Thursday, September 30, 2004

Now on DVD: The Passion of the Bush
...Of the many cultural grenades being tossed that day, though, the one must-see is "George W. Bush: Faith in the White House," a DVD that is being specifically marketed in "head to head" partisan opposition to "Fahrenheit 9/11." This documentary first surfaced at the Republican convention in New York, where it was previewed in tandem with an invitation-only, no-press-allowed "Family, Faith and Freedom Rally," a Ralph Reed-Sam Brownback jamboree thrown by the Bush campaign for Christian conservatives. Though you can buy the DVD for $14.95, its makers told the right-wing news service that they plan to distribute 300,000 copies to America's churches. And no wonder. This movie aspires to be "The Passion of the Bush," and it succeeds.

More than any other campaign artifact, it clarifies the hard-knuckles rationale of the president's vote-for-me-or-face-Armageddon re-election message. It transforms the president that the Democrats deride as a "fortunate son" of privilege into a prodigal son with the "moral clarity of an old-fashioned biblical prophet." Its Bush is not merely a sincere man of faith but God's essential and irreplaceable warrior on Earth. The stations of his cross are burnished into cinematic fable: the misspent youth, the hard drinking (a thirst that came from "a throat full of Texas dust"), the fateful 40th-birthday hangover in Colorado Springs, the walk on the beach with Billy Graham. A towheaded child actor bathed in the golden light of an off-camera halo re-enacts the young George comforting his mom after the death of his sister; it's a parable anticipating the future president's miraculous ability to comfort us all after 9/11. An older Bush impersonator is seen rebuffing a sexual come-on from a fellow Bush-Quayle campaign worker hovering by a Xerox machine in 1988; it's an effort to imbue our born-again savior with retroactive chastity. As for the actual president, he is shown with a flag for a backdrop in a split-screen tableau with Jesus. The message isn't subtle: they were separated at birth.

"Faith in the White House" purports to be the product of "independent research," uncoordinated with the Bush-Cheney campaign. But many of its talking heads are official or unofficial administration associates or sycophants. They include the evangelical leader and presidential confidant Ted Haggard (who is also one of Mel Gibson's most fervent P.R. men) and Deal Hudson, an adviser to the Bush-Cheney campaign until August, when he resigned following The National Catholic Reporter's investigation of accusations that he sexually harassed an 18-year-old Fordham student in the 1990's. As for the documentary's "research," a film positioning itself as a scrupulously factual "alternative" to "Fahrenheit 9/11" should not inflate Mr. Bush's early business "success" with Arbusto Energy (an outright bust for most of its investors) or the number of children he's had vaccinated in Iraq ("more than 22 million," the movie claims, in a country whose total population is 25 million). ...

Cheney changed his view on Iraq
He said in '92 Saddam not worth U.S. casualties

..."And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth?" Cheney said then in response to a question.

"And the answer is not very damned many. So I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq."...

Plan Would Let U.S. Deport Suspects to Nations That Might Torture Them
The Bush administration is supporting a provision in the House leadership's intelligence reform bill that would allow U.S. authorities to deport certain foreigners to countries where they are likely to be tortured or abused, an action prohibited by the international laws against torture the United States signed 20 years ago.

The provision, part of the massive bill introduced Friday by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), would apply to non-U.S. citizens who are suspected of having links to terrorist organizations but have not been tried on or convicted of any charges. Democrats tried to strike the provision in a daylong House Judiciary Committee meeting, but it survived on a party-line vote.

The provision, human rights advocates said, contradicts pledges President Bush made after the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal erupted this spring that the United States would stand behind the U.N. Convention Against Torture. ...

..."Is it an inconvenience if we can't send people back to torturers? Sure," said Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch. "But since Abu Ghraib, everyone from the president to the Defense Department to Congress has said the United States does not have a policy of torture. If this passes, we will have a policy of tolerating torture."...

Mr. Speaker, Man of God – NEW YORK -- Most of the attention this year is focused on the presidential race, but Republicans are determined to defend their control of the House of Representatives. Lee Webb sat down with the 62-year-old Speaker of the House Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) to look at those elections as well as the Illinois congressman's unique tax proposal, his Christian faith, and a new book. ...

...WEBB: Mr. Speaker, many of our viewers may not know that you are an Evangelical Christian. You are a man of faith. What role does your faith play in the decisions you make on a daily basis?

HASTERT: Every day that I get up to do this job, I thank God for the ability to do it, and for giving me this responsibility, and I ask Him for His guidance every day. I couldn't do this job without the ability to do that. ...

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

EXTRAORDINARY RENDITION....Over at Obsidian Wings, Katherine has a guest post about a proposal from Dennis Hastert to ease up on those annoying UN conventions against torture. In particular, he wants to allow the federal government to suspend UN torture protections for anyone they define as a suspected terrorist. This would allow the feds to ship people picked up in their terror sweeps to foreign countries with a known history of torturing prisoners unless they could prove "by clear and convincing evidence that he or she would be tortured."

Please note: suspected terrorists. ...

Greek Orthodox, Franciscan priests brawl over opening of door in Jerusalem basilica
JERUSALEM (AP) Greek Orthodox and Franciscan priests got into a fist fight Monday at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Christianity's holiest shrine, after arguing over whether a door in the basilica should be closed during a procession.

Dozens of people, including several Israeli police officers, were slightly hurt in the brawl at the shrine, built over the spot where tradition says Jesus was crucified and buried.

Four priests were detained, police spokesman Shmulik Ben-Ruby said....

The Same General Boykin?
The Pentagon official, an evangelical, was nearly fired for insulting Islam. So far, conservative Christians stand by him.

It has the potential to be a public relations nightmare buried within a public relations nightmare: one of the major players in the Iraqi prison abuse scandal, it now appears, was the same general almost fired last year for describing the war on terror as a clash between Judeo-Christian values and Satan.

According to testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week, and new reporting from the New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh, the prison abuse scandal grew out of a decision to give greater influence to the Defense Intelligence unit, led by Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence--and his deputy, Lt. General William G. “Jerry” Boykin.

Boykin made headlines last fall when it was revealed he had made numerous statements suggesting that America, as a Christian nation, is engaged in a battle against idolatrous Muslims. Enemies like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein "will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus," Boykin said during an Oregon church gathering last year.

Appearing in uniform during a speech at the Oregon church, Boykin said: "Why do they [radical Muslims] hate us? Why do they hate us so much? Ladies and gentlemen, the answer to that is because we're a Christian nation." In another speech he recounted the time he chased down a Muslim Somali warlord who was bragging that the Americans would not capture him because Allah would protect him. "My God is bigger than his God. I knew my God was a real God, and his was an idol," Boykin said.

In 2002, at a church in Oklahoma, he showed slides he took in Somalia just after 18 Americans were killed in the "Black Hawk Down" debacle. Pointing to a dark shadow of Mogadishu's skyline, Boykin said it was "a demonic presence in that city that God revealed to me as the enemy."...

...So far, Christian leaders are standing by Boykin.

"A lot of our people are just so tired of hearing about that whole situation, especially now that we've seen [the beheading of Nicholas Berg]," Michele Ammons, spokeswoman for the Christian Coalition, said last week. "I think it's time to get over it. And that's what I'm hearing."

Ammons, who said evangelical leaders have been consumed primarily with the gay marriage debate, added that the Christian Coalition would keep an online petition in support of Boykin on its homepage....

...The Christian Coalition started an online petition in support of Boykin--and posted it on its homepage. Pat Robertson's 700 Club even went so far as to ask Chuck Holton, a former Army Ranger who served under Boykin in Somalia, to attend a church service at which Boykin spoke, record his speech, and then report on it for Christian Broadcasting Network.

Welch, in a column for Baptist Press, described Boykin’s critics as "back-stabbers," writing: "I despise the unthinkable and asinine fact that some take cheap backstabbing shots at a real God-fearing American hero who continually risks his life to protect all of us."...

...Conservative columnist Tony Blankley described Boykin as a "victim" in the terrorism struggle. "For a quarter century, he has been fighting terror with his bare hands, his fine mind and his faith-shaped soul," Blankley wrote. "It is that last matter--his faith, and his willingness to give politically incorrect witness to that faith in Christian churches--that has drawn furious media and political fire."

Even if the evidence accumulates that Boykin was a key figure in the scandal, evangelicals may hold the line. "They've invested so much in Boykin," says John Green, an expert on the religious right and director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron. People in the pews, however, may react differently. "No doubt some of them will be appalled," Green said. "And a denial reaction by their leaders might actually encourage an appalled reaction."

The Christian leader in perhaps the trickiest position is Welch, whose new position as president of the Southern Baptist Convention will give him a much higher profile. A friend of Boykin's, Welch has defended Boykin and also collaborated with him on evangelism projects....

