A Cautious Man
September 22, 2003
 
"Culture War Profiteers"
That's my working title for an idea that came to me while driving home from work. Sometimes, I do something which my spouse would never let me do if we were together - I listen to right-wing radio. Anyway, Mr. Hannity had David Limbaugh on, who apparently is the brother of the radio entertainer named Limbaugh. David Limbaugh has a new book about the war that liberals are raging against Christianity.

I know, I should have put that last phrase in quotes.

So later in the evening, after I pick my son up from Youth Symphony practice, I flop onto the couch and turn the television on. Since I was alone in the room, I (yes, you guessed it) turned to the right-wing news channel. There was Mr. Hannity (with his sidekick, Mr. Colmes) speaking with the same David Limbaugh, who was repeating his charges.

God bless him, but Mr. Colmes actually turned to Mr. D. Limbaugh and asked, "So are you saying that there are no liberal christians?" Mr. D. Limbaugh fumbled around, denying that he would say such a thing, then he implied that liberals who claim they are christian might be deceiving themselves.

Okay, so leaving aside the issues of the death penalty, aid to the poor, the wisdom of pre-emptive war and tolerance of others' religious beliefs (on which some Christians might find themselves on the wrong side of D. Limbaugh's line), I realized that the whole book is, well, a crock. Mr. Limbaugh has apparently collected a bunch of anecdotes about times when some people have believed that "anti-Christian" actions were taking place. Sure, there are some people who act poorly when faced with a situation involving religion - but to translate that into a general "Liberals hate Christians" mantra is a little much. That's not to mention the examples which are, frankly, exaggerated. I know for a fact that one of the examples touted tonight is a distortion of the actual facts (since it involves my own community).

But, more on that another time. I just felt the need to write down my realization that this is a classic example of someone who wants to promote the idea of a "culture war", so they can make money. In order to popularize the concept of a "culture war", these guys (and gals) have to encourage intolerance, xenophobia, and basically fear of anybody who is "different" from their target audience. And that is how these people earn their living.

It's not so different from those newspaper publishers or armaments makers, who are rumored to have been instrumental in encouraging wars in years past ("Remember the Maine" and all that). If every war has its profiteers, then the Culture War Profiteers are part of a grand tradition.

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Being Cautious About the News
I'm a little uneasy about the story concerning the Muslim army chaplain who, as of this writing, is either under arrest or merely detained for espionage. There are reports that he had some documents, described as "classified", and/or he had diagrams of the Guantanamo detention facility and information about the detainees. I'm not uneasy because of worries about terrorism, because so far there has been no allegation that this guy was actually participating in a terrorist plot. I'm uneasy because the events seem to be unfolding in a way which could cause all Muslims to be viewed in a bad light. As described in an early CNN story:
Army Capt. James Yee was taken into custody by U.S. military authorities September 10 at the naval air station in Jacksonville, Florida, while in possession of classified documents "that a chaplain shouldn't have," an official told CNN, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The official said the documents included "diagrams of the cells and the facilities at Guantanamo [Bay, Cuba]" where about 600 al Qaeda and other "enemy combatants" are being held by the military.

Yee also was carrying lists of detainees being held there as well as lists of their interrogators, the source said.

In addition to the classified documents, Yee is "believed to have ties to [radical Muslims in the U.S.] that are now under investigation," the source said. He said he could not elaborate on the basis for that belief.
The "source" uses vague allegations, to appeal to that fear that has been instilled in Americans these days. Unfortunately, that fear isn't just focused on Captain Yee, since it doesn't take much to make many Americans jump to the conclusion that "Muslim = Terrorist". Look at a typical "Instant Pundit", who notes that Captain Yee had studied in Syria, married a Syrian, then returned to this country and re-enlisted in the military as a chaplain. "Sounds almost as if he were planted. Sadly, this will only produce more suspicion toward loyal Muslims." Yes, especially if people such as you automatically jump to conclusions like that.

