Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "Our long war," March 8, 2008

Pakistan post-election

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency director told a Senate committee that the Pakistani military is not trained or equipped to fight al-Qaeda and other militants at its lawless Afghan border, even after the United States invested $10 billion in aid and counterterrorism efforts for Pakistan since 2001. Lt. Gen. Michael Maples told the Senate Armed Services Committee Feb. 27 that the Pakistan government is trying to crack down on the border area where Taliban and al-Qaeda are believed to be training, and from which they launch attacks in Afghanistan. The insecurity is fueling calls for President Pervez Musharraf's resignation, following Feb. 18 parliamentary elections where opposition parties, including the party of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, captured the majority of seats.

Iraq and campaign '08

Even before tight primary elections in Ohio and Texas March 4, candidates began focusing on the general-election battle, where the war in Iraq will headline the political debate. Standing between two retired generals before giving a speech at George Washington University, Sen. Hillary Clinton said she would consult with military commanders on Iraq and acknowledged that a pullout would not result in a quick end to the conflict.

Asked during a Feb. 26 debate if he would send troops back into Iraq to deal with insurrection or civil war, Sen. Barack Obama said, "If al-Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way that secures the American homeland and our interests abroad." When Republican candidate Sen. John McCain countered, "I have some news: Al-Qaeda is in Iraq," Obama later said, "I have some news for John McCain, . . . There was no such thing as 'al Qaeda in Iraq' until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq." Apparently Obama didn't hear of Ansar al-Islam, an al-Qaeda franchise operating out of northern Iraq. Its headquarters were taken out by U.S. bombing runs in the early hours of the U.S. invasion five years ago this month.

Poverty

A bill committing at least $30 billion of taxpayer money to fighting global poverty has slipped through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by voice vote and without hearings. The legislation, of which Sen. Barack Obama is a co-sponsor, would require the president to submit to the UN-crafted Millennium Development Goal of reducing global poverty by one half by 2015.

That agenda fails to take into account that the bulk of foreign handouts wind up lining the pockets of anti-American dictators. It also takes a significant step toward the UN goal of international governance and taxes, an affront to U.S. sovereignty.

Unchurched nation

More than a quarter of American adults have left the faith of their childhood in favor of another religion-or no religion at all. If change in affiliation from one type of Protestantism to another is included, roughly 44 percent of American adults have either switched religious affiliation, moved from being unaffiliated with any religion to being affiliated with a particular faith, or dropped any connection to a specific religious tradition altogether, according to a just-published survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Reagan was right

Reagan was right

Remembering the "evil empire" speech that changed history

By Paul Kengor

Diana Walker/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

It was 25 years ago, on March 8, 1983, that President Ronald Reagan addressed the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Fla., where he characterized the Soviet Union as the "focus of evil in the modern world"-an "evil empire."

The president's pronouncement was a shot heard round the world, as were his motivations: "There is sin and evil in the world," said Reagan to his Christian brothers, "and we're enjoined by Scripture and the Lord Jesus to oppose it with all our might."

Those who wished to accommodate rather than oppose the USSR, and who were not as troubled by atheistic communism, denounced the speech. In The New York Times, Anthony Lewis described the speech as "sectarian," "outrageous," "simplistic," and "terribly dangerous," before concluding it was "primitive-the only word for it." Historian Henry Steele Commager asserted, "It was the worst presidential speech in American history, and I've read them all." This was because of its "gross appeal to religious prejudice."

Certain quarters in the Kremlin hoped to turn Reagan's remarks into a propaganda tool to deride the president as a warmonger. The tactic backfired. One case in point was Natan Sharansky and his fellow inmates inside Permanent Labor Camp 35-the gulag. The Soviet prison guards shared Reagan's "primitive" words with Sharansky. Rather than being horrified, Sharansky couldn't contain his excitement. The moment his persecutors left, he eagerly tapped out Reagan's words in Morse code on his cell wall, a pattern repeated throughout the ecstatic prison camp, as the words "Evil Empire" echoed from its very source. Sharansky called Reagan's words "a great encourager for us."

The Evil Empire speech was not an anti-communist rant. It was a moral statement laying out a just cause in a just war against a militantly atheistic empire that killed tens of millions. It was a historic line in the sand 25 years ago.

-Paul Kengor, a professor at Grove City College, wrote The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2006)

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