Friday, April 28, 2006

Flight 93: Remembering Heroes (Updated May 3)

[See below for continual updates.]

It tells the story of the day through a meticulous re-enactment of events surrounding United 93, the last of the four hijacked aircraft, in the belief that by examining this single event something much larger can be found - the shape of our world today.

It's about time. Almost 5 years later. The film opens April 28 and the trailer is here. Director Paul Greengrass's statement continues:
The terrible dilemma those passengers faced is the same we have been struggling with ever since. Do we sit passively and hope this all turns out okay? Or do we fight back and strike at them before they strike at us? And what will be the consequences if we do?
When the film Da Vinci Code comes out a couple weeks afterward, I will be sure to go to the movies ... just not that one. I will be watching (for at least the second time) and spending my money on United 93.

Kathy at One Clear Call writes an inspirational review, "The Soul of America:"
The amazing film United 93 is many things.

It is a time machine. As you watch the grim events unfolding, from the first-on-the-scene perspectives of aviation personnel, you are inexorably pulled back into those disastrous moments in our nation’s history. As I watched the smoke billowing from the Twin Towers, I was transported once again to my living room, wrapped in a bath towel and dripping wet from my morning shower. At the sound of Pete’s thunderous cry of disbelief, I had raced there and stopped dead in my tracks at the image on the television screen. My first two words in the post-9/11 world were Our Lord’s name.

The movie is also a timely reminder of what we are up against in this protracted, unavoidable war. ...

United 93 is, above all, a microcosm of the United States of America. ...

They [the passengers aboard Flight 93] also held up a mirror to us, to help us see and recognize what lies deep within. This film reminds us, through the brave actions of these ordinary people, what it means to be Americans. Through their valiant efforts to regain control of their doomed aircraft, we see the soul of America at work. Today, nearly five years later, it is a soul in distress and sorely in need of such a visceral reminder.

[...] Every American should see this film. [...] United 93 is a razor-sharp cut into our national soul that should jolt many of us into a renewed awareness of our purpose in fighting the global War on Terror.

It should also inspire renewed national pride and honor for those very first warrior-citizens who stood and fought back against our enemy. [Bold emphases added.]
I believe that everyone should see this film, but not because of any political point of view. In fact, the film steers away from engaging politics at all, not even regarding the Islamist nature of the attacks, and that's as it should be. No one depicted in this movie really knew of that aspect of 9/11 during the attack, or what it meant. The only reference to what would follow is a statement by the FAA operations manager Ben Sliney (playing himself) ordering all planes in the US to be grounded and all international traffic turned away because "we're at war with someone out there". No other reference is made to anything happening after 12:06 ET on 9/11.

The reason we all should see this film, at least once, is for the passengers of United 93. Alone, frightened, and under the knife, they stood up and fought back. They died trying to beat the terrorists and made clear that we would not go quietly. We owe them for their sacrifice and the lives they undoubtedly saved in their desperate attempt to regain control of United 93. That, I am absolutely certain, is something which will unite most Americans regardless of how we feel about what came afterwards.
Sadly or ironically or perhaps some other adverb might do to explain what Capt. Ed refers to in this addendum to his post:

Addendum: Someone needs to scold the normally excellent folks at IMDB. One of the categories in which they've placed this film is "Fantasy".
Fantasy?!!! What kind of $%@#$% is that!

Smash is a must-read, many including me feel. His post, "The Flight," captures a lot and encourages us all that
Every adult in America should see this film.
After which, he has a good roundup of key bloggers.

Allahpundit has a similar (to this) collection of links to reviews and thoughts on the movie: "Bloggers Review 'United 93':"
I won’t see it. Saw this yesterday on Google Video and realized it was enough. The first reviews are being posted around the blogosphere this morning, though, and I’m going to try to round them up. [HT: MaryKatharine]
Rick Moran, at RightWingNutHouse, has written "United 93: A Review:"
Whether intended or not, Greengrass reveals the faces of men at war. And even though there are no grand, overarching truths about humanity, or good and evil, or the superiority of one set of beliefs over another in U-93 (there is a short scene toward the end of the film that shows both passengers and terrorists praying), the singular fact that “they” attacked us and “we” fought back cannot be denied, cannot be hidden despite the desperate attempt by some over the last 5 years to do so. We are at war.
In the end, Greengrass lets the story do all his talking. A wise choice since the it would have been a relatively simple matter to have made a histrionic, flag waving spectacular instead of the intensely personal drama U-93 turned out to be. For some, that intensity will open old emotional wounds from 9/11 making it very difficult for them to see this film. I would urge them to make the effort anyway. For United 93 will not heal the hurt but rather recall in a vividly personal, emotionally charged manner who and what caused our souls to be scorched that terrible day.

