Friday, January 28, 2005

Aggravations

Doug Wilson on evangelicals and syncretism:

Syncretism is rampant in evangelical circles, and the elders of Zion sit around scratching their beards. Modern evangelicals are a piece of work. On the down side, we are helping to advance false worship of a false god. On the bright side, we got Rolling Stone magazine to accept an ad for our new gender-tinkered version of the Bible. Our prophets have the backbone of a wet napkin. We attack the great doctrinal issues of the day with Occam's sponge, blurring everything. Our grasp of central Christian truths looks like a watercolor that somebody left out in the rain. That is the serrated edge, and those who don't like it need to learn to be more upset with overt idolatry than they currently are with colorful metaphors.


Finally, some good news! Doug Feith wants to "spend more time with the family." Check out Tom Fleming's essay on Feith.

Conservatives have become thorough-going statists. In The New Yorker, Seymour Hersh gives readers the skinny on Pentagon operations in Iran. Tony Blankley thinks Hersh should be thrown in jail. Blankley evidently believes that the administration should be allowed to lawlessly act outside congressional oversight, but a journalist who brings such malfeasance to light should be sent directly to the pokey.

Richard Land says that "religious right has won its fight with secular fundamentalism" and "the American people have decided... that they want religious values to be part of public policy.” The evidence of "victory" proferred by Land is that Jim Wallis is running around the country endorsing statist means of various sorts to end poverty. Land goes on to say that evangelicals should emulate Martin Luther King as an example for how to bring faith into the public sphere. (Didn't Joe Biden already try this?) According to Land, MLK "took his religious convictions and how they informed his moral values, and he came out into the public square and he challenged America to live up to the principles and the promises of its founding documents, and he persuaded a critical mass of the society." Uh, yeah.

My Baptist cohorts read Deuteronomy 6 and they come up with this. This is one of the things that happens when churches write "mission statements" and ignore catechims, confessions, covenants and creeds.

The Emergence of the Homeland Security State.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Thanks, Pat

Readers of Dow Blog will know that I greatly admire Pat Buchanan. I voted for Pat three times, and in 2000 I even spent a chunk of my spring and summer trying to rustle up votes for the cause. So I was taken aback by Pat's endorsement of G. W. Bush leading up to the November election.

I think Pat actually believed that Bush had learned something from the Iraq disaster and would muster up the will to clean out the barn, hoisting the cabal of neocons out of their offices in the Pentagon and State Department, depositing them over at AIPAC, AEI, or Commentary magazine where they could devise more nefarious schemes to advance Israeli rather than American strategic interests.

Now, writing about the inauguration, Pat says, "President Bush is launching a crusade even more ambitious and utopian than was Wilson's." Pat writes that the president has proclaimed "a unilateral American right to interfere in the internal affairs of every nation on earth, without regard to whether these nations have threatened us or attacked us." Predicting disaster, Buchanan ominously warns that, "This is a formula for endless collisions between this nation and every autocratic regime on earth and must inevitably lead to endless wars. And wars are the death of republics."

Whatever you do, don't blame me, I voted for Peroutka.


It Will Be a Cakewalk

According to this analysis by Knight Ridder, things aren't going so well in Iraq:

A Knight Ridder analysis of U.S. government statistics shows that through all the major turning points that raised hopes of peace in Iraq, including the arrest of Saddam Hussein and the handover of sovereignty at the end of June, the insurgency, led mainly by Sunni Muslims, has become deadlier and more effective.


The analysis suggests that unless something dramatic changes - such as a newfound will by Iraqis to reject the insurgency or a large escalation of U.S. troop strength - the United States won't win the war. It's axiomatic among military thinkers that insurgencies are especially hard to defeat because the insurgents' goal isn't to win in a conventional sense but merely to survive until the will of the occupying power is sapped. Recent polls already suggest an erosion of support among Americans for the war.


The unfavorable trends of the war are clear:


- U.S. military fatalities from hostile acts have risen from an average of about 17 per month just after President Bush declared an end to major combat operations on May 1, 2003, to an average of 71 per month.


- The average number of U.S. soldiers wounded by hostile acts per month has spiraled from 142 to 708 during the same period. Iraqi civilians have suffered even more deaths and injuries, although reliable statistics aren't available.


- Attacks on the U.S.-led coalition since November 2003, when statistics were first available, have risen from 735 a month to 2,400 in October. Air Force Brig. Gen. Erv Lessel, the multinational forces' deputy operations director, told Knight Ridder on Friday that attacks were currently running at 75 a day, about 2,300 a month, well below a spike in November during the assault on Fallujah, but nearly as high as October's total.


-The average number of mass-casualty bombings has grown from zero in the first four months of the American occupation to an average of 13.3 per month.


- Electricity production has been below pre-war levels since October, largely because of sabotage by insurgents, with just 6.7 hours of power daily in Baghdad in early January, according to the State Department.


- Iraq is pumping about 500,000 barrels a day fewer than its pre-war peak of 2.5 million barrels per day as a result of attacks, according to the State Department.


"All the trend lines we can identify are all in the wrong direction," said Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, a Washington policy research organization. "We are not winning, and the security trend lines could almost lead you to believe that we are losing."


