Play Deguello, If You Dare:

Back in Eighteen Thirty-Six,
Houston said to Travis
'Get some Volunteers and go
'Fortify the Alamo.'

On the sixth of March, 1836, Mexican forces under General Santa Anna overran and slaughtered a band of volunteers and adventurers defending the mission at the Alamo. Theodore Roosevelt wrote its history, and I will not try to better him.

It was a fascinating band that took up the defense. Though he was not there himself, Sam Houston gave the orders. Houston was a man from Tennessee who had spent much of his life living among the Cherokee. He was so much a friend of the Cherokee nation that he abandoned American society for their company a second time, going into the West to join them after they were forced from their lands by the Jackson administration. Yet he left them, again, and came -- not again to Tennesee -- but to Texas.

The commander of the Alamo was William Barret Travis, who is here treated to an old-style biography, which begins: "Travis, WILLIAM BARRETT, Military Officer, Commander at the Alamo, Hero." It speaks poorly of us that we don't still write biographies in just that way.

There was the adventurer Jim Bowie, who gave his name to the finest type of fighting knife in the world. His biography ends: "During his lifetime he had been described by his old friend Caiaphas K. Ham as "a clever, polite gentleman...attentive to the ladies on all occasions...a true, constant, and generous friend...a foe no one dared to undervalue and many feared." Slave trader, gambler, land speculator, dreamer, and hero, James Bowie in death became immortal in the annals of Texas history."

And of course there was Davy Crockett, who gave the language almost as many idoms as Shakespeare, though fewer took hold on the language, more's the pity.

It is the mark of the greatest men that they inspire other great men to follow them. Teddy Roosevelt thought enough of Davy Crockett to name his hunters-and-conservationist association The Boone and Crockett Club. It still exists today, and is open to public membership. "Past Club member accomplishments include: the protection of Yellowstone, Glacier, and Denali National Parks; the foundation of the National Forest Service, National Park Service, and National Wildlife Refuge System...." A fitting legacy for an American hero.

Remember the Alamo, and the thirteen days of glory. "Be sure that you are right, and then go ahead!" So may we always, America.

Geek Girl

A Geek Girl:

Gwa45 is a very proud father.

And so he should be. It was only the other day that I bought Beowulf's first toy gun, after all.


History & Irony:

A small item of today's news: AT&T to purchase BellSouth. I can't help but notice how nearsighted the article is. "AT&T was formed by San Antonio-based SBC's acquisition of AT&T Corp. in November," it says.

Well, yes, sort of. The details are right, if your only interest in the question is in tracking the here-and-now status of the telecommunications industry.

AT&T is one of those few American companies -- like Colt or DuPont or Smith & Wesson -- whose corporate history is old and interesting enough to be worth knowing. Their corporate website has a history section, although the milestones page is better. AT&T "was formed... in November" only in the worldview of investment traders; for the rest of us, it was founded in the nineteenth century by Alexander Graham Bell. "AT&T became the parent company of the Bell System," the history page tells us, "the American telephone monopoly... The system broke up into eight companies in 1984 by agreement between AT&T and the US Department of Justice."

That's a little sleight of hand there: 'by agreement with the Justice Department,' as if AT&T had really been in favor of the idea. In any event, one of those companies was Southern Bell. I know because, when I was a boy, my father worked for AT&T; and later for Southern Bell; and later for BellSouth, but that gets ahead of the story.

Southern Bell broke up not too long after AT&T was forced to divest itself of the Bell System. The corporate structure, used to monopoly protections, started tossing out everything that wasn't immediately profitable. Three major spinoffs: the Southern Bell Corporation, BellSouth, and BellSouth Advertising and Publishing (BAPCO), which runs the Yellow Pages.

AT&T purchased the Southern Bell Corporation some time ago. Now, it's set to repurchase BellSouth. I recall the period of the breakup reasonably well, and I remember listening to many stories about how it was screwing up everything for everyone -- that the market wasn't being well served by forcing the divestiture.

