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Lady Liberty

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The New Iraqi Constitution: The Impetus to an Islamic Reformation?
posted by Bathus

If breaking reports are correct (here, here, and here), the draft of the new Iraqi constitution will be unveiled today. In the Western press, that event will unleash unending spin, much of which for all intents and purposes had already been prepared in advance and will now be slightly modified so as to appear to respond to the actual contents of the document itself.

Among the more pervasive lines of spin will be the allegation that the draft constitution does not sufficiently protect the values we in the West hold most dear (or claim to hold most dear), particularly religious freedom, which the critics will disingenuously define more specifically as "separation of church and state." Interestingly, critics who have spent the last four years complaining what a mistake it is to attempt to "impose" (to use terms they prefer) "Western-style democracy" and "Western values" on Muslim countries will now complain that the new Iraqi constitution is a failure because it does not create a "Western-style democracy" enshrining every Western value.

Much will be made of the fact that the new Iraqi constitution cites Islam as "the main source" or "a main source" of law. As of this moment the final draft has not been released, so it is not clear which, if either, of those formulations will be present in the final document. Not sharing the critics' (soon to be abandoned) concern about "imposing" Western values on Muslim countries, I would have much preferred that neither formulation exist in the Iraqi constitution. But there is a world of difference between a statement that Islam is "a main source" and "the main source" of law. In either case, I also recognize that the Iraqi constitution is ultimately for the Iraqis themselves to write, to accept or to reject, and presumably to amend or to replace, if they discover that relying on Islamic religious law does not enhance their well-being.

One should also note that any statement citing Islam as a source of law most certainly will be counter-balanced and moderated by other constitutional provisions that guarantee such things as due process, freedom of worship, and freedom of speech and of the press. (Perhaps this is a good place to remind ourselves that our founding documents, indeed our human rights, rely implicitly on the religious concept of a "creator" who endows us with "certain unalienable rights.")

Once the critics have exhausted themselves decrying what they assume will be the pernicious influence of Islam on Iraqi law, perhaps they should allow themselves a moment of optimism to discern the opposite possibility, that the influence will operate in the opposite direction in the opposite way, that the inclusion of the principle that Islam is "a source," but not the only source, of Iraqi law will have the effect of purging from Islamic theory the worst and most extreme interpretations of Islamic religious law, that the "mixture" of Islamic legal theory with humanistic politics and secular law will ultimately have the effect of advancing the status of more moderate strains of Islamic theory.

According to early reports the new constitution will provide that:
[N]o laws would be adopted that contradict the principles of Islam. In addition, no law shall be adopted that contradicts human rights and democratic principles.
The drafters of the Iraqi constitutions appear to believe that these two sources of fundamental principles, Islamic legal theory and secular political theory based on human rights and the consent of the governed, can be reconciled. The presence of these two potentially conflicting bodies of fundamental principles will necessitate debate in the public square and argument among and between Iraq's political and religious elites as to what is required by Islamic religious principles and what is required by secular humanistic principles. It almost goes without saying that extreme interpretations of Islam cannot exist side by side with genuine human rights and a truly democratic form of government. Therefore, reconciliation of these two sources of fundamental principles (and it would be a mistake to presume these two cannot be reconciled) will necessitate the establishment in Iraq of a moderate interpretation of the requirements of Islamic religious law. By placing Islamic principles and secular humanistic principles side by side in their founding document, the drafters of the Iraqi constitution, whether or not they intended to do so, will have inspired a debate (not a theoretical debate, but a debate with immediate real world consequences) the results of which hold the promise of a "reformation" of Islam that is the necessary precondition to peace in the Muslim world.

So one could take the pessimistic view and assume that a constitution that seeks to mix Islamic legal theory and human rights necessarily renders human rights a nullity. One could as easily assume that the same mixture will render Islamic legal theory a nullity. But perhaps the most likely prospect is that the mixture will lead to a modification and a moderation of both Islamic theory and secular humanistic political theory. As a citizen of the West, who--though immensely proud of the heritage we have built for ourselves--often gazes sadly upon the crudity and debasement that has lately come to dominate so much of our own culture, I cannot yet judge that the Iraqi version of the never-ending democratic experiment will turn out so badly as the pessimists will hasten now to predict.

UPDATE 8/22/2005 at 7:30 P.M.: According to a U.S. State Deparment press release, the draft text of the constitution has been submitted to the Iraqi National Assembly, which apparently has been given three days to make amendments before voting on the final text. New York Times writer Dexter Filkins calls the submission with the three day period for amendments a "legal sleight of hand" designed to allow the drafters to claim that they met today's deadline even though the document remains subject to revision. Sleight of hand or not, by exposing the draft to further discussion and revision in the National Assembly, the drafters will have broadened the legitimacy of the document that finally emerges. Of course, the whole process remains fragile and could descend into anarchy at any moment, but I remain optimistic and am encouraged that the descriptions of guaranteed rights are rather more specific than the rather vague references to Islam as a "main source for legislation." As of now, the proposed text provides, inter alia, statements of guaranteed rights that counter-balance and moderate the statement that Islam is a "main source for legislation":
Article 2

The political system is republican, parliamentary, democratic and federal.

