Thursday, March 31, 2005
The General specifically forbids any level of command between himself and any responding Marine from preventing, discouraging, altering, or influencing their responses.
Has a very high level military commander found a practical military application for blogging, in response to the very real time challenges of the information operations warfight? I hope he means what he says, and I hope he's prepared for what he'll hear.
Most commander's don't like to hear bad news, especially when it goes against their opinions, pet projects, natural prejudices, or their egos. That's why so many of their staff are far better at truth spinning than truth telling. Will his Marines dare to speak "Truth to Power?" My guess is yes, because these guys are Marines.
Quite the internet equivalent of the Commander's Open Door Policy.
Also see related story at Winds of Change, http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/006576.php
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
I still don't know how these things get off the ground, they're like the fat caterpillar in Bug's Life with the tiny wings ...
Back Home Away from Home
Thanks for the suggestions, the steak at Chilis was as good as advertised.
We never did get allowed off base, but I think that the USO deserves a very hearty pat on the back for doing everything they could to bring the local culture to us. I didn't ride the camels, but then again I won't have a pet inside my house either. It was nice to see them. Likewise the hookas, I wouldn't risk starting smoking again but it was fun to have them around. (They did remind some here of hazy views from college days, but I won't name names.)
The chapel there is very impressive, considering it looks like a hangar from the outside (like every other structure there), but reminiscent of the Crystal Cathedral on the inside. Their Easter program was very nice, and I got to sing some of my Easter favorites. The Chaplain told me afterward he was originally from Boston, and was very pleased later that evening when he noticed my Red Sox T-Shirt in the Top Off club. He did a fine job with the Resurrection sermon, although I missed the services that were planned on my FOB.
If you have a choice, and one of them is some time in Qatar, I'd say go. Enjoy. They won't let you have too much fun, but the fun you have will be enough. (Unless there's just No pleasing you.
Sunday, March 27, 2005
I have the fortune and misfortune to celebrate Easter this year very far from home, far even from my friends and fellow soldiers alongside whom I have spent the past 10 months first preparing for and then participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF III). This is my misfortune for obvious reasons, but as with many movements of God in our lives, this occasion of loss and absence brings unexpected blessings, that is our great good fortune. I'll explain why.
Easter is a very special time in our family. I was born, and later reborn as we like to say, on Easter Sunday. That ensures I always associate Easter with birth, and rebirth. It has always represented a time for new beginnings, of change, renewal, rededication.
Christmas is the holiday on the Christian calendar associated with birth in a different way, but that's the humble birth, the seed planted that in the fullness of time would emerge as the salvation of the world. That birth was humble, it slumbered, it speaks of love invested. Easter speaks of love demostrated:
"For God so loved the World, that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever shall believe in Him, shall have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
In the great way of paradox that is God's own comeuppance to the wise, that death on Easter sets the stage for eternal rebirth. By adhering to the cross, for dying to self and aligning ourselves to Messiah, we are made new creations in Christ:
17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things haveThere's a much older promise too, that Christ's resurrection reconnects us to, as fortold in Isaiah 65:17:
passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
17"For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.
This is the promise that has been latent and present since the beginning of the world, until God chose the time and the place for revelation. God never promises that the things of this world will remain, unchanging. In fact, He warns us that "this too shall pass away," that all things of this earth will pass away. He wants change, He wants us prepared for change, He wants us to change.
Mrs. Dadmanly's family on her Mom's side is Polish. They have this great big wonderful, tight as a southern hug family. A real family, with more known relatives than most families have on their extended Christmas card lists. They are a vibrant people, maybe somewhat dimmed and discouraged from the loss of Babci some years back at 101 years of age, but still carrying the traditions and vivid memories of family holidays. I was very fortunate to have shared the last few years when Babci was still there, urging us all to eat, toiling in the kitchen. Listening to her children scolding her about shoveling her own snow at 98, or standing on the table cleaning the ceiling, or her chiding of her daughters in Polish, correcting them on some family event or matter of tradition or even how they wore their hair.
Easter brings fond remembrance of Easter visits with Babci, big family gatherings, great food, lots of laughter. We long to "resurrect" those days, and hope that this year all the scattered strands of family may yet gather at some celebration rather than the inevitable funeral or wake.
And that brings me full circle to the deeper meaning that Easter has for me, and why Mrs. Dadmanly and I are more blessed by our separation than we ever imagined we could be, even in the midst of tears shed in missing our close companionship.
Resurrection is the promise unhoped for after sorrow. Resurrection is God's blessing in abundance following a famine or drought. Rebirth and renewal in all aspects of our lives offer new opportunities for unlooked for joy.
This separation has been hard. Being apart for things like Easter are tough, and it's hard for us to be joyful. Everything we do is a reminder of how different it would be if we were together. We grieve the absence of each other's best friend.
But there's joy coming through in the morning.
Mrs. D has used this time to offer herself for military families as a helper for our Chaplains. She also helped start a Women's Support Group at our church, ministering to women who need healing from emotional hurts. She relies on God more than ever, as her soulmate is not an arms length away, or even an easy phone call or email away.
I have rediscovered my writing, but allowing it to be used of God more and more. I am working on a sermon with our Chaplain, and though it goes slowly, I am inching towards a more public working out of my faith here in country. I walk through Proverbs with my friend John, and remain in very frequent contact with friends and family. I send a deluge of mail and postings on my web log. I've reached out to people all over the world through the blog, and begun to forge those interconnections that I believe are one of God's new ways of ministry.
So this is Easter, 2005. And like Easter 1991 when I accepted Jesus as my Savior, and Easter 1959 when I came into this world, there is a whole new world in which this new creation can find communion with my God, fellow believers, other travellers who ride this short, vibrant life on earth.
May the God of New Beginnings speak renewal into your hearts, and may you find that sudden and unexpected joy after a season of regret.
Saturday, March 26, 2005
Nowadays we trade freedom for experience – better that the kid have New Experiences under close safe supervision than they wander off into the world. For the world isn’t round, after all. It just looks that way from space. It’s square and it has edges and sometimes people fall off and that’s the last you hear from them. A million kids will run outside to play tomorrow and all but one will stay clear of the edge. Do you want to take that chance? You want to be the one parent today who looks up from the sink and sees the black and white in the driveway?
But there’s nothing you can about the kid who gets his heart kicked and shunned and stabbed from day one, grows up compressing his rage into a tight dense knot, gets a taste of evil – rolls it around on his tongue – likes the taste, and starts to drink it the way you drink Coke. There’s nothing you can do – the same circumstances might have produced a jackass who kicks the dog for sport but keeps his finger off the trigger, or a fellow dead to all emotion, or a man who takes the collar and preaches in the ghetto. Sometimes you get the killers. But these things are comets, as rare as the horrible days where some kid sees the sharp crease where the square edge of the world falls away. Dwell on these things and you’ll go mad yourself. Resign yourself to the fact that you can’t protect them in the end; they’ll go out in the world and get their ego bruised, their heart broken, their dreams sullied and tarnished. All you can do is teach them to remember: if bad news defined the world, it wouldn’t shock us when it happened. Face the sun; it’s there for a reason.And the only thing I would add is Providence: God can make a difference in our lives and help us make sense of our world when evil walks among us. May we continue to turn towards Him and may He help us to see those wounded among us who have not yet tried the taste of evil.
