China Harasses Catholics As World Watches The Vatican

With the world’s attention turned to the Vatican and the final hours of Pope John Paul II’s mission drawing to a close, the Communists in China have decided to note the Pope’s passing in their own special way. Chinese authorities have rounded up more Catholics who have refused to renounce their ties to the Pope and the Vatican and swear fealty to the Communist authority and their “approved” Catholic Church:

The Vatican said Saturday that Chinese authorities have carried out a new series of arrests of officials from that country’s non-government controlled Catholic Church.
The most recent arrest occurred Wednesday, when a priest was picked up in Hebei, the same diocese whose bishop was arrested Jan. 3.
The statement said security forces also detained the 86-year-old bishop of Wenzhou, Monsignor James Lin Xili, on March 20 and two days later a lay official of the diocese.

China refuses to allow Catholics, and Christians of other denominations, to practice their faith unless they do so in the state-approved manner. For Catholics, that means they have to disavow the Pope and accept the atheists in charge of the government as the ultimate eccesiastical authority for their religion. Four million Chinese attend these approved churches, but an estimated 12 million worship illegally, sometimes in private homes.
One might think that even the notoriously tone-deaf Chinese politburo might think twice about such a crackdown on Catholics while the most powerful and influential Pope in modern history captures the world’s attention at his passing. However, the Chinese have studiously ignored the Pope’s illness, censoring any mention of John Paul II or his illness from their state-run press.
While we’re praying for the Pope, let’s remember our brothers and sisters in Christ living under this oppression in China.

Islamists Increasingly Irrelevant In Pakistan

Pakistan has long been considered one of the centers of radical Islam, from its madrassas to its early support for the Taliban and ties to al-Qaeda. However, more than three years after 9/11 and Pervez Musharraf’s open opposition to Islamists — and surviving two assassination attempts by them — their appeal in Pakistan has waned almost to the point of non-existence, if the result of their latest call for a general strike gives any indication:

Pakistani police fired tear gas and used batons in on Saturday to disperse small groups of Islamists whose call for a nationwide general strike fizzled in most parts of the country.
The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) alliance of six Islamic opposition parties called the strike to demand that President Pervez Musharraf give up power.
Police in the eastern city of Lahore said they fired tear gas to disperse a group of activists who hurled stones at shops to try to force them to shut and observe the strike. …
In the port city of Karachi and some other big cities such as Peshawar and Quetta, some shops were shut and traffic was light in the early morning, but most business operated as normal.

What a perfect snapshot of the Islamist movement this provides. Its failing fascism has driven support away, and instead of taking advantage of the rage that political oppression creates, the Islamists naturally turn to physical intimidation and coercion in order to get people to demonstrate on their behalf. As if that wasn’t clueless enough, they claim that having 500 or so of their supporters arrested for their riotous actions shows the popular nature of their movement — in a country of 160 million.
The fall of the Taliban and the rise of its democratic replacement showed the people of Southwest Asia the folly of supporting terrorists like Mullah Omar as leaders. Demonstrations such as those broken up by Musharraf simply reminds people what life under Islamofascism would be. Given the choice, people of all nations and creeds will choose freedom over oppression and tyranny, and the wave of democratization across the Middle East shows them that the choice really does exist, if they have the courage to make it.

One Final Piece Of Cruelty

USA Today reports that the autopsy on Terri Schiavo has been completed, and her remains have been released to her husband, as ordered by the Florida courts long ago. This gives Michael Schiavo an opportunity to exact one more bit of cruel revenge against Terri’s parents:

The autopsy of Terri Schiavo has been completed, and the body is ready for release to her husband, who plans to cremate her remains and bury the ashes without telling his in-laws when or where. …
The Schindlers have scheduled a funeral Mass for Tuesday in Gulfport. The Mass will be preceded by a gathering for people to express their condolences.
Michael Schiavo’s family has said he plans to take the cremated remains to Pennsylvania, where Terri Schiavo grew up, but her parents and siblings want to bury her body in Florida so they can visit her grave.

I can understand the family disagreement over where and how the dead are interred; those happen all the time. But for those who continually argued that Michael had Terri’s wishes in mind all along, please explain to me how Terri would wish that her parents would never be able to visit her grave, would never know where to place flowers in remembrance, would never have a place to gather and mourn her passing. I can’t imagine anyone wishing that for their funeral arrangements. Such actions reveal an undeniable selfishness and cruelty that belies his supposed devotion to Terri’s wishes.
The results of the autopsy will not be released for several weeks, and may or may not answer the nagging questions surrounding the Schiavo case. One way or the other, I’ll report the findings when they’re released.

