Commentary Magazine


Topic: Twin Towers

Without Standards, It’s Hard to Tell Who Is a ‘Moderate’ Muslim

Bill McGurn observes that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf didn’t exactly live up to his billing at the Council on Foreign Relations, whose president swooned over the imam’s “bridge building” credentials. Yeah, that is downright embarrassing when one considers the imam’s refusal to condemn Hamas, his incendiary plans to build on Ground Zero, and his past comments on 9/11. I suppose if you dummy down your standards enough, he can meet the chattering class’s definition of “moderate.” (The left is big on rewarding intentions, not so big on drawing lines or objectively assessing others on the results of their actions.)

McGurn doesn’t think that’s what we should be doing. Instead, he calls out Abdul Rauf (and by implication his spin squad) for mimicking liberals’ infatuation with moral relativism:

“The real battlefront, the real battle that we must wage together today,” he said, “is not between Muslims and non-Muslims. It is between moderates of all faith traditions against the extremists of all faith traditions.”

Now, the world has its share of Christian, Jewish, Hindu and other religious extremists. Sometimes that extremism leads to violence. At least in America, however, to compare this to the sustained, organized international war crimes planned and carried out by Islamic extremists beggars belief.

No one walks the streets of Manhattan fearing a Methodist may blow up his office, hijack his flight, or kill his son fighting in Afghanistan. Unless you are Angelina Jolie or the dean of Yale Law School, this is not only true but obvious.

Or unless you occupy the White House. Or write for the New York Times or the Daily Beast.

McGurn rightly concludes: “So where the Council on Foreign Relations may see in Imam Rauf the model of moderation, Americans may wonder whether a leader who cannot see what is uniquely threatening about Islamic extremism is the most effective spokesman for Muslim moderation.” It seems the rubes have a more finely tuned moral radar than do the condescending elites who are convinced the country is rife with bigotry.

While the liberal intelligentsia may be confused about what is a legal right and what is simply right – and between what is moderate and what is thinly veiled anti-Americanism — others are not. The much ridiculed George W. Bush was far more adept than is his successor and the liberal punditocracy at figuring out how to fight a war against Islamic jihadists without starting a domestic war against loyal American Muslims (or selling out truly moderate Muslims battling radicalism in the Middle East):

How different their approach (not to mention their results) is from that of George W. Bush, who could visit a mosque while the ruins of the Twin Towers were still smoldering, remind us that Muslim-Americans are free and equal citizens, and talk about how ordinary Muslim moms and dads wanted for their children what we want for ours. Maybe it had something to do with his being clear about the fight.

Or course this moral clarity is denigrated by the left as lacking “sophistication” or “nuance.” It is nothing of the sort. Unlike Obama and the 29 percent of New Yorkers who think the Ground Zero mosque is a dandy idea, Bush and the vast majority of Americans are not guilty of intellectual sloth. In one of the Bluest major cities in America, the citizenry has found it easy to spot a provocateur bent on heightening religious tensions rather than ameliorating them. Frankly, if CFR wanted a bridge builder, they should have invited Bush — or one of the 71 percent of New Yorkers who have figured out that Abdul Rauf is an exceedingly poor champion of reconciliation.

Bill McGurn observes that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf didn’t exactly live up to his billing at the Council on Foreign Relations, whose president swooned over the imam’s “bridge building” credentials. Yeah, that is downright embarrassing when one considers the imam’s refusal to condemn Hamas, his incendiary plans to build on Ground Zero, and his past comments on 9/11. I suppose if you dummy down your standards enough, he can meet the chattering class’s definition of “moderate.” (The left is big on rewarding intentions, not so big on drawing lines or objectively assessing others on the results of their actions.)

McGurn doesn’t think that’s what we should be doing. Instead, he calls out Abdul Rauf (and by implication his spin squad) for mimicking liberals’ infatuation with moral relativism:

“The real battlefront, the real battle that we must wage together today,” he said, “is not between Muslims and non-Muslims. It is between moderates of all faith traditions against the extremists of all faith traditions.”

Now, the world has its share of Christian, Jewish, Hindu and other religious extremists. Sometimes that extremism leads to violence. At least in America, however, to compare this to the sustained, organized international war crimes planned and carried out by Islamic extremists beggars belief.

No one walks the streets of Manhattan fearing a Methodist may blow up his office, hijack his flight, or kill his son fighting in Afghanistan. Unless you are Angelina Jolie or the dean of Yale Law School, this is not only true but obvious.

Or unless you occupy the White House. Or write for the New York Times or the Daily Beast.

