Saturday, July 30, 2005

A Line in the Sand

This is cross-posted at The Redhunter and I Love America, my other two blogs.

This past Thursday evening I was honored to host Chris Missick, author of the A Line in the Sand blog, and two of his friends; Kyle Rodgers and Ryan Albaugh. Ryan served with Chris in Iraq, while Kyle is acting as videographer and technical advisor (they're live-blogging the tour, as well as recording much of it).

Chris served in Iraq from March 2004-March 2005 as part of 319th Signal Battalion. While in-theater, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant, and was the "2004 Soldier of the Year". Now in the reserves, he starts law school next month. He is, I believe, 24 years old or thereabouts.

Chris set up a special website, Web of Support, where you can follow the tour day-by-day. From the site:
Returning home in March of 2005, I have set my heart on beginning an extensive road-trip through our country to personally thank the individuals I formed the deepest relationships with through the blog. The supporters I have selected offer a broad regional and demographic sample, and offer unique insight and stories that will prove to be inspiring and insightful. In a drastically new approach to a soldier’s memoir, Web of Support: How A Soldier’s Blog Connected Him With American Patriots opens a window into the life of a deployed American soldier who blogged his experiences. Perhaps even more importantly, it provides an inspiring look at what some individuals around the country are doing to display their patriotism in a time of war. This book will be a link between the experiences of what soldier blogs broadcast on their websites and the personal impacts blogging has on a soldier while they are at war and when they return home. It will blend the elements of a soldier memoir with the emotional impacts of Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Chris is an amazing guy, as you'll soon discover. I felt quite honored to meet him. The Web of Support tour has generated no small amount of media attention as well. Check out the Web of Support site (click on Media info) for the full list, but the latest is a mention by Oliver North in his most recent editorial. Ollie starts out by blasting Jane Fonda for her announcement that she's going on an "anti-war" bus tour of the US, and concludes:
Hopefully at some point during your Jihadist journey, you will bump into Sgt. Christopher Missick of the 319th Signal Battalion. While in Iraq, Missick met hundreds of good Americans through his blog, "A Line in the Sand." Home now, he and a fellow veteran are driving around the country -- fueled by conventional gasoline -- to meet some of the patriots -- his "web of support" -- who sent letters, packages and prayers. He wants to personally thank them and "meet the heart of America."

That's the kind of support the troops appreciate, not your caravan of craven critics.
Damn straight.

Chris was also one of the "Milbloggers" profiled in the most recent edition of Wired Magazine. You can read the story when it appears in their on-line edition August 4 here. Right now you can pick up the hard-copy at a magazine or news stand.

Of all the the people Chris met through the Internet while serving in Iraq, I am honored that I am one of the few dozen that he and his buddies were able to stop by and visit.

As I mentioned, they are taking a cross-country tour, starting in Carson City NV and ending in Sacramento CA. They've already put over 4,500 miles on their vehicle, and my guess is that will be doubled by the time they're done.

But despite the seeming inefficiency, it really is the best way to see America. Certainly when one does business travel, flying is the way to go. When I was a kid, every summer my folks piled everyone into the family station wagon for the annual trek to see the relatives in Kansas and Colorado. From where we live in the Washington DC suburbs to there is a good 2 - 3 day car ride. On one level it seems like a hopeless time waster, and of course at the time I did not appreciate the lengths my mother went to in preventing all-out war between myself, my brother, and sister.

But the fact remains that if you really want to see this great country of ours, you've just got to do it by car, and take your time at that. On each trip we would stop at one or another sites along the way; the great Arch in St Louis to the Truman Library and Museum, to Mark Twain's birthplace are some of the places that I remember. There are so many things to see along the way; the birthplace of an important person, a museum, a natural beauty, whatever you care for, this country has it.
After they arrived I took them out to dinner, as I figured it was the least I could to to treat them at one of Leesburg's finest. Later we ended the evening on my deck in what turned out to be beautiful weather. The Washington DC area can be hot and incredibly humid during the summer, and we've had some pretty bad weather of late (you out west only think you know what humidity is). But providence smiled on us this past Thursday, with a light cloud cover to shield the sun, and relatively low temps and humidity.

