Archive for the 'Religion' Category
I find it more than a little appalling to be lectured to about the evils of calling ISIS evil, particularly from a person who specializes in the issue of “human rights.” I understand that in our culture saying that “some people can’t be reasoned with” is seen as closed-minded. But sometimes you can be so open-minded your brain falls out. If the view of the human rights community is that it is simply useless to describe ISIS as evil, then what good is the human rights community?
Maybe I’m the fool here, but it just seems obvious to me that a group that crucifies its theological enemies, buries children alive, forces young girls into sexual slavery, and seeks global dominion isn’t a great candidate for reasonable conversation and compromise. Moreover understanding the “whys” behind their behavior strikes me as a moral dead end.
Let us recall once again the story of British general Charles James Napier. When assigned to British-run India, he was informed that he just didn’t understand Indian customs. He couldn’t ban the practice of wife-burning, he was told, because it was an ancient and valued tradition in India. He said he understood and appreciated that. “This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.”
Really, this is so simple that even a college professor ought to be able to understand it.
Khalid Mahmood, a member of Parliament from an area with a high proportion of Muslim residents, said government estimates of the number of British Islamic State fighters currently in the Mideast is far too conservative. He told Newsweek magazine this week that at least 1,500 extremists are likely to have been recruited to fight in Iraq and Syria over the last three years. “There are an unacceptable number of Britons fighting for jihadist forces,” he said. Experts say the number of Americans fighting for the Islamic State is much lower. Joseph Young, a criminology professor at American University and expert on political violence, said simple geography and the complex cultural differences between the U.S. and Europe are primary reasons why. Young, who said common estimates put the number of American fighters for IS at 100 to 150, said just getting to Syria or Iraq is extremely complicated from North America. However, the Islamic State’s home region is practically next door for Europeans.
Eight years ago we took a look at some periods of relative calm, peace and prosperity, and how they often end with a bang, not a whimper. Wretchard has a nice list of today’s bangs. JOM too. Steyn notes nastiness on all sides in Missouri. IHTM has a joke about a massacre which is actually amusing, if such a thing is possible. KW has sober reflections on urban governance, which if anything seem out of place because of their, um, rationality. This isn’t a rational time, L&G, and the thing is, virtually all of the horrible situations referenced in the linked material can get far worse.
General William Tecumseh Sherman burned the city of Atlanta in 1864. He warned: “I fear the world will jump to the wrong conclusion that because I am in Atlanta the work is done. Far from it. We must kill three hundred thousand I have told you of so often, and the further they run the harder for us to get them.” Add a zero to calibrate the problem in the Levant today. War in the Middle East is less a strategic than a demographic phenomenon, whose resolution will come with the exhaustion of the pool of potential fighters.
The Middle East has plunged into a new Thirty Years War, allows Richard Haass, the president of the Council of Foreign Relations. “It is a region wracked by religious struggle between competing traditions of the faith. But the conflict is also between militants and moderates, fueled by neighboring rulers seeking to defend their interests and increase their influence. Conflicts take place within and between states; civil wars and proxy wars become impossible to distinguish. Governments often forfeit control to smaller groups – militias and the like – operating within and across borders. The loss of life is devastating, and millions are rendered homeless,” he wrote on July 21.
Well and good: I predicted in 2006 that the George W Bush administration’s blunder would provoke another Thirty Years War in the region, and repeated the diagnosis many times since. But I doubt that Mr Haass (or Walter Russell Mead, who cited the Haass article) has given sufficient thought to the implications.
How does one handle wars of this sort? In 2008 I argued for a “Richelovian” foreign policy, that is, emulation of the evil genius who guided France to victory at the conclusion of the Thirty Years War in 1648. Wars of this sort end when two generations of fighters are killed. They last for decades (as did the Peloponnesian War, the Napoleonic Wars and the two World Wars of the 20th century) because one kills off the fathers die in the first half of the war, and the sons in the second.
This new Thirty Years War has its origins in a demographic peak and an economic trough. There are nearly 30 million young men aged 15 to 24 in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, a bulge generation produced by pre-modern fertility rates that prevailed a generation ago. But the region’s economies cannot support them. Syria does not have enough water to support an agricultural population, and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of farmers into tent cities preceded its civil war. The West mistook the death spasms of a civilization for an “Arab Spring,” and its blunders channeled the youth bulge into a regional war.
