Just Jihad: April 2006: Archives

April 29, 2006

NSA: Some Details Emerging; DOJ Challenges Suit genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

Slowly we are finding out more about the NSA program of domestic spying that has essentially bypassed the FISA court system to obtain information about Americans.

WASHINGTON (April 29) - The FBI secretly sought information last year on 3,501 U.S. citizens and legal residents from their banks and credit card, telephone and Internet companies without a court's approval, the Justice Department said Friday.

It was the first time the Bush administration has publicly disclosed how often it uses the administrative subpoena known as a National Security Letter, which allows the executive branch of government to obtain records about people in terrorism and espionage investigations without a judge's approval or a grand jury subpoena.

The secretive program leaves many wondering the criteria used to determine which Americans are legitimate targets of the program. Given the number of inquiry letters, reported to be 9,254, the larger question seems to be how many of these investigative letters led to indications of terrorist activity as opposed to nothing more that fishing expeditions into the personal data of American citizens. Critics of the program have repeatedly argued that the same activity could be conducted under the FISA court, thereby providing some checks and balances.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the same panel that signs off on applications for business records warrants, also approved 2,072 special warrants last year for secret wiretaps and searches of suspected terrorists and spies. The record number is more than twice as many as were issued in 2000, the last full year before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The FBI security letters have been the subject of legal battles in two federal courts because, until the Patriot Act changes, recipients were barred from telling anyone about them.

Ann Beeson, the associate legal counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the report to Congress "confirms our fear all along that National Security Letters are being used to get the records of thousands of innocent Americans without court approval."

At the same time the administration, through the Justice Department moved Friday to block a lawsuit against AT&T that claims the company violated customer privacy. The lawsuit did not name the US government but the administration apparently feels the suit threatens the controversial domestic wiretapping program.

The government, in a filing here late Friday, said the lawsuit threatens to expose government and military secrets and therefore should be tossed. The administration added that its bid to intervene in the case should not be viewed as a concession that the allegations are true.

As part of its case, the EFF said it obtained documents from a former AT&T technician showing that the NSA is capable of monitoring all communications on AT&T's network, and those documents are under seal. The former technician said the documents detail secret NSA spying rooms and electronic surveillance equipment in AT&T facilities.

Daniel DiRito | April 29, 2006 | 7:40 AM | link | Comments (0)
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April 23, 2006

New Osama bin Ladin Tape genre: Just Jihad

Osama bin Laden.jpg

It is reported that Osama bin Ladin has released a new audio recording. On the tape, bin Ladin called the withdrawal of monetary support for the Palestinian government a demonstration of the ongoing Christian Crusade against Islam. This recording follows one released in January and is apparently a move by bin Ladin to be more at the forefront of Al Qaeda's efforts. Authorities have yet to confirm the authenticity of the tape but early indications are that it is bin Ladin's voice.

Daniel DiRito | April 23, 2006 | 7:18 AM | link | Comments (0)
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April 20, 2006

Love Is In The Air genre: Just Jihad & Snapshot Thoughts

Given all the rumblings about a possible attack on Iran, this photo of graffiti from Vienna seemed appropriate. These types of anti-war imagery are seen plastered on walls and sidewalks throughout much of Europe.

Graffiti in Vienna - 2004

Daniel DiRito | April 20, 2006 | 6:17 AM | link | Comments (0)
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April 18, 2006

It's A War; Not A PR Campaign genre: Just Jihad & Six Degrees of Speculation

They just don't get it! The calls, by numerous retired generals, for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld along with criticism of this administration's ongoing execution of the war in Iraq are being met with a public relations strategy. Early reports indicate that the meeting between Rumsfeld and a group of retired military leaders today was more about devising a winning message than trying to devise a better war strategy.

If I correctly understand the call for Rumsfeld to resign, it comes after these generals have concluded that so long as Rumsfeld remains in his position, the war strategy cannot and will not be changed. Hence, if these generals have concluded that the strategy won’t work and must change, then calling for Rumsfeld to resign is simply acknowledging the only avenue available whereby the changes they support can be implemented.

This administration’s myopic view seems to simply meet criticism of policy with a revised political strategy. These efforts are demonstrated by the numerous talking heads that are attempting to undermine the remarks of former generals critical of the Secretary of Defense’s handling of the war. Rushing to announce a briefing with a group of military strategists is more of the same. The longstanding objections to Rumsfeld are primarily focused on his intransigence. Gathering a group of chosen military consultants is akin to hiring cheerleaders. They make for good photo-ops, they attract attention, but they can’t salvage a victory if the team doesn’t know how to execute a winning game plan.

This behavior merely adds an exclamation mark to the assertion that the need to vindicate the ideological leanings of this administration repeatedly takes priority over the troubling realities on the ground. The dangers of an administration of ideologues is that they are inclined to see all criticism as nothing more than an ideological push-back motivated by political considerations. There is an obvious irony to this situation. While the criticism is likely not about ideology, the consequences of interpreting it as so have implications far greater than political advantage. Perhaps it’s nothing more than the boy that cried wolf, when initiating this war, being unable to accept that others may be speaking words that are both sincere and factual. Regardless, reality trudges forward in this mire we call Iraq.

Daniel DiRito | April 18, 2006 | 2:33 PM | link | Comments (0)
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April 13, 2006

Us vs. Them: The Root Of Conflict genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad

Generally, definitions are used to distinguish the meaning of one word from another. They tell us what a word means and in so doing they should likely, by omission, tell us what a word doesn't mean. While a dictionary is an invaluable tool, sometimes the meaning of words cannot be understood by simply reading the definition. Occasionally it requires looking at the underlying differences or similarities with other words.

Such is the case in a current issue that may have more global significance than any we have witnessed in a number of decades. The backdrop to this issue is religious beliefs. The conflict is being played out across a huge theater that spans multiple continents and involves numerous countries. At the same time, the battle lines cannot be distinguished by continent or country...or for that matter by city or community. This issue can best be seen in two defining conflicts. They are the 'war on terror' and the 'culture war'. The following definitions are essential to defining the conflict, and more importantly, to begin exploring the solutions. I've gathered this information from Wikipedia and Merriam-Webster OnLine.

Mullah:

An educated Muslim trained in traditional religious law and doctrine and usually holding an official post. Mullahs are seen to be able to give direction and make judgments based on their religious studies. Mullahs have frequently been involved in politics, but only recently have they actually taken power. Mullahs seized power in Iran in 1979, and later, in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Evangelist:

An evangelist is a person who preaches the Christian Gospel. Generally, evangelists are Protestants, and lead meetings known as revivals, harvest meetings or evangelistic crusades.