1. Islam is a main source for legislation.

- a. No law may contradict Islamic standards.

- b. No law may contradict democratic standards.

- c. No law may contradict the essential rights and freedoms mentioned in this constitution.

2. This constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the Iraqi people and guarantees all religious rights; all persons are free within their ideology and the practice of their ideological practices.

* * * *

Article 36

The State guarantees:

1. Freedom of expression by all means.

2. Freedom of the press, printing, advertising and publishing.

Article 37

Freedom to establish political groups and organizations.

* * * *

Article 39

Iraqis are free to abide in their personal lives according to their religion, sects, beliefs or choice. This should be organized by law.

UPDATE 8/23/2005:

From the debate NRO has going in The Corner:

Ramesh Ponnuru agrees that the mutual influences of secular rights and an Islamic tradition upon each other is not necessarily a one way street, that the statement of rights in
[the Iraqi] constitution can influence a culture for the better.
Michael Ledeen has similar thoughts about reasons for optimism:
First, there is hardly a country in the region without some language acknowledging Sharia as either "the" or "a major" basis for national legislation. But Iran, for example, says that Allah is the sole source of authority, while the Iraqi constitution says that the people are the only legitimate source of authority. This in itself is a revolutionary event.
And even Andy McCarthy, who said he was getting "off the bus" if the Iraqi constitution established "supremacy of Islam" in legislation, appears to be willing to hang on for the ride at least a little longer:
[M]uch of my trepidation may be based on the version of the draft constitution reported in the mainstream media, which your last post indicates is way overblown in its description of how firmly Islam is installed as the law of Iraq. There is a world of difference between "a" and "the," and a bill of rights that actually guarantees equality and civil rights would assuage many concerns.

posted by Bathus | 8/22/2005 02:12:00 PM
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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Shall We March Out the Grieving Mothers?
posted by Bathus

In a society in which politicians are admired for the capacity to "feel your pain," or to appear to do so when they bite their own lips, a society in which otherwise ordinary folks come to blows to win a camera's attention so they can emote about their family members' private failings on national daytime television, a society in which the successes of our most prominent interviewers--the Winfreys and the Walters--are measured by the facility with which they can extract tears from interviewees as if on cue, in such a society--one in which emotion has never before been so widely and thinly dispersed, nor so close to the surface of the national psyche--the powerful contrast of a mother's deep and genuine grief rises to the status of a sanctified thing.

It is always said that there is no grief greater than that of a mother who has lost her child. Every decent person knows instinctively that such grief, in and of itself, should never be questioned. Yet one may still ask, "What can that grief demand? What is owed to such grief?"

When the mother has lost her son to war in the service of this nation, she is owed, and should never have to demand, for herself a sincere regard for her loss and every other consolation her fellow citizens can reasonably bestow, and for her son the unstinting honors of a grateful nation.

Even beyond that, if she wishes to speak about her son's death and the cause for which he gave his life, whether or not she supports or opposes that cause, she does deserve to be heard. Yes, she does deserve to be heard because it is quite possible that the immeasurable loss she has suffered has inspired her to think about that cause more deeply and more carefully than those whose lives have not been similarly affected. At the same time, one must keep in mind that it is also possible that the loss she has suffered might instead have caused her to think less rationally, more angrily, more vengefully.

So when Cindy Sheehan speaks, decency obliges us all to give her a respectful hearing. But though we are obliged to hear her, we are not obliged to heed her.

Unfortunately, her wrathful voice brings no new insight. Her opinions are nothing more and nothing less than re-amplified repetitions of the hyperbolic irrationalities that have been heard from her manipulators on the extreme left since before the war in Iraq began. Thus, we are obliged to give Cindy Sheehan a fair hearing, but we are not obliged to heed her when she says:
The Halliburtons, Bechtels, KBRs, and the oil oligarchs of the world, who are laughing all the way to the bank, think of Iraq with greedy glee each day.

When will the rest of America finally come out of its coma? When, God forbid, the jack-booted thugs come pounding on their door some midnight?

[T]ens of thousands of the other victims . . . have been killed for nothing but outright lies and bald-faced betrayals.

Your grandchildren and children who will be entering Kindergarten this fall will be fighting George’s endless war if he gets his way and is allowed to continue spreading the cancer of imperialism in the Middle-East.

I know it was "worth it" to Dick Cheney who was the CEO of Halliburton, (of no-bid contract fame) which has raped billions of dollars from our government, from the people of Iraq, and from our soldiers who are not getting what they need to survive in a combat zone.

Our "president" thinks stolen elections confer a mandate.

Our media was, and still is, a willing shill for the Administration and has never told the American public the truth.

Casey was sent to die in a war that was based on the imagination of some Neo-Cons who love to fill our lives with fear.

