30 September 2007

Rich man, poor man -- Wisdom Sunday

The great mistake made…is to take up with the notion that class is naturally hostile to class, and that the wealthy and the working men are intended by nature to live in mutual conflict. So irrational and so false is this view that the direct contrary is the truth. Just as the symmetry of the human frame is the result of the suitable arrangement of the different parts of the body, so in a State is it ordained by nature that these two classes should dwell in harmony and agreement, so as to maintain the balance of the body politic. Each needs the other: capital cannot do without labor, nor labor without capital. Mutual agreement results in the beauty of good order, while perpetual conflict necessarily produces confusion and savage barbarity. Now, in preventing such strife as this, and in uprooting it, the efficacy of Christian institutions is marvelous and manifold. First of all, there is no intermediary more powerful than religion...in drawing the rich and the working class together, by reminding each of its duties to the other, and especially of the obligations of justice.

From Rerum Novarum (para. 19), the encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on capital and labor.
25 September 2007

A transcript of Ahmadinejad’s speech

Some – notably, Rush Limbaugh – have pointed out the number of Democrat “talking points” (let the reader identify them for himself) appear in the President’s speech. The presence of these “talking points” – we are to believe – is evidence of just how much aid and comfort the enemies of the U.S. have been given by the Democrat Party. But the fact of the matter is that if the Democrat “talking points” happen to be true (I happen not to believe they are, altogether) President Ahmadinejad can hardly be faulted for citing them himself. The “talking points” aren’t falsified by the fact that an enemy of the U.S. happens to believe them also. (Linda Chavez might say Democrats demonstrate that they are comfortable in the company of our nation’s enemies.)

All in all I agree with Ed Koch:


All in all, it was a fiasco for America and a blunder by Bollinger, as well as a coup for Ahmadinejad. His goal was not to respond to...the Columbia students or Americans seeing him on television. His goal was to talk over their heads to the Islamic world and its terrorists and show how he bearded the Columbia lion in its own den. (Emphasis mine.)


But, in the interests of academic freedom and all that, here it is, for whatever it’s worth:


In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful...

“Oh, God, hasten the arrival of Imam al-Mahdi and grant him good health and victory and make us his followers and those to attest to his rightfulness.”

Distinguished Dean, dear professors and students, ladies and gentlemen, at the outset I would like to extend my greetings to all of you. I am grateful to the almighty God for providing me with the opportunity to be in an academic environment, those seeking truth and striving for the promotion of science and knowledge.

At the outset I want to complain a bit from the person who read this political statement against me. In Iran tradition requires that when we demand a person to invite to be a speaker we actually respect our students and the professors by allowing them to make their own judgment and we don't think it's necessary before this speech is even given to come in with a series of claims and to attempt in a so-called manner to provide vaccination of some sort to our students and our faculty.

I think the text read by the dear gentleman here, more than addressing me, was an insult to information and the knowledge of the audience here. In a university environment we must allow people to speak their mind, to allow everyone to talk so that the truth is eventually revealed by all.Certainly he took more than all the time I was allocated to speak, and that's fine with me. We'll just leave that to add up with the claims of respect for freedom and the freedom of speech that's given to us in this country.

Many parts of his speech, there were many insults and claims that were incorrect, regretfully.Of course, I think that he was affected by the press, the media, and the political, sort of, mainstream line that you read here that goes against the very grain of the need for peace and stability in the world around us.


Nonetheless, I should not begin by being affected by this unfriendly treatment. I will tell you what I have to say, and then the questions he can raise and I'll be happy to provide answers. But as for one of the issues that he did raise, I most certainly would need to elaborate further so that we, for ourselves, can see how things fundamentally work.

It was my decision in this valuable forum and meeting to speak with you about the importance of knowledge, of information, of education. Academics and religious scholars are shining torches who shed light in order to remove darkness. And the ambiguities around us in guiding humanity out of ignorance and perplexity.

The key to the understanding of the realities around us rests in the hands of the researchers, those who seek to discover areas that are hidden, the unknown sciences, the windows of realities that they can open is done only through efforts of the scholars and the learned people in this world. With every effort there is a window that is opened, and one reality is discovered.

Whenever the high stature of science and wisdom is preserved and the dignity of scholars and researchers are respected, humans have taken great strides toward their material and spiritual promotion. In contrast, whenever learned people and knowledge have been neglected, humans have become stranded in the darkness of ignorance and negligence. If it were not for human instinct, which tends toward continual discovery of truth, humans would have always remained stranded in ignorance and no way would not have discovered how to improve the life that we are given. The nature of man is, in fact, a gift granted by the Almighty to all. The Almighty led mankind into this world and granted him wisdom and knowledge as his prime gift enabling him to know his God.

In the story of Adam, a conversation occurs between the Almighty and his angels. The angels call human beings an ambitious and merciless creature and protested against his creation.But the Almighty responded, quote, "I have knowledge of what you are ignorant of," unquote. Then the Almighty told Adam the truth. And on the order of the Almighty, Adam revealed it to the angels.

The angels could not understand the truth as revealed by the human being. The Almighty said to them, quote, " Did not I say that I am aware of what is hidden in heaven and in the universe?" unquote. In this way the angels prostrated themselves before Adam.

