Amos on America

Today's Old Testament mass reading from the Prophet Amos was quite remarkable. Amos wrote during a very prosperous period for ancient Israel, one which would end violently after the prophets were ignored.

His warnings may apply equally well to 21st century America. Is our own judgment coming? I'm afraid so.

Thus says the LORD the God of hosts:
Woe to the complacent in Zion!
Lying upon beds of ivory,
stretched comfortably on their couches,
they eat lambs taken from the flock,
and calves from the stall!
Improvising to the music of the harp,
like David, they devise their own accompaniment.
They drink wine from bowls
and anoint themselves with the best oils;
yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph!
Therefore, now they shall be the first to go into exile,
and their wanton revelry shall be done away with.

(Amos 6:1a, 4-7, NAB)

Rudy Giuliani, Bible Expert

Rudy Giuliani is still trying to unload the baggage of his personal life, this time by appealing to Holy Scripture and the words of Christ himself.

Giuliani has a daughter who indicated support for Democrat Barack Obama and a son who said he didn't speak to his father for some time. Giuliani's messy divorce from their mother, Donna Hanover, was waged publicly while Giuliani was mayor of New York.

"I'm guided very, very often about, `Don't judge others, lest you be judged,'" Giuliani told CBN interviewer David Brody. "I'm guided a lot by the story of the woman that was going to be stoned, and Jesus put the stones down and said, 'He that hasn't sinned, cast the first stone,' and everybody disappeared.

"It seems like nowadays in America, we have people that think they could've passed that test," he said. "And I don't think anybody could've passed that test but Jesus." SOURCE

Rudy needs to study his Bible a little more. The story he references about casting stones can be found at John 8:2-11, and he conveniently left out the conclusion.

Jesus did indeed chide the Pharisees for being hypocrites, mainly because they presented him with the woman while not bringing the man with whom she committed adultery. After they went away without stoning the woman, what did He tell her? It's in verse 11: "Go now and leave your life of sin." Some translations say "Go and sin no more." No translation that I have seen says anything like "Go and continue your sin, and tell anyone who asks that it is a purely personal matter."

Rudy, on the other hand, says the message of Christ is that everyone should just shut up and elect him president despite his own sordid history, not to mention his support for wars of aggression, torture of prisoners, freedom of abortion, gay marriage, and assorted other abominations.

Sadly, I'm afraid plenty of Christians are being taken in by this charlatan. I predict they will live to regret it.

Strange Place To Make A Stand

President Bush promises to veto expansion of children’s health care program.

I don’t doubt for a minute that the Democrats are using this issue to score political points. If they really want to make health care affordable, they can start with reining in the trial lawyers whose frivolous lawsuits force physicians to spend half their income on liability insurance and order all kinds of needless tests. Of course they won't, because the trial lawyers are among their biggest contributors.

Nonetheless, this is a strange place for Bush to suddenly draw the line. How many spending bills has he vetoed in the last seven years? None. Zero. For six years the GOP-controlled Congress spent money like drunken sailors and handed out billions in tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, who also happen to be major donors to Republican campaigns. Bush signed off on all of it. He especially liked the vastly more expensive prescription drug benefit for retirees. (The fact that senior citizens vote, while children do not, had nothing to do with this dichotomy, of course.) Bridges to nowhere and $900 hammers also received the president's signature.

The SCHIP spending bill Bush now intends to veto costs $35 billion. Not chump change, but it’s a drop in the bucket for our Brobdingnagian federal government. Along comes a bill to provide health care for children of the poor, though, and the White House decides we just can't afford it. Are there better ways to help poor kids? Of course. There is good reason to veto this bill. But why this one and none of the others?

The fact that the Bush Administration allowed itself to be backed into this corner is a sign of remarkable, almost unprecedented political blindness. The Democrats will bring it up again, and force Bush to veto it again, probably several more times in the next year. George W. Bush will now go down in history as the president who was willing to spend any amount of the taxpayer’s money on anything for anyone except health care for kids. Some legacy.

It will be a long time before any GOP candidate will again be able to convince the nation that he represents the party of fiscal responsibility. Meanwhile the Democrats will have loads of fun portraying Republicans as greedy, heartless Scrooges who hate poor kids. I'm not so sure they will be wrong.

Any Republican who still supports this president needs to have his head examined. Bush's arrogance and stupidity have destroyed your party as a viable force for change. Congratulations. Get ready for a long time in the wilderness.

Make This Man President

I present a new presidential candidate for your consideration: Mr. Lee L. Mercer, Jr. His platform may be just what America needs. Here is his campaign theme:

The United States Government must regulate government sleepers and government regulations authorized thought, ideas, acts, actions, rights, wrongs, controversies, facts, issues and circumstantial evidence through intelligence research, law research, law enforcement research and criminal law research implementing ROTC communications research innovating education national and international.

