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Thursday, 30 April 2009
Soldiers of Terror
Topic: Must Read


President Obama’s old pal Bill Ayers is a repulsive little toad, but we can be grateful for one thing. As a terrorist he was laughably incompetent.


Bill came to mind as I made my way through Baader-Meinhof: The Inside Story of the R.A.F. by Stefan Aust. And no, that’s not the Royal Air Force. It’s the Red Army Faction, the left-wing “urban guerrilla” group that terrorized West Germany from the late Sixties to the mid-Nineties. I remember them well from the news reports that flashed across the television screens back then. Unlike the feckless Weather Underground, these German terrorists became accomplished killers. Before the R.A.F. was finished, 34 people were dead at the hands of its members and probably three times that number had been injured more or less seriously.


But though the Rote Armee Fraktion (to give it its German name) was brutal, it was also banal. Reading Aust’s book, I was repeatedly struck by the intellectual coarseness and sterility of the R.A.F. Its members could scarcely open their mouths without coughing up great gobs of Marxist phlegm. Though they professed boundless love for “the masses,” Vietnamese peasants, etc., the R.A.F. cadres somehow lost the ability to regard people not merely as social types, but as as individuals. They were, it seems, quite sincere in their conviction that the German Federal Republic was a fascist state. R.A.F. terrorism was designed, indeed, to provoke the state into unmasking itself by responding with massive repression.


Once in prison (where, from an American perspective, they were treated with considerable forbearance) the leaders of the R.A.F. adopted the role of revolutionary martyrs—ludicrous in the circumstances. On the whole, these people—Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhof, Gudrun Ensslin and the rest—come across as thoroughly unpleasant narcissists. Among their weapons against the “fascist” state in whose custody they languished was the hunger strike. One of them, Holgar Meins, actually did manage to starve himself to death, thereby becoming a hero of the Revolution. (Needless to say, the weapon of the hunger strike had not been available to the victims of genuine fascism, e.g. the inmates of Nazi concentration camps.)


Dostoevsky would immediately have recognized the R.A.F. for what it was, for it was he who gave us one of the earliest portraits of destructive revolutionary nihilism, in The Devils. But to me, these terrorists’ worst fault was their humorlessness. This prevented them from appreciating an old joke that exposed the futility of their crusade: “In Germany there will never be a revolution, because in Germany revolutions are strictly forbidden.”


Stefan Aust, a journalist who knew Ulrike Meinhof and other R.A.F. principals, has written an riveting account of their bloody career. I recommend his book.

Posted by tmg110 at 9:00 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 13 August 2009 8:21 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 28 April 2009
How I Became a Reader
Topic: Must Read


Last week National Review Online featured an interesting discussion about required reading for high school students. Many good suggestions were made, but for my money the best comment came from that notorious iconoclast, John Derbyshire, who opined that most adolescents are neither willing nor able to tackle the Great Books. Here’s his comment in full. It got me to thinking about my own adolescent reading habits, and it wasn’t long before I realized that Derbyshire was quite right.

The stuff I read for pleasure when I was, say, 14-17 years old had only an occasional chance relationship to Literature as the intelligentsia would understand it. Plenty of Golden Age science fiction (my father was a fan)—Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, etc. Certain war novels—I was still in my teens when I read The Caine Mutiny, The Cruel Sea and Twelve O'Clock High. The Sherlock Holmes stories. Tales of horror and the supernatural. H.G. Wells, of course—The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, etc. But Shakespeare? Tolstoy? Dickens? Dostoevsky? Nah. To the extent that I could, I shirked all such reading assignments handed down by my teachers. I did read Nineteen Eighty-four when I was about 16, and as I recall it was the first book that intimated to me that literature might have a higher purpose than entertainment.

Years later I did get around to reading the big names. But I taught myself to be a reader among my father's stacks of paperback originals. I cherish the memory of that apprenticeship, and I suspect that if we let today's teenagers follow their literary inclinations, more true readers might, in the long run, be produced.

