Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Delusions and War
Armed Liberal at Winds of Change links to a recent post by Greg Djerejian of Djerejian Belgravia Dispatch.
The politicians who led us into
I’d like to think that Djerejian reflects an honest disagreement, a considered opposition to the war, at least in how the war has been executed. But Djerejian appears to want to make that impossible for those of us in strong support of our effort.
In the piece that
Don’t even bother to suggest Djerejian doesn’t mean us. He means precisely us. Bloggers “in the sandbox” or recently returned, who argue that the Insurgency is fundamentally finished.” Or who believe that (most) of the mainstream media reporting from Iraq parrot Al Qaeda press releases, and consider embedding or any form of cooperation with US military as violating their sacred duty to be objective.
Djerejian uses the occasion of Memorial Day to note (but not link) the excellent piece by Owen West, but only as a means of expressing faint praise for “the sacrifice of our troops over the decades.” (As if his insults weren’t enough.)
But, if you are like me, and you believe Baghdad is the strategic epicenter of Iraq, and that a Baghdad descending into Beirut like civil war means that the country will likely mostly disintegrate, then I'm afraid I am less optimistic than West. And so, again, on this Memorial Day, when we thank and remember the sacrifice of our troops over the decades, we must also ask, painful as it is, what precisely they are accomplishing at the present hour in
But that's not a fair answer, is it? Because it's not really an answer at all. Finally, all I can say is that I am deeply torn. If we withdraw hastily we will leave behind a dismembered, increasingly anarchic
It’s too bad Djerejian can’t see the forest for the trees on this one. He clearly hates Rumsfeld. I’m no great fan, not from pre-war days, but I don’t think our military strategy in light of limited Intelligence pre-war was all that “flawed.” Compared to the idiocy and rampant hypocrisy emanating from the Opposition and their supporters in the media, I’d say the US Military and their civilian and military leaders did pretty darned well.
Djerejian exhibits precisely the “crisis of expectations” that West in his Times Op Ed warned against.
By his calculus, any armed rebel group or insurrection wins by default merely by continuing acts of violence to no effect. Unless one imposes an autocracy or police state, it is hard for me to imagine how it could ever be possible for anyone to ever win as long as fanatics with bombs remain wiling to blow themselves and a few others up.
But let me bring
The image of the
There are lots of reasons, beginning with the fact that any elephant this big bestriding the world's stage is going to irk people, especially when George W. Bush is riding it. But I suspect a basic cause is that in the 65-year period of 1941-2006, the
There was World War II and then, after a two-year break, the Cold War, which ran until 1989, and then, after an interlude of a dozen years, the war on terror. These were different sorts of wars, of course, and among them were
They got tired of America's insatiable need for an enemy; suspicious of the talk of freedom and democracy and morality in which every struggle was cast; forgetful of the liberty preserved by such might; alarmed at the American fear that appeared to fire American aggression; and disdainful of the distance between declarations and deeds.
In short they stopped buying the American narrative.
I for one know what the American narrative is, and Cohen’s missed the mark. (The number of myths, inaccuracies, DNC and anti-war talking points and prejudices embedded in Cohen’s description are boggling.)
But I’ll let
What's missing from this, of course, is any sense of context at all for that narrative, any sense that - for example - there was an expansionist and brutal Soviet Union who would have gladly conquered all of
So in that view, why is there war? Because
Damn their willingness to stand up to oppression, indeed. He didn’t even mention Hitler, Nazism, or attempts at Hegemony in Europe or
The truly American narrative is a reflection of our ideals, the principles of liberty and freedom, that under-gird every demonstration of national resolve. We restrain ourselves greatly, we rise above both our enemies and the amorality of our times. We strive to leave the world a better place, in spite of and not because of the hollow accusations of our critics.
We are not yet at the brink of the life or death struggle for civilization that our enemies so fervently wish upon the West. Our enemies and our own internal Opposition share the view, that the terrorism and barbarism that initiated our military responses since 9/11, are themselves directly prompted as a first effect from our Omnipotent transgressions (whatever they were or are is immaterial to their arguments.) We are indeed the elephant “bestriding the world's stage,” in Cohen’s words. LA associates this to a “delusion of invulnerability,” that both supporters and adversaries of US Foreign Policy seem to maintain:
And I do think it's the strongest influence on our behavior and attitude toward this war. And, I believe that once it is gone - once the delusion of invulnerability slips away - we will be more brutal and bestial than the worst opponents of the wars today imagine us to be in their fevered dreams.
I often remark that the World will shudder to see
As always at Winds of Change, as remarkable the commentary in posts, the contributions of WoC readers in comments greatly enhance the resulting dialog.
The War Tapes Opening
Deborah Scranton, the Director of the Tribeca Film Festival winning The War Tapes, sends notice of the film’s opening in a limited release. So limited, in fact, that I think I’d have to hit NYC to catch the opening.
She sends a War Tapes outtake, featuring Zack Bazzi, with the following description:
Recorded during an interview done while he was at
I haven’t been able to preview the clip, blocked by Websense as “violence related,” as is the War Tapes site itself. Go figure.
