Truth, Lies & War

Rod Dreher has an interesting post about intelligence officials who distorted information to justify the Bush Administration's policy goals. In other words, they lied. I'm sure you are shocked to think that your heroes may not have been entirely truthful. Maybe they actually believed themselves to be telling the truth, but I have no problem believing the government would lie to the people. I've seen it happen. Here is a story you will not read anywhere else.

In 1990 I was a junior officer in an Army Reserve military intelligence unit. In August of that year, Iraqi forces under Saddam Hussein invaded and captured Kuwait. President Bush vowed "this will not stand" and ordered U.S. forces to defend Saudi Arabia in an operation called Desert Shield.

It was an interesting time to be a reservist. Many units were mobilized and there was a lot of confusion about who would go and who would stay. We were alerted several times to get ready and then told to stand down. We worked hard to be ready just in case. In the end I never went anywhere, Kuwait was liberated, and Saddam stayed in power.

During this time I was, as you might imagine, paying close attention to the news coverage. Back then that meant CNN. Fox News didn't exist yet and the web was still a dream. CNN was quite accurate about some things, and totally wrong on others. I knew this because I had access to classified intelligence information as part of our mission. It was amusing to contrast the "official" news with what was on TV.

In late 1990 I saw top secret reports about an event that had just occurred in the Middle East. I must be vague because I think it may still be classified. I've still never seen it mentioned in any open source, at least. Suffice to say that this event was highly relevant to U.S. military plans at the time.

Daily press briefings from the Pentagon were a regular feature on CNN during this period, with various generals and admirals answering questions from reporters. So one day I almost fell out of my chair when a general was asked about this very hush-hush event. I don't have a transcript, but the exchange went something like this.

Q: General, we heard a rumor that ________ earlier this week. Can you confirm this?

A: No, that's not true. No such thing happened.

The reporter dropped it and they went on to other matters. Now as a young officer maybe I was a bit idealistic, but it had never occurred to me that generals could lie. But that's what he did. What the reporter said was true, and the thing he mentioned did happen.

The general could have said "We don't comment on intelligence matters." He could have said "We can't confirm that." He could have used one of the many other artful dodges that they frequently employed when asked awkward questions. He didn't. Instead he lied, plain and simple, to the press and the American public.

Was he wrong? Maybe, maybe not. The nature of this information was such that if it had become public knowledge, some innocent civilians probably would have died. The general may have felt he needed to shoot down the question and make sure it didn't come back up. I'm not second-guessing him here. I am making the point that government lies from the highest levels are nothing new.

There's more. This particular general had four stars at the time and became very well-known to the public. He retired a couple of years later and there was a lot of speculation about whether he might have a political future, maybe even a run for the White House. His political appeal was, ironically, based largely on his reputation for prudence and honesty.

The general decided against seeking elective office, but did go on to become a key cabinet officer in the second Bush Administration. Once again, he began appearing on the news regularly to talk about Iraq. Every time I saw him, I had to wonder if he was speaking the truth or not. The lie I saw was smooth and convincing. What else might he be holding back?

This brings us to the whole debate about what the Bush Administration knew about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and what the public was told as justification for the invasion in 2003. I am well aware that intelligence agencies have to protect their sources and methods. There are things the public should not know. With that understanding, we trust our elected officials to be as open with us as they can. We certainly don't expect to be actively misled. Yet there's a lot of evidence that this administration did so in regard to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

If so, did they mislead us with malicious intent? It is one thing to cover up the truth when lives are at stake. It is quite another if the goal is to achieve political gain. Yes, yes, politicians lie all the time. We've come to expect it, and we're wise to be skeptical of their self-serving rhetoric. We expect truth on the big things, though. Things like, say, "why should the country go to war?"

After 9/11, I think Bush wanted to invade Iraq for reasons entirely different than what we were told. Maybe they were legitimate reasons, but whatever the real plan was Bush knew that Congress and the public would probably not like it. So he had his administration offer other justifications, such as Hussein's alleged possession of WMD and links to Al Qaeda, that were more palatable. It worked. Congress authorized the war and public support was initially very high.

Lies and partial truths, however justified they seem at the time, usually come back and bite those who tell them. When no WMD were found and Iraq deteriorated into chaos the Bush Administration had no credible defense for its policies. We are now left with the current untenable situation.

What would have happened had Bush simply leveled with us in 2002-2003? We'll probably never know. Maybe we would still have invaded Iraq and still be right where we are now. But I think we would be better able to make the best of a bad situation. Instead, we're left with a critical loss of confidence between the American people and their government, as well as a loss of trust within the branches of government.

Our political system is built on trust. We put our cards on the table, debate the issues, and eventually shake hands on an agreement. When one side negotiates under false pretenses, the next debate will not go nearly as smoothly. Repeat the process a few times and it degenerates into the bitter paralysis that now prevails, not just about the war but about everything.

The story of George Washington and the cherry tree may or may not be true, but it's important. It's important because it illustrates what we expect from our presidents. Now, thanks to the deceptions of Bush, Clinton, Nixon, Johnson, FDR and probably others, our expectations are permanently lower. It makes me wonder how long the "American Experiment" can survive.

Who do we blame? Look in the mirror. We expect the president to be just like "one of us." Knowing our own faults, this means we don't expect much. We have what we asked for.

Bad Move by Bush

President Bush is on the attack against opponents of the new immigration plan.

GLYNCO, Ga., May 29 — President Bush today accused opponents of his proposed immigration measure of fear-mongering to defeat it in Congress, and took on his own conservative political base as he did so.

“If you want to scare the American people, what you say is the bill’s an amnesty bill,” Mr. Bush said this afternoon at a training center for border enforcement agents located in this town in Georgia’s southeastern corner. “That’s empty political rhetoric, trying to frighten our citizens.”

The president used some of his toughest language yet as he began an effort to build support for the bill in the Senate. The measure hews closely to his long-sought goal of a new immigration system with three components: tighter seals on the nation’s borders, a guest-worker system for noncitizens who want to work here, and a path to citizenship for some 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country.

The bill, the product of a compromise struck by Republican and Democratic leaders two weeks ago, has encountered stiff resistance from the left and right. Liberal opposition taking aim at the proposal for shifting the system for awarding permanent residence status to give more weight to education and skills and less to family reunification, while conservatives have derided the plan for allowing illegal aliens to legalize their status.

It was the conservative opponents whom Mr. Bush seemed to address most forcefully in his remarks here today — a rare example of the president crossing swords with key members of the political coalition that helped him attain the Oval Office and then keep it four years later: The same conservative radio hosts, writers, bloggers, and legislators who killed an attempt at compromise immigration legislation last year. MORE

This is a big mistake, and doubly sad because Bush has made it before. Remember the Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination? The Dubai Ports World deal? In both cases, Bush faced serious opposition from his own base and was eventually forced to back down.

Bush seems to have a real problem with what he perceives as "disloyalty." The problem is he can't fire the American people, like he does with staff who disagree too loudly. Yet instead of addressing their concerns, he lashes out at the same folks who would like to be his allies on other issues. This is not the way to win friends and influence people.

The immigration deal was already on shaky ground and this may be enough to kill it. Whatever support Bush ever had with grassroots conservatives is gone. The strange thing is he doesn't seem to mind. It's enough to make you wonder if he is a liberal at heart.

True Beauty

So last night we watched the Miss Universe pageant on TV. My lovely & talented wife picked Miss Japan as the winner early on, and as usual she was right. Congratulations to Riyo Mori.