The way to win such a war is by attrition, that is, by feeding into the meat-grinder a quarter to a third of the enemy’s available manpower. Once a sufficient number of who wish to fight to the death have had the opportunity to do so, the war stops because there are insufficient recruits to fill the ranks. That is how Generals Grant and Sherman fought the American Civil War, and that is the indicated strategy in the Middle East today…
The Bush Administration was too timid to take on Iran; the Obama administration views Iran as a prospective ally. Even Neville Chamberlain did not regard Hitler as prospective partner in European security. But that is what Barack Obama said in March to journalist Jeffrey Goldberg: “What I’ll say is that if you look at Iranian behavior, they are strategic, and they’re not impulsive. They have a worldview, and they see their interests, and they respond to costs and benefits. And that isn’t to say that they aren’t a theocracy that embraces all kinds of ideas that I find abhorrent, but they’re not North Korea. They are a large, powerful country that sees itself as an important player on the world stage, and I do not think has a suicide wish, and can respond to incentives.” Bush may have been feckless, but Obama is mad…
ISIS is a distraction. The problem is Iran. Without Iran, Hamas would have no capacity to strike Israel beyond a few dozen kilometers past the Gaza border. Iran now has GPS-guided missiles which are much harder to shoot down than ordinary ballistic missiles (an unguided missile has a trajectory that is easy to calculate after launch; guided missiles squirrel about seeking their targets). If Hamas acquires such rockets-and it will eventually if left to its own devices-Israel will have to strike further, harder and deeper to eliminate the threat. That confrontation will not come within a year, and possibly not within five years, but it looms over the present hostilities. The region’s security will hinge on the ultimate reckoning with Iran…
Three million men will have to die before the butchery comes to an end. That is roughly the number of men who have nothing to go back to, and will fight to the death rather than surrender.
From DOD, Congress and CIA via WSJ:
2004 and 2008 reports by the congressional EMP Commission…warn that “terrorists or state actors that possess relatively unsophisticated missiles armed with nuclear weapons may well calculate that, instead of destroying a city or a military base, they may gain the greatest political-military utility from one or a few such weapons by using them—or threatening their use—in an EMP attack”…The EMP Commission, in 2008, estimated that within 12 months of a nationwide blackout, up to 90% of the U.S. population could possibly perish from starvation, disease and societal breakdown…Surge arrestors, faraday cages and other devices that prevent EMP from damaging electronics, as well micro-grids that are inherently less susceptible to EMP, have been used by the Defense Department for more than 50 years to protect crucial military installations and strategic forces. These can be adapted to protect civilian infrastructure as well. The cost of protecting the national electric grid, according to a 2008 EMP Commission estimate, would be about $2 billion
Way too much money when US policy is that adversaries “must agree to a politics of ‘no victor, no vanquish’.”
What’s Gunga Din you ask? A poem by Bombay born Rudyard Kipling that we read in school 50 years ago (“flayed you” — “made you”) that is probably illegal or at the very least terribly un-PC today? Or an RKO movie from 1939 that is strange and without accessible context? That’s so two years ago dude. Snooze material back then when we watched it occasionally and were bored to tears, but it’s suddenly fascinating now.
Gunga Din was just on TCM. (We comment only on the movie, not on whatever the underlying history might be.) Story: in India, a revolutionary religious/military movement is violently opposed not only to the dreaded British imperialists, but also to the Indian authoritarian establishment. They have a special religion which is superior to all others. They have no fear of death, but have an eschatological goal. The radical religious movement is both smart and merciless. After a long narrative, at times highlighting British battles with insurgents, they lure the western army into a battle deathtrap devised by clever military strategy, and their leader’s command is to cut off the heads of their captured British imperialists. (Sounds like ISIS? — hey, ISIS is in India now!)
One of the more remarkable aspects of the film is the inner peace of the ISIS, er, radical leader. He knows they will defeat the idolaters of Britain and the Indian establishment because his religion is supreme. His tactical advantage is that his troops will fight in new ways that the established military does not anticipate, and that even his own death, should it occur, is but a call to the faithful to heed his lessons with greater fury and abandon. His strategic advantage is the he has truth and destiny on his side.
Unfortunately for him, events don’t work out so well. Here things become a little complicated. Gunga Din, a bhisti regarded as a nonentity by most of the British officers (racists!), is well respected by the Cary Grant character (note Sergeants 3 parallel). He wants to be a bugler, but that’s a far off dream, not going to happen in the English army. Still he perseveres and at the critical moment in the movie saves the day. He’s not an establishment Indian, but he is certainly a death-deserving apostate in the way the ISIS guys see the world.
