The funniest line from the New York Times story (blogged by Lee, below) on a carp that spoke in Hebrew of the end of the world to an Hasidic fish merchant and his Christian assistant, which fish identified itself as the reincarnation of a local man:
The fish flopped off the counter and back into the carp box and was butchered by Mr. Nivelo and sold.
They had a talking carp claiming to be one of their old customers and . . . they chopped it up and sold it.
LINKS SENT BY FRIENDS:
Maggie Gallagher on the reason for saying "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance: Under God' isn't the establishment of religion. She notes that
The case is headed for the Supreme Court, where the most likely outcome is a muddled defense of ceremonial deism, or what Vikram Amar, a professor of law at the University of California's Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, called "a very narrow ruling on 'religion-lite' that says opaque references like this to religion that we've lived with for a long time do not violate the establishment clause."
I don't think her argument for retaining the words - that though added in the mid-1950s it asserts what the Founding Fathers believed, and which gave us a reason for religious liberty - very convincing but it is worth reading. I don't think you can justify such a statement unless it is an assertion of a public truth still held to be so.
The Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci on her reservations about a war in Iraq: The Rage, the Pride and the Doubt: Thoughts on the eve of battle in Iraq. She is not one of the simple anti-war reactionaries, but one who has thought through the problem and still has questions. Would that the Catholic and Orthodox bishops and the mainline Protestant leaders showed such thought. For example:
The final reason for my dilemma is the definition that Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair and their advisors give of this war: "A Liberation war. A humanitarian war to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq." Oh, no. Humanitarianism has nothing to do with wars. All wars, even just ones, are death and destruction and atrocities and tears. And this is not a liberation war, a war like the Second World War. (By the way: neither is it an "oil war," as the pacifists who never yell against Saddam or bin Laden maintain in their rallies. Americans do not need Iraqi oil.)
It is a political war. A war made in cold blood to respond to the Holy War that the enemies of the West declared upon the West on September 11. It is also a prophylactic war. A vaccine, a surgery that hits Saddam because (Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair believe), among the various focuses of cancer Saddam is the most obvious and dangerous one. Moreover, the obstacle that once removed will permit them to redesign the map of the Middle East as the British and the French did after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. To redesign it and to spread a Pax Romana, pardon, a Pax Americana, in which everybody will prosper through freedom and democracy.
Again, no. Freedom cannot be a gift. And democracy cannot be imposed with bombs, with occupation armies. As my father said when he asked the anti-fascists to join the Resistance, and as today I say to those who honestly rely on the Pax Americana, people must conquer freedom by themselves. Democracy must come from their will, and in both cases a country must know what they consist of. In Europe the Second World War was a liberation war not because it brought novelties called freedom and democracy but because it re-established them. Because Europeans knew what they consisted of.
. . . As I write in my book when I call bin Laden the tip of the iceberg and I define the iceberg as a mountain that has not moved for 1,400 years, that for 1,400 years has not changed, that has not emerged from its blindness, freedom and democracy are totally unrelated to the ideological texture of Islam. To the tyranny of theocratic states. So their people refuse them, and even more they want to erase ours.
And finally, the English philosopher Roger Scruton on the nature of a nation, and in particular of England, made pressing by the war and the division between the United States and "Old Europe": "Where does England's loyalty lie?" I don't have a link for this one because the friend who sent didn't include its source and several Google searches did not produce it.
Scruton, another writer always worth reading, attacks the idea that
humanity is evolving inexorably in the direction of the market-state, in which the bond between citizen and state is conceived not as a hereditary obligation like that of family or tribe, but as a freely chosen contract, where the state is expected to deliver benefits (security, prosperity and other secular goods) in return for obedience.
This kind of 'end of history' analysis of the modern world is familiar in other terms - for example, those of Daniel Bell, Francis Fukuyama or Jean-Franđois Lyotard - but in all cases it seems to me to leave one crucial matter out of account - namely, human beings. People don't die to uphold contracts; in emergencies contracts are repudiated, loyalties deepened. It is because the USA exists as a nation-state, determined to defend its people and its territory, that war on Iraq is now conceivable.
