Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Saturation Point

It now appears that The New York Times will never get it, not until the presses shut down for good.

Today’s article, “It’s About Aid, and An Image,” is unbelievable in its stupidity, portraying President Bush as embattled with the task of disproving “the perception that took root in his first four years in office that he is all about America first.”

So just what should the President of the United States be about first? France?

This so-called “news analysis” goes on to bemoan the fact that $13 billion has been approved by Congress for hurricane aid in Florida, “where Mr. Bush loaded fresh water and dry goods into the trunks of cars.” The piece then smugly notes that “Of course, that was home turf, and an election campaign was under way, and even Mr. Bush's critics do not expect spending on that scale for the far greater disaster in South Asia.”

Excuse me, but are we supposed to ignore our own countrymen? Is there something sleazy about helping our citizens? Is putting the United States second now the elitist requirement for America's acceptance into world citizenship? Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont “just about went through the roof” when he heard the “bragging about $35 million.” Bragging? Interesting choice of words—somewhat subjective, wouldn’t you say? I took it as an announcement of initial assistance rather than “bragging,” but what would a self-centered American like me know about it? The good Senator goes on to carp, “We spend $35 million before breakfast in Iraq." He continues by urging that part of the “largely unspent 18 billion for Iraq reconstruction be re-directed for Asian relief efforts.”

I doubt that his figure is accurate, but I understand hyperbole. What I don’t understand is the unwillingness of Americans to be on America’s side. In fact, I have reached my saturation point with anti-American Americans, especially those who are in elected office. Elected representatives have a sworn obligation to place American interests first, but some of them quite arrogantly refuse to do that. It appears that everything and everyone is a higher priority, provided it doesn’t benefit the United States.

Those millions spent in Iraq are keeping millions of Americans at home safe and protected. Are we to apologize, to elected U.S. officials of all people, for defending our nation? Are we to divert funds that will ultimately support our troops and their mission in Iraq? I think not, Senator. You might want to read over your Oath of Office when you have a moment. And oh, have you made your individual donation to the relief efforts yet? Pledged any of your government salary? Taken the money your Senate office would have spent on that free postage you receive as one of your many perks and sent it off to the Red Cross or Salvation Army? No need to answer, Senator. I was just wondering.

The tsunami catastrophe in Asia is devastating beyond our comprehension. Of course, the whole world should participate in helping, as should America. Our country certainly will give more than our fair share, indeed we are already doing so, with military as well as financial aid to the stricken regions. The United States is always the first country to step up to the plate, and it donates more to international aid than all other countries combined. That does not even touch upon the charitable foundations, non-profit organizations, and private donations that will shower upon Asia all the money, resources, and aid that it needs to recover and rebuilt after this terrible disaster.

Victor David Hanson touched on this subject with customary eloquence and accuracy in his web posting today, noting that the elitist Left can “yet somehow ignore things like over $100 billion to Afghanistan and Iraq or $15 billion pledged to fight AIDS in Africa. These academic white papers likewise forget private donations, because most of the American billionaires who give to global causes of various sorts do so as either individuals or through foundations. No mention is made of the hundred of millions that are handled by American Christian charities. And the idea of a stingy America never mentions about $200 billion of the Pentagon's budget, which does things like keeping the Persian Gulf open to world commerce; protecting Europe; ensuring that the Aegean is free of shooting and that the waters between China, Korea, Taiwan, and Japan are relatively tranquil; and stopping nasty folk like the Taliban and Saddam from blowing up more Buddha monuments, desecrating Babylon, or ruining the ecology of the Tigris-Euphrates wetlands.”

Yes, as astutely noted by Hanson, so many of our nation’s contributions to building a better world are ignored in the interests of advancing misguided political agendas. I’m sick to death of it, and so are 51 million other Americans. George W. Bush is our President for this reason. Deal with it, Lefties. And tell your buddies at the Old Gray Lady that her ship is just about sunk. The blogosphere will continue blasting her to bits unless she decides to report the news instead of retooling it to fit her fancy.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

A Stingy Sentiment

It shouldn’t surprise me, but it does. Jan Egeland, UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, made reference to the United States as “stingy.”

This not only surprises me, it ticks the socks off me. Within one day of the tsunami tragedy in Sri Lanka, the United States was stepping up to the plate with the first chunk of millions, fifteen of them. But, to certain international-type folks who are used to sucking non-stop from the bottomless teat of American goodwill, that just wasn’t good enough.

