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The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
by Emmet Scott
Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly. Vol. 1
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Literary Culture of France
by J. E. G. Dixon
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
by David P. Gontar
Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
by Kenneth Hanson
The West Speaks
interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
by Theodore Dalrymple
Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky



















These are all the Blogs posted on Sunday, 11, 2011.
Sunday, 11 September 2011
FBI ends up offending Muslims at outreach workshop

From the Seattle Times

FBI agents participating in an outreach workshop Saturday hoped to improve their relationship with Seattle's Muslim, Arab, East African and Sikh communities, but ended up offending some participants.

About 20 community leaders attended the workshop at North Seattle Community College, which featured presentations by the FBI, Seattle police and the U.S. Attorney's Office. The event was aimed at improving communication and building trust between law enforcement and communities that feel targeted and profiled by authorities. 

But the event grew confrontational during the FBI's presentation, which community members complained was too focused on Islamic terrorist groups. Then, the agents showed a PowerPoint slide about state-sponsored terrorism that included a photograph of a man many in the audience believed was a Shia Islamic leader based on his clothes. Several people in the audience asked whether it was Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a political and religious leader who led the 1979 Iranian Revolution and died in 1989.

The photo was small, and the two FBI agents giving the presentation said they didn't know who it was. That offended members of the audience even more, and one of them compared it to calling the pope a terrorist or serving pork to Muslims.

Afterward, event organizer Amin Odeh said he'd have to do "damage control" to try to explain to the community what happened. "I was ready to walk out, but this is exactly why we need to do things like this," he said. "Maybe in their eyes they're small things, but to the community they're huge things."

A Police Department detective at the meeting weighed in on the FBI's presentation, explaining that whoever was in the photograph, "The community is tired of seeing their images represented" in presentations about terrorism.

"First of all, the FBI does not profile," he (Seattle agent Daniel Guerrero) said. "We don't target because of religion. We don't target because of race. We don't care about that. We care about protecting America."

Many attendees said they have had bad experiences with the FBI, so the agent's denial that profiling ever occurs undermined the rest of the conversation.

"When you say you don't profile — and our reality is you do — you negate everything else you say," Siddiqui (Jeff Siddiqui, a Pakistani-American and Lynnwood real-estate agent who is a member of American Muslims of Puget Sound.) told them.

Posted on 09/11/2011 1:57 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 11 September 2011
A Musical Interlude: Ich Habe Genug (Bach, Cantata 82)

Listen here.

Posted on 09/11/2011 5:29 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 11 September 2011
What It Was Like In Saudi Arabia When The News Came

Yahoo! is asking Americans how September 11 changed them. Below is an account from a reader.

September 11 happened while I was living and working in Saudi Arabia. It was toward the end of our workday when an American radiologist came in to tell us of the "accident" at the World Trade Center.

He had been on the phone with a broker in the WTC building when the first plane hit. As we stood there wondering how a plane could have hit the WTC, someone else came in to tell us that another plane hit.

Then we all knew it wasn't an accident. We heard sporadic yelling in the streets and happy shouts from Saudis in our own hospital. In the terminal cancer ward, patients were hooting and screaming "Down with USA," much to the horror of the American nurses tending them.

I went from feeling safe to feeling unsafe. My emotions were anger, fright, anxiety, disgust; you name it. I couldn't believe it. On the way home, my husband said the Japanese did it because of the Pearl Harbor movie. I just stared at him.

Even though I did not understand who could have done something like this, I worried about terrorism on our own soil. I wanted to know who had done it. When reports came in that Muslims had done it, I was floored. Peaceful, inviting Islam?

My feelings about my adopted country immediately changed from welcoming and warm to anger and distrust. I wanted to leave and go home, where I would feel more protected. But I could not. I was married to a Saudi and he didn't want to live in the U.S. This act of terror crushed our marriage. He did not think it was a good thing, but he didn't say it was a bad thing, either. His family was happy about the catastrophe, but tried not to show it when I was around. I felt surrounded by terrorists and just wanted to get out.

Within two years, I was back on U.S. soil and divorced. I still couldn't believe that a religion that claims it is peace-loving could do so much destruction. That single day changed my views of religions from be whatever you want to be, to never be a Muslim.

Even though I've mellowed somewhat since then, and have many Arab friends, I still wonder, did they clap and yell in happiness at the downfall of WTC, or were they sorrowful and sad that such a thing happened? I still distrust, but I do not hate Islam. I resent the people who twist it to their own ends and make others pay the price. None of us will ever have that protected feeling again because it was lost in the fire and ash of the WTC tragedy. [here, in the last probably un-heartfelt paragraph, what is heartfelt is her need, or her belief that she needs, to say someting about "people who twist it [Islam] to their own ends. I wouldn't be surprised if the editors required her to add "something hopeful" -- i.e., utterly naive and uncalled-for -- which resulted in that last bit that I haven't bothered to highlight in bold]

Posted on 09/11/2011 5:33 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 11 September 2011
An Artistic Interlude: La Montagne (Balthus)

Posted on 09/11/2011 6:03 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 11 September 2011
Why Trutherism Lives On

For a generation raised on movies and TV in which our government is usually portrayed as the villain, the Truther movement is an understandable, if sad, commentary. Jeremy Stahl writes in Slate:

When Navy SEALs killed Osama Bin Laden in a nighttime raid on May 2, many in the media wondered whether a new conspiracy group of "deathers" would rise up to replace the recently deflated bubble of "birthers." The number of potential "deathers"—those who doubt Bin Laden is dead—ranged between 12 percent and 15 percent, according to a pair of May polls from Fox News and Zogby. Among 9/11 conspiracy theorists, though, it is practically a given that the May raid was a hoax. Many believe that Bin Laden died long ago, probably in 2001, and that the video and audio recordings of him broadcast over the years were government-manufactured fakes.

The May 2 raid "was Barack Obama saying we're getting our ass kicked in Afghanistan, the empire is collapsing, let's do a phony show to kill Osama, declare victory, and go home," said early 9/11 conspiracy theorist Michael Ruppert. Ruppert believes that Obama needed Bin Laden killed in order to be able to justify his Afghanistan troop withdrawal plan. The new plan, according to Ruppert, is to send those troops to Iraq, "or to get them back home for civil unrest here. Which is going to happen, like real soon." Meanwhile, David Ray Griffin, another leading conspiracist, says the raid story "sounds fishy" because Bin Laden's body was buried at sea before it could be positively identified to Griffin's satisfaction.

And so it goes. The decade since 9/11 has given rise to a panoply of conspiracy theories accusing the government of complicity in the attacks. These theories remained on the fringes of political life in the first few years after 9/11, grew in popularity with the unpopularity of Bush and the war in Iraq in the middle of the decade, and faded with the end of the Bush administration. But they have not died completely. As long as there is public distrust of government—and with the financial crisis, the collapse of the economy, and the recent debt ceiling debate, public opinion of Washington is at a record low—there will be conspiracy theories.

More specifically, there will probably always be 9/11 conspiracy theories. "I think that it was inevitable that a conspiracy, maybe many conspiracy theories, would arise, because inordinate tragedy is almost always accompanied by such conspiracies," says Lawrence Wright, whose Pulitzer Prize winning Looming Tower is the definitive account of the rise of al-Qaida. "People have a view of the world and they want to make the facts conform to that view."

Professional conspiracists like radio host Alex Jones and Ruppert preached conspiracy theories for years before 2001. But for many "truthers," as they would call themselves, the 9/11 conspiracy was a kind of gateway drug. Most of the leading activists I spoke with became involved in the movement because of the Iraq war, but their anger at the Bush administration soon spread to all major institutions of government and media. "In order to maintain the bubble of the conspiracy, it needs to get more demonic, and it needs to include more people," explains 9/11 conspiracy apostate Charlie Veitch. "You need more and more evil until you hit the wall of absurdity."

