Jewish World Review Oct. 24, 2002 / 19 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby
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Musings, random and otherwise | Stop me if you've heard this, but:

When Saddam Hussein emptied Iraq's prisons this week, he called it a gesture of gratitude for his unanimous "re-election" in last week's sham vote. A likelier explanation is that he is trying to bolster domestic support before the forthcoming US attack.

Iraqis massing outside the Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad went along with the "gratitude" charade at first, waving portraits of Saddam and loudly singing his praises. But when the prison gates collapsed from the pressure of the stampeding crowd, the pretense ended.

"Seeing watchtowers abandoned and the prison guards standing passively by or actively supporting them as they charged into the cell blocks," John Burns reported in The New York Times, "the crowd seemed to realize that they were experiencing, if only briefly, a new Iraq, where the people, not the government, was sovereign. . . . In one cell block, a guard smiled broadly at an American photographer, raised his thumb and said, 'Bush! Bush!' Elsewhere, guards offered an English word almost never heard in Iraq. 'Free!' they said. 'Free!' "

In November 1989, Nicolae Ceausescu ruled Romania with an unwavering grip. A month later he was dead, executed by firing squad after a sudden uprising. Sometimes all it takes is a crack in the wall, a tiny breach into which liberty can force its way. Saddam's fall is coming. And maybe sooner than we expect.

The 17th edition of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations is out, and this time the Gipper gets his due.

When the 16th edition was published in 1992, conservatives were incensed that none of Ronald Reagan's great utterances were in it -- not even his famed exhortation at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate in 1987, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" At the time, editor Justin Kaplan -- a staunch Cambridge liberal -- conceded that the omissions weren't inadvertent: "I'm not going to disguise the fact that I despise Ronald Reagan," he said.

Ten years later, Kaplan has had a change of heart -- not about Reagan, but about succumbing to his own ideological animus. "I admit I was carried away by prejudice," he told USA Today last week. "Mischievously, I did him dirt."

Bravo! Nothing shows character like a proud man admitting he was wrong. Liberals should do it more often. Conservatives should, too.

At least 14 Israelis were murdered -- many burned alive -- and 65 were wounded when a car packed with explosives rammed a passenger bus near Hadera on Monday. Islamic Jihad promptly took credit for the slaughter, and once again that perfect silence you heard was millions of Muslims in America and Europe not crying out in protest against those who commit massacres in the name of Islam.

The night before, Islamic terrorists bombed a Catholic shrine in the Philippine city of Zamboanga, leaving one dead and 12 injured. Three days earlier, two terror attacks in the largely Christian city's shopping district killed seven and wounded more than 160. And from moderate Muslims in the West, the heartfelt expressions of revulsion and sorrow were -- inaudible.

Time and again we have been instructed that Islam is a "religion of peace." Over and over we have been assured that most Muslims are nonviolent and tolerant. And yet when Islamist fanatics commit acts of horrifying atrocity, and do so as Muslims, the peaceable Islamic majority has nothing to say. Why not?

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Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

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