28 May 2007

Lest We Forget

Arlington National Cemetery

*Update: Where Eagles Dare, By James S. Robinson.

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Memorial Day

As a student of history, we have long been fascinated with America's history of involvement in armed conflict. We've read dozens of books about every major war since 1776. Most of these stories follow the Stephen Ambrose telling of military history--a tale of men fighting in defense of their country and their buddies next to them in the foxhole. As a result of this lifelong study, we have tremendous respect and admiration for men who have served and given so much. This respect and admiration extends to several friends who currently serve in America's Armed Forces. Thank you.

We submit, therefore, this article from the Wall Street Journal (subscription required). It's a fantastic telling of just a few of the stories of men who won the Congressional Medal of Honor.

American Honor
By Peter Collier

Once we knew who and what to honor on Memorial Day: Those who had given all their tomorrows, as was said of the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy, for our todays. But in a world saturated with selfhood, where every death is by definition a death in vain, the notion of sacrifice today provokes puzzlement more often than admiration. We support the troops, of course, but we also believe that war, being hell, can easily touch them with an evil no cause for engagement can wash away. And in any case we are more comfortable supporting them as victims than as warriors.

Former football star Pat Tillman and Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham were killed on the same day: April 22, 2004. But as details of his death fitfully emerged from Afghanistan, Tillman has become a metaphor for the current conflict -- a victim of fratricide, disillusionment, coverup and possibly conspiracy. By comparison, Dunham, who saved several of his comrades in Iraq by falling on an insurgent's grenade, is the unknown soldier. The New York Times, which featured Abu Ghraib on its front page for 32 consecutive days, put the story of Dunham's Medal of Honor on the third page of section B.

Not long ago I was asked to write the biographical sketches for a book featuring formal photographs of all our living Medal of Honor recipients. As I talked with them, I was, of course, chilled by the primal power of their stories. But I also felt pathos: They had become strangers -- honored strangers, but strangers nonetheless -- in our midst.

In my own boyhood, figures such as Jimmy Doolittle, Audie Murphy and John Basilone were household names. And it was assumed that what they had done defined us as well as them, telling us what kind of nation we were. But the 110 Medal recipients alive today are virtually unknown except for a niche audience of warfare buffs. Their heroism has become the military equivalent of genre painting. There's something wrong with that.

What they did in battle was extraordinary. Jose Lopez, a diminutive Mexican American from the barrio of San Antonio, was in the Ardennes forest when the Germans began the counteroffensive that became the Battle of the Bulge. As 10 enemy soldiers approached his position, he grabbed a machine gun and opened fire, killing them all. He killed two dozen more who rushed him. Knocked down by the concussion of German shells, he picked himself up, packed his weapon on his back and ran toward a group of Americans about to be surrounded. He began firing and didn't stop until all his ammunition and all that he could scrounge from other guns was gone. By then he had killed over 100 of the enemy and bought his comrades time to establish a defensive line.

Yet their stories were not only about killing. Several Medal of Honor recipients told me that the first thing they did after the battle was to find a church or some other secluded spot where they could pray, not only for those comrades they'd lost but also the enemy they'd killed.

Desmond Doss, for instance, was a conscientious objector who entered the army in 1942 and became a medic. Because of his religious convictions and refusal to carry a weapon, the men in his unit intimidated and threatened him, trying to get him to transfer out. He refused and they grudgingly accepted him. Late in 1945 he was with them in Okinawa when they got cut to pieces assaulting a Japanese stronghold.

Everyone but Mr. Doss retreated from the rocky plateau where dozens of wounded remained. Under fire, he treated them and then began moving them one by one to a steep escarpment where he roped them down to safety. Each time he succeeded, he prayed, "Dear God, please let me get just one more man." By the end of the day, he had single-handedly saved 75 GIs.

Why did they do it? Some talked of entering a zone of slow motion invulnerability, where they were spectators at their own heroism. But for most, the answer was simpler and more straightforward: They couldn't let their buddies down.

