"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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

Monday, November 28, 2005

Col. Ted Westhusing Was No Ordinary Officer

A Journey That Ended in Anguish

Col. Ted Westhusing, a military ethicist who volunteered to go to Iraq, was upset by what he saw. His apparent suicide raises questions.

"War is the hardest place to make moral judgments." - Col. Ted Westhusing, Journal of Military Ethics

WASHINGTON ? One hot, dusty day in June, Col. Ted Westhusing was found dead in a trailer at a military base near the Baghdad airport, a single gunshot wound to the head.

The Army would conclude that he committed suicide with his service pistol. At the time, he was the highest-ranking officer to die in Iraq.

The Army closed its case. But the questions surrounding Westhusing's death continue.

Westhusing, 44, was no ordinary officer. He was one of the Army's leading scholars of military ethics, a full professor at West Point who volunteered to serve in Iraq to be able to better teach his students. He had a doctorate in philosophy; his dissertation was an extended meditation on the meaning of honor.

So it was only natural that Westhusing acted when he learned of possible corruption by U.S. contractors in Iraq. A few weeks before he died, Westhusing received an anonymous complaint that a private security company he oversaw had cheated the U.S. government and committed human rights violations. Westhusing confronted the contractor and reported the concerns to superiors, who launched an investigation.

In e-mails to his family, Westhusing seemed especially upset by one conclusion he had reached: that traditional military values such as duty, honor and country had been replaced by profit motives in Iraq, where the U.S. had come to rely heavily on contractors for jobs once done by the military.

His death stunned all who knew him. Colleagues and commanders wondered whether they had missed signs of depression. He had been losing weight and not sleeping well. But only a day before his death, Westhusing won praise from a senior officer for his progress in training Iraqi police.

His friends and family struggle with the idea that Westhusing could have killed himself. He was a loving father and husband and a devout Catholic. He was an extraordinary intellect and had mastered ancient Greek and Italian. He had less than a month before his return home. It seemed impossible that anything could crush the spirit of a man with such a powerful sense of right and wrong.

On the Internet and in conversations with one another, Westhusing's family and friends have questioned the military investigation.

A note found in his trailer seemed to offer clues. Written in what the Army determined was his handwriting, the colonel appeared to be struggling with a final question.

How is honor possible in a war like the one in Iraq?

Even at Jenks High School in suburban Tulsa, one of the biggest in Oklahoma, Westhusing stood out. He was starting point guard for the Trojans, a team that made a strong run for the state basketball championship his senior year. He was a National Merit Scholarship finalist. He was an officer in a fellowship of Christian athletes.

Joe Holladay, who coached Westhusing before going on to become assistant coach of the University of North Carolina Tarheels, recalled Westhusing showing up at the gym at 7 a.m. to get in 100 extra practice shots.

"There was never a question of how hard he played or how much effort he put into something," Holladay said. "Whatever he did, he did well. He was the cream of the crop."

When Westhusing entered West Point in 1979, the tradition-bound institution was just emerging from a cheating scandal that had shamed the Army. Restoring honor to the nation's preeminent incubator for Army leadership was the focus of the day.

Cadets are taught to value duty, honor and country, and are drilled in West Point's strict moral code: A cadet will not lie, cheat or steal ? or tolerate those who do.

Westhusing embraced it. He was selected as honor captain for the entire academy his senior year. Col. Tim Trainor, a classmate and currently a West Point professor, said Westhusing was strict but sympathetic to cadets' problems. He remembered him as "introspective."

Westhusing graduated third in his class in 1983 and became an infantry platoon leader. He received special forces training, served in Italy, South Korea and Honduras, and eventually became division operations officer for the 82nd Airborne, based at Ft. Bragg, N.C.

He loved commanding soldiers. But he remained drawn to intellectual pursuits.

In 2000, Westhusing enrolled in Emory University's doctoral philosophy program. The idea was to return to West Point to teach future leaders.

He immediately stood out on the leafy Atlanta campus. Married with children, he was surrounded by young, single students. He was a deeply faithful Christian in a graduate program of professional skeptics.