Here’s Deborah’s info on the NYC opening:
Also, if you are in or near
Come see the first movie filmed by soldiers themselves on the front lines, and the first film directed over e-mail and IM. Stephen Holden from the New York Times called it "Riveting! Compelling!...Gives a stronger taste of the
The War Tapes has a screenings page for openings and screening updates.
For those like me who reside too deeply within Blueville, The War Tapes has set up a frappr map, where those interested in getting a screening near you can add location information: http://www.frappr.com/peoplewhowanttoseethewartapes.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
If There be Oceans Ahead
Owen West contributes an excellent Op-Ed essay in, of all places, that resolutely partisan New York Times.
He opens with a quote from Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address:
“NEITHER party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease.”
West makes the argument that the war in
This is ground truth, from someone formerly an active participant in the Global War on Terror, who now, along with colleague Wade Zirkle and others, founded Vets for Freedom.
West’s essay is too good not to let him have the last words:
Soldiers are sick of apologizing for a sliver of malcontents who are not at all representative of the new breed. But they are also sick of being pitied. Our warriors are the hunters, not the hunted, and we should celebrate them as we did in the past, for while our tastes have changed, warfare — and the need to cultivate national guardians — has not. As Kipling wrote, "The strength of the pack is the wolf."
Finally, today's debates are not high-spirited so much as mean-spirited. To allow polarizing forces to dominate the argument by insinuating false motives on one side or a lack of patriotism on the other is to obscure long-term security decisions that have to be made now.
We are clashing with an enemy who has been at war with us in one form or another for two decades. Our military response may take decades more. We have crossed several rivers and the nation is hoping that ahead lie streams. But if they are oceans, we should heed
Thoughts from Memorial Day
Victor Davis Hanson started off another excellent, must read essay with this:
There may be a lot to regret about the past policy of the
Hanson ended his short summary of accomplishment in
We should remember the achievement this Memorial Day of those in the field who alone crushed the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, stayed on to offer a new alternative other than autocracy and theocracy, and kept a targeted United States safe from attack for over four years.
Stein spoke at a Saturday evening event for the Memorial Day weekend seminar and grief camp of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).
This man has a heart for the US Military, and if you’ve never read anything by Stein, or if you know him only through movie or television appearances, you need to read the whole thing. Forget the disclaimer, you need to read it all even if you know this side of Stein.
Stein speak with deep feeling and humility. H presents a stark contrasts of two very different sorts of “bad days” to set his tone of reverence for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and those who they left behind:
A bad day for me is when I get stuck in traffic or have a toothache or notice that I have gained weight or my teenage son is surly.
A bad day for you is realizing that the only man or woman you have ever loved is gone for this lifetime.
A difficult day for me with my wife is when she's out at her bridge lesson and comes home late so my dinner is late.
A difficult day for you is when you wake up from a dream that your husband or wife or son or daughter or mother or father was alive and laughing with you and realize you'll never see that loveable person again for the rest of your natural lives.
A bad day for an ordinary American is seeing the stock market go down or watching his son sneak a beer.
A bad day for you is a sort of loneliness, a hopeless, cruel loneliness that cuts right to the bone like the cut of a knife, that tells you that there is no one there to hug you, no one to kiss you, no one to fix the kids' bikes, no one to wipe away the tears that just come uncontrollably when you least expect them.
A bad day for me is getting stuck in an airport security line. A bad day for you is being on the plane alone.
Yet your loneliness has meaning. Your loneliness, your pain, is the mortar and concrete that anchors the nation. The sacrifice your loved ones made, the sacrifice you made, that your kids made, is what makes the whole American world safe from terror.
Can there be any more stark reminder of what we memorialize on holidays such as Memorial Day? Can there be any more obvious demonstration of selfless service or sacrifice, than a military family surrendering their loved ones in service to their nation?
Stein offers high honor to his audience, and commends them for the work they do for their Creator:
John F. Kennedy said that here on earth, God's work is our work. That doesn't mean Wall Street's work. It doesn't mean the Washington Post's work. It doesn't mean
God blesses such as these. Those who have died for their country, for us. Those they have left behind, who joined them forever in their final sacrifice, who must live on with remembrance of great loves lost, without their physical touch or earthly presence.
If you neglected Memorial Day this year, if you shy away from the political arguments that rage, about Iraq, Iran, or the threat of Global Terrorisms, at least do one thing.
Find a way to acknowledge and honor those soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines, who at the fullest expense of their families, have given the last full measure of devotion. We must do more than just bury these heroes, we must find the public ways to praise them.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
A Eulogy for Memorial Day 2006
Carl Sandburg may have been a fine historian, but he was first and foremost a poet from the Midwest. There was no finer craftsman of prose to so properly render tribute to this American.
I thought about Lincoln and his words a lot in Iraq. I started my journey to Iraq with, among other works, and after my Bible of course, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, by Walter Isaacson, The Case for Democracy by Natan Sharansky. Mrs. Dadmanly soon sent me Os Guinness’ The Great Experiment: Faith and Freedom in America. I was delighted when she also passed along a request for Sandberg’s Lincoln, which one of our church friends sent me shortly thereafter.
