Global News: June 2004 Archives

There's an interesting juxtaposition just now on C-SPAN 1 and C-SPAN 2. On C-SPAN 2, there's Ralph Nader, looking and sounding like he just crawled out of bed (did he have a stroke recently?). He's peddling the Michael Moore / Democrat Party / International ANSWER / Islamofascist / moonbat line about the war in Iraq -- Bush is engaged in "Messianic Militarism", and the war was all about contracts and cheap oil for his evil corporate buddies.

Meanwhile, C-SPAN 1 has Rand Rahim, the representative of Iraq's interim government to the United States, speaking and taking questions at the American Enterprise Institute today. In response to a pointed and hostile question, Ms. Rahim said that the war to depose Saddam Hussein was a humanitarian necessity for Iraq and a necessity for the stability of the region and the world. Asked about the somewhat clandestine handover -- if that undermined the idea that a real transfer of sovereignty had occurred -- she pointed to the reality of the security situation and expressed pride that the US and the interim government had stolen a march on the terrorists. Asked if the war in Iraq had made Americans less safe, she said that Iraq has become terrorism's last stand, which is unfortunate for Iraq, but she believes that, in Iraq, terrorism will be defeated. She said that the terrorists are not a resistance against the coalition, they are against Iraq and Iraqis, a fact demonstrated by their actions against contractors who are not from coalition countries, and their threats against the transfer of sovereignty. She said that the interim government needs to communicate this fact effectively to the Iraqi people.

Ambassador Rahim's only criticism of the coalition's now-ended oversight is the focus on reconstruction efforts that were capital- and technology-intensive, and thus out of reach for Iraqi firms and workers. Wages have improved dramatically, but only for those who are employed. In order to make more Iraqis stakeholders in a rebuilt Iraq, there should be a focus on labor-intensive reconstruction efforts that can make use of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi businesses and workers. That made me think of the Civilian Conservation Corps, which provided a structured environment for young men who would otherwise have been at loose ends, helped them earn money (most of which was sent directly home to their families), and resulted in the construction of needed infrastructure as well as public amenities. The need is infrastructure and the available resource is unskilled labor. While some infrastructure needed to be rebuilt quickly, and thus needed the technology and capital that Western firms could bring to bear, much of the infrastructure could be rebuilt at a slower pace, using old fashioned techniques that take advantage of a large labor pool.

Seeing rumpled Ralph Nader reminded me of an "internal memo" in National Lampoon's fake letters column sometime in the late '70s. It said something like this: "The last Robert Hall store has died in captivity. For now, have Ralph Nader, et al., buy their suits at K-Mart." Robert Hall was a discount clothing store -- Tulsa had one on the southwest corner of the Traffic Circle at Admiral and Mingo. It apparently was also a shorthand way to say that someone wore cheap clothes. Nice to see that Ralph still disdains haute couture.

Sorry to use an unspeakably rude word in the header, but I need to get your attention.

You remember hearing about that group encouraging Christians to resettle in South Carolina, in order to reestablish "godly, constitutional government" in one state? Or the libertarian Free State Project, which aims to locate enough libertarians in New Hampshire to take over the political system there?

Well, an Islamofascist has come up with a similar idea for taking over a small European country and suicidal American leftists are swooning over this fellow. Charles Johnson's Little Green Footballs blog (the chronicle of Islamofascism's war against the west) has excerpts from a Salon puff-piece on Belgian Islamofascist Dyab Abou Jahjah. Here's the Salon article's subhead:

Dyab Abou Jahjah’s Arab European League calls for sharia law, celebrates 9/11 and warned Belgian Jews to break with Israel or else. Is he defending Muslims’ civil rights — or inciting hatred?

Well, duh.

Reagan in his own voice

| offers for download five and a half hours of Ronald Reagan's radio commentaries from the late '70s, with introductions from cabinet members and associates like George Shultz and Ed Meese. This is going on my wish list. (Amazon offers an abridged CD version.)

We had a lengthy dinner table conversation about Reagan's legacy with my seven year old son. The toughest part was explaining the background: communism, the Cold War, ICBMs, inflation, the energy crisis. Later, Joe let me read to him from Reagan's autobiography, which begins with a sketch of his 1985 first meeting with Gorbachev. We read that and the opening chapter, about his first seven years, moving around Illinois as his dad followed job opportunities. He mentions that the course of his own life would have been very different had he been hired by Montgomery Ward to run the sporting goods department in their new Dixon store. That closed door kept him free to pursue his dream of radio broadcasting, which in turn led to everything else.