Plunged into academia, Westhusing held fast to his military ties. Students and professors recalled him jogging up steep hills in combat boots and camouflage, his rucksack full, to stay in shape. He wrote a paper challenging an essay that questioned the morality of patriotism.

"He was as straight an arrow as you would possibly find," said Aaron Fichtelberg, a fellow student and now a professor at the University of Delaware. "He seemed unshakable."

In his 352-page dissertation, Westhusing discussed the ethics of war, focusing on examples of military honor from Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to the Israeli army. It is a dense, searching and sometimes personal effort to define what, exactly, constitutes virtuous conduct in the context of the modern U.S. military.

"Born to be a warrior, I desire these answers not just for philosophical reasons, but for self-knowledge," he wrote in the opening pages.

As planned, Westhusing returned to teach philosophy and English at West Point as a full professor with a guaranteed lifetime assignment. He settled into life on campus with his wife, Michelle, and their three young children.

But amid the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he told friends that he felt experience in Iraq would help him in teaching cadets. In the fall of 2004, he volunteered for duty.

"He wanted to serve, he wanted to use his skills, maybe he wanted some glory," recalled Nick Fotion, his advisor at Emory. "He wanted to go."

In January, Westhusing began work on what the Pentagon considered the most important mission in Iraq: training Iraqi forces to take over security duties from U.S. troops.

Westhusing's task was to oversee a private security company, Virginia-based USIS, which had contracts worth $79 million to train a corps of Iraqi police to conduct special operations.

In March, Gen. David Petraeus, commanding officer of the Iraqi training mission, praised Westhusing's performance, saying he had exceeded "lofty expectations."

"Thanks much, sir, but we can do much better and will," Westhusing wrote back, according to a copy of the Army investigation of his death that was obtained by The Times.

In April, his mood seemed to have darkened. He worried over delays in training one of the police battalions.

Then, in May, Westhusing received an anonymous four-page letter that contained detailed allegations of wrongdoing by USIS.

The writer accused USIS of deliberately shorting the government on the number of trainers to increase its profit margin. More seriously, the writer detailed two incidents in which USIS contractors allegedly had witnessed or participated in the killing of Iraqis.

A USIS contractor accompanied Iraqi police trainees during the assault on Fallouja last November and later boasted about the number of insurgents he had killed, the letter says. Private security contractors are not allowed to conduct offensive operations.

In a second incident, the letter says, a USIS employee saw Iraqi police trainees kill two innocent Iraqi civilians, then covered it up. A USIS manager "did not want it reported because he thought it would put his contract at risk."

Westhusing reported the allegations to his superiors but told one of them, Gen. Joseph Fil, that he believed USIS was complying with the terms of its contract.

U.S. officials investigated and found "no contractual violations," an Army spokesman said. Bill Winter, a USIS spokesman, said the investigation "found these allegations to be unfounded."

However, several U.S. officials said inquiries on USIS were ongoing. One U.S. military official, who, like others, requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, said the inquiries had turned up problems, but nothing to support the more serious charges of human rights violations.

"As is typical, there may be a wisp of truth in each of the allegations," the official said.

The letter shook Westhusing, who felt personally implicated by accusations that he was too friendly with USIS management, according to an e-mail in the report.

"This is a mess ? dunno what I will do with this," he wrote home to his family May 18.

The colonel began to complain to colleagues about "his dislike of the contractors," who, he said, "were paid too much money by the government," according to one captain.

"The meetings [with contractors] were never easy and always contentious. The contracts were in dispute and always under discussion," an Army Corps of Engineers official told investigators.

By June, some of Westhusing's colleagues had begun to worry about his health. They later told investigators that he had lost weight and begun fidgeting, sometimes staring off into space. He seemed withdrawn, they said.

His family was also becoming worried. He described feeling alone and abandoned. He sent home brief, cryptic e-mails, including one that said, "[I] didn't think I'd make it last night." He talked of resigning his command.

