Commentary Magazine


Topic: Austria

Euro-Freedom Watch

With little fanfare, the EU adopted new legislation this week that makes “certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia” criminal offenses — and allows individual EU nations to prosecute the citizens of other nations for those offenses. And no, it’s not European anti-Americanism that’s being targeted by the xenophobia provisions. Advocates of free speech in Europe are quite clear that what the new law will criminalize is analytical, factual, or hortatory discussion of Islam and Sharia by non-Muslims.

Their conclusion is bolstered by recent events. Geert Wilders of the Netherlands is only the most famous of several Europeans who have faced criminal charges for speaking critically of Islam. Another is Austrian journalist and activist Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, whose trial for “hate speech” opened in Vienna on November 23. Take a moment to read publicized transcripts of the proceedings; it is worth understanding that Sabaditsch-Wolff is being tried, literally, for quoting both the Koran and an authoritative work on Sunni law, and expressing criticism of the social institutions condoned in those religious texts.

She is not a cartoonist lampooning Muhammad, something most Westerners would recognize as less than respectful even if they didn’t all agree that it was “offensive.” Sabaditsch-Wolff quotes the texts of Islam seriously and accurately; she objects to their implications, but she doesn’t poke fun at them. However, as Ned May observes at Andrew Breitbart’s Big Peace:

It has been well-established in a number of jurisdictions — including several in the West — that a non-Muslim who quotes the Koran accurately can still be convicted of “hate speech”. This aligns with the definition of Islamic slander (also to be found in [Sunni law document] Reliance) which considers anything that insults Islam, whether true or false, to be defamation.

The author at the pseudonymous Daphne Anson blog (top link) wonders what will happen if Turkey is finally admitted to the EU, given the newly approved framework allowing cross-border prosecutions in Europe. But I am inclined to wonder how the other nations will react to being in the same union with Austria and the Netherlands, which have already shown a willingness to prosecute free speech as a hate crime. The charges against Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff are centered on questions like these, brought up one after another on the first day of her trial:

10:53: The judge inquires if we are talking about Islamic extremism, or of Islam as such?

Elisabeth explains that we are talking Islam as such, as defined by its scripture, and quotes Erdogan that there is no moderate Islam anyway.

The intellectual basis for her certainty (or the judge’s, for that matter) is not the issue here, nor should it be. The issue is that she is being prosecuted for forensic, critical investigation of Islam: for advancing opinions we hear argued nightly on American TV talk shows. The most basic of intellectual freedoms — attributing facts to sources and expressing opinions about them — is in the process of being criminalized in parts of the EU. Free-speech advocates fear that the new Framework Decision on Racism and Xenophobia will spread this trend toward criminalization across borders throughout Europe. They are justified in their concern.

With little fanfare, the EU adopted new legislation this week that makes “certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia” criminal offenses — and allows individual EU nations to prosecute the citizens of other nations for those offenses. And no, it’s not European anti-Americanism that’s being targeted by the xenophobia provisions. Advocates of free speech in Europe are quite clear that what the new law will criminalize is analytical, factual, or hortatory discussion of Islam and Sharia by non-Muslims.

Their conclusion is bolstered by recent events. Geert Wilders of the Netherlands is only the most famous of several Europeans who have faced criminal charges for speaking critically of Islam. Another is Austrian journalist and activist Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, whose trial for “hate speech” opened in Vienna on November 23. Take a moment to read publicized transcripts of the proceedings; it is worth understanding that Sabaditsch-Wolff is being tried, literally, for quoting both the Koran and an authoritative work on Sunni law, and expressing criticism of the social institutions condoned in those religious texts.

She is not a cartoonist lampooning Muhammad, something most Westerners would recognize as less than respectful even if they didn’t all agree that it was “offensive.” Sabaditsch-Wolff quotes the texts of Islam seriously and accurately; she objects to their implications, but she doesn’t poke fun at them. However, as Ned May observes at Andrew Breitbart’s Big Peace:

It has been well-established in a number of jurisdictions — including several in the West — that a non-Muslim who quotes the Koran accurately can still be convicted of “hate speech”. This aligns with the definition of Islamic slander (also to be found in [Sunni law document] Reliance) which considers anything that insults Islam, whether true or false, to be defamation.

The author at the pseudonymous Daphne Anson blog (top link) wonders what will happen if Turkey is finally admitted to the EU, given the newly approved framework allowing cross-border prosecutions in Europe. But I am inclined to wonder how the other nations will react to being in the same union with Austria and the Netherlands, which have already shown a willingness to prosecute free speech as a hate crime. The charges against Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff are centered on questions like these, brought up one after another on the first day of her trial:

10:53: The judge inquires if we are talking about Islamic extremism, or of Islam as such?

Elisabeth explains that we are talking Islam as such, as defined by its scripture, and quotes Erdogan that there is no moderate Islam anyway.

The intellectual basis for her certainty (or the judge’s, for that matter) is not the issue here, nor should it be. The issue is that she is being prosecuted for forensic, critical investigation of Islam: for advancing opinions we hear argued nightly on American TV talk shows. The most basic of intellectual freedoms — attributing facts to sources and expressing opinions about them — is in the process of being criminalized in parts of the EU. Free-speech advocates fear that the new Framework Decision on Racism and Xenophobia will spread this trend toward criminalization across borders throughout Europe. They are justified in their concern.

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Bar Goldstone from the U.S.?

This report (h/t Carl in Jerusalem of Israel Matzav) brings some intriguing news:

A well-known American Jewish attorney who worked to deport former Nazis from the US is urging American officials to bar former judge Richard Goldstone from entering the country over his rulings during South Africa’s apartheid regime.

In a letter sent to US officials, Neal Sher, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said that recently disclosed information about Goldstone’s apartheid-era rulings raised questions about whether he was eligible to enter the United States. The letter was sent to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US Attorney-General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Individuals who admit to acts that constitute a crime of moral turpitude¨are ineligible to enter the US, Sher charged. The recent public revelations, to which Goldstone has reportedly admitted, would appear to fit within this provision. At a minimum, there is ample basis for federal authorities to initiate an investigation into this matter, Sher said.

Well, bravo, Mr. Sher! It is especially gratifying to see that Goldstone is in infamous company: “Sher, formerly director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, was instrumental in deporting dozens of Nazi war criminals. He played a major role in placing Austrian president Kurt Waldheim on a watch list of people ineligible to enter the US.” And will the left — which at the time fully supported the ostracism of South Africa and threw about the Nazi analogy with abandon — object to this move? I assume it would, for intellectual consistency and moral outrage are reserved for one purpose — the crusade to hobble and delegitimize the Jewish state.

This report (h/t Carl in Jerusalem of Israel Matzav) brings some intriguing news:

A well-known American Jewish attorney who worked to deport former Nazis from the US is urging American officials to bar former judge Richard Goldstone from entering the country over his rulings during South Africa’s apartheid regime.

In a letter sent to US officials, Neal Sher, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said that recently disclosed information about Goldstone’s apartheid-era rulings raised questions about whether he was eligible to enter the United States. The letter was sent to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US Attorney-General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Individuals who admit to acts that constitute a crime of moral turpitude¨are ineligible to enter the US, Sher charged. The recent public revelations, to which Goldstone has reportedly admitted, would appear to fit within this provision. At a minimum, there is ample basis for federal authorities to initiate an investigation into this matter, Sher said.

Well, bravo, Mr. Sher! It is especially gratifying to see that Goldstone is in infamous company: “Sher, formerly director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, was instrumental in deporting dozens of Nazi war criminals. He played a major role in placing Austrian president Kurt Waldheim on a watch list of people ineligible to enter the US.” And will the left — which at the time fully supported the ostracism of South Africa and threw about the Nazi analogy with abandon — object to this move? I assume it would, for intellectual consistency and moral outrage are reserved for one purpose — the crusade to hobble and delegitimize the Jewish state.