Didn't Sean Hannity mention this on his show the other day. No, he was telling us that girls can go to school in Mosul now. Well isn't that sweet?

But don't fret--there's an election coming! All we have to do is send over a copy of the constitution for them to crib, and maybe a dog-eared copy of the Federalist Papers, and everything will be A-OK!

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Ain't Democracy Grand?

I believe democracy can take hold in parts of the world that have been condemned to tyranny. And I believe when democracies take hold, it leads to peace. That's been the proven example around the world. Democracies equal peace.~George W. Bush

Democracy is the road to socialism.~Karl Marx

Democracy passes into despotism.~Plato

Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty.~Plato

These, then, will be some of the features of democracy... it will be, in all likelihood, an agreeable, lawless, parti-colored commonwealth, dealing with all alike on a footing of equality, whether they be really equal or not.~Plato

A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.~Thomas Jefferson

A perfect democracy is therefore the most shameless thing in the world.~Edmund Burke

We are now forming a Republican form of government. Real Liberty is not found in the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments. If we incline too much to democracy, we shall soon shoot into a monarchy, or some other form of dictatorship.~Alexander Hamilton

...democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.~James Madison

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.~John Adams

The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the party that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.~Lord Acton

It had been observed that a pure democracy if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience had proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity.~Alexander Hamilton

Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage.~H. L Mencken

Democracy is a form of worship. It is the worship of jackals by jackasses.~H. L. Mencken

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.~H. L. Mencken

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.~H. L. Mencken

The people as a body cannot deliberate. Nevertheless, they will feel an irresistible impulse to act, and their resolutions will be dictated to them by their demagogues... and the violent men, who are the most forward to gratify those passions, will be their favorites. What is called the government of the people is in fact too often the arbitrary power of such men. Here, then, we have the faithful portrait of democracy.~Fisher Ames

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.~George W. Bush

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them...As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent Patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practise the arts of seduction, tomislead public opinion, to influence or awe the Public Councils…

Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.
~George Washington

America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.~John Q. Adams

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Purpose and Marriage

Rick Warren, call him "Purpose Driven Guy," laid out God's plan for marriage in a recent essay. Warren says that, "God's plan for your marriage is wider and deeper than anything in your wildest, craziest dreams." Warren proceeds to make numerous shocking discoveries, such as, "You and your spouse were both planned for God's pleasure" and "Life is about relationships, not achievements." Talk about incisive, thought-provoking stuff! I can't wait for the marriage retreat!

After reading the entire essay, which was akin to having a frontal lobotomy, I still had enough wits about me to realize that Warren hadn't mentioned children as a purpose of marriage.

Writing in the bad old days when Christians read their bibles instead of apocalyptic fiction and looked to the scriptures for life's purpose, Martin Luther had this to say about marriage:

The purpose of marriage is not to have pleasure and to be idle but to procreate and bring up children, to support a household. Those who have no love for children are swine, stocks, and logs unworthy of being called men or women; for they despise the blessings of God, the Creator and Author of marriage.


Heck, forget Luther, consider the Word of the Lord in Malachi 2:15, where we read, "Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because He was seeking godly offspring."

Scripture says that children are a blessing (Ps. 127:3-5) from God, and that as parents we must train (Eph. 6:4), correct (Prov. 29:15), and instruct them (Deut. 6:1-9) in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

Several years ago, the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life reported that 88% of the children of Southern Baptist parents leave church at 18 and never return. Perhaps part of the problem is that Southern Baptist pastors write about marriage without even mentioning children.

More WESP Follies

"Pro-life" and "pro-family" groups are gathering in Washington this week to celebrate the re-election of President Bush with a bash called the Christian Inaugural Eve Gala. Tom Rogenberg, a spokesman for Coral Ridge Ministries, said they wanted "to celebrate the response to the call that we had for Christians to get involved in the electoral process and to be sure that they were voting according to God's plan." God's plan apparently involves providing slop from the federal trough for "researchers" experimenting on human embryos, not to mention the $100+ million handed to Planned Parenthood, and perpetual war to bring liberation to every squalid backwater on earth. It's all right there in Jeremiah.

Meanwhile, "pro family leaders" are deeply troubled by the presdient's remarks that he wasn't about to spend any of his hard earned political capital pushing for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

I've said it before, and I will say it again, George Bush already HAS BEEN the most pro-homosexual president in U. S. history. Moreover, though he supported a phony and unnecessary constitutional amendment, the White House did not support H. R. 3313, the Marriage Protection Act, which would have barred federal courts — including the U.S. Supreme Court — from deciding whether the Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional. In short, he did not support legislation that might have passsed because Karl Rove was hoping that WESPs in Ohio and elsewhere would come out to vote, "stand up for marriage," and re-elect the president--and sure enough, they did. Mr. Bush has also spoken approvingly of states allowing civil unions and condemned the Republican platform for its opposition to such arrangements.

But who cares? After all, he reads Oswald Chambers and had Rick Warren to the White House.