...Last year, in collaboration with Welch, Boykin planned to host a gathering of Southern Baptist pastors at Fort Bragg, where he was running the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. "You will go with General Boykin and Green Beret instructors to places where no civilians and few soldiers ever go," Welch told pastors in a letter inviting them to attend the two-day Super FAITH Force Multiplier session. "We must find a group of men who are warriors of FAITH, pastors who have the guts to lead this nation to Christ and revival!" Welch said they would see Boykin's headquarters, a demonstration of "today's war-fighting weapons" and how "Special Forces attack the enemy inside buildings (live fire/real bullets)" as well as hear a speech and get "informal time" with Boykin....

Growing Pessimism on Iraq
Doubts Increase Within U.S. Security Agencies

A growing number of career professionals within national security agencies believe that the situation in Iraq is much worse, and the path to success much more tenuous, than is being expressed in public by top Bush administration officials, according to former and current government officials and assessments over the past year by intelligence officials at the CIA and the departments of State and Defense.

While President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others have delivered optimistic public appraisals, officials who fight the Iraqi insurgency and study it at the CIA and the State Department and within the Army officer corps believe the rebellion is deeper and more widespread than is being publicly acknowledged, officials say. ...

The Real Reasons Evangelicals Love Bush
...Yet while some evangelicals have soured on Bush, polls show the vast majority of evangelicals love him. Why?

It's often said that they like him because he's "one of them" and uses religious language, and that's true--but only scratches the surface. Two new books and a new film on Bush and faith help us to see the real roots of his appeal. All three are campaign-style hagiographies but give a window into the spiritual sources of the Bush-evangelical connection: persecution, transformation, calling, and clarity.

First, Christians feel persecuted. This idea is nearly unfathomable to people in New York City or non-evangelicals. How could they feel persecuted? The country is 83% Christian! They're always trying to impose their views on us. But many evangelical Christians believe they are despised, misunderstood and discriminated against by journalists, Hollywood, other elites, and almost anyone not in their pack....

...Feeling persecuted has special resonance for Christians for obvious reasons: it's Christ-like. The more liberals beat up on Bush's faith, the better for Bush.

Beyond that, every time Bush speaks of his faith, he is signaling to those Christians who feel marginalized that they have, in fact, arrived at the center of American society. They have a President who's just like them, so they need not feel ashamed or embattled. He is bearing their cross. "I don't think they feel they have to hide their Christian faith because the president doesn’t hide it," one analyst says in the film....

...Finally, there is the war on moral relativism. For many evangelicals, the root of all Baby Boomer evil is moral relativism, the sense that there is no absolute good or evil. So when Bush so clearly and frequently uses those terms, it has resonance well beyond foreign policy. When he says Al Qaeda is evil, he is, indirectly, talking to evangelicals about abortion, gay marriage, divorce, birth control, loud music, thongs, and anything else they might think resulted from moral relativism. Moral clarity is essential for fighting not only terror but American cultural rot.

There are other, more pedestrian reasons evangelicals love Bush. Evangelicals tend to be conservative so they like his policies. After all, they mostly voted for the very non-evangelical Gerry Ford over born again Christian Jimmy Carter. (And, to be sure, there are many evangelicals who dislike Bush altogether). But the connection between Bush and a great many evangelicals is deep and personal--indeed, it's grounded in their reading of how God transforms men and chooses leaders.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Wooing the Faithful
President Bush needs evangelicals more than ever, but it's unclear how badly they want him for another four years.

...The most tangible foreign policy problems for the administration have been the scandal at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and abusive treatment of suspected Al Qaeda terrorists in detention at Cuba's Guantanamo Bay naval base. After the pictures of Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse and torture were released, CT spoke with evangelical professionals in intelligence agencies, the State and Defense departments, and Congress.

What emerged was troubling. Beyond setting Bush administration priorities, evangelicals were significantly involved in drafting policy memos that created the permissive climate in which the abuse of prisoners occurred. Asking not to be named, Christians who serve in federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies told CT that aggressive interrogation of suspected terrorists was no-holds-barred. Bob Woodward, the author of a definitive book on Bush's war effort, told CT, "It was very clear from my interviews that [Bush] felt the gloves were off for the CIA."

In a February 7, 2002, executive order, the President wrote that he wanted prisoners in the war on terror treated "humanely" but also "consistent with military necessity." He also explicitly argued that the Geneva Convention's guidelines for treatment of prisoners of war did not apply to terrorists. Evangelical legal scholar John Yoo contributed to several of the legal memos for Attorney General John Ashcroft justifying much harsher interrogation techniques in the war against terrorism. Yoo declared, "Terrorists have no Geneva rights." (The Geneva Conventions do not address how nations in wartime should handle persons who are agents of hostile, clandestine organizations rather than members of the military arm of a recognized government.)

A well-known evangelical, Army Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin, deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, heads what some label a worldwide find-and-hit squad against terrorists. And one top Pentagon-related expert who taught officers how to interrogate Muslims is an evangelical....

Praise the Lord and Pass the Thumbscrews
It's been pointed out to me (tip of the hat to Bernhard H.) that the team of lawyers who wrote the Pentagon's treatise on presidential torture powers was led by this woman:

U.S. Air Force's General Counsel, Mary L. Walker, discusses what it takes to leave a legacy of significance

Ms. Walker, it turns out, is a long-time Republican political appointee first brought to Washington during the Reagan administration to help oversee the looting of America's natural resources, um, that is, I mean, to serve as principal deputy in the environmental division at Ed Meese's Justice Department.

It also appears that Ms. Walker is a devout Christian - much like her fellow Reagan alum and environmental despoiler, Interior Secretary James "I don't know how many generations we've got until the Lord returns" Watt. And she's the co-founder of a San Diego group called Professional Women's Fellowship, an offshoot of the Campus Crusade for Christ "dedicated to helping professionals find balance, focus and direction in life." ...

I have found through the years that being a Christian, even an Evangelical one, doesn’t guarantee against being wrong. It hasn’t done so for me, as my critics know, nor has it done so for anyone else. Being saved, baptized, sincere, or even Spirit-filled is not a short cut to being smart or right or wise. Rather, Scripture tells us, the wisdom that comes from God often comes through suffering and repentance (which means rethinking past actions). Furthermore, God’s wisdom is pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, and without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy (James 1:2-8; 3:13-18). What’s more, it listens to counsel from others. So, praying for our president is a requirement, but challenging his policies, offering godly counsel, and even confronting him when necessary may also be required of us, if we are to be faithful to our Christian brother.

Great leaders through Biblical history, like King David for example, have made great mistakes and needed to be counseled or confronted (as the prophet Nathan did for David). Being chosen by God didn’t give Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Saul, David, or Solomon (or even the Apostle Peter for that matter) a carte blanche to be above needing counsel and confrontation at times. Those who think they stand above the need for counsel are warned in Scripture that they too can fall, and if they are proudly overconfident about their standing, it is certain they will fall.

Even in his own political party, many are raising questions and concerns. But the Christian community seems oddly silent. Why is this? What does it say about us that we are so hesitant to question our current president?
--Brian McLaren

Prewar Assessment on Iraq Saw Chance of Strong Divisions
WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 - The same intelligence unit that produced a gloomy report in July about the prospect of growing instability in Iraq warned the Bush administration about the potential costly consequences of an American-led invasion two months before the war began, government officials said Monday.

The estimate came in two classified reports prepared for President Bush in January 2003 by the National Intelligence Council, an independent group that advises the director of central intelligence. The assessments predicted that an American-led invasion of Iraq would increase support for political Islam and would result in a deeply divided Iraqi society prone to violent internal conflict.

One of the reports also warned of a possible insurgency against the new Iraqi government or American-led forces...

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Michael Novak on the Democrats and George Bush on National Review Online
...In that same spirit, I find it hard to believe that the Creator who gave us liberty will ignore President Bush's willingness to sacrifice his own presidency for the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq — their 50 million citizens, and perhaps their progeny for ages to come. A kind of cosmic justice (which does not always materialize, I recognize) calls for vindication. ...

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Here is what Jerry Falwell said on the 700 Club [about the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01]: "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way - all of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'" Pat Robertson concurred: "Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted their agenda at the highest levels of our government."
-- Andrew Sullivan, 9/14/01

The Moral Home Front
America's increasing decadence is giving aid and comfort to Muslim terrorists.
By Charles colson with Anne Morse

...we must examine two things: the motivations of those waging a terror war on the West and the lessons of history. As Charles Krauthammer writes in Townhall the obvious reasons Islam is fighting "the great jihad" against the United States are religion, ideology, political power, and territory. But "this is also about—deeply about—sex." The jihadists claim that wherever freedom travels—"especially in America and Europe—it brings sexual license and corruption, decadence and depravity."

CT managing editor Mark Galli made the same point in these pages soon after 9/11. Islamic militants are angry at the West, he said, for exporting "hedonism and materialism into their very homes through television, enticing Muslims to become religiously lazy and morally corrupt." Galli quoted a 1985 communiqué from the terrorist group Hezbollah: "Our way is one of radical combat against depravity, and America is the original root of depravity."

