Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Coming War With Iran

The Middle Eastern nation’s Islamic regime had been working on nuclear weapons for several years. European companies provided technical expertise and hardware for the nuclear reactors in spite of diplomatic attempts to keep them from doing so. Finally, scant months before the reactor was scheduled to go on line, the Israeli air force launched a surgical strike. Flying their F-16 Falcons farther than the manufacturer believed to possible without air-to-air refueling, the Israeli pilots achieved complete surprise. Their bombs totally destroyed the reactor and they escaped without any losses to the attacking planes.

This may sound like a fictional attack against present-day Iran, but the attack described above actually took place almost thirty years ago. On June 7, 1981, the Israeli air force destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor being built by the French. The raid was internationally condemned at the time, but if it had not happened, Saddam Hussein would have possessed nuclear weapons when he invaded Kuwait ten years later. A nuclear armed Iraq would have made liberating Kuwait much more difficult.

Now history seems to be repeating itself again. Iraq’s old nemesis and an avowed foe of Israel, Iran, is on the verge of obtaining nuclear weapons. Since the Iranian government revealed in 2003 that it was in the process of developing technology to enrich uranium, a necessary step in building a nuclear weapon, all diplomatic efforts to suspend the Iranian nuclear program have failed. In fact, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed on April 11, 2006 that Iran succeeded in enriching uranium at a facility in Natanz.

The seeds of war with Iran were planted in 1979 when the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini led a revolution against the corrupt government of the Shah, Reza Pahlavi. The United States had a long relationship with Iran, beginning with a CIA plan that aided the Shah in retaining power after Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadegh attempted to seize control of the country in 1953.

Mossadegh had nationalized oil companies operating in Iran. Upon returning to power, the Shah contracted with a consortium of eight western oil companies to operate Iranian oil fields. The Shah used Iran’s oil revenues to create a modern military that, the American government hoped, would help to stabilize the Middle East and keep the Soviet Union at bay.

Unfortunately, the Shah’s government became increasingly repressive. Iran’s majority Shiite population disapproved of the westernization that came with Iran’s oil wealth. The Shah used his military to crack down on protesters and dissidents. Iran’s secret police, the SAVAK became infamous for its brutal methods. In 1978, the son of the Ayatollah Khomeini died at the hands of the SAVAK. The Iranian Revolution started two months later. In January 1977, President Jimmy Carter had called the Shah “an island of stability” in the Middle East. Almost exactly two years later, the Shah fled Iran. Two weeks after that, Khomeini returned from exile and established an Islamic Republic.
Since the Revolution, Iran has been a prominent supporter of terrorism throughout the world.

The new government assumed control of a secret nuclear weapons program begun by the Shah. This reactor, located in Bushehr, was totally destroyed by Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. This did not stop Iran from working with Syria, Libya, and North Korea to create a nuclear weapon in order to counter Israel’s nuclear capability.

In 1995, Iran contracted with Russia to build a light water reactor at Bushehr under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. However, in February 2003, Iran removed the IAEA cameras and seals from its facilities and began the process of enriching uranium. All diplomatic efforts to convince Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment programs have failed.

Iran already possesses Russian Scud missiles with a range of over 300 miles. These missiles can be fitted with nuclear warheads. More disturbing, Iran is currently developing the Shahab (Emissary) 4 missile. The Shahab 4 would have a range of over 1200 miles, which would place both Europe and Israel within its range. Iran also intends to use the Shahab 4 to place satellites into orbit. Orbital capability would place Iran one short step away from an operational Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) with a nuclear warhead. Such a missile would even threaten the United States.

An alternative strategy for a nuclear attack on the US involves launching a Scud from a cargo ship. Iran tested shipboard methods of launching Scuds as far back as the 1990s. In this scenario, a ship just off the US coast would launch a nuclear-armed Scud at American targets. Such an attack would give minimal time to intercept the missile or alert people in the target area to take cover, especially considering that the US has no permanent anti-ballistic missile (ABM) sites. The US and Poland plan a missile defense system in Europe, but no such system exists for the continental US.