Big for his age at 14, Jack Lucas begged his mother to help him enlist after Pearl Harbor. She collaborated in lying about his age in return for his promise to someday finish school. After training at Parris Island, he was sent to Honolulu. When his unit boarded a troop ship for Iwo Jima, Mr. Lucas was ordered to remain behind for guard duty. He stowed away to be with his friends and, discovered two days out at sea, convinced his commanding officer to put him in a combat unit rather than the brig. He had just turned 17 when he hit the beach and a day later he was fighting in a Japanese trench when he saw two grenades land near his comrades.

He threw himself onto the grenades and absorbed the explosion. Later a medic, assuming he was dead, was about to take his dog tag when he saw Mr. Lucas's finger twitch. After months of treatment and recovery, he returned to school as he'd promised his mother, a ninth grader wearing a Medal of Honor around his neck.

The men in World War II always knew, although news coverage was sometimes scant, that they were in some sense performing for the people at home. The audience dwindled during Korea. By the Vietnam War, the journalists were omnipresent, but the men were performing primarily for each other. One story that expresses this isolation and comradeship involves a SEAL team ambushed on a beach after an aborted mission near North Vietnam's Cua Viet river base.

After a five-hour gunfight, Cmdr. Tom Norris, already a legend thanks to his part in a harrowing rescue mission for a downed pilot (later dramatized in the film BAT-21), stayed behind to provide covering fire while the three others headed to rendezvous with the boat sent to extract them. At the water's edge, one of the men, Mike Thornton, looked back and saw Tom Norris get hit. As the enemy moved in, he ran back through heavy fire and killed two North Vietnamese standing over Norris's body. He lifted the officer, barely alive with a shattered skull, and carried him to the water and then swam out to sea where they were picked up two hours later.

The two men have been inseparable in the 30 years since.

The POWs of Vietnam configured a mini-America in prison that upheld the values beginning to wilt at home as a result of protest and dissension. John McCain tells of Lance Sijan, an airman who ejected over North Vietnam and survived for six weeks crawling (because of his wounds) through the jungle before being captured.

Close to death when he reached Hanoi, Sijan told his captors that he would give them no information because it was against the code of conduct. When not delirious, he quizzed his cellmates about camp security and made plans to escape. The North Vietnamese were obsessed with breaking him, but never did. When he died after long sessions of torture Sijan was, in Sen. McCain's words, "a free man from a free country."

Leo Thorsness was also at the Hanoi Hilton. The Air Force pilot had taken on four MiGs trying to strafe his wingman who had parachuted out of his damaged aircraft; Mr. Thorsness destroyed two and drove off the other two. He was shot down himself soon after this engagement and found out by tap code that his name had been submitted for the Medal.

One of Mr. Thorsness's most vivid memories from seven years of imprisonment involved a fellow prisoner named Mike Christian, who one day found a grimy piece of cloth, perhaps a former handkerchief, during a visit to the nasty concrete tank where the POWs were occasionally allowed a quick sponge bath. Christian picked up the scrap of fabric and hid it.

Back in his cell he convinced prisoners to give him precious crumbs of soap so he could clean the cloth. He stole a small piece of roof tile which he laboriously ground into a powder, mixed with a bit of water and used to make horizontal stripes. He used one of the blue pills of unknown provenance the prisoners were given for all ailments to color a square in the upper left of the cloth. With a needle made from bamboo wood and thread unraveled from the cell's one blanket, Christian stitched little stars on the blue field.

"It took Mike a couple weeks to finish, working at night under his mosquito net so the guards couldn't see him," Mr. Thorsness told me. "Early one morning, he got up before the guards were active and held up the little flag, waving it as if in a breeze. We turned to him and saw it coming to attention and automatically saluted, some of us with tears running down our cheeks. Of course, the Vietnamese found it during a strip search, took Mike to the torture cell and beat him unmercifully. Sometime after midnight they pushed him into our cell, so bad off that even his voice was gone. But when he recovered in a couple weeks he immediately started looking for another piece of cloth."