Well, excuse us for not coming up with more than $15 million in the first 24 hours! How tacky of us! And scarcely before Colin Powell had time to remind Mr. Egeland that “The United States is not stingy. We are the greatest contributor to international relief efforts in the world.”,
that initial amount from the U.S. had been increased to $35 million. In the midst of dead bodies still washing ashore, we are accused of negligence. Can the world not give us a minute to get to the bank and put the check in the mail? And oh, by the way, the U.S. is also sending military resources in the form of aircraft carriers and airplanes to assist. For those world citizens who are used to relying on America to help them with every crisis, allow me to point out that operating and diverting ships and planes costs money--lots of money.

Don’t get me wrong. We’ll gladly send the cash and the resources, and we don't even care about a thank-you. Americans are always happy to help. Witness the private donations pouring in from uncounted thousands of American citizens to the tsunami relief efforts. Private donations from individual Americans undoubtedly will reach far into the millions. I think our willingness to assist our overseas neighbors in need is a two-edged blade. Yes, the charitable U.S. accomplishes many positive things. But our generosity doesn’t seem to foster much gratitude. Instead, it tends to feed a sense of entitlement from the rest of the world that we “owe” them because we have it so good.

They may be right. I will certainly make an appropriate donation to the relief organization of my choice, and I’ll say my prayers for the dead and suffering people of Asia. But I’ll do those things because I know Who I owe—and it sure isn’t Jan Egeland.

Monday, December 27, 2004

A Dreamer's Reality

Years ago, I dreamed that one day I would become a newspaper columnist. I spent considerable time wondering how I could ever achieve such a lofty goal. Year in and year out, as I was working 9-to-5 trying to pay the bills and buy the groceries, I would ponder the question: How could I possibly become a columnist?

I had almost given up the dream in the interests of practicality. Then came Internet web blogs, or "blogs," as they are colloquially termed. In August 2004, I took my little byte out of the blogosphere and launched my column. According to the newly released book Blog, by Hugh Hewitt, I am one of five million bloggers today.

I don't have deadlines to deal with, unless you count firsthand queries from my handful of readers. Nothing can inspire a blogger's output quite so fast as a regular reader asking, "Why haven't you posted anything lately?"

There are no "assignments"--I get to pick what I write about, when I write, how many words, and what editorial slant to take. The only rules are to be honest with your audience and tell the truth, at least as you see it. Readers are smart. They'll know if you're not it playing straight. Just ask any of the hurting bigshots in Old Media.

Blogging is a dream job that is its own reward. That's is a good thing, since there's no money coming in to my blog. Just honesty going out. Hugh Hewitt today proclaimed on his talk radio program words to the effect that "citizen journalism is going to change everything for the better."

It has already changed my life. It made me a columnist, at long last. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

War and Christmas

When one looks at the photos of the massacre in Mosul, it can be difficult to reconcile such horror with the festive season we at home are enjoying. How do we reconcile the emotions wrought by the brutal murder of U. S. soldiers with our own merry celebrations?

Stop and think a moment, back to September 11, 2001. Do you remember how nervous people were that such a disaster would happen again on our soil, and that it would happen repeatedly, throwing our country into chaos? But the events unfolding out of 9/11 didn’t happen quite that way.

We went on the offensive quickly. The Taliban in Afghanistan fell with remarkable speed, due to the good work of our outstanding military. And when the United States decided that the time had come to call Saddam Hussein to account for his transgressions, our military stepped up once again to do the job.

It has not gone quickly, nor smoothly, in Iraq. It is a long, hard road, one that our troops will be traveling for many difficult days. Yesterday was one of those days. Americans died at the hands of suicide terrorists, just as they did on 9/11. But this time is different, for many reasons.

These Americans were members of the United States military. They were stationed on foreign soil to prevent a repetition of such carnage in our country. They died fighting for a cause that they knew was just and right—the safety and security of their family at home. They died in the line of duty, and such a death is the most precious sacrifice. The Gospel of St. John tells us that “greater love no man has, than to lay down his life for his friends.”

To anyone who doubts that these brave soldiers are in truth fighting for us, fighting in place of ourselves, so that we can continue to enjoy our comfortable lives, I would ask this question: Do you worry about suicide bombers when you enter a crowded mall to do your holiday shopping? I’m guessing that you probably said “No, I don’t.”

I don’t worry, either. I don’t worry because I know that our courageous military forces are keeping the terrorists extremely busy in their own part of the world. And the heroic dedication of our troops allows us to drink our eggnog and trim the tree in peace and safety. Their courageous service allows us to view September 11 through the gauzy filter of history, perhaps forgetting that only their blood and sacrifice has delayed a recurrence. It is because soldiers are dying overseas in their mission of protecting Americans that we at home can enjoy the luxury of celebrating a traditional Christmas with our loved ones.

As you wrap your gifts this year, please remember the gift that our heroes who died in Mosul gave to us this Christmas. Their gift is priceless, and it can never be repaid.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

A Simple Mystery

Every Christmas season, people of faith know to expect the “bah-humbugs” of secular Scrooges.

