Thursday, July 28, 2005

Define "Evangelical"

Today the Protestant church is as scattered and fragmented as is probably possible -- many churches no longer even belong to a denomination, so its hard to get more fragmented than that. I'm not sure it's a bad thing, because since the Reformation denominations have served to pit Christians against each other and create labels and stereotypes that are almost exclusively destructive. However, within this fragmenting there have been a few large movements, 'super-denominations' you might say, that have arisen. The most vocal and prominent, especially due to the last few presidential elections in the United States, is the Evangelical movement. This movement includes many denominations including Baptist, Pentecostal, most anything with evangelical in the name (although not all, for example the Evangelical Lutheran church is very liberal and not part of the Evangelical movement), and most 'charismatic' churches. It is worth noting that the Evangelical movement gains a great deal of it's numbers and momentum from the south and east coast of the United States. I have no doubt, especially after living in Texas for three years, that regional culture has had a great deal to do with the formation of the movement. To those who have experience within the Evangelical church it's not too hard to define what the movement is, or at least what it looks like. But if you've always been on the outside you might be very confused. You might wonder, "what is this 'religious right' I keep hearing about?" and "What exactly do they stand for?" or even "why does everyone else always seem so annoyed by them?" Perhaps the answer to these questions can be found by studying an Evangelical cultural icon: just for fun, me and my little brother watched some old Carman music videos a few weeks ago. While watching them it became apparent to me that Carman (yeah, he looks like Elvis right now) and his career exemplify the values of the Evangelical movement. Now, this is a big movement and the exact values vary from church to church, and even person to person, usually. That's one of the values of the Evangelical movement -- it doesn't hold it's individuals down to more than a few core beliefs. But, as a whole it has many other values, so the following exploration is speaking in general terms. If you're an Evangelical and this offends you, look around at the other people in your movement, I don't think I'm wrong here. But maybe I am... maybe I'm just a little too bitter still. Right or wrong, here is my analysis of Evangelical tenants (it's not exhaustive), based on Carman (in no particular order):

1. A fundamental inability to separate Christianity and America:
The first thing that comes to mind under this category is Carman's old hit "America Again" in which he repeatedly states "we need God in America again!" Sure, we need God in America... and everywhere in the world. However, Carman, and many Evangelicals, have a focus narrowed generally to America alone. Recently there has been more of a movement towards international aid for struggling countries, but the view of America is different from that of the rest of the world. It is not uncommon for Carman to have clips of patriotic songs in his own, and its extremely common, especially around July 4th, to have patriotic songs sung as hymns during church services. It's great to be patriotic -- I consider myself a patriot -- but the country and God are two distinctly separate things in my mind. Not so much in theirs. In fact, there are many Evangelicals who have a doctrine of "the new Israel" in which America has replaced Israel as God's chosen people. They actually believe that God has abandoned his covenant with Israel and moved it to America. These are the extremists, granted, but they are no small minority.

This accounts, in a large part, for their political activism today. It explains why their politics are more about their views becoming the views of the country than anything close to 'tolerance' (I'm not a big fan of the term, either). Now, I will grant that most of what they are pressing for is legal, because the Constitution does not necessarily prohibit the Government from promoting religion as long as it doesn't prohibit it. In a nutshell they want Christian values to be those enforced by the country, but they do not want Christianity forced on others.

2. A 'victim' complex, blaming the secular world for all their problems:
A good example from Carmen is "Our Turn Now", a joint effort with Petra. Carman starts the song by stating, "The ball got dropped in '62... they wouldn't let children pray in school..." He then goes on to explain how this lead to our current state of moral decay "Violent crime began to rise/The grades went down and the kids got high/ Free love, gay rights, no absolutes, abortion on demand/ Brought VD, AIDS, and no morality..." Somehow when they stopped prayer in school (nevermind the fact that legally they never stopped anyone from praying in school, they just made public schools stop making it part of their program) all morality died. Its not that we, as a church, no longer instill a love for God in people. It's not that our society is becoming secular and therefore would be bizarre to keep Christian morals, it's not any logical explanation. It's because they stopped prayer in school. And similar sentiment is echoed in most Evangelical doctrines -- that the secular world and social and political liberals are out to destroy everything we hold dear. On purpose. Because they hate God.

This again explains their politics. They believe that the world is out to get them and everyone in politics who is not a Christian is against them. They whole-heartedly believe that political liberals are anti-Christian (some may indeed be, but that doesn't constitute a rule) and therefore it is sinful to vote for them. Most of the campaigning from the pulpit takes place in Evangelical churches, especially in the south. Many pastors feel no qualms at all about telling their congregation who to vote for, and claiming that voting for anyone else goes against the ever elusive 'Will of God.' Yes, this really happens.

3. Cults of personality
Many Evangelical churches suffer from a 'cult of personality' in which there is one charismatic leader to whom followers flock. You'd think that Jesus would be enough of a charismatic force to gather people, but no, we need people here we can see and hear. Evidenced through Carman's "Global Prayer Chain" -- your friends and local Church aren't going to get your prayers through to God, but Carman will! Again we see on the home page of Carman's site "Carman's new song that every church will be singing before every sermon!" (titled "This is My Bible"). Carman is one of these personalities around which a cult has formed, and now if he does something or says it's right then his loyal followers will believe. Also notice that most of the cover art is just Carman standing there, making some dramatic, compelling face. You can also download, or even pay for, pictures of Carman -- just standing there. I have no idea who pays for these things...

