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February 17, 2005
11:22am EST

The Federalist Patriot
Harvard Political Review reads The Patriot: "The Federalist Patriot is leading a surprisingly well-organized charge into the world of Internet politics." The Patriot is free by e-mail.

Townhall.com's Free Opinion Alert
THE op-ed page for conservatives

Keep Our Markets Free
Investing commentary from a conservative perspective.

Best of the Web

Note: Links were good at the time we posted this column, but they often go bad after a while. We make no guarantees.

Monday, December 17, 2001 2:50 p.m. EST

John Walker's Quest for Manhood
Clarence Page weighs in with a thought-provoking analysis of Marin mujahid John Walker. Page peruses Walker's postings on Usenet newsgroups (which you can read at The Weekly Standard) and notes that the pre-Muslim Walker was a rap music enthusiast who even described himself as black, writing: "Our blackness does not make white people hate us, it is THEIR racism that causes the hate." Page invokes Norman Mailer's "white Negro":

Hip-hop proved to be a phase on Walker's way to all-out black militancy. By age 16, his parents say, he drifted over to Islamic Web sites and discovered "The Autobiography of Malcolm X," a chronicle of the famous black leader's journey from a jailhouse to Islam.

Soon Walker was wearing long white robes, studying at a local Islamic center and calling himself Suleyman. This apparently was viewed as unusual even on the streets of Marin County, Calif., the wealthy enclave where Walker grew up. . . .

Whiteness somehow lost its appeal for young John and, somewhere along the line, so did patriotism for America and allegiance to western culture.

I've seen Walker's type before. Black street culture, a byproduct of historical exclusion and oppression, has long offered an attractive alternative for rebels against mainstream society.

It's an interesting theory, but it breaks down after Malcolm X. After all, Walker didn't end up in the Nation of Islam or the Muslim American Society, the much larger traditionalist black Muslim group headed by W. Mohammed Deen. Instead he ended up among the Taliban, a bunch of white guys in Afghanistan.

Allow us to suggest an alternate theory. Perhaps Walker didn't want to be black so much as he wanted to be a man. He grew up in a time and place where androgyny was at its apogee. The denizens of Marin County, Calif., we'd venture to guess, view traditional sex roles as strictly optional, if not downright regressive. Walker is 20, which means his adolescence coincided almost exactly with the presidency of Bill Clinton. And news accounts paint his father as a sensitive, New Age kind of dad--the sort who thinks "a big hug" is an appropriate punishment for treason.

We are of course engaging in armchair psychoanalysis, but a confused quest for manhood would explain how Walker progressed from rap music, so swaggering and misogynistic as to be a parody of masculinity, to an embrace of "pure" Islam in which women hide under burkhas while men maim each other for trimming their beards.

Over the past 30 years or so, elite culture has urged men to become more sensitive and scoffed that traditionally masculine men are "Neanderthals." Our Peggy Noonan has argued that in the wake of Sept. 11, manly virtues are suddenly respectable again. If she's right, perhaps future John Walkers will aspire to be firemen or soldiers instead of literally becoming cavemen.

Terrorist in Training
Newsweek reports that under interrogation from his U.S. captors, Walker "acknowledged a lot more than fighting for the Taliban":

According to administration sources, he also admitted to being a member of Al Qaeda and training at its camps, where he participated in terrorist exercises--including learning to use explosives and poisons--and met with visiting Qaeda officials, including Osama bin Laden. Walker also admitted having been instructed in how to act in airports so as not to attract police attention. "He was no innocent bystander," said one official. "This wasn't like learning to be a soldier in Patton's Army. He was training to commit terrorist acts."

Have You Seen Me?
It seems no one is quite sure where Osama bin Laden is. CNN reports "a handful of prisoners taken by anti-Taliban forces said that they believe Osama bin Laden is still in the Tora Bora mountain region," but two anti-Taliban commanders told the network "that they believe al Qaeda fighters--possibly including bin Laden--are heading over the mountains into Pakistan." John Walker's claim last week that bin Laden planned to attack America yesterday leads InstaPundit.com to an interesting speculation:

I wouldn't be surprised to find that the Al Qaeda grunts were told something like this to keep them fighting until Sunday the 16th. Problem is, once Sunday comes and nothing happens, their morale will probably drop.

