August 23rd, 2006

Please allow me to introduce myself: the Klinghoffer case and sympathy for the terrorists

Thomas Sowell writes with clarity and succinctness on one unusual and especially troubling characteristic of the enemy we now face: its undeterrability (hat tip: Pajamas Media). Undeterrability makes this fight different from previous ones. It makes efforts at peaceful negotiation directly with that enemy worse than futile; it makes them dangerous.

There was one sentence in Sowell’s column that especially caught my attention. In describing the nature of the enemy, he harked back to the 1985 Achille Lauro incident, in which 69-year-old wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer was murdered by Palestinian hijackers and his body dumped overboard.

Sowell asks:

What kind of people would throw an old man in a wheelchair off a cruise liner into the sea, simply because he was Jewish?

What kind, indeed? Human beings, for starters, not devils. But that doesn’t mean we need to sympathize with them. And certainly we would be well within our rights to call Klinghoffer’s murderers Nazi-esque, in targeting this particular man and treating him with such brutality merely because of his Jewishness.

I recall hearing the news of the hijacking and the shocking manner of Klinghoffer’s death. At the time I had no context in which to place it; it seemed an inexplicable atrocity that chilled my blood. But it was incomprehensible, and so its significance as a signpost to the nature of the enemy was muted and blurred. It’s only in retrospect that I’m able to say, “But, of course.”

There’s another thing I neither noticed nor comprehended at the time, but that I’m certainly aware of now. And that was the almost immediate post-modern interest of some in understanding–empathizing with, and even sympathizing with–Klinghoffer’s murderers.

The opera “The Death of Leon Klinghoffer,” produced in 1991 and written by composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman, includes beautiful arias for the terrorists. It was received with accusations by some that it glorified terrorism, and kudos by others for its evenhanded treatment of the perpetrators’ grievances.

In previous years, an opera on such a theme might have featured the terrorists as traditional villains steeped in evil, with thunderous and dissonant music to signify the horror of what they did. But in this version, they were given sonorous and lovely melodies to sing and sympathetic words to portray, whereas the Klinghoffers and their associates were apparently portrayed as petty and materialistic bourgeoisie.

To have taken this particular incident–in which a helpless and innocent man in a wheelchair was murdered in cold blood, his body dumped overboard–and somehow turned it into a vehicle for Palestinian grievances seems to me to be multiculturalism gone mad.

Who wrote the opera? The librettist, Alice Goodman, is an interesting tale herself. Born and raised as a Jew in Minnesota, educated in literature at Harvard, married to a British poet, she became an Anglican priest and opera librettist.

You can listen to Ms. Goodman discussing the opera here, in a BBC interview that features part of an aria from it by one of the terrorists (or maybe it’s a recitative; I’m no opera expert). Despite having read about the opera fairly extensively prior to hearing the clip, I was still surprised at the emotional tenor of the singing. Yes indeed, without even being able to decipher the words of the libretto, just hearing the music and the voice of the kidnapper made it clear that he was being given a respect and a certain esthetic elegance and dignity that could only serve to elevate him in the eyes of the listener.

Then I listened to Ms. Goodman speak (an aside: why does she have a British accent? Is this some sort of affectation, is it a requirement for the Anglican clergy, or has she resided in Britain so long she’s taken on the speech patterns?).

Ms. Goodman’s answer to the question of whether the opera is anti-Semitic or an apology for terrorism is an interesting one. She says no (no surprise there); she believes that the charges of anti-Semitism and the rest are a result of her showing the terrorists as “human beings.”

I disagree. I happen to think that terrorists are most decidedly human beings, as were Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, and–well, every other human being who’s ever lived. We all know how Hitler loved dogs, and was a vegetarian. To be evil does not require that one be a devil; being a human being who does evil will suffice. I believe in treating people as human beings, but that does not require giving evildoers a forum and writing lovely arias for them to sing.

Ms. Goodman says she speaks not just as the librettist, but as a priest, when she recognizes the perpetrators as human beings with ideals–wrongheaded, yes, but idealistic nevertheless–as though idealism somehow has a value in and of itself. Perhaps she’s never heard about the road to hell, and what it’s paved with.

Ms. Goodman acknowledges that the music and the words Adams and she wrote for the terrorists who committed this atrocity were lyrical and heartfelt, and she understands that this fact created “a dissonance difficult for some people to take.”

Count me in as one of those people. I guess I’m just not highly evolved enough to understand the convoluted mental gymnastics required in comprehending how that doesn’t constitute some sort of sympathy and apology–if not for the devil, then for the human beings who perpetrated this heinous act.

76 Responses to “Please allow me to introduce myself: the Klinghoffer case and sympathy for the terrorists”

  1. Trimegistus Says:

    Historians and archaeologists trying to puzzle out the death of Western Civilization will no doubt be utterly mystified by how so many writers, artists, and academics were actively sympathetic to the very people bent on destroying them.

    I can only conclude that there is some deep-rooted yet unspoken flaw in modern civilization. These people — the Alice Goodmans and all the others who romanticize tyrants and monsters — are hungry for something which our society doesn’t provide.

    Is it religion they need? They affect such contempt for Christianity I almost suspect that’s it.

    Whatever it is, they aren’t getting it from our own civilization, so they’ve romanticized the Other, in the form of terrorist murderers or brutal tyrants like Castro and Chavez. They’re hoping these killers and torturers can somehow do for them what the cultured, even bland Western Civilization cannot.

  2. David Foster Says:

    Michele Catalano, of the defunct and much mourned blog A Small Victory, recorder her reactions to the murder of Klinghoffer:

    I still have nightmares about this. I don’t recall many news stories that stayed with me as long as this one did.

    “I imagined again and again the horror of Leon Klinghoffer plunging into the water, still in his wheelchair. I imagined his wife watching this happen. I never forgot about it.