This accounts for the advent of the megachurch. Other examples are Max Lucado and Jim Cymbala. Both are wildly popular and lead some of the largest congregations in the country. They have tens of thousands of people there every Sunday just to hear them speak. Billy Graham is another example. This is not something exclusive to the church, in fact it's very common among secular movements. However, other church movements have far less or no personalities around which they congregate.

4. Systematic solutions
The Evangelical church in notorious for having religion down to a science. Everywhere you turn in the Evangelical church there is a 12-step plan, or a 3-step plan, or a 7-step plan. Here is Carman's systematic "Statement of Faith" and "Plan of Salvation." Systematic salvation is by far the most popular invocation of this ideal, including such things as "The Sinner's Prayer," "The Romans Road" and other processes that are easily printed on tracts. Additionally we have hit sensations (that spawn cults of personality) such as The Prayer of Jabez (aka Chicken Soup and Money for the Christian Soul), and The Purpose Driven Life that have some scientific plan to improve your life and your relationship with God. Results guaranteed!

5. Bad imitations of 'Secular' things
See my earlier post, Christian Bubbles. Witnessed by Carman in songs like "Addicted to Jesus" (he tried to do rap with DC Talk on that one... its also know as "A2J" with sign language and all) that try to make Christianity cool. Also see his so-called Mega-Store and his 25+ albums for evidence of Christians copying popular culture.

6. Paramount importance placed on personal "witness"
This is not exclusive to the Evangelical movement, but it is central to it -- it provides the name. The idea is that the only thing a Christian can do on this earth worth doing is making more Christians, and the best way to do that is to go out and talk to everyone we see about Jesus. This is one of the things I most dislike about the Evangelical church. They put so much emphasis on conversion that they pay little or no attention to life afterwards. As though life ends at conversion. "Welp, you're a Christian now, you might as well make more Christians until you die. But that's about all that's left, you've accomplished what you're here for." To me that doesn't go at all with Jesus' message of "Life more abundant," but maybe it's just me. In Carman's song "Satan, Bite the Dust" he claims, "I have a weapon with two bullets that overcome all sin and crud. One bullet is called 'the word of my testimony' and the other one's called 'the blood'!" Now, I would have thought that the Word of God (aka Jesus, if you're reading the Greek in the book of John, or the Bible if you're an Evangelical) would have much more power to "overcome all sin and crud" than "the word of [Carman's] testimony," but that's not what he chooses as his weapon. And I think it speaks volumes. To the Evangelical the Bible lays out how to live and what to do, but the thing that actually makes a difference in this life is the words you use to make converts. And that has led to a great deal of self-importance I think. I'm not sure that their kind of evangelism is necessarily bad, but it certainly isn't the only kind, and it certainly isn't the only thing worth living for.

7. Extreme Melodrama/Overly Serious
Just explore Carman's website or read the lyrics for any of his songs. He takes this stuff seriously, and so do most Evangelicals (they really talk like that if you get them in groups together). I think this is probably one reason why the Evangelical movement draws in so many young people, why the Youth Group is successful mainly in Evangelical churches. Adolescents love drama, they eat the stuff up. So they're drawn in by it. It also could explain why all their statistics show that most people become Christian before age 18 or not at all, and also the ridiculously high 'drop out' rate after high school (I think my youth pastor told me that more than 2/3 of kids stop going to church altogether after high school... maybe it was lower).

There are plenty of other things I could add to this list. There are also many good things that can be said about the Evangelical church that I haven't. For one thing, they're very good at mobilizing people. Furthermore, the freedom they allow their followers to have as far as specific doctrine goes is refreshing. And what doctrine they do hold as necessary is mostly sound. I think they are mostly genuine people who want to do what is right. And they, in general I believe, are as much Christians as me or anyone else. But the points I've listed above are some their more prominent, and annoying, characteristics. So, from now on if you hear someone talking about the Evangelical movement, you have some idea of what that means. Or I'm an idiot. Or both.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Media Twists

I know we've talked about whether or not the MSM is biased or just lacks analysis. Personally I think its both. That doesn't mean that it's all biased and you can't find any generally objective sources, just that the majority of the MSM agencies are fairly heavily biased. I think this makes the argument for itself. Maybe I'm just biased, but I'm pretty sure the media response would have been much different if those comments had come from Cheney, or any member of the right wing leadership. And to me that says there is a bias. I think most of us agree that Dean and Hillary are hacks, etc. But they are pretty much at the top of the Democrats' leadership, so they ought to be held accountable for what they say by the media. And since we all agree that they were stupid to say those things in the first place, and we shouldn't take anything they say like that too seriously, we don't really need to discuss the statements, just the fact that the media would have handled them very differently had they been made by members of the other party of about the same status.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Republican 2008 Straw Poll

Anyone who feels so inclined go to Patrick Ruffini's blog and vote for which candidate you would elect as the GOP 2008 Presidential Candidate. Or just look at the results, as they are rather interesting. It seems like, at this point, its between Giuliani and Allen. I voted for Giuliani, and I'd never really heard of Allen before. I'll be reading up on him more now, knowing that so many Republicans favor him as the next president. Of course, the political field will change a lot between now and then, especially after the 2006 elections. But its still interesting and useful for both sides to see where the GOP base is coming down right now (from what I understand Giuliani and Allen are kind of at opposite ends of the Republican spectrum, so that makes things even more interesting).