In contrast, Bill Cork, whose blog, "Ut Unum Sint", is in my list to the right, had a much more thoughtful and helpful commentary from his viewpoint as a former military chaplain. This passage in particular really struck me:
"I had a patient who had been in combat in Central America. This was at a time when the US denied we had any combat troops there. This soldier told me the truth of what was happening, and that US soldiers had died. The one honorable act for which I respect Bill Clinton was his acknowledgement of what actually had happened, and his honoring of the dead from that illegal, secret war in a public ceremony at Arlington. I was only on active duty for 2 1/2 months at Walter Reed, and this was the only soldier who ever told me stories like that. But it raised questions. What if I had been the chaplain of his unit, knowing of illegal activities by my unit--and the nation?"
Captain Yee could have just been doing his job. For example, he had an article in the base newsletter:
"September 11th, the pending war on Iraq, and our own day to day experiences of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo mission have all contributed to the picture many of us as Americans have painted about Islam and Muslims. And now, this universal religion of more than one billion followers worldwide is scrutinized by a population that has little knowledge of its basic tenets and practices. It is with a fearful eye that Islam and its worshippers are now being examined with the notion that they have become our nation's greatest enemy. However, a truly objective look makes it quite clear that Islam is really nothing to be afraid of at all."
I don't know if it is crazy or not, to be concerned that by trying to humanize these detainees, and their faith, Captain Yee could have been viewed with suspicion.

If Captain Yee was in possession of this information, in the course of performing his role as a chaplain, then one has to wonder why the military proceeded as it did. If they knew he papers which they did not want to leave Guantanamo, why not simply take them from him before he left? Maybe I should be less suspicious of our government, and more suspicious of Captain Yee, but I feel the need to wait before jumping to conclusions about the man's guilt or intentions.

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September 20, 2003
 
So that's what he meant ...
George W. Bush, 2000 Republican Convention acceptance speech:
And so, when I put my hand on the Bible, I will swear to not only uphold the laws of our land, I will swear to uphold the honor and dignity of the office to which I have been elected, so help me God.
From an interview in Washington Life, with high-class gossip columnist Lloyd Grove (as reported by Blah3):
LG: Well, let me tell you about something The Washington Post wouldn't let me print. About halfway through the general election campaign of 2000, I got word or shall I say, got wind of the fact that George W. Bush thought it was funny to punctuate a joke by breaking wind in groups of people. I first heard a story that during the campaign he called a new desk aide of Karl Rove's into his office to give him an "Austin Welcome".

WL: Oh, you're kidding.

LG: And this story got some circulation. It finally got to the point where Ari Fleischer was calling to deny it up and down, after some rather non-denial denials from the principal himself. And then later on, he was doing an interview on the plane with a news-magazine reporter where he ended up adjusting the air nozzle on the plane. He said he had just broken wind and that part is off the record. That never made print. But later on, UPI reported that during one of those secret energy meetings that Cheney hosted, Bush joked that perhaps his own natural gas was meant to be harnessed to solve the energy problem.

WL: Why wouldn't they print it? Did you have back up witnesses?

LG: Oh, I was confident it was publishable. I had multiple witnesses to various behaviors. I'd assume they thought it was pushing the envelope a little too far and I can't quarrel with that.
Heh, Heh, he said "Austin" ...

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September 18, 2003
 
Another Great Job by the Press
Our newspapers really have to do a better job, if the public is to avoid getting BS'd by the Administration. Today's example of how we are being let down may be found in today's USA Today (see story at this link). That paper's John Diamond reports:
U.S. authorities in Iraq say they have new evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime gave money and housing to Abdul Rahman Yasin, a suspect in the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, according to U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials.
The Bush administration is using the evidence to strengthen its disputed prewar assertion that Iraq had ties to terrorists, including the al-Qaeda group responsible for the Sept. 11 attack.
...
Military, intelligence and law enforcement officials reported finding a large cache of Arabic-language documents in Tikrit, Saddam's political stronghold. A U.S. intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity said translators and analysts are busy "separating the gems from the junk." The official said some of the analysts have concluded that the documents show that Saddam's government provided monthly payments and a home for Yasin.
While this is breathlessly reported as a blockbuster announcement, of intelligence yielded from analysis of Arabic documents, there was an easier way to learn about this - they could have watched "60 Minutes", which broadcast an interview with this guy in May of 2002 (see this link):
Abdul Rahman Yasin fled to Iraq after the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. He lived as a free man for a year, but the authorities in Iraq tell CBS News they put him in prison in 1994. After 9/11, President Bush put Yasin on a new most wanted list, with a $25 million reward.
Or, they could have watched the interview in June of 2002, with Tariq Aziz (see this link):
Aziz: Twice we asked them [the U.S.] to come and take him and twice [in 1994 and most recently in October 2001] they refused. Which means that they are not sincere in what they are saying, they are not honest in what they are saying.

We informed the American Government that we have important information about that event [1993 bombing of the World Trade Center]. If you are interested, send a team to Baghdad to get that information.