Saturday, January 15, 2005

More Shame in the Body of Christ

U. S. Episcopal bishops have expressed "sincere regret for the pain, the hurt and the damage caused . . . by certain actions of our church." They expressed regret, as opposed to repentance, for ordaining gay divorcee Vickie Gene Robinson.

The biships were responding to a demand from the Worldwide Anglican Communion that the Episcopal Church declare a moratorium on ordaining bishops living in homosexual relationships and halt public blessings of gay unions. Though the bishops were really, really sincere in their "regret," they still needed a little time to study these controversial suggestions. What? Didn't anyone have a Bible?

Meanwhile, the "Task Force for Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Studies on Sexuality" has issued a report. The task force was evidently created by the ELCA to spend three years figuring out how not to deal with issues of gay ordination and same-sex marriage. The report asks, but does not answer, the fundamental quesion:

Many people have asked for a simple answer to the question: Does the Bible say that sexual activity between two people of the same sex is always a sin? This question is near the heart of the division of opinion in our church because Christians who are faithful to God's Word give different answers. Among other responses that could be mentioned, some say the teaching of the Bible is clear and condemns such activities as sinful, while some say that the verses in the Bible usually cited do not apply to a love relationship between two consenting adults in a committed relationship. In this matter the ELCA needs to continue in prayerful study of Scripture with one another.


Boldly on display for all to see is the attack on the authority of Scripture that is at the heart of the homosexualist assault. The equivocation on display reveals a deeper divide over fundamental issues of doctrine, biblical authority, and ecclesiology.

In past statements, the ELCA has defined marriage as "a lifelong covenant of faithfulness between a man and a woman." And the task force itself said that same-sex unions are "quite distinct from and in no way equivalent to marriage."

Are you following along? Marriage is the cleaving together of a man and a woman, but "in good conscience" some can hold that sodomy is dandy as long as it is part of a "commited relationship." Hmm, how can you stand on both sides of that divide?

In the end, the task force designed a non-policy. Effectively, they said that ELCA churches should "continue under the standards regarding sexual conduct for rostered leaders" as previously set forth in its governing documents, but that, "as a pastoral response to the deep divisions among us, this church may choose to refrain from disciplining those who in good conscience, and for the sake of outreach, ministry, and the commitment to continuing dialogue, call or approve partnered gay or lesbian candidates whom they believe to be otherwise in compliance with [the church's expectations] and to refrain from disciplining those rostered people so approved and called."

In other words, the solution to the problem is to simultaneously maintain and ignore church policies and governing principles. That's a long, long way from, "Here I stand, I can do none other--God help me."

Are You Safer?

According to a paper released by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director's think tank, Iraq could become a major training ground for terrorists.

Mr. Bush has described the Iraq war as the central front in the "war on terror," but the chaos there has also created a potential haven for terrorists.

Before the war, the president said that, "A free Iraq can be a source of hope for all the Middle East. Instead of threatening its neighbors and harboring terrorists, Iraq can be an example of progress and prosperity in a region that needs both."

Unfortunately, the peace, love, and prosperity promised by the "cakewalk" crowd hasn't materialized just yet (perhaps it has been shuttled out of the country along with those phantom WMDs!). Indeed, chaos is increasingly the order of the day in Iraq.

According to the NIC report, "Iraq has joined the list of conflicts -- including the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, and independence movements in Chechnya, Kashmir, Mindanao in the Philippines, and southern Thailand -- that have deepened solidarity among Muslims and helped spread radical Islamic ideology."

Despite the feigned shock and surprise that an "insurgency" has been birthed in Iraq, all of this was predictable. On the eve of war, Pat Buchanan wrote, "a U.S. army in Baghdad will ignite calls for jihad from Morocco to Malaysia." Pat went on to say that, "to democratize, defend and hold Iraq together, U.S. troops will be tied down for decades. Yet, terrorist attacks in liberated Iraq seem as certain as in liberated Afghanistan." (As an aside, thoughtful conservatives abandoned the Republican Party in 2000 to cast a vote for Pat--but the GOP didn't need our 15 votes.)

So, in retropsect, who was right about the war? Buchanan, or the Krauthammer-Perle-Kristol-Frum-Adelman-Goldberg-Wolfowitz-Feith echo chamber?

Silly Baptists

Baptist ethicist Richard Land (for more on Land click here and here) has written an advice column to George Bush encouraging him to "stay the course." Far from being a Machiavellian, Land says that Bush is a man of principle and Biblical conviction, driven by the desire to unite faith and practice. Land writes:

President George W. Bush is known for sticking with the positions he has developed thoughtfully and prayerfully. As the Bush administration begins its second term, it is my prayer that the president will stay the course he plotted during his first four years in the White House...

Why is the president so hard to distract from his message? Because his beliefs are a matter of heartfelt conviction, not political convenience. He sincerely believes he is in the White House for a greater purpose. At the 2002 National Prayer Breakfast, Bush said, “Faith gives the assurance that our lives and our history have a moral design.”

The president’s positions are principled. His positions are matters of the heart, not driven by the winds of public opinion or media pressure. He appreciates the biblical truth that there should be a direct correlation between one’s faith and daily life.


Notice that it is the mere existence of principles that satisfies Land and most evangelicals. What those principles are in reality rather than merely rhetorically is a secondary consideration.

