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Heroes or Villains? Snipers and Moral Ambiguity

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I saw the movie American Sniper when it came out two weeks ago, I have not read the book, though I have read excerpts of it, and both seen and read many of Chris Kyle’s responses to questions in various interviews after he retired from the Navy.  I have seen the shit storm that has developed in response to the movie as well as supporters lift Kyle up to near sainthood, a true hero; while detractors present him as a war criminal, a sociopath and something as close to demonic as a human being can be.

I think that both are right and both are wrong, and that the uncomfortable truth about Kyle lies somewhere in between those extremes.

I find that curious because I do not remember any visceral reaction to the actions of the scripture quoting American sniper, Private Jackson in Saving Private Ryan or the Soviet or German snipers in Enemy at the Gates.

Because of that I think in large part this visceral reaction to either lift Kyle up or tear him down comes from the context of the Iraq War itself. It was horribly divisive, in large part because the invasion of Iraq launched by the Bush Administration was no doubt a major war crime by any standard of international law.

I have written about this before. If the leaders of the Bush Administration had been put on trial for their actions at Nuremberg as were the Nazis, Justice Robert Jackson would have had them all on the gallows. Jackson said during the trial:

“If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”

Most, including the former President, Vice President, and Secretary of Defense, not to mention other key players and decision makers would have easily been convicted of all except the charge of genocide. The three major counts that they would have hanged for were:

Count One: Conspiracy to Wage Aggressive War: This count addressed crimes committed before the war began, showing a plan by leaders to commit crimes during the war.

Count Two: Waging Aggressive War, or “Crimes Against Peace” which included “the planning, preparation, initiation, and waging of wars of aggression, which were also wars in violation of international treaties, agreements, and assurances.”

Count Three: War Crimes. This count encompassed the more traditional violations of the law of war already codified in the Geneva and Hague Conventions including treatment of prisoners of war, slave labor, and use of outlawed weapons.

The decision of the Bush Administration to invade Iraq was not only criminal, but the consequences of that decision and the later disastrous post-invasion policies of the administration ensured that the suffering of the Iraqis and the suffering of the American military personnel and their families who shouldered the burden on that war, while 99.3% of the nation sat it out, would continue, even today.

I served in Iraq, supporting small teams of advisors working with the Iraqi military and security services in Al Anbar Province. I know that I hoped, as did the Marines, Soldiers and our Iraqi friends wanted to see peace come to Iraq and see that country rise from the ashes. Instead we have seen our efforts blow away like the sands of the desert. T.E. Lawrence I think wrote words that are all to symbolic of what we tried to do:

“We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.”

So my Iraq war was different. I saw things in a different light from many because I worked with the Iraqis and got to know them, their hopes and their dreams. I also saw it differently because I could place it in a larger historical context. The Iraqis I knew, were not savages, they were human beings with the same kind of hopes and dreams for their families and country at any one of as has as Americans. That being said, none of us, American or Iraqi, felt any sympathy for the terrorists, foreign fighters, and Al Qaeda Iraq operatives who made a habit of killing and brutalizing Iraqi citizens, or those outside the country, who supported the terrorist efforts.

The part where ambiguity comes in is when we look at the men and women who serve in such wars, what they go through and the moral ambiguity that often comes with such service. It is an ambiguity which some need to justify by convincing themselves the all that they did was done in the name of a greater good, and against people who were less than human. That is something that those who serve as snipers in any army must convince themselves.

If you have ever read anything about snipers and how soldiers felt about them in various wars, I would encourage you to do so.

When I read that Michael Moore called Kyle, and all snipers cowards, I cringed. Not to say that Moore’s comments, which he attributed to how he lost a relative to a German sniper in the Second World War were completely unfair, they are actually similar to the views held by many against snipers. British historian and writer Max Hastings sums that up in his book Armageddon which is about the final months of World War Two in Europe:

“Almost every soldier on both sides shared a hatred of snipers, which frequently caused them to be shot out of hand if captured. There was no logic or provision of the Geneva Convention to justify such action. Sniping merely represented the highest refinement of the infantry soldier’s art. Its exercise required courage and skill. Yet, sniping made the random business of killing, in which they were all engaged. become somehow personal and thus unacceptable to ordinary footsoldiers.”

Snipers have a unique place in war and especially in the types of infantry intensive urban operations which Kyle was involved. Their trade is not in contravention of the Geneva Convention or any international military criminal code. So long as they are engaged in combat and are in the uniform of their country, and not engaging in acts that are forbidden by those codes their actions are legal. So to call Kyle a “war criminal” as some have is to misunderstand the law.

To call Kyle and other snipers “cowards” is also to misunderstand the nature of war, especially as it applies to snipers. Snipers have a lonely existence, they can be celebrated but some, but the nature of their war is different. The character Private Jackson in Saving Private Ryan perhaps summed it up what it takes to be a sniper, when he said: “Well, it seems to me, sir, that God gave me a special gift, made me a fine instrument of warfare.” The nature of the sniper’s war dictates that they believe something like this that enables them to survive.

