Aaron Hanscom

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Muslim Beaches

I hope Spain (where I am currently vacationing) doesn´t get any ideas from Italy. (link will take you to my article in FrontPage)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Banality of Evil

Mike Wallace sat down with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran for an interview on Tuesday. This is what Wallace said of the man who is eager to destroy Israel:"He's an impressive fellow, this guy. He really is. He's obviously smart as hell."

I couldn´t help but be reminded of Dan Rather´s interview with another monster: Saddam Hussein. I wrote the following at the time:

The Saddam Dan Would Rather Have Interviewed

Dan Rather’s interview with Saddam Hussein revealed far more about the CBS anchorman than the Iraqi leader himself. This was not Mr. Rather’s fault completely, however. Very few people tuned in last Wednesday night to ascertain the point of view of a pathological liar. Most were glued to their television sets as voyeurs, marveling at the banality of evil. Hussein did not let them down. He wore a nice suit, walked out of the room to pray midway through the interview, laughed good-naturedly a few times, and addressed a man he once tried to have assassinated as Mr. Bush. No, Mr. Rather was the real disappointment. He failed- like many of us do - to try and expose the easily hidden and inherently evil side of a man.

The fact that Hussein agreed to the interview in the first place is quite significant. Saddam, no idiot himself, clearly knows who his useful idiots are. Iraq did not give prominent coverage to the peace rallies held around the world for nothing. While there are respectable arguments against waging war in Iraq, there is no denying one sure outcome of appeasement: Hussein stays in power. Every action (or inaction) has a consequence: whether intended or not. Just as Hussein knows that most of the Westerners who oppose military action against him are on the left, he is undoubtedly aware of the media bias in America. So a couple of weeks after Iraq expelled Fox News correspondents from Baghdad, Hussein agreed to be interview by a man who once said during the Elian Gonzalez fiasco, “While Fidel Castro, and certainly justified on his record, is widely criticized for a lot of things, there is no question that Castro feels a very deep and abiding connection to those Cubans who are still in Cuba. And, I recognize this might be controversial, but there’s little doubt in my mind that Fidel Castro was sincere when he said, ‘listen, we really want this child back here.’” Surely any man that can convince himself that Fidel Castro deeply cares for the Cuban people is capable of having an open mind concerning Hussein’s humanitarian intentions.

A recent personal experience should shed some light on the interview that took place in Iraq. A couple months ago I had a parent conference with the father of one of my fifth grade students. I had recently learned that this man had just been released from prison for aggravated assault. Teachers told me that he was the main drug dealer for a local gang. An admired member of the PTA he was not. I was actually quite nervous before the conference. At the same time I realized that I had a couple of things going for me. First, I was the man who was helping someone he actually did care about: his daughter. Also, I prided myself on being completely charming with parents. Compliments and respect could appease even the most aggravated mother or father.

I remember that I took this man’s hand in both of my own and told him how pleased I was to meet him. He was respectful and nice, and I soon forgot all the things I had learned about his gang activities. We did touch on some of the problems his daughter was having in class but we didn’t even come close to addressing their root causes. Neither of us really wanted to face the truth. He wanted me to believe he wasn’t such a bad father. The sad thing was that I wanted and chose to believe the same thing.

The moment Mr. Rather endearingly grasped Hussein’s hand it was clear that the interview was going to be a farce. He was going to treat Hussein as if he were Jose Maria Aznar. Like myself, Mr. Rather had two things going for him. He opposes American removal of Hussein from power and he has a history of being soft with dictators.

I have no doubt Mr. Rather believes Saddam Hussein is a bad person. That is not the issue. His problem, like that of many people on the left, is not wanting to confront the evil in a person. Accepting and confronting are two very different things. Almost every person who opposes Hussein’s removal from power prefaces their arguments by conceding that Hussein is a “bad guy” or “jerk”. However, they rarely give details showing the extent of his evil and they almost immediately drop his name from the conversation after this initial concession. They consequently scoff when supporters of war declare that Hussein has gassed his own people or gets a sadistic pleasure out of having people tortured. By focusing more on the banality of the man, confrontation stops being a moral imperative.

Mr. Rather didn’t come close to confronting Saddam Hussein. Clifford D. May of The National Review has already shown how soft Mr. Rather was by just listing all the questions he asked. Here are a few of the most revealing ones:

Rather: Mr. President, I do appreciate your agreeing to spend an hour, because I want to ask questions in two categories, please.
Rather: Mr. President, you're being very patient with your time, and I want you to know I consider this a solemn moment in history, and, if I may, take time to have you speak to the American people about questions that I know are on their minds. I just want you to know that I appreciate your patience here.
Rather: I understand. Mr. President, if it's necessary for you to forgive me, I hope that you'll forgive me. But I have a couple of - sort of clean-up questions that I'm not clear about. Number one. Will the new proposed United Nations resolution, the one that's just out this week — will this make any difference at all in your position?
Rather: Mr. President, I hope you will take this question in the spirit in which it's asked. First of all, I regret that I do not speak Arabic. Do you speak any — any English at all?
Rather: I understand. Mr. President, again, you've been patient with your time. What is the most important thing you want the p - American people to understand? What's the most important thing you want the American people to understand, at this important juncture of history?
Rather: Well — first of all, I want to be serious that I — I appreciate — your confidence - Mr. President. I'm pausing because I'm tempted to ask a favor of the president. He has surprised me. I wonder for my good health if he could denounce me?
Rather: Mr. President, you've been so patient with your time. I appreciate you (UNINTEL). And I'm gonna —
Rather: I would like very much to see you in the future, Mr. President.