The farther we get from 9/11, the more urgent that reminder becomes. We’ve already had one wake-up call. Is it necessary for the fanatics to give us another? [HT: Allah]
Rick has also published his own list of reviews, many of which find their own way to throw a dig at the film and/or what it stands for.

I also wanted to see for myself how the movie handled the memory of the people on flight 93. On that score, I'm pleased. The passengers and crew are real people, with real fear and uncertainty.
Some want to hold back action, others realize they have to do something. It's not headliner to the rescue - it's real people deciding that in the end, they'd rather die trying than die without trying. I hope I never get tested in this way - but I hope if I am, that I do as well.

This is not a happy movie, but it's an important one. The message is powerful, and we need to send one of our own to Hollywood --- Keep making movies about real heroes! If we go out in droves to see this movie - they will get the right message.
"9/11 Unvarnished: United 93" is Rich Lowry's perspective on the movie, well summed up with his ending:
... The passengers of Flight 93 were the first Americans to fight back. United 93 wisely avoids focusing too exclusively on any of the individual passengers. Instead, they are presented as an ensemble exemplifying many of the virtues of the American character: a great improvisational intelligence, as they quickly understand and cope with the radically new, horrifying circumstances they are presented with; an extraordinary civic facility, demonstrated by their ability to formulate rapidly a plan of action among themselves; and a fierceness when provoked. In preparation for the assault on the terrorists, one passenger tells a flight attendant: "Get every weapon you can find. We need weapons."

The heroism of those passengers is now forever part of our story as a nation. It's not too soon for a major Hollywood film that portrays it brilliantly. It's about time.
Then also ever at National Review Online, associate editor Alston B. Ramsay has "An Extraordinary Flight: United 93 is for the individual, not the critic:"
In order to cope, we cannot live everyday in the presence of our worst moments, those memories that tear at the very fabric of our souls. September 11 is one of those memories: In some respects it seems so distant, yet in others it is only yesterday. It is hard to delve deep enough to recall the horrors most of us felt as the tragedy unfolded. United 93 draws those emotions out, and it does so with a reserved modesty. Again, whether this is a good or bad thing is a determination you should make for yourself.
"Let's Roll." Most of us remember these words as the call to battle from Todd Beamer, one of the heroes of United Flight 93. His father David Beamer gives his own thoughts about the movie: "United 93: The filmmakers got it right. " (HT: Hugh)
This film further reminds us of the nature of the enemy we face. An enemy who will stop at nothing to achieve world domination and force a life devoid of freedom upon all. Their methods are inhumane and their targets are the innocent and unsuspecting. We call this conflict the "War on Terror." This film is a wake-up call. And although we abhor terrorism as a tactic, we are at war with a real enemy and it is personal.

There are those who would hope to escape the pain of war. Can't we just live and let live and pretend every thing is OK? Let's discuss, negotiate, reason together. The film accurately shows an enemy who will stop at nothing in a quest for control. This enemy does not seek our resources, our land or our materials, but rather to alter our very way of life.

I encourage my fellow Americans and free people everywhere to see "United 93."
... Resolve to give thanks and support to those men, women, leaders and commanders who to this day (1,687 days since Sept. 11, 2001) continue the counterattacks on our enemy and in so doing keep us safe and our freedoms intact.
The enemy we face does not have the word "surrender" in their dictionary. We must not have the word "retreat" in ours. We surely want our troops home as soon as possible. That said, they cannot come home in retreat. They must come home victoriously. Pray for them.
People regularly go see movies with killing, and kids play violent video games. What people are adverse to is the reality of United Flight 93. But, if we don't engage in reality, we put it in a place that no longer affects our everyday thoughts, activities, and decisions. In doing so, we risk losing our grip on reality.

What happened on Flight 93 was pure evil and we must be reminded that this evil still exists and seeks to destroy us today. We can't get into our SUV's and drive to the mall or relax in front our 42" LCD TV's watching Sex in the City and be deluded that because it didn't happen to "me", I am safe. Any one of us could have been on that plane or could be a target in the future. These are hard issues to deal with, but we must take time out of our lives to feel the pain and remember.

It is my hope that during the upcoming Memorial Day, more people take time to reflect on why this country is so great—we rely on ordinary men and women to make extraordinary sacrifices.

