Archive for October 2002

Parting Shots

“An expert is one who knows more about less,” Nicholas Murray Butler


Judging by the morning news stories, it seems apparent that the Washington area sniper has been captured and is now behind bars. His undoing? In an investigation manned by a thousand law enforcement officers doing the methodical and tedious criminal investigation work, we will no doubt find that there is no single bit of evidence which clinches the guilt of John Williams aka John Mohammed. However at this time there is one bit of evidence that has left some Americans scratching their heads: he apparently wanted $10 million transferred to a stolen credit card number. If true, this leads to another question:

Huh?

If true, this only serves to prove the limits of expertise, and why, in the end, most criminals are destined to be caught.

The sniper was good at two things: shooting people from a distance and getting away. Eventually luck would have played a part in the preventing the latter. The almost complete lock-down of the DC area only moments after a shooting would have eventually netted him. Luck is an important part of escape, and luck eventually runs out.

As soon as the sniper moved beyond his expertise, he was in trouble. The police have access to countless experts in numerous fields; the sniper doesn’t. Leave a note in the field? The police will use experts to determine where the paper and ink was purchased as well as those who can raise fingerprints that are left through gloves. Add to this handwriting experts, psychological profilers, and that single note becomes multiple clues pointing to the identity of the sniper. Call the police? The police have sophisticated electronics that can trace a call instantly (no more of that 30 seconds delay that was such a staple of the movies). Better yet they have access to speech experts who can tell which part of the world and possibly which profession he is in, audio experts who can pull ambient sounds from the background, as well as others that can provide leads.

All these experts will become apparent as the case is made public.

This does not mean that Mohammed made the task force’s job easy; far from it. This case will no doubt be studied for years in criminology circles for what the police did right (Police Chief Moose’s handling of the crisis) and what they did wrong (FBI mishandling of phone calls). Police Chief Moose stands out in particular for his cool head during the crisis, his marshalling of forces, and especially his ability to get the sniper communicating while at the same time doing his best to reassure a community near panic. The man deserves a special commendation and a better job.

No Prize for Jimmy

Editors Note: This is an update of the article that originally appeared here in October 2002. Why? Because Carter is the “undead” of American politics, taking the stage at the most inauspicious moments. Besides, most of us at the Razor actually lived through the disasterous four years of his presidency.

President Jimmy Carter has always had rotten luck. So it comes as no surprise that four days after the Nobel Committee announced that he would be the 2002 recipient for the Nobel Peace Prize, North Korea announced that it had cheated on an agreement – one which had been negotiated by the former president. Since that announcement, North Korea has removed seals on cameras installed by the United Nations, kicked out UN arms inspectors, and is pretty much attempting to blackmail East Asia with nuclear weapons.

President Carter’s supporters have countered his critics by stating that the president always takes the “high road”, sees the “big picture” or has a “global perspective” of events – implying that the critics are warmongering provincialists who lack the ability to care about anyone not of their class or nationality. There is an American tendency to look with nostalgia upon the administrations of past presidents, but even looking past the domestic failures of the well-traveled President, are his foreign policy successes deserving of the Nobel Prize?

No Parade at home for Anwar.

No Prize for Jimmy


President Carter’s crowning achievement was the Camp David Accords which returned the Sinai to Egypt in exchange for the end of a state of war between Israel and Egypt. While the accords ended a shooting war between the two countries, it is worth noting that the agreement was not even negotiated by the Americans – most of the diplomacy having been done by the King of Morocco and the Ceausescu regime in Rumania. Washington DC was simply the money to fund the deal.

It is also worth noting that the resulting situation between them could not be viewed as peace – or even a “Cold Peace” as the state of affairs has been referred to by others. Egyptian authorities continue to support Palestinian terrorists. The Israeli army regularly finds tunnels into Gaza from the Sinai that are used to smuggle weapons and bomb making materials. The Egyptian press is filled with the most vile anti-Semitic propaganda seen since Heinrich Himmler. Egypt is also a hotbed for anti-American militancy, with the government unable to crack down on all but the worst excesses for fear that it will be overthrown by Islamic radicals. At the same time the government supports the terrorist operations by the likes Islamic Jihad and Hamas within the “Occupied Territories” and Israel proper. While Egypt may not be responsible for bombing Tel Aviv from fixed wing aircraft in a conventional war, it has bombed that city through its direct support of terrorism – achieving the same goal and in the eyes of all but the most hard-core moral relativists, taking the same responsibility. In effect, Carter’s true achievement was to shift Egyptian attacks from direct conventional military strikes to direct support of unconventional attacks – a legacy which Israel still grapples with today.

