Thursday, February 26, 2015

Prepare to Listen to P.M. Netanyahu Speech before the U.S. Congress

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 
Tuesday, March 3, 2015 is the date scheduled for the American people and others around the world to hear more from the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu. His views and hopes regarding Iran and Israel have a wide audience as Iran claims to negotiate with the U. S. on its preparations for the development of a nuclear weapons program. 

The context of current U.S. negotiations with Iran
The context of U.S. negotiations includes Iran’s never-retracted label for the U.S. as “the Great Satan” and its ally, Israel, as “Little Satan.”  Iran long-ago chanted against the U. S. and Israel: Death to America! Death to Israel! 
U.S. history with Iran since its 1979 revolution should inform American thoughts. In these days, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tries to negotiate successfully with Iran on its nuclear weapons development, with disappointing results thus far.

Soon after the Iranian revolution, 1979, American citizens were taken hostage and were not released until early 1981. I was in Washington, DC, when the yellow ribbons of welcome clung to trees and rooftops, especially around the White House and Farragut Square. The American spirit of strength, hope, and resilience seemed to fill the streets.  

Two years later, 1983, Iran branded its imprint on our history again, in a bombing attack on the U. S. Embassy in Ain el-Mreisseh, Lebanon, killing 52 people. The explosion reached the ambassador's desk, according to reports. 

As noted decades later by U. S. Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly on the 30th anniversary of the attack: The bombing of Embassy Beirut in 1983 opened a new chapter (emphasis added) in America’s history in the Middle East.  The first of what would be three attacks on Americans, and Lebanese colleagues in Beirut in 17 months, it was a bloody rite of passage. (April 13, 2013) 

America remains in that chapter of history with Iran. The American people are at risk, and this fact goes against how we wish to think. Our politicians and officials will make existentially wrong decisions if they ignore who and what Iranian leadership is. The religious-political government has never taken back its vows against the United States of America.  At this moment, it prepares the capability to wreak unthinkable destruction. Its inflexibility in “diplomacy” reinforces this view.

If Diplomacy, Negotiate from Strength
Originally, I expected the Secretary of State to negotiate firmly against Iran’s nuclear weapons development, allowing only for domestic use of nuclear power.   

I now think that his meetings with Iranian officials, if they continue, can at best only delay an inevitably bad outcome. Stopping an Iranian nuclear weapons program appears to be a lost or, worse, discarded goal.

However, there may be some in congress who could convince others to take second look at diplomatic circles and speak up more for the U.S. to do whatever it takes, short of war, to halt Iran’s preparations in that area.

Netanyahu's Role from a Jewish Historical View
Preparing to listeni to P.M. Netanyahu’s speech before the U.S. congress, I returned to the biblical book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was, in his day, Jerusalem's hope for leadership. His strategy, in rebuilding the war-torn walls of Jerusalem, employed wisdom against those who declared themselves his enemies.

Nehemiah's prime enemy was named Sanballat, and at first, regarding Nehemiah, he “was angry and greatly enraged, and he mocked the Jews.” (Neh. 1:1) (See Iran's record, above.)

Later, as Nehemiah's work progressed, Sanballat and company threatened the Jews. (See Iran's record.)

Unsucessful with that, they plotted and prepared to make war on the Jews.
(Consider Iran's avowed plans.)

Still unsuccessful, Sanballat and company resorted to negotiation efforts (see above, Iran and U.S.): 
“Let’s meet in one of the villages, at Ono.”
("Let's meet in Geneva" equivalent today.)

Nehemiah's enemies sought meetings five times, and five times Nehemiah refused. 
(Not in the record above, because Nehemiah believed the enemy's mocking and threatening words.)

The enemy prepared to fight. (See Iran's record, above.)

Then was when one of Nehemiah friends proposed safety behind closed doors of the house of God. 
Nehemiah refused his friend, too.

Nehemiah continued to work, true to his mission to rebuild the walls, doing it with intense loyalty
to God and his people.
When the Nehemiah 's people completed the work, the surrounding nations feared. 
(Then, their eyes were opened.)

Is it too late? 
Is it too late for the U.S. to make clear once and for all that meetings with Iran must return to the original starting point--no  nuclear weapons development for Iran. 

Iran’s mocking and threats usually, if not always, join the U.S. with Israel. The U. S. is strong and Israel’s situation amidst Arab enemies is tenuous. Israel is the prime enemy; therefore, weaken Israel by discouraging and removing U.S. as Israel’s ally. (Sanballat and company all over again.)

Unlike a great leader, the U. S. appears to court a better relationship with Iran in spite of “Death to America!” threats. Ignore the mocking, the threats, the preparations for attack…agree to meet more and more. Every delay is a move against the U.S. mission and goals, not against Iran’s. 

It's puzzling why any Secretary of State would not believe Iran’s threats and publicly admit them.

Face the Unimaginable
I am convinced that to think that Iran's goal of nuclear weapons is impossible to reach or can be weakened by delay is a false assumption. 

I think we have solid reasons, based on decades of publicly available reports, to believe that many Iranian people want peace and change, that they hope and pray that the U.S. will not play dangerous, yielding diplomatic games with Iran. Many hope that the U.S. will show clear resolve, even if an agreement cannot be reached and sanctions on Iran continue, with continued inspection efforts. 