Take care of your children. Know when they're hurt, try to find out who is doing the hurting, and try to get them some help. Attend to them. Hug them and love them. And never stop pointing them to the source of all love and understanding: our God, who is an awesome God, and who reigns, in Power and Love.
Friday, March 25, 2005
Trying to Relax
Some of it is being older. For the younger men and women, this is a great chance to unwind, to get out of uniform, get away from details, get into their hip hoppy groove and check out the action. (Or whatever, I'm completely out of touch.)
There's a great gym area, a pool, plenty of club type stuff and they even have a three beer allotment (strictly enforced), which after the months away from alcohol can get them pretty silly. I don't know, I want to be back "home," back on the FOB.
Maybe it's because I'm spoiled. We are assigned to the nicest Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Iraq, our unit has been assigned several of the nicest buildings (Palaces?) on the FOB, and I myself as one of the leaders have my own room, with Internet and a laptop and all kinds of privacy.
We come here, we have ten in our room, we're a bus ride or long walk in the desert (not too hot yet really) to the USO with computers, phones, movies, gym, DFAC, pool, and even a Chilis restaurant, although scaled down menu wise. Usually, Qatar is a great place to visit, with trips to the beach and ocean, a great mall, downtown, safaris, all kinds of excursions. The base is locked down this week due to a recent suicide bombing, and we are all stuck on base.
But that's not really what's wrong. I miss my "combat rhythm," as our BN XO (Battalion Executive Officer) calls it. I miss my room, my creaky spring bed, my army pillow, my music, even the dust.
I even miss the crazy stuff somehow, the ride to the DFAC, the morning walk out to the KBR leaky, saggy, toilet trailers that need to be replaced, forget being fixed. I miss the walk into the dayroom in the morning for coffee, not being able to open my eyes quite right, saying hello as I waddle past to the Charge of Quarters (CQ, soldier assigned for the night to watch the phones and radio and make sure everythng is alright).
But I guess I'll make the best of it. From what I hear from a lot of the men and women here, some of our troops have it really rough, and this is great for them. It reminds me of how truly thankful I need to be about where we are and what we're being asked to do. Thank God!
Who knows? Maybe by this time tomorrow I'll have relaxed enough to actually like it here. But then again, maybe I hope I'll keep missing the FOB, because then I won't mind going back.
A Little Manly Life Lesson
Little Manly had a little run in at his after school program the other day. One of the other boys knocked him down, and hit him on the side of his head. From the description of what happened, it didn't sound like an accident.
Now this is one of those "life lesson opportunities" that parents both look forward to, but also struggle with. My parents never came to agreement on this situation, as I was confronted with it often as a child.
My mom would say, "just walk away" or "tell the teacher." My Dad would say, "punch him in the nose and run away." Needless to say, I didn't have a clear idea, and by the time I decided what the right response to a bully needed to be, it was a little too late. (But that as they say, is another story for another time.)
The Mrs. and I have discussed this too, I want Little Manly to be able to defend himself, I don't want him to be afraid to stand up to bullies, or for what's right. I want to tell him that he may need to act, but then be willing to suffer the consequences of whatever he decides to do. But I can't say I've had many chances to have that talk.
So now this happens the other day, and I'm here in Iraq (well, at this precise moment, Qatar on a 4 day pass), and I have to just listen to how it all played out.
Little Manly got himself up, ran after the boy, and punched him. Then he moved away from him, because he said "he's bigger and I thought he might come back after me."
He got a timeout. (He NEVER gets in trouble with his teachers.)
Some time into the timeout, the teacher told him, "You can come out now."
Little Manly said, "I don't think I've been in here long enough."
The teacher looked at him, said, "go on, now. Go back to play."
I guess I didn't need to worry about having that chat. I think, as with many things with my son, he figured it out for himself. And I think he'll be the wiser for it. (I think the other boy, and maybe the teacher too, will be the wiser for it as well.)
And Dad, just from me to you, I think you were right.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Some Time Away
I want to leave you with two verses I came across in Proverbs.
21He who follows righteousness and mercy
Finds life, righteousness and honor.
When we do what's right and yet show compassion and mercy to those around us, we often end up with more than we expected, we often reap much more than we sow. God doesn't want us to be obedient becuase He wants to boss us around, He leads us towards eternal truths because He knows how things turn out. He encourages us to find the relationships between our actions and that life that we can live more abundantly.
31The horse is prepared for the day of battle,
But deliverance is of the LORD.
We soldiers are wise to keep our weapons clean and in good operation. We keep our vehicles well maintained and serviced. We prepare our minds and our hearts for the missions at hand, and we train and prepare for contingencies. We are ready.
But in the end, it is the Lord who preserves and protects us. And best of all, long before our day of battle, He has encouraged us to take those steps that make us ready and able in our hours of need.
Monday, March 21, 2005
I’ll stop here before someone feels compelled to send an email comparing Terry Schiavo to Spock in that horrible episode in which his brain was gone – but even then, you’ll note, they beamed down and looked around for the damn thing. In short: err on the side of life is not a bad motto to keep in mind. This seems simple enough. I respect those who nod, count to three, and offer a soft “however” so that we may refine the particulars. But I don’t have much time for those who hear “err on the side of life” and automatically bristle, because they hear the voice of someone who, damn their black and God-addled brain, once sent $10 to a politician who opposed parental notification law that did not have a judicial review.I use chocks. We're supposed to use them in case the truck starts rolling. Of course, this is the Army, where it doesn't matter what you think about an idea, just do it because I told you to!
You may not always agree with that sort of person. You may have no need for them. But you never think you have need of any chocks until you're in the truck, and you realize it's rolling down the hill. Backwards.
Oh, yeah, and Read the Whole Thing. That's an order, soldier!
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Proverbs 19 and 20
23The fear of the LORD leads to life,
And he who has it will abide in satisfaction;
He will not be visited with evil.
5Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water,
But a man of understanding will draw it out.
I think it can take a long time to come to a deeper understanding of the concept of "The Fear of the Lord." Many of us start out equating it to earthy fear, to a punishing and all powerful God ready to smite those who fall short of the Glory of God. And since that happens to be all of us, it can be a pretty fearful prospect.
But I think a truer meaning of The Fear of the Lord" is glimpsed in passages like 19:23. This "fear" leads to life, which allows us to abide in satisfaction. We must be attentive to God, to His word, to His hand and movement as He stirs the world and people around us. As we grow to respect the ways in which He executes His will, and invites us to join Him in His work, our fear really becomes more obedience and the showing of respect to that entity Who is the Creator of all life, but also the author and the finisher of our faith.
But none of us arrive at that place without trial, without error, without setbacks, without fears founded and unfounded. And each of us has had those counselors, those voices of guidance and encouragement that are the flowing waters of those deep currents that we may draw from as we are nourished, and then in turn nourish others.
3Commit your works to the LORD,
And your thoughts will be established.
8Better is a little with righteousness,
Than vast revenues without justice.
This struck the writer side of me as quite appropriate. Before I came here, before I really committed myself to allowing God to work through my writing, I would have a desire to write greater than the inspiration to find the words. Now I am a jumble of ideas and inspiration and movement of the Spirit and all of this LIFE to communicate -- which would have come out too chaotic to form coherent paragraphs -- and now it flows. FLOWS.
God has a great cure for writer's block: One Chapter of God's word, finely read, add dash of (Holy) Spirit.
Righteousness can never be little or insignificant. Nor can true justice be bought at any price.
Please, please, please follow the link to read the whole thing.
