Well. Mr. Cohen has decided to rattle his little saber and swing his little dick. In “Body Bags in Paris” he snarls that the West, post-Iraq, has lost the capacity for anger, and says that is dangerous. In the comments “craig geary” from Redlands, FL had this to say: “Same song, different day. Never worn a uniform, never been IN a war, Roger Cohen wants Americans sent to slaughter or to be slaughtered.” And “Stephen LeGrand” from right here in Savannah adds: “This is the kind of thinking that will keep us in a perpetual war in the Mideast, sucking blood and treasure with no foreseeable end.” Not to be outdone, “Arun Gupta” from NJ kept it short and sweet: “I think Mr Cohen should take a sabbatical until good sense returns.” Mr. Kristof, in “Following the Terrorists’ Script,” says our disgraceful response to Jews fleeing Germany during World War II risks being repeated with Syrian refugees. No risk at all — it IS being repeated, with 31 governors huddled under their beds, peeing their pants in fear of toddlers. Ms. Collins gives us “A Holiday Treat From Congress,” and says most of our senators don’t want to burden private pilots with a lot of questions about their health. Here’s Mr. Cohen, pounding his little tin drum:
The flag at half-mast atop the Grand Palais, the darkened silhouette of the Eiffel Tower, the Big Wheel at Place Concorde immobilized for days, the jumpiness at the slightest sound, the stories of friends lost or almost, the streets that feel as if the air has been sucked out of them: This is Paris, resilient but jittery.
I open the daily Le Monde and read Antoine Leiris writing about his wife, Hélène Muyal-Leiris, one of the 129 people slaughtered by the terrorists of the Islamic State: “On Friday evening, you stole the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hatred.” Nor the hatred of his one-year-old son, who “will affront you by being happy and free.”
Defiance lies in remaining unbowed, in embracing the life the traffickers of death wish to extinguish. No child should be raised in hatred.
But freedom has to be fought for. It can demand anger. These killers make us hostages of our own democracies. They trample on the very border-crossing freedoms that European passports afford them. The West, post-Iraq, has lost its capacity for rage, even at this. That is dangerous.
We may not know who exactly the killers are but we know what they want to destroy. They spit at Montaigne, Voltaire and De Tocqueville. They loathe reason. They detest freedom. They cannot bear the West’s sexual mores. They would enslave the world, particularly its women, to the cruel god of their medievalist reading of Islam.
The French President, François Hollande, says France is “at war” against “a jihadi army.” France will be “pitiless.” There will be “no respite, no truce.” More than two years ago, after President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons, Hollande was ready to bomb Syria alongside President Obama. Then Obama wavered. Hesitation has been Obama’s modus operandi on Syria.
Now there are body bags in Paris.
Since 2013, ISIS has come to terrorize the world. Hollande will travel to Washington and Moscow next week in an attempt to forge a broad coalition to act “decisively” against it.
If the President Obama he finds is the same Obama who spoke in Turkey on Monday, the French president will be disappointed. The contrast between Hollande’s fire and Obama’s flatness as he insisted he would not put American troops on the ground to defeat ISIS was one of the stranger aspects of being in Paris this week.
It was clear again that Europe’s generational struggle for unity and freedom against totalitarian violence tends to leave this post-Atlanticist president cold. Words and body language are not everything. Still, they count.
Obama said: “We can retake territory. As long we leave our troops there, we can hold it, but that does not solve the underlying problem of eliminating the dynamics that are producing these kinds of violent extremist groups.”
True, jihadi terrorism (not “extremism”) will not disappear overnight if the United States and its allies take back the territory ISIS controls in Syria and Iraq. But the existence of this “state” is a compelling recruitment tool. It gives ISIS oil revenue (between $500 million and $1 billion a year), training camps, stature, space to enact its wanton brutality, and a base to direct international killing.
This border-straddling ISIS sanctuary must be eliminated, just as the Afghan safe haven of Al Qaeda was after 9/11 (before the disastrous distraction of Iraq). Raqqa is much closer to Europe than Tora Bora. ISIS has effective terrorists but indifferent soldiers. They are beatable. Kurdish militias — not the U.S. military by any means — have made rapid inroads. They and other local forces can help.
But Obama does not have the will. “Let’s assume we send 50,000 troops into Syria,” he said in Turkey. “What happens when there’s a terrorist attack generated from Yemen?”
That’s a straw-man game unworthy of the president. Its subtext: Because you can’t solve all the problems of the world, solve none. ISIS in Syria and Iraq is the core of the terrorist threat to Europe and America today. So destroy it.
