Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: March 31, 2009, 08:05:49 PM
Islam's doctrines of deception
by Raymond Ibrahim
Jane's Islamic Affairs Analyst
To better understand Islam, one must appreciate the thoroughly legalistic nature of the religion. According to sharia (Islamic law) every conceivable human act is categorised as being either forbidden, discouraged, permissible, recommended, or obligatory.
"Common sense" or "universal opinion" has little to do with Islam's notions of right and wrong. Only what Allah (through the Quran) and his prophet Muhammad (through the Hadith) have to say about any given issue matters; and how Islam's greatest theologians and jurists – collectively known as the ulema, literally, "they who know" – have articulated it.
According to sharia, in certain situations, deception – also known as 'taqiyya', based on Quranic terminology, – is not only permitted but sometimes obligatory. For instance, contrary to early Christian history, Muslims who must choose between either recanting Islam or being put to death are not only permitted to lie by pretending to have apostatised, but many jurists have decreed that, according to Quran 4:29, Muslims are obligated to lie in such instances.
Origins of taqiyya
As a doctrine, taqiyya was first codified by Shia Muslims, primarily as a result of their historical experience. Long insisting that the caliphate rightly belonged to the prophet Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, Ali (and subsequently his descendents), the Shia were a vocal and powerful branch of Islam that emerged following Muhammad's death. After the internal Islamic Fitna wars from the years 656 AD to 661 AD, however, the Shia became a minority branch, persecuted by mainstream Muslims or Sunnis – so-called because they follow the example or 'sunna' of Muhammad and his companions. Taqiyya became pivotal to Shia survival.
Interspersed among the much more numerous Sunnis, who currently make up approximately 90 per cent of the Islamic world, the Shia often performed taqiyya by pretending to be Sunnis externally, while maintaining Shia beliefs internally, as permitted by Quranic verse 16:106. Even today, especially in those Muslim states where there is little religious freedom, the Shia still practice taqiyya. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, Shias are deemed by many of the Sunni majority to be heretics, traitors and infidels and like other non-Sunni Muslims they are often persecuted.
Several of Saudi Arabia's highest clerics have even issued fatwas sanctioning the killing of Shias. As a result, figures on the Arabian kingdom's Shia population vary wildly from as low as 1 per cent to nearly 20 per cent. Many Shias living there obviously choose to conceal their religious identity. As a result of some 1,400 years of Shia taqiyya, the Sunnis often accuse the Shias of being habitual liars, insisting that taqiyya is ingrained in Shia culture.
Conversely, the Sunnis have historically had little reason to dissemble or conceal any aspect of their faith, which would have been deemed dishonorable, especially when dealing with their historic competitors and enemies, the Christians. From the start, Islam burst out of Arabia subjugating much of the known world, and, throughout the Middle Ages, threatened to engulf all of Christendom. In a world where might made right, the Sunnis had nothing to apologise for, much less to hide from the 'infidel'.
Paradoxically, however, today many Sunnis are finding themselves in the Shias' place: living as minorities in Western countries surrounded and governed by their traditional foes. The primary difference is that, extremist Sunnis and Shia tend to reject each other outright, as evidenced by the ongoing Sunni-Shia struggle in Iraq, whereas, in the West, where freedom of religion is guaranteed, Sunnis need only dissemble over a few aspects of their faith.
Articulation of taqiyya
According to the authoritative Arabic text, Al-Taqiyya Fi Al-Islam: "Taqiyya [deception] is of fundamental importance in Islam. Practically every Islamic sect agrees to it and practices it. We can go so far as to say that the practice of taqiyya is mainstream in Islam, and that those few sects not practicing it diverge from the mainstream...Taqiyya is very prevalent in Islamic politics, especially in the modern era."
The primary Quranic verse sanctioning deception with respect to non-Muslims states: "Let believers not take for friends and allies infidels instead of believers. Whoever does this shall have no relationship left with Allah – unless you but guard yourselves against them, taking precautions." (Quran 3:28; see also 2:173; 2:185; 4:29; 22:78; 40:28.)
Al-Tabari's (838-923 AD) Tafsir, or Quranic exegeses, is essentially a standard reference in the entire Muslim world. Regarding 3:28, he wrote: "If you [Muslims] are under their [infidels'] authority, fearing for yourselves, behave loyally to them, with your tongue, while harbouring inner animosity for them... Allah has forbidden believers from being friendly or on intimate terms with the infidels in place of believers – except when infidels are above them [in authority]. In such a scenario, let them act friendly towards them."
Regarding 3:28, the Islamic scholar Ibn Kathir (1301-1373) wrote: "Whoever at any time or place fears their [infidels'] evil, may protect himself through outward show."
As proof of this, he quotes Muhammad's companions. Abu Darda said: "Let us smile to the face of some people while our hearts curse them." Al-Hassan said: "Doing taqiyya is acceptable till the day of judgment [in perpetuity]."
Other prominent ulema, such as al- Qurtubi , al-Razi, and al-Arabi have extended taqiyya to cover deeds. Muslims can behave like infidels – from bowing down and worshipping idols and crosses to even exposing fellow Muslims' "weak spots" to the infidel enemy – anything short of actually killing a fellow Muslim.
War is deceit
None of this should be surprising considering that Muhammad himself, whose example as the "most perfect human" is to be tenaciously followed, took an expedient view on the issue of deception. For instance, Muhammad permitted deceit in three situations: to reconcile two or more quarreling parties; husband to wife and vice-versa; and in war (See Sahih Muslim B32N6303, deemed an "authentic" hadith).
During the Battle of the Trench (627 AD), which pitted Muhammad and his followers against several non-Muslim tribes collectively known as "the Confederates", a Confederate called Naim bin Masud went to the Muslim camp and converted to Islam. When Muhammad discovered the Confederates were unaware of Masud's conversion, he counseled him to return and try somehow to get his tribesmen to abandon the siege. "For war is deceit," Muhammad assured him.
Masud returned to the Confederates without their knowledge that he had switched sides and began giving his former kin and allies bad advice. He also went to great lengths to instigate quarrels between the various tribes until, thoroughly distrusting each other, they disbanded and lifted the siege. According to this account, deceit saved Islam during its embryonic stage (see Al-Taqiyya Fi Al-Islam; also, Ibn Ishaq's Sira, the earliest biography of Muhammad).
More demonstrative of the legitimacy of deception with respect to non-Muslims is the following account. A poet, Kab bin al-Ashruf, had offended Muhammad by making derogatory verse about Muslim women. Muhammad exclaimed in front of his followers: "Who will kill this man who has hurt Allah and his prophet?"
A young Muslim named Muhammad bin Maslama volunteered, but with the caveat that, in order to get close enough to Kab to assassinate him, he be allowed to lie to the poet. Muhammad agreed.
Maslama traveled to Kab and began denigrating Islam and Muhammad, carrying on this way till his disaffection became convincing enough for Kab to take him into his confidences. Soon thereafter, Maslama appeared with another Muslim and, while Kab's guard was down, they assaulted and killed him. They ran to Muhammad with Kab's head, to which the latter cried: "Allahu akbar" or "God is great" (see the hadith accounts of Sahih Bukhari and Ibn Sad).
The entire sequence of Quranic revelations are a testimony to taqiyya and, since Allah is believed to be the revealer of these verses, he ultimately is seen as the perpetrator of deceit. This is not surprising since Allah himself is often described in the Quran as the "best deceiver" or "schemer." (see 3:54, 8:30, 10:21). This phenomenon revolves around the fact that the Quran contains both peaceful and tolerant verses, as well as violent and intolerant ones.
The ulema were uncertain which verses to codify into sharia's worldview. For instance, should they use the one that states there is no coercion in religion (2:256), or the ones that command believers to fight all non-Muslims until they either convert or at least submit to Islam (9:5, 9:29)? To solve this quandary, they developed the doctrine of abrogation – naskh, supported by Quran 2:105. This essentially states that verses "revealed" later in Muhammad's career take precedence over those revealed earlier whenever there is a discrepancy.
Why the contradiction in the first place? The standard answer has been that, because Muhammad and his community were far outnumbered by the infidels in the early years of Islam, a message of peace and co-existence was in order. However, after Muhammad migrated to Medina and grew in military strength and numbers, the militant or intolerant verses were revealed, urging Muslims to go on the offensive.
According to this standard view, circumstance dictates which verses are to be implemented. When Muslims are weak, they should preach and behave according to the Meccan verses; when strong, they should go on the offensive, according to the Medinan verses. Many Islamic books extensively deal with the doctrine of abrogation, or Al-Nasikh Wa Al-Mansukh.
War is eternal
The fact that Islam legitimises deceit during war cannot be all that surprising; strategist Sun Tzu (c. 722-221 BC), Italian political philosopher Machiavelli (1469-1527) and English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) all justified deceit in war.
However, according to all four recognised schools of Sunni jurisprudence, war against the infidel goes on in perpetuity, until "all chaos ceases, and all religion belongs to Allah" (Quran 8:39). According to the definitive Encyclopaedia of Islam (Brill Online edition): "The duty of the jihad exists as long as the universal domination of Islam has not been attained. Peace with non-Muslim nations is, therefore, a provisional state of affairs only; the chance of circumstances alone can justify it temporarily. Furthermore there can be no question of genuine peace treaties with these nations; only truces, whose duration ought not, in principle, to exceed ten years, are authorised. But even such truces are precarious, inasmuch as they can, before they expire, be repudiated unilaterally should it appear more profitable for Islam to resume the conflict."
The concept of obligatory jihad is best expressed by Islam's dichotomised worldview that pits Dar al Islam (House of Islam) against Dar al Harb (House of War or non-Muslims) until the former subsumes the latter. Muslim historian and philosopher, Ibn Khaldun (1332- 1406), articulated this division by saying: "In the Muslim community, holy war [jihad] is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and the obligation to convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force. The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defence. But Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations."
This concept is highlighted by the fact that, based on the ten-year treaty of Hudaibiya , ratified between Muhammad and his Quraish opponents in Mecca (628), ten years is theoretically the maximum amount of time Muslims can be at peace with infidels (as indicated earlier by the Encyclopaedia of Islam). Based on Muhammad's example of breaking the treaty after two years, by citing a Quraish infraction, the sole function of the "peace-treaty" (hudna) is to buy weakened Muslims time to regroup for a renewed offensive. Muhammad is quoted in the Hadith saying: "If I take an oath and later find something else better, I do what is better and break my oath (see Sahih Bukhari V7B67N427)."
This might be what former PLO leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Yasser Arafat meant when, after negotiating a peace treaty criticised by his opponents as conceding too much to Israel, he said in a mosque: "I see this agreement as being no more than the agreement signed between our Prophet Muhammad and the Quraish in Mecca."
On several occasions Hamas has made it clear that its ultimate aspiration is to see Israel destroyed. Under what context would it want to initiate a "temporary" peace with the Jewish state? When Osama bin Laden offered the US a truce, stressing that "we [Muslims] are a people that Allah has forbidden from double-crossing and lying," what was his ultimate intention?
Based on the above, these are instances of Muslim extremists feigning openness to the idea of peace simply in order to bide time.
If Islam must be in a constant state of war with the non-Muslim world – which need not be physical, as radicals among the ulema have classified several non-literal forms of jihad, such as "jihad-of-the-pen" (propaganda), and "money-jihad" (economic) – and if Muslims are permitted to lie and feign loyalty to the infidel to further their war efforts, offers of peace, tolerance or dialogue from extremist Muslim corners are called into question.
Following the terrorist attacks on the United States of 11 September 2001, a group of prominent Muslims wrote a letter to Americans saying that Islam is a tolerant religion that seeks to coexist with others.
Bin Laden castigated them, saying: "As to the relationship between Muslims and infidels, this is summarised by the Most High's Word: 'We renounce you. Enmity and hate shall forever reign between us – till you believe in Allah alone' [Quran 60:4]. So there is an enmity, evidenced by fierce hostility from the heart. And this fierce hostility – that is battle – ceases only if the infidel submits to the authority of Islam, or if his blood is forbidden from being shed [a dhimmi – a non-Muslim subject living as a "second-class" citizen in an Islamic state in accordance to Quran 9:29], or if Muslims are at that point in time weak and incapable [a circumstance under which taqiyya applies]. But if the hate at any time extinguishes from the heart, this is great apostasy! Such, then, is the basis and foundation of the relationship between the infidel and the Muslim. Battle, animosity and hatred, directed from the Muslim to the infidel, is the foundation of our religion. And we consider this a justice and kindness to them."
This hostile world view is traceable to Islam's schools of jurisprudence. When addressing Western audiences, however, Bin Laden's tone significantly changes. He lists any number of grievances as reasons for fighting the West – from Israeli policies towards Palestinians to the Western exploitation of women and US failure to sign the Kyoto protocol – never alluding to fighting the US simply because it is an infidel entity that must be subjugated. He often initiates his messages to the West by saying: "Reciprocal treatment is part of justice."
This is a clear instance of taqiyya, as Bin Laden is not only waging a physical jihad, but one of propaganda. Convincing the West that the current conflict is entirely its fault garners him and his cause more sympathy. Conversely, he also knows that if his Western audiences were to realise that, all real or imagined political grievances aside, according to the Islamic worldview delineated earlier, which bin Laden does accept, nothing short of their submission to Islam can ever bring peace, his propaganda campaign would be compromised. As a result there is constant lying, "for war is deceit".
If Bin Laden's words and actions represent an individual case of taqiyya, they raise questions about Saudi Arabia's recent initiatives for "dialogue". Saudi Arabia closely follows sharia. For instance, the Saudi government will not allow the construction of churches or synagogues on its land; Bibles are banned and burned. Christians engaged in any kind of missionary activity are arrested, tortured, and sometimes killed. Muslim converts to Christianity can be put to death in the kingdom.
Despite such limitations on religious freedom, the Saudis have been pushing for more dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims. At the most recent inter-faith conference in Madrid in July 2008, King Abdullah asserted: "Islam is a religion of moderation and tolerance, a message that calls for constructive dialogue among followers of all religions."
Days later, it was revealed that Saudi children's textbooks still call Christians and Jews "infidels", "hated enemies" and "pigs and swine". A multiple-choice test in a book for fourth-graders asks: "Who is a 'true' Muslim?" The correct answer is not the man who prays and fasts, but rather: "A man who worships God alone, loves the believers and hates the infidels". These infidels are the same people the Saudis want dialogue with. This raises the question of whether, when Saudis call for dialogue, they are merely following Muhammad's companion Abu Darda's advice: "Let us smile to the face of some people while our hearts curse them"?
There is also a philosophical – more particularly, epistemological – problem with taqiyya. Anyone who truly believes that no less an authority than God justifies and, through his prophet's example, sometimes even encourages deception, will not experience any ethical qualms or dilemmas about lying. This is especially true if the human mind is indeed a tabula rasa shaped by environment and education. Deception becomes second nature.
Consider the case of former Al-Qaeda operative, Ali Mohammad. Despite being entrenched in the highest echelons of the terrorism network, Mohammed's confidence at dissembling enabled him to become a CIA agent and FBI informant for years. People who knew him regarded him "with fear and awe for his incredible self-confidence, his inability to be intimidated, absolute ruthless determination to destroy the enemies of Islam, and his zealous belief in the tenets of militant Islamic fundamentalism", according to Steven Emerson. Indeed, this sentiment sums it all up: for a zealous belief in Islam's tenets, which, as has been described above, legitimises deception, will certainly go a long way in creating incredible self-confidence when deceiving one's enemies.
Exposing a doctrine
All of the above is an exposition on doctrine and its various manifestations, not an assertion on the actual practices of the average Muslim. The deciding question is how literally any given Muslim follows sharia and its worldview.
So-called "moderate" Muslims – or, more specifically, secularised Muslims – do not closely adhere to sharia, and therefore have little to dissemble about. On the other hand, "radical" Muslims who closely observe sharia law, which splits the world into two perpetually warring halves, will always have a "divinely sanctioned" right to deceive, until "all chaos ceases, and all religion belongs to Allah" (Quran 8:39).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: March 31, 2009, 07:58:35 PM
Power Line Blog: John Hinderaker, Scott Johnson, Paul Mirengoff http://www.powerlineblog.com
Doing that wudu that they do so well
June 19, 2007 Posted by Scott at 6:08 AM
The Detroit News reports from Dearborn on the University of Michigan's plan to spend $25,000 for the installation of footbaths on campus: "Muslims won't fund footbaths." The article reports that "Muslim leaders in metro Detroit have decided not to raise private money to pay for two footbaths" on campus. For them, it clearly seems less to be about religious observance than about the submission of public authorities to their observance. If you've followed our series on wudu you know, to paraphrase Creedence Clearwater Revival, that there's a bad dhimmitude rising.
The Detroit News also reports that the ACLU finds nothing constitutionally objectionable in public support for the footbaths. Just in case you were wondering, Detroit ACLU director Kary Moss explains:
"We view it as an attempt to deal with a problem, not an attempt to make it easier for Muslims to pray," said Moss, who likened the plan to paying for added police during religious events with huge turnouts.
"There's no intent to promote religion."
The unholy alliance between the radical left and radical Islam continues unabated.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: March 31, 2009, 07:41:53 PM
June 9, 2007
Fitzgerald: No public funds for Islamic footbaths
DEARBORN -- The University of Michigan-Dearborn plans to spend $25,000 for foot-washing stations, making it easier for Muslim students to practice their religion but sparking questions about the separation of church and state.
The university claims the stations are needed to accommodate Muslim students, who must ritually wash their bodies -- including the feet -- up to five times each day before prayers. But critics hit conservative blogs and radio airwaves Monday to argue public money shouldn't cover the cost. -- from this article
I have been in airport bathrooms when someone will come up, paying no attention to right or left, and start performing his wudu, while water flies all over the place as that person places his feet, one after the other, in the sink and washes them. While these -- to many -- nauseating public ablutions take place, most people hasten away without going near even the empty sinks.
There is no god-given right to come to other countries and inflict one's behavior, in fulfilling some kind of faith-based mandate, in public places. The nurses who were arrested for singing Christmas carols behind closed doors, in their own apartments in Western apartment complexes, in Saudi Arabia, were not inflicting this on anyone: it was the religious police checking up, as they do everywhere they can. But, for example, the slitting of a sheep's throat, and letting it bleed to death on the street, can and should be banned -- whether or not this is considered "part of Islam."
If Muslim students wish to have foot-washing sinks available, then they can certainly pay for them. After all, there is hardly a mosque or a madrasa in this country that does not receive, when it needs it, all kinds of financial support from those who, across the seas, batten on the unmerited oil trillions, and by this point have used, collectively, more than one hundred billion of it (the estimate for Saudi Arabia alone) to pay for mosques, madrasas, armies of Western hirelings, and propaganda of every sort.
A mere $25,000 shouldn't faze the Saudis. And you might argue that $25,000 is so little -- why not spend it ourselves? But it is a symbolic act, an act that will be, and is, taken by Muslims not as a kind act, an act of accommodation (as those behind it might naturally think, for they think in terms of sweet reason, and compromise, and all that), but instead is taken in quite a different spirit, as one more indication (see the postings at Jihad Watch of the commenter who calls herself “Naseem,” passim) that Islam Is On the March, that here and there, little by little, the Infidels are yielding. It is of great symbolic value to Muslims. And it will not result in gratitude, but merely in a swelling of the sense that obstacles, one by one, to the spread of Islam are being removed. And that, after all, is what Jihad is partly about: the removing of those obstacles, and of obstacles of all kinds wherever they are, so that Islam may spread and dominate, and eventually Muslims come to rule. The dismissal of this as merely an alarmist fantasy shows that the dismisser has not been paying attention -- not to the tenets of Islam, not to 1350 years of Islamic history and the subjugation of non-Muslims, and certainly not to what has happened, over just the last 2-3 decades, in the lands of Western Europe.
