First of all, let’s start this little journey by mentioning The Gloom. Fallujah. Abu Ghraib. Bodies hanging on bridges. Prisoners standing on boxes.
Listen troops, let’s get this straight right off the bat: it’s only a catastrophe. It’s nothing more than a major disaster. I’m not being cynical, or arch, or “ironic.” I am deadly serious.
We have seen two months of what looks like non-stop catastrophe, and we will see more, and maybe worse, before we are through. Here is my well-reasoned, historically researched, deeply nuanced opinion: Buck up. This war will be over when we say it is over, and not a second before.
When Santa Ana’s men ran up the red flag and his band played the Deguello –- “The Throat Cutting” -- it must have made the men and women in the Alamo sick and weak in the knees. But it did not have the demoralizing effect that the Mexican dictator intended. Rather, it hardened the defenders. They did not run, and we are not going to run either, and Dan Rather and Ted Koppel and the rest can play all the goddam dirges they want to. The Alamo itself was a military disaster, a catastrophe. And when Sam Houston retreated from and kept evading Santa Ana’s army, he was called a coward and a traitor -– afraid to fight, not tough enough to do what was necessary. Sam Houston was a deeply flawed man, but he had thick skin and that in itself goes a long way when you are planning deep. Sam Houston didn’t give a tinker’s damn about Glory or Honor. Sam Houston wanted Texas. Like the equally wily and patient George Washington before him, Sam Houston wanted to win. And they did win. And that is why there will be no major metropolitan area named Kerry.
We ran from Fallujah, we hear; those murdering bastards are laughing at us. We’re not tough enough to win. Uh, not quite. Hundreds of those murdering bastards are dead. They are not laughing at anything.
The Fallujah bridge pissed off a lot of Americans. It really made us see red. Would we be disgusted enough to walk away, or furious enough to go in and indiscriminately slaughter thousands? The architects of that atrocity must have thought they nailed that perfect tic-tac-toe move: we go one way, they win on the other. Quoth Den Beste: the object of Terrorism is to provoke an overwhelming response. And the response to that response is the political and strategic goal of the terrorist.
Al Sadr, you less than magnificent bastard! We read your book!
Blah, blah…war is lost…blah blah blah... disaster, wreck and ruin… Only it turns out that the United States military may have produced a few life-long professionals who actually hold victory more precious than crowing loud. Many of us value reason over emotion, and reality over wishful thinking. Well, we did not level Fallujah, and we did not do it because those bodies on that bridge were bait, pure and simple. We didn’t take the bait. Or, I should say, our military didn’t take the bait; I took it, hook line and sinker. I wanted to level the goddam city and then walk away and let them kill each other. Now, as Al Sadr’s support evaporates; as his militia thugs are being hunted and killed by shadowy Iraqi ghost armies and extremely corporeal Marines; as his fellow Mullahs condemn him; as Iraqi demonstrations against him and all that poison and ruin he represents continue to rise; as his headquarters are destroyed, his most vicious ‘soldiers’ killed in their own backyards, playing defense in an urban environment against Marines whose skill and tactics stagger credulity for their expertise and success -– now, we must ask ourselves: did you want to feel good or did you want to win?
I want to win. I was an idiot for taking that bait. And I thank God daily that America makes better, smarter people than me.
The average Iraqi knows full well we can bomb and pummel the hell out of anything we want. But this was different. This took patience, and a willingness to get inside the enemy strategy. This took commitment, and persistence. It was cunning. These people know how strong our military might is; no need to re-teach that lesson. But strong and cunning? Strong and cunning and patient? That puts the Arab imagination into overdrive.
The threat of the vast Shiite uprising that loomed in early April has largely evaporated. Things are still very tense. They may again get worse; they may become horrible. But we will win this because we are not going home until we do. This is slowly beginning to dawn on some of the hardest heads in Iraq. When Iraqi leaders start saying things like we’d better help the Americans stabilize the country, because they will not go away until we do –- well, that is precisely, exactly the kind of victory we need. We need that attitude. There is a shred of can-do self-reliance in those words. Al-Sadr will either end up like Uday and Qusay, or Saddam. Those are his remaining choices.
Fallujah still stings proud people like me. I want them to admit the obvious: that we kicked their ass and can do so again at the drop of a hat. But confidence, the confidence borne of real strength, tells me I might perhaps be wrong. Victory may be more important than my personal pride; indeed more important than the pride of the US Marine Corps. The Marines are all about pride, but their mission is Victory, and nothing gets between a Marine and Victory.
So the next time you hear this Graveyard of Americans bull, do what I do: close your eyes, picture Colonel Klink, and remember that no one has ever escaped from Stalag 13.
Because we did not take the bait, because we so clearly were not the staggering, drunken, imbecile Giant we are accused of being by our European betters, we denied the Syrians and the Iranians the general, nationwide uprising they so dearly wanted. Idiots. We vote in November. They played their hand now. Kerry and Bush are in a dead heat after eight weeks of unrelenting catastrophe for Bush. And there is such a thing as catastrophe fatigue.
On May 7th, 1864, the Army of the Potomac had once again been thrashed at the hands of Robert E. Lee. Their newest commander, US Grant, had been beaten, and beaten badly, in his first contest with the legendary Southerner. Beaten worse than “Fighting Joe” Hooker had been on the same ground at Chancellorsville. Beaten as badly as Burnside, and Pope, and McClellan had been beaten before the endless retreats, the shame, and the false hope of a never-ending parade of new commanders. They were a beaten Army. And as they marched out of the Wilderness to camp back in Washington, they had nothing to look forward to but new commanders, new catastrophes, new humiliations, and new defeats.
But when they came to the familiar crossroads, a buzz ran down the line. Some solders described it as a wave of emotion -– disbelief, mostly -– others, as static electricity. It was a murmur, then a shout, and then a cheer. They were not turning North. They were turning South, trying to steal a March on Bobby Lee! They had been beaten and bloodied as badly as any time in their seemingly endless string of utter defeats. But now they were marching South, to try again.
The simplest farm boy in that line that night knew, with certainty, that they could suffer as many catastrophes and disasters as fate could throw at them, for while they might be defeated again and again, they only had to succeed once.
So remember this; tattoo this in backward letters on your forehead so you can read it when you brush your teeth each morning: the most deadly, most awful and destructive war in our history was won not by a series of tactical and strategic masterstrokes, but rather by an endless, relentless series of monumental, hair-rending, soul-destroying blunders, missteps and debacles…that never stopped until they had won total, complete, utter, victory.
When Lee announced the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox, many of his soldiers wept. As it began to dawn on them, and they started along the winding dirt roads that led to home, they would say things to each other like One Johnny Reb was worth ten Yankees on the battlefield and Give us time to get a crop in and we’ll go back and lick ‘em again. They were proud and tough people trying to retain their pride in the face of the worst defeat ever suffered by Americans. We didn’t club these people to death to show them they were wrong. We left them what was left of their pride; we’d need those people to be good citizens again someday. Victory is enough.
That takes strength.
Catastrophes are only catastrophes; disasters are only disasters: they are not the end unless we decide they are. And so, let us, right here and now, decide that they are not the end. Because this is something we need to understand, something we need to feel deep in our bones: we are so strong, as a nation, that nothing can stop us when we set our minds to something. Nothing. We can only stop ourselves. All the players know this to be true. Al Sadr knows it. France and Germany know it. The Jihadis know it. The UN knows it. You and I know it.
Because we, the American people, are the only ones who can decide whether or not to give up in failure and defeat or carry on to the victory of a free and stable Iraq, we find that we ourselves -– the common, average Americans -– are to be the battleground. We are the soldiers. We are the weapons. We are the targets of the enemy strategy. Our hearts, our spirit -– that is the front line. All the players know this, too. This is our war, more than it is the Marines’ or Al Quaeda’s.
Our war. Ours.
So we need to find the strength to fight this war. And this search will not be a quick or easy one, for our strength lies both obvious and on the surface in some places, and in other places, very, very deep.
This is a critical, essential search, for the manifest strengths and beauty of our Western Society have been under such sustained attack, for so long, that we are beginning to believe this parade of lies launched against us. We have to stop it. We have to fight it. And we have to beat it. On this everything else depends.
This will be a long and circuitous journey. I’m sorry; I wish it were not so. But we must, we must find the strength we need to sustain our spirits against an onrush of negativity, pessimism, defeatism and despair that is so deadly precisely because it is so antithetical to the natural character of the American people.
Morale, my friends. Morale. Humor and confidence are our best friends now. And so, as we begin our journey through Mordor toward the heart of Mt Doom, on this mission to defeat this pernicious attack on our strength, remember this:
Americans eat disasters and crap hand grenades. And I got your quagmire right here.
It seems fairly incredible to me that I have to spend some time on whether or not Radical Islam -– which we will, for the sake of the discussion, call Islamist -– is really a threat to the West in general and the United States in particular.
But the fact remains that those determined to weaken our will are methodically trying to undermine every aspect of what we Westerners refer to as “reality.” So, like a giant and unusually serious game of Whack-A-Mole, we have to spend time going around clubbing arguments that should be blatantly obvious.
