Archive for December, 2006

Can America “Win” in an Age of Disunion

December 31, 2006

By John E. Carey
December 31, 2006

Listen to any hard core political activist or blogger in the United States and you’ll likely hear a screed against the “other side;” that defined usually as the amorphous blob of Americans that oppose his or her point of view.

The problem with this is that “the other side” used to mean the enemy we faced in a war: not what the British call “the loyal opposition.”

When Republican stalwarts heard Democrat Representative Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania advocate a redeployment of U.S. forces out of Iraq to some “quick reaction base” such as Okinawa, they howled with derision. And when rumors spread that the president was considering a “surge” of U.S. forces to quell the violence in Baghdad in order to give Iraqi forces more time before they shoulder the brunt of their own security, Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware said he opposed any additional U.S. troops in Iraq: before he was even handed a plan and a strategy to consider.

The discourse of public debate became so acrimonious within the United States in 2006 that we run the risk of defeating ourselves in Iraq: just as we did four decades ago in Vietnam.

You’ll find other veterans that agree with this assessment.

In the December 31, 2006, Washington Times commentary section, former Marine James G. Zumwalt points to an al Qaeda document found by U.S. troops earlier this year. Describing al Qaeda’s situation in Iraq as “bleak,” the document cites Al Qaeda’s own military losses and its inability to win over the “hearts and minds” of the Iraqi people.

In fact, an impartial assessment of the situation in the Middle East will find that Arabs are fighting and killing other Arabs and Muslims are killing other Muslims at a sadly alarming rate. In Iraq, Sunni’s kill Shi’ites while the Kurds watch, mostly from the north.

But the Kurds are not safe either. Neither the Sunnis nor the Shia want to share any of Iraq’s oil wealth with the Kurds and the Turks are deathly afraid that the “unclean” Kurds will flood across the Turkish border and upset their own democracy.

On the Mediterranean side of the Middle East, two groups seem engaged in a death struggle and the Israelis are not among them. Fatah and Hamas loyalists cannot resolve their own hatreds long enough to mount a united effort against the Israelis: the people both Fatah and Hamas say are the real illegitimate people in the region.

In Lebanon, the Iran backed Hezbollah became so powerful during 2006 that it cooked up a war with a sovereign nation: Israel; even though the host Lebanese country wanted no part of the destruction Israel ultimately rained down on Beirut and elsewhere.

The word for all this, heard more and more, is “fractious.” Defined as “Tending to cause trouble; unruly. Irritable; snappish; cranky;” my own mind translates “fractious” into an imagined more appropriate root verb: to fracture.

What the people of the United States might start to consider is this: yes we have our disagreements here in the U.S. and there is by no means a consensus on foreign policy and the war on terror. Yet neither the Republican nor the Democrat party can claim a mandate or a landslide in any recent national referendum. That means we can still be winners if each side can compromise.

Because it seems to me that we are a lot more in unison here in the United States than those that want to do us harm seem to be in the Arab-Muslim world. We here in the U.S. still vent our anger with the arson of devilishly developed syntax. The Muslims who disagree with one another quickly, it seems, choose assassination, suicide bombings and other forms of terror to make their points: even against the people of their brother tribes.
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Restore Civility in Discourse, Government
 
By John E. Carey
December 31, 2006

There seems a lack of civility, good manners, decorum and protocol in Washington these days.One side frequently calls the other side names; instead of making organized, logical arguments.

We entered the world of the “blogosphere” on July 4, 2006. In this internet land of people discussing world events, the language often is particularly harsh, polarizing and nasty.

Former President Bill Clinton entered (or re-entered depending upon your point of view) the fray on Sunday, September 24, 2006, during an interview with Chris Wallace on the Fox News Sunday show. Associated Press writer Karen Matthews, reporting on the exchange, called it “combative.” That’s not a word usually associated with a president during a media interview. I can’t think of that word ever applied to an ex-president during a media exchange. This may just qualify Mr. Clinton for another description: “not presidential.”

Clinton accused host Chris Wallace of a “conservative hit job.” Not presidential at all.

Did president Clinton miss a memo about letting others mix it up in public with the opposition and their media? Even my Vietnamese-born wife observed: “Good thing Clinton didn’t interview with Bill O’Reilly on Fox. It might have ended up with Bill and Bill on the floor slugging each other.”

Not presidential.

It is bad enough we have to hear the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “talking smack” as they say, at the United Nations; now we have to hear it from a former President of the United States? Makes one wonder what side is Bill Clinton on? And why does he see a need to lower himself to the level of Chavez and Ahmadinejad.

Are we missing something?An exchange between President Bush and the Today show’s Matt Lauer on the anniversary of 9/11 caused a flurry of discussion on some web sites. Lauer seemed to have an aggressive, even badgering tone with the president as the two stood in the Oval Office discussing 9/11 and other issues of the day. Lauer repeatedly gestured in an aggressive way, almost sticking his finger in the president’s chest.

On Sunday, September 10, 2001, on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace asked Democratic National Committee Chairman and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean if he would now apologize to Karl Rove.

It seems, despite Dean’s accusations that Rove was the leaker in the Valery Plame escapade, that Richard Armitage was the unfortunate and inadvertent leaker.

Gov. Dean answered, “Absolutely not. I still think he should be fired.”

Armitage apologized in public. Dean could not.

Does it matter? Sure it does.Thoughtful, courteous national discourse has managed to get us through a revolution against the most powerful nation on the Earth, a War Between the States, two World Wars and other tragedies and trying times.

If we can get along, maybe we can discuss the problems and get the best answers. Maybe a more civil and etiquette-driven discussion of the issues can help us get through the War on Terror.

The Iraq Study Group headed by Former Secretary of State James Baker and former Representative Lee Hamilton might give us a lesson in discourse to follow. Like their recommendations or not: they did not end up in mortal combat among themselves.

Instead, we have become a nation led by name-callers, insult-slingers and generally rude, angry and impolite representatives.

And sometimes, the media, maybe unintentionally, magnify the animosity. This is what many conservatives saw during Matt Lauer’s questioning of President Bush on September 11, 2006.My friend retired Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters at The New York Post wonders about “the unscrupulous nature of those in the media who always discover a dark cloud in the brightest silver lining. They are terror’s cheerleaders.”What does this teach our children? And does it do us any good?

Senator elect James Webb, a former Marine and Secretary of the Navy, met the President of the United States in November. Maybe Mr. Webb was a little too taken with himself after beating Senator Allen in the election. Whatever the reason, newspapers reported that Mr. Webb, while a guest at the White House, ”tried to avoid President Bush,” refusing to pass through the reception line or have his picture taken with the president. The president had to seek out the illusive Mr. Webb, a guest inside the Executive Mansion.

“How’s your boy?” President Bush asked the Senator elect, referring to Webb’s son, a Marine serving in Iraq.

“I’d like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President,” Webb responded, echoing a campaign theme.
“That’s not what I asked you,” Bush said. “How’s your boy?”

“That’s between me and my boy, Mr. President,” Webb said coldly, ending the conversation on the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House.

When Webb was asked about the apparently rude response to a question from the President of the United States, he responded by saying, “So I know the drill. I’m looking forward to working with people in this administration.”

“I’ve got good friends on the Republican side,” added Webb, a former Republican.

I would say, apparently, that Senator Elect Webb does not know the drill: at least the drill taught to the leaders of Communist Vietnam, where the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Vietnam held a cordial discussion in November or at the United States Naval Academy, Webb’s alma mater.

We can assure readers that at the Naval Academy, midshipmen are instructed to conduct themselves as gentlemen.

Our American history is full of great men who teach us the importance of good conduct for the common good. Some say George Washington actually authored “The Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour [sic] in Company and Conversation.”Though not the author, Washington embraced good manners so famously that the “Rules” could easily have been his own creation.

The good manners of John Adams also echo to us through history. With Thomas Paine, Adams watched a young American officer conduct himself less than diplomatically and courteously before the King of France.Adams wrote to his wife, describing the “Man of Choleric Temper.”

Adams said the man “like so many Gentlemen from his State, is abrupt and undiplomatic. Last evening, at a Royal Reception, he confronted His Most Christian Majesty Louis XVI with Words both ardent and impatient, whilst Mr. Paine wrung his Hands at the other man’s lack of Tact. Never did I think that I would see our impetuous Paine so pain’d by another’s want of Courtesy and Civility. To our amazement, however, the King took [the man’s] Enthusiasm in good Part.”

When told one of his generals, John C. Fremont, had been nominated by a group of 400 anti-Lincoln loyalists to run for president, Lincoln opened a Bible and read aloud from I Samuel:22, “And everyone that was in distress, and everyone that was in debt, and everyone that was discontented gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them; and there were with him about four hundred men.”

I think it takes more brains to give a response the way Linclon did than to attack another with questionalble language.

Modern statesmen pulled the country together, not by tearing others apart or barking at the media, but more often by thoughtful discourse and conduct.

“Both Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt operated beautifully on the reporters who surrounded them,” wrote David Keirsey and Ray Choiniere in “Presidential Temperament.”“Both used the press as if it were their own publicity machine.”

This was largely achieved in a civil, diplomatic style.

A modern day solon of wisdom and truth might be former Indiana Congressman and Democrat Lee Hamilton. Hamilton volunteered some stern remarks about the importance of truth. “Facts are not Republican and they’re not Democrat,” he said. “They’re not ideological. Facts are facts.”

I cannot ever recall seeing Gerald Ford, our late president whom we honor this weekend, look mean, uncivil, rude or terribly angry.

Neither can I remember John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, or George W. Bush look petulant, angry or rude. Or terribly distort the facts.