This war was sold to the American people by a slimy leadership with a maniacal zeal and phony sincerity that would have impressed snake oil salesmen a century ago.
We are not obliged to heed her when she says:
Is there yet an American who can not clearly see that Dick Cheney . . . whether it be 1975 or 2005. . . will say whatever he thinks is required to ultimately cause wealth and power to move to himself and to his friends?

Is there anyone in America who cannot yet see that Donald Runsfeld is a liar . . . that he, as with Hitler and Stalin . . . will say anything so long as he thinks it will help shape the world to his own liking?

Our country has been overtaken by murderous thugs . . . gangsters who lust after fortunes and power; never caring that their addictions are at the expense of our loved ones, and the blood of innocent people near and far.
We are not obliged to heed her when she says:
You get that maniac [Bush] out here to talk with me in person.

[J]ust what was the noble cause Casey died for?' Was it freedom and democracy? Bull---t! He died for oil. He died to make your friends richer. He died to expand American imperialism in the Middle East. We're not freer here, thanks to your PATRIOT Act. Iraq is not free. You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you'll stop the terrorism.
We need not heed her when she says:
If anyone reading this has children, would you think it was worth it?? Instead of some Congress leaders showing ink-stained fingers at the SOTU address they should have held up blood soaked hands. . . . [M]y first born was murdered. Am I angry? Yes, he was killed for lies and for a PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the Army to protect America, not Israel. [Note: Sheehan has recently denied writing these particular statements, but the evidence indicates that she did write them.]
Nor are we obliged to heed her when she says:
We are not waging a war on terror in this country. We’re waging a war of terror. The biggest terrorist in the world is George W. Bush. How many more people are we going to let him kill before we stop him?

I know that George Bush and his band of neo-cons and their neo-con agenda killed my son.

America has been killing people, like my sister over here says, since we first stepped on this continent, we have been responsible for death and destruction. I passed on that bullshit to my son and my son enlisted. I’m going all over the country telling moms: This country is not worth dying for. . . . We might not even have been attacked by Osama bin Laden[.] [I]f 9/11 was their Pearl Harbor to get their neo-con agenda through and, if I would have known that before my son was killed, I would have taken him to Canada. I would never have let him go and try and defend this morally repugnant system we have.

They’re a bunch of fucking hypocrites!
Such statements by Cindy Sheehan reveal an undeniable depth of feeling, a blind and inconsolable anger, an insane grief--and nothing else.

Yet in our time, "feelings" are being elevated to be the ultimate measure of the validity of one's opinions, such that if one's feelings are known or asserted to be "deeply held," those feelings thereby satisfy every deficiency of reasoned argument. Thus, we are told that "the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute."

So now shall we round up all the grieving mothers, divide them into contingents of those who support and those who oppose the war, arm them with placards and megaphones, march them onto opposite sides of a field in Crawford, let them have it out, and televise the whole thing in weekly installments, with a grand finale during May sweeps? But how shall we judge the result? By the volume of their wailings. By the number of tears shed on either side? By the number of votes cast via a 1-800 number?

Such an appalling scene is the grotesque end toward which the growing spectacle of Cindy Sheehan, nurtured by the media, would point us. There is nothing that could be learned from it as to whether or how to conduct the war, and the same can be said of the sad spectacle that Cindy Sheehan has made of herself, with her claim that her son was "murdered by the Bush crime family" or her claim that her son "was killed for lies and for a PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel."

As Cindy Sheehan continues with such irrational statements, just as decency obliged us to listen to her in respectful silence, the very same decency now obliges us to turn away and listen no more, lest we encourage her in displays that even the deference accorded to insufferable grief cannot prevent from becoming hideous self-humiliations.

¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤

Yet though it is now clear that there is no lesson to be learned from Cindy Sheehan about how or whether to fight the war, there is a lesson, more personal but no less universal, to be learned from the way she has chosen to channel her grief and the way some other grieving mothers have dealt differently with the same terrible blow.

Consistent with the liberal theology of victimology, in which only victims can be heroes, Cindy Sheehan always refers to her son, Casey, as a "hero." And in truth, Casey is a hero--not a passive "victim-hero," as Cindy Sheehan would have him remebered, but a genuine active hero who died in service of his country. Yet if she does have her way now, Cindy Sheehan will transform her son from an active hero into a helpless pawn. Before he went to war, when Cindy Sheehan "begged him not to go," her son told her:
Mom, I have to go. It's my duty. My buddies are going.
But now, according to Cindy Sheehan, her son's life, his legacy, is not one exemplifying the nobility of individual free choice, loyalty to comrades, and devotion to duty. That legacy, which is Casey Sheehan's by every honorable right, is by her now to be obliterated and supplanted by a legacy of infantile victimhood, in which he is held forth as an example of a man who, once he ventured beyond the perimeter of his mother's skirt, lacked the good sense to avoid being duped and misled:
Sheehan . . . never wanted Casey to join the military. She said he did after being misled by his recruiter.
Ultimately Cindy Sheehan would make even that ignoble legacy of ignorant victimhood depend not upon her son's own actions, but upon her actions. You see, Casey's legacy now depends upon Cindy Sheehan, who explains:
If anything I do can shorten the war by one minute or save one life, or bring discredit to the evil bastards in the administration, my life will have been worthwhile, and Casey's sacrifice meaningful.
In other words, according to Cindy Sheehan, the meaningingfulness of her son's life and death should not be determined by the decisions he voluntarily chose while he lived, but should be determined, after his death and contrary to his own free decisions, by the actions of Cindy Sheehan. Casey Sheehan's legacy is not to be found in his own noble choice to serve his country and risk death in war. No, his legacy is to be determined by whether or not Cindy Sheehan succeeds in her own cause. According to Cindy Sheehan, her son's life will be "meaningful" only if she succeeds.

