Letter for London
Besides allowing me to vent, the biggest pleasure in producing this daily diatribe are he emails I get from people smarter than me. Initially they often write to straighten me out on a point or two they reckon I got wrong. Emails are exchanged as we iron the matter out. At the end of that process, more often than not, we discover we have more in common than not.
After the first London bombings on July 7 I let loose on Muslims living in western cities, blasting them for not doing enough to put a stop to radical Islamists in their communities and mosques. I really let them have it, and I still believe they had it coming. Only in recent days have we see the first moderate Muslims stepping forward and strongly condemning terrorism under the guise of religion.
Anyway, a reader in London, Peter Riches, thought I had gone a bit over board and wrote me a long, reasonable and literate email explaining why. We quickly ironed out our differences, (as in – he was right.)
Two weeks later I was better behaved in the wake of the July 21 failed attacks in London. I wrote that the British seemed to have handled these attacks better than we do. They were able to capture the culprits in just 8 days -- and without passing an onerous, odious law like America's Patriot Act.
That elicited another long email from Peter which I thought was worth reproducing here. It's a well-reasoned reminder to Americans that there are other ways to deal with terrorism that do not include creating a police state in the process.
(Yes, I know the Brits have surveillance cameras all over the place. While the Brits don't seem to mind, the damn things make me cranky when I'm there. They move and follow you as you move. They give me the creeps.)
Anyway, here's Peter's account of post 7/21 events in the UK.
Sorry for not writing recently, but as you know, we've had rather an exciting time recently here in London. I live in Shepherd's Bush in London, where one of the failed bombs was. It was never quite pandemonium (We ARE British, y'know! -- but Woah! What an experience! The cops have been over this city like a rash, and I have to say without any reservations what an incredible job our police and anti-terrorist squad have done. They have done a magnificent job under the most incredible time-pressure.
As they themselves acknowledge, their stunning speed in this case was only made possible because of all the genuine, good quality help and information they have had from the immigrant and indigenous Muslim communities here in the UK. From the very beginning of the investigation after 7/7 the Police publicly addressed the Muslim communities in an extremely open and honest way, asking (not demanding) their help.
They were asked what kind of community they wanted to live in, and previously unspoken questions were asked about the wisdom of traveling thousands of miles to get to live here, but behaving in all respects as if they're still living in the bloody foothills of Kandahar. They were asked to start dealing with the extremists in their midst, and to report extremists spouting violence.
Standing accused of turning a blind eye to known extremists within their midst, the Muslims accepted the criticism, and said that they would act, and they did. They are genuinely dismayed and shocked to realise that some of these boy bombers were born and bred English boys. There has been some seismic heart-searching going on this month.
Suddenly they were having to ask themselves "How did we fail them? Have we been burying our heads in the sand because we can't deal with modern British youth issues? Where can young, angry, disaffected Muslim youths go to to discuss their frustrations, once they've been banned from using their local mosques because they've been spouting extremism (fed to them, we now know, by the shadowy handlers), and everyone at the mosque is totally sick of them?"
Suddenly a window of Inclusion began to open, and the Muslim community actually engaged. Suddenly we could hear from all the normal, run-of-the-mill moderate Muslims whose voices are always drowned out by the Screaming Fanatics and the media carnival that is drawn to Screaming Fanatics like moths to a flame...
Two very interesting things came to light for me during all this dialogue. First was discovering that it's quite normal for the Immigrant parents of 1st generation British Muslim youths who are going off the rails like all young males do, to ship them off to madrases in Pakistan or Afghanistan to "Sort them out". Now... if THAT's not asking for bloody trouble, what is?
The second was the revelation of the phenomena of "Clean Skin" militants, and how they're groomed and provoked by intermediary, parasitic "handlers", who have been recruiting at the out-of-control mosques, and who have created a subterranean network all over the UK. These handlers are all connected, and the connections are absolutely International. It kind of brings it all home with a bit of a bump.
Tony Blair's spluttering rage at the assertion (supported now by 72% of the population) that the illegal occupation of Iraq was a direct motivation for the attacks was very, very telling. I wonder if he's lost any sleep recently over a certain Memo, or the notion of impeachment and maybe a little trip to the War Crimes Tribunal in a van with bars on the windows?
And as for the public execution of a terrified innocent Brazilian by an out-of-control armed officer? Words fail me. Two cops had him on the ground, and had his arms pinned down, so he was no threat whatsoever. The third plainclothes officer put seven bullets in his head. THAT was murder. No question about it. An independent enquiry has started already. Read this space.
