Almost heroes

Why I never joined the VFW.

I agree with Hayes’ point if not necessarily his reasoning. I think the term “hero” should be reserved for soldiers who perform acts of bravery above and beyond the call of duty. Just joining up and serving, even when it ends in death, may be noble and patriotic, but it isn’t heroic.

Those millions of World War I soldiers who assaulted enemy trenches with nothing to block enemy machine gun bullets but their chests performed acts of sacrifice and devotion that are just about incomprehensible viewed from this distance. But they weren’t heroes. They were just soldiers doing their duty. As one U.S. gunnery sergeant, himself a two-time Medal of Honor winner, famously said before leading an attack in the Belleau Wood, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”

Thanks, Chrissie

Now comes a news release from Chris Shipp, communications director of the Montana Republican Party, referring to “millionaire Senator Raymond J. Tester.” Later comes a reference to “Sen. Jon [sic] Tester (D., Mont.)”

My question: Why are we letting 3-year-olds run the country?

Lest you forget …

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release May 25, 2012
- – - – - – -
Our Nation endures and thrives because of the devotion of our men and women in uniform, who, from generation to generation, carry a burden heavier than any we may ever know. On Memorial Day, we honor those who have borne conflict’s greatest cost, mourn where the wounds of war are fresh, and pray for a just, lasting peace.
The American fabric is stitched with the stories of sons and daughters who gave their lives in service to the country they loved. They were patriots who overthrew an empire and sparked revolution. They were courageous men and women who strained to hold a young Union together. They were ordinary citizens who rolled back the creeping tide of tyranny, who stood post through a long twilight struggle, who saw terror and extremism threaten our world’s security and said, “I’ll go.” And though their stories are unique to the challenges they faced, our fallen service members are forever bound by a legacy of valor older than the Republic itself. Now they lay at rest in quiet corners of our country and the world, but they live on in the families who loved them and in the soul of a Nation that is safer for their service.
Today, we join together in prayer for the fallen. We remember all who have borne the battle, whose devotion to duty has sustained our country and kept safe our heritage as a free people in a free society. Though our hearts ache in their absence, we find comfort in knowing that their legacy lives on in all of us — in the security that lets us live in peace, the prosperity that allows us to pursue our dreams, and the love that still beats in those who knew them. May God bless the souls of the venerable warriors we have lost, and may He watch over the men and women who serve us now. Today, tomorrow, and in perpetuity, let us give thanks to them by remaining true to the values and virtues for which they fight.
In honor of all of our fallen service members, the Congress, by a joint resolution approved May 11, 1950, as amended (36 U.S.C. 116), has requested the President issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer. The Congress, by Public Law 106-579, has also designated 3:00 p.m. local time on that day as a time for all Americans to observe, in their own way, the National Moment of Remembrance.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Memorial Day, May 28, 2012, as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11:00 a.m. of that day as a time to unite in prayer. I also ask all Americans to observe the National Moment of Remembrance beginning at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day.
I request the Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff until noon on this Memorial Day on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels throughout the United States and in all areas under its jurisdiction and control. I also request the people of the United States to display the flag at half-staff from their homes for the customary forenoon period.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
twenty-fifth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.

Al Qaeda vs. Nazis

One nice thing about being sick was that I finished Lawrence Wright’s “The Looming Tower,” a history of Al Qaeda. It is a splendid book, and a remarkable achievement given the difficulty of establishing with certainty even the most rudimentary facts, such as how tall Osama bin Laden was or how many children his father had.

It’s also an interesting counterpoint to the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer I recently read. The Bonhoeffer book focuses on the religious struggle over National Socialism in Germany, not the Holocaust, yet somehow it makes Hitler appear even more evil than yet another Holocaust account could have. No matter how many books I read or movies I see about the Holocaust, it remains almost wholly outside my experience; it’s just incomprehensible. “Bonhoeffer” paints Hitler at a much smaller level. He’s easier to understand, and easier to detest. Bonhoeffer knew from the outset how evil Hitler was, long before it became obvious to the rest of the world and even to most Germans.