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A Libel

A Canadian journalist named Jeet Heer has called out our Jennifer Rubin out today over an item she wrote yesterday quoting an elderly attendee at AIPAC who said she heard echoes in the present moment of the nightmarish Jewish past:

An elderly couple from Florida were agitated by recent events. The wife explained she that had fled Nazi Germany as a child for Shanghai. “There are parallels,” she said. “This is depressing. It’s scary.” She said that she had argued with her liberal friends during the campaign about Obama’s associations with anti-Israel figures. “My mother always said where there is smoke, there is fire,” she explained, then added wearily, “They didn’t listen.”

Heer’s accusation is that Obama is here being compared to Hitler, that the idea being expressed is that “there are ‘parallels’ between the Führer and Obama.” That characterization of Jennifer Rubin’s item is preposterous, offensive, and a patently deliberate misreading. The fear being expressed these days is toward Iran as the potential second coming of Jewish genocide, not toward Obama. The parallel being drawn here is to the Western powers at Munich and their refusal to look clearly at the evidence of Hitler’s intentions, not to Hitler. Obama’s past association with anti-Israel figures like Rashid Khalidi and Jeremiah Wright heralded the lack of sympathy toward Israel that he has shown as president, and the way his lack of sympathy provides him with a convenient emotional way of refusing to confront the Iranian nuclear threat as it should be confronted — just as the Western powers seemed in the years before the outbreak of the Second World War to have a deficit of concern about the increasingly perilous position in which the Jews of Germany and Austria were finding themselves.

It is especially galling to see Jeet Heer, a foul anti-Israel polemicist of uncommonly repellent vintage, going on about this when, in his own writings, time and again, he expresses the sorts of thoughts designed to fog the minds of policymakers who should be grappling every moment with the overwhelming nature of the existential threat to Israel and the Jewish people, not to mention to the wider Middle East and the planet as a whole.

A Canadian journalist named Jeet Heer has called out our Jennifer Rubin out today over an item she wrote yesterday quoting an elderly attendee at AIPAC who said she heard echoes in the present moment of the nightmarish Jewish past:

An elderly couple from Florida were agitated by recent events. The wife explained she that had fled Nazi Germany as a child for Shanghai. “There are parallels,” she said. “This is depressing. It’s scary.” She said that she had argued with her liberal friends during the campaign about Obama’s associations with anti-Israel figures. “My mother always said where there is smoke, there is fire,” she explained, then added wearily, “They didn’t listen.”

Heer’s accusation is that Obama is here being compared to Hitler, that the idea being expressed is that “there are ‘parallels’ between the Führer and Obama.” That characterization of Jennifer Rubin’s item is preposterous, offensive, and a patently deliberate misreading. The fear being expressed these days is toward Iran as the potential second coming of Jewish genocide, not toward Obama. The parallel being drawn here is to the Western powers at Munich and their refusal to look clearly at the evidence of Hitler’s intentions, not to Hitler. Obama’s past association with anti-Israel figures like Rashid Khalidi and Jeremiah Wright heralded the lack of sympathy toward Israel that he has shown as president, and the way his lack of sympathy provides him with a convenient emotional way of refusing to confront the Iranian nuclear threat as it should be confronted — just as the Western powers seemed in the years before the outbreak of the Second World War to have a deficit of concern about the increasingly perilous position in which the Jews of Germany and Austria were finding themselves.

It is especially galling to see Jeet Heer, a foul anti-Israel polemicist of uncommonly repellent vintage, going on about this when, in his own writings, time and again, he expresses the sorts of thoughts designed to fog the minds of policymakers who should be grappling every moment with the overwhelming nature of the existential threat to Israel and the Jewish people, not to mention to the wider Middle East and the planet as a whole.

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How NOT to Wage a Counterinsurgency

As part of the research for my book on the history of guerrilla warfare, I have recently — and belatedly — read Street Without Joy by Bernard Fall. Originally published in 1961, this is considered a classic account of the French Indochina War written by a Jewish journalist-historian who was born in Austria, moved to France as a child, fought with the French Resistance after losing his parents to the Nazis, and later emigrated to the United States.

Fall was, by all accounts, a sterling individual who had great insight into Vietnam; he was an early skeptic about the American war effort. Street Without Joy was disappointing, however. I found it pretty disjointed, a mix of history and memoir that never quite jelled. That said, it does offer some interesting perspectives on how counterinsurgency á la française worked. He recounts, for instance, what happened when a transport aircraft on which he was flying took some flak from a Viet Minh anti-aircraft battery. Two French fighters immediately swooped down to deal with the ground fire. On his headset, Fall could overhear one of the pilots saying to the other that he had spotted a village:

“Can’t see a darn thing. Do you see anything?”

“Can’t see anything either, but let’s give it to them just for good measure.”

Another swoop by the two little birds and all of a sudden a big black billow behind them. It was napalm–jellied gasoline, one of the nicer horrors developed in World War II. It beats the conventional incendiaries by the fact that it sticks so much better to everything it touches.

“Ah, see the bastards run now?”

Now the village was burning furiously. The two fighters swooped down in turn and raked the area with machine guns. … Scratch one Lao village–and we didn’t even know whether the village was pro-Communist or not.”

I would guess if that village wasn’t pro-Communist before this napalm attack, it would have been pro-Communist after. No wonder the French couldn’t win in Vietnam or Algeria. This wasn’t the whole story, but certainly one of the crucial factors was that they were so indiscriminate in causing civilian casualties.

That’s a lesson that General Stanley McChrystal has taken to heart. That’s why he has imposed such restrictive rules for the use of airpower in Afghanistan — rules for which he has been criticized by some who would no doubt like our aircraft to indiscriminately napalm villages. After all, that strategy worked great for the French, didn’t it?

As part of the research for my book on the history of guerrilla warfare, I have recently — and belatedly — read Street Without Joy by Bernard Fall. Originally published in 1961, this is considered a classic account of the French Indochina War written by a Jewish journalist-historian who was born in Austria, moved to France as a child, fought with the French Resistance after losing his parents to the Nazis, and later emigrated to the United States.

Fall was, by all accounts, a sterling individual who had great insight into Vietnam; he was an early skeptic about the American war effort. Street Without Joy was disappointing, however. I found it pretty disjointed, a mix of history and memoir that never quite jelled. That said, it does offer some interesting perspectives on how counterinsurgency á la française worked. He recounts, for instance, what happened when a transport aircraft on which he was flying took some flak from a Viet Minh anti-aircraft battery. Two French fighters immediately swooped down to deal with the ground fire. On his headset, Fall could overhear one of the pilots saying to the other that he had spotted a village:

“Can’t see a darn thing. Do you see anything?”

“Can’t see anything either, but let’s give it to them just for good measure.”

Another swoop by the two little birds and all of a sudden a big black billow behind them. It was napalm–jellied gasoline, one of the nicer horrors developed in World War II. It beats the conventional incendiaries by the fact that it sticks so much better to everything it touches.

“Ah, see the bastards run now?”

Now the village was burning furiously. The two fighters swooped down in turn and raked the area with machine guns. … Scratch one Lao village–and we didn’t even know whether the village was pro-Communist or not.”

I would guess if that village wasn’t pro-Communist before this napalm attack, it would have been pro-Communist after. No wonder the French couldn’t win in Vietnam or Algeria. This wasn’t the whole story, but certainly one of the crucial factors was that they were so indiscriminate in causing civilian casualties.

That’s a lesson that General Stanley McChrystal has taken to heart. That’s why he has imposed such restrictive rules for the use of airpower in Afghanistan — rules for which he has been criticized by some who would no doubt like our aircraft to indiscriminately napalm villages. After all, that strategy worked great for the French, didn’t it?

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A Balanced China Policy

George Gilder has been one of our most interesting and important public intellectuals since the 1970s, so his pro-China commentary today in the Wall Street Journal deserves a more serious response than, say, the mindless boosterism of the average Tom Friedman column. In fact, I agree with him that it is hardly worth wasting American diplomatic capital with China on the issues of global warming and the value of the Chinese currency.

I am surprised, however, to see Gilder — who has been an Internet visionary — so blithely suggest that the U.S. government has no stake in Google’s battle with China over Internet censorship and hacking. “Protecting information on the Internet is a responsibility of U.S. corporations and their security tools, not the State Department,” he writes. That is like saying that protecting downtown New York is the responsibility of the corporations headquartered there, not the FBI and NYPD. Cyber infrastructure is fast becoming even more important than physical infrastructure to the functioning of the U.S. economy. Accordingly, it is, indeed, an issue for the State Department — and not only the State Department but also the Defense Department, the Justice Department, and other government agencies.