Sunni Clerics Tell Followers To Join Government

Sunni clerics in Iraq surprised Coalition forces — and likely their followers — by urging Sunnis to join the security forces supporting the interim government:

Influential Sunni Muslim clerics who once condemned Iraqi security force members as traitors made a surprise turnaround Friday and encouraged citizens to join the nascent police and army.
If heeded, the announcement could strengthen the image of the officers and soldiers trying to take over the fight against the Sunni-led insurgency. …
Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samarrai, a cleric in the Association of Muslim Scholars, read the edict during a sermon at a major Sunni mosque in Baghdad. He said it was necessary for Sunnis to join the security forces to prevent Iraqi police and army from falling into “the hands of those who have caused chaos, destruction and violated the sanctities.”

Iraqis across all divisions will welcome this development. It shows that the Sunni resistance to representative democracy has faded as the new government has turned out not to be the Shi’ite theocracy they feared. The reversal also comes at a time when the ex-Ba’athist elements of the insurgency have almost given up their efforts altogether and may be looking for a face-saving way into the new political system. Joining the security forces ensures that Sunni representation will restrain the new army and police forces from becoming a Shi’ite bludgeon on the Sunnis that brutally dominated them for decades.
Once again, the Iraqi elections keep forcing the terrorists to give up their weapons and accept the new move towards self-determination. The Sunni clerics understand that the window will soon close on the opportunity for their people to get the representation they need to secure their rights in the future, liberated Iraq. Only full participation and a sense of shared purpose will allow them to seize that opportunity, and sharing the risk of providing security will give them the credibility they need to do so. (via Politburo Diktat)

Godspeed, John Paul, From A Changed And Grateful World

With the life of our Pontiff, John Paul II, now being measured in hours, our prayers must continue for his soul and for the Body of Christ he leaves behind for new leadership. We mourn for our loss of the most charismatic and substantial leader the Roman Catholic Church has been blessed to have in at least a century. We also give thanks to the Lord for the privilege of having the leadership of such a giant when we needed him the most.
When John Paul II took over the Papacy in 1978, the first non-Italian Pope in more than four centuries, he came from a land that had suffered under the domination of two different kinds of tyrannies for over 40 years. The Communist oppression under which the new Pope had lived created a love of liberty and justice in the amazingly vital John Paul. He survived an assassin’s bullet in what seemed to be a season of miracles; Ronald Reagan had barely survived a similar attack just weeks earlier. Both men would emerge as strong as ever, and together they would apply the pressures needed to destroy the communist nightmare of Eastern Europe and free millions who lived behind the Iron Curtain.
John Paul II commanded no armies and had no weapons on hand except for his love of God and compassion for humanity. Many disagree with the Pope’s positions on the issues of the day, but no one can deny the essential goodness and humility that he exemplified. He did not distance himself from his flock, even when he became so ill and so disabled that we wondered if his calling would end his life. He loved his Church so much that he could not keep himself from celebrating Mass on his regular schedule until finally his health simply would not permit it.
John Paul II left us a number of books and encyclicals that defined and focused Catholics on their faith and their responsibilities for the world. His words and his example set the bar high, as it should be for the followers of Christ, but he always reminded us that God’s love would give us the strength to meet those challenges. In his final weeks, he became the living example of that belief.
Please join me in prayers of mourning for our sake, and prayers of thanksgiving for the grace of God in allowing us twenty-six years of John Paul II’s remarkable leadership.
Be not afraid,
I go before you always,
Come follow me …
and I will give you rest.

The Anchoress is live-blogging events at her site. I will update this as events dictate.

Left Descends To Food Fights

The American Left, having apparently run out of rhetorical gas and losing every argument it makes on foreign and domestic policy, now has opted for food fights to stop debates. Pat Buchanon became the latest target of the Left’s childishness at a Western Michigan University debate:

Commentator and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan cut short an appearance after an opponent of his conservative views doused him with salad dressing.
“Stop the bigotry!” the demonstrator shouted as he hurled the liquid Thursday night during the program at Western Michigan University. The incident came just two days after another noted conservative, William Kristol, was struck by a pie during an appearance at a college in Indiana.
After he was hit, Buchanan cut short his question-and-answer session with the audience, saying, “Thank you all for coming, but I’m going to have to get my hair washed.”

