“It just seems the smaller the town, the bigger the turnout,” he said later.

“The first casualty of war is not truth — that expires during diplomacy — but the country.” -that sagacious Upstater, Bill Kauffman.

Nothing better evinces this than Chris Jones’ “The Things That Carried Him”, from the May 2008 issue of Esquire, to which I again direct you.


The Maryland Corner: “Redeeming Roger Taney”

(from the forthcoming issue of The Terrapin Times, the first installment of our new feature, dedicated to important political figures, past and present, on the Right from Maryland, tentatively called The Maryland Corner)

Americans have a way of spinning history to bolster our national mythology. JFK’s foreign policy was nightmarish — to speak nothing of his personal life —, yet we extol him. FDR attempted to pack the Supreme Court, interned Japanese-Americans in numbers that dwarf the count of unfortunate souls at Guantánamo, and eagerly collaborated with the murderous Stalin, but idolizing him as the conqueror of the Depression and scourge of the Axis powers is much more palatable than embracing the truth. 

Then there is Abraham Lincoln. Ignoring that he needlessly sanctioned the bloodiest war in American history and put the kibosh on the important question of whether states, sovereign when they entered into the great experiment in liberty, could secede and reassert their autonomy, we revere the sixteenth president as a great liberator, the savior of the Union. We relegate Maryland native and Lincoln antagonist Chief Justice Roger B. Taney to the deepest pits of Hell for his opinion in Dred Scott v. Sanford.

Yet, ironically, as we begin at least four years under our first Black president, a man esteemed as the new Lincoln, we ought to look for inspiration to no less a man than the estimable author of that loathsome Dred Scott decision.

Roger Brooke Taney, of Calvert County, was hardly perfect; he was, however, more complex than many would care to admit. His opining that Blacks were “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race,” and thus ineligible for citizenship, is detestable. Nevertheless, he had personal qualms with the “peculiar institution,” and manumitted his own slaves. A dual-federalist, he stood firmly between ardent states’ rights champions and the advocates of centralization, proud of his Southern heritage and a lover of Maryland, but a loyal American who sought the preservation of the Union. 

Most important today, as our government continues to expropriate powers at the cost of our God-given liberties, Taney stood up to Lincoln’s antipathetic attitude toward the Constitution. After the mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland, to the president’s consternation, proclaimed that they would permit no more Union troops to transfer through their respective jurisdictions, Lincoln instructed General Scott to suspend the writ of habeas corpus within the area of the military line. 

Obeying the governor’s orders, Lt. John Merryman, of the Baltimore County Horse Guards, burned bridges to prevent additional Pennsylvania soldiers from entering Maryland; not long thereafter, he was arrested on charges of treason. Numerous Maryland legislators soon found themselves incarcerated for no obvious reason. 

Enter Roger Taney. Presiding over the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Maryland, Taney, in Ex parte Merryman, reaffirmed that the president lacks authority to suspend the writ of habeas corpus — a power expressly delegated to Congress in Article I of the Constitution. A defiant Lincoln persisted, widening the scope of the territory wherein the writ was held in abeyance. Employing arguments frightfully comparable to — but exceedingly more eloquent than — those to which we have grown accustomed in this tumultuous decade, Lincoln asked rhetorically of Congress, “Are all the laws, but one, to go unexecuted, and the government itself go to pieces, lest that one be violated?” Orwellian reverence for the rule of law at its finest.

Taney’s comprehension of liberty was incomplete, perhaps unforgivably so. That President Obama intends to try to suspend the writ of habeas corpus is dubious. However, given Obama’s vision for expanding government’s role in the economy, embrace of the Pax Americana ideology, and, more relevant, support for the USA PATRIOT Act and the FISA “compromise,” one is right to fear for his liberty. If we look beyond his imperfections, in Roger Taney we see a Marylander of whom we should be proud and whose spirited defense of the Constitution we should aspire to mimic. 

“Soldier of Misfortune”

From Tuesday’s Post:

[Iraq] was a war with its own original sin: the Bush administration’s failure to provide enough troops. To make up the shortfall, the government chose to outsource responsibility for deciding who can kill and die for the United States to for-profit companies that employed tens of thousands of soldiers-for-hire: mercenaries, or private security contractors, as they were known. The mercenaries developed their own language and subculture, and they fought their own secret battles under their own rules — “Big Boy Rules,” as they called their playbook, with more than a hint of condescension, to distinguish it from the constraints of the military’s formal code. They weren’t counted by our government, alive or dead.

Near the end of the excerpt, the author offers a bitingly poignant remark: “The official American death toll in Iraq that day was 4,047. The number did not change when Jon’s body was identified.”

The thought of American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines dying in this war is harrowing enough; that we have suffered the consequences of this war’s “original sin”, as Steve Fainaru aptly dubs it, is, to me, insufferably tragic and inexcusable.