One of Thunder6's young soldiers asked him a question that I've been asked before:
What SPC Frances said as he sheepishly stood before my desk staring at the floor was “Sir, you’re like, ummmm, you know, really smart. And you’re doing this when you could ummmm, you know, so many other things. Don’t you wish you were, mm doing something better?”.Thunder6 then ran through 20 years of a military career: hardships, sacrifices, physical suffering, and depravation. He also described his face-to-face encounters with inhumanity, with the evil he saw firsthand as part of the struggle against it. He then found a simple answer that should resonate with all who ask such questions:
The question is one I’ve heard from several well meaning individuals, but never, ever from a soldier. If it were possible I would have torn the implicit assumption that question housed and crushed it beneath my muddy heels. Because wrapped in that question like two fat maggots in an otherwise perfect roast sits two false postulates that have poisoned many clear thinking individuals. The first deadly lie is that soldiers are stupid. The second is that the Army is a dumping ground for people with no other options.
I told SPC Frances to close his eyes and I would tell him why. As he closed his eyes I told him to imagine his young wife, his beautiful infant daughter and the future he wanted for them. He paused a moment and a smile slowly creased his face. As he looked up I caught his eyes and told him a simple truth. I told him that the thin line that separates the two realities isn’t a line on a map or the signature block on a document filled with hollow proclamations. The dividing line between the two kingdoms is a long line of soldiers. And that is why I’m proud to call myself a soldier. Its not about a lack of options, or the size of my paycheck. Its about what kind of world I want to leave for my children if I am lucky enough to be a father.Those two big lies need to be squashed every time they appear. Soldiers volunteer to serve for almost as many reasonss as there are soldiers. Many of my soldiers benefit financially from their service, but many do not. All volunteered, all have other options. Some will serve for a a short while – and others will serve for the rest of their lives.
Many of them are very patriotic, but all are patriots, because they answered the call to serve, when their country called.
Uthman starts a recent post with a vivid description of his country's two year journey towards democracy:
It has been now two years since the United States, UK and other countries invaded our nation. It has been two years since Iraqis have had to live with daily violent attacks and rampant terrorism. It has been two years since our nation began being turned upside down. It has been two years since the road to democracy began.And he asks the question that he is asked over and over. The question that is asked and answered by cynics in the West, but without any basis in fact. Uthman dares that such sceptics ask Iraqis:
Ask him if it was worth it. Ask him what is different. Ask him if he would go through it again, go ahead ask him, ask me, many of you have.And he concludes:
Now I answer you, I answer you on behalf of myself, and my countrymen. I dont care what your news tells you, what your television and newspapers say, this is how we feel. Despite all that has happened. Despite all the hurt, the pain, blood, sweat and tears. These two years have given us hope we never had.
No, we will not give up, and we will not say that the last two years were a waste. They for all their trouble have been momentus. They for us, have been a turning point in history. Whether or not you agree, this is how it looks from Iraq.
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Yesterday most of us participated in a Combat Patch Ceremony, in which members of our Battalion were officially authorized to wear a "shoulder sleeve insignia" indicating "former wartime service." Ordinarily, units conduct this kind of ceremony after leaving a combat zone, but our division chose to do so shortly after we had served 30 days in the combat zone, which then establishes our eligibility. This allows us to wear our unit patch on the right shoulder (in addition to the one normally worn on the left). That's the official part.
That same day, many of us experienced our first brush with hostile fire.
At the height of our meal, our DFAC was full of soldiers and contractors. Suddenly, there was a loud boom, then another. They seemed loud for a controlled detonation by the Explosives Ordnance Detachment (EOD), but occurred in a pattern and at a time when such detonations would be possible. By the time the third blast occurred, much louder this time, the entire DFAC burst into a blur of movement.
Soldiers grabbed helmets and weapons and headed for the exits, trays dropped where they stood, plates half eaten, food left sizzling on the grills. (I had another one of those steaks, rare this time almost to the point of raw, but didn't have time to figure out whether I'd eat it or not.)
A couple of us senior NCOs made sure everyone evacuated and guided diners to protective barriers and bunkers outside. We had to convince some to leave, but hiding under tables doesn't offer much protection when you're inside a huge canvas circus tent.
Everyone got alert and aware in a hurry, but other than a foreign civilian fainting, there wasn't any extreme reaction or panic, training kicked in. The parking lot was more confused at first, there were people down, some folks were able to take off for their work sites, but most were awaiting further instruction or making sure their buddies and teammates were okay.
All except the Combat Life Savers (CLS).
We've had a big push on training as many soldiers as possible in CLS, which emphasizes immediate buddy aid and the most immediate, critical care for severe injuries. We can treat heavy bleeding, chest and abdominal wounds, head wounds, and prevent shock. We can stick an Intravenous Drip (IV), which quite literally can save lives until more medical personnel arrive or a casualty can be evacuated. And we've got a lot of them.
That day you knew who the CLS were (along with the EMTs and Paramedics). They were running to trucks for their bags or grabbing the kits in the DFAC and setting up immediate triage.
One of our medics happened to be working a detail about 400 yards from the DFAC. Soldiers on guard in a nearby tower could see soldiers down in the parking lot, and raised an alarm. Our medic took off towards the casualties at a sprint. People who he passed remarked on how deadly serious he looked, how completely focused he was on where he was headed and what he purposed to do.
Now our medic is a solitary man, very quiet and reserved, a very nice guy, but very serious and very devoted to combat medicine. He took as many extra training classes as he could root out and get us to sign him up. He built his own medic bag that was three times the size of any others we've seen. He helped us with all our medical training, and was always there whenever we needed a CLS or medic during training. During our Defensive Lanes training, we just about wore him out as he almost single-handedly treated dozens of simulated injuries under fire and coordinated casualty collection and medivac.
And yesterday, he was first on the scene and treated the most seriously injured. He beat the local troop medical clinic response team, and stabilized his patient and escorted him as he was evacuated. It is almost certain that his actions saved that man's life.
Strictly speaking, this is not our unit's first taste of combat. One of our security detachments had an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) go off, and two gate guards had to protect and escort to safety innocent civilians when the gate came under small arms fire.
But this was different. A large number of us experienced it first hand. Thankfully, none of our folks were injured. But you still know that somebody's unit got hurt. If any of us had been a little earlier, or a little later, or if our buddies hadn't been late that day going to chow, or if we had parked in that spot we want if we can get it, all these "there but by the grace of God went I" kind of thoughts that bring you slap-in-the-face back to reality.
So I guess we can say we're combat vets. I don't know that I feel any different, but I can tell you I've got my eyes wide open and I know where my cover is. And the ammunition is a simple lock-and-load away.
Please God, heal those injured and give their families peace. Keep them in your care. Allow us to find those responsible and dispatch with them. (If You want to deal with them, our fellow soldiers will gladly oblige in sending them Your way.)
Thank you God that our friends and fellow soldiers were spared injury or death.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Dinner in Iraq
In our case, our Mess NCOIC is considered to "own" and run the DFAC, and he and his cooks supervise, provide quality control, and otherwise oversee the operation. Throughout the day and into the early morning, during the course of 4 meal periods our DFAC feeds the thousands of soldiers and U.S. and authorized foreign national contractors here on our Forward Operating Base (FOB).
This can be very boring for the cooks. They end up watching the doors -- "please wash your hands before entering" or "I'm sorry, you can't carry all those sodas out of here" -- or manning the "clicker" to verify the number of personnel fed per meal. I don't even WANT to know the dollar amount paid for each person served.
