“I have been half in love with easeful Death…”
– John Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale”

Easeful death: that, in a nutshell, is the topic of Samuel Gregg’s new book, Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future. Gregg, who is the director of research at the Acton Institute, reminds us that when Alexis de Tocqueville traveled to America in 1831, he encountered a nation of people who startled and impressed him with their robustness, energy, ambition, and entrepreneurial spirit – in a word, their life. The America of today, or at least the America of not very long ago, was still recognizably, at heart, the same America that Tocqueville wrote about in Democracy in America: a country of hard-working, optimistic people who believed ardently in self-reliance, individual enterprise, and – above all – freedom.

Gregg contrasts this intensely vital America with the nations of Europe that, since World War II, have rejected U.S.-style liberal democracy in favor of social democracy, subordinating individual liberty to cradle-to-grave communal security and allowing their economic vigor to be smothered by, as Gregg puts it, the “dead hand of the state.” If indeed what Europeans enjoy today is a kind of “easeful death,” it is a death that many of them would die rather than give up. Frenchmen who can’t bring themselves to get up in the morning and go to work – preferring instead to live on generous government benefits – are nonetheless able to spend days on end marching in the streets, stopping traffic, ranting at gendermes, and mounting the barricades, Les Miz-style, in protest against even the slightest proposed rollback in those handouts.

Never mind the economic logic of the situation – the fact that something’s eventually got to give. We’re talking about multiple generations of Europeans who have been brought up on the idea that they’re entitled. The idea that a society, to be truly humane, must temper the harshness of capitalism through the multifarious efforts of a benign state. The idea that today’s European social-democratic welfare state represents the very culmination of the millennia-long progress of human civilization. And, of course, the idea that even the slightest compromise with realism would amount to an inexcusable step back toward American-style barbarism. As Jacques Chirac put it (disgracefully) in 2005, liberalism – meaning an economy more like America’s – “would be as disastrous as communism” to his country. Or how about this dumb line, which Gregg credits to former European Commission president Jacques Delors: “Cinema explains American society. It’s like a Western, with good guys and bad guys, where the weak don’t have a place.” (Yes, and in France all the conversations are in song, just like in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.) The America-as-Wild-West meme is a moribund cliché, of course, but it’s alive and well in the Land of the Dead.

DANIEL GREENFIELD: OBAMA’S NEW PEACEKEEPER ARMY Sending women into combat, like the end of the ban on official homosexuality, has been met with worried remarks about its impact on the “warrior culture.” But the new military that the left has been building for some time now is not interested in warriors; it wants peacekeepers. The old army fought for a […]

VICTOR SHARPE: THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS It is what Barack Obama didn’t say in his second Inaugural Address that was the most significant. He came close to turning his back on most of the world as he delivered a fiercely liberal and avowedly socialist vision of what he wants America to be. He said, “A decade of war is now […]

JONAH GOLDBERG: HILLARY CLINTON’S DODGY TESTIMONY A lot of people in Washington apparently forgot how good Hillary Clinton is at not telling the truth. Wednesday, in her testimony before the Senate and, later, the House, Clinton brilliantly fudged, dodged, and filibustered. Of course, she’s a pro. Clinton was slow-walking depositions, lawyering up, and shifting blame when many of her questioners […]


When the shah fled Iran, my newspaper colleagues and I actually thought we were covering a promising new era.

Only a few newspaper headlines become iconic, a story in their own right. The headline “Shah Raft”—”The Shah Has Left” in Persian—is one of those. It was printed on the front page of Iran’s two main daily newspapers, Kayhan and Ettelaat, on Jan. 16, 1979, after Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi left Tehran for good.

“Shah Raft” captured the victory of the revolution. It encapsulated history in the making. It ran in bold Persian letters, in size 84 font, across the top of the page. Over a million copies were printed. In Iranian journalism circles, the headline has sparked years of debate: Who wrote it? Who picked it? How did it come about?

This month marks 34 years since “Shah Raft” hit the press. I was a deputy editor at Kayhan at that time. Here is what I remember from the newsroom in Tehran that night.

Enlarge Image
Associated Press

More than a million supporters of an Islamic republic assembled around Shayad monument in Tehran.