McGurn rightly concludes: “So where the Council on Foreign Relations may see in Imam Rauf the model of moderation, Americans may wonder whether a leader who cannot see what is uniquely threatening about Islamic extremism is the most effective spokesman for Muslim moderation.” It seems the rubes have a more finely tuned moral radar than do the condescending elites who are convinced the country is rife with bigotry.

While the liberal intelligentsia may be confused about what is a legal right and what is simply right – and between what is moderate and what is thinly veiled anti-Americanism — others are not. The much ridiculed George W. Bush was far more adept than is his successor and the liberal punditocracy at figuring out how to fight a war against Islamic jihadists without starting a domestic war against loyal American Muslims (or selling out truly moderate Muslims battling radicalism in the Middle East):

How different their approach (not to mention their results) is from that of George W. Bush, who could visit a mosque while the ruins of the Twin Towers were still smoldering, remind us that Muslim-Americans are free and equal citizens, and talk about how ordinary Muslim moms and dads wanted for their children what we want for ours. Maybe it had something to do with his being clear about the fight.

Or course this moral clarity is denigrated by the left as lacking “sophistication” or “nuance.” It is nothing of the sort. Unlike Obama and the 29 percent of New Yorkers who think the Ground Zero mosque is a dandy idea, Bush and the vast majority of Americans are not guilty of intellectual sloth. In one of the Bluest major cities in America, the citizenry has found it easy to spot a provocateur bent on heightening religious tensions rather than ameliorating them. Frankly, if CFR wanted a bridge builder, they should have invited Bush — or one of the 71 percent of New Yorkers who have figured out that Abdul Rauf is an exceedingly poor champion of reconciliation.

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The Ground Zero Mosque

Rod Dreher, who stood on the Brooklyn Bridge and watched the second tower melt and crumble, is eloquent on this looming horror:

New York City officials have voted to allow construction of a $100 million mosque near the site of the World Trade Center. I mean no disrespect to Muslims, but this is an unspeakably bad idea. The 9/11 hijackers brought down those towers, and killed thousands, in the name of Islam. Of course it is wrong to blame all Muslims for 9/11. But why on earth rub salt in the wounds of the 9/11 dead by allowing a mosque to go in just two blocks from where jihadists incinerated or crushed over 2,700 innocent victims, in service of their faith?…

You may recall in 1993, Pope John Paul II ordered Carmelite nuns to remove themselves from a convent they established on the grounds of Auschwitz, after years of Jewish protest. Even though the Nazis did not massacre Jews there in the name of Christianity, Jews saw the presence of the convent on the most notorious site of the Holocaust as an affront. It was plainly not meant to be, but it was, and one can certainly understand why, given what happened on that site, and the history of anti-Semitism in European Christianity….

Though the numbers of dead in the 9/11 attacks were incomparably smaller than the Holocaust, the inescapable fact is that those killings were carried out by Islamic religious fanatics who believed they were serving Islam through mass murder. Again, it would be very wrong to hold all Muslims responsible for what those monsters did. At the same time, however distorted the religious views of those terrorists may have been, it is deeply offensive to build a giant mosque in what would have been the shadows of the Twin Towers, had they not been brought down explicitly for the greater glory of Allah.

Read the whole thing.

Rod Dreher, who stood on the Brooklyn Bridge and watched the second tower melt and crumble, is eloquent on this looming horror:

New York City officials have voted to allow construction of a $100 million mosque near the site of the World Trade Center. I mean no disrespect to Muslims, but this is an unspeakably bad idea. The 9/11 hijackers brought down those towers, and killed thousands, in the name of Islam. Of course it is wrong to blame all Muslims for 9/11. But why on earth rub salt in the wounds of the 9/11 dead by allowing a mosque to go in just two blocks from where jihadists incinerated or crushed over 2,700 innocent victims, in service of their faith?…

You may recall in 1993, Pope John Paul II ordered Carmelite nuns to remove themselves from a convent they established on the grounds of Auschwitz, after years of Jewish protest. Even though the Nazis did not massacre Jews there in the name of Christianity, Jews saw the presence of the convent on the most notorious site of the Holocaust as an affront. It was plainly not meant to be, but it was, and one can certainly understand why, given what happened on that site, and the history of anti-Semitism in European Christianity….

