Speaking lies to power 1

… in perfect safety.

Salman Rushdie does it. As author of The Satanic Verses, which set Muslim mobs raging in the streets of Muslim lands, including those of western Europe, he had to be defended by British conservatives and patriots, because free speech has always to be defended. Many did it only reluctantly, since they didn’t share his leftist political views, or didn’t like his books, or both. But they did it.

Yet Rushdie – an immigrant from Pakistan – had before then judged Britain to be a severely intolerant, “racist” country, though, he conceded, the state of affairs was “not yet” like the Third Reich:

Britain is not Nazi Germany. …  Auschwitz has not been rebuilt in the Home Counties. I find it odd, however, that those who use such absences as defences rarely perceive that their own statements indicate how serious things have become. If the defence for Britain is that mass extermination of racially impure persons has not yet begun, or that the principle of white supremacy has not yet been enshrined in the constitution, then something must have gone very wrong indeed.

When Salman Rushdie said this in 1982 in a BBC radio talk, he was as free as any man in Britain. Some years later, in 1989, he did indeed become the victim of intolerance, not British but Islamic, when the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa was issued in Iran condemning him to death for having written The Satanic Verses. From that moment on, the British authorities, at the expense of the tax-payers, provided Mr Rushdie as a matter of course with constant protection. He then got to know some members of the police force better than he had known any when, in that broadcast speech of his, he had said that the British police “offer threats instead of protection”; yet when he published the speech in a book of essays in 1991, he did not qualify the accusation – or any of his criticisms – by so much as a footnote.

That was all a long time ago. Has he grown any more just, any more perceptive of the truth, as he’s grown older?

The answer seems to be – not much.

Ron Radosh writes at PJ Media:

Leave it to Salman Rushdie to bring back the Left’s favorite stratagem: moral equivalence. During the Cold War, leftists used to say the following: “Sure, the Soviets are doing bad things, but so is the United States.” Those a bit more to the left would advance the argument, and say: “The Soviets do terrible things, but the U.S. is responsible, since its leaders view them, as Reagan did, as ‘the evil empire.’ Since we won’t accommodate their just demands, they have to respond to us with hostility.” Those even further to the left would push the analogy even further, arguing: “The Soviets may do some bad things, but at least they stand on the side of progressive change. The U.S., on the other hand, oppresses Third World peoples and supports right-wing reactionary regimes all over the world.”

A good example of the old moral equivalence was to equate the Gulag in the Soviet Union, in which hundreds of thousands were imprisoned, starved to death and executed in massive frame-ups, with McCarthyism in the United States. During the so-called McCarthy era, relatively few were imprisoned or lost their livelihoods, and many actually guilty of being actual Soviet agents portrayed themselves as innocents accused because of their political views. Yet the Left in America argued both were the same.

Now Salman Rushdie has a lot to be wary of. After the Iranian revolution, the late Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa along with a reward for anyone who murdered him. Because of his novel The Satanic Verses, Rushdie had to go into hiding in different safe houses for a number of years, while under the protection of the British government. Intellectuals and writers in the West rallied to his defense. Eventually, Rushdie came into the open, moved to the United States, and became a favorite in the celebrity world, as well as a best-selling novelist.

In his New York Times op-ed last week, Rushdie complained that … those who stand against abuses of power or dogma are viewed suspiciously.

But where? He gives examples from China, Russia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia – states not noted for tolerance.

Ron Radosh goes on:

His examples are correct, and telling.  … .

But then, Rushdie writes the following, and it deserves letting you see his own words, because they are so preposterous:

“America isn’t immune from this trend. The young activists of the Occupy movement have been much maligned (though, after their highly effective relief work in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, those criticisms have become a little muted). Out-of-step intellectuals like Noam Chomsky and the deceased Edward Said have often been dismissed as crazy extremists, “anti-American,” and in Mr. Said’s case even, absurdly, as apologists for Palestinian “terrorism.” (One may disagree with Mr. Chomsky’s critiques of America but it ought still to be possible to recognize the courage it takes to stand up and bellow them into the face of American power. One may not be pro-Palestinian, but one should be able to see that Mr. Said stood up against Yasser Arafat as eloquently as he criticized the United States.)”

