Monday, March 27, 2006

Taking Down the Mookster

Bill Roggio is reporting that U.S. forces are teaming with Iraqi units against Muqtada "Mookie" al-Sadr's Mahdi army. In the early fighting approximately twenty of the Mookie's thugs have been killed. We have been wondering how long this boil would be allowed to fester before it was cut out of the Iraqi body politic. We hope that this operation is a signal that the Mookster's days are numbered.

Update: Some of Mookie's allies are painting the raid as a war crime. Roggio has more on the story here and here.

In Defense of CPT

Byron is a dear friend of mine, but we see things very differently when it comes to matters of national security and the use of military force. My recent criticisms of the Christian Peacemaker Teams' alleged refusal to assist the coalition forces with information that might help locate and rescue other kidnap victims has led him to rise to their defense. His complete e-mail is on the Feedback page. If you're interested in following the discussion I encourage you to read his e-mail first and then return to this post where I try to answer some of his criticisms and concerns.

I had argued yesterday that to refuse to help the coalition find other kidnap victims is not significantly different than refusing to give local police information one might have on an abduction of someone in the states.

Byron argues that this is a bad analogy. His words are indented in what follows:

It seems evident to me that as caring Christian people, they surely would cooperate with legitimate authorities doing bone fide rescue work and to suggest otherwise is really odd.

But why think they would? CPT refuses to cooperate with the legitimate authorities in Iraq, not just the coalition, but also the Iraqi authorities established through a duly elected government. If they won't cooperate with them why think they'd cooperate with local police? CPT might cooperate with American police, of course, but if so, they'd be inconsistent.

Furthermore, why suggest that what coalition forces are doing in hunting for kidnap victims is not "bona fide rescue work"? In what sense are they not genuine attempts to rescue those who've been abducted by terrorist killers?

If CPT wishes to argue that they are justified in not cooperating with U.S. forces to find kidnap victims because those forces are illegitimate, then we might ask them if they would refuse to cooperate with Saddam's regime if a similar occasion had arisen. Saddam's regime was elected by the people, and since it was, in CPT's eyes, an illegitimate act for the U.S. to overthrow him, it follows that CPT believes that the Baathists constituted a legitimate government. If so, CPT should have no scruple against cooperating with Saddam to help find an innocent crime victim, even though they personally detested Saddam himself. Their logic would lead them to cooperating with Saddam but not cooperating with the coalition or the current Iraqi authorities. That seems pretty odd, too, I think.

[T]hey are .... protesting the occupation of U.S. forces that they believe are putting local civilians in harm's way.

The threat to civilians in Iraq comes from the insurgents and foreign Islamists who have deliberately killed and maimed tens of thousands of Iraqis. I don't think one would find very many Iraqis who see the U.S. as a significant threat to their safety. On the other hand, one would find many Iraqis who would say that, although they don't like having American troops on their soil, neither do they want them to leave just yet.

They are there to protect their Iraqi friends from the U.S. military who has bombed their homes, factories, schools and hospitals.

I know of no evidence either that U.S. forces bombed schools and hospitals or that the CPT teams have prevented a single military action beyond the rescue of innocent abductees. Is there any evidence that CPT in Iraq has saved anyone, except the insurgents, from harm?

[T]hey think that the occupying forces are enforcing an unjust occupation and are to be opposed.

To be sure, they think this, but why, exactly, is the occupation unjust? What about it makes it unjust? I can understand (though I disagree) why they might think the war was unjust, but it doesn't follow that because the war was unjust that therefore the occupation is. What would be unjust would be for the U.S. to say we shouldn't have invaded in the first place, so we're getting out, and the Iraqi people are on their own. If that's what CPT wants the United States to do then they want us to execute what would perhaps be the greatest betrayal and act of treachery in modern history.

That they won't give information (if in fact that is even true, as you yourself wonder near the end of your piece) to people that they do not trust, who have been known to kill the wrong bad guys in other similar situations, is not at all--not at all!---the same situation as your hypothetical.

Have the police in this country not been known to make mistakes and shoot the wrong people? If Byron thinks it's not at all the same as the hypothetical I present, he and I will just have to disagree on that, but I'd like to see the CPT folks explain the nuances of the difference to the family of Jill Carroll and others who are being held against their will and whose lives are suspended in the balance.

And, by the way, as you know, they have thanked their rescuers, and done so formally and publicly. Since you know that, I wonder why you run this old piece without any correction to his inaccurate accusation?

The American branch of CPT has issued a bland blanket statement thanking any who were involved in the rescue. Neither the Canadian nor the British branch has done so, apparently, even though the rescued victims were Canadian and British. The article cited at the link above points this out.

Let's Talk Silver

Yeah, I know. You're thinking what's this guy who always talks about the benefits of gold up to? Well, consider the following and then decide for yourself.

Prior to 1964 our coinage used to be 90% silver. After that it was 40% silver. Today it's 0%. Our government has removed all of the true value of our coinage and today it has no intrinsic value.

Like gold, there are several ways to take a position in silver such as bullion or shares of companies that mine silver. Two companies worth mentioning are Silver Standard Resources Inc. (SSRI) and Coeur D'Alene Mining (CDE).

Silver is considered to be "the poor man's gold" since it's much less expensive and it tends to track the gold price. Both metals hit their low in 1999 and since then both have been steadily increasing in value.

The main reason I share my interest in silver is because of the principle of diversification. One's investment portfolio should be diversified for reasons of safety. Prudence dictates not to put all of one's eggs into one basket. While I'm on the topic of diversification, I'll also mention stocks of companies involved in energy and energy services but that's a topic for another post.

