By Their Words Ye Shall Know Them


by Hugh Fitzgerald (Aug. 2008)

John McCain declares that the Republican President he would most like to emulate is Theodore Roosevelt.

That’s a good choice.

Theodore Roosevelt was against what he was the first to so memorably call the “malefactors of great wealth.” We’ve got plenty of those.

He was the first President to set aside vast tracks of land for national parks — the national parks did not originate with him, but his name is entwined with their promotion and expansion — and to express great interest in the need for government to actively protect the natural environment. He liked John Muir. He liked the woods, and the mountains, and the wide-open spaces. He knew the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea. He regretted the mishandling of Mother Nature by ungrateful Man. That attitude is most welcome.

He was widely read, in the history of the world, and that included the history of what Islam had done to the world, and the meaning, and menace, of Islam for the West. And he was able, after all that study and reflection, to write these words:

“The Greeks who triumphed at Marathon and Salamis did a work without which the world would have been deprived of the social value of Plato and Aristotle, of Aeschylus, Herodotus, and Thucydides. The civilization of Europe, America, and Australia exists today at all only because of the victories of civilized man over the enemies of civilization, because the victories stretching through the centuries from the days of Miltiades and Themistocles to those of Charles Martel in the eighth century and those of John Sobieski in the seventeenth century.”

“During the thousand years that included the careers of the Frankish soldier and the Polish king, the Christians of Asia and Africa proved unable to wage successful war with the Moslem conquerors; and in consequence Christianity practically vanished from the two continents; and today nobody can find in them any ‘social values’ whatever, in the sense in which we use the words, so far as the sphere of Mohammedan influence. There are such ‘social values’ today in Europe, America, and Australia only because during those thousand years the Christians of Europe possessed the warlike power to do what the Christians of Asia and Africa had failed to do – that is, to beat back the Moslem invader.”

On the other hand, Barack Obama
is quoted, just a few days after the attacks of September 2001, as saying:

“Even as I hope for some measure of peace and comfort to the bereaved families, I must also hope that we as a nation draw some measure of wisdom from this tragedy. Certain immediate lessons are clear, and we must act upon those lessons decisively. We need to step up security at our airports. We must reexamine the effectiveness of our intelligence networks. And we must be resolute in identifying the perpetrators of these heinous acts and dismantling their organizations of destruction.

We must also engage, however, in the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness. The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.

We will have to make sure, despite our rage, that any U.S. military action takes into account the lives of innocent civilians abroad. We will have to be unwavering in opposing bigotry or discrimination directed against neighbors and friends of Middle Eastern descent. Finally, we will have to devote far more attention to the monumental task of raising the hopes and prospects of embittered children across the globe—children not just in the Middle East, but also in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and within our own shores.”

Barack Obama said that the New Yorker magazine’s satirical cover depicting him and his wife as flag-burning, fist-bumping radicals doesn’t bother him but that it was an insult to Muslim Americans.

“You know, there are wonderful Muslim Americans all across the country who are doing wonderful things,” the presidential candidate told CNN’s Larry King. “And for this to be used as sort of an insult, or to raise suspicions about me, I think is unfortunate. And it’s not what America’s all about.”

On July 16th,
he said the following:

“As long as nuclear weapons exist, we’ll retain a strong deterrent. But we will make the goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons a central element in our nuclear policy.”

A moment’s thought tells us that the only reason Israel survives is because of its ability to withstand attacks by others, who wish — because of Islam — to ultimately remove the Infidel nation – a state that is such an affront from the midst of Dar al-Islam, and that desire is not a minor one, but central to Arab Muslim identity. It is the “humiliation,” the “catastrophe,” the thing which must not be allowed to stand.

