Does Oxford think it ok to honor a man who calls Anne Frank a “Holo-porn” star?

January 21, 2008

* Bush privately lauds Israeli attack on Syria, disowns the NIE report on Iran
* The Oxford Union: Useful idiots – then and now

* Just last week, Norman Finkelstein reprinted on his website an article from the Israeli paper Ha’aretz about worrying signs of failures in Holocaust education among German youth. But Finkelstein added a fresh headline: “To reverse declining German interest in Holocaust, Britney Spears to play Anne Frank in new Holo-porn video.” Tomorrow Finkelstein will be an honored guest at Oxford University. (See item 1 below.)

 

CONTENTS

1. Does Oxford think it ok to honor a man who calls Anne Frank a porn star?
2. Bush at Yad Vashem: U.S. should have bombed Auschwitz
3. Bush privately lauds Israeli attack on Syria
4. Newsweek: Bush, in private, disowns the NIE report on Iran
5. Bush gets to the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict
6. Nice welcome...
7. Israel thwarts Islamic Jihad plan to bomb Tel Aviv-Jerusalem railroad
8. Turkmen riots in Iran ignored by western media
9. “Petraeus’ Victory”
10. “Why wasn’t Auschwitz bombed?” (Michael Berenbaum, Ha’aretz, Jan. 18, 2008)
11. “The Lancet’s outlandish exaggeration” (Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe, Jan. 13, 2008)
12. “The Spirit of the Oxford Union” (Cliff May, NRO, Jan. 17, 2008)


[All items below written by Tom Gross]

The dates on which these items were written appear before each of them. They were first published on the website of The National Review.

 

Monday, January 21, 2008

DOES OXFORD THINK IT OK TO HONOR A MAN WHO CALLS ANNE FRANK A PORN STAR?

In October, I wrote about criticism of the Oxford Union in a dispatch titled “Outrage after Holocaust denier David Irving invited to Oxford Union.”

Oxford University’s world famous Oxford Union debating society went ahead with the invitation to Irving, and British fascist leader Nick Griffin, in November. Shortly before, in the latest of several outrageous pronouncements, Irving had told the British daily The Guardian that the Jews were responsible for “most of the wars of the last 100 years.”

Tomorrow (Tuesday) at the Oxford Union, four academics who all support a boycott of Israel, will debate the motion “This House Believes That The State of Israel has a Right to Exist.”

American revisionist “historian” Norman Finkelstein along with Prof. Ted Honderich will be speaking for the motion while opposing them will be Exeter University academics Ghada Karmi and Ilan Pappe, a former Israeli Jew who has made a career out of slandering the country where he was born and grew up.

MOST VILE

It is harder to know which of these four is the most vile.

Just last week, Finkelstein reprinted on his website an article from the Israeli paper Ha’aretz about worrying signs of failures in Holocaust education among German youth, and added the mock headline: “To reverse declining German interest in Holocaust, Britney Spears to play Anne Frank in new Holo-porn video.”

Making fun of Holocaust survivors has been a frequent feature of Finkelstein’s work (even though he is himself the son of survivors) and it is not surprising that so many regard him (as was the case with former chess champion Bobby Fischer who died last week) as a highly disturbed Jewish self-hater.

What is surprising – and dangerous – however, is Oxford’s behavior.

Do the university authorities think it is ok to honor (and indeed pay a fee to) a man who thinks it is fun to call child Holocaust victim Anne Frank a porn star?

Do people in turn think it is ok to continue making donations to Oxford University’s fundraising appeals?

The issue is not just why Israel is the only country whose right to exist is being questioned at Oxford. Perhaps of even greater concern is why Oxford has chosen such anti-Israeli figures as Finkelstein and Honderich to argue Israel has a right to exist. All four speakers have in the past supported organizations that have called for the delegitimization of the State of Israel.

DOES BRITAIN HAVE A RIGHT TO EXIST?

Fresh from his tour of Lebanon earlier this month (where he was warmly welcomed by Hizbullah supporters), Finkelstein is this week on a British tour organized and paid for by FOSIS (the Federation of Student Islamic Societies in the UK and Ireland) and supported by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign. In addition to Oxford, he will be speaking to students at Manchester, Keele, Sussex and Edinburgh Universities, and at the London School of Economics (LSE).

