The war: report from the Iraqi front 7

The Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and Hamas are regiments of the Army of Islam, now waging open war on the non-Muslim world. This is a war of religion.

The strongest military power on the planet, the US, is engaging battle to as small an extent as it can. President Obama, highly sympathetic to Islam, but under pressure (called “advice”)  from the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey, has reluctantly agreed to let a few bombs be dropped by the US Air Force on IS positions. And some military equipment – not too much and not too big and not too effective – is being supplied to the Kurds who are trying to repel the advance of the IS.

The majority of the Kurds are also Muslims. As the big religious war rages on in the Middle East, North Africa, and wherever else the Army of Islam strikes – Hamas against Israel, Boko Haram against the Christians of Nigeria and adjacent territories, al-Qaeda wherever it can – internecine Muslim battles are being savagely waged; and  the  Western governments’ and media’s “good guys” of the moment are the Kurds of Iraq, defending themselves against the advancing Islamic State.

The Washington Post reports:

On the newest front line of the expanding war being waged by Sunni militants for control of the Middle East, the juggernaut of the Islamic State’s advance appeared Saturday to have slowed, at least for now.

Buoyed by U.S. airstrikes the previous day, Kurdish pesh merga fighters said they pushed back an attempt by the extremists to overrun one of their artillery positions on the northern edge of the dust-blown town of Makhmour, south of Irbil. Makhmour was seized by Islamic State fighters Thursday.

At the same time, however, commanders said Islamic State fighters had begun to return to positions that US airstrikes had forced them to flee — a reminder that the so-far limited intervention may represent only the beginning of what President Obama warned Saturday could be a long campaign.

Though not – we suspect – if he can withdraw from it.

Hours later, the US military announced it had carried out four more airstrikes, in the Sinjar area farther west.

The Islamic State boasted in a video of its newest conquests, including Iraq’s biggest hydroelectric dam, outside Mosul. If breached, the dam would inundate towns and villages along the Tigris river and unleash flooding as far south as Baghdad.

The Washington Post sees the IS as an off-shoot of al-Qaeda:

The renegade al-Qaeda force is also reported to have made advances elsewhere across the vast stretch of territory it controls, in the Iraqi province of Anbar, in Kirkuk and in the eastern Syrian province of Hasakah.

Their spirits bolstered by the US intervention, Kurdish forces began to regroup after their rout in the past week, in which they retreated from a string of towns and villages. Tens of thousands of civilians, including Christians and Yazidis, were displaced.

As the sound of outgoing artillery and heavy machine-gun fire rang out across the undulating fields outside Makhmour, trucks bearing fresh supplies of ammunition and SUVs carrying uniformed officers hurtled to reinforce the front lines.

Hundreds of volunteers drawn from all over the Kurdistan region also streamed toward the battle, clutching ancient rifles and wearing the ballooning pants and waistcoats traditional to Kurdish culture.

The first of the three US  airstrikes had taken out an Islamic State artillery position nearby, and pesh merga commanders said they sensed the militants had been chastened by the attack.

“This power they had before, this momentum — we don’t see it now,” said Col. Mohsin Avdal, who sat poring over maps on an ammunition box beside a pile of several dozen newly arrived 107mm rockets. They were delivered, he said, from stocks the pesh merga already owned.

But there was little indication the airstrikes had done much more than slow the militant blitz through Iraq and Syria, where Islamic State forces now govern a vast swath of territory in the name of their self-proclaimed caliphate.

Pesh merga commanders said they had no immediate plans to attempt to push back the militants but rather were under orders to consolidate the positions they now hold.

“We are not moving forward. We are staying put. We are ready and we are strong,” said Mohammed Mohsin, a brigadier general who has come out of retirement to oversee the reinforcement of another front-line checkpoint outside the town of Kalak, east of Irbil.

“But they are really strong,” he added, referring to Islamic State forces. “Everything the Americans sold to the Iraqi army, they have it now.”

The two other American strikes hit an Islamic State mortar position and a convoy a little more than a mile beyond the checkpoint, deterring an attempt by the militants to advance on the position, Mohsin said. Kurdish fighters who visited the site shortly after the strike found the remains of four US-made Humvees that had been captured from the Iraqi army and the bodies of 13 Islamic State fighters. It was all that remained of a convoy that had attempted to advance on the Kurdish position.