Al Qaeda is a different story. Only the knowledge of what the organization eventually would become makes most of its earlier actions appear to be harbingers of evil. In its earliest days, and even well into the Afghanistan war against the Soviet Union, when the embryo of Al Qaeda was mostly on our side, the group’s weaknesses, its incompetence, its struggle against genuine oppression, its aim for spiritual purity, its internal debates over the morality of jihad, all make Al Qaeda seem rather harmless, even vaguely admirable.

It’s not hard to imagine that this all could have turned out much differently, with bin Laden as a gentleman farmer and mujahedin hero, raising a stable of horses and speaking out against Saudi tyranny. One Al Qaeda operative, captured after the Cole attack, became an open source of intelligence about the group after he was given a history of America to read in Arabic. He was amazed to learn that America was founded in response to tyranny, not to perpetuate it.

But Hitler? It is impossible to imagine that he could have turned out much differently — only prompt assassination could have done the trick.

So how did it all turn out so badly with Al Qaeda? Well, you will have to read the book, and even then it isn’t entirely clear. It’s a case study in ideological extremism aggravated by real and perceived threats. But one thing is for sure: Obama was right to keep going after bin Laden. Don’t let Republican apologists for Bush tell you otherwise.

And one other thing: The most damning part of the book is the failure of the CIA and FBI to communicate even the most basic information that might have prevented 9-11. It was an enormous bipartisan failure, with deep roots, made worse during the Clinton years, largely ignored by Bush. It was so bad that when one FBI agent was able to get from the CIA only after 9-11 a report he had long sought that would have disclosed the names of two hijackers, he literally threw up. Dismal.



Talk radio update

Tough day. Tuesday is production day, so I never get much sleep, and I came down with something that kept me awake nearly all of Wednesday night. With two days of no sleep and still feeling lousy, I wasn’t ready for a dozen hours of newspaper deliveries.

I usually take a couple of breaks during the day — just pull over somewhere, close my eyes and snore for 10 or 15 minutes. This Thursday was the first time I ever took a break before I even picked up my papers. By 1 p.m., I think I had spent more time taking breaks than actually working.

That’s when I just about gave up and went to bed. But I took a couple of ibuprofen, gave it another try and by 2 p.m. or so I felt a lot better. Still, the last couple of hours was a pure endurance contest. I’m better now, thanks, but still not feeling all that great.

Limbaugh may have felt even worse. He spent nearly two solid hours (except for a brief bout of class warfare against the Hollywood elite) trying to explain away this article,  which shows that government spending under Obama has grown at a slower rate than under any president in recent history, including Hoover.

Limbaugh needed two hours to make his case because he really didn’t have one. He tried to argue that Nutting didn’t count the stimulus, but he did. He tried to argue that charging much of the spending in 2009 to Bush rather than to Obama was unfair, but it wasn’t. And his argument was complicated by his refusal to admit something that I have never heard a talk radio pundit admit: that much of the 2009 stimulus was in the form of tax cuts, not spending.

Limbaugh’s argument boiled down to this: How can something I want so much to believe possibly be wrong? Because you don’t do your homework, Rush.

At least Limbaugh tried to explain it. Hannity’s substitute clone didn’t even try. He just asked Ann Coulter about it, and together they agreed to casually dismiss the whole thing as a typical product of lamestream media. No need to bring up any facts.

I heard Glenn Beck complain in passing on Wednesday about something that the left had done to pundit S.E. Cupp. I had no idea what he was talking about, and he guaranteed that the usual liberal crowd, including Planned Parenthood would ignore it.

I eventually found out what the story was and learned that many liberals had denounced it, including Planned Parenthood.

Did that satisfy Beck? Oh, no. Planned Parenthood’s criticism of Hustler didn’t count, he argued on Thursday, because it equated what Hustler did to Cupp with what Limbaugh did to Sandra Fluke.

Does he have a point? On the face of it, I would agree that it’s worse to depict a woman engaging in an explicit sexual act than to call her a slut. Not that I would expect a woman I called a slut on a first date to be more forgiving if I explained that at least I hadn’t photoshopped a picture of her with a penis in her mouth.

But when you consider the source (a vile, obscene little toad vs., well, Limbaugh) and the intended audience (sex-addicted perverts vs. a national and heavily Republican audience) the offenses seem reasonably similar. Just different enough for Beck to continue pretending that liberals ignore attacks on conservatives.