Some peg the beheading imagery as careful symbolism that's designed to appear primitive — and thus enhance the militants' credibility by placing them closer to Islam's roots when, one scholar says, "the sole way of fighting was the sword."
"In reality, they don't fight the Americans with knives. They fight them with explosions and guns," said Diaa Rashwan, an expert on Islamic militants at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo.
"But in the face of the camera, they play this traditional Islam — or what they consider the original Islam," he said. "They want to confirm they are in the same war that the prophet and the first Muslims were fighting."
That notion plays not only to the West but to young Muslims who could be recruited for the militants' cause — if they see evidence that the insurgency is strong and pure.
"They're issuing a message that's supposed to go to several different audiences at once. And it's working," said Jonathan Mendilow, a former press officer for the city of Jerusalem who now teaches courses about terrorism at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J.
Decapitation, official and otherwise, has a lengthy and continuing history in the Islamic world. It remains a chief method of capital punishment in Saudi Arabia, where three security guards were beheaded this month after being convicted of drug trafficking.
Last week Pat Buchanan appeared on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," and liberal host Jon Stewart bonded with his paleoconservative guest over their mutual opposition to the liberation of Iraq. Mr. Stewart smiled and nodded while Mr. Buchanan derided "neoconservatives" four times in the course of the six-minute interview. In his efforts to promote his and his guest's common agenda, Mr. Stewart didn't ask Mr. Buchanan what he meant by "neoconservatives." It was clear that the Jewish Mr. Stewart didn't realize that Mr. Buchanan was using what has become an epithet for "Jews"--an epithet employed most often by the left.
One big culprit has been Air America. Tune in to the proudly liberal radio network, and you'll hear actress-turned-activist Janeane Garofalo and other hosts frequently blast the "influence" of the "neocons" on the Bush Administration, then go on to name names such as Wolfowitz, Perle, Abrams and Libby. Not a single gentile name makes the list, so it's the Jewish influence to which the network takes particular exception.
Others have gotten in trouble for pointing this out, but let's give up the charade. When a member of the enlightened classes, or Pat Buchanan, makes reference to a "neocon," what he's saying is "yid." That's right, "neoconservative," particularly in its shortened form, when employed by a nonconservative (or by Buchananites) and therefore meant derogatorily, is the modern, albeit more specific, word for "kike" that the left can say--and it has been doing so liberally (no pun intended) ever since American conservatism became yet something else that Jews have managed to benefit from--the conquered, final frontier of that famous Jewish manipulation.
First, the U.N. is not the idealistic postwar organization of our collective Unicef and Unesco nostalgia, the old perpetual force for good that we once associated with hunger relief and peacekeeping. Its membership is instead rife with tyrannies, theocracies and Stalinist regimes. Many of them, like Algeria, Cuba, Iran, Vietnam and Zimbabwe, have served on the U.N.'s 53-member Commission on Human Rights. The Libyan lunocracy -- infamous for its dirty war with Chad and cash bounties to mass murderers -- chaired the 2003 session. For Mr. Bush to talk to such folk about the need to spread liberty means removing from power, or indeed jailing, many of the oppressors sitting in his audience.
Second, urging democratic reforms in Palestine, as Mr. Bush also outlined, is antithetical to the very stuff of the U.N., an embarrassing reminder that nearly half of its resolutions in the past half-century have been aimed at punishing tiny democratic Israel at the behest of its larger, more populous -- and dictatorial -- Arab neighbors. The contemporary U.N., then, has become not only hypocritical, but also a bully that hectors Israel about the West Bank while it gives a pass to a nuclear, billion-person China after swallowing Tibet; wants nothing to do with the two present dangers to world peace, a nuclear North Korea and soon to follow theocratic Iran; and idles while thousands die in the Sudan.
Third, the present secretary-general, Kofi Annan, is himself a symbol of all that is wrong with the U.N. A multibillion dollar oil-for-food fraud, replete with kickbacks (perhaps involving a company that his own son worked for), grew unchecked on his watch, as a sordid array of Baathist killers, international hustlers and even terrorists milked the national petroleum treasure of Iraq while its own people went hungry. In response, Mr. Annan stonewalls, counting on exemption from the New York press on grounds of his unimpeachable liberal credentials. Meanwhile, he prefers to denigrate the toppling of Saddam Hussein as "illegal," but neither advocates reinstitution of a "legal" Saddam nor offers any concrete help to Iraqis crafting consensual society. Like the U.N. membership itself, he enjoys the freedom, affluence and security of a New York, but never stops to ask why that is so or how it might be extended to others less fortunate.
Mass killing is practiced against women working as interpreters or as workers with foreign companies. Many were murdered in the last several months in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.