Cindy Sheehan has taken from her son, and abrogated to herself, the power to determine the meaning of his life.

But Cindy Sheehan is not the only grieving mother.

Penelope Gavriel also grieves. And she too deserves to be heard.

Her son, Dimitrios Gavriel was killed fighting in Iraq on November 19, 2004. Four days later, Bob Oakes interviewed her on the radio show Here and Now:
Penelope Gavriel: He was a very idealistic person. He believed in integrity, leading by example, honesty. He was always mentoring people to do the right thing ever since he was in highschool. He was one of the youngest captains on his wrestling team. Then after his college years when he joined the working people ranks, he realized that the world is a lot different than what he imagined it to be . . . . And then it was Sept 11. During that tragic incident he lost two of his closest friends, and that emboldened his belief that that is really what he has to do, that he needs to enlist, go serve his country, give back to his country a little bit of what he can. And also he felt like many young men and women who joined after September 11, that this was a calling for them.

. . . .

Q: What made you decide you had to let him go?

A: It wasn't a matter of a decision on our behalf. The only role we played at that moment was, just bless him, and let him go. . . . He told one of his friends I could not go on living my life until I go through this. He enlisted last year, October 23rd. He did boot camp for three months, and then went to Camp Lejeune where he was based. After drills in urban warfare, they rated them for Iraq, and they left. They were deployed June 23rd of 2004.

Q: What do you know about his duty in Iraq? Did he seem concerned?

A: Not at all. Because he knew we were very concerned about his safety from conversations and questions we were asking him, every time we communicated with him . . . [he said], "Everything is great, I'm in good shape, I'm eating well, I'm healthy, the weather is getting nice now. It's not as hot. . . . Don't worry about me. I'm in great shape. I'm looking forward to finish the job we have to do here and come back home."

Q: He was a gung ho guy.

A: Absolutely.

Q: A real Marine. He was interviewed by the NY Times just a few months back, and he was quoted as saying, "We're locked, cocked, and ready to rock."

A: And ready to rock.

Q: And "that's about how we feel."

A: And that's who he was. He wasn't though the polemical war monger as he might sound from these words. He was a lot softer than that. The Marines though are a tough corps, and you cannot act softly. You need to talk boldly and act boldly. Inside he was a very loving, soft giant, and he had very many ways that he demonstrated that among his friends and his family.

Q: He told a friend of his, a former room mate at Brown University, that he was concerned about his legacy. And I know it might be a little early to think about this, but what do you think his legacy is?

A: . . . . I think he's going to have the best legacy he ever dreamed of. At what price though? He wanted to be remembered as somebody who never backed off out of a difficult moment, fearless, and always striving the hardest. He wanted to be challenged, always.

Q: Mrs. Gavriel, I'm sure there are folks who are listening to us talk who wonder how you have the strength do this at this time, and so eloquently I might add. I know that part of the reason you want to talk to us and to other reporters is that you want Demi to be remembered as a role model for other children.

A: Exactly. With these interviews and meetings we have with media, we like to convey to the youth primarily of this country that bravery is not an advantage [you are born with]. It's something that everybody can do. You can always be brave, love your country, be a good person, and achieve high in life, if you want to.

Q: Penelope Gavriel, I'm sure that I speak for most everyone who's listening when I say thank you so very much for speaking with us and we're very sorry for you loss.

A: I thank you, too. We are grieving for his loss, but he was another good man of the many who were lost in this cause.
Like Cindy Sheehan, Penelope Gavriel tried to discourage her son, Dimitrios, from joining the service to fight in Iraq. But she understood that it was his life and his decision. "Just bless him and let him go."

To comprehend the full meaning of Ms. Gavriel's words, I urge you to click this audio link to listen to the sound of her voice, which reveals a love and respect for her son that printed words cannot convey. In her grief, Penelope Gavriel does not seek to transform her son's legacy into that of a dupe and victim. She does not seek to transform the meaning of his life and death to suit her own political aims. For all we know, Ms. Gavriel herself might oppose the war. But her respect for her son as a man, as his own man, inspires her to proclaim simply and honestly the honorable legacy Dimitrios Gavriel sought, and won, for himself.

posted by Bathus | 8/16/2005 05:55:00 PM
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Monday, August 15, 2005

Maybe she's really a libertarian ...
posted by Tom

This just in concerning the further exploits of media whore Cindy Sheehan.


