Thought You'd Never Ask

Just mouthing off -- because I can.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Books I read in 2005 and recommend


I read more books than this, including kiddie books with my daughter, but here's my short list of books that stood out for me this year, and that I would recommend enthusiastically to my friends:

  • Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, & Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores by Michelle Malkin
  • What’s So Great About America by Dinesh DiSouza
  • Defeat in the East by Jürgen Thorwarld (the last days of WWII on the Eastern Front)
  • Hooking Up by Tom Wolfe (good essays by the Master)
  • The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving Kindness by Pema Chödröm
  • G.P.A. Healy: An Intimate Portrait by Marie de Mare (biography of an American ex-pat painter in the 1800s)
  • Memoirs of the 149th Regt. N.Y. Vol. Inf., 3d Brig., 2d Div., 12th and 20th A.C. by Capt. Geo. K. Collins (Upstate New York boys marching through West Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia during the Civil War)
  • The Lost German Slave Girl by John Bailey (true story of German immigrants to New Orleans)
  • Princess by Jean P. Sasson (the autobiography of a Saudi princess)
  • Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
  • Krakatoa by Simon Winchester
  • A Dog of Flanders by “Ouida”
  • 1776 by David McCullough (one amazing year during the birth of the U.S.)
  • The FairTax Book by Neal Boortz and John Linder (an idea long overdue)
  • The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride
  • Welcome to the Ivory Tower of Babel: Confessions of a Conservative College Professor by Mike S. Adams
  • Picture by Lillian Ross (the story of the making of the movie, "The Red Badge of Courage")
  • Peace Kills: America’s Fun New Imperialism by P. J. O’Rourke
  • Right Turns: Unconventional Lessons from a Controversial Life by Michael Medved
  • Ethnic America: A History by Thomas Sowell (learned a lot from this one!)
And though I prefer (obviously!) history and non-fiction to fiction, I also this year finally broke down and spent time reading the first Harry Potter novel and the first Lemony Snicket novel, at my childrens' insistence, and found them (having already seen the films) entertaining and clever enough to finish.

I also discovered author Eleanor Estes and read her 1952 Newberry Award-winning children's novel, Ginger Pye, to my daughter this year, a great memory (we will always remember "Uncle Benny" and "dusting the pews"!).

Last day of the year


Typically on the last day of the year, I do not make resolutions. Used to do that avidly as a kid, but I found I did not keep to my noble prescriptions for self-renovation for very long. Now I try to envision what I want to look forward to in the coming year, or think about what I really ought to be--or want to be--doing in the next 12 months that I've not gotten to in the past 12--as time speeds by faster and I'm not getting any younger. As a process, it is more like a routine recalibration of the ship's steering.... But I do not usually saddle myself with too many promises I will only fail to keep, and then feel defeated about. I find that the old "One Day at a Time" method, with the ability to start afresh for good on any given day works best for me, by dangling the carrot of hope immediately before me instead of whopping me towards duty with the big stick of past failure.

Speaking of duty, by the last day of the year I usually realize I've been dragging my feet on writing my Christmas thank-you notes to distant loved ones, so this is the day when I try to get caught up on that. My little girl is a good influence on me for that; she's quite disciplined about making her way through her thank-you list. (Her two completed notes on my desk are goading me to match them.) The ins and outs of social conventions and the actual writing of thank-you notes, at her age, are still interesting novelties. Her handwritten paragraphs are easily accomplished, and she gets much praise for each one. My son designs a boffo "one-size-answers-all" graphic greeting card on the computer and changes the names and the details of the gifts for each person he thanks--also very clever. I'm proud of both of them; I think they are shining stars in a very small minority of children polite enough to still write thank-you notes for gifts. I taught them to do this when they were four by mentioning that George Herbert Walker Bush always wrote thank-you notes, and look what happened to him--he became President. (Of course I also mentioned and still keep mentioning that people could feel perfectly justified in not sending any more gifts to them if they never acknowedged such kindnesses, which is true.)