We impoverish ourselves by shunting these heroes and their experiences to the back pages of our national consciousness. Their stories are not just boys' adventure tales writ large. They are a kind of moral instruction. They remind of something we've heard many times before but is worth repeating on a wartime Memorial Day when we're uncertain about what we celebrate. We're the land of the free for one reason only: We're also the home of the brave.

Mr. Collier wrote the text for "Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty" (Workman, 2006).

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26 May 2007

Our Friend's Blogs

If you're like us, and enjoy travel blogs, we suggest you click on the link to our friend Fernando's blog, entitled "Fernando's Hideaway." For the last couple of weeks, Fernando has been island hopping in SE Asia and detailing the events of each day on his blog. His interesting experiences plus good writing make for a very interesting read.

Recently added to the list of "Friends of Lybberty" was a link to a music/media blog--Gooses Ganders--co-written by our good, old, friend Michael J. Mouncer. MJ first introduced us to hip hop way back in the day. For those curious about his bona fides, consider also his tenure as lead singer in a Seattle-area band and annual attendance at the Coachella music festival. We noticed in a recent post--from MJ's co-bloggist, Gooseninja--that they are live-blogging from the Sasquatch Festival. We're glad to see MJ putting his Blackberry to good use.

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16 May 2007

Nordlinger, Goldberg, and the Loony Left

Since our London bedtime is quite a bit earlier than the start time for last night's debate, we've spent the morning reading up on last night's debate.

First we surfed on over to the Daily Kos. The angry wing of the democratic party never ceases to prove just how angry they are by their constant use of expletives. They're like the Red Sox fanbase before winning the World Series--you know, smug, sarcastic, bitter/jaded, frequent use of four-letter words. The whole bit. We'd provide a link, but this is a family friendly blog, after all.

Looking for less emotion and more reason, we turned our sights to National Review. Lot's of interesting stuff, but two things stood out.

First, Jonah Goldberg on why the Rosie O'Donnell wing of the Democratic party isn't just angry, but also loony:
I offer you data. Rasmussen Reports, the public opinion outfit, recently asked voters whether President Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks beforehand. The findings? Well, here’s how the research firm put it: “Democrats in America are evenly divided on the question of whether George W. Bush knew about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in advance. Thirty-five percent of Democrats believe he did know, 39 percent say he did not know and 26 percent are not sure.”

So, one in three Democrats believe that Bush was in on it somehow, and a majority of Democrats either believe that Bush knew about the attacks in advance or can’t quite make up their minds.

The problem with rebutting this sort of allegation is that there are too many reasons why it’s so stupid. It’s like trying to explain to a four-year-old why Superman isn’t real. You can spend all day talking about how kryptonite just wouldn’t work that way. Or you can just say, “It’s make-believe.”

Similarly, why try to explain that it’s implausible that Bush was evil enough to let this happen — and clever enough to get away with it — yet incapable either morally or intellectually of doing it again? After all, if he’s such a villainous super-genius to have paved the way for 9/11 without getting caught, why stop there? Democrats constantly insinuate that Bush plays politics with terror warnings on the assumption that the higher the terror level, the more support Bush has. Well, a couple of more 9/11s and Dick Cheney will finally be able to get that shiny Bill of Rights shredder he always wanted.

And, if Bush — whom Democrats insist is a moron — is clever enough to green-light one 9/11, why is Iraq such a blunder? Surely a James Bond villain like Bush would just plant some WMDs?

Not that any of this really comes as a surprise. Though it has diminished, we still field emails from our friends who insist that two planes full of jet fuel couldn't have caused the WTC to come crashing down. And before you ask, yes, we've seen the conspiracy docudrama. And Fahrenheit 9/11, and An Inconvenient Truth. What does all of this prove? You know, besides the fact that the loony left has the corner on the "documentary" market?