Every concession, every misuse of public funds, every Muslim employee of city or state government who has been permitted undiscovered or unpunished to be relentlessly pushing for special deals in order to promote Islam or to make sure that fellow Muslims are hired here, and here, and here -- all of this, every single act, needs to be noisily (and also quietly) opposed. (See that Boston Redevelopment Authority employee, working to get city-owned land sold in a sweetheart deal for a mosque, and see what else that employee did on his still-unexplained trip or trips to Saudi Arabia.) "We must fight them over here so we don't have to fight them over there" would be an apter description of what needs to be done, although in truth there is no place where such "fighting" (not necessarily of the conventional, military variety) will not have to take place.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China
on: March 28, 2009, 10:33:15 AM
From The Times
March 28, 2009
One billion souls to save
Christianity in China is booming. With 100 million believers, far more than the 74 million-member communist party, Jesus is a force to be reckoned with in the People’s Republic. We talk to the new faithful who love China – but love God more
A murmur of “Amen” echoes softly down a corridor in a luxury Beijing hotel. Dozens of young Chinese are gathered in a beige-carpeted conference room to listen to the word of God. After helping themselves to hot water or tea at the back of the room, they find a seat and chatter with friends. They tuck Louis Vuitton and Prada handbags under their seats, switch their mobile phones to silent and turn to listen to a young woman who takes the microphone to ask for silence and recite a prayer.
A casually dressed, grey-haired Chinese man takes to the podium. “Let us begin with a look at the Gospel of Saint John.” There is a rustling of pages as converts and curious open their Bibles. Almost everyone in the room is scarcely a day over 30. Most look as if they are in their early twenties. They are fashionably dressed – girls with high-heeled boots, men sporting trendy knitted hats. This is Friday night Bible class in Beijing. And it is a weekend venue of choice for growing numbers of well-off middle-class city sophisticates.
The fact that this class is technically illegal, run by pastors lacking approval from the state-sanctioned Protestant church, is not the attraction. These are not young people seeking a frisson of excitement from some underground activity. They are at the forefront of a movement sweeping China – the search for spiritual satisfaction now that Marx is démodé.
No attempt is made to conceal what is, in effect, an underground religious gathering. A sign in Chinese outside the conference room reads: “Hill of Golgotha Church meeting”. A board outside the hotel lift directs visitors to Hall 5. There is not a nod towards secrecy or even discretion. There is no sense of anxiety, let alone fear, that officials could burst in to break up this illegal assembly even though police do still frequently raid house churches run by underground Protestant pastors.
A spectacular success
In fact, across China religion is undergoing a defiant and extraordinary revival. Millions of Chinese are turning to familiar traditional faiths such as Buddhism and Taoism – a mystical belief with about 400 million adherents that is China’s only indigenous creed. Taoist believers, like Buddhists, visit temples across the country to burn incense, present offerings and request readings from fortune tellers. Others are finding comfort in Confucius, but it is Christianity that is leading the battle for China’s 1.3 billion souls.
Many regard religion as a new force, unaware that missionaries – Protestant for the most part but also Roman Catholics – tried to spread Christianity across China in the 19th century and met with fierce opposition during the anti-Western Boxer Rebellion in the early 1900s. But it was former leader Deng Xiaoping, who effectively endorsed freedom of worship, and gave Christianity the chance to take hold, with his sweeping market reforms in 1978.
Today, two Christian faiths are allowed to operate within carefully prescribed limits: the Catholics, who must worship in churches run by the State’s Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and number about six million, and the Protestants, who operate under the aegis of their government-sanctioned religious body, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement – standing for self-governing, self-teaching and self-supporting. Their numbers are estimated at 21 million – about the population of Australia. All other Christian associations are illegal.
Those who participate in non-sanctioned churches run the risk of police raids, a beating or even jail. The situation is more fraught for the underground Catholic churches than it is for the Protestant get-togethers. An unknown number of Catholic priests, and even bishops, languish in jail, serving lengthy prison terms for their temerity in preaching allegiance to Rome. Beijing’s Communist Party rulers are wary of an organisation that is so well organised and also headed by a leader – the Pope – who can command the loyalty of millions.
But that doesn’t seem to put off the growing congregations. Indeed, official numbers fall far short of the actual total. Recent surveys calculate the number of Christians worshipping independently of the State churches in China to be as high as 100 million. That means that almost one in every ten Chinese may now be a Christian, making Christianity bigger than the 74 million-member Communist Party.
Bring Christianity into the conversation and everyone seems to know someone who is a convert. I heard how many of the executive staff at one smallish Beijing hotel were keen Christians. A manager at an international bank mentioned that many of his employees shared a common faith.
Visiting an elderly woman who had been taken as a child to serve as a “comfort woman” to soldiers of the invading Japanese army in the Second World War, I was astonished to see a cross hanging on the wall of the simple home she shared with her son just across the road from the local Communist Party offices. Without embarrassment or fear, her son explained how each Sunday he attends services in a house church nearby. He proudly pulled out his hymnal and sang for me, while curious neighbours peered through the window.
I learnt of the Communist Party secretary of a village not far from Qufu, the home town of Confucius, who sleeps with a crucifix above his bed. His wife, he explained, was a Christian, as were his sons. Indeed, he went on, pretty much everyone in the village of about 3,000 was a believer. Almost all, it seems, belong to illegal house churches, small congregations that come together in private homes in cities, towns and villages across China.
Why Christianity has such a hold remains something of an enigma. Many Chinese are looking to fill the chasm left by the collapse in Marxist ideology’s credibility in the wake of the disastrous ultra-leftist 1966-76 Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen Square crackdown. It’s also possible that a religion from the West holds a particular attraction for Chinese looking for a more modern faith to complement the stunning success of capitalist-style economic reforms. But the sense of belonging may be the best way to explain why Christianity has been such a spectacular success story in China in the past few years.
Finding a family far from home
Pastor Ezra Jin heads the Protestant Zion Church, based above a karaoke club in one of the thousands of faceless apartment blocks that populate the suburbs of Beijing.
He prefers not to see Zion as an illegal underground Church but rather as private and independent, and in the two years since its inception, the church has never suffered a police raid. “Our Church offers people a feeling of belonging to a family,” explains Pastor Jin. “There are more and more contradictions in our society as different interest groups emerge and gaps open up between regions and between social groups. Christianity can help by providing comfort and spiritual strength.”
Dressed in a sharply cut dark suit with a white shirt and gold silk tie, Pastor Jin could be just another successful executive. Instead he runs a house church so large he conducts at least three services every Sunday in a room brimming with 300 to 400 people. Toddlers play in a glassed-off crèche while their parents stand to sing hymns and to pray. A choir in hot-pink robes leads the singing and a little band with an electric organ and two guitar players keeps the congregation in tune.
Liu Huan has been playing the guitar in church for nine years. The slight computer engineer in his thirties beams with delight at being asked to explain why he attends a house church. Although in this case sprawling, neon-lit office might be more appropriate. Apart from the main hall, the Zion Church seems to occupy most of the floor of the building with smaller offices and store rooms. “My wife introduced me to God and coming here gives me strength.” He fits one of the models that Pastor Jin described: the out-of-town worker who has found a place in a new community far from home through Christianity.
With his spiky haircut and a single earring, Wang Ye cuts a dashing figure in the congregation. The 21-year-old is a student graduating in online business who hails from the northern coal-mining province of Shanxi. His mother, who had moved to Beijing in search of a better job and was lonely, found comfort when friends introduced her to the church. “She brought me as well. Many of us have family problems and we find warmth here.” He strolls over to join a group of friends gossiping about their plans to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
“The future of Christianity in China is very different from in the West,” believes Pastor Jin. “In the West, Christianity is in retreat, especially in Europe, but in China it is growing by leaps and bounds.” He cites the stability the church offers to a population buffeted by decades of wrenching political change as one of most appealing aspects of the faith.
The first hymn on a wintry Sunday at his Zion Church echoes that refrain. A lay preacher leads the congregation. Projected on a screen on the wall behind him the words scroll down against a background of plum blossoms. Voices are raised in song. “There are many things I don’t know in the future. But I know who will hold my hand and who will be in charge.”
As readings from the Bible and prayers follow more hymns, the atmosphere in the room is charged. A verse reaches a crescendo, women in the congregation one after another raise their arms above their heads and sway. One or two sob quietly. The lay preacher leads a prayer. Each time he mentions “Our Lord”, a chorus of “Amen” swells up from the crowd. Nothing is allowed to disturb their evangelical reverie and there is little sense among these worshippers that they risk arrest.
Pastor Jin believes the most difficult times for house churches such as his may soon be over. He recently took part in the first meeting between government officials and leaders of the banned underground Protestant faith.
It was the most significant step towards reconciliation in decades, and could mark a turning point in the Party’s attitudes.
“I wasn’t surprised,” he said. “It was clear to me that sooner or later God would bring us to this.” In addition, the size of the underground Protestant church has now reached such proportions that it is an increasing challenge for the authorities or the police to control. “China is a very big country so there will still be examples of persecution, but the overall direction is gradually changing.”
He says the talks could be a sign that the Communist authorities have come to recognise that the Protestant church at least can be a force for harmony – the watchword of the administration of President Hu Jintao, the current head of the Party. It was President Hu himself who told an unprecedented Politburo study session on religion in late 2007 that “the knowledge of religious people must be harnessed to build a prosperous society”.
“The Government is anxious to work out the way to go forward,” believes Pastor Jin. “They have understood that the Protestant Church is not an opposition force but a force for stability.”
A constant fugitive
But there are others who would disagree. Pastor Jin may operate in effect outside the law, but he is grudgingly tolerated. Arranging to meet him required little more than a couple of telephone calls. He chatted happily in public over a lunch of spicy Sichuan food in his local restaurant across an alley from the building housing his church.
Pastor Zhang Mingxuan falls into quite another category. Expelled from Beijing before the Olympic Games last August, he is persona non grata in the capital. He attracts police attention wherever he goes and his telephone is constantly tapped. On his first return visit to the capital since his eviction, he got off the overnight train from his home in central Henan province and met me behind a department store near the railway station.
A short, blockish man dressed in a shiny suit and with a tie embroidered with crosses, his first order of business was practical. “We’ve been on an overnight train and we’re hungry. Let’s have lunch.” No sooner had he sat down, intoned grace over the food and gulped down a glass of hot Coca-Cola to counter the bitter chill on one of the coldest days of the winter than he launched into an account of his confrontations with the police. Zhang, who describes himself as a lay pastor, heads what he calls the Chinese House Church Alliance, bringing together a number of diverse congregations. Any form of organisation is anathema to the ruling Communist Party, jealous of any rival power. Beyond the pale is a grouping of illegal underground churches that could challenge its supremacy.
It is small wonder then that he recounts a convoluted tale of eviction from his Beijing flat, from the homes of friends, suburban hotels, even from guesthouses in the province that abuts the capital. Everywhere he tries to lay his head, the police track him in their dozens, moving him out of their jurisdiction. Zhang is undeterred. “My head is here. Let them take it if they want it. But God is in Heaven and he won’t allow them to take my head.”
A poorly educated barber and the product of an atheist Communist system, he had little time for the Christianity in which his wife believed. Or at least that was until a business deal went wrong in 1986 and a failed court case left him deeply in debt. He heard his brother-in-law recite Psalm 38: “They also that seek after my life lay snares for me: and they that seek my hurt speak mischievous things, and imagine deceits all the day long.” The words cut to the heart. “I fell on my knees and in less than five minutes, I became a Christian.”
He was an enthusiastic convert. He does not hide his conviction that his mission now is to spread the word of God far and wide in China. His fervour contrasts with the measured tones of Pastor Jin. Leaping to his feet, he rolls up his trousers and points to scars on one leg. “Look! I was run over and I have two metal pins in my leg. But after 15 days I could walk again because of the Lord.” He spreads his arms wide and gestures to his stocky frame. “When they arrested me I fasted for 25 days. Nothing happened to me because God was with me.”
He does not bother to hide his contempt for the Communist Party. Fuelled with passion, his voice rises. “They hate me but I don’t hate them.” God, he says, is on his side and he will win. That passion must trigger anxiety among officials who for 30 years have guaranteed freedom of worship – but not worship conducted by unofficial ministers like Zhang.
The demolition three years ago of an illegally built Protestant church near the southern city of Hangzhou draws Zhang’s wrath. The building had been constructed on land intended for a commercial centre, and several hundred faithful in the town that is home to tens of thousands of Christians tried to stand in the way of the razing of the building. Secretly filmed video of the incident shows scuffles between worshippers defending their church and the police, with at least four people reportedly suffering broken bones as police wielding batons pushed back the crowd. Several were arrested and eight people were jailed for terms of up to three and a half years. For Zhang, such actions are evidence of the Communist Party’s fear.
“China is a land that has been chosen by God. If the government did not interfere then many more Chinese would become followers. Our hearts are thirsty.” Disturbed to learn that my Chinese colleague remains firmly atheist, Zhang leans forward across the table and tries to persuade her. “You should find faith as soon as possible so that we can all be brothers and sisters in God. God will save you. He makes so many miracles. He will protect you.” A day later, he was picked up by the Beijing police and shipped back to Henan province.
An understanding with the jailers Pastor Shen Quan was trained at an officially approved seminary – as was Pastor Jin – but he too left the government-sanctioned church in search of greater spiritual freedom. It has been more than two years since police last carried out a raid on one his services, during which members of his congregation were intimidated and warned not to attend, while he was taken away and questioned. He is not as optimistic as Pastor Jin that the recent inauguration of tentative talks between government and house church luminaries heralds an end to the persecution. “This is just not possible. As long as the house churches exist, the government must want to try to control them.”
But government raids on house churches have proved somewhat counterproductive. Underground Christians say that as soon as one house church is closed, its members split up and found their own small congregations, further multiplying the numbers.
One of the attractions of these churches is the personal care that a pastor gives to his flock, which is a world away from the more rigid approach of the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Church. One such – the Kuanjie Church – was full by 9am for a Saturday morning service. A far higher proportion of the congregation were middle-aged or elderly and one woman made it her duty to patrol the aisles making sure that everyone, including curious first-time visitors, fell to their knees on specially provided foam cushions during the lengthy prayers. Even in this church, the tone was evangelical. Two women with microphones on poles moved between the pews, ensuring worshippers had a chance to offer aloud their prayers and to share with the rest of the congregation their stories of individual communion with God.
But such official churches lack the personal touch found in the small house churches, and perhaps because of that are growing more slowly. The challenge now for the government is to determine how it will handle the breakneck spread of the underground churches.
Zhao Xiao is a prominent economist, a professor of the University of Science and Technology and a one-time Communist Party member. He is also a Christian and something of an optimist. He sees the recent groundbreaking talks between the two sides as inevitable. As the Christian population has grown, the Party has recognised that Protestants are making no attempt to form an alternative organisation and are not questioning the rule of the party, he says.
This may have given the leadership greater confidence to liaise with them. It is also common knowledge that huge numbers of the volunteers who raced to help with the aftermath of last year’s devastating earthquake in southwest China were Christians. Many are still there, helping the survivors and, sometimes, preaching.
Familiarity, Professor Zhao believes, is another important factor. “It has taken many years to reach this point. Many meetings have taken place over the years between imprisoned pastors and their police jailers and this has bred a closer understanding. Those changes in attitude meant this day could come.” He adds: “I think that one day the Communist Party will even allow Christians to become members.”
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues
on: March 28, 2009, 09:47:52 AM
Funny enough, I narrowly avoided being seriously injured or killed yesterday trying to assist stranded motorists and direct traffic. The smallest of margins and it would have been my chief and a police chaplain at my door to awaken my wife instead of me.
The ritual of the police funeral has an importance that may not be understood by those outside the uniformed services world. Yes, we come together to grieve someone we may have never met, but in the grieving spouse, we see ours. But for the grace of god go we. A reminder that it could be us under the flag. We celebrate who they were and what they did. As it says on the nat'l law enforcement officer's memorial in DC, "It's not how that died that made them heroes, but how they lived".
The most important element to me, is seeing the public response to the fallen officers. The jobs burns you, and takes pieces of your soul. It's easy to become callous, cynical and jaded. To a degree, you have to just to survive in the job. It's easy to see the public you serve in the worst possible terms. No one calls the police when their life is good. Very few people bother to call to praise an officer, but those who wish to complain always seem to follow through.
When you see the vast numbers of the public that go out of their way to demonstrate their support, it recharges your soul.
A friend of a friend was murdered by a career felon several years ago. I attended the funeral in a large metropolitan area. The service was on one side of the metro area, the fallen detective was to be laid to rest in a cemetary on the other side of the city. I was dumbfounded to see citizens lining almost all of the route. Waving flags, holding signs of support, young and old.
They didn't have to be there. The escort to the burial started late and took a long time as the procession of police vehicles stretched for miles. And yet they stood there, saluted and waved for all of us.
A reminder there are a lot of good and decent people out there. So they can sleep peacefully, we gear up and go out into the darkness and they recognize and respect that. It gives us the strength to continue on.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: March 26, 2009, 08:39:48 PM
May 5, 2004
Irshad Manji: Islam's marked woman
Irshad Manji is a lesbian Muslim who says her religion is stuck in the Middle Ages. The outspoken author tells Johann Hari how she became a target for assassination
The death threats began six months ago. One morning,Irshad Manji opened her e-mail and read the first ofmany pledges to kill her. "It contained some prettyconcrete details that showed a lot of thought had beenput into the death-threat," she explains now,unblinking. She can't say how many she's received -"The police tell me not to talk about this stuff" -but she admits that "they are becoming pretty up-closeand personal."
"One story that I can tell you," she says, "a storythat I have the permission from the police to tellyou, is that I was in an airport in North Americarecently and somebody at the airport recognised me. Ihad a conversation with them. While I was engaged inconversation with a very portly, very sweetfifty-something man and his wife, an Arab guy came upto my travel companion and said, 'You are luckier thanyour friend.' As a nice polite Canadian she asked,'What do you mean?' and he didn't say anything. Heturned his hand in to the shape of a gun and he pulledthe make-believe trigger towards my head. She didn'tknow what to make of this, so she asked him to clarifyhis intentions. He said 'Not now, you will find outlater,' and then he was gone."
Sitting with Irshad in a London boardroom, it would behard for anybody to guess that she is the starattraction on jihadist death-lists. She has the small,slender body of a ballet-dancer, and a Concorde-speedCanadian voice that makes her sound more like acharacter in a Woody Allen movie than an enemy ofOsama Bin Laden's. So what has she done to earn abullet in the head?
Irshad is a key figure in the civil war withintwenty-first century Islam. She is the Saladin ofprogressive Muslims, an out-rider for the notion thatyou can be both a faithful Muslim and a mouthy,fiercely democratic Canadian lesbian. As one Americanjournalist put it, "Irshad Manji does not drinkalcohol and she does not eat pork. In every otherrespect, she is Osama Bin Laden's worst nightmare."
"What I want is an Islamic reformation," she says,leaning forward, her palms open. "Christianity did itin the sixteenth century. Now we are long overdue. Ifthere was ever a moment for our reformation, it's now,when Muslim countries are in poverty and despair. Forthe love of God, what are we doing about it?"
