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grinding the peppercorns of truth
daily archive: 09/12/2004
zorkmidden in Discarded Lies:
The Angst and the Scream
I was in need of cheering up and was glad to see there are people more neurotic than yours truly.

Mirror Image

Sometimes the news is so frightening it has to be kept from your parents. And while we may try to shield them from certain images, it is impossible to fully protect the innocent from 24 hour news. Late last month, Edvard Munch's famous Scream, and less famous Madonna, were stolen at gunpoint from the museum named for the artist in Oslo. They have probably become currency in the world of art thief gangs, Sharks and Jets with Vermeers and El Grecos under their leather jackets.

When I saw the headlines, I knew the awful truth could only be kept from my Norwegian mother for so long. I decided it was better if she heard the news from me than from Wolf Blitzer. If she and I talked it through, I figured, I could answer any questions she had, and explain to her that though there are bad people in the world, and bad things do happen to Norwegian paintings, most people are good.

Mum's first words, when I told her about the theft, were "Norwegians would never do that. The thieves must have been foreigners." I told her that film taken of the perpetrators running from the scene, guns and canvasses in hands, revealed two men with hoods over their faces. "So we don't know, mum," I said, gently. "They may have been Norwegians." "No," she insisted. "They were probably Swedish and slipped across the border." I told her they apparently shouted in Norwegian. "A lot of those Swedes can speak Norwegian," said mum. "And Norwegians don't shout."

For many outside the Norwegian Diaspora, it is hard to grasp the importance of the Scream. To most people, it is just a creepy painting college undergrads hang on their dorm room walls and Japanese people make into blow-up dolls. But to a Norwegian, it is like a mirror-image, a reflection, if you will. It looks ugly to you. But to us it's like Alice through the looking-glass. We may be tall, blond and blue-eyed on the outside. But our inner Norwegian looks just like a shrieking skeleton with a tumultuous sky behind him, unaware that the United Nations thinks Norway is the greatest place on earth, or that the winner of this year's World Idol is Norwegian.

(Hat tip: Jim Russell)
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zorkmidden in Discarded Lies:
Before You Fall for the Spin
What do you really know about George W. Bush’s time in the Air National Guard? That he didn’t show up for duty in Alabama? That he missed a physical? That his daddy got him in?

News coverage of the president’s years in the Guard has tended to focus on one brief portion of that time — to the exclusion of virtually everything else. So just for the record, here, in full, is what Bush did:

Here are the facts

(Hat tip: Jim Russell)

Update: Qur'an Pundit has more on this article.
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zorkmidden in Discarded Lies:
Stuff Happens
British dramatists skewer U.S. pop and policy

The play, "Stuff Happens," by David Hare, explores the interplay of ideology, idealism, ignorance and ego that joined Britain and America in a war against Iraq.

In addition to a Texas-talkin' Bush, the characters include Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, an anguished Colin Powell, a bossy Condoleezza Rice, a bumbling George Tenet and Paul Wolfowitz ("The word `hawk' doesn't do Wolfowitz justice," says one administration colleague. "What about velociraptor?"). There's also Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac, Kofi Annan and Saddam Hussein.

Bush is portrayed by actor Alex Jennings as the amiable and inarticulate accidental president who says he is "in the Oval Office because of the power of prayer." But just when the audience members start to snicker at Bush, Hare slaps them down.

"What is the word, then, for those of us in the West who apply one standard to ourselves, and another to others? What is the word for those who claim to love democracy and yet who will not fight to extend democracy to Arabs as well?" wonders a journalist who serves as Hare's Greek chorus.

"A people hitherto suffering now suffer less. This is the story," he says.

If the real Rumsfeld and Cheney were to see this play, they would probably applaud their characters. The words are their own, after all, and delivered with considerable zest by professional actors.

What they might not appreciate--Cheney, in particular, who rarely ventures outside the bubble of like-thinking conservative Republicans--is the way the audience laughs at them.

National Security Adviser Rice, somewhat unfairly, is painted as the manipulative Richelieu of Bush's War Cabinet, the ambitious nanny who flatters and protects the inexperienced boy-president.

"In her office Rice keeps two mirrors, so she can see her back as well as her front," a colleague in the play says.

