George A. Sprecace M.D.,
J.D., F.A.C.P. and Allergy Associates of New
RESPONSE (Archives)...Daily Commentary on News of the Day
This is a new section. It will
quick reactions by myself to news and events of the day, day by day, in
this rapid-fire world of ours. Of course, as in military
a rapid response in one direction may occasionally have to be followed
by a "strategic withdrawal" in another direction. Charge that to
"the fog of war", and to the necessary flexibility any mental or
campaign must maintain to be effective. But the mission will
be the same: common sense, based upon facts and "real politick",
by a visceral sense of Justice and a commitment to be pro-active.
That's all I promise.
to return to the current Rapid Response list
Regarding America's own morass...IMMIGRATION. Here are two
calls for help, one articulate from my son Perrin, and the other
asinine. Meanwhile, the Neros of Washington continue to fiddle.
Welcome to my world for the last 20
years. And don't kid yourself. This will NOT be the nail in
the coffin of an amnesty/guest worker plan. California is being
GIVEN away to illegal immigrants. Why? I have no
idea. "Cheap" strawberries and lettuce? Just look at the
condition of public schools and hospital Emergency rooms and tell me
how cheap your produce really is.
This country, with the full
blessing of supposed conservatives like George Bush, is literally
being handed to Mexico. Shame on everyone who doesn't advocate
closing the border and enforcing laws that are ALREADY ON THE
BOOKS. If you're a liberal, shame on you for believing that you
actually make a difference by giving free education and healthcare to
people who neither value such gifts nor the value of your contribution
Shame on you for enabling a sickeningly
growing attitude of entitlement from a group of people who, for
all their hard manual labor, have not worked a single day risking
burial in a coalmine or dealt with a fraction of the racism that was
experienced by millions of LEGAL immigrants who ACTUALLY WANTED TO
BECOME PART OF AMERICA RATHER THAN USE IT LIKE AN ATM OR A
JOB AWAY FROM HOME.
If you're a conservative, shame on you
for CONTINUING to vote for politicians who SAY they are conservative
but who spend YOUR money everyday in a pathetic, misguided, futile, and
baffling attempt to garner the present and future votes of a
demographic who will NEVER, EVER vote Republican.
I expect political liberals to FEEL
their way through their politics to the virtual exclusion of
intellect. Conservatives, what's YOUR excuse?
By the way, just this week census stats
for California came out. For the first time in my life, I am a
member of a minority. Yes, it's true. Backed up by
California census statistics.
And don't kid yourself into thinking
that this is just a problem for California. For at least a
hundred years the saying has been: "As California goes, so goes the
rest of the country". The tide is rising, folks, and it won't
stop without, dare I say, some sort of revolution.
Perrin Sprecace, Montrose, CA
You will not see this heart-stopping
photo on the front page of the NY Times or on the lead story of the
major news networks. The protestors put up the Mexican flag over
the American flag flying upside down at Montebello High School in
I predict this stunt will be the nail in the coffin of any
guest-worker/amnesty plan on the table in Washington . The image of the
American flag subsumed to another and turned upside down on American
soil is already spreading on Internet forums and via e-mail.
Pass this along to every American citizen in your address books and to
every representative in the state and federal government. If you choose
to remain uninvolved, do not be amazed when you no longer have a nation
to call your own nor anything you have worked for left since it will be
"redistributed" to the activists while you are so peacefully staying
out of the "fray". Check history, it is full of nations/empires that
disappeared when its citizens no longer held their core beli efs and
values. One person CAN make a difference. One plus one plus one
plus one plus one plus one... The battle for our secure borders
and immigration laws that actually mean something, however, hasn't even
The "Rapid Response" offered for May 25 concerned a review of the
recently published book entitled "Six Days Of War",
by Michael Oren.
The following are some of my ruminations after reading this
extensive work regarding a very short, bloody and critical war that has
transformed the Middle East and Israel since then.
- "In the beginning" there was the Diaspora - and no homeland for
millions of followers of the Hebrew Faith. They were tolerated in
Muslim countries as second-class citizens. And they were treated
to pogrums through recent centuries in "Christian"
- All of this was complicated by the world-wide colonialism of the
British and the French, no more importantly than in the Middle East.
- The twentieth century produced: the Balfour Declaration following
WW l: the Holocaust of WW ll: President Truman trumping his anti-Jewish
Department of State to recognize a new State of Israel: the immediate
onset of interminable conflict between and among Israelis, Arabs and
Palestinians; the machinations of the British and French as they tried
to salvage their colonial influence in the region and their continued
access to vital oil; the Cold War, with the U.S. trying not to choose
sides and the Russians constantly fishing in troubled waters, siding
with the Arabs and Egypt against Israel. Israel faced duplicity from
all sides, including from America with its vascillations and its
preoccupation with the Viet Nam morass.
- Throughout all of this, the United Nations was predictably
worthless - or worse.
- And throughout all of this, the foibles of individual leaders on
all sides played critical roles at critical junctures: Presidents
Eisenhower and Johnson, Nasser, the Russian leaders, Arab and Israeli
leaders...pointing out once again that history is created by
individuals, by personalities.
- Arab nationalism, Nasser's personal and political needs, and
vitriolic anti-Jewish sentiment...which was the only thing the rest of
the region could agree on...led to ill-considered provocations
requiring Israel to fight back for pure self-preservation - despite its
isolated position in the world.
- Israel won the Six Days War; Arab nationalism lost; and
Islamic radicalism had its re-birth. We are dealing with the
results today. In this cacophony, only two things are certain:
Israel will survive; and the West will continue to have its vital oil
as long as it must depend on it, whatever that takes.
Everyone hopes that it will take more diplomacy than war. But,
whatever it takes.
- The following article, which appears in today's The Day, is the
most current Coda to my on-going criticism of Public Education
and its practitioners during the last three decades. (Nation,
pA4). (See this web site, in "The
Involved Citizen", under "Public
Report: Core high school classes
insufficient to prepare students for college, by Jay
Mathews, The Washington Post.
"It's no secret to most high school students that taking
the required courses, getting good grades and receiving a diploma don't
take much work. The average U.S. high school senior donning a cap
and gown this spring will have spent an hour a day on homework and
at least three hours a day watching TV, playing video games and
pursuing other diversions. This is sometimes a surprise to
adults, particularly state legislators and school board members who
thought that by requiring a number of courses in English, math, science
and social studies they had ensured that students would dig in and
learn what they need to succeed in college. Guess again, says a
new study, "Rigor at Risk". Reaffirming Quality in the High
School Core Curriculum", by the Iowa City-based testing company ACT
Inc. 'Students today do not have a reasonable chance of becoming
ready for college unless they take a number of additional higher-level'
courses beyond the minimum, the report said. Even those who do,
it concluded, 'are not always likely to be ready for college
either'. Using rersearch on the college success of students who
took the ACT college entrance test, and comparing their test scores to
their high school records, ACT researchers found that many core courses
were not carefully constructed or monitored and that students often
received good grades in the core courses even if they didn't learn
much. State requirements also leave something to be desired, the
report said. More than half of states do not require students to
take specific core courses in math or science to graduate. Many
students pick up diplomas having taken 'business arithmetic' rather
than geometry or 'concepts of physics' rather than a physics course
with labs and tough exams. Taking two years of algebra instead of
algebra and geometry and taking chemistry in addition to biology
significantly raised the likelihood that a student would score high on
the ACT college readiness scale. And school officials who look
carefully at what is taught in each course, making sure it is what
colleges are looking for, are likely to have better results than those
who assume the course label is all they need to know, the report
There you have it folks...a national
disgrace. But maybe these "students" have at least been imparted
some "self-image". Yea, sure.