All day on Jan. 16, Kayhan’s offices had been packed, buzzing. We’d brought a television set to the newsroom to watch the departure of the shah. The reporter assigned to the story was glued to the television in anticipation. His sleeves were rolled up. He was ready to write. Another reporter was at the Tehran airport reporting live from a payphone. There were no cellphones in those days. I was responsible for talking to the reporter and relaying his minute-by-minute dispatches to the copydesk.

The newsroom staff resembled a team of wandering spirits, proceeding from the television set, to the phone, to the editorial desk.

In our morning editorial meeting that day, we had discussed how we would handle the headline if the shah really did leave Iran. Would we use the shah’s name with the singular or plural form of the verb “to leave”? In Persian, a plural verb is often used with a singular noun to suggest utmost respect for the subject.

Until then, we had always been obliged to use the plural form of the verb when writing about the shah. But things were changing fast. Kayhan’s editor in chief, Rahman Hatefi, said at the meeting: “Once the shah leaves there is no coming back. He is as good as dead.”

That settled it. Worried about the possible repercussions of our coverage, we agreed with Ettelaat to use the same font and to go to press at the same time. Safety in numbers.

Still, our page designer was anxious. A political prisoner under the shah, he had dreamed of this day. He prepared the layout of “Shah Raft” in advance and kept it in his desk drawer. He paced around the newsroom, chain-smoking, sometimes walking over to my desk to put his hands on my shoulders. His eyes sparkled.

None of us knew then what we know now: Publishing the headline “Shah Raft” would spell the end of our careers. None of us knew that most of us would end up in jail, tortured and interrogated. We could have never known that out of 110 newsroom staff present that day, only one person would still be working at Kayhan today.

Around noon, I heard the reporter screaming on the phone. “Houshang, Houshang, the shah left!”

I couldn’t believe it. “Did you see with your own eyes?” I asked.

“I saw with my own eyes. The shah left. He left!”

I hung up the phone and screamed, “The shah left!”

BARBIE BOXER ALSO IN A SNIT…STORMS OUT OF BENGHAZI HEARINGS Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., told MSNBC’s Al Sharpton Wednesday night she was “infuriated” during Sen. Rand Paul’s questioning of Sec. Hillary Clinton and even left the hearing room. “When I heard him say those words, I walked out of the hearing room, and listened to him from behind the stage, because I was so […]

BEN WOLFGANG: FRACKING ON THE RISE GLOBALLY Fracking is going global. The U.S. energy industry clearly still leads the way on the revolutionary drilling method that has upended global energy markets, but the rest of the world is beginning to catch up as nations seek to replicate American success in oil and natural gas development. Taking the lead in Europe, Poland […]

MOSHE PHILLIPS: THE ISRAELI ELECTION….THE OTHER YAIR The Israeli election news that has captured the moment is the surprising success of Yair Lapid’s new party, Yesh Atid (There’s a Future), and the fact that it will now have the second-largest number of seats in the Knesset. What may be more interesting in the long term is the story missed by reporters […]


When US forces killed Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, Hillary Clinton hailed the event as coinciding with the end of the jihadist era — sorry, “extremist narrative” era (she was still parroting Obama-approved lingo) — in the Middle East and North Africa, just where we see it resurgent today.

Hillary Clinton, May 2, 2011:

History will record that bin Ladin’s death came at a time of great movements toward freedom and democracy, at a time when the people across the Middle East and North Africa are rejecting the extremist narratives and charting a path of peaceful progress based on universal rights and aspirations. There is no better rebuke to al-Qaida and its heinous ideology.

Clinton’s statement crystallizes the Western delusion, which is also the Western desire. In May 2011, Clinton’s “freedom and democracy” — a.k.a., the even more euphemistic and inaptly metaphoric “Arab Spring” — were indeed moving across the Middle East and North Africa, but they were powered by the “extremist narratives” Clinton told us these Islamic lands were “rejecting.” This phenomenon is something Clinton, Obama, Sarkosy (Bernard Henri Levy), Cameron will never, can never admit. Their claim to authority and respect, their reputations, their careers, their future exercise of power are all threatened — doomed — by any reckoning, any admission of the purely Islamic will to sharia, to conquest, to a caliphate, which the postmodern, 21st-century world is witnessing, and which these leaders have done so much to enable (George W. Bush et pere, also).

