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John Derbyshire bares the fangs

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John Derbyshire does some of the most interesting writing at National Review. He’s never more interesting than when he’s saying things that I find unsettling.

In this case, he reports newspaper headlines from “an alternate universe in which the U.S.A. has been conducting a real war on terror.” Some of them cause me to suspect that Mr. Derbyshire has perhaps a bit too much fiber in his diet.

Some of them actually seemed just right to me, like the story from Gaza in which the IDF was attacking pro-Hamas demonstrators. Yes, exactly right.

The Libya story, in which American military suddenly whacked Khadaffi seemed a little iffy, but arguably defensible.

Where he really lost me though, was rolling in issues of illegal Mexican immigration as part of the war on terror, and proposing several harsh measures for dealing with immigration issues based on that national security consideration.

Foul! Mexican immigration involves a lot of significant legitimate problems, but Mexican illegals are not coming here to kill us. They’ve come to harvest our produce and bus our tables. Considering all Mexican illegals as if they were potential terrorists is not justified by the facts, and it’s not cool. It’s not necessary, and it’s not nice.

Then throw in Derbyshire’s Cairo dateline, which involved absolutely literally declaring war on al-Jazeera television network, treating their headquarters and reporters as enemy combatants.

That’s maybe just a BIT much, don’t you think, Derb?

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  • Point by point:

    Al Jazeera as enemy propoganda? No tolerance for differences of opinion, I guess.

    Lifetime bans on entry for the families of illegal immigrants? Even if one accepts the idea that illegal immigrants from Mexico are a problem, which I don’t, a lifetime ban on family members seems a bit extreme.

    An uprising in Saudi Arabia sounds like a good idea, and I note that the only U.S. action for that bullet point is the granting of asylum to the former royal family. I’m all for doing nice things for people.

    Gas at $8 a gallon? I was thinking about this recently. How much less would I be able to drive if gas cost $5 a gallon. The answer is the same as at $8. Within my control, almost no less at all. Maybe 20 miles per week? Other than that, it would take permission from my employer to telecommute, because I don’t drive many other places, and I’d still grocery shop and go to church. Of course, gas at $8 a gallon would also drive up the price of things shipped via truck, like, oh, everything. An economist Derbyshire ain’t.

    A mosque stripped of tax-exempt status for the reasons given is a clear violation of the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Bzzt! I’ve never cared whether churches of any sort were tax-exempt, but preaching jihad is free speech, if not free expression of religion.

    Again with the idea that illegal immigration from Mexico is a security problem. How many acts of terror have been carried out by Mexicans again? Fewer than by skinny rednecks.

    That Israel would act against demonstrators in Palestine would (sadly) not surprise me. That we would give verbal support is indefensible. For that matter, the gathering described would be Constitutionally protected in this country.

    Is Derbyshire really suggesting that anti-terror laws should be made so retroactive that Gerry Adams could be labeled a terrorist and shot without trial? Wow.

    Flight attendants shoot a threatening passenger after adequate warning? Why couldn’t he be subdued and restrained instead? I’m all for guns in the cockpit, but not in the hands of flight attendants.

    I hate mines, but I guess I don’t have too much beef with the ideas of (1) the US withdrawing from the UN or (2) serious pressure applied to Iran.

    Nuke strikes in North Korea? It boggles the mind.

    Israel occupying Syria? Yeah, that’s somehow part of ending terrorism. Uh, no.

    Repatriating our war dead from Europe to America is just petty. It wouldn’t surprise me, given the pettiness of politicians, though.

    I’m not a fan of mandatory sentences of any kind, even 25-year sentences for illegal activities by illegal immigrants. Does that include speeding tickets? Do you think that someone facing 25 years minimum mandatory is going to quietly submit for arrest, or do something dangerous to try to avoid it?

    American artifically prolonging a three-sided civil war in Saudi Arabia would help end terrorism how? I suppose this is the honey-pot theory, that people fighting in Saudi Arabia (or Iraq) don’t fight us here. I don’t buy it at all in the mythical here, and not much in the real case of Iraq. Maybe a little.

    I personally know people who lived on bases in Germany before 9/11, and they were sent home unexpectedly. I’ve never been able to find any sources anywhere to describe how widespread this was, but I know we aren’t salting the broken ground in our wake. “Bite me, Adolf?” Wow.

    Free election in Iraq. It will be nice. How, exactly, did this happen in just one year?

    Come on, Khaddafi has kept his mouth shut since we murdered his family while Reagan was the U.S. President. As long as he continues to do so, why bother him?

    Again with the illegal immigration from Mexico stuff, and the weird retroactive rules. It’s like an obsession!