    Klinghoffer was dead when they pushed him overboard. The terrorists shot to death a helpless man who could not defend himself. I could not let go of the thought that he went into that ocean in his wheelchair. There was something so barbaric, so raw and sinister about it. Leon was killed because he was a Jew. An American Jew. An American Jew sitting in a wheelchair doing his best to fend off the terrorists using only his voice. (To the terrorists, this was “provocation.”)

    I spent a lot of time at the library discovering all kinds of sordid things about the Palestinian Liberation Front after that incident.”

    This is the way a human being would be expected to react to such an event.

  3. Capn Billy Says:

    I’m an opera fan, and that is one that I’ll never see. It’s just another small symptom of “The Suicide of the West.” I don’t know if the population of the U. S. will wake up in time to avert it or not. It’s already too late for Europe.

  4. David Foster Says:

    To continue my previous comment: Michele’s reaction was that to be expected from a human being. What, then of those who react by “understanding,” excusing, or even romanticizing the perpetrators?

    Virtually all the people who do this, I would hypothesize, are highly educated, and highly educated in particular ways and on particular dimensions.

    In C S Lewis’ novel That Hideous Strength, the principal character is captured by a sinister cabal. He is put through a process of training which is aimed at killing “all specifically human reactions” in a person.

    To kill the “specifically human reactions” in a person and substitute something else…is that the effect of higher education–especially graduate education–as often carried out today in the “humanities” and in the “social sciences?”

  5. Michael (Germany) Says:

    I’m not entirely sure about the indeterrability of the terrorists.

    Has deterrence really been tried? Or is not America still very much fighting a gentleman’s war?

    I have a feeling we mustn’t buy into that We-Love-Death meme of them Muslim terrorists all too unreservedly.

    But heck, even if it were entirely true, you can still deter the societies and communities that provide them with the indispensable safe havens and operating bases. For those societies and communities you can create VERY compelling stimuli to try hard to make their hotheads desist from jihad.

    Initiate a campaign of targetted killings. Flatten neighborhoods, then, if need be, flatten cities. Kill all the loved ones of the terrorists (yes, there will be such, even with them), wholesale. Are they still going to fight on, unimpressed?

    Or would not at least their worried relatives and tribes try to convince them, with all they have, to desist? The death wishes among those folks — confused mothers, elderly uncles, charming nieces and in turn their caring mothers and fathers — may not be quite as pronounced as those of the the would-be martyrs.

    Sure, it’s ugly. Real ugly. Perhaps even barbaric. But what if it works? Worse, what if it’s the ONLY THING that works?

    I can tell you, the shock of scores of flattened cities crept deep into the bones of Germans and still accounts for a good deal of my nation’s timidity (cloaked, of course, in high-sounding rhetoric) in confronting just about anybody who, unlike the US, might fight back.

  6. snowonpine Says:

    Isn’t this Opera a perfect example of Gramscian techniques at work?

  7. armchair pessimist Says:

    I agree with Michael. We-love-death may be nothing more than a psych weapon to spook us. Certainly, if they love death so much they’d be thanking the Israeli airforce instead of whining.

    Also, I suspect that the people in command over there love somebody else’s death, not so much their own.

    Lastly, OK, so they love death. How would they like they might not enjoy the next best thing: Staggering around in their own excrement because there’s no water to bath in or drink, and no food, and no shelter, and no nothing because their entire miserable country has been demolished? Existing like an animal might well lack the savour of dying like a martyr, in their parched and scorched eyes.
    I’d love to find out.

  8. armchair pessimist Says:

    Last paragraph should begin:

    Lastly, OK, so they love death. How would they like the next best thing…

    Sorry for the lousy proof reading.

  9. David Foster Says:

    The love for death is not a new thing in politics. “Long live death!” was the rallying cry of Franco’s Fascists.

    Many of these people, too, believed in the certainty of an eternal reward.

    Would anyone seriously maintain that, if it had become necessary for the US to invade Spain during WWII (say, to keep the tungsten mines out of German hands) we would have inevitably failed because of death-loving opponents?

  10. Don Says:

    I’m not entirely sure about the indeterrability of the terrorists.

    Michael (Germany)

    The Japanese were even more willing to face death than Islamic radicals, and the US was able to bring them to the table . . .

  11. waltj Says:

    “The Japanese were even more willing to face death than Islamic radicals, and the US was able to bring them to the table”.

    True enough, but the Japanese still had a centralized command structure headed by the Emperor. While many of the military leadership certainly did “love death” (and unlike the Muslim terrorists, many high-ranking Japanese officers did commit seppuku or go down with their ships rather than surrender), Emperor Hirohito was less willing to preside over a national mass suicide. He was able to make his decision to surrender known (although I’ve heard this was a near-run thing, with hard-liners almost keeping the word from getting out), and the Japanese forces obeyed their “living god”, regardless of how they may have felt about doing so. The current set of “death lovers” has no equivalent command structure that could compel the would-be “martyrs” to take off their vests and get out of their cars.

  12. J.H. Bowden Says:

    Who is Thomas Solwell? I keep going to the links and getting this Thomas Sowell guy. Any chance they’re the same person?


  13. Senescent Wasp Says:

    The “We Love Death” proposition is at least a testable hypothesis. If countering the Islamic Jihad does indeed produce more terrorists do you suppose there is a death rate which exceeds the ability to produce them? Will the majority run frothing into the fireballs? Or is there an upper limit, a place where their throats constrict and they decide it was all a bad fever dream?

    Does anyone really doubt that it will have to come to this? Eventually, you have to take someone at their word. the message hasn’t changed for centuries; Submit or die. To which someone will eventually say, “No. You first”.

    In 1959, fourteen years after the end of WW II, I saw, closely, the German city of Essen. A large portion of it was still only waist high weed grown rubble. But, yet there are still self proclaimed Nazi’s in Germany as well as other places. Maybe we didn’t flatten enough cities or kill enough of their population. but, National Socialism is now at least controllable. I’d settle for that vis a vis Islamic expansionism. A dispersed, controllable phenomena. We might want to err on the side of cowed and trembling with fear and gradually let it slide back to dispersed and controllable in a hundred years or so. Hard lessons are always the best.

