Asking the Wrong People the Wrong Question

House Minority Leader (and semi-professional whiner) John Boehner (R-OH) supposedly shed tears Thursday evening during the “debate” (cough cough) on the war funding resolution. The actuality I heard on NPR was pretty disgusting (it is not the first time Boehner has used outrage to tears for alleged dramatic effect), and here’s Boehner at his angriest and saddest, apparently addressing the House Democratic leadership for their supposed “softness,” as quoted by John Nichols in The Nation:

“After 3,000 of our fellow citizens died at the hands of these terrorists, when are we going to stand up and take them on? When are we going to defeat ’em?” demanded Boehner. “Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you, if we don’t do it now, and if we don’t have the courage to defeat this enemy, we will long, long regret it. So thank you for the commitment to get the job done today.”

Where has Boehner been since late 2001, when American forces took military action in Afghanistan, or since March of 2003, when the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq began? He has a question on when people are going to “stand up” to the terrorists, he needs to ask the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. You know, the people the Republicans have for six years now been claiming have inherent chief executive rights to wage war n’ stuff?

He has any complaints in that regard, that’s where he should direct them.

On America

Academic and former member of Clinton’s National Security Council Richard Feinberg writes in today’s (Thursday, 24 May 2007) Washington Post that American embassies and consulates have grown to resemble “medieval fortresses — remote, foreboding, impenetrable,” trapping diplomats inside them in bubbles that isolate them from the countries they live and work in.

Feinberg says this prevents American diplomats from gathering intelligence and properly spreading “American values.” He writes:

Embassies have a second vital function: to disseminate American ideas and values. But what impressions of the American sense of self are created by garrison embassies? Far from suggesting confidence, good will, tolerance and democracy, high walls and wide moats suggest fear, discrimination and militarism.

But wait a minute? Aren’t “fear, discrimination and militarism” American values too? Proper, true and heartfelt American values? Why shouldn’t we export them? In great quantity? After all, if they are good enough for God’s chosen people, shouldn’t these very values be good enough for the entire world?

Feinberg’s policing metaphor for diplomats is all wrong too. It suggests — or perhaps assumes — that Americans ought to be policing the world. Maybe he is suggesting that. But he shouldn’t.

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In a review John O’Sullivan’s The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister: Three Who Changed the World, Peter Hitchens takes a slightly more cautious look back at the 1980s, wondering why if Reagan, Thatcher and JPII were so virtuous and the West so right, how is it things have ended up the way they have? He doesn’t so much pucture triumphalism and let a lot of air out, slowly:

But I think there is a sort of presumption in the idea that God is particularly interested in liberating people from Communism, let alone from the rule of Jimmy Carter or of the British Labor Party. His kingdom is not of this world, as Christ unambiguously said. Go to Poland now, and you will find that the church and the Christian faith are, if anything, weaker than they were under the heel of the Communists. I might add that Poland, though freed from the iron manacles of Moscow, is now instead wrapped up in the sticky marshmallow bonds of the European Union, a despotic, secretive, and lawless empire with the strong potential to get much worse than it already is. As for the U.S. and Britain, I will get round to that. I really wouldn’t like to speculate on what God might have wanted to happen, but if He was hoping for the current arrangements, I should be very much surprised.

Oink Oink

Okay, so I’m reading (as part of an independent study project this summer, on account of I wasn’t able to get into a Clinical Pastoral Education program — if you don’t know, don’t ask) the Library of Christian Classics, starting with the first volume, the Early Christian Fathers. Most of the writings are from the very early second century A.D. through the middle, and cover some writings that were, for a time, part of the Christian canon in some places (the First Letter of Clement, the Didache, for example).

There’s not great doctrine here yet, since Christians are still working on the words to articulate the concept of Trinity and how Jesus really gets to be both fully God and fully human at the same time (though that is fervently believed, just as Father, Son and Holy Spirit are as well), and most of the writings are fairly simple (to simplistic, such as the Martyrdom of Polycarp). I’ve run across a few good quotes, but none as good as what I just read in the Apology of Justin.

It’s the longest piece in this collection, but it isn’t a very sophisticated piece. He spends a lot of time blaming pagan religion on demons who, overhearing what God said to Moses or what Moses said and did for Israel, repeated those tales as lies to gentiles in order to foster unbelief. There’s a really good description of a Eucharist service, but mostly he spends his time trying to “prove” the merits of Christianity, which was as much a waste of time than as it is now.

