The Examiner is a newspaper to which I am endlessly grateful because it gave me the opportunity to publish letters on immigration that liberal and Hispanic publications denied me despite The Examiner's very conservative position. Nevertheless, even though you can find interesting articles by Irvin Stelzer in the same newspaper or by David Brooks or George Will, there are authors like Jay Ambrose whose work should have earned them a place in The Onion. In this entry we will see Jay Ambrose's evolution (sic) on two issues through the letters I sent to The Examiner about Ambrose's articles. Some of these letters were published. The dates and titles to which I refer are those of my responses but Ambrose's articles could be found in The Examiner's editions previous to those dates.
I. November 18, 2005 "Stepping in mass distortion"
This is the first letter I wrote about an Ambrose's article. In previous entries I have criticized the pro-immigrant and anti-war movement for letting many buzzwords become "common wisdom" due to the lack of long-term effort to spread even the most basic knowledge and ideas in the mainstream. That is how it is now common knowledge that illegal immigrants have jumped a line even though such a line does not exist or that illegal immigrants are so due to their low educational level even though the more than 90% of immigrant visas according to the present system are awarded based on family connections or country of origin, counting for nothing your educational level but in a very few cases. On the war, similar ineptitude has led to us today to not give conclusive answers to those who say that the Surge is successful even though many historical examples (from the Napoleonic invasion of Spain to the Shining Path in the 80s, passing through the independence of Alger and the way Indochina's Ho Chi Ming managed to kicked the French and then us out of Vietnam) show that escalations like the Surge are band-aid approach with successful results only in the very short term and that in the long term only progressive political solutions can bring peace. That is how today we find ourselves trapped discussing the number of troops needed in Iraq even though such number has never been a decisive factor beyond a very short term and even though many historical examples show that these escalations's fruits are so fragile and reversible.
With respect to the article ‘Stepping in mass distortion’ by Jay Ambrose and the letter by Erik Ehudin:
- Tony Blair and Bush have denied the main points of the Downing Street memo (fixed intelligence and lack of a post-war plan) but never have dared to say the document is a forgery. Testimonies like that of Ray McGovern about the pressure put by Cheney on the CIA (whose frequent visits have remained as unexplained as the members of his Energy Task Force) and the Valerie Plame case could explain why ‘hundreds of intelligence agents’ did not ‘race to the press with the news’. So Ambrose proves nothing with that argument.
- Iraq was a threat, as Clinton himself recognized by 1998, but not an IMMINENT one. That’s a key difference because the regime was hardly trying to survive after 10 years of sanctions (in spite of the corrupt oil for food UN program). Here Ambrose needs a bit of synchrony.
- To the argument that the President relied on the best intelligence available at the moment, just one answer: Hans Blix. The Duelfer report later reached the same conclusions as Blix's and speculated that Saddam would like to reconstitute its WMD program, without providing any concrete evidence to support such speculation.
- The argument for ‘the wrong signal to our troops’ may lead us to consider Walter Cronkite as a Viet Kong agent. Patriot = cheerleader. Even though many Democrats voted for the war fearing the label of ‘unpatriotic’, that does not discard the case for deception.
- The argument for ‘action preferable to action’ reflects Ambrose’s misunderstanding of this kind of war. Even the French paratroopers understood in Alger that you don’t fight a NON-CONVENTIONAL war with a conventional strategy. From what part of history has the Bush administration taken this ‘strategy’? The nonsense of the notion itself of ‘fighting them abroad for not to have to fight them here’ supposes that al-Qaeda is a country’s regular army that is going to move in perfect formation. The result is that we have opened in Iraq an even bigger training camp than the one we closed (?) in Afghanistan . Putting pressure on the Saudis to change their Wahabi school curricula would have had much more significant effects on Democracy for the Middle East . Education, market and integration are part of the long-term political strategy that even the French paratroopers didn’t see in Alger.
- The Public Law 107-243, Section 3b states conditions (not reasons or justifications) to the President’s determination that
"(1) (...) further diplomatic or other peaceful means alone either will not adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq (...)
(2) (...) is consistent with the United States (...) continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorist (...) who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."
- I don’t comment the last paragraph of Ambrose’s article because I assume it is a joke.
Alfredo M. Bravo de Rueda E.
II. December 23, 2005 "Clarity on immigration reform"
This is the first letter I sent The Examiner about an Ambrose's article on immigration. Of course, Ambrose's article was full of the trash the xenophobic Right uses against immigrants. After all, who better to show your bravery at full than those who cannot defend by themselves. If I had to correct my letter today I would do it in just one point: I am against the enforcement of an immoral and inefficient law but I am also against amnesty. Amnesty implies to forgive those immigrants who broke immigration laws but to keep the present system as if this system of castes had any legitimacy. My position is for immigration reform, is for setting a standard where you earn your right to be here. A merit based immigration, on the other hand, does not have to be biased to academic or military requirements. The Task Force of the S. 1033, best known as Kennedy-McCain (Yeah! The old McCain) could play an important role here to manage a comprehensive notion of merit and character. About the difference treatment I propose for immigrant and guest workers, who are they and why I propose such different treatment, see my first entries on immigration, where I present my position on immigration and even a legislative proposal.