Westhusing brushed aside entreaties for details, writing that he would say more when he returned home. The family responded with an outpouring of e-mails expressing love and support.

His wife recalled a phone conversation that chilled her two weeks before his death.

"I heard something in his voice," she told investigators, according to a transcript of the interview. "In Ted's voice, there was fear. He did not like the nighttime and being alone."

Westhusing's father, Keith, said the family did not want to comment for this article.

On June 4, Westhusing left his office in the U.S.-controlled Green Zone of Baghdad to view a demonstration of Iraqi police preparedness at Camp Dublin, the USIS headquarters at the airport. He gave a briefing that impressed Petraeus and a visiting scholar. He stayed overnight at the USIS camp.

That night in his office, a USIS secretary would later tell investigators, she watched Westhusing take out his 9-millimeter pistol and "play" with it, repeatedly unholstering the weapon.

At a meeting the next morning to discuss construction delays, he seemed agitated. He stewed over demands for tighter vetting of police candidates, worried that it would slow the mission. He seemed upset over funding shortfalls.

Uncharacteristically, he lashed out at the contractors in attendance, according to the Army Corps official. In three months, the official had never seen Westhusing upset.

"He was sick of money-grubbing contractors," the official recounted. Westhusing said that "he had not come over to Iraq for this."

The meeting broke up shortly before lunch. About 1 p.m., a USIS manager went looking for Westhusing because he was scheduled for a ride back to the Green Zone. After getting no answer, the manager returned about 15 minutes later. Another USIS employee peeked through a window. He saw Westhusing lying on the floor in a pool of blood.

The manager rushed into the trailer and tried to revive Westhusing. The manager told investigators that he picked up the pistol at Westhusing's feet and tossed it onto the bed.

"I knew people would show up," that manager said later in attempting to explain why he had handled the weapon. "With 30 years from military and law enforcement training, I did not want the weapon to get bumped and go off."

After a three-month inquiry, investigators declared Westhusing's death a suicide. A test showed gunpowder residue on his hands. A shell casing in the room bore markings indicating it had been fired from his service revolver.

Then there was the note.

Investigators found it lying on Westhusing's bed. The handwriting matched his.

The first part of the four-page letter lashes out at Petraeus and Fil. Both men later told investigators that they had not criticized Westhusing or heard negative comments from him. An Army review undertaken after Westhusing's death was complimentary of the command climate under the two men, a U.S. military official said.

Most of the letter is a wrenching account of a struggle for honor in a strange land.

"I cannot support a msn [mission] that leads to corruption, human rights abuse and liars. I am sullied," it says. "I came to serve honorably and feel dishonored.

"Death before being dishonored any more."

A psychologist reviewed Westhusing's e-mails and interviewed colleagues. She concluded that the anonymous letter had been the "most difficult and probably most painful stressor."

She said that Westhusing had placed too much pressure on himself to succeed and that he was unusually rigid in his thinking. Westhusing struggled with the idea that monetary values could outweigh moral ones in war. This, she said, was a flaw.

"Despite his intelligence, his ability to grasp the idea that profit is an important goal for people working in the private sector was surprisingly limited," wrote Lt. Col. Lisa Breitenbach. "He could not shift his mind-set from the military notion of completing a mission irrespective of cost, nor could he change his belief that doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do should be the sole motivator for businesses."

One military officer said he felt Westhusing had trouble reconciling his ideals with Iraq's reality. Iraq "isn't a black-and-white place," the officer said. "There's a lot of gray."

Fil and Petraeus, Westhusing's commanding officers, declined to comment on the investigation, but they praised him. He was "an extremely bright, highly competent, completely professional and exceedingly hard-working officer. His death was truly tragic and was a tremendous blow," Petraeus said.

Westhusing's family and friends are troubled that he died at Camp Dublin, where he was without a bodyguard, surrounded by the same contractors he suspected of wrongdoing. They wonder why the manager who discovered Westhusing's body and picked up his weapon was not tested for gunpowder residue.