Unlike those who can drop bombs, pilot drones, shoot artillery from afar or even engage in infantry combat with large numbers of others, the sniper has a lonely, yet intimate war.

Snipers usually serve alone, they set up, they wait, they seldom have back up. They are as much the hunted as they are the hunter. They know if captured that their enemy will have no mercy upon them. Unlike others, they have an intimacy with those that they kill, they see them, and in the kinds of wars where the “enemy” is not a uniformed soldier, but an insurgent blending in among civilians, they task of the sniper is incomprehensible. To do that job, combat tour after combat tour, has to do something to the human soul. Those that survive and come home have to try to justify their actions, as Kyle did, asserting that he knew that all of the people he killed were “bad guys.” It is probably the only way that one can keep his sanity when he returns to a world that doesn’t understand what he did.

But the justifications are as corrosive to the soul as anything else. They force people like Kyle, to push under the things that they saw or did which were wrong with a certitude that causes them to make assertions and claims that are either patently false, exaggerated, or which paint them in an even worse light than the truth would. Such would be the case in Kyle’s book where he claims killing thirty Americans in post Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. If he did that he was a criminal, but he is dead, and we will probably never know the truth.

A veteran of the U.S. Marine campaigns against the Japanese in the Pacific, Eugene Sledge wrote in his book With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa: 

“To the non-combatants and those on the periphery of action, the war meant only boredom or occasional excitement, but to those who entered the meat grinder itself the war was a netherworld of horror from which escape seemed less and less likely as casualties mounted and the fighting dragged on and on. Time had no meaning, life had no meaning. The fierce struggle for survival in the abyss of Peleliu had eroded the veneer of civilization and made savages of us all.”

That kind of war my friends has a corrosive and toxic effect on the human soul. Sledge noted: “I am the harvest of man’s stupidity. I am the fruit of the holocaust. I prayed like you to survive, but look at me now. It is over for us who are dead, but you must struggle, and will carry the memories all your life. People back home will wonder why you can’t forget.”

War changes those who serve in it, the kind of change is in large part due to the kind of wars that we serve in and what we do in it. When I watched the movie with my former assistant and body guard during our tour in Iraq, Nelson Lebron I was bombarded with memories, of both my time there and my return home, and the hell I have put my wife Judy through at times as I have struggled with PTSD, what I saw in Iraq and my reaction to coming home to a country that knew not war. I didn’t sleep for several days afterward and the shit storm surrounding the movie has brought a lot of anxiety to me, I guess because it seems that few people really understand what war does to people.

I think for me, the part of the movie that had the most effect was the homecoming, and it reminded me of a movie that came out in 1978 about the home front in the Vietnam War, Coming Home staring Jon Voigt, Jane Fonda and Bruce Dern. Both movies dealt with the pain of families affected by war.

I’m certainly not going to sit in judgment of Chris Kyle or his critics, he is dead and unable to defend or even take bak anything that he might have written or said, likewise his critics, in many cases do not know what war can do to a person. I don’t know how much of Chris Kyle’s story is true, or how much is some sort of fiction, or even if what he wrote was filtered through what he saw and did in Iraq. Killing that many people, seeing their faces and to watch the life flowing out of them has to mess up a mind. Though I have been to combat, I have not walked in the shoes of Chris Kyle or any sniper. I have never had to kill anyone, even in self defense.

I would hope that people see the movie. Not so much because I believe in its historical truth, it seems to me to be a composite representation of Kyle, Navy SEALs, Marines and Iraqis that has as much Hollywood myth as it does truth.

But rather I believe people should see it to see how war tears the souls out of people. I would rather have my fellow citizens look at the ugliness of war, and to hold politicians accountable for any decision to go to war. I would rather see my countrymen look upon the pain that war causes, even long after those who fought come home.

Two time Medal of Honor winner Smedley Butler wrote:

What is the cost of war? what is the bill? Major General Smedley Butler wrote: “This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all of its attendant miseries. Back -breaking taxation for generations and generations. For a great many years as a soldier I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not only until I retired to civilian life did I fully realize it….”

The effects of war are terrible and had George Bush not made the decision to go to Iraq, Chris Kyle might still be alive, like so many others.

I don’t know if this makes any sense to you but I had to try to put some words and thoughts around what I have been feeling for the past couple of weeks.

Have a great evening,

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

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Filed under film, History, Military, movies, News and current events, PTSD

Padre Steve’s Year in Review and Predictions for 2012: The Best Jibber-Jabber on the Web

Once again it is that time of the year when I look back at the events of the last 12 months and say “that was some year.” And what a year it was.  So many things happened at home and around the world that it makes one’s head do the Linda Blair 360.  Yes the year was crammed full of events too numerous to mention and full of the jibber-jabber of “expert” analysis of news commentators, pundits, politicians and preachers.