Evangelism:

Evangelism is the preaching of the Christian Gospel or, by extension, any other form of preaching or proselytizing. Evangelicals generally hold that the Bible is uniquely the supreme revelation of God. The Protestant canon of the Bible is the primary, or only, source of religious authority, as God's revelation to humanity.

Madrassa:

A madrassa is an Islamic religious school. Many of the Taliban were educated in Saudi-financed madrassas in Pakistan that teach Wahhabism, a particularly austere and rigid form of Islam which is rooted in Saudi Arabia. Although these institutions are academically assigned to provide general education, they also feel obliged to teach their students about the fundamentals of their religion.

Home Schooling:

In the United States, home schooling is the focus of a substantial movement among parents who wish to provide their children with a custom or more complete education, which they feel is unattainable in most private schools or the state governments' public schools systems. In many instances one motivation is to provide religious education along with education on traditional subjects; religious education would not be available in a public school setting, and the available private schools may be of different faiths than the family, thus making them unattractive. Some of those who home school are religious conservatives who see non-religious education as contrary to their moral or religious systems.

Fundamentalism:

It is increasingly a modern phenomenon, characterized by a sense of embattled alienation in the midst of the surrounding culture, even where the culture may be nominally influenced by the adherents' religion. The term can also refer specifically to the belief that one's religious texts are infallible and historically accurate, despite possible contradiction of these claims by modern scholarship. Many groups described as fundamentalist often strongly object to this term because of the negative connotations it carries, or because it implies a similarity between themselves and other groups, which they find objectionable.

Islamism:

Islamism is defined as, "a political ideology that adherents would apply to contemporary governance and politics, and which they propagate through political and social activism. The 'difference' between "Islam" and "Islamism" is not always distinct. For example, most followers of Islam would consider themselves "fundamentalists", insofar as believing in Islam means believing in its fundamental tenets and the authenticity of its truth claims. Similarly, Islam also promotes a vision of society and provides guidelines for social life (in much the same way as other religions).


As I view this information collectively, what strike me are the similarities rather than the differences. What is similar is the absolute nature of the beliefs and the assertion by both sides that their beliefs are indisputable. All that is different is the source of the beliefs and the conclusions made by both sides that their beliefs trump those of the opposition. From this point forward, little common ground can be found or negotiated. Both sides point out the transgressions of the other in a never ending battle to justify their actions and reach the expected, although not always logical, conclusion...the opposition must be stopped and to do so is righteous and good.

Fortunately, there is another word that exists to counteract this dilemma. Perhaps it is the only definition needed at this point. To accept this would require modifying the above definitions. It's a difficult obstacle to overcome but it may soon be our only viable alternative.


Tolerance:

Sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own. Tolerance is a social, cultural and religious term applied to the collective and individual practice of not persecuting those who may believe, behave or act in ways of which one may not approve. It is usually applied to non-violent, consensual behavior, often involving religion, sex, or politics. It rarely permits violent behavior.

Daniel DiRito | April 13, 2006 | 1:38 PM | link | Comments (0)
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April 12, 2006

The Language of War (Encore) genre: Just Jihad

The history of the World is a cacophony of war. We live in a growing time of conflict. This includes war in Iraq, war in Afghanistan, war in the West Bank, war in the Sudan, and war in Chechnya. There is also a war being fought within America. Some would argue that my characterization of war in America is extreme, but read on before jumping to that conclusion. By definitional standards, I acknowledge America is not internally in the grips of “war”, especially if the comparison is to our own Civil War. However, wars rarely happen overnight and they are often declared long after the battles have begun. At the precipice of every war are the battles going on within and between individuals that eventually become its promoters and its combatants. In these early battles, words become the first foot soldiers.

The Origins of War

War is often viewed and discussed in broad strokes with minimal regard for the motivations of each individual. That's not to say that individual wartime stories haven't been told. However, they are typically about exceptional people who often acted outside the norm. While their stories are compelling, they aren't necessarily representative of the general mindset that underscored any particular war. Too often, the real reasons for wars are ignored as the carnage and imagery understandably overtakes any present examination of the underlying issues. Once wars end, there seems to be an unspoken moratorium on significant analysis, at least for a number of years into the future. Periods of silence serve to segregate the events from their immediate reality in order to make the consequences palatable and the conscience tolerable. To understand this, look no further than the scars left by the Civil War.

Words are an integral part of all wars. They are arguably the most powerful weapon in this war in America. The word conscience is closely related to the word conscious and between them we begin to approach a comprehensive understanding of war. Wars are fought to validate or refute the torments and conflicts that permeate the minds of individuals. Simply stated, victory is equated with the validation and vindication of the thoughts, beliefs, and principles of the individual person, the state, the country, the empire, or any other entity. This is complicated by the individual entities degree of conscious awareness and the associated unconsciousness...or simply the notion of the subconscious. While one could digress into the many theoretical aspects of psychology, I prefer a simple and practical observational analysis. Understanding what we see and what we hear, that being behavior, is sufficient to make the necessary points.

War cannot be understood without knowing what motivates the opponents. Too often neither side really knows what the other side wants nor have they actually thought through their own positions to reasoned points of conclusion. The polarity becomes the focus which leads to extreme labeling and absolutist assertions and proclamations. The middle ground is lost. The notion of throwing the baby out with the bathwater seems to apply. I'm reminded of the words of a wise friend who once told me...to always make sure my intentions matched their impact. Such is the power of words. Sometimes it's best to say nothing at all.

Points of Reference

In my own life, I recall a situation explained to me by my father that has always instructed me to seek clarity in my intentions, assertions, and accusations before acting or speaking. My father is one of eight first generation Italian American children. His mother died of Leukemia at an early age after an extended period of time. During her decline, my uncle was planning to be married and as fate would have it, he got married on the day his mother died which in Italian culture borders on unforgivable. My dad tells about my grandfather advising my uncle to go ahead and get married. As is often the case, other Italians in the community questioned my grandfather's judgment. After numerous confrontations, my dad recalls his father telling one of his doubters something closely approximating the following, "Someone dying is a tragedy and it's not possible to foresee when it's going to happen. I wish my son wouldn't have had the misfortune to get married on that day as he will always remember his wedding day as the day his mother died. That's also a tragedy. What is it you would have me do differently? Should I take my son and his wife outside and kill them for getting married on the day of his mother's death? They were unlucky people, not bad people." What I learned from this was the necessity to think through ones judgments, feelings, and opinions before sharing them or taking action. Striking out is not in and of itself a solution unless you have gauged your preparedness to pursue your direction to its extreme. It's not difficult to understand this phenomenon. One can merely look at the number of spouses that are murdered by their partner in a moment of anger. It's more than coincidence that Hitler's plan for the Jews was called the "Final Solution". In fact, it proves the point that when extremist thought or fanatical dogma goes unchecked and unchallenged, a holocaust may be on the horizon.