The theory that Veitch gave the most credence to was that there was an ancient order of freemasons, or illuminati, or an extremely rich central banking family that had been in control of all world events since the time of Babylon. According to this theory, 9/11 was a propaganda spectacle orchestrated to make the common man fearful. "There's something about it which appeals to the ego in people," Veitch said. "You suddenly feel empowered by having secret knowledge."

A more typical theory about who is behind world events like 9/11, espoused by Alex Jones, is that a hodgepodge of disparate banking, corporate, globalization, and military interests are working together to bring about a New World Order of centralized "globalist" government. Jones' "world government" bogeyman has been around for decades. In his quintessential essay on the psychology of paranoia in American political life, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, Richard Hofstadter describes an episode from 1964:

Shortly after the assassination of President Kennedy, a great deal of publicity was given to a bill, sponsored chiefly by Senator Thomas E. Dodd of Connecticut, to tighten federal controls over the sale of firearms through the mail. When hearings were being held on the measure, three men drove 2,500 miles to Washington from Bagdad, Arizona, to testify against it. Now there are arguments against the Dodd bill which, however unpersuasive one may find them, have the color of conventional political reasoning. But one of the Arizonans opposed it with what might be considered representative paranoid arguments, insisting that it was "a further attempt by a subversive power to make us part of one world socialistic government" and that it threatened to "create chaos" that would help "our enemies" to seize power.

In the case of 9/11, Bush's policies in Iraq and the administration's guardedness with the 9/11 Commission helped create conditions that allowed the conspiracy theory to get a hearing. But the conspiracy theory was always going to exist.

"Like in the case of the Kennedy assassination, [when] you have a horrible tragedy that seems absurd and it's hard to account for the fact that a single individual could inflict so much grief on the nation, there's a natural tendency to believe that there must be more at work," says Lawrence Wright. "In the case of 9/11 there was a sense of disbelief that a man in a cave in Afghanistan could reach out and humiliate the most powerful nation in the history of the world. How could that happen? It must be that something else was at work and because we are so powerful, we must have done it to ourselves."

When Wright was touring the country with his book, he would regularly be confronted by conspiracy theorists who hadn't read the book but thought that, through clever questioning, they could demolish a case he had arrived at by five years of research and interviews with 600 sources. "I spent a lot of time trying to reason with various people who had these kinds of perspectives. And it was very frustrating," he said. "There was absolutely no way to argue with them because they rejected any kind of factual evidence."

After his book came out, Wright had occasion to discuss the alternative view of 9/11 with Alex Jones. Both men live in Austin, and both are friends with director Richard Linklater, who featured Jones as a street prophet in two of his films, A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life. During a party at Linklater's home near the Lost Pines of East Central Texas, the Slacker director put these two avatars of opposing 9/11 thought together. The conversation was similar to others Wright had had with other conspiracy theorists. "What they call facts aren't typically facts," Wright said. "They sound like facts. They're asserted. But basically, at the root of the conspiracies are these unproven theories."

***

While the 9/11 conspiracy theory is based on conjecture, it has a stubbornness. The overall number of conspiracy believers has dipped since Bush left office, but the numbers believing the most radical version of the theory have been fairly steady. In 2006, 16 percent of respondents in a Scripps-Howard poll said it was either somewhat or very likely that the collapse of the Twin Towers was aided by explosives secretly planted in the buildings. That number was virtually unchanged in an Angus Reid Public Opinion poll this month. This was despite a 12 percent drop between 2007 and 2009 in the number of respondents who agreed with the statement that the Bush administration let the attacks take place in order to go to war in the Middle East. And although overall faith in the theories has subsided, general doubts about some kind of government cover-up have not. In the most recent Angus Reid survey, 66 percent of respondents said they believed the official version of events as presented by the 9/11 Commission, while only 12 percent did not. But 22 percent were undecided.

Veitch compared being a believer in the theory to being in a cult. "There's so many people with so much of a vested political and psychological interest in maintaining, what I call the 'Conspiranoia,' view of the world—that there are these demons just behind the scenes where we can't see, running everything," Veitch told conspiracy theorist Max Igan. Veitch is one of the rare cases of a conspiracy theorist going back on his views. Sites like 911myths.com, debunking911.com, and Screw Loose Change provide a valuable service in offering answers to rebut conspiracy theories.

Conspiracy theories are "a little like sexually transmitted diseases," says Wright. "You have to take precautions and know that it's always going to be out there, but you should never succumb to the theories without actually thinking them through. I'm really dismayed to see very intelligent people often times taken in by what are really very absurd propositions."

Which brings me back to the college friend who introduced me to a 9/11 conspiracy theory just one day after 9/11. I caught up with him last month, finding him the same bright, politically minded person I remembered. When we spoke on the phone, he remembered our conversation from 10 years ago as clearly as I did. And he was still convinced that he had been right to argue the point, even while acknowledging that the facts had proved him wrong. To him, there are always good reasons to be skeptical of any government version of events....

Posted on 09/11/2011 5:58 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 11 September 2011
$58 Billion To Arab States To "Encourage Democratic Reforms" But Only Constraining Islam Would Help

Wealthy nations, global lenders pledge $58 billion to Arab countries to encourage democracy

By Associated Press, Published: September 10

MARSEILLE, France — Wealthy countries and international lenders promised more money Saturday to encourage democratic reforms in Arab nations, promising at least $58 billion.

After Tunisia and Egypt ousted their authoritarian regimes earlier this year, eight of the world’s most developed economies along with rich Arab countries and a raft of development banks had pledged in May to give $40 billion in support to their nascent democracies and hopefully keep them on the path to open government.

Those uprisings set off a cascade of revolts across the Middle East, and the Group of Eight and others are now increasing their pledges and expanding the recipients to include Morocco and Jordan.

So far, at least $58 billion has been promised to the four countries — $38 billion from development banks through 2013 and more than $20 billion from the G-8 and the wealthy Arab countries. [Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar are sitting on several trillion dollars, collectively, of surpluses. But they pledge, together, only a few billion, and ordinarily they don't honor their pledges. It was the non-Musilm creditors of Iraq that forgave nearly $100 billion in loans; the Arab states promised James Baker to look into the matter, but so far they have not forgiven any of the loans they made Iraq.]

Why does the West think it has an obligation to transfer still more tens of billions to Muslim states? Is it impossible to demand that these non-oil Arab states demand -- as by right -- that the rich fellow members of the Umma support them? Why do we not speak of this constantly? Why do we not demand it, constantly? Why do we not focus the resentment of poorer Arabs not on the West, but on Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Emirates, Qatar, and all the others? Why is everything that is so obvious and so sensible beyond the wit of our political class? Why can't they figure this kind of thing out? Why do they instead take the easiest way for themselves, the way that requires no thouught, but that costs the people in whose name they run things, the people whom they presume to be able to protect and instruct, tens and hundreds of billions of dollars? Oh, it's so much easier to pledge that money, and to give it, than to spend time figuring out how much more cleverly one could attain the right goals, through withholding such money, and causing rifts, all kinds of rifts, within the Camp of islam, and forcing Muslim states to confront the source -- obvious to you, obvious to me -- of their own failures and miseries.

Saturday’s meeting was notable for its inclusion of Libya, where rebel forces recently took control of most of the country and are working to create a government to replace Moammar Gadhafi’s brutal regime. Libya is not yet officially part of the program but could soon receive funding, according to Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

Libya’s vast oil wealth means it is unlikely to need substantial aid over the long term, but its oil exports slowed to a trickle during recent fighting, and the country is still waiting for funds that were frozen under Gadhafi to be handed over to them. Flaherty indicated that the program could bridge the gap.

“We did not discuss quantum, but we discussed, yes, the reality that the Libyans may require some assistance in the short term,” Flaherty said.

