Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Red Cross Finds Torture by Americans at Guantanamo

The International Committee of the Red Cross found that the American military has used methods "tantamount to torture" on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, according to the New York Times. One of the biggest concerns of the Red Cross was the assistance of military doctors to interrogators in providing information on the physical condition of prisoners.

Of course, the abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib did not occur in a vacuum. The Administration at the very highest levels has approved ignoring the Geneva Convention, which should protect prisoners of war. The Administration's culpability is documented in Seymour Hersh's book: Chain of Command, The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Killers of Intel Reform Prefer Death of Troops

The Congressmen who killed intelligence reform along the lines recommended by the 9/11 commission apparently prefer the continued deaths of American troops to intelligence reform that would cost some of their patrons money or power. Congressmen Duncan Hunter and James Sensenbrenner were the two mainly responsible, aided by Congressman Gingrey (R-GA), Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Myers.

They claim they killed the bill because it would not allow sufficient military control over tactical military intelligence that the Pentagon needs, as opposed to big picture strategic intelligence that the White House, the State Department, and the CIA need. But recent news articles strongly refute that position. One strong argument against killing the bill was given by Congressman Gingrey, who apparently thought it supported his position. He said on the PBS Newshour on November 24:

REP. PHIL GINGREY: Let me make it very personal. Tyler Brown, first lieutenant, killed in action. Georgia Tech graduate, president of the student body, 26 years old, was killed by a sniper three weeks after he arrived in Iraq from the DMZ. That young Marine, young soldier, Army first lieutenant, he needed information right away about where that sniper was, where that possible attack was coming from.

If we have to worry about that information going up the chain of command to an NID who is outside the Department of Defense, then we have some real concerns here.

Gingrey's example is of a man whose life was lost because the present Pentagon system did not work, not of a man whose life was saved by the current system. It is an argument for improvement, not for the status quo. In addition, today's New York Times says that in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other hot spots, the military increasingly relies on civilian, commercial satellite imagery, not military intelligence satellites. Ironically, the commercial imagery works well, but the difficulty is distributing it to the troops in the field, the very thing that is said to work so well by those who defeated the intelligence bill. The NYT article says:

The unclassified source of the photographs is also critical, because the commercial images can be shared not only with United States partners - troops from the Iraqi National Guard or aid groups - but also with United States Army soldiers who often do not have security clearance. An image from a government spy satellite can be declassified, but the process is time-consuming. Even Iraqi war prisoners were shown some commercial images last year in an effort to locate hidden weapons....

During the conflict in Afghanistan in late 2001 and 2002, the Air Force used the United States mail to send cartons filled with CD's to pilots. The Air Force Combat Support Office set up what it called the Pony Express, delivering the CD's in person. Delays in creating and distributing the maps resulted in many missions being flown without up-to-date information, Air Force officials acknowledge.

Army officials cite similar difficulties. A brigade combat team in Iraq took 18 hours to move from Baquba to Najaf instead of the typical six hours, because maps had not been updated to reflect that a bridge had been knocked out, said Robert W. Burkhardt, director of the Army Corps office that is building the Urban Tactical Planner.

The existing problems with distribution of intelligence described in the NYT article are exactly those which the Republicans who killed the intel bill claimed do not exist but would be created by the intelligence czar in the bill.

A final example of how ignorant those Republicans are, and how uncaring for troops in the field, is an article in MIT's Technology Review for November 2004. The cover article shows Lt. Col. Ernest "Rock" Marcone with the title, "How Tech Failed Him." The article says:

Marcone says no sensors, no network, conveyed the far more dangerous reality, which confronted him at 3:00 a.m. April 3. He faced not one brigade but three: between 25 and 30 tanks, plus 70 to 80 armored personnel carriers, artillery, and between 5,000 and 10,000 Iraqi soldiers coming from three directions. This mass of firepower and soldiers attacked a U.S. force of 1,000 soldiers supported by just 30 tanks and 14 Bradley fighting vehicles. The Iraqi deployment was just the kind of conventional, massed force that's easiest to detect. Yet "We got nothing until they slammed into us," Marcone recalls.

Later the article says, "Once the invasion[of Iraq] began, breakdowns quickly became the norm.... In three cases, U.S. vehicles were actually attacked while they stopped to receive intelligence data on enemy positions. 'A lot of guys said, "Enough of this shit," and turned it off,' says Perry, flicking his wrist as if clicking off a radio. 'We can't afford to wait for this.'"