Remember, links in a chain of argument. Grab the hammer and tongs, and let’s get to work:
To those who claim that Islamist terrorists do not pose a direct, immediate and potent threat to the United States, I would like to condense the next four thousand words of this argument thusly:
One of the most vilified people on the internet right now is Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs. It is the only website that I will check at least twice a day. Charles has been called a racist, a bigot, and much worse. He is personally threatened daily. Charles is attacked personally, and with a viciousness rare even among the most vicious out there, because there really is no other defense against the arguments that LGF makes, many times a day, than to attack the man.
But Charles Johnson is not the issue. I could counter with the fact that I have met him several times; he is, like Steven Den Beste, an extraordinarily gracious, soft-spoken and gentle man. None of this matters.
What does matter is what Little Green Footballs does on a daily basis. Charles Johnson does not sit down and write five essays a day on why he thinks Radical Islam is a deranged and poisonous and growing Death Cult. Charles simply links to newspaper articles, usually from Arab and Islamist sources like Arab News and Reuters, that show without question that Radical Islam is calling, daily and nightly, for the destruction of the West, the murder, enslavement or conversion of its citizens, and the establishment of a world-wide Caliphate where Shariah -– Islamic Law -– is the only law.
This is not his opinion. This is not the opinion of Western editorial writers. This is a filter (and of course it’s a filter -– that’s why it is useful) that looks at Islamist thinking and behavior daily and shows what Islamists are saying and doing in their own words.
I and many others view Little Green Footballs as the equivalent of the Cold War’s D.E.W. Line -– the Distant Early Warning radar system that searched the Polar skies, looking for incoming threats. This is why Charles is attacked personally. He is attacked personally in an attempt to discredit him and his website because the fact remains that almost everything he links to are articles by Islamists, about Radical Islam -– and what they say in their own words is so totally compelling, damning, and downright blood curdling that anyone not seeing the danger brewing does not deserve to be part of this argument.
Now, the source of this hatred towards the West is the source of endless books and analysis and articles and thesis papers. To this interminable Gordian Knot of causes and effects and counter-causes and grievances, I can only add this:
I don’t care.
If someone is coming toward me in an alley, knife drawn, I do not give a damn why their socio-economic status may have had an influence in coloring their worldview regarding income redistribution. To take such a position rather than preparing to defend yourself is suicide, and we will come back to this later because it is a key to understanding what is going on out there.
Radical Islam is a religious cult based on constant, never-ending warfare. I personally am aware of no other religious tracts that are as filled with page after page of conquest, strategy and military jargon. Islam rose to prominence under the sword, and the Prophet was, above all else, a military commander determined to spread his faith by conquest and enslavement. Islam has rules for when prisoners should be released, ransomed, sold into slavery or have their throats cut. As a matter of fact, Islam has rules for everything. What to eat, how to wash, where and when and in which direction to pray. Islam has rules for the treatment of animals and the treatment of women. There is no part of daily life that is not specifically addressed, sanctioned or outlawed by Islam.
And contrary to post 9/11 spin, the most accurate translation of Islam is not “peace.” Prior to 9/11, the nearly universally accepted translation of the concept of Islam was “submission.”
Of course, submission sounds a little more prickly to American ears. Matter of fact, it’s hard to imagine a word that would so enrage the American psyche than the concept of submission. “Tyranny,” perhaps, but tyranny is only what we are expected to submit to. Americans have fought against submission and Tyranny since there have been Americans. That’s what we do. That is who we are. And ever since the Revolution against submitting to the tyranny of King George, American revulsion with the entire idea of submission has been watered each generation by fresh waves of immigrants who have fled here escaping submission.
And here are two final thoughts on this issue:
First, Islam philosophically divides the world into two camps -– these are Islam’s definitions, not mine -- Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb. Dar al-Islam is the House of Submission. Dar Al-Harb is not the House of Infidels. It is the House of War.
I, and others who see a terrible threat in the growth of Radical Islam, did not invent this term. It is considerably older than my humble self; besides, I do not speak Arabic. It is their term. And unlike people determined to hide until this problem goes away, I am determined to take Islam at its word.
Finally, consider this: Muslims are angrily at war with Buddhists in East Asia. Muslims are enraged with Animists in Africa. Of course, none of this approaches the sheer hatred that Muslims bear towards Hindus in the South Asia peninsula. And this foaming hatred blanches compared to the white-hot fury Muslims feel for the Christian American Crusaders. And this fury is but a candle to the incandescent, boiling, supernova of murder they feel toward the Jews.
Does anyone beside me detect a pattern here? You know, my Dad told me once, “Bill, if more than three people in your life are utter, total assholes, then maybe it’s you.”
I am not a religious person. I do not have a horse in this race. But everywhere I turn in the world today, I see Radical Islam -- and not the United States -- at war with everybody. And I have no choice but to conclude that this is not a blip or a hiccup. It is a growing threat. And it needs to be met head-on. Right now.
Have I slandered 1.5 billion people? I don’t know. Have I? I speak of Radical Islam. I speak of people determined to kill and terrorize to impose their religion on the rest of the world. If you are a Muslim who is against these practices, you have my respect and admiration. And, as with all other religions in the United States, I will as passionately defend your right to practice your faith in harmony and goodwill as I attack those who may carry the Crescent far, far away from your peaceful and devout beliefs. But I will not pretend I do not see and hear what I see and hear every single day, just because you may not like to hear it. That is not something I or millions of my countrymen will submit to. Accept, or at the very least, understand that right now. I say this for both our sakes. More on this later.
The philosophy of Radical Islam is at war, not only with America and the West, but with everything that is not Radical Islam. So, do they hate us? Yes they do. Judging from their street demonstrations, and the rhetoric issuing from their madrassas, does anyone seriously doubt that if millions were given a button that would wipe us from the face of the earth, they would push it?
I don’t see how any rational person could deny this is so.
They are working on that button, by the way.
WHACK! On to the next mole.
Those who would have you doubt America and the West want you to believe that there are many legitimate grievances that Islamists have against us. They argue that they are only acting against American and Western aggression, colonization and arrogance. So it’s all our fault and if we’d just come home and mind our own business everything would be dandy.
Unfortunately, when you actually listen to the Islamists talk about their “grievances” (hey, Reuters? These “quotes” really do perform as advertised!), they will start at the Crusades and work their way forward, in no particular order. Sadly for those who want you to believe they hate us for what we do rather than who we are, Uncle Sam was not at that fight -- a fact that might be apparent had their historical knowledge predated 1968. Americans were not only quite spectacularly underrepresented at the Crusades…we in fact do not make much of a dent on the Islamist bloody roll-call until the middle 1970’s. Before then it was the Franks and the Spanish and the English and just about everyone else.
Why are these people still seething about things that happened a thousand years ago?
Well, because it’s been that long since Islam was a dominant force in the world. It’s like watching a Red Sox fan pining for the days of the Babe and the lost glory of that 1918 season.
The truly remarkable, astonishing and galling issue here is that while the multi-culturalists are the ones shrieking the loudest about understanding different people and different values, they are the ones absolutely least willing to take themselves at their own words and so they consistently apply western thought models to people who think nothing like we do.
We are a co-operative society. Compromise, agreements and webs of trust run through our culture in mind-blowing levels of complexity. The most virulent Islamist Arabs, on the other hand, live by completely different rules and values, and time and again we who should know better by now refuse to try to see things through Arab eyes because the view is frankly so jaundiced and horrible we really can’t believe what we are seeing.
Honor and shame trump everything in that world. A pithy sentence, eh? So instead, think about what it would take for you to kill your own daughter with a knife, with your bare hands, because she was seen in the company of a man not her husband or a relative. Think about that. Think long and hard. What kind of hatred and shame could drive a human being to do such a thing? What kind of pressures does that society bring to bear on an individual to make him capable of that? How different is their view of women, of family, of honor and shame? What would it take for you to murder your daughter with a knife, or a knotted cord -– with your own two hands and against her pleading, her protestations, and her begging for her life? If your response wasn’t “there is nothing that could make me do that,” then stop reading right here and get the hell off my property.
Multi-culturalists will respond that Honor Killings are not the norm and not representative of Islam and life under Shariah. We can debate the exact numbers of these horrors for days, but the fact remains that no matter how many individual cases there are, there is de facto legal protection for committing these crimes. When Islamic schoolgirls attempting to escape a burning building with their faces uncovered were sent back inside to die by the religious police rather than dishonor Islam…well, that is a brush that will carry a lot of tar.
There is a simple enough reason why these Islamists so hate and despise the West, and America especially. It has little to do with our foreign policy. We have taken the side of oppressed Muslims in Kosovo, Chechnya, Kuwait and many other places. We spend billions of dollars a year in aid to Egypt. We’re still waiting for the love to pour in.
No, this is not about reason, as we understand the term. This is about shame, it is about denial, and it is about transcendent revenge. Shouts of Allahu Akbar! were not overdubbed by western propaganda agencies as they sawed through Nick Berg’s throat and twisted off his head. Those are authentic. As they got down to their filthy work they were screaming, over and over in a fit of religious ecstasy: God is Great! Nick Berg was nothing more than an animal sacrifice to them. That is Radical Islam.
The only thing that will appease them is your blood. All of it. Remember that.