I don't see myself as an alarmist. At the same time, just as an alarm is prudent to insure that one will wake up in time for work, it is also necessary to have voices of alarm to awaken society. While I think America is still a great distance from rampant extremism, today's divisive climate presents one of our closest corollaries to the Civil War mindset. We have had other divisive periods, most recently notable are the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's and the Vietnam War, but neither had the degree of irreversible and irrefutable absolutism. Of the two periods mentioned, the Civil Rights era has the most similarity to today's divide. Some might even argue that this period never actually ended and that the current issues are in fact a continuation and a culmination of that foment. I would understand the argument although I wouldn't necessarily agree with the conclusion.

The resolution of today's issues of equality in our judicial system are less frequently discussed as a process of constitutional interpretation and more often framed as acts of "judicial activism". This distinction is of great significance and the points of departure are of great consequence. The current methodical undermining of the judicial branch strikes at the very Constitution our three branch system is structured to preserve and protect. When elected officials opine that the courts aren't honoring the will of the majority, they impeach the integrity of the judicial oath established to uphold the Constitution. When those in the elected branch of government invalidate the legitimacy of the judicial branch, absolutism has emerged. Throughout history, absurd laws have been passed and upheld...we read about them in the papers all the time. Fortunately, over time they are reversed and the system purges its failures and perfects its successes. Time has always brought a more enlightened perspective because pioneers and visionaries were allowed to champion what wasn't popular or accepted by the majority without having their jurisprudence, their patriotism or their personal integrity and morality called into question. This subtle version of calumny is akin to the notion that "A plus B" must equal "C" without ever having uttered "C". That's a dangerous calculation.

Religion & Politics

Further widening the divide is the hyperbole of religion. For me this is perhaps the most puzzling and troubling irony. The founding premise of this country was based upon religious freedom. This meant government wouldn't impose religious beliefs, people would be allowed to worship as they saw fit and the government would treat each citizen fairly and equitably regardless of their religious principles. This is the reasoned concept of separation of church and state. The founding fathers wrote a Bill of Rights and a Constitution to institutionalize this structure. Today in America, all too often politicians assert that God's law should take precedent over these founding documents. They contend that our predecessors wrote these documents contemplating and incorporating the superiority of God's law into the documents. I don't disagree that most of the founding fathers would acknowledge their own underlying religious principles. However, I believe they would immediately follow that acknowledgment with the statement that the documents they wrote were mindful of religious beliefs and principles in their broadest sense but that they were written to primarily avoid a narrow and imposed set of religious beliefs. Their conscious act of omitting religion is both an admission and an appreciation of intention and impact. To construe this any differently is intellectually dishonest and an attempt to rewrite history. Any such reinterpretation of the intentions of our founding fathers is far more deserving of being labeled unpatriotic.

During this current war with words we have heard President Bush chastise the Democrats for blocking an "up or down" vote on his judicial appointees. During the Bush presidency the Democrats have used procedural measures to block a handful of Bush appointees. During the Clinton presidency, the Republican Party used the same procedural measures to block far more appointments. The 'up or down' vote inference is part of the language that is used to depict the Democrats as the minority party preventing the majority party from implementing the "will of the people". Ironically, this call for an 'up or down' vote was abandoned with respect to Harriet Meyers by its very proponents. The problem is that the public is being misled and misguided and more importantly manipulated. The procedures used by both parties have long been a part of our government structure. Many of these procedures were intentionally included to insure that the system would prevent simple majority rule.

The design of our system is not unlike preventing the mob mentality that might have lead to hanging the wrong person in the old west... sometimes the majority makes bad choices. Our government system of checks and balances is mindful of that. When the use of long established procedures is portrayed as preventing the "will of the people", the system is being called unfair and wrong and the public perception is being poisoned. People begin to believe that someone is cheating. This is not a "bad" system and to characterize it as such is wrong. The procedure for approving appointments could be changed by a vote and forever more the party in power could pass all their appointees whenever they had a majority of the votes. The group of fourteen is all that currently stands between the established procedures of the past and a move to a simple majority rule. Much of what is being spoken is unacceptable and it feeds the growing storm of what I would characterize as a war mentality. There is nothing wrong with bias...everyone has it and it will never be eliminated. In the corporate world it's called a "conflict of interest". Hence civilized people plan for it by establishing systems with built-in measures to limit the unchecked influence of majority bias. In that regard, the Constitution is a success. This should be celebrated, not dismantled. Today's politically expedient rhetoric simply undermines its integrity.

Today the Republicans have the upper hand and while it's easy to criticize their abuse of power, by no means do I believe the Democrats would act any differently if they were the majority party. Further, the President is entitled to express his displeasure with the blocking of his appointees. It's the words he uses that are not acceptable. What's at risk is that the American public, ever more susceptible to the latest sound bite or spin, grows increasingly uninformed such that they aren't even mindful that each President routinely seeks to put like minded individuals with similar bias' in positions of influence. The fact that some are blocked is to be expected and is not a circumventing of the system by the opposing party. The public, were they engaged, would realize that there are numerous individuals who can be appointed...who might be less biased and more balanced than the choices made by any sitting President. If the citizenry understand that the system is well designed to prevent a President from putting through all of his like-minded appointees, we might be better able to find some middle ground. The American public fails the system when they don't understand it and thus become susceptible to clever word manipulations. At the same time, politicians have an obligation to clarify rather than convolute.

