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As the war in Iraq recedes and a defeated al-Qaeda removes its surviving assets to Pakistan, the Afghan front is increasingly becoming the top American military priority.

The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, stated this week more troops and economic aid were needed “as quickly as possible” for the seven-year-old counterinsurgency battle. The core of McKiernan’s military aid request is four more combat brigades and helicopters, indicating Afghanistan will have a “surge” of its own.

“We’re in a very tough fight,” said McKiernan to reporters at the Pentagon last Wednesday. “The idea that it might get worse before it gets better is certainly a possibility.”

But McKiernan’s request should not be read to mean that Taliban and al-Qaeda forces are “gaining” in Afghanistan, as one New York Times story indicated. Even though military deaths this year have already exceeded the 117 American dead in 2007 and currently stand at a record 134, this is still low in comparison to Iraq and American casualty figures in Vietnam and World War II – especially considering there are about 50,000 American troops in Afghanistan.

The much-reported 30 percent increase in violence in Afghanistan this year has also been accompanied with very little context. One publication, Strategy Page.com, pointed out that country-wide violence will cause 6,000 deaths in Afghanistan this year, which averages out to 24 dead per 100,000 people. In contrast, South Africa, a country at peace, will see 50 citizens out of every 100,000 die violently in 2008, mostly because of its high crime rate. Other countries, especially failed states like Somalia, probably have an even higher death rate from violence, but are unable to keep proper statistics. So the Afghan situation, while not laudable, is also not dismal.

Moreover, much of Afghanistan’s violence is also unrelated to the war. Constant tribal feuding has been a way of life for centuries in Afghanistan’s rural areas and accounts for many of the country’s killings. The tribesmen are armed, proud of their martial spirit and barely acknowledge the central government. Like most lawless regions, there are also few, if any, law enforcement officials to be found there.

Afghanistan’s drug gangs are also big contributors to the country’s lack of security and cause much of the violence. They have their own armed retainers who battle both government forces as well as each other. One American humanitarian aid worker witnessed such Afghan drug violence when he was inadvertently caught in a shootout between two rival groups but escaped unharmed.

But the biggest contribution drug gangs make to Afghanistan’s turmoil is the tax money they pay to the Taliban, which then hires fighters and buys weapons to use against Western forces and the Kabul government. Afghanistan now produces about 90 percent of the world’s heroin in its southern provinces. And although a poor poppy crop was reported this year, one estimate still puts the Taliban share at about $70 million.

The drug money has also led to Afghanistan’s biggest problem: corruption. Afghan government officials are suspected of being on drug gang payrolls. Even Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, was accused of being involved in the trade. The drug cancer, combined with officials stealing Western aid intended for the poor and dispossessed, has cost the Kabul government much of the people’s confidence and support. So like the American experience in Vietnam, the US army may win the military battles, but the country could be lost because of other, non-military factors.

Nevertheless, McKiernan is correct in asking for more troops at this time. The Taliban and al Qaeda are currently under severe pressure in their Pakistani base areas. The new Zardari government launched an all-out military offensive in August against the two terrorist organizations in their tribal agency strongholds and refuses to negotiate with them, giving them the stark options of either surrendering or leaving.

McKiernan has called the offensive’s initial results “encouraging.” About 1,000 Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters have been killed in the long overdue attack. A Pakistani newspaper reported that Taliban fighters have even left Afghanistan to confront the Pakistani army, leading to a noticeable lowering of insurgent activity in American-patrolled Kunar province. After years of American complaints about jihadists crossing unhindered into Afghanistan, a senior Paksitani military official ironically commented: “The Pakistan-Afghan border is porous and is now causing trouble for us in Bajaur (tribal agency).” To keep the pressure on the enemy, the American military also announced it will also stage a winter campaign.