From the Revolutionary War through our War on Terror, it is the dedication and love that Americans have for their country that drives them to answer our nation’s call to duty, whether it is serving in the Armed Forces, the government, or in local communities.

We must recall and remember United Flight 93, for if we don’t, we risk forgetting the millions that have stood for this country during our nation’s history.
In the film's final 32 minutes, the passengers and crew become, as Greengrass has said, "the first people to live in the post-9/11 world." They gather information quickly, including word that a third plane has struck the Pentagon. The men who choose to storm the cockpit don't give speeches about their intentions. They simply decide they must do something, and they know there is a pilot among the passengers who might be able to land the plane. They don't intend to die. They intend to win.

And in world-historical terms, they do win. When Jarrah sits down in the pilot's seat, he tapes a photo of the Capitol to his controls. We don't know where, exactly, United 93 was headed, but it was surely either the Capitol or the White House. By doing what they did, Greengrass reminds us, the passengers saved America from political decapitation.
And then closes with:
There's a lot of talk about whether Americans are "ready" to see a movie about 9/11. Some of that talk is doubtless due to the same attitude that says Americans can't possibly stomach seeing footage of the crashes, or the buildings falling. Such infantilization is an insult both to Americans, who are perfectly capable of handling such things, and to the memories of those who perished in the attacks, whose public murders are being treated as though they had been quiet and private deaths.

There's no reason to fear United 93. It is a riveting examination of an unbearable moment. Not only can we take it, we can also rise to the challenge it presents--both to us, and to those who would treat Americans as though they were hothouse flowers incapable of feeling the "right way" about September 11. [HT: Hugh]
Over at Hugh Hewitt's site, Mary Katharine Ham offers her thoughts after viewing a screening of the movie:
I'm not sure if I can use this word as an adjective, but it keeps coming to mind, so here goes. It was shaking. I was shaken. I was shaky. However you want to say it, that's what it did.
She notes that United 93 "brings back that morning in a very real way. All the disbelief, the confusion, the incredulity, the fear, the panic, the sadness, the stunned silence." She goes on to say:
On top of that, you've got the incredible weight of about 14 tons of dramatic irony as you watch air traffic controllers in four locations try to piece together radio transmissions and green blips, and flight plans.

Controller 1: "I lost American 11. It just disappeared! It just fell right off my screen."
Controller 2: "Where did you lose it?"
Controller 1: "Somewhere over Manhattan."

Ham continues:
I won't tell all the action, but I will say that when they beat down that first terrorist, it was quite possibly the most satisfying, cinematic moment I've ever experienced. I'm not sure what that says about me, but it felt good.
She closes with words we all should heed:
The movie is stark, unadorned. The story speaks for itself. And, the people of Flight 93 and the rest of the victims of 9/11 deserve to have it told.

For all those reasons, it is hard to watch, but you should watch it. [Emphasis added.]
Dennis Prager answers the question of whether or not Americans are ready to see United 93, "a film based on the phone conversations of the passengers and flight attendants, on the flight recorder tape, and approved by the families of all 40 passengers -- one of the most terrible and heroic events in American history."
If anything should be controversial, it is Hollywood going AWOL while its country fights the scourge of our time, Islamic totalitarianism. For five years, America has been battling people who are dedicated to destroying every value that Hollywood claims to care most about -- freedom, tolerance, women's rights, secular government, equality for gays -- and Hollywood has yet to make a film depicting, let alone honoring, this war.

Finally, a major studio comes out with a film reminding Americans about the nature of our enemy, about what really happened (to the best of our ability to reconstruct) on one of the 9-11 planes, and the press wonders if Americans are "ready" to see the movie.
The only people likely to object to this film are those who don't want Americans to become aware of just how conscienceless, cruel and depraved our enemy is, or those who think that our enemies can always be negotiated with and therefore object to depicting Americans actually fighting back.

