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REQUIEM

Below are the two final essays to be posted on Allegiance and Duty Betrayed. The first one is written by a friend -- screen name 'Euro-American Scum' -- who, over the past four years, has been the most faithful essayist here. He has written about everything from his pilgrimage to Normandy in 2004 to take part in the 60th–year commemoration of the invasion, to his memories of his tour in Vietnam. His dedication to America’s founding principles ... and those who have sacrificed to preserve them over the past 200+ years ... is unequaled. Thank you, E-A-S. It has been a privilege to include your writing here, and it is a privilege to call you my friend.

The second essay is my own farewell. And with it I thank all of the many regular visitors, and those who may have only dropped in occasionally, for coming here. I hope you learned something. I hope a seed or two was planted. But, even if not, I thank you for stopping by ... 25 March, 2010

7/30/2008

Will the Real Barack Obama
Please Stand Up?

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I just saw a new television campaign advertisement authored by the Obama campaign. I have spent a few minutes composing myself before sitting down here at my keyboard. In order to think clearly enough to write in a lucid manner, I had to clear my head of the anger that occurred as a natural response to sixty seconds worth of sickening lies, uttered with a wicked air of ‘sincerity’ by the man who is seeking to be my president.

The ad, verbatim:

    I’m Barack Obama. America is a country of strong families and strong values. My life’s been blessed by both.

    I was raised by a single mom and my grandparents. We didn’t have much money, but they taught me values straight from the Kansas heartland where they grew up.

    Accountability and self-reliance. Love of country. Working hard without making excuses. Treating your neighbor as you’d like to be treated. It’s what guided me as I worked my way up — taking jobs and loans to make it through college.

    It’s what led me to pass up Wall Street jobs and go to Chicago instead, helping neighborhoods devastated when steel plants closed. That’s why I passed laws moving people from welfare to work, cut taxes for working families and extended health care for wounded troops who’d been neglected.

    I approved this message because I’ll never forget those values, and if I have the honor of taking the oath of office as President, it will be with a deep and abiding faith in the country I love.
This travesty, masquerading as honesty, makes four major assertions.

(1) It paints a biographical portrait of Senator Obama as a child of midwestern values.

(2) It claims that Obama enjoyed no privilege, but assumed jobs and loans in order to work his way through both college and law school.

(3) It paints a picture of an altruist who turned down lucrative offers from Wall Street in order to help the oppressed (of Chicago).

(4) It alleges that he passed bills that cut welfare spending and extended healthcare benefits for wounded troops.

That’s it. That’s pretty much the message of this political advertisement.

__________________________________

Let's at least attempt to take a realistic look at the emperor's new clothes.

(1) Starting with the 'midwestern/Kansas values' allegation ...

The ad’s major reference to his upbringing refers to ‘values straight from the Kansas heartland’ and the inherent ‘love of country’.

In truth, Obama’s father was a Kenyan whose family was, and still is, deeply involved in socialist and Islamist politics in Kenya. Obama’s cousin, Raila Odinga, has been, and still is, instrumental (to put it mildly) in fueling a brutal Islamist insurgency in the country.

After Obama’s socialist Kenyan father deserted his mother, his mother remarried a Muslim from Indonesia, and Barack spent the next four years of his life in Indonesia, following the Muslim faith. His half-brothers in Kenya, and his half-sister in Indonesia, all assert that Obama spent his childhood practicing Islam.

At the age of ten, Obama was enrolled in the prestigious Punahou School in Hawaii, where he was mentored by Frank Marshall Davis, an avowed black separatist and a member of the U. S. Communist party.

... an association which, following his move to Chicago, naturally led to his strong associations with the likes of Jeremiah Wright, Michael Pfleger, William Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, and other stars of the ‘radical progressive’ stage.

A ‘child of midwestern values’? Hardly.

(2) As for Obama enjoying no privilege and working his way through school ... his parents met in college and his biological father went on to get a PhD from Harvard. Most Americans dream of experiencing such 'poverty'.

As mentioned previously, after spending four years in Indonesia, his mother sent him to Hawaii to attend the exclusive Punahou school, during which he lived with his grandmother, a bank vice president, in Honolulu. Later, while in college and law school, Obama never worked, other than one summer job during his four years of college, and one summer job during law school.

Familiar with poverty, and worked his way through college and law school? Hardly.

(3) Did Obama pass up a personally lucrative Wall Street career in order to help devastated Chicago neighborhoods? Considering Obama’s friends and associates (Ayers, Rezko, Farrakhan, et al) in the Chicago area (home of the American branch of the nation of Islam), ‘altruistic’ is not the first adjective that might come to mind.

Regarding Obama's oft-mentioned role as a 'community organizer' in Chicago, Byron York wrote in a recent National Review article:

    Perhaps the simplest way to describe community organizing is to say it is the practice of identifying a specific aggrieved population, say unemployed steelworkers, or itinerant fruit-pickers, or residents of a particularly bad neighborhood, and agitating them until they become so upset about their condition that they take collective action to put pressure on local, state, or federal officials to fix the problem, often by giving the affected group money.
I suggest that the reason Barack Obama did not seek work on Wall Street is that he despises the capitalist system. And what better way to work against that ‘oppressive’ philosophy than to embrace the likes of Black Liberation Theology and Marxism, while promoting those ideologies through organizing and emboldening the entitlement class?

(4) Let’s look at the allegations that he passed bills that cut welfare spending and extended healthcare for returning wounded troops:

I have been observing political campaigns for forty-plus years and I have never heard a candidate claim that he 'passed a bill' into law. Generally a candidate will assert that he has sponsored, supported, authored or voted for a bill. Only the senate itself can 'pass' a bill. The assertion that Obama 'passed' bills serves as just another example of his ongoing, deeply-ingrained elitist arrogance.