Mostly, they wonder how Col. Ted Westhusing ? father, husband, son and expert on doing right ? could have found himself in a place so dark that he saw no light.

"He's the last person who would commit suicide," said Fichtelberg, his graduate school colleague. "He couldn't have done it. He's just too damn stubborn."

Westhusing's body was flown back to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Waiting to receive it were his family and a close friend from West Point, a lieutenant colonel.

In the military report, the unidentified colonel told investigators that he had turned to Michelle, Westhusing's wife, and asked what happened.

She answered:


T. Christian Miller
Times Staff Writer
Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times


Bush Deserves To Be Impeached

Costly Withdrawal Is the Price To Be Paid for a Foolish War

The number of American casualties in Iraq is now well more than 2,000, and there is no end in sight. Some two-thirds of Americans, according to the polls, believe the war to have been a mistake. And congressional elections are just around the corner.

What had to come, has come. The question is no longer if American forces will be withdrawn, but how soon ? and at what cost. In this respect, as in so many others, the obvious parallel to Iraq is Vietnam.

Confronted by a demoralized army on the battlefield and by growing opposition at home, in 1969 the Nixon administration started withdrawing most of its troops in order to facilitate what it called the "Vietnamization" of the country. The rest of America's forces were pulled out after Secretary of State Henry Kissinger negotiated a "peace settlement" with Hanoi. As the troops withdrew, they left most of their equipment to the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam ? which just two years later, after the fall of Saigon, lost all of it to the communists.

Clearly this is not a pleasant model to follow, but no other alternative appears in sight.

Whereas North Vietnam at least had a government with which it was possible to arrange a cease-fire, in Iraq the opponent consists of shadowy groups of terrorists with no central organization or command authority. And whereas in the early 1970s equipment was still relatively plentiful, today's armed forces are the products of a technology-driven revolution in military affairs. Whether that revolution has contributed to anything besides America's national debt is open to debate. What is beyond question, though, is that the new weapons are so few and so expensive that even the world's largest and richest power can afford only to field a relative handful of them.

Therefore, simply abandoning equipment or handing it over to the Iraqis, as was done in Vietnam, is simply not an option. And even if it were, the new Iraqi army is by all accounts much weaker, less skilled, less cohesive and less loyal to its government than even the South Vietnamese army was. For all intents and purposes, Washington might just as well hand over its weapons directly to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Clearly, then, the thing to do is to forget about face-saving and conduct a classic withdrawal.

Handing over their bases or demolishing them if necessary, American forces will have to fall back on Baghdad. From Baghdad they will have to make their way to the southern port city of Basra, and from there back to Kuwait, where the whole misguided adventure began. When Prime Minister Ehud Barak pulled Israel out of Lebanon in 2000, the military was able to carry out the operation in a single night without incurring any casualties. That, however, is not how things will happen in Iraq.

Not only are American forces perhaps 30 times larger, but so is the country they have to traverse. A withdrawal probably will require several months and incur a sizable number of casualties. As the pullout proceeds, Iraq almost certainly will sink into an all-out civil war from which it will take the country a long time to emerge ? if, indeed, it can do so at all. All this is inevitable and will take place whether George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice like it or not.

Having been thoroughly devastated by two wars with the United States and a decade of economic sanctions, decades will pass before Iraq can endanger its neighbors again. Yet a complete American withdrawal is not an option; the region, with its vast oil reserves, is simply too important for that. A continued military presence, made up of air, sea and a moderate number of ground forces, will be needed.

First and foremost, such a presence will be needed to counter Iran, which for two decades now has seen the United States as "the Great Satan." Tehran is certain to emerge as the biggest winner from the war ? a winner that in the not too distant future is likely to add nuclear warheads to the missiles it already has. In the past, Tehran has often threatened the Gulf States. Now that Iraq is gone, it is hard to see how anybody except the United States can keep the Gulf States, and their oil, out of the mullahs' clutches.

A continued American military presence will be needed also, because a divided, chaotic, government-less Iraq is very likely to become a hornets' nest. From it, a hundred mini-Zarqawis will spread all over the Middle East, conducting acts of sabotage and seeking to overthrow governments in Allah's name.