Monday, July 25, 2005

Restructuring Freedom

We must not let our societies be debased to these levels where the death of innocents is expected. Police killing civilians should never be accepted as 'something that might happen again.' It is a difficult balance, and I don't fault the London police. I can't imagine the pressure they are under, and when someone looks suspicious and runs from you -- onto crowded trains, no less -- you have to assume the worst. But in today's world the worst means he is going to blow himself up and kill you and others, so the only way to stop him is to kill him first. So I sympathize with their situation and can't say that I probably would have done anything different. But we cannot accept that 'these kinds of things happen' and expect them to happen again. This is a tragedy. And it should be seen as such. And it may happen again, and if it does it will be tragic, not acceptable collateral damage. I think the same can be said of the battlefield -- we ought to do everything we can to avoid killing innocents and see it as a tragedy when we do. But even more so when its police officers killing civilians, because we all live in some police presence most of the time. If we're constantly afraid that the police might kill us then they are inflicting many of the same psychological wounds as the terrorists. I suppose that if you are taken with utilitarian ethics you would say that as long as less than 52 civilians are killed for every terrorist who is stopped then we're breaking even. Anything better is an improvement. But I don't think that you ought to view human life that way, and I think that most people agree with me. And that's not the kind of world any of us wants to live in, anyway. Instead we need to work to cut the loss of life to zero, anything less is a failure. I'm not saying that the London police are incompetent, or even that London and Great Britain have a different policy than the one I've laid out above, but I'm just worried that cold, calculating voices among the media and politicians may reduce Western society to one that accepts the loss of innocent life as long as it is lost while combating evil. And I know this is one of the great arguments against the war -- that we are causing thousands of civilian deaths. And its true that we are, and each one is a tragedy. And we should work hard to cause no more. I think that is the US policy, I know that we take far greater measures than any other military that I've ever heard of to make sure that we cause as few civilian deaths as possible. Only the backwards and heartless few estimate collateral damage to be a remorseless cost of war, and they are truly a small minority in our armed forces. Our servicemen and women, in general, work hard to save as many lives as possible, and that is commendable and the only rational way to live.

Meanwhile stateside, politicians continue to prove that they don't really care about the Americans killed fighting this war, only the politics that come out of it. Way to go, bloodsuckers.

Friday, July 22, 2005

A Rational Military?

Finally, some good news about Guantanamo Bay from someone who would know. A former prisoner there, Moheb Ullah Borezkzai, who was just freed said that Koran abuse stopped after an announcement over loudspeakers about a year ago. The announcement said that "U.S. service members have no right to touch Islam's holy book." Furthermore, Borezkzai noted that "During his three years at Guantanamo he never saw or heard claims from other prisoners of guards abusing the Koran by placing it in toilets. But he said he had seen guards throw the Koran two or three times." However, that was still fairly offensive to the Muslim prisoners. But once the announcement was made, behavior changed. According to the article, Borezkzai reported, "'there has been no abuse of the Koran since last year.'" And further commented that "During Muslim prayer times, guards now are silent and are 'not even talking to each other.'"

Overall I think this shows great progress. Among other things, it shows that the US leadership really did move to change things at GITMO to make sure the conditions were not inhumane. It also shows that when the leadership orders a change that things really do change. Finally, it casts a lot of doubt on the portrayal of GITMO as anywhere near as terrible as we have been led to believe. And all this from the mouth of a prisoner, not a US official, or even a US citizen. GITMO is no day spa, but its not a Nazi torture camp, either. And the best result of all of this is there is now a free man in Afghanistan who was a prisoner at GITMO who can combat the propaganda flowing in his country. Hopefully he will.

I'm sure that those who believe that the military is only capable of evil and that Bush/Rove is a mastermind orchestrating everything behind the scenes to deceive us will have theories for why this report cannot be believed. They may say it's all lies. They may say that we made a deal with this prisoner, granting him freedom in return for good press. They may say any number of things. But to me the words of a former prisoner who was there for three years and could say anything he wanted carry a lot more weight than an anonymous report by an agent who was there for a few hours or maybe days. And they carry infinitely more weight than those of a reporter who may or may not have actually gone to GITMO before he/she wrote a report. Yes, he may be lying or he may not know about the worst of what has gone on at GITMO, but I am far more inclined to believe him than anyone else so far.

UN Talks it Up

Today the UN "slammed" the clearing of slums in Zimbabwe that has left over 700,000 people homeless. This has been going on for over two weeks, and decried across the globe, but the UN needed to do a 14 day 'fact checking' mission before they could declare these actions a "disastrous venture." Between Iraq, Iran, Darfur, and now Zimbabwe, the UN has proven that it is an organization that is great at talking, albeit more slowly than everyone else, and rarely ever acts. In this report the UN envoy used "unusually harsh language" and "said the destruction should be stopped immediately." I'm sure it will be, in fact they probably hurt Mugabe's feelings too much with their harsh language. In another daring step the UN joined most of the rest of the world, although a bit timidly, by "suggest[ing] the operation clearly violates international law." I don't know about you, but if I were Mugabe I wouldn't be too worried about international law. We're still trying to deal with war criminals from WWII, by the time they get around to prosecuting Mugabe (I am under no illusion that they actually will) he will be long dead. Besides, most of the African dictators are war criminals, and so far they're doing pretty well. Unless the UN decides its actually going to enforce some of its rules, 'international law' means nothing. Well, it means that if you break it people at the UN might get nasty and use "unusually harsh language" when they talk about you. For awhile anyway. Then they'll probably give you more money so you can "feed your starving people" (wink, wink). As it is right now I think the UN probably does more harm than good. Their programs like Oil for Food are easily corrupted and used to fund dictatorships rather than weaken them. When they speak out against someone they rarely follow their words with actions. And, most Western countries look to the UN for permission before embarking on any number of international ventures. So we give them money and power and in turn they help the dictators and hold back the democracies. Beautiful. Its not that I don't think the idea of the UN is good, it's just the way it's playing out right now that bothers me. I think the UN either needs to prove that it's actually doing some good, or the US needs to pull funding and give it to someone who won't let bureaucracy, corruption, and politics siphon it off before it gets to the people who need it.

