Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 6, 2007

Hotline to Nobody

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is now in Seoul, after completing two days of meetings in Beijing during the first stop of a three-nation tour (he also will be visiting Japan before heading home). In China, Gates traded compliments with Chinese leaders, issued correct statements on the need for dialogue, and toured the Forbidden City, the imperial palace at the north end of Tiananmen Square. It was Gates’s first trip to the country since succeeding Donald Rumsfeld as Pentagon chief, and senior U.S. officials marked the event by reporting modest progress on a range of secondary issues. The Chinese, for example, promised to provide more cooperation on accounting for American prisoners taken during the Korean War.

Both sides also announced the planned establishment of a military hotline between Washington and Beijing “at an early date.” The initiative was announced during Hu Jintao’s summit in Washington last April and has been the subject of periodic re-announcements ever since, such as one this June when Gates was in Singapore. Despite the apparent signs of progress, the Chinese have been dragging their feet over technical issues. The United States has sought to establish such a hotline for more than five years. Yet the critical issue now is not how such a link will be established. It is whether the Chinese wish to engage the United States in substantive discussions at all—or whether they wish merely to sip tea and waste our time.

There is reason to believe that when we call, no one will answer the phone. (There was, remember, nobody taking Washington’s calls during the Hainan reconnaissance plane incident in April 2001.) The issue is as much about the ability of the Chinese government to make decisions in the middle of crisis as it is about the state of relations between the two countries.

But there’s a more fundamental reason why the phone may not be of much use during the next confrontation. At the same time that Gates was talking with Chinese officials this week, Premier Wen Jiabao was in Moscow talking with President Vladimir Putin about their countries’ “friendship for generations.” While the American defense secretary was arguing about the technicalities of telecommunications lines, Moscow and Beijing were putting together the alliance that will challenge the international community for a lifetime. It seems they have been communicating just fine without a hotline.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is now in Seoul, after completing two days of meetings in Beijing during the first stop of a three-nation tour (he also will be visiting Japan before heading home). In China, Gates traded compliments with Chinese leaders, issued correct statements on the need for dialogue, and toured the Forbidden City, the imperial palace at the north end of Tiananmen Square. It was Gates’s first trip to the country since succeeding Donald Rumsfeld as Pentagon chief, and senior U.S. officials marked the event by reporting modest progress on a range of secondary issues. The Chinese, for example, promised to provide more cooperation on accounting for American prisoners taken during the Korean War.

Both sides also announced the planned establishment of a military hotline between Washington and Beijing “at an early date.” The initiative was announced during Hu Jintao’s summit in Washington last April and has been the subject of periodic re-announcements ever since, such as one this June when Gates was in Singapore. Despite the apparent signs of progress, the Chinese have been dragging their feet over technical issues. The United States has sought to establish such a hotline for more than five years. Yet the critical issue now is not how such a link will be established. It is whether the Chinese wish to engage the United States in substantive discussions at all—or whether they wish merely to sip tea and waste our time.

There is reason to believe that when we call, no one will answer the phone. (There was, remember, nobody taking Washington’s calls during the Hainan reconnaissance plane incident in April 2001.) The issue is as much about the ability of the Chinese government to make decisions in the middle of crisis as it is about the state of relations between the two countries.

But there’s a more fundamental reason why the phone may not be of much use during the next confrontation. At the same time that Gates was talking with Chinese officials this week, Premier Wen Jiabao was in Moscow talking with President Vladimir Putin about their countries’ “friendship for generations.” While the American defense secretary was arguing about the technicalities of telecommunications lines, Moscow and Beijing were putting together the alliance that will challenge the international community for a lifetime. It seems they have been communicating just fine without a hotline.

Read Less

Defining Annapolis Down

Is there anything left to be said about the Annapolis conference that hasn’t been said, at this point, dozens of times before? Well, not really. But there are a few smaller items worth discussing.

On Monday a force of 300 Palestinian Authority policemen were sent to the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, a stronghold of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, in order to demonstrate that the Palestinian Authority is attempting to fulfill its Phase I obligations under the Road Map. Remember the Road Map? That document has been living a strange existence in recent months, as it has been both invoked and ignored by all parties involved, at their convenience. The Balata operation was about as symbolic as it gets, with PA police taking up positions in the camp, trading a few shots with members of the Brigades, and then packing up and leaving twelve hours later.

But the simple fact that a group of armed men called the PA police exchanged gunfire with a Palestinian terrorist group—the Martyr’s Brigades are also heavily involved in terrorizing Palestinians—will be used as leverage for demands for Israeli concessions, such as prisoner releases and a reduction in the IDF presence in the West Bank. If Phase I of the Road Map suddenly is being invoked again, the Israelis should re-read what it entails and insist on more than a half-day, merely symbolic PA police parade through Balata. Phase I is supposed to be permanent.

Read More

Is there anything left to be said about the Annapolis conference that hasn’t been said, at this point, dozens of times before? Well, not really. But there are a few smaller items worth discussing.

On Monday a force of 300 Palestinian Authority policemen were sent to the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, a stronghold of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, in order to demonstrate that the Palestinian Authority is attempting to fulfill its Phase I obligations under the Road Map. Remember the Road Map? That document has been living a strange existence in recent months, as it has been both invoked and ignored by all parties involved, at their convenience. The Balata operation was about as symbolic as it gets, with PA police taking up positions in the camp, trading a few shots with members of the Brigades, and then packing up and leaving twelve hours later.

But the simple fact that a group of armed men called the PA police exchanged gunfire with a Palestinian terrorist group—the Martyr’s Brigades are also heavily involved in terrorizing Palestinians—will be used as leverage for demands for Israeli concessions, such as prisoner releases and a reduction in the IDF presence in the West Bank. If Phase I of the Road Map suddenly is being invoked again, the Israelis should re-read what it entails and insist on more than a half-day, merely symbolic PA police parade through Balata. Phase I is supposed to be permanent.