- In another example of the current national "race to the
bottom", the practitioners of our national pastime
should all have asterisks placed next to any "records" awarded to them
during the last 15 years. The notation could read: Making
the world a better place, through
Memorial Day, 2007. Following the sadness that
enveloped us while viewing last night's fine PBS tribute to the fallen,
especially those recently lost and to their grieving families, this is
also a time to reflect on why we ever go to war.
Some are obvious: the American Revolution; the War of 1812; the Civil
War; World Wars 1 and 11; the Cold War. Some are less clear-cut,
but defensible at some level: the Mexican War; our relatively
brief foray into colonialism around the turn into the twenthieth
century; the Korean War; the Viet Nam War; Gulf War #1.
And then there is the current Iraq War. Why did we go
in? Because we were attacked on our home soil by an invisible
enemy that threatened to attack us again and again. Our only
tangible means of self-defense was - and is - to attack any State
supporter of world-wide terrorism. It's been called "pre-emptive
self-defense". How about just plain self-defense?
When considering the above, we are cautioned to apply the tenets
of the Powell Doctrine, outlined in today's editorial in The
Day. Of those listed, only the objective of "broad international
support" can be questioned - the approach of a military man turned
diplomat. And of course, the prosecution of this war made a
mockery of some of the others tenets. So, we are there now
- and we cannot afford to lose. There will be time for hind-sight
analysis...and even for criminal prosecution if the facts
warrant. But not now. And not in any way that would suggest
that the severe sacrifices of over 30,000 Americans killed and wounded
to date have been worthless.
THE WORLD IS ALWAYS INTERESTING...IF YOUR NERVES CAN TAKE IT.
- How to treat - and reverse - "Death" is
the important topic of a Newsweek article last week. There is now
some research that shows that immediately bathing moribund tissues
as part of CPR with high levels of O2 may actually finish off the
patient. The high levels of O2 may turn off the body's own
terminal defensive mechanisms. This is vital stuff. More to
- After Death, what else...TAXES. The Day (www.theday.com) today
has a provocative article written by the Vice Chairman of the
Libertarian Party of Connectict, Marc Guttman, M.D., entitled "The
Ethics of Taxation and Efficiency of Government Services" (Voices
and Views, pE3). Couple that with today's NYTimes Connecticut
editorial ("As The Clock Winds Down", Opinion, Ct. p15)
criticizing Democrats, Republicans and also Governor Rell, and we can
have at least some support for our personal grumblings. By
the way, Governor Rell, I'm still underwhelmed.
- SUV's, Hybrids, gasoline prices, the coming
reported starvation in third world countries as we turn our corn
exports into ethanol for home consumption. What I don't hear are
the same issues that torpedoed the 1970's efforts to get off the oil
and gasoline "addiction" then: travel safety, and personal quiet time
and independence. People who can may buy a hybrid as a tony third
car...but they won't give up the perceived safety of an SUV or the
increasingly valuable privacy of their car for mass transit.
Think up something else that conforms with human psychology.
- Conspiracy of Silence / attacks on Snitching vs
Code of Honor and public duty. There should be a new application
of "Obtruction of Justice" that makes it a crime for anyone to suppress
key information needed by public safety authorities to do their
duty. And those who intimidate such sources of information should
have their sentences doubled. The status quo cannot be
- Some Democrats are doing something stupid again,
refusing to participate in a forum to be hosted by Fox News in
September. What's the matter: can't you be "fair and
- The following article may be considered a related
subject, more's the pity. See "Clueless",
by Gary J. Bass (NTTimes Magazine today, p18). "An economist
argues that voters are biased, irrational, manipulable and
plain ignorant. Is democracy dangerous?"
- Immigration reform. Is it possible that
reason, common sense and humanity may finally prevail over bombast
and a mean spirit? Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, until now an
outspoken opponent of anything other than "throw the bums out", has
just reversed his position and is supporting the half-a-loaf
legislation making its way through the U.S. Senate.
- Russia. Black bears are not the only
omnivores we have to watch out for in Connecticut and in the
world. See "From Moscow, A New Chill", by Steven Lee
Myers (NYTimes today, Wk. Sec. 4 p1). This is getting
serious. We hope that our leaders are not asleep at the switch on
this issue, as they appear to have been regarding pre-war Iraq.
- And finally, see how Michael Moore has shaved
his non-hygienic facial hair in order to make "Sicko", his
latest parody - now targeting U.S. health care. More hyperbole
and statistical lies and liars...but he makes important points...like
the value of early preventive care in Cuba. Now let's add
coordination of care among specialists, prioritization of care without
reference to ability to pay, personal responsibility enforced through
personal liability, and appreciation for the Medical Profession, one of
a few professions that has actually delivered on its
mission. I guess this work of Moore I'll have to see.
HOW OLD IS "TOO OLD"? Two stories in the
news this week raise this question for me. Paul Newman
announced that, at the age of 82, he is giving up acting after a
magnificent career. "I'm not able to work anymore as an actor
at the level I would want to...You start to lose your memory,
your confidence, your invention. So that's pretty much a closed
book for me"...I've been doing it for 50 years. That's enough."
(on ABC's Good Morning America, Thursday, May 24). Now
hold on, young whippershnapper! That's an individual and
personal decision. The rest of us can and will continue creating
as long as we have something valuable to offer. That should
certainly be the new mantra of the Baby Boomer generation, just
entering what can be a pleasant and very productive stage of
life. That is my personal approach, having just celebrated my
50th anniversary of graduation from Medical School, having celebrated
with my wife our 48th year of marriage, and entering my 45th year
of medical practice in New London, Ct. - and counting.
On the other hand, there is something wrong with the spectre of a
60 year old woman, with a 60 year old uterus, waving the wand of new
biological technology and giving birth to twins. Upon
questioning, she was articulate...inferring that it was all about "me",
with little reference to the best interests of the child. And
what about adoption? That could be about "us". Not
everything is timeless...nor should it be. In the words of the
German ditty: "Ve get too soon olt und too late
WE CANNOT ALLOW OURSELVES TO FORGET THAT THE ARAB /
ISRAEL CONFLICT IS AND WILL ALWAYS BE AT THE CENTER OF OUR MIDDLE
EASTERN PROBLEMS. MORE ON THAT BOOK SOON. GS
Six Days in June
Historian Michael Oren looks at the reverberations of the Six Day War,
40 years later.
by Amy K. Rosenthal
05/24/2007 12:00:00 AM
THE 1967 SIX DAY WAR has spawned hundreds of books, perhaps most
importantly Michael Oren's bestselling Six Days of War: June 1967 and
the Making of the Modern Middle East.
The war's 40th anniversary commences on June 5th and Oren has continued
tracking its importance. He explains now that it, "Not only created the
modern Middle East as we know it today, but changed Arab society and
politics profoundly. . . . It sounded the death knell for secular Arab
nationalism and the man who embodied that idea, former President of
Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser, by opening the door to the ascendance of a
new idiom in Islamic radicalism."
Indeed, Islam's secular Arab nationalism, which had dominated Arab
politics for the previous 50 years, has been almost completely
discredited by the Six Day War. Instead, Oren notes, Arabs have
increasingly "looked not to Western models of secular nationalism, but
their own Islamic extremism for answers to Zionism and the Jewish
With one exception, that is: The Six Day War sparked Palestinian
nationalism, which was almost non-existent before 1967 because,
according to Oren, "the Palestinians realized that they could no longer
look to any Arab leader to redeem Palestine for them and so they began
to look to themselves. This is why the Palestinian Liberation
Organization emerges immediately after the war as a major force in Arab
politics." And "while the PLO had been created by Nasser in 1954 as a
sort a straw organization; it didn't command any type of legitimacy,
among Palestinians, before the Six Day War." However, in the immediate
years that changed. As Oren tells us, "The PLO as an umbrella group
began to take in all the Palestinian organizations, including Al-Fatah,
which wasn't part of the PLO before that. And a year after, in 1969, we
saw Yasser Arafat emerge as the chairman of the PLO."