An expansion of the Afghan army will accompany the arrival of more American troops. Currently about 70,000 strong, Afghan forces will number 90,000 by the end of the year and 130,000 soldiers in about three years. General David Petraeus calls this Afghan military expansion a “thickening” of the local forces. An increase in numbers on both sides will, like in Iraq, allow troops to hold areas the Taliban simply reoccupies after allied forces leave.

But besides the top down strategy of meeting the enemy head on militarily, both McKiernan and Petraeus intend to increase their bottom up strategy of increasing humanitarian aid and engaging local Afghan tribal and government leaders. The Taliban also recognizes the value of this strategy, as a UN report released this week stated it had killed 30 aid workers so far this year, attacked 22 food convoys and 59 schools.

But the only hitch to McKiernan’s request for the extra brigades is that they may not arrive immediately. As American troops leave Iraq, they will probably need a few months rest at home before being sent to the Afghan-Pakistan theater. Which is probably why Defense Secretary Robert Gates said recently he is prepared to send thousands of troops to Afghanistan in the spring. So, after years of empty Taliban promises to capture Kabul in a spring offensive, it will instead be facing one of its own.

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New York – Say what you will about Geert Wilders – and his critics, not least the Islamic clerics who issue near-daily fatwas commanding his death, have made their views plain – there is no gainsaying that the man has guts. Ever since 2004, when the Dutch politician emerged as one of Europe’s more forthright foes of Islamic fundamentalism, Wilders, 45, has been the subject of considerable obloquy, both in his native Netherlands, where he is scorned by the political elite, and abroad, where he is the target of untold assassination plots.

But not only has his international infamy not deterred Wilders from declaring against Islamic extremism –and, more controversially, Islam as a whole – but it has actually spurred him to become even more outspoken about what he considers to be its mortal threat to Western civilization. Most recently, he made the point in his provocative 15-minute film, “Fitna” (“challenge” in Arabic), released on the internet last May to much handwringing in Europe’s political salons and the obligatory denunciations and death threats in the Muslim world. Agree or disagree with its message, there is no disputing its subtext: Geert Wilders will not be silenced.

This much was apparent during his September 25 stop in New York. Part of an outreach tour by Wilders and several members of his two-year-old political party, the rightist-populist Party for Freedom, the visit was designed to forge links with ideological allies in the U.S. and to explain just how parlous is the state of affairs in a Europe that is, as Wilders sees it, if not yet lost to Islam, nevertheless on the cusp of cultural and political surrender. At a lunch sponsored by the Hudson Institute, the conservative think tank, Wilders – tall, slightly tense and sporting the signature peroxide-blond bouffant that makes him look like a right-wing Mozart – offered an apt demonstration of what it is that has his European colleagues discomfited and his jihadist revilers literally clamoring for his head.

For those who’ve followed his career, it was vintage Wilders. Whether it was his recommended response to immigrants who refuse to assimilate (“there’s the door and there’s the shredder for your passport”), or his politically incorrect references to the “so-called prophet” Mohammed (“mass murderer and a sick pedophile”) and the Koran (the Muslim “Mein Kampf”), or his nod to the Iranian government (“crazy lunatics”), Wilders could not be accused of excessive diplomacy. And he was never more animated than on the subject that fuels his more health-hazardous tirades. At one point, Wilders presented what he called a lesson in “Islam 101.” It went like this: “Islam is not a religion. It’s a political ideology. If you want to compare it then the only thing you can compare it to is communism. It’s a totalitarian ideology.” Lest there be any misunderstanding, Wilders added that there was no such thing as moderate Islam. “Sure, there are moderate Muslims,” he said. “But there is no moderate Islam.”

Kindred themes feature in his film “Fitna.” To say that Wilders does not present Islam as a religion of peace is to put it mildly. “Fitna” juxtaposes graphic footage of Islamic terrorism – including the 9-11 attacks, the Madrid train bombings, and the beheading of Nicholas Berg – with Koranic verses and clips of Islamic clerics preaching murder of non-Muslims and Jews. Low-budget and unabashedly one-sided – Wilders seems uninterested in the possibility that there is more to foundational Islamic texts than murderous calls to arms – it is not exactly a polished work, something Wilders readily concedes. “I’m a lawmaker not a moviemaker,” he says. But like its creator, the film is nothing if not direct.