Anger at Western decadence fueled the writings of the radical Sayyid Qutb, which so influenced Osama bin Laden. These people see themselves not as terrorists, but as holy warriors fighting a holy war against decadence.

We must be careful not to blame innocent Americans for murderous attacks against them. At the same time, let's acknowledge that America's increasing decadence is giving aid and comfort to the enemy. When we tolerate trash on television, permit pornography to invade our homes via the internet, and allow babies to be killed at the point of birth, we are inflaming radical Islam.

Radical Islamists were surely watching in July when the Senate voted on procedural grounds to do away with the Federal Marriage Amendment. This is like handing moral weapons of mass destruction to those who use America's decadence to recruit more snipers and hijackers and suicide bombers. ...

...Preserving traditional marriage in order to protect children is a crucially important goal by itself. But it's also about protecting the United States from those who would use our depravity to destroy us.

...This makes reversing U.S. decadence an urgent priority, not just for Christians, but for all Americans. If our cultural rot continues unabated, a Talibanized West may no longer be a joke, but grim reality.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Osama and Bush need each other
Thanks to Bush, the nations that united behind America after 9/11 are now divided and dispirited. Why would bin Laden want that to change?

The German Marshall Fund survey echoed similar findings earlier this year by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, which tested opinion across Europe as well as in four major, predominantly Muslim nations. In those countries -- Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco and Turkey -- Bush policies have stimulated grave doubt about the purposes of the war on terrorism, which they regard as "an effort to control Mideast oil and to dominate the world."

The same poll showed that large percentages view Osama bin Laden favorably in Pakistan (65 percent), Jordan (55 percent) and Morocco (45 percent) [...]

So Bush has improved bin Laden's standing in the Muslim world and damaged America's standing from East to West. Why would bin Laden want that to change?

No doubt Bush would argue, as he has done repeatedly, that American action has led to the death or apprehension of hundreds of al-Qaida militants, including some of the organization's top leaders [...]

But in the view of real experts on terrorism, the bottom line of the Bush policies is less impressive than the president claims. A year ago, the respected International Institute of Strategic Studies in London released a paper warning that al-Qaida's ranks had grown in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion. American claims that the terrorists were "on the run" showed unwarranted overconfidence -- and the IISS presciently predicted that postwar chaos and failure would help bin Laden recruit more young Muslims to his cause.

Michael Scheuer, the CIA analyst and terrorism expert formerly known as Anonymous, agrees with the IISS findings and goes further. He has suggested that al-Qaida is likely so pleased with Bush that its agents might try to help his campaign. In an interview last summer, Scheuer told the Guardian that the White House and Department of Homeland Security alerts about a possible pre-election strike by the terrorists are credible but wrong about the purpose.

The aim would be not to depose the Bush administration but to "mount an attack that would rally the country around the president" and "keep the Republicans in power." As he put it, "I'm very sure they can't have a better administration for them than the one they have now." ...

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Swimming in syrup is as easy as water
It's a question that has taxed generations of the finest minds in physics: do humans swim slower in syrup than in water? And since you ask, the answer's no. Scientists have filled a swimming pool with a syrupy mixture and proved it.

"What appealed was the bizarreness of the idea," says Edward Cussler of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, who led the experiment. It's a question that also fascinated his student Brian Gettelfinger, a competitive swimmer who narrowly missed out on a place at this summer's Olympic Games in Athens.

Cussler and Gettelfinger took more than 300 kilograms of guar gum, an edible thickening agent found in salad dressings, ice cream and shampoo, and dumped it into a 25-metre swimming pool, creating a gloopy liquid twice as thick as water. "It looked like snot," says Cussler.

The pair then asked 16 volunteers, a mix of both competitive and recreational swimmers, to swim in a regular pool and in the guar syrup. Whatever strokes they used, the swimmers' times differed by no more than 4%, with neither water nor syrup producing consistently faster times, the researchers report in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Journal1....

From Salon, Via Atrios
...The war, illegal and founded on a vast lie, has produced two tragedies of equal magnitude: an embryonic civil war in the world's oldest country, and a triumph for those in the Bush administration who, without a trace of shame, act as if the truth does not matter. Lying until the lie became true, the administration pursued a course of action that guaranteed large sections of Iraq would become havens for jihadis and radical Islamists. That is the logic promoted by people who take for themselves divine infallibility -- a righteousness that blinds and destroys. Like credulous Weimar Germans who were so delighted by rigged wrestling matches, millions of Americans have accepted Bush's assertions that the war in Iraq has made the United States and the rest of the world a safer place to live. Of course, this is false.

But it is a useful fiction because it is a happy one. All we need to know, according to the administration, is that America is a good country, full of good people and therefore cannot make bloody mistakes when it comes to its own security. The bitter consequence of succumbing to such happy talk is that the government of the most powerful nation in the world now operates unchecked and unmoored from reality; leaving us teetering on the brink of another presidential term where abuse of authority has been recast as virtue.

The logic the administration uses to promote its actions -- preemptive war, indefinite detention, torture of prisoners, the abandonment of the Geneva Convention abroad and the Bill of Rights at home -- is simple, faith-based and therefore empty of reason. The worsening war is the creation of the Bush administration, which is simultaneously holding Americans and Iraqis hostage to a bloody conflict that cannot be won, only stalemated.

Over the last three years, practicing a philosophy of deliberate deception, fear-mongering and abuse of authority, the Bush administration has done more to undermine the republic of Lincoln and Jefferson than the cells of al-Qaida. It has willfully ignored our fundamental laws and squandered the nation's wealth in bloody, open-ended pursuits. Corporations like Halliburton, with close ties to government officials, are profiting greatly from the war while thousands of American soldiers undertake the dangerous work of patrolling the streets of Iraqi cities. We have arrived at a moment of national crisis.

At home, the United States, under the Bush administration, is rapidly drifting toward a security state whose principal currency is fear. Abroad, it has used fear to justify the invasion of Iraq -- fear of weapons of mass destruction, of terrorist attacks, of Iraq itself. The administration, under false premises, invaded a country that it barely understood. We entered a country in shambles, a population divided against itself. The U.S. invasion was a catalyst of violence and religious hatred, and the continuing presence of American troops has only made matters worse. Iraq today bears no resemblance to the president's vision of a fledgling democracy. On its way to national elections in January, Iraq has already slipped into chaos....

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

If America were Iraq, What would it be Like?
President Bush said Tuesday that the Iraqis are refuting the pessimists and implied that things are improving in that country.

What would America look like if it were in Iraq's current situation? The population of the US is over 11 times that of Iraq, so a lot of statistics would have to be multiplied by that number.

Thus, violence killed 300 Iraqis last week, the equivalent proportionately of 3,300 Americans. What if 3,300 Americans had died in car bombings, grenade and rocket attacks, machine gun spray, and aerial bombardment in the last week? That is a number greater than the deaths on September 11, and if America were Iraq, it would be an ongoing, weekly or monthly toll.

And what if those deaths occurred all over the country, including in the capital of Washington, DC, but mainly above the Mason Dixon line, in Boston, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco?

What if the grounds of the White House and the government buildings near the Mall were constantly taking mortar fire? What if almost nobody in the State Department at Foggy Bottom, the White House, or the Pentagon dared venture out of their buildings, and considered it dangerous to go over to Crystal City or Alexandria?...

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Other Priorities
By David H. Hackworth

By April 2004, rapes and assaults of American female soldiers were epidemic in the Middle East. But even after more than 83 incidents were reported during a six-month period in Iraq and Kuwait, the 24-hour rape hotline in Kuwait was still being answered by a machine advising callers to leave a phone number where they could be reached.

“Nobody had a telephone number, for crying out loud,” says Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, then commanding general of the 800th Military Police Brigade, who was in Kuwait preparing to bring her unit home after running the military prisons in Iraq.

Military stupidity at its finest, or senior male brass who chose to shrug and look the other way?

Karpinski believes the latter. “Reports of assault ... were mostly not investigated because commanders had other priorities,” Karpinski says. “The attitude of Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez,” then the ground commander in Iraq, “permeated the entire chain of command: The women asked to be here, so now let them take what comes with the territory.”...

...It’s an essential priority of a leader, from corporal to four-star general, to look after the troops....

The New Bodice-Rippers Have More God and Less Sex
...At workshops, after authors presented their works, conference organizers led group prayers, including one for "Kristin and her writing endeavors," Rachel Hauck, the group's president, said at a mentoring session led by Ms. Billerbeck.

In the mornings the group prayed together, asking God to help guide their pens and thoughts. At the conference bookstore, romantic novels shared table space with guides to home schooling. Nearby was a private prayer room for short breaks, and a few writers sang hymns around the hotel piano. "So many people come here to learn to write, and they meet God along the way," said the conference organizer, Brandlyn Collins.

The publishing industry is beginning to pay attention. The Christian Booksellers Association estimates that total sales of Christian fiction have topped $2 billion a year, and the market share of Christian romance has grown 25 percent a year since 2001, the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association reports. As a result editors have begun targeting younger people who enjoy both Christian and romantic fiction.

