Archive for November 27th, 2008

November 27, 2008

Holiday Books: Civil War

Only 28 shopping days until Christmas!

The 2008 Holiday Book Sale continues with a bonanza of excellent titles about The War. (When a Southerner says “The War,” there’s never any need to wonder which war he’s talking about.)

Shelby Foote’s epic trilogy, The Civil War: A Narrative, should be in every American home. Foote sought to write a history worthy of Homer, and that high ambition makes his account a genuine classic. Foote’s work is especially important because of the attention he gives to the Western theater of the war, which is sometimes slighted by historians more fascinated with the war in Virginia. Douglas Southall Freeman was arguably the greatest historian of the war, and his magnificent 4-volume biography of R.E. Lee — now available in a 650-page abridged version — and his Lee’s Lieutenants: A Study in Command are must-have titles for any serious student of the war.

Bruce Catton was not only an excellent historian, but a great prose stylist, and I heartily recommend his account of U.S. Grant’s wartime leadership, Grant Moves South: 1861-1863 and Grant Takes Command: 1863-1865. Perhaps no campaign of the war was more fateful than W.T. Sherman’s advance through Georgia to capture Atlanta in 1864, and Albert Castel’s Decision in the West: The Atlanta Campaign of 1864 is the best chronicle of that dramatic chapter of the war.

Finally, every student of the war should try to get past the interpretations of historians and see the conflict as it was seen by the men who fought it:

  • Richard Taylor’s wonderful Destruction and Reconstruction is a book that every student of the war should read. The son of President Zachary Taylor, Gen. Richard Taylor commanded a brigade under Stonewall Jackson in the Valley Campaign of 1862, later defeated Gen. Banks in the Red River Campaign, and in 1865, surrendered the last Confederate army east of the Mississippi. A Yale graduate with a sarcastic wit, Taylor filled his memoir with clever literary and historical allusions that will bring a smile to the face of the erudite reader.
  • Henry Kyd Douglas was a Marylander who served under Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart, and his memoir, I Rode with Stonewall, is one of the best of its kind. Of particular interest are Douglas’s memories of famed artillerist John Pelham and his account of the Battle of Sharpsburg, which was fought in his own backyard, so to speak.
  • Robert E. Lee called James Longstreet his “war horse,” and Longstreet’s From Manassas to Appomattox is the only account of the war written by one of Lee’s corps commanders. While many dispute Longstreet’s version of events at Gettysburg — the most controversial episode of his career — it is nevertheless an invaluable first-person account by one of the most important soldiers of the war.

There is no need to launch a frontal assault on the shopping mall, battle for a parking space and then wage hand-to-hand combat with the crowds. Peace is at hand with Amazon.com! Just one click and you can have your gifts delivered nationwide. Why wait? ORDER NOW!

PREVIOUSLY:

November 27, 2008

Hope, faith and Thanksgiving

Michelle Malkin has a nice column today:

In The Year of Bottomless Bailouts, I am most grateful this Thanksgiving for Americans who refuse to abandon thrift, personal responsibility, and self-reliance. When the moochers and entitlement-mongers drive you mad, remember that our nation still serves as home to millions of citizens who do for themselves. Like our Founding Fathers, they are God-fearing people — the ones elitist pundits deride as “oogedy-boogedy” — who will never put their faith in The Cult of You Owe Me.

She tells a nice story. Read the whole thing. Meanwhile, Jules Crittenden writes:

The tide of history remains opposed to tyranny. One of the worst of the modern era, Saddam’s Baathist regime, is out of business. In Gaza, in Burma, in Zimbabwe, in Sudan, in China, in Georgia, in North Korea and Iran, while tyranny still exists, it is widely condemned. For all the rhetoric we sometimes hear, people know where the tyrants live. The values and freedoms nurtured in America and exported, gratis, at the expense of our own nation’s blood and treasure, are the values and freedoms most widely admired, and desired where they are not already emulated in the world.

People seeking grievances to grumble about and evidence to justify discouragement will always find it. Gloom and self-pity are always easier than gratitude and hope. We complain of what we don’t have and neglect to be thankful for the blessings all around us.

