A while back I saw the following Pat Oliphant cartoon in a Newsweek magazine while I was waiting for a flat tire to be fixed. The political cartoon in question was printed December 11th, 2006.

Oliphant Cartoon

And now my gripes with this cartoon. Oliphant shows the two soldiers as being pretty ignorant about past military history. The military spends much time reviewing past wars and campaigns. A brand-new recruit might be ignorant of military history, but that reflects more on our public education system than it does military training. Ask the next Marine you meet to name the circumstances around the first deployment of the Marines overseas, and you’ll get an earful about the Barbary Wars. The common liberal belief that our military is filled with morons is far from the truth.

I am also annoyed by Oliphant’s take on the Vietnam War. Oliphant has one of the soldiers say we lost Vietnam disastrously, and the other says we should have just “declared victory and gone home.” This is a dig at President Bush standing on the USS Abraham Lincoln and telling the sailors, “Mission accomplished!” The U.S. didn’t lose the Vietnam War from a military standpoint, nor did it lose because of Presidential ego, as Oliphant states. Instead, Vietnam was lost “disastrously” when Congress chose to yank the funding out from under the troops. Guess what Congress intends to do now to the soldiers in Iraq. Talk about being doomed to repeat history.

And since we’re on the subject of not learning from history, the Vietnam-era military was hamstrung by Congress and by timid commanders who wouldn’t allow the military to do what it does best: kill people and break things. My father served in the U.S. Air Force as a fighter pilot during Vietnam. He has told me about some of the rules of engagement in that war that hampered the pilots from performing to their fullest. They were not allowed to blow up any enemy planes on the ground; the planes needed to be in the air first before our pilots could shoot them down. In a misguided attempt to lessen civilian casualties, an intended target area would be notified by leaflet drops about an upcoming American mission. This gave the North Vietnamese plenty of warning, so they could bring in anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-air missile launchers to mangle and destroy American pilots.

But historical realities don’t really matter to cartoonists like Oliphant. Any idea, however misguided, is a good excuse to denigrate President Bush.

Do you have patience? Can you do without for a while to ensure you get something much nicer later? After our previous move, we realized that we needed a kitchen table. We could have purchased a folding table and chairs for cheap, but my wife and I decided to save up our money each month and hold out for a nice table. After almost a year of saving, I wrote out a large check for a very nice hardwood table and six chairs. We could have had a table much sooner if we had been willing to settle for something cheaper in cost and quality, but we were patient.

When trying to teach the concept of delayed gratification to young kids, I offer them a choice: eat two cookies now, or get a big box of cookies in a few months. For some, the cookies in my hand are much easier to understand than the promise of many more at some distant time. But others, especially older children, are beginning to understand the benefits of patience. Adults demonstrate an understanding of delayed gratification with savings accounts, retirement funds and 401k accounts; you see it every time you hear someone say, “I gotta go to work. We need the money.”

How much are you willing to wait for something? I guess the answer depends on what you’re waiting for and how much you want it. I’m willing to wait a few minutes for my food at some fast-food place, but I wouldn’t wait half an hour. Yet I have no problem with waiting half an hour for my dinner at a nice restaurant. Usually, the bigger the payoff, the more I’m willing to wait. That seems to be common sense. But I have to wonder what sense House Democrats have when they narrowly pass a spending bill that would pull our troops out of Iraq by next year. By broadcasting their unwillingness to wait, they have let the militants in Iraq (and Iran) know that all they have to do is exercise a little more patience, and the U.S. troops will leave — in essence, handing over the reins of a newly-free country to terrorists and thugs.

For now, I give a hearty “thank you” to Speaker Pelosi and the other 217 craven members of the House for letting these murderous thugs know that all they need is a little patience.

Congressman Sam Johnson (R-TX) spoke to the House on Friday, Feb. 16th, 2007, about the House resolution recently passed that disagrees with President Bush’s plan to send 20,000 more troops to Iraq. Rep. Johnson’s remarks reached my attention thanks to a Power Line post. Below is a YouTube video of the Representative’s full comments.