Teenage and older children in particular should see this film. If the younger teens have nightmares, comfort them. But young Americans need to know the nature of whom we are fighting. If they are attending a typical American high school or college, they probably don't know.
Dennis answers in the affirmative: yes, see the film:
In the meantime, go and see "United 93," to see why some Americans still take "Home of the brave" seriously; and to see why we have to win this war more than any since World War II. That's how bad our enemy is. You have an unfortunately rare chance to see that enemy at work when you see what happened to everyone who boarded United Airlines Flight 93 that left Newark on September 11, 2001.
Jim Geraghty at NR has an initial post on United 93 and "Two More Points"

Rick Moran at The American Thinker writes "Dreams and Myths: Hollywood and 9/11" and then at Rightwing Nuthouse he writes "IT’S TIME: MEDALS OF HONOR FOR THE PASSENGERS OF FLIGHT #93"

The hawkish and liberal Jewish perspective at Kesher Talk has a forum going on at "An Army of Davids: Flight 93" and then at Winds of Change she also writes "Flight 93: The Movie" where she responds in the comment section:
I have a feeling this movie will quietly "separate the men from the boys," as it were. It will make the moonbats more moonbatty, and it will strengthen the resolve of those inclined that way. It will draw a line in the sand. It will do medium boxoffice and medium DVD sales but become kind of a "cult classic" in that it will be a cultural identifier for the group of people who want to win this war and feel surrounded by those who are hostile or indifferent. So it will be a quiet steady propaganda/morale booster for our side.
Which is followed by a quote from a Strategy Page article written in 2002, "The Giants of Flight 93" by Tom Holsinger:
Students of American character should pay close attention to Flight 93. A random sample of American adults was subjected to the highest possible stress and organized themselves in a terribly brief period, without benefit of training or group tradition other than their inherent national consciousness, to foil a well planned and executed terrorist attack. Recordings show the passengers and cabin crew of Flight 93 - ordinary Americans all - exemplified the virtues Americans hold most dear.

Certain death came for them by surprise but they did not panic and instead immediately organized, fought and robbed terror of its victory. They died but were not defeated. Ordinary Americans confronted by enemies behaved exactly like the citizen-soldiers eulogized in Victor Davis Hanson's Carnage and Culture.

Herman Wouk called the heroic sacrifice of the USS Enterprise's Torpedo 8 squadron at the Battle of Midway "... the soul of America in action." Flight 93 was the soul of America, and the American people know it. They spontaneously created a shrine at the crash site to express what is in their hearts and minds but not their mouths. They are waiting for a poet. Normally a President fills this role.

But Americans feel it now. They don't need a government or leader for that, and didn't to guide their actions on Flight 93, because they really are America. Go to the crash shrine and talk to people there. Something significant resonates through them which is different from, and possibly greater than, the shock of suffering a Pearl Harbor attack at home.

Pearl Harbor remains a useful analogy given Admiral Isokoru Yamamoto's statement on December 7, 1941 - "I fear we have woken a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve." They were giants on Flight 93.
Carol Platt Liebau's "We'd Better Be Ready" (HT: Hugh)
Decades of liberalization has made our people and both political parties soft to the point that we are more concerned with making friends with our enemies and worried about how their supporters perceive us than we are with protecting ourselves. And now, the left will do anything, including censorship through “outrage” to prevent it.

When you see the images of 9/11, are you upset about what you are seeing, or at what you have allowed yourself to forget?
Go and read. Then on April 28, go and watch.

And always: Never Forget.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Why We Fight: Answering the Critics of the War

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
--John Stuart Mill
This post continually will be updated to provide links to some of the best articles dealing with why we are fighting in this war against "radical Islam," "Islamic terrorists," "Islamism," or whatever else you want to call the enemy that fights in the name of Islam and uses barbaric, savage, and brutal methods (e.g., the butcher of Nicholas Berg) against many innocent civilians, a large portion of whom are their fellow Arab Muslims.


Victor Davis Hanson is a good place to start. Both here at his NR archive and on his own page.

The Latest:

"The New York Times Surrenders: A Monument to Defeatism on the Editorial Page" (12 July2007) by Victor Davis Hanson is a point by point refutation of the NY Times editorial which called for immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Hanson did a yeoman's job, though perhaps refuting the NY Times these days is not that hard, especially when one has the historical depth and military knowledge of a VDH:

Both houses of Congress voted for 23 writs authorizing the war with Iraq — a post-9/11 confirmation of the official policy of regime change in Iraq that President Clinton originated. Supporters of the war included 70 percent of the American public in April 2003; the majority of NATO members; a coalition with more participants than the United Nations alliance had in the Korean War; and a host of politicians and pundits as diverse as Joe Biden, William F. Buckley, Wesley Clark, Hillary Clinton, Francis Fukuyama, Kenneth Pollack, Harry Reid, Andrew Sullivan, Thomas Friedman, and George Will.

And there was a Pentagon postwar plan to stabilize the country, but it assumed a decisive defeat and elimination of enemy forces, not a three-week war in which the majority of Baathists and their terrorist allies fled into the shadows to await a more opportune time to reemerge, under quite different rules of engagement.