Terror Motives

Thanks to J Morgan Caler for this article that talks about the motivation of jihadist terrorists. The author does not believe that the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan have anything to do with it, and he makes some good factual arguments for his belief. If you have any interest in finding ways that will combat terrorism at its heart you have to understand its motivation. This article is a good starting point.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


Tancredo has refused to apologize for his statements, saying they were taken out of context. Whether they were or not, Muslims around the world are offended. It's notable that many of the people interviewed in this article are leaders of some type in Syria and Indonesia -- both places know for fostering anti-US jihadist mentality. Not a good development. I think that statements like Tancredo's have far more to do with attacks -- like the second wave in London today -- than the war in Iraq. As Charles from Pragmaticism has been intent on pointing out, the US's image in the ME as being arrogant and a meddler has a lot to do with the current situation. It may not be what is motivating high up leaders like OBL or even Zarqawi, but it's what allows them to recruit middle-class, well educated Muslims from Saudi Arabia or even Kuwait to take part in their terrorist operations. The war in Iraq, if handled correctly, could be used to bolster US image in the ME. We could use it as a reconciling point (its our fault that Saddam and other dictators were in power, so we're taking initiative to take him out and bring freedom). But when well known politicians are making statements like Tancredo's -- and refusing to apologize for them -- our image only gets worse. And that means that more people are going to hate us. And that means that more people are going to be willing to blow themselves up to fight us. And that's a bad thing for all of us. Whether he meant to imply what everyone is saying, Tancredo should apologize for his statements for the sake of national security and our image abroad and make sure that the world knows that we are not a bigoted people full of fear and hatred. Otherwise things are probably going to get worse and we will find out what a real jihad is like -- one where all Muslims are against us, not just the extremists. And then all these ignorant things that stupid people are saying about all Islam being secretly militant will come true, and we will have to deal with conflict with all Muslim people. And to get to that point is just stupid. There is no reason it has to happen if people will be reasonable and understanding. I hope that we can avert inciting anyone who is currently peaceful to violence. I hope that we, as a country in general, work towards peace and understanding with Islam instead of bullheadedly forcing a confrontation with people who have nothing against us right now -- including many of our own citizens.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Addressing Ignorance

Let me begin by saying that I think John Roberts will be a great Supreme Court Justice. I have no doubt that he will be confirmed -- I don't even think the Democrats will bother filibustering him, there's just not enough to go with to make it worth it. I look forward to many many years of service from him and I'm anxious to read his first opinion, hopefully this October. If you want to discuss SCOTUS issues check out Pragmaticism.

After the Tancredo debacle -- which, as far as I know, he still has not apologized for -- Hugh Hewitt asked his listeners what they thought about the "bomb Mecca" strategy. To my horror there were many callers who wholeheartedly supported the idea. Of course, most of them showed that they were totally ignorant, which is never surprising when someone makes such an appalling statement. Most of them believed that all of Islam was secretly against us, and acting nice and civilized is just a front. One man said that all Muslims should be barred from the armed forces, politics, and deported when possible. Of course then he showed just how ignorant he is by saying "unless they take some sort of pledge to protect the country"... He claimed he served in Vietnam, so I guess he forgot that part where every US serviceman pledges allegiance to the US. When presented with this fact he said (paraphrase) "Well, they need to do a better job because wasn't there a Muslim in the military who used a hand grenade against other officers?" Yes. Again, he claims to have fought in Vietnam where 'Fragging' officers was fairly common, and there was no religious affiliation with the enemy. Its just stupid logic. I knew there had to be some people that felt this way, I mean Pat Buchanan had some followers. But I thought they were mostly backwoods rednecks who thought Islam was a kind of sausage until a few years ago. Apparently not. Some of them even referenced the Japanese Internment as though it were an acceptable measure. Absolute insanity. Absolutely appalling.

Meanwhile, Muslims in Iran like Akbar Ganji are fighting to end the repressive Islamisist regime in Iran. These people are Muslims that are championing democracy and bravely facing maiming, torture, and death to stand up for freedom. And yet we have Americans saying that all Muslims are evil and secretly waiting to take over the country/the world. Near the end of the first article I linked an Iranian talks about how the US support for Iranian freedom is a driving force giving all Iranians courage. We cannot allow ignorance to get in the way. We cannot allow fear and ignorance to turn us into the evil state many of the terrorists believe we are. There are people in mainstream America, some of my neighbors for all I know (especially when I'm living in Texas), who are willing to disenfranchise and minimalize the lives of fellow Americans because of the religion they follow. How hypocritical of the far-right. This cannot go on. They have the right to hold that belief, thanks to freedom and democracy, but we must do everything we can to change their minds. The war on terror is a war for democracy and freedom and must go on. But the war on ignorance here is almost just as important. If we fall into McCarthyism again, all our fighting may be for nothing. We cannot allow blind hate and ignorance to taint mainstream thought in our country, or we will become much like those we are currently opposing. I am at a loss for words to describe the horror I feel thinking that such bigoted sentiment might be more widespread than I believe. I'm not sure what we can do about it, but I know that somehow this ignorance must be addressed head on and put to rest. Freedom and democracy mean nothing if you use them to abuse others.

Monday, July 18, 2005

From Iraq

Here is a great post about the situation in Iraq by an Iraqi. I highly recommend making "Iraq the Model" a regular read -- where better to get update about Iraq than from an Iraqi living in Iraq?