And later he writes of the common law, which is
not a collection of decrees dictated by the sovereign but a developing set of answers to concrete human conflicts, discovered by impartial judges in the courts. It embodies the old idea of natural justice, according to which law stands in judgment over the sovereign and does not merely transmit his decrees. The common law is the true origin of our freedoms, of our safety in the face of state power, and of our ability to lead our own lives, however eccentric, without asking anyone's permission.
The EU has been built upon a conception of legal order that takes the decree (or 'directive') rather than the particular case and its ratio decidendi, as its paradigm. This, in my view, is the real reason why the English rebel against it - even those who have no knowledge of the history and the inherited conception of justice that make this rebellion inevitable, obligatory and right.
MORE SIGNS OF THE END:
According to the infallible New York Times:
And so it came to pass that a talking carp, shouting in Hebrew, shattered the calm of the New Square Fish Market and created what many here are calling a miracle.
Mr. Nivelo, who is not Jewish, lifted a live carp out of a box of iced-down fish and was about to club it in the head.
But the fish began speaking in Hebrew, according to the two men. Mr. Nivelo does not understand Hebrew, but the shock of a fish speaking any language, he said, forced him against the wall and down to the slimy wooden packing crates that cover the floor.
He looked around to see if the voice had come from the slop sink, the other room or the shop's cat. Then he ran into the front of the store screaming, "The fish is talking!" and pulled Mr. Rosen away from the phone.
"I screamed, `It's the devil! The devil is here!' " he recalled. "But Zalmen said to me, `You crazy, you a meshugeneh.' "
But Mr. Rosen said that when he approached the fish he heard it uttering warnings and commands in Hebrew.
What was the fish saying?
"It said `Tzaruch shemirah' and `Hasof bah,' " he said, "which essentially means that everyone needs to account for themselves because the end is near."
The fish commanded Mr. Rosen to pray and to study the Torah and identified itself as the soul of a local Hasidic man who died last year, childless.
I bet you didn't know this about Judaism:
Whether hoax or historic event, it jibes with the belief of some Hasidic sects that righteous people can be reincarnated as fish.
Do you think that Americans are getting to be a little on edge, a little nervous, perhaps even worried?
The government in Québec is beginning to realize that it is running out of people to govern.
The Montréal Gazette reports:
"Getting older is interesting," said Landry, a 66-year-old grandfather. "It's a beautiful personal adventure, but we'll age better if we have children to watch grow, if we have youth to watch, young artists, young creators, young business leaders who continue to astound us and see to the prosperity of Quebec."
Quebecers who have a child, within five years of finishing college or university, would be eligible for a 50-per-cent refund of their student loans if the Parti Québécois is re-elected April 14, Premier Bernard Landry announced yesterday.
The Swedes tried this; it didn't work. Money can persuade a couple to have a child earlier, but it does not increase the total number of children.
What could save Quebec from extinction? A revival of Catholicism might, but Québec is busy jettisoning its religious heritage.
THE U.N. VS. WIESEL:
The current situation, in which the will of United Nations, expressed through 17 resolutions, is being thwarted by Iraq seems strikingly analogous to an earlier period, when the League of Nations showed itself unable to stand up and face the rising might of Italy, German, and Japan. That meant the end of the League of Nations. It deserved to die.
I truly think we are seeing the final days of the United Nations, which has shown itself mainly to be a debating society, with no resolute political will and no taste for stern, effective action. At present it seems to me that the United Nations deserves to die.
Personally, I am approaching the point where I am forced to think that George W. Bush is either a completely corrupt and roguish fool or a man of the towering stature of Abraham Lincoln. I pray, of course, that he is the latter.
Meanwhile it is difficult to avoid the impression that Mr. Bush is thoroughly despised by a whole bunch of people that I can only regard as rogues and fools. Several of them belong to the United States Congress.
I append a recent article on Iraq by a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Elie Wiesel's "Peace Isn't Possible in Evil's Face". It begins:
Under normal circumstances, I might have joined those peace marchers who, here and abroad, staged public demonstrations against an invasion of Iraq. After all, I have seen enough of the brutality, the ugliness, of war to oppose it heart and soul. Isn't war forever cruel, the ultimate form of violence? It inevitably generates not only loss of innocence but endless sorrow and mourning. How could one not reject it as an option?