I want to hear Prime Minister Netanyahu's perspectives about these serious matters on Tuesday.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Here's the Rub about Piling On Brian Williams

It's possible or likely that Brian Williams, NBC news anchor, never tried to imagine the disgrace he set himself up for in lies and exaggerations about his war-journalist experiences. 

He "deserves it!" sums up rationale for ridicule being heaped on him now. All he has done of good or right is pretty much over-laid by his lies, now admitted. 

Having placed himself in fictional harm's way under RPG fire over a war zone (Iraq? Afghanistan? both?), he "asked for it!" Cliched phrases like "How the mighty have fallen" are figuratively post-it-noted onto the man's tall yet now-denuded pedestal.

Causes of public anger, resentment, and scorn against Brian Williams are part of the general sense of  being conned, bamboozled, and flimflammed by a trusted public figure. It's not the first time for public shock and disgust, and again to be taken in raises the same feelings of being a chump, a mark, or a sucker--each a fast poison to any residual feelings of respect.

Some say that pride proved the downfall of Brian Williams; as Mark Twain said, "Human pride is not worthwhile; there is always something lying in wait to take the wind out of it."

But here's the rub, the obstacle in the way, the question that comes to mind about continual piling on: "How far can this go without destroying a person?" Maybe I take this too seriously; perhaps the butt of the joke learns to laugh at it, too, at himself. I just can't imagine that ever happening here.

The first reaction that the public wants from the offender, Williams in this case,  is a combination of not only honesty and admission (key words here) but also of true remorse, repentance, and confession. Fake attempts are unacceptable, and people will carefully watch and listen for proof, as much as possible, of the real thing.  

"At what point forgiveness?" For those who forgive doing so puts an end to ridicule or harsh humor; judgments no longer satisfy or entertain. To forgive does not always mean to forget. You might forgive the stalker, but you do not forget that he still tracks you with a loaded rifle, to give a strong example. I believe that to ignore important information about present dangers or realities would be foolish.

Forgiveness is an act of grace.  

This time of high emotional reaction has an end; I hope for that. Yet, if that end can be or will be depends greatly on Brian Williams. The hope I see is an "If." If he exchanges the familiar mantle of authority for an average man's mantle of humility in the fog of his own war, then I see hope for restitution for him...of some kind if not a professional one.

For now, the public still sees  Brian Williams caught in a danger zone; his colleagues and fans remain angry, disillusioned, and hurt by what he did. I hope that Brian Williams has true friends of strong character from whom he will seek frank, personal appraisal, disregarding public reputation for now.

Otherwise, I opine, obstacles to his and his profession's good will multiply long after these piling on days. 

Friday, February 06, 2015

Here's Why Nothing Unique from the President at National Prayer Breakfast

On the morning two days after the world learned of film showing a Jordanian pilot being set on fire, alive, by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), President Obama informed National Prayer Breakfast attendees in Washington, DC: “Unless we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place..." (full quote here). 

Let's look at the imagery of "on a high horse":

"The combination of ...
being high off the ground when mounted on a great war charger,
looking down one's nose at the common herd, 
and also being a holder of high office
 made it intuitive for the term 'on one's high horse' 
to come to mean 'superior and untouchable'."

I try to imagine General George Washington--born in Virginia colony, subject of England's King George III and military leader of the colonies' revolt against the king--on one of his high horses (perhaps Nelson or Blueskin) announcing that royal over-reach was "not unique."

If the U.S. President, Barack Obama, had been president in 1939 or 1940, would German Christian pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer have been reminded that Hitler's regime was "not unique"?

If the president had been in office when Pearl Harbor was bombed by followers of the "sun god," would he have noted that surprise attacks were "not unique"?

The wrongs the president outlined (including slavery) have been bravely fought against to the point of shedding of blood and loss of life, ultimately winning abolition in the western world. (Meanwhile, anti-Jewish sentiment rises in Europe and on U. S. university campuses, as presented in this report.)

The president's "high horse" comments have already diverted attention (hence this post) from crises at hand, where a large portion of the world is increasingly threatened by ISIS/ISIL and others beyond Iraq and Syria. Yemen recently fell to ISIS, whose self-published goal is the destruction of all "infidels" (non-extremist Muslims included).

The president made a factual point: Savagery by any name is not unique among evils and sins in the world. Yet, he did not take call out the present savagery and state firm intent to rid the earth of its terrors for this and future generations. ISIS--and other terrorists shouting "'Allahu Akbar'...a jihadist war cry dating from its declaration by Islam’s prophet Muhammad when he made an aggressive proto-jihadist foray on the Jews of the Khaybar oasis"--does not hold back. Neither should the United States and other civilized nations with different power standards.

President Obama reportedly readies himself to approach another powerful high horse, the U. S. Congress, regarding new military actions. 

This topic gets "curiouser and curiouser." And yet there is nothing unique about powerful leaders that rely upon delay, finding it extremely difficult to face the import of what is happening not only far away but at home. I would not want to be on the president's horse, yet it is the one he wanted. Similarly, congressional members fought for their high positions. The big choices are never easy for those in whom historic decision powers reside.