God knows, Lincoln spoke to my soul.
I love to wander in the long abandoned byways of the Erie Canal near where I live. We are fortunate to have preserved a stretch of the Erie, coincident with and often overlapping the Mohawk River, in a very old community known as Vischers Ferry. We have many other remnants of the multiple iterations of the Erie nearby (four major series of construction), old locks long abandoned, many isolated strands of canal and towpath, and the train tracks, when they were put in, often running along or on top of the towpaths of the earlier vestiges of the canals.
Lincoln’s funeral procession traveled along the very train tracks Mrs. Dadmanly, Little Manly and I love so dearly.
I read that in 1865, Lincoln in repose traveled back home along that route, stopped for a viewing in Albany, rode slowly up the route of the old Erie Canal, the Canal still in business in those days, too, but under competition from the train Lincoln rode. At every town and whistle stop, black bunting and sashes, flags and hushed mourners lined the route. Sandberg describes that, “The endless multitudinous effect became colossal.” Young women in white gowns and black shoulder scarves and U.S. Flags, in town after town, “they took on a ritualist solemnity smoldering and portentous.”
I imagine standing beside the tracks, within a small settlement now completely disappeared from history, save for a few foundations, an open cistern, and a weedy dry dock. A simple but industrious people, no doubt bereft and grieving not just this President who was one of them, but in all likelihood family or friends or neighbors who would never be coming home, unless likewise by train in a wooden coffin.
What would it have been like to have a struggle so long and bloody, so drawn out and costly, and have that struggle at its end, only to have the one man as responsible as anyone alive for right, in the end victorious, now struck down and taken, never to be heard except in the many tributes and remembrances of, who once was a Great Man.
As I wrote this, in my mind I was standing on the edge of a moment in history, sharing in the grief of mournful passing of the Lincoln sepulcher upon its rail-borne hearse. Thinking, rolling over in my mind the shock of the Great Man, taken so quickly, only days from a sudden sigh of peace.
In the days after 9/11, many of us would read the Gettysburg Address with a new appreciation, being some of us freshly acquainted with a punishing grief. For Lincoln, at Gettysburg, charges us, in generations to come, with a perpetual obligation:
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.When Lincoln finally arrived in Springfield, Illinois, and his final rest, as had taken place at many of his earlier stops, mourners read his Second Inaugural Address aloud.
I have a close affection for Lincoln’s Second Inaugural.
On September 11th in 2002, I was led to reach for Lincoln again. In the quickening of the storm clouds of war, and rumors of war, I sought solace in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural. Back to 2002, I felt the certainty that the struggles we faced were only the beginning of a long and difficult clash of civilizations. The struggle may not be against Slavery, but it serves in the name of Freedom against forces of oppression.
Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address acknowledges that there is One whose judgments are true and righteous, and that further bloodshed and violence might yet be required. We have played a part in turning away from the kinds of tyranny and religious oppression that germinate, grow weed-like, and then choke entire civilizations as if sprung up fully-formed only in the latest spree of carnage. Lincoln knew, that as we share the common failings of mankind, self-interest and self-absorption, so we must be prepared to pay the price when payment for our negligence comes due:
Fondly do we hope--fervently do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether."And yet, Lincoln offer hope as well, and places a specific charge that we might read today as “support our troops,” and the families who sacrifice so much in giving up their sons and daughter, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers for this war:
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.As a people, we need to dwell for a time, and time again, upon the brutal milestones that are these phantom towers. Along the canals, along the railroads, mile markers were the reassurance of progress made in the days of sedate and time-abiding travel. These stones still stand, although the travellers of old have moved on to other modes of transport. They still stand, and they still measure true.
Mile markers along our journey as a Democracy. Gettysburg. The end of the Civil War. The Assassination of Lincoln. Normandy and D Day. VE Day and VJ Day. And all those hallowed white markers at Arlington.
In our long march of war – and war it is, whether we see it so or not – are many mile markers, most prominent are the two towers that once stood as One and Two World Trade Center.
Bishop Matthew Simpson spoke an oration as Lincoln was finally upon his final rest in Springfield:
“There are moments which involve in themselves eternities. There are instants which seem to contain germs which shall develop and bloom forever. Such a moment came in the tide of time to our land when a question must be settled, affecting all the powers of the earth. The contest was for human freedom. Not for this republic merely, not for the Union simply, but to decide whether the people, as a people, in their entire majesty, were destined to be the Governments, or whether they were to be subject to tyrants or aristocrats, or to class rule of any kind. This is the great question for which we have been fighting, and its decision is at hand, and the result of this contest will affect the ages to come. If successful, republics will spread in spite of monarchs all over this earth”And Sandburg utters a final epitaph:
Evergreen carpeted the stone floor of the vault. On the coffin set in a receptacle of black walnut they arranged flowers carefully and precisely, they poured flowers as symbols, they lavished heaps of fresh flowers as though there could never be enough to tell either their hearts or his.We here in our humble condition cannot hope to know even a sliver of the full purpose of God. Have we lived our lives for nothing? Have we thrived in the heart of liberty for our own comfort and security merely?
And the night came with great quiet.
And there was rest.