Where does Mercer stand on the war? It's not real clear, but still makes as much sense as anything coming out of the Bush White House:
There is some concern about the war in Iraq. I know of U.S. government evidence that the war in Iraq is illegal and it can be solved through me representing the United States Government with a peace treaty. I know there are notations in my ROTC Biography of a guarantee from Iraq through me for peace to the war in Iraq and that Mr. Hussein is innocent of his charges.

Mercer's web site has much, much more. Check it out.

Hat tip: On The Other Foot

Wisdom of the Saints XXI

Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Kid Detention

As usual, the satire of Andy Borowitz hits disturbingly close to the mark.

Fresh on the heels of their reality show “Kid Nation,” in which children are sent to perform hard labor on a ranch with no adult supervision, CBS announced today that it was readying a new reality show in which children are sent to the federal detention camp at Guantanamo.

The new program, called “Kid Detention,” is expected to be ready for broadcast in time for November sweeps, with the following promotional slogan: “One detention camp. Forty kids. No lawyers.”

CBS said that filming would begin as soon as forty children are “randomly rounded up.”

Within hours of its announcement, CBS found itself under fire from the organization Amnesty International, who warned of possible human rights violations if the children are sent to Guantanamo.

In an attempt to rebuff such criticism, CBS spokesperson Carol Foyler told reporters, “Nothing worse is going to happen to those kids than if they were on ‘Two and a Half Men.’”

Ms. Foyler also attempted to dismiss Amnesty International’s complaint that the kids at Guantanamo would not be permitted to have lawyers.

“We want to recreate the experience of being detainees, and of course that means no lawyers,” Ms. Foyler said. “Besides, just like the other detainees, these kids haven’t been charged with any crime.”

If “Kid Detention” takes off in the ratings as expected, Ms. Foyler said, the network was considering launching another series, “Kid Rendition,” in which the children are flown to Egypt for further questioning.

Ignoring the Troops

You may recall the scandal that erupted last spring when news emerged that wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center were living in neglected squalor. A media furor ensued, generals were relieved, the Secretary of the Army resigned, and officials from the president on down promised the situation would be quickly resolved.

Guess what: six months later, it seems very little has been done.

A government report being released today concludes that wounded warriors are still getting the runaround from the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs despite big promises of change after last February’s revelations about scandalous conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, says delays for disability payments still average 177 days — nearly six months — with no indication that dramatic improvement is in the offing. The GAO also found continuing frustrations and shortfalls in care for the increasing number of military returnees from Iraq.

“Delayed decisions, confusing policies, and the perception that DOD and VA disability ratings result in inequitable outcomes have eroded the credibility of the system,” the GAO says in testimony to be released on Capitol Hill today. “Thus, it is imperative that DOD and VA take prompt steps to address fundamental system weaknesses.” MORE

Six months, on an issue that allegedly has the highest priority and promises directly from the president, and nothing happens. This is beyond incompetence. It is evil. When the news came out, the Bush Administration could plausibly claim it didn't know how bad things were for disabled veterans. I was not so sure, but gave them the benefit of the doubt. They no longer deserve that benefit.

Here's the truth: when Bush Administration officials, including Bush himself, say they care about the troops, they are lying. They do not care. If they did, disabled soldiers would not be waiting 177 days to get paid. The president can fix this overnight if he wishes. He obviously has other priorities.

Conservatives For Hillary

I used to think that Hillary Clinton had the proverbial snowball's chance of ever living in the White House again. Now, I'm not so sure. What changed? People on the right, seeing the dismal selection candidates the GOP is offering for 2008, are starting to make their peace with the idea of President Clinton. Andrew Sullivan explains why:

The conservative Washington Establishment is swooning for Hillary for a reason. The reason is an accommodation with what they see as the next source of power (surprise!); and the desire to see George W. Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq legitimated and extended by a Democratic president (genuine surprise). Hillary is Bush's ticket to posterity. On Iraq, she will be his legacy. They are not that dissimilar after all: both come from royal families, who have divvied up the White House for the past couple of decades. They may oppose one another; but they respect each other as equals in the neo-monarchy that is the current presidency.

Keep in mind, Hillary doesn't need every single conservative in order to win the general election. All she has to do is peel off enough of them to make a couple of closely-divided states like New Mexico and Ohio swing back into the Democratic column. It's not impossible. (I'm assuming, of course, that she will get the Democratic nomination, but that is looking more inevitable all the time.)

I think back to the odd pairing of former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton in relief efforts following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Katrina in 2005. They seemed to get along very well and the two are now close friends, by all accounts. So I think there is something to the "royalty" theme Sullivan mentions. If Hillary is elected in 2008, we will have 24 and possibly 28 years of continuous Oval Office occupation by people named Bush and Clinton. Mark Shea thinks partisans on both sides will get what they deserve:
It will be an exquisitely just comeuppance for all the consequentialists on both sides of the aisle if Hillary is elected (as Bush seems to be telegraphing) and she winds up embracing Mr. Bush's War. All the whores on both sides of the aisle who have loathed one of them and praised the other (while making every excuse in the book for their prostitution of basic principles of natural law in the name of their respective ideologies) will get the last full measure of betrayal from each of them as they walk off, hand in hand, having given us a state fully committed to salvation through leviathan by any means necessary *and* to the sacrament of abortion. Hillary will be the perfect Bush legacy. A classic example of the system doing what we designed it to do, not what we want it to do.