There are other topics that are part of the rhetoric of this polarizing and ever more absolutist ideology. The list includes the burning of the American flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, the reference to God on American currency, the Ten Commandments displayed in public buildings, prayer in schools, and nativity scenes at Christmas time. Americans are never going to agree on all issues. Historically, the hallmark of our society has been the willingness to be inclusive and tolerant and I believe there is a reasonable silent majority that remains so. However, the combatants in this war, primarily extremists on both sides, seek to frame each debate the same. The "left" contends the "right" wants to impose God by creating a theocracy in America. The "right" contends the "left" wants to ban god and religion altogether to establish a secular socialist state. Sadly, there are some one each side who actually have these agendas. The problem is that when we allow absolute ideologues to frame the debate, the voice of reason and moderation is being muffled and ignored.

There is an organization called "The Club for Growth" that has exerted pressure on moderate Republicans to recant and move further to the right. Christie Todd Whitman, who was appointed by President Bush to head the Environmental Protection Agency and subsequently resigned, has said that this and other far right organizations wants to rid the Republican Party of moderates. It appears she is correct. Pat Toomey, the current President of the club, ran for the senate seat in Pennsylvania held by Arlen Specter, a moderate Republican. During the campaign, Toomey demonstrated this absolutist rhetoric. This strict ideological framing of the issues represents the dangers of this war with words. It is neither right nor wrong, good or bad, to be a liberal or a conservative, a Democrat or a Republican, secular or religious, Christian or atheist, white or black, male or female, under the founding principles of this country. Women and blacks achieved inclusion because the passage of time brought further reasoned and necessary interpretation. It is each individual's right to be any one of these and to be so with equal opportunity, equal rights, equal voice, and equal dignity. One is not lesser than the other and yet many extreme groups, including talk radio celebrities and pundits incite their supporters to attack, belittle, and denigrate those on the opposing side. It's wrong, it's dangerous, and it's the obligation of the silent majority to demand a reasonable debate with reasonable solutions. If we fail to uphold these principles we can no longer call ourselves Americans because we will no longer be the America created by our forefathers.

Other less obvious example underscores the problem of absolute thinking. In Iraq, no one can disagree that the people were mistreated under Saddam Hussein and that his ouster offers the potential for a better existence in the region. In projecting forward to the establishment of an independent Iraqi government, it is possible that the new government will be one we perceive to be made up of religious extremists. Much of that doctrine is in disagreement with Western culture and it actually promotes the notion that America represents decadence and the decline of civilization. The parallel that can be drawn to the banter that now occurs in America about ideology is fascinating in light of our intent to spread democracy. What we seek to overcome in Iraq is what many seek to impose in America. In simple terms...all religions think they are right and that they know God best and that this knowledge is absolute. For Christians, the Bible provides the support. For Muslims it's the Koran and so it goes with each religion. The notion of religious tolerance becomes an unyielding oxymoron. Religious intolerance often underlies most world conflicts. Given the absolute thinking, conflict becomes inevitable and perpetual.

I believe our forefathers were fully mindful of this conundrum when crafting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They got it right when they designed a government that was separate from, and absent of, the oversight of religion. Yet today we face challenges to this concept both at home and abroad. One must wonder if we have the right to impose our democratic structure in countries that would otherwise be theocracies. At home, we're in a similar struggle to define the lines of separation in interpreting, preserving, and applying the system and structure established at our inception. With both situations, it's hard to imagine it can be resolved amidst widely varying and absolute religious beliefs.

Sex & Abortion

Perhaps the two most volatile topics in this war with words are abortion and sex. I believe this country hasn't had an honest discussion about abortion in over thirty years. I also believe this country has yet to have an honest discussion about sex. With both topics, there are two very distinct and polarized lines of argument equipped with carefully crafted words. Unless the discourse changes, everything will remain the same. Change must begin with the simple admission that people are going to have sex and women are going to get pregnant. There are those who advocate abstinence which is a worthwhile campaign and it's understandable that parents want their children to abstain from sex. At the same time, reality says about as many of them will abstain as did in prior generations. The other side approaches the argument with the same fervor...they favor educating children about sex and providing birth control methods while being critical of spending money on abstinence programs. Both sides miss the point. Sex is nothing new but if we don't change the rigid dynamic, the issues will remain unresolved.

Sex is inevitable...it was for each parent and it will eventually be for each child. There are a limited number of choices once we accept this premise but they all have merit. Sex promulgates life but it's also enjoyable and desirable...even when people aren't doing it to create offspring. What children need is an understanding of the merits of sex as a component of love. They should be encouraged to appreciate that sex is good and natural. They should receive good education about sexual issues, and they should be given a full understanding of its negative consequences. The debate is so polarized by the 'yes or no' mentality that children can't get past the right or wrong structure to equate sex with healthy and meaningful relationships. Sex and love are not simple yes or no concepts. Inundating children with such messages handicaps their ability to have successful relationships. It's time parent's start thinking about their children's welfare and well-being instead of clinging to their own antiquated and ingrained fears and obstacles.

If we really want to understand what threatens the institution of marriage, individuals need to explore their own dark places. Sex is here to stay. Making modern culture, the liberal media, or homosexuality the scapegoats for family and marital failure will never wash. While untold energy was spent condemning Janet Jackson's exposed breast, parent's were cheating on their spouses and sending their children to school unprepared for the realities of life. Passing laws to restrict programming or amendments to ban gay marriage in order to promote and protect marriage and the family is akin to banning ice in order to insure underage children don't consume alcohol. Until parents can overcome their own conflicted issues with relationships and sexuality, they will remain unable to provide their children the necessary nurturing and mentoring.

For the purposes of example, suppose a teenager makes the decision to have sex (and that does happen despite the best of parenting)...and suppose his school and parents taught only abstinence...should a parent feel more comfortable knowing their teenager may have unprotected sex because they have been taught that having sex is wrong and a failing...which will likely lead to such guilt that they therefore make hasty and risky decisions...or would you prefer...again assuming that some teenagers are going to have sex...that they have been taught both the reasons and benefits of abstinence and safe sex methods from a positive perception of sex...which will increase the likelihood that the teenager will be prepared and will therefore act rationally and thoughtfully?

Unfortunately, many parents are more comfortable living in denial. That is unfortunate because it's the children who suffer the consequences. There are really only a few choices...parents can believe they can stop their child from ever doing anything that they oppose...or parents can gamble and hope it won't happen to their child and be prepared for the consequences...or parents can empower their children with confidence and knowledge and then trust them to make the best decisions regardless of the situation. Anything but the latter is at best fantasy and more likely Russian roulette. We need to focus on what will help children grow up to have happy, rich, and fulfilling lives.