We are all going to have to learn about this battlefor an Islamic reformation, because it will be raging- and occasionally blasting its way onto our citystreets - for the rest of our lives. Manji'sbest-selling book, 'The Trouble With Islam - a Wake-UpCall For Honesty and Change', is both a crash coursein its terminology and a manifesto for the progressiveside. The core concept in Maji's thought - and that ofall progressive Muslims - is 'itjihad'. It's a simpleidea, and devastatingly powerful. Itjihad is theapplication of reason and reinterpretation to themessage of the Koran. It allows every Muslim toreconsider the message of the Koran for the changedcircumstances of the twenty-first century. "What wastrue for ninth century Mecca and Medina may not be thebest interpretation of Allah's message today", Irshadexplains.
This seems obvious to post-religious European ears,but it is (literally) heresy to conservative and evenmost mainstream Muslims. "At this stage, reform isn'tabout telling ordinary Muslims what not to think. It'sabout giving them permission to think. We can't beafraid to ask: what if the Koran isn't perfect? Whatif it's not a completely God-authored book? What ifit's riddled with human biases?"
"We Muslims have to understand our own history," shesays. "Itjihad isn't some wacky new idea. When Muslimswere at their most prosperous, their most innovative,their most respected, it was when we practiseditjihad, in Islam's golden age from 750 to 1250 CE.The greatest Muslim philosopher, Ibn Rushd, championedthe freedom to reason."
"It was the closing of the gates of itjihad that ledto disaster for Muslims, not the Crusdaers or the Westor anything else. Sure, they were all bad, but thedecline started with us," Irshad says. "It's therefusal to believe in independent reason that hascontributed to a totalitarian culture in the Muslimworld. Of course if Muslims can't reason forthemselves, they become dependent on Mullahs andoutside authorities. Of course if you think all truthis contained in one book and all you have to do isreturn to it - a belief I call 'foundationalism' -then you won't be dynamic and seek new solutions fornew problems. Others have responsibilities as well,but we Muslims closed the gates of itjihad onourselves. We need to take responsibility for that,and turn it around."
It was in the twelfth century that Baghdad scholars"formed a consensus to freeze debate within Islam,"she explains, and "we live with the consequences ofthis thousand-year old strategy. They did it to keepthe Islamic empire from imploding - they thought allthis dissent and disagreement would lead us to fallapart. But I've got news for you: The Islamic empireno longer exists, and our minds still remain closed."
In case this sounds cerebral - how could this aridintellectual debate have such a drastic effect on theworld? - Irshad is quick to underline its practicaleffects. From the mass-murder of democrats in Algeriato the uprising of students against the Mullahs inIran, from the mosques of Finsbury Park to the ethniccleansing being perpetrated by Islamic fundamentalistsin Sudan, "this is the fight between progressive Islamand the Islamofascists."
Irshad does not just rant against Islamicfundamentalism. She offers a constructive long-termprogramme for undermining it, which she dubs'Operation Itjihad.' The solution lies with Muslimwomen. "At the moment, half the resources of Muslimsocieties - the women - are squandered. Yet investingin women makes amazing sense. Educate a Muslim boy andyou've educated a boy. Educate a Muslim woman andyou've educated a whole family. The multiplier effectof helping Muslim women is amazing."
So 'Operation Itjihad' would require us to redeploy alarge chunk of our aid and national security budgetsto small business loans for Muslim women."Micro-lending has an extraordinary 30year-track-record. For example, in Bangladesh theGrameen ('Village') Bank loans tiny amounts of moneyto people whom standard lenders consider untouchable -especially landless women. They have helped 31million people, and they have a staggering repaymentrate of 98%. Helping women achieve financialindependence en masse butresses their existing, oftenunderground, attempts to become literate. They won'tneed the oracles of the big boys if they can reachtheir own conclusions about what the Koran says.
"Empowering women is the way to awaken the Muslimworld," she continues. "If you are serious aboutundermining the culture that created al-Quaeda, thisis the way to do it. When women have money they haveearned themselves, they are far more likely to beginthe crucial task of questioning their lot. It willtransform a culture of hate and stagnation." Thisfeminism shouldn't be alien to good Muslims, she adds."Mohammed's beloved first wife Khadija was a self-mademerchant for whom the Prophet worked for many years. Isometimes point out to Muslim men that if they areserious about emulating the Prophet, then they shouldgo work for their wives." What do they say? "There isa dour, sour silence."
"Then I remind them that it was Ibn Rushd who said -way ahead of any European feminists - that the reasoncivilisations are poor is that they do not know yet,the ability, the full ability, of their women," shecontinues. So how did Islam get so entwined with amisogynist culture? "I think you have to distinguishbetween Islam and the Arabic culture of the ninth andtenth centuries that very quickly became entwined withit. We have to disentangle Islam from the norms of thedesert. Desert Islam was always opposed to thepluralistic, haggling life of the el-haraa - the urbanalleyway bazaars. It is fanatic. Islam was meant tomove the Arabs beyond tribe. Instead, tribe has movedthe Arabs beyond Islam."
Irshad is needlingly, constantly aware that she couldnot even begin to enjoy the freedom she currentlyenjoys in any Muslim society. Her family were refugeesfrom Idi Amin's West African tyranny, and the familywashed up in Canada when Irshad was four years old. "Iam also aware it wasn't Islam that fostered my beliefin the dignity of every individual. It was thedemocratic environment to which I and my familymigrated. In this part of the world, as a Muslimwoman, I have the freedom to express myself withoutfear of being maimed or tortured or raped or murderedat the hands of the state. You know, as corny as thismay sound, as a refugee to the West, I wake up everyday, thanking God that I wound up here."
She grew up with "a miserable father who despised joy"and exhibited the worst of the Mullah mentality. Thenin her local mosque - as an inquisitive, open-mindedgirl - she became aware of an attempt to "close mymind. It was a 'shut up and believe' mentality," shesays. "Even in a free society where nobody was goingto challenge us or hurt us for asking questions, eventhen our minds were still slammed shut. A crude, cruelstrain within Islam continues to exist in even themost cosmopolitan of cities. That shows it isn't justexternal evil influences that have done this. We have- I repeat - done it to ourselves."
Irshad knows that she is dragging into the open anargument many Western Muslims have confined to theirown minds for a very long time. She is critical ofthe "reflexive identification some Muslims in the Westunthinkingly offer to groups like Hamas or theTaliban. I met one person [like that] at OxfordUniversity last night. I asked, 'Do these womenrealise that the very groups and individuals whom theyare defending are the very people who, if they were inpower here, would frankly their daughters particularlyof their right to be at Oxford at all?'"
She is frustrated that more moderate Muslims do notfight. "At all of the public events I've done topromote this book, not once have I seen a moderateMuslim stand up and look an extremist in the eye andsay, 'I'm Muslim too. I disagree with yourperspective. Now let's hash it out publicly.' Yes,after the event people tip-toe up to me and say,'Thank you for what you are doing.' And there aretimes when I really want to say, 'Where was yoursupport when it mattered? Not for my ego. But to showthe extremists that they are not going to walk awaywith the show.'"
"It's insane that I get sometimes accused of'Islamophobia', or offering comfort to people who hateIslam," she quickly adds, anticipating my nextquestion. "I like to respond to that by talking aboutMatthew Shepherd [a young gay man who was recentcrucified and burned to death in Texas]. I say to mygood-hearted liberal friends, would you have let theseyahoos get away with insisting that gay-bashing ispart of their culture and as a result they deserveimmunity from scrutiny on that front? Well, why ismisogyny and homophobia in Saudi Arabia any different?No, it's up to us Muslims in the West to dropreactionary charges of racism against thewhistleblowers of Islam - people like me and yourheroic colleague Yasmin Alibhai-Brown - and lead thecharge for change."
She believes we are falling for a false kind of moralequivalence between democratic societies andtyrannies. "For example, the next time you hear anIslamo-fetishist, an imam of the ninth-century school,wax eloquent that Muslim societies today have theirown forms of democracy thank you very much, we don'tneed to take any lessons, right there, ask him a fewquestions. What rights do women and religiousminorities actually exercise in these democracies? Notin theory, but in actuality. Don't tell me what theKoran says, because the Koran, like every other holybook, is all over the map, ok. No, tell me what ishappening on the ground."
She continues, her voice hard and rhythmic, "Tell mewhen your people vote in free elections. Tell me howmany free uncensored newspapers there are in your'democracy'. There is I believe, such a thing as thesoft racism of low expectations. And I believe thatthere is more virtue in expecting Muslims like anybodyelse, to rise above low expectations, because you knowwhat? We're capable of it."
It will not ultimately be Western bombs or Westernmarkets that defeat Islamic fundamentalism. It will bewomen like Irshad, refusing to allow their religion tobe dominated by fanatics. But there are a lot ofpeople who want to stop her. "I actually don't live mylife in fear, no not at all," she says, not entirelyconvincingly. "In fact I'll tell you right now, Ideliberately did not bring my bodyguard to Britainwith me against the better judgement of many peoplewho want to see me alive."
"If I am going to convince young Muslims in particularthat it is possible to dissent, and live, I can't besending the mixed message of having the bodyguardshadowing me wherever I go," she says, her voice nowuncharacteristically low and soft. "Even if somethingterrible happens, I stand by the decision, because Ithink at this stage it is far more important to giveyoung people hope, to give them a sense of realoptimism that there is room to be unorthodox."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: March 25, 2009, 11:25:57 PM
I'm not sure. I think GM makes a good point about "those that go public tend to be killed or ...."
However, on the second point, let's substitute Christianity and Jesus. If "Jesus" is the final prophet (son of God) and is the perfect embodiment of humanity and the "Bible" is the
direct word of God, then how do you ignore verses commanding that the non "Christians" be forced to submit to.... God.
**The old testament had the Israelites waging war in a specific place and time. There is no part of the torah that Jewish theologians interpret as commanding Jews to wage war forever. The same with Christian theology and the old and new testaments. Not one endorses eternal war against non-believers. Jesus absolutely refused to be a political leader and taught "Render unto Caesar...."**
The Bible, especially the old testament is full of versus stating in essence, kill the infidels.
Not much different than a jihad.
**Very different, as I previously pointed out.**
Yet, on another post (I forget by whom) it was mentioned that Christianity has "evolved". I and I think most people will agree. So isn't this possible for Islam? And as BbyG pointed out, how do we "encourage moderates to take the path toward reformation?"
Well, to start we protect free speech. Unfortunately, the left allies it's self with jihadists to use "hate speech" laws to silence those that would scrutinize islam in the same way judaism and christianity are deconstructed.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: March 25, 2009, 10:08:29 AM
BbG said, "I think our response needs to be two pronged: take on the zealots and encourage moderates to take the path toward reformation. The last thing we need to be is as myopic as our opponent."
It has been awhile
but I agree with you. A lot of time and discussion has been spent "taking on the zealots" and I too support aggressive measures towards zealots, but what do you suggest or what have you read that is interesting and persuasive that will "encourage moderates to take the path toward reformation." I think it was GM who commented about the noted silence of these "good" Muslims assuming GM believes there are any "good" muslims
He has a point; I too noted their silence. So what can be done to encourage that moderates take the path toward reformation?
Those that wish to reform islam tend to hide as those that go public tend to be killed or live under police protection from their fellow muslims.
Aside from that, the core theological issue preventing the islamic reformation is changing the words and conduct of Muhammad. If he is the final prophet of allah and the perfect embodiment of humanity and the qu'aran is the direct word of allah, then how do you ignore the verses commanding that non-muslims be forced to submit to islam via jihad?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More foreign policy brilliance!
on: March 24, 2009, 03:33:57 AM
- Faster, Please! - http://pajamasmedia.com/michaelledeen
The I’s Had It
Posted By Michael Ledeen On March 22, 2009 @ 2:22 pm In Uncategorized | 28 Comments
President Obama has devoted a lot of time to foreign policy this past week, focusing like a laser beam on three countries that begin with the letter “I.” He gave star billing in Washington to the prime minister of Ireland (who was treated a lot better than British Prime Minister Gordon Brown), during the course of which each read the other’s prepared text, perhaps a new departure in international diplomacy. He also sent a letter to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano (a member of the now defunct Communist Party), expressing confidence that the United States and Italy would work together “to overcome the current global political and economic hardships and build a safer world.” The only problem with the letter was that the Italian president does not make policy; that power resides with the prime minister and his cabinet. Perhaps the White House czars have issued an ukaz stipulating that the American president writes only to his peers, and thus instead of addressing himself to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, President Obama wrote to a man who holds an almost entirely ceremonial position.
This imprecision produced the predictable kerfluffle in Rome, as the leftist media and intellectuals pondered the event and concluded that Obama had deliberately stiffed Berlusconi. The Italian prime minister thus joins his British counterpart in wondering what hope they are supposed to find in the recent change in diplomatic protocol in Washington.
Then the president turned his charm on the Iranian mullahs, releasing a video message to everyone celebrating Persian New Year, Norooz (or Nowrooz). He began by explaining the holiday to the Iranians:
“This holiday is both an ancient ritual and a moment of renewal, and I hope that you enjoy this special time of year with friends and family.”
If he was trying to make nice to the mullahs, he should have omitted the “ancient ritual” reference, since that ritual–featuring bonfires (symbols from the ancient Zoroastrian faith) through which people leap and around which they dance–is banned in Iran, and anyone who engages in the ancient ritual is subject to beatings, arrest, and torture. So, rather like the unfortunate “overcharge” button that Secretary of State Clinton gave the Russian foreign minister, the hoped-for change in our “relationship” with Iran got off to an unfortunate start.
The president continued with warm words for the Iranian people:
“Nowruz is just one part of your great and celebrated culture. Over many centuries your art, your music, literature and innovation have made the world a better and more beautiful place. “
True enough, but the whole idea of the Message to Iran was political, and he might have mentioned the long tradition of great and celebrated Persian political thought. After all, the first known human rights “document” came from Cyrus the Great, and its message is daily rejected by the regime of the Islamic Republic.
Then he provided his vision of the Iranian peoples’ belief in hope and change. “You will be celebrating your New Year in much the same way that we Americans mark our holidays,” he earnestly intoned, “by gathering with friends and family, exchanging gifts and stories, and looking to the future with a renewed sense of hope.”
NOT. Most Iranians look to the future with a deepening mood of despair. The mullahs have long since wrecked the economy, and things are getting worse now, what with the price of oil at one-third its recent highs. The single word that best describes the state of the Iranian people–to whom Obama explicitly directed these words–is “degradation.” The drop in Iranian birth rates during the reign of the mullahs is the most dramatic in the history of fertility statistics, and is now below replacement. The level of opiate addiction is five times that of China at the time of the Opium Wars. Any Iranian hearing the American president talk of renewed hope, would wonder if he was thinking of the Iranians in Beverly Hills, who rule the place.
To the country’s leaders, Obama offered still more hope for change: “We seek…engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.” I don’t know exactly what that means, except that the “conflict management” crowd insists that Iranian leaders want to be respected. My own view is that they want to be feared, but let’s move on.
“The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right…and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization. And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create.”
The mullahs no doubt loved the first sentence, not because of the happy thought about the “community of nations,” in which Iran’s leaders most assuredly do not believe (they want Islamic domination of the whole thing), but because you can read the phrase as a coded message that means “we’re not going to try to change the nature of the regime.” If so, it was a foolish concession, both because it condemns the Iranian people to continued oppression and misery, and because the very existence of America threatens the Islamic Republic. The Iranians would rather live like Americans, and despite thirty years of pathetic fecklessness from one president after the next, they still hope that the day will come when we rescue them–or at least help them rescue themselves–from the hated mullahcracy.
As for the president’s call for “peaceful actions,” it jars with the reality the mullahs have created. Nobody pays much attention to Iraq any more, but Coalition forces have arrested a considerable number of (Iranian) Quds Force officers there. Their mission was to kill as many Iraqis and Americans as possible, as they routinely confess to their interrogators. Incredibly, these killers are routinely released in a year or less, whereupon, like the terrorists at Guantanamo, they resume their murderous activities. They are now sponsoring a new tactic: exploding motorcycles. We’ve seen two already in recent weeks, and there will be more. And they’re fueling both Shi’ite and Sunni terrorists in Afghanistan.
So for Obama to say that Iran will only take its place as a major player if they embrace peace and abandon “terror or arms,” is nonsense. They have become a major player, at least on the American agenda, precisely because of terror and (nuclear) arms.
I suppose it’s possible that Obama thought that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nezhad would end the Islamic Republic’s thirty-year war against America, and sit down with him to define the details of Iran’s new status in world affairs. But they aren’t interested. The supreme leader gave Obama the back of his one good hand, starting with an important question: who is in charge in Obama’s Washington?
“We don’t know who is the real decision maker in America,” Khamenei wickedly responded, “the President or the Congress. But we underlined that the Iranians decide on the basis of definite calculations not on emotions.” And then, for the umpteenth time, he laid down the conditions for improved relations:
“Has your enmity with the Iranian nation ended? Have you released the Iranian assets or cut the sanctions? Have you quit negative propaganda against Iran? Have you ended your absolute support to the Zionist regime?” He even advised Obama to have his words translated, but not by “Zionist translators.”
In other words, Obama has to shut up about Iranian-supported terrorism, drop sanctions, release the Iranian money blocked in this country, and abandon Israel (oddly, this last condition does not seem to have been reported either in the New York Times–which ran an AP story–or the Washington Post. Probably they assumed we knew it already, so there was no reason to spend precious pennies on extra ink and newsprint). Happy New Year.
The most interesting part of Khamenei’s speech had to do with Iran, not the United States. More than half the speech dealt with internal matters, not international affairs. He warned darkly that the country was facing a severe internal crisis. He called for a campaign against “economic and social corruption,” and exhorted Iranians to fight the “disease of wasting,” stating, rather shockingly, that one-third of bread and one-fifth of water was currently being wasted. Thus, it is necessary to change the “pattern of consumption,” which Khamenei defined as both a religious and rational issue.
All of which brought him to the upcoming (June 12th) elections. Everybody must vote, he said (most Iranians have boycotted recent elections as a sign of contempt for the regime and its pretense of fair elections). He went out of his way to say that he would not endorse a single candidate, and that it was up to the people, not to him, to elect the next president. Then he added that, while he had felt it necessary to publicly support the government (meaning Ahmadi-Nezhad) on occasion, this should not be taken as an endorsement.
If I were Ahmadi-Nezhad, I would see this as a vote of no confidence from my boss. And you can be sure that many Iranians will see it the same way. The most interesting candidate is Mir Hossein Mousavi, the former prime minister (under Khomeini, during the Iran-Iraq War) who has been largely out of politics for twenty years. An artist and architect, Mousavi is an old “new face.” The Iranian version of Hope and Change, I suppose. Khamenei seems to like him (otherwise he’d endorse someone else), and perhaps, against all the odds, the internal situation is seen as so grave that even the supreme leader is willing to contemplate real change, and some small degree of freedom for the people.
One thing is for sure: having failed to gain Khamenei’s endorsement, Ahmadi-Nezhad’s best hope is support from Washington; that Obama makes unilateral concessions, thus demonstrating that the current Iranian policies are the right ones. The best American tactic at the moment is probably to shut up about “respect,” keep the Iranian terrorists in jail, step up the tempo of financial sanctions (Obama smartly renewed the existing ones a few days ago), and strike against the terror bases where the jihadis are trained and armed. That would further discredit Ahmadi-Nezhad, demonstrate that Obama’s velvet glove covers a mailed fist, and give hope for change to the Iranian people.
UPDATE: Jamie Kirchik at The New Republic has produced  the video Obama should have. And Ron Radosh delivers another  stern lesson to Roger Cohen, the New York Times’s candidate for the Walter Duranty 2009 award, bestowed on the journalist who has done most to advance the cause of tyranny.
Update 2: Obama won’t take no for an answer: “The President believes it’s time for that change, and regardless of any response, the President is hopeful that the Iranian leadership will work to change the way that they do business.”