And then there is perhaps the best example from American politics of comity even amid political disagreement.  President Ronald “Dutch” Reagan and Speaker of the House Thomas Phillip  “Tip” O’Neill.  They drank together and sang Irish ballads.  And they still agreed to disagree.

Other great national leaders also reflect respect, even admiration, for the importance of good protocol and decorum.Winston Churchill described a 1941 university ceremony this way: “The blitz was running hard at that time, and the night before, the raid … had been heavy. Several hundreds had been killed and wounded. Many houses were destroyed. Buildings next to the university were still burning, and many of the university authorities who conducted the ceremony had pulled on their robes over uniforms begrimed and drenched; but all was presented with faultless ritual and appropriate decorum, and I sustained a very strong and invigorating impression of the superiority of man over the forces that can destroy him.”

Let’s hope our leaders become enlightened enough to avoid the forces that can destroy them. For our sake and the sake of our children.

I regret the times that bad conduct, anger and a disregard for etiquette got the best of me. I hope our present day political leaders see the light too.Karl Rove usually has a wonderful sense for the correct tone to set.

Howard Dean seems tone deaf. But we have hope for his salvation!To get though the war against terror and to achieve victory, a united, clear-thinking leadership just might be important.

Angry rhetoric and arson with clever words serves no good purpose.

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Recalling the Sacrifices of a Great Battle: The Battle of the Bulge

December 30, 2006

By John E. Carey
December 30, 2006

Aging veterans of another war are this week recalling their battles, their sacrifices, their losses and their triumphs. This is the 62nd winter since the “Battle of the Bulge” in World War II.

In 1944 the combined allied armies of the European Theater, made up mostly of British and American troops under the Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower, landed in Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6th. The armies assaulted the German defenders of “Fortress Europe.” Casualties on both sides were staggering. On D-Day alone, total Allied casualties were estimated at 10,000, including 2,500 dead.

After D-Day, the Allied armies plunged into the German defenders and fought their way across France. From June until December, 1944, the Allies advanced while the Germans retreated, all the while each side inflicting heavy casualties upon the foe.

On July 20, 1944, a senior German staff officer, Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, planted a bomb at Hitler’s “Wolf’s Lair” — his command post for the Eastern Front in Rastenburg, Prussia. Hitler survived.

In the purge that followed, along with many others, Germany’s hero of the North Africa campaign, the “Desert Fox,” Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, who also had commanded the German defenses in France and along the Atlantic Wall on D-Day, was implicated in the plot and eliminated by Hitler.

In December of that 1944, German ground forces were struggling but unbowed. Besieged by Russia in the east, Hitler elected to surge his forces westward in the face of the Allies in an attempt to retake the port of Antwerp. The Allies were assembled in the Ardennes Forest of Belgium and poised for the final lunge into Germany itself.

Because Adolph Hitler would not suffer a defeat while he still had combat ready troops, the world’s best tanks, and other military assets still ready for a fight, the “Battle of the Bulge” may have been inevitable.

Hitler’s forces began to ramp up their activity with probing attacks along the American lines as early as November 27, 1944. Even so, Hitler’s gambit which became known as the “Battle of the Bulge” took the allies totally by surprise.

Germany launched the assault on December 16, 1944. In the winter snows of Belgium, the Nazis used their Blitzkrieg tactics forged in battle all over Europe.

Germany’s Generals were under no illusions when they launched into what would become known as the “Battle of the Bulge.” They knew this assault may be the last gasp of a mighty army.

But the Germans, aided by dense cloud cover which prevented Allied air power from attacking them, attacked on the ground with speed and ferocity.

For Germany, this battle was an all or nothing affair. The Germans raced for Antwerp, led by an SS armored column under the command of SS Gruppenführer Joachim Peiper. Peiper’s had to capture fuel for his tanks as they attacked forward. Peiper took no prisoners, ordering the execution of hundreds of Americans captured by his column. He also massacred Belgian civilians in the town of Stavelot.

The fighting was fierce.

A participant at the Belgian town of Bastogne recorded the events this way: “We were not well equipped, having just gotten out of combat in Holland. We were particularly short of winter clothing and footwear….We became completely surrounded by Germans and our field hospital was overrun by a German attack. We had put the hospital in what would normally have been a safe place, but no place is safe when you are completely surrounded. At this time, we were not able to receive air resupply because the weather was absolutely frightful. It was very, very cold and snowy. Visibility was often measured in yards.”

The German commander demanded that the Americans surrender.

The American commander, acting Division Commander General Tony McAuliffe of the 101st Airborne, penned a one word reply to his German counterpart: “Nuts.”

The Americans prevailed. Colonel Edward Shames of the 506th Parachute Infantry, 101st Airborne, wrote, “After 29 days of hell, we were relieved from the area around Bastogne and headed elsewhere to fight the remaining battles of World War II.”

Two days before Christmas the weather began to lift and Allied air power began to pound the Germans. Meanwhile, Patton’s Third Army made the largest and fastest redeployment from one enemy line to another in the history of the U.S. Army.

The day after Christmas, the siege of Bastogne was over – but the “Battle of the Bulge” and spin-off engagements would rage for almost one more month.

The Allies could not be certain that the Germans had been defeated in their plan until January 25, 1945. The “Battle of the Bulge” had raged for more than 40 days.

Today we remember and salute our fathers and grandfathers who fought so bravely to bring us our freedom and end World War II – especially those participants of the “Battle of the Bulge.”

Money, Media Spotlight Best For Communists Countries

December 30, 2006

 As China prepares for the Olympics, and as Vietnam recently learned by hosting world leaders: it is difficult to run repressive regimes with the world community watching closely.

By John E. Carey
December 31, 2006

China and Vietnam made some progress on human rights and adopting international norms in 2006, while North Korea just incited anger with its missile and nuclear weapons tests. Even China’s leaders sputtered in disbelief after North Korea’s activities between July and December 2006.

China has a long history of ignoring U.S. copyright law. In the 1970s we were able to purchase “pirated” books, knock-offs of very expensive Western text and reference books, for a few cents on the dollar, in China.

When the film “Titanic” debuted in 1997, bootleg copies were available to eager buyers on the streets of Beijing the day after the movie’s premier. The widespread distribution of the bootlegged copies, for $3.00 each, roughly half the cost of a cinema ticket in this case, takes a serious bite out of Hollywood’s profits.

Despite years of complaints from the United States and many copyright holders and trade organizations in the United States, the Communist government in China has almost always refused to enforce copyright laws by arresting bootleggers in China. The business in pirated goods from the United States on sale in China tops $500 million annually.

But with China preparing to host the Summer Olympics in 2008, the Communist government is doing everything in its power to at least look like a law abiding (and enforcing) Western-style government.

On December 29, 2006, a Beijing court ordered a popular Chinese Web portal to pay $140,000 in damages for distributing Hollywood movies online without permission.

Movie titles involved in the suit included Lord of the Rings, Dawn of the Dead and Harry Potter, a spokesman for the Hollywood movie group said.

This is another in a series of “good news” and “law enforcement” stories that have been coming from the state controlled Chinese media for months.

On December 1, 2006, China announced a new set of regulations granting foreign journalists more freedom to report from within China.

The regulations will come into force tomorrow, on January 1, 2007, and expire after the end of the Olympics.

But before the end of 2006, China’s top publicity official, Cai Wu, said that if the freedom granted to foreign journalists ahead of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games proves beneficial to China, thought might be given to opening up to the foreign press even after the sports event ends.

Speaking to reporters in Beijing, Cai said “If the new regulations prove beneficial to our development and to exchanges between us and foreign media, and if they aid communication with the international community, then I imagine there will be no need to change the policy.”

But, in the human rights and freedoms arena, China still takes one step forward and one step back. On December 29, 2006 the Chinese government had nine religious ministers arrested without a shred of what we in the west would call “cause.”

Meanwhile, in Vietnam this year, the new government of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dũng, who came into office in June 2006, had two inter-related things at the top of its agenda: economic growth and obtaining entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) from the United States.

Vietnam achieved all its economic goals and then some in 2006, in part at least, because of a very skillful plan of media and perception management.

Vietnam eased up on its repressions of religions in 2006, allowing the Catholic Church’s Pope in Rome to appoint Bishops in Vietnam without the interference of the government of Vietnam for the first time since the Communists took over in 1975. This single commendable act contributed greatly to the United States Department of State’s decision to take Vietnam off the list of nations that wrongly represses religious freedoms.

Vietnam also had been planning to host the leaders of several nations, including President Bush from the United Sates and President Putin from Russia, at the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) in Ha Noi in November, 2006. To prepare for this event, the state controlled Communist media launch a “good news” campaign that lasted for more than six months prior to the APEC meetings. During that period, the world was showered with press releases from Vietnam extolling its new liberalism, its dedication to human rights, and the huge economic growth these reforms were allowing.

Also prior to APEC, Vietnam released several political prisoners, including Mrs. Cuc Foshee, an American citizen from Florida. Mrs. Foshee and others had been held for 14 mionths without charges or the benefit of other rights available to any prisoner in a nation that honors international law. When it became apparent that Mrs. Foshee and the other prisoners could become an embarrassment to Vietnam during the APEC, the Communists speedily conducted a “trial” and, thankfully, sent Mrs, Foshee home to the U.S.

There are still repressive Communists countries who violate human rights in a regular and wholesale manner and it is our nation’s stand for human rights and human dignity that often proves a catalyst to the burgeoning good conduct of even the most vile regimes.

The keys to persuading others to abide by normally accepted international norms are often found in trade, economic relationships, and good publicity (or the threat of bad publicity) initiated from within the U.S.