They are the willing architects of their own brutal oppression. They are dirt poor -– not because of what was done to or stolen from them, but because of what they have done to themselves. This harsh, vicious, bitter patriarchy of control and domination has systematically and methodically wrung out of life the smallest joy or happiness. The Ayatollah Khomeini, the Santa Claus for your eternity in hell, famously remarked that:
"Allah did not create man so that he could have fun. The aim of creation was for mankind to be put to the test through hardship and prayer. An Islamic regime must be serious in every field. There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious."
And yet, in a very different desert on the far side of the world, sits... Vegas.
There was no issuance of demands prior to 9/11. 9/11 was not a response to acts taken by the United States government. 9/11 was never about what we have done. 9/11 was an attack on Who. We. Are.
In the world today there exists a 21st Century society with unimagined freedoms, opportunities and protections for the individual. Opposing it is a 12th Century religious cult bound in concepts of tribalism, shame, revenge and envy.
The presence of Las Vegas makes a mockery of these people’s lives. They have been taught that they are God’s own chosen people -– but they are humans, as human as we are. And so, shackled to an ideology determined to wring every precious drop of enjoyment out of life, they look across the world to see a group of people enthusiastically breaking every commandment they were ever given, and not only do these heathens succeed and prosper beyond the wildest tales from the Arabian Nights, but they are enjoying themselves beyond any measure as they do so. These tortured souls can vaguely guess, lying in bed late at night, that even the lowest and most common working man or woman in America can, once a year, travel to Las Vegas and live a few days in luxury unknown to the grandest Caliph in the very flower of their history.
You’ve got to admit, if that were you -– that would suck.
The success, the strength -– indeed, the very presence of the United States tells them that their religion has been lying to them. They, who follow every stricture, who submit to every admonition, who put away every single shred of enjoyment, have been told that they are the chosen people of God, and that the World shall become their domain and its citizens their slaves and concubines.
This fact is not lost on them. They are told it is because they are not devout enough. They are pointed toward 19 Warriors of the Faith, pure in heart, and what they can accomplish against the Great Satan. What other explanation can they accept? That their entire religion, their entire culture, their entire history of failure, torture, hardship and ruin is their own fault? That it will not, it cannot change, and must be discarded? That there is nothing for them but more of the same endless misery, while everyone else in the world grows richer, freer, and happier?
No. That is not going to happen. We are their test. God has promised them the world, and, if you will forgive the trendy internet reference: all our base are belong to them.
To them, we and our pursuit of happiness are intolerable. More intolerable is the incredible appeal our culture has for people -– especially young people -– all around the world.
Our 21st Century society can easily survive the cultural appeals of their 12th century one. The reverse is certainly not true. Radical Islam, without Jihad, without the promise of elevation and achievement through death, cannot survive in the world we have created.
One way or another, it is going to be Them or Us. Everybody knows this, and no one will say it.
Because this conflict is about who we are, rather than what we do, defeat for us means not stepping back from places where others claim we have no business, but rather the destruction of this society, and the values upon which it is based.
And so the attacks on our foundations continue, a concerted and coordinated effort to define our history and our culture as being unworthy of defense and antithetical to humanity’s greater good.
Having spent untold hours hovering in the electronic cafes, meeting halls and sewers that link us in this world wide web, I see a disgust for and frankly a complete disbelief in the amount of patriotism displayed by the average American.
I have seen ugly, mindless displays of American pride and arrogance. In some of this, I think, I see the hurt and disbelief, and the growing sense of betrayal and shock at the abandonment and slander coming at us from those formerly thought friends whom we have helped often and dearly in the past when their existence was threatened and their own buildings lay in smoke and ruin. Those friends that have remained are especially dear to us now. I suspect we will not forget either camp for a very long time indeed.
There was a time when most every nationality expressed a burning pride in who and what they were and had become. I have always understood and admired this essential pride in one’s self and their extended national family.
Many in Europe, especially, have renounced such feelings of nationalism. Nationalism has not played out all too happily in Europe, and so we, who have had nothing but success in this regard, are expected to toe the line and voluntarily scrap our shiny new automobile because the neighbors went and ran theirs over a cliff.
What is not apparent from history is the simple fact that being an American is a choice. It is a choice we have all made to be here, or to come here, either ourselves, or our parents, or their parents. It is a choice new millions make annually. And any of us can leave, at any time. No one not a part of this experiment, no one who does not hold the truths we live by to be self-evident, can have a glimmer, a nanosecond flash of how deeply and brightly that pride burns inside so many of us.
This is a strength -– I believe the only strength, when all is said and done -– that has the power to stand up to these forces of darkness gathering once again in the margins of the world. It is another reason why those who would strangle liberty, individuality and joy hate and fear us so greatly.
And so the attack on our self-image is essential to weakening our fundamental strength. And it has been accelerating where we are the most vulnerable, in our schools and universities, launched by the most self-obsessed, pampered generation in our history: mine.
Do you disagree?
Well, let’s start by looking at how we view ourselves now, in our antiseptic, safe and bland reality, against how we viewed ourselves in the crucible of our existence when our personal lives and the life of our Republic hung in the balance.
On the one hand, we’re lucky. We’ve got a history that is so packed with heroism and courage and strength that the hard part is figuring out which example to start with. It could be much worse, n’est pas?
History is woven from a collection of snapshots, flashbulbs in a dark room revealing instants frozen in time and memory. Behind the boilerplate of historians are moments so fragile and ephemeral we can catch and preserve but the thinnest fraction of them. After the Civil War, many millions of delicate glass negatives were used as panes in greenhouses all across a nation determined to forget the horror and sorrow and move on with life once more. How many proud or grim expressions have simply faded slowly away in the sunlight of the succeeding years, ghosts lining the walls and ceilings of hothouses in Maine and Alabama, growing dimmer, and fainter…and…gone.
From the eve of that nightmare, that horror that so many had seen coming for so long, history and chance have snatched one of those snapshots back from eternity. Study it. Take your time. Soak it up. Even better, whisper it aloud, if you dare -– these words need human breath again. It is a dried and brittle flower, pressed into the book of our collective memory; a snapshot of American thought from 143 years ago…
Shortly before the first great battle of the Civil War, a Major of the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers wrote to his wife in Smithfield. (The unedited text is here: )
July the 14th, 1861
My very dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days -- perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.
If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing -- perfectly willing -- to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.
But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows -- when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children -- is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us.
My dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.
Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.
But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours -- always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.
Major Sullivan Ballou was killed one week later at the first battle of Bull Run.
The most remarkable thing about this letter is simply how ordinary such thoughts were in that day. Many, of course, have heard of this letter thanks to Ken Burns and his amazing documentary, The Civil War. Many have said it might be the greatest love letter ever written. And I would agree, but look deeper…
Major Ballou is, in effect, writing this letter as an apology. It is an apology to his wife and sons that his love for his country has called him away, to leave that which he loves so dearly alone and undefended in a world very much harder than our own. Until I read the unedited letter I myself never suspected that Maj. Ballou was an orphan; how bitter it must have been for him to willingly condemn his own two children to a fatherless existence in the days before life insurance and Social Security.
Look at how this man views his country. Here he stands, a beacon of love and sacrifice against the gloom of historical anonymity; a man ready to sacrifice his overwhelming love for his wife, his children and his life for a cause which he believes supercedes them all. More than anything, this letter speaks of a selflessness and gratitude that surpasses modern understanding. There is not a shred of victimhood, not a whiff of regret or bitterness from start to finish.
There are people who will read this letter and cry. I am one of those people. To me, the sentiments expressed with such casual eloquence are the absolute pinnacle of what the endless human struggle entails: Courage. Honor. Duty.
And yet, and yet…for all those hard virtues, how much love is in this letter? How much joy? How much beauty? How much pride and dignity? How much confidence? How much compassion? How much sacrifice?
How much strength is in that letter?
There are people who will read this letter and call men like Sullivan Ballou idiots and fools. They will mock those values and say they wasted their lives, and abandoned their children, to die horrible deaths at the hands of their brothers for no reason other than foolish jingoism and false glory. Such people will say that he was a mere cog in the interests of rich and powerful men struggling only to grow their own wallets. But Sullivan Ballou is above their derision and deconstruction. He had a level of courage and moral clarity so far beyond these critics that it goes through them, invisible and undetected, like an X-ray.
Those people will never know what he knew, and what some of us struggle to retain today. It is beyond them, as far beyond them as Shakespeare is to a slug or a sponge. I pity these gutless, heartless, soulless, guilt-ridden, self-obsessed, self-hating people. But every generation, it seems, we glorify the self ever further, place personality further above character, and steadily create from the security and prosperity provided by better men and women a wave of smug, unprincipled, ungrateful Narcissists who can see nothing beyond the nearest mirror and hold nothing sacred but themselves. Nothing is worth dying for to such people, because to them, the end of them means the end of everything. I once heard such a tower of self-obsession, Dr. Helen Caldicott, admit exactly such a thing on Public Radio. One of the reasons she fights so hard against nuclear war, she said, was because she can’t shake the idea that if she were to die that would be the end of…well, the entire Universe.
I wasn’t shocked that she said it. I was only shocked that she admitted it.
And you mark these words: in another 143 years, people like you and me will still be reading this letter and weeping at its selfless, immortal beauty, while people like Ted Rall will be as anonymous and forgotten as some crude pornographic cartoon carved in an outhouse wall in 1861.
