Eric Johnson: November 2004 Archives

Groningen Academic Hospital in the Netherlands has taken up a brave new policy of murdering defenseless, sick babies.

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) - A hospital in the Netherlands - the first nation to permit euthanasia - recently proposed guidelines for mercy killings of terminally ill newborns, and then made a startling revelation: It has already begun carrying out such procedures, which include administering a lethal dose of sedatives.

The announcement by the Groningen Academic Hospital came amid a growing discussion in Holland on whether to legalize euthanasia on people incapable of deciding for themselves whether they want to end their lives - a prospect viewed with horror by euthanasia opponents and as a natural evolution by advocates.

Pro-lifers can take grim satisfaction that the "slippery slope" has, as Wesley Smith says later, "descended already into a vertical cliff": in the 1960s, the death lobby argued that we should destroy unborn babies who were going to die anyway, or whose continued existence threatened the life of the mother. Eventually, the death lobby ended up arguing that babies are fair game no matter what the circumstance.

When pro-lifers pointed out that the West was on that "slippery slope" toward child murder, they were dismissed by most people, including far too many political conservatives. "Nonsense," they said. "Abortion is about removing cell blobs. It's a stretch to say we'd go from that to murdering an infant."

Behold, the masterpiece of the Culture of Death: using men with advanced medical degrees and years of experience to kill the most vulnerable members of our society. If some toothless redneck smothered his baby daughter because she cried too much, we would rightly call him a monster. But if parents can't stand to have a "defective" baby for any longer, even if the baby's pain could be medicated until the end of his short life, and they get well-dressed, well-paid, well-groomed men with serious expressions to murder their child -- well, that's medicine, isn't it?

May God have mercy on the blackened, shriveled souls who would even conceive of such a thing.

I finally got around to installing smoke detectors in the kids' rooms on Saturday, and I read something I didn't know: smoke detectors are only good for 10 years. After that, you should throw them out. As we have a 40-year-old house and the previous owner was something of a penny-pincher, I'm assuming ours are at least that old.

Also, you can now buy lithium-powered sealed detectors whose batteries will last 10 years, and then you throw them out. They're $20 at Home Depot, and they're one less thing I have to worry about. Just one more thing to worry about during the holidays, yes, but you might want to take a few minutes to replace your detectors. At worst, you'll lose less than an hour of your time, and at best, you will have prevented someone's premature death. Maybe even your own!

Why are my confessions so brief?


I get the impression that my confessions are shorter than average. That is not because I sin less than other people. I try to go to confession at least once a month, and I rarely go more than six weeks without receiving the sacrament. (Grace is like gasoline to my soul: I run fine as long as I keep pouring it in regularly.)

At first, I thought I was just underestimating the time. "Time flies when you're recounting your offenses against God," as the saying goes. But a couple of weeks ago, I waited for more than an hour behind 10 people or so, and I couldn't have taken more than two minutes. This has happened with many different priests at several parishes, so I don't think I'm imagining it; even when the people in front of me are taking 5-10 minutes, I'm finished in half that time.

What's going on here? Usually, I think of my sins beforehand and rattle them off unless the confessor asks me for clarification. If there are some mitigating or exacerbating circumstances, I mention them. For example, a while ago I missed Mass through no fault of my own, but I felt relieved because I had a lot to do that evening. That was clearly not a mortal sin, but since I treated Mass that day as a chore, it showed how far I was from saintly perfection.

Do people try to get pastoral advice in the confessional? I take it if it's offered, but I don't ask for it unless I have a question about something I'm confessing. Or do a lot of people need on-the-fly catechesis, and priests try to teach the penitents that certain things are sinful? I have several spiritual shortcomings, but resistance to orthodox teachings isn't one of them.

I'm not fishing for someone to say "you're so holy, Eric," because I know that's not true. I'm truly curious.

Least favorite Christmas songs?


Now is the time to pour out your wrath upon your least favorite Christmas songs. The musically feeble, the quasi-blasphemous, the cringe-inducing, the silly...vent your righteous criticism in the comments box.

Here are some of mine:

"Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" wasn't funny the first time I heard it. It's even less funny the hundredth.

"Wonderful Christmas Time," by Paul McCartney. If it weren't Paul McCartney, nobody would play this insipid '70s synthesizer-driven trash. I note that Disney Corp.'s animatronic doll Hillary Duff has remade the song. Great! I look forward to hearing it in Macy's!

