Entries from December 2005

Letter To A European Friend

David Frum December 27th, 2005 at 12:00 am Comments Off

A European at this Christmas season must feel a little like a Roman enjoying one of the last Lupercals of the pagan era. The old religion still fills the public space of society. It still possesses its old wealth and the great temples in the centres of towns, and national leaders still profess their adherence to its teachings.

Elites still disdain the old religion’s new eastern competitor, the religion of migrants and the poor. Its houses of worship are found in cheap suburbs, far from the pomp and glitter of the central cities.

The new competitor’s holidays are ignored by the state and observed only by its own believers. But every year there are more and more of them….

The great historian Bernard Lewis has predicted that at current trends, Islam will replace Christianity as Europe’s predominant religion within the next 50 years. Some skeptics doubt this prediction. They argue that Europe’s Muslim population must succumb to the same forces of modernization and secularization that have emptied Europe’s Christian churches.

Perhaps these skeptics are right. But whether Europe is fated to move toward an Islamic future or a secular one, equally post-Islamic and post-Christian, there is one future predicted by nobody: a revival of the ancient Christian faith that defined European civilization for 1,500 years.

Whatever the future holds, nobody should assume that the transition from one era to the other will be peaceful or easy. Last month’s Muslim rioting in France, this month’s clashes between old-stock Australians and Muslim immigrants on the beaches of Sydney — these may well be portents of a troubled future. It took only a century for the rulers of Rome to switch from persecuting Christianity to banning its rivals.

I belong to a religious community often and horribly persecuted by European Christianity. Under Islam, by contrast, Jews were usually tolerated and sometimes even protected. Does the history of the past offer any comfort for the future?

Only if we believe that the Islam of the future will resemble the Islam of the past. And the evidence indicates pretty strongly that this will not be so.

The anti-Jewish incitement preached in contemporary mosques, the surge of anti-Jewish violence in European cities with large Muslim minorities, the Holocaust denial urged by the governments not just of Iran but also of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the blunt threats of nuclear annihilation of the Jews heard from the government in Teheran — these tell us more about what is to come than the benign practices of the lost Muslim past.

And here in North America, the omens are likewise ominous. It remains impossible to obtain an unequivocal denunciation of anti-Jewish violence from the major North American Islamic groups. When a federal jury earlier this month deadlocked at the trial of Sami al-Arian, the alleged head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the United States, major Islamic groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations hailed the verdict with only a discreet cough over al-Arian’s “sometimes controversial” views — and an endorsement of his “right to hold opinions not shared by the majority.”

The Muslim Political Action Committee likewise applauded the non- conviction of al-Arian despite a “negative political environment.”

And what were those “sometimes controversial views”? On Jan. 22, 1995, two Islamic Jihad suicide bombers detonated themselves at an Israeli bus stop, killing 19 people and wounding 65. On Feb. 1, 1995, al-Arian signed a fundraising letter seeking money so that operations like that committed by “the two mujahedin who were martyred for the sake of God” could continue. This may not necessarily have been illegal — the U.S. law banning fundraising for foreign terrorist organizations would not be enacted until later in 1995. But legal or illegal, it expresses a murderous anti-Semitism against which no major North American Muslim group has raised its voice.

Life in Christian societies has seldom been easy for Jews. But even at its persecuting worst, Christianity always acknowledged its own descent from Judaism — and always preserved a place for Judaism, if not for Jews, in its theology and teaching.

Islamic theology, by contrast, taught that the Jews deliberately falsified the Torah and the Bible to conceal the fact that Abraham was a Muslim who lived in Arabia and preferred Ishmael over Isaac. It carried over large passages from Jewish scripture directly into the Koran and other sacred writings while furiously denying any connection with the Jewish past. However kindly Islamic societies have treated Jews, Islam the religion has no place for Judaism.

Combine the hostility to Judaism taught by Islamic theology with the hostility to Jews felt by contemporary Muslim societies — and you arrive at a frightening conclusion: When the Christian era draws to its end in Europe, so too will end the era of European Jewry.

Goodbye Moderation

David Frum December 21st, 2005 at 12:00 am Comments Off

A European at this Christmas season must feel a little like a Roman enjoying one of the last Lupercals of the pagan era. The old religion still fills the public space of society. It still possesses its old wealth and the great temples in the centers of towns, and national leaders still profess their adherence to its teachings.

