Thursday, October 28, 2010

No Substitute For Victory

Today I visited the Douglas MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Virginia, where I found this inscription on an inside wall of the rotunda.  I'd like to bring to your attention the bottom paragraph, taken from an address to Congress in April of 1951, which reads,
"A great nation which voluntarily enters upon war and does not see it through to victory must eventually suffer all the consequences of defeat... War's very object is victory, not prolonged indecision.  In war, there can be no substitute for victory."
I could not agree more.  I am dismayed by a trend in our society toward a political veganism that believes life can be lived free of sweat, free of insult, and without the shedding of blood.  This fantastical philosophy has extended itself into our sports, our schools, and even into the principles that govern our conduct of war.  War, we seem to have decided, can be - not fought, I suppose, so much as presented - in such a way that nobody dies, nobody's feelings are hurt, and nobody suffers the humiliation of defeat.

I don't buy it.  Not only do I not buy it, I reject it outright.  War, as far as I'm concerned, must first be declared.  After that it must be waged, prosecuted, fought - with ruthlessness, with brutality, and with certainty that nothing less than the total surrender of our enemies is sufficient cause to stop the onslaught of our forces. 

Does this seem harsh to you?  Does this seem heartless and cruel?  Let me explain it this way.  Neither this nation, nor any other, has the right to demand mothers' sons for a cause unworthy of a declaration of war, and cannot in good conscience accept the sacrifice of their lives for a struggle too insignificant to see through to completion.  And neither this nation nor any other can reasonably expect an enemy whose sons have shed their blood to halt their exertions until good cause is given - cause persuasive enough to convince them that surrender is honorable and necessary.  

The Japanese surrender aboard the mighty USS Missouri was a necessary humiliation. Previously, the Japanese had indicated their willingness to enter into an agreement to end the war as long as the agreement would not,
"prejudice(s) the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler..." 
The American response was,
"From the moment of surrender the authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the State shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers."  
This was a very un-twenty-first century kind of response.  I fear that in similar circumstances today, the Japanese terms might have been met.  MacArthur realized though, that just as necessary as the bloodshed that forced the Japanese to surrender was a dismantling, ceremonial and final, of the system that had necessitated the bloodshed in the first place.  Only after that very visible breaking of the authority of the Emperor could the Japanese people allow themselves to submit to the new system that was being placed in authority over them.  Only after that humiliation could they permit themselves to shed a religion, a culture, a centuries-old way of life, and adopt a system that could not have been more foreign to them.  So foreign was it that, only days before, the bulk of the population would have been more likely to commit suicide than to submit. 

War is almost the worst thing that can be imagined.  Not a single one of these words, if you are still following them, dear reader, should be construed as glorifying it.  The only thing worse than war, in its complete brutality, senselessness, and misery - the only thing I can conceive of as being worse - is to commit our nation's best to a niggling effort, to get our children killed over something not worth declaring as a war, to squander their lives in an adventure we are not willing to see through to its conclusion. 

Not only is this a grave injustice to visit upon our own flesh, but it is just as harmful to our enemy, because the half effort, though it cost us both dearly, will never be concluded in a way that allows honorable acquiescence by the vanquished to a society that will then help them rise from their ashes - not as a reconstituted version of their same corrupt and evil society, but as something new and honorable, and hopeful, a nation that, in the future, will stand by us as an ally and a friend.

MacArthur crushed  the Japanese in war and humiliated them in their surrender - and then, when they were in danger of starvation during the winter, he gave them food, earning their admiration and trust, and laying the foundation for an enduring friendship.  He understood that in war, nothing less than unequivocal victory was acceptable, because without it, magnanimity in peace is meaningless.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Updated: The Muslim Advisors to our Government

Today we learn that, months after 9/11, Anwar al Awlaki was invited to speak at the Pentagon so that members of the Secretary of the Army's staff could seek his advice as a "moderate Muslim." Yes, that's the same Anwar al Awlaki who was connected to 3 of the 9/11 hijackers, who would later exchange emails with disgraced US Army Major Nidal Hasan before he murdered his colleagues at Fort Hood, the same Awlaki who would meet with the Christmas Day bomber Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and the same Anwar al Awlaki who is now hiding with al Qaeda in Yemen. Awlaki is obviously a lot of things to a lot of people, but he is no moderate.

What does this tell us, aside from the fact that our government can't tell the difference between a moderate and a migraine? It tells us that we need to be much more skeptical of the advice we're receiving from our so-called experts on Islam.