One Picture Says It All

This photo has been circulating around the net for a couple of days now. It's a little dark so in case you can't tell, the TSA agent searching the elderly nun for weapons is wearing a Muslim headscarf. Bigger image (along with some interesting comments) here.

It is possible, I suppose, that terrorists could disguise themselves as elderly nuns, sneak aboard planes and cause violence and mayhem. Therefore the authorities must be vigilant. However, given that all significant terrorist attacks in the West in recent years were perpetrated by young Muslim males of Middle Eastern origin, the continued insistence on politically correct, color-blind screening protocols is insane.

As for the nun, I am struck by her apparently docile acceptance of this outrage to her dignity. No doubt she regards it as an opportunity to turn the other cheek. Probably she would be just as calm if she were facing death as a martyr. I hope I could do likewise. I fear that many of us will find out in the next few decades.

Wisdom of the Saints XX

Disorder in the society is the result of disorder in the family.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

The Battle for Malta

September 11 was a significant date in the history of Christian-Islamic conflict long before the year 2001. Do you know what happened on September 11, 1565? I didn't either, until I read this excellent article by Paul Cella.

By the middle of the 16th century, the Knights of Malta had been for decades a particular irritation to the Sultan of the Empire of the Ottoman Turks, then the world's premier superpower and the imperial power of the Jihad. The Knights were skilled and cunning seamen: the Christian answer to the Barbary pirates whose razzias or jihadist raids had, literally for centuries, terrorized the coastal lands of southern Europe. These pirates were slavers and pillagers, terrors of the sea. How many "sick and sunless" captives were made by them, consigned to the filth and misery of the life of a galley oarsman, can only be conjectured. They made prisons of great oared ships; and the fate of their prisoners was one of wretchedness beyond reckoning. Athwart this menace stood the ancient Noble Order of St. John of Jerusalem. One historian (voicing a consensus of historians) gives them this honor: "in skill, seamanship, and fighting ability there was no single vessel in the Mediterranean that could compare with a galley commanded by one of the Knights from Malta."


The Real Meaning of Life and Limb

Whatever challenges you may face in your life, this video will make you re-think them. Watch it. I promise it will change your attitude. (via Jeff Cavins)

Fighting Them Over There

via What's Wrong With the World

Tough Choices: SEALS vs Goatherders

From a column by Diana West:

Dropped behind enemy lines to kill or capture a Taliban kingpin who commanded between 150 and 200 fighters, the SEAL team was unexpectedly discovered in the early stages of a mission whose success, of course, depended on secrecy. Three unarmed Afghan goatherds, one a teenager, had stumbled across the Americans' position, presenting the soldiers with an urgent dilemma: What should they do?

If they let the Afghans go, the Afghans would probably alert the Taliban to their whereabouts. This would mean a battle in which the Americans were outnumbered by at least 35 to 1. If the Americans didn't let the goatherds go -- if they killed them, because there was no way to hold them -- the Americans would avoid detection and, most likely, leave the area safely. On a treeless mountainside far from home, four of our bravest patriots came to the ghastly conclusion that the only way to save themselves was forbidden by the ROE. Such an action would set off a media firestorm, and lead to murder charges for all.

It is agonizing to read their tense debate as recounted by Marcus Luttrell, the "lone survivor" of the disastrous mission. Each of the SEALs was aware of "the strictly correct military decision" -- namely, that it would be suicide to let the goatherds live. But they were also aware that their own country, for which they were fighting, would ultimately turn on them if they made that decision. It was as if committing suicide had become the only politically correct option. For fighting men ordered behind enemy lines, such rules are not only insane, they're immoral.

The SEALs sent the goatherds on their way. One hour later, a sizeable Taliban force attacked, beginning a horrendous battle that resulted not only in the deaths of Mr. Luttrell's three SEAL teammates, but also the deaths of 16 would-be rescuers -- eight additional SEALs and eight Army special operations soldiers whose helicopter was shot down by a Taliban RPG.

Actually, Ms. West, what would be immoral is murder of civilians. The SEALs did exactly the right thing, both ethically and tactically. I doubt political correctness had anything to do with it.

As an Army officer and company commander I thought a lot about these issues. Here is the deal: American soldiers do not intentionally kill non-combatants. Never, ever, under any circumstances whatsoever. We do not do it. Or at least we should not; sometimes it happens, and those who do it are deservedly punished.

Obviously, civilians will be caught in the crossfire at times and get hurt or killed. That’s different. Killing them was not our intent. We take reasonable steps to minimize it, but in modern warfare civilian deaths are inevitable. Everyone recognizes this.

That was not the case in this situation. The goatherders had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Ms. West thinks that this was, in effect, a capital offense. The SEALs should have just executed these people in order to save themselves, she says.

