Today marked the end of my wife Michelle’s four-year leadership of the base homeschool group. Our family’s journey with homeschooling is nearing the end of its seventh year, but when we arrived here, we had about a month’s experience. The base homeschool group provided playmates for our children, and support for Michelle, as the majority of the homeschooling duties fell to her.
Three years in, the group had shrunk to just a few families, and Michelle stepped up to assume the presidency of the group. Her first year, the group grew by a few families. However, in her second year, there was a huge influx homeschooling families, and the majority of those were families who were new to homeschooling. During that year, she spent lots of time talking with individual people about homeschooling, while managing the calendar for field trips, parties, and other social occasions. Not all the families were new, though, and as she transitioned to her third year, she restructured the group and set up “coordinators” who were responsible for various aspects of the group’s activities. This divided the work, and allowed people to be even more effective; some of the field trips involved nearly 50 kids! Her title changed from “President” to “Group Coordinator,” and freeing her from the party and field trip planning allowed her to focus on helping new families get oriented, as well as sharing information on curriculum and relevant legal information with the group. This coordinator style of leadership proved its value as the third year transitioned to the fourth, the group continued to grow, and nothing fell through the cracks.
Oh, by the way - while doing all this, she is also currently homeschooling a 10th grader, an 8th grader, and a 3rd grader.
Michelle, you have done an absolutely amazing job. You’ve not only educated our children well, you have worked countless hours to help other families exercise their right to educate their children the way they see fit. If there is anyone more deserving of an end-of-tour medal than you, I don’t think I’ve ever seen them. I’m proud of the leadership you provided for the past four years, and I’m very proud to be your husband.
Here’s part 2 of the 3-part series “2006 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous.” While part 1 dealt with items that are bad on a ridiculous level, there is nothing humorous about these happenings during 2006.
I covered this in depth with my post “Why the Republicans Lost” earlier in the year. Now, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are going to be in control of the legislative branch. While our nation can survive, this does signal the end of many meaningful reforms. Immigration enforcement, strict-constructionist judicial nominees, and meaningful energy reforms are all distant memories. In their place we’ll get amnesty for illegal aliens, judicial activists, and economy-crushing minimum wage increases.
The majority of Americans don’t seem to understand that the latter is a ploy by union workers, who want raises but are contractually tied to a level above minimum wage. When it goes up, their pay goes up. However, businesses only have money as they collect it from their customers - increased payroll expense will only drive prices higher, at which point the buying power of the new minimum wage is about the same as the buying power of the old. Higher minimum wage levels also reduce the number of entry-level jobs held by students and retirees - I’m really surprised that the same party who panders to seniors and says that everything they want to do is “for the children” is in favor of such a move.
The Supreme Court decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld established that military tribunals could not be used to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This ruling, in effect, gave unlawful combatants official status, and required that they be given access to our justice system. President Bush asked Congress to clarify rules for detainee treatment, leading to what some have dubbed the “Terrorist Bill of Rights.” During debate on this and other bills throughout the year, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and others were adamant about adding “no torture” language into bills. Techniques such as water-boarding (where a person feels like they’re drowning, but they really aren’t), which had been used to extract intelligence that prevented attacks, were now no longer allowed.
This is a trend that I hope and pray does not continue into 2007. We Americans are gracious to our enemies, sometimes to a fault. But, there comes a point when we need to realize that they are our enemies. When they take up arms against us, when they align themselves with organizations that have, as their stated goals, the destruction of our nation - if we capture you, expect to be made to talk.
Eight Marines have been charged with murder and other charges relating to an incident in the Iraqi town of Haditha. These men were part of a patrol in this city, when their patrol was attacked with an IED (improvised explosive device). After the IED went off, they were also receiving hostile fire from both sides of the street. As their training taught them, they laid down suppressive fire to remove the casualties that they had taken, then launched a counter-offensive to kill the insurgents that had inflicted this attack on them.
Once the shooting had stopped, some of the Iraqis in that town began complaining about the counter-offensive, saying that the people who had been killed were innocent civilians who had nothing to do with the attack. These stories were often contradictory, but that didn’t matter to the folks here who never miss a chance to broadcast bad news. The link above is very lengthy (and the other information it links are also lengthy), but it is a detailed analysis as to what happened that day, and how it is being prosecuted. Even an embedded CNN reporter does not believe these allegations.
This is disgraceful, and I hope that the court-martial comes out in favor of these dedicated Marines. “War is hell” isn’t just a quip - it’s reality.
With current concerns over terrorism, and nukes that Russia can’t find, two nations hostile to the United States declared their nuclear capabilities this year. North Korea has been testing missiles (although these tests were, by all accounts, an abject failure) and nuclear warheads. Iran claims that their nuclear capability is only to be used for power. Why do I not trust Iran? Let me count the ways… They are the primary supplier of personnel and weapons for the insurgency in Iraq. They teamed up with Syria to support Hezbollah in their attacks on Israel earlier this year. They hosted a holocaust denial conference. And that was all this year!
