Saturday, December 30, 2006

Joseph Lieberman, The Troop Surge, And My Democrat Friends

I wrote this in another place on the blogosphere in response to an acquaintance who accused me of being "in the cheering section for Senator Joseph Lieberman and Bush on the 'troop surge' idea:"
I am sorry that I have not been the paragon of good sense and intelligence that others (including you) on this board have been.

Actually, I am where a large of chunk of intelligent Americans are on this issue. (I ask you to consider that it's possible for a person to disagree with you and still be intelligent.) I was nervous about invading Iraq but thought we had to do it because of the WMD evidence. In those days, the debate was, for the most part, not over whether the late Saddam had the WMD, but what to do about them. [Another poster's] solution at the time was to force extremely intrusive inspections on Saddam ("bordering on occupation" was the phrase I think he used), find the WMD, and remove them from the country. Or something along those lines. I do not recall where you were on the issue but I'm sure you knew there were no WMD and that Bush is a chimpanzee.

Once we were all surprised to find the late Saddam had no WMD, we were all pretty much stuck. Bush and Co. tried to morph the mission into a democracy-spreading project, and many if us went along with that, since once were were there we needed to find a way not to leave the place worse off than it was before, and perhaps to make some gains in the war on terror.

The three successful and historic democratic elections in Iraq were just another effort by the chimp to cover up his mistake. I am sure you knew this. But I digress.

Now I am looking at this situation and watching Americans get killed regularly, along with even more innocent Iraqis. I'm watching weapons and men come into Iraq from Syria and Iran. I'm wondering what we consider "victory" in Iraq, since Bush has done an awful job of defining that. (He's done pretty well for a guy who cannot use the English language.) I think many mistakes have been made, as they always are in war. (But I suppose the "chimp brigade" on this board are certain that no mistakes are ever made in wars, because they've either never read much history or didn't pay attention when they did.)

The whole thing's a mess, as wars always are, but it has many redeeming features. In hindsight, I wish we hadn't gone in but I understand why we did and supported that decision at the time. The chimp brigade here are simply a bunch of very partisan Democrats who hate Bush and will never give him credit for anything he has done. I understand that. I am hoping that the next time the Democrats elect their own genius to the presidency, I won't be like you guys. You add nothing to the discussion and are really quite boring when it comes to these matters.

But I still like you . . . and would buy for any of you your beverage of choice any time.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Hedgehog Is On Vacation, Sort Of

But I'll post now and then when I see something interesting. Perhaps The Kosher Hedgehog will take up the slack while I'm gone. (It might be said that he does that already, but we won't go there.) Before I go, as a somewhat dark nod to the New Year's Day traditions many of us observe, here's Mark Twain's letter to the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, January 1, 1863:
Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. To-day, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient short comings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time.
Here's a more positive view of New Year's resolutions.

And here's a set of resolutions from Bridget Johnson of National Review. One example:
Do a dramatic oral reading of Jimmy Carter’s new book at a Bay Area coffeehouse. After all, great works of fiction deserve such flair, care, and attention. And there is no danger that anyone there will be so flabbergasted by the absurdity of the book that he will choke on his organic peanuts.
Happy New Year!

January 2, 2007 at 11:16 a.m.; The Kosher Hedgehog adds:

I join Lowell in wishing our readers a Happy, Healthy, Safe and Successful 2007. Same old story: Lowell goes on vacation and I am supposed to pick up the slack. Actually, vacation or not, Lowell has been the more prolific writer during the holidays, including his piece today on President Gerald Ford's treatment by the media in 1975-76, which was linked to by National Review Online. Well done, big brother Hedgehog! My lack of posts since December 26 may in part be due to two visits last week with Mrs. Kosher Hedgehog and our visiting daughter Esther Kosher Hedgehog to the wonderful Tierra Sur Restaurant, at the Herzog Winery in Oxnard. Lowell would love the strictly kosher, but thoroughly gourmet, cuisine, although he is immune to some of the other charms of the spot due to his Mormon faith. Esther (known to her friends and professional colleagues as Estee) had heard about Tierra Sur way back east in New York City, and begged her parents to take her. Having had two wonderful lunches there previously, Laura and I happily obliged. Esther heads back to the Big Apple today--goodbye and safe journey.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

John Kerry's Trip to Iraq

Read all about it here. To me the most interesting question is, What did he expect?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Olmert Lowers Israel's Defenses Again--Removes Roadblocks

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has apparently adopted Gandhian non-violence as a security policy. Olmert has been greatly encouraged by the results of his policy of refusing to respond to Palestinian violations of the current "ceasefire"--true, over 60 rockets have rained down on the Negev, but Condoleeza Rice has praised Israel for its self-restraint, Mahmoud Abbas is coming to dinner at his house, and the European Union thinks he's the cat's pajamas.

Building on that record, Olmert now has decided that it is not enough to refuse to defend Israel against Palestinian rocket attacks; Israel has to abandon its self-defense against terrorist bombs and shootings as well. To that end, Olmert today approved the removal of 27 roadblocks in Yehuda and Shomron. These roadblocks stop would-be attackers of Israeli civilian targets literally every day. One analyst notes that Olmert's decision to remove the roadblocks makes a successful terrorist attack in Israel inevitable and probably imminent.

However, Mr. Olmert feels that even this lowering of Israel's guard against terrorism is an inadequate gesture of goodwill. Ater all, how can there be a successful terrorist attack without adequate weapons? Therefore the Olmert government is also facilitating the transfer of 2,000 Kalashnikov rifles to Abbas's Force 17 "Presidential Guard" in the Gaza Strip. In short order, they will be aimed and fired at Israelis, but that is a small price to pay for goodwill.

And how are the Palestinians responding to Mr. Olmert's charm offensive. Weapons smuggling is increasing and, according to deputy head of Israel Defense Forces Operations Brig.-Gen. Sammy Turgeman, Israel will soon find itself facing "new and unprecedented forces" in the Gaza Strip.

Wow, it's a good thing that Olmert has garnered all that goodwill with the Palestinians. Who do you think he is talking to, to get all these swell ideas about security and self-defense?

Monday, December 25, 2006

On This Night in 1776--Washington Crosses the Delaware and Captures the Hessian Garrison at Trenton, New Jersey

On Christmas night in 1776, General George Washington launched (quite literally) a desperate gamble to save the American Revolution.

The Continental Army had suffered defeat after defeat since the British expeditionary force, numbering over 32,000 troops, the largest force ever sent out of the British Isles to fight a distant foe, had landed at Staten Island in August. The British had chased the Continentals from the Hudson River to the Delaware River, where, after capturing Trenton and driving the rebel army across the river, the British commander, General William Howe, suspended military operations until the spring. Leaving Trenton garrisoned by 1500 Hessian troops, General Howe retired to his winter quarters in New York City.

Casualties, disease, desertion and expired enlistments had reduced the Continental Army to only about 4000 men. The enlistments of a majority of the remaining soldiers were set to run out at the end of the year. Washington decided to make a nighttime crossing of the Delaware River and attempt a surprise attack on the Hessian garrison in Trenton. He would commit his entire remaining force to the perilous venture, knowing that if the attack did not succeed, there would be no more Continental Army. A measure of his desperation may be seen in the password he chose for the night's operation, "Victory or Death."

Washington divided his troops into three columns, each to cross the Delaware River at a different location. In the actual event, only the main column, led by Washington himself and numbering 2400 men, successfully made it across the river in time for the morning attack. The fierce battle lasted only 45 minutes, until the Hessian brigade surrendered. In that short time, 21 Hessian troops had been killed, and 90 wounded, including the Hessian commander, Colonel Johann Gottlieb Rall, who died of his wounds. 900 Hessians were taken prisoner, but some 500 others escaped. Incredibly, Continental Army losses were just four wounded. The only American army fatalities were two soldiers who had frozen to death on the road during the night.

The victory at Trenton, followed by Washington's successful attack on Princeton on January 3, 1777, were regarded by the British as minor defeats, aggravating to be sure, but of no great consequence compared to the earlier English victories at the Battle of Brooklyn and Fort Washington. To the Americans, however, Trenton was the turning point of the Revolutionary War, tangible proof that the Continental Army had outsmarted and outfought His Majesty's forces and could do so again.