This is the wonderful system that cannot be compromised in order to reform the intelligence community. I don't know how the people who make those arguments -- Hunter, Sensenbrenner, and Gingrey -- can look at themselves in the mirror, knowing that they are putting the lives of American fighting men and women at higher risk than necessary every day in Iraq.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Thanksgiving Day

In discussing George Washington's first Thanksgiving Day proclamation, his biographer James Flexner refers to Washington's first inaugural address. About the inaugural address, he says:
The most remarkable aspect of what Washington wrote is the depth of its religious tone. He had often in the past expressed gratitude for the assistance of Providence to the American cause and had expressed hope that the boon would be continued. But never before had he devoted so much -- more than a third -- of a complicated pronouncement to religious considerations. That he was not just striking a popular attitude as a politician might is revealed by the absence of the usual Christian terms: he did not mention Christ or even use the world "God." Following phraseology of the philosophical Deism he professed, he referred to "the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men," to "the benign parent of the human race."
Flexner adds in a footnote:
That Washington intentionally avoided the word "God" is strongly indicated by his first Thanksgiving Proclamation. Having quoted Congress's request that he establish a day for thanking "Almighty God," in the part of the proclamation he himself wrote he used other designations.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Do We Care About New Russian Missile?

Russia announced several days ago that it had developed a new type of strategic missile, according to the Washington Post. Although Putin's announcement was cryptic, it noted that the new missile would be better able to avoid missile defenses. The Administration claims no one cares about our developing missile defenses, but Putin's announcement is a sign that someone cares. The idea behind the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty was that it would help avoid an arms race. It was one of the first treaties that Bush renounced, along with Kyoto. Now it looks as if the arms race is back, albeit at a lower level than during the cold war.

It's true that a lot of the hype was probably Putin bragging for Russian consumption. But again, why bring the subject up unless there is something to it. Furthermore, what do we really know about the new missile? How good is our intelligence? It is possible that the new missile is really some kind of a breakthrough that would significantly increase the threat to the US of a missile attack by Russia? Bush claims that Putin is his good buddy, but Putin has been doing some stuff in Russian political and economic sectors that doesn't endear him to anybody except lovers of the cold war. Of course one of those cold war lovers is Donald Rumsfeld. He would love to dump this messed-up Iraq War and get back to things he really loves, like missile defense. Does he know whether his new missile defenses will work against Putin's new missiles?

Friday, November 19, 2004

Ignoring Geneva Convention Is an Idea Worthy of Goebbels

To show how immoral and despicable it was for Bush to decide to ignore the Geneva Convention, it is enough to look at William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Hitler did not make a conscious decision to ignore the Geneva Convention until the very end of World War II, when it was clear that he was going to lose as the Allies advanced across Europe, although there were certainly earlier examples of his ignoring the Convention without making a formal decision to do so. Describing Hitler in early 1945, Shirer says:

Hitler was in a fine fury. He sacked Rundstedt for the last time on March 10, replacing him with Field Marshall Kesselring, who had held out so stubbornly and long in Italy. Already in February the Fuehrer, in a fit of rage, had considered denouncing the Geneva Convention in order, he said at a conference on the nineteenth, “to make the enemy realize that we are determined to fight for our existence with all the means at our disposal.” He had been urged to take his step by Dr. Goebbels, the bloodthirsty noncombatant, who suggested that all captured airmen be shot summarily in reprisal for their terrible bombing of the German cities. When some of the officers present raised legal objections Hitler retorted angrily:

To hell with that!… If I make it clear that I show no consideration for prisoners but that I treat enemy prisoners without any consideration for their rights, regardless of reprisals, then quite a few [Germans] will think twice before they desert."

This was one of the first indications to his followers that Hitler, his mission as a world conqueror having failed, was determined to go down, like Wotan at Valhalla, in a holocaust of blood — not only the enemy’s but that of his own people. At the close of the discussion he asked Admiral Doenitz “to consider the pros and cons of this step and to report as soon as possible.”

Doenitz cam back with his answer on the following day and it was typical of the man.

The disadvantages would outweigh the advantages . . . It would be better in any case to keep up outside appearances and carry out the measures believed necessary without announcing them beforehand.