Demand for silver has been exceeding the supply for sixteenth consecutive years. This consistent supply deficit is a characteristic unique to silver and one that reinforces my belief in increasing silver prices over time. Ask yourself why our government doesn't issue silver dollars today. The answer is because they would be worth $10.75.

Whether one considers gold, silver, or energy they all have a common denominator. They each represent real assets and with the state of the world as it is today, real assets are going to continue to increase in value significantly.

Playground Squabble

Here's some time-wasting radio repartee between Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Alec Baldwin. Lots of name-calling, insults, and virtually zero light shed on anything that matters. If you're a WWF fan or are into mud wrestling you'll love this. Otherwise, you'll wonder why any of these guys get paid what they do.

Alec Baldwin is a contemptible human being, of course, and no one expects any better from him. He's the Hollywood actor who declared that Henry Hyde should be stoned to death along with his entire family. Hannity and Levin, however, should know better. They have a great platform for advancing the culture, raising the general level of discourse, and promoting ideas, but all they do is act toward anyone who dissents from their point of view like eight year olds in a playground altercation. All three of them sound on the transcript like they have the maturity of pre-pubescent boys squabbling over who gets to play with the toys.

Hannity refuses on his show to let callers who disagree with him talk - for that matter he barely lets callers who agree with him talk - he constantly interrupts and talks over them so that the listener is deprived of forming his own judgment of the merit of the caller's arguments. His idea of a rebuttal is to call someone who disgrees a "big liberal," as if that settles anything. It's as if the qualification for voicing, and being given a chance to defend, an opinion on Hannity's show is whether the opinion is one of which Hannity approves. It's as sad as it is disgusting.

Separating the Wheat From the Tares

Meanwhile, as Mexicans stream across our southern border unimpeded, keen-eyed immigration officials espy an obvious imposter:

When Indonesian Yose Rizal applied for religious asylum in the U.S., explaining that he had been beaten, fired, and threatened with death because of his Christian faith, and that his church had been burned by local Muslims, U.S. immigration lawyers asked him where Jesus had been crucified. "Bethlehem," Rizal answered. What disciples wrote the New Testament, they asked. He did not remember.

"Do you know who denied knowing Jesus after the crucifixion?" the lawyer pressed.

"Like whenever it comes to the details of the Bible stories, I cannot really recall everything in detail because basically what I learned was what's good and what's evil," Rizal answered.

"Sir, are you trying to tell me you don't know the answer to the question I asked you?" the lawyer said.

"I swear, I just learned about this story from the Bible but I don't really remember everything in detail because what I really remember was the teaching of what's good and what's evil, like you may not kill, you may not hurt people, and I just enjoy going to church to listen to the preachers."

"Give him something a little easier," the immigration judge told the government lawyer.

The lawyer went to the Old Testament: "Who was Moses?"

"Moses was born by Miriam," Rizal said, incorrectly identifying Moses' older sister.

"And who prepared the Ten Commandments?"


"You got that backwards," the lawyer said.

Rizal protested, describing his baptism. "[T]hey have some kind of wording, some kind of words before then, whether we really have the intention of being a Christian, whether we were ready or not and then after that, the preacher spread some holy water and then prayed, we prayed together."

"Do you have any other questions?" the judge finally said. "Because I think I've heard enough."

The government lawyer said that, yes, he had more questions, because Rizal "hasn't testified at all today regarding any of the [events] of persecution."

"Well, if I don't find he's a Christian, I don't even think it's necessary," the judge replied. Indeed in his decision denying Rizal asylum, the immigration judge ruled that the Indonesian "provided no evidence to corroborate his purported identity as a Christian....[He] also failed to persuade the Court of the genuineness of his professed Christian faith based on his inability to demonstrate basic knowledge of Christianity. For example, he identified Jesus as the preparer of the Ten Commandments and he identified Moses as the son of Mary."

Hah! Caught the rogue in a tissue of lies and ignorance. That'll teach a lesson to these ignorant third-world types who think they can fool an immigration judge with all that twaddle about Christianity being a love-affair, a romance with Christ. Everyone knows, especially the judge, that Christianity is really an ecclesiastical motor vehicle code that you have to learn just like a 16 year-old getting ready to take the test for her driver's license. If you know the facts well, then, you're a Christian. If you love Jesus, but don't know who wrote the Ten Commandments then you deserve to be sent back to the Muslim hell from which you came. The Body of Christ needs more such vigilance.

Actually, he identified him as the son of Miriam, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals noted in a Tuesday decision. And that's not the only point the appeals court corrected the immigration judge on. The immigration judge "appears to have erroneously viewed Rizal's lack of detailed doctrinal knowledge about Christianity as automatically rendering incredible his claim of religious persecution, without assessing the genuineness of Rizal's asserted Christian self-identification and his claim that others perceived him as a Christian and had persecuted him on that basis," Judge Robert Katzmann wrote for the court.

Doctrinal knowledge isn't a prerequisite for persecution, the court said, so it shouldn't be a prerequisite for asylum. "Both history and common sense make amply clear that people can identify with a certain religion, notwithstanding their lack of detailed knowledge about that religion's doctrinal tenets, and that those same people can be persecuted for their religious affiliation. Such individuals are just as eligible for asylum on religious persecution grounds as are those with more detailed doctrinal knowledge." The appeals court ordered the lower immigration courts to reconsider the asylum case. Rizal's lawyer notes that the Indonesian may be able to stay in the country a lot longer than earlier thought: Over the course of the appeals process, he married an American. An Associated Press story ends with a nice touch: "The pair ... met at church."

A refreshing breeze of common sense blows through the halls of the 2nd Court of Appeals. Thank God. Now if only they could bottle it and send some along to those immigration lawyers and the judge who heard the original case.