If Israel does not have nuclear weapons — and if the United States takes as its goal “eliminating all nuclear weapons” as “a central element in our nuclear policy” that includes everyone, does it not, then Israel will be much closer to being wiped out. It has 7 million people, with about 6 million of them Jews and one million, of indeterminate loyalty, mostly-Muslim, Arabs. The Arab states have a population of more than 300 million, with a land area more than one-thousand times that of Israel where weapons can be hidden or simply stored, and annual revenues of more than one trillion dollars at current prices, from the sale of oil, and a great deal of that money is spent now, as in the past, on weaponry.

Obama did not mean to pass a death sentence on Israel. But that’s what he in effect did. He has shown an inability to think things through — just like McCain, but about different things. He could think a bit, and then, if he wishes — and he should so wish — rephrase and correct his dangerous statement quoted above. He could say that not all countries are equally dangerous, and one has to observe their behavior, and the ideology that animates them, to calculate just how dangerous each country could be. He could mock those who think that if Australia were to obtain nuclear weapons that is exactly the same as if North Korea does so, and that Israel’s nuclear bombs justify the pursuit of such weaponry by Arab states, and that there is no moral nor any other kind of difference between Israel, our ally no matter how badly we treat it, and the Muslim Arab states, our enemies no matter what aid we lavish upon them and how much we yield to them in policy matters. 

To those who whine about “double standards” in regard to Israel he should forthrightly explain that the imbalance between tiny Israel and the members of the Arab League, in population, land area, conventional arms, and wealth is so extreme, and the only real keeper of the peace is the IDF, and deterrence — as the Cold War showed — can work (unless a country is run by maniacs, as in the Islamic Republic of Iran) and it would be cruel and stupid to insist on Israel committing suicide by giving up its nuclear monopoly in the Middle East.

Barack Obama could say all that. It would relieve a great many people of very high — sky-high — anxiety, brought on by this and other remarks Obama has made that directly relate to the continued survival of both Israel, and of the West.

He could.

But will he?

McCain, on the other hand, says he is for a “
realistic assessment” on the ground in Iraq. Who could not be for a realistic assessment on the ground? And the “ground” for which such a “realistic assessment” is required is the entire earth, the entire giddy globe, where everywhere Muslims are on the march, and they can be on the march simply by sitting at home, in Bradford or Marseille, in London or Paris, and procreate, and live off the Infidel dole, and make demands for this and for that change to social arrangements, to legal and political institutions, to everything that makes the local Infidels what they are– and it hardly matters if those demands are crazed, hardly matters if, for now, those demands are turned down — because simply by increasing their numbers, through overbreeding and campaigns of Da’wa directed at the psychically and economically marginal, the islamization of Western Europe proceeds, inexorably.

It is that “ground” too — the “ground” of Western Europe — that requires a “realistic assessment” by the likes of Senator McCain and Senator Obama, each lacking the understanding necessary.

In McCain’s case, as a not-very-imaginative military man, he has accepted the idea that the war on what he, what even Bush, has described as an “ideology” must proceed through boots-on-the-ground warfare, though they fail to see that the side they are helping, or sides, for there are seven or eight or ten such discrete sides in Iraq, and counting, are all Muslim and that if Iraq is helped to stay together, stable and prosperous, this does nothing to weaken the Camp of Islam.

McCain shows no signs of understanding what Jihad is, rightly defined, (as the “struggle” to remove all obstacles to the spread, and then dominance, of Islam), nor of understanding, or even recognizing, the instruments of Jihad other than “terror” (in this respect he is a Bush-Administration loyalist). He certainly is far from grasping a strategy that husbands rather than squanders resources, that recognizes and then exploits the pre-existing fissures — sectarian, ethnic, economic — within the Camp of Islam, and that wishes the Muslim world not well but ill, or rather, wishes it truly well, in that if Infidels, and then Muslims, come to see the connection between the political, economic, social, intellectual, and moral failings of Muslim polities and peoples, and Islam itself, then there may be an Ataturk-like movement, for some, to constrain Islam. For others, especially among non-Arab Muslims who have not been allowed to share in the Arab oil wealth,  and who may be encouraged to recognize that Islam is — and what’s more always has been — a vehicle for Arab supremacism., there may not only be an effort to constrain, but possibly even an effort by the most morally and intellectually advanced, to leave Islam altogether.