But the Kurdish fighters lacked the resources to hold the location and were ordered back to their base at Kalak, Mohsin said.

Later in the day, Islamic State fighters were seen returning to the area, according to Brig. Gen. Azad Hawezi, who commands forces in the area.

“They are bringing new people and more of those weapons they captured from the Iraqi army,” he said.

“They have American weapons, and they have American vehicles,” he added. “Obviously, they are strong.”

Unless the pesh merga are able to make advances, “it would seem likely that further [Islamic State] progress or escalated US airstrikes are the only eventualities,” said Charles Lister of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar.

(Interruption: Did you know there was a Brookings Center in Qatar? Why would that be?)

Airstrikes by themselves can only ever represent a potential temporary fix against a force like the Islamic State.”

The United States has promised to send arms and ammunition, but the pesh merga say they would need a massive influx to be able to make real gains against the militants. Their forces are stretched thin along a 650-mile front line, and although Kurdish civilians swarmed to offer their services as reinforcements, their utility was in question.

“We have guns, but we need heavy weapons,” said Abdul Aziz Ibrahim, 52, a farmer who fled the advance of the Islamic State on Makhmour overnight Thursday and has returned to join the fight as a volunteer, armed with an aged AK-47 borrowed from a relative.

“The pesh merga ran out of ammunition. There were too many of them,” he said, describing how the entire town fled within minutes of the first shell fired by Islamic State fighters. “Only the American Air Force can save us.”

Other Kurdish civilians had bought guns, flak jackets and helmets on the open market, making their way to the front lines from as far afield as the Iranian border.

Though enthusiastic, the volunteers seemed only to be getting in the way. They milled around checkpoints, taking turns to peer through binoculars at the front line about a mile away whenever an explosion thundered through the air, and they clogged roads the real fighters were using to ferry supplies and men to the front.

Lt. Col. Abdul Aziz Ali Mustafa, who was directing the deployment of fighters on the outskirts of Makhmour, predicted a long fight.

“All we can do is defend our territory and prepare to die, until someone finds a solution,” he said. “This is a big problem, involving all the Arab world. It is not something we can solve.”

War is now the only answer. War against Islam waged by all possible means with the intention of winning. If it is not, Islam will win.   

Causing and exploiting the suffering of children 3

We repeat here our Facebook summary of an article by Sultan Knish on the exploitation of children’s suffering for pro-Islam, and especially pro-Hamas, propaganda.

Our summaries largely use the author’s own words. Sometimes we add comment of our own, as we do here in an introductory paragraph.

Some of the Yezidis trapped on Sinjar mountain by the Islamic State (IS formerly ISIS) – who want to shoot, decapitate, or crucify them – have been throwing their children off the mountain for a quick death rather than let them die slowly of thirst – though that is what some dozens have already died of.

The dead Yezidi children won’t inspire any protests or much in the way of outrage. The hysterical rallies for Gaza won’t suddenly turn into anti-ISIS rallies. If any of the angry white hipsters with dead baby posters are asked about it, they will offer some variation on, “It’s Bush’s fault” or “It’s Tony Blair’s fault”. And they had been out there in the early part of the century denouncing any move to remove Saddam Hussein from power. The dead children gassed by Saddam, along with the children in his prisons, were unfortunately created less equal than the photogenic, oddly blonde children of Gaza’s Hamaswood. Anna, a two-year-old girl whose feet were crushed by Saddam’s torturers, never mattered to them. It isn’t the children that they care about, not the dying Yezidi children in Iraq, or the tortured children in Saddam Hussein’s prisons, or even the dead children of Gaza used as human shields by Hamas in life and then brandished at rallies after their deaths as cardboard propaganda shields by raging Marxists. When they thought that Israel had bombed a playground near the al-Shati refugee camp killing nine children, they went into murderous paroxysm of outrage. When it turned out that a misfired Hamas rocket was responsible, they fell silent. They have equally little interest in the 3-year-old Gazan girl killed by a Hamas rocket in the early days of the war. The same thing had happened in 2012 when a dead 11-month old baby, formerly an iconic front page photo, vanished into obscurity once the death turned out to have been caused by a Hamas rocket. The same thing happened to Hadil al-Haddad, a 2-year-old girl in Gaza, who went from iconic photo to yesterday’s news once it turned out that a Hamas rocket had been responsible for her death. However the photos of those dead and wounded children, along with the dead children of Syria and perhaps soon the dead children of the Yezidi, will go on showing up as victims of Israel at spitefully angry anti-Israel rallies. If it was the children that they cared about, then the death of an Israeli child or a Muslim child at the hands of Hamas would matter as much to them as the ones on the bloody placards they now brandish. But they don’t and they never did. For Hamas and its supporters screaming “Free Gaza” at the top of their lungs, children, dead or alive, are just another propaganda weapon in the arsenal of terrorist theocracy.