"Twentysomething and 30-something women were a grossly underserved market in Christian books," said Kelly Gallagher, vice president of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. "There was nothing out there that dealt with the significant, contemporary life issues they face."

Joan Marlow Golan, senior editor at Harlequin, the largest publisher of romantic fiction, foresees an expanding market that will attract more and more young unmarried Christian women. In a recent study of reading habits by the National Endowment for the Arts, observant Christians were the only group of Americans reading more than in the past.

To satisfy that demand, several leading publishers, both Christian and secular romance houses, are rolling out what they call "Christian chick lit" lines. These novels typically feature Bridget Jones types looking for the right man, the right chocolate, the right friends - and the right relationship with God. ...

Monday, September 20, 2004

Channel 4 to screen 'Priest Idol'
The new vicar will try to attract people to a church in Barnsley

Channel 4 will screen a new series which aims to boost a congregation in a parish with poor church attendance.

With the working title Priest Idol, the show will give a vicar 12 months to boost the church's turnout.

Backed by advisors, the vicar will be able to spend an undisclosed sum of money on anything he or she thinks will appeal to parishioners.

Being filmed in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, the three-part series is due to be broadcast at the end of 2005. ...

Lie and You Thrive
George Bush is seeking re-election as the Hero of 9/11 and as the Strong Leader against terrorism. At the recent Republican convention, speaker after speaker portrayed Bush's reaction on and shortly after 9/11 as an entitlement to extending Bush's power over the American people.

Perhaps never before has a president sought a second term by endlessly hyping the catastrophic failures of his first four years in office. On both 9/11 and Iraq, the Bush campaign team long ago decided that truth is a luxury American voters can no longer afford.

Instead of admitting that 9/11 was the biggest U.S. intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor, the Bush administration turned 9/11 into a moral Dunkirk. From the first days after 9/11, the Bush administration created a mythology that would spur reverence for both the president and the government. Bush wrapped himself in a flag drenched with the blood of Americans who died due to the failure of the federal government he commanded, and sadly the people bought it – and still continue to buy it. In a September 7-9 national poll, Bush led Kerry on who the people believed would keep the United States safe by 23 points.

In the days after 9/11, Bush and his top officials again and again falsely denied that the government had received prior warnings of a terrorist attack. If Americans had learned in mid-September 2001 how badly federal agencies failed across the board, the number of Americans who trusted the government to do the right thing would not have doubled in the days after the attacks. The government failed – so the government declared itself infallible....

Who Was Abused?
Ed Sampley at home in Bakersfield, Calif. When he was 8, he testified that a neighbor sexually abused him. But ever since, he has been haunted by the knowledge, he says, that "it never happened."

There are several ways to view the small white house on Center Street in Bakersfield, Calif. From one perspective it's just another low-slung home in a working-class neighborhood, with a front yard, brown carpeting, a TV in the living room. Now consider it from the standpoint of the Kern County district attorney's office: 20 years ago, this was a crime scene of depraved proportions. According to investigators, in the living room with brown carpeting and a TV, boys between the ages of 6 and 8 were made to pose for pornographic photos. On a water bed in the back bedroom, the boys were sodomized by three men, while a mother had sex with her own son.

But look at the house once again -- this time, through Ed Sampley's eyes. Twenty years ago he was one of the boys molested in the house where sex abuse was part of the weekend fabric. That's what he told Kern County investigators. That's what he told a judge, a jury and a courtroom of lawyers. The testimony of Sampley and five other boys was the prosecution's key evidence in a trial in which four defendants were convicted, with John Stoll, a 41-year-old carpenter, receiving the longest sentence of the group: 40 years for 17 counts of lewd and lascivious conduct.

Now for the first time in 20 years, Sampley is back in the driveway of that small white house. ''It never happened,'' he tells me. He lied about Stoll, an easygoing divorced father who always insisted the neighborhood kids call him John rather than Mr. Stoll and let them run in and out of his house in their bathing suits, eat popcorn on the living-room floor and watch ''fright night'' videos.

Last January, Sampley and three other former accusers returned to the courthouse where they had testified against Stoll. This time they came to say Stoll never molested them. They are in their late 20's now. They have jobs in construction, car repair, sales. A couple of them have children about the same age as they were when they testified. Although most of the boys drifted apart after the trial, their life stories echo with similarities. Each of them said he always knew the truth -- that Stoll had never touched them. Each said that he felt pressured by the investigators to describe sex acts. A fifth accuser isn't sure what happened all those years ago but has no memory of being molested. During the court hearing to release Stoll, only his son Jed remained adamant that his father had molested him, though he couldn't remember details of the abuse: ''I've been through many years of therapy to try to get over that,'' he told the court....

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Britain to cut troop levels in Iraq
The British Army is to start pulling troops out of Iraq next month despite the deteriorating security situation in much of the country, The Observer has learnt.

The main British combat force in Iraq, about 5,000-strong, will be reduced by around a third by the end of October during a routine rotation of units.

The news came amid another day of mayhem in Iraq, which saw a suicide bomber kill at least 23 people and injure 53 in the northern city of Kirkuk. The victims were queueing to join Iraq's National Guard....

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Article III, Section 2 and the Wobbly Wall Between Church and State - Maureen Farrell at

...Not surprisingly, ever since the Washington Post dubbed George Bush the first U.S. president to become the Religious Right’s "de facto leader," the campaign to topple the wall separating church and state has gained more momentum than the Road Runner on diet pills. In February, lawmakers introduced the Constitutional Restoration Act of 2004 which also says that the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over "any matter" regarding public officials who acknowledge "God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government."

Heralded as "the most important piece of legislation in the last fifty years" by conservative radio host Chuck Baldwin (who also cited Article III, Section 2) and reminiscent of Judge Antonin Scalia's Biblically-inspired contention that "government. . . derives its moral authority from God," the Constitution Restoration Act was looked upon less favorably by a host of others, including former Christianity Today correspondent Katherine Yurica.

Distinguishing between the stated purposes and hidden realities of the bill, Yurica explained that it is "drawn broadly and expressly includes the acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law. . .," which could, in the scariest of scenarios, turn America into a theocracy wherein judges could "institute biblical punishments without being subject to review by the Supreme Court or the federal court system."

Columnist James Heflin also underscored the hidden subtext:

The agenda of these Christians of the Far Right is brazen and clear. They have turned a zealous minority into a ruling class once, and they have learned from that success. This is not a wild-eyed conspiracy theory; their plans are preached in pulpits weekly, and have now taken shape as proposed legislation. Look no further than the recently introduced "Constitution Restoration Act." If we do not pay attention to their manipulation of American democratic processes now that they have gained remarkable power among Republicans, the principles of our democracy will eventually be as distant a memory as the kinder, gentler Southern Baptist Convention of my childhood. . . .

If the Act passes, Iraqis would have stronger protection from religious extremism than Americans. It's a change with dramatic consequences, and our political landscape under Bush is ever more receptive to such ideas. Roy Moore and his fundamentalist brothers and sisters have far more in mind. [Valley Advocate]

Drafted by Herb Titus (who, in addition to being the founding dean of Pat Robertson's Regent University Law School is legal counsel for Judge Roy Moore) the Act also, as one Internet publication revealed, drew its inspiration from this obscure provision in the Constitution. "Supporters of the bill cite Article III, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which authorizes Congress to limit the jurisdiction of the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts," World Net Daily explained last spring.

Not only would the Act bar the Supreme Court from reviewing cases in which public servants acknowledge God as the source of law, but it would make judges who rule on cases such as Judge Moore’s Ten Commandment debacle vulnerable to impeachment. (Hence, the Star-Telegraph said it should be named the "Roy Moore Gets to Flout the Constitution Act.")

But more importantly, notes Heflin, "It is unclear exactly what actions a public servant could get away with under the banner of invoking God as the source of law." And while visions of Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s recent Messianic coronation in the U.S. Senate comes readily to mind, Heflin’s concern is more aptly echoed in Bookman’s argument that if the Marriage Protection Act is enacted, Congress (in theory anyway) could "pass a law making Christianity the national religion, and bar the courts from hearing a challenge." Yes, Virginia, the Religious Right has more than one theocratic trick up its sleeve....

...With that in mind, anyone who is even remotely concerned about the extreme measures the extreme right ("Vast, Right-Wing Cabal?," ABC News; "Avenging angel of the religious right," Salon; "Reverend Doomsday," Rolling Stone) has taken since the 2000 election should wonder why they were so eager to crown candidate Bush in the first place....

Religious Right Finds Its Center in Oval Office
Bush Emerges as Movement's Leader After Robertson Leaves Christian Coalition

By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 24, 2001

Pat Robertson's resignation this month as president of the Christian Coalition confirmed the ascendance of a new leader of the religious right in America: George W. Bush.