At some point after dinner, Chris got a call from one of his friends that the new issue of Wired Magazine was on the stands, and that he was profiled in one of the stories. We hurried out to the local Rite-Aid and picked up several copies.

Over the course of the evening the four of us talked about everything, politices, the war, history, our personal lives, and, of course, blogging, for that is what brought us together in the first place.

As you may imagine there was plenty to discuss. Besides his military experience, Chris has been involved in politics since (and during) his college days. During the 2000 presidential campaign, he was Director for Youth Outreach for Northern California for the Bush-Cheney effort, and in early June of 2000, was promoted to Deputy Director for the Northern California campaign. He even got to go to the Republican National Convention.


Here's Chris and me, I'm the guy on the left. Chris is holding the copy of Wired Magazine opened to the article in which he and other Milbloggers were profiled.

Chris, me, and Kyle in my Townhouse

Ryan, Chris, and Kyle at the restaurant

The travelers are posting photos from each of their stops on the Web of Support website, so be sure and check those out too.

A Line in the Sand

If you've never read any of the Milblogs, start. Estimates are that there are maybe two hundred, but of course nobody really knows. If you're not familiar with any of them, The Mudville Gazette is a good place to start, as it links to many of the milblogs.

Chris posted his experiences in Iraq on the "Old War Blog" section of A Line in the Sand Like me, I think you'll be impressed by the quality of writing and depth of thought.

Helping the Troops: No Effort is Too Small

One point Chris made about helping the troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere (let's not forget about the ones in Bosnia) is that you shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. He said that he'd found that sometimes people thought that if they didn't get involved in some big support program, nothing was worth doing. Or, because not everyone has the time to commit themselves to a full blown pen pal program that involves a committment to writing a letter a week, they didn't think that anything was worth doing, or just never got around to it.

Troops, Chris said, appreciate anything and everything. Many of you probably know this already because you've read it on a web site or another, but I think it a point worth stressing again. On my sidebar are links to a number of organizations the provide opportunities to help troops. Most, such as Adopt-a-Platoon, offer a number of ways, from adopting a full platoon of soldiers or marines, to one-time packages or letters. And, of course, there are dozens of such organizations, as a quick look at other blogs will reveal.

I wish them well on their journey across this great country of ours, and am honored that I was able to meet them.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Nature of Islam

Radio talk-show host Michael Graham has created a firestorm with a recent column of his in which he says that "Islam is a terror Organization"

I take no pleasure in saying it. It pains me to think it. I could possibly lose my job in talk radio over admitting it. But it is the plain truth:

Islam is a terror organization.

For years, I’ve been trying to give the world’s Muslim community the benefit of the doubt, along with the benefit of my typical-American’s complete disinterest in their faith. Before 9/11, I knew nothing about Islam except the greeting “asalaam alaikum,” taught to me by a Pakistani friend in Chicago.

Immediately after 9/11, I nodded in ignorant agreement as President Bush assured me that “Islam is a religion of peace.”

But nearly four years later, nobody can defend that statement. And I mean “nobody.”

Certainly not the group of “moderate” Muslim clerics and imams who gathered in London last week to issue a statement on terrorism and their faith. When asked the question “Are suicide bombings always a violation of Islam,” they could not answer “Yes. Always.” Instead, these “moderate British Muslims” had to answer “It depends.”
You can read the rest of his column by clicking on the above link, but I think his point is clear. Also posted on his website are excerpts from some emails and callers attacking his position:
Having gotten their noses bloodied by making the "There is no connection whatsover between Islam and terrorism" argument, angry Graham haters have turned to a different line of attack. They are seizing on a comment I made regarding the much-feared, oft-predicted but rarely seen "backlash against Muslims." I wish there WERE a backlash against moderate Muslims in the sense that I wish they felt more social pressure, more embarrassment over what is happening in the name of their faith. I wish they felt bad around their co-workers and neighbors about Islam-inspired terrorism, because that pressure might encourage more moderate Muslims to take action against terror instead of offering CAIR-like denials about there being a problem in the first place.
CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) has called for Mr Graham to be fired. Unfortunately for CAIR, their ties to terror are well documented by Daniel Pipes, and FrontPage magazine, among others. Even Senator Chuck Shumer has declared that "We know [CAIR] has ties to terrorism."