The latest editions of both Time and Newsweek magazines have done a number on the Christmas story. The Newsweek story, by Jon Meacham, is the more outrageous due to its highly subjective tone and extremely selective use of “scholars.” To Meacham, the only scholars who qualify are those who don’t accept the truth of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. If Meacham truly was interested in the opinion of scholars, he might have considered looking into the writings of Sts. Augustine, Thomas Acquinas, Teresa of Avila, or Francis de Sales . But then, citing such intellectual and spiritual giants might have hurt Meacham’s primary agenda, which was to portray people of the Christian faith as simple-minded morons.

We’ve been here before, fellow believers. Especially in today’s world, we are used to being condescended to, looked down upon, and viewed with disdain and disinterest. Witness Mel Gibson’s remarkable film, “The Passion of the Christ,” destined to be one of the most successful, highest grossing movies of all time. Not only was it badmouthed and belittled prior to and during its release, it was completely ignored this week in nominations for Hollywood’s Golden Globe awards, the first round in a nauseating parade of Hollywood’s annual self-congratulatory celebrations. Most likely, Gibson is relieved.

“The Passion of the Christ” depicts the end of Our Lord’s life, but to Christians, the ending explains and validates the beginning. The truth of the Christmas story is proven through the Resurrection of Jesus, an event historically recorded in the Gospels and the Acts of the New Testament.

What mortal man could rise from the dead? Logic tells me that only one born of Divine origin could accomplish such a wondrous deed. Of the Incarnation, Meacham himself grudgingly admits that “the simplest explanation is that it happened.” Through faith, Christians accept the short version of the story. For us, Jesus was born, lived, died, and lived again. Again and forever, He lives.

Peace to men of goodwill.

Better Answer Needed

“As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

So spake Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld when questioned last week by a soldier about the lack of armor on some of the military’s vehicles.

You could have presented a better answer, Mr. Secretary. The Secretary of Defense should be proactive on troop protection rather than waiting to be blindsided by shortcomings of the status quo.

You could have explained that, originally, CENTCOM had ordered only 1,000 up-armored vehicles for the battlefield, but that number was increased to 2,500 by April 2004 in response to terrorist tactics. An additional 2,000 up-armored vehicles were scheduled to be delivered by December 2004. That gives our soldiers a total of 4,500 up-armored humvees to date.

An additional 8,000 humvees have had up-armored kits installed. This is an improvement, but the kits leave tops and bottoms of vehicles vulnerable.

I realize that we don’t live in a perfect world. We work with what we’ve got. However, I would like it if we worked more quickly and with more focus towards supplying our soldiers with every advantage. Our troops are America’s sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, and friends. They are precious gifts, both to their loved ones and to the United States. They are not IED fodder to be flung at the terrorists like so many tin cans. I don’t have a son on the battlefield, but if I did I would raise unholy hell until he had the use of an armored vehicle.

I’ve read that the soldier’s question was staged, it was planted by an embedded reporter, its purpose was to embarrass the Bush administration. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be asked, or that it should be disregarded. I do support the war, and I support the president’s administration, but this is a case that needed to go public. It’s interesting to hear the Secretary’s remarks on the several humvees that were tooling around Washington D.C. for election security:

“The other day, after there was a big threat alert in Washington, D.C. in connection with the elections, as I recall, I looked outside the Pentagon and there were six or eight up-armored humvees. They’re not there anymore. They’re en route out here, I can assure you.”

Excuse me, but did he really say “the other day”? The election was over a month ago, Mr. Secretary. Why did Rumsfeld take such a long time to notice the “six or eight” up-armored humvees lingering outside the Pentagon? And why hadn’t anyone else mentioned to him that maybe, just possibly, the troops in Iraq could use this hardware?

Keeping our fighting soldiers as safe as possible is vitally important. It’s important to their safety, to their morale, and to the success of their mission—which is our protection. For me, the troops come first. They come before saving the president or his representatives any embarrassment. The troops shouldn’t just “deserve the best,” they should have it, and have it promptly. In my opinion, Rumsfeld deserved to be clobbered on this question. I say the Pentagon should get our soldiers the armor they need, get it fast, get it right, and don’t wait to be either asked or told about it.

Maybe I’m a hopeless idealist, but I think that’s a better answer.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Picture of Honor

I've told you that I received a surprise package from my solider in Iraq. Did I mention he included snapshots of himself and his men at work? If not, I should have.

The countryside appearing in the photos is arid, rough, and desolate. Empty sand stretches for miles with nothing for contrast except the cobalt blue sky. It is barren desert, punishing land. My soldier and his men are camped there for nearly a year now. They're supposed to come home in February, but plans are subject to swift change in the military. If they have to stay longer, I know they will do so without complaint.

