Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas to All


San Felipe de Neri, Albuquerque, NM
Christmas Eve

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Modern Christmas Parable

I heard Paul Harvey tell this story on the radio at Christmas time a few years ago. I liked it then, and it's only grown on me since. But my attempts to find a copy of the story were unsuccessful — until earlier this year, when I found a similar (but different) story. That enabled me to find the one I remembered, at last. It's still worth sharing.

Paul Harvey: A Modern Parable
As read on the radio

Unable to trace its proper parentage, I have designated this as my Christmas story of "The Man and the Birds." You know the Christmas story, the God born a man in a manger, and all that escapes some moderns — mostly, I think, because they seek complex answers to their questions, and this one's so utterly simple. So for the cynics and the skeptics and the unconvinced, I submit a modern parable:

Now, the man to whom I'm going to introduce you was not a Scrooge; he was a kind, descent, mostly good man, generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn't believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmastime. It just didn't make sense, and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn't swallow the Jesus story about God coming to earth as a man.

"I'm truly sorry to distress you," he told his wife, "but I'm not going with you to church this Christmas Eve." He said he'd feel like a hypocrite, that he'd much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed, and they went to the midnight service.

Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier, and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound, then another, and then another, sort of a thump or a thud. At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window; but when he went to the front door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They'd been caught in the storm, and in a desperate search for shelter had tried to fly through his large landscape window.

Well, he couldn't let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it.

Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in, so he hurried back to the house, fetched breadcrumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted, wide-opened doorway of the stable. But to his dismay the birds ignored the breadcrumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them; he tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms. Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.

And then he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me, that I'm not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow; they would not be led or shooed, because they feared him.

If only I could be a bird, he thought to himself, and mingle with them and speak their language! Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to the safe, warm . . . to the safe warm barn . . . but I would have to be one of them, so they could see and hear and understand. At that moment, the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sound of the wind, and he stood there listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. . . . And he sank to his knees in the snow.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Upgrading from Vista to XP

I completely understand this. My own experience has been similar.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Oursourcing



I was depressed last
night so I called Lifeline.
I got a call center in
Pakistan.


I told them I was
suicidal.



They got all
excited and asked if I could drive a truck.



Shamelessly copied from the Maverick News Network.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Comment of the Week

As a African-American convert to Islam, a soldier, and as someone who actually can read, I would have to say that anyone who thinks what Steyn has said is either racist or objectionable is a complete douchebag. The Canadian Muslim groups that have complained are essentially terrorist front organizations and Steyn should wear there offense as a badge of honor.


I am sick and tired of white liberals apologizing for the subhuman filth that has degraded my beautiful religion. The Islam that I practice stresses self-discipline and tolerance for one’s neighbors. I have fought the Wahhabi scum in both Afghanistan and Iraq and will be going back to Iraq soon to finish the job. I personally find it pathetic to find that I am fighting in Iraq to give Iraqis a right to free speech, while Canada seeks to chill legitimate political discourse.


    — Comment by Ty Shareef to an attack on writer Mark Steyn.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Free Speech

“Freedom of expression” did not develop in the West from purely idealistic motives. Nor is it necessarily a pretty thing. Like so much in civil society, we put up with it because the alternative is worse, and we'd rather cope with free speech, than with the free intimidation that results from its suppression.

David Warren is exactly right. That's why, in this country, no one has a right not to be offended. I, myself, am frequently offended — especially by those who insult my intelligence with their stupid propaganda. But, ....


The proper response to offensive speech and to stupid speech is more free speech, not less. Let them talk, and they will demonstrate conclusively the stupidity of their position. Censor them, and you make martyrs of people who don't merit being listened to — and you make it possible for other idiots to build support for them without having to admit what they actually said.


In the case of the David Warren column, some members of the Religion of Perpetual OutrageTM are offended that Maclean's published an excerpt of a Mark Steyn book, and have filed complaints with the national and provincial "Human Rights Commissions" in Canada. On this, David Warren says


My hope is that this case against Mark Steyn and Maclean's will be fruitful. It will be, if it inspires enough people -- especially journalists, of all political persuasions -- to express outrage at what has been done; and inspires Canada's free citizens into the necessary political action to put an end to the human rights commissions themselves. The worst possible result, is if the case fails to produce this response.
I'm with him.

Congress and the AMT

The House of Representatives has passed a patch to the IRS code to prevent the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) from hitting millions of taxpayers this year, but raising $80 million in new taxes to "pay for" this "tax reduction." The Senate has passed a similar bill but, thanks to the Senate Republicans, without the attached tax increase.


Message to Congressional Democrats: Blocking the AMT is not a tax reduction that needs to be offset. It is merely preventing a big tax increase.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Scripting by CNN

The Democrats in the presidential race had a “debate” Thursday night in Las Vegas, Nevada, broadcast by CNN. That night and the next morning, CNN had the word out — Hillary had bounced back and Obama had stumbled.


By Friday, though, it had also developed that all was not as it seemed the night before. Wolf Blitzer identified the questioners in the audience as “ordinary people, undecided voters.” But, as Gateway Pundit and Doug Ross (among others) found out, none of the questioners was either ordinary or undecided. All are Democratic Party operatives, like the “undecided voter” who, it turned out, was the political director of the Arkansas Democratic Party and a long-time supporter of the Clintons. Then — surprise, surprise! — we learned that every single question hadn't been just planted by CNN, but had been planned and scripted by them. And that's before considering Wolf Blitzer and his colleagues, who caved in to Hillary (or was it to their CNN bosses?) and asked softball questions. No wonder Hillary's staffers were pleased!


But even that wasn't enough for CNN. They had to make sure the post-event analysis went the right way, too. So they stacked their analysis segment with people who were and are on the Clinton payroll. This was a pageant, not a debate. And it was all staged for Hillary, who didn't need to worry about another bad performance. After all, as Gateway Pundit noted:

It's hard to have a bad debate performance when:
** The audience is planted in your favor
** The questions are planted in your favor
** The questioners are your supporters
** The after debate spin room includes 2 former staff members and 1 current campaign analyst


Even so, after having scripted every detail of this pageant, CNN still managed to produce a turkey. Stephen Green may have captured it best:

Lots of fireworks, yet still the worst debate I've seen all season. The blame rests squarely with CNN. ... Horrible, even by the low standards set by Fox News and MSNBC. Horrible, horrible.


Incidentally, this “debate” also raises a question or two about Obama's campaign. He was evidently in on the scripting — he praised the questioner identified as a cashier for “the great work you do on behalf of the culinary workers, a great union here.” He clearly went along with the planted questions and questioners, and turned in a spectacularly lackluster performance. It's enough to make one wonder if he was successfully threatened into subservience, or whether his may actually be a Potemkin campaign. (A related question is whether he knew in advance that the whole event was a setup for Hillary. If not, and if his campaign is real, he should be out attacking Hillary and her CNN agents for these actions.)


All this goes way beyond continuing to be the Clinton News Network. This goes beyond being on Saddam Hussein's payroll, painting a fraudulent rosy picture of conditions in Iraq, as CNN has acknowledged doing. Here CNN decided slanting its reporting wasn't enough, and set out to create news — for Clinton, of course — and thus to defraud its viewers by presenting them with a made-for-TV movie, while pretending it was a debate. This confirms that CNN's political “reporting” is not to be trusted, and raises — again — the question of whether one can trust anything seen on CNN.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day

Kyle-Anne Shiver has written an open letter of thanks to America's veterans that is a must read — especially today. Here's an excerpt:

And it is also true, that unless one has been in battle, one does not truly understand the depth of your passion for liberty. To families that have borne no soldiers, you are an enigma. To cowards, you are a shaming presence, a constant reminder of their weakness. To your parents, you represent both the mountaintop of pride, and the deepest valley of concern that mothers and fathers can ever know. And to most of us ordinary citizens, you are the unseen, under-appreciated protectors of all that we hold dear.