In terms of the impact the Six Day War had on Israel, Oren says,
"First, it transformed the country in the sense that it reunited the
State of Israel with the Land of Israel. Israel, pre-1967, was centered
mostly on the coastal areas, which included the cities of Ashkelon,
Ashdod, Haifa, and Tel Aviv. The reuniting with Jerusalem and with the
ancestral homeland of the Jewish people--with Shiloh, Bethlehem,
Jericho, Hebron--made this much more of a Jewish State. Secondly, it
strengthened Israel Diaspora relations in a way that hadn't existed
before and led to the U.S.-Israel alliance." As Oren underlines,
"People forget that Israel fought the Six Day War not with American
arms, but with French arms. While the U.S. had a warm relationship with
Israel before this; it wasn't a strategic relationship. Very quickly,
however, American leaders woke up on June 5, 1967 and realized that
Israel was not only a regional superpower, but also a very valued ally
in the Cold War. And finally on an international level, the Six Day War
created the peace process. There was no peace process before 1967;
simply Resolution 242."
Land for peace has become commonly-accepted rhetoric in negotiations
for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement since 1967. When asked if
this was a mistake, Oren says no, "because the idea of 'land for peace'
was already on the table in 1948, when Count Folke Bernadotte, the
first U.N. mediator spoke about it. However, it didn't gain any kind of
substantial support until after the Six Day War when Israel had
acquired a lot of Arab land and had almost quadrupled its territorial
size. Therefore, it became legitimate to ask Israel to give these lands
back in exchange for Arab peace. Israel also accepted that principle."
But while the Six Day War unified the Jewish people, the international
community--and in particular, the European and American left--began to
turn against it in the aftermath. Explaining the shift, Oren says,
"Before the Six Day War Israel was perceived as the David fighting the
Arab Goliath, but after the war the immensity of Israel's military
victory transformed Israel from the David into the Goliath and the
Palestinians became the new David."
Asked what lessons of the Six Day War can be applied looking forward,
Oren says, "The first is that when you have a context of conflicts,
which you had in 1967, it doesn't take much to spark off a regional
conflagration. For example, if tomorrow Hezbollah fires a rocket into
Israel; it could end with a regional war that quickly transforms the
Middle East. And secondly, which is perhaps the most important message,
is that the Jewish State will never again go quietly to extermination
and that if it is alone it will do what it has to in order to ensure
Emphasizing that last point Oren says that he likes to remind people of
the following: "In 1967, the French ditched Israel. The Americans said
they couldn't help and Israel struck out all alone. The moral is that
at the end of the day Israel can exist without American or European
support, but what we can't do without is our leaders, our viable
leaders." As Oren concludes, "Israel has demonstrated again and again
during its 59 years
of existence that it can always deal with external threats, but that
can only be accomplished if it has a profound faith in its leadership."
Amy K. Rosenthal is a writer for the Italian daily, Il Foglio. She
lives in Rome and Jerusalem.
TUESDAY through THURSDAY,
May 22 through 24,
YOU CAN'T IMPROVE ON THIS. GS
It will take just 37 seconds to read
this and change your thinking.
Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room.
One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to
help drain the fluid from his lungs.
His bed was next to the room's only window.
The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.
The men talked for hours on end.
They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their
involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation.
Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit
up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things
he could see outside the window.
The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where
his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and
color of the world outside.
The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake.
Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model
boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and
a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.
As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the
man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this
One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by.
Although the other man could not hear the band - he could see it in his
mind ' s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with
Days, weeks and months passed.
One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only
to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died
peacefully in his sleep.
She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body
As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be
moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and
after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.
Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first
look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to
look out the window besides the bed.
It faced a blank wall.
The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate
who had described such wonderful things outside this window.
The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the
She said, "Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you."
There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own
Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled.
If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money
"Today is a gift, that is why it is called The Present."
The origin of this letter is unknown
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR". THIS IS NOT
YOUR FAVORITE TV SHOW.
- Well, the honeymoon is over: I disagree once again with the
NYTimes. See today's editorial entitled "The
Immigration Deal" (Opinion, Wk p11). After correcty
outlining "the good, the bad and the awful" in the tentative compromise
just worked out by the administration and the Senate, the editors
recommend scrapping the whole thing as being more bad than good.
But almost nothing could be worse than the status quo "as this
generation's Know-Nothings bray against 'amnesty' from their anchor
chairs and campaign lecterns, knowing that it gives hope to the people
they hate". This is clearly half a loaf, and moldy bread at
that. But it is a start in the right direction and will serve as
a template for improvements in the future, especially as our "leaders"
see the folly of some of the worst provisions in operation.
- Crime and Punishment...and Innocence. A
moving article in today's NYTimes literally gives faces to the
first 200 innocents wrongly convicted in recent decades and freed
through the use of DNA. (See "The DNA 200", by Chris Conway, Wk
p14). This on-going experience is also a very strong argument
against the death penalty, regarding
which I have argued with myself for a long time. This, and the
possibility of repentance by the guilty at some time before their
natural death in permanent confinement, now places me firmly
on the anti-death penalty side.
May 17 through 19,
- Immigration. Do the current efforts
between Congress and the administation really represent the best of
compromise regarding a difficult issue...or another Kabuki Dance that
will cause this pivotal issue of American life to fester even
more? And what happened to the "compassion" in "compassionate
Conservatism"? National security is one thing. A mean-spirited
approach to the most important societal issue since slavery and
abortion is another.
- Homosexuality, Gender, Civil Unions and Marriage
are once again front and center. The latest news about
homosexuality and gender is scientific: it is probably not an
individual life choice, but rather the result of complex biologic
forces operating in the womb and beyond...like the shade of one's
skin. In that context, civil unions between committed couples,
and even gay adoptions, are a matter of fairness and "the best
interests of the child". Marriage, however, is another
thing. To put it in legalistic terms, committment between two
persons is "necessary but not sufficient" to be declared a
"Marriage". In our Faith-based society, there is an entire
history to the meaning of "marriage" that cannot be ignored without
fraying the fabric of that society and the main intent of marriage:
procreation and the rearing of children by members of both sexes.
An impassioned argument to the contrary, based upon an entirely
secularist view of the issue, is made by Charles Potter in his column
appearing Sunday, May 19 in The Day. Impassioned...yes; but
- What's happening? I'm starting to agree at times with the
NYTimes...or are they agreeing with me? On the issue of "loyalty"
of this President towards people like George Tenet, Donald
Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales, it would make more sense if they had
been doing his bidding all along. That's the point made in the
editorial on Saturday, May 19 entitled: "Their Master's Voice".
But then we have Richard Perl asserting recently that Mr. Bush has been
totally co-opted by his underlings and by the State Department
types. So, is he a despot...or a dummy? Stay tuned.
- All of our politicians want to reduce the number of abortions.
Why? Do they really think that something is wrong with this "choice"?
If so, they can all at least pursue the less charged approach offered
by Atul Gawande, M.D. in the same NYTimes edition (Op-Ed, pA25)
entitled "Let's Talk About Sex". This should also be
required reading for the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops
and for the Vatican.
Once again, Professor Bernard Lewis speaks.
We ignore him at our peril.
Was Osama Right?