In 1861, this love for and obligation to the ideals of America was common. The selflessness, the recognition of things greater than one’s self -– earthbound, temporal realities like the ability to say what one wants, go where one wants, to live a life free from the dictates of the powerful, and the freedom to defend one’s self and family from the depredations of the cruel and the ruthless -– these qualities were common, if not ubiquitous, in the America of 143 years ago
Let’s look at another snapshot, shall we? Here’s one that’s a little more recent -– October 2nd, 2001:
Here is a song from the point of view of someone free and powerful, admired and loved; a person possessing the most fabulous gifts imaginable, a voice that has known no hardship, no fear, no illness and no enemies capable of even giving challenge, let alone loss and defeat:
By Five for Fighting
I can’t stand to fly
I’m not that naive
I’m just out to find
The better part of me
I’m more than a bird... I’m more than a plane
More than some pretty face beside a train
It’s not easy to be me
Wish that I could cry
Fall upon my knees
Find a way to lie
About a home I’ll never see
It may sound absurd... but don’t be naive
Even heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed... but won’t you concede
Even heroes have the right to dream
It’s not easy to be me
Up, up and away... away from me
It’s all right... you can all sleep sound tonight
I’m not crazy... or anything...
I can’t stand to fly
I’m not that naive
Men weren’t meant to ride
With clouds between their knees
I’m only a man in a silly red sheet
Digging for kryptonite on this one way street
Only a man in a funny red sheet
Looking for special things inside of me
Inside of me
Yeah, inside me
Inside of me
I’m only a man
In a funny red sheet
I’m only a man
Looking for a dream
I’m only a man
In a funny red sheet
And it’s not easy, hmmm, hmmm, hmmm...
Its not easy to be me
It’s not easy to be me. Dear God, no -– the horror of it all. Immortal, impervious…faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. How gauche. How tacky. How totally uncool.
This modern Superman -- this symbol, this America -- hates who he is and what he has become: imprisoned in his ridiculous red and blue sheet, desperate to go up, up and away, as far away from himself as possible. There he stands, in a filthy city doorway: stooped, cynical, a broken man, digging for Kryptonite -– digging for death -- on this one-way street -- to Hell. Suicide. Ah, there you go. He’ll be dead and then we’ll all be sorry.
So this is Superman for the new millennium: a charcoal-gray, lower-case ‘s’ on a black T-shirt, curled on a filthy mattress in the basement, hands pressed to his ears to tune out the screams for help from Lois Lane whose ankles he can see as she is murdered up in the alley. Superman: cowering, whimpering, the ultimate victim, who dies from stomach cancer at age 24 from endlessly using his X-ray vision to stare at his own navel.
Gone is the icon of great strength in the service of great good. Gone too is a Superman raised by a simple, honest man and woman on a farm in Kansas, who taught him that there is a difference between good and evil, right and wrong, and how to recognize it, and what to do about it. In his place sits a brooding, whining victim, an emotionally abandoned child raised by a Belgian nanny in a mansion in Bel Aire, hating his father for not producing his student-film screenplay. If our original Superman had nightmares, they were no doubt about the times he had failed to act, failed to save, failed to rescue. This Superman fears nothing more than being caught doing a good deed -- like there’s any difference between “good” and “evil.” They’re just words, cultural relics from a bloody past leading us ever deeper into the darkness of a pointless and meaningless future. It doesn’t matter anyway. Nothing matters. Not even me. Especially me.
The Superman -– the America -– that most of us love and admire is lovable and admirable because they both personify the ideal of strength against evil -- and not just brute force, physical strength, but something far more rare and precious: the ability to tell right from wrong, and the courage to do something about it.
Somewhere along the way some people have let their compassion for the weak and the victimized in society trump everything else -- everything. A growing number of people no longer wish to protect the weak and defend the victim -– they wish to become them. As champions of the victimized, it stands to reason that the more victims, the more important the champion. And so the cult of the Victim continues to grow. And since it takes strength to oppress the weak and the defenseless, but strength and courage to oppose it, those without courage have made strength the enemy instead of oppression.
Of course, for a class of people that fetishizes weakness and idolizes victimhood, the entire archetype of a Superman simply has to go. Good and unimaginably strong? Please! After all, how will the Big Brains in the teacher’s lounge be able to control such a boy? Idea! Perhaps we should drill into this Kent kid the notion that if we can’t all fly faster than a speeding bullet, then no one should. It’s not fair to all the other kids at Smallville High. Yes, that might work: he’s a sucker for wanting to play fair and do the right thing. After all, better we should all drown when the dam breaks than lower anyone’s self esteem.
No, this fellow’s got to go.
Of course, you can’t just walk up and kill Superman. No. Too strong for that, the bastard.
We’ll have to talk him into committing suicide.
And that is exactly what some people have been trying to do for no less than the 66 years Superman has been with us.
Tracking down and cornering the cause of this unending, mindless attack on one’s own society -- this urge to suicide, this mindless assault on the very idea of strength, this death wish -- leads us down many winding and serpentine paths. I for one do not believe in conspiracies. So what could possibly explain why so many people feel the need to attack the most free and expressive society in the world and glorify the most awful and odious?
One analogy continues to fascinate me:
We know that allergies result when the defense mechanisms of the body’s immune system mistakenly attack healthy cells, falsely recognizing them as foreign and dangerous. The body’s defenses essentially go to war against the body itself.
Here’s what intrigues me: new research seems to indicate that the cleaner and more sanitary the environment we live in becomes, the more likely we are to develop allergies. Allergies appear in much, much lower numbers among farm kids, who are exposed to all manner of infectious elements -– not to mention the cuts and scrapes and so on caused by actual, physical work. And as we become more and more obsessed with ‘disinfecting’ everything in sight, allergies skyrocket.
What seems to be happening is this: the more we are exposed to real infection, the easier it is for the immune system to identify foreign cells from host cells, since there are dangerous foreign cells in abundance. These infectious agents constantly demand new antibody production, and the line between “host” and “other” is clearly and continuously redefined. In excessively antiseptic environments, that level of discrimination appears to break down due to lack of use, and the body’s immune system turns on itself.
These allergy attacks range from the mildly annoying to the almost instantaneously fatal.
And a serious and potentially fatal allergy attack is precisely what I believe is happening to Western Civilization today.
If you genuinely, honestly believe you can compare George Bush to Adolph Hitler, it is only because you are so removed from exposure to the genuine horrors of the Nazi regime -– routine street beatings, confiscation and destruction of businesses, homes and property, then deportation and extermination of millions of your own countrymen -- that you are functionally incapable of the most basic and fundamental level of discrimination. If you can compare Abu Ghraib to a Nazi death camp with a straight face, then you have never been to Abu Ghraib, or a Nazi death camp, or either -– that is patently obvious, and it would be comically so if the stakes were not so monumentally high. Having never been exposed to genuine evil, you have literally no conception whatsoever of what it looks and smells and tastes like.
(Immigrant Americans from Poland or Russia or Cuba, or Iraq, for that manner, exhibit virtually none of this madness. They know what a real secret police presence feels like.)
Let me clarify this if I may. Senator Kennedy claims Abu Ghraib is simply Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers “under new management -– U.S. management.” Taking him at his word -– a somewhat iffy proposition right out of the gate -– he apparently cannot see the difference between the humiliation and bullying of enemy combatants, which is shameful, disgusting and reprehensible, and the gleeful, mocking murder, torture and gang rape of over 300,000 innocent men, women and children -- which is something worse. So Senator, here is a helpful analogy which you may find useful: the difference is about the same as pulling over and leaving a young female secretary on the curb in the rain, which is shameful, disgusting and reprehensible, vs. leaving her trapped in the car at the bottom of a river while you look at the bubbles and ponder the political repercussions.
Which is something worse, Senator.
Americans living today have never known torture or oppression or state-sponsored murder, and so it becomes nothing more than a rhetorical concept for most of us. People who defend Saddam and Kim and Castro have no idea at all about what that life entails. None. And so, in their safe and antiseptic little worlds of coffee shops and chat rooms, it all reduces to rhetoric. And since, in the end, it’s nothing but words anyway, they feel they can win an argument because their rhetoric goes up to eleven.
In extreme cases -– sadly rising in frequency -- these people not only hate America, they hate everything. They see nothing in American history beyond slavery and the Indian Wars. They often claim to live, or would prefer to live, in more refined, decent and civilized nations, like Canada and Britain and New Zealand: as if white, English-speaking Canadians grew out of the ground like corn on an empty, Indian- and Eskimo-free horizon, or the thousand years of English conquest over India, China, Africa, Ireland, Scotland and Wales was in a parallel universe, or that the warlike Maoris invaded and took over the North and South Islands from the peaceful, indigenous white settlers. As if France were not the most blood-soaked patch of land on the surface of the earth, as if Russia’s leaders never so much as raised a hand against its own suffering people, as if Scandinavia was not the epicenter of centuries of rape, pillage, murder and misery, as if the Aztecs said gracias in Castilian Spanish as they cut the living hearts out of their prisoners. As if the Spanish themselves had never known the Inquisition, Italy no Papal Wars or Duces or Ethiopias, as if Belgium had no Leopold and Leopold no Congo, as if Germany…well.
