The Washington Post reports:
Senators left Capitol Hill early Saturday morning without taking action to extend or replace a controversial surveillance program set to expire at month’s end, paralyzed by a debate over the proper balance between civil liberties and national security.
Our tentative answer to the dilemma: As there’s an administration in power that believes government should control our lives, we would vote for civil liberties over national security; if there were an administration that knows it’s first duty is to protect our freedom, we would trust it not to overstep the mark, so we would vote for national security.
And yet …
Trouble is, even if we were so lucky as to get a reasonably trustworthy administration, it could all too easily be replaced by another statist gang such as we have at present.
Readers are invited to give their own views on this difficult conundrum.
The ancient theatre of Palmyra
This is from GOPUSA:
The historic city of Palmyra has fallen almost entirely under the control of Islamic State, after forces loyal to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, collapsed under a seven-day siege that has left the magnificent ruins there exposed to near-certain destruction by the terror group.
Not so much a “terror group” – terrifyingly savage though it is – as an Islamic army on the warpath for conquest, subjugation, destruction and loot.
The ancient city, once a Silk Road hub and one of the cultural centres of the ancient world that occupies mythological status in Syria, is home to some of the most beautiful and well-preserved ruins of antiquity, including the Temple of Bel, built in the first century.
Isis considers the preservation of such historical ruins a form of idolatry and has destroyed temples and historic artefacts, as well as ancient Assyrian sites in Nineveh in Iraq, after conquering the province in a lightning offensive last year.
The group has profited from looting historic treasures, in addition to scoring propaganda victories by the wanton destruction of archaeological sites, and Palmyra is likely to face a similar fate now. …
Experts say the group benefits from its destruction of cultural heritage because it shows the militants can act with impunity and exposes the impotence of the international community in the face of the provocations.
Valley of the Tombs: The Royal Necropolis of Ancient Thebes was located south-west of Palmyra in an area called the Valley of the Tombs. This image shows an underground burial chamber for three wealthy brothers
Sunday May 18, the Islamic State (IS/ISIS/ISIL) seized Ramadi, capital of Anwar province in Iraq. The Iraqi forces that had been weakly defending the city, fled along with many civilians – some 8,000 in all. About 500 people, many of them civilians, were killed immediately by the invaders. Newsmax reports: “Bodies, some burned, littered the city’s streets … Online video showed Humvees, trucks and other equipment speeding out of Ramadi, with soldiers desperate to reach safety gripping onto their sides.”
In 2008, Anbar Province – of which Ramadi is the capital – was taken from Saddam Hussein’s forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom. But victory came at a high price: 1,335 U.S. soldiers were killed, and another 8,205 soldiers were wounded and maimed.
All for nothing.
Obama pulled all US troops out of Iraq in 2011. And the Islamic State has come in.
But Obama’s press secretary says the policy towards the Islamic State and Iraq is a success.
This exchange is between ABC’s Jon Karl and a thoroughly dishonest Josh Earnest.
Q Now, on the overall track record of military operations of the President’s strategy on this, you said we’ve seen periods of progress and success. Would you say that overall, this strategy has been a success?
EARNEST: Well, Jon, yes. Overall, yes. It doesn’t mean that there haven’t been areas of setback, as we saw in Ramadi.
Q I mean, is exporting terror to Libya, taking over the capital of Iraq’s largest province — this is overall success?
EARNEST: What we’ve also seen is we’ve also seen a coalition of 60 nations both in the region and around the world join the United States in this fight. We’ve seen a new Prime Minister take office in Iraq and unite that country and deploy a multi-sectarian security force against ISIL that has succeeded in liberating important areas of Diyala and Babil and Nineveh and the Kirkuk Provinces. We’ve seen important Iraqi security force gains in Tikrit and Ramadi. [!] We’ve also seen strategic areas like Sinjar Mountain and Mosul Dam where Iraqi security forces have emerged victorious. So we have seen a lot of success. But we’ve also seen significant periods of setback. And that’s part of what a military conflict is going to be, particularly when it’s going to be a long-term proposition like this one.
For the US, the fall of Ramadi is a failure and a loss, and Josh Ernest is lying about it. The new Prime Minister of Iraq has not united the country. The pathetic charade of “democracy” in that benighted land deceives no one.
But for Obama himself, the loss, the chaos, the slaughter, the destruction is a success.
His foreign policy – the advancement of Islam – is succeeding, perhaps even beyond his own wildest dreams, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and above all in Iran.
From A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, by Andrew D. White, 1896, pages 350-361:
Few errors have ever cost so much shedding of innocent blood over such a wide territory and during so many generations [as the theory of] evil agency in atmospheric phenomena … the belief that certain men, women, and children may secure infernal aid to produce whirlwinds, hail, frosts, floods and the like. …
In 1437, Pope Eugene IV, by virtue of the teaching power conferred on him by the Almighty, and under the divine guarantee against any possible error in the exercise of it, issued a bull exhorting the inquisitors of heresy and witchcraft to use greater diligence against the human agents of the Prince of Darkness, and especially against those who have the power to produce bad weather. … [And] on the 7th of December, 1484, Pope Innocent VIII sent forth his bull Summis Desiderantes. Of all documents ever issued from Rome, imperial or papal, this has doubtless, first and last, cost the greatest shredding of innocent blood. … Inspired by the scriptural commandment, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” Pope Innocent exhorted the clergy of Germany to leave no means untried to detect sorcerers, and especially those who by evil weather destroy vineyards, gardens, meadows, and growing crops. … [W]itch-finding inquisitors were authorized by the Pope to scour Europe, especially Germany, and a manual was prepared for their use – the Witch-Hammer, Malleus Meleficarum … revered for centuries, both in Catholic and Protestant countries …
With the application of torture to thousands of women, in accordance with the precept laid down in the Malleus, it was not difficult to extract masses of proof for this sacred theory of meteorology. The poor creatures, writhing on the rack, anxious only for death to relieve them of their sufferings, confessed to anything and everything that would satisfy the inquisitors and judges. All that was needed was that the inquisitors should ask leading questions and suggest satisfactory answers: the prisoners, to shorten the torture, were sooner or later to give the answer required, even though they knew this would send them to the stake or scaffold. …
Pathetic, indeed, are the records; and none more so than the confessions of these poor creatures, chiefly women and children, during hundreds of years, as to their manner of raising hailstorms and tempests. Such confessions, by tens of thousands, are still to be found in the judicial records of Germany, and indeed of all Europe. …
Throughout the later Middle Ages the Dominicans had been the main agents in extorting and promulgating these revelations, but in the centuries following the Reformation the Jesuits devoted themselves with even more keenness and vigour to the same task. … It was mooted among the orthodox authorities whether the damage done by storms should not be assessed upon the property of convicted witches. The theologians inclined decidedly to the affirmative; the jurists, on the whole, to the negative.