Islamists always believed the U.S. was weak. Recent political trends
won't change their view.
BY BERNARD LEWIS
Wednesday, May 16, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
During the Cold War, two things came to be known and generally
recognized in the Middle East concerning the two rival superpowers. If
you did anything to annoy the Russians, punishment would be swift and
dire. If you said or did anything against the Americans, not only would
there be no punishment; there might even be some possibility of reward,
as the usual anxious procession of diplomats and politicians,
journalists and scholars and miscellaneous others came with their usual
pleading inquiries: "What have we done to offend you? What can we do to
put it right?"
A few examples may suffice. During the troubles in Lebanon in the 1970s
and '80s, there were many attacks on American installations and
individuals--notably the attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut in
1983, followed by a prompt withdrawal, and a whole series of
kidnappings of Americans, both official and private, as well as of
Europeans. There was only one attack on Soviet citizens, when one
diplomat was killed and several others kidnapped. The Soviet response
through their local agents was swift, and directed against the family
of the leader of the kidnappers. The kidnapped Russians were promptly
released, and after that there were no attacks on Soviet citizens or
installations throughout the period of the Lebanese troubles.
These different responses evoked different treatment. While American
policies, institutions and individuals were subject to unremitting
criticism and sometimes deadly attack, the Soviets were immune. Their
retention of the vast, largely Muslim colonial empire accumulated by
the czars in Asia passed unnoticed, as did their propaganda and
sometimes action against Muslim beliefs and institutions.
Most remarkable of all was the response of the Arab and other Muslim
countries to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979.
Washington's handling of the Tehran hostage crisis assured the Soviets
that they had nothing to fear from the U.S. They already knew that they
need not worry about the Arab and other Muslim governments. The Soviets
already ruled--or misruled--half a dozen Muslim countries in Asia,
without arousing any opposition or criticism. Initially, their decision
and action to invade and conquer Afghanistan and install a puppet
regime in Kabul went almost unresisted. After weeks of debate, the U.N.
General Assembly finally was persuaded to pass a resolution "strongly
deploring the recent armed intervention in Afghanistan." The words
"condemn" and "aggression" were not used, and the source of the
"intervention" was not named. Even this anodyne resolution was too much
for some of the Arab states. South Yemen voted no; Algeria and Syria
abstained; Libya was absent; the nonvoting PLO observer to the Assembly
even made a speech defending the Soviets.
One might have expected that the recently established Organization of
the Islamic Conference would take a tougher line. It did not. After a
month of negotiation and manipulation, the organization finally held a
meeting in Pakistan to discuss the Afghan question. Two of the Arab
states, South Yemen and Syria, boycotted the meeting. The
representative of the PLO, a full member of this organization, was
present, but abstained from voting on a resolution critical of the
Soviet action; the Libyan delegate went further, and used this occasion
to denounce the U.S.
The Muslim willingness to submit to Soviet authority, though
widespread, was not unanimous. The Afghan people, who had successfully
defied the British Empire in its prime, found a way to resist the
Soviet invaders. An organization known as the Taliban (literally, "the
students") began to organize resistance and even guerilla warfare
against the Soviet occupiers and their puppets. For this, they were
able to attract some support from the Muslim world--some grants of
money, and growing numbers of volunteers to fight in the Holy War
against the infidel conqueror. Notable among these was a group led by a
Saudi of Yemeni origin called Osama bin Laden.
To accomplish their purpose, they did not disdain to turn to the U.S.
for help, which they got. In the Muslim perception there has been,
since the time of the Prophet, an ongoing struggle between the two
world religions, Christendom and Islam, for the privilege and
opportunity to bring salvation to the rest of humankind, removing
whatever obstacles there might be in their path. For a long time, the
main enemy was seen, with some plausibility, as being the West, and
some Muslims were, naturally enough, willing to accept what help they
could get against that enemy. This explains the widespread support in
the Arab countries and in some other places first for the Third Reich
and, after its collapse, for the Soviet Union. These were the main
enemies of the West, and therefore natural allies.
Now the situation had changed. The more immediate, more dangerous enemy
was the Soviet Union, already ruling a number of Muslim countries, and
daily increasing its influence and presence in others. It was therefore
natural to seek and accept American help. As Osama bin Laden explained,
in this final phase of the millennial struggle, the world of the
unbelievers was divided between two superpowers. The first task was to
deal with the more deadly and more dangerous of the two, the Soviet
Union. After that, dealing with the pampered and degenerate Americans
would be easy.
We in the Western world see the defeat and collapse of the Soviet Union
as a Western, more specifically an American, victory in the Cold War.
For Osama bin Laden and his followers, it was a Muslim victory in a
jihad, and, given the circumstances, this perception does not lack
>From the writings and the speeches of Osama bin Laden and his
colleagues, it is clear that they expected this second task, dealing
with America, would be comparatively simple and easy. This perception
was certainly encouraged and so it seemed, confirmed by the American
response to a whole series of attacks--on the World Trade Center in New
York and on U.S. troops in Mogadishu in 1993, on the U.S. military
office in Riyadh in 1995, on the American embassies in Kenya and
Tanzania in 1998, on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000--all of which evoked
only angry words, sometimes accompanied by the dispatch of expensive
missiles to remote and uninhabited places.
Stage One of the jihad was to drive the infidels from the lands of
Islam; Stage Two--to bring the war into the enemy camp, and the attacks
of 9/11 were clearly intended to be the opening salvo of this stage.
The response to 9/11, so completely out of accord with previous
American practice, came as a shock, and it is noteworthy that there has
been no successful attack on American soil since then. The U.S. actions
in Afghanistan and in Iraq indicated that there had been a major change
in the U.S., and that some revision of their assessment, and of the
policies based on that assessment, was necessary.
More recent developments, and notably the public discourse inside the
U.S., are persuading increasing numbers of Islamist radicals that their
first assessment was correct after all, and that they need only to
press a little harder to achieve final victory. It is not yet clear
whether they are right or wrong in this view. If they are right, the
consequences--both for Islam and for America--will be deep, wide and
Mr. Lewis, professor emeritus at Princeton, is the author, most
recently, of "From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East"
(Oxford University Press, 2004).
MONDAY and TUESDAY,
May 14 and 15,
Sadness is the main emotion I can muster in response to the extensive
reportage in The Day (www.theday.com
Sunday, May 13, 2007 regarding the length and depth of the clergy
having infected our own Diocese of Norwich,
Ct. during the last 30 years. I have previously addressed
my rational views on this matter in comments made and published over
two years ago about the problem in general. (See this website, in
"The Involved Citizen" and under "the Catholic Church", comments
beginning "The sex scandal...." and "The symptoms...."
Today, I ask: Is this entire disease process only a reflection of
the amorality of society in general? Or is it once again a
systemic defect in the organization of the Catholic Church, reminiscent
of the cancer that had followed the union of spiritual and
temporal powers then invested in the Church of the Middle Ages...and
leading to the Reformation? Perhaps what we need once again is a
separation of those powers, with the Catholic clergy
responsible primarily for the souls of the Faithful...and the
informed laity ("the Body of the Church") made responsible for the
temporal challenges. The Second Vatican Council of the 1960's
tried to begin this process, only to be thwarted by strong elements of
the clergy since then. Such an arrangement would be analogous to
our military structure, divided between Service and Command
structures. It would address the shortage of priests.
It could also serve to attract an increasing number of pious men who
seek to serve God above all.
SUNDAY, May 13,
THANK GOD FOR MOTHERS! Can we all agree on
that? Now, on to "the troubles".