Anti-war protestor Cindy Sheehan, whose soldier son Casey was killed in Iraq, is calling for Bush's "impeachment," and for Israel to get out of Palestine!"You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you'll stop the terrorism," Sheehan declares ...
Right you are, Cindy. And if I simply give my wallet to the thug in the subway station at 3:00 a.m., I'll stop a robbery. Hell, commit suicide before the assailant pulls the trigger and you'll stop the murder.

She goes on to say:

"My son was killed in 2004. I am not paying my taxes for 2004. You killed my son, George Bush, and I don't owe you a give my son back and I'll pay my taxes. Come after me (for back taxes) and we'll put this war on trial."
I want to offer a public apology (sort of) to my blogmate and owner of this site, Bathus, to whom I have argued repeatedly that grieving mothers of sons lost in combat must be forgiven their subsequent defeatest idiocy.

This broad's cracked.

Poor Cindy misses a few points, and you'd think some of the sleazaball democrats in Congress exploiting her moronic protest in another flaccid attempt to embarass Bush would have clued her in. After all, each left wing kook that gets a lot of coverage from his or her fellow travelers in the left wing media reflects poorly on the Party. Not that she would have listened (did George Soros or Michael Moore?), but that's another story.

The first point is that, Ms. Sheehan's pathological narcissism notwithstanding, the war has been on "trial" in the court of public opinion for years, with the left wing media acting as prosecutor and the right wing media playing defense (ineptly, but that, too, is another story). Hollywood liberals, some of whom are shall we say slightly more photogenic than mama, were protesting this thing before it even started. Unless this idiot thinks the entire country was waiting three years for her to attack Bush and the conflict in Iraq and the wider war against the Great Redundancy - i.e., Islamofascism. If she exhibited this same solipsism as a mother, no wonder her kid ran off and joined the army. It appears Casey exhibited his own defiance in the face of mom's monomaniacal desire to become an ugly Jane Fonda.

The second point is that the bulk of the federal income tax goes to education, health, farm subsidies, unemployment benefits, highways, and a variety of socialist programs large and small that are close to Ms. Shithead's heart and the hearts of her hairy, smelly fellow protestors in Crawford. If you don't pay your taxes, Cindy, PBS will suffer before the army does.

But if we were to humor her and her doofus friends' nincompoop notion that non-payment of federal income tax will "hurt" the military, you have to wonder about the motives of a grieving mother of a KIA who wishes to do her part to see that other soldiers are KIA. How much does she mourn her son's death if she is willing to deprive the military he belonged to of the defense dollars needed to provide its soldiers with the armor and whatnot they require in order to protect themselves? Implicit in her "defiant" refusal to fund the military is her admission that her son, along with his buddies, in fighting the "unjust" war in Iraq, was as much a war criminal as President Bush. President Bush, therefore, did not kill her son, but made him a "criminal".

Third, if she thinks an IRS prosecution of her for not paying taxes will literally put the war "on trial", in a courtroom, then she's really wasting her time protesting and should instead become a stand-up comic in a loony bin. Oh, right, she's from California. That would be redundant, too. About the only defense to non-payment of taxes is death of the taxpayer. Okay, maybe insanity. So, maybe she will get away with it, after the wage garnishment (assuming she works, which will put her one step ahead of her fellow protestors) and the liens against her property that follow the requisite warnings from the IRS. Maybe the Democrats will regain their majority in '06, and call for an investigation of the IRS's harassment of Ms. Sheehan, provided anyone remembers who the hell she is by then.

posted by Tom | 8/15/2005 07:33:00 AM
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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

For a guy who hates Catholics, he's sure parochial ...
posted by Tom

"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." -From Article VI of the Constitution of the United States [italics added]

"I sometimes get more praise from right-wingers or Republicans than I want." – Slate contributor Christopher Hitchens.

“You don’t have to worry about that with me.” – Adeimantus contributor Tom
Somebody once said - I don't know, maybe it was Hillary - that after talking to Bill Clinton and walking away, you were compelled to check for your wallet. If you catch Christopher Hitchens on a liberal blab show like MSNBC’s Hardball or PBS’s Broadway Charlie Rose, or on CNN or NPR, you have the same reaction. Hitchens' smarminess truly shines on TV and radio: That faux sonorousness dressed up in a limey accent as he tries to pass off his left wing ideology as independent thought. For some reason, Yanks are easily sucked into believing that anybody who sounds like a character from a Renaissance Fair must know what the hell he or she is talking about. Why do you think Madonna fakes the British accent? In Hitchens' case, that basset hound-begging-to-be-adopted-before-the-shelter-gasses-him expression works in his favor, too. Anybody that morose looking must be an intellectual.

