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Merry Christmas! Let there be peace!

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By Rick Howell

        In the Christmas season we say goodbye to one year and contemplate the arrival of another.

    2011’s passage should not be noted without mentioning the end of one of America’s great mistakes in the modern era: the unnecessary war in Iraq.
    George W. Bush and his warmonger sidekick, Dick Cheney, brought shame and ridicule upon this country with the war and their support of “waterboarding,” which they insisted was not torture.
    Christopher Hitchens – whose passing last week should also be noted – subjected himself to waterboarding for one of his articles in “Vanity Fair.” His conclusion? “If waterboarding is not torture, there’s no such thing as torture.”
     Let’s hope that the end of the war in Iraq means the end of all “wars of choice.” In the future, this country will renounce empire, shift large expenditures from war to peace and shrug off the ridiculous burden of world policeman.
    But, you might ask, didn’t the war bring democracy to Iraq? We’ll see about that…and at any rate, we are not responsible for the freedom and democracy of other people, certainly not in ancient lands where they barely understand the concept.
    Should real democracy ever surface in such places, it needs to be born out of the will and the actions of the native peoples, not from foreign military invasions and occupations. Most of this year we have watched in amazement as just such movements have arisen in many Arab countries.
    But when the “Arab Spring” has settled down enough to produce    elections, Islamist parties have won in several places. People who say they want democracy everywhere shouldn’t change their minds when it produces results they don’t like.
    At home, we face a very important election next year, contested by two very different philosophies.
    One, personified by the president and his party, says that while America should always be committed to free markets, our central government often has to step in and take action to protect what the Constitution calls “the general welfare” of the whole people.
    Many times in history, under presidents of both parties, government has done exactly that, whether it was Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, JFK, or Lyndon Johnson. This view recognizes that America should be a compassionate nation and respect the inherent worth of all people, regardless of how much money they have.
    The other view, chillingly and viciously personified by the modern “conservative movement,” which has hijacked the party of Lincoln and Eisenhower, is an attitude centered on selfishness and greed.
    It says to people, “I got mine; you get yours, and don’t ask me for any help.” Sadly, many people who think of themselves as “conservative Christians” subscribe to this contemptuous view.
    In the Republican Party, one man, Mitt Romney, has shown that he might be a bridge of sorts between the two views. But he is feared by the worst sort of rabble, those so deeply infected with the conservative virus.
    Romney has been called a liar on this very page. But that charge only represents the bitterness of those who either dislike him because he’s a Mormon (the aforementioned “conservative Christians”), or those motivated by the hard demands of extreme right-wing ideology.
    Surely, decency and common sense will prevail in 2012, not the ideological rigidity of ultra-conservatives.
    At this season, I’d like to state again what I wrote last year: On Christmas Day, we do not celebrate the birth of the Prince of War, the Prince of National Security, or the Prince of The War on Terror. No, we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace.
    Peace. What do some not understand about it? Let Scripture be their guide: “Blessed are the Peacemakers: For they shall be called the Children of God.” Merry Christmas!

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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.