Posted by tmg110 at 9:01 AM EDT
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Progressives Embrace the Eichmann Defense
Topic: Liberal Fascism


The political comedy attendant on the Obama Administration’s incompetent handling of the “torture” issue has been highly entertaining. It’s always fun to watch one’s ideological opponents make themselves look like absolute asses. But the laughs distract attention from a somewhat more serious moral question to which my attention was drawn while watching Democratic Sen. Carl Levin being interviewed the other day on Fox News Sunday. Levin purported to be outraged that low-level individuals in the armed forces and the CIA might be targeted for prosecution for “torturing” captured Islamofascist terrorists. In his view, it’s the Bush Administration bigwigs who ought to be prosecuted for this alleged war crime.


But think about that for a moment. Sen. Levin is intimating that “I was only following orders” is a legitimate defense against prosecution for war crimes. This would be news to the many low-level Nazi functionaries who were charged with war crimes after the Second World War. According to the Levin standard, members of the SS Death’s Head Detachments who guarded the concentration camps,, members of the SS Special Action Groups who murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews in the Soviet Union, soldiers who committed atrocities against civilians, etc. ought to have been let off the hook. After all, they were only following orders. Indeed, such was the defense offered in many such cases. It didn’t save some these people from ending their lives at the end of a rope, though. And the general argument that following orders obviates guilt was firmly rejected by civilized opinion.


Sen. Levin’s faux pas illustrates the moral contradiction implicit in the position of those who would like to indict the Bush Administration for war crimes. Their unwillingness to follow their own reasoning to its logical conclusion betrays a glaring lack of good faith. For if what these critics say is true—if the enhanced interrogation techniques employed by the Bush Administration do constitute a war crime—then all who participated in such interrogations are guilty. They cannot sponge that guilt away by protesting that they were only following orders. That line of argument was discredited a long time ago, Sen. Levin, don’t you remember?


Naturally, Sen. Levin and company had not bothered to think this through. They were too intent on smearing the Bush Administration with bogus charges of torture and war crimes. Now they’re stuck with a surpassingly stupid argument that makes no moral sense whatever. I call that cosmic justice.

Posted by tmg110 at 8:38 AM EDT
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Monday, 27 April 2009
I Second the Motion

Yesterday on Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol suggested that if the Left really wants a full-scale public airing of President Bush's anti-terrorism policies, conservatives should give it to them. As is becoming more and more obvious, any such procedure with substantially vindicate the Bush Administration's approach. The only objection is, or would have been, that giving publicity to such sensitive matters would harm national security. But thanks to the Obama Administration, that train has already left the station. It's more important now to acquaint the public with the truth about "torture."

Writing in the Weekly Standard, Naomi Emory agrees. Bring on this debate.

Posted by tmg110 at 9:04 AM EDT
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Mr. Goss Begs to Differ
Topic: Decline of the West

Here's another piece of evidence to show that in its craven, two-faced handling of the "torture debate," the Obama Administration has managed a hat trick by compromising national security, creating a major political problem for itself, and looking pretty stupid. Writing on the op-ed page of the Washington Post, former CIA Director and GOP congressman Porter Goss had this to say about the Administration and Congressional Democrats:

Since leaving my post as CIA director almost three years ago, I have remained largely silent on the public stage. I am speaking out now because I feel our government has crossed the red line between properly protecting our national security and trying to gain partisan political advantage. We can't have a secret intelligence service if we keep giving away all the secrets. Americans have to decide now.

Goss goes on to explain, in effect, that members of Congress like Speaker Nancy Pelosi are, in effect, lying when they claim not that they didn't know what the CIA was doing to extract information from captured Islamofascist terrorists. It's a scathing denunciation from a man who knows what he's talking about. President Obama will rue the day he let this one get away from him.

Posted by tmg110 at 8:51 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 27 April 2009 9:20 AM EDT
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Thursday, 23 April 2009
The People versus Holder
Topic: Decline of the West

What I said here about the attitude of the American public toward the "torture" of Islamofascist terrorists is borne out by this poll from the Pew Research Center. Though titled "Public Remains Divided Over Use of Torture," what it actually shows is that just 25% of those polled believe that torture to extract information from terrorists is never justified. A full 49% believe that it is routinely or sometimes permissible, while a further 22% believe that it could be justified in rare instances.

