Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Too Close to Call

I’ve been watching the national elections since the Nixon/Kennedy presidential race of 1960. Even though we had moved to Paris, France in July of that year, I still followed the campaign through the newspaper (The International Herald Tribune) and the endless dinner table conversations with opinions flying!

One of those memorable moments in life for me was in the spring of 1961. Just a few months before Jack Kennedy was sworn in as our thirty-fifth president, he made a trip to Paris paying a call on President Charles de Gaulle. They made a drive through Paris in an open-aired car, circling the Etoille around the Arc de Triomphe and down the Champs Elysees. My mother and I took the bus into Paris to get a glimpse of our new president. The crowds were massive! As a twelve-year-old I was too short to see over the crowd, so the best I could do was catch a quick look at the top part of JFK’s head as the limo rolled by. For a young American kid in a foreign land, this was an exciting moment.

As I write this, the pollsters are all over the board in their predictions on the presidential race. Today, thirteen days out, one pollster, Pew Research, has Obama ahead by 14 percentage points nationally. Then there’s the Associated Press with Obama ahead by 1 percentage point. I realize that there are any number of ways to conduct these polls, and that these polls are not scientific. One pollster described it as an “art.”

Over the years I have learned not to take the polls too seriously. Why have I come to this conclusion? Simple. Every presidential election in my lifetime has come down to the last day of the election with the news anchors and pundits intoning that “The election is too close to call.” This, despite the blowouts in several elections, namely: Johnson over Goldwater in ‘64. Nixon over McGovern in ‘72. Reagan over Mondale in ‘84. Bush over Kerry in ‘04.

To listen to some of the news sources today you’d think that Barack Obama and the Democratic Party have this election salted away. Perhaps they do, but I’m betting the day of the election will, once again, be declared “too close to call.”

There is a marked increase in voting this time around. Here in California there has been an increase in registered voters by nearly a half-million since the 2004 election. At present there are 16.2 million registered voters in the Golden State setting a new record for the state. Registered Republican voters make up 32.3 percent, while there are 43.9 percent of registered Democrats, and 19.49 percent of registered voters that fit in the category, “Decline-to-State.”

My concern through all of this is for those of us who live out west. The polls on Election Day close at 8:00 PM. But with the three hour difference, and the absolutely ravenous appetite of the Main Stream Media for feeling the need to be the first to proclaim victory for the next president, the election is often decided before those of us out west even get to the polls after work. This may not have a significant affect on the presidential election, but everything else is still in play. There are many state and local offices up for grabs, as well as ballot measures. Knowing the results of the presidential race early can be a discouragement to those who have not managed to get to there polling station until later in the day. Let me encourage everyone to vote regardless of the national election results. The state and local are every bit as important and need to be decided by you, the voter.

Don’t let the early results of the polls dissuade you from making the effort to exercise your right to vote. Remember – on Election Day in 2004 the TV news stations made a lot of premature predictions using inaccurate exit polls to declare John Kerry the runaway winner of the presidency. Obviously, these projections were wrong.

So, expect that the race will be close, in fact, “too close to call.” That’s okay. Just make sure you cast your vote. It’s the American thing to do!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chattanooga Choo Choo

I’ve been doing further research into writing about my great grandfather’s participation in the Battle of Corinth, Mississippi in 1862. So, if you will, allow me to share one of the most fascinating occurrences in the War Between the States.

Railroads were critical for both the Union and the Confederacy. This may be more than obvious; however, it is important to remember that trains were still a relatively new invention when the Civil War began.

The forerunner to the train was an invention in Germany called Wagonways. Horse-drawn wagons were still the means by which to haul people or goods. What set wagonways apart was the development of wooden rails for the wagons to roll on. This was far superior to the rough dirt roads of that time in the 1550s. England produced the first steam-powered locomotive in 1803. This replaced the need for horses pulling the heavy loads of ore out of the coal mines. Some twenty years later trains became a means for passenger travel. The father of American railroads is John Stevens. The first American steam engine was built in 1830 called the Tom Thumb.

With the advent of the American Industrial Revolution, trains quickly became a mainstay in the ever expanding new nation. It is what literally connected the east and west side of the nation. Prior to the train, the quickest means of travel from New York to San Francisco was by sailing ship, traveling south around the southern tip of South America. Needless to say, such a trip took a long time.