So What of Islam?

Is Islam a terrorist organization, as Michael Graham says? I think he goes to far. More precisely, he misstates the problem.

Millions of Muslims lead peaceful lives, and are not at all moved to violence. But at the same time, to say that "Islam is a religion of peace" is also misleading. It is how the religion is practiced that matters. At our current point in history there is no concensus on how it is to be practiced.

To say that "most Muslims are peaceful and condemn violence" is also misleading, and frankly largely untrue. For all the talk we hear about "moderate muslims", I see two problems:

One, these moderates, and they do exist, far varying reasons are largely keeping their silence. There is a huge problem within Islam, and it is called "tolerance for those who commit violence". Pro forma statements after terrorist attacks will not suffice. What we need is is a full-blown campaign against the radicals. And this we have not seen.

The second problem becomes clear when one listens to some of these moderates for any length of time. I've listened to many angry Muslims call Graham's show, and all too often the calls follow the same format: the caller starts out with "I condemn terrorism". So far, so good. With only a little bit of prodding by the host, however, the caller starts right in with the excuses; "we've been persecuted", "what about Israel", "there is no problem within Islam", "you will inspire a violent backlash against Muslims", on and on. You get the point.

So the root cause of the problem is simply that most Muslims don't see that there is a problem. They are still engaged in the "we are victims" routine; of western imperialism, the crusades, Israel, you name it.

Until Muslims root out and expose the radicals within their midst, the problems will remain.

Update I

I'm sure most of you have heard about this by now, but a recent poll of British Muslims shows that one-in-four "sympathize with the goals of the terrorists. From the Telegraph:
...six per cent insist that the bombings were, on the contrary, fully justified.

Six per cent may seem a small proportion but in absolute numbers it amounts to about 100,000 individuals who, if not prepared to carry out terrorist acts, are ready to support those who do.

Moreover, the proportion of YouGov's respondents who, while not condoning the London attacks, have some sympathy with the feelings and motives of those who carried them out is considerably larger - 24 per cent.

A substantial majority, 56 per cent, say that, whether or not they sympathise with the bombers, they can at least understand why some people might want to behave in this way.

YouGov also asked whether or not its Muslim respondents agreed or disagreed with Tony Blair's description of the ideas and ideology of the London bombers as "perverted and poisonous".

Again, while a large majority, 58 per cent, agree with him, a substantial minority, 26 per cent, are reluctant to be so dismissive.

Lovely. Actually, it's even worse than than the Telegraph portrays it. In response to the question "Do you think the bombing attacks on July 7 were justified or not?"

6% On balance justified
11% On balance not justified
77% Not justified at all
6% Don't know

In response to the question "How loyal would you say you personally feel towards Britain?"

48% Very loyal
33% Fairly loyal
6% Not very loyal
10% Not at all loyal
4% Don't know

But this one is the most revealing, and concerning, of all: "Which of these views comes closest to your own?"

1% Western society is decadent and immoral, and Muslims should seek to bring it to an end, if necessary by violence
31% Western society is decadent and immoral, and Muslims should seek to bring it to an end, but only by non-violent means
56% Western society may not be perfect, but Muslims should live with it and not seek to bring it to an end.
11% Don't know

There are more questions, but I think you get the point. The bottom line; most Muslims are loyal Britons (although Tony Blair is doing his darndest to destroy that concept), but there is a significant minority that is a danger to society.

Update II

Michael Graham has been "suspended" from broadcasting on WMAL, as I discovered this morning. From his personal website:
FIRST, CAIR JUST WANTED ME SUSPENDED....Now that I have been, they've taken the next step and now want me fired. Is anyone surprised? When you encourage the enemies of freedom, they always come back for more.

Read CAIR's newest statement on the Hot Sheet.

DOUBLE-SECRET PROBATION? Much is being made by some that my suspension from the radio waves was "supposed to be secret."

Sorry, folks, but what does that MEAN? When has a media personality ever been ordered off the air "in secret?" What's the point?