I am not generally a fan of these events but it did bring back some memories. Way back in the 1970s, beauty pageants were annual events on the liturgical calendar of network TV. (For younger readers, this was before we had “cable.” All TV programming came from a strange-looking antenna on the roof. On a good night we were lucky to have five clear channels. Somehow we survived.)

Back then it was also not common to see scantily clad women displaying themselves for all to see. That being the case, the televised swimsuit competitions were eagerly anticipated by at least half the viewing audience. Now, of course, male Americans can hardly escape the onslaught of young things writhing and undulating before us. This may explain why beauty pageants are no longer a ratings bonanza for the networks. This year Miss Universe was surpassed by a rerun of something called Two and a Half Men. Beautiful young girls prancing on stage? Yawn.

In fact, the contestants would probably argue that they are more than just pretty faces/bodies; they have minds, too. I believe them, but the sad fact is it doesn’t matter anymore. The feminist quest to “empower” women by using sexuality as a weapon has had the opposite effect. For men, the mystery is gone. We’ve seen it all. The secret pleasures we longed for as teenagers have lost much of their allure because they are now everywhere.

Young ladies are well aware of this, and their response is to become even more audacious and revealing. Last year's “accidental” view of the nether regions of Britney Spears was, I fear, a sign of things to come. The bikini-clad Girls Gone Wild videos provide an even better example, consisting as they do not of professional models but of otherwise undistinguished college students who think in a drunken fog that flashing their breasts to an anonymous male audience is fun and exciting. Then they wonder why it is so hard to find a man who will view them as more than an object.

Do I mean we should go back to the days of head-to-toe coverage, or Islamic veils for women? No. All I’m saying is that Miss Universe was a reminder of a different time, and in some ways a better time.

The 1970s were not an age of innocence by any means. Nonetheless, it is hard to argue that the increasingly open sexuality of our culture is a positive development for anybody. Far from being “empowered,” women are trying more desperately than ever to extract money and security from men, using their bodies as the medium of exchange. The fact that they can now do this voluntarily is nice, but their real goal remains elusive.

Men share the blame for this state of affairs, of course. We give in too quickly to our adolescent impulses. We run from responsibility and commitment. This needs to change, too. Someday it will - but probably too late for the last generation or two. They don't know what they are missing.

Beauty, we are told, is in the eye of the beholder. I'm not sure that is true. Last night I watched a group of the supposedly most "beautiful" women in the world. Yet none of them were remotely comparable to the woman I've given my life to. I have my own Miss Universe, and I love her more every day. I can't imagine anything better.

Some Gave All

Memorial Day always seems to be cloudy and wet where I live. This is appropriate for the day we set aside to honor those who gave their lives in service to the country.

In wartime, people die in many ways, and for many reasons. Some never saw it coming. Others know where they are going, and do it anyway. All should be honored.

With the draft long gone, too few people today understand what it means to serve. I was a soldier once, and the memories are (unfortunately, sometimes) all too close. One thing you learn very quickly in the Army is that you cannot survive alone. Soldiers learn to depend on each other, to help each other, to take care of each other - and sometimes to die for each other.

We say that fallen veterans died for America. In fact, most did not. When death is coming and sacrifices must be made, soldiers rarely think about the flag. They don't give their lives for their country, their general, or their captain. They don't die for their families, either. The patriotism that surrounds Memorial Day is mainly for the benefit of the living.

The truth is soldiers die for other soldiers. They give their lives for their friends, because they know their friends would do the same. This is what defines a hero. They did what we all - having lived together, worked together, laughed together, and cried together - hope we could do.

Their moment came, and they proved themselves worthy. This is why we honor them. Never forget it.

Immigration Overload

As I noted in Border Insanity a few days ago, "we need to know who is here and have at least some assurance that they are not dangerous." Details of the new immigration bill are beginning to emerge and they are not at all reassuring.

AT the center of the bill is the massive "Z visa" amnesty - whereby virtually all of the 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens in the country could become lawfully present, able to renew the visa indefinitely until they die.

To qualify, an alien must have entered before Jan. 1, and have remained in the United States ever since. Each applicant must also have a job or be the parent, child or spouse of someone who does.

Many of the bill's advocates claim the amnesty doesn't take effect until some future date - after the measure's border-security goals are met. Not true - at least, not in effect. The amnesty starts immediately - with the issuance of probationary Z visas.

And that qualifier means little: The probationary visa is nearly as good as the non-probationary one, giving the alien immediate lawful status, protection from deportation and work authorization the alien to work. He or she can exit and re-enter the country (with advance permission).

It will extremely hard for the government to prevent criminals and terrorists from getting these probationary visas. The bill allows the federal government only one business day to do a "background check" on each applicant.

The bill's authors seem ignorant of what this means in practice... MORE

Here's what Bush, McCain, Kennedy, and others want to do. ALL illegal aliens currently in the U.S. will be given full legal status, with no practical effort to weed out criminals, terrorists, or other undesirables. It's a blanket amnesty, in effect, and not only for those already here. New entrants will have little trouble finding the "documents" necessary to prove they were here on Jan. 1st.

See now why they wanted to ram this through the Senate quickly with no debate? Fortunately they are being caught, and this bill will probably die a quick and well-deserved death. We've learned something useful, too. All the Bush Administration talk about "defending America" is just so much talk. If they really think the terrorist threat is so dire, why are they trying to open our borders to everyone who wants in? It makes no sense.

What does make sense is that the construction, agriculture, and restaurant industries need cheap labor. They have political power. Money talks in Washington. National security is being sold out for cold, hard cash.

Giuliani, Abortion, and Morality

To amplify on yesterday's post, Rudy Giuliani likes to say that he "hates" abortion, he thinks it is immoral, and he would always recommend pregnant women consider adoption instead. His political position, however, is that abortion is a matter of private choice for each woman.

Rudy is not the only one with this kind of logic. Think through it, though, and it makes no sense. We do not think this way in other life-related matters. If Rudy said "I hate murder, it's immoral, I always recommend people find other ways to resolve their differences, but ultimately it's up to each potential murderer to decide," we would all think he was insane.

Moral questions can never be "private" because they always affect other people. Even if you assume a fetus is not truly alive, what about the father's rights? Why must he be ignored? There are also potential grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles? Don't we all have a stake in each other's existence?

Abraham Lincoln had a different attitude. Suppose he had said "I hate slavery, I think slavery is immoral, but ultimately it is up to each slaveowner to decide whether to free his slaves or not." This was the position taken by many politicians of the time.

Fortunately for black Americans, Lincoln disagreed. He said "I hate slavery, slavery is immoral, and I'm going to do something about it." With the 13th Amendment, he set out to impose his morality on the rest of the country. We are a better nation because of it.

If you think there is nothing immoral about abortion, then you have at least taken a logically consistent position in opposing legal restrictions on it. To say, as Giuliani does, that abortion is immoral but that neither federal nor state governments should do anything about it, makes no sense at all. It reveals an intellectual schizophrenia that leaves one morally confused, at best.

We've had enough morally confused people in the White House. Presidents make moral decisions for other people all the time. We need someone who can think clearly when doing so.

Another view

Why Rudy?

I decided long ago that there is no way I could support Rudy Giuliani for president due to his sordid personal life and support for abortion rights. Yet he continues to gather support from otherwise conservative people and even many pro-life activists.

The reason for this is that Giuliani is perceived as "tough" on terrorism. He did a great job on 9/11, we are told. Because the nation is threatened with possible mass destruction, issues such as abortion can be overlooked in order to have a leader who will keep us "safe."