More eloquently than I could ever manage, Dave Black put the matter into perspective:

To say that there is a crisis of credibility in the Bush White House is to dangerously understate the problem. Whether the issue is sodomy, abortion, the war in Iraq, the Federal Marriage Amendment, Homeland Security, or the Bush record in general, weeping and repentance is the only faithful response to the scandalous, unconstitutional disobedience that characterizes the halls of our federal government.


And all God's people said...turn on Bill O'Reilly

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Conservative Jacobins

In a recent dissection of red-state fascism, Lew Rockwell pointed to the burgeoning hate emanating from the populist right. Rockwell says that this hate,

has been building for some time. If you follow hate-filled sites such as Free Republic, you know that the populist right in this country has been advocating nuclear holocaust and mass bloodshed for more than a year now. The militarism and nationalism dwarfs anything I saw at any point during the Cold War. It celebrates the shedding of blood, and exhibits a maniacal love of the state. The new ideology of the red-state bourgeoisie seems to actually believe that the US is God marching on earth – not just godlike, but really serving as a proxy for God himself.


But you don't need to read the rabble over at Free Republic to see the spirit of Jacobinism at work. Just read some of the more prominent conservative columnists.

For example, here is Christian columnist Cal Thomas defending the use of "tactical" nuclear weapons:

President Bush should consider emulating his predecessor, Harry Truman, and employ the use of at least tactical nuclear weapons against the Taliban should it be concluded that such a weapon might produce better results than the current bombing campaign. If this is war, why pull any punches?

Perhaps nothing short of nuclear weapons will deter for another generation the enemies of freedom. Like the fanatical Japanese of Truman's day, the fanatical Taliban will not be dissuaded from murdering as many Americans as they can. This is not a time for diplomatic or political niceties. It is a time to wipe them out before they wipe any more of us out.

That's the kind of fanaticism the United States faces in Afghanistan and in countries like Iraq. If we show them that our sword is bigger than theirs and, more importantly, that we will not shrink from using it to defend our people and our values, the likelihood we will have to do so again in the near future will be diminished.


Next, consider Judeochristian poohbah Joseph Farah. Farah argued for the razing of Fallujah

It's time to take off the velvet gloves.

It's time to stop being Mr. Nice Guy.

It's time to cease worrying about collateral damage.

It's time to show all Iraqis and their brothers and sisters throughout the Middle East that it doesn't pay to mess with Americans. They need to see there is no profit in it. They need to understand we mean business. They need to accept things will never be the same in Iraq. They need to feel the heat. They need to be provided with visible disincentives to further attacks on Americans, free Iraqis and other coalition partners.

Sometimes the most merciful course of action seems like the harshest.

Fallujah needs to feel some pain. If this operation is carried out well – and with finality – it can save many more Iraqis, Americans and others from future pain.


Farah was also dismissive of wusses complaining about "torture" at Abu Gharib:

I was never too upset about the pictures I saw of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. I haven't lost a minute of sleep about the so-called abuses there. I've seen worse examples of "torture" in university fraternity hazing practices.


Farah says that to really consider all of the ethical ins-and-outs of torture, we ought to check out the Denzel Washington flick "Man on Fire." Is this a man who should be taken seriously?

As I recall, Farah was Rush Limbaugh's ghost-writer. So I'm not too surprised to see the thrice divorced pill-popper parroting Farah's tough-guy rhetoric. Limbaugh used the "Animal House" analogy, too:

This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation, and we're going to ruin people's lives over it, and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You [ever] heard of need to blow some steam off?


Then, of course, there is the noxious Ann Coulter. Writing about the need to destroy Fallujah, Coulter wrote:

I thought we were wasting way too much time on that. This is a war, let’s go in and win it. Just take the city! I think if it got to the point where it was going on for six, seven years, and it was just Americans patrolling without killing anyone—I’m getting a little fed up with hearing about, oh, civilian casualties. I think we ought to nuke North Korea right now just to give the rest of the world a warning.


Right after September 11th, Coulter provided an interesting take on the Great Commission. Speaking of Islamic countries, Coulter says, "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war."

So the conservative movement has been reduced to killing and torturing civilians--or at least coercing them into Christianity.

Friday, January 07, 2005

From the Mailbag--Part One

One of the strange things about blogging is the frequency with which complete strangers unburden themselves--not to mention the casual vulgarity that occasionally accompanies anonymity.

The good folks at Antiwar.com recently published a little piece I wrote arguing that Americans are woefully uninformed about what is, and what is not, happening in Iraq. As a confessing evangelical, I paid particular attention to the strangeness being peddled by Christian leaders and media outlets.

To make a long story short, there were some unhappy folks, who took time out of their busy lives (maybe they aren't very busy) to harangue little ole me.