President Vladimir Putin has forces on the ground in Syria. He has at last turned Russian bombing against ISIS after the terrorist group’s downing of a Russian passenger jet. Like Hitler, ISIS may have made the fatal mistake of targeting Moscow.
Stalin was an effective Western ally in World War II. Hitler was defeated. But the division of Europe ensued and the Soviet enslavement of half the Continent. Maybe Putin can help against ISIS, but if the West is a mere spectator the result will be equally disastrous. America and its allies must be as present on the ground as Russia if they are to shape the Syrian denouement. President Assad is not part of the solution. He’s part of the problem.
I fear for Antoine Leiris’s little motherless boy. The West has lost its spine, a spine called America.
Eat a huge plate of salted rat dicks, you turd. Send your own son. Now here’s Mr. Kristof:
Desperate refugees flee persecution and war, but American politicians — worried about security risks — refuse to accept them.
That’s the situation today, but it’s also the shameful way we responded as Jews were fleeing Nazi Germany in the 1930s. In the shadow of one world war, on the eve of another, Americans feared that European Jews might be left-wing security threats.
“Jews are not Communists,” Rabbi Louis I. Newman of Manhattan noted, pleadingly, in December 1938, trying to assuage the xenophobia. “Judaism has nothing in common with Communism.”
Yet in January 1939, Americans polled said by a two-to-one majority that the United States should not accept 10,000 mostly Jewish refugee children from Germany. That year, the United States turned away a ship, the St. Louis, with Jewish refugee children; the St. Louis returned to Europe, where some of its passengers were murdered by the Nazis.
That is a stain on our conscience that risks being repeated. Some 26 Republican governors are trying to block entry of Syrian refugees. All the Republican presidential candidates say that we should bar Syrian refugees or apply a religious test and accept only Christians.
A tweet of a young British man’s Facebook page went viral.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey says we shouldn’t accept Syrians even if they are toddlers and orphans. And the House of Representatives may vote this week on legislation to impede the resettlement of Syrian refugees.
One Syrian family — a man who once ran a clothing store, his wife and their 4-year-old child — were supposed to arrive in Indiana this week. Then Gov. Mike Pence announced that Syrians were unwelcome, and the family is settling in Connecticut instead.
Remember what a Syrian immigrant looks like — the father of Steve Jobs.
Thank goodness that when my father came to America as a refugee from Eastern Europe in 1952, politicians weren’t fearmongering. My dad sailed to New York, bought a copy of the Sunday New York Times to teach himself English, and took the train across the country to a welcoming Oregon.
When Indiana today shuns desperate refugees, it is shunning people like my family.
Yes, security is critical, but I’ve known people who have gone through the refugee vetting process, and it’s a painstaking ordeal that lasts two years or more. It’s incomparably more rigorous than other pathways to the United States.
If the Islamic State wanted to dispatch a terrorist to America, it wouldn’t ask a mole to apply for refugee status, but rather to apply for a student visa to study at, say, Indiana University. Hey, governors, are you going to keep out foreign university students?
Or the Islamic State could simply send fighters who are French or Belgian citizens (like some of those behind the Paris attacks) to the U.S. as tourists, no visa required. Governors, are you planning to ban foreign tourists, too?
Refugee vetting has an excellent record. Of 785,000 refugees admitted to the United States since 9/11, just three have been arrested for terrorism-related charges, according to the Migration Policy Institute in Washington.
If Republican governors are concerned about security risks, maybe they should vet who can buy guns. People on terrorism watch lists are legally allowed to buy guns in the United States, and more than 2,000 have done so since 2004. The National Rifle Association has opposed legislation to rectify this.
Although Donald Trump fulminates about President Obama supposedly wanting to bring in 250,000 or more Syrian refugees, that’s preposterous: Obama proposes admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees over a year. That’s tiny, just 1 percent of the number that Lebanon has accepted.
The Islamic State is trying to create a religious divide and an anti-refugee backlash, so that Muslims will feel alienated and turn to extremism. If so, American and European politicians are following the Islamic State’s script.
Let’s be careful not to follow that script further and stigmatize all Muslims for ISIS terrorism. As a young British Muslim man, Kash Ali, wrote in a post that went viral on Twitter: “I don’t understand why non Muslims think we British Muslims can stop ISIS. Mate, I can’t even get a text back from the girl I like, and you expect me to stop a terrorist organization?”
