Archive for the November 2006 Category

A SYLLOGISTIC LAMENT FOR A WOUNDED PREACHER

In my longer than expected life, a minuscule amount of time has been directed toward the peccadilloes of preachers and priests caught in sexual scandals. I am not a Christian and do not intend to become one. Nor do I intend to become a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Jew, a Hindu, et. al. I assume that the congregations and the authorities will tend to these matters of sexual misconduct. This case, however, has a slightly different twist to it.

The facts are as follows. Ted Arthur Haggard is the founder and was the Pentecostal pastor of the New Life mega-Church in Colorado Springs. It claims a membership of 14,000 worshipers. Mr. Haggard was also the president of the National Association of Evangelicals in this country which claims a membership of something approaching 20 million. In addition, Reverend Haggard participates in weekly telephone calls with Karl Rove, the assistant to the President of the United States. In that capacity he advises on political moves and on war strategy. Finally, Reverend Haggard has produced seven books on religious matters and was an actor in a religious film which portrays the eternal damnation of hellfire. As you can see, he has had a full plate.

The first week of November, 2006 has brought charges by a male prostitute in Denver that he had a three year homosexual relationship with Pastor Haggard. There is also a tape recording of the pastor calling the prostitute and arranging for the purchase of a quantity of methamphetamines, an illegal drug. When questioned by a reporter for a Denver television station, the Reverend said that he had no sexual relationship with the prostitute and that when he received the illegal drugs, he immediately threw them away1. I suspect that by now you may have some doubts about the veracity of the pastor’s story.

At the Sunday morning services on November 5th, the interim preacher read a letter to the New Life worshipers from Pastor Haggard in which he conceded that he was guilty of sexual misconduct. Nothing was said about the illegal drugs.

As a result of a this admission, the good pastor was dismissed as the leader of the church in Colorado Springs and also, he lost his job as the head man of the National Association of Evangelicals in America. We do not yet know whether his weekly telephone conferences with Karl Rove continue.

Now with those facts behind us, let us proceed to the syllogism. Syllogisms start with a major premise. In this case, Christians would contend that everyone is made in God’s image. It must be assumed that slaves, who are referred to throughout the Bible, are excluded from the likeness of the immortal God. So the major premise here is that all the rest of us non-slaves are created in God’s image

The minor premise here is that Christians seem to actively dislike homosexual or bisexual persons whom we must presume are also created in the image of God.

From the major and minor premises, we are now able to draw a conclusion. It is inevitable that the conclusion must be that God or the Intelligent Designer made one hell of a mistake by creating homosexuals.

So on this basis, the Reverend Haggard is to be shunned, outcast and condemned. The New Life Church does not want to be led by a man who has conceded a homosexual relationship with another male.

The Pentecostals that Reverend Haggard formerly led, hold the belief that every word in the Bible is literally true. For example, they accept the belief that Joshua actually stopped the sun in its tracks and lengthened one day into two days. If they can believe that Joshua was able to snare the sun while it circled the earth, they should have no trouble in believing Reverend Haggard’s story.

The folks in Colorado Springs seem to have no interest in redemption at all. What they seek is revenge. The good reverend seems to be condemned to hell for the rest of eternity.

I have no intention to be the preacher that my mother had envisioned; however, I have a thought using this same syllogism as the basis for my logic. The major premise again is that God created all of the humans here on earth in his image.

The minor premise is that God or the Intelligent Designer also created homosexuals, bisexuals, slaves, and heterosexual non-believers such as myself.

From that set of premises, we can then arrive at the conclusion that God loves the sexually deviant and slaves as well as he loves the rest of us.
Any argument?

This not only relieves God of having made a terrible mistake, but it presents a compassionate image to the world. If I were a Christian and if I were a member of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, I would not be thumping the tub to chase the Reverend Haggard out of the church. On the contrary, my mind tells me that Pastor Haggard is just an unfortunate subject of ignorant prejudice and hypocrisy. Can anyone guarantee that there are no members of the New Life Church who have ever had a homosexual relationship?