The religious beliefs of Iran’s leaders make Iran’s nuclear developments all the more troubling. Iran’s ruling mullahs, as well as President Ahmadinejad, believe that the Mahdi, a kind of Muslim Messiah, will return to earth soon to usher in a period of Islamic rule. Devotees of the Mahdi believe that they can speed his return by creating a period of chaos in the world. President Ahmadinejad believes that he has a mandate to pave the way for the Mahdi’s return and often says so in his speeches, including a 2007 address to the United Nations.

In case there was any doubt about Iran’s intentions once it obtains a nuclear weapon, Ayatollah Hashemi-Rafsanjani made it clear in a 2001 speech. Rafsanjani is a former Iranian President and is currently the leader of one of Iran’s ruling administrative councils.

Rafsanjani stated that, “If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave any thing in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world.” In other words a nuclear war would destroy Israel, but would not wipe out the Muslim world. He further said, “Jews shall expect to be once again scattered and wandering around the globe the day when this appendix is extracted from the region and the Muslim world.”

The combination of Iran’s apocalyptic religious leaders and high tech weapons is a threat that Israel and the West cannot afford to ignore. Accordingly, while the US has pursued diplomatic options, Israel has stated that Iran will not be allowed to gain nuclear weapons.

A strike on Iran’s nuclear program would be much more difficult than the strike on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor, however. In addition to providing the Iranians with a nuclear reactor, Putin’s Russia is supplying them with air defense weapons. In 2007, Russia delivered Tor M-1 (SA-15) surface-to-air missiles to Iran. Russia has also contracted to deliver the advanced S-300 (SA-12).

Additionally, striking Iranian targets would be much more difficult logistically. Iraq’s program was concentrated south of Baghdad. In contrast, Iran has nuclear facilities at Bushehr, Esfahan, Arak and Natanz. With facilities spread out across the country, it would be very difficult to be certain of totally destroying the program. There may be other secret facilities buried underground that would not even be considered for attack.

An Israeli air attack would have to cross Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and US-occupied Iraq. The long distances involved would require air-to-air refueling, which would have to be accomplished at higher altitudes with large tanker aircraft. Given the high level of military activity in the area, it is likely that the strike force would be picked up on radar and would lose the element of surprise.

Since the United States occupies Iraq, the chances of a successful US strike are significantly higher than for Israel. US forces would not have to deal with the long distances and could successfully mount a surprise raid. The problem remains one accurately targeting and destroying all of Iran’s nuclear facilities.

If the US or Israel attacks Iran, there is little doubt that it would start a new war in the region. If the attack is unsuccessful, the war could escalate to a nuclear conflict since Iran might even already have a limited number of nuclear weapons. Even if the attack is successful, Iran might be convinced to launch a conventional attack on Iraq in retaliation.

If the US and Israel decide to wait and pursue further diplomacy, Iran will almost definitely join the nuclear club in the next few years. At that point, the country could become a suicide bomber on an international scale. Rafsanjani’s comments show that the leaders of Iran do not consider the loss of their country to be a deterrent if other Muslim nations survive, provided that Israel does not.

It is extremely likely that war with Iran is imminent no matter what action the United States and Israel take. Either we can launch a pre-emptive strike which may lead to full-scale war or we can wait for Iran to develop a weapon which they will very likely use. In either case, Ahmadinejad will have created the chaos that he believes will usher in the reign of the Mahdi.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Party of Choice

Since the Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade in 1973, “choice” has become a code word for abortion rights. Politicians and pro-abortion interest groups speak of “a woman’s right to choose” in lieu of naming abortion explicitly. Democrats are the primary supporter of the abortion choice and are quick to label pro-life politicians as “anti-choice.” But when the right to choose is expanded to other issues the Democrats do not necessarily champion the freedom of choice.