Veterans Day

Thank you.

John has a couple of great links posted here. One of them is the tear-jerker from Esquire, about burying a soldier from Indiana who died in Iraq, which I’ve posted before. Please, read them all. Also, my thoughts on why we need to pull out of Iraq, inspired by a night of darts.

A must read: “The Last Tour”, in The New Yorker, on the psychological horror that is war

William Tecumseh Sherman, one of our most revered criminals of war, remarked, “War is Hell.” I don’t think he quite had this in mind.

From the towed car, park rangers had already deduced who they were. They had called Kellee Twiggs, Travis’s wife, in Virginia. She had missed a call from her husband earlier that afternoon, she said; he had left no message. He and Will had disappeared a few days before. She was stunned to hear that they were in Arizona. She explained about the P.T.S.D. and said that Travis had been “out of his mind” the last time she saw him. He was a highly trained marine—a martial-arts instructor, weapons expert, and skilled combat tracker. “I’m very scared,” she said. “I don’t want anything bad to happen to him or your people.” Anyone who approached him should use his nickname, Tebeaux; it might help him understand that he was in America and that they were not the enemy. She added that her husband’s combat flashbacks were worse if he had been drinking. (In the towed car, the rangers found beer cans and an empty fifth of Jägermeister.) Will, she said, was not a fighter but might “man up to impress his brother.”

Not long thereafter,

they heard shots; some heard one, others heard two; there were actually three. It was later determined that Travis Twiggs had pulled the trigger each time. The first shot was fired at point-blank range through the left temple of Willard Twiggs, and it was fatal. The second was fired from under Travis’s own chin. The bullet came out through his left cheek. It was not fatal. The third shot, fired at point-blank range, went through his right temple—fatal. Will’s head had fallen back against the seat. Travis slumped into his brother’s lap.

May God have mercy on their souls and console their loved ones always. And may those who purport to lead this nation, but who have led her astray, recognize the tremendous errors they have committed and do all that they must to rectify the situation, that we see this no more.

More Israeliphilia? Or: I thought Pakistan was our ally, too!

From today’s Washington Post:

HYDERABAD, India, Sept. 6 — International negotiators revoked a 34-year-old ban on nuclear trade with India on Saturday and backed a contentious nuclear energy agreement between the country and the United States.

As I’ve discussed before, “the West” (lovely white-washed replacement for “Christendom”, eh?), fearing that the mad Persian might unleash upon the Holy Land (or, more accurate, the shining example of Middle Eastern democracy whereby we hope to judge our successes at nation-state-building in this volatile part of the world, various political cultures be damned), has adamantly opposed Iranian nuclear activity, even if Ahmadinejad truly possesses the still-distressing, but not terrifying, desire simply to produce nuclear energy in his nation-state. We cannot permit him to gain such an upper-hand over Israel, which owns only a trivial one hundred-plus nuclear weapons and enjoy the support of the entirety of “the West” behind it — hardly sufficient reason to impel Iran not to disburse its would-be arsenal, of course.

With India, it seems, the story is different. Ostensibly, and worrisomely, Red China’s growth and potential threat justifies this substantial change in policy. Corporate America, too, wins. Major General Butler, it seems, was right.

Supporters called the deal a foreign policy triumph that would position India as a strategic counter to China’s rising power. The deal will open the door for American companies to build reactors in and supply fuel to India, generating business worth more than $100 billion.

Scanning the Post‘s article, one finds not a single mention of India’s neighbor and long-time adversary, Pakistan. Granted, presently, Pakistan’s worries extend quite beyond disputed territories, but this ought to give us pause. Iran, which has limited its harassment of Israel to indirect means and, I am convinced, has no legitimate interest in exceeding this (because “the West” would “pwn” Iran in a heartbeat were Israel to face direct militaristic threat), consistently incurs opposition to its wishes to develop nuclear energy, whilst India receives a free pass. One can hardly fault the Red Chinese for opposing this, as the article notes, particularly because the agreement includes no requirement that India continue to refrain from nuclear testing. It need only abide by its self-imposed moratorium, despite concerns expressed by the Irish (those perspicacious Celts who subverted the Lisbon Treaty!), Austrians, and New Zealanders. As much as I fear and loathe totalitarian China, I cannot fathom that such risky Western behavior works toward establishing peace and tranquility. Methinks I hear, coming from immediately south of my suburban Maryland house, the faint sounds of drummers tuning their instruments readying themselves in case the War Party’s Subcontinental imprudence, or desire to seek revenge on General Sherman (ah, American Jacobinism!), would extend so far as to require the percussionists’ service. Heaven help us.

August is the cruelest month

John Zmirak, one of my favorites, offers a thoughtful plaint, recalling dreadful Augusts of the last one hundred years, at InsideCatholic.