Military men and women really are different. Like their brothers and sisters in fields such as firefighting and law enforcement, they are the ones who run toward the fire and toward the firefight, not away. They are the sheepdogs, the ones who protect the sheep from the wolves — but whose presence makes the sheep uncomfortable. They're not all the same; they come in all types. But they share that difference. Sometimes you can see it in their eyes. Sometimes you can see the difference without being able to see who they are.

Even when you're not be able see the difference, the difference is still there. But whether you see the difference or not, whether you are aware of them or not, they are the ones who are there to be a deterrent — and, if necessary, a force for protection and rescue. They are the men and women who have secured and preserved our freedom. To them, along with Kyle-Anne Shiver, I say

You serve and fight for the greatest Nation in the history of civilization. There has never been a grievous wrong that good Americans have not sought to rectify. There has never been a just cause on which America has turned her back for long. You, our soldiers, have been and continue to be, the greatest force for freedom and human rights ever gathered. You have raised our flag around the world, not for domination, but to bring greater liberty and a better way of life. You are the reason America remains a beacon of hope to the entire world.
To all our veterans, and to all who serve, THANK YOU!

Veterans Day


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Michael Yon's Iconic Photo


Here's Michael Yon, in Thanks and Praise:



I photographed men and women, both Christians and Muslims, placing a cross atop the St. John’s Church in Baghdad. They had taken the cross from storage and a man washed it before carrying it up to the dome.


A Muslim man had invited the American soldiers from “Chosen” Company 2-12 Cavalry to the church, where I videotaped as Muslims and Christians worked and rejoiced at the reopening of St John’s, an occasion all viewed as a sign of hope.


The Iraqis asked me to convey a message of thanks to the American people. “Thank you, thank you,” the people were saying. One man said, “Thank you for peace.” Another man, a Muslim, said “All the people, all the people in Iraq, Muslim and Christian, is brother.” The men and women were holding bells, and for the first time in memory freedom rang over the ravaged land between two rivers. 


The conventional wisdom has been that Iraq is in the midst of a civil war between the Sunnis and the Shi'as; the reality is that the sectarian violence in Iraq has been produced, promoted, and primarily carried out by al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist elements. The conventional wisdom has been that Muslims and Christians cannot get along with each other, much less cooperate; the reality is that this bigotry, too, has been imported from foreign sources. The conventional wisdom has been that Iraq is a terrible place that will never be a suitable place for civilized people to live; the reality is far different, as Michael Yon's photographs and reports show.

It seems the problem now is how to combat all that false conventional wisdom. As it's been said,

The problem isn't what you don't know. The problem is what you know that isn't so.
Chris Muir has made his contribution to this effort by capturing the impact of Yon's photo.

And now it has spread. Just a few of the places showcasing the photo are Captain's Quarters, Jules Crittenden, Gateway Pundit, The Anchoress, and Confederate Yankee, among lots of others — all helping to drive out bad information with a large does of good information.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Waterboarding Demonstration

The Associated Press reports "Protesters staged a waterboarding Monday outside the Justice Department, calling for a Senate committee to reject attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey because of his reluctance to define the interrogation tactic as torture." The picture at left shows the waterboarding, and was published with the report.

What struck me in this story is that the demonstrators clearly do not believe waterboarding is torture, no matter what they pretend. Their demonstration demonstrates this. If they believed waterboarding to be torture, they might have simulated it, but they absolutely would not subject one of their own to it. The fact they performed an actual waterboarding, rather than merely a simulation, clearly demonstrates they know it's not torture.

UPDATE: James Taranto (Best of the Web - Not Torture After All) comes to the same conclusion.

Political Humor

The political jokes have started:


Chelsea Clinton was interviewing soldiers and asked one about his fears. He said there were only three things he was afraid of: "Osama, Obama and Yo Mama."

Monday, October 29, 2007

Roger Chapin, Profiteer

An article in the September 3, 2007, Forbes Magazine was pointed out to me, a follow-up to an article last December. Both were about Roger Chapin, a self-described "nonprofit entrepreneur" who runs, and has run, a large number of nonprofit organizations. And it appears they're not quite the charitable organizations they claim to be.

There's a strong hint of this early in the December article:

Chapin's biggest venture is Help Hospitalized Veterans, a Winchester, Calif. charity that hauled in donations of $71 million for the year ended in July. HHV's primary mission, as stated on its Web home page: providing free therapeutic arts-and-crafts kits to GIs recovering from injuries. The hobby sets are evidently much appreciated by these veterans. But of every dollar spent in the fiscal year only nine cents went for the kits, plus another five cents for associated overhead and for counselors to visit hospitals and nursing homes.
47¢ out of every $1 Help Hospitalized Veterans raised went to sending junk mail asking for donations.

Another Chapin nonprofit, the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes Foundation, says its function is "to help our severely wounded and disabled" soldiers from Middle East strife "rebuild their lives." Yet nearly 80% of the $26 million spent in 2006 by the Coalition "represented the purported value of 1.5 million calling cards given to uninjured soldiers serving in the Middle East. These cards allowed the soldiers to check sports scores back home but couldn't be used to call, say, family. The cards were donated by ez Scores, of Silver Spring, Md." [emphasis added]


Those calling cards highlight another problem in these linked nonprofits — one that could be considered an issue of creative accounting. When ez Scores contributed the calling cards to Help Hospitalized Veterans, they were counted as a contribution there. When HHV passed them to the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes Foundation, they were counted as supporting HHV's mission and as a contribution to the Coalition, thus improving the statistics for both groups with a paper transfer between groups controlled by the same individual. If the calling cards are counted only for the Coalition, who actually gave them to (uninjured) soldiers, then HHV had contributions of $51 million and that 47¢ out of every $1 that went to junk mail advertising (mentioned above) is really 67¢ out of every $1 raised.

The one thing Roger Chapin's nonprofit organizations are good at is supporting Roger Chapin. He and his wife got just under a half million dollars in total compensation from Help Hospitalized Veterans in 2005, and well over that in 2006. And that's not counting hundreds of thousands of dollars in "unreimbursed expenses" and a $445,000 condo near Washington, DC. And Lord knows what else. That means what Help Hospitalized Veterans has really done is (1) generate lots of junk mail, (2) support Roger Chapin's lavish lifestyle, and (3) mask these with a lot of creative accounting and pseudo-legal manipulations.

I don't like going with something based on a single source, even a good source like Forbes Magazine, but it looks to me like this is a man who is using America's soldiers — including severely wounded soldiers — for his own profit.





Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Parallel Universes

Michael Yon posted a new article from Iraq on Monday. It begins

Resistance is futile: You will be (mis)informed.
 