Making Terrorist Recruitment Films

Before I get to anything about the world at large, I want to talk about my personal life. Usually I try not to talk about my life here, but today I'm too excited not to -- because on Saturday I got engaged to the most beautiful, amazing woman that has ever walked the earth. I'm not sure when we're getting married yet, but it'll probably be in less than a year. And I'm freaking excited.

That said, I want to move on to some less exciting news. Today Colorado representative Tom Tancredo (R) joined Dick Durbin on the short list of US congressmen whose statements will most likely be used in terrorists recruitment tapes. Tancredo foolishly said on a radio show that if terrorists used a nuke in the US that we might respond by bombing Mecca, or other Islamic holy sites. His 'clarification' is not really much of an improvement, saying that he was thinking of ways to deter an attack by an enemy with no country or other large force to attack directly. Great. So now they have it from the mouths of US congressmen that we treat our prisoners as poorly as Nazis, and we're going to bomb Mecca. Maybe neither said those things are for sure realities, but they both were more than clear that they are distinct possibilities, and neither remark is doing much to help our image abroad. Statements like these are just unwise. Even if Tancredo thinks that it is a viable option, which he shouldn't, he should know better than to broadcast that opinion on the air. I hope he apologizes fully -- being a CO resident I already wrote him an email asking him to.

The biggest problem with this philosophy is that it attacks all of Islam, not just the people attacking us. We are only fighting a small sect of Islam, not the entire religion. Statements like these say 'It doesn't matter who you are or what you've done, if people who share a basic belief attack us we're going to start bombing you and your holy sites.' Its like the internment camps for Japanese during WWII in that we are punishing innocent people for the crimes of others that are only weakly related. Its stupid and it won't stop the war, anyway. It will probably make it worse. Take the US as an example. Before 9/11 there weren't too many people keen on the idea of invading Afghanistan and toppling the Taliban, although they were an oppressive regime that talked about attacking the US and was related to bombings that affected us, including that of the USS Cole. But then they hit some of our 'Meccas' -- Washington DC and New York. Did that make us more willing to accept their presence? No, it galvanized us against them in a way we haven't been united for decades and haven't been again since. Nothing unites people like a common enemy, and a good way to turn people into enemies is to needlessly destroy things that they love, or idolize (to some extent) as is the case here. If we want every Muslim who is even slightly inclined to be militant to band together to fight us, then we should definitely bomb Mecca. Otherwise it would be one of the stupidest decisions we could make. So, Tom Tancredo, I give you the benefit of the doubt that you didn't think before you answered the interviewer's question, but you should not try to defend your statement and instead should apologize fully and keep your words from damaging the country as much as possible. Its too late to completely undo their negative effects, but if you act quickly to fully retract your statement they might be held to a much smaller proportion than otherwise.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Sic 'em, Aussies!

Absolute brilliance (from Hugh Hewitt):

MAXINE McKEW: Prime Minister, if as you say you can't rule out that possibility that we could have potential bombers right here in Australia, what if today's announcement, this redeployment to Afghanistan and our continued presence in Iraq is all the provocation they need?

JOHN HOWARD: Maxine, these people are opposed to what we believe in and what we stand for, far more than what we do. If you imagine that you can buy immunity from fanatics by curling yourself in a ball, apologising for the world - to the world - for who you are and what you stand for and what you believe in, not only is that morally bankrupt, but it's also ineffective. Because fanatics despise a lot of things and the things they despise most is weakness and timidity. There has been plenty of evidence through history that fanatics attack weakness and retreating people even more savagely than they do defiant people.

(HT: Instapundit, who credited Art Vandalay posting at Tim Blair.)

Friday, July 15, 2005

The Darndest Things...

Apparently good ol' Jacques Chirac is hoping that if the French people are too busy shoving their collective foot in his mouth they won't be able to use it to strike his behind. Just over a week since London is bombed and Chirac is out talking about how much better the French are than the British and telling his people, "You're so lucky you're not British." I guess thats stereotypical French arrogance. He couldn't hold his tongue at a time of tragedy, and instead used the opportunity for personal gain rather than respect. Way to promote European solidarity, Mr. The-EU-is-worth-more-to-me-than-air. It doesn't seem like anyone is really taking this guy seriously anymore. I say lets hurry on to 2007 and get someone rational in there.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Two Minutes

Redhurt said: "They should institute a 2 minute silence every morning in Iraq to mourn the dead and dying civilians and soldiers who continue to suffer on the front lines of our war against the imported insurgents. Better yet: they should institute it here in the US."

Accordingly, I am trying to get everyone in the US to observe two minutes of silence every day until the wars are over to honor our servicemen/women involved in them. I sent an email to Hugh Hewitt asking for his help -- he's the only high-profile person I could think of asking. Maybe I should ask some Senators or something, too. But, if you think that this sounds like a good idea then spread the word. I'll have more details -- like what time -- when I decide on them (I'm hoping to hear back from Hugh before I make final decisions). If Flash Mobs work, then I don't see why this can't. And its not to show support for the wars, but respect and honor for the servicemen/women, so you can still do it even if you hate the wars, GW, and anything else besides our men and women serving in the wars right now.

Well, Hugh wrote back to me already. He didn't say for sure whether he is going to endorse it or not, but I decided its probably easiest for anyone who wants to get involved if we just set some concrete details now. So, lets say 12:00PM EST. That sounds like a good time to me since most everybody will be up by then. No need to go out into the streets or anything very dramatic like that since we're trying to make this a daily thing. Do you think 2 minutes is too long every day? It seems like, given the precedent, anything less would show a lack of respect. Anyway, I'm going to start tomorrow, so anyone else who wants in spread the word and start doing it.