Every major news agency and many writers publish what they believe to be the major stories of the year about this time and sometimes prognosticate about the coming year. Mostly these articles are so much jibber jabber and I don’t claim this to be inclusive of everything that happened but these are what I think are some of the highlights of the events that occurred in 2011.  Call it my end of year jibber-jabber.

The Environment: Yes there is an environment and whether one wants to assign credit or blame to God, the Devil, Mother Nature or the theory that “shit happens” it has been a year full of natural disasters.  We begin with the 9.1 earthquake and Tsunami in Japan which triggered a nuclear disaster when the Fukishima nuclear plant melted down. There was Hurricane Irene which though only a category one storm was so big and slow moving that it that caused massive damage to the East Coast, especially North Carolina. I got to experience Irene.  Even more frightening was the massive F5 Tornado that pretty much wiped the city of Joplin Missouri off the map. There was a series of wildfires in Texas that burned nearly 4 million acres of land and one fire around Bastrop Texas that destroyed over 1600 homes.  Over in Asia there was flooding that put Bangkok underwater for an extended period of time.

Prediction for 2012: Cable News networks will continue to rake in the bucks covering human misery in all parts of the nation and the world as natural disasters occur.  I predict that there will be major earthquakes, fires, famine and flood, hurricanes  and that many will be really bad.  Sure that’s rather generic but I can be surge that I am not wrong in making this prediction.

World Events: Overseas there was the Arab Spring revolts that brought about the fall of dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and quite probably Yemen. Syria appears to be on the brink of civil war and Bahrain with the help of Saudi Arabia put down its own Arab Spring revolt.  Jordan and other Arab states are quite nervous and the situation in Egypt which began with so much hope has deteriorated as the military faces off against demonstrators as Islamic parties make headway in elections.

Who would have thought that in 2011 that Moammar Ghadaffi would be overthrow and killed by his own people, that Osama Bin Laden would meet his end at the hands of US Navy SEALS and that Kim Jong Il, the nutty leader of North Korea would die.  The European Union looks like its days could well be numbered as the contagion of economic crisis which began in Greece has spread to much of the EU.  The United States withdrew its forces from Iraq just in time for the Iraqis to start to undo everything that their soldiers and ours had fought to achieve since 2005, Iran continues to build nukes and attempt to provoke the United States, Western Europe and Israel while the Israelis prepare to whack Iran. The war in Afghanistan grinds on and Pakistan is more of a pain in the ass than it ever has been.

Padre Steve’s Prediction: You thought things were bad in 2011… they will really be sporty in 2012.

United States Domestic Politics: The United States has had its own political and economic problems as the government seems pretty much to have become a parody of itself.  The President has had an approval rating below 50% for almost the whole year and the Congress God bless them has an approval rating of just 11% a new record which will undoubtedly be broken in 2012.  President Obama is unchallenged in the Democratic primaries and the Republican candidates seem to be doing all that they can to ensure that whoever wins the nomination will lose the general election next year as each takes his or her turn to give their followers hope and then implode.  I mean really, despite all of our economic problems the United States would, if our politicians could get their collective shit together have a bright future compared to the EU and the “new” economies in China, India and Brazil which despite all their success are dependent on us to buy their stuff.

Meanwhile the Tea Party movement has become the kingmaker in conservative politics and the Occupy Wall Street movement gathered steam before going into winter hibernation.

Padre Steve’s Predictions: Expect that both the Tea Party and OWS movements despite being on opposite sides of the political spectrum to continue to influence both major political parties. In 2012 the Congress will sink to even lower lows and for President, Congress and Presidential candidates to do even more stupid things to get just enough of the vote to be elected in November. You thought that 2011 was bad…well it was just the warm up for 2012.

Sports: The sporting world produced its share of excitement and agony as great team and individual accomplishments were overshadowed by scandals. Baseball had a most amazing end to its season in which the St Louis Cardinals defied all odds in winning the World Series after being written off as dead in late August. The Red Sox went from the sure thing to win the World Series to greatest regular season collapse ever seen which resulted in manager Terry Francona and GM Theo Epstein leaving the team.  A potential scandal has come up with the alleged positive test for some kind of performance enhancing drug by National League MVP Ryan Braun. The Los Angeles Dodgers filed for Bankruptcy amid the McCourt family feud and Albert Pujols collected his halo as well as about 260 million dollars for the next 10 years from the Angels.

The NFL endured a strike and player lockout by the owners which threatened the beginning of the season but the NFL’s stupidity was totally blown away by the actions of NBA players and owners in their strike and lockout. There were scandals in college sports outside the SEC the most notable being the sexual abuse scandal that shook the nation at Penn State University which brought about the inglorious end to the career of the legendary coach Joe Paterno. The BCS Bowl system appears to have gone from controversial to nearly pathetic in the selection of teams for the BCS bowls.

Padre Steve’s Prediction: The Chicago Cubs will not win the World Series and thereby prove that those that believe that the world will end in 2012 wrong. So as bad as everything seems it could be worse.