But, the food is generally of good quality and KBR contractors have NO familiarity with the "portion control" procedures of the typical stateside Army DFAC. "Can I have seconds?" you might ask, they'll answer, "You can have tenths."
The Army scientifically studies food and nutrition (and the latest of restaurant and hospitality industry practices), and designs a "14 Day Meal Plan." Similar in concept to but far more satisfying than your average Fad diet, the Army Meal Plan ensures that wherever you go, anywhere in the world, your DFAC will serve pretty much the same offerings. The only variety are in the "perks" or treats that any given DFAC will customize into their Plan. (Ice cream bars, baked goods, Gatorade, sodas, non-alcoholic beer, mixed nuts, donuts, etc.)
At first, National Guard soldiers who have never done Active Duty (or those who have but forgotten) are thrilled by all the choices and options. See, on a 2 week Annual Training (AT) period, you see something different every day, few repeats. (Ah, the genius of the 14 Day Meal Plan!)
Okay, so we've been here two months, and all of us are ready to kill, skin, and barbecue a camel just to try something new.
And those of us with less discipline (okay, okay, but I've been doing MUCH better) can actually get FAT here, at least until the spring-summer-fall heat sets in.
Up until about a week ago, I pretty much do the three meals a day, and figured "hey I'm in a combat zone, and these could be my last meals." (Alright, I don't really think that but I don't care, I deserve the desserts. They're my "just desserts.")
But I always go by the main line first, and opt for chicken, ribs, or pork, or punt and do a bacon cheeseburger the size of a baseball glove. "You want more bacon on your bacon? You want two burgers? Any fries?" And at least twice a week, after I load up on something that sends a signal to my stomach, "here comes the lead weight," I see one of the grills set up to grill steak. With steaks on it. Raw steaks that turn into leather steaks while we watch them turn them over and over. And I think, if I can check first (note to self), maybe I can time it just right and actually get a steak medium rare. (That just gave me goosebumps.)
One short aside. Nothing is exactly what you expect or what we're used to. (Except maybe the fried chicken, that's actually pretty good, I think they buy it by the ton from Swanson's.) BBQ ribs sound like you really want them but there's an odd smoky taste to them. Maybe they're smoked locally? Hhhhmmm, maybe that's what's going on at the Trash Point, I need to check that out! (All trash gets burned and often there's this horrible sooty, rubber-laden fog that hangs in the air. Much stronger in Kuwait than Iraq but still enough to qualify for super fund status back home.)
Okay, not so short aside. Steak is never quite steak, which must be why they keep calling it different things. "Salisbury Steak" is a popular name for this beef, dense, kind of tough, always overcooked ("simmered"). "T-Bone Steak," same beef, sliver of bone attached. "Prime Rib," same beef. "What, you don' like meat? You don ' like MEAT?!"
But I'm willing to try. So yesterday I finally remembered to check out ALL the grills before making my selection, and it happens.
I get a steak, actually two steaks. They're juicy -- not "with blood" as Little Manly would say -- but still moist. And when I cut into them in the center, there was a slight strip of pink inside. Pink. Juicy. Still the mystery beef, but a steak cooked almost right. Hhhmmmmm. No dessert necessary for me, I floated out of the DFAC. Okay not floated, but I moved pretty sprightly.
Almost to tease me, the DFAC today had steak and lobster tails for lunch (back to Salisbury Steak style beef again, sad to say), followed up by Alaskan King Crab and Fried Shrimp at dinner. (This is one of those customizations from the 14 Day Plan, and gets factored in maybe once a month or so.) And for frozen seafood and new-name-for-it-today beef, it's pretty darned good.
Listen, before you all start thinking, "man, they eat better than we do," just remember that I had to work through 2 months of Salisbury Steak and Tigris Chew Fish (daring an occasional Curry or Thai Chicken) before I hit the mother load.
And my personal trainer, SGT W, is gonna want to WORK that Steak off of me. "Top, the exercise you need to do is the push yourself away from the table."
(Sigh.) More of those "just desserts."
Let your slogan be Iraq is for the Iraqis. Iraqis should always be first, not second or tenth or last. And when I say “Iraqis” I mean Kurds, Arabs, Azoreans, Armenians, Chaldeans, Turkmen, and Jews.And concludes with:
In our new Iraq we don’t want to see a Kurdish child freezing out in the cold, or his family shacking in caves. We don’t want to see the children of Basra wearing worn clothes and shoes. If this happens, consider yourself overthrown because you will not have fulfilled your duty.The Iraqi people speak in many languages, from many different points of view, with many different goals and aspirations. But can anyone who reads the hopeful words of Iraqi patriots such as Al-Witwiti, doubt for a moment the sincerity their hope? The desire and determination to cultivate the full-fruits, first-fruits, finest fruits of democracy and freedom?
Salaam for he who loves his people and gives them dignity.
Follow the link. Read his plea. Realize that we in the U.S. take such things for granted, and when we perceive the slightest of insult by our government, we wildly characterize these failings as those described by Al-Witwiti.
And then realize how very different really the new Iraq will be from the old Iraq, and how much our two peoples will now have in common.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Little Manly has always enjoyed having his dinner on a tray while watching TV. Normally, we tolerate that habit because: we always spend A LOT of time with Little Manly, doing things together, talking; and it was usually one of the few moments in the day that the Mrs. and I can have time to talk to each other.
The other night, Mrs. Dadmanly didn't have have time and was running late and said to Little Manly at 7:10, "Sit down at the table, we are eating in here and let's get it over with." (Less extra preparation, less cleanup, less time overall.) As she describes it, "you would have thought I cut off his arm."
Another night he woke up at 3:00 a.m., wide awake, came in and started talking to his Mom. After a short conversation, Little Manly said, "How nice it [is] to have a conversation in the middle of the night, a mother son talk time."
Needless to say, Mom was thrilled. Of course, Little Manly fell directly to sleep and Mrs. Dadmanly was WIDE awake.
One of the rarest of occasions is when Mrs. Dadmanly can take a few minutes to herself. One of the nights, she takes a bubble bath, and that lasts for about 10 minutes. Little Manly, who no doubt noticed Mom's departure from his scene within a minute and has been looking for her, comes up to the door and says, "Mom, what are you doing in there?" Mom says, "Taking a bubble bath," and he quickly advises her, "That's great, good for you, Mom!"
Little Manly just turned 9 a while ago, and already answers more Jeopardy questions than the rest of us. This drives Pop Pop (Grandpa) crazy, as unfortunately Little Manly inherited my habit of jumping in on all the questions before anyone else has a chance to think about the answers.
That's all I have time for, for now. I was out at midnight visiting a new guard post we're assigned to check on two of our guys, and still have to get up early. (More on this tomorrow, I think I have a post percolating around upstairs.)
Monday, March 14, 2005
Protesters have largely eschewed political or religious divisions, uniting behind the notion of Lebanon as a nation -- they even formed a giant Lebanese flag today. Christians and Muslims (both Sunni and Shiite), men and women: As the New York Timesreported:
"Who is going to fight who? All the factions are here." Indeed, the mix of demonstrators was readily apparent in the mix of dress codes, from veiled women to horsemen in traditional Arab headscarves to women with bare midriffs and pierced belly buttons. A few of the banners cemented the theme of unity by displaying both a cross and a crescent.