One critic, Joe, wrote to upbraid me for ignoring the charge that foreign terrorists were trained in highjacking techniques in Iraq. Joe wrote:

"Come on people! Get a grip! I have a question for you Darrell Dow. Why did you not mention Salman Pak, the Boeing 707 airliner and the two Iraqi military defectors that were debriefed by U.S. Intelligence officers? According to these two defectors, Salman Pak contained a Boeing 707 which was used to train non-Iraqis in the hijacking of an airliner without weapons. 'Saddam's intelligence service, the mukhabarat,' carried out the training of these terrorists. 'After September 11th, a private US satellite photo company, Space Imaging, went through its archives and found a photo that included a plane parked in the Salman Pak compound.' Salman Pak is not or should I say, was not an air base. OK, the pieces are starting to come together. I recently listened to a CNN report that stated Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda claimed full responsibility for the 911 terrorist attacks. This is just a small portion of the information linking Al Qaeda with Sadam and still you want me to believe that there was no connection."

Joe at least had the good taste to remain civil. Unlike some of my correspondents, he did not openly express the desire that I spend eternity in the Lake of Fire, wish my children harm, or curse me. So I think Joe is entitled to a response.

I didn't mention Salman Pak for a very good reason--because it has been debunked. In The New Yorker, Seymour Hersh dispenses with the notion that foreign terrorists were being trained by Iraqi security forces. Hersh wrote:

In separate interviews with me, however, a former C.I.A. station chief and a former military intelligence analyst said that the camp near Salman Pak had been built not for terrorism training but for counter-terrorism training. In the mid-eighties, Islamic terrorists were routinely hijacking aircraft. In 1986, an Iraqi airliner was seized by pro-Iranian extremists and crashed, after a hand grenade was triggered, killing at least sixty-five people. (At the time, Iran and Iraq were at war, and America favored Iraq.) Iraq then sought assistance from the West, and got what it wanted from Britain’s MI6. The C.I.A. offered similar training in counter-terrorism throughout the Middle East. “We were helping our allies everywhere we had a liaison,” the former station chief told me. Inspectors recalled seeing the body of an airplane—which appeared to be used for counter-terrorism training—when they visited a biological-weapons facility near Salman Pak in 1991, ten years before September 11th. It is, of course, possible for such a camp to be converted from one purpose to another. The former C.I.A. official noted, however, that terrorists would not practice on airplanes in the open. “That’s Hollywood rinky-dink stuff,” the former agent said. “They train in basements. You don’t need a real airplane to practice hijacking. The 9/11 terrorists went to gyms. But to take one back you have to practice on the real thing.”


Hersh isn't the only journalist to make mincemeat of the alleged Iraqi/al-Qaeda connection. Warren Strobel of Knight Ridder wrote, "The Bush administration's claim that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had ties to al-Qaeda - one of the administration's central arguments for a pre-emptive war - appears to have been based on even less solid intelligence than the administration's claims that Iraq had hidden stocks of chemical and biological weapons." Strobel goes on to quote on unnamed official who says, "We could find no provable connection between Saddam and al-Qaeda."

Strobel also dealt explicitly with the Salman Pak issue. He wrote that:

"Iraqi defectors alleged that Saddam's regime was helping to train Iraqi and non-Iraqi Arab terrorists at a site called Salman Pak, south of Baghdad. The allegation made it into a September 2002 white paper that the White House issued.


The U.S. military has found no evidence of such a facility."


Finally, if you don't trust journalists, simply consult the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission, who found no credible operational link between Hussein and Bin-Laden.

I'm sure this will not satisfy Joe, but at least I tried.

Another critic wrote to lament my lack of historical perspective, and compared my writing to that of a high-schooler (I do hope Ms. Smith would be proud). Mr. Long's email (in italics) and my response are below.

Truly Mr. Dow demonstrates the first word of his article title - ignorance. His naiveté in regard to the Iraqi situation is pronounced. His perspective is quite short-sighted. And he is probably fairly ignorant of the greater dynamics involved - that of worldwide radical and non-radical Islamic expansion. God bless 'em all.

First, let me be clear--Western Civilization faces a substantive threat from militant Islam. Therefore, we must:

1) Defend Christian, or even quasi-Christian, peoples who face threats from Isalmists (I am not propsoing that this support necessarily be miliary in nature). Of course, our government has taken exactly the opposite tack for a decade. NATO and American intervention in Kosovo, Bosnia, and Albania on behalf of drug-running Islamists was strategically stupid and morally bankrupt. Every terrorist incident of recent vintage has some connection to Bosnian Muslims. Seems to me that at the very least we ought not to help our enemies.

Likewise, we have a strategic interest in developing closer ties with the Russians, who are dealing with Chechen terrorists. Instead of strengthening that relationship, however, we have foolishly expanded NATO, meddled in the Ukrainian elections, etc., giving credence to Russian fears of American encirclement.

2) Prevent a potential fifth column by restricting immigration. Unfortunately, neither "conservatives," represented by Mr. Bush, nor liberals have the political will to seal the border.

3) Play one sect of Muslims against another. As in Christendom, Islam is fractured between numerous sects. Our aim ought to be encouraging that division and helping to foster secularist governments that are willing to protect Christians from persecution.

In Iraq, we have toppled a secular regime that largely protected the rights of Christians and are seeking to replace it with a "democratic" regime which will almost certainly enforce Islamic Law and forge closer relations with Iran--the true Islamic power in the region.

