The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

The thoughts expressed here are my personal thoughts and sometimes reflect my political views. As a private citizen I have every right to express these views.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

All the news that fits our agenda

Watching, listening to, or reading the "news" these days can be a frustrating experience. I suppose I'm most bothered by the underlying political correctness in the reporting, occasionally very obvious but more often fairly subtle. Probably the most apparent symptom of this PC reporting is manifest in the news that simply never gets reported or, at best, is under-reported, buried in the back pages of newspapers or given short shrift by news anchors. And in some stories, usually those too big to be ignored completely, certain relevant details are intentionally omitted because they conflict with the media's PC-based agendas.

Let me address a few recent events that received mixed coverage in the news. Had you heard about these events? Did you get the whole story?

Nigeria is the most populous African nation with an area somewhat larger than the state of Texas. A little more than half the population is Muslim and a little less than half is Christian. Most of the Muslims live in the northern part of the country while most Christians live in the south.

A few days ago a radical Islamist group called "Boko Haram" -- a phrase which in the local language means "Western education is a sacrilege" -- armed with guns and bombs went on a killing spree in several Nigerian cities. According to the Red Cross, over 100 people were murdered. What most news stories didn't mention is that among this terrorist group's main targets were Christian churches, several of which they destroyed during their rampage. Although Boko Haram speaks of government corruption (very real in Nigeria and most of Africa) as the reason for these attacks, when you read what the group posts on the web, it's apparent their true motives are centered on the imposition of Sharia Law in Nigeria. Here's a link to a rather confusing blog by a member of Boko Haram: ISLAMIC

Just months ago the people of Egypt, seemingly with the support of the country's military, managed to overthrow the authoritarian regime of Hosni Mubarak. Immediately the country was held up as the poster boy for an "Arab Spring" that would certainly bring democracy and tolerance and moderation to the Middle East.

Unfortunately it looks as if Egypt is moving quickly from spring all the way to winter as the military government reverts back to the Mubarak's repressive tactics. Even worse, though, the military seems to be catering to the Islamists as evidenced by the military's recent attacks on Christians outside the state TV studios. The Christians were protesting the lack of justice because the government seemed uninterested in investigating or prosecuting a recent church burning by Islamists. Since Mubarak's overthrow attacks on Christians and their churches have increased dramatically.

In this latest incident, just a month ago, 28 protesting Coptic Christians were killed and several hundred wounded when government troops ran over many of them with armored vehicles and shot others. As you might expect, the government has completely absolved the military of any responsibility in these deaths, blaming them instead on unnamed third parties. This despite many videos of military vehicles crushing Christian demonstrators. And now the military government responsible for these deaths is bringing charges against -- you guessed it -- the Christian demonstrators. 34 of them are being held in prison before their trails. Many of these defendants are underage or wounded, and all lack proper medical care and food. How much of this did you hear on the evening news?

Don't watch the below video if you have a weak stomach. It is just a one-minute clip, but it's typical of many other videos taken that same evening showing Egyptian Army vehicles running over many other Christian demonstrators.


Egypt, of course, isn't the only North African nation with a questionable future. Libya is no longer suffering under the repressive regime of Colonel Muammar el Qaddafi, but will the next government be an improvement or will it be even more repressive? Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the leader of the National Transitional Council has declared that the new Libya will have as its foundation Sharia Law. In doing so he made specific reference to eliminating interest charges by banks and any restrictions on the number of wives a Libyan man may have. The latter, of course, is no boon to the rights and dignity of women. And, confusingly, the proposed constitution promises non-Muslims freedom of religion, while at the same time fully embracing Sharia Law as the law of the land. Anyone familiar with Sharia Law recognizes the incompatibility here.