Despite Ambrose’s caricature (‘principally loyal to Mexico ’, ‘resentment’, ‘jealous’ or in David Duke’s words, a minority that cannot be assimilated) and economic stereotypes (‘take jobs’, ‘drive down wages’ and other myths unsustainable in a serious analysis –cfr. Peri and Ottaviano, Aug 2005, that, using more realistic assumptions than Borjas, show that immigration only affects negatively the less educated 9% of the labor supply. Also my article, attached) of illegal aliens, his article has some positive points. I, who believe in the market, agree on ‘illegal aliens won’t come if the jobs aren’t there’ and that’s why an amnesty would work if the number of visas keeps pace with the needs of the market (so most of the positions will be filled legally and illegal immigration would become a marginal problem manageable by law enforcement unless we let conservatives reduce arbitrarily again the number of visas -cfr. Hispanic Pew Center ’s statistics). In Ambrose’s article there is no criterion on when to give a temporary labor permit and when permanent residency even tough it is there where ‘methods of assimilation’ really count (though I prefer civil and military volunteership, commitment to save and invest here and learning English than history lessons). The new standard for legal residency should be that you have to DESERVE it, something that judges each person according to his character; something that is absent in the immigration law.
Alfredo M. Bravo de Rueda E.
III. December 14, 2006 "The World War II Study Group"
It could have been a degenerative disease caused by being exposed for too long to Fox News or it could have been what in psychiatry is known as the separation of the individual from reality. Whatever it was, it was funny to expose Ambrose's ignorance on the issues he so dearly writes.
In this letter I decided to be more explicit with the some of the historical examples I was talking about. For this entry, just two notes:
(1) Our success in Philippines at the end of the XIX Century and the British success in Malaysia in the 1950s had no political answer for the long term. In the case of Philippines, even we court martialed the officers for the brutality they used to defeat the insurgency. As we sided with the most ultraconservative sectors of that society, we corrupted the system as we corrupted it in Central America. It is not a surprise that Philippines has been one of the last countries to join the South East Asian chain of economic development. In Malaysia, the British defeated the communist insurgency but at the end they were kicked out of the country too.
Once again Jay Ambrose shows us his ability to construct anti-subversive policy on slogans and faulty comparisons. In WWII we fought states; in the Middle East we have insurgencies, movements that can transcend states and borders. One real fault of the ISG [Iraq Study Group] is that it hardly goes beyond the question about the number of troops. When was the last time regular troops, behaving as troops, defeated a subversive movement? Philippines, end of the XIX Century. Unfortunately subversive movements have gotten smarter after that. If they do not have or lose public support (Baader-Meinhof, Germany 1977 and 1991; Shining Path, Peru 1992), an unavoidably expensive and slow intelligence work, complemented with special forces, has proven to be the only successful way to defeat them. If they have public support (FLN, Alger 1957) you also need a political solution or defeat is a matter of time (FLN, Alger 1962). This is difficult with just 6 Arab speakers in our embassy in Iraq and the Zogby polls show that they do have support. On the other side, letting them corrupt the political system, like in Africa and Latin America , is not victory.
Instead of absurd comparisons with WWII, on insurgency we should be studying the case of the Kurds at the light of the successful strategy of the British in Malaysia in the 1950s and, on terrorism, the successful work of intelligence that defeated the Shining Path in Peru in 1992. Instead we insist in strategies that led to tragic results in Peru in 1983-1984.
With respect to talking to Iran and Syria , unfortunately that is the price we will have to pay for going to this war the way we did. It would be worse to have Iraq transformed in another Afghanistan .
Alfredo M. Bravo de Rueda E.
IV. December 21, 2006 "Sympathy for the cheated"
This entry continues shows another milestone in Ambrose's quest for that other dimension with no history or economy, where Fox News is credible and David Duke is finally recognized as a genious so misunderstood in that other dimension where we are facing Bush's legacy in the economy and the Middle East. People like Ambrose made possible a portal between those two dimensions in 2004 so a country in war and with dramatic loses of jobs voted inspired in issues like the gay marriage. So bizarre were those times that the Religious Right defended the Napoleonic marriage, the same marriage created by Napoleon to limit the power of the Church in civil affairs and the same Napoleon that in this times was considered the Anti-Christ by many.
In that parallel dimension, illegal immigrants, 5% of the population, are guilty of the whole population's problems and Pastor Butler sits at the Right of God in heaven.
Once again Jay Ambrose shows us his ability to construct immigration policy rationalizing prejudices and baseless tales. The effect of immigration is positive on wages on employment for all but the 9% less educated of the labor supply. Immigrant could only steal jobs in a fantastic scenario in which not only they have no effect on the demand of goods and services and so in the increased scale of the supply of many goods and services but also in which employers see only wages and not productivity on their employees. Jay, work is not a commodity. This 9% should receive help but not protectionism. A more restrictive policy on Welfare may be necessary but legalization cannot lead to hordes of infinite numbers of new illegal immigrants because open economies like ours adjust more easily on quantities than on prices so they cannot take more workers, legal or not, than what the markets to which they are related allow. If our immigration law would have kept pace with the needs of the market, illegal immigration would be a marginal phenomenon. Prohibition should have taught all of us a lesson: you cannot restrict markets in the name of prejudices. And Jay, most immigrants are not Mexicans. Even among illegal immigrants, they just represent 40%.