"Santa Baby." Creepy, creepy, creepy. Sexualizing a children's fantasy is always bad.

"I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus." Totally inappropriate and...oh, wait — I think this is only sung by the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington. Nevermind.

"Last Christmas," by George Michael. This guy was responsible for more than his share of bad '80s lyrics ("Guilty feet ain't got no rhythm"), and this is a choice example:

Last Christmas, I gave you my heart
The very next day, you gave it away...
Ah, the cruelty of "regifting."

Favorite Christmas songs and hymns


What are your favorite Christmas songs and hymns? For myself, I still love hearing "O Holy Night." "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day" is a lovely and blissfully non-ubiquitous song. Corelli's Christmas Concerto in G minor is probably my favorite piece of Christmas chamber music (I wrote about it last year.) I don't have a favorite hymn, but "Adeste Fideles" gets my blood moving.

As a public service, I would like to issue my annual reminder that the Hallelujah Chorus is for Easter, not the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior.

I went to the church nearest the Nameless Entity, in a blessed old urban parish run by the Dominicans. One of my Advent penances is to go to confession every week, and I thought I'd get started a week early.

This was the second time I had this particular Dominican. He is, I'm convinced, an entirely orthodox and kindly old man, with a genuine love for sinners and an evident joy for God's creation. However, both times he didn't ask me to make an act of contrition. The second time, I said one to myself as he gave me absolution.

I believe that this is a defect in the form of the confession itself, but the absolution is still valid. But what should I do when I have him next time? Charitably correct him? I'm uncomfortable with doing that — it doesn't seem very penitential. Maybe I should say, "Father, do you mind if I say my act of contrition?" I'm open to suggestions.

Bonus question: after I went to confession, I stayed for daily Mass, but I had finished eating lunch at around 11:45 and the Communion was at about 12:35 or 12:40. I abstained from the Eucharist because I had eaten less than an hour before, because I had not planned to attend Mass.

I think I did the correct thing, but is there any kind of exemption if you did not deliberately break the one-hour fast before receiving? I don't think there is, but I just thought I'd check to see if anyone knew.

Pat Tillman for Sportsman of the Year


Sports Illustrated wants your vote for Sportsman of the Year, and one of the candidates is Pat Tillman, the football player who gave up millions of dollars to enlist in the Army. As you recall, he was killed fighting murderous thugs in Afghanistan earlier this year.

I don't really pay much attention to sports, so I can't say much about the other candidates. But it seems to me that the heart of sportsmanship is realizing that no matter how important the game might be, it's just a game. That's why you treat your opponent fairly, you don't cheat, you act with dignity...and sometimes, you walk away for something more important.

If you have a moment, vote Pat Tillman for Sportsman of the Year. He's the second picture from the bottom.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)

This week, Paige and I announced to our families and friends that we're expecting a baby next summer, right around Independence Day. For those of you keeping score, the next one should be a girl, since the pattern has been boy-girl-boy so far.

When we made the announcement last night at Thanksgiving dinner, Charlie, our older boy, thought it was great. Our daughter Anna didn't take it very well, asking if we could give the baby back. Christopher, the toddler, asked for more pie.

Paige's dad, ever the planner, was concerned about how tired she would be, the impossibility of paying for four college educations, etc. I would be lying if I told you that the same things didn't cross my mind. We have a general idea of how we will manage these things, but we hardly have things planned down to the last dime.

This year, I got a new job with a significant (though not gigantic) raise, and we bought a bigger house. Career-wise, I seem to be several years ahead of my contemporaries — during meetings at the Nameless Entity, I often look around and see no one without a few gray hairs.

I'm confident that God didn't provide these things because he wants me to ditch my crappy 14-year-old car for a Miata, or so Paige can start spending more money on clothes. I figure if we keep cooperating with him, he will continue to bless us. That's the way it's gone so far, and I don't see any reason to stop now.

Anyway, if you could spare a prayer to St. Gerard on behalf of Paige and the baby, I would greatly appreciate it.

Often, when I'm looking for something at CVS, I notice the aisle containing something called "Family Planning." I've looked at the contents, and except for the ovulation detectors, it's all about contraception.

Shouldn't the aisle thus be called "Family Prevention"?

Yesterday, we sang the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" as the recessional hymn. Only in "Gather," it's listed as "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory." Wouldn't want to use the common title! So bellicose!