The posters advertising the speaking tour show a map depicting a one state solution for Palestine, with Israel eliminated, and Palestine represented in red with dripping blood. So why has Oxford chosen Finkelstein, of all people, as the speaker students will hear putting the case for a Jewish state not to be wiped out?

What would people in Britain think if foreign universities debated whether Britain had a right to exist?

I also attach below, in the “Full Articles” section, a piece on how the idiocy of the Oxford Union has spread to American universities. It is by Cliff May, a subscriber to this list.

I should add that when I was a student at Oxford University, and a member of the Oxford Union, it never invited quite such evil people to appear before it as it does now.

 

Friday, January 11, 2008

BUSH AT YAD VASHEM: U.S. SHOULD HAVE BOMBED AUSCHWITZ

President George W. Bush visited Israel’s official Holocaust memorial (Yad Vashem) today, placing a red-white-and-blue wreath on a stone slab that covers ashes of Holocaust victims taken from six extermination camps.

“I wish as many people as possible would come to this place. It is a sobering reminder that evil exists, and a call that when evil exists we must resist it,” he said.

At one point, Bush viewed aerial photos of the Auschwitz death camp taken during the war by U.S. forces and called Secretary of State Rice over to discuss why the American government had decided against bombing the site. “We should have bombed it,” Bush said, according to Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev. In the memorial’s visitors’ book, the president wrote simply, “God bless Israel, George Bush.”

Bush’s comment about bombing Auschwitz, which those present said appeared to be spontaneous, marked the first time an American president has publicly made such an acknowledgment.

***

Below in the “Full Articles” section, I attach a piece which appeared a week later, on Jan. 18 in Ha’aretz, by Michael Berenbaum, a subscriber to this email list and co-editor (with Michael Neufeld), of “The Bombing of Auschwitz: Should the Allies Have Attempted It?”

 

Sunday, January 20, 2008

BUSH PRIVATELY LAUDS ISRAELI ATTACK ON SYRIA

On January 9, in one of the most wide-ranging security discussions since the Israeli airstrike on a Syrian nuclear reactor last September, President Bush privately commended his Israeli hosts on what was described as an important preventive action, reveals Defense News. (For background on the September airstrike, see here.)

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that the Syrians have begun rebuilding the bombed site. The newspaper said satellite pictures showed the new structure appears to closely resemble the original structure, but that the roof of the new building is vaulted instead of flat.

In a related development, Israeli intelligence has determined (after “multiple examinations by various means”) that there is no link between the Iranian and Syrian nuclear drives. Israeli intelligence agencies concluded that Iran had no connection to the Syrian nuclear program and probably was not even aware of the clandestine site in eastern Syria, according to Defense News sources.

 

Sunday, January 20, 2008

NEWSWEEK: BUSH, IN PRIVATE, DISOWNS THE NIE REPORT ON IRAN

Concerning the Iranian issue, Newsweek reports in its Jan. 21 issue that Bush, in private, has all but disowned the National Intelligence Estimate, which was made public on Dec. 3. The NIE dramatically downplayed the efforts made by the Islamic dictatorship in Iran to acquire a nuclear bomb. Bush made the remarks in conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week, according to a senior administration official who accompanied Bush on his trip to the Mideast.

 

Thursday, January 17, 2008

BUSH GETS TO THE HEART OF THE ARAB-ISRAELI CONFLICT

So says The Jerusalem Post in this editorial titled “10 essential words” (extracts below).

“The agreement must establish Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people.”

-- US President George W. Bush, January 10 (emphasis added)

This sentence may seem like nothing new, just another restatement of the two-state vision. But the last 10 words are the key to resolving the conflict, a missing element whose absence has caused the peace process to oscillate between stalemate and war rather than move steadily toward lasting peace.

These words are critical because they signal an end to the Arab world’s double game. On the one hand, the Arab states and the Palestinians have claimed to embrace the two-state plan. On the other, the Arab side has demanded something that completely negates the most fundamental prerequisite of the two-state concept, namely mutual recognition of each side’s national rights.

The Arab demand for a “right of return” is utterly asymmetrical; according to this demand, Palestinians have a right to move to Israel, while Jews not only have no right to move to a future Palestinian state, but those who live now within the future borders of that state must leave.