Well, my father was apparently correct. After twenty years, AT&T will be back in charge. Was the exercise in free markets worth the chaos? That's hard to say; but the system worked, apparently and eventually, just as he said it would.

Defending the First

Defending the First:

Junaid Afeef is a Muslim lawyer defending the publication of the Muhammad cartoons in the Daily Illini -- or, rather, defending Acton Gorton, the man who published them. It's unusual for the lawyer to have a more interesting story to tell than his client, but on this occasion, it's the truth. He has composed a thoughtful letter, and it deserves some thought in return. I suggest you read all of it, via the link; I want to respond only to certain parts.

I am offended by the rude and vile depiction of the Prophet Muhammad. I am disturbed that so many enlightened people in the West fail to see that these bigoted caricatures maligning the entire Muslim community are symptomatic of a rapidly growing, irrational hatred for Muslims. I also am dismayed by the idiotic and shortsighted response to these cartoons by Muslims all over the world.
I have to express both sympathy and support, but also disagreement with some of his fundamental assumptions. As a Muslim, he may be disturbed by a depiction of Muhammad with a bomb for a brain. As a Westerner, though, he should be able to see that the icon speaks for its maker, and nothing else. A picture of Muhammad is not Muhammad -- "Ceci ne pas une pipe," or "The Treason of Images" is surely one of the core insights to arise from Western visual art. The cartoon does not depict Muhammad, but only the cartoonist's own thoughts about Muhammad. They say nothing about Muhammad as he really was, and only something about Muhammad as he is imagined.

Imagined by whom? Having not seen any comment by the cartoonist himself, I can think of two possible answers.

1) It is possible that the cartoonist himself imagines Muhammad this way. Influenced by the violence carried out in Islam's name -- not in some distant Reformation or Crusade, but now today and worldwide -- he has come to imagine that Muhammad is a poisonous influence, a time bomb that turns men into murderers.

2) It is also possible that the cartoonist is not attempting to depict Muhammad as he, the cartoonist, sees Muhammad. He could be attempting to depict 'the Muhammad of the terrorist.' Having read quite a bit of the literature put forward by various Islamic terrorist groups, it does seem almost as if they themselves envision Muhammad in these terms: a figure whose primary commandment is to carry on a war, with the goal of bringing an Islamic state across the world. Whatever else exists in Islam became secondary long ago, as the case of the 9/11 hijackers demonstrates: the injuctions against alcohol and rampant sexuality are cast aside, by "martyrs" who dallied in strip clubs. The laws that were meant to promote civilization fell away; all that was left was the bomb.

If the cartoonist were trying to paint a critique of al Qaeda's vision, this is a telling one. It might also be shocking, as this post by a co-blogger at Cassandra's hall was shocking to me:
Every year, over 12 million young children die before becoming United Nations Secretary Generals, many perish without ever having the opportunity to save the planet or publicly condemn Israel. To put this number into perspective, one child who has never been a UN Sec Gen dies approximately every 2.6 seconds, or almost 33,000 per day.
This post goes on for some time, and (as it happens) includes a cartoon with the potential to shock a Westerner. I was going to snarl about it: no fan of Kofi Annan am I, and indeed I believe we should end our participation in the UN once and for all. Nevertheless, surely the suffering of the children in Africa is no matter for jokes.

Yet, on reflection, I realized that the joke was likewise pointed commentary -- and their point was not one with which I had an argument. The complaint is of Kofi Annan taking massive payoffs from Dubai (most recently), while millions of children starve. Annan, an African himself, might be expected to feel something for these fellows, and if '22 cents a day' can save a child (as we used to be told), what could his millions do?

Fair enough: but couldn't that be said without the offensive, shocking cartoon?

Of course it could. And if it had been, I would have passed over it without stopping to think the matter through at all. Having written Annan and indeed the UN off long ago, I would have passed on to something else as soon as I realized it was a comment on one or the other. For the author to get me to consider his point, he needed my attention.

