Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.
--Daniel Patrick Moynihan

September 24, 2015

The Hunger for Heroes

By David K. Shipler

            Washington’s adoring reception of Pope Francis has been cleansing. Scrubbed of the toxic rhetoric that passes for debate in this town, his simple truths have been elevating. His calls for human decency have been inspiring. His embrace of dialogue as he faced Congress this morning was not merely a pleading but a moral teaching. And despite the tiresome babble of CNN commentators trying to squeeze his various messages into familiar political boxes, Francis summoned the best in America with a challenge to lift our gaze beyond those boundaries and see again, with exhilarating clarity, the reasons for our great ideals.
            You do not have to be Catholic, or even religious, as I am not. You do not have to agree with every view that Francis holds, as I do not, to see him as a hero, a secular hero badly needed in the tumultuous vacuum of righteousness that afflicts our time.
The modern era has precious few: Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Mikhail Gorbachev (if you’re not a Russian who detests him), Malala Yousafzai (have you forgotten her already?).
We need heroes. We need figures to admire. We need our lives driven by something larger than ourselves. We need to play a part in a higher purpose. Occasionally, someone of goodness, or a mission of virtue, comes along to satisfy this yearning. As often, probably more often, it is someone of malice—or a corrupted idea. Religion can be either. As Francis said today, “Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism.”

September 16, 2015

The Iran Deal: Israel Wins Twice

By David K. Shipler

The Senate’s failure to block the agreement with Iran may look like a defeat for Israel, whose government lobbied so intensely against it, but in reality Israel is likely to benefit in two ways if the deal is implemented. First, Iran will be impeded in pursuing nuclear weapons. Second, Israel will get more security aid from the United States.
The first point has been ferociously debated, of course. The second, however, is indisputable. The Obama administration was reportedly eager to start talks with Israel about enhanced assistance as the Iran deal was completed. Democratic supporters of the agreement, pressed by AIPAC, the pro-Israel organization, are ready to improve their political standing by by compensating Israel with new weaponry.
An example is Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, who declared when he endorsed the Iran deal, “The U.S. should provide Israel with access to the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) to help deter Iranian cheating.” That’s the bunker-busting bomb, which might be able to reach buried, fortified nuclear facilities. It would presumably enable Israel to start a war that the United States would have to finish.