Earlier in the day, British Treasury chief George Osborne said officials would also commit to lifting sanctions on Libya, unfreezing its assets, and also “significantly get oil production going as quickly as possible.”

Libya’s new ambassador to France Mansour Seyf al-Nasr called the meeting “a success.”

Tunisia’s finance minister, Jelloul Ayed, also praised the meeting.

“A very successful meeting. The financial commitment that we obtained today is a general commitment,” he said, noting that it would be determined later how much each of the Arab countries gets.

In another step for Libya’s Transitional National Council, it won recognition Saturday from the International Monetary Fund, according to the organization’s chief, Christine Lagarde. She said she would dispatch teams to Libya to help with technical assistance and policy advice as soon as it was safe.

The money is intended to help support “transparent, accountable government” and “sustainable and inclusive growth” in North Africa and the Middle East, according to a statement from the nine international and regional lenders who pledged the $38 billion.

The plan was hatched in May by the G-8 nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the U.S. — as they sought to support the revolts and reforms inspired by the Arab Spring.

They hope the money will reward — and encourage — reform. The Syrian government, which is involved in a bloody crackdown on dissent, was pointedly not invited.

But there has been criticism that the funds have been slow in coming. French Finance Minister Francois Baroin said Saturday that everyone was working to hand over the money as quickly as possible.

Of the lenders, the World Bank is providing the largest share of financing, with $10.7 billion. The African Development Bank has pledged $7.6 billion, the Islamic Development Bank $4.5 billion, with the rest coming from regional development bodies such as the Arab Fund for Economic & Social Development, the Arab Monetary Fund, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

It wasn’t immediately clear how much the G-8 countries were now offering, though Baroin said the commitments had “increased strongly.” But he only specified France’s new pledge, which has more than doubled to $2.7 billion.

The IMF also has another $35 billion available for lending to the region, with the focus to be on oil-importing countries suffering from rising food and fuel prices.

Posted on 09/11/2011 6:15 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 11 September 2011
How The Egyptian Mob Behaved

From CNN.com:

Angry crowd turns on journalists reporting embassy attack in Egypt

Cairo (CNN) -- An angry crowd lingering near the Israeli embassy in Cairo after an attack on the building a day earlier turned on journalists reporting the incident Saturday, accusing at least one of being an Israeli spy.

As a CNN crew filmed the embassy from across the street, another crew from American public television -- led by Egyptian television producer Dina Amer -- approached the building.

The crew's Russian cameraman was preparing to film the embassy when a woman in the crowd began hurling insults at the TV team, Amer said.

"There was this older lady who decided to follow me and rally people against me," Amer recalled.

"She said 'you're a spy working with the Americans.' Then they swarmed me and I was a target."

A growing crowd surrounded Amer and her colleagues, as they tried to leave the scene.

Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, a producer working for CNN, rushed to help escort Amer through the angry crowd. But suddenly the two reporters were pinned against the railing of an overpass by young men who were accusing Amer of being an Israeli spy.

Yelling "I'm Egyptian," Fahmy managed to pull Amer another 10 meters down the road, until the pressure from the mob overwhelmed the pair.

Amer screamed as she and Fahmy were knocked to the ground and the crowd started to trample them.

Other CNN journalists tried to reach in to help, but were pushed back by a wall of angry men.

Fahmy lay on top of Amer, shielding her with his body.

"I was thinking, how powerless I was because there was no police to save us," Fahmy said. "I was worried that they were going to rape her."

At that moment, a student bystander named Mohammed el Banna called out to the journalists and pointed out a nearby car.

Somehow, Fahmy managed to carry Amer to the open door of the public television crew's car, where two of her female colleagues were waiting just a few feet away.

The mob pounded on the windows and tried to reach into the vehicle as the panicked reporters fumbled and struggled to get behind the steering wheel.

When Margaret Warner, a correspondent with the PBS program "Newshour" managed to get the vehicle moving away from the crowd, men threw stones at the departing vehicle.

Amer had few words to describe the terrifying ordeal.

"They were animals," she said.

Other Egyptian journalists told CNN they were also attacked Saturday while trying to report near the Israeli embassy.

Ahmed Aleiba, a correspondent with Egyptian state television, said he was pursued by civilians and soldiers.

"I had to run because obviously they were targeting journalists," Aleiba said in a phone call with CNN. "They attacked two other TV crews."

"I was in the car getting ready to film. A soldier knocked on the window with his stick and said 'if you don't leave by midnight your car will be destroyed,"" said Farah Saafan, a video journalist with the English-language newspaper Daily News Egypt.

Journalists have been targeted before in Cairo.

On February 2, dozens of journalists of different nationalities were beaten and pursued around the city while trying to report on pro-Mubarak demonstrations. The day descended into one of brutal street violence, as pro-regime supporters backed by men on horses and camels attacked opposition demonstrators on what became known as the "Battle of the Camel."

And CBS News correspondent Lara Logan suffered a brutal sexual assault in Tahrir Square while covering the celebrations that followed former President Hosni Mubarak's resignation on February 11.

On Saturday, as some journalists ran for their lives from the Israeli Embassy, the interim government was holding crisis talks with Egypt's ruling military council and top intelligence chief.

The emergency session concluded with a pledge to honor Egypt's international treaties and defend foreign embassies. The government also announced plans to re-activate the country's 30-year-old emergency law.

Application of the law had lapsed since the overthrow of Mubarak, according to a senior official in the National Security Directorate, who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity.

One of the five measures announced after Saturday's crisis talks calls on authorities to make "media and political powers accountable for inciting security lapses."

"It's obvious that there is some sort of plan leading to military rule in this country," warned Egyptian state TV's Aleiba. "The next step will be martial law."

Posted on 09/11/2011 7:15 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 11 September 2011
Eric Ormsby As A Low-Key Apologist For Islam

From The New York Times:

September 11, 2011

Why Vasco da Gama Went to India

HOLY WAR

 

How Vasco da Gama’s Epic Voyages Turned the Tide in a Centuries-Old Clash of Civilizations

By Nigel Cliff

Illustrated. 547 pp. Harper/HarperCollins Publishers. $29.99.

The Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama set sail from Belém, a village at the mouth of the Tagus River now part of greater Lisbon, on July 8, 1497. An obscure but well-­connected courtier, he had been chosen, much to everyone’s surprise, by King Manuel I to head the ambitious expedition to chart a new route to India. The king was not moved chiefly by a desire for plunder. He possessed a visionary cast of mind bordering on derangement; he saw himself spearheading a holy war to topple Islam, recover Jerusalem from “the infidels” and establish himself as the “King of Jerusalem.”

Da Gama shared these dreams, but like his hard-bitten crew, rogues or criminals to a man, he coveted the fabled riches of the East — not only gold and gems but spices, then the most precious of commodities. On this voyage, as on his two later ones, he proved a brilliant navigator and commander. But where courage could not bring him through violent storms, contrary seas and the machinations of hostile rulers, luck came to his rescue. He sailed blindly, virtually by instinct, without maps, charts or reliable pilots, into unknown oceans.

As Nigel Cliff, a historian and journalist, demonstrates in his lively and ambitious “Holy War,” da Gama was abetted as much by ignorance as by skill and daring. To discover the sea route to India, he deliberately set his course in a different direction from Columbus, his great seafaring rival. Instead of heading west, da Gama went south. His ships inched their way down the African coast, voyaging thousands of miles farther than any previous explorer. After months of sailing, he rounded the Cape of Good Hope, the first European to do so. From there, creeping up the east coast of Africa, he embarked on the uncharted vastness of the Indian Ocean. Uncharted, that is, by European navigators. For at the time, the Indian Ocean was crisscrossed by Muslim vessels, and it was Muslim merchants, backed up by powerful local rulers, who controlled the trade routes and had done so for centuries. Da Gama sought to break this maritime dominance; even stronger was his ambition to discover the Christians of India and their “long-lost Christian king,” the legendary Prester John, and by forging an alliance with them, to unite Christianity and destroy Islam.