The last day of the year is also when I update my kitchen calendar for the coming year, one of the most important tools of the wife/homemaker/mother. I usually splurge and buy myself a beautiful pictoral calendar at Borders while I'm out buying Christmas gifts for others in December. Even though they're marked down and on sale after New Year's, I usually can't wait, and end up spending the $12 or so, just to have my choice of coming calendar tucked away and waiting for me through the holidays (it is one of my secret vices, now revealed). In past years I've had photographic calendars featuring Greece, Germany, picturesque American front porches, homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright...things and places that were beautiful, farflung, and evocative to me as I'd contemplate them from my constrained domestic circle. This year I bought the America/Amerique photographic calendar by Graphique de France of Woburn, Massachusetts. I was sold by the cover photograph taken in Los Padres National Forest, a landscape inordinately dear to me from my years spent in California. The other 12 months' pages include equally striking views of places I've been and loved (California, Arizona, Oregon, the Everglades) and places I avidly hope to see someday (Hawaii, Maine).

So today I will transfer all our family birthdays and anniversaries to my fresh, new, unmarked calendar, carefully noting that each loved one will be one year older, or one year longer married or dead. Important school dates get transcribed: teacher workdays, early release days, holidays, spring break, exam weeks, last day of school, first day of next year's school, and on to next Christmas. My daughter's basketball games get noted, along with her piano lessons, and my son's high school orchestra concert dates. Also bottled water delivery and pest control schedules, my husband's travel schedule, and reminders to pay certain bills, de-flea the cat, visit the doctors, dentist, and vet, get maintenance on my car, and replace the filters in the furnaces. Along with lovely photos to dream by, it is important to choose a calendar with adequate writing space for every day, and to write with an indelible black-ink, fine-point Sharpie pen that won't smear on the luscious glossy paper. Thus the bare bones of 2006 are sketched out in my imagination, the details to be filled in later, as they happen.

Friday, December 30, 2005

These guys can really write


Two long but fabulous and thoughtful reads for you today:

Victor Davis Hanson's "The Plague of Success: The Paradox of Ever-Increasing Expectations"

and

Gerard Van der Leun's "Last Week I Cud Knot Spel 'Historian,' Now I Are One" at American Digest.

One of the pleasures of my current life is being able to find and enjoy such coherent and eloquent writing every morning at my "virtual" fingertips, with the click of the keyboard. I sing the praises of the Web Electric! A newspaper junkie since the age of 12, I now no longer even subscribe to our local area metronewspaper (and therein lies a story of end-of-the-trail disappointment in itself, which I may tell another time). I find my still-active addiction to news and commentary to be more easily and cheaply fed by my daily morning perusal of the internet. The news is fresher and the clincher is, the writing's much, much better.

I remember in my long-distant college days being exposed to the great expository writers of the Reformation and afterwards: Thomas Carlyle, Swift, Johnson, Addison, and the others. I think we are fortunate to be now in the midst of our own age of Greats.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Interesting reads

La Shawn Barber had an interesting discussion about Kwanzaa a couple of days ago...some good background information that any person who wants to celebrate or any teacher who wants to promote this occasion should know.... And Mary Katharine Ham weighs in with her personal Kwanzaa story as well (via PowerLine):
Now, I'm not trying to be the grinch who stole Kwanzaa here, but I think it's a sin that the rather radical, Marxist, black nationalist origins of the holiday are ignored every year-- ignored with the power of a thousand suns....

Surely, Ron Karenga should be subject to at least the same scrutiny as George Washington in a public school setting.

I have a feeling that won't happen, though, because a lot of people feel like "you just can't write stuff like that. Just because...you just can't."