Under the present set of circumstances, it is clear that Reverend Haggard is a liar, a cheat, a hypocrite and a homosexual. He has been knocked flat on his back side. I cannot find it in my un-Christian soul, or what passes for a soul, to kick him or to condemn him while he is down. Quite to the contrary, I believe this is the time for Reverend Haggard to be given a helping hand, even if it comes from a heterosexual
non-believer.

Earlier in this essay, there was a reference to ignorant prejudice about homosexuality. Homosexuals are born that way2. They do not become homosexuals out of some evil and malevolent desire. Some people are born left handed, some are bald and some are gay or lesbian. I suppose it is the great decider that makes those choices. But if there is a Christian God, it is my naïve belief that he must love all of the creatures that he created.

So you see that I have hope and I have some compassion with respect to our wounded preacher. It grieves me that his congregation and the collection of evangelistic sects have elected to treat him as a pariah. They disdain compassion, while they embrace the bitter grapes of wrath.

Whether one wishes to admit it or not, homosexuality has been with us from the beginning of time. There are some religions, such as the Muslims, who claim that there are no homosexuals in their ranks. May I suggest that they are clearly wrong. If one believes in God, one cannot escape the conclusion that God created homosexuals just the way everyone else was created. If a homosexual couple moved in next door to me, it would be my intent to welcome them with a bottle of champagne. They are trying to make it through this life the same way I am. As Lillie Carr would say, they are doing the best they can.

An amendment in Colorado outlawing gay marriage, which was sponsored mainly by Reverend Haggard, was adopted on November 7th. The supreme irony here is that the ban against gay marriage is now embedded in the Colorado Constitution, while the Reverend Haggard is out of a job and his heterosexual marriage is in shambles. Man, it stretches my compassion and understanding to the breaking point, but Haggard needs a pat on the back, not another kick in the rear-end. It seems to me that if there is an Ultimate Decider, Haggard has simply become the person that the divinity wanted him to be.

