Saturday, June 04, 2005


Needed: Deep Throat II

Colbert King explains the role "Deep Throat" Mark Felt played in one of the other scandals of the Nixon administration -- the FBI's illegal covert actions against Americans under the bureau's COINTELPRO program -- in his column "Deep Throat's Other Legacy." It's a helpful reminder that the crimes and misdemeanors of the Nixon administration went far beyond a second-rate burglary.

Nowadays, such spying on Americans, infiltrating opposition groups, and generally ignoring constitutional protections in the name of national security is commonplace, mainly justified under the broad-sweeping "Patriot Act." It's amazing how much an administration can get away with, using the rationalization of permanent war (now against terror, then against comunism), without the citizenry rising up in outrage. Deep Throat II, where are you when we need you?


Bush: Africa aid "doesn't fit budgetary process"

The United States -- and the Bush administration in particular -- continues to lag behind Europe concerning the life-and-death issue of aid to Africa ("U.S. Challenged to Increase Aid to Africa"). British Prime Minister Tony Blair will visit Washington next week, and his visit may increase the pressure on Bush to do more to alleviate extreme poverty in Africa, which Blair has called "the fundamental moral challenge of our time."

Thus far, Bush has resisted European entreaties to increase African aid, saying "It doesn't fit our budgetary process." Hopefully, Bush can be made to see the light, because the U.S. role will be key as the Group of Eight leaders meet next month in Scotland and discuss ways to increase the wealthy world's respond to the crisis of African poverty.


"Team Jesus Christ"

Today's Washington Post includes an incredible (and frightening) editorial on the Crusade-like shenanigans at the Air Force Academy ("Team Jesus Christ"). A chaplain at the academy told cadets to try to convert classmates, the Post reports, by warning that they "will burn in the fires of hell" if they do not accept Christ. The piece continues: "A Jewish student is taunted as a Christ killer and told that the Holocaust was the just punishment for that offense."

Unfortunately, in the Post's (appropriate) condemnation of such repugnant behavior, the paper paints with a too-broad brush. The Post editors write: "It is especially important, in that atmosphere, that cadets not feel that professing a certain religion is part of the norm to which they must adhere." Christianity, of course, is that "certain religion" to which the paper refers, as if such in-your-face and offensive behavior -- which ultra-conservative Christians would see as "evangelism" -- is indicative of Christianity as a whole. Needless to say, many Christians find such behavior just as reprehensible as would other people of any or no religious faith.

A deeper issue lies beneath this story. Chaplains don't belong in the military at all. Yes, it's true that people in uniform need pastoral care. But a military chaplain is part of the chain of command. By virtue of their being a member of the military, they must follow orders from their superiors -- even if those orders contradict the chaplain's understanding of the gospel. The allegiance of the chaplain is backward -- as Christians, our first allegiance is to Christ, not to a military commander. The practice of Christian churches sponsoring chaplains within the branches of the military is wrong, and it should stop.

Thursday, June 02, 2005


A Liberal-Evangelical Alliance?

David Brooks published an interesting column last week in The New York Times in which he wrote:

...we can have a culture war in this country, or we can have a war on poverty, but we can't have both. That is to say, liberals and conservatives can go on bashing each other for being godless hedonists and primitive theocrats, or they can set those differences off to one side and work together to help the needy.

The natural alliance for antipoverty measures at home and abroad is between liberals and evangelical Christians. These are the only two groups that are really hyped up about these problems and willing to devote time and money to ameliorating them. If liberals and evangelicals don't get together on antipoverty measures, then there will be no majority for them and they won't get done. ...

And when I look at the evangelical community, I see a community in the midst of a transformation - branching out beyond the traditional issues of abortion and gay marriage, and getting more involved in programs to help the needy. ... I see evangelicals who are more and more influenced by Catholic social teaching, with its emphasis on good works. I see the historical rift healing between those who emphasized personal and social morality.

If that's all true -- and there's growing evidence that it is -- it's good news indeed.

One footnote: In the same column, Brooks stole a joke from Ed Spivey Jr., the humor columnist for Sojourners magazine, when he wrote, "...maybe I could write a book for rich Republicans called, "The Chauffeur Driven Life," which I think would do quite well." Spivey's version, published in December 04: "This book has sold so many copies the author is already working on a sequel: The Chauffeur-Driven Life."

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


Colson: Deep Throat "Betrayed Trust"

Some -- apparently including conspirator Chuck Colson -- still don't get it. As today's news about the identity of Deep Throat reverberated, Colson said of the FBI's Mark Felt, "He had the trust of America's leaders and to think that he betrayed that trust is hard for me to fathom," Colson told the AP (as reported in the San Jose Mercury News).

Who betrayed our trust, Chuck? You still think it was a "betrayal" to tell the truth about illegal and corrupt actions of your administration? I guess Colson's famous "conversion" doesn't exactly involve repentance of his role in the Watergate crimes and their coverup. Once a CREEP, always a CREEP?

(And for those who missed the allusion: CREEP was Nixon's Committee to Re-Elect the President.)


Remembering Vietnam

This weekend I paid a visit to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. As we approached the memorial, the person with me asked, "How many people died in the Vietnam War?" I answered, "A couple million." My guest was confused. I went on. "The memorial holds the names of the 58,000 Americans killed in the war. It would take about 34 memorials of the same size to include all the Vietnamese killed."

While even 2 million killed in such a small country seems almost unfathomable, apparently the actual number is much larger. In addition to Americans killed, there were also 223,748 South Vietnamese soldiers killed, as well as 5,282 of other nationalities.

According to the Agence France Presse, "the true civilian casualties of the Vietnam War were 2,000,000 in the North, and 2,000,000 in the South. Military casualties were 1.1 million killed and 600,000 wounded in 21 years of war. These figures were deliberately falsified during the war by the North Vietnamese Communists to avoid demoralizing the population."

That results in a total of approximately 5.4 million killed in the war. And that doesn't include the deaths in neighboring Laos and Cambodia.

A helpful summary of all this can be found on this "Google Answers" page.

A footnote: 11,465 of the Americans killed in Vietnam were teenagers.

Monday, May 30, 2005


Memorial Day 2005

What does it mean to "support our troops"? That's a sensitive question for many of us, especially on Memorial Day weekend. No one can deny the genuine heroism of warriors in action. And we can all honestly grieve the young men and women who have lost their lives. For example, this week's Parade magazine that accompanies many Sunday papers (dated May 29) carries the moving story of U.S. Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham, who according to the article was killed saving his buddies from an exploding grenade. Dunham was 22. And Sunday's Doonesbury comic strip consists entirely of the names (part I) of U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq since 4/28/04.

But for many Christians, the war in Iraq is wrong, and the U.S. military personnel shouldn't be there in the first place. We believe that the best way to "support" the troops would be to bring them home. Now.

At this point in the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the occupation itself is a major cause of the problem. The presence of U.S. forces fuels the violence -- which continues to escalate, not diminish (in the past month alone, 600 people have been killed, according to the Washington Post). It's time to bring the troops home.

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