The Gulf States apart, the most vulnerable country is Jordan, as evidenced by the recent attacks in Amman. However, Turkey, Egypt and, to a lesser extent, Israel are also likely to feel the impact. Some of these countries, Jordan in particular, are going to require American assistance.

Maintaining an American security presence in the region, not to mention withdrawing forces from Iraq, will involve many complicated problems, military as well as political. Such an endeavor, one would hope, will be handled by a team different from ? and more competent than ? the one presently in charge of the White House and Pentagon.

For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president's men. If convicted, they'll have plenty of time to mull over their sins.

Martin van Creveld, a professor of military history at the Hebrew University, is author of "Transformation of War" (Free Press, 1991). He is the only non-American author on the U.S. Army's required reading list for officers.


The Secularization of America's Favorite Holiday

"A problem that will continue to grow unless and until a substantial majority of Americans appreciate both America's religious heritage and the judicial coup achieved soon after World War II by secular extremists twisting the religious clauses of the First Amendment to stop the overwhelming majority of Americans, through their federal and state governments, from supporting religion generally and established a separation of church and state far beyond the institutional separation that America's Founders and the Framers of America's Constitution (including the Bill of Rights) intended."

John Gibson Is Right About The War on Christmas

On the first Sunday after Thanksgiving 2005 I visited Manhattan to go to Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral and to see the displays in the front windows of two famous Fifth Avenue department stores, Lord & Taylor and Sax Fifth Avenue.
The windows were artistically decorated, but certainly not for Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, not children's fairy tales or general concepts.

The Lord & Taylor windows were dedicated to fairy tales, like Rumpelstiltskin, The Princess and the Pea, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Snow White was there, but not the Virgin Mary. There were a few decorated trees in some of the windows, but no Jesus, not even the word Christmas. It was the same at Sax, where the windows focused on concepts like unity, harmony and beauty. Nothing about Christmas.

The decorations for sale on the ninth floor of Sax did not include religious decorations, but if you want a Wizard of Oz ornament, Sax has one. The decorations on the eighth floor of Lord & Taylor actually included one nativity set (imagine that!) and a box of religious cards was on sale too, but the secular progress since last year was substantial.

Manhattan is where Michael Bloomberg, New York City's recently reelected Mayor resides. He bans creches, but not menorrahs (or holiday trees) from New York City's public schools. (He's Jewish, not Christian.)

Please read John Gibson's latest book, The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought. It makes a great Christmas or Hannakuh present. Mr. Gibson deserves great credit for calling attention to a growing problem. A problem that will continue to grow unless and until a substantial majority of Americans appreciate both America's religious heritage and the judicial coup achieved soon after World War II by secular extremists twisting the religious clauses of
the First Amendment to stop the overwhelming majority of Americans, through their federal and state governments, from supporting religion generally and established a separation of church and state far beyond the institutional separation that America's Founders and the Framers of America's Constitution (including the Bill of Rights) intended.

America's Founders were genuinely religious people, and smart. They rejected the idea of a monarchy based on divine right, theocratic government, and secular extremist government. They established a moderate secular government that publicly and gratefully acknowledged God and the dependence of America's government and America's people upon God. They supported religion generally, without establishing an official national religion and with respect for the private right of conscience. The believed that human rights came from God. Thus, America's Declaration of Independence proclaimed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ? That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...." They believed in freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.

They were overwhelmingly Christian. John Adams wrote in 1813 that ?[t]he general principles, on which the Fathers achieved independence, were . . . the general principles of Christianity . . . .? America?s greatest chief justice, John Marshall, proclaimed in 1833: ?The American population is entirely Christian, and with us Christianity and Religion are identified. It would be strange indeed, if with such a people, our institutions did not presuppose Christianity, and did not often refer to it, and exhibit relations to it.? According to Justice Joseph Story, ?Probably at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and of the amendment to it . . . , the general, if not the universal sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience and the freedom of religious worship,? and that ?an attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation.?