The American dollar and the American media can still sometimes persuade, what the president calls “evil doers,” to moderate or reverse course: or at least take some steps to put up a cleaner veneer.

Mr. Carey has been an international analyst for more than thirty years. He is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc. and a frequent contributor to The Washington Times. He has lived in China.

Two World Views: Follow The Polls Or “Do What Is Right for the Nation”

December 29, 2006

By John E. Carey
December 29, 2006

As we bid farewell to President Gerald Ford, we should duly note that he lived squarely in the camp of those that eschewed the opinion polls and did what he thought was the best thing for the nation. With the American public overwhelmingly in favor of a public trial for former President Richard Nixon, President Ford issued a full pardon. In his address to the nation he said, “It can go on and on, or someone must write ‘The End’ to it. I have concluded that only I can do that. And if I can, I must.”

At the time of the pardon, Americans were overwhelmingly against the president’s decision.

Lawyer Richard Ben-Veniste wrote in the Washington Post on Friday, December 29, 2006, “The pardon decision was met with strident criticism by much of the media. The Post equated Ford’s pardon to another chapter in the coverup; the New York Times called it “profoundly unwise, divisive and unjust” and “a body blow to [Ford’s] credibility.” With the benefit of more than 30 years of perspective, the public’s view of Ford’s decision has softened considerably.”

This memory leaped into my consciousness while I read the words of Delaware Senator and announced presidential hopeful Joseph Biden, the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Biden said Tuesday he would oppose any effort by the president to increase U.S. troop levels in Iraq.

“Absent some profound political announcement . . . I can’t imagine there being an overwhelming, even significant support for the president’s position,” he told reporters during a telephone conference call Tuesday.

Biden put the situation in Iraq into cold political terms for Republicans.

If the violence continues two years from now, “every one of those Republican senators — and there’s 21 of them up for re- election — knows that that is likely to spell his or her doom,” Senator Biden said.

Biden states two reasons for his position: (1) The lack of “significant support for the president’s position;” and, (2) The probable fact that voting with the president could mean that a senator fails to achieve reelection. In fact, Senator Biden uses the word “doom,” rather than retirement or seeking some other line of work.

Methinks Senator Biden values his job in the Senate too much. Senator Biden never discusses the consequences of withdrawal or the “good of the nation.” He is enslaved by the opinion polls and the fear that he might lose his job: not his own rational thought or evaluation of the situation.Juxtaposed to that we find Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. In a Washington Post Op-Ed on Friday, December 29, 2006, Senator Lieberman says of Iraq, “How we end the struggle there will affect not only the region but the worldwide war against the extremists who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001.”

“Iraq is the central front in the global and regional war against Islamic extremism,” wrote Senator Lieberman. “To turn around the crisis we need to send more American troops while we also train more Iraqi troops and strengthen the moderate political forces in the national government. After speaking with our military commanders and soldiers there, I strongly believe that additional U.S. troops must be deployed to Baghdad and Anbar province — an increase that will at last allow us to establish security throughout the Iraqi capital, hold critical central neighborhoods in the city, clamp down on the insurgency and defeat al-Qaeda in that province.”

Senator Lieberman concludes: “Rather than engaging in hand-wringing, carping or calls for withdrawal, we must summon the vision, will and courage to take the difficult and decisive steps needed for success and, yes, victory in Iraq. That will greatly advance the cause of moderation and freedom throughout the Middle East and protect our security at home.”

Sounds like a man convinced we must do the right thing: elections be damned.

When asked by British journalists why he thinks Tony Blair continually sides with President Bush, “And what’s the pay-off?,” the president himself answered: “Freedom and peace. Tony Blair is making decisions for the right reasons. He is a — in my relationship with him, he is the least political person I’ve dealt with. And I say that out of respect. He makes decisions based upon what he thinks is right.”

In fact, the president repeatedly avoids bowing to opinion polls, even telling reporters more than once that he doesn’t read the newspapers.

President Bush repeatedly has said he is not persuaded by opinion polls but prefers to do what he sees as “right for the nation.”

In a September 2, 2004 interview with NBCs Matt Lauer, President Bush said of his decision to go to war in Afghanistan, “It was an unpopular move in Pakistan as you might recall. And yet it was the right thing to do. When I’m making my calculations and I say to the Taliban, ‘Cough up Al Qaeda or face serious consequences,’ I’m not doing a focus group in Pakistan, Matt. I made decisions on what I think is best for this country, and yet the decision to remove the Taliban in Afghanistan was unpopular in Pakistan at the time. And in other places it wasn’t so popular either, I might add — same in Iraq, there’s no question.”

As taps is sounded over President Gerald Ford, we are reminded that American politicians have two vastly different ways of viewing national decision making. The choices we conclude, from Senator Biden’s remarks, is to go with the polls and ensure reelection. Senator Lieberman and President Bush prefer a longer, nation-centric and less selfish approach.

Video Games and What’s Going On In Your Child’s Brain

December 29, 2006

By John E. Carey
December 29, 2006

We sat down to research all the information on video games and their positive and negative impact on the developing minds of our children and we have this: no conclusion.

The reasons are many. First, the video gaming industry is now a powerful economic force on a par with Hollywood’s mighty movie industry. This means that the industry employs a lot of people, pays investors a lot in dividends and it pumps out information that may or may not be propaganda. In fact, it is difficult to find fact from fiction when researching the video gaming industry. We recommend that careful sleuths determine who funded the study or report du jour before trumpeting the good or evil found therein.

Second, there is a well documented generational divide between youngsters that play video games (almost all of whom are under the age of forty) and those severely impaired by age like me (I’m darned near 52!). According to the video gaming industry, anyone over the age of forty knows nothing and can’t be trusted on the subject of video gaming. But because I played life and death video games for 20 continuous years while I was in the U.S. Navy, putting torpedoes into simulated enemy submarines or shooting down computer generated hostile aircraft and missiles, I largely recuse myself from the “normal” anti-video-game over 40 crowd.

Thirdly, video games are everywhere. On Christmas, our pastor voiced concern that a pre-schooler seemed transfixed by a hand held game. An amazing 89 per cent of British households with children now boast a games console, with distribution right across the socio-economic groups. American households with children have even more video game: more than 94% of households surveyed.

So let’s just consider one preliminary finding of fact, as far as we can determine, on video gaming.

In November, 2006, the University of Indiana Medical School completed an interesting study on the parts of the human brain most engaged while playing activity-based or violent video games. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain function, the Medical School of IU found that adolescents who had played violent video games exhibited more brain activity in a region thought to be important for emotional arousal and less activity in a brain region associated with executive functions. Executive functions are the ability to plan, shift, control and direct one’s thoughts, ideas and behavior.

“Our study indicates that playing a certain type of violent video game may have different short-term effects on brain function than playing an exciting but nonviolent game,” principal study investigator Dr. Vincent Mathews said.

The group that played the nonviolent game exhibited more mental stimulation or activation in the prefrontal portions of the brain. The prefrontal lobes are believed to control inhibition, concentration and self-control. The non-violent game players also showed less activation in the area involved in emotional arousal.

“This data differs from our earlier studies because in this study adolescents were randomly assigned to play either a violent or a nonviolent game,” said William Kronenberger, associate professor of psychology at the IUSM Department of Psychiatry. “Therefore, we can attribute the difference between the groups specifically to the type of game played. Earlier studies showed a correlation between media violence exposure and brain functioning, but we did not actually manipulate the teens’ exposure to media violence in those earlier studies.”

Future studies to better understand the duration and meaning of the relationship between exposure to media and brain function are planned.

There is something else to remember: because a child’s brain is still developing, there may be more chance of a long-term debilitating impact from over stimulating some parts of the brain while numbing other parts. We just don’t know for certain.

We have a raft of questions like “What exactly constitutes a violent video game?” We are sure the video game industry will lead the way in defining this hot topic so as not to impede sales.

So parents beware: what we do know is that while playing violent video games a lot is going on in your child’s arousal part of his or her brain while the “thought” section (the cortex of the frontal lobe) of the brain is, well, turned off or nearly so.

Sounds a little like what drugs and alcohol do for the brain.

Medical professionals have concluded after many years of research that prolonged alcohol abuse by an individual results in a shrinkage of the brain. “Brain shrinking is especially extensive in the cortex of the frontal lobe – the location of higher cognitive faculties,” according to Dr. Adolf Pfefferbaum, M.D., co-author of “Alcohol: Clinical and Experimental Research.”

One might conclude that alcohol has a greater impact in eroding the cortex of the frontal lobe than other parts of the brain.

Scientists also believe that the cortex of the frontal lobe of the human brain – the location of higher cognitive faculties – is somehow not stimulated or otherwise not properly working in rapists and other violent criminals.

Many experts have also opined that playing video games can be addictive, but we did not thoroughly investigate this so we’ll reserve comment until another time.

So, other than the fact that violent video games seem to “numb” the cortex of the frontal lobe of the human brain – the location of higher cognitive faculties and self control – while they stimulate the “arousal” part of the brain, we have no problem with video gaming to excess.

So have a ball playing your video games or watching your children achieve that trance like nirvana with the gear you gave him or her at Christmas!

We’ll leave smart readers to form their own conclusions on this and we highly recommend searching the internet using your favorite system for more information.

And we promise to continue our own research and to report back to you in due time on this web site. 

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We asked a friend with more than 20 years of experience in the computer industry to comment on this article and here is what he said:

Well, I am against violent video games.