Article printed from Faster, Please!: http://pajamasmedia.com/michaelledeen
URL to article: http://pajamasmedia.com/michaelledeen/2009/03/22/the-is-had-it/
URLs in this post:
 the video: http://blogs.tnr.com/tnr/blogs/the_plank/archive/2009/03/20/tnrtv-kirchick-s-new-year-greeting-for-i
 stern lesson: http://pajamasmedia.com/ronradosh/2009/03/23/roger-cohens-continuing-nonsense-is-he-making-barack-ob
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness
on: March 24, 2009, 02:49:40 AM
- Pajamas Media - http://pajamasmedia.com
Obama’s Amateur Hour on 60 Minutes
Posted By John Hawkins On March 23, 2009 @ 1:30 am In . Feature 01, Media, Politics | 144 Comments
Many of us, at certain times during our lives, have believed we could do a better job than the president of the United States, just as we thought we’d do a better job than the coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers or the network executive who greenlighted  Real Chance of Love.
The problem tends to be that what looks so crystal clear from the outside, usually in hindsight, appears confusing, muddled, and difficult to fathom when you’re actually going through it.
That’s why experience matters, particularly executive experience, and it’s a big part of the reason why Barack Obama has done such a mediocre job so far.
Obama is a silver-tongued political novice who has managed to be in the right place at the right time.
Now, if you’re a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. And if you’re a politician like Barack Obama, who has gotten everything he has in life by being slick and sounding confident, every problem looks like something that can just be talked away.
That tendency was on display in his 60 Minutes interview, a “grilling” which would be considered a softball interview for a Republican (”Wow, that’s a great swing set for your kids to play on. How are they liking the White House so far?”) but was still probably tougher than any interrogation Obama has received since he entered the White House. (After all, he even admitted that he gets lost in the White House “repeatedly.”)
Each time Obama got a tough question, he did what sociopathic politicians have done for decades: he lied, dodged, and talked out of both sides of his mouth. The best example of that was near the beginning of the interview when Steve Kroft asked Obama about the AIG bonuses.
Was Obama surprised by the hostility to the AIG bonuses. His answer?
I wasn’t surprised by it. Our team wasn’t surprised by it.
Well, that begs the question: if the Obama administration wasn’t surprised by the furor, why did they  work with Chris Dodd to safeguard the bonuses that were in the bill? It just makes no sense. What does Obama expect us to believe? That he thought it would be cathartic for Americans to yell in outrage at his incompetence, so his administration made sure the bonuses, the same ones he later criticized, were included in the stimulus for that reason? These are the sort of very obvious bald-faced lies that Democrats like Barack Obama are perpetually allowed to get away with by sympathetic liberal reporters who don’t want to make “their side” look bad.
Another telling exchange, if you know what to look for, was Kroft’s question about the constitutionality of the attempt to tax away the bonuses of the AIG executives and Obama’s answer:
Kroft: I mean, you’re a constitutional law professor. Do you think this bill is constitutional?
Obama: Well, I think that as a general proposition, you don’t want to be passing laws that are just targeting a handful of individuals. You want to pass laws that have some broad applicability. And, as a general proposition, you don’t want to use the tax code to punish people. I think that you’ve got a pretty egregious situation here that people are understandably upset about. So, let’s see if there are ways of doing this that are both legal, that are constitutional, that uphold our basic principles of fairness, but don’t hamper us from getting the banking system back on track.
Now at first glance, that might seem to be a thoughtful answer. However, when you delve down into it, what you find is that is like many of Barack Obama’s comments, it’s utterly divorced from what he intends to do, while giving people on both sides of the case the impression that he agrees with them.
What’s really going on? Barack Obama’s administration, along with Chris Dodd, put a provision in the stimulus bill allowing companies like AIG to collect bonuses. After it became known and the public got angry, the same Democrats who supported that provision pretended to be outraged and whipped up a fury. Now, they’ve come up with a “ bill of attainder” that clearly violates the Constitution and Mr. “Constitutional Law Professor” fully intends to sign it if it makes it to his desk. Is any of that communicated in his answer? No — and that’s why listening to Barack Obama actually tells us very little about what he intends to do.
However, there were a couple of instructive moments in the interview when one was able to get a sense of the instinctual leftism that is guiding Barack Obama, now that he’s so far out of his depth that he can’t even see the surface.
The first was when Kroft noted that a lot of people in the banking industry are not going to stay in New York and work for $250,000 a year if they can make more money elsewhere — so does Obama really want to set salary caps for them? Obama’s condescending response, which sounded like something that should be in Mao’s Little Red Book, Volume 2, was as follows:
What I’ve told them directly, because I have heard some of this, is they need to spend a little time outside of New York. Because if you go to North Dakota or you go to Iowa or if you go to Arkansas, where folks would be thrilled to be making $75,000 a year without a bonus, then I think they’d get a sense of why people are frustrated. I think we have to understand the severity of the crisis that we’re in right now. The fact is, because of bad bets made on Wall Street, there have been enormous losses. There were a whole bunch of folks who, on paper, if you looked at quarterly reports, were wildly successful selling derivatives that turned out to be completely worthless.
First of all, it’s worth noting that Obama earned  2.5 million dollars from his book sales in 2008 and brings home a cool $400,000 a year for being president. What do you think the folks down in North Dakota, Iowa, and Arkansas think of that? Why is Barack Obama more deserving of that money than someone who works at a bank? If you say they’re taking the public’s money, well — newsflash — every government employee, including Barack Obama, is taking the public’s money. Setting those sort of arbitrary salary limits for bank employees — driven not by the market, but by what some economically illiterate politician thinks is “fair” — is practically guaranteed to have adverse consequences down the line.
Beyond that, it’s extraordinarily troubling, given our current situation, that Obama is trying to pawn this entire crisis off on Wall Street when  Congress created the whole mess by forcing banks to give loans to people who were bad risks. That’s not to say irresponsible people on Wall Street are completely blameless, but “bad bets on Wall Street” certainly weren’t at the root of this economic downturn.
So, here’s where we are: the same government that created this crisis with their incompetence is now blaming it all on Wall Street and promising to fix it. No wonder the American people are terrified that we’re about to slip into a long-term depression.
The other illuminating moment in the interview came when Kroft brought up Dick Cheney’s criticism of closing Guantanamo Bay. Again, the unbearable lightness of Barack Obama came shining through like a beacon. Here is the first key quote from Obama’s response,
After all these years, how many convictions came out of Guantanamo? How many terrorists have actually been brought to justice under the philosophy that is being promoted by Vice President Cheney? It hasn’t made us safer.
If Obama believes that the purpose of Gitmo is to get “convictions” of terrorists, you have to question whether he has even the most basic understanding of the war on terror he’s currently in charge of fighting.
Gitmo is there to hold captured terrorists, to keep them from killing more Americans, and for interrogations that are designed to gain information for that same purpose. Obviously, terrorists held at Guantanamo can’t participate in new attacks, but even the limited amount of info that has been revealed publicly has shown that  we’ve gotten a lot of actionable intelligence from interrogations at Gitmo,
Interrogating Gitmoites yields priceless intelligence. Al-Qaeda bigwig Abu Zubaydah kept mum until interrogators played him the Red Hot Chili Peppers - at high volume. After they turned down the stereo, Zubaydah unmasked al Qaeda agents Omar al-Faruq, Rahim al-Nashiri and Ramzi bin al-Shibh.
Khalid Sheik Mohammed switched from taciturn to talkative after a few minutes of unpleasant but non-fatal waterboarding. With his guidance, counter-terrorists nabbed accused butchers such as Majid Khan, Bali bomber Hambali, Rusman “Gun Gun” Gunawan, Yazid Suffat, Jose “Dirty Bomber” Padilla and Iyman Faris, who conspired to plunge the Brooklyn Bridge into the East River.
This is what we’re abandoning — but, for what? When Kroft asked Obama what comes next for the terrorists imprisoned at Gitmo, he didn’t seem to know,
Well, I think we’re going to have to figure out a mechanism to make sure that they are not released on U.S. (inaudible), but do so in a way that is consistent both with our traditions, a sense of due process, and international law.
So Obama has announced we’re closing Gitmo, but he still hasn’t figured out what comes next? Isn’t that a bit of an issue, since we have these terrorists in hand, will presumably be capturing more, and even the New York Times is admitting that European nations are “ hedging” on helping us with Gitmo inmates? Shouldn’t Obama have thought this all the way through before he decided to close down Guantanamo Bay?
For people looking for signs of straight talk, competence, or substance from the glib teleprompter junky who inhabits the White House, sadly there was precious little of it in his 60 Minutes performance.
Article printed from Pajamas Media: http://pajamasmedia.com
URL to article: http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/obama%e2%80%99s-amateur-hour-on-sixty-minutes/
URLs in this post:
 Real Chance of Love.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real_Chance_of_Love
 work with Chris Dodd to safeguard the bonuses: http://rightwingnews.com/mt331/2009/03/what_obama_doesnt_know_about_w.php
 bill of attainder: http://rightwingnews.com/mt331/2009/03/the_unconstitutional_aig_bonus.php
 2.5 million dollars: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/19/AR2009031903521.html
 Congress created the whole mess: http://rightwingnews.com/mt331/2009/02/rwns_walter_williams_interview.php
 we’ve gotten a lot of actionable intelligence: http://www.nypost.com/seven/07062007/postopinion/opedcolumnists/lets_expand_gitmo_opedcolumnists_der
 hedging: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/16/world/16gitmo.html?partner=rss
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness
on: March 23, 2009, 05:59:21 PM
Obama volunteers hunt budget support in Birmingham, Alabama grassroots campaign
Sunday, March 22, 2009
News staff writer
Volunteers fanned out across the Birmingham area and Alabama Saturday to pump up enthusiasm for President Barack Obama's budget proposal in much the same way they did to win over voters during the presidential campaign.
About 30 volunteers in Birmingham canvassed shopping areas and other high-traffic locations to talk about the need for health care reform, an education overhaul and environmentally friendly energy development.
"If we don't change these three things in the next 10 to 15 years, America is over as we know it," Chris DeHaven, told the group of volunteers before they went their separate ways.
Obama's plan faces criticism from Republicans and others who say it's too expensive. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a report Friday saying Obama's agenda would cause huge budget deficits, forcing the country to borrow $9.3 trillion in the next decade.
Those who gathered at Kelly Ingram Park in downtown Birmingham were urged to enlist others who share Obama's vision and to stay away from trying to convert naysayers."We're looking for supporters," said DeHaven of Hoover, one of the event's organizers. "We're not looking for a fight. That will come later, when we have an army."
The volunteers are part of Organizing for America, the same grassroots, national network credited in large part with Obama's quick rise from obscurity to president. Birmingham and 11 other sites statewide were part of a national push this weekend by Organizing for America to trumpet Obama's spending proposal.
Across the metro area, volunteers gave their opinions about why Obama's plan is good for the country's future. Then they asked those willing to sign a pledge of support for the budget. Supporters' e-mail addresses and other contact information were collected, to keep people engaged and to recruit more volunteers.
Leanne Townsend of Hoover also helped organize Saturday's event. She has been a member of the Obama grassroots network since March 2007.
"Our group in Birmingham has been very involved," Townsend said. "We're still very energetic. We all worked so hard during the campaign. We can't just stop."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants
on: March 22, 2009, 07:59:25 PM
- Works and Days - http://pajamasmedia.com/victordavishanson
Thoughts About Depressed Americans
Posted By Victor Davis Hanson On March 20, 2009 @ 11:43 pm In Uncategorized | 156 Comments
Why are so many Americans so depressed about things these days? It is perhaps not just the economy.
I think the answer is clear: all the accustomed referents, the sources of security, of knowledge and reassurance appear to be vanishing. Materially, we still enjoy a sumptuous lifestyle in comparison with past generations—and the world outside our borders. America remains the most sane and successful society on the planet.
But there is a strange foreboding, a deer-in-the-headlights look to us that we may be clueless Greeks in the age of Demosthenes, played-out Romans around AD 450, or give-up French in late 1939—with a sense it cannot go on. Why? Let us count the ways.
1) About Broke. The collective debt is simply staggering, $1.7 trillion in borrowing this year alone. $3.5 trillion is our annual budget, and by 2012 what we all owe will be well over $15-17 trillion. (No fears: the President promises to triple the Bush deficit, but by the end of his “first” term “halve” the deficit, as if tripling and then halving it is not increasing it.)
Today while President Obama railed against AIG bonuses (imagine damning the bonuses you signed into law to the execs from whom you took over $100,000 in campaign donations!)—the congressional budget office “found” another trillion or so dollars in anticipated deficits that Team Obama lost.
So after Obama, the next President will campaign on “I promise a $1 trillion annual surplus for eight years to pay off the last eight, so we can then start over paying off the old $11 trillion shortfall.”
The rub is not just that we are inflating—no, ruining—our currency. And the problem is still more than the fact that we are destroying the lives of the next generation, whose collective budgets will be consumed largely with health care for us baby-boomers, and interest payments on our debts. (If I get to be 87, can we keep asking 500 or so Chinese to put off false teeth to lend me their money for a hip replacement?)
I think instead the worst element is a sort of ill-feeling about ourselves, an unhappiness as we look in the mirror and see what we are doing to our dignity in this, the hour of our crisis.
We are starting to fathom that when times got iffy, we lacked the resilience of the proverbial Joads and the grit of that tough Depression-era generation, and certainly we seem different sorts from those who built and flew B-17s amid the Luftwaffe.
Instead, this generation has gone quite stark raving mad the last seven months, hysterical, and decided we would simply borrow, charge it, print money, blame, accuse—almost anything other than roll up our sleeves, take a cut in our standard of living, pay off what we owe, admit that we lived too high on the hog, and find a certain nobility in shared sacrifice.
So again, here we are reduced to begging the Chinese to subsidize our life-styles, while 500 million of their own poor make their American counterparts of the lower classes here seem like well-heeled grandees.
2) Fides? We have almost destroyed the concept of trust: we don’t think there is any accuracy in AIG statements; don’t really believe GM will make it on its own, or that Goldman-Sachs is honestly run.
All our icons—Ford, General Electric, Citibank, Bank of America—in a mere generation imploded by their own hands, and now we don’t have any real idea of what went wrong, and believe their captains don’t either.
When Barack Obama says the economy will soon grow at a 4.6 annual rate, I simply don’t believe him. I don’t believe Sec. Geithner’s reconstruction of when he knew about the AIG bonuses, or that he simply forgot to pay his payroll taxes.
If Chris Dodd were to say that gravity exists, I could be sure we would float into the stratosphere. If Barack Obama said he was against renditions, I’d assume he had merely renamed them “transfers.” I do know that as we run up more trillions in debt the next four years, Obama will be in perpetual campaign mode with the same tired mantra “The Bush deficit mess I inherited” to screaming and adoring crowds.
3.) A Certain Coarseness. We also are wearied by a certain crassness in American society in ways we have not seen before—or at least since the mid-19th century. Sorry, I don’t want my President joshing about the Special Olympics on Leno. I don’t want him on Leno at all in his perpetual PR mode. I don’t want him drawing out his picks for the final four on TV. I don’t want him paid for rewriting/revising/ condensing/whatever his earlier book while he’s supposed to be President, or ribbing Gordon Brown about his tennis game in patronizing fashion, or giving the British a pack of un-viewable DVDs after they, in exchange, offered a tasteful gift of historic importance.
I was always an advocate of informality, of casualness, but now when on a plane, in a restaurant, at Starbucks, I am struck by the rare well-dressed person who does not crowd. How odd the extra-polite woman, who conducts herself with charm and grace at the counter, or the gentleman who opens doors, says excuse me, and whose intelligent conversation I enjoy listening in on—like a dew drop to someone thirsting in the desert. In contrast, when the punk walks by, with radio blaring, mumbling obscenities, flashing the ‘I’ll kill you’ stare,” it all leaves me in depression.
Worse still, on the opposite end of the scale, is the master of the universe who elbows his way onto a plane while he blares on the telephone and blocks the aisle. I feel creepy after walking through an electronics store and seeing some of the video game titles and covers.
In short, I don’t want to hear any more Viagra or Cialis ads, no more douche commercials—please no more talking heads about penises that are enlarging, hardening, stimulated on the public air waves.
The sum of these foul parts is smothering us. I don’t want to know that there is a new sex clinic opening in Fresno, or hear another ad about how I can skip out on my credit card debt, or that some sort of food is stuck to my intestinal walls like spackle and paste unless I buy some gut cleansing product.
At some point, we need to say enough is enough, and try to find some sense of honor and decorum in these times of crisis. My god, the entire country has become some sort of Rousseauian nightmare, as if the Berkeley Free Speech Area circa 1970 is now the public domain, as if the culture of the Folsom cell block is now the national ethos.
4) What is good/bad? We are depressed and listless and angry also because I think that we fear we have lost all sense of calibration. We can’t tell what is good and what is god-awful. Where does a Paris Hilton or Britney Spears come from? What can they do? What determines a modern poem’s line break?
Is there any transcendence in the rap album of the month? A Marxist folk singer like old Peter Seeger always had more talent in his little finger than the sum total of Madonna. How did a modern-day Cleon like Barney Frank become the national spokesman of populist outrage against Wall Street.
One, just one, novel of a Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe even, is worth more than what has been written collectively in the last ten years. T. S. Eliot in a day could write better poetry than what has been composed in all the creative writing departments in the United States over the last twenty years—and we are going to give more billions under Obama to “education.”
At some point, again, we need to establish criteria of excellence, regardless of ideology, politics, or of fashion. We honor actors like De Niro and Pacino because we instinctively feel they are talented and are at least shadows of the old breed; a David Petraeus seems like a Matthew Ridgway come to save us in Korea.
We yearn for an ex-President Truman or Eisenhower—and instead get Jimmy Carter. David McCullough sells books because he is talented, can tell a story, is reliable, has a sense of what is the essence of history—and won’t lecture us about his own agenda at a conference on transvestites in the Union Army. I allow that a perpetual adolescent Sean Penn can act (sort of), but a Jack Palance or Richard Boone of the second-tier could exhibit more stage presence, more auctoritas in a split second of exposure than Penn could achieve in a month at the dais.
(5) Yes/No/Sorta/Maybe We sense we are trimmers and redistributors, and wouldn’t dare build a new dam a transcontinental railroad, a new 8 -lane freeway.
Instead we would sue, file reports, argue, quit, delay—anything other than conceive a majestic idea and finish it, sighing, “It is not perfect, but damn good enough and will do.” Instead, here in California we are simply destroying agriculture by drying up its sources of water-giving life—a once brilliant farming that was the sum total of millions of brave lives from 1880 to 2000 who took a desert and fed the world.
Instead, ensconced in the Berkeley Hills or Woodside, our elites demand of better others to save for them not people, but a smelt, a minnow, or a newt-like creature that must have the entire Kings or San Joaquin River as it dumps its precious cargo out to sea.
So as scare snow melts, it goes out to the ocean, gratifying a lawyer or professor in Palo Alto that rivers flow as they did in the 19th-century, as millions of acres go fallow, hundreds of thousands lose jobs, and we feel so morally superior to those of the past who really were our moral superiors.
It is easy to dismiss our ancestors as illiberal, or with the caveat “Oh, but if we were as poor as they were, we’d have to prove just as tough”, but we still sense they were different in the sense of far better. When I drive up to see those Sierra dams poured in the 1920s, one wonders how they made such things with only primitive machines, and in contrast, are amazed with our sophisticated tools, we do so much less.
This self-congratulatory generation can hardly, as we are learning, build a Bay Bridge again. Yet when we see on the Internet pictures of a new aircraft carrier we are stunned in amazement—we did that? We built such a powerful, sophisticated ship? We—at least someone— can actually still do things on rare occasion like that?