The ambition was not entirely fanciful; there were Christian communities in India, founded according to legend by St. Thomas the Apostle. Da Gama couldn’t tell an Indian Christian from a cassowary, but on this occasion, ignorance was truly bliss. When his ships finally moored at Calicut, near the southern tip of the subcontinent, he and his crew rejoiced to learn that there were indeed many Christians long settled there. As Cliff recounts, the “landing party had assumed that Hindu temples were Christian churches, they had misconstrued the Brahmins’ invocation of a local deity as veneration of the Virgin Mary and they had decided the Hindu figures on the temple walls were outlandish Christian saints.” True, “the temples were also crammed with animal gods and sacred phalluses,” but these surely reflected exotic local Christian practices. What mattered to the Portuguese was that these long-lost Indian Christians permitted images in their “churches.” Thus, whatever their idiosyncrasies, they could not be Muslims. The Portuguese joined in the chants and invocations with gusto. When the Hindu priests chanted “Krishna,” the Portuguese heard it as “Christ.”

Such farcical episodes recur throughout Cliff’s account and add unexpected levity to what is otherwise a dismal record of greed, savagery and fanaticism, especially — but not exclusively — on the part of the European explorers. The Portuguese didn’t know that Hinduism, let alone Buddhism or Jainism, existed. For them, the world was starkly divided between Christianity and Islam. They knew about Jews, of course; they’d been steadily persecuting them with renewed vigor in the 1490s by forced conversion, expulsion and massacre, but to them, Judaism was merely a forerunner of Christianity, not a faith in its own right.

Cliff’s narrative covers a huge span of time. For once the term “epic” seems an understatement. Da Gama’s exploits alone demand such terms. His maiden voyage took two years and traversed an extraordinary 24,000 miles, all this in leaky wooden vessels battered by storms and riddled with scurvy, and it was only the first of his three pioneering voyages that together established little Portugal as a world power.

To provide the widest possible context, Cliff begins with the Prophet Muhammad and the rise of Islam in the early seventh century and concludes with the siege of Vienna in 1529 and the subsequent rise of Dutch maritime expansion. His account of early Islamic history is brisk and factual, but it has a somewhat potted feel, as does his chapter on the crusades, for all the horrific detail he provides. This is, after all, well-trodden turf. When he finally comes to Portugal and its succession of zealous, sinister and quite dotty monarchs, he is in his element, and his book really takes off. He has a novelist’s gift for depicting character. From the fabled Henry the Navigator who, despite his appellation, “never set foot on an oceangoing ship,” to Vasco da Gama himself, at once steely and quixotic, to formidable figures like Magellan and the brutal Afonso de Albuquerque, who terrorized his victims by threatening to build a fort out of their bones and nail their ears to the door, he brings 16th-­century Portugal in all its splendor and squalor pungently to life.

Cliff is good too at such mundane but intricate matters as shipbuilding, royal protocols and the hazards of trade, all of which he documents by well-chosen citations from travel accounts, official papers and personal correspondence. Rather surprisingly, however, he fails to bring the great 16th-century Portuguese poet Luís de Camões into his account (though he’s mentioned in the very full bibliography), even though Camões participated in later Portuguese expeditions and wrote his Virgilian-style epic “The Lusiads” in praise of da Gama.

While Cliff spins his tale under the aegis of “holy war” and in his subtitle invokes Samuel P. Huntington's well-worn “clash of civilizations,” on the evidence of his own narrative this framework seems more than a little creaky. Though there was longstanding mutual detestation between Christians and Muslims, the real antagonism seems to have been mercantile. There was no “clash of civilizations” to speak of. The Portuguese gazed in covetous admiration at the trappings of the Muslim courts they visited, and Muslims showed no interest whatsoever in European culture (which they considered pitifully inferior to their own). When they clashed, they did so over lucrative trade routes and territorial hegemony; each was quite proudly ignorant of the other’s creed. [Muslims were ignorant of Christianity, but with all the translations of the Qur'an, beginning in the 14th century,  and the 500-year Reconquista, could it be said that educated Christians were "ignorant" of Islam and what it taught about Infidels? Were they unaware of what had happened to Christians in the Arab East? In North Africa? And what exactly  were the Ottoman Turks after, when they conquered territory after territory populated, and formerly ruled, by Christians, including territories of little or no economic worth? Ormsby becomes a sudden Marxist, for he doesn't want to believe in, wishes us to share his baseless scorn for, what he calls "Samuel Huntington's well-worn 'clash of civilizations.'" "Well-worn" it might be -- but is it false?

Cliff struggles to find relevance to present-day events, but his attempts are unconvincing. He notes, for example, that in 2006, Ayman al-Zawahri, now the head of Al Qaeda, called for the liberation of Ceuta — a North African city besieged by King John of Portugal in 1415 — from the Spanish Christians who now control it. Nevertheless, the real clash today is not between Christianity and Islam, nor between opposing civilizations, but between our own resolutely secular and consumerist culture and a rigid and absolutist mindset outraged by the prosperity Western “infidels” enjoy. [can Eric Ormsby Why does Ormsby, who can write so well on Western themes -- a review of translations of Victor Hugo, say -- become so silly when he writes about Islam? That, however, is another story, That, however, is another epic, yet to be written.

 

_____________________________

Can Eric Ormsby, a teacher at McGill , a poet, a scholar of Islam -- his thesis was on Al-Ghazzali -- a resident of Canada, possibly a Canadian citizen, who maintains a New York State bank account, a sometime haunter of that delightful used tiny bookshop in the rue Prince Arthur, in Montreal, possibly believe that the world's Muslims are outraged by "the prosperity" that the Western infidels enjoy? And does he think, this mild but determined apologist -- his thesis was on Al Ghazzali -- that it is the West's "resolutely secular and consumist culture" that is the cause of Muslim hostility? Does he think Muslims are less hostile to unworldy deeply religious Jews? Are they less hostile to the Amish than to the kim-kardashians of this world?  Did they tens of millions of Hindus in India, over many centuries, because of the "consumerist culture" of Hindus? Did they murder, through both direct and indirect means, more than two million Christian (and some animist) blacks in the southern Sudan because of all that "consumerist" culture among the Nuer and the Dinka?

Why does Ormsby, who can write well on Western themes -- a review of translations of Victor Hugo, say, for The New Criterion, where he used to appear more often  -- allow himself to become so silly, such a sly apologist for Islam,  whenever he touches upon that subject? Or should we simply agree that that, however, is another story yet to be written.

Posted on 09/11/2011 8:09 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 11 September 2011
Pericles: A Funeral Oration 431 BC

Most of those who have spoken here before me have commended the lawgiver who added this oration to our other funeral customs. It seemed to them a worthy thing that such an honor should be given at their burial to the dead who have fallen on the field of battle. But I should have preferred that, when men's deeds have been brave, they should be honored in deed only, and with such an honor as this public funeral, which you are now witnessing. Then the reputation of many would not have been imperiled on the eloquence or want of eloquence of one, and their virtues believed or not as he spoke well or ill. For it is difficult to say neither too little nor too much; and even moderation is apt not to give the impression of truthfulness. The friend of the dead who knows the facts is likely to think that the words of the speaker fall short of his knowledge and of his wishes; another who is not so well informed, when he hears of anything which surpasses his own powers, will be envious and will suspect exaggeration. Mankind are tolerant of the praises of others so long as each hearer thinks that he can do as well or nearly as well himself, but, when the speaker rises above him, jealousy is aroused and he begins to be incredulous. However, since our ancestors have set the seal of their approval upon the practice, I must obey, and to the utmost of my power shall endeavor to satisfy the wishes and beliefs of all who hear me.