A fundamental choice that Americans can make is the choice of how to spend the money that they earn. On this issue, the issue of how much the government takes in taxes, the Democrats are solidly anti-choice. Democratic politicians have repeatedly favored heavier taxes in a variety of forms, including income taxes, gas taxes, as well as taxes on dividends, capital gains, and the estates of deceased people, who, in turn, have paid taxes all of their lives. Democrats almost uniformly reject President Bush’s across-the-board tax cuts as “a tax cut for the rich” and plan to let them expire. By supporting higher taxes, Democrats take the freedom of choice in spending away from ordinary Americans.

A second choice that Americans make is the choice to decide what to do their own property. Private property rights face an assault on two fronts: eminent domain and environmental legislation. Eminent domain means that the government can take private property for public use if the property owner is compensated. This was traditionally held to mean that the government could seize private property to build roads, schools, and other projects that benefit the public at large. This changed in 2005 with the Kelo v. New London decision, which held that public benefit could mean nothing more than increased tax revenues. This means that virtually no private property in the United States is safe from an alliance of developers and tax-hungry local governments. The liberal (activist) wing of the Court voted for the decision, while the conservative (constructionist) dissented.

The second assault on private property is through environmental laws, which allow the government to render private property unusable without compensation. This is commonly accomplished by declaring areas as protected wetlands. In many cases, a small drainage ditch or wet weather stream is designated a wetland. In other cases, protected species, such as the snail darter, are found on private property. In either case, restrictions are placed on the use of the property. Often the property owner can neither use the land nor sell it due to the government restrictions. Of course, the government does not compensate the property owner. The Democratic Party is beholden to the radical environmental groups that support these laws.

Education is another area where choice is limited as a result of Democratic activism. As public schools in many areas decline, many parents would appreciate the opportunity to send their children to private schools where they can receive a better education. In most areas, schools are supported by property taxes. Parents must continue to pay property taxes and support public schools, even if their children attend private schools. In effect, parents must pay twice for their child’s education. This puts private schools out of reach for many families. An answer to this problem is by providing school vouchers that would allow parents credit for tuition at the school of their choice. Unfortunately, teacher’s unions that support the Democratic Party oppose school vouchers.

Additionally, parents have little control over the curriculum that their children are taught in public schools. Many schools teach things that many parents find offensive. These lessons often teach a view of issues such as sexuality, religion, or even American history that is contrary to the beliefs of the family. Parents often find it difficult to know what their children are being taught. If they find that their children are being taught something contrary to their beliefs, it can be even more difficult to prevent their child from being exposed to these lessons.

Gun ownership is another choice that Democrats would take away from Americans. The most restrictive gun laws in the United States are found in Democratic strongholds such as the District of Columbia, Illinois, New York, and California. In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned the gun ban in the District of Columbia. This ban, the most restrictive in the country, was deemed constitutional and sensible by Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama. Contrary to the Court’s opinion, many Democrats believe that the second amendment applies to government militias and not individuals.

A telling example of the Democratic Party’s anti-choice attitudes is the belief that the US government should force all Americans to purchase health insurance from the government. Government mandates for coverage have made affordable basic health insurance hard to find in many states. Popular Democratic plans would mandate that all Americans obtain coverage through single-payer government plans. This is regardless of whether an individual believes that they need, want, or can afford health coverage. Under current law, people who cannot afford health insurance do not have to purchase it, but can still receive medical treatment from hospital emergency rooms. Under a single-payer system, mandatory taxes would pay for a national health care system, eliminating the freedom to choose to self-insure.

A final example of Democratic anti-choice is their proposed energy policy. Current high oil prices have convinced a majority of Americans that domestic drilling should be expanded to bring additional supplies of oil into the marketplace. Democratic leaders, however, support an extension of the bans on drilling in ANWR and on the continental shelf. Keeping the bans in place means that states are not allowed to choose to exploit a valuable natural resource.