If you don’t want to spend the almost seven minutes watching his speech, here is a hard-hitting part near the end of Rep. Johnson’s address to the House.

We POWs were still in Vietnam when Washington cut the funding for Vietnam . I know what it does to morale and mission success. Words cannot fully describe the horrendous damage of the anti-American efforts against the war back home to the guys on the ground. Our captors would blare nasty recordings over the loudspeaker of Americans protesting back home, tales of Americans spitting on Vietnam veterans when they came home, and worse. I don’t think we should ever, ever let that happen again. The pain inflicted by your country’s indifference is tenfold that inflicted by your ruthless captors.

Our troops and their families want, need, and deserve the full support of this country and the Congress. Moms and dads watching the news need to know that the Congress will not leave their sons and daughters in harm’s way without support.

Since the President announced his new plan for Iraq last month, there has been steady progress. He changed the rules of engagement, removed political protection. There are reports we wounded the number two of al Qaeda and killed his deputy. And, yes, al Qaeda operates in Iraq. It is alleged that top radical jihadist, al-Sadr, has fled Iraq maybe to Iran, and Iraq has closed its borders with Iran and Syria.

The President has changed course, has offered a new plan. We are making progress. We must seize the opportunity to move forward, not stifle future success. Debating nonbinding resolutions aimed at earning political points only destroys morale, stymies success, and emboldens the enemy.

The grim reality is that this House measure is the first step to cutting funding of the troops. Just ask JOHN MURTHA about his slow-bleed plan that hamstrings our troops in harm’s way.

I salute this brave American veteran. Would that we had more like him.

It’s no surprise to read reports that Iran has been involved with the fighting in Iraq. If you have been following the reports of Iraq,
this news shouldn’t be a surprise at all.

So knowing that Iran has been involved in the fighting in Iraq, I was glad to read that Iraq has closed its border with Syria and Iran, but that’s not an easy thing to do when you have over 2,000 miles of border to secure. But it is a good start.

But it’s only a start. If we were really concerned about getting rid of the terrorists and militants in Iraq and turning that country around, we’d let the military do what it does best. For far too long they have had their hands tied. The surge of 20,000 new troops into Iraq is a good plan, and it has already yielded good results with Moqtada al-Sadr fleeing to Iran.

But our Democrat “leadership” is fighting the surge, but they have already shown that they have no victory plans for Iraq.

That’s about what I expect from Democrats, but what really troubles me is the comments President Bush has made that we can negotiate diplomatically with Iran to solve the conflict there. If Neville Chamberlain were alive today, I believe he could offer some advice to President Bush about achieving “peace for our time” when negotiating with madmen. Cox and Forkum have sadly nailed our President’s idea of limited engagement with those who are fighting us.

Limited Engagement

The next time you talk to a liberal who is complaining about the war in Iraq, try this — ask him to define the Democrat party’s plan for victory. I guarantee you that the responses you hear will boil down to one common theme: pulling out of Iraq. Cox and Forkum nail this “victory” strategy well:

Losing Strategy

Pulling out of Iraq is not a strategy for victory. It is what is generally known as “running away,” which is a synonym for “losing.” When you point this fact out to your liberal friend, be prepared to hear all manner of reasons why “advancing to the rear” is not the same as “running away.” But liberals don’t have to feel alone in running away from a fight. President Reagan did it when he ordered the troops out of Lebanon after the 1983 Beirut bombing, and President Clinton did it when he pulled the U.S. forces from Somalia after the battle of Mogadishu. These “retrograde motions” confirmed in the mind of a certain Saudi the idea that the United States military was a paper tiger. He said, “After a few blows, [America] forgot all about those titles and rushed out of Somalia in shame and disgrace, dragging the bodies of its soldiers.”

Do you really want to encourage the people who want to see you dead? I don’t, but the Democrats in Congress do, as Cox and Forkum again make clear:

War Power

The Democrats in Congress don’t have a strategy for winning in Iraq. Heaven help us if they muster the numbers needed to pull the plug and show to our enemies that we are indeed a paper tiger.