The American people are, to be frank, nauseated by the archetype of a John Edwards, who never created anything other than a legacy of bankrupting doctors in order to enrich himself. I’d prefer one gall bladder surgeon to fifty Botox experts, a good Perkins engine mechanic to 1,000 deconstructionists at the MLA, one competent chemist to fifty government attorneys.
For the present I think that we have enough social service bureaucrats, enough consultants, enough PhDs that will lecture how race/class/gender has made us, our air, our dogs even, so unfair. We simply are thirsty for the unapologetic doer, who never says he’s sorry for himself or his country or his ancestors, but instead thinks and plans how he can build something better and leave it for others–the age old agrarian commandment “make sure you leave a better farm than you inherit.” Where are they all, in the grave?
We all seem to stare at the rare genius under a semi, working on the transmission, or someone on a catwalk riveting a girder, or a teacher who can wade into an unruly class and say “damn it, we are going to learn calculus one way or another”.
My complaint against Hollywood actors is not that they are talentless, though many are; or that they talk in the same tones as women did sixty years ago, but that they have no imprint, no trademark of individuality. In short, to paraphrase Orwell, “If it paid better, they’d be fascists.”
I think we responded to Mickey Rourke’s brief renaissance, not because he survived while being drug-addled, or was punched out, or reckless, but because he showed, as a torn-cat, a certain dignity, a certain courage of being so very different from the norm. Yes, at this point we are so desperate for talent and singularity we will take eccentricity bordering on nihilism.
So there you have this rant.
Why are Americans hesitant, bewildered after the arrival of the Messiah?
Not for the reason our President attests about high unemployment or shaky GDP or the lack of national health care. We simply are ashamed of our profligacy; we don’t trust those who should be trusted; we put up with the crass and honor the mediocre and ugly; and we fight and bicker over the distribution, never over a share in the creation.
Hope and change, indeed.
Article printed from Works and Days: http://pajamasmedia.com/victordavishanson
URL to article: http://pajamasmedia.com/victordavishanson/thoughts-about-depressed-americans/
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why
on: March 22, 2009, 09:33:22 AM
Fear and loathing in Riyadh--of Tehran.
by Olivier Guitta
03/23/2009, Volume 014, Issue 26
A few weeks ago, an adviser to Iran's supreme leader called Bahrain Iran's 14th province. Not only did Bahrain react indignantly, but--more important--so did Saudi Arabia. For, even as a potential conflict between Iran and Israel grabs headlines, tensions have been building between Tehran and Riyadh. The Saudis fear both Iran's nuclear program and its expansionist agenda.
And that's not all. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 launched a far-reaching competition between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia for control of Islam and the ummah, the worldwide community of Muslims. Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president, Iran has increased its expenditure of money, energy, and time on proselytizing populations, from Africa to the Gulf.
Saudi Arabia, more than any other Sunni country, feels threatened by this new wave of Shiite proselytizing. Saudi social affairs minister Abdel Mohsen al Hakas has called it unacceptable, and King Abdullah himself has accused Shiites of trying to convert Sunnis, pointing the finger at Tehran. The matter is of vital concern to the kingdom, which prizes its position as the cradle of Islam--all the more since Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah are now among the most popular figures in the Arab world.
Iran's expansionist strategy is not limited to religious affairs. Hundreds of Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah fighters who got their military training in Iran have infiltrated the Gulf since last year in order to "militarize" the Shiite communities of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. Their mission is to prepare to destabilize these monarchies, targeting vital national interests and Western interests (both embassies and businesses) in the event of a U.S. or Israeli military strike against Iran.
Citing "British sources," the Kuwaiti daily Al Seyassah reported in September:
European intelligence services have located at least 450 Lebanese Shiite fighters who have already visited the Gulf between January and July 2008, often using false passports, from Lebanon or from Syria, Morocco, Jordan, and Egypt. Others were able to move directly from Iraq to Kuwait and the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, which is predominantly Shiite. Lebanese immigrants in these countries allegedly confirmed the presence of these agents, and have reported them to the authorities.
The situation is all the more tense in that Saudi Arabia is convinced that Iran is a threat to the Saudi regime. King Abdullah sternly warned Ahmadinejad during the latter's visit to Riyadh in 2007, "We welcome cooperation and investment, but we will not tolerate interference in internal affairs."
In fact, the kingdom's Shiite minority, about 10 percent of the population, is concentrated in the oil-rich eastern region of the country. The regime cannot afford a rebellion or terror attacks there. In 2007, to protect its oil installations, Riyadh created a 35,000-man specialized security force.
While Saudi Shiites remain cautious, they are nonetheless listening to their Iranian big brother and may be ready to contest their second-class citizenship. In December, clashes erupted in the Saudi province of Al-Qatif between the police and Shiite demonstrators responding to Hezbollah's call to support the Palestinians in Gaza. And on February 23, violence broke out in Medina between Shiite and Sunni worshippers.
Iran is threatening Riyadh, moreover, not only by playing the Shiite card, but also by playing the terrorism card. Tehran helps various arms of al Qaeda with funding, supplies, training, and sanctuary, and al Qaeda is a deadly enemy of the Saudi regime.
Thus, some Saudi prisoners who belong to Al Qaeda in Iraq have confessed that they were trained in camps supervised by the Al Quds Brigades, a special branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. In Lebanon, some Saudi terrorists from the al Qaeda-linked Palestinian group Fatah al-Islam, which is supported by Syria and fought the Lebanese army in 2007, entered Lebanon via Iran. Among them was a high level target, Abdallah Al Bichi, one of al Qaeda's religious theorists, who had been living in Iran.
Finally, close to 40 percent of the 85 terrorists on Riyadh's "most wanted" list are based in Iran, having entered the Islamic republic just in the past six months. Of the 85, 83 are Saudis and 2 Yemenis. In a country as controlled as Iran, it is inconceivable that the regime is not complicit in hosting these men, most of them affiliated with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, whose goal is the overthrow of the Saudi monarchy.
To counter Iran, Saudi Arabia has built a Sunni axis, cultivating relations with the six Gulf monarchies (though Qatar is wobbly), Jordan, and Egypt. This development was supported by the Bush administration and even implicitly by Israel. (High-level "secret" meetings between Saudis and Israelis have taken place since 2006, and it is not by chance that Riyadh publicly supported Jerusalem in its war against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006.)
At this point though, the Saudis are concerned about the Obama administration's overtures to Iran and are afraid that a deal will be done to their detriment. Hence the Saudi diplomatic offensive to rally support in the region. Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal recently exhorted his Arab counterparts to stand up to Iran's regional and nuclear ambitions. And Riyadh is courting Iran's main ally in the Middle East, Syria, in the hope of isolating Tehran: The March 11 meeting in Riyadh between King Abdullah and Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, along with the heads of state of Egypt and Kuwait, suggested a rapprochement.
Tehran's two-pronged strategy of military/terrorist expansion and Shiite proselytizing is aimed at controlling the Gulf, and Saudi Arabia is seeking to defend itself, both physically and spiritually. Riyadh's jitters are a reminder that the Iranian regime remains a source of concern not just in Western capitals but also in large portions of the Muslim world.
Olivier Guitta is an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a foreign affairs and counterterrorism consultant. His work appears at www.thecroissant.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mother of all bells
on: March 20, 2009, 07:52:42 PM
March 20, 2009
The Mother of All Bells
There is an old adage on Wall Street that no one rings a bell at major market tops or bottoms. That may be true in normal times, but as many have noticed, we are now completely through the looking glass. In this parallel reality, Ben Bernanke has just rung the loudest bell ever heard in the foreign exchange and government debt markets. Investors who ignore the clanging do so at their own peril. The bell’s reverberations will be felt by everyday Americans, whose lives are about to change in ways few can imagine. While nearly every facet of America’s economy has been devastated over the past six months, our national currency has thus far skipped through the carnage with nary a scratch. Ironically, the U.S dollar has been the beneficiary of the global economic crises which the United States set in motion. As a result, our economy has thus far been spared the full force of the storm.
This week the Federal Reserve finally made clear what should have been obvious for some time – the only weapon that the Fed is willing to use to fight the economic downturn is a continuing torrent of pure, undiluted, inflation. The announcement should be seen as a game changer that redirects the fury of the financial storm directly onto our shores.
In its statement, the Fed announced its intention to purchase an additional $1 trillion worth of U.S. treasury and agency debt. The purchases, of course, will be made with money created out of thin air through the Fed’s printing presses. Few can doubt that they will persist with these operations until the economy returns to its former health. Whether or not this can ever be accomplished with a printing press alone has never been seriously considered. Bernanke himself admits that we are in uncharted waters, with no map or compass, just simply a hope that more dollars are the answer.
Rather than solving our problems, more inflation will only add to the crisis. Falling asset prices, the credit crunch, declining consumer spending, bankruptcies, foreclosures, and layoffs are all part of the necessary rebalancing of our economy. These wrenching movements, however painful, are the market’s attempts to resolve the serious problems at the root of our bubble economy. Attempts to literally paper-over these problems will lead to disaster.
Now that the Fed has recklessly shown its hand, the mad dash to get out of Treasuries and dollars should not be far off. The more the Fed prints to buy bonds the less the dollar is worth. Holders of our debt (read China and Japan) understand this dynamic. We must expect that they will not only refuse to buy new bonds, but they will look to unload those bonds they already own.
Under normal circumstances, if creditors grew concerned that inflation was eating into their returns, the Fed would raise interest rates to entice them to buy. However, the Fed will avoid this course of action as it fears higher rates are too heavy a burden for our debt laden economy to bear. To maintain artificially low rates, the Fed will be forced to purchase trillions more debt then it expects as it becomes the only buyer in a seller’s market.
Just last week, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao voiced concern about his country’s massive investments in U.S. government debt. In the most unequivocal statement yet by the Chinese leadership on this issue, Wen made it plain that he was concerned with depreciation, not default. With his fears now officially confirmed by the Fed statement, we must wonder when the Chinese will finally change course.
There is a growing consensus that if China no longer wants to buy our bonds, we can simply print the money and buy them ourselves. This naïve view fails to consider the consequences implicit in such a change. When the Treasury sells bonds to China, no new dollars are printed. Instead, China prints yuan which it then uses to buy treasurers. This effectively allows America to export its inflation to China. However, now that we will be printing the money ourselves, the full inflationary impact will fall directly on us.
With such a policy in place, America has now become a banana republic. It won’t be too long before our living standards reflect our new status. Got Gold?
For a more in depth analysis of our financial problems and the inherent dangers they pose for the U.S. economy and U.S. dollar denominated investments, read Peter Schiff’s book "Crash Proof: How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse".
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / This should kill off what's left of our economy
on: March 20, 2009, 06:59:29 PM
Banker fury over tax ‘witch-hunt’
By FT reporters
Published: March 20 2009 19:39 | Last updated: March 20 2009 23:32
Bankers on Wall Street and in Europe have struck back against moves by US lawmakers to slap punitive taxes on bonuses paid to high earners at bailed-out institutions.
Senior executives on both sides of the Atlantic on Friday warned of an exodus of talent from some of the biggest names in US finance, saying the “anti-American” measures smacked of “a McCarthy witch-hunt” that would send the country “back to the stone age”.
There were fears that the backlash triggered by AIG’s payment of $165m in bonuses to executives responsible for losses that forced a $170bn taxpayer-funded rescue would have devastating consequences for the largest banks.
“Finance is one of America’s great industries, and they’re destroying it,” said one banker at a firm that has accepted public money. “This happened out of haste and anger over AIG, but we’re not like AIG.”
Pandit memo to Citi employees on bonus clawbacks
Lockhart letter to Frank on Fannie/Freddie bonuses
The banker added: “It’s like a McCarthy witch-hunt?.?.?.?This is the most profoundly anti- American thing I’ve ever seen.”
Vikram Pandit, Citigroup’s chief executive, told employees in a memo that some anger about executive compensation was “warranted”. But he hit out against the idea of a special tax. “The work we have all done to try to stabilise the financial system and to get this economy moving again would be significantly set back if we lose our talented people because Congress imposes a special tax on financial services employees,” he wrote.
Some policymakers expressed concern that banks may try to break out of the government’s embrace by paying back public capital even if the price is a more severe credit squeeze.
They also fear that financial institutions may decide not to take part in public-private partnerships to finance credit markets and acquire toxic assets.
The outcry followed Thursday’s approval by the House of Representatives of a bill that would impose 90 per cent tax on bonuses to employees whose gross income exceeded $250,000 at bailed-out firms.
Next week the Senate will also consider a hefty tax on bail-out bonuses amid calls for an investigation into who was responsible for allowing the pay-outs. Some senators are calling for a committee hearing on a bill that would impose a 70 per cent tax at bailed-out institutions, half paid by employees and half by companies, arguing that a delay would help cool political anger.
“There are three big industries where the US has global leadership: financial services, media and technology. Introducing this 90 per cent tax is like taking one of those industries out the back and shooting it,” said a top Wall Street executive.
In Frankfurt one employee at a US investment bank said the new tax measures would “send [the US] back to the stone age”.
“Commodity traders are already moving to companies like BP where they can make as much money as they used to,” said another banker at a US firm.
Reporting by Lina Saigol in London, Julie MacIntosh and Saskia Scholtes in New York, Tom Braithwaite in Washington and James Wilson in Frankfurt
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Posse Comitatus Act
on: March 20, 2009, 05:20:51 PM
The Effect of the Posse Comitatus Act
Before speculating on why this act is so misunderstood, it is useful to spell out exactly what the act as it is written does and does not do. The Posse Comitatus Act
Applies only to the Army, and by extension the Air Force, which was formed out of the Army in 1947.
Does not apply to the Navy and Marine Corps. However, the Department of Defense has consistently held that the Navy and Marine Corps should behave as if the act applied to them.
Does not apply to the Coast Guard, which is part of the Department of Transportation and is both an armed force and a law enforcement agency with police powers.
Does not apply to the National Guard in its role as state troops on state active duty under the command of the respective governors.
May not apply to the National Guard (qua militia) even when it is called to federal active duty. The Posse Comitatus Act contains no restrictions on the use of the federalized militia as it did on the regular Army.  It is commonly believed, however, that National Guard units and personnel come under the Posse Comitatus Act when they are on federal active duty, and this interpretation is followed today.
Does not apply to state guards or State Defense Forces under the command of the respective governors.
Does not apply to military personnel assigned to military police, shore police, or security police duties. The military police have jurisdiction over military members subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. They also exercise police powers over military dependents and others on military installations. The history of the law makes it clear that it was not intended to prevent federal police (for example, marshals) from enforcing the law.
Does not apply to civilian employees, including those who are sworn law enforcement officers. The origin and legislative history of the act make it clear that it applies only to military personnel. In those days, there were no civilian employees of the Army in the sense that there are today. In particular, no one envisioned that the Army would hire civilian police officers to enforce the laws at its facilities.
Does not prevent the President from using federal troops in riots or civil disorders. Federal troops were used for domestic operations more than 200 times in the two centuries from 1795 to 1995. Most of these operations were to enforce the law, and many of them were to enforce state law rather than federal law.  Nor does it prevent the military services from supporting local or federal law enforcement officials as long as the troops are not used to arrest citizens or investigate crimes.
In recent years, several laws have been enacted that grant specific exceptions to the application of the Posse Comitatus Act.
Title 18 U.S. Code, Section 831, provides that if nuclear material is involved in an emergency, the Secretary of Defense may provide assistance to the Department of Justice, notwithstanding the Posse Comitatus Act.
Title 10 U.S. Code, Chapter 18, authorizes military support for civilian law enforcement agencies for counterdrug operations and in emergencies involving chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction. The Secretary of Defense may provide information, allow the use of military equipment and facilities, train law enforcement officials in the operation and maintenance of military equipment, and maintain such equipment. Support for law enforcement agencies may not impair military readiness, and military personnel shall not participate in searches, seizures, arrests, or similar activities unless such participation is otherwise authorized by law. (Military police personnel, for example, may enforce the law within their jurisdictions.)
If there were violations of the act, the culprits would not be members of the Army and Air Force who assisted local law enforcement agencies but rather the local law enforcement officials who required the troops to assist in the enforcement of laws or local military commanders who did so without obtaining Presidential authority. It is no wonder that there have never been any prosecutions under the law.
Why Is This Erroneous Interpretation Widely Believed?
It is worthwhile asking why the original meaning of the Posse Comitatus Act has been transformed into its almost exact opposite. It is not the purpose of this article to solve this mystery, but it is useful to speculate on some of the motives of the people who have been involved.
Some cynics believe that the Department of Defense and the military services support the erroneous application of posse comitatus because they do not want to get involved in domestic emergencies. This appears to be the position of many active-component officers. In an address to the Fletcher Conference on 15 November 2001, General William F. Kernan, Commander in Chief, Joint Forces Command, presumably referring to the Posse Comitatus Act, said that there were limitations on the active components that restricted them from “doing those kinds of things, and rightfully so.”  General Kernan went on to propose an order of response to domestic emergencies that starts with the first responders, then the National Guard, and finally the Reserves and active components. This may be a logical order, but it is based on a flawed understanding of history. The military services, and the Army in particular, have been used on numerous occasions to enforce the law, notably in federal efforts to desegregate public schools and quell riots. One recent example of this was the use of active-duty Army troops, Marines, and federalized California National Guard troops to deal with the 1992 riots in Los Angeles prompted by the acquittal of police officers charged with assaulting Rodney King. Now that the Quadrennial Defense Review for 2001 has declared homeland security to be the primary mission of the Department of Defense, this aversion to the use of active components for domestic security may be weakened. In the meantime, however, some elements of the Department of Defense continue to hew to the line that it is improper for any element of the department, military or civilian, to enforce the laws in any fashion.
Americans have a general antipathy to the use of troops as police. This stems from British practice during Colonial times. There is a general feeling in the nation that policing is a local matter best done by police forces whose members are trained in law enforcement. Until recently there was also general opposition to a national police force as exists in most Western European nations. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was until recently quite small and worked on cases that clearly were federal crimes. In recent years, the number of federal crimes has increased, particularly in the field of civil rights violations, and now the FBI seems to be involved in many cases that formerly would have been handled under state law by local law enforcement agencies. The threat of imminent terrorist attack can only reinforce the trend to more and more federal laws and more and more federal police officers and prosecutors to deal with them. Americans appear to accept the increase in FBI jurisdiction but are unsympathetic to the habitual use of military personnel as police officers. In support of this feeling, persons writing on the Posse Comitatus Act may have addressed it as a legal bar to an unpopular possibility.
The lawyers have had a hand in transforming the Posse Comitatus Act from its original intent to what it may or may not be today. A substantial body of case law and judicial decisions pertaining to the use of military personnel to enforce the laws has been created. A casual review of these cases reveals confusion, inconsistency, and downright perversion of the original intent of the law. Much of this litigation has been prompted by persons averse to any role for military forces in law enforcement. Moreover, a significant body of policy and regulation has been created extralegally in the form of Department of Defense directives and military service regulations. These attempts to clarify the situation only add to the confusion. Most of them are based on a presumption significantly at variance with the law itself.
Finally, another reason for the misunderstanding and misapplication of this law is simply sloppy scholarship. It is apparent that many of the numerous authors who have written about this matter did not read the U.S. Code, studied the legislative history of the act, or consulted the two official histories prepared by the Center of Military History before airing their erroneous opinions. This appears to be one of those academic chain letters in which one set of unfounded conclusions is used as a source for derivative sets, which are accepted and passed along containing the original errors. In effect, the misinterpretation of the Posse Comitatus Act has become an urban myth that is widely believed without substantiation. This need not be. The topic has been covered well in many of the standard U.S. history books, and people who want to pursue the historical record in enough detail to get to the real story can consult three sources:
Robert W. Coakley, The Role of Federal Military Forces in Domestic Disorders 1789-1878, Center of Military History, U.S. Army, Washington, DC, 1988.