I was raised to believe that God has a plan for everyone and that seemingly random twists of fate are all a part of His plan. My mother -- a small woman with auburn hair and a sense of optimism that ran as deep as the cosmos -- told me that everything in life happened for a purpose. She said all things were part of God's Plan, even the most disheartening setbacks, and in the end, everything worked out for the best. If something went wrong, she said, you didn't let it get you down: You stepped away from it, stepped over it, and moved on. Later on, she added, something good will happen and you'll find yourself thinking -- "If I hadn't had that problem back then, then this better thing that did happen wouldn't have happened to me."

Damning with faint praise


Charles Krauthammer writes that the liberal media are focusing on Reagan's sunny and optimistic personality as a way to trivialize his real accomplishments. But they miss the heart of the matter:

Optimism? Every other person on the No. 6 bus is an optimist. What distinguished Reagan was what he did and said. Reagan was optimistic about America amid the cynicism and general retreat of the post-Vietnam era because he believed unfashionably that America was both great and good -- and had been needlessly diminished by restrictive economic policies and timid foreign policies. Change the policies and America would be restored, both at home and abroad.

He was right.

Krauthammer reminds that, in his presidency, Reagan's optimism was interpreted by the media as a sign of dangerous simple-mindedness. Now it's being used as a way of praising this beloved leader without acknowledging that the man they derided has been vindicated by history.

Thanks to Hugh Hewitt for the link.

Funereal notes

  • One of the nice things about state events -- funerals, inaugurals, and such -- is that it's a rare opportunity for good music to get some public exposure. Choral music usually takes a back seat to orchestral works and opera. It was a treat to hear choirs at the Capitol, at the National Cathedral, and at the Reagan Library. Peter Wilhousky's arrangement of the Battle Hymn of the Republic is a favorite. William Harris's "Faire is the Heaven", which preceded the entry of the casket into the Cathedral, was a perfect fit for the occasion. And there's something thrilling about hymns and baroque music played by a brass ensemble.

  • It's also a treat to watch the replay of the services on C-SPAN, without commentary. I listened to the Cathedral service on the radio while at work, and found myself switching back and forth between KFAQ, KRMG, and KWGS trying to find the station with the least amount of annoying chatter. Brian Gann did a fine job of describing without being obtrusive as KFAQ simulcast the audio from Fox News Channel, but when they switched to Fox News Radio, we had to listen to John Gibson speak in all the wrong places. Announcers please note: Hymns and anthems are not bumper music or filler. They are an integral part of the service. Likewise, the liturgy is not fluff. You can wait until former Senator John Danforth is done with the opening words of the service ("I am the resurrection and the life") to tell us that John Danforth is speaking. American broadcasters could learn a few things from the way the BBC covers these sorts of events.

  • John Derbyshire, on NRO's The Corner: "It was, as the English say, a lovely funeral. The British, in fact, used to boast that they did this kind of thing -- pomp and circumstance -- better than anyone. I don't see how that boast can any longer be maintained. This was done as well as it possibly could have been." But I think that the pomp and circumstance was a reflection of President Reagan and in accordance with his wishes, as he understood the importance of tradition and the place of formality and manners. Recall his first inaugural, when the dress code was not business suits but morning dress. (And many of us learned for the first time that black tie is not appropriate for formal events in midday.) Insisting on the full pomp and circumstance of tradition for his inaugurations, rather than trying to remake the ceremony in his image, was not an act of egotism but an act of respect for the nation and the institution of the presidency.

  • Along the same lines: A reader's e-mail to The Corner: "So I'm sitting in my home office, lump in throat, tears on cheeks. Watching the precision of the honor guard and the unbelievable reverence and beauty of the moment. And it dawns on me: he's done it again. He has an entire nation realizing again how beautiful this country is. Its people. It's respect for things great. Tradition. Class. There could not have been a departing gift so powerful. His first lesson to me in 1980, when I was 10. His last, today."

  • The most often played soundbite from President Bush Sr's eulogy was the moment where he says, his voiced choked, "As his vice president for eight years, I learned more from Ronald Reagan than from anyone I encountered in all my years of public life." But I think it was the words immediately preceding that got him choked up, because they choked me up too:

    And to the Reagan kids -- it's OK for me to say that at 80 -- Michael, Ron, Patti, today all of our sympathy, all of our condolences to you and remember, too, your sister Maureen home safe now with her father.