If the attacks weren’t so pathetic, they’d be dangerous — and that may yet come as the International ANSWER/MoveOn faction descends further into its immature, neurotic state. I’m no fan of Buchanon, but he does debate rather well, as does William Kristol. It seems that the Left has no answer for their skill, and so they instead sabotage the debate by hurling food. When that fails, as it did with Kristol, what comes next? Smoke bombs? Worse?
Before that happens, expect to see universities quit hosting such conferences, out of concern for student and guest safety. That’s what the radical Left wants; they will brook no dissent from the pseudo-Utopian orthodoxy they’ve spent a lifetime building in Academia, and will fight any attempt to inject reality by any means necessary.
UPDATE: ABC News describes yet another incident, this time at a debate between Howard Dean and Richard Perle, where a conservative got physically assaulted by a Leftist:

Howard Dean, the newly minted leader of the Democratic Party, and former Pentagon adviser Richard Perle made clear their opposing views on the war in Iraq during a debate marred by a protester who tossed a shoe at Perle.
Perle had just started his comments Thursday when a protester threw a shoe at him before being dragged away, screaming, “Liar! Liar!”

Now we’re up to shoes. Paul Krugman wrote earlier this week that conservatives would start assassinating politicians simply out of passion from debating weighty issues. How come Krugman hasn’t written a word about the escalation of actual violence from the Left?

‘It Was Not Inadvertent’

Today’s more detailed report on Sandy Berger’s plea deal in the Washington Post underscores the intent of Berger to hide and destroy information that would either embarass or incriminate himself or Bill Clinton before the 9/11 Commission could gain access to it. Far from the “accidental” removal he insisted occurred, Berger now admits to intentionally removing and destroying classified material, a condition of his plea bargain:

The deal’s terms make clear that Berger spoke falsely last summer in public claims that in 2003 he twice inadvertently walked off with copies of a classified document during visits to the National Archives, then later lost them.
He described the episode last summer as “an honest mistake.” Yesterday, a Berger associate who declined to be identified by name but was speaking with Berger’s permission said: “He recognizes what he did was wrong. . . . It was not inadvertent.”

In return, the government will convict Berger of a misdemeanor, fine him $10,000, and merely suspend his national-security clearance for three years. The government apparently feels that Berger could possibly qualify for a renewed clearance after doing this:

Rather than misplacing or unintentionally throwing away three of the five copies he took from the archives, as the former national security adviser earlier maintained, he shredded them with a pair of scissors late one evening at the downtown offices of his international consulting business.

He should face obstruction of justice and contempt of Congress just for this action alone, both felonies. The Post, meanwhile, insists on calling these “copies”. They were not exact copies; each memo started off as a copy of an original draft by Richard Clarke, but the memos had handwritten notes from each recipient as comments, requests for revision, and suggestions for possible action. Each document was unique, and their destruction by Mr. Scissors means that we will never know what some did with Clarke’s information. All we know is that it must have reflected badly on Berger, Clinton, or both. Otherwise, why would Berger destroy them?
This is a travesty. If a lower-level cleared worker had done a fraction of what Berger did in this case, he would face years in prison. Berger gets off with a fine that any of his well-connected friends will wind up underwriting, a gracious gesture of gratitude for pulling their chestnuts out of the fire.
UPDATE: Bill at INDC Journal makes this compelling point:

So, let me get this straight: Sandy Berger intentionally destroyed the only copies of top secret documents about this country’s knowledge of looming terrorism threats for clearly political purposes, even though a bipartisan Congressional commission was requesting and utilizing all such documents in an effort to make recommendations about how to protect America from another terrorist attack.
In my world, that’s not a “$10,000 fine … three-year suspension of his national security clearance” offense, it’s approaching treason. Former NSA or not, this man should suffer a permanent revocation of any security clearance, and probably sample the cuisine at a federal prison.

That sums it up nicely, I think.