Though the numbers of dead in the 9/11 attacks were incomparably smaller than the Holocaust, the inescapable fact is that those killings were carried out by Islamic religious fanatics who believed they were serving Islam through mass murder. Again, it would be very wrong to hold all Muslims responsible for what those monsters did. At the same time, however distorted the religious views of those terrorists may have been, it is deeply offensive to build a giant mosque in what would have been the shadows of the Twin Towers, had they not been brought down explicitly for the greater glory of Allah.

Read the whole thing.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Perhaps the smartest thing Hillary Clinton has ever said: “I do not and have never wanted to be a judge. Never … That’s never been anything I’ve even let cross my mind, because it’s not in my personality.”

Another public consensus Obama will ignore: “Only 18% of Americans are willing to pay higher taxes to lower the federal budget deficit, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Sixty-nine percent (69%) are not willing to have their taxes raised to deal with deficits that are projected to rise to historic levels over the next decade. Thirteen percent (13%) more are not sure.”

The November midterm election results will be harder to ignore: “Republicans are on offense in scores of House and Senate races as persistent economic woes and lukewarm support for President Barack Obama continue to weaken Democrats’ hold on Congress. The president and his party are determined to minimize the losses six months before the November elections. But Democrats privately acknowledge the economy and support for Obama must improve before then to avoid the defeats that could cost them control of the House and possibly the Senate.”

Charlie Crist mastering the art of appearing entirely without principles on how he’d vote for Senate leadership: “I might not vote for either one. I’m going to vote for who I think would be best for the people of Florida. And if that happens to be a Democrat, so be it. If it happens to be a Republican, so be it. But I’ve got to look out for the people of my state.” He’s not even intelligible at this point.

Crist sure is Exhibit A for Marco Rubio’s argument: “One of the things that’s missing in politics today is people that will run on a platform and then go to Washington, D.C., and actually carry it out. … And I think with Charlie Crist, we don’t know what that platform is and we never will. You are never going to be able to hold him accountable to anything, because his opinions are going to change based upon what the polling tells him or his political convenience tells him.”

Amateurs also brought down the Twin Towers: “Authorities reopened Times Square Sunday morning but urged vigilance after an apparently ‘amateurish’ but potentially dangerous car bomb failed to detonate. New York police said that bomb would have caused a “sizeable” number of deaths and injuries if it had gone off. … A U.S. counterterrorism official said that investigators had not determined whether the attempted bombing was part of a plot by al-Qaeda or another terrorist group.”

Fine as far as it goes: “US Jewish groups, gearing up for the Iranian leader’s visit to New York, have recently voiced loud opposition to Ahmadinejad’s participation in the NPT conference. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations contacted ambassadors of UN member states, and placed newspaper ads to appear on Monday, urging diplomats to walk out with he speaks on Monday morning.” But what about the Obami’s undermining of sanctions? Or allowing Iran to join the Commission on the Status of Women? No ads about that.

Megan McCardle raps the Beagle Blogger for swooning over GM’s “repayment” of some of the taxpayers’ money: “Am I really supposed to get excited by the astonishing revelation that when you pour tens of billions of dollars into a couple of failed companies, some of that money will end up in someone’s pocket, somewhere?  Maybe it’s the slightly-above 50% capacity utilization at our dying giants that should put a smile on my face and a song in my heart? … Perhaps I should just be happy to know that GM has taken some of the government money we gave it and ‘repaid’ its multi-billion dollar loan by giving our own money back to us, while still losing billions more. … I am genuinely struggling to come up with what principled argument [Me: Assumes facts not in evidence!] Andrew might be making in his head for what has always struck me as a pretty blatant handout to a powerful Democratic interest group.”

Perhaps the smartest thing Hillary Clinton has ever said: “I do not and have never wanted to be a judge. Never … That’s never been anything I’ve even let cross my mind, because it’s not in my personality.”

Another public consensus Obama will ignore: “Only 18% of Americans are willing to pay higher taxes to lower the federal budget deficit, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Sixty-nine percent (69%) are not willing to have their taxes raised to deal with deficits that are projected to rise to historic levels over the next decade. Thirteen percent (13%) more are not sure.”

The November midterm election results will be harder to ignore: “Republicans are on offense in scores of House and Senate races as persistent economic woes and lukewarm support for President Barack Obama continue to weaken Democrats’ hold on Congress. The president and his party are determined to minimize the losses six months before the November elections. But Democrats privately acknowledge the economy and support for Obama must improve before then to avoid the defeats that could cost them control of the House and possibly the Senate.”

Charlie Crist mastering the art of appearing entirely without principles on how he’d vote for Senate leadership: “I might not vote for either one. I’m going to vote for who I think would be best for the people of Florida. And if that happens to be a Democrat, so be it. If it happens to be a Republican, so be it. But I’ve got to look out for the people of my state.” He’s not even intelligible at this point.

