Jihad Watch has the latest statement from our self-described "virtuous" opponents in Iraq. This is from a leader of the Ansar al-Sunnah group, the ones who recently set off a suicide bomb inside a mess hall tent, coupled with a mortar attack from a civilian area that was timed to kill rescue and aid workers responding to the blast.
Along the way, he offers a description of how he sees us:
Cowboys, drowning in sin, corruption and pornography.This, naturally enough, put me in the mind of the famous (and probably, the only) musical starring Clint Eastwood, Paint Your Wagon. It details the rise and fall of a frontier settlement among gold miners. It's a rollicking and tongue-in-cheek portrayal, but it actually has a number of the details right: for example, women being so rare on the frontier. In one scene, men rush in droves to see one, and one of the miners offers fifty dollars in gold dust to hold her baby for a few minutes. In fact, I've seen an illustration from a newspaper of the day, which accompanied a story describing how men would offer gifts of up to a hundred dollars' worth of gold dust just out of gratitude for the sight of a woman.
The movie examines the life of "cowboys, drowning in sin, corruption, and pornography." A review of some quotes from the movie will give you the notion: everything from drunkeness, prostitution, gambling and thievery, to the corruption of family values. Indeed, one of the main plot lines is about a pair of partners, played by Eastwood and Lee Marvin, who both marry the same woman, at the same time. "You show me in them commandments where it says a woman cain't have two husbands," Marvin says. (Actually, there proves to be a real theological question here, as a Googling of "polygamy" and "Bible" will demonstrate. People come down solidly on both sides of the matter, those opposed citing the fact that the singular tense is used in certain relevant passages, while those in favor point to the rules for taking a second wife in Exodus, and the parable of the five virgins).
It is a comedy, not intended to be a source of serious conclusions about life or anything else. The movie, made in 1969, still takes pains to wind up all of its threads in a way that confirm traditional morality. Not so the extras who made it: "Hippies were big on authentic Western costume and could supply their own wardrobe right down to the guns (yes, these hippies were armed to the teeth). They came with wives, kids, big dogs and bigger trucks and settled in for the summer, fall, winter, spring, and...I believe...a second summer. Everything you see in this movie is REAL...the poker game in the background, the French whores (imported from Paris, and yes, they plied their trade on the set and in hotels in Baker), the antiques, the long hair and handlebar moustaches. The opium den and bootleg liquor. All real and functioning."
Where did they go, these extras of 1969? American society, though condemned by Ansar al-Sunnah, has not become awash in such things as compared to the late Sixties. If anything, the opposite has occurred: the hippies got old, most of them took what used to be called "straight jobs," and they raised "straight" children. The price of human freedom has not been high: in return for not suppressing the radicals of 1969 with the religious violence favored by the Islamist, what have we suffered?
Something, surely; I expect readers will provide answers, and indeed I can think of a few myself, though also some benefits. On balance, I think we are to the good for this transaction. Human liberty has costs, but they are not so very high when you consider the alternatives. It also has benefits, which prove to be pure profit.
That train of thought proves to be a call for genuine tolerance. That call puts me diametrically opposed to Ansar al-Sunnah: and using that as my landmark, the principles of land navigation suggest to me that I'm right where I should be.
UPDATE: Given the snow, I've had a little time to think quietly while I clear the road and drive with shovel and broom. The metaphor of land navigation is good, but not complete. You really need two navigational points to be sure of your location, and this is only one.
The other navigational point has to be excessive secularization. If complete intolerance of religious variance is one point, the other has to be complete intolerance of religious expression. If one point is a demand for conformity to one view of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, or the like, the other must be a demand for a rejection of all such things.
The middle ground -- a tolerant, but vibrant and religious, society -- is surely the right place to be. It's a happy thing that America's traditions reach their best expressions in just that place.
And in taking those navigational measurements, I find a third beacon unsuspected, right in the center of the place I seek to inhabit. It is joy. The movie I started with is an expression of glee almost from beginning to end. There is nothing of joy in the scorn of Ansar al-Sunnah, nor in the raving of atheists who list the Vatican as a 'hate site.' This is the ground on which we can be happiest. Happy, all of us, even the psychotic and the radical atheist, who find their highest joy in railing against the rest of us.
You may have seen the 1st Cavalry, Horse Detachment in coverage of yesterday's military festivities honoring the inauguration. This is the last horse-mounted unit in the Army, still wearing uniforms dating to the glory days of "yellowlegs" riding across the West. (Those of you in the MILSCI project may enjoy this short but interesting overview of the uses of cavalry in combat.)
In any event, you might have gotten the idea that this 1st Cavalry, Horse was a purely ceremonial unit. Not so! Part of the unit is deployed in Iraq, caring for the remains of the Iraqi National Herd of Arabians. Sadly, more than eighty percent of the herd -- and all of their tack -- was destroyed by a Tomahawk missile during the air raids on Baghdad.
The Soquili Equine Center is taking up tack to send to 1st Cavalry, in order to help repair some of the damage done. The Iraqi people, as is often the case in an Arab nation, revere their national herd. The loss of those horses was a heavy blow to them, but the work done by American soldiers, and especially the attention of private American horsemen, have overwhelmed their expectations and made some real friendships across the oceans.
If you're interested in helping out -- whether you have old tack, or wish to make donations of other sorts -- you can contact "Tack for Iraq" here.
It isn't all that often that the Pentagon goes after a journalist. Probably it should happen more often than it does. But it's satisfying to see.
By his own admission, Mr. Hersh evidently is working on an “alternative history” novel. He is well along in that work, given the high quality of “alternative present” that he has developed in several recent articles.This is an official statement of the Department of Defense, remember.
Please note that The Adventures of Chester, a blog by a fairly insightful Reserve officer of Marines, has moved to a new location. I've adjusted the links accordingly. If you're not familiar with Chester, you might enjoy his writings.
Grim's relative slowdown in blogging may or may not end soon. My current contract is keeping me very busy, and I've had less time to think lately -- and therefore, less to talk about.
However, blogging done well is a conversation, not a lecture. It's good to have friends and companions who drop by to comment, or send emails. I got a couple of those from our friends at Spirit of America. They're gearing up on several projects, and asked me to help let you know about them.
One is Friends of Democracy, which describes itself as "ground-level election news from the Iraqi people." They're putting together a grassroots correspondents' network in Iraq's 18 provinces, and also networking with Iraqi bloggers and via email with Iraqis who are online. The hope is to provide more of an unfiltered look at what the Iraqi people themselves think and say about the process.
SoA is also still working on the Arabic-language blogging tool, Viral Freedom.
Finally, they're planning to do some coverage of the Iraqi elections themselves. They wanted me to help them find some folks with skills they need. Here's what they want:
We need an site editor/producer for the English language Web site.I think that some of you may fit that bill, if you're interested. As you can see from the site design here, Grim is not an expert at such things.
That position is described here.
And, we are looking for people who can develop election coverage
graphics for the FoD website and Jan 30th event. People with
experience developing graphics for the web and for broadcast would be
Jeff Jarvis administers a beating to the New York Times. Grim is one of those bloggers who met the brothers, and blogged about it. If the Times is properly humiliated by the poverty of their reporting and wants to do a follow-up, I'll be glad to receive questions.