And yet, this time I support President Bush's policy of intervention to eradicate international terrorism, which, most civilized nations agree, is the greatest threat facing us today. Bush has placed the Iraqi war into that context; Saddam Hussein is the ruthless leader of a rogue state to be disarmed by whatever means is necessary if he does not comply fully with the United Nations' mandates to disarm. If we fail to do this, we expose ourselves to terrifying consequences.
A SEMI-HOPEFUL VOTE:
My helpful correspondent (see next blog) also pointed out that the vote on Sen. Harkin's amendment to the Partial Birth Abortion bill, asking the Senate to support Roe v. Wade, passed by only 52 votes to 46. The "Sense of the Senate" section said that it is the sense of the Senate that:
(1) the decision of the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade (410 U.S. 113 (1973)) was appropriate and secures an important constitutional right; and
2) such decision should not be overturned.
Five brave members of the Abortion Party voted against the amendment (Breaux, Miller, Nelson, Pryor, and Reid) and nine Republicans voted for it (Chafee, Hutchison, Murkowski, Snowe, Specter, Stevens, Warner). If only three of the 52 who voted for the amendment repented, or were replaced by pro-life senators, the upper house of Congress would have a pro-life majority. It is something to pray for.
I asked in "Orwell Watch" below what the Values Senator, Joseph Lieberman, voted on the bill to ban partial birth abortions. A reader writes to tell me that the results of roll call votes are always listed at the Senate's website. Click on "legislation and records" and then on the session you want in "roll call tables." The votes on the pba bill can be found here.
As it turns out, Mr. Values voted against the bill, along with 29 other Democrats and three Republicans (Chafee, Collins, and Snowe). He was once, apparently, a decent man. Now he is only the hundred millionth illustration that power and ambition corrupt. And perhaps of Samuel Johnson's remark that (I quote from memory) "When a man boasts to me of his virtue, why then, sir, I count the spoons." 15 members of his party voted yes.
IMPIOUS HITCHENS :
In his latest column for the Slate website, Christopher Hitchens attacks Pious Nonsense: The unholy "Christian" case against war. He makes the point I have been making, that the arguments against the war made by Christian leaders of all sorts are almost uniformly bad. He is not a Christian, so does not find this as distressing as I do.
If our spiritual leaders are right, they ought to make a more compelling case. They should not assume, as they seem to do, that their authority is enough to convince us of their wisdom when their words do not do so.
Also worth reading - actually, almost everything he writes is worth reading - is an earlier column in which he, an atheist, looked at our need to acknowledge real evil, though relativists have a hard time doing so: "Evil": Scoff if you must, but you can't avoid it.
I was listening to the local classical station on my way home this evening, and the short 6:00 news segment announced that a ban on partial birth abortion had passed the Senate 64 votes (I think) to 33. (I will be interested to find out what Sen. Lieberman, who presents himself as a man of "values," voted, given his groveling before the pro-choicers at NARAL's banquet in January.)
Those of you prone to optimism should reflect on the fact that one-third of the members of the Senate would have, for their approval of the act, been openly despised by all men just fifty years ago. They would not have been welcome in polite society, much less elevated to high office. When Pres. Bush talks so glowingly about our way of life, the Christian ought to remember that this way of life is such that men who approve of the murder of children minutes from being born bask in power and glory.
But my point in writing this is to relay how the PBS announcer described the procedure. It was a procedure, he said, "critics call partial birth abortion and physicians call intact dilation and extraction." The announcer did, I am quite sure, think himself objective, but notice:
1) that "critics," which is to say people with a cause and a bias, use the un-p.c. and "physicians," which is to say objective scientists, use the p.c. term.
2) that the distinction implies that physicians as a class approve of the procedure, as they are not "critics."
3) that it implies that "partial birth abortion" must be in some way an inadequate or inaccurate term, since physicians - objective and scientific as they are - do not use it.
4) that "intact dilation and extraction" does not tell you anything useful (were you to have asked me a few months ago what the phrase meant, I could not have told you) and simply hides the facts of the matter.
