July 28, 2005 | 5:13 PM ET

It's not just the Cairo protest that I mention below, there are more signs of progress from the Muslim community, at long last.  Here's one:

Following deadly bombings in Britain and other nations, American Muslim scholars issued an edict Thursday condemning religious extremism and calling terrorists "criminals, not `martyrs.'"

Many Muslim leaders overseas have made similar statements in recent weeks, but some have left an opening for violence to be used in certain situations. One group of British Muslim leaders who denounced the July 7 attacks in London said suicide bombings could still be justified against an occupying power — drawing criticism that it
invited violence in Iraq, where civilians along with coalition
troops have been killed.

However, the U.S. scholars said in a Washington news conference that their prohibition applied to attacks on civilians everywhere. Their fatwa states that Muslims are obligated to help law enforcement authorities "protect the lives of all civilians."

About time, and the (relative) absence of weasel-wording is nice.  But for really strong language you have to look to the people who are actually confronting the suicide bombers.  Austin Bay reprints an editorial from the Iraqi newspaper Al Adala:

The eye-catching aspect is that there are states and leaders behind the terrorists' networks, as well as mass media establishments and personalities, who don't feel shame for supporting those terrorist organizations with the excuse of gaining a victory for Islam. Despite that, they have political schizophrenia in their contradicting stances, since sometimes they claim their commitment to human rights and to combating terror. On the other hand, they support those criminal movements which spread like a disease. At the same time, they adhere to improving relations with the European states, and yet they encourage those organizations to harm or destroy European countries.

Those organizations are also supported by the Arab satellite channels and journalists, who rely on European support and are strengthened by European democracy, and then they call to kill the innocents, and they praise the killers and criminals under the guise of glorifying Islam and the Muslims. These badly twisted people express the deterioration in the political behavior.

Indeed it is, and it's nice to see more people noticing.

July 28, 2005 | 1:46 PM ET

Sunday I complained about the lack of media attention given to anti-terrorism marches in the Arab world and elsewhere.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal (sorry -- subscription link only), Ahmed Al-Rahim asked why not a million-Muslim march against terror?

Sadly, only the voices of Western political leaders constantly remind us that Islam is a "religion of peace."  Where are the Muslims, especially those living in the West, who have the freedom to organize and make their voices heard?  It seems that the only time we hear from the Muslim masses is when there are alleged desecrations of the Quran, or of prisoner abuse in Iraq.  Where is the Muslim outrage, the mass protests to defend Islam, in whose sacred name murder is committed nearly every day, against what Western leaders describe as a "perversion of its true nature"?

Alas, the battle against Islamism -- and also for the heart of Islam -- has become a battle for the West to fight. As a Muslim, these acts of terrorism committed by fellow Muslims -- and yes, they are Muslims, from whom we cannot distance ourselves by the sophistry that asserts that their version is but a perversion of Islam -- are a great source of shame. But what is more shameful is that there are no mass Muslim protests to speak of against terrorism that is committed in our name.

In the same way that Muslims have protested against alleged desecrations of the Quran, they now should be out in full force in the streets of Cairo, London and New York, sending a clear message to the Islamists that Enough is Enough.

Well, it's not likely to draw a million marchers, but in fact Egyptian bloggers are planning a candlelight vigil in Cairo Friday to protest terrorism and to remember its victims.  And -- as I write this -- I see a representative from Free Muslims Against Terrorism on television, condeming the Islamic terrorists and calling for more marches.

These are small efforts, but they're a start.  I hope they'll get the encouragement they need.  From tiny acorns, mighty oaks grow.  Let's give this one some help.

July 26, 2005 | 1:13 PM ET

Asking and telling

What sort of questions should senators ask Supreme Court nominees?  And what sort of questions are off-base?

That's one of the things that constitutional law professors Brannon Denning and Erwin Chemerinsky are debating over at the Web site of Legal Affairs, a topical magazine on the law published out of Yale.