E. E. CARR
November 8, 2006
Essay 214
~~~
Kevin’s commentary, in footnote style:

1. Of course he did! What else would you do with drugs you’ve just purchased?
2. I feel like stories like Haggard’s are the best possible evidence, as if any more evidence were needed, that being gay is not a choice. The most vitriolic homophobes are often gay themselves — how much would they give not to be?

CELIBATE SEX

My wife, Ms. Judith Chicka, says that the title of this piece is a non-sequitur. And she is a descendent of the Serbian royal family so she should know what she is talking about. On the other hand, it is my belief that the title is nothing more than an oxymoron.

The Bishops of the American Catholic faith are meeting in Washington this week. Their annual meeting has been held in Washington for many years. When I worked as a lobbyist for AT&T in the last half of the 1960’s, the meetings were covered in great detail by religious reporters from the Washington Post and the Washington Star. I have always been an avid reader of newspapers so I followed the developments at the Bishops conference with some interest. In spite of the fact that I am not a member of the Catholic faith, it was interesting for me to read about the dialog that took place at the conference.

Several years after I left Washington, I began a long standing wrestling match with an ailment called aphasia. That ailment makes it very difficult to call people’s names to mind. It seems to affect other nouns as well. To recall certain names to mind, I am obliged to use other references. For example, the word persimmon did not register easily in my brain for more than three years. I finally connected it with Simmons mattresses, so I can now recall persimmons to mind. Recently I had a problem with the words “inferiority complex.” In that case, I remembered Sherwin-Williams paint which said that their paints were superior. The opposite of superiority is inferiority and from that I have been able to figure out the term inferiority complex.

Now to go back a few years, my reading of the Bishops conference led me to believe that they had an active interest in purgatory. Purgatory gave me fits trying to recall that name recently. I am now able to do that by thinking of the Black Draught purgative, now called laxative, which then leads me into the word purgatory. I know this is a long way to get from here to there, but that’s the way it has to be done for those of us who have lesions in the brain resulting from a stroke and seizures. For those with long memories, Black Draught came in a small yellow package and a small amount was mixed into a glass of warm water. My recollection is that the purgative produced almost immediate results.

Now that I can remember some of the words that have to work in this essay, we can proceed to discuss celibate sex.

In the Bishop’s conference this year, there seemed to be extensive debate on sexual matters. The first had to do with homosexuals and the second had to do with contraceptives.

It took a long time, perhaps centuries, for the church to acknowledge that homosexuals existed. It took them another eon to admit that some of them were Catholic. In my own view, I find this amusing because some of the most creative people known to me were homosexuals.

In any case, the Bishops debated about homosexuals again this year and decided, by a vote of about two to one, that homosexuals were acceptable provided that they did not have homosexual relations. In other words, gay and lesbian folks are accepted by the Bishops so long as they don’t engage in the relations of their sexual desires. I do not know what the Bishops would conclude if a homosexual person set out to enjoy heterosexual sex. That aspect apparently did not occur to the Bishops.

This is a little like inviting a fat man to a banquet and telling him that it is okay to stand around or perhaps even to sit at the table, but please don’t eat the food. Homosexuals are moved by the same desire for relations with other like-minded people, much as heterosexual people are also moved.

I wonder what the Bishops would say to a young heterosexual who engages in what we call normal sexual relations. Is he less sinful than the homosexual who engages in gay or lesbian sex?. I am a bit confused by the Bishop’s vote which turned out to have a substantial minority. Were the minority voters simply saying that homosexuals had no right to be in the church or were they saying that it is permissible to have homosexual relations? It is probably well that no Americans of Irish descent such as myself should be a pope because we would say that it is hard to find the sin. Folks of our sort would say, “Be happy” and come to church every Sunday and don’t miss the Parish bingo games each week.

Now we turn to the second part of the Bishop’s discussion this week which had to do with the use of artificial contraceptive devices. As expected, the Bishops came down foursquare against the use of those instruments to prevent pregnancies. My inquiring mind would turn to a question of whether a heterosexual male would have sexual relations with a heterosexual female and use one of those dreaded and evil contraceptive devices. The question would seem to be how many violations of the Church rule are involved.

Does having sexual relations outside of marriage constitute a sin?. Secondly, if the couple were to use the devices, would that constitute a second sin?

The Bishops conceded that only 4% of married Catholics actually use the approved natural birth control methods which rely upon relations outside the females fertile period. It seems to me that the natural method works best when one or both parties are sterile. But whether this is the case or not, I am amazed at the amount of time that the aged celibate Bishops spend on sexual matters. I would have thought these things would have been furthest from their minds. In my own view, the Bishops should return to debating about purgatory. What is it? How long do people have to stay there? Do some sins keep you in purgatory longer than others?

I am intrigued by all of these matters when I think of Monsignor William Clarke, the former Rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, who had a so-called “secretary” who worked for him over a period of more than 20 years. In the divorce proceedings involving his secretary and her husband, it was agreed that the woman spent weekends with the Monsignor and often took vacations with him. There was no claim that Monsignor Clarke and the secretary refrained from sexual relations. We simply don’t know what happened. On these long weekends and vacations, are we to understand that the Monsignor and his secretary were only discussing details of life in purgatory? In the final analysis, I suspect that she was guilty of adultery, but is that where it ends?

If the Monsignor and his secretary engaged in relations using an artificial birth control device, does that constitute two sins? Would it have been better for them to produce a child outside of marriage? Or several children?

Monsignor Clarke, the former Rector, also had a home on Long Island where he spent his weekends. I assume that any children that he might have had would be given a parochial education and would grow up to be good citizens. But now we have the question of whether his secretary was guilty of adultery and was he guilty of violating his vow of celibacy?

I am, at this late date in life, longing for the Bishops to go back to discussing all the aspects of purgatory. I think that they are out of their depth and in over their heads when they begin to discuss matters of a sexual nature. I am at a loss to know why they do this but I suspect that the director of the annual Bishops conference must use the sexual matters as fillers. In other words, if he has a gap in the proceedings, the director of the Bishops can call for a discussion of gays and lesbians and those who are intent on lovemaking among heterosexuals.

What the Bishops conference should address is whether Msgr. Clarke ever eventually made an honest woman out of his alleged secretary or did he send her out on her own to pursue her skills at shorthand and typing. Ahh, but the Bishops are hung up on gays and lesbians and those evil, wicked condoms. But no matter how you cut it, the Bishops have provided me with excellent entertainment for the past 40 years. For that I am truly grateful.

E. E. CARR
November 16, 2006
Essay 217
~~~
Kevin’s commentary: The way I see it, the purgatory question and the contraceptives question have a lot to do with one another. If a sin is a sin, then for instance lesbian sex which doesn’t involve contraceptives would be just as bad as heterosexual sex with protection, right? I get that the ten commandments and other such sins would have a certain weight to them, but once you get past those then how do you compare the gravity of one sin to another? Thankfully, the answer is whatever you want it to be because the concept of sin is bullshit. Phew.