Some thirty years later the United States was fully immersed in a civil war. The industrialization of the northern states developed an extensive layout of tracks for train use. The southern states had remained more agrarian, thus were not as interested in crisscrossing their land with steel rails. This would prove to be a detriment to the Southern Cause.

The Iron Horse, as trains were affectionately named, would play a major role in the War. And as it turned out, this would be a decisive role.

In the early spring of 1862, Union forces were moving into western Tennessee to attack several Confederate forts and key geographic locations – specifically Corinth. Why Corinth? Because it was the main crossing of two railroad lines: the Memphis & Charleston Railroad Line and the Mobile & Ohio Railroad Line. Union forces under the command of General O. M. Mitchel, developed a daring plan to strike deep into the heart of Dixie. Volunteers were called for to engage in a very dangerous mission. Twenty-four men stepped forward. It was then that they were informed of the mission. They were to dress in clothing that was common to southern men; then proceed by whatever means available into the south until they arrived in Marietta, Georgia. They then rendezvoused at the Marietta Hotel in final preparation for their daring plan. They were to seize control of one of the trains in the train yard nearby and drive it north in an attempt to cause as much damage along the way as possible. But the primary purpose was to disrupt commerce flowing in and out of the city of Chattanooga.

The train was successfully hijacked and the race was on! If all went well, the boys from the Ohio regiments conducting this raid would be able to cut the telegraph wires as they moved north. Another part of the plan was to stop at each railroad bridge and burn it so as to discourage enemy pursuit, and disrupt southern use of their rail system, or at least until it could be repaired.

Over the next couple of days the chase given by the southerners in a pursuing train was high drama, to say the least. The Confederates were so close on the heels of the northern boys in the hijacked train, that there was no time to stop and cause the damage originally intended. Telegraph lines were cut frequently, but that was about all. The northern boys threw all manner of items onto the tracks to slow down or derail their pursuers, but to no avail. They even set rail cars ablaze and left them sitting on the tracks in hopes of delaying the enraged enemy. The southern engineer just blew on through the blockade, pressing hard on the fleeing northerners. Finally, with no chance to stop for more wood and water for the engine, the boys from Ohio literally ran out of steam. Everyone was encouraged to scatter and fend for themselves. All but two were captured within a week. The leader, James, J. Andrews, and seven others were executed. The remaining fourteen made a daring escape from their captors in Atlanta, Georgia. Eight managed to return to their units in the north, while the remaining six were recaptured and eventually returned to their units in an exchange of prisoners in 1863.

The author of the article of this great adventure was William Pittenger of the 2nd Ohio Volunteers, circa 1880. He would later become a minister.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What Terrorists Say (Part II)

Picking up from last week, allow me to continue on this theme of terrorists and what they think.

I am drawing heavily on the comments of Aaron Klein, “the Jerusalem bureau chief for the right-wing news web site, and a columnist for the equally conservative Jewish Press.” This is the description of Klein by Ruthie Blum, the author of the article in the Jerusalem Post.

One of the beliefs that terrorists supposedly embrace is the idea that dying for Allah will gain them automatic entrance into paradise. Klein replied, “The suicide bombers themselves . . . absolutely believe they’re going to paradise, where they will be met by 72 dark-eyed virgins.” But Klein follows up with this observation, “What is interesting about the 72-virgin thing that recruiters [of terrorists] and would-be bombers repeat all the time is that it is not in the Koran.” He continues, “The Koran describes a paradise for martyrs as having virgins and full-breasted maidens, but the number 72 doesn’t appear. That comes later, in the Hadith [the Islamic oral tradition].”

Now, I want you to pay close attention to this next observation by Aaron Klein. He continues on the 72-virgin theme: “Once I was meeting with senior leadership of al-Aksa Martyrs’ Brigade in Nablus (a Palestinian city about forty miles north of Jerusalem), and I brought along an American radio host, Rusty Humphries. And Humphries kept pushing them to show us where the bit about 72 virgins appears in the Koran. So they began flipping through the pages, pulling out all sorts of verses that had nothing to do with 72 virgins. Ultimately they conceded that it wasn’t in there. But they didn’t like being challenged, and they told me later not to bring Humphries back there ever again.” Klein then makes a very cogent observation: “This underscores the heart of the problem – that at its very foundation there is no argument for terrorism. It’s so easy to deconstruct. But most of the media out there take the terrorists’ lying responses and move on to the next question without challenging them.”

This raises an important question: How much of what you read or hear from the media do you accept, a priori, as truth?