A gulf. A gap. A chasm. A parallel universe. All describe the bizarro-world contrast between what most Americans seem to think is happening in Iraq versus what is really happening in Iraq. Knowing this disconnect exists and experiencing it directly are two separate matters. It’s like the difference between holding the remote control during the telecast of a volcanic eruption on some distant island (and then flipping the channel), versus running for survival from a wretch of molten lava that just engulfed your car.
Not having been to Iraq, I haven't been hit as hard by this as Yon has. But I have noted the major discrepancies between the observations of the soldiers and embedded reporters there and the reports published by the New York Times, the Associated Press, and other "mainstream media" outlets. And I have seen that the reports in the "mainstream media" consistently undercut the troops and their mission.

This is important because the Global War on Terror (the War Against "Islamic" Fascism) is important. As Yon notes, this is

a war of such strategic consequence that it will affect generations yet unborn — whether or not they want it to. Hiding under the covers will not work, because whether it is good news or bad, whether it is true or untrue, once information is widely circulated, it has such formidable inertia that public opinion seems impervious to the corrective balm of simple and clear facts.


Definitely read the whole thing. And consider supporting Michael Yon and the others that are there trying to help us understand what's really going on there. Lord knows the "mainstream media" won't be of any help.



Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Illegal Aliens Issue

Immigration reform — which some call an issue of illegal immigration — is a hot issue, and I've intended to write about it for some time — preferably at a time when we might be able to discuss it with at least a little rationality. Maybe now is the time to begin.

Let's start with a couple of very basic, very general, key principles:

1. We need to make it a lot harder to come here illegally.
2. We need to make it a lot easier to come here legally.
Number 1 seems to be self-evident. The large number of people who have crossed our borders without documents and the commerce of the drug cartels and coyotes should make it quite plain, even if the Border Patrol hadn't been finding jackets with jihadi patches abandoned near the border.

Number 2 may seem less evident to some. But it is clear that the current immigration quotas are absurdly low. If that were not so, there would be nothing to draw all the undocumented workers. (It can be argued that this is a chicken-and-egg question. Either the workers are drawn here because the quotas are set absurdly low so that job needs cannot be filled, or the quotas have been deliberately set absurdly low in an attempt to compensate for the additional workers here. The result is the same either way.) It is also absolutely unconscionable — if not criminal — that it takes U.S. citizens five to ten years (or more) to bring their legitimately married foreign-born husbands and wives into the U.S. legally.


We really should have done something about the immigration issue long ago. We've known for years that we have (and have had) a growing problem, and have chosen to do nothing about it. That's part of why the problem is so big now. I think most will agree it has now reached the point that we can no longer afford to do nothing.

Just as important is that, however much the more extreme positions on either side may have going for them, they are and will remain non-starters. We simply cannot do "just this" or "only that", and I doubt we ever really could. The immigration issue is multifaceted, and any attempt to solve it must be as well. And that's only part of why some form of comprehensive reform is necessary — but perhaps it is a hint of why the reform's individual elements are of critical importance.

To identify what the proper elements are, we first need to consider what the “immigration issue” is, and what it is not.

What this issue is not is

• an immigration issue
Most of the “illegal immigrants” — more accurately, illegal aliens — do not intend to immigrate. They don't (at least initially) intend to come here to stay. They just want to have jobs here so they can send money back to their homes and families outside the U.S. What pushes some (many?) to stay and become immigrants is the uncertainty of moving back and forth across the border, which brings them to stay put, and put down roots. For many (most?) of these “immigrants”, ties to their homelands would remain dominant if they could be sure they could visit home and return to their jobs in the U.S.

What this issue is is

• a labor issue
• a law enforcement issue
• a security issue
It's a labor issue because many illegal aliens are coming here and getting jobs. That means at least two things:
1. There are jobs available. These aliens wouldn't come here if they couldn't get jobs.
2. There are jobs available. They wouldn't be available for aliens to take if they weren't unfilled by citizens and legal aliens.
That combination means there is an issue here that must be dealt with.

It's a law enforcement issue because there are so many in our prisons who are illegal aliens. And because so many of those are repeat offenders. The latter point, in particular, means that we don't deport illegal aliens who have committed serious crimes in this country and/or we don't keep these individuals from coming back into this country.

It's a security issue because Arab would-be terrorists have been able to enter this country illegally (as well as by misusing the legal entry system) to the point that there are now human smuggling operations (like the one in Chaparral, New Mexico) that focus on bringing Middle Eastern individuals across our borders because they can make a lot more money that way.


One final thing: This is an issue of fairness. It is unfair to those who try to come to the U.S. legally to so completely ignore those who come here illegally. It is unfair to the illegal aliens to make it easy for the unscrupulous, whether employers or criminals, to exploit them. And it is unfair to citizens and legal aliens to let exploited illegal aliens take jobs citizens and legal aliens would otherwise have. Indeed, it is hard to think of anyone the current situation is not unfair to. Except the criminals.

These are the issues that any "immigration reform" needs to address, and that must determine the provisions in any comprehensive immigration reform bill.

(You want to read more? See Jim Addison's take on the issue at Wizbang.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

It's Official!

In his What's New e-mail newsletter for September 21 (see the newsletter archives here), Robert L Park of the University of Maryland reports

THE MORAL LAW: THE GENETIC BASIS OF THE GOLDEN RULE. The feature story in the Science Times section of Tuesday’s NY Times is based on the work of psychologist Jonathan Haidt, University of Virginia. It reinforces recent brain scanning studies that found "mirror cells" in the motor cortex (see http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN07/wn081707.html). For the full story of how evolution designed our universal sense of right and wrong, see "Moral Minds" by Marc D. Hauser (Harper-Collins, 2006).
That makes it official! If there is truly a genetic basis for "our universal sense of right and wrong," then the fact that people like Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Adolph Hitler, and Joseph Stalin (to name just a few) do not share that "universal sense" conclusively demonstrates that they are not just inhuman but clearly non-human.


Bill Clinton on the Terror Threat

James Taranto of the Opinion Journal Best of the Web column yesterday reports

Also, reader Stuart Creque makes a great point regarding that same item: "If we take Bill Clinton at his word that there was no terror threat in 1992, isn't it safe to say that a massive, world-wide terror threat developed on his watch?"
That sounds like a good point to me.



Saturday, September 29, 2007

Ahmadinejad at the UN

I heard most of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech at the United Nations on Tuesday. (OK, I mostly heard the voice of the translator, with Ahmadinejad's voice in the background.) I subsequently read the transcript of his speech, as well, as provided by the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) and posted on the Global Security web site. The following are a few of my reactions to his speech, which I cheerfully admit are colored by my broad scale reading, watching, and following of world and international news.

Ahmadinejad has become slicker since last year. The speech he gave then could be fisked in a rather straightforward manner. Even when his specific statements were true, the context in which he placed them turned them into lies. For example, Ahmadinejad said


The occupiers are incapable of establishing security in Iraq. Despite the establishment of the lawful Government and National Assembly of Iraq, there are covert and overt efforts to heighten insecurity, magnify and aggravate differences within Iraqi society, and instigate civil strife.

There is no indication that the occupiers have the necessary political will to eliminate the sources of instability. Numerous terrorists were apprehended by the Government of Iraq, only to be let loose under various pretexts by the occupiers.


What he did not say was that the efforts to "instigate civil strife" are largely funded, armed, and directed by his own government in Iran. He also did not mention that the terrorists who were "let loose under various pretexts by the occupiers" were released at the request of the government of Iraq under the formal claim by Iran that they were diplomats of Ahmadinejad's government.