Crist sure is Exhibit A for Marco Rubio’s argument: “One of the things that’s missing in politics today is people that will run on a platform and then go to Washington, D.C., and actually carry it out. … And I think with Charlie Crist, we don’t know what that platform is and we never will. You are never going to be able to hold him accountable to anything, because his opinions are going to change based upon what the polling tells him or his political convenience tells him.”

Amateurs also brought down the Twin Towers: “Authorities reopened Times Square Sunday morning but urged vigilance after an apparently ‘amateurish’ but potentially dangerous car bomb failed to detonate. New York police said that bomb would have caused a “sizeable” number of deaths and injuries if it had gone off. … A U.S. counterterrorism official said that investigators had not determined whether the attempted bombing was part of a plot by al-Qaeda or another terrorist group.”

Fine as far as it goes: “US Jewish groups, gearing up for the Iranian leader’s visit to New York, have recently voiced loud opposition to Ahmadinejad’s participation in the NPT conference. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations contacted ambassadors of UN member states, and placed newspaper ads to appear on Monday, urging diplomats to walk out with he speaks on Monday morning.” But what about the Obami’s undermining of sanctions? Or allowing Iran to join the Commission on the Status of Women? No ads about that.

Megan McCardle raps the Beagle Blogger for swooning over GM’s “repayment” of some of the taxpayers’ money: “Am I really supposed to get excited by the astonishing revelation that when you pour tens of billions of dollars into a couple of failed companies, some of that money will end up in someone’s pocket, somewhere?  Maybe it’s the slightly-above 50% capacity utilization at our dying giants that should put a smile on my face and a song in my heart? … Perhaps I should just be happy to know that GM has taken some of the government money we gave it and ‘repaid’ its multi-billion dollar loan by giving our own money back to us, while still losing billions more. … I am genuinely struggling to come up with what principled argument [Me: Assumes facts not in evidence!] Andrew might be making in his head for what has always struck me as a pretty blatant handout to a powerful Democratic interest group.”

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Senators to Obama: Forget the KSM Trial

Perhaps the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts has had a liberating effect on Democrats. No longer do they cling to the notion that their political survival depends on adhering to the Obama position on everything from health care to national security. Indeed, now might be just the time to demonstrate some independence and clearheaded thinking. In that vein, a bipartisan group of senators has now called for a reversal of the decision to try KSM in civilian court. Sens. Joe Lieberman, Jim Webb, Blanche Lincoln, Susan Collins, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham have written to Eric Holder. The letter reads in part:

We and many others have already expressed serious concerns about whether a trial in civilian court might compromise classified evidence, including revealing sources and methods used by our intelligence community.  We are also very concerned that, by bringing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists responsible for 9/11 to the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, only blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood, you will be providing them one of the most visible platforms in the world to exalt their past acts and to rally others in support of further terrorism.  Such a trial would almost certainly become a recruitment and radicalization tool for those who wish us harm.

The security and other risks inherent in holding the trial in New York City are reflected in Mayor Bloomberg’s recent letter to the administration advising that New York City will be required to spend more than $200 million per year in security measures for the trial.  As Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly know too well, the threat of terrorist acts in New York City is a daily challenge.  Holding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s trial in that city, and trying other enemy combatants in venues such as Washington, DC and northern Virginia, would unnecessarily increase the burden of facing those challenges, including the increased risk of terrorist attacks.

The bottom line, say the senators: “Given the risks and costs, it is far more logical, cost-effective, and strategically wise to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in the military commissions that Congress and the President have now established for that very purpose.”

It is noteworthy that the junior senator from New York is not among the signatories. Perhaps her new primary opponent will weigh in.

This is the first serious bipartisan challenge to the ill-conceived decision to extend the benefits of a civilian trial to the 9/11 terrorists. The number of Democrats who now feel compelled to step forward is also noteworthy. And what will their colleagues say if this comes to a vote? Will they rise to the defense of  Holder and Obama, or will they concede this was a misguided experiment?

Perhaps the time has come for Congress to assert itself, declare its intentions regarding the jurisdiction of the federal courts, and put some daylight between the unpopular and dangerous “not-Bush” anti-terror policies of the Obami. If so, this is a critical and welcomed development and the beginning of a sane reversal of Obama policies that have proven unworkable and politically unpalatable beyond the confines of the campaign trail. There is much Congress can do: resolutions, funding, and legislation. It is not too late to correct the errors of the Obami’s first year.