Clayton D. Laurie and Ronald H. Cole, The Role of Federal Military Forces in Domestic Disorders 1877-1945, Center of Military History, U.S. Army, Washington, DC, 1997.
Eugene P. Visco, More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Posse Comitatus, unpublished, available by request from firstname.lastname@example.org
Summary and Recommendation
The Posse Comitatus Act is not a general and universal proscription of the use of federal military forces to enforce or execute the law. The military services may do so and have done so when ordered by the president and pursuant to the authorization of Congress. Although the current interpretation of the act is the opposite of its original intention, it does discourage the military services from being used as a national police force-something we have wisely avoided up to now. The Posse Comitatus Act does not prevent the military services from supporting the police, nor does it preclude them from enforcing the law when so ordered by the president. It does preclude them from being the police in normal times.
It is time to rescind the existing Posse Comitatus Act and replace it with a new law. The old law is widely misunderstood and unclear. It leaves plenty of room for people to do unwise and perhaps unlawful things while trying to comply with their particular version. It certainly does not provide a basis for defining a useful relationship of military forces and civil authority in a global war with terrorism. The Posse Comitatus Act is an artifact of a different conflict-between freedom and slavery or between North and South, if you prefer. Today's conflict is also in a sense between freedom and slavery, but this time it is between civilization and terrorism. New problems often need new solutions, and a new set of rules is needed for this issue.
President Bush and Congress should initiate action to enact a new law that would set forth in clear terms a statement of the rules for using military forces for homeland security and for enforcing the laws of the United States. Things have changed a lot since 1878, and the Posse Comitatus Act is not only irrelevant but also downright dangerous to the proper and effective use of military forces for domestic duties.
1. Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 1971.
2. I am deeply indebted to my friend and colleague Eugene P. Visco for allowing me to rely greatly for this section on his excellent paper "More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Posse Comitatus" (2001). Gene Visco is a master operations research analyst and a scholar who does good work.
3. The white militia units were disbanded in 1867, and black militia units formed under Reconstruction state governments were not used to confront ex-Confederates. Visco, op. cit., p. 18.
4.By 1870, all of the former Confederate States had completed the Reconstruction process and were readmitted to the United States.
5. Visco, op. cit., p. 18.
6. Visco, op. cit., p. 20.
7. Visco, op. cit., p. 21. The primary purpose was to protect the freedmen from the Ku Klux Klan.
8. Coakley, cited in Visco, op. cit., p. 24.
9. Coakley, cited in Visco, op. cit., p. 23.
10. Courtesy of Gene Visco, who has done extensive research on this topic and teaches a course on military operations other than war at George Mason University.
11. General William F. Kernan, address to the Fletcher Conference, "The Military's Role in Homeland Security," 15 November 2001, DefenseLink, Joint Forces Command website.
When I was a kid, the term "federal offense" was a big deal and awed us by its implication of something really wicked. Today, it seems as if everything is a federal offense.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Posse Comitatus Act
on: March 20, 2009, 05:20:14 PM
The Posse Comitatus Act
and Homeland Security
John R. Brinkerhoff
As acting associate director for national preparedness of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from 1981 to 1983, Colonel John R. Brinkerhoff, US Army Retired, was responsible for policy formulation and program oversight of the Civil Defense Program, National Mobilization Preparedness Program, Continuity of Government, and the National Defense Stockpile. During that time the United States had a program to Defend America against a massive nuclear attack as well as attacks by communist agents and special forces troops. Colonel Brinkerhoff was also deputy executive secretary of the Emergency Mobilization Preparedness Board (EMPB), the senior level inter-agency forum to coordinate all aspects of national preparedness. The EMPB was chaired by the National Security Advisor and consisted of the deputy secretaries of the departments and the heads of several independent agencies. During the EMPB era, a national plan was prepared and approved by President Reagan, and actions were taken to implement it.
Prior to joining FEMA, Colonel Brinkerhoff was a career senior executive in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. His last position before leaving OSD to joint FEMA was as acting deputy assistant secretary for reserve affairs. He was also director of manpower programming, director of intergovernmental affairs, and special assistant to the deputy assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs. Before joining the civil service, Mr. Brinkerhoff was an Army officer for 24 years. He retired in 1974 after 24 years of active commissioned service in a variety of troop assignments in Korea, Germany, Vietnam, and the United States. While on active duty he served two tours on the Army Staff and two tours in OSD. For the past seven years he has been an adjunct research staff member of the Institute for Defense Analyses working on a variety of issues including Homeland Defense.
Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
-Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1385
The quotation above is the much-discussed Posse Comitatus Act in its entirety. That is it! That is all there is to it. Seldom has so much been derived from so little. Few articles written about the act and its implications cite the law as it is written, leading one to believe that the authors have never taken the trouble to go to the U.S. Code and see for themselves or to look up the legislative history of the act or to read the exceptions in the law. As a result, much of what has been said and written about the Posse Comitatus Act is just plain nonsense.
The Posse Comitatus Act is often cited as a major constraint on the use of the military services to participate in homeland security, counterterrorism, civil disturbances, and similar domestic duties. It is widely believed that this law prohibits the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps from performing any kind of police work or assisting law enforcement agencies to enforce the law. This belief, however, is not exactly correct.
What is correct is that new rules are needed to clearly set forth the boundaries for the use of federal military forces for homeland security. The Posse Comitatus Act is inappropriate for modern times and needs to be replaced by a completely new law.
The law was enacted originally on 18 June 1878. It was amended in 1959 to make it applicable to Alaska. It was amended in 1994 to remove an upper limit of $10,000 on the fine that was in the original act. As shall be noted later, in recent years Congress has enacted other laws that specify when the Posse Comitatus Act does not apply.
The biggest error is the common assertion that the Posses Comitatus Act was enacted to prevent the military services (Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps) from acting as a national police force.
Colonel Richard Hart Sinnreich, in an otherwise admirable piece, opined thusly in an article in the 12 December 2001 Washington Post:
The American aversion to a military gendarmerie was formalized after Reconstruction in the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which severely restricts the use of active military forces in domestic law enforcement.
Reconstruction was the 12 years from 1865 to 1877 when the U.S. Army occupied the defeated Southern states. Major Craig T. Trebilcock, U.S. Army Reserve, in his Journal of Homeland Security article “The Myth of Posse Comitatus,” does a good job at pointing out that the use of military personnel to enforce the law is in fact allowable, but makes a mistake when he says:
The Posse Comitatus Act was passed to remove the Army from civilian law enforcement and to return it to its role of defending the borders of the United States.
Another gross misinterpretation of the Posse Comitatus Act was made on 13 December 2001 in the Washington Times, which reported that Provost Marshal William J. Bolduc of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center reduced the police powers of the civilian police force at that facility because they were bound by the Posse Comitatus Act. The story said:
The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 prohibits members of the U.S. armed forces or employees of the U.S. military from enforcing laws on civilians [emphasis added].
Sinnreich, Trebilcock, Bolduc, and most commentators who opine on this law are wrong. The Posse Comitatus Act was not, as they assert and as most people believe, enacted to prevent members of military services from acting as a national police force. It was enacted to prevent the Army from being abused by having its soldiers pressed into service as police officers (a posse) by local law enforcement officials in the post-Reconstruction South.
The Story of the Posse Comitatus Act
The law was enacted as a result of the election of 1876, which was the event that ended the period of Reconstruction after the Civil War. The law was enacted to overturn an 1854 opinion of the attorney general. The story is bound up with the conflict within the United States about slavery and the Union.
The posse comitatus doctrine comes from English common law. Posse comitatus means, literally, the “force of the county”; the posse comitatus is that body of men above the age of 15 whom the sheriff may summon or raise to repress a riot or for other purposes. 
In 1854, Caleb Cushing, attorney general for President Franklin Pierce, blessed the posse comitatus doctrine and opined that marshals could summon a posse comitatus and that both militia and regulars in organized bodies could be members of such a posse.  This was done to improve the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Among other things, this meant that the United States was responsible for expenses incurred by U.S. marshals in employing local police, state militia, or others in apprehending and safeguarding fugitive slaves. The Cushing Doctrine meant that even though the armed forces might be organized as military bodies under the command of their officers, they could still be pressed into service by U.S. marshals or local sheriffs as a posse comitatus without the assent of the president. This doctrine was merely the opinion of the attorney general and was not subjected to judicial or legislative review prior to its enunciation. The Cushing Doctrine encouraged the use of the Army and Navy as police forces, and it was used widely in the West, where the Army was the only armed force available to assist local officials to enforce the law along the turbulent frontier. It had little effect in the South during the period before the Civil War and came into prominence there only during Reconstruction.
During Reconstruction, the Army exercised police and judicial functions, oversaw the local governments, and dealt with domestic violence. In effect, the Army governed the 11 defeated Confederate States and was the enforcer of national reconstruction policy during all or part of the period. Before the Civil War, the militia under state control was used to control local disorders throughout the United States, but during Reconstruction, there was no effective militia in the defeated states, so the Army protected the people (especially the newly emancipated slaves) and dealt with disturbances.  This use of the Army was validated by the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which empowered U.S. marshals to summon and call to their aid the posse comitatus of the counties, or portions of the land or naval forces of the United States, or of the militia. As the former Confederate States were readmitted to the Union, the status of the Army changed, but its role remained much the same.
After 1868, when all but three of the Southern states had reentered the union, the problem became one of how to obtain assistance from the Army to enforce the law.  In response to a desperate plea from a U.S. marshal in Florida, the Attorney General of the United States, William M. Evarts, cited the posse comitatus doctrine that gave U.S. marshals and county sheriffs the right to command all necessary assistance from within their districts, including military personnel and civilians, to serve on the posse comitatus to execute legal process.  Evarts' decision led to numerous requests by marshals and county sheriffs for troops to use in enforcing the law, all without presidential approval. This met with some resistance from the Army, and the War Department said that the obligation of individual officers and soldiers to obey the summons of a marshal or sheriff must be held subordinate to the paramount duty as members of a permanent military body. The troops were to act only in organized units under their own officers and would obey the orders of those officers. 
In 1871, President U. S. Grant sought to provide a basis for the use of troops other than posse comitatus. In accordance with Grant's policy, the War Department issued general orders saying that the forces of the United States may be committed and shall be employed to assist the civil authorities in making arrests of persons accused of crime, preventing the rescue of arrested persons, and dispersing marauders and armed organizations.  By the end of Grant's second term, the South was ready and able to end U.S. Government control over their states.
In the election of 1876, the Democratic candidate, Samuel J. Tilden, won a majority of the popular vote, but the Republican candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes, ended up with a majority of one vote in the Electoral College. The election was disputed and finally determined by a deal in which Tilden would concede the election if Hayes agreed to end Reconstruction. Accordingly, Reconstruction ended in 1877 with the inauguration of Hayes as the 19th president. Federal troops in the South were no longer used to enforce the law, and the Southerners became masters in their own states for the first time since the end of the Civil War.
Congress passed the Posse Comitatus Act in 1878 in a dispute over the use of federal troops by U.S. marshals in the South. Based on precedent, Attorney General Charles Devens took the position that the U.S. Judiciary Act of 1789 authorized U.S. marshals to raise a posse comitatus comprising every person in a district above 15 years of age, “including the military of all denominations, militia, soldiers, marines, all of whom are alike bound to obey the commands of a Sheriff or Marshal.” However, Congress had become disenchanted with the habit of U.S. marshals and sheriffs to press Army troops into their service without the approval of the commander in chief. The Southerners in particular questioned this policy. Ironically, the posse comitatus doctrine had been postulated in 1854 by Attorney General Cushing to help Southerners enforce the Fugitive Slave Act. Now it was being used to contest the Ku Klux Klan. On 27 May 1878, Representative J. Proctor Knott of Kentucky introduced an amendment to the Army appropriations bill; the amendment eventually became the Posse Comitatus Act. In passing the act, the Congress voted to restrict the ability of U.S. marshals and local sheriffs to conscript military personnel into their posses. They did not vote to preclude the use of troops if authorized by the president or Congress.
Somehow, in the past 125 years, the meaning of the Posse Comitatus Act has been stood on its head. Clearly the exposition above demonstrates that the intent of the act was not to preclude the Army from enforcing the law but instead was designed to allow the Army to do this only when directed to do so by the President or Congress. The official history of the use of the military services to enforce the laws says:
Some of those who opposed it [the Posse Comitatus Act] in the Congress charged that [it] was taking away from the president entirely the power to use troops to repress internal disorders except on request of a state governor or legislature, that President Washington could not even had dealt with the Whiskey Rebellion under its terms. This interpretation of the Posse Comitatus Act has often been raised by those protesting against federal troops intervention in the many instances it has occurred since 1878. And indeed the question of what the real meaning of the Posse Comitatus Act was has been the subject of some dispute ever since its passage … however ... all that it really did was to repeal a doctrine whose only substantial foundation was an opinion by an attorney general, and one that had never been tested in the courts. The president's power to use both regular and military remained undisturbed by the Posse Comitatus Act, and by the law of 1861 and the Ku Klux Klan Act that had in fact been substantially strengthened during the Civil War and Reconstruction Era. But the posse Comitatus Act did mean that troops could not be used on any authority than that of the President and that he must issue a cease and desist proclamation before he did so. Commanders in the field would no longer have any discretion but must wait for orders from Washington.
The immediate impact of the Posse Comitatus Act was not felt very much in the Southern states because President Hayes had withdrawn the troops that had been occupying them. However, there was great impact in the West, where the Cushing Doctrine had been used a great deal by marshals and local sheriffs to call on local military commanders for assistance. Having to wait for presidential approval before troops could be used was disadvantageous given the turbulence common on the frontier. 
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness
on: March 19, 2009, 09:32:12 PM
|**He'll get right on this, after Leno....**
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Standing By for Orders?
According to our senior commanders in the Pacific, the U.S. military is prepared to shoot down North Korea's Tapeodong-2 missile when it is launched next month.
If it is called upon.
That's an important caveat, because there is no indication (yet) that President Obama has given that order. At this point, we're roughly two weeks away from the DPRK's planned launch window, and comments from Admiral Timothy Keating, the Commander of U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) suggest the shoot down directive has not been issued.
More from the AP via Breitbart:
Admiral Keating told senators at a hearing that there was a "high probability" that the United States could knock down a North Korean missile. Gen. Walter Sharp, the U.S. commander in South Korea, said the threat "is real."
Keating said the United States is getting "reasonable intelligence" reports that give a close look at North Korea's activities.
"We'll be prepared to respond," he said, adding that "the United States has the capability" to shoot down any missile.
In terms of "reasonable intelligence," Admiral Keating means the U.S. has some idea of Pyongyang's plans, in terms of an actual satellite launch, or a long-range missile test masquerading as a satellite shot. We may not have conclusive data, but through the use of advanced imagery techniques and MASINT (Measures and Signatures Intelligence) sensors, the intel community has probably made a preliminary call, favoring one scenario over the other.
Put another way, the Obama Administration (at this point) should have enough information to make a call, and issue a warning to the DPRK. Prior to the last TD-2 test in 2006, the U.S. put land and sea-based missile defenses on higher alert, and publicly promised to shoot down the missile, if it threatened our interests, including American allies in the region. The intercept became unnecessary when the long-range missile fell apart, roughly 100 seconds into its flight.
So far, Mr. Obama has refrained from making a similar vow, creating some confusion among military leaders and our Asian partners. Keating made similar remarks a couple of weeks ago, earning a verbal rebuke from White House aides, who claimed that the admiral's comments were unhelpful and could upset diplomatic overtures to North Korea.
As we noted previously, the logic of this approach is apparently lost on Japan as well. Tokyo has threatened to intercept the TD-2 if it threatens Japanese territory--a virtual certainty--using its Kongo-class destroyers, equipped with the same Aegis radar system and SM-3 interceptor missiles found on U.S. naval vessels.
Without better coordination, we could well witness a Japanese combatant knock down the North Korean missile while we stand by and watch. While the Japanese have the inherent right of self-defense, the ramifications of that intercept would be felt throughout Northeast Asia and beyond. Even South Korea, the most likely target for any North Korean military action, would be uneasy over Japanese forces taking defensive action against the DPRK.
Reading between the lines of Admiral Keating's testimony, he appears to be prodding Washington for some kind of guidance on the pending TD-2 launch. His assets include several ballistic missile defense ships assigned to the 7th Fleet (home ported in Japan), as well as land-based interceptor missiles in Alaska and tracking radars across the region, all designed to deal with this type of threat.
These resources can be rapidly deployed, placed on heightened alert and respond to the North Korean test. All that's required is an executive decision. Based on his testimony before Congress, it sounds like Admiral Keating is still awaiting orders, even at this (relatively) late hour.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Confirmed: DVDs that Obama gave Gordon Brown are the wrong format
on: March 19, 2009, 05:55:48 PM
Confirmed: DVDs that Obama gave Gordon Brown are the wrong format
posted at 4:50 pm on March 19, 2009 by Allahpundit
Via Media Blog, one final cringeworthy indignity from the gifts that keep on giving. Until now I thought Obama’s team had spent about five minutes brainstorming on what to get Brown. I was wrong. It was more like two minutes.
What’s that term The One’s been using for his foreign policy? Ah, right. “Smart power.”
Alas, when the PM settled down to begin watching them the other night, he found there was a problem.
The films only worked in DVD players made in North America and the words “wrong region” came up on his screen. Although he mournfully had to put the popcorn away, he is unlikely to jeopardise the special relationship – or “special partnership”, as we are now supposed to call it – by registering a complaint…
A White House spokesman sniggered when I put the story to him and he was still looking into the matter when my deadline came last night.
By the way, when Obama’s unlikely gift was disclosed, a reader emailed me to ask if Clueless was among the films. Funnily enough, it was not.
What’d he get the Irish PM for St. Patrick’s Day, a kilt? Exit question: Seriously, as minor as this is, doesn’t someone deserve to be fired for it?
Update: Iowahawk e-mails to remind me that he called this 10 days ago, but, he says, “In Obama’s defense at least they weren’t Betamax.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion
on: March 18, 2009, 08:00:43 PM
- Pajamas Media - http://pajamasmedia.com
Jihad, Martyrdom, and the Torments of the Grave
Posted By Raymond Ibrahim On March 14, 2009 @ 12:00 am In . Positioning, Books, Culture, History, Middle East, World News | 27 Comments
Why do some Muslims become suicide bombers or “martyrs”? In fact, these two near antithetic words — on the one hand, broken, desperate suicides, on the other, heroic martyrs — intrinsically demonstrate the radically different epistemologies the average Westerner and Muslim will articulate their answer through. In other words, that Westerners consider them suicides while Muslims consider them martyrs in and of itself speaks volumes on motivation.
To the secular Western mind, such Muslims are simply frustrated: oppressed and depressed, and with nothing to lose, these Muslims (so the logic goes) end their suffering in the name of some “noble” cause — be it the “liberation of al-Aqsa” or the razing of U.S. skyscrapers. All their talk about Islam, “obligations,” or 72 dark-eyed virgins is but a cover for their true motivation: “revenge” on the one hand, escape from an oppressive existence on the other. Most recently, “shame” has been cited as another culprit: al-Qaeda has been raping and thereby shaming  women — and  men — into becoming “martyrs.”
