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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Hyde/Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment

Fighting for Life in the 109th Congress

The political winds on abortion are changing. Reacting to their election losses, Democrats are trying to fix their party’s pro-abortion image. It may just be talk, but it signals an important public trend toward valuing unborn life.

Clearly, the eight-year debate that ended in the 108th Congress’s partial-birth abortion ban awakened the conscience of the American people. Now Republicans in the 109th Congress must capitalize on that momentum to advance the pro-life agenda.

Buoyed by a public that knows the unborn baby is a human being, we can succeed in building a culture of life that protects the rights of all Americans, born and unborn. It’s wonderful news that the majority of Americans now consider themselves pro-life, and even “pro-choice” Americans favor restrictions such as the partial-birth abortion ban, parental consent laws, and the prohibition of publicly funded abortions.

At the heart of the ban on federal funding for abortions is the democratic principle of freedom of individual conscience that all Americans enjoy—no American should ever be forced to participate in someone else’s abortion. That’s why I am taking the lead to defend conscience protection.

Along with protecting minors, heightening awareness of unborn child pain, and opposing a pro-abortion litmus test for judicial nominees, defending the right of health-care providers to choose not to participate in abortions will be a key part of the life agenda and an early test for the Democrats.

The Hyde/Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment, first enacted last year as part of the fiscal 2005 appropriations bill, clarifies the law to protect the rights of both individual and institutional health-care providers from government discrimination when they decline to provide, refer, or pay for abortions.

The conscience provision must pass again this year in order to stave off legal threats to the nation’s doctors and hospitals aimed at forcing them to provide these services. To counter these attacks, in addition to the appropriations provision, later this session I plan to introduce stand-alone legislation—the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act, which would bolster efforts to defend those in the health-care industry who oppose abortion.

Meanwhile, pro-abortion groups, including NARAL and NOW, are working to defeat conscience protections and any abortion restrictions in their efforts to expand abortion access. For them, 1.3 million abortions a year apparently are not enough.

And they have powerful Democratic allies. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Cal.) is leading the effort to repeal Hyde/Weldon and prevent its inclusion in the fiscal 2006 appropriations bill. We expect a vote on the Boxer amendment by the end of April.

Working to stop Senator Boxer, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is mounting a major grassroots effort to uphold conscience protections. “This matter of conscience rights should be an area of common ground among Senators who disagree on the issue of abortion itself,” Catholic bishops, hospitals, and doctors said in a recent letter to all senators. “Surely, if ‘pro-choice’ has any meaning, it encompasses protection for a choice not to be involved in abortion against one’s will.”

Conscience is not only a life issue but one of individual liberty and religious freedom. Federal law and the laws of 47 states recognize the right of conscience. And 86 percent of America’s hospitals, both secular and religious, choose not to perform abortions. The government must respect that choice.

Together, we can win on conscience and other pro-life initiatives in this Congress. The question is, will the Democrats stand up to the pro-abortion lobby and join us?

Rick Santorum is a United States senator from Pennsylvania and chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

(Murder, Inc.) Planned Parenthood Trying to Hijack Christianity

Homosexual Episcopal Bishop Out to Claim Bible for Abortion-Rights Activists

The logical consequences resulting from the first ever consecration of a homosexual bishop continued to manifest themselves as Bishop V. Gene Robinson of the U.S. Episcopal Church addressed those Planned Parenthood's fifth annual prayer breakfast in Washington on Friday April 15th.

The Washington Times carried a news article in which Rev. Robinson was reported as directing his comments against "people of faith" and suggested that Planned Parenthood should target them so as to "promote abortion rights and comprehensive sex education".

The main theme of Robinson's comments dealt with the reasons surrounding last year's election results in the United States. The large number of people who voted for President Bush was, according to Robinson, a result of the disconnect between religious people and the pro-abortion mindset, saying, "In this last election we see what the ultimate result of divorce from communities of faith will do to us."

Robinson believes that the only way to defend the pro-abortion mindset is to reach out religiously. He noted that, "our defense against religious people has to be a religious defense. ... We must use people of faith to counter the faith-based arguments against us."