So with all that said there was so much more that I could mention but I have to stop somewhere.  I won’t go into the lives and scandals of celebrities because frankly though sometimes titillating they really don’t matter a hill of beans, unless it is your hill and they are your beans.  Likewise the year isn’t over yet and who knows maybe something will happen that will cause me to have to revise this article.

Until then and until tomorrow…

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Reflections on 9-11-2001: How the Day Changed Me….

We are coming up on the 10th anniversary of a date that changed the country.  I wrote about it last year in an article entitled 9-11-2001: A Date that Will Live in Infamy 9 Years Later.  This year I am going to post a couple of short reflections leading up to the anniversary on how that event changed me.

I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was getting out of my office at Camp LeJeune after an early morning counseling case and some administrative duties I was getting ready to head to the French Creek gym.  I was about to close out my browser when I saw a little note on the Yahoo.com homepage: “Airplane crashes into World Trade Center.” It was about 0900 that tragic morning.  I thought to myself, “some dumb ass just crashed his Cessna into the building.

The day was clear and absolutely gorgeous, a slight north wind and low humidity, a well deserved break from what had been a hot and humid summer.  Not that I had seen much of the Carolina summer having returned from a deployment to Okinawa, Mainland Japan and Korea in late July. When I got to my car the local talk radio station was broadcasting a second or third tier national talk radio host and he was screaming “oh my God another plane just flew into the towers!”

I drove over to the gym where I joined a large crowd of Marines and Sailors transfixed as we watched the towers burn.  I went back to my office showered and went over to my battalion headquarters and was there when theSouthTowerwent down at 0959.

Since then a lot has changed.  I have made two deployments and traveled to the Middle East many more times.  I came back from my deployment to Iraq with a serious case of PTSD and a health distrust of the media, politicians, preachers and especially the talk radio hosts that I used to listen to as often as I could.  I remember being in Iraq in between missions to the far reaches of Al Anbar Province and watching the news on the televisions at the dining facility and wondering just what war that they were covering.

Before Iraq I could be considered a pretty solid “conservative” but now I really don’t know what I am.  Some call me “liberal” and in fact I was told to leave my old church last year because I had become “liberal.”  However, despite what some of the talk pundits and right wing preachers say just because a person is “liberal” does not mean that they are unpatriotic or do not care about our country or freedom.  After serving in Iraq and seeing how certain people have equated patriotism with adherence to their political agenda I wholeheartedly believe that a person’s patriotism has nothing to do with their politics or their religious beliefs.

Before IraqI was jaded by what happened to my dad’s generation after Vietnamwhen liberals called returning Veterans “baby killers” or “Nazis.”  In fact I had a Sunday school teacher tell me that my dad was a “baby killer” in 1972 and in 1981 had some ass at UCLA call me a “ROTC Nazi.”  As a result I had little love for the Left.  After September 11th I followed the “conservative” talk radio crowd and Fox News more than I had ever before.  The emotions that they stirred up were primal.  But experience and reflection caused me to get beyond the pain of my past and the emotion of the present.  Just as I detest those that characterized my dad’s service or my service as being criminal I also detest those that say one cannot be critical of those that advocate for war regardless of the human and economic cost or actual strategic benefit.

I rejoiced when our SEALS killed Osama Bin Laden and every Al Qaeda leader that we have ushered into the arms of Allah.  They have caused unmitigated suffering around the world, not just to us but to their own Islamic neighbors and deserve no pity and since they refuse to give quarter should be shown none. If that sounds harsh I can’t help it. The attacks of 9-11 and the wars that have followed are personal.

At the same time I question the strategic purpose and value of the campaign in Afghanistan.  I see it as a potential disaster on the order of Stalingrad or Dien Bien Phu should the Pakistanis shut off the supply routes that constitute the major support to our troops there, especially if they did so in the winter months.

At the ten year mark I grieve for those that have lost their lives as well as loved ones in the attacks or in the wars that have followed.  On September 11th 2001 2977 people were killed at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon or on United Flight 93 which went down inPennsylvania.  One of those killed at the Pentagon was Lieutenant Colonel Karen Wagner was a classmate of my in 1983 at the Medical Service Corps Officer Basic Course.

Since then 4474 American military personnel have given their lives in Iraqand 1760 in Afghanistan.  NATO or coalition allies, excluding the Iraqi and Afghani military or police forces have lost another 1270 military personnel.  Another 45,170 Americans have been wounded.  I know a decent number of those wounded and some of those that have died.  The losses are intensely personal and to think that we have lost well over twice the number killed on September 11th 2001 in two wars, many that were children aged 8-12 years old on that tragic September day.  Of course the numbers do not count those that died by their own hand after they returned from the war, a number that grows daily.

I have been changed by that tragic event. I still shudder when I see the video of United Air Lines Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower or see the videos of the towers crashing down.  They are hard to watch and while I will observe the anniversary with prayers and a lot of reflection I do not know how much of the continuous media coverage of the anniversary that I will be able to watch.