When there's sex, abortion can't be far behind. To frame the discussion, I like to start with the extremes and work back from there. To that end, one can argue that religions that oppose contraception and parents that fail to teach their children about contraception are responsible for the "murder" of any subsequently aborted child. Extreme...yes, but also thought provoking. Further, in such instances, accusing the abortion doctor of wrongdoing is avoidance since the doctor only enters the picture after the unwanted pregnancy has been allowed to happen. The point is that, through words, its not difficult to shift primary responsibility to parents who knowingly allow a young adult to get pregnant because of their failure to accept reality and a refusal to properly educate their child about contraception. The statement is harsh but no different in tone than what we often hear when the subject is abortion. Nonetheless, it demonstrates that words make for quick assertions and accusations while doing nothing to address the real issues. The path to reasonable solutions rarely travels the road of extremist thought.

Extremism has been taken even further. During the Taliban's tenure in Afghanistan, and to this day in a number of countries, women are put to death if they are found to have committed adultery. The Taliban made a sporting event of such executions. Americans were horrified and summarily condemned the practice as barbaric and extreme. At the same time, there are those who seek to overturn Roe v. Wade and make abortions illegal and criminal. I doubt we would convert football stadiums into execution arenas but are we going to send people to prison and for how long? The problem is that those in favor of making abortion illegal never put forth the proposed punishment for the woman or the doctor involved in an abortion. I think I know why. If a mother of four, who has led an exemplary life, has an unexpected autumn pregnancy and decides to have an abortion, will we take her from her family and send her to prison? If a beautiful college age daughter finds she is pregnant because her contraception failed and dies while having an unsafe abortion in Mexico, will having made abortion illegal seem reasonable to those that loved her? These are the real issues. Before we argue one side or the other, we must think through our actions to their potential conclusions. Stepping back, I believe most people agree we should try to avoid abortions and that more needs to do more in that regard. However, until we stop the extreme rhetoric, the issue will remain an all or nothing battle waged by absolute ideologues. The lack of any substantive or meaningful dialogue makes the battle over the legality and criminalization of abortion premature and absurd.

The Extreme

Recently, I watched a very saddening program on television. It demonstrated the negative consequences of extremism and absolute thinking. During the program, the moderator spoke with a mother of two bright adolescent sons. She spoke about her strong religious beliefs and her obvious displeasure with the state of the country and society as a whole. While I disagreed with her on any number of topics, I believed her to be speaking with sincerity and I accept that she is entitled to her beliefs and concerns. She began to share her thoughts about the coming "rapture" (the end of the world when God reveals himself or what is otherwise known as judgment day). I was shaken when she said she prayed daily for the rapture to arrive and that she wanted the world to end because it was evil and she saw nothing hopeful or redeemable. Setting her own wishes aside, what troubled me the most was the impact her thinking would have upon her children. How can a parent say such a thing knowing that she has two adolescent children who are just beginning their lives and learning about the world? Perhaps the rapture will come and her children will be resolved to meet the end of the world peacefully with their mother. On the other hand, if the rapture doesn't come soon, what are two young adults to see in a world their mother has already written off as unacceptable? I don't believe any god condones hopelessness. Instead of writing the world off, shouldn't people of conviction seek to change it? While I understand that this woman's ideas have religious origins and are perhaps acceptable dogma, it crossed my mind that under slightly different circumstances one could make the argument that she was suicidal and a danger to her children's welfare. The world isn't perfect but it also isn't absolutely imperfect. This is why absolute thinking and its consequences are so dangerous.

Shouldn't a parent's primary responsibility be to teach their children about life and love and to live an exemplary loving life? What is it this woman's children are to do with their lives while they wait with their mother for the rapture? A child can be led to believe anything but who has the right to convince them the world is unacceptable and that they should pray for it to end? No god has asked us to cease living while we wait for his return. Countless people live good, moral and blessed lives regardless of their negative impressions of the state of the world. They also do so with hope while engaging others in a dialogue to find solutions. Children are truly blank slates and taking for granted a parent's right to carelessly color upon that slate...to fill their minds with negative and absolute words and thoughts is, from my viewpoint, unconscionable.

Conclusions

No one has all the answers. It's clear there are numerous questions. Isn't it time for genuine discussion? We live in a flawed world filled with imperfect people that will eventually come to an end. Throughout history there have been those who believe our actions will bring the world to its end. Today is no different. Recent events like the tsunami and Katrina have brought a whole new round of prognostications. I think it's safe to conclude that no man will decide when the end arrives and that we are best when we focus on the living. I hear it said that God will judge each of us on judgment day. I hear it said that we are all sinners in the eyes of the Lord. I also hear it said by far too many people that they know when judgment day will arrive, that they know what will happen on judgment day, that they know who the sinners are, that they can judge others for God, and that they should be able to do so by writing into law their god's beliefs. Perhaps God has a hierarchy of sins and perhaps some believe they can ascertain that hierarchy. More likely...as it has also been said countless times...only God can judge what's in a person's heart and only God will. God's relationship with each individual is a private matter. I'm comfortable with that. As my grandfather's example demonstrated years ago, at some point when people follow the path of absolute thinking and certainty, the only question remaining is should we kill someone? It's a question best not asked and certainly left unanswered. We need to step back from this precipice. If we don't, this war with words will become fatal. While we await the answers to these and millions of other questions, shouldn't we find a few better, kinder words?

Daniel DiRito | April 12, 2006 | 9:14 AM | link | Comments (0)
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April 11, 2006

One Step Forward, Two Back: Iraq genre: Just Jihad

Despite repeated assurances to the contrary, the recent redeployment of U.S. troops to secure the dangerous streets of Baghdad raises some serious questions about the progress in Iraq. We are regularly told that the Iraqi military and security forces are increasing in numbers and preparedness to deal with the general security of the country as well as the growing sectarian violence. The Associated Press report today raises doubts as to the actual progress being made.

Baghdad, Iraq - American soldiers have again hit the streets of dangerous neighborhoods in western Baghdad that had been handed over to Iraqi forces, trying to keep a lid on sectarian attacks that have raged since the February bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra.

The U.S. military has refocused its mission to confront death squads that have tortured and killed hundreds, a tacit acknowledgment that Iraqi troops have not been able to control violence between Shiites and Sunnis on their own.