In essence Robinson is advocating the complete reinterpretation of the Scriptures. He is quoted in the Times article as saying "We have allowed the Bible to be taken hostage, and it is being wielded by folks who would use it to hit us over the head. We have to take back those Scriptures," he said. "You know, those stories are our stories. I tell this to lesbian folk all the time: The story of freedom in Exodus is our story. ... That's my story, and they can't have it. … We need to teach people about nuance, about holding things in tension, that this can be true and that can be true, and somewhere between is the right answer. It's a very adult way of living, you know. What an unimaginative God it would be if God only put one meaning in any verse of Scripture."

Rev. Robinson gained worldwide notoriety in 2003 when he was elevated to the office of bishop within the Episcopal Church (known as the Anglican Church outside the U.S.). Robinson had left his wife and two young daughters in 1986 and moved in with a man. His stand on abortion, however, mirrors faithfully the Episcopal Church's position on abortion, adopted in a resolution during its 71st General Convention in 1994, stating: "While we acknowledge that in this country it is the legal right of every woman to have a medically safe abortion, as Christians we believe strongly that if this right is exercised, it should be used only in extreme situations. We emphatically oppose abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection, or any reason of mere convenience."

Planned Parenthood has made limited inroads in subverting the Christian faith. The Rev. Ignacio Castuera, a Methodist and Planned Parenthood's national chaplain, indicated that the size of their clergy network, numbers around 1,400 pastors and clergy, mostly on the East and West coasts. However, Mr. Castuera said, "when you move further into the country it gets harder. ... In the center of the country we have a lot more conservative perspectives on the Bible and sex."

The comments and activities by Rev. Robinson and other clergy are not going unchallenged however. David Bereit, national director of Stop Planned Parenthood (Stopp), an organization that espouses the belief that life begins at conception and that abortion is murder, said his organization is "not going to allow Planned Parenthood to hijack Christianity." According to the Washington Times, Mr. Bereit said his group will work to build coalitions of churches who will then try to remove Planned Parenthood materials from public school sex education courses and lobby government against funding the group.

Washinton, D.C., April 18, 2005 (LifeSiteNews.com)

Ratzinger is Right On

Ratzinger, in Final Pre-Conclave Homily, Warns Cardinals of a “Dictatorship of Moral Relativism” in the Church and the World

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the dean of the College of Cardinals, made a last public appearance at a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica before entering the conclave to vote on the successor to John Paul II. In his homily, the Cardinal who served the Church as the guardian of doctrine for 24 years, warned the Cardinals that the Catholic Church must not become prey to modern moral relativism or ideological trends. Continuing a theme Ratzinger has been developing in books, articles and interviews over the last yew years, he warned again of the advance of anti-Catholic secularism both outside and within the Catholic Church.

He said, “A dictatorship of relativism is being formed, one that recognizes nothing as definitive and that has as its measure only the self and its desires.”

The 'Pro-Eligendo Romano Pontefice' (to elect Roman pontiff) Mass is traditionally celebrated just before the Cardinal electors go into seclusion. Cardinal Ratzinger, who has been labeled by the secular media as a ‘rigid archconservative’ for his unyielding defence of Catholic religious assertions, said in his homily that the Church must not be subject to the changing winds of ideological fashion. He said, “Having a clear faith, according to the Creed of the Church, is often labeled as fundamentalism.”

In recent decades, Ratzinger said, the Catholic Church has been “thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertarianism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so on. Every day new sects arise.”

The Cardinal’s homily illustrates the Catholic Church’s most serious problem, that of heresy and apostasy within its own ranks. Since the end of the Second Vatican Council, Cardinals, bishops and innumerable priests have freely ignored, re-defined or even denied some of Catholicism’s most essential doctrines, including those regarding the nature of God and Jesus Christ.

