Friday, June 3, 2005

Semper Fi

Our country has lost a fine leader. Ilario Pantano has chosen to resign from the Marine Corps. After the hell he and his family were put through over the last year for defending himself in a stressful situation in Iraq, who can blame him?

There's lots of background on Pantano and his story here.

Kit Jarrell indicts both the military and the media for having grossly mishandled the Pantano case. She writes:

The Corps took one of their own - an officer who had served proudly and with distinction - and crucified him on the cross of political correctness, in a society where too many are more concerned with how we look to the world than how safe we are. His accusers were sloppy and unbelievable at best, and at worst they were simply malicious; determined to ruin a career and a man who was so much more than they would ever be. The case itself was flimsy on all counts - no real eyewitnesses, conflicting statements. Even prosecution witnesses ended up sounding like advertisements for the defense.

She concludes with this:

It could be argued that Pantano's resignation "lets the bad guys win", but I think that happened a long time ago. It happens every time the media slants their reports on the war. It happens every time a military recruiter is barred from a campus. It happens every time we bend over backwards to please the collective globe while leaving ourselves defenseless. It happened the minute someone listened to Sgt. Daniel Coburn.

And yet, the Pantanos that remain in the Marines; the Air Force; the Navy; the Army all fight on; hoping that when and if it is their turn to fire their weapon in the defense of our nation that they do not find themselves at the mercy of a disgruntled sergeant who couldn't even be trusted to lead his squad.

The idea that it could happen again is horrifying. The idea that it happened at all is the tragedy.

The rest of her essay is a blistering indictment of Pantano's accusers and the way the whole thing was dealt with by the Marines. Its worth reading.

Is Zarqawi Dead?

Adnkronos International has this report on Abu Al-Zarqawi:

Baghdad, 2 June (AKI) - The Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq - died on Friday and his body is in Fallujah's cemetary, an Iraqi Sunni sheikh, Ammar Abdel Rahim Nasir, has told the Saudi on-line newspaper Al-Medina. He claims that gunfights which broke out in Fallujah in the last few days involved militants trying to protect the insurgency leader's tomb from a group of American soldiers patrolling the area.

During a telephone conversation from the city of Fallujah with the Saudi newspaper, Nasir said al-Zarqawi was taken there after being injured in the city of Ramadi around three weeks ago, and may have been treated by two doctors who had worked with his aides in Baghdad. He said the two doctors had stopped a serious hemorrhage in al-Zarqawi's intestines, but that after his condition worsened last week, the militant died on Friday.

Nasir adds that in his will the insurgent leader left the order that no funeral should be held for him and the right to announce his death should be left to the al-Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden.

The Al-Medina newspaper reports that it also called the headmaster of a school in Fallujah, who preferred to remain anonymous, but confirmed that many people in the city were aware of the fact that al-Zarqawi had recently been taken to the city.

Sheikh Nasir's claims appear to correspond with reports several weeks ago that al-Zarqawi had been injured and taken to Ramadi hospital for emergency treatment, and with messages on the Internet talking of two Arab doctors accompanying him. Al-Zarqawi was reported to have been seen at the hospital on April 27. The hospital's director told an Iraq-based newspaper that US troops later surrounded and raided the entire building, searching for the Jordanian militant.

Only two days ago, an audio message attributed to al-Zarqawi was posted on the Internet, in which he assured his followers that he had only been lightly injured. Following the message, the US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned countries neighboring Iraq not to give any medical assistance to al-Zarqawi. "Our current theory is that he is in Iraq," he said. "Were a neighboring country to take him in and provide medical assistance or haven for him, they obviously would be associating themselves with a major linkage in the al-Qaeda network, and a person who has a great deal of blood on his hands," Rumsfeld continued. "And that's something that people would want to take note of."

How reliable this report is is hard to say, but as Bill Roggio at Winds of Change points out there is no doubt that right now forensics experts are examining the alleged remains to determine whether Zarqawi has indeed passed on to be with his 72 virgins, whom, we expect, will all be fat, ugly, and covered with pustules.


Os Guinness has written a fine book on the problem that evil poses to both believers and unbelievers and the responses to evil offered by each of the three families of faith: eastern, naturalistic, and Judeo-Christian. The book is titled Unspeakable: Facing Up to Evil in an Age of Genocide and Terror.

