Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A Left worth belonging to? (Or one at least worth a capital "L"?)

Readers from more prolific, bygone times will recall some fretting here at Commoner Sense over the destruction of the terms "liberal" and "progressive" by addleheaded pacifists who converged on my city chanting "Not In Our Name" before there'd even been a rain to wash away the dust of the Twin Towers. For a while, my title-bar sub-head read, "Liberating the term liberalism," and, "Shouldn't progressive have something to do with progress?" Like many former Leftists, I long ago threw in the towel and stopped calling myself a liberal, or a progressive, since no one around me seemed know what the terms meant anymore. I've tried "liberal hawk," but that tends to draw blank stares. In conversation I have glumly accepted "neo-conservative" when it's offered, if only because it puts me in the company of people who think rather than chant.

Well, on the horizon appears new hope that I may one day be able to pack up my pro-democracy, pro-women's-rights, anti-theocracy, anti-fascist viewpoints and move back in with the Left! A group of democrats (small "d") and progressives in London will in a week's time officially launch "The Euston Manifesto," a remarkable statement of principles that might just have the force to wrest all these terms out of the hands of dissemblers and restore them to their once glorious meanings. (It gets extra points in my book for being conceived in a pub.) Here's an excerpt from the Euston Manifesto's preamble:

We are democrats and progressives. We propose here a fresh political alignment. Many of us belong to the Left, but the principles that we set out are not exclusive. We reach out, rather, beyond the socialist Left towards egalitarian liberals and others of unambiguous democratic commitment. Indeed, the reconfiguration of progressive opinion that we aim for involves drawing a line between the forces of the Left that remain true to its authentic values, and currents that have lately shown themselves rather too flexible about these values. It involves making common cause with genuine democrats, whether socialist or not.

Despite the declaration's fine provenance, these are the people who sold me Marxism back in the early 1980's, so I'm going to give the Euston Manifesto a thorough study before signing on. Have a look, especially if you called yourself a liberal before 2001.

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Ahmadinejad to Bush: WWJD? He'd convert to Islam!

Since our head-in-the-sand media have had such a hard time deciphering just what Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was trying to say in his letter to President Bush, the official Iranian new agency has cleared it up for us:

President says his letter to President Bush
was invitation to Islam

Jakarta, May 11, IRNA
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said here Thursday that his letter to President George W. Bush did not concern the nuclear dossier, but rather was an invitation to Islam and the prophets
[sic] culture.

When I read the translation of the letter provided by the Iranian government, it seemed pretty obvious that was the gist of it, but reporters for western media outlets have too much invested in their vision of Islam as a benign entity to let the public know that powerful Islamists like Ahmadinejad really do think it plausible that they might absorb the entire world into their cult, George Bush included. Ahmadinejad writes in his letter:

The Holy Koran stresses this common word and calls on all followers of divine religions and says: [3.64] Say: O followers of the Book! Come to an equitable proposition between us and you that we shall not serve any but Allah and (that) we shall not associate aught with Him, and (that) some of us shall not take others for lords besides Allah; but if they turn back, then say: Bear witness that we are Muslims ...

He even had the nerve to throw in a Koranic Jesus quote suggesting that even Bush's personal savior would want him to drop the cross for the crescent.

We also believe that Jesus Christ (PBUH) was one of the great prophets of the Almighty. He has been repeatedly praised in the Koran. Jesus (PBUH) has been quoted in Koran as well: [19.36] And surely Allah is my Lord and your Lord, therefore serve Him; this is the right path.

This all fits pretty well with the world view Ahmadinejad has expressed in the past. In an interview back in January, he stated: "There should be no doubt that the teachings of Islam should be heard by all ... Undoubtedly, if the truths about Islam are taught correctly, most people will accept Islam." If you just can't get enough of his lunatic's blather from the mainstream media, he's got his own website, complete with speeches and interviews and gems like this: "The president stressed that Islam was the only religion being capable of materializing all rights of women in the full scale." The website even created this hilarious Photoshop job to go with the text of his letter to Bush:

Bear in mind that the headline "President says his letter to President Bush was invitation to Islam" comes from Iran's official, state-run news organization, so the possibility they're misreading their boss's intent is pretty slim. It's odd how so many other reporters (who apparently attended the same press conference) came away with a much different--and suicidally misleading--impression. Here are some of the headlines our own news sources came up with:

Iran's President Says Letter to Bush Was to Open `New Horizon' (Bloomberg)

Is Iran Trying to Send a Signal? (CBS News)

Iranian president's letter opens window onto Muslim world (Star Tribune)

Letter Offers a Look Into Mind of Iran's Leader (L.A. Times)

The New York Sun went one better than calling the letter an invitation to Islam, noting that the untranslated last line of the letter contains an outright threat. The Sun's editorial on the subject was titled: Iran Declares War. Here's an excerpt:

The key sentence in the letter is the closing salutation. In an eight-page text of the letter being circulated by the Council on Foreign Relations, it is left untranslated and rendered as "Vasalam Ala Man Ataba'al hoda." What this means is "Peace only unto those who follow the true path."

Amir Taheri has done a fascinating essay putting Ahmadinejad's letter in historical context. Apparently he's following a well-established Islamic tradition. Not only did Mohammed himself send such letters to leaders of neighboring peoples he planned to put under the sword, Ayatollah Khomeini wrote a letter to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989 (not 1987, as Taheri states) asking him to convert to Islam. I guess the surprising thing is that it took so long for the Islamists to get around to sending Bush his invitation. Maybe they just weren't sure they really want him in their club.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

al-Qaeda admits it is losing the battle in Iraq: Western media yawn

When the U.S. Military released the captured video revealing that Zarqawi is more Baby Face Nelson than Che Guevara, American media leapt to the terrorist's defense. The New York Times had this to say about the overfed car-thief-turned-throat-slitter's apparent incompetence at handling anything more complex than a scimitar:
The weapon in question [an M249 SAW] is complicated to master, and American soldiers and marines undergo many days of training to achieve the most basic competence with it. Moreover, the weapon in Mr. Zarqawi's hands was an older variant, which makes its malfunctioning unsurprising. The veterans said Mr. Zarqawi, who had spent his years as a terrorist surrounded by simpler weapons of Soviet design, could hardly have been expected to know how to handle it.

Now the military has released a captured document showing that al-Qaeda leaders believe they are losing the battle against the Americans and the new government in Iraq. This time around, the media has chosen simply to ignore it. The Times and its brethren continue to reveal that they are not unbiased, nor are they merely anti-Bush or anti-war. They are on the other side.

USA Today deserves credit for noticing the story about the captured letter and publishing the translation of the document.

Here's a brief excerpt, particularly relevent because it reveals the vital role the Times and other antique media outlets play in al-Qaeda's plans for "assuming power in Baghdad":

The policy followed by the brothers in Baghdad is a media oriented policy without a clear comprehensive plan to capture an area or an enemy center. Other word, the significance of the strategy of their work is to show in the media that the American and the government do not control the situation and there is resistance against them. This policy dragged us to the type of operations that are attracted to the media, and we go to the streets from time to time for more possible noisy operations which follow the same direction.

This direction has large positive effects; however, being preoccupied with it alone delays more important operations such as taking control of some areas, preserving it and assuming power in Baghdad (for example, taking control of a university, a hospital, or a Sunni religious site).

Read the whole thing.