Ratzinger’s surprisingly frank exposition of this threat to the Catholic Church is a warning and a reminder to the Cardinal electors that only a fully believing Catholic can be elected as Pope. Many of the Cardinal electors themselves, however, identify themselves with the so-called ‘liberal’ camp in the Church.

In Catholic teaching, Liberalism was a movement that arose in theological circles in the wake of the French Revolution and its teachings were condemned as heretical by a succession of popes. By the beginning of the 20th century, it had coalesced into the heresy known as Modernism which was suppressed by Pope Pius X. After the Second Vatican Council of the early 1960’s, however, the dormant liberal heresies in the Church reappeared, especially in Europe and North America.

Among the Cardinals are a number of liberals who have at least implicitly repudiated a number of key Catholic doctrines such as the inerrancy of the scriptures, the reservation of the priesthood to men, the necessity of the Church for salvation, or even the bodily resurrection of Christ. Papal documents dating to the 16th century confirm that the election of a heretic would invalidate a papal election. Heresy is defined as the formal denial or doubt by a baptized person of any truth of the Catholic faith.

Speaking, perhaps, to the ‘liberal’ faction, Ratzinger told the Cardinals, “An 'adult' faith does not follow the waves of fashion and the latest novelties; an adult and mature faith is profoundly rooted in friendship with Christ... We must bring this adult faith to maturity, to this faith we must lead Christ's flock.”

Ratzinger has written that the Catholic Church of the 21st century must likely reconcile itself to being smaller and less powerful in geopolitics while leaving less room for internal dissent.

ROME, April 18, 2005 (LifeSiteNews.com)

US Scatters Bases to Control Eurasia

The United States is beefing up its military presence in Afghanistan, at the same time encircling Iran. Washington will set up nine new bases in Afghanistan in the provinces of Helmand, Herat, Nimrouz, Balkh, Khost and Paktia.

Reports also make it clear that the decision to set up new US military bases was made during Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's visit to Kabul last December. Subsequently, Afghan President Hamid Karzai accepted the Pentagon diktat. Not that Karzai had a choice: US intelligence is of the view that he will not be able to hold on to his throne beyond June unless the US Army can speed up training of a large number of Afghan army recruits and protect Kabul. Even today, the inner core of Karzai's security is run by the US State Department with personnel provided by private US contractors.

Admittedly, Afghanistan is far from stable, even after four years of US presence. Still, the establishment of a rash of bases would seem to be overkill. Indeed, according to observers, the base expansion could be part of a US global military plan calling for small but flexible bases that make it easy to ferry supplies and can be used in due time as a springboard to assert a presence far beyond Afghanistan.

Afghanistan Under Control?

On February 23, according to the official Bakhter News Agency, 196 American military instructors arrived in Kabul. These instructors are scheduled to be in Afghanistan until the end of 2006. According to General H Head, commander of the US Phoenix Joint Working Force, the objective of the team is to expedite the educational and training programs of Afghan army personnel. The plan to protect Karzai and the new-found "democracy" in Afghanistan rests on the creation of a well-trained 70,000-man Afghan National Army (ANA) by the end of 2006. As of now, 20,000 ANA personnel help out 17,000-plus US troops and some 5,000-plus North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops currently based in Afghanistan.

In addition, on February 28, in a move to bring a large number of militiamen into the ANA quickly, Karzai appointed General Abdur Rashid Dostum, a regional Uzbek-Afghan warlord of disrepute, as his personal military chief of staff. The list of what is wrong with Dostum is too long for this article, but he is important to Karzai and the Pentagon.

Dostum has at least 30,000 militiamen, members of his Jumbush-e- Milli, under him. A quick change of their uniforms would increase the ANA by 30,000 at a minimal cost. Moreover, Dostum's men do not need military training (what they do need is some understanding of and respect for law and order). Another important factor that comes into play with this union is the Pentagon-Karzai plan to counter the other major north Afghan ethnic grouping, the Tajik-Afghans.

Since the presidential election took place in Afghanistan last October, Washington has conveyed repeatedly that the poison fangs of al-Qaeda have been uprooted and the Taliban is split. There was also reliable news suggesting that a section of Taliban leaders have accepted the leadership of two fellow Pashtuns, Karzai and US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, and are making their way into the Kabul government.