Battlefield defeats and much hardship still lay ahead for the Continental Army, including the horrible winter at Valley Forge. It would be six and one-half years before the Treaty of Paris brought the American Revolution to a successful conclusion. Nonetheless, although July 4th, 1776 is our nation's birthday, it was George Washington's desperate venture on Christmas night in 1776 that allowed the infant nation to survive her first year.

David McCullough's superb popular history, 1776, was the source for the historical information in this post.

Lowell adds: Every American should read 1776, if only to understand how close the Founders came to being mere historical footnotes, and to appreciate better the greatness of George Washington.

Christmas During The Civil War

The image at left is of a Harper's Weekly cover of a "Civil War Santa Claus giving gifts to soldiers in camp, 1863." I've been immersing myself lately in Civil War history, having just finished Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It's an excellent study of what Goodwin calls Abraham Lincoln's "political genius." For Christmas my family gave me Manhunt, about the twelve-day period when John Wilkes Booth was a fugitive, and The Civil War: A Narrative - Fort Sumter to Perryville, by Shelby Foote (the first in a 3-volume set). I'm about 25 pages into Manhunt, and will dig into Foote's work after I finish that.

With both the Civil War and Christmas on my mind, I came across "The Rites of Innocence," by James Robbins, about the way Americans on the side of both North and South saw the world in Christmas 1861. Robbins' sobering final sentences:
Few wars end as they were intended at their start. By Christmas 1861, one could no longer accept the idea that the contest between north and south would be a brief, painless, and chivalrous struggle. The feasts, the merrymaking, at home and at the front, these were the final rites of innocence. In the new year there would be deadly work to be done.
In the same issue of NRO I found "A Lincolnian Christmas," by Michael Novak, which draws some interesting parallels between Christmas 1863 and Christmas 2006. Novak's article brought to mind the many who are now braying that George W. Bush has already sealed his legacy as one of the worst American presidents ever. They should read Novak's piece. It might inspire them to greater circumspection.

Both articles are great reads and will add some reflective moments to your Christmas.

Palestinians Observe Ceasefire by Firing Two Rockets at Israel

Overcome no doubt by the generous spirit of the season, Palestinians gave Israel two more rockets today. On Sunday, the government of Ehud Olmert announced that it would continue its policy of not responding to Palestinian rocket attacks, a policy under which "ceasefire" means "we cease, they fire." To date, the Palesitinians have launched more than 50 rockets at Israel since the ceasefire broke out. But have no fear--as reported in the caption to the photo that accompanied this news story, the Olmert government plans to turn to the United Nations for assistance. "Israel will lodge an official complaint at the United Nations against ongoing Palestinian rocket fire from the Gaza Strip in defiance of a month-old ceasefire." I predict a U.N. resolution condemning Israel for not providing the Palestinians with more accurate targeting technology.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas from the Hedgehog

Once again, the words from my very favorite Christmas carol:

What Sweeter Music

What sweeter music can we bring
Than a carol, for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?
Awake the voice! Awake the string!

Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
And give the honor to this day,
That sees December turned to May.

Why does the chilling winter’s morn
Smile, like a field beset with corn?
Or smell like a meadow newly-shorn,
Thus, on the sudden? Come and see
The cause, why things thus fragrant be:
‘Tis He is born, whose quickening birth
Gives life and luster, public mirth,
To heaven, and the under-earth.

We see him come, and know him ours,
Who, with his sunshine and his showers,
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.
The darling of the world is come,
And fit it is, we find a room
To welcome him. The nobler part
Of all the house here, is the heart.

Which we will give him; and bequeath
This holly, and this ivy wreath,
To do him honour, who’s our King,
And Lord of all this revelling.

What sweeter music can we bring,
Than a carol for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

I wish a blessed Christmas to all.

Lowell Brown

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

PA Foreign Minister: Ceasefire with Israel is a "Liberation" Tactic

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister and Hamas leader Mahmoud a-Zahar (photo left) declared this week that a ceasefire (hudna) with Israel is not recognition of Israel or its right to exist, but only a tactical step toward the "complete liberation" of Palestine. As reported by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
"We as Muslims are the owners of this land and we shall not give up a single handful of Palestinian soil," Zahar told students at Gaza City's Islamic University on Sunday (10 Dec). He declared that a solution to the conflict is not the creation of a Palestinian state according to the 1967 boundaries, but the total liberation of "all Palestinian lands" -- a popular euphemism for the territory "occupied" by the State of Israel. The establishment of a Palestinian state would be followed by an "Islamic cultural enterprise." Zahar demanded that the PA renounce all agreements it signed with Israel, which he said have brought disaster upon the Palestinian people. In addition, he rejected any type of security coordination with Israel, which he termed "a betrayal of the homeland."
Another Hamas official of the Palestinian Authority, Deputy Minister for Religious Affairs Salah Alrakab, also spoke to the students:

Salah Alrakab told the students that Islam forbids signing a peace agreement with Jews, because "The conflict with the Jews is a religious, existential struggle and is not a conflict over borders." At most, he said, Islamic law permits signing a temporary hudna (cease-fire).

The Jews have no claim to a Land of Israel but that stated in the Torah, he continued, which has already been proven to be a forgery. Liberation of the land will be accomplished only by jihad through the general mobilization of the Islamic nation, he said, which is the shortest way to restore Palestinian rights and shrink "the greed of the Jews."

Here is my question for all those "progressives" in the "peace camp," especially my Jewish brothers and sisters: These people say they want to destroy Israel. They say that a hudna is a tactic to buy time until they are militarily and politically strong enough to destroy Israel. Currently, Israel is militarily strong enough to defeat the Palestinian Authority in battle and disarm or destroy its militias (both those of Fatah and Hamas). What logic is there in entering into a ceasefire and waiting docilely until the Palestinians are able to try to make good on their threat? Indeed, even if Israel were to prevail in such an eventual confrontation, would it not cost more Israeli and Palestinian lives than to go to war now?

Pat Conroy: "Confessions of An American Coward"

Find some time to read this moving, candid, and courageous essay by a fine writer, Pat Conroy, to which The Anchoress directs us. Excerpt:

When I was demonstrating in America against Nixon and the Christmas bombings in Hanoi, Al and his fellow prisoners were holding hands under the full fury of those bombings, singing "God Bless America." It was those bombs that convinced Hanoi they would do well to release the American POWs, including my college teammate. When he told me about the C-141 landing in Hanoi to pick up the prisoners, Al said he felt no emotion, none at all, until he saw the giant American flag painted on the plane's tail. I stopped writing as Al wept over the memory of that flag on that plane, on that morning, during that time in the life of America.

It was that same long night, after listening to Al's story, that I began to make judgments about how I had conducted myself during the Vietnam War.
I was riveted. Maybe you will be too.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

New David Zucker Short on Baker, Ahmenidijad and the Iraq Study Group

Remember David Zucker's hilarious take down of Madeline Albright. Now he goes after another former Secretary of State and current Secretary of Appeasement, James Baker. See it on You Tube here, or on the Power Line video just below:

Operation Gratitude Sends Out Its 200,000th Gift Box to Our Troops

As reported by Jewish Current Issues, this weekend, Operation Gratitude shipped its 200,000th gift package to American troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, each package individually addressed to a specific soldier, with a personally-written letter accompanying each large boxful of items, individually packed by a volunteer. Operation Gratitude was formed in March 2003 by one person -- Carolyn Blashek -- a member of the Los Angeles Jewish congregation Ohr HaTorah, led by Rabbi Mordechai Finley. Rabbi Finley is a Marine veteran, and at the time his son was serving in Iraq with the Marines. Working alone out of her living room, at her own expense, she began sending gift packages to the troops. As you can see from the photo, Ms. Blashek's one-woman project has grown. Read about it in Jewish Current Issues.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Second Lieutenant Scott Lundell, RIP: A Story About Coming Home

If you're like me, you have only a vague idea of how fallen American soldiers are brought home. Here is the story of Second Lieutenant Scott Lundell's final journey.