... If Palestinians have a right to move to Israel, and Jews or Israelis can’t move to Palestine, then the Palestinians are saying: What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine. They are denying Israel’s sovereignty and therefore the Jewish state’s right to exist.

... If Israel is not a Jewish state, meaning a state with a large Jewish majority, then it will become another Arab state.

For Israel, its Jewish character is not a matter of religious preference – unlike the Arab world, Israel protects religion freedom and respects all holy places – but of existence. In this context, the Arab refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state, along with the denial of Jewish history and of Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, is tantamount to rejecting Israel’s existence.

... The Arab states could change the climate completely if they would do two things: meet Israeli leaders and say, as Bush did, that the Jewish people has a right to a state just as the Palestinians do. Such actions cannot wait for an agreement because, without them, there will be no agreement, only more stalemate and war.

 

Thursday, January 10, 2008

NICE WELCOME...

President Bush, visiting the Palestinian territories today, made remarks strongly supportive of the Palestinian cause, to back up the hundreds of millions of dollars his administration has pledged for the Palestinian people.

Among the reaction so far:

(1) 20,000 Islamists in Gaza Protest Against “Vampire” Bush (By Nidal al-Mughrabi, Reuters)

Brandishing placards showing George W. Bush as a vampire swigging Muslim blood, some 20,000 Hamas supporters protested in Gaza on Wednesday against the U.S. president’s visit to Israel and the West Bank.

(2) Palestinians Attack American School in Gaza (By Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post)

Palestinians in Gaza on Thursday launched a rocket attack on the local American International School in protest against President Bush’s visit. Witnesses said large parts of the school were damaged by rockets, mortars and explosive devices. The attack came hours after several Palestinian groups called on Palestinians to kill Bush.

(3) Palestinian Rocket Hits Sderot Home, Wounds Four (By Shmulik Hadad, Ynet News)

Palestinians in Gaza fired five Kassam rockets at Israel Wednesday afternoon, including one that hit a house in Sderot. Four people sustained injuries, including a 17-year-old girl who suffered shrapnel wounds and a boy who was hurt while attempting to take cover.

***

None of this has been mentioned even in passing on the BBC, CNN International, Sky or Fox News reports I have watched today on Bush’s trip to the Middle East.

 

Thursday, January 17, 2008

ISRAEL THWARTS ISLAMIC JIHAD PLAN TO BOMB TEL AVIV-JERUSALEM RAILROAD

Israeli security forces thwarted an attempt by an Islamic Jihad cell to place a bomb on the railroad tracks leading from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem according to information made public today. The members of the cell were captured a month ago near Bethlehem. The investigation revealed that the suspects learned to make bombs via the Internet.

 

Saturday, January 12, 2008

TURKMEN RIOTS IN IRAN IGNORED BY WESTERN MEDIA

Over 300 Turkmen were arrested in Iran following riots on Jan. 4-6. The anger against the Iranian regime among the ethnic Turkmen community follows the recent ethnic revolts in both Baluchistan and Iranian Kurdistan.

Groups of enraged Turkmen attacked government offices and set vehicles on fire in Golestan after Islamic Revolutionary Guards shot dead a Turkmen fisherman on Jan. 4, bringing long simmering resentment against the Tehran regime to a head. Turkmen anger was so strong that the government in neighboring Turkmenistan halted its flow of natural gas to Iran.

***

Iran yesterday took delivery of its fourth fuel shipment from Russia for its Bushehr nuclear power plant, as Iran moves closer to being able to build a nuclear weapon.

 

Saturday, January 12, 2008

“PETRAEUS’ VICTORY”

Yesterday marked the first anniversary of President Bush’s declaration of the Iraq troop surge. In large part, thus far it has worked. Sectarian violence has declined in recent months, the number of car bombings and suicide attacks has plummeted, American casualties are down sharply, and an increasing number of Iraqi refugees are returning to the country.

So what do those in America who spoke out so forcibly against the surge have to say now?

The New York Post notes, in an editorial titled “Petraeus’ Victory,” the following. (The rest of this item is written by The New York Post editors, the senior ones of which subscribe to this email list) :

... Uber-dove Ted Kennedy grudgingly conceded the success of the surge yesterday (while sneeringly referring to it as “the escalation”).