In spite of these tortures, lightning and tempests continued, and great men arose in the Church throughout Europe in every generation to point out new cruelties for this discovery of “weather-makers”, and new methods for bringing their machinations to naught. …
But here and there, as early as the sixteenth century, we begin to see thinkers endeavouring to modify or oppose these methods. … As to argument, these efforts were met especially by Jean Bodin in his famous book, Démonomanie des Sorciers, published in 1580. It was a work of great power by a man justly considered to be the leading thinker in France, and perhaps in Europe. All the learning of the time, divine and human, he marshaled in support of the prevailing theory. With inexorable logic he showed that both the veracity of sacred Scripture and the infallibility of a long line of pope and councils of the Church were pledged to it … In the last years of the sixteenth century the persecution for witchcraft and magic were therefore especially cruel …
Protestantism fell into the superstition as fully as Catholicism. … The Reformation had, indeed, deepened the superstition; the new Church being anxious to show itself equally orthodox and zealous with the old. …
Typical as to the attitude of both Scotch and English Protestants were the theory and practice of King James I, himself the author of a book on Demonology, and nothing if not a theologian. … [H]e applied his own knowledge to investigating the causes of the tempests which beset his bride on her voyage from Denmark. Skilful use of unlimited torture soon brought these causes to light. A Dr. Fian, while his legs were crushed in the “boots”, and wedges were driven under his finger nails, confessed that several hundred witches had gone to sea in a sieve from the port of Leith, and had raised storms and tempests to drive back the princess. …
With the coming in of the Puritans the persecution was even more largely, systematically, and cruelly developed. …
Torture was used far more freely [in Scotland] than in England, both in detecting witches and in punishing them. The natural argument developed in hundreds of pulpits was this: If the All-wise God punishes his creatures with tortures infinite in cruelty and duration, who should not his ministers, as far as they can, imitate him?
From the Daily Caller, March 17, 2014:
An assistant philosophy professor at Rochester Institute of Technology wants to send people who disagree with him about global warming to jail.
The professor is Lawrence Torcello. Last week, he published a 900-word-plus essay at an academic website called The Conversation.
His main complaint is his belief that certain nefarious, unidentified individuals have organized a “campaign funding misinformation”. Such a campaign, he argues, “ought to be considered criminally negligent”.
Torcello, who has a Ph.D. from the University at Buffalo, explains that there are times when criminal negligence and “science misinformation” must be linked. The threat of climate change, he says, is one of those times.
Throughout the piece, he refers to the bizarre political aftermath of an earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy, which saw six scientists imprisoned for six years each because they failed to “clearly communicate risks to the public” about living in an earthquake zone.
“Consider cases in which science communication is intentionally undermined for political and financial gain,” the assistant professor urges.
“Imagine if in L’Aquila, scientists themselves had made every effort to communicate the risks of living in an earthquake zone,” Torcello argues, but evil “financiers” of a “denialist campaign funded and organized a campaign to discredit the consensus findings of seismology, and for that reason no preparations were made”.
“I submit that this is just what is happening with the current, well documented funding of global warming denialism,” Torcello asserts.
From the Washington Post, April 30, 2015:
[At the Vatican], the center of global Catholicism, church leaders joined with politicians, scientists and economists to draft a statement declaring not only that climate change is a “scientific reality” but also that there’s a moral and religious responsibility to do something about it. And an even more powerful statement is expected soon from Pope Francis himself, who is slated to release a major papal encyclical on the environment this summer.
All of this is enough to make environmentalists, members of a traditionally secular movement, nearly rhapsodic. After a history of being rather too technocratic and wonky, there seems to be a growing realization in green circles about the importance of an alliance with the world of faith.
This has been a long time coming. The effort to mobilize religious believers to worry about climate as part of a broader, biblically grounded “creation care” mandate has a long history (though it has traditionally focused more on evangelicals than Catholics). …
The reason … is that it makes the climate debate moral, not scientific or technocratic. And when issues are moralized, people feel before they think and refuse to compromise. It may not be what we strictly call “rational,” but it is politically powerful… The moral emotion that is probably most relevant to the environment is … what many of us would simply call compassion or empathy. Recent research suggests that this emotion drives people toward environmental causes. There seems to be a deep connection between caring about other humans and then extending that to nature.
Yup. We need to know history so we can repeat its mistakes.
Why would the government of a country bring large numbers of its sworn enemies to live in it, and forbid entry to its friends who are in dire need of asylum?
What possible explanation could there be?
This is from Moonbattery:
DHS Buses In Somali Colonists Who Enter US From Mexico
… The U.S. is bringing in 100,000 Muslims every year through legal channels such as the United Nations refugee program and various visa programs, but new reports indicate a pipeline has been established through the southern border with the help of the federal agency whose job it is to protect the homeland.
Turning over homeland security to the likes of Barack Obama and Jeh Johnson is the ultimate example of putting the fox in charge of the henhouse.
They are coming from Somalia and other African nations, according to a Homeland Security official who was caught recently transporting a busload of Africans to a detention center near Victorville, California.
For a variety of reasons, colonists from the failed state of Somalia are the least assimilable people on the planet. Importing Somalis means importing the three things Somalia is known for: poverty, chaos, and terrorism.
Somalia is the home base of al-Shabab, a designated foreign terrorist organization that slaughtered 147 Christians at a university in Kenya just last month. It executed another 67 at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2013, and has put out warnings that it will target malls in Canada and the U.S. Dozens of Somali refugees in the U.S. have been arrested, charged and convicted of providing support to overseas terrorist organizations over the past few years. …
So when Anita Fuentes of OpenYourEyesPeople.com posted a video of a U.S. Department of Homeland Security bus pulling into a Shell station in Victorville, on the night of May 7, admitting he had a busload of Somalis and other Africans who had crossed the southern border, it raised more than a few eyebrows among those concerned with illegal immigration and national security.
A man who appeared to be a Customs and Border Patrol agent was filmed at the gas station at 10:30 p.m. When questioned by Fuentes, he informed her that his large touring bus was full of Somalis and other Africans being transported to a nearby detention center. …
“Well they’re coming in asking for asylum,” he said.
“That’s what it is, that special key word huh? That’s a password now?” Fuentes said.
“That’s what the password is now,” he responds.
From that you can deduce how long the Somali welfare colonists will be incarcerated at the detention facility before being distributed throughout the country as part of Obama’s fundamental transformation of the American population. If DHS were doing the job it explicitly exists to perform, these people would be stopped at the border rather than brought into the country. How many of them are affiliated with ISIS — which is said to have a presence just over the border — is anyone’s guess.
Writing in April in USA Today about the murder of 12 Christian migrants thrown into the sea by Muslims for praying to Jesus instead of Allah, columnist Kirsten Powers stated that President Barack Obama “just can’t seem to find any passion for the mass persecution of Middle Eastern Christians or the eradication of Christianity from its birthplace.”
The president’s response appears to be United States policy. Evidence suggests that within the administration not only is there no passion for persecuted Christians under threat of genocide from the Islamic State, there is no room for them, period. In fact, despite ISIS’ targeting of Iraqi Christians specifically because they are Christians, and, as such, stand in the way of a pure, Islamic Caliphate in the Middle East (and beyond), the U.S. State Department has made it clear that “there is no way that Christians will be supported because of their religious affiliation”.