On the eve of the invasion, Pat Buchanan prophetically predicted that, "Just as Israel’s invasion of Lebanon ignited a guerrilla war that drove her bloodied army out after 18 years, a U.S. army in Baghdad will ignite calls for jihad from Morocco to Malaysia" and unite the Islamic world against us.

It is also necessary to recognize that while Islamism is a global problem, militant Islam is largely a regional phenomenon (as long as the West protects itself with stringent immigration restrictions) and their are natural barriers (i.e., India, China, and Russia) to its expansion.

In short, the goal must be to contain radical Islam in the same way that Communism was contained--keeping it in a box militarily, but more importantly, defeating it with a better idea. That idea, by the way, is not democratism or capitalism, but Christianity.

The world is a big bad sandbox Mr. Dow. There are a number of kids playing in it who are not nice kids. Check your history books - it's always been that way throughout the centuries.

Yeah, I believe that is called original sin. But wouldn't it be better to stay in our sandbox rather than going and kicking over the sand castles of others and than feigning shock when they respond with the only tools at their disposal?

The current hour is not identical to WW2, but there are some parallels - some really ugly ones. A lot of people were killed (Did you hear about it? Have you forgotten about it?). A lot of those who were ultimately defeated had bitter hatred toward the allies who conquered them - before and after the war. Those who were conquered had their own goals and nationalistic plans that they viewed as perfectly legitimate. Who's to say they weren't legitimate, right Mr. Dow?

Yes, I do recall that 3,000 Americans died. It is you who seems to have forgotten. While a ragtag group of special forces searches for the perpetrator of that heinous, ungodly act, the bulk of our military is bringing "democracy" to Iraq, after toppling a government that had nothing to do with 9/11.

And frankly, what does WWII have to do with the "war on terror?" A more apt historical analogy might be to consider the numerous corpses of imperial powers that litter the 20th century. As Pat Buchanan says, terrorism works:

Michael Collins used terror to bring into being an Irish Free State. Menachem Begin blew up the King David Hotel to drive the British out of Palestine. The Mau Mau used terror to run the British out of Kenya. Nelson Mandela's ANC used terror to overthrow white minority rule in South Africa, as did Mugabe in Rhodesia. The FALN used terror to drive the French out of Algeria. Islamists used terror to run the Marines out of Lebanon. And Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Al Aqsa Brigades are using terror to drive the Israelis off the West Bank and out of Gaza.


Unwittingly, America has been led by neoconservative ideologues into such a conflict--and it is costing us dearly in blood, treasure, and prestige.

It was a pretty rough deal "smoothing" things out and establishing legitimate democratic elections back then (after the major fighting had stopped [sound familiar, Mr. Dow?]). The allies had a lot of nerve didn't they Mr. Dow? How dare they impose their Christian-based force on the philosophies and religions of Japan and Germany!Outrageous.

We imposed Christianity on Germany and Japan? I must have missed that day in 11th grade social studies.

Oh, and the terrible post-war consequences suffered by the Axis powers as a result of our defeating them! Isn't it just a wonder that in spite of our post war brutality and meddling that they were even able to survive (let alone become two of the world's most dynamic nations with some of the most remarkable economies). We should just be ashamed of ourselves for having done what we did!

The article is just another of those tired and canned spoutings that is full of cynicism and lacks any real solutions, lacks any clear historical perspective, and is full of unfounded accusation. Somewhat like a high school essay. Your naiveté is showing Mr. Dow.

Thanks for writing. You may now return to 'Hannity and Colmes.'

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

More Miscellany

Lew Rockwell says that conservatives have turned into fascists.

The most significant socio-political shift in our time has gone almost completely unremarked, and even unnoticed. It is the dramatic shift of the red-state bourgeoisie from leave-us-alone libertarianism, manifested in the Congressional elections of 1994, to almost totalitarian statist nationalism. Whereas the conservative middle class once cheered the circumscribing of the federal government, it now celebrates power and adores the central state, particularly its military wing.


Rockwell's sentiments have been echoed by Justin Raimondo and, to a lesser extent, Paul Craig Roberts. In a blistering critique, Roberts writes:

In the ranks of the new conservatives, however, I see and experience much hate. It comes to me in violently worded, ignorant and irrational emails from self-professed conservatives who literally worship George Bush. Even Christians have fallen into idolatry. There appears to be a large number of Americans who are prepared to kill anyone for George Bush.

The Iraqi War is serving as a great catharsis for multiple conservative frustrations: job loss, drugs, crime, homosexuals, pornography, female promiscuity, abortion, restrictions on prayer in public places, Darwinism and attacks on religion. Liberals are the cause. Liberals are against America. Anyone against the war is against America and is a liberal. "You are with us or against us."

This is the mindset of delusion, and delusion permits of no facts or analysis. Blind emotion rules. Americans are right and everyone else is wrong. End of the debate.

That, gentle reader, is the full extent of talk radio, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal Editorial page, National Review, the Weekly Standard, and, indeed, of the entire concentrated corporate media where noncontroversy in the interest of advertising revenue rules
.