Elites still disdain the old religionÕs new eastern competitor, the religion of migrants and the poor. Its houses of worship are found in cheap suburbs, far from the pomp and glitter of the central cities.
The new competitorÕs holidays are ignored by the state and observed only by its own believers. But every year there are more and more of them ….

The great historian Bernard Lewis has predicted that at current trends, Islam will replace Christianity as EuropeÕs predominant religion within the next fifty years. Some skeptics doubt this prediction. They argue that EuropeÕs Muslim population must succumb to the same forces of modernization and secularization that have emptied EuropeÕs Christian churches.

Perhaps these skeptics are right. But whether Europe is fated to move toward an Islamic future or a secular one, equally post-Islamic and post-Christian, there is one future predicted by nobody: a revival of the ancient Christian faith that defined European civilization for 1500 years.

Whatever the future holds, nobody should assume that the transition from one era to the other will be peaceful or easy. Last monthÕs Muslim rioting in France, last weekÕs clashes between old-stock Australians and Muslim immigrants on the beaches of Sydney – these may well be portents of a troubled future. It took only a century for the rulers of Rome to switch from persecuting Christianity to banning its rivals.

I belong to a religious community often and horribly persecuted by European Christianity. Under Islam, by contrast, Jews were usually tolerated and sometimes even protected. Does the history of the past offer any comfort for the future?

Only if we believe that the Islam of the future will resemble the Islam of the past. And the evidence indicates pretty strongly that this will not be so.

The anti-Jewish incitement preached in contemporary mosques, the surge of anti-Jewish violence in European cities with large Muslim minorities, the Holocaust denial urged by the governments not just of Iran but also of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the blunt threats of nuclear annihilation of the Jews heard from the government in Teheran – these tell us more about what is to come than the benign practices of the lost Muslim past.

Life in Christian societies has seldom been easy for Jews. But even at its persecuting worst, Christianity always acknowledged its own descent from Judaism – and always preserved a place for Judaism, if not for Jews, in its theology and teaching.

Islamic theology, by contrast, taught that the Jews deliberately falsified the Torah and the Bible to conceal the fact that Abraham was a Muslim who lived in Arabia and preferred Ishmael over Isaac. It carried over large passages from Jewish scripture directly into the Koran and other sacred writings while furiously denying any connection with the Jewish past. However kindly Islamic societies have treated Jews, Islam the religion has no place for Judaism.

Combine the hostility to Judaism taught by Islamic theology with the hostility to Jews felt by contemporary Muslim societies – and you arrive at the disturbing verdict: When the Christian era ends in Europe, so too will end the era of European Jewry.

Paul Martin, Ham Actor

David Frum December 20th, 2005 at 12:00 am Comments Off

You probably know the old Hollywood joke: “Sincerity is everything. When you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

Paul Martin’s problem is that sincerity is the one thing he cannot quite fake. He displayed that failing most vividly Friday night, when he erupted into his choreographed and stage-managed outburst against Gilles Duceppe. He delivered his lines like some ham actor who’s made up his mind: The audience has to see acting, and by God, they are going to see acting!

One of CTV’s debate commentators, Joy McPhail, a former NDP legislator from British Columbia, complained during a discussion afterward that Martin had made an error of timing. Wouldn’t it have been better, she wondered, if Martin had delivered his attack on separatism and his paean to Canada during the French-language debate the night before? After all, it’s not as if anybody watching the English debate would be tempted to vote for the Bloc Quebecois.

But of course there was no error. Delivering that “impassioned” message in French would have been politically risky. To speak those words to an audience that might not want to hear them would have demanded courage and character. So naturally Martin didn’t do it.

Instead, he waited 24 hours and delivered those words–in English–to an audience that would unanimously applaud. Points scored, and at a cheap price too. For this same Prime Minister who stands ready to “defend Canada” is the same prime minister who condemns Canada’s most active patriots, its soldiers, to die in ancient, obsolete helicopters, ships and lightly armed cars.

A century ago, a British poet shrewdly described Paul Martin’s brand of ardent patriotism:

When you’ve shouted ‘Rule Britannia,’ – when you’ve sung ‘God save the Queen,’

When you’ve finished killing Kruger with your mouth,

Will you kindly drop a shilling in my little tambourine

For a gentleman in khaki ordered South?

“Kruger” is Paul Kruger, the prime minister of the Boer colonies during Britain’s Boer war, and for a long time afterwards, the phrase “killing Kruger with your mouth” was used to describe exactly the kind of empty noisy patriotism that Paul Martin exhibited Friday.