The events of that tragic day changed me, and changed countless numbers of other Americans as well as others around the world.  While we yearn to return to the days before9-11-2001 that is impossible, there is too much water and too much blood that has passed under the bridge.   I know I can’t go back.  Maybe that is good.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, iraq,afghanistan, national security, traumatic national events

Mixed Nuts: Apocalypse Soon, Conspiracy Theories and Other Nuttiness

Who did the Dye Job?

It was an interesting week and I took a couple of days off of writing to spend some time with Judy and it was interesting just to talk with her and others about some of the nutty things that are going one. Of course the big news was that Osama Bin Laden dyed his beard and had a fetish for watching himself on his Direct TV.  I wonder what he used to dye the beard with Grecian Formula, Clairol, Loreal, Herbal Essences or Manic Panic. If he hadn’t been on the lam so long he might have been their spokesman in the Middle East pitching hair beard dyes for men.  But he died undyed. I guess had he known that the SEALS were coming that he would have ensured that his beard was black.  I think the conspiracy theories inside Al Qaeda’s web were more about how he fooled them into thinking that the beard was its natural color and wondering where they can get the same brand than how the SEALS got him.

Of course in the West we could care less about the hair color we just wonder if the United States faked killing him and sent him to run the Donut shop in Buenos Aries that we had Hitler running after we faked his death at the end of the Second World War.  Rumor has it is that Elvis is still down there doing Elvis impersonations and has coffee there every morning along with the surviving aliens from Area 51.  People are demanding that President Obama produce a death certificate but the coroner’s office in Karachi Pakistan won’t issue the long form and thus conspiracy theories will abound so Jerome Corsi can write another book.

Harold Camping…The Rapture on May 21st?

Of course if you haven’t noticed only 13 shopping days left until the Rapture, at least by the calculations of a certified California nut named Harold Camping.  Evidently the 89 year old Camping believes that he alone has cracked the code about when Jesus is coming.  According to him the “Great Tribulation” began on May 21st 1988 when Fat by Weird Al Yankovic hit #99 on the Billboard Pop Chart and the Chicago Cubs defeated the Cincinnati Reds by a score of 11-6. The score is important because 11+6 equals 17 which according to Camping equals heaven. This proves my point that the Cubs are the key to understanding the Second Coming of the Lord. See Discerning the Second Coming: The Cubs are the Key and on the 21st of May 2011 the Cubs will be at Fenway to play the Red Sox in what could be the last inter-league game before Jesus comes back to whack and shwack the unraptured for 5 months until Friday October 21st 2011 which will be two days after the World Series begins.  Since there is no way to get the World Series in there is no way that the Cubs can win it and thus Camping has to be wrong.  Of course he was wrong in when he predicted the Rapture to occur in September of 1994 during the regular season but attributed this to a mathematical error.  Nonetheless there is no mathematical error on the donation link on his ministry website which he does take credit cards, so you can spend madly buying his stuff without having to pay for it…not.  See you the 22nd Harold unless you have absconded to Turkmenistan with your loot.

Speaking of “Nuts” evidently Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamadinejad is being accused of “sorcery” by his political opponents on the Council of Ayatollahs headed by Ayatollah Khamenei.  Evidently he was caught with the entire DVD collection of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed.  He bowed to Khamenei’s order to reinstate the former Intelligence Minister who Mahmoud had fired after that man discovered the collection and sold both sets on Ebay with the proceeds going to the Old Ayatollah Home in the Holy City of Qom.  Ahamadinejad who has been on the lecture circuit tour proclaiming the return of the 12th Mahdi and doing all that he can to ensure the long absent Mahdi returns but he has not been so bold as to predict the date.

Los Angeles Apocalypse?

Of course the citizens of Los Angeles are pretty sure that the Apocalypse is coming soon after the Dallas Mavericks swept the vaunted Los Angeles Lakers. Adding to their apocalyptic misery the Los Angeles Dodgers are reportedly unable to afford the end of May payroll and Arnold Schwarzenegger is coming back to Hollywood for a number of projects to include a Terminator story and a movie appropriately called Last Stand.

Mona Lisa: Where is her body?

Meanwhile in Italy an attempt is being made to find the remains of the real Mona Lisa using some kind of advanced riding lawn mower system.  Lisa who disappeared under mysterious circumstances after a photo shoot with Leonardo Da Vinci has been the source of constant speculation since her disappearance.  Elsewhere people are less concerned with finding Lisa and more concerned with their own apocalypse a massive earthquake predicted to shake Rome on May 21st.  The long dead pseudo scientist Raffaele Bendandi made the prediction that the earthquake would be so bad that the entire city of Rome would be shaved off the map to make way for a new Disney World campus.  Bad news for the Pope he will have to move back to Avignon. At least the Germans and French are getting along better.

In the United States people in the Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana are building high tech Arks to survive the real flooding that is predicted to occur about around the 21st of May….coincidence?  I think so.