This year Ahmadinejad was not as directly dishonest. This year he spoke in broader generalities to limit his hearers' ability to catch him on specifics, and twisted those generalities in a manner that would do MoveOn.org proud. Talking about Iran's nuclear weapons development program, for example, Ahmadinejad said


After three years of negotiations and attempts to build confidence, the Iranian nation came to the firm belief that the main concern of these powers is not the possible deviation of Iran's nuclear activities, but is to prevent its scientific progress under this pretext.


And, if this trend continues there will be no possibility for Iran to enjoy its rights, not even in the next 20 years. Therefore, Iran decided to pursue the issue through its appropriate legal path, one that runs through the IAEA, and to disregard unlawful and political impositions by the arrogant powers.


In the last two years, abusing the Security Council, the arrogant powers have repeatedly accused Iran and even made military threats and imposed illegal sanctions against it. However, by the grace of faith in God and national unity, Iran has moved forward step by step and now our country is recognized as one with the capacity for industrial scale fuel cycle production for peaceful uses.
...


Previously, they illegally insisted on politicizing the Iranian nation's nuclear case, but today, because of the resistance of the Iranian nation, the issue is back to the Agency, and I officially announce that in our opinion the nuclear issue of Iran is now closed and has turned into an ordinary Agency matter.


In this manner, Ahmadinejad announced to the United Nations that his government's nuclear program had passed what many nuclear analysts consider the "point of no return." In their judgement, no embargo or blockade can any longer prevent Iran from making nuclear weapons. The only ways left to stop Iran's nuclear weapon development are (1) to destroy their nuclear facilities or (2) to get the Iranian government (or its successor) to abandon its nuclear program — as Libya and South Africa did.

That's really scary, but it's not the scariest part. The scariest part was when Ahmadinejad said


I would also like to announce that unlike the monopolistic powers, the Iranian nation is ready to offer to other members its experiences in the form of educational programs and based on its obligations under the Agency's Statute and under its supervision.

Thus did Ahmadinejad, which claims Iran "has fulfilled all of its obligations", announce that Iran intends to violate its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and spread nuclear technology to other countries. He did not state that Iran would also provide nuclear technology and materials to non-state entities, but one would have to be a complete fool to simply assume it would not.


There is also a major difference in the religious references in the two speeches. In last year's speech, Ahmadinejad began with a rather traditional Muslim introduction, saying


I praise the Merciful, All-Knowing and Almighty God for blessing me with another opportunity to address this Assembly on behalf of the great nation of Iran and to bring a number of issues to the attention of the international community.

and he closed that speech by saying

0, Almighty God, all men and women are Your creatures and You have ordained their guidance and salvation. Bestow upon humanity that thirsts for justice, the perfect human being promised to all by You, and make us among his followers and among those who strive for his return and his cause.

This year he opened with a rather specific prayer for the return of the Mahdi, the savior hoped for by the Hojjatieh splinter sect of Shi'ite Islam (to which Ahmadinejad belongs, along with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Iraq's Moqtada al-Sadr), saying

"Oh God, hasten the arrival of Imam Al-Mahdi and grant him good health and victory and make us his followers and those who attest to his rightfulness"

The quotation marks around this prayer appear in the transcript as provided by IRNA. In a similar vein, Ahmadinejad closed his speech saying

I wish for a bright future for all human beings and the dawn of the liberation of and freedom for all humans, and the rule of love and affection all around the world, as well as the elimination of oppression, hatred and violence. A wish which I expect will be realized in the near future.

This sounds nice. Who could object to a bright future, with liberation and freedom, with love and affection, and with the elimination of oppression, hatred and violence? Only those who recognize the truly Orwellian use of the language by Sunni and Shi'ite extremists alike. To these extremists, the height of freedom — the bright future without oppression, hatred and violence — is represented by a Sunni or Shia version of the government of the Taliban. That is not a vision that any sane person would accept, or that any rational person would describe in such terms.

And look at his final sentence fragment: "A wish which I expect will be realized in the near future." Ahmadinejad expects the return of the Mahdi in "the near future." This is chilling. The Hojjatieh believe the Mahdi will return only when the world contains enough oppression, misery, tyranny, and sorrow to warrant his coming. As a result, they believe in spreading evil and creating chaos as their way to hasten his return. (See The Two Trees of Jihadism.)

These elements, and a lot of the rest of the speech, seem to be a call to Islam. In Islamic history, and apparently in the Koran, a call to Islam is required before an enemy is attacked. If the enemy submits, they are to be accepted and are not to be destroyed; if the enemy does not surrender and convert, their destruction is commanded. The call to Islam is, in such cases, the same as a declaration of war. (To be fair, Iran declared war against us years ago. It's just that we have ignored their war against us — including, to a significant degree, the proxy war Iran is waging against us in Iraq.)

The call to Islam is exemplified by, among others, the excerpts from the speech given just below. When reading them, it is worth keeping in mind (as with the "bright future" above) that a large number of words and expressions mean quite different things to these people than to normal folks. The government of Iran, for example, regards opposition to it and its mullahs as obedience to Satan. And, too, these people are well practiced in the art of taqiyya.


The only sustainable way to the betterment of mankind is the return to the teachings of the divine prophets, monotheism, respect for the dignity of humans and the flow of love and affection in all relationships, ties and regulations, and to reform the present structures on this basis. ... Monotheism, justice and compassion for humans should dominate all the pillars of the UN and this organization should be a forum for justice, and every member should enjoy equal spiritual and legal support.


Nations are inherently good and can co-exist peacefully. They should endeavor to serve their own people; others that do not need them. Is it not high time for these powers to return from the path of arrogance and obedience to Satan to the path of faith in God? Would they not like to be cleansed of their impurities, submit to the will of God and believe in Him?


In this important gathering, I have to remind them of the following words of the Almighty which have been mentioned in the Holy Quran: "Do they not look at the powers and governments which came before them? If the people of the past had actually possessed something, they would have kept it and would not have let you possess it now. God destroyed them because of their sins and nobody could protect them against the will of God".


They have to know that thoughts and methods based on oppression and injustice are doomed to failure. Do they not see the signs of vigilance and resistance based on monotheism, philanthropy and the justice-seeking spirit of the nations of the world? Do they not notice that we are nearing the sunset of the time of empires? I hope that this invitation will have a practical answer.


The last excerpt makes the call to Islam — "this invitation" — explicit. "Do they not notice that we are nearing the sunset of the time of empires [i.e., of those Iran considers enemies]?" With Ahmadinejad's history, this is unlikely to be merely an historical observation. Given the beliefs of the Hojjatieh sect to which the leadership of Iran and its subsidiaries belong, it is doubtful that this is a hoped-for result they are waiting for God to produce. Under these conditions, this question reads like a notification and slightly veiled threat of new aggressive activity. That new activity might be something like the activity in the mid-17th century in southeastern Europe, but with more reach and Iran's new weapons.


UPDATE: James Lewis at American Thinker has noted many of the same things I've commented on here. He carries his analysis further, and makes specific projections and recommendations. Read his whole article.


One more thing: The statement Ahmadinejad made in his speech, as part of his call to Islam, that made me laugh out loud — and made me decide to write this — was when he said


Faith in God means believing in honesty, purity, justice and compassion for others!

It's not that this statement is false. The statement is true. It's just amazing that Ahmadinejad said it, because it raises the question of who or what it is that he has faith in. Given his personal record and that of the government he now leads, and by his own statement, the one thing that's sure is that it's not God.




Thursday, September 27, 2007

Picture of the Day


Hillary models a prison jumpsuit for admirers.