Everyone who works with me obviously knew why I was off the air. Who was supposed to be left in the dark? Only...the listeners?

Was the point of the "double-secret" suspension to keep it a secret that CAIR was getting what they want? To not let the conservatives who overwhelmingly support me--know that CAIR matters more than the listeners do? I don't know. You'll have to answer that question for yourself.
I can't find anything about it on the WMAL website, although I could just be missing it. The discussion on the air today was about nothing but the suspension. Not to bore you with the travails of a local radio host, but it seemed important to keep up on the story. And I just like to post, but that's no surprise to anyone.

While I have made it clear that I disagee with Michael over the issue at hand, what he said is hardly so bad as to warrant "suspension" or termination. It smells like a cave-in to a pressure group to me.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Considering Judge John Roberts Jr.

Did President Bush choose a conserative to sit on the United States Supreme Court? Is Judge John Roberts another David Souter, another Antonin Scalia or another William Renquist? The views of conservative pundits on this issue are varied. Below is a sampling of information and opinion about the Roberts selection.

In a 1997 discussion of the latest term of the US Supreme Court, on PBS Newshour Roberts sounds like a conservative. It's worth reading the whole discussion.
Well, I think it’s a moderate court but one that is very serious about the limits it sees in the Constitution, whether it’s the limits on Congress, limitations on the federal government, or limitations on the court, itself. And if it’s a court that doesn’t seem so warm and embracing of theories that are popular on the law school campuses, I hope the other members of the panel will forgive me for not thinking that’s a serious flaw.
The folks at Powerlineblog believe President Bush made a sound choice. (Over)thinking about Judge Roberts
Ann Coulter is not the only smart conservative who wonders whether John Roberts is "one of us." As Scott noted below, Charles Krauthammmer has called Roberts a blank slate. And the astute blogger PoliPundit fears that President Bush has blown the pick.
There are two issues here: (1) is Roberts a conservative and (2) if so, what kind (and how solid) of a conservative jurist will he be. The first issue corresponds to the question, might Roberts be another Souter. The second corresponds roughly to the question, might he be another Powell/O'Connor/Kennedy. The answers, I will argue, are "no" and "probably not."

I'm not aware of any one thing (for example, a ten-year judicial track record) that conclusively demonstrates Roberts' conservatism. But many indicators point that way, and none points to a contrary conclusion. Some examples: Roberts' law school contemporaries (two of whom I know) say he was a conservative at that time. He went on to clerk for a conservative Justice, William Rehnquist. Then he served in two Republican administrations. Why would an attorney spurn high paying opportunities in private practice to work for conservative presidents alongside folks like Ted Olson, Ken Starr, and Hugh Hewitt if he were not conservative? And if he were not conservative, wouldn't his colleagues figure this out? It is correct to say that Roberts did not necessarily agree with a given position he took in a given legal brief on behalf of the government. However, he must have agreed with most of them or he wouldn't have stayed. And, as the Washington Post reported on Thursday, some of the memos he wrote while in government take solidly conservative positions (in one case a more conservative position than Olson had taken). Excerpts from the memos clearly show a conservative turn of mind. So do a number of his judicial opinions. If John Roberts is another David Souter, he should have been a con artist, not a lawyer.
Another Powerlineblog post takes a look back at the 1990 selection of David Souter. Was Souter ever a conservative?
I've been ruminating a lot about David Souter. The myth is that he was thought to be a staunch conservative, but then he "grew in office" once appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court and became a liberal.
But that never made sense to me. People don't typically change in that way. Specifically, I began to wonder: what on earth convinced people, particularly GHWB, that Souter was ever a conservative?
And this Washington Post news story describes Roberts as a Young Pragmatist
As an up-and-coming young lawyer in the White House counsel's office from 1982 to 1986, John G. Roberts Jr. weighed in on some of the most controversial issues facing the Reagan administration, balancing conservative ideology with a savvy political pragmatism and a confidence that belied his years.
Asked to review legislation that would have prohibited lower federal courts from ordering busing to desegregate public schools, Roberts, now President Bush's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, took on no less a conservative legal scholar than Theodore B. Olson, who at the time was an assistant attorney general and later served as the solicitor general under Bush.