Shirer says that in the end, “there was no general massacre of captured flyers or other prisoners of war (except the Russians),” but “several were done to death and the civil population was incited to lynch Allied air crews who parachuted to the ground.”

It appears that Hitler’s officer corps had more moral integrity than the American officer corps has. The Germans officers sort of stood up to Hitler on this issue. They said even if you violate the Convention, don’t admit it. American officers in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Cuba just rolled over and spit on the Geneva Convention, regardless of what that might mean for the future treatment of American soldiers who become prisoners.

Who was the American Goebbels in the Administration arguing for disregarding the Geneva Convention? It sounds as if it was future Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. However, this Administration is full of people, who like Goebbels, are bloodthirsty noncombatants.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

American James Bond Sings Soprano

After firing the senior CIA spy chief and his deputy, the new CIA Director Porter Goss has ordered all CIA employees to "support the administration and its policies in our work,'' according to the New York Times. The Times story said that one former CIA official supported Goss' firings, but "A second former intelligence official said he was concerned that the memorandum and the changes represented an effort by Mr. Goss to stifle independence..... 'If Goss is asking people to color their views and be a team player, that's not what people at C.I.A. signed up for,' said the former intelligence official."

The commentators seem pretty united in saying that the main problem at CIA is not the spies, but the analysts. Goss claims he wants more CIA risk taking, but he has fired (or forced the resignation of) those officials on the spy side who are most inclined to risk taking. And he has told the analysts that their analysis had better support George Bush, i.e., that they had better say that everything in Iraq is perfect. There is no unrest. The Americans are in complete control. Iraqis love the Americans and their life under American rule. If he fires and intimidates enough people, those are certainly the reports that he will get.

He has already begun emasculating the James Bonds of the agency, and I'm sure he'll go after uppity women, too. He will certainly stifle all independent thought at the CIA.

I can't understand why Goss, who supposedly was a clandestine services officer, would want to destroy the clandestine services. The only reason I can think of is that he was a failure as a spook -- hence his leaving CIA and becoming a congressman -- and therefore is taking revenge on successful spooks. It's nice to have family money as Goss does. It may not be good for America, but it's good for Goss.

CNN is reporting that Goss denies that he ordered the CIA to color its intelligence in favor of the administration. It's not surprising that he would, since his order undercuts the whole purpose of the CIA. At the entrance to the CIA is the following Bible quotation, "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." By making a mockery of that sentiment, Bush and Goss demonstrate that they apparently hate the truth and hate the Bible.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Secretary of State Changes from Protestant to Catholic

It appears that Colin Powell claims to be Episcopalian, or at least that's what one bio says. It was difficult to find a bio that lists his religion; so, it's probably not something he likes to talk about. Condi Rice comes from a Protestant background in Alabama, where her father was a Presbyterian minister, but in Colorado she attended a Catholic high school, St. Mary's Academy, and later Notre Dame University, as well as the nonsectarian University of Denver, according to the Denver Post. Powell's Episcopalian leanings indicate tolerance, as opposed to the rabid, hate-filled, born-again evangelicals in Bush's base. Rice's rejection of her Presbyterian upbringing seems to indicate that she shares the rigid, intolerant views that caused many conservative Catholic voters to vote against their fellow Catholic Kerry because of his views on abortion and other "moral" issues.

The ironic thing is that except for its Protestant north, Europe is mostly Catholic. Yet, because the Catholic Europeans are liberal (as opposed to the Catholic church itself), the Conservative Republicans hate them venomously, especially the French. Who would have thought that Henry VIII would be responsible for such a big difference in US foreign policy?

Monday, November 15, 2004

Safire Resigns from New York Times Column

In yet another resignation, William Safire is stepping down from writing his political column in the New York Times. Apparently he will be replaced. In the meantime, there will be no shortage of Jewish NYT columnists, including Tom Friedman and David Brooks. But, that's fine with me, because neither of them seems to be so wedded to the Zionist wing of Judaism as Safire. Safire's columns often read to me as if they had been dictated from Tel Aviv or the Knesset in Jerusalem.