As if African slaves were only held by whites and Christians, as if Japan has practiced nothing but calligraphy and origami for a millennia, as if South America was a spotless white linen of freedom of expression and individual rights, as if China was a champion of democracy and the common man, as if Indians never spat on anyone, as if, as if…as if the entire bloody history of conquest and war and displacement were the unique domain of America alone, or, equally absurd, that we deserve to die for not being born perfect and without sin -– as they, in their own self-obsessed, one-person Universes expect everyone else to be.
And so they trot out every single example of human atrocity as if they were Atticus Finch sweating under the heat in that courtroom in their mind; these snipers and critics and ‘activists’ who have no plans of their own, no solutions, no answers to these dirty and difficult and eternal issues, and so sit in the warm cocoon of perfection afforded the man who attempts nothing. And while better men and women -– better men and women by every measure -– struggle and fight and bleed to make the world a better and safer place, they grow more and more disconnected from the essential ugliness and brutality that is half -– and only half -– of this flawed and broken and hopeful and noble human existence.
And because we are all born with this legion of devils inside every heart, more than anything else in the world they hate themselves. Carrying all the guilt of the world on their stooped and broken spirits, their eyes cast so far down that they can see nothing of nobility or progress or redemption of any kind, these people are broken. They are miserable, bitter, cynical husks. And we all know what misery craves.
See them for what they are: nothing more than the Comic Book Guy on the Simpsons: Worst. Country. Ever.
They are useless people. They have heeded the last and final boarding call and pushed back from the gate of reality. They have left the building.
Don’t argue with them, don’t engage them. They want to make this about rhetoric and sophistry, which they fetishize, and not about the simple difference between right and wrong, which is a world where they cast no reflection.
So is this nation, this culture, worth fighting for? Are our lives even worth defending?
Let me offer two answers; one hard-headed, pointy and practical; the other warm and fuzzy and easy to cuddle up to.
Okay, left brain: this is for you.
Hardly a person reading this has not sat, probably many times, on board a commercial jetliner, munching a terrible sandwich while watching television on a little screen at seven miles above the earth moving faster than the musket ball that ended the life of Sullivan Ballou.
The sheer mundane frequency of this miracle should be enough on it’s own, but I ask you to look much deeper.
Think, for a moment, about the endlessly intricate, stunning web of trust, cooperation and genius required to make this happen. Drop the obvious elements like the pilots and the air traffic controllers. Forget the armies of people who set their alarms every day to go and build, fly and maintain these wonders.
What about the chemist who determined the correct mixture to get that reprehensible purple dye just right for the fabric on the seat back covers? Who engraved DIANE’s name tag? How many hundreds of men cut how many grooves in how many trees to make the rubber that seals the handles on the restroom faucets? What were the names of the aerodynamicists who designed the wing section before the one actually finalized in the design of the airplane? Who made the air traffic controller’s coffee? What were the first words spoken between the parents of the person who cleaned and vacuumed your seat?
What were the names of the guys that laid the cement for the VOR station you’re navigating by, back in the 60’s? Who churned the butter in that little plastic container? Somebody forged the bolts that hold down that seat seven rows up. Who? Who delicately put into place that little paper diaphragm in the microphone the flight attendant is boring you with? The person who dry-cleaned the co-pilots uniform -– nice guy? Creep? Who pumped the gas into the little tug that pushed the plane back at the gate? Come to think of it, this crappy TV show you’re watching? Who edits this garbage? What do we know about that guy?
You don’t see any of this, of course. You think nothing of it. But there it is. And this molecular structure does not run as deep anywhere else in the world. You’re it. You in 37B.
Now ask yourself if those five hooded murderers, those 19 hijackers, and those endless seas of raving, chanting, flag-burning lunatics could, together, manufacture one #2 pencil. You know, a perfect, yellow, three-cent pencil -– including the dyes for the enamel paint, the glues and presses for the wood, the mined copper alloy for the band, the chemists to make the graphite and then there is the eraser -– and no one knows what that is made of.
This web that keeps us alive and safe and free needs many things to thrive. Trust. Communication. Mutual respect. Genius. Hard work. And mostly passion.
Fear will kill it all. It will fall apart and unravel into smoke.
All the virtues of science, all the genius of seven thousand years is refined and built into the structure of this Western Society. If we lose this now, humanity will not see it return. To paraphrase Jimmy Doolittle, a great pilot and greater patriot, “we could never be this lucky again.”
And finally, for you soft-hearted, touchy-feely right brain types: a small quiz. Don’t worry: no grades, no trick questions, and no time limit.
If you are a Feminist: Do you think that women should be treated with respect and equality in all matters, and allowed to reach their fullest potential as individuals by making their own decisions? Or do you think that they should be kept locked in the back room, that they should suffer beating or death for being seen in the company of a man not their husband or relative, that they should never be allowed to study or drive a car, and that they must remain covered head to foot when outdoors?
I’m for the former. Which are you for?
If you are a homosexual: do you believe that sexual orientation is a private matter between consenting adults, that all people deserve the same measure of dignity and respect, and that you should be allowed to live your life and love the person you choose without intimidation and fear? Or do you believe that homosexuals are an abomination in the eyes of a vengeful God and should therefore be executed?
I’m going with “A” on this one, too. What do you think?
If you are an artist, a writer or a singer: do you feel that free expression is the soul of the artistic impulse, that artists have the right to explore whatever depths of emotion or feeling that their muse may drive them to, and that the free expression of the artistic impulse should never be inhibited no matter how offensive others may find your personal journey? Or do you believe that society should place strict limits on what is permissible expression artistically, and that some entire studies -– music, for example -– should be removed from society to prevent moral decay and people straying from the Word of God?
I’m taking the first one again.
So my real question is, if you agree that the former choices are better than the latter, why do so many of you take the side of murdering theocrats like the Taliban, or state-sponsored terror regimes like Saddam’s when they are in opposition to a culture that provides legal and cultural protections and freedoms unparalleled in human history?
I’d really like an answer, if you can spare the time. And so would a lot of folks.
Now while we’re changing the sets and costumes for the final act, how about a brief intermission? Let’s take a hypothetical, shall we? Something we’ve all seen on the old idiot box?
Police are at the scene of an urban standoff. Here are the details as they come in:
We can see right away that this is not a good neighborhood. Crime is rampant, and, as in most crime-ridden communities, a lot of nasty stuff goes on every day.
Now it seems that one lunatic -– your standard heavily-armed psychopathic loner -– last week had gone next door and shot the hell out of the neighbors. Of course, those neighbors were not exactly the Cunninghams or the Waltons, so there was no 911 call…but still.
Anyway, it’s a few hours later and it looks like he’s done it again: now he claims he owns the entire back yard of the people out back. SkyCam 6 is running aerial footage of him kicking down the fence, going into the neighbor's house and shots being fired. The camera work on the ground is shaky as the crews duck for cover, but you can hear the screams from inside. Lots of covered bodies seen coming out and being placed in ambulances.
The police arrive, and now he starts shooting at them; just goddam unloading on them. They shoot back, forcing him back into his house; he is severely wounded. They tell him to disarm and come out with his hands up. He shoots out the windows and keeps taking potshots at the police.
A tense standoff occurs. 13 hours go by, during which time, the neighborhood Roach Coach arrives on the scene. The police allow the man inside to buy food as a gesture of goodwill. The guy in the roach coach sells him a turkey sandwich for $150 and a can of Coke for $75.
As the standoff continues, we can hear him shooting his family inside. The screams are muffled; sounds like he’s got them down in the basement. A few of them manage to make it out the side and back doors; one or two escape. Most are shot in the back. And as the hours grind on, the shots, and the screams, continue. So do the potshots at the police cordon outside.
Finally, the police realize that they cannot afford to wait any longer. The negotiations have accomplished nothing except to give the lunatic more time to shoot more of his own family members and presumably reload. The only one arguing to continue negotiations is the guy running the Roach Coach: he’s made more money selling $80 hot dogs and $200 ice cream sandwiches for 13 hours than he has in his entire career.
The police make a final offer: come out with your hands up! The response is yet more potshots. The SWAT team gets into position.
They storm the house! Gunfire! Screaming!
The Crazed Loner runs out the front door, lowers his assault rifle at the police, and is cut down in a hail of bullets.
A liberal arrives on the scene, now that the danger has passed and the area is secured. He walks over to the dead lunatic, removes the gun from his hand, pulls back the bolt on the lever…empty! He removes the magazine. Empty too!
“This man could not have hurt anyone,” he shrieks! “The gun wasn’t loaded! He was murdered in cold blood!”
He turns to the TV audience, grabbing the microphone from the reporter…no, wait. Looking closely, I now see that the reporter has gestured wildly for him to step into frame and he is handing him the microphone, smiling, and making ‘go on’ gestures.
“Did he come into the police chief’s home and try to kill him? He did not!!
The liberal is really getting religion now. He visibly shakes; his eyes bulge and his forehead goes white with rage! “The man who ordered this assault,” he screams, spittle flying in righteous indignation, “knew all along that this gun was empty!!”
“He lied!! He lied and people died!!”
There was a time when a person making a statement as ridiculous as that would be tarred, feathered and ridden out of town on a rail. It would have been good for a laugh for all concerned. In fact, if the social consciences of today had one particle of the wit and genius that Mark Twain had, they might have said, as he did: “if it weren’t for the honor and glory of the thing, I’d just as soon walk.”