Let us take up his two major points. Occupy Wall Street protestors were handled by the authorities with kid gloves. When they took over the park in New York City over a year ago, although it was privately owned, they were allowed to camp out, disrupt and close down local businesses, and engage in anti-social and horrendous behavior — from public defecation to rape of women — without consequences. Rushdie mentioned Occupy for one reason alone: to show his heart is on the Left so that he can get his comrades in that camp to listen to him about how Islamists persecute those they disdain.

It is his second point that is most ridiculous.

Rushdie acknowledges that Chomsky is “a crazy extremist”. But, Ron Radosh rightly says -

Chomsky does not have to show much courage to take on all U.S. administrations and to oppose them as oppressors and imperialists.

Or any at all.

Indeed, he has become an international intellectual superstar, applauded and heralded by the Left at home and all of our enemies abroad, who shower him with high lecture fees and give him a gigantic audience abroad and at home. He is continually on the lecture circuit, has the support of both student audiences and assorted Hollywood and music world celebrities, and writes best-selling books, for which he has no problem finding a publisher. Bellowing “into the face of American power” is hardly an offense that has landed him even in any white-collar prison, not to speak of a Gulag or Gitmo.

As for the late Edward Said, his critique of “Orientalism” became the favored paradigm to explain U.S. policy in the Middle East, and influenced scores of leftist professors of Middle Eastern politics. As for his supposed standing up to the late Yasser Arafat, anyone who recalls what Said’s complaint about Arafat really was will remember that he was angry that Arafat appeared to play the game of engaging in negotiation with his enemies, rather than reject such posturing and commit himself exclusively to armed struggle against Palestine’s supposed oppressors. His former friend Christopher Hitchens pointed out in his own memoir that Said’s “low point was an almost uncritical profile of Yasser Arafat that he contributed to Interview magazine in the late 1980s”.

One might also recall Said’s trip to the West Bank during the first intifada, when he and his young son joined the mob in throwing rocks at Israelis, something of which he was quite proud. To Said, any action taken by Palestinians, no matter how violent, was “resistance.” Again, Hitch well summed up what Said believed, which was that “if the United States was doing something, then that thing could not by definition be a moral or ethical action.” And that is why Said eventually rejected Arafat. He thought that the PLO leader was heeding the agenda of the U.S., by his very action of negotiating with its leaders.

To equate those who are truly courageous — like the brave Chinese dissidents who risk their lives to speak up for democracy, or critics of radical Islam who speak up knowing what their future is likely to be if they live under the rule of Islamic regimes — with critics of U.S. policy who live in our democratic republic is more than preposterous. It is the opposite of moral courage. A man of words and letters, Salman Rushdie should by this time be able to know the difference.

Post mortem 12

November 6, 2012, the day on which Barack Obama was re-elected to the presidency of the United States, was a moment when the history of America was decisively changed. Some – and we are among them – think that the old America, the America founded in 1776, died on that day.

We have selected passages from several post mortems (see the whole articles).

Dr. Ileana Johnson Paugh, who has lived under a communist regime, writes a lament:

Our Constitutional Republic died a peaceful death on November 6, 2012. Having reached the point of no return in a comatose state after years of progressive and illegal immigration assaults, the fabric of conservative society is now completely unraveled and Uncle Sam’s America is no more.The United States of America is now relegated to the dust bin of history as a “has been” empire. The Shining City on the Hill, the hope of so many millions since July 4, 1776, no longer exists. What rises from the ashes is a country that few of us will recognize, like, or learn to accept submissively. After 236 years of existence, a new country emerges today … The Supreme Court will be forever altered after its last conservative members will be replaced by the liberal academics who call themselves “progressives.” The rule of law will be implemented by Executive Orders, making Congress irrelevant. The communist motto “Forward” that resonated with so many ignorant Americans will plunge us into many years of darkness from which we will never be able to recover. We have proven our Founding Fathers right, they did give us a Constitutional Republic and we were unable to maintain it. … The welfare dependent Americans, unions, and illegal aliens have chosen for the rest of us the dark path of serfdom to big government and to socialist utopia. … Rallies in support of conservatism overwhelmed venues for Mitt Romney while rallies for our bumbling President became scarcer and scarcer. Yet, miraculously, at the ballot box, our President won all over the countrt. … Americans chose high unemployment, reduction of our military, communist indoctrination of their children, and loss of personal freedoms … I am saddened by the loss of millions and millions of American soldiers who have died to preserve freedom yet we lost it on November 6, 2012.

