Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Haditha



On November 19, 2005 Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Haditha, a farming town in Iraq that has been an insurgent stronghold since 2005. Corporal Terrazas was a member of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. When reports initially surfaced about the death, the information provided indicated that 15 Iraqi civilians were also killed by the bomb's blast and that eight insurgents were killed when the corporal's team returned fire against those attacking the convoy. War is hell, and the loss of the corporal and the civilians were indeed tragic. However, this is not the end of the story.

The loss of the corporal was evidently avenged by the marines in his battalion. Recent reports and a reopened investigation into the incident have brought forward evidence indicating that 24 civilians were killed by marines retaliating for the bomb explosion that took Corporal Terrazas' life. Some reports allege that the marines went to four separate houses and killed Iraqi civilians including a wheelchair bound man and two children ages 3 and 4.

The story has been confirmed by several sources and an investigation has been reopened into the incident.

The intentional killing of civilians, or of any unarmed people, is prohibited by modern laws of war derived from the United Nations Charter, the Hague Conventions and the Geneva Conventions, and the acts constitute a war crime. The Marines involved in the incident will likely be subjected to a courts martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. (source-wikipedia article on the Haditha massacre).

This is of course, a terrible event that occurred. The marines involved in the incident will, if found guilty, be imprisoned and their lives will effectively be over. For those civilians killed in the incident, their lives are realistically over. The family members and neighbors who survived the attacks will probably hate the United States for the rest of their lives.

Marines as well as other members of the armed forces are rigorously trained when to engage and use force. They are professionals, and it is rare when events like this occur. However, they do occur and when they do, it is important that the country find out the reasons why.

Atrocities happen in war. Innocent people die. Sometimes, as it seems in this case, they are intentionally targeted and killed.

The "spin" has already started. Tony Snow, White House Press Secretary has indicated President Bush found out about this from the recent news reports. Come on! This occurred in November of last year. It was reported last year. You're really telling me that the president didn't know about this before Jack Murtha did? Distancing, containment, push the blame down to focus on the Marines involved in the incident. This seems all too familiar. Remember Abu Ghraib? An isolated incident with a few bad apples. Same here, no way you can put responsibility for this on the war effort and the administration.

PLEASE. This war has now dragged on as long as the US involvement in the European part of World War II. The troops are exhausted and frustrated. Several have now been on their 3rd and 4th tours. Patience and judgment are wearing thin. On the Sunday talk shows, a few retired generals said these troopers most likely "snapped" and acted with tragic results.

We have got to end this war. We'll see more and more of these types of events occur if we don't get out of Iraq. It is a highly likely that the insurgency will not stop. Insurgents are a sneaky bunch, they don't show up in columns with artillery, tanks and airplanes. They plant bombs, hide in houses, snipe from rooftops and generally look like the civilians we so desperately want NOT to kill. As they become more emboldened and sophisticated in their actions, it will be harder and harder for our troops to combat them. The more we press them, the deeper into the civilian populace they will hide. What then? Do we have another My Lai? Do we simply destroy entire towns and all the civilians because we can't tell them from the insurgents? Do you really want to put American soldiers in that position?

It is criminal to put our soldiers in positions such as this and when something like the Haditha incident occurs show outrage at their actions. These troops, if found guilty of the allegations most certainly did something terrible. The administration and the defense department has also done something terrible by putting them in this situation. How many more Haditha's will we have before we realize we will not win the "hearts and minds" of the people of Iraq?

Mr. Bush, you, Mr. Rumsfeld and the rest of your leadership are culpable for this mess as surely as those soldiers on the ground are. It's high time you re-thought your strategy for Iraq. Your legacy now has the blood of dead kids on your hands. It will most likely have ruined the lives of US Soldiers as well. Heckuva job their Bushie!

Tell me what you think,

Regards,

Dennis

Our Dads



In the last couple of months, two of my good friends have lost their dads. Yesterday, I attended the memorial service of one of them. My dad passed away a little over two years ago. I wrote a small verse for all of them. I hope you enjoy it.





Our Dads


I remember a time when we were small,

They were giants, straight and tall.

When we were frightened they would always be there,
With a pat, a hug and joke they would share.

As we grew the less they knew,

But even still, in our own eyes,
They were always stalwart, brave and wise.

They’re all gone now, only memories remain,
But the words of their friends offer a comforting refrain,

"No matter your achievements, accomplishments or calls,

You turned out like your Dad, after all.”