Leaving aside other issues for now, let's think about Rudy's so-called strength for a minute. Was he a hero on 9/11, and is he qualified to protect the U.S. from further terror attacks? What, exactly, did Rudy do on 9/11 besides appearing on TV to reassure people?

"Sure, he has no foreign or national policy experience, and both his personal life and political career are riddled with scandal," said Hammond. "But in the key area of having been on TV on 9/11, the other candidates simply cannot match him. And as we saw in 2004, that's what matters most to voters in this post-9/11 world." more

The above satire is not so far from reality. Again I ask: what did Giuliani do on 9/11 that qualifies him to be president? Answer: he went on TV and looked like a tough guy. He didn't make any presidential decisions because he didn't have to. Once the planes hit, the city's emergency response system would have swung into action no matter who was mayor.

In fact, one could plausibly argue that Giuliani's policies as mayor actually increased the risk of more terrorists attacks. He certainly did little to make New York a terror-free zone.

First, he made New York a so-called "sanctuary city" for illegal aliens. If, on 9/10/01, the NYPD had happened to stop any of the hijackers for traffic violations, they would have given them tickets and let them go without checking their immigration status.

Second, despite the fact that the World Trade Center had already been the target of one terror attack in 1993, Giuliani choose to locate the city's emergency command post within the complex. It was destroyed in the attack, which had the advantage of letting Giuliani say "I was there" but did not help facilitate emergency response.

Third, New York firefighters were operating on 9/11 with outdated radio equipment because their new radios - supplied by Rudy's political allies - would not work in tall buildings. Hundreds died because they did not receive warning the towers were about to collapse. Another problem was that the New York police and fire departments could not communicate with each other. A police helicopter observed the towers becoming unstable and warned police personnel to evacuate. Firefighters could not receive that message - so they died.

It is true that Giuliani talks tough about terrorism. So what? Bush talks tough, too. So does Osama Bin Ladin, for that matter. Talk is cheap.

All you conservatives who support Giuliani: what is it about him that justifies abandoning all your other principles? I have yet to hear a coherent answer to this question. It really does boil down to his TV appearances on 9/11. Admittedly, reassuring the country during a crisis is a big part of being president, and Bush was invisible for most of that day. Rudy filled the vacuum and did it well. Bill Clinton would have done it even better. Should either of them be our next president on that basis? No. We're not electing a consoler-in-chief.

I believe that even more important than defending the American Way of Life is making sure the American Way of Life is still worth defending. That means we have to stop the abortion holocaust and re-build a culture that respects life and liberty. Yet even if you believe that terrorism is the #1 challenge we face, Giuliani is no more qualified in that area than most of the other candidates.

There is nothing of substance about Giuliani's 9/11 leadership that justifies overlooking his many other faults. Yet many conservatives are doing exactly that. I wish I could think of a kinder word than "gullible" to describe such people but I can't. They are letting their fear blind them to the havoc a Giuliani presidency would wreak on the rest of their agenda.

Think again. Please. Giuliani is not the answer you are looking for.

Restore the Republic

This short video explains why Ron Paul should be our next President. Check it out. (Hat tip: Bro Robin)

Winning Either Way

President Bush is not often thought about as a master of linguistic subtlety but yesterday he managed a good one. The subject was the Iraq war funding bill that will now be passed without timelines or other such restrictions. Bush argues that this will give his troop-surge plan time to work. He also said this.

Mr. Bush warned today of still worse violence to come in Iraq in the months before Gen. David Petraeus is scheduled to report on progress there in September. “It could make August a tough month, because, you see, what they’re going to try to do is kill as many innocent people as they can to try to influence the debate here at home,” Mr. Bush said, referring to Al Qaeda and anti-American Iraqi militants. “Don’t you find that interesting -- I do -- that they recognize that the death of innocent people could shake our will?” source

Here's the translation.
  • If violence in Iraq decreases between now and September, it will mean insurgents are on the run. Obviously, the surge is working.
  • If violence in Iraq increases between now and September, it will mean insurgents are getting desperate. Obviously, the surge is working.

See, the Surge cannot fail. No matter what happens, Bush anticipated it and did the right thing. Nicely done! This is why we made this man our leader.

Hat tip to Darth Beckman.

Slow Down

The erudite Peggy Noonan appears to have thoughts about illegal immigration similar to what I said earlier this week. Of course she says it much better than I did.

We should stop, slow down and absorb. We should sit and settle. We should do what you do after eating an eight-course meal. We should digest what we've eaten.

We should close our borders. We should do whatever it takes to close them tight and solid. Will that take the Army? Then send the Army. Does it mean building a wall? Then build a wall, but the wall must have doors, which can be opened a little or a lot down the road once we know where we are. Should all legal immigration stop? No. We should make a list of what our nation needs, such as engineers and nurses, and then admit a lot of engineers and nurses. We should take in what we need to survive and flourish.

As we end illegal immigration, we should set ourselves to the Americanization of the immigrants we have. They haven't only joined a place of riches, it's a place of meaning. We must teach them what it is they've joined and why it is good and what is expected of them and what is owed. We stopped Americanizing ourselves 40 years ago. We've got to start telling the story of our country again.

Read the rest.

Lost Withdrawal

As much as I criticize the dismal state of our culture, I should confess to being occasionally entertained by Hollywood. For example, I'm addicted to the ABC-TV show Lost, which aired its Season 3 Finale episode last night. (If you haven't seen it yet and want to remain unspoiled, stop reading now.)

For those who are unaware, Lost is about a group of people whose plane crashes on a tropical island, leaving the stranded. Many strange things happen and the series has turned into a massive puzzle with multiple layers of mystery. It's complicated. How many other TV shows have their own online encyclopedia?

More important, Lost is about human emotions and relationships: family, love, sacrifice, faith, and hope. We get to know the characters through flashbacks to their prior lives. All are faulty in various ways. Thrust into a terrible situation they must share with strangers, they must live together - or else die alone.

I'm a little bit shook up after last night's episode because my favorite character died. While it may have been the most dramatic and heroic death ever seen on network TV, and was long foreseen, I will miss Charlie because I saw some of myself in him. No, I'm not a heroin addict, or a musician. But we have a few other things in common and it was interesting to see him deal with those challenges. I feel kind of like I've lost a friend.

We need more TV programming like Lost. It's dramatic, entertaining, and (more or less) clean. It is also immensely profitable for the network and the producers, so you'd think they would get the message and dump some of the drivel that fills the rest of the week.

The producers recently made a deal with ABC to continue Lost for three more seasons and then bring it to a definite ending. Season 3 is now complete and Season 4 won't begin until February 2008. That gives us all eight long, frustrating months to ponder the mysteries of the Island. On the other hand, I will now have more time for blogging. :)

For those in the know: who was in that coffin? Post your theories below.

Border Insanity

Crunchy Con has an excellent post today quoting an immigration attorney. His reaction to the new Kennedy-McCain bill that Congress is about to consider:

The long an the short of it is this: this bill has no enforcement to it at all.

Look, it says, in effect, that 'no Y [guest worker] or Z [amnesty] visas will be issued to anybody until the following steps are taken to seal the borders.' But in the mean time, provisional Y and Z visas will be issued, with exactly the same effects and benefits except that they can't be turned into LPR (green card) status.

There is no requirement that the border be 'sealed', just that they hire more people (yay*) and build a tripwire fence (double yay*) and throw out a few more 'criminal' aliens (no yay here, this means that more misdemeanants with US citizen kids will be thrown out).