Sadly, these are different times. Why, just one of these fellers I’ve seen on TV would take the feathers from 150 geese and four miles of highway asphalt to cover adequately.
No, today such mock-serious people drive to work in new Hondas with GREENPEACE stickers on the bumper; they get 35 mpg to your SUV’s 26 mpg, so they are Saving the Planet while you are trading Blood for Oil. See how easy it is?
Remember all the outrage there was from these people about a pre-emptive war? Remember how President Bush was vilified on the left for floating the very idea that in a world of hidden weapons and shadowy, deniable delivery systems that we might have to attack an enemy before he has the capacity to cause us incalculable harm? Remember all the flak he caught for that?
The Cambridge dictionary defines Pre-emptive as something that is done before other people can act, especially to prevent them from doing something else.
So I’d like to know how it is a lie that we didn’t find something we told everyone in advance we were determined to stop pre-emptively. One -– one -- of the reasons for going to Iraq was to prevent Saddam from acquiring and using Weapons of Mass Destruction, weapons that no one denies he once had, he once used, and continuously tried to obtain again. No serious person can deny this.
We have prevented Saddam, and Iraq, from acquiring and using Weapons of Mass Destruction. The only other way to prevent him from doing so would have been to continue the sanctions, and the torture, and the mass murder -– indefinitely. That’s fine, as far as some people are concerned. So long as they don’t have to watch GWB on TV anymore.
It is true that Saddam had managed to convince the President, and the Congress, that he was further along with these programs than he actually was. In fact, it appears that many in his own regime had lied to him regarding this progress, and these lies and communications were intercepted, analyzed, compared to his known previous efforts, and presented to the President and the Congress. Those politicians now howling that President Bush lied to them were accessing the same information he had. The record of them condemning Saddam’s WMD programs has filled volumes. Presumably, even a Congressman is capable of weighing evidence and making his own decision. Page after page after page shows they reached the same decision, based on the same evidence, that the President, the former President, the British Prime Minister, The Secretaries of State and Defense, and countless other bright people from all across the political spectrum had done.
Does anybody actually think that the President would make such a case, knowing full well that no WMD’s existed? Do you honestly think he planned this action based on a lie, and therefore pinned his entire political career and the Nation’s credibility on the hope that everyone in the world would forget if none showed up?
The WMD intelligence was clearly at fault regarding Saddam’s progress toward WMD’s. This does not affect by one particle the fact that Saddam had repeatedly used chemical weapons, had at one time a universally acknowledged nuclear weapons program, and had enormous amounts of biological weapons material the destruction of which he could not provide documentation for. These are undeniable facts.
And if you are one of the people howling with outrage over the fact that significant WMD’s were not discovered, perhaps in the future we can count on your support the next time some genius wants to gut and field dress the entire military intelligence establishment.
Saddam’s progress was irrelevant to the motivation. The man had used them before, and if he obtained them, would use them, or threaten to use them as he has done time and again. He was pre-emptively -– don’t forget the outrage! -– stopped in these designs, and so the risk of an Iraqi nuclear or germ or gas attack on the US or his neighbors has dropped to zero. Maybe the threat was overrated, based on his previous predilections. But that threat is zero now. I spell that M-I-S-S-I-O-N A-C-C-O-M-P-L-I-S-H-E-D.
We’ve become hated overseas for this pre-emptive action, and it often seems to me that this alone is why so many Americans have opposed it; not because it was necessarily the right or wrong thing to do in and of itself, but because it makes us unpopular. This is our vital weakness, this desire to be loved by the rest of the world. How many currently opposed to the War in Iraq would have changed their minds had it been cheered and applauded by the French and the Germans?
But what difference would that have made to the rightness or wrongness of the action?
Consider this: we know, for a fact, from records and interviews with top German OKW (Army High Command -- Oberkommando der Wehrmacht) commanders, that large segments of the Nazi army command structure were violently opposed to Adolph Hitler’s decision to violate the Treaty of Versailles by placing a small contingent of troops in the demilitarized Rhineland. These Generals, in interviews after the war, had agreed that if the French had placed so much as a platoon in their way and contested this violation, Hitler would have been immediately overthrown in a military coup. These officers were astonished that the French made no such response. Hitler knew his enemy far better than they did.
A platoon. 30 or 40 soldiers, applied to simply stand in the way, would have seen Hitler overthrown. So think about this…
What if President Franklin Roosevelt, seeing this failure to enforce Versailles -– which, like UN 1441 et al., was an international agreement designed to contain a militant and dangerous nation -– decided to unilaterally place a regiment or two in the Rhineland and force the Germans to comply with the agreement they had signed?
What would have happened is this: the widespread and extremely vocal pacifist establishment would have decried it as an unwarranted act of aggression against a far weaker foe who was, after all, only moving within the bounds of his own country. We would have been accused of beating up on a poor, battered and defeated nation whose leader had done nothing but build roads and schools and hospitals, all because our President feared the international competition or still harbored a sick desire for revenge against a weak and essentially harmless member of the family of nations.
Americans, rather than being loved as the good-natured liberators of 1944 and ’45, would be hated as swaggering militant aggressors wherever they went. And what would we have to show for it?
Nothing but the prevention of 50-odd million deaths and the destruction of a continent.
I swear to God, you just can’t please some people.
The United States and her many allies went to war in Iraq for many reasons besides preventing Iraq from developing Weapons of Mass Destruction; not the least of which was to give the United Nations a chance to show itself for what many wanted to believe it really was: a champion of world security, willing to enforce its resolutions to preserve peace and stability... rather than a morally, intellectually and financially corrupt debating society with no goal other than tony Uptown addresses for cousins of tin-pot dictators and a chance to bash the West from the pulpit in its very heart.
Two more bear mentioning. I believe that one of the unstated reasons for this war was to return the oil wealth of Iraq to the Iraqi people, to rebuild their infrastructure and fund the restoration of the fabric of their society. To those who claim we launched this war to steal their oil I refer you to your local gas pump.
Oil is an essential resource for modern society. To those on the far left, all I can say is that without oil there would be no trucks to deliver the entitlement checks. The United States remains dependent on foreign oil -– both less so and more so than other industrialized nations. Those of you howling about the improprieties of this as an ethical basis for war had best be reading these words in book form by candlelight. Anyone using electricity to do so while they whine about ethics are hypocrites who as usual want to have things both ways in order to preserve that essential fix of moral superiority that seems to be the only thing to make life worth living for the Bitching Classes.
Liberating Iraq from the depredations of a madman accomplishes many political goals: first, it means we can remove the troops from the Sacred Sands of Saud. They were there, at the Kingdom’s reluctant request, to make sure that Saddam didn’t go postal again and pull a Kuwait to the southwest this time, instead of the southeast. Presumably, this will make the nasty stain on the cave wall at Tora Bora rather pleased. It was the only coherent political demand Osama bin Laden ever made in his life.
More importantly, I believe it is part of the Administration’s daring, farsighted and unspoken vision to establish a replacement supply for Saudi Arabian oil. Once that economic pistol is removed from our heads we will be in a better position to deal with the very heart and source of all this unpleasantness. We pay for the oil and gasoline we use. Being able to send that money via the gas pump to an Iraqi school or hospital, while at the same time putting us gradually into a position where we can ask some pointed questions of our Saudi buddies without fear of economic meltdown… well, that’s just a twofer. But that is a story for another time.
Finally, there is the moral argument. Not just the liberation of Iraq from three decades of fear and torture that reached down to every single person in that poor, battered and abused land. We who have never lived in fear might have expected more from the Iraqis during this past year, but we do not know what three decades of terror will do to a people, and we are having this discussion today because many among us are determined that we shall never know.
When the brave and the bold lie in shallow graves next to their wives and husbands and children, where does that leave Iraq in its search for a Washington or Jefferson, or a Lincoln, or a Roosevelt, a Truman or a Reagan? We who will stand up and fight for freedom do so because it is what our fathers and their fathers have done, and as Lincoln so hauntingly described, the Mystic Cords of Memory do indeed stretch back from every battlefield and patriot’s grave to touch the hearts of we who are alive today. How deep would our courage lie had they been taken out in the night among screams and squealing tires, never to return?
There are many who are claiming that the moral argument came only after the WMD’s turned up missing. Re-reading my own thoughts on this matter, I found them co-existent and roughly equal. Having attacked one side of the rationale for faulty intelligence, they now attempt to discredit the other half for the mortal crime of having not given it top billing.
Again, to the crossroads of our being: the North launched the Civil War to restore the Union. Many in the North opposed abolition at the outset. But the war changed them. And on that night those soldiers turned south toward eventual victory, it was the Battle Hymn of the Republic they were singing.
As he died to make men holy
Let us die to make men free
The war, and its awful arithmetic, had elevated them and Lincoln too. The Better Angels of our Nature had touched us, once again.
The primary reason for us to be in Iraq is not to liberate her people so that they can be free. It is, quite bluntly, to liberate her people so that we can be free.
Freedom, prosperity and progress are antithetical to the Death Cult rising in that region and spreading its hatred and violence throughout the world. Iraq presents an opportunity, a chance, for a different way. A free and stable and prospering Iraq demonstrates to everyone on this Earth that Arab society can be free of both secular and theological totalitarianism alike. A functioning, modern Iraq, where people can live their lives free of fear and oppression, where they can worship as they themselves see fit without imposing their beliefs on a neighbor or having them imposed on oneself, where they can perform the simple miracles of going to work each day, earning a living and coming home to a night of television with the family without knowing terror every second of every day: that is what will set them free.