However one judges its content, the fact that “Fitna” has been released at all is something of an achievement. State-owned Dutch television stations refused to screen it last spring. Meanwhile, Dutch Muslims, unwittingly confirming Wilders’s skepticism about the compatibility of Islamic mores and democratic values, called for the film to be banned. The political establishment, too, failed to distinguish itself. Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende did nothing to discourage the hotter heads in the Muslim community when he announced that “Fitna” “serves no other purpose than to cause offense.” Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen similarly urged Wilders not to show the film because it could “endanger the lives of Dutch nationals” abroad. (Appearances notwithstanding, Verhagen insisted that he was “not trying to meet demands from anti-democratic forces and terrorists in the Middle East.”) “It was an absolute disgrace,” Wilders recalls of such reactions.

More menacing was the preemptive outrage in the Muslim world. In a grim replay of the Danish cartoon controversy of 2005, Dutch flags were burned, as muftis promised bloodshed if the film were shown. In Indonesia, where protestors brandished banners proclaiming “Kill Geert Wilders,” the government appealed to Dutch authorities to outlaw the film and, failing to get its way, permanently barred Wilders from entering the country. The Taliban, after getting word of the film’s release, vowed to increase attacks on Dutch troops in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda-linked groups issued internet death threats against Wilders.

While some of the threats proved empty, others were all-too credible. Indeed, today Wilders is in more danger than ever – no small feat for a man who just a few years ago was forced to spend nights in high-security prison cells and safe houses to avoid the gruesome fate of another Dutch filmmaker, Theo Van Gogh, who was savagely murdered by Moroccan Islamist Mohammed Bouyeri in November 2004. In the past two months in particular, the threats have multiplied. “It’s embarrassing even to talk about it,” Wilders says when I ask him about his security arrangements. For obvious reasons, he doesn’t want to divulge the size of his security detail, but he does say that “they would have to clear the street” in Amsterdam to accommodate them all. Even in the relative safety of Manhattan, Wilders takes no chances. As he spoke, two tall men in black suits and crew cuts sat watchfully by the door.

Safety concerns have limited Wilders’s public presence, but they have not diminished his political stature. Just the opposite: His Party for Freedom (PVV) now has nine members in the 150-member Dutch parliament, where it continues to press for its Wilders-inspired platform of restricting immigration from Muslim countries; for more aggressively monitoring domestic extremism, including radical mosques; and for reducing an indulgent welfare state that allows immigrants to live comfortably without assimilating. To be sure, these remain minority views in Dutch politics. “We vote every Tuesday and it’s always the same,” says Martin Bosma, a PVV MP. “Nine people raise their hands and the other 141 stare at their shoes.” Nonetheless, Bosma says that “we have a lot of reasons to be optimistic.” The PVV currently has around 10 percent support in national polls, he notes. Double what it attracted when it first stood for election in 2006, this would translate into 15 seats in the parliament in the next general election in 2010.

The PVV also has another thing going for it: Its animating anxiety about the dangers of Islamic extremism is now shared by large parts of the Dutch electorate. In a 2004 poll, 47 percent of the Dutch admitted to fearing that they would have to live according to Islamic rules in the Netherlands at some point. Similarly, in a May 2005 poll, 43 percent of the Dutch said Islam was incompatible with Western society, results that were more than matched the following year, when a poll found that the majority of native Dutch found Islam intolerant (52 percent), violent (40 percent), and hostile to women (70 percent). Increasingly, it seems, Wilders is preaching to the choir.