I will speak first of our ancestors, for it is right and seemly that now, when we are lamenting the dead, a tribute should be paid to their memory. There has never been a time when they did not inhabit this land, which by their valor they will have handed down from generation to generation, and we have received from them a free state. But if they were worthy of praise, still more were our fathers, who added to their inheritance, and after many a struggle transmitted to us their sons this great empire. And we ourselves assembled here today, who are still most of us in the vigor of life, have carried the work of improvement further, and have richly endowed our city with all things, so that she is sufficient for herself both in peace and war. Of the military exploits by which our various possessions were acquired, or of the energy with which we or our fathers drove back the tide of war, Hellenic or Barbarian, I will not speak; for the tale would be long and is familiar to you. But before I praise the dead, I should like to point out by what principles of action we rose to power, and under what institutions and through what manner of life our empire became great. For I conceive that such thoughts are not unsuited to the occasion, and that this numerous assembly of citizens and strangers may profitably listen to them.

Our form of government does not enter into rivalry with the institutions of others. Our government does not copy our neighbors', but is an example to them. It is true that we are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the many (1) and not of the few. But while there exists equal justice to all and alike in their private disputes, the claim of excellence is also recognized; and when a citizen is in any way distinguished, he is preferred to the public service, not as a matter of privilege, but as the reward of merit. Neither is poverty an obstacle, but a man may benefit his country whatever the obscurity of his condition. There is no exclusiveness in our public life, and in our private business we are not suspicious of one another, nor angry with our neighbor if he does what he likes; we do not put on sour looks at him which, though harmless, are not pleasant. While we are thus unconstrained in our private business, a spirit of reverence pervades our public acts; we are prevented from doing wrong by respect for the authorities and for the laws, having a particular regard to those which are ordained for the protection of the injured as well as those unwritten laws which bring upon the transgressor of them the reprobation of the general sentiment.

And we have not forgotten to provide for our weary spirits many relaxations from toil; we have regular games and sacrifices throughout the year; our homes are beautiful and elegant; and the delight which we daily feel in all these things helps to banish sorrow. Because of the greatness of our city the fruits of the whole earth flow in upon us; so that we enjoy the goods of other countries as freely as our own.

Then, again, our military training is in many respects superior to that of our adversaries. Our city is thrown open to the world, though and we never expel a foreigner and prevent him from seeing or learning anything of which the secret if revealed to an enemy might profit him. We rely not upon management or trickery, but upon our own hearts and hands. And in the matter of education, whereas they from early youth are always undergoing laborious exercises which are to make them brave, we live at ease, and yet are equally ready to face the perils which they face. And here is the proof: The Lacedaemonians come into Athenian territory not by themselves, but with their whole confederacy following; we go alone into a neighbor's country; and although our opponents are fighting for their homes and we on a foreign soil, we have seldom any difficulty in overcoming them. Our enemies have never yet felt our united strength, the care of a navy divides our attention, and on land we are obliged to send our own citizens everywhere. But they, if they meet and defeat a part of our army, are as proud as if they had routed us all, and when defeated they pretend to have been vanquished by us all.

If then we prefer to meet danger with a light heart but without laborious training, and with a courage which is gained by habit and not enforced by law, are we not greatly the better for it? Since we do not anticipate the pain, although, when the hour comes, we can be as Brave as those who never allow themselves to rest; thus our city is equally admirable in peace and in war. For we are lovers of the beautiful in our tastes and our strength lies, in our opinion, not in deliberation and discussion, but that knowledge which is gained by discussion preparatory to action. For we have a peculiar power of thinking before we act, and of acting, too, whereas other men are courageous from ignorance but hesitate upon reflection. And they are surely to be esteemed the Bravest spirits who, having the clearest sense both of the pains and pleasures of life, do not on that account shrink from danger. In doing good, again, we are unlike others; we make our friends by conferring, not by receiving favors. Now he who confers a favor is the firmer friend, because he would rather by kindness keep alive the memory of an obligation; but the recipient is colder in his feelings, because he knows that in requiting another's generosity he will not be winning gratitude but only paying a debt. We alone do good to our neighbors not upon a calculation of interest, but in the confidence of freedom and in a frank and fearless spirit. To sum up: I say that Athens is the school of Hellas, and that the individual Athenian in his own person seems to have the power of adapting himself to the most varied forms of action with the utmost versatility and grace. This is no passing and idle word, but truth and fact; and the assertion is verified by the position to which these qualities have raised the state. For in the hour of trial Athens alone among her contemporaries is superior to the report of her. No enemy who comes against her is indignant at the reverses which he sustains at the hands of such a city; no subject complains that his masters are unworthy of him. And we shall assuredly not be without witnesses; there are mighty monuments of our power which will make us the wonder of this and of succeeding ages; we shall not need the praises of Homer or of any other panegyrist whose poetry may please for the moment, although his representation of the facts will not bear the light of day. For we have compelled every land and every sea to open a path for our valor, and have everywhere planted eternal memorials of our friendship and of our enmity. Such is the city for whose sake these men nobly fought and died; they could not bear the thought that she might be taken from them; and every one of us who survive should gladly toil on her behalf.

I have dwelt upon the greatness of Athens because I want to show you that we are contending for a higher prize than those who enjoy none of these privileges, and to establish by manifest proof the merit of these men whom I am now commemorating. Their loftiest praise has been already spoken. For in magnifying the city I have magnified them, and men like them whose virtues made her glorious. And of how few Hellenes (2) can it be said as of them, that their deeds when weighed in the balance have been found equal to their fame! Methinks that a death such as theirs has been the true measure of a man's worth; it may be the first revelation of his virtues, but is at any rate their final seal. For even those who come short in other ways may justly plead the valor with which they have fought for their country; they have blotted out the evil with the good, and have benefited the state more by their public services than they have injured her by their private actions. None of these men were enervated by wealth or hesitated to resign the pleasures of life; none of them put off the evil day in the hope, natural to poverty, that a man, though poor, may one day become rich. But, deeming that the punishment of their enemies was sweeter than any of these things, and that they could fall in no nobler cause, they determined at the hazard of their lives to be honorably avenged, and to leave the rest. They resigned to hope their unknown chance of happiness; but in the face of death they resolved to rely upon themselves alone. And when the moment came they were minded to resist and suffer, rather than to fly and save their lives; they ran away from the word of dishonor, but on the battlefield their feet stood fast, and in an instant, at the height of their fortune, they passed away from the scene, not of their fear, but of their glory.

Such was the end of these men; they were worthy of Athens, and the living need not desire to have a more heroic spirit, although they may pray for a less fatal issue. The value of such a spirit is not to be expressed in words. Any one can discourse to you for ever about the advantages of a Brave defense, which you know already. But instead of listening to him I would have you day by day fix your eyes upon the greatness of Athens, until you become filled with the love of her; and when you are impressed by the spectacle of her glory, reflect that this empire has been acquired by men who knew their duty and had the courage to do it, who in the hour of conflict had the fear of dishonor always present to them, and who, if ever they failed in an enterprise, would not allow their virtues to be lost to their country, but freely gave their lives to her as the fairest offering which they could present at her feast. The sacrifice which they collectively made was individually repaid to them; for they received again each one for himself a praise which grows not old, and the noblest of all tombs--I speak not of that in which their remains are laid, but of that in which their glory survives, and is proclaimed always and on every fitting occasion both in word and deed. For the whole earth is the tomb of famous men; not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions in their own country, but in foreign lands there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men. Make them your examples, and, esteeming courage to be freedom and freedom to be happiness, do not weigh too nicely the perils of war. The unfortunate who has no hope of a change for the better has less reason to throw away his life than the prosperous who, if he survive, is always liable to a change for the worse, and to whom any accidental fall makes the most serious difference. To a man of spirit, cowardice and disaster coming together are far more bitter than death striking him unperceived at a time when he is full of courage and animated by the general hope.