Political Islam’s violence against women must be stopped. The terrorist Islamic forces must be expelled from the Iraqi society. This task relies on the will power of women and men who are seeking a world where freedom and security prevail. This goal will only take place if the secular and freedom-loving forces stand up to the Islamic terrorism, which claims the lives of more women every moment merely for being women.
Within a month, the crumbling, two-story building she identified in Hilla was a spanking-new women's center with computers and Internet access, sewing machines, a gym, an auditorium for democracy lectures and a kitchen where the local women could cater for the new Iraqi Olympic boxing team. Holland soon identified five more suitable buildings, one in every province.
Last November, Holland persuaded families in Karbala and Najaf to allow her to take some women to Washington, New York and Boston for democracy seminars and to meet President Bush. She even included some of the conservative Najafi women. One Iraqi lawyer returned to her home in Najaf to find an effigy of herself hanging on her door with the word ''spy.'' She dropped all her activities. One close Iraqi friend of Holland's recalled riding a minibus in Najaf with a simple man who told him, ''My uncle, these foreigners have come to take our wives to foreign lands.''
Fern Holland was making a name for herself. Those she touched called her Barbie, the doll, the white dove or the angel dropped from the sky. But there were also the other names that adhere to Westerners -- spy, Jew -- and, in her case, dangerous agent injecting Western notions in the minds of good Muslim women. Oumashi too, who had lived for a time in the United States and brought back her American clothes and airs and ideas about women's liberation, was considered an American agent. They were, after all, touching Najaf, the center of the Shiite world. It is the home of the shrine of Ali and of the Shiites' most sacred burial ground, where millions have transported their dead for burial in the city's catacombed cemetery. Billions of dollars were at stake from the pilgrim industry, as was the power to define much of the Shiite majority's future in the new Iraq. The last thing male religious leaders wanted was Holland and Oumashi teaching women that they had the power to select their own leaders.
By February of this year, Holland was busy getting a women's center up and running in Karbala, 12 miles northwest of Hilla, despite strong local opposition. It was not just a matter of struggling with local religious conservatives, though that would have been enough in a city built around the tomb of the Shiite martyr Hussein. Just across the street, Karbala's policemen worked in a blighted station house while Holland and Oumashi unloaded new computers and other fancy goods for the sole benefit of Karbala's women. The police were not even being paid any longer; the interior ministry had stopped sending money to the provinces, despite the desperate need for security. Why were the Americans spending their money in this way? In Friday sermons, clerics loyal to the young militant Moktada al-Sadr spread rumors: ''You know what the Americans are doing in these centers, my brothers? They are offering free abortions. You know what these Internet centers are doing? They are offering free porn to the students of the Hawza [the Shiite seminary].''
People ask me wherever I go: What's Dick Cheney like?
As if I'd know.
All I have are little images, most of them from afar, of a man who's essentially all business, who feels a little uncomfortable in the spotlight, who is happier and looser when his wife is with him, who laughs more frequently than his reputation suggests but usually at unkind jokes aimed at Democrats shouted from the crowd. He barely raises his voice, even when punching home an applause line in a speech.
"I found the vice president to be very warm, very trustworthy," said Elaine Schoman, an English and Spanish teacher at Cuba High School in Cuba, N.M., just after she was one of a dozen hand-picked supporters to have breakfast with the vice president on Thursday. "Which publication did you say you were from?"
An icy look passed quickly across her face. "You need to talk to your people," she said. "You're all twisted in one direction."
Don't I know it.
I spent that evening in my hotel room, perversely looking through Web sites about stalkers. "In general," one site concluded, "for any type of stalker, the less of a relationship that actually existed prior to the stalking, the more mentally disturbed the stalker."
They might be on to something there.
The divestment action manifests a singular animosity towards Israel. The Presbyterians have not divested their funds from any of the cruel regimes of the world: not from China for its ethnic cleansing of Tibetans, and its repression of Muslems and Falun Gong; and not even from Sudan, currently engaged in the extermination of Africans in Darfur. But then again, Syria has not boycotted those states either.
One would expect the Presbyterian Church to use its economic clout with an eye to punishing the many regimes around the world that oppress their fellow Christians, and call attention to their plight. However, the church has not taken action against such nations as Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, or North Korea (whose government has reportedly murdered 300,000 Christians), where anti-Christian persecution has been detailed by Christian human-rights groups. Indeed, the Presbyterians have not even boycotted Lebanon, where Christians have been slaughtered by various Muslim groups. But then, neither has Syria, which controls Lebanon as a vassal state.
Since the creation of Israel, Christians have been able to worship there unmolested and unafraid. Israel does not afford Christians this treatment as a matter of sovereign grace or condescension, but rather because it shares the American values of religious freedom and pluralism. The Presbyterians have set themselves against the best and only friend and protector of Christianity in the Middle East.