Mr. Gibson's book description:

"Yes, Virginia, there is a war on Christmas. It?s the secularization of America?s favorite holiday and the ever-stronger push toward a neutered 'holiday' season so that non-Christians won?t be even the slightest bit offended.

"Traditionalists get upset when they?re told?more and more these days?that celebrating Christmas in any public way is a violation of church and state separation. That is certainly not what the founders intended when they wrote, 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.'

"John Gibson, a popular anchor for the Fox News Channel, has been digging up evidence about the liberal activists, lawyers, politicians, educators, and media people who are leading the war on Christmas. And he reveals that the situation is worse than you can imagine. For instance:

? In Illinois, state government workers were forbidden from saying the words 'Merry Christmas' while at work

? In Rhode Island, local officials banned Christians from participating in a public project to decorate the lawn of City Hall

? A New Jersey school banned even instrumental versions of traditional Christmas carols

? Arizona school officials ruled it unconstitutional for a student to make any reference to the religious history of Christmas in a class project

"Millions of Americans are starting to fight back against the secularist forces and against local officials who would rather surrender than be seen as politically incorrect. Gibson shows readers how they can help save Christmas from being twisted beyond recognition, with even the slightest reference to Jesus completely disappearing.

"The annual debate will be hotter than ever in 2005, and this book will be perfect for everyone who?s pro-Christmas."

A succinct review at Amazon.com rightly focuses on the book's message:

"The point is... to see that in America, there is a great falling away from what our wonderful country was founded upon - belief in the God who made us. Although this falling away was predicted in the Bible millions of years ago, it is comforting to know that there are those of us, like Mr. Gibson, who are not afraid to stand up for the tradition of celebrating the birth of Christ. I commend Mr. Gibson for taking a stand, and I pray that others will follow his lead."

One snide review at Amazon.com typifies the secular extremist twisting that created the problem Mr. Gibson addressed urgently

"Gibson has managed to accomplish what many have tried but few have accomplished; namely, to redefine a commonly used word. In this case, Gibson has somehow managed to define 'oppression' as 'lack of monopoly.' According to Gibson, the continued existence of non-Christians during the winter holidays constitutes oppression of Christianity. Never mind, of course, that the Christian religion probably holds the all-time world record for being oppressed less than any other major religion; it had a remarkably easy road to hegemony. With this book, Gibson hopes to make any non-Christian terrified to express any religious sentiment other than that of the power base."

This is utter nonsense. Oppression is "unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power." The noxious notion that religious holidays like Christmas and Hannukah should be merged into a secular holiday celebrating winter is a secular extremist dream that perverts the word holiday, which means holy day, into something decidedly unholy. Holy means "exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness." We are talking about God, not winter, or spring, or summer, or fall. George Washington, who knew what he was talking about, in his first Thanksgiving proclamation, proclaimed without qualification that "it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor...." Secular extremists deny it.

Another anti-Christian reviewer predictably tantrums and name calls while posing as a defender of non-Christians:

"When I was a kid, my best friend in my public elementary school was a Jew. Yet he was required to participate in the Christmas pagent with everybody else. I cannot now imagine how painful that must have been for him - to be treated like an outsider and an outcast during Christmas, and be forced to do things contrary to his religion. It was unfair. It was wrong.

"Nowadays, our society is even more diverse. We have Buddists, Hindus, Muslims, and so on throughout our society and our schools. Christmas is celebrated solely by Christians, who may one day be a minority in this country. Are we to force non-Christians to celebrate Christmas?

"Mr. Gibson is free to celebrate Christmas however he wants. But he should not spend it trashing the Constitution, nor should he spend it waging war against non-Christians.

"So what if Coca-cola doesn't put Santa on their sugar-water any more, having replaced him with lovable polar bears? Big deal. So what if you can't put a nativity scene in front of the Court House or City Hall? They are everywhere else...it might be nice to get away from them for a while!