On a different note, I read somewhere that when stroke victims regain things like speech and mobility, the process of doing so necessitates the brain to form brand new cognitive pathways around disabled tissue. So I think that in a way, connecting persimmon to mattresses in order to recall it is an example of this reformed pathway in action. The part of Pop’s brain that used to let him access that word is dead/disabled/fused, but now he can get to it through a different route. That route may have one more step but at the speed of neurotransmitters that difference is imperceptible.

MAIL CALL

This essay has an air of inevitability about it. If a pitcher stands on the mound and expectorates on the baseball, the batter should know that the next pitch will inevitably be a spitball which will start out at waist level and sink to his shoe-tops by the time it crosses the plate.

There is also an inevitability about essay writing. If an event happens only once in 61 years and involves the Girl Scouts, it is inevitable that an essay must be written about it. The unwritten essay will say to the author, “If you don’t write me, I will write the essay myself.” And so there is a degree of inevitability about this essay. Let me try to tell you about it.

Soldiers of every nation will tell you that, next to going home, they look forward with great anticipation to receiving mail from there. That, of course, is why this essay is entitled “Mail Call.” In my case it ordinarily took at least two to three weeks for a letter mailed from my home in St. Louis to reach me in the African and Italian theaters of war. I am speaking of course about the Second World War.

The letters were collected at a military post office in Miami, Florida called an APO which means Army Post Office. Following the APO was a three digit number which directed the mail to the proper location. For example, When I served in Italy or in Africa, my mail was always addressed to the APO number in Miami. I assume the clerks at the APO in Miami separated the letters by the APO number into the varied designations and placed them into heavy canvas sacks. From that point on, they started a torturous journey involving several countries.

The planes that carried the mailbags were usually C-87’s which were the cargo version of the B-24 bombers. The first stop was Borinquen Field in Puerto Rico. The second stop was at Georgetown, British Guyana. The enlisted men’s barracks at Georgetown had small lizards that crawled over the supporting beams for the roof. I made three trips through Georgetown and never enjoyed a nights sleep there in any case.

The next stop was over jungle growth so heavy that if an airplane were lost there, it would be almost impossible to find it. The tall trees and the jungle growth would seem to simply absorb it. The flight from Georgetown was aimed at Natal, Brazil. If fuel was running a little low, the airplane could put in at Belem, Brazil or at a place called Fortaleza. At Natal, Brazilian salesmen were permitted to enter onto the flight lines to sell such things as perfume and their Natal boots. I bought a pair of Natal boots but never wore them on a flight. If it were necessary to use a parachute, when the chute opened, in all likelihood the boots would come off the feet. Consequently, I flew wearing Army high top shoes.