The SEALs made the right choice. It is unfortunate that some of them paid for it with their lives, but should not be surprising. U.S. troops are all volunteers who know they may go into combat and risk death. Special Ops units like the SEALs are doubly so. The goatherders, on the other hand, did not volunteer for any such thing. They were simply going about their business, harming no one. If you want to blame someone for the American casualties, blame the commander who appears to have sent them into this situation without adequate plans and resources.

On a purely practical level, killing the civilians might have saved some American lives in the short run. It would also have ended any chance of further cooperation from the inhabitants of that region. Creating still more enemies when you already have enough of them is rarely a good strategic move. The end result would likely have been far more American deaths as the population turned hostile.

Ms. West concludes her column with a particularly despicable line: “A nation that doesn't automatically value its sons who fight to protect it more than the "unarmed civilians" — spies? fighters? — whom they encounter behind enemy lines is not only unlikely to win a war, it isn't showing much interest in its own survival.”

Let me rephrase: a nation that allows, and even encourages, its sons to kill unarmed civilians in cold blood will not only lose its wars. It will lose its soul.

Civil Discourse in America

The video below (via Wingnuts & Moonbats) is rather chaotic but worth watching. Several women from an anti-war group called Code Pink were staging a protest about Iraq, only to draw the ire of what appear to be hundreds of counter-protesters. Some became belligerent, ripping up the Code Pink women's signs and screaming curses and insults in their faces.

Whatever else the impact of events like this, I think it safe to say no one's mind was changed. The counter-protest actually served to gather even more attention for Code Pink than their small numbers otherwise would have brought. The better strategy would have been to ignore them.

The pro-war protesters also forget what they are supposedly protecting. If, in fact, the purpose of the Iraq War is to defend our constitutional freedoms (which I doubt, but that's what many conservatives say), attempts to shut down opposing viewpoints are inconsistent with their goals. Freedom of assembly and freedom of speech apply to everyone, not just those with whom we agree.

Also, I have to say that I am turned off when I see people wearing bits and pieces of military camouflage in an attempt to look patriotic. It's just lame. I'm a veteran and I still have my old uniforms. I will treasure them always because they symbolize an important part of my life. Even so, I remember what I was taught: wear it right, or don't wear it at all. The uniform is a mark of military professionalism and unity. Using it to score political points is just wrong. If you want to wear camouflage again, find a recruiter and re-enlist.

If you don't see the video embedded below, click here.

Debauchery in the Ranks

Texas Fred has a new post with interesting stories from war front. Specifically, his sources say that prostitution and illegal drug use are growing problems among U.S. troops in Iraq. We don't know how widespread these problems are, and Fred's sources are anonymous, so take this with a grain of salt. However, I don't think anyone would deny these things happen to some degree at least.

Prostitutes have followed armies for thousands of years, of course. The difference this time is that the same people are wearing both hats: some female American soldiers are reportedly selling themselves to the males for cash. Some, according to Texas Fred's sources, are making quite a lot of money in this way.

I'm trying to think of a historical parallel for this and coming up short. Examples of gender-mixed armies deploying outside their home countries for more than short periods are few and far between. Maybe now we are seeing why it is not a good idea.

In principle, I'm not against the idea of women in the service. My experience in the Army commanding a mixed unit was fairly positive. We had some minor problems, but the females in my company were professional and did their fair share of the work. However, those women came of age in a different era. They didn't grow up with MTV and gangsta rap and all that goes with it. Is a mixed force workable in today's sexually-charged popular culture? Maybe not.

Leaving aside the moral dimension, this kind of activity is still problematic. First of all, in a war zone every soldier is a potential blood donor for injured troops. Anything that promotes the spread of infectious disease creates risk for all. Yes, yes, I'm sure they use "protection." Fine. It's not foolproof, as lots of people find out the hard way.

Second, when the "protection" fails, the result is pregnancy. That leads to several possibilities, all unpleasant. The pregnant female soldier becomes physically less able to do her job, leaving more work for the others in the unit and harming morale. Eventually she will get shipped home and may or may not be replaced. From there, she will either kill her baby through abortion, or give birth to a baby with no father in the picture. Neither option is good for the child.

Third, we now have an Army with many married soldiers. Long deployments create temptation for both spouses to be unfaithful, which may be inevitable, but it doesn't do morale any good when the wives (or husbands) back home have to wonder what their husbands (or wives) are up to over there. This leads to more broken homes and family strife, and ultimately weakens the force as good soldiers look for work that lets them keep their families together.

Fourth, a unit whose members are in the habit of sleeping with each other for money is unlikely to be cohesive and operate at peak efficiency when necessary. Given that military forces are routinely involved with life and death, it doesn't make sense to let them devolve into fraternity parties.

Short of imposing a draft, I doubt the U.S. could field a military force of the current size without females. On the other hand, young men and women will do what comes naturally, especially when forced together for months on end. Sergeants can't be everywhere at once, and anyway who will watch the sergeants? They're human, too. I don't see any good solutions.