An Anglican bishop revealed that this policy position presented to him in his most recent interaction with State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). The Rt. Rev. Julian M. Dobbs, bishop of the Diocese of CANA East (Convocation of Anglicans in North America) is an advocate for persecuted people worldwide. On this occasion, Dobbs was appealing on behalf of a group of Assyrian Christians desperately in need of rescue from northern Iraq.
The serious nature of the threat against these Assyrian Christians is evident because not only do they have permission from their own bishop to leave the country, they have his blessing and urging, as well. Until recently, church leaders have almost uniformly asked the people to remain, fearing that the Middle East will be emptied of Christians. But many church leaders have now concluded that the only way for Middle Eastern Christians to survive is to actually leave.
How bad is it for Christians in northern Iraq at present? In the words of Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Northern Iraq:
Christianity in Iraq is going through one of its worst and hardest stages of its long history, which dates back to the first century. Throughout all these long centuries, we have experienced many hardships and persecutions, offering caravans of martyrs. Yet 2014 brought the worst acts of genocide against us in our history. …
In June 2014, with cooperation and assistance from local Sunni Muslim extremists, ISIS took over Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city and home to many Christians and other religious minorities. Christians, Yazidis, Mandeans and others were targeted for destruction, and within just the first week of ISIS’ occupation, more than 500,000 people fled the city. The homes of Christians were marked with the Arabic letter “nun,” standing for Nazarene. Christians were threatened with death if they did not convert to Islam, pay jizya and live as a subjected people — “dhimmi” — or flee immediately.
As dhimmi they would have to pay to live.
Nazarenes, to this day the Arabic word for “Christians”, was the name of the first followers of “Jesus”. They were all Jews, and did not cease to be Jews. They believed that he was the Messiah, was crucified by the Romans, rose from the dead, and would come again to save them from Roman domination. Non-Jews of the region made no distinction between them and later followers of “Jesus Christ” – the converts of St. Paul – whom we know as “Christians”. The Nazarenes died out. The Christians came to be a majority in the region of Mesopotamia until the Muslim conquests of the 7th. century. They have lived there continuously until now. Archbishop Warda says: “We now face the extinction of Christianity as a religion and as a culture from Mesopotamia [Iraq].”
Two months later, ISIS seized control of Qaraqosh, “the Christian Capital of Iraq,” and the neighboring Christian villages, all in the province of the Biblical landmark of Nineveh. Christianity Today reported that the siege displaced one-fourth of Iraq’s total Christian population. According to a March 26, 2015 article in Newsweek, as many as 1.4 million Christians lived in their ancestral home of Iraq prior to 2003. Now the number of Christians is estimated at anywhere from 260,000 to 350,000, with near half of that number displaced within the country. Newsweek explained that Iraq’s remaining Christians have mostly fled north to safer areas under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government. “But now ISIS is threatening them there, too.”
Dobbs … informed US State Department officials of a plan by one well-known Christian international aid agency to provide safer housing for Iraqi Christians. … The State Department advised him against setting up emergency housing for Christians in the region, saying it was “totally inappropriate”.
Also inappropriate, it seems, is the resettling of the most vulnerable Assyrian Christians in the United States. Donors in the private sector have offered complete funding for the airfare and the resettlement in the United States of these Iraqi Christians that are sleeping in public buildings, on school floors, or worse. But the State Department — while admitting 4,425 Somalis to the United States in just the first six months of FY2015, and possibly even accepting members of ISIS through the Syrian and Iraqi refugee program, all paid for by tax dollars – told Dobbs that they “would not support a special category to bring Assyrian Christians into the United States”.
The United States government has made it clear that there is no way that Christians will be supported because of their religious affiliation, even though it is exactly that — their religious affiliation — that makes them candidates for asylum based on a credible fear of persecution from ISIS. The State Department, the wider administration, some in Congress and much of the media and other liberal elites insist that Christians cannot be given preferential treatment. Even within the churches, some Christians are so afraid of appearing to give preferential treatment to their fellow Christians that they are reluctant to plead the case of their Iraqi and Syrian brothers and sisters. …
On April 30, The Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom director, Nina Shea, wrote about the State Department’s refusing a non-immigrant visa to an Iraqi Catholic nun. Sister Diana Momeka of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena was to come to Washington and testify about what ISIS is doing to Christians and other religious minorities (all the non-Christian members of the delegation were approved). She received a refusal letter saying, “You were not able to demonstrate that your intended activities in the United States would be consistent with the classification of the visa.” And she was told at the U.S. consulate in Erbil that she was denied “because she was an IDP [Internally Displaced Person]”. In other words, Sister Diana would use her non-immigrant visa to remain illegally in the United States. …
In a follow up article on May 3, Shea revealed that the State Department requested that she revise her article. Shea refused, and wrote, concerning the State Department’s actions:
Those who decided to block Sister Diana from entering this country on a visitor visa acted in a manner consistent with the administration’s pattern of silence when it comes to the Christian profile of so many of the jihadists’ “convert-or-die” victims in Syria, Libya, Nigeria, Kenya and Iraq. In typical U.S. condolence statements, targeted Christians have been identified simply as “lives lost”, “Egyptian citizens”, “Kenyan people”, “innocent victims”, or “innocent Iraqis”.
As such, don’t they have a better case for being granted asylum than Muslims, in the present state of the world?
The nun was finally let in on a visitor’s visa, and testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
I don’t suppose her testimony, or anything else, will change the immigration policy of the administration, which remains the puzzle of the age.
(Hat-tip for the Moonbattery article to our contributing commenter liz)
We posted this classic essay by Leonard E. Read at least twice before, but it seems to have dissolved in the mists of time. We were recently reminded of it by our contributing commenter, Don L.
It needs to be known by all generations down through the ages.
So here it is, or most of it. (We have made a few small cuts to appease our prejudices.)
As I sat contemplating the miraculous make-up of an ordinary lead pencil, the thought flashed in mind: I’ll bet there isn’t a person on earth who knows how to make even so simple a thing as a pencil.
If this could be demonstrated, it would dramatically portray the miracle of the market and would help to make clear that all manufactured things are but manifestations of creative-energy exchanges, that these are, in fact, spiritual phenomena. The lessons in political economy this could teach!
There followed that not-to-be-forgotten day at the pencil factory, beginning at the receiving dock, covering every phase of countless transformations, and concluding in an interview with the chemist.
Had you seen what I saw, you, also, might have struck up a warm friendship with that amazing character, I, PENCIL.
Being a writer in his own right, let I, PENCIL speak for himself:
I am a lead pencil — the ordinary wooden pencil familiar to all boys and girls and adults who can read and write.
Writing is both my vocation and my avocation; that’s all I do.
You may wonder why I should write a genealogy. Well, to begin with, my story is interesting. And, next, I am a mystery — more so than a tree or a sunset or even a flash of lightning. But, sadly, I am taken for granted by those who use me, as if I were a mere incident and without background. This supercilious attitude relegates me to the level of the commonplace. This is a species of the grievous error in which mankind cannot too long persist without peril. …
I, Pencil, simple though I appear to be, merit your wonder and awe, a claim I shall attempt to prove. In fact, if you can understand me — no, that’s too much to ask of anyone — if you can become aware of the miraculousness that I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing. I have a profound lesson to teach. And I can teach this lesson better than can an automobile or an airplane or a mechanical dishwasher because — well, because I am seemingly so simple.