For those reasons, I think the Muhammad cartoons -- in spite of the turmoil associated with them in the short term -- have been a service rather than a crime. We are now thinking things through that are difficult: consider the several recent posts on Islam, which I have tried to defend and uphold. Sovay, at least, felt that I did a poor job of it; but as I said, Islamic history is not my field. I can only speak of the good things I have seen, and the Muslims I have known, the pleasure I have had in their company and the valuable insights I have gained from their conversation.

In addition, Muslims are now thinking through some difficult things. Mr. Junaid Afeef is coming to terms with the fact that there is what he calls 'irrational hatred' for Islam in the West even among 'enlightened people.' Yet he knows as well as we do what the source of those feelings are -- and I think he is wrong to call them irrational, or for that matter "hatred." There are rational reasons to be concerned about Islam as it appears to be practiced today: this map, for example, was composed by someone who has apparently come to a point of opposition to Islam, but it is not an irrational opposition. It is the result of a study of data, the very data encoded into the map.

If we are going to address this feeling that concerns Junaid Afeef, we can't do it by trying to sneer it down as "irrational hatred." There are very rational reasons for the concern, and it therefore deserves a rational response rather than emotional argument. This is a practical issue for those who want to defend Islam: even if emotional argument silenced those who are concerned -- for example if the use of shaming language like "irrational hatred" were to cause people simply to stop voicing concerns about Islam in public -- the effect would not be to put an end to the feelings of concern. It would be to leave those concerns, which are based on empirical observations, to fester. You might silence dissenters, but you would not end the dissent.

It would also serve to mask the degree of discomfort, so that the case for Islam would always be worse than it appears. No one might say anything in public, but their unspoken concerns would play out in ways that drive policy -- in the privacy of the ballot box, for example. Chester argues that it is precisely this which is driving the politics of the ports deal: that the Democratic party, by voicing concern about Arabs having control of the ports, has tapped a huge sentiment among the American people (indeed, the very one Junaid Afeef is talking about), a sentiment that has been hidden in our politics because neither party has heretofore been willing to say anything negative about Islam or Arabs. Yet the sentiment is there, hidden and lurking and unaddressed.

If that sentiment is to be lessened, it cannot be by silencing those who feel it. It has to be done by openly discussing and examining their concerns, the reasons that underlie those concerns, and by proposing both reasons for holding the alternative view, and plans for improving the situation. Out of that kind of a discussion, a better relationship can emerge.

In silence, we risk the dynamic that Chester forsees: a festering concern that worsens among Americans until someone realizes how successful they can be politically if they tap into it. In that case, the model of thinking -- an anti-Islamic model -- could shoot from being something people were ashamed to say in public, to the model that governs the nation, without a real debate on the merits of the model. Today, we have the opportunity to debate these questions without them driving policy. Leave it to fester, and we may find the policies are being enacted while we try to debate whether the model that underlies them is valid.

For what that might look like, see this other Chester post. "Internment" is already being suggested by some -- but that brings me back to the letter with which we started:
There is evidence of the erosion of First Amendment rights of Muslims everywhere. Muslims are increasingly being forced to suppress deeply held beliefs, candid political observations, and personal convictions for fear of governmental and vigilante reprisals.

Today, imams who speak to Muslims about matters of self-defense and jihad as Qur’anic injunctions are in jeopardy of criminal prosecution for incitement. Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, anyone who dares to link U.S. policies with Al-Qaeda sponsored terrorism is vilified and demonized. At this rate non-violent civil disobedience by Muslims very soon will be characterized as providing material support and aid to terrorists.
In fairness, I don't think I've seen any evidence of vigilante reprisals against Muslims in America (nor Europe, that I can call to mind); although we have seen some examples of Muslims in America taking matters into their hands. Still, Muslims could be feeling fear of vigilantes, even if there are no vigilantes.