For the first time since religious conservatives became a modern political movement, the president of the United States has become the movement's de facto leader -- a status even Ronald Reagan, though admired by religious conservatives, never earned. Christian publications, radio and television shower Bush with praise, while preachers from the pulpit treat his leadership as an act of providence. A procession of religious leaders who have met with him testify to his faith, while Web sites encourage people to fast and pray for the president.

There are several reasons for the adulation. Religious conservatives have regarded Bush as one of their own since the presidential campaign, when he spoke during a debate of the guidance of Jesus. At the same time, key figures in the religious right -- Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Billy Graham and Franklin Graham -- have receded in political prominence or influence, in part because they are no longer mobilized by their opposition to a president. Bush's handling of the anti-terrorism campaign since Sept. 11 has solidified his standing by painting him in stark terms as the leader in a fight of good against evil.

"I think Robertson stepped down because the position has already been filled," said Gary Bauer, a religious conservative who challenged Bush in the Republican primary. Bush "is that leader right now. There was already a great deal of identification with the president before 9-11 in the world of the Christian right, and the nature of this war is such that it's heightened the sense that a man of God is in the White House." ...

Friday, September 17, 2004

GOP Mailing Warns Liberals Will Ban Bibles
WASHINGTON - Campaign mail with a return address of the Republican National Committee (news - web sites) warns West Virginia voters that the Bible will be prohibited and men will marry men if liberals win in November.

The literature shows a Bible with the word "BANNED" across it and a photo of a man, on his knees, placing a ring on the hand of another man with the word "ALLOWED." The mailing tells West Virginians to "vote Republican to protect our families" and defeat the "liberal agenda."

Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said Friday that he wasn't aware of the mailing, but said it could be the work of the RNC. "It wouldn't surprise me if we were mailing voters on the issue of same-sex marriage," Gillespie said. ...

...The RNC also is running radio ads in several states urging people to register to vote.

"There is a line drawn in America today," one ad says. "On one side are the radicals trying to uproot our traditional values and our culture. They're fighting to hijack the institution of marriage, plotting to legalize partial birth abortion, and working to take God out of the pledge of allegiance and force the worst of Hollywood on the rest of America." ...

George W. Bush and his forebears.

...The news media have been prone to underestimate the importance of George W.’s evangelicalism. Perhaps it’s because the religious right has perfected the art of what used to be called Mau-Mauing, rendering the press corps fearful of broaching the subject. Maybe reporters genuinely believe that George W. plays it up for political purposes; they often describe him as behaving cynically when he takes actions that please the Christian right. But this reading stems from an assumption of continuity between the son and the father, who did pander to evangelical conservatives. “I always laugh when people say that George W. Bush is saying this or that to appease the religious right,” his first cousin John Ellis told the Schweizers. “He is the religious right.”

George W. has been active in evangelical politics since his father’s 1988 campaign, when he served as the campaign’s liaison to the religious right. Working with Doug Wead, an Assemblies of God pastor and a longtime Bush associate, he forged personal alliances with influential ministers, broadcasters, and activists. In the Iowa caucuses, the televangelist Pat Robertson outpolled the elder Bush (who explained, comically, that his supporters were off that night golfing or at air shows and débutante balls). But the son’s aggressive networking paid off in the Southern primaries weeks later, when his father, once distrusted by born-again Christians, trounced even Robertson within that constituency. In the younger Bush’s own Presidential bid, in 2000, he got a minority of the over-all vote but eighty-four per cent of highly observant, white evangelicals. “For the first time,” Phillips notes, “a Republican presidential victory rested on a religious, conservative, southern-centered coalition.” For the first time, the President of the United States was also “the de facto head of the Religious Right.”

Phillips attributes Bush’s success to demographics, in particular the surge of evangelical Christian denominations as a proportion of the faithful. Between 1960 and 2000, the number of Americans who attended weekly services fell from thirty-eight per cent to twenty-five per cent. At the same time, membership in the Southern Baptist Convention grew from ten million to seventeen million, and membership in the Pentecostal churches from less than two million to nearly twelve million. “Liberal religion was being routed,” Phillips concludes. Bush shared the values of this growing bloc and enjoyed its overwhelming support.

Bush has not been shy about displaying his faith. Shortly after September 11, 2001, the President came across Proverbs 21:15: “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.” Soon, “evildoers” became his favorite term for Al Qaeda. Bush’s speechwriter, Michael Gerson, himself an evangelical, laces the President’s addresses with seemingly innocuous terms that the devout recognize as laden with meaning: “whirlwind,” “work of mercy,” “safely home,” “wonder-working power.” Phillips refers to a study by the religion scholar Bruce Lincoln, who identified, in Bush’s speech to Congress announcing the invasion of Afghanistan, allusions to Revelation, Isaiah, Job, Matthew, and Jeremiah. In private, Bush has been even more explicit. “George sees this as a religious war,” a family member told the Schweizers. “He doesn’t have a p.c. view of this war. His view of this is that they are trying to kill the Christians. And we the Christians will strike back with more force and more ferocity than they will ever know.” Phillips says that Bush has spoken of himself as an instrument of divine will.

But what’s wrong with an infusion of religion into Presidential speeches or even policy? The Founders may have believed in a separation between church and state, but the Constitution’s secularism doesn’t prevent a President from drawing on his religious beliefs in making decisions. Nor has Bush somehow “imposed” his faith on others, however alienating some may find his spiritual language to be. The problem lies, rather, in the specific ways in which Bush uses religion. Abraham Lincoln, in his second Inaugural address, invoked God, but he did so in a spirit of humility, questioning his own certitude and thus inviting further questioning. Bush does the opposite: his use of religion seems designed to remove any doubt—first in his own mind, then in the public’s—about his course. It doesn’t assist Bush with his reasoning; it substitutes for reasoning. Instead of providing a starting point for careful judgments, it assures him that the instincts on which he has based his policy are unerring.

This kind of recourse to religion leaves citizens no grounds on which to question the President’s actions. If the inspiration of God or the Bible is purely personal or subjective, it’s not open to debate—and decisions based on it become immune from scrutiny. The result is to short-circuit political deliberation, since democracy rests on the ability of the governed to check their leaders through reasoned argument. Ironically, George W.’s religious beliefs bolster the manorial tendencies of the Bush family. God and family alike promote a sense of special dispensation. It’s what happens when the politics of personal relationships comes to center on a personal relationship with God.

Politically, Bush’s conspicuous religiosity offers him two advantages over his father’s Episcopalian reticence. Like the trappings of his Texas populism, his public piety allows him to connect with ordinary folk as his father never did. Talking Biblical talk, he can shuck off his social class’s perceived indifference to people’s everyday concerns. It’s a paradox, but a politically invaluable one, that his invocation of religion both places him beyond public accountability and conveys that he’s just like everyone else. Religion also provides the other key asset his father lacked: the vision thing. The religiously infused sense of mission that George W. reportedly found after September 11th now carries the burden of keeping his Presidency from veering off course the way his father’s did.

No one would suggest that George W. embraced evangelicalism for electoral advantage. But it’s easy to wonder whether his born-again faith might not represent a decision to break with his father, to escape from the culture of Wasp reserve and austerity. George W. came to his new creed at a time when his life seemed to have fallen short of family expectations. His younger brother Jeb was outperforming him in business and seemed more likely to excel in politics. George W. was, his brother Marvin has said, “the family clown.” Indeed, George and Barbara found their son’s conversion “a stretching experience,” the Schweizers report. “Some of that same brashness in his personality came out when he talked about faith. . . . It sparked disagreements within the family.” Rich Bond, an associate of the Bushes, told the Schweizers,“You might say it was almost exaggerated. . . . But George W. seemed to want to be defined differently from the beginning.”

When it came to war with Iraq, George W. told Bob Woodward that his father “is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength. There is a higher father that I appeal to.” But, in denying his real father’s influence, George W. reaffirms its importance. The very decision to stage a celebration on the Abraham Lincoln flight deck can be read as a rebuke to his father, signalling that he forged ahead where his predecessor had held his fire. It was also at odds with the elder Bush’s self-effacing style. Today, as the Iraq adventure slogs on, that stunt is looking less like a moment of glory than like a moment of vainglory—and a mistake that George H. W. Bush, whatever his shortcomings, never would have made.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Clashes and Churches
...Last week churches were bombed- everyone heard about that. We were all horrified with it. For decades- no centuries- churches and mosques have stood side by side in Iraq. We celebrate Christmas and Easter with our Christian friends and they celebrate our Eids with us. We never categorized eachother as "Christian" and "Muslim"... It never really mattered. We were neighbors and friends and we respected eachother's religious customs and holidays. We have many differing beliefs- some of them fundamental- but it never mattered.

It makes me miserable to think that Christians no longer feel safe. I know we're all feeling insecure right now, but there was always that sense of security between differing religions. Many Iraqis have been inside churches to attend weddings, baptisms, and funerals. Christians have been suffering since the end of the war. Some of them are being driven out of their homes in the south and even in some areas in Baghdad and the north. Others are being pressured to dress a certain way or not attend church, etc. So many of them are thinking of leaving abroad and it's such a huge loss. We have famous Christain surgeons, professors, artists, and musicians. It has always been an Iraqi quality in the region- we're famous for the fact that we all get along so well.