From Natal came the first ocean hop to a little known place in the South Atlantic called Ascension Island. It is a one mile square island which consists almost entirely of volcanic ash. A runway had been constructed amid the ash heaps which permitted it to a have a long runway. If the airplane missed the center line of the runway, there was a good chance that it would scrape the sides of the channel with one of its wingtips. Ascension Island, as I have said before, is one of the five loneliest places in the world. It was a British possession when the Americans took it over largely for the use of Pan American Airways. Today, that island does not even appear on most maps. I suspect that it is without inhabitants and no one seems to care about it anymore.

From Ascension Island to the next stop was Accra in British West Africa in a country called the Gold Coast. Since the early 1960’s, that country is now called Ghana.

When the mail reached Accra, it was separated into two sets. One shipment went north into North Africa and the Italian theatre of war, with several stops on the way. The second shipment headed eastward to the foot of the Himalayan Mountains to be delivered to those troops fighting the Japanese. Many stops along the way occurred at American bases at such places as El Genina and El Fasher in the Darfur region of the Sudan. It ended with delivery to the forces in the eastern-most province of India called Assam.

The arrival of mail at a post overseas occurred about once every 10 days. But if we were very lucky, there might be a weekly delivery. But on average, the mail arrived between ten days and two and one half weeks.

In those days there was no e-mail, of course. The only means of correspondence was letters and postcards. In late 1943 or 1944, the post office developed a thin sheet of paper called a V-mail. V-mail is a single thin piece of paper onto which you could write your message and fold it so that there was no envelope required. Mail in those days cost only three cents for a first-class letter. I believe that those V-mails addressed to soldiers required no postage.

Weight was very important because the mail was carried on cargo planes. The mail usually was an added starter after the rest of the cargo had been loaded. If there was no room for mail on the first flight, it had to be held for subsequent flights, which accounts for the delay in delivery. Obviously, the drawback to using V-mail was that the writer could not say much at all on one small tissue-like piece of paper.

When mail arrived at a base, the word would spread very quickly. The sack would be taken to the squadron headquarters and at lunchtime or when the work was finished for the day, the squadron clerk opened a window in the Quartermaster’s Office and then yelled “m-a-i-l c-a-l-l.” Within instants, perhaps forty or fifty men would show up right outside the window. As the squadron clerk called your name you were expected to answer out “Hyoh.” It was never a case of saying “I am here” or “That’s for me.” Everyone learned that the proper response was the single syllable “Hyoh.”

If your friends were away on a mission or at work, it was a solemn duty to claim their mail and to bring it back to the tent or barracks. On top of that, whenever the missing soldier returned to the tent or barracks, it was appropriate to tell him that he had some mail waiting for him. That would cause everybody’s face to light up.

Getting the mail from the squadron clerk was not always an easy task. It required that the mail be passed overhead from one hand to another until it reached the proper recipient. Once it was in the recipients hand, it was a sacred duty to take the mail back to your tent or barracks and to distribute it where it could be found easily. The point here is that receiving mail in the army was an extremely important operation. One did not walk around the base with a letter for another soldier carelessly tucked into his pocket. That would have been a gross error in etiquette.

Well now that I have told you about the importance of mail to soldiers, I will tell you a little about a mail delivery that I received on November 8, 2006. I knew that Veterans Day would come along in a few days but I was not paying any attention to it. On November 8, 1945, I receive my honorable discharge from the American Army. As Veterans Day, formerly called Armistice Day, came and went over these six decades, no one made a fuss about it. There were no congratulatory telephone calls or postcards. Perhaps there might have been a march now and then by the local American Legion Post or the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post, that is about as far as it went.