*((insert the sounds of cheering made when they ate Robin's minstrels here))

And as for the Great Wall of Texas? Forget it. Won't never be built. Not while the Dems are in office.

Furthermore, there are about 30 million non-citizen immigrants, and eight to twelve million illegals in this country. There are 180,000 Homeland Security bureaucrats, of whom about 40,000 or so work for BICE, from border patrol to Homeland Security paperwork drones, for the whole country. I work in one of America's biggest cities, and here, with a half million aliens in this state, BICE and its sister organization, US CIS, have together – count 'em – 30 people processing papers. It takes five years to get a marriage green-card interview. Five years.

Look, this is the crew that gave Mohammad Atta a green card six months after he destroyed the North Tower. And they expect these people to process twelve million Z visa applications in the next three years??? WHO ARE THEY KIDDING?

Click here and read the whole thing. It's fascinating.

Here's where I stand in the immigration debate. First, I have no problem with people coming to the United States to work. Our economy clearly needs them - at least if we all want to continue enjoying the fruits of their labor.

Second, to the extent people are here, regardless of how they arrived, they deserve basic rights: medical care, police protection, etc. They remain fully human regardless of their legal status. On the other hand, if we allow them to enter the country and work here legally they should be willing to accept some reasonable restrictions.

Third, we need to know who is here and have at least some assurance that they are not dangerous. The only way I know to do this is to lock down the borders so people don't cross illegally, and then have a mechanism to let people who want to work in the U.S. enter the country legally, quickly, and efficiently.

As the attorney quoted above illustrates, our government has failed to provide such a process. Fix this and the whole problem would be solved. People will not go to the danger and expense of crossing the border illegally if it is simple to enter the U.S. and work legitimately.

The first step must be to get control of the borders. We have yet to see any serious effort to do so. (This, incidentally, is one of the reasons I have a hard time taking the Bush Administration seriously when it says we must do "whatever it takes" to protect Americans from terrorism. The border is threat #1 and they have done little to secure it. Quite the opposite, actually - Bush is willing to trade national security for political support from the agriculture, construction and restaurant industries.)

My guess is that the new immigration bill has little chance of passing in anything like its current form. This is such a polarizing issue I'm not sure any kind of agreement will ever be possible. It is kind of like Social Security in that regard: we all know the problem is only getting worse, but nobody is willing to make the sacrifices a solution would require. In both cases, there isn't likely to be a happy ending to the story.

How To Be A Rebel

For some reason many people are compelled to be "different." They want to chart their own path, do their own thing, discover themselves.

Ok, fine. Given the current state of American culture, being "different" isn't such a bad idea. Here are thirteen rebellious acts that will definitely take you out of the mainstream.

  1. Stop watching TV, especially cable TV.
  2. Read a newspaper every day.
  3. Get married, stay married, and avoid sex outside of marriage.
  4. Don't pretend that oral sex isn't really sex.
  5. Have more than two children with the same spouse.
  6. Instead of going to Starbucks, give $5 to a beggar on the street.
  7. Go to church, any church, weekly.
  8. When you go to church, dress better than you do on other days.
  9. When in public, wear clothing that covers your body.
  10. Vote in obscure local elections.
  11. Go to "G" rated movies.
  12. Listen to classical music.
  13. Give money to a charity that really helps the poor.
None of these are especially difficult tasks, but do just half of them and you'll stick out like a sore thumb in our society. Give it a shot and see how "different" you can be.

Goodbye, Emilio

If you've been following the fate of baby Emilio Gonzales, it's over now. He passed away on Saturday, with his mother and other relatives surrounding him.

The next court hearing was scheduled for May 30, so there was never a final decision on whether he could be disconnected from life support. I suspect that is what the people involved probably wanted to happen. No one seemed to be in any great hurry to reach a resolution.

This story has, if nothing else, exposed to public view a Texas law that seriously needs to be re-thought. I don't have an answer, but there must be a better way to resolve situations like this one.

Rest in peace, Emilio. Now you are home.

Rights Are Natural

People have rights. You don’t need any religious faith to believe this. Some people think their rights come from God, others believe they are rooted in “natural law.” In either case, the most fundamental right is life itself. Our lives are our own.

Rights must sometimes be defended. That is why we have developed this institution known as “government.” We delegate it some of our individual authority so that it can secure our rights from those who might wish to take them away. The government’s power is limited to those that citizens freely choose to give it.

When the government decides to take for itself powers that are contrary to the natural rights that people possess, such as life, it is the right - and some would say the duty - of the people to alter or abolish that government, replacing it with one that respects individual rights.

Does any of this sound controversial? Many folks will take issue with that last part about altering or abolishing the government. They shouldn't. You see, all I've done above is paraphrase something I first read a long time ago:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government...

Some will argue that, as a slave owner, Thomas Jefferson was obviously a hypocrite to talk about "liberty." Maybe so - but he was a hypocrite only because he was correct.

So now, 230 years later, where do we stand? Is our government defending our rights or destroying them? If the latter, we have work to do.

Petraeus on Battlefield Ethics

Earlier this month I wrote about the disturbing number of U.S. troops who seem prepared to torture prisoners, kill non-combatants and commit other war crimes. Their new general took notice, too, and issued the following letter.

10 May 2007

Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen serving in Multi-National Force—Iraq:

Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right. Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy. This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we—not our enemies—occupy the moral high ground. This strategy has shown results in recent months. Al Qaeda’s indiscriminate attacks, for example, have finally started to turn a substantial portion of the Iraqi population against it.

In view of this, I was concerned by the results of a recently released survey conducted last fall in Iraq that revealed an apparent unwillingness on the part of some US personnel to report illegal actions taken by fellow members of their units. The study also indicated that a small percentage of those surveyed may have mistreated noncombatants. This survey should spur reflection on our conduct in combat.

I fully appreciate the emotions that one experiences in Iraq.

I also know firsthand the bonds between members of the “brotherhood of the close fight.” Seeing a fellow trooper killed by a barbaric enemy can spark frustration, anger, and a desire for immediate revenge. As hard as it might be, however, we must not let these emotions lead us—or our comrades in arms—to commit hasty, illegal actions. In the event that we witness or hear of such actions, we must not let our bonds prevent us from speaking up.

Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary. Certainly, extreme physical action can make someone “talk”; however, what the individual says may be of questionable value. In fact our experience in applying the interrogation standards laid out in the Army Field Manual (2-22.3) on Human Intelligence Collector Operations that was published last year shows that the techniques in the manual work effectively and humanely in eliciting information from detainees.

We are, indeed, warriors. We train to kill our enemies. We are engaged in combat, we must pursue the enemy relentlessly, and we must be violent at times. What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight, however, is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect. While we are warriors, we are also all human beings. Stress caused by lengthy deployments and combat is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign that we are human. If you feel such stress, do not hesitate to talk to your chain of command, your chaplain, or a medical expert.

We should use the survey results to renew our commitment to the values and standards that make us who we are and to spur re-examination of these issues. Leaders, in particular, need to discuss these issues with their troopers—and, as always, they need to set the right example and strive to ensure proper conduct. We should never underestimate the importance of good leadership and the difference it can make.

Thanks for what you continue to do. It is an honor to serve with each of you.

David H. Petraeus
General, United States Army

I hope he really means this. I also wonder why most of the GOP presidential candidates, who all profess support "for the troops," seemed in their last debate fully prepared to ignore General Petraeus on this point. Only Ron Paul and John McCain stood firm against torture.

