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Thanksgiving was celebrated a week early at the reopening of St. John's Assyrian Catholic Church in the al Doura district of Baghdad.  The pews were packed. The church had been shuttered after two nearby churches were bombed in 2004.  The al Doura neighborhood had been predominantly Christian until al Qaeda began targeting Christians.  Since then, most of the Christians have fled to Syria, Jordan, or northern Iraq.  Now they are returning. The reopening of St. John's is a heartwarming story of Iraqis reaching across sectarian divisions for peace, and a powerful indicator of how much the security situation in Baghdad has improved since the troop surge began.  On Nov. 7 Michael Yon, a former Special Forces soldier turned freelance journalist, took a photograph of Iraqis, Moslems as well as Christians, placing a cross atop the refurbished church.  The photo bears a startling resemblance to that of the Marines raising the flag on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima in 1945. Here it is, truly symbolic of what American victory is achieving in Iraq:



The founding hero of ancient Athens was Theseus, son of the god Poseidon and a human mother. On his initial heroic quest, he encountered a giant named Procrustes who promised his victims he wouldn’t rob and kill them if they could fit into his bed of iron. If they were too short or long, Procrustes would stretch or amputate them to death. Theseus’ killing Procrustes was a common theme of classical Greek art:The Bed of Procrustes has ever since been the symbol of forced conformity. Such a bed has been built in Iraq - the proposed Iraq Constitution , which Iraqis will vote to pass or reject on October 15. The question is: who are the Mesopotamian Theseus and Procrustes? The great fear is that Islam will force Democracy to fit in the constitutional bed. But it just might turn out the other way around. For that’s the bet its American designers have made.



Europe is in crisis. It is depopulating because of birthrates well below replacement. Weighted down by oppressive taxes and onerous regulations, the economies of the major European nations are barely growing. Pessimism reigns. Yet there are the little flickers of light in the form of bright and energetic young people pushing constructive change, and increasing public recognition from some European leaders that the present course is unsustainable. In times of crisis, some nations find a Ronald Reagan, a Winston Churchill, or a Margaret Thatcher. If one looks closely at the increasing political divisions in France, Germany and Italy, it is now possible to imagine a future Continental version of Mrs. Thatcher or President Reagan.



We're floundering in a quagmire in Iraq. Our strategy is flawed, and it's too late to change it. Our material resources have been squandered, our best people killed, and our reputation around the world is circling the drain.  We must withdraw immediately. No, I'm not channeling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  I'm channeling Osama bin Laden, for whom the war in Iraq has been a catastrophe. Al Qaeda had little presence in Iraq during the regime of Saddam Hussein.  But once he was toppled, Al Qaeda's chieftains decided to make Iraq the central front in the global jihad against the Great Satan.  "The most important and serious issue today for the whole world is this third world war, which the Crusader-Zionist coalition began against the Islamic nation," Osama bin Laden said in an audio tape posted on Islamic Web sites in December, 2004.  "It is raging in the land of the Two Rivers.  The world's millstone and pillar is Baghdad, the capital of the caliphate." Jihadis, money and weapons were poured into Iraq from all over the Moslem world.  All for naught.  Al Qaeda has been defeated in Iraq.



It matters not a whit whether Marx was an atheist, for that only meant he wanted to supplant other religions with his own. Or whether Mohammed believed in a god named Allah, for Allah was only the name of the voice he heard in his head dictating a Recitation (thats what Koran means in Arabic).Allah is just as much a figment of Mohammeds imagination as the New Socialist Man (the different species of humanity that will come into being with the triumph of The Proletarian Revolution) was of Marxs. Both are delusions of tyranny.Marx and Mohammed are ideological brothers. More than that, Marx and Mohammed are metaphysical brothers. They share the same view on the nature of reality. Their fundamental bond is a denial of the Law of Non-Contradiction.



As demonstrated by the French and Dutch "no" votes, Europeans are increasingly frustrated living under a bureaucratic (as contrasted with a democratic) state where national sovereignty (and democratic control) continues ebbing. What should be done? Europe needs for a couple of leaders not directly tainted by the recent "constitutional" fiasco to call for a new convention to write a real constitution, which would protect the democratic and most of the sovereign rights and personal liberties of the European peoples. To succeed, the new constitution would need to allow for social and economic differences among the European states, unlike the just defeated "constitution." Delegates to the new constitutional convention would be well advised to look at the U.S. Constitution and the Federalist Papers for guidance. Most of the basic arguments about the proper role and structure of governmental units and the protection of individual liberties and national identities and rights can be found in these documents. The U.S. has evolved into a much more centralized state than our Founding Fathers envisioned, but their original vision is much closer to the type of Federal Republic with sovereign states that Europe needs today.



Most pundits in Washington have already conceded the Democrat nomination to Sen. Clinton because of the large leads she holds in national opinion polls.  But that lead is illusory, because normal people don't pay much attention to politics a year before the election.  It's not a surprise that there are a lot of undecideds in the national polls, or that the frontrunners in both parties are the candidates with the highest name recognition. The polls in Iowa -- where a higher proportion of voters is paying attention, because the Iowa caucuses are less than two months away -- tell a different story.  There, Hillary Clinton's lead over Sen. Barack Hussein Obama is within the margin of error. Sen. Obama is so wet behind the ears dolphins could swim there.  But he's a likeable guy, and people tend to vote for the candidate they like.



There’s been a lot of talk recently predicting the break-up of Iraq back into its constituent pieces. The country was glued together by the British after World War I from three vilyets or provinces of the dismantled Ottoman Empire: Kurdish Mosul, Shia Basra, and Sunni Baghdad. Now it’s seems on the verge of becoming unglued. Last week in The Persian Ratchet , we discussed how the break-up of Iraq would shatter Iran. Let’s talk now how an Iraq break-up would rearrange borders across the entire Middle East. Like how it would precipitate the break-up of Saudi Arabia.



It is common for politicians in trouble to seek scapegoats for their own incompetence and wrong-headedness, but when this begins getting widespread popular support, both the people's liberties and pocketbooks are in danger. Given its history, one would think Germany's people would be particularly resistant to demagogy. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Recently, Franz Muntefering, head of Germany's left-wing Social Democratic Party (the SPD), which also is the lead party in the governing coalition, accused business leaders of being "anti-social" and like "swarms of locusts." Rather than denounce him for attacking businesspeople and "international capital," other SPD leaders joined in the denunciations. The chairman of Lufthansa airline and a director of the "Invest in Germany" organization, Jurgen Weber, replied to the SPD leaders: "If it turns out that this criticism of capitalism has a fundamental nature, then we don't need an Invest in Germany organization any more."



On Sept. 1, 2004, Chechens affiliated with al Qaeda seized a middle school in Beslan, Russia.  In the three day siege, 334 people --most of them children -- were killed.  Could something like that happen here? * In May of 2006, two Saudi students at the University of South Florida boarded a school bus.  They were "cagey and evasive" in explaining why they boarded the bus, said a spokesman for the Hillsborough County sheriff. * In March of 2007, the FBI issued a bulletin to law enforcement warning that Moslems "with ties to extremist groups" were signing up to be school bus drivers. *  A Houston television station reported in August of this year that 17 large yellow school buses have been stolen. Al Qaeda prefers middle schools because the girls are old enough to rape, but the boys aren't big enough to fight back, says retired Army LtCol. Dave Grossman, who runs a private security firm.  Why would al Qaeda contemplate something so monstrous?