The first time I became aware of the blossoming power of womanhood was at the age of twelve. Having lived with four brothers who tormented, taunted or ignored me I was not prepared for the first young man who held my hand. But I made a mental note that after a few short minutes his hand began to sweat and my own hand remained dry. Suddenly, I knew that women were fascinating creatures to the opposite sex. He bought a candy bar as a token of his limitless affection. I ate it and saved the wrapper in my purse for weeks.
So what does my stupid story have to do with Randall Tobias? Plenty, actually. Men are hunters but women are gatherers when it comes to love and sex. Whether it is the rose petals of unencumbered love, the bread crumbs of a forbidden affair or the remains of a credit card receipt in the palm of a business-savvy madam, women save the evidence. It is just our nature, to keep tangible forms of memory. Long after the man has forgotten the bottle of wine contributed to dinner, the same bottle graces the woman's bathroom sink with a sprig of flowers. The ticket stub from a musical hits the trash as soon as the man dumps his pockets. Meanwhile, the woman is busy taping it into her journal. She wants to emotionally retrieve the moment for future enjoyment.
Now I want to think the best of Mr. Tobias. The escort service was sending college-educated women to provide a $275.00 massage in the comfort of his condo. No sex. That is his story and he will stick to it. Equitable price range in Dallas is $75.00-$90.00 (plus tip) for a deep muscle massage without a "happy ending". Whilst massaging Mr. Tobias' scapulae surely there were quotations from Shakespeare or perhaps Hemingway from the educated lips of his companions? An interesting discourse on the stock market or the piddling economy of Burkina Faso including the price per bushel of millet, a national food staple?
Meanwhile Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the madam of D.C. finds herself in a bind much like Heidi Fleiss, the madam of Hollywood, who spent a stint in jail but now runs a "stud farm" in Nevada. The powerful of Hollywood quaked when the government came after Ms. Fleiss for tax evasion. It got rather messy for some folks. Now Ms. Palfrey, her back up against the wall with racketeering charges, threatens that things may get very hot for certain individuals-of-interest. Inside the Beltway I imagine there are a few men peeking around the corner and suddenly sending their own wives flowers. Lawyers for a few clients have made discreet enquiries to ascertain if their phone numbers are on the "list" of 10,000-15,000 names. Time is of the essence because it is expected that ABC will air a segment on 20/20 this Friday. Ms. Palfrey has generously dumped her tale into their laps. Mr. Tobias may be the first of several high profile men whose penchant for private fantasy will now become public fare. Personally, I don't care for all the details. I am not that curious. But three can keep a secret if two are dead. And women keep a few secrets of their own.
Monday, April 30, 2007
The first time I became aware of the blossoming power of womanhood was at the age of twelve. Having lived with four brothers who tormented, taunted or ignored me I was not prepared for the first young man who held my hand. But I made a mental note that after a few short minutes his hand began to sweat and my own hand remained dry. Suddenly, I knew that women were fascinating creatures to the opposite sex. He bought a candy bar as a token of his limitless affection. I ate it and saved the wrapper in my purse for weeks.
Posted by tammyswofford at 5:30 AM
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Today I received the fourth complaint of the week regarding comments that would not post. I have contacted Blogspot. From what I have seen, sometimes the word avatar does not accept the first attempt. After hitting "publish comment" and before exiting check to see if the comment was accepted. If not, scroll back up to the avatar with the tool bar and see if it needs to be re-entered.
This is a systems problem and hopefully it will be fixed soon. Otherwise, feel free to post a comment to either my e mail or to Tom's and we will copy and paste it in for you.
Posted by tammyswofford at 12:13 AM
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Just checking the site analytics for the week.
The east coast still outpaces the west coast. And from across the Atlantic and beyond, thanks to readers in:
Runcorn, Nottingham, West Ham, Paris, Leuven, Steilshoop, Islamabad, Palam, Barangar, Seoul and Pusan.
I am certainly learning my geography and reading up on locations which were previously non-existent in my brain map. smile
To those who are too shy to enter the fray, please scroll back to the comments on the blog on Virginia Tech and see Sgt. Havins enter center stage into the free speech zone and the return volley by myself.
This remains a site where all may enter, who dare. smile
Thank you again everyone!
Tammy Swofford..... and of course..... Tom Gordon
Posted by tammyswofford at 5:31 PM
Friday, April 27, 2007
"Sorry, you highness, but you're not really the dictator of Ithuvania, a small European republic. In fact, there is no Ithuvania. The hordes of admirers, the military parades, this office-- we faked it all as an experiment in human psychology. In fact, your Highness, your real name is Edward Belcher, you're from Long Island, New York, and it's time to go home Eddie." The Far Side, Gallery 5, p 13, by Gary Larson.
This cartoon, of two scientists in lab coats notifying a rather clueless Eddie that he has been sucked into a big lie, is my favorite cartoon of all time. He is seated behind a desk with a large portrait of himself as a monarch. I can so identify with the plot and the irony because each morning I get up and think, "Now who the hell am I today?" And I secretly wait for that knock on the door. Will they figure out that I am no hero, and I am just little ole' Tammy Swofford, wife, mother and loyal friend?
Pat Tillman came home in a flag-draped casket, April of 2004 as the result of fratricide. He was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. A lie was told concerning his death. The family was told he died in an ambush. Five weeks later the truth was revealed. Three years later, the fallout continues.
But after watching the testimony of the Tillman family and listening to the words of Jessica Lynch before a congressional panel I find myself sifting the things which were shared via my own compassionate nature, and what I have experienced first hand of the care and concern of the military for their own. I remember my trip to Africa, where I fell out with violent vomiting and heat exhaustion after five days of Advance Party duties. I will never forget the comfort I felt when another officer threw me under the only available tree and began to strip me down and sponge bathe me to cool my core temperature. Another officer started my intravenous fluid and produced a canteen with Gatorade. They cared for me, I loved them for it. It was up close and personal. That is how we care, in the military. We are a family, deeply knit together, in ways which cannot be expressed by pen alone.
Quietly, I wonder if the initial lie was told because the truth was too painful? Yes, it was a lie. But was the lie to create a legend? Or was the lie told to blunt the grief of those there, but not directly involved and to spare the family? We were not present along the mountainside that day. How do we know?
When a humvee turns over into a canal in Iraq and the soldier drowns, that is a hard tale for the Chaplain to deliver to the family. When a service member commits suicide, the task is harder. But when fratricide is the cause of death, the whole unit is impacted. Remember too, that Pat Tillman's brother was in convoy with the same group.
Yes, a lie was told. The truth is always better. But the truth, can be much harder to bear. And in the harsh words of the panel for our military I must speak just once again. How many of them have children serving in the military today? Do any of them? Please, let them stand and speak as to the impact of their child's service in a combat zone. And should their own child die by fratricide, the pain which is seen from the Tillman family, will be the pain they will share. Are they up to the task? And what of the remainder of the truth of what happened along the mountains of Afghanistan that horrible day in April of 2004? Dare we consider? Pat Tillman was accidently killed by one of his comrade in arms. And then, the arms of the brotherhood of his men, cradled him in death, and sent him home. God Bless our Troops.
LCDR Tammy Swofford, USNR, NC
Posted by tammyswofford at 7:37 AM
Thursday, April 26, 2007
A gentle snowfall dusted the Dallas landscape the night my son was born. His birth mother entered the hospital emergency room in full labor. White adult female with a good insurance plan but no prenatal care. Single working woman with but one request: "Knock me out. I don't want to see the baby. I do not want it."
Less than fifteen hours later I was seated across from this woman at a small table. I let her know that adopting her son would bring a smile to my face. But I told her that she must go and look at the baby. "You deserve to see what you carried in your body for nine months. If you can look at him and still give him away, then here is the number of my lawyer. By law you must make that initial contact with him." Social services also consulted with her and she remained firm in her desire to not take her baby home. She called our lawyer and put a new branch on the Swofford family tree.