Instead, the Democrats pursue solutions that remove choice from the marketplace. One example is the Renewable Fuels Standard passed in 2007, which sharply increased the amount of ethanol required in US gasoline. Not only did this legislation do nothing to lower gas prices, by creating an artificial demand for corn, it also caused higher food prices and shortages around the world.

Other Democratic energy proposals are similarly focused on top-down mandates. Ideas include restrictions on investing in commodities futures, requirements for investing in alternative fuels, mandates for increased auto fuel economy, and a complex system of taxes on carbon use. One proposal by the California Energy Commission would even require Californians to place a radio-controlled thermostat in new buildings that would enable the government to remotely control the temperature to save energy!

Democrats may claim to be pro-choice, but on most issues their policies would take choice away from Americans and place it in the hands of the government. Allowing individuals to choose how to spend their money and time means that some people will make poor choices, but most will make the choice that best suits their own life.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Why Georgia is Different from Iraq

Two of the world’s superpowers are currently involved in wars against small countries. The US invaded Iraq in 2003 to extensive international condemnation. More recently, Russia invaded Georgia in response to a Georgian attempt to seize South Ossetia. There are striking differences in these invasions and the world’s reaction to them.

The differences in these wars start long before fighting broke out. In the case of Iraq, the US pursued diplomatic efforts through the United Nations for twelve years before President Bush decided that an invasion was necessary. There were multiple UN resolutions that condemned Saddam Hussein and required UN inspections of Iraq’s weapons programs. UN resolution 1441 declared that Iraq was in “material breach” of the Gulf War ceasefire (resolution 687). Additionally, President Bush went to the US Congress for a resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iraq.

In the case of Georgia and South Ossetia, both areas were once under the control of Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union. South Ossetia has historically been a part of Georgia. Georgia once again became independent after the breakup of the Soviet Union. South Ossetia attempted to declare its own independence from Georgia. A series of military clashes has occurred since the 1990s. Russia placed “peacekeepers” in South Ossetia and offered Russian passports to South Ossetians, effectively removing the area from Georgia.

In the months leading up to the outbreak of war, there were several artillery exchanges and skirmishes between Georgia and South Ossetia. On July 9, 2008, Russian jets violated Georgian airspace. About the same time, NATO denied Georgia’s application for membership after Russia strongly objected. These provocations led directly to the Georgian offensive on August 8.

Russian forces immediately repulsed the Georgian attack and launched counteroffensives. The Russian attacks were coordinated and had obviously been planned in advance. Russian forces drove deep into Georgia, splitting the country in half before agreeing to a ceasefire. Instead of pursuing diplomatic avenues to defuse the crisis, Russia took advantage of the situation to attempt to topple Georgia’s democratic government and intimidate other former Soviet republics such as the Ukraine. Instead of pursuing a UN resolution against Georgia’s attack, only Russia’s Security Council veto prevented the UN from condemning Russia itself.

There are striking differences in the governments of the invaded countries as well. Iraq was a dictatorship and an international pariah. It was isolated and condemned by numerous UN resolutions and sanctions. It was a supporter of terrorism and had programs focused on developing weapons of mass destruction. In fact, Iraq had possessed and used weapons of mass destruction in the past against both Iran and Iraqi Kurds.

On the other hand, Georgia is a democracy. In 2003, Georgians ousted former President Eduard Shevardnadze in the Rose Revolution. The nation is member in good standing of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, and other international organizations. Georgia has been a staunch ally of the US in the War On Terror and had committed 2,000 soldiers to the war in Iraq. The US has helped to train and equip Georgian forces.

Russia, on the other hand, seems increasingly authoritarian and belligerent. Vladimir Putin, a former head of the Federal Security Bureau, the successor to the KGB, and two-term Russian President, is currently Prime Minister and is widely believed to wield the real power in Russia. Putin has destroyed the freedom of the press in Russia, undermined elections, replaced elected governors with appointees, and seized control of the judiciary. Numerous Russian journalists and dissidents critical of Putin have been mysteriously murdered. The most famous of these was Alexander Litvinenko, who was murdered in England in 2006 by radiation poisoning.