Tom Friedman Points Out Void in US Foreign Policy

Tom Friedman's column in Sunday's New York Times, written before Colin Powell's resignation, points out why Powell would have been important had he stayed on. Friedman wrote:
  • If only President Bush called in Colin Powell and said: "Colin, neither of us have much to show by way of diplomacy for the last four years. I want you to get on an airplane and go out to the Middle East. I want you to sit down with Israelis and Palestinians and forge a framework for a secure Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and progress toward a secure peace in the West Bank, and I don't want you to come back home until you've got that. Only this time I will stand with you.
  • "As long as you're out there, I will not let Rummy or Cheney fire any more arrows into your back. So get going. It's time for you to stop sulking over at Foggy Bottom and time for me to make a psychological breakthrough with the Arab world that can also help us succeed in Iraq - by making it easier for Arabs and Muslims to stand with us. I don't want to see you back here until you've put our words into deeds."

One key phrase in this fictional dialogue is, "Only this time I will stand with you." It's not going to happen now. So, who's going to bring peace in the Middle East? Paul Wolfowitz? I don't think so. Bush is keeping his evangelical Christians and Zionist Jews for whom hatred is a way of life, and his moderates are jumping ship, or being pushed over the side.

CIA Officials Resign, Professionalism Dead

The Washington Post reported on Monday that the two senior CIA officials, one of whom I knew, resigned on Monday. I imagine that Powell's resignation was the final nail in the coffin, if there needed to be one. The Administration may not like the CIA, but it needs somebody who knows how it works. Apparently Goss thinks he knows enough from his service in the CIA a generation ago, or from his outsider-looking-in position in the House, to re-invent the CIA. It's a pretty big risk.

Of course, there might be some threat from terrorists, and it might be useful to know what's going on behind the scenes in Iraq, or Iran, or North Korea, or a few other places. You can argue that the intelligence from these places wasn't very good under the old regime, although amazingly George Tenet left with little but praise from his boss. It appears that Tenet was brilliant, but was ill-served by everyone working for him.

I'm still not convinced that the "war" on terrorism is more like the war in Iraq or Vietnam than like the war on drugs or poverty. The war in Iraq is related to the "war" on terrorism mainly because of the hatred it has fomented against the US in the Muslim world. The number of foreign fighters killed in Falluja compared to the number of Iraqi fighters will give some indication of the importance of Iraq in killing terrorists. The more foreigners killed, the more successful the Iraq war is as part of the "war" on terrorism.

In any case, the CIA, like State, now goes to the ideologues. Will all of America's foreign policy now be as misguided as its Iraq policy has been?

Powell Resigns, Hatemongers Win

Everybody is announcing that Secretary of State Powell is resigning. Andrea Kopple had it right over the weekend that he was leaving.

Powell was the voice of reason in the Administration. So, no more voice of reason. The wild men (and wild women, e.g., Condi Rice) are in charge. The CIA is in total disarray (see my previous post); so, forget foreign policy for a few months. Rummy and Wolfowitz will have to take care of it, and will no doubt be happy to do so.

The sad thing for the State Department is losing a leader who actually cared about the troops. Most Secretaries of State have been politicians or lawyers who love the policy issues and meeting and greeting all the heads of state, but who usually care less about the staffers who work for them. As a general who cared about his troops in the Army, Powell brought the same concern for his troops when he came to State. His attention has been great for State Department morale, even if he lost a lot of important policy debates with the White House. The new Bush Administration will definitely be poorer for his departure.

Maybe Bush will name someone moderate with high personal character to the position, but it seems unlikely. It's most likely to be another hate-filled weasel like the other advisers surrounding Bush.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Total Disarray at the CIA

Two sides of a bitter partisan argument appeared in Saturday's Washington Post and the New York Times. The Washington Post reports that new CIA Director Porter Goss' deputy, Patrick Murray, has offended most of the senior officials at CIA, prompting the resignation and/or firing of the former deputy director and acting director John McLaughlin, along with the Deputy Director for Operations (spying) Stephen R. Kappes (more or less #3 at the agency), and Kappes' deputy, Mike Sulick. I served with Mike Sulick, but I've been retired so long that I didn't even know that Sulick was the #2 in the operations directorate, much less that he was one of the main players in this contratemps.

On the other side, David Brooks writes a vicious op-ed article in Saturday's NYT accusing the CIA of being disloyal to the President. The unusual venom in Brooks' column must mean that there is some serious hatred in this dispute. He said, "Langley was engaged in slowmotion, brazen insuborination, which violated all standards of honorable public service. It was also incredibly stupid, since C.I.A. officials were betting their agency on a Kerry victory.... If we lived in a primative age, the ground at Langley would be laid waste and salted, and there would be heads on spikes."