To his political adversaries, these polls are proof of Wilders’s malign influence on Dutch politics. In this exegesis, it is only Wilders and the PVV’s “racism” and “xenophobia,” bolstered by “an alarmist presentation of Muslim immigration to the Netherlands and Europe,” that is causing the Dutch to doubt the model of all-tolerant multiculturalism that has prevailed for so long.

The reality, though, is more complex. Although, at around one million, the Dutch Muslim community still is only about 5.8 percent of the population, it is increasingly a majority in some neighborhoods – and a hostile one at that. Overtoomse Veld, the west Amsterdam neighborhood of Theo Van Gogh’s killer Mohammed Bouyeri, is by some estimates 80 to 90 percent Muslim. Major Dutch cities like Rotterdam, now home to the Islamic University of Rotterdam, are nearly half Muslim. On their face, such statistics may seem unobjectionable. But it has not escaped notice that these cities, with their restive and unassimilated immigrant populations, boast some of the highest crime rates in the Netherlands and serve as havens for religious radicalism. Nor do Dutch voters need Wilders to wonder about some Muslims’ capacity for tolerance. A spate of attacks on gay men by young Muslim thugs in Amsterdam, once the self-styled “gay capital of Europe,” has convincingly made the case for him.

Among those disinclined to debate him, it’s fashionable to dismiss Wilders as a populist vulgarian who revels in giving offense. The writer Ian Baruma, writing in the New Yorker, has quipped that Wilders sees “delicacy as a sign of fraudulence.” But this is something of a misconception. Despite his exuberantly confrontational rhetoric, Wilders himself is thoughtful, personable, and hard to mistake for the Muslim-hating bigot that some imagine him to be. For instance, as he was doing an interview in New York, a man tapped him on the shoulder. It was Ebby Moussazadeh, a board member at the Hudson Institute. Pointing to his nametag, Moussazadeh said, faux-menacingly, “It’s a Muslim name.” Wilders brightened. “Iranian,” he said. “I recognize it.” Wilders explained that he had travelled to Iran a number of times before his recent notoriety and said that he would one day like to return to the country when it is politically free.

Still, it’s true that Wilders comes across as too hard-edged for some. Even as he recognizes that, he is not about to moderate his take-no-prisoners style. On the contrary, he sees it as a way of injecting urgency into the European debate about Islam and multiculturalism. “In Europe, we have consensus in our veins,” Wilders told me. “What we did for the last 30 years is compromise all the time; it was all carrots and no sticks. All we have to show for it is a lot of orange and a lot of trouble.” No more, he says. “You have to be heard. Right now, people are speaking without really saying what they mean. It’s not enough to talk about immigration. You have to get to the core of the issue, which is that Islam is incompatible with democracy.”

Since the conversation has turned to Islam, his combative side resurfaces. Although Wilders isn’t ready to go into further detail, he reveals that he is planning to make a sequel to “Fitna.” This time, though, it is Wilders who offers the preemptive threat, directed at Islamic radicals: He will not be stopped. “If I stopped talking about this, the people who want to kill me would have a holiday,” he explains. “I cannot let them win.”

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From the days of ancient Athens, the citizens of democracies have been querulous warriors. Key democratic institutions such as free speech and citizen control of the military ensure that ordinary people take an active interest in the progress of war, freely (and often loudly) offering criticism and demanding results. Such criticism typically expressed impatience with military and political leaders for not doing everything they could to win wars as quickly as possible. Yet as David Horowitz and Ben Johnson argue in their bracing analysis of American defeatism, the antiwar movements from Vietnam to the present conflict in Iraq represent something very different: criticism aimed at expediting not victory, but defeat.

Once a leader of the New Left, Horowitz has become the bête noir of the American Left through his books, speeches, and online magazine Front Page, where Johnson is managing editor. In Party of Defeat, the authors relentlessly expose the cant, hypocrisy, and suicidal self-loathing of what these days passes for progressive thought, which has corrupted the Democratic Party through its radical activist base and compromised America’s security. The Democrats’ attack on President Bush in the midst of a war, the authors conclude, is “the most disgraceful episode in America’s political history.”