    That heaven is a place where we are in the immediate presence of God ought to be overwhelming enough, but the thought of heaven as home, where we are reunited to those who passed on before us, touches something deep. And I wonder if President Bush's thoughts turned just then, as mine did, to the little one who's been waiting for him there for fifty years.

Reagan's economic record


Much of the focus of the last week has been on Ronald Reagan's role in the demise of Soviet Communism, but his economic achievements are just as impressive. If you're my age or older, you remember the '70s when double-digit inflation and double-digit mortgage rates seemed to be a fact of life, when gas prices skyrocketed, and it seemed like things would only get worse. Now we take the absence of inflation and low interest rates for granted, and gas prices are well below their 1970s levels in constant dollars.

Critics of Reagan's record charged that the gap between rich and poor grew, that the jobs created were low-paying, that the tax cuts helped only the very wealthy, that homelessness became epidemic because of his policies, and that the Reagan years were a decade of greed and neglect.

National Review Online now features the contents of its 1992 special issue, "The Real Reagan Record", which answers those charges. The articles are chock-full of numbers, graphs, and analysis from economists. Well worth revisiting.

Maybe I should have titled this "a cult gathering to worship the career of 6-6-6", which was the heading to one of two negative replies I received to my notice of the gathering at Paddy's to toast the life and work of Ronald Reagan. We partook of the cultic food (jelly beans), and passed around graven images of our departed leader. The big tables in the back of Paddy's would have been large enough for sacrificing a liberal in memory of Ronaldus Magnus, but it would have been out of keeping with the spirit of the event.

About 30 folks showed up. I was sick abed most of the day but managed to recover sufficiently to attend, and anyway I figured Guinness and camraderie would complete the recovery.

A couple of people present actually met the president and more than just once. Architect Joe Coleman was a delegate to the 1976 and 1980 Republican national conventions, and he brought along some wonderful pictures -- one of him with President and Mrs. Reagan, and several from the time he escorted Nancy around Tulsa during a campaign visit.

Former County Clerk Joan Hastings brought some photos of her with President Reagan. She told about a fundraiser held at the Fairgrounds, where the organizers severely underestimated the number of tickets that would be sold. It was $100 a plate for a box of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Joan's solution was to send a runner out to McDonald's and come back with 100 Big Mac certificates, which Reagan signed. Naturally, people were happier to have Reagan's autograph than chicken, mashed potatoes and a spork to eat them with. One gentleman (Joan mentioned the name, but I can't remember who) went away emptyhanded, but later received a handwritten note: "Good for one Big Mac. Ronald Reagan."

Ron Barr called our attention to a remarkable aspect of Reagan's effort to defeat the Soviet Union -- hurting the USSR's source of hard currency by working with Saudi Arabia to drop the price of oil and sabotaging the Soviets' ability to deliver fossil fuels by selling them and allowing them to steal flawed technology. He mentioned two books by Peter Schweizer: Reagan's War: The Epic Story of His Forty Year Struggle and Final Triumph Over Communism and Victory: The Reagan Administration's Secret Strategy That Hastened the Collapse of the Soviet Union.

State Rep. Pam Peterson told us of a wonderful surprise she received earlier this year. An ORU student at the time, she was part of a crowd of students that met Ronald Reagan in 1976, when he came to Tulsa to campaign for Jim Inhofe. (Inhofe was running for Congress that year.) She had no idea that a picture existed of that moment when she was getting Reagan's autograph. But Tony Lauinger, head of Oklahomans for Life, was there too, that day in 1976, not far away, and someone had snapped a black-and-white photo of the scene, probably for the school newspaper or yearbook. Earlier this year Tony thought he recognized her in the photo and gave her a copy of it. Pam didn't have a copy with her Thursday night, but she's got a copy framed on the wall of her House office.

The rest of us present never had that brush with greatness, but all had been inspired by Reagan's courage to stand for the truth. In the mid '70s, conservatism was homeless in American politics. Conservatives felt their concerns were being ignored. No one was calling for the rollback of communism, and even containment was a thing of the past; instead the USSR's expansionism was a fact of life we'd just have to accommodate. No one was calling for shrinking the federal government or reducing the tax burden, and no leader expressed a realistic hope for ending our economic doldrums. Both parties supported abortion, and driving religion out of the public square, and the decline of the traditional family was seen as unavoidable. Neither of the national parties held out hope for significant improvement.