Andrew's mother held him before leaving the hospital the next morning. Very simply, she said to me, "He has all of his fingers and toes. I counted them." Then she picked up her little suitcase and walked out of my life. In less than two days I became a new mother. No time to psychologically prepare and certainly nothing in the house that gave the appearance that a baby was on the way. A crib arrived at the door, diapers, little outfits, things needed to care for this new little human being whom I had not even seen but already loved.
Andrew is fifteen now. He is 5'11" and 220 pounds. A lumbering ox of a man, his pediatric charts consistently portray a final height of 6'5" before his growth hormones poop out and his skeletal system locks into place. There is a smattering of freckles across his face, his eyes are blue and his hair a sandy brown. He looks like his birth mother. But with partial birth abortion, he might not have made it out of the starting gate of life. Partial birth abortion is not about the health of the mother. If you believe it, you are a premier candidate for the Joseph Goebbels school of idiocy. This is the man who took the art of spin to genocidal levels and knocked off his six children when his own world fell apart. Partial birth abortion is a messy little murder which must be done skillfully and quickly to fulfill a small technicality of the law. If the baby is delivered alive and sucks in that first breath, you are dealing with infanticide if you then decide to destroy that little brain in that very small human skull.
Posted by tammyswofford at 7:57 AM
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
The most striking thing about Alberto R. Gonzales’s performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee is that he got his job because the same Senators who now say he is a bum voted to confirm him.
Gonzales didn’t suddenly become a political apparatchik. He was always one. The difference is that the august ladies and gentlemen of the Senate Judiciary Committee were prepared to wash the administration’s hands in the hope of having their hands washed at election time. Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware) demonstrated that he was clearly unworthy to be in the Senate, much less a presidential candidate, when he explained his vote as saying that the President should have the people he wanted. The mentally lazy (remember he swiped a speech from Neil Kinnock instead of coming up with his own) Mr. Biden apparently thinks the duty to advise and consent is too much work. One can only wonder why he even bothers to attend confirmation hearings.
On the other side of aisle, one of Mr. Gonzales’s most ardent former supporters was Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). Cornyn, who as Texas Attorney General while Gonzales was advising governor Bush on executions and other matters, had far more insight into the Gonzales character and work effort than anyone else on the committee. If anyone should have said, “I know this guy and he is not right for this position,” it is John Cornyn. Yet, it took him until Gonzales disgraced himself, (and, President Bush’s approval ratings had fallen into the low 30s), for Cornyn to spill the beans on the Attorney General.
The Gonzales mess is merely a symptom of a disgusting development in how things are done in
The argument in favor of this cozy relationship is that if a senator or a news organization does something to offend the administration, the administration will take revenge. This is the same as the idea that an elected official cannot do good things if he is not elected. But if he condones evil to stay in office, what good is he?
Posted by tammyswofford at 5:17 AM
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Time must be viewed not in days, weeks or months when discussing Islam. We fall short if we look to a decade. We must extend the view toward the century. What will the world, and what will Islam look like, at the end of the 21st century? Opinions among the scholarly Islamic community vary. I have listened to Muslim social scientists discuss the need for reformation. Dialogue with members of the diplomatic corps, military and Shari'ah law community have shown me a depth of emotion which has matched my own, when I think of America. There is an admirable tenacity of spirit. But the forces which have been unleashed, and the message and methods which has been promulgated in the last few decades, a message embracing violent jihad against the West, threatens the stability of all civil people; all who choose to live under the rule of law.
The organic of social thought, which had lain in dormancy in the Islamic scholarly community for decades, began to find expression again in the fertile soil of the minds of men such as Qutb and other Islamists who placed the Muslim in a historical context to their interactions with a more technologically advanced and dominant West. But writings which pushed for autonomous Muslim governance have moved into what I term the inorganic aspects of thought, or the ways and means, in which theory is applied.
The revolutionary writings which guided the formation of several of the autonomous Muslim-majority nations of today, have given way to a hybridization process which is devolving into a maelstrom of catastrophe. This hybridization of political thought has taken concepts such as "takfeer" or excommunication, from prudent usage by the Muslim governmental structures, to blanket applications such as used by al-Qaedah in Iraq, to justify mass civilian targets in bombings. It has taken the potent combination of jihad and shaheed to create a class of warrior which will give unquestioning obedience, in exchange for Paradise.
May Osama bin Ladin and those who embrace his means to achieve political goals burn in hell. His use of quasi-judicial means and outright anarchy, to form his own warped "Justice League" against the West and even his own fellow Muslims, has caused the growth of a deadly and virulent cancer within the Muslim community. Take for instance the issue of suicide bombers. The original prototype was an adult, unattached male in his twenties. This prototype was used prior to 9/11 by groups such as Hezbollah. The devolution has brought female suicide bombers into the theater of action. Concern for the one who nourishes the seed of man, is of no concern, when it comes to attaining political goals. In Iraq a few weeks ago, children were expendable, as seen in the sad situation of the children used as innocent decoys to breach a checkpoint. The bombers then left the children in the back seat to have their DNA splattered into the atmosphere as they detonated their bomb. The Taliban has just released a videotape which is circulating in Pakistan. A boy, estimated age of twelve, is given the task of beheading an adult male member of the community who is termed an "American spy". Our very frames should shake, to consider that even a microcosm of society will allow a child to mete out death to an adult. Can such social structure survive?
So Islam is at a crossroads. Many scholars are rising up to engage ijtihad, or independent reasoning, to tackle some of the serious issues confronting their community. Islam also allows a process called 'ijma which bases decisions on community concensus. Ijtihad and 'ijma (independent reasoning and concensus) are allowable aspects of law for progressive Muslims. There is a need for a new consolidation of thought in the Muslim community which will turn the back, and show the bottom of the sandal, to those whose ideology of hate, would contaminate the 1.5 billion people, who call themselves "Muslims".
Posted by tammyswofford at 5:48 AM
Monday, April 23, 2007
"Oh you have been chosen to be graced with belief! Do not take for allies, some of the people who were given the Scripture before you, and the rejectors who mock and ridicule your Religion. Be mindful of Allah's Commands if indeed you are believers." Qur'an 5:57
Muhammad Qutb was a mentor of Osama bin Ladin when he resided in Jeddah. He was the brother of Sayyid Qutb, an Islamic theoretical strategist and revivalist who spent his final years in an Egyptian prison prior to hanging to death on gallows. His works are considered to have ideological vitality in global circles of contemporary Islamic thought. His most well-known work, "Milestones" was written while in prison. Other noted works are "Social Justice in Islam" and "Under the Shade of the Qur'an". Abdullah bin Ladin, a relative of Osama bin Ladin, was the U.S. director of WAMY (World Assembly of Muslim Youth) prior to 9/11, after which the bin Ladin family vacated our nation. Maulana Maududi had considerable impact on South Asia with his Islamic revivalism and was the founder of Jamaat-e-Islaami. Hassan al-Banna was the founder of Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimoon in 1928. (Muslim Brotherhood) His grandson on the maternal side, Tariq Ramadan, was denied his visa (2005) to teach at Notre Dame. Homeland Security used a clause in the Patriot Act to deny his access to American soil. In January 2006, the ACLU filed an appeal in a federal district court in Manhattan to challenge this clause, on behalf of Mr. Ramadan. Qutb, Maududi and al-Banna represent the political thought which arose from the ashes in the days after the Treaty of Balfour and collapse of the Ottoman Sultanate.