The Times wonders what Bush’s cause was. Easy to explain, if not easy to achieve: to help foster a constitutional government in the place of a genocidal regime that had engaged in a de facto war with the United States since 1991, and harbored or subsidized terrorists like Abu Nidal, Abu Abbas, at least one plotter of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, al Qaeda affiliates in Kurdistan, and suicide bombers in Gaza and the West Bank. It was a bold attempt to break with the West’s previous practices, both liberal (appeasement of terrorists) and conservative (doing business with Saddam, selling arms to Iran, and overlooking the House of Saud’s funding of terrorists).


We promised General Petraeus a hearing in September; it would be the height of folly to preempt that agreement by giving in to our summer of panic and despair. Critics called for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, a change in command in Iraq and at Centcom, new strategies, and more troops. But now that we have a new secretary, a new command in Iraq and at Centcom, new strategies, and more troops, suddenly we have a renewed demand for withdrawal before the agreed-upon September accounting — suggesting that the only constant in such harping was the assumption that Iraq was either hopeless or not worth the effort.

The truth is that Iraq has upped the ante in the war against terrorists. Our enemies’ worst nightmare is a constitutional government in the heart of the ancient caliphate, surrounded by consensual rule in Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Turkey; ours is a new terror heaven, but with oil, a strategic location, and the zeal born of a humiliating defeat of the United States on a theater scale. The Islamists believe we can’t win; so does the New York Times. But it falls to the American people to decide the issue.

In "Deserting Petraeus" (13 July 2007) Charles Krauthammer explains why now--just as the "surge" is working--is not the time to withdraw or signal withdrawal:

Finally, after four terribly long years, we know what works. Or what can work. A year ago, a confidential Marine intelligence report declared Anbar province (which comprises about a third of Iraq's territory) lost to al-Qaeda. Now, in what the Times's John Burns calls an "astonishing success," the tribal sheiks have joined our side and committed large numbers of fighters that, in concert with American and Iraqi forces, have largely driven out al-Qaeda and turned its former stronghold of Ramadi into one of most secure cities in Iraq.

It began with a U.S.-led offensive that killed or wounded more than 200 enemy fighters and captured 600. Most important was the follow-up. Not a retreat back to American bases but the setting up of small posts within the population that, together with the Iraqi national and tribal forces, have brought relative stability to Anbar.

The same has started happening in many of the Sunni areas around Baghdad, including Diyala province -- just a year ago considered as lost as Anbar -- where, for example, the Sunni insurgent 1920 Revolution Brigades has turned against al-Qaeda and joined the fight on the side of U.S. and Iraqi government forces.


Just this week, Petraeus said that the one thing he needs more than anything else is time. To cut off Petraeus's plan just as it is beginning -- the last surge troops arrived only last month -- on the assumption that we cannot succeed is to declare Petraeus either deluded or dishonorable. Deluded in that, as the best-positioned American in Baghdad, he still believes we can succeed. Or dishonorable in pretending to believe in victory and sending soldiers to die in what he really knows is an already failed strategy.

That's the logic of the wobbly Republicans' position. [...]

Senator Joseph Lieberman discusses Iran's involvement in "Iran's Proxy War: Tehran is on the offensive against us throughout the Middle East" (6 July 2007)

Upon returning from Iraq, Senator Joseph Lieberman discusses what he saw: "What I Saw in Iraq: Iran remains a problem, but Anbar has joined the fight against terror" (15 June 2007)

"A Letter to Our Soldiers in Iraq" by Dennis Prager (8 May 2007)

"The best are killed in every generation" by Dennis Prager (10 Oct 2006)

"Who thought Iraq had WMD? Most everybody" by Larry Elder (25 May 2006)

"Defeating Terror" by Ralph Peters (23 May 2006)

"Revisionist History: Antiwar myths about Iraq, debunked" by Peter Wehner (23 May 2006)

"Spies, Lies, and Weapons: What Went Wrong" by Kenneth M. Pollack (Jan/Feb 2004)

What about WMD? Did Bush lie? What about "Dem" other folks? A bit from Larry Elder's column:

Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, February 1998: "Iraq is a long way from [here], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face."

Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, February 1998: "He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has 10 times since 1983."

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, October 2003: "When [former President Bill] Clinton was here recently he told me was absolutely convinced, given his years in the White House and the access to privileged information which he had, that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction until the end of the Saddam regime."