Therefore, denial at this pinnacle of leadership will continue — denial of contradiction in sharia vs. freedom, denial of the Islamic definition of freedom or “hurriyya” ( perfect enslavement to Allah), denial of the wide appeal of the Muslim Brotherhood and other pro-sharia forces throughout the umma (transnational Islam). Denial of the neat alignment of the programs of Islamic terrorists (sharia), Islamic politicians (sharia) and Islamic “clerics” (sharia). Denial of the implications in the refusal, the inability of the leading lights of the Islamic world to “ex-communicate” even Osama bin Laden. Denial of the fact, historical and contemporary, that liberty disappears where Islam blooms.

Hillary’s, Condi’s, & W’s, Tony Blair’s the neoconservatives’, the COINdinistas’ “universal rights and aspirations” are a mirage, a dream. But these official dreamers continue to command armies and treasuries. (I don’t include Obama in their company because I don’t know whether Obama believes in their dreams with the same degree of gullibility/mendacity.) We can’t seem to rid ourselves of them, failing as a society to confront the basic fallacy: How can the rights and aspirations of a collectivist system (Islam) and an individual-rights-based system (the West) possibly be considered “universal”? They are different.


One day, I hope, Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi hearings will stand as testament to the smoke-and-mirrors dangerousness of U.S. foreign policy, circa 2013 – both as executed by the executive branch of government and as weakly grasped by the legislative branch.

Did we learn who in the Obama administration concocted and/or coordinated the story about a totally imaginary video protest that was supposed to have led to the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, on 9/11/12? No.

Did we learn why the maker of the so-called anti-Islamic YouTube video clip is the only person in the world in jail for the attacks (for “parole violations”)? No.

Did we learn whether it was coincidental that the video-protest lie ended after President Obama blamed the video (six times) in a Sept. 25 address before the United Nations in which he declared, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam”? No.

Did we learn anything about the decision-making process that prevented U.S. military relief from being ordered to Benghazi during the seven-hour attack? No.

Did we even learn about the official madness that permitted the U.S. government to hire jihadist militias – the February 17 Martyrs Brigade and Libya Shield – to secure U.S. lives and interests in the first place?

No, but we did learn that Secretary of State Clinton is now concerned about the “spreading jihadist threat.” This was unexpected news – not the existence of the threat, or the fact it’s spreading, but rather that Mrs. Clinton was using the word “jihadist.” What was that about?

The Obama administration has worked relentlessly to eradicate “jihad” – the word, anyway – by replacing it with the content-free and thus blinding term “violent extremism.” Besides, al-Qaida is dead along with Osama bin Laden, or so the Obama campaign has always told us (hence, one motive for White House lies to the American people that a video – free speech – caused the attacks in Benghazi, not terrorists). Did this lurch in lingo indicate a lurch in policy?

No question on that from the good people of Congress.

And why was Mrs. Clinton warning against allowing Mali, hot spot du jour, to become safe haven for AQIM (al-Qaida in the Maghreb)? It has become such a haven mainly due to Obama-Clinton policies that toppled “war on terror” ally Moammar Gadhafi in Libya. (“We came, we saw, he died,” as Clinton unforgettably gloated.) Clinton may be talking up “global jihad” this week, but it’s worth remembering that Gadhafi already was its opponent on the northern African front – at least until he was killed by U.S.-backed, al Qaida-linked Libyan “rebels.”

How does she square all of that? No questions. Such curiosity, a call for accountability, might expose the Arab Spring, which all too many Democrats and Republicans supported, thus enabling regimes or democracies guided by Islamic law to take power across the Middle East. As far as American liberty goes, what’s the difference between governments guided by Islamic law and global jihadists guided by the same Islamic law? Answer: not much. If Congress were to consider such a concept – that Islamic law is dangerous, whether advanced by terrorists or governments – the potential for clarity and creation of a policy in the American interest would become simply too dangerous to contemplate. Dangerous, that is, for the status quo. Maybe that’s why lawmakers, with rare but welcome exceptions, stuck to the unrevealing nuts and bolts of “security.”

Still, if they were so worried about security at the Benghazi compound, couldn’t someone have asked Clinton why the suspected head of al-Qaida in Libya, Wissam bin Hamid, leader of Libya Shield, a militia that fought Gadhafi under al-Qaida’s black flag, was one of the U.S. compound’s security providers?