In the end, the religious maniacs are defeated by the combining of old and new. A mortally wounded Gunga Din blows a bugle call to alert the British troops that there’s a trap ahead, and the British respond by radically altering their march into the valley of death, and all-of-a-sudden unleash heretofore unknown superior technology using gatling guns to blow the enemy away. So technology plus apostasy plus superior military tactics plus opposing inhumane radicalism turn out to be a winning strategy. (Better keep that tech edge lest IS stumbles into nukes, EMP, etc.)
We had regarded the film Gunga Din as strictly a period piece with not much relevance to today. Suddenly it’s not, reminding us that human nature does not change and that death-worshipping head-chopping religious cults will be with us from time to time, and must be systematically, and if necessary, ruthlessly eliminated from the face of the earth.
Final fun point: Gunga Din was played by Dr. Zorba! Do not underestimate God’s sense of humor…
Too much to reprint, but this link leads to a longish piece outlining the agendas of the IS. It must be said that at this juncture, these fellows are motivated!! — and sure up for good times, ah yes, good times. A decade ago we hoped in vain that the West would deal seriously with the ideology of its enemy. Not doing so has made the West a worse enemy, one to be ridiculed for its cowardice. We’ve now entered phase two of what Jonah Goldberg and many others view as a very long war. Finally, James Lewis has a rather more excited piece on some of the same.
Mount Sinjar stinks of death. The few Yazidis who have managed to escape its clutches can tell you why. “Dogs were eating the bodies of the dead,” said Haji Khedev Haydev, 65, who ran through the lines of Islamic State jihadists surrounding it. On Sunday night, I became the first western journalist to reach the mountains where tens of thousands of Yazidis, a previously obscure Middle Eastern sect, have been taking refuge from the Islamic State forces that seized their largest town, Sinjar. I was on board an Iraqi Army helicopter, and watched as hundreds of refugees ran towards it to receive one of the few deliveries of aid to make it to the mountain. The helicopter dropped water and food from its open gun bays to them as they waited below. General Ahmed Ithwany, who led the mission, told me: “It is death valley. Up to 70 per cent of them are dead.” Two American aid flights have also made it to the mountain, where they have dropped off more than 36,000 meals and 7,000 gallons of drinking water to help the refugees, and last night two RAF C-130 transport planes were also on the way. However, Iraqi officials said that much of the US aid had been “useless” because it was dropped from 15,000ft without parachutes and exploded on impact…
Hundreds can now be seen making their way slowly…carrying what few possessions they managed to flee with on their backs. Exhausted children lie listlessly in the arms of their parents, older ones trudging disconsolately alongside while the sun beats down overhead. The small amount of relief the peshmerga militia can bring up into the mountain is not simply enough. One pershmerga fighter, Faisal Elas Hasso, 40, said: “To be honest, there’s not enough for everyone,” he said. “It’s five people to one bottle.”
The refugees who made it out described desperate scenes as they awaited help from the outside world. “There were about 200 of us, and about 20 of that number have died,” said Saydo Haji, 28. “We can live for two days, not more.” Emad Edo, 27, who was rescued in an airlift on Friday at the mountain’s highest point explains how he had to leave his niece, who barely had enough strength to keep her eyes open, to her fate. “She was about to die, so we left her there and she died,” he said. Others shared similar stories. “Even the caves smell very bad,” Mr Edo added. According to several of the airlifted refugees, the Geliaji cave alone has become home to 50 dead bodies. Saydo Kuti Naner, 35, who was one of 13 Yazidis who snuck through Islamic State lines on Thursday morning, said he travelled through Kurdish-controlled Syria to get to Kurdistan. He left behind his mother and father, too old to make the rough trip, as well as 200 sheep. “We got lucky,” he said. “A girl was running [with us] and she got shot.” He added that this gave enough cover for the rest of them to get away. Mikey Hassan said he, his two brothers and their families fled up into Mount Sinjar and then managed to escape to the Kurdish city of Dohuk after two days, by shooting their way past the jihadists. Mr Hassan said he and his family went for 17 hours with no food before getting their hands on some bread.
The Yazidis, an ethnically Kurdish community that has kept its religion alive for centuries in the face of persecution, are at particular threat from the Islamists, who regard them as ‘devil worshippers’, and drove them from their homes as the peshmerga fighters withdrew. There have been repeated stories that the jihadists have seized hundreds of Yazidi women and are holding them in Mosul, either in schools or the prison. These cannot be confirmed, though they are widely believed and several Yazidi refugees said they had been unable to contact Yazidi women relatives who were living behind Islamic State lines. Kamil Amin, of the Iraqi human rights ministry, said: “We think that the terrorists by now consider them slaves and they have vicious plans for them.” Tens of thousands of Christians have also been forced to flee in the face of the advancing IS fighters, many cramming the roads east and north to Erbil and Dohuk. On Thursday alone, up to 100,000 Iraqi Christians fled their homes in the Plain of Ninevah around Mosul.