French President Jacques Chirac, February 2003: "There is a problem -- the probable possession of weapons of mass destruction by an uncontrollable country, Iraq. The international community is right . . . in having decided Iraq should be disarmed."

President Bill Clinton, December 1998: "Other countries possess weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. With Saddam, there is one big difference: He has used them, not once, but repeatedly -- unleashing chemical weapons against Iranian troops during a decade-long war, not only against soldiers, but against civilians; firing Scud missiles at the citizens of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iran. Not only against a foreign enemy, but even against his own people, gassing Kurdish civilians in Northern Iraq. . . . I have no doubt today that, left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will use these terrible weapons again. . . . "

Clinton, July 2003: " . . . [I]t is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks of biological and chemical weapons. We might have destroyed them in '98. We tried to, but we sure as heck didn't know it because we never got to go back there."

Gen. Wesley Clark, September 2002, testimony before the House Armed Services Committee: "There's no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat. . . . Yes, he has chemical and biological weapons. . . . He is, as far as we know, actively pursuing nuclear capabilities, though he doesn't have nuclear warheads yet. If he were to acquire nuclear weapons, I think our friends in the region would face greatly increased risks, as would we."

Vermont Gov. Howard Dean [D], September 2002: "There's no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the United States and to our allies."

Dean, February 2003: "I agree with President Bush -- he has said that Saddam Hussein is evil. And he is. [Hussein] is a vicious dictator and a documented deceiver. He has invaded his neighbors, used chemical arms, and failed to account for all the chemical and biological weapons he had before the Gulf War. He has murdered dissidents and refused to comply with his obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions. And he has tried to build a nuclear bomb. Anyone who believes in the importance of limiting the spread of weapons of mass killing, the value of democracy and the centrality of human rights must agree that Saddam Hussein is a menace. The world would be a better place if he were in a different place other than the seat of power in Baghdad or any other country."

Dean, March 2003: "[Iraq] is automatically an imminent threat to the countries that surround it because of the possession of these weapons."

Robert Einhorn, Clinton assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, March 2002: "How close is the peril of Iraqi WMD? Today, or at most within a few months, Iraq could launch missile attacks with chemical or biological weapons against its neighbors (albeit attacks that would be ragged, inaccurate and limited in size). Within four or five years it could have the capability to threaten most of the Middle East and parts of Europe with missiles armed with nuclear weapons containing fissile material produced indigenously -- and to threaten U.S. territory with such weapons delivered by nonconventional means, such as commercial shipping containers. If it managed to get its hands on sufficient quantities of already produced fissile material, these threats could arrive much sooner."

Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., and others, in a letter to President Bush, December 2001: "There is no doubt that . . . Saddam Hussein has invigorated his weapons programs. . . . In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies."

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., December 1998: "Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology, which is a threat to countries in the region, and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process."

Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., ranking minority Intelligence Committee member, October 2002: "There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years."

Any questions?

"Sacred Words" at Mudville Gazette is something all should read.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

FIFA Too? Anti-Semitism Spreads

FIFA has condemned Israel for an air strike on an empty soccer field in the Gaza Strip that was used for training exercises by Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. This strike did not cause any injuries. But at the same time FIFA has refused to condemn a Palestinian rocket attack on an Israeli soccer field last week which did cause injuries.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Holy Week: "7 Days that Shook the World"

The Anchoress posts a good read:

"7 Days that Shook the World" by Greg Kandra

After spending the last few weeks in the desert of Lent, suddenly we find ourselves in an oasis, clutching long leaves of palms.

But like so many things you see after being in the desert, it’s a mirage. What we see, or think we see, is about to shift before our eyes.

Soon enough, the palms will be whips. The leaves will be thorns. Jubilation will become jeers. That is the paradox and the mystery of Holy Week.

The liturgies of this week are powerful and primal. In the days to come, there is silence and smoke, fire and water, shadow and light. We are a part of something both ancient and new, and what we do this week reminds us of that. The altar will be stripped. The cross will be venerated. The tabernacle will be emptied. The Blessed Sacrament will be moved. Bells will be stilled.

And yet here we stand, at the gates to Jerusalem, palms in our hands and hosannas on our lips, beginning the arduous trek to Calvary.


This week, take the time to wonder about what we are doing, and what we are remembering. For close to two thousand years, we have gathered like this, in places like this, to light candles and chant prayers and read again the ancient stories of our deliverance and redemption.

But are we aware of what we are doing? Do we understand what it means? Do we realize the price that was paid? A proper accounting is impossible. The ledger—His life, for our souls—seems woefully unbalanced.