- The NYTimes Magazine today offers an extensive study on what is
reportedly the largest refugee problem in the Middle East
since 1947. Iraq is already destabilized. Can we
allow the rest of the region to destabilize, both morally and
while still fully dependent on Middle East oil, under this
pressure? Or can we turn this force, Judo style, to our
advantage? 1) Use the "surge" of American troops, and more if
necessary, to promote a screened departure of common Iraqii citizens to
the Iraq borders, minus terrorists and other insurgents. There,
help secure their necessities...being currently barely addressed by the
distressed Syrian and Jordanian governments...while closing the Iraq
borders to ingress and egress with the main body of Allied
forces. 2) Then, let the remaining combatants talk it out - or
fight it out - until some consensus for a new Iraq is reached. 3)
Then, help the Iraqi people return to their homeland with a Marshall
Plan for that region. You laugh? Let's hear your
plan. And the Democratic "cut and run" is not a plan.
- Meanwhile, one does not have to be an isolationist to wonder what
we are doing so far away from home. Homeland security -
including uninterrupted access to vital oil for us and for our
allies - is our reason...not like the Romans, who sought conquest for
its own sake. But a sobering comparison between America and the
decline of Rome has just been published - and reviewed in today's
NYTimes Book Review section ("The Fall of an Empire and The Fate of
America", by Cullen Murphy - reviewed by Walter Isaacson,
p12). Fortunately, the author ends on an optomistic note: "The
genius of America may be that it has built 'the fall of Rome' into its
very makeup: it is very consciously a constant work in
progress, designed to accommodate and build on revolutionary change."
For this, we work and pray.
SATURDAY, May 12,
At times, topics in the current news lend themselves to an
overarching theme. That is the case today: COMPROMISE.
This is generally considered a good thing, a substitute for
conflict. It is certainly valued - worshiped - in politics.
But it can be a bad thing...just like treating an abscess with only
warm compresses long after the time for a necessary incision and
drainage. The following are a few examples of when "going along
to get along" is decidedly the wrong way to go.
- Some of our military leadership has allowed our
armed forces to degrade to a dangerous degree, in a compromise
on behalf of their own careers. And nobody - but nobody will
mention a fair Draft, except as a cynical political ploy.
- We hear talk of compromise with regard to the central
social issue of our time: Immigration Reform.
But even the President, whose reflexes and proposals are mainly on
target here, may compromise too much rather than pressing this
case with the electorate just as firmly as he has pressed his case for
- This country seems to be compromising the safety
of our food supply imports to avoid rattling the cozy business
relationships that American companies have with India, China and third
world countries. To demand a living wage, healthy and safe
working conditions, and clean environments for workers of a foreign
country sounds good. But it is over-reaching and not
do-able...unless the intent is to place a poison pill in the global
economy, as may be the intent of the Democrats currently. But we
can and must demand the safety of foods imported from foreign
countries, on pain of cancelling trade that is much important to those
- Both the issues of embryonic stem cell research and
the proposed use of "Plan B" - an abortifacient
masquerading as a contraceptive - are being discussed in tortured and
tortuous language by our compromisers - in - chief: our
- But this tendency to compromise even the
un-compromisable exists not only in the fevered world of Politics, but
also in the hallowed halls of the Vatican. How
else to explain the decades - long refusal of the Church to permit
and lead efforts in Latin America to promote land reform, under the
rubric "Liberation Theology". And now we hear that the same thing
is happening in the Vatican's posture toward the coming new regime in
Cuba. Where have all the martyrs and would-be martyrs gone...like
Archbishop Romero of Mexico?
- But every once in a while there arrives a breath of
fresh air: a person who stands by his convictions at the peril
of his ambitions. Such a person is Senator John
McCain. Will he be rewarded...or
reviled? We'll see soon enough.
FRIDAY, May 10 and 11,
- With the anti-military and anti-foreign-interventionist Democrats
in control in Congress, it is understandable that the White
House has developed a bunker mentality. Recent examples
include: the continuing flap over Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, a
man who seemingly cannot even lie credibly; the continuing dupli
- over the future of New Orleans; allegations
that the Governor
of tornado-torn Kansas was politically motivated when she simply told
the truth about the harmful domestic effects of having decimated the
National Guard in this country; trying to sell packaged pipe dreams
about "progress in Iraq". The absence of truth-telling by this
administration in recent months has led directly to the assertion by
Republican members of Congress, made directly to the President this
week, and very likely true, that George Bush has no personal
credibility with the public in matters regarding Iraq...and
that Americans will consider only the evaluation of General
Petraeus in September. Is that before or after he retires to
write his book, following the example of his several military
colleagues? I am not cynical, just observant...and disappointed
that the one man elected by the majority of all voting citizens has
allowed this to happen. President Bush, when are you
going to tell us what is really going on in the Middle East, present
and future, as relates to American involvement there? "Wouldn't
that be loverly".
- The truth about Iraq is that more blood
will have to be shed before the Maliki/al Sadr/Iran/Shia side and
the Sunni/Saudi Arabian/Arab side come to an accomodation...without
even mentioning the special case of the Kurds and the Turks. That
blood should no longer be American blood. We should
withdraw, barring a "surge" miracle, to the borders of Iraq and
seal those borders to outside forces. Then let the Iraqi be
Iraqi, whatever that is. America also had to fight both a
Revolutionary War and a Civil War before we truly became one nation.
WEDNESDAY, May 7 through 9,
Some articles are just packed with insights into
the current struggles in the Middle East. And Lord knows, we need
more insights. GS
Cheney And the Saudis
By David Ignatius
Wednesday, May 9, 2007; Page A17
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice may make the headlines with her
high-profile diplomatic missions to the Middle East. But for a glimpse
at the hidden power plays, follow Vice President Cheney's trip this
week to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi King Abdullah has emerged over the past nine months as the Bush
administration's most important and strong-willed Arab ally. He
launched an aggressive campaign last fall to contain Iranian influence
in the Arab world and, in the process, buttress American interests in
the region despite U.S. setbacks in Iraq. It's Cheney, whose blunt,
unsmiling demeanor matches Saudi notions of American gravitas, who
manages the Abdullah account.
The Cheney visit is aimed partly at mutual reassurance. Both sides want
to reaffirm the alliance, despite disagreements over Iraq policy and
the Palestinian issue. The Saudis also want to establish an additional
channel for communication so they can avoid misunderstandings that have
sometimes arisen when the primary intermediary is Prince Bandar bin
Sultan, the freewheeling former Saudi ambassador to Washington who is
now national security adviser.
Abdullah had seemed to be distancing himself from Washington in some
recent comments. In February, he broke with U.S. efforts to isolate the
radical Palestinian group Hamas by sponsoring the Mecca Agreement that
created a Palestinian "unity government" fusing Hamas with the more
moderate Fatah. In March, he surprised U.S. officials by calling the
military occupation of Iraq "illegitimate" in a speech to an Arab
League summit in Riyadh. He also nixed plans for a White House dinner
Abdullah's criticism of the "illegitimate" American presence in Iraq
reflects the Saudi leader's deep misgivings about U.S. strategy there.
Saudi sources say the king has given up on the ability of Iraq's Shiite
prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, to overcome sectarian divisions and
unite the country. The Saudi leadership is also said to believe that
the U.S. troop surge is likely to fail, deepening the danger of all-out
civil war in Iraq.
The Saudis appear to favor replacing the Maliki government, which they
see as dominated by Iranian-backed Shiite religious parties, and are
quietly backing former interim prime minister Ayad Allawi, a secular
Shiite and ex-Baathist who has support among Iraqi Sunnis. Allawi's
advisers say that his strategy is to exploit tensions within the Shiite
religious alliance and form a new ruling coalition that would be made
up of Sunnis, Kurds and secular Shiites. Allawi's camp believes he is
close to having enough votes, thanks in part to Saudi political and
The Bush administration appears to have little enthusiasm for an Allawi
putsch, despite its frustration with Maliki. U.S. officials fear that a
change of government in Baghdad would only deepen the political
disarray there and encourage new calls for the withdrawal of troops.