Government action, however, is a reality. I mentioned below my Scottish Muslim friend. He called to report having been questioned by the FBI -- if he is accurately reporting the facts (which I always doubt with this fellow, whose talent for storytelling often seems to run away from his devotion to pure truth), he was reported for having a heated political discussion with an Air Force NCO over the question of whether Muslims shouldn't just be interned in the fashion of Roosevelt's dealing with the Japanese during WWII. Apparently the NCO didn't know he was a Muslim, and so spoke his mind openly and without the self-censorship of potentially offensive ideas that we are debating here today.

There are several things to be said about this case:

1) The FBI is right to investigate such claims. My old friend occupies what is a minor but sensitive position on a US Air Force base. As a civilian contractor, if he becomes a counterintelligence concern it is an FBI rather than a Military Counterintelligence problem. The FBI would be derelict if they did not pursue a complaint of this type.

2) Nevertheless (again, if he's correctly reporting the facts) he is entitled to his political opinions, and ought to be able to have a debate of this type without fear. The FBI may need to investigate him if there is a report, but he needs to have confidence that such an investigation will get to the truth of the facts, and if the facts are as he states them, he needs to have confidence that the FBI's investigation will lead to exoneration.

3) The military NCO is a difficult case. The military man does not enjoy the same rights of free speech that other people do; as an officer of the military, he has to be conscious of his duty to defend all Americans. In an appropriate context, he should be able to express whatever ideas he has -- even ones we might consider impolite or shocking -- but he can't do it in just any context. Under the circumstances (again, if the facts are correct), this could be taken to be a creation of a hostile work environment: that is to say, as a matter of law, that the contractor's rights not to be offended at work take precedence over the NCO's rights to think out loud.

4) However, as I've tried to argue above, we do need to leave space for the expression of these ideas. If he were engaged and challenged rationally, it is entirely possible that the right spokesman could convince him that his ideas were wrong and dangerous -- indeed, I suspect Chester could. Most likely, they are ideas that haven't been thought through: and they won't get thought through unless they are challenged from outside his mind, which they can't be if he's not allowed to express them.

My respects to Junaid Afeef for his devotion to freedom of speech, and his recognition that defending Islam requires defending that freedom -- even, or perhaps especially, when it is being used to say negative things about Islam. I look forward to a day when he does not have to feel concern about his fellow citizens' intentions. I trust, and do believe, we can get there: and, like him, I think that open and honest discussion is the only road.

Elect. College

Another Wide-Ranging Debate:

Cassandra is writing about a proposal to eliminate the Electoral College, and invites bloggers and commenters to consider the question.

Personally, I'm for keeping the college and doing away with Presidential elections; it seems to me the same logic allows for either option. All you Campaign Finance Reform supporters can jump on the bandwagon here: we can eliminate the need for campaigns all together! Or possibly also the existence of the states, as Mr. Spd Rdr suggests...

The possibilies are endless, when you take up tinkering with the Constitutional system for no particular reason.

Still More Islam

Still More Islam:

Sovay has come back around to have another go in the comments to the first post. As often happens, the comments are now much more interesting than the original post. Here is a direct link to the comments section.

Paycheck Penalty

A Great Idea:

Credit where credit is due: even Senators come up with something sharp once in a while. This is a brilliant idea:

U.S. Senator George Allen (R-VA) tonight will use his keynote address to the CPAC Convention to announce a three-point plan to force fiscal discipline into the federal budget process including a call for a “paycheck penalty” that withholds salary from members of Congress unless all appropriations measures are passed by the start of the fiscal year, October 1.

“It is absurd that full-time legislators can’t get their job done on-time by October 1—then several months later—all kinds of unknown, unchecked spending occurs. They pass it in the dead of night, thinking nobody will notice what’s in these appropriations bills,” Senator Allen will tell hundreds of delegates to the CPAC convention being held in Washington, D.C.

“What my measure will do is say very clearly, ‘if you fail to pass appropriations bills by the start of the fiscal year—which is your job, which is what you are paid to do—your paycheck will be withheld until you complete your job, period.
The other two points of the "three point" plan I'm not so happy with: the balanced-budget amendment seems like a good idea most years, but it's the fact that it would keep you from making exceptions in emergencies that concerns me. The line-item veto? I have some concerns about how it would be used -- not so much by Bush, who never vetoes anything, but by future Presidents.