  14. neo-neocon Says:

    The Japanese were brought to the table after an all out war ending in Hiroshima. That’s not deterrence, that’s defeat.

  15. snowonpine Says:

    The Japanese committed much worse atrocities than the U.S. public was allowed to know at the end of WWII, all in aid of keeping the Emperor and his crew from the gallows so that they could help MacArthur pacify Japan. But a lot of Japanese did buy into Bushido and “honorable” death.

    If the Jihadis want death, I say let’s give it to them.

    If enough Jihadis buy their 72 virgins –may they all look like Cindy Sheehan or a Diseased Camel–perhaps the “moderate Muslims” may decide they don’t want to be next and they will finally put up an opposition slate and platform opposed to traditional Islam and to the current mad mullahs. Unfortunately, given Islam’s track record, anything less than practically total annihilation is going to mean that after lying low for a few generations, Islam, if not drastically reformed, is going to present this problem to our descendants yet again.

  16. Senescent Wasp Says:

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki did put finis to their National Death Cult, didn’t it?

  17. neo-neocon Says:

    J.H. Bowden: Spelling on Sowell’s name corrected.

  18. Terry Crane Says:

    My mind keep returning to the brillliant film “Natural Bourn Killers”, and the reporter Wayne Gale (R. Downey Jr character). If he was a librettist, you bet he would write a beautiful arias for terrorists.

    Is it what happen with media these days? It would be interesting to know your professional oppinion.

  19. Stuart Says:

    Thomas Sowell is one of our greatest public intellectuals. A Chicago trained economist who taught at UCLA and other schools during his academic career is best known for his numerous informative and thought provoking books. My favorite was one of his earlier ones, “Knowledge and Decisions”. This was a modern day version of Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom”. Like Hayek,he explains the nexus between political freedom, and a free economy which respects property rights. As we now know from the history of the 20th Century, in addition to guaranteeing us the blessings of liberty,the free market economy has produced the greatest standard of living experienced by mankind. Anyone who is intellectually curious will truly enjoy Dr. Sowell’s prodigious output,much of which is available on Amazon.

  20. jgr Says:

    From a provoking survey by a theologian named Reno about the European post modernist philosophies, I somehow suspect the dark pagan beliefs are back. The old gods, the ones that led the bloody Nazis, among others.

    Many of you will be more familiar with the 19c/20c wanderings in that area of art. To exalt the terrorist, however, seems to meld the decadence of this writer (Anglican?/Jewish? no!) with the mindset of the jihadist. To worship killing and death, her ‘human beings’ both devil and victims.

    I see the old 60’s film ‘The Wicker Man’ has been recycled. Ms Goodman would understand that first film’s theme of the old, old ‘truth’ of human sacrifice.

  21. Shelia Says:

    Don’t feel bad neo-neocon about not being sure of the difference between recit. and aria in a John Adams opera. It’s not like he knows what he’s doing. Opera is one case where you need the old European guys.
    And Thomas Sowell is the only person who has ever been able to explain economics to me. His book, Basic Economics, has truly made me a more informed citizen.

  22. Roy Lofquist Says:

    The Prophet was visited by the Angel Gabriel? Methinks it was the Angel Satan.

  23. lmg Says:

    I think the line “You love life, we love death” was mistranslated. What they were really saying was “You enjoy living, we enjoy killing.”

    I don’t believe the enemy is undeterrable, but we haven’t even tried to deter OR defeat them. President Bush is really the first leader who has taken on the jihadis, and his approach was not to destroy Afghanistan and Iraq but to reform them. Unfortunately, either it can’t be done or we are just doing a particularly lousy job, but it isn’t working out the way we hoped. I don’t see Bush abandoning this approach, so we’re stuck with it for at least two more years, and I don’t see any bloodthirsty warmongers planning to run in ’08 either.

  24. Senescent Wasp Says:

    Tim Blair links to a pretty definitve statement of what we’re up against

    The money quote: The principles of Islam cannot be altered and and there is no democracy in Islam or nonsense like ‘democratic Islam’. Democracy is shirik (unbelief) and haram. Here we do not compromise. Those who claim to be Muslims and do not support Shariah one hundred per cent are all munafik and kafirs, they are out of Islam. No need to discuss with these people, they are not part of the ummat anymore.

    There is no need to listen to public opinion: kafirs, apostates, liberals, atheists – they are all non-believers Â…

    I’d say that’s telling it like it is I was hearing that “on the street” in the ME twenty years ago.

  25. Anonymous Says:

    If enough Jihadis buy their 72 virgins –may they all look like Cindy Sheehan or a Diseased Camel–perhaps the “moderate Muslims” may decide they don’t want to be next and they will finally put up an opposition slate and platform opposed to traditional Islam and to the current mad mullahs. Unfortunately, given Islam’s track record, anything less than practically total annihilation is going to mean that after lying low for a few generations, Islam, if not drastically reformed, is going to present this problem to our descendants yet again.

    Iran’s last President was moderate, and the new generation of Iranian youth are liberal. Like, lip gloss, blogging, drinking, rock music liberal. They’re not into dad’s revolution. Treating that generation to some shock and horror would be crazy, since that’s the generation that’ll “drastically reform” Islam[ic culture].

  26. Senescent Wasp Says:

    Anymouses description of Iranian Middle Class society is almost exactly like the descriptions prior to the 1979 hijack of the Iranian “Revolution” by the mullahs and Islamic fundies. The Middle Class is being bought off by a little wealth; but freedom and liberty aren’t on the table.

    Democracy, Franklin said, is where two wolves and a lamb discuss what to have for lunch. Liberty is where the lamb is well armed. The mullahs use this seeming “freedom” as a smoke screen. A little lip gloss goes a long way to convincing the conflict adverse that all is well. They’ll get lip gloss and a some music until they’ve served their purpose. Last week the secret police began tearing out satellite dishes.

