Thinking about the thinkable

Daniel Johnson has one of the must-read columns of the day in this morning’s New York Sun: “Should Bush and Blair bomb Al-Jazeera?” Johnson’s closing paragraphs address the demand for information related to the secret document that gives rise to the controversy and coincidentally add an exclamation point to Leo McKinstry’s article below:

Actually, we have no right to know the contents of secret conversations between presidents and prime ministers. Now that this particular cat is out of the bag, it may make sense for British authorities to put the record straight. But, in general, no government is obliged to reveal anything at all about operational decisions in wartime.

Wartime? Aye, there’s the rub. Most Americans believe they are fighting a war against terror. Most Europeans don’t. Most Americans are determined to win this war. Most Europeans have already given up.

Do you want proof? It was reported yesterday that a successful production of Christopher Marlowe’s “Tamburlaine the Great” at the Barbican Theater in London deliberately censored the play in order not to offend Muslims. Passages in which Shakespeare’s rival depicts his hero burning the Koran and insulting the Prophet Mohammed were cut because “it would have unnecessarily raised the hackles of a significant proportion of one of the world’s great religions.”

So it is okay to bowdlerise our literature to protect putative Islamic sensibilities but scandalous to suggest, even frivolously, that broadcasts inciting Muslims in our midst to become suicide bombers should be silenced. Marlowe made his Tamburlaine declare that Nature “doth teach us all to have aspiring minds.” It seems his countrymen of today prefer appeasing minds.

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