Colin Powell is Hare's tragic hero, a man torn between a soldier's sense of duty to his commander in chief and an abiding mistrust of politicians so eager to send someone else's children off to fight their wars.

The behind-the-scenes debates leading to Powell's United Nations Security Council address in February 2003 provide the play's richest moments, especially when the Powell and French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin characters square off over an elegant lunch at New York's Hotel Pierre.

"Push me too hard, and you'll end up with an outcome the opposite of what you want," Powell warns his French counterpart. "This is a two-way street. Your good faith is to be tested as much as mine."

"If anyone is stupid enough to think this is payback time for whatever grudge they happen to be nursing against the U.S.--be it Kyoto or the Criminal Court or, I don't know, how they hate McDonald's--then what they'll be doing in effect is condemning Iraqi women and children to the sort of bombardment which is going to make them wish they had never been born. ... That's what I'm trying to avoid," Powell says.

But Powell loses his power struggle with the White House hawks. And he fails to win the support of the UN Security Council. Afterward, when no weapons of mass destruction of are found in Iraq, Powell's reputation and credibility are tarnished.

A journalist asks him if, knowing then what he knows now, he still would have supported the war, Powell smiles coldly, shakes the man's hand and says, "It was good to meet you."

Interviewed about another of his history plays--this one dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict--Hare said it was enough "just to listen to people who know far more than you and arrange their thoughts in a certain way."

In "Stuff Happens," he lets an Iraqi exile have the final word.

"Iraq has been crucified. By Saddam's sins, by 10 years of sanctions, and then this," the man says. "Basically it's a story of a nation that failed in only one thing. But it's a big sin. It failed to take charge of itself. And that meant the worst person in the country took charge. Until this nation takes charge of itself, it will continue to suffer."
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zorkmidden in Discarded Lies:
We Apologise for Catching Your Eye
Mark Steyn says that three years after 9/11 the West remains in denial over Islamic terrorism.

We still don’t get it

Three years after September 11, the Islamist death cult is the love whose name no one dare speak. And, if you can’t even bring yourself to identify your enemy, are you likely to defeat him? Can you even know him? He seems to know us pretty well. He understands the pressures he can bring to bear on Spain, and the Philippines, and France, too. He’s come to appreciate the self-imposed constraints under which his enemy fights — the legalisms, the political correctness, the deference to ineffectual multilateralism. He’s revolted by the infidels’ decadence but he has to admit it’s enormously helpful: the useful idiots of the pro-gay, pro-feminist Left are far more idiotic and far more useful to him than they ever were to Stalin. He’s figured out that while pluralistic open democracy might be a debased system of government next to Sharia, it has its moments: he had no idea that quite so many Westerners so loathed their own governments and, if not their own, then certainly America’s. And he never thought that, even in America, while one party is at war, the other party is at war with the very idea that there is a war. And even the party committed to war presides over a lethargic unreformed bureaucracy, large chunks of which are determined to obstruct it.

So, despite the loss of the Afghan training camps and Saddam and the Taleban and three quarters of al-Qa’eda’s leadership, it hasn’t been a bad three years: the enemy has learnt the limits of the West’s resolve, and all he has to do is put a bit of thought into exploiting it in the years ahead. A nuclear Iran will certainly help.

...

In the US, some observers thought it would be different once Europe got hit. On the day of the Madrid bombing, John Ellis, a Bush cousin and a shrewd commentator, declared confidently: ‘Every member state of the EU understands that Madrid is Rome is Berlin is Amsterdam is Paris is London is New York.’ All wrong. Within 72 hours of the atrocity, voters sent a tough message to the Islamists: ‘We apologise for catching your eye.’ Whether or not Madrid is Rome, Berlin, etc., it certainly isn’t New York. At least in the two and a half years between 9/11 and 3/11, there was always the possibility of Europe stiffening itself. Now America lives with the certainty that it won’t, and can’t, until it’s too late.