Why are these facts and so many other historical footnotes important? They are notable for one reason. There is a lingering effect from the British colonialism of the nineteenth century which spawned the pan-Arab nationalism springing up in the 1920's and 1930's. While some Western historians see the British partition of India as closing the book on that subject, many global Islamists still look to that era, and preceding decades as if it were yesterday. The backlash in the early and mid 20th century against what was seen as British imperialism has led to one of the most potent global unification efforts of geopolitical Islam. This solid strategic push remains under the guidance of top Islamic scholars, working both publicly and in the shadows toward well-defined goals. The Muslim Brotherhood retains a transnational reach, establishing a Western beachhead in Germany in the 1950's. Their organizational networking capabilities and that of national Islamic think tanks move through strong chain of command structures and information conduits with considerations too vast to be noted, in a blog format.
Many top Muslim policy makers and scholars retain a solid belief that Muslim-majority nations which support the U.S. or receive financial aid are merely "puppet regimes" of the West. There is a backward look at the past which includes a forward-looking innate distrust of the West. Add Qur'anic injunctions to the recipe and it is a potent stew. Once again, the lingering effects of British colonialism have combined to produce an isolationist mentality on the one hand, and an aggressive stance against the West, in other quarters. Moderate Muslims, feel the squeeze play of both sides.
The final section will springboard to the present with commentary which will move into a look at Islam and the forces at work today. There will be harsh assessment, against those who engage violence against civilians.
Posted by tammyswofford at 1:04 PM
Sunday, April 22, 2007
The very word Islam means submission. It is seared into the psyche of the devout Muslim that Islam is the sovereign and driving force in their life. From the moment the infant is born with the name of Allah whispered in his ear, to the time of death when his face is turned toward Makkah for burial, the Muslim is under mandated submission to a Divine Order. This Deen, or way of life, necessitates a state to institute social order beyond the confines of the family unit, which is is also given sacrosanct status within a patriarchal hierarchy. Throughout the reading of the Qur'an the social order is built through imperative command, by historical example and overlapping repetition of themes. The threads of government are constant in the tapestry of the Qur'an. They dwell in colors both bold and muted, with the first thread moving onto the Qur'anic loom in 610 CE, on Jabal al-Nur (the Mountain of Light, or Mt. Hira) where it is believed that Prophet Muhammad received his first revelation. Under the shadow of the eternal, dwells the principle of the earthly Islamic government to rule in the affairs of men.
State sovereignty hinges on two important principles. The first principle is found in the phrase "al-amr bi 'l-ma-ruf wa n n'nahy 'an-munkar", or enjoining the good and forbidding the evil. Whether it is an Islamic Republic with a constitutional structure, a small tribe ruled by a Shura council, or the lone imam reciting al-Qur'an on a Friday night, the goal of Islam is an ordered society which blocks chaos. Islam seeks a society configured along what we call C2 in the military: command and control. The command ('amr) is to be followed by obedience. (ibadah) So it becomes the distinct duty of an Islamic state to assure that laws are properly enforced. As each individual is brought into active obedience to Islamic ordinances, statehood is strengthened. And whether it involves a penal code, such as jail terms for blasphemy (Pakistan Penal Code, Section 295c) or a tribal council which assesses hudood penalty for adultery, as seen under the Taliban, the Islamic state rules supreme.
The second principle is hard for the Western mind to digest. It goes against our historical perceptions, running in a perceived cross-current to democracy. It reeks of lack of fair play. But all will agree that cultural intelligence brings gain while arrogance fueled by ignorance merely closes doors of opportunity. So the second principle is not discussed from the vantage point of either merit or the lack thereof, but based on allowances of Islamic government with regards to the West. This is the topography of the Islamic mind which we do not understand.
Islam, demands sovereign rule by Muslims alone. "Oh ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger and those charged with authority from among you...." Qur'an 4:59 (Yusuf Ali)
Within the confines of a true Muslim state, the head of state and most influential positions of rank must be in the hands of Muslims. (Much as our own laws do not allow a foreign-born President of the United States) The tenacity of this belief can be found in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Article 64). The Islamic Consultative Assembly is made up of 270 members. This legislative body has enjoined a deliberate demographic membership limitation of one Jew, one Zoroastrian, a joint representative for Assyrian and Chaldean Christians and two Armenian Christians as elected representatives. The remaining within those ranks, Muslims. Pause for a moment and let this sink in. Those few guys, might as well take a snooze during the session. No ability for a power bloc in that small group.
Obeying "those charged with authority from among you" implies that any authority structure which is not predominantly Islamic in nature is a fraudulent endeavor. The proper governance of Muslims in a Muslim-majority nation demands a distinctly Islamic chain of command. This is emphasized in greater degree in the following translation of 4:59 directly from the Quraish dialect of Muhammad: "Oh You who have been chosen to be graced with belief! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger, the Central Authority of the Divine System, and those whom the System has appointed as office-bearers. If you have a dispute concerning any matter, refer it to the Central Authority. If you truly believe in Allah and the Last Day, this is the best approach for you, and more seemly in the end." (QXP Qur'an, translation by Dr. Shabbir Ahmed, M.D.)
This dynamic of a distinct Islamic authority moves beyond the boundaries of any geographic Muslim-majority nation to include views toward foreign policy. The next section will tie in with the lingering affects of British Colonialism.
Posted by tammyswofford at 1:26 PM
Saturday, April 21, 2007
The interest is intense. For many, the knowledge is minimal. If you read through the blogs on the Government of Allah (beginning on April 2) you are ready to move from the entrance into a superficial "next look" at the corridors of Islam. It is time to take the education to the next level. For if we do not begin to understand geopolitical Islam, our policy will play out in failed attempts and diplomatic charades which are to the benefit of none. Crafting our Middle East policy in the next decade must move forward with a proactive negotiating platform which uses all assets available, including cultural intelligence. So to ramp up for the week, we will begin with commentary. We will then move between theory and theorists, history and history in the making. As always, the format will be synoptic, hard-hitting and fast moving. Strap in for the ride. Here we go!
A paradox exists regarding Islam. The Western historical perception of democracy, our view of separation of Church and State and understanding of free will with regard to citizen rights places us within a cocoon of thought which is well-suited for our domestic goals, but ill-suited for foreign policy. The paradox surfaces as to the contradictory nature of what we view as Islam. Most Americans view Islam as religion. As such, our paradigm moves toward rights and accomodation. But we also see geopolitcal Islam at work. So we place Islam in two separate boxes: religion and state. But this next week, we will focus on geopolitical Islam as it plays out on the world stage. Because in lack of focus to the geopolitical aspects of Islam we hamstring tactical intellectual strength and degrade our negotiation capabilities.
Attempted insertion of democracy into war-torn Islamic regions merely polarizes and energizes the extremes. American diplomats moving along corridors of influence in stable Islamic governments, advising women that they will receive the right to drive insults intelligence and shows incompetence in engaging the terrain of the Islamic mind. And if we do not actively engage our Muslim counterparts with cultural intelligence in the battle space of thought, we are going to continue to suffer in the arena of the law of unintended consequences.
The choke point of the American analyst community has existed because of the tug-of-war between neoconservatives and the more liberal political camps. The question has been asked, "Do we build a bridge or put up a wall with regards to Islam and foreign policy?" The theoretical framework of policy must have a beginning point of asking the right questions. Regarding Islam the question must be asked, "How do we build a platform?" Our theoretical tactical interface with the Islam of the 21st century on intellectual levels has lagged. So once again, a look at Islam from a different slant than that offered two weeks ago. Next, we will look at issues of sovereignty of the Muslim state.
Friday, April 20, 2007
Don't tell my husband, but I am making discreet enquiries to be Paul Wolfowitz's new girlfriend. The last time I got a raise was about four years ago. As I recall, the extra fifteen dollars a day meant a lot to me. Happy rumors abound that this year I will receive a 2 percent pay increase. I can hardly wait. But in the meantime, I am getting older and the 401K doesn't look that great. You know the old saying: "One old dog looks good to another old dog." So I figure I should at least make the effort to hook up with Paul. I have practically run the search engines into the ground looking for his private cell number. Desperate times, call for desperate measures. Why settle for chocolates when the stakes are so high?