I’m sure there are decent, educational games out there struggling tosurvive, but let’s face it: murder practice games are what we aretalking about here. These things are sick, and no amount of rationalizing (“maturity is the ability to discriminate between realityand fiction”) changes that. As the games get more realistic, the line between fantasizing about splattering someone, and actually doing it,will get a fuzzier….me no like.

And then there is the other social implication, which I don’t think many have yet grasped: work is becoming more like a video game.

If there is ANY rationale for encouraging video games, it lies here, but beware….society is rotting from within (and, no, I do not think I’m being melodramatic).

When I started in industry, people met with each other, looked eachother in the eye, and made agreements. Fast forward to today, and watchwhat happens at work….very, very much like a video game, my friend.

You sit at your work station (or is it a Play Station?) and intercept a constant stream of “incoming”…survival depends largely on your abilityto deflect attempts by others to pin Action Items on you, quickly making yourself NOT the person who has to take follow-up steps. Even worse….watch what constitutes “human interaction” in the workplace nowadays:

*people on conference calls, where they have their phones on mute whiledoing e-mails, basically paying minimal attention to others.

* a discussion in a roomful of people often has them clustered around acomputer screen…no eye contact at all….everyone looks at the screen.Eye contact has disappeared from the business landscape….and we allknow what that means in war theory, right? You have no emotional tie tothe other person, and your reason to treat that person humanely erodes.

* a person doing a presentation no longer stands up in front of the audience. The speaker always sits at a computer, points with a cursorat something on the screen and speaks to the room at large withoutmaking eye contact with anyone (p.s. almost everyone in the room islooking at his/her computer, doing e-mails).Did I mention that, as a business “executive” I get maybe 200 e-mails aday?

Even high up in an organization, you are trapped into a cycle of REACTION rather than planning, thinking, strategizing. It’s a videogame. This, very largely, is why I quit (the computer company I was working for….name withheld) (n.b. they are no different from any other large company…or at best they are only a hair ahead in this race towards poorer human interaction).

So, in conclusion….the only thing my child asked for for Christmas was an X-Box. The joint parental response was a loud “NO!”
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The Writing is On The Wall:
Computer Games Rot The Brain

By Boris Johnson
The Telegragh (London, UK)
December 28, 2006

It’s the snarl that gives the game away. It’s the sobbing and the shrieking and the horrible pleading — that’s how you know your children are undergoing a sudden narcotic withdrawal. As the strobing colours die away and the screen goes black, you listen to the wail of protest from the offspring and you know that you have just turned off their drug, and you know that, to a greater or lesser extent, they are addicts.Some children have it bad. Some are miraculously unaffected. But millions of seven- to 15-year-olds are hooked, especially boys, and it is time someone had the guts to stand up, cross the room and just say no to Nintendo. It is time to garrotte the Game Boy and paralyse the PlayStation, and it is about time, as a society, that we admitted the catastrophic effect these blasted gizmos are having on the literacy and the prospects of young males.

It was among the first acts of the Labour Government to institute a universal “literacy” hour in primary schools; and yet, in the six years following 1997, the numbers of young children who said that they didn’t like reading rose from 23 per cent to 35 per cent. In spite of all our cash and effort, the surveys increasingly show that children (especially boys) regard reading as a chore, something that needs to be accomplished for the sake of passing tests, not as a joy in itself.

It is a disaster, and I refuse to believe that these hypnotic little machines are innocent.

We demand that teachers provide our children with reading skills; we expect the schools to fill them with a love of books; and yet at home we let them slump in front of the consoles. We get on with our hedonistic 21st-century lives while in some other room the nippers are bleeping and zapping in speechless rapture, their passive faces washed in explosions and gore.

They sit for so long that their souls seem to have been sucked down the cathode ray tube.They become like blinking lizards, motionless, absorbed, only the twitching of their hands showing they are still conscious.

These machines teach them nothing. They stimulate no ratiocination, discovery or feat of memory — though some of them may cunningly pretend to be educational. I have just watched an 11-year-old play a game that looked fairly historical, on the packet.

Your average guilt-ridden parent might assume that it taught the child something about the Vikings and medieval siege warfare. Phooey!

The red soldiers robotically slaughtered the white soldiers, and then they did it again, that was it. Everything was programmed, spoon-fed, immediate — and endlessly showering the player with undeserved praise, richly congratulating him for his bogus massacres. The more addictive these games are to the male mind, the more difficult it is to persuade boys to read books; and that is why it is no comfort that Britain has more computer games per household than any other EU country, and, even though they are wince-makingly expensive, an amazing 89 per cent of British households with children now boast a games console, with distribution right across the socio-economic groups.Every child must have one, and what we fail to grasp is that these possessions are not so much an index of wealth as a cause of ignorance and underachievement and, yes, poverty.

It hardly matters how much cash we pour into reading in schools if there is no culture of reading at home; and the consequences of this failure to read can be seen throughout the education system. Huge numbers are still leaving primary school in a state of functional illiteracy, with 44 per cent unable either to read, write or do basic sums.B y the age of 14, there are still 40 per cent whose literacy or numeracy is not up to the expected standard, and a large proportion of the effort at Further Education colleges (about 20 per cent) is devoted to remedial reading and writing.

Even at university, there are now terrifying numbers of students who cannot express themselves in the kind of clear, logical English required for an essay, and in many important respects if you can’t write, you can’t think.

The Royal Literary Fund has, in the past few years, done a wonderful job of establishing Writing Fellows at our universities, offering therapy for those who can’t put their thoughts on paper; and yet the fund admits that the scale of the problem is quite beyond its abilities.It is a shock, arriving at university, and being asked to compose an essay of a couple of thousand words, and then discovering that you can’t do it; and this demoralisation is a major cause of dropping-out. It’s not that the students lack the brains; the raw circuitry is better than ever. It’s the software that’s the problem. They have not been properly programmed, because they have not read enough.

The only way to learn to write is to be forced time and again to articulate your own thoughts in your own words, and you haven’t a hope of doing this if you haven’t read enough to absorb the basic elements of vocabulary, grammar, rhythm, style and structure; and young males in particular won’t read enough if we continually capitulate and let them fritter their lives away in front of these drivelling machines.

Gordon Brown proposed in his Pre-Budget Report to spend £2,000 per head on improving the reading of six-year-old boys. That is all well and good, especially when you consider that the cost of remedial English in secondary school soars to £50,000 per head. But it would be cheaper and possibly more effective if we all — politicians, parents, whoever — had the nerve to crack down on this electronic opiate.

So I say now: stop just lying there in your post-Christmas state of crapulous indifference. Get up off the sofa. Can the DVD of Desperate Housewives, and go to where your children are sitting in auto-lobotomy in front of the console. Summon up all your strength, all your courage. Steel yourself for the screams and yank out that plug.And if they still kick up a fuss, then get out the sledgehammer and strike a blow for literacy.

Fondly Recalling President Jerry Ford

December 28, 2006

“I am a Ford, not a Lincoln. My addresses will never be as eloquent as Mr. Lincoln’s.  But I will do my very best to equal his brevity and his plain speaking.”

–President Jerry Ford, After Taking the Oath of Office as Vice President December 6, 1973

In Tribute

By John E. Carey
December 28, 2006

I came to Washington directly out of high school. High School in Ohio.

Just as Dorothy says to Toto in The Wizard of Oz, I thought “We aren’t in Kansas any more!”

I took a job in a House Ways and Means Committee Member’s office. I thought I was smart, articulate and well read.

Boy was I wrong. I was totally naïve.

We witnessed the death of J. Edgar Hoover, whom my Dad had served at the FBI. We witnessed the agonizing end of the Nixon Administration, and, for just one moment, it seemed like the end of the presidency and perhaps the Republic.

In walked a man of quiet calm, resolve and wisdom. A college football hero. A man from the upper Mid West. A former member of the House of Representatives.

Jerry Ford calmed the nation’s nerves. The Washington Post seemed to go from Pit Bull to Bassett Hound. Government order and comity were restored.

President Ford presided over one of the saddest chapters and most joyful recoveries in American history.

The economy’s performance during the Ford years was nothing short of miserable. America was largely out of Vietnam after withdrawing troops and leaving an IOU promising military support like air power in case the South Vietnamese army got into trouble. When trouble loomed, President Ford petitioned the Democrat controlled Congress for funding support. The Democrats sent a denial: sentencing many hundreds of thousand and perhaps millions of Vietnamese allied with America to a life on the run or in prison or both.

The economy never recovered and Vietnam became a Communist country: but the Nation, the United States of America recovered nonetheless.

President Ford brought a relatively unknown money man named Alan Greenspan into the government. President Ford was in favor of nuclear and solar power to help curtail polution and to reduce the U.S. reliance upon oil from the Middle East. Still he knew we’d be engaged in the Middle East for a long time. He favored an Indian Ocean U.S. Navy Fleet and associated bases, including big improvements for Diego Garcia.

President Ford had a lot of vision that he didn’t get much credit for.

President Ford pardoned Richard Nixon of all crimes he committed or may have committed. Many in the nation gasped in disbelief, gripped with the desire to hang the former president.

But Mr. Ford was correct: the nation needed healing.

Everyone who knew Jerry Ford knew he would pardon the man he never called by name, the man he referred to as “my predecessor.” Washington Post Style writer Wil Haygood wrote on December 28, 2006, “There was something of a Hemingwayesque code at play in Ford’s upbringing. …. By the time he had emerged onto the national stage, something simple and munificent had bled its way into his being: decency.”

In his brief but memorable non-elected presidency, Jerry Ford became my hero.

“As president,” Ford recalled in a 1995 chat with grade-school children sponsored by Scholastic, the publishing company, “it was most important that I heal the land to restore public confidence in our government.”

