At Least They’re Trying, Right?

Sarah Palin drew a crowd of 60,000 people to a rally in Florida, where she delivered her first stump speech in support of the Republican Presidential ticket.

If we’re just looking at the numbers, it’s impressive. 60,000 people coming out to see a political figure reveals just how sick and tired ¬†Americans are of the current administration. Obama’s grass-roots support system (the best in political history by a wide margin) was built on the backs of rallies such as this one, with people stacked as far as the eye can see. Continue reading

The Patton Of Counterisurgency

The Weekly Standard has a great article about my former commanding general in the 4th Infantry Division, Lt. Gen Raymond Odierno.

As is well known, General Petraeus oversaw the writing of a new counterinsurgency doctrine before being sent to Iraq. But the doctrine did not provide a great deal of detail about how to plan and conduct such operations across a theater as large as Iraq. It was Odierno who creatively adapted sophisticated concepts from conventional fighting to the problems in Iraq, filling gaps in the counterinsurgency doctrine and making the overall effort successful.

I met Gen. Odierno several times, the most memorable being on Christmas in Tikrit, Iraq. His command center was at Saddam’s old palace compound in the heart of Tikrit, and we were on the outskirts of the city at an airfield that was completely abandoned until we rolled into it on the middle of cold late October night. By December 25, we’d built the little airfield into a decent base, complete with blast protection from concrete barrier walls and hot (bland) food from the Halliburton kitchens (also at the Hussein compound) that was delivered three times a day.

Christmas day was our first “day off” since I’d arrived in Iraq, and they had a truly outstanding feast laid out for us. I’d completely forgotten what real food tasted like at this point. They had lobster, steak, jalapeno sausages, corn on the cob — it truly was the most delicious meal I can remember eating, mostly because I’d spent months eating MRE’s and drinking nothing but water. As I waited in line to get my food, this giant of a man starts walking up the line, shaking the hands of my fellow battle buddies and wishing them a Merry Christmas. I had no idea who the guy was until I noticed the two stars on his kevlar helmet.

I suddenly became very, very nervous.

He made his way to me. I think I nailed the salute, but my fuzzy memory won’t let me be sure of that. There’s a very good chance I fumbled my way through it, as this was my first time meeting any officer above the Colonel level, and I was terrified. Typically I’d never be terrified of meeting anyone, but this was one of those things that’s drilled into you in Basic — to respect and generally be terrified of anyone ranked higher than you, especially officers. At this point, Lieutenants still scared the bejesus out of me, so a two star General almost made me pass out.

Regardless of whether my salute was obnoxious or perfectly executed, General Odierno still shook my hand.

General Raymond Odierno and I

General Odierno earned the respect of the thousands of soldiers under his command, which is more than I can say for some of the officers we worked for. That Christmas Day, he created a lasting memory and helped us enjoy a little peace and normalcy in the midst of some crazy, crazy times. To hear that he’s being considered as a replacement for General David Petraeus as the top commander in Iraq makes me happy, and it also makes me miss my Army days a little bit.

Not a lot, though. A little.

(I have nearly 1,000 pictures from my time in Iraq in this Flickr photoset if you’re interested in browsing them.)

Faith & Politics

On the right, the language of faith has been used too often as a weapon to divide. – Obama on Faith

That’s a quote from Barack Obama’s video on his Faith issues page, which I’ve linked above.

Most of you probably don’t know that I’m the co-worship pastor at my home church in Katy. My parents led the music there for 25 years, and the reigns were handed over to my cousin Josh and I this past November. I was raised Republican, and in fact voted for George Bush during his first election to the Presidency. I mostly took what was spoon-fed to me by family and friends during this time, and I guess you could say I had no real views of my own. Politics were something that people up north did, and they didn’t affect me because I was too young for any of it to matter.

When I entered the Army in 2003, I started to think a lot about politics. The main reason I went into the service was because of 9/11. It sounds cheesy, but I truly felt like I needed to do something significant and play a part in something much greater than myself. While deployed overseas, I started to look at the world around me and began to realize that something just wasn’t right. When I set foot on Iraqi soil, I felt like I was doing something great, but by the time my feet left the ground to come home, I knew deep in my heart that something inside of me had completely and totally changed.

For the first time in my life, I realized that my ideals and my hopes fell on the Democratic side of things, and I was at peace with that.

Here’s where I stand: I can’t make myself believe that Jesus would be happy that His name is being used as a cause for war. Jesus was a revolutionary, sure, but He was also the most peaceful being to ever set foot on the earth. When I hear people talk about “Jesus wants this” and “Jesus wants me to be President”, I cringe and throw up in my mouth a little bit, because that just isn’t Jesus at all. Jesus was about feeding the poor, healing the sick, and reaching out to those less fortunate than ourselves. To me, America being the police of the world just doesn’t reconcile with that. Instead of trying to force our way of life on people, no matter what we believe is right, we should simply reach them and love them. I firmly believe that the war in Iraq was a phony war; the real war was (and still is) in Afghanistan.

I have debates with others in my church about this, and it seems like we’re on totally different wavelengths most of the time. My stance is that our country could do so much good for the poor, the downtrodden, not just in countries around the world, but instead we’re using that money to fight a war that really has no meaning whatsoever. Iraq is NOT a breeding ground for terrorists; trust me, I’ve been there, and most of you probably haven’t. Most of the country is homeless and displaced, and we’re shoving weapons in their faces in the middle of the night, creating a state of fear and despair, and it seems like we’re doing it in the name of Jesus Christ, and that’s wrong. Jesus doesn’t pick sides — He doesn’t like America better than other countries because we have big churches. He doesn’t love Republicans more than He loves Democrats. And actually, if you look at the history of Christ, he’d probably be labeled a liberal by the media today.

Jesus Christ loves every human equally — He loves me just as much as much as He loves the guys who are trying to kill my friends in Iraq. It’s a hard concept to grasp, but it’s true. I have a difficult time understanding it, but I’m starting to get it.

So why don’t we use our resources to LOVE people instead of going to war with them?

Everything I’ve said above describes why I’m voting for Barack Obama on Tuesday in the Texas primaries.

I’m going to finish this post by leaving you with two quotes from Derek Webb, my favorite songwriter. Derek is a bit of a revolutionary; he doesn’t sell records in the Christian industry because he speaks the unvarnished truth, and I hope you find a bit of that truth in the quotes below.

There are two great lies that I’ve heard…the day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die…and that Jesus Christ was a white middle class Republican…and if you want to be saved, you have to learn to be like Him. — Derek Webb, Mockingbird

So my first allegiance is not to a country or a man/My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood/it’s to a King and a Kingdom — Derek Webb, Mockingbird

Obama/Clinton = Ali/Frazier

This race is truly historic. I’m an unabashed Obama fan and am pulling for him all the way, but watching this nomination process is like watching the buildup for a UFC fight I’m excited about, like Couture/Sylvia or Liddell/Silva. There’s emotion, there’s fantastic speeches, there’s comebacks every night — this is one of the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen.

Now that I’ve said that, I hope Obama is able to pull away. I’m shocked that Clinton won tonight because I figured Obama had it completely wrapped up after Iowa and it’s cool to see such a great political war, but I’d much rather rest easy knowing that Barack will be the Democratic nominee come November.

Also: the sweater that Clinton’s public relations director is wearing on MSNBC right now is so ugly, it’s downright offensive. I’d never let him go on the air wearing that thing and she should lose the race just because of it.