5) that those who object to "partial birth abortion" could still say "late term abortion" but do not, I assume because "late term" is nearly as damning as "partial birth."
This is yet another case in which we must insist that things be called by their proper names. The name "partial birth abortion" is a perfectly accurate one. It is a term one would naturally think of if asked to describe the procedure. It is an abortion, in which the baby is indeed partly born before he is aborted, and it is the partial or interrupted birth that distinguishes this kind of abortion from others.
But for the pro-abortionist, the term is to be avoided, because it brings to mind a picture no one wants to see.
GIBSON'S PASSION FOR THE PASSION:
More on Mel Gibson's production of a movie on the Passion of Our Lord, The Greatest Story, Newly Told by EWTN's Raymond Arroyo in The Wall Street Journal. (For an interview with Gibson, see March 8th's blog, "The Passion as it was.")
Arroyo describes Gibson's now famous desire for accuracy:
Dissatisfied with "cheesy" portrayals that miss the political situation and "prettify" the torture and death of Christ, Mr. Gibson is struggling to recapture the historical reality, right down to the clothing and eating customs of the Jews under the old law - to "make it truly about a man born to the House of David."
And he thinks it works:
Having seen a half-hour of the 90-minute film, I must say that it is as disturbing as it is comforting. It's like watching a documentary by Caravaggio. The images are so vivid, and the story so familiar, that language becomes almost incidental.
At moments Mr. Caviezel [the actor playing our Lord] looks like a bloodied skeleton. Wearied and stumbling, with one eye swollen shut, he keeps a knowing dignity and strength. The violence, though intense, is never gratuitous, at least in the rough cut I saw. It rescues Christ from myth and grounds him in a reality that makes his actions more heroic.
Mercifully, Mr. Gibson has chosen to interrupt the brutality with artistic breathers: flashbacks to the Last Supper and to Christ's early life. At one point we see Christ fall under the weight of the cross through the eyes of his mother. For a moment we flash back to the child Jesus falling near his home as a concerned Mary rushes to console him. Now on the harsh streets of Jerusalem, she can do nothing but watch her boy suffer.
Gibson is making the movie religiously, so to speak:
Potential controversy aside, the whole project has been a challenge. "There have been a lot of obstacles thrown in the way of this picture; it's full of discomfort," Mr. Gibson confides. "And I understand it's the other realm warring. So I have taken steps to put on armor." A priest says Mass on the set each day. I also notice that Mr. Gibson wears a crucifix and brown scapular around his neck; Mr. Caviezel carries relics of the saints in his costume during shooting. "And I try to stay squeaky clean," Mr. Gibson adds.
YOU'RE O.K., I'M GOD:
A representative quote from New Age quack Deepak Chopra:
"In reality, we are divinity in disguise, and the gods and goddesses in embryo that are contained within us seek to be fully realized. True success is therefore the experience of the miraculous. It is unfolding the divinity within us. . . .
"We must find out for ourselves that inside us is a god or goddess in embryo that wants to be born so that we can express our divinity."
For those who like satirical verse, Chopra's delusion is dealt with in Tom Graffagnino's "Divinity in Disguise". It begins:
We've joined the band
And march with Deepak Chopra.
The tune we play,
Will save the day! . . .
Our prophetess is Oprah.
Deep Self has smiled,
While Inner Child
Plays Bible-myth refuting.
Our Vision Quest . . .
Our spirits? . . . Evo-luting.
Personally, I think the world would be a much safer place if people did not think of themselves as "divinity in disguise.
A LOSS FOR THE GOOD GUYS:
According to a report on the Anglican website Virtuosity, the parish of St. James the Less in Philadelphia has lost its court battle with the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania for control of the property. The parish, a traditional Anglo-Catholic parish in a poor section of the city - and a parish with an array of ministries to its neighborhood, including a school - left the diocese in 1999.
