The Courage to Face Lions

Rev. Jeremiah Jones was a very brave man, well known for his admonitions to never back down from a physical threat because he believed it only emboldened evil to attack.

One summer the circus came to town. Everyone was looking forward to seeing the star attraction, Czar Khan the lion. Unfortunately, the circus wasn't the success that many had hoped for. Czar Khan escaped from his holding pen.

The townspeople were in a panic. Many looked to Rev. Jones for leadership. He implored his followers not to be scared, and that just as God delivered Daniel from the lion's den so too would the Lord save them from the ferocious Czar Khan.

Little did Rev. Jones know, but his faith was about to be put to the test. As was his routine, Rev. Jones walked home after church service to his home about a mile away down a dusty country road.

About halfway down the road, Rev. Jones was startled by the roar of a lion. Now, Rev. Jones was brave and strong but without his gun, he knew he would be no match for Czar Khan.

He immediately fell to his knees, closed his eyes and began to pray, calling on God to save him. After several minutes of desperate pleas to heaven, it dawned on Rev. Jones that he hadn't yet been attacked.

Frightfully, he opened his left eye to see if Czar Khan had run off. No dice. Czar Khan was actually just two feet away from Rev. Jones. But something was strange. Czar Khan was kneeling on his hind legs. The lion's massive head was bowed and his huge paws were covering his face.

"Whatcha doin?" Rev. Jones asked the lion.

"Saying grace," the lion roared.

See, Rev. Jones didn't understand the difference between physical courage and moral courage, just as Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia's detractors don't.

Mejia is that Florida National Guardsmen who refused to return to Iraq from leave and then recently turned himself in. He has filed for Conscientious Objector status and has spoken out against the war in Iraq, saying, "I could not continue to do the things I was doing in Iraq. ... I'm completely against it because it's an oil-motivated war."

The other day I heard two talk radio heads berating Mejia for abiding by his conscience -- a choice that they considered a supreme act of cowardice.

I can't help but think about what my father told me about courage. See, my father served in a tank battalion in Vietnam during the Tet offensive and is the most fearless person I know. He told me there's courage in facing the truth and then telling it others. And sometimes that takes more courage than following the crowd.

Contrast that with Condoleezza Rice. Though she was more than happy to hit the TV news circuit, her handlers had refused to let her testify before the 9-11 Commission. Now, having relented largely because of the testimony of Richard Clarke, she is slated to testify publicly this Thursday.

I hope the commissioners get a chance to read Laura Flanders' new book Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species, which includes a profile on Rice.

"Much of the reporting on Rice has tended to play up the personal -- her childhood in segregated Alabama -- and play down the political. But Rice, who served for 10 years on the board of the Chevron Corporation, deserves at least as much scrutiny as the other members of Bush's oiligopoly," Flanders told the Institute for Public Accuracy last week.

In the first Bush administration, Flanders points out, Rice defended the CIA when it stood accused of misleading Congress into arming Saddam Hussein. "Now her NSC stands accused of skewing the intelligence to persuade Congress to destroy him. In the years between her stints in Washington, she used her expertise as a Sovietologist to secure for Chevron some of the richest oil contracts in the post-Soviet republics alongside Cheney. Just this week, a judge ruled that a case can proceed in which Nigerians accuse the company of human rights crimes -- including killings -- during Rice's tenure."

Also, both Salon and the British newspaper, The Independent, are reporting that former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds testified before the 9-11 Commission that Rice's oft-repeated assertion that national security officials had no prior information about the likelihood of a terrorist plane bombing is "an outrageous lie."

"I gave (the commission) details of specific investigation files, the specific dates, specific target information, specific managers in charge of the investigation. I gave them everything so that they could go back and follow up. This is not hearsay. These are things that are documented. These things can be established very easily," Edmonds told The Independent.

What's more courageous -- Mejia's refusal to participate in a war he believes is "oil-motivated," or Rice, the former oil industry executive, articulately offering us a Rev. Jones-style analysis in the face of Richard "Lionheart" Clarke?

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