I could live with the name change, but I can't take the politically correct bowdlerization of the hymn's words themselves.

Verse 3: "He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgement seat"
"He is sifting out all human hearts...."

Verse 4: "As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free"
"As he died to make all holy, let us die that all be free."

Which, I suppose, is a little better than "let us live to make all free," which is another variation I've seen. Who dares to do such things? Probably the same people who lecture us about the integrity of "art" and the "artist." Unless the artist is dead, and the art in question's copyright has expired.

Somebody made these changes so that "men" is not used as a generic plural noun for male and female human beings. The rationale is that women are oppressed when such a thing gets printed in a hymnal.

The reason this is stupid -- and I apologize if you think "stupid" is name-calling, but the adjective is perfect -- the words of the hymn were written by Julia Ward Howe. As the name implies, she was a woman!

To all those who want to impose their feminist ideas on the rest of us by changing the words to one of the most well-known and beloved hymns in American history, I have four words of advice: Write your own damn hymn.


Times up for the insurgents

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The Times of London doesn't seem to be terribly sympathetic to the beleagured insurgents of Fallujah.

THE last hours of the mujahidin are terrifying. With the city they once ruled with the absolute authority of medieval caliphs now overrun by American and Iraqi troops, they have to keep moving. To pause even for a few minutes can mean instant death from an unseen enemy. A group of 15 fighters dressed in black and carrying an array of weapons ducked into a two-storey house in war-torn southern Fallujah yesterday morning. Their movement was picked up by an unmanned spy plane that beamed back live footage to a control centre on the edge of the city. Within minutes, an airstrike was called and the house disappeared in a giant plume of grey smoke.

From a house across the road, the explosion flushed out another group of guerrillas. Deafened by the blast, they stumbled out into the street, formed a ragged line and started off on the marathon to postpone their deaths, the drone dogging their every step.

Like the Psalmist, I rejoice at the destruction of the wicked. More:
The battle for Fallujah is all but over. The main north-south road in the once-dreaded Jolan district is a US military highway. Any guerrilla who could make his way back up from the last pockets of resistance in the south would see the mujahidin graffiti — “Jihad, jihad, jihad, God is Greatest and Islam will win” — replaced by slogans daubed by the US-backed Iraqi Army, posted the length of the route.
Gosh, it's almost like we're winning or something. And if you had even a tiny doubt about the people that the Marines and soldiers are fighting, read this:
Apart from a few women and children, the only civilians [the Iraqi officer] had seen were men of fighting age, about 500, detained for vetting. He said that some civilians had said that insurgent snipers had shot anyone trying to leave their homes. As US troops sweep through the houses, they are unearthing the insurgents’ horrifying secrets — more akin to the handiwork of serial killers than guerrillas or even terrorists — that have shocked the world and explain why this offensive has met with so little opposition from the Arab world.

In the south of Fallujah yesterday, US Marines found the armless, legless body of a blonde woman, her throat slashed and her entrails cut out. Benjamin Finnell, a hospital apprentice with the US Navy Corps, said that she had been dead for a while, but at that location for only a day or two. The woman was wearing a blue dress; her face had been disfigured. It was unclear if the remains were the body of the Irish-born aid worker Margaret Hassan, 59, or of Teresa Borcz, 54, a Pole abducted two weeks ago. Both were married to Iraqis and held Iraqi citizenship; both were kidnapped in Baghdad last month.

US and Iraqi troops have discovered kidnappers’ lairs filled with corpses or emaciated prisoners half-mad with fear, and piles of bodies of men who had refused to fight with the insurgents. As the guerrillas run their last sprint from death, sympathy for their cause is running out among Iraqis.

UPDATE: Kevin Sites, the NBC journalist at the scene, doesn't seem convinced that he saw a murder: "I have witnessed the [M]arines behaving as a disciplined and professional force throughout this offensive. In this particular case, it certainly was a confusing situation to say the least."

An NBC camera crew filmed a Marine shooting a wounded Iraqi insurgent in Fallujah, and the media will doubtless give this the objective, calm treatment for which they are famous. However, I wouldn't rush to judgement on this one. Here are a few things to consider:

1. The guy wasn't a prisoner, he was a combatant. After a combatant indicates he wishes to surrender, and is searched and restrained (hands tied, blindfolded, etc.), then he is a prisoner. Until then, he's a combatant.