One thing about ISIS, or as it calls itself now, the Islamic State: it sure has generated a lot of brand equity and clarity. Jihad is holy struggle? Jihad is personal growth? It appears that things have reached a new stage that the West, despite its intellectual obfuscation and denial, won’t be able to ignore for too long.
Related, from an interview with the retiring DIA head: “in 2004, there were 21 total Islamic terrorist groups spread out in 18 countries. Today, there are 41 Islamic terrorist groups spread out in 24 countries. A lot of these groups have the intention to attack Western interests, to include Western embassies and in some cases Western countries.”
Bagpipers have expressed their fear over a new law which led to two US teenagers having their pipes seized by border control staff at the weekend. Campbell Webster, 17 and Eryk Bean, 17, both from New Hampshire had their pipes seized while travelling between Canada and the US, just two days before they were due to fly to Scotland for the World Pipe Band Championships. Mr Webster’s pipes, which were previously used by his father in his role as an official piper to the Queen, were confiscated by officials because they are made out of ivory.
New laws brought in earlier this year mean that owners of pipes containing ivory must get a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) certificate from the US Fish and Wildlife Service in order to transport their pipes across borders. And pipers hoping to travel to Scotland for the competition will have to make an appointment with officials at a “designated” port and make a declaration on their customs form. But pipers say the confusing rules, brought in at the end of June, are causing “significant concern” – with many unsure how the new laws work.
Mr Webster, from Concord, New Hampshire, had his £6,000 bagpipes taken off him by US Border Patrol in Vermont just two days before he was due to fly to Scotland. The teenager said he had a CITES permit but was told he needed it amended to allow him to travel through smaller border crossings…
He said: “My friend and I both had our pipes seized by the US government Sunday night. “We were told we were never going to see them again.” “There is no way to describe the feeling watching border patrol agents seizing your bagpipes right in front of you.” Campbell’s vintage 1936 silver and ivory Robertson pipes previously belonged to his dad Gordon Webster – pipe-major with the 1st and 2nd Battalion Scots Guards and once an official piper to Queen Elizabeth II.
It’s an ISIS versus SISSI world. One group makes snuff videos and beheads or crucifies its opponents, and the other harasses bagpipers, guitar makers, and boy scouts. Who will win in the coming showdown?
CNN in 1997:
In a sweltering, crowded hospital south of Baghdad, dozens of children line the beds, their stick-like limbs reflecting a severe lack of food. A mother’s wail pierces the room: One of her children has already died and two others are suffering from malnutrition and diarrhea. Such conditions are prevalent throughout the Arab nation, where aid agencies have issued numerous reports documenting the deteriorating health of Iraqi children since the United Nations imposed sanctions seven years ago. One in four Iraqi children are malnourished, according to UNICEF. Many of those who survive will suffer permanent brain damage or stunted growth.
CNN’s chief news executive in 2003:
Over the last dozen years I made 13 trips to Baghdad to lobby the government to keep CNN’s Baghdad bureau open and to arrange interviews with Iraqi leaders. Each time I visited, I became more distressed by what I saw and heard — awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff. For example, in the mid-1990′s one of our Iraqi cameramen was abducted. For weeks he was beaten and subjected to electroshock torture in the basement of a secret police headquarters because he refused to confirm the government’s ludicrous suspicion that I was the Central Intelligence Agency’s Iraq station chief. CNN had been in Baghdad long enough to know that telling the world about the torture of one of its employees would almost certainly have gotten him killed and put his family and co-workers at grave risk…A 31-year-old Kuwaiti woman, Asrar Qabandi, was captured by Iraqi secret police occupying her country in 1990 for “crimes,” one of which included speaking with CNN on the phone. They beat her daily for two months, forcing her father to watch. In January 1991, on the eve of the American-led offensive, they smashed her skull and tore her body apart limb by limb. A plastic bag containing her body parts was left on the doorstep of her family’s home. I felt awful having these stories bottled up inside me.
Bonus fun: North Korea too. Sense a pattern???
The NYT asks that with “public opinion in both Israel and the United States solidly behind the Israeli military’s campaign against Hamas, no outcry from Israel’s Arab neighbors, and unstinting support for Israel on Capitol Hill,” just who in the USA might be on the other side? Duh.