Said Kennedy: “The violence has declined.”

His disappointment was palpable – but not surprising. He was among the congressional Democrats who so arrogantly predicted (hoped?) one year ago that the surge would fail.

Indeed, four days before Bush announced the surge, the top two Democrats on Capitol Hill – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – defiantly declared that “adding more combat troops will only endanger more Americans.”

New York’s own Sen. Chuck Schumer, who normally knows better, complained that the president had offered “a new surge without a new strategy.”

And those Democrats who even then were hoping to succeed Bush as commander-in-chief piled on.

“The president’s plan has been flawed from the outset,” said Sen. Barack Obama, adding: “At what point do we say, ‘Enough’?”

John Edwards called on Congress to de-fund the surge and demanded the immediate withdrawal of 50,000 US troops.

And Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton – newly converted to fervent opponent of the war following the Democrats’ 2006 wins – complained that the surge “will take us down the wrong road.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

... Iraq, to be sure, is far from a pacified country. Neither can it be said that political normalcy is just around the corner.

But it remains that no political progress could have been made amongst the chaos and bloodshed that marked daily life a year ago – and today Iraqis are infinitely closer to being able to rebuild their country unfettered by Islamist terror.

This is good news.

... But are any of the Democratic candidates honest enough to admit they were wrong?

Are you kidding?

Indeed, as Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman wrote yesterday in The Wall Street Journal: “Had we heeded their calls for retreat, Iraq today would be a country in chaos: a failed state in the heart of the Middle East, overrun by al Qaeda and Iran.”

Instead, “the forces of Islamist extremism are facing their single and most humiliating defeat since the loss of Afghanistan in 2001.”

... But Democrats – especially the party’s White House hopefuls – either refuse to admit their error or display willful cut-and-run mulishness.

Do none of them understand the consequences of failure in Iraq?

Do they even care?

***

Tom Gross adds: it was reported today (January 21) in The New York Times that the Pentagon is considering moving Petraeus out of Iraq and appointing him to a top NATO command job, so pleased are they with his performance during the “surge”.

 

I attach three articles below, and suggest you read them all if you have time. Each of the authors (Michael Berenbaum, Jeff Jacoby and Cliff May) is a long time subscriber to this email list.

-- Tom Gross


FULL ARTICLES

WHILE LOCAL FACTORIES WERE BOMBED, THE DEATH CAMP REMAINED UNTOUCHED

Why wasn’t Auschwitz bombed?
By Michael Berenbaum
Ha’aretz
January 18, 2008

When President George W. Bush visited Yad Vashem last Friday, he paused before a photograph of Auschwitz, called over Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and said, “We should have bombed Auschwitz.” We should applaud his sentiments, yet the issue is far more complex.

The question, “Why wasn’t Auschwitz bombed?” is not only historical. It is also a moral question emblematic of the overall Allied response to the plight of the Jews during the Holocaust.

First to the historical issues: The question of bombing Auschwitz arose only in the summer of 1944, more than two years after the gassing of Jews had begun, by which time more than 90 percent of the Jews murdered in the Holocaust were already dead. It could not have arisen earlier, because not enough was known specifically about the camp, and Allied bombers were not in range to bomb the camps. By July, information about Auschwitz and its function was available – or could have been made available - to those undertaking the mission. German air defenses were weakened, and the accuracy of Allied bombing was increasing. All that was required was the political will.

That March, Germany had invaded Hungary. In April, Jews were ghettoized. Between May 15 and July 8, 437,402 Jews were deported from Hungary, overwhelmingly to Birkenau, the death camp of Auschwitz. To accommodate them, a railroad spur was built directly into Birkenau. Four out of five arriving Jews were sent directly to their death. Birkenau’s gas chambers operated around the clock and its crematoria were so overtaxed that bodies were being burned in open fields. Any interruption in the killing process might have saved thousands of lives.

Yet bombing a concentration camp filled with innocent civilian prisoners also posed a moral dilemma to the Allies. To be willing to sacrifice the prisoners’ lives, one had to perceive accurately camp conditions and presume that the loss of those killed in Allied bombings would be justified by the interruption of the camp’s killing process. In short, one had to accept the fact that those in the camps would soon die anyway. Such information was not available until the spring of 1944.