2LT Lundell, whose photo is at left, gave his life in Afghanistan on November 25, 2006 while participating in Operation Enduring Freedom.

I learned of this story from an unusual source: a sports fan message board. The post's author told me by e-mail that he works for Delta Airlines, which brought 2LT Lundell home, and that the story was circulated in an internal e-mail to Delta employees.

I haven't been able to find another on-line source, but I don't doubt the story's authenticity. I have not been able to locate the named author, Paul Faletto, who escorted the fallen hero home from Dover Air Force Base, but Faletto has been a military science instructor at Weber State University, in 2LT Lundell's home state of Utah.

Here's the story of 2LT Lundell's memorial service in Afghanistan. And here's 2LT Lundell's obituary, well worth reading.

Scott left a wife and four children, the oldest age 10. His wife Jeanine is in the above right Deseret News photo, accepting the flag that draped Scott's coffin. If, like me, you'd like to donate to the fund established for them, send your donation to:
Mountain American Credit Union
P.O. Box 9001
West Jordan, Utah 84084
Attention: Olivia

Mark your check "Scott Lundell Memorial Fund."

Just spend 30 seconds contemplating the photo above and you'll want to help.

[Welcome, Power Line readers and Anchoress readers. Please spread the word about this family.]

A Warrior's Last Steps Home

Last Monday I received a call from the Mortuary Affairs Office. I would have rather have been called by the IRS scheduling an audit for the past 20 years.

A Second Lieutenant had been killed in Afghanistan and we were to send a person to escort him home to his family and final resting place. This time it was not a stranger, it was a young officer whom I knew.

2LT Scott Lundell was a new officer in my previous unit. He was on his way to earning a Green Beret. He had heard the sounds of the guns after 9-11 and instinctively this warrior's heart lead him to move towards those who were in danger. He put aside his personal aspirations of earning his Special Forces tab and volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan to train the Afghani Army.

His patrol was ambushed by vastly superior numbers. Undeterred, 2LT Lundell moved to counterattack. 2LT Lundell was always a natural leader. From serving as Student Body President, to serving his church on a foreign mission, to the battlefields of Afghanistan, 2LT Lundell always was a leader. His heroic actions saved many lives, yet cost him his own on that day.

I flew to Philadelphia on Thursday. It was my mission to escort and guard this father, soldier, warrior, and hero on his final journey home. It was a mission that I wished I had not offered, but accepted with honor.

The phone rang at 0200. Wake up call, 45 minutes to shine my shoes, shower, shave, and put on my Dress Blues before my ride to Dover AFB arrived. The standard uniform for this assignment is the Army Class "A", but our commander ordered all members of the honor detail to wear the uniform reserved for our most reserved occasions.

Sergeant Parsons greeted me as we entered Dover's Mortuary Affairs center. There were two other's from the Army who were there to escort soldiers home and one Marine with the same assignment. We were lead into a small conference room and began our briefing of our duties and sequence of events.

On the table in front of me sat a stack of cases holding the awards 2LT Lundell had earned. Purple Heart, Bronze Star, combat Action Badge, Paratrooper's Wings.... and a small, black, velvet bag with the words, "United States of America" across the front.

I was instructed to open the green folder on my table and remove the top form. I then to opened the black bag and began to inventory the immediate personal effects of 2LT Lundell. Out of nowhere, somebody hit me in the stomach with a baseball bat. I felt sick. I could feel the fever coming on, I could feel the sweat begin to bead on my head, and my hands began to shake. This was now very real and very personal.

My unsteady hands removed his watch, his dog tags, a challenge coin he had received from the 3rd Special Forces, and finally a gold wedding band. Through watery eyes I checked off each of these items on the form. I noticed Scott had a small plastic tag on his dog tag chain. I saw the familiar words emblazoned from the Special Operations Memorial in Arlington. It was the scripture from Isaiah 6:8.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
At 0500 I boarded a special van with 2LT Lundell and we drove to Philadelphia. We arrived at the Delta cargo terminal. The driver & I unloaded 2LT Lundell and entered the office to complete his paperwork to travel home. Once we had his affairs in order, the driver took me to the passenger terminal.

I entered the bustling crowd of people all trying to fly to various destinations and began looking for the entrance to check in. I'm not sure if it was my emotionally dazed look or full dress uniform that caught the eye of the Delta agent named Michelle. She quickly pulled me aside and asked if I was escorting. I told her that I was and she took me aside and checked me in for my flight.

She upgraded my seat to first class, told me my departure gate, instructed me to use the far left lane of the security screening, and then took my and thanked me. She told me she would come to the gate and help me get to the tarmac to pick up 2LT Lundell.

I walked to the far left side of the TSA screening and stood in line. Regulations require I remain in uniform, but the TSA could ask me to remove my jacket and shoes. I was told they may have a private area where I could remove my jacket and shoes, but did not see any place where this could transpire. An agent from TSA quickly noticed me and asked if I was escorting and I nodded. He opened the line and led me to a lane that was even further to the left.

The TSA agents x-rayed my carry on bag and were able to conduct their security search while allowing me to maintain my professional duties.The agent shook my hand and thanked me. It was painfully obvious to me that this was something they had done many times, yet they really went to lengths to make me feel comfortable.

Michelle met me at the gate and introduced me to Dan who would take me down to the tarmac. The crew arrived shortly thereafter. The pilot came and shook my hand and told me if I needed anything to let him know.

He asked if he could have the other passenger remain seated to allow me to deplane first. I told him it would be very helpful if he could and that it would save time because offloading 2LT Lundell is the first thing the baggage handlers would do.

Dan led me down the stairs and I inspected the cardboard shipping container that protected 2LT Lundell's wooden coffin. There was not doubt it was him. The formality of checking his name and the condition were part of my duties.

I knew it was him. 2LT Lundell was a man larger than life itself. He required an extra large coffin. It was large enough to hold his body, but not the character of his spirit nor the love he gave and received.

The baggage handlers were most professional, but unprepared for such a man. Two of them tried to lift the end of this giant. It took another handler and me to place the 500+ pounds onto the conveyor to load 2LT Lundell into the hold of the 757. Once on the conveyor, I stepped back and rendered a salute as I watched him load into the plane.

I boarded the plane and sat down. The flight was completely full, yet I felt totally alone. I suppose it takes a couple hours to fly from Philadelphia to Atlanta, but time for me was a cloud. I heard the pilot ask the other passengers to allow me to depart the plane first and the flight attendants reminded them of this as we landed.

As we approached the gate I saw an Honor Guard formed by the baggage handlers. I had never seen nor heard of anything like this. I was stunned that the airline would go to such lengths for a fallen soldier. They stood at attention holding the flags of the United States of America, the Army, Marines, Navy, and Air Force.

The plane came to a rest and I stood. Not a single person moved.

Every passenger paid tribute to a man that made it possible for them to fly safely that day. As I exited the aircraft I was immediately greeted by a Delta baggage handler who told me he was a former Marine. He explained that the employees who were veterans received special permission from the Department of Defense to form an Honor Guard so they may honor all of the fallen soldiers as they transport them home. He
asked if I would participate in their ceremony and in a prayer with them.

We marched to the conveyor and 2LT Lundell was brought to us. We presented arms as he came down and then the Marine gave a short prayer. We prayed for Scott, for his family, for me, and for the Lord's protection for all who place themselves in harm's way to defend our freedom. It took every ounce of my strength to maintain my composure as I thanked each of them for what they did that day, for their service to
our nation, and for the ceremonies they will render for the heroes that will pass by them in the future. They gave me the short program and the prayer and asked me to give it to his wife. Each man had signed it: Fred Cadwell, James Davis, William Stearns, and Juan Farmer. I wished I had copied the prayer. A few short words, uttered in front of a few men, but heard by God.

2LT Lundell was placed on a special cart. Painted dark blue with the emblems of all branches of the military and these words, "All gave some, some gave all." "Delta vets honoring our own." We were taken to the employee lounge while we waited for our flight to SLC.

When the plane was inbound, we were taken to the gate. The driver parked the cart so nobody would see the precious cargo it carried. He took me upstairs so I could check in. The agent arrived and I asked her if it was possible to move me closer to the door. She said her computer was not up yet, but she would see what she could do. I stood watching the cart through the window. I doubted anybody would notice that one of the baggage carts was very different.