Perhaps the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts has had a liberating effect on Democrats. No longer do they cling to the notion that their political survival depends on adhering to the Obama position on everything from health care to national security. Indeed, now might be just the time to demonstrate some independence and clearheaded thinking. In that vein, a bipartisan group of senators has now called for a reversal of the decision to try KSM in civilian court. Sens. Joe Lieberman, Jim Webb, Blanche Lincoln, Susan Collins, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham have written to Eric Holder. The letter reads in part:

We and many others have already expressed serious concerns about whether a trial in civilian court might compromise classified evidence, including revealing sources and methods used by our intelligence community.  We are also very concerned that, by bringing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists responsible for 9/11 to the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, only blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood, you will be providing them one of the most visible platforms in the world to exalt their past acts and to rally others in support of further terrorism.  Such a trial would almost certainly become a recruitment and radicalization tool for those who wish us harm.

The security and other risks inherent in holding the trial in New York City are reflected in Mayor Bloomberg’s recent letter to the administration advising that New York City will be required to spend more than $200 million per year in security measures for the trial.  As Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly know too well, the threat of terrorist acts in New York City is a daily challenge.  Holding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s trial in that city, and trying other enemy combatants in venues such as Washington, DC and northern Virginia, would unnecessarily increase the burden of facing those challenges, including the increased risk of terrorist attacks.

The bottom line, say the senators: “Given the risks and costs, it is far more logical, cost-effective, and strategically wise to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in the military commissions that Congress and the President have now established for that very purpose.”

It is noteworthy that the junior senator from New York is not among the signatories. Perhaps her new primary opponent will weigh in.

This is the first serious bipartisan challenge to the ill-conceived decision to extend the benefits of a civilian trial to the 9/11 terrorists. The number of Democrats who now feel compelled to step forward is also noteworthy. And what will their colleagues say if this comes to a vote? Will they rise to the defense of  Holder and Obama, or will they concede this was a misguided experiment?

Perhaps the time has come for Congress to assert itself, declare its intentions regarding the jurisdiction of the federal courts, and put some daylight between the unpopular and dangerous “not-Bush” anti-terror policies of the Obami. If so, this is a critical and welcomed development and the beginning of a sane reversal of Obama policies that have proven unworkable and politically unpalatable beyond the confines of the campaign trail. There is much Congress can do: resolutions, funding, and legislation. It is not too late to correct the errors of the Obami’s first year.

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Gee Whiz, Superman!

“A Superman Approach to Foreign Policy.” That’s the title of this Ezra Klein essay over at The American Prospect, currently the feature piece on the homepage. (Comic books seem to be a popular analytical framework for the up-and-coming blogger set: Matthew Yglesias writes at length about “The Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics” in his new book).

To be fair, TAP is a magazine that that has a former editor of Lyndon LaRouche’s newspaper on its masthead and publishes the work of a denier of the genocide in Cambodia. But Superman? Really? Here’s the core of the piece:

Yet the internationalist vision was more deeply interwoven into our cultural fabric than we often realize. Superman and Captain America were superheroes of an odd sort: tremendously powerful beings whose primary struggle was often to follow the self-imposed rules and strictures that lent their power a moral legitimacy. Neither allowed themselves to kill, and both sought to work within the law. Given their strength, either could have sought world domination, and even if they didn’t, they could have been viewed with deep suspicion and even hatred by those who were convinced that they one day would seek world domination. It was only by following ostentatiously strict moral codes that they could legitimize their power and thus exist cooperatively with a world that had every right to fear them. Indeed, soon enough, both were forming communities of like-minded super beings (The Justice League for Superman, the Avengers for Captain America) and generally operating much like, well, the nation that birthed them. As Spiderman — a later hero who, like so many heroes, bought into the idea that rules and restraint separated the good guys from the bad guys — liked to say, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

That strain of foreign-policy thinking was largely abandoned in the rubble of the Twin Towers. As Yglesias puts it, “9/11 marked the beginning of an enormous psychological change on the part of the American people.” With a newfound sense of vulnerability, there was a newfound sense of fear. Restraint was a luxury, a nice ideal when we were primarily dealing with the problems of other people, but less desirable when our own lives were on the line. After 9-11, the country’s foreign-policy debate contracted, and liberal internationalists, who had always been better at pursuing their agenda than selling it politically, were largely left out. Instead, the conversation was dominated by those on the right who believed in unilateral U.S military hegemony over the world, and those on the left who believed in a superficially multilateral U.S military hegemony over the world, with the option to revert back to unilateralism if other countries proved disagreeable. It was Michael O’Hanlon versus Richard Perle, and few even seemed to find that strange.