Perhaps even more objectionable than Mr. Martin’s tinkling brass is his glaring hypocrisy.

Could we remember please exactly why it is that separatism has suddenly re-emerged as a live force in Quebec? It was the crookedness and corruption of Martin’s own party that revived the very threat he denounced.

And was it not even more bizarre to hear the Prime Minister swivel immediately from his “I love Canada” speech to an assertion of the need for Quebec nationalists to obey the law? As Gilles Duceppe rightly pointed out, the only party proven to have violated the law in Quebec was Martin’s Liberals, who used illegal funds to fight at least two elections in the province.

And as Duceppe likewise points out, Canadians still do not know how this illegal money was used: The Liberals have refused to say which of their candidates received the money.

And who knows? The Liberals may well be benefiting from illegal funds even now. Nobody knows how much the Liberal party got from Adscam–and nobody knows how much of it the Liberals have as yet paid back.

Liberal talking heads keep insisting that “the money” has been “repaid.” But what does that mean? Has the government of Canada received and cashed a check? Or have the Liberals just written some notional IOU into their party’s books?

And how are Canadians to know how much money is owed. The Liberals estimate that they received $1.14-million. Even assuming that estimate can be trusted–when they say “the money” do they mean all $1.14 million? Or just some of it?

In the run-up to this election, the Liberals decided how much they would repay and on what schedule–and both remain closely guarded secrets. As Stephen Harper quipped last week, the party made “a plea bargain with itself. Those must have been some tough negotiations.”

Again and again through this election season, Paul Martin and his surrogates have claimed or insinuated that he loves Canada more than Harper. But what is it exactly that he loves? The scenery? The profits of office? Or something more?

When most Canadians say “Canada,” they are referring not just to the rocks and dirt that make up the Canadian landmass. They mean Canada’s constitutional government, its democratic society, its freedoms. If the Martin Liberals really loved those latter things, they would be the first to demand their own punishment–for they have disgraced, betrayed and violated all three.

Paul Martin’s Selective Bravado

David Frum December 13th, 2005 at 12:00 am Comments Off

When in doubt, pander: That is Paul Martin’s motto as prime minister, and it goes double during election campaigns.

Last week was the Prime Minister’s week to pander to anti-Americanism.

On Wednesday, he delivered a speech to the UN conference on climate change in Montreal that pointedly rebuked “any nation … no matter how prosperous” that imagines it can “stand alone, isolated from the global community.” Lest anybody mistake the Prime Minister’s meaning, he made it explicit to reporters afterward that his remarks were aimed at “reticent nations including the United States.”

Two days later, on the afternoon of Dec. 9, the CBC and the Canadian press broadcast and posted breathless stories that a “furious” White House had “summoned” ambassador Frank McKenna “onto the carpet” to protest the Prime Minister’s words. The CBC added the piquant detail that Vice-President Dick Cheney was particularly upset and had directed that McKenna be called.

Paul Martin, though, was undaunted: “As far as my speech the other day,” he said on Dec. 9, “I spoke what I believe. Let me tell you that as the prime minister of Canada I am going to speak for Canadian interests and Canadian values.”

As it happens, the story of White House reaction to that speech turns out to have been wildly overhyped. The White House official who met with ambassador McKenna on Friday was not the Vice-President, not the National Security Adviser, not even the National Security Council’s Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs: It was the head of the Council on Environmental Quality. Nor had McKenna been “summoned”: He had requested the meeting himself. As for the administration’s alleged fury, the true mood seems to have been closer to one of irritated resignation. Election time in Canada? Ah, brace yourself for six weeks of Liberal Yankee-bashing.

But anybody tempted to take Paul Martin’s Captain Canada stunts seriously might want to consider this: If Paul Martin truly champions Canada’s interests and Canada’s values on the world stage, why do the names “Zahra Kazemi” and “Bill Sampson” so seldom pass his lips? Here are two Canadians, one raped and murdered, one imprisoned and tortured, by undemocratic Middle Eastern regimes.

In Kazemi’s case, then deputy prime minister John Manley declared within two weeks of her death in July 2003 that “I don’t think it’s helpful to have a war of words.” And so even as Iran has lied and stonewalled to protect Kazemi’s secret-police murderers, Canada’s prime ministers have bit their lips. Foreign Minister Bill Graham expressed at various times his dissatisfaction with Iran’s “unacceptable behavior.” His successor, Pierre Pettigrew, has acknowledged “frustration” with Iran. And the Prime Minister? What does the bold champion of Canada’s interests and values have to say for himself?

