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A Brit at Restoration Weekend 2006 By: Brian from London
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Center for the Study of Popular Culture held its annual Restoration Weekend between February 23 and 26 in Phoenix, Arizona, and for British friends of America like this writer it offered the perfect occasion to forget briefly about the troubles of my native “Eurabia” and rub elbows with some of the leading lights of the American conservative movement.

This was my second Restoration Weekend. I am a British citizen who is critically interested in the state of the world but also dismayed at the diffidence with which much of Europe, including my own U.K. government, has met the global threat of Islamic militancy. This is coupled with a strong revulsion for the predominant mood of anti-Americanism in Europe. Thus I view the Restoration Weekend as a chance to remind myself that the country that twice came to Europe’s side during wartime; that led and paid for the rebuilding of Japan and Germany; and that helped defeat the Soviet Union is indeed the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The format of the Weekend is straightforward. A packed program of plenary and panel sessions is interspersed with excellent meals, each of which provides the chance for another presenter to speak, and there is no shortage of opportunities to talk one-on-one to Senators, Congressmen, 4-star generals and some of the best known writers and thinkers in the U.S. conservative world.

Starting off the events was former CIA director James Woolsey. Woolsey stressed two points: First, that we in the West are facing a fractured distortion of Islam, which he compared to Japan’s WWII distortion of Shinto and even the actions of Tomas Torquemada during the Spanish Inquisition. Second, that the West has financed its enemies on an unprecedented scale. A question and answer session allowed me to make the dissenting point that violent jihad is a fundamental part of Islam rather than the distortion of mad individuals. Nevertheless, I found myself in agreement with Woolsey’s urgent message that Western civilization needs to develop alternative sources of energy. (Certainly I’ll not be upgrading my small Italian diesel car (40 MPG) to an SUV anytime soon.) In a hopeful note, Woolsey speculated that alternatives to oil, such as jet fuel derived from food waste products, may soon be available for commercial use.

Woolsey’s talk prompted the question of how exactly the West was faring in the current war against Islamic radicalism. This was a discussed in greater depth by another panel presented under the title “The War on Terror: Are We Winning?” Comprising Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer, Phyllis Chesler and Steven Emerson and refereed by Lt. General Thomas McInerney, it was rightly described as the “Super Bowl team” for this subject and it did not disappoint. The first point of order was to change the title. Robert Spencer took up the task, pointing out that the current war is a war against a unified ideology, rather than against a tactic. Therefore, the preaching of violent jihad should be regarded as no less dangerous than its violent execution. Seconding Spencer was Phyllis Chesler, who noted that fighting against this former front has been strongly suppressed in the West. (Listen to the audio from this panel and others at the Weekend here.)

The next morning featured a powerful talk by Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA). In a stirring tribute to “American Patriots,” Weldon recalled his late friend, a New York firefighter who perished on September 11 while conducting rescue operations, and whose body was not identified until eight months later. Weldon also remembered a 24-year-old U.S. lieutenant from his congressional district named David Bernstein. Lieutenant Bernstein was killed in Iraq while fighting to protect Iraqi civilians from a terrorist ambush. Prior to his death, he had written to his parents expressing pride in the work being done by U.S. troops in Iraq. “Mom and Dad, I want you to know that if I die here, I died happy,” he wrote. Few in the audience were unmoved by Weldon’s remarks.

One group that cannot be credited with patriotism is the mainstream media. It was the subject of another Weekend panel called “The Media and the War.” (As one who must financially support the BBC (on pain of criminal sanction) I took a particular interest in the discussion.) Media coverage of the war was roundly condemned by a panel that included Andrew Breitbart of Breitbart.com, political reporter Bill Sammon, Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Studies, and radio talk show host Tammy Bruce.

It is difficult to do justice to the whole Weekend. From the Liberty Film Festival--a selection of conservative films celebrating free speech, patriotism and religious freedom--to appearances by political worthies like former Attorney General John Ashcroft, there was little risk of boredom. In a more lighthearted vein, attendees were treated to the excellent conservative comedy of Evan Sayet. About 90 percent of Sayet’s jokes were understandable to an Englishman, but perhaps someone can explain who Nancy Pelosi is and what she has to do with the vice president, a shotgun, a lawyer, and facial reconstruction?

There were serious moments as well. Among the most memorable was an evening salute to the troops. After hearing from veterans like Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester--the first woman ever to receive a Silver Star in combat--I realized with some shame that, while many of us know the names of the wrongdoers from Abu Ghraib, we can’t name a single solider awarded some of the highest battle honors for deeds of extraordinary courage. What an honor it was to talk to her and her young colleagues.

Once again David Horowitz and the whole team at CSPC have organized a highly satisfying and reinvigorating Restoration Weekend. For my part, I’ve fully recharged my batteries (without recourse to fossil fuels). And now, back to Eurabia.

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