Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam's Execution

I flew back from Al-Kut last night, just in time for a late night dinner with some friends at lovely Chez-Balad. Needless to say, the conversation turned to the topic of Saddam's execution. One of the folks at the table, our Battalion Surgeon, was Saddam's doctor on his last tour here. He expressed his anger at the execution.

When it became my time to chime in I said, "I have mixed emotions about his execution. I am not a proponent of the death penalty, but I can't think of a man more deserving of execution than Saddam." And that pretty much sums up where I am. I believe that life is a gift from God, and precious to God, and except in cases where life is in imminent danger, should not be taken. Add to that the fact that when we take the life of a wrongfully convicted person (and we do that more often than we would like to admit) we have no way of making meaningful restitution. I am against the death penalty as a matter of conscience, but I have to admit that I was happy to see Saddam walked to the gallows.

Realistically, I do not think there will be much of an effect on the situation here because of Saddam's death. Things have been pretty quiet, even as we have flown over Baghdad. There may be a spike in sectarian violence, or car bombings, but all in all, things will pretty much go on as they have been. This war, insurgency, occupation, or whatever you want to call it, became something completely different than Saddam a long time ago.

So, life and death go on here as usual. Tonight we'll ring out the old year, and ring in the new. The best part will be saying, "This is the year I go home!"

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Freedom Chapel UMT's

click to enlarge

These are the Unit Ministry Teams (UMT's) of the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade. When I became the Brigade Chaplain these are the folks I became responsible for - pray for them.

These are some great folks. They work hard putting together worship services, Bible studies, activities to help Soldiers, DA civilians, third country nationals, and whoever else might cross their paths. We work together, eat together, train together, and worship and pray together. And yes, occassionally we fight with one another.

This picture was taken several weeks ago after one of our Brigade UMT meetings.

I'm proud of these Soldiers, and wanted to make sure you knew about them.

Friday, December 22, 2006

TV Star? NOT!

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting in a long staff meeting when CPL Mike Swintek, my Chaplain Assistant, came in the room and motioned for me to come out. "Sir, the PAO just called and needs you on the other side for a 1530 live shot back to Atlanta." I looked at my watch and saw that I had 25 minutes to make a 20 minute drive, get wired for sound, and start the shot. So, I jumped in my humvee, bruised a few traffic laws, and got to the PAO (Public Affairs Officer) just in time. In the hurry the earbud was set up incorrectly and I was hearing what I was saying 5-10 seconds after I said it.

After the interview I discovered that Pam and my friends back home already knew about it. Apparently, the PAO had tried to get in touch with me on Wednesday, but I had spent the day in Baghdad and most of Thursday visiting troops or in meetings. I am not sure what he would have done if I had been a no-show.

Anyway, it was fun talking to the folks I usually watch every morning when I'm in Atlanta at Fox 5. Click on the link below if you want to see me make a fool of myself.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

VIP Visit

We get a lot of VIP's through here. Some you hear about, some you don't. Here's a picture of one of our recent visits. I am always leery of posting things that might violate OPSEC, but this is not fresh news and has been reported in open sources. This visit took place at one of our MEDEVAC sites and security was tight, as you can imagine.

Many of you have asked me to identify people in pictures, along with a little bit about who they are. Please understand that I cannot do that. Remember that anything I post to this blog is available to anyone. So, if I tell you who someone is, where they are from, and what they do, the bad guys can target his or her family, if they choose. It's just one of those things we do not disclose.

Northside United Methodist Church has published "Advent in Iraq" to their website. You can read it at Thanks to Dr. Gil Watson and all the staff and members of Northside UMC for their support of our Soldiers.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Latest Scoop

The big news for this week is our power outage. It seems that some contractors were doing some digging when they severed three or four main feeder lines. As a result, our living area was without power for a little over three days. Now, it gets chilly here at night (in the 30's) and quite dark. After two nights of sleeping in a very cold and very dark trailer I moved to my office and slept on a cot. My office runs on generated power rather than Prime power, so I had lights and heat. I managed to find a shower here and there, though usually a cold one. The good news is that the power has been restored and I will be sleeping in my own bed tonight.

Operation: You've Got Mail continues to wax rather than wane. In the last 6 days I have received 175 boxes bringing the grand total to 711 boxes. One of our Soldiers has taken it upon herself to send handwritten thank you's to everyone who is sending boxes. I'm not sure how long she will last; I fully expect to go over 1,000 boxes by Christmas. The total weight is nearing four tons, and the value exceeds $34,000. All of our Soldiers are appreciative of the gifts, but what they constantly remark on is the support of the people back home. Our eight Vietnam vets are particularly appreciative.

Last week I finished our New Testament Disciple Bible Study. This week I began a six month study with the guys from our Medevac Company. The new study is entitled "The Quest for Authentic Manhood". You can learn more about it at I'll be offering it to some other guys as soon as they finish remodeling my building. More about that later. I'm sure Pam will appreciate her husband coming home as an authentic man.

I hope you are all finding meaning in this Advent season as we journey to Bethlehem. I pray this will be the best Christmas for you ever.

Friday, December 08, 2006

What Causes War?

Over the past year I have heard time and again, "the main cause of war has always been religion". Now, being a professional religionist, I have resented that statement. The thing is, it is bandied about without question; we simply accept it as de facto truth.

So, I started by thinking about the recent major conflicts in which the US has been involved.

OIF. Most people would agree that the roots of Iraqi Freedom go back to the Gulf War - regardless of what you think the administration's justification was. You may say that the "real" reason is oil, or pride, or WMD, or failure to abide by dozens of UN resolutions. But, they go back to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, a sovereign nation with treaties with the US and other coalition forces.

Vietnam. It took 15 years, from 1950-1965 for the US to become incrementally involved in the conflict in Vietnam. We started off assisting the French, and before we knew it we had advisors, then Special Forces, then the 1964 Tonkin Gulf resolution. What do you call that? War by accident?

Korea. North Korea invaded South Korea in June, 1950.

WWII. Hitler breaks several treaties including Versailles, St. Germain, and the Munich Agreement. Oh yeah, don't forget the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.

WWI. A tangle of alliances, sparked by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and Austria-Hungary's ultimatum that Serbia bring the assassins to justice, effectively nullifying their sovereignty.

Civil War. If you're north of the Mason-Dixon line it's about slavery; south and it's about States rights.

Revolutionary War. "Americans" saw themselves as worthy of full democratic rights as Englishmen; Britain saw us as a colony to be used and exploited.

Crusades. This is the big one people point to, in utter ignorance. Remember the Saracens? They were invading from Turkey to Egypt, including parts of the Byzantine Empire. Western Europe was threatened, and responded. The Western feudal structure responded to the Saracens invasion; regardless of religion this would have transpired.

As I have tried to explain to my Soldiers, authorities regularly use the patina of religion to cover their own seeking after power and gain. It is easier to use patriotism and religion to convince young men and women to die than what is usually at the heart of conflict: economics.

In his essay "War and Religion: Is Religion to Blame?" MAJ John P. Conway writes, "The clear distinction and premise of this essay is that, while religion may motivate, and in fact may become the essential ingredient for the sustainment of war, it is seldom the cause. "

So what is the answer to the question "What Causes War?" It is as varied and deep as human motivation. But, usually, it is about power and money. And unscrupulous leaders will try to make it about something more meaningful.

Don't fall for it.