Now, the World Bank president is in a damage control mode. His staff has poor morale and a lot of fingerpointing is going on. Somewhat like a hamster running on the wheel, the Wolfowitz PR team is working 24/7 to make sure he keeps his job. Pointing to his dealings with the ethics committee, letting us know that under staff rule 3.01, paragraph 4.02 he recused himself from the issue of how to compensate his girlfriend in a manner befitting her style.... oops, I mean to help defray her losses.... what is seen on paper can look like an ethical endeavor. But who knows what was discussed in private, among the powerful friends of Paul Wolfowitz?
Meanwhile, the object of Dr. Wolfowitz' affection, Shaha Riza, releases a statement through a friend that she really is the sad victim caught up in this whole scenario. Gee, getting a 46 percent pay increase since leaving the World Bank doesn't smack of victimization to me. Does that sound like victimization to you?
Being a realist, I know that Dr. Wolfowitz wouldn't spit on me if I was on fire. In the coming year I can expect a two percent pay increase. My husband will throw some rib-eye steaks on the grill and maybe I will buy a new dress to celebrate a salary which never quite keeps pace with the cost of living index. I will continue to work hard and be grateful for my health and own job. Dr. Wolfowitz will probably keep his position. Ms. Shaha Riza will keep her raise. Who says life is fair?
Posted by tammyswofford at 6:57 AM
Thursday, April 19, 2007
I am a Christian. My lips do not complain of "persecution" in America. What many think of as persecution is merely played out as a battle for free speech in my country. Our blood does not flow and we barely break a sweat to practice our faith. But I am grateful, to not be a Christian in the nation of Turkey today. Three members of the Christian faith were bound and had their throats slit at a Bible publishing company. Christians make up less than one percent of the population, but are increasingly being targeted for their beliefs.
The Muslim world is incensed when word is spread of a Qur'an being desecrated at Guantanamo Bay by an American guard. American flags are burned. Fists are raised and demands are made for investigations. The topic is covered for weeks in national media and people claim to be outraged. But the story of three Christians killed in Turkey, a Muslim-majority nation, will be quickly buried. Not much of a story there. Al-Jazeera will not make this sad event the highlight of several broadcasts. Most likely a media blackout will be the case across much of the Muslim world.
Abu Ghraib was a story. What was done was despicable. My stomach turned as I viewed the computer images. I sat and I wept. I was ashamed that people bearing the title of "American" would stoop to such depravity of human behavior.
But you are a Muslim. You bear a title too. In America, you state you want to be part of us and accepted on your own individual merit. I accept you in such manner. Why then, in your Muslim-majority nations can Christians not reside alongside you in safety? I am a Christian. You are a Muslim. Shouldn't we feel the same about what happened in Turkey?
Posted by tammyswofford at 4:51 AM
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
I just finished watching the "48 Hours" television special on the Virginia Tech massacre. It was somewhat patched together. This would be expected with an out-of-the-chute coverage of the violence of yesterday and the beginnings of emotional aftermath today. But Katie Couric and her team did a fine job of letting faculty and students speak their hearts. It was a Sonata written in blood.
The expressions of grief were varied but still emanating from that fairly comfortable place where early on, the brain functions as a shock absorber. We were created in such manner so that the practicalities of grief can be taken care of that require immediate attention. Air flights must be arranged, pets cared for and hotel reservations secured when there is a death. The funeral arrangements must be made and a priest, rabbi, or minister of the faith secured to bring meaning for us when placing the deceased into the ground. This is the cushioned grief response which makes us think that the survivors are really doing fine. There was one young man (a Virginia Tech graduate who had lost his younger sister) who already spoke of "wanting the pain to go away." But his response is not the normal shell-shocked statement given by most of those interviewed. Their words showed that while some have made mental ascent that this trauma will affect them later, the emotional tidal wave has not yet hit the shore.
But soon, the families of the murdered students will head home. They will take the boxes of belongings neatly packed from dorms and apartments. These boxes will remain undisturbed for a long time. Framed pictures of their student will continue to grace the mantel or the refrigerator. They may avoid looking at them. It will seem like the young adult is on an extended vacation and one day soon, they will walk through that door. It will be like waking up from a bad dream. The spouses and children of deceased faculty will pack up offices and clear out desks. They will receive letters from students and other faculty. The remaining mate will sleep single in a double bed and in the solitude that darkness provides, the loneliness engulfs.
But in about six months the Sonata which was written in blood will come to full crescendo in the emotions of the families that remain. Palpable grief, can come full force after six months. So while we pray, the President speaks, the poet thunders from the podium of Virginia Tech and the flag flies at half-mast on their campus, we remember to include in our prayers the strength for tomorrow for these families. There will be many difficult days ahead for faculty, students and families at Virginia Tech. May God Bless them all.
Posted by tammyswofford at 7:00 AM
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
**You are in charge. There has been a campus shooting. Two people are dead. What will you do next?
The picture of police officers running, practically in rank, outside of Norris Hall a full 2 1/2 hours after the first shooting incident yesterday points to a large-scale failure of perimeter security. This will be the classic tale of hindsight, but foresight uses the following rules of engagement when a potential threat appears within a high density area such as a college campus. What I will share is part of a package of perimeter security taught in the military. I will not share all aspects, as some are on a "need to know" basis. But here are some basic considerations for perimeter security:
*Active Denial: Roadblocks are placed at the onset of the incident to deny both egress and entrance to the site via normal traffic arteries.
*Vehicular assets: Parking garages and off-site lots are monitored until a database is secured for possible supportive evidence.
Sweep and stealth: Large areas require a rapid sweep with smaller areas such as stairwells and closets being approached with stealth.
Communication conduit: Under threat assessment what are the understood locations of both lock-down and flight for students? I served in sub-Sahara Africa on a mission with the Navy. Every morning found us at a new location. Making a a circle in the sand, our security officer outlined buildings (very few) or topographic markers. A line of flight was established for individuals in direct threat situations. Flight pattern and direction were established prior to threat. We understood that we would later be extracted.... walking, and not in a body bag.
Now I do not know all of the factors in play at Virginia Tech yesterday morning but I know the following piece of the puzzle: There was an apparent leadership team meeting, even as the second and more deadly shooting was taking place on the university campus. Were these leaders discussing the psychological impact of the first shooting or how to release a statement to the press? Or was this leadership team working proactively to secure the campus? Virginia Tech had an unapprehended assailant with unknown location and without established motive. They had two bodies. They faced an unknown but potentially dangerous situation which exploded in violent and public manner when the doors of Norris Hall were chained and padlocked from the inside and the body count mounted drastically. Remember, those police officers running to Norris Hall were already behind the curve. The assailant had secured his own perimeter quite nicely.
I cannot say that I would have responded differently. But I do make the observation that you "train like you play". The training for securing their campus perimeter was lacking as shown by the play-by-play which unfolded. With a 2 1/2 hour window of opportunity the assailant secured his own perimeter by locking out the police. He then proceeded to kill without remorse, turning a classroom setting into a slaughterhouse. If the reports are true, this assailant tested the system in prior days, by calling in bomb threats. Even simplified time and motion studies suffice for what he had planned.
After-action reports and debriefings should provide somber reflection in the days to come for all employers, school administrators, building managers and others who work in high-density office neighborhoods and schools. What is your plan in place? If you do not have a written plan, please consider one today. Plan for the worst-case scenario. Get your playbook on the table and into the hands of those who need it. Then practice, practice, practice, how your team will respond. The military practices again and again, to manage crisis. And during crisis, a well-established order of operations will serve you well.
My thoughts and prayers are extended today to the leadership at Virginia Tech, and the families who have sustained a loss.