With that technicality aside ... Did Barack Obama even sponsor, support, author or vote for these two bills that this ad alleges are a proud part of his sterling resumé?

In truth, Obama opposed the 1996 Clinton welfare reform bill ... and the resulting Illinois law for which he takes credit was merely the passage of the required state law that put the federal welfare reform bill into effect. It passed nearly unanimously, because Illinois legislators simply had no other choice but to affirm it.

As for Obama and veterans’ healthcare ... Upon assuming office in the senate, Obama claimed, ‘One of my first priorities was obtaining a seat on the Veterans Affairs Committee ... and the thing that I pledged when I was sworn in as the Senator was that if nothing else in the first couple of years in the Senate, I could make absolutely certain that there would have been a strong advocate in the United States Senate.’

Let’s see how he has faired in keeping that promise:

Obama skipped nineteen out of thirty-seven VA committee meetings in the 109th congress (that amounts to more than 50% absenteeism). His paltry attendance record placed him second-to-last among committee democrats in terms of faithfulness in taking his assignment seriously. In the 110th congress he has been neither a sponsor nor a co-sponsor of any Veterans Affairs Committee bill that has become law.

I come away from those figures with the impression that Barack Obama's definition of 'being a strong advocate' for veterans, and mine, are vastly different.

In addition, contrary to the assertions in his latest campaign ad, he had no hand in the most recent bill that extended healthcare benefits for wounded troops. As a matter of fact, he was not even present in the senate when the vote on that particular bill was taken.

Obama passed bills promoting welfare reform and healthcare for returning veterans? Hardly.

There is something terribly sinister about a major presidential candidate resorting to painting a flattering 'mom and apple pie' personal portrait of himself that bears no resemblance to reality, while simultaneously attempting to hide his allegiance to Marxist/Muslim/black separatist ideologies. And there is something terrifying about the fact that such an arrogant, deceptive and delusional man appears to be succeeding in passing off such a conveniently fictitious portrait as accurate and admirable.

The majority of the American electorate is either blind or suicidal ... and neither affliction bodes well for our republic.

~ joanie

7/20/2008

Saint Barack and the Missus

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Just a few brief comments on a couple of recent statements uttered by Saint Obama and his attractive, classy, brilliant, scholarly, accomplished, mother-of-the-year (the fair-and-balanced media can’t be wrong, can they?) wife.

Since Obama’s campaign for the presidency began, the two have uttered countless (adj. – too numerous to be counted) statements that beg for analysis by rational minds. Trouble is, few (rational minds, that is) are to be found in the mainstream media. After all, minds, besides being a terrible thing to waste, are of finite dimension and capacity. And, when they are filled to overflowing with biased, left-leaning grey matter, there is precious little room left for ‘rational’.

Ditto for the majority of the American electorate. The finite volume of the average American’s brain is just overflowing with important stuff with which our dolt ancestors didn’t have to contend (you know – the need to remember what day and time ‘Deal or No Deal’ airs, how Angelina and the twins are doing, and volumes of other similarly weighty and life-sustaining pieces of information). ‘Rational thought’ is a luxury we can no longer afford.

But I digress ...

I’d like to take a look at just a couple of comments recently offered up for our perusal by Obama and the missus. We’ll do more at a later time. On any given day, they utter dozens of statements that require careful scrutiny, lest we few remaining ‘rational thought dinosaurs’ be driven mad by swallowing them at face value.

The truth is, in order to get things like universal health care and a revamped education system, then someone is going to have to give up a piece of their pie so that someone else can have more ... Michelle the Merciful

[convenient Marxist translation: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.]

First of all, Michelle ... call me picky, if you like, but you need to remember that, despite its inferiority to Spanish, in English grammar, person is important. ‘Someone’ is not a ‘they’. ‘Someone’ is a ‘he’ or a ‘she’. The grammatically (if not rationally) correct statement should be: ... then someone is going to have to give up a piece of his/her pie ...

More importantly, Michelle, do you not think that the working people of America, most of whom are handing over to the government, in one form or another, more than thirty percent of the fruits of their labor, are sharing their pie sufficiently already?

As for your inference that Americans are going to have to be more willing to give to others (at the figurative point of a gun, it would appear), are you aware that Americans are the most charitable people on the face of the earth? That, when allowed to use their time and money as they see fit, they give more of both to the less fortunate than have any other people in the history of mankind? (By the way, Michelle, how does that particular observation mesh with your recent comment, made during a South Carolina stump speech, that America is 'just downright mean'?)

Are you also aware, Michelle, that nowhere in the U.S. Constitution is the federal government granted the power to dictate educational standards or curricula, or the power to provide universal healthcare to everyone (either citizens and/or illegal residents)? As a matter of fact, the decisions regarding both are left to the states, or the people themselves.

I, for one, am becoming increasingly aware that you, and your husband, are arrogant, racist, elitist, anti-American, Marxist would-be tyrants. And the thought that he may soon be serving as President, and you as First Lady, is among the most horrifying thoughts that have ever entered my mind.

Michelle, before moving on to your husband's comment, I'll refer to yet another of yours, without editorial comment from me. I believe this one reeks so harshly of arrogant, narcissistic elistism that any reader here would be highly insulted if I even attempted to parse it:

Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism ... that you come out of your isolation ... Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.

Dear readers, have you managed to keep your breakfast/lunch/dinner down, or should I have preceded that particular piece of condescending conceit with an 'impending nausea' warning?