Simple? Yet, not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me. This sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Especially when it is realized that there are about one and one-half billion of my kind produced in the United States each year.
Pick me up and look me over. What do you see? Not much meets the eye — there’s some wood, lacquer, the printed labeling, graphite lead, a bit of metal, and an eraser.
Just as you cannot trace your family tree back very far, so is it impossible for me to name and explain all my antecedents. But I would like to suggest enough of them to impress upon you the richness and complexity of my background.
My family tree begins with what in fact is a tree, a cedar of straight grain that grows in Northern California and Oregon. Now contemplate all the saws and trucks and rope and the countless other gear used in harvesting and carting the cedar logs to the railroad siding. Think of all the persons and the numberless skills that went into their fabrication: the mining of ore, the making of steel and its refinement into saws, axes, motors; the growing of hemp and bringing it through all the stages to heavy and strong rope; the logging camps with their beds and mess halls, the cookery and the raising of all the foods. Why, untold thousands of persons had a hand in every cup of coffee the loggers drink!
The logs are shipped to a mill in San Leandro, California. Can you imagine the individuals who make flat cars and rails and railroad engines and who construct and install the communication systems incidental thereto? These legions are among my antecedents.
Consider the millwork in San Leandro. The cedar logs are cut into small, pencil-length slats less than one-fourth of an inch in thickness. These are kiln dried and then tinted … [because] people prefer that I look pretty, not a pallid white. The slats are waxed and kiln dried again. How many skills went into the making of the tint and the kilns, into supplying the heat, the light and power, the belts, motors, and all the other things a mill requires? Sweepers in the mill among my ancestors? Yes, and included are the men who poured the concrete for the dam of a Pacific Gas & Electric Company hydroplant, which supplies the mill’s power!
Don’t overlook the ancestors present and distant who have a hand in transporting 60 carloads of slats across the nation.
Once in the pencil factory — $4,000,000 in machinery and building, all capital accumulated by thrifty and saving parents of mine — each slat is given eight grooves by a complex machine, after which another machine lays leads in every other slat, applies glue, and places another slat atop — a lead sandwich, so to speak. Seven brothers and I are mechanically carved from this “wood-clinched” sandwich.
My “lead” itself — it contains no lead at all — is complex. The graphite is mined in Ceylon. Consider these miners and those who make their many tools and the makers of the paper sacks in which the graphite is shipped and those who make the string that ties the sacks and those who put them aboard ships and those who make the ships. Even the lighthouse keepers along the way assisted in my birth — and the harbor pilots.
The graphite is mixed with clay from Mississippi in which ammonium hydroxide is used in the refining process. Then wetting agents are added such as sulfonated tallow — animal fats chemically reacted with sulfuric acid. After passing through numerous machines, the mixture finally appears as endless extrusions — as from a sausage grinder — cut to size, dried, and baked for several hours at 1,850 degrees Fahrenheit. To increase their strength and smoothness the leads are then treated with a hot mixture that includes candelilla wax from Mexico, paraffin wax, and hydrogenated natural fats.
My cedar receives six coats of lacquer. Do you know all the ingredients of lacquer? Who would think that the growers of castor beans and the refiners of castor oil are a part of it? They are. Why, even the processes by which the lacquer is made a beautiful yellow involve the skills of more persons than one can enumerate!
Observe the labeling. That’s a film formed by applying heat to carbon black mixed with resins. How do you make resins and what, pray, is carbon black?
My bit of metal — the ferrule — is brass. Think of all the persons who mine zinc and copper and those who have the skills to make shiny sheet brass from these products of nature. Those black rings on my ferrule are black nickel. What is black nickel and how is it applied? The complete story of why the center of my ferrule has no black nickel on it would take pages to explain.
Then there’s my crowning glory, inelegantly referred to in the trade as “the plug,” the part man uses to erase the errors he makes with me. An ingredient called “factice” is what does the erasing. It is a rubberlike product made by reacting rapeseed oil from the Dutch East Indies with sulfur chloride. Rubber, contrary to the common notion, is only for binding purposes. Then, too, there are numerous vulcanizing and accelerating agents. The pumice comes from Italy; and the pigment that gives “the plug” its color is cadmium sulfide.
Does anyone wish to challenge my earlier assertion that no single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me?
Actually, millions of human beings have had a hand in my creation, no one of whom even knows more than a very few of the others. Now, you may say that I go too far in relating the picker of a coffee berry in far-off Brazil and food growers elsewhere to my creation; that this is an extreme position. I shall stand by my claim. There isn’t a single person in all these millions, including the president of the pencil company, who contributes more than a tiny, infinitesimal bit of know-how. From the standpoint of know-how the only difference between the miner of graphite in Ceylon and the logger in Oregon is in the type of know-how. Neither the miner nor the logger can be dispensed with, any more than can the chemist at the factory or the worker in the oil field — paraffin being a byproduct of petroleum.
Here is an astounding fact: neither the worker in the oil field nor the chemist nor the digger of graphite or clay nor any who mans or makes the ships or trains or trucks nor the one who runs the machine that does the knurling on my bit of metal nor the president of the company performs his singular task because he wants me. Each one wants me less, perhaps, than does a child in the first grade. Indeed, there are some among this vast multitude who never saw a pencil nor would they know how to use one. Their motivation is other than me. Perhaps it is something like this: each of these millions sees that he can thus exchange his tiny know-how for the goods and services he needs or wants. I may or may not be among these items.
There is a fact still more astounding: the absence of a mastermind, of anyone dictating or forcibly directing these countless actions which bring me into being. No trace of such a person can be found. Instead, we find the Invisible Hand at work. This is the mystery to which I earlier referred.
… I, Pencil, am a complex combination of miracles: a tree, zinc, copper, graphite, and so on. But to these miracles that manifest themselves in nature an even-more-extraordinary miracle has been added: the configuration of creative human energies — millions of tiny know-hows configurating naturally and spontaneously in response to human necessity and desire and in the absence of any human masterminding! …
The above is what I meant when writing, “If you can become aware of the miraculousness that I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing.” For, if one is aware that these know-hows will naturally, yes, automatically, arrange themselves into creative and productive patterns in response to human necessity and demand — that is, in the absence of governmental or any other coercive masterminding — then one will possess an absolutely essential ingredient for freedom: a faith in free people. Freedom is impossible without this faith.
Once government has had a monopoly of a creative activity such, for instance, as the delivery of the mails, most individuals will believe that the mails could not be efficiently delivered by men acting freely. And here is the reason: each one acknowledges that he himself doesn’t know how to do all the things incident to mail delivery. He also recognizes that no other individual could do it. These assumptions are correct. No individual possesses enough know-how to perform a nation’s mail delivery any more than any individual possesses enough know-how to make a pencil. Now, in the absence of faith in free people — in the unawareness that millions of tiny know-hows would naturally and miraculously form and cooperate to satisfy this necessity — the individual cannot help but reach the erroneous conclusion that mail can be delivered only by governmental “masterminding.”