They did not reply at all.
Okay, so even if Aziz wasn't sincere about having made that offer, the fact remains that he said, last year, in an interview with an American network, that Iraq had this guy. Finally, Senator Schumer (see this link) was reminding our government that they could find this guy in Iraq:
Although Yasin was last seen in Baghdad and Iraq offered to hand him over to American authorities in February, he was not included him among the 55 individuals that American forces yesterday were told to find. When US Troops began scouring the buildings and streets of Baghdad – as well as the tunnels beneath them – yesterday, they carried bearing specially-designed playing cards, each bearing a photo on it of a wanted Iraqi official.
The moral of the story? If the Administration want to try to fool people, that new information is being discovered about Iraq's links to terrorism, then our news outlets should check out these claims before simply relaying them to the public.

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September 17, 2003
 
In the Light of Day
News reports today, after the admission of the Secretary of Defense noted below, indicate that even the President is saying that there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in the attacks of September 11. The fact that this is news, is just an indication of how the general public was deceived. Another, more troubling, fact is that until now there does not seem to have been any real, sustained examination of this allegation, especially when made time and again by the Administration's spokespersons.

This was brought home to me the other night, around the dinner table, when it was mentioned that the President was going to be giving a speech about Iraq. Someone noted that the weapons programs and the linking of Saddam to 9/11 might be brought up, and our high school senior said simply, "The theories don't match." We asked what that meant. "If Iraq really had programs to produce weapons of mass destruction, then why would Saddam Hussein get involved in an attack like that? Why wouldn't he just wait until his weapons were ready?" You know, I don't know if anyone has a good answer to that.

Anyway, I see from postings around the internet (such as by Tom Tomorrow and Atrios) that folks are noticing that this week's admissions, that Saddam was not involved with 9/11, are inconsistent with the President's representations to Congress in order to support the military action taken. I haven't been doing this blog thing that long, but that's been one of my big pet peeves so far, and for a while now. Now that folks have noticed the inconsistency, between the representations now versus those which were used to spur us to war, I hope that more attention is paid to the following provision of the joint War Powers Resolution (also referred to below):
The President shall, at least once every 60 days, submit to the Congress a report on matters relevant to this joint resolution, including actions taken pursuant to the exercise of authority granted in section 3 and the status of planning for efforts that are expected to be required after such actions are completed, ...
So, we can ask: Where are those reports? Specifically, Congress has to demand reports which update and explain the President's representations, pursuant to Section 3 of the Resolution, that:
1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic or other peaceful means alone either (A) will not adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq or (B) is not likely to lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and

(2) acting pursuant to this joint resolution is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorist and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.
This is a lot worse than lying about getting a you-know-what from an intern. Congress has the authority, in its authorization of the war, to demand the truth.

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Something New to Read
The Democratic National Committee has added a blog to their website:
Kicking Ass
Not a moment too soon, given that the backpedalling, re-spinning, and trash-talking is starting to really gear up over on the "other" side.

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September 16, 2003
 
Too Tragic for a Sarcastic Remark
From today's Department of Defense press conference (Link):
Q: There have been a number of public opinion polls that show a fairly sizable percentage of the public believes that Saddam Hussein was involved in the September 11 attacks. Do you believe that?

Rumsfeld: I've not seen any indication that would lead me to believe that I could say that.
What's next? "Sorry for the misunderstanding?"

Update: Okay, I can't help myself. IS SOMEBODY GOING TO TELL DICK CHENEY? From "Meet the Press on Sunday (Link):
MR. RUSSERT: The Washington Post asked the American people about Saddam Hussein, and this is what they said: 69 percent said he was involved in the September 11 attacks. Are you surprised by that?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. I think it’s not surprising that people make that connection.

MR. RUSSERT: But is there a connection?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: We don’t know. You and I talked about this two years ago. I can remember you asking me this question just a few days after the original attack. At the time I said no, we didn’t have any evidence of that. Subsequent to that, we’ve learned a couple of things. We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the ’90s, that it involved training, for example, on BW and CW, that al-Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems that are involved. The Iraqis providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the al-Qaeda organization.

We know, for example, in connection with the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93 that one of the bombers was Iraqi, returned to Iraq after the attack of ’93. And we’ve learned subsequent to that, since we went into Baghdad and got into the intelligence files, that this individual probably also received financing from the Iraqi government as well as safe haven.

Now, is there a connection between the Iraqi government and the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93? We know, as I say, that one of the perpetrators of that act did, in fact, receive support from the Iraqi government after the fact. With respect to 9/11, of course, we’ve had the story that’s been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we’ve never been able to develop anymore of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don’t know.