The rhetoric surrounding the conference has changed of late, and I think some people are making the mistake of taking Ehud Olmert’s lofty declarations seriously. The Israelis have done a good job of performing a sort of good cop/bad cop routine with their American interlocutors, and with the media as well. In front of the cameras, Olmert speaks in dulcet clichés about hopefulness and breakthroughs and the great promise of Annapolis, while in private meetings, people like Ehud Barak and Avigdor Lieberman have used hard facts to slap down Rice’s peace-process dreamscape. Such facts include these: Israel will retain freedom of action for the IDF in the Palestinian territories; Israel will not withdraw from the West Bank until a comprehensive missile defense system is in place; Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu, two members of Olmert’s coalition, will bring down the government if red lines are crossed; etc..

This disconnect has created an interesting dynamic, a sort of inverse relationship between rhetoric and reality, in which officials from all sides speak increasingly in platitudes, as the likelihood of anything concrete resulting from Annapolis continues to decrease. If the peace process has drifted off into Never Never Land, why not at least say the nice things that people enjoy hearing about peace processes? These declarations are starting to sound like the slogans affixed to those colorful motivation posters that can be purchased out of the SkyMall catalogue. Condi: “We can succeed. Failure is simply not an option.” Tony Blair: “Intentions will not suffice; only actions will.” Olmert: “This is an opportunity and it must be seized.”

Rice’s most recent trip, from which she returned Monday, was her eight to the region this year, and she will return for a ninth visit before the month is up. For all this activity and the trainwreck of clichés it has generated, remarkably little has been resolved. It is still uncertain which Arab states will show up in Annapolis, and under what conditions; the entire Hamas/Gaza crisis is being ignored thoroughly; and Annapolis itself continues to be defined downward, at this point being proposed as a sort of timeline marker to signify the start of negotiations that the participants hope to complete by the end of the Bush presidency. With goals like these, how can it not be a success?

Read Less

On the Soapbox

We learn from today’s New York Times that Rosie O’Donnell is in “serious discussions” to return to television “atop a new soapbox: a prime-time show on the cable news channel MSNBC.”

That is a perfect fit. MSNBC, after all, is the cable news channel that features, among others, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews. Why not add Rosie to the mix? Her qualifications as a news journalist certainly rival those of Mr. Olbermann, who came to NBC’s news division via ESPN and Fox Sports.

The Times tells us that Mr. Olbermann’s program, which is “riding a ratings wave,” takes “strong issue” with the Bush administration. That would be one way of saying it. Another would be that Mr. Olbermann is afflicted with Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS)—defined by the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist (and former psychiatrist) Charles Krauthammer as “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency—nay—the very existence of George W. Bush.”

Mr. Olbermann’s entire show is tendentious—but nothing quite approaches his “Special Comment” editorials. In his November 5 “Special Comment,” for example, Mr. Olbermann said, “The presidency of George W. Bush has now devolved into a criminal conspiracy to cover the ass of George W. Bush.” He spoke about “the petulancy, all the childish threats, all the blank-stare stupidity.” He referred to the “verbal flatulence of his apologists.” George W. Bush, Mr. Olbermann asserted, is a “mock president,” a “liar,” and, “if anybody had the guts to pursue it, a criminal.” Vice President Cheney is “unstable.” On and on (and on) his editorials go, with Olbermann playing a Lear-like figure, raging against the storm. One half-expects him to sign off his program not with his signature “Good night and good luck,” but with, “Off, off, you lendings! Come unbutton here.”

Read More

We learn from today’s New York Times that Rosie O’Donnell is in “serious discussions” to return to television “atop a new soapbox: a prime-time show on the cable news channel MSNBC.”

That is a perfect fit. MSNBC, after all, is the cable news channel that features, among others, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews. Why not add Rosie to the mix? Her qualifications as a news journalist certainly rival those of Mr. Olbermann, who came to NBC’s news division via ESPN and Fox Sports.

The Times tells us that Mr. Olbermann’s program, which is “riding a ratings wave,” takes “strong issue” with the Bush administration. That would be one way of saying it. Another would be that Mr. Olbermann is afflicted with Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS)—defined by the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist (and former psychiatrist) Charles Krauthammer as “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency—nay—the very existence of George W. Bush.”

Mr. Olbermann’s entire show is tendentious—but nothing quite approaches his “Special Comment” editorials. In his November 5 “Special Comment,” for example, Mr. Olbermann said, “The presidency of George W. Bush has now devolved into a criminal conspiracy to cover the ass of George W. Bush.” He spoke about “the petulancy, all the childish threats, all the blank-stare stupidity.” He referred to the “verbal flatulence of his apologists.” George W. Bush, Mr. Olbermann asserted, is a “mock president,” a “liar,” and, “if anybody had the guts to pursue it, a criminal.” Vice President Cheney is “unstable.” On and on (and on) his editorials go, with Olbermann playing a Lear-like figure, raging against the storm. One half-expects him to sign off his program not with his signature “Good night and good luck,” but with, “Off, off, you lendings! Come unbutton here.”

Yet reading Olbermann’s commentaries doesn’t quite do justice to them. What you would miss is seeing the haughtiness, the unsurpassed air of self-importance and arrogance, the sputtering hatred, and the boundless self-delusion (he seems to consider himself not just a journalist, but the heir of Edward R. Murrow). Of course Olbermann’s ratings have increased; this is, in its own way, riveting stuff. Never have we seen the mad utterings of a journalist put on display quite like this. It makes even the shallowness and odd obsessions of Chris Matthews seem normal in comparison. And that is no easy achievement.

One can only imagine what serious, even outstanding, journalists like Tim Russert, Brian Williams, and Pete Williams must be thinking to have their good name, and the name of NBC News, associated with the likes of Olbermann and Matthews. Tim Russert’s tough and fair-minded approach has made him one of the most widely respected journalists in America. How must he, as NBC’s Washington Bureau Chief, feel to have people like Olbermann, Matthews, and perhaps Rosie O’Donnell define the NBC News brand? It takes a long time to build up the reputation of an institution; it takes a lot less time to tear it down. Mr. Russert and his (responsible) colleagues deserve better, and can do better, than this.

Read Less

Whose New Gilded Age?