Oh, excuse me, it's "enhanced interrogation techniques" that they think are ok. Not torture. General Petraeus seems to anticipate that line of argument by also ruling out "other expedient methods" in his letter to the troops.

"What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight... is how we behave." Exactly. We will never defeat the enemy if we become like the enemy.

Passing The Test

You must read this story.

Unable to conceive naturally, Elizabeth and Matt decided to adopt a baby from China. Within hours of seeing the 1-year-old girl for the first time, they noticed problems. Big problems: a tumor, spina bifida, brain damage, paraplegia.

We have a solution, said the Chinese orphanage officials: just pick out a different baby.

Months before, we had been presented with forms asking which disabilities would be acceptable in a prospective adoptee — what, in other words, did we think we could handle: H.I.V., hepatitis, blindness? We checked off a few mild problems that we knew could be swiftly corrected with proper medical care. As Matt had written on our application: “This will be our first child, and we feel we would need more experience to handle anything more serious.”

Now we faced surgeries, wheelchairs, colostomy bags. I envisioned our home in San Diego with ramps leading to the doors. I saw our lives as being utterly devoted to her care. How would we ever manage?

Yet how could we leave her? Had I given birth to a child with these conditions, I wouldn’t have left her in the hospital. Though a friend would later say, “Well, that’s different,” it wasn’t to me.

I pictured myself boarding the plane with some faceless replacement child and then explaining to friends and family that she wasn’t Natalie, that we had left Natalie in China because she was too damaged, that the deal had been a healthy baby and she wasn’t.

How would I face myself? How would I ever forget? I would always wonder what happened to Natalie.

I knew this was my test, my life’s worth distilled into a moment. I was shaking my head “No” before they finished explaining. We didn’t want another baby, I told them. We wanted our baby, the one sleeping right over there. “She’s our daughter,” I said. “We love her.”

"She's our daughter." What amazing love. There's more to the story; read it here.

Now, compare this to the parents who, based on nothing more than grainy ultrasound images, decide that their unborn child is not worthy of life and must be killed. Such so-called parents delude themselves into thinking that "it's for the best." No, it's not for the best. Yet people who would never be so rude as to reject a friend's gift are quick to reject the greatest gift of all: life itself.

Elizabeth and Matt passed their test. Will we pass ours?

Reverse Racism

In South Carolina, a schoolteacher found herself the subject of constant racial insults from her middle school students. School administrators stood by and watched. Think we're past such things? Hardly. This case is a little different, though. The teacher was white and the students black.

The teacher, whose name is Elizabeth Kandrac, finally filed civil rights complaints and then sued the school district. A jury found in her favor and she settled with the school district for damages.

Let's be clear: What these children called this teacher is beyond reprehensible and could be only be construed as hostile and threatening.

Back in the day, if a pupil had talked the way these did, he or she would have received a well-deserved thwack, been suspended and sent home to face the wrath of a parent. That process likely would have put a swift end to the tribal tyranny now often tolerated in the service of self-esteem.Here's a sample: white b----, white m----- f-----, white c---, white a------, white ho.

Other white teachers and pupils corroborated Kandrac's account, including a male war veteran who testified he would rather return to Vietnam than to Brentwood.

Kandrac's attorney, Larry Kobrovsky, argued that the repeated use of "white" made these slurs racist in nature. But school officials insisted that because black pupils were equally abusive to other blacks, the language wasn't inherently racist.

Here's what we know without question: If white pupils had used similar language toward black pupils and teachers, the case would have been plastered on the front page of the New York Times until heads rolled.

A black Kandrac would have a million-dollar book deal, a movie contract and hundreds of interviews to juggle. Her oppressors and those who passively facilitated her abuse would have been pilloried by the media -- their faces all over the evening news -- while Revs. Al and Jesse organized protests.

But a white Kandrac -- who faced a daily barrage of insults, who had books and desks thrown at her and her bicycle tires punctured -- was treated like an incompetent wimp. She was just a lousy teacher out for money, the defense attorney said.

Though Kandrac lost her job, the real losers are the children deprived of an education by the actions of a tyrannical few. And the worst racists are those teachers and administrators who denied these empowered brats the expectation of civilized behavior. MORE (Hat tip: Mark Shea)

Meanwhile, Mark Gordon at Suicide of the West reports on disturbing statistics about crime and race. Among white women who were raped in 2005, 33.6% of the offenders were black. Extrapolating from this brings a disturbing conclusion:

African-Americans are 12% of the population of the United States. Roughly 50% of that population is male. This means that 6% of our population accounts for 50.1% of all rapes committed and 33.6% of rapes committed against white women. What do you suppose the connections might be between these statistics and a.) the prevalence of a multiculturalist ideology that excuses criminality by perpetuating a victim-mentality among African-Americans, and b.) the continued popularity of hip-hop as an expression of the violence and hyper-sexuality that pervades black urban culture? MORE

All good questions. Anyone out there have the answers?

Who Needs College II

Professor Sees Parallels Between Things, Other Things:

AUSTIN, TX—University of Texas professor Thom Windham once again furthered the cause of human inquiry in a class lecture Monday, as he continued his longtime practice of finding connections between things and other things, pointing out these parallels, and then elaborating on them in detail, campus sources reported.

"By drawing parallels between things and other, entirely different things, I not only further my own studies, but also encourage young minds to develop this comparative methodology in their own work," said Windham, holding his left hand up to represent one thing, then holding his right hand up to represent a separate thing, then bringing his hands together in simulation of a hypothetical synthesis of the two things. "It's not just similarities that are important, though—the differences between things are also worth exploring at length."

Fifteen years ago, Windham was awarded tenure for doing this.

The above story is satire. Surprised? It sounds all too real about what brilliant professors do at most colleges today. For this wisdom, they are paid handsomely; families save and sacrifice so that their children may study at the feet of such genius. Do the students learn much of anything useful? No. They do, however, if they persist long enough, get a piece of paper that unlocks the door to career success. Or so we think.

James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal had a fascinating story this week about the reasons this situation came to be. As so often seems to be the case, we can blame the lawyers. He begins by reviewing the Marilee Jones case at MIT, which I also wrote about recently. Jones, as you recall, was the successful, widely respected Dean of Admissions who resigned after it was discovered she herself had no college degrees.

Jones had to go, not because she was unqualified for her job (she had done it well for years) or because she exaggerated her credentials decades ago (Congress would be empty if this was our standard). She was fired because her very presence at MIT proved that places like MIT are not necessary for career success.

Taranto argues that colleges serve as a screening mechanism for employers. A 1971 court decision prevents employers from administering IQ tests to potential hires because the tests might "discriminate" against minorities. So, high school diplomas being widely regarded as meaningless these days, the best way to make sure that your workers possess some minimal standard of intellectual quality is to insist they have a college degree.

This suggests to me that employers who whine about not being able to find good workers are probably overlooking many outstanding candidates who had better things to do in their youth than sit in classrooms listening to professors compare things with other things.

Note that I said above college doesn't teach much of anything useful. This does not mean that it teaches nothing at all. Young minds are like sponges and will absorb whatever is around them. They are, unfortunately, absorbing things that are even worse than useless - habits that must be painfully un-learned later in life. All at enormous expense.

Notice also that we haven't even talked about the moral debasement that occurs during the college years. Is gaining a degree worth losing your soul? Don't fool yourself into thinking your kid is immune. He's not.

Gary North has some interesting resources about how to make college work for you instead of against you. If you or your child are heading toward college, you must read what he says.