Posted by tammyswofford at 11:47 AM
Mike Hashimoto may be a nice enough guy, but he is also the Baby Huey of intellectual endeavor. He is for legalized gambling because he thinks people should be allowed to do what they want. And is no more open to suggestions that legal gambling invited illegal activies than he is to considering 150 years of scientific evidence that human beings cause global warming. Enough said.
He supports the idea that killing police officers and prison guards performing their duties is an especially heinous crime. Does that mean special treatment for the TYC officials guilty of abusing their charges? Why is the murder of a police officer any worse that the murder of anyone else? Are they so much better than the average citizen? As a former police reporter I can tell you they are not. I have met a few thieves and a lot of thugs on various police departments around the country. In New York, two police officers used their jobs to act as hit men for the mob. If one of their potential victims shot first, should he be tried for capital murder or given a medal?
Mike “The Mikado” Hashimoto is interested in making the punishment fit the crime. Fine. All has to do is to guarantee that the person convicted is actually the criminal. Dallas recently released its 13th innocent man from prison. How do you release a corpse from death if it turns out after the person has been executed that he was railroaded onto the needle? The Texas justice system is so flawed that it is next to impossible for a poor, minority defendant to get a fair trial. If he can’t afford an attorney, the state is likely to appoint a drunk or even a disbarred attorney to represent him. Consider Clara Harris who killed her husband by running over him with a Mercedes because he was cheating on her. She got 20 years for that. What would she have gotten if she had relied on a court appointed attorney?
In Texas, Judges get elected, not for promising justice, but for promising retribution against “those people.” Juries in Texas tend to believe either that the defendant would not be on trial if he were innocent, or that he was arrested because of his skin. The truth is that he is the defendant because he is convenient. He may also be guilty, but he is primarily convenient. When he looks like he might be a little less convenient, prosecutors in Dallas have failed to turn exculpatory evidence over to the defense.
Since Hashimoto did not reference the Cornell study, I am not sure what it said. This is what the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the U.S. Census have to say. African Americans represent 11.5% of the Texas population, and 36% of the executions. Anglos represent 53% of the population and 48% of the executions while 33% of the Texas population is Hispanic and only 15% of those executed between 2005 and 1979 were Hispanic. Statistically speaking, a disproportionate percentage of African Americans are executed in Texas and a disproportionate percentage of Hispanics are not.
Hashimoto claims that the death penalty is a deterrent. Why then, does Texas have to execute so many? If the death penalty were a deterrent, wouldn’t you expect Texas to have fewer capital murders than any other state? But, in the past 30 years we have croaked more than 882 people, more than any other state, so you would expect that our murder rate to be really low. Not so. The death penalty could only be a deterrent if the crime was premeditated. Most murders are not. The escapees who were robbing the sporting goods store weren’t doing it because they hoped their actions would give them to opportunity to kill a cop. The cop showed up and they shot him. No deterrent there.
I have to question Hashimoto’s statistics. He claims the United States executed it’s 1,000th person in 2005. According to my statistics, Texas alone executed 882 by the end of 2005. It was followed by Florida with 806 and California with 775. In all, by the end of 2005, the United States had executed 6,813 between 1977 and 2005. If he managed to get that wrong, what else has Hashimoto gotten wrong?
At this point Hashimoto compounds his errors and claims the death penalty would work better if the sentence were carried out sooner. Why not just hang’em from the nearest lamp post as soon as you catch them? The lives of others clearly mean nothing to Hashimoto. He says: “A death case adds several layers of protection to defendants. These extra layers, in fact, can sway a prosecutor from pursuing that sentence in favor of a long prison term when the evidence falls short of slam-dunk (in the George Tenet sense of the phrase?).” In point of fact, what the law students at Northwestern University discovered in their landmark investigation of Illinois capital convictions is that prosecutors are not above withholding evidence detrimental to their cases. Their work caused the governor of Illinois to suspend executions until all cases on death row were re-examined. Some layer of protection.
The one thing that Hashimoto and I agree on is the fallibility of man. He and Tammy are willing to live with it and to accept irreversible punishments that might very well be in error. I am not.
Posted by tammyswofford at 10:02 AM
Monday, April 16, 2007
Dallas Morning News editorial board reversed their support for the Texas death penalty on the page of the "Points" section of the Sunday edition. Accompanying their mess-of-a-piece, they strengthed their weakened journalistic illuminati with a strong graphic. Nothing like opening the page to see a likeness of the State of Texas, with little people superimposed in the shape of a skull. Sensationalistic graphic art does strengthen the opinion on the page, but it doesn't do much for their lack of logic. So let's take this piece as the mainstream media offering for critical analysis on the blog this month.
"We cannot support a system that is both imperfect and irreversible."
In pointing to imperfections, the DMN board mentions two separate cases which wrongfully received guilty verdicts and the death penalty in the 1980's. One man was later executed and the other subsequently received his freedom. But the editors conveniently omit any mention of technological advances which can now provide us with millions of true witnesses to a murder: the DNA of a murderer harvested from the body of a corpse. Much has changed in the last decade beyond the use of biological markers used to identify criminals.
In noting that death is irreversible, the scales are not balanced by the DMN board. They do not acknowledge the irreversible nature of cause and effect on the family and friends of a murder victim. That one corpse affects every branch of the family tree and beyond. Whether parents or siblings, co-workers or friends, courtroom victim impact statements will attest to the brutal psychological toll that is exacted from the living, who remain in the shadow of the murdered dead. DMN uses selective journalistic silence.
Supporting a view that ".... our society can be adequately guarded from killers using bloodless means", I have to take a calloused look at the term "bloodless means". Is it not my own lifeblood given in the form of labor and hence my taxes which will incarcerate, guard, feed, clothe, and provide medical attention for that murderer for possibly decades? Allow me to let you in on a nasty little secret. Did you know that inmates on death row are eligible for and receive organ transplants too? Yep. They are on that transplant list right along with your poor Aunt Mary who never hurt a fly, who is also awaiting a donor kidney. Tomorrow, she may head to the dialysis center again, while the death row inmate is on a surgical table receiving his own transplant.
The DMN board bemoans: "The Tulia and the fake drug scandals have also eroded public confidence in the justice system. These travesties illustrate how greed and bigotry can poison the process." Wow! That is quite a mouthful. Our system has failed us at times, but for the most part it is the most equitable means of bringing justice. Their attempt to portray all of "us" on the same bandwagon with "them" regarding erosion of public confidence, is probably a stretch of their collective imaginations. I work with a community of employees who consistently perform jury duty. They trust the system to work.
Regarding murderers the DMN board has a belief that ".... not even the just dispatch of 10, 100 or 1,000 of these wretches can remove the stain of innocent blood from our common moral fabric." Yet there is no mention in this article of the distinct need for the death penalty to remain intact as just retribution for people like Karla Faye Tucker. She used an axe for her murder weapon. What about the need for the death penalty for people like Betty Lou Beets, of Gun Barrel City, Texas who buried one murdered husband under a wishing well in the yard, and another behind a tool shed?
And in seeking to sway Texans to set aside the death penalty, the DMN board would deny many Texans what they consider both a right and personal conviction: There are certain people who have committed crimes of such heinous nature, that they are deserving of death. That is my belief and it is also part of the moral fiber of many Texans.
*On the back page of the "Points" section, assistant editorial page editor Mike Hashimoto does an excellent job writing the rebuttal commentary, "Opposing a repeal". You may click on the link.
Posted by tammyswofford at 5:22 AM
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Please go to the blog link above to take a look at the work of a military combat artist. Scroll down a bit to the photos by Marine Warrant Officer and combat photographer/artist Michael Fay, who served at Camp Fallujah. His blog photos show how he has tried his hand at sculpture. I like the second picture best.