    Here’s a good article. “The 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran was one of the twentieth centuryÂ’s greatest political heists.” A Revolution Betrayed

  27. Joanne Says:

    I saw the opera many years ago, and at the time I was annoyed by how its pretensions to fairness masked a deep bias and dishonesty.

    First of all, I agreed with one critic who noted that the problem began with the title. It’s called the Death of Klinghoffer, not the Murder of Klinghoffer, as if the man had died peacefully in his sleep.

    I also noticed that the passengers were shown in an unflattering light, however subtly. I remember they portrayed one woman who found a way to hide from the hijackers during the entire incident (I have no idea if this is based on fact). Instead of showing her as brave and resourceful, the librettist showed her as selfish, frivolous, and even ugly.

    Actually, the most shocking example was the depiction of Klinghoffer himself. I remember the scene just before the hijackers threw him overboard. The librettist had Klinghoffer come out with a racist statement. So when they did finally throw him overboard, you didn’t feel sorry for the awful bigot. This is pure dishonesty. In order to show the hijackers in a better light, why did they have to demonize Klinghoffer?

    It’s as if the librettist couldn’t make the hijackers into more sympathetic characters without making the passengers less so. I wonder why. Why did it have to be a case of pure good guys against a pure bad guys? Couldn’t they have allowed for the fact that reality isn’t so neat? That some Jews and some passengers were also good people?

    Another thing: At one point the opera presented two groups–one of Palestinians the other of Israelis or members of the early Yishuv. The two groups rotated, each speaking or reciting in its turn about its feelings for the land. The Palestinians were given lines that were compelling and clear; one understood about their ties to the land. The Jews spoke, if I remember correctly, about what they found when they arrived in Palestine. I think so, anyway. Frankly, the lines given to the “Jewish” group were almost gibberish. You understood that they were talking about their feelings and experiences, but they didn’t actually say anything clear, and certainly nothing compelling.

    I think that this opera demonstrates a major problem in dealing with an ideologically loaded issue through art: You can stack the deck! When writing a novel, play, movie, or opera, you don’t have to document that someone said or did something horrible. You can just make it up. You can make any character say or do what you want him to.

    I heard that the opera was a big hit in Belgium. I should think that it was a big hit throughout Europe. Is this librettist really so foolish or is she disingenuous? I don’t know which would be worse.

  28. Sergey Says:

    Death cult adepts really can be deterred, but it requires very specific means of deterrence. Samurai kamikaze certainly belong to this description, that is why Truman ordered Hiroshima bombing. SS members also were death cultists; that is why Churchill ordered Dresden bombing. And this is true not only for terrorists leaders, but also to rank and file members of terrorist organizations. Terror can not withstand a more organized, more effective and cruel terror. Everything other it can withstand. But can American voters elect now politicians like Truman or Churchill? This is the main question. And what horrors terrorists need inflict to American people before it would be ready to elect those who can give orders for acts like Hiroshima bombing? Living in Moscow, I have not idea about it. May be, somebody of you, folks, try to enlight me?

  29. Anonymous Says:

    A little lip gloss goes a long way to convincing the conflict adverse that all is well. They’ll get lip gloss and a some music until they’ve served their purpose. Last week the secret police began tearing out satellite dishes.

    Yeah, “served their purpose,” lol, another bizarre authoritarian take on reality.

    This is from “Iran’s Quiet Revolution,” in this month’s The Walrus magazine. I’ve typed up a small passage from the 12-page long article since it’s a Canadian publication and likely tough to find. The author is Deborah Cambell, an adjunct professor of literary non-fiction at the University of British Columbia. She’s guest lectured on the Middle East at Harvard University.

    “Despite the murals of Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei who watch, godlike, from the sides of high-rise buildings (alongside Calvin Klein and Nokia ads), most Iranians are busy doing their own thing. They are buying bootlegged booze, from fine French Cabernet Sauvignon at $20 (US) a bottle to the Tuborg beer and Absolut vodka that supplement readily available homemade arak. They are watching the latest Hollywood movies on DVD, smuggled in from Malaysia, or MTV, the BBC, and Fashion Television via satellite. They are holding dance parties with the blinds drawn and text-messaging their boyfriends and girlfriends. An underground sexual revolution is raging, and legal and cultural prohibitions on dating simply mean that young couples tend to meet in private. ‘When you meet in someone’s home, it’s all about sex,’ a young man told me. A young woman, alluding to the oral sex that preserves their chastity, said coyly, ‘The girls here are very skillful.’

    “For embattled journalists and young Iranians, the Internet has become a source of unprecedented freedom. With at least seventy thousand active blogs, about half belonging to women, Farsi is the third most common blogging language in the world. Iran’s hardline judiciary, which has closed more than one hundred newspapers since 2000, hasn’t figured out how to cope with the Internet. Websites that are deemed ‘un-Islamic’ (like the popular international dating site are shut down or filtered, but alternative sites or workarounds arise just as quickly and word spreads.”

    The article goes on to discuss how the the speed of technology is accelerating social change.

    Re. Ahmadinejad, “fears that he would restrict social liberties have failed to materialize. Even many of the most skeptical, the middle and upper classes, have been won over.”

    “In a culture where black is the colour of piety, and the hijab is required by law, women tested the outer limits in lime green and fuchsia. Despite restrictions on mixing with the opposite sex, they flirted provocatively with young men in goatees and longish hair, one of whom had an American flag patch sewn to the butt of his jeans. The occasional guy or girl showed off the fresh white bandage of a recent nose job, an obsession among

  30. Anonymous Says:

    … continued

    The occasional guy or girl showed off the fresh white bandage of a recent nose job, an obsession among the middle and upper classes.
    “‘So much has changed that the generation born before the revolution can’t keep up,’ observed Omid Memarian, a prominent journalist and blogger. We spoke of the social freedoms that followed the Khatami presidency — from sweeping changes in women’s fashions to dminishing crackdowns on male-female relationships that once were grounds for arrest. Lashing have all but disappeared and unmarried couples now hold hands in public. ‘Everything used to be underground,’ said Memarian. ‘Now you see it on the street.’ He pointed toward two heavily made-up young women whose teased blond highlights made a mockery of their flimsy scarves. ‘The previous generation was idealistic, but the new generation is materialistic and self-involved. They don’t remember revolution and war. They aren’t interested in the ideals of the Islamic government.'”