This business about not paying lawmakers who don't do their jobs, though, that's good thinking. You wouldn't pay anyone else who failed to perform, and if you consistently can't meet your deadlines in the civilian market, you're out of a job entirely -- not just facing a missing paycheck. It'd be good if the folks in Congress had a few market-disciplines ensuring they perform their duties.


India and the NPT:

We are long accustomed to seeing the concept of "international law" misused. There is no such thing as international law, of course, but there are treaties: treaties which say only what they say, and are binding only if you choose to opt into them, and until you choose to opt back out. There is a legal process for doing so in each country, and it is that country -- not the international bodies overseeing the treaties -- which have all the power and sovereignty. From the American perspective, we believe that power arises from consent of the governed, through a lawful constitution; but, to simply matters, we often (and probably mistakenly) deal with "nations" that are mere dictatorships of force as if they had the right to be treated as actual nations.

An example of the misuse I mean comes in the recent "White Phosphorous" controversy; we saw a similar example in the early days of our operations in Afghanistan, over cluster bombs. Many NGOs and political groups wailed at the US use of "internationally banned" weapons. Yet the US was not a signatory to any treaty banning cluster bombs; and the treaty invoked to explain why WP should not be used actually said nothing of the sort. The "law" is only an agreement; it binds only those who agreed to it, and it says only what it says.

So today we are hearing from advocates of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) over proposed US plans to transfer nuclear energy technology to India.

First of all, India isn't a signatory to the NPT; but the US is. The provisions thus bind us, but not them.

Second, what exactly does it say? The Federation of American Scientists, a group founded to monitor and attempt to control the spread of nuclear weapons, has a website devoted to the NPT:

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, also referred to as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), obligates the five acknowledged nuclear-weapon states (the United States, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, France, and China) not to transfer nuclear weapons, other nuclear explosive devices, or their technology to any non-nuclear-weapon state.
Thus, we may not transfer nuclear technology to, say, Cambodia. India, however, is a nuclear-weapon state: it has demonstrated this adequately. So, the NPT does not ban us from doing what we are proposing to do.

There is, then, no question of whether we are allowed to do what is proposed. The question remains of whether we ought to do it. Yet it is critical to recognize, in order to prevent the debate from being conducted dishonestly by opponents of the transfer, that there is no issue of law here. What remains is an issue of policy: a question of whether this or that action would be wiser, and more likely to achieve good things and minimize bad ones.

Well, what about that?

We have three reasons to consider adopting this plan: the reduction of the Indian economy's need for oil, which reduces oil prices; the development of strategic ties with India, which is an excellent candidate for developing a US alliance similar to NATO in the increasingly critical Pacific / Asian region; and the development of India's economy, which will not only improve the lives of tens of millions who live in poverty, but increase the relative power of a free nation in a region increasingly under the sway of China's unfree political model.

We have two reasons not to: criticisms that transferring nuclear technology to a state which has made an end-run around the NPT will discourage other nations from adhering to the NPT; and general concerns about the development of nuclear power.

Factors that should influence the discussion: NPT signatory China is in favor of the US making this "exception," if that is the right word; developing nations like the Philippines are indeed watching, though the lessons they are drawing don't seem alarming to me, at least; Pakistan wants a similar agreement with the US, and we may open ourselves to charges of favoritism by not offering one; and the question of whether nuclear energy is safe and environmentally friendly compared to oil and coal energy production, which are India's other likely models.

As to the question of Pakistan, it is an important US ally in the GWOT, and we have long attempted to maintain a balance of sorts between them and India. It seems we may be reaching the point at which we cannot do that. India's rising importance and wealth mean that they will have to be dealt with on a different level from the way we deal with Pakistan. Just as China's increasing power and wealth has bought it an increasing number of US tolerances for things we wish it wouldn't do, so shall India's. The question is only how long we can, and should, continue to try to maintain the balance.