The pilot arrived and immediately walked over to me. He was a former officer in the USAF and his son flies F-15's out of Mountain Home Idaho. He also offered me any assistance he could provide. I told him how touched I had been with everything Delta had done. We shook hands and he went to go conduct his pre-flight checks.

The crowd around the agent at the desk was gone so I walked over to see if she was able to move me closer to the door. She handed me a boarding pass that put me at the back of first class nearest to the door. I thanked her and went back to watching 2LT Lundell. The baggage handlers came to move him to prepare to load. The gate agent opened the door and I went down to his cart.

I told the baggage handlers that they needed to get more people. So they brought two more men over. The pilot stopped what he was doing and came to assist as well. The pilot helped us load 2LT Lundell and then stood beside me and rendered a salute as he was placed into the hold of the aircraft.

As we flew to SLC, a gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a unit coin. He said this was from one grunt to another. He was the Commander of Dugway Proving Grounds. He knew why I was in my dress blues and what I was doing. It was a welcomed gesture of support. I felt I was not as alone on this part of the journey.

The pilot announced to the flight that they were bringing one of Utah's native sons home and that I was escorting him. He asked if everyone would allow me to please exit first. As we taxied to the gate the flight attendants repeated the request and said how privileged they felt to be able to do so and that they wished to thank all those who serve and have served our country.

Chicago was closed that day due to weather. I heard passengers say how only four flights made it out in the morning. Our plane was full of people who had rerouted to try to make their destinations. I heard several passengers mention they had less than 30 minutes to make their connections. I wondered if they would allow me to move to the door. I did not want to have to ask people to move so I could be first.

My concerns were abolished when the plane stopped. I stood and took a step towards the door. Nobody rose; everyone began to applaud at once. These strangers were bound by a kinship we all shared. We all were part of bringing 2LT Lundell home to Utah.

The first person I saw when I walked down the stair to the tarmac was BG Wilson, the Commander of I Corps. It was his command that 2LT Lundell volunteered to go to war. His eyes looked like mine. We shared in the grief of the responsibility. He returned my salute and gave me pat on the shoulder and thanked me. Behind him I saw 2LT Lundell's best friend from Afghanistan. He is a 1LT who was going through Special Forces training with 2LT Lundell. This 1LT was one of my ROTC students. I counseled with he and 2LT Lundell about this mission prior to their departure.

This 1LT had brought 2LT Lundell from Afghanistan to the USA. They had served together and they were close. 2LT Lundell's wife asked him to bring him home and to come to the funeral.

The Honor Guard now took charge of transporting 2LT Lundell. These were highly professional NCO's who I had worked with before. I was relieved to see them. They took a tremendous weight off of my shoulders.

They entered the cargo hold of the plane and removed the protective cardboard from the casket. They placed the stars of our nation's flag over the left shoulder and ran the stripes down past his feet. They brought him off the pane and placed him on a cart. The cart was escorted by his family, the Honor Guard, and at least six
airport police to a hanger. In the hanger, 2LT Lundell was taken from the cart and placed into the hearse.

After he was placed into the hearse I saw MG Tarbet. It was obvious that this was very personal to him. He looked like this was his own son. His strength and 2LT Lundell's wife's strength was incredible. I've never seen any two people so close to losing a loved one handle it so well.

The ride to the mortuary was somber. Every police officer in the valley must have been there. I have seen the motorcade when the President of the US visited Utah and it was nothing compared to what I saw this time. Every intersection was blocked for the entire 15 mile trip. Police were not leap frogging to get ahead to the next
intersection, they were already there. It was below freezing, yet there were officers on motorcycles.

When we arrived at the funeral home, the Honor Guard removed 2LT Lundell from the hearse and took him inside. Once inside, I followed the casket to a back room. CPT Wiedmeier was the Casualty Assistance Officer and he took care of the family while I went with 2LT Lundell. My job was easy compared to his.

The funeral home director and his staff only had a few minutes to try to make any adjustments if needed. We were told, "Viewable for Identification Only". This would most likely mean a closed casket and no viewing. SGT Parsons had told me they always down grade the condition to protect the family.

When the casket was opened there was opaque plastic covering his face. I feared the worst. When it was removed, he looked perfect. The funeral home people set about their duties while I inspected his uniform. Everything was in order and they moved him to a viewing room.

CPT Wiedmeier broke away so he and I could take care of paperwork. I signed over 2LT Lundell's personal effects and his awards to him so he could present them to the family. When he left to do this, I met with the Director of the funeral home and had him sign the remaining forms accepting 2LT Lundell and verifying his condition.

The Honor Guard took charge of guarding 2LT Lundell until his funeral. They would stand vigilant through the night and into the day until he was laid to final rest.

I found the 1LT who brought 2LT Lundell out of Afghanistan. His wife was clutching his arm. I thought how she must be thinking how easily the roles could be reversed and how it could be her husband instead. I talked with him briefly, offering encouragement and assistance. I'm sure those two spent the night holding each other closer than they ever have in their lives.

This was one of the greatest honors I've ever had. I wish to never do this again, but would do so anytime for any soldier.


Update: Thanks to The Anchoress, I learned of another soldier's homecoming, another sad, moving, and inspiring story.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Surprising Iraqi Video from MEMRI

Iyad Jamal Al-Din, an Iraqi political activist, shares a startling set of views on this MEMRI video. Watch the whole thing.

Here is a Voice of America report that mentions Al-Din, describing him as

a Shi’ite religious scholar, dressed in clerical robes and wearing the black turban of a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed. A set of prayer beads clicks rhythmically in his right hand. But despite outward appearances, he is a staunch proponent of establishing a thoroughly secular state.
Google Al-Din's name and you'll see he has been a prominent advocate for democracy. He must be a courageous man. I wish there were more like him in a position to make a difference.

At Least Jimmy Carter is Consistent

Jimmy Carter has always viewed Israel as the primary obstacle to peace in the Middle East. The following two Dry Bones cartoons date back to June 1977, when the feisty Prime Minister Menachem Begin, of blessed memory, was feeling increasing American pressure to make territorial concessions "for peace," including making Jerusalem an international city. The second one is the most popular Dry Bones ever published. For those who for some reason are not frequent visitors to Yaakov Kirschen's award-winning website, here are the two classics. [The second needs to be viewed on a large scale to be fully appreciated. To do so, go here.]

Friday, December 15, 2006

Mitt Romney and Christmas

This may sound strange to some, but my grandchildren will be eagerly awaiting presents to be delivered to their homes by a bearded man in a red suit led by a pack of flying reindeer. The lead reindeer, by the way, has a red light bulb for a nose — certainly a YouTube scandal waiting to happen.
--Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, responding to an interviewer's playful question about whether "an exposé on Mormon Christmas celebrations" would hurt his campaign. More here.

Thoughts for the Weekend: The Christmas Spirit

Turning for a moment from all the hostile nonsense that goes on in the world, we offer this:
An unknown author wrote:

"I am the Christmas Spirit.

"I enter the home of poverty, causing pale-faced children to open their eyes wide in pleased wonder.

"I cause the miser's clutched hand to relax and thus paint a bright spot on his soul.

"I cause the aged to renew their youth and to laugh in the glad old way.

"I keep romance alive in the heart of childhood and brighten sleep with dreams woven of magic.

"I cause eager feet to climb dark stairways with filled baskets, leaving behind them hearts amazed at the goodness of the world.

"I cause the prodigal to pause a moment on his wild, wasteful way, and send to anxious love some little token that releases glad tears--tears which wash away the hard lines of sorrow.

"I enter dark prison cells, reminding scarred manhood of what might have been, and pointing forward to good days yet to come.

"I come softly into the still, white home of pain; and lips that are too weak to speak just tremble in silent, eloquent gratitude.

"In a thousand ways I cause the weary world to look up into the face of God, and for a little moment forget the things that are small and wretched.

"I am the Christmas Spirit."