So try this. This week, take a moment in each day that passes to wonder: What was He doing during this time of that one week all those centuries ago? What was crossing His mind on Monday, on Tuesday, on Wednesday? What sort of anguish? What kind of dread?


He was a man like us in all things but sin. He must have been terrified, His mind buzzing with questions. Long after the others had drifted off to sleep, did He stay awake and worry? Maybe He sat up alone, late at night, whittling a piece of wood, the way His father had taught Him, until a splinter sliced His skin, drawing a rivulet of blood. He might have flinched and thought: Well, this is nothing. And still it stings. How intense would the pain of death become? How long would it last? How much humiliation would He be forced to endure, stripped and bleeding? And: What about His mother? Is there anything He could do to spare her from this?

As you shop for Easter baskets and dye, think of this. Ponder this. Wonder about it. Make it a kind of prayer.

And then, remember what we are doing, and why.

Because, of all the calendars in all of human history, this is the week that changed the world.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Aquinas and the Ontological Argument

From time to time, I have heard people say that one of St. Thomas Aquinas's proofs for the existence of God is the ontological argument. Each time, I wonder where this person got that info because Aquinas, in some prominent places, makes it quite clear that he disagrees with the ontological argument ... and the ontological argument itself is based upon a way of thinking, a set of philosophical principles, that are antithetical to Aquinas's own philosophy and approach to life.

In light of that I thought I would gather some citations from Aquinas where he disagrees with versions of what is now called the ontological argument. After Anselm, the other big medieval thinkers who some say posit a form of the ontological argument are Bonaventure in his Commentary on I Sentences (d. 8, p. I, a. I, q.2) and in his De Mysterio Trinitatis (q. I, a. I) and Duns Scotus in his Ordinatio (I, 2, 1-2, nos. 137-139). I say “some” because with regard to Scotus others say his proof starts from what is experienced and therefore should not be categorized as “ontological” in the way that word is now understood.

The basic argument of Aquinas is that we cannot argue from a knowledge of essence of something, even God, to the conclusion that it exists. It exists only as a mental being, kind of like Kant's ens rationis.

The places where Aquinas argues against ontological-type proofs for God’s existence are:

Summa contra Gentiles, I, 11 (especially nos. 3-4). This chapter comes after having presented various forms of (“ontological”) arguments that are based upon the notion that once one understands what the name “God” means one will have to conclude God’s existence is self-evident, being a necessity of what the essence “God” contains. (cf. SCG, I, 10) It could be the case that because Aquinas presents his opponents’ arguments with great charity that some conclude they are his arguments. If one keeps reading his texts, however, it becomes apparent that he was just presenting an argument that some make because he then refutes them. Here is SCG, I, 11:

1. THE above opinion [ontological-type arguments that were stated in SCG, I, 10] arises partly from custom, men being accustomed from the beginning to hear and invoke the name of God. Custom, especially that which is from the beginning, takes the place of nature; hence notions wherewith the mind is imbued from childhood are held as firmly as if they were naturally known and self-evident.

2. Partly also it owes its origin to the neglect of a distinction between what is self-evident
of itself absolutely and what is self-evident relatively to us. Absolutely indeed the existence of God is self-evident, since God's essence is His existence. But since we cannot mentally conceive God's essence, his existence is not self-evident relatively to us. …

3. Nor is the existence of God necessarily self-evident as soon as the meaning of the name 'God' is known. First, because it is not evident, even to all who admit the existence of God, that God is something greater than which nothing can be conceived, since many of the ancients said that this world was God. Then granting that universal usage understands by the name 'God' something greater than which nothing can be conceived, it will not follow that there exists in rerum natura something greater than which nothing can be conceived. For 'thing' and "notion implied in the name of the thing" must answer to one another. From the conception in the mind of what is declared by this name 'God' it does not follow that God exists otherwise than in the mind. Hence there will be no necessity either of that something, greater than which nothing can be conceived, existing otherwise than in the mind; and from this it does not follow that there is anything in rerum natura greater than which nothing can be conceived. And so the supposition of the nonexistence of God goes untouched. For the possibility of our thought outrunning the greatness of any given object, whether of the actual or of the ideal order, has nothing in it to vex the soul of any one except of him alone who already grants the existence in rerum natura of something than which nothing can be conceived greater.