I am even more surprised to see Gilder — known as a relentless defender of Israel — seemingly write off another embattled democracy: Taiwan. His stance here is a bit contradictory. On the one hand, he writes: “Yes, the Chinese are needlessly aggressive in missile deployments against Taiwan, but there is absolutely no prospect of a successful U.S. defense of that country.” On the other hand: “China, like the U.S., is so heavily dependent on Taiwanese manufacturing skills and so intertwined with Taiwan’s industry that China’s military threat to the island is mostly theater.” Those propositions would seem to be at odds: is China a threat to Taiwan or not? In any case, neither proposition is terribly convincing.

Conquering Taiwan would require China to oversee the biggest amphibious operation since Inchon. Stopping such a cross-Strait attack would not be terribly difficult as long as Taiwan has reasonably strong air and naval forces — and can call on assistance from the U.S. Navy and Air Force. Taiwan doesn’t need the capability to march on Beijing, merely the capability to prevent the People’s Liberation Army from marching on Taipei. It would be harder to prevent China from doing tremendous damage to Taiwan via missile strikes but by no means impossible, given the advancement of ballistic-missile defenses and given our own ability to pinpoint Chinese launch sites. Moreover, giving Taiwan the means to defend itself is the surest guarantee that it won’t have to. Only if Taiwan looks vulnerable is China likely to launch a war.

The notion that such a conflict is out of the question because of the economic links between Taiwan and the mainland is about as convincing as the notion — widely held before World War I — that the major states of Europe were so economically dependent on one another and so enlightened that they would never risk a conflict. If the statesmen who ran Austria and Germany and Russia and France and Britain were, in fact, primarily interested in economic wellbeing, they would never have gone to war. But other considerations — national honor and prestige and security — trumped economics back then and could easily do so again, especially because the legitimacy of the Chinese regime is increasingly based on catering to an extreme nationalist viewpoint.

That doesn’t mean we should engage in needless and self-destructive confrontations with China over global warming and currency, but that also doesn’t mean we should mindlessly kowtow to China’s every whim. As I argued in this Weekly Standard article in 2005, we should pursue a balanced approach to China, tough on security and human-rights issues but accommodating on trade and currency policy. In other words, we should make clear to China that we are prepared to accept it as a responsible member of the international community but that we will not overlook its transgressions, like its complicity in upholding rogue regimes (Sudan, Iran, North Korea) and threatening democratic ones (South Korea, Taiwan).

George Gilder has been one of our most interesting and important public intellectuals since the 1970s, so his pro-China commentary today in the Wall Street Journal deserves a more serious response than, say, the mindless boosterism of the average Tom Friedman column. In fact, I agree with him that it is hardly worth wasting American diplomatic capital with China on the issues of global warming and the value of the Chinese currency.

I am surprised, however, to see Gilder — who has been an Internet visionary — so blithely suggest that the U.S. government has no stake in Google’s battle with China over Internet censorship and hacking. “Protecting information on the Internet is a responsibility of U.S. corporations and their security tools, not the State Department,” he writes. That is like saying that protecting downtown New York is the responsibility of the corporations headquartered there, not the FBI and NYPD. Cyber infrastructure is fast becoming even more important than physical infrastructure to the functioning of the U.S. economy. Accordingly, it is, indeed, an issue for the State Department — and not only the State Department but also the Defense Department, the Justice Department, and other government agencies.

I am even more surprised to see Gilder — known as a relentless defender of Israel — seemingly write off another embattled democracy: Taiwan. His stance here is a bit contradictory. On the one hand, he writes: “Yes, the Chinese are needlessly aggressive in missile deployments against Taiwan, but there is absolutely no prospect of a successful U.S. defense of that country.” On the other hand: “China, like the U.S., is so heavily dependent on Taiwanese manufacturing skills and so intertwined with Taiwan’s industry that China’s military threat to the island is mostly theater.” Those propositions would seem to be at odds: is China a threat to Taiwan or not? In any case, neither proposition is terribly convincing.

Conquering Taiwan would require China to oversee the biggest amphibious operation since Inchon. Stopping such a cross-Strait attack would not be terribly difficult as long as Taiwan has reasonably strong air and naval forces — and can call on assistance from the U.S. Navy and Air Force. Taiwan doesn’t need the capability to march on Beijing, merely the capability to prevent the People’s Liberation Army from marching on Taipei. It would be harder to prevent China from doing tremendous damage to Taiwan via missile strikes but by no means impossible, given the advancement of ballistic-missile defenses and given our own ability to pinpoint Chinese launch sites. Moreover, giving Taiwan the means to defend itself is the surest guarantee that it won’t have to. Only if Taiwan looks vulnerable is China likely to launch a war.

The notion that such a conflict is out of the question because of the economic links between Taiwan and the mainland is about as convincing as the notion — widely held before World War I — that the major states of Europe were so economically dependent on one another and so enlightened that they would never risk a conflict. If the statesmen who ran Austria and Germany and Russia and France and Britain were, in fact, primarily interested in economic wellbeing, they would never have gone to war. But other considerations — national honor and prestige and security — trumped economics back then and could easily do so again, especially because the legitimacy of the Chinese regime is increasingly based on catering to an extreme nationalist viewpoint.

That doesn’t mean we should engage in needless and self-destructive confrontations with China over global warming and currency, but that also doesn’t mean we should mindlessly kowtow to China’s every whim. As I argued in this Weekly Standard article in 2005, we should pursue a balanced approach to China, tough on security and human-rights issues but accommodating on trade and currency policy. In other words, we should make clear to China that we are prepared to accept it as a responsible member of the international community but that we will not overlook its transgressions, like its complicity in upholding rogue regimes (Sudan, Iran, North Korea) and threatening democratic ones (South Korea, Taiwan).

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Russia Threatens Georgia–Again

Last Friday, Moscow warned Georgia that it would use force to protect its “compatriots” in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two regions that have essentially broken away from Tbilisi. “If a military conflict develops, then we will have to react, including with military means,” said Valery Kenyaikin, a Russian foreign ministry official. “We are ready to defend our citizens.”

Russian citizens in Georgia? Vladimir Putin has recently taken steps that essentially annex Abkhazia and South Ossetia to Russia, including issuing Russian passports to their residents. Worse, Moscow’s planes are patrolling the airspace over them. Tensions remain high after Georgia announced that a Russian MiG shot down one of its drones over Abkhazia on the 20th of this month. Moscow denied the charge, saying that separatists were responsible. A video of the incident backs up the Georgian assertion.

And what is the Atlantic Alliance doing while this drama unfolds? Western diplomats say they hope relations between Tbilisi and Moscow will improve, but tensions have tended to increase over time. The situation is bound to deteriorate even further because NATO, at German and French insistence, declined this month to put Georgia and Ukraine on the path to full membership. Putin evidently took this failure as a green light for the shootdown.

No one in Washington seems to be too concerned, however. Any resemblance to Germany’s 1938 absorption of Austria is either ignored or seen as purely coincidental. The West looks weak to Moscow, and Putin’s next moves are bound to be even more aggressive.

In the meantime, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has promised to reassert control over both areas. The residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have a right to self-determination, yet at this moment the issue is not their wishes but Moscow’s interference in the affairs of a sovereign neighbor. Yes, it will be inconvenient to defend Georgia if that is what is required. But the biggest lesson of the last century is obviously applicable to this obscure conflict.

Last Friday, Moscow warned Georgia that it would use force to protect its “compatriots” in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two regions that have essentially broken away from Tbilisi. “If a military conflict develops, then we will have to react, including with military means,” said Valery Kenyaikin, a Russian foreign ministry official. “We are ready to defend our citizens.”

Russian citizens in Georgia? Vladimir Putin has recently taken steps that essentially annex Abkhazia and South Ossetia to Russia, including issuing Russian passports to their residents. Worse, Moscow’s planes are patrolling the airspace over them. Tensions remain high after Georgia announced that a Russian MiG shot down one of its drones over Abkhazia on the 20th of this month. Moscow denied the charge, saying that separatists were responsible. A video of the incident backs up the Georgian assertion.