That's why Ronald Reagan was such a breath of fresh air. For a younger generation, it was the radio commentaries that first brought Ronald Reagan to our attention. Someone was affirming our understanding of the world, validating our hopes, and assuring us that our hopes weren't impossible. That someone was capable of carrying those hopes to the White House and leading us in making them a reality. That revival of hope was even more profound for those behind the Iron Curtain, when Reagan's clear rhetoric cut through the usual diplomatic blarney. I'll close with this tribute from Natan Sharansky in the Jerusalem Post:

In 1983, I was confined to an eight-by-ten-foot prison cell on the border of Siberia. My Soviet jailers gave me the privilege of reading the latest copy of Pravda. Splashed across the front page was a condemnation of President Ronald Reagan for having the temerity to call the Soviet Union an "evil empire." Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan's "provocation" quickly spread throughout the prison. We dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth – a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us.

At the time, I never imagined that three years later, I would be in the White House telling this story to the president. When he summoned some of his staff to hear what I had said, I understood that there had been much criticism of Reagan's decision to cast the struggle between the superpowers as a battle between good and evil. Well, Reagan was right and his critics were wrong.

Moral compass


In response to the previous entry, Steve Carr sent in this eloquent tribute:

Ronald W. Reagan was indeed a good man and a heroic figure in times when the United States of America had begun to question where it was going - he was truly a moral compass for us and the world in the manner in which he led, and more importantly, in the manner in which he lived. He treated everyone as if they were his best next door neighbor. We in Tulsa would do well to live that and treat all Tulsans as our neighbor and to continue building our shining city.

This excerpt from negotiations at the 1986 Reagan-Gorbachev summit is on CNN's website for its "Cold War" miniseries. I got a smile out of it.

Secretary General Gorbachev: We are for parity in general. In the information field, for example, or in film. Almost half of the movies showing in our theaters are American. Soviet movies are hardly ever shown in the United States. That is not parity.

President Reagan: We do not have any ban on your movies. The film industry is a free business, and if someone wants to show your films he can do it.

Secretary General Gorbachev: I see that the President avoids this question and goes into talk about business.

President Reagan: Our government cannot control the film market. If you want to inundate us with your movies go right ahead. How our movies get to your country, I do not know.

Secretary General Gorbachev: It is an interesting situation, simply a paradox. In your country, the most democratic country, obstacles arise to showing our movies, while in our country, a totalitarian country, almost half the movies being shown are American. How can you reconcile this, that the Soviet Union is an undemocratic country but your films are being shown?

President Reagan: There is a difference between free enterprise and government ownership. You have no free enterprise, everything belongs to the government and the government puts everything on the market. In the United States we have private industry, and other countries have the right to sell their goods, movies and so on. You have the right to set up a rental organization in our country to distribute your movies, or to lease some theater. But we cannot order it.

Three giants


Recently, John Derbyshire called us to look back 25 years, to 1979. He recounted the seismic shifts of that year, including John Paul II's visit to Poland, Margaret Thatcher's election as Prime Minister of Britain, and Reagan's announcement in November that he would seek the presidency.

The miserable shuffling retreat had been stopped. Western civilization had turned to face its enemies, both those inside the walls and those without. The war that then commenced is not yet over. Perhaps it never will be; but it was in 1979 that we got our nerve back, picked up our discarded weapons again, and resolved to fight. This was the year it all changed, the year the ice cracked.

How amazing that God would bring those three leaders to power in three successive years. All three of them survived (were preserved through) assassination attempts. All three of them were ridiculed as throwbacks, out of step with modern realities. Each of them worked to push back the forces of totalitarianism threatening the West from without and the forces of despair, relativism, and moral collapse that were eroding the vitality of Western culture from within.

Now one of these three giants has laid down his earthly burdens and entered in the glorious presence of his Lord. The other two are no doubt soon to follow, frail and afflicted as they are. It's a good time, 25 years after that momentous year, to reflect on how different the world is today because of their strength and determination.

It must have been on the minds of a lot of folks this Sunday morning. It was certainly on my mind. There are so many reasons to be thankful to God for the life and work of Ronald Reagan. Here's one that came to mind Saturday night, and filling in as worship leader this morning, I wanted to share it with the congregation, but in a way that didn't detract from the purpose of our gathering together, which is to glorify and worship God, not to glorify man.

During announcements at the beginning of the service, I called attention to the list on the back of the bulletin of the missionaries our church supports. Notice how many times you see Ukraine in the list. Twenty years ago, the idea of Christian missionaries openly preaching the gospel and planting churches in any part of the USSR would have been unthinkable. But, in His providence, God raised up a leader who called evil by its real name and worked to defeat it. And because of that, hundreds of millions of people are free to hear and respond to the good news of Jesus Christ. God willing that will happen again, and the door will open for a billion more souls. We ought to give thanks to God for bringing this to pass.