The prairie years, the war years, were over.
How, in the petty events of man as they unfold, can we fail to see the Hand of Providence in giving us such men as these?
Sometimes when I stood on the towpath, I have cried. There is so much that has been lost. When I finished Sandberg's Lincoln, and stood outside that tomb, I cried. Not for myself, but for all of God's creation.
He lavishes His love upon us with such abandon, with such Mercy and Generosity of His eternal Spirit. And how, so often, do we respond? With many a cry, not in humble gratitude, or with grumbles, whining, an inconsolable desire for more?
He lived for a time among us, and we knew him not.
As I reflect on words written many years ago now, by Carl Sandburg and others, about Abraham Lincoln and the bitter losses from the Civil War, I think about Memorial Day, and about the sacrifices many are called to make, in the name of Freedom.
Lincoln and the words spoken about his sacrifice, about his commitment to the Union, apply as much for the men and women who have served this nation in times of war and threat. Many perished in their duty. Many more suffered, not just from separation from their loved ones, but with injury, illness, debilitation, and foreshortening of young lives.
On this Memorial Day, we reflect on an eternal chain of service and sacrifice, and humbly offer up our gratitude. May we also offer up our own measures of devotion, and may we measure with the full and truthful measure that Providence has used, to bestow blessings and favor on us.
Linked at: Milblogs
(Originally posted in two parts, A Eulogy for Lincoln (Part One) and A Eulogy for Lincoln (Part Two))
No Change, Not Profound
Michael Ledeen, in National Review Online, responds to reporting by Karl Vick and Dafna Linzer in The Washington Post. Ledeen goes so far to suggest Vick and Linzer are playing journalistic patsy for the Iranians, and describes their article as “reporting” with scare quotes.
Clearly, Iranian Mullahs want the American public to think that Iranian “overtures” represent “a profound change in
Ledeen contrasts this with what are some startling internal developments in
The announcement, via the Post, is a fairly transparent tactical maneuver, and Post readers would recognize it as such if Vick and Linzer bothered to report the news from
A few days ago, following the publication of an offensive cartoon (equating the Azeri people with cockroaches) in the state-run
Last month, in reprisal for the killing of 12 regime officials, North Balochistan was bombed by government planes, and hundreds of presumed activists were rounded up, continuing a pattern of systematic repression that has been going on for many years;
In the last few days there were big demonstrations on college campuses all over the country, and the regime responded with force. The demonstrations were at least in part in response to new restrictions on political activity at the universities;
A week ago, 54 Bahais, engaged in humanitarian activities in
As Ledeen rightly observes, so much for “a profound change in
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Often re-enactments are re-creations of battles or other wartime events, although more and more historical periods or environments are subject to re-enactment. Little Manly is quite taken with these forms of “first person” history, and peppers the re-enactors we’ve met with all manner of specific questions, exploring intricate details of weapons (especially), practices, artifacts, and what can only be described as historical footnotes.
Little Manly thinks he will be a Re-Enactor someday. I am not so sure. certainly it may be a hobby he tries out at some point, but I know he has the idea that’s what these people do for a living. As they say, don’t give up your day job. Even those who moonlight for various museums, historical sites, or non-profit and educational organizations don’t pay their bills “living out the old days,” however much they enjoy it.
We’ve met Revolutionary War Re-enactors, both Colonial Army and Militia, and British Regulars. We’ve spent a lot of time around Civil War Re-Enactors, who must be the most common sort. We visited Baltimore during our visit to DC for the 2006 MILBLOGGER Conference, the beauty of which we first discovered in 2003.
While there, a group of Civil War Re-enactors bivouacked at Fort William McHenry. Fort McHenry was the site for the Francis Scott Key’s composition of the Star Spangled Banner. In our same trip, we saw the actual flag that was Key’s inspiration, undergoing renovation at the National Museum of American History.
The re-enactors included members of an Ohio Regiment, and they performed drill and ceremony, various crafts and period musical performances, and even re-enacted a Court Martial, complete with open air court room, presiding officers, and a death-by-hanging sentence (not re-enacted).
On the way home, we treated Little Manly to his second visit to Gettysburg, and this time on an inspired hunch, stayed two nights at The Battlefield Inn, a Bed & Breakfast that includes both a late evening and early morning re-enactment program. That was everything Little Manly could ask for, as our morning re-enactor portrayed a Sharpshooter, who brought his personal Sharp’s rifle, to augment the Inn’s reproduction Enfield musket.
Little Manly and I were allowed to fire the musket (powder only) as part of the morning program. That was neat.
Our evening re-enactor was a gentlemen who told us his real passion was re-enacting a Knight in medieval festivals. Which brought to mind meeting some members of the Society for Creative Anachronism. I suppose you could call them the original re-enactors, and they demonstrate many of the same behaviors, capacity to dwell in imagination, and habits of mind. I’ll stop with that.
We recently came across World War II Re-Enactors, which surprised me – how soon before things get re-enacted? (Now comes to mind the Monty Python sketch about a Ladies Group that re-enacted a famous British Naval Battle, complete with dueling purses and scrabbling in the mud. But now I really digress.)