There's a major clamour to prosecute the cop. If he proves to be guilty, I hope he gets life. We need to let the Police know they are accountable to the Law.
Anyway... Apropos of all this, I was at a friends barbecue last night, and had a very interesting chat with her brother-in-law-to-be who is a liver doctor in a big hospital. Yesterday he had been playing soccer with several Muslim lads in Birmingham, where he lives and works, and where several of the bombers had strong family connections. A couple of days ago Birmingham was hit by a freak tornado, and it cut a swathe through the heart of the Muslim residential heart of the city. Jeff said that all the Muslim boys were saying that the tornado was Allah's punishment for harbouring terrorists.
I asked him if any of them had therefore come to the opinion that the fact that the last four London bombs never went off was undeniably Allah's direct intervention, and was also a judgment on fanatical atrocities supposedly in the name of Islam?
He said "No, they haven't, but they may have been saying that amongst themselves. I'll ask them next weekend." He promised to let me know the answer.
Maybe, just maybe, we've come together as one Society (even if we have short memories) and have turned a small corner? There's real hope out there that there are, after all, many, many Muslims in this country DO appreciate what we offer them. And all this, as you quite rightly say, without a disgraceful, fascist Patriot Act, or without psychopath's like Bill O'Reilly defecating corruption and sociopathic poison over TV networks.
Hope you're keeping well, Stephen. Needless to say I'm devouring everything I can on Valerie Plame/Rove, and the rapidly swelling Impeach Bush movement. I'm with you all, every step of the way. Surely it's only a matter of time now before the sleeping giant of the True American Nation turns on the cancerous thieves and liars who are devouring you alive. The American Chemotherapy's going to be very painful, but you have to save the patient!
(At my urging Peter is now posting his own blog at: http://thelunaticscookbook.blogspot.com/ )
Selected Short Subjects
Twenty one US Marines, all from Ohio, were killed this week, 14 just this morning, in two last-throe attacks north of Baghdad.
Down south American journalist, Steven Vincent, was shot dead in Bashra just days after he wrote and op-ed piece in the NY Times. Vincent's piece warned that pro-Iranian Shiites were steadily taking control of of Iraq. (Full Story)
That was not the kind of news either Washington or the Iraqie interim government appreciated at this point in time. US officials have hung all their hopes on the Iraqis coughing up a draft constitution by the middle of this month. Progress in that direction has been held up chiefly due to concerns of Sunnis and Kurds that the Shiites were .. well, taking over the country.
Apparently someone decided any further reporting from Iraq by Steve Vincent would not be helpful in building Iraq's new "democracy."
Here's a bit of boring news few will notice -- but should:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Bush administration announced Wednesday that it is bringing back the 30-year Treasury bond next year, a move that would help finance the national debt and should hold appeal for investors looking for a safe, longer-term investment option in their portfolios. (Full Story)
The last time our government sold 30-year bonds was October 2001 – which was also the last year the federal budget was still benefiting from the Clinton surpluses. With more money coming in than going out, the nation no longer needed to put your kids and grand kids in hock for three decades.
Then George W. Bush's $1.3 trillion in tax cuts went into effect and we have been showered in red ink ever since, which is why the 30-year bond is back. You can thank the 'borrow and spend" conservatives for it. At least those dreaded "tax and spend" liberals understood that if we are going to spend money we needed money coming in too. That was the "tax" part.
Who's Keeping Score?
The two items above beg me to compare the GOPs self image with reality.
The GOP is better at managing the economy. After all they are pro-business folk.
* They cut revenues by slashing taxes on the wealthy and then kept spending
* In their first term they chewed their way through the entire $5.6 trillion Clinton surplus
* When that was gone they started borrowing adding a couple of trillion dollars more our national debt
* The federal budget went from surpluses as far as the eye could see to triple-digit deficits as far as the eye could see.
Republicans are better at defending Americans.
* They botched the most important intelligence gathering assignment since WW II.
* They got caught red handed lying to the UN
* They started a shooting war on false pretenses alienating many of our staunchest military allies around the world.
* They failed to assure our troops were properly equipped before sending into combat.
* They failed to formulate an exit strategy before committing our troops to a war half way around the world.
* They failed to formulate a post-conflict plan.They dismissed advice from military experts who suggested more troops would be needed.
* They wasted, and continue to waste, billions of dollars in Iraq reconstruction funds.
* Commander-in-Chief Bush has not seen fit to drag his sorry ass to a single one of the 1800 funerals of GI's who died for him.