It is generally assumed that anti-Semitism or indifference to the plight of the Jews was the primary cause of the refusal to support bombing of the camps. Again, the issue is more complex. On June 11, the Jewish Agency Executive Committee, meeting in Jerusalem, refused to call for the bombing of Auschwitz. Jewish leadership in Palestine was clearly neither anti-Semitic nor indifferent to the situation of their brethren. David Ben-Gurion, chairman of the executive, said: “We do not know the truth concerning the entire situation in Poland and it seems that we will be unable to propose anything concerning this matter.” What concerned Ben-Gurion and his colleagues was that bombing the camps could cause the death of many Jews or even one Jew. Although no specific documentation reversing the decision of June 11 has been found, by July, officials of the Jewish Agency in London were forcefully calling for the bombing.

By then, presumably, the heads of the Jewish community in Palestine, like the Allied representatives; but not the Allied leaders; had seen the report filed by Rudolph Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, two escapees from Birkenau, who documented the killing process and provided maps and other specific details, together with an urgent request to bomb the camps. Vrba, who escaped on April 7, worked at the camp’s ramp, and revealed the
construction of the rail spur.

Anyone who had read the Vrba-Wetzler Report could perceive what was happening in the Auschwitz complex, and would therefore presumably be far more willing to risk Jewish lives on the ground in order to slow down or stop the gassing.

What is known is that Moshe Shertok (later Sharett), head of the Jewish Agency’s political department, and Agency president Chaim Weizmann appealed to British foreign secretary Anthony Eden, who took the issue to prime minister Winston Churchill. Churchill told Eden on July 7, “Get anything out of the Air Force you can and invoke me if necessary.” Yet the British never followed through on the bombing.

Requests were also made to U.S. officials to bomb Auschwitz. The Americans gave several reasons for their refusal: Military resources could not be diverted from the war effort, which was reaching its crescendo in the post-D-Day battles; bombing Auschwitz might prove ineffective, and might even provoke more vindictive German action. Nowhere did the Americans claim that Auschwitz was not within range of American bombers.

In fact, as early as May 1944, the U.S. Air Force had the capability to strike Auschwitz at will. The rail lines from Hungary were also well within range. On July 7, 1944, American bombers flew over the railway lines to Auschwitz. On August 20, 127 Flying Fortresses dropped 1,336 500-pound bombs on the I.G. Farben synthetic oil factory less than five miles east of Birkenau. The death camp remained untouched.

For three decades, the issue of bombing Auschwitz was a minor sidebar to the war and to the Holocaust. But in 1978, American historian David Wyman wrote an article in Commentary Magazine, entitled “Why Auschwitz Wasn’t Bombed.” The effect of that piece was reinforced by the startling photographs that were published a short time later by two leading CIA photo interpreters, Dino Brugioni and Robert Poirier, the very photographs President Bush saw on Friday. Developed with technology available in 1978, but not in 1944, these images seemingly gave a vivid demonstration of what American intelligence could have known about Birkenau, if only it had been interested. One photograph shows bombs dropping over the camp; because the pilot released the bombs early, it appeared as though bombs targeted for the I.G. Farben plant were dropped on Birkenau. Another visually details Jews on the way to the gas chambers.

Wyman’s claims gained considerable currency and the issue of bombing became synonymous with American indifference. In 1993, the issue was raised at a Washington, D.C. symposium linked to the opening of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and attended by both Holocaust scholars and military historians of divergent points of view. Historians are uncomfortable with the counterfactual speculating, “What if...” But such is the debate over bombing Auschwitz.

We know that in the end, the pessimists won. They argued that nothing could be done; and nothing was done. The optimists did not even have their proposals considered. Given the reality of what happened in Birkenau during the summer of 1944, the failure to bomb has become a symbol of indifference to many. Inaction helped the Germans achieve their goals and left the victims with little power to defend themselves. And bombing was not offered even as a gesture of protest. It is always important for the president of the United States to believe that something can be done; and more important, that something must be done to stop genocide.

