»  National Review Online

May 14th, 2002

  Prospering in Wickedness

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The text for today, brothers and sisters, is from the Marquess of Montrose (who was no doubt inspired by Jeremiah 12:1): "Doth not sometimes a just man perish in his righteousness, and a wicked man prosper in his wickedness and malice?"

This came to mind with the news story about the 13 Arab terrorists currently lounging in a beachfront tourist hotel on Cyprus, having previously taken a break from their regular work — blowing the arms and legs off Israeli teenagers in pizza parlors — to go and trash the Church of the Nativity.

Reading about that got me thinking of Leon Klinghoffer. Remember him? He was the 69-year-old disabled vacationer rewarding himself for a lifetime of hard work with a cruise on the liner Achille Lauro in 1985 when a gang of Palestinian terrorists decided to "send a message." They hijacked the ship and, in a moment of playfulness, shot Klinghoffer in his wheelchair as his wife looked on. Laughing and joking, they then dumped man and wheelchair overboard. Klinghoffer hadn't done anything to trouble them. He was just a Jew who happened to be handy — and unarmed and helpless, which is pretty much the only kind of opponent terrorists care to take on. (One of the satisfactions of watching the recent Israeli operations in the West Bank was seeing how the murderers of crippled old men and unarmed teenagers fare when obliged to fight against real soldiers. Not too well, seems to be the answer; the fearless "warriors" of Arab Palestine were surrendering to the IDF in droves.)

The mastermind terrorist behind that bold operation on the Achille Lauro was Abu Abbas, a particularly nasty piece of work, even by Palestinian standards. This bestial psychopath …

Excuse me, I'm sorry — did I say "terrorist"? Abu Abbas is no longer any such thing (if, indeed, there is any such thing). He is now a respected politician, "rushing from meeting to meeting, lunching with officials of the new Palestinian National Authority, networking, listening and making suggestions" (from a 1996 report). Abu Abbas never suffered the slightest punishment — nor, so far as I can tell, even inconvenience — for his horrible crime. He is prospering in his wickedness and malice, with all possible assistance from that "international community" we hear so much about, and whose delicate sensibilities we are all supposed to defer to. (What's that you say? This new International Criminal Court — won't they bring Abu Abbas to justice? Ha ha ha ha ha!)

As with Abu Abbas, so, I have no doubt, with the Church of the Nativity thugs. Should it come to pass that, God forbid!, the Palestinians get a state of their own, these punks and hoodlums will, like Abu Abbas, be awarded high government rank for their faithful service to the Cause, and will spend their mature years shuttling from their own luxury villas to well-catered international conferences where matters of peace, national rights and justice are discussed in tones of high earnestness.

Now, it has always been the case that, in the words of Lord Bowen:

The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella;
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust steals the just's umbrella.

There has, though, it seems to me, been some additional factor in these past few decades of peace and soft comfort to encourage the natural tendency of wickedness to prosper, and of the non-wicked to let it. This is true of extreme wickedness, at any rate: the minor kinds of wickedness we have pretty well under control. Fudge your taxes, drain your local swamp — sorry: "protected wetland" — light a cigarette in a restaurant, insist on speaking English at your place of work, or physically chastise a child, and you'll get what's coming to you. Shoot a wheelchair-bound old man and throw him in the sea, though, or have your enemies slowly dismembered so you can keep their body parts in the fridge, or let off a bomb at a memorial service for the war dead, or lock people up for life on imaginary charges — do any of these things, and fame, fortune and success await you. But permit me to demonstrate, with a few more entries pulled at random from my own personal Catalog of Evil.

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Idi Amin.   Remember Idi Amin Dada? He was the dictator of Uganda from 1971 to 1979. Uganda had been one of the more peaceful, prosperous and hopeful of Britain's African colonies. (Winston Churchill: "That paradise on earth … You climb up a railway instead of a beanstalk and at the top there is a wonderful new world.") At independence in 1963, the British handed over power to a clique of Western-educated socialist intellectuals, who quickly set about looting the place. Amin overthrew them in a coup, then systematically trashed what was left of organized Ugandan life. Among those whose murders he arranged were the Anglican Archbishop, the Chief Justice, and the Governor of the Bank of Uganda, along with some 300,000 lesser citizens.