Ron Radosh gives some advice. He writes:

The president will argue that the nation has given him a mandate and endorsed the policies he sought to pursue, and that he will do all he can to move the United States to the “fundamental transformation” he said was his goal in the 2008 election campaign. That means the opposite of any attempt for serious compromise, and a hunkering down to try to move ahead with ObamaCare and other politically leftist programs. …  So what should conservatives do? … Those opposed to the direction Obama favors should provide serious and meaningful alternatives of their own, and present them to the nation. They should do everything possible to reveal to the nation that it is the White House, and not the defeated Republicans, that is failing to deal with the coming crisis of a growing entitlement state.  In foreign policy, which is the most dangerous of the coming crises that will face the Obama administration, conservatives should relentlessly forge ahead on issues like the failure of the White House in the murders of our diplomats at Benghazi, which candidate Romney foolishly failed to deal with in the last days of the campaign … It also means a continuing effort to raise the issue of the danger to the world of the growing radical Islamic movements abroad, to attack their ideology, and to make it clear that although Bin Laden is dead, his death did not put an end to a regrouped al-Qaeda.

J. Christian Adams sounds a note of optimism, looking to the individual states to preserve liberty. He  writes:

The Founders gave us a Constitutional architecture which was designed to delay the arrival of demagogues. And make no mistake about it, Obama is a demagogue. He has totalitarian tendencies which manifest over and over and over again. Whether attacking religious liberty, or secured Chrysler bondholders, this man comes from a worldview distinctly un-American. Thankfully the Constitution still is operative. Some of the liberties the Founders secured are still ours to treasure. The press remains free. We can still assemble. And I suspect after tonight, gun ownership will substantially increase. But another part of our Constitutional architecture provides solace tonight – the 10th Amendment. Sure, we’ve heard the 10th thrown about for years. But tonight it ripened. Whatever powers aren’t given to the federal government, it doesn’t have. And the states are empowered to push back against federal power. It’s funny how those wise architects 200 years ago anticipated things we couldn’t anticipate just a decade ago. It is providential that the document contains seeds that sprout over time. The 10th Amendment does not lend itself to the sort of corrupt interpretation that the Commerce Clause does. States retain power, period. …

Bryan Preston writes in a spirit of mea culpa but let’s-now-do-it-right encouragement:

We can blame the candidate, sure. Romney didn’t fully capitalize on his first-debate win, and apparently the Chris Christie/Barack Obama lovefest turned a lot of votes back to the president, too. But overall, Romney ran almost as competent a challenger’s campaign as I’ve seen. We can blame the press, sure. Benghazi alone would have sunk most presidents — most Republican presidents — in weeks if not days. The coverup by the Complicit Media was shameful in the extreme. But we’ve faced down the MSM before, and won. So, no, I don’t think we can just blame Romney and I don’t think we can just blame the press. Even combined, those two aren’t enough to explain what happened today. There is something deeply wrong with our country. We’ve been living on borrowed time — and trillions of borrowed dollars — for a decade already. We seem to think that we can keep on doing so. That more than anything else is “the new normal.” Thomas Jefferson famously said of the slavery issue, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” I tremble for my country when I think that the God of Compound Interestis a far more jealous God than Jahweh, Allah, and Zuul all wrapped up into a single, bloody package. Maybe that truth — the truth — doesn’t sell in a country that’s been suffering for four years now, and with no real end in sight. This election should have been something like a walkover for the challenger. But no. Our economic destiny is already written in stone, with four trillion in new debt run up by Bush and the GOP, and another six trillion by Obama and the Democrats. Our only hope is rapid and wrenching reform. The alternative is hyperinflation, Cloward-Piven [forcing the break-down of the system and then establishing communism], and all the rest of the Zimbabwe-like horror. And that means Mitt Romney didn’t fail us. That means people like me — people like you — failed our country. We had years to make the case, and we didn’t. We worked our bottoms off, but it wasn’t enough. So we must redouble our efforts. … Do not tire, do not flag, do not quit. … We will need to fight [Obama] at every turn. I’m not quitting. Don’t you quit now, either.