And what is the Atlantic Alliance doing while this drama unfolds? Western diplomats say they hope relations between Tbilisi and Moscow will improve, but tensions have tended to increase over time. The situation is bound to deteriorate even further because NATO, at German and French insistence, declined this month to put Georgia and Ukraine on the path to full membership. Putin evidently took this failure as a green light for the shootdown.

No one in Washington seems to be too concerned, however. Any resemblance to Germany’s 1938 absorption of Austria is either ignored or seen as purely coincidental. The West looks weak to Moscow, and Putin’s next moves are bound to be even more aggressive.

In the meantime, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has promised to reassert control over both areas. The residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have a right to self-determination, yet at this moment the issue is not their wishes but Moscow’s interference in the affairs of a sovereign neighbor. Yes, it will be inconvenient to defend Georgia if that is what is required. But the biggest lesson of the last century is obviously applicable to this obscure conflict.

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Italy’s Iran Reversal

Italy, reversing its previous policy of putting commercial interests before strategic ones, has decided to endorse a series of additional EU sanctions against Iran–which include embargoing Bank Melli, Iran’s main commercial bank and a conveyor belt for terror financing. The motives for Italy’s government to have reversed its policy are less than noble, though. The outgoing left-of-center government, according to news reports, does not want to give the incoming new right-of-center executive the opportunity to portray Romano Prodi’s outgoing government as one that stood against “the whole European Union.”

Had Prodi’s policies–to say nothing of his foreign minister’s regular outbursts–not been so embarrassing, he would not have to worry about looking bad on his way out. Regardless, the portrayal of Italy’s outgoing government as “standing alone against the whole European Union” gives too much credit to Italy’s now-reversed stance on Iran. After all, the Italians are not alone in giving Iran a free pass–Spain, Greece, Austria, Cyprus, and some Scandinavian countries are likely to regret Italy’s change of heart. And with the EU still deadlocked on further measures to implement UN Security council Resolution 1803, the swing in favor of further sanctions is not as dramatic as it first appears.

Italy, reversing its previous policy of putting commercial interests before strategic ones, has decided to endorse a series of additional EU sanctions against Iran–which include embargoing Bank Melli, Iran’s main commercial bank and a conveyor belt for terror financing. The motives for Italy’s government to have reversed its policy are less than noble, though. The outgoing left-of-center government, according to news reports, does not want to give the incoming new right-of-center executive the opportunity to portray Romano Prodi’s outgoing government as one that stood against “the whole European Union.”

Had Prodi’s policies–to say nothing of his foreign minister’s regular outbursts–not been so embarrassing, he would not have to worry about looking bad on his way out. Regardless, the portrayal of Italy’s outgoing government as “standing alone against the whole European Union” gives too much credit to Italy’s now-reversed stance on Iran. After all, the Italians are not alone in giving Iran a free pass–Spain, Greece, Austria, Cyprus, and some Scandinavian countries are likely to regret Italy’s change of heart. And with the EU still deadlocked on further measures to implement UN Security council Resolution 1803, the swing in favor of further sanctions is not as dramatic as it first appears.

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Austria’s Iran Connection

Next month will mark the 70th anniversary of the Aunschluss, in which Nazi troops marched into Austria and formally dissolved the state, merging it into Hitler’s nascent empire. Some time, then, for Austria to be propping up one of the most dangerous regimes on earth: Iran. According to a piece by Simone Dinah Hartmann appearing in the Jerusalem Post, Austria is one of the few Western countries engaged in massive investment in the Ayatollahs’ regime, most notably a 22 billion Euro natural gas deal signed last Spring.

The state-owned OVD company that signed the deal has a long history of unpleasant dealings: In 1968, just months after the Prague Spring, it signed the first Western gas deal with the Soviet Union; in the 1980s it worked closely with Libya; and in 2003 it was the last Western fuel company to pull out of Sudan. The OVD deal, like other deepening business ties between Austria and Iran, apparently have the hearty backing of all the major factions in parliament — including the ruling Social-Democrat party, which one might think would be concerned about Iran’s record on human rights.

This is a timely test for the new Europe, an opportunity for the more seriously anti-Iranian governments in France and Germany to show their influence on European affairs, and a scary reminder of how much can be forgotten.

Next month will mark the 70th anniversary of the Aunschluss, in which Nazi troops marched into Austria and formally dissolved the state, merging it into Hitler’s nascent empire. Some time, then, for Austria to be propping up one of the most dangerous regimes on earth: Iran. According to a piece by Simone Dinah Hartmann appearing in the Jerusalem Post, Austria is one of the few Western countries engaged in massive investment in the Ayatollahs’ regime, most notably a 22 billion Euro natural gas deal signed last Spring.

The state-owned OVD company that signed the deal has a long history of unpleasant dealings: In 1968, just months after the Prague Spring, it signed the first Western gas deal with the Soviet Union; in the 1980s it worked closely with Libya; and in 2003 it was the last Western fuel company to pull out of Sudan. The OVD deal, like other deepening business ties between Austria and Iran, apparently have the hearty backing of all the major factions in parliament — including the ruling Social-Democrat party, which one might think would be concerned about Iran’s record on human rights.

This is a timely test for the new Europe, an opportunity for the more seriously anti-Iranian governments in France and Germany to show their influence on European affairs, and a scary reminder of how much can be forgotten.

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A Papal Kowtow

On Friday, the Dalai Lama said that he was sorry that he would not be meeting the Pope during his visit to Italy. The Pontiff met with the exiled Tibetan last October in what the Vatican termed “a private courtesy visit.” This time, however, the Pope refused to have any contact with him. The turn-down was unexpected: a December 13 audience between the two spiritual leaders was unofficially announced in late October.

Why would Pope Benedict change his mind and shun one of the world’s most respected figures? Beijing in early November said such a meeting would “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.” Most Chinese, frankly, do not care; it’s the Chinese leaders who would be upset. Their campaign to isolate the Dalai Lama is failing. So far this year, the Tibetan has met the leaders of Germany, New Zealand, Austria, Australia, Canada, and the United States. Moreover, Tibetan lands that the Chinese rule are going through another cycle of instability—disturbances there are occurring with increasing frequency. It’s exhilarating to watch the Chinese repressors on the run both at home and abroad.

Yet it is so depressing to watch the Pope perform the kowtow to atheistic autocrats in Beijing. One of Benedict’s top priorities is to establish relations with the modern Chinese state. He has made some progress recently—China’s state-run Catholic Church ordained two Vatican-approved bishops within the month (it often chooses clergymen who do not have Rome’s blessing). The timing of the elevations suggests they were directly related to Benedict’s refusal to see the exiled Tibetan.

The Pope, in a 55-page open letter dated May 27, indicated that the Vatican was willing to switch recognition from Taiwan to the mainland under certain conditions, including those relating to the selection of bishops. That would be a betrayal of millions of souls. Now, to please the Communist Party, he is breaking the Holy See’s long relations with the Dalai Lama. The Pontiff, unfortunately, is becoming just another craven figure in a world with too many of them. We expect better from religious leaders. Benedict, I am sad to say, is a disappointment.

On Friday, the Dalai Lama said that he was sorry that he would not be meeting the Pope during his visit to Italy. The Pontiff met with the exiled Tibetan last October in what the Vatican termed “a private courtesy visit.” This time, however, the Pope refused to have any contact with him. The turn-down was unexpected: a December 13 audience between the two spiritual leaders was unofficially announced in late October.

Why would Pope Benedict change his mind and shun one of the world’s most respected figures? Beijing in early November said such a meeting would “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.” Most Chinese, frankly, do not care; it’s the Chinese leaders who would be upset. Their campaign to isolate the Dalai Lama is failing. So far this year, the Tibetan has met the leaders of Germany, New Zealand, Austria, Australia, Canada, and the United States. Moreover, Tibetan lands that the Chinese rule are going through another cycle of instability—disturbances there are occurring with increasing frequency. It’s exhilarating to watch the Chinese repressors on the run both at home and abroad.