We need somebody who's got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom ... the empathy to understand what it's like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that's the criteria by which I'm going to be selecting my judges ... Saint Obama (in describing his Supreme Court litmus test)

More Grammar 101: Senator, 'criteria' is a plural noun. 'That's the criteria' should correctly read 'Those are the criteria', or 'That's the criterion.' (End of grammar lesson ... I, and many Americans, would forgive you saying, 'I ain't got no criteria,' provided your intentions were honorable. But such isn't the case.)

Senator Obama, I'll see your empathy for the young teenage mom (and all of your other 'victims' mentioned above), and raise you my empathy for the unborn child. A legal scholar who believes in the sanctity of life -- say, a Clarence Thomas or an Antonin Scalia -- what color would your litmus paper turn in his presence?

The problem with relying on emotions (either genuine, or politically-motivated – the latter being the one with which you are most intimately acquainted) to decide cases that come before the Court is that there are invariably passionate emotional arguments on both sides. That is why an unwavering duty to uphold the original intent of the Constitution must be the foremost criterion in selecting judges to sit on the highest court in the land. Emotions must play no part in that noble calling.

Are you really an attorney, or is that assertion just a convenient creation of one of your P.R. people? If you are indeed a member of the bar, did you miss the class in law school in which the professor dispensed the time-honored lesson that justice is blind? The law, and the interpretation of law, has nothing to do with empathy. It has to do with impartiality in upholding the U.S. Consitution -- not any single man’s personal perception of what is ‘fair’ or ‘right’.

Barack Obama regularly displays a blatant contempt for the most magnificent blueprint for governance ever conceived by the mind of man. The quote above is simply one of countless comments that exhibit that contempt. If he places his hand on a Bible on January 20, 2009 and affirms:

I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States ...

... he will be lying.

In addition, America’s slide into socialism, and Islamic terrorists’ ability to accurately position her in their crosshairs, will be strengthened to a measure beyond anything any of us can now envision.

The arrogance and elitist attitude of Senator Obama also became glaringly apparent over the past few weeks as he announced his strategy for Afghanistan and Iraq before departing on the ‘fact-finding mission’ (read: campaign swing) that will include visits to both Iraq and Afghanistan – in effect, saying that nothing that occurs during that trip will alter his view, or change his strategy to wind down the war in Iraq.

Here we have a man whose ‘qualifications’ for the presidency seem to amount to a brief and unremarkable stint in the senate (without a single meaningful legislative achievement to show for it) and a history as a ‘community organizer’. On the other hand, more than a hundred thousand duty-bound Americans have served, and are serving, in Iraq and Afghanistan, witnessing both a past and a continuing brutality that you or I cannot even imagine, leaving their friends and family in order to travel to a violent war zone, placing their lives on the line each and every day – and many even re-enlisting two or three times. Yet this ‘community organizer’ has in effect declared that nothing he witnesses in either war zone, and no words, admonition or advice he hears from those Americans who are serving there, will affect his preordained view of that war ... or their amazing accomplishments in prosecuting it.

It would be difficult to conceive of a more insidious kind of arrogance, either historical or present-day. Yet, six months from now, this man may well be the Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces, and leader of the free world.

... which all lends tragic new meaning to the phrase 'the inmates are running the asylum'.

~ joanie

7/16/2008

The Brotherhood of the Warrior

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And so another 4th of July has come and gone. My, how time flies when you’re in the fourth quarter of life. It was just two short years ago, after concluding that the local high school fireworks display was probably not the venue for me, that I got a timely, if not fortuitous phone call from a good friend and local businessman inviting me to spend the evening with his family at the nearby airport where their plane was hangared.

It was an opportune happenstance if I do say so myself. After concluding that sitting in the grandstand of the football stadium, listening to blaring mariachi music and watching the local muchachos running up and down the field waving the Mexican flag and shouting “Viva la Raza!” was not the best way to enjoy arguably the most patriotic holiday of the year, I was still quite prepared to tough it out, so to speak, all in the interests of tolerance for the diversity the oppressed peoples of color of the third world bring to our country. I mean, it’s the melting pot, after all. And if I’m not prepared to get melted, I guess I probably am the hate-filled, homophobic bigot all my liberal acquaintances tell me I am.

But I have to admit the straw that broke the camel’s back was being turned away from the hastily set up Mexican food stand due to my ethnicity – or more accurately the lack thereof. I guess the new slogan around these parts, along with “Viva la Raza!” is “Mexican food for the Mexicans”. And it makes a perverse sort of sense in this increasingly Balkanized land in which we live. I’m all for tolerance, but I must admit, this new policy of no Mexican food for us cholos is a world in which I do not want to live.

But, thanks to the gracious hospitality of my good friend, I had an out on that particular evening, and I took it. I trundled up the hill, parked next to the appropriate hangar, and since we were on the high ground, overlooking the entire San Bernardino Valley, we were treated to not one, but three (count ‘em) fireworks shows going off simultaneously all over the valley. And all for free. And I won’t even mention the burgers, brats, dogs, and char-broiled chicken that came off the grill that night. Not a burrito in sight. (Too bad, though. I like burritos.)

The evening was noteworthy for other reasons as well. Chief among them was the return of the prodigal son, so to speak. My host’s oldest son was on leave from Fort Lewis, Washington, where he was stationed following his completion of Ranger training. He was home on an extended leave awaiting deployment to Iraq. In the archives, there’s a commentary about that night – mostly about how a directionless boy became a man, and how, despite his status as an American soldier, there were places he was not welcome, and establishments that did not want his business. Who knows, it may still be out there somewhere.

This piece is a follow up to that one.

A week ago last Saturday, I had breakfast with his father, my friend, the successful businessman. And what a difference a couple of years make.