So why keep them fighting, but just until Sunday? The most logical explanation is that it's to buy time for Osama and some other bigshots to escape. Isn't it? If I were Osama, I'd have bugged out a week or two ago, leaving behind the bulk of the Al Qaeda fighters as a distraction, and perhaps a few tape recordings of my voice for strategic deceptions via radio and satellite phone.

Our Friends the Pakistanis
The New York Times (links require registration) reports that "if Mr. bin Laden does not head for Somalia, then he will probably try to melt into the complex political contours of Pakistan":

In fact, though they will not say so publicly, some administration officials say that Pakistan may be where the next phase of the war must unfold. And it is treacherous ground for Mr. Bush.

He has nurtured a relationship with the military government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, maintaining that the general has been transformed from a nuclear renegade to a staunch American ally. After all, he has stationed troops along the Afghan border to help cut off Al Qaeda escape routes, and he has detained several Al Qaeda sympathizers. He has allowed the United States to establish bases in his country and has shared intelligence.

But the terrorists who killed eight people at the Indian Parliament building on Thursday are alleged to come from Pakistani groups that the government has tolerated, and perhaps secretly helped in its conflict with New Delhi. India has threatened a military retaliation, and Secretary Powell conceded today that the situation "has the potential of becoming very dangerous."

The Times also reports that India has arrested four people "who admitted under 'intensive interrogation' that they conspired in the attack" on Parliament and who say the plot was organized by two anti-Indian terrorist groups that "operate openly in Pakistan," Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad.

The Press Trust of India reports that "Pakistan's ISI"--the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency--"has changed its strategy in carrying out operations in India especially after the September 11 attacks in the United States and has adopted a new modus operandi of giving 'limited task' to a chain of militants and their sympathisers. . . . Sources said the Thursday's audacious attack on the Parliament House was carried out under the same modus operandi where several batches of militants and sympathisers had been engaged." PTI also reports that India's minister for external affairs "debunked Pakistan's offer of a joint probe into Thursday's attack."

An editorial in the Times of London warns that the attack in India "points not only to an upsurge of violence likely to exacerbate tension between India and Pakistan but to an ominous new development, the migration of al-Qaeda terror from Afghanistan to Kashmir," the disputed territory that is at the center of the Indian-Pakistani conflict.

Bombing London?
"Chilling plans for a devastating bomb attack on the City of London"--that is, the financial district--"have been discovered in a terrorist base in Afghanistan, revealing a sophisticated al-Qaeda training programme to spread its terror campaign to Britain." The plan called for the use of a van bomb like those with which al Qaeda blew up the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

Dershowitz Weighs In
In an interview with Canada's National Post, Harvard law professor and O.J. Simpson lawyer Alan Dershowitz makes the case for military tribunals by arguing that the Osama bin Laden tape wouldn't prove his guilt to the satisfaction of a civilian court:

In assessing the legal implications of the tape, it is as important to focus on what is missing from the tape as what is present on it. There is nothing on the tape that reveals bin Laden possessed information only a person guilty of planning this horrible crime would possess. In other words, the truth of the incriminating statements made on the tape is not self-proving: It relies on believing bin Laden is telling the truth.

Contrast this tape with tapes that are sometimes introduced in organized-crime or drug cases that are self-proving. Such tapes contain information that is not in the public domain and could be known only by the criminal. Such information might include the calibre of bullets used, the location of transit points for drugs, the names of undisclosed associates, etc. The bin Laden tape, in contrast, includes only information known to everybody. For example, bin Laden's assertion that Mohammed Atta was the leader of the hijackers has been widely reported and cannot be independently confirmed.

Undercover Operatives
The Taliban-imposed burkha may have undone the Muslim maniacs, the Sydney Morning Herald reports:

Abdul Ali displays his work around the city of Kandahar, pointing to the rubble and dust of bombed-out buildings.

Mr Ali, 45, a soft-spoken former United Nations worker, identified targets in Kandahar for the US-led air campaign that blasted the Taliban out of their southern stronghold. He counted on women who risked their lives to carry his satellite phone under their all-encompassing burqas, moving it from house to house to avoid detection.

Terrorist Welfare Queens--IV
Mickey Kaus, a prescient welfare-reform advocate in the early '90s, makes the intriguing argument that welfare causes terrorism:

The point isn't simply that many terrorists take advantage of Western welfare states, the same way they take advantage of Western freedoms and Western technology. The point is that extreme antisocial terrorist ideologies (radical Islam, in particular) seem to breed in "oppositional" cultures supported by various government welfare benefits.