Then look at the preceding blog which shows the mechanics of how a sculpture is crafted. My gene pool totally missed out in "art talent", but I have developed art appreciation!
This link was sent to me by a dear friend, Captain Hiram Patterson, USNR who served recently at Camp Fallujah. I still remember hugging Captain Patterson and kissing him on the cheek prior to his departure. What fears we hold for our own community and those we love among our ranks! And how grateful I remain today that he safely returned, continuing his service to our nation in CONUS. (continental United States).
On a different note, may I extend my gratitude to the reader this week from Kampong Bukit Lanjan. I had to look that location up on a map! And to the readers who took a peek from Spain, England, Italy and Japan this week, thank you also.
Posted by tammyswofford at 8:16 AM
Thursday, April 12, 2007
In "Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography" by Kitty Kelley, the reader is treated to some rather tacky portrayals of our former First Lady. Ms. Kelley rather unfairly inserted many of her own opinions into her expansive storytelling. One area in which Ms. Kelley criticized Mrs. Reagan is how she would manage the stage when it came to photo opportunities. She wanted the background to compliment her dress, people positioned just right, or plants in a certain spot. As Mrs. Reagan was an actress prior to her marriage to Ronald Reagan I saw her maneuverings as just an extension of her career talents.
But move over, Nancy Reagan! We now have House Speaker Nancy Pelosi using taxpayer money to produce her own expensive "glamour shot" with her trip to Syria. What the hell exactly, did she accomplish? She issued a vague olive branch of peace to the Syrian government from the government of Israel. Prime Minister Olmert almost immediately jumped on her words as they left her motor mouth and ran her off the road. Although using decent parliamentary language in his response, wouldn't all of us have given our savings account to know what really came out of his mouth when the office door was closed and no one was around to see his eyes bulging out of his head?
Can Ms. Pelosi produce a treaty for signature? Perhaps a more lowly memorandum of agreement between our own government and that of President Bashar al-Asad? Of course not. It is not within her designated duties. Did she receive some small concession or return to Washington toting along a courier with a high level "for your eyes only" message for President Bush? Or did Ms. Pelosi merely perform in cavalier manner as seems to be the norm these days, when elected government officials have access to taxpayer coffers? Why did she go to Syria? I cannot quite figure out what goal she accomplished which would be deemed of national importance.
Gone are the days when elected representatives are content to lasso a photo opportunity eating an ear of corn at the Fort Worth Stock Show. Too lowly a stoop to be seen enjoying a picnic in a small town in the heartland of America. No, baby! Power projection and making waves on the international stage is the desired photograph; even if that one photo demands countless staff members, a security detail worthy of your importance and more money than it is worth. The show must go on! And Nancy's big adventure was just that.... adventurism at it's best.
Posted by tammyswofford at 7:00 AM
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Pakistan's Minister of the Interior, Aftab Muhammad Khan Sherpao, would not be envied by our own former Attorney General Janet Reno. She handled and took the hit for the Branch Davidian stand-off in 1993. This link provides her testimony as to the tremendous difficulties faced in trying to remove a civilian threat after followers of David Koresh killed four federal agents who attempted to enter their compound and disband a heavily armed adult population.
Further complicating the decisions which had to be made by Ms. Reno was the previous history of our government with the Ruby Ridge seige of August 1992 by an anti-social and anti-government malcontent named Randy Weaver. Prior to the seige of the property, U.S. Marshal William Degan was gunned down and lost his life. But there was still plenty of burn from some quarters over the deaths of Randy Weaver's wife and son by federal agents. So Janet Reno had a job to do with each potential action causing an equally bad reaction, both physically on the ground, and psychologically across the nation.
Today, the nation of Pakistan faces the threat of the leading cleric of Lal Masjid - the Red Mosque - in Islamabad. Maulana Abdul Aziz has been busy stirring things up for the last couple of weeks. Possibly he has sensed an opportune moment. In the wake of massive protests against President Pervez Musharraf for suspending the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikar Muhammad Chaudry, there are always those who step willingly into political fault lines. Maulana Abdul Aziz has carefully built his following and possibly sees this moment as the best time to make his move toward a consolidation of power. He has set up his own Shari'ah court and declares a bright future for the chunk of real estate which he claims as his domain. A flurry of activities has followed. Some of his female followers abducted a brothel owner for a couple of days. Others have taken up armed residence at a children's library. Rumors are flying that he has turned the mosque complex into an armory. Throw in a massive public burning of videos deemed unfit for view after Friday prayers. Include a mandate for the government to "clean up the streets" or suicide bombers would be released into the public squares. There is a definite power fest in motion. Mr. Aziz has "graciously" extended a one month deadline to the Pakistani government, whilst he undoubtedly further arms and trains his followers. Meanwhile, local residents complain of intimidation and harrassment, fully aware that the threats which simmer just below the surface might explode from a suicide bombers belt as they pick through the tomato selection in the local open air market. They must secretly worry that it is their severed hand, which they will be picking up next.
Pakistan does have options, as does any other legal government. I spent my week-end reading again, the Pakistani penal code. Article 34 speaks of dealing with groups of individuals who commit acts in furtherance of a common interest, which would be contrary to the interests of government. The law is given teeth with Article 151 which allows groups of greater than five people to be dispersed, if need be. Article 134 tackles sedition. Article 337F would appear to adequately address the threat of a suicide bombing, or one who would prey on civilian population.
My own belief is that inaction or perceived inaction in the face of threat both strengthens and emboldens the one who shakes their fist. But Ruby Ridge and the Branch Davidian situation in our own nation have shown that it can be pretty tricky to deal with these situations. The stakes are raised, when women and children are involved. You have to know when to blink. And none come out smelling like a rose, who are asked to manage these things.
Posted by tammyswofford at 4:48 AM
Monday, April 09, 2007
Link to comments by Elizabeth Edwards
It is tragic that Mrs. Edwards has breast cancer with metastasis to the bone. As a nurse I am also saddened to see the psychological impact of her illness. Having worked in critical care, interventional radiology and PACU (post-anesthesia care unit) environments for most of my career, I have been up close and personal with many scenarios such as the one being played out in a very public manner by Senator and Mrs. Edwards. But allow me to use the blog today and explain how very differently men and women diagram illness or accidents. Because what can be subtle to the family, comes into glaring focus with the comments of Elizabeth Edwards.
Women will assign personal guilt for suffering. Men usually blow things off. Women take a personal hit when they are ill. They examine their misfortune and blame themselves. But men will assign the fault to factors beyond their control. Men do not look deeply into their souls to heap further punishment on themselves. But women, not unlike Elizabeth, always point the finger back and shoulder a burden of emotions for illness and accidents. I have come to recognize it as part of our own unique frame. We are just too hard on ourselves.
Case in point as to how men respond differently is the recent CT guided biopsy for lung cancer on a gentleman in his sixties. As the doctor and I walked back into the reading room to look at a final CAT scan the man yelled, "Agent Orange. Vietnam." The doctor turned to me and said, "Smoker. Three packs a day. Twenty years." Men fall off ladders and break a bone. They want that bone fixed so they can climb up the ladder again. Women will lament that they had no business being on the ladder in the first place. Men will ride motorcycles without helmets and come into the emergency room with road rash, missing teeth and a smile on their face. Their buddies show up holding a beer and cracking jokes about their own perilous adventures. Women will buckle up properly, be hit by another car and still blame themselves for their injury because "it was raining outside and I should have stayed home". As a nurse, I have witnessed these gender-distinct responses multiple times.
Women feel guilty when Misfortune reaches her arms out to us.* I don't know why we respond in such way; but we respond differently than men. Our breasts which feed our young and comfort our men are just a mirror of our psyche. We are beautiful but also vulnerable. Our ability to nurture and support others tends to fail us when we ourselves are in need of support.