The big problem is that the things that really matter won't come up in questions, and are hard for third parties to discern.  Integrity (both general and intellectual), judicial temperament, personality:  Those are probably more important than what a judge thinks about, say, partial-birth abortion.  Supreme Court justices, in particular, stay on the Court for a long time, and it's unlikely that 30 years hence Justice Roberts will be ruling on the topics that seem hot today.
(What will the issues be in 30 years?  I don't know -- probably robot rights or something.  The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Robots -- slogan:  "Robots are people too, or at least they will be someday!" -- hasn't weighed in on Roberts yet, though, as far as I can tell.)

When William Brennan was appointed to the Court, nobody asked his views on whether there was a constitutional right to abortion, or what he thought about affirmative action.  I don't think anybody asked John Paul Stevens about gay marriage, either.  Justices tend to outlast issues, which is why character and temperament matter more.  But they're hard to get at in Senate questioning.  About all you can learn on those subjects -- in light of the dumb questions that are usually asked -- is whether the nominee can suffer fools gladly.  Whether that's an important qualification for a Supreme Court justice is less clear.

July 24, 2005 | 9:40 PM ET

Ignoring the anti-terrorist Arabs?

The pigeons from the London and Sharm El Sheikh bombings are coming home to roost, as a lot of people seem to be undergoing a mood change regarding terrorism.  Among those people are a lot of Arabs and Muslims.

Egyptian blogger Karim Elsahy tried to organize an anti-terror march in Cairo.  And it worked -- though as another Egyptian blogger reports, it was broken up by Egyptian police:

We then started holding the banners in the view of the incoming and outgoing traffic.  People's response was mostly the same: Astonished at first that something like this was happening, and then they showed their support by either honking or giving us the thumbs up.  We were getting so many thumbs up I was loving it.  The people were with us.
Just as I knew they would be.  And then, of course, the Egyptian police showed up...

Read the whole thing -- and he's got photos, too.  And yet another Egyptian blogger who was there notes that the police weren't so bad, really:

People started looking and reading what was written.  A number slowed down just to read what we were displaying.  Others sounded their car horns.  I felt we were getting a very positive response from the people until Egypt's "do-not-disturb-the-peace-whatsoever" police destroyed our utopia and our ecstasy the same way Samson destroyed the temple.
Anyway, the experience was worth it.  And I have to admit that the policemen were themselves very supportive.  They just followed the usual rule of Egypt's police force: do not allow anything to disrupt the peace no matter how good or bad it is.  I just don't understand the logic behind this rule.  Why would we allow only the terrorists to be the ones who "disrupt the peace"?

Why, indeed?  But this is a big step for Egypt.  And for Egyptian bloggers.  As Jeff Jarvis notes:  "A year or so ago, I could not find any blogging scene there.  Now, these people are making their voices heard."

There was a much larger demonstration at Sharm El Sheikh, scene of last week's horrific bombing.  Egyptians stood side by side with tourists condemning terrorism and calling for peace.

It wasn't just in Egypt, either.  There were also anti-terror rallies by Arabs and Muslims in Antelope Valley, California, in Iraq, and in Denmark.

What's depressing is how little attention these demonstrations got from the media (you'll notice that most of the links above are to blog reports, not news stories).  If any of these groups had blown something up -- or even just burned President Bush in effigy -- they probably would have made the evening news.  But when Arabs and Muslims defy news-media typecasting, they seem to be ignored.

If the press wanted to help put an end to terrorism, it would cover these stories — which ought to have the requisite "man bites dog" flavor compared to its usual offerings — instead of largely ignoring them.  Why doesn't it?  Stereotyping Arabs and Muslims as anti-American and pro-terrorist seems a bit, well, racist, the sort of racial profiling that journalists decry when it's done by others.

So why the lack of coverage?  Good question.  At least, thanks to blogs, the story can get out on its own.

UPDATE:  The anti-terror protests may not be getting much press in Western media, but they're getting major treatment in Arab media.  That's certainly a good thing, but I still wonder why CNN, Fox and -- yes-- even MSNBC haven't done more with this story.  Maybe they need to be reading more blogs!

July 21, 2005 | 4:07 PM ET

Howard spanks the press

Luckily, today's London bombings were pretty much a fizzle compared with the ones two weeks ago.  The bombs didn't go off, and the bombers scurried away.