This is particularly evident in France, where . . . unemployed and alienated North African Arab immigrants in subsidized public housing projects turn to crime and violence in a vicious cycle familiar to students of the African-American "underclass." Except that in France, in the "violent neighborhoods, the housing projects where the young men can be recruited" into terrorism, an "ironic thing" happens, according to a French intelligence officer quoted by the [Los Angeles] Times' Sebastian Rotella: "When the extremists take control, violence goes down. Islam brings discipline. But then we have to watch that neighborhood for a different reason." . . .

In fact, there's a good argument that "welfare benefits + ethnic antagonism" is the universal recipe for an underclass with an angry, oppositional culture. The social logic is simple: Ethnic differences make it easy for those outside of, for example, French Arab neighborhoods to discriminate against those inside, and easy for those inside to resent the mainstream culture around them. Meanwhile, relatively generous welfare benefits enable those in the ethnic ghetto to stay there, stay unemployed, and seethe. Without government subsidies, they would have to overcome the prejudice against them and integrate into the mainstream working culture. Work, in this sense, is antiterrorist medicine. (And if you work all day, there's less time to dream up ways and reasons to kill infidels.)

Backing up Kaus's theory about the oppositional underclass culture is one Bonnie Greer, an American-born British citizen, who writes in London's Observer of a visit to America:

I went back to talk to the people I came from--my family and friends, all of them working class and lower-middle class black and Muslim people. They, too, were shaken by what had happened [on Sept. 11], but here's the difference: while they did not condone in any way what happened, they clearly understood how it could have happened. They could see what could have led to mass murder on a cloudless September morning.

Because they are citizens of "another country", they were able to enter into the mind of Mohamed Atta and his cohorts. Unlike the majority of Americans, Euro-Americans, some of them could even put themselves in the pilot's seat.

Greer quotes one black woman as saying "that if she could say 'sorry' to the Muslim world, she would." It's worth noting, though, that perverse sentiments such as this can also be found among overclass whites, such as Susan Sontag and Katha Pollitt.

Queen Bee Gets Stung
Remember when conservative speakers used to get shouted down on campus? Well, the times are changing. The Sacramento Bee reports that its publisher, Janis Besler Heaphy, was heckled during her commencement address at California State University, Sacramento, when she began speaking on behalf of the civil liberties of terrorists. (The text of her speech is here.) "Her comments were drowned out about five minutes into the eight-minute speech when a segment of the audience began to stomp and clap in protest to her words," the Bee reports.

We don't condone such rudeness, but the Bee has been awfully dopey on this subject. Here's an example, from an editorial that ran last Tuesday:

And with public opinion behind him, [Attorney General John Ashcroft] took the offensive by lashing out at "those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty." Their tactics, he said, "only aid terrorists . . . give ammunition to America's enemies, and pause to America's friends."

Hello? Draconian measures are exactly what America's enemies want.

Our Dorothy Rabinowitz had the best rejoinder to this nonsense: "A nice picture, that--Mohamed Atta and his crew sitting in their fly-specked motels dreaming of the joyful day the Americans would suffer intrusions on lawyer-client privilege, government wire-taps and other civil liberties infringements."

Zero-Tolerance Watch
At Missouri's North Kirkwood Middle School, students aren't allowed to say the A-word. No, silly, not that A-word. We're talking about "anthrax." In a letter to the editor of the Webster-Kirkwood Times (ninth letter), Wendy Jamison-Hoge writes:

Attention all Kirkwood School parents! Warn your children of the danger of saying the word "anthrax" at school--in any context.

I wish I had cautioned my daughter before the North Kirkwood Middle School administration submitted her to a distressing, intense cross examination, with threats of possible punishment for simply saying the word anthrax in a harmless comment. The climax of her ordeal resulted in an ominous call home from the assistant principal, with my daughter crying in the background. . . .

Nasty, abusive language of all sorts abounds in North Kirkwood Middle School, bombarding expletives in school hallways with teachers present. But the word anthrax is anathema to adults--totally unpalatable used in any reference. So how is a 12 year-old child to realize that some adults go to pieces at the mention of a word still thankfully harmless to them?