What is not clear is whether the CIA officers legitimately believe that they were misused by the Administration, starting with the intelligence used as a basis for the war with Iraq, and are now being fired for what the Administration did. Maybe the CIA was incompetent, or maybe the Administration misused intelligence information and then blamed the CIA when things went bad.

Both Nixon (with Watergate) and Reagan (with Iran-Contra) discovered to their shame that it's difficult to do dirty business with the CIA. Maybe the CIA will turn out to be a thorn in the side of Bush II's second term, too.

Another bad thing is that legislation on reforming the intelligence community per recommendations of the 9/11 Commission is pending in Congress. This dust-up promises to confuse that issue as well.

Will Powell Stay at State?

On CNN's "On the Story" program this morning, Andrea Koppel said that Secretary Powell had said something recently that hinted that he might be leaving. Since this interview with Maria Bartiromo is one of the most recent, this might be the line:

  • MS. BARTIROMO: Are you planning to announce imminently that you're stepping down, sir.
  • SECRETARY POWELL: Whenever something is to be announced, it will be announced, and it is a matter for the President and I to discuss and decide.

To construe that as saying he's leaving is reading a lot into it, although it is not a straightforward statement that he will stay.

Powell Says Troops Are Adequately Compensated

As if to reply to my post on November 9, Secretary of State Powell said in an interview with Maria Bartiromo for the Wall Street Journal on November 13 that he thought US troops were adequately compensated. The interview said:

  • MS. BARTIROMO: Certainly the group of people who have really been paying the price for this war have been our soldiers on the front lines. We had Ben Stein, who is a supporter of yours, supporter of the Administration and a supporter of the war, on the program recently, and he was upset about what we -- at the way we compensate our soldiers.
    Do you think that we pay them appropriately?
  • SECRETARY POWELL: Can you ever pay a soldier enough for putting his or her life at risk and perhaps losing his or her life? Can you ever compensate a family adequately for that kind of sacrifice? Not really. But we do a pretty good job. We have benefits available for our soldiers in case they are injured or lost in battle, and with respect to their salaries, it's a volunteer force so what we have to do is go out into the marketplace and recruit people and we have to pay them a salary that will cause them to volunteer to come into the Army. We're in a market system with respect to our military, and so the entry level salaries are competitive with what they might get in a similar capacity -- not quite identical but similar capacity -- in civilian life.
  • And the fact of the matter is we're meeting our recruiting goals and we meet our reenlistment goals, so we are paying a wage that allows us to do that. Is it adequate? Would I like to see soldiers get paid more? All the time.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Osama bin Laden and Baptists Agree On Morals

Until I read comments by Oklahoma candidate for the US Senate Brad Carson in the New Republic, it didn't strike home to me how similar the moral attitudes of conservative Christians are to Osama bin Laden's. The article was recommended in the MyDD blog.

Carson says that after he addressed the congregation, "the pastor launched into an attack on the 'pro-choice terrorists,' who were, to his mind, far more dangerous than Al Qaida." While it has become something of a Democratic theme, it does somewhat appear that the conservatives espouse a viewpoint more like the pre-Enlightenment Middle Ages than current Western thinking. Carson says, "The culture war is real, and it is a conflict not merely about some particular policy or legislative item, but about modernity itself." Both the Baptists and bin Laden seem opposed to modernity.... The voters aren't deluded or uneducated. They simply reject the notion that material concerns are more real than spiritual or cultural ones."

Ironically, Bush's "moral values" base shares bin Laden's view that economics are unimportant, that moral values must be restored at any cost. Even more ironically, Bush takes advantage of this viewpoint by pandering to the other part of his base, the majority of the wealthy in this country by giving them tons of Federal Government largesse in the form of tax breaks, government subsidies, and government contracts.

What Do We Get From Falluja Attack?