In the mission of all divine prophets, the first sermons were of the words of God, and those words -- piety, faith and wisdom -- have been spread to all mankind.... Regarding the holy prophet Moses, may peace be upon him, God says, quote, "And he was taught wisdom, the divine book, the Old Testament and the New Testament. He is the prophet appointed for the sake of the children of Israel, and I rightfully brought a sign from the Almighty, holy Koran," The first words, which were revealed to the holy prophet of Islam, call the prophet to read, quote, "Read, read in the name of your God, who supersedes everything," unquote, the Almighty, quote again, "who taught the human being with the pen," unquote. Quote, "The Almighty taught human beings what they were ignorant of," unquote.


You see, in the first verses revealed to the holy prophet of Islam, words of reading, teaching and the pen are mentioned. These verses in fact introduced the Almighty as the teacher of human beings, the teacher who taught humans what they were ignorant of.

In another part of the Koran, on the mission of the holy prophet of Islam, it is mentioned that the Almighty appointed someone from amongst the common people as their prophet in order to, quote, "read for them the divine verses," unquote, and quote again, "and purify them from ideological and ethical contamination" unquote, and quote again, "to teach them the divine book and wisdom," unquote.

My dear friends, all the words and messages of the divine prophets from Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, to David and Solomon and Moses, to Jesus and Mohammad delivered humans from ignorance, negligence, superstitions, unethical behavior, and corrupted ways of thinking, with respect to knowledge, on the path to knowledge, light and rightful ethics.

In our culture, the word science has been defined as illumination.In fact, the science means brightness and the real science is a science which rescues the human being from ignorance, to his own benefit. In one of the widely accepted definitions of science, it is stated that it is the light which sheds to the hearts of those who have been selected by the almighty.

Therefore, according to this definition, science is a divine gift and the heart is where it resides. If we accept that science means illumination, then its scope supersedes the experimental sciences and it includes every hidden and disclosed reality.

One of the main harms inflicted against science is to limit it to experimental and physical sciences. This harm occurs even though it extends far beyond this scope. Realities of the world are not limited to physical realities and the materials, just a shadow of supreme reality. And physical creation is just one of the stories of the creation of the world.

Human being is just an example of the creation that is a combination of a material and the spirit. And another important point is the relationship of science and purity of spirit, life, behavior and ethics of the human being. In the teachings of the divine prophets, one reality shall always be attached to science; the reality of purity of spirit and good behavior. Knowledge and wisdom is pure and clear reality.It is -- science is a light. It is a discovery of reality. And only a pure scholar and researcher, free from wrong ideologies, superstitions , selfishness and material trappings can discover -- discover the reality.


My dear friends and scholars, distinguished participants, science and wisdom can also be misused, a misuse caused by selfishness, corruption, material desires and material interests, as well as individual and group interests.Material desires place humans against the realities of the world.

Corrupted and dependent human beings resist acceptance of reality. And even if they do accept it, they do not obey it.

There are many scholars who are aware of the realities but do not accept them. Their selfishness does not allow them to accept those realities.

Do those who, in the course of human history, wage wars, not understand the reality that lives, properties, dignity, territories, and the rights of all human beings should be respected, or did they understand it but neither have faith in nor abide by it? My dear friends, as long as the human heart is not free from hatred, envy, and selfishness, it does not abide by the truth, by the illumination of science and science itself.

Science is the light, and scientists must be pure and pious. If humanity achieves the highest level of physical and spiritual knowledge but its scholars and scientists are not pure, then this knowledge cannot serve the interests of humanity, and several events can ensue.

First, the wrongdoers reveal only a part of the reality, which is to their own benefit, and conceal the rest. As we have witnessed with respect to the scholars of the divine religions in the past, too, unfortunately, today, we see that certain researchers and scientists are still hiding the truth from the people.

Second, science, scientists, and scholars are misused for personal, group, or party interests. So, in today's world, bullying powers are misusing many scholars and scientists in different fields with the purpose of stripping nations of their wealth.... And they use all opportunities only for their own benefit.

For example, they deceive people by using scientific methods and tools. They, in fact, wish to justify their own wrongdoings, though. By creating nonexistent enemies, for example, and an insecure atmosphere, they try to control all in the name of combating insecurity and terrorism.

They even violate individual and social freedoms in their own nations under that pretext. They do not respect the privacy of their own people. They tap telephone calls and try to control their people.They create an insecure psychological atmosphere in order to justify their warmongering acts in different parts of the world.As another example, by using precise scientific methods and planning, they begin their onslaught on the domestic cultures of nations, the cultures which are the result of thousands of years of interaction, creativity and artistic activities.

They try to eliminate these cultures in order to separate the people from their identity and cut their bonds with their own history and values. They prepare the ground for stripping people from their spiritual and material wealth by instilling in them feelings of intimidation, desire for imitation and (inaudible) submission to oppressive powers and disability.

Making nuclear, chemical and biological bombs and weapons of mass destruction is yet another result of the misuse of science and research by the big powers. Without cooperation of certain scientists and scholars, we would not have witnessed production of different nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Are these weapons to protect global security? What can a perpetual nuclear umbrella threat achieve for the sake of humanity? If nuclear war wages between nuclear powers, what human catastrophe will take place? Today we can see the nuclear effects in even new generations of Nagasaki and Hiroshima residents, which might be witnessed in even the next generations to come.

Presently, the effects of the depleted uranium used in weapons since the beginning of the war in Iraq can be examined and investigated accordingly.These catastrophes take place only when scientists and scholars are misused by oppressors.

Another point of sorrow: Some big powers create a monopoly over science and prevent other nations in achieving scientific development as well.This, too, is one of the surprises of our time. Some big powers do not want to see the progress of other societies and nations. They turn to thousands of reasons, make allegations, place economic sanctions to prevent other nations from developing and advancing, all resulting from their distance from human values and the teachings of the divine prophets. Regretfully, they have not been trained to serve mankind.