2. Unlike civilians, enemy combatants are presumed to be mortal threats unless they are obviously incapacitated or have surrendered. This combatant was apparently making no move to surrender, although he may have been incapacitated, which would be a crucial fact.

3. From the time of the initial invasion last year, the insurgents have completely disregarded the laws of war, which ban the use of the "ruse," appearing to surrender and then continuing to fight when the Coalition forces approach them. They have also booby-trapped dead and wounded men, as well as used the suicide-bomber attire that is so fashionable on the West Bank.

4. We have no idea what all the facts are. One left-wing Australian paper calls this incident "cold-blooded murder." I am betting that they haven't used that phrase to describe the bombings of Iraqi marketplaces or police stations.

5. Under Catholic teaching, it is permissible for servicemen acting under legitimate authority to use deadly force against the enemy -- even when the an individual member of the enemy poses no immediate threat. For example, if a enemy soldier is sleeping in his bed, one can justifiably slit his throat. It might not be nice, it might not be sporting, but it is permissible.

6. Sprinkled in with our military — indeed, any fighting force — are those contemptable persons who enjoy the thrill of killing for its own sake. They can be weeded out beforehand, but some will always slip through. That being said, I have no idea whether this Marine fits into that category.

7. Marines will protect their own, but if one of their own has done something criminal or dishonorable, God help him, because the Marine Corps won't. Robert Bork, himself a Marine lawyer in the 1950s, says that if he were a innocent defendent, he would want to face a military jury, but if he were guilty, he would prefer a civilian jury.

An aside: This has no bearing on the moral question of whether this shooting was justified, but I am reminded of the Iranian response to the USS Vincennes accidently shooting down one of its civilian airliners, killing dozens of people. According to one account that I read, the Iranian government believed that it wasn't an accident — they truly thought the U.S. directly ordered the shooting.

Here's the sick part: afterwards, the Iranians were impressed with our "bloodthirstiness," and resolved to treat the U.S. with more respect. After all, it's something they would have done to demonstrate their own lack of scruples. That's one of a zillion examples of why we're deeply involved with pacifying the Middle East.

Maureen Dowd gets off a good line


I have occasionally expressed bewilderment at Maureen Dowd, who holds the Anna Quindlen Pseudo-Catholic Chair at New York Times University. Her columns are shoddily written, too-clever-by-four-fifths screeds; indeed, I once asked, "is Maureen Dowd the dumbest prominent columnist in America, or the most prominent dumb columnist in America?"

Honesty requires me, though, to point out when she says something that is truly clever, and spirited to boot. The New York Post's gossip column says:

SEN. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) laced into New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd yesterday on the "Imus in the Morning" radio show, saying, "The more Maureen Loud [sic] gets on 'Meet the Press' and writes those columns, the redder these states get. I mean, they don't want some highbrow hussy from New York City explaining to them that they're idiots and telling them that they're stupid." Miller also suggested "that red-headed woman at the New York Times" should not mock anyone's religion: "You can see horns just sprouting up through that Technicolor hair." Dowd responds: "I'm not a highbrow hussy from New York. I'm a highbrow hussy from Washington. Senator, pistols or swords?"
Madam, I salute your wit, if only this once.

Three institutions made me what I am today: the Roman Catholic Church, my family, and the United States Marines. The latter is turning 229 today, which is a cause for celebration among Marines around the world.

At the moment, Marines in Fallujah are celebrating by demolishing a snake pit of oppressive murderers. By all accounts, they are doing well, and one more chapter of our history is being written. The Marine Corps has never lost a battle in its entire history, and it will not now.

Long before I went to war, I thought about the kind of person I would want by my side if I were in combat. I figured I'd want a bunch of ruthless killers around. Not amoral murderers, but men who were at peace with themselves and well-trained to react correctly. A moment of mortal danger isn't the time for self-doubt or philosophizing.

It's a good feeling to be around hundreds of men whom you've never personally met, but who would crawl through a hail of bullets to drag your wounded body to safety. Which is why I'll forgive my brother Marines for their occasional crudities and failings.

Happy birthday, Marines. I wish you safety, and above all, victory over the unjust. I wish I could be there with you.