Pictured here in training, nuns of the Order of the Sisters of Saint Joan (OSSJ) practice repelling as part of the urban assault portion of qualification training.
(Via Little Green Footballs)
Sunday, March 13, 2005
One remarkable event of note: one of the songs that they selected was the Battle Hymn of the Republic. I have heard this song hundreds of times, in movies, documentaries, and I don't think I've ever noted its unusual characteristics.
Julia Ward Howe wrote the words as inspired by union soldiers singing the American Camp Meeting tune "John Brown's Body." (Camp Meetings were early American revival meetings, characterized by hymn singing, Christian salvation messages, and often river-edge baptisms.) The song rapidly grew associated with union forces and the union cause.
Written in a Christian vernacular that today is almost entirely absent from the public sphere but was very common in 1862, the Hymn is a powerful witness to how strongly some felt that the War against slavery was divinely led, and how religious fervor attached to the causes on both sides of the war:
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free;
While God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! While God is marching on.
Howe in part drew her inspiration from Jeremiah 25:30:
30"Therefore prophesy against them all these words, and say to them:
"The LORD will roar from on high,
And utter His voice from His holy habitation;
He will roar mightily against His fold.
He will give a shout, as those who tread the grapes,
Against all the inhabitants of the earth.
But as a witness to some of the carnage of that terrible war, it must surely be that Howe may have believed she was witnessing the dire warnings of Revelation come to pass. Revelation 14:17-20:
Reaping the Grapes of Wrath
The graphic and horrifying images of Revelation may have been the only possible comparison that an observer in 1862 could make. Surely the battles that raged, the reports of death, maiming an destruction must have been unlike anything in memory at that time. Surely this would have been a time that called for repentance, as even Abraham Lincoln called for in his 2nd Inaugural.
17Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
18And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, "Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe." 19So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses' bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.
And, as each generation goes through what it sees as its unique travails, that the call for repentance will always be urgent for each generation. Jesus himself said in Matthew 24:6:
6You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.As it was in the bloody days of the civil war, so it was in the bleak days of World War II, when victory did not look at all certain. For most Americans, 9/11/01 was another of those dark days that demand reflection and pause. And perhaps they call, too, for repentance.
Follow the link for the entire text of the Hymn, along with musical accompaniment. Thanks to the folks at www.cyberhymnal.org.)
Inherit the Wind
Another installment of Proverbs, this time Proverbs 11:
Proverbs 11:29-30 (New King James Version)
29He who troubles his own house will inherit the wind,
And the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.
30The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
And he who wins souls is wise.
I would take note of this passage if only because it reminds me of one of the best titles in English language literature, of the play Inherit the Wind, by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. (This is the fictionalized account of the Scopes ‘Monkey Trial’ argued by Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan over the teaching of evolution (at the time illegal in a state-funded school in Tennesee).
The verse is richer in meaning than any intended application for the purposes of literature in the play and movie.
Needless strife within families is like wind, an ill-wind at that. Usually the object of contention is to try and change the minds or attitudes of others. Often, if the end is achieved at all, the “victory” turns out to be as empty as air, and may only mean that the other persons involved have done little more than quit arguing. Like a heavy sighed, “whatever,” is the wind that’s inherited.
The “righteous” here defined is he who places connection and relation above the petty contentions of the day. The fruit they enjoy is a tree of life because it is life-sustaining, and does not favor one branch to the detriment of others. It is human nature that we are attracted by kindness and sympathy with our troubles, and react sometimes defensively to challenge and criticism. Implicit in Proverbs is the requirement that the “righteous” be righteous in word and deed; not that sin or bad behavior be condoned, but that the righteous would show compassion first and offer correction to a willing heart when invited.
Jesus demonstrated this truth in his dealing with the adulteress in John Chapter 8. The scribes and Pharisees sought to stone her for her behavior. Jesus challenged her accusers to consider her sin in the light of their own. This had the effect of forestalling their judgment and preventing the execution of their intended punishment. How much better off our relations would be if we could meditate upon our own weaknesses and shortcomings before so quickly rendering “justice” against our loved ones!
And it is not about “enabling” these shortcomings, but about a demonstration about how God wants us to seek righteousness for its own sake, and being a vessel of God’s love to our friends and family who may need our compassion and empathy more than they need our indignation and judgment. As Paul says in his letter to the Philippians (Phil 2:12-15):
12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
A gentle reminder in Proverbs 12:25 that continues the refrain:
25Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression,
But a good word makes it glad.
I chased down a reference in the concordance to Isaiah 50:4-6, that brings the idea full circle from words of kindness spoken, to being that living sacrifice, Jesus being the first and best example which we might follow:
4"The Lord GOD has given Me
The tongue of the learned,
That I should know how to speak
A word in season to him who is weary.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear
To hear as the learned.
5The Lord GOD has opened My ear;
And I was not rebellious,
Nor did I turn away.
6I gave My back to those who struck Me,
And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard;
I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.
This reminds us of the Christ, the long suffering servant fortold in Isaiah, but it also provides the model for what I touched upon in the earlier post. If we let Him, He can awaken us and renew us morning by morning. He can give us the tongue of the learned, he can awaken our ear to hear as the learned.
And if we can give our backs to those who strike us, and turn that cheek in pain towards they who strike us, He can awaken our eyes to see one another with the broken-hearted love that He feels toward every one of His creations.
Another day, another blessing.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
* Women--One of the Iraqi interim constitution's mandates resulted in every fourth position on each political party list being held by a woman. This produced female representation in the National Assembly at a higher rate than in the U.S. Congress.
Such newfound political rights are not as easily reversible as Western skeptics claim. A political constituency is being created, which was exactly the intent of the Iraqi Governing Council and the Coalition when they made this constitutional stipulation. Once women get comfortable with political power, it's not easy for Islamists to take it away without risk of revolt.
The example being set by Iraqis on women's rights goes beyond politics to myriad new women's rights organizations and to women's visibility in the press corps. Indeed, there is nothing more revolutionary than an Islamist politician being grilled by an abayah-clad female Iraqi reporter under the bright lights of pan-Arab television cameras broadcasting to the entire region.
And it isn't just Iraqi women. In the days following the protests in Lebanon, all of the images flooding the Internet and mainstream media included young, western-dressed women in the forefront of protests. This may have exaggerated their role in leading protests -- no doubt based on anticipated audience appeal and their photogenic qualities -- but we shouldn't underestimate the power of these images to resonate in the Middle East and beyond.
The suffering of muslim women worldwide is evidence that the cause of women's rights is not well advanced in those societies. Based on the reports of Arab women and their suffering in Western European societies, and the persistent occurrence of sexual slavery in Africa and Asia, it is astounding that International and U.S. organizations dedicated to the advancement of women's issues so thoroughly neglect these societies.
But there are those who watch, and speak out. And they aren't waiting for western feminists to tell them how (they'd wait a long time). They are speaking in Iraq, and there are ears in the Middle East who hear them roar.
Friday, March 11, 2005
Ledeen's critical identification of the threat:
The close Iranian/Syrian/Iraqi cooperation in 2002 and 2003 was abundantly documented in the newspapers, and in convincingly authoritative form. Bashar Assad laid it out in a published interview, and the Iranians said as much — although, having honed their deceptive skills over many millennia, they were not so foolish as to say it explicitly. It has duly come to pass. The deus ex machina of the "insurgency," Zarqawi, operated from Iran, recruited in Europe, and organized the training of terrorists in Syria. The Iranians and the Syrians have worked like Siamese twins in a desperate effort to drive us out of Iraq, and the terror war will continue until somebody wins, and somebody loses. Either we defeat them, and drive them from power, or they will defeat us, and drive us out of Iraq, with all the terrible global consequences that would follow.
