stood down on September 11? If so, why, and on whose authority? The former US federal crimes prosecutor, John Loftus, has said: ‘The information provided by European intelligence services prior to 9/11 was so extensive that it is no longer possible for either the CIA or FBI to assert a defence of incompetence.’ … The conclusion of all this analysis must surely be that the “global war on terrorism” has the hallmarks of a political myth propagated to pave the way for a wholly different agenda – the US goal of world hegemony, built around securing by force command over the oil supplies required to drive the whole project.” – Michael Meacher, Blairite minister from 1997 – 2001, reiterating the kookiest conspiracy theories about how the U.S. engineered the massacre of 3,000 innocents. Meacher is not a fringe figure – he was a senior member of Blair’s government until recently. And you wonder why Blair is beleaguered.

MORE MOORE LIES

Just a revealing throw-away, caught by blogger, Anthony Cox. As an afterword to his predictably inane ramblings on his website, Michael Moore links to a story he describes thus: “And sadly, an 11 year old British anti-war activist takes his own life after being tormented in school for his views.” The piece he cites argues no such thing. If anything, this bullied and probably gay kid in Britain, who killed himself at 11, found some solace in his “anti-war” campaigning. Will Moore use even a completely unrelated, dead 11-year old to advance his bile? You bet he will.

THE MAGDALENE SISTERS

If you’re wrestling with whether to remain a Catholic any more, then you probably shouldn’t go see “The Magdalene Sisters.” It’s a gut-wrenching account of how the Irish Catholic church policed sexual morals in the last century in part by removing up to 30,000 “errant” young women – with the consent of their families – into penitential workhouses. Young girls could be sent away for flirting or getting pregnant or, in some cases, even getting raped – in a “Christian” version of the misogeny and sexual repression of fundamentalist Islam. It’s a simply horrifying tale – and, so far as I have been able to research, completely true. What you see is how the Gospels have been turned by some into a mechanism not of liberation and love but of social control and sexual panic. The brilliance of the movie is in showing how this system of extirpating human pleasure is perpetuated by those already victimized. In these Catholic gulags, women who themselves have internalized the idea that all sex is evil proceed to impose that system on girls and women with a brutality made all the more intense by their own misery. The cruelty enacted by those in the name of Jesus, the folly of attempting to extinguish the simplest sexual and emotional needs of the human heart: here you see it all. It resonated for me partly because part of my own family came from exactly that Irish-Catholic atmosphere. Women especially were inculcated with sexual self-hatred, traumatized in many cases by the prospect of eternal damnation if they so much as expressed interest in boys or men. (My mother was disciplined severely once at school for shining her shoes too brightly. Boys might be able to see reflections of what was up her skirt! My grandmother – one of thirteen dirt-poor kids, who eventually found work as a servant for priests – viewed all sex with a mixture of horror and disgust.) And all the while, of course, many of the men who controlled the institution were raping boys and girls with abandon and impunity. How is it possible to describe an institution constructed in this fashion as anything but fundamentally sick? Or, dare I say it, “objectively disordered?”

FLYPAPER – IT’S WORKING

Fascinating new details on how closely linked the war in Iraq is to the war against al Qaeda:

The al Qaeda network is determined to open a new front in Iraq to sustain itself as the vanguard of radical Islamic groups fighting holy war, according to European, American and Arab intelligence sources. The turn toward Iraq was made in February, as U.S. forces were preparing to attack, the sources said. Two seasoned operatives met at a safe house in eastern Iran. One of them was Mohammed Ibrahim Makawi, the military chief of al Qaeda, who is better known as Saif Adel. He welcomed a guest, Abu Musab Zarqawi, who had recently fled Iraq’s Kurdish northern region in anticipation of the U.S. targeting of a radical group with which he was affiliated, Arab intelligence sources said. The encounter resulted in the dispatch of Zarqawi to become al Qaeda’s man in Iraq, opening a new chapter in the history of the group and a serious threat to American forces there. “The monster is already near you,” said one Arab official who is familiar with the intelligence and who spoke on condition that he not be identified by name or nationality. “I don’t know if you can kill it.” The official added: “Iraq is the new battleground. It is the perfect place. It will be the perfect place.”

If this pans out, then the Bush administration really will have pulled off something important: taken the war to the enemy, taken it out of the West, and given us a chance for military victory. What Bush must tell us tonight is that the war in Iraq, far from having ended, is now entering its most critical phase. That’s why we need more troops, more resources and more focus. Now.

A GREAT SOURCE ON IRAQ

If you’re as eager to understand what on earth is going on out there as I am, take a look at this website, which has been a big help to me in recent weeks. It’s called “Iraq Today,” and has a plethora of stories on the difficult transition to democracy in that newly liberated country. My own view that we do indeed need more troops for basic security measures was only buttressed by this report in the New York Times today. Many munitions dumps only lightly protected? Why don’t we just hand the terrorists weapons while we’re at it? Glad to see the president is going to address the country tomorrow night on the state of play in Iraq. I hope it isn’t just pablum or optimism. He needs to frankly acknowledge the problems, as well as telling us how we are going to overcome them.

NOT ECSTASY: Useful reminder of how some hysterical evidence against the use of soft recreational drugs should not always be taken on trust – even in a prestigious journal like “science.” I was skeptical when I read reports of a study that showed ecstasy gives you Parkinson’s or could kill 20 percent of its users. It turns out the study was using the wrong chemical. The poor monkeys. They weren’t so much loved up as fried.