And in the never-ending search to understand the pathology of the far left, here's an excellent discussion ("The Suicidal Pursuit of Perfection") at ShrinkWrapped on the leakers and others who seek a utopian standard of perfection in civil rights in this country (via Michelle Malkin):
The demand for perfect protection of civil liberties undermines the cause of civil liberties, undermines the proponents of such maximalist demands, and threatens to undermine the fundamental rights of all of us to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Coming out of the closet about politics

The thought's occurred to me that in some circles (academia for example?) and in some locations (San Francisco, say?), it might be easier to come out of the closet as a homosexual than as a conservative. "Condescension and leaving the political fold" is a rather old thread by neo-neocon, but has some thought-provoking discussions in the comments about what happens to liberals who choose to take a turn toward conservatism--or even who just start to agree with some of Bush's foreign policy since 9/11--and how that can ruin your social life. (But, as they say, be yourself and you'll find out who your real friends are.)

UPDATE: Yet more on this topic dear to my heart from Roger L. Simon ("Naming Names (Yourself)"), quoting neo-neocon and Bookworm, all good discussions (please do follow the links).

I think it takes a lot of guts to publicly stand up and say you've changed your mind about politics based on new information, given the sometimes-ugly partisan political fervor of our times. I think it must be a particularly hard thing for former, lifelong Liberals and/or Democrats to do, and salute their intellectual honesty and sheer guts. By the same token, I sympathsize wholeheartedly with Bookworm for choosing to remain anonymous in her liberal, Bush-bashing group-think neighborhood. I've been there, done that, and still do it to some extent. I don't put political bumperstickers on my car, because I don't need my paint job keyed. It's not necessary for me to speak up and confront or pick a fight with every casual acquaintance or stranger who feels the need to inform the world at the check-out line of the grocery story that "Bush is an idiot." But thanks to the internet, it is so nice to know there are plenty of people silently standing there thinking, "No, Bush isn't the idiot--you are."

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve links, before stuffing the turkey

What? An elementary school with no Santa Claus policy? What's the world coming to? And what a nice "teaching moment" this was during the holidays (via Drudge). Almost as nice as this one offered by Tony Snow about children, adults, and the true spirit of Christmas.

Seems the Germans are having a little trouble effectively training the Iraqi forces to be self-sufficient (via Davids Medienkritik). Too bad the Germans couldn't send one of these.

A very Merry Christmas to ye all!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Fantasy Christmas Wish List

TO: Every public and high school library (excuse me, "Media Center") in the U.S. (Or heck, why not include the rest of the world's gift stockings as well?)

WHAT: Reissued, digitally-remastered, widescreen collectors' edition DVD of Milton Friedman's 1980 PBS television series, "Free to Choose." Such a version doesn't yet exist, but you can come close.


TO: Hollywood movie studio execs

WHAT: A clue: make high-quality family-friendly-edited versions of current and recent-classic movies available on DVDs from the originators of the actual films themselves. There's a brisk market for such edited versions of films, like those that are shown on airplanes and network television, with the profanity bleeped out and the gratuitous nudity and vulgarity mercifully cut. Third-party vendors like Clean Films, CleanFlicks, Family Edited DVDs, ClearPlay, and others are trying to meet the demand, but why can't the Hollywood producers and directors simply add the studio-produced, airline/network-friendly edited version onto their DVD issues? There'd be a happy holidays bonus ("KA-CHING") for the studios too.

And while we're on the subject of choice and family entertainment, how about sticking some unbundled cable TV channels into the stocking as well?


TO: Every U.S. Senator, Congressman, teacher, journalist, parent, and grandparent

WHAT: The FairTax Book by Boortz and Linder. Get on board, little children--this book is so clear and simple even an eighth-grader could read and understand it in about an hour (well, at least a politically interested or homeschooled eighth-grader). And after all, it's today's eighth-graders and their younger cohorts who stand to gain the most by a truly intelligent and fiscally effective tax reform policy such as this book lays out. This is a gift we owe our children and our nation's future.