And then a warning:
The president has committed himself and his administration to the liberation of Syria, Lebanon, and Iran. This cannot remain a merely rhetorical commitment. If his fine words are not followed by effective action, we may yet again be branded "paper tigers." The revolutionary changes in the Middle East are the ripple effects of the serious action we took in Afghanistan and Iraq, and people are now risking their lives for freedom in the believe that the United States will stand beside them. We must show them we are serious. It isn't very hard, and there are plenty of people in the government and in the armed forces who know how to do it. They are awaiting their orders.
Faster, please. This can still go bad.
At every turn, the President and his national security team rejected calls to inaction, warnings of dire consequences, entreaties to compromise, appease, or otherwise engage diplomatically. And in rejecting each call for inaction or to sustain the status quo, America and her allies forged the basis for beyond-hoped-for success.
Every time the United States the last quarter century had acted boldly — its removal of Noriega and aid for the Contras, instantaneous support for a reunified Germany, extension of NATO, preference for Yeltsin instead of Gorbachev, Gulf War I, bombing of Milosevic, support for Sharon's fence, withdrawal from Gaza and decapitation of the Hamas killer elite, taking out the Taliban and Saddam-good things have ensued. In contrast, on every occasion that we have temporized — abject withdrawal from Lebanon, appeasement of Arafat at Oslo, a decade of inaction in the Balkans, paralysis in Rwanda, sloth in the face of terrorist attacks, not going to Baghdad in 1991 — corpses pile up and the United States became either less secure or less respected or both.
So it is also in this present war, in which our unheralded successes far outweigh our notorious mistakes. A number of books right now in galleys are going to look very, very silly, as they forecast American defeat, a failed Middle East, and the wages of not listening to their far smarter recommendations of using the U.N. more, listening to Europe, or bringing back the Clinton A-Team.
America's daring, not its support for the familiar — but ultimately unstable and corrupt — status quo, explains why less than three years after September 11, the Middle East is a world away from where it was on the first day of the war. And that is a very good thing indeed.
If we liberals were smart, we'd be coopting the issue of freedom and human rights -- the way that conservatives coopted it from us... and the way the Bill Clinton coopted fiscal responsibility from conservatives.
Agree or disagree about how we got here. Agree or disagree about what comes next (read Brooks' column: even Wolfowitz says that Iraq must be the military exception). I don't even care if you don't want to give credit to Wolfowitz and Bush; I just don't want to see the fruits of their strategy rejected just because it is their strategy.
There's a hole in the dam of tyranny in the Middle East and freedom is flowing. Damnit. We should be holding the United Nations accountable for spreading freedom and not standing in the way. We should be figuring out how we can support movements of freedom -- without invasion -- in Lebanon, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain.....
One small way to do that is to give voice to the freedom-loving people of those nations. That's the small thing we can do.
Jarvis sees no acceptable alternative:
If you don't like the way Wolfowitz is trying to spread freedom in the
world, then try to find new ways. But standing back and not trying is not
acceptable. Freedom is the best cause of all.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Pundits and soldiers alike have talked a lot of trash about the ISF (Iraqi Security Forces). But if they are even half as good as these four were, the future of Iraq is very bright indeed. I hope they are decorated with the highest honors their country can bestow upon their fallen. Their actions were as heroic as it gets if you ask me.
In almost every case we are witnessing a new kind of citizens' movement, an Arab version of people power in action. But the most important feature of these demonstrations is that they are concerned not with imagined external enemies, be it Israel or the United States, but with the real deficiencies of contemporary Arab societies. In almost every case the key demand is for a greater say for the people in deciding the affairs of the nation.Every point of opposition used by opponents of the War in Iraq focused on not "forcing" our will on other states, however autocratic or dictatorial or brutal they might be. They decried the use of force, they pointed to each act of violence against the coalition as evidence of Iraqi will against Coalition oppression of iraqi sovereignity. Now, as citizens of non-democratic, oppressed and dysfunctional states start awakening in peaceful protest, these western voices are silent. They have nothing to say, or they repeat anit-war slogans like so much hollow cant. Are they still so sure who the enemy should be? What are they motivated by?
It is, of course, far too early to speak of an "Arab spring."
It is not at all certain that the ruling elites will have the intelligence to manage the difficult transition from autocracy to pluralism. Nor is it certain that the budding democratic movement would produce a leadership capable of mixing resolve with moderation. The deep-rooted Arab tradition of political extremism may prove harder to dissipate than one imagines.
What is interesting is that there are, as yet, no signs, that the "Western street" may, at some point, come out in support of the new "Arab street."
Taheri has an answer:
Why are so many Westerners, living in mature democracies, ready to march against the toppling of a despot in Iraq but unwilling to take to the streets in support of the democratic movement in the Middle East?
Is it because many of those who will be marching in support of Saddam Hussein this month are the remnants of totalitarian groups in the West plus a variety of misinformed idealists and others blinded by anti-Americanism?
Or is it because they secretly believe that the Arabs do not deserve anything better than Saddam Hussein?
Those interested in the health of Western democracies would do well to ponder those questions.
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
What Makes Me Dadmanly
When my girls were young – and they are oh so much older now, we all had nicknames. My oldest, who graduates this year from college, was Jilly Beans. My adventurous younger daughter, who turned 18 yesterday and has already been to the Dominican Republic and Germany, was “Spud.” Mrs. Dadmanly says that she calls our son Pooper McGee, but I never call him that, but whatever I used to call him, I can’t remember. He’s Little Manly now.
My wife’s name was Nancy-Mom, to distinguish her from Mother of Origin. She was in every way a Mom to my girls, showering them with attention and love, being there for them, always ready to lend an ear or teach them or just be their friend. But she was always Nancy-Mom, because the girls already had a Mom.
I always felt bad about that. We only had the girls every other weekend, but we were still our little family when we could all be together. So I started using Dad Man. So it was Dad Man, Nancy Mom, Jilly Bean, Spud, and our son. (I wanted to call him Tater, as in Tater Tot, but nobody else liked that one.)
When I wanted to start a blog, I wanted to pick an anonymous name that nevertheless meant something to me. This is who I am, this is what I think it important.
I love my kids. I know that my girls hated being children of divorce, I know my son was crushed every time his sisters needed to go home, but I hurt a lot from it, too. I was always a little outside their lives, like they were always just out of reach.
And I consider my kids the most important thing in my life, second only to a loving marriage in covenant with God. I take very seriously the task of doing everything I can to prepare my kids for life, and to make them proud of their Dad in everything I do, in everything I represent.
So Dad Man was where to start. And how did I get to DadManly?
One of the many movies I watched with LittleManly over and over was the Iron Giant. In that animated movie, the Government Agent who comes to investigate a possible UFO is named Manly. He was goofy. I used to smile every time the General would holler, “Manly!”
DadManly. I like the way it sounds. If I had a soundtrack, the orchestra would well up like some cast-of-thousands Western or a cigarette commercial (remember those?). Dad Dad Dad Man Man Man Ly Ly Ly Ly … Like echoes off some canyon.