Oil did play a role in both wars. A key part of Iraq’s strategic importance is its location in the Middle East and its rich oil fields. Iraq used its oil to bribe UN and other world leaders to rearm after the Gulf War of 1991. The US has returned control of Iraq’s oil reserves to the fledgling Iraqi government.

While Georgia does possess minor deposits of oil, its strategic importance lies in the fact that the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline runs through its borders. The BTC pipeline supplies the world with 1 million barrels of crude oil per day. This is about 1% of the world’s daily crude oil output. Russian control of this pipeline would give it power over the economies of much of Western Europe. Russia has threatened to cut off the flow of oil from other pipelines in the past, and even halted gas deliveries to the Ukraine in 2006.

The US was accused of a unilateral action in Iraq in spite of the fact that a large coalition of countries took part, including Georgia, whose troops were airlifted home to fight the Russians by the US Air Force. In contrast, Russia acted alone in their invasion of Georgia. The US gave Iraq repeated warnings and ultimatums before invading. Russia waited for a provocation from Georgia and launched a large-scale invasion without warning.

The ultimate aim of both wars is also likely to be different. In Iraq, the US goal has been to enable the Iraqi government to stand on its own. The Americans brought free elections and representative government to Iraq, and have, at times, been at odds with the positions of Iraqi officials.

The war aim of the Russians is likely to be much different. Over the past few years, Putin has threatened numerous neighboring countries. He threatened to aim Russian missiles at Europe if Czechoslovakia and Poland partnered with the US on a missile defense system. Similar threats have been made against former Soviet republics, such as the Ukraine, who have applied for membership in NATO. The invasion of Russia is a thinly veiled threat to nations such as Estonia and Lithuania as well.

Putin clearly wants to restore the Russian Empire. He has called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century.” If the Russian aggression in Georgia stands, it will not be the last country that Putin carves up in his quest to become a new Tsar. Russian diplomats have already stated that Georgia “can forget” about its provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Additionally, Putin’s Russia is also drawing closer to another international pariah, Iran. Russia is supplying Iran with nuclear reactors as well as updated air defense systems. Russia has also stymied UN attempts to pass sanctions or other measures against Iran’s nuclear program.

Russia’s invasion of Georgia is a true case of imperialist aggression. Vladimir Putin has ushered in a new era of hostility. He fully intends to rebuild the Russian Empire at the expense of the fledgling democracies.

This brings us to the final difference between Georgia and Iraq. When the US went to war against Iraq, “peace” activists around the world staged protests against President Bush and the United States. The reaction to Russia’s unilateral invasion of Georgia has been muted. Protests have largely been limited to nations in Eastern Europe that might be Putin’s next target. The deafening silence shows that most activists are not as pro-peace as they are anti-America.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Arrival of Sarah H. Elizabeth

We found out that Sarah Elizabeth was on the way last December. The pregnancy was somewhat eventful. In the spring, Debi had a scare when pre-cancer cells were found in a routine exam. Miraculously, these cells disappeared a couple of months later.

Later, toward the end of the pregnancy, Debi’s blood pressure trended high. This necessitated numerous extra trips to both the doctor and the hospital, including one middle-of-the-night trip to the triage center at the birthing hospital. The doctor’s continually threatened to deliver Sarah earlier than the planned c-section date of July 28.

The final nail-biter was not health related. Continuing a tradition of almost not being at the birth, I planned to work until Sunday, July 27, and then come home for the birth the next day. I pre-arranged this with the company before starting that week’s tour.

On Saturday, July 26, our aircraft developed a fuel leak that grounded us in the tiny town of Easton on the eastern shore of Maryland. The company said that they would get me out the next day because they needed me to stay with the airplane just in case something came up with another Sovereign that also happened to be in Easton.

