Memorial Day in the U.S. is a day to remember those who have fallen in the service of their country, but inevitably also reminds us of those who are risking everything in that service at the present moment. If one does not have a close relative or friend in the military, bearing such burdens, it’s easy to forget that those sacrifices continue to be made. The war in Afghanistan is winding down, right? Imagine how that sounds to someone about to get on a plane and leave his or her family for a tour of duty there, where the threat of attack by suicide bombers and what we could politely call “rogue Afghani security personnel” is more deadly than ever.
Deploying to a war zone is always an act of bravery in itself, but imagine the added challenge of doing it when the mission is so difficult to define. Oh, I have no doubt that those paid to do so have come up with catchphrases for it, both diplomatic and military, but in all honesty, what is it? It is at best something like this: “Complete the drawdown under fire while preserving as much dignity for the U.S. military as possible.” Is that an objective one is prepared to die for? The soldiers must have to reach deep down and see their mission on a broader level and remember somehow that what they’re doing is worthwhile and tell themselves that it contributes to a better future for their kids. But you’d surely like something more sturdy to cling to than an “orderly drawdown.” Continue reading “Among the Bravest”
Fourteen dogs and one cat found themselves shipped from Afghanistan, via Dubai, to the United States, to be reunited with the U.S. soldiers who had benefited from their friendship while on duty in Afghanistan. It happened at New York City’s JFK airport today, and it is thanks to the charity Nowzad and to American Airlines. Some video below. Continue reading “Afghan Stray Dogs Reunited with Soldiers Who Befriended Them”
Put politics aside. The part of his speech today at the Annual Conference of the American Legion by the President of the United States paying tribute to those who have fought for this country since 9/11 was entirely appropriate and accurate.
Today, as we near this solemn anniversary, it’s fitting that we salute the extraordinary decade of service rendered by the 9/11 Generation -— the more than 5 million Americans who've worn the uniform over the past 10 years. They were there, on duty, that September morning, having enlisted in a time of peace, but they instantly transitioned to a war footing. They’re the millions of recruits who have stepped forward since, seeing their nation at war and saying, “Send me.” They’re every single soldier, sailor, airman, Marine and Coast Guardsman serving today, who has volunteered to serve in a time of war, knowing that they could be sent into harm’s way. Continue reading “The 9/11 Warriors”
In Los Alamitos, California, a man woke up yesterday and heard the news of the 30 American troops killed in the crashed Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan. He went to the corner of a thoroughfare in that town, and stood, holding an American flag. He stood there, with no other sign or message. He was there for 10 hours. As the day wore on, in addition to the passing cars that honked their horns, about twenty other people joined him with their own flags and with cardboard signs. The man was Joseph Brito, a member of the California National Guard. (Story from the Coronado Patch.) I think that his reaction sums up how a lot of people felt—speechless, but desiring to pay respect somehow. He found a good way. Continue reading “Downed CH-47”
A must-read piece from Rajiv Chandrasekaran in the Washington Post details remarkable achievements in three southern districts of Afghanistan, thanks to the tough tactics, smarts and flat-out heroism of U.S. Marine and Army troops. But the question hanging over it all is this: What will happen in July, when President Obama’s date certain for a U.S. draw-down comes due?
Another copy of the Koran gets damaged (OK, destroyed), and rioting Muslim mobs on the other side of the world kill random non-Muslims in response. Yet, the focus seems to remain more on condemning the person who destroyed the copy of the book, instead of those who are killing human beings, and those religious leaders who are encouraging them to do so. As Robert Spencer says:
Everyone seems to take it for granted that if Muslims are offended, they will murder innocent people, and that instead of calling that irrational violence what it is, we should take pains not to offend Muslims, and blame those causing the alleged offense to the Muslims for the irrational violence.
Do we just go through the same cycle again this time? Do we simply wait for it to happen again without trying to change the way this issue is framed? People who don’t like Islam will sometimes damage or destroy Korans to express their point of view. It’s a crass and, I think, a counterproductive way of contending with an ideology and theology which one opposes, but — in the United States at least — it certainly cannot be outlawed.
At some point, we (and by that I especially mean our spokespeople in government) need to react to events like this not by seeming to validate the primitive, irrational and murderous behavior of these mobs and their mullahs, but by taking the opportunity to strongly emphasize the non-negotiable nature of the right of free expression in this country, and by condemning instead the concept of murdering people because they simply don’t share your religion. At some point, in other words, we have to stick up for what’s true, and attempt to convince others of that truth, instead of distorting what we claim to believe in the name of appeasing savage and bloodthirsty morons.
When will that point arrive?
And, in an important sense, Bush was wrong (as is Obama today), in not insisting on this as a premise in both Afghanistan and Iraq. At Georgetown University today the Archbishop of Denver, Charles J. Chaput, gave a speech which included the following:
The global situation is made worse by the inaction of our own national leadership in promoting to the world one of America’s greatest qualities: religious freedom.
This is regrettable because we urgently need an honest discussion on the relationship between Islam and the assumptions of the modern democratic state. In diplomacy and in interreligious dialogue we need to encourage an Islamic public theology that is both faithful to Muslim traditions and also open to liberal norms. Shari’a law is not a solution. Christians living under shari’a uniformly experience it as offensive, discriminatory and a grave violation of their human dignity. Continue reading “Chaput is right”