Yet it is so depressing to watch the Pope perform the kowtow to atheistic autocrats in Beijing. One of Benedict’s top priorities is to establish relations with the modern Chinese state. He has made some progress recently—China’s state-run Catholic Church ordained two Vatican-approved bishops within the month (it often chooses clergymen who do not have Rome’s blessing). The timing of the elevations suggests they were directly related to Benedict’s refusal to see the exiled Tibetan.

The Pope, in a 55-page open letter dated May 27, indicated that the Vatican was willing to switch recognition from Taiwan to the mainland under certain conditions, including those relating to the selection of bishops. That would be a betrayal of millions of souls. Now, to please the Communist Party, he is breaking the Holy See’s long relations with the Dalai Lama. The Pontiff, unfortunately, is becoming just another craven figure in a world with too many of them. We expect better from religious leaders. Benedict, I am sad to say, is a disappointment.

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Europe’s Choice

Despite European worries about an imminent U.S. attack on Iran—issuing largely from people who fear the U.S. more than nuclearized mullahs—a U.S. strike on Iranian nuclear facilities is, according to CentCom head William Fallon, not in the offing. (Max Boot’s criticism of Fallon can be found here). Nonetheless, the pressure is mounting from the U.S. on Europe to put its money where its mouth is: One cannot be against a military solution and also oppose more sanctions, as the EU generally does. That position, in practice, supports Iran’s nuclear ambitions. And Europe has held that position for some time, culminating in the decision, a month ago, by the EU-27 foreign ministers, not to endorse France’s proposal—pushed by its FM, Bernard Kouchner—to adopt broader EU sanctions against Iran. Opposition largely came from countries such as Austria, Germany, Italy, and Sweden, which all have thriving commercial relations with Iran.

Since then, there’s been a slight change for the better. Pressure from the U.S. (along with a change of mood in some European capitals) has been brought to bear on European companies. Thanks to Berlin’s recent decision to endorse a tougher approach, Deutsche Bank, the Dresdner and Kommerz banks, and Siemens have pulled out of any new business dealings in Iran. So far, so good, but it’s not enough. It would behoove those Europeans most worried about military strikes against Iran to show more courage and willingness to sacrifice a contract or two for the sake of peace. If, as Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi recently said, a military solution is to be opposed because it would further “destabilize the region,” then Prodi, as the prime minister of Iran’s first trading partner, might wish to instruct his foreign minister to endorse France’s view: support broader sanctions—the only alternative to war.

Despite European worries about an imminent U.S. attack on Iran—issuing largely from people who fear the U.S. more than nuclearized mullahs—a U.S. strike on Iranian nuclear facilities is, according to CentCom head William Fallon, not in the offing. (Max Boot’s criticism of Fallon can be found here). Nonetheless, the pressure is mounting from the U.S. on Europe to put its money where its mouth is: One cannot be against a military solution and also oppose more sanctions, as the EU generally does. That position, in practice, supports Iran’s nuclear ambitions. And Europe has held that position for some time, culminating in the decision, a month ago, by the EU-27 foreign ministers, not to endorse France’s proposal—pushed by its FM, Bernard Kouchner—to adopt broader EU sanctions against Iran. Opposition largely came from countries such as Austria, Germany, Italy, and Sweden, which all have thriving commercial relations with Iran.

Since then, there’s been a slight change for the better. Pressure from the U.S. (along with a change of mood in some European capitals) has been brought to bear on European companies. Thanks to Berlin’s recent decision to endorse a tougher approach, Deutsche Bank, the Dresdner and Kommerz banks, and Siemens have pulled out of any new business dealings in Iran. So far, so good, but it’s not enough. It would behoove those Europeans most worried about military strikes against Iran to show more courage and willingness to sacrifice a contract or two for the sake of peace. If, as Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi recently said, a military solution is to be opposed because it would further “destabilize the region,” then Prodi, as the prime minister of Iran’s first trading partner, might wish to instruct his foreign minister to endorse France’s view: support broader sanctions—the only alternative to war.

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Michael Scheuer Watch #10: The Cheese Danish Affair and Ron Paul

Our hero has surfaced. As I predicted, he has been compelled to move from the mainstream to the margins. The latest sighting has occurred not in one of the mass-media outlets where until recently he had regularly appeared, but on a website called The Jingoist: When the Righteous Make the Wicked Quake. (The post has evidently been removed but is available here.) 

Recent articles on The Jingoist bear such titles as:

Zionists Using Holocaust to Silence People — about how the “Chief Rabbi of the Orthodox Jewish Community in Austria, Moishe Arye Friedman, believes that the ‘Zionist regime is using the Holocaust concept as a tool and weapon to silence people.’”

French President Accused of Working for Israeli Intelligence — about how  “Sarco the Sayan” (Hebrew for helper) is “one of the thousands of Jewish citizens of countries other than Israel who cooperate with [Mossad case-officers].”

New AG Nominee: Zionist Dream Come True — about how Michael Mukasey, once confirmed as Attorney General, will work “with his buds in the Senate, Schumer, Feinstein and Specter . . . to smother any attempts to seek the truth on the actual perpetrators behind 9/11” and is likely to “take his oath of office with his hand on the Torah and not the KJV Bible.”

Now that we illuminati have illuminated the stage from which our hero wishes to speak, let us turn to the substance of his comments.

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Our hero has surfaced. As I predicted, he has been compelled to move from the mainstream to the margins. The latest sighting has occurred not in one of the mass-media outlets where until recently he had regularly appeared, but on a website called The Jingoist: When the Righteous Make the Wicked Quake. (The post has evidently been removed but is available here.) 

Recent articles on The Jingoist bear such titles as:

Zionists Using Holocaust to Silence People — about how the “Chief Rabbi of the Orthodox Jewish Community in Austria, Moishe Arye Friedman, believes that the ‘Zionist regime is using the Holocaust concept as a tool and weapon to silence people.’”

French President Accused of Working for Israeli Intelligence — about how  “Sarco the Sayan” (Hebrew for helper) is “one of the thousands of Jewish citizens of countries other than Israel who cooperate with [Mossad case-officers].”

New AG Nominee: Zionist Dream Come True — about how Michael Mukasey, once confirmed as Attorney General, will work “with his buds in the Senate, Schumer, Feinstein and Specter . . . to smother any attempts to seek the truth on the actual perpetrators behind 9/11” and is likely to “take his oath of office with his hand on the Torah and not the KJV Bible.”

Now that we illuminati have illuminated the stage from which our hero wishes to speak, let us turn to the substance of his comments.

Based upon a story in the Danish paper Politiken, I had raised questions about Scheuer’s role in igniting a political firestorm recently in Denmark by “disclosing” — my word — information about the CIA’s extraordinary rendition of Talat Fouad Qassem, an Egyptian extremist, who had been granted political asylum in Denmark, but was seized by the CIA while visiting Croatia, shipped to Egypt, and executed.

Among the questions I asked were whether the information involved was classified and, if it was classified, how such disclosures differed from leaks in the past by renegade CIA agent Philip Agee, and more recently, by Larry Franklin, who pleaded guilty to violations of statutes governing the improper disclosure of classified information.

On The Jingoist, our hero points out that the information in question was not classified; indeed, he shows that there had been a number of press reports detailing this episode in the past, one of them appearing in the Associated Press as far back as 1995.

Connecting the Dots, which seeks to construct as accurate as possible a picture of matters pertaining to intelligence (and other issues), will happily acknowledge that it was remiss in having raised a question about our hero to which the answer turned out to be readily available in the public domain.  Let us give Scheuer his due. He is right about this matter and Connecting the Dots was wrong in suggesting that he had done something wrong and/or illegal with regard to the Danish affair. 

But Connecting the Dots was not wrong in one thing: namely, predicting that no matter what the issue under discussion, be it Denmark or cheese Danish, our hero would inevitably bring it around to his true obsession, the state of Israel and American Jews who support the state of Israel.

