The Discerning Texan
-- Edmund Burke
Monday, December 08, 2008
The obvious is sometimes the most difficult thing to discern, and few things are more amusing than the efforts of our journals of record to keep "open" minds about the self-evident, and thus to create mysteries when the real task of reportage is to dispel them. An all-time achiever in this category is Fernanda Santos of the New York Times, who managed to write from Bombay on Nov. 27 that the Chabad Jewish center in that city was "an unlikely target of the terrorist gunmen who unleashed a series of bloody coordinated attacks at locations in and around Mumbai's commercial center." Continuing to keep her brow heavily furrowed with the wrinkles of doubt and uncertainty, Santos went on to say that "[i]t is not known if the Jewish center was strategically chosen, or if it was an accidental hostage scene."Be sure and read the whole thing.
This same puzzled expression is currently being widely worn on the faces of all those who wonder if Pakistan is implicated in the "bloody coordinated" assault on the heart of Bombay. To get an additional if oblique perspective on this riddle that is an enigma wrapped inside a mystery, take a look at Joshua Hammer's excellent essay in the current Atlantic. The question in its title—"[Is Syria] Getting Away With Murder?"—is at least asked only at the beginning of the article and not at the end of it.
Here are the known facts: If you are a Lebanese politician or journalist or public figure, and you criticize the role played by the government of Syria in your country's internal affairs, your car will explode when you turn the ignition key, or you will be ambushed and shot or blown up by a bomb or land mine as you drive through the streets of Beirut or along the roads that lead to the mountains. The explosives and weapons used, and the skilled tactics employed, will often be reminiscent of the sort of resources available only to the secret police and army of a state machine. But I think in fairness I must stress that this is all that is known for sure. You criticize the Assad dictatorship, and either your vehicle detonates or your head is blown off. Over time, this has happened to a large and varied number of people, ranging from Sunni statesman Rafik Hariri to Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt to Communist spokesman George Hawi. One would not wish to be a "conspiracy theorist" and allege that there was any necessary connection between the criticisms in the first place and the deplorably terminal experiences in the second.