This is the spirit each true Christian seeks. This is the spirit I pray each may find. This is the Christ spirit. No quest is so universal, no undertaking so richly rewarding, no effort so ennobling, no purpose so divine. The Christmas season seems to prompt anew that yearning, that seeking to emulate the Savior of the world.
--Thomas S. Monson, "In Search of the Christmas Spirit," Ensign, Dec. 1987, 4-5.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Gaza is a Gang War!

The news wires report that, following a fierce gun battle with Fatah forces, Hamas militias have seized control of the border between Gaza and Egypt.

The proper model for understanding what is happening in Gaza today between Fatah and Hamas is a gang war for control of the rackets. Look at South Central or East Los Angeles, any sizeable prison, Baja California or Columbia. Look back at Chicago during Prohibition. Whereever you find an example of criminal thugs fighting each other for control of the rackets, that is the correct model for what is going on now in Gaza.

The PLO has always been a kleptocracy. It set up shop in South Lebanon and robbed the local population there, setting up armed road blocks to extract "taxes," until Arafat and his thugs were chased out by Israel in 1982. They holed up in Tunesia, limiting their racket to squeezing Arab oil-rich regimes for protection money, until the Oslo Accords freed the PLO to take over Gaza and Yehuda and Shomron ("the West Bank"). From then until his death, Yassir Arafat stole billions of dollars of international aid, most of which is still missing, and probably resides in Swiss banks. Naturally, as the successor to Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas wants to wet his beak; but he and his Fatah gang are being challenged for the money by Hamas.

Keep in mind that each of these groups maintains its power to intimidate and rule only by virtue of its militias of otherwise unemployed young men. When Hamas was elected into power, the U.S., the European Union and Israel shut off the tap of "international aid." That does not seem to have stopped either Fatah and Hamas from forming and arming new thug militias. [See "Gaza: Millions for Kalashnikovs, Not a Penny for Economic Development," the Hedghog Blog, May 16, 2006.] Nonetheless, the cutoff of international aid makes it more difficult for the Palestinian terrorist thieves to fund their own Swiss accounts and also pay the salaries of their Mafia soldiers. Control of the border with Egypt is vital--it is over that border that the Palestinian gangs smuggle arms and money.

Just today, Israel (presumably with PLO support) stopped the Hamas Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh, from entering Gaza from Egypt until he left behind $35,000,000 in "donations" he had collected from his tour of Muslim states. Here is a picture of the Hamas Godfather cooling his heels at the border crossing until he turned the loot over to Egyptian authorities:

As he sped away from the border, Haniyeh's vehicle convoy came under fire from Fatah gunmen, reportedly killing one of his body guards. It was that incident that probably led to the gun battle that followed.

Dry Bones On Jim Baker: 2006 and 1992

Another Dry Bones Then And Now:
Baker Explains (2006)

Commentary from Yaakov Kirschen (aka "Bones"):

How does Baker's "Iraq Study Group" report sound to reformers in the region?
MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute) has provided a translation of "The Poisonous Report", an editorial that was posted on the Arabic reformist website on December 8, 2006.

"the transition to what the Group referred to as 'The Political and Diplomatic Combat,' which aims at involving Iran and Iraq in the determination of Iraq's destiny, would require a price which the U.S. will have to pay.
Here lies the essence of this whole report. The price is to completely abandon the spreading of democracy in the Middle East, and to begin a dialogue with the dictatorial regimes of Damascus and Tehran."
-For more, please go to the Dry Bones Blog.

Bush and Baker (1992)

Kirschen kvetches:

This cartoon is from February 2, 1992.
Frankly I'm getting tired of pointing out how these "golden oldies" are as appropriate today as they were back then!!
James Baker is one of the architects of today's Middle East mess. Now, close to 15 years later, Baker is back. As is Jimmy Carter. Trying to sell us their same old tired, failed ideas about appeasing Arab dictators and pressuring the area's only democracy.

All Good Wishes to Senator Tim Johnson

Dear everyone:

Any decent person-- Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal, libertarian-- will wish Tim Johnson a speedy recovery. The Democrats won the election, and Republicans should win it back by convincing enough people to vote for their side, not by the right Senator dying. That's how Republicans do it; we don't pull Jim Jeffords-style tricks to gain control of the U.S. Senate.

End of rant.


The Hedgehog

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

At Least One Good Thing Came Out of That Lousy War!

Back on August 11, I posted a report on the Hezbollah war from Linda Stern,the Overseas Administrator of the Yeshiva Hesder in Kiryat Shemona. As I explained then, a Hesder Yeshiva is a school where young Israeli men may combine advanced Talmudic studies with their army service.

Today I received a report from Linda of a decidedly different nature. I will let her explain:
Yitzchak and I are delighted to announce the engagement of our second daughter, Chayale to Yedidia Bomash of Givat Shmuel. Yedidia is the youngest brother of Chaim, director of Yeshivat Hesder Kiryat Shemonah, with whom I have been working for the past nearly 6 years. A chance meeting in August at the Yeshivah with this amazing young man who had just come out of Lebanon and, on his way home, had popped in to visit his brother, led me to suggest that perhaps he'd like to meet our equally amazing daughter. He did... and as they say - the rest is history!

Hedgehog readers, please join me in wishing Chayale and Yedidia a warm mazel tov. May God bless them to build a bayit ne'eman b'yisrael, a faithful house in Israel, in peace and tranquility. And mazel tov to Linda and Yitzchak as well.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Carter's Maps: Worse Than Plagiarism.

One of the controversies swirling around Jimmy Carter's scurrilous screed, Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid, is the apparent lifting, without attribution, of maps from The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace, by Dennis Ross. Jewish Current Issues demonstrates that there are far worse problems in the use of those maps than mere plagiarism. In his book, Carter has altered the descriptions that Ross provided for the apparently misappropriated maps, in a manner that illustrates the mendacious nature of Carter's entire project. To fully appreciate what Carter has tried to put over on the American public, one must read the entire post at Jewish Current Issues.

Carter has defended the charges of plagiarism regarding the maps by insisting that he has never seen the Ross book. If that is not an outright lie--and given Carter's other prevarications, one can't dismiss the likelihood that he is lying--it would prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Carter book is bereft of serious scholarship. No reputable scholar would attempt to write knowledgably about the breakdown of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations since the Oslo Accords, especially about the Camp David and Sharm el-Sheikh talks at the end of the Clinton Administration, without reading the account of those events by Dennis Ross, the chief U.S. negotiator at those talks.

Rick Richman is blogmaster at Jewish Current Issues. When I was a summer clerk at a downtown Los Angeles firm in 1975, Rick was a young tax partner. Now he is a not-so-young tax lawyer, although he looks much younger than me. (See photo at upper left.) If the Devil's Dictionary definition of a neoconservative is a liberal who got mugged, then Rick and I are both neoconservatives. His mugging came at the hands of the Clinton Administration, the Oslo Accords, Yassir Arafat and finally September 11. His blog is both an excellent source of neocon political analysis (although he might possibly eschew the label) and a collection of rich observations of Jewish American culture.

Mark Steyn Assesses the ISG Report; How Should Israelis Feel About Current Events?

has read the ISG (which he presumes to stand for "Illustrious Senior's Group"), and he was not impressed. Please read his entire Dec. 10, 2006 column in the Chicago Sun-Times. Here are some apertifs:

After noting that the ISG report recommends the formation of a multi-national Iraq Support Group, whose members would include Syria, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt, the Gulf States, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Counsel (the U.S., Britain, France, China and Russia), the European Union and a special envoy appointed by the U.N. Secretary General, Steyn observes:
Oh, but lest you think there are no minimum admission criteria to James Baker's "Support Group," relax, it's a very restricted membership: Arabs, Persians, Chinese commies, French obstructionists, Russian assassination squads. But no Jews. Even though Israel is the only country to be required to make specific concessions -- return the Golan Heights, etc. Indeed, insofar as this document has any novelty value, it's in the Frankenstein-meets-the-Wolfman sense of a boffo convergence of hit franchises: a Vietnam bug-out, but with the Jews as the designated fall guys. Wow. That's what Hollywood would call "high concept."
On the ISG's recommendation to work cooperatively with Syria and Iran:
The Surrender Gran'pas assert that Iran and Syria have "an interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq." This, to put it mildly, is news to the Iranians and Syrians, who have concluded that what's in their interest is much more chaos in Iraq.
What Steyn brings out humorously is tragically not really very funny. Consider how Israelis should view the events of the past week. After Syria and Iran have armed and financed Hezbollah, first to attack Israel and now to overthrow the government of Lebanon; after Syria and Iran have armed, trained, financed and sheltered the insurgents--both Sunni and Shiia--that foment unrest in Iraq and murder U.S. and allied troops and civilians; after Syria and Iran do everything in their power to defy and defeat the U.S.; the Iraq Study Group advocates dialogue with them, cooperation with them, negotiation with them; and indicates that the price for this dialogue is Israeli return of the Golan Heights and settling "the Palestinian right of return."