What's really entertaining is the constant state of ticked-offedness of the loony left brought on by Fox News. The loony left just cannot stand Fox's "Fair and balanced," Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity (they probably don't like Neil Cavuto either). Consider this for a minute. Now that the shoe, apparently, is on the other foot. For years the Big Three of mainstream media, plus most newspapers, plus the supposedly "non-partisan" NPR have been echoing the liberal establishment line. Now, Fox News appears on the scene, with its appealing populist politics and absolutely obliterates all other news channels. "Jealousy and envy..." how does that 2Pac line go, Morgan?

But Fox News isn't conservative, that's just the way the world is.

Gosh, you have no idea how long we've wanted to repeat that oft-repeated liberal line about the liberal media.

Then there's this, from Jay Nordlinger:
The Democratic presidential candidates refused to participate in a debate sponsored by Fox News. (It was scheduled for Nevada, as you recall.) But the Republican presidential candidates had their first debate on MSNBC — moderated by Chris Matthews. (If a word that contains “moderate” can be used about Chris!) That tells us a lot about our political and media culture. We conservatives and Republicans can’t afford to have a pariah; but the Democrats certainly can — they write off one TV network, they got scads of others.

Of course, Democrats would say, “But Fox News is a partisan network, and MSNBC is nonpartisan, neutral, and objective.” Uh-huh.

The above matter reminded me of something: I was talking to a Muslim friend once. I said, “Saudi Arabia outlaws all churches. Yet there’s a mosque on every street corner in America. Saudi Arabia outlaws the Bible. The penalty for possessing it is expulsion from the country — if you’re a foreigner. If you’re a Saudi, the penalty is death by beheading. Yet, in America, Korans are as plentiful as comic books.

“Aren’t Saudis, particularly those in the United States — such as students — ever embarrassed by this imbalance, this disparity? Don’t they ever think, ‘Hmm, how odd: They let us do our thing, but we don’t let them do theirs’?”

And my friend answered, “No: They regard this situation as perfectly normal and proper.” I will never forget the definiteness of his answer.

As I said, I couldn’t help thinking about this, when pondering Fox News, MSNBC, and presidential debates: The Republicans are happy to go on liberal networks, knowing that this is life; the Democrats, as I have stated, can afford to have a pariah. Networks are simply supposed to be liberal, or at least liberal-leaning; everything else is a freakish, hateful blight.
Hey libs, how's Air America doing?

*Update: The distinguished Democratic Senator from Connecticut, Senator Joe Lieberman, speaks on Iraq: Time for Choosing.

**Update: Fred Thompson calls out Michael Moore.

***Update: More from the Church of the Holy Environment: an ark. You can't make this stuff up.

****Update: Global warming "consensus" fractures like the Greenland ice shelf.

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08 May 2007

I'll take sour grapes, with a skosh of schadenfreude

In our last post we referred to an impending Cambridge trip. It ended up being positive and productive for a number of reasons. With the help of a professor friend there, we pounded out an idea for a PhD proposal, attended the Intelligence Seminar and listened to a CIA historian, and sat at the high table at Corpus Christi formal hall.

These intelligence seminars are interesting affairs. All in attendance agree to abide by Chatham House rules. Essentially this means that participants can use the information they learn at these seminars (or any other setting where Chatham House rules are invoked), but cannot reveal the source. As a result, we get some fairly interesting bits of information. Since I've already revealed who the source was, I can't really post what he said, other than to say, that the CIA had more things going on in China and Tibet going on in the last 50 years than I would have ever guessed.

During the seminar he also discussed the gross innacuracies of The Good Shepherd and its treatment of what is supposed to be "the untold story of the beginning of the CIA." Sorry to burst the bubble of all you cloak-and-dagger enthusiasts, but that movie is pure fiction. He (the CIA historian) also referred us to a fantastic story about two CIA operatives who were captured by the Chinese in 1973, imprisoned for 20 years undergoing all sorts of deprivations, and finally released, quietly when relations with China "thawed" under Nixon.