 

“ONE IN 40 IRAQIS KILLED SINCE INVASION,” BLARED THE GUARDIAN

The Lancet’s outlandish exaggeration
By Jeff Jacoby
The Boston Globe
January 13, 2008

Few medical journals have the storied reputation of The Lancet, a British publication founded in 1823. In the course of its long history, The Lancet has published work of exceptional influence, such as Joseph Lister’s principles of antiseptics in 1867 and Howard Florey’s Nobel Prize-winning discoveries on penicillin in 1940. Today it is one of the most frequently cited medical journals in the world.

So naturally there was great interest when the Lancet published a study in October 2006, three weeks before the midterm US elections, reporting that 655,000 people had died in Iraq as a result of the US-led war.

Hundreds of news outlets, to say nothing of antiwar activists and lawmakers, publicized the astonishing figure, which was more than 10 times the death toll estimated by other sources. The Iraqi health ministry, for example, put the mortality level through June 2006 at 50,000. Iraq Body Count, a nonpartisan anti-war group that maintains a public database of the war’s victims, tallied some 45,000 Iraqi dead. If The Lancet’s number was accurate, more Iraqis had died in the 2½ years since the US invasion than during the eight-year war with Iran.

President Bush, asked about the study, dismissed it out of hand: “I don’t consider it a credible report.” Tony Blair’s spokesman also brushed it off as “not ... anywhere near accurate.”

But the media played it up, for the most part unquestioningly. “One in 40 Iraqis killed since invasion,” blared a front-page headline in the Guardian, a leading British paper. CNN.com’s story began: “War has wiped out about 655,000 Iraqis, or more than 500 people a day, since the US-led invasion, a new study reports.” The CBS Evening News announced “a new and stunning measure of the havoc the American invasion unleashed in Iraq ... 655,000 Iraqis -- 2.5 percent of the entire population -- have died as a consequence of the war.”

Few journalists questioned the integrity of the study or its authors, Gilbert Burnham and Les Roberts of Johns Hopkins University ‘s Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Iraqi scientist Riyadh Lafta. NPR’s Richard Harris reported asking Burnham, “Right before the election you’re making this announcement. Is this politically motivated? And he said, no, it’s not politically motivated.” Burnham told Newsweek the same thing: “There’s no political motivation in this. I feel very confident in the numbers.”

But the truth, it turns out, is that the report was drenched with politics, and its jaw-dropping conclusions should have inspired anything but confidence.

In an extensively researched cover story last week, National Journal took a close look under the hood of the Lancet/Johns Hopkins study. Reporters Neil Munro and Carl M. Cannon found that it was marred by grave flaws, such as unsupervised Iraqi survey teams, and survey samples that were too small to be statistically valid. The study’s authors refused to release most of their underlying data so other researchers could double-check it. The single disk they finally, grudgingly, supplied contained suspicious evidence of “data-heaping” – that is, fabricated numbers. Researchers failed to gather basic demographic data from those they interviewed, a key safeguard against fraud.

“They failed to do any of the [routine] things to prevent fabrication,” Fritz Scheuren, vice president for statistics at the National Opinion Research Center, told the reporters.

Bad as the study’s methodological defects were, its political taint was worse:

* Much of the funding for the study came from the Open Society Institute of leftist billionaire George Soros, a strident critic of the Iraq war who, as Munro and Cannon point out, “spent $30 million trying to defeat Bush in 2004.”

* Coauthors Burnham and Roberts were avowed opponents of the Iraq war, and submitted their report to The Lancet on the condition that it be published before the election. Roberts, a self-described “advocate” committed to “ending the war,” even sought the Democratic nomination for New York’s 24th Congressional District. “It was a combination of Iraq and Katrina that just put me over the top,” he told National Journal.

* Lancet editor Richard Horton “also makes no secret of his leftist politics,” Munro and Cannon write. At a September 2006 rally, he publicly denounced “this axis of Anglo-American imperialism” for causing “millions of people ... to die in poverty and disease.” Under Horton, The Lancet has increasingly been accused of shoddiness and sensationalism. In 2005, 30 leading British scientists blasted Horton’s “desperate headline-seeking” and charged him with running “badly conducted and poorly refereed scare stories.”

The claim that the US-led invasion of Iraq had triggered a slaughter of almost Rwandan proportions was a gross and outlandish exaggeration; it should have been greeted with extreme skepticism. But because it served the interests of those eager to discredit the war as a moral catastrophe, common-sense standards were ignored. “In our view,” the Baltimore Sun editorialized, “the Hopkins study stands until someone knocks it down.”