If I, Pencil, were the only item that could offer testimony on what men and women can accomplish when free to try, then those with little faith would have a fair case. However, there is testimony galore; it’s all about us and on every hand. Mail delivery is exceedingly simple when compared, for instance, to the making of an automobile or a calculating machine or a grain combine or a milling machine or to tens of thousands of other things.
Delivery? Why, in this area where men have been left free to try, they deliver the human voice around the world in less than one second; they deliver an event visually and in motion to any person’s home when it is happening; they deliver 150 passengers from Seattle to Baltimore in less than four hours; they deliver gas from Texas to one’s range or furnace in New York at unbelievably low rates and without subsidy; they deliver each four pounds of oil from the Persian Gulf to our Eastern Seaboard — halfway around the world — for less money than the government charges for delivering a one-ounce letter across the street!
The lesson I have to teach is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson. Let society’s legal apparatus remove all obstacles the best it can. Permit these creative know-hows freely to flow.
Have faith that free men and women will respond to the Invisible Hand. This faith will be confirmed. I, Pencil, seemingly simple though I am, offer the miracle of my creation as testimony that this is a practical faith, as practical as the sun, the rain, a cedar tree, the good earth.
It seems that Peter Schweizer’s book Clinton Cash is beginning to have some adverse effects on the Clintons. We hope they are only the first of many more – far more severe.
In House of the Stacked Deck of Cards, at the Weekly Standard, Noemie Emery traces Hillary Clinton’s steady rise from the impecunious early days of her marriage to her enormous riches today – always with help from those who needed favors in return.
We quote the concluding part of the article:
Never had the cards been stacked more in favor of anyone than they were for Hillary Clinton when she had a Senate seat in a state that she never had lived in more or less placed in her hands.
With an ex-president licensed to coin money and a former first lady in the Senate planning her own eventual run for president, the Clintons were in a unique position to leverage their power—past (Bill), present, and future (Hillary). Former presidents had in various ways cashed in before, but by that time they were no longer able to do people very meaningful favors. A donation to Bill, on the other hand, could mean favors from Hillary, in the job she was holding (senator, then secretary of state), and even as president sometime down the line. As the New York Times has noted, four days after Hillary was mentioned to head Barack Obama’s State Department, TD Bank (Canada’s largest) hired Bill to give speeches for a fee of $1.8 million. It must have been just a coincidence, like all the others she had enjoyed since their Little Rock days, that Secretary of State Clinton would be ideally placed to push for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, in which the bank held a large block of shares.
As the New York Post’s Kyle Smith noted, in a piece on Peter Schweizer’s new book Clinton Cash, “Eleven of the 13 highest-paid speeches [Bill] ever gave took place while . . . Hillary headed the State Department.” Other ex-presidents had nostalgia to sell, which quickly lost value. Bill had “access to a family member who was secretary of state and perhaps a future president. That’s why his fees actually went up over time, and not down.” The Clinton machine is best explained as a wondrous contraption designed to funnel cash to Bill Clinton, with a million or two tossed now and then in the way of the needy, along with a supply of fascinating new friends, ready to fly him to beautiful islands, in the pursuit of women and song.
And what did Hillary hope to get from all this, beyond a share in the family fortunes? Much the same thing that she got when she lived in the White House as first lady during the years that she ran for the Senate, namely a series of glamorous feel-good occasions meant to showcase her as a species of royalty, altruistic, benevolent, and above it all. …
This summer was supposed to be a four-month display of Hillary mania, with “a splashy Clinton Global Initiative conference in Marrakesh . . . followed by a lavish reception and conference in Athens in June, and . . . a September extravaganza in Manhattan, featuring an appearance by Elton John”. Alas, the release of Schweizer’s Clinton Cash and related reports in the New York Times and the Washington Post caused the Athens event to be canceled, with the family foundation “scrambling to address concerns about its budgeting, fundraising, and donor vetting, while being buffeted by a raging political storm”.
That storm may have been augmented by the revelation last summer that Chelsea Clinton, hired by NBC News along with Jenna Bush Hager as a part-time contributor, had not only not distinguished herself as a TV reporter, but had pulled down a yearly salary of $600,000 while having done practically nothing. It came to something over $26,000 for every minute she had been on the air. “Chelsea Clinton Leaving Her Unbelievably Cushy Fake Job at NBC” ran the New York headline. The magazine added that “she will no longer pretend to be a reporter,” calling her “one of the most boring people of her era” and her salary “insane.” A tipster told the New York Post that the disclosure (by Politico) of Chelsea’s salary had been “catastrophic for NBC, because not one of the other correspondents, not even Jenna Bush Hager, is in on that sort of money.” … Nonetheless, seemingly heedless of her own family’s fortunes, Hillary continues to rail against income disparity as a crisis, and the unfair advantages given the already powerful as a national shame and a sin.
Nobody knows about stacked decks better than Hillary Clinton, who found the deck stacked slightly in her favor 40 years ago and has spent her whole political life stacking it further, to the benefit of herself and her husband and their daughter and Hillary’s brothers, all of whom have managed to make out like bandits, the latter two with no talents to speak of besides being related to her. The Democrats may want to run on inequality, but they should look for some other candidate to do it, and not someone who has made inequality, when it heavily tilts in her direction, her singular calling and life’s achievement.
We have nothing against economic inequality. But Hillary pretends she has. And hypocrisy is only one of the many sleazy qualities of the Clintons – including every other form of dishonesty, even theft (of things from the White House) – that half the voters choose to disregard. Why?
Nearly a hundred years ago, the Ottoman Empire was brought to an end when the German-Turkish alliance was defeated in the First World War. Its former territories in the Middle East became independent states or temporary mandates of European powers.
Efraim Karsh, reviewing a new book* on the subject, corrects errors of fact on which its author relies – and which have been all too generally accepted.
The corrections are important, so we reproduce the entire article:
A century after the catastrophic blunder that led to the destruction of the then longest-surviving empire on earth, culpability is still ascribed to the European powers. Rather than view the Ottoman entry into the First World War on the losing side for what it was – a failed imperialist bid for territorial aggrandizement and reassertion of lost glory – the Muslim empire has been portrayed as the hapless victim of European machinations, driven into the world conflict by overbearing powers eager to expedite its demise and gobble up its lands.
Emblematic of the wider tendency to view Middle Easterners as mere objects, whose history is but a function of their unhappy interaction with the West, this conventional wisdom has proved remarkably resistant to the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and Eugene Rogan’s The Fall of the Ottomans is no exception to this rule.
To begin with, in an attempt to underscore the Ottoman Empire’s untenable position on the eve of the war, Rogan reproduces the standard depiction of the protracted period preceding the empire’s collapse, or the Eastern Question as it is commonly known, as the steady European encroachment on Ottoman territory. “The looming prospect of a European general war”, he writes, “raised the imminent threat of a Russian annexation of Istanbul, the straits, and eastern Anatolia – and the ultimate dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire among the Entente Powers. France was known to covet Syria, Britain had interests in Mesopotamia, and Greece wished to expand its grip over the Aegean.”