On The Jingoist, he has done precisely that by arguing that I, along with “Goebbels-wannabes at the National Review, the American Thinker, and other organs of the Israel-first media” are guilty of promulgating a “Big Lie.” He goes on to explain:

Their tarting-up of the [Talat] rendition operation . . . is just part of their ongoing attempt to discredit the case and to try to convince Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are identical, and so spying on America for Israel – and suborning American citizens to commit treason – is really an okay and even admirable activity.

In response to my suggestion that he has a habit of casting aspersions on American Jews, Scheuer responds:

I do not cast aspersions, I forthrightly damn, and pray that God damns, any American – Jew, Catholic, Evangelical, Irish, German, Hindu, hermaphrodite, thespian, or otherwise – who flogs the insane idea that American and Israeli interests are one and the same.

Let us continue connecting the dots. A man who speaks in this language, and who does so on a flagrantly anti-Semitic crackpot website, was in charge of the CIA’s efforts to counter Osama bin Laden. More recently, Scheuer has been involved with the presidential campaign of maverick Republican Ron Paul. Back in May they appeared together at the podium of the National Press Club in an event billed as an opportunity to “educate former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani on foreign policy.”

Here are several more dots to connect:

1. What does Michael Scheuer’s posting on The Jingoist tell us about him? 

2. What does it tell us about the officials at the CIA who put him in charge of countering Osama bin Laden?

3. What does it tell us about the television networks that continue to employ him as an expert consultant?

4. Is Scheuer currently an official or unofficial adviser to Ron Paul?

5. If elected, would President Paul appoint Scheuer to run the CIA?

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

 

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Bookshelf

• Otto Preminger? Who he? If you’re a paid-up member of the most extreme wing of the auteur theory of film criticism, which holds that directors are the golden gods of Hollywood and everyone else is chopped liver, you’re probably already bristling. Preminger is a certified darling of the auteurists, though cooler heads long ago dismissed him as a cost-conscious middlebrow with a Viennese accent whose continental demeanor and I-am-a-genius tantrums were sucker bait for impressionable rubes. Even his brother agreed. When Foster Hirsch approached Ingo Preminger about writing a biography of his more famous sibling, he got a thoroughly sensible answer: “I can see eight, nine, ten books about Bergman or Fellini, but a book about Otto? He was a very good producer and he fought important battles against censorship, but there was no great film!”

Nevertheless, Hirsch soldiered on, and the result is Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King (Knopf, 373 pp., $35), a readable book about an interesting man who made two good movies, Laura and Anatomy of a Murder, and two or three others that are still worth watching. If you think that’s sufficient cinematic achievement to justify a full-length biography, rest assured that this one will hold your attention, for Preminger’s story is fascinating from start to finish. A Polish Jew who reinvented himself as an echt-Viennese stage director, he relocated to Hollywood by way of Broadway and embarked on a career that brought him fame, fortune and a fair number of admiring reviews. A bald-headed tyrant whose larger-than-life personality made him the stuff of countless anecdotes, Preminger worked with everybody from Laurette Taylor to John Wayne, had affairs with Gypsy Rose Lee and Dorothy Dandridge, and played a half-dozen big-screen Nazis on the side, the best-remembered of whom is the sardonic commandant of Billy Wilder’s Stalag 17: “With Christmas coming on, I have a special treat for you. I’ll have you all deloused for the holidays.”

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• Otto Preminger? Who he? If you’re a paid-up member of the most extreme wing of the auteur theory of film criticism, which holds that directors are the golden gods of Hollywood and everyone else is chopped liver, you’re probably already bristling. Preminger is a certified darling of the auteurists, though cooler heads long ago dismissed him as a cost-conscious middlebrow with a Viennese accent whose continental demeanor and I-am-a-genius tantrums were sucker bait for impressionable rubes. Even his brother agreed. When Foster Hirsch approached Ingo Preminger about writing a biography of his more famous sibling, he got a thoroughly sensible answer: “I can see eight, nine, ten books about Bergman or Fellini, but a book about Otto? He was a very good producer and he fought important battles against censorship, but there was no great film!”

Nevertheless, Hirsch soldiered on, and the result is Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King (Knopf, 373 pp., $35), a readable book about an interesting man who made two good movies, Laura and Anatomy of a Murder, and two or three others that are still worth watching. If you think that’s sufficient cinematic achievement to justify a full-length biography, rest assured that this one will hold your attention, for Preminger’s story is fascinating from start to finish. A Polish Jew who reinvented himself as an echt-Viennese stage director, he relocated to Hollywood by way of Broadway and embarked on a career that brought him fame, fortune and a fair number of admiring reviews. A bald-headed tyrant whose larger-than-life personality made him the stuff of countless anecdotes, Preminger worked with everybody from Laurette Taylor to John Wayne, had affairs with Gypsy Rose Lee and Dorothy Dandridge, and played a half-dozen big-screen Nazis on the side, the best-remembered of whom is the sardonic commandant of Billy Wilder’s Stalag 17: “With Christmas coming on, I have a special treat for you. I’ll have you all deloused for the holidays.”

In between these well-told tales, Hirsch does all he can to persuade us that the director of Forever Amber, The Moon Is Blue, and River of No Return was something more than a highly paid hack. Not only does he call the embarrassingly elephantine Advise and Consent “the most intelligent American film about American politics…made by a maestro at the height of his command of the language of film,” but he even finds it in his forgiving heart to describe Skidoo, one of the half-dozen worst big-budget movies ever made, as “this infamous, endearing flop.” Far more telling, though, is Hirsch’s unintentionally devastating account of Preminger’s parallel career as a stage director in Austria and America, which leaves no possible doubt of his fundamental artistic unseriousness (the only plays of any importance that he directed in his 42 years in the theater were The Front Page and Johann Nestroy’s Einen Jux will er sich machen).

The truth was that Preminger cared only for commercial success, and was willing to make any compromise necessary in order to get it. Whenever he took on “serious” subject matter, he invariably watered it down so as to make it palatable to the masses, adding just enough shock value to épater le bourgeois. (It was Preminger who introduced the word “virgin” to the silver screen in The Moon Is Blue, showed Frank Sinatra shooting up in The Man with the Golden Arm, and filmed the inside of a gay bar in Advise and Consent.) Only twice did he adapt significant stage plays, Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan and Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan, and both films, predictably enough, were artistic and commercial failures.

The rest was melodrama—except for Laura, the slickest and most elegant film noir ever made, and Anatomy of a Murder, a startlingly tough-minded courtroom drama in which Preminger drew on his youthful experience as a Viennese law student to show how lawyers approach the vexing problem of defending clients whose innocence they doubt. These two films are more than worth remembering, and Hirsch does well by them (though he seems curiously unaware that Alexander Woollcott was the real-life model for Waldo Lydecker, the epicene journalist-radio personality who narrates Laura).

Yet two films do not an oeuvre make, and I have a feeling that Foster Hirsch, for all his enthusiasm, suspects as much. At book’s end, he describes Otto Preminger as “a supremely fluent metteur-en-scène who made thoughtful, challenging films on a broad range of subjects that continue to matter.” Judicious appraisal—or damning with faint praise? You be the judge.

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Tempest over Tibet

Today, Beijing issued a warning to Washington over the planned award of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama. “The move will seriously damage China-U.S. relations,” said Liu Jianchao, a Foreign Ministry spokesman. He also noted that his country hoped that the United States would “correct its mistakes” and cancel the “relevant arrangements.” Those arrangements include President Bush’s receiving His Holiness at the White House today and House Speaker Pelosi’s presenting the award tomorrow at the Capitol. The increasingly visible Laura Bush will attend tomorrow’s ceremony. And so will her husband, who will be speaking at the event. He will be the first sitting President to appear publicly with the 1989 Nobel laureate.

The Chinese government has already shown its displeasure at American defiance of its wishes. Beijing diplomats have raised the issue a number of times at the ambassadorial level. Furthermore, earlier this month Beijing put off a visit by Wu Bangguo, the second-ranked Communist Party leader, to the United States. Beijing has also pulled out of a meeting, scheduled for tomorrow in Berlin, to talk about Iran.