In winning India as an ally, we benefit from early signs of favoritism. We ought to want to convince India that we are their friends because we approve of and admire their devotion to freedom and human liberty. Pakistan is a dictatorship, and one we support only because the alternatives are worse (for now). India is a free nation based on an excellent model, and a friendship between our countries -- like the friendship with our most reliable ally, Australia -- can be one of the heart. We need friends like that in Asia.

Is there a political risk of losing Pakistan at this critical time? Possibly. They have been pursuing a closer relationship with China, and it is possible that they could be driven to prefer Chinese aid to US aid in the future. They would remain tied to the international system, though, rather than becoming a new Afghanistan: the Chinese are also threatened by the Islamists taking over a country they are depending on for naval access to the Persian Gulf, and will support the government in much the same fashion as we would. We benefit from getting a dictatorship off our tab, as it were; if it is necessary to prop up an unfree state, as it may be on occasion, by all means let China do it instead of us. It is proper, that the US should find a way to be on the side of freedom even in this difficult situation.

So: on balance, I think this nuclear deal is a good idea. I suggest to the readers that we give it our support.

More on Islam

More on Islam:

Another quote from the BlackFive piece:

But rational, tolerant people do live in Muslim countries. I know they do. I have friends in Turkey, Jordan, India, and Indonesia (and here in the States) that are socially liberal moderates who are devoutly Muslim. Not to mention muslim soldiers of countries that I've served with and trained with...And they are terrified of both the extremists in their lands and our deaf ears here in the States.

How in the hell did we get here?

You can blame our media for displaying the worst of the Islamic extremists daily (and for bowing to the pressure of the worst of them - they're cartoons for crying out loud), and you can also blame the theocracies for feeding the blood lust and keeping their followers uneducated and duped in order to retain or build power. You can blame their governments for not protecting the moderates and the socially liberal among their societies. You can blame the rich oil sheiks for playing geopolitical games with their billions. And you can blame the moderates themselves for being cowards, much like the cowards in our own country who acquiesce at the first sign of a fight - whether that fight is taking down a murdering tyrant or cow-towing to the Politically Correct Police.

Glenn Reynolds wrote an excellent short piece on Sunday about the Tipping Point where Americans just don't trust (all) Muslims anymore. Apparently, we've had enough.

Have we?

Have we had enough BS from the extremists to taint our feelings towards every Muslim in the world? Have we let the media influence us so?
Today, Wretchard of the Belmont Club puts together a few stories that show a Left-Right unity in Europe on that Tipping Point:
twelve public figures have issued a Manifesto calling "Islamism" the new totalitarian threat of our time. Atlas Shrugs has the text of the declaration.... [which] has been signed by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Chahla Chafiq, Caroline Fourest, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Irshad Manji, Mehdi Mozaffari, Maryam Namazie, Taslima Nasreen, Salman Rushdie, Antoine Sfeir, Philippe Val, Ibn Warraq....

Gateway Pundit points to a new ad campaign being undertaken in Poland by an organization called the "Foundation of St. Benedictus" which calls attention to ordinary men and women being killed for religious reasons all over the world by a militant Islam. They are plastering posters on Polish public transportation. Some examples are shown below.
This morning I see a story from the University of California, Irvine:
Tensions quickly escalated when the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, founder of the conservative Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny, said that Islam was an "evil religion" and that all Muslims hate America.

People repeatedly interrupted the talk and, at one point, campus police removed two men, one of them a Muslim, after they nearly came to blows.