It is helpful at times to reflect back on all that God has done for us. There is an old hymn that includes the lyric, “Hither by Thy grace I’ve come.” And those words inspre me as I think back to that moment in August 1987 when I sat in my ’84 Chevette in the parking lot of the Calhoun (Ga.) Times, praying that I would get the $275-a-week sports editor’s job for which I was about to interview.

The day before, I’d been driving a forklift in a warehouse on Fulton Industrial Boulevard in Atlanta when the call came informing me of this opportunity. “Great,” I said. “Just one question. . . . Where in the hell is Calhoun, Georgia?”

Well, it was there that I met and married my wife. Sometimes I recall the prayer I said in that parking lot and think, “Wow. I ought to pray more often.” Surely, I can’t complain of all God’s blessings toward me in the intervening years. Being human, however, I still complain when the hardships come. It is difficult to be thankful for the hardships, to recognize that our disappointments and trials are equally part of God’s plan.

The pilgrims whose 1621 feast we commemorate at Thanksgiving recognized their dependence on God. As William Bradford said of the 102 settlers who arrived off the New England coast in 1620: “What could now sustain them but the spirit of God and his grace?” They had a mystic faith in God’s will, as described in the eighth chapter of Romans:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. . . .
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

We cannot deserve God’s grace and mercy. We are “sinners in the hands of an angry God,” as Jonathan Edwards said: “There is nothing that keeps wicked men, at any moment, out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.” Deserving nothing but destruction, then, it behooves us to reflect in all humility upon whatever design God means to accomplish by our preservation, to be grateful to play some part in His purpose, and to understand that it is through no merit of our own that we are called.

If God wishes to destroy us, nothing can save us. Yet if God wishes to save us, nothing can destroy us. This faith requires that we be thankful even for God’s chastisements. Remember that the Israelites were God’s own chosen people, yet they were enslaved by the Egyptians, conquered by the Assyrians, Babylonians and Romans. This was not because God had any particular favor for Israel’s conquerers; rather, those heathen nations were instruments by which He chastised His people, part of a larger design of which the heathen knew nothing.

In everything, God has some purpose, and in nothing do we have cause to complain. Suppose that you lost everything. Suppose disaster came, and you lost your home, your career, every material possession and hope for advancement. Suppose that this disaster not only involved you, but that it also took the lives of many of your closest friends, and even destroyed your community. What would you say in the midst of such an all-encompassing disaster?

The march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.

My six children are all healthy, and my beautiful wife is even now preparing a lavish Thanksgiving feast. Alabama is undefeated. With so much to be thankful for, I cannot complain. And history still teaches us to hope.

P.S.: Don’t forget to shop the 2008 Holiday Book Sale!

UPDATE: I see from the comment field that we have been honored with a visit from Jennifer at Double Nickel Farm, who inspired Michelle Malkin’s column. God bless you, ma’am.

UPDATE II: I have to note the bizarreness of the accusation of universalism from an anonymous commenter, who responded to my remark, “In everything, God has some purpose, and in nothing do we have cause to complain,” with this:

if you believed that then you would also believe tyrants are the will of god, and if so, you will find them in heaven, since the will of god cannot be denied, they are not only commanded and obligated but tools of the all mighty
in other words, if you believe these words then Hitler and every single person is in heaven and you must also believe there is no good and there is no evil.

Eh? I very definitely believe in good and evil, and don’t understand why someone would say that an attitude of humility — God’s absolute sovereignty, a divine will beyond our comprehension — should result in the belief that Hitler is in heaven. God is sovereign; evil men cannot escape or defy the will of God. Our puny mortal minds cannot fully comprehend this, but it is so. God’s will appears to us mysterious, and it is our arrogant faithlessness that causes us to question and doubt.

Who are we to judge God? I would ask you to study the Book of Job and contemplate the faithfulness of Job, who refused to complain of the evils that had befallen him, even when his neighbors told him to “Curse God and die.”

God’s existence is objective, and thus independent of our belief. There are many people who seem to think that there is some eternal merit to their particular theological preconceptions, and so they will sit around arguing furiously over these things, as if they could argue their way into heaven. But it seems to me that Ecclesiastes ends with a very important point: Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

It is that “Fear God” part that we are today too guilty of ignoring. Faith may be a difficult thing, but it is a very simple thing.