In a footnote in one edition of the translation, the editor writes:

St Thomas means: 'If I form a notion of a thing, and then get a name to express that notion, it does not follow that the thing, answering to such name and notion, exists.' St Anselm's disciples reply: 'True of the notions of all other things, as islands or dollars, which may or may not be; but not true of the notion of that one thing, whereof existence is a very part of the notion.' In other words, whereas St Thomas denies the lawfulness of the transition from the ideal to the actual order, they maintain that the transition is lawful in arguing the existence of that one Being, who is the actuality of all that is ideal. 'But is such actuality possible?' 'It is conceivable, therefore possible.' 'It may be conceivable, only because it is conceived inadequately, without insight into the inconsistencies which it involves.' 'You have no right to assume inconsistencies where you discern none,' rejoins Leibnitz. And so this 'ontological argument' will be tossed up and down, as an apple of discord, to the end.

Aquinas continues:

4. Nor is it necessary for something greater than God to be conceivable, if His non-existence is conceivable. For the possibility of conceiving Him not to exist does not arise from the imperfection or uncertainty of His Being, since His Being is of itself most manifest, but from the infirmity of our understanding, which cannot discern Him as He is of Himself, but only by the effects which He produces; and so it is brought by reasoning to the knowledge of Him.

Summa Theologica, Ia, 2, I, ad 2. Here he gives a summary of part of the above argument, saying that the claim “God’s existence is self-evident” is not true for us. In Objection 2, he gives his opponents’ argument, once again leading some to think it is his.

Objection 2. Further, those things are said to be self-evident which are known as soon as the terms are known, which the Philosopher (1 Poster. iii) says is true of the first principles of demonstration. Thus, when the nature of a whole and of a part is known, it is at once recognized that every whole is greater than its part. But as soon as the signification of the word "God" is understood, it is at once seen that God exists. For by this word is signified that thing than which nothing greater can be conceived. But that which exists actually and mentally is greater than that which exists only mentally. Therefore, since as soon as the word "God" is understood it exists mentally, it also follows that it exists actually. Therefore the proposition "God exists" is self-evident.

In the main body of the article, he argues against such claims, saying that since we are limited creatures and cannot see the divine essence in itself, knowledge of what the name “God” means does not convert into knowledge of God’s existence.

I answer that, A thing can be self-evident in either of two ways: on the one hand, self-evident in itself, though not to us; on the other, self-evident in itself, and to us. A proposition is self-evident because the predicate is included in the essence of the subject, as "Man is an animal," for animal is contained in the essence of man. If, therefore the essence of the predicate and subject be known to all, the proposition will be self-evident to all; as is clear with regard to the first principles of demonstration, the terms of which are common things that no one is ignorant of, such as being and non-being, whole and part, and such like. If, however, there are some to whom the essence of the predicate and subject is unknown, the proposition will be self-evident in itself, but not to those who do not know the meaning of the predicate and subject of the proposition. Therefore, it happens, as Boethius says (Hebdom., the title of which is: "Whether all that is, is good"), "that there are some mental concepts self-evident only to the learned, as that incorporeal substances are not in space." Therefore I say that this proposition, "God exists," of itself is self-evident, for the predicate is the same as the subject, because God is His own existence as will be hereafter shown (3, 4). Now because we do not know the essence of God, the proposition is not self-evident to us; but needs to be demonstrated by things that are more known to us, though less known in their nature--namely, by effects.

Then in a response to “Objection 2” above, Aquinas offers a criticism of what is called the ontological argument. He argues similarly as he did in SCG:

Reply to Objection 2. Perhaps not everyone who hears this word "God" understands it to signify something than which nothing greater can be thought, seeing that some have believed God to be a body. Yet, granted that everyone understands that by this word "God" is signified something than which nothing greater can be thought, nevertheless, it does not therefore follow that he understands that what the word signifies exists actually, but only that it exists mentally. Nor can it be argued that it actually exists, unless it be admitted that there actually exists something than which nothing greater can be thought; and this precisely is not admitted by those who hold that God does not exist.

Well, I think you get the idea of Aquinas’s view of the ontological argument or forms of it: he does not think they are possible for our minds. He deals with it also to some extent in In I Sent., d. 3, q. 1, a. 2, ad 4m; De Veritate, X, 12, ad 2m; and offers the principles used to argue against ontological arguments in On Being and Essence, especially chapter 4 where he also gives an argument for God’s existence based on the essence-existence (esse) distinction in composed beings.

I included the texts so you could see and verify for yourself that Aquinas disagrees with those who put forth any form of an ontological argument. Kant and Aquinas are not too far apart in their rejection of this type of argument for God's existence, however much they disagree with other arguments for the existence of God.