This is one way he tries to do that. In paragraph 64 (p. 285 in my edition), Justin writes:

“In imitation of the Spirit of God, spoken of as borne over the water, they spoke of Kore, daughter of Zeus. With similar malice they spoke of Athena as a daughter of Zeus, but not as a result of intercourse — since they knew that God designed the creation of the world by the Word, the spoke of Athena as the first Concept. This we consider very ridiculous, to offer the female form as the image of an intellectual concept.“[italics mine — CHF].

I dunno, I rather think female forms are very intellectual and very conceptual. Certainly they are worth conceiving of.

And I’ll shut up about the subject now.

Lots More Troops, Maybe

A very happy late Tuesday evening everyone. Antiwar.com, in a piece linked from the San Francisco Chronicle website, is reporting that the Bush administration’s deployment orders (and the Pentagon’s extension of deployments) of U.S. forces to Iraq will nearly double the number of U.S. combat brigades in Iraq by Christmas of this year in what the Chronicle is calling a “second surge”:

The little-noticed second surge, designed to reinforce U.S. troops in Iraq, is being executed by sending more combat brigades and extending tours of duty for troops already there.

The actions could boost the number of combat soldiers from 52,500 in early January to as many as 98,000 by the end of this year if the Pentagon overlaps arriving and departing combat brigades.

Separately, when additional support troops are included in this second troop increase, the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq could increase from 162,000 now to more than 200,000 — a record-high number — by the end of the year.

The numbers were arrived at by an analysis of deployment orders by Hearst Newspapers.

“It doesn’t surprise me that they’re not talking about it,” said retired Army Maj. Gen. William Nash, a former U.S. commander of NATO troops in Bosnia, referring to the Bush administration. “I think they would be very happy not to have any more attention paid to this.”

The first surge was prominently announced by President Bush in a nationally televised address on Jan. 10, when he ordered five more combat brigades to join 15 brigades already in Iraq.

The buildup was designed to give commanders the 20 combat brigades Pentagon planners said were needed to provide security in Baghdad and western Anbar province.

Since then, the Pentagon has extended combat tours for units in Iraq from 12 months to 15 months and announced the deployment of additional brigades.

Taken together, the steps could put elements of as many as 28 combat brigades in Iraq by Christmas, according the deployment orders examined by Hearst Newspapers.

Maybe. but I think this should make hash any notion that September is some kind of drop dead date for the American military presence in Iraq, or even a time of reckoning to determine whether or not the Iraqi government continues to be worth fighting for.

That said, this might be buildup akin to the joke made in the “Watergate Comedy Hour” — “When I became your president, there were a half-a-million American troops in South Vietnam,” said the Nixon character (I’m not sure who played who, but the LP, which I used to have, was made by Jack Burns and Avery Schreiber). “Now, they are all in Cambodia.” It may be the Bush does indeed plan to have American troops withdraw from Iraq — through Iran.

The Paranoid’s Bible

Last night, I was curled up outside in the warm weather, listening to my tiny shortwave radio, when I came upon the broadcasts of something called the Christian Media Network, based out of Jacksonville, Oregon. I’d heard their broadcasts before — especially the Apocalypse Chronicles — and I’ve always found religious weirdness, especially looming last days stuff (I love Brother Stair) delightful entertainment.

But last night I came across someone I’d never heard before. I don’t remember his name, maybe someone will post (or e-mail) and remind me, but he teaching Revelation (always fertile ground for the unhinged mind) and using a interpretive method that I had never even conceived of before.

It seems this gentlemen was using the Egyptian Book of the Dead to interpret the meaning of Revelation, claiming that what the apocalypse writer was describing were ancient rituals of the Satanic-Masonic cult that predated (I’m guessing about this last part, since he did not quite explain it) the creation of Adam and could be traced back to what he called “sixth-day men,” or people created on the sixth day BUT before God created Adam and Eve. (As Genesis appears to have two separate creation stories.)

As I said, it was delightful entertainment.

Anyway, it occurred to me that what the world really could use is a Bible specifically arranged for the paranoid mind. Call it “The Paranoid’s Bible.” It would include only the first eight chapters of Genesis, Ezekiel, Daniel, the apocalyptic bits of all three synoptic Gospels, and — of course — Revelation. All cross referenced to The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, the teachings of the Freemasons, Aleister Crowley’s The Book of The Law, The Communist Manifesto, the collected writings of George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells, every publication from the Council on Foreign Relations, the Warren Commission Report, and all public references since 2,500 B.C. to “a new world order.”

I’m certain more sources could be found, and it could provide stiff competition to the Scoffield Reference Bible.