Look, accepting 10,000 refugees is not a solution. Indeed, there is a risk that Angela Merkel’s admirable compassion will lead far larger numbers to undertake the difficult journey and die on the way. The top priority must be making Syria habitable so that refugees need not flee. This is where I believe President Obama has failed — Syria is his worst foreign policy failure — but it’s good to see him push back at the hysteria about Syrian refugees.
Helping Syrian refugees today doesn’t solve the Middle East mess any more than helping Jewish refugees in 1939 would have toppled Hitler. But it’s the right thing to do. Syrians, no less than those Jewish refugees, no less than my father, are human beings needing help, not flotsam.
And now here’s Ms. Collins:
In honor of the coming vacation travel season, the Senate is working on a bill that would loosen the requirement that pilots take medical examinations.
Yes! I know that’s been on your mind a lot, people. Next week, as you gather around the Thanksgiving table, be sure to express your gratitude to Congress. If you hear a small plane buzzing overhead, drink a toast to the future, when the folks in America’s cockpits may no longer be burdened with repressive, old-fashioned health monitoring.
Pop quiz: Which of the following aviation issues would you like to see your elected representatives resolve by the end of 2015?
— Ban those laser lights that stupid kids keep flashing in pilots’ eyes.
— Do something about all the damned drones flying around airports.
— End the passenger peril of being squashed by a reclining seat.
— Ease pilot health exams! Ease pilot health exams!
“The U.S. Senate has an excruciatingly difficult time doing anything, and here they’re dismantling something that’s been working pretty well,” complained Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He is opposed to the bill in question, and that puts him in pretty select company. More than two-thirds of his colleagues are co-sponsors.
We are talking here about general aviation pilots, the men and women who fly private planes. They’re currently required to get a medical exam by an F.A.A.-approved physician every five years, and then every two years once they pass 40. The pilots hatehatehate this rule. They claim the doctors are hard to find and charge too much money. But the great underlying fear is that some stranger with a stethoscope will strip them of the ability to fly.
It’s easy to understand why pilots want to stay aloft. I’ve enjoyed every non-campaign-related private flight I’ve ever taken, including in the two-seater owned by an environmentalist who once flew me over a lake full of pig feces that had been treated with chemicals that turned it the color of Pepto-Bismol.
However, I think I speak for most of America when I say that we ought to continue being a little picky about the people we let up there.
The bill’s lead sponsor, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, is a very enthusiastic 81-year-old pilot who starred in an exciting airborne adventure about five years ago, when he landed his Cessna at an airport in Texas despite A) The large “X” on the runway, indicating it was closed, and B) The construction crew working on said runway, which ran for their lives when he dropped in.
As a result, the senator had to take part in a remedial training program. This irritated him so much that he successfully sponsored the first Pilot’s Bill of Rights, which makes it easier to appeal that kind of harsh, unforgiving judgment.
The Senate commerce committee is now considering Inhofe’s P.B.R. 2, which would eliminate the current medical exam requirement. Instead, pilots would just write a note in their log every four years saying they’d been to a physician who said everything’s fine. The bill has 69 sponsors.
Very little in the current world of Washington is that popular. You may be wondering why. Well, although Inhofe is best known as the climate change denier who once brought a snowball into the Senate to prove the globe isn’t warming, he’s also a very powerful guy, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, an architect of this year’s $350 billion highway construction bill.
Plus, there are hundreds of thousands of private pilots, many of them rather wealthy. “Most of them are single-issue people, so it would be very good to join in on this,” Inhofe said pointedly in a recent Senate speech. Some small-minded observers suspect he also has personal skin in the game, what with having had quadruple bypass heart surgery and all.
The bill hit a small snag on Wednesday when Democrats on the Senate commerce committee proposed that the doctors who do the new exams — who could be anyone from a dermatologist to a golfing buddy — be given a government-approved checklist of problems to look for.
They lost on a party-line vote. “My trust is in the physician compared to the F.A.A.,” said one of the Republicans. The real problem was apparently resistance from a certain snowball-making highway bill author.
“The answer has always come back from Senator Inhofe’s staff: No,” complained Bill Nelson of Florida, the ranking Democrat on the committee. Nelson, you understand, was not arguing that a dermatologist should be off-limits as a pilot medical examiner. He just wanted to increase the chances that the patient would be asked if he was subject to dizzy spells.
At that moment the committee suddenly discovered it was lacking a quorum. But everyone expects the bill to rise again in triumph. “It would have been laughable except it’s so serious,” said Blumenthal.