Sometimes when you're half asleep at work and its late in the day things that are crazy seem pretty normal. I think this was one of those times. I still think that the moment of silence is a good idea, but I no longer expect everyone in the US to do it. It would be cool though. I just think that its good for all of us to remember that there is a war going on and there are other Americans fighting and dying out there. This is just one way to do that.

I also probably blew any chance that Hugh Hewitt is going to read my blog, cause he probably thinks I'm a nut now ;)

Brief News

I'm not usually a big fan of polls, but this one showing that Muslim support for terrorism is on the decline world-wide is encouraging. Now, my skepticism about polls isn't because they're often discouraging, but because I don't find them compelling given what I know about statistics. But assuming this one is correct, this is exactly the kind of change that will lead to the end of terror. When support is down the terrorists will find it hard to recruit new fanatics. And that means less people to strap bombs to, which hopefully means less bombings. It could mean more desperate measures, though, so things might get worse before they get better. But at least we're moving in the right direction, it seems.

I didn't want to comment at all on the whole Rove thing -- if you want a lot of coverage Hugh Hewitt has it -- but the media seems intent on keeping it in the headlines. The only thing I would point to is this brief (taken from Hugh Hewitt) put forth by almost all major media outlets making the case that Plame was not covert in any serious sense . They make this case to say that they can not be held responsible for exposing a covert operative. From page ii: "In this case, there exists ample evidence in the public record to cast serious doubt as to whether a crime has even been committed under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (the "Act") in the investigation underlying the attempts to secure testimony from Miller and Cooper. If in fact no crime under the Act has been committed, then any need to compel Miller and Cooper to reveal their confidential sources should evaporate." For them to turn around now and try to stick the charges to Rove that they so adamantly fought is nothing short of reprehensible -- they claim there is no way a law is broken when its their necks on the line, but now that its someone they don't like they ignore everything they said before. Also, Rove issued a waiver months ago releasing anyone from keeping his involvement anonymous. That means that Cooper could have come out with this long ago, and also that Judith Miller could have said that Rove was her contact without compromising a confidentiality agreement. Since she decided to go to jail the only assumption that makes any sense is that there is another contact out there that leaked...

The High Ground

If reports of "revenge attacks" against British Muslims are true, then those carrying out such attacks are on the same level as the bombers in London. In fact, its almost the same mentality -- I'm going to attack fellow countrymen because they belong to an ideology that I think has hurt people of my ideology. Its ridiculous and shameful. Just as the non-extremist Muslims are trying hard to convince the world that the extremists do not represent mainstream Islam, we must make sure that the world knows that these ignorant fools do not represent the rest of us. Freedom and democracy require that each man be judged individually, not by stereotypes about any group that he belongs to. That's one reason why the Red Scare was so bad -- its possible to be a Communist and not support the USSR or PRC. Similarly its possible to be Muslim and not support al-Qaeda. If we are going to tout freedom as our goal in Iraq and Afghanistan then we need to ensure freedom at home. Attacking people because of their ideology is not freedom. The perpetrators of such acts should be punished harshly, and we should all be ashamed of their actions. I feel that actions like that do far more to incite further terror attacks than the war in Iraq (of course this is just speculation). If I were a Muslim I would not be enraged, in general, about the war in Iraq. In fact, I bet I would support it. However, if attacks against fellow Muslims in my country by other countrymen became rampant, or were not viewed with the highest level of disdain, I might be able to be convinced that my society is evil and deserves being attacked. If we are serious about extending freedom to the world and ending terror we need to take dramatic steps to make sure that our countries remain examples of freedom and democracy and do not descend into hatred or fear.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Killers in Our Midst

Terror bombings anywhere are just as heinous as those in London. If we believe otherwise then we show ourselves as self-serving hypocrites willing to manipulate people we don't care about in order to make ourselves more secure. On the other hand, if we acknowledge that all such bombings are of equal evil we show that we really do care about ending terrorism the world over, and that Iraqi and Israeli lives are just as important as American or British. That is an important thing to believe if there is to be any honor or nobility in the war on terror.

Apparently all the bombers in London were British. The scariest part is that no one saw it coming. Apparently there is a movement by radical Muslims in Middle Eastern countries to lure and seduce moderate Muslims into their extremism. Fear is the last thing we need, but caution and vigilance are more necessary now than ever. If the initial theories prove true, the jihadists have managed to hide deep sleepers in Britain for a period of months or years before an attack took place. Sleepers are especially dangerous because they do not operate within a cell -- they are individuals, or in this case a small group of friends, who are completely inactive in any terror circles until they carry out their attacks. To think that they existed in Britain but not in the US is utterly foolish. The only right assumption at this point is to believe that there must be at least some similar group of motivated individuals in the US. As I said before, fear is not what we need. But we need to be aware that they are most likely here, and could strike at any moment. And we will have no warning because they are acting on their own, not with the guidance of terror group leaders elsewhere. So we must be vigilant, watching out for any suspicious activity. We also need to support moderate Muslim groups in efforts to keep their members from becoming extremists. It appears right now that the main weapon of our enemies is the well-meaning faithful follower who can be manipulated into becoming a walking bomb. We need to encourage and support moderation when it comes to religious beliefs that involve or easily lead to violence. Creating a society that moderates cannot be convinced is evil (which is impossible to do completely without becoming a Muslim culture, but can be achieved to some greater degree with work) will ensure security far more than any government agency. I'm not exactly sure what that looks like at this point, but I know respect and understanding rarely work to isolate or anger people.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Fighting the Fight

As J.Morgan pointed out in a comment on my last post, its imperative that we not make assumptions about people's motives in the GWOT because the situation is not simple or at all clear. Assumptions like this one are just as dangerous as any (from Hugh Hewitt, talking about a Washington Post piece):

The Post report tries to cover for the inane "Iraq is at fault" caucus by noting that:

"Still, the profile of the suspects suggested by investigators fit long-standing warnings by security experts that the greatest potential threat to Britain could come from second-generation Muslims, born here but alienated from British society and perhaps from their own families, and inflamed by Britain's participation in the Iraq war."