Dear academics, dear faculty and scholars, students, I believe that the biggest God-given gift to man is science and knowledge. Man's search for knowledge and the truth through science is what it guarantees to do in getting close to God. But science has to combine with the purity of the spirit and of the purity of man's spirit so that scholars can unveil the truth and then use that truth for advancing humanity's cause.These scholars would be not only people who would guide humanity, but also guide humanity towards a better future.

And it is necessary that big powers should not allow mankind to engage in monopolistic activities and to prevent other nations from achieving that science.

Science is a divine gift by God to everyone, and therefore, it must remain pure. God is aware of all reality. All researchers and scholars are loved by God. So I hope there will be a day where these scholars and scientists will rule the world and God himself will arrive with Moses and Christ and Mohammed to rule the world and to take us toward justice.

I'd like to thank you now but refer to two points made in the introduction given about me, and then I will be open for any questions.

Last year -- I would say two years ago -- I raised two questions.You know that my main job is a university instructor. Right now, as president of Iran, I still continue teaching graduate and Ph.D.-level courses on a weekly basis. My students are working with me in scientific fields. I believe that I am an academic, myself.

So I speak with you from an academic point of view, and I raised two questions. But, instead of a response, I got a wave of insults and allegations against me. And regretfully, they came mostly from groups who claimed most to believe in the freedom of speech and the freedom of information. You know quite well that Palestine is an old wound, as old as 60 years. For 60 years, these people are displaced. For 60 years, these people are being killed. For 60 years, on a daily basis, there's conflict and terror. For 60 years, innocent women and children are destroyed and killed by helicopters and airplanes that break the house over their heads. For 60 years, children and kindergartens, in schools, in high schools, are in prison being tortured. For 60 years, security in the Middle East has been endangered. For 60 years, the slogan of expansionism from the Nile to the Euphrates is being chanted by certain groups in that part of the world.

And as an academic, I asked two questions; the same two questions that I will ask here again. And you judge, for yourselves, whether the response to these questions should be the insults, the allegations, and all the words and the negative propaganda or should we really try and face these two questions and respond to them? Like you, like any academic, I, too, will keep -- not yet become silent until I get the answer. So I'm awaiting logical answers instead of insults.

My first question was if -- given that the Holocaust is a present reality of our time, a history that occurred, why is there not sufficient research that can approach the topic from different perspectives? Our friend referred to 1930 as the point of departure for this development. However, I believe the Holocaust from what we've read happened during World War II, after 1930, in the 1940s. So, you know, we have to really be able to trace the event.

My question was simple: There are researchers who want to approach the topic from a different perspective. Why are they put into prison? Right now, there are a number of European academics who have been sent to prison because they attempted to write about the Holocaust or research it from a different perspective, questioning certain aspects of it.

My question is: Why isn't it open to all forms of research? I have been told that there's been enough research on the topic. And I ask, well, when it comes to topics such as freedom, topics such as democracy, concepts and norms such as God, religion, physics even, or chemistry, there's been a lot of research, but we still continue more research on those topics. We encourage it.

But, then, why don't we encourage more research on a historical event that has become the root, the cause of many heavy catastrophes in the region in this time and age? Why shouldn't there be more research about the root causes? That was my first question.

And my second question, well, given this historical event, if it is a reality, we need to still question whether the Palestinian people should be paying for it or not. After all, it happened in Europe. The Palestinian people had no role to play in it. So why is it that the Palestinian people are paying the price of an event they had nothing to do with? The Palestinian people didn't commit any crime. They had no role to play in World War II. They were living with the Jewish communities and the Christian communities in peace at the time. They didn't have any problems.

And today, too, Jews, Christians and Muslims live in brotherhood all over the world in many parts of the world. They don't have any serious problems.

But why is it that the Palestinians should pay a price, innocent Palestinians, for 5 million people to remain displaced or refugees abroad for 60 years. Is this not a crime? Is asking about these crimes a crime by itself?


Why should an academic myself face insults when asking questions like this? Is this what you call freedom and upholding the freedom of thought? And as for the second topic, Iran's nuclear issue, I know there is time limits, but I need time. I mean, a lot of time was taken from me.

We are a country, we are a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency. For over 33 years we are a member state of the agency.

The bylaw of the agency explicitly states that all member states have the right to the peaceful nuclear fuel technology. This is an explicit statement made in the bylaw, and the bylaw says that there is no pretext or excuse, even the inspections carried by the IAEA itself that can prevent member states' right to have that right.


Of course, the IAEA is responsible to carry out inspections. We are one of the countries that's carried out the most amount of level of cooperation with the IAEA. They have had hours and weeks and days of inspections in our country, and over and over again the agency's reports indicate that Iran's activities are peaceful, that they have not detected a deviation, and that Iran -- they have received positive cooperation from Iran.But regretfully, two or three monopolistic powers, selfish powers want to force their word on the Iranian people and deny them their right.

They tell us you don't let them -- they won't let them inspect. Why not? Of course we do. How come is it, anyway, that you have that right and we can't have it? We want to have the right to peaceful nuclear energy. They tell us, don't make it yourself, we'll give it to you.Well, in the past, I tell you, we had contracts with the U.S. government, with the British government, the French government, the German government, and the Canadian government on nuclear development for peaceful purposes. But unilaterally, each and every one of them canceled their contracts with us, as a result of which the Iranian people had to pay a heavy cost in billions of dollars.

