Columbus Day

Christophorus Columbus, portrait by Sebastiano...
Image via Wikipedia

Today is Columbus day in the United States, celebrating the day that Christopher Columbus reached the New World. In Berkeley and some other Leftist enclaves it is Indigenous People’s Day, in which Western Civilization is condemned for its many crimes against humanity. Columbus Day is no big deal, just a three day weekend for banks and such. Still, should we honor Christopher Columbus with a day?

I think we can absolve Columbus of the destruction of many Native American cultures and peoples. That was inevitable. Europe’s sailing and navigation techniques were advancing rapidly and it was only a matter of time before someone stumbled across the Americas. Since the natives were millenia behind in technology, they were doomed. They weren’t entirely helpless victims though. One of the first things that any Indian tribe did when they were contacted by Europeans was to arrange to trade for firearms to use against their traditional enemies. It does not seem to have occurred to them to form alliances against the European invaders until it was too late.

Still, Columbus did set the pattern by enslaving the natives of the islands he discovered.From the Wikipedia article there is this excerpt from his log.

From the 12 October 1492 entry in his journal he wrote of them, “Many of the men I have seen have scars on their bodies, and when I made signs to them to find out how this happened, they indicated that people from other nearby islands come to San Salvador to capture them; they defend themselves the best they can. I believe that people from the mainland come here to take them as slaves. They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them. I think they can very easily be made Christians, for they seem to have no religion. If it pleases our Lord, I will take six of them to Your Highnesses when I depart, in order that they may learn our language.”[39] He remarked that their lack of modern weaponry and even metal-forged swords or pikes was a tactical vulnerability, writing, “I could conquer the whole of them with 50 men, and govern them as I pleased.”[40

He seems not to have been a very good governor of Isabella, the first Spanish colony in the New World. He was charged with excessive cruelty and sent back to Spain in chains. These charges might be false though, since Ferdinand and Isabella felt they had promised him too much reward for his discoveries. Before he set out, they had promised him governorship of the lands he discovered. As it became obvious to everyone but Columbus that he had discovered a whole continent, the king and queen wanted a bigger share.

Maybe the biggest reason not to celebrate is that he was wrong. The popular view is of Columbus bravely asserting that the Earth is round against the scholars and intellectuals of his time who “knew” the Earth was flat. Of course everyone knew the Earth was round. The scholars and intellectuals knew about how large the Earth actually was and they knew perfectly well that Columbus was fudging his calculations to make his voyage seem feasible. If the Americas hadn’t been in the way, his voyage would have ended in disaster.

For all that though, I like Christopher Columbus. Despite his flaws, and he was only a man of his time, he was brave and he had vision, two qualities that are rare enough in any time, especially our own. So, by all means, let’s celebrate this man and his deeds.

Anwar al-Aulaqi Killed

Here is a bit of good news from the Washington Post and Drudge.

Anwar al-Aulaqi, a radical U.S.-born Muslim cleric and one of the most influential al-Qaeda leaders wanted by the United States, was killed Friday in a CIA drone strike in northern Yemen, U.S. and Yemeni authorities said, eliminating a prominent terrorist recruiter who inspired attacks on U.S. soil.

The strike also killed a second U.S. citizen — Samir Khan, the co-editor of an al-Qaeda magazine — and two other unidentified al-Qaeda operatives, the Yemeni government said. But tribal leaders in the area said at least seven people were killed. They identified one of the others as al-Qaeda militant named Salem bin Arfaaj.

The Washington Post’s Africa bureau chief, Sudarsan Raghavan, reports from Yemen about what Anwar al-Aulaqi’s death means for the Yemens and for the long-term U.S.-Yemen relationship. (Audio)

One of the world's most wanted terrorists has been killed, according to the Yemeni government. U.S. born al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi was killed. Tribal leaders say an air strike targeted an al-Qaeda convoy. (Sept. 30)

One of the world’s most wanted terrorists has been killed, according to the Yemeni government. U.S. born al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi was killed. Tribal leaders say an air strike targeted an al-Qaeda convoy. (Sept. 30)

In Washington, senior Obama administration officials confirmed that Aulaqi, 40, a dual national of the United States and Yemen, and Khan were killed in a drone strike on their convoy.