The L.A. Times today says that it is "unlikely that the United States can establish the stability needed for credible elections in January even if its forces succeed in Falluja." The good news is that no one who has watched the battle on TV can question the Marines' and the Army's courage, which was in question after they quit the attack on Falluja in April. The bad news is that it looks like it could be a Pyrrhic victory, because it will not help Iraq hold elections in January. There is a lot of talk about Falluja being a "ghost town." If the missing residents don't return, how can they vote? And if they don't vote, what's the point of this exercise? And if the rebellion just moves from Falluja to other towns, as it seemed to move to Mosul yesterday, what's the point of that?

It looks as if it all boils down to the US not being willing to commit enough troops to Iraq to make the invasion really successful. The New York Times reports that the military had to pull about one-third of its forces out of Falluja to respond to the violence in Mosul. We defeated Saddam Hussein, but we have not turned Iraq into a functioning democratic state, because so far we have not been willing to commit the forces necessary to do so.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Bin Laden Attacked US Because of US Support for Israel

I haven't heard any "experts" discuss Osama bin Laden's statement in his latest video (October 2004) that "after the injustice was so much and we saw transgressions and the coalition between Americans and the Israelis against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, it occurred to my mind that we deal with the [World Trade] towers." (Translation by CNN.) According to bin Laden, it was America's unwavering support for Israel's often cruel treatment of the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular, including a specific Israeli attack on buildings in Lebanon, that led to the attack on the twin towers in New York. Certainly bin Laden is playing a political game, but his statement must have some value in judging his motives.

Yet, Bush blames the 9/11 attack on Iraq, rather than viewing it as a response to his policies toward Israel. This doesn't mean that the US policy toward the Israel-Palestine conflict is wrong, but it does mean that there are costs to that policy, possibly starting with 3,000 American lives. A cynical person might say that's why the settlements for the victims' families were so generous, as I noted they were in a previous post. Generous settlements helped assure that there would be less pressure from the victims' families to look at foreign policy. However, their pressure did bring about the 9/11 Commission report, including strong criticism of US security and intelligence capabilities. Bin Laden made his statement only after the 9/11 report had been issued.

Now that Arafat is gone, it will be interesting to see what happens to Bush's Mid-East foreign policy.

Veterans Day

Just for the record, I served in the Army artillery in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970. My father served in World War II in Europe, where he earned a Combat Infantry Badge, and in the Pacific, and later in the Korean War, where he earned a Bronze Star. His father, who is buried in Arlington Cemetery, served in France in World War I and in the Philippines in the Spanish-American War. My mother's father's father, who was the subject of the book From That Terrible Field, served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, including at the battles of Shiloh and Mobile Bay.

No one in my family was a career soldier. My father stayed in the National Guard after World War II, and was called up for Korea. His father left the Army after the Spanish-American War, but re-enlisted for World War I.

I don't know of any veterans in my family any farther back than these.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Why Are Police and Firemen Worth More Than Soldiers?

The New York Times reports today that the families of those who died in uniform as a result of the 9/11 attacks -- police and firemen -- received $4.2 million on average. What do soldiers get who are killed in combat in Iraq? Some thousands of dollars. One chart says the automatic amount of insurance for servicemen is $200,000, which costs $0.90 per $10,000 per month, plus a $6,000 immediate gratuity. Why is a New York policeman worth so much more than a soldier from Kansas? I don't get it.

Monday, November 08, 2004

More Thoughts on Abortion & Christian Politics

Thinking more about the passages in Exodus 21 mentioned in the last post, it seems unreasonable that the Biblical writer (Moses) would anticipate only a premature birth, given the medical treatment available hundreds of years before Christ. A premature birth would occur only in a few occasions when the woman was in her eighth or ninth month and if the injury from the striving men was not too serious. It is much more likely that in most cases the child would be still born, and that therefore the "mischief" that might "follow" would be the death of the woman from the assault and the consequent miscarriage, not the death of the infant who had been born prematurely. It is more likely that a woman in the early stages of pregnancy who miscarried would not die, than that a woman in advanced stages who miscarried as a result of injury would not die. To me the right-to-life interpretation is too strained to be the correct one. In addition, infant mortality was high in those old days, so that the death of an infant would not be as unusual as it is today. But the wording is ambiguous; I think my interpretation is the correct one, but it is impossible to be sure.

Another issue that bothers me is the self-righteousness of the evangelicals and their bragging about how much they pray. The self-righteousness was on display yesterday on ABC this week with the head of Focus on the Family. When George Stephanopoulis asked him whether he would like to apologize to Sen. Leahy for saying that Leahy hated God's people, he said no, that he stood by his statement accusing Leahy of hatred of God's people. When Stephanopoulis asked him if this was Christian, he said Stephanopoulis could not teach him about being a Christian.