On Sunday, the German government announced that China had canceled upcoming human rights talks (supposed to take place in December) with Chancellor Angela Merkel. The German foreign ministry refused to give any reason for the change in plans, yet an explanation was unnecessary. Beijing’s diplomats have been complaining publicly for weeks that Merkel had met with the world’s most famous refugee last month. In fact, they had been protesting the visit before she received His Holiness, and the cancellation announced Sunday is only the latest in a series of meetings the Chinese have aborted with their German counterparts since last month.

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Today, Beijing issued a warning to Washington over the planned award of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama. “The move will seriously damage China-U.S. relations,” said Liu Jianchao, a Foreign Ministry spokesman. He also noted that his country hoped that the United States would “correct its mistakes” and cancel the “relevant arrangements.” Those arrangements include President Bush’s receiving His Holiness at the White House today and House Speaker Pelosi’s presenting the award tomorrow at the Capitol. The increasingly visible Laura Bush will attend tomorrow’s ceremony. And so will her husband, who will be speaking at the event. He will be the first sitting President to appear publicly with the 1989 Nobel laureate.

The Chinese government has already shown its displeasure at American defiance of its wishes. Beijing diplomats have raised the issue a number of times at the ambassadorial level. Furthermore, earlier this month Beijing put off a visit by Wu Bangguo, the second-ranked Communist Party leader, to the United States. Beijing has also pulled out of a meeting, scheduled for tomorrow in Berlin, to talk about Iran.

On Sunday, the German government announced that China had canceled upcoming human rights talks (supposed to take place in December) with Chancellor Angela Merkel. The German foreign ministry refused to give any reason for the change in plans, yet an explanation was unnecessary. Beijing’s diplomats have been complaining publicly for weeks that Merkel had met with the world’s most famous refugee last month. In fact, they had been protesting the visit before she received His Holiness, and the cancellation announced Sunday is only the latest in a series of meetings the Chinese have aborted with their German counterparts since last month.

Unfortunately for the Chinese, they’re rapidly losing their ability to intimidate Western leaders over Tibet. All of them recognize Beijing’s sovereignty over Tibetan homelands, but increasingly few of them are willing to shun the Dalai Lama. In addition to Merkel, Australia’s John Howard and Austria’s Alfred Gusenbauer met with him over the course of the last few months. Canada’s Stephen Harper will receive the famous Tibetan this month.

Chinese diplomats are ramping up their threats, but few are listening. Nobody believes that human rights dialogues with Beijing are effective, and Wu’s trip to the United States was more for China’s benefit than ours. It’s a shame that China won’t attend the Berlin meeting on Iran, but that will be rescheduled—and in any event Chinese attendance would only complicate matters.

Who cares if the Chinese authoritarians huff and puff? They need the West more than the West needs them. So let them threaten all they want. Why should we prevent the Chinese from creating a diplomatic disaster for themselves?

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Austria’s Iran Deal

Austria’s Chancellor, Alfred Gusenbauer, issued a stern warning to Iran while on a visit to Israel. According to the Associated Press, he said: “Iran must not only slow down its uranium enrichment activities, but stop it completely.” Gusenbauer continued, rather cryptically: “we have to track closely the sanctions on Iran, and even move beyond them.”

It’s not clear what “moving beyond sanctions” means, in practice. Austria’s energy giant, OMV, has just recently signed a deal with the Iranian government worth $18 billion. The deal is part of the Nabucco pipeline project, an ambitious attempt to diversify EU energy supplies—where Iran will supply the lion’s share. If all goes well, Iran’s gas fields will be linked all the way to Austria sometime early in the next decade. At which point, the meaning of “going beyond sanctions” will probably become clearer: letting business partnerships with Iran dictate European attitudes on the country’s nuclearization program.

Austria’s Chancellor, Alfred Gusenbauer, issued a stern warning to Iran while on a visit to Israel. According to the Associated Press, he said: “Iran must not only slow down its uranium enrichment activities, but stop it completely.” Gusenbauer continued, rather cryptically: “we have to track closely the sanctions on Iran, and even move beyond them.”

It’s not clear what “moving beyond sanctions” means, in practice. Austria’s energy giant, OMV, has just recently signed a deal with the Iranian government worth $18 billion. The deal is part of the Nabucco pipeline project, an ambitious attempt to diversify EU energy supplies—where Iran will supply the lion’s share. If all goes well, Iran’s gas fields will be linked all the way to Austria sometime early in the next decade. At which point, the meaning of “going beyond sanctions” will probably become clearer: letting business partnerships with Iran dictate European attitudes on the country’s nuclearization program.

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Why We Remember Jerry Hadley

My fellow blogger Terry Teachout has already posted an apt expression of poignant regret at the news of the suicide of the American tenor Jerry Hadley, who shot himself at age 55. A career in music can be cruelly difficult, and many performers are worn down by the stresses and frustrations inherent to the profession. Yet classical musicians who commit suicide do so for different reasons, rarely linked to their choice of career.

Listeners to Metropolitan Opera broadcasts will recall how, in 1988, the Bulgarian-born singer and vocal coach Bantcho Bantchevsky (1906-1988), in failing health, threw himself off the balcony of the Met’s auditorium during an intermission between the 2nd and 3rd Acts of Verdi’s Macbeth, ending both that day’s performance and his own life. In 1994, the Duo Crommelynck—two married pianists, Patrick Crommelynck (1947-1994) and Taeko Kuwata (1945-1994)—committed double suicide after an apparent crisis in their relationship. A gifted Australian-born pianist, Noel Mewton-Wood (1922-1953), reportedly committed suicide after the death of his gay lover. The acclaimed Viennese-born conductor Georg Tintner (1917-1999), honored with a posthumous series of CD reissues from Naxos, leapt off the balcony of his apartment after a lengthy battle with cancer. Another conductor, Austria’s Oswald Kabasta (1896-1946), whose performances have been reprinted by Music & Arts, killed himself after World War II, supposedly because, as a Hitler supporter, he feared the aftermath of the Nazi defeat . Meanwhile, the suicide of the modern German composer Bernd Alois Zimmermann (1918-1970) is ascribed to depression and eye problems , and the impoverished Czech-American composer Jaromír Weinberger (1896-1967), whose opera Schwanda the Bagpiper is available on Naxos, ended his life after being afflicted with brain cancer.

Still, suicide is a human problem, not a peculiarly musical or artistic one. French Jewish sociologist Émile Durkheim (1858-1917), in his treatise On Suicide, now available in a new translation by Robin Buss, confirms this assertion. Reading Durkheim, we may conclude that it is not prudent to venture instant guesses about the motives of a suicide, whether the unfortunate subject is a singer in decline, or a disappointed Nazi conductor.

It is best to recall Jerry Hadley for his bright lyric tenor, featured in a 1992 Handel’s Messiah conducted by Sir Neville Marriner and available on Philips; or in a 1986 Schubert Mass No. 6 in E-Flat Major conducted by Claudio Abbado on Deutsche Grammophon. Singing in English, Hadley was particularly forceful and self-assured in such CD’s as Weill’s Street Scene on Decca; Mendelssohn’s Elijah on Telarc; and Jerome Kern’s Show Boat on EMI. These CD’s furnish evidence of why we should remember Hadley’s life, instead of merely his tragic way of leaving it.

My fellow blogger Terry Teachout has already posted an apt expression of poignant regret at the news of the suicide of the American tenor Jerry Hadley, who shot himself at age 55. A career in music can be cruelly difficult, and many performers are worn down by the stresses and frustrations inherent to the profession. Yet classical musicians who commit suicide do so for different reasons, rarely linked to their choice of career.