I'm convinced the people who set up these explosions are people who are trying to give Islam the worst possible image. It has nothing to do with Islam- just as this war and occupation has nothing to do with Christianity and Jesus- no matter how much Bush tries to pretend it does....

Why is Vice President Cheney being replaced on the ticket with Zombie Reagan?
Vice President Cheney has decided to step down, in order to spend more time with his family.

Additionally, his de-aging process requires that he bathe in the blood of virgins on an increasingly frequent basis. While this has not hampered his ability to perform the duties of his office in any way, it sort of creeps Condi out.

The rumor that the Vice President was moved to an undisclosed location and lost is untrue. ...

CRTC, station receive complaint over comments by Sunday morning evangelist
An Ottawa viewer's complaint about "outrageous" comments on homosexuality by U.S. evangelist Jimmy Swaggart has sparked an apology by the television station, and a complaint to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Vance Strickland wrote to Omni 1, a multicultural station based in Toronto, and to the CRTC after stumbling across the show on Sunday. According to a transcript of the program, Mr. Swaggart said: "I'm trying to find the correct name for it ... this utter absolute, asinine, idiotic stupidity of men marrying men. ... I've never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I'm gonna be blunt and plain; if one ever looks at me like that, I'm gonna kill him and tell God he died." Sandy Zwyer, Omni 1's spokesperson, said Mr. Swaggart's remarks were "a serious breach" of regulations, and the station manager is reviewing the tape of the program.

GIs claim threat by Army
Soldiers say they were told to re-enlist or face deployment to Iraq

COLORADO SPRINGS - Soldiers from a Fort Carson combat unit say they have been issued an ultimatum - re-enlist for three more years or be transferred to other units expected to deploy to Iraq.

Hundreds of soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team were presented with that message and a re-enlistment form in a series of assemblies last Thursday, said two soldiers who spoke on condition of anonymity. ...

Green Zone is ‘no longer totally secure’
US military officers in Baghdad have warned they cannot guarantee the security of the perimeter around the Green Zone, the headquarters of the Iraqi government and home to the US and British embassies, according to security company employees.

At a briefing earlier this month, a high-ranking US officer in charge of the zone's perimeter said he had insufficient soldiers to prevent intruders penetrating the compound's defences.

The US major said it was possible weapons or explosives had already been stashed in the zone, and warned people to move in pairs for their own safety. The Green Zone, in Baghdad's centre, is one of the most fortified US installations in Iraq. Until now, militants have not been able to penetrate it....

U.S. Intelligence Shows Pessimism on Iraq's Future
WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 - A classified National Intelligence Estimate prepared for President Bush in late July spells out a dark assessment of prospects for Iraq, government officials said Wednesday.

The estimate outlines three possibilities for Iraq through the end of 2005, with the worst case being developments that could lead to civil war, the officials said. The most favorable outcome described is an Iraq whose stability would remain tenuous in political, economic and security terms.

"There's a significant amount of pessimism," said one government official who has read the document, which runs about 50 pages. The officials declined to discuss the key judgments - concise, carefully written statements of intelligence analysts' conclusions - included in the document. ...

Far graver than Vietnam
Bring them on!" President Bush challenged the early Iraqi insurgency in July of last year. Since then, 812 American soldiers have been killed and 6,290 wounded, according to the Pentagon. Almost every day, in campaign speeches, Bush speaks with bravado about how he is "winning" in Iraq. "Our strategy is succeeding," he boasted to the National Guard convention on Tuesday.

But, according to the US military's leading strategists and prominent retired generals, Bush's war is already lost. Retired general William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency, told me: "Bush hasn't found the WMD. Al-Qaida, it's worse, he's lost on that front. That he's going to achieve a democracy there? That goal is lost, too. It's lost." He adds: "Right now, the course we're on, we're achieving Bin Laden's ends."

Retired general Joseph Hoare, the former marine commandant and head of US Central Command, told me: "The idea that this is going to go the way these guys planned is ludicrous. There are no good options. We're conducting a campaign as though it were being conducted in Iowa, no sense of the realities on the ground. It's so unrealistic for anyone who knows that part of the world. The priorities are just all wrong."

Jeffrey Record, professor of strategy at the Air War College, said: "I see no ray of light on the horizon at all. The worst case has become true. There's no analogy whatsoever between the situation in Iraq and the advantages we had after the second world war in Germany and Japan." ...

...After the killing of four US contractors in Fallujah, the marines besieged the city for three weeks in April - the watershed event for the insurgency. "I think the president ordered the attack on Fallujah," said General Hoare. "I asked a three-star marine general who gave the order to go to Fallujah and he wouldn't tell me. I came to the conclusion that the order came directly from the White House." Then, just as suddenly, the order was rescinded, and Islamist radicals gained control, using the city as a base.

"If you are a Muslim and the community is under occupation by a non-Islamic power it becomes a religious requirement to resist that occupation," Terrill explained. "Most Iraqis consider us occupiers, not liberators." He describes the religious imagery common now in Fallujah and the Sunni triangle: "There's talk of angels and the Prophet Mohammed coming down from heaven to lead the fighting, talk of martyrs whose bodies are glowing and emanating wonderful scents."

"I see no exit," said Record. "We've been down that road before. It's called Vietnamisation. The idea that we're going to have an Iraqi force trained to defeat an enemy we can't defeat stretches the imagination. They will be tainted by their very association with the foreign occupier. In fact, we had more time and money in state building in Vietnam than in Iraq." ...

...General Odom remarked that the tension between the Bush administration and the senior military officers over Iraqi was worse than any he has ever seen with any previous government, including Vietnam. "I've never seen it so bad between the office of the secretary of defence and the military. There's a significant majority believing this is a disaster. The two parties whose interests have been advanced have been the Iranians and al-Qaida. Bin Laden could argue with some cogency that our going into Iraq was the equivalent of the Germans in Stalingrad. They defeated themselves by pouring more in there. Tragic."

17,000 GIs not listed as casualties
WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Nearly 17,000 service members medically evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan are absent from public Pentagon casualty reports, according to military data reviewed by United Press International. The Pentagon said most don't fit the definition of casualties, but a veterans' advocate said they should all be counted.

In addition to those evacuations, 32,684 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan now out of the military sought medical attention from the Department of Veterans Affairs by July 22, according to VA reports obtained by UPI. The number of those visits to VA doctors that were related to war is unknown. ...

...Among veterans from Iraq seeking help from the VA, 5,375 have been diagnosed with a mental problem, making it the third-leading diagnosis after bone problems and digestive problems. Among the mental problems were 800 soldiers who became psychotic.

A military study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in July showed that 16 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq might suffer major depression, generalized anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. Around 11 percent of soldiers returning from Afghanistan may have the same problems, according to that study.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Heaven Sent
Does God endorse George Bush?

...Stephen Mansfield, author of The Faith of George W. Bush, goes on to say: "Not long after, Bush called James Robison (a prominent minister) and told him, 'I've heard the call. I believe God wants me to run for President.' " Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention heard Bush say something similar: "Among the things he said to us was: I believe that God wants me to be president."

After 9/11, the sense among his supporters that God had chosen him increased. "I think that God picked the right man at the right time for the right purpose," said popular Christian broadcaster Janet Parshall. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin, who got in trouble for derogatory comments about Islam, argued that it must have been God who selected Bush, since a plurality of voters hadn't. "Why is this man in the White House? The majority of America did not vote for him. He's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this." (Boykin still has his job.)

Time magazine reported, "Privately, Bush talked of being chosen by the grace of God to lead at that moment." World Magazine, a conservative Christian publication, quoted White House official Tim Goeglein as saying, "I think President Bush is God's man at this hour, and I say this with a great sense of humility."

Even former President George H.W. Bush speculated that perhaps he needed to be defeated so that his son could become president: "If I'd won that election in 1992, my oldest son would not be president of the United States of America," he said. "I think the Lord works in mysterious ways."

Are the White House and the Bush campaign actively encouraging the idea that Bush has been put there by God? Bush has been careful to never say anything close to that in public. And yet the combination of passages in carefully vetted speeches and quotes from close friends or supporters indicate that this is the understanding....

...Yet it's hard to recall another instance of a presidential campaign so confidently promulgating the idea that its candidate had divine endorsement. The potentially dangerous implication is that since God put George W. Bush in the White House, opposing him is opposing Him. A person could get smited for that.

Of course, it's always possible God did put George W. Bush in the White House. But if He did, it doesn't theologically follow that He wants him to have a second term. Even those who believe that God controls world events usually concede it is hard for humans to divine the intent of the Divine.

