Saturday, March 5, 2005

The Metastasizing Culture of Death

There was a time when everyone, even the pro-choice proponents of abortion on demand, agreed that abortion was unfortunate, perhaps even tragic. They would nevertheless argue, of course, that the mother should have the right to terminate a pregnancy to avoid even greater tragedy. The victim, they maintained, was just a blob of tissue. It wasn't as if an actual child were being destroyed. They would never support such a horrific practice as infanticide nor would anyone but a moral monster ever imagine doing such a thing.

Well, times have changed. Now we're being told that abortion should no longer be seen as a necessary evil, nor even something regrettable. Instead, it is, the pro-choice spokespersons now declare, meritorious, something to be celebrated, a deed worthy of boasts.

The culture of death is metastasizing through the body politic. Read these excerpts from a piece by George Neumayr of The American Spectator and reflect upon how children are being dehumanized, delegitimized, and stripped of their worth:

Even in extending a thorn branch to pro-life groups, Hillary Clinton draws gasps, head shaking, and troubled silence from pro-abortion activists. So reported the press after she said earlier in the week that "We can all recognize that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic, choice to many, many women." Notice that she didn't say it is a tragic choice for the aborted babies, only for the women who get abortions.

But this was still too much for the crowd. To them abortion is a cause not for tears but for sighs of relief. After the speech, Martha Stahl, director for public relations and marketing for Northern Adirondack Planned Parenthood, disputed the characterization of abortion as a tragic choice, telling the New York Times that "we see women express relief more than anything else that they have the freedom to choose."

This sentiment, not Clinton's rhetorical repositioning in the wake of a bewildering defeat [in November], represents the real feeling on the pro-abortion side. In fact, leading pro-abortion theorists have been arguing recently that unless abortion is seen as an unambiguous good the movement will die. They reason that if abortion is increasingly seen as a tragedy, then society will question the practice and ultimately ban it. Feelings of remorse invite the political order to scrutinize the source of the remorse. So Planned Parenthood is urging women to take pride in their abortions.

The "I Had An Abortion" T-shirts Planned Parenthood sold online last year were an attempt to "demystify and destigmatize it," said a spokesman for the group. The strategy here is to normalize abortion, make it so commonplace that no one will think to question it. If you can talk happily and casually about your abortions - as Barbara Ehrenreich did in the New York Times last year in a piece titled "Owning Up to Abortion" -- then how bad can the practice be?

Understanding this psychology, Alexander Sanger, the grandson of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, has been emphasizing that abortion advocates should go beyond "choice" - an insipid, evasive rhetoric, he thinks - and celebrate abortion unapologetically. After all, he says, the unborn child is an interloper who deserves death. "The unborn child is not just an innocent life," he writes, but a "liability, a threat, and a danger to the mother and to the other members of the family." is a website that reflects the culture of abortion without apology that Sanger believes essential to the movement's survival. According to its founders, the website - which allows women to post testimonials expressing their "relief" and "joy" after an abortion - "was created for the purpose of showing women that exercising their legal right to terminate their pregnancy is not the blood-splattered guilt trip so many make it out to be."

Ron Fitzimmons, president of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, has told the press, "We have nothing to hide. The work we're doing is good. We are there to help women, and it's important to talk about abortion so that it's not a stigma." Like Sanger, Fitzimmons eschews "choice" talk as too weak and vague to protect abortion. He implies that since everybody now knows that abortion means killing a child abortion advocates will have to sell the public on abortion not just as a choice, but as a good choice - it is better that unborn babies die. "We can no longer respond to [pro-life arguments] with 'it's your right to choose.' We need to recapture the notion that abortion is a difficult moral choice for women, but one that is, in fact, a moral choice."

Whatever happened, we wonder, to the Clintonian rhetoric of making abortion safe, legal and rare?

Sanger's claim that "The unborn child is not just an innocent life," but a "liability, a threat, and a danger to the mother and to the other members of the family," is shocking and repulsive, but it's also an expression of the logical evolution of the culture of death. His words are like distant thunder presaging the coming storm, a storm which will bring with it a concerted assault by the Left on the right to life of newborns, infants, and the elderly.

Alexander Pope penned these lines in his Essay on Man some two hundred and seventy years ago, and they are as apposite today as they were then:

Evil is a monster of such frightful mein, that to be hated needs but to be seen; But seen too oft, familiar with her face, First we endure, then pity, then embrace.

Free Lecture Tapes

Evangelical Outpost tips us to an extensive collection of MP3 audiotapes of past lectures at the MacLaurin Institute available for free download. These lectures cluster around themes dealing with the reliability of the Bible, philosophical and scientific issues which bear upon religion, faith in the marketplace, and what they call the heart of the matter. The speakers are mostly A-list, and the topics are intriguing. Check it out.

Unimagined Consequences

Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters offers this assessment of the developments in Lebanon:

CNN reports that the Lebanese Army has taken positions around the Syrian intelligence headquarters in Beirut, an ominous development in the Cedar Revolution.

This could mean one of two things. It could mean that the Lebanese Army plans on protecting Syrian intelligence assets as the Syrian Army pulls out, a scenario that appears most likely given the close nature of the Syrian and Lebanese military up to this point. It could, however, also mean that the Lebanese Army has decided to impose its own will on the Syrians to up the pressure on Bashar Assad to not only withdraw all of its army but their spies as well.

If the former is the case, the demonstrators in the streets of Beirut should redouble their peaceful efforts to remove the last vestiges of the collaborationist government and elect new leaders as soon as possible. They need to know if the Army can be trusted not to start taking orders from Syria's Mukhabarat and attempt a military coup to put Assad back in the driver's seat by proxy.