American Scarelines
A fake grenade, designed to test security screening, rolled down the aisle of an American Airlines plane yesterday, delaying the flight for more than three hours. "A woman was in custody and authorities were trying to determine how she ended up with a bag belonging to a security screener that contained the phony grenade," the Associated Press reports. "The woman may have inadvertently picked up the bag at the security checkpoint. . . . After boarding the plane, the woman pulled a jacket out of the bag and the fake grenade rolled out.

Stupidity Watch
In his final column for the New York Times (links require registration), Anthony Lewis presents himself as a lonely voice of reason:

No one can miss the reality of that challenge after Sept. 11. Islamic fundamentalism, rejecting the rational processes of modernity, menaces the peace and security of many societies.

But the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism is not to be found in Islam alone. Fundamentalist Christians in America, believing that the Bible's story of creation is the literal truth, question not only Darwin but the scientific method that has made contemporary civilization possible.

Now, we have no brief for Christian fundamentalism, but give us a break. There's a world of difference between hijacking airplanes, destroying skyscrapers and murdering thousands on the one hand, and "questioning Darwin" on the other. (Besides, to question is the essence of the scientific method.) On the rare occasions on which Christian fundamentalists engage in political violence or make un-American pronouncements (such as Jerry Falwell's notorious post-Sept. 11 comments), they deserve to be denounced. But Lewis goes far further than this, begrudging them their very beliefs.

And you think we're being too harsh, consider this Lewis comment, from an interview published in yesterday's Times: "Certainty is the enemy of decency and humanity in people who are sure they are right, like Osama bin Laden and John Ashcroft." Comparing your opponent to bin Laden is the 21st century's version of the argumentum ad Hitlerum. (Imagine if a right-wing commentator had similarly likened Ashcroft's predecessor, Janet Reno, with, say, Stalin.) Lewis has had a long and storied career at the New York Times, but for our part, we aren't going to miss his smug intolerance and sanctimony.

The Missing Lynx
The Washington Times reports that "federal and state wildlife biologists planted false evidence of a rare cat species in two national forests":

Had the deception not been discovered, the government likely would have banned many forms of recreation and use of natural resources in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Wenatchee National Forest in Washington state.

The previously unreported Forest Service investigation found that the science of the habitat study had been skewed by seven government officials: three Forest Service employees, two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials and two employees of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The officials planted three separate samples of Canadian lynx hair on rubbing posts used to identify existence of the creatures in the two national forests.

DNA testing of two of the samples matched that of a lynx living inside an animal preserve. The third DNA sample matched that of an escaped pet lynx being held in a federal office until its owner retrieved it, federal officials said.

The punishment for the employees who perpetrated this fraud? They've "been counseled for their actions and banned from participating in the three-year survey of the lynx."

Jenna Bush, Starlet?
Chinese director Long Zanxu has written Jenna Bush a letter offering her $12 million to star in an "anti-terrorism movie," according the Associated Press, picking up a report in Hong Kong's South China Morning Post. " 'I intend to console the victims of this terrorist accident with my film,' the Post quoted the letter to Bush as reading in English. 'And if you, Jenna, the daughter of the USA President, could play the role in this film developed by China and America, how much would it set the hearts of the people aflame.' "

An item Friday referred erroneously to an incident at girls' field-hockey game in Minnesota. It was actually a game of ice hockey, which is a version of field hockey played on an ice-skating rink.

Medical officials at Yale University say an unidentified woman fell ill with a brain abscess. What's bizarre is the way it happened. Fox News reports--we're not kidding--that she had her tongue pierced. She put a stud (a "tongue ring"?) in her tongue, and it became infected. Later she "developed symptoms of a brain abscess. . . . She had difficulty walking and showed signs of clumsiness."

If she mistook her tongue for an ear, she's got bigger problems than clumsiness!

(Elizabeth Crowley helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to C.E. Dobkin, Damian Bennett, Raghu Desikan, Paul Music, Rosslyn Smith, Mike Wagner, Hazen Dempster, Laura Tushnet, Flavio Martinez, S.E. Brenner, David Mariani, David Merrill, Jerry Treadway, Janice Lyons, Russell Harris, Joshua Trevino, T.A. Young, Ben Phillips, E. Cameron, Ronald Ramsay, Dave Abbuhl, John Posthill, Brian Merriam, Richard Vatsaas, Isaac Fox, Skip Dickinson, Michael Rogers and Jonathan Adler. If you have a tip, write us at opinionjournal@wsj.com, and please include the URL.)

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