Party of Defeat opens with the Vietnam War-era hijacking of the Democratic Party by antiwar radicals, whose ultimate purpose wasn’t so much to end the war, but to discredit and weaken the political, social, and economic foundations of America. For the radical Left, then and now, “no longer regards itself as part of the nation,” Horowitz and Johnson write. “This Left sees itself instead as part of an abstract ‘humanity,’ transcending national borders and patriotic allegiances, whose interests coincide with a worldwide radical cause.” As such, it must work against America’s interests and success, disguising its activity as “dissent” or a more general antiwar sentiment.

George McGovern, who captured the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 1972, embodied the leftist vision of capitalist America as a malignant aggressor responsible for global suffering and oppression. Though Richard Nixon’s landslide victory over McGovern that year ratified most Americans’ rejection of the radical worldview, the Watergate scandal empowered a Democrat-controlled Congress to cease support for South Vietnam and to eviscerate our intelligence agencies. Nixon’s political disgrace also made possible the election of Jimmy Carter, who largely shared the left’s view of a dysfunctional America. Carter, Horowitz and Johnson charge, “cut back America’s military defenses, hamstrung America’s intelligence agencies, and weakened the nation’s resolve.” And Carter abandoned the Shah of Iran, whose overthrow by radical Islamists in 1979, followed by the kidnapping of American diplomatic personnel, marked the first jihadist challenge to America.

Carter’s ineffectual response to this attack invited more, particularly in the 1990s during the presidency of Bill Clinton. Clinton, a much shrewder politician than Carter, understood that appearing weak on national defense was political suicide after the success of Ronald Reagan, whose strengthening of America’s military helped bring down the Soviet Union. Yet for all of his cruise-missile bluster, Clinton still endorsed the fundamental hostility to the military and indifference to national defense that now seem part of the Democrats’ political DNA.

During his tenure, “the analytical and operations branches of the CIA were cut by 30 percent,” the authors point out. Under Clinton, further, “the agency drastically reduced its recruitment of new case officers . . . and closed bases, including the station in Hamburg, where Mohammed Atta’s cell planned 9-11.” The cuts also led to a decline of agents in key Muslim countries. And Clinton “raised the wall between the FBI and the CIA higher than before, which fatally obstructed the efforts to capture the 9-11 plotters,” Horowitz and Johnson report. “As commander-in-chief [Clinton] was generally AWOL on the battlefront with the global Islamic jihad.”

Equally disastrous was Clinton’s failure to understand the motives of the jihadists, treating their attacks as criminal offenses rather than as acts of war. The first World Trade Center bombing, the debacle in Mogadishu, the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, the bombings of the embassies in Africa—“Bill Clinton’s response to the four terrorist bombings and the humiliating ambush in Somalia could be summarized as nothing, nothing, failure, nothing, and capitulation.” Aversion to casualties and ingrained hostility to anything other than a symbolic use of military force kept Clinton from responding more forcefully. Nor, despite numerous opportunities, did he authorize the killing of Osama bin Laden, who had declared war on America, and who in numerous writings and interviews explicitly linked America’s vulnerability to its failure to respond to these attacks.

The Carter and Clinton presidencies show that even centrist Democrats must appease the vocal minority of the party’s left wing, since it provides a large number of party activists and delegates, particularly during primaries. Hence just months after the start of the Iraq War—and from the outset of the 2004 presidential primary campaigns—national Democrats turned against a war that they had voted for, and that President Clinton had laid the foundation for in 1998 with the Iraq Liberation Act. Perhaps the most conspicuous example of this shift was the enthusiastic presence of Democratic leaders like Al Gore, Barbara Boxer, Tom Harkin, and Tom Daschle at the premier of Michael Moore’s anti-American fantasy Fahrenheit 9-11 in 2004. Moore’s film exemplified the phenomenon that came to be called “Bush derangement syndrome,” but mainstream Democrats also played a role in distorting the historical record concerning the Iraq War.