“Healing America was the greatest accomplishment in my administration,” Ford said.

I guess it just proves that in America anyone can be president.

May he enjoy the fruits of heaven.
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President Ford’s Pardon of Richard Nixon
September 8, 1974

Note: The proclamation granted Nixon a pardon for all offenses from January 20, 1969, the day he was first inaugurated as president. In reading the proclamation on national television, Ford inadvertently said ‘July 20’. The text of the proclamation takes precedence.

Ladies and gentlemen:

I have come to a decision which I felt I should tell you and all of my fellow American citizens, as soon as I was certain in my own mind and in my own conscience that it is the right thing to do.
I have learned already in this office that the difficult decisions always come to this desk. I must admit that many of them do not look at all the same as the hypothetical questions that I have answered freely and perhaps too fast on previous occasions.

My customary policy is to try and get all the facts and to consider the opinions of my countrymen and to take counsel with my most valued friends. But these seldom agree, and in the end, the decision is mine. To procrastinate, to agonize, and to wait for a more favorable turn of events that may never come or more compelling external pressures that may as well be wrong as right, is itself a decision of sorts and a weak and potentially dangerous course for a President to follow.

I have promised to uphold the Constitution, to do what is right as God gives me to see the right, and to do the very best that I can for America.

I have asked your help and your prayers, not only when I became President but many times since. The Constitution is the supreme law of our land and it governs our actions as citizens. Only the laws of God, which govern our consciences, are superior to it.

As we are a nation under God, so I am sworn to uphold our laws with the help of God. And I have sought such guidance and searched my own conscience with special diligence to determine the right thing for me to do with respect to my predecessor in this place, Richard Nixon, and his loyal wife and family.

Theirs is an American tragedy in which we all have played a part. It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must.

There are no historic or legal precedents to which I can turn in this matter, none that precisely fit the circumstances of a private citizen who has resigned the Presidency of the United States. But it is common knowledge that serious allegations and accusations hang like a sword over our former President’s head, threatening his health as he tries to reshape his life, a great part of which was spent in the service of this country and by the mandate of its people.

After years of bitter controversy and divisive national debate, I have been advised, and I am compelled to conclude that many months and perhaps more years will have to pass before Richard Nixon could obtain a fair trial by jury in any jurisdiction of the United States under governing decisions of the Supreme Court.

I deeply believe in equal justice for all Americans, whatever their station or former station. The law, whether human or divine, is no respecter of persons; but the law is a respecter of reality.
The facts, as I see them, are that a former President of the United States, instead of enjoying equal treatment with any other citizen accused of violating the law, would be cruelly and excessively penalized either in preserving the presumption of his innocence or in obtaining a speedy determination of his guilt in order to repay a legal debt to society.

During this long period of delay and potential litigation, ugly passions would again be aroused. And our people would again be polarized in their opinions. And the credibility of our free institutions of government would again be challenged at home and abroad.

In the end, the courts might well hold that Richard Nixon had been denied due process, and the verdict of history would even more be inconclusive with respect to those charges arising out of the period of his Presidency, of which I am presently aware.

But it is not the ultimate fate of Richard Nixon that most concerns me, though surely it deeply troubles every decent:and every compassionate person. My concern is the immediate future of this great country.

In this, I dare not depend upon my personal sympathy as a long-time friend of the former President, nor my professional judgment as a lawyer, and I do not.

As President, my primary concern must always be the greatest good of all the people of the United States whose servant I am. As a man, my first consideration is to be true to my own convictions and my own conscience.

My conscience tells me clearly and certainly that I cannot prolong the bad dreams that continue to reopen a chapter that is closed. My conscience tells me that only I, as President, have the constitutional power to firmly shut and seal this book. My conscience tells me it is my duty, not merely to proclaim domestic tranquillity but to use every means that I have to insure it. I do believe that the buck stops here, that I cannot rely upon public opinion polls to tell me what is right. I do believe that right makes might and that if I am wrong, 10 angels swearing I was right would make no difference. I do believe, with all my heart and mind and spirit, that I, not as President but as a humble servant of God, will receive justice without mercy if I fail to show mercy.

Finally, I feel that Richard Nixon and his loved ones have suffered enough and will continue to suffer, no matter what I do, no matter what we, as a great and good nation, can do together to make his goal of peace come true.

Now, therefore, I, Gerald R. Ford, President of the United States, pursuant to the pardon power conferred upon me by Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, have granted and by these presents do grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from July (January) 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this eighth day of September, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and seventy-four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and ninety-ninth.

Nixon’s Response

I have been informed that President Ford has granted me a full and absolute pardon for any charges which might be brought against me for actions taken during the time I was president of the United States.

In accepting this pardon, I hope that his compassionate act will contribute to lifting the burden of Watergate from our country.

Here in California, my perspective on Watergate is quite different than it was while I was embattled in the midst of the controversy, and while I was still subject to the unrelenting daily demands of the presidency itself.

Looking back on what is still in my mind a complex and confusing maze of events, decisions, pressures and personalities, one thing I can see clearly now is that I was wrong in not acting more decisively and more forthrightly in dealing with Watergate, particularly when it reached the stage of judicial proceedings and grew from a political scandal into a national tragedy.

No words can describe the depths of my regret and pain at the anguish my mistakes over Watergate have caused the nation and the presidency — a nation I so deeply love and an institution I so greatly respect.

I know many fair-minded people believe that my motivations and action in the Watergate affair were intentionally self-serving and illegal. I now understand how my own mistakes and misjudgments have contributed to that belief and seemed to support it. This burden is the heaviest one of all to bear.

That the way I tried to deal with Watergate was the wrong way is a burden I shall bear for every day of the life that is left to me.
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President Ford’s Greatest Quotes

–It can go on and on, or someone must write “The End” to it. I have concluded that only I can do that. And if I can, I must. (Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon for Watergate)

–It would be tragic for this country if we went down the same path and ended up with the same problem that Great Britain has.

–The length of one’s days matters less than the love of one’s family and friends.

–Things are more like today than they have ever been before.

–There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.(This gaffe during the debate with Jimmy Carter cost Ford dearly in the election)

–I watch a lot of baseball on the radio.

–I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots, so I ask you to confirm me with your prayers.

–I believe that truth is the glue that holds government together, not only our government but civilization itself. That bond, though strained, is unbroken at home and abroad. In all my public and private acts as your president, I expect to follow my instincts of openness and candor with full confidence that honesty is always the best policy in the end.

–I guess it just proves that in America anyone can be president.

–Teddy Roosevelt . . . once said, ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick.’ Jimmy Carter wants to speak loudly and carry a fly swatter.

–Our inflation, our public enemy number one, will, unless whipped, destroy our country, our homes, our liberties, our property and finally our national pride as surely as will a well-armed wartime enemy.

–When I talk about energy, I am talking about jobs. Our American economy runs on energy. No energy—no jobs.

–I am a Ford, not a Lincoln.

–When I became president, I did not want to have a powerful chief of staff. Wilson had his Colonel House, Eisenhower his Sherman Adams, Nixon his Halderman, and I was aware of the trouble those top assistants had caused my predecessors.

–If the government is big enough to give you everything you want, it is big enough to take away everything you have.

–The Constitution is the bedrock of all our freedoms; guard and cherish it; keep honor and order in your own house; and the republic will endure.

–He was one of the few political leaders I have ever met whose public speeches revealed more than his private conversations. (On Ronald Reagan)

–Truth is the glue that holds government together. Compromise is the oil that makes governments go.

–The American people want a dialogue between them and their president . . . And if we can’t have that opportunity of talking with one another, seeing one another, shaking hands with one another, something has gone wrong in our society. (Following two assassination attempts)

–I was America’s first instant Vice President, and now America’s first instant President. The Marine Corps band is so confused, they don’t know whether to play ‘Hail to the Chief’ or ‘You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby.

Quotes from: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Gerald_Ford
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Unassuming Ford was perfect salve for a wounded nation

USA Today
December 28, 2006

It’s hard to imagine an English muffin being an important part of governing. But it was for Gerald Ford.

In 1974, after the trauma of Watergate, the nation yearned for a less imperial presence in the White House, and Ford was determined to fill that role. Taking office after the resignation of Richard M. Nixon, he re-established a sense of normalcy in part by being an everyman president. On his first day he made his own breakfast and announced he would do so in future.

Over the years, it has been easy to dismiss this as a trivial photo opportunity. It has also been easy to dismiss the Ford presidency as merely adequate, if that. Both assessments have been proven wrong.

Ford, who died Tuesday at 93, was a fine president who returned integrity to the White House and restored faith in government at a time when both were desperately needed. He was the right man at the right time to lead the nation. He was the perfect antidote to the corruption and paranoia of the Nixon White House. And for that, the nation owes him much.

His abrupt yet courageous pardon of Nixon, while clearly damaging to his political career, is increasingly seen as having been in the country’s best interest. It spared the nation years more of wallowing in Watergate and the likely spectacle of an ex-president going to prison. Only one-third of the public supported the decision at the time but, by 2002, that number had risen to three-fifths in an ABC News poll.

Ford’s largest accomplishment, however, was in being the embodiment of a phrase he used in his speech after he took the oath of office: “A government of laws, not of men.”

Ford’s style was understated, unglamorous. Though an accomplished athlete, by 1975 he had even developed an underserved reputation for clumsiness, and was lampooned weekly on Saturday Night Live by actor Chevy Chase. Combined with the Nixon pardon, an inflationary economy not of his making and weariness with Republican rule, it is perhaps inevitable he would lose when he ran for the office in his own right in 1976 against Jimmy Carter.