All nations have a right to defend themselves. However, when these nations have proved themselves hostile to us and friendly to our enemies, we must demand that they pursue their defense using conventional weapons.
That is certainly not all of the bad things that happened this year, but I believe they are some that will have the most enduring impression on our world and our nation. Next up - the good!
There is word today from the fight for Fallujah that we have now uncovered a kidnapper’s area where they housed, and eventually butchered, innocent civilians. (Story linked here) This is the place we couldn’t find back when they were taking what seemed like a hostage a day, in a mostly futile attempt to get nations to pull their troops or businesses out of Iraq.
This makes my blood boil, and I’m tired of skirting the issue. Our pre-election policy on Iraq was driven by what appeared, to the President, to be an unwillingness on some parts of our nation to continue a large push - plus, had he started the Fallujah offensive before the election, he would have been accused of wagging the dog. Thanks to this delay, several people who were not combatants (oil truck drivers, reporters, construction workers) have been kidnapped, their families tortured beyond belief by seeing their loved one on Al-Jazeera, and eventually killed. There has also be a toll we’ve paid in servicemembers’ lives, due to ambushes that have been set up by holdouts in Fallujah.
Those who oppose our troops when they are on the ground are traitors. Debates over what plan to use are valid, but this “wrong war, wrong place, wrong time” rhetoric wasn’t intended to spark policy debate - it was intended to pander to anti-war and anti-American people here and abroad, while still trying to pander to those who feel that a strong defense is essential to our national security. Now, we find that if we’d just pressed into Fallujah the way we did in Baghdad, no matter what “sacred” landmarks may be there, we would have denied these kidnappers their capability to carry out these dastardly acts.
Whether you’re for or against the war - whether you like or don’t like President Bush or Secretary Rumsfeld - it is vitally important that, now that we’re there, we don’t tie our military’s hands, especially with partisan political concerns. The only way out of Iraq that will keep us safe is to go through it - anything less will be seen by the terrorists as “the point” up to which we can be pushed, at which point we’ll back down. I’m all for “bringing the troops home” - but not in a way where we’d have to send more over in a few years. Fight on!
By the way - they just came on the news and said that Yassir Arafat has died. That’s the best news for peace in Isreal we’ve gotten this century. The man was an avowed terrorist who did nothing but foment hate among his people against the rightful occupants of that land. Let’s hope that their next leader will put an end to violent groups such as Hezbollah, and denounce rogue terrorists.
(This one’s long, but I hope you take the time to read it and think…)
Three years ago, our country was attacked. It was not the first terrorist attack on our interests, or even the first attack on our own soil. But three years ago was, by far, the most successful (from the terrorists’ point of view) attack on us yet. Over 2,500 innocent Americans lost their lives over the span of a few hours. Looking back, the fact that this number is so much lower than it could be (around 100,000 people were employed in the two WTC towers) is due to the grace of God, and the heroic efforts of firemen and policemen who helped thousands of folks flee to safety after the towers and the Pentagon were hit. Still, the fact remains that we were attacked on our own soil, and that attack resulted in a large loss of life.
Sit back from the computer for a minute or two and think back to where you were, and the thoughts that went through your mind that Tuesday morning. I remember very vividly where I was. A co-worker said “someone flew a plane into the World Trade Center!” It clicked for me right away, although it took some time to accept it - with all the talk about it being an accident, I didn’t buy that. Moments later, as we all watched on our IPTV windows, we saw the second plane hit. All the talk of an accident evaporated in an instant - we were under attack. More bad news - another one hit the Pentagon - was there an explosion outside the State Department? - a plane went down in Pennsylvania - FAA grounds all flights - international flights are turned back. We went to FPCON Delta, the post-attack posture under which every vehicle coming on and off base is searched, and, for a time, no traffic is allowed on or off base.
I also remember clearly that all these things weren’t what was foremost in my mind. My oldest child was going to school only during the mornings on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, so they weren’t gone when it happened. I live on base, so I knew that I wouldn’t have to leave the base, and neither would my family. I was still concerned for them, though - what if our base is on the target list? At this point, we didn’t know nearly as much about al-Qaeda as we do now. I came home and just held my wife, then my kids. My second child was barely over 1, so he was pretty much oblivious; but my 2 1/2-year-old (who even then was very bright) couldn’t understand why they would fly those planes into those buildings. He also didn’t understand why mom and dad were crying, or near tears, the whole time.