 

I know, I know. But that's how this picture struck me when I saw it.



Friday, September 21, 2007

A Superb Turn Of Phrase

Mitt Romney responds:

"Hillary Clinton had a choice. She could stand with our troop commander in Iraq, or she could stand with the libelous left wing of her party. She chose the latter. The idea that she would be a credible commander-in-chief of our armed forces requires the willing suspension of disbelief."
Hillary Clinton was one of 25 Democrat Senators who refused to condemn the party's extremists. It appears that either (1) MoveOn.org owns these 25 Senators (including New Mexico's Senator Jeff Bingaman) or (2) these Senators are deathly afraid of George Soros' MoveOn extremists.



Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Tide Is Turning (2)

Almost two weeks ago, I wrote that The Tide Is Turning about changes appearing in Iraq and across the Arab world. Now comes word in a Michael Totten piece that, at least in some areas, the changes have been more rapid and more complete than I'd dared hope.

Ramadi has changed so drastically from the terrorist-infested pit that it was as recently as April 2007 that I could hardly believe what I saw was real. The sheer joy on the faces of these Iraqis was unmistakable. They weren’t sullen in the least, and it was pretty obvious that they were not just pretending to be friendly or going through the hospitality motions. ...

What he said next surprised me even more than what I was seeing.

“You know what I like most about this place?” he said.

“What’s that?” I said.

“We don’t need to wear body armor or helmets,” he said.

I was poleaxed. Without even realizing it, I had taken off my body armor and helmet. I took my gear off as casually as I do when I take it off after returning to the safety of the base after patrolling. We were not in the safety of the base and the wire. We were safe because we were in Ramadi.

What brought about this kind of change, and this scale? It was the experience gained — by us and by them.
The Iraqis of Anbar Province turned against Al Qaeda and sided with the Americans in large part because Al Qaeda proved to be far more vicious than advertised. But it’s also because sustained contact with the American military — even in an explosively violent combat zone — convinced these Iraqis that Americans are very different people from what they had been led to believe. They finally figured out that the Americans truly want to help and are not there to oppress them or steal from them. And the Americans slowly learned how Iraqi culture works and how to blend in rather than barge in.
This kind of change cannot be reversed. Experience, once gained, cannot be lost. As others have said, "you can't unring a bell."


There's a lot more in Totten's piece. And the pictures are great. Recommended. While you're at it, why not also see why Victor Davis Hanson says doomsday is not just around the corner, in Iraq or a number of other places.


UPDATE: With the changes Totten reported, al Qaeda moved is "caliphate" headquarters from Anbar to Diyala province. Now, as Ed Morrissey reports, the same thing is happening there. But this time it's not just Sunni tribes forming an alliance against al Qaeda. Diyala province has a mixed Sunni and Shia and Kurdish population, and all these groups are joining forces with the local government and the U.S. forces, proving that they can and will cooperate across sectarian divides for the common good.

The tide continues to turn.



Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Tide Is Turning

The most hopeful sign I have run across recently for progress in Iraq and against al Qaeda is that groups that have been fighting against us are now fighting alongside us and, more importantly, why they are doing so. Michael Yon reported from Iraq about his interview with Abu Ali, local head of the 1920s Revolution Brigades. He reports that

Abu Ali said that on 1 April 2007, he and his people attacked al Qaeda in Buhriz for their crimes against Islam. He also said something that many Muslims have said to me: al Qaeda are not Muslims [emphasis added]. (Both Sunni and Shia have said nearly the exact same words, at times on video.) Abu Ali said they fought hard against al Qaeda, and on 10 April, they asked the Americans to join the attack. It worked.
Since then, the Americans and the 1920s together have been dismantling al Qaeda in Iraq's Diyala province. That's important, but even more important is the reason: "their (al Qaeda's) crimes against Islam".


It's not just Abu Ali and his group. Across Diyala provice, as in Anbar province before it, tribal and regional leaders have turned on al Qaeda and have joined with the Iraqi security forces and the Coalition forces in the battle against terrorism — swearing on the Quran to defeat al Qaeda. This change is huge. A year ago, both of these provinces were considered irrevocably lost to al Qaeda, providing the terrorists with safe havens and bases of operations. The people there have lived under al Qaeda's domination, and have seen first-hand the extreme contradiction between the lies they tell and the actions they take.


Because of the U.S. forces' actions, there were more than 80 days without an attack in Ramadi (Anbar province), and there are some weeks without a single attack in the entire province. It's so quiet, Marines there are complaining they should have been rotated to Baghdad, where they could accomplish something. Michael Totten's business partner notes,

When troops come back complaining that there aren't enough fights to go around, you are not losing.
And now Diyala province is headed the same way.


It's not just there. Increasing numbers of jihadists are turning against the program promoted by the group of organizations including al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Some now are in places like the Saudi rehabilitation program which has helped change the direction of many actual and potential terrorists, reportedly including released detainees from Guantanamo. In that program

"The aim is to reform the youths, to listen to them and talk to them," said Ahmed Jailan, one of the clerics. "We also try to instill a sense of hope in them by telling them they still have the chance to make up for what they lost if they follow true Islam."
Having produced these results, it sounds to me like the "surge" is working very well. These results, including both al Qaeda's attacks on Muslims and U.S. soldiers' defenses of Muslims, are causing al Qaeda to lose its fighters and supporters to disillusionment.
“They are doing the opposite of what Islam advocates,” he added, mentioning suicide bombings and racketeering. “Resorting to suicide attacks and explosives is the strategy of organisations at bay.”
It is important to remember that these are statements by those who have been the Islamists' adherents and supporters. These are not the statements of the Islamists' opponents, though they are statements with which the opponents would agree.



And it's not just the victims and the rank & file, either. Now one of the "founding fathers" of the Salafi jihadist movement, Sayid Imam al-Sharif ("Dr Fadl"), has recanted. His conversion is exceptionally significant because, in addition to being the founder of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, he developed the theological justification for terrorism used by his co-worker Ayman al-Zawahiri, and by Osama Bin Laden with whom he fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. His Foundations of Preparation for Holy War is the Salafi jihadists' "bible". Now he declares that armed operations are wrong, counterproductive and must cease. His new book (due to be published soon) is a repudiation of his prior work, and is endorsed by "hundreds of other former militants." His statement is a remarkable recantation that "undermines the Muslim theological basis for violent jihad and is set to generate furious controversy among former comrades still fighting with al-Qaida."


That leaves the remaining "true believers" increasingly using "suicide bombers" who aren't interested in committing suicide — who are lied to and tricked into their actions, or coerced into them, or kidnapped & beaten & drugged, or (like the kidnapped Down's Syndrome patient) unable to understand what is being done to them. And it leaves those "true believers" increasingly exposed as barbarian pretenders (and demons?), wolves in sheep's clothing masquerading as Muslims for their own inhuman (and anti-Islamic) purposes.


All of this says the tide is turning. Has this turn reached a critical mass? I don't know — but if not, it's getting closer. Critical mass or not, it's already rattled Ayman al-Zawahiri.