The Virtuosity story begins:
PHILADELPHIA, PA - (March 11, 2003) A judge in the Philadelphia Orphans' Court ruled yesterday that the 150-year old parish of St. James the Less, a small Anglo-Catholic parish located in located in Philadelphia's East Falls/Allegheny West neighborhood, could not withdraw from the Diocese without the diocese's permission and that the Diocese now has the right to replace the vestry (Board of Directors) of the parish and take it over.
The parish, led by Fr. David Ousley, is appealing. In both senses.
THE COSTS OF POWER:
An Australian reader just wrote, in response to my "St Paul the Eccentric", which he said he rather liked:
I can see how all this stuff on homosexuality is so distressing, aggravating and enfeebling to the Church's mission - God will not be mocked. The fact is in Australia that, by and large, the homosexuals aren't pressing too hard at the Church's door, because let's face it, less than 10% Australians go to Church on any given Sunday, some places higher, some less so, so why would they want to join such a small and generally side lined institution?
I had not thought about this, but applying his insight to America, the churches suffer the relentless demands of the homosexualists at least in part because they (the churches) still have such social power. They are worth capturing, in a way the churches in other western countries aren't. It still means something, if one can say "The Episcopal Church allows homosexual marriages" or "The Presbyterian Church affirms its homosexual ministers."
Though I think it probably means rather less than the homosexualists think. And ironically, the more successful they are in capturing these churches, the less social power and influence these churches will have. At some point capturing them will be like going into battle and capturing the other side's ceremonial cavalry.
LINCOLN'S GODS AND GENERALS:
In response to Father Robert Hart's statement that "it seems that the Civil War was a judgment on the whole nation," another reader wrote that "This was certainly Lincoln's suspicion" and sent a quote from Lincoln:
The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh."
If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?
Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
He wrote in a follow-up message:
In all of the discussion that I have seen of "Gods and Generals," what I haven't seen anyone mention are:
a) Maxwell's inviting us to compare Jackson praying before battle with Chamberlain reciting from the classics before battle; the one devoting himself to God, the other devoting himself to the State, sub nom "Caesar"; or
b) the text of the trailer, where Maxwell makes his overall theme explicit: "One side fought for God's glory; the other for His kingdom on earth."
And finally, he suggested reading J. Budziszewski's The Problem With Conservatism. It argues that
The moral errors of conservatism are just as grave as those of its liberal opponents.
A minor difficulty in setting forth these errors is the ambiguity of the term "conservatism." Conservatives come in many different kinds, and their mistakes are equally heterogeneous. I should like to stress, therefore, that not every conservative commits every one of the errors that I describe in the following pages. But there is a common theme.
Each kind of conservative opposes the contemporary government-driven variety of social reformism in the name of some cherished thing which he finds that it endangers. One speaks of virtue, another of wealth, another of the peace of his home and the quiet of his street-but although these pearls are of very different luster, none wishes his to be thrown before swine. So it is that conservatives are often able to make common cause, putting all their pearls in a single casket.
A BOOK FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS:
A book for those of you who have children thinking about college or actually there: J. Budziszewski's How to Stay Christian in College (NavPress, 1999). After hearing Dr. Budziszewski speak yesterday (see following blog), I picked up the book - subtitled "An interactive guide to keeping the faith" - and have found it very helpful. He teaches at the University of Texas and is clearly someone who has closely observed Christians in college, heard the challenges to the faith they get, personal and intellectual, and thought through the answers. I recommend it.
On Tuesday, Jim Kushiner and I represented the magazine at a "Marriage Consultation" sponsored by the Association for Church Renewal and the Institute on Religion and Democracy. (Jim is a long-time member of the ACR.) It was held at an Episcopal Church in suburban Washington.
Among the speakers were David Blankenhorn of the Institute for American Values and author of the superb and very important book Fatherless America. The IAV site is stuffed full of very interesting and helpful resources on marriage, motherhood, fatherhood, etc. (I apologize for the superlatives, but they are deserved.)
In his talk, he said that the crucial question for our culture was whether the couple was bigger than the vow, or the vow bigger than the couple. He explained (I paraphrase) that by "the vow bigger than the couple" he meant couples who saw themselves as submitting to something greater than themselves and to its rules and order, as conforming themselves as best they could to something they trusted to tell them how to live.