Goldberg on love & God


My friend Jonah Goldberg swats one out of the park today:

What Maher, Raines, and Smiley fail to grasp is that all morality is based upon transcendence — or it is merely based on utilitarianism of one kind or another, and therefore it is not morality so much as, at best, an enlightened expediency or will-to-power. It is no more rational to vote based on a desire to do "good" than it is to vote based on a desire to do God's will. Indeed, for millions of people this is a distinction without a difference — as it was for so many of the abolitionists progressives and civil-rights leaders today's liberals love to invoke but never actually learn about.

Love, in fact, is just as silly and superstitious a concept as God (and for those who believe God is Love, this too is a distinction without a difference). Chesterton's observation that the purely rational man will not marry is just as correct today, because science has done far more damage to the ideal of love than it has done to the notion of an awesome God beyond our ken. Genes, hormones, instincts, evolution: These are the cause for the effect of love in the purely rational man's textbook. But Maher would get few applause lines from his audience of sophisticated yokels if he mocked love as a silly superstition. This is, in part, because the crowd he plays to likes the idea of love while it dislikes the idea of God; and in part because these people feel love, so they think it exists. But such is the extent of their solipsism and narcissism that they not only reject the existence of God but go so far as to mock those who do not, simply because they don't feel Him themselves. And, alas, in elite America, feelings are the only recognized foundation of metaphysics.

What is the loony left?

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In the previous post, I used the phrase "Loony Left," which I apply not to honest, intellectually serious people who hold liberal views, but to the people on the left who are truly unhinged.

If you want a working definition of the Loony Left, look at these pictures from an anti-Bush rally in Berkeley the day after the election. [WARNING: bad language on a few of the signs.]

My favorite is the "CAN WE SECEDE ALREADY?" sign. Yes! Yes, you can! Do you want just the Bay Area, or all of California?

The runner-up is "I'M ASHAMED TO BE AMERICAN." I've always thought it was easier to change yourself rather than change the world around you, so maybe that guy should emigrate. That way, he won't have to be ashamed, because he won't be an American. And we have one fewer nut-case on the streets. Everybody wins.

Giant turd update


Giant turd Michael Moore, fresh off his four-year-long campaign to defeat George Bush, has taken down his self-promoting, self-congratulatory Web site, replacing it with a list of Americans who died in the War on Terror, and a collage of their faces that make up an image of President Bush.

You might think this is a mournful tribute to those who died in a needless war, and that Moore only opposes the War on Terror because he cares so much for the "little guy" who suffers. But that is one of the turd's little conceits. In fact, he does not care at all about death and suffering, unless the death or suffering is useful to him.

You will recall that hours after the September 11 attacks, he lamented that the hijackers killed a lot of Gore voters, not Bush voters. (That statement was removed from his site, but plenty of people saw it and quoted it.)

You will recall that he compared the vicious thugs in Fallujah to the Minutemen (did the Minutemen ever murder and desecrate the corpses of British contractors trying to protect a food shipment?) He also said the thugs will win.

You will recall that his "Fahrenheit 9/11" exploited scenes of injured U.S. servicemen.

You will recall that he wished for the deaths of American servicemen on his Web site, to expiate the sin of going to war against the peace-loving regime of Saddam Hussein.

To our friends on the left: dump the turd! It will be good for you. He's a master manipulator, egging you on so you'll pay attention to him. At the ballot box, he's a hindrance. While you're at it, ignore the rest of the Loony Left, too.

Many of you, like me, have been drowning in election-related news this week, but let's not lose sight of a remarkable fact: two powerful pro-abortion pseudo-Catholics went down to defeat, in large part because they were pro-abortion.

Senator Tom Daschle won his seat as a pro-lifer, but once his ambition seized him, he dumped that stand, going so far as to sign a fundraising letter for Planned Parenthood. South Dakota voters, among the most conservative and religious in the nation, dumped him for a staunchly pro-life candidate.

Senator John Kerry, who went around saying that he was an altar boy in his youth (just like Hitler!), was one of the most reliable pro-abortion votes in the Senate. You probably heard that he lost to that pro-life other guy, whatshisname.

In Daschle's case, his bishop explicitly and publicly singled him out for his crimes against human life &mdash and it worked. Despite winning numerous statewide offices over a quarter-century, and despite the clout he brought South Dakota by being the minority leader, voters turned him out.

Kerry's case is much less clearly linked to an episcopal rebuke. However, many bishops made it clear that Catholic politicians must not cooperate with evil by voting for laws that violate human life. In the crucial states that Kerry lost (Ohio and Florida in particular), that resonated.