 

(Put “Yezidis” into our search slot to read about their religion.)

 

Yezidis and Mandeans 1

Continuing our series on obscure religions, we outline two contemporary Gnostic cults in the Middle East.

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The Yezidis [or Yazidis] worship  The Peacock Angel, Malak Taus. He’s identified by Muslims and Christians with Shaitan/Satan, so the Yezidis are held to be devil-worshipers. They are ethnic Kurds, most of them  settled in Mosul, Iraq. There are some in Iran, Kurdistan, Armenia, and the Caucuses. In all, it’s estimated, there are about half a million of them. Their cult is in part an offshoot of Sufism. with various accretions. They build small temples, shrines with conical white spires, and they keep sacred snakes. They practice circumcision. The colour blue is repulsive to them, and the eating of lettuce is forbidden. They have an hereditary  priesthood under a High Priest, and sacred books.

There is no need, they believe, to worship the Supreme God, because he is all good and so will never do you harm. The Peacock Angel, on the other hand, must be propitiated. He is capable of doing harm or good, and so must be won over to doing you good. Eventually he will be reconciled with the Supreme God, and that eventuality could come about at any moment.

In their cosmogony, the Supreme God created the world, which is watched over by 7 lesser divinities or “mysteries”, chief among whom is the Peacock Angel, Malak Taus. God created him first, out of his own light, and ordered him never to bow to other beings. Then God created the other six angels, and ordered them to make Adam out of the dust of the earth. God took the inanimate body of Adam and breathed life into him, and instructed the angels to bow down to him. Of course Malak Taus did not bow. “I cannot submit to him because,” he reminded God, “I am made of  your own light, while he is made of dust.”  This pleased God who then appointed him his vicar on earth. As its ruler, Malak Taus visits the earth on the first Wednesday of Nisan (March/April – roughly the same time as Easter), which is the Yezidi New Year’s Day, and the anniversary of the day on which God made the Peacock Angel. On that day they feast, make music, dance, and decorate eggs.

God made the earth by first making a pearl, which remained very small for some forty thousand years, and was then expanded and reworked into its present state. From time to time the 7 angels are incarnated in human form and dwell among the living on earth.  Their main annual festival is a week-long pilgrimage to the tomb of Sheikh Adi, their founder, who they say was the incarnation of one of the 7 angels. The tomb is at Lalish, north of Mosul.

All Yezidis are descended directly from Adam, not through Eve. At first the sexual roles of Adam and Eve were not fixed. Each produced a seed which was was sealed in a jar. Eve’s seed bred creepy-crawly things, but Adam’s developed into a boy-child who grew up, married a houri, and fathered the Yezidis.

As Adam’s seed, they are different from all other peoples. They permit marriage only within the sect, and members of each caste of their social and religious hierarchy can only marry among themselves.

They pray five times a day facing the sun. Their holy day is Wednesday, but their day of rest is Saturday.

In 2007,  al-Qaeda suicide bombers drove oil tankers into two Yezidi communities  near Mosul which they exploded, killing more than 500 and injuring about 1,000 more. This sent thousands of Yezidis to the Syrian border to seek asylum.

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The Mandeans were also settled in Iraq, south of Baghdad. There are also some in Iran. The name derives from Manda, their word for the Gnosis.

They are called Sabeans by the Muslims, who have tolerated  them – under certain strictures – as one of the “Peoples of the Book”, a category that includes the Jews and Christians. They have 5 holy books, chiefly the Ginza, all written in a unique  dialect of Aramaic, and in a unique script.