The ferment in the region is driven partly by the perception that U.S.
troops are on the way out, no matter what the Bush administration says.
To dampen such speculation, Bush is said to have told the Saudis that
America will not withdraw from Iraq during his presidency. "That gives
us 18 months to plan," said one Saudi source.
The heart of the U.S.-Saudi alliance is a new effort to combat Iran and
its proxies in the Arab world. This began after last summer's war in
Lebanon between Israel and the Iranian-backed Shiite militia,
Hezbollah. Working closely with the United States, the Saudis began
pumping money to Lebanese Sunni, Christian and Druze political groups
that could counter Hezbollah's influence. The Saudis and Americans also
cooperated in aiding Lebanon's Internal Security Force, the national
police that effectively reports to the Sunni prime minister, Fouad
Saudi-American cooperation against Iran has also extended to Yemen,
where they have jointly assisted the Yemeni government in cracking down
on an Iranian-funded group linked to followers of Shiite cleric Hussein
al-Houthi, who was killed in 2004.
A final topic likely to be on Cheney's agenda is Syria. The Saudis
support the administration's new effort, launched last week by Rice, to
seek Syrian help in stabilizing Iraq. Indeed, the Saudis began moving
to ease tensions with Syria at the March Arab League summit, after
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad privately apologized to King Abdullah
for calling him and other Sunni Arab leaders "half men" because they
didn't assist Hezbollah during the Lebanon war. U.S. officials believe,
however, that the Saudis are continuing their contacts with Syrian
Saudi Arabia once conducted its political machinations behind a veil,
quietly doling out cash in an effort to buy peace. Perhaps the worst
mistake made by Iran's firebrand president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is
that he frightened the Saudis into abandoning their traditional
reticence -- and into secret strategy councils with the hard-nosed
SUNDAY, May 6,
- We haven't commented on "education" in America
in a while. Let's see what the liberals have
produced during the last thirty years in that field. 1) high
school graduates who often can't read or write...and who require
remedial courses from their unhappy employers or colleges; 2) a
dilution of course content just as grades and "self-image" have been
inflated; 3) the use of expensive "computer labs" for activities having
nothing to do with education, and thus now considered to be
just another false start even by the "educators"; 4) the
replacement of an honor code with a "no snitching" code among
mainstream students and losers alike; 5) the acceptance of cheating as
another "right" of students, documented by a large Rutgers University
report on the subject and by the recent experience at the Duke
University School of Business. Never have so many been so
wrong for so long...and gotten away with it despite their negative
impact on our children and grandchildren.
- Gun Control. Now even the liberals have
come to the understanding that the Second Amendment extablishes an
"individual" right, and not just a societal right.
- China. Although "the business of
America is Business", leading this country to wink at the abrogation of
human rights and the despoilation of the environment in that great
land, will we also allow China to poison our food and our medications,
examples of which have been reported in the last two weeks? Have
we no shame or common sense?
- Immigration. Two articles appearing
Sunday, May 6 in The Day (theday.com, Perspective, pE1) put a human
face on the vitriolic debate dividing this country on the
subject. The one by Sebastian Mallaby has already been offered a
few days ago in this section. The other is entitled "A House
Divided" by Anna Gorman. What we are doing on this subject, both
by commission and by ommission, is madness.
- More on Iraq and the Middle East. The
recent article by Fred Kagan in the NYTimes makes the case for giving
the new "Plan A" an adequate chance before pressing the "Plan B" of
Congress (see Sunday May 6, Wk p15). The stakes for American
national interests in that part of the world are highlighted by the
deteriorating conditions between Israel and Hamas, and by the vigorous
efforts of Russia and especially China to replace us in both the Middle
East and in Africa with regard to access to vital oil resources in
those regions. Folks, we keep whistling going by the cemetery by
telling ourselves that we are "the only super-power in the
world". Not for long, if we continue to mortgage our future to
foreign creditors, to debilitate our armed forces with no plan or will
to reconstiture them, to propose leaving the field of battle to the
benefit of world-wide enemies, and to do nothing effective to end our
dependence on foreign oil. Never mind that bevy of Democratic and
Republican beauties paraded before the public this week as Presidential
contenders. What we need is a Moses...or a leader who will
act like Moses.
SATURDAY, May 5,
On Iraq and the Middle East.
The books by George Tenet and by Carlo Bonini ("Colllusion") referred
to in an earlier offering in this section are definitely worth
reading. They document all the errors and sins that human
intelligence and human affairs are subject to, including
negligence and arrogance. But the only evidence of fraud and
self-dealing originates in foreign countries including
Italy. There is no clear evidence of fraud or criminal misconduct
by our leaders...up to this point in time, despite all the allegations
and inuendo. More time and investigations are warranted and will
take place. Meanwhile, the person who was most at fault for the
sequence of events leading to the invasion of Iraq, given his
decade-long falsehoods, evasions, criminal actions and bravado on the
world stage, was Saddam Hussein. The last four years since the
invasion have been a disaster and will be a permanent deserved
blight on this administration. But they deserve a chance, until
the next election, to correct course on this trip which will involve
America for decades to come. Meanwhile, this is a nation of
Constitution, of laws and of government...not of polls and
polecats. What we should immediately demand is a complete
reconstruction of our depleted Armed Forces, with the addition of
a fair Draft as soon as possible. Will Americans ever grow
out of their adolescent national impatience and into maturity. We
FRIDAY, May 4,
Iraq and the Middle East. The following is offered by my good
friend and former Marine officer Steve Percy in response to my request
for his critique to my ideas about our military plans in Iraq at this
I would agree
with you that, if we had the forces necessary, we should seal the
borders and then clean up matters inside the country. As you
point out, we don't have the forces required to follow that course of
action and, given the prevailing attitude in Congress, we never
will. However, I would prefer to characterize the current course
of action as an "alternate strategy" rather than as "half a
loaf". Let me explain.
tactics that General Petraeus is using--which were actually started in
some areas by both Marine and Army units several months ago--of having
Coalition Forces (mostly U.S.) with Iraqui army and police units
clearing and holding areas is designed to both eliminate insurgents of
whatever stripe and to convince the population (principally the sheiks)
that there best course of action is to cooperate with us rather than Al
Quaeda. I believe that it is essential that we help the Iraquis
establish some level of stability and security in order to give the
political process a chance to work itself out. However, in
concentrating on the urban areas--and Al Anbar as a province--we should
not neglect the borders.
In that area, I
feel that the Iraquis may be more effective at controlling the border
than we are. First of all, they are the natives in the area and
can much more easily identify a stranger than we can.
Second, most of the foreign terrorists coming into the country
are apparently doing so individually or in very small groups which we,
again, would have a hard time identifying if we could find them.
For these reasons--and perhaps several others--I believe that even a
small number of half way decent Iraqui forces can be more effective on
border patrol than almost any number of Coalition units.
My last reason
for preferring General Petraeus' approach over the alternative--if it
were available--is a rather nasty one. From everything that both
of us have read, I think we would agree that Irag has become a magnet
for every would be jihadist, terrorist, insurgent--call them what you
will--in the Mid East if not the world. That also means that, to
accomplish their objectives to either kill Americans or commit suicide
and go to heaven with their 40 virgins. they have to head towards the
areas where they have a chance to do that--specifically Baghdad or
Anbar Province. That, of course, is exactly where we are
concentrating our major efforts so they are coming to us where we can
bring our combat power to bear on them and kill them, rather than
having to chase them all over the desert. With what appears to be
more cooperation from the sheiks and the general population, we appear
to be doing just that.