Conversely, from a purely Muslim point of view, becoming a martyr is not only a guarantee to eternal paradise — which, if many secular Westerners deem “silly,” the devotees of Allah take very seriously — but a paradise that may appeal to some of man’s most libidinous desires. Thus, whereas the Christian heaven is purely spiritual — “they shall neither marry nor give into marriage” (Matthew 22:30) and not necessarily “enticing” — some Muslim accounts of paradise are downright hedonistic.
Scriptural references demonstrative of this are many. Consider Koran 36:55-56: “For the inhabitants of paradise on that day shall be engaged in joyous activities [shughlin fakihun] — they and their wives, reclined on raised cushions.” A number of the most authoritative exegetes, such as Ibn Kathir (see  here), have interpreted “engaged in joyous activities” as meaning “they will be busy deflowering virgins.” (See also  al-Jalalayn’s tafsir, where he concurs.)
That said, it is of course difficult to accept that any Muslim man would become a suicide bomber primarily because he wants to copulate in perpetuity — even if Islam’s prophet is on the record saying that men in heaven will have the sexual potency of 100 men (to better handle the countless maidens). Also, what about women, who have increasingly taken to becoming suicide bombers? Surely sex is not their motivation.
However, before concluding that Muslims become suicide bombers purely out of desperation, frustration, or shame, it should be borne in mind that, aside from the theological guarantee of a hedonistic paradise, there is yet another, antithetical reason that may subtly compel Muslims to seek martyrdom.
This is the little-known doctrine of ‘adhab al-qabr, or the “torments of the grave.” Anyone familiar with Islam’s texts has repeatedly come across this curious phrase; anyone who has listened to Muslim sermons has been severely warned against it. The torments of the grave are a very real doctrine that has the tendency to drive believers to despair — I have watched grown men and women on Arabic satellite relay the terror this doctrine has worked in their lives — making them eager to do whatever is necessary to avoid it.
Based on a close reading of Islam’s texts, the following account represents Sunni Islam’s standard teachings of after-death experiences:
First, the soul is said to return to the corpse while it is interred. As the pallbearers carry the body to the grave, its soul follows behind crying, “Oh my, wherever are they taking me?!” — all while the gaping grave moans, “I am the house of strangeness; I am the house of loneliness; I am the house of dust; I am the house of worms.”
After being laid to rest by the gravediggers, the dead “hear” the gravediggers as they walk away — implying, as the forthcoming torments suggest, and ulema maintain, that the dead experience “physical” sensations. (Perhaps this is why Muslims are in the habit of offering audible “greetings” to the dead — who “hear” — whenever they pass their graves?)
Every soul, once entombed along with its body, is tried by two angels. The hadith states: “His [the dead's] soul returns to his body; then two angels arrive and sit him up for questioning” — specifically, “Who is your lord, what is your religion, who is your prophet?” If he answers Allah, Islam, and Muhammad, respectively, he is granted paradise; if not, the torments begin.
While these questions appear deceptively easy to answer, and thus even the most nominal Muslim should be able to pass this ghoulish inquisition unscathed, the reason Muslims fear failing the test may be associated with Islam’s infamous fatalism: “Those who believe, Allah will strengthen with a firm word, in this world and the hereafter; but the unjust he leads astray [in this world and the hereafter]. Allah does what he will” (Koran 14:27). Ulema have interpreted this verse as revolving around the angels’ interrogation and the ability of the dead — or rather, Allah’s desire for them — to answer right or wrong.
As for infidels and nominal Muslims (al-muslim al-‘assi), their response to each of the angels’ questions is inevitably: “Uh, uh … I don’t know.” After being verbally chastised by the angels and a “voice from heaven,” the torments begin in earnest.
First, the angels pulverize the body with a “massive iron hammer” — one that “has no equal [in power and size] in the world.” In the process, “he [the dead] cries out in such a manner that all creation — minus humans and jinn [supernatural beings] — hear him.” Another hadith states that this hammer is such that “if a mountain was struck by it, the mountain would crumble into dust; the dead [man] is struck such a blow that he crumbles into dust — but Allah reassembles him, and he is struck again,” apparently in perpetuity.
Next, the grave is said to “tighten” around the corpse, till its bones pop and crack — all while the soul is still trapped inside, suffering, suffocating. Some ulema maintain the dead — with their souls experiencing these travails — stay in this position till judgment day.
Then comes the turn of the tomb-snake, known as al-shaja‘ al-aqra’ (roughly translated as the “bald brave one”); designed by Allah to torment the dead, this snake “eats his [the dead's] flesh, from head to toe; then his flesh returns, and it [the snake] eats his flesh from toe to head, and so on.” Yet another hadith has not one snake, but 70 dragons: “Allah shall set upon him 70 dragons, such that if one of them were to blow upon the earth, the earth would fail and wither away. They will rend and tear, maul and mull upon him until the day of reckoning” — all while he continues screaming, though no human or jinn hears. Still another hadith declares that the dead will be attacked by 99 dragons; each dragon will consist of 70 serpents; each serpent will have nine heads — for a total of 62,370 serpent heads tormenting the corpse in perpetuity.
At this point, the (especially) Western reader may think all this absurd, that no Muslim can truly believe such things, that this is all moot and can hardly ever drive anyone to action, much less suicide. That (according to Muhammad) one of the greatest “sins” responsible for sending people to the torments of the grave is failing to properly clean oneself after urinating may further lead to the conviction that this is all farcical, hardly a reason to bring Muslims to despair.
Yet here again we are entered into the tricky realm of epistemology: every civilization has its own particular sources, physical or metaphysical, whence knowledge, and thence “truth,” is articulated. For mainstream Islam, the Koran first, followed by the vast corpus of hadith — particularly the “canonical six,” which the aforementioned account of graveyard torments is mostly based on — form the basis of all truth and reality.
Moreover, everything written in these sources is generally taken literally. Thus the same literalism that compelled Islam’s most authoritative institution, al-Azhar, to issue a fatwa prompting  women to “breastfeed” strange men, compels Muslims today to accept the torments of the grave literally — pounding mallets, 62,370 snapping serpents, and all.
Anyone who closely follows Arabic-Islamic TV will further know that the torments of the grave, as described, have instilled fear and terror in the lives of Muslims. I have personally watched an al-Haya TV episode where a young Muslim woman, in tears and almost hysterical, was describing her morbid fear of the torments. I have also seen the ulema on Iqra TV, also in tears, lament the fate of those (”moderate”) Muslims who are destined to experience the torments of the grave. Other recovering Muslims maintain that sheikhs regularly cultivate fear of the torments of the grave in the lives of the youth.
The fact is, Muslims, even the most pious among them, have good reason to be fearful of the torments of the grave: Talking about his pious dead companion, Sa‘d ibn Mu‘adh, Muhammad observed, “The grave has an oppressive tightness, and were [it possible for] anyone to escape this, Sa‘d ibn Mu‘adh would have done so, for he is the one for whom the Throne of the All-Merciful shook.” Moreover, there is the famous hadith where Muhammad said, “My umma shall be split into 73 sects — all of which will go to the fire [hell], except one which shall be saved.” In other words, few Muslims have any guarantees that they will not visit the torments of the grave.
Still, what does any of this have to do with the jihad in general, or suicide bombing/martyrdom operations in particular? Plenty. Inasmuch as the torments of the grave clearly terrify Muslims, so too are there clear-cut ways of evading them. Three have been ascertained. The first two are quite haphazard: Muslims who happen to die on Friday (al-jum‘a, the day of Muslim congregation) and Muslims who happen to die of stomach aches are exonerated from the torments. Why? The prophet said so.
However, the ulema have been quick to point out and stress a third way — dying as a “martyr” fi sabil Allah (in the cause of Allah), i.e., during the jihad. In fact, in a hadith I first encountered when translating al-Qaeda texts for  The Al Qaeda Reader, Muhammad said:
The martyr is special to Allah. He is forgiven from the first drop of blood [that he sheds]. He sees his throne in paradise, where he will be adorned in ornaments of faith. He will wed the ‘aynhour [wide-eyed virgins] and will not know the torments of the grave and safeguards against the greater horror [hell]. Fixed atop his head will be a crown of honor, a ruby that is greater than the world and all it contains. And he will copulate with seventy-two ‘aynhour and be able to offer intercessions for seventy of his relatives.
And here one sees that, alongside the enticement of celestial copulation, the torments of the grave have the potential to terrify Muslims into “martyrdom.” This also begs the question: if these torments of the grave have the capacity to terrorize Muslims into considering a premature death fi sabil Allah, how much more can fear of Islam’s hell — the “greater horror” — goad Muslims to seek out martyrdom, which not only safeguards against the torments of the grave but hell itself?
The torments of the grave are a reminder of how important it is to take Islam’s doctrines — no matter how quaint or esoteric — seriously; dismissing them out of hand, since they seem silly to “us,” is arrogance. Anyone who truly wishes to ameliorate the phenomenon of Muslim suicide bombings, while taking into account all those “secular” reasons — poverty, frustration, desperation — should also, to be thoroughly holistic, take into account the psychological damage created by such arcane doctrines.
Finally, it is well to observe that, if little-known doctrines such as the torments of the grave have the capacity to goad Muslims into seeking martyrdom, how much more can be expected from the very well-known doctrinal obligation of jihad itself?
Article printed from Pajamas Media: http://pajamasmedia.com
URL to article: http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/jihad-martyrdom-and-the-torments-of-the-grave/
URLs in this post:
 women: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article5661466.ece
 men: http://www.edgeboston.com/index.php?ch=news&sc=&sc2=news&sc3=&id=86894
 here: http://www.islamqa.com/en/ref/10053
 al-Jalalayn: http://www.altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=1&tTafsirNo=74&tSoraNo=36&tAyahNo=55&tDi
 Image: http://pajamasmedia.com/files/2009/03/torments.jpg
 women to “breastfeed” strange men: http://memri.org/bin/latestnews.cgi?ID=IA35507
 The Al Qaeda Reader: http://www.amazon.com/Al-Qaeda-Reader-Raymond-Ibrahim/dp/076792262X/
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People
on: March 18, 2009, 05:10:51 PM
It's so tragic in so many ways. I can't believe any working cop would do this.
The proper response to this call:
1. Once the gun is in your possession, you run the gun, verify the Ohio CCW, verify the military ID and orders. Once it comes back clear and valid. You load the Marine and his wife and their baggage into your patrol car.
2. You take them to Walter Reed.
3. You thank the Marine for his service, shake his hand and give him your business card with your personal cell number is he or his wife need anything while in DC.
4. Clear from the call and go back into service.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People
on: March 18, 2009, 08:52:49 AM
|**I read this yesterday, and i'm still pissed off. WTF???**http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/13/AR2009011302840_pf.html
Marine Amputee Acquitted On Gun Possession Charges
By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 14, 2009; B01
After being deadlocked twice, a D.C. Superior Court jury yesterday acquitted a Marine amputee on felony charges of gun possession stemming from an arrest while he was on the way to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
In the 2006 incident, Cpl. Melroy H. Cort, 24, and his wife, Samantha, were en route from their home in Columbus, Ohio, to Walter Reed. Cort's legs had been amputated above the knees when he was wounded by a makeshift bomb in Ramadi during his third tour of duty in Iraq.
The couple's car got a flat tire, forcing them to pull over at a car repair shop in the 5000 block of Georgia Avenue NW. While there, Cort said, he reached into the glove compartment, removed a 9mm pistol and put it in his jacket pocket.
A witness who noticed Cort handling the gun called police, who arrested and handcuffed Cort while he was sitting in his wheelchair. He was charged with three counts of carrying a pistol without a license, possession of an unregistered firearm and possession of ammunition. He spent the night in the D.C. jail before returning to Walter Reed.
He was assigned a public defender, who encouraged him to plead guilty. But Cort refused, because a felony on his record could cost him his military benefits. So he decided to represent himself.
"I had to fight for myself," he said yesterday. "I wasn't going to plead guilty and lose everything."
During his trial, which began Friday before Judge Lynn Leibovitz, the two arresting officers testified that Cort had thrown up his hands and told them he had a gun in his pocket when they approached him.
Taking the stand in his defense, Cort tried to tell his personal story: How he enlisted in the Marines in 2004 after graduating from Ohio's Wright State University with a business degree. How he went to Iraq in 2004 and 2005, when he was was critically injured. How he was fitted with prosthetic legs and honorably discharged in 2007.
But Leibovitz ordered him to discuss only the case at hand.
Cort, who said he had a permit to carry the gun in Ohio, said he had it with him because he had moved out of his house in anticipation of an extended stay at Walter Reed.
He said his commanding officer had advised him to take the gun to the armory on Walter Reed's base as soon as he arrived.
Cort said 12 rounds of ammunition were in his car trunk, but police said the ammunition was in the gun's clip.
Although acquitting him of the gun charges, the jury found Cort guilty of possessing ammunition, a misdemeanor. He was sentenced to time already spent in the D.C. jail.
Cort, his wife and their 3-month-old daughter, Charlott, now plan to drive home to Columbus, where Samantha Cort is in real estate. Cort said he plans to appeal the verdict and tend to his family.
"I just plan to take care of my daughter," Cort said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Money for ACORN, HAMAS but not for wounded vets.....
on: March 16, 2009, 08:53:50 PM
American Legion commander “angered” after meeting Obama
posted at 7:00 pm on March 16, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
Apparently, the Obama administration hasn’t backed away from its plans to start offloading costs for wounded veterans to third-party insurance, which will make acquiring such insurance nearly impossible. The commander of the American Legion emerged from a meeting with President Obama “angered” at Obama’s insistence on generating revenue from those who sacrificed for American security:
The leader of the nation’s largest veterans organization says he is “deeply disappointed and concerned” after a meeting with President Obama today to discuss a proposal to force private insurance companies to pay for the treatment of military veterans who have suffered service-connected disabilities and injuries. The Obama administration recently revealed a plan to require private insurance carriers to reimburse the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in such cases.
“It became apparent during our discussion today that the President intends to move forward with this unreasonable plan,” said Commander David K. Rehbein of The American Legion. “He says he is looking to generate $540-million by this method, but refused to hear arguments about the moral and government-avowed obligations that would be compromised by it.”
The Commander, clearly angered as he emerged from the session said, “This reimbursement plan would be inconsistent with the mandate ‘ to care for him who shall have borne the battle’ given that the United States government sent members of the armed forces into harm’s way, and not private insurance companies. I say again that The American Legion does not and will not support any plan that seeks to bill a veteran for treatment of a service connected disability at the very agency that was created to treat the unique need of America’s veterans!”
Commander Rehbein was among a group of senior officials from veterans service organizations joining the President, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and Steven Kosiak, the overseer of defense spending at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The group’s early afternoon conversation at The White House was precipitated by a letter of protest presented to the President earlier this month. The letter, co-signed by Commander Rehbein and the heads of ten colleague organizations, read, in part, ” There is simply no logical explanation for billing a veteran’s personal insurance for care that the VA has a responsibility to provide. While we understand the fiscal difficulties this country faces right now, placing the burden of those fiscal problems on the men and women who have already sacrificed a great deal for this country is unconscionable.”
The Obama administration explains that it wants private insurers who sell coverage to vets to pay their fair share, but there are two things wrong with that argument. First, the United States has a moral obligation to provide treatment for those wounded in the service of their country. That’s a commitment we make to the people who enlist in military, and should not get outsourced.
Second, vets with service-related injuries and illnesses can only get third-party insurance because insurers know the US will cover all service-related medical treatment through the VA. If the government reneges on that commitment, it will put insurers on the hook for veterans already enrolled — but it will make it a lot harder for the next set of veterans to get insured. It will also raise costs to the rest of the insured by those companies, when the burden should fall on all Americans equally.
If the country needs more revenue streams, it should find some other way to find them than the backs of our wounded veterans. They’ve sacrificed enough. Shame on the Obama administration for attempting to weasel out of our commitment.
Update: This Ain’t Hell wonders when General Eric Shinseki will resign in protest.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Even Obama supporters worried about White House incompetence
on: March 16, 2009, 01:16:13 PM
Even Obama supporters worried about White House incompetence
posted at 9:37 am on March 16, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
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I guess we can officially say that the honeymoon’s over. The New York Daily News, not exactly a pillar of conservative thought, finds itself wondering aloud about whether Barack Obama and his team have the competence to lead the nation. The whispers have grown into a chorus:
Not long ago, after a string of especially bad days for the Obama administration, a veteran Democratic pol approached me with a pained look on his face and asked, “Do you think they know what they’re doing?”
The question caught me off guard because the man is a well-known Obama supporter. As we talked, I quickly realized his asking suggested his own considerable doubts.
Yes, it’s early, but an eerily familiar feeling is spreading across party lines and seeping into the national conversation. It’s a nagging doubt about the competency of the White House.
Well, what did people expect? For the first time in decades and perhaps ever, America chose a President without executive experience in the public or private sectors, and without military command experience. If people expected smooth performance and cool competence from that kind of resume, then the best that can be said about them is that they indulged in self-delusion on a massive scale.
For the rest of us, this comes as no surprise at all. The failed appointments have managed to be less embarrassing than the ones that “succeeded”, such as Tim Geithner and Vivek Kundra. The administration keeps promising plans that never get delivered, and Obama all but abdicated to Nancy Pelosi during the Porkulus debacle. And that doesn’t even begin to cover Obama’s embarrassing performance during Gordon Brown’s visit, and Hillary Clinton’s shameful “I don’t understand multiparty democracy” tour at the EU.
Obama is in over his head, and so are his closest aides, such as Geithner, Hillary, and the entire team. The best we can hope is that on-the-job training can work quickly.
Update: Worse than Bush? Kevin McCullough makes that argument in his weekly column.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How do you say "empty suit" in Russian?
on: March 14, 2009, 10:16:32 PM
Russia takes the Biden Challenge
posted at 10:02 am on March 14, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
Joe Biden warned us that Barack Obama would get tested by unfriendly nations in the first six months of his administration because of his inexperience. That prediction now looks like sunny optimism. Just days after China aggressively challenged the US Navy in international waters in the South China Sea, Russia now says they may start basing bombers in Venezuela — and Cuba:
A Russian Air Force chief said Saturday that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has offered an island as a temporary base for strategic Russian bombers, the Interfax news agency reported.
The chief of staff of Russia’s long range aviation, Maj. Gen. Anatoly Zhikharev, also said Cuba could be used to base the aircraft, Interfax reported. …
Zhikharev said Chavez had offered “a whole island with an airdrome, which we can use as a temporary base for strategic bombers,” the agency reported. “If there is a corresponding political decision, then the use of the island … by the Russian Air Force is possible.”
Interfax reported he said earlier that Cuba has air bases with four or five runways long enough for the huge bombers and could be used to host the long-range planes.
It took John Kennedy more than a year to precipitate a military standoff with the Soviet Union over Cuba in the 1962 missile crisis. It’s taken the Obama Amateur Hour less than two months.
Recall that Barack Obama ran in part on a campaign to “restore diplomacy” in foreign relations. Hillary Clinton made a big show of bringing a “reset button” to her first meeting with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, in which the button was labeled incorrectly and not spelled in Cyrillic. This followed her bumbling show at the EU, making it clear to the Russians that our foreign service was in complete disarray, run by imcompetents.
Can you imagine Russia trying this with George Bush? For that matter, can you imagine Bush losing Kyrgyzstan — and a vital military route — to Putin? Russia is doing this now because Putin and Medvedev understand that they can get away with it.
The Kremlin later said that Zhikarev spoke “hypothetically”. We’ll see. I’d guess that it won’t take long for Moscow to start landing bombers 90 miles off our coast if the Obama administration continues the feckless performance we’ve seen thus far.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China
on: March 13, 2009, 08:53:57 AM
From The Times
March 12, 2009
US warships head for South China Sea after standoff
Tim Reid in Washington
A potential conflict was brewing last night in the South China Sea after President Obama dispatched heavily armed American destroyers to the scene of a naval standoff between the US and China at the weekend.