There's another interesting dynamic at these meetings. Most of those in attendance have or are working on PhDs, with a few MA students and undergrads kind of in the periphery. Though the invited speaker is a guest, it is a time honored tradition to put hard questions to these speakers. Having been trained in the self-esteem society that is the American education system, it is always a little shocking to hear just about anyone sitting around the large conference table in the hollowed halls of Corpus Christi College take a CIA historian or whoever to task.

While in this seminar, we met and briefly talked to Stefan Halper. Mr. Halper was an erstwhile assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney when Mr. Cheney was White House Chief of Staff for President Gerald Ford and later an assistant to Mr. Cheney when he was Secretary of Defense under President George H.W. Bush. Prior to the 2004 Presidential election, Mr. Halper co-authored a book critical of the "neoconservative cabal" inhabiting the halls of power in Washington DC. In his own words, his name was "stricken from dinner party lists in DC." That line sounded like it had been repeated not a few times, with great delight.

Now, we don't want to jump to any hasty conclusions, but the schadenfreude that infects Mr. Halper's voice as he talks about the difficulties of his one time Republican colleagues and friends smacks of sour grapes at not having been invited in to government when the Republicans retook the presidency with George W. Bush in 2000. Mr. Halper now hosts a show over at the BBC.

Mr. Halper pointed out, and we found it funny, that Mark Steyn, probably the most consistently funny political writer we read, "stole" his book name, America Alone. He probably wouldn't be pleased to know that Mr. Steyn's book appears #1 on an Amazon search for "americal alone," while his comes in at #6.

We suggest, therefore, that you read Mr. Steyn's column from yesterdays New York Sun about Nicolas Sarkozy's win in the French presidential election (Congrats, Mr. Sarkozy). Good stuff.

Read also John Fund, from the Opinion Journal, about the same thing.

***Update: Also worth reading, a primer on George Tenet's new "slam dunk" of a best seller by the Weekly Standard's William Kristol. Turns out (thanks Marc) the intel about al-Qaeda in Iraq was even better than we thought. Thanks Mr. Tenet for that "inadvertent truth."

Until next time, enjoy.

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03 May 2007

This is not Cambridge

Last fall we wrote about (among other things) our experience with the UCL Union debate. We happened to stumble upon their meeting and simply observed the proceedings. Then today, while browsing the interweb, we came across an article by Jonah Goldberg in which he details his own debate experience at the Oxford Union. Though long, it's a great read and an excellent insight into the Oxbridge experience.

Tomorrow we will attend the Intelligence seminar at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, followed by high table/formal hall.

Oxford's Preposterous Proposition
Justifying America to a doubtful audience

By Jonah Goldberg

Last week, I appeared at the Oxford Union to debate the proposition: “This House regrets the founding of The United States of America.” Such is the extent of anti-Americanism out there that this was considered to be a reasonable debate topic by Britain’s best and brightest.

It was an exhilarating and daunting experience. I do a lot of campus speaking and yet, going in, this felt like the functional equivalent of Rose Bowl. Ultimately, it turned out otherwise. But I only really realized that in retrospect.

In fact, I haven’t been that nervous before a speech or debate in years. One of the things that makes the whole thing so intimidating is how unrelentingly British the entire affair is. You debate in black tie. The President of the Union, a very sharp young man who looked like a cross between Harry Potter and Elvis Costello, wore a kilt. The pre-debate cocktail party is held in the Oxford Union library — or one of them — the shelves groaning with leatherbound collections of The Economist and other journals going back more than a century. The pre-debate dinner is quite formal with toasts to the queen and ceremonial beatings of the Irish.

(I made that last part up.)