Whence last I wrote of him, Dad was riding the crest of a wave. His business – an oil and gas hydraulics consulting firm – was hitting on all eight cylinders. Well, at least most of the time. Business was good, things were thriving, and life was great. He had the outlook and the demeanor of a man who had worked hard, paid his dues, invested his time and energy and was reaping the fruits of his labor.

Nowadays, he’s a good deal more introspective, considerably more reflective, and bears the wear and tear of someone who’s been out there, riding the tiger for thirty plus years. He is getting worn down and worn out. We both are. It comes with the territory when you’re rounding the far turn in the great horse race of life and heading for the finish line.

Let’s face it, deals that were done easily a couple of years ago come a lot harder now. Things have slowed down, and there’s a pervasive uncertainty that engenders an added burden for everybody who has to somehow hustle up a living at a time when the challenges are clear-cut, but the solutions are obscure. We’re both two years further along on the weary round of life, as Ecclesiastes puts it. We’re both closer to the end than to the beginning. And we both have an increased appreciation of the inherent fatigue that comes with hitting the deck every morning, ready to take on the world, and the sure and certain knowledge that this weariness will only get heavier with the passing of the years. But there’s an added burden he carries that I don’t: I’m not the father of a son in the 11th month of a 15-month tour in Iraq.

Things really have changed in two years for the young soldier in question, as well. Leading up to the 4th of July 2006, we all marveled at how the slack-shouldered, long-haired directionless teenager who didn’t say much growing up, almost overnight developed into a ramrod straight, respectful adult, who walked with a purpose. We knew him, and yet we didn’t. In many ways, it was disconcerting, because in his newfound competence (and confidence) we sensed the changing of the guard. And we didn’t quite know what to make of it. The aimless teen became a purposeful adult. But unlike the many benchmarks in the life of a child – which normally necessitate different varieties of hands-on guidance – this turning of the page was a harbinger of a new challenge for parents whose children finally reach the age of maturity. They demonstrate it by their conduct. And it demands an obligatory restraint from parents if this newly-developed sense of responsibility in their grown-up children is to thrive.

For many of us who’ve been through it, this requisite letting-go is the undiscovered country of child-rearing. Hands-on guidance for so many years suddenly morphs into hands-off self-discipline. And it happens in the wink of an eye. Suddenly, our kids shoulder their own burdens, and we come face to face with the indisputable fact that we’re getting old, and they don’t need us in the same way anymore.

Yes, the boy definitely became a man during his time in the Army. Since that time, he’s crossed yet another Rubicon, from which there is no turning back.

He’s been initiated into the brotherhood of the warrior.

I confess I never really bought into the concept, even following my own initiation into such an esteemed group. Somehow, I didn’t resonate with the exclusivity of the contract. It was too unique, too distinctive, and above all, too isolating. The brotherhood of the warrior, by necessity is exclusive, selective and discriminating. It requires its members to stare into the face of the Gorgon as part of their initiation. And the price of admission is blood – their own or the blood of their comrades-in-arms. Sometimes both. It’s a select fraternity, made all the more so because the bar is set high, the standards for entry are exacting, and the attrition is overwhelming.

Captain Ron Drez, USMC (Ret.) spoke eloquently of this very phenomenon on our first night in England back in June 2004 on the eve of that memorable pilgrimage to Normandy that followed close at hand. He spoke of how there will be a special place of honor in heaven for the warrior; about how Washington’s continental army, Wellington’s dragoons, the veterans of the Civil War, the marines of Pacific islands, and many others who stared into the abyss, will know each other with a nod of the head and a shrug of the shoulder.

He gave this address in the ballroom of a hotel in South Kensington, London, in a room filled with a group of aging veterans who earned their credentials on the beaches of Normandy – something all of us were soon to get a heightened appreciation for just a few short days later. Staring into the stoic faces of these elderly fighters, it finally came to me after years of denying the premise – they were a breed apart, and their combat experience did separate them from their country as a whole. And so it did to all of us who dove into a foxhole, dodged incoming mortar rounds, and beat off a counterattack. We were separate, distinct, apart from our countrymen. And that separation was total, complete and absolute. Some integrated back to civilian society better than others, but there remained a part of each and every one of us that would always hold our fellow citizens at a distance. Once so experienced, there is no going back.

Eugene B. Sledge, (USMC 1942-45, 5th Marines) wrote of his experience in the Pacific during WWII in his recently re-released book, With The Old Breed. Sledge served in two of the costliest campaigns in the history of armed combat – Peleliu and Okinawa – and survived without so much as a scratch. He wrote of walking down the streets of his hometown of Mobile, Alabama, a stranger among strangers. He could not relate to the world of civilians, nor appreciate their mindset. Sledge never really made it home. His memoir speaks powerfully of the isolating effects of walking through the dehumanizing cauldron of combat and the personal toll which, once lost, is gone forever.

William Manchester (USMC 1942-45, 29th Marines) was so tormented by his experience on Okinawa that thirty-five years later, driven half-mad by war nightmares, he was compelled to return to the Pacific to exorcise his own private demons. His powerful personal memoir, Goodbye Darkness, serves as a testament to all who shouldered the burdens of war, paid the due bill in both real and psychological terms, and carried the scars home with them.

The brotherhood of the warrior requires of its members a certain level of death. There are, of course, those who fall on the field of battle. And while tragic, their earthly suffering is at an end. What awaits them is the special place of honor spoken of by Captain Drez, where their service will be respected, and they themselves will be lifted up.