With al-Qaeda defanged and the Taliban split, one would tend to believe that the Afghan situation is well under control. But then, how does one explain that a bomb went off in the southern city of Kandahar, killing five people on March 17, the very day US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice landed in Kabul on her first visit to Afghanistan? And why has Karzai pushed back the dates for Afghanistan's historical parliamentary elections, originally planned for 2004, and then to May 2005, now to September 2005?

One thing that is certainly not under control, and is surely the source of many threats to the region, is opium production. During the US occupation, opium production grew at a much faster rate than Washington's, and Karzai's, enemies weakened. In 2003, US occupied Afghanistan produced 4,200 tons of opium. In 2004, US occupied and semi-democratic Afghanistan produced a record 4,950 tons, breaking the all-time high of 4,600 tons produced under the Taliban in the year 2000.

Though the problem is known to the world, the Pentagon refuses to deal with it. It is not the military's job to eradicate poppy fields, says the Pentagon. Indeed, it would antagonize the warlords who remain the mainstays of the Pentagon in Afghanistan, say observers.

Back on the Base

When all is said and done, one cannot but wonder why the new military bases are being set up. Given that al-Qaeda is only a shadow of the past, the Taliban leaders are queuing up to join the Kabul government, and the US military is not interested in tackling the opium explosion, why are the bases needed?

A ray of light was shed on this question during the recent trip to Afghanistan by five US senators, led by John McCain. On February 22, McCain, accompanied by Senators Hillary Clinton, Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham and Russ Feingold, held talks with Karzai.

After the talks, McCain, the No 2 Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was committed to a "strategic partnership that we believe must endure for many, many years." McCain told reporters in Kabul that America's strategic partnership with Afghanistan should include "permanent bases" for US military forces. A spokesman for the Afghan president told news reporters that establishing permanent US bases required approval from the yet-to-be-created Afghan parliament.

Later, perhaps realizing that the image that Washington would like to project of Afghanistan is that of a sovereign nation, McCain's office amended his comments with a clarification: "The US will need to remain in Afghanistan to help the country rid itself of the last vestiges of Taliban and al-Qaeda." His office also indicated that what McCain meant was that the US needs to make a longterm commitment, not necessarily "permanent" bases.

On March 16, General Richard Myers, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said no decision had been reached on whether to seek permanent bases on Afghan soil. "But clearly we've developed good relationships and good partnerships in this part of the world, not only in Afghanistan," he added, also mentioning existing US bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

A Military Pattern

But this is mere word play. Media reports coming out of the South Asian subcontinent point to a US intent that goes beyond bringing Afghanistan under control, to playing a determining role in the vast Eurasian region. In fact, one can argue that the landing of US troops in Afghanistan in the winter of 2001 was a deliberate policy to set up forward bases at the crossroads of three major areas: the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia. Not only is the area energy-rich, but it is also the meeting point of three growing powers - China, India and Russia.

On February 23, the day after McCain called for "permanent bases" in Afghanistan, a senior political analyst and chief editor of the Kabul Journal, Mohammad Hassan Wulasmal, said, "The US wants to dominate Iran, Uzbekistan and China by using Afghanistan as a military base."

Other recent developments cohere with a US Air Force strategy to expand its operational scope across Afghanistan and the Caspian Sea region - with its vital oil reserves and natural resources: Central Asia, all of Iran, the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the northern Arabian Sea up to Yemen's Socotra Islands. This may also provide the US a commanding position in relation to Pakistan, India and the western fringes of China.

The base set up at Manas outside Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan - where, according to Central Asian reports, about 3,000 US troops are based - looks to be part of the same military pattern. It embodies a major commitment to maintain not just air operations over Afghanistan for the foreseeable future, but also a robust military presence in the region well after the war.