It’s true and pretty obvious that most diseases are either highly contagious or highly lethal but not both. Plagues are rare enough. That said, the Ebola numbers are in all likelihood vastly understated, and complacency is unwarranted and unwise. So far we have been fortunate that many in the affected populations aren’t likely to be jetting off for August vacation; but that’s mere serendipity.
Question: if The Atlantic can figure out that Hamas isn’t gentler and kinder and has but one thing on its mind, why can’t other superior beings? Apparently, as Thomas Sowell rues, thinking is obsolete today.
Alan Dershowitz again. Jon Voight. Questions for journalists. And a writer at The New Yorker, of all places, takes on Rashid Khalidi. What a world. Meanwhile, did you know that the Gaza tunnels were a jobs program? Or that Andrew Jackson was a “genocidal maniac“? Or that if you think illegal immigration is bad now, soon “millions of people are driven north from the parched landscapes of a world degraded by intensifying climate change?” (Must be why they’re sending the kids to Alaska!) Finally, on some station that shows vintage TV, there today was an episode of Flipper from 1966. Almost every minute features something that is unacceptable or illegal now.
Here’s an extended piece on the Hamas Covenant by Jeffrey Herf. It covers a lot of territory apparently foreign to our government until recently; you know, about that “largely secular” group of guys. Gosh, it’s been over ten years since even the NYT did a long article on Sayyid Qutb and the MB, whose vetting for fanaticism and loyalty is truly impressive. Santayana and so forth……
Israel is culpable because (a) it won’t accept a Palestinian government that includes a terrorist organization sworn to the Jewish state’s destruction; (b) it won’t help that organization out of its financial jam; and (c) it won’t ease a quasi-blockade—jointly imposed with Egypt—on a territory whose central economic activity appears to be building rocket factories and pouring imported concrete into terrorist tunnels. This is either bald moral idiocy or thinly veiled bigotry. It mistakes effect for cause, treats self-respect as arrogance and self-defense as aggression, and makes demands of the Jewish state that would be dismissed out of hand anywhere else.
How strange. We now live in a world where the editorial line of the Washington Post is more or less unfit to appear in the HuffPo when it comes to Gaza. More at the WaPo and at PL on our inverted world. BTW, we thought Wretchard was getting a little too dramatic when he transitioned from the various wars to Ebola — then we saw that the CDC is stonewalling USA Today regarding the failures of its medical “do not board” rule for airlines. That’s reassuring! Have a nice day.
Haaretz, of all places:
The draft Kerry passed to Israel on Friday shocked the cabinet ministers not only because it was the opposite of what Kerry told them less than 24 hours earlier, but mostly because it might as well have been penned by Khaled Meshal. It was everything Hamas could have hoped for.
The document recognized Hamas’ position in the Gaza Strip, promised the organization billions in donation funds and demanded no dismantling of rockets, tunnels or other heavy weaponry at Hamas’ disposal. The document placed Israel and Hamas on the same level, as if the first is not a primary U.S. ally and as if the second isn’t a terror group which overtook part of the Palestinian Authority in a military coup and fired thousands of rockets at Israel.
On Saturday, the State Department distributed photos of Kerry’s meeting with Qatar and Turkey’s foreign ministers in Paris. The three appear jovial and happy-go-lucky. Other photographs show Kerry carousing romantically with the Turkish foreign minister in the pastoral grounds of the U.S. ambassador’s home in Paris, as if the Turkish official’s prime minister didn’t just say a few days ago that Israel is 10 times worse than Hitler.
The secretary of state’s draft empowered the most radical and problematic elements in the region – Qatar, Turkey, and Hamas – and was a slap on the face to the rapidly forming camp of Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, who have many shared interests. What Kerry’s draft spells for the internal Palestinian political arena is even direr: It crowns Hamas and issues Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with a death warrant.
It’s not clear what Kerry was thinking when he presented this draft. It’s unclear what he had in mind when he convened the Paris summit. It can only be seen as surreal. Along with foreign ministers from Europe’s major nations Kerry greeted with regal honors Hamas’ Qatari and Turkish patrons, ignoring what Israel, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority might have had to say.
Wow, Israel’s NYT slams the administration hard. And in other news, the crazed illegal immigration situation draws large protests in Massachusetts, and elsewhere among traditionally loyal D’s. In some ways our current situation is a disaster, but it does open the door for realignments among people who can think like adults.
Bonus fun: Netanyahu goes off on the nutty Presbyterians.