I've just finished reading the January, 2008 guidance on "Terminology to Define Terrorists; Recommendations from American Muslims" from the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the Department of Homeland Security. In this guidance, unnamed American Muslims tell the DHS what words should and should not be used to define the forces of Islamic conquest (my terminology, but you are welcome to use it.)

The first question that springs to mind is, what the heck is the DHS’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and how many terrorists have they captured lately? but since I don't really expect any answers to that, I'll go straight to the next question. Who are these experts, and why are we letting them dictate to us the words we can and cannot use to define the people and the ideology dedicated to separating our heads from our bodies?

When our political correctness and our ignorance about Islam prevent us from being able to distinguish between Anwar al Awlaki and Zuhdi Jasser we have far more important things to worry about than whether describing al Qaeda as an Islamic terrorist organization will insult Muslims. We should call Islamic conquest what it is, and we should subject so-called experts who want to advise our government to a far more critical eye.

What we have done instead is thrown wide the doors of our government to wolves in moderates' clothing. These infiltrators, thanks to hefty contributions to influential government figures, developed access well in advance of 9/11 and then, after the attacks, offered themselves and their organizations to serve the US government in the cause of "Muslim outreach."

Are you finding this hard to believe? Search the internet for the name Abdul Rahman al Amoudi. You'll find that he enjoyed access to Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, that he helped establish the Islamic Chaplaincy in the Department of Defense, and acted for years as an advisor to the Pentagon. He even spoke at a prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral in a ceremony honoring those killed in the 9/11 attacks. He was a prominent spokesman for moderate, pro-American Islam.

And oh yeah, he also pled guilty in 2004 to conspiring to kill the (then) Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, to conducting illegal financial transactions with Libya (He was caught with more than $300,000 donated by Qaddafi for the spreading of global jihad.) to gaining US citizenship unlawfully, and to impeding the administration of the IRS.

Al Amoudi is not the only "moderate Muslim advisor" who, after helping the US government shape policy, has turned out to be other than what he claimed. Hesham Islam, who was the senior advisor for International Affairs to Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, was described by the Deputy Secretary as, "my interlocutor," and a man who gave him, "extraordinarily good advice in dealing with countries and people." It was solely that advice, which was instrumental in the firing of US Army Reserve Major Stephen Coughlin, who was the Pentagon's foremost expert on Shariah Law and Islamist doctrine. Only after the firing was it discovered that Mr. Islam had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, and that he had taken certain artistic liberties, shall we say, when writing his curriculum vitae.

So is it too much to ask who are the experts who contributed to the DHS terminology guidelines? Why are they not named? Do they have ties to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), or other HAMAS and Muslim Brotherhood-friendly organizations that are dedicated to imposing Shariah by lawsuit, and intimidation? Does their advice empower us and enable us to effectively define and describe our enemies (and I mean our enemies as distinguished from all Muslims) or does it hem us in and deprive us of useful terminology?

I'd love to believe that we're being smart about who we choose to advise us in these important matters, but when I hear about al Awlaki eating lunch at the Pentagon, I have a hard time maintaining my faith.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Better Photos

I finished the two paintings I worked on this weekend and took better photos of them.  On this painting of the beach houses, I added some detail and finished the shadows.

I worked on this painting for about 4 hours on Saturday.  By the time I packed up to leave, the shadows had changed considerably.  I was trying to depict them as they'd been earlier in the day, but half the painting showed them as they were by late afternoon.  Today I went back and deepened the shadows on the chimney, the stairs, and the wall in the foreground, so they matched the shadow scheme of the rest of the painting. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Painting Williamsburg

I spent the day painting at Colonial Williamsburg, in Virginia.  The weather was perfect, and the location presented countless great subjects for painting.

I don't have a good photo yet of the finished painting of the first scene.  Here's how it looked when it was nearly done:

I spent so much time on this one that I had time for just a sketch of the other scene.  As I worked on it I thought it looked a lot like beach cottages or fisherman's huts, and so I worked in that direction.  Here's how it looks:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Weekend with my Dad

Aside from lunch together two or three years ago, I think it's been about 5 years since I've seen my dad.  Between deployments, overseas assignments, and just plain living, it just hasn't been possible for us to get together.

Since I'm in the States for a while now, we made plans to meet this weekend in Ocean City, Maryland.  We didn't pick Ocean City for any particular reason other than it was roughly half-way between us, and Dad hadn't been at the beach in a while.