Saddam Hussein is dead. After being found guilty of the deaths of 148 Shi’a Muslims from the Iraqi town of Dujail, the former Iraqi dictator and convicted mass murderer was executed by hanging. I believe in the death penalty, and I have to believe that an execution carried out less than two months after a conviction would act more as a deterrent than our current run of 20+ years on death row. But while I believe in the death penalty, I am also saddened by the death. When Odai and Qusai Hussein and later al-Zarqawi were killed, I didn’t use their deaths as an excuse to rejoice. Rather, I always feel sorrow for the lives that they could have led, and also that they have forever missed the chance to change their lives for the better.

Now that Saddam is dead, I can see Iraq actually changing for the better. Those who have dreamed of a victorious Saddam reclaiming power have had their hopes dashed, but now they can choose to work with the system rather than against it. Those who have had nightmares of Saddam returning to power may now stand up straight in the knowledge that he will never return. But now the Iraqis have no excuse not to take part in their own government. I am reminded of what Benjamin Franklin told a woman who asked him what type of government had been created by the Constitutional Convention. He replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” The Iraqis have a free country, if they can keep it. And time will tell if they are able to successfully do that, with Sunnis and Shi’as hating and killing each other, and Iran meddling.

Le roi est mort, vive Iraq!

This is an article in the series A Look Into Islam.

We are getting some very cheery news out of Iraq these days:

Shiite militiamen grabbed six Sunnis as they left Friday worship services, doused them with kerosene and burned them alive near an Iraqi army post. The soldiers did not intervene, police Capt. Jamil Hussein said.

The savage revenge attack for Thursday’s slaughter of 215 people in the Shiite Sadr City slum occurred as members of the Mahdi Army militia burned four mosques, and several homes while killing an unknown number of Sunni residents in the once-mixed Hurriyah neighborhood.

Shiites killing Sunnis — Sunnis killing Shiites. It’s a nice cycle of violence that stretches back for centuries, and this long cycle is part of the violence we see in Iraq. So how critical is knowing the differences between Shi’a and Sunni forms of Islam to understanding the situation in the Middle East? Some people think it is important, as you can tell from this “Bush is a moron” post on Daily Kos: “Bush didn’t know there was a difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims as late as January 2003.” I can still feel the “yuk yuk – what a moron” vibes almost a year after it was first posted. But the KosKids aren’t the only ones using the meme that we need to understand the differences between Shi’as and Sunnis. Jeff Stein of the New York Times recently published an opinion piece about knowing the differences.

FOR the past several months, I’ve been wrapping up lengthy interviews with Washington counterterrorism officials with a fundamental question: “Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?”

A “gotcha” question? Perhaps. But if knowing your enemy is the most basic rule of war, I don’t think it’s out of bounds. And as I quickly explain to my subjects, I’m not looking for theological explanations, just the basics: Who’s on what side today, and what does each want?

After all, wouldn’t British counterterrorism officials responsible for Northern Ireland know the difference between Catholics and Protestants? In a remotely similar but far more lethal vein, the 1,400-year Sunni-Shiite rivalry is playing out in the streets of Baghdad, raising the specter of a breakup of Iraq into antagonistic states, one backed by Shiite Iran and the other by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states.

Unfortunately, Mr. Stein lost the power of his analogy when he brought up the Catholics and Protestants of Northern Ireland. How much do you really need to know about the differences between Catholic and Protestant versions of Christianity to understand the decades-long conflict there? And what do these differences have to do with the current situation? Do you think the IRA set up bombs to protest Martin Luther’s nailing up 95 theses to the church doors in Wittenberg? Were Sinn Féin shootings accompanied by leaflets demanding that Protestants accept the supremacy of the Papacy? Or did the conflict have more to do with whether the northern counties of Ireland would be governed by Dublin or London?

Likewise, do the religious differences between Shi’a and Sunni Muslims have much to do with the current conflict in Iraq and the Middle East? When Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim, was in power, he was able to give the minority Sunni population more power than they normally would have had in the majority Shi’a population of Iraq. Now that Saddam’s out and the Sunni power with him, it’s not surprising that there are Shi’a wanting to get some payback. And just as the conflict in Northern Ireland is less about religion than about political struggles, Iraq is likewise a struggle for political control. The religious differences just point up the opposite camps.