But in hindsight, his down-to-earth ways look good. In the weeks after taking office, they were a salve on the open wound left by the Nixon presidency. And they stack up well against some of the more ego-driven and polished presidencies that preceded and followed his.

Sadly, it’s unlikely we will have another president like Ford any time soon. Today’s presidential candidates are ruthless in their pursuit of the office and possess a willingness to spend years campaigning and raising millions of dollars.

Ford, who never even aspired to be anything higher than Speaker of the House, lacked these traits. Nor did he have a particular talent at being rigidly partisan or vindictive.

He was only an outstanding public servant. Wise yet humble, he possessed a keen sense of what America needed after Watergate. That included a president who didn’t require a bevy of servants to make his breakfast.

Finding the Sufficiency of Prayer

December 28, 2006

By John E. Carey

On Wednesday, December 27, 2006, I attended Catholic Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes in Crystal City, Arlington, Virginia, at 0645. This has become part of my routine.

Unbeknownst to me, December 27 is the feast of Saint John the Apostle, my patron saint.

John was also the brother of James and sometimes called “the younger.” I was the youngest male of my parents children.

John was also known as “the virgin,” a cross I do not have to carry.

As Christ died on the cross, Jesus bestowed the care of his beloved mother, Mary, to John.

After Mass I headed for home but for some reason I stopped at Holy Martyrs of Vietnam thinking I might say my morning prayers again in Vietnamese.

As I entered the church I was greeted by the Cha (Father) that I had met at my sister-in-law’s house on Christmas. He is my pastor, Cha John the Baptist Vuong’s mentor.

Cha said, “John, we have been waiting for you. Come in and pray with us.”

I was dumbfounded.  I didn’t know he knew my name and he had no way to know I would be there.

We went to the front of the church and there found Cha Vuong and another very old Vietnamese priest. Together, the four of us chanted the morning Office of prayers.

At the end, Cha John Vuong prayed aloud in English for my salvation and strength.

I left there with a positively delightful feeling of serenity and peace and joy.

I phoned my best friend and told him what had happened and characteristically he brought me back to earth.

“Only THREE priests? You think that is enough for you?”

Who Is Shaping White House and Pentagon Thinking on the Next Steps In Iraq and Iran?

December 27, 2006

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
Updated December 28, 2006

Who is speaking to President Bush this holiday season about his policy in Iraq? After the report of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, what papers, ideas and reports are influencing the president as he prepares for the opening of the new congress and his State of the Union Address?

And who has a clue about what to do about Iran’s nuclear problem?

Certainly one player is the new Secretary of Defense, Robert M. Gates. Mr. Gates served the current president’s father, “Bush 41,” as Director of Central Intelligence. In fact, many close to the president view Gate’s selection as SecDef as a sign that Bush Senior and his advisors (like former Secretaries of State James Baker and Henry Kissinger) will have greater involvement in forming the next chapter of American foreign and military policy.

Gates served as Director of Central Intelligence from 1991 until 1993. In this position, he headed all foreign intelligence agencies of the United States and directed the Central Intelligence Agency. Dr. Gates is the only career officer in CIA’s history to rise from entry-level employee to Director.

During the last three and one-half years Mr. Gates has been the president of Texas A&M University.

Mr. Gates finished his first week on the job as he delivered a report to the president on his trip to Iraq last Saturday morning at Camp David, along with Joint Chief’s Chairman Peter Pace, who traveled with Mr. Gates.

One might expect the Mr. Gates and the Chairman formed an opinion on the topic of “surging” U.S. combat troops into Iraq in support of the “clear and hold” strategy.

It is known that the Army Chief of Staff, General Peter J. Schoomaker wants to increase the U.S. Army’s force structure. General Schoomaker said the Army could successfully manage a growth of 6,000 to 7,000 soldiers a year. Several Army manpower experts said any growth larger or faster than that would require exorbitant amounts of money for financial incentives, new barracks and equipment.

It is not clear how General Schoomaker views the “surge” proposal, though his opinion would probably be outweighed by the views of the combat generals on the ground in Iraq.

The Washington Post reported on December 19, 2006, that the Joint Chief unanimously rejected the “surge” idea for Iraq – a report denied by the White House. White House Spokesman Tony Snow said there is no rift between the JCS and the president and no final decision has, as yet, been made on the surge idea.

“There’s an assumption that people have been given marching orders, and at this point, the president is asking folks to take a look at a number of things,” Mr. Snow said. “I think people are trying to create a fight between the president and the Joint Chiefs when one does not exist,” Snow said at a White House briefing. He would not disclose if Mr. Bush was leaning one way or the other about increasing troops in Iraq or a new direction in U.S. policy.

Colonel Samuel Gardiner, USAF (Retired) is one of the lesser known thinkers and catalysts of military strategy and thought that the Pentagon, and sometimes the White House, calls upon. Gardner has directed National War College war games for more than 20 years.

“In all these games,” says Gardiner, “the American intellectual infrastructure is based on the principle of preventive attack which is the basis of the Bush Administration’s security doctrine.
According to this principle, the United States went to war four years ago in Iraq. This principle also governs American policy regarding the nuclear armament of Iran.”

Gardiner believes that the U.S. has lost the initiative and the “control” in Iraq and that belief may drive the U.S. toward the surge plan.

Mr. Gardiner also has firm views on the situation with Iran.

During the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah last July, Gardiner warned that the battle was the opening round in Iran’s military defense of its nuclear program.

“What we have now discovered in the shape of a conflict ostensibly between the State of Israel and the Hizbollah Organization is but the start of an Iranian preventive attack that was intended to protect the continued existence of the Iranian nuclear program. The mullahs in Teheran have outlapped American strategic thinking on the fly by adopting its fundamental principle–preventive attack. They are now operating according to this principle in Lebanon. This is the true macro situation everything else represents diversions from the main issue.”

Another lesser known policy influencer might be Professor Frederick Kagan. Kagan is a widely published military historian who served as a professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point from 1995 until 2005. This assignment put him into close contact with many of the “thinkers” of the United States Army, both active duty and retired, such as General Barry McCafferty, now himself a professor at West Point.

At West Point Kagan participated in dozens of panel discussions, strategy development sessions and war games. He is currently at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). He is the author of AEI’s most recent “surge plan” that would put four additional Army brigades into Baghdad and two additional Marine regimental combat teams into Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, in an effort to curtail Iraqi violence.

Kagan is known to have the president’s ear and has briefed several times to administration officials including at the White House.

In a December 21, 2006 “USA Today” commentary, Kagan spelled out some of his rationale for the surge plan.

“America faces a critical moment in Iraq. Sectarian violence threatens to destroy Iraq’s government and society and what’s left of America’s will to fight. Yet the consequences of accepting defeat would be horrendous,” wrote Mr. Kagan.

“If America withdraws before the Iraq Army is ready to shoulder the burden of keeping the peace,” wrote Mr. Kagan, “Iran and Iraq’s Sunni neighbors would vie for dominance, and the conflict would likely expand throughout the Middle East. Al-Qaeda could establish a base in the ensuing vacuum. Abandoning Iraq to chaos would harm America’s vital interests immeasurably.”

“It is essential, therefore,” says Kagan, “ to adopt a new strategy. We must secure Iraq’s population and thereby bring the violence under control, abandoning the failed attempt to hand responsibility over to the Iraqis prematurely.”

Based on the president’s previous statements about “winning” in Iraq, one can see how Kagan’s line of thinking may appeal to the president.

Kagan wrote in “USA Today,” “Let us consider the alternative [to the ‘surge’ plan]: A defeated [U.S.] Army would have to withdraw under fire, humiliated, watching as the enemy tortures and kills the Iraqis it had worked with and defended. Nothing would break the Army more surely than ignominious defeat.”

“The options in Iraq are stark: withdrawal, defeat and regional disaster, or an effort to secure the population to permit the political, economic and social development and national reconciliation needed for Iraq to move forward,” wrote Kagan. “ The president’s determination to win with a comprehensive new strategy isn’t stubbornness. It is wisdom.”

Kagan again wrote, this time with retired Army General Jack Keane, in The Washington Post on December 27, 2006. Kagan and Keane not only reiterated the need for the surge but they also stated that it needed to be “both long and large.”

Wrote Mr. Kagan and General Keane, “Bringing security to Baghdad — the essential precondition for political compromise, national reconciliation and economic development — is possible only with a surge of at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so. Any other option is likely to fail.”

According to Kagan and Keane, “The key to the success is to change the military mission — instead of preparing for transition to Iraqi control, that mission should be to bring security to the Iraqi population. Surges aimed at accelerating the training of Iraqi forces will fail, because rising sectarian violence will destroy Iraq before the new forces can bring it under control.”

General Keane’s officail biography describes him this way: “General Jack Keane served 37 years in the Army, rising to the rank of four-star General. Most recently, he held the position of the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army. During his four years in this job as Chief Operating Officer of the United States Army, he managed operations of more than 1.5 million soldiers and civilians in over 120 countries and an annual budget in excess of $110 billion dollars. Throughout his tenure in this position the Army has fought and won wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, while supporting numerous worldwide peace operation, maintaining readiness, and transforming to a faster, more deployable force. ”

On the other side of the argument, people speak of the “wisdom” of withdrawal.

Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll has concluded that, “The public just doesn’t see the benefit [of the surge plan or staying in Iraq].”

“It’s clear now that the public is looking for a timetable for withdrawal. If the administration doesn’t like that, my advice would be, you have to somehow convince Americans of the benefits of continuing there,” Newport said. “I think there’s wisdom in the collective views of the public. A wise leader pays attention to it.”