One big reason why Hitchens gets away with this is that hardly anyone watches or listens to the shows he appears on. I understand he has a steady gig on MSNBC’s The Situation with [National Review columnist] Tucker Carlson, which immediately follows Hardball, which means the entire audience is Chris Matthews' immediate family. Okay, some of them. Hitchens' columns pose more of a problem. They’re found all over the internet like a fungus, and appear regularly in the lefty blog that pretends it’s an on-line magazine, Slate. There his words can be studied a little more closely and as a result they yield up his dirty secret: Like most so-called "independent" political writers, he’s a biased piece of shit doing his damnedest to convey his prejudices as fact.

Don’t get the idea I completely dislike the guy, and in the interest of fairness, let me say that it’s to Hitchens' credit his columns need to be read more than once before you realize what a crock it all is. Most other lefty hacks are exposed after one reading. I think the accent thing helps here, too – indirectly. If you’ve heard Hitchens’ speaking voice on one of the aforementioned shows, it’s only natural that upon an initial reading of his written words the echoes of the Sir Ralph Richardson School of Elocution reverberate in your head and you think, “Gee, this guy’s smart.” Once you get hold of yourself, though, and reread him a few more times, your own internal voice takes over and you can more closely examine the left wing pitch he’s throwing at you like a Ford salesman telling a 21-year-old male customer that women go nuts over a guy that drives a Focus.

A recent column, Catholic Justice – Quit tiptoeing around John Roberts' faith (Aug 1) is a good example of the Hitchens Method of Discourse – essentially leftist propaganda with a Continental flair – and is probably the best example of his neurotic Catholic-phobia since he attacked Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ a year ago. You're forgiven if you missed his hysterical overreaction to the film as liberal anti-Christian neurosis was virtually pandemic at the time, but it was a real hoot. His outraged secularist routine was in full bloom on the aforementioned Charlie Rose's show (PBS’s answer to the piercing intellect of CNN’s Larry King). It was here he claimed Gibson tailored his film to appeal to the Gay Catholic Sadomasochist market. We’ve all heard of that demographic, surely, and with a box office take of a gazillion dollars, who can deny Gibson’s success at appealing to it? Again, to be fair to Hitchens, his appearance on Rose’s show may have been preceded by a few jolts of single malt.

Then, in The Gospel According to Mel (Vanity Fair March 2004) and various Slate columns, Hitchens the libertarian – i.e., a liberal who doesn’t like taxes – invented a new requirement for filmmakers. Well, not all filmmakers, only those that make sincere movies adapted from the New Testament. Appalled that Gibson adapted a screenplay from the Gospels, he demanded Gibson justify the film in a debate with his critics. This meant Hitchens himself, presuming he could squeeze a sober moment into his drinking schedule. As anyone who reads Hitchens with any regularity knows, he like all lefties is deeply committed to free expression – so long as everyone expresses leftist dogma, particularly when it comes to the Marxist idea of religion as the opiate blah, blah, blah.

Pardon this digression into a debate Gibson himself won long ago through the sheer force of his film, as well as with the domestic and foreign box office receipts. The Passion’s audience was obviously much wider than the one Hitchens imagined after tossing back a few, and the left wing bigots with whom Gibson refused to debate are still wiping the egg off their faces for predicting his professional demise. Lest we forget, New York Times entertainment columnist cum political writer Frank Rich predicted that Jewish movie executives would avoid Gibson like the plague (pardon the Biblical imagery) after The Passion. Michael Eisner obviously missed the memo, because Gibson is currently working on another subtitled historical epic, this time dealing with the Mayan empire, that Disney will be distributing. Rich should stick to writing about Gay marriage. And Hitchens should stick to writing about his support for the war against Islamofascism, the phony “independent” position he has staked out that has supposedly alienated all of his left wing friends at The Nation and has resulted in “more praise from right-wingers or Republicans” than he wants. Only the dumbest lefties and righties have fallen for this con. Anyone with an ounce of common sense realizes that it isn’t the fascism part of Islamofascism that has made a hawk out of Hitchens, but the Islamo part.

Ann Coulter has correctly pointed out that were it not for the use of terror tactics against the US and its citizens, liberals would despise fundamentalist Muslims precisely because of their religious fundamentalism. Hitchens is one of those cracked liberals that despise them only for their fundamentalism. Rest assured that had 9-11 been perpetrated by secular socialist anti-westerners whose manifesto promised the extermination of all religious cults (Judaism, Catholicism, etc), Hitchens would be echoing the cries of the anti-war crowd until he was hoarse. Politically, Hitchens is pretty much a limey version of Fox clown Bill O’Reilly - he's only as “independent” as his audience is stupid enough to believe he is. He tries mightily, and fails miserably, to hide his own tendency toward intellectual fascism. He doesn't demand everyone think alike, though. He prefers everyone not think at all – especially about his opinions.