It is clear that Mr. Rather was talking to the person he would like Hussein to be. What a tragedy that he doesn’t realize the real Hussein would rather see him--and all of us-- dead.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Mel Gibson

My take on the escapade can be found here.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Spain's Anti-Semitism

I recently wrote about why Jews are feeling a lot more uncomfortable in Spain. Now comes this from a Wall Street Journal piece by Bret Stephens:

Messrs. Kaplan and Small employ data from a 2004 survey of European attitudes toward Jews and toward Israel commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League. Five thousand people in 10 European countries were asked to agree or disagree with 11 statements about Jews: for instance, that "Jews are more willing than others to use shady business practices" or that "Jews don't care what happens to anyone but their own kind." (Agreeing with more than five of the questions qualified one as an anti-Semite, according to the ADL.) The respondents were also asked to agree or disagree with four questions related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as whether Israel's treatment of Palestinians was similar to South Africa's treatment of blacks during apartheid.

The results were remarkable. Among those who held the most negative views of Israel, some 60% also believed that Jews engaged in shady financial practices, and more than 70% thought that Jews had too much business power. Whatever the respondents' religion, nationality, sex or income level, the more intense their dislike of Israel, the likelier they were to be anti-Semitic. Altogether, 56% of those harboring strong anti-Israel feelings were also anti-Semitic. (For the record, the survey found that Spain was the most anti-Semitic country in Europe, with 22% of respondents qualifying as anti-Semites, while Denmark and the Netherlands, at 8%, were the least.)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Victor Davis Hanson

VDH brings up the significance of European anti-Semitic cartoons(as I did a few days ago) in his outstanding piece on the West's madness:

There is no need to mention Europe , an entire continent now returning to the cowardice of the 1930s. Its cartoonists are terrified of offending Muslim sensibilities, so they now portray the Jews as Nazis, secure that no offended Israeli terrorist might chop off their heads. The French foreign minister meets with the Iranians to show solidarity with the terrorists who promise to wipe Israel off the map (“In the region there is of course a country such as Iran — a great country, a great people and a great civilization which is respected and which plays a stabilizing role in the region”) — and manages to outdo Chamberlain at Munich. One wonders only whether the prime catalyst for such French debasement is worry over oil, terrorists, nukes, unassimilated Arab minorities at home, or the old Gallic Jew-hatred.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The CNN Effect

Frida Ghitis has a must-read piece in the Los Angeles Times on the insidious effets of television images in a time of war:

The tears and the rage and the destruction are absolutely real. By confronting us with the ugliness of war, the images force us to keep human suffering in the forefront — exactly where it should be. And yet television images of suffering pack so much power that they overwhelm every other kind of information. They can cripple our ability to understand what is really happening.

I went into the streets of Amsterdam to hear from residents who, unlike me, fully understood the narration that came with the pictures on their local news. Not surprisingly, the images dominated their thoughts to the exclusion of virtually everything else.

Bram Jipen talked about "those poor children, with the big eyes." Everyone agreed that the war should stop immediately, and the majority — with some viciously bigoted exceptions — thought it was "everybody's fault." It seemed that TV destroyed the ability to differentiate, to analyze.

"They're both stupid," Gerard Jansan told me, righteously succumbing to the easy morality of blaming all sides. Viewing pictures of children with skin burned off their faces, it seems inhumane to even ponder the causes of war or, more inconceivable, whether a war might be justified.

It's worth reading the whole thing.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Why Spain Matters

Charles Krauthammer tells us why Israel's war is our war:

For all their medieval trappings, these two sources of Islamic fervor now vying for possession of the newly transmuted Arab-Israeli dispute confirm the Bush Administration's view that, after a holiday from history in the 1990s, the global ideological struggles of the 20th century have been rejoined with a change only in the cast. In place of the ersatz Western religions of fascism and communism, radical Islam, bastard child of a real and great religion, has arisen. Led by two rival Vaticans, one in Tehran and the other cavebound on the Afghan-Pakistani border, it raises the banner of a militant religion that will not rest until, as al-Zawahiri pledged, Islam has retaken every piece of Waqf "from Spain to Iraq."

Yes, Spain--conquered by Islam in the 8th century, lost to Christianity in 1492. That's a long way from Haifa, from Lebanon, from Baghdad and even from Mecca. It's an even longer way from rationality, which is why the struggle against it will be long and painful, and enduringly surreal.

World Opinion

So I finally lost it the other day at the dinner table. There is only so much one can take when it comes to the blatant anti-Israel bias of Spain's television news or "telediarios." I had heard the words "babies" and "massacres" too many times to hold it in any longer. After explaining to my mother-in-law that it is Hezbollah's goal to murder innocents (Lebanese included) while Israel does whatever it can to avoid civilian deaths, she simply asked, "So is the whole world wrong?"

The answer is yes. Dennis Prager explains it better than I ever could:

World opinion" doesn't confront real evils, but it has a particular animus toward those who do -- most notably today America and Israel.

The moment one recognizes "world opinion" for what it is -- a statement of moral cowardice, one is longer enthralled by the term. That "world opinion" at this moment allegedly loathes America and Israel is a badge of honor to be worn proudly by those countries. It is when "world opinion" and its news media start liking you that you should wonder if you've lost your way.

Read the entire piece.