Regardless, the pomp and ceremony is authentic, not kitschy, and it comes easily to these kids who seem to be oblivious to how British they really are. The net effect of all of this is to make this American visitor feel all the more the outsider, like my cultural fly was permanently unzipped.

My colleagues in the debate were Peter Rodman, a former foreign-policy muckety-muck in the Reagan administration (and NR senior editor) and all around good guy, and Matt Frei, a convivial and charming Brit who covers the U.S. for the BBC. Plus there was one student debater on our side, an earnest and sharp young man who looked like he raced to put on his tux after arduous rehearsals for the Oxford theater troupe’s edition of Godspell. Lanky and long-haired, when he first told me he was one of the debaters, I immediately assumed the hippyish fellow was the anti-American. Instead, he was on our side.

The defenders of the proposition were originally scheduled to be one student plus three invited speakers: two Islamist radicals and a bona fide Communist.

But the Communist chickened out at the last minute, reportedly explaining that he didn’t want to debate because he feared his side would lose. Now, a few short points need to be made here. First, this was remarkably shabby on his part. Second, why on earth a devout Communist would shirk at the prospect of fighting for a lost cause is beyond me. I mean hasn’t that ship sailed? And, lastly, the Communist’s cowardice was an enormous disappointment because Peter Rodman and I had prepared to debate a Communist. We yearned to debate a Communist. I mean how often do you even get to meet an actual supporter of Stalin and Kim Jong Il? And, yet, they dangled this bloody ideological chum in front of our eyes and then cruelly yanked the bait away at the very last minute, informing us less than an hour before the debate. They replaced the Communist with a Canadian which, even I had to concede, was a very poor substitute for a Communist.

Moving on, the first speaker for the proposition, a very bright Oxford student named Charlie Holt only reinforced my fear that we were going to be outclassed. Something akin to Hugh Grant’s mini-me, Holt had a very light sarcastic touch which allowed him to be biting while seeming lovable at the same time, like a barking toy robot puppy. As I commented from the floor — in an effort to defang him — he was just an adorable “little fellow…I wonder where you put the batteries in.”

The Islamists were more interesting. The first to speak, was the head of the now moribund British Islamic Party, David Pidcock. He turned out to be something of a quintessential leftwing loon. He began by talking about how George W. Bush’s grandfather was a primary financial backer of Hitler’s rise to power. He also explained how great the U.S. Constitution is and how much he has advocated it as a model for the Muslim world. But then he explained that he was saddened by the fact that the U.S. Constitution had been suspended. I expected this to be a lead-in for his denunciations of Guantanamo and the Patriot Act. Instead, it was the prologue to a long explanation of how the plutocrats in America had conspired to create the Federal Reserve which has ruled America from behind the scenes ever since. Or at least I think that’s what he was saying. As I commented, I fully expected him to start ranting about how the Fed is sapping our precious bodily fluids.

Jamal Harwood, the other Islamist and head of Hizb ut-Tahrir (read about this “peaceful” group here and here) was a much more serious and philosophically consistent fellow but, also, not a particularly impressive speaker either. Going in, I had assumed that the Islamists would be at minimum good talkers because demagogues always are. Instead, both men were oratorical mediocrities. They were outclassed in every way by the students on their side. I’m going to try to write up a more substantial analysis of what the Islamists represented for the magazine. But, the gist of Harwood’s indictment of America was that America represents modernity and individualism, and these things are bad. If you believe that modernity and individualism are bad, that’s a perfectly legitimate argument. But, to say America is too modern is not really the sort of argument cosmopolitan lefties at Oxford want to hear.

For example, Harwood went on and on about how America is selfish and crime-ridden. When I rose on a point of information to ask if he was aware that Americans are in fact vastly more charitable than Europeans and that crime rates in America compare very favorably with those in much of Europe, he said he didn’t care because he was hardly there to defend Europe. It was an honest and consistent answer, but not very helpful to his cause.