This, too, saw its expression in a new type of hero: Jack Bauer. If Superman and Captain America were the emblems of the national mood directly after World War II, Bauer expressed the national anxieties uncovered by 9-11. Rather than an invincible superhero, Bauer was but a man, one who could perish like any other, and was aware of not only his own vulnerability, but that of his family, his government, and his country. Though there were laws he was supposed to follow, the enormity of the dangers he faced and the ruthlessness of the enemies he encountered led him to break them almost constantly, and so he tortured, killed, and generally let the ends lay claim to whatever means they could think of. Indeed, he did it so often, and with such abandon, that he’ll start Season 7 on trial for torture.

All very neat, indeed. But it has little to do with reality: America had been engaging in the kind of war-making putatively forbidden by the Superman model since well before the birth of DC and Marvel, and continued doing so in the years between Superman’s heyday and 9/11. Klein’s framework is cute–but very, very reductive.

When you attempt to force the paradigm of comic books onto something as inherently chaotic as global politics, your hopes of making sense are limited. And Klein’s essay doesn’t, in the end, cohere. But it does serve as a useful reminder of the intellectual vagaries of “the kind of whole bloggy progressive thing.” Serious people who want to engage in serious debate about foreign policy have no shortage of publications they can check out, offering any number of wildly conflicting views. Without, I might add, having recourse to infusions of inept popcult references.

“A Superman Approach to Foreign Policy.” That’s the title of this Ezra Klein essay over at The American Prospect, currently the feature piece on the homepage. (Comic books seem to be a popular analytical framework for the up-and-coming blogger set: Matthew Yglesias writes at length about “The Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics” in his new book).

To be fair, TAP is a magazine that that has a former editor of Lyndon LaRouche’s newspaper on its masthead and publishes the work of a denier of the genocide in Cambodia. But Superman? Really? Here’s the core of the piece:

Yet the internationalist vision was more deeply interwoven into our cultural fabric than we often realize. Superman and Captain America were superheroes of an odd sort: tremendously powerful beings whose primary struggle was often to follow the self-imposed rules and strictures that lent their power a moral legitimacy. Neither allowed themselves to kill, and both sought to work within the law. Given their strength, either could have sought world domination, and even if they didn’t, they could have been viewed with deep suspicion and even hatred by those who were convinced that they one day would seek world domination. It was only by following ostentatiously strict moral codes that they could legitimize their power and thus exist cooperatively with a world that had every right to fear them. Indeed, soon enough, both were forming communities of like-minded super beings (The Justice League for Superman, the Avengers for Captain America) and generally operating much like, well, the nation that birthed them. As Spiderman — a later hero who, like so many heroes, bought into the idea that rules and restraint separated the good guys from the bad guys — liked to say, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

That strain of foreign-policy thinking was largely abandoned in the rubble of the Twin Towers. As Yglesias puts it, “9/11 marked the beginning of an enormous psychological change on the part of the American people.” With a newfound sense of vulnerability, there was a newfound sense of fear. Restraint was a luxury, a nice ideal when we were primarily dealing with the problems of other people, but less desirable when our own lives were on the line. After 9-11, the country’s foreign-policy debate contracted, and liberal internationalists, who had always been better at pursuing their agenda than selling it politically, were largely left out. Instead, the conversation was dominated by those on the right who believed in unilateral U.S military hegemony over the world, and those on the left who believed in a superficially multilateral U.S military hegemony over the world, with the option to revert back to unilateralism if other countries proved disagreeable. It was Michael O’Hanlon versus Richard Perle, and few even seemed to find that strange.

This, too, saw its expression in a new type of hero: Jack Bauer. If Superman and Captain America were the emblems of the national mood directly after World War II, Bauer expressed the national anxieties uncovered by 9-11. Rather than an invincible superhero, Bauer was but a man, one who could perish like any other, and was aware of not only his own vulnerability, but that of his family, his government, and his country. Though there were laws he was supposed to follow, the enormity of the dangers he faced and the ruthlessness of the enemies he encountered led him to break them almost constantly, and so he tortured, killed, and generally let the ends lay claim to whatever means they could think of. Indeed, he did it so often, and with such abandon, that he’ll start Season 7 on trial for torture.