This war will go on for some decades, and by the end of it Madrid will be Rome will be Berlin will be Amsterdam will be Paris, but none of them will be as we now know them. As I’ve said here before, by 2030 Europe will be Eurabia — at least semi-Islamified, with Muslim lobby groups transformed into Muslim political parties, with their own representatives serving in coalitions with bewildered Continental multiculturalists. (The recent by-elections in the Midlands, with the Friends of al-Aqsa Committee summoning the candidates to a tribunal in order to see who could outpander the others, is only an interim phase.) In the last three decades, Europe has taken in (officially) some 20 million Muslims (officially) — or the equivalent of the populations of three EU countries (Ireland, Belgium, Denmark). Once you look at it like that, why should they have less say in the corridors of Euro-power than Ben Bot or Bertie Ahern? Imagine France with a 20 per cent Muslim bloc and then consider the likelihood of French forces fighting alongside the US ever again.

(Registration may be required. Think bugmenot)

(Hat tip: Jim Russell)
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zorkmidden in Discarded Lies:
Cartoons of Hate
In the run-up to the 2004 presidential elections in the United States, newspapers in the Muslim and Arab world have increasingly focused their attention on the campaign and the candidates. While this heightened attention to the American political process has included legitimate coverage of news events, expressions of ugly anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories about Jewish control of the Democratic and Republican parties - or of the U.S. government - have appeared in the Muslim and Arab press with startling regularity.

The U.S. Presidential Race: Another Excuse for Hate in the Arab Press

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zorkmidden in Discarded Lies:
The T Word
Daniel Pipes tells it like it is: They're Terrorists, Not Activists

The origins of this unwillingness to name terrorists seems to lie in the Arab-Israeli conflict, prompted by an odd combination of sympathy in the press for the Palestinian Arabs and intimidation by them. The sympathy is well known; the intimidation less so. Reuters' Nidal al-Mughrabi made the latter explicit in advice for fellow reporters in Gaza to avoid trouble on the Web site www.newssafety.com, where one tip reads: "Never use the word terrorist or terrorism in describing Palestinian gunmen and militants; people consider them heroes of the conflict."

The reluctance to call terrorists by their rightful name can reach absurd lengths of inaccuracy and apologetics. For example, National Public Radio's Morning Edition announced on April 1, 2004, that "Israeli troops have arrested 12 men they say were wanted militants." But CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, pointed out the inaccuracy here and NPR issued an on-air correction on April 26: "Israeli military officials were quoted as saying they had arrested 12 men who were ‘wanted militants.' But the actual phrase used by the Israeli military was ‘wanted terrorists.'"

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zorkmidden in Discarded Lies:
Christians in Iran
From activistchat

Iranian police invaded the annual conference of Iran’s Assemblies of God and arrested at least 80 church leaders at the church’s denominational center near Tehran as part of the worst crack down on evangelical believers in a decade, a Christian news agency reported Friday, September 10.

Compass news agency said security forces raided the meeting "without warning" in Karaj, 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of the capital, after they surrounded the church’s garden property Thursday, September 9.

Eyewitnesses were quoted as saying that all men and women present at the first day of their annual meetings were detained. "The police came from everywhere," an Iranian Christian reportedly said. "There were a lot of them."

The Christian, whose name was not identified apparently for security reasons, claimed that "every single person present was put under arrest, blindfolded and taken in for interrogation."

Compass, which has close contacts with persecuted Christians in the region, said that the detained believers were driven around blindfolded for several hours so they would be unable to understand where they were being taken.

Each of them were reportedly questioned separately by security officials, and the questions revealed that authorities had very precise information about each person, including his or her activities, relatives and other personal data, Compass said, quoting Iranian sources.

Although most of the evangelical leaders were released, ten male pastors were still in custody, and their where whereabouts are unknown to their families, who have not been allowed to contact them, the news agency said.

"This is the biggest crisis for evangelical believers in the country since three Protestant pastors were murdered 10 years ago," another unidentified Iranian source told Compass.
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zorkmidden in Discarded Lies:
The Whole Picture
From Melanie Phillips's Diary

Once again, the admirable Amir Taheri restores some much needed balance and perspective to the picture of unrelieved gloom the media feed us about the situation in Iraq. Yes, the continued terrorism there is very troubling indeed. But this is by no means the whole picture.

'The most important is that post-liberation Iraq, defying great odds, has succeeded in carrying out its political reform agenda on schedule. A governing council was set up at the time promised. It, in turn, created a provisional government right on schedule. Next, municipal elections were held in almost all parts of the country. Then followed the drafting of a new democratic and pluralist constitution. Then came the formal end of the occupation and the appointing of a new interim government.
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