This kind of thinking, that should be obvious, is beyond McCain.

Oh, it’s beyond Obama too — his Islam, or his knowledge of Islam, is colored by his oneiric fantasies of his father, the Father He Never Knew, but who was nominally a Muslim, and his childhood memories — don’t discount the enormous power of childhood memories — of a completely anomalous brand of Islam, the kind exhibited in comparatively tolerant Indonesia, at a time before the Return to Islam, and in a setting — a school where Muslim parents agreed to send their children along with Christian children — that was as atypical as, say, the American school in Kuwait City, or the high school run by Boston College Jesuits in the old days, Baghdad College.

Both candidates so far have shown themselves to be completely inadequate to the task at hand. But McCain may be salvageable– just.

For some time I have been monitoring, intermittently, the use of words by both candidates. McCain is straightforward, though sometimes awkward, but he has the advantage of having grown up in a world where there was less nonsense about. He does use phrases without holding them up for inspection: the “war on terror” being the phrase with the most damaging consequences. He has held up for inspection and justified criticism Obama’s self-description as being “a citizen of the world.” But on the whole McCain doesn’t make you wince, as Bush always does, and even when Bush deviates into sense, his presentation is so awful that it convinces no one, and invites derision, and that’s not a good thing in a president. If not quite the straight-talking express he once promised, at least McCain’s a dependable train, the kind that won’t derail in a crisis, but will make it back to the roundhouse. If he can only be made to see Iraq plain, to come to his senses, that is, about the right way to conduct a war of self-defense against Islam, and if can only stick to his earlier guns, and be the traitor to his class that the other Roosevelt, Franklin not Theodore, was accused of being — by continuing to oppose those “malefactors of great wealth” — then he has a chance.


I’ve also been noting bits and pieces of Barack Obama’s idiolect – those words and phrases he especially favors. I noticed, for example, how much he loves the word “improbable” and how often he uses it with feigned wonderment at his own amazing, to him and therefore to his audience, history — if the history of a man is to be reduced to some banal business about his ethnic and racial background, subjects for Obama of apparently great and abiding interest, rather than being centered on the much more interesting history of the development and cultivation of that man’s unique intellect and take on the universe.


The first notable public use of the word “improbable” was in his speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2004, which had not yet become the staple we have all become so used to, and some of us to love – Obama’s Personal History, A History That Like Its Humble Hero Doth Bestride The World Like A Colossus And Holds Out The Audacity Of Hope For All Of Us – contained the following:


“My parents shared not only an improbable love, they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name.”


This past year, in desultory fashion, I put up two comments at Jihad Watch that show his favoring –or as some ill-educated professors of literature might put it, his “privileging” — that adjective: 


As I wrote here: Barack Obama, or his speechwriter, likes to lift phrases from American history. And some of them, but not all, can be tracked down. The one he keeps re-using, and that he used early on in today’s speech — that “improbable experiment” — has a ring to it. I suspect that the well-turned phrase comes either from some figure in American history, or was said by a professor conducting a class at law school or even by an emeritus professor giving a talk. When did Paul Freund, who was good at quoting Mr. Justice Holmes, die? Or might it have been a subtitle used by Bernard Bailyn, or Michael Kammen? One never knows.


And here: Obama can point out — unless McCain beats him to the punch — that the Money Weapon is so much more effective, at this point, than terrorism in promoting the goal of removing all obstacles to the spread, and then the dominance, of Islam. And he can grandly reach out, he with his “improbable” life story and his race-and-nation-bestriding impulse, to create that Grand Alliance that will “harness the energies” of “both left and right.” But Obama can’t do it if he doesn’t recognize Arab and Muslim oil revenues as a Money Weapon, and is unable to connect that instrument of Jihad, the Money Weapon, to support for other instruments of Jihad, including Da’wa, and demographic conquest and, yes, that terrorism to which such dangerously exclusive, even monomaniacal, attention has been given by the benighted Bush Administration.