Sunday morning came and I called to check on my trip home. I was told that they were working on it and should have something in a couple of hours. Two hours came and went with no word. I called back and found that somehow my name had been dropped from the list of crewmembers traveling home.

A few minutes later, I received a frantic phone call from the travel office telling me to start heading toward the Baltimore airport, which was 90 minutes away. I called a taxi and, by the time he got there, I had a flight on Air Tran at 4:30 pm. It was now 2:00 pm.

The taxi driver scrambled toward BWI. As we approached the airport, the weather deteriorated. We went through one thunderstorm so heavy that it was difficult to see the road. When we finally arrived at BWI, I had less than an hour to check in and get to the gate.

Even though the Air Tran check-in line moved painfully slow, I quickly learned that my flight was delayed until after 7 pm. This was actually a good thing because, when I finally got to check in, I got the dreaded “SSSS” on my boarding pass. This, of course, denoted me as a selectee for additional TSA screening (in spite of my history as an FFDO and passing three FAA background checks). Several hours later, I finally boarded my flight to Atlanta. By the time I arrived, collected my bag, and drove home, it was Monday.

About five hours after that, the alarm went off. Debi actually woke up before the alarm. She had not dreamed about the baby for the whole pregnancy, but that night, she dreamed that she saw Sarah. In the dream, she looked a lot like Baby Ethan, but with gray eyes and a round face. The only time that I dreamed about Sarah, she was a toddler with shoulder-length, frizzy red hair. She looked like a baby Carrot Top.

So off we went. Debi was a good sport, when I stopped to get a biscuit. She couldn’t eat before the surgery, but I was hungry after my adventures the previous day. We pulled into Cobb Hospital in Austell, Georgia right on schedule around 7 am.

Debi checked in and got her ID bracelet, then they sent her up to the second floor. She marched to the nurse’s desk and proclaimed something to the effect of “I’m here to have a baby. Let’s get started!”

The nurses were a bit surprised at her enthusiasm, and took her into the pre-op area. They put in the IV and started going over the medical history forms. Debi put on a hospital gown and I put on scrubs. It was much more relaxed and less hurried than our experience with Ethan. I got a real kick out of the questionnaire that asked, “Do you think you might be pregnant?” As a last second thought, Debi told me to grab our camera.

The doctor, Scott Reynolds, showed up early and I joked that he must have a tee time that he had to make later. Everything was all set so the doctor decided to get started early. They wheeled Debi into the operating room and told me to cool my heels until they called for me. I remembered my experience with Ethan’s birth in which I sat my chair leg on an apparently very important cord in the operating room and vowed not to repeat it.

At long last, I was summoned into the operating room. Very carefully, I made my way up to Debi’s head. I congratulated myself when no alarms sounded. Shortly after, they started making the incision. I didn’t see this before, and noted that it was made with some sort of burning instrument. Debi noted it as well. She could tell that they were cutting and said so. Since she didn’t seem to be in pain, the doctors said that she would feel some pulling and prodding.

It wasn’t long before I heard Sarah cry. She cried before she was ever pulled out. When I finally saw her, the first thing that struck me was how long her toes were. The second thing I noticed was that she looked like Ethan. I remember the doctor saying that Sarah had made her first bowel movement as she was being born.

The medical people took her to a small table to check her out. Debi asked if I could cut the cord. I think that she was thinking more clearly than I was, because, like the camera, this had not occurred to me. I did cut the cord and a nurse took a picture of me doing so.

The next item of business was to let Debi see Sarah. They put the two of them together and another nurse snapped pictures of them with their heads together. Debi immediately noted that Sarah looked just as she had appeared in her dream that morning.