Dadmanly. All Dad. All Man, and Manly. Coming soon as an animated feature (with robots and army men and laser guided missiles and stuff) to a Cineplex near you.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Don't be the last to climb aboard, the democracy express is gathering steam and on its way out of the station. Is there anywhere it isn't in motion?
Publius has an excellent and very encouraging round-up. Via Instapundit.
Sunday, March 06, 2005
A Lot of Good Men (& Women) Made This Possible
Papa Ray, you and all the other young men and women serving lost parts of yourselves in Southeast Asia, one way or another. Your country did a lousy job of thanking you for your service. We've tried as a nation to make amends, maybe it helps some, only you could say. I humbly ask your forgiveness on behalf of Americans who couldn't recognize or acknowledge your sacrifice through the blindnesses of prejudice and ignorance.
It is because of your service -- and the shame all of America feels about the way your service was devalued and your sacrifice "spit upon" -- that today's soldiers' are treated with SO much more respect. Even those who still struggle with why we fight, know that those who fight today -- like you who fought before us -- placed the call of the country above lives and limbs.
It is one thing to risk, to sacrice for a nation that showers you with appreciation. It is another league of heroism altogether to do the same for a country that pretends you don't exist.
Our sacrifice, with all of its comforts and protection, PALES in comparison with the price that you and your fellow soldiers' paid. We soldiers of today owe all the Vietnam-era Vets a BIG thanks. You made this possible for us, you were pointmen for those who would follow your trail. We have benefitted from your wisdom and experience.
And perhaps by now, the country has begun to learn that those who sacrifice without promise of reward are the truest heroes of all.
Saturday, March 05, 2005
Starting to Close a Door
I hadn't expected to feel anything about today. We were very busy with lots of other things, and then a long period of waiting for the folks leaving: would it be by air, would we drive them. And finally the birds were there, and in 5 minutes our men and women were lined up under the rotors. The sun was just going down, a warm clear evening, the loud beating of the blades.
I still can't describe it, but it welled up inside.
These soldiers have been here in Iraq, and no matter what their job or mission or whether they've been asked to do anything heroic, they are heroes. They've served in a combat zone. They trained long and hard for all kinds of action, even if their primary jobs are office-bound. Many of them have had trouble adjusting to that idea. When some have been asked to pull guard, or are close to action, they report feeling "more a part of things," like they are finally doing their part. Of course, by being here, they have always been doing their part, but it's hard to feel it.
So I guess boarding the helicopters was a small demonstration, an underscoring of what may be evident to others but hard for the soldier to accept. Like some moment of history, there with the sun fading, soldiers getting on their flight home. How will they arrive home? How will they be received? But I know how they are leaving, with their heads held high, part of a larger purpose.
And now they're on their way for some well-deserved time away. I couldn't be prouder of them. I felt the excitement they felt. But there was a small part of sadness, too. Not for me, not that I wanted to go. A kind of loss, like we're starting to close a door. Surely another will open. But for now, we are now in the midst of something that we all hope will go by quickly, and then we can return to our lives. But will we ever be the same?
Welcome home, soldiers. We look forward to your return.
Thursday, March 03, 2005
Reid Stott, writing on The Daily Whim, happened to catch MSM in one of their edits of significant events:
I don’t normally watch network TV news, but tonight I just happened to catch about two minutes of Peter Jennings on ABC. And it fully reinforced why I don’t bother with network TV news anymore.
It was about nine minutes into the broadcast, and Jennings was doing a story about the aftermath of the horrible bombing in Hillah on Monday. They showed some of the funerals, talked about the difficulty with identifying some of the remains, and the fact they’d had to cancel a mass funeral procession for fear of another suicide attack. And that was it. Nothing more worth reporting.
If you relied on Mr. Jennings for your worldly info, you would have no idea that thousands of Iraqis braved the risk of another attack to loudly protest the animals who perpetrated this attack.
Hopefully you've heard from sources other than the nightly news that thousands of Iraqis dressed in black responded to this attack by pouring out into the streets, chanting “No to terrorism!” and “No to Baathism and Wahhabism!” (Wahhabism is the brand of militant Islam sold around the world by Saudi-sponsored hate-mongers, and in Iraq represents Zarqawi and other foreign terrorists who view Iraq as today's battle against the "Great Satan" U.S.)
Look around the world, and the Middle East in particular. Who is on the run? Who is the Arab Street speaking out against … now? Thousands protest, and a compromised government resigns. Another opens the doors to wider elections. And
thousands more speak out against terrorism and the fundamentalist faith that fuels them, while their terrorist leader suggests “maybe you should move on to another target.”
As I’ve said, it seems plain as day to me. One month ago, the people of the Middle East watched eight million Iraqis risk death to cast a ballot, as well as their joy at being able to do so. And they did it not long after Palestinians did the same. Now all of these people see what the Arab Street can really do. They used to be told, you can use it to shout down the Jews and The Great Satan, but don’t cross this line.
But they’ve watched. And learned. And now we see them marching across that line.
If you don’t see it, well, you need to look harder. And stop watching Peter Jennings.
Mercy & Truth, Head & Heart
That said, I'm at Chapter 3, and the following stood out:
3Let not mercy and truth forsake you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart,
4 And so find favor and high esteem
In the sight of God and man.
As with most of Proverbs, there's the two sides of what's being compared. And with me, there's this struggle where I only end up with half of a necessary pair. Both of these verses speak of two halves of several necessary pairs, and for me, the pairs themselves interrelate in important ways.
Somedays I only want to talk Mercy, that's usually when I am in sin or dwelling on my shortcomings or disobedient or rebellious in some way. I want all the forgiveness part, and I'm only focused on me. Whether others need Mercy is not really of consequence, God is big enough, let Him give them Mercy, I'm busy thinking about how much I need it from Him to worry about others.
Other days, I'm all truth. Speaking truth to power as it were, or just speaking Truth with the capital T, and all about what's wrong around me, who's wrong around me, righteously indignant. I only see the faults of others, and somehow when I'm on that bent, I don't manage to see my own situation with the same laser-like precision.
It reveals something to me that the Psalmist had been led to urge us to bind mercy and truth around our neck and write them on the tablet of our heart. We need to connect with both head and heart. If we deal with only the rational and knowledge (head) information, our response to others or our own behavior can be clinical, too detached, impersonal. (Kind of like talking all the time by email and not being able to have the face to face that allows you to fully see and feel others' responses! You want that full human connection.)
If we respond only with the leanings of our heart, we can over-involve ourselves in others, in their problems or behaviors, and lose any detachment that would allow us to guide or advise. Our emotions by themselves are a poor subsitute for a full awareness, and can cause our own behavior to vary depending on how we feel. And feelings can lead us away from truth.
But a mix of head and heart, especially when focused on mercy and truth, can help us be fully engaged with others and improve our readiness to be vessels of God's purpose. By serving others faithfully in mercy and truth in even measure, we grow in esteem and trustworthiness with our fellow travellers. We grow through serving Him fauthfully in both areas: speaking truth to sin both of ourselves and to others in love; and receiving mercy in admitting our own shortcomings and showing mercy to others as they stumble.
I think it helps me to ponder that the Psalmist suggests that the right balance of truth and mercy will help me find favor and high esteem not only of God but of man. That's a part I worry about, with my preoccupation with what I know to be my weaknesses in this area. I need to pay heed, that others may notice or remark on things I do, but I do them in service to the Lord and strive to always give Him the glory. That man may note such things is probably an encouraging sign that we may yet witness by our service to Him.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
It is one of the crowning ironies of this purple-fingered revolution, that we finally have a situation in our foreign policy where a calculated move against one threat creates a "domino effect" that disrupts and eventually destroys a larger dysfunctional system.