Feel free to add your own wishes for Santa in the Comments.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas 2005 Double Takes

  • "White" poinsettias, spray-painted bright blue. That's just wrong.
  • Guy on a street corner in a full Santa outfit, holding a sign for a local store, while yakking on a cellphone. But hey, speaking of mercenary commercialism, I'm thankful he wasn't dressed up as Jesus.
  • Deflated balloon characters on front porches and lawns of houses. These decorations look truly dolorous as colorful plastic puddles of former Christmas cheer. Then again, the fully inflated ones guy-wired to the ground like a circus tent are pretty scary: "Merry Christmas in yer face!"

Friday, December 16, 2005

Awesome to see, awesome to ponder

Summing up a good essay at The Shape of Days:

The history of Iraq stretches back to the dawn of humanity; not just human civilization, but human beings as a species. The written records go back twelve thousand years, and the legends and oral histories stretch into darkest antiquity.

And yesterday, for the first time ever, the people of Iraq elected a permanent, sovereign, legitimate government.

The light of liberty has come to a place that has, for a hundred centuries, known only empire and conquest, kings and dictators, coups d’état and wars of aggression.

For the first time in six hundred generations, the people of Iraq are truly free. Not by coincidence, not because of some random confluence of events, but because a group of determined visionaries and hundreds of thousands of soldiers from dozens of nations acted with swift resolve to make it so.

How can any of us not be rendered speechless by that?

Via Michelle Malkin.

And as purple fingers reign in Iraq, just wanted to remember this very moving answer to Cindy Sheehan by Mohammed at Iraq the Model.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A Look Back: Looting of the Iraq National Museum

I've been reading P.J. O'Rourke's 2004 book of eye-opening, thought-provoking essays, Peace Kills: America's Fun New Imperialism, convinced he is the Mencken of our time. The book is full of quotable excerpts, and here's just one from his essay, "Kuwait and Iraq," touching on the infamous episode of how U.S. troops "stood by" while the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad was said to have been looted of its treasures following the taking of Baghdad two years ago:

The looting of antiquities from the Iraq National Museum was not a good example of America's failure to protect Iraq's heritage. Dug in on the museum's grounds were squadrons of paramilitary fedayeen--not a part of Iraq's heritage that needed preserving. And do you shoot looters? A man running down the street with a two-hundred-pound head of Nebuchadnezzar in his arms can't hurt you. If you shoot someone who's got a Winged Lion of Assyria, he'll turn out to be a museum curator taking it home for safekeeping--or it will be a plastic Winged Lion of Assyria lawn ornament....

The galleries were a crime scene, but the parts of the museum that weren't open to the public were the scene of something else. Windows were broken. Furniture was smashed. Copiers, coffeemakers, typewriters, and telephones had been thrown around the rooms, and bullets had been fired into ceilings and walls. Bookshelves had been pulled over, and books and publications had been ripped and tossed. Achive photos were torn. Microfilm was unspooled and festooned like the remains of a ticker-tape parade in negative.

Rows of ancient pots had been staved in. Drawers' worth of carefully cataloged scholarly fragments had been further fragmentized. "Be careful," Dr. George said, "because you might be stepping on antiquities." Thousands-of-years-old crunches sounded under our feet.

The restoration studio was ruined. Tools were bent and broken. This wasn't looting. A gold Lyre of Ur had been stripped of its gold leaf; the lyre itself was on the floor. "Vandalism" was not the word. The Vandals controlled the Mediterranean with their sea power and forced the Roman emperor Valentinian III to make peace. They must have had brains. The people who did this to the National Museum were brainless enough to have gone to college with me. I remember just such a scene visited upon a persnickety landlord of off-campus housing. But I don't think the worst of my keg buddies would have trashed America's heritage....