Anyway, we won the day by a margin of 2-1. The Islamists brought some Muslim supporters with them, the source of pretty much the only applause they received. In one sense this was a big victory. In another it was pretty depressing. The proposition, after all, was essentially that America should never have been born. If the question hadn’t been so extreme, it is entirely likely we would have lost, big (see for example Rich Lowry’s narrow defeat last year). Imagine if Britain had an election and a leftwing-Islamist party gained a third of the national vote. People would be flipping out.

What follows are my prepared remarks for the evening. They only imperfectly jibe with remarks as given, as I tried to stay away from the text and speak off the cuff as much as possible (which is why these comments are written the way I wanted to say them). Our own Iain Murray, an Oxford Union veteran, advised me to highlight the common British and American heritage, which was typically wise advice. Moreover, Rodman and I figured that since he went last he could deal more effectively with the various points raised by the bad guys. I salvaged as much of the Communist bashing as possible, but I ultimately ad-libbed a bunch of Canadian stuff as well. As I was the second speaker against the proposition, my strategy was to go on the attack, both against the proposition itself and against my opponents. This was the advice from everyone I talked to. The Union audience respects aggression, humor, and more aggression. In fact, the design and energy of the room is such that when I concluded my remarks, I felt like I should throw my sword at the upper decks like Maximus in Gladiator, shouting “Are you not entertained?!”

In short, I had a grand time, and now that I know how it works, I would love to do it again. So without further ado, here’s my plan of attack as I entered the arena:

As both a committed Anglophile and patriotic American, I am honored to be here.

Though, I must say that the proposition tonight saddens me.

Until recently, it never would have dawned on me that good, decent, and wise Britons, proud of their heritage, proud of their culture, honored to call themselves sons and daughters of this great nation and co-authors of its future achievements, would lament the birth of a sister democracy and comrade-in-arms — particularly when that democracy stands upon the shoulders of British giants.

There is no denying the question before this house is shameful.

No decent mother questions whether her daughter should ever have been born lest she already has an answer in mind.

And whatever regrettable commentary it may be on the child, the mere posing of the question is even more pitiable comment upon the mother.

Unless. Unless, of course this is all a grand joke in the great satirical tradition of Monty Python, Simon Pegg and the farcical oxymoron that is David Cameron’s “conservatism.”

There is hopeful evidence on this front.

When I learned that tonight’s proposition would have as its champions two passionate defenders of sharia law and the hijab plus one spokesman for the Communist party, it dawned on me: “Aha, this is all a joke.”

This house regrets the birth of America as much as Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail had naught but a “flesh wound.”


I don’t know how it is in Britain, but in America, Communists are nearly extinct. A few aging relics do linger on — like Japanese soldiers refusing to surrender long after the war. They live in an archipelago of academic backwaters, their bunkers brimming with yellowing copies of The Daily Worker and the Guardian, saturated with the strong stink of despair mixed with the suggestion of old urine.

Communists are more commonly seen as comic-book villains or mythical creatures rumored to have once existed in fairy tales or, perhaps, James Bond movies.

A Communist!? My goodness, were Dr. Doom, Lex Luthor, and Ernst Blowfeld unavailable?

Did the most sagacious pundits of the Klingon Empire not return the Oxford Union’s phone calls?

Do the Oompah Loompahs refuse to fly coach?

I’m sorry, but my honorable opponent’s party stands — as a matter of principle! — in lockstep solidarity with the murderocracy of Kim Jong Il’s North Korea. He stands as the living exponent of the criminal tradition of Pol Pot, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Tse Tung, and he dares damn the United States of America from the safety of history’s dustbin. Please.

Surely, this evening was intended as a gag.

Where is the hidden camera? When will my opponents tear off their masks and laugh at the put on, joining us at the pub for beer and cigars giggling at the whole thing? As they say on MTV, Am I being punked?

And then there are my other “honorable” opponents: The gentlemen representing the “moderate” face of political Islam.