The New York Times recently ran a lead Sunday Magazine article on the “The New Gilded Age.” The article tastefully failed to note that most of the monied people discussed were Democrats. It’s further evidence, I’d say, that liberal Democrats are having a hard time owning up to the nature of their party. In his new book The Squandering of America (reviewed in the November issue of COMMENTARY), liberal economist Robert Kuttner describes his dismay at discovering that the liberal wing of the Democratic Party has gone upscale. “I have attended Democratic fund-raising events in the Park Avenue homes of investment bankers,” he writes, “where there was plenty of enthusiasm for human rights, morning-after pills, and climate change, but nary a word about financial regulation or social investment.” Kuttner’s ideological soulmate, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, lodges a similar complaint about the Democrats’ refusal to close “the hedge fund tax loophole—which allows executives at private equity firms and hedge funds to pay a tax rate of only 15 percent on most of their income.” The Democrats, he concludes are “wobbled by wealth.”

What’s striking about their complaints is that none of this is new. Writing in COMMENTARY in 1972, Joshua Muravchik and the late Penn Kemble noted that “The purpose of the McGovern quotas (for the delegations to the Democratic National Convention) was not to make the convention more representative of the Democratic electorate as a whole, but to favor the affluent liberals within the party and to diminish the influence of its lower-middle and working-class constituents.” The McGovernites succeeded and the Democrats became far more of an upper-middle-class party.

And they’ve only become more of one since then. Michael Franc of the Heritage Foundation, writing yesterday in the Financial Times, notes that “Democrats now control the majority of the nation’s wealthiest congressional jurisdictions. More than half of the wealthiest households are concentrated in the eighteen states where Democrats control both Senate seats.” This pattern holds in the House as well. Iowa’s three richest districts are represented by Democrats, the two poorest by Republicans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi represents a San Francisco district containing more than six times as many high-end households as her Republic counterpart, John Boehner. Nor is this just a matter of wealth. Democrats, notes economist Joel Kotkin, predominate in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles, where income inequality is the most pronounced in the nation.
“The demographic reality is that, in America,” says Franc, the Democratic Party is the new “party of the rich.” The question for 2008 is whether that economic reality will enter into the political debate.

The New York Times recently ran a lead Sunday Magazine article on the “The New Gilded Age.” The article tastefully failed to note that most of the monied people discussed were Democrats. It’s further evidence, I’d say, that liberal Democrats are having a hard time owning up to the nature of their party. In his new book The Squandering of America (reviewed in the November issue of COMMENTARY), liberal economist Robert Kuttner describes his dismay at discovering that the liberal wing of the Democratic Party has gone upscale. “I have attended Democratic fund-raising events in the Park Avenue homes of investment bankers,” he writes, “where there was plenty of enthusiasm for human rights, morning-after pills, and climate change, but nary a word about financial regulation or social investment.” Kuttner’s ideological soulmate, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, lodges a similar complaint about the Democrats’ refusal to close “the hedge fund tax loophole—which allows executives at private equity firms and hedge funds to pay a tax rate of only 15 percent on most of their income.” The Democrats, he concludes are “wobbled by wealth.”

What’s striking about their complaints is that none of this is new. Writing in COMMENTARY in 1972, Joshua Muravchik and the late Penn Kemble noted that “The purpose of the McGovern quotas (for the delegations to the Democratic National Convention) was not to make the convention more representative of the Democratic electorate as a whole, but to favor the affluent liberals within the party and to diminish the influence of its lower-middle and working-class constituents.” The McGovernites succeeded and the Democrats became far more of an upper-middle-class party.

And they’ve only become more of one since then. Michael Franc of the Heritage Foundation, writing yesterday in the Financial Times, notes that “Democrats now control the majority of the nation’s wealthiest congressional jurisdictions. More than half of the wealthiest households are concentrated in the eighteen states where Democrats control both Senate seats.” This pattern holds in the House as well. Iowa’s three richest districts are represented by Democrats, the two poorest by Republicans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi represents a San Francisco district containing more than six times as many high-end households as her Republic counterpart, John Boehner. Nor is this just a matter of wealth. Democrats, notes economist Joel Kotkin, predominate in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles, where income inequality is the most pronounced in the nation.
“The demographic reality is that, in America,” says Franc, the Democratic Party is the new “party of the rich.” The question for 2008 is whether that economic reality will enter into the political debate.

Read Less

Oh, the Agony of Being a Poseur

One-time Clinton speechwriter Heather Hurlburt is in some physical discomfort, but, in a blog posting entitled “It Hurts Just as Much,” she suggests she is suffering at least as much from the psychic agony of the nation’s parlous direction:

I haven’t posted lately because of a painful nerve problem in one arm. Even with Vicodin, ibuprofen, muscle relaxants and the occasional naughty glass of wine in my system, the Bush national security policy, progressive infighting, and the decline of our global standing hurt just as much, I’m sorry to say.

One-time Clinton speechwriter Heather Hurlburt is in some physical discomfort, but, in a blog posting entitled “It Hurts Just as Much,” she suggests she is suffering at least as much from the psychic agony of the nation’s parlous direction:

I haven’t posted lately because of a painful nerve problem in one arm. Even with Vicodin, ibuprofen, muscle relaxants and the occasional naughty glass of wine in my system, the Bush national security policy, progressive infighting, and the decline of our global standing hurt just as much, I’m sorry to say.

Read Less

David Brooks Gets All Straussian About Annapolis

My friend David Brooks attended the University of Chicago with me, so it is meet and proper that he offers today a deeply Straussian interpretation of the upcoming Israeli-Palestinian peace conference in Annapolis.

That conference only appears to be about Israel and the Palestinians, David writes. In fact, he reveals, it has a secret esoteric meaning and purpose: The creation of an anti-Iran alliance in the Middle East.

This is the most interesting interpretation possible of Annapolis, and the most hopeful. For as David notes, Seceretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s decision to dedicate the last two years of her stewardship of American foreign policy to the Mideast peace process — at a time when the Palestinians who will be at the table have no control over half the territory they supposedly govern and the Israeli government is unquestionably the weakest in the nation’s history — has to be one of the more puzzling choices in recent memory.

He therefore adduces that she cannot actually have made that choice, and has instead made a more interesting one:

There is a feeling among Arab and Israeli leaders that an Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas alliance is on the march. The nations that resist that alliance are in retreat. The peace process is an occasion to gather the “moderate” states and to construct what Martin Indyk of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center calls an anti-Iran counter-alliance….Iran has done what decades of peace proposals have not done — brought Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Palestinians and the U.S. together.

But brought them together for what?