The neconservatives have successully coopted the populist right as Sam Francis explains in the latest issue of Chronicles:

Today, the neoconservatives have succeeded in attaching themselves to the Middle American Revolution and to at least some of the setiments that animate it, including patritism and moral traditionalism. At the same time, they have managed to paint paleoconservatives who oppose the war as "unpatriotic"--not without the assistance of some on the antiwar right, especially libertarians, who love to wallow with genuinely anti-American icons and images and with dubious characters as Gore Vidal and Noam Chomsky.


Rockwell says that we must "face the reality of the current threat forthrightly by extending more rhetorical tolerance leftward and less rightward." Francis says, "the election should teach the real American right" that "its principal mission is to separate" the neoconservatives from these supposed Middle American Radicals who allegedly want to displace the ruling elite.

With all due respect to two of my favorite writers--what are they talking about? Where are these Middle American Radicals that Francis has been talking about for two decades, and exactly who on the left does Lew Rockwell propose aligning with? Let's see, there's Alexander Cockburn and, hmmm, well, I guess that's it.


More from Sam Francis on how the regime uses anarchy, in the guise of open immigration and multicultralism, to create tyranny.

"Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more of it there must be without."--Edmund Burke

The Guantanamo Archipelago.

The president is going to ask for $100 billion more to wage war on guerillas in Iraq, but Lindsey Graham thinks we should throw more money at the problem. That'll learn 'em.

One Iraqi general says that the insurgency has grown to perhaps 200,000.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

The Media and Iraq

As 2005 beckons, I predict that the mess in Iraq will depart from the American consciousness, overtaken by the media fixation over—Michael Jackson.

The lack of knowledge about events on the ground in Iraq is stunning. With no end yet in sight, let’s ponder the consequences of the Iraq war so far: 1) 1,300+ dead and 10,000+ wounded American servicemen; 2) between 17,000 and 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians; 3) $200 billion+ down the rathole; and 4) an incalculable loss in U. S. moral authority around the world.

Despite the costs of war, there has been very little public debate over Iraqi policy. Indeed, the 2004 election saw more discussion and raw partisan anger over the Vietnam War than the Iraqi imbroglio.

One particularly disturbing report that emerged during the election was a survey by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA). According to PIPA, 72% of Bush supporters believed that Iraq had actual "weapons of mass destruction" or a major program for developing them. Also, 75% of Bush supporters believed that Iraq was providing significant support to al-Qaeda, and 63% think clear evidence has been found proving the linkage. These folks are obviously listening to too much Hannity and Limbaugh, not to mention watching entirely too much Faux (Fox) News.

In the January 17th edition of The American Conservative, William Polk describes the situation in Iraq:

Leaving aside Kurdistan, where roughly a quarter of all Iraqis live, Iraq is a shattered country. Its infrastructure has been pulverized by the "shock and awe" of the American invasion. Few Iraqis today even have clean drinking water or can dispose of their waste. About 7 in 10 adult Iraqis are without employment. Factories are idle, and small shopkeepers have been squeezed out of business. Movement even within cities is difficult and dangerous. And the trend in each of these categories is downward. Iraq’s society has been torn apart, and perhaps as many as 100,000 Iraqis have died. Virtually every Iraqi has a parent, child, spouse, cousin, friend, colleague, or neighbor—or perhaps all of these—among the dead. More than half of the dead were women and children. Putting Iraq’s casualties in comparative American terms would equate to about one million American deaths. Dreadful hatreds have been generated
.

How many Americans would recognize such a description?

In the December 16, 2004 issue of the New York Review of Books, Michael Massing surveyed media coverage of Iraq and found that, "while there was much informative reporting on the war, a number of factors combined to shield Americans from its most brutal realities."

One problem for journalists is that with the deteriorating security situation, it is largely impossible to cover the war with any degree of accuracy, meaning that many journalists simply rewrite Pentagon press releases.

In one particularly stunning revelation, Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent Farnaz Fassihi sent an email to friends and family which ultimately made its way to the Internet. Fassihi writes of the perilous conditions facing reporters in Iraq:

Being a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days is like being under virtual house arrest. Forget about the reasons that lured me to this job: a chance to see the world, explore the exotic, meet new people in far away lands, discover their ways and tell stories that could make a difference.

Little by little, day-by-day, being based in Iraq has defied all those reasons. I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason to and a scheduled interview. I avoid going to people's homes and never walk in the streets. I can't go grocery shopping any more, can't eat in restaurants, can't strike a conversation with strangers, can't look for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored car, can't go to scenes of breaking news stories, can't be stuck in traffic, can't speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an American, can't linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling. And can't and can't. There has been one too many close calls, including a car bomb so near our house that it blew out all the windows. So now my most pressing concern every day is not to write a kick-ass story but to stay alive and make sure our Iraqi employees stay alive. In Baghdad I am a security personnel first, a reporter second.


It was amusing and maddening to see the unvarnished, unedited thoughts of Fassihi, who had (she was ultimately replaced in Iraq) the job of actually covering the war rather than watching it on CNN while sipping cocktails at tony parties on the Upper West Side or gorging on wine and cheese at Georgetown dinner parties. The Wall Street Journal has become the house organ of neoconservatism, carrying on about "social engineering," and of course the need for capital gains tax cuts, while editorializing in favor of eliminating the border or praising the forcible reconstruction of Islamic civilization.