Then it was time to take Sarah to post-op. Debi asked me to go with her and I did. The respiratory specialist noted that she was making sounds like singing, which was actually fluid in her lungs. They put a mask on her and he tapped her back to expel the fluid. This made me flash back to my only surgery. After it was complete, I developed pneumonia and had to have a respiratory person beat on my back for several days.
I called the grandparents from the post-op room and let them hear their new granddaughter for the first time. By then, Debi was being wheeled out. She got to hold Sarah and I took their picture together again.

Gammy and Papa called to say that they were on the way with Ethan. They said that Ethan wanted to be there when she was born, in spite of the fact he cried when he saw Debi give a blood sample and threw up when he saw me get a shot. Oops. We thought we had prepared for every eventuality, but not that one! We finally explained to him that we needed to go ahead and let Sarah be born so that he could see her when he got to the hospital.

When we got to the room, the Mimi and Pops were in the waiting room. I took them to the room to see little Sarah and her mom. Gammy, Papa, and Aunt Genea arrived with Ethan a short time later. The first thing Ethan asked me was, “Did you tell the doctors I want to be an army man when I grow up?” I told him no, that he could tell them himself.

The second thing he asked me was, “Why are you a doctor?” I still had on my scrubs. And I must say, I did look a bit like George Clooney. At least in my own mind, I did.

From the very first moment, Ethan fell in love with his little sister. He wanted to hold her and hold her. He also wanted to pick her up and carry her. We drew the line at holding her, and he did that well. To distract him a little, Sarah gave him a gift of Revolutionary War army men and Lego army trucks. They say you can’t buy love, but a little bribe never hurts.

Times have changed. There was wireless internet in the hospital room, so I was able to email birth announcements and photos almost immediately. A small point of contention arose when I headlined the announcement with my chosen nickname for the baby: Sara Beth. We had agreed on the name Sarah Elizabeth, spelled with an “h.” Everybody thought it was a mistake when I dropped the “h” on the announcement. My point of view was that Sara Beth is a nickname and you can spell it more efficiently. We finally compromised that the spelling for the nickname would be “Sarah Beth.”

When I say “we,” I mean Debi and myself. Ethan did not like the nickname. To him, her name was “Sarah Elizabeth” and it was not going to be shortened. He liked the “h” too. At one point, he told me in no uncertain terms that her name was “Sarah H. Elizabeth.”

That afternoon, when it was time for Ethan to go home with his grandparents, it came as quite a surprise to him that Sarah would be staying in the hospital with Mama and Daddy. He was really upset that he had to go home without her. It took several attempts to explain to him that his little sister would be home in a couple of days. Even then, he still didn’t like it.

Sarah slept pretty well that night. After so much excitement on about five hours of sleep, so did I.

Debi’s pain continued for the next couple of days. Finally, on Tuesday night, alarms kept going off on some of the medical equipment. The nurses examined the epidural, which had been left in for pain control. After something leaked onto the bed, one of them finally noticed that the epidural line was kinked and that much of the medicine was not going to Debi. The pain and pressure that she felt during the c-section were not her imagination.

After the epidural was removed, things improved. Debi got up and around. Sarah learned to nurse. On Wednesday, we were finally cleared to go home. We dressed Sarah in the same pink outfit that Debi had worn when she went home from the hospital as a baby.

Since Debi had craved barbecue during the entire pregnancy and a Sonny’s was located beside the hospital, Sarah Beth made her public debut at the Sonny’s Barbecue in Austell, Georgia. She slept through the entire visit.

When we arrived at home, Ethan once again lavished hugs and kisses on Sarah. At one point, he surprised, and frightened, everyone when he walked over to her crib, reached inside, and picked her up. He was quickly and sternly instructed not to do that again.

Sarah Beth settled into a routine of sleeping, eating, and pooping. Frequently, she did more than one at a time. Occasionally, she did all three at the same time.

The routine was broken by a checkup with her new pediatrician. The doctor noticed a dimple on her rump that she examined closely. She informed us that this dimple was nothing to worry about, but that it was very similar to spina bifida. We thanked God that she was healthy.