This is what real marriage is. When couples believe themselves bigger than the vow, as almost all American couples now do, they will do and not do what they want, which is no real marriage at all. For one thing, they'll feel free to divorce if they feel - or just one of them feels - unfulfilled, unsatisfied, or otherwise robbed of the thing they agreed to.
The other speakers were Dr. Brad Wilcox, a new member of the department of sociology at the University of Virginia; Prof. Don Browning of the Chicago Divinity School; J. Budziszewski of the University of Texas and frequent contributor to First Things; and Mr. Bill Coffin, an assistant to Wade Horn at the Department of Health and Human Services. I will report on their talks when I have a chance to write up my notes.
PRAYER BOOK RESOURCES:
Readers interested in liturgy and language will want to read the new book by our contributing editor Peter Toon and associate editor Louis Tarsitano (the difference in rank depending on how much work we can get out of them). The book is titled Neither Archaic Nor Obsolete: The Language of Common Prayer and Public Worship.
It is a subject on which both Peter and Lou have thought and written for many years. It is available for $10.00 from the Prayer Book Society (address and phone number below).
Peter has also written recently to recommend several other resources available from the Prayer Book Society:
Two fine recordings in classical style:
Book of Common Prayer (1928) Evensong, recorded by St. John's Church, Savannah, Georgia.
1928 BCP Morning Prayer & Litany, recorded at St. Thomas' Church, Houston,Texas
PDF of The Annotated Prayer Book by Canon Blunt (700 pages or so of text and excellent commentary, much used in the 19th century) and read by Adobe Acrobat.
HOMILETTES from Biddulph Moor, Diocese of Lichfield. Six addresses on Prayer Book Basics by Peter Toon.
SIX EDWARDIAN HOMILIES. The First Six of the Homilies of the Church of England, first published in 1547, read by Peter Toon (2 CD') and giving the reformed Catholic position of the Church of England on Bible, grace, faith, and good works (splendid sermons, several by Cranmer).
The last (being 2 CDs) is $15.00, but the others are $10.00. Send a check to Prayer Book Society, Box 35220, Philadelphia, PA 19128-0220 (1 800 PBS 1928).
From England, another story of an academic who has too much time on his hands: "Thomas the crash engine leaves children fearful".
Yes, you read that right.
A Dr. Brian Young, who lectures in psychology at Exeter University, and is the Independent Television Commission's "expert on how children react to programmes," said:
"the sheer volume of accidents in the ITV programme could have an adverse effect on young minds. . . .
"Thomas the Tank Engine is aimed at a pre-school audience who tend to be more likely to see the programme as reality. They haven't learnt to disconnect what they see around them from what they see on television.
"As a result there is a possibility that the sheer amount of crashes they see on Thomas could frighten them. Seeing lots of crashes on TV means they could end up absolutely terrified of going on a train."
He is joined by
Dave Rodgers, 66, of the Railway Enthusiasts Society,
(meaning "dweeb") who
accused the programme-makers of distorting the truth and worrying children unduly. "Thomas the Tank Engine is giving children the wrong information," he said. "I'm sure the Rev Awdry, who was a rail enthusiast, would not approve of these new stories which seem to contain a crash in every episode.
"The programme should be stressing the fact that trains are safe, not showing crashes all the time."
Some things need no comment. But then maybe Dr. Young is right. As my friend Fr. Addison Hart said,
I'm still dealing with my own inner wounding caused by the patriarchalism of Captain Kangaroo, and all that terrible, unrelenting ping-pong ball violence perpetrated on the same program by Mr. Moose.
And I've just now realized how traumatized I was by the possibility that Sherie (I think that's the spelling) might eat Lambchops. I mean, why else was he named Lambchops? I think I'll sue.
YELLING AND CARRYING A SMALL STICK:
Portugal has said what everyone else knows but doesn't want to admit:
Portugal is siding with the United States on Iraq because Washington was "Portugal's best way to ensure national security," a Portuguese Cabinet minister said Monday.
He said: "Let us suppose Portugal, proper or its archipelagos, faced a threat, who would come to our rescue? The European Commission, France, Germany?
Europe has depended on the United States too provide and to pay for its protection. Its military is largely a joke.