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Hit It in Its Funny Bone, That's Where They Expect It Least
One characteristic of the internet, and of political commentary on the internet, is that there are too many people who have to hate things. Not ordinary hate, but real hate. Sometimes it keeps them from being able to enjoy a joke. A case in point is a recent carrying on by some of the gang at FreeRepublic.com, over remarks made by Bruce Springsteen: "Rock star Bruce Springsteen called for the impeachment of President George W. Bush at a nearly sold-out concert at FedEx Field just outside of Washington, DC tonight. During the introductions of his back-up band, The E Street Band, Springsteen said of saxophonist Clarence Clemons, 'It's time to impeach the president and get a man in there to get us out of this mess.' The audience cheered in response."

This was during the introduction by Bruce of the members of the E Street Band. For the last thirty years or so, the last introduction is always, always a drawn-out, exaggerated introduction of "The King of the World, the Master of the Universe, the Big Man on Saxophone, Clarence Clemons!" The crowd always cheers loudest at that point. It's just what you do at a Springsteen concert. Sometimes, a few extra designations are thrown in. In 2000, in New York City, Clarence was introduced as "the next Senator from New York!" I think he's recently been introduced as the next Governor of California. So, if Springsteen got a big cheer by suggesting that Clarence replace Bush as President, then that is part of the (excuse the expression) FUN!

To read some of the comments you'd have thought that Springsteen was the Johnny Jihad of Asbury Park. Some of their vitriol may be due to Mr. Springsteen's self-described "public service announcement", towards the end of his shows this summer:
"People come to my shows with many different kinds of political beliefs; I like that, we welcome all. There have been a lot of questions raised recently about the forthrightness of our government. This playing with the truth has been a part of both the Republican and Democratic administrations in the past and it is always wrong, never more so than when real lives are at stake. The question of whether we were mislead into the war in Iraq isn't a liberal or conservative or republican or democratic question, it's an American one. Protecting the democracy that we ask our sons and daughters to die for is our responsibility and our trust. Demanding accountability from our leaders is our job as citizens. It's the American way. So may the truth will out."
Amen to that. Lately, he's added an extra line: "If you want a funnier version of what I just said, read Al Franken's book."

The story also was carried on NewsMax, but without providing the context of the remark. The person who began this fracas should have kept in mind these words of wisdom from Mr. Springsteen's song, Dancing in the Dark: "There's a joke here somewhere and it's on me."

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September 11, 2003
 
Reflection
Lord, take me where you want me to go
Let me meet who you want me to meet
Tell me what you want me to say
And keep me out of your way.
Prayer of Father Mychal Judge, O.F.M.
Franciscan Priest, FDNY Chaplain

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September 10, 2003
 
Came out with my soul untouched
Nitpicker passed on a link leading to We Want Your Soul, who will happily quote you a price for the purchase of your soul. I found that my soul has a value of 28451 British pounds (or $45157.43 American).

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September 09, 2003
 
Iraq: Resolution and Deception
Going forward, I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot about the approval, by the House and Senate, of resolutions authorizing military action in Iraq. The text of those resolutions may be found at this government web site. Just to add to our "enjoyment", we'll be hearing about this in discussions among Democrats, as well as between Democrats and Republicans.

In any of these discussions, it will always be a good idea to keep in mind what the resolutions actually state. Congress authorized the following:

"The Congress of the United States supports the efforts by the President to —

"(1) strictly enforce through the United Nations Security Council all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq and encourages him in those efforts; and

"(2) obtain prompt and decisive action by the Security Council to ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq."

In doing so, it attached very specific conditions:

"In connection with the exercise of the authority granted ... to use force the President shall, prior to such exercise or as soon thereafter as may be feasible, but no later than 48 hours after exercising such authority, make available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate his determination that —

"(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic or other peaceful means alone either (A) will not adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq or (B) is not likely to lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and

"(2) acting pursuant to this joint resolution is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorist and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."

Force was authorized if there was no other way to protect us from an imminent threat, and in particular to protect us from terrorists similar to, or associated with, the 9/11 attackers. We now know that Congress, and the rest of us, may have been misinformed.

That's what the debate should focus on.

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Goin' Live
On the one hand, it seems so easy. Click on a few choices, and *bang*, it's a blog.

On the other hand, when one's usual characteristics take over, there's a long process of formatting and coloring, not to mention trying to figure out how to get rid of those characters and items that seem to turn up out of nowhere.

Anyway, now I have someplace to carry on, in hopefully a more healthy manner as opposed to just frowning at the monitor or shouting at the TV, when I see some nonsense that is just begging for someone like me to respond to.

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