April 8, 2012

Happy Easter, for He has Risen!

These past six months or so I've been attending a Catholic church, and Friday night attended their "Stations of the Cross" ceremony. Here is a pictorial representation, and below the fold a brief explanation of each one:

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1. Jesus is condemned to death
2. Jesus accepts the cross
3. Jesus falls the first time
4. Jesus meets His Mother
5. Simon of Cyrene carries the cross
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
7. Jesus falls the second time
8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
9. Jesus falls the third time
10. Jesus is stripped of His garments
11. Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross
12. Jesus dies on the cross
13. Jesus' body is removed from the cross (Deposition or Lamentation)
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb and covered in incense.

From Wikipedia, "To provide a version of this devotion more closely aligned with the biblical accounts, Pope John Paul II introduced a new form of devotion, called the Scriptural Way of the Cross on Good Friday 1991. He celebrated that form many times but not exclusively at the Colosseum in Rome.[12][13] In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI approved this set of stations for meditation and public celebration: They follow this sequence:"

1. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane,
2. Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested,
3. Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin,
4. Jesus is denied by Peter,
5. Jesus is judged by Pilate,
6. Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns,
7. Jesus takes up His cross,
8. Jesus is helped by Simon to carry His cross,
9. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem,
10. Jesus is crucified,
11. Jesus promises His kingdom to the repentant thief,
12. Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other,
13. Jesus dies on the cross,
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb.

I can't remember which version is in the church I've been attending, though I suppose it's the latter.

Posted on the walls around the sanctuary is are pictures of each station, done as artwork by the children. During the ceremony, one of the parish priests moves to each station with a Deacon and a few Altar servers. The Deacon and Altar Servers had candles and a cross. At each station the priest would read a summary of that station, say a prayer, and the congregation read a response.

The point, of course, is that while it's all very fine, good, and proper to get together with family and set up an Easter egg hunt for the kids, that's all incidental to what the holiday is really all about. Jesus willing went through terrible torture, humiliation, abandonment, and death, all because you and me are really not very good people. In fact, we're pretty bad. Sinners right and left, in fact. The bad news is that God won't let anyone into heaven who isn't perfect, which means that as is we ain't getting in. By dying for us, though, Jesus took the punishment and got us a pass into heaven. To get this free ticket all you have to do is accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. I did some 15 years ago. Have you?

Even if you are not Catholic (and I'm not, at least not yet), I would encourage you to go and see the ceremony at a church near you. Evangelicals and most Protestant don't do it, but some Lutherans and Anglicans do.

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May 29, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

This Memorial Day we would all do well to reflect on the words of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur in his speech to the cadets at the U.S. Military Academy on May 12, 1962. It has become somewhat traditional for me to post the general's remarks, and I see no reason why to not continue it. The occasion was McCarthur's acceptance of the Sylvanus Thayer Award, and it has become known as his "Duty, Honor, Country" address. It is one of the most famous speeches delivered by an American and deserves to be read in it's entirety. You can follow the link above to hear an audio MP3 of his address.

Douglas MacArthur

General Westmoreland, General Grove, distinguished guests, and gentlemen of the Corps!

As I was leaving the hotel this morning, a doorman asked me, "Where are you bound for, General?" And when I replied, "West Point," he remarked, "Beautiful place. Have you ever been there before?"

No human being could fail to be deeply moved by such a tribute as this [Thayer Award]. Coming from a profession I have served so long, and a people I have loved so well, it fills me with an emotion I cannot express. But this award is not intended primarily to honor a personality, but to symbolize a great moral code -- the code of conduct and chivalry of those who guard this beloved land of culture and ancient descent. That is the animation of this medallion. For all eyes and for all time, it is an expression of the ethics of the American soldier. That I should be integrated in this way with so noble an ideal arouses a sense of pride and yet of humility which will be with me always

Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.

Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean.

The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase. Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.

But these are some of the things they do. They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the nation's defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid. They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success; not to substitute words for actions, not to seek the path of comfort, but to face the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge; to learn to stand up in the storm but to have compassion on those who fall; to master yourself before you seek to master others; to have a heart that is clean, a goal that is high; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; to reach into the future yet never neglect the past; to be serious yet never to take yourself too seriously; to be modest so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength. They give you a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of an appetite for adventure over love of ease. They create in your heart the sense of wonder, the unfailing hope of what next, and the joy and inspiration of life. They teach you in this way to be an officer and a gentleman.

And what sort of soldiers are those you are to lead? Are they reliable? Are they brave? Are they capable of victory? Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man-at-arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefield many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then as I regard him now -- as one of the world's noblest figures, not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless. His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give.

He needs no eulogy from me or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy's breast. But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements. In 20 campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people. From one end of the world to the other he has drained deep the chalice of courage.

As I listened to those songs [of the glee club], in memory's eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs, on many a weary march from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle-deep through the mire of shell-shocked roads, to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.

I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always, for them: Duty, Honor, Country; always their blood and sweat and tears, as we sought the way and the light and the truth.

And 20 years after, on the other side of the globe, again the filth of murky foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts; those boiling suns of relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms; the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails; the bitterness of long separation from those they loved and cherished; the deadly pestilence of tropical disease; the horror of stricken areas of war; their resolute and determined defense, their swift and sure attack, their indomitable purpose, their complete and decisive victory -- always victory. Always through the bloody haze of their last reverberating shot, the vision of gaunt, ghastly men reverently following your password of: Duty, Honor, Country.

The code which those words perpetuate embraces the highest moral laws and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind. Its requirements are for the things that are right, and its restraints are from the things that are wrong.

The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training -- sacrifice.

In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when he created man in his own image. No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of the Divine help which alone can sustain him.

However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.

You now face a new world -- a world of change. The thrust into outer space of the satellite, spheres, and missiles mark the beginning of another epoch in the long story of mankind. In the five or more billions of years the scientists tell us it has taken to form the earth, in the three or more billion years of development of the human race, there has never been a more abrupt or staggering evolution. We deal now not with things of this world alone, but with the illimitable distances and as yet unfathomed mysteries of the universe. We are reaching out for a new and boundless frontier.

We speak in strange terms: of harnessing the cosmic energy; of making winds and tides work for us; of creating unheard synthetic materials to supplement or even replace our old standard basics; to purify sea water for our drink; of mining ocean floors for new fields of wealth and food; of disease preventatives to expand life into the hundreds of years; of controlling the weather for a more equitable distribution of heat and cold, of rain and shine; of space ships to the moon; of the primary target in war, no longer limited to the armed forces of an enemy, but instead to include his civil populations; of ultimate conflict between a united human race and the sinister forces of some other planetary galaxy; of such dreams and fantasies as to make life the most exciting of all time.

And through all this welter of change and development, your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable: it is to win our wars.

Everything else in your professional career is but corollary to this vital dedication. All other public purposes, all other public projects, all other public needs, great or small, will find others for their accomplishment. But you are the ones who are trained to fight. Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory; that if you lose, the nation will be destroyed; that the very obsession of your public service must be: Duty, Honor, Country.

Others will debate the controversial issues, national and international, which divide men's minds; but serene, calm, aloof, you stand as the Nation's war-guardian, as its lifeguard from the raging tides of international conflict, as its gladiator in the arena of battle. For a century and a half you have defended, guarded, and protected its hallowed traditions of liberty and freedom, of right and justice.

Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government; whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing, indulged in too long, by federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as thorough and complete as they should be. These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. Your guidepost stands out like a ten-fold beacon in the night: Duty, Honor, Country.

You are the leaven which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense. From your ranks come the great captains who hold the nation's destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds. The Long Gray Line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.

This does not mean that you are war mongers.

On the contrary, the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: "Only the dead have seen the end of war."

The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished, tone and tint. They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears, and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen vainly, but with thirsty ears, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll. In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield.

But in the evening of my memory, always I come back to West Point.

Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.

Today marks my final roll call with you, but I want you to know that when I cross the river my last conscious thoughts will be of The Corps, and The Corps, and The Corps.

I bid you farewell.

Posted by Tom at 8:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 23, 2011

Happy Easter!

Matt Maher is a Christian contemporary music artist who has produced some amazingly good songs recently. Following is part of his Easter message, in which he explains how Jesus' dying on the cross was a very good thing. Please take a minute and watch it.



Matt Maher - "Christ is Risen"


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January 1, 2011

The Year Ahead
Likely and not so likely news of 2011

From Friday's Washington Times, "The Year Ahead: Likely and not so likely news of 2011"

Senatory Murkowski Resigns
Briston appointed to fill vacant seat

Mayor Emanuel to Cubs: Win pennant or else

Sugar Banned as Drug
DEA doubles staff

Pelosi reads ObamaCare Bill:
'Shocking what's in there'

Death Panel Unplugs Grandma

Shock Nuptials: Harry Reid, Scott Brown, to wed

Gore Shifts Focus, Denounces Flat Earth

Democrats Look to Future, Rebrand as 'Whigs'

Limbaugh Announces Presidential Bid

IRS Worker Dies in 1099 Avalanche

President: Balanced Budget Proposal "Irresponsible"

Judge Rules Constitution Unconstitutional

Weather Average Everywhere, Climate Change Blamed

Haiti Offers Aid After U.S. Bond Collapse

Redskins Announce New Stadium in D.C.

Toyota Plagued by Record Recalls
Ford overtakes GM as No. 1 automaker

Bin Laden Found Working as TSA Screener
Napolitano says his skills 'useful for the job'

Wikileaks releases Clinton White House 976 Calls

First Lady Admits Twinkie/Hawaiian Punch Diet

China Forecloses on United States
Vacate order to take effect in 2 weeks

Congress Repeals Lightbulg Ban, EPA Refuses to Comply

Gay Barracks Wins Interior Design Award

Media Matters Declares Fatwa on 'Right-Wing' NYT

Matt Drudge Wins Pulitzer

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December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to All of My Readers

Thank you to everyone who's reading this. Whether you agree with me completely, partially, or not at all, I want to wish you and your family a very merry Christmas and best wishes for the new year.


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In the meantime, let us remember what this holiday of Christmas is all about. The Christmas story is told in two of the four gospels; Matthew and Luke. Mark and John are silent on the matter, starting off with Jesus' baptism by John (John the Baptist, not the apostle John).

Without further ado, the Christmas story:

The Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 1

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[d]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[e] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[f] because he will save his people from their sins."

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"[g] (which means "God with us").

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

The Gospel of Luke

Luke 2

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[e] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 "Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

Note that while the text says that Jesus was born in a manger, it does not say he was born in a barn, shed, or any other structure, for that matter. A "manger" is not a structure but a feeding trough for animals. Given the lack of trees in the area the most likely material that the manger was made of was... stone. Here is a picture of a manger that I took while in Israel a few years ago:



If you're wondering about the Magi, or "Wise Men," they didn't come along until a few years later. Long story short, they lived in a different nation some distance to the east of Bethlehem, and couldn't just hop on a plane straight away after they saw the star. Current scholarship says that Jesus was between two and five years of age when they arrived. Further, there is no mention of how many of them there were. That they brought three gifts doesn't necessarily mean there were three of them. Finally, the Magi were not kings. So Christmas scenes which include "three kings" are generally considered to be inaccurate, though it's not something anyone should really get bent out of shape over. Following is their story. I'm going to leave in the subtitles, though they're not part of the original text:

>Matthew 2

The Magi Visit the Messiah

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[h] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him."

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:

6 "'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.'[i]"

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

The Escape to Egypt

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him."

14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son."[j]

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

18 "A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more."[k]
The Return to Nazareth
19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead."

21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.

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July 4, 2010

Independence Day 2010

Fireworks

Fireworks are fantastic, and it is right that we should enjoy them and the other festivities that will take place today. I like the loud ones that just go boom with no sparkle, but to each his own.