Finally, don't think for a minute that the Iraqi population doesn't know this is going on. Their culture frowns on such behavior. It's not surprising, then, if the last thing they want is for their country to become more like America. They observe our debauchery and conclude, quite reasonably, that if this is what "freedom" brings they don't want any part of it.

At the end of the day, it all points back to what I've said for many other reasons: U.S. forces should not be in Iraq. This operation is accomplishing little and destroying readiness in the process. It needs to end as soon as possible.

The Rape of Europe

An e-mail called "The Rape of Europe" is circulating around the net, apparently; I got it for the first time this weekend. Steve Ray helpfully linked back to what seems to be the original source. Here is how it starts.

The German author Henryk M. Broder recently told the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant (12 October) that young Europeans who love freedom, better emigrate. Europe as we know it will no longer exist 20 years from now. Whilst sitting on a terrace in Berlin, Broder pointed to the other customers and the passers-by and said melancholically: “We are watching the world of yesterday.”

Europe is turning Muslim. As Broder is sixty years old he is not going to emigrate himself. “I am too old,” he said. However, he urged young people to get out and “move to Australia or New Zealand. That is the only option they have if they want to avoid the plagues that will turn the old continent uninhabitable.”

Read the rest, and then check out Steve's article on The Skyline of the Future for a similar outlook. I wrote about this subject last year. Here is a slightly more optimistic view. Demographic forecasts are based on a lot of assumptions, of course, but the short-term trend (i.e., the next 50 years) seems to be locked in.

The big question is how native Europeans will respond. I'm not so sure they will fade silently into the night. They will, however, probably avoid doing anything until the only remaining alternatives involve a lot of violence and brutality. It won't be pretty.

A Surge of Headlines

Mike at Born at the Crest of the Empire has this interesting, if somewhat confusing, roundup of newspaper headlines. All are, theoretically, referring to the same events.

AP: Bush preserves big troop level in Iraq

Reuters: Bush agrees to limited troop cuts in Iraq

AFP: Bush orders partial Iraq pull-out, citing 'measure of success'

USAToday: Bush: Continue U.S. presence in Iraq

NYTimes: Success Allows Gradual Troop Cuts, Bush Says

WaPo: Bush Tells Nation He Will Begin 'Surge' Rollback

LATimes: President redefines the U.S. objective in Iraq

CNN: 'Come together' on Iraq war, Bush urges

McClatchy: New Iraq plan recalls strategies past

You must read this "fact check" article on the President's speech from the Washington Post. Rod Dreher does a good job dismantling the White House lines, too. Professor Taylor of Poliblog has another four part post mortem.

You have to hand it to the Bush team. They've played Surge Politics very, very well. Having guaranteed that U.S. forces will stay in Iraq for the next generation, they are now turning attention to Iran. The Bush Jihad is just getting started.

Fr. Corapi 9-11 Video

Earlier this week I posted the transcript of Fr. John Corapi's 9-11 message. I have since found the video version on YouTube. Click here if you don't see it embedded below.

America is Las Vegas

The brilliant social critic Neil Postman argued that in every era there is one city that captures the American spirit and becomes its symbolic center. In the Revolutionary era, that city was Boston, with its cry for freedom. In the mid-nineteenth century, New York, a melting pot of diverse cultures, became the symbolic center. In the early twentieth century, Chicago embodied the spirit of entrepreneurial adventure with its railroads, steel mills, and cattle.

“Today,” Postman says, “we must look to the city of Las Vegas, Nevada, as a metaphor for our national spirit and aspiration, its symbol a thirty-foot-high cardboard picture of a slot machine and a chorus girl. For Las Vegas is a city entirely devoted to the idea of entertainment, and as such proclaims the spirit of a culture in which all public discourse increasingly takes the form of entertainment.”

Whether you agree or disagree with Postman, Vegas is key to understanding not only where we are as a culture, but also where the rest of America is headed. Like it or not, America is looking more like Vegas every day.


George Will vs. Fred Thompson

I often disagree with George Will, but the man does have a way with words. Consider today's column in which he dissects Fred Thompson.

Fred Thompson's plunge into the presidential pool -- more belly-flop than swan dive -- was the strangest product launch since that of New Coke in 1985. Then the question was: Is this product necessary? A similar question stumped Thompson the day he plunged.

Sean Hannity, who is no Torquemada conducting inquisitions of conservatives, asked Thompson: "When you look at the other current crop of candidates -- Republicans -- where is the distinction between your positions and what you view as theirs?" Thompson replied: "Well, to tell you the truth, I haven't spent a whole lot of time going into the details of their positions."

He also is unfamiliar with the details of his own positions. Consider his confusion the next day when talk radio host Laura Ingraham asked him about something he ardently supported -- the McCain-Feingold expansion of government regulation of political speech. His rambling, incoherent explanation was just clear enough to be alarming about what he believes, misremembers and does not know.

The Sean Hannity dig is nice, too. Read the rest.