Life happens. We cannot change the chapters in our lives. We can only turn the next page. Mrs. Edwards is very vulnerable right now. I hope her harsh assignment of guilt for her plight can be lessened with an understanding that she really did not necessarily come to this point in her life because of a fault-driven path. Yes, we should get our check-ups and engage preventative health. But even women who do all the right things get breast cancer. Some of them also suffer metastasis. But they should not have to suffer under a burden of guilt.
* Quote by Benjamin Franklin: "Kings have long arms but Misfortune longer; let none think themselves out of reach."
Posted by tammyswofford at 11:54 AM
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Friday, April 06, 2007
Many thanks to the readers of the blog this week from: Islamabad, Riyadh, Tehran, Cairo, Beirut, Delhi, Foshan and Manila.
And much gratitude is extended to the Western readers who patiently read through the four sections this week on "The Government of Allah" and sent their supportive words into my e mail.
Tom and I will move back into the West next week with possible one little hop by myself onto the international geopolitical stage. It all depends on what each new day brings across our humble little news desks. smile
Thanks again to all who shared community with us this week in the free speech zone.
Posted by tammyswofford at 6:11 PM
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Assume that the John Ford classic, The Searchers, is remade with George W. Bush as Ethan Edwards (John Wayne), the Civil War veteran who spends years searching for his niece, Debbie Edwards (Natalie Wood), who was captured by a Comanche raiding party.
Alan LeMay’s story would be rewritten by Dick Cheney, and adapted for the screen by Karl Rove.
In this version, Ethan returns to his brother, Aaron’s, ranch in triumph after distinguishing himself while presiding over a lost cause. While he was gone, his brother made a success out of his ranch and increased his brother’s cattle herd. Ethan takes the money his brother earned on his behalf. This idyll is broken when terrorists trying to take their land back from the people who stole it, make good their threats and attack unsuspecting settlers. When news of a possible attack reaches the Edwards ranch, a new character, played by Condoleezza Rice, asks, “who could have foreseen that this would happen?”
Bush joins Captain Slayton’s ( George Tenet) posse, leaving Aaron (Alberto Gonzales) and his wife (Christie Whitman) to look after themselves. After it is too late to do anything about it, Tenet and Bush figure out they have been tricked and rush back to discover the ranch house burned to the ground and the Whitman and Gonzales full of arrows.
Realizing that his nieces are not among the dead, Bush and his trusty sidekick, played by John McCain, take off after them. They travel only as far as the nearest Fox Network station, where, on Larry King Live, they announce a healthy reward for information leading to the liberation of Debbie and Lucy Edwards.
Jerem Futterman responds to the ad. George and John show up at his store, and render him back to Texas where they hang him by his heels over a fire and subject him to other “stress positions” until he reveals all that he knows. He tells them the band that took the girls is on its way to the Tora Bora Mountains of Canada. Bush and McCain, who suddenly have other things to do, dispatch troops to Tora Bora with orders to hire local warlords to capture chief bin Laden. The mission fails because Futterman had no idea who or where chief bin Laden is. He found a dress matching the description and thought he could scam Bush. Chief bin Laden is actually in the Monument Valley of Arizona.
By the time Big Shoulders and One Who Follows get to Arizona, McCain (One Who Follows) is beginning to suspect that his hero is completely Looney Tunes and may be prepared to sacrifice his niece to make sure no one will be able to say just how much of a mess he has made of the whole thing. In an uncharacteristic moment of conscience and courage, McCain challenges Bush, who merely laughs at him.
At the end of the picture (2008), everybody goes into the house, leaving Bush, a forgotten tool that has served its purpose, outside looking in.
Posted by tammyswofford at 7:08 PM
"One and a quarter billion people in the world today believe in the Qur'an as the final word of Allah. My own reflections....lead me to believe that the 21st century will prove to be the dawn of an era where all humanity will see what the 20% of it is seeing today.... People will then establish the ideal society on the planet in which rule of law will prevail." Dr. Shabbir Ahmed, M.D. "Islam as I Understand"
During the early years of Prophet Muhammad there is a story regarding a document set in place at Wadi Al-Muhassab by a confederation of leaders moving against Muhammad and his followers. These articles of confederation demanded a general social boycott until Muhammad was given over and put to death. This event propelled the followers of Islam to withdraw into the confines of a narrow valley from approximately the seventh until the tenth year of Muhammad's leadership. Islamic history gives record to the end of the boycott with a stunning claim. When the parchment was retrieved to be destroyed thus ushering in changing fortunes for the children of Muhammad, white ants had eaten away all portions of the proclamation except those areas which bore the name of Allah.
Latest calculations show approximately 1.5 billion Muslims in the world today. They bear the name of Allah. They understand both the constraints and allowances of their lives, to varying degrees, and based on their knowledge of the Qur'an. We must delve a bit deeper to see government at work. For Islam is not merely the visual picture of the Muslim man standing in rank, shoulder to shoulder, bowing before his god. Islam is a system of life (Deen) which manages all aspects of human behavior. Islam is not about self-determination. It is about maintenance of a society where family relations, banking and commerce, public and foreign policy, all reside under the control of government.
Islam requires government to fulfill the command "al-amr bi'l-ma'ruf wa n-nahy 'an al-munkar" or to enjoin the right and forbid the wrong. Islamic life requires a governing authority, whether it be the local mosque, a tribal council or an actual majlis ash-shura, or governing legislative body such as seen in Iran or Egypt. Islam, allows for no "lone rangers".
Islam has traveled through the centuries from great conquests to stunning defeats with decades of dormancy. But in less than one hundred years it has moved back into dominant play on the geopolitical stage. We would do best, to educate ourselves.
With gratitude: Dr. M Amir Ali, Ph.D. Mentor and friend
Posted by tammyswofford at 7:00 PM
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
The Qur'an is made up of Surah and ayat. These are viewed by the Western reader somewhat along the lines of chapters and verses in a Bible. But there are subtle differences to be noted. Reading the Qur'an must be viewed as peeling back the layers of an onion. On the one hand, each individual Surah has been described by one scholar as a "walled garden". This is a somewhat accurate description because different themes are addressed in each Surah. But many of the individual ayat can also only be completely understood if historical context is applied.
As such Qur'an 54:45 "Their multitude will be put to flight, and they will show their backs." is a direct prediction regarding the outcome of a real battle, the Battle of Badr. This was a decisive victory for the Muslim troops. Qur'an 8:17 is also a reference to the same battle where a violent sandstorm was brought to bear to assist the troops, by blinding the eyes of their opponents. It is believed that the angel Gabriel stirred up the forces of nature on behalf of the Muslim. So context is equally important, as is arabic root meanings.... of which I know very little. smile
But another aspect of the Qur'an bears examination to understand the evolution of Islamic government. The Qur'an is not organized in a chronological timeline. It is organized with an understanding as to the location of the revelation of the individual ayat (verses) as to whether in Makkah or Madinah. There are scholars who support that the "Rope of Allah" was downloaded all at once into the intellect of Prophet Muhammad. They believe the words were then released as the situation required. Regardless, it is interesting to see the differences between the approximately 2/3 of the Qur'an which was revealed in Makkah, as compared to the later revelations of Madinah. The "Makki" revelation emphasizes belief in Tawheed (monotheism), Risalah (Guidance of mankind through prophets and messengers) 'Ibaadat (servitude to Allah) and Mu'amilat (all aspects of relationship with other beings). During the initial years of Islam the instruction regarding enemies was to keep one's hands tied during persecution or adversity. But ayat (verses) regarding the use of the sword, or introduction of the word qital (one aspect of jihad) come into play in the Madani revelations, after the hand of Muhammad was strengthened and his men both engaged and won important battles against their enemies. So it appears that societal rules were first set into place for the safety of the Ummah (believers) with foreign policy issues and stronger governmental issues addressed when there was numerical strength and concurrent subjugation of the enemy. Many of the ayat function somewhat as jurisprudential planks. As such, there are ordinances, or "nusus" which are unambiguous and uncompromising. This is Islam.