The standard line from the crowd at the Fox News Channel and the WSJ editorial page is that there is much good in Iraq that the liberal media isn’t reporting. But like Fassihi, Australian journalist Stephen Farrell points out that a lot of bad news doesn’t see the light of day either because, "Kidnapping, looting, criminal opportunism and xenophobia make it simply too dangerous for Western journalists to visit many areas."

Massing doesn’t even discuss the role played by two newer media—talk radio and the blogosphere, both of which are heavily populated by "conservatives" who have never met a foreign war they didn’t embrace with religious fervor

Another segment of the media that has mindlessly trumpeted the administration line on Iraq is the phalanx of Christian-oriented media, from talk shows and weblogs to magazines.

In a recent article in Baptist Press, an anonymous reporter says, "American foreign policy and military might has opened an opportunity for the Gospel in the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God is moving here, and Southern Baptists are responding." Considering that the writer feared for his/her safety, can it really be the case that American power is bringing stability and safety to Iraq? Never mind.

Even missionaries are getting into the act. Rick Leatherwood, president of Kairos International, blames the media for Coalition problems in Iraq. "This war in Iraq might have been over 10 months ago if those trying to bring freedom to Iraq had not had to overcome the efforts of the media as well as the terrorists. As it is, the media has encouraged the insurgents and has undermined the Coalition at every turn.... Here lies a tragedy the world does not know." Per usual, it’s those "pinkocommielibleftwingamericahating" journalists that are the problem.

A number of prominent Christians couldn’t even bring themselves to condemn the abuses at Abu Gharib—unless they could get in a well-deserved dig at the degradation of American culture and the feminization of the military. Marvin Olasky and Joel Belz at World Magazine saw fit to defend Donald Rumsfeld during the Abu Gharib fiasco. According to Olaksy:

Rumsfeld is not responsible for the perverse acts of a few: Given man's sinfulness multiplied by wartime pressures, every war brings out evil conduct, and only now are digital cameras and Internet advances throwing instant light on dark corners. Rumsfeld should be fired if he tried to hinder the investigation, and should otherwise be encouraged to take whatever vigorous action is needed to guard against future incidents.


(As an aside, elsewhere Olasky asks, "What if the Iraq War stopped being a right vs. left issue, as it has largely become? What if more people realized that support for basic human dignity means support of efforts to remove from power, when possible, those who deprive their own people of human dignity and threaten ours as well?" Could Marvin show me exactly which article of the Constitution authorizes our government to "remove from power" those "who deprive their own people of human dignity?" And what the heck does that mean, anyway?)

Belz said that while there may be room to criticize Rumsfeld and the Pentagon:

They are not primarily responsible for the coarsening of a culture that took place for a generation and more leading up to the unveiling of such wicked acts. Listen carefully just now. It's a bit too easy to charge all this to the account of those immediately responsible for the policies of the Iraq war. It's more to the point right now to remember who has been opening the doors to all this cultural poison in the first place.


The diminutive Gary Bauer went even further, noting that the "media and political frenzy" has,

spiral[ed] out of control … because there are a whole lot of opportunists, as well as outright enemies of the U.S., who want to exploit the problem and harm our nation or use it to serve their own narrow political purposes. There is no reason we should permit these Middle Eastern propagandists working for Al Jazeera TV and other stations to claim the moral high ground. They are nowhere close to being able to sit in judgment of us. [But] "worst of all" [are American politicians who] "without any consideration of how it might harm the nation to fire the Secretary of Defense when we are in the middle of a war … are attacking Rumsfeld, but their real target is Bush. … The odds of us being hit [by terrorists] before the November election grow by the hour, but don't tell grandstanding senators—they are too busy beating up their own country.


When we can’t get Christians to condemn torture, it is unlikely they will soon reexamine the war in light of traditional teachings on Just War Theory.

For some evangelicals, opposition to war in Iraq is equivalent to standing athwart Christ’s imminent return for His Church. According to Tim LaHaye, the theologian behind the wildly popular apocalyptic ‘Left Behind’ series, Iraq is likely to be a "focal point of end-times events." According to Agape Press:

The author and theologian says the war to liberate Iraq will pave the way for that nation eventually to emerge as a world power. As the region comes into its own, he says the people of Iraq will want to develop a distinct identity and in the last days old Babylon will become a sort of "Switzerland" for the world, a neutral country.

According to LaHaye, in chapters 38 and 39 in the book of Ezekiel, the one Arab nation not mentioned among those that come against Jerusalem when God destroys Russia and the Arab world, is Iraq. He says scripture suggests that Iraq is going to rise to prominence, but "won't be involved in that awful destruction that will solve the Arab problem temporarily."


Sounds to me like LaHaye is interpreting Scripture based on what he is reading in the Washington Times or seeing on MSNBC, but I’ll leave that judgment to others better schooled in the mysteries of eschatology. But it is clear that LaHaye’s scheme doesn’t really leave room for dissent on the Iraq question. After all, we are on the Lord’s side, right?