Then there are those who suffer the losses, survive the terrors, match brutality for brutality, and then come home. Except part of them never does. Part of them dies on the battlefield. We saw it that night in London in the eyes of the Normandy veterans as our journey was about to commence. We had a far greater appreciation of the cost in real and spiritual terms after walking in their footsteps over the following three weeks. In truth, this sense of separation which held the warrior apart from those he was charged to defend was always there. We just never took the time, nor possessed the insight to notice.

The warrior has suffered more than the horrors of war, in all its brutality. He’s witnessed its devastation, lost compatriots dearer to him than even his closest family members, and knows first hand that man is essentially a barbarian – both the enemy and himself. He knows the whole rigmarole of war ends in squalor, degradation and the cruelest form of death imaginable. And he is forever changed by it. The price he pays is the wall that separates him from the country he defends, and the friends and loved ones he holds dear. And for this spiritual amputation, there is no prosthetic. It is a cross he bears every day of his civilian life, going forward.

The alienation is not, however, without its intrinsic worth. The veterans of Washington’s Continental Army knew they had forged a nation, for good or ill. When the fighting men of Pickett’s Brigade and Hancock’s artillery met at the stone wall at Gettysburg in 1913, they knew they had a country. They had seen it, fought for it, forged it in the fury of fighting and the sea of blood it produced. North or south, it was all the same. Their WWII grandsons – in their sunset years – knew in their hearts that their sacrifice on beaches around the world liberated a continent and destroyed despotic regimes of immeasurable evil. In all such cases, their lives were measured by activities whose core value was defending a country and building a way of life.

Nowadays, the brotherhood of the warrior has been reduced to handful of true believers, regardless of their background. Nowadays, we spend our efforts, not defending a way of life, but sucking it dry. We don’t sacrifice our selfish desires, we indulge them. We don’t free the oppressed, we use them up and throw them away like yesterday’s leftover garbage.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “As a nation of free men, we will live forever, or die by suicide.” If our national self-immolation continues unchecked, that suicide watch will indeed be a short one. Because those among us willing to pay that ultimate price so a nation might thrive, are getting fewer with each passing year.

And the latest initiates into the brotherhood of the warrior carry the scars that mark a nation ailing in its identity, and a citizenry noted for its apathy. Like the soldiers of the Confederacy, and their latter-day cousins, the veterans of Vietnam, the current generation of fighting men sense they are enlisted in a lost cause. Particularly those who’ve been in the cauldron and made it home. They are world-weary in a way that transcends the wear and tear of life and death struggles. They yearn, not for victory – considering how hollow such a triumph can be for a nation that’s lost its own soul – but for home and hearth, friends and family. They move slowly, talk infrequently and rejoice in the simple pleasures of life. At least the ones I’ve encountered.

Back on the farm, life goes on. We continue to worship our secular gods – Barack Obama as the new humanistic savior of the planet and harbinger of change for its own sake; John McCain as God’s new holy prophet of the truth. We hate our leaders based on the letter after their name, and we treat our neighbors as the strangers they are. We use our employees until they are used up, then we throw them away, and we scramble for the last dollar until the last dollar evaporates. We believe in nothing but the pursuit of our own comfort. And we have no use for the brotherhood of the warrior.

Guess what? Somehow, they know it.

I didn’t attend the 4th of July celebration at my friend’s airport hangar. Alas, I was delivering buses for a local service that specializes in such things. And, these days, work is where you find it. But my final destination on the 4th was the San Diego Naval base, where I was part of a convoy delivering shuttle buses for use on-base. The timing could not have been more appropriate. Just as the sun was going down, and before our own shuttle arrived to take us home for the night, we paused to enjoy the fireworks display lighting up various corners of San Diego Bay. No such celebrations on the base, however. At least not that we could tell. The Navy is at war, you see. Nice to know somebody is standing a watch.

And so, the countdown is in full swing. Our young soldier in Iraq is a short timer. And, whether he’s conscious of it or not, he’s starting to watch his own back. The tone of his emails has changed, according to his father. He’s wary, cautious, and unwilling to take on added responsibility unless so ordered. He’s ambivalent about promotion, something he’s been offered more than once. He’s a hot commodity – a combat veteran who’s still in one piece. And a card-carrying member in good standing of the brotherhood of the warrior.

How little things have changed in the purgatory of the war zone. What is past is prologue.

The tantalizing question remains: Will he (and his fellow warriors) be able to change the world as they shift into the fullness of their adult years? One would think so, hope so. It worked for the WWII generation. Why not this one? For one thing, there are not enough of them. Defenders of the country are the exception, not the rule. For another, they are not welcomed back with anything more than lip service. While their WWII grandfathers returned to the adoring citizenry of a grateful nation, whose opportunities welcomed them with arms wide open, today’s veterans are honored only as long as they wear the uniform and carry the weapons. Going back to civilian life, they’re considered worthless ingrates with their hands out whose jobs can be done better, faster, not to mention cheaper by illegals.

So we await the November winds, and the return of the prodigal warrior. With regime change likely in Washington this year, it is doubtful our young soldier will see another tour in the Middle East. At least for the time being. What awaits him upon his return is anyone’s guess. Undoubtedly, he will have to deal with the inevitable disconnect his compatriots in the brotherhood of the warrior have to endure. But that comes with the territory. As for his future, it will probably be a good deal less fruitful than those returning defenders who’ve gone before him. America is not America, after all. It’s just another member in the global village, another market in the global economy, and we’re all just citizens of the world.