The strike was carried out by a CIA drone operating from a new agency base on the Arabian Peninsula, U.S. officials said. It marks the first time that the CIA has launched a drone strike in Yemen since 2002, and the first indication that the new base is operational. The Post is withholding details on the specific location of the base at the request of the Obama administration.

This was the man who threatened to kill the cartoonist Molly Norris for daring to suggest Everybody Draw Mohammad Day.

Ron Paul has called this an assassination. I am not sure what his point is.  I am also not sure why this lunatic is considered a credible candidate for President.

That’s twice in one day I have called Ron Paul crazy. I’ll be hearing from the Paulistas now.

Israel and Latin America

One might think that Israel would have little interest in Latin America, since that area is halfway around the world and Israel has enough problems close at home. According to this piece by Jaime Daremblum in Pajamas Media, Israel has been taking an interest in Latin American affairs recently, largely to counter Palestinian influence, especially in the matter of recognising a Palestinian state.

The Washington Post noted that Palestinian officials were “taking advantage of the region’s growing economic ties to the Arab world and its eagerness to demonstrate its independence from Israel’s powerful ally, the United States.” They were also taking advantage of Israeli and U.S. neglect. After being very involved in (and receiving crucial diplomatic support from) Latin America during its early history, Israel had become somewhat disengaged from the region, at a time when leaders such as Lula and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez were busy cultivating pro-Palestinian sentiment. As for the Obama administration, it has treated Latin America as a complete afterthought. Thus, the remarkable success of the Palestinian diplomatic push caught both Jerusalem and Washington by surprise.

But now, it appears, the trend of recognizing Palestinian statehood has been reversed, or at least halted. Earlier this month, citing comments from Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, the Jerusalem Post reported that “a majority of the 35 countries in Latin America are either against recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN in September, or are having second thoughts.” Ayalon told the Post that Israel had “stopped the [Palestinian] momentum in Latin America.”

There are other reasons, of course.

Beyond the Palestinian question, Israel has good reason to increase its diplomatic activity in the Western Hemisphere. Left-wing Latin American politicians have traditionally been hostile toward the United States, and they are now depicting Jerusalem as a mere puppet of Washington. Anti-Semitism remains widespread in Latin America, and especially in Argentina, a country with a deeply rooted fascist history. Unfortunately, the past few years have seen a disturbing jump in anti-Semitic violence. “Across Latin America, Jewish leaders say they are contending with a new level of anti-Semitism,” the Christian Science Monitor reported in August 2009, observing that the roots of this spike could be traced back to the December 2008 war in Gaza. “From La Paz, Bolivia, to Panama City, political expressions have turned increasingly derogatory, with graffiti and banners equating the Israel conflict with Nazism. There have been bomb threats in synagogues throughout the region.”

And, Iran is also getting into the action.

Finally, the Iranian theocracy has greatly expanded its strategic presence in the Western Hemisphere, mostly through its alliance with Venezuela but also through burgeoning partnerships with Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua, all of which have left-populist governments. (Last month, Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño declared that “Iran is one of Ecuador’s most strategic partners in political and economic fields and we would like all bilateral agreements and joint projects become operational.”) Meanwhile, in return for economic concessions, the Argentine government has reportedly offered to suspend investigations of two Iranian-backed terrorist bombings that struck the Israeli embassy (in 1992) and the AMIA Jewish Community Center (in 1994) in Buenos Aires. (The two attacks killed or wounded hundreds.) Iran’s economic relationships in Latin America have helped it to withstand the pain of global sanctions aimed at curbing its nuclear program, which poses an existential threat to the Jewish state. Moreover, a 2009 Israeli foreign ministry report obtained by the Associated Press indicated that Venezuela and Bolivia are supplying Iran with uranium.

China has been quietly expanding its influence in Latin America for several years now. It would seem that the only country not taking an interest in Latin America is the United States of America. I wish the Obama administration would get on the ball with this. We really shouldn’t take our back yard for granted.

Canada PM Stephen Harper May Get Conservative Majority

From Human Events, I got this good news about our neighbor to the north. I haven’t been following Canadian politics, and I really have no excuse not to, but I seem to recall that the Progressive Conservatives were demolished at the polls back in 1993. The Conservatives in Canada have since regrouped and formed the Conservative Party of Canada, whose leader Stephen Harper has been Prime Minister since 2006, even though his party does not have an absolute majority. It seems likely that this year he might get that majority and be more able to get his agenda passed.