There is no evidence offered for this astonishing assertion that the Iraq war has anything to do with the massacre. Zero! And none is needed for the true-believers in the MSM. Is this "reporting?" Or cheerleading for an alternative reality where writers feel free to ascribe to murderers their motives?

We cannot assume that we know why the terrorists are attacking. Assuming that the war in Iraq is a cause when we have no facts to back it up will lead us off the trail of the truth as much as assuming that diplomacy won't work. If we are really going to solve this problem then we have to keep an open mind and wait for facts to back up our reasoning. Lucky for us, sometimes the terrorists come right out and say what their goals are (again from Hugh Hewitt):

From a senior Hamas leader on the possibility of co-existence with Israel:

"It can be a temporary solution, for a maximum of 5 to 10 years. But in the end Palestine must return to become Muslim, and in the long term Israel will disappear from the face of the earth."

Well, unless removing Israel from the face of the earth is a valid diplomatic action, I think its safe to say that we're going to need something other than diplomacy where Hamas is involved. There may be other non-violent means, like social pressure from the Palestinian leadership or other incentives to make recruitment impossible for them, but we're not going to be able to appease them by meeting their demands. I still don't think that appeasement is an option for any of the ME terrorists, but I guess until they say otherwise or we try and fail we don't know for sure. I do know that ending the wars we are in now with anything less than total victory will be a disaster. However, I don't know that the only road to total victory excludes some diplomatic action.

Framing Big Brother

The "blame America first" line of reasoning in the war on terror amazes me. In fact, blaming America at all seems ridiculous. Are there things we could have done before 9/11 that might have made the attack less effective, or not happen at all? Probably. Could we have handled things differently over the past few decades and not armed and trained our current enemies? Sure. But does that make it our fault? Do we blame a rape victim because she went to a party and drank the punch? Of course not. Just because you don't do everything that you can to prevent something does not mean you are to blame for it. Maybe a girl put herself in a position of vulnerability, but the rapist is still the one responsible for the crime, not the girl. America could and probably should have done things differently in dealing with the Middle East in the past, but that doesn't mean its our fault that we were attacked.

The thing that is most outrageous to me is everyone who is calling for diplomacy to end terrorism. Now, I'm not a war advocate. I hate war. I wish there was never an occasion where one human kills another for the rest of time. But I do believe that sometimes its necessary. However, lets put Iraq aside and just talk about the terrorists in general. I think this is justified because plenty of people were talking about diplomacy right after 9/11 before Iraq even came up. I will concede that diplomacy might have gotten us somewhere more in Iraq, although I don't think it would really have helped much. But anyway, lets put it aside. So, these terrorists, the line goes, have legitimate political and social grievances against the West and that's why they attack us, therefore if we listen to their grievances we can solve the problem peacefully. There are ways to go about peacefully voicing grievances. Bombing anything is not one of those ways. Killing civilians is even less one of those ways. The Taliban was a recognized government. If they had real diplomatic issues they wanted to solve they could have brought them before the UN. They could have approached the US diplomatically. But instead they blew stuff up.

Its no secret that the US and France don't always see eye to eye. Lets say that we want them to change their trade policy because we feel that it is unfair to us. So, we drop a MOAB on Chirac's house. Or order some A-10's to do a strafing run on downtown Paris. Or we nuke the Eiffel Tower. Whatever. I don't think that anyone in France would so much as blink an eye before demanding that Germany declare war on the US. And the UN would back them. When it came out that the reason we bombed them was because we had diplomatic grievances, do you think that the UN would say "Now France, you need to apologize. This attack was really your fault. You should have seen this coming and done something about it. Call off this silly war and give the US what they want. Your treatment of the US in the past years has really been shoddy, so you really can't expect anything more. You have no one to blame for this attack other than yourselves." I don't think so (although after a week of fighting France would probably cede us Alsace and Lorraine and give us another big statue and explain that they were wrong to begin with. 3 months later they would brag about how clever French diplomats tricked the ignorant US warmongers into ending the war). The idea that France should accept blame and deal with us diplomatically would be lunacy. And in that case we might actually stop fighting if they gave us what we want, the people we are fighting will not stop when we give them some diplomatic gifts.

This idea that we are dealing with any issue that can be fixed diplomatically, other than diplomatically putting ayatollahs in charge of the entire west, is ignorant and arrogant. It underestimates the people we are fighting. It assumes they are some backwards people that have no way to voice their grievances than to blow stuff up. That just isn't true. Many of these people are educated and well-off -- especially the Saudis who are involved. They have access to diplomatic channels that would allow peaceful resolution to their problems. The Wall Street Journal has a great article today entitled "The Educated Terrorist." I would link it, but you have to subscribe to read it. The bottom line is that we are dealing with intelligent people who have the means to communicate with us peacefully if they wanted to. The fact that they are instead blowing stuff up and killing people speaks volumes to their true intentions. We would be totally justified going to war just because they bombed us first. But I'm all for taking the moral high ground and seeking a peaceful resolution even though they attacked us. But there is no peaceful resolution to be had. These people have access to diplomatic communication with us and have made very little, and what they have made is not something we can really work with ("Pull all your assets out of the Middle East, even though the legitimate governments there aren't asking you to leave" etc). Furthermore, there is absolutely no reason to believe that their violence will stop even if their outrages demands are met, and every reason, from their rhetoric to their actions to their history, to believe that they will not. And even if the war were to end today, those responsible for killing so many civilians ought to be brought to justice. The bottom line is they attacked us when they could have communicated through peaceful channels, so it is ridiculous to say that it is our fault.