On the other hand, if this move by the Lebanese Army demonstrates that they intend to throw in with the Cedar Revolution, Assad and his Mukhabarat are finished, and not just in Lebanon. Getting chased out of Beirut in three weeks by a few thousand civilians and the Lebanese Army will destroy any credibility Assad has left, including domestically, leaving him vulnerable to enemies across the spectrum of Syrian and Arabian politics. There won't be any more talk of a pullback or phased withdrawal - the Syrians will have to retreat, and retreat quickly, in order to avoid a military clash that would threaten to bring in the Americans from the east and possibly the French from the west, over the Mediterranean.

Either way, the situation has just about reached critical mass in Beirut. The rest of the weekend should provide some answers.

Let's hope that the Lebanese army has had its fill of its Syrian masters and are signaling that they've overstayed their welcome. A Syrian retreat in Lebanon will reverberate across the entire Arab world, giving oppressed people throughout the region genuine hope that they too can breathe free.

We bet that Osama never envisioned the magnitude of the fallout he was bringing upon the Islamic world when he was planning his attack on a couple of American skyscrapers.

Well-Qualified for Axis of Evil Status

If you've ever wondered why George Bush lists North Korea as part of the Axis of Evil check out this report from the U.S. Commission on Human Rights in North Korea. Following is just a small portion of the total report:

There are between 5,000 and 50,000 prisoners per kwan-li-so (prison compound), totaling perhaps some 150,000 to 200,000 prisoners throughout North Korea. Both perceived wrongdoers and up to three generations of their extended families are "arrested," or, more accurately, abducted by police authorities and deposited in the kwan-li-so, without any judicial process or legal recourse whatsoever, for lifetime sentences of extremely hard labor in mining, timber-cutting, or farming enterprises. The prisoners live under brutal conditions in permanent situations of deliberately contrived semi-starvation.

The encampments include self-contained, closed "village" compounds for single persons, usually the alleged wrongdoers, and other closed, fenced-in "villages" for the extended families of the wrongdoers. Some of the camps are divided into sections called wan-jeon-tong-je-kyuk (total-control zones), where the sentences are lifetime, and sections called hyuk-myung- hwa-kyuk (best translated as "revolutionizing zones"), so-called "re-education" areas from which prisoners eventually can be released. In the total-control zones, if the families are together, only privileged prisoners are allowed to marry and have children.

With the only known exception of Camp No. 18, prisoners have no correspondence or contact with the world outside the political penal-labor colony, except for news provided by newly arriving prisoners. The kwan-li-so are also sometimes referred to as teuk-byeol- dok-je-dae-sang-gu-yeok, which translates as "zones under special dictatorship." The most strikingly abnormal feature of the kwan-li-so system is the philosophy of "collective responsibility," or "guilt by association" - yeon-jwa-je - whereby the mother and father, sisters and brothers, children and sometimes grandchildren of the offending political prisoner are imprisoned in a three-generation practice.

[P]risoners are not arrested, charged (that is, told of their offense), or tried in any sort judicial procedure, where they would have a chance to confront their accusers or offer a defense with or even without benefit of legal counsel. The presumed offender is simply picked up and taken to an interrogation facility and frequently tortured to "confess" before being sent to the political penal-labor colony. The family members are also just picked up and deposited at the kwan-li-so, without ever being told of the whereabouts or wrongdoings of the presumed wrongdoer.

The most salient feature of day-to-day prison-labor camp life is the combination of below-subsistence food rations and extremely hard labor. Prisoners are provided only enough food to be kept perpetually on the verge of starvation. And prisoners are compelled by their hunger to eat, if they can get away with it, the food of the labor-camp farm animals, plants, grasses, bark, rats, snakes - anything remotely edible.

Persons who try to escape and other major rule-breakers are publicly executed by hanging or firing squad in front of the assembled prisoners of that section of the camp.

Former prisoners - mostly those from the "revolutionizing zone," at Kwan-li-so No. 15 Yodok - and former prison guards report that upon arrival, they were struck by the shortness, skinniness, premature aging, hunchbacks, and physical deformities of so many of the prisoners. They also report that there were large numbers of amputees and persons disabled from work accidents, and persons with partial amputations owing to frostbite of the toes, feet, fingers, and hands.

The report goes on to say that these conditions go back to the 1950s, and that most of the prisoners receiving the harshest treatment are political opponents of the regime.

Of course, these atrocious conditions are ignored by the Left around the world. They are perfectly content to pretend that they don't exist while working themselves into a lather over Americans photographing humiliated Iraqi terrorists at Abu Ghraib and shackling other terrorists at Guantanamo. We can imagine what they would say if they took the trouble to read this report:

"If one wishes to see real abuse one need only look at the Americans who use methods like sleep deprivation and sexual insults, for heaven's sake. They actually threaten people sometimes and, if you can imagine it, deny them access to their Korans if they misbehave. Before we condemn the North Koreans for their unfortunate system we better first remove the log from our own eye." And so on.

Thanks to Hugh Hewitt for the tip.

New Radiation Detector

Wretchard at Belmont Club tips us to an an article in the Chicago Tribune that describes a new device developed by scientists at Los Alamos to detect fissile material in shipping containers and vehicles. Use of the detector would take only twenty seconds per shipping container or truck, and it is expected to go into production this summer at a cost of one million dollars per unit. We expect they'll have trouble keeping up with demand.

The Tribune article includes a description of how the detector works as well as some other pertinent information.