Later, panelists were cheered when they referred to Muslims as fascists and accused mainstream Muslim-American civil rights groups of being "cheerleaders for terror."
Concern over this schism is not limited to the Western world. In Malaysia last month, there was a conference called "Who Speaks for Islam? Who Speaks for the West?" Some disagreeable characters showed up to speak there, too, but also some genuine moderates, such as Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi. Badawi proposed the building of bridges between Muslim and Westerner, with the hope that we might speak up for one another:
"[W]hen the bridge-builders reign supreme, the people of the West will speak for Islam and the Muslims will speak for the West."
I have tried to do so, below. But we cannot stop at just saying nice things, and trying to pretend the differences do not exist. Abdullah Badawi is a moderate, certainly: he has gone far and wide preaching for what he calls "Civilizational Islam," an Islam that devotes itself to technology and education and rejects violence.

Yet he has also closed newspapers in Malaysia that have printed the Danish cartoons, stories about the Danish cartoons, or even cartoons about the cartoons. His government has asserted that it means to be equal-opportunity about this: it will close newspapers that say bad things about Jesus, too. That is a moderate position, but it is not a position consistent with liberty, or likely to lead us to mutual understanding. It attempts to avoid flashpoints, by silencing anyone who would explore the underlying problems.

On what foundations, then, are these bridges to be built? If what underlies them is not solid -- if people have reservations they have not been allowed to voice and have answered, or even considered -- how will such bridges bear any weight?

Badawi himself invokes a long set of complaints against the West, both past and present, in his speech. Perhaps he was playing to the crowd, which included a number of what pass for "dignitaries" these days, including figures from Zimbabwe and Iran. Some of these complaints are ritual (as the Malaysians themselves are aware), rituals that have to be performed so that you can get to the business at hand -- not only in the Muslim world, but closer to home as well. In Mexico, for example, the government has so long encouraged anti-Americanism in state education that it now has to frame issues as 'shoving our independence in the eye of evil America' even when what it desires to do is move into closer cooperation with America. Americans by and large don't notice, and so the anti-American rhetoric functions as a lubricant. It makes it easier for the Mexican government to do what it wants, but what it has taught its people to suspect as servile submission to a domineering neighbor. They still cooperate, but they have made their prominent display of independence, so their people don't notice so much that they're doing just what America would want.

By the same token, we don't really notice in America when even genuine moderates like Abdullah invoke "global hegemony" and accuse us of "systematically caus[ing] innocent children, women and men to be killed[.]" It is only grease for the wheel, which allows his audience to be receptive when he says that "I hold the strong view that in the case of Islam, those who deliberately kill non-combatants and the innocent; those who oppress and exploit others; those who are corrupt and greedy; those who are chauvinistic and communal, do not speak on behalf of Islam."

He has established his independence with the posturing display of rhetoric, and now can move them closer to us. So long as we do not notice the display, it will not push us further away.

Yet now we have noticed, this and other similar things. We have to make a choice about them. We can choose to be pushed away, which will keep the chasm open between Islam and the West. Or, we can choose to take the blow for what it is worth: to "turn the other cheek," that is to say, and pursue the good that these moderates are trying to create in spite of the ritual insults.

As this is the West, we cannot do that through silence and pretending not to notice. That is not our way. But we can do it by saying, "I feel those charges are unfair (for these reasons); but I understand you are attempting to lay the foundation for furthering good will, and so I will not respond with attacks of my own." We can point to the genuine concerns we have -- free expression and inquiry are our right and heritage, and we both can and should speak plainly -- without using language like "evil religion."

When others who do feel that they can only speak plainly by saying such things, Westerners should not silence them. Instead, we reply, and try to say -- as BlackFive and I have tried to say -- that it is not a fair, nor a complete picture.

None of this is easy, but many things that are best in life are not easy. I mentioned Richard and Saladin before, but let me try another one closer to home. In the South we tell our children that the great Robert E. Lee went about before war became certain, arguing against it and trying to keep it from breaking into ruinous conflict. He did, and many others did also; and when they failed, at last, the South found in them its staunchest defenders.

BlackFive, likewise, is a warrior who should be heeded. He does not say these things out of fear of Islam, or ignorance of it. If Richard and Saladin failed to make their peace, and General Lee could make his only after terrible war, let us learn instead, and show our strength by honesty and forgiveness in the hope of avoiding a greater, wider war. There may still be time.