I didn't mention his name; for those who were old enough to remember, I didn't need to.

Ronald Reagan, RIP


President Ronald Reagan, the man of faith who led this country out of malaise and into prosperity and secured victory in the Cold War, passed away a couple of hours ago at his home in California, surrounded by his family.

Tributes are pouring in all over the web. Visit National Review's The Corner, Kevin McCullough's blog, the Town Hall C-Log, and the Heritage Foundation's tribute site for remembrances. I'll have more later.

What's up with Chalabi?


You may have been puzzled as I was about the raid on the home of Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, on friendly terms with the US, and once seen as a prime candidate to lead the new Iraq. Chalabi has been accused of involvement with Iranian intelligence, and his apparent fall from grace is being applauded loudly by anti-war voices on both the left and the right. These same voices are claiming that the Bush administration and the "neocons" in the Defense Department (that's code -- what they seem to mean but won't say out loud is "the Jews who are subverting American interests for Israel's interests") were duped by Chalabi, who used bad intelligence to persuade America to go to war with Saddam, to the ultimate benefit of the regime in Iran.

On closer examination, these events in Iraq, and the corresponding debates among American talking heads, appear to be mere proxies for power struggles back in Washington. William Safire wrote last week:

The three factions controlling Iraq - long suspicious of one another - are now on the brink of open tribal warfare. Not Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds - I mean the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA.

Reporter Joel Mowbray, who has kept a close eye on the State Department's game of footsie with uncooperative Arab regimes, writes that the State Department's careerists opposed the war and want to see the President fall from power -- discrediting Chalabi helps the overall goal of discrediting the war. Meanwhile, the CIA was embarassed by Chalabi a few years back.

Chalabi, you see, has been hated by State and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), for different reasons, for years.

State’s diplomats have long resented the Iraqi’s promotion of a war against Saddam that none of them wanted. And Chalabi’s push for a strong, secular democracy in the heart of the Arab world would threaten the most cherished of all State Department objectives: stability.

Although the CIA largely shares State’s worldview, its contempt for Chalabi is personal. In the mid-1990’s, the CIA organized a ham-handed coup attempt against Saddam. Chalabi warned them it wouldn’t work. He was right—and said so publicly. The CIA fumed. Bad blood has existed ever since.

In striking Chalabi, State and CIA are not simply attacking him, but his allies inside the administration, the decision to go to war in the first place, and most significantly, President Bush himself.

And that’s not unintentional.

Mowbray goes on to illustrate how career bureaucrats at State are working to undermine the President's foreign policy objectives:

When international watchdog groups say our troops are "degrading" or "humiliating" prisoners in Iraq, it's natural to assume they are referring to behavior like that uncovered at Abu Ghraib prison. But is that assumption correct?

Samizdata features an enlightening letter from Gabriel Syme, writing from Basra, Iraq, about Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross, in their function as watchdogs over the treatment of prisoners.

He praises the concept of independent civilian organizations keeping an eye on the military as a brake on social pressures within the military, pressures that unchecked could lead to abuses. These private organizations serve as a backup in the event that the military's internal checks fail. He suggests that this is an example of the robustness of the Anglosphere's institutions. "In this context, one could think of Amnesty International checks as a sort of moral separation of powers."

But he goes on to say that AI and the ICRC have "completely lost perspective" in their reporting on prison abuses, which will ultimately undermine their moral authority and thus their effectiveness in performing their vital role. Syme cites this example:

As an anecdotal example that [I] know of from a man working on the reports AI compile on us: They complained that Iraqis in Umm Qasr (British/US administered detention facility in the South) where being degraded because their food was handed out in plastic bags rather than delivered on some kind of trolley or plate. The Iraqis were not bothered, the food was perfectly good, but this was thought to be "degrading". This is an important point - when one of these reports comes out and accuses anyone of "degrading" or "humiliating" behaviour, etc, it is essential to dig deeper and see exactly what they mean.

Syme goes on to analyze how this loss of perspective has come about. The groups seem to apply skepticism only to statements by military personnel, not to claims from Iraqis, even though there are powerful incentives (including financial) and no penalties for claiming to be a victim of abuse.

Go read it all, and browse through the latest offerings on Samizdata.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Global News category from June 2004.

Global News: December 2003 is the previous archive.

Global News: July 2004 is the next archive.

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