If the threat from Iran is considered dire by every one of these nations, then it is a matter of raw national self-interest for them to act in ways to retard Iran’s forward march irrespective of the status of negotations between Israel and the Palestinians.

What, specifically, does the status of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship have to do with that urgent and pressing need? The honest answer is: Very little. Unless, that is, you accept the contention that the “moderate” states need and deserve some face-saving bribery in the form of Israeli concessions to get them to act reasonably in concert against Iran.

But if they are so worried about Iran, why would they need face-saving bribery, especially considering David’s concession that “there is remarkably little substance to [the peace process] so far. Even people inside the Israeli and Palestinian governments are not sure what’s actually going to be negotiated and what can realistically be achieved.”

It might, therefore, be fair to say that the Annapolis peace conference is an even worse idea than it first appeared to be. David credits Secretary Rice with at least “trying something.” But surely, if there is an urgent need for an anti-Iran alliance that can be stymied by a poor result in Annapolis on a matter that is actually tangential to the central concern of the countries involved, then it’s Logic 101 that “trying something” presents a risk that is not worth the dream of a reward.

There’s nothing remotely esoteric about that.

My friend David Brooks attended the University of Chicago with me, so it is meet and proper that he offers today a deeply Straussian interpretation of the upcoming Israeli-Palestinian peace conference in Annapolis.

That conference only appears to be about Israel and the Palestinians, David writes. In fact, he reveals, it has a secret esoteric meaning and purpose: The creation of an anti-Iran alliance in the Middle East.

This is the most interesting interpretation possible of Annapolis, and the most hopeful. For as David notes, Seceretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s decision to dedicate the last two years of her stewardship of American foreign policy to the Mideast peace process — at a time when the Palestinians who will be at the table have no control over half the territory they supposedly govern and the Israeli government is unquestionably the weakest in the nation’s history — has to be one of the more puzzling choices in recent memory.

He therefore adduces that she cannot actually have made that choice, and has instead made a more interesting one:

There is a feeling among Arab and Israeli leaders that an Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas alliance is on the march. The nations that resist that alliance are in retreat. The peace process is an occasion to gather the “moderate” states and to construct what Martin Indyk of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center calls an anti-Iran counter-alliance….Iran has done what decades of peace proposals have not done — brought Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Palestinians and the U.S. together.

But brought them together for what?

If the threat from Iran is considered dire by every one of these nations, then it is a matter of raw national self-interest for them to act in ways to retard Iran’s forward march irrespective of the status of negotations between Israel and the Palestinians.

What, specifically, does the status of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship have to do with that urgent and pressing need? The honest answer is: Very little. Unless, that is, you accept the contention that the “moderate” states need and deserve some face-saving bribery in the form of Israeli concessions to get them to act reasonably in concert against Iran.

But if they are so worried about Iran, why would they need face-saving bribery, especially considering David’s concession that “there is remarkably little substance to [the peace process] so far. Even people inside the Israeli and Palestinian governments are not sure what’s actually going to be negotiated and what can realistically be achieved.”

It might, therefore, be fair to say that the Annapolis peace conference is an even worse idea than it first appeared to be. David credits Secretary Rice with at least “trying something.” But surely, if there is an urgent need for an anti-Iran alliance that can be stymied by a poor result in Annapolis on a matter that is actually tangential to the central concern of the countries involved, then it’s Logic 101 that “trying something” presents a risk that is not worth the dream of a reward.

There’s nothing remotely esoteric about that.

Read Less

All the Fault of the Neocons

Arche de Zoé, a rickety French NGO thrown together to rescue 10,000 Darfur orphans (see the original press release here), has capsized in Chad. As of this writing, six activists of the NGO, four Chadian collaborators, three members of a Spanish flight crew, and one Belgian pilot are detained in a maximum security prison in N’jamena, accused of kidnapping 103 children. The wild ambitions of volunteer fireman Eric Breteau and his companion Emilie Lelouch came down to a sordid humanitarian swindle with international ramifications. Though an ocean of incriminating evidence testifies to their criminal methods, loyal supporters and high-minded analysts throw the would-be do-gooders life jackets marked “good intentions,” while Socialist opponents tongue-lash the Sarkozy government, and far-out geopolitical experts blame it on American neocons.

How’s that? According to Jean-Philippe Remy of Le Monde and Antoine Glaser, director of La Lettre du Continent, a bi-monthly journal on Africa, over-sensitive idealists were pushed to excess by made-in-the-U.S.A. “Save Darfur” propaganda. Remy and Glaser believe that such propaganda misrepresents a conflict between the Sudanese government and armed rebels, a conflict that is overheated by various oil interests in Sudan and Chad. Two hundred thousand victims does not a genocide make. Besides, says Glaser, it’s winding down. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, of Doctors without Borders fame, is accused of infecting the Sarkozy government with Save Darfur hysteria.

Others claim the government knew enough to stop Breteau before he touched the hair of one child’s head. Furthermore, Socialist leader François Hollande sputters that Sarkozy is leaving the unfortunate humanitarians in the clutches of an unspeakable (African) jurisdiction instead of bringing them back to be judged (more clemently) in France. Hollande and his ilk are furious at Nicolas Sarkozy for flying to Chad last Sunday to bring back the journalists and the four airline stewardesses, conditionally liberated as per his request relayed to the court by Chad’s President Idriss Déby.

Read More

Arche de Zoé, a rickety French NGO thrown together to rescue 10,000 Darfur orphans (see the original press release here), has capsized in Chad. As of this writing, six activists of the NGO, four Chadian collaborators, three members of a Spanish flight crew, and one Belgian pilot are detained in a maximum security prison in N’jamena, accused of kidnapping 103 children. The wild ambitions of volunteer fireman Eric Breteau and his companion Emilie Lelouch came down to a sordid humanitarian swindle with international ramifications. Though an ocean of incriminating evidence testifies to their criminal methods, loyal supporters and high-minded analysts throw the would-be do-gooders life jackets marked “good intentions,” while Socialist opponents tongue-lash the Sarkozy government, and far-out geopolitical experts blame it on American neocons.