Catholic Justice is a rambling diatribe with more holes in it than his liver. Its premise is that Catholics – believing, practicing Catholics, not free-wheeling pigs like, say, the Kennedy clan – are disallowed by the United States Constitution from serving on the Supreme Court, or any court for that matter. See, their beliefs may conflict with the Constitution, because, see, the Constitution is totally secular. See, God is not mentioned. Hitchens no doubt could explain who bestowed the “blessings of liberty” extolled in the Preamble after having a few stiff ones. Be that as it may, because God is not mentioned by name, it therefore follows in Hitchens’ universe that anyone who believes in the unmentioned God is unqualified to interpret that document.

I can hear the chorus of morons screaming, “Where does Hitchens say that in his article?” Hitchens himself would be the choir director.

Please. Just as he required Gibson, a Catholic, to “debate” him because Gibson’s work did not conform to Hitchens’ personal interpretation of the subject matter, Hitchens demands that Judge Roberts, a Catholic (see a pattern here?), take an oath that he will conform to Hitchens' personal interpretation of the Constitution. It’s a mystery why Hitchens doesn’t simply say up front, “Catholics should be barred from the federal judiciary.” Or maybe it’s not so mysterious, since bigotry is rarely called such by those who practice it. So Hitchens has to begin his claptrap speculating about the rumor that Roberts told someone somewhere that if he is confirmed (remember, we’re talking about the Supreme Court, not the Catholic sacrament), he would recuse himself from deciding cases that conflict with his religious beliefs. Those cases are, for example, the teaching of creationism in public schools (we assume “public” – Hitchens doesn’t specify in the article and with him, one never knows) and abortion (yawn). Roberts denies making the recusal statement, but Hitchens asks, “[H]ow probable is it that the story is wrong?”
A clever conservative friend writes to me that obviously Roberts, who is famed for his unflappability, cannot have committed such a bêtise. For one thing, he was being faced with a question that he must have known he would be asked. Yes, but that's exactly what gives the report its ring of truth. If Roberts had simply said that the law and the Constitution would control in all cases (the only possible answer), then there would have been no smoke. If he had said that the Vatican would decide, there would have been a great deal of smoke. But who could have invented the long pause and the evasive answer? I think there is a gleam of fire here. At the very least, Roberts should be asked the same question again, under oath, at his confirmation.

Whether Roberts made the statement is not my concern here. As a matter of fact, if he did rise to the left's bait and make such a promise on or off the record, he's as stupid as his detractors and should be rejected out of hand just for that. But I’m not defending Roberts' nomination per se as much as exposing how stupid supposedly intelligent writers get when they try to hide their anti-religious bigotry behind a concern for the Constitution, the “rule of law”, and all of their other pious nonsense. This reflects either 1) their ignorance of the fact the Court is a highly politicized body and has been ever since Chief Justice John Marshall handed down his self-serving opinion in “Marbury v. Madison”, or 2) their dishonesty. I vote for 2) in Hitchens’ case.

Does anyone seriously believe he needed this third-hand story before demanding that Roberts renounce his Catholicism under oath or else promise to recuse himself from cases conflicting with his Catholicism? No doubt his fans believe this, just as they fall for his demand that Roberts state explicitly the law and the Constitution will control in all cases – indeed, that’s “the only possible answer” Roberts can provide to the committee before Hitchens will vote for his confirmation. What “law” Hitchens is referring to remains to be seen.

It’s bad enough that this lush thinks we need him to interpret the Constitution; he also demands we accept that his liberal interpretation of what are in effect liberal interpretations of the Constitution actually cite the document itself. The nutty recusal standard he advocates for Roberts wouldn’t apply to, say, queer justices when so-called “gay rights” cases come before the Court. An Hispanic justice of Mexican descent would not be required to recuse him- or herself in cases involving immigration. In cases involving Affirmative Action, Black and White justices alike would not have to recuse themselves [even though both bring their racial and cultural biases into play, no?]. And of course, should a case of discrimination against persons ugly enough to stop a clock come before the Supreme Court, Hitchens would not demand that Ruth Bader Ginsburg recuse herself. He doesn’t say so, naturally, but he doesn’t have to. Not only because everyone knows he is a mush-headed, politically correct lib masquerading as an “independent” thinker, but because he is a bigoted, mush-headed, politically correct lib masquerading as an “independent” thinker.

In an attempt to convince people that what they see is not really there, Hitchens asks the following:

“Why should this question be asked only of Catholics? Well, that's easy. The Roman Catholic Church claims the right to legislate on morals for all its members and to excommunicate them if they don't conform.”

He’s right, it’s easy to come up with nonsense, something he’s demonstrated countless times in the past when his paranoia about people who express their faith in something other than a keyboard, a monitor, and a bottle of booze has gotten the better of him. To paraphrase Hitchens, the only possible response to this silliness is to say, “So what?” Any person – well, any sober person, that is – who has watched the confirmation hearings of federal judges for the 40 something years the Democrats had the majority in Congress and therefore chaired the Judiciary Committee knows that Liberal Democrats claim the right to legislate on morals for the enitre country and smear all nonconformists, particularly those nonconformists with the temerity to believe they’re qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas are only two prominent examples of what happens when one’s judicial philosophy challenges liberal dogma, which is as intransigent as any Hitchens can find in Catholicism. Pro-life Democrats especially are for all and intents and purposes excommunicated by the Party. If Hitchens can find one that the Democrats have allowed to speak at their conventions, he can drop me a line.