What we didn't know was that the small town on the barrier island would be the scene of a huge get-together of motorheads, cruisers, and hot-rodders, and that we would be lucky to find a hotel room.  We found one though, and after we'd dropped our stuff in the room, we headed for the beach, where we walked about 3 miles before we realized it, just talking and catching up.

By the time we headed back, we were already getting hungry, but that didn't stop us from stopping every few minutes and gawking at the amazing cars driving up and down the strip.
 Here's a beautiful 50's era Chevy - one of dozens that we saw.
 There were also loads of Fords, Willys, Pontiacs, Dodges, and all kinds of other makes, not just from the 50's but also from the 20's, 30's, and 40's.  Dad was a lot better at guessing the year and make than I was.  He also told me some stories I'd never heard before about cars his Dad and Grandfather used to have.

The next day we got up and had eggs and pancakes at a place just down the street.  After we ate, we walked back along the water on the inland side.  We saw some fishermen and some boats, and that got Dad thinking about one of his favorite things, which is tug boats.  We decided to drive down the coast and see if we could see some.

On the way to what we thought might be a likely spot though, we got sidetracked.  All traffic was being routed around what ended up being the big car exhibit.  Once we figured that out, we had to take a look.

 With or without a flame paint job, cars like this are my favorites; they have a low, curvy, powerful look that really appeals to me.
 I like the old trucks, too. 
 Here are more great examples of some of the kinds of cars I like.

 Isn't this Mercury cool?
 And talk about paint jobs - I shot my reflection in this paint and it was like a mirror.
  After we'd been looking at cars so long they were beginning to look alike, we resumed our search for a tug boat.  We headed over to the mainland, and as we crossed the bridge, I saw a tug alongside a barge in the channel.  I turned in that general direction, hoping to find a road that ran along the water's edge, but we did even better than that.  We drove right up to a small inlet where, among the fishing boats, I caught a glimpse of the red and black superstructure of a tug.  We parked and tried to get next to the water, but there were fences and No Trespassing signs everywhere.  I saw a man working next to one of the fishing boats and asked if we could come through the gate and take some pictures.  He said we could, and I got this picture.
This was OK, but we were both wishing we could get out onto that pier.  We found another man working at one of the fishing companies, and he said we could walk through and go out onto the pier, as long as we were careful.  We headed out and looked around.  Dad was psyched.  He said, "This is the closest I've ever been to a tugboat." 

We didn't expect it to get any better than that, but as we were about to head back to the truck, this guy stuck his head out of the tugs's pilot house and said hello. 

We told him we were admiring the boat, and he invited us aboard.  His name is George.  He gave us the grand tour of Tug Boat Cajun, out of Norfolk, VA.  He said the boat was finished 22 June, 1976.  He said he was born on 24 June of the same year. 

Here he's showing Dad one of the two, 16 cylinder Diesel engines.
And here's a view inside the pilot house.

It would have been a great weekend without the cars or the boat.  It had been way too long since I'd seen my Dad, and just getting to catch up a bit was all I could have hoped for.  The cars and the tour made it all that much better. 

Thanks for meeting with me Dad.  Let's do it again soon.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Since I painted a bunch of lighthouses in Portugal, I thought I'd do one near where I'm staying here in the U.S.  I'll try to post a better photo when it's finished.

As promised, here's the finished painting.  I've darkened the black stripes on the lighthouse (Actually, I didn't use black for the stripes, as black paint has a tendency to overwhelm everything else in the painting; this is an approximation of black that I made by mixing dark blues and greens.) and deepened the shadows.  I also added some detail in the sea oats in the foreground.  This lighthouse interests me, not only because of the candy-stripe paint scheme, which I find interesting, but also because it indicates to me that contrast can be every bit as eye-catching as vibrant color.  That's a good thing, especially if you happen to be building a lighthouse in the late 1800s, when paint technology did not offer the bright hues that we have available today, nor the color-fastness to stand up to strong sunlight.

More about the Suit Against Arizona and Governor Brewer

I got a great response to my below post from my old friend Lou. He and I served together in Monterey, California, and on Crete, Greece, longer ago than either of us would like to acknowledge publicly. 
Lou writes that,
...Title 28 USCS sec 1331 vests jurisdiction in the district courts over matters involving questions of federal law. The Supreme Court very rarely exercises its original jurisdiction..
which I understand to mean that the Supreme Court sometimes delegates this responsibility to lower courts.  (Lou, please correct me if I've misunderstood you.) Delegation is often necessary, and in many cases marks the difference between success and failure, especially in the case of military leaders, who must entrust some tasks to those under their authority.  There are many situations however, especially in the case of commanders, where responsibilities are neither legal nor appropriate to delegate to lower authorities.