Party of Defeat includes a compelling reprise of the reasons why America went to war against Saddam Hussein. UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which declared Hussein in “material breach” of 16 previous UN resolutions enforcing the truce that ended the Gulf War, effectively legitimized military action against Iraq once Hussein ignored the 30-day deadline for complying with the resolution. Moreover, President Bush’s case for removing Hussein focused on WMD programs, not stockpiles. Though no WMD stockpiles turned up, the report of the Iraq Survey Group, made public in October 2003, indeed established the existence of WMD-related programs and equipment, laboratories and safe houses concealing equipment from UN monitoring, research on biological weapons, documents and equipment related to uranium enrichment, plans for long-range missiles, and evidence of attempts to acquire long-range missile technologies from North Korea. “It was Saddam’s refusal to observe the arms-control agreements designed to allow UN inspections and prevent him from building weapons of mass destruction that made the war necessary,” Horowitz and Johnson explain.

Yet these facts have been obscured by partisan attacks on the president’s decision to invade. Never mind that the invasion was ratified by the Authorization for the Use of Military Force against Iraq that Congress passed in October 2002, and which listed several casus belli besides WMDs. Even before then, prominent Democrats like Al Gore and Jimmy Carter were attacking the Bush Doctrine mandating preemptive action against terrorist threats. The first critical distortion that gave traction to the war’s opponents was the uproar over minor diplomat Joseph Wilson, who had been sent to Niger to investigate a British intelligence report finding that Hussein was attempting to purchase yellowcake uranium. In the summer of 2003, Wilson alleged in the New York Times and The New Republic that he had told the administration that there was no truth to the report before Bush repeated its findings in his 2003 State of the Union speech. As Horowitz and Johnson note, “The charge that Bush had lied about the Niger uranium deal provided a way for those who had previously supported the war to find common ground with the party’s radicals who had opposed it.”

That Wilson was a Democratic political activist and foreign-affairs adviser to John Kerry’s presidential campaign raised no red flags with a media that took his assertions on faith and relentlessly publicized them. By the time the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had investigated Wilson’s claims and debunked them a year later—indeed, Wilson’s actual report “lent more credibility,” as the Senate committee put it, to the existence of an Iraqi uranium deal—it was too late. The “Bush lied” mantra had won media validation and provided the antiwar activists with a potent weapon. Just how potent became clear with the meteoric rise of Vermont governor Howard Dean, whose early front-runner status in the 2004 presidential primaries forced Democratic contenders like Senators John Kerry and John Edwards—both of whom had voted in favor of removing Saddam—to tack left. Meanwhile, an increasingly overwrought Al Gore, while sitting out the presidential race, contradicted his long public record of advocating regime change in Iraq.

The press played a significant role in facilitating the cycle of sensational charges based on distorted evidence. Later investigations repudiated many of these allegations, but could not undo the damage done to public perceptions. The Abu Ghraib prison scandal is a case in point. “What would normally be counted as a minor incident in any war,” Horowitz and Johnson maintain, “was elevated to a national and then a global scandal by editors determined to exploit it without regard for its potential impact on the national interest or the security of American troops in Iraq.” The New York Times, which often sets the agenda for the rest of the mainstream media, ran 60 days of stories about Abu Ghraib, filled with ridiculous comparisons with the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam war and with Saddam’s horrific crimes: “It was exactly the kind of psychological-warfare campaign that would normally have been conducted by an enemy propaganda machine,” Horowitz and Johnson observe. So, too, with the lurid charges of abuse of the prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay, many of which were read on the Senate floor by Dick Durbin, who compared American officials there with Nazis and the genocidal Cambodian dictator Pol Pot. By the time 12 official investigations had debunked such claims, the media-stoked perception that Guantanamo was some sort of gulag of torture and abuse had achieved the status of fact, thus providing another propaganda weapon for our enemies.