RIP Jerry Falwell

Rev Falwell isn't even in his grave yet and people are already dancing on it. Here are a few examples. I will not repeat their filth here.

Strangely, porn king Larry Flynt, whose legal battle with Falwell was made into a movie, had kind words to say about Falwell:

"The Reverend Jerry Falwell and I were arch enemies for fifteen years. We became involved in a lawsuit concerning First Amendment rights and Hustler magazine. Without question, this was my most important battle – the l988 Hustler Magazine, Inc., v. Jerry Falwell case, where after millions of dollars and much deliberation, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in my favor.

My mother always told me that no matter how much you dislike a person, when you meet them face to face you will find characteristics about them that you like. Jerry Falwell was a perfect example of that. I hated everything he stood for, but after meeting him in person, years after the trial, Jerry Falwell and I became good friends. He would visit me in

California and we would debate together on college campuses. I always appreciated his sincerity even though I knew what he was selling and he knew what I was selling. MORE

Ann Coulter had a typically direct response to the critics.

No man in the last century better illustrated Jesus' warning that "All men will hate you because of me" than the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who left this world on Tuesday. Separately, no man better illustrates my warning that it doesn't pay to be nice to liberals.

Falwell was a perfected Christian. He exuded Christian love for all men, hating sin while loving sinners. This is as opposed to liberals, who just love sinners. Like Christ ministering to prostitutes, Falwell regularly left the safe confines of his church to show up in such benighted venues as CNN.

He was such a good Christian that back when we used to be on TV together during Clinton's impeachment, I sometimes wanted to say to him, "Step aside, reverend -- let the mean girl handle this one." (Why, that guy probably prayed for Clinton!) MORE

I have some theological differences with Falwell, and now I'm not so sure his political approach was the best way to accomplish his goals. Nonetheless, he was a Christian working to serve God and man as best he could. I'm sure he is reaping his reward right now.

Jerry Falwell Remembered

Wisdom of the Saints XVI

You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.

St. Augustine of Hippo

A Worthy Cause

Scroll down on my main blog page and you'll see a new resident in the sidebar: a fund-raising link for the Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation. CABF does excellent work for families who deal with this terrible illness. May is National Mental Health Month and they could really use your help.

Even if you can't donate, check out the CABF web site and learn about pediatric bipolar disorder. I'm not talking about ADD or teenage angst. Bipolar is a serious mental illness that destroys lives. With medication and intensive therapy it can be managed, but there is no cure.

Think about this: Cho Seung-Hui was obviously mentally ill almost from birth. Had he received appropriate treatment early in his life, all those people at Virginia Tech might be alive today. Helping people with psychiatric problems may be expensive. Not helping them costs even more.

St. Dymphna says thank you for your support.

Fred's Short Survey

Texas Fred posted this survey on his blog a few days ago and asked readers to post their responses. Here's my entry, in case anyone is interested.

1. Describe your political persuasion.

I'm hard to classify, as noted here. I would say I'm conservative with libertarian leanings on some issues. For the most part I think we are better off with as little government as possible, but unrestrained capitalism merely brings a different set of problems. Democracy works only insofar as you have an educated population with some semblance of a moral compass, which we don't anymore. The Constitution is still probably the best balance, but as soon as George Washington left office it started disintegrating.

2. A huge number of Conservatives and quite a few Republicans are seriously pushing to get Fred Thompson to declare his run for POTUS, if he doesn’t declare, or should he declare and not win the nomination, who would you want to see in his place from the current crowd??

From the current crowd, Ron Paul and Sam Brownback are closest to my ideal. Chuck Hagel would be very appealing to me, but his recent chumminess with Michael Bloomberg is bothersome. Giuliani, Gingrich, and McCain are all out of the question for me.

3. Describe your feelings in regards to the war in Iraq…

I supported the war initially. Since then I have decided that the entire concept of "preventative" war is unsound and probably immoral. Having done it anyway, once Saddam was ousted and no WMD were found I think we should have left the Iraqis to sort things out for themselves. We should not be nation-building because, as events have proven, we're not very good at it. Democracy cannot be forced on people who don't want it.

4. Do you think Iraq was a part of the terrorist organization that attacked the USA on 9-11??

There were definitely some connections, but I do not think Saddam knew what was planned or knowingly cooperated. UBL hated him as much as he hates Bush.

5. Do you believe the U.S. government was in ANY WAY involved in the attacks of 9-11??

No. Maybe different agencies had information that in hindsight would have shown what was coming, but the pieces were never put together.

6. Do you believe that we can achieve a victory in Iraq?? A true victory?? Is it still possible??

If by victory we mean a stable democracy, no. That's at least a generation away. The best we can hope for at this point is to keep the insurgency manageable and defend Iraq from interference by its neighbors, namely Iran and Syria. Daily life in Iraq will, at best, come to resemble the low-level background conflict that now exists in Israel and Lebanon.

7. If you believe that we can achieve victory in Iraq, what do you think the USA is going to have to do to make it happen…

The Bush Administration, specifically Rumsfeld, made a huge mistake trying to fight this war without rebuilding ground forces (Army & Marines) to at least the size we had at the time of Desert Storm. Gen. Eric Shinseki was right when he said in 2003 that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to occupy Iraq. Problem: we don't have that many troops, and cannot have them short of a WW2-style full national mobilization. Bush probably could have rallied the country to do it had he acted right after 9/11 - but he didn't. Instead we were all told to go about our normal lives. Now Bush wonders why the people aren't behind him. It's because you didn't lead us, sir.

Having said all that, how do we get out of the current mess? I think the best solution is for U.S. forces to forget about peacekeeping. Withdraw to defensive positions along the borders with Iran and Syria and then let the Iraqis build their own nation without outside interference. It won't be pretty but it is probably the best we can hope for now.
8. If you believe that there is a possibility for victory in Iraq, can that victory be won thru diplomatic negotiations?? And if you answer yes, WHO would these negotiations need to include??

Diplomatic negotiations unlikely to accomplish much at this point because governments are not the problem. People who hate each other for economic, cultural, and religious reasons will not follow whatever compromises the diplomats come up with. Until hearts are changed and people become willing to co-exist, negotiations will not help.

9. If you happen to be a Dem, who is your candidate??

I'm not a Democrat or a Republican. I can't imagine voting for any of the Democrats who are running. I'll stay home or vote for a third-party if the GOP doesn't nominate someone who is pro-life and willing to get us out of Iraq ASAP.

10. And last, but not least, what are your feelings concerning the security of the USA and our borders and coastlines??

We need to get control of our borders, whatever it takes. Allowing every Tomas, Ricardo y Pierre who wants to walk right in is foolish. Employers who hire illegals need to be severely punished. If foreigners want to work here and U.S. employers need the help, I would support admitting them in an orderly process that screens out criminals and terrorists. Those who want to stay here permanently need to learn English, pay taxes, and otherwise assimilate into our culture as quickly as possible.

Pro-Life, Sometimes

For many women and their partners, the decision to terminate a pregnancy after a prenatal diagnosis of a serious genetic defect can be harrowing, often coming after a painful assessment of their own emotional and financial resources.

And there is widespread support for such an option: 70 percent of Americans said they believe that women should be able to obtain a legal abortion if there is a strong chance of a serious defect in the baby, according to a 2006 poll conducted by the National Opinion Research Center. MORE

I can believe this. While other polls show most Americans call themselves pro-life, few have really thought it through and adopted a consistent view on the value of life.

Let's re-phrase what the 70% referenced above are saying.