"(That) is something they brought on themselves" is what segregationists said of the Freedom Riders while beating them and thinking that the Civil Rights movement was "cheating" their way of life. The immigration law does not give any chance to those born in the wrong country or family. Let’s honor not our Funding Fathers but our Founding Fathers with a law that judges immigrants, including the 12 million illegal immigrants, for their own character. Coming to America should be something you DESERVE.
My moral question, Jay, is: Veiled racism or just poor research?
Alfredo M. Bravo de Rueda E.
V .September 28, 2007 "Spitzer making New York an illegal-immigration magnet"
Here Ambrose attacked former governor Spitzer for not braking the law and for not joining his crusade of demonization and scapegoating of illegal immigrants.
Ambrose's surrealistic approach shows us once again why he is not George Will or David Brooks. We have selected three samples. In his new involuntary joke Ambrose says:
- Drivers are "dangerous because of the reasons they were denied licenses in the first place" (sic) meaning that illegal immigrants are dangerous drivers due to their legal status. Jay, alcohol could affect your driving; your legal status, hardly in the real world.
- "In the 9/11 attacks most of the hijackers were aided in their evil by driver's licenses, just as future terrorists could be aided in their murderous mayhem by the Spitzer policy" (sic). Not only the 9/11 terrorists who obtained driver's licenses were here legally but also is ridiculous to state that driver's licenses were essential to their plan. Without driver's licenses, they would have aborted their plan? No Jay, they never had to work in America ; they had plenty of money to hire drivers if needed. If the driver's licenses were not essential to their plan, should we ban flying schools because they enrolled in them or pizzas because they ate them?
- "Society will witness increases in the poverty the immigrants bring with them" (sic). That relation immigrants-poverty, is a genetically proved one? Otherwise your statement could be as absurd as the studies of the late XIX Century that postulated the inferiority of blacks due to their poverty without paying attention to the injustice of segregation that kept them poor. Your article states that immigrants bring poverty. We are lucky not to have a more extended poverty among immigrants if we consider the poor criteria of the immigration law for their selection and, in the case of illegal immigrants Jay, you condemn the poor ones but advocate denying them the main tool to escape their poverty?
With respect to your editorial of September 28, you do not release additional information to back your assertion that driver licenses for illegal immigrants regulations have failed in the states you mention. If illegal immigrants engage in reckless driving or drive uninsured, that privilege should be revoked indefinitely for those individuals in addition of any other legal consequence resulting from their fault and their status but that is not a reason to label and pack the whole group.
Alfredo M. Bravo de Rueda E.
Gaithersburg , Maryland
VI. July 23, 2008 "In Iraq, Obama misses its strategic importance"
Columnist or calumnist? You decide. In this article, Ambrose makes use of all his ignorance to attack Obama on Iraq and so, we think, earns the position of first columnist of The Onion.
We trust one day Ambrose will be honored as first columnist of The Onion, where he would not have to be "instructed by the facts of history". Yes Jay, insurgencies are not new and escalations, surges and other band-aid approaches are ineffective in the long run against them. The French learned that lesson in Alger and Indochina, Peru in the 80s against the Shining Path and us in Vietnam, where we militarily won the battles but politically we lost the war and ended up evacuating the country. Short term reductions in violence mean nothing in terms of success against insurgent groups. In the short time, intelligence and special forces bring some relief, as in the Algerian Casbah in the 50s for the French, but they were kicked off the country a few years later because they lost the political war. If you have examples of countries that, after properly kicked have become "progressive, big time allies" I hope you are not thinking of Diem or the Sha.
Furthermore, when you write about Iraq's "minute, strategic significance" in the war on terror, you forget that al-Qaeda moves across borders, from Sudan to Afghanistan to Pakistan and not in Iraq before us. Al-Qaeda is not a regular army geographically defined. The Russians have learned it from Afghanistan to Chechnia.
Finally, the timing of the war had nothing to do with genocides, already consumated, or al-Qaeda in Iraq, marginally existent before the invasion only in the no-fly zone, or with Iran, happy that we got rid of Saddam for them, but with the oil negotiations between Saddam and French, Russians and Chinese. Obama could have his gaps in this field but his judgement has proved to be much more mature than McCain's. The thousands of lives lost or destroyed by this war deserve more respect than the nonsensical boogeymen of al-Qaeda ruling Iraq if we leave, precisely the kind of approach you can take to consolidate a position in The Onion.
Alfredo M. Bravo de Rueda E.
VII. Of course, these are not the only one articles written by Ambrose. Weekly you can read a new one in The Examiner and write the editor about them. On my side, I guess The Examiner will have to make a bold movement to avoid The Onion to snatch his peculiar columnist and I guess that movement is going to be to move his column from the Opinion section to the right of the Sudoku.