Sunday, December 31, 2006

As He Is Laid To Rest

As former President Gerald Rudolph Ford is being laid to rest, The Times Observer wishes to pay respect to the 38th president of these United States.

It is not the practice of this editor to criticize a recently deceased person for their particular past actions. Many do but The Times Observer believes in paying respects to a noble leader and belittling such a person before they are not even cold in the ground is an extremely disrespectful thing to do.

The president of the United States is one of the most thankless jobs anyone can have. Many seek it but former President Ford was the only man who had the most responsible job thrusted upon him. With the power that comes with such a position, former President Ford made many accomplishments and in many respects, made some bad choices. After all, he is just a man.

But The Times Observer would like to believe that his term in office, as well as outside the White House, Gerald Rudolph Ford helped make this a better country to live in. Rest in peace, Mr. President.

The True End Of Saddam's Terror

By now, we all know the end of Saddam Hussein’s rein of terror. Interesting how it actually happened for the former Iraqi president/dictator.

It did not seem likely that he would be excused from the land of the living, I have to say. I thought that some groups, either human rights organizations, international political leaders or even the threat of more death from insurgents, would change the minds of the new Iraq government. I figured the most likely end for Saddam was either a life sentence, to be exiled and become a life-long guest of some country that would have him or make a daring escape with the help of his followers.

And maybe this is why I’m not a betting man in general. I did not think that justice would be served. Maybe it is because there is a lack of swift justice in this country that shaped my opinion of Saddam’s execution.

However, it was important that the sentence was carried out. To not follow through with the execution would have sent the worse signs to many people. It would have shown to the Iraqi people, who have suffered many unimaginable horrors under Saddam, that the new government would not be one of law and justice. In my Nov. 6 blog, “How Saddam’s Sentence Affects Iraqis, Islamic Dictators,” I said that the former tyrant’s sentence would send shivers down the backs of many leaders in the Islamic world because they, like Saddam, suppress and torture their own people and deny them basic human rights. Powerful people like them actually fear the little man who has been denied justice and will fight for a just form of government. And that is what happened in Iraq in many ways.

Maybe some thought like I did and that Saddam would escape that particular way of death. But I would imagine that many learned from the past and knew that once a dictator is overthrown, death by the hands of the “revolutionaries” would soon follow. However, I believe that many Islamic leaders in the Middle East never thought Saddam would go through a trail and be sentenced to death from a newly-formed democratic government. And that is another thing they must fear greatly.

Hopefully, there is a sense of closure for the victim’s and their families who suffered greatly by the hands of Saddam. Some Iraqis hope that his death will bring the end to the violence that has occurred on an almost daily basis by the insurgents. Others feel that they will retaliate and seek revenge for Saddam on a later date. But one must remember that people who torture and murder their own countrymen as the insurgents are doing need no motivations to justify their actions.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Keeping The Holidays Religious

What can be said in a holiday opinion piece that hasn’t been said in other newspapers throughout the country during this time of year? Instead of reading the traditional “holiday good cheer” and “giving to those less fortunate than yourself,” how about this: Let’s keep the holiday season religious!

According to the Associated Press, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport removed Christmas trees after a rabbi asked to have a menorah up along with them. When airport officials refused to add the menorah to their display, Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky was dismayed by the decision and threaten to sue. As a result, instead of dealing with different religious holidays and celebrating them, the airport decided to take down the Christmas trees.

Has it gotten this bad that an airport could not put up one menorah up? Or worse yet, it is when public schools remove the word “Christmas” from concerts so no one will be offended.

Back in 2001, Kensington Town Council banned Santa Claus from being at a tree lighting event because they agreed with a few citizens of the Maryland town that Old Kris Kringle does not have a place in a “secular celebration.” Luckily, a large group of Santas arrived during the event and protested the ban.

Sadly, these are just a few out of many similar incidents that have happened throughout our country in the past few years. It’s happening not only in the classrooms and small towns but in private businesses, and even in some extreme cases, on our own front lawns. For those who are not familiar, here are a few examples of the changes being made: It’s not a snowman anymore; it’s called a snowperson. A Christmas tree is now called a holiday tree. It’s as insulting as calling a menorah a “candlestick holder.”

Enough is enough. Not only is it ridiculous, it’s a restriction of our freedom of speech. How are we supposed to teach true diversity to our children if we are taking the word “Christmas” out of a Christmas carol, or we are not allowed to have a Mishumaa Saba or a menorah in the front windows of our homes or lawns for that matter?