So when I read a story about Obama’s speech-act of July 24, 2008 in Berlin, I can’t say that I was “pleasantly surprised” – because I wasn’t surprised at all – but was certainly amused to discover that the phrase from Obama’s speech that was chosen by The Times as the title for the story came from this perorating excerpt:


“People of Berlin, and people of the world, the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again.”


The Times titled its story about the speech “We Are A People Of Improbable Hope.”

No, not so “improbable.” In fact, that was surely, for those who are verbally vigilant, the least improbable, and the most probable, “improbable,” in the history of speechifying.

Barack Obama
speaking on “Meet The Press” said:

“I think King, King Abdullah [of Jordan] is as savvy an analyst of the region and player in the region as, as there is, one of the points that he made and I think a lot of people made, is that we’ve got to have an overarching strategy recognizing that all these issues are connected. If we can solve the Israeli-Palestinian process, then that will make it easier for Arab states and the Gulf states to support us when it comes to issues like Iraq and Afghanistan.

It will also weaken Iran, which has been using Hamas and Hezbollah as a way to stir up mischief in the region. If we’ve gotten an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, maybe at the same time peeling Syria out of the Iranian orbit, that makes it easier to isolate Iran so that they have a tougher time developing a nuclear weapon.”

Surely it wasn’t just the smooth ride in thick-necked Abdullah’s Mercedes 600 (paid for by the long-suffering descendants of the long-suffering American taxpayers who used to pick up another tab, via the C.I.A., for his father “plucky little King Hussein’s” season tickets to various call-girl operations – who would arrive seriatim at his various hotel suites, in Washington or London or Paris, for his all-expenses-paid favorite form of recreation) that impressed him, that made him take at face value what Abdullah told him, all about the “importance” of “solving” what Abdullah so carefully calls the “Israeli-Palestinian” matter with “a peace deal.” It was far more — ignorance of Islam, and a willingness to go along with, and not rethink, all the cliches about “peace” and the usefulness of a “treaty,” when a moment’s meditation on the significance of Muhammad’s Treaty of Al-Hudaibiyya ought to disabuse anyone, including Barack Obama.

No, Obama really has just offered conclusive evidence of his failure to have studied Islam, failed to read with understanding Qur’an, Hadith, and Sira, failed to learn the texts,  the tenets, to grasp the attitudes, the atmospherics of Islam. He had better get Ayaan Hirsi Ali in to talk to him, and Wafa Sultan and Ibn Warraq too, and pronto, about how “everything connects” but the connecting link is not the Jihad against Israel, but rather Jihad itself, and the nature of Islam itself. And he has to study this stuff, and talk to these people, while he still has some time — before the hectic vacancy of office overwhelms him, as overwhelm him it will — to actually think about things and learn what not only he, but also McCain, and Bush, and everyone else among those who presume to instruct and protect us, have failed so singularly (yet collectively) to learn, in the nearly seven years since such study became not a matter of choice, but a matter of duty.

King Abdullah is, in Obama’s view,  “savvy.” He’s as “savvy an analyst” and “player in the region as…”


By their worldview, and their words, shall ye know — and judge — them.

To comment on this article, please click

To help New English Review continue to publish interesting, timely and thought provoking articles such as this one, please click here.

If you have enjoyed this and want to read more by Hugh Fitzgerald, click here.

Hugh Fitzgerald contributes regularly to The Iconoclast, our Community Blog. Click here to see all his contributions, on which comments are welcome.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Pre-order at Amazon US, Amazon UK or wherever books are sold.

Order at Amazon US or Amazon UK or wherever books are sold.

Fetch yours from AmazonAmazon UK or wherever books are sold.

Order from Amazon, Amazon UK or wherever books are sold.

Order on Amazon or Amazon UK today!

Follow by Email