Wherefore I do not now pity the parents of the dead who stand here; I would rather comfort them. You know that your dead have passed away amid manifold vicissitudes; and that they may be deemed fortunate who have gained their utmost honor, whether an honorable death like theirs, or an honorable sorrow like yours, and whose share of happiness has been so ordered that the term of their happiness is likewise the term of their life. I know how hard it is to make you feel this, when the good fortune of others will too often remind you of the gladness which once lightened your hearts. And sorrow is felt at the want of those blessings, not which a man never knew, but which were a part of his life before they were taken from him. Some of you are of an age at which they may hope to have other children, and they ought to bear their sorrow better; not only will the children who may hereafter be born make them forget their own lost ones, but the city will be doubly a gainer. She will not be left desolate, and she will be safer. For a man's counsel cannot have equal weight or worth, when he alone has no children to risk in the general danger. To those of you who have passed their prime, I say: "Congratulate yourselves that you have been happy during the greater part of your days; remember that your life of sorrow will not last long, and be comforted by the glory of those who are gone. For the love of honor alone is ever young, and not riches, as some say, but honor is the delight of men when they are old and useless.

To you who are the sons and brothers of the departed, I see that the struggle to emulate them will be an arduous one. For all men praise the dead, and, however preeminent your virtue may be, I do not say even to approach them, and avoid living their rivals and detractors, but when a man is out of the way, the honor and goodwill which he receives is unalloyed. And, if I am to speak of womanly virtues to those of you who will henceforth be widows, let me sum them up in one short admonition: To a woman not to show more weakness than is natural to her sex is a great glory, and not to be talked about for good or for evil among men.

I have paid the required tribute, in obedience to the law, making use of such fitting words as I had. The tribute of deeds has been paid in part; for the dead have them in deeds, and it remains only that their children should be maintained at the public charge until they are grown up: this is the solid prize with which, as with a garland, Athens crowns her sons living and dead, after a struggle like-theirs. For where the rewards of virtue are greatest, there the noblest citizens are enlisted in the service of the state. And now, when you have duly lamented every one his own dead, you may depart.

 

Translated by Benjamin Jowett (1881)

Posted on 09/11/2011 11:33 AM by Geoffrey Clarfield
Sunday, 11 September 2011
FDR Meets Abdul Aziz, And The Mesalliance Based On American Innocence Begins

Watch, and listen to the first five minutes, here.

Posted on 09/11/2011 4:44 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 11 September 2011
Will Obama Heed What "That Google Guy" Just Said?

A few months ago, when Tahrir Square and all the world was young, Obama was quoted as saying he was rooting for "the Google Guy." That's Wael Ghonem, who became a symbol, in the representation of Egypt fabricated, by acts of omission and commission, by things emphasized and things dismissed,  of such people as Christiane Amanpour and Anderson Cooper.

Now Wael Ghonem has come up against Egypt's reality: that the primitive masses, wedded to Islam, outnumber all the wael-ghonems 20 to 1. And if not constrained through means that the West appears to be unable to understand, much less to approve, nothing can be accomplished to limit the power of Islam that is the very thing holding Egypt, in every way, down.

In the following piece, I've put in bold the latest comment from Wael Ghonem:

 

Arab Spring myth exposed

West faces quickly radicalizing Mideast after foolishly lauding Arab uprisings
Yigal Walt

IDF Major General Eyal Eisenberg warned last week that the so-called “Arab Spring” may ultimately turn into a “radical Islamic winter.” Recent events in Egypt and elsewhere in the region indicate that this grim assessment is materializing at a rapid pace right before our eyes.

Assessment
 
EU terror chief: Arab Spring poses risks / Reuters
 
Arab upheaval may have allowed al-Qaeda to obtain missiles, created dangerous security vacuum in some states, European counter-terrorism chief warns; 'Democracy does not happen overnight,' he says
Full story
 

 

Foolish Western observers who lauded the “great revolutions” sweeping the Middle East have displayed profound ignorance, failing to comprehend that the region is woefully unprepared for democracy. In this respect, the downfall of brutal tyrants – a pleasing development in and of itself - is worthless if followed by greater evils.

 

Regrettably, the growing Mideastern chaos has shattered any semblance of regional stability, allowing the darkest, most radical forces to erupt and increasingly set the tone. What we saw in Egypt over the weekend was merely the beginning. Much worse is yet to come.

 

Arab affairs expert Guy Bechor notes that the siege and near-lynch at Israel’s Cairo embassy is first and foremost a domestic affair, reflecting the great deterioration on Egypt’s streets. The orgy of violence and lawlessness we witnessed marks the rise of Islamists and street thugs and the State’s declining ability to impose law and order.

 

While Egypt’s misfortune may hold grave regional and global implications, the first to pay the price for this tragedy will be ordinary Egyptians. Hence, it is no wonder that one of the revolution’s symbols, Wael Ghonim, said over the weekend that "what we are witnessing now is contrary to what I dreamt of. We need to wake up quickly.” Unfortunately for him, he and his countrymen are already deeply embroiled in a nightmare.

 

Egypt is of course not the only state where chaos reigns supreme ahead of an uncertain, frightening future. In Libya, rebels are dusting off what’s left of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, under the leadership of none other than “former Jihadist” Abdel Hakim Belhaj. The Islamic militant has downplayed his past, insisting that he seeks no revenge despite the torture he experienced in prison courtesy of the West. How sincere are his words? Only time will tell.

 

What is certain, however, is that the post-revolution Tripoli has already become a menace to regional stability. Last week, Israeli officials warned that Palestinians in Gaza have acquired anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets from Libya. Meanwhile, the European Union’s counter-terrorism’s chief warned that al-Qaeda may have also secured arms looted in the Libyan conflict, including surface-to-air missiles that could threaten commercial airliners.

 

Europe’s Terror Chief Gilles de Kerchove went even further, stressing that “democracy does not happen overnight” and cautioning that the string of Arab world uprisings has “provided a huge opportunity for al-Qaeda to re-energize.” Such warnings would have been much more meaningful six months ago, but at the time much of the West was celebrating the “imminent rise of Mideastern democracies.”

 

The failure to predict the Arab Spring’s grim outcome is a huge fiasco, especially as the ensuing calamity should have been patently clear to anyone with minimal understanding of our volatile region. Yet as is often the case, many in Europe and America chose to put their trust in empty words and cheerful notions completely detached from reality, while dismissing common sense and the Arab world’s history and tradition. They too will be paying the price sooner or later.

 

 

The lesson learned from the Arab Spring is particularly relevant this month as the Palestinians prepare to submit their UN statehood bid. This too is an obvious case of pretty rhetoric masking bleak realities on the ground. The Palestinian entity in the West Bank does not meet the minimal criteria for viable statehood, with global recognition likely paving the way for a failed, terrorist state on Israel’s doorstep. Will the world be wise enough to avert such catastrophe? Sadly, the Arab Spring debacle leaves little room for optimism.

 

Posted on 09/11/2011 4:52 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 11 September 2011
A Former US Navy Chaplain Chronicles His 9/11 Pentagon Experience

Rev. Neal Goldsborough, former 9/11 Pentagon Navy Chaplain

Pensacola News Journal

The Rev. Neal Goldsborough is rector of Christ Church in Pensacola, Florida.  He experienced firsthand the horrors of 9/11 in the aftermath of the Flight 77 attack on the Pentagon, when he was called to duty as a Navy Reserve Chaplain.  I have gotten to know Rev. Goldsborough on a personal level as we share common concerns of what motivated the Islamic terrorists who perpetrated 9/11.  They were 19 Salafist Muslim Saudi, Egyptian and Yemeni young men from high educated and upper middle class backgrounds, who took away the lives of more than 2,977 innocent victims that brilliant late summer day a decade ago.  They sky-jacked and flew commercial aircraft with captive passengers aboard as virtual flying bombs. Two aircrafts (American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston) flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.  A third, United Flight 93 that originated from Newark Airport crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers overcame the hi-jackers. According to Sheik Khaled Mohammed, Flight 93 was headed for the Capitol building in Washington, DC.  The fourth, Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon across the Potomac River in northern Virginia.