Fewer attacks are now directed against Americans, soldiers say. At the same time, the number of Iraqis found slain, apparently in tit-for-tat killings by Shiite and Sunni extremists, has sharply increased in western neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, I interpret this to mean two things...one, Iraq is increasingly closer to full-fledged civil war...and two, Iraqi military and security forces are not standing up to the growing conflict so that American troop presence in the country can soon be reduced. It's hard to accept the "good news" when the majority of the news seems to paint a much gloomier picture. Polls seem to demonstrate that the American public sees the same thing.

Daniel DiRito | April 11, 2006 | 9:01 AM | link | Comments (0)
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April 8, 2006

Bush Ponders "Nukular" Assault In Iran (Updated) genre: Just Jihad & Six Degrees of Speculation

Seymour Hersh reports in the latest issue of The New Yorker that the Bush administration is contemplating the use of nuclear weapons to dismantle Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program. You can find the full article here. More analysis at AMERICAblog, Think Progress, and Digby. The following is his opening paragraph.

"The Bush Administration, while publicly advocating diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack. Current and former American military and intelligence officials said that Air Force planning groups are drawing up lists of targets, and teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups. The officials say that President Bush is determined to deny the Iranian regime the opportunity to begin a pilot program, planned for this spring, to enrich uranium."

If the factual calculation is such that Iran is becoming a legitimate threat, logic would conclude that Israel has a larger interest in seeing Iran's fledgling nuclear program dismantled (by bombings). In fact, Israel has a demonstrated history of resolving such situations accordingly.

Additionally, if Israel has not yet concluded to make the strike, then it is hard to imagine the rationale being used by this administration that would warrant we precede Israel’s often and necessarily preemptive strategy. Certainly the threat to Israel from Iran, when coupled with the Palestinian election of a radical Hamas government, would far exceed any presumed threat to America.

If this administration goes forward with a US assault on Iran rather than to consult with and support Israel (as a silent & out of sight ally) in making any necessary strikes, then I would assert that it may be reasonable to conclude that the decision to initiate a US assault was simply another in a long string of questionable strategic and political calculations that have failed to reverse the ever sliding support for the President's positions and for his struggling party.

SEE UPDATE BELOW: From Atlantic Monthly

The Odds
Bombing Iran
by Terrence Henry

This January, Iran announced that it would resume uranium-enrichment research, breaking an agreement set more than two years ago with several European powers. After a series of breakdowns in negotiations—and increasingly bellicose rhetoric from the new president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—the move was widely perceived as an indication that Iran has decided to pursue nuclear weapons, whatever the consequences. U.S. and Israeli officials have publicly refused to rule out a military solution. When might such an attack— by the United States or Israel—take place? Here are the odds set by tradesports.com earlier this year, just after Iran resumed enrichment research, along with some factors the site’s bettors may (or may not) be considering.

4:1: Overt Air Strike by the United States or Israel by June 30, 2006.

By this date, the United Nations Security Council may have only recently enacted sanctions, such as travel bans or freezing the assets of Iranians associated with the nuclear program. More important, neither the United States nor Israel is likely to risk a strike in the midst of an election year. Israel will have only recently voted in a new parliament, and the United States will be mere months away from mid- term elections.

3:1: Overt Air Strike by the United States or Israel by December 31, 2006.

The November elections will be over in the United States, and a new government will be firmly in place in Israel. But the two powers may continue to defer to the international community, and wait to assess whether sanctions and diplomacy curb Iran’s ambitions.

2:1: Overt Air Strike by the United States or Israel by March 31, 2007.

If Iran continues to make progress toward nuclear weapons capability, despite heavy international pressure, a surgical military strike against one of its key facilities—such as the uranium-enrichment plant in Natanz or the uranium-conversion facility in Isfahan—would become more politically feasible. Analysts at the Eurasia Group, an international consulting firm, predict that surgical strikes are likely “by the [United States] or Israel during the first quarter of 2007."

From San Francisco Chronicle

Experts doubt expediency of attacking Iran
by Anne Badkhen

If all else fails in the attempt to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear capability, would the United States, or perhaps Israel, as some have suggested, resort to military force? And would such an option succeed?

While European officials trying to find a diplomatic solution have said the military option is "off the table" and the United States has urged that the matter be taken up with the U.N. Security Council, both Vice President Dick Cheney and Israel's defense minister, Saul Mofaz, have said the possibility of a military strike should not be dismissed.

But military analysts are split on whether America has the means to take out a nascent nuclear program that Washington has deemed a national security threat.

Some are skeptical that a bombing or missile strike would destroy Iran's suspected nuclear weapons plants rather than merely setting back the program, parts of which Tehran likely has hidden in different parts of the vast, mountainous country in anticipation of such attacks, according to intelligence analysts.

"We can define a target set that we want to take out in the name of delaying Iran's nuclear development, and we're perfectly capable of taking out that target set," said Flynt Leverett, an expert on Iran at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings Institution and the former senior director for the Middle East Initiative at the National Security Council.

"The question is, what have you accomplished by taking out those targets?" he asked.

Analysts and politicians often cite Israel's bombing of Iraq's nuclear reactor at Osirik in 1981 as a precedent for a pre-emptive strike. But Tehran has probably learned the lessons of Iraq's experience, when U.S.-made Israeli F-15 and F-16 jets blasted the reactor near Baghdad with 2,000-pound bombs, destroying the facility in less than two minutes, said Richard Russell, a Middle East specialist at the Defense Department's National Defense University.

Instead of one major facility, intelligence analysts believe Iran has as many as 20 nuclear facilities dispersed throughout a country larger than Alaska. It is possible that Iran has hidden and fortified some -- or even most -- of its nuclear facilities underground.

"It's a difficult targeting package," said Russell. "You can set them back, but ... much of what we can destroy, the Iranians can reconstitute domestically."

Speculation about possible military options has grown in recent days after Iran defied the international community by deciding to renew its uranium enrichment efforts. President Bush said on Monday that the West could be "blackmailed" if Iran were to get a nuclear weapon.

In response, Washington and the European Union want the U.N. Security Council to consider economic sanctions against Tehran. But that drive has been slowed by Russian resistance to pressing the case against Iran and by the Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, which is refusing to speedily issue a report condemning Iran's nuclear activities.

Iran denies that it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, insisting that its nuclear research aims only to develop reactors that would produce electricity for civilian use.

While stopping short of making direct threats, American politicians appear to have kept open the option of a military strike.

"No president should ever take the military option off the table," Cheney said last week when asked about Iran. "Let's leave it there."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a likely presidential candidate in 2008, said that "there is only one thing worse than ... exercising the military option (against Iran). That is a nuclear-armed Iran. The military option is the last option but cannot be taken off the table."