So just what are the differences between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims? From my Christian point of view, there’s not much of a difference between the two, but the main point of departure seems to be how the two groups view the succession of leadership after the death of Mohammed in the 7th century. Sunnis, comprising about 85% of the Muslim populace, believe that the first four caliphs to come after Mohammed were Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali. Shi’as, comprising about 10-15% of the Muslim population, believe that the true successor of Mohammed was his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, the fourth Caliph to Sunnis. That’s your main difference, folks. Yes, there are minor differences associated with how the two groups pray and other aspects of their belief, but what is the practical use of knowing that Sunnis pray touching their heads to prayer rugs, while Shi’as pray touching their foreheads to hardened clay from Karbala? Do you think the Shi’as shouted, “Use Karbala clay when you salat, you Sunni heretics!” when they set Sunnis on fire this week?

Jeff Stein finished his article with the following paragraph:

Some agency officials and members of Congress have easily handled my “gotcha” question. But as I keep asking it around Capitol Hill and the agencies, I get more and more blank stares. Too many officials in charge of the war on terrorism just don’t care to learn much, if anything, about the enemy we’re fighting. And that’s enough to keep anybody up at night.

If you ever have someone give you the “gotcha” question about the differences between Sunnis and Shi’as, here’s how you can answer: “Yes, I know the differences. Can you explain to me what particular aspect of those differences is causing them to kill each other?”

But there is one major difference between the two groups that is well worth understanding, and that is knowing which nation or group belongs to which camp. The map below shows the areas of Sunni Muslims in light green, while Shi’a areas are dark green.

Muslim distribution

This is important because of the three nations that have Shi’a populations: Iraq and Iran with their majority Shi’a populations, and Syria’s minority. Syria and Iraq had political ties through their common Sunni Ba’ath parties. Iraq and Iran have religious ties with their majority Shi’a populations. With the fall of Saddam Hussein and the Sunni controlled Ba’ath party in Iraq, their is a Shi’a non-Ba’ath nation between Iran and Syria. While there are religious differences, the main question now regards which group will rule and exert political control.

So how easy is it to tell the difference between a Sunni and a Shi’a? It can be difficult. Here are three pictures. Can you tell the religion of these people?

Who am I?Who am I?

So, who are these people? Have you guessed right? Drag your mouse over the text below to see the answers:

Left image: Shi’a. Specifically, this is Ayatollah Khomeini.
Right image: Sunni.

How did you do? OK, one last test. Can you identify the religion of these people?

Who am I?

Answer: These people are Sikh, not Muslim at all. The name of the religion is properly pronounced “Sick,” not “Seek” as the Western media often do.

For more information, you can watch this interesting video. And speaking of videos, I’ll close off this way-too-serious post with a humorous video from the British comedy show “Goodness Gracious Me” about three Eastern religions.

UPDATE (11/28/2006 10:56:33 AM): Yep, I completely flip-flopped Sunnis and Shi’as in Iraq. Now fixed.

I heard a snippet tonight of Glenn Beck‘s reaction to Democrats taking over Congress, and I think he has raised a very interesting point. People are saying that the switch in power was all because of the fighting in Iraq, and the Democrats are talking about cutting and running from there. Not that you’ll hear many say exactly that. They’ll talk about strategic redeployment or focusing our actions elsewhere, but it all amounts to their wanting to yank the military out of Iraq. But since they are announcing their desire to pull out, there is one question that the Democrats are not asking themselves:

What will be the reaction of the terrorists when they hear the Democrats want to pull out of Iraq?

Do you think they will throw up their hands in despair and give up fighting? Or will this news stiffen their resolve to hang on just a little bit longer? I’ll let you think that over.

Just before the 2004 election, a Johns Hopkins research study was released stating that about 100,000 Iraqi civilians had died in the year and a half after the invasion of Iraq. The “research” announced in 2004 was conducted by talking to about 900 Iraqi families. Based on what they said about births and deaths, the “research” estimated the death rate for Iraq to be between 8,000 and 194,000 deaths. How did they come up with the announced 98,000 deaths? Well, if you divide 194,000 by 2 and round up, you arrive at the magical number. Not surprisingly, this figure was accepted as gospel truth by people who hate President Bush and our actions in Iraq.