Why do we need the fuel from you? You've not even given us spare aircraft parts that we need for civilian aircraft for 28 years under the name of embargo and sanctions because we're against, for example, human rights or freedom? Under that pretext, you deny us that technology? We want to have the right to self-determination toward our future. We want to be independent. Don't interfere in us.

If you don't give us spare parts for civilian aircraft, what is the expectation that you'd give us fuel for nuclear development for peaceful purposes? For 30 years, we've faced these problems for over $5 billion to the Germans and then to the Russians, but we haven't gotten anything.

And the words have not been completed. It is our right. We want our right. And we don't want anything beyond the law, nothing less than international law. We are a peaceful, loving nation. We love all nations.

At the end of President Ahmadinejad's speech, he responded to questions posed by some students.

MODERATOR: Mr. President, your statements here today and in the past have provoked many questions which I would like to pose to you on behalf of the students and faculty who have submitted them to me.Let me begin with the question to which you just alluded.The first question is: Do you or your government seek the destruction of the state of Israel as a Jewish state?

AHMADINEJAD: We love all nations. We are friends with the Jewish people. There are many Jews in Iran, leaving peacefully, with security. You must understand that in our constitution and our laws and in the parliamentary elections for every 150,000 people, we get one representative in the parliament. For the Jewish community, for one- fifth of this number, they still get one independent representative in the parliament. So our proposal to the Palestinian plight is a humanitarian and democratic proposal. What we say is that to solve this 60-year problem, we must allow the Palestinian people to decide about its future for itself. This is compatible with the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations and the fundamental principles enshrined in it. We must allow Jewish Palestinians, Muslim Palestinians and Christian Palestinians to determine their own fate themselves through a free referendum.Whatever they choose as a nation, everybody should accept and respect. Nobody should interfere in the affairs of the Palestinian nation. Nobody should sow the seeds of discord. Nobody should spend tens of billions of dollars equipping and arming one group there.We say allow the Palestinian nation to decide its own future, to have the right to self-determination for itself. This is what we are saying as the Iranian nation.

MODERATOR: Mr. President, I think many members of our audience would like to hear a clearer answer to that question. The question is: Do you or your government seek the destruction of the state of Israel as a Jewish state? And I think you could answer that question with a single word, either yes or no.

AHMADINEJAD: You asked the question, and then you want the answer the way you want to hear it. Well, this isn't really a free flow of information.I'm just telling you what my position is. I'm asking you: Is the Palestinian issue not an international issue of prominence or not? Please tell me, yes or no? There's the plight of a people.

MODERATOR: The answer to your question is yes.

AHMADINEJAD: Well, thank you for your cooperation . We recognize there's a problem there that's been going on for 60 years. Everybody provides a solution. And our solution is a free referendum.Let this referendum happen, and then you'll see what the results are.Let the people of Palestine freely choose what they want for their future. And then what you want in your mind to happen there will happen and will be realized.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) second question, which was posed by President Bollinger earlier and comes from a number of other students: Why is your government providing aid to terrorists? Will you stop doing so and permit international monitoring to certify that you have stopped?

AHMADINEJAD: Well, I want to pose a question here to you. If someone comes and explodes bombs around you, threatens your president, members of the administration, kills the members of the Senate or Congress, how would you treat them? Would you reward them, or would you name them a terrorist group? Well, it's clear. You would call them a terrorist.My dear friends, the Iranian nation is a victim of terrorism. For --26 years ago, where I worked, close to where I worked, in a terrorist operation, the elected president of the Iranian nation and the elected prime minister of Iran lost their lives in a bomb explosion. They turned into ashes.A month later, in another terrorist operation, 72 members of our parliament and highest-ranking officials, including four ministers and eight deputy ministers' bodies were shattered into pieces as a result of terrorist attacks. Within six months, over 4,000 Iranians lost their lives, assassinated by terrorist groups. All this carried out by the hand of one single terrorist group. Regretfully, that same terrorist group now, today, in your country, is being -- operating under the support of the U.S. administration, working freely, distributing declarations freely, and their camps in Iraq are supported by the U.S. government. They're secured by the U.S. government. Our nation has been harmed by terrorist activities. We were the first nation that objected to terrorism and the first to uphold the need to fight terrorism. We need to address the root causes of terrorism and eradicate those root causes. We live in the Middle East. For us, it's quite clear which powers, sort of, incite terrorists, support them, fund them. We know that. Our nation, the Iranian nation, through history has always extended a hand of friendship to other nations. We're a cultured nation. We don't need to resort to terrorism. We've been victims of terrorism, ourselves. And it's regrettable that people who argue they're fighting terrorism, instead of supporting the Iranian people and nation, instead of fighting the terrorists that are attacking them, they're supporting the terrorists and then turn the fingers to us. This is most regrettable.

QUESTION: Mr. President, a further set of questions challenged your view of the Holocaust. Since the evidence that this occurred in Europe in the 1940s, as a result of the actions of the German Nazi government, since that -- those facts -- are well documented, why are you calling for additional research? There seems to be no purpose in doing so, other than to question whether the Holocaust actually occurred as a historical fact. Can you explain why you believe more research is needed into the facts of what are what are incontrovertible?