After at first favoring Israel, where he had done some of his military training, Amin turned on the Israelis in 1972, expelled their diplomats, and gave their embassy to the PLO. He was thenceforth a client of Libya and a supporter of radical Islam and its terrorist enforcers. (Amin claimed that he himself had converted to Islam at age 16, though this has been disputed. Amin's mother was a witch doctor; he himself was educated at Christian mission schools.) The stories of Amin's cannibalism, though in the nature of things hard to prove, are widely believed in Uganda; as is the story that when one of his numerous wives displeased him, her corpse was returned to her family with the arms and legs surgically interchanged. The surgery may have been performed by the wife's personal physician, who was murdered shortly afterwards, along with his entire family.

It goes without saying that Amin was a darling of the Third World and its shills, and especially of the Arab bloc. When he gave a speech at the United Nations in 1975 calling for the annihilation of the State of Israel, he received a standing ovation. Alas, four years later Amin had to run for his life when the Tanzanian army captured his capital. After a brief residence in Libya, he settled in a roomy villa in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he now enjoys an unclouded retirement as a guest of our dear friend Prince Abdullah. According to one reference I found, Amin "can often be spotted pushing a shopping cart at a neighborhood supermarket" (the meat counter must surely be a disappointment to him). In gratitude for his staunch anti-Israeli stand, the Saudi government pays Amin's huge expenses, including cars, drivers, cooks, maids and a monthly cash allowance of $1,400. Idi Amin Dada prospers in his wickedness.

(I cannot leave Idi Amin without referring connoisseurs of deep political incorrectness to British comic John Bird's CD, The Collected Broadcasts of IdiAmin. Sample lyric: "Idi! Idi! Idi Amin! Most amazin' man de world ebber seen!" Do not have this CD visible on your coffee table if Randall Robinson comes calling.)

Gerry Adams.   There will be an election in the Republic of Ireland this Friday, and the polls indicate that Sinn Féin is going to pick up several seats in Ireland's 166-seat Parliament, which is called the Dáil (rhymes with "oil"). They currently have just one seat. Parliamentary elections in Ireland are conducted according to the system of proportional representation, so that it is easy for small parties to get seats, difficult for big parties to get stable majorities, and usually necessary for some horse-trading to occur before anybody can form a government. (See "Israel." Proportional representation may perhaps be the stupidest political idea ever to occur to the human race, though I do acknowledge that this is a very crowded field.)

Sinn Féin is a front for the so-called "Irish Republican Army," the world's most ruthless and accomplished terrorist organization — so much so that its operatives have been called upon to train Palestinian terrorists. Sinn Féin is the IRA in tweed jackets, and everybody in Ireland knows this. Why on earth would Irish people, most of whom are decent and sensible, vote for a terrorist gang? I have explored this question in a previous column, and have no space to return to it here. The dismal fact remains that for the first time since the Irish Civil War of the 1920s, when they sickened ordinary Irish people with their brutal and amoral tactics, Sinn Féin will soon be a force in the constitutional politics of Ireland.

IRA/SF have committed countless horrors in pursuit of their goals; but as the murder of Leon Klinghoffer is, for me, the representative Palestinian atrocity, so the Enniskillen bombing of 1987 is the emblem of Irish Republican terrorism. A crowd of people was gathered at that town's war memorial on "Remembrance Sunday" (the Sunday before November 11th) to commemorate the dead of the World Wars. Most of them were Protestants. Enniskillen is in a border area of Northern Ireland, heavily Republican. Most Republicans do not observe Remembrance Sunday, and ordinary Catholics of no strong political feeling would be afraid to do so in an area like that, lest they incur the displeasure of local IRA capos. IRA/SF, in fact, refer to WW2 as "England's War" — they themselves spent 1939-45 doing what they could to help Hitler; partly in the spirit of "my enemy's enemy is my friend," but mostly just because birds of a feather flock together.

Well, on that Sunday, an IRA bomb planted in a building next to the war memorial exploded, killing 11 people and injuring 60 others, aged from 2 to 75. Five of the dead were women. All the dead were unarmed — as I said, that's the way terrorists like 'em. The president of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, had this to say about the atrocity: "Our efforts to broaden our base have certainly been upset in all the areas we have selected for expansion. This is particularly true for the South [i.e. of Ireland] and internationally. Our plans for expansion will have been dealt a body blow [sic]." Translation: Darn it, we screwed up, this is REALLY bad PR. He has consistently refused any assistance to the police — either of the North or the South — in their efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of this horror, though he did announce, some years later, that the unit involved had been disbanded. Perhaps they had their IRA allowances garnisheed, too.