Have a great week

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under middle east, purely humorous, Religion

Living in the Bizzaro Post Osama Bin Laden World: Another Denny Crane Moment for Padre Steve

Note to readers: Another of my Denny Crane moments which seem to be coming more likely, must be the Mad Cow

“Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?” Oddball -Kelly’s Heroes

I love that quote and everyone in this country needs to see the truth of it.

I think that I have stepped into the Bizzaro World.  For the first time in a nearly ten year old war we get a real victory. Will killed the SOB who started it by killing thousands of our people. We do it the old fashioned mano on mano, look him in the eyes way and had Navy SEALS double tap him. We minimize the collateral damage by not plastering the place with bombs killing lots of other people. The President and the National Security team kept the plan a secret for months with no leaks that could have jeopardized Bin Laden’s elimination.  Likewise the uncompromised raid secured major intelligence bonanza including laptops, hard drives, cell phones and documents that probably have more raw and up to date intelligence from the source than we ever have had which likely lead to major victories against Bin Laden’s fellow Al Qaeda leaders and their organization, finances and maybe even their contacts with other nations intelligence services.  Such information will make it a far easier task to take the Al Qaeda organization apart at the seams. This is a victory that combined with pro-democracy revolutions across the Arab World could very well make the Middle East and the world a far safer place. There are dangers out there but this is something to celebrate so why can’t we be happy? I know that some people are but as a nation we are not a happy bunch.

We have been through two terribly long was that have cost of thousands of dead and tens of thousands wounded.  The military aspects of the wars alone have cost the nation well over a trillion dollars not counting the other economic costs. The 9-11 attacks created a massive wound on the American psyche which has been aggravated by our losses in the wars and the failure to kill or capture Bin Laden. We have given up a significant number of civil liberties in the name of security.  The collective impact of these events compounded by the embarrassment of Abu Ghraib and the “Afghanistan “Kill Team” episodes the escapades of contractors like Blackwater and Kellogg Brown and Root- Halliburton have stained our conscience. Coupled with our massive economic problems and poisoned political climate these wars and losses have beaten us down.

Rather than be happy that we finally got one in the “win column” we have become so used to losing that we have forgotten that it is okay to win once in a while.  Instead of thanking God that Osama Bin Laden is bottom feeder food in the Arabian Sea and is now rehearsing for the 2011 South Park “Christmas Time in Hell” musical joining Saddam Hussein and Hitler as they use their asbestos water skis on the Lake of Fire we are all glum or pissed off. Some are wringing their hands because Bin Laden was unarmed and didn’t have a lot of security around him and that in the heat of the moment the SEALS double tapped his sorry ass.  What the hell? Did they want a firefight that would have gotten a bunch of SEALS killed? Was it fair that he was unarmed but reaching for a gun when we capped his ass? But then was it fair to the 3000 people killed in the Twin Towers when Bin Laden directed the attack on those unarmed people?

Then there are people questioning the legality of the action. Sorry Bin Laden was a man that never stopped plotting the deaths of innocent people to the end of his days. While it might have been interesting to put him on trial you can be assured that some would have provided millions if not billions of dollars for his defense and that the proceedings would have dragged on at least a decade and that his allies would have gained inspiration from his incarceration just as they will his death.  Those who question the fact that a SEAL shot him when he was unarmed does not understand the inherent danger in the action and split second decision making that went into that courageous man’s decision to kill Bin Laden.  Legally Bin Laden as a terrorist was accorded no protections under the Geneva Conventions.

Then there are the Christian objectors, those on the left that say he should have been captured and put on trial.  Some Evangelicals that really don’t care that he was killed but don’t think that Christians should be happy about it or rejoice in his death.  But I remember some of these same people smugly saying that the 9-11 attacks were “God’s judgment on the United States.”  I’m sorry but many supposedly conservative Christians are schizophrenic on being pro life. Kill the unborn it’s murder. Kill a man convicted in a state court in the United States on the basis of circumstantial evidence is okay, especially if you are from Texas where I think it’s popularity is slightly below football and NASCAR.  Have a terrorist kill 3000 of your countrymen, well God must be pissed at us but kill the man responsible for those deaths and be happy he’s dead?  Nope can’t do that we should be sad that he died without knowing the Lord. Yes it is a sad that anyone would die without knowing the Lord but this man had no desire to convert to Christianity or anything else. He was convinced of his rightness and he made no move to surrender to U.S. or Saudi authorities for nearly 20 years and still didn’t in his final moments.  He made his bed beneath the sea.  I personally think this is simply people that need to be morally superior to others spouting their opinions rather than people that are inconsistent in their application of their faith and ethics to a wide variety of issues.

Now the politicians are making political hay over this.  Some Liberals are pissed that Obama actually had the balls to order the strike.  Some Conservatives are pissed that Obama succeeded in doing something that Bush couldn’t do and that he didn’t give Bush any credit. But it serves me well that Bush never gave Clinton any credit for keeping the pressure on Saddam Hussein and keeping him from really building up his forces after the Gulf War using no-fly zones, the UN oil embargo/blockade of Iraq and selective military strikes to keep Saddam in check.  So this is all politics as usual and once again it is detrimental to the county and makes light of the sacrifices of all that have fallen in these wars and the bravery of the SEALS that killed Bin Laden.