Syria, Iran, Al Qaeda and all the rest fear this very greatly. If we succeed in Iraq -– we and the Iraqis, together -– they know that their own downtrodden and oppressed people will start asking pointed questions about their own corrupt and joyless societies. And when it is possible to be a Muslim, and have a sense of quiet pride that does not come from death and revenge but from hard work and a safe and prospering family…well, I believe -– we, many of us believe -– that they will follow Frankie’s advice.
They will Choose Life.
They are human, like we are. They will choose life over death. I believe this with all my heart.
My friends and my countrymen, this is one of those rare things worth fighting for. It is worth dying for. It is even worth killing for.
Take the number of people Saddam has murdered in unmarked graves -– at least 300,000 and rising, and add to that the number of his own conscripts he has killed in wars against Iran and the various coalition forces deployed against him.
No less than a million Iraqis have died at his hands. No less than that, surely.
In the twenty-five years or so that he has had absolute power, that averages to 40,000 men, women and children a year -– no less.
This past year, despite the number of casualties we inflicted, there were perhaps thirty thousand Iraqis who were not killed because we invaded that country. Next year there will be forty thousand more -– forty thousand who will survive, and have children, and grandchildren, because we did what we did in 2003. And the year after that, another forty thousand will live. Ten years from now, which in the world of our critics might have been year three of Uday or Qusay’s reign, there will be five hundred thousand people alive -– because of us. Because of what we did. Because of what we are fighting and dying to do today.
Don’t abandon those people. Do not make meaningless the deaths of our own sons and daughters -– and, for that matter, their sons and daughters. We can end this thing for the nearly unbearable, awful, horrific cost of around a thousand American lives -– and not a bill far, far worse, which will come due to us if we fail now. We -– humanity -– can prevail. We must not lose hope. We must not abandon our ideals. Disgrace and dishonor such as Abu Ghraib we can learn from, and correct, and redeem. Do not abandon this fight now. Not while we are winning. Not while success is within our reach but not yet within our grasp. Not this time.
This is the right thing to do. And we must continue to do it. We must.
Find the strength. We have it in abundance. Find it. Hold on to it. In our hearts -– as in the hearts of that very different and yet identical people we have bound ourselves to in this endeavor -– victory and salvation lie. Together, we together -– we are the weapons, we are the targets, and we are the battlefield.
Throughout this collection I have done my best to try and show how deeply my life has been affected by the miracle that is this country and the family that is her people.
We have been doing a lot of arguing lately, this family. Many things have been said in anger. Well, these are critical, dangerous times…we can all agree on that much, at least.
But we are a family, whether we like each other or not. We are in this together. I would never urge any free man or woman to take sides contrary to their principles, and our principles vary as widely as our places of origins, our accents and our skin colors -– no two exactly the same.
I am asking you now, as one voice among millions -– nothing more -– not to cease criticizing the government, the President, or our actions in Iraq. Without the crucible of heated debate among passionate believers, we will lose our way.
All I ask is this:
Do not destroy this house. Do not destroy this house to make a point. It is a magnificent house, a grand and sturdy home to us all. Do not let the stains upon her floor cause you to set her aflame. We have fought amongst ourselves for as long as we have been a people; that will never change, and in its own unpleasant, annoying and wonderful way, it should never change.
But for our sake and for those across the oceans: argue about the paint. Argue about the sleeping arrangements. Argue about how best to wash those stains where they appear.
But for the sake of all who have gone before us here, and all who will come after: help me defend this house.
It is a great pleasure for me to add Belmont Club to the roll of WINGMEN on the right sidebar. I owe a great deal of my current optimism to him and his steadfast and extremely well-thought-out analyses. Wretchard, it is an honor to be on the same side as you.
Well, that's an excellent question.
I'll let you in on something: I post these essays the second I type the last period. It takes me about an hour to format them, and once they are up, I read the essay a lot: five, six, seven times is not unusual. I might read it again within the following 24 hrs as I check the comments. And then I never look at them again. Ever.
Now in talking to other writers, I find that this is not all that uncommon. It's hard to go back over old material, since you see so many things you want to change. Your thinking has progressed since you wrote it. In fact, your thinking has progressed because you wrote it. Anyway, it comes in varying degrees from mild embarrassment to acute pain (and, to be fair, a large number of "that's not too bad" moments, as well.)
With SILENT AMERICA, I seem to have two different classes of essay: the timeless ones like TRINITY and FREEDOM and the dated ones like WAR and CELEBRITY. It's the latter that are blocking my mental.
So I'm going to pull those from the book. And since I have to charge more than I would like for such a small run, I have decided that it is past time for another old-school, Godzilla-sized smack-down essay, which will be next. I believe it will be STRENGTH.
Now, through my shadowy connections to certain High Masters of the Priory of Scion, the Knights Templar, and Your Friendly-Neighborhood Freemason conspiracy, I will -- in addition to my regular job and construction of my airplane -- be studying and flying for my Instrument, Commercial and CFI ratings, all of which I intend to have by the middle of summer. Which means, as usual, I'll be a busy little Steely-Eyed Missile Man.
Next week is an odd week at work, though. I hope to have it somewhere in there. I may have mentioned that I generally write these in one or two marathon sessions; and until then, there is still a little more Cogitating and Pondering to do. So while you are waiting, go read Rachel Lucas and Kim and My Liege Lord and Den Beste and Belmont Club and Little Green Footballs. And if you are really, really desperate and have absolutely nothing worthwhile to do with your time, I suppose you could also go here.
I have never taken more than two sittings to write an essay. STRENGTH will require four, if not five. It's all I think about now, and has been for three days. I can't do anything until it is finished -- it's got its hooks in me that bad.
So hang on. And go to the bathroom while you can.
It may not mean much to some of you new readers, so you'll just have to take my word on it. You old timers know I wouldn't be here without the person on the top of my blogroll, and it looks like that person is -- dare I believe it! -- back.
And not a moment too soon.
Welcome back, kid. It's been a little chilly without you, truth to tell. King of the Asshats has been whining, as usual, and there's been a War on. Cawl me, we'll tawk.
Remember the Alamo! Long Live Texas!
(Oh, and you really should go read this...)
Well, I've been a busy boy these past three weeks. But this time, I've got pictures!
This will hopefully be the last of the 'here's what I ate for lunch today' entries -- there's lots of serious writing to do -- but I thought some of the Tragically Bored out there might be interested in my
cat airplane pictures.
Sun n Fun is the first major experimental fly-in of the year. This was my fourth time, but the first time I attended as an airplane (parts) owner, and I'll be damned if there aren't a whole lot of airplane parts for sale out there, at prices not much greater than a small house. You know that $1.00 / bottle drinking water we all guzzle? Well, if that were AVIATION GRADE water you might expect to pay $349.95 for it.
Here I stand with Surly Gatekeeper and Very Old Friend Steve, aka Great Hairy Silverback, in front of one of his favorite airplanes, the new Adams A500 -- the nose gear on this airplane costs more than my Long EZ (my Long EZ -- ahhhhhhhhhhh...)
Now as it turns out, Big Wheels are turning behind the curtain, back where we NeoCons plan and execute our World Domination conspiracies. I can't go into any more detail without tracking down and killing every last one of you, but suffice it to say that Your Author may be spending some Quality Time in one of these:
This is a Velocity, a four-seat canard much like my Long EZ and much unlike it as well, in that it seats four people (or five jockeys). Two lashed together might be able to haul certain gravitationally-challenged 'documentary' filmmakers (must...STOP...this pettiness...)
Hey, speaking of honor-free anti-American douchebags... there wasn't one in attendance at the entire show. How do I know? Because I saw a lot of people getting all misty-eyed when they saw this:
Both the Air Force and Navy have been doing a bunch of these lately, and a Damn Good Thing it is, too. It's called a Legacy Flight. That's a P-51 Mustang ahead by a nose -- the fighter that sealed the deal in Europe: an agile, deadly, long-range fighter escort. Together with it's older, bigger, meaner cousin, the P-47, it turned the entire country into one giant Target of Opportunity. (Luftwaffe chieftain Hermann Goering said as soon as he heard there were fighter escorts over Berlin he knew the war was lost. He was right!)
Below the Mustang is a Korean-war vintage F-86 Sabre. Not quite the first US operational jet fighter (that distinction belongs to the F-80 Shooting Star), but it was the jet that gave the US Air Force about a 12:1 victory ratio in MiG Alley, and began the USAF's reputation as "the largest distributor of MiG parts in the world."
On top -- and flying damn near as slow as it can -- is the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The USAF ran a Falcon Demo on both days I was there. Folks, when that bad boy rolls in on a high speed pass, 650 knots+, just under the speed of sound -- well, it's just eerie. Eerie because it is absolutely silent, since it is almost outflying it's own sound waves.
Not so damn eerie now, by God!! That bastard just rips the air molecules to shreds. It's a visceral, mind-blowing, jaw-dangling noise, like the velcro that holds the sky up being ripped open right before your eyes. GHS taps me on the shoulder:
"Sound of freedom, baby!"