But we should also take time to read the Declaration of Independence, for it is a timeless document that contains everlasting truths:

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. -- Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. -- And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

-- John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts:
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut:
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware:
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland:
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia:
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Posted by Tom at 8:37 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

This Memorial Day we would all do well to reflect on the words of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur in his speech to the cadets at the U.S. Military Academy on May 12, 1962. The occasion was his acceptance of the Sylvanus Thayer Award, and it has become known as his "Duty, Honor, Country" address. It is one of the most famous speeches delivered by an American and deserves to be read in it's entirety. You can follow the link above to hear an audio MP3 of his address.

Douglas MacArthur

General Westmoreland, General Grove, distinguished guests, and gentlemen of the Corps!

As I was leaving the hotel this morning, a doorman asked me, "Where are you bound for, General?" And when I replied, "West Point," he remarked, "Beautiful place. Have you ever been there before?"

No human being could fail to be deeply moved by such a tribute as this [Thayer Award]. Coming from a profession I have served so long, and a people I have loved so well, it fills me with an emotion I cannot express. But this award is not intended primarily to honor a personality, but to symbolize a great moral code -- the code of conduct and chivalry of those who guard this beloved land of culture and ancient descent. That is the animation of this medallion. For all eyes and for all time, it is an expression of the ethics of the American soldier. That I should be integrated in this way with so noble an ideal arouses a sense of pride and yet of humility which will be with me always

Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.

Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean.

The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase. Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.

But these are some of the things they do. They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the nation's defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid. They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success; not to substitute words for actions, not to seek the path of comfort, but to face the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge; to learn to stand up in the storm but to have compassion on those who fall; to master yourself before you seek to master others; to have a heart that is clean, a goal that is high; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; to reach into the future yet never neglect the past; to be serious yet never to take yourself too seriously; to be modest so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength. They give you a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of an appetite for adventure over love of ease. They create in your heart the sense of wonder, the unfailing hope of what next, and the joy and inspiration of life. They teach you in this way to be an officer and a gentleman.

And what sort of soldiers are those you are to lead? Are they reliable? Are they brave? Are they capable of victory? Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man-at-arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefield many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then as I regard him now -- as one of the world's noblest figures, not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless. His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give.

He needs no eulogy from me or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy's breast. But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements. In 20 campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people. From one end of the world to the other he has drained deep the chalice of courage.

As I listened to those songs [of the glee club], in memory's eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs, on many a weary march from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle-deep through the mire of shell-shocked roads, to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.

I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always, for them: Duty, Honor, Country; always their blood and sweat and tears, as we sought the way and the light and the truth.

And 20 years after, on the other side of the globe, again the filth of murky foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts; those boiling suns of relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms; the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails; the bitterness of long separation from those they loved and cherished; the deadly pestilence of tropical disease; the horror of stricken areas of war; their resolute and determined defense, their swift and sure attack, their indomitable purpose, their complete and decisive victory -- always victory. Always through the bloody haze of their last reverberating shot, the vision of gaunt, ghastly men reverently following your password of: Duty, Honor, Country.

The code which those words perpetuate embraces the highest moral laws and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind. Its requirements are for the things that are right, and its restraints are from the things that are wrong.

The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training -- sacrifice.

In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when he created man in his own image. No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of the Divine help which alone can sustain him.

However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.

You now face a new world -- a world of change. The thrust into outer space of the satellite, spheres, and missiles mark the beginning of another epoch in the long story of mankind. In the five or more billions of years the scientists tell us it has taken to form the earth, in the three or more billion years of development of the human race, there has never been a more abrupt or staggering evolution. We deal now not with things of this world alone, but with the illimitable distances and as yet unfathomed mysteries of the universe. We are reaching out for a new and boundless frontier.

We speak in strange terms: of harnessing the cosmic energy; of making winds and tides work for us; of creating unheard synthetic materials to supplement or even replace our old standard basics; to purify sea water for our drink; of mining ocean floors for new fields of wealth and food; of disease preventatives to expand life into the hundreds of years; of controlling the weather for a more equitable distribution of heat and cold, of rain and shine; of space ships to the moon; of the primary target in war, no longer limited to the armed forces of an enemy, but instead to include his civil populations; of ultimate conflict between a united human race and the sinister forces of some other planetary galaxy; of such dreams and fantasies as to make life the most exciting of all time.

And through all this welter of change and development, your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable: it is to win our wars.

Everything else in your professional career is but corollary to this vital dedication. All other public purposes, all other public projects, all other public needs, great or small, will find others for their accomplishment. But you are the ones who are trained to fight. Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory; that if you lose, the nation will be destroyed; that the very obsession of your public service must be: Duty, Honor, Country.

Others will debate the controversial issues, national and international, which divide men's minds; but serene, calm, aloof, you stand as the Nation's war-guardian, as its lifeguard from the raging tides of international conflict, as its gladiator in the arena of battle. For a century and a half you have defended, guarded, and protected its hallowed traditions of liberty and freedom, of right and justice.

Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government; whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing, indulged in too long, by federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as thorough and complete as they should be. These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. Your guidepost stands out like a ten-fold beacon in the night: Duty, Honor, Country.

You are the leaven which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense. From your ranks come the great captains who hold the nation's destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds. The Long Gray Line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.

This does not mean that you are war mongers.

On the contrary, the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: "Only the dead have seen the end of war."

The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished, tone and tint. They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears, and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen vainly, but with thirsty ears, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll. In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield.

But in the evening of my memory, always I come back to West Point.

Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.

Today marks my final roll call with you, but I want you to know that when I cross the river my last conscious thoughts will be of The Corps, and The Corps, and The Corps.

I bid you farewell.

Posted by Tom at 8:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 11, 2009

Veterans Day 2009

This pretty much says it all

Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 4, 2009

The Declaration of Independence


The Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. -- Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. -- And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

-- John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts:
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut:
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware:
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland:
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia:
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton


____________________________________________________

fyi that lowercase "u" at top is correct.

Posted by Tom at 1:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

This Memorial Day we would all do well to reflect on the words of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur in his speech to the cadets at the U.S. Military Academy on May 12, 1962. The occasion was his acceptance of the Sylvanus Thayer Award, and it has become known as his "Duty, Honor, Country" address. It is one of the most famous speeches delivered by an American and deserves to be read in it's entirety. You can follow the link above to hear an audio MP3 of his address.

Douglas MacArthur

General Westmoreland, General Grove, distinguished guests, and gentlemen of the Corps!

As I was leaving the hotel this morning, a doorman asked me, "Where are you bound for, General?" And when I replied, "West Point," he remarked, "Beautiful place. Have you ever been there before?"

No human being could fail to be deeply moved by such a tribute as this [Thayer Award]. Coming from a profession I have served so long, and a people I have loved so well, it fills me with an emotion I cannot express. But this award is not intended primarily to honor a personality, but to symbolize a great moral code -- the code of conduct and chivalry of those who guard this beloved land of culture and ancient descent. That is the animation of this medallion. For all eyes and for all time, it is an expression of the ethics of the American soldier. That I should be integrated in this way with so noble an ideal arouses a sense of pride and yet of humility which will be with me always

Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.

Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean.

The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase. Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.

But these are some of the things they do. They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the nation's defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid. They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success; not to substitute words for actions, not to seek the path of comfort, but to face the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge; to learn to stand up in the storm but to have compassion on those who fall; to master yourself before you seek to master others; to have a heart that is clean, a goal that is high; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; to reach into the future yet never neglect the past; to be serious yet never to take yourself too seriously; to be modest so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength. They give you a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of an appetite for adventure over love of ease. They create in your heart the sense of wonder, the unfailing hope of what next, and the joy and inspiration of life. They teach you in this way to be an officer and a gentleman.

And what sort of soldiers are those you are to lead? Are they reliable? Are they brave? Are they capable of victory? Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man-at-arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefield many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then as I regard him now -- as one of the world's noblest figures, not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless. His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give.

He needs no eulogy from me or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy's breast. But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements. In 20 campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people. From one end of the world to the other he has drained deep the chalice of courage.

As I listened to those songs [of the glee club], in memory's eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs, on many a weary march from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle-deep through the mire of shell-shocked roads, to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.

I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always, for them: Duty, Honor, Country; always their blood and sweat and tears, as we sought the way and the light and the truth.

And 20 years after, on the other side of the globe, again the filth of murky foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts; those boiling suns of relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms; the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails; the bitterness of long separation from those they loved and cherished; the deadly pestilence of tropical disease; the horror of stricken areas of war; their resolute and determined defense, their swift and sure attack, their indomitable purpose, their complete and decisive victory -- always victory. Always through the bloody haze of their last reverberating shot, the vision of gaunt, ghastly men reverently following your password of: Duty, Honor, Country.

The code which those words perpetuate embraces the highest moral laws and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind. Its requirements are for the things that are right, and its restraints are from the things that are wrong.

The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training -- sacrifice.

In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when he created man in his own image. No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of the Divine help which alone can sustain him.

However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.

You now face a new world -- a world of change. The thrust into outer space of the satellite, spheres, and missiles mark the beginning of another epoch in the long story of mankind. In the five or more billions of years the scientists tell us it has taken to form the earth, in the three or more billion years of development of the human race, there has never been a more abrupt or staggering evolution. We deal now not with things of this world alone, but with the illimitable distances and as yet unfathomed mysteries of the universe. We are reaching out for a new and boundless frontier.

We speak in strange terms: of harnessing the cosmic energy; of making winds and tides work for us; of creating unheard synthetic materials to supplement or even replace our old standard basics; to purify sea water for our drink; of mining ocean floors for new fields of wealth and food; of disease preventatives to expand life into the hundreds of years; of controlling the weather for a more equitable distribution of heat and cold, of rain and shine; of space ships to the moon; of the primary target in war, no longer limited to the armed forces of an enemy, but instead to include his civil populations; of ultimate conflict between a united human race and the sinister forces of some other planetary galaxy; of such dreams and fantasies as to make life the most exciting of all time.

And through all this welter of change and development, your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable: it is to win our wars.

Everything else in your professional career is but corollary to this vital dedication. All other public purposes, all other public projects, all other public needs, great or small, will find others for their accomplishment. But you are the ones who are trained to fight. Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory; that if you lose, the nation will be destroyed; that the very obsession of your public service must be: Duty, Honor, Country.

Others will debate the controversial issues, national and international, which divide men's minds; but serene, calm, aloof, you stand as the Nation's war-guardian, as its lifeguard from the raging tides of international conflict, as its gladiator in the arena of battle. For a century and a half you have defended, guarded, and protected its hallowed traditions of liberty and freedom, of right and justice.

Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government; whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing, indulged in too long, by federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as thorough and complete as they should be. These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. Your guidepost stands out like a ten-fold beacon in the night: Duty, Honor, Country.

You are the leaven which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense. From your ranks come the great captains who hold the nation's destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds. The Long Gray Line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.

This does not mean that you are war mongers.

On the contrary, the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: "Only the dead have seen the end of war."

The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished, tone and tint. They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears, and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen vainly, but with thirsty ears, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll. In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield.

But in the evening of my memory, always I come back to West Point.

Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.

Today marks my final roll call with you, but I want you to know that when I cross the river my last conscious thoughts will be of The Corps, and The Corps, and The Corps.

I bid you farewell.

Posted by Tom at 7:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 11, 2009

Easter Sunday

For the past few years, my church rents a huge tent for our Easter service. There was too much rain today for good pictures, and I'll be busy to blog tomorrow. These photos are from a three years ago, but no matter:

Tent_Easter_Cornerstone.JPG


Tent_Easter_Cornerstone_Inside.JPG

I'm sure the service at Cornerstone Chapel tomorrow will be inspiring, with the music and Pastor Gary Hamrick at their best. It is good, however, to preview the message so as to be in the right frame of mind.

Let's quote from Luke this year

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.' " Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

There it is. What of it?

Let's go to Matthew 16:13-15

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"

They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"

Now then, dear reader, who do you say he is?

In the next verse, Peter answers correctly:

Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

I made my decision many years ago to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. You never know which hour will be your last. Decide now, before it's too late.