The final portion of the commentary on the government of Allah will be Thursday. I will add a few comments of my own, in the last section:
Bay'at Ar-Ridwan or the pledge of Ar-Ridwan
"Indeed, Allah was pleased with the believers when they gave their Bai'a (pledge) to you (Oh Muhammad) under the tree." Qur'an 48:18
*Another example of understanding the background of Al-Qur'an
Posted by tammyswofford at 7:20 AM
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
"Oh Muddaththir! (the one enveloped in garments) Arise and warn! And your Lord Allah magnify" Qur'an 74:1-3
"And warn your tribe (O Muhammad) of near kindred." Qur'an 26:214
During the years of the secret call to Islam, Prophet Muhammad saw his first adherents among his immediate bloodline and close friends. Abu Bakr, who later became the first Caliph of Islam was an early follower as was the wife of Muhammad, Khadijah; also a freed slave named Zaid. This following then progressed to a group of men who made up the vanguard of Muhammad. They are known as the "Sahabah", the Companions of the Prophet. A biographer of Muhammad, Ibn Hisham, counted them as being greater than forty in number. It was during these three years that the message of Islam was propagated in a clandestine and somewhat underground manner with secret meetings and strengthening of alliance. This season was followed by the open call to Islam, which encompassed the next ten years.
"Perish the hands of Abu Lahab! And perish he!" Surah 111:1
After three years of establishing a core group of loyalists Prophet Muhammad gave his first public speaking engagement ascending the slopes of a mountain to call the people to himself and the government of Allah. Although supported by one uncle, Abu Talib, he had found a strong enemy in another uncle by the name of Abu Lahab. He came into immediate confrontation and public challenge at this moment in time, which gives us Surah 111, a curse on his uncle and aunt.
The boldness of this confrontation was not lost upon those who were present. The social strata of the Arabian peninsula centered around the clan and the greater tribe. The Bedouin population sustained both a tribal and family attachment, necessary for survival in the harsh desert climate. So when Prophet Muhammad issued curse against his own bloodline a line was drawn in the sand. This strong move against opposition was a foretaste of his ability for political maneuverability which propelled and sustained him into the next two decades.
Two other things of note happened during the ten years of the open call. A first wave of immigrants was sent to Abyssinia with instructions to extend the Islamic way of life. Islam allows flight from persecution with a concurrent command to work to remodel the society into which the immigrant interfaces, to Islamic standards of conduct. Movement from a muslim-majority nation is allowed. But the immigrant is to continue Islam in their own life, beginning first in their own family, moving toward their local community, and with an eye toward an extension of the government of Allah to the highest levels of society. This is Islam.
The second thing to note was the continued solidification of alliances, casting a gaze toward Madinah, where things were being carefully laid out for the arrival of Prophet Muhammad and his entourage. It was in the final four years (out of a total of thirteen years) in Makkah (Mecca) that this process took place, with an acceleration after the tenth year. This was "The Year of Grief" in which Muhammad lost his uncle, Abu Talib, followed by the death of his own wife Khadijah three days later.
Visiting with tribal leaders Prophet Muhammad met with slow and measured success. He sought strong alliances, such as that with tribes who stated they preferred their horses to their children and their weapons to their milking animals; alliances with tribes with notable lineage; tribes with strategic location. Seeking "nusrah" or support, he sought that the power and authority structure of the day be handed to him for the attainment of Statehood. What started in Makkah now pushed steadily forward to Madinah with secret meetings and delegations. The Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet) formed an effective political party and these ongoing strategic moves led to the first and second "Aqabah Pledge" which effectively established Prophet Muhammad as a de facto head of state over a geographic region. Abu Bakr purchased provisions and two swift camels. Over four months he fattened them up for the long journey to Madinah. Finally, he and Prophet Muhammad took off under cover of darkness, heading first south, to throw off any pursuit. After seeking refuge in a cave, they then proceeded northward to Madinah where the makings of a petite Muslim State awaited them.
"All that is required of a state in order that it might deservedly be described as 'Islamic' is the embodiment in its constitution and practice of those clear-cut, unambiguous ordinanaces of Islam which have a direct bearing on the community's social, political and economic life."
Posted by tammyswofford at 4:17 AM
Monday, April 02, 2007
"And whoever takes Allah as his Messenger and those who believe for a guardian, then surely the Party of Allah are they that shall be triumphant." Qur'an 5:55-56 (Shakir)
"Fight them until they bear witness to the fact that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his Messenger and when they do that then their blood and riches are involiable to your hands but what is justified by law and their reckoning is with Allah". (Sahih Muslim book 31, Hadith no. 5917)
"Nay, it would never be; your blood will be my blood. In life and death I will be with you and you with me. I will fight with whom you fight and I will make peace with whom you make peace." (Ibn Hisham 1/442)
Islam is not a religion. Islam is government. It is the government of the god with ninety-nine beautiful names and one unknown. The government of the one who issues the command (amr) and exacts the obedience (ibaadah) from his creation. The government of Allah balances the scales in this life and caused the Law of Requittal to come full circle in the life to come. This is Islam. And because we do not understand the nature of the Messenger nor the message he brought, we negotiate looking through the lens of religion. We need to line up the crosshairs of the scope and see government at work. It is from a jurisprudential platform of government that our negotiations must be done in the future should we engage Islam on a level playing field.
What follows over the next few days is not exhaustive in scope. It is synoptic for the beginning student of Islam. We will look at the Prophet Muhammad; man and message, the strategist at work. We will examine the legal workings of the nascent Islamic state. From the birth of the small city-state of Madinah, there are now approximately 1.5 billion Islamic citizens residing in the world today. There is overwhelming textual proof as to the nature and underpinnings of Islam as government. We have no need to convince the Ummah (community of believers). It is merely necessary that we be educated to adjust our own paradigm of thought. For if Islam is only religion, then the discussion ends with rights and accomodation. But if Islam is viewed through the lens of government, the West is better enabled for viable dialogue and interaction. But the distinct ability to sit across the table from an Islamist and connect on an intellectual level involves a turning of the gaze to the cradle of Islamic civilization to view the rise to significance of a man onto the stage of life: Prophet Muhammad. And the skill required for the task is not to be gained in the passageways of Western thought but it moves along corridors of the east. So strap in for the ride. We will hug the terrain and map the world of Islam by taking a quick flight back into history. Today, the beginning of the journey.
Muhammad was born into a fatherless state. Historians place the death of his father between several months prior, to a couple of months after his birth. Regardless, Abdullah never saw the child whose name in Arabic means "praise" or "the praised one" from the Arabic three letter root H-M-D. Prophet Muhammad was born in the Year of the Elephant, 570 A.D. to the Hashim clan of the larger Quraysh tribe. At six years of age his mother also died and the child passed into the care of his grandfather, Abdul al-Muttalib. This man passed away when Muhammad was eight years of age and he then came into the custodial guardianship of his uncle, Abu Talib. It is believed he went on his first caravan journey to Syria with his uncle at age twelve. He saw his first battle within a couple years of that event, picking up the arrows of his clan's opponents.
In his early twenties, although al-ummi, or "unlettered" the young Muhammad cut his teeth on statemanship by joining a group called "The League of the Virtuous". This was comprised of key men from Quraysh who worked to form a functioning council of government for the betterment of the tribe. But it was not until after his marriage to Khadijah, and at forty years of age that Muhammad, the man, became known as Rasool Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah.
"Islam is not a religion. It is a code of life, a system of living. Islam is about the nation of a community; it presupposes the existence of a state." G. A. Parwez, December 1981
Posted by tammyswofford at 7:44 PM