Reality, however, was quite different. Far from setting their sights on Ottoman lands, the European powers had consistently shored up the ailing Muslim empire for well over a century, saving it time and again from assured destruction – from Muhammad Ali’s imperialist bid of the 1830s, to the Balkan crises of the 1870s, to the Balkan war of 1912–13. And it was none other than Russia that acted as the Ottoman Empire’s latest saviour, halting its former Bulgarian subject at the gates of Istanbul, not once but twice: in November 1912 and March 1913. Several months later St Petersburg joined London and Berlin in underscoring “the necessity of preserving the Turkish Realm in its present form”.
All this means that by the outbreak of the Great War, the Ottoman Empire was scarcely a spurned and isolated power in danger of imminent destruction. Rather, it was in the enviable position of being courted by the two warring camps: the German-Austro-Hungarian Central Alliance wished its participation in the war, while the Anglo-French-Russian Triple Entente desired its neutrality. So much so that on August 18, 1914, less than a month after the outbreak of hostilities, the Entente’s ambassadors to Istanbul assured the Grand Vizier of the empire’s continued survival were it to stay out of the war, while the British Foreign Secretary vowed the preservation of Ottoman territorial integrity “in any conditions of peace which affected the Near East, provided she preserved a real neutrality during the war”. Five days later, at Ottoman request, the three powers put down this pledge in writing.
Had the Ottomans accepted this guarantee and kept out of the war, their empire would have readily weathered the storm. But then, by the time the Entente made its far-reaching proposal, Istanbul had already concluded a secret alliance with Germany that had effectively transformed it into a belligerent. This, nevertheless, didn’t prevent it from maintaining the false pretence of neutrality vis-à-vis the Entente, or even feigning interest in joining its ranks, while at the same time laying the groundwork for war and exploiting Berlin’s eagerness for the immediate initiation of hostilities to extract substantial military and economic benefits.
Preserving the myth of immaculate Turkish victimhood, Rogan claims that “the Ottoman leadership had no wish to enter a general European conflict” and was grudgingly driven to the German embrace by the Entente’s indifference, if not hostility, to its predicament. His proof is the supposed French rebuff of an alliance proposal, allegedly made during a visit to Paris in July 1914 by the military leader Djemal Pasha, as well as the British requisition of two warships commissioned by the Ottomans. “The British decision to requisition the ships was treated as a national humiliation in Turkey and ruled out the possibility of any accord between Britain and the Ottoman Empire”, Rogan writes. “The very next day, 2 August 1914, the Ottomans concluded a secret treaty of alliance with Germany.”
The problem with these well-worn stories is that there is no shred of evidence of Djemal’s alleged overture (its only mention is in his memoirs, written after the war and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire with the clear aim of exonerating himself from responsibility for this calamity), while the requisition announcement was made on August 3 – a day after the conclusion of the secret Ottoman-German alliance.
But even if the announcement had been made a few days earlier, it would have made no difference whatsoever for the simple reason that the terms of the Ottoman-German alliance had already been agreed on July 28. Moreover, it was the Ottomans rather than the Germans who had opted for an alliance within days of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 – weeks before the outbreak of hostilities; who were the driving force in the ensuing secret negotiations; and who largely prevailed over their German counterparts in deciding the alliance’s broad contours. As Kaiser Wilhelm ordered his more sceptical negotiators: “A refusal or a snub would result in Turkey’s going over to Russo-Gallia, and our influence would be gone forever … Under no circumstances whatsoever can we afford to turn them away”.
The truth of the matter is that the Ottoman Empire was neither forced into the First World War in a last-ditch attempt to ensure its survival, nor manoeuvred into it by an overbearing German ally and a hostile Entente, but rather plunged head on into the whirlpool. War, for the Ottoman leaders, was not seen as a mortal danger to be averted, but a unique opportunity to be seized. They did not seek “an ally to protect the empire’s vulnerable territory from the consequences of such war” but a powerful underwriter of their imperialist ambitions; and apart from their admiration for Germany and their conviction that it would ultimately be victorious, the Entente had less to offer by way of satisfying these ambitions, first and foremost “the destruction of our Muscovite enemy to obtain a natural frontier to our empire, which should include and unite all branches of our race” (in the words of the Ottoman declaration of war).
Just as the fall of the Ottoman Empire was not the result of external machinations but a self-inflicted catastrophe, so the creation of the modern Middle East on its ruins was not an imperialist imposition but the aggregate outcome of intense pushing and shoving by a multitude of regional and international bidders for the Ottoman war spoils in which the local actors, despite their marked inferiority to the great powers, often had the upper hand.
While Rogan occasionally alludes to this reality, these allusions are far too sparse and timid to break from the standard misrepresentation of the post-war regional order as an artificial Western creation. He aptly notes that “the map drawn by Sykes and Picot bears no resemblance to the Middle East today”, yet reiterates the standard depiction of the agreement as a colonial imposition rather than a British effort “to reconcile the interests of France with the pledges given to the [Arabs]” (to use Albert Hourani’s words), or indeed – the first-ever great power recognition of Arab right to self determination (well before President Woodrow Wilson turned this principle into a driving force of international politics). He similarly observes that Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia (or the Hijaz, as it was then known) “achieved independence within frontiers of their own devising”, yet parrots the conventional wisdom that the imperial powers outlandishly “imposed the borders and systems of governments of most states in the region”.
In fact, most states in the region were established pretty much as a result of local exertions. The modern state of Iraq, to give a prominent example, was created in its present form (rather than divided into three states in accordance with the existing realities of local patriotism and religious affinities) on behalf of Emir Faisal of Mecca and at his instigation, while Jordan was established to satisfy the ambitions of Faisal’s older brother Abdullah. Likewise, the nascent Zionist movement exploited a unique convergence of factors to harness British support to its national cause, to have this support endorsed by the international community and incorporated into the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, and to cling tenaciously to these achievements until their fruition in the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948.
Eugene Rogan acknowledges that “the borders of the post-war settlement have proven remarkably resilient”. Yet he fails to draw the selfevident conclusion that this state of affairs reflects their congruity with local realities, instead echoing the common refrain that ascribes the region’s endemic volatility to the supposed dissatisfaction with these boundaries.
Had this actually been the case, Arab leaders would have seized some of the numerous opportunities they had over the past century to undo the post-Ottoman order and unify the so-called Arab Nation; and they could have readily done this by peaceful means rather than incessant fighting. But then, violence has hardly been imported to the Middle East as a by-product of European imperialism; it was a part of the political culture long before. And if anything, it is the region’s tortuous relationship with modernity, most notably the stubborn adherence to its millenarian religiously based imperialist legacy, which has left physical force as the main instrument of political discourse to date.
But to acknowledge this would mean abandoning the self-righteous victimization paradigm that has informed Western scholarship for so long, and treating Middle Easterners as equal free agents accountable for their actions, rather than giving them a condescending free pass for political and moral modes of behaviour that are not remotely acceptable in Western societies. Sadly, The Fall of the Ottomans signals no such paradigm shift.
* The Fall of the Ottomans by Eugene Rogan. The review first appeared in the Times Literary Supplement and was reprinted in the Wall Street Journal.
“Liberation theology” is the child of the incestuous marriage of Christianity and its secular offspring, Marxism.