Some in our country believe we should sit down for formal discussions with these Islamic terrorists. Klein replies to this by answering the question, “How informed are the terrorists you’ve come in contact with about American and Israeli politics?” He offers a fairly lengthy response, so allow me to present a few of his thoughts. He said, “Many are well-versed [in American and Israeli politics]. When it comes to American politics, they understand the difference between Democrats and Republicans, but they don’t know so much about the particulars of the U.S. presidential candidates. They consider all Americans as infidels, but they’re going to support whichever political party in America they believe will help them achieve their short-term goals – and the Democrats are more outspoken on withdrawing troops from Iraq. Furthermore, Barack Obama is talking about sitting down with the Iranian president, so they’d all prefer to see a Democrat win the presidential election. In fact, I did an interview in April with Ahmad Yusuf, the chief political advisor to Hamas in Gaza, in which he endorsed Obama and compared him to John F. Kennedy.”

Following this, the interviewer asks Klein, “What are you saying then – that these terrorists want to negotiate? You claim they view all Americans as infidels, yet Ahmad Yusuf compared Obama favorably to Kennedy.” “They support negotiations with the West,” Klein says, “because they see negotiations as a sign of weakness on the part of the West – as a sign that they’re bringing the West to its knees.”

Here’s the final question in the interview with Aaron Klein. “How do the terrorists envision their own society, in the event that their goals of defeating Israel and the U.S. are achieved?” Klein replies, “That’s just it. They have no plan beyond jihad.”

It is obvious that these terrorists are intent on one thing: Our death and the destruction of our nation.

Regarding what terrorists say, Klein says, “It’s necessary to educate people.”

You have now been educated.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

What Terrorists Say

In the course of a normal day for me I will read a variety of material. I’ve often been heard to say, “There are simply not enough hours in the day for reading!”

This morning I was reading through a copy of the Jerusalem Post that a friend left for me at the church office. One article in particular caught my attention. It is entitled, “Out of the Mouth of Bombers.” The author is Ruthie Blum, and she’s writing about Aaron Klein. Klein is the Jerusalem bureau chief for the right-wing news web site,, and a columnist for the equally conservative Jewish Press. He is the author of the best-selling book, Schmoozing with Terrorists.

A few weeks back I picked up a book written by Michael Yon, a former Green Beret. Yon has become a self-made journalist, traveling at his own expense to Iraq, Afghanistan and any other hot spot to provide as unbiased a view of the conflict as possible. I have been receiving Yon’s periodic e-mails from Iraq since early last year. He calls it like he sees it and does not hesitate to criticize even our own military when it demonstrates inept leadership, foolish battle plans, or bullheadedness when dealing with Iraqi locals. His book, Moment of Truth in Iraq, came out earlier this year and is a terrific look behind the scenes of all that has been happening in that Middle Eastern country. The picture on the cover is of an American Army Ranger holding a little girl named Farah. This precious child heard the American soldiers drive up, so she ran out to greet them knowing they would be passing out candy. A couple of dozen children were gathered around a Stryker (A Stryker is one in a family of eight-wheeled all-wheel-drive armored combat vehicles). At that moment a terrorist driving a bomb-laden car rammed into the Stryker. Out of the flames and smoke emerged a woman carrying a bloodied and severely injured Farah. Major Mark Bieger scooped little Farah into his arms and rushed her to the Army medics. At moments he would stop and hug the child, whispering to her. Perhaps you’ve seen the picture. Later, while Farah was being treated at the hospital, she died.

Shortly after Farah’s death, the picture made the rounds in Iraq and the effect has been devastating to the al Qaeda terrorists. Iraqi’s are fed up with the terrorists and have turned against them, while at the same time they have come to the realization that we are in their country to help them.

We Americans have a difficult time understanding why these terrorists can be so vicious. We are fed a line of rubbish about these people being so poor that they have nothing, thus they are driven to acts of violence. Both Klein and Yon say this simply is not so. Klein believes it is necessary, “to educate people on what the war on terrorism is really about,” by giving a genuine glimpse into the psyche of suicide bombers and their recruiters.

Ruthie Blum asks Klein, “What makes terrorists tick?”

“That’s a good question,” Klein says. “A lot of people think that terrorism is about pieces of territory. Others think that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the whole alphabet of Palestinian terrorists simply want to destroy Israel or that al Qaeda wants America out of the Middle East. But one thing that has really been driven home to me in all my talks with terrorists – which is the thesis of all my work – is that they are looking to serve Allah by spreading Islam around the world. That’s what makes them tick.”