President Bush left Washington Tuesday for a stay at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Mr. Bush will host a National Security Council meeting on Thursday at his ranch, but is not expected to make any final decision on what he says will be a new way forward in Iraq until later.

Vice President Richard Cheney, Secretary of State Rice, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Advisor Steven Hadley will be on hand for Thursday’s meeting.

Delaware Senator (and announced presidential hopeful) Joseph Biden, the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Tuesday he would oppose any effort by the president to increase U.S. troop levels in Iraq.

“Absent some profound political announcement . . . I can’t imagine there being an overwhelming, even significant support for the president’s position,” he told reporters during a telephone conference call Tuesday.

Biden put the situation in Iraq into cold political terms for Republicans.

If the violence continues two years from now, “every one of those Republican senators — and there’s 21 of them up for re- election — knows that that is likely to spell his or her doom,” Senator Biden said.

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My Wonderful Vietnamese American Christmas

December 25, 2006

By John E. Carey
December 25, 2006 (late evening time)

My wonderful Vietnamese American Christmas was an outpouring of festive good fun, family love and thankfulness for our savior, our freedoms and our nation.

Many of us went to Mass on Christmas Eve (my wife’s family has a tradition, started by her Father Nguyen, now in heaven seven years, that we go again on Christmas morning….so we honor Father by keeping his wish as best we can!) Now, some of the clan, including my wife Lien, worked a 12 hour day on Christmas Eve, so dragging off to Midnight Mass and then rising in time to look fabulous for the 8 AM services takes real joy, dedication and caffeine! I supplied the caffeine: everyone in the family brings their own joy and dedication.

Lien’s sister Mai hosts the Christmas Eve dinner and gift giving spectacular which is always terrific. Mai is such a great hostess that we gather at her house frequently which means practically weekly if we can keep work demands and other interference at bay! Mai runs the family club house and central point of joy!

Our Pastor Father John the Baptist Vuong and Father John Minh said Mass on Christmas morning and they joyously greet every parishioner after every Mass, today and all days. Father Vuong also honored us by joining our lunch for Lien’s birthday and December 23 and he was right with us again this afternoon for the day’s big meal and gift giving.

My sister in law Nga (think Tanya and say the part without the “T”) and her husband Dai Do hosted the clan which could have been as many as 40 but because of motion and commotion I could not get a count. We started with karaoke in the basement disco Dai has created and at one time I counted three generations in the room singing and dancing.

I use the word “dancing” loosely. Fiona or FiFi is in the first grade so she just merrily bounces to the music as in a kind of rhythm a tennis ball might adopt! FiFi sat on my lap and sang solo her favorite Christmas songs like Noel, Jungle Bells and others. The stars of the singing were Lien’s daughter Trang (also called “Dawn”) and her friend Hieu who I call “The Little One.” Hieu weighs 85 pounds even though she is 22 years old. Even the size “Extra Small” at Victoria Secrets is WAY too big for Little One who shops in the children’s section. Both these young women could knock Brittany Spears off her high horse if they had a mind to do it. They can karaoke in three languages and both have excellent voices even when they seem to be singing effortlessly!

Another of the cousins, Quyen, is about 12. She demonstrated her singing and dancing expetrtise and wanted to know if I was ready to cook a pumpkin pie (I am still taking a terrible ribbing over my soupy pie a year ago at Thanksgiving which the Washington Post has now made a part of suburban Washington holiday lore:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/21/AR2006112101381.html

Lien Do shows the practical way to eat a pumpkin pie baked by her husband, John Carey, after his culinary efforts last Thanksgiving.

Lien Do shows the practical way to eat a pumpkin pie baked by her husband, John Carey, after his culinary efforts last Thanksgiving. (By Lemy Wood)

Gift exchange is always a wild affair with Nga handing off wrapped goodies for delivery by deputized special agents Trang, FiFi and sister in law Lemy’s little pre-schooler Matthew and first grader Andrew. Lemy is the photographer and she documents all family gatherings.

Unwrapping occurs in a kind of blessed, smile-filled euphoria that is beyond description.

In all, I owe an eternal debt to Ba, Lien’s Mom; Mai, Nga and Lemy, (Lien’s sisters) and each and every member of a far flung extended family.

And a special honor to Dai Do who hosts the best Christmas I ever had: every year!

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Ben Has MS: The Way He Copes Inspires Us

We also shared a lovely phone call with Ben this Christmas. Ben and his beautiful bride and two daughters now live in the “Deep South” or “Dixie” after spending time serving the U.S. government in important positions here in Washington D.C.

Ben is one of the smartest and best informed young men I know. In his early thirties, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Ben gets really dizzy.

Ben and I shared a delightful and heartwarming Christmas conversation on the phone and I asked him why he sounded so perky. “Was it Christmas?”

“No,” said Ben, “I just fell down the stairs and the adrenalin rush from that really charges me up! I think I’ll ask the Doc for a few cc’s of adrenalin and start taking it the easy way!”

Ben has lost certain skill and some acuity; but he told me he feels blessed that he can spend more time with is children. And Ben’s long-dormant mucical skills have returned with gusto. He plays the saxaphone and gets better at it every day. We discussed the possibility of him joining a performance group or band!

No problem we could have seems very tough when compared with Ben’s daily challenges and the good natured and faith-filled way he approaches them.

Ben is an inspiration to us!

(We called Ben in response to an email. It seems his daughter Madeline tried to float the cell phone which caused a complete loss of all stored data. Including our phone numbers. These things happen in families! Merry Christmas!)
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The “Tree Christmas” Dad Never Forgot

By John E. Carey

My Dad, trying to be inclusive, bought three (or was it four?) Christmas trees one year.

My Dad was an autocrat. He wasn’t like a U.S. military officer but more akin to a Russian Tsar. Good thing beheading was already illegal when I was a kid: I am sure my Dad would have found it an important disciplinary tool and a good deterrent to other children bent upon fouling up.

But one December my Dad became a real marshmallow. He decided that the entire family and even a few neighbors should go along to buy the family Christmas tree. Somewhere he got the notion that by including more voices we might get an even more fantastic tree than last year’s.

Boy, was he ever mistaken.

We loaded up two or three carloads of adults and kids, and at least two of these vehicles were station wagons. For today’s kids, the SUV is wide and tall. The station wagon is all long: perfect for a tree!

There was snow on the ground and we could see our breaths in the cold air. After debates about the best place to buy our tree and visits to at least two locales, we settled on a “cut your own tree” place.

Once out of the cars, the kids fanned out in all directions despite Dad’s efforts to keep his team of “experts” together and to make the day a communal success.

It took Dad at least an hour to assemble a quorum of family members to march around like a post Katrina survey team in the attempt to find a tree everyone could agree upon.

After much too long a debate, Dad cautioned several times that the tree we were focusing in on seemed a little dry. But the majority ruled and Dad sawed the tree down.

We loaded the tree into the station wagon. Once home, Mom declared that she would put the tree’s freshly cut stump into a bucket of water (she had experience in all things of the home).

When we took the tree into the house it left a sea of needles in the car and everywhere we had carried it over the snow and carpet.

But it was Christmas and Mom had a great vacuum and we all really loved the tree so we plowed ahead like a 5 ton snow mover on an airport runway.

But Dad still had doubts and he decided we should not decorate the tree until the next day.

The next day that tree was naked. Needless. Barren.

Dad wasn’t too pleased but at breakfast he announced that we would charge ahead to get another tree. Mom was relieved of her requirement to participate, as were my sisters. Back then, if the women were lucky enough to participate they were fired as soon as the first thing went wrong.

So with a much reduced “Committee on Tree Selection” we drove back to “cut your own tree” and restarted the selection process.

We guys settled on a tree that we really liked and despite some increasingly cautionary warnings from Dad that the tree didn’t look very “plumb” we boys told Dad this was our choice. Besides, I, for one, had no idea what “plumb” was. Dad always liked technical terms.

We got the tree home and established it in its new home just before dinner.

During dinner, the tree fell over in a whoosh.

Dad, gritting his teeth, explained what “plumb” meant and even had one of us fetch the dictionary so we could all hear it straight from Webster. Plumb means basically “straight up and down” but Webster included the word “vertical” and other cool descriptors.

Dad loved the English language. He loved all languages in fact and had an array of dictionaries and reference books in his library.

Mom told us later that Dad was up at least until midnight trying to engineer a way to keep that darned tree from falling over.

At breakfast, Dad’s chair was empty.

Dad came home in about an hour with tree number three. When I asked him in front of the entire family why he didn’t take us all to find the tree he said, “I took the only one of us with any good decision making skills.”

I didn’t realize the significance to all of this until years later but Mom said, “Well, I picked you so you must be right.” Mom was pretty good with words herself.

So Merry Christmas and try to keep the family together!

P.S. A new puppy intended as a gift for dad’s brother, our uncle, got loose that Christmas Eve and knocked down the fully decorated tree! That’s why I can’t recall if there was a tree number four because I was keeping clear of Dad after that.
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Medal of Honor Winner Bud Day sent along these very kind wishes:

Dear John: Your thoughts about Christianity and the freedom it permits are traveling in tandem with mine this Christmas day, and I cannot help but feel incredibly blessed to be in America, and to be a “hopeful” Christian. How blessed we are to be the accident of birth in this grand country.

Merry Christmas,

Bud Day

For our story about Bud Day visit:

http://extendedremarks.blogspot.com/2006/11/veterans-day-tribute-meet-bud-day.html

*******
Finally this from our friend Robert Ende who is also married into a Vietnamese family:

Bûche de Noël is the French Yule Log; the Vietnamese have adopted it, and their delicate mocha flavored version is the best dessert a Westerner can find in Asia (my opinion).