My son and daughter-in-law lost a law school classmate aborad Flight 77, Barbara Olson, the late wife of former US Solicitor General, Ted Olson.

Goldsborough had this comment when he read my recollections of 9/11 in Manhattan, a decade ago:

I agree whole heartedly that it was caused by theological reasons – specifically Wahabbi Islamic terrorists who were primarily from Saudi Arabia. As you have said, moist were from middle class backgrounds, and many were college educated. They were not impoverished refugees. I wish people would be more honest about this.  As a former Israeli army officer said to a group of us Navy Chaplains after 9/11: “being PC can get you killed.”

At the time of the 9/11 Pentagon attack, Rev. Goldsborough was serving as rector at a church in Alexandria, Virginia.  A computer serach by the Navy identified him as the closest reserve chaplain to the crash site to the Pentagon.  When called, he responded selflessly during a two week stint following 9/11. He served on a mortuary recovery team at the Pentagon crash site, escorting remains from the rubble and communicating with grieving families.

Much of what Rev. Goldsborough experienced on that Pentagon detail would have shattered the resolve of many.  However, like many of his colleagues engaged in this humane task, it demonstrated that good can triumph over evil.

His experiences were chronicled in an interview published by the Pensacola News Journal, “In face of evil, good prevails”. Here are some excerpts:

The Rev. Neal Goldsborough and all those around him stopped in shock and reverence as recovery crews pulled the broken remains of a child from the crash site at the Pentagon 10 years ago.

In his white hard hat with a black cross hand-drawn on the front with a marker, Goldsborough traced the sign of the cross across the boy's forehead and led a prayer over the pieces of the youngster's body.

"That was the hardest part for me," said Goldsborough, 58, a retired Navy Reserve captain who spent two weeks at the Pentagon after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. "This was a child. The reality of evil hit home at that moment more than any time in my life."

[. . .]

That day, Navy officials called him to report for duty at the Pentagon at 7:30 a.m. the next day. The crash of American Airlines Flight 77 into the building had killed 64 people on the plane and 125 in the building.

He remembers his first look at the damaged Pentagon.

"It was grim," he said. "There were fires still burning in some areas."

For weeks, he and other team members suited up in protective gear — respirators, coveralls, hard hats, sealed gloves and boots — for the horrific task of sorting through the smoldering rubble looking for pieces of people.

"We had to wear the gear," he said. "We didn't want to be exposed to the witch's brew of asbestos, jet fuel remains, water, heavy metals and human remains."

[. . .]

Some of the remains were buried in nearby Arlington National Cemetery; others were sent elsewhere for burial. No remains left the building without a prayer from Goldsborough or another chaplain on duty.

[. . .]

As I looked at the remains of this child, I knew that the people who did this would do it again unless they were stopped," he said. "And I said to myself that I would go anywhere and do anything to keep them from doing this again."

He got his chance when he was ordered to Kuwait in 2005 to serve for a year as chaplain at a military hospital. By this time, he had become the rector of a church in Rhode Island.

"In Kuwait, we had a picture of the Pentagon after it was blown up," Goldsborough said. "Under it were the words, 'Remember why we are here.' And we did remember."

His experiences in Kuwait led him to write the book Where is God Amidst the Bombs?, which details the costs of war and the lessons he learned.

Goldsborough retired from the Navy Reserves in 2009.

And though that day 10 years ago was one of grotesque horror, as was the two-week aftermath, he found light in the darkest of hours.

"Around me were very good people determined that evil wouldn't win," he said. "People working with families. Medical people. Firefighters. So many people trying to help their neighbor. I saw the goodness of humanity and the goodness of God in their lives. All these people were much more powerful than evil."

 

Posted on 09/11/2011 3:41 PM by Jerry Gordon
Sunday, 11 September 2011
What Explains The FBI Keeping This Quiet?

From The Gawker:

 

The Mysterious Saudi Family That Vanished Two Weeks Before 9/11

Did you know that a Saudi family living in Sarasota, Fla., that met with 9/11 mastermind Mohammed Atta disappeared without a trace—leaving behind their cars, food, and furniture—two weeks before the attacks? Neither did Congress, or the 9/11 Commission! The FBI didn't think to tell them.

It's amazing what stuff starts coming out ten years later. You'd think that 9/11 was one of the most picked-over events in history, with thousands of journalists, intelligence agents, and investigators poring over every aspect of the attacks. Not really! Some recorded radio communications from that day are just coming to light now. And today we learn that a Saudi family that actually met with Atta up and disappeared without a trace just days before the attacks, something that the FBI investigated but never bothered to tell Congress or the 9/11 Commission. Writing for the Miami Herald, Anthony Summers and Dan Christensen report:

Just two weeks before the 9/11 hijackers slammed into the Pentagon and World Trade Center, members of a Saudi family abruptly vacated their luxury home near Sarasota, Fla., leaving a brand new car in the driveway, a refrigerator full of food, fruit on the counter - and an open safe in a master bedroom....

The couple, living with their small children at the three-bedroom house at 4224 Escondito Circle, had left in a hurry in a white van, probably on Aug. 30.

They abandoned three recently registered vehicles, including a brand-new Chrysler PT Cruiser, in the garage and driveway....

Berberich and a senior counterterrorism agent said they were able to get into the abandoned house, ultimately finding "there was mail on the table, dirty diapers in one of the bathrooms ... all the toiletries still in place ... all their clothes hanging in the closet ... TVs ... opulent furniture, equal or greater in value than the house ... the pool running, with toys in it."

"The beds were made ... fruit on the counter ... the refrigerator full of food. ... It was like they went grocery shopping. Like they went out to a movie. ... (But) the safe was open in the master bedroom, with nothing in it, not a paper clip. ... A computer was still there. A computer plug in another room, and the line still there. Looked like they'd taken (another) computer and left the cord."

Big deal, right? Who cares if some Saudi citizens happened to decide to go home, or move somewhere else, in late August 2001? Well, their neighbors found it suspicious, and one of them called the FBI on the day of the attacks to report the departure. And it turns out the couple, Anoud and Abdulazzi al-Hiijjii, had ties to the 9/11 hijackers.

[A] counterterrorism officer, who requested his name not be disclosed, said agents went on to make troubling discoveries: Phone records and the Prestancia gate records linked the house on Escondito Circle to the hijackers....

The counterterrorism agent said records of incoming and outgoing calls made at the Escondito house were obtained from the phone company under subpoena.

Agents were able to conduct a link analysis, a system of tracking calls based on dates, times and length of conversations—finding the Escondito calls dating back more than a year, "lined up with the known suspects."

The links were not just to Atta and his hijack pilots, the agent said, but to 11 other terrorist suspects, including Walid al-Shehhri, one of the men who flew with Atta on the first plane to strike the World Trade Center.

Another was Adnan Shukrijumah, a former Miramar, Fla., resident identified as having been with Atta in the spring of 2001. Shukrijumah is still at large and is on the FBI's Most Wanted list.

OK, you're saying, sure: A "link analysis" connects them to the hijackers. But the FBI can link Atta to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach if it wants to. So they called someone who called someone who called a hijacker. What does that prove?

But it was the gate records at the Prestancia development that produced the most telltale information. People who arrived by car had to give their names and the home's address they were visiting. Gate staff would sometimes ask to see a driver's license and note the name, Berberich said. More importantly, he added, the license plates of cars pulling through the gate were photographed.