"We believe life begins at conception, and all life must be protected - except for those lives that in our opinion may have a defect that could make life unpleasant. Such unborn life can be killed at the mother's discretion. However the mother's discretion ends when the defective baby is born. After then this life, while still unpleasant, must be protected."

If this seems to you like a pretty incoherent position, you can go to the head of the class. Once we start down the road of saying that some lives are worthy and others are not, it is very hard to know where to stop. How serious does the defect need to be before we are willing to execute the baby? Who decides? Why not wait until the baby is born so you can be sure what is wrong, and then kill it?

Life is life. If you believe it begins at conception, you have to protect it from that point forward. Otherwise you will slide down a slippery slope that ends in death - not yours, maybe, but the death of a human being. The victim won't even get the "due process" we give to condemned murderers.

If you're in the 70%, think about it. Think hard.

Truth To Power

Leticia at Causa Nostrae Laetitiae recounts a conversation she had with her Congressperson and an audience of retirees. She brought along her daughter who has Down's Syndrome. I think this is a wonderful story for Mother's Day - from a mother defending not only her only child, but others as well.

Right after the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban vote (he voted against the ban) I showed up a packed meeting he had with the wealthy senior citizens of Westhampton. I brought Christina, a toddler at that time, and they were vociferously detailing their worries about Social Security when we entered the room. What do they use their checks for, to pay their fees at the country club? I wondered. I thought they would never calm down enough for me to speak to the Congressman about abortion.

Then, Christina did an interesting thing, she began to giggle. A wave of attention, none of it positive, was focused on us, and angry eyes bored into us. I seized my advantage, and burst into the conversation, "Congressman Bishop, your constituents here seem to be upset by my daughter's laughter, so let me speak my piece, and I'll be out of your way."

Congressman Bishop nodded, and I brought Christina with me to the front of the room, partially out of fear of the other people in the room, and as a helpful prop for my talk.

"This week, you voted against a ban on Partial Birth Abortion, and I wanted to let you know that 90% of unborn babies with Down Syndrome are aborted, many late term as it takes a while to see the amnio results and schedule the abortion. This means each year, thousands of children like my daughter here, are cruelly killed in this procedure. Don't you think that my daughter here deserves a chance to live like the rest of us did?"

The Congressman was dumbfounded, and fumbled for words, while an irate constituent screamed, "Why don't you shut up and sit down?!"

I turned to Congressman Bishop and asked him, "Is that your opinion as well, that I should shut up and sit down?"

Naturally, he denied this, and I went on, "I see what my daughter is capable of, and the joy she has brought into my family's life, and I want to urge you to vote pro-life next time, and give these children a chance to live their parents' lives."

Another bitter old man, couldn't take it any more, and challenged me, "You Catholics always say that, but are you willing to pay for these children once they're born?"

"I never said I was a Catholic, but I'm glad it shows! " I replied cheerily, "To answer your question, my husband and I support about 25 of his family members back in El Salvador, and we're convinced that's enough."

Congressman Bishop had barely uttered a sound and the crowd was getting outright hostile, so I took my cue, and wrapped it up saying, "I am a teacher, and look out on classrooms with 30% fewer students thanks to legalized abortion for the last 30 years. If you're worried about your Social Security checks, thank abortion.You've aborted the young workers who would be contributing to this bankrupt system."

By now the crowd was dangerously riled, and I sent out my parting shot over my shoulder, as I left the room, "You are all uncomfortable, because in your heart of hearts, you know I'm right!"

Bravo, Leticia. You are a brave woman and we need more like you. Check out her blog for more good stuff.

Lives Worth Living

I remember watching a movie when I was a kid, possibly War of the Worlds (the original, not the Tom Cruise remake) wherein alien monsters were attacking Earth. A family cowered in their home as the killing machines drew closer. The father had a pistol in one hand and his young son in the other.

As they heard they door opening, he cocked the gun. He did not aim for the invaders because he knew it was futile. He was, instead, about to shoot his wife and children to spare them the alien tortures. Fortunately it turned out to be human rescuers, not aliens. All survived. Nevertheless, the very thought that a father might do such a thing shook me up. Was he doing the right thing? What would my dad have done? What would I do?

These aren't easy questions until we remember that life is a gift from God. It is not our place to reject that gift; we must respect it until God brings it to its natural end. I will probably protest if He decides my Earthly ending is to be vaporized by aliens. What I should do, however, is have faith that He will be merciful and bring me to eternal life on the other side, whatever the manner of my death. Likewise for my family. To short-circuit that process is

I recalled that movie after writing this post about a real father killing some of his children under far less noble circumstances. I had also just written about the agonizing death of babies who survive abortion attempts. For some reason, this week there was a small flurry of similar stories. Here is a quick roundup for you.

The Anchoress has a long post about the baby Zeke. I linked to the family's slide show last month. Anchoress adds some touching thoughts and a personal story of her own.

Gazizza shares with us the story of a British clinic that screens embryos for cosmetic defects. Not life-threatening conditions, mind you, but things like hair color and squinty eyes. See something you don't like? Abort this one and try again. Parents who go to this place apparently thing it's worth killing several kids to make sure they get one who is just right. LifeSite covers the same story.

The New York Times had a story about prenatal testing for Down's Syndrome. Fully 90% of unborn children shown to have this condition are aborted. Families of Down's children are trying to fight back by sharing their own experience. Life is different, they say, but no less rewarding. Rod Dreher has more thoughts.

Fr. Erik at Orthometer links to an inspiring video about a baby born with severe disabilities.

Zippy at WWWW has some thoughts on why people choose abortion over adoption.

Finally, the Emilio Gonzalez case here in Austin is still ongoing. This week the baby's court-appointed guardian agreed with doctors that life support is futile. The next hearing is scheduled for May 30th. Austin Bishop Gregory Aymond also agrees. More of his thoughts here. National Review reports there may be more going on than meets the eye. Lot of comments after Mark Shea linked to the story.

My initial reaction on the Gonzalez case was that the mother should let him go. That was two months ago, and his condition seems to have neither improved nor worsened. So now I'm just confused. Please add Catarina Gonzales to your prayers. She needs peace and wisdom to discern the right course - as do we all.

The Incredible Shrinking Father

Here is a fascinating article about the alarming consequences of artificial insemination in our culture. As often seems to be the case, lawyers are involved.

You’d think that we had enough problems keeping fathers around in this country, what with out-of-wedlock births (over a third of all children are born to unmarried women, and, in most cases, the fathers will fade from the picture) and divorce (the average divorced dad sees his kids less often than he takes his car in for an oil change). But these days, American fatherhood has yet another hostile force to contend with: artificial insemination. This may sound a tad overheated. After all, AI has been around, by some accounts, for over a century. And the number of kids born through the procedure each year, though steadily growing, remains quite small relative to the millions of babies conceived, as we can now say completely without irony, the old-fashioned way.

But aided by a lucrative sperm-bank service industry, an increasingly unmarried consumer base, a legal profession and judiciary geared toward seeing relationships through a contractual lens, and a growing cultural preference for individual choice without limits, AI is advancing a cause once celebrated only in the most obscure radical journals: the dad-free family. There are multiple ironies in this unfolding revolution, not least that the technology that allows women to have a family without men promotes the very male carelessness that leads a lot of women to become single mothers in the first place. And fatherless families are a delicate proposition, as AI families are discovering, since all the scientists’ technology and all the lawyerly contracts can’t take human nature out of human reproduction.

Read the whole story.