After all, in the Bible, God is described as doing things for all sorts of inexplicable reasons—sometimes as a reward to the people, and sometimes as a punishment.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Outspoken evangelist provokes strong reactions near CC campus
Andrew Nelson, a Colorado College sophomore with a rainbow-dyed beard, watched from the back of the crowd as Jed Smock waved his Bible and condemned Nelson’s peers.

“It really pains me to see this and makes me sad,” said Nelson, a Christian. “It’s just this additional stereotype I have to wear . . . that is forced on me.”

He wasn’t alone. “I don’t see any love in his actions,” said sophomore Betsy Friedlander, also a Christian.

Some students walked away. Some argued. Others mocked him.

To Smock, a man who’s spent 30 years taking his hellfire and brimstone message to college campuses, their reactions did not seem important. It was the message he was intent on giving.

“When you masturbate, you’re already sort of a homosexual,” he said, because by nature, self-gratification is a same-sex act....

Friday, September 10, 2004

Thursday, September 09, 2004

EA2: The transcendent is scary
...There is a Liliputian quality to evangelical faith. It seems to imagine God lying on the beach of our little kingdom, bound up with the cords of our propositions about him. That which is transcendent -- truth, beauty, goodness, Bjork -- is too large for our categories and propositions. Too large for our idea of God.

The idea that God might be bigger than we think -- bigger than we can know or imagine or explain -- can be terrifying. What if God should arise from the beach, shrugging off our tiny chains? Then we would no longer be in control.

What I'm calling "evangelical anxiety" is all about this fear of losing control. The nagging sense, lurking just below the surface, that we are not in control after all, no matter how much we insist we are. One result of this anxiety is a reflexive need to reassert that control, to interpret the world and respond to it in a way that reinforces the illusion that such control is possible....

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

The Curse of Dick Cheney
The veep's career has been marred by one disaster after another

Should George W. Bush win this election, it will give him the distinction of being the first occupant of the White House to have survived naming Dick Cheney to a post in his administration. The Cheney jinx first manifested itself at the presidential level back in 1969, when Richard Nixon appointed him to his first job in the executive branch. It surfaced again in 1975, when Gerald Ford made Cheney his chief of staff and then -- with Cheney's help -- lost the 1976 election. George H.W. Bush, having named Cheney secretary of defense, was defeated for re-election in 1992. The ever-canny Ronald Reagan was the only Republican president since Eisenhower who managed to serve two full terms. He is also the only one not to have appointed Dick Cheney to office.

This pattern of misplaced confidence in Cheney, followed by disastrous results, runs throughout his life -- from his days as a dropout at Yale to the geopolitical chaos he has helped create in Baghdad. Once you get to know his history, the cycle becomes clear: First, Cheney impresses someone rich or powerful, who causes unearned wealth and power to be conferred on him. Then, when things go wrong, he blames others and moves on to a new situation even more advantageous to himself....

...The period between August 1974 and November 1976, when Ford lost the election to Jimmy Carter, is essential to understanding George W. Bush's disastrous misjudgments -- and Dick Cheney's role in them. In both cases, Cheney and Rumsfeld played the key role in turning opportunity into chaos. Ford, like Bush later, hadn't been elected president. As he entered office, he was overshadowed by a secretary of state (Kissinger then, Powell later) who was considered incontestably his better. Ford was caught as flat-footed by the fall of Saigon in April 1975 as Bush was by the September 2001 attacks. A better president, with more astute advisers, might have arranged a more orderly ending to the long and divisive war. But instead of heeding the country's desire for honesty and reconciliation, Rumsfeld and Cheney convinced Ford that the way to turn himself into a real president was to stir up crises in international relations while lurching to the right in domestic politics.

Having turned Ford into their instrument, Rumsfeld and Cheney staged a palace coup. They pushed Ford to fire Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, tell Vice President Nelson Rockefeller to look for another job and remove Henry Kissinger from his post as national security adviser. Rumsfeld was named secretary of defense, and Cheney became chief of staff to the president. The Yale dropout and draft dodger was, at the age of thirty-four, the second-most-powerful man in the White House....

...Appointed to another powerful position, Cheney promptly went about screwing it up. He pushed to turn many military duties over to private companies and began moving "defense intellectuals" with no military experience into key posts at the Pentagon. Most notable among them was Paul Wolfowitz, who later masterminded much of the disastrous strategy that George W. Bush has pursued in Iraq. In 1992, as undersecretary of defense, Wolfowitz turned out a forty-page report titled "Defense Planning Guidance," arguing that historic allies should be demoted to the status of U.S. satellites, and that the modernization of India and China should be treated as a threat, as should the democratization of Russia. "We must maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role," the report declared. It was nothing less than a blueprint for worldwide domination, and Cheney loved it. He maneuvered to have the president adopt it as doctrine, but the elder Bush, recognizing that the proposals were not only foolish but dangerous, immediately rejected them.

By the end of the first Bush administration, others had come to the conclusion that Cheney and his followers were dangerous. "They were referred to collectively as the crazies," recalls Ray McGovern, a CIA professional who interpreted intelligence for presidents going back to Kennedy. Around the same time, McGovern remembers, Secretary of State James Baker and National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft counseled the elder President Bush, "Keep these guys at arm's length."...

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Brain Scans Reveal That Revenge Is Sweet
In Dante's Inferno, the inner circle of hell was reserved for betrayers like Judas and Brutus. But new research indicates that punishing those who break social norms is not merely the province of poets. Scientists have uncovered evidence for an innate satisfaction in human beings for giving people their comeuppance....

Group decries mixing religion and politics
FORT WORTH, Texas - (KRT) - A growing number of theologians, ministers and citizens are taking issue with statements made by evangelical Christian leaders suggesting that God has chosen sides in the presidential election.

An advertisement published in The New York Times to coincide with the Republican National Convention begins, "God is not a Republican. Or a Democrat."

As of Friday, more than 59,000 people have pledged support for the advertisement, according to Sojourners, a Christian Internet magazine that helped sponsor the ad. A Sojourners spokeswoman said the magazine did not ask for supporters' political affiliations.

The advertisement quotes Pat Robertson saying that God told him President Bush would win the election "like a blowout." It quotes Jerry Falwell, saying it is the responsibility of evangelical Christians, pro-life Catholics, traditional Jews and Reagan Democrats to re-elect Bush.

The advertisement has also run in newspapers in Falwell's and Robertson's hometowns....

Young Republicans support Iraq war, but not all are willing to join the fight
NEW YORK - Young Republicans gathered here for their party's national convention are united in applauding the war in Iraq, supporting the U.S. troops there and calling the U.S. mission a noble cause.

But there's no such unanimity when they're asked a more personal question: Would you be willing to put on the uniform and go to fight in Iraq?

In more than a dozen interviews, Republicans in their teens and 20s offered a range of answers. Some have friends in the military in Iraq and are considering enlisting; others said they can better support the war by working politically in the United States; and still others said they think the military doesn't need them because the U.S. presence in Iraq is sufficient.

"Frankly, I want to be a politician. I'd like to survive to see that," said Vivian Lee, 17, a war supporter visiting the convention from Los Angeles, ...

... Similarly, 20-year-old Jeff Shafer, a University of Pennsylvania student, said vital work needs to be done in the United States. There are Republican policies to maintain and protect...

Political Victory: From Here to Maternity
What's the difference between the protesters outside the Republican convention and the delegates inside? There are many, of course, but one will ultimately skew American politics and the culture wars in the Republicans' favor, regardless of who has God or reason on her side. It's the divide between who is having children and who isn't. ...

...If Gore's America (and presumably John Kerry's) is reproducing at a slower pace than Bush's America, what does this imply for the future? Well, as the comedian Dick Cavett remarked, "If your parents never had children, chances are you won't either." When secular-minded Americans decide to have few if any children, they unwittingly give a strong evolutionary advantage to the other side of the culture divide. Sure, some children who grow up in fundamentalist families will become secularists, and vice versa. But most people, particularly if they have children, wind up with pretty much the same religious and political orientations as their parents. If "Metros" don't start having more children, America's future is "Retro."

Monday, September 06, 2004

Bush "Cutting and Running" From Areas of Iraq?
The Bush administration makes a big tough show about refusing to "cut and run" from Iraq, yet it appears that we are ceding entire cities to the Iraqi insurgency. It started in May when we gave Fallujah over to fundamentalists, and it continues throughout the country as we lost Samarra last week....

...What amazes me most is that as we give up ground repeatedly in Iraq our casualties are growing. Our military retreats from hotly contested areas and still our soldiers are dying at higher rates, increasing by a dozen a month from June to August. After backing away from Najaf and the fight against Sadr's army, we have still lost four soldiers in early September.

Our men and women are still dying, and we are giving up ground. It's that simple. That is not a winning military strategy in action.

And Iraq is not the only place where we have lost control of entire areas of a country we conquered. The Taliban operates freely in areas of Afghanistan, and a UN report suggests they may be able to retake control of certain parts of the country....

GEORGE W Bush snorted cocaine at Camp David, a new book claims.

His wife Laura also allegedly tried cannabis in her youth.