"If we were attacked, is that what they would offer to defend us? How curious is this: in Bosnia, when we were called to send soldiers urgently to that region, the U.S. had C-17 and C-130 planes, and France leased ferry boats, which during the summer are employed in tourist services to Corsica.
"Is this how we are supposed to project our forces in Europe? Are they planning to defend us with ferry boats? I cannot envisage the European Commission protecting us from an attack in which highly developed weapons were employed," the foreign minister said.
France and Germany might have been able to step in and tell the United States they were capable of handling Iraq. But any diplomacy they engaged in would have to be backed up by military force, and the force isn't there. Without force, all countries can do is fuss, but no one will take them seriously. They are like policemen who would try to stop crime by pleading with criminals or yelling at them. Criminals (and tyrants) are unimpressed.
An Orthodox friend sent this round with the title "New evidence for papal infallibility": an article from today's The Sunday Times titled "Scotland is heathen declares the Pope". (Actually, it would be in better shape were it truly heathen.) Speaking to the Scottish bishops, John Paul II said
We may observe that in Scotland, as in many lands evangelised centuries ago and steeped in Christianity, there no longer exists the reality of a Christian society. That is, a society which, despite human weaknesses and failings, takes the Gospel as the explicit measure of its life and values.
According to the article,
the proportion of Scots attending church between 1983 and 2001 dropped from 33% to just 23%. Over the same period those who said they were Catholics nearly halved from 22% to 12%.
A retired bishop of the Episcopal Church of Scotland, Michael Hare Duke, responded that this wasn't true. (The Episcopal Church in Scotland barely exists and has little religion. Its primus until his recent retirement was Richard Holloway, after all.)
"A Christian society in the Pope's terms is a society which toes the line dictated to it by the traditional morality of the Catholic Church," said Hare Duke. "Scottish society is more Christian than it has ever been as it has learnt to think for itself."
Speaking for the irreligious was the former wife of the leader of the House of Commons, Margaret Cook, who said
that Scotland was all the better for not being a Christian society. "Organised religion has a hell of a lot to answer for, and the Catholic Church was very much in the advance of all that," she said. "Organised religion is a way of controlling people»s lives."
CANADIANS ON CANADA:
Davis Mills has raised the ever-fascinating subject of our neighbor to the north.
Several Canadians hiked with me on a tour of Prince Edward Island. We discussed American ignorance Canada. I was proud because I could name all the provinces (I particularly like saying Saskatchewan). We then got into a discussion of the territories.
The Canadians were uncertain whether the Northwest Territories still existed, or had been made into Nunavut, self └governing Inuit region. I happened to know (my son at McGill had told me), but I was a little surprised that a reference librarian and several Canadian government employees were not aware whether a large chuck of Canada still existed. It would be like Americans in the 1950's not knowing whether Alaska still belonged to the United States. (Although according to New Mexico magazine, many Americans are convinced that New Mexico is a foreign country).
I was in Halifax one Canada Day and asked what was being celebrated. No one seemed to know. The general impression was that it had something to do with confederation, but everyone was vague on the details. I think most Americans could connect July 4 and the Declaration of Independence.
I suspect that America ignorance about Canada is sometimes matched by Canadian ignorance about Canada. Its history may not have been as spectacularly violent as that of the United States (for which Canadians should be grateful) but it has many fascinating stories, some of which, like the Halifax riots, are deliberately forgotten, but have a lesson for us all └ more on that later.
FRENCH EQUIPMENT AND FRENCH TACTICS:
The French have been supplying Iraq (through middlemen) with spare parts: they may also have provided military training.
SADDAM'S SOLDIERS SURRENDER
TERRIFIED Iraqi soldiers have crossed the Kuwait border and tried to surrender to British forces - because they thought the war had already started.
The motley band of a dozen troops waved the white flag as British paratroopers tested their weapons during a routine exercise.
The stunned Paras from 16 Air Assault Brigade were forced to tell the Iraqis they were not firing at them, and ordered them back to their home country telling them it was too early to surrender.
Non, non, mes amis! En premier la guerre, ensuite la capitulation.