Mrs. Dadmanly and I talked it over yesterday, and decided that if she was going to be a re-enactor, she would be a Polish Immigrant, and portray a woman like her Babci (Polish Grandmother).
She could wear a housedress and smock, put on one of those hair bonnets we see on Pierogi-making day at the Polish Catholic Church, and she could spend her re-enactment rolling dough, mixing cabbage or cheese and potato, and showing her audience the precisely correct way to pinch the ends together to make the doughy treat.
Someday, I suppose there’ll be Anti-War Hippie re-enactors.
No wait, we have those already. Check out Code Pink and others of their ilk. A good portion of the current anti-war sentiment of a certain generational flavor is no doubt a thinly disguised nostalgia for the “anti-war protest days. Call then Hippie Re-Enactors.
A MILIBLOGGER Manifesto
Steve Schippert posts a MILBLOGGER Manifesto over at Milblogs.
He links to a terrific essay by Wretchard at The Belmont Club as the source of his inspiration. Please read the whole thing, but check out this:
September 10, 2001 was the last day on which hypothetically incompatible modes of thought could coexist in a kind of "don't ask, don't tell" environment. When the planes smashing into the
Until September 11 it was possible for the more "enlightened" segments of society to regard patriotism, religion and similar sentiments with the kind of amused tolerance that one might reserve for simpletons. Nothing that a little institutionalization and spare change couldn't straighten out. The problem for the Democratic Party is that the Great Polite Silence is over. People like Chomsky and President Bush have stopped being hypothetical and become all too real. Bring it on.
Wretchard’s essay describes the sources of our malaise, against which Steve calls us to action:
Why is the defense of this nation a political issue at all? There are those who will argue that it is the manner in which we defend ourselves that is at issue.
That, my friends, is a convoluted disingenuous sheen of reason upon the unreasonable.
A former Attorney General currently vociferously defends a mass murdering dictator deposed by our own forces. An icon of the self-loathing anti-American academic Left, Noam Chomsky, embraces Hizballah, the chief beneficiary of
These are not arguments of the manner in which to defend
We dare not rest as the most important front of the War on Terror and for the very survival of Western Civilization lies not upon the sands of distant shores, but in our own common discourse. The most important battlegrounds are around our dinner tables and in intelligent and persuasive common sense discussion among our peers, seeking the discomfort of battle and the very defense of defense rather than the comfort and unproductive endeavor of agreement among friends.
There exist things worth fighting for, the loss of which jeopardize the foundations of democracy and freedom, not just at home, but for the many undeclared allies in countries that yet yearn to breath free. Unfortunately, many of those who most enjoy and indulge every imaginable freedom, have forgotten (if they ever knew) how costly those freedoms have been to establish, to preserve and protect.
Crooks and Congress
Andrew McCarthy at The Corner is on a tear.
He cites the lead of the New York Times story on the search of Rep. William Jefferson's office:
"After years of quietly acceding to the Bush administration's assertions of executive power, the Republican-led Congress hit a limit this weekend."
McCarthy reacted as I would, expressing extreme incredulity over the Times’ ridiculous characterization of Congressional behavior relative to Bush Administration policies, lo these past 5 years.
In slamming the Times for a bit of media excess -- I was going to use the term, “journalistic excess,” but I still have respect for what “journalism” is supposed to be – McCarthy concludes:
Nowhere — nowhere — does [Times Reporter] Hulse mention that the search took place pursuant to a judicial warrant obtained by the Justice Department only after a federal judge found probable cause both that a crime had been committed and that evidence of that crime was likely to be found in the place to be searched. (I won't belabor what Byron and I already commented on last night regarding the absurd procedural lengths to which DOJ went, for the purpose of exhibiting respect to legislative branch, in conducting the search.)
Meanwhile, the Times ends its account with a word from the GOP's new fearless leader, Rep. John Boehner, wondering aloud "whether the people at the Justice Department have looked at the Constitution."
I defy Boehner to explain where in the Constitution it says that crooks who happen to be congressmen are free to use office space that belongs not to them but to the American people in order to hide the proceeds of their violations of the public trust from agents conducting an investigation on behalf of the American people.
Ack. Buckets of Heh.
Is the New York Times capable of reporting on political issues – this appeared on Page One as news, after all – without an immediate tilt towards partisan spin? Do they really think they live in this Fascist, power grabbing, freedom denying alternate Universe they insist on presenting to their readers?
The American people deserve far better than the shame that is today’s Congress (the fault of both these malformed Parties). They surely deserve a better press, as well, who one might think would be more interested in puncturing the self-inflation of such as Boehner, than in scoring partisan political points. You know, in service to the public.
Not in this time and place, apparently.
How does that go, Life imitates the Onion? This time, it’s the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) imitates Scrappleface.
The New York Times reports that the ACLU moves to halt free speech internally:
"Where an individual director disagrees with a board position on matters of civil liberties policy, the director should refrain from publicly highlighting the fact of such disagreement," the committee that compiled the standards wrote in its proposals.
"Directors should remember that there is always a material prospect that public airing of the disagreement will affect the A.C.L.U. adversely in terms of public support and fund-raising," the proposals state.