On that last point, Steyn notes:
And, incidentally, how did that phrase -- "the right of return" -- get so carelessly inserted into a document signed by two former secretaries of state, two former senators, a former attorney general, Supreme Court judge, defense secretary, congressman, etc. These are by far the most prominent Americans ever to legitimize a concept whose very purpose is to render any Zionist entity impossible. I'm not one of those who assumes that just because much of James Baker's post-government career has been so lavishly endowed by the Saudis that he must necessarily be a wholly owned subsidiary of King Abdullah, but it's striking how this document frames all the issues within the pathologies of the enemy.
To continue our effort to empathize with Israelis' reactions to the current events, consider that in the same week, Robert Gates, in his Senate confirmation hearings to be the next Secretary of Defense, all but rules out the use of force to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. One might readily interpret his testimony to be a policy declaration from the George W. Bush Administration that if military force is the only way to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, Israel is on its own. Meanwhile, in Tehran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hosts a Holocaust deniers conference, at which he repeats his vow that the demise of Israel is at hand.

In the same week, a former U.S. President and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, whom the international community, if not many Americans, hold in high regard, publishes a virulently anti-Israel book outrageously entitled, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid. It is filled with half-truths and outright falsehoods, but is highly acclaimed by academia and the media elites, and becomes a best seller. President Carter, in defense of his book, repeats the charge that is currently so popular with American scholars and enemies of Israel, that the American Jewish community, lead by the American Israel Political Action Committee, has suppressed open political debate in our country about the Middle East. In a column in the Los Angeles Times, Carter writes:
For the last 30 years, I have witnessed and experienced the severe restraints on any free and balanced discussion of the facts. This reluctance to criticize any policies of the Israeli government is because of the extraordinary lobbying efforts of the American-Israel Political Action Committee and the absence of any significant contrary voices.

It would be almost politically suicidal for members of Congress to espouse a balanced position between Israel and Palestine, to suggest that Israel comply with international law or to speak in defense of justice or human rights for Palestinians. Very few would ever deign to visit the Palestinian cities of Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron, Gaza City or even Bethlehem and talk to the beleaguered residents. What is even more difficult to comprehend is why the editorial pages of the major newspapers and magazines in the United States exercise similar self-restraint, quite contrary to private assessments expressed quite forcefully by their correspondents in the Holy Land.
[Apparently President Carter does not regularly read the Los Angeles Times, which fills its news pages and op-ed section with articles and columns critical of Israel.]

In the face of all of this, if you were an Israeli, how would you feel?

Military Recruits Do Not Share Pessimism

It appears that neither the U.S. military forces, nor their recruiting pool, share the pessimism of the Iraq Study Group regarding our ability to achieve our objectives in Iraq. At a time when criticism of the Bush Aministration's Iraq policy has peaked, during the month when the Democrats recaptured Congress, the Defense Department announced today that the Navy and Air Force met their recruiting goals in November, while the Army and Marine Corps, which bear the brunt of the ground fighting, actually exceeded their recruiting goals. I understand that a war correspondent in Iraq is currently writing a book describing our military forces there and in Afghanistan as the "next greatest generation." He may well be right.

Good News At Last: Kucinich to Seek Democratic Presidential Nomination!

Representative Dennis "Give Peace a Chance" Kucinich (D-Ohio) (shown at left flashing the peace sign) announced today that once again he will seek the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. We believe that all Republicans and security-minded "Red Democrats" such as the Kosher Hedgehog will join together to wish Senator Kucinich success in securing the Democratic Presidential nomination. Should he win the nomination, may we suggest as his running mate California's own Senator Barbara Boxer? We believe that only Senator Boxer can provide the intellectual gravitas to match that of Representative Kucinich. Also, Representative Kucinich, should you achieve the Democratic nomination, please consider Arianna Huffington as your campaign manager for the general election. Believe me, sir, our nation's bests interests are at stake.

Sex, Lies, and Rahm Emmanuel

News reports like this one are springing up about the Democrats' knowledge of Mark Foley's inappropriate e-mails way back in 2005. Apparently the Democrats sat on the e-mails until just before the 2006 elections and then "shopped" them to the news media.

So at this point, this much has been established:

  • Mark Foley is a gay man who served in Congress "in the closet," and while there made e-mail advances to underage pages.

  • Both Republicans and Democrats knew about this.

  • Republicans kept it under wraps because they didn't want to lost Foley's seat.

  • Democrats kept it under wraps until they could profit from it politically, at which time they used it, cynically, to their maximum advantage.

  • Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats who knew about this cared one whit about the teenagers involved.

  • The Democrats' behavior is all the more appalling because they feigned outrage and disgust over Foley's antics, even though they did nothing about his behavior until they could profit politically.

  • Rahm Emmanuel, like his patron Bill Clinton, is a brazen liar.

  • All of these people are disgusting.

All of this may be why, in a USA TODAY/Gallup taken Friday through Sunday:

Only 15% of 1,009 adults . . . gave U.S. senators high or very high marks for
honesty and ethical standards. Only 14% did so for U.S. representatives.

If I were the father of a page involved, I'd be inclined to walk into some Congressional offices and punch a few noses, then see if any jury would convict me of battery. Not that I feel strongly about this or anything.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Rick Santorum, in Farewell Senate Speech, Warns America of the Gathering Storm

In his farewell speech on the Senate floor, on Wednesday, December 6, 2006, Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA)explained why he had voted against confirmation of the nomination of Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. In an address that he entitled "The Gathering Storm of the 21st Century," Senator Santorum demonstrated that he understands, perhaps as well or better than any other prominent American politician, the challeges facing U.S. security. He pointed to the ominous alliance forming between Islamic Fascism, the rogue regimes in Iran and North Korea, and Western Hemisphere enemies of the United States, such as Cuba and the Hugo Chavez regime in Venezuela. He noted the increasingly mischievous role being played by Vladimir Putin of Russia. He cited the folly of the Iraq Study Group, whose policy recommendations would award and appease America's enemies at the expense of her friends. Free Republic has posted the entire speech. It is a stem winder, but every American should read it. One realizes what leadership has been lost, due to the foolishness of the Pennsylvania electorate. We may only hope that Rick Santorum, like Winston Churchill, will return from political exile to help his nation face the dire threats posed by her enemies.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

WHY WE FIGHT: Taliban Kills Two Women for Crime of Teaching

Two sisters bravely defied a warning from the Taliban to quit teaching or "face the penalty." The cowardly Islamic terrorists killed the two teachers, their mother, their grandmother, and a male relative. It is to the enduring shame of those who purport to speak for "women's rights," "gay rights" and "academic freedom" that they have remained on the sidelines, largely silent in the face of Islamic extremism that would strip them of the rights, civil liberties and protection they enjoy in Western countries, especially in the United States. Indeed, university academics on American campuses frequently advocate the cause of the enemy. The threat they would face should radical Islam prevail is made clear by this story from the New York Times.

Jeanne Kirkpatrick, R.I.P.

Before John Bolton, there was Jeanne Kirkpatrick. A pioneer of neoconservatism and one of its most articulate spokepersons, she was an invaluable member of the Ronald Reagan team. As United States ambassador to the United Nations, she was as reviled by the Left, the UN bureaucracy and internationalists in her day as John Bolton has been in recent years; but she was never cowed or muzzled. She will be missed. Please read her obituary on Wall Street Journal online.