Roll the clock forward to another election year, and — surprise, surprise — there is another Johns Hopkins research study released, this time claiming that 655,000 Iraqis have died because of the U.S. invasion and aftermath. Here is the way Gilbert Burnham, a researcher for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland, explains the methodology behind the new numbers:

Our total estimate is much higher than other mortality estimates because we used a population-based, active method for collecting mortality information rather than passive methods that depend on counting bodies or tabulated media reports of violent deaths.

So Johns Hopkins researchers do a better job because they have an “active” method of research of talking to a few people and then applying a WAG, while others use a clearly inferior and “passive” method of actually counting dead bodies and listening to news reports of dead bodies. How passé!

What do we have here? It is clear that the number this time is just as made up as the earlier number, and both announcements beg the question: where are all the bodies? If 1 out of 20 Iraqis have died violently in the last three years, why aren’t there dead bodies lying all over the place? How about this question — where’s the proof?

Since Johns Hopkins researchers feel it is fine to invent their “research” numbers, why are they releasing their guestimation now? Here’s a clue about the timing from the news report that announced the research:

The work updates an earlier Johns Hopkins study — that one was released just before the November 2005 presidential election. At the time, the lead researcher, Les Roberts of Hopkins, said the timing was deliberate. Many of the same researchers were involved in the latest estimate.

Note the part I bolded — this “research” was released just before elections in a blatant attempt to affect the vote. Because Johns Hopkins is willing to invent these numbers to influence the elections, how much are you willing to believe any other research that originates from Johns Hopkins in the future?

In closing, here is the cartoon created by Chris Muir of “Day by Day,” mocking the “research” by Johns Hopkins.

Day by Day

There’s only one problem with the cartoon — judging by the way the “research” from Johns Hopkins arrives just before an election, we can expect to see another report from them a month or two before the 2008 election, not in 2007.

UPDATE (10/13/2006 8:24:54 AM): And again Cox and Forkum do a wonderful job of showing the silliness of the “research.” They have some great links on their page.

Survey Says

I admire the combined skills of Cox and Forkum to clarify a complex situation with a single political cartoon. The latest example of their skill is titled “Bailing Out.”

Bailing Out

Whether or not you like the reasons for going into Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein, the fact is that we are there now. And we have two options: either we can finish the job, or we can cut and run. President Bush is calling for us to stay the course and finish the job, but the Democrats and liberals in this nation have been calling for the U.S. to run from Iraq. You can call this withdrawal whatever you like, but it would remain a failure for the U.S. and a victory for the terrorists who want to kill us.

Since this is my blog, I’m going to quote something I wrote over a year ago:

Jim Quinn of the Warroom radio show finds it interesting and telling how the Leftists in this country are aligning themselves with the very terrorists we are fighting. Who wants an immediate withdrawal of Coalition forces from Iraq? The Leftists and the terrorists. Who points out every death in Iraq as an American failure? The Leftists and the terrorists. And who wants the U.S. to fail in its goal of helping to create a free and peaceful Iraq? The Leftists and the terrorists. I can safely state that Leftist want the U.S. cause to fail because that is the way they have aligned themselves. They have not stood up for the fight, and there will be no political benefit from their opposition views if Iraq becomes a free nation. The only way the Leftists will get any political benefit from this war is if the U.S. suffers another Vietnam-like defeat. That is why they are yammering for a withdrawal plan — because they wish to make this war into another Vietnam.

Oh, but don’t you question their patriotism.

A generation from now, how will liberals respond when their grandchildren ask them what they did during the Iraq war? Will they admit that they stood for the terrorists and their rights? Will they stand proudly and proclaim how they did everything they could to oppose President Bush and the military? Will they happily state that they were more concerned with a faked story of a flushed Koran than with the real stories of videotaped beheadings?

I don’t question their patriotism — I question their allegiance.