Reports from the Vatican suggest that Pope Francis is warming to it – a volte-face of Papal policy towards it ever since its birth in South America in the middle of the last century. This report comes from the left-leaning Guardian:
For decades, Gustavo Gutiérrez, a Peruvian theologian and Dominican priest, was treated with suspicion and even contempt by the Vatican’s hierarchy, which saw him as a dangerous Marxist firebrand who used faith as an instrument of revolution. …
Which is exactly what he was and what he did.
But when the 86-year-old Peruvian arrives in Rome this week as a key speaker at a Vatican event, he will be welcomed as a guest, in a striking show of how Pope Francis – the first Latin American pontiff – has brought tenets of this sometimes controversial movement to the fore of his church, particularly in his pronouncements against the blight of poverty and the dangers of capitalism.
He has not noticed that only capitalism raises people by the million from poverty.
In its height in the late 1960s and 1970s, liberation theology– a distinctly Latin American movement – preached that it was not enough for the church to simply empathise and care for the poor. Instead, believers said, the church needed to be a vehicle to push for fundamental political and structural changes that would eradicate poverty, even – some believed – if it meant supporting armed struggle against oppressors.
In Nicaragua, priests inspired by liberation theology took an active part in the 1979 Sandinista revolution against Anastasio Somoza’s rightwing dictatorship. The philosophy also influenced leftist rebels in Mexico and Colombia, where one of the main guerrilla factions was led for nearly 30 years by a defrocked Spanish priest, Manuel Pérez. …
“He [the present Pope] was very critical of the liberal Marxist version of liberation theology,” said Austen Ivereigh, who has written a biography of Pope Francis. “At that time, you had leftwing movements in Latin America but in fact these were middle-class movements, which he believed used the poor as instruments. He had a phrase he used – that they were for the people but never with them.”
But since his election as pontiff in 2013, Pope Francis’s insistence that the church be “for the poor”, and his pointed criticisms of capitalism and consumerism have gone a long way to rehabilitate the liberation theology movement and incorporate it within the church. Experts point, too, to Francis’s decision to name Oscar Romero, the iconic Salvadoran archbishop who was assassinated by rightwing death squads in 1980, as a martyr as another sign of the resurgence in liberation theology…
The Vatican itself has not formally embraced liberation theology. Even xc himself has denied that his appointment as prefect by Pope Francis – which was seen in some circles as a triumph of liberation theology because of Müller’s relationship with Gutiérrez – represented the “opening of a new chapter” following the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict.
Liberation theology was invented, named, and funded by the KGB, according to one of its defecting agents. Damien Thompson reports – and comments with some skepticism which we do not share – in the (UK) Spectator:
The respected Catholic News Agency has published an interview with Ion Mihai Pacepa, a former general in Romania’s secret police who was one of the Eastern Bloc’s highest-ranking defectors in the 1970s. In it, he says that the Soviet Union – and the KGB in particular – created liberation theology, the quasi-Marxist movement that flourished in Latin America from the 1960s to the 1990s and is still a powerful influence on the Catholic Left.
The interview provides fresh evidence of the infiltration of liberation theology by Russia – a subject Catholic liberals would much rather not discuss, just as they don’t want to know about the heavy Soviet investment in CND (the British campaign for nuclear disarmament). …
I don’t believe that the KGB ‘created’ a movement as complex as liberation theology and I’m far from convinced that its name was dreamt up in the Lubyanka.
But Pacepa … makes detailed claims that the Soviets kick-started, funded and moulded liberation theology … He cites as one of his sources Aleksandr Sakharovsky, the Russian agent who set up Romania’s secret police agency. Pacepa describes him as his ‘de facto boss’ in the 1950s. Sakharovsky later became head of the First Chief Directorate of the KGB.
Here are the key quotes from the interview:
The birth of Liberation Theology was the intent of a 1960 super-secret “Party-State Dezinformatsiya Programme” approved by Aleksandr Shelepin, the chairman of the KGB, and by Politburo member Aleksey Kirichenko, who coordinated the Communist Party’s international policies. This programme demanded that the KGB take secret control of the World Council of Churches (WCC), based in Geneva, Switzerland, and use it as cover for converting Liberation Theology into a South American revolutionary tool …
The KGB began by building an intermediate international religious organization called the Christian Peace Conference (CPC), which was headquartered in Prague. Its main task was to bring the KGB-created Liberation Theology into the real world.
The new Christian Peace Conference was managed by the KGB and was subordinated to the venerable World Peace Council, another KGB creation, founded in 1949 and by then also headquartered in Prague …
During my years at the top of the Soviet bloc intelligence community I managed the Romanian operations of the World Peace Council (WPC). It was as purely KGB as it gets. Most of the WPC’s employees were undercover Soviet bloc intelligence officers … Even the money for the WPC budget came from Moscow, delivered by the KGB in the form of laundered cash dollars to hide their Soviet origin. In 1989, when the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse, the WPC publicly admitted that 90 per cent of its money came from the KGB.
And now the bit that will really wind up Catholic liberals:
I [Pacepa] was not involved in the creation of Liberation Theology per se. From Sakharovsky I learned, however, that in 1968 the KGB-created Christian Peace Conference, supported by the world-wide World Peace Council, was able to manoeuvre a group of leftist South American bishops into holding a Conference of Latin American Bishops at Medellin, Colombia. The Conference’s official task was to ameliorate poverty. Its undeclared goal was to recognise a new religious movement …
True to the chief pretense of each parent, the priests of both the South American Church and the Kremlin claimed that the intention of liberation theology was to stand with the poor and oppressed. Its theologians declared that the cause of all poverty and oppression is capitalism, and Christians must work to replace capitalism with socialism.
The man whom Pope Francis is now welcoming to the Vatican, Gustavo Gutierrez of Peru, wrote in his book A Theology of Liberation: “The goal is not only better living conditions, a radical change if structures, a social revolution; it is much more: the continuous creation, never ending, of a new way to be a man. A permanent cultural revolution.” Gutierrez struggles manfully through some 300 pages to reconcile the Christian idea of salvation of the individual soul and its reward in heavenly bliss, with the Marxist insistence on collective salvation through revolution and the reward of an egalitarian society on this earth. He does not succeed. Whether he is aware of it or not, the Christian idea is totally overwhelmed and replaced by the Marxist idea. Liberation theology takes more after one parent than the other.
Liberation theology allowed the numerous leftist revolutionary organizations that arose in the last century in South and Central America (Argentina, Peru, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatamala, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Venezuela, Bolivia)*to claim religious vindication, and carried the blessings of the revolutionary priests when they – the terrorists -went about their savage business of murder.
Pope Francis’s understanding that the South American liberation movements were “middle class”, was not unfounded. Intellectuals – priests and writers – not only inspired them, but led them. Three bibles of the liberation theology movement are:
- Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire
- For the Liberation of Brazil, by Carlos Marighela
- Love in Practice: The Gospel in Solentiname, by Ernesto Cardenal
The most enlightening descriptions of what actually happened in a central American country when terrorist insurrectionists, inspired by liberation theology, clashed with a government and its military, are to be found in Sweet Waist of America: Journeys Around Guatamala, by Anthony Daniels. Although the author is uncompromising in his condemnation of the rebels and their methods, he also indicts the government and its forces. Both sides committed atrocities.