Mr Obama’s decision to send an armed escort for US surveillance ships in the area follows the aggressive and co-ordinated manoeuvres of five Chinese boats on Sunday. They harassed and nearly collided with an unarmed American vessel.
Washington accused the Chinese ships of moving directly in front of the US Navy surveillance ship Impeccable, forcing its crew to take emergency action, and to deploy a high-pressure water hose to deter the Chinese ships. Formal protests were lodged with Beijing after the incident.
On a day that Mr Obama and his senior officials met the Chinese Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi, in Washington, Beijing showed no sign of backing down. Its military chiefs accused the unarmed US Navy ship of being on a spying mission.
The US keeps a close eye on China’s arsenal, including its expanding fleet of submarines in the area. Washington says that the confrontation occurred in international waters, but Beijing claims nearly all the South China Sea as its own, putting it in conflict with five other nations that have claims over different parts of the waters.
The episode complicated fragile military relations between the US and China, which appeared to have improved after the two held defence talks in Beijing last month.
Mr Obama yesterday urged more military dialogue with China to avoid similar incidents after talks with Mr Yang, the White House said. “The President also stressed the importance of raising the level and frequency of military-to-military dialogue,” it said.
A hotline was established between the Chinese Defence Ministry and the Pentagon in April last year, but it was not used during or after Sunday’s standoff, defence officials said. The US Government immediately protested to Chinese authorities after the incident, about 75 miles south of Hainan Island.
Beijing has rejected the US account and demanded that the United States cease what it calls illegal activities in the South China Sea. The Chinese maintain the area is part of the country’s exclusive economic zone.
Washington insists that the area is part of international waters and that US ships have a legal right to operate there.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues
on: March 11, 2009, 12:11:14 PM
What we know:
Obama has, and has had a US passport issued by the State Dept.
To be issued a US passport, one must give proof of US citizenship by birth or naturalization.
No one has come forward claiming Obama was naturalized as either a child or adult.
Therefore: It is reasonable to assume the US State Depertment accepted his birth cert as proof of his US citizenship.
How long are we going to keep flogging this horse? I'm seeing signs of rigor mortis.....
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Now THIS IS a threat
on: March 10, 2009, 07:48:45 PM
March 9, 2009
Clinton Announces Million-Dollar Scholarship Program for Palestinian Students
Ramallah, West Bank — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has announced a new million-dollar scholarship program to help Palestinian students enroll at Palestinian and American universities.
Mrs. Clinton announced the Middle East Partnership Initiative during a visit to this Palestinian town last week. The four-year program will support about 10 scholarships each year for disadvantaged students to attend four-year courses at Palestinian universities. The program will also offer 25 “opportunity grants” to enable promising but disadvantaged young Palestinians to apply to American-accredited institutions in the United States or the Middle East, a State Department official told The Chronicle.
Once funds are approved by Congress, Mrs. Clinton hopes to begin the program in the 2010-11 academic year. The money is in addition to $900-million in aid to the Palestinian Authority announced by the secretary last week at the donors’ conference, in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.
During her visit to an American-sponsored English-language teaching program in Ramallah, Mrs. Clinton said the opportunity grants would create “a larger pool of capable young men and women from places like the West Bank and Gaza” who can “compete along with students in other countries for the opportunity to further their academic training in America.” The secretary spoke on a youth program aired by Palestinian Authority TV.
Last year several Palestinian students from Gaza who were awarded Fulbright scholarships ran into difficulty entering Israel to complete the application process, and two of them were subsequently denied entry visas to the United States on security grounds.
Micaela Schweitzer-Bluhm, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, said efforts were being made to enable Gazans to participate in American-sponsored projects despite the security challenges.
“We’ve had several dozen Gazans participate in our programs over the last few months, both educational and professional,” said Ms. Schweitzer-Bluhm.
“It is difficult,” she said. “It’s a challenge to bring Gazans to participate in these programs, but we go through great lengths to try and facilitate their participation, and we have advance coordination with the Israelis to get them the necessary permits.” —Matthew Kalman
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics
on: March 09, 2009, 01:41:20 PM
- Works and Days - http://pajamasmedia.com/victordavishanson
Oh, the Debts We Will See!
Posted By Victor Davis Hanson On March 8, 2009 @ 11:12 pm In Uncategorized | 40 Comments
Going broke without style…
$3.6 trillion budget. $1.7 trillion annual deficit. $800 billion plus borrowing stimulus. $600 billion plus in outlays for new nationalized health care, and then another $600 billion again for cap-and-trade.
These numbers are so fantastic, so absolutely crazed, that the thought of ever paying them off boggles the mathematical senses. (I have surreal nightmares that as we haggle with the Chinese for another $500 billion dollar note to fund cap-and-trade, or another DMV-like national health care center, the USS Carl Vinson radios that it is broke and has no credit to buy supplies off Dubai, or its F-18s sit in rows on its deck, gathering brine for want of parts to take off).
“They” will pay
How many of those diabolical rich making $250,000 and above are there left to gouge to pay for this all? It simply doesn’t compute. One is left with the only possibility that we slash defense, or we will inflate our way out, since no foreign debtor will want to supply those staggering sums of cash.
Athens in the fourth century B.C. chose to mint “redheads”, silver coins with bronze cores that were quickly exposed once the patina around the coins’ imprinted busts wore off. Rome did the same thing, and by the fourth century AD simply flooded its provinces with money of little real value. Germany paid off its war debts to France in the 1920s, with deliberately inflated German marks. I lived in Greece during the oil-embargo hyperinflation of 1973, and remember buying individual eggs with three or four inked-in price figures crossed out, as the store-keeper kept upping the price each day. (And I remember farming in the early 1980s when full-strength Roundup herbicide seemed to go from $60 to $70 to $100 a gallon in a single year).
What, me worried?
I don’t think any one knows what is quite going on. I recently gave a lecture, and a Wall Street grandee afterwards approached the dais, asking me for advice (me, who could not even turn a profit growing raisins, and was a lousy peddler of family fruit for years at Farmers’ Markets), saying in effect something like the following: “Mr. Hanson—Consider: Real estate bad—not going to put money there when I’m not sure where the bottom is. Stocks worse—had I got out at New Year’s, I’d have thousands more than I do now. Cash pathetic—the interest doesn’t even cover what’s lost to inflation. So what’s left—the dole?”
I had no advice, of course, other than some vague warning that we are in a war against capital, sort of similar to what Sallust and Cicero claim that Catiline and his band of dissolute and broke aristocrats were planning, with his calls for cancellation of debts and redistribution of property.
Here are the possible exegeses.
(a) Clueless. Obama, the community organizer from Chicago with a mere two years plus in the Senate, is clueless. He has never run a business, never served as an executive, never done anything in matters of commerce other than speak and write and authorize spending bills as part of his government job. The result is that he listens to the last person he speaks with—and with dozens of advisors with dozens more agendas, we are seeing a herky-jerky, now this, now that, everything but the kitchen sink, sort of governance. This version of the President is a nice guy who wants to please everyone and will please no one.
(b) Not so clueless. Or Obama has a pretty certain, calculated European objective of high taxes, big-spending programs, utopian foreign policy initiatives, and a therapeutic sense of ensuring we are all going to be equal by result. In that sense, the recession was a godsend, since he has a brief window of about six months of fright and uncertainty to ram through programs that will last a lifetime, and whose expense will ensure a vast redistribution of income. His closest advisors are life-long government technocrats who are inured to spending others’ money and can use tax-free public appurtenances (salaries, perks, benefits, travel, etc.) to emulate the grand lifestyles of those they detest in corporations and on Wall Street. So we will get a new technocrati overseer class to replace the now disgraced masters of the universe on Wall Street. This manifestation of Obama is a hustler of the first order, and almost everything he says from FISA and earmarks to raising the ethical bar on appointments and limits on spending is, well, made up as he goes along, with the assurance that the media is still ga-ga.
(c) A Mean streak. Or there is not so much chaos or European utopianism at work as a sort of primeval dislike of capitalists and those who have access to money—an angry President Obama whose furor now and again peeks through (remember the clingers’ speech, the accidental middle finger scratches, and the Robespierre rhetoric). Never mind the hypocrisy involved, or the mega-fortunes at play in the rise of Obama’s candidacy. Instead concentrate on the effects, both direct and insidious, of his initiatives on capital of the near-do-well. This is a quadruple whammy:
1) Aggregate tax rates are going to approach 70% in some states, effectively destroying the idea that anyone from the lower classes can ever achieve wealth in a single lifetime, and pass some of it on to his children (increases in estate taxes will be next).
2) The pulverizing of the Dow (cf. Obama’s flippant talk of gyrations and advice to invest now at rock bottom prices, as if those who were wiped out have disposable cash to buy more stocks) means that the aggregate wealth in 401(k)s and stocks for millions—along with equity in homes— of the upper middle classes has effectively vanished. In some cases, the lawyer or contractor who a year ago had $400K put away in retirement funds and $300K in home equity has effectively lost half, if not more, of his hard-won wealth. And when one computes the additional taxes on future income he will pay, it will be almost impossible in his remaining lifetime to make it back.
3) The promises of free health and free education for everyone most surely will come with salary considerations and mean-testing (we are seeing that already with ideas floating about charitable contributions). In other words, the more you of the upper middle class will pay for new expansive entitlements, the more likely you will not be eligible to use the full extent of them.
4) The power of anti-“rich” rhetoric is already beginning to demonize the wealthy as those who have somehow done something wrong in paying the full ticket for their children’s’ educations, or their own health care, or their full mortgage payments. Of all the things that worry me about Obama, the most troublesome is his conflation of the super wealthy—who are so rich that even Obama cannot touch them and who often are his most fervent supporters—with the entrepreneurs, the scramblers of the small business class who make between, say, $250,000 and $600,000.
These already pay over 50% in various taxes, are eligible for almost no government support, do not have access to insider government breaks and special legislation, pay their own way—and create both jobs and new innovations critical to the performance of the U.S. economy. Yet between Wall Street and DC they have been targeted for extinction.
Recently David Frum contrasted what he thought was the ungainly (both physically and morally) image of Rush Limbaugh with that of the suave Barack Obama to underscore how the Republicans must change and assume new leadership. I replied to that charge in a recent corner posting on nationalreview.com, and thought it was rather incoherent in that Limbaugh never claimed to be a national political leader and middle-way conservatives were simply following White House talking points.
Rumors also circulated that Rahm Emanuel, with Clinton emeriti, like Paul Begala and James Carville, are coordinating attacks on the talk show host from the White House. Now the New York Daily News prints a derivative hit piece by a senior correspondent David Saltonstall (note the melodramatic reference to Limbaugh’s four-part name) that has quips like:
“Rush Hudson Limbaugh 3rd, 58, is a thrice-divorced, formerly drug-addicted college dropout who casts himself as a working class hero, yet drives his $450,000 Mercedes-Benz Maybach 57S home to a 24,000-square-foot  Florida mansion every night (one of five houses on the property).”
Questions, however, arise. Do we really wish to go after the personal lives of entertainers and commentators, who are not in public office, as is true of say, a Bill Clinton, Larry Craig, or Ted Kennedy? Won’t this also open up a can-of-worms—such as ‘If Limbaugh abused prescription drugs, what about the President of the United States who admitted to using illicit drugs like marijuana and cocaine (“blow”)?’ Or “Is Limbaugh more honest for being rich and fiscally conservative or a John Kerry for being even richer and liberal”? Or “Is it worse for Limbaugh to use his own money to fly in his own jet, or for a Nancy Pelosi to use ours to fly in ours (and whose is the bigger anyway?).
I don’t recall Limbaugh ever saying he was a “working class hero” and worry more about how Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd got his various houses than I do the five homes of private citizen Rush Limbaugh. I think this invective all started because Limbaugh gave a speech to some conservatives and reiterated that he wished Obama’s socialist program initiatives to fail—from that point on, he morphed into the supposed lead target of the Obama hit team, that is rapidly becoming Nixonian in its attack on “enemies” like Hannity or Limbaugh. Wanting the Congress to say no on the President’s proposals for socialized medicine, in preference for refining the present system, is not the same as declaring America’s war in Iraq as lost (or hoping it so).
My take? If the multilateral White House insults the visiting British Prime Minister by a less than formal reception ceremony, and sends him packing with a gift box of CDs, and then pleads in its defense it is frazzled and overworked, what is it then doing spending hours to focus on and demonize a talk show host?
I’ve come rapidly to the point where I simply do not believe (cf. the claim that all those companies every thirty minutes are going broke due to the lack of federal health care) that what our President says is at all accurate. And worse have come to think that he knows it is not, and, worse still, knows that the media largely know too but will do their part as disciples must. In short, we are soon to see an end to things as they once were for the last quarter-century.
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China
on: March 09, 2009, 01:17:06 PM
"U.S. Hegemony Ends"
By William R. Hawkins
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, March 09, 2009
The United States and the People’s Republic of China resumed military-to-military talks February 27-28 in Beijing. The tone of the Defense Policy Coordination Talks (DPCT) showed the same American desire to accommodate China’s rise to peer power status that was shown a week earlier by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to the Chinese capital.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense David Sedney, a hold over from the Bush Administration, led the U.S. delegation that included officials from the Defense Department, the State Department, the Pacific Command and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Among the Chinese participants were mid-level officers from the People’s Liberation Army, navy and air force as well as some civilians termed “military scholars.” Sedney held 13 hours of talks on Feb. 27 with a delegation led by Maj. Gen. Qian Lihua, the Chinese Defense Ministry's head of foreign affairs. A shorter meeting took place the next morning with Lt. Gen. Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the General Staff for the PLA.
This was the fifth meeting of the DPTT since its inception in 2005. China had suspended most military contacts last October over Washington's agreement to sell $6.5 billion in advanced weaponry to Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy that the mainland Communist regime claims is a renegade province. When Sedney journeyed to Beijing last December to ask that the DPCT meetings resume, he was turned down. China’s leaders were clearly waiting for the Obama Administration to take office.
Beijing took a hard line towards the talks. China’s state-run news agency Xinhua quoted Maj. Gen. Qian as saying that contacts would remain tenuous unless the U.S. removes remaining obstacles to improvement. “China-U.S. military relations still stay at a difficult period. We expect the U.S. side to take concrete measures for the resumption and development of our military ties,” said Qian.
The Obama administration seems in the mood to make concessions. After the DPCT meeting, Sedney told a news conference, “The focus was not at all on obstacles. The focus was on how we can move forward, how we can make progress, and how we can try to make joint efforts...to achieve common goals.” On major points, it was Beijing’s goals of expanding its influence in key regions that were advanced with American blessings.
Sedney thanked Beijing for hosting the Six Party Talks on North Korea, as had Secretary Clinton during her visit. Yet, two days before the DPCT, China had hosted a delegation from North Korea as part of the celebration of 2009 as the “Year of China-DPRK Friendship” marking 60 years of their alliance. Just as China sent the PLA to fight against the U.S.-led UN forces during the Korean War, China has used the Six Party Talks to diplomatically protect the Pyongyang regime from any concerted action that could endanger its rule. According to the official newspaper The People’s Daily, “Jia Qinglin, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), told a delegation from the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) that Sino-DPRK relations, fostered by leaders of older generations, had been continuously developed…but also looking into the future.”
Sedney praised China's contribution to the anti-piracy flotilla patrolling the Gulf of Aden off the Somali coast. Beijing sent two destroyers and a supply ship to the region in December. This naval deployment into the Indian Ocean marks a significant projection of Chinese influence towards East Africa where Beijing has been supporting the Sudan regime’s genocidal rule in exchange for control of its oil fields. The deployment also puts Chinese forces closer to the Persian Gulf and its ally Pakistan as tensions increase in Afghanistan and with India.
Sedney said he discussed possible Chinese contributions to non-military programs in Afghanistan. For what possible reason would the U.S. want to encourage any direct Chinese participation in Afghanistan? When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, China was working with the Taliban regime building its infrastructure and an air-defense system.
The Taliban was the creation of Pakistan in an attempt to conquer Afghanistan so as to cover its western flank in its confrontation with India to the east. China supported its ally because of its own strategic rivalry with India. As the U.S. has tried to exert more pressure on Islamabad to take action against Taliban sanctuaries on its soil, Beijing has stepped up its diplomatic support for Pakistan, along with investment funds and arms.
President Barack Obama warned Islamabad that it would he held accountable for security along the Pakistan-Afghan border on February 10. The next day, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi reaffirmed his country’s "all weather" alliance with China. Last October, newly elected Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari made as his first foreign trip a pilgrimage to Beijing. Just before he left, he told a press conference, "China is the future of the world. A strong China means a strong Pakistan.”
In a February 23 editorial, The People’s Daily addressed U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, with a focus on improving Pakistan’s position against India. “It is clear that without Pakistan's cooperation, the US cannot win the war on terror. Therefore, to safeguard its own interests in the fight against terrorism in South Asia, the US must ensure a stable domestic and international environment for Pakistan and ease the tension between Pakistan and India.” This means supporting Pakistan’s position on Kashmir, the Indian province against which Pakistan-based terrorists have operated for decades. India-Pakistan tensions have been high since the November 26 terrorist attacks in Mumbai which killed 179 people.
Afghanistan's foreign minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta said on January 21 that India and Afghanistan were both victims of terrorism. “Afghanistan believes there are some entities in our region that are using terrorism as a tool for foreign policy. We have to end this. We share your pain, the pain of the Indian people because Afghanistan is the victim of same terror with same sources," Spanta said after a meeting with Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee in Kabul.
China, of course, does not want the U.S. to take this view of the situation, as it would further what Beijing fears most; closer U.S.-Indian ties against a common threat from the Pakistani-Chinese alignment. The Chinese line is that Washington must support Pakistan against India in order to win Islamabad’s cooperation against the Taliban. This would isolate India, a primary goal of Chinese strategy.
The editorial declared, “the US must make sure that Russia is appeased. The Central Asia region, where Afghanistan lies, used to be Russia's backyard. Following the September 11 terrorist attacks, the US raised its anti-terrorism war banner to move deep into this region and revoked the color revolution in Kyrgyzstan. To Russia, all this feels just like a thorn in the flesh.” The editorial noted that Kyrgyzstan has expelled the U.S. from its Manas air base.
So, again, why would the Obama administration want China to become more involved in Afghanistan? Larry Wortzel, Vice-Chairman of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a bipartisan panel of experts created by Congress, asked Sedney this question at a hearing on March 4. Sedney’s response was that the U.S-NATO mission in Afghanistan is short on resources, and the Chinese could help by providing economic assistance and expanded trade. The Chinese model of trade would not help the Afghans, and any economic assistance would be used to buy influence with government and tribal elites that would undermine American objectives. Inviting China into Afghanistan is an act of desperation that has not been thought through.
The day after the Afghanistan editorial (and two days after Secretary Clinton left China), The People’s Daily ran another opinion piece entitled,” The U.S. Hegemony ends, the era of global multipolarity enters.” It started by reveling in the economic crisis that has swept America and “signals a swift reduction of U.S. strength as a unipolar power.” Its conclusion was stark. “Does the decline of U.S. geopolitical hegemony make multilateral global governance more likely? Perhaps it is still too early to rush any conclusion, but at least one thing is certain: the U.S. strength is declining at a speed so fantastic that it is far beyond anticipation. The U.S. is no longer 'King of the hill,' as a new phase of multipolar world power structure will come into being in 2009, and the international order will be correspondingly reshuffled.”
The opening hands played by the Obama administration with China would indicate that Washington agrees with Beijing’s assessment.
William Hawkins is a consultant on international economics and national security issues.