So all of us who are on the countdown, so to speak, will settle for the homecoming that looms in the not too distant future. All of us will settle for a genuine Thanksgiving, where the one thing to be thankful for is perhaps the greatest thing to rejoice in:

A loved one coming home . . . safe, secure and whole. Sometimes, small victories are enough. Sometimes they are all we have left.

by Euro-American Scum
(contributing Team Member of Allegiance and Duty Betrayed)

Euro-American Scum can be reached at eascum@yahoo.com

On Nature and Wildlife in a Small
Corner of Lancaster County, PA

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As always, for those of you who stop by here to read political commentary, you may want to skip this particular entry -- a brief personal diversion from discussing the sorry state of the nation/world. I would like to share a little nature/homestead update with those of you who are familiar with our new home and surroundings. More political commentary will follow in a week or so. :) ...

Rick and I have been living in our new home for about two and a half years now. Outside, we have been working, as time permits, on ‘building’ a lawn and several gardens, during the spring and summer months. One of the objectives in doing so has been to keep the area as ‘natural’ as possible. As a result, when we constructed our ‘water diversion project’ last year (a wall of sorts which we constructed in order to prevent water that runs down the side of our 200’-long driveway from flowing into our front yard), the stones that we used to do so are stones that we brought out from the woods, generally on a hand truck or our large wheel barrow.

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We also brought out buckets of much smaller stones to serve as a water ‘channel’ at the beginning of the diversion.

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We put in place, alongside the driveway, a life-size bronze horse sculpture entitled ‘The Yearling’, which was cast at an American foundry from a mold of the original sculpture, created during the Civil War era by P. J. Mené. We also enclosed that in a low semi-circular stone wall.

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This spring, we also began constructing a stone border between the garden areas and the woods – a Maginot Line of sorts, between forest and civilization. :) It is only one stone wide in most parts now, but will grow to be much wider as we discover more large stones, and muster the incentive to move them. :)

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We are also in the process of planting evergreens on the side of the house, and constructing a semi-elliptical pathway (again made of stones – all flat-topped ones for this project -- hauled in from the woods) from our side door to the back yard. The trees we just planted on the perimeter of the pathway are young and immature (as are all of the plants in the gardens), but will grow to 10’-12’ over the next few years, and what appears to be patchy planting should fill in nicely.
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We have discovered, in doing all of this, that there is little more satisfying than working in the soil, and respecting nature. Watching projects take shape, and plants begin to grow and thrive, brings a unique and ‘natural’ kind of peace of mind that cannot be obtained any other way.

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On a related note ... the wildlife we see year 'round in this part of the country is astounding -- from (many) deer, to wild turkeys, red and grey fox, coyotes, groundhogs, rabbits, opossums, squirrels, toads, turtles, chipmunks, and dozens of varieties of birds.

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We erected a bluebird house in the backyard last autumn, and a male and female set up housekeeping there this spring. Neither of us had ever seen a bluebird before, and we became ecstatic upon first realizing that there was activity in the house. The pair has since hatched several young, who have left the nest. We are hoping that some or all of them return to nest again.

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(This is the male bluebird atop the house during the nest building. Apologies for the grainy quality of the photo – it was taken through a screened window.)

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We have a hummingbird feeder situated just beyond the front porch, and a pair of ruby-throated hummingbirds visits the feeder dozens of times a day. I fill it with a cup of nectar (four parts water to one part sugar) once a week, and they drink it dry. They’re courageoous little critters, too. When they initially found the feeder, we were sitting on the porch bench, they flew in front of us, hovered not a foot from our faces, checking us out, and then, once they had decided we meant them no harm, they began to feed regularly. Yet, when someone unfamiliar sits on the porch, they will invariably check that new person out, via the aforementioned ‘hover procedure’, before feeding in his presence. :) Uncanny.

One of the miniature peach trees that we have in a front garden had maybe two dozen peaches on it a week ago. The following day, the number was cut in half, yet there were no peaches lying on the ground under the tree. That afternoon, I was able to snap a pic of the peach-thief, caught red-handed. :)

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This is what we saw tonight as we opened the front door to take Bert for her evening walk. The three of us walked by, and the toad remained in place on the edge of the step. Brave amphibian he.

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Two weeks ago, a box turtle dug a big hole in the shade under one of our larger garden plants and laid eggs, covering the nest with soil. The eggs should take several months to hatch, so I cannot stake up my plant for fear of piercing one of the underground eggs with a stake.

Just last week, a sparrow hatched five babies in a nest in the branches of a small evergreen near our front porch, so I cannot weed anywhere near that tree, for fear of frightening her as she flits from the woods to the nest feeding them.

Who says you need a mortgage crisis to have someone else take over your house and property? :)

And then there are the family dogs ... :)

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Thanks for allowing me to share a small piece of 'our corner of the country' with you all. Back to political commentary shortly ...

~ joanie

7/08/2008

Beyond the Gates

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This past weekend, Rick and I watched what was perhaps the most moving, fact-based movie we have ever seen. The honesty and emotional depth contained in this riveting film should rank it among the classics in film making.

Recommended to us by fellow blogger, Luis, Beyond the Gates is a must see for anyone who truly comprehends the value of human life and liberty, and who genuinely wants to contain, if not eradicate, the kind of evil that is represented by those in this world who gain pleasure by causing indescribable torment for their fellow man.

Released in Europe in 2005 under the title Shooting Dogs (reflecting the fact that UN peacekeepers used to shoot local dogs that fed on the decomposing bodies of genocide victims), Beyond the Gates is the story, told in microcosm, of one of the most despicable human-on-human atrocities of our lifetime: the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Referring to the power of man's free will, the film opens in silence with the following script:

Every man is given the key to the gates of heaven.
The same key opens the gates of hell.

.....Buddhist proverb

One of the two main characters, Joe Connor, is a young, idealistic Englishman, bent on ‘making a difference’, who has accepted a year-long post as a teacher at Ecole Technique Officielle, a high school in Kigali, Rwanda.