Atta is known to have used variations of his name, but the license plate of the car he owned was on record.

The vehicle and name information on Atta and Jarrah fit that of drivers entering Prestancia on their way to visit the home at 4224 Escondito Circle, said Berberich and the counterterrorism officer.

So there you have it: The FBI had photos of Mohammed Atta's car driving to visit a Saudi family that suddenly disappeared mysteriously just days before Atta executed the most deadly terrorist attack in U.S. history and the bureau never told anyone about it. Totally unrelated: The only major redaction in the 9/11 Commission report was a 28-page section spelling out connections between the hijackers and Saudi elites. I can't wait until the 20th anniversary, when we'll get to find out more. Happy 9/11 Day!

Posted on 09/11/2011 4:08 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 11 September 2011
A Former Israeli Ambassador Overlooks The Western Belief In Its Ability -- Forever, If Necessary -- To Keep Egypt Afloat

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Photo by: REUTERS

Comment: A shameful day for Egypt

 

By ZVI MAZEL
11/09/2011 The lesson won't be forgotten, nor will pictures of the mob attacking the building, entering the embassy, defacing the walls, destroying property.

 

The tall building at No. 6 Ibn Malek Street on the West Bank of the Nile River is well known to the people of Cairo. The Israeli flag has flown from its 19th floor since it was first raised 30 years ago in a moving ceremony. It was hoped the move would herald a new era of peace with Egypt and with our other neighbors. It did not quite happen like that.

A cold peace and ongoing media incitement threw a pall over the building. Though it has provided a haven for the succeeding teams of Israeli diplomats; though Egyptians and Palestinians came daily to arrange consular matters or receive visas; though foreign ambassadors came to exchange views with their Israeli counterpart, there was a feeling that “something was bound to happen.”

Something did happen on August 20. The flag was violently taken down by an Egyptian “hero,” thrown to the ground and set on fire while the mob exulted.

The following day the “hero” had become the darling of the press and even received an award from the governor of Giza.

The great country so proud of its magnificent past has now found its modern hero. Not a philosopher or a scientist, not the founder of a start-up company making a successful exit via an initial public offering; not a chess player, not even an athlete. Just a hooligan climbing up the walls to defile the flag of a neighboring country spurred by the shouts of a hanging mob. The attack on the embassy itself a few weeks later shows the mob had understood it had the blessings of the media and of the authorities.

The whole world saw Egypt could not protect the safety and integrity of a foreign embassy and could not abide by the most elementary rules of international law and respect the treaties to which it is a signatory.

The lesson will not be forgotten, nor will the pictures of the mob attacking the building, getting access to the embassy, defacing the walls, destroying property. Not something to inspire confidence or to encourage tourists to visit at a time when Egypt needs more than ever the understanding and support of the international community for its failing economy. [it will be forgotten, by everyone but the Israelis, within a few weeks]

Egypt finds itself at a crossroads.

Mass demonstrations and the toppling of Hosni Mubarak have brought no breakthrough for the country’s social and economic problems.

The Supreme Military Council ruling the country has been exposed in all its weakness; it has been unable to show the people a road map leading to the drafting of a new constitution, the election of new parliamentary institutions and much needed social and economic reforms.

The situation is going from bad to worse. There were no liberal parties ready to guide the revolution and work for the establishment of a democratic regime able to enforce the respect of human rights and the rights of women, as well as those of the Coptic minority.

Instead, the Muslim Brothers and the ultra-nationalist movements, long repressed by the previous regime, are controlling the street and dictating their will to the army – while each fighting to shape the country their way.

The naïve and fearless youngsters who took to the street on January 25 to demand change and better conditions have lost.[perfectly predictable, and predicted -- but then, so was the worthlessness of the promises Israel obtained in return for giving up the entire Sinai]


Hatred towards Israel is the only common ground for the deeply divided forces battling for control in Egypt.

Yet today Egypt urgently needs to take care of its economy, to provide work and hope to its hungry masses
. To do so it needs stability of the kind that the peace treaty with Israel provides. The two neighboring countries need to cooperate to fight terror groups menacing their lengthy border.

The ongoing dialogue at the higher level has never stopped, and the US is doing its share to help.

Cool heads are needed on both sides of the border to defuse the situation. It may not be easy, but there is no other way.

The writer is a former ambassador to Egypt.

 

Posted on 09/11/2011 5:01 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 11 September 2011
Ten Years On: Saudi Textbooks Yet to be Cleaned of Violence!

Nina Shea is director of the Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom (HICRF) in Washington, DC.  Shea is also a Commissioner of the Congressionally-chartered US Commission on International Religious Freedom. Shea was a colleague in the protests of the Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA) in Fairfax, Virginia having had translated and reviewed alleged changes in the religious studies texts of the ISA supplied by the Saudi Education Ministry. She has been a relentless critic of alleged Saudi education ministry attempts at reform of texts used both in the Kingdom and at more than 20 Saudi-sponsored private schools in the US and other countries. She is the author of a new report by the  HICRF that focused on the dismal Saudi educational text reform track record of the past decad : Ten Years On-Saudi Arabia’s Textbooks Still Promote Violence.

We will be interviewing Shea and Paul Marshall of the HICRF and reviewing their forthcoming book, Silenced:How Apostasy & Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide (Oxford University Press) in the November NER. The book portrays blasphemy laws and their consequences in the Muslim ummah and in the West at international groups like the UN Human Rights Council. It is scheduled for publication in late October, 2011.

As part of its symposium on commemoration of 9/11, “What Have We Learned?”,  the NRO has published a note from Shea displaying examples of the violence contained in Saudi Ministry of Education texts that reflect the predominate Wahhabist doctrine of the Kingdom. Doctrine that may have propelled the 15 Saudi perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks on America.

NINA SHEA
We learned that Saudi Arabia has long been indoctrinating its students in an ideology of religious violence, which key U.S. intelligence officials have linked to facilitating and supporting terrorists.

Ten years on, Saudi textbooks, disseminated on websites and translated here, have yet to be cleaned up.They continue to teach:

- “Jihad has two concepts…[including] a specific meaning which is: putting effort and energy into fighting for the sake of God to spread Islam and defend it.” (12th grade);

- “The Jews and Christians are enemies of the believers.” (9th grade);

- “The clash between this [Muslim] nation and the Jews and Christians has endured, and it will continue as long as God wills.” (9th grade);

- “It is part of God’s wisdom that the struggle between the Muslim and the Jews should continue until the hour [of judgment]. The good news for Muslims is that God will help them against the Jews in the end.” (8th grade);

- Apostates and blasphemers should be punished by death. (10th grade);

- “Major polytheism is a reason to fight those who practice it [including Shiites, Hindus, etc.].” (12th grade);

- Magicians and those practicing witchcraft “must be killed.” (10th grade);

- “The punishment of homosexuality is death” . . . by being “burned with fire,” “stoned,” or “thrown from a high place.”(10th grade);

- “The apes are the people of the Sabbath, the Jews; and the swine are the infidels of the communion of Jesus, the Christians.” (8th grade).

 

We also learned that the U.S. government has been unwilling to take on the ideological challenge posed by Saudi-sponsored education. Over two administrations, it has annually praised Riyadh for the “glacial” (as a Wikileaks cable put it) pace of reform. Meanwhile Saudi Wahhabi extremism spreads in Somalia, Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Algeria, the Balkans, the U.K., and elsewhere.

Posted on 09/11/2011 5:33 PM by Jerry Gordon
Sunday, 11 September 2011
Grosvenor Square London

This is the good bit of today - once the public were allowed into Grosvenor Square to pay our respects The Band of the Welsh Guards played. This is the beginning of A Concert of Reflection - filling the skies with music as we honour the day. I will write about the rest of the day in the morning.

Posted on 09/11/2011 6:05 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax

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