November 27, 2008

Mumbai terror attacks

UPDATED & BUMPED: Hostage standoffs continue:

Fresh gunfire and explosions were heard late Thursday in Mumbai as police battled terrorists at three sites almost 24 hours after the first wave of violence hit the city.
Fresh explosions have been heard at the Taj Mahal hotel, where police are trying to free hostages.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh suggested the group behind the terrorist attacks, which killed 125 people, was based outside the country.
CNN reporters said regular gun fire and blasts could be heard Thursday at the Oberoi and Taj Mahal hotels and a Jewish center in the city. . . .
“It is evident that the group which carried out these attacks, based outside the country, had come with single-minded determination to create havoc in the financial capital of the country,” [Singh] said. . . .
Authorities found 8 kilograms (17 pounds) of RDX, one of the most powerful kinds of military explosives, at a restaurant near the Taj, indicating that the attackers may have been planning more violence.
Gunmen also remained holed up in a building called Chabad House, where several Jewish families live. Rabbi Gabriel Holtzberg, the city’s envoy for the community, was being held inside with his wife, a member of the Hasidic Jewish movement said. The couple’s 18-month-old baby was released unharmed.

Possibility of an al-Qaeda link is unclear:

Christine Fair, senior political scientist and a South Asia expert at the RAND Corporation, was careful to say that the identity of the terrorists could not yet be known. But she insisted the style of the attacks and the targets in Mumbai suggested the militants were likely to be Indian Muslims and not linked to Al Qaeda or Lashkar-e-Taiba, another violent South Asian terrorist group.
“There’s absolutely nothing Al Qaeda-like about it,” she said of the attack. “Did you see any suicide bombers? And there are no fingerprints of Lashkar. They don’t do hostage-taking and they don’t do grenades.” By contrast, [security expert Sajjan] Gohel in London said “the fingerprints point to an Islamic Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group.”

Allahpundit has a fresh thread today.

PREVIOUSLY: India is hit with the kind of large-scale coordinated attacks that are an al-Qaeda trademark:

At least 101 people have been killed in attacks by gunmen in Mumbai , police said on Thursday. At least six foreigners have been killed and the death figure has gone up to 101 now,” Ramesh Tayde, a senior police officer told from Mumbai’s control room.
In one of the most violent terror attacks on Indian soil, Mumbai came under an unprecedented night attack as terrorists used heavy machine guns, including AK-47s, and grenades to strike at the city’s most high-profile targets — the hyper-busy CST (formerly VT) rail terminus; the landmark Taj Hotel at the Gateway and the luxury Oberoi Trident at Nariman Point; the domestic airport at Santa Cruz; the Cama and GT hospitals near CST; the Metro Adlabs multiplex and Mazgaon Dockyard — killing at least 80 and sending more than 900 to hospital, according to latest reports.
The attacks have taken a tragic toll on the city’s top police brass: The high-profile chief of the anti-terror squad Hemant Karkare was killed; Mumbai’s additional commissioner of police (east) Ashok Kamte was gunned down outside the Metro; and celebrated encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar was also killed.

The Indian Mujahideen group that has taken credit for the attack has clear ties to Pakistan, the Weekly Standard reports:

Indian intelligence believes the Indian Mujahideen is a front group created by Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Harkat ul Jihad al Islami to confuse investigators and cover the tracks of the Students’ Islamic Movement of India, or SIMI, a radical Islamist movement. The groups receive support from Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence and are al Qaeda affiliates.

Hot Air has an extensive roundup, including this CNN video:

The Counter-Terrorism Blog names the group Lashkar-e-Toiba as a likely sponsor of this attack. The terrorists were seeking American and British hostages at the luxury hotels in Mumbai:

Two terrorists carrying guns tonight took 15 people, half of them foreigners, hostage on the roof of the luxury Taj Hotel, one of the hostages who managed to escape said.
…Replying to a question, Patel said the terrorists wanted to know if any one of the hostages was carrying American and British passports.
They clearly wanted foreigners, he added.

Via Ace of Spades, where the flaming skull alert is in effect.