President Carter has never met a dictator he didn’t like. He negotiated with the military junta in Haiti even while human rights groups condemned them. Not that his negotiation led to anything; Haiti remains today what it has remained throughout the post-colonial period – a Caribbean backwater run by military strong men conveniently ignored by the United States. He has run missions to Cuba and Ethiopia as well, providing muted criticism of regimes in exchange for their use of him to legitimize themselves and thwart the efforts of the American administration of the time to isolate or overthrow them.

He has been a self-deluded pawn for dictators, and now by the anti-American European left wing. As Gunmar Berge, chairman of the Nobel committee stated, Carter’s “prize must be considered as a criticism of the present US administration,” – implying that without Bush’s hawkish stance towards Iraq, Carter wouldn’t have joined the ranks of more deserving winners such as the Red Cross, Ann San Suu Kyi, and the Dali Lama. Instead he joins the ignomonious ranks of such “men of peace” as Chairman Yassir Arafat, Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho. It is interesting to note that Le Duc Tho refused his share of the Nobel Prize in 1973, stating “peace had not been established” in Vietnam – a lesson apparently missed by the limelight-thriving Carter.

Carter’s refusal to believe that the North Koreans would not be negotiating in good faith has shown that the President is far from globalist: he is naive. Now the current administration must redouble its efforts to prevent “North Korea becoming a nuclear Kmart, complete with blue-light specials,” says Jon Wolfsthal, a nuclear proliferation expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. At the same time the administration must contain terrorism both within the US and abroad, fight a diplomatic and possibly shooting war with Iraq, as well as handle an economy currently in a bad part of the business cycle and corporate malfeasance not seen on such a scale since the 1930s.

Carter's domestic policy.


When Carter took office in 1977, he received a moderately growing economy in which inflation was 5.4 percent and interest rates were around 8 percent. When he left office, the Soviets were entrenched in Afghanistan, Iranian students had been holding US State Department personnel and US Marines hostage for 444 days, the American military had been gutted by the administration’s post-Vietnam cutbacks, American prestige was in tatters abroad and inflation was in the double digits and interest rates were so high it was impossible for Americans to finance large purchases like homes and cars. Carter’s administration is without a doubt the worst in modern American history, yet Carter himself blamed his failures on a “national malaise”. This “malaise” kept his Democratic party out of power for 12 years; even today it wrestles to free itself from Carter’s legacy.

Jimmy Carter was a failure within the United States and the admission of North Korea only shows once again that he is a failure abroad as well. A Nobel Prize will never obscure these facts.

Results of Carter's Foreign Policy


If only the following were true…


***


CARTER RETURNS NOBEL PEACE PRIZE

By Michael Kelly
WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP

CARTER RETURNS NOBEL PEACE PRIZE
‘Too, Too Ridiculous,’ Ex-Prez Says
PLAINS, Ga., March 17 — In a move that stunned veteran narcissistic personality disorder observers, a smiling Jimmy Carter today announced that he had decided to return the coveted Peace Prize awarded to him last year by the Nobel Committee.
“I may be the most vainglorious, self-regarding, preachifying old coot since Henry Ward Beecher, but even I know when a joke has gone too far,” said Carter. “Let’s consider my contributions to world peace. In 1991, as the United States was on the very verge of war, I secretly lobbied the presidents of the United Nations Security Council nations, and also the heads of the Arab nations, to try to persuade them to scuttle my own country’s efforts to build a coalition and defeat Iraq. Imagine if I had succeeded — why, we now know Iraq was within months of building its first nuclear weapon when the war began!

“Then, I butted into Clinton’s disaster in Somalia, to put together the surrender to that charmer Mohamed Farah Aideed after his boys killed 18 of our soldiers and dragged their beaten bodies through the streets. And we now know that the spectacle of the Great Satan knuckling under to a guy whose entire army consisted of 10 second-hand Jeeps directly encouraged Osama bin Laden to believe that America was ripe for capitulation on a much greater scale — if you killed enough Americans.
“And the clincher — Korea. Yep, I’m the boy who free-lanced the 1994 agreement with the head-case of that horror show to stop his nuclear bomb program, in exchange for a whole bunch of aid from us. When reporters asked me then if it was really reasonable to expect Kim Il Sung to keep his word, given that he never had before, I said: ‘This is something that’s not for me to judge.’ Well, of course, neither that nut-job nor his nut-job son honored the deal for one second. So, now, eight years later, another American president has inherited another fine mess I got us in.”
“Please, take it back, and stop me before I negotiate again.”

***


References:

Jay Nordlinger, “Carterpalooza!, Jimmy Carter, our “model ex-president“, National Review

John O’ Sullivan, “Moments of Clarity – What North Korea Teaches Us”, National Review

Falwell’s Foot

In an interview broadcast on the American news show 60 Minutes on October 6, 2002 Jerry Falwell spoke about Islam and its prophet Mohammed. Since that time several commentators have criticized the preacher for once again sticking his foot in his mouth.