AHMADINEJAD: Thank you very much for your question. I am an academic, and you are as well. Can you argue that researching a phenomenon is finished, forever done? Can we close the books for good on a historical event? There are different perspectives that come to light after every research is done. Why should we stop research at all? Why should we stop the progress of science and knowledge? You shouldn't ask me why I'm asking questions. You should ask yourselves why you think that that's questionable? Why do you want to stop the progress of science and research? Do you ever take what's known as absolute in physics? We had principles in mathematics that were granted to be absolute in mathematics for over 800 years. But new science has gotten rid of those absolutisms, come forward other different logics of looking at mathematics and sort of turned the way we look at it as a science altogether after 800 years. So, we must allow researchers, scholars, they investigate into everything, every phenomenon -- God, universe, human beings, history and civilization. Why should we stop that? I am not saying that it didn't happen at all. This is not that judgment that I am passing here. I said, in my second question, granted this happened, what does it have to do with the Palestinian people? (H/T: “Altaf” at Ihsan)

Apparently, every nation on the earth except for the marauder-nations President Ahmadinejad has in mind are more sinned against than sinning. I have always loved the way Muslims of his stripe insist they are owed apologies and reparations, while their own past sins are easily overlooked. I have been observing the West's handwringing over colonialism, imperialism, slavery, racism, world wars, and the like for decades now. Whatever evils befall Western nations are deserved; whatever evils befall non-Western nations are the fault of the West, of course. I have observed handwringing on the part of Christians for the Crusades, the Inquisitions, the religious wars of the Reformation period. I have observed handwringing in the U.S. over slavery, the Indian Wars, the "stealing" of the Southwest from Mexico.

Do Muslims of Ahmedinejad's ilk ever engage in any handwringing over the Muslim conquest of the once-Christian middle east? I'm sure Ahmadinejad doesn't see it that way. There was no Islamic conquest of the middle east. And there are no homosexuals in Iran.

Perhaps, if it had been a baby...

In the U.S. it’s okay to kill a harmless baby while its gestating, but never hurt a (tame) duck. Never. Never. Never.


NOTE: In the interests of full disclosure (having made clear my opposition to abortion) I should confess that 19 years ago I paid for an abortion. Not out of the kindness of my heart, but because I did not – then – desire to be a father. My opposition to abortion is clearly not based on my own behavior, but rather on my subsequent conversion and conviction that all human life belongs to God and ought only to be taken for causes which He outlines.

I know: How convenient. But I do not find it at all convenient. For when I was later ready to be a father my wife (not the woman who had the abortion) and I discovered that she could not have children. But God is gracious. He gave me the best step-daughter in the world. Bar none. (I shall be most firm on that point.)

There is, in my personal experience, nothing at all convenient about living with the consequences of one’s sins.

For whatever it’s worth, however, I never hurt a duck. Never. Never. Never.
24 September 2007

Editorialize this...

In order to call a sentence in the imperative mood an editorial (and thus protected by the First Amendment), liberals, not satisfied with redefining terms such as “marriage”, and “family”, must now redefine “editorial”. Yes, I'm referring to the two-word "editorial" titled, "Tazer this!". (No link, since it contains an expletive.)

Before 21 September 2007, an editorial had been an article expressing the opinion of the person writing the article, usually (except in the case of the op-ed, or opposition editorial), written by a staff member. Since it’s relevant, an opinion (again, until 21 September) was an expression of a one's ideas and thoughts about something, an assessment, judgment or evaluation of something.

As an opinion – a statement of what one believes to be the case – an editorial is a truth claim and is, therefore, properly given in the indicative mood, not the imperative mood. “Tazer this…” regardless what follows, is in the imperative mood. “Tazer this...” has no truth value. It’s not an opinion and not, therefore, an editorial.

Some are asking whether the editorial staff should be fired for this so-called editorial. Clearly the answer is no: They should be fired because they don’t know what an editorial is. Heck, they might not even know what mood means, much less indicative and imperative.

Really now. The lowest ranking street soldier in MS-13 could have written that so-called editorial.
18 September 2007

They shall study war no more

…and it will cost us, big time.

Ron Kuby, on Laura Ingraham’s show last week, complains that there will be more troops in Iraq after the surge than there were before. And that, he informs us, demonstrates that the surge isn’t working.

This is the problem with having a national debate about a war: some of the participants don’t understand military terminology and ways of thinking. A surge is an increase in the number of troops. Unless I'm missing something nuanced about it, Kuby’s position amounts to this: There will be more troops in Iraq after the increase in the number of troops in Iraq than there were before the increase in the number of troops in Iraq. And this increase in the number of troops in Iraq demonstrates that the increase in the number of troops in Iraq isn’t working.

We’ve had this problem for a long time, at least since the Vietnam era. It’s illustrated beautifully by American reactions to Tet. Because Tet accomplished none of the stated purposes (perhaps the most important of which was to spark an insurgency in South Vietnam), General Westmoreland hailed it as a defeat for the enemy and, by implication, a success for the U.S. and their allies. To give the enemy their due, Tet was hard-fought. But it was also, militarily speaking, a failure. However, when the news cameras showed the destruction wrought during the six months of the offensive Westmoreland’s assessment was difficult to accept. In the end, Tet was an overwhelming psychological victory. The fact that such an offensive (extensive in scope as it was) could even be launched in the first place – even if it failed – was enough to demoralize us. (Admittedly, the same military which successfully repelled Tet is largely to blame for this: military leadership, especially Westmoreland, had led us to believe that the enemy were incapable of anything of so vast a scope as the Tet Offensive.) So, what really was a victory for us was perceived as a defeat instead.

Not much has changed. We still have participants in the national debate who seem to think that fighting a battle – or a war – is like building a table or something: if you don’t succeed right away, or if it proves more difficult than you think it should be…quit. Some of them, like Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island (who delivered the Democratic response to the President’s speech last night and despite having been a commissioned Army officer) seem to think that one ends a war unilaterally by just ceasing to fight it. Never mind what the other guy does. According to Reed: “[O]nce again, the president failed to provide either a plan to successfully end the war or a convincing rationale to continue it.”