On issue after issue—the alleged number of Iraqi children killed by sanctions, the inflated number of civilian casualties in the war, the looted Iraqi artifacts, the celebrity of Cindy Sheehan, the media exposure of clandestine intelligence-gathering programs, the attacks on General David Petraeus—Horowitz and Johnson document how the truth, and America’s security, were sacrificed to the ideology of radical activists, the partisan needs of the Democratic Party, and the liberal shibboleths of the mainstream media. Worse yet, America’s enemies took up these charges and incorporated them into their own propaganda (a frequent Al Qaeda tactic, as documented in Raymond Ibrahim’s The Al Qaeda Reader). For example, Osama bin Laden in a fatwa quoted epidemiologist and wannabe Democratic Congressman Les Roberts’s ridiculous toll of 650,000 civilian dead in Iraq—a figure that is twelve times the actual total by 2005. And the Iranian ambassador to the United States answered charges that his country was aiding terrorists in Iraq by alleging that “America had invaded Iraq on false pretenses” and was now making Iran the scapegoat.

Horowitz and Johnson draw a sobering conclusion: “The decision to attack the morality of America’s war effort has dealt a severe blow to the American cause. It has undermined American unity in the face of the enemy, profoundly damaged the clarity with which the war is understood, and diminished Americans’ ability to defend themselves.” In this important presidential election year, Party of Defeat is essential reading.

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Morose that there hasn’t been another terrorist attack on American soil for seven long years, liberals were ecstatic when Hurricane Gustav was headed toward New Orleans during the Republican National Convention last week. The networks gave the hurricane plenty of breaking-news coverage — but unfortunately it was Hurricane Katrina from 2005 they were covering.

On Keith Olbermann’s Aug. 29 show on MSNBC, Michael Moore said the possibility of a Category 3 hurricane hitting the United States “is proof that there is a God in heaven.” Olbermann responded: “A supremely good point.”

Actually, Olbermann said that a few minutes later to some other idiotic point Moore had made, but that’s how Moore would have edited the interview for one of his “documentaries,” so I will, too. I would only add that Michael Moore’s morbid obesity is proof that there is a Buddha.

Hurricane Gustav came and went without a hitch. What a difference a Republican governor makes!

As many have pointed out, the reason elected officials tend to neglect infrastructure project issues, like reinforcing levees in New Orleans and bridges in Minneapolis, is that there’s no glory when a bridge doesn’t collapse. There are no round-the-clock news specials when the levees hold. You can’t even name an overpass retrofitting project after yourself — it just looks too silly. But everyone’s taxes go up to pay for the reinforcements.

Preventing another terrorist attack is like that. There is no media coverage when another 9/11 doesn’t happen. We can thank God that President George Bush didn’t care about doing the safe thing for himself; he cared about keeping Americans safe. And he has, for seven years.

If Bush’s only concern were about his approval ratings, like a certain impeached president I could name, he would not have fought for the Patriot Act and the war in Iraq. He would not have resisted the howling ninnies demanding that we withdraw from Iraq, year after year. By liberals’ own standard, Bush’s war on terrorism has been a smashing, unimaginable success.

A year after the 9/11 attack, The New York Times‘ Frank Rich was carping about Bush’s national security plans, saying we could judge Bush’s war on terror by whether there was a major al-Qaida attack in 2003, which — according to Rich — would have been on al-Qaida’s normal schedule.

Rich wrote: “Since major al-Qaida attacks are planned well in advance and have historically been separated by intervals of 12 to 24 months, we will find out how much we’ve been distracted soon enough.” (“Never Forget What?” New York Times, Sept. 14, 2002.)