But U.S. intelligence, which faces a credibility problem after claims that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction proved false, may not have the full picture of Iran's nuclear facilities either, said Russell.

"We know about the big infrastructure, but the question is, what don't we know about it? We should assume that we suffer from grave, grave shortcomings on intelligence about Iran," he said.

If attacked, Iran is likely to retaliate against American and Israeli targets in the region, warned Joseph Cirincione, the director for non-proliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. If American troops remained in Iraq, they would become easy targets for Iranian bombers who could sneak in through the porous Iraq-Iran border.

"Even a limited strike on Iranian targets could have ... military or political consequences in Iraq," said Cirincione.

Iranian forces also could launch strikes against U.S. diplomatic missions in the Gulf region or even carry out terrorist attacks within the United States, said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a military think-tank in Washington.

"It's risky because both sides have the capacity to escalate," Pike said.

Although Israel has the military capacity to strike Iran's potential nuclear sites, and although a nuclear Iran is a much more acute threat to Israel than to Washington, military analysts agree that if there were an attack against Iran, it would be carried out by the United States.

"I don't think it is right for Israel to act alone," said Avi Dichter, former Shin Bet director and a candidate for the Israeli parliament. "Israel has the ability to relay intelligence and insights to (other) countries, which will enable them to act more effectively than Israel."

Any strike on Iran's nuclear facilities would first require destruction of the Iranian air force and anti-aircraft weapons plus the targeting of support infrastructure, such as the Revolutionary Guard facilities. Such operation would take at least "a couple of weeks," Russell estimated.

Iran has F-4- and F-5-type fighter jets, SA-2-type medium- to long-range surface-to-air missiles and short-range surface-to-air missiles and 23mm, double-barrel anti-aircraft guns, according to GlobalSecurity.org. This year, Iran also will purchase Tor-M1 tactical surface-to-air missiles from Russia.

Pike said the Pentagon would have to follow up the air strikes against nuclear and Revolutionary Guard facilities with a ground attack, possibly rolling an armored regiment up Khuzestan, a troubled province in southwestern Iran and home to most of Iran's crude oil reserves and a disenchanted ethnic Arab population. On Tuesday, two bombs exploded in the Khuzestan city of Ahvaz, killing six people and wounding more than 30.

"If we were to respond to the oppressed people of Khuzestan, we would also unburden the mullahs of all of their oil revenue," Pike said.

But if the minority Arabs in Iran might welcome a U.S. intervention, it is doubtful that the rest of Iran's 68 million population would, say other experts. And they doubt that the United States could sustain a ground war in Iran, especially if it still has troops bogged down in Iraq and 30,000 more stationed in South Korea.

"The ground force option is not a viable option." Russell said.

In addition to physical losses resulting from Iran's retaliation, a strike against Iran would have "enormous political consequences" for Washington, which would struggle to get support for an attack against Iran both domestically and internationally, Russell warned.

"It would be an extraordinarily difficult political achievement for the United States to rally international and domestic opinion to support a military option against Iran," Russell warned. "We've spent most of our political capital on Iraq. If push were to come to shove and the Americans were to think of a serious military operation, the Europeans will quickly break ranks, as much as they support our concern on Iran."

European nations share Washington's concern that Iran is on its way to becoming a nuclear power.

An attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would also strengthen the otherwise unpopular government in Tehran, said Pike.

"If I were one of the ayatollahs, I would say: 'Our people have forgotten why we chant "death to America" on Fridays. But after the Americans have blown us up a couple of times, people have come to their senses and given our government the lease on life for at least another generation,' " Pike said.

But Pike said it is possible that the Bush administration has already made up its mind to launch strikes against Iran -- the same way it had made up its mind to attack Iraq months before the war began in 2003.

"For the last 15 years, American governments have said that atomic ayatollahs are unacceptable," he said. "(Today) even if there was a clandestine nuclear program, we can't tolerate the program that we see."

Daniel DiRito | April 8, 2006 | 12:54 PM | link | Comments (0)
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440 Billion Dollar Budget: No Audit genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

Reuters reports that the Pentagon could not pass the muster of a traditional audit despite the fact that its proposed budget for 2007 is $440 billion. They apparently only recently determined a cost for each individual piece of equipment. A spokesman indicated that the Pentagon is likely several years away from being able to conduct an audit that could be certified. At a time when we have record deficits, a national debt that continues to spiral out of control under this administration, and calls for reduced spending, it seems unconscionable to allow the entity with one of the largest dollar allocations to run such an abominable accounting system. It's frightening to imagine the amount of money that will ultimately be determined to have been mishandled. Read the article below.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Defense Department's finances may not be able to meet normal accounting standards for several more years, possibly not until after President George W. Bush leaves office, a Pentagon official said on Friday.

Richard Sylvester, Defense Department deputy director of property and equipment policy, said in a step toward reaching that goal the Pentagon had for the first time established the cost of each piece of military equipment in its massive arsenal.

The change is part of an administration drive to instill accepted financial standards at a Defense Department long criticized for questionable accounting practices.

But the Pentagon, for which Bush has proposed a $440 billion budget in fiscal 2007, will have to overcome several more hurdles before it can produce financial statements that meet accepted accounting standards.

"I would say we're several years away from having a certifiable audit," Sylvester told reporters.

Asked if such a milestone could be expected after Bush leaves office in early 2009, Sylvester replied: "Most likely, most likely.

The Pentagon has already frustrated hopes that it could pass a clean audit by 2007. A clean audit is an independent financial review that finds no material problems.

Bush administration officials have long pledged to tackle the Pentagon's infamous finances, which some critics say have allowed hundreds of billions of dollars to go unaccounted.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld first promised Congress he would try to balance the books in early 2001.

Sylvester said his staff had established a gross book value of $600 billion for military equipment in 600 Pentagon programs, after a review that covered 1,101 programs in total.

Equipment cost figures will now appear in quarterly Defense Department financial statements and allow Pentagon officials to capitalize and depreciate military equipment over its useful life.

Up to now, the Pentagon has had no method for estimating the value of its military equipment.

Before achieving a clean audit, Sylvester said the Pentagon would need to meet several more challenges such as revising contract language, creating systems to match expenditures with assets and establishing a registry system to identify each piece of equipment.

"We don't have those capabilities now, although we're working on them," he said.