Given the organization's longtime commitment to defending free speech, some former board members were shocked by the proposals.
Nat Hentoff, a writer and former A.C.L.U. board member, was incredulous. "You sure that didn't come out of Dick Cheney's office?" he asked.
Note the gratuitous swipe at the Vice President, retained in the Times piece for, well, because it’s a swipe at the Vice President.
I suppose it is refreshing to see the Times spending some small amount of “equal time” exposing the bureaucratic pettiness and infighting at liberal bastions, taking a break from its usual treatment of Intelligence agencies.
The ending of this insider’s hit piece concludes with a quote from ACLU board member David F. Kennison. Kennison reaches for metaphor that, sadly, is all too revealing of the mindset of this once noble institution:
"I think of the board as the brain and the staff as the fang and the claws," he said, "and the brain should govern the fangs and claws rather than the other way around."
Via Instapundit, who observes that this turn of events for the civil liberties watchdog is “rather ironic.”
Glenn remarks on the decline of the ACLU as exemplified by the squabble related in the Times piece:
The ACLU has been corrupted by its dependence on a comparatively small fundraising base, something that's common with nonprofits. The organization also seems to have been captured by the paid staff, which feels entitled to run things without the Board's actual input. That's another common problem in the nonprofit world. But this is making clear just how far things have gone at the ACLU, at the expense of its ostensible mission.
I think there’s a more widespread, generalized pattern in the world of non-profits that especially affects organizations like the ACLU.
Flashback to your average university, steeped in liberal ideology, offering nothing more logically substantive than liberal arts programs, multiculturalism, and the vestiges of political correctness.
Students have long ago freed themselves from the rigor of the study of Western classics, and if not full fledged acolytes upon entry, by graduation most have adopted the lazy scorn of mathematics, science, and business and industry. Nowhere in their studies did they practice, demonstrate, and certainly not master forms of logic or inductive or deductive reasoning.
In short, their high priced educations failed them, and they were oblivious and happy in the failing.
But there comes a time in every student’s life when he must confront the work-a-day world and the necessity of salary. Unless gifted with such parental largess that work can be hobby, the student must find a job. Such crises this need inspires!
As the prospective employee surveys his prospects, none look appealing. “Why can’t I find a job that involves doing something I love, like reading or chatting, maybe find some cause I of which I can be a part?”
And just as these students – such a vast multitude of students in the years between Vietnam and George Bush – come to the point of this decision, a particular artifact of bureaucratic invention and tax code manipulation comes into being: The Non-Profit Organization (NPO).
NPOs have flourished in this time of Me and My Ideals, organizations formed for the purposes of avoiding otherwise gainful employment. As long as it’s fun, I can hang out with like-minded idealists, and I can get paid pretty well for well, caring, the NPO made great sense for a lot of these liberal arts graduates. Way too many, in fact. More than there were positions to fill.
You may be forgiven for thinking the NPOs exist to serve their cause, whatever it may be. But you’d be wrong, that’s surely not their primary mission.
Their primary mission is to create jobs for these poor souls who find math and science way too hard, business way too demeaning, and military service way too violent, man.
The ACLU, as a kind of plum job of all plum NGO placements, was going to fall victim to the flaws of those “public servants” they inevitably attracted. People who viewed other institutions as so much less important. Government as oppressive and evil. Corporations as greedy and evil. Conservatives as racists and evil. Republicans as all that and more.
People who knew deep down, that anything that sounded right must be right, other people who disagreed were stupid or manipulated, and anyway, we work at the ACLU, and that’s cool!
Linked at: Milblogs, Stop the ACLU
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
The New York Times displays a highly selective bit of attentiveness about good news in
-- As unnoticed as almost every other element of good news, when it’s the New York Times that would be doing the noticing.
So why do they notice “small act of pure altruism?”
Why, so they can beat the drum of quagmire, civil war, mass exodus and war torn chaos, of course!
Think I’m exaggerating? Think I’m not giving the Grey Lady her due when she does remark on anything positive?
Check out the mallet with which the Times beats that drum [emphasis mine]:
But the Iraqi government has been taking note of such good works, and now, more than three years after the American invasion, the outlines of a nascent civil society are taking shape.
Since 2003 the government has registered 5,000 private organizations, including charities, human rights groups, medical assistance agencies and literacy projects. Officials estimate that an additional 7,000 groups are working unofficially. The efforts show that even as violence and sectarian hatred tear
The new charity groups offer bits of relief in the sea of poverty that swept Iraq during the economic embargo of the 1990's and has worsened with the pervasive lawlessness that followed the American invasion.
Get it? Anything good happening is in spite of the Americans.
Not convinced? As if to hammer it home, a couple of paragraphs later. As I read I kept wondering how long they would keep it going, and it seems, for the entire article [emphasis mine]:
The Iraqi Chamber of Commerce dates from the 1930's, and its volunteers plunged into
Today's groups have picked up that historic thread and offer hope in an increasingly poisonous sectarian landscape that Iraqis may still be able to hold their country together.
And of course, not to point out the obvious, but if those Iraqis “hold their country together,” it will be in large measure due to the security guarantee and long hard effort of the US Military (not otherwise mentioned in the context of this article, natch).