  31. snowonpine Says:

    Sergey–The problem is a psychological one. The American public and our current leaders are the products of an era of relative peace and increasing plenty. This is not the environment that produces many of the kinds of leaders that are needed to successfully prosecute the kind of war for survival we find ourselves thrust into by Islam. The unity and will of the American people have also been effected by this era of peace and plenty, which has produced many party-goers who don’t want the music and merriment to stop. Having never been invaded in modern times, our public has no memory of or contact with the kind of brutality our enemies want to bring to our shores. Seeing that brutality displayed on TV also gives it a kind of unreality, allowing many to believe that it is just as unreal as our movies and crime shows. Political correctness, moral relativism and multiculturalism have also succeeded in blinding many to our peril by making discussion and true perception much more difficult, if not almost impossible.

    Thus, in the U.S., you are dealing with a culture and current mind set that is very ill equipped and in many ways unwilling to recongize and come to grips with our true situation. Many posters think that only a horrendous blow, an attack and maybe several at that, can shatter this fugue and result in true perception, commitment and action. I’d like to think that it wouldn’t take this in all its horror to break the logjam but, I’m afraid that it will come to this.

    In WWII it took quite awhile for the first U.S. military leaders, many of them Pentagon desk jockeys, to understand the kind of war they were fighting , to find tactics that worked and to develop a warrior spirit. A lot of these initial leaders never could do this and they were replaced by officers who could lead and fight but in the process the desk-jockeys got an awful lot of our soldiers killed. It may be that our recent experiences in fighting Islam in Afghanistan an Iraq is just the kind of harsh school that will produce the kind of military leadership we will need.

    On the political side, however, I see no tough-minded, clear sighted and pragmatic political leaders who are up to the challenge. I don’t know that I am a believer in the “Great Man” theory of history but, it would sure be nice if several such great men were to appear right about now.

  32. HLVS Says:

    “What kind of people would throw an old man in a wheelchair off a cruise liner into the sea, simply because he was Jewish?”

    Good question. What kind of person could run over a young man in a wheelchair (with a white flag affixed to it) simply because he was Palestinian, as the IDF has done?

    The answer to both questions is “people”, and your tiresome ruminations on the wickedness of the ‘other’ add nothing.

  33. Roger Says:

    Why is it that, while Lynndie England and Charles Graner and other such torturers are dismissed as “a few bad apples”, Klinghoffer’s killers are taken to be representative of an entire people? I think that’s double standards.

  34. Sergey Says:

    If you call what Lynndie England and Charles Graner did a “torture”, you have no idea what real torture means. I prefer to see it as foolish and cruel barrack joke of the type thousands of my compatriots suffer every day in army.

  35. snowonpine Says:

    The phrase “fruit of the poisonous tree,” so beloved by lawyers, applies in situations other than just evidentiary hearings. A good tree that drops a few wormy apples–no problem. A tree that routinely produces many poisonous apples–a big problem. The fruit of Islam is poisonous and bitter as anyone who witnesses jihadi snuff films, tens of thousands of Muslim fanatics chanting “Death to America,” viewing Sesame Street-like shows on Egyptian TV telling children their highest aspiration should be to become suicide bombers and die for Islam, or reviewing the pictures from a few years ago of women being executed by the Taliban in the Kabul soccer stadium while the crowd roars its approval, can readily see.

  36. Sergey Says:

    Klinghoffer’s killers are taken to be representative of an entire people because 70% of this people recently voted for organization that clearly declared murder of every single Jew and annigilation of Israel its holy goal.

  37. Sergey Says:

    To HLVS :
    I have very strong doubts that event you mentioned really took place, because if it did, there must be a huge uproar in press – both in Israeli and everywhere. But I never heard of it. So it must be another one failed Pallywood staged sham. A lot of them were exposed recently (Reuters doctored foto).

  38. Sergey Says:

    In the world with Internet only those why prefer to be fooled can be fooled by Goebbels-like propaganda, which, by the way, is integral part of Muslim behavior, recommended by Quran to true believers in dealing with infidels.

  39. Sergey Says:

    To snowonpine:
    If your description is accurate, the problem is not psyhological, it is much worse. You live in divided society, where half of the population clings to some extent to Judeo-Christian moral, and other half – to pagan moral of hedonism, which rejects the very idea of self-sacrifice and self-restraint. It is really dandgerous situation; we have it in Russia more than hundred years ago, and it was resolved by bloody civil war and fifty years of terror after that.

  40. Tatterdemalian Says:

    “In order to show the hijackers in a better light, why did they have to demonize Klinghoffer?”

    In order to be kind to the cruel, one must necessarily be cruel to the kind.

  41. Ymarsakar Says:

    If the murderers were human beings, why didn’t the writer portray them as evil people instead of people to be admired for their misguided childishness?

    When they say “we portray them as human beings”, they are lying and they know it in some part of their minds. They don’t treat terroists as human beings, they treat them as a means to an end, an end to their own personal guilt and feelings of superiority over the downtrodden.

  42. Ymarsakar Says:

    I find it funny that Goodman married a man with the last name, Good Man. Is that perhaps her ideal of mankind, to be good? Is that how she sees herself.

  43. Tatterdemalian Says:

    “What kind of person could run over a young man in a wheelchair (with a white flag affixed to it) simply because he was Palestinian, as the IDF has done?”

    Ones that only exist in your fevered anti-Zionist imagination.

    Twenty years from now, all the people who now proudly proclaim themselves “anti-Zionist” will be screaming before the New Nuremberg trials, “I was NEVER anti-Zionist! I always supported Israel’s right to exist! I never claimed the Jews’ existence was a mistake in need of correction!”