"There were three groups of looters," Dr. George said. "First there were the experts." He explained that they had come equipped with glass cutters and battery-operated saws with stone-cutting blades. They knew what they were after and didn't take replicas or objects that had been over-restored. "Then there were the opportunists." He said that they took whatever they could and did most of the damage. "But then there was a third group--I don't know who they are. I don't understand. They are determined to burn all the libraries and archives in Baghdad, in all the colleges, at Baghdad University. They burned the central library. They burned all the postgraduate studies at the colleges. They burned the library here at the museum--just the library, not the other parts."

...The Museum of Modern Art had been looted, too. "Three or four hours ago we were chasing the looters," one of the curators said. But the staff had managed to get most of the museum's collection locked in the basement. Now, however, Baghdad's sewage system was backing up. Sewage was flooding into the museum cellar, and Iraq's entire collection of modern art was in peril.

The curators appealed to the Civil Affairs soldiers. "We need trucks," one of the curators said, "to bring the paintings here, where they will be guarded." The men from the Museum of Modern Art said it was America's responsibility. They said it was America's duty. They didn't say it was America's fault. But they were thinking it. And I was thinking that among the things America didn't bomb in Baghdad were the sewer outlets into the Tigris.
The Civil Affairs guys scrounged a truck and saved the modern art of Iraq.

Two thoughts strike me while reading this. One, the parallel between the Baghdad museum looting with the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, where in both cases initial media coverage was too quick and eager to smear total blame on Federal authorities as the bad guys, while later details proved a different reality was happening on the ground than was first thought. (In Baghdad evidently the theft of treasures was not as widespread as first reported in the media, thanks to much of the art having been hidden elsewhere. And evidently they didn't shoot looters in New Orleans, either.)

My second thought is to wonder just exactly who those three groups of looters really were. And in the better world envisioned by those who criticized the Coalition troops for this episode, what-sized army of human beings could have planned and enacted the perfectly effective, simultaeous response to all three groups of looters throughout the city, and what should they have done differently?

Election blogging from Iraq; Germany's reaction to Iran

"One can feel the good security situation when he sees people walking in masses down the streets flying Iraqi flags and chanting for democracy in Iraq."

Good roundup of bloggers' reports at Pajamas Media of the Iraqi elections, via Roger L. Simon, who also notes that the new German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has a spine:

The Merkel Connection: What the Mullahcracy may not have banked on is the recent "regime change" in Germany. Angela Merkel is not the same person as the compliant Gerhard Schroeder. According to Expatica, the new German Chancellor...

"has described the denial of the Holocaust by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as incredible, her spokesman said on Wednesday in Berlin.

She robustly rejected the previous day's anti-Semitic remarks by the Iranian leader. ...

Merkel would seek a joint European rejection of the remarks when she met E.U. leaders Thursday and Friday in Brussels for a European summit. Germany was also likely to seek a strong rejection by the international community by way of the United Nations."

Good.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The gift of unexpected freedom

"The biggest surprise of my life was freedom," explained Angela Merkel after taking over as chancellor of Germany. "I expected the (Berlin) wall. I did not expect freedom."

For youngsters who never learned this in school, a recent-history lesson from Doug Bandow on freedom, Communism, and the Berlin Wall. For the Iraqi voters, a testimony to ponder. For the rest of us: never forget.

Update:
More regarding Deutschland: the Carnival of German-American relations.

Merry [insert politically correct language here]

I think those touchy folk, whoever they are, currently getting bent out of shape over the phrase "Happy Holidays" in place of "Merry Christmas" are wasting perfectly good bile. Of course some Jews are celebrating Hanukkah around this time, not to mention non-celebrating Jehovah's Witnesses, Buddhists, atheists, and others, and it is well-mannered and sensitive not to simply assume a stranger is a Christian, although around here statistically he/she most likely is. But yes, some retailers now are trying to be SO ridiculously politically correct (calling Christmas trees "Holiday Trees") as if the words "Christmas" or (God forbid) "Christ" were profanities offensive to the public ear. That's the rub. To those shrinking merchants, some shoppers are saying, if you can't even bear to admit or say the name of the season/reason why you want to take our money, we'll spend it on someone who doesn't have a problem with Christmas.