We're In Iraq To Stay

With this week’s reports to Congress by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, the Bush Administration appears to have bought itself some more time in Iraq. As a result, the withdrawal - if there is to be one - will almost certainly happen under the next president. There will be some token redeployments next year, but these will at best return the U.S. presence to its pre-surge levels.

We were told this week that violence in parts of Iraq has fallen as a result of the increased U.S. military presence. This is wonderful news. However, what reason do we have to think the prior trends will not resume once the Americans leave? Violence will most certainly return unless the Iraqis decide in mass to become religiously tolerant, politically diverse, and economically altruistic. That hardly seems likely, at least not in the near future.

The latest American strategy of empowering local leaders, which was turned to in frustration after the central government proved dysfunctional, will probably create problems of a different kind. By installing multiple power centers with varying self-interests, there will now be a kind of feudal system of independent city-states with little incentive to cooperate for the common good.

Victory is still possible in Iraq, we are told. But exactly what is "victory?" No one can answer that question. The furious debates about the various statistics and benchmarks ought to tell you something: no one knows whether we are winning or losing this war. And if no one knows, then it will likely never end.

"Trust General Petraeus," the White House says. Fine, except that the same White House wants us to ignore General Pace, General Casey, Admiral Fallon, Secretary Gates, the GAO, former Secretary Baker and the entire Iraq Study Commission - all of whom offered radically different recommendations to the President.

Why is it we are supposed to trust this one expert while ignoring all others? Simple: the President has already made up his mind that there will be no troop reductions. The fact that the Joint Chiefs of Staff are, by law, supposed to be the president's primary military advisors is conveniently forgotten because the JCS will not offer the advice the president wants to hear. General Petraeus is, apparently, willing to be a scapegoat for Bush, so it is his opinion that we are told is most important. Everything else is just political maneuvering.

Bottom line: the U.S. is in Iraq to stay. There is no exit strategy. The Democrats are unable to force a policy change on Bush, so the train will keep on going. Where the tracks will take us, no one knows, but we're all aboard for the ride. The troops shovel coal into the engines while the rest of us relax in the lounge. Nonetheless, we are all going the same place.

A little advice: fasten your seat belt.

9-11: The Approach of Midnight

9-11: Six Years Later
The Approach of Midnight
by Rev. John A. Corapi

Six years ago on September 11, 2001, time stood still in a spasm of black smoke, death, and destruction. It had never happened before, but now it had, proving definitively that it could happen. An era ended. Indeed, we would never be the same.

For a time, it seemed to those still possessed of any ability to see spiritual things at all that perhaps the world might correct it’s blind and headlong flight over a precipice and into a moral abyss. People rushed to churches, synagogues, and mosques. There were long lines for confession in the Catholic churches. Others made their amends with God and each other in whatever way they could, not sure what was next, not taking any chances.

The very heart of the pornography and abortion industries suffered a near fatal case of cash register arrest. Close proximity to death tends to bring reality into focus.

Time heals all things, it is said. Yes, and in this case even moments of moral lucidity and spiritual clarity were “healed” and replaced by business as usual. Mankind has a short memory despite the constant reminders of history.

In the six years since 911 has a society crippled by ease, debilitated by political correctness, and close to death from the moral malaise that has plagued it for decades learned anything? Apparently not, for today even most religious leaders are loath to link 911 with the reality of sin. The word itself has been exiled, much like God himself, from our schools, often even from churches, and, indeed, from our very consciousness.

The fact is that we reap what we sow. What goes around, comes around. The greatest nation on the earth has the greatest moral responsibility. Indeed, “to the man given much, much will be required. To the man given more, more will be required.” We were entrusted with the welfare of the world, and all too often the trust was betrayed. Under the specious pretext of freedom—which was really license—we became purveyors of pornography, abortion, greed, deceit, murder and mayhem.

The clock is ticking and midnight is approaching. Illuminated by the false light of affluence and ease, success and power, we became blind to the darkness, and yet midnight approaches, with all of the certainty of time itself.

Have we learned anything in the past six years, or are we yet more blind, more deaf, more steeped in sin? Actions have consequences. 911 was a warning shot fired over the bow of a sick society. The warning has gone largely unheeded.

The clock is ticking. Midnight is approaching. Prayer is now the only thing that will avail change, so pray my dear friends, pray like your life and the life of all you hold dear is at stake.

For it is, it is.

God bless you and protect you and yours,

Rev. John Corapi
September 11, 2007
Six years later, and counting

Click here for video of this speech

Can Gays Go Straight?

I recently heard a radio interview with Dr. Joe Nicolosi, a psychologist who runs a group called NARTH - National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality. He takes the politically-incorrect position that homosexuality is a condition that can, with the correct kind of therapy, be treated and reversed.

In the interview several callers challenged Dr. Nicolosi on this belief. Their point: they were born gay, they didn't choose it, it is simply who they are.