This really is a Bizzaro world.  When Hitler died this country got happy and that happiness spanned the political, philosophical and religious divides in the country. We celebrated Hitler’s death and the destruction of his murderous regime.  Back then we actually understood the importance of such events and didn’t wring our hands and shed faux tears when evil men perished.  But now after nearly 10 years of war and thousands of causalities we get the perfidious bastard that started this and our collective jock straps and panties are in a wad. I don’t get it. The reason that we went to war is dead and we have information that probably will decimate what is left of his network and we can’t be happy.  This is bizarre and I wish that people would stop with all the negative waves.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, Foreign Policy, History, iraq,afghanistan, middle east, Military, national security, philosophy, Political Commentary

Thoughts on the Well Deserved Death of Osama Bin Laden and some Christian’s Crocodile Tears for his Soul

Note: This is one of my Denny Crane moments indulge me

Osama Bin Laden got his just deserts yesterday at the hands of the Navy SEALS of Seal Team Six known simply as DEVGRU to those that have served in the SEAL and EOD community.  A head shot and a chest shot and Osama was off to meet his 72 Virginians via Davy Jones Locker.  Rumor has it that a pack of sharks trolling behind the USS Carl Vinson for lunch noted his enshrouded body sinking into the depths and passed on it leaving it to sink to the depths to be devoured by bottom feeding creatures.  When they were asked why they didn’t chow down on the murderous yahoo from Yemen one was quoted as saying “He gave our profession a bad name.”

All kidding aside I am glad he is gone and if I could have been in Washington DC, at Ground Zero or at the Phillies Mets game http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/blog/big_league_stew/post/Video-Phillies-fans-chant-8216-U-S-A-8217-?urn=mlb-wp5081  I would have partied all night long and I cannot imagine any American or for that matter any decent human being not celebrating this.  The good guys got a win for once and we should celebrate we deserve it. We haven’t had much to celebrate since September 11th 2001 and this is as good of occasion as any.

Now I know that I’m going to get some crap from some readers that this is not a Christian attitude and I will admit that they are probably right.  I know this to be a fact because I saw absolutely idiot comments from some of my Christian friends on a social ministry sight almost shedding crocodile tears about Bin Laden’s death saying that God doesn’t take any joy in the death of the unrighteous but if you are a good Old Testament type Calvinist, which by the way I am not by any means, you can interpret parts of the Old Testament as God having one big party as he has his people whack and shwack their enemies ethnically cleansing whole cities so they might have a place to live. Heck the Psalmist even rejoiced in bashing babies heads against big rocks.  Not a very pro-life sounding message there but it is the Old Testament and happens to be in vogue among some parts of Evangelicalism.  Thus to hear some of the same people who love to use these “imprecatory prayers” against fellow Americans on the opposite side of the political aisle cry these faux tears over the soul of Bin Laden it makes me sick.

The man was a brutal killer and thug who killed thousands of our own people and thousands of others, many which were his fellow Moslems.  Some of these folks such as Pat Robertson, the late Jerry Falwell and even the recently deceased David Wilkerson and others even told us back after 9-11 that it was “God’s judgment on this county.”  I remember the aftermath of the September 11th 2011 attacks and seeing the internet for the first time in days after being locked down aboard Camp LeJeune NC. I was aghast to see some of these men and others that this was God’s judgment on America.  Of course when many of their own congregations and donors objected most retreated from their positions with immense “mea culpa” moments.

Back in the 1960s it was the liberals that said we were the bad guys for Vietnam and punished those that served in that war.  Now days it is a bit different especially because we have a Democrat in the White House, a black one without a good American name like Bob we have conservative Christians acting like the liberals of the 1960s crying over the death Che Guevara and extolling the Chinese “Cultural Revolution.” For some reasons and I can’t imagine why there seems to be such a loathing of their own country by such people. Sure we are not perfect and we have messed up a lot. If you read this site I am not uncritical of various actions of different Presidents, Congress or any part of our government and some of our actions around the world.  We’re not a perfect nation but but we still are one of the best shows in town. But I’ll tell you what I love this country and continue to serve her and defend the rights of all Americans to hold views about the country that I personally distain. But that is why I love the Good Old USA because we don’t have to agree to be Americans; well at least that’s what I think.  But sometimes when I see comments like this crying for Bin Laden’s soul and condemning the country I wonder what the hell is going on. I see them criticize the very country that gives them the right to criticize their government with impunity, even using the “judgment of God card” as they wish.  In fact that is why the Pilgrims and other English Separatists came here so they could criticize the crown without being harassed and ensured that those that disagreed with them couldn’t do so safely without having to go establish the Rhode Island Colony like Roger Williams did.  But I digress….