In our politically correct society, while we are running around trying to change things so no one will be hurt or offended, we have caused one of the greatest crimes of the 21st century: we are sterilizing the holidays. That’s right; we are in the midst of wrapping Christmas, Chanukah, and Kwanzaa, and placing them in a plastic bag while wearing a bio-hazard suit, so no one will be contaminated with holiday cheer. In doing so, we are murdering the spirit of the season and making the three so bland and indifferent, they are lost in a blizzard of alleged “diversity.” Their life will be sucked out and left as lifeless and tasteless as stale fruitcake.

The holidays are who we are. It’s more than just Santa Claus or a dreidel, but the religious meanings behind them. It’s about the miracle of an oil lamp burning for eight nights, when it should have burnt for one. It’s about the miracle of celebrating a seven-day festival to rejoice in a proud heritage. And, it’s also about the miracle of a baby boy born in a manger to a virgin mother.

Therefore, this season sing “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” while decorating a 9-foot Christmas tree, or spin a dreidel so big you need three people to help you as you sing “The Dreidel Song.” Scream out the meaning of each of the seven values of Kwanzaa with a bullhorn. But whatever you do, do not let anyone stop you from celebrating the holidays because it may offend someone. (Of course, do it responsibly. No one wants to hear the “The Twelve Days of Christmas” at two in the morning by someone dressed as Frosty the Snowman in their backyard.)

And if someone is offended and complains about your celebration or displays of whatever holiday/religion you are celebrating, tell them to stick it up their stockings! It is their problem if they are not mature enough to handle the holiday seasons.

While political correctness has changed “mailman” into “letter carrier,” and “janitor” into “custodial engineer,” let’s not let it change the holidays or their meanings. Let’s celebrate them not in the politically correct way but the diverse way: not changing them at all and celebrating them the way they were meant to be. That way, maybe we can learn something about our neighbors and ourselves. Remember that our Constitution guarantees us the separation between government and religion, not citizen and religion.

And no matter which religion you practice or holiday you do or do not celebrate, The Times Observer wishes you Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and a joyful Kwanzaa and Seasons Greetings to all!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Remembering The Day Of Infamy

For those who lived through the attack on Pearl Harbor 65 years ago, their numbers are dwindling. It's hard to believe that the "greatest generation" is fading away like a beautiful sunset on a Hawaiian shore.

For those who survived the Japanese assault, this is the last year they will be going to Pearl Harbor to pay their respects to their fallen brothers and to share memories, according to an Associated Press story today.

"We're like the dodo bird. We're almost extinct," Mal Middlesworth, president of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, puts it. The 83-year-old was a young marine of only 18 on the USS San Francisco, a New Orleans-class heavy cruiser, when the attacks happened.

That attacked forced an invitation into American hands to join World War II that day and unintentionally, it probably saved the world from the Nazi threat because of America’s involvement.

While that horrific act touched off a series of events that no one could have possibly dreamt of, especially for Imperial Japan near the last days of the war, it has tugged on the heartstrings of many by hearing the heroic acts that took place on the 7th day of December.

Adolph D. Mortensen was a Navy Junior Officer on the USS Oklahoma, a Nevada-class battleship. He was not only a hero that day but saw a hero die.

As the Oklahoma was hit by torpedoes, Mortensen was trying to make his way off the ship when it turned upside down, as he told his story to the Web site Pearl Harbor: Remembered.

He was thrown into the dispensary with four other of his fellow officers, as they were treading water and keeping their head above it, as they were breathing in a small pocket of air, he remembers.

Using his feet, the then 25-year-old officer found a porthole. After taking in some air, he plunged down into the water and wrestled the porthole open. Two officers were able to go through with no problems but Mortensen had to push the head of an uncertain steward out of the porthole, he recalls.

The fourth man did not make it. According to Mortensen, the more than 200-pound ship's carpenter, a Mr. Austin, could not fit through the 11-inch wide porthole. He decided to remain there, as he knew that his last moments on Earth were at an end.

This is just one of many stories that have been told over the years and now, many of us can relate to them, as we witnessed the 21st century’s version of Pearl Harbor on Sept. 11, 2001.

