Sept. 21, 2004

A Wittgenstein Moment: I am officially bored, at least for today, with Rathergate — not because it doesn’t matter, but because it has so thoroughly settled the debate about media bias that there is nothing left to say. It is like talking about the Hiroshima skyline after the flight of the Enola Gay: One can describe the breathtaking devastation, and one can talk about what once was, but the rubble has an eloquence that makes words not merely unnecessary, but a nuisance. Behold the Tiffany Network in ruins. Say no more.

POTUS at Turtle Bay: President Bush addressed the grandees at the United Nations today and talked of a concept each pretends to honor, but few actually respect: the dignity of human life. That notion, central to the American political system, has become the focal point of global politics and global conflict. Abu Musal al Zarqawi, the slasher of Fallujah, revels in sawing off the heads of innocents and so do the sociopaths who link to Islamo-fascist websites to view the carnage, carefully recorded on video.

These are the two competing visions of life: American soldiers building schools, and Arab “fighters” kidnapping innocents and decapitating them. The United Nations hasn’t quite caught on. Kofi Annan has called the Iraqi war “illegal,” and his predecessor, Boutros Boutros Ghali, argues stridently and against all evidence that Arab nations could do a better job of democracy-building than can the U.S.

In any event, one could have heard a pin drop when the president reminded the Parliament of Man that “the American Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaim the equal value and dignity of every human life. That dignity is honored by the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, protection of private property, free speech, equal justice and tolerance.” This, after all, is an outfit that has placed atop its human-rights commission none other than the Sudan, which presently is conducting genocide against its own people in the Darfur region.

Critics will kvetch that the president was insufficiently “forthcoming” about the difficulties in Iraq and didn’t practice sufficient outreach. But they missed the point. George Bush came not to grovel, but to toss out a lifeline. The U.N. has lost its way. If it starts acknowledging human dignity as a necessary condition of civilization, as it once did briefly, it may survive. Otherwise, the organization is like a dying tree: The leaves may flower a season longer, but the roots are dead, and the trunk and branches are but one storm away from destruction.

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