One last observation. The article included this nugget, which the Times reports at face value without any question and no hint of irony:
The need here is growing. The number of acutely malnourished children has more than doubled, to 9 percent in 2005 from 4 percent in 2002, according to a report based on figures from the Planning Ministry that was released this month.
Is there anyone who seriously thinks you can trust any figures on child malnourishment from Saddam Hussein’s government, as reported in 2002? And a figure like 4%? That would be like believing that 100% of Iraqis voted for Saddam in his last election.
This, despite the widespread, pre-War denunciation of Western sanctions that killed “half a million” Iraqi children. If not overwhelmingly from malnourishment, what other leading contender caused these deaths? I’m not an expert, but I’d be willing to bet that the figure of 9% acutely malnourished children in 2005 probably represents a huge reduction in malnourishment figures since 2002.
Skepticism and doubt. The New York Times has both in great abundance, when the Bush Administration or the US Military is speaking. Otherwise, forget it.
Links: RantingProfs links to the article as a "good sign for the health of the larger body politic." No word on how the good professors feel about the rest of the embedded negativity in the piece. More commentary at Brothers Judd Blog.
Monday, May 22, 2006
A School Field Trip
Settled first by a Dutch colonist, and purchased by a man named Mabee early in the 18th century, the farm has been owned, lived in or rented by Mabee family descendents until given to a historical society in 2003. Quite a remarkable home, right along the Mohawk River.
We happened to catch some stragglers today from some Revolutionary War re-enactors who held a camp this past weekend at the farm. They were part of the field trip today, and explained the intricacies of fife and drum drills, communications, and message formats. (I never knew the Executive Officer had his own fife and drum call to summon him when needed.) These gentlemen also explained how New York Militias were organized locally during early "wilderness" settlement days. Which turned out to be handy later in the day, as I'll explain.
As regular readers know, Little Manly is quite the history and military buff, and his teacher explained today that his 4th grade class always has him explain wars, geography and such items when subjects come up, and are always amazed when he can point out the battlefields of Europe or the Islands in the Pacific.
He's been after me since my return from Iraq to come into his class and give a presentation, so I offered to do one today after our return from the farm. The teacher needed to kill about an hour at the end of the day, so she enthusiastically took me up on the offer.
I took an evening, copied some photos off onto CD, brought a couple of Desert Camouflage Uniform (DCU) hats (boonie, garrison), a map of Iraq, my end of tour award, a unit coin, and figured I'd pretty much wing it from the photos.
It went easier than I thought. The palaces in Tikrit were a big hit, as were stories of our mess hall, our too-sumptious menus, and of course, Ice Cream. (Kids are always amazed when you can take something foreign and find a way to make it something they can relate to. (After one detour about food and the Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) facilities, I heard a couple of kids say, "I want to go to Iraq." They're kids, but still, I heard many of my young soldiers says much the same thing when they first toured the base.
I had a chance to describe our twice extended 8 months of mobilization training in Arctic Fort Drum, prior to our deployment in January 2005, then described our 550 mile convoy into Iraq, around Baghdad, Samarra, and into Tikrit (minus the nervous parts), and had a lot of opportunity to talk about life on the Forward Operating Base (FOB).
They asked the usual questions, was I ever scared, did I drive a HUMVEE, did I get to shoot anybody. I explained that I was nervous a couple of times, but the Army takes a lot of trouble to make us as safe as possible, I explained how we prepared for evacuation and vehicle recovery before convoys (again, no scary parts), and how the hardest thing was to be away from Little Manly and Mrs. Dadmanly. I was asked to tell a few camel spider stories.
One girl asked, "what will happen if we lose the war?"
What a great question. I replied, that's a difficult question to answer.
For one thing, in a very real sense, we won the war already. We got rid of Saddam Hussein, his sons, and their brutal government. We helped Iraqis write their own constitution and elect their own government.
Sure, there's still some violence, it can still be dangerous, but not even as dangerous as 5 or 6 other places in the world, like Columbia. But it's a start, the Iraqi people have a chance.
I explained that "winning the war" against violence is the war that the Iraqi people are fighting, and fighting bravely. To win that war, the Iraqis will need to support their government and not give up on democracy. If they can elect the next government, and the old people leave and the new people come in, and it works, and they make things more peaceful, that that will be winning.
I added that the Iraqi people really deserve this chance, after 30-40 years of the brutal Saddam, his brutal sons, millions of people killed in violence, in their war with Iran, the Iraqi people deserve this chance for peace and freedom. We helped, we can continue to help, but it's their chance, for their future.
If they can keep their democracy, it will have been worth it.
This afternoon ended with something really special.
At they end of my presentation, all the kids in this class wanted to tell me all the people they knew who were Veterans. It started when I mentioned something about having any family members or neighbors who were Vets. Everybody in the class seemed to have a Dad, a Grandpa, a Great Grandpa or a neighbor who was in Vietnam, or World War II. One girl said her cousin's husband was going to Iraq in June.