Monday, July 11, 2005

We Are Not Afraid

We Are Not Afraid: A fitting response to show the world that terror tactics will not prevail. Terrorism fails if it does not cause terror. This is a way that all of us can combat terrorism -- if we refuse to be terrorized then its only a matter of time before the terrorists are stopped.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

People, not numbers

Today's bombing in London is absolutely heinous. It can not be seen as anything less. It was not an act of war, acts of war do not intentionally target civillians. I don't care who is carrying out the action, whether it be Middle Eastern terrorists or the US military (not saying that they do), any act that intentionally kills civillians is evil.

My recent experience with the death of a friend has given me some insight into the world of loss, I think. One of the reasons that his death hurt us all so much is that he still had so many dreams and goals that he would have accomplished if he had lived. He was not sick or dying for any extended period of time. We had no idea it was coming, and so were completely unprepared. And the hopes and plans left behind make it just that much more tragic. And I imagine that it must be even worse for the people affected by the bombings today. Lives cut short, hopes and dreams squashed, but not, this time, from a failing of the body, but from the will of another. Their lives were snatched by men bent on evil and terror. And that must be much worse. Additionally, I can think of at least 100 people that have been affected by the death of my friend. That many people hurting, many very deeply, because of the death of one person. I can't imagine the true level of suffering inflicted today. And that is why these people have to be stopped. People willing to inflict that much suffering on people intentionally cannot be appeased, they have to be opposed. This also highlights even more the sacrifice of the people in our military who willingly give their lives up. They allow the people they love to suffer so that they can end the suffering of many others. That kind of act is nothing short of heroic, and of the highest honor. We should honor them accordingly. Even if you don't agree with whatever war they may be fighting, at least respect the fact that they are willing to give up their lives, to bring suffering into the lives of people they love, so that other people, including you, won't have to. I don't know a higher human ideal, and I wish it could be accomplished without bloodshed, but the sad reality is that terror has to be confronted with force, and force is going to shed blood. Pray that the end would be sooner than any of us dares to hope, and give the respect due to those willing to die to save others.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


I feel like I need to post something here or everyone will assume that I'm never going to post again. Its been hard times here for the last few days. Around 6PM on the 4th we found out that one of my friends died suddenly on a church backpacking trip. I wasn't extremely close to him, but he was pretty close to both my little brothers, and he was more than an acquaintance to me. In addition to the pain of having a friend die, many of my friends from church were on the trip with him and were with him when he died, which has caused some additional trauma to many of them. As you can imagine they are in various stages of emotional and spiritual turmoil -- I don't think most people ever have to watch a friend fall over dead before their eyes, but its especially hard given the circumstances and their ages (my friends from the trip are between 17 and 19, but there were several kids around 15 on the trip as well). Its been very hard for everyone who knew him because his death was so sudden and unexpected.

His name is Nathan Bell. He was 17 years old and an experienced back-packer. Apparently he had altitude sickness but didn't know it because he had a small cold when they left for the trip. They had been gone 5 days and he had been feeling sick all week, but hadn't shown many signs of altitude sickness -- I assume that he didn't complain about the headache he must have had because he figured he was just sick and didn't want to slow down the group. That morning they were on their way home, but he woke up dizzy, weak, and pale. They were about two miles from the trail head when he died. The guides -- his youth pastor and youth pastor's brother -- administered CPR for almost 2 hours, but, knowing now what killed him, it was useless. The medical examiner said unless a doctor had been there within 10 minutes that nothing would have helped him. He had pulmonary and cerebral edema, which I guess are common in advanced stages of altitude sickness. The swelling in his brain killed him, so by the time he died there was really nothing anyone could do. They only knew his condition was serious for a few hours before he died, and they had no idea how serious. Although he was feeling very sick that day he was hiking and collapsed on the trail when he died. He had been backpacking many times before, so he was the last one anyone thought would have problems. It has been especially hard for some of the kids on the trip, especially my girlfriend's sister, because they prayed non-stop during the hours between when he collpased and when the park rangers came and pronounced him dead for God to save him, and now they feel like God ignored their prayers. Its also been especially hard on the guides. As you can imagine they blame themselves, but there is no way they could have known since he was not throwing up and didn't complain about his headache.

Nathan would have been 18 on Sunday. His Boyscout troop awarded him his Eagle Scout posthumously yesterday. He had finished all the requirements and only needed the formality, so he was deserving of the award. His younger brother just turned 16. His older brother is 22 and has been living in Russia as a missionary and will be home later today. Nathan had just graduated from high school and was planning on attending Colorado State University in the fall, I'm not sure if he had decided what to study there. He was active in the youth group and had started participating in the college group. He also played bass in a local band and was interested in all sorts of A/V art. He is already deeply missed.

Anyone who is of the praying sort please pray for Nathan's family, the other kids on the trip, and the guides. Its been a hard few days for all of us who knew him, but the worst for them. If anyone is going to be in Aurora on Saturday the memorial service is at 10AM at New Life EFC. Anyway, that's why I haven't been posting. Thanks for your prayers.