Adams is, as I write, looking forward to his coming electoral triumphs in the Republic this Friday. He hopes this boost to his respectability will be followed by more of those dates with presidents, prime ministers and CNN talk-show hosts that he enjoyed before September 11th 2001, but which, for reasons he is having trouble understanding, have been in short supply since that date. He is, at any rate, a man of consequence and power, prospering in his wickedness.

(Footnote: The Northern Ireland parliamentary constituency — that is, for the British parliament — in which Enniskillen is situated is currently represented by a Sinn Féin member, Ms. Michelle Gildernew. Funny thing, democracy.)

Janet Reno.   Look, I know, we're not supposed to over-moralize our political attitudes. We're not supposed to call our domestic political opponents "evil." That is the mark of the ranter, the obsessive lunatic screaming from the fringe of the crowd while real politics is being done among the traditional courtesies of the forum, between people who disagree but yet respect each other. I once lost a friend, a lefty friend (most of my friends, and all of my relatives, are lefties: willingly the cross I bear …) when she told me at the time of the 1994 Republican surge that Newt Gingrich was Evil! Evil! "Don't be so damned infantile," I snapped, "You can disagree with a person without descending into paranoia, can't you?" I myself detested the Clintons and all their works, but I never thought they were evil; just vain, shallow, cynical and wrong-headed.

I make an exception for Reno, though. There is, for me, something deeply sinister about that woman. I know, I know, we shouldn't make Holocaust comparisons, either, but to me, there was something very Adolf Eichmann about Reno: something of the dimwitted apparatchik who, without nursing any real passion for the ideology she served, or for anything else, so far as one can judge, none the less threw herself into the service of it with what would, in a person capable of zeal, have been zeal. Her motivation seems to have been that, by the light of her very dim bulb, leftist ideology accorded with the scatterbrained populism of her upbringing, and offered a satisfactory explanation for her own personal failures, resentments and discontents.

The charge sheet against this appalling woman is long and varied: the Waco massacre, the Elián González raid, etc., etc. The image that stands out, though — the mental equivalent, for me, of Enniskillen and the Achille Lauro — is of young Ileana Furster, the 17-year-old Honduran girl who, with her husband Frank, ran a day-care center in Miami in the 1980s. That was an extrememly dangerous thing to be doing with Janet Reno as local D.A., and the anti-family Left whipping up "child abuse" hysteria. You can read the whole dreadful tale for yourself if you feel inclined, here and here. The thing I always remember is the words of poor Ileana, after a year or so of solitary confinement and interrogations by bogus "psychiatrists" on Reno's payroll. Here are the words, in their context (my italics):

In a sworn deposition, Stephen Dinerstein, the experienced investigator employed by the Fusters' attorneys, described how the bright, attractive girl with shiny black hair came to look as if she were 50, her skin covered with sores and infections. "That she is in a cell with nothing in it but a light in the ceiling and that she is often kept nude and in view of everybody and anybody." Reno personally came to the prison to put on the screws. Ileana, whose condition deteriorated so badly she could hardly move, told Dinerstein that " the woman State Attorney [Reno] was very big and very scary and made suggestions as to problems that would arise if she didn't cooperate."

Frank Furster, by the way, is still in jail, doing six life terms plus 165 years. It is extremely unlikely that he committed any crime. Janet Reno is running for governor of Florida, and prospering in her wickedness.

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You could, of course, easily add a dozen, or a hundred, more names to this roll of shame. Nor is there anything new about all this. The Marquess of Montrose, after all, was stating his point of view on the matter, as quoted above, more than 350 years ago. Two thousand years before that, the authors of the Book of Job wrestled with the related problem of theodicy — of why bad things happen to good people.

I do think, though, that there is some additional factor in our age than makes us loath to bring to account those who torture young women, murder elderly cripples, blow up mourners at a war memorial, or rearrange the body parts of an offending wife. To deal with these people as they deserve to be dealt with would, in all cases, be troublesome and contentious. It would disturb the soft tranquillity of our lives, and the smooth, cosy arrangements of our diplomats. It might, in some of the cases, be dangerous. It would involve conflict with powerful financial or political interests. And worst of all, it would force us to make judgments, a thing we no longer like to do.

So the dead of Enniskillen go unavenged, Frank Furster wakes to another day in his cell, the surviving people of Uganda cry for justice in vain, and the wicked prosper in their wickedness and malice. Let us hope that God is not mocked: for the innocent, the helpless and the righteous of this world most surely are.