The other main character is Father Christopher, a Catholic priest who has lived in Africa for three decades – a caring, compassionate man who provides affirmation, love and spiritual guidance for the students at the school, and their families.

Father Christopher insists on maintaining the spiritual essence at the school, even as the situation outside its walls turns increasingly brutal. As persecuted refugees enter the school compound, seeking the protection offered by the United Nations peacekeepers stationed there, Father Christopher remains calm and affirming, and insists on serving mass at the usual times, as though nothing outside of the school or church walls has changed. The Father has lived through coups before, but he soon realizes that the brutality occurring outside his walls goes far beyond anything he has ever witnessed.

John Hurt’s performance as Father Christopher is every bit as commanding as that of any ‘best actor’ academy award winner in history.

Nearly 2,500 persecuted refugees eventually take up residence within the school compound walls. All the while, bloodthirsty, machete- and medieval-skull-mace-wielding killers are congregating, in ever larger numbers, beyond the gates, taunting those inside, and brutally massacring others who are unfortunate enough to pass by.

Upon witnessing a new mother, and her newborn child, falling victim to a horde of machete-wielding murderers outside the gate, Connor, trembling, looks to Father Christopher for some kind of spiritual comfort or reassurance:

    How much pain can a human being take, do you think? I mean, if you feel enough pain does everything just shut down before you die? ‘Cause you’d think that, wouldn’t you? You’d think there’d be some … um … something in the design, you know … some shut-off valve, if you feel enough pain?
Connor and Father Christopher can do little more than watch, and pray. And, in that sense, one of the most remarkable things about Beyond the Gates is its beautifully positive view of the role that faith can play, even in the most desperate of times.

Also within the school compound is the small contingent of Belgian U.N. peacekeepers, who encircle the compound with sandbags, and station themselves as sentries – weapons pointed at the growing crowd of armed, bloodthirsty lunatics surrounding them.

As the brutality outside the gates and across the entire nation escalates, the U.N. forces throughout the country, rather than coming to the aid of the brutalized, simply sit back and obey their mandate not to ‘interfere’, but simply to ‘monitor’ the fragile ‘peace’.

Finally, massive U.N. trucks enter the compound with orders to evacuate … only those blessed to have white skin.

The refugees find themselves abandoned by the world … surrounded by madness.

As the U.N. forces, and the school’s staff, prepare to board the trucks for evacuation, one of the refugee Tutsi fathers approaches the U.N.’s Belgian Captain:

    Captain, I have a polite request. It is from all of us. The people of Kicukiro and the refugees of the school.

    [Reading from a paper]: We are all fathers, mothers, sons, daughters. We are all one family now. And it is as one family that we wish to die.

    Therefore, we politely request that, before you leave us, your soldiers use their guns to kill us. We do not wish to be killed by machete. The bullets will kill us all quickly and there will be much less pain.

    Captain: I’m sorry. I cannot agree to your request.

    Tutsi Father: Please. If not for us, then please spare the children the pain.

    Captain: I am sorry.

    Tutsi Father: Please, just the children!

    Captain: I cannot help you.
I was brought to tears (actually sobs) on several occasions, and was left with an indescribable feeling of loss and anger that the world, in effect, turned a blind eye to this gruesome human-on-human atrocity.

Father Christopher did not evacuate with the other whites, but stayed behind with the refugees. When asked why, he replied:

    You asked me, Joe, ‘Where is God in everything that is happening here … in all this suffering?’

    I know exactly where He is. He’s right here … with these people … suffering.

    His love is here, more intense and profound than I have ever felt. And my heart is here, Joe … my soul. If I leave, I think I may not find it again.
One of the glaring depictions that came through so strongly for me was the impotence of the United Nations to deal with anything truly meaningful for humanity. They are forever handing down elitist tyrannical edicts, and yet, when it comes to taking a stand by stepping in and preventing an historically monumental human tragedy –- an action that should be considered the over-riding purpose of the organization -- they are nowhere to be found. Or, as in the case of the events depicted in this movie, they provide easy lip service, and then withdraw when the going gets tough, allowing the slaughter of thousands of innocents they should have considered their calling to protect at all costs.

On April 11, 1994 more than 2,500 Rwandans, abandoned by the U.N. at Ecole Technique Officielle, were murdered by extremist militias.

Between April and July of that year, more than 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the nationwide genocide.

Fade to a Clinton staff member responding to reporters’ questions:

    Reporter: Is it true that you have specific guidance not to use the word ‘genocide’ in isolation, but always to preface it with the words ‘acts of’?

    Staff Member: Um … I have guidance which … uh, which … which I try to use as best as I can. I’m not … I have, uh … there are formulations that we are using that we are trying to be consistent in our use of. Um, I don’t have a … an absolute, categorical prescription against something. But I have the … the definitions. I have phraseology which has been carefully examined and arrived at … as best to … as best as we can apply to exactly the situation.

    Reporter: How many ‘acts of genocide’ does it take to make a genocide?

    Staff Member: Uh, Adam, that’s just not a question that I’m in a position to answer. Clearly, not all of the killings that have taken place in … uh … Rwanda … uh … are killings to which you might apply that label.
It is up to the rest of us to see to it that such politicians, and their staffs, never again hold our foreign policy decisions in their hands.

It is up to the rest of us to see to it that the black evil that has occurred in places such as 1994 Rwanda is confined, if not eradicated. Refusing to do so, or turning a blind eye to the suffering of others, renders us every bit as guilty as those who wield the machetes.

I urge every reader here ... every American … to see this movie.

