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Top 10 Letters

A meditation on 9/11, thoughts on Mecca, observations of recall, and more.

12:00 AM, Sep 15, 2003
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THE DAILY STANDARD welcomes letters to the editor. Letters will be edited for length and clarity and must include the writer's name, city, and state.

*1*

Editor's note: THE DAILY STANDARD received the following email at 9:01 a.m. on September 11, 2003; here is the text in full:

The keyboard is a coward's excuse to mutter words they would never in person . . . Zionist scum . . . you know nothing of Islam . . . give thanks and reflect on this holiday we've given you today. . . .

--Yowngolo@aol.com

*2*

I found Stephen Schwartz's article on the media in Iraq, A Bad Move in Baghdad, to be unfair. Like the author, I too spent a long stint doing media development work in the Balkans. I know both Schwartz and the target of his piece, Simon Haselock, quite well. There may be much to criticize about the international missions in Bosnia and Kosovo, but if anyone is not part of the problem, it's Haselock.

As media commissioner in Pristina, he should have done nothing to curb hate speech or attempt to establish standards of accuracy and impartiality in the media? In Baghdad, we should stand by as newspapers and television publish made-up "eyewitness" accounts of American helicopters firing missiles into the U.N. compound, instead of reporting the truck-bombing as the act of terrorism it was? Schwartz rightly decries excessive international meddling. but a hands-off policy in the name of some abstract theology of absolute free expression? Give us a break.

A moderate, competent administrator like Simon Haselock is exactly what Baghdad needs.

--Michael Meyer, European Editor, Newsweek

Stephen Schwartz responds: I can barely contain my enthusiasm at seeing a Newsweek editor busily disparaging "some abstract theology of absolute free expression," which is what I believe most of us American journalists think of as the philosophy of the First Amendment. Since Meyer has brought up our past acquaintance, he should not mind me pointing out that as far as I know he never learned to read Bosnian or Albanian, and therefore cannot be blamed for not noticing the parlous state of the Bosnian and Albanian media under the tutelage of Haselock & Co. But he did fit right in with the corps of foreign meddlers busy preventing Bosnian and Albanian media workers from practicing their craft in a modern manner.

*3*

Jonathan V. Last closes City Limits by "incidentally" mentioning how the Saudis helped build a big mosque near the Vatican. I didn't know that. But I bet I know something hardly anybody else knows, about the history of Rome and Islam.

A few years ago I was doing some research and discovered that in the year 846 A.D. an Islamic fleet sailed up the Tiber, sacked the Vatican, and trashed St. Peter's tomb--among other depredations. If a Christian force had once upon a time marched into Mecca and torn the place apart we would never hear the end of it. But the Vatican has never drawn attention to this rampage in the heart of Christendom.

--Eric Fern

*4*

In Clintonism Saves Schwarzenegger, Bill Whalen says, "Schwarzenegger took the issue head-on. He didn't lie; he didn't parse language. . . . That's similar to what candidate George W. Bush did in 2000 when asked about his past indiscretions. Bush's line: 'When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible.'"

How, exactly, does Bush's "young and irresponsible" line equate to taking the issue head on? It was obviously (and successfully) meant to avoid taking the question of drug use head on. That's why it was a "line," not an answer.

Schwarzenegger owns up to his past and lets the voters decide. Bush never trusted voters with the truth about his past.

--Ryan Holznagel

*5*

No matter who you back in the California Recall, you have to admit that it would be simply delicious to have the possibility that Arnold Schwarzenegger would win, walk into the governor's office, and say to Gray Davis "I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle."

--Robert Eleazer

*6*

The first example cited in Jonathan V. Last's "City Limits" (about the person who was fined) seems to imply that it's possible to innocently drive towards Mecca and be surprised at being turned back.

When I was stationed in Western Saudi Arabia as a military advisor in the early '90s I drove back and forth frequently from Taif to Jedda, along a route that would normally have taken me through Mecca. But there was a freeway type exit prior to getting to the "toll booth." Signs in Arabic and English (and I think other languages too) warned you to get off and take the "non-Muslim bypass" to get to Jedda. (The Western community in the area tended to call it the "Christian bypass" amongst ourselves, although that was not its official name.)

It was a pretty desolate route with no gas stations or stores, but it was a good two lane road with improved shoulders. Spectacular desert scenery was right out of "Lawrence of Arabia," particularly as you came back the other way and approached the sheer massif that parallels the Red Sea about 30 or 40 miles inland from the coast.

Once, when I had a new Saudi interpreter, I made a jesting remark about how I'd like to see Mecca. To my horror he took me seriously and offered to help smuggle me in, presumably through the aforementioned "toll booth," dressed as a Saudi. With visions of what my chain of command would say to me after I got caught, I had to work really hard to convince him it was just a joke.

--Paul Hurley

*7*

Hmm. Here is the thing that really baffles me about "No on recall, yes on Bustamante": why do these people get to vote twice?

I know--because some judge said so. His logic was that if people who voted "no" couldn't vote for a candidate for governor, they would be disenfranchised. But if they vote "no" on the recall, they are voting for a governor. They are voting for Gray Davis.

--Aaron Frank

*8*

I am a Christian, and am not going to defend religious intolerance, extremism, or terrorism. There's also not much positive I have to say about the Saudi Government or people. But, I will defend a country's sovereign right to rule over its own land, and that is where I have a disagreement with both Jonathan V. Last and the State Department official quoted he quotes.

Who are we to say what Saudi Arabia can or can't do with its own land? If they want to put a wall around a city, and only allow Saudi residents and other Muslims in, that's their prerogative. I think it's stupid, but who am I to say, and why should they care? I'm not a Saudi. I certainly don't give a damn what France says about us.

And I don't buy the argument that keeping the cities off-limits to non-Muslims creates religious extremists. Our policies in the Middle East--which I do support--create terrorists. It's the price we pay. Medina and Mecca have been off-limits to non-Muslims for centuries, yet we never had any terrorist attacks against America by Muslims until after we got involved over there.

Despite what the Politically Correct Establishment tells us, it is sometimes okay, even here in America, to not let certain people in certain places, based on their religion/sex/custom/etc. for the sole reason that you, the owner, do not want them there.

--Christopher Decker

*9*

QUESTION: Does the GOP really want to win in California?

ANSWER: If the GOP wants California, watch McClintock. He'll get a "get out" phone call making an offer he can't refuse--and, the call ain't going to be from Marlon Brando.

--Ken Wyman

*10*

Is Cybill Shepherd confused about who she was kissing in 1967? A little googling turns up this link on Gray Davis's bio, which says in part:

"He then went on to Columbia University Law School in New York, winning the Moot Court award in his freshman year. After graduating from Columbia in 1967, Gray clerked at the law firm of Beekman & Bogue in New York City.

"Joining the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program in 1961 while at Stanford University, Gray committed to enter military service after completing law school.

"He entered active duty in the U.S. Army in December of 1967, rose to the rank of Captain while serving in Vietnam in 1968-69"

When exactly was Gray Davis working at a travel company in Hawaii?

--Frank Hood