It occurs to me – I’m no general, of course – that an essential part of any plan to end any war successfully must include at least four things: (1) continuing to fight said war, (2) defining “success” as “thoroughly, completely, and totally defeating the enemy”—or something like that, (3) not allowing the enemy either to seize (or keep!) the initiative or dictating the terms of battle, and (4) going through generals until you find the one that gets the job done (sort of like Lincoln until he found Grant). I think the President does have a plan to end the war successfully. The problem for Democrats appears to be that the President will not accept the Democrat definition of “successfully” which seems to mean “we stop fighting”. And the convincing rationale for continuing the war is that the enemy have defined that move on our part as defeat for us and victory for them. Some of us find that unacceptable.

When we ultimately win this war, we will have the tortuous (and, for some of us, impossible) task of finding a way to live with a victory which costs the lives of thousands of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. I doubt we will ever find a way to live with a defeat which costs thousands of lives. We still, in many respects, haven’t gotten over a defeat in Vietnam which costs so many lives.
17 September 2007

She don't know much about history...

According to Sally Field, if mothers ruled the world, “there would be no wars in the first place.” This is the sort of thing that can only be sincerely asserted by someone with little – if any – sense of history.

It’s hard to take this sort of thing seriously. Expressed categorically what she said was, “For all mothers and for all wars, if mothers ruled, there would be no wars.”

Is she kidding? Margaret Thatcher, for just a single example, is a mother. Hello? Did Field ever hear of The Falklands War? (To be fair, she was probably busy filming Kiss Me Goodbye that year.) Some mothers (a few are friends of mine, with sons in Iraq and Afghanistan) do just happen to think the present war is both just and necessary. Apparently, they don’t count. Spartan women told both their husbands and their sons to come back with their shields or upon them. And how about those proud mothers who have succeeded in raising suicide bombers. Again, more mothers who don’t count.

Field must believe that the relation between mothers and pacifism is analytic. Anyone who has seen women fight knows better than to think there would be no wars if they were in charge. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.
13 September 2007

Silly legislators, policy is for wonks

We deliberate about things that are in our power and can be done…. We deliberate not about ends but about means. For a doctor does not deliberate whether he shall heal, nor an orator whether he shall persuade, nor a statesman whether he shall produce law and order, nor does any one else deliberate about his end. They assume the end and consider how and by what means it is to be attained; and if it seems to be produced by several means they consider by which it is most easily and best produced, while if it is achieved by one only they consider how it will be achieved by this and by what means this will be achieved, till they come to the first cause, which in the order of discovery is last. – Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, III.3.


During his testimony, General Petraeus was asked if he thought the war in Iraq was making us safer. He said he didn’t know, that he hadn’t “sorted it out” in his mind, preferring instead “to focus on what [he] think[s] a commander is supposed to do.” The very idea. A general, trying to focus on what a general ought to be focused on. Next, we’ll be hearing about legislators trying to focus on what legislators ought to be focused on. (Okay, probably not. But hope springs eternal.)

No surprise that Chris Matthews, among others who seem to suffer from a deplorable lack of curiosity about the precise role of a general, sought to make hay of it. Imagine, asks Matthews (who referred to the testimony as a dog and pony show), General Eisenhower in a speech to American servicemen before the Normandy invasion saying to them, “Good luck, men. I don’t know if this war is going to make us safer, but I certainly wish you well.”

Imagine that there really wasn’t any question whether fighting the second world war would make us safer. Wait. Actually, there wasn’t much question whether fighting that war would make us safer. That is a salient difference between the circumstances in which Eisenhower gave his speech and those which hold presently for General Petraeus. I suppose one can hardly expect Matthews to be aware of that difference. He wants to compare two generals without, at the same time, comparing public opinion about those two wars.

Given the purpose of his testimony, the question should not have been asked of him. The question, Is this war going to make us safe? is a policy question. It is a question related to the decision to engage in warfare or to remain engaged. That is a question for civilians. In our system, generals do not take part in the decision for or against war. To ask General Petraeus, Is this war going to make us safe? is like asking the man on the street, rather than a jury panel, if the defendant in a trial is guilty. Oh, you can ask, of course, and do whatever you want with the answer. But the only answer that makes a difference, the only answers that really, really matters is the answer that the jury gives. In short, even if General Petraeus had answered in the affirmative it would not make a bit of difference. The question is not his, as a general, to answer.

With all due respect for the general, the answer he should have given was, “Senator, to answer that question is beyond my pay grade.” I mean, the answer he gave was probably true enough: “I haven’t really thought about it.” But it requires nuance, which he should really try to avoid. The nuance is this. He has thought about it; it is unavoidable that a soldier will ask if the sacrifice he makes will make his people safer. But when he asks that question he is asking it not truly as a soldier; the question for a soldier, when it comes to war is, What is my duty, how do I win this damn thing and go back home? It is as a private citizen that a man who in addition to being a citizen is also a soldier asks, Will this war make my country safer?

General Petraeus was offering testimony not as a private citizen named John Petraeus. He was offering testimony as to the facts on the ground in Iraq as those facts touch on present military operations. He was offering his testimony as a general, specifically as the general in charge of those operations. It is not his job, as that general, to ponder whether those operations are making us safer. That decision – whether right or wrong – has been made by those who have the requisite pay grades. It is his job, as that general – pursuant to the decision by others that the war will make us safer – to ponder how to win that war. It is the job of Congress, having authorized the use of force in Iraq, to decide whether the war is making us safer, or will if allowed to continue. I bet a large part of the general’s job would be much easer if Congress had the testicular fortitude to do their own.