Guinness touches a lot of bases and says many worthwhile things about the topic that anyone can read with profit, but one thing in particular puzzled me. Guinness holds to the view that one person may forgive another of a serious offense even though the other neither seeks nor desires that forgiveness. It is possible, in other words, to have forgiveness without reconciliation. Guinness suggests that as long as the "forgiver" doesn't seek redress for the offense, as long as he doesn't hold a "grudge", then he has forgiven the offender.

I guess my problem is that I'm not sure what "forgiveness" means given Guinness' view of the matter. Let me illustrate the difficulty: John does Dave a grave injustice. John is unrepentant and is not interested in Dave's forgiveness. Dave nevertheless says that he forgives John. He treats him with a modicum of courtesy, even behind his back, and seeks no revenge or redress for the hurt. Even so, he no longer respects nor likes John. Their friendship has been irreparably sundered, and Dave doesn't wish to have anything to do with John in the future. Whenever he thinks about the situation he cannot help but think that John is guilty of an offense even though he doesn't insist that John make any compensation. They go their separate ways.

In what sense, then, has Dave actually forgiven John? In other words, can there be any meaning to forgiveness if the forgiveness is not accepted and if there is no reconciliation?

If one man forgives another man's debt then all record of the debt is wiped away, but if Dave forgives John, in Guinness' understanding of the word, then there is no wiping away of guilt, only a decision not to press for retribution. So, is forgiveness just a refusal to seek recompense, which is what Guinness seems to say, or is it something more than that? If it's more, then exactly what is it?

It seems to me that forgiveness entails the restoration of a relationship to at least some semblance of the status quo ante, just as in the case of debt forgiveness, but I don't see how this is possible apart from some measure of reconciliation.

I've always thought of forgiveness as a transaction. One party offers it, and the other accepts it. Until it has been accepted there is no transaction even if the offer still holds. God, for example, holds out forgiveness to everyone, but only those who accept it can receive it. If this is not the way God's forgiveness works then classical Christianity has an interesting problem: People God has forgiven will nevertheless find themselves suffering eternal punishment because, though they've been forgiven, they've never accepted that forgiveness and are thus not reconciled to God. Yet if hell is a consequence of sin and all sin has been expunged from the ledger (because it has been forgiven), why will there be anyone in hell? Indeed, what is the substantive difference between forgiveness and no forgiveness?

This quibble notwithstanding, Unspeakable is an excellent read and can be ordered here. Viewpoint recommends it to anyone interested in the phenomenon of modern evil.

George Mikan, 1924 - 2005

George Mikan has died at the age of 80 from complications from diabetes. Perhaps no player in the history of basketball had as much of an impact on the game as he. There is a fine column on his life and his many contributions to basketball here. He was by all accounts an outstanding man.

Bleak Prospects

Ron Brownstein of the LA Times does the math and concludes that there's not much chance that the Democrats will retake the Senate in 2006.

Brownstein points out that there are more red states than there are blue states. Republicans hold 44 of the 58 red state senate seats and Democrats hold 28 of 36 blue state seats (six seats are in "swing" states). Moreover, the Dems are defending more seats in 2006 than is the GOP. The Republicans thus have more potential for gains than do the Democrats.

Of course, it might be asked why the Democrats should even worry about recapturing the majority as long as there are Republican senators like John McCain and his merry band who do everything possible to allow the Democrats to control things even when they're in the minority.

At any rate, there's a lot more interesting analysis in Brownstein's article. Incidentally, if he's correct and the Republicans hold on to, or even increase, their lead in the Senate, we expect a flood of editorials in liberal newspapers calling for amending the Constitution to allow for proportional representation in that body just as is done in the House. It rankles many Leftists that even though New York's senators represent more people than do the senators of many western states put together, each state gets two senators in Washington regardless of the population of the state. Thus a minority of small-state citizens can effectively neutralize the will of a large-state majority.

Call it "minority rights", of which senate Democrats should actually approve since they keep invoking the concept in order to justify the filibuster. Of course, the difference is that the right of small states to have the same number of senators as large states is fixed by the Constitution. That document is silent about any alleged rights of a minority political party.