“I think there’s no doubt whether you are talking about international courts or whether you are talking about the UN Commission on Human Rights, I would certainly think the details of what happened to her now in the testimony that has been brought has got to make the world aware of just what Iran is all about and that they have got to be held to account.” These were the words the Prime Minister spoke on April 1, 2005, after details of Kazemi’s torture were made public.

Now consider the case of Bill Sampson, a Canadian detained in Saudi Arabia in December, 2000. Islamic terrorists that month detonated a car bomb in Riyadh. Rather than face the truth, the Saudi government blamed the attack on “liquor traffickers” and arrested seven Westerners. Sampson was held for 31 months. When visited by Canadian officials, he charged that his jailers were torturing him.

Foreign Minister Bill Graham’s response? “What assurances we were given by Saudi authorities was that any torture was contrary to the Koran, and would be contrary to their religious beliefs, and therefore no torture would be used, but we still raised it with them.” He said that Canada would assist if Sampson filed a complaint with the Saudis. And Paul Martin? He assigned a MP to examine the plight of Canadians detained abroad.

It’s a compliment to the United States that a prime minister who hestitates to criticize the thug regime of Iran and the oil princes of the Persian Gulf should feel he can scold the Americans with impunity.

Then again, maybe he just assumed the Americans weren’t listening. After all, he was not talking to them. He was using the UN, Bill Clinton, and the issue of global climate change as a series of props for a photo op aimed at left-leaning voters in British Columbia and southern Ontario. Which just goes to show: A prime minister does not have to come from a small town — or even like golf — to play cheap.

Will Oilsands Make Us A Player?

David Frum December 6th, 2005 at 12:00 am Comments Off

It’s been a bad week for Finance Minister Ralph Goodale. Before that, it was a bad month, and before that, a bad year.

Last week, he was accusing his parliamentary critics of “character assassination” for daring to suggest that the RCMP investigate whether some Bay Street traders were given early warning of an imminent government announcement regarding income trusts.

Then it was off to London to announce to the G7 finance ministers that Canada’s oilsands “will change the geopolitics of the world.” Goodale loves that soundbite. He’s used it at least a dozen times since June in both formal speeches and press interviews. By now, somebody should have asked a follow-up: These oilsands that will change the “geopolitics of the world”–will they also affect the national unity of the nation? Will they have an impact on the budgetary balance of the budget? Or is it just that the attempt to speak English causes the minister a headache of the head?

Sometimes people say sensible things in silly ways. But in this case, Goodale’s less than articulate words are fully appropriate to his less than well-considered message.

Canada’s oilsands surely will change–are changing–the international energy market. But let’s heed the caution of Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Association, as quoted in yesterday’s National Post: “We think oilsands plays … the role of a being a price-cap mechanism and can play a part in world oil diplomacy … but we do not think it will make a major revolution in the markets.”

That’s obviously true, isn’t it? As the most expensive source of petroleum, the oilsands will remain a supplier of last resort for many years to come.

Yes, the oilsands assure markets that the world will not “run out of oil.”

Yes, they will deter Middle Eastern producers from pushing the price too high.

And yes they will ensure the continuing prosperity of the Alberta oil industry.

But the fundamental geopolitical and geoeconomic problems posed by oil will not be resolved by the oilsands: Too much oil lies under the control of some of the world’s most unstable and irresponsible governments.

Ralph Goodale must know that. So why does he embarrass himself by pretending otherwise?

Let’s try a guess.

Under the leadership of the Chretien-Martin Liberals, Canada’s voice in the world has faded to inaudibility. Canadians understandably don’t like this–and their dislike has begun to ring alarm bells at Liberal HQ.

That’s why Paul Martin has promised to increase the defence budget and expand the Canadian military. That’s why Defence Minister Bill Graham has been talking in uncharacteristically robust tones about the need for armed forces capable of–get this–”defeating enemies.” Imagine!

But even more than plans for the future, the Chretien-Martin Liberals need excuses for the past. And Goodale’s burblings about the oilsands are just that: an excuse.