There are many lessons that can be learned from the painful events of Dec. 7, 1941: our country is not impenetrable, that heroes are born in times of crisis. But one of the most important lessons we should always carry with us on that day is this: Yesterday’s enemies are today’s friends and allies.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Iraq Is Sleeping With The Enemy

For a long time now, I have always said that the insurgents are the real cause of the mess in Iraq. But with recent events in the news and who the new Iraqi government has decided to allied themselves with, the finger of blame should be pointed to Iraq’s leadership.

It should have sent shivers down most people’s backs when Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier this week to discuss Iran’s possible help in dealing with the onslaught of violence created by the insurgents. The question is what type of help could Ahmadinejad offer? Maybe he could stop Iran from sponsoring terrorists in Iraq.

And likely, that’s why Talabani called his meeting with Ahmadinejad a “visit was 100 percent successful,” according to Nasser Karimi, an Associated Press Writer. Sadly, neither of the presidents gave any details of the security agreement but as Karimi reported, Talabani said, “"We discussed in the fields of security, economy, oil and industry. Our agreement was complete.”

All Ahmadinejad said in a joint press conference with reporters that the U.S. should pull out of Iraq and not naming any countries, told nations to stop sponsoring Iraq insurgents because "supporting terrorists is the ugliest act that they can do." Apparently, Ahmadinejad did not want to incriminate himself or Iran. After all, he would not want to hurt Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s feelings. The United States has said that Iran has been sponsoring Shiite militants and al-Sadr has a powerful Shiite militia force called Mahdi Army. He also has no great love for America.

And let’s not forget the fact that al-Sadr has loyalists and supporters in high places in Iraq’s government but more on that in a bit. But for more information about al-Sadr, one would only have to go to the Web archives of USA Today’s Nov. 13 issue, and they would see that the people that al-Sadr “helps” into power makes life for Sunnis deadly. It’s a great article by Rick Jervis and I highly recommend it.

What does this deal mean for Iraq and America, besides the fact that Talabani made it with a devil? Well, Bill O’Reilly, FOX News commentator, made some pretty important points last night on his program. It is most likely that part of this deal worked out between the two presidents is about oil and let’s face facts, that’s probably a big part of this deal. O’Reilly believes this will increase Iran’s power by allowing the country to charge any amount of money on an oil barrel. If they do not, Iran will threaten them with terrorist attacks, he theorizes. He continues that Saudi Arabia would be the number one target and Americans will suffer greatly.

Another important point O’Reilly makes is that there would be no stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons because of the oil threat.

Like him or hate him, O’Reilly makes important points that should not be ignored or dismissed by the general public or politicians. Adding Iran into the equation does not bold well for the Iraqi people or Americans. It would be nice to know what happened behind closed doors on that meeting and Bush’s reactions.

If making a deal with Ahmadinejad was not enough, a leaked White House memo questions if Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ability to deal with the crisis that the country is currently facing. A meeting between President Bush and the prime minister was postponed (or canceled, depending on the news source) by al-Maliki himself, as the White House was quickly trying to clean up the mess on Wednesday.

Depending on who you listen to, an alleged royal source claims that talks between Bush and Jordan’s King Abdullah II went longer than expected and the meeting with al-Maliki in Jordan was canceled, reports Peter Wallsten and Solomon Moore, reporters for the Los Angeles Times. The White House also claims this. However, the same source in the LA Times story says that al-Maliki himself cancelled the meeting, in hopes of appeasing al-Sadr’s supporters, who boycotted the government on that same day. And this is when the fun really begins.

And this does cast doubt on al-Maliki’s ability to handle al-Sadr and his supporters. Because al-Maliki supported the group, it helped him win the election of prime minister. The participants of the boycott were 30 lawmakers and six Cabinet ministers, who are loyal to al-Sadr, the LA Times reported.

The cause of the boycott was al-Maliki’s meeting with Bush and it made “provocation to the feelings of the Iraqi people and a violation of their constitutional rights,” the LA Times reports, quoting a statement. How a meeting actually caused these feelings is an interesting question and it would make one laugh out loud if the situation was not so serious.

So, with leaders of Iraq keeping strange bedfellows with known supporters of terrorists, or terrorists themselves, the real question is not how America should be leaving Iraq but how can Iraq fight insurgents when they are welcoming them with open arms? If these are the types of people that the new Iraq government wants to deal with and refuses to control, then Talabani and al-Maliki better be prepared to sleep in the bloody beds they are making for themselves.