Posted by Tom at 10:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 24, 2008

The Christmas Story

The relevant sections of Matthew 1 and 2, then Luke 2. Then a bit of commentary. All via Biblegateway.com, NIV translation:

Matthew 1

18This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[c] because he will save his people from their sins."

22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"[d]--which means, "God with us."

24When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Matthew 2

The Visit of the Magi
1After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[e] from the east came to Jerusalem 2and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east[f] and have come to worship him."

3When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ[g] was to be born. 5"In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:

6" 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'[h]"

7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."

9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east[i] went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

The Escape to Egypt
13When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." 14So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son."[j]

16When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

18"A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more."[k]

The Return to Nazareth
19After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead."

21So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene."

Luke 2

The Birth of Jesus
1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register.

4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

I took this photo of an ancient manger at the ruins of Tel Meggido while in Israel last summer. A "manger" is an animal feeding trough, not, as I always thought, a barn-type structure. The nativity scenes you see where Jesus is in a structure are pure guesswork.

Manger in Israel

The Shepherds and the Angels
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

And that's it. The actual part about the manger, the magi ("wise men") and Shepherds is always so much shorter than you imagine if all you've seen are the manger scenes in people's yards. You get the impression that there's a whole story about how they went to the inn, spoke with the manager, couldn't get space, had to go elsewhere... etc.

Further, the birth story is only in 2 of the 4 gospels. Mark and John ignore it completely, going straight to Jesus' baptism.

On the other hand, all four discuss His arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection extensively. Matthew devotes 3 chapters, Mark 3, Luke 3, and John 4. Each is also a lot longer than the sections of Matthew and Luke that describe His birth.

It's not any different in the rest of the New Testament. Neither Acts, the various letters by Paul, James, Peter, John and Jude, not John again in Revelation, give much attention to Christ's birth.

The reason is pretty simple; we are not saved by His birth but through His death on the cross. As such, the fact that He was born is more a means to an end than anything else. The important business came at the end of his life.

Theologically, then, one may say that Easter, not Christmas, should be the biggest and most important holiday on the Christian calendar. The reasons why Christmas has that honor are long and complicated, but I think have more to do with economics than theology. The story of the birth is also a lot cuter than that of a beaten man nailed or tied to a cross and left to die.

In any event, the history of the holiday is a lot less important than what it means. More to the point, matters of salvation and eternity are not things that should simply be remembered during holidays, or even just on Sunday mornings. Nor is Jesus just a teacher of morals and ethics. He was born of a virgin, and died on a cross for our sins. The least we can do is our best to honor him every minute of every day in all that we do.

Posted by Tom at 9:09 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 11, 2008

"The Inevitability of 9/11"

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It is good to remember the victims of September 11, 2001

It is also good to remind ourselves of who did it.

But what is al Qaeda and should we have seen it coming?

Let's start with this excerpt from Walid Phares 2005 book Future Jihad:

Consider this: the 9/11 Commission released a tape, recorded a few minutes after the tragedy in Washington, in which a fighter pilot rushing to the scene over the Pentagon exclaims: "Gosh, the Russians got us!" Ten years after the end of the Cold War, the Russians were still being seen as the "strategic enemy," not the jihadists who had been attacking America and Americans for over a decade.

The 9/11 Commission, Phares concludes, got it wrong. There was no failure of imagination. There was, however, a failure of education.

I'm not going to run through the entire run-up to the attacks of Sept 11, 2001, as I've done that elsewhere on this blog. For now I'll excerpt parts of Phares article that appears on Family Security Matters today, which itself is excerpted from Future Jihad, referenced above. Just be sure to follow the link and read the whole thing.

In the weeks preceding September 11, all over the world there were signs that the jihadists were lip to something unusual. A month before, I was observ­ing the proceedings of the Durban conference on racism and imperialism. The speeches of the jihadists demonized the West much more than usual in the less advanced chat rooms of the time - which now are discussed as evidence of pos­sible terrorist attacks - the Salafists had been announcing a great strike to come. I remember reading "America, we're coming, the Ghazwa is ready." I realized later that al Qaeda indeed called the attack "Ghazwa," a word, equivalent to raid, used by Arab historians to describe the fatah. This and other bits made me feel that something had snapped in the minds of the jihadists. Since I was swimming in jihad research at that time, I could not sleep during the last few nights before the attacks and have not slept easily on many nights since. Al­though it was hard to predict what might happen, at the same time it was easy to predict that something would. ...

I have studied every video and audiotape aired on TV by bin Laden since Sep­tember 11 and have been able to review his interviews since 1998 with al Jazeera. I have also reviewed other evidence, primarily in Arabic, that has enabled me to understand how al Qaeda thought. But more important by my own standards, I spent long hours before the tragedy interacting with Salafi activists and also In­ternet chatting with those whom I believe were linked to the organization or at least knew it extremely well. Al Qaeda's strategic thinking did not surprise me at all. Already, some twenty years ago, I had several exchanges in open media with persons Iwould now call intellectual precursors of al Qaeda's thinking process. From these combined sources of knowledge and all the material I have reviewed in the last few years, my assessment is simple: Osama bin Laden did not create al Qaeda. It created him.[iii] By this Ido not mean that bin Laden did not inspire his followers or was not charismatic: Not at all. But I believe that when historians look back and have access to a wider scope of information and testimonies, they will conclude that it was the "rings" that found the "lord," not the other way around. It may be too early to put the story together completely, but one can eas­ily see that not only was Osama naturally inclined to lead a radical movement for jihad, but a Salafi environment in Arabia[iv] readied him for the mission. A deep ji­hadi culture sculpted his personal wish to see the days of the caliphate return. Added to this was his life experience and drama. But first, he had to be immersed in Wahabi Salafi culture. Only in light of that does his contribution make sense.[v]
...

On February 22, 1998, Osama bin Laden appeared on television for about twenty-seven minutes and issued a full-fledged declaration of war against the kuf­far, America, the Crusaders, and the Jews. The text was impeccable, with all the needed religious references to validate a legitimate jihad. The declaration was based on a fatwa signed by a number of Salafi clerics.[xii] It was the most compre­hensive Sunni Islamist edict of total war with the United States, and it was met with total dismissal by Washington. It evoked a few lines in the New York Times, no significant analysis on National Public Radio, and no debating on CSPAN. The Middle East Studies Association had no panels on it, and the leading experts who advised the government downplayed it. During the 9/11 Commission hearings, U.S. officials said they noted it and that plans were designed to deal with it. As one commissioner asked, "This was a declaration of war. Why did not the President or anyone declare war or take it to Congress?" I asked the same question repeatedly from 1998 until September 2001, but my audience was much smaller on my campus in Florida. We must be careful not to miss these messages again.

Here was the leader of international jihad serving the United States and the infidels with a formal declaration of war grounded in ideological texts with reli­gious references: Why did no one answer him? "Expert advice" within the Belt­way ruled against it. Obviously, the Wahabis on the inside did not want to awaken the sleepy nation. If the U.S. government were to question the basis of Osama's jihad it would soon recognize the presence of an "internal jihad." For this reason, the debate about the declaration had to be suppressed and with it the warning about its upcoming threat. AlQaeda must have been stunned. They openly de­clare war on the infidels, and rather than responding, the Americans are busy ad­dressing political scandals instead. Osama must have thought: "Well, that's what the Byzantines did, when the sultan got to their walls centuries ago. They weren't mobilizing against the fatah, they were busy arguing about the sex of angels. This must be another sign from Allah that America is ripe. Let's hit them directly."

And hit us they did.

I realize that hindsight is 20/20 and all that. And for what it's worth, I don't blame either President Clinton or President George W. Bush. For that matter, I don't blame Roosevelt for not seeing Pearl Harbor.

What's important is that we study our enemy so that we know them, the better to defeat them. My take on the whole matter can be found in the category Jihadism and the War of Ideas of this blog.


Posted by Tom at 8:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 4, 2008

The Pledge of Allegiance

When I was a child I used to love watching Red Skelton's variety show on TV. Skelton was quite funny, but there was also a serious side to him. I was reminded recently of his "Pledge of Allegiance" skit, and thought that he explained what it means to be an American so well that it would be appropriate for an Independence Day post.


Sad to say, but it's hard to imagine many in show business today doing anything similar.

Posted by Tom at 7:00 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 26, 2008

Remembering Our Veterans

This Memorial Day we would all do well to reflect on the words of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur in his speech to the cadets at the U.S. Military Academy on May 12, 1962. The occasion was his acceptance of the Sylvanus Thayer Award, and it has become known as his "Duty, Honor, Country" address. It is one of the most famous speeches delivered by an American and deserves to be read in it's entirety. You can follow the link above to hear an audio MP3 of the address.

Before I get to his address, however, I would like to relate to you a story of something tht happened to me that made me think of how perhaps we ought to celebrate our Memorial Day.

Earlier this month, I was in Israel with a tour group from my church. On the morning of Thursday May 7 we were atop the old mountaintop fortress of Masada, when at exactly 11:00 a voice came through a speaker (in Hebrew, of course), followed by a one minute siren. This happened all throughout Israel, and the message and siren was broadcast on public loudspeakers, and on radio and television. The speaker asked for a minute of silence in observance of Israeli war dead. We were later told by our tour guide that all throughout Israel, people stopped what they were doing, even pulling their car over to the side of the road, to observe this minute of silence.

It was their Memorial Day.

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Would it not be too much for us to do likewise? It would be nice if someone would start such a tradition here.

Douglas MacArthur.jpg

Duty, Honor, Country

General Westmoreland, General Grove, distinguished guests, and gentlemen of the Corps!

As I was leaving the hotel this morning, a doorman asked me, "Where are you bound for, General?" And when I replied, "West Point," he remarked, "Beautiful place. Have you ever been there before?"

No human being could fail to be deeply moved by such a tribute as this [Thayer Award]. Coming from a profession I have served so long, and a people I have loved so well, it fills me with an emotion I cannot express. But this award is not intended primarily to honor a personality, but to symbolize a great moral code -- the code of conduct and chivalry of those who guard this beloved land of culture and ancient descent. That is the animation of this medallion. For all eyes and for all time, it is an expression of the ethics of the American soldier. That I should be integrated in this way with so noble an ideal arouses a sense of pride and yet of humility which will be with me always.

Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.

Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean.

The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase. Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.

But these are some of the things they do. They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the nation's defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid. They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success; not to substitute words for actions, not to seek the path of comfort, but to face the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge; to learn to stand up in the storm but to have compassion on those who fall; to master yourself before you seek to master others; to have a heart that is clean, a goal that is high; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; to reach into the future yet never neglect the past; to be serious yet never to take yourself too seriously; to be modest so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength. They give you a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of an appetite for adventure over love of ease. They create in your heart the sense of wonder, the unfailing hope of what next, and the joy and inspiration of life. They teach you in this way to be an officer and a gentleman.

And what sort of soldiers are those you are to lead? Are they reliable? Are they brave? Are they capable of victory? Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man-at-arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefield many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then as I regard him now -- as one of the world's noblest figures, not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless. His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give.

He needs no eulogy from me or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy's breast. But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements. In 20 campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people. From one end of the world to the other he has drained deep the chalice of courage.

As I listened to those songs [of the glee club], in memory's eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs, on many a weary march from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle-deep through the mire of shell-shocked roads, to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.

I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always, for them: Duty, Honor, Country; always their blood and sweat and tears, as we sought the way and the light and the truth.

And 20 years after, on the other side of the globe, again the filth of murky foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts; those boiling suns of relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms; the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails; the bitterness of long separation from those they loved and cherished; the deadly pestilence of tropical disease; the horror of stricken areas of war; their resolute and determined defense, their swift and sure attack, their indomitable purpose, their complete and decisive victory -- always victory. Always through the bloody haze of their last reverberating shot, the vision of gaunt, ghastly men reverently following your password of: Duty, Honor, Country.