The "dominoes" that dominated attention throughout the Cold War proved stubborn. The Soviet Union, China, and the lesser dominoes found ways to maintain control over sometimes indifferent populations. "domino theory" became a term of disparagement, bespoke a naivete or crudeness of perception. Like trying to apply the lessons of some children's game to the intractable challenges or realpolitik.
Well, now. We read startling commentary that suggests American Idealism is Pragmatic. Practical. Does the job it needs to do to make the world better, safer.
Consider this. True democracies are inherently better (more peaceful and cooperative) neighbors, this is being demonstrated in the social sciences. Now imagine, if we treat others as we wish ourselves to be treated, would that make the world safer? Lastly consider, isn't this the way America has (for the most part) treated the rest of the world?
For those that doubt this proposition, pick 95% of the countries on earth. Would the level of violence and chaos be less or more if all those countries resembled the United States of America?
There's no stopping the Middle East's glorious catastrophe now that it has begun. We are careening around the curve of history, and it's useful to remember a basic rule for navigating slippery roads: Once you're in the curve, you can't hit the brakes. The only way for America to keep this car on the road is to keep its foot on the accelerator.
(David didn't say it, but Michael Ledeen would: "Faster, Please!")
Bay captures the Irony of the moment:
I don't believe in happy endings, merely a respite before the next struggle, However, this Millennium War has reached and passed a crucial midpoint.The Pragmatism of American Idealism: when America's National Interests and Ideals are one.
All but the most recalcitrant, calcified and now laughable naysayers in the West suddenly recognize the pragmatism of American idealism. Since 9-11, extending political and economic opportunity into the world's hard corners -- by curbing the power of corrupt autocracies, by toppling the tyrannical thugs who rule by terror -- have been the heart and soul of American strategy.
Who'd have guessed that the answers to the critical challenges we face in the 21st century lay in the manuscripts and artifacts of our very founding, some 230 years ago? Resurrect Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Madison, and Paine: Meet the purple-fingered heirs to your inheritance!
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Read now, with a "purple-fingered" revolution underway in the Middle East, the speech underscores the momentous challenge we have been presented:
Bush asks his fellow citizens to continue in patience to bear the burdens imposed upon our generation. He recalls that our efforts have in "lit a fire as well — a fire in the minds of men" in Afghanistan, Ukraine, the Palestinian territories, and Iraq. This phrase seems to echo George Washington, who observed that "the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.
The president accordingly invites the nation's "youngest citizens" to behold the nobility of service:
For the character of a nation is its greatest treasure, and the richest promise for its future.
"You have seen that life is fragile, and evil is real, and courage triumphs. Make the choice to serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself — and in your days you will add not just to the wealth of our country, but to its character."
Our most lethal weapon against the tyrants is freedom, and it is now spreading on the wings of democratic revolution. It would be tragic if we backed off now, when revolution is gathering momentum for a glorious victory.
Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, even Suadi Arabia. There are protests all over the "Arab Street," but they are crying out the slogans of freedom and against tyranny. They do not hate America, and they know that this opportunity has been provided by the U.S., led by President Bush. We are seeing a new century unfold in a very new way, but one our founders would have recognized.
Sadly, freedom is never free, and those who are not willing to fight for freedom may be doomed to lose it. It is no time to lose heart, or let a counting of costs lead us to say, "that's too muchy for us to bear."
Ledeen must conclude as he has these past 3 1/2 years:
Faster, please. The self-proclaimed experts have been wrong for
generations. This is a revolutionary moment. Go for it.
1) Iraqis stood up, en masse (with the Sunni angle not as grim as some have portrayed) against fascistic terror tactics and turned out in numbers that surpassed all but the most optimistic prognostications--in what proved a moving and historic event that loudly showcased a key yearning of the modern era--namely, to have one's voice heard through democratic governance structures;
2) The Arab world watched this historic election with real fascination and intrigue, and it is probably fair to say it proved a significant strategic blow to the prestige of the insurgents (though they remain resilient and capable of mass carnage as today's massive suicide bomb showed);
3) Bush's increasingly direct admonishments to Egypt to further democratize communicated both in his SOTU and by his representatives from diplomats on the ground in Cairo to Secretary Rice is evidently bearing some fruit (yes, with details to be worked out about how real Mubarak's moves will be--but most analysts appear to see rather important reformist moves in the works);
4) Syria, where I think it's fair to say our relationship is at somewhat of a crossroads, has basically agreed to withdraw all its troops in Lebanon to the Bekaa Valley and has started turning over big Iraqi Baathist fish to the Americans (it's gettin' crunchtime for Bashar, and he is starting to belatedly really get that, it would seem);
5) The Cedar Revolution is filling the streets of Beirut showing the Arab world that, indeed, Bush was right to say Syria was 'out of step' in a region that is, yes, becoming somewhat intoxicated with these first blushes of real democratization from Baghdad to Beirut;
6) Constructive initiatives are underway vis-a-vis the poisonous Israeli-Palestinian dispute, with Bush having pledged over USD 300MM to the PA, and Sharon and Mazen still doing business post the Islamic Jihad bombing;
7) Saudi Arabia, as Daniel Drezner has noted, is making some reformist strides (also reacting to Bush's prodding in his SOTU and a robust dialogue via our Embassy in Riyadh and elsewhere);
8) Condi Rice is to spearhead a revitalized public diplomacy effort as she indicated in her Senate confirmation hearings--doubtless helping better explain our intentions in the region (and no, they're not about perma bases in Mesopotamia, helping Zionists take over the Tigris and Euphrates, or making oil grabs in Iraq and Iran) and such a PD initiative will doubtless, in part, thematically link inter-connected developments like the Iraq elections, the civic unrest in Beirut, the reformist resentiment in Cairo;
9) Afghanistan continues to make forward progress towards democratization and greater stability as do other countries in the broader region like Bahrain; and
10) Bush looks to have wisely deemphasized a short-term military option on Iran and is looking to swing Pollack-Takeyh on Iran policy in greater coordination with the Europeans.
And he goes on to quote Andrew Sullivan, an early supporter of the war in Iraq but opposed to President Bush's re-election (www.andrewsullivan.com):
"...You are beginning to see the start of a real and fundamental change. Almost all of this was accomplished by the liberation of Iraq. Nothing else would have persuaded the thugs and mafia bosses who run so many Arab nations that the West is serious about democracy. The hard thing for liberals - and I don't mean that term in a pejorative sense - will be to acknowledge this president's critical role in moving this region toward democracy. In my view, 9/11 demanded nothing less. We are tackling the problem at the surface - by wiping out the institutional core of al Qaeda - and in the depths - by tackling the autocracy that makes Islamo-fascism more attractive to the younger generation. This is what we owed to the victims of 9/11. And we are keeping that trust."
Keeping the trust. Honoring those who have given the greatest sacrifice by remaining true to our ideals. George W. Bush responded to 9/11/01 with determination and a conviction that there was a deeper and more urgent problem, and that America's promise of democracy offered the last, best hope for western civilization against the tyranny of terror. Those are our ideals, as we have learned them over 200 years of struggling to better this experiment of the people, by the people, and for the people.
We must continue to keep that trust. Not just because we believe this to be best, but because people who yet live in fear still yearn to be free.
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