Prior to setting up the Manas Air Base, the US paid off the Uzbek government handsomely to set up an air base in Qarshi Hanabad. Qarshi Hanabad holds about 1,500 US soldiers, and agreements have been made for the use of Tajik and Kazakh airfields for military operations. Even neutral Turkmenistan has granted permission for military overflights. Ostensibly, the leaders of these Central Asian nations are providing military facilities to the US to help them eradicate the Islamic and other sorts of terrorists that threaten their nations.

These developments, particularly setting up bases in Manas and Qarshi Hanabad, are not an attempt by the US to find an exit strategy for Afghanistan, but the opposite: establishing a military presence.

Encircling Iran

On February 28, Asia Times Online pointed out that construction work had begun on a new NATO base in Herat, western Afghanistan (US digs in deeper in Afghanistan ). Another Asia Times Online article said US officials had confirmed that they would like more military bases in the country, in addition to the use of bases in Pakistan (see The remaking of al-Qaeda , February 25).

Last December, US Army spokesman Major Mark McCann said the United States was building four military bases in Afghanistan that would only be used by the Afghan National Army. On that occasion, McCann stated, "We are building a base in Herat. It is true." McCann added that Herat was one of four bases being built; the others were in the southern province of Kandahar, the southeastern city of Gardez in Paktia province, and Mazar-i-Sharif, the northern city controlling the main route to central Afghanistan. The US already has three operational bases inside Afghanistan; the main logistical center for the US-led coalition in Afghanistan is Bagram Air Field north of Kabul - known by US military forces as "BAF". Observers point out that Bagram is not a full-fledged air base.

Other key US-run logistical centers in Afghanistan include Kandahar Air Field, or "KAF", in southern Afghanistan and Shindand Air Field in the western province of Herat. Shindand is about 100 kilometers from the border with Iran, a location that makes it controversial. Moreover, according to the US-based thinktank Global Security, Shindand is the largest air base in Afghanistan.

The US is spending US$83 million to upgrade its bases at Bagram and Kandahar. Both are being equipped with new runways. US Brigadier General Jim Hunt, the commander of US air operations in Afghanistan, said at a news conference in Kabul Monday, "We are continuously improving runways, taxiways, navigation aids, airfield lighting, billeting and other facilities to support our demanding mission."

The proximity of Shindand to Iran could give Tehran cause for concern, says Paul Beaver, an independent defense analyst based in London. Beaver points out that with US ships in the Persian Gulf and Shindand sitting next to Iran, Tehran has a reason to claim that Washington is in the process of encircling Iran. But the US plays down the potential of Shindand, saying it will not remain with the US for long. Still, it has not been lost on Iranian strategists that the base in the province of Herat is a link in a formidable chain of new facilities the US is in the process of drawing around their country.

Shindand is not Tehran's only worry. In Pakistan, the Pervez Musharraf government has allowed the commercial airport at Jacobabad, about 420km north of Karachi and 420km southeast of Kandahar, as one of three Pakistani bases used by US and allied forces to support their campaign in Afghanistan. The other bases are at Dalbandin and Pasni. Under the terms of an agreement with Pakistan, the allied forces can use these bases for search and rescue missions, but are not permitted to use them to stage attacks on Taliban targets. Both Jacobabad and Pasni bases have been sealed off and a five-kilometer cordon set up around the bases by Pakistani security forces.

Reports of increased US operations in Pakistan go back to March 2004, when two air bases - Dalbandin and Shahbaz - in Pakistan were the focus for extensive movements to provide logistical support for Special Forces and intelligence operations. Shahbaz Air Base near Jacobabad appeared to be the key to the United States' 2004 spring offensive. At Jacobabad, C-17 transports were reportedly involved in the daily deliveries of supplies. A report in the Pakistani newspaper the Daily Times on March 10, 2004, claimed that the air base was under US control, with an inner ring of facilities off limits to Pakistan's military.

Ramtanu Maitra writes for a number of international journals and is a regular contributor to the Washington-based EIR and the New Delhi-based Indian Defence Review. He also writes for Aakrosh, India's defense-tied quarterly journal.

By Ramtanu Maitra