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Idiots, Idiots, Idiots



Ok, this is amazing. The Idiots are now attempting to censure Jimmy Carter. Click on the link on this title and you will be taken to a web site run by
Move America Forward, an advocacy group similar to Moveon.org in that it is a group pressing specific isues but different in that this group is from the far reaches of sanity in the uber right wing. Melanie Morgan, Chairman of this group of intellectual giants, writes in the WorldNet Daily that Mr. Carter is the champion of appeasement, someone who likes to walk amongst terrorists like Hamas and cronies of Saddam Hussein.

So Jimmy Carter was not the best president in the world. He certainly wasn't the worst either. This was a man who was extremely arrogant in the white house and didn't pay attention to the way Washington worked. The result was a failed administration and one who couldn't work with members of his own party let alone the opposition. However, this is also the man who was prescient enough to realize that we needed to end our dependence upon foreign oil. He was a conservationist in the stripe of Theodore Roosevelt, and he lobbied the American people hard to change their consumption ways toward more conservation. He also negotiated a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel that still is in force over 30 years later. Carter was the first to establish a national energy policy and continued the enforcement of CAFE standards, requiring automobiles to increase fuel effeciency every year. He consolidated several governmental agencies to make them more efficient, and de-regulated several industries such as the airline industry. The result, better competition and more affordable prices for consumers. As a conservationist, he had solar panels installed on the roof of the White House as a symbolic gesture to focus on the reduction of the use of fossil fuels as an energy source. You may or may not remember, the saint of conservatism, Ronald Reagan trashed the CAFE Standards and removed the solar panels. What a genius.

Mr. Carter also was not one to run from a fight. He was an active opponent of Jim Crow laws as governor of Georgia, and replaced the vile Lester Maddox, an avoid proponent of segregation.

The former president has not been content to rest on his laurels. He has been active in the eradication of diseases such as River Blindness, a disease caused the guinea worm. This is an easily treatable disease that people ignored because it was primarily present in Africa. Mr. Carter and his wife Rosalyn even in their 80's have been advocates and visible supporters of Habitat for Humanity, a Christian oriented volunteer group that helps build affordable housing.

Mr. Carter teaches in his Sunday school class in Plains Georgia. He monitors elections all across the world. Yes, he does walk and talk with people we find repugnant. Mr. Castro, Mr. Arafat, Kim Jung Ill, etc. Does this remind you of someone else? Who else do we remember walked among thieves and prostitutes and tax collectors? Mr. Carter is not Jesus Christ by any stretch of the imagination. He just seems to attempt to live by Jesus' teachings.

When Ms. Morgan has done as much as Jimmy Carter to improve the world her opinions might have more credibility. For those of you who don't know anything about the former president other than what you read or hear in the media, check out Douglas Brinkley's fine biography of Carter called "The Unfinished Presidency".

Ms. Morgan, as Voltaire said, "I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it." Even still, you are a complete idiot.

Tell me what you think,

Regards,


Dennis

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Can A Movie Can Really Threaten Christianity?



The May 17,2006 issue of the daily newspaper USA Today carried a full page ad from an organization called "The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property" urging people to join a national prayer vigil and protest the movie "The Da Vinci Code" The ad, which obviously cost a great deal of money ran in one of the nation's largest circulating newspapers. The advert quotes an Archbishop of the Catholic Church, Archbishop Angelo Amato as saying "DDan Brown's creation contains not only offense and calumny,' but also ' historical and theological errors regarding Jesus, the Gospels and the Church." The advert goes on to claim that Archbishop Amato suggested that Catholics around the world should launch organized protests against the Da Vinci Code film just as some had done in 1988 to protest against Martin Scorcese's "The Last Temptation of Christ".

Is Christianity such a fragile religion that massive protests need to be organized to decry a work of fiction? Is the whole foundation of the faith so shaky that a mere movie can damage it irreparably? Please. Remember folks, the founder of Christianity, Jesus himself, said to Thomas the doubting disciple,

"Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed".