"Christmas is the most overwhelming cultural event we have. For one solid month every year we are inundated with Christmas this and Christmas that. Stop with bells, enough with the bells, I hate them bells. Oh little town of Bethlehem, what a shopping mall! Materialism we have heard on high! ENOUGH!

"Somebody should wage war on Christmas! It is just too much every year to endure. Well, at least let's tone it down a little, and remember there are those among us who are not interested.

"Mr. Gibson: you're an idiot."

Mr. Gibson is not an idiot, but the reviewer is an ignoramus in need of instruction on America' history, or worse.

Another reviewer at Amazon.com is much closer to the truth:

"I know that the anti-religious left, as well as people from other supposed noble religions, are filled with hatred for anything Christian, but some of the reviews for this book shocked me even to the point of fear. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to know that anything Christian is mocked and censored by the main stream media. The only time you will see a cross on a character in a television show or in the movies is when that person portrays an evil character. The only mention of Jesus on television or in the movies is when it is said in vain. Mel Gibson was persecuted by Jews for making 'The Passion of the Christ.' My only request is that non-Christians show a little open mindedness to Christians with respect to our Christmas holiday, and allow us Christians to worship our God without the fear of being censored and demeaned."

This review is even closer to the truth:

"First, I want to say that I am surprised at the number of clearly political anti-Christian and anti-conservative short posts allowed to [be] placed here - written by people who give no indication of ever reading this book.

"I have bought this book and have read parts of it. It clearly shows real cases of anti-Christian bigotry and shows readers where they can go to get help if the 'outrage' of handing out candy canes or whatever is attacked in their school or job.

"I also want to address the person in an earlier review who claimed to speak for their Jewish friend who was 'forced' to learn Christmas songs in school. I am a Jew and the son of Holocaust survivors who came to America on a US Army Liberty Ship and went to secular schools, learning such songs as 'Jingle Bells' and 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.' I got to learn about diversity and other people's real, heartfelt faith in God. It didn't stop me from learning Hebrew or knowing who I am. As for that reveiwer who 'knew the pain' of the Jew they claimed to speak for, I say that we all have to learn about cultures we are not familiar with in this world, be that culture from China, Iran, Mexico, England or the Hawaiian Islands.

"I also would rather live in a country that honors the majority of people's religious traditions in its schools than one that only discusses and honors secular/material things. The Jewish person mentioned in the earlier review could have avoided the 'unpleasantness' of learning Christmas carols by attending a Jewish religious school and learning to read the Bible in Hebrew, observing the sabbath, etc. Most people 'offended' couldn't even tell you the common Hebrew term for the Bible, 'Ha Tanach.' Stop pretending that this country wasn't founded on religious faith and Christianity isn't a major part of what formed America culture and still inspires it."

That's exactly what the secular extremists do. And have gotten America's courts to do.

This reviewer said it all very well:

"The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse Than You Thought' by John Gibson is an interesting book in which he argues that the separation of church and state with respect to Christianity has grown far too uncompromising. In this book, he provides examples in which liberal activists have been devising ways to prevent, and/or conceal, the exercise of Christmas in public, while other protecting the exercise of other faiths such as Judaism, Hinduism, and Islam, thus misinterpreting the agenda of the Founding Fathers in their statute that Congress would never create a law respecting an establishment of religion. He also shows that such efforts to prohibit the exercise of Christianity have, for the most part, resulted in failure, as hordes of Americans have begun to fight back against liberal local officials and secularist forces, while also providing ways for readers to prevent the obliteration of Christmas in America.

"In an effort to prove his premise involving a war against Christmas, Gibson shows readers how the ACLU, ADL, and Americans for the Separation of Church and State have all gone to great lengths to effectuate their anti-Christmas campaign. He provides many instances in which these organizations have made desperate attempts to remove all vestiges of Christianity from public life. For instance, we learn that no laws were being passed to forbid Hanukkah and Kwanza decorations in American public schools, whereas we are also taught that officials of the same schools, particularly those located in rural Georgia, had declared it unconstitutional for the word 'Christmas' to be inscribed on school calendars. There was also an incident in which Texas officials forbade a student from distributing goodie bags featuring the inscription: 'Jesus is the reason for the season.'