I don't know
how you can prevent some crazed individual from killing himself and a
whole bunch of innocent women and children, but, if you take that kind
of incident out of the picture, the Petraesu strategy seems to be
working. What he really needs is enough time from Congress to see
if the Iraqui government will start functioning reasonably as the
military action begins to give them the opportunity to do so.
Sorry for the
long winded response, George, but there really isn't a short answer.
All the best'
THURSDAY, May 3, 2007
Iraq. There are three issues in
contention now, where there should be only two: 1) not
whether we went to war in pre-emptive self-defense based upon
believable but flawed intelligence...but whether that "intelligence"
was manufactured, in which case some very highly placed officials
should go to jail; 2) not whether our leaders screwed up the planning
and prosecution of the war, for that is a given; 3) but WHAT DO WE DO
NOW? This is where the Democratic leadership has it
wrong. They should be carefully dissecting books like those of
Bob Woodward, Seymour Hirsch and George Tenet, and documenting the
allegations of the Italian reporters in the newly translated book Collusion
(by Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe D'Avanzo). Meanwhile,
they should be giving President Bush and the Pentagon
whatever they ask for to effect the "Surge" for the next several
months...unless they want to own an ignominous defeat. After six
months or so, if that strategy has not borne fruit, they should have
their own plan in place for a much smaller American footprint in the
Middle East for years to come...in our own national self-interest; and
they should then fund only that plan. They should not continue to
misconstrue worry and frustration on the part of the American
people as support for a Democratic plan that most perceive as "cut
and run". The 2008 elections are the least of the issues that are
at stake here.
WEDNESDAY, May 2, 2007
As we find ourselves between May Day and Cinco di
Maio, here are some more pertinent facts which you will find hard to
come by elsewhere. As I have said several times before in this
section, realistic and humane and fair reform of our entire approach to
Immigration is an issue vital to this country. Or will this
become another nearly mortal self-inflicted wound, like Abortion?
Lazy, Job-Stealing Immigrants?
Nativist Nonsense Distorts a Critical Issue
By Sebastian Mallaby
Monday, April 30, 2007; Page A15
President Bush is doing his pragmatic best to secure immigration
reform. He is honorably laboring to revive some version of the
bipartisan bill that got 62 votes in the Senate last year. But watching
this torturous process is enough to make a sane person scream. The
livelihoods of millions are at stake, yet most immigration
pronouncements are nonsense.
People accuse immigrants of gang violence, drunken driving and a
general contempt for the law. But in 2000 the incarceration rate for
immigrants was just one-fifth the rate for the population as a whole,
according to Kristin Butcher of the Federal Reserve and Anne Morrison
Piehl of Rutgers University.
People say immigrants are feckless and lazy. But in California in 2004,
94 percent of undocumented men ages 18 to 64 were in the workforce,
compared with 82 percent of native-born men. Far from being part of a
shiftless underclass, the act of coming to the United States makes
immigrants among the most upwardly mobile groups in the nation, only a
bit behind hedge-fund managers.
People say, contrariwise, that immigrants steal jobs from native-born
Americans. But economists have patiently explained for years that there
is no finite "lump of labor" in an economy. The presence of migrants
causes new jobs to be created: Factories that might have gone abroad
spring up in Arizona or Texas. Hasn't anyone noticed that California,
where fully one-third of the adult population is foreign born, has an
unemployment rate of less than 5 percent?
People say that immigrants burden social services while not paying
taxes. Actually, undocumented immigrants are ineligible for welfare,
food stamps and Medicaid; and although they do use hospital emergency
rooms and schools, they also pay sales taxes and payroll taxes, and one
in three pays income tax. The net result is that immigrants cost the
average native U.S. household an extra $200 in taxes each year,
according to a study of 1996 data. Once you take into account the boost
to pretax incomes caused by immigrants' contribution to growth, the
total effect of undocumented workers on native-born Americans is
roughly zero, according to Gordon Hanson of the University of
California at San Diego.
People say that immigrants cause wage losses even if they don't cause
job losses. Here the story is subtle: Some studies find no evidence
that immigrants pull down wages, while others find that native-born
high school dropouts lost as much as 9 percent of their earnings
between 1980 and 2000 as a result of immigration. But -- and here comes
the sane scream -- there's no way that even a 9 percent wage loss can
justify the policies that immigration hawks advocate.
Really, how much could draconian enforcement restore those wages?
Between a quarter and two-fifths of undocumented workers originally
enter legally, so stringent border enforcement could only affect about
two-thirds of new arrivals. Moreover, arrivals are only part of the
issue; the alleged downward pressure on wages comes less from the
400,000 illegal immigrants who show up each year than from the 35
million immigrants already here, two-thirds of them legally. And
migrants will continue coming even if the entire southern border is
walled off. Europe has a wall called the Mediterranean. It still has
Thanks to intensive enforcement over the past year, illegal immigration
from Mexico is thought to have fallen by a quarter. Suppose even more
spending could cut the number of illegal entrants from 400,000 to
200,000 a year, so that 2 million arrivals could be prevented over a
10-year period. Add in an aggressive deportation program that ejected 1
million illegals, and you are still only scratching the surface. Even
if immigration has driven down wages for high school dropouts by 9
percent, it's hard to see how truly vicious counter-immigration
policies could drive them up by more than about 2 percent.
That simply can't be worth it. Border security does not come cheap: We
could save money on unmanned aerial drones and use it to help
high-school dropouts with a more generous earned-income tax credit. And
although the concern for high-school dropouts is welcome, it must be
weighed against the aspirations of migrants. Is it right to push native
workers' pay up by 2 percent if that means depriving poor Mexicans of a
chance to triple their incomes?
Of course it isn't, and given that the total economic effect of
immigration on U.S. households is a wash, the big ramp-up in
enforcement spending beloved by immigration hawks is an egregious waste
of money. But no politician is going to say that. Candidates with a
good record on immigration -- Rudy Giuliani, Hillary Clinton, John
McCain -- are trying to avoid the issue. And the demagogues and
nativists are allowed to spout unchallenged nonsense.
TUESDAY, May 1, 2007
George Tenet appears to have done himself little good with either his
current book or with his "Apologia pro vita sua" on various
TV appearances. But the following indicates a valuable
contribution to our knowledge of the facts in this matter...without
having to wait decades for it. And you probably will
not read of these excerpts in the liberal and Democratic
"More Than Enough Evidence"
What George Tenet really says about Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda.
by Thomas Joscelyn
05/01/2007 12:00:00 AM
GEORGE TENET'S JUST released book, At the Center of the Storm, has
created quite a stir. Over the past few days, a myriad of news accounts
have referenced various snippets of the former director of Central
Intelligence's self-serving collection of remembrances. But here is
something you probably have not heard or read about Tenet's book: it
confirms that there was a relationship between Saddam's Iraq and al
Qaeda. And, according to Tenet, "there was more than enough evidence to
give us real concern" about it too.
Tenet devotes an entire chapter to the question of Iraq's ties to al
Qaeda (Chapter 18, "No Authority, Direction, or Control"). Much of the
chapter is used to vilify Douglas Feith, the former undersecretary of
defense, and Vice President Cheney. Tenet claims, repeatedly, that
Feith, Cheney, and others in the Bush administration exaggerated the
intelligence on Saddam's ties to al Qaeda. The former DCI says they
"pushed the data farther than it deserved" and "sought to create a
connection between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks that would have made WMD,
the United Nations, and the international community absolutely
irrelevant." (In this vein, Tenet also erroneously claimed to have met
Richard Perle on September 12, 2001. According to Tenet, Perle said
"Iraq has to pay a price for what happened yesterday [September 11]."