How’s that? According to Jean-Philippe Remy of Le Monde and Antoine Glaser, director of La Lettre du Continent, a bi-monthly journal on Africa, over-sensitive idealists were pushed to excess by made-in-the-U.S.A. “Save Darfur” propaganda. Remy and Glaser believe that such propaganda misrepresents a conflict between the Sudanese government and armed rebels, a conflict that is overheated by various oil interests in Sudan and Chad. Two hundred thousand victims does not a genocide make. Besides, says Glaser, it’s winding down. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, of Doctors without Borders fame, is accused of infecting the Sarkozy government with Save Darfur hysteria.

Others claim the government knew enough to stop Breteau before he touched the hair of one child’s head. Furthermore, Socialist leader François Hollande sputters that Sarkozy is leaving the unfortunate humanitarians in the clutches of an unspeakable (African) jurisdiction instead of bringing them back to be judged (more clemently) in France. Hollande and his ilk are furious at Nicolas Sarkozy for flying to Chad last Sunday to bring back the journalists and the four airline stewardesses, conditionally liberated as per his request relayed to the court by Chad’s President Idriss Déby.

And so it goes, down the line of an inverted ethical system by which the closer you get to the actual misdeed the lighter the responsibility. The journalists slipped out through the free press escape hatch, though their relations with the operation were not always clear. Marie-Agnès Peleran was on “humanitarian leave of absence” from France 3 television, and was a candidate for hosting a refugee child. Jean-Daniel Guillou, of the Synchro X photo agency, openly declared his sympathy for the Zoé six, who are “idealists, not criminals.” Marc Garmirian, of the Capa Agency, filmed the operation, including the planned middle of the night evacuation, without blowing any whistles.

Garmirian’s film is an eloquent testimony to the evil doings of the humanitarian kidnappers. The footage edited while he was imprisoned and screened while he was on his way back to Paris documents the inhumane folie à deux of Breteau and Lelouch that engulfed French do-gooders and exploited, employed, or bribed Chadian accomplices. Over a hundred children, caught in the middle, served as human shields for a humanitarian delusion.

Yes, the Darfur orphans plucked from the jaws of death were in fact healthy Chadian children, most of them between four and five years old. They were disguised with fake bandages, bloodstains, and IV’s (shades of al-Dura) for the stealthy “medical evacuation” that almost took place via a chartered Girjet plane with its (Spanish) crew of seven waiting on a primitive airstrip in the bush near the city of Abéché, where Arche de Zoé, disguised as “Children Rescue,” had set up an outpost. The convoy was stopped at the eleventh hour. The artificial orphans are still stranded in Abéché.

Those who credit Breteau and his accomplices with misguided good intentions think they were swindled by Chadian intermediaries. A more plausible explanation, based on verifiable concrete facts, is that Breteau was caught in his own contradictions. Some 350 families were convinced to contribute 2400 euros (that would make a total of 840,000 euros) for the privilege of hosting—and eventually adopting—the refugee children. Stumped by the impossibility of approaching Darfur refugee camps, he had to keep his word to the French families…and, perhaps, lie to himself.

President Sarkozy has vowed to return to Chad and bring back the remaining French prisoners, “no matter what they’ve done.” But Chadian officials promise to give the kidnappers a taste of their famous prisons. Policemen thrash angry demonstrators to keep them from attacking the prisoners as they are transferred from the jail to the courthouse. A clash of civilizations, as it were.

Read Less

Biden’s Long Shot

Senator Joseph Biden and foreign policy luminary Leslie Gelb have been promoting a plan for “federalism” in Iraq. Indeed, Biden succeeded several weeks ago in securing a lopsided vote in the Senate in favor of the idea. This is, at least at first glance, a more responsible position than that taken by most Democrats, who criticize the Bush administration’s policies without enunciating alternatives or demand withdrawal of U.S. forces without addressing the likely consequences.

Biden and Gelb point out disarmingly that federalism is already enshrined in the Iraqi constitution. Iraqis, though, call the Biden proposal “soft partition” of their country. Biden, himself, has long favored partition. And, if this is not what Biden and Gelb envision, it is impossible to see how their proposal amounts to an alternative to current policy—which is its whole point. Separating Iraq’s Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish parts, they reason, will dampen intercommunal violence, making it possible for the U.S. to withdraw its soldiers.

At a recent conference of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Biden’s well-respected aide, Tony Blinken, gave one of two major plenary addresses on Iraq, and he used the occasion to spell out the Biden-Gelb approach. We face two crucial desiderata, said Blinken. One is to withdraw our forces, since the American public wants to bring the troops home. The other is to avoid military defeat that, he acknowledged, would have disastrous consequences. “Federalism,” he said, would enable us to achieve both objectives. Moreover, this approach could be supplemented by “incredibly aggressive, sustained diplomacy.”

Whenever Democrats speak of being “aggressive,” not to mention “incredibly aggressive,” I grow suspicious. It usually means that they are proposing something weak, if not outright capitulation. My suspicions grew as I reflected on Blinken’s opening proposition: that a single policy would allow us both to pull out and to win. If we could do that, I wondered, why hadn’t we tried it in all our other wars?

So I took the floor and asked Blinken a question. If the federalism plan did not reap its hoped for results, namely, to reduce appreciably Iraq’s violence, then would he and Biden and Gelb support maintaining U.S. troop levels in that country. To his credit, Blinken came clean. We must withdraw regardless, he said. And he confessed that the federalism plan had “only a 20 to 30 percent chance” of success.

When the ardent advocates of a policy give it a 20-30 percent chance of success, it is a safe bet that even they know its chances are much lower. So there it is. The Biden-Gelb plan for Iraq is to get out. On our way to the exit, however, we will toss off one long-shot political maneuver (and of course “incredibly aggressive” diplomacy). And what of the consequences defeat in Iraq? That is a subject on which the Democrats seem sworn to maintain incredibly aggressive, sustained silence.

Senator Joseph Biden and foreign policy luminary Leslie Gelb have been promoting a plan for “federalism” in Iraq. Indeed, Biden succeeded several weeks ago in securing a lopsided vote in the Senate in favor of the idea. This is, at least at first glance, a more responsible position than that taken by most Democrats, who criticize the Bush administration’s policies without enunciating alternatives or demand withdrawal of U.S. forces without addressing the likely consequences.

