The other evening we attended a get together with some friends from church. We ate pizza and enjoyed one another’s company. I think I can speak for everyone by saying that a good time was had by all. For entertainment, we watched the movie God’s Not Dead, which had come out on DVD not too long ago. As is my custom, I looked up the movie on Wikipedia, etc when I got home. I was not too surprised to learn that the critics generally hated God’s Not Dead, panning it for having one dimensional caricatures as characters and ham handed messaging. I was also not too surprised to learn that it was a box office success. The fact that a film that appeals to the faith and sentiments of a large section of the American people has been described as a “surprise hit” says a lot about the disconnect between the values of the entertainment industry and the people they expect to buy their products. I doubt if any other industry that was so clueless about their potential customers would long survive.
There is not much to be said about the plot of God’s Not Dead that isn’t already generally known through the publicity the film has generated. A professor of philosophy, Jeffrey Radisson, played by Kevin Sorbo, demands that the students in his class write out “God is Dead” in order to receive a passing grade in his class. Every student writes the statement and signs their name except for Josh Wheaton who finds that he cannot act against his faith. Professor Radisson then demands that Josh prove the existence of God in three debates that are to take place at the end of the next three classes. The premiss may seem rather outlandish, then again maybe not. The environment on many universities does seem to be increasingly hostile to religion, particularly Christianity. The influence that causes many young Christians to lose their faith on campus may be far more subtle than depicted in God’s Not Dead, but it is there.
On the whole, I think that the criticisms leveled at God’s Not Dead are just ones. The message of Christians being required to defend their faith is not very subtle. Professor Radisson and the other atheists in the movie are caricatures of the stereotypical angry, obnoxious atheists. However, in defense of God’s Not Dead, I have to say that its failings are not, in fact, worse than much that comes out of Hollywood. If atheists are offended by the shallow depictions of their beliefs found in God’s Not Dead, then now they know how many Christians and conservatives feel as we sit in a theater. I also have to say that many atheists really do come across as the sort of obnoxious arrogant jerks that Kevin Sorbo plays. For the person whose exposure to atheism consists only of the writings of Richard Dawkins and the antics of internet trolls, not to mention the Freedom from Religion Foundation who seem to be deliberately trying to make atheists pariahs, Sorbo’s depiction rings true. I have also seen movies with some environmentalist or generallyleft-wingmessage presented with far less skill than God’s Not Dead.
I don’t think that the arguments presented by either Josh or Professor Radisson were very good ones. There was not enough screen time devoted to the actual debate to really develop the arguments. This is part of the reason why although I generally liked God’s Not Dead, I did feel a certain frustration while watching it. This movie was not as good as it could have been. The premise is interesting. Kevin Sorbo and the other actors were good. The production values were as high as could be expected, yet it was all somehow not quite enough. This could have been a thought-provoking movie, but it didn’t quite reach the mark. I think that most of the extraneous subplots ought to have been cut out to make a leaner, more straightforward narrative. The movie also could have done without the cameos by Willie Robertson and the Newsboys. These subplots and cameos only served as distractions. Professor Radisson ought to have been depicted in more sympathetic fashion, rather than as almost a cartoon villain. Perhaps they ought to have had him challenge Josh after a class discussion. This might have made for a more interesting movie.
God’s Not Dead is a movie worth watching but it could have been so much better.
I am beginning to think that a selection of Robert Heinlein’s juvenile science fiction books should be required reading in every Middle School class. Even though the science in these stories is outdated, in some cases badly so, and the social mores reflect the period in which they were published, the 1950’s, although that may not actually be a bad thing, I think the young reader can still learn a lot from Heinlein’s stories. They may not be able to learn much about science or space travel. Events have overtaken Mr. Heinlein in that respect. They will, however, learn quite a lot about virtues that will never go out of date. They will learn from Heinlein’s heroes the importance of self-reliance, honor, courage and rational thinking. They will learn that doing the right thing, even at the risk of their lives is better in the long run. Reading Heinlein may even help young readers to resist the politically correct brain washing and mediocrity they are exposed to in our public schools. I can imagine one of Heinlein’s older, wiser instructors telling a contemporary student that the universe does not care about his fragile self-esteem and that it does not hand out ribbons just for showing up.
It features a strong, intelligent young man, Rod Walker, as the protagonist. Rod wants to join the movement to colonize other planets, accessed through gateways that transport travelers instantly across the galaxy. In order to be a colonist, Rod must take and pass a class on survival taught by the famous explorer “Deacon” Matson. For the final exam, the class, along with similar classes from other schools, is to be dropped on an uninhabited planet for ten to fourteen days. Whoever manages to survive passes. Unfortunately, something disrupts the gate and the students are stranded. They must manage to survive for far longer than they had expected.