In the interview with CBS correspondent Bob Simon, Falwell stated that after reading about Islam and its prophet from both Muslim and non-Muslim sources, he was forced to conclude that Mohammed “was a — a violent man, a man of war.”

“Jesus set the example for love, as did Moses,” Falwell says. “I think Muhammad set an opposite example.”

Bob Simon asked Falwell directly if he considered Mohammed to be a terrorist and he replied that yes, he did believe the prophet was a terrorist. He stressed in the interview that this was his personal opinion and that he would never voice this opinion in a sermon or book.

Needless to say, Falwell’s opinions haven’t gone over well among Muslims. Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relation in Washington, said: “Anybody is free to be a bigot if they want to. What really concerns us is the lack of reaction by mainstream religious and political leaders, who say nothing when these bigots voice these attacks.”

Sheikh Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, a former spiritual leader of Lebanon’s Hizbollah guerrillas said in an October 11th statement, “All Muslims must make a stand against this attack on Islam, its prophet and Muslims themselves…If a preacher, or anyone else, spoke about Judaism and Zionist massacres in Palestine,... would the U.S. administration permit this?”

Something which Falwell misses is that one cannot equate the rolls of Jesus Christ and Mohammed as being the same between the two religions. Christ is viewed as a semi-divine being – “God made flesh”. Depending on which branch and denomination of Christianity one subscribes to, Christ is either completely divine or a bridge to the divine. Either way Christ is not just a man. Mohammed, on the other hand, is viewed as the last of the prophets – the completion of a long process by which God makes his will known to man. While Mohammed may be the first among men – he is a man nevertheless. In this respect Muslims do not venerate Mohammed in the same way as Christians venerate Christ. No prayers are made to him, nor is one supposed to live life as Mohammed lived his. For a Christian to fully understand his role, one should consider him to be akin to Moses or Isaiah. However a better understanding can be found with how Judaism views Moses. Moses was the founder of Judaism. He helped mold the primitive tribal cult of Yahweh into an advanced and complex modern religion of Judaism. In doing so he waged war and exercised authoritarian control of his people in the name of God.

However what’s of more interest is the fire-storm that has resulted from Falwell’s comments. First, the expression of Falwell’s opinion is viewed by Hooper and Fadlaallah as an attack on Islam. Secondly, the US administration is criticized directly by Fadlallah and indirectly by Hooper for permitting this expression of Falwell’s personal opinion. Thirdly, Falwell’s comments are being used as the excuse for religion violence and the resulting deaths of seven people in the Indian town of Solapua, 280 miles from Mombai. These comments and incidents do more to show the minds of the insulted than they do Falwell’s red-neck bigotry.

Freedom of speech is a right within the USA. In addition, its enshrinment in the US Constitution views this right as a universal right of Man. Therefore it is meant to apply to all of humanity. As a consequence of this right, the US government cannot prevent anyone from voicing his opinion. The US system also has a strong separation of Church and State – much to the annoyance of Christians like Jerry Falwell, who has worked all of his life to remove this barrier.

However these values are not present in any religion, let alone Islam. While Christianity has a secular element that has evolved over time, there is no separation of Church and State within Islam. In Islam church and state are one in the same – manifestations of God’s covenant with Man on earth. There cannot be any freedom of speech in Islam since to allow such would invite heresy and apostasy. So far Islam has resisted this to a degree not seen in Christianity since the 15th century.

In places where opinions are protected such as within the USA and to a lesser degree Europe, Falwell’s comments were pretty much ignored. Falwell and his religious cohort Pat Robertson caused a tremendous outcry in the US in the days following the Sept 11 attacks when they blamed the attack on gays, lesbians and America’s licentious culture. But this outcry did not lead to bands of homosexuals attacking and killing fundamentalist Christians; it lead to the expression of opinions that countered the comment to the point where nothing has been heard from the outspoken preacher in over a year. In a free society it’s the ideas that clash – not the fanatics.

One of the objectives of Osama Bin-Laden was to forment a religious war between Islam and the rest of the world. The attacks of Sept 11 woke up Americans to the threat the “hijacking of one of the world’s great religions” presents to universal values such as freedom of religion and of speech. While Falwell’s comments may be insulting to Muslims, they should ask themselves why this religious leader holds this opinion of their religion and ask themselves if a religious war is really in their best interest. They should ask themselves why there is growing hatred of their religion, and see if some of this anger is not unjustified.

Update:


On Sunday October 13, 2002 Falwell apologized for his remarks – thereby proving to many on the Right that he is a coward as well as an ass. The same day a car bomb exploded in Bali, killing hundreds of Australians, Indonesians and Europeans. Neither Al-Qaeda nor anyone else in the Muslim world has condemned this attack, although one in Indonesia has blamed it on the United States.