The code which those words perpetuate embraces the highest moral laws and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind. Its requirements are for the things that are right, and its restraints are from the things that are wrong.

The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training -- sacrifice.

In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when he created man in his own image. No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of the Divine help which alone can sustain him.

However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.

You now face a new world -- a world of change. The thrust into outer space of the satellite, spheres, and missiles mark the beginning of another epoch in the long story of mankind. In the five or more billions of years the scientists tell us it has taken to form the earth, in the three or more billion years of development of the human race, there has never been a more abrupt or staggering evolution. We deal now not with things of this world alone, but with the illimitable distances and as yet unfathomed mysteries of the universe. We are reaching out for a new and boundless frontier.

We speak in strange terms: of harnessing the cosmic energy; of making winds and tides work for us; of creating unheard synthetic materials to supplement or even replace our old standard basics; to purify sea water for our drink; of mining ocean floors for new fields of wealth and food; of disease preventatives to expand life into the hundreds of years; of controlling the weather for a more equitable distribution of heat and cold, of rain and shine; of space ships to the moon; of the primary target in war, no longer limited to the armed forces of an enemy, but instead to include his civil populations; of ultimate conflict between a united human race and the sinister forces of some other planetary galaxy; of such dreams and fantasies as to make life the most exciting of all time.

And through all this welter of change and development, your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable: it is to win our wars.

Everything else in your professional career is but corollary to this vital dedication. All other public purposes, all other public projects, all other public needs, great or small, will find others for their accomplishment. But you are the ones who are trained to fight. Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory; that if you lose, the nation will be destroyed; that the very obsession of your public service must be: Duty, Honor, Country.

Others will debate the controversial issues, national and international, which divide men's minds; but serene, calm, aloof, you stand as the Nation's war-guardian, as its lifeguard from the raging tides of international conflict, as its gladiator in the arena of battle. For a century and a half you have defended, guarded, and protected its hallowed traditions of liberty and freedom, of right and justice.

Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government; whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing, indulged in too long, by federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as thorough and complete as they should be. These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. Your guidepost stands out like a ten-fold beacon in the night: Duty, Honor, Country.

You are the leaven which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense. From your ranks come the great captains who hold the nation's destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds. The Long Gray Line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.

This does not mean that you are war mongers.

On the contrary, the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: "Only the dead have seen the end of war."

The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished, tone and tint. They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears, and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen vainly, but with thirsty ears, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll. In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield.

But in the evening of my memory, always I come back to West Point.

Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.

Today marks my final roll call with you, but I want you to know that when I cross the river my last conscious thoughts will be of The Corps, and The Corps, and The Corps.

I bid you farewell.

Posted by Tom at 8:48 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 14, 2007

Send the Troops A Holiday Card

Yesterday Move America Forward hosted their first rally in what will be a 40-city cross country pro-troop to rally support for our troops and their mission in Iraq, Afghanistan, and all around the globe.

Here's their promotonal video


And here's some news coverage


Here's how you can help:

Mail the cards to their headquarters:

Move America Forward
ATTN: Holiday Card Program
770 L Street - #1400
Sacramento, CA 95814

Here's the map, and they've got the complete itinerary on the website

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Americans have set up many organizations to help our troops. One that I've used for the past few years is Adopt-A-Platoon. Go to their website and check out their many opportunities for sending letters and packages to our troops.

Posted by Tom at 7:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 4, 2007

The Declaration of Independence

There's only one thing, really, to post today. If you haven't read it lately, take time to go through it in it's entirety

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

In Congress, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

—John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts:
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:

Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut:
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware:
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland:
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia:
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Posted by Tom at 9:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 28, 2007

Duty, Honor, Country

This Memorial Day we would all do well to reflect on the words of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur in his speech to the cadets at the U.S. Military Academy on May 12, 1962. The occasion was his acceptance of the Sylvanus Thayer Award, and it has become known as his "Duty, Honor, Country" address. It is one of the most famous speeches delivered by an American and deserves to be read in it's entirety. You can follow the link above to hear an audio MP3 of the address.

Douglas%20MacArthur.jpg

Duty, Honor, Country

General Westmoreland, General Grove, distinguished guests, and gentlemen of the Corps!

As I was leaving the hotel this morning, a doorman asked me, "Where are you bound for, General?" And when I replied, "West Point," he remarked, "Beautiful place. Have you ever been there before?"

No human being could fail to be deeply moved by such a tribute as this [Thayer Award]. Coming from a profession I have served so long, and a people I have loved so well, it fills me with an emotion I cannot express. But this award is not intended primarily to honor a personality, but to symbolize a great moral code -- the code of conduct and chivalry of those who guard this beloved land of culture and ancient descent. That is the animation of this medallion. For all eyes and for all time, it is an expression of the ethics of the American soldier. That I should be integrated in this way with so noble an ideal arouses a sense of pride and yet of humility which will be with me always: Duty, Honor, Country.

Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.

Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean. The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase. Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.

But these are some of the things they do. They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the nation's defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid. They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success; not to substitute words for actions, not to seek the path of comfort, but to face the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge; to learn to stand up in the storm but to have compassion on those who fall; to master yourself before you seek to master others; to have a heart that is clean, a goal that is high; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; to reach into the future yet never neglect the past; to be serious yet never to take yourself too seriously; to be modest so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength. They give you a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of an appetite for adventure over love of ease. They create in your heart the sense of wonder, the unfailing hope of what next, and the joy and inspiration of life. They teach you in this way to be an officer and a gentleman.

And what sort of soldiers are those you are to lead? Are they reliable? Are they brave? Are they capable of victory? Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man-at-arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefield many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then as I regard him now -- as one of the world's noblest figures, not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless. His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give.

He needs no eulogy from me or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy's breast. But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements. In 20 campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people. From one end of the world to the other he has drained deep the chalice of courage.

As I listened to those songs [of the glee club], in memory's eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs, on many a weary march from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle-deep through the mire of shell-shocked roads, to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.

I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death.

They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory.

Always, for them: Duty, Honor, Country; always their blood and sweat and tears, as we sought the way and the light and the truth.

And 20 years after, on the other side of the globe, again the filth of murky foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts; those boiling suns of relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms; the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails; the bitterness of long separation from those they loved and cherished; the deadly pestilence of tropical disease; the horror of stricken areas of war; their resolute and determined defense, their swift and sure attack, their indomitable purpose, their complete and decisive victory -- always victory. Always through the bloody haze of their last reverberating shot, the vision of gaunt, ghastly men reverently following your password of: Duty, Honor, Country.

The code which those words perpetuate embraces the highest moral laws and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind. Its requirements are for the things that are right, and its restraints are from the things that are wrong.

The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training -- sacrifice.

In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when he created man in his own image. No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of the Divine help which alone can sustain him.

However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.

You now face a new world -- a world of change. The thrust into outer space of the satellite, spheres, and missiles mark the beginning of another epoch in the long story of mankind. In the five or more billions of years the scientists tell us it has taken to form the earth, in the three or more billion years of development of the human race, there has never been a more abrupt or staggering evolution. We deal now not with things of this world alone, but with the illimitable distances and as yet unfathomed mysteries of the universe. We are reaching out for a new and boundless frontier.

We speak in strange terms: of harnessing the cosmic energy; of making winds and tides work for us; of creating unheard synthetic materials to supplement or even replace our old standard basics; to purify sea water for our drink; of mining ocean floors for new fields of wealth and food; of disease preventatives to expand life into the hundreds of years; of controlling the weather for a more equitable distribution of heat and cold, of rain and shine; of space ships to the moon; of the primary target in war, no longer limited to the armed forces of an enemy, but instead to include his civil populations; of ultimate conflict between a united human race and the sinister forces of some other planetary galaxy; of such dreams and fantasies as to make life the most exciting of all time.

And through all this welter of change and development, your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable: it is to win our wars.

Everything else in your professional career is but corollary to this vital dedication. All other public purposes, all other public projects, all other public needs, great or small, will find others for their accomplishment. But you are the ones who are trained to fight. Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory; that if you lose, the nation will be destroyed; that the very obsession of your public service must be: Duty, Honor, Country.

Others will debate the controversial issues, national and international, which divide men's minds; but serene, calm, aloof, you stand as the Nation's war-guardian, as its lifeguard from the raging tides of international conflict, as its gladiator in the arena of battle. For a century and a half you have defended, guarded, and protected its hallowed traditions of liberty and freedom, of right and justice.

Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government; whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing, indulged in too long, by federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as thorough and complete as they should be. These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. Your guidepost stands out like a ten-fold beacon in the night: Duty, Honor, Country.

You are the leaven which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense. From your ranks come the great captains who hold the nation's destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds. The Long Gray Line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.

This does not mean that you are war mongers.

On the contrary, the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: "Only the dead have seen the end of war."

The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished, tone and tint. They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears, and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen vainly, but with thirsty ears, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll. In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield.

But in the evening of my memory, always I come back to West Point.

Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.

Today marks my final roll call with you, but I want you to know that when I cross the river my last conscious thoughts will be of The Corps, and The Corps, and The Corps.

I bid you farewell.

Posted by Tom at 8:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 27, 2007

John Edwards - Inappropriate Actions for Memorial Day

Of the three front runners for the Democratic party's nomination for president, there are two I can tolerate, and one I cannot.

I like Barak Obama. He seems to be a genuinely nice guy and decent fellow. He's the type of person I can imagine going out for a beer with. If we talked about politics we'd disagree about virtually everything, but it'd be a conversation without acrimony. He might turn out to be an empty suit policy wise, but I can very much understand why people are attracted to him.

Hillary is someone I could never imagine socializing with. Any conversation with her would be stilted and awkward. Her domestic policy is just about socialist. I don't care for her much at all, in fact. But of all the Democrats she is the one who would do the best job fighting the jihadists. I do think that if Iran got seriously out of line she'd have no problem bombing them back to the stone age. I want our enemies to fear our president, and she may well fit that bill.

The final front runner is John Edwards, and at this point I have nothing but contempt for him.

John Edwards, you see, wants his followers to use this Memorial Day to protest the war in Iraq.

Really.

Here he is, if you can stand to watch it

(h/t NRO

He's got this absurdity posted on a website of his called Support the troops. End the War. I kid you not. Here's their message

This Memorial Day weekend, we will all take responsibility for the country we love and the men and women who protect it. We will volunteer, we will pray, and we will speak out. In the days leading up to Memorial Day, we will take action to support our troops, end the war, and bring them home to the heroes' welcome they deserve. And on Memorial Day, we will honor and remember all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

Each of us has a responsibility to act, a duty to our troops and to each other. Support the troops. End the war.

Farther down, under the heading "Reclaiming Patriotism", they list "10 Things You Can Do Over Memorial Weekend to Support the Troops and End the War" Among them is this

Gather in public. On Memorial Day weekend, get your friends, kids, co-workers, neighbors, aunts, uncles, grandfathers, grandmothers, and anyone and everyone you know together to publicly support the troops and end the war. If you hold an event on Memorial Day itself, please make sure that everyone you gather knows it is a day for honoring the fallen only. Be sure to check with your local authority for any permits you need for public gatherings. Contact local media to publicize your event. Before you get started, please take a moment of silence to honor the fallen. And during your event, make sure you conduct yourself respectfully—both for those serving in Iraq and the memory of the brave servicemen and women that Memorial Day honors.

If this isn't a recipe for an anti-war protest I don't know what is.

There are appropriate and inappropriate ways to observe Memorial Day. There are many things one might do that are appropriate; gather with friends and family, visit a military cemetary, and attend a local memorial service come to mind.

What would be inappropriate would be to use a day meant to honor military veterans as a day to stage a war protest. Lie and call it a "vigil", "raising awareness", or whatever you want, but a war protest is a war protest, and it is flat out wrong to hold one on Memorial Day.

For John Edwards to encourage war protests on Memorial Day is disgraceful.

Likewise, it is also inappropriate to hold a war protest outside of a military hospital (more here).