In all those 61 years since my discharge from the American Army, no one ever said to me that they appreciated my service in our Armed Forces. But to be honest, I never expected anyone to offer good wishes on Veterans Day. When the Second World War came along, I thought it was my duty to volunteer to serve in our Armed Forces. It was as simple as that and after my discharge I had no relationship with the armed forces. I do not attend reunions nor did I ever join a VFW Post or a veterans organization of any kind. I had done my duty and it was my intention to get on with life.

This November 8th was a different story. One afternoon the doorbell rang and my wife answered. Two Girl Scouts from Troop 132 of the Glenwood School asked my wife if a veteran lived here. She replied that that was the case. At that point the Girl Scouts gave my wife a small bag with a letter and some presents. The presents were a large pencil with stars and stripes on it and a lapel pin. In addition there was a magnetic marker to hold things against the refrigerator, for example. It also had a flag on it.

When my wife read me the letter that the Girl Scouts had written and presented me with their gifts, tears came to my eyes. After all of these sixty-one years, the Girl Scout Troop 132 of Glenwood School remembered. How can any old soldier not show some emotion when he receives such a gift? It is no wonder that my eyes had some tears.

Here is the letter that the Girl Scouts wrote to me:
mail call 1 resized

Here is the letter that I dictated to my wife in response to the letter from the Girl Scouts:

Girl Scouts of America
Millburn Troop 132, Glenwood School
Short Hills, New Jersey

Your gift brought tears to my eyes.

In the summer of 1942, I volunteered to join the United States Army. I was honorably discharged more than three years later, coincidentally, on November 8, 1945. Your gift was delivered on the 61st anniversary of my discharge.

I am very appreciative of your gift because in all of those years from 1942 to the present, no one has ever given me a gift for my service in the United States Army. I thank you very much. And I will treasure your gift for as long as I am around.

All best wishes to the Glenwood Girl Scouts, Troop #132.

Stay strong,
signature

 

And finally, here is the letter that my wife attached to my letter:

To the Girl Scouts of Troop 132,

Ed Carr, my husband is an essayist. He wrote the attached essay “They Never Betrayed Me” to tell his daughters – for the first time – what had happened on the air raid that led to his imprisonment and his subsequent rescue by the Italian Partisans. Perhaps this will give you a flavor of what our fliers endured during World War II.

I am also including a VHS tape having to do with a plaque in New York that honors some of my husband’s co-workers at AT&T who were killed in World War II. This tape was made as part of a project of the Library of Congress in Washington to preserve the memories of WWII.

Perhaps the essay and the tape will give you a better idea about my husband’s service in the American Army. He is too modest to send these, but I will. My husband, who is now blind, was very touched by your gift.

Best regards,
Judith A. Chicka (Mrs. E. E. Carr)

So you see, when the Girl Scouts delivered their letter to me, it was inevitable that I should have a response. It was inevitable that I would write them a letter telling them how much I appreciated their gifts. I am certain that those two Girl Scouts will grow up to be good and thoughtful citizens. They were thoughtful in this case to have remembered me for my service in a war that, from their standpoint, must be thought of as a prehistoric conflict. If there were tears associated with these developments, I would say that they are well deserved.

Now about that spitball pitcher. The spitball was outlawed several years ago but it is alleged that a good many pitchers still throw it. If you are ever in a batter’s box and you think the pitcher is going to throw you a spitball, it is recommended that you move up in the batter’s box and try to hit it before it starts its downward flight. The chances are that you will miss the spitball but unfortunately that’s the very best advice that I can give you. There are teachers who rail against the use of the word spit, but for all of the years that I have been associated with baseball, I have never heard of a pitcher throwing an expectoration pitch. So spitballs and inevitability are the backbone of this essay.