When I see such comments mourning Bin Laden or assuming that God’s judgment is on America I feel my inner Colonel Nathan R. Jessup rising up especially when I see so few of them flocking to the colors and run to the recruiting stations saying “here I am send me Sir!” You see it is so easy to theologize and criticize but so much harder to put your life on the line. However if you secretly loathe the country it is easy to condemn those charged with protecting it from the Commander in Chief down, especially when you claim God as your authority.  I love this quote from the great film A Few Good Men coming from Colonel Jessup played most delightfully by Jack Nicholson and I think it suits my mood right about now:

“Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.” 

Now our forces from the Commander in Chief down did their jobs and did them well in providing Bin Laden an exit from his internet less misery in Pakistan.  I for one celebrate this event. If this makes me somehow less spiritual or Christian so be it. I am an American and Osama Bin Laden was our enemy personified. So go ahead and weep for Bin Laden if you wish my fellow Christians. Pray for his soul but let the rest of us enjoy a moment of victory in this painful and long war in which so many Americans and others have died because of the actions of Osama Bin Laden and his minions.  Don’t piss on their memory by feeling bad that Bin Laden didn’t get a chance to meet Jesus in this world.

Yes I’m a bit snarky today but I haven’t forgotten September 11th and I am glad that so many Americans are overjoyed by this. For once we got one in the win column.  We’re entitled to celebrate because we get to go back on the field tomorrow and hopefully whack some more of Bin Laden’s slugs.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, Foreign Policy, History, iraq,afghanistan, middle east, Military, national security, philosophy, purely humorous, US Navy

Bin Laden Dead: Navy SEALS Kill Terrorist in Pakistan

DEAD!

His name is associated with brutal attacks on attacks on Americans and others for over a decade the Embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania, the USS Cole, the Khobar Towers, Madrid Spain, Mumbai and most infamously the dastardly attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9-11-2001.  He has eluded death and capture for years but was killed in a raid by U.S. Navy Seals in a fortified mansion in the city Abbottabad near the capital of Islamabad Pakistan today.  His death has been confirmed by DNA matches and his body is in American custody. The cold and hollow eyes staring out from beneath a white turban wearing a U.S. issue BDU jacket have haunted us for years. His hateful and defiant messages tormented us in the years following 9-11 as he released audio and video tapes from secluded hideouts in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In a night that many believed would never come, Americans heard the news of the death of this evil terrorist. First a few but now thousands of Americans gathered outside the White House celebrating the demise of this singular face of evil. Spontaneous cries of “USA! USA! USA!” the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, and the song “hey hey hey goodbye” erupted as people gathered as President Obama made the announcement even as others gathered at Ground Zero singing “god Bless America.”  Over the past 10 years we have had precious little to celebrate in relation to the war on terror. Most of the time when announcing Bin Laden is the most hated enemy of the United States since Adolf Hitler. He embodied the evil that we went to war with, an evil that made the mass murder of civilians a staple of life and it did not matter who the victims were he sought to bring terror to all that he considered the enemy of Islam including many Moslems.  But he hated the United States more than anything and his attacks on the United States shattered our sense of invulnerability even more than the attack on Pearl Harbor.  He damaged our national psyche in a manner that no individual has in history.

It took a long time but he is dead but the fight is not over as U.S. Military installations have had their force protection level raised as it is expected that elements of the Al Qaeda will try to strike back.  We pray that they will be defeated if they try to make any attacks on Americans anywhere.  The effect on Al Qaeda will be chilling. Its operatives pledge themselves to Bin Laden personally in a manner similar to the SS Legions of Adolf Hitler. Presently there are no leaders of Bin Laden’s stature in that network and with any luck his forces will become demoralized and leave that organization.

President Obama announced Bin Laden’s death shortly before midnight and he called us back to the unity that we had for a moment following the 9-11 attacks. We have been bitterly divided for years and though we experienced some success but much frustration in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands of American and Allied military personnel have died in wars that came as a result of those attacks and we in the military have almost all suffered the loss of our friends and comrades.  Our forces are still engaged against numerous enemies and in Afghanistan the Taliban are launching their long awaited spring offensive and the war continues.  Hopefully the death of Bin Laden will lead to other successes that allow us to bring the troops home as victors in the War on Terror.

President Obama made a couple of comments in his speech that I quote here as they are both important to all of those that have experienced personal loss and sacrifice in this effort:

After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war. These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.

“So Americans understand the costs of war. Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.”

We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.

Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores.

And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.

The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.

Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.”

The rest of the announcement text can be found here:

http://www.middletownjournal.com/news/full-text-of-presidents-statement-about-bin-ladens-death-1150233.html?showComments=true&page=2&more_comments=false

President Obama and the National Security team need to be given full credit for the success of this operation which was carried out with tremendous skill and courage by the SEALS and other Special Operations troops involved. It was a risky operation and the President deserves credit for guts in the execution of the mission. Had it failed it would have been his fault and no-one would have let him off the hook.

I hope that this victory will bring us together and embolden us to take on all of the problems that beset our nation.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Foreign Policy, History, iraq,afghanistan, middle east, Military, national security, Political Commentary