There wasn’t a major al-Qaida attack in 2003. Nor in 2004, 2005, 2006 or 2007. Manifestly, liberals thought there would be: They announced a standard of success that they expected Bush to fail.

As Bush has said, we have to be right 100 percent of the time, the terrorists only have to be right one time. Bush has been right 100 percent of the time for seven years — so much so that Americans have completely forgotten about the threat of Islamic terrorism.

For his thanks, President Bush has been the target of almost unimaginable calumnies — the sort of invective liberals usually reserve for seniors who don’t separate their recyclables properly. Compared to liberals’ anger at Bush, there has always been something vaguely impersonal about their “anger” toward the terrorists.

By my count, roughly one in four books in print in the world at this very moment have the words “Bush” and “Lie” in their title. Barnes & Noble has been forced to add an “I Hate Bush” section. I don’t believe there are as many anti-Hitler books.

Despite the fact that Hitler brought “change,” promoted clean, energy-efficient mass transit by making the trains run on time, supported abortion for the non-master races, vastly expanded the power of the national government and was uniformly adored by college students and their professors, I gather that liberals don’t like Hitler because they’re constantly comparing him to Bush.

The ferocity of the left’s attacks on Bush even scared many of his conservative allies into turning on him over the war in Iraq.

George Bush is Gary Cooper in the classic western “High Noon.” The sheriff is about to leave office when a marauding gang is coming to town. He could leave, but he waits to face the killers as all his friends and all the townspeople, who supported him during his years of keeping them safe, slowly abandon him. In the end, he walks alone to meet the killers, because someone has to.

That’s Bush. Name one other person in Washington who would be willing to stand alone if he had to, because someone had to.

OK, there is one, but she’s not in Washington yet. Appropriately, at the end of “High Noon,” Cooper is surrounded by the last two highwaymen when, suddenly, his wife (Grace Kelly) appears out of nowhere and blows away one of the killers! The aging sheriff is saved by a beautiful, gun-toting woman.

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Porton Down

LONDON – The British intelligence service MI5 has redrawn its electronic map of Britain’s “hot spots” terrorist targets – to include provincial university towns, colleges and picturesque villages close to high-security installations. Among these are the Government Communications Center in the rolling hills of the Cotswolds and Porton Down, the top-secret Chemical/Biological Defense Establishment, alongside the traditional English countryside of small towns, villages and farms, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

The Security Service fears such peaceful locations could serve as cover for target recognition by al-Qaida associated groups.

Already MI5 confirmed it has more than 2,000 suspects under surveillance. But they mostly are in London and other major cities. Now the fear is that terrorists have moved out into the countryside, posing as tourists or students to look for suitable targets.

“While it would be virtually impossible for them to penetrate high security establishments like GCHQ or Porton Down, to carry out a terrorist outrage in their vicinity would still cause havoc,” an MI5 source said.

The warning follows the attempted attack on a shopping center restaurant in Exeter and the discovery in Bristol of a bomb factory in the city’s suburbs.

Both cities have a large university population whose students include a substantial number of Muslims and members of Islamic societies.

“Our concern is that those societies are promoting al-Qaida. Until recently the country areas have been near empty when we assessed hot spots. Now we have set up counter-terrorism units across not only the West Country, but also in Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester. All have campuses which now need to be more closely watched,” the source said.

The new hot spots have increased the number to more than 100 areas of the country.

The West Country – where the Ministry of Defense has a number of high-security establishments – had until now only been considered “a low risk.”

But the attempt by Nicky Reilly, a 22-year-old mentally disturbed Muslim convert, to blow himself up in an Exeter restaurant has stunned counter-intelligence officers.

Another convert, Andrew Ibrahim, a 19-year-old former drug addict, was discovered in an MI5-led raid to have turned his home into a bomb-making factory in a Bristol suburb.

MI5 have now begun a hunt through provincial university files to check on the backgrounds of students who have contacts with Islamic organizations.

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