Don't believe me? Consider this: John Kerry, only the third Catholic nominated for the presidency by a major party, received a minority of Catholic votes — fewer than Protestant Algore did in 2000.

White liberals think that because non-white minorities tend to vote for Democrats in America, therefore the Darker People (as they think of them) in the rest of the world must be secular liberals.

This is exacerbated by American universities, which, in their zeal to foist their warped ideology on young minds, trains non-whites to think of their skin color first in their intellectual formation. The schools also established things like Third World Studies and African Studies, where entire regions are seen primarily through the prism of exploitation, colonialism, and racism.

So it must be a continuing surprise every time the Darker People show they have not only minds of their own, but spines. How much more awful when the DP, having received the Gospel, refuse to abandon it for money.

The Anglican bishops of Africa deeply disagree with their Anglo-American co-religionists on the acceptance of homosexual acts and unions. Their faith teaches them that those acts are gravely sinful. While they are poor, they refuse to give in to their richer (and increasingly less numerous) white brethren.

In their latest gutsy move, the African Anglican bishops have agreed to pull their theological students from corrupt Western schools:

The Primate of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, put it bluntly: "Now we have discovered that they have a new theology and a new religion we feel it would be dangerous for the future of our church to continue to send our own future leaders to those institutions."
I nominate the Anglican bishops of Africa for the Catholic Light Total Badass award for November.

The hole in Bowers' scope


I received a picture of the rifle scope that saved Sgt. Bowers' life in Iraq. Thought you might want to see it.

hole in the scope

Here's another post about one of my Marine friends. At first, I didn't think I liked Todd Bowers because I thought he was a showoff — he was always clowning around and making jokes (though never at the expense of others) — but I came to see that I was wrong about him. He was constantly trying to improve people's moods, in his own weird way, and he would quietly help people out if they were having problems of any kind.

Some evenings, he and I would sit and smoke on the big ramp above the well deck, where dozens of tanks, artillery, and assorted vehicles were parked. We would talk about everything, and nothing in particular; often, other Marines would join our languid conversations.

He was on a different eight-man civil-affairs team than me, so when the war came, he went out with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, and I went out with 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines. During the conflict, as I listened to the regimental and battalion radio networks, I paid close attention anytime 1/2 was mentioned. I couldn't wait to see Bowers again, so we could compare notes.

After the war, when he moved to Kuwait, he began taking instruction for Catholic baptism, and asked me to be his sponsor. Unfortunately, I left the country before he did, so I couldn't continue with him.

A friend sent me this article. I pray for my fellow Marines and soldiers every day. Maybe you should too, if you aren't already — I like to think my prayers might have helped a little bit. Read on.

Rifle scope stops incoming fire, saves Marine's life
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 200411271358
Story by Lance Cpl. Miguel A. Carrasco Jr.

CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq (Nov. 1, 2004) -- A rifle-mounted scope designed to enhance enemy visibility on the battlefield saved the life of a Marine during a Sept. 17 firefight on the outskirts of Fallujah, but not the way intended.

Sgt. Todd B. Bowers, a member of the 4th Civil Affairs Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, spotted enemy snipers during a security patrol outside the restive town of Fallujah. While returning fire, a sniper-fired round hit Bowers' advanced combat optical gun site, mounted on his M-16A2 service rifle. Fragmentation from both the ACOG and the bullet were peppered across the left side of Bowers' face.

hole in the scope "It was about a four-hour firefight. Bullets were flying everywhere, and as I returned fire, it felt like my weapon blew up," said Bowers, 25, a native of Washington, D.C.

A Navy corpsman removed a piece of fragmentation and applied a pressure dressing to his left cheek.

As the corpsman began calling for a medical evacuation, Bowers refused and kept on fighting alongside his fellow Marines.

"After he was cleaned up, I knew he would be okay, but I was surprised that he didn't want to leave on a medical evacuation," said Sgt. Jung Kil Yoo, a member of 4th CAG. [He shouldn't have been surprised. -Eric]

Small pieces of fragmentation can still be seen on the left side of his face.

"Luckily, I had my ballistic goggles on to protect my eyes, without them I probably would not be able to see out of my left eye," said Bowers.

He can still see the bullet lodged in his scope, which was given to him by his father, John Bowers, two days before leaving to Iraq.

"The last time I saw my dad was the day he handed me the scope," said Bowers.