I think there are parallels - instances where delegation is inappropriate - in civil institutions.  The declaration of war, for instance, is a power set aside for Congress, but the last time it was exercised was WWII.  Since then, Congress has skipped out on that responsibility, and presidents have been all too eager to take it upon themselves to exercise it.  We have engaged in many military campaigns that were war in all but name, some of which even exceeded the time limit allotted for military action established by the War Powers Act.  The justification, of course, is that, by funding the military actions, Congress meets the spirit of the law, if not the letter.

The problem with this is that passing on constitutional duties is just as wrong and just as dangerous for presidents, Congress, and the Supreme Court as it would be for the military.  Constitutional responsibilities should reside where that documents' authors intended them to reside until a duly ratified amendment places them somewhere else.  Otherwise, where does delegation end?  Should the Senate delegate its responsibility for being the house in which tax bills are initiated?  Should presidents and other elected officials delegate to lesser offices the responsibility to support and defend the constitution?  And if entities can decide not to fulfill Constitutional responsibilities, what's to stop them from taking on powers to which they are not entitled? 

(Yes, I know that all these things are happening already.  Those are rhetorical questions.)

Here's what Joe Wolverton II, writing in the 2 August, 2010, New American, had to say about it: (If you're reading this on my blog, click on the title of the post to see the whole article.)
It appears that it was the intent of our Founding Fathers to safeguard the sovereignty of the states and likewise to uphold the dignity such sovereignty merits. In furtherance of this aim, they enacted Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution wherein the Supreme Court is awarded original jurisdiction for adjudicating in all matters in which a state is named as a party.
Does delegating the case to a lower court uphold the dignity merited by the sovereign state?  I don't think it does, but at a time when the sovereignty of the states is being challenged by the Federal Government, maybe that is partly the intent of letting this case be heard in a lower court.  If so, that helps me make my case against the delegation of constitutional responsibilities.  Wolverton continues:
Armed with this knowledge, the lawyers for the state of Arizona may well be within their rights to demand that the case filed against their clients by the Justice Department be removed to the Supreme Court and that the ruling handed down by Judge Bolton be summarily vacated for lack of jurisdiction.
Lou, thanks for writing; I appreciate your taking the time to tell me about Title 28 USCS sec 1331 and it's always good to hear from you.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

9th Circuit Court of Appeals Hasn't a Clue.

First of all, thanks to everyone who checked in with me to make sure I was OK during this unannounced break from posting.  I'm attending a course back in the US that's kept me busier than I expected, but all is well.  Thanks for asking.

Now, in case you didn't know already, the infamous 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has decided to allow foreign nations to file amicus briefs in the case being built by the Department of Justice against Arizona's new law - the one that requires state law enforcement agencies to follow already-existing laws regarding determination of suspected criminals' immigration status.  (If you're reading this on my blog, you can click on the title of this post to read the original article.)

Yes, that's right; the Justice Department has nothing more pressing on its agenda than suing a state for having the temerity to expect its law enforcement agencies to uphold the law, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, famous for the number of times its decisions have been overturned, is allowing foreign governments input into the suit.  All of that is bad enough, but what makes it worse is the 9th Circus's apparent ignorance of the Constitution. Article III, Section 2 doesn't require a genius to decipher, but just in case it's confusing for the good justices in San Francisco, I've underlined the pertinent parts:
In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.
In other words, the neither the 9th Circuit nor any other federal court short of the Supreme Court has any jurisdiction in this case, because the Constitution itself spells out that fact in Article III, which is the part that describes the powers and responsibilities of the Judicial Branch. 

In case that weren't enough, the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution confirms the sovereignty of states, and their immunity from suits in federal court without their consent when it says:
The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.
It took me about 20 minutes to look up this information, although I will grant you, I may have had an unfair advantage over the justices of the 9th Circuit because I already knew that Article III of the Constitution deals with the Judicial branch.  Even so, wouldn't you think that someone who'd made a career of the law would have been able to figure this out? 

Hey wait a minute - you don't think they knew it but decided to ignore it, do you?  Say it isn't so...