Press attacks on British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australian Prime Minister John Howard, seeking to capitalize on the bombings, also fizzled.  At their joint press conference today, the mood was snarky and confrontational.  One reporter asked Blair if the attacks were his fault, because of his support for the invasion of Iraq.  Blair's answer was adequate, but it fell to John Howard to administer some much needed correction to the snarky press:

Can I just say very directly, Paul, on the issue of the policies of my government and indeed the policies of the British and American governments on Iraq, that the first point of reference is that once a country allows its foreign policy to be determined by terrorism, it's given the game away, to use the vernacular. And no Australian government that I lead will ever have policies determined by terrorism or terrorist threats, and no self-respecting government of any political stripe in Australia would allow that to happen.

Can I remind you that the murder of 88 Australians in Bali took place before the operation in Iraq.

And I remind you that the 11th of September occurred before the operation in Iraq.

Can I also remind you that the very first occasion that bin Laden specifically referred to Australia was in the context of Australia's involvement in liberating the people of East Timor. Are people by implication suggesting we shouldn't have done that?

When a group claimed responsibility on the website for the attacks on the 7th of July, they talked about British policy not just in Iraq, but in Afghanistan. Are people suggesting we shouldn't be in Afghanistan?

When Sergio de Mello was murdered in Iraq -- a brave man, a distinguished international diplomat, a person immensely respected for his work in the United Nations -- when al Qaeda gloated about that, they referred specifically to the role that de Mello had carried out in East Timor because he was the United Nations administrator in East Timor.

Now I don't know the mind of the terrorists. By definition, you can't put yourself in the mind of a successful suicide bomber. I can only look at objective facts, and the objective facts are as I've cited.

The objective evidence is that Australia was a terrorist target long before the operation in Iraq. And indeed, all the evidence, as distinct from the suppositions, suggests to me that this is about hatred of a way of life, this is about the perverted use of principles of the great world religion that, at its root, preaches peace and cooperation. And I think we lose sight of the challenge we have if we allow ourselves to see these attacks in the context of particular circumstances rather than the abuse through a perverted ideology of people and their murder.

Howard was polite, but the message was clear:  You're idiots who don't know what you're talking about.  Which was certainly true enough.  If the reporters had done their homework, they would have noticed that Howard had just answered a similar question similarly in the United States:

Australia was a terrorist target long before the Iraq operation. We were a terrorist target before the 11th of September, 2001.  The first transgression in the eyes of al Qaeda and Bin Laden that Australia committed was to go to the assistance of the people of East Timor, an act by the Australian government that had the overwhelming support of the Australian people.  There is a broader issue, and that is that no country can allow its foreign and defense policy to be malleable in the hands of terrorists.

And here -- widely publicized at the time -- is Osama bin Laden's pre-Iraq manifesto against the West, which talks about a lot of things, including Australia's rescue of East Timor, a largely Christian area being massacred at the hands of troops from Muslim Indonesia:

Let us examine the stand of the West and the United Nations in the developments in Indonesia when they moved to divide the largest country in the Islamic world in terms of population.  This criminal, Kofi Annan, was speaking publicly and putting pressure on the Indonesian government, telling it: You have 24 hours to divide and separate East Timor from Indonesia.  Otherwise, we will be forced to send in military forces to separate it by force. 

The crusader Australian forces were on Indonesian shores, and in fact they landed to separate East Timor, which is part of the Islamic world.  Therefore, we should view events not as separate links, but as links in a long series of conspiracies, a war of annihilation in the true sense of the word.

You'd think that the press would listen to what terrorists say their motives are, instead of making up politically-motivated explanations of their own.  Questions like these expose the press as both overly interested in scoring political points, and shamefully ignorant, or dishonest. 

Sadly, that's become the norm in this war.  Is it any wonder that the press's prestige and influence continues to fall?  Perhaps they should read this essay on apologists for terror by Norm Geras in The Guardian.  As Geras writes,

No words of dismay, let alone grief, could be allowed to pass some people's lips without the accompaniment of a "We told you so" and an exercise in blaming someone other than the perpetrators
It needs to be seen and said clearly: there are, among us, apologists for what the killers do.  They make more difficult the fight to defeat them.

Yes, they do.  Read the whole thing.  Especially if you're a journalist who covers these topics.