His dad was a former sergeant in the Marine Corps, who didn't want to see his son go into combat without a useful piece of gear.

"The ACOG was the best purchase I have ever made in my life," said John to his son during a phone conversation.

Bowers' heroism and loyalty to his unit impressed even those who knew him well.

"I knew he was a good Marine," said Yoo, 28, a native of Neptune, N.J. "Where some would freeze up, he stood his ground and continued to press forward."

"Sgt. Bowers was able to keep a cool head about the whole situation," said Lance Cpl. James J. Vooris, 20, a native of Albany, N.Y., and a combat photographer with Headquarters Company, Regimental Combat Team 1.

With all that was going on around him, Bowers did not have time to stop and think about what happened.

"I didn't realize how lucky I was till later that day when I sat down to think about it," said Bowers.

As a constant reminder of how the scope possibly saved his life, Bowers plans to keep the scope and mount it on his mantel when he returns home.

"It's (the bullet) there and I am glad it stayed there," said Bowers as he pointed to his ACOG still mounted to his weapon.

Bowers, who has been in Iraq since August, is currently serving a seven-month deployment, his second tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Final thoughts about John Kerry


I had planned to write a more general critique of John Kerry and his ideas, but it's been done to death, and I've written about all of it before. There's one more aspect I'd like to address, however.

I apologize that this post isn't more explicitly "Catholic," in that it's about Kerry's character, and my judgment is subjective. On issues that touch on matters of Catholic doctrine, I will simply say that Kerry is manifestly, enthusiastically for the wrong side. If you are Catholic and voting for Kerry, you are voting to perpetuate or create very real evils, which are not counterbalanced by any goods that outweigh them.

The week before last, I visited Luke, a friend from my reserve unit, who was at Bethesda Naval Hospital. I went with my "war buddy" Camilo, with whom I spent many long, dusty hours in the back of a humvee.

Camilo and I had been targeted by mortars, cannons, machine guns, and sniper fire, but we escaped without a scratch. Luke wasn't so lucky. When the unit deployed last summer (minus Camilo and me), he was only there for a few days before he saw trouble. His humvee's gunner, positioned on top of the vehicle, saw a man who was loitering around their convoy start to run away at breakneck speed. The gunner, knowing the guy was up to no good, swung around to engage him.

The man detonated a homemade mine, the force of which exploded into the engine compartment and rushed into the driver's position, where Luke was. A bunch of insurgents started popping off rounds at the convoy, and the Marines started firing everything they had in their direction.

Meanwhile, Luke was trying to get his bloody body out of the vehicle. Kevin, another member of my original civil affairs team, ran to help him. He applied first aid to his mangled legs. Eventually, the insurgents ran off -- knowing from experience that a real battle with Marines would ensure their deaths -- and the convoy rushed back to the base.

Luke was stabilized and evacuated, and made it back to the States within a few days. The doctors did their best, but had to amputate the bottom part of one leg below the knee. On his other foot, he lost two or three toes (I can't remember how many). Also, he had lost most of his hearing in his right ear from the explosion, but because the doctors were focused on saving his limb, they hadn't had time to treat his ear properly.

Yet when Camilo and I visited Luke, he wasn't negative at all. He was looking forward to moving to a rehabilitation facility, where he could more easily see his wife and sons. The next week, he would be fitted for a prosthetic foot, and eventually he would walk again.

Luke talked about his future: he had been a cop, and thought he might stay in law enforcement in some way. He had a contact at the FBI, who was eager to interview him. He said that he could probably stay in the reserves, because all he needed to do is pass the physical fitness test, but because of the career change and his family, he thought he might get out.

"I mean, I'm pretty sure nobody would blame me for leaving," he said. "I kinda feel like I've done my part, you know?" I looked at him to make sure he was serious. He was.

The three of us chatted for a little while longer, and then Camilo had to get back to work (I was between jobs that week). We shook hands, wished him well, and left the room. I looked at the doors as we went down the hallway, and noticed that most of them had Purple Hearts taped underneath the patients' names.

Camilo and I ate a late lunch, talking about many things, including, of course, the vagaries of fate. He and I had wives and kids, just like Luke; why him, and not us?

I drove Camilo back to his office. On the way to my house, I started to replay Luke's words, but kept coming back to what he said about leaving the Marines. My mind started thinking the same thing, over and over —

He had almost half his leg blown off and lost half his hearing, yet he was only "pretty sure" he had done his part.