This may be Heinlein’s response to Lord of the Flies published the previous year. Unlike the younger children in William Golding’s tale, the high school and college age youths do not descend into savagery. They build a colony with a government. They attempt to recreate modern technology as much as possible and by the time they are rescued they have begun to smelt iron and to domesticate the native plants and animals. The young colonists do have trouble with students who refuse to do their share of the work and with dangerous animals, but they manage to overcome their difficulties. After their settlement is destroyed and their first mayor is killed by migrating animals, Rod becomes the new mayor. There is some talk of moving to a safer location that Rod had discovered earlier but he refuses to consider it,stating that they are men and they will not be moved by a bunch of dumb animals. Instead, they develop ways to defend their settlement by the time of the next migration.
I should say something about Heinlein’s supposed racism in this book. At the beginning of the story, Rod visits a gateway to watch pioneers going out to colonize new planets. First, there is a long line of Asians, poverty-stricken refugees being forced by their authoritarian government to travel to a new world. They are followed by proud pioneers from North America. I do not believe that Heinlein intended to make any sort of statement about the relative merits of Asians and Americans but was extrapolating a likely future based on circumstances at the time of publication. In 1955, most of Asia was desperately poor and overcrowded and it seemed likely to remain so for generations. I should note that it is hinted throughout the book that Rod is African-American, though at the time of publication Heinlein was unable to say so outright.
I enjoyed reading Tunnel in the Sky when I was in fifth grade and enjoyed it no less rereading it as an adult. Robert Heinlein knew how to keep his readers interested.
I feel privileged today. Al Gore has sent me an e-mail asking me to help him track down and kill manbearpig.
Dear friend —
Folks like you know what I believe: We have no more important priority than confronting and solving the climate crisis.
Luckily, we have a President who has taken up that task with both determination and seriousness of purpose, and it’s amazing what a difference that can make.
In June, President Obama empowered the Environmental Protection Agency to cut carbon pollution, a move which will help reduce dangerous CO2 from power plants by 30 percent in 2030. On top of that, he has established new fuel economy standards that reduce CO2 levels and will save us all money at the pump. With the Recovery Act, he made the single biggest investment in clean energy in the United States, ever. All these steps will have a lasting impact on the planet our children and grandchildren inherit — and they wouldn’t have happened without your support.
As Bob Dylan sang, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” We’re seeing real, important progress in the fight against the climate crisis — and it’s coming not a moment too soon.
But you and I both know there are still a lot of deniers out there. The time for leadership in the face of this threat has not passed. If ever there were a moment to send leaders to Washington who make climate legislation their top priority, this is it.
Support Democrats, and tell Congress to address climate change:
It is really too bad that there are so many deniers out there so refuse to take the former vice-president serial. What does he have to do to convince the deniers? Present actual empirical evidence for what he claims?
If you want to know why I am one of those deniers who cannot take Mr. Gore or the other climate alarmists very serial, it is because they do not act in a particularly honest manner. They do not simply state facts. The try to generate panic by exaggeration and misdirection. They try to bully people who disagree with them and fantasize about blowing such people up.
Carbon dioxide is not, in any way dangerous nor is it pollution. Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring substance in the Earth’s atmosphere that is absolutely necessary for life on this planet. The Earth’s climate is not at a delicate equilibrium that can easily be disturbed by human activity. The Earth’s climate has changed drastically over the eons and will continue to change long after we are gone.
Another reason I cannot take people like Al Gore very serial is the hypocrisy of their position. Despite what Gore says, cutting “carbon pollution” from power plants and imposing stricter fuel standards will increase the cost of energy in this country. This won’t affect Al Gore. He has no intention of giving up his mansion or jetting around the world to spread the message about manbearpig . It will hurt the rest of us.
Well, since manbearpig has been spotted in southern Indiana, I guess I should get with Mr. Gore and help track it down. Maybe I can get a nobel prize too.
It seems that biologist and atheist leader Richard Dawkins has caught a bad case of foot in mouth disease, or perhaps he should think a little more before he tweets. His latest thoughts on abortion and Down’s Syndrome have attracted some measure of controversy which I read about in this article in the Independent.
Budding atheists wondering whether Richard Dawkins is in need of a little time away from Twitter to reflect on the past few weeks are about to have their (lack of) prayers answered.
The philosopher has managed to go one step further than his controversial comments on ‘date rape versus stranger rape’ to voice his opinions on what it would be ethical for a mother who is informed that her unborn child has Down Syndrome to do.
@kerryhood@RichardDawkins It is an interesting dilemma. What about people on the autism spectrum (which I am)? Where would u draw the line?
@InYourFaceNYer People on that spectrum have a great deal to contribute, Maybe even an enhanced ability in some respects. DS not enhanced.
My first thought upon reading this was to quote Dickens.