UPDATE:  Since a picture is worth a thousand words, this photo essay on Al Qaeda attacks predating the Iraq invasion makes Howard's point rather thoroughly.

July 20, 2005 | 9:31 PM ET

Who is he?  Why is he here?
More on John Roberts

We know a lot about his biography, but other items are less clear.  Libertarian law professor Randy Barnett " Who is John Roberts?  Who knows?"

John Roberts is who you get when the President finally nominates the "best qualified" candidate. I mean truly best qualified as measured by college and law school degrees (both Harvard), grades (summa, Harvard; Magna, Harvard Law School), clerkships (Friendly, Rehquist), post law school job (Chief Deputy SG), big prestigious law firm job. He is widely reputed to be considered by the Justices themselves as among the very best Supreme Court oral advocates around today. And no one dislikes him.

But what sort of Justice will Judge Roberts make? I have no idea. I have never met him, so all I have to go on is his public record--a record of enormous accomplishment. But so far as I know, we know nothing about what he stands for apart from the fact that he is undoubtedly politically conservative. Is he an originalist? We don't know. Is he a majoritarian conservative like Robert Bork? We don't know. Would he find any limits on the enumerated powers of Congress?  We don't know. Would he have ruled with the majority in Kelo? We don't know.
Am I being too hard on Judge Roberts? Perhaps. But I do know this.  Writing an article, giving a speech, or even writing a column or blog about how the Constitution should be interpreted--taking a position, and defending it against all comers--is hard. Not the same kind of hard as standing up to judicial questioning in oral argument, to be sure. Almost completely different, actually. It requires a knowledge of one's own principles and an ability to articulate them and defend them publicly against contrary views.

We'll see how things work out.  Personally, I would have gotten immediately excited about Alex Kozinski or even Eugene Volokh.  But I know a lot more about them than I do about Roberts.
I'll just have to wait and see, I guess.

Federal appeals court judge John G. Roberts
Jim Watson  /  AFP - Getty Images
Federal appeals court judge John G. Roberts Jr.'s son John dances as U.S. President George W. Bush announces Roberts as his first Supreme Court nominee.  Roberts' wife Jane and daughter Josephine look on.
Meanwhile, I have an important correction:  When I wrote earlier that President Bush seemed to be smirking, well, he was.  But what he was smirking at was something not visible on camera -- the antics of Roberts' son Jack, visible in this picture.  Other people drew different conclusions from the facial expressions during the announcement.  All I can say is that this is a good reminder that no matter how real things look on TV, you're never seeing the full picture.

July 20, 2005 | 3:26 AM ET

It's all in the body language

President Bush has nominated John Roberts to fill Sandra Day O'Connor's Supreme Court seat.

Is that good or bad?  Depends.  I'm pro-choice, and I'm pretty sure Roberts isn't.  (So is NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League.)  What are his positions on other issues?  I'm not sure.  I searched the transcripts of his confirmation for the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to see if he'd said anything about the right to keep and bear arms, but found nothing.  Most of his career has been as a practicing lawyer, where the opinions he argues are his clients', not his own.

Video: Bush selects Roberts for high court Nonetheless, I'm predicting a confirmation based solely on body language.  Watching Senators Pat Leahy and Chuck Schumer respond to Bush's nomination, I noticed that they seemed flat, and not terribly motivated.  They seemed to be going through the motions, not smelling blood.  Bush, on the other hand, was smirking just a bit too much, like a man who thinks he's got it in the bag.  He's probably right.

That could change, I suppose, but it seems unlikely that a man who has not only been confirmed to the second-highest court in the land, but has also served in important White House positions, could have many surprises in his background.

Add to that the fact that Roberts was named by Joe Lieberman (one of the 14 moderates who cut a filibuster deal) as a compromise candidate who wouldn't be filibustered, and his prospects look pretty good.

The big question is whether Bush's hardcore social-conservative supporters will be happy with Roberts.  While he may not be a red flag to the left, he's not exactly red meat to the right, either.

For more, you might want to read this profile of Roberts from the New York Sun, this profile from The New Republic, and this profile from SCOTUSblog, a lawyers' blog specializing in the Supreme Court.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive


Discussion comments