Biden and Gelb point out disarmingly that federalism is already enshrined in the Iraqi constitution. Iraqis, though, call the Biden proposal “soft partition” of their country. Biden, himself, has long favored partition. And, if this is not what Biden and Gelb envision, it is impossible to see how their proposal amounts to an alternative to current policy—which is its whole point. Separating Iraq’s Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish parts, they reason, will dampen intercommunal violence, making it possible for the U.S. to withdraw its soldiers.

At a recent conference of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Biden’s well-respected aide, Tony Blinken, gave one of two major plenary addresses on Iraq, and he used the occasion to spell out the Biden-Gelb approach. We face two crucial desiderata, said Blinken. One is to withdraw our forces, since the American public wants to bring the troops home. The other is to avoid military defeat that, he acknowledged, would have disastrous consequences. “Federalism,” he said, would enable us to achieve both objectives. Moreover, this approach could be supplemented by “incredibly aggressive, sustained diplomacy.”

Whenever Democrats speak of being “aggressive,” not to mention “incredibly aggressive,” I grow suspicious. It usually means that they are proposing something weak, if not outright capitulation. My suspicions grew as I reflected on Blinken’s opening proposition: that a single policy would allow us both to pull out and to win. If we could do that, I wondered, why hadn’t we tried it in all our other wars?

So I took the floor and asked Blinken a question. If the federalism plan did not reap its hoped for results, namely, to reduce appreciably Iraq’s violence, then would he and Biden and Gelb support maintaining U.S. troop levels in that country. To his credit, Blinken came clean. We must withdraw regardless, he said. And he confessed that the federalism plan had “only a 20 to 30 percent chance” of success.

When the ardent advocates of a policy give it a 20-30 percent chance of success, it is a safe bet that even they know its chances are much lower. So there it is. The Biden-Gelb plan for Iraq is to get out. On our way to the exit, however, we will toss off one long-shot political maneuver (and of course “incredibly aggressive” diplomacy). And what of the consequences defeat in Iraq? That is a subject on which the Democrats seem sworn to maintain incredibly aggressive, sustained silence.

Read Less

Don’t Forget

To vote for contentions as Best New Blog! The ballot’s here.

To vote for contentions as Best New Blog! The ballot’s here.

Read Less

Could Ron Paul Be the Ralph Nader of 2008?

Rep. Ron Paul, the maverick Texas Republican who is running as an anti-war libertarian in the Republican primary, has come charging out of nowhere to become the leading fundraiser in the brief history of the Internet. Yesterday, his campaign reported a one-day take around $3.8 million, with an average donation of $98.

In one respect, Paul deserves his success. He is a far more articulate and coherent critic of administration policy in Iraq than any candidate on the Democratic side, speaking as he does the frank and plain language of the isolationist. “The fundamental question remains,” he said in 2004, “Why should young Americans be hurt or killed to liberate foreign nations? I have never heard a convincing answer to this question.”

What distinguishes Paul from the anti-war gadfly Dennis Kucinich in the Democratic Party is that Kucinich speaks alternately the language of the brainless pacifist — he would form a Department of Peace to replace the Pentagon — and the language of the far from brainless New Left, according to which the sins of the United States are sufficiently grave to deny it any kind of moral legitimacy abroad. Paul’s isolationism is rooted in the age-old American fear that we will be morally compromised by the sins of other nations who do not breathe the same sweet air of American exceptionalism.

At the same time, it seems to surprise many that Paul’s undeniable grassroots effectiveness hasn’t translated to a showing either in national or state polls. That’s surely due to the fact that many if not most of those who are sending money to Paul are not, in fact, Republicans. They are more plausibly among the 3 million or so who voted for Ralph Nader on the Green Party line in 2000, or even among those who rained money down on Howard Dean in the summer of 2003.

Which brings to mind an interesting scenario for 2008: Could Ron Paul run an independent candidacy for president in 2008 on a libertarian/anti-war/anti-monetarist platform? At this moment, it seems plausible, especially if the Democratic party nominates Hillary Clinton, who is bizarrely considered a neocon hawk by the Left netroots.

And despite Paul’s nominal standing as a Republican — and it is nominal — wouldn’t his candidacy draw more from disaffected Democrats, as liberal Republican John Anderson’s 1980 third-party candidacy pulled voters away from Jimmy Carter and not from Ronald Reagan?

Rep. Ron Paul, the maverick Texas Republican who is running as an anti-war libertarian in the Republican primary, has come charging out of nowhere to become the leading fundraiser in the brief history of the Internet. Yesterday, his campaign reported a one-day take around $3.8 million, with an average donation of $98.

In one respect, Paul deserves his success. He is a far more articulate and coherent critic of administration policy in Iraq than any candidate on the Democratic side, speaking as he does the frank and plain language of the isolationist. “The fundamental question remains,” he said in 2004, “Why should young Americans be hurt or killed to liberate foreign nations? I have never heard a convincing answer to this question.”

What distinguishes Paul from the anti-war gadfly Dennis Kucinich in the Democratic Party is that Kucinich speaks alternately the language of the brainless pacifist — he would form a Department of Peace to replace the Pentagon — and the language of the far from brainless New Left, according to which the sins of the United States are sufficiently grave to deny it any kind of moral legitimacy abroad. Paul’s isolationism is rooted in the age-old American fear that we will be morally compromised by the sins of other nations who do not breathe the same sweet air of American exceptionalism.

At the same time, it seems to surprise many that Paul’s undeniable grassroots effectiveness hasn’t translated to a showing either in national or state polls. That’s surely due to the fact that many if not most of those who are sending money to Paul are not, in fact, Republicans. They are more plausibly among the 3 million or so who voted for Ralph Nader on the Green Party line in 2000, or even among those who rained money down on Howard Dean in the summer of 2003.

Which brings to mind an interesting scenario for 2008: Could Ron Paul run an independent candidacy for president in 2008 on a libertarian/anti-war/anti-monetarist platform? At this moment, it seems plausible, especially if the Democratic party nominates Hillary Clinton, who is bizarrely considered a neocon hawk by the Left netroots.

And despite Paul’s nominal standing as a Republican — and it is nominal — wouldn’t his candidacy draw more from disaffected Democrats, as liberal Republican John Anderson’s 1980 third-party candidacy pulled voters away from Jimmy Carter and not from Ronald Reagan?