My niece is here visiting with us from Saigon, seeing snow for the first time; she says Christmas is increasing rapidly in popularity, with lights and creche displays everywhere. Santa is seen frequently…he is called Ong Gia No En…”Old Man Noel…..I guess that tricky “L” sound works better if you just substitute an “N” for it. He tends to be a little skinnier than we recall, but I’m sure it’s him.

The fact that the majority of people are Buddhists doesn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm the Vietnamese have for Christmas. Maybe it’s like my Sikh friend said when I asked him why his family celebrated the Hindu festival of Diwali…”Hey, there are lots of parties, and people give gifts…..what’s not to celebrate?”

Anyway, here we are at Lake Tahoe, it’s 8:30 in the morning, and I have a 12 year old latched onto my leg begging to open presents….what’s not to celebrate?Merry Christmas, and peace on earth to people of all faiths!

All the best,

Robert

Christmas: Time For Reflection On America’s Christian Values

December 25, 2006

By John E. Carey

“If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God then we are a nation gone under.”

–Ronald Reagan

Once upon a time, Christmas was about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. So Christmas has been the time we reflect upon Christian ethics and values, and their role in our nation and our world.

Christian ethics and values are deeply intertwined with the founding of these United States. When historians at the University of Houston conducted a 10-year study of the ideas that shaped our republic, they found 94 percent of the Founding Fathers’ quotes in 15,000 documents were based on the Bible.”God created all men equal,” one of the most fundamental and important acclamations of our government, became an underlying reason for the Civil War and the elimination of slavery.

In the Bible we learn that He came to us, all mankind, to become one of us and to share our humanness. So, by doing this, throughout time, God could know both the sanctity of human life and the pain and suffering we all endure.

And He came to offer his greatest gift: the eternal hope that this life was not the end.

Jesus told His followers that their lives had meaning. The lives of the followers of Christ, He said, will rejoice in the resurrection and follow this life with another even more joyful and meaningful.

I make these observations on Christmas not as a clergyman but as a common man like you. So I do not mean to preach or sermonize. I am not worthy to do so as a Christian believer yet one who has wandered off the path of the good many times and for long stretches during some of those times.

We should reflect and focus today on the meaning of Christmas; just this once. If not today: when?

The meaning of Christmas, one could argue, may be important to the future of the United States and the world.

I have read a barrage of stories about how good and holy the religion of Islam and its followers believe themselves to be. And I do not deny, in fact I most publicly embrace, the many true Islamic believers who lead good lives and shun terrorism. But in the face of this current world crisis, complete with murder and riots following such grave provocations as “religiously insensitive cartoons,” I cannot let Christmas pass without a few thoughts about Christianity and the sanctity of human life.

What is the “Sanctity of Human Life?” It is the belief, in fact the knowledge, that each of us has, burning within him, the light of Christ: the essence of God. Christians believe that men and mankind are special. Christians do not believe in suicide or suicide bombers.

Our human bonding to the essence of God makes capitol punishment, murder, suicide bombings and most forms of terrorism “inherently wrong.” The reason we will not, and can not, smother our dying grandmother with a pillow is that her beginning and end are not of our domain: not in our purview. We leave to God what is God’s and we fight for life and to preserve each ember of the sanctity of human life, if we can.

God’s creatures in the Animal Kingdom do not share in this sanctity of human life. The animals have not the essence of God. They are important and to be preserved: but many of them are food for man.

Christians follow a certain order, solid principles and moral values. At least they know these concepts are there and they work to achieve them now and again! We are not perfect and we accept our flaws and weaknesses too.

Why do many support an involvement in Darfur and why do many donate to campaigns to assist the needy if we can? Because our belief in the sanctity of human life brings out in us our human compassion.

There is another side to our humanness, a side that Jesus experienced certainly in his own life. This is the side of the evil and baser nature of man. Envy, greed, adultery and the other sins leading to our downfall are defined in the Bible. I am sure I have committed many of these failings but cannot even define some of these old friends without using reference materials now. I am old enough that I know them even though I’ve forgotten their names!

And finally, on Christmas, it is most appropriate to recall as we dream about a tiny newborn, that we will all suffer and die. I am currently experiencing in my own life the normal course of illness and death even as we see goodness and new life. This is the wonder of the kind of Yin and Yang, good and youth and innocence combined with blasphemy and evil and all else in one lifetime and in one person.

At a party recently, we spoke in hushed and reverential tones about a grandfather who had died at this time of year. One of the guests was largely pregnant and sheparding two of her young children already born. Another guest had just that week heard a diagnosis of brain cancer.

At the same party, a missionary, home for the holidays, explained the plight of people just above the starvation line of life. Next to him, wealthy American suburbanites boasted about their new cars and new second house.

They are all exercising their right to pursue happiness; a right guaranteed by our American Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. In other lands, they would not be so lucky.

Our Declaration of Independence separates us from terrorists.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”We Americans believe that man, in fact all mankind, has an expectation, a right, to life. We believe this is an “unalienable right,” in fact a sacred right not granted by man but by a higher power, our Creator and incapable of repudiation.

We do not think we are better than other men, we Americans. But our Founders did embrace a very Christian ethic that guides our actions today: because we believe in the sanctity of human life.

There is no better time to reflect upon the sanctity of human life and America’s Christian heritage than at Christmas.

John E. Carey is a frequent contributor to The Washington Times.
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Recalling the “Battle of the Bulge” 

By John E. Carey
December 25, 2006

Aging veterans of another war are this week recalling their battles, their sacrifices, their losses and their triumphs. This is the 62nd winter since the “Battle of the Bulge” in World War II.

In 1944 the combined allied armies of the European Theater, made up mostly of British and American troops under the Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower, landed in Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6th. The armies assaulted the German defenders of “Fortress Europe.” Casualties on both sides were staggering. On D-Day alone, total Allied casualties were estimated at 10,000, including 2,500 dead.

After D-Day, the Allied armies plunged into the German defenders and fought their way across France. From June until December, 1944, the Allies advanced while the Germans retreated, all the while each side inflicting heavy casualties upon the foe.

On July 20, 1944, a senior German staff officer, Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, planted a bomb at Hitler’s “Wolf’s Lair” — his command post for the Eastern Front in Rastenburg, Prussia. Hitler survived.

In the purge that followed, along with many others, Germany’s hero of the North Africa campaign, the “Desert Fox,” Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, who also had commanded the German defenses in France and along the Atlantic Wall on D-Day, was implicated in the plot and eliminated by Hitler.

In December of that 1944, German ground forces were struggling but unbowed. Besieged by Russia in the east, Hitler elected to surge his forces westward in the face of the Allies in an attempt to retake the port of Antwerp. The Allies were assembled in the Ardennes Forest of Belgium and poised for the final lunge into Germany itself.

Because Adolph Hitler would not suffer a defeat while he still had combat ready troops, the world’s best tanks, and other military assets still ready for a fight, the “Battle of the Bulge” may have been inevitable.

Hitler’s forces began to ramp up their activity with probing attacks along the American lines as early as November 27, 1944. Even so, Hitler’s gambit which became known as the “Battle of the Bulge” took the allies totally by surprise.

Germany launched the assault on December 16, 1944. In the winter snows of Belgium, the Nazis used their Blitzkrieg tactics forged in battle all over Europe.

Germany’s Generals were under no illusions when they launched into what would become known as the “Battle of the Bulge.” They knew this assault may be the last gasp of a mighty army.

But the Germans, aided by dense cloud cover which prevented Allied air power from attacking them, attacked on the ground with speed and ferocity.

For Germany, this battle was an all or nothing affair. The Germans raced for Antwerp, led by an SS armored column under the command of SS Gruppenführer Joachim Peiper. Peiper’s had to capture fuel for his tanks as they attacked forward. Peiper took no prisoners, ordering the execution of hundreds of Americans captured by his column. He also massacred Belgian civilians in the town of Stavelot.

The fighting was fierce.

A participant at the Belgian town of Bastogne recorded the events this way: “We were not well equipped, having just gotten out of combat in Holland. We were particularly short of winter clothing and footwear….We became completely surrounded by Germans and our field hospital was overrun by a German attack. We had put the hospital in what would normally have been a safe place, but no place is safe when you are completely surrounded. At this time, we were not able to receive air resupply because the weather was absolutely frightful. It was very, very cold and snowy. Visibility was often measured in yards.”

The German commander demanded that the Americans surrender.

The American commander, acting Division Commander General Tony McAuliffe of the 101st Airborne, penned a one word reply to his German counterpart: “Nuts.”

The Americans prevailed. Colonel Edward Shames of the 506th Parachute Infantry, 101st Airborne, wrote, “After 29 days of hell, we were relieved from the area around Bastogne and headed elsewhere to fight the remaining battles of World War II.”

Two days before Christmas the weather began to lift and Allied air power began to pound the Germans. Meanwhile, Patton’s Third Army made the largest and fastest redeployment from one enemy line to another in the history of the U.S. Army.

The day after Christmas, the siege of Bastogne was over – but the “Battle of the Bulge” and spin-off engagements would rage for almost one more month.

The Allies could not be certain that the Germans had been defeated in their plan until January 25, 1945. The “Battle of the Bulge” had raged for more than 40 days.

Today we remember and salute our fathers and grandfathers who fought so bravely to bring us our freedom and end World War II – especially those participants of the “Battle of the Bulge.”

John E. Carey is a frequent contributor to The Washington Times.

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