If this is so, if the tide really is turning, then this (pseudo-)Islamic fascism is well on its way to joining its totalitarian brethren on the dung-heap of history. There it will lie alongside the Thug cult against which the British fought, and the Assassin cult which was fought by (among others) both Saladin and the Crusaders. If it is important enough, it may remain in our language — as the thugs and the assassins have. More likely, though, it will fade from the memory of history as just another Islamist (pseudo-Islamic) cult. And this may happen within the remainder of my own lifetime. Or, as AJStrata puts it,

We kill them, arrest them, find their caches and destroy them and al-Qaeda responds by killing an Imam and kidnapping women and children. This is the death spiral for al-Qaeda. They could have lost Iraq with the image of having done a valiant effort trying to take on the Great Satan - that would have been crippling to their cause but not terminal. Now they are losing and making America out to be the protector while they skulk away as warriors who could only take on children. The Battle for Islam is at hand and it may be on the way to a very favorable conclusion for mankind and Islam itself.


One more thing: In this instance, it really doesn't matter whether the Islamofascists have hijacked Islam and represent a perversion of the religion as many assert, or whether the Islamists' teachings are inherent in Islam as many others claim. It doesn't matter because it is Muslims saying the terrorists are not Muslims, but are pretenders and apostates. And it is Muslims saying al Qaeda is committing crimes against Islam. This is a key element telling me the tide is turning, and a true sea change has occurred. (And if Muslims want to demonstrate that Islam is truly a religion of peace, and not a totalitarian cult, denouncing and going after those who are giving them a bad name — and those who fund and support them — is a good way to do it.)



Friday, September 7, 2007

Disgusting Politics

Maybe it's my current mood, but there have been several things from the last couple of days that have gotten me really disgusted. Here are the biggest ones.


1 — A Senatorial Lie


New York Senator Chuck Schumer made a statement on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday. As quoted, Schumer said:

The violence in Anbar has gone down despite the surge, not because of the surge. The inability of American soldiers to protect these tribes from al Qaeda said to these tribes "We have to fight al Qaeda ourselves." It wasn't that the surge brought peace here. It was that the warlords took peace here, created a temporary peace here.
To be as charitable as possible, this is a complete lie. Less than a year ago, Iraq's Anbar province was considered a lost cause controlled by al Qaeda. I am quite certain Senator Schumer was among those who said so.

It was controlled by al Qaeda, but it was not a lost cause. Once the "surge" began, and U.S. troops went into Anbar province with a new strategy, al Qaeda was pushed out. Attacks, whether against the troops or against civilians, dropped more than 80%. With that success, the troops recruited the tribal sheikhs as allies to make sure that al Qaeda would not be able to move back in when the troops leave. Schumer's statement is false at best and fraudulent at worst, even if his only sources of news are CNN and the New York Times.

Disgusting. Schumer may be the most mean-spirited Senator in Washington, and one of the most partisan. He is lower than scum.


2 — Presidential Candidate — Republican


I saw part of the Republican presidential candidates' debate Wednesday night. In it, one candidate really stood out.

Supporters of Congressman Ron Paul describe him as a libertarian. From hearing him in this debate, it's clear Ron Paul is a libertarian like I'm an African elephant — there may be a connection there somewhere but it's a long, long time ago in a land far, far away. He's clearly not a libertarian but an old-style isolationist, circa 1915. Based on Wednesday's performance, maintaining that position requires him to operate in a manner that is both simplistic to the point of stupidity, and deeply dishonest. The non-sequiturs and false statements I heard coming out of his mouth were simply breathtaking.

Disgusting. This man cannot be supported by anyone with three neurons to rub together. He is lower than scum.


3 — Presidential Candidate — Democrat


Not content with attacking the U.S. and its policies here, Congressman Dennis Kucinich went to Damascus, Syria to do so on foreign soil in cooperation/conspiracy with Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Under Assad's direction, Syria is a prime supporter and supplier of a variety of terrorist organizations. Syria is also a primary avenue by which terrorists are armed and supplied, and sent into Iraq to kill Americans. Gateway Pundit has it exactly right: "You have to hand it to Kucinich. Where the other democratic candidates just talk about propping up evil regimes, he goes out and makes it happen!"

Disgusting. This man cannot be supported by anyone with three neurons to rub together. He is lower than scum.





Monday, September 3, 2007

California Poll

Saw this in a Random Thoughts column by Thomas Sowell. It's too good not to pass on.
A joke says that a poll was taken in California, asking if people thought illegal immigration was a serious problem. The results showed that 29 percent said, "Yes, there is a serious problem." But 71 percent said, "No es una problema seriosa."



Thursday, August 30, 2007

Left Wing Targets Congressman

Congressman Brian Baird (D-WA) actually thinks — and that's a problem. He didn't think we should have gone to war in Iraq, and he supported a timetable for getting our troops out. And the Left loved him.

But then he went to Iraq to see what was really happening there. He didn't just take the word of his party's leadership and its supporters in the media. He apparently found that progress was being made in Iraq that he hadn't thought was possible.

For Baird, it seems, new information calls for new consideration. And sometimes for new conclusions. In this case, seeing the improvement that has come from the change in tactics commonly referred to as "the surge", Congressman Baird decided General Petraeus deserves more time to try to secure as much of Iraq as possible.

That's not OK with Baird's "friends" (who now seem to be former pretend-friends) of the Left who like to prattle about free speech and free thought, but punish anyone who strays from their orthodoxy. As a result, the Congressman is being attacked by MoveOn.org — the left wing pressure group funded by George Soros — in slick, dishonest ads and in town meetings. As Rick Moran summarizes,

In effect, Baird is being a realist. And this has made him a target of the far left.



Friday, August 24, 2007

Ba'athists Apparently Join Coalition

"The leader of Iraq's banned Baath party, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, has decided to join efforts by the Iraqi authorities to fight al-Qaeda" according to press reports.


These are the Saddamites, the members and supporters of the rogue former regime of Saddam Hussein, that the "experts" have constantly told us are our primary enemies in Iraq. Now the Ba'athists have bowed out of the war against us; they were always the junior partner. Now those "experts" will have to admit we're actually fighting an army of foreigners supplied by those who have declared war on the United States and the West — particularly Iran and al Qaeda — and who have made Iraq the battlefield for their proxy war.




Monday, August 20, 2007

Consider Bill Richardson


I'm going to ask you all to look at (and consider giving your support to) New Mexico governor Bill Richardson for the 2008 presidential nomination of the Democratic Party. Before his election as governor here a little over four years ago, Richardson served as the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and Secretary of Energy after beginning his political career as the Congressman from my district (at that time one of two) in New Mexico. His three most recent positions — U.N. Ambassador, Secretary of Energy, and Governor — make him the ONLY Democrat in the race with real executive and international experience.


Not that I always agree with him. Sometimes I don't. Sometimes I REALLY don't. But Richardson is a man one can rely on. You may not always like the answers you get from him, but the answers he gives won't change from one audience to another — as we have seen in the last two presidential candidate debates. He has honor, and standards. And he's one heck of a negotiator. Last fall, for example, he went to Sudan on behalf of the U.S. and secured the release of Chicago Tribune reporter Paul Salopek, whose family lives in New Mexico near Las Cruces. He also still gets calls to speak with foreign government representatives, often at the New Mexico governor's mansion, even though he's now been out of the federal service for six years.


Obviously, you'll have to make your own decision as to whether this politician is worthy of your support. But I will say he is definitely worth looking at. I will also say that he is, in my view, the only current presidential candidate of my party that might be worth voting for.


UPDATE: Most of the text of this posting has been reported on the Bill Richardson for President blog roundup for August 21.