Tomorrow I'll have something posted here that's much more appropriate for Memorial Day.

Finally, in case this whole thing doesn't creep you out about Edwards, this story will.

Posted by Tom at 8:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 12, 2006

More 9-11

Following are some of the more insightful comments about the fifth anniversary of September 11, 2001.

President George W Bush

Since the horror of 9/11, we've learned a great deal about the enemy. We have learned that they are evil and kill without mercy -- but not without purpose. We have learned that they form a global network of extremists who are driven by a perverted vision of Islam -- a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent. And we have learned that their goal is to build a radical Islamic empire where women are prisoners in their homes, men are beaten for missing prayer meetings, and terrorists have a safe haven to plan and launch attacks on America and other civilized nations. The war against this enemy is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century, and the calling of our generation.
...

For America, 9/11 was more than a tragedy -- it changed the way we look at the world. On September the 11th, we resolved that we would go on the offense against our enemies, and we would not distinguish between the terrorists and those who harbor or support them. So we helped drive the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. We put al Qaeda on the run, and killed or captured most of those who planned the 9/11 attacks, including the man believed to be the mastermind, Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

I'm often asked why we're in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The answer is that the regime of Saddam Hussein was a clear threat. My administration, the Congress, and the United Nations saw the threat -- and after 9/11, Saddam's regime posed a risk that the world could not afford to take. The world is safer because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. And now the challenge is to help the Iraqi people build a democracy that fulfills the dreams of the nearly 12 million Iraqis who came out to vote in free elections last December.

Al Qaeda and other extremists from across the world have come to Iraq to stop the rise of a free society in the heart of the Middle East. They have joined the remnants of Saddam's regime and other armed groups to foment sectarian violence and drive us out. Our enemies in Iraq are tough and they are committed -- but so are Iraqi and coalition forces. We're adapting to stay ahead of the enemy, and we are carrying out a clear plan to ensure that a democratic Iraq succeeds.


Mark Steyn

In the end, very little changed. The so-called “9/11 Democrats” are almost as invisible a presence as the “moderate Muslim,” and, insofar as one can tell, are most likely outnumbered by members of the Scowcroftian unrealpolitik Right still wedded to stability uber alles. In theory, if you’d wanted to construct an enemy least likely to appeal to the progressive Left, wife-beating gay-bashing theocrats would surely be it. But Islamism turned out to be the ne plus ultra of multiculti diversity-celebration — for what more demonstrates the boundlessness of one’s “tolerance” than by tolerating the intolerant. The Europeans’ fetishization of the Palestinians — whereby the more depraved the suicide bombers are the more brutalized they must have been by the Israelis — has, in effect, been globalized.

David Pryce Jones

What 9/11 proves is the resentment that a sizable proportion of the Muslim world feels against the West. No doubt this resentment is a complex compound of hate and love, envy and rejection, shame and pride, and outsiders can probably never quite get the measure of it. Nevertheless the resentment drives Muslims in quite significant numbers to kill Westerners even if that means laying down their own lives.
...

Throughout the 20th century, Arab and Muslim countries could have utilized science to build nation-states with education and health systems that would have made them the equals of the West, and also made resentment redundant. Instead, the search for the missing power and glory brought wars and civil wars, generating failure, and with it much more of that overpowering sense of resentment. There is nothing any non-Muslim can do about it. Liberation of the spirit, rationality, has to come from within.


Christopher Hitchens

I debate with the "antiwar" types almost every day, either in print or on the air or on the podium, and I can tell you that they have been "war-weary" ever since the sun first set on the wreckage of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and on the noble debris of United Airlines 93. These clever critics are waiting, some of them gleefully, for the moment that is not far off: the moment when the number of American casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq will match or exceed the number of civilians of all nationalities who were slaughtered five years ago today. But to the bored, cynical neutrals, it also comes naturally to say that it is "the war" that has taken, and is taking, the lives of tens of thousands of other civilians. In other words, homicidal nihilism is produced only by the resistance to it! If these hacks were honest, and conceded the simple truth that it is the forces of the Taliban and of al Qaeda in Mesopotamia that are conducting a Saturnalia of murder and destruction, they would have to hide their faces and admit that they were not "antiwar" at all.


StrategyPage - Who's Winning?

On September 12, 2001, the day after the attacks, there were seven countries designated as state sponsors of terror by the State Department: Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, and North Korea. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan was not recognized by the United States government, and thus Afghanistan was not formally listed by the State Department. This makes for a total of eight countries that sponsored terrorism.

Five years later, three of these governments that sponsored terrorism are now off the board. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq were taken down in military campaigns. In December, 2003, Libya proceeded to abandon its support for terrorism and its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. This represents 37.5 percent of the governments sponsoring terrorism as of September 11, 2001. The biggest loss al-Qaeda suffered were the training camps in Afghanistan. This reduced their ability to get well-trained terrorists to replace those lost in murder-suicide attacks or those who were captured or killed. In Afghanistan and Iraq, five elections have been held, despite al Qaeda's best efforts to disrupt them. Now, al Qaeda faces two emerging democracies in the Middle East that are growing stronger.


Ralph Peters

THE biggest story since 9/11 is that there hasn't been an other 9/11. According to our hysterical media culture, everything's always going wrong. The truth is that we've gotten the big things right
...

Islamist fanatics have not been able to stage a single additional attack on our homeland. For all its growing pains, our homeland-security effort worked. In this long war with religion-poisoned madmen, the most important proof of success is what doesn't happen - and we haven't been struck again. Wail as loudly as they can, the president's critics can't change that self-evident truth.
...

Al Qaeda is badly crippled. While the terror organization and its affiliates remain a deadly threat, al Qaeda is no longer the powerful, unchallenged outfit it was in the years of Clinton-era cowardice. Instead of holding court, Osama bin Laden's a fugitive. Almost all of his deputies are dead or imprisoned. The rest are hunted men.
...

Iraq has become al Qaeda's Vietnam. No end of lies have been broadcast about our liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan "creating more terrorists." The terrorists were already there, recruited during the decades we looked away. Our arrival on their turf just brought them out of the woodwork.

As for Iraq, Osama & Co. realized full well how high we'd raised the stakes. They had to fight to prevent the emergence of a Middle Eastern democracy. As a result, they've thrown in their reserves - who've been slaughtered by our soldiers and Marines.

Posted by Tom at 8:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 11, 2006

September 11, 2001 - Tara Yvette Hobbs

As part of the 2,996 Project, this blog is honoring Tara Yvette Hobbs, who was killed in the World Trade Center Tower 2 by the terrorists who attacked our nation on September 11 2001. She was 31 years old.

TaraYvetteHobbs2.jpg

She was an employee in the insurance division on Aon Corp, and was on the 98th floor when the airplane struck. Two tributes are posted on the memorial website CNN set up for her


I thank the Lord for you, Tara. You were here for a flicker, but left behind a legacy of love and friendship in all our hearts. We all love you and keep you near us. Reggie Lalanne, partner

You were such a bright star in my life. I am so blessed to have had you for two years in my life. RIP baby.
Lushon Greene, friend

There is also a rememberence of her on the Legacy website.

Tara Y. Hobbs was crowned the "e-mail queen" by her friends. "She kept in touch with everybody -- everybody from middle school, high school, college, work, social life -- through e-mail," said her sister Sherian Hobbs. "She was always planning get-togethers."

And some of her best friends were her brothers and sisters. As the youngest of five children growing up on Long Island, Tara Hobbs was very close to Sherian, the oldest. "When Tara was 8 and I was 16, I took her with me on my dates," Sherian said. "The three of us ate ice creams and walked around in the neighborhood. She smiled a lot, never got into the way, and we didn't mind having her."

When Tara became an adult, she and her sister still belonged to a threesome, but the third person was new: Tara's boyfriend, Paul Lalanne, with whom she lived in Brooklyn. The three planned to open an office for Primerica, an insurance company under Citigroup. The week before the disaster, Tara, 31, who worked in the insurance branch of Aon, received her license to sell health and life insurance. She and Paul were planning to marry next year.

Rest in Peace, Tara

Posted by Tom at 6:00 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 6, 2006

Exercise Tiger: the Disaster Before D-Day

You're familiar with Operation Overlord, the official name of what has become known as D-Day.

If not, and even if you are, Blackfive has an excellent tribute that is well worth reading.

The Donovan has a great photo essay you ought to check out while you're at it.

Total Allied casualties that day were around 10,000, which includes approximately 2500 dead (there is no official casualty figure for D-Day alone). During the Battle of Normandy, which lasted another month or so, the Allies suffered 209,000 including nearly 37,000 dead for ground forces and a further 16,714 deaths for Allied air forces. The battle cost Germany 200,000 casualties and another 200,000 taken prisoner.

Not to be forgotten, between 15,000 and 20,000 French civilians were killed, mostly due to Allied air bombing.

Exercise Tiger

Obviously, you don't just send 165,000 men ashore and subject them to withering fire from a highly trained and disciplined enemy without practicing doing it a few times. We spend the months before June 6 doing just that.

Just as obviously, whenever you've got hundreds of thousands of men doing anything that involves water, ships, airplanes and landing craft, there will be training accidents. I don't have the figures, but I'm sure there were many losses.

By the spring of 1944 everyone knew that we were going to land somewhere in northern France. It was only a question of when and where.

The Germans, not being stupid, knew that we had large numbers of men in Britain and were practicing landing on British beaches. And they knew that these training exercises would involve large numbers of slow, unarmored, unprotected, transport ships and assorted landing craft. In other words, big fat targets.

The Germans saw an opportunity to strike, and they took it.

Exercise Tiger, which would take place April 27 1944, involved 23,000 US soldiers, and was one of the largest such practices to date. The American forces involved would be the ones who would land on Utah beach 3 months later.

We get the story from the Exercise Tiger website

At 0135 on the morning of April 28th, 1944, eight Tank Landing Ships (LST's) and thier lone escort, the British corvette HMS AZALEA, were en route to the landing area. Slapton Sands was selected because its beach looked every bit like the beaches at Normandy that would be code named Utah and Omaha by the allies.

The eight LST's of LST Group 32, formed convoy T-4. they were the support group for elements of the 4th & 29th Infantry, 82nd Airborne and 188th Field Artillery Group already ashore at Slapton Sands.

The LST's were carrying the 1st Engineer Special Brigade, the 3206th Quartermaster Company from Missouri, the 3207th Company and 462nd and 478th combat truck support companies as well as other elements of the US Army's engineer, signal, medical and chemical corps along with some infantry.

Miles south in the mouth of Lyme bay, lay the bulk of the Tiger naval force. Protected by the cruiser USS AGUSTA and the new British "O" class destroyers HMS ONSLOW and HMS OBEDIENT as well as the Tribal Class destroyer HMS ASHANTI and a covering force of motor torpedo boats. Anchored along with LST's 55 and 382 they would be of no help to the ambushed LST force of T-4.

Attacking in the pitch black night, 9 German Navy "E" boats (torpedo) struck quickly and decisively. Without warning LST 507 was torpedoed first. Explosions and flame lit the night. At 0217 LST 531 is torpedoed. It sinks in six minutes. Of the 496 soldiers and sailors on her, 424 of them died. It would be on this ship that the state of Missouri would lose some 201 of its boys of the 3206th.

LST 289 tried to evade the fast German "E" boats but was hit in the stern. LST's 496, 515, and 511 all began firing at their attackers, LST 289 joined in returning fire while lowering landing craft to pull it out of harms way.

At 0225 the LST 499 radioed for help.Minutes later the lead ship ,LST 515 sent out an urgent and chilling message. " 'E' boat attack". Radio stations along the coast pick up the dramatic calls for help. Unaware of the top secret operation underway, the calls go unanswered. Only after an alert radio operator heard the words "T-4", did the Naval Command realize the calls were from "Tiger" and send help.