Their main sacrament is baptism, and as they claim John the Baptist as a member (not founder) of their sect, they are also known as the Christians of St. John. The baptismal rite is not performed once and for all, but as regular ablutions. They do  not build temples. Their ritual baptism takes place in sanctified compounds (mandi) where in front of small cult-huts there are pools called “Jordans”, kept fresh by streams flowing in and out. After each baptism the priests hand out bread and water. On certain occasions they sacrifice doves and sheep. They do not practice circumcision.

Their cosmogony is great imaginative stuff, closely resembling in general form, though not in nomenclature and details, the cosmogonies of most Gnostic faiths.

Earth and Man were formed by a demiurge. The history of the universe unfolds in 7 stages, corresponding to the 7 planets. Like Gnostic cults in general, Mandeism is dualistic. Light and Darkness stand opposed to each other, Light to the North, Darkness to the South.

In the Northern World, or Kingdom of Light, the Highest Being is called the Great Life. He emanated the Mighty Spirit called the King of Light, and is surrounded by innumerable emanated beings  called the Uthri. With them, the King of Light made the Heavenly or Great Adam, who emanated the Second Life, Joshamin, who emanated the Third Life, Abathur, the Keeper of the Scales, who emanated the Fourth Life, Ptahil, who is the Creator God.

In the Southern World, or Kingdom of Darkness, the Spirit of Evil, who arose out of primeval chaos or dark water, emanated the King of Darkness, Rutha, who is surrounded by emanated demonic beings and phantoms. With them the King of Darkness made the 7 planets – which are also the 7 demons, the Archons who rule this world – and the 12 constellations of the Zodiac.

The two sides, right from the “beginning” which was (nevertheless) “before time”, are hostile to each other. But the lower Archons of the Kingdom of Light, including particularly Ptahil, tend towards the darkness, and they, with Ruha, and the 7, and the 12, created the material world, and formed the First Man, the earthly Adam. But the Rulers of the World of Light intervened, and sent a messenger, the Gnosis of Life, also called the Son of Life, who is the Redeemer. He brought the material body of Adam to life by endowing him with a soul, and he chained Ruha the Evil King, and punished Ptahil the Creator by exiling him from the World of Light until the end of the earthly world. The soul is called the Inner Adam.

The Mandeans name themselves the Race of Life. They claim descent from Adam and Eve. Their constant religious purpose is to save their light-sent souls from the prison of this material world, this creation of darkness, by means of the Gnosis and their sacred rituals.

The souls of the good, who are the chosen, will rise to the Kingdom of Light when they leave this life. The ascent is arduous but, being gifted with the Gnosis, they will know what magic spells and incantations to say, and they will  break certain seals, in order to pass the 7 planets, or demons, which will challenge them; and each will be helped by a Guide who is his soul’s spiritual counterpart, and by ceremonies and hymns performed by the Mandeans still on earth. But (as in Zoroastrianism) they have to see as they pass the stations of the demons, the sufferings of those who have not earned the right to rise to the Light. The  bad or unenlightened   souls – including all Christians – are caught in way-stations, where the Forces of Darkness punish them with chains, irons, cauldrons and ovens for as long as time lasts. Then they’ll be judged a second time, weighed in a scale, and if found wanting, will be confined forever in darkness.

Although in its own belief Mandeanism arose in ancient Judea – and has dietary laws like those of Judaism, and prohibits image-making – it owes more to Zoroastrianism (see our post Thus, more or less, spake Zarathustra, May 26, 2009) than to Judaism or Christianity, and is probably a pre-Christian Gnostic cult. It differs from most other such cults by being neither ascetic nor libertine. It commands marriage, and approves the begetting of children, good works, and charity.

The Mandeans are pacifists, and at present fear annihilation by Muslim militants, who try to force them to convert to Islam under threat of massacre. Of an approximate 70,000 world wide, there are now only some 5,000 left in Iraq. A majority of the ancient Iraqi community have fled to Syria and Jordan, where they still feel unsafe, and hope (forlornly) to be granted asylum en masse in the West.

Posted under Articles, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Sunday, April 4, 2010

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