The Spine

Iran's Power Struggle
October 05, 2006

This morning's New York Post carries an important story that was written by Amir Taheri, a columnist from whom I have learned a good deal over the years. The article is about a struggle in Iran between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the current president, and Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a previous president and the funny little man's defeated opponent for the post last year. The story is about a smoking gun, two smoking guns, in fact, and it goes back to the time when Iran was losing a desperate war to Iraq. That is, there are two letters: one is from Brig. Gen.

The Beginning Of The End
October 05, 2006

Please take a look at my Spine of October 3, about the 300 Muslim taxi-drivers in Minneapolis-St. Paul who won't pick up passengers who they suspect are carrying booze. A small incident, containable, not a big deal. A pig's ass, not a big deal. This is the next tactic. So, just in time and on target two days after, here is a report from London in The Jerusalem Post about a Muslim constable in the Metropolitan Police's Diplomatic Protection Group who has refused to guard the Israeli Embassy in Kensington.

I.f. Stone's Radical Journalism
October 04, 2006

I wrote a few days ago about I.F. Stone and a review of two books (one a biography and the other yet another--there are now seven--collection of his writings) by Paul Berman in the Sunday New York Times Book Review. I've now read the books. They are dreadful: The first for not really grasping the ideological maelstrom in which Stone immured himself; the second, well Stone only told the truth--and a very partial truth, at that--one way. He could give it to the United States. But he was a patsy for its enemies.

Total Failure In Lebanon
October 04, 2006

The United Nations never fails to fail. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has failed for decades. (And what do they mean by "interim"? Interim between when and when?) I knew (yes, knew; not suspected; not thought) that Security Council Resolution 1701 would go the way of its predecessor, Security Council Resolution 1559. It's not because I'm a seer. It's because the United Nations is the United Nations, and fights over language are what it does best. But the language is not what failed this time. It was the intentions of the parties.

Abu Ghraib Out Of Style?
October 04, 2006

I am almost certain that you would recognize the paintings and drawings of Fernando Botero, the Columbian artist who shows at Marlborough Gallery in New York. He's the one with the fattened bodies, puffed up men and women and equally puffed up children. He has made grossly fat grossly chic, at least for the Latin American set and even those of its members who are quite svelte.

Kofi Annan's Role In History
October 03, 2006

There are some articles that one owes to history. It is not I, however, who am fulfilling the obligation. It is Adam LeBor of The Sunday Times (London). And the obligation is to clarify Kofi Annan's role in history, a pusillanimous role that he has somehow covered over or neutralized by his charm and capacity for deceit. The secretary-general's character is an important element in the politics of our time, as was finally altogether apparent when everyone found out that Kurt Waldheim had been a Nazi. Boutros Boutros-Ghali was just a windbag.

Drinking And Driving
October 03, 2006

"It is forbidden in Islam," said Muhamed Mursal, a Muslim cabdriver in Minneapolis-St. Paul, "to carry alcohol." According to an AP dispatch in Sunday's New York Times, he didn't mean his own. He's presumably religious. So he abstains. What he means is that he won't accept passengers who he suspects are carrying liquor. How will he know? Will he ask his passengers to unpack their baggage? He does pick up his fares at the international airport, after all. Why not? This is another battle in the culture wars between a liberal society and Islam.

I.f. Stone Redivivus
October 02, 2006

There are three or four living political intellectuals by whose ideas I test my own. I blame none of them for what others may think my excesses. But I am always both eager and nervous to find out what they think. Paul Berman is one of these by whom I judge myself. Maybe it is solipsistic to introduce a third person by what he means to me. But probably you have read him in TNR many times (here, here, and here) and elsewhere, too. He is one of our contributing editors and, therefore, one of our gang. When Paul writes in others' pages, I immediately feel a kind of sullen envy.

Historical Agents
October 02, 2006

The Boston Globe wants its Jewish readers to do penance. A contrite Jewish woman named Alice Rothchild published an op-ed sometime this past week, in the penitential mood, heaping the sins of normality (a people and a state that defend themselves against enemies sworn to their obliteration) on all of us--my reference to the "us" here alluding to her Jewish readers.

Kristof And The United Nations
October 02, 2006

I admire Nicholas Kristof. He has insisted that we keep our minds and hearts on bloodied Africa. Darfur, Chad, Central African Republic. These have been his datelines, and TNR has been a comrade in his battle. Here's what he wrote in yesterday's Times: "If President Bush is serious about genocide, an immediate priority is to stop the cancer of Darfur from spreading further--which means working with France to shore up both Chad and the Central African Republic. (France has troops in both countries.) It also means putting U.N. peacekeepers in both places.

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