By 0240 the horror was slowly realized. Two LST's sunk, a third lay crippled. Of the 4000 man force nearly a fourth were missing or killed . Official Dept. of Defense records confirm 749 dead , 551 US Army and 198 US Navy. The death toll makes "Tiger" the costliest battle to U.S. forces at that point in the war after Pearl Harbor.

749 dead Americans.

In a training exercise.

Kept Secret

The extent of the disaster was kept a secret for at the time. Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the order for secrecy, fearing that a full release would demoralize his forces, not to mention the public.

I think we all know how some among us would react if such a thing occured today. First they'd demand the president's head for keeping it secret, and then they'd insist that we call off the invasion. Finally, calls for a negotiated peace would reach a crescendo.

But that was then, and this is now. They won their war, and we've still to win ours. We should take inspiration from the bravery and fortitude of that greatest generation.

Posted by Tom at 8:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 27, 2006

Duty, Honor, Country

Note: I will not be posting again for a few days while some technical work is performed on this blog.

As a tribute to our troops this Memorial Day, I can think of no finer words than those spoke by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur at West Point, May 12, 1962:

General Westmoreland, General Grove, distinguished guests, and gentlemen of the Corps!

As I was leaving the hotel this morning, a doorman asked me, "Where are you bound for, General?" And when I replied, "West Point," he remarked, "Beautiful place. Have you ever been there before?"

No human being could fail to be deeply moved by such a tribute as this [Thayer Award]. Coming from a profession I have served so long, and a people I have loved so well, it fills me with an emotion I cannot express. But this award is not intended primarily to honor a personality, but to symbolize a great moral code -- the code of conduct and chivalry of those who guard this beloved land of culture and ancient descent. That is the animation of this medallion. For all eyes and for all time, it is an expression of the ethics of the American soldier. That I should be integrated in this way with so noble an ideal arouses a sense of pride and yet of humility which will be with me always: Duty, Honor, Country.

Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.

Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean. The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase. Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.

But these are some of the things they do. They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the nation's defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid. They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success; not to substitute words for actions, not to seek the path of comfort, but to face the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge; to learn to stand up in the storm but to have compassion on those who fall; to master yourself before you seek to master others; to have a heart that is clean, a goal that is high; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; to reach into the future yet never neglect the past; to be serious yet never to take yourself too seriously; to be modest so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength. They give you a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of an appetite for adventure over love of ease. They create in your heart the sense of wonder, the unfailing hope of what next, and the joy and inspiration of life. They teach you in this way to be an officer and a gentleman.

And what sort of soldiers are those you are to lead? Are they reliable? Are they brave? Are they capable of victory? Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man-at-arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefield many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then as I regard him now -- as one of the world's noblest figures, not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless. His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give.

He needs no eulogy from me or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy's breast. But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements. In 20 campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people. From one end of the world to the other he has drained deep the chalice of courage.

As I listened to those songs [of the glee club], in memory's eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs, on many a weary march from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle-deep through the mire of shell-shocked roads, to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.

I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death.

They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory.

Always, for them: Duty, Honor, Country; always their blood and sweat and tears, as we sought the way and the light and the truth.

And 20 years after, on the other side of the globe, again the filth of murky foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts; those boiling suns of relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms; the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails; the bitterness of long separation from those they loved and cherished; the deadly pestilence of tropical disease; the horror of stricken areas of war; their resolute and determined defense, their swift and sure attack, their indomitable purpose, their complete and decisive victory -- always victory. Always through the bloody haze of their last reverberating shot, the vision of gaunt, ghastly men reverently following your password of: Duty, Honor, Country.

The code which those words perpetuate embraces the highest moral laws and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind. Its requirements are for the things that are right, and its restraints are from the things that are wrong.

The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training -- sacrifice.

In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when he created man in his own image. No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of the Divine help which alone can sustain him.

However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.

You now face a new world -- a world of change. The thrust into outer space of the satellite, spheres, and missiles mark the beginning of another epoch in the long story of mankind. In the five or more billions of years the scientists tell us it has taken to form the earth, in the three or more billion years of development of the human race, there has never been a more abrupt or staggering evolution. We deal now not with things of this world alone, but with the illimitable distances and as yet unfathomed mysteries of the universe. We are reaching out for a new and boundless frontier.

We speak in strange terms: of harnessing the cosmic energy; of making winds and tides work for us; of creating unheard synthetic materials to supplement or even replace our old standard basics; to purify sea water for our drink; of mining ocean floors for new fields of wealth and food; of disease preventatives to expand life into the hundreds of years; of controlling the weather for a more equitable distribution of heat and cold, of rain and shine; of space ships to the moon; of the primary target in war, no longer limited to the armed forces of an enemy, but instead to include his civil populations; of ultimate conflict between a united human race and the sinister forces of some other planetary galaxy; of such dreams and fantasies as to make life the most exciting of all time.

And through all this welter of change and development, your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable: it is to win our wars.

Everything else in your professional career is but corollary to this vital dedication. All other public purposes, all other public projects, all other public needs, great or small, will find others for their accomplishment. But you are the ones who are trained to fight. Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory; that if you lose, the nation will be destroyed; that the very obsession of your public service must be: Duty, Honor, Country.

Others will debate the controversial issues, national and international, which divide men's minds; but serene, calm, aloof, you stand as the Nation's war-guardian, as its lifeguard from the raging tides of international conflict, as its gladiator in the arena of battle. For a century and a half you have defended, guarded, and protected its hallowed traditions of liberty and freedom, of right and justice.

Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government; whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing, indulged in too long, by federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as thorough and complete as they should be. These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. Your guidepost stands out like a ten-fold beacon in the night: Duty, Honor, Country.

You are the leaven which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense. From your ranks come the great captains who hold the nation's destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds. The Long Gray Line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.

This does not mean that you are war mongers.

On the contrary, the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: "Only the dead have seen the end of war."

The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished, tone and tint. They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears, and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen vainly, but with thirsty ears, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll. In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield.

But in the evening of my memory, always I come back to West Point.

Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.

Today marks my final roll call with you, but I want you to know that when I cross the river my last conscious thoughts will be of The Corps, and The Corps, and The Corps.

I bid you farewell.

Posted by Tom at 10:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 16, 2006

He is Risen!

The Resurrection

1After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."

8So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

The Guards' Report

11While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13telling them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' 14If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." 15So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

The Great Commission

16Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Indeed, He is Risen!

For Easter this year the church I attend decided to erect a huge tent in our parking lot and combine all three services into one so that everyone could attend one big service. Usually on Sunday we have three services.

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We had great music and an even greater sermon. Pastor Gary was at his best, combining humor, theology, and personal stories into a message that no doubt moved the hearts and minds of everyone there. My hope is that some people who only attended because of a relative were saved this morning because they decided to commit themselves to Jesus Christ. That is, after all, the objective.

Pastor Gary talked about why some people don't believe in the resurrection. One is that the people who saw Christ resurrected were not exactly the upstanding citizens of their day. Among the disciples were 10 fishermen or farmers, a thief and a tax collector. Until quite recently in our history the witness of women was not considered equal to that of a man. In short, these were not reliable people.

But in reality the opposite is true. If you were going to make up a fantastic story, in order to get people to believe it you would use as witnesses people considered reliable by society; educators, administrators, clergy, doctors, military officers, lawyers. Ok, maybe not lawyers ;-) But you get the point. The truthfullness of the story of the resurrection is that common people witnessed it. Further, every last one of the disciples committed themselves to speading the word of Christ for the rest of their lives in the face of violent threats against them. Indeed, it is believed that every one of them came to a violent end at the hands of non-believers.

A second reason why some do not believe is that the claims of the witnesses were so uncommon, so fantastic. By this we do not just mean that he died and came back to life, but the promise of what it meant. John 3:16-18 says

16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

In other words, believe in Jesus Christ as your saviour and you have everlasting life. This is not a minor or offhand promise.

Lastly, some people just refuse to believe, or they believe in the wrong thing. Sorry, but being a good person is not enough to get you into heaven. You can show someone the Gospel and explain it's significance, but in the final analysis either they choose to believe or not.

The decision is up to each of us individually. I have chosen to believe.

Posted by Tom at 7:05 PM

April 9, 2006

Iraq Liberation Day 2006

Today marks three years since we liberated Iraq from the Ba'thists. This was a huge victory for the forces of good, and just as huge a defeat for the forces of tyranny. What remains to be seen is whether we can hold on to our success.

As I write these words, it is not at all clear as to whether we can keep Iraq from sliding into some sort of quasi-dictatorship. We've had two successful elections, and a constitution has been set in place. But violence wracks much of Baghdad and the surrounding environs, and political instability seems the order of the day. These two factors threaten to undo what we have achieved.

And we have achieved a lot, despite what the naysayers would have you believe. That we have not consolidated our success is worrysome, but not a cause for too much dispair. Rather, it is more reason than to take stock of our situation, and, if necessary, to adjust our methods.

But first, let's look at what we have achieved so far. First and foremost, we ended an evil regime. Who can forget where they were when they say this on TV:

Saddam Statue 1.jpg

As Andrew Sullivan wrote at the time

This is an amazing victory, a victory over a monster who gassed civilians, jailed children, sent millions into fruitless wars, harbored poisonous weapons to threaten free peoples, tortured thousands, and made alliances with every two-bit opportunist on the planet. It's a victory over those who marched in the millions to stop this liberation, over the endless media cynics, over the hate-America crowd, and the armchair generals. It's a victory for the two countries in the world that have always made freedom possible and who have now brought it to another corner of the world made dark by terror. It's a victory for the extraordinary servicemen and women who performed this task with such skill, cool, courage and restraint. It's a victory for optimism over pessimism, the righting of past wrongs, the assertion of universal truths against postmodern excuses, and of political leadership over appeasement. Celebrate it. Don't let the whiners take this away from you or from the people of Iraq.

Too bad his own support turned out so fickle. But he was right then, and as such his words are worth repeating.

In a symposium on National Review online a few weeks ago, various experts were asked "What do you consider the most important points to keep in mind when considering Iraq three years after the Coalition invasion?"

Here are some of their replies

Peter Brooks

) In spite of the violence, Iraqis are constructing one of the few democracies in the Middle East.

2) Withdrawing prematurely would leave a vacuum for al Qaeda, Iran, or Syria to fill, destabilizing the entire region.

3) Civil war will be a self-fulfilling prophecy if we buy into the idea, and give up.

4) We're fighting pure evil in Iraq. How many Iraqi women and children have al Qaeda/the insurgents slaughtered?

5) The quickest way to end a war is to lose it; losing would dishonor all those who served — or are serving — in Iraq.

6) Premature withdrawal will be seen as a historic victory for terrorism, encouraging even more bloodshed across the globe.

7) Our allies/friends around the world — as well as our enemies — are watching the strength/durability of our commitment in Iraq.

Jonathan Foreman

The failure of the Administration to get pictures of the work Coalition forces do — from building sewage systems to training Iraqi forces — onto American national and local TV is a strategic defeat, on a par with the occupation government's failure to maintain order after Saddam's overthrow. The fact that millions of Americans wrongly believe that the 100,000 plus GIs in Iraq have achieved nothing there and are under constant attack by a hostile population could force the U.S. government into a premature withdrawal.

It's hard to know what's really going on in Iraq — partly because of the localized nature of the war, partly because the threat of kidnap restricts the movement of white reporters, but mostly because the press corps reports only attacks and death tolls. However, my own visits have cured me of doubts about whether Iraqi freedom is worth the sacrifices of our troops. And when you talk to the some of the thousands of Iraqis who are risking their lives for a new Iraq (just ask them what they think of the "troops out" movement), it's clear that this is as noble a cause as any in our history

M. Zuhdi Jasser
After three years, our losses and frustrations serve as proof of how sorely we were needed in Iraq. Iraq has become an epicenter of Islamist terror. But al Qaeda's fear of a free Iraq is the greatest sign that our mission is on target. Militant Islamists are now on the run in Iraq.

Mackubin Thomas Owens
As we look at the situation in Iraq three years after the U.S. invasion, it might be useful to consider what things might look like if we hadn't invaded.