I found the head of Focus on the Family to be very un-Christian. Today's op-ed in the New York Times by Gary Hart explains well why the so-called Christian conservatives are not Christian. He misses one point, however, from the Sermon on the Mount. The evangelical Christians talk about how much they pray. See, for example, yesterday's New York Times Magazine. Jesus said (Matthew 6:6):
  • But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

I really question whether any of these so-called evangelical Christians has read the New Testament.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

The Bible Seems To Say Abortion Is Not Murder

Exodus 21:22-23 says:

"22 If men strive and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

"23 And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life."

The most straightforward reading of these passages seems to mean that if a man causes a woman to lose the child she is carrying, then he must pay a penalty, but something short of the death penalty for taking a life. If the woman dies, then the death penalty applies. However, I see from looking around the Internet that the right to lifers interpret it to mean that if a man cause a woman to give birth prematurely, but the child survives, then there is no death penalty, but the child dies, then the death penalty applies.

I looked into this because the talking heads on TV are saying that "values" or "morality" were the most important factors in electing Bush, but that this really meant only two issues: abortion and gay marriage. The Bible, particularly the New Testament, has so much to say about loving your neighbor and caring for the poor that I would think loving your neighbor would be important to Christians of any type -- evangelical, born again, or traditional. If the abortion issue is so much more important than Jesus' sermon on the mount, it looks like it would have gotten more attention in the Bible, and that any mention of it would be clearer than Exodus 21.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The World Joins Me in Not Cheering Bush Victory

According to the Washington Post, most of the world, except for Russia, Israel, and a few other countries, was disappointed by President Bush's re-election. The disappointed Canadians are a poignant example, since they share a lot with us, but apparently not many of our "values," which are supposed to be one of the main reasons for Bush's re-election. Most Canadians -- as well as the French and Germans -- come from Christan backgrounds. Martin Luther was German. But I guess they don't have the right kind of Christian morals for Bush and company.

One test for me will be what happens in Fallujah. If Bush is going to be the strong, brave leader that he was apparently elected to be, then he has to work out the future of Iraq, which in large part depends on what happens in Fallujah and other cities in the Sunni triangle. Iraqi elections scheduled for January will be virtually worthless if the Sunni triangle does not participate meaningfully.

If the Marines can't break the rebellion quickly by winning the Sunnis' hearts and minds, then they need to break it quickly with an iron fist, which may mean significant casualties. The question is whether Bush is willing to accept the casualties. The casualties may not come, because our other attacks, in the first Iraq war as in this one, have often been met by a stealthy melting away of the enemy, but you have to prepare for resistance if you attack.

The problem is highlighted by the headline of an article in the San Jose Mercury about the impending attack on Fallujah: "Marines' center symbolic of failed plans in Iraq." It says, "When the Marines arrived in Fallujah last March, they planned to win hearts and minds by learning Iraqi customs, sipping tea with local leaders and handing out candy and soccer balls while on foot patrol. But the liaison office is now more an outpost in enemy territory than the outreach center it was intended to be."

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Richard Perle Being Sued for Millions

Richard Perle, former Assistant Secretary of Defense and former Chairman of the Defense Policy Board, is being sued for $22.6 million for his unscrupulous behavior as a director of Hollinger International, which owned the Jerusalem Post among other newspapers, according to the Washington Post. It couldn't happen to a more deserving guy.

Israeli's Set Record in Killing Palestinians

The New York Times reports that the Israeli army killed 165 Palestinians in October, 159 of them in the Gaza Strip. Fifty of the dead, about 30%, were civilians, including women, children, the elderly and males under 16.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Kerry and Bush Compete to Be Israel's Best Friend

One reason I am for Ralph Nader is that both Kerry and Bush are slavishly devoted to Ariel Sharon. The New York Times published an article headlined, "Kerry and Bush Compete for the Role of Israel's Best Friend." The article says, "One striking example of the consistency of views between the candidates is their responses to the plan by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel to withdraw troops and settlements from Gaza...." It adds that campaign surrogates Condi Rice and Richard Holbrooke both addressed AIPAC in Florida a week ago.