- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 4, 2004

The perils of the U.N.

The Bush administration has yet to respond to the NBC News claim that it let mass-murderer Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi slip through the net in 2002. Zarqawi subsequently has been responsible for hundreds of deaths in Iraq, and elsewhere since, and is the main suspect in the horrifying carnage at Shi’a shrines earlier this week. NBC correspondent Jim Miklaszewski reported the following:

“In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaeda had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide. The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and airstrikes and sent it to the White House, where, according to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council.”

There were further missed attempts to target Zarqawi. Why did the Bush White House pull a Clinton and fail to pull the trigger? The only current answer is that a strike into Iraq in 2002 would have derailed diplomatic attempts to put together the coalition for removing Saddam Hussein. I do not know the truth of the matter.

But if that is an explanation, it’s yet another indicator of the very difficult limits that the U.N. process put and still puts on a war against terror. War against terrorists does not have the luxury of 19th century gentlemanly timetables. It is sometimes impossible to line up diplomatic support before a window of opportunity passes. Sometimes, of course, there are difficult balances to strike — an immediate opportunity might derail a larger strategy. But the president’s main case for his own leadership in this war has long rested on his determination to act swiftly and decisively, regardless of world opinion, if vital interests are threatened. It seems he didn’t do so in this case. Hundreds of Iraqis felt the consequences of inaction earlier this week.

PC watch

A lovely politically correct editing slip marred an opera review in the Los Angeles Times recently. The original sentence read that Richard Strauss’ operatic epic “Die Frau Ohne Schatten” was “an incomparably glorious and goofy pro-lifepaean.”Fair enough. But you can’t have the epithet “pro-life” in the Los Angeles Times. So the sentence was changed to “an incomparably glorious and goofy anti-abortion paean.”

There is no reference to abortion in the opera. The paper was therefore forced to run not one but two corrections on Feb. 25. The writer rightly insisted that the paper exonerate him personally from the idiocy.

It reminds me of the occasion when a newspaper decided to remove all usage of the word “black” from its copy when referring to African-Americans.Itwas deemed too offensive a term. Everything was fine until some tired copy-editor lazily edited an economics column. Suddenly, the federal budget moved from red ink “into the African-American.” Hey, but no one was offended.

A legend retires

I grew up listening to Alistair Cooke’s peerless, weekly radio broadcast in Britain, “Letter from America.” I had a ritual. On Friday nights after I got back from school (I had an hour-and-a-half commute on public transportation every day), I’d have dinner and then slink upstairs to take a long bath. Mr. Cooke’s letter lasted the length of my bath: 15 minutes. By then, the water was getting cold, and my siblings were banging on the door. It was an oasis of calm,fascinationand piercing intelligence.

How he sustained that quality for so long is awe-inspiring. He was still at it in his 90s, until he retired this week. He gave me my first understanding of America — that great, mysterious giant that loomed across an ocean. And I will always be grateful.

He is irreplaceable. But his example of translating this wonderful and completely baffling place to the British has been an inspiration for me as I write each week for the Sunday Times in London. He made me understand what a privilege it is to convey something of this country’s diversity, paradox and exhilarating energy. And how impossible it is to come close to his wit, erudition and extraordinarily good judgment.

Derbyshire nominee

“America is engaged in two wars for the survival of its civilization. The war over same-sex marriage and the war against Islamic totalitarianism are actually two fronts in the same war — a war for the preservation of the unique American creation known as Judeo-Christian civilization.

“One enemy is religious extremism. The other is secular extremism.

“One enemy is led from abroad. The other is directed from home.

“The first war is against the Islamic attempt to crush whoever stands in the way of the spread of violent Islamic theocracies, such as al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Iranian mullahs and Hamas. The other war is against the secular nihilism that manifests itself in much of Western Europe, in parts of America such as San Francisco and in many of our universities … All this explains why the passions are so intense regarding same-sex marriage. Most of the activists in the movement to redefine marriage wish to overthrow the predominance of Judeo-Christian values in American life. Those who oppose same-sex marriage understand that redefining the central human institution marks the beginning of the end of Judeo-Christian civilization.” — Dennis Prager’s syndicated column.

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