First and foremost, Saddam would still be in power, and we should not underestimate his ability to have caused a great deal of mischief. Human-rights violations would continue. He would be lionized by other despots for his ability to thumb his nose at the international system. By now, the real "coalition of the bribed," the members of the U.N. Security Council that Saddam was paying off, would in all likelihood have permitted the sanctions regime that boxed Saddam in to wither away.

Free of sanctions, Saddam would no doubt now be in the process of reconstituting his chemical and nuclear-weapons programs.

Having seen us blink in the case of Iraq, countries such as Pakistan would be less likely to help us in our attempt to destroy al Qaeda. There's no guarantee that things would be better in Afghanistan either.

Bill Roggio
Since the fall of Saddam's regime, there have been both triumphs and setbacks for those attempting to establish a free society in Iraq. The setbacks have been tactical and not strategic in nature. For instance, after the Coalition recognized the mistakes in structuring the Iraqi army, the force was quickly restructured to fight the insurgency. There are now almost 50 Iraqi battalions in the lead fighting the insurgency, with another 80 battalions in supporting roles. The Iraqi security forces have yet to meet their full potential.

The political process, while painfully slow, has produced results. The Iraqi people braved the threats and acts of violence three separate times during 2005, and voted in numbers that should shame the citizens of established Western democracies.

Michael Rubin
Success is evident: Iraqis can choose from dozens of television and radio channels, and scores of newspapers. Elections, political debate, and compromise are the norm. When chaos reigns, refugees flee. Why then have more than a million Iraqis returned to their country since liberation?

And indeed our troops are doing much good in Iraq, as Bill Crawford details here and here.

Families United has a very detailed document you can download from their website which outlines how "Life in Iraq has changed immensely since the fall of Saddam Hussein's vicious regime, and the Iraqi people are enjoying freedoms they've never known before." Go to their website and scroll down to Iraq: Then and Now

Gone unnoticed by the anti-war crowd is that American casualties have been steadily falling.

Further, anyone who things that the sanctions regime was working perfectly and was not that costly, doesn't know what they are talking about. This AEI paper (hat tip David Frum) proves otherwise.

Anyone who thinks that Saddam didn't have extensive links to terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, simply isn't in touch with the facts. I've got about a million links in my bookmark folder about them, but you can start with this excellent summary posted on StrategyPage.

Read the whole thing.

For we have achieved a lot by going into Iraq. We are fighting the enemy on their soil, on their turf. As I argued in The Strategic Offensive Part I

For what we have done is nothing short of revolutionary. We have gone to the heart of the enemy camp and destroyed his headquarters. We have seized his leaders and forced the others to flee for their lives. We have grabbed them by the throat and are slowly but surely strangling them.

No more are we probing the enemy listening posts and attacking selected, weakly defended targets. No more are we simply skirting around the periphery.

No I am not saying everything is peaches and cream in Iraq, or that there are not problems. There are.

Andrew McCarthy is pessimistic that we have the political will to "step it up and achieve an unambiguous military victory in Iraq to prevent terrorists from winning a share of power in an outcome that would be a humiliating defeat of the U.S."

He points to an editorial by Reuel Marc Gerecht in the Wall Street Journal (April 03, subscription required), in which he agrees with Gerecht that "combat operations have to be ramped up". Gerecht:

We are now in the unenviable position of having to confront radicalized, murderous Shiite militias, who have gained broader Shiite support because of the Sunni-led violence and the lameness of U.S. counterinsurgency operations. The Bush administration would be wise not to postpone any longer what it should have already undertaken -- securing Baghdad. This will be an enormously difficult task: Both Sunnis and Shiites will have to be confronted, but Sunni insurgents and brigands must be dealt with first to ensure America doesn't lose the Shiite majority and the government doesn't completely fall apart. Pacifying Baghdad will be politically convulsive and provide horrific film footage and skyrocketing body counts. But Iraq cannot heal itself so long as Baghdad remains a deadly place. And the U.S. media will never write many optimistic stories about Iraq if journalists fear going outside. To punt this undertaking down the road when the political dynamics might be better, and when the number of American soldiers in Iraq will surely be less, perhaps a lot less, is to invite disaster.

Amir Taheri, no raving leftist, believes that there is evidence that other parts of Iraq are quiet because the insurgents/terrorists have gone underground, believing that once George Bush's term is over, the Americans will leave. The argument in Washington these days is about when and how to draw down the troops, not about how to smash the insurgency once and for all. For this we have to blame Bush's low poll numbers, for which the president has no one to blame but himself.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani is usually touted as a moderate voice of reason. Yet Andrew McCarthy revealed that he says one thing in English and quite another in Arabic. His view on homosexuality is to the point: "Those involved in the act should be punished. In fact, sodomites should be killed in the worst manner possible." Nice.

The Bottom Line

Were we right to invade Iraq?

Absolutely, and for many reasons. I'll only list a few:

1) We, and most of the rest of the world, had good and valid reasons to believe he had stockpiles of WMD. Hindsight is 20/20. This WMD in the hands of Saddam Hussein was too much of a threat to be ignored.

2) The sanctions were falling apart. The situation was bound to fail sooner or later. Once free of the sanctions, Saddam would have restarted every one of his WMD programs immediately.

3) Saddam was 66 years old when captured. He may have lived another twenty years. His sons were under 40 years of age. This regime may well have remained in power for another 40 years. It is simply not believeable that we could have kept him contained for this amount of time.

4) Far from "rushing to war", Saddam had 12 years to come clean. He could have but didn't. Even if you start at Security Council Resolution 1441, which was passed on November 8, 2002, Opertion Iraqi Freedom didn't begin until March 20 2003. That's almost 5 months, more than enough time for a last chance.

5) Saddam had so many links to terrorist groups it would take me all night to set up links to all of the articles I've got bookmarked.

Lastly, we have achieved a great deal in Iraq since the invasion, as we saw above with the National Review symposium.

We have a republic, if we can keep it.

Posted by Tom at 9:27 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 24, 2005

Christmas 2005

What has always struck me about the Bible is how little attention is paid to the birth of Jesus.

Only two of the four gospels, Matthew and Luke, mention His birth at all, and neither at any length. The manger scene receives only a few sentences in Luke, and none at all in Matthew, who is mainly interested in the visit of the Magi("wise men"). The gospels of Mark and John do not consider His birth worth of mention at all.

On the other hand, all four cover at great length His arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurection.

Further, when one reads the letters of Paul, James, Peter, John, and Jude, they hardly if ever mention the birth of Christ, but are again deeply concerned with the meaning of His crucifixion and resurection.

And yet Christmas is the most popular holiday on the Christian calendar. Theologically, it should be Easter.

The reason for this, as most people know, is cultural. And that is fine, I've got no problem with things as they are. The music alone makes this season the best time of the year, as far as I am concerned.

Anyone who delves into the New Testament quickly learns that althoug the Christmas story is beautiful, in and of itself it doesn't have much meaning for us, other than to get things started. The real message of Jesus is that he died for our sins on the cross, and to have eternal life all we need do is to believe in Him.

That said, the Christmas story of Matthew and Luke is worth rereading

Matthew 1:18-24 (New International Version)

The Birth of Jesus Christ

18This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[a] because he will save his people from their sins."

22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"[b]—which means, "God with us."

24When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

Matthew 2:1-12

The Visit of the Magi
1After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east[b] and have come to worship him."

3When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ[c] was to be born. 5"In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:
6" 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'[d]"

7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."

9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east[e] went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Luke 2:1-20

The Birth of Jesus

1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register.

4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
The Shepherds and the Angels

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Update

It is only in the West where Christmas is the biggest holiday on the Christian calendar. I have been informed by reliable sources that in the Eastern Orthodox Church Easter dominates. Wikopedia elaborates:

Easter is the fundamental and most important festival of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox. Every other religious festival on their calendars, including Christmas, is at best secondary in importance to the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord. This is reflected in the cultures of countries that are traditionally Orthodox Christian majority. Easter-connected social customs are native and rich. Christmas customs, on the other hand, are usually foreign imports, either from Germany or the USA. Eastern Rite Catholics in communion with the Pope of Rome have similar emphasis in their calendars, and many of their liturgical customs are very similar.

Christmas is not ignored, but is rather seen for what it is; the necessary preliminary to the crucifixion and Resurection. That Christmas is the larger holiday in the West is a cultural, and not religious, tradition.

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November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving

There is much to be thankful for this holiday, on both a personal and national level. Everyone has their own list, but in the end we are all blessed in many ways. Perhaps one reason why Thanksgiving is so popular is that much of the time we tend to dwell on things that are not going so well for us. We see this holiday as a time to remind ourselves that in fact we are quite fortunate after all.

And, lest we start to feel too sorry for ourselves during other times, the Washington Times has done us the favor of reprinting for us part of the diary kept by William Bradford, governor of Plymouth Plantation for most of the time between 1621 and 1656. Bradford also served as the unofficial historial of the colony.
that period.

The first portion describes the hardships that confronted settlers during the winter of 1620-21, their first winter on American soil:

"But that which was most sad and lamentable was that in two or three months time half of their [the settlers'] company died, especially in January and February, being depth of winter, and wanting houses and other comforts; being infected with the scurvy and other diseases which this long voyage and their inaccomodate condition had brought them.

"So as there died sometimes two or three a day in the aforesaid time, that of one hundred and odd persons, scarce fifty remained. And of these, in the time of most distress, there were but six or seven sound persons who to their great commendations, be it spoken, spared no pains night or day, but with abundance of toil and hazard of their own health fetched them wood, made them fires, dressed them meat, made their beds, washed their loathsome clothes, clothed and unclothed them. In a word, did all the homely and necessary offices for them which dainty and queasy stomachs cannot endure to hear named; and all this willingly and cheerfully, without any grudging in the least, showing herein their true love unto their friends and brethren; a rare example and worthy to be remembered."

Gov. Bradford's diary from the following spring records the first planting, assisted by Wampanoag Indians who had befriended the colonists:

"Afterward they (as many as were able) began to plant their corn, in which service Squanto [the first Indian to present himself to the colonists] stood them in great stead, showing them both the manner how to set it and after how to dress and tend it: also he told them, except they got fish and set it with it in these old grounds, it would come to nothing. And he showed them that in the middle of April they should have store enough come up the brook by to take it, and where to get other provisions necessary for them. All which they found true by trial and experience. Some English seed they sowed, as wheat and peas, but it came not to good, either by badness of the seed or lateness of the season or both, or some other defect."

Gov. Bradford's account of the first Thanksgiving, which he had called to bless the first harvest, only hints at the celebration described in other colonial accounts. Tradition has it that the meal consisted of venison stew, wild turkeys stuffed with corn bread, baked oysters, sweet corn, pumpkin baked in a bag and flavored with maple syrup, and ended with a specialty produced by the Indians who had shared in the feast -- popcorn.

"They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercises in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proposition. Which made many afterward write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports."

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November 12, 2005

Veterans Day 2005

If I had planned ahead this post would have been up yesterday. As it is, once the day started I never had time.

Yesterday is the day we set aside to honor our veterans. As Stars and Stripes noted, "Maybe it takes a war for many Americans to see the meaning of Veterans Day." Perhaps. No doubt the meaning of Memorial Day is mostly lost in organizing the family picnic. It's also no doubt true that we think about these things more in wartime than in peace. But by the same token I generally see most American's as honoring veterans, whether they take part in a ceremony specifically for that purpose or not.

Although it is entirely appropriate to have such a day, we shouldn't restrict honoring veterans to one day. Attitues are not just for one day. I recall that years ago, I saw a "Hagar the Horrible" comic strip that made this point about Christmas. In the strip Hagar saw the star of Bethlehem in the east and made a comment to a priest, standing nearby, about the Christmas spirit brought forth by his seeing the star. After Hagar walked away, the priest sighed and commented "Actually, it's there all year round. But people only seem to notice it this time of year." Ouch.