Listeners to Metropolitan Opera broadcasts will recall how, in 1988, the Bulgarian-born singer and vocal coach Bantcho Bantchevsky (1906-1988), in failing health, threw himself off the balcony of the Met’s auditorium during an intermission between the 2nd and 3rd Acts of Verdi’s Macbeth, ending both that day’s performance and his own life. In 1994, the Duo Crommelynck—two married pianists, Patrick Crommelynck (1947-1994) and Taeko Kuwata (1945-1994)—committed double suicide after an apparent crisis in their relationship. A gifted Australian-born pianist, Noel Mewton-Wood (1922-1953), reportedly committed suicide after the death of his gay lover. The acclaimed Viennese-born conductor Georg Tintner (1917-1999), honored with a posthumous series of CD reissues from Naxos, leapt off the balcony of his apartment after a lengthy battle with cancer. Another conductor, Austria’s Oswald Kabasta (1896-1946), whose performances have been reprinted by Music & Arts, killed himself after World War II, supposedly because, as a Hitler supporter, he feared the aftermath of the Nazi defeat . Meanwhile, the suicide of the modern German composer Bernd Alois Zimmermann (1918-1970) is ascribed to depression and eye problems , and the impoverished Czech-American composer Jaromír Weinberger (1896-1967), whose opera Schwanda the Bagpiper is available on Naxos, ended his life after being afflicted with brain cancer.

Still, suicide is a human problem, not a peculiarly musical or artistic one. French Jewish sociologist Émile Durkheim (1858-1917), in his treatise On Suicide, now available in a new translation by Robin Buss, confirms this assertion. Reading Durkheim, we may conclude that it is not prudent to venture instant guesses about the motives of a suicide, whether the unfortunate subject is a singer in decline, or a disappointed Nazi conductor.

It is best to recall Jerry Hadley for his bright lyric tenor, featured in a 1992 Handel’s Messiah conducted by Sir Neville Marriner and available on Philips; or in a 1986 Schubert Mass No. 6 in E-Flat Major conducted by Claudio Abbado on Deutsche Grammophon. Singing in English, Hadley was particularly forceful and self-assured in such CD’s as Weill’s Street Scene on Decca; Mendelssohn’s Elijah on Telarc; and Jerome Kern’s Show Boat on EMI. These CD’s furnish evidence of why we should remember Hadley’s life, instead of merely his tragic way of leaving it.

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Was Kurt Waldheim Human?

Kurt Waldheim, the former Secretary General of the United Nations and president of Austria, has died at the age of eighty-eight. What will be history’s verdict?

The Washington Post’s obituary offers a good summary of the facts leading to his being placed on a watch list of “prohibited persons” that barred him from entry into the United States. Although his participation in Nazi war crimes was never proved in a court of law, it was enough that he had repeatedly lied about his military service during World War II, striving especially to conceal his role as a lieutenant in the Wehrmacht from 1942 through 1945 in a unit that had butchered Yugoslav partisans. Later disclosures in the mid-1980’s, reports the Post, “included a secret 1948 finding by the UN War Crimes Commission that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute Waldheim for ‘murder’ and ‘putting hostages to death.’”

Despite his sinister past, Waldheim did have his admirers. One of them, remarkably enough, was the writer Gitta Sereny, whose anti-Nazi credentials, as a member of the French resistance and as a historian, are not in doubt. When she interviewed Waldheim in the late 1980’s about his activities in the Balkans, he explained to her that it was “a ‘savage war,’ like ‘Vietnam, and now the West Bank,’ where the Israelis ‘are breaking people’s bones.’”

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Kurt Waldheim, the former Secretary General of the United Nations and president of Austria, has died at the age of eighty-eight. What will be history’s verdict?

The Washington Post’s obituary offers a good summary of the facts leading to his being placed on a watch list of “prohibited persons” that barred him from entry into the United States. Although his participation in Nazi war crimes was never proved in a court of law, it was enough that he had repeatedly lied about his military service during World War II, striving especially to conceal his role as a lieutenant in the Wehrmacht from 1942 through 1945 in a unit that had butchered Yugoslav partisans. Later disclosures in the mid-1980’s, reports the Post, “included a secret 1948 finding by the UN War Crimes Commission that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute Waldheim for ‘murder’ and ‘putting hostages to death.’”

Despite his sinister past, Waldheim did have his admirers. One of them, remarkably enough, was the writer Gitta Sereny, whose anti-Nazi credentials, as a member of the French resistance and as a historian, are not in doubt. When she interviewed Waldheim in the late 1980’s about his activities in the Balkans, he explained to her that it was “a ‘savage war,’ like ‘Vietnam, and now the West Bank,’ where the Israelis ‘are breaking people’s bones.’”

Sereny, despite all her talents as a writer and as investigator into the history of Nazi evil, raised only the barest challenge to her interlocutor’s likening of the Nazis to the Americans and the Israelis. She then went on to judge Waldheim a “fundamentally decent man.”

It was this, among other things, that led me to conclude in a review of her book, The Healing Wound, in the New York Times, that she was “incapable of. . . grasping, after a lifetime of studying it, the radical nature of Nazi evil.”

My appraisal of her then drew a letter to the editor defending Sereny. I still remember it today for its timeless encapsulation of a certain extreme but all-too-popular moral inversion: “It is precisely by rejecting the atavistic, thought-foreclosing notion of evil, and instead insisting on the complex humanity of her subjects,” wrote an indignant reader, “that Sereny has made fascism at all comprehensible to us. The enemy is human: that is a lesson today’s policymakers would do well to learn.”

Yes, Waldheim, was human. But he was also evil, and it is evil not to judge him so.

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Another Look at Auden

Out to sea, hunting Nazi war ships, Saul Bellow’s Augie March encounters a sailor, a brilliant autodidact, who tells him, “Pascal says people get in trouble because they can’t stay in their rooms. The next poet laureate of England—I figure—prays to God to teach us to sit still.” It would take W.H. Auden, who might well have become England’s poet laureate had he sat still, half his career to arrive at a similar conclusion about the mischief men do in pursuit of lofty goals. The centennial of his birth fell on February 21st of this year; most of the comments on this sadly muted occasion focused on the distinction between his “early” and “late” stages, which also happen to coincide with his Communism and his regained Anglicanism.

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Out to sea, hunting Nazi war ships, Saul Bellow’s Augie March encounters a sailor, a brilliant autodidact, who tells him, “Pascal says people get in trouble because they can’t stay in their rooms. The next poet laureate of England—I figure—prays to God to teach us to sit still.” It would take W.H. Auden, who might well have become England’s poet laureate had he sat still, half his career to arrive at a similar conclusion about the mischief men do in pursuit of lofty goals. The centennial of his birth fell on February 21st of this year; most of the comments on this sadly muted occasion focused on the distinction between his “early” and “late” stages, which also happen to coincide with his Communism and his regained Anglicanism.

Auden reached his artistic pinnacle at Europe’s darkest moment, a fact that might itself be described as Audenesque. The year 1939 yielded other burnished gems besides his “September 1, 1939″: the threnodies to Yeats and Freud, “Epitaph on a Tyrant,” “The Unknown Citizen,” “Law Like Love.” Critics of Auden’s “Spain,” who see it solely as a testament to all that was sinister and myopic in an epicene Communist’s worldview, should take the poem’s full measure. For instance, the apostrophe to nations, which calls upon “the life / That shapes the individual belly and orders / The private nocturnal terror,” has that life replying: “O no, I am not the mover; / Not to-day; not to you. To you I’m the / Yes-man, the bar-companion, the easily-duped . . . ” We know now from the publication of long-secret Soviet archives that the yes-man, the bar-companion, and the easily-duped comprise precisely the grim troika that enabled and excused Stalin’s reign of terror for so long. The poem is, thus, also a withering indictment of the Western intellectual class to which Auden belonged with such passion and brilliance. So his conscience managed to get it right, in the end—even if his short-lived political allegiances got it so remarkably wrong.

Though his abandonment of those allegiances is praiseworthy, it did nothing for him as an artist. Auden’s poetry steadily declined in quality as his commitment to religion broadened and his sense of purpose—both as a poet and as a “citizen”—grew humbler. He also traveled less, abandoning the exploratory wanderings of his earlier years, confining himself mainly to his adopted city of New York and his shire-girded summer home in Austria. As Philip Larkin observed in a withering 1960 essay, “What’s Become of Wystan?,” someone who had read nothing of Auden’s work after 1940 would have little to talk about with someone who had read nothing before 1940. A shame, too, in Larkin’s opinion: a born-again Yank might well have gone on to become a “New Yorker Walt Whitman viewing the American scene through lenses coated with a European irony” instead of the book-obsessed purveyor of agape Auden became. So much, one supposes, for Pascal and the wisdom of sitting still.

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