Friday, December 08, 2006

"Mistakes:" The Iraq War Blame Game

Victor Davis Hanson:
"Suffice to say that when the Democrats allege incompetence because we are not yet victorious, they forget we have lost 50 soldiers a month since September 11, not 8,000 as was true of every month during World War II. And it is much easier to carpet bomb Tokyo, as horrendously difficult as that was, than to go into Fallujah and sort out the terrorists from the "innocent" under the glare of a hostile globalized media, and a disunited American public, some of whom believe that Cindy Sheehan or Michael Moore should be consulted for their superior wisdom.

"I haven’t engaged much in the parlor game of identifying mistakes in the occupation, because none of them (and there were many) reached a magnitude of those in World War II (e.g., daylight bombing without fighter escort in 1942-3, intelligence failures about the hedgerows, surprise at the Bulge, etc) or Korea (surprise at the Yalu). Nor were any fatal to our cause, despite the ‘disbanding’ of the army, Abu Ghraib, etc. If there were any serious blunders, they concerned the sense of hesitation that gave our enemies confidence—the sudden departure of Gen. Franks, the pullback from first Fallujah, the reprieve given Sadr, etc. In other words, once we were in a war, whatever public downside there was to using too much force was far outweighed by losing our sense of control and power, and ceding momentum to the terrorists. So we can learn from that, and begin again cracking down hard on the insurgents before calling for more troops."

French Presidential Candidate Agrees with Hezbollah that U.S. is Insane and Israelis are Nazis

From the London Times online:

Ségolène Royal, the French presidential candidate, was embroiled in a damaging row on a visit to the Middle East yesterday [Dec. 3, 2006] after appearing to condone a Hezbollah MP who denounced US “insanity” and compared Israel to the Nazis.
Ms Royal, the first woman with a realistic chance of winning the French presidency, was struggling to extricate herself from the controversy sparked by a meeting in Beirut with MPs, including Ali Ammar of Hezbollah.
In a 20-minute tirade Mr Ammar attacked “unlimited American insanity” for sending troops into Afghanistan and Iraq. He then said that Israeli “Nazism” was no better than Hitler’s Third Reich.
Ms Royal, who is on her first overseas trip since winning the Socialist Party primary, replied: “Thank you for being so frank. I agree with a lot of the things you have said, notably your analysis of the US.”

Dry Bones responded to Royal's affronts to the United States and Israel by pulling up from his archives this gem from October 1996. How do you say, "The more things change, the more they stay the same," in French?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pearl Harbor - 65 Years Ago Today

Tom Bevan has a Pearl Harbor roundup worth reading.

It's ironic that the Iraq Study Group's report came out one day before the anniversary of The Day That Will Live In Infamy.

I wonder if the photo at left (of the Arizona going down) was seen often during World War II, or if the news media refrained from showing it, for fear of inciting anger against the attackers?

Finally, here's a story of heroism from that day in 1941 that most people don't know, about Mervyn Sharp Bennion, the captain of the USS West Virginia.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Iraq Study Group: Some Hard-Headed Analysis

Andrew McCarthy has it here.

Quote of The Day

I don't see a civil war in Iraq. I don't see a constituency for civil war. The vast majority of the people want hope for their families, not to massacre their neighbors or divide their country. A poll conducted in June by the International Republican Institute, a nonpartisan group that promotes democracy, found 89 percent of Iraqis supporting a unity government representing all sects and ethnic communities. No wonder no 'rebel army' steps forward to claim credit for vicious car bombs and cowardly executions of civilians.
--Maj. Gen. William Caldwell IV, chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, writing in the Washington Post.

Whatever one thinks about the problems in Iraq, one has to give comments like the above at least some decent consideration.

It's The Most Wonderful Time of The Year . . .

Matt Blunt, a promising 36 year-old Republican governor of Missouri, has issued this directive to his state's employees:
From: Governor Matt Blunt
To: Department Directors
Date: December 4, 2006
Re: "Merry Christmas"

Last year there was a great deal of public discussion regarding the Christmas season. Specifically, we heard from those who believe that the Christmas break should be called by a non-religious name such as "Winter Holiday." They also argued that traditional Christmas greetings such as "Merry Christmas" should not be used.

Missouri state government employees should not have to worry about this matter. To ensure that there is no confusion regarding our state policy I am directing that each of you inform all members of your department that they should feel at ease using traditional holiday phrases, including "Merry Christmas" and they should have no fear of official reprisal. I also ask that you inform your staff that the objections of those who are offended by these phrases be given due consideration, but that no state employee will be reprimanded or in any way disciplined for saying "Merry Christmas."

This holiday season should not give state employees reason to feel as though they must check their religious views at the door of a government building. Instead, it is my hope that each state employee enjoys the holiday season with full confidence that their government exists to preserve their liberty rather than constrict it.
(HT: Power Line.)

Lest any of you think I am being disrespectful of the religious sensibilities of my co-blogger Ralph, the Kosher Hedgehog, I assure you with 100% certainty (a rare thing these days) that Ralph supports Governor Blunt's statement.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Iranian Coup in Washington, D.C?

In the United States, our government overthrows thankfully take the form of elections rather than armed coups d'etat. Today's Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense designate Robert Gates (photo at left) brings home the effect of the November 2006 midterm elections. They were not merely a change of control in both houses of Congress, but an overthrow of the national security policy of the George W. Bush Administration as well.

Time after time Senator Robert Byrd (D-W. VA) asked questions that amounted to indictments of past Bush Administration foreign policy, or requests for endorsement of the Democratic Party's critique of that policy. Time after time Robert Gates gave Senator Byrd the answer he was looking for. Yet in nearly every case, Dr. Gates could have dodged the question or answered it in a manner that would have been neither evasive, nor confrontational, but would have left the Adminstration's policy options open, and avoided encouragement of our enemies as well.

For example, incredibly, when Senator Byrd asked Dr. Gates whether the Congressional authorization to use force in Iraq would allow an attack on either Iran or Syria, Gates responded that it would not. Why would Dr. Gates even answer such a hypothetical question without context? What if insurgents operating out of either Iran or Syria crossed the border and attacked an Iraqi town or U.S. troops? Has Dr. Gates ruled out a hot pursuit or deterrent attack on Iran or Syria in that situation? If Dr. Gates felt impelled to answer, why not mention that the President of the United States may have inherent executive power, as the Commander In Chief of our armed forces, to act without Congressional authorization where necessary to the defense of vital national interests?

Dr. Gates also gave Senator Byrd the answers he was fishing for when Byrd asked him what Gates thought the probable consequences would be of an American attack on Iran or Syria. Gates responded with a litany of actions that Iran might take against the U.S. in response to an attack--including stepped-up support of terrorism in the Middle East, Europe and the United States.

Of course, there is no doubt that military action against Iran would be risky and messy, and not without possible dire consequences. However, there is no guaranty that Iran will not take many if not all of the actions against U.S. interests predicted by Gates at a time of Iran's choosing, even if the U.S. never attacks Iran. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that Hezbollah terrorist cells sponsored by Iran are already in the U.S., Latin America and Europe, planning such attacks.

The regimes in Tehran and Damascus were no doubt listening to the Gates confirmation hearings, and drawing the obvious conclusion--they need have little fear that their adventurism in Lebanon, Gaza and Iraq will encounter a forceful response from the United States. Tehran and Damascus will no doubt now test us to see if their assessment of U.S. weakness is accurate--and the results of those tests may be horrific.

When a presidential nominee for a Cabinet position testifies at a Senate confirmation hearing, he is not presenting his personal opinions--he is presenting and advocating the policy positions of the President who has nominated him and in whose Administration he hopes to serve. Dr. Gates answered Senator Byrd's questions in the manner he did because whoever now holds sway in the Bush Adminstration on national security policy directed him to do so. It would be naive for us to assume that what we heard from Dr. Gates today does not reflect a post-election shift in the defense policy and foreign policy of the Bush Administration, away from strong-willed deterrence of Iranian expansionism, and toward appeasement. If that is the case, the consequences will be dire, in Iraq, in Lebanon, for Israel and for U.S. interests in the Middle East.

