- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2006

In the history books

In “Appeasement markers” (Commentary, Saturday) Victor Davis Hanson accuses me and the late Cardinal John O’Connor of New York of being “religious conservative commentators” who failed to “defend the Western right of free expression” when Ayatollah Khomeini issued his fatwa against Salman Rushdie.

This is false. No one I know of denied Mr. Rushdie’s right to express himself or be protected from violent reprisal. But I did write that I felt little sympathy for this anti-American leftist and no desire to defend his mocking insult of Islam.

Mr. Hanson also equates those of us who thought that publication of the mocking cartoons of Muhammad on the front pages of Europe’s press was an act of paralyzing stupidity with Neville Chamberlain and Stanley Baldwin and launches off into a denunciation of appeasement: “In the 1930s, the doctrine of appeasement fobbed off responsibility of confronting fascism onto the League of Nations. But France and England were quiet about the 1936 Italian invasion of Ethiopia and the German militarization of the Rhineland.”

How to clean up this mess. First, Mussolini did not invade Abyssinia in 1936, but October 1935. Second, Britain and France were the League of Nations, as the United States did not join, Japan had walked out over Manchuria, and Germany had walked out in 1933.

Third, Britain and France did more than any other great powers to sanction Italy. They hesitated to embargo oil out of a desire to maintain their Stresa Front alliance with Mussolini against Hitler. Indeed, Henry Kissinger suggests Britain went too far: “Great Britain’s leaders should have confronted Hitler and conciliated Mussolini. They did just the opposite; they appeased Germany and confronted Italy.”

As for Churchill, Mr. Hanson’s “voice in the wilderness… demonized as a warmonger and worse,” he was ever-oleaginous in his praise of Mussolini.

Emerging from his first meeting with Il Duce in 1927, Churchill burbled to the Italian press: “I could not help being charmed… by Signor Mussolini’s gentle and simple bearing and by his calm detached poise in spite of so many burdens and dangers…”

On Oct. 1, 1935, days before the Italian Army marched into Abyssinia, Churchill expressed his feelings about alienating an old ally that had fought beside Britain in the Great War: “I am very unhappy. It would be a terrible deed to smash up Italy, and it will cost us dear… I do not think we ought to have taken the lead in such a vehement way. If we had felt so strong on the subject we should have warned Mussolini two months before.”

Churchill was dead right here. As for remilitarization of the Rhineland, did Churchill denounce Baldwin for doing nothing to stop Hitler? No, as the Great Man was job-hunting at the time. Here is Sir Roy Jenkins, whose acclaimed biography of Churchill was published in 2001: “On March 7 Hitler sent his troops into the demilitarized Rhineland, thereby defying Locarno as well as Versailles. Churchill’s initial reaction was muted. He telegraphed to [his wife] Clementine that day, merely telling her that nothing was settled (by which he meant his inclusion in the government)… he did speak on the Tuesday [10 March] but in a curiously tentative and low-key way, never mentioning the Rhineland… Despite his hindsight [in “The Gathering Storm,” 1948] Churchill was far from being rampageously strong on the Rhineland issue at the time… [There was no] indication that Churchill thought irreversible disaster had struck either himself or the country.”

Perhaps historian Hanson is sharper on the Peloponnesian War.



Concerns about port security

I experienced a sense of great relief when I read “Congressmen threaten probe of U.S. seaports deal” (Page 1, Monday); at last, bipartisan concern was raised over a deal that would permit a firm from the United Arab Emirates to manage the ports of New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Miami.

Why, even some of the most liberal Democrats questioned the arrangement, including Sens. Charles Schumer and Barbara Boxer. Unfortunately, after just a few minutes of reflection, I concluded that this is merely more congressional grandstanding, with the Democrats using it to score political points against President Bush.

The criticism of the proposed deal is, at its heart, a form of racial profiling — the United Arab Emirates population is Arab; Arabs are more likely to have ties with terrorists than Britains, who had run the ports; and thus, any contract with an Arab firm is questionable. I agree — but where do these congressional terror fighters stand when a suggestion is made that the Transportation Security Agency focus on scrutinizing males of Arab descent in the course of securing airplane flights and other forms of transportation? They vehemently oppose it because they say it is unconstitutional racial profiling and will anger Arabs at home and abroad. This hypocrisy proves they are grandstanding on the ports deal.

The Arab firm would not control port security, which would remain with the Coast Guard. For my part, if given a choice, I would feel more secure if Arab males were screened carefully before boarding a plane — instead of having random inspections of grandmothers from Iowa — than I would feel if a multinational firm managed our ports after the firm was screened by our security agencies. I also would feel more secure if I knew the National Security Agency were monitoring calls from overseas placed by suspected terrorists, with or without a warrant, than forcing the agency to obtain cumbersome warrants. If these congressional terror fighters are serious about security, they should get behind efforts to really protect our lives and support rational racial profiling, warrantless data mining, and ports managed by American firms or those of our allies in the war on terror. I won’t hold my breath waiting for a legislative response to these common-sense suggestions.

A quote from Edmund Burke (1729-1797) seems particularly appropriate: “Hypocrisy can afford to be magnificent in its promises; for never intending to go beyond promises, it costs nothing.”


Laytonsville, Md.

Dubai Ports World last week bought London’s historic old Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation for $6.8 billion, together with its control of several major U.S. ports. Very nice. What it did not acquire is the freedom and security we Americans enjoy and value — last I heard, that was not for sale.

Slam the breaks on this fiasco of a deal before al Qaeda thugs and Iraqi insurgents slam us. The last thing we need is for these hoodlums to undermine our security and expose our vulnerability.


Baldwin, N.Y.

What possesses the leadership in Washington to enable terrorism by allowing the purchase of our critical ports by a company called Dubai Ports World? It makes no practical, common or security sense to allow such a shortsighted deal. Are the CIA and Homeland Security blind to the ultimate scenario?

A terrorist, working through this Arab company, purchases a nondescript ship — one that will blend in with normal port vessels (as was the case with the USS Cole). One can guess the rest. Have we lost our minds? We subdue Saddam Hussein through the front door while allowing terrorist vulnerablity through the back door. We are selling out our national security for fast money.


Waynesboro, Pa.

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