All very neat, indeed. But it has little to do with reality: America had been engaging in the kind of war-making putatively forbidden by the Superman model since well before the birth of DC and Marvel, and continued doing so in the years between Superman’s heyday and 9/11. Klein’s framework is cute–but very, very reductive.

When you attempt to force the paradigm of comic books onto something as inherently chaotic as global politics, your hopes of making sense are limited. And Klein’s essay doesn’t, in the end, cohere. But it does serve as a useful reminder of the intellectual vagaries of “the kind of whole bloggy progressive thing.” Serious people who want to engage in serious debate about foreign policy have no shortage of publications they can check out, offering any number of wildly conflicting views. Without, I might add, having recourse to infusions of inept popcult references.

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Michael Scheuer Watch #12: Expletive Deleted

I had predicted that as our hero’s ideas and associations became better known, he would be compelled to move from the mainstream media to the far-out margins. Yesterday, as evidence that this shift was under way, I linked to a Scheuer rant on a website called The Jingoist (now only available here), adjacent to all sorts of other rants like “Israel: Perpetual Criminal, Perpetual Liar” and one detailing French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s hidden ties to the Israel’s Mossad.

My imputation of Scheuer’s guilt by association –– and there is such a thing as such guilt, if not in a court of law than in the realm of public opinion –– has evidently struck a nerve. On his website anti-war.com, Justin Raimondo, a self-appointed flack for our hero, has offered a post in which he emphatically argues that Scheuer has not moved to the margins. Scheuer, he says, wrote his rant not for The Jingoist but for his own website, and The Jingoist simply purloined it without permission.

Connecting the Dots is interested in constructing an accurate picture of our hero. But uncertainties abound. I do not know where Scheuer’s work first appeared, and I am not ready to take his or his flack’s word for anything, or take sides in a fight between The Jingoist and anti-war.com. Members of the 9/11 Commission have called into question our hero’s integrity. And our hero has also yet to clear up allegations (leveled by me) that he has prevaricated about when and why he was awarded a medal by the CIA.

But putting aside all such questions, and putting aside the fact that The Jingoist bills itself as a “partner site” of anti-war.com, and assuming for the sake of discussion that Justin Raimondo is right and that anti-war.com was the original home of Scheuer’s ranting, would this daisy chain of assumptions lead us to conclude that Scheuer has not strayed to the fringes and remained in the mainstream?

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I had predicted that as our hero’s ideas and associations became better known, he would be compelled to move from the mainstream media to the far-out margins. Yesterday, as evidence that this shift was under way, I linked to a Scheuer rant on a website called The Jingoist (now only available here), adjacent to all sorts of other rants like “Israel: Perpetual Criminal, Perpetual Liar” and one detailing French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s hidden ties to the Israel’s Mossad.

My imputation of Scheuer’s guilt by association –– and there is such a thing as such guilt, if not in a court of law than in the realm of public opinion –– has evidently struck a nerve. On his website anti-war.com, Justin Raimondo, a self-appointed flack for our hero, has offered a post in which he emphatically argues that Scheuer has not moved to the margins. Scheuer, he says, wrote his rant not for The Jingoist but for his own website, and The Jingoist simply purloined it without permission.

Connecting the Dots is interested in constructing an accurate picture of our hero. But uncertainties abound. I do not know where Scheuer’s work first appeared, and I am not ready to take his or his flack’s word for anything, or take sides in a fight between The Jingoist and anti-war.com. Members of the 9/11 Commission have called into question our hero’s integrity. And our hero has also yet to clear up allegations (leveled by me) that he has prevaricated about when and why he was awarded a medal by the CIA.

But putting aside all such questions, and putting aside the fact that The Jingoist bills itself as a “partner site” of anti-war.com, and assuming for the sake of discussion that Justin Raimondo is right and that anti-war.com was the original home of Scheuer’s ranting, would this daisy chain of assumptions lead us to conclude that Scheuer has not strayed to the fringes and remained in the mainstream?

Readers can judge for themselves. For if The Jingoist is in Holocaust-denial territory, anti-war.com is not far behind. A good place to begin is the long series that anti-war.com has devoted to the many Israeli “art students” who in the run-up to September 11 came to our country ostensibly to sketch, draw, and paint, but were actually working deep under cover, spying on Americans.

Here is one entry by Justin Raimondo himself, entitled 9/11: What Did Israel Know –– And When Did They Tell Us?:

A secret government report (originating with the Drug Enforcement Agency) detailing the highly suspicious activities of these aspiring Israeli “artists” was . . . uncovered, and a series of stories appeared in the international media . . .