Author Kitty Kelley says in her biography The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty, that the US President first used coke at university in the mid-1960s.

She quotes his former sister-in-law Sharon Bush who claims: "Bush did coke at Camp David when his father was President, and not just once either."

Other acquaintances allege that as a 26-year-old National Guard, Bush "liked to sneak out back for a joint or into the bathroom for a line of cocaine"....

...Kelley says that the Bush family covered up scandals because of their wealth and influence. She claims George W started drinking at school and continued at Yale university to overcome shyness.

Former student Torbery George says in the book: "Poor Georgie. He couldn't relate to women unless he was loaded."...

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Fighting Words in New York
...The Bush campaign knows what it is doing. Bush is a minority president, elected with less than half the votes, and often 50 percent still eludes him in the polls. The campaign is engaged in hand-to-hand combat for just enough votes -- a mandate of one, if need be. It is infused with such a sense of righteousness that, like the Crusaders of old, it can commit atrocity after atrocity on the way to Jerusalem. All that matters is the goal. God understands. ...

A Hidden Swing Vote: Evangelicals
...Data about the last two presidential elections drawn from the 1998, 2000 and 2002 General Social Surveys, carried out by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, found that the one-fifth of white Americans who belong to "fundamentalist" churches (like Southern Baptist, Assembly of God, Holiness, Pentecostal and Missouri Synod Lutheran) are remarkably pluralistic in their political and social attitudes. While it is true that white evangelicals tend to be more conservative socially, as well as religiously, than the average American, there is little correlation between religious conservatism and political conservatism. For example, in the social surveys, about 40 percent of Americans who believe in the literal, word-for-word interpretation of the Bible describe themselves as "politically conservative."

In the last two presidential elections, about 62 percent of white evangelicals voted Republican - or about 7.5 percent more than among other American Protestants. A majority, clearly, but nowhere near unanimity. And in terms of the electorate as a whole, it's hardly fair to say evangelicals are a dominant political force. If we measure their overall political influence as that 7.5 percent differential multiplied by their share of the electorate - they make up about 21 percent of voters- it comes to about 1.6 percentage points. Yes, as the 2000 election showed, even an edge that small can be decisive in a close race. But it hardly amounts to an overwhelming base. Moreover, those 1.6 percentage points are spread across all regions, not concentrated in the South, where the evangelicals supposedly contribute to the Republicans' red state advantage.

Clearly, claims that evangelicals have hijacked the nation's politics are greatly exaggerated. ...

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Imperial President
Opposing Bush becomes unpatriotic.

The 2004 election is becoming a referendum on your right to hold the president accountable....

...But the important thing isn't the falsity of the charges, which Republicans continue to repeat despite press reports debunking them. The important thing is that the GOP is trying to quash criticism of the president simply because it's criticism of the president. The election is becoming a referendum on democracy.

In a democracy, the commander in chief works for you. You hire him when you elect him. You watch him do the job. If he makes good decisions and serves your interests, you rehire him. If he doesn't, you fire him by voting for his opponent in the next election.

Not every country works this way. In some countries, the commander in chief builds a propaganda apparatus that equates him with the military and the nation. If you object that he's making bad decisions and disserving the national interest, you're accused of weakening the nation, undermining its security, sabotaging the commander in chief, and serving a foreign power—the very charges Miller leveled tonight against Bush's critics....

Zell Miller backs Bush, and books himself a place in hell
If there is a hell, and most likely Zell Miller believes in such a thing, then Democratic Senator Zell Miller is going to burn in it. Spin hotly on a giant griddle. For something close to eternity.

Oh yes, siree. He is going to burn in hell.

And the chances of hell existing have just skyrocketed, because if God exists then he's no kind of God unless he quickly fashions a hell for Democrat Senator Zell Miller to burn in. And even if the universe exists without a God, as many would contend, it is far from beyond the inarticulate power of this vast mass of galaxies, nebulae and planets to create - within itself - a dark and steaming corner where Mr. Zell Miller can dwell, for eternity, in unspeakable pain. We can call it hell or we can call it Georgia. Just so long as Senator Zell Miller suffers in it....

...Bush, says Miller, is a "God-fearing man" - and "God is not indifferent to America" - (as anyone who reads The American Prophecies will know).

God is not indifferent to America? A sentiment dripping with unintentional irony. Miller had better hope, he'd better pray, that God starts feeling indifferent towards America, and pretty damned soon.

See also

The story behind IRD's takeover plan
From the Lists This story compiles a wealth of reporting on the tactics of the Institute of Religion and Democracy against several denominations

The Episcopal Church, the United Methodist and other mainline Protestant churches are the targets of a continuing, orchestrated attack by determined right-wing ideologues who use CIA-style propaganda methods to sow dissention and distrust, all in pursuit of a radical political agenda.

The leader of this attack is an organization called the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), a pseudo-religious think-tank that carries out the goals of its secular funders that are opposed to the churches' historic social witness.

The IRD works in concert with other self-styled "renewal" groups like Good News and the Confessing Movement. IRD answers only to its own self-perpetuating board of directors, most of whom are embedded in the secular political right (Howell, 1995).

In the January/February 2004 issue of Zion's Herald, we published a special report on the activities of the IRD. We documented how it is primarily funded by right-wing secular foundations.

We showed the interlocking relationships between IRD, Good News and the Confessing Movement, and demonstrated how the latter amplify the nonsense eminating from IRD by publishing its distortions and falsehoods about UMC leaders and programs (Howell, 2003). IRD's underlying strategy is to delegitimize existing church leadership in the eyes of their own members, and to thereby cause schism in the church (Swomley, 1989).

These three so-called "renewal" groups repeatedly seek to justify their attacks by claiming that a decline in membership in our church and other mainline denominations is the fault of "liberals" who involved the church in social action, and that they are needed to repair the damage (IRD, 2001a; Tooley, 2003; Case, 2003).

The problem with this assertion, which is used ad nauseam by all three groups, is that it is simply not true. Social-scientific evidence shows that the decline in membership in mainline churches over the past 70 years and the growth of conservative churches is the direct consequence of conservative church members having more children. According to several leading experts in the sociology of religion, who published their findings in the American Journal of Sociology, "switching from mainline to conservative denominations ... explains none of the decline of mainline denominations" (Hout, Greely, and Wilde, 2001)....

An Open Letter to Christian Conservatives
We may not agree on how to approach the Bible, on same-sex marriage or the importance of including respect for a woman's rights when considering the difficult issue of abortion, but we have enough in common as followers of Christ that I hope you'll take this in the spirit in which it is offered.

The depth and sincerity of your views is clear. Many of you devote significant amounts of time, talent and treasure to further those causes that you firmly believe are closely connected to your faith. Your zeal has made you objects of hatred and derision among many of your fellow citizens -- even some of your Christian sisters and brothers. Many of you speak passionately about feeling rejected and persecuted because of your beliefs....

A Call to 'Win This Culture War'
At a closed, invitation-only Bush campaign rally for Christian conservatives yesterday, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas called for a broad social conservative agenda notably different from the televised presentations at the Republican convention, including adopting requirements that pregnant women considering abortions be offered anesthetics for their fetuses and loosening requirements on the separation of church and state.

"We must win this culture war," Senator Brownback urged a crowd of several hundred in a packed ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, reprising a theme of a speech by Patrick J. Buchanan from the podium of the 1992 Republican convention that many political experts say alienated moderate voters in that election.

Called "the Family, Faith and Freedom Rally" in e-mail invitations sent to Christian conservatives in New York for the convention, the event was organized by the Bush-Cheney campaign "to celebrate America and President George W. Bush," according to a copy of the invitation. The e-mail called Mr. Bush "a conservative leader who shares our values, who takes a strong stand for his faith."

Ralph Reed, a senior campaign adviser and liaison to conservative Christians, also addressed the crowd. Several campaign staff members, including the deputy political director, Christian Myers, attended, along with Timothy Goeglein, the White House liaison to Christian groups. One invited participant said the rally, which was closed to the news media, was the main event sponsored by the campaign for social conservatives attending the convention....

...Mr. Reed also addressed the crowd, recalling Mr. Bush's response to a question about his favorite philosopher during the 2000 Republican primary. "The President said, 'Jesus Christ,' " Mr. Reed recalled. And amid rousing applause, he repeated Mr. Bush's distinctively evangelical follow-up: "The president said, as only he can say, 'If I have to explain it to you, then you don't understand it.' "...

...Other Christian conservatives at the convention were already doing their part. At a hotel near the convention, the independent film production company, Grizzly Adams Productions, was screening a film dedicated to reaffirming Mr. Bush's credentials as a sincere evangelical Christian and to criticizing the separation of church and state.

A recurring theme of the film is that Mr. Bush's opponents dislike him mainly because of his forthright faith. "The notion that our leaders should have God in their life has suddenly become threatening," a narrator says.

"Will the faith of George Bush be sufficient to keep us in God's hands today?" the film concludes, "Perhaps if we all join our faith to his."