I can agree with that. Can you see the difference? One's "inclusive," being sensitive and polite, and the other is being frightened to admit right out loud that there is in fact a specificially Christian religious reason behind Christmas, which dares to say its name.

Seems like everybody's sort of bristling about it this year and people who ordinarily do celebrate Christmas are making more of a point to say "Merry Christmas!" in stores. I've never seen so many houses decorated with Christmas lights so early in December here in our neighborhood. Big and splashy, including some new tacky-looking oversized blownup balloon cartoon characters on some of the front lawns. Evidently the pool-toy industry had a marketing brainstorm. Saw one of these creations shaped like a giant snowglobe, with real moving snow effects inside--almost caused a traffic accident slowing down to gape at it. I think we're having an updated revival of 1950's plastic Christmas decorations tackiness, which is fun. The Chinese sweatshop workers who no doubt fabricate these things will be having a jolly Christmas. Spread the joy, I say.

The local joke is, "Every time somebody says 'Happy Holidays,' an elf dies." So... everybody's daring to say, "Merry Christmas!" But I like that anyway--shades of Bedford Falls in "It's a Wonderful Life."

The only thing is, the lights and decorations started to appear in the neighborhood even BEFORE Thanksgiving this year. Drives me crazy they've stretched a holy day of Christmas into a month, Ramadan-like. Give me a break. By the time Christmas comes, the little kids with short attention spans (and everybody else) are tired of all the hoopla, as my mother says, and don't even look anymore at the shedding trees and faded ribbons. Takes all the excitement and specialness out of Christmas.

I'm resisting. I finally put up my angel flag and door wreathe yesterday, our first decorations outside (I always wait until at least December 12th: my Dad's and Frank Sinatra's birthday). And I will take my sweet time with all the rest, thank you. Jumping the gun is a result of all the commercialism; it's the merchants who drive that, as the longer the buying season, the more money they'll pull in. I'm keeping that in mind and trying to keep my holiday celebrations simple and old-fashioned, as much as I can. But of course a Christmas in America's suburban heartland would not look like anything simple to somebody in Zimbabwe or China.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Monday's assignments

Today's interesting reads:

Norman Podhoretz sums up what's going on with the U.S. perceptions of prospects in Iraq, explaining in historical context why so many U.S. politicos and pundits currently exhibit the puzzling mania known as "The Panic Over Iraq" (Thomas Paine would have recognized them). Via Roger L. Simon.


"Censorship in the Name of Religion" by Diana West at Townhall.com: An Afghan editor defending equal rights of women is threatened with death for "blasphemy." Can freedom of speech and conscience exist in an Islamic state?

Mark Steyn on the Iranian threat: how much longer can the world pretend it's not happening? Via Boortz.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Letter to a friend / Peacemakers vs. Warriors in Iraq

Dear Diana,

Thanks much for sending me this essay:

"Advent in Iraq, Rush Limbaugh, and reality"
by Ryan Beiler

concerning the Christian Peacemaker Team held hostage in Iraq by the Swords of Righteousness Brigade. I would not otherwise have come across it, and I found it to be very interesting reading, for expressing the author's point of view.

The overall impression I get from the whole thing is the awesome and brave sacrifice both groups are willing to make on principle for strangers they don't even know: the American soldiers and the American selfstyled peacemakers. They have a lot in common in this. That both groups are in Iraq and that both are changing Iraqi and other Middle-Eastern minds about Americans is all to the good, I believe. We need all the help we can get there.

As the author said, "am I willing to take the same risks for peace that those in the military take for war?" Both groups, pacifists and the military, are sacrificing their lives and resources for the benefit of others ("Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends," etc.). Some hearts and minds benefiting by this will be persuaded by the actions of one group, and some will be won by the other. It's to America's credit that we can and do offer both kinds of individuals who choose to go.