Blum then asked, “It is often said of terrorists that desperation and poverty – sometimes mental illness – is at the root of their actions. Is there truth to that?”
Klein responded, “It’s true that if you watch CNN or read The New York Times, you would get that impression. Because whenever there’s a suicide bombing in Israel, right away they present human interest stories about how the bomber is poor and living under Israeli occupation. And this is in spite of the fact that in the history of modern civilization, there’s no other instance of people under occupation blowing themselves up.

“But, about a year and a half ago, I met with a 22-year-old Palestinian who had been recruited to become a suicide bomber for Islamic Jihad and his recruiter in Jenin, and I specifically asked them whether they were carrying out their operations because of poverty and desperation. Their response was to get offended and to call it Zionist propaganda. They explained that suicide is forbidden in Islam, and that blowing oneself up in the midst of innocent men, women and children does not constitute suicide, but rather jihad for Allah – that therefore it is not only allowed, but it is the creed.”

Next week I will address this topic further. My purpose in writing about these Islamic terrorists is to allow you to see how we are being misled by the media in understanding what is really at the root cause of their behavior.

As Aaron Klein says, “It’s necessary to educate people.”

Consider yourself being educated.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

My Thoughts on Proposition 8

Without a doubt, California has placed itself squarely in the national spotlight once again with a ballot initiative addressing the definition of marriage. Californians have the opportunity to vote this November 4th on this seemingly endless marriage debate, otherwise known as Proposition 8.

Here’s what the ballot is attempting to do: If it is passed, it will amend the California Constitution with a new section that would read, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The ballot is called, “The California Marriage Protection Act.”

Remember the 2000 election? That’s when we had Proposition 22. With that proposition California voters determined overwhelmingly that “marriage is to be between one man and one woman.”

So if Prop 22 was passed eight years ago, why do we need Prop 8? Good question! The answer is, at the same time, simple and complicated. Allow me to venture into this morass.

Since the passage of Prop 22 there have been a number of laws passed that address domestic partnership and same-sex marriage, thus eroding the value of traditional marriage. In other words, same-sex couples are afforded the same rights and privileges as traditional heterosexual couples. San Francisco’s mayor, Gavin Newsom, decided he would take it upon himself to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples. These marriages were eventually annulled by the courts.

You may recall that earlier this year a measure was presented to the California Supreme Court, successfully striking down Prop 22 in a 4-3 vote. As a result, all bans against same-sex marriage were overturned. At the same time, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed approval of two same-sex marriage bills. But do not be fooled here. The Governator has made it clear that he is personally opposed to Prop 8. He said, “I respect the Court's decision and as Governor, I will uphold its ruling. Also, as I have said in the past, I will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling.”

California Attorney General Jerry Brown wrote an amendment which states that Prop 8, “ELIMINATES RIGHT OF SAME-SEX COUPLES TO MARRY. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Changes the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California. Provides that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Fiscal Impact: Over next few years, potential revenue loss, mainly sales taxes, totaling in the several tens of millions of dollars, to state and local governments. In the long run, likely little fiscal impact on state and local governments.”

Senator John McCain, Republican nominee for president, had this to say about Prop 8: “I support the efforts of the people of California to recognize marriage as a unique institution between a man and a woman [...]. I do not believe judges should be making these decisions.”

Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, had this to say in a letter to the Alice B. Toklas LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Democratic Club's Pride Breakfast about Prop 8: “As the Democratic nominee for President, I am proud to join with and support the LGBT community in an effort to set our nation on a course that recognizes LGBT Americans with full equality under the law [...]. I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states.”

Now here are some sobering statistics regarding this proposition. As of September 14, a field poll taken on this issue showed some startling results. Of those polled, 38% were in favor of Prop 8; 55% were opposed; and 7% remain undecided.

I find it rather disturbing that an issue of this magnitude has not generated more response from the electorate. If the polling data is correct, Proposition 8 will be roundly defeated in November. Marriage will become whatever people decide it should be. Without a standard that supersedes man’s laws, I see a future that will allow marriage to be a relationship with whatever a person decides is right for them. There are already attempts to legalize the marriage of humans with animals.

Marriage is sacred in the eyes of God. His view of marriage is the view we should all take. Why? Because God has the correct view on everything.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

As Joshua said, long ago, “Choose this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”