Goodwin, Michael

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Menace of 9/11 myths

Last Updated: 6:57 AM, September 26, 2010

Posted: 2:52 AM, September 26, 2010

Let's be kind. Let's say it was a coincidence that, at about the same time the Iranian madman was at the UN spewing his nonsense that 9/11 was an "inside job," the Pakistani terror mom was in a downtown courtroom claiming Israelis destroyed the Twin Towers.

Now let's be honest. The only coincidence was the timing. The similar content of the two claims illustrates a growing menace in the Muslim world.

The myth-making about 9/11 is spreading, and so is the danger. Nine years after the mass murder by Islamic terrorists, conspiracy theories are deflecting Muslim guilt and inflaming a new generation of jihadists, many of them living in the West.

It is comforting for Americans to dismiss the "truthers" as crackpots since they are the same kind of people who celebrated as the towers and the Pentagon were burning. But the increasing boldness of the wild claims is an alarming indication of how widely accepted they are among mainstream Mideast audiences. We ignore this new phenomenon at our peril.

While Westerners who buy the claims tend to mutter to themselves on the subway and swear the CIA scrambles their television, the scary stuff coming from the Muslim world cannot go unchallenged.

"Some segments within the US government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and to save the Zionist regime," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in his Thursday UN speech.

The same day, about three miles south, a veiled Aafia Siddiqui, sentenced to 86 years for trying to kill Americans in Afghanistan and who also plotted New York attacks, charged Israel was connected to 9/11. "I'm not anti-Israel, but, yes, I have said they masterminded 9/11 and I have proof of that," said the MIT-educated Pakistani.

Whatever their mental state, their message must be taken seriously. To many Muslims, the belief that Islamists are being blamed for an atrocity carried out by Americans or Israelis fits into a larger theory that the West is oppressing Islam.

As I have written, firm opposition by New Yorkers to the Ground Zero mosque is another piece of "evidence" to believers. In short, anything and everything we say and do is proof Islam is under attack.

Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, identifies the wide acceptance of the victimization narrative as a major factor fueling terrorism. As he writes in his memoir, "A Journey," actual terrorists "are small in number, but their narrative . . . has a far bigger hold."

He says Muslim political leadership often "feels impelled to go along with this narrative for fear of losing support."

Or their heads.

Blair sees President Obama's outreach to the Muslim world as ambiguous at best. Writing of Obama's Cairo speech last year, he says, "It was in part an apology, and taken as such. The implicit message was: We have been disrespectful and arrogant."

However, he adds: "The trouble is, respectful of what, exactly?" Respect for Islam "should not mean respectful of the underlying narrative."

He suggests Obama has work to do. "It is the narrative that has to be assailed," he argues. "It should not be respected. It should be confronted, disagreed with, argued against on grounds of politics, security and religion."

As Obama nears the halfway mark of his term, it is obvious his soft engagement with Iran has failed and his bended-knee plea to Arab governments has yielded little help in the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The result is a growing terror threat at home and abroad. Just in time, Blair has offered a better path forward. The question now is whether Obama will rise above his personal pride and misguided ideology to embrace it.

I hope he does, but fear he won't.

Give-'em-el spitzer off his leash at cnn

That didn't take long.

In what could be an omen of disaster to come, CNN's strange experiment with Eliot Spitzer got off to a rocky start. Even before his new show begins, Spitzer gave viewers the full monty of his split persona in an appearance last week.

One minute he was the egghead pedant as he discussed New York politics, then he shifted into attack mode as he blasted Andrew Cuomo, calling him the "dirtiest, nastiest political player out there."

Beyond the pot calling the kettle black, the outburst was a likely preview of how Spitzer will use his soapbox to settle personal scores. He still accuses Cuomo of playing politics with the Troopergate probe, where the attorney general raised the specter of then-Gov. Spitzer improperly using the police to gather dirt on a political rival.

Spitzer probably also believes Cuomo set up the hooker sting.

The fact is that Spitzer was a disaster as governor and the hooker bust was merely the final straw in a destructive spiral.

Maybe CNN has finally figured that out and is having buyer's remorse: The exec who hired Spitzer was suddenly fired last week.

An A-plus for school flunkers

It may seem odd to celebrate failure, but the city's decision to hold back 11,481 students is very good news. It means the educrats finally are getting serious about ending social promotion.

The fivefold increase in students required to repeat a grade is a direct result of state officials raising the bar on standardized exams. The higher "cut" scores and tougher tests caused city pass rates to plummet, so officials are right to admit that students don't have the skills to succeed at a higher level.

Still, the Department of Education retention numbers mean a mere 3 percent of the students in grades 3 through 8 is not being promoted. That's far more than in past years, but a fraction of the approximately 50 percent who failed to meet proficiency standards last spring in reading and math.

Related pieces of the puzzle involve teacher evaluations and dismissals. There, too, the numbers are moving in the right direction, but too slowly.

Some 95 percent of all teachers are returning from last year, and a mere 32 -- yes, 32 -- with tenure were terminated, according to department stats. That's only one more tenure firing than the previous year.

In the overall pool of 78,000 teachers, only 2.3 percent received an "unsatisfactory" rating, continuing a pattern of small increases in the last five years.

Part of the problem with teacher ratings is a process designed by union contract to be incredibly time-consuming and divorced from student performance. It's much easier for principals to rate teachers "satisfactory" and urge them to find another school.

"The dance of the lemons" is how a former chancellor described the game. Clearly, the music is still playing.

Beetle mania

True story—beetle-like insects that smell to high heaven when crushed are showing up in Washington. My guess is they’re looking for their cousins in Congress.

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