Since I was driving, I had to keep wiping tears out of my eyes so I could see. I didn't pity Luke, and even if I did, he wouldn't have wanted it. He was quite happy to be alive. In my swirl of emotions, the overriding one was anger toward the war's opponents.

Well, that's not exactly true. For the few opponents who have stayed calm and rational, and laid out their reasons for objecting to the war, I hold nothing against them. This group of people does, after all, include the Holy Father, and although I disagree with them, I respect their opinions.

Most public opponents are, however, providing moral support to the kinds of thugs and murderers who blow up good men (and women, and children). They probably, somewhere in the back of their minds, know that the rest of the world is watching and listening, but they don't care. To them, the war is wrong, and George Bush is evil. To stop both the war and the president, any verbal attack is justified, even if their words are broadcast to the lairs of our enemies, encouraging them to think that if they can just behead a few more innocent contractors, and blow up a few more humvees, they can drive the Great Satan back to his shores.

That vicious, petty men like Michael Moore are not silenced by the Left is sure proof of my point. Not every liberal hates America, but if you hate America, you have a ready-made home on the Left. And these days, no left-winger will tell you to shut up for making a mockery of their ideology, much less ask you to be more responsible when voicing objections, lest the enemy be encouraged.

You'd think that the Democrats' nomination of a decorated war veteran would make them reign in their worst tendencies, but it hasn't. As the race has tightened, Senator Kerry has reached the point where his rejection of the Iraq War — and by implication, any military action except to hunt down bin Laden and bin Laden alone — is identical to the Loony Left's.

Kerry didn't invent the scurrilous tactics of the Left, but he was under no obligation to ape them. He did that of his own accord. He's smart enough to know that the whole "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time" stuff has to warm the hearts of America's enemies. (Those would be the same people who are bombing and shooting Americans, and beheading civilians.) He just doesn't seem to care.

I call that a betrayal. Kerry also came home and called his fellow veterans war criminals in front of a national audience, though he has never documented one single war crime he ever witnessed himself. I'd call that a betrayal, too. In fact, I'd say that he betrayed his men when he made sure he got three Purple Hearts and a ticket home from Vietnam. What kind of commander leaves his own men exposed to danger, while he goes to a cushy desk job in the U.S.?

Yet even if Kerry loses, something like fifty million people will vote for him. They don't care that he's adopted the substance and rhetoric of the clown-turd Moore. (Who, incidently, is ecstatic that Osama is plagiarizing him, too.)

It's fair to say that if Kerry wins today, it's a rejection of the Iraq War. Then Luke's sacrifices, as well as my tiny sacrifices, will be cast aside as trash. That's why I take this so personally, and am incapable of being objective. To the marrow of my bones, I do not think that John Forbes Kerry has the moral qualifications to command Luke or the thousands of honorable men like him.

I don't want to hear anything about "supporting the troops" if you believe any of that left-wing crap about blood-for-oil or Halliburton. If you want to support the troops, demand victory. Our cause is just, and the outcome, if followed to its conclusion, will be a more just world. Not a perfect one, but a marked improvement.

If you oppose the war — any war — you have a duty to do it in such a way that it doesn't make the situation worse. Can we all agree on that? You also have a duty to police your side of the fence, and make sure that people who share your opinions aren't rooting for the other side, or recklessly giving hope to evil men. If you don't do that, you sin against justice, along with the rest of that shameful rabble.

My son, the right-wing nut


Charlie, my five-year-old, has become interested in the presidential election. The only thing I've told him about it is that President Bush wants to fight bad guys, and John Kerry wants to talk to bad guys, even if the bad guys just want to hurt people.

"Does that mean people who vote for John Kerry are bad people?" he asked.

"Not necessarily," I replied. "It does mean they're making a bad choice."

My words seemed to have had more than a slight effect on him. Yesterday, when the kids were out trick-or-treating, my wife reported that Charlie saw a yard sign and sounded out the words on it. " Those people are voting for John Kerry!" he exclaimed.

Meanwhile, all the kids he was walking with started walking up to the front door. "Hey, don't go up there!" Charlie yelled. "Those people are voting for John Kerry!" My wife tried to explain that this really wasn't the time for arguing. Besides, wouldn't he at least like some candy from them?

"No," Charlie said. "It might be poisoned!"

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

John Schultz

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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Eric Johnson in November 2004.

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