Hurray for Hollyweird

Don't miss Dean Barnett's post today, in which Dean comments on Mel Gibson, "Apocalypto," Hollywood, drunken anti-Semitic rants, ant related matters. A few key 'graphs:
The fact that Hollywood-types feel free to stand as the judge of other people’s character is a delightful irony. . . . The fact that some members of the Academy deem it their right to judge an artist’s moral worth would be a dangerously slippery slope if the members of the Academy were at all serious about the endeavor.

. . . Times’ reporter Sharon Waxman lumps Gibson in with Leni Riefenstahl as morally deficient filmmakers. The distinction between Riefenstahl, who used her considerable talent to significantly aid history’s most murderous regime, and Gibson, who used vile racist language but who has never harmed anyone, seems lost to Waxman. The moral obtuseness of this comparison, which I have little doubt that many of Gibson’s critics would find quite apt, is appalling.

Also interesting is that in cataloguing artists lacking the moral right stuff, Waxman didn’t mention my favorite moral leper of an artist, Woody Allen. Of course, Allen’s never had an anti-Semitic outburst which is perhaps the only hanging offense in the Hollywood values structure. He did, however, leave his wife for his wife’s then 20 year-old daughter. In some value systems, that would be worse than any imaginable verbal harangue. A couple of years after Allen’s personal depredations became public, the Academy larded his badly overrated “Bullets Over Broadway” with multiple Oscar nominations.

Dean reports that Apocalypto is "being widely hailed as an audacious creative triumph." Read the whole thing.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Why Iran Wants Lebanon

Dry Bones explains it for us. And lest you think that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is content with threatening Israel only from the north, this past weekend came the first official meeting of the Jew-hater who is the President of Iran with the Jew-hater who is the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority. As reported by JTA, "The Palestinian Authority prime minister and Iranian president, in their first official meeting, vowed to see Israel eliminated."

On the other hand, there have been a slew of articles on various MSM opinion pages counseling that we should not be overly concerned about Iran. It reminds one somewhat of the story of the wife who surprises her husband with a female companion in flagrante delicto, whereupon he indignantly proclaims his innocence, saying "Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?"

A Holiday Gift-giving Idea: Phone Cards

Last year, while working with Soldiers' Angels on my son's Eagle Scout project, we learned that soldiers love AT&T Phone Cards, which they use to make calls home.

If you are having any kind of Christmas or other holiday gathering, at home or in your church or club, consider inviting every guest to bring an AT&T phone card, which you can send on to Iraq and Afghanistan for distribution to the troops there.

If you want to receive the cards and then ship them yourself, here's an excellent place to buy them.

If you'd rather not worry about the shipping yourself, here's another section of the same site, which allows you to buy the card and have it delivered by the Red Cross, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Fisher House, or similar organization.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Coup in Lebanon Begins

As predicted in The Hedgehog Blog on November 21, Hezbollah, backed by Syria and Iran, has begun its siege to overthrow the Siniora government in Lebanon.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Let Keith Ellison Take His Oath On The Koran!

Those who view the political right as a monolithic, lock-step movement would do well to look into the respective positions of Dennis Prager and Michael Medved on whether newly elected Congressional Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) (photo left) may choose to take his oath of office on the Koran. Prager and Medved are both Salem Radio Network talkshow hosts, and both are religious, practicing Jews. (The always independent-minded Prager belongs to a synagogue in the Reform movement, even as he takes iconoclastic positions on both religious and political issues contrary to the prevailing views in Reform Judaism. Medved is Orthodox.) Yet they have taken opposite positions on this question.

In a recent column, Prager argues as follows:
"Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress. In your personal life, we will fight for your right to prefer any other book. We will even fight for your right to publish cartoons mocking our Bible. But, Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath."

Medved, on the other hand, on his radio program, has stated that forcing Representative Ellison to take his Congressional oath on the Bible would be the clearest possible violation of the prohibition of established religion in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, a blatant government expression of preference of one religion's sacred text over another.

I completely agree with Medved. Indeed, I frankly find Prager's position on this issue to be astonishing in its display of ignorance of the First Amendment, the rest of the U.S. Constitution, history and facts. One example: Prager writes, "But for all of American history, Jews elected to public office have taken their oath on the Bible, even though they do not believe in the New Testament ... ." Nonsense. While some Jewish public officials may have chosen to takes their oathes on a Christian Bible, complete with the New Testament, elected Jewish office holders, at least in modern times, have always been allowed to take an oath on a Jewish Bible, which of course does not contain the New Testament. Senator Joe Lieberman took his Senatorial oath of office on a Lieberman family bible; it did not, rest assured, contain the New Testament.

Prager's position would disqualify from public service any person whose religious conscience and sincerely held religious beliefs would prevent him or her from swearing on a Christian Bible. Should I ever be so unlucky as to be elected to public office, I certainly would be unwilling to take the oath on a Christian Bible. In fact, many pious Orthodox Jews, in order to avoid any possibility of taking God's name in vain, will out of conscience not take any oath ever under any circumstances, even at the risk of financial loss, but will only make an affirmation.

Indeed, Prager's position goes against the express language of the Constitution, which states in Article VI:

"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

The alternative of affirmation is thus provided in the Constitution itself, in the very sentence that prohibits a religious test as a qualification for public office! What stronger proof could there be that Prager's position, that one cannot serve in Congress if one is unwilling to take an oath on the Bible, is, well, unconstitutional.

Moreover, the alternative of affirmation is also given in Article II of the Constitution, regarding the oath of office to be taken by the President:

"Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:--'I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.'"

Finally, Prager's position on this issue misses the whole point of why one takes an oath of office on a Bible or another sacred text. The concept is that the person making the oath is putting the force of something that is holy and sacred to the oath taker behind his commitment to keep the oath. He says in effect, "If I betray my oath of office, I am betraying the God to whom I pray and the book that I consider to be God's words." For that reason, completely apart from Constitutional considerations, wouldn't we want Keith Ellison to take his oath of office on the book that he considers most sacred, the Koran, rather that on the Bible, which in his religious world view has lesser sanctity and has been superceded?

Poltics, Politics, Politics: Ken Mehlman, Barack Obama , John McCain, and Mitt Romney

The GOP meltdown: Ken Mehlman says Republicans need to take responsibility for losing Congress:

"If we shrug our shoulders and say, 'It was just a fluke, a perfect storm of factors out of our control,' then we will lose again in 2008," Mehlman told the Republican Governors Association at its annual meeting, as he prepares to step down from the RNC at the end of the year.

"If that is the approach we take, then we are destined to spend far more than one term in the minority," Mehlman added. "And we as a party will deserve it."

Does it have to be Hillary? Maybe not. Barack Obama is probably going to run for president as the "I'm not Hillary Clinton" candidate. Tom Bevan has thoughts:

Consider just how meteoric Obama's rise has been. In 2000, he lost badly to Bobby Rush in the Democratic primary in Illinois 1st Congressional District. Four years later, with only about a month left in the 2004 Democratic Senate primary, Obama was running tied with Dan Hynes for second place, ten points behind gazillionaire Blair Hull - until the frontrunner's campaign imploded in mid-to-late February amid revelations his wife had filed a restraining order against him for abuse (I think he admitted kicking her in the shin during a spat, if I recall).

Barring that last minute turn of events, Obama would still be an Illinois State Senator and two-time loser for higher office that no one in the country had ever heard of.

Instead, Obama won the primary in March and went on to give an excellent keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in August. Just like that, before he'd even officially been elected to the Senate, Obama became an overnight sensation and suddenly morphed into presidential material among Democrats and the media.

McCain's Straight Talk Express. Sort of. Candidates often hire political consultant to do their dirty work. One of John McCain's consultants is Patrick Hynes, who runs a blog called Ankle-Biting Pundits. (More about Hynes here; McCain's already paid him $31,500.)

If you want to know what the McCain team thinks are Romney's soft spots, go to Hynes' blog. Today the top three posts contain negative "buzz" about Romney. McCain will never stoop to the level his consultants will, but he knows how the game is played. So for the latest McCain-sponsored anti-Romney buzz, check this space!

More Romney: Article VI Blog comments on religious name-calling in modern politics.