"In conclusion, `The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse Than You Thought' is a terrific book which will more than likely affect (or anger) a broad range of pro-Christmas readers, as it exposes the outlandish measures being taken by the American government to restrict the expression of their religion while in public. It is also sure to be a valuable resource for anyone interested in the many ways by which the legislative assembly can pass laws that deviate from the purpose of the statutes provided by the Founding Fathers. Moreover, it also provides readers ideas on how they can seek victory in said war. As such, `The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday' by John Gibson is well worth reading and well considering."

Read, consider and act upon it!

Michael J. Gaynor
November 27, 2005 11:58 PM EST

No More 'One-Size-Fits-All' Schooling

Free Market Schools Offer Benefits To Parents, Kids

Last week, Marshall Fritz of the Alliance for the Separation of School and State addressed a Yuma audience on the advantages of free market schooling, and there are many.

In a truly free market, schools can be operated by private individuals, teacher co-ops, for-profit corporations, churches, temples or synagogues. The schools could be completely secular, mildly religious or highly religious. The essence of the free market is not necessarily the presence of a profit motive, but rather the absence of government force and compulsion.

Just like in choosing which food store, car dealer or office supply store to shop at, parents choose the form, degree and content of schooling they believe best for their children. Children are not conceived by the state nor are they mere creatures of the state. Therefore, children ought not to be fed, churched, clothed, entertained or educated by the state.

Free market education reduces the amount of violence in schools because parents could remove their children rather easily to a competitor's school. Since schools would advertise the type of education they offer, parents can decide which school to send their children based on which benefits schools offer that adhere to the parents' beliefs. Again, the parents can change schools very easily if they discover those beliefs are being undermined by the school.

With free market schooling, all parents are in the position of taking the responsibility of choosing the type of education they desire for their child just like they take the responsibility to make choices about cars, computers, health care, and careers. No one says, ?I'm not a car or career expert, so I need the government to choose for me.?

Parents get directly involved in education when they directly pay for it, the same way they get involved when they pay for cars, health care or anything else. There is no utopian escape from bad parenting, but free market schooling at least encourages increased parent involvement in their child's education.

If government owned and operated food and office supply stores, the cost of items purchased at such stores would be much higher. Likewise, the cost of schooling would be reduced in free market schools and those students who still could not afford to attend the school of their choice would be assisted by private charities and/or scholarship programs.

Since a free market education allows for diversity of ideas and beliefs to be taught, any conflicts are handled within the family. Compulsion schooling, unlike free market schooling, creates conflicts and forces a ?one-size-fits-all? program on the diverse population of society since programs are instituted by majority vote.

Again, if parents see a conflict, they can send their child to another school. One does not hear of conflicts between vegetarians and meat lovers because individuals do not vote on what others can eat. There is no such thing as meat districts and vegetarian districts. With free market schooling there would be no school districts either.

Individualism is offered in a free market education system in response to the diversity found in society, resulting in children learning at their own pace and style. Today's square peg children find square holes in which to learn. Free market education for those unruly and unfit for classroom instruction will develop other programs in which they can learn also.

Free market schooling is good for educators in that teachers and principals can start their own schools and hire assistants, utilizing existing school buildings they purchase or rent. Schools would be more numerous and smaller. Parents become the customers, not the elected and unelected officials.

The transition to a free market education system may very well take several generations, as parents gradually withdraw their children from government schooling. Parents want what is best for their children. When enough parents realize that the benefits outweigh the costs ? when they are free to make their own choices in life ? a free market in education will exist.


Thursday at 7 p.m. at The Freedom Library, a DVD will be shown highlighting leading financial experts explaining why gold is money and the impact of the Federal Reserve on human activity. It will be followed by a discussion on how the Constitution protects human activity from government interference in individual financial affairs.

Howard J. Blitz is a local libertarian and
president of The Freedom Library Inc.,
2435 S. 8th Ave. His e-mail address is