    They’ll be doing the new “I-Was-Not-A-Nazi” polka from the end of a hangman’s noose, just as their “misunderstood revolutionaries” did sixty years ago.

  44. armchair pessimist Says:


    we have it in Russia more than hundred years ago, and it was resolved by bloody civil war and fifty years of terror after that.

    Who won?

    Please don’t think I’m trying to be funny; we know so little of what Russia is thinking these days. It’s my impression, and it’s only an impression, that Putin’s foreign policy is dictated more by the chip on his shoulder than by his brains. Certainly, Russia is hanging out with dangerous friends. Do you think Islam has no designs on your country too?

    By the way, your English is excellent. Did you live in the West at some point?

  45. snowonpine Says:

    Wasp–I spent quite a lot of time researching Hiroshima & Nagasaki and the issues surrounding them. I’ve seen the pictures, read the books and reports and, while I regret the loss of life, I view U.S. use of nuclear weapons as justified.

    Fire bomb raids on flammable wooden cities in Japan killed more people in some of them than did nuclear weapons yet, no massive grief industry has been built up around them. Japan, like Germany, had its own projects to attain nuclear weapons, which at least one academic believes went as far as some sort of subcritical explosion in occupied North Korea where Japanese scientists did most of their work. Years ago I found an obscure article quoting one of these Japanese scientists who said that if Japan had developed a nuclear weapon they would have cheerfully dropped it on the U.S. at the first opportunity; a sentiment that the press was careful not to give any publicity.

    Attempts, by leftist academics like Gar Alperovitz, to undermine the decision to drop nuclear weapons are based on very selective interpretations of documents and statements. The fact of the matter is that by dropping these nuclear weapons and stopping combat operations against Japan, the U.S. saved the lives of untold thousands of U.S. troops in Europe and elsewhere who had received their orders and were streaming towards the staging areas for the land invasion of the Japanese home islands, as well as the lives of many tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers and innumerable civilians who were prepared to meet any invaders on the beaches and fight to the death with their remaining aircraft, tanks, guns and, in the case of civilians, knives and agricultural implements. The Japanese propagands theme for civilians, many committed believers in the Emperor, Japan’s devine destiny and bushido, was that each civilian, man, woman or child, old or young, was to kill at least one invader. Chillingly, after battle studies, by the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey researchers on the gound in Japan after the surrender, showed that U.S. intelligence estimates of numbers of effective Japanese combatants, aircraft, ships, fuel and ammunition stocks available in the home islands, which had lead to the very high U.S. casualty estimates used to justify using nuclear weapons, had grossly underestimated the effectivensss and extent of resources the Japanese had actually managed to gather for the “Last Battle.”

    Buttom line. If the time ever comes, and after careful consideration, we decide that we need to use nuclear weapons in our fight agains Islam, we should do so.

  46. Sergey Says:

    To armchair pessimist :
    No, I even never was abroad Soviet Union. As about who win, I would say that everybody lost: both educated westernized liberals and conservators-traditionalists. Only madmans prosper and decimated whole society. Really it was worse than decimation – several dozens million people were executed or perished in concentation camps. And this is not something new in history of mankind: in religios wars in 17 century Germany its population lost more then one third. There was no clear majority – both protestants and catholics have hopes to overcome. It was the reason for so huge life loss. When society is destroyed, only the most cruel types got advantage.
    And, of course, Islam have plans to dominate at Northern Caucasia, that is what all Chechen uprising is about. They already wage guerrilla warfare there, not only terroristic acts, but coordinated armed attacks on the towns.
    And honestly, I do not understand Putin international policy. I even doubt that it really exists. As Churchill noted, Kremlin police is “secret cloacked in mystery shrouded by enigma”.

  47. snowonpine Says:

    Sergey–I wish that my diagnosis of where the U.S. is at right now were not correct, but, I believe it is indeed correct. All those bloggers who have pointed out the eerie similarities between today’s attitudes and events and those of the later 1930’s in Europe are,unfortunately, on to something. Many Americans are ejoying the party so much that they’ve turned up the music even louder to drown out the cries of “Allahu Akbar” and the sound of Muslim axes biting into the wooden gates. Understandable, I guess, for who would want to look into the face of the looming war, with its bloodshead, sacrifices and tragedies, which will change things forever in ways we cannot forsee and probably would not choose, when pretending it isn’t there is so much more attractive and comforting. However, there is an inverse realtionship here, the sooner we face the facts and fight the less our losses and the shorter the war will be, the longer we wait the harder our battles will be and the more casualties we’ll probably suffer. I’m hoping for reality to set in but, ugly reality has been very handily kept at bay for way too long already.

  48. snowonpine Says:

    Sergay–By the way, what is really happening in Russia today? Accounts from various sources paint a very grim, almost nightmarish picture–population decline and lower life expectancies, epidemic levels of alcoholism and prostitution, the Russian Mafia in control of practically everything, development of a very rich elite while the rest of the population becomes increasingly impoverished and a legacy, from past industrialization efforts, of pollution and radioactive contamination which has contaminated significant portions of your land and sickened many people. I don’t see any good news here, is there any?

  49. armchair pessimist Says:

    Yes, Sergay, I’d like to know too. If only on account of Russian oil and gas reserves, it would be wise to attach your country to the West’s cause. But as Snowonpine has said, right now Russia’s own situation seems very bad indeed. So maybe it’s pointless to befriend a downing man. Damn! but these are trying times!

  50. Calvinist Says:

    I’ve seen the Death of Klinghoffer. And I think all the ideological thrashing it’s received in this thread is justified.

    But as an opera, it’s not too bad, although Nixon in China is much, much better.

    I would say it tries, and fails, not find some existential truth about violence and human existence, but falls quite short.

    Not to re-open the art, truth and morals debate, but they are independent qualities.