Sunday, August 12, 2007

I Don’t Care Why

Grim over at Blackfive says it better than I could:


Things are changing in Iraq. We're seeing the first waves of the gravity well we're building there, a well whose pull extends far beyond the borders of Iraq itself. It's already strong enough to begin to exert its pull on the United Nations, which is suddenly willing to hedge its bets on success; and Sens. Durbin and Levin, who want to hedge theirs. I'll say they are all welcome to do so. If we can ask political reconciliation of the Iraqis, we can ask it of ourselves. Anyone who wants to join us now in trying to help build success in Iraq, and stand against those who fight by murder and war crimes, is welcome aboard. I don't care why they come, what their motives are, so long as they are willing to join the fight.
Read the rest. It's worth it.



Thursday, August 9, 2007

Nagasaki

Hiroshima had been destroyed, and in a unique and spectacular manner. A single B-29 had flown over Hiroshima, and had dropped a single bomb. No one had ever thought a single plane could cause so much damage. Destruction on that scale required huge numbers of aircraft, like the many hundreds of B-29s that had dropped their bombs on Tokyo in April.


And yet, preparations continued for the expected invasion of the home islands by the United States. Military units were being moved to Japan’s southern Kyushu Island, and civilians there were being given weapons and training. (Japanese military planners could read military realities as well as their American counterparts, and had correctly identified where the Americans would invade.) Hiroshima had been destroyed, but nothing had changed. And so a second atomic bomb mission occurred, and Nagasaki was destroyed by a plutonium bomb (like the one tested in the Trinity Test in New Mexico) when there was too much haze and smoke over Kokura for the bombardier to identify his aimpoint.


General Leslie Groves, head of the U.S. Army’s Manhattan Project which produced the atomic bombs, had predicted it would take two bombs to get the Japanese to surrender — one to stun them and a second to demonstrate the first wasn’t a fluke or a one-of-a-kind. But, as is often the case, there’s more to the story than that.



The atomic cloud over Nagasaki
August 9, 1945


Japanese physicists were involved in nuclear studies in the 1930s, just as European and American physicists were. By 1940, the Japanese had determined that they had access to more than enough uranium in Korea and Burma to make an atomic bomb. An atomic bomb project was started in April 1941, but it determined by late 1944 that it could not produce a bomb in time to affect the war.


The knowledge they built up during their atomic project was put to use in August of 1945. The story is told that physicists sampled the debris after the Hiroshima bombing, and reported that the city had been destroyed by an atomic bomb built of uranium. To the Japanese authorities, that meant it was probably one-of-a-kind because they knew uranium was so difficult to enrich sufficiently that “they can’t possibly have another.” They sampled debris again after the Nagasaki bombing, and reported that a plutonium bomb had been used. This was a shock to the authorities, because it meant to them that the U.S. could have a nearly unlimited number of such bombs, depending on a production rate they had no way to know. (The next plutonium bomb was already on its way to the B-29 base on Tinian Island; the planners had reportedly targeted Tokyo for this bomb.) Suddenly the choice the Japanese authorities faced was very stark, indeed — surrender or incineration.


The traditional view has been that these two bombings shortened the war, thereby saving the lives of large numbers of American soldiers and Japanese soldiers and civilians. Several historians have been trying to change this view in recent years, but it seems there’s a bit of schizophrenia in their views. On the one hand, they (some) assert that Japan was seeking to surrender, and the American government knew this and dropped the atomic bombs anyway. On the other hand, they (some) say the bombings made no difference, noting that the Japanese military was insisting on a “defense to the death” even after both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Both positions have facts behind them. There were elements in the Japanese government that wanted to negotiate a peace, and the army did want to keep fighting to the bitter end. What the bombings did, however, was make it possible for the emperor to step in and direct a decision without provoking a coup. (Even so, an abortive rebellion and attempted coup did occur.) That is why both Japanese and American authorities agree with the conclusion of Truman’s Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson: “This deliberate, premeditated destruction was our least abhorrent choice.”


The bombs had other effects, too, of course. Those effects could not have been known to the U.S. military authorities in any detail as there had been no outsiders into either Hiroshima or Nagasaki and those effects had not been evident in the Trinity Test. But this was a new type of weapon, and General Douglas MacArthur and his staff apparently didn’t want information on any possible new effects made public, at least until they knew what they were dealing with. And so they made broad areas of Japan, including these cities, off-limits for some time after the Japanese surrender. (There may have been other motives than those suggested here — either instead of or in addition to these motives. The motives identified here, I think, put the best face possible on MacArthur’s actions.)


In spite of the ban, war reporter George Weller got to Nagasaki a few days after the formal surrender, four weeks after the city was bombed. He got there by impersonating a colonel and forcing his way onto Japanese trains with pure brashness. He and the sergeant who accompanied him were the first Westerners to reach the city. Weller wrote late into each night and filed his dispatches through the normal channels. Those channels went through MacArthur’s office and its censors, which made sure the dispatches never reached their destination — until now. Weller’s son found his father’s original carbon copies, long thought to have been lost, after his father’s death. Anthony Weller, the son, turned them into a book released at the end of 2006: First Into Nagasaki.

To read Weller’s book is to be transported back into the immediate post-war period in Japan. Through Weller’s eyes, we see the damage done to Nagasaki and the frustration of the doctors trying to deal with “Disease X”. As one review puts it, however,

The aftereffects of the atomic bomb aren’t the only story that Weller finds in Nagasaki. After a few days in the city, he heads to the nearby prisoner-of-war camps, where he has what can only be called the incredible experience of informing his fellow Americans, who did not know the war had ended, of the two atomic bombs, the Japanese surrender and the impending arrival of American occupation troops.
And this is a full month after the Nagasaki bombing. He describes, too, how prisoners in some of the camps he visited near Omuta, outside Nagasaki, actually saw the mushroom clouds of both atomic bombs. Among the men at these camps were veterans of the Bataan Death March and veterans of the Burma railway construction (the “River Kwai”) prisoner camps.


Weller wrote dispatches about the conditions in the Prisoner of War camps during the war, many primarily composed of quotations from one POW after another — each identified by name, rank (usually), unit, and home town. These dispatches are historically important. Far too little has been written of the Japanese camps and what happened in them. In fact, it is not clear that we have a complete list of those interned in the camps, even yet, or even a complete list of the camps themselves. Anthony Weller calls the lack of attention to the Japanese POW camps "one of the great omissions in World War II memory."


One thing I found shocking in Weller’s account is that no one from the West had been to many of the Prisoner of War camps a full month after the atomic bombings, more than three weeks after the Japanese surrender (V-J Day, August 14th), and well over a week after the formal signing of the surrender documents on the battleship Missouri on September 2nd. This is tempered somewhat by recognizing that everything happened more slowly sixty years ago than today. And, too, the Japanese were less than cooperative in providing complete information on the prisoner camps they operated and the men held in them — in part because those records were not priorities in the Japanese system. Recall that, even at this late date, we may not have a complete list of the Japanese prisoner camps, much less of those held in them. Indeed the camp in Tokyo, that my uncle is identified (on one list, along with more than two thousand others) as having been liberated from, does not appear on most lists of POW camps.

Still, camps like those near Nagasaki were apparently well-known. So why had no one from the U.S. Army gone to them for so long? And when did they reach others of Japan’s 200 or so POW camps? The answers to these questions are not known to me, though they may be known to others.


Today is the anniversary of the Bock’s Car flight to Kokura and Nagasaki, the anniversary of the day World War II — in the Pacific Theater — really began to end.