What is striking about this poll is that it made no attempt to define "torture" for the benefit of those polled. I suspect that if the actual techniques used against the terrorists had been described to them (waterboarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation), an even larger percentage of those polled would have approved.

If Attorney general Holder seriously intends to prosecute for alleged torture during the Bush years, the result is sure to be a public-relations debacle for the Obama Administration. That part's OK with me—but the political persecution of patriotic Americans who were doing their best to defend this country from a savage enemy would be too high a price to pay for the pleasure of seeing the Messiah with egg on his face.

And let's be clear about it: Holder's patent desire to launch this witch hunt  smacks of Stalinist thuggery. Perhaps he aspires to be the Vyshinsky of the Obama Administration.

Posted by tmg110 at 6:51 PM EDT
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It's Shakespeare's Birthday
Topic: Must Read

"Oh, for a muse of fire that would ascend / The brightest heaven of invention!"

Many happy returns, Master Will!

Posted by tmg110 at 9:35 AM EDT
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Obama Should Stop Digging
Topic: Decline of the West

That's good advice when you find yourself in a dank and deepening hole. And as this op-ed piece by Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan in the Wall Street Journal demonstrates, the President finds himself in precisely that position as regards the Bush Administration's "torture" of Islamofascist terrorists.

 Hoekstra, who is the ranking Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, makes a suggestion that must surely strike fear in the hearts of his Democratic colleagues:

Members of Congress calling for an investigation of the enhanced interrogation program should remember that such an investigation can't be a selective review of information, or solely focus on the lawyers who wrote the memos, or the low-level employees who carried out this program. I have asked Mr. Blair to provide me with a list of the dates, locations and names of all members of Congress who attended briefings on enhanced interrogation techniques.

That's what is known in naval parlance as a shot across the bow. Mr. President, drop that shovel!

Posted by tmg110 at 9:05 AM EDT
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Another Hero of Progressivism
Topic: Liberal Fascism

I cannot let Earth Day 2009 pass into history without mentioning that one of the co-founders of that neopagan festival was one Ira Einhorn, also known as the Unicorn Killer. He loved the planet, but he murdered his girlfriend.

Clarification: In fairness it should be noted that other organizers of the original Earth Day (1970) have since described Einhorn as a peripheral figure who played only a small role in the event.

Posted by tmg110 at 8:34 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 23 April 2009 9:02 AM EDT
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The Downside of Sainthood
Topic: Decline of the West

Beware that warm fuzzy feeling of moral superiority! It's quite likely to get you in trouble.

Barack Obama has found that out. The Administration's holier-than-thou attitude toward the wicked Bush Administration's "torture regime" has stirred up a hornet's nest. Over at the CIA, they're half-convinced that Obama's numbskull attorney general, Eric Holder, plans to launch prosecutions against the interrogators who squeezed the shows of our Islamofascist enemies. Obama says no, no, what's past is past—but they don't believe him.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney told the country this that "enhanced interrogation" yielded information that was instrumental in preventing further terrorist attacks against the United States. Testifying before Congress, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dismissed Cheney's comments—but it turns out  that Obama's Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, agrees with the former Veep.

Then there's the undeniable fact that most Americans, if asked, would say that they don't particularly care what the CIA does to terrorists. Waterboarding? Hey, if it stops a terrorist attack, I'm for it. In fact, I doubt that the average Joe would object to actual torture in such circumstances. But of course, this inconvenient truth is carefully avoided in most all discussions of the Bush Administration's interrogation policies.

There's no upside here for Obama . If he ultimately decides to let sleeping dogs lie, his progressive allies will revile him. On the other hand, any move toward prosecution of interrogators or the government attorneys who put a legal stamp of approval on the Bush policies will produce a furious and damaging backlash. Particularly worrisome for congressional Democrats is the fact that they knew about the Bush policies all along. I'm quite sure that the last thing they desire is to be dragged into a public debate over who knew what, when, etc. and so forth. And all this in defense of the "human rights" of a bunch of blood-hungry Islamofascist terrorists who desire the total destruction of America! "Oh, Judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason."

Posted by tmg110 at 8:11 AM EDT
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