    Betrothal in a Monastery, by Prokofiev, was produced in Stalin’s Russia and contains horrible calumnies about the clergy. It is also a great, and very funny, opera.

  51. Shelia Says:

    If you don’t mind, I have a question as well. Too frequently we only talk about the destructive nature of religon, but I can’t help thinking that a revival of the Orthodox church in Russia would be a good thing. What do you think?

  52. jgr Says:

    Calvinist opines: “Not to re-open the art, truth and morals debate, but they are independent qualitieses.”

    I disagree.

    Yet I can see how 20c, post modernism, and even some 19c thinking would assert such.

  53. Tatterdemalian Says:

    I disagree with jgr’s disagreement. I’ve known many awesome artists with the morals of rabid pedophile baboons, and the arias accompanying “The Death of Klinghoffer” are beautiful, but lies from beginning to end.

    As for the difference between truth and morals, one need only look at the creationist vs. evolution debates, or farther back, Christianity’s treatment of Galileo.

    The three are independent qualities, and refusing to accept this because it’s against your beliefs is just another example of how beliefs often blind people to the truth.

  54. HLVS Says:

    That the people here cannot accept the idea that any Israeli soldier has ever acted cruelly – even in a single instance – says a great deal about the fragility of your esteem. Our side – the Right Side – must be perfect, and any claims that we share characteristics with the savages must be ignored or denied.

    Here is a report about the Palestinian in a wheelchair getting run over (oh, and my mistake: he was not a ‘young man’, but 57 years old):

    The report also includes the IDF using Palestinian civillians as human shields, among other abuses.

    Now, why on earth would Human Rights Watch lie about such a thing? They, who have faithfully documented human rights abuses around the globe, including in the Arab and Muslim world?

  55. Sergey Says:

    I can give only my subjective opinion. Real statistics is not available. All these problems really exist, howewer often western press (and Russian to) tends to exaggerate them. More important, most of these problems are not new, they have been existed for several decades now, but only after Iron Curtain came down we began to understand their full extent. The most severe are depopulation and alcogolism. But population dynamics by its nature is very inertional, contemporary demographic depression is a result of events of distant past – mostly of huge losses of WWII (second wave effect). It concided with depopulation of rural regions – all young people migrated into towns and cities, where tradition and economics dictates small families. To some extent, this crisis, I believe, is temporal. And economics is not as bad as it is perceived. It really grows, and rather fast, not only in oil and gas production. There is plenty of food everywhere (this was not so untill ten years ago). Real incomes are higher that is officially declared, because large portion of economics is not reported, it is “black” or “grey” sector – to evade taxes. Crime is not as rampant, as it was ten years ago, and it never was so rampant as is depicted in films and news. As for prostitution, in Old Russia it was even more epidemic, and I do not see a big problem here. It is eternal. Low life expectancy is due to alcogolism, this is the main cause of premature death. But this is actual mainly to old (mine!) generation of baby-boomers; young people in Moscow and most large cities are bend on career-making, this generation is sane and healthy enough. They are workaholics, not alcogolics. There is rampant corruption, of course, but this was always: this is a national way of life. Everybody who read Gogol’s “Inspector” can understand this. I dare to say, it is not totally negative phenomena: it allows to do necessary things that can’t be done according to formal rules – and the rules are grossly inadequate (and always were). Mafia is not really criminal one, it is a form of non-formal administration that do what formal ought to do, but does not.

  56. troutsky Says:

    Hey , nobody mentioned Arendts Eichmann in Jeruselum in relation to neos perspective on evil. It’s quite relevent, you all should check it out. Right.

  57. Sergey Says:

    Human Rights Watch is not a reliable source of information. It is seriosly biased against Israel, it is nor really objective, takes as facts almost all Palestinian falsifications without checking them up – because of their ideological leftist perspective.

  58. HLVS Says:

    What do you think human-rights groups like HRW and Amnesty International do, anyway? Wander around asking people “Hey, seen any war crimes around here lately?” If they’re going to report anything, it’s because they have corraboration both from eyewitnesses and from material evidence. Clapping your hands over your ears and crying “It just isn’t troo-o!” won’t make it go away.

  59. Sergey Says:

    To Shelia :
    Revival is real and huge. But it is too early make predictions of its impact on society – too many factors in play. Not only Russian Ortodox Church grossly increase its influence, all other denominations and sects do the same. It is major, sweeping spiritualization. And many aspects of it are dangerous and even frightening. Ability to rational thinking is on decline everywhere. To some extent, we can see reversal to medieval type of public conscience, growth of superstutions and myphological thinking. I do not like it at all.

  60. jgr Says:

    I apologise. You have lost me.

    I did not go into greater detail since this format, while very interesting, isn’t suited to it. And I’m not sure this debate furthers this thread, which has a lot of other grounds to pursue.

    Needless to say, however, I stand by my conventional statement, since the convergence of all 3–art, truth, morals — is the essence of Western civilisation. We don’t and won’t accept that today. And look where we are.

  61. grackle Says:

    What do you think human-rights groups like HRW and Amnesty International do, anyway? Wander around asking people “Hey, seen any war crimes around here lately?”

    No, what they do is show up long after the violence is over, the scene staged(stuffed toys, the de rigueur mourning woman in black with arms uplifted in grief for photo opportunity and the “eyewitnesses” all lined up) and take for gospel anything the terrorist handlers on the scene tell them. If anyone in the neighborhood is inclined to tell the truth, they know also that the terrorists will pay a visit later. Pallywood – it’s a cottage industry in Lebanon and Palestine.

  62. grackle Says:

    Now, why on earth would Human Rights Watch lie about such a thing? They, who have faithfully documented human rights abuses around the globe, including in the Arab and Muslim world?

    Because HRW “documentation” consists of interviewing “eyewitnesses” carefully picked by the terrorists and whose “accounts” are accepted without question by the HRW staff. For some truth about Jenin the link below is helpful. Pallywood at its best with the HRW and various elements of the MSM as supporting cast.