Monday, August 6, 2007

Hiroshima

With the Trinity test, the Manhattan Project was effectively complete — and was a success. The atomic reactor under the Stagg Field stands at the University of Chicago had proved the nuclear chain reaction would work. The uranium enrichment effort at Oak Ridge had been successful; the cyclotron-based effort in Berkeley was successful, though less efficient. The plutonium production efforts at Hanford were sucessful. And the Trinity test proved the design group was successful in designing a potentially weaponizable plutonium device; the uranium device was never tested since there was never any question that it would work as intended. (My wife and I visited Trinity Site in July of 2005 as part of the National Atomic Museum’s 60th anniversary commemoration of the Trinity Test.) The question now became how and whether to use atomic weapons against the enemy.


By the time of the Trinity test, however, it had already been decided (subject to President Truman’s final decision) to assure “the successful combat use of an atomic bomb at the earliest possible date after a field test of an atomic explosion and after the availability of the necessary material.” Targets had already been selected using criteria that required military significance in a large, largely intact, target city. Hiroshima was included as an industrial center that was an army embarkation port and the southern headquarters of the Japanese army; it became the target for the first atomic bomb used in war — the uranium bomb which had never been tested. The heavy industrial city of Nagasaki was a secondary target behind the military arsenal and steel center of Kokura.



The atomic cloud over Hiroshima
August 6, 1945


Two years ago, I heard a spokesman for the Los Alamos Study Group (LASG) express his opinion (as if it were fact) that the “viewpoint” that the use of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki speeded the end of World War II was “no longer respectable.” I also heard spokesmen for that group state that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were civilian, not military, targets. And I saw their demonstrators’ signs quoting General Curtis LeMay saying that Japan would have collapsed within two weeks with or without the use of the atomic bombs. (That sign — which may or may not have been accurate — made me think of LeMay’s equally accurate Congressional testimony that a ballistic missile was a physical impossibility.)


I respectfully disagree with the LASG and its supporters on several grounds.


First, these cities were not “non-military”, not “civilian targets.” They were selected as potential targets because of being military-industrial centers and military command centers. Yes, they were selected from among the list of potential targets in part because they had not previously been heavily attacked, but that does not make them invalid as targets. As targets, they were no less valid than Berlin, Tokyo, and Dresden.


Second, the purpose of any military attack, first and foremost, is to reduce or end the enemy’s ability and willingness to wage war — to damage the enemy and to convince him that he cannot win. This was precisely the purpose of the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even so, even after the atomic attacks, Japan’s military council still intended to proceed with a fight to the death under their Ketsu Go (Operation Decisive) strategy. It was only in the early hours of the day after the atomic bombing of Nagasaki — the second atomic bombing — that the emperor intervened with the decision for surrender. (Incidentally, had Japan not surrendered when it did, the third atomic bomb was said to have been targeted for Tokyo as soon as it could be transported to Tinian Island from the U.S. — and that third bomb was on its way.)


Third, the number of casualties to be expected in an invasion of the Japanese home islands, which would have been necessary had the Japanese not capitulated after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, would have been horrendous. The number of American casualties, both in absolute numbers and as a fraction of the invasion force, increased exponentially island by island as the American forces approached Japan. Entry onto the home islands would certainly have been even more costly. The invasion plans had already been made under the overall title of Operation Downfall, incorporating two separate invasions under the code names Olympic and Coronet. General Douglas MacArthur projected at least a million U.S. casualties (killed and wounded) in the first year of these invasions. We now know the defending force was more than three times what was expected then, making the one million casualty estimate quite possibly a substantial underestimate.


Fourth, the number of Japanese casualties in the invasion and in the pre-invasion bombings would have been even larger than the number of American casualties, and far larger than the number in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Something like 100,000 people died in the firebombing of Tokyo in March of 1945. Similar bombings of multiple Japanese cities would have preceded any U.S. invasion. It would not have mattered to those killed whether they died from conventional or atomic bombing — whether their cities were destroyed by one bomber or a thousand.


Fifth, and more personally, there were the American prisoners of war — including those captured at Bataan and put through the Death March, like my uncle — being held on the Japanese home islands. The POW camp commanders had standing orders to execute all prisoners in the event of an invasion. By avoiding the invasion, making it unnecessary, the atomic attacks directly saved these men’s lives.



The revisionists among us would pretend that Japan’s situation in the middle of 1945 was hopeless, that Japan knew it was hopeless and was seeking to surrender, and that the American government knew this and dropped the atomic bombs anyway. The reality is that, in spite of their losses, the Japanese military was still insisting on fighting on and — if it hadn’t been for the atomic bombs — would have done so. The use of the atomic bombs therefore saved hundreds of thousands of lives — at least — and may have saved millions. (And, given the larger than expected numbers of defenders, there’s no guarantee the U.S would have prevailed in the invasion of Japan.)


The revisionists either ignore or never knew the conditions of 1945 and what they meant to those who lived through them. At the 60th anniversary commemoration of the Trinity Test, I met a pilot from the European Theater of World War II. In the summer of 1945, he already had orders to the Pacific Theater, which were cancelled after V-J Day. His comment: “This bomb saved my life!” The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki also almost certainly gave me (among many others) the chance to be born. They allowed my father, a veteran of the Normandy invasion, to return home to marry my mother instead of being sent to be part of the Japanese invasion (which would have been much larger — and bloodier — than the Normandy invasion he had been a part of). His brother is the uncle mentioned above who survived the Death March and was in a POW camp in Japan at that time. There are many similar stories, some by recognized writers, some gathered and published by newspapers and others, and most less generally available. All are worth seeking out. And virtually all include a recognition of the huge number of casualties — Allied, Japanese, and others in the Japanese-occupied countries — avoided because of the war’s end.


Leon Smith, one of the 509th Composite Bomb Group’s three weaponeers on Tinian Island, was asked by a Japanese documentary film crew (including three individuals from Hiroshima) a number of years later how he felt when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. (By a flip of the coin, the other two weaponeers flew on the missions to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Smith would probably have flown on the atomic bomb mission to Tokyo had that mission been necessary, but flew on the post-war test at Bikini Atoll instead.) He recounted his response as follows:


I pointed out there had been a long war — intensive battles starting in the South Pacific, moving ever northward toward Japan. I talked about the 30,000 Japanese soldiers, 20,000 civilians, lost on Saipan. On Iwo Jima, which was roughly halfway to Japan and a fighter base, 60,000 Marines went ashore, and suffered the highest casualty rate they’d ever suffered in any Marine operation. The Japanese had 21,000 defenders. 20,000 died. The battle for Okinawa had just been completed at the end of June. There over 100,000 Japanese soldiers died. 125-150,000 civilians.

General Marshall believed that defending Japan were 2.3 million soldiers, 4 million navy men, and 28 million armed civilian militia. I said the invasion was scheduled for November of ’45. I thought the casualties would have been simply unreal — beyond comprehension.

I said, “How did I feel when the bomb was dropped? I felt a sense of relief.” I was confident that the war would soon be over. That I could go back and see my wife whom I’d seen very little since our marriage in 1941. The U.S. and its allies could go back to their homes and their families. And the Japanese could go back to their families. Yes, I felt a sense of relief.


Today is the anniversary of the Enola Gay’s flight to Hiroshima, the anniversary of the day Leon Smith’s relief began.


UPDATE: Jules Crittenden has an excellent article on this World-Changing Anniversary over on Pajamas Media. Go read it!

UPDATE II: Nagasaki link added in second paragraph.