Hitchens asks, “[W]hat happens when a religious affiliation conflicts with a judge's oath to uphold the Constitution?” Note the assumption that such a “conflict” must necessarily arise among Catholics, because not only does the Constitution not recognize God or religion in Hitchens’ alcoholic fantasies, it does not recognize “morality”, either, irrespective of its source. The assumption, too, is that the Constitution as written contains anything that conflicts with Catholicism or any other faith. I welcome this celebrity "rebel" to find any clause in the nation's founding document that reflects this.

Be that as it may, if we were to humor Hitchens’ silliness, the answer to what happens with a justice's Catholic affiliation would be the same as what happens when a racial, cultural, political affiliation conflicts with his oath – nothing that hasn’t happened in the past half century that the liberal political hacks in the judiciary have been making up the “law” based on their own liberal dogma.

Like all of the liberals going apeshit because Roberts is a practicing Catholic, Hitchens can’t admit that what he wants from Roberts are specific rulings that conform to his dogmatic beliefs vis a vis abortion and the myriad other “rights” liberal justices have created out of whole cloth for years. So, he attempts an around-end by attacking what he thinks, but could never prove, the Catholic nominee will use as a basis for his own decisions should he sit on the Court. Implicit in all of Hitchens’ Constitutional gibberish is the claim that Liberal political beliefs disguised as “law” already conflict with Roberts’ Catholicism. It wouldn’t matter what Roberts believed; he is precluded from overturning, say, Roe v. Wade whether he is a Catholic, Orthodox Jew, Wiccan, or an atheist that happened to be pro-life.

This is the same gag Hitchens pulled last year with Gibson. According to him, the Gospels are a lie; therefore, any sincere artistic interpretations of them are suspect. Gibson was therefore obligated to defend his belief in the source against Hitchens’ own biased interpretation of the source. Gibson would have “lost” the debate before it had even begun because there was essentially nothing to debate. Hitchens and the other duplicitous libs determined to sink judicial nominees out of their own bigotry and spite, but conscious of the fact they wouldn’t last if they admitted to it, tiptoe (to use Hitchens’ own effeminate metaphor) around the fact they believe the “rights” invented by Liberal justices over the years, especially the right to abortion as it is cockamamily defined in Roe v. Wade, are Constitutional facts.

Continuing with the invented right to abortion example, the gospel according to Hitchens states: Abortion is without a doubt contrary to Catholic dogma. Roberts is a practicing Catholic. Therefore, Roberts must be anti-abortion and will overturn Roe on that basis. When he goes before the Judiciary committee, according to the Hitchens Rules of Procedure, he must renounce his Catholicism – for what would account for Roberts' belief that Roe is “bad law” other than his fealty to the Pope? – or else be barred from the High Court. Roberts loses before he even attends the hearings. Hitchens can’t possibly acknowledge that the alleged right to an abortion created by the Court 30-something years ago is actually grounded in an alleged “right to privacy” that liberal Justices read into the Constitution in the first place. If he did, he would have to acknowledge that the only way to prove Roberts was in favor of overturning Roe purely because his Church demanded it were if Roberts explicitly stated in an opinion that he cannot as a good Catholic uphold such a wicked “right”. Fat chance of that happening any more than you'd have Ginsburg admitting her experience as a left-wing lawyer with the ACLU will not permit her to rule in favor of the Boy Scouts. Without the religious test Hitchens demands but that is barred by the Constitution, he and his leftist (pro-war so long as the war is against a religion) friends are fucked - royally. Because, as the average 12-year-old knows, Roberts' opinion will address the fourth amendment; the moral basis for his interpretation Hitchens has no way of pre-determining under a Constitutional political process. So Hitchens has to invent some exception, because he loves the “secular” Constitution of his adopted land so much, to the prohibition against religious tests. He has to pre-empt appointments to the federal bench that fail to conform to his totally biased interpretation of the US Constitution, which is, as stated earlier, already based on the biased interpretations of liberal justices.

Instead of blowing smoke up everyone’s ass about the "legislative" authority of the Catholic Chruch and the status of the Vatican as an independent state and how John Roberts' adherence to Church precepts renders him unfit to sit on the High Court, Hitchens might have done better to specifically address the very emphatic Aricle VI statement that "no" religious test shall "ever" be administered, even though the Article requires an oath to "support" the Constitution. Which suggests perhaps Hitchens should have examined what is meant by the term "support" versus his invented Constitutional restriction on moral decisions based on religious beliefs. Perhaps Hitchens might have done better admitting that Article VI was written by the Framers precisely because they knew what bigoted morons like him would do if they managed to get elected to the United States Senate.

Then we wouldn't have to waste our time reading his blather.

posted by Tom | 8/09/2005 11:10:00 AM
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