    All in all, silly. Could we go it in the world alone today? Maybe. The price of everything would double or triple or more, but we might just be able to pull it off. However, that’s not what life is all about. As I’ve taught my children, but apparently nobody has taught Derbyshire, life is tough. There isn’t always a 21-minute solution plus commercials. You go on and on and you deal with people who hate you and you just keep going on.

    A large part of character is revealed in how you treat those who revile you. America is walking a fine line today, but Derbyshire would apparently believe that we should antagonize any dissenters severely. I say, “Grow up!”

    And yes, I realize that the fictional context of this article means that he can claim the whole thing is satire or at the very least sarcastic. In that case, my response is sarcastic, too. I think I agreed with exactly one point: If the Saudi royal family is overthrown by their own people, we should grant them residence in the U.S.

  • I could go along with you on most of this, Phil, but definitely not this:

    That Israel would act against demonstrators in Palestine would (sadly) not surprise me. That we would give verbal support is indefensible. For that matter, the gathering described would be Constitutionally protected in this country.

    I would look at them as recruiting rallies for terrorists, and treat them exactly as Derbyshire describes. Hoisting signs and chants about wanting to raise taxes for more welfare spending is protected speech, actively gathering to show support and help recruit terrorists to come kill us is NOT. That is utterly criminal, and could perfectly reasonably be seen as an act of war.

  • In case anybody hasn’t yet read the original piece, or couldn’t stomach it long enough to read the point in question, it reads as follows:

    Gaza, Sept. 13. A funeral procession for slain Hamas leader Abdul Al-Jaffara seemed about to turn into an angry demonstration when it was suddenly attacked by Israeli planes firing rockets and dropping napalm. The area of the demonstration is still, several hours after the event, “a sea of flames,” and there has been no estimate of fatalities, though estimates run as high as a thousand. This was the first attempt at a large public demonstration in Palestinian territories since the riots that followed the funeral of slain terrorist leader Yasser Arafat in 2001, which drew a similar Israeli response, with more than 2,000 reported dead. A spokesman for the Israeli government declared after that event that: “Demonstrations in support of terrorism are acts of war. That is clearly implicit in the phrase ‘war on terror’.” President Bush later said he was in “full agreement” with this policy.

    Al, in Palestine, AFAIK, Israel might be acting perfectly legally if they decided to view it the same way you do. However, in this country out 1st Amendment doesn’t make those sorts of distinctions regarding the nature of the speech. As far as I’m concerned, no speech is more carefully protected by the Constitution than political speech, which is surely at issue here.

    The idea that anybody, anywhere would respond to spoken words with rockets and napalm turns my stomach, and I’m not a pacifist at all. That’s the sort of thing one expects from Hussein or Milosevic, not a civilized nation.

    It has continually stuck me as odd that we demand for ourselves permission to wage war against terror using methods and principles that we’re not willing to allow Israel to emulate. The obvious conclusion one should draw is that we should either stop performing military strikes on suspected terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan, or we should stop verbally condemning Israel for doing the same in Palestine.

    Regardless of which way one leans on that question, the idea of napalming a thousand people who are demonstrating non-violently is just disgusting, unbecoming of any society.

    As you said, acting in support of terrorists is a criminal activity. Criminal activity is tried through the courts. No amount of verbal invective qualifies as an act of war in my book. Not now, not ever, not for any cause. I’ll tolerate communists and supporters of Sharia and even KKK members marching down the street all day long, because that’s the price of free speech.

    And as soon as a single one of them picks up a rock to throw it, I’d want them arrested and put on trial.

    But napalm? That’s just sick.

  • If a group of “demonstrators” are gathered to urge the assassination of the POTUS, that will not be viewed as a free speech issue- not even close. These Hamas rallies, with people wearing faux bomb belts as costume jewelry do not qualify in my judgment as peaceful assembly. These people have chosen to associate themselves as murderous enemies. They have self-identified as people who need to be killed.

    Perhaps a better way of killing the rats could be devised rather than napalm specifically, but they should definitely be whacked.

    It’s not any kind of nice, but with people being massacred every couple of days, I wouldn’t be much worried about “nice.”

    I’d support stopping the massacre of Israelis, as Brother Malcolm would say, by any means necessary.

  • Paul

    “I’d support stopping the massacre of Israelis, as Brother Malcolm would say, by any means necessary.”

    I guess handing over Israel to the Palestinians and allowing all Israelis to emigrate elswhere would fall under the aegis of “by any means necessary.”

  • I am not saying I support that idea, Paul, but it sure beats dropping napalm on fellow human beings.

  • Paul

    Oh yeah. I was just trying to illustrate that “by all means necessary” means just that.