Jesus' point was that belief is a matter of faith, not fact. It's amazing that a religion like Christianity thinks it has to defend itself against dramatic works let alone potential real threats. Christians have by and large succumbed to the notion that there is an actual "war going on against Christianity". Every Christmas some talking head like Bill O'Reilly or John Gibson drives ratings on their "news" programs by proclaiming "War against Christmas and Christians". There is no war against Christians in the United States. Wake up and smell the coffee people. The "war" if it is that is by fundamentalist theocrats against the rest of the nation because they don't want anyone to believe anything else but what they believe. It's not a matter of threats against Christianity. No one argues with "The Beatitudes (Sermon on the Mount for you heathens), or the fact that Jesus admonished us to love our enemies and to "Do to others as you would have them do to you". Everyone pretty much goes along with that thinking.

So why all the chest beating about things like "The Da Vinci Code", or before that "Holy Blood, Holy Grail"? "The Da Vinci Code" is a novel, a work of fiction. Regardless of whether or not Dan Brown says there are factual statements about mysterious organizations like the Knights Templar or The Priory of Sion, it is a novel, a work of fiction. It is not to be believed as fact. It is written as entertainment. "Holy Blood, Holy Grail", is supposedly a scholarly work and claims (as does "The Da Vinci Code"), that Jesus did not die on the cross and instead survived, emigrated to France, married Mary Magdalene and had heirs.

This claim in both books is the central sticking point to those who are declaring the stories blasphemous. No way could Jesus have survived and married and had children! Why? Well, it's just too unbelievable, and any way, the Bible says that he died on the cross according to a plan of his father (God), then three days after, rose from the dead, walked amongst his followers and then ascended into Heaven. That is a much more plausible explanation of events to be sure. And, since it is in the Bible, we know it must be true. Just as we know Elijah's ascendancy into heaven on a chariot was true, that Moses parted the Red Sea, that Jesus brought back Lazarus from the dead, that Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene, that food rained down from the heaven's to sustain the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt, that, etc., etc., etc.

Look, the point of this screed is that there are better things for Christians to do with their time and money than to protest someone's book or movie. It is of course their right in this country to do so. There's no denying that. However, it seems to me that the money, time and effort expended trying to convince people NOT to see the movie might be better served by actually doing Jesus' bidding of tending to the sick of soul and body, feeding the hungry and providing comfort to those who are in need.

Faith is belief without evidence. For those of you who are Christians, keep your faith, don't worry about movies or books or anything that might say otherwise. Just know that with belief without evidence will often be challenged. If your faith is strong, then the challenges will not worry you. If it is not, well, maybe, you should re-think what you believe.

Tell me what you think,

Regards and Peace Be Unto You,

Dennis

Sunday, May 14, 2006

What's Next?



Tonight I said goodbye to several friends with whom I had spent time almost every week since 1999. The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin's drama about life at the White House completed its journey with the inauguration of new president Matthew Santos and the retirement of Josiah Bartlett, whom for seven years we watched as the fictional President of the United States. The terrific ensemble cast of Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Stockard Channing, Bradley Whitford, Richard Schiff, Allison Janney, Janel Maloney, Dule' Hill and the late great John Spencer have finished their two terms and moved on.

My farewell will be without the poetry and wit of Toby Ziegler (Schiff) and Sam Seaborn (Lowe), who for seven years wrote the speeches that gave Josiah Bartlett's presidency its voice.

The West Wing has undoubtedly been my favorite program on television. It was an hour a week I was able to share with my dad, who like me was an amateur political historian. The time I spent watching this program was a good investment. The characters in this story were good and noble people, sometimes all too human, but who were brilliant, empathetic, arrogant and humble all at once.

The West Wing showed us a possibility of what our government could be. Certainly, Aaron Sorkin showed us the inspiring acts of good people, but he also showed us the doubt, the terror and the deep conflicts that our leaders have to face. The show has made government real again for me. It has reminded me that our leaders are not perfect or all-knowing. It has shown me that no special powers of wisdom nor intelligence are bestowed on those who are in public service. It shows that like most of us, these people work hard, very hard for something they believe in.

I like a lot of Americans, would rather have Jed Bartlett as president that George W.Bush or Bill Clinton. But, that is not the real. What is real is that we the people have an obligation to use our votes carefully in deciding who will be our leaders. We should remember that even after a president takes the oath of office, he or she (one day, hopefully) is still human.

There are so many wonderful moments in this show that I won't attempt to recount them here. I strongly recommend that those who do not know the show rent the DVDs that are available or read some of the recaps that are hosted on "Television Without Pity", a website devoted to recapping and discussions about popular television series. Double Click on the title of this post and it will take you to the site.

Tell me what you think,

Regards,

Dennis