The Islamic Party of Britain holds that open homosexuals may receive the death sentence. Hizb ut-Tahrir openly desires a world — not merely a United Kingdom — where rejection of Islam by its adherents would bring a death sentence, and where Jews and Christians must live in official ghettos.

Both represent theocratic visions that make President Bush’s supposed “theo-conservatism” seem like a lapsed Unitarian’s weekend hobby.

Indeed, despite some vein-popping hysteria here and in Europe, the fact is that America is no theocracy, and it mixes religion and government less you folks in Britain and Europe do.

However, on the off chance that there are some in the room who do not get the joke, or — worse — that someone here isn’t kidding, let me make a few brief points.

First, there is no objection my honorable opponents could make to the existence of America that could not be made about the existence of Great Britain herself.

At least two of these men reject the Enlightenment. And I’m not talking about the French one. But the good one from Scotland. (When it comes to Enlightenments, as Michael Meyers says in So I Married an Ax Murderer — “if it’s not Scottish, it’s crap.”)

And all three of my opponents stand against the kind of Liberalism the United States, the United Kingdom, and this very Union represent.

The United States is not flawless, to be sure, but we are the fruit of freedom, the flawed champions of liberty and defenders of decency.

And, if you are honest with yourselves, you know — KNOW! — that should any of my opponents succeed in having their perfect world realized, those of you who did not stay in Britain to fight such oppression would count yourselves lucky to find asylum in the United States of America.

And, you know full well, that the United States of America would gladly offer it.

Second, whatever causes some of you to roll your eyes or titter at these statements must either be of very recent vintage indeed or, again, you must stand athwart Britain’s own history yelling, “Stop.”

And, if the case is the former, then your vote against America will be a badge of honor, for I want the support of no man who counts the United Kingdom as a villain.

But, if your position is the latter, if you were a fan, friend, or ally of the United States, until George W. Bush was elected — or until he allegedly seduced your own prime minister with some sort of Jedi Mind Trick into going into Iraq or some other recently minted grievance, let me say this: How childish of you.

To reject a former colony or ally for most of the last 400 years only to say that it was all for nothing because of a war you honorably enlisted in yourselves? For shame.

If in 2001 you would have voted against this proposition but today you want to vote for it, if you honestly think the last six-plus years erase all that was good about and of America for the previous four centuries, then you are either suffering from what we in the United States call Bush Derangement Syndrome or your friendship was never worth anything to begin with.

The proposition is not that the Bush presidency, the war, slavery, or even disco should be regretted. It is that the United States of America should be.

And that proposition would reap the scorn of Edmund Burke, William Gladstone, Winston Churchill, and countless others.

Please, my friends, let us be grownups. This is not Cambridge.

Lastly, let me just note that if the ugly fantasy at the heart of the proposition were somehow made real and America had never been born, then a lot more than democracy and freedom would suffer. America is the engine of global prosperity — a job we inherited from Britain.

From penicillin to the iPod, the artificial heart to rising crust pizza, jazz and the Simpsons to the Marshall Plan, America — through its ingenuity, openness, generosity, and adherence to the liberal principles it inherited from this great land — has championed the relief of man’s estate (in the words of Francis Bacon) and the liberty to let your freak flag fly (in the words of David Crosby).

Yes, anti-Americanism fashions itself a form of anti-globalization. But this is most often a ruse. Do keep in mind that my opponents represent a truly tyrannical form of globalization. Whether it’s “Workers of the World Unite” or the World Caliphate, the choice they are presenting is globalization for losers, while America, to the extent it represents globalization at all, offers the globalization of liberty.

The mere fact that you had to select three men from outside this heritage to defend the proposition, is proof enough that it is indefensible from within it. For, again, if you want to lament the birth of America, you must lament all that has been born of America.

And if you are prepared to do that, you are prepared to regret all that was born of Britain as well.

To which I say again: Surely you must be joking.

Mr. Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online.

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