The Happy Killers

This so-called "man" just killed his two sons, with their mother's approval. Here is what he had to say for himself and his wife: "We don't feel guilty. We don't feel ashamed. We're not even really sad..."

Cold-blooded murderer? Legally speaking, no. They weren't really his "sons" yet. They were just "midterm fetuses," two of four such objects that had mysteriously appeared in his wife's body. There being room for only two fetuses to co-exist safely, the other two had to go.

Did these fetuses just show up out of nowhere? No. In fact, these people went through enormous expense and effort to create their children via in-vitro fertilization (IVF). They allowed a doctor to implant five young humans in the mother's womb, gambling that not all would survive but that some would. Four did. Two of these would have to die in order for the others, and the mom, to avoid complications and possibly death.

Which two? He admits it was an agonizing choice. There were two boys and two girls to choose from. One of the deciding factors was that boys are more likely to have Down's Syndrome when the father is this man's age, 47. Since we know that people with Down's Syndrome are not really human and their lives have no value, the boys drew the short end of the stick.

The author tries to tell us what an agonizing decision it was. I'm sure it was not easy. But the fact is he asked for it. He and his wife knew when they tried IVF that there was a high chance of multiple pregnancy. They knew complications were likely and that the doctors might recommend abortion. They knew the father's age created the above-average potential for genetic abnormalities. They forged ahead anyway. They created life knowing they would probably have to end it as well. And they were OK with this.

It is truly sad that many people who want to have children find themselves physically unable to do so in the normal way. Is IVF really the answer? If your ultimate goal is to have children, why go to all the expense and risks of IVF when thousands of kids wait for years to be adopted?

The answer, of course, is selfishness. Parents like these want their own children. They want to be pregnant, have baby showers, go to the hospital, and have kids that are genetically "theirs." These things are so important to them that they will wait years, spend thousands of dollars, and possibly still remain barren, before they will consider adopting a child who is not "theirs."

So we end up with thousands of kids rotting away in foster care or institutions, and with excess fetuses being killed by their selfish parents, who pay fertility doctors massive amounts of money to do the dirty work. Exactly where is the logic in this?

Answer: there is no logic. There is only evil. Please don't be part of it.

Hat tip: Mark Gordon

Ethics on the Battlefield

It seems odd to talk about the "morality" of war. The purpose of war is to kill people and destroy things, actions which in normal circumstances we do not tolerate. In wartime, however, we deputize soldiers to do these things and we excuse them from punishment.

Think a little further and it makes sense. War involves killing people and destroying things, but that is not its purpose. The purpose is to achieve certain political objectives. When the purpose is just, such as self-defense, the war itself is just and the killing is simply an inevitable consequence of it. St. Augustine and others long ago developed a philosophy of "just war" that helps us understand these distinctions.

The fact that a war is just war does not mean that all actions taken in the course of the war are also morally acceptable. Deliberate killing or oppression of civilians, for example, is never right. The key word here is "deliberate." Yes, some civilians are probably going to get caught in the crossfire and die. But soldiers should not be purposely aiming at them.

This brings us to a distressing new study of U.S. troops in Iraq. There seems to be widespread ignorance or disregard for the standards of warfare.

  • Only 47 percent of the soldiers and 38 percent of Marines said noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect.
  • About a third of troops said they had insulted or cursed at civilians in their presence.
  • About 10 percent of soldiers and Marines reported mistreating civilians or damaging property when it was not necessary. Mistreatment includes hitting or kicking a civilian.
  • Forty-four percent of Marines and 41 percent of soldiers said torture should be allowed to save the life of a soldier or Marine.
  • Thirty-nine percent of Marines and 36 percent of soldiers said torture should be allowed to gather important information from insurgents. MORE
I'm sure that sergeants and officers usually prevent soldiers from acting on these opinions, but it still disturbing. The data suggests that many thousands of Iraqi civilians have been abused or mistreated by U.S. forces. Our troops have also done a lot of positive things in helping people rebuild their homes and improve their communities. Yet one case of abuse can reverse the good will generated by a hundred good deeds.

The attitudes found by the study are actually not too surprising when you remember that the commander-in-chief of these soldiers and marines has officially determined that the laws of war don't apply to him. The troops are simply following his example.

It's also important to remember that soldiers in Iraq are under tremendous stress. As recent bombings inside the so-called "Green Zone" of Baghdad demonstrated, there are no "safe" rear areas in Iraq. Under such conditions it is easy to adopt an "us vs them" mentality.

The study found lower levels of combat stress in Marines than in the Army. Why? Possibly because marine combat tours in Iraq are only 7 months, while Army troops stay for a full year and sometimes longer.

However the Iraq conflict ends, it seems we are going to be saddled with a generation of young men - and more than a few women - who suffer from the same kind of disorders that afflicted the veterans of Vietnam. For the most part the troops aren't being spit on this time, but they will face something worse: a nation of civilians who have no concept of what war is really like.

In the 1970s there were still plenty of WWII and Korean War vets who could sympathize, but Vietnam vets still had a rough time readjusting. I can only imagine what it will be like for Iraq War vets to return to a society that barely notices a war is going on. They will need a lot of help.

Rod Dreher has some interesting thoughts from a WWII chaplain about war and the soul.

A Scene From Schindler's List

That is how one commenter described this story from the UK Evening Standard. It concerns a study of 3,189 medical abortions performed at several British hospitals. These were fetuses that had been diagnosed with Down's Syndrome or some other condition that made their survival problematic. Now it is my belief that such babies are still valuable and should be allowed their chance at life. That is not, however, the most horrible part of the story.

Here it is: 1 in 30 of the abortions in this study resulted in a live baby emerging from the mother. They lived an average of 80 minutes after birth, and in some cases suffered for as long as six hours before dying.

Theoretically, when a baby survives an abortion attempt it is entitled to live-saving care, but you have to wonder how hard the abortionist will work to save this life he was just trying to end. I suspect many are just left alone to suffer and die.

Another question is exactly how it is even possible for so many abortions not to work. Here is the explanation.

Most of the abortions studied were medical abortions. These involve a women being given a series of pills, taken in two doses two days apart.

The first dose, a single tablet of mifepristone, blocks the pregnancy hormones that normally ensure the womb's lining holds on to the fertilised egg. The second dose, of four tablets containing hormone-like prostaglandins, triggers contractions and a miscarriage.

The death of the baby is a result of the trauma of the early birth, rather than the tablets itself, meaning, in rare occasions, some babies may survive the process.

From 22 weeks, the tablets should be preceded by a lethal injection into the baby's heart to ensure the baby is dead before the procedure goes any further.

If these babies are born alive, it suggests they weren't given the heart-stopping injection - perhaps because the doctor thought it would have been too traumatic for the mother. The figures follow several studies which show that babies born at 23 and 24 weeks are capable of surviving. MORE

Lethal injection into the heart? This doesn't sound like a very humane process. Even condemned killers get an easier death than these handicapped babies.

It's also important to note that these are babies who already have serious problems. If 3% of them survive, what about the healthy babies who are aborted? How many of them are born alive? Probably more than 3%, and their odds of survival are even slimmer since elective abortions are usually not done in a hospital.

There are approximately 1.5 million abortions in the U.S. each year. If 3% of them are born alive, then 45,000 aborted babies every year survive their first execution attempt. They go on to die horrible, painful deaths - alone, abandoned by those whose actions gave them life.

This, my friends, is the civilization we are fighting to save from the Axis of Evil. Aren't you proud?

Hat tip: Gazizza