I reply with, "WHAT?" Looking around, I see about 60,000 people wiping tears from their eyes. Steve nailed it: Sound of freedom, baby!
Keeping one eye on the Falcon ripping holes in the atmosphere, I scream back:
"I hope this is the last sound those murdering sons of bitches heard down in those caves at Tora Bora!"
Steve shouts, "WHAT?"
So I do a little driving on the exciting and challenging Alligator Alley after a day visiting the nephew and then fishing with other brother Steve. A night in Ft. Lauderdale with my sister and my Dear Old Mum, then it's up the equally challenging and exciting I-95 to Melbourne, FL and MY DINNER WITH FRANK J.
I had arranged to meet Frank in an out-of-the-way little barbeque place where neither of us would be recognized. Nothing -- nothing ruins a nice meal like an endless stream of "will you sign this Mr. Whittle?" or "Oh my God! It's him! It's him!"
As I was watching my Sweet Tea crystalize around my straw, I heard the sound of a World War I artillery barrage out in the parking lot! It was Frank J! He arrived in a chopped, Jet-black '57 T-Bird -- and when I say chopped, I mean he had taken a chain saw to the top half of the body from grille to trunk lock. It came a-thunderin' in shooting ten-foot high blasts of flame from the 12 cylinder Merlin engine he had mounted from a Reno Air Race Mustang that had fallen on hard times. The windows blew in all down the side of the restaurant.
I was impressed!
Frank vaulted from the T-bird with easy grace, kissed the 17-year-old Barely Legal Quintuplets once each, deeply, on the lips, and strode into the restaurant like Marshall Dillon on a bad hemmorhoid day. Awesome! It's not easy to walk with a 40mm Bofors Anti-Aircraft Gun in a hidden carry holster and a running chain saw strapped to your right hand like Ash in Army of Darkness, but Frank J. makes it look natural. He is a God among men, that much is obvious immediately.
After a wire-fu spinning entry through the front door and over the partition, Frank joined me at the table with a grunt of acknowledgement and the barest suggestion of a nod. A stunning group of bikini models two tables down started to get up and approach him for autographs; he stopped them in their tracks with a growl like a machine gun chewing through steel pipe.
"Can't let these bitches think they own ya," he muttered, and revved the chainsaw for good measure.
Frank was silent throughout the entire meal. The only sound was of him digging the chainsaw into a half-side of roast suckling pig. He let the blades idle just long enough to rip shreds of meat off the chain with his teeth.
During the entire time, I kept wondering what it was Frank had wanted to say to me. But I was constantly disappointed, as all he did was tear into the pork, drink moonshine from a silver flask that appeared to have a bullet hole plugged with a silver dollar, and smoke and eventually eat a large number of unfiltered Turkish cigarettes. But as for conversation...nothing.
Disappointed, confused, I watched as he finished the meal in silence, shattering a jug of water as he cleaned his chainsaw and leapt, in a single move too fast for the human eye to follow, up onto the table and out the window, into the parking lot.
He motioned me to follow with a sneer.
He snapped the fingers on his bear-like paw, and instantly the T-Bird exploded into fire-breathing fury. Just as I thought he was going to hop in and drive away in a cloud of flame and acrid rubber smoke, he turned to me and whispered:
"Got a karaoke Elvis, there, flyboy?"
I stood there a moment, and as I silently straightened back up to a normal standing position, I saw a single tear slide down Frank's cheek, under his welder's sunglasses. His lip curled into a sneer, but it was quivering, ever so slightly...
"No matter what ah do..." he muttered, "no mattah how hahd ah try..."
He paused, trying to regain control of his breathing. He stabbed at the tear, leaving a horrible gash on his cheek.
"You'n yer website make me'n my website look like a god-damn PUSSY!"
And with that, he lept into his car, burned rubber, and was gone.
I stood there for a long time, listening to the ever-decreasing roar and choked-back sobbing.
A long time.
Truth be told, I did exaggerate a little on the Frank Story.
Fact is, I really didn't wait too long at all after he drove away. As a matter of fact, I had called to get a demo ride in the aforementioned Velocity, which was conveniently only one exit south on I-95. I called GHS in Orlando, and he met me in Sebastian for what turned into a great afternoon.
The Velocity is a blast to fly. Great performance, and a whole lot of room. Plus, there's something cool about the view with the canard out front and the swept wing and winglet behind. Old GHS took the following from the back seat:
Scott Swing, the Demo Pilot, gave me the controls on the climb out. We got to 4k in no time, and the aircraft will do a very nice turn with rudder only, and hold it, too. Sweet! Scott then rolled the damned thing! Awesome! Like rolling a BMW sedan -- only with a happy ending. He gave me the plane again, and I pulled the power back to idle. I'm here to tell you, with that glide ratio, you need a deck of cards to pass the time after an engine failure. Very nice. And the glass cockpit looks like it should -- right out of the Enterprise.
So it was south down the coast for a while at 160 kts, then a nice steep turn and back north at 300 ft., with a climbing chandelle at the inlet! Yeah, yeah! More of that!
Guys like me have this look pasted on our mugs after a flight like that:
GHS, meanwhile, is pondering whether or not to leave his position as World's Greatest Sim Pilot and join the rest of us punters in the real world of crosswinds and really, really high frame rates, even with the scenery set to HUMONGOUS:
Peanut Gallery to Great Hairy Silverback: The answer is GO FOR IT.
So I get back from Florida, go to work for two days, and then the real adventure starts...
Okay, now try to follow the dots here:
This is XCOR:
They are the rocket scientists I wrote about in TRINITY. If you are one of the thousands of multi-millionaires who read Eject! Eject! Eject! with your morning coffee, you need to write them a big fat check RIGHT NOW because they build the rocket engines that can get us into space for less than the cost of a night at the movies for a family of four. Think that's just big talk, hombres? Well then, have a look at this, homeslice:
This is the EZ ROCKET:
It goes straight up, in the words of it's pilot, "like a scalded-ass ape." I've seen it. And all you rich capitalists out there who would like to see this country continue to lead the world in space and technology ought to set aside $24.95 for a book on patriotic essays, and then send anything you have leftover to these fellow capitalists who want to make you rich AND famous.
Now here, in a very rare, undated photo, are the Three Living Legends of Aviation:
On the left, Dick Rutan, pilot of the EZ Rocket, and before that, the Voyager which back in '86 was cleared from Mojave, CA to Mojave, CA -- nonstop, unrefueled, around the world. Combat pilot, non-stop circumnavigation pilot, experimental rocket pilot.
On the right, Burt Rutan: designer of the Voyager, designer of the Global Flyer, designer of what looks to be the world's first private manned space program, and not least, designer of not only the EZ Rocket but also, as a crown jewel, the designer of Bill Whittle's Long EZ.
Center, Bill Whittle, holder of the prestigious FAA private pilot rating.
So I don't think it's any exaggeration to say that the three of us hold the future of manned spaceflight, if not the fate of the very nation, in our hands.
(I actually had the honor to fly backseat with Dick Rutan a few months ago. I was taking turnpoint photos in the back of Dick's blue Long EZ for my Xcor buddies. Dick scowled at me! ME!! I haven't washed my face since then and I don't intend to, either.)
All right, back to the point:
Here is Dan DeLong, Lead XCor Rocket Scientist, standing next to the one-of-a-kind trailer used to transport the EZ ROCKET:
And now, after much ado, here is a picture of me and my other very old friend Fritz, with my Long EZ on the Xcor trailer, somewhere in the middle of goddam Utah on the infernal I-70:
I agree, it looks like a Long EZ came apart in midair and crash-landed on the trailer (never once happened -- thanks, Burt!). And towing the trailer 1000 miles there, and the trailer and airplane 1000 miles back, over the unspeakably brutal and beautiful 11,600 foot summit outside of Denver, in a wheezing six-cylinder 1986 Astro Van with 187,000 miles on it... I have decided to name my adventure 1000 miles at 33 knots: Bill's Long EZ comes home.
And may she never move so slowly again.
So that whole dog-and-pony show was just my way of saying thank you, THANK YOU to those generous and brave souls at XCOR who loaned me, free of charge, their precious, preciousssssssss trailer... the only one in the world built to trailer a Long EZ without 1. Removing the Landing Gear or 2. Applying for a wide load permit.
Thank you thank you thank you.
Here's my Long after unloading at the hangar at Fullerton. The shocked look is due to the realization that I have spent all the money I have in the world on a hollow piece of fiberglass much closer to a large terrarium or planter than an actual airplane:
My friend Fritz has a deep historical passion. (Check out, if you dare, his Warhorse and Militaria Foundation [website design by Yours Truly]) I say this because he seems to think we will have a rear gunner position, as they did in the old WWI biplanes:
We will not be needing a rear gunner position, due to the extensive missile armament I plan to put on the plane.
Finally, here it is all tucked away:
The man in the photo is happy, exhausted, and terrified. There is SO MUCH WORK TO DO!
It's a long way from that, to this:
Yes, it's highly modified, and yes, I have top-flight aerodynamicist and canard builder friends who have and will put the brakes on anything Dangerous (hey Barnaby!) or Terribly Stupid (Richard -- how's it goin'?)
...but we live in an amazing country where dreams come true, don't we?
And out here, under that big sky... a big leap, a lot of hard work...who knows how far you can go?
Thanks to all who made it possible. You know who you are.