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September 5, 2005

Labor Day

To most of us Labor Day marks the end of summer, back to school for the kids, and a nice day off. This is fine, for of all holidays this one was meant to be a day of rest. And although the idea for a "Labor Day" came from the labor union movement of the 19th century, is is a day meant for all people. As Samuel Gompers, founder and president of the American Federation of Labor put it

"Labor Day differs in every essential way from the other holidays of the year in any country. All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man's prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day...is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation."

So although its genesis was with the labor unions, Labor Day is not meant just for union members, bur for for all of us. The Department of Labor website goes on to say that

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

To be sure, you'll find plenty about the holiday on union websites, such as the AFL-CIO. And that is fine. Unions have a important place in American history. You don't have to believe everything Upton Sinclair wrote to think unions were important a hundred, or even fifty, years ago. No doubt most unions have outlived their usefulness. But we'll leave that discussion for another day.

As for today, take a rest.

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July 3, 2005

Independence Day 2005

What better than to simply post the Declaration of Independence:

Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies
In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

Wow. You're not an American if these words don't strike an emotional chord with you. Flat out.

What eloquence. What resolve. No hesitation here about confessing an abiding faith in the Almightly. And how true.

Let's just read the rest of it:

The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
The signers of the Declaration represented the new states as follows:
New Hampshire

Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts

John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island

Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York

William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey

Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Pennsylvania

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Delaware

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Maryland

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
North Carolina

William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina

Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Georgia

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

It's just something you have to read ever year. And mo matter how many times I've read it the words hit home.

Because the Declaration really is our primary document. Yes, we're governed by the Constitution. But our emotional heart is in the Declaration. It is what makes us unique as a nation. Other nations have tried, and failed. The French Declaration of the Rights of Man" (1789) just isn't the same. And France sadly degeneratated in the Robespierre's terror and Napoleon's military dictatorship. America, on the other hand, has only gotten better.

I know that I'm not saying anything that hasn't been said before by writers more informed and eloquent than me. But some things just need saying again and again.
__________

As always, today's lead editorial in The Washington Times is a must-read:

Independence Day begins early every year with the whistles of errant bottle rockets and the sharp cracks of firecrackers. Perhaps it's the sunny summer weather that follows the soggy spring, but July Fourth is a happy holiday.

Instead of the sonorous tones of "Taps," or the even more moving moments of silence that resonateon Memorial Day, Independence Day explodes with sharp, celebratory sounds -- blares from bugles and trills from fifes, peals from bells, and blasts--the snap,crackle, boomoffireworks, accompanied by breathless ooohs and ahhs.

Yet, we must not forget that the freedom we celebrate today with barbecues and fireworks was paid for -- and is still being bought -- with the blood of our finest. The rockets' red glare and the bombs bursting in the air, which have become an integral part of the celebration, were essential to its foundation.

In fact, Francis Scott Key was inspired to write our national anthemafter watchinga British attack on Fort McHenry, not far from Baltimore."The Star-Spangled Banner"resonated, not simply because of its poetry, but becauseofthe proud parable of theAmerican spirit that it tells.
...
Yet, as we celebrate, let us not forget those who are far from home preserving our independence through the RPGs of regime loyalists in Iraq and the bullets of the shadowy remnants of al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We must remember our soldiers who are fighting and dying -- to pass on that spirit of independence, a faint echo from the Liberty Bell, to former prisoners and slaves.

As Mr. Bush concluded in his 2003address aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, "All of you -- all this generation in our military -- haev takenupthe highest calling of history. You're defending your country and protecting theinnocent from harm. And wherever you go, you carry a message of hope -- a message that is ancient and ever new. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, 'To the captives, 'come out,' -- and to those in darkness, 'be free.' "

Exactly.

Thanks to the soldiers of the Revolution we have our freedom. Thanks to all of the troops since then we have kept it. And thanks to those around the world today, it'll stay kept.

Have a happy Independence Day

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May 29, 2005

Memorial Day 2005

Thank you to all American military veterans, and those who are currently serving. We owe our freedoms to you. You uphold all that is right and true in our great nation. For that we are profoundly thankful.

One of the best expressions of the spirit of our armed forces was made by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur in a speech he gave at West Point in 1962. The occasion was his acceptance speech upon receiving the Sylvanus Thayer Award. This presigious honor is bestowed every year on "...an outstanding citizen of the United States whose service and accomplishments in the national interest exemplify personal devotion to the ideals expressed in the West Point motto, “DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY.”'


General Douglas MacArthur: Thayer Award Acceptance Address

delivered 12 May 1962, West Point, NY

"Duty, Honor, Country"


General Westmoreland, General Grove, distinguished guests, and gentlemen of the Corps!

As I was leaving the hotel this morning, a doorman asked me, "Where are you bound for, General?" And when I replied, "West Point," he remarked, "Beautiful place. Have you ever been there before?"

No human being could fail to be deeply moved by such a tribute as this [Thayer Award]. Coming from a profession I have served so long, and a people I have loved so well, it fills me with an emotion I cannot express. But this award is not intended primarily to honor a personality, but to symbolize a great moral code -- the code of conduct and chivalry of those who guard this beloved land of culture and ancient descent. That is the animation of this medallion. For all eyes and for all time, it is an expression of the ethics of the American soldier. That I should be integrated in this way with so noble an ideal arouses a sense of pride and yet of humility which will be with me always: Duty, Honor, Country.

Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.

Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean. The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase. Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.

But these are some of the things they do. They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the nation's defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid. They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success; not to substitute words for actions, not to seek the path of comfort, but to face the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge; to learn to stand up in the storm but to have compassion on those who fall; to master yourself before you seek to master others; to have a heart that is clean, a goal that is high; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; to reach into the future yet never neglect the past; to be serious yet never to take yourself too seriously; to be modest so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength. They give you a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of an appetite for adventure over love of ease. They create in your heart the sense of wonder, the unfailing hope of what next, and the joy and inspiration of life. They teach you in this way to be an officer and a gentleman.

And what sort of soldiers are those you are to lead? Are they reliable? Are they brave? Are they capable of victory? Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man-at-arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefield many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then as I regard him now -- as one of the world's noblest figures, not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless. His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give.

He needs no eulogy from me or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy's breast. But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements. In 20 campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people. From one end of the world to the other he has drained deep the chalice of courage.

As I listened to those songs [of the glee club], in memory's eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs, on many a weary march from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle-deep through the mire of shell-shocked roads, to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.

I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death.

They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory.

Always, for them: Duty, Honor, Country; always their blood and sweat and tears, as we sought the way and the light and the truth.

And 20 years after, on the other side of the globe, again the filth of murky foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts; those boiling suns of relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms; the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails; the bitterness of long separation from those they loved and cherished; the deadly pestilence of tropical disease; the horror of stricken areas of war; their resolute and determined defense, their swift and sure attack, their indomitable purpose, their complete and decisive victory -- always victory. Always through the bloody haze of their last reverberating shot, the vision of gaunt, ghastly men reverently following your password of: Duty, Honor, Country.

The code which those words perpetuate embraces the highest moral laws and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind. Its requirements are for the things that are right, and its restraints are from the things that are wrong.

The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training -- sacrifice.

In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when he created man in his own image. No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of the Divine help which alone can sustain him.

However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.

You now face a new world -- a world of change. The thrust into outer space of the satellite, spheres, and missiles mark the beginning of another epoch in the long story of mankind. In the five or more billions of years the scientists tell us it has taken to form the earth, in the three or more billion years of development of the human race, there has never been a more abrupt or staggering evolution. We deal now not with things of this world alone, but with the illimitable distances and as yet unfathomed mysteries of the universe. We are reaching out for a new and boundless frontier.

We speak in strange terms: of harnessing the cosmic energy; of making winds and tides work for us; of creating unheard synthetic materials to supplement or even replace our old standard basics; to purify sea water for our drink; of mining ocean floors for new fields of wealth and food; of disease preventatives to expand life into the hundreds of years; of controlling the weather for a more equitable distribution of heat and cold, of rain and shine; of space ships to the moon; of the primary target in war, no longer limited to the armed forces of an enemy, but instead to include his civil populations; of ultimate conflict between a united human race and the sinister forces of some other planetary galaxy; of such dreams and fantasies as to make life the most exciting of all time.

And through all this welter of change and development, your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable: it is to win our wars.

Everything else in your professional career is but corollary to this vital dedication. All other public purposes, all other public projects, all other public needs, great or small, will find others for their accomplishment. But you are the ones who are trained to fight. Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory; that if you lose, the nation will be destroyed; that the very obsession of your public service must be: Duty, Honor, Country.

Others will debate the controversial issues, national and international, which divide men's minds; but serene, calm, aloof, you stand as the Nation's war-guardian, as its lifeguard from the raging tides of international conflict, as its gladiator in the arena of battle. For a century and a half you have defended, guarded, and protected its hallowed traditions of liberty and freedom, of right and justice.

Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government; whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing, indulged in too long, by federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as thorough and complete as they should be. These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. Your guidepost stands out like a ten-fold beacon in the night: Duty, Honor, Country.

You are the leaven which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense. From your ranks come the great captains who hold the nation's destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds. The Long Gray Line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.

This does not mean that you are war mongers.

On the contrary, the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: "Only the dead have seen the end of war."

The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished, tone and tint. They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears, and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen vainly, but with thirsty ears, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll. In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield.

But in the evening of my memory, always I come back to West Point.

Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.

Today marks my final roll call with you, but I want you to know that when I cross the river my last conscious thoughts will be of The Corps, and The Corps, and The Corps.

I bid you farewell.


Posted by Tom at 5:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 7, 2004

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor Originally uploaded by Tom the Redhunter.
This photo shows sailors in a motor launch rescuing a survivor of the attack. The USS West Virginia is burning in the background. The USS Tennessee is in the background. Both of them were among the eight battleships parked on "battleship row."

As an historical aside, note the distintive "cage masts" of the ships. Called "waste paper baskets" by their detractors, they were unique to American ships of the pre-WWII era. The idea was that they would be more resistant to gunfire than the traditional tripod mast. While this may have been so, they could not withstand hurricane force winds and were eventually discarded. When the ships were rebuild after the attacks the cages masts were replaced with tripod ones.

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November 11, 2004

Veterans Day

Thank you to all veterans of our Armed Forces, and to those currently serving.

At precisely 11AM President Bush will speak at the Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetary and will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. World War I ended at 11AM on November 11, 1918.

Here are some ways that all of us can support our troops:

Make a contribution to Fisher House. This Rockville MD foundation "provides temporary housing and other support services for military personnel wounded in the War on Terror and their families."

Not all soldiers in the field have families to write them. You can be a "pen pal" to a soldier by signing up at Adopt-a-Platoon. If you can get your office or family involved, you can support an entire platoon.

Treats for Troops provides another way to send care packages to our soldiers, sailors, and airmen.

You can donate your frequent flyer miles to troops to Operation Hero Miles so that they can make their way home when they get some R & R. When troops are granted leave, the government only pays their way to Germany or one of three airports in the United States; Baltimore/Washington International, Dallas/Fort Worth, or Atlanta. the troops must pay their own way after that.

Defend America has many great ways in which we can support our troops.

Show Thanks lists many organizations also.

Iraqi children need our help, too. By ensuring their successful future we safeguard American soldiers in the future. Helping Iraqi Schools does just what their name indicates.

Actor Gary Sinise helped launch Operation Iraqi Children. They also send school supply kits to Iraqi children, and are in need of our support.

Chief Wiggles runs Operation Give, which in addition to collecting toys for needy Iraqi children, is also in need of items for the hygene kits they also send.

Posted by Tom at 11:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 31, 2004

Duty, Honor, Country Duty, honor,

Duty, Honor, Country

Duty, honor, country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying point to build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith, to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.

Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean.

The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase. Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and, I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.

From General Douglas MacArthur's address to the cadets at the U.S. Military Academy in 1962
Read the whole thing.

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