Read Less

Barron Backs Barack

Yesterday, Barack Obama picked up the endorsement of Brooklyn City Councilman Charles Barron. Tellingly, the first words to come from an Obama spokesperson were these:

Sen. Obama disagrees with Councilman Barron’s statements on several issues, but this campaign is about asking people to unite instead of divide, despite our differences.

It’s understandable that the Obama campaign would seek to distance itself publicly from Barron, a former black panther. Barron’s history is littered with disgraceful behavior, the latest incident being his defense of a staffer, Viola Plummer, who threatened to kill a City Councilman (a particularly serious outburst considering the murder of Councilman James Davis, gunned down on the floor of the City Council chamber in the summer of 2003). Barron’s support for Plummer’s assassination threat was altogether unremarkable considering the fact that Barron is a long-time supporter of Robert Mugabe—a man who actually does kill his political opponents.

Endorsements are somewhat over-hyped occurrences in presidential campaigns, and there’s no reason to think that Obama shares the more controversial viewpoints, or approves of the outrageous tactics, of Charles Barron. Indeed, Obama has distinguished himself, in his rhetoric, from racial hucksters like Barron, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson (who in September complained that Obama was “acting like he’s white”). But this is the second controversial endorsement Obama has had to endure in just the past few weeks. His campaign recently invited the “ex-gay” gospel singer Donnie McClurkin (who has claimed that gays are “trying to kill our children”) to perform at a gospel concert in South Carolina. Obama stated that he does not agree with McClurkin’s views, but nevertheless has not disowned the performer’s endorsement.

Though Obama has tried to put some distance between himself and these disreputable figures, he must know how useful they might be in attracting black Democratic voters (who are, at the moment, overwhelmingly supporting Hillary Clinton). Obama’s acceptance of these endorsements doesn’t mean he’s a racist or homophobe. But endorsements are nonetheless useful in making educated assumptions about the policies a candidate might pursue, and values he will reflect, if elected. These two recent ones suggest that for all of Obama’s talk about his purported wish to “unite” people and his supporters’ claims that his “campaign is about asking people to unite instead of divide, despite our differences,” he can (or wants to) play partisan identity politics with the best of them. If Republicans constantly are vilified for the endorsements they garner, there’s no reason Democrats shouldn’t face the same scrutiny.

Yesterday, Barack Obama picked up the endorsement of Brooklyn City Councilman Charles Barron. Tellingly, the first words to come from an Obama spokesperson were these:

Sen. Obama disagrees with Councilman Barron’s statements on several issues, but this campaign is about asking people to unite instead of divide, despite our differences.

It’s understandable that the Obama campaign would seek to distance itself publicly from Barron, a former black panther. Barron’s history is littered with disgraceful behavior, the latest incident being his defense of a staffer, Viola Plummer, who threatened to kill a City Councilman (a particularly serious outburst considering the murder of Councilman James Davis, gunned down on the floor of the City Council chamber in the summer of 2003). Barron’s support for Plummer’s assassination threat was altogether unremarkable considering the fact that Barron is a long-time supporter of Robert Mugabe—a man who actually does kill his political opponents.

Endorsements are somewhat over-hyped occurrences in presidential campaigns, and there’s no reason to think that Obama shares the more controversial viewpoints, or approves of the outrageous tactics, of Charles Barron. Indeed, Obama has distinguished himself, in his rhetoric, from racial hucksters like Barron, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson (who in September complained that Obama was “acting like he’s white”). But this is the second controversial endorsement Obama has had to endure in just the past few weeks. His campaign recently invited the “ex-gay” gospel singer Donnie McClurkin (who has claimed that gays are “trying to kill our children”) to perform at a gospel concert in South Carolina. Obama stated that he does not agree with McClurkin’s views, but nevertheless has not disowned the performer’s endorsement.

Though Obama has tried to put some distance between himself and these disreputable figures, he must know how useful they might be in attracting black Democratic voters (who are, at the moment, overwhelmingly supporting Hillary Clinton). Obama’s acceptance of these endorsements doesn’t mean he’s a racist or homophobe. But endorsements are nonetheless useful in making educated assumptions about the policies a candidate might pursue, and values he will reflect, if elected. These two recent ones suggest that for all of Obama’s talk about his purported wish to “unite” people and his supporters’ claims that his “campaign is about asking people to unite instead of divide, despite our differences,” he can (or wants to) play partisan identity politics with the best of them. If Republicans constantly are vilified for the endorsements they garner, there’s no reason Democrats shouldn’t face the same scrutiny.

Read Less

Hello, Arrabal!

I recently sat down for a chat with the Spanish playwright and filmmaker Fernando Arrabal, who was in town to give an October 31 lecture at St. John’s University and introduce his 1992 film Goodbye, Babylon! at a downtown arts foundation on November 2. A diminutive, bubbly 75-year-old, Arrabal is prone to sudden enthusiasms, whether for mathematicians like Alexander Grothendieck and Benoît Mandelbrot; chess-players like Gata Kamsky; or toreadors like Diego Bardon. He is currently reading Saint Isidore of Seville, a 7th century etymologist whose Etymologiae, Arrabal announces with delight, recently has appeared in English from Cambridge University Press.

A confirmed bookworm, Arrabal has lived with his wife and children in Paris since 1955, but is defiantly unfashionable among French intellectuals for his staunch opposition to Communism and support for Israel. In 1999 his play Love Letter had its world premiere at Israel’s Habimah Theatre, performed by the acclaimed actress Orna Porat. Love Letter, so far unperformed in New York (although Liv Ullmann has been rumored to be considering the play for Broadway), is a monologue by a mother who may have denounced her husband to tyrannical authorities. Arrabal’s own father disappeared in 1941, after being jailed by Franco’s regime in Spain. Arrabal himself was imprisoned during a 1967 visit to Spain (he was born in Spanish Morocco in 1932), allegedly for “blasphemy.” After protests by famous writers including Samuel Beckett, François Mauriac, and Eugène Ionesco, Arrabal soon was freed.

Read More

I recently sat down for a chat with the Spanish playwright and filmmaker Fernando Arrabal, who was in town to give an October 31 lecture at St. John’s University and introduce his 1992 film Goodbye, Babylon! at a downtown arts foundation on November 2. A diminutive, bubbly 75-year-old, Arrabal is prone to sudden enthusiasms, whether for mathematicians like Alexander Grothendieck and Benoît Mandelbrot; chess-players like Gata Kamsky; or toreadors like Diego Bardon. He is currently reading Saint Isidore of Seville, a 7th century etymologist whose Etymologiae, Arrabal announces with delight, recently has appeared in English from Cambridge University Press.

