Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."

Friday, January 31, 2003

I have finished Ghost Soldiers, by Hampton Sides. Let me say from the outset that I have a certain sensitivity to literature on the Bataan Death March and its survivors. My great uncle Albert Perkins, an Army doctor, survived the March and the prison camps. Although I never met him, my father speaks of his captivity and return from the war, and how they broke his health so that he didn't last long after his repatriation. I have a great regard for my Grandfather Perkins, and the sacrifices that his family made during World War II. The least bit of sympathy for the Japanese grates against me, and I have molecular-thin tolerance for anyone who would excuse or otherwise find mitigation for what occurred in the Japanese aggression and its aftermath. I was a little bit wary of this book because the New York Times, an often traitorous newspaper, recommended it as patriotic. I disagree with the Times' definition of "patriotic" on a regular basis, but here we have a good book and fair account of the events.

Make no mistake: Ghost Soldiers is more about the Bataan Death March and the horrific years of captivity under the Japanese than it is an account of the raid which rescued the men at Cabanatuan Prison Camp. The raid itself, executed by intrepid U.S. Army Rangers, lasted all of 30 minutes, during which they encountered a minimum of Japanese resistance. Because the planners of the raid did their job with painstaking exactitude, and the Rangers and Filipino Guerrillas carried it out with elan and high proficiency, the initial fusillade all but silenced the defenders of the camp.

Sides pulls no punches in his description of the inhuman brutalities of the Japanese. There were a few of the enemy who had compassion, but they were the exception, and most certainly not the rule. The conditions of the Cabanatuan Camp were not equal to the most squalid of dog pounds in America today. There was little medicine, and the foulest of diseases ran rampant through the camp, and often. Beheadings, bayonetings, and beatings were common. The men in all the camps were dehumanized beyond belief, and when the American military forces drew near, mass executions took place in order to effect a cover-up of the evil which had taken place. That threat loomed at Cabanatuan even as the raid took place. Sides describes many heroes in the camp, but the one who stood out above all was Chaplain Taylor. The pages detailing his sacrificial service there are among the most rivetting in a very well written book.

I give Ghost Soldiers a very high recommendation. If you're squeamish, look out; if your sensitive to the profanities of soldiers, then be forewarned. The language is frank, to say the least.

Don't forget the Bataan Death March. Teach it in the schools; remind your children of what was perpetrated there. It is to our country's good that we keep the crimes of humanity in our sights, and awareness of evil in our consciousness. It motivates us to guard against future perpetrators of evil.

Courage and Faith.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Here is an excerpt from Ghost Soldiers, a history of the Cabanatuan prison camp rescue, by Hampton Sides. The U.S. Army Rangers are in the Philippines, marching over 30 miles behind enemy lines to rescue survivors of the Bataan Death March before they can be executed and forever silenced by the Japanese. Here is what happened when they entered Platero, the last town before their objective:

"Something was amiss: loud voices, exchanges, a big commotion. The column inched forward a few feet, then halted again. Captain Prince nervously craned his neck to learn what the delay was. He heard something strange, a chorus singing softly in the twilight. The tune was hard to make out at first, but then Prince caught it: "God Bless America," the familiar stanzas rendered in thickly accented English, the melody charmingly curdled with the occasional stale note. At the entrance to the town a few dozen teenage girls dressed in white gowns were singing in sad, sweet voices. It was like a hastily arranged beauty pageant. The local school principal had gone door to door recruiting the prettiest young women from Platero and the surrounding countryside. Some of the girls slipped garlands of fresh sampaguita flowers over the Rangers heads and offered welcoming kisses. Behind this cordon of singers, the village bustled with the sound of cooking and preparation. The town was planning a feast. People were slaughtering their chickens and cows, building fires, stirring vats of stew. The villagers had prepared a classic Filipino fiesta, with all the gaiety and spare-no-cost lavishness, everyone brimming with a warmth that would almost seem cloying if it wasn't so obviously sincere. Many of the Rangers welled up with tears. That the people of Platero were throwing this kind of a reception in the midst of war's misfortunes made their generosity all the more stirring."

In last night's State of the Union address, our President made it clear that it is not only in the best interest of America to remove Saddam from power; it is in the best interest of the Iraqi people to do so. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, like so many of the Afghan people before them, will be glad of their new freedom and security. Still it is primarily in our interest to take military action, and clearly so. I have been praying for the past year that President Bush would be able to act in our interest independently of public opinion. Thank God he is doing just that, thanks not only to my prayers, but the prayers of many thousands of clear minded believers.

Courage and Faith.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Many of you may have watched the Super Bowl yesterday (and many of you Raider fans may be identifying with the book of Lamentations this morning). I told my congregation yesterday morning to watch the commercials as evidence of the what the advertising world believes our values to be. The annual exam of Super Bowl commercials was bleak indeed. One needs no x-ray or blood test to tell that at least football fans are beer-swilling, weak-willed, sex-craving, shallow, relationship-impaired, idolaters. Well? It seems indisputable to me, anyway. And if you answered "so what?" to any of the preceding, you may have a problem.

Although television commercials are trying to sell something, and therefore they push the envelope somewhat, they still reflect our culture. The report card is not good. You would think Bill Clinton is still in office.

The antidote is truth; the antidote is the impact of mature, Bible-believing Christians.

Courage and Faith.