  63. HLVS Says:

    Oh, I see. And the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs couldn’t possibly have the means or the motive to deny questionable actions by the agents of their government they were hired to justify.

    If throwing what is unabashadly an Israeli propoganda outfit is the best you can do against an independent investigation, best try again.

  64. Sergey Says:

    To HLVS:
    See that:

  65. Sergey Says:

    Or that:
    NGO Monitor released a summary in 2006 which commented, “While NGO Monitor’s analysis shows a significant reduction in Human Rights Watch’s disproportionate focus on Israel in 2005, compared with 2004, clear evidence of systematic political bias remains…Many HRW publications continue to reflect what can be described as gratuitous political attacks against Israel, often based on unverified media reports, and reflecting a hostile political agenda. …HRW’s use of language to condemn Israel is highly politicized, especially when compared to reports on other countries in the Middle East…and continues to deny Israel the right to self-defense under international law.”[7] NGO Monitor also carried out a quantitative study which asserted an anti-Israel bias.[8]

  66. Sergey Says:

    Or this:

  67. HLVS Says:

    1. Frontpagemag is run by a devoted Stalinist who’s made it his misison to hurl whatever accusations he can think up ay people he doesn’t like. I once took a college course described as Front Page Mag. It was innacurate in every particular.

    2. NGO Monitor’s sole purpose is to attack NGO’s who say unfavorable things about Israel.

    3. Wikipedia? Now that’s low. I could edit it to say that the Israelis eat babies and then post it as ‘proof’ if I liked.

    By the way, no one has yet given even a yet that they actually read the Human Rights Watch report in question.

  68. Tatterdemalian Says:

    “That the people here cannot accept the idea that any Israeli soldier has ever acted cruelly – even in a single instance – says a great deal about the fragility of your esteem.”

    Again with the imaginary people. Maybe you should talk to us for a change.

  69. Joanne Says:

    Tatterdemalian took the following question I posed:
    “In order to show the hijackers in a better light, why did they have to demonize Klinghoffer?”

    And he/she offered this answer:
    “In order to be kind to the cruel, one must necessarily be cruel to the kind.”

    Sorry, but I don’t think I get the point. Are you saying that the ends justifies the means, that it was worthwhile to make Klinghoffer into a sleaze to communicate a more important point? That isn’t being cruel to be kind, that’s dishonest propaganda.

  70. Anonymous Says:

    David Horovitz newer was devoted Stalinist, he vas devoted trotzkist, and this was many, many years ago. He never concealed this fact, and, as a lot of other ex-leftists, became devoted debunker of leftist illusions, delusions and hoaxes.
    Wiki is not opinion chat – it is source of factual information, and each fact is scrutinized by many people of different worldview for its correctness. That what Internet is for. There is many links to different sources so everybody can check it for himself. Part “controversies” of this article clearly demonstrate just what I noted: reliability and objectivity of HRW is very doubtfull, many experts in human rights issies with worldwide reputation directly accused it in anti-Israely bias and poor standarts of fact-checking.

  71. Tatterdemalian Says:

    “Sorry, but I don’t think I get the point. Are you saying that the ends justifies the means, that it was worthwhile to make Klinghoffer into a sleaze to communicate a more important point?”

    For the people who wrote the play, it was. These days, people don’t even need justification for their ends, and in most cases, expecting them to provide any is considered racist, sexist, or whatever -ist happens to be most convenient.

  72. Ymarsakar Says:

    Sorry, but I don’t think I get the point. Are you saying that the ends justifies the means, that it was worthwhile to make Klinghoffer into a sleaze to communicate a more important point? That isn’t being cruel to be kind, that’s dishonest propaganda.
    Joanne | 08.27.06 – 2:03 am | #

    No, what people mean is that by being kind to terroists, who are cruel, you are necessitated into being cruel to the helpless, Kling.

  73. quickjustice Says:

    1. The libretto was composed long before 9/11/01. At that time, the hijacking of the Achille Lauro was considered an anomoly, an unusual expression of Palestinian anger and outrage. Goodman is a painstaking researcher, and chose to explore the theme of, and tensions implicit in, the Jewish-Palestinian conflict. For that she had to give the Palestinians voices expressing their grievances. Jews also were depicted in terms I viewed as sympathetic. (Goodman’s family includes Holocaust victims and survivors). This was the artistic point of the opera.

    2. The hijackers of the Achille Lauro killed no one except Leon Klinghoffer. Leon Klinghoffer was a foul-mouthed, wheelchair-bound Jewish-American man who fearlessly confronted, bad-mouthed, and provoked the hijackers, who were young Palestinian men armed with automatic weapons. That didn’t justify their murder of him, which was by rolling him, in his wheelchair, over the side of the ship, but it explains it. Klinghoffer was no physical threat to those hijackers, but he clearly threatened them in other ways.

    3. The moral ambiguity of the opera is a reflection of the facts on the ground, and of its pre 9/11 context. The hijackers were criminals, but they killed no one in the hijacking except Klinghoffer, who aggressively provoked them. That provocation, through verbal abuse, does not justify the murder, but it explains it. Klinghoffer, a disabled Jewish-American man, refused to submit to the hijackers, and used the only weapon available to him to defy the hijackers, his tongue. He paid for his defiance with his life.

    I respectfully suggest that Klinghoffer, despite his fate, was hero as well as victim. Was there meaning in his death beyond the cruelty of the hijackers? The opera raises the question, but remains ambiguous on this point. How much of Klinghoffer’s death was due to the cruelty of the hijackers? How much to his Jewishness? How much to his being an American with a sharp tongue?

  74. quickjustice Says:

    And Goodman’s English accent? Her mother was an English immigrant, first to Canada, then to America.

  75. Steve Ducharme Says:

    My god all this hideous moral equivalence. I guess I’m just a well educated neanderthal. Helpless wheelchair bound man on vacation:Good. Terrorists who kill him:Bad. Solution: Kill the fucking terrorists as expeditiously as possible. Sleep like a baby.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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