I asked her if they were having a party for him. She said yes. I said, that's good, you can give him a hug and tell him goodbye, and wish him well. I said, it meant a lot for me to know people were praying for me. Every family does this differently, I said, but however your family does so, you should offer to do for him. It will mean a lot.
I told the kids that they should ask their Veterans about their experiences. They won't tell you scary or upsetting things, but probably funny, interesting stories. It will mean a lot that you ask. If they don't want to talk, don't press them, respect that that is their decision. But if they want to, it will mean a lot that they ask.
I was really amazed. In this small community, military service is still viewed with reverence and respect. Maybe because its a small, working class town. Maybe because they are all about 10 years old.
But I think it's because so many of their families served, when their country called.
Makes you kind of have hope. For them. For the future maybe they'll help ensure.
Links: Mudville Gazette, Threats Watch, Blogotional
I met MAJ Lawhorn at the 2006 MILBLOGGER Conference, and spoke to him in the course of his preparing the article. He's a PAO who really gets MILBLOGS, has one of his own, Kosovo Dad, and hopes to continue to network between PAO, military leaders, and MILBLOGS.
That's all good. Thanks, MAJ Lawhorn, for the link and good press, and for doing what you can in your official capacity to give MILBLOGS a greater voice within PAO and leadership channels. It will make a difference.
Linked over at MILBLOGS.
Friday, May 19, 2006
Two Reports on Gitmo
Give Them What They Want.
The prisoners at Gitmo that is, not the UN.
Two reports from AP, of two curiously timed events:
Bottom line up front, buried 30 paragraphs down in the piece on the UN Report:
Andreas Mavrommatis, a Cypriot rights expert who chaired the committee's review of the United States, said the report should not be blown out of proportion because the United States has "a very good record of human rights" overall.
The AP characterizes the Gitmo prisoner “uprising” in a way that strongly suggests that prisoners made suicide attempts to draw in guards, conduct attacks and other harassing actions, and (thereby) gain media attention:
Prisoners wielding improvised weapons clashed with guards trying to stop a detainee from committing suicide at the
The fight occurred Thursday in a medium-security section of the camp as guards were responding to the fourth attempted suicide that day at the detention center on the
U.S. Navy base, Cmdr. Robert Durand said.
Detainees used fans, light fixtures and other improvised weapons to attack the guards as they entered a communal living area to stop a prisoner trying to hang himself, Durand said.
Earlier in the day, three detainees in another part of the prison attempted suicide by swallowing prescription medicine they had been hoarding.
Note the tie-in, without a remark on its significance, deep into the AP report:
Word of the clash came as a U.N. panel that monitors compliance with the world's anti-torture treaty called on the
One other item of note at the bottom of the report, obviously meant to elicit sympathy for these poor unfortunates:
The lawyer [Colangelo-Bryan] said the suicides reflect the desperation of detainees held for more than four years with no idea when, or if, they will be released.
"Under these circumstances, it's hardly surprising that people become desperate and hopeless enough to attempt suicide," he said.
It’s sad. Really, this is too cruel. Perhaps, as combatants who conduct operations in a manner completely contrary to the rules of war, we should juts opt for summary executions. Or just let them go ahead with their suicide attempts. But of course, no, we would never dream of treating these fanatics as they would treat us.
Okay. Next up. The UN Report, as also reported by AP:
The Committee Against Torture also said detainees should not be returned to any country where they could face a "real risk" of being tortured.
The criticism, contained in an 11-page report, followed a hearing in
It seems that the UN knows how to manipulate the MSM nearly as well as the terrorists at
I’m not sure the UN makes any attempt to influence the behavior of the other countries it perceives as engaging in torture. Neither by trying to shame the dictators who run these countries, nor by prompting their populations to pressure their governments. Why is it only the
For that matter, why do they spend so much time – and expend such a huge proportion of what you’d think would be limited resources -- on our perceived grievances, when by their own admission, “United States has ‘a very good record of human rights’ overall.”
A mystery, just as mysterious as the secret of how the prisoners at
I was gratified to see a robust
U.N. investigators were invited to inspect the facilities at
"It is important to note that everything that is done in terms of questioning detainees is fully within the boundaries of American law," Snow said.
He also said the
"In short," Snow said, "we are according every consideration consistent with not only the law but the needs of safety and security at
The U.N. report came as the military disclosed a group of
State Department legal adviser John B. Bellinger III, who led the U.S. delegation at the U.N. panel hearing, said the committee appeared not to have read a lot of the information Washington had supplied — or had ignored it.
"There are a number of both factual inaccuracies and legal misstatements about the law applicable to the
He said the panel's call for the closure of Guantanamo was "a recommendation which we would say, one, seems to be beyond their mandate; two, legally wrong to say that the existence of Guantanamo is a per se violation of the convention; and, three, a not very practical recommendation given that they say that it ought to be closed but that individuals can't be sent back to a large number of countries."
He called that "simply clearly inaccurate since it's been ordered by our Supreme Court that they have access to judicial process and every detainee in Guantanamo has access to counsel and to our courts."
Hey, I give the AP credit for including such a lengthy official rebuttal to the UN charges. They also tie the two stories together, but that’s the intent, isn’t it?
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