Reflections On Legal, Historical and Moral Illiteracy

David Petraeus

British Foreign Minister William Hague

Here are a few good and true quotes in today’s media.

First the Wall Street Journal’s terrific columnist Dorothy Rabinowitz on General David Petraeus’s fatuous remarks on the recent Quran burning:

…In an interview Sunday in this newspaper, Gen. Petraeus reflected further on the problems caused by burning the Quran and how mobs could be influenced by those who might have an interest in hijacking passions—”in this case, perhaps, understandable passions.”

To this the only sane response is no. They are not understandable, these passions that so invariably find voice in mass murder, the butchery of imagined enemies like the people hunted down in the U.N. office Friday, and of everyone else the mobs encountered who might fit the bill. We will not prevail over terrorism and the related bloodlust of this fundamentalist fanaticism as long as our leading representatives, the military included, are inclined to pronounce its motivations as “understandable.”

And Roger Pilon, also in the Wall Street Journal:

…America, especially, is not one big family.

“We the People” constituted ourselves for the several reasons set forth in our Constitution’s Preamble, but chief among those—the reason we fought for our independence—was to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” Yet nowhere today is that liberty more in jeopardy than in a federal budget that reduces us all, in so many ways, to government dependents.

Our tax system sucks the substance and spirit of entrepreneurs and workers alike, filters that substance through Washington, then sends it back through countless federal programs that instruct us in minute detail about how to use the government’s beneficence. Manufacturing, housing, education, health care, transportation, energy, recreation—is there anything today over which the federal government does not have control? A federal judge held recently that Congress can regulate the “mental act” of deciding not to buy health insurance.

The budget battle is thus replete with moral implications far more basic than Sojourners and Catholics for Choice seem to imagine. They ask, implicitly, how “we” should spend “our” money, as though we were one big family quarreling over our collective assets. We’re not. We’re a constitutional republic, populated by discrete individuals, each with our own interests. Their question socializes us and our wherewithal. The Framers’ Constitution freed us to make our own individual choices…

And Melanie Phillips on the “Occupied Palestinian Territory” canard:

…[British] Foreign Secretary William Hague was at it again yesterday, when he condemned Israel’s decision to approve more than 900 housing units for Israelis in the East Jerusalem suburb of Gilo and the retrospective approval given for further such construction in five other disputed terrritory areas. Said Hague:

“This is not disputed territory. It is occupied Palestinian territory and ongoing settlement expansion is illegal under international law, an obstacle to peace and a threat to a two state solution.”

‘Occupied Palestinian territory’? But there is no Palestinian territory, because there is not, and never has been, a sovereign state of Palestine to own anything at all. It is in effect ‘no-man’s land’ – which is why the only neutral and accurate way to describe it is indeed ‘disputed territories’. Who can be surprised that the British Foreign Office still supports the falsehoods in the Goldstone report – even after its author has himself repudiated them — when it is guilty of such legal, historical and moral illiteracy?

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