We won’t be quitting.

The worst is yet to be, and for as long as we have the freedom to say what we think, we – and all our readers, we trust and hope – will continue to do so.

And, on further thought, do so even after that freedom is denied us, because then it will be even more necessary. That’s our pledge.

Can Islam be reformed? 8

The term “Islamist” is an invention by non-Muslims who want to differentiate between what they insist is the ”the vast majority of peace-loving law-abiding Muslims” from the “radicals”, or “extremists”, or “Islamofascists” for whom they think “Islamist” is a politer word. Islamists are, in the eyes of the well-meaning tolerant non-Muslims who coined the term, a minority with whom the vast majority of “moderate” Muslims do not agree and of whom they do not approve. Even though few of them actually express disapproval, the well-meaning, respectful, tolerant non-Muslims assume it to be strongly felt, and wish the wider public would believe and appreciate this.

For convenience, let’s call the well-meaning, respectful, tolerant non-Muslims who advance this view the Defense. The Defense hopes to persuade non-Muslim public opinion that the law and values of Islam are compatible with the laws and values of what is generally called the West.

The question then arises, what do “moderate” Muslims believe that is different from what the Islamists believe? For both moderates and Islamists the Koran is the holy word of Allah. The holy word of Allah cannot be changed. So what does the Defense say to that? It is, the Defense argues, a matter of interpretation. (For a thoughtful and wide-ranging discussion of this idea in connection with the Ground Zero mosque dispute, see an article by Ron Radosh at PajamasMedia. We usually find much to agree with in his writing, but in this article we find much to criticize. Rather than do so, because we think a point-by-point exegesis would be boring for us and our readers, we’ve chosen to make our own statement on the issue.)

What interpretation can be put on commandments to beat wives (sura 4.32), amputate limbs (eg sura 5.38), treat women unequally (eg sura 4.11), kill apostates (eg 4.89) – to take just a few instances of Allah’s writ? They are laid down in the Koran, from which Sharia derives. It is hard to read them and think of an interpretation that cancels, contradicts, or even merely softens their meaning. Even by the most liberal definitions imaginable by the most elastic of legal minds – one that could find, for instance, gradations of meaning in the word “is” – the words of the commandments cannot be made to mean their opposites. But some have tried to make them less apodictic, and the Defense depends on the possibility.

The Defense maintains that if the Koran is interpreted as meaning in many essential instances something different from what it says, it can be made compatible with American Constitutional Law. But wouldn’t that require deeply radical change, even complete reversal? And if such a radical change were to be made (by whom?), how, or to what extent, would it still be Sharia? Wouldn’t such a profound alteration mean, in effect, the obliteration of Islam?  And if so, how likely is it that it will be accepted by (at least a large enough part of) Islam?

One point often made by the Defense that needs to be answered: The Bible also orders cruel punishments, including, for instance, stoning adulterers. True, but there is no country on earth that declares Biblical law to be its constitution, or makes the commandments of Jehovah, or God the Father, or Jesus Christ, the law of the land, even though some laws agree with some of the ten commandments. Israel decidedly rejected the idea of basing its state laws on Jewish religious law (though for political expediency governments have made some concessions to the religious political parties, causing more nuisance than oppression – such as that marriage must be by religious rite).

But every state in which Islam is the religion of the majority – even including Iraq when it was ruled by the ostensibly secular socialist Ba’athists – has Sharia as the basis of its law. Turkey was an exception that is now changing under an Islamist government to conform with the rest.

Islam wants the world to be Muslim. It declares that every Muslim must help achieve its goal. It prescribes violence as the chief if not exclusive means. Clearly by this alone Islam has set itself up as the enemy of all non-Muslims. In pursuit of its supreme goal and in obedience to the word of Allah, millions of Muslims, including the 19 who perpetrated the crimes of 9/11 in the name of Islam, have dedicated themselves to waging war on the rest of the world, and more will do so in the years to come.

They need to be stopped; by peaceful means if possible, by force whenever necessary. If “reinterpretation” of Islam’s holy writ is a way that can work peacefully, it should be pursued. But can it be done? Our answer is – almost certainly not.