Here’s the argument that (I surmise) Ralph Goodale and the Liberals want you to buy:

If the arrival of oil from the oilsands will transform Canada into a major force in the world–why then, it surely follows that the lack of oilsands oil explains why Canada has not been a major force till now. Doesn’t it?

In other words: Don’t blame the Liberals for starving the military, for under-investing in intelligence, for turning their backs on Canada’s allies. When they did those things, the oilsands had not yet changed world geopolitics. Now the oilsands are coming on line–and just wait, everything will be different.

Convinced? No, I didn’t think so.

Canada was hardly a poor or unimportant country before the oilsands. It’s not some desert emirate that relies on a single extractive industry. If Canada went AWOL from the world between 1993 and 2005, it was because Canada’s leaders chose to go AWOL. The world is a big place, but they were small people. And in their smallness, they counted on others to keep the hemisphere and the world safe for them.

It was not a creditable choice, but it was a choice all the same. It had nothing to do with a lack of wealth–and everything to do with a lack of will and imagination.

If Canadians want different choices made, they are going to have to hire different people to make the choices. In this regard, at least, the oilsands–whatever they mean for the global energy market–will change precisely nothing for Canada. It’s this January’s election, and only that election, that holds the potential to change everything.

A Legal War On Terror

David Frum December 6th, 2005 at 12:00 am Comments Off

“I always pass on good advice,” quipped Oscar Wilde. “ThatÕs the only thing to do with it. It is never any use to oneself.”

Boy, do I know what the great playwright meant. Two years ago, my friend Richard Perle and I co-wrote “An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror,” a manual of (we thought) good advice for the global war on terror. (An Italian edition is available from Edizione Lindau.)

Among our suggestions: We recommended that the administration work with Congress to write a new code to govern the treatment of foreign terrorist detainees. The United States is a highly legalistic society, and the president must show legal authority for everything he does. If the president did not ask Congress for authority to hold prisoners, sooner or later the courts and Congress would take that authority away.

Now of course the Bush administration has tumbled into exactly the deep legal and political trouble we feared back in 2003.

Consider this: Why does the United States engage in rendition at all? Why are there secret prisons in eastern Europe? Why does it subcontract the job of interrogation to the Egyptians, Moroccans, and Saudis?

Could it not foresee that these actions must inevitably come to light sooner or later – and that there was bound to be trouble when they did come to light? Italy has been called a country of no secrets, but many mysteries. The United States is rather the opposite: a country of many secrets, but no mysteries. In the end, everything is explained.

In this case, the explanation is glaring: The Bush administration subcontracted the crucial work of detention and interrogation because it did not want to do that work itself under the jurisdiction of American courts. That was a mistake. Back in 2003, Congress would have happily granted the president wide powers over foreign terrorists – and armed with that power, the administration could without legal worry have detained terrorists on American overseas territories like Guam, Samoa, and Guantanamo, and done the questioning directly.

As we wrote then: “There are obvious dangers in collaborating with foreign intelligence services whose governments have interests fundamentally opposed to our own. Clearly they cannot be trusted to share anything that it is not in their interest for us to know. They will mislead us when it is convenient for them to do so, which is all too often. During the cold war, the KGB often manipulated the CIA by feeding it misinformation through allegedly ÔindependentÕ Eastern bloc intelligence services like RomaniaÕs. Today, it is likely to be Jordanian, Saudi, or Egyptian intelligence whose views influence CIA assessments of the region.”

In other words: If you want the job done right, you must do it yourself.

Doing it yourself does not entail treating terrorists like prisoners of war. On the contrary, the Geneva convention is very clear that terrorists are not entitled to POW status. Under the convention, to become a POW you must first have been a soldier. And international law is clear that to qualify as a soldier, a combatant must a) carry your weapons openly, b) wear a distinguishing insignia visible at a distance, c) respect the laws and customs of war, and d) obey a superior office. Al Qaeda terrorists fail the first three of these tests.

But doing it yourself does entail working out some kind of legal status for terrorist detainees and enacting it into law – and then, ultimately, negotiating some kind of treaty on terrorists with AmericaÕs democratic allies. Very few Americans – and not many Europeans – would object to rules that defined terrorism, that allowed non-citizen terrorists to be detained indefinitely, and that allowed NATO governments to interrogate terrorists using all techniques short of the intentional infliction of pain or bodily harm.

If we had written such rules two years ago, we would not have a trans-Atlantic crisis on our hands today. But itÕs never too late to fix a mistake. LetÕs learn our lesson – and get to work.