E. E. CARR
November 14, 2006
Essay 216
~~~
Kevin’s commentary: A favorite’s favorite. Good on the girl scouts for remembering, and on Pop for replying. I’m a little annoyed at myself in the past for not saying anything over years and years of Veteran’s days (I was pretty self-absorbed at 16) but I’ve done a little bit better recently. Reading about the war — and the linked essay in particular — definitely opened my eyes a little bit.

That said, “They Never Betrayed Me” is a very intense essay for a bunch of girl scouts. Conversely, the first part of this essay was a really nice window into some of the few brighter moments during the war. I wonder if instant communication takes anything away from the happiness of getting mail these days. I doubt it.

WAR ON TERROR

The news from Washington, particularly the White House, tells us that we are fighting a war on terror. This old under-educated, inarticulate clod is baffled by that description. What war are we talking about? And are the American people genuinely terrorized? The imprecision of the language in the so-called war on terror is immense.

When a man tells me that I am in the middle of a war on terror, I am obliged to ask who is the enemy who is terrorizing me. Three and a half years after the invasion of Iraq and the claims of “Mission Accomplished”, I am still baffled. Who is this monster that threatens to destroy the American government and our way of life?

The people I know and correspond with do not seem to be terrorized of anything. The Bush administration asks no sacrifice from its citizens. On the other hand, it offers them tax cuts in the middle of a war on terror. While this alleged war is going on, Bush takes his vacations and rides his bicycle. This may be the most peculiar war on anything that this old country boy has ever seen or heard about.

The American people could well be terrorized by acts of nature or a number of other influences. For example, the people in California and the West who worry about firestorms being blown by Santa Ana winds, will likely be terrified at the thought of losing their houses and their lives. People who live along the Gulf Coast or in Florida may be terrorized by the advance of a new hurricane. The folks who live in the ghetto may well be terrorized by the armed gangs that rob and kill people. The point I am making is that there are any number of things that might terrorize the American people but the Bush administration does not include them in his so-called terror war.

The imprecision of the language leads me to conclude that the war on terrorism is either a myth or a complete fraud. If, as we are told by the Commander-in-Chief, Iraq is the central front in this war, then I must conclude that the war is irretrievably lost. If we are lucky, we will escape from a stalemate in Iraq after having lost troops at the rate of 75 to 100 per month. If we are losing troops at that rate, how can we say we are winning this terrorism war? Today, can anyone take a peaceful stroll down the capital city streets of Baghdad, which they could do under the hated Saddam?

The mythical proportions about the war on terrorism flows from our political leaders and from some generals who present rosy pictures of progress in the Iraqi war. The fact is clear that we are not making progress; we are clearly losing.

You may recall Mr. Cheney’s remark about the insurgency being “in its final throes.” You might also recall Mr. Cheney’s remark to the effect that we would be welcomed in Iraq as liberators and that people would throw roses at us as our troops marched down Broadway in Baghdad. Cheney appears to be the chief maker of myths in this unfortunate armed conflict. Doesn’t anyone in this administration speak the truth? Any reports of progress are the essence of myth-making.

This leads me to conclude that, on one hand, the war is a myth and is being kept afloat only by those who say give us another 18 months and the Iraqi army will take care of everything. Does anyone believe these pronouncements?

The fact of the matter is that the Iraqi Army will never defend American interests in the Middle East and shouldn’t be asked to do so. Whether we like it or not, it is a myth to believe that the alleged Iraqi Army will successfully prosecute George Bush’s war.

The second myth is that a democracy in Iraq will cause the rest of the Arab world to democratize also. The so-called war on terror is being fought in Alice in Wonderland proportions. Does anyone believe that the Egyptians would overthrow Mubarak or that the Syrians would overthrow Assad simply because Iraq adopted a democratic government? This is myth making of the first order.

Now let us turn to the thought that the war on terror is a fraud. The fact is that the war on terror is a Karl Rovian fraud to give George Bush the powers that we have never before extended to any American president. As long as Karl Rove and Bush can claim that there is a war in progress, the American public will be reluctant to turn out such a president. This is precisely what happened in 2004.

