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Israeli aboard shuttle once crippled Saddam’s N-plans

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In 1981, a 27-year-old Israeli pilot named Ilan Ramon took part in the destruction of Iraq's nuclear reactor at Osirak. His mission severely set back Saddam Hussein's deadly intentions and saved many an unknowable number of lives.

In 1942, while trapped in the Jewish ghetto of Theresienstadt, 14-year-old Peter Ginz drew "Moon Landscape," an aching view of Earth as he imagined it might look from mountains on the moon. Two years later, he was murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz.

Last Thursday, the space shuttle Columbia lifted off for 16 days of scientific work in low-gravity orbit. Its crew includes Ramon, now an Israeli air force colonel and astronaut. In its holding bay, on loan from the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, was Ginz's drawing, carried into space at Ramon's request. On the same day, U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq discovered a cache of chemical warheads in a desert bunker southwest of Baghdad.

The hell of Auschwitz; the averted hell of Osirak; the hellhound still at large in Iraq. There are truths apart from science, and one of them is symbolized by the vessel now circling the Earth every 90 minutes: When homicidal tyrants are appeased instead of crushed, young artists die in concentration camps. Godspeed, Columbia.

It has now been 10 years since Canada, Mexico and the United States adopted the North American Free Trade Agreement, and we still don't hear Ross Perot's "giant sucking sound" of jobs and factories draining south of the border.

The dire warnings of Perot and NAFTA's other foes couldn't have been more wrong. Far from hemorrhaging jobs, the U.S. economy generated 15 million new ones in the years after NAFTA took effect. And while U.S. firms did shift $2.2 billion a year into Mexican factories between 1994 and 2001, what was that compared with the $200 billion they invested yearly in domestic manufacturing capacity?

Which isn't to say that Mexico didn't benefit, too. Trade maven Dan Griswold of the Cato Institute notes that NAFTA helped spark the aggressive reforms that transformed Mexico's economy into one of the most dynamic in all of Latin America. Adam Smith had it right: When it comes to the wealth of nations, free trade generally means win-win.

Tom Reilly needs a refresher in Economics 101. The Massachusetts attorney general blasted the state's big pharmacy chains last week for implying that customers are the ones required to pay the Legislature's new prescription drug tax. For example, signs at CVS declared: "CVS is required to add a $1.30 pharmacy tax to every . . . prescription dispensed." Reilly demanded that they be reworded to make it clear that the tax is assessed to pharmacies, not consumers.

But that's a distinction without a difference. Business doesn't pay taxes, it only collects them. One way or another, it's always the public that pays.

The MacArthur Foundation has just awarded a $14 million grant to National Public Radio. It is the largest single gift in the network's history, and it brings to $31 million the total that NPR has received in donations from just the MacArthur Foundation alone.

It also raises an obvious question: Why should a radio enterprise able to raise tens of millions of dollars from a single private donor — and many millions of additional dollars from others — continue to put the arm on the U.S. Treasury? Other broadcasters do without government subsidies. NPR can, too.

It is clear that the president gave more thought to the conflict between militant Islam and the West than his father ever did when he was president. The George Bushes? No, the John Adamses.

The year was 1829, and John Quincy Adams was preoccupied with the Greek revolt against the Ottoman Empire that had raged for most of the decade. As Richard Samuelson explains in the new Claremont Review, Adams foresaw that the war for Greek independence was just the start of what would be a prolonged clash of civilizations. In an essay written shortly after he left the White House, Adams predicted that the Christian West, with its Enlightenment ideals of liberty, tolerance and progress, would always be at daggers drawn with the Islamic East and its drive to bring the world under Quran law.

It dismayed the former president that European elites were blind to the real stakes in the fight over Greece. The Ottomans, by contrast, understood exactly what they were fighting for. Adams quoted the sultan: "This is not like former contests, a political war for provinces and frontiers. . . . This war must be considered purely a religious war and a national war." Muslims must fight the infidels wherever they found them, the sultan Sultan decreed, for West and East were now in a struggle for supremacy.

The war we are in is an old one. It didn't begin with Osama bin Laden.


Jeff Jacoby's e-mail address is jacoby@globe.com.