WaPo Opts For Nixon In UN’s Watergate

Today’s editorial in the Washington Post accomplishes the remarkable feat of both understanding that the Volcker Report doesn’t exonerate UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at all, and then using that fact to endorse Annan’s continued leadership of the UN. Confused? So, apparently, is the Post’s editorial board:

While the investigators found that Kojo Annan misled the secretary general about the length of his employment, and while it seems all too clear that he intended to profit from his U.N. connections, the probe did not find any evidence that Cotecna won its U.N. contract thanks to Kofi Annan’s intervention. Nevertheless, the report does not, as Mr. Annan claimed this week, amount to an “exoneration.”
For while Mr. Annan was not found guilty of direct corruption, the portrait of the secretary general’s office, as it emerges from the report, is not attractive. Mr. Annan’s former chief of staff, Iqbal Riza, is found to have authorized the destruction of three years’ worth of documents — a procedure that began, perhaps not coincidentally, right after the investigation was launched. The head of the United Nations’ office of internal oversight, Dileep Nair, is also found to have paid the salary of a staff member using money that had been designated for the administration of the oil-for-food program. This is particularly disturbing, given that Mr. Nair was the person responsible for monitoring U.N. management systems and the staff member was employed to design an anti-corruption program. These new revelations, when added to the portrait of dicey procurement practices outlined in the previous oil-for-food investigation report, don’t exactly make the United Nations look like a model of efficiency.

No, it does not, and while we’re looking at inner-circle Annan aides like Nair and Riza, let’s also consider Benon Sevan. All three directly reported to Annan, all three served at his pleasure, and not coincidentally, all three have participated in corruption, cover-ups, and obstruction of justice. All of these men have one major point in common: they took orders from Kofi Annan. At some point, if based on nothing else other than sheer incompetence, Annan should be held accountable for their crimes and corruption.
Not according to the Post, however. The Post argues that the humiliation of discovery will motivate Annan to clean house and end corruption at Turtle Bay:

Mr. Annan has indeed been personally damaged by the oil-for-food scandal, but many of the United Nations’ problems predate his arrival and will continue after he leaves unless they are addressed. And that, in the end, is precisely why he should stay on in the job: Both he and his staff should now have the motivation to carry out an ambitious, vital program of reform.

I’m not concerned about Mr. Annan’s personal damage. What should concern all of us is his inability, at best, to recognize and stop corruption at the highest levels of his own organization, among his own closest aides. What the Post suggests equates to an argument for keeping Nixon in office to correct the excesses of Watergate. This editorial points out that Annan’s own chief of staff obstructed justice, that another key aide paid off internal watchdogs to keep silent about corruption, that Annan’s son got paid handsomely by a key contractor, and obliquely refers to a third aide who stuffed his pockets full of humanitarian-aid money intended for starving children.
This is the kind of leadership that the Post endorses?
Lo, how the mighty have fallen.

The $21 Million Report

Remember Henry Cisneros? He served on Bill Clinton’s Cabinet until 1999, when he pled guilty to lying to FBI investigators about paying off his mistress. Cisneros coughed up a $10,000 fine for the crime and left politics. However, the independent-counsel investigation his corruption touched off still continues to this day, and has racked up over $21 million in costs — over a million of which was spent in the last half of 2004:

Nearly a decade after he was appointed to investigate then-Housing Secretary Henry G. Cisneros, independent counsel David M. Barrett spent more than $1.26 million of federal money in the last six months of fiscal 2004, the Government Accountability Office reported yesterday.
Since its inception, the Cisneros investigation has cost nearly $21 million, a total rivaling some of the largest independent counsel investigations in history. Much of the money has gone for pay and benefits, travel, rent and contractors. …
Barrett stayed in business to investigate whether anyone in the Clinton administration had attempted to obstruct justice during the probe. In July 2001, the three-judge panel gave Barrett permission to continue, but Judge Richard D. Cudahy questioned the expense.
“Whether a cost-benefit analysis at this point would support Mr. Barrett’s effort is a question to which I have no answer,” Cudahy wrote, noting that Barrett had been spending about $1 million every six months.

Despite spending more than half the total money after Cisneros’ resignation and guilty plea, Barrett’s investigation has resulted in no other convictions or even indictments. Barrett has informed Congress that the final report has already been written this past August, and that it should be released “soon”, but no explanation has been given as to why the investigation continues to spend money like a drunken sailor if it is complete. The total for the last half of 2004 was the highest six-month spending level for Barrett’s investigation since 2001, suggesting that Barrett might be squeezing the goose for as many golden eggs as possible in the investigation’s final days.
This investigation is a costly joke. Other than Cisneros himself, whose conviction cost $10 million and resulted in a $10,000 fine, it produced no indictments and ate up an additional $11 million and five years to write a 400-page report on its own uselessness. Even the report’s release is a joke; it’s purportedly already written, but more than seven months have passed and it has yet to see the light of day. I suggest that the GAO immediately commence an audit of Barrett’s books to find out where all the money went.