Besides, if the general thinks the answer is the war is not making us safer then, before he so informs Congress, he has an obligation to resign his commission.

In the military, and other spheres, it is said, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” Congress has it easier: Legislate, or shut up. If you have authorized the use of force in Iraq and now think better of it, then pass legislation which rescinds the authorization. Legislate, or shut up. If you think the general’s report is a lie (Senator Lantos) and it is time to leave Iraq now, then introduce legislation which truly reflects that belief. Legislate, or shut up. If you truly believe President Bush lied to get the authorization for use of force in Iraq then introduce appropriate legislation. Legislate, or shut up. Oh, and be sure and charge the general with lying to Congress, which is a crime.

Consider this gem from Lantos’ opening statement:

America should not be in the business of arming, training and funding both sides of a religious civil war in Iraq. Did the Administration learn nothing from our country’s actions in Afghanistan two decades ago, when by supporting Islamist militants against the Soviet Union, we helped pave the way for the rise of the Taliban? Why are we now repeating the short-sighted patterns of the past?


(Compare with Senator Biden’s opening statement at the Senate Foreign Relations committee hearings. Biden has a plan for Iraq. Why he explains it to the general is a mystery. The general can't implement that plan. Again, legislate or shut up.)

Newsflash: In our system, a general has nothing to say in response to this. Why should a general be required to answer a question such as, “Did the Administration learn nothing from our country’s actions in Afghanistan two decades ago, when by supporting Islamist militants against the Soviet Union, we helped pave the way for the rise of the Taliban?” A general may have to answer to the Administration, but it is not his job to answer for the Administration. Why tell a general that, “America should not be in the business of arming, training and funding both sides of a religious civil war in Iraq”? A general can’t decide whether we shall arm, train, or fund any side, much less both sides of a religious war. It is not the job of a general to make that decision. It just happens to be Congress’s job, Lantos. Legislate, or shut up.

It isn’t the job of a general to do your job for you. You decide that the war will make us safer; or you decide that it won’t. Then legislate. Or shut up. You decide whether we should arm, train and fund anyone; or you decide that we won’t. Whatever you decide, it is the generals’ job to execute the decision, but not to make it for you. Don’t ask a general to answer what is a question for you to answer. Don’t hold a general responsible for policy decisions that he cannot, and did not, make, as if he can do anything in a policy dispute between various branches of our government. The general can tell you if, and how, we can win the war. He can tell you if, and how, we can successfully arm and train anyone. But he can’t tell you whether we should be fighting the war. He can’t tell you whether we should arm and train others. That’s not his job; it’s yours. Legislate, or shut up.

“Will this war make us safe?” is just another way of asking “Ought we to fight this war?” And that is not a military question. It’s a public policy question. And public policy questions are not for generals; they are for politicians and policy wonks.

Congress, you legislated us into this war. Either legislate us back out, or shut up. It’s a pretty cheap shot to lambaste a general who is commanding troops in war you authorized. (And to tell him he now owns that war authorized by Congress.)

And whether you legislate or shut up – or neither – think about the job description of a general. Oh, yes, and maybe think about your own job description. Congress has authority to declare war; perhaps you could try declaring an end to the war. Really. If you guys were serious you would pass legislation similar to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1974, which, among other things, established a personnel ceiling of 4000 Americans in Vietnam within six months of enactment and 3000 Americans within one year. (True, Senator Biden introduced legislation which would alter our Iraq policy. Oddly enough it seems to be stuck in the Committee on Foreign Relations, since May. I would be interested in reading the minutes of those committee meetings.)

To win in Iraq will take someone with more conviction, more commitment, more audacity than bin Ladin or any insurgent. Such, apparently, are not to be found in either the House or the Senate. In those chambers are to be found those with no more conviction, no more commitment, but certainly the audacity, of an instant-gratification seeking child. Those with the authority to act in order to change what they do not like sniping at those with no authority to make the changes that will please those who do the complaining. Not very helpful.
11 September 2007

If they liked James Carter, they’ll love this guy

How Dennis Kucinich probably thinks the Arab world sees him:

“Another Jimmy Carter: proof positive that Americans increasingly desire peace.”


How the Arab world probably actually sees him:

“Allah be praised: another Jimmy Carter! How do you say, ‘hostage crisis’ in English, brothers?”

If his approach to peace is anything like his approach to violence, we're doomed. Kucinich favors a ban on the purchase, sale, transfer, or possession of handguns by civilians. (Of course, that really only means law abiding civilians, doesn’t it?)


You can watch his genuflecting interview here. H/T: Dennis Prager

10 September 2007

No, we don't have Osama...

...but apparently, wherever he is, all he can do is make videos.

Schumer's nuanced post hoc

The violence in Anbar has gone down despite the surge, not because of the surge. The inability of American soldiers to protect these tribes from Al-Qaeda said to these tribes, "We have to fight Al-Qaeda ourselves." It wasn't that the surge brought peace here. It was that the warlords took peace here, created a temporary peace here. – U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.


Schumer’s reasoning skills leave much to be desired. I seem to recall he was one of those who told us that it is the invasion of Iraq which created the insurgency there. That argument is simple enough. It goes like this: There were no terrorists in Iraq before we invaded. After we invaded the number of terrorists began increasing. In other words, the increase in terrorists came after the invasion; therefore the invasion is the cause of the increase. This is actually fallacious reasoning, specifically post hoc ergo propter hoc.