However, Perle was in France and, therefore, could not have met with
Tenet. Perle denies the conversation took place at all.)
Tenet offers little real evidence to support his contention. But
it is worth noting what he does not claim: that the Bush administration
cooked up the connection between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda in its
entirety. In fact, Tenet concedes that there was evidence of a
worrisome relationship. For example, Tenet explains that in late 2002
and early 2003:
There was more than enough evidence to give us real concern about Iraq
and al-Qa'ida; there was plenty of smoke, maybe even some fire: Ansar
al-Islam [note: Tenet refers to Ansar al-Islam by its initials "AI" in
several places]; Zarqawi; Kurmal; the arrests in Europe; the murder of
American USAID officer Lawrence Foley, in Amman, at the hands of
Zarqawi's associates; and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad operatives in
On Ansar al-Islam, Zarqawi, and Kurmal, Tenet elaborates further:
The intelligence told us that senior al-Qa'ida leaders and the Iraqis
had discussed safe haven in Iraq. Most of the public discussion thus
far has focused on Zarqawi's arrival in Baghdad under an assumed name
in May of 2002, allegedly to receive medical treatment. Zarqawi, whom
we termed a "senior associate and collaborator" of al-Qa'ida at the
time, supervised camps in northern Iraq run by Ansar al-Islam (AI).
We believed that up to two hundred al-Qa'ida fighters began to relocate
there in camps after the Afghan campaign began in the fall of 2001. The
camps enhanced Zarqawi's reach beyond the Middle East. One of the camps
run by AI, known as Kurmal, engaged in production and training in the
use of low-level poisons such as cyanide. We had intelligence telling
us that Zarqawi's men had tested these poisons on animals and, in at
least one case, on one of their own associates. They laughed about how
well it worked. Our efforts to track activities emanating from Kurmal
resulted in the arrest of nearly one hundred Zarqawi operatives in
Western Europe planning to use poisons in operations.
According to Tenet, al Qaeda's presence was not limited to northern
What was even more worrisome was that by the spring and summer of 2002,
more than a dozen al-Qa'ida-affiliated extremists converged on Baghdad,
with apparently no harassment on the part of the Iraqi government. They
had found a comfortable and secure environment in which they moved
people and supplies to support Zarqawi's operations in northeastern
Other high-level al Qaeda terrorists set up shop in Baghdad as well.
From Saddam's neo-Stalinist capital they planned attacks around the
More al-Qa'ida operatives would follow, including Thirwat Shihata and
Yussef Dardiri, two Egyptians assessed by a senior al-Qa'ida detainee
to be among the Egyptian Islamic Jihad's best operational planners, who
arrived by mid-May of 2002. At times we lost track of them, though
their associates continued to operate in Baghdad as of October 2002.
Their activity in sending recruits to train in Zarqawi's camps was
There was also concern that these two might be planning operations
outside Iraq. Credible information told us that Shihata was willing to
strike U.S., Israeli, and Egyptian targets sometime in the future.
Shihata had been linked to terrorist operations in North Africa, and
while in Afghanistan he had trained North Africans in the use of truck
bombs. Smoke indeed. But how much fire, if any?
It strains credulity to imagine that all of this was going on without,
at the very least, Saddam's tacit approval. Tenet says that the CIA did
not think Saddam had "operational direction and control" over
the two Egyptians, Zarqawi, or AI. But he explains, "from an
intelligence point of view it would have been difficult to conclude
that the Iraqi intelligence service was not aware of their activities."
"Certainly," Tenet adds, "we believe that at least one senior AI
operative maintained some sort of liaison relationship with the Iraqis."
There was more. Tenet says that his analysts found evidence of a
relationship spanning more than a decade. He explains:
In the laborious exercise undertaken by analysts to understand the
history of a potential Iraq-al Qa'ida relationship, they went back and
documented the basis of a variety of sources--some good, some
secondhand, some hearsay, many from other intelligence services. There
were, over a decade, a number of possible high-level contacts between
Iraq and al-Qa'ida, through high-level and third-party intermediaries.
Our data told us that at various points there were discussions of
cooperation, safe haven, training, and reciprocal nonaggression.
As has been discussed in THE WEEKLY STANDARD on a number of occasions,
the CIA also uncovered evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda were cooperating
on chemical weapons projects in the Sudan. The Clinton administration
cited the CIA's intelligence to justify the August 20, 1998, strike on
the al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory. That strike was launched in
retaliation for al Qaeda's August 7, 1998, embassy bombings in Kenya
and Tanzania. The al-Shifa plant operated under an Iraqi oil-for-food
contract and Tenet's CIA suspected it of being one of several front
companies at which Iraq was transferring chemical weapons technology
(including VX nerve gas) to al Qaeda.
Tenet explains the long history of collaboration between Iraq, Sudan,
and al Qaeda:
During the mid-1990s, Sudanese Islamic Front Leader Hasan al-Turabi
reportedly served as a conduit for Bin Ladin between Iraq and Iran.
Turabi in this period was trying to become the centerpiece of the Sunni
extremist world. He was hosting conferences and facilitating the travel
of North Africans to Hezbollah training camps in the Bekaa Valley, in
Lebanon. There was concern that common interests may have existed in
this period between Iraq, Bin Ladin, and the Sudanese, particularly
with regard to the production of chemical weapons. The reports we
evaluated told us of high-level Iraqi intelligence service contacts
with Bin Ladin himself, though we never knew the outcome of these
contacts. [Emphasis added]
Tenet also offers his thoughts on the detention of Ibn Sheikh al-Libi,
"a senior military trainer for al-Qa'ida in Afghanistan." When al-Libi
was first detained he "offered up information that a militant known as
Abu Abudullah had told him that at least three times between 1997 and
2000, the now-deceased al-Qa'ida leader Mohammed Atef had sent Abu
Abdullah to Iraq to seek training in poisons and mustard gas." Later,
al-Libi recanted his testimony. Controversy then ensued. Critics of the
Iraq war have seized on al-Libi's reversal and claim that his
admissions were made under duress, and are therefore dubious.
But Tenet says "there was sharp division on his recantation" inside the
CIA. Al-Libi "clearly lied," Tenet says, but we don't know when. Either
his initial confession or his later denial could be accurate. Tenet
concludes: "The fact is, we don't know which story is true, and since
we don't know, we can assume nothing."
But Tenet adds an additional detail that he says lent credence to
al-Libi's initial confession: "Another senior al-Qa'ida detainee told
us that Mohammed Atef was interested in expanding al-Qa'ida's ties to
Iraq, which, in our eyes, added credibility to [al-Libi's initial]
Some will no doubt highlight Tenet's claims about the Bush
administration hyping Saddam's ties to 9/11. In reality, he provides
little verifiable evidence to back up this claim. As Tenet's chapter
title suggests, he also believes that Saddam's Iraq lacked "authority,
direction, or control" over al Qaeda. Few would argue with this
assessment. But that does not make the threads of evidence connecting
Saddam's regime to al Qaeda any less troublesome.
Zarqawi, AI, chemical weapons projects, high-level contacts, Egyptian
al Qaeda members plotting from Baghdad: it adds up to a very alarming
And after reading all of Tenet's chapter on Iraq and al Qaeda, it seems
clear that neoconservatives weren't the only ones connecting the dots
between these two enemies of the United States.
Thomas Joscelyn is a terrorism researcher and economist living in New
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