Now someone has, devastatingly. But will the debunking be trumpeted as loudly and clearly as the original report? Don’t hold your breath.

 

USEFUL IDIOTS – THEN AND NOW

The Spirit of the Oxford Union
Useful idiots – then and now
By Clifford D. May
National Review Online
January 17, 2008

Seventy-five years ago next month, the Oxford Union debated the following resolution: “That this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country.” The motion passed 275 votes to 153.

Winston Churchill called that a “disgusting symptom” that would breed “contempt”– not least in Germany, where Hitler was already making plans to wipe various European nations off the map. The Manchester Guardian disagreed, noting the mistakes British politicians had made in wars past and the hypocrisy they exhibited in the present.

The spirit of the Oxford Union lives on, not least on America’s campuses. Professor Ward Churchill’s characterization of the victims of the September 11, 2001, atrocity as “little Eichmanns” is only the most infamous example.

Here’s a more recent more: after five Iranian swift boats threatened U.S. Navy vessels in the Straits of Hormuz, Juan Cole – a professor at the University of Michigan and former president of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) – was quick to blame America first: “This episode is just about the most pitiful thing I have seen since Bush came to power, and believe me I’ve seen plenty,” Cole wrote. “The Iranian Revolutionary Guards issued their own video and audio of the encounter, which shows a routine identity check. ... The Iranian press is suspicious about the timing of the Pentagon videotape, noting that it was released just as Bush was heading to the Middle East to try to convince the Arab allies of the US to make common cause with Israel against Iran.”

Hollywood moguls also have adopted the Oxford Union approach to national security, reheating Pogo’s Big Idea of the 1970s: that we have met the enemy and he is us. Among recent propaganda flicks: Lions for Lambs (right-wing politicians selling an unpopular war), Rendition (CIA torturers and a sexy suicide bomber), Redacted (U.S. Marines raping and murdering children), and even The Good Shepherd, a film about the CIA’s early years, featuring American secret agents letting loose locust plagues on Third World farmers and waterboarding an innocent man. Why would anyone fight for such a country?

But those of you who do – be warned: You may turn into homicidal maniacs! Last Sunday, the New York Times ran a front-page piece headlined “Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles.” The story suggested that military service in Iraq and Afghanistan is transforming nice young men into crazed killing machines.

Just hours after the papers landed on doorsteps, the Powerline blog’s John Hinderaker was asking why the Times had not bothered to compare the murder rate among veterans to the murder rate for young American men generally. Hinderaker and others crunched the numbers themselves and found the murder rate much higher for young men who stayed home. Columnist Ralph Peters estimates that recent war vets are about one-fifth as likely to be implicated in a homicide as the average 18- to 34-year-old man.

In what other hearts does the Oxford Union spirit dwell? A group of Muslim scholars recently wrote a letter to Christian leaders asserting the need for “peace and justice” between these two great religious communities. Good for them. But the Christian leaders responded with a letter asking “forgiveness” for Christian sins against Muslims “in the past (e.g. in the Crusades) and in the present (e.g. in excesses of the ‘war on terror’).” Note the quotes around that last phrase. Note that the many sins committed by extremist Muslims against Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and moderate Muslims were not mentioned.

At the Oxford Union, there was, at least, respect for freedom of speech. In Canada, today, by contrast, Orwellian “human rights commissioners” are persecuting Mark Steyn, author of America Alone, for simply arguing that Western civilization is worth defending and for predicting that, if current trends continue, Europe will soon be Arab- and Islamic-dominated. Such ideas, Steyn’s critics charge, “promote ill will” toward Muslims and must be punished.

Also summoned by government commissioners – commissars? – was Canadian publisher Ezra Levant, who dared to reprint Danish cartoons lampooning Islamist terrorism. Levant stood up to the Grand Inquisitors, saying: “We have a heritage of free speech that we inherited from Great Britain that goes back to the year 1215 and the Magna Carta. We have a heritage of eight hundred years of British common law protection for speech, augmented by 250 years of common law in Canada.”

Yes, but there also is the tradition of the Oxford Union circa 1933. And right now it is not certain which tradition will prevail.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.