I look at their photographs, these heroes I have "adopted" through Soldiers' Angels, and I'm moved by their dedication, their bravery, and their honor. Their families, their daily lives, and all the comforts of home await them here, all suspended like a deep breath held long and tightly. So much sacrifice from our troops, so that we in the U.S.A. can continue to live safely and enjoy our Christmas season as though September 11 had not happened.

I've never met my soldier, but he is a dear and lifelong friend to me. I can never repay him, but I can be grateful to him for the rest of my life. And I will be. Every American should be so grateful. As I look at the photo of my soldier smiling back at me from the parched battlefields of Iraq, I know it's the very least he deserves.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Who’s Thanking Whom?

Late last week, I received a package from my soldier in Iraq. I refer to him in the possessive ever since I adopted him through Soliders’ Angel Foundation last March.

The box was bright yellow, covered in smiley face print. My husband and I were like kids on Christmas morning as we opened it and spilled its booty across our kitchen table.

It contained four Operation Iraqi Freedom tee-shirts—one for each of us in our family. Among the other goodies were similarly named key rings and a refrigerator magnet. But my favorite treasure from the box was a collection of photos taken by my soldier, showing him and his fellow troops at work and at rest.

It’s beyond humbling to realize that the soldiers who are risking their lives by standing between my world of comfort and safety and the dark forces of terror that want to blow it apart are “thanking” me. I adopted him so I could express my gratitude for his service and protection , and eight months later, he’s thanking me. Assigned to a dangerous desert, uncounted thousands of miles from home, in the midst of constant peril for my benefit, my serviceman thanks me.

It’s enough to make a grown woman cry.

The December 4 edition of NBC Nightly News carried a story about the survivor members of 9/11 families who are supporting the troops. The kids are making gifts and drawing cards, the adults are packing boxes and shipping them out. It’s difficult to express how refreshing this heartwarming story was to me. After all the naysaying, all the doom-and-gloom, it was a breath of fresh air to see a major network presenting a positive story about our troops. And what made it even more meaningful was that the story was from the perspective of people who understand the military mission the best, people who lost loved ones on 9/11. One fireman’s widow, whose husband had been a U.S. Marine veteran, simply stated that if the positions were reversed, her husband would be the first to help the troops.

It’s long past time we heard this type of message from mainstream media.

I can only hope that this story of support for our troops is a sign of more good news to come from NBC about our heroes in the military. Our troops are fighting and dying for us. Showing support for their dedication and sacrifice is the very least we can do.

We can thank them, but we can never repay them.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The New Final Solution

It’s back, all dressed up in new clothes, and slinking down the slippery slope in our direction.

The Final Solution, Hitler’s plan to exterminate the Jews, was not stopped by VE Day nearly sixty years ago. Now we learn that it was merely interrupted for a few decades. Today, The Final Solution rises from the slime of its own horror and slouches onto the world stage under the deceptive guise of medical efficiency.

The Groningen Protocol introduced in the Netherlands tries to paint a respectable face on cold-blooded murder. It allows a committee of doctors to decide if a mortally ill child, up to the age of twelve years, may live or die. Parents have no say in the medical verdict; this is a “professional” decision.

Hippocrates, the great Greek founder of medicine, must be flipping in his grave. And he's got plenty of company in the here-and-now, people all over the world who are appalled, outraged, and sorrowful that humanity has sunk to this travesty against life.

The Groningen Protocol sounds a bit like the title of an old Robert Ludlum novel, but the premise is more unbelievable than fiction. The idea of doctors calmly deciding to murder innocent babies has left me reeling with shock and bursting with questions. Have we truly forgotten, in the mere six decades since World War II, how incapable we humans are of handling the judgment of who among us should live and who should die? Do we honestly not realize that we are simply not up to this? Can we not accept that such power does not originate within us and that we have no claim to it?

The silence with which this new practice has been greeted is even more frightening. Have we reached a point where human life has become so cheap and meaningless that such evil actions as those embraced in the Netherlands do not merit the slightest whisper from mainstream media?

In the past generation, we have learned very well how to put our own interests before all else. An inconveniently-timed pregnancy ends in abortion, as carelessly as a toothache results in a trip to the dentist. How nonchalant we have become towards the miracle of life, how disrespectful, how selfish—how cold-blooded.

Dr. Suess tells us that “a person is a person, no matter how small.” And there is an old saying to the effect that “every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of men.”

He may not yet be discouraged of us, which is an amazing demonstration of Divine mercy. But I shudder to think what His justice will hold for the perpetrators of the Groningen Protocol.