The author certainly implies that the military way is nothing but wrong. And perhaps implies that only the pacifist/peacemaker way is the only right way of action. I don't share those moral beliefs. I have arrived at the view, after considerable thought, that pacifists are essentially self-indulgent (primarily concerned with their own moral scruples) at the expense of the innocent (victimized by bad guys with the pacifists not lifting a finger but only a prayer). I have searched my own heart and read history (the Quakers on the Pennsylvania frontier, etc.), and I know for a fact that (even if it means I am a terribly flawed Christian) I would be among those who would and could choose to personally kill to protect my children, family, and friends, or other defenseless victims. Abstracting from that conviction, I could also give my life for a principle that would benefit others, even strangers, if the principle were important enough. That is, I would kill and fight to defend and preserve my family's safety and by extension our homeland, were it under threat. I would fight for self-defense and to defend the innocent from evil.

You probably disagree (and I'm pretty sure the author of the essay does), but many Americans (including me) now believe that the U.S. fighting the current war against terrorism/Al-Qaeda/jihadists is precisely that, a war of pre-emptive self-defense that along the way will ultimately benefit the innocent Afghani and Iraqi citizens--and that we are fortunate to be able to take the battle to the jihadists thanks to our military, and not have to primarily fight it here in the U.S. among our own American civilians.

This is a hugely debatable and complex topic and has polarized the U.S. and much of the world. But there are so many components and arguments to be made on all sides, it should not be taken for granted by any one side that the right belongs entirely to them (that's my opinion).

That many mistakes have been made by the U.S. in its military action in Iraq is indisputable, regretable, tragic. If I were an Iraqi getting along under Saddam, whose home or family had been destroyed by the recent military action, I would probably hate the U.S. and I understand why most in that situation do. But many are not in that situation and don't. As far as Americans, I think it just depends on how cynical an individual is about our country and about people in general that determines how one views the American military presence and actions in Iraq.

If peacemakers, for example, are able to forgive Islamic butchers, why not forgive the U.S. military for its mistakes as well?

I find it very curious that the author did not want to criticize the kidnappers holding (and maybe executing) the hostages, as this would "not seem productive at this moment." Huh? "Productive"!? What an odd word to use. A sudden flash of pragmatism in what is otherwise a sheerly moralistic essay?? I just can't understand that, neither the word "productive," nor the tone and the choice of argument, and then I wonder further what the heck is up with this guy. To be so willing to hold the U.S. military, "Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz" as the bad guys but not breathe a word against the actual killers of the peacemakers, Saddam, or the other factions blowing up civilians in Iraq?

Maybe this is supposed to show the author as being even more amazingly sacrificial and forgiving. It does not convince me, however, that this person has clear sight, is willing to call a spade a spade, or more precisely, killers killers. To me his whole argument lacks common sense. It is interesting reading as a point of view but doesn't say much to persuade me as to his reasonableness or wisdom in grasping the whole larger picture. To me he seems one of many starry-eyed evangelicals with passionate selective vision who pop up throughout history. Pacifist martyrs perhaps do win hearts one by one, which is all to the good. Jesus certainly sacrificed his own life without raising his hand against his killers. And many good, decent, even saintly people have willingly gone to their deaths in hopes their sacrifice would teach a lesson (even today Christian missionaries and just plain Christians are being martyred). But Jesus, I'm thinking, would've loved the American soldiers facing death for others just as much as he would've loved this guy, and this guy clearly does not love the American military. This guy has selective love to prove his point.

The peacemakers putting themselves into harm's way are brave, and so are these women:

"These Are the Modern-Day Trailblazers; Iraqi women, fighting for their future, in a new country, where they can"

America deserves some thanks for that, and for a lot more.

We've been friends a long time, and never really getting into discussing our political differences much is probably one of the reasons why. I really should get a blog where I can vent like this and not inflict my contrary opinions too much on my friends!