*** A list of the “guerrilla movements” in these countries can be found here.
A review of a book on ISIS at Commentary, by Michael J. Totten, is full of interest. It explains some of the Byzantine intricacies of Arab, middle eastern, and Islamic politics.
The book is titled ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror. It’s written by Michael Weiss & Hassan Hassan.
The review begins with two sentences with which we emphatically agree. We wish that all who report on ISIS would take note of them.
ISIS isn’t a terrorist organization. It’s a transnational army of terror.
And a very formidable army it is in its size and its armor.
The CIA claims it has as many as 31,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq, and Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government, thinks the number may be as high as 200,000. When ISIS fighters conquered the Iraqi city of Mosul last year, they stole enough materiel to supply three fighting divisions, including up-armored American Humvees, T-55 tanks, mobile Chinese artillery pieces, Soviet anti-aircraft guns, and American-made Stinger missile systems. ISIS controls a swath of territory the size of Great Britain and is expanding into Libya and Yemen.
The book relates the history ISIS. The midwife of its birth was Bashar Assad, the president of Syria.
ISIS began its life as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) after the United States demolished Saddam Hussein’s government in 2003. The Bush administration saw Arab democracy as the solution to the Middle East’s woes, and Syria’s tyrant Bashar al-Assad didn’t want to be the next Saddam. Assad waged a proxy war to convince Washington that participatory politics in the region would be perilous. Weiss and Hassan quote former Syrian diplomat Bassam Barabandi, who says candidly that “[Assad] started to work with the mujahideen.” He dispatched Syria’s homegrown jihadists to fight American occupation forces [in Iraq], and most of those jihadists would sign up with AQI. Assad pulled off a win-win scheme, purging Syria of potential enemies while teaching both the American government and citizenry a lesson they still haven’t forgotten: Occupying and democratizing an Arab land is a far messier and bloodier business than most in the West are willing to stomach.
It worked so well in Iraq that Assad would eventually replicate it inside his own country. When the uprising against him began in 2011, he framed the conflict as one between his secular regime and Islamist terrorists, even when the only serious movement against him consisted of nonviolent protests for reform and democracy. Few in the West bought Assad’s line at the time, so he then facilitated an Islamist terrorist opposition. His loyalists like to present a choice: “Assad or we burn the country.” And they are not kidding.
As Weiss and Hassan detail, Assad opened the jails and let Islamist prisoners free as part of an ostensible “reform” process, but he kept democracy activists in their cages. He knew perfectly well that those he let loose would cut a burning and bleeding gash across the country, casting him as the only thing standing between the rest of us and the abyss. …
ISIS is a terrible force; as terrible as any in history or fiction.
The first thing ISIS does when conquering a new city or town is set up the grisly machinery for medieval punishments in town squares. “Letting black-clad terrorists run around a provincial capital,” Weiss and Hassan write, “crucifying and beheading people, made for great propaganda.” It was all Assad could do to ensure the Obama administration wouldn’t pursue a policy of regime-change as it had in Libya and as the previous administration had in Iraq. …
Had Assad been forced into exile or dragged from his palace before the Arab Spring soured, Syria might look strikingly different today. Weiss and Hassan cite an International Republican Institute survey of Syrian public opinion in 2012 that found 76 percent of the country favored one kind of democratic transition or another. But Assad guarantees that bullets rather than ballots will decide political outcomes, and millions would rather flee to squalid refugee camps abroad than get caught between the anvil of Syria’s totalitarian state and the hammer of ISIS. …
ISIS’s founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, loved beheading hapless victims on camera as much as the new leadership does, and his grisly behavior earned him the nickname “Sheikh of the Slaughterers”. He hated no one on earth — not even Americans — more than he hated Shia Muslims who, in his view, were beneath even Sunni Muslim apostates. …
Abu Bakr Naji, one of ISIS’s intellectual architects, published a book online outlining its strategy and vision: The Management of Savagery. It is used today as a manual not only in Syria and Iraq but also by al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia, Yemen, and Libya. “Jihad,” he writes, “is naught but violence, crudeness, terrorism, frightening [people], and massacring.”
The authors make a compelling case that ISIS “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a would-be Saddam Hussein in religious garb…. Like Zarqawi before him, [he] is even more genocidal than Iraq’s former strongman. Al-Baghdadi has “so far demonstrated nothing short of annihilationist intention …” …
Annihilationist, that is, first and foremost of the Shi’a, who are “marked only for death”.
[But] Syrians and Iraqis aren’t the only ones threatened by all this, of course. ISIS aspires to wage its exterminationist war beyond the Middle East, not only in the United States but also in Europe. “We will raid you thereafter,” it boasts in its online magazine, Dabiq, “and you will never raid us. We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the Permission of Allah, the Exalted. This is His promise to us.”
And that, since ISIS became the enemy of Assad – the despot who brought it into the world – puts the US and Europe “tacitly on the side of Assad”. And as Assad is kept in power by Iran, they are also tacitly on the side of Iran and “their joint Lebanese proxy Hezbollah”.
It is a state of affairs that the Iranian rulers delight in.
Tehran can hardly contain itself. “One of the world’s leading state sponsors of terrorism,” Weiss and Hassan write, “now presents itself as the last line of defense against terrorism.”
[But] the idea that a state sponsor of terrorism could ever be a reliable partner against international terrorism is ludicrous. “Whatever Washington’s intentions,” Weiss and Hassan write, “its perceived alliance of convenience with the murderous regimes of Syria and Iran is keeping Sunnis who loathe or fear ISIS from participating in another grassroots effort to expel the terrorists from their midst.”
ISIS continues to grow at an alarming rate and has so far recruited thousands of members from Europe. “What draws people to ISIS,” the authors write, “could easily bring them to any number of cults or totalitarian movements, even those ideologically contradictory to Salafist jihadism.” Indeed, its ranks are swollen with tribal sectarians, thrill seekers, former “socialist infidels”, foreign losers looking for meaning and community, and psychopaths pining for butchery. Many find the execution videos of “Jihadi John” — a modern version of what 19th-century Italian revolutionary Carlo Pisacane called propaganda of the deed — darkly compelling. For the most dangerous ISIS recruits, what the rest of us see as bad press is seductive.
Many, however, are painfully naive. Savvy ISIS recruiters do an outstanding job convincing the gullible that its notoriety is unjustified. “Don’t hear about us,” they say. “Hear from us.” Weiss and Hassan dig up comments from some of ISIS’s obtuse fans in online Western forums who have bought the sales pitch: “Does the Islamic State sell hair gel and Nutella in Raqqa?” “Should I bring an iPad to let Mom and Dad know that I arrived safely in caliphate?”
The foolish recruits are more likely to become victims themselves than to victimize others — in March, ISIS forced a 12-year-old boy to execute an Israeli Arab man for trying to flee — but ISIS will continue to attract newcomers as long as it’s permitted to thrive. And thrive it will until it faces a more determined resistance force and as long as radical Sunni Muslims around the world feel galvanized by the perceived American-Iranian axis against them.
As the authors say in their book’s stark conclusion, “the army of terror will be with us indefinitely”.