A confirmed bookworm, Arrabal has lived with his wife and children in Paris since 1955, but is defiantly unfashionable among French intellectuals for his staunch opposition to Communism and support for Israel. In 1999 his play Love Letter had its world premiere at Israel’s Habimah Theatre, performed by the acclaimed actress Orna Porat. Love Letter, so far unperformed in New York (although Liv Ullmann has been rumored to be considering the play for Broadway), is a monologue by a mother who may have denounced her husband to tyrannical authorities. Arrabal’s own father disappeared in 1941, after being jailed by Franco’s regime in Spain. Arrabal himself was imprisoned during a 1967 visit to Spain (he was born in Spanish Morocco in 1932), allegedly for “blasphemy.” After protests by famous writers including Samuel Beckett, François Mauriac, and Eugène Ionesco, Arrabal soon was freed.

For decades the Spanish playwright has been admirably industrious, creating seven full-length films, five books on his obsessive pastime of chess, and numerous polemics. These include his admonitory Letters to Franco (1972); Castro (1984); and Stalin (2003). This lively anti-Communist invective has not been translated into English, nor have Arrabal’s amusing biographical fantasias of El Greco and Cervantes. Of course, most American publishers are appalling slaves to fashion, and Arrabal may be seen as a 1960’s figure, since he first won fame in that decade, especially by those who have not bothered to read anything he has published since.

Beyond new books, which continue to appear in France, Spain, and elsewhere, Arrabal has shown rare courage in speaking his mind publicly. In 2002 he testified in Paris on behalf of the novelist Michel Houellebecq, who told an interviewer the previous year that Islam is the “most stupid religion. When you read the Koran, it’s appalling, appalling!” France’s Human Rights League, the Mecca-based World Islamic League, and others accused Houellebecq of hate speech, a crime in France that is punishable by a fine and jail time. Houellebecq was acquitted, at least in part due to Arrabal’s remarkable court appearance; the elderly Spaniard replied to a judge who asked his profession: “I am a pedestrian.” Then Arrabal pulled out a miniature bottle of cognac from his pocket and offered it to the same judge, who declined politely. This was one of the most drolly convincing theatrical moments of an author who has published over one hundred plays.

Read Less

Michael Scheuer Watch #9: AWOL

Today here at Connecting the Dots we’re celebrating the ninth edition of the Michael Scheuer Watch. The hero of this series, after frenetically answering some of my earlier posts — on some occasions writing three separate comments within minutes in response to a single item by me — has become as silent as Marcel Marceau. I have some theories about why that might be. But I am also putting out some bait to see we if can lure him back into the fray.

The first worm we’re putting on the hook is an op-ed I wrote for today’s Wall Street Journal entitled Lobbyists or Spies?. It’s about the prosecution of two former employees of AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group.

Read More

Today here at Connecting the Dots we’re celebrating the ninth edition of the Michael Scheuer Watch. The hero of this series, after frenetically answering some of my earlier posts — on some occasions writing three separate comments within minutes in response to a single item by me — has become as silent as Marcel Marceau. I have some theories about why that might be. But I am also putting out some bait to see we if can lure him back into the fray.

The first worm we’re putting on the hook is an op-ed I wrote for today’s Wall Street Journal entitled Lobbyists or Spies?. It’s about the prosecution of two former employees of AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group.

In the past, regardless of what questions have been raised about his own conduct, and no matter how irrelevant to the matter under discussion, our hero has never missed an opportunity to mount his hobbyhorse, which is about how Israeli spies “do whatever they want inside of America and no one carries them to task for it” while at the same time, the U.S. government “consistently tries to suppress any kind of publication” of information pertaining to Israeli espionage. If Scheuer is right about this, and the government really is suppressing information pertaining to Israeli espionage, perhaps that explains his mysterious silence. Let’s see.

I am baiting a second hook with a plain-spoken letter I received from a reader. If I were in the shoes of our hero, I would have a very difficult time not writing a reply and pressing the send button, simply because remaining AWOL, after writing so many comments in the past, would make me look like I might be losing ground or, worse, hiding something.

But I am not in our hero’s shoes. And even though I have been closely studying his conduct, I will confess that I still don’t understand what makes him tick. In any case, here’s what “Dave in Texas” wrote: 

I’m just now starting to follow this little dustup between Mr. Schoenfeld and Mr. Scheuer, and it’s beginning to be very interesting.

And since Mr. Scheuer is reading these things, I am confident I can address him directly here:

Mr. Scheuer, I’ve known some high flyers in business who weren’t the best at spelling or expressing themselves. In this day and age, most of them simply use spellcheck. Back then, they used secretaries.

Spellcheck is free, and on every computer. Your dreadful efforts at spelling and writing speak volumes about you. You must be aware that your spelling is sloppy, but you don’t use spellcheck. I believe this means one or more of the following:

You are so arrogant, you believe everything you say is important enough to not bother checking whether you’ve said or written it right.

You are so tightly strung, you can’t stand to wait for spellcheck. Your righteous responses to the evil Mr. Schoenfeld demand instantaneous posting, so as not to deprive the plebes out there in webland from a moment’s enjoyment of, and learning from, your righteous pronouncements.

Mr. Scheuer, in what year were you awarded that medal for CIA service? And will you post, here or anywhere, the written explanation of why you were given that medal?

And no, I’m not anyone important, so don’t tell me I have to demand a hearing in the Senate so you can testify on record about how evil Bush is and how evil Jews are. Just post here, that’ll be fine . . . tell us the year you got the medal, and what the paper says its for.

Oh yes, and tell us where exactly we rubes in flyover country can find that document in national records, to check and make sure you’re not lying.

Dave in Texas

Mr. Scheuer, Dave is right. Just answer the questions. Readers who want to place bets about whether our former CIA man will reappear, or who want to offer explanations of why he might not reappear, can do so below or write to me privately at letters@commentarymagazine.com and put Michael Scheuer Watch in the subject line.

A complete guide to other items in this Michael Scheuer Watch series can be found here.

Read Less