Those of us who identified the Israeli “art students” as part of a spy operation in the U.S. were absolutely correct, that the Israelis were not only conducting covert operations against U.S. government facilities but were also watching the hijackers very closely, and that some people will go to any lengths to avoid considering some very unpleasant and politically explosive possibilities . . .

Suffice to say here that the Israeli role in the events leading up to 9/11 is, at best, highly suspicious. Certainly the news that their agents were close neighbors of Mohammed Atta and an accomplice leads to some disturbing juxtapositions. Did the “art students” stand behind the terrorists in line at the local supermarket? Did they bump into each other in the street –– and what, pray tell, did these dedicated Al Qaeda cadre think of a group of Israelis living in such close proximity?

What happened to these art students? And how did they make their escape? Why did all the Jewish employees stay at home on the day that the Twin Towers were destroyed? Is anti-war.com fringe or mainstream? Connecting the Dots is eager to know.

Connecting the Dots also must briefly call attention to the language in which these would-be members of the mainstream media talk.

Yesterday, we saw Michael Scheuer write:

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.

In Raimondo’s post today, he asks:  “How dumb is Gabriel Schoenfeld?” and answers “Pretty damned dumb.” As his argument unfolds, he speaks of my “dumb-ass peroration” and labels me “a vicious nut-bar.” All this appears in a post entitled Gabriel Schoenfeld is an Ass-hat.

A reader of Connecting the Dots, who happens to have a Ph.D. in child psychology, has already sent me a query and a comment: “What is an ‘ass hat’? My son’s favorite insult these days is ‘poop nose,’ which is far more evocative. The rhetorical level here seems to hover somewhere between second and third grade.”

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

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Did Baudrillard Exist?

The papers report the death of a French philosopher called Jean Baudrillard. He is said to have written an entire book entitled The Gulf War Did Not Take Place. After the attack on the Twin Towers, he is supposed to have denied the reality of that, too. The horror of the victims in the collapsing towers, according to Baudrillard, “is inseparable from the horror of living in them.” It is claimed that this once-obscure teacher of high-school German was catapulted to fame by a Ph.D. thesis that analyzed consumerism as a form of pornography. His was the face that launched a thousand Ph.D.’s (not to mention such films as The Matrix). As one of the leading figures in “cultural theory,” he is rumored to have been greeted as a “messiah” by the New York art world when he appeared at the Whitney Museum in 1987. Though it was part of his legend to loathe all forms of culture, he was believed to share his apartment with 50 television sets and pictures of America, the “hyperpower” that embodied “hyperreality.”

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The papers report the death of a French philosopher called Jean Baudrillard. He is said to have written an entire book entitled The Gulf War Did Not Take Place. After the attack on the Twin Towers, he is supposed to have denied the reality of that, too. The horror of the victims in the collapsing towers, according to Baudrillard, “is inseparable from the horror of living in them.” It is claimed that this once-obscure teacher of high-school German was catapulted to fame by a Ph.D. thesis that analyzed consumerism as a form of pornography. His was the face that launched a thousand Ph.D.’s (not to mention such films as The Matrix). As one of the leading figures in “cultural theory,” he is rumored to have been greeted as a “messiah” by the New York art world when he appeared at the Whitney Museum in 1987. Though it was part of his legend to loathe all forms of culture, he was believed to share his apartment with 50 television sets and pictures of America, the “hyperpower” that embodied “hyperreality.”

How real, though, was this “Baudrillard,” and what reason do we have to believe that he actually existed outside the realm of “theory?” According to the reductio ad absurdum of structuralism, semiotics, postmodernism, and all the other ideological products of the intellectual fashion industry in Paris, even if “Baudrillard” had not existed it would have been necessary to invent him. The inevitable disappointment that followed the “events” of May 1968 required an explanation, and “Baudrillard” provided a suitably grand one: in the absence of total revolution, everything was a non-event, an illusion, a simulacrum. French intellectuals could continue to pretend that the world outside Paris did not count, and the rest of the world could continue to revere “Baudrillard” as a virtual philosopher—an emperor of the intellectuals who gloried in his intellectual nakedness.

The truth was, however, the reverse of the fairy tale: “Baudrillard” was a suit of clothes with no emperor inside—or rather, an academic gown with no professor inside. Since the 1960′s, Paris has ceased to be the seat of learning to which students of philosophy flocked since the days of Abelard and Heloïse. Instead, Paris has become an intellectual theme park—an academic Disneyland. “Baudrillard” was less real than Mickey Mouse. The philosopher of the hyperreal was himself mere hype.

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