I’m going to link that amazing site that’s linked at the bottom of the page - never forget what happened that day. Since that day, we’ve engaged in two major theater wars - one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. Despite warnings of quagmires the likes of which we haven’t seen since Vietnam, we have been successful in both these operations, installing democracy and freedom into two areas of the world that desperately need it. During that time, we’ve lost 1,000 combined in those two theaters. In Vietnam, that number was over 58,000. (source: DoD) It’s a tribute to our men and women in uniform who have shown ceaseless dedication to their country, and to the development and use of the best tools of war on the planet. Although some may classify me in that category, as stateside support, the only thing I’ve sacrificed for this war is a few longer hours. I am deeply grateful to my comrades in arms who are out there in the desert, on the lines, loading bombs, driving patrols, doing everything they can to keep us free and return home to their families.
This is the reason it is so important to have a leader in this country who is not afraid to stand up to terrorists. When the WTC was attacked the first time in 1993, we did nothing. When the Kenyan embassies were bombed, we did nothing. When the USS Cole was bombed, we did nothing. Could we not see this coming? When I was in school, I was told that studying history was important, because “those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” I believe that. We’ve seen what inaction brings, and we cannot afford inaction any more, not even if it’s cloaked in the term “diplomacy.” Since 9/11/01, al-Qaeda has struck in Bali, Madrid, and most recently, in Russia, as well as cooperating with Hezbollah in bringing terrorism to Israel.
Americans are, collectively, the most kind-hearted people in the world. We recognize the true threat that lies before us, and we are choosing to take the fight to them. I have a really hard time not questioning the intelligence of someone who thinks we shouldn’t have gone into Iraq. Saddam Hussein was a dictator who used instant execution, limb removal, and rape as methods of governmental punishment. He used WMD on his own people in the north, and was completely uncooperative with United Nations inspectors who were verifying that he had stopped production. And the “there were no WMDs” crowd doesn’t seem to consider enough Sarin gas to kill 60,000, or a large stash of low-enriched unranium, to be weapons of mass destruction. I say to those folks, how would like for what we’ve found to be detonated or released in your neighborhood? Would it become a WMD then?
So, we’ve got a dictator, who rapes, mutilates, and kills his own people, who has taken a hit out on a sitting United States President, and who is sympathetic to terrorists. Even the most obtuse among us should be able to see that we do not need that man in possession of WMDs, or even parts that can be made into such. Russia is our ally, and even they have some suitcase nukes they can’t find. How much more easily would it be for nuclear or chemical weapons to find their way into terrorists’ hands if the leadership of the country just hands it to them?
During the Republican National Convention, just after President Bush’s speech, I listed to the talking heads dissect it. (I think the channel was on CBS.) The folks there said that the parts of the speech that dealt with domestic issues got applause, but with nowhere near the passion of the applause in the national defense portion. I think that’s because the vast majority of Republicans (and a lot of Democrats, which is why I predict Bush will roll in November) know that without a secure national defense, domestic programs are meaningless. You may have seen this, but I’m posting it here in case you haven’t. Stephen Ambrose said “It is the soldier, not the poet, who gives us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the reporter, who gives us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who gives us freedom to protest. It is the soldier who serves beneath the flag, who salutes the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who gives the demonstrator the right to burn the flag.”
So, on this Patriot Day 2004, remember the lives of those whose crime was only that they got to work early that morning. Remember the 1,000+ defenders of freedom who have lost their lives while ensuring that anything like 9/11 never happens again. Remember the sons and daughters who will be celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, for the first time, without their mom or dad. Remember the spouses, who have lost a life partner and best friend. Thank the Lord that you live in a country that does not let these acts of aggression stand, and thank the Lord that George W. Bush made the tough decision to defend our nation. May God bless this great nation.
John Kerry - I can’t believe that we have an anti-war activist running for President who is actually being taken seriously. I also can’t believe that the self-same anti-war activist is running for President on his war record. I guess now that the military is back in vogue, the Democrats like it.
Gov. Jim McGreevey - At least he has more respect for the state of New Jersey that Bill Clinton had for the nation. Although it’s now coming out (no pun intended) that the cause is corruption more than his penchant for those of like gender, his stepping down is the right decision. (He is muddying the issue with his “I am a gay American” schtick - that link has a very interesting take on that part of the situation.) I think he should step down immediately, though, rather than his political ploy of not stepping down until after the election.
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth - Keep on keepin’ on. McCain-Feingold is unconstitutional, and will be ruled as such by the time the next election rolls around. It’s amazing that no one was upset when these 527 groups accused President Bush of poisoning pregnant women (a charge that is repeated on the Democrats’ own web site [scroll to the bottom]), but let them use facts to challenge something a Senator says, and now they need to shut up. (Still no call for moveon.org to stop their ads…)
President Bush vs. Catwoman - Sharon Stone recently said that because of President Bush, there wasn’t a lesbian kiss between she and Halle Berry in the movie Catwoman. I’m not quite sure I buy that - why would arch-enemies be kissing in the first place? And, if our President could control Hollywood, wouldn’t he be using that control to silence the hateful drivel from Michael Moore and his ilk? Sharon Stone has had plenty of opportunities to play oversexed bisexual characters (in fact, wasn’t that her first big role, in Basic Instinct?).