One would think that Schumer would appraise the peace in Anbar in the same way. That is: Peace in Anbar came after the surge; therefore the surge is the cause of the peace in Anbar. But no, the surge –somehow – is wholly unrelated to the peace in Anbar.

When the fact that A came before B is useful against your opponent, then you can blame him for B on the grounds that he did A. But when the fact that C comes before D is not useful against your opponent you can deny credit to your opponent for D by asserting that D occurred despite C. Nice.

It is of course possible that the peace in Anbar is despite the surge. One simply has to explain how the peace came about. Schumer does that: The tribal leaders decided that American troops weren’t doing the job so they’d have to do it themselves.

That’s what Schumer said. But one can’t help but wonder how he knows that. How does he know what went on in the minds of these tribal leaders? Did they write him letters informing him of this? Or is it, for him, an inference from the fact that the tribal leaders have stepped up. (And they have; there’s no disputing it. And it’s a good thing.) That argument is also simple: The peace in Anbar came after the tribal leaders stepped up; therefore, the tribal leaders’ stepping up is the cause of the peace in Anbar. But if that is his case then it, like the argument that the invasion of Iraq caused the increase in terrorist activity in Iraq, is an instance of post hoc ergo propter hoc.

Of course, this argument, even if true doesn’t really rule out the surge. It is possible that the surge combined with the tribal leaders’ stepping up resulted in the peace. It’s also possible that the surge motivated the tribal leaders to step up. But let’s not trouble Schumer with those possibilities.

I don’t care that Schumer thinks the surge is incidental to the peace in Anbar. It is surely possible. I just wish he’s have told us exactly how he know it is. I wish he’d have mentioned how he knows what goes on in the mind of a tribal leader.

NOTE: Yes, I have observed that others commit errors in logic. However, since Democrats and Left-Liberals insist that they are smarter, better educated and better read than the rest of us, I see no reason to spend too much time on others’ errors.
02 September 2007

O, guiding night -- Wisdom Sunday

The recent reporting (here and here, for examples) of old news concerning Mother Teresa’s struggle with doubts in her sojourn in this world, reminded me of a chapter in Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline (a classic on the spiritual disciplines), the chapter on solitude. In this chapter he discusses what St. John of the Cross called The Dark Night of the Soul. I don’t know that Mother Teresa’s experience was the “dark night”, but it certainly sounds like it from the descriptions I’ve read.

Foster explains what it means to encounter the dark night of the soul:


[A]t some point along [our] pilgrimage [in the disciplines] we will enter what St. John of the Cross vividly describes as “the dark night of the soul.” The “dark night” to which he calls us is not something bad or destructive. On the contrary, it is an experience to be welcomed much as a sick person might welcome a surgery that promises health and well-being. The purpose of the darkness is not to punish or to afflict us. It is to set us free. It is a divine appointment, a privileged opportunity to draw close to the divine Center.

[…]

What does the dark night of the soul involve? We may have a sense of dryness, aloneness, even lostness. Any overdependence of the emotional life is stripped away. The notion, often heard today, that such experiences should be avoided and that we always should live in peace and comfort, joy, and celebration only betrays the fact that much contemporary experience is surface slush. The dark night is one of the ways God brings us into a hush, a stillness so that he may work an inner transformation upon the soul.

How is this dark night expressed in daily life? When solitude is seriously pursued, there is usually a flush of initial success and then an inevitable letdown – and with it a desire to abandon the pursuit altogether. Feelings leave and there is the sense that we are not getting through to God….

[…]

During such a time Bible reading, sermons, intellectual debate—all fail to move or excite us.

When God lovingly draws us into a dark night of the soul, there is often a temptation to seek release from it and to blame everyone and everything for our inner dullness. The preacher is such a bore. The hymn singing is too weak. The worship service is so dull. We may begin to look around for another church or a new experience to give us “spiritual goose bumps.” This is a serous mistake. Recognize the dark night for what it is. Be grateful that God is livingly drawing you away from every distraction so that you can see him clearly. Rather than chafing and fighting, become still and wait.
CAVEAT LECTOR: I imagine many Christians, because they experience boring sermons, weak hymn singing, and dull worship services, think they have been blessed with a visitation of the dark night. Most likely it is the sort of life most Christians live Sunday afternoon to Saturday night that is the real problem. I mean lives full of noise and frantic activity. If we are not driving hither, thither and yon, we have a radio on, or a dvd playing, or (good heavens) a video game being played – on top of work, or school (or both), children, spouses—you get the point.

And then, let’s face it, there’s the fact that most of us “show up” for church thinking that, like everything else we do, there should be something in it for us. Never mind that worship is something we are to give (i.e., to God, in case you were wondering). If we do get anything from it is his gift to us that we do. (So if you think worship is dull, perhaps there is Someone more disappointed in it than you are!)

Against the backdrop of such a life it ought to be no wonder if sermons are boring, hymn singing weak, and worship dull. Most of us live on a non-stop adrenaline rush all week long. And the adrenaline is still pumping madly on Sunday morning. That would make just about anything boring. And no wonder churches are trying to be more entertaining: it’s tough to compete with adrenaline.

So don’t flatter yourself: you probably are not going through your own dark night of the soul if you are finding sermons boring, hymn singing weak, and worship dull.

You don’t need a new church, or a new pastor, or different music, or a more energetic worship service…probably. You probably just need to re-evaluate your life.

About Me

James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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