Even more problematic is the continued presence of Al Qaeda among the rebels who took part in the overthrow of Qaddafi. One thing we know for certain: any Al Qaeda-connected rebels will never relinquish their weapons. And if Al Qaeda manages to establish a presence in the new government, I would expect them to attempt to seize full power rather quickly. And then imagine this worst case: an Al Qaeda controlled Libya with billions of oil money pouring into its coffers every month.-

Of course Qaddafi would not have been overthrown without the overwhelming support of NATO weapons and air power. NATO planes carried out 26,000 sorties, including nearly 10,000 strike missions. More than 1000 tanks, vehicles and guns were destroyed, along with Qaddafi's command and control network in Tripoli, Bani Walid and Sirte. Without this enormous assistance, Qaddafi would quite likely have wiped out the rebels in a few weeks. But did you know that we also sent in Jihadists to assist the rebels? That's right, according to AsiaNews:

"Making a democratic future that more unlikely is the presence of Jihadist groups sent in by some NATO countries, most notably the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an extremist group led by Abdelhakim Belhaj, a Libyan Berber with a past among the mujahedeen who fought the Soviets in the 1980s in Afghanistan. After his capture in 2003, he became a collaborator of the Libyan regime and now is serving the Americans."
What an intricate web we weave. Let's hope that we don't get caught up in it ourselves.By the way, the Vatican's Apostolic Vicar to Libya predicted worse things to come for the Christians of Libya if Qaddafi were overthrown. I expect we'll soon see how prescient he was.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying Colonel Qaddafi was a good guy. Far from it. From all indications he was a murderous megalomaniac who certainly deserved to be removed from power...and I'm happy he's gone.  But when we support such an effort -- and it would not have succeeded without US military and command and control assets -- we should also be certain that those we're supporting won't later present us with an even more dangerous foe.

And then there's the manner of Qaddafi's rather grisly death. The evidence is overwhelming that he was summarily shot by his captors not long after he surrendered. It would seem that the rebels and their fellow travelers have little respect for the rule of law. Given their disparate makeup one might expect this; but I did not expect to hear our Secretary of State declare with delight after hearing the news of Qaddafi's death, "We came. We saw. He died." I expected more of her as the lead representative of the United States in the international community. I suspect she and her boss were relieved that the late dictator would not be given the forum of an international courtroom in the months to come.

I realize a lot of Americans, perhaps even a majority, disagree with me on this, believing that Qaddafi got what he deserved. Well, I suppose that's true from one perspective, but as a military officer I was taught that we had a moral and ethical responsibility to take as prisoners those enemy combatants who surrendered to us. This was something not only required by the Hague and Geneva Conventions, but something we did as law-abiding and moral Americans. Fortunately, in this instance Americans seem not to have been directly involved, but that doesn't mean we should celebrate what would under most conditions be labeled a war crime. Such an act, in which an unarmed prisoner is shot and killed, also violates the most basic principles of Christian morality and can be equated with nothing less than murder.

While discussing this with a friend the other day, he said, "Well, didn't the SEALs do the same thing to Osama bin Laden?" He's right; at least one would think so if you believe what has been stated in the media. The word that was apparently leaked out from certain Washington sources is that the SEALs were given an assassination assignment and simply went in with guns blazing. But the SEALs -- and in the spirit of full disclosure, I will state that I have many SEAL friends and worked with them on a few occasions back in my Navy days -- do not want to be painted as an assassination team, or as "spray and pray" commandos who just blast away at everyone in sight. They state that they intended if at all possible to take bin Laden prisoner but when they entered his room he pulled out a pistol leaving them no choice but to shoot him. The entire remarkable story is in Chuck Pfarrer's new book, SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama bin Laden. Pfarrer is a former commander of SEAL Team Six and knows all those involved in the mission. It's nice to know that the vast majority of our military still make every effort to work morally as they carry out their difficult and dangerous jobs. 

Enough! I suppose the news is always skewed in one direction or another, depending on its source. But these days the media's peddling of disinformation seems to be more blatant than ever, especially when the story involves Christianity and the Catholic Church. And so, if you want some advice about understanding the news, try this broad generalization on for size: believe nothing written about the Catholic Church in the secular media. I have never read an accurate story about the Church in the secular media. The reason? The media sees everything in political terms, while the Church views all in terms of faith. There's a huge difference.





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