Don’t argue that you cannot abide witnessing the violence. Such shallow arguments mirror the media who refuse to show us that of which the terrorists are capable. They want us to sit in our easy chairs, lulled into complacency, considering ourselves somehow walled-off from those who see it as their destiny to torment and enslave.

And, when you see this movie, think long and hard about the gruesome fate that befell those 2,500 refugees inside those compound walls after the United Nations abandoned them. Then reflect on Iraq, where coalition forces are accomplishing minor miracles every day, and yet the United States congress, and the front-runner for the United States presidency, intend to withdraw American troops and prevent complete victory. Sadly, the prevention of a hard-won victory, and the declaration that those who sacrificed to obtain it will have died in vain, may well prove to be the second most powerful tragedy occurring after withdrawal. The bloodbath that will follow will have the potential to make the killing fields of Cambodia pale in comparison.

Beyond the Gates

(Do not click on 'enter site'. Simply wait for trailer on the right of the screen to play.)

~ joanie

7/06/2008

Questions for Obama

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Below is a list of questions, formulated by George Will in his recent Newsweek essay, Questions for Obama, that the media should be asking the democrat nominee for president. Yet of course they aren’t … and won’t.

(Thanks to ‘Barry Up the Road’, a neighbor, fellow patriot, and occasional poster here, for the steer to this excellent compilation.)
  • Senator, concerning the criteria by which you will nominate judges, you said: "We need somebody who's got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it's like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old." Such sensitivities might serve an admirable legislator, but what have they to do with judging? Should a judge side with whichever party in a controversy stirs his or her empathy? Is such personalization of the judicial function inimical to the rule of law?
  • Voting against the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts, you said: Deciding "truly difficult cases" should involve "one's deepest values, one's core concerns, one's broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one's empathy." Is that not essentially how Chief Justice Roger Taney decided the Dred Scott case? Should other factors—say, the language of the constitutional or statutory provision at issue—matter?
  • You say, "The insurance companies, the drug companies, they're not going to give up their profits easily when it comes to health care." Why should they? Who will profit from making those industries unprofitable? When pharmaceutical companies have given up their profits, who will fund pharmaceutical innovations, without which there will be much preventable suffering and death? What other industries should "give up their profits"?
  • ExxonMobil's 2007 profit of $40.6 billion annoys you. Do you know that its profit, relative to its revenue, was smaller than Microsoft's and many other corporations'? And that reducing ExxonMobil's profits will injure people who participate in mu-tual funds, index funds and pension funds that own 52 percent of the company?
  • You say John McCain is content to "watch [Americans'] home prices decline." So, government should prop up housing prices generally? How? Why? Were prices ideal before the bubble popped? How does a senator know ideal prices? Have you explained to young couples straining to buy their first house that declining prices are a misfortune?
  • Telling young people "don't go into corporate America," your wife, Michelle, urged them to become social workers or others in "the helping industry," not "the moneymaking industry." Given that the moneymakers pay for 100 percent of American jobs, in both public and private sectors, is it not helpful?
  • Michelle, who was born in 1964, says that most Americans' lives have "gotten progressively worse since I was a little girl." Since 1960, real per capita income has increased 143 percent, life expectancy has increased by seven years, infant mortality has declined 74 percent, deaths from heart disease have been halved, childhood leukemia has stopped being a death sentence, depression has become a treatable disease, air and water pollution have been drastically reduced, the number of women earning a bachelor's degree has more than doubled, the rate of homeownership has increased 10.2 percent, the size of the average American home has doubled, the percentage of homes with air conditioning has risen from 12 to 77, the portion of Americans who own shares of stock has quintupled … Has your wife perhaps missed some pertinent developments in this country that she calls "just downright mean"?
  • You favor raising the capital gains tax rate to "20 percent or 25 percent." You say this will not "distort" economic decision making. Your tax returns on your 2007 income of $4.2 million show that you and Michelle own few stocks. Are you sure you understand how investors make decisions?
  • During the ABC debate, you acknowledged that when the capital gains rate was dropped first to 20 percent, then to 15 percent, government revenues from the tax increased and they declined in the 1980s when it was increased to 28 percent. Nevertheless, you said you would consider raising the rate "for purposes of fairness." How does decreasing the government's financial resources and punishing investors promote fairness? Are you aware that 20 percent of taxpayers reporting capital gains in 2006 had incomes of less than $50,000?
  • This November, electorates in four states will vote on essentially this language: "The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting." Three states—California, Washington and Michigan—have enacted such language. You made a radio ad opposing the Michigan initiative. Why? Are those states' voters racists?
  • You denounce President Bush for arrogance toward other nations. Yet you vow to use a metaphorical "hammer" to force revisions of trade agreements unless certain weaker nations adjust their labor, environmental and other domestic policies to suit you. Can you define cognitive dissonance?
  • You want "to reduce money in politics." In February and March you raised $95 million. See prior question.
Questions for Obama

7/04/2008

Celebrating Independence Day in Baghdad

July 4, 2008

In what is being described as the largest re-enlistment ceremony in the history of the American military, 1,215 servicemen and women signed up for a combined 5,500 years of additional service earlier today in Baghdad:

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General David Petraeus oversaw the ceremony:

Petraeus, reiterating earlier remarks made by Command Sergeant Major Hill, said that the unprecedented ceremony sends a “message to friend and foe alike.” He told those assembled that it is “impossible to calculate the value of what you are giving to our country . . . For no bonus, no matter the size, can adequately compensate you for the contribution each of you makes as a custodian of our nation’s defenses.”

Fittingly, the re-enlistment took place in one of Saddam's former palaces.

submitted by John Cooper
(contributing team member of Allegiance and Duty Betrayed)