The fact here involves the administration claiming extraordinary powers to spy on people and to listen to their communications. It also involves denying the writ of habeas corpus to the prisoners we hold at Guantánamo Bay. And finally, the fraud permits this president, George Bush, to engage in torture even though he says that it doesn’t exist. To claim that our prisoners at Gitmo and around the world have not been tortured amounts to nothing more than the feces de la toro. The “advanced interrogation methods” that we are proudly using are nothing more and nothing less than torture.

Further, it appears to me that the so-called war on terror is basically a war on Arabs and the Muslim faith. For a while, the mantra of this administration was the “Islamic fascists.” When the administration refers to the people with whom we are engaged in Iraq, they commonly call them “the enemy.” If I were a neutral observer, it would be clear to me that the enemy is the Arabs and the Muslim faith. It would also be clear to me that this is nothing more than a revival of the Crusades.

If we were so interested in stamping out terror, why didn’t we pursue Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and try to catch him? If Osama is the heart of evilness of this world, he should have been dealt with a long time ago. But Osama remains free and there is no indication that he will soon be captured. If the destruction of the World Trade Center was an act of terror, which it was, it would be our duty to pursue and punish the perpetrators. But that we have not done. If the war on terror is going to be successfully prosecuted, Osama will have to be caught. Clearly, Osama is not in Iraq, but that is where we have taken the war.

And while we are dealing with Osama, it seems to me that there are a good many other leaders who terrorize their citizens as well as those of neighboring countries. Try Mugabe in Zimbabwe. What about Castro and Hugo Chavez here in the Western Hemisphere?. And what about the events in the Darfur region of the Sudan? If we are looking for terrorists to bring to justice, there are plenty of them.

It has always been my habit to follow international developments closely. I have followed the so-called war on terror from its inception. In the final analysis, I must conclude that it is a myth of the highest proportions in that we are being told that progress is being made while we can see from our newspapers and television screens that progress is going backwards.

And I must also conclude that the war on terror is a fraud because we are not being told the truth. Its costs are being concealed. Nor do we know what it has done to the equipment of the Army and Marine Corps. We certainly know what it has done to American prestige around the world. Friends, if this is not a fraud, I don’t know one when I see one.

The war on terrorism further detracts from our image abroad. I doubt that any Western European, for example, would cheer our efforts because sophisticated people know that this is a war with mythical and fraudulent proportions.

Mr. Bush is in Hanoi today where he made a statement to the effect that, if we lose this war, it will be because the American people have lost their will. In other words, if we lose this war it will be our fault not the fault of the great and gorgeous George Bush. Are you ready for another “Mission Accomplished” statement? Or do you want to stick with the war being “In its final throes”?

E. E. CARR
November 17, 2006
Essay 218
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Kevin’s commentary: The “War on” rhetoric has become incredibly popular in the last several years. It commonly heralds failure, like in the cases of the War on Terror or the War on Drugs. Turns out it’s hard to wage wars against concepts and objects. Christians like to whine about the “War on Christmas” every winter, even though there isn’t one, and just yesterday I saw a video entitled “War on Boys,” which was a poorly-titled but nonetheless interesting piece about how we educate boys these days.

I guess everything has to be a war these days, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s that print and broadcast media increasingly default to sensationalism to get attention, and calling something a “war” is an easy way to do that while simultaneously granting the reporter immediate access to the framework of “winning” and “losing” since that’s what you do with wars — even (especially?) if those terms make no sense in the context of the particular “war” that we’re talking about. Headlines like “Losing the War on Christmas” are easy to churn out and probably get a ton of clicks. Fill up a video with a few clips of local companies that have stopped using the word “Christmas” in their advertising, splice in a few outraged suburban moms, and you’ve got a story for a slow winter news day.

Of course, the reality is that businesses started to use “holiday” instead of “Christmas” in their marketing as soon as they realized that there are a lot of non-Christians in America, and those people are probably more likely to buy your stuff when you don’t snub them with your terminology before they walk in the door.