His response: first, there may be some kind of genetic predisposition to homosexuality. The research isn't conclusive yet. Nonetheless, his experience is that early childhood experiences are the immediate cause of this condition. Specifically, people who become gay almost always had some kind of disordered relationship with the same-sex parent. Sons with absent, inattentive or abusive fathers are more likely to become gay. Likewise for daughters who have problems with their mothers. (If this is true, it is no wonder there seem to be more gay people now than in the past. Think of how many single mothers are trying to raise boys without much help from the father.)

Dr. Nicolosi was careful to say that he doesn't think homosexuality is a voluntary choice. No one asks to be placed in the circumstances that make them gay. He simply says that it is not mandatory. He is, in a strange kind of way, "pro-choice" about homosexuality. Even if you didn't choose to be gay in the first place, you can choose to change. Read this story if you don't believe it.

Unfortunately, the psychological establishment does not believe this so it can be hard to find the right kind of help. The NARTH web site has a lot of information. Groups like Courage and Exodus International are also good resources.

Some gay people will argue that they have tried to change and failed. They are probably right - no one says it is easy. Dr. Nicolosi simply says that change is possible. In this regard, changing a gay inclination is no different than any other type of abnormal behavior. Some people have an inclination to steal, or gamble, or drink too much, or whatever. We all have some kind of weakness. I know I have many of them. I try to do better, maybe I succeed for awhile, then I fall back into the same bad habits. It's easy to get discouraged and give up. An alcoholic could say "this is who I am, I might as well accept it and drink myself to death." The better choice, however, is to go to AA, try to change, and never give up no matter how many times you stumble. Ditto if you are gay and want to change.

Go here and change the calendar to 8/27/07 to download or listen to the interview with Dr. Nicolosi.

Two Quotes

"We're kicking ass."

-President Bush on Iraq, speaking to Australian Deputy PM Mark Vaile

"Pride goeth before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."

-Proverbs 16:18

Fred Thompson In Da House

Finally, this absurdly long mating dance is over and Fred Thompson is officially running for president. I'm still dubious he is the Great Right Hope that some people want, but at least we will get to find out now.

For Fredheads, the hard part begins now. He will no longer get away with platitudes and vague generalities. He will be asked hard questions about important policy issues from people who don't necessarily like him. He will have to be specific. Is he up to the job? I think we'll know pretty soon - probably within a month. Thompson is under the microscope, effective now. If he doesn't meet some very high expectations, his support could evaporate quickly.

From what we know so far, Thompson strikes me as a lot like George W. Bush, and I don't mean that as a compliment. The same can be said of all the GOP candidates, actually, with the exception of Ron Paul. He's the only one who has been willing to break with the president in any significant way. Nonetheless, I'm going to reserve judgment for a little while and give Thompson a chance to speak.

Here are my prior posts about Fred Thompson, in which I raise some important questions. I hope we get answers soon.

Finally, take a look at this campaign commercial that aired last night. Does the way he moves his head strike anyone else as kind of weird? I've seen Thompson in many interviews and not noticed him talk this way before. It almost looks like they speeded up the tape to make him appear more dynamic. I hate to nitpick about trivial things but he is an actor, after all. This doesn't seem like a very good performance for his big debut.

Wrong Twin Aborted

When prenatal tests revealed that one of her unborn twins had Down's Syndrome, a woman in Italy decided to abort the "defective" child and keep the healthy one. Doctors proceeded to abort the wrong child, apparently because the unwitting masses of fetal tissue changed position between the time of the ultrasound and the abortion procedure.

Now, some people would have interpreted this horrible event as a sign from above and amended their life. This mother did not; upon being informed of the mistake, she returned to the hospital and had the remaining child aborted, too. She now says her life has been ruined, and I'm sure it is. So were two other lives. We can trust they are now in a better place - no thanks to their earthly parents.

While all abortion is unacceptable, abortions undertaken for the specific purpose of killing children who are somehow disabled is particularly disgusting. People with Down's Syndrome are still people. If we permit people to be killed before birth because they are inconvenient and imperfect, by what logic do we forbid them from being killed after birth?

You may recall a similar case last March, also in Italy, where an infant thought to be deformed was aborted, only to be born alive and without the defect that inspired the abortion in the first place. The child died after six days.

Such efforts at population purity are nothing less than eugenics. This same mentality allowed the Nazis to define entire categories of people as non-human and systematically exterminate them. It's all a big word game. "We value all human life," they will say, without being too specific about how they define "human." For example, will these organisms be human? How will we know?

Think it can't happen here? Wrong; it already does. Watch this video. It is the only time I've ever seen Bill O'Reilly rendered speechless.

Hat tip: Leticia

When Every Day is Labor Day

As you enjoy your day off, think about this story from Cardinal Sean of Boston.

For 20 years I worked as a priest with immigrants in Washington. There were many Portuguese who had left the old colonies after the revolution and were seeking a new life in America. Most were Hispanic refugees from Central America where civil wars were raging.

One day a man came to my office. He handed me a letter from his wife and sat down and wept. The wife scolded him for leaving her and their eight children to starve in the war torn El Salvador. She said she had waited over eight months and still he had not written or sent money.