Daniel DiRito | April 8, 2006 | 9:06 AM | link | Comments (0)
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April 3, 2006

Democracy On A Leash genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

The recent visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the British foreign minister, Jack Straw, to Iraq is being reported as an effort to apply pressure on Iraq's fledgling politicos to move forward with forming a new government. The Bush administration has made clear their disfavor with the current prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who is closely aligned with the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Reports out of Iraq indicate that a split has formed in the Shiite coalition since the visit. It is unclear if this split was facilitated by any specific pressure being applied by the two officials but it wouldn't be much of a reach to make that conclusion. While I understand the administrations frustration with the lack of Iraqi progress in forming a new government, it is hard to imagine that what will likely be reported in Iraq as meddling with their democratically elected government will lead to any quick resolution. In fact, such pressure may actually push Iraq into further sectarian violence, if not full-fledged civil war, as factions scramble to take advantage of the uncertain hold al-Jaafari has on his position.

The problem the administration faces is not unlike watching a toddler who has just learned to walk...do you let the toddler navigate the stairs or do you stop him in fear of a calamitous outcome. The reality is that democracy on a leash is not democracy and until we decide to give Iraq enough hands-off autonomy, they will remain tethered and unable to test their ability to navigate the difficult terrain that exists in Iraq. This venture into nation building is not unlike deciding to become a parent...all too often it's done absent the necessary considerations. It’s been said Iraq is akin to the principle of 'if you break it, you buy it'. In my parent analogy, it may be much worse.

Daniel DiRito | April 3, 2006 | 8:35 AM | link | Comments (0)
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April 1, 2006

Victim Redefined: The Jill Carroll Saga genre: Just Jihad & Six Degrees of Speculation

Am I missing something? When did the remarks made by people kidnapped in Iraq become the measure of one's status as a victim? Unless I am mistaken, being taken against one's will and witnessing one's translator being murdered does constitute a crime and does make one a victim.

If I understand the issue, the fact that Jill Carroll made remarks after her release that can be interpreted as sympathetic to the insurgents has raised the ire of many neo-con supporters of the Iraq war and the policies of the current administration.

If I understand this new victim equation, had Jill Carroll been murdered and her body was subsequently found, she would have been seen as a full-fledged victim. Unfortunately, the fact that she was released and made her statement means she wasn't actually a real victim, but more likely a collaborating propagandist.

Let's assume that Jill Carroll was able to negotiate her release by virtue of an ability to express an understanding of the motivations and objectives of her captors...say she convinced them she was sympathetic to their cause. Further, let's assume she agreed to make the statements she made as part of her negotiated release. Finally, let's also conclude that upon her release, she had no obligation to make the statement she agreed to make.

Apparently, those criticizing Ms. Carroll ceased all further analysis at this point. Unfortunately, our poisoned partisan environment has seemingly overtaken any obligation to apply additional reasoned and rational thought. That's unfortunate.

Regardless, I felt compelled to offer another perspective. Three years into a conflict with no certain end in sight has led me to conclude that what we need may not be more of the same. Henry Kissinger used to talk about detente when speaking about the Middle East. Since 9/11 such thinking is characterized as unpatriotic if not outright treason by the neo-cons.

Absolutist banter now permeates both sides of most arguments and issues...especially Iraq and the 'war on terror'. Ironically, at the same time, most people, if confronted, would acknowledge the likely end result of such discourse...look no further than the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. And yet, when the issue is our own (i.e. - American safety and security), we succumb to the same dogmatic, non-retractable positions. Clearly, history tells us the longer the conflict festers, the more recalcitrant both sides become.

Before making any conclusions it’s important to point out some critical background influences. One, this administration has repeatedly linked 9/11 to Iraq...not by saying Iraq participated in 9/11...but clearly by saying that Iraq is the battlefield upon which the 'war on terror' is being waged. Polls confirm the effectiveness of this manipulative mantra. Add the new phraseology of Islamo-Extremists to the equation and you have now further broadened the assault, the scope, and the divide. Now toss in longstanding sectarian conflicts, Kurdish independence, and Shia animosity at years of Sunni dominance and oppression. This seems pretty complicated to me.

Again, we're over three years into this conflict and some argue we are closer to civil war than to democratic civility. The history of societies has always proven that rule or change by the application of power will eventually fail if it doesn't include persuasion...that being winning over the hearts and minds of those you seek to rule or change.

So where does that leave us with Jill Carroll's remarks and the Iraq situation. I don't know Jill Carroll so I can only offer plausible observations. What I have read is that she is sincere in her concern for Iraq and the outcome of this war. She is respectful of Iraqi cultural and religious influences. She has tried to be a voice of moderation. Nonetheless, she was kidnapped by those who saw her as a target and a tool in their efforts to prevail.

Most importantly, she was apparently able to convince them of her sincerity and her integrity...she changed their hearts and minds to some degree...first to convince them to release here. Secondly, by completing her promise to make the remarks she demonstrated sincerity in contrast to those who see using innocent individuals as a means to an end. Again, she didn’t have to keep any promise she may have made once she was released but she must have convinced her captors that she had the integrity to do as agreed…despite the circumstances. As it turns out, while the remarks were coerced, she still acted honorably.

Blaming Jill Carroll for the remarks she made to save her life is tantamount to asking her to commit suicide. Is this consistent with the culture of life? It’s reprehensible that the same people who tried to prevent the death of Terry Schiavo because she could not speak for herself now choose to condemn Ms. Carroll because she spoke out in order to save her own life. Her captor’s actions were criminal and heinous but her actions apparently touched some portion of their humanity...found some common ground upon which to agree...is that so bad? Quite frankly, unless we find some additional common ground in Iraq, the combatants will remain locked in perpetual conflict as sworn and reviled enemies. When absolute ideology is allowed to dehumanize, resolution can only be achieved through the barrel of a gun. Perhaps that can work but it hasn’t proven all that effective to this point.

Lastly, as a non-believer, I am fascinated by the fact that on both sides of this conflict and many other long standing conflicts are individuals with fervent religious beliefs. I don't know Jill Carroll's personal religious beliefs, but I'm willing to assert that her actions better typify religious principles than the combatants on all sides of the Iraq conflict. If we can't find some common humanity, we are destined to lessen all of humanity. As it stands now, there will continue to be many more victims…regardless of how one defines the concept. War may allow for humanity to be suspended, but in the long run it is only our humanity that can suspend war.

Daniel DiRito | April 1, 2006 | 10:03 AM | link | Comments (0)
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