The man told me he had left his farm in El Salvador and come illegally to Washington because it was impossible to farm with the war. He lived in a single room with six other men and worked in two restaurants, washing dishes. He told me that he walked to work, so as not to spend money on the bus and that he did not buy food, but rather ate the leftover food on the dirty dishes that he washed. Each week he sent all the money he earned to his wife, but she had not received his letters. I asked if he sent checks or cash. He told me he sent cash and each Friday mailed the letters and money, putting them in the blue mailbox on the corner.

I looked out the widow and saw his blue mailbox. It was a fancy trash bin.

Too often we who want to stop illegal immigration forget that the people entering our country are still people. They have lives and families and emotions and worries. Does that mean we open the borders and let everybody in? No, of course not. Yet there ought to be a way to allow men like this - who want nothing more than to provide for their families and willingly make enormous sacrifices to do so - to work in the U.S. while still keeping out the criminals, terrorists, gangsters, and others who might be a threat. The fact that the situation goes on unresolved is a political outrage and a human tragedy.

Happy Labor Day.

Let's Declare War on Futility

The month of September will be pivotal to the future of U.S. operations in Iraq, with General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker scheduled to report on the success (or lack thereof) of the troop-surge plan. Both sides are already hard at work to spin things in their direction.

We can safely assume, no matter what the reports say, that the president will not give an inch in the direction of withdrawing troops. We can also safely assume that the Congressional opponents of the war will continue to call for withdrawal, notwithstanding the contents of the Petraeus and Crocker reports. At this point it appears that the Democrats do not have the means to force their will on this issue. This suggest that, after much sound and fury, not much will change.

The mantra of pro-war forces is that they just need "more time." More time is probably what they will get, but is it really time going to help? Maybe, maybe not. It could actually hurt. Consider this:

When the United States struck Afghanistan in 2001, "there were probably 3,000 core Al Qaeda operatives," says Arquilla of the Naval Postgraduate School. "We killed or captured about 1,000; about 1,000 more ended up in distant parts of the world. And about 1,000 ended up in Waziristan. But the great terror university in Afghanistan is gone; they've relied on the Web since. They haven't had the hands-on instruction and the bonding of the camps. That's resulted in low-skill levels. Their tradecraft is really much poorer.".

The danger now, says Arquilla, is that the longer the Iraq War goes on, the more skilled the new generations of jihadists will become. "They're getting re-educated," he says. "The first generation of Al Qaeda came through the [Afghan] camps. The second generation are those who've logged on [to Islamist Web sites]. The next generation will be those who have come through the crucible of Iraq. Eventually, their level of skill is going to be greater than the skill of the original generation." SOURCE

I find this argument compelling because the U.S. government has a long history, in its grand plans, of creating outcomes that are the opposite of what was intended. LBJ declared war on poverty. Did we get less poverty? No, we have more of it. Nixon declared war on drugs. Is there less drug abuse now? No, there is more of it. Other examples abound.

So it is not a stretch to think that George W. Bush's war on terror may produce more terrorism rather than less. It is hard to see how it serves U.S. interests to provide live-fair training and recruiting incentives for our enemies. Given that the poverty and drug wars are still with us, there seems to be little chance this one will end soon, either.

Hat tip: Born at the Crest

UPDATE 9/3/07: I edited the text above to say that the War on Drugs was launched by Nixon, not Reagan. Also, here is a nice article by Paul Farrell of about the connection between drugs, terrorism, and borders.

Balls of Blasphemy

Another example of why U.S. troops should not be in the business of nation-building: the gift by U.S. troops of soccer balls to Afghan children. These particular balls were colorfully decorated with the flags of various nations.

Soccer balls are intended to be kicked. While people in certain parts of the world may relish the thought of kicking an object that displays the American flag, that was not a problem in this case. The issue was the Saudi flag that was included on these balls. The Saudi flag contains Arabic words from the Koran, including the name of Allah. Muslims regard these words as sacred and treat them with great respect. They do not kick them around.

At least some branches of the U.S. military are aware of this fact, since those who guard Islamic prisoners at Guantanamo and elsewhere are not permitted to touch the prisoner's Korans unless they are themselves Muslim. You would expect that whoever is in charge of winning Muslim hearts and minds in Afghanistan would have at least a passing knowledge of local customs and taboos. Apparently not. So they managed to insult the people's sensibilities in three different ways:

  • Printing sacred words on decidedly non-sacred objects such as soccer balls
  • Dropping these objects from helicopters to land on the unclean ground below
  • Enticing Muslim children to kick the balls with their unclean feet
As odd as these religious customs may seem to Western minds, they hold great importance for common people in the Middle East. Ignorance of them reinforces the "Ugly American" stereotype that U.S. forces must dispel in order to pacify places like Afghanistan. The fact that our military commanders are still making such amateur mistakes six years into this mission does not bode well for long-term success.

Hat tip: Islam & Christianity