`Man,’ said the Ghost, `if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die. It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh God. to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust.’
Who does Richard Dawkins think he is to decide who is worthy of life and who is not? There are many reasons why one might be an atheist. I begin to think that Dawkins is an atheist because he covets God’s job. He wouldn’t be the only one who doesn’t worship any divinity because they are too busy worshiping themselves. He thinks that it is immoral not to kill a baby with Down’s Syndrome before it is even born because they do not contribute as much. How would he know? I do not know anyone with Down’s Syndrome, but I have been told that while they do suffer from intellectual disabilities, they are, for the most part amiable people and they can and do contribute to the happiness of the people around them. They can learn skills, hold jobs, and form loving relationships. It may well be that people with Down’s Syndrome, in their simplicity, are closer to the Kingdom of Heaven than those who believe them unfit to live will ever be.
I wonder if Richard Dawkins has really thought through his comments. If we are going to decide that every human being is not a creature created in the image of God and endowed by that creator with the inalienable right to life, but merely an evolved ape whose right to live depends on how useful he is and how much he can be expected to contribute, than Sarah Palin was right all along and we can expect to see those death panels in the not too distant future. If so, than Dawkins had better be careful. The panels might decide that an aging biologist has contributed all he can expect to science and society would be better off with him making room for the next generation of scientists.
I hadn’t intended on writing anything on the happenings in Ferguson, Missouri. I obviously wasn’t there and the details of the shooting of Michael Brown seem to change with each reporting. Since I do not know what actually occurred, I have thought it best not to comment. I wish a lot of other people had shown a similar restraint. Instead, it seems that every pundit and politician in the country has had to put forth their opinion based on inadequate and often conflicting accounts. I can say that the original media narrative, that a racist police officer gunned down an innocent African-American youth for no particular reason is almost certainly not in accord with the facts. Officer Darren Wilson seems to have been attacked and to have suffered injuries. Michael Brown was not a little kid but a three hundred pound teenager. If he had assaulted Officer Wilson or even acted in a threatening manner, Wilson would have had good reason to be afraid for his life. That doesn’t mean that he acted appropriately. I simply do not know.
What concerns me about the way this is unfolding is that the media is not really interested in emphasizing the little details that might conflict with their original narrative. I am afraid that any sort of serious inquiry over the shooting may well find reason to exonerate Officer Wilson. Since the good people of Ferguson, Missouri and elsewhere may very likely be unaware of the details that prompted Wilson’s exoneration, and being ginned on by the likes of Al Sharpton, will conclude that a racist murderer has gotten away with his crimes. Then there will be rioting.
Something rather similar happened with Rodney King. The whole country saw the video of the Los Angeles policemen beating Mr. King, always described as a motorist as though he had been out for an innocent drive. What the country did not see was the high-speed chase in which King endangered other drivers and pedestrians while his blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit. They did not see King resist arrest nor were they told that tasering King had no effect on him. The beatings, while excessive, were understandable since they were trying to subdue what appeared to be a dangerous man. Because most people in this country were not made aware of these important details, the acquittal of the officers in the video came as a shock and provoked rioting. The media acted irresponsibly then, and I fear they are acting irresponsibly now. If there are more riots in Ferguson, they will have blood on their hands.
Would it be too much to ask that everyone calm down and keep their mouths shut unless they happen to have first hand knowledge of events?
There is not much to write about the election of 1820. This election was the only uncontested presidential election in American history except for the first two elections when Washington was the only candidate. The Federalist Party had almost completely faded away by then and with it, the first party system of American politics. There was still a handful of Federalists serving in Congress, but the Federalist had lost all of their influence outside of New England and was not able to nominate a candidate to oppose the reelection of James Monroe. The Democratic-Republicans nominated their team of Monroe and Daniel D. Tomkins for a second term.
There was no real campaign and little interest in the election. Turnout for the election was light, even in the fifteen of the twenty-four states that chose their electors by popular vote. There was some controversy over the status of Missouri. The new state had adopted a constitution in July of 1820, but Congress delayed Missouri’s admission into the Union until August of 1821 because of a provision the constitution that prohibited free Blacks from residing in the state. It made no difference to the outcome, so the matter was not pursued.
As for the outcome, James Monroe won 228 of the 232 electoral votes. Three electors, one each from Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee had died before casting their votes and so were not counted. There was only one dissenting vote cast by William Plumer, a former Senator and governor from New Hampshire. It is sometimes said that he voted for John Quincy Adams so that Monroe would not equal Washington’s achievement in gaining a unanimous vote in the Electoral College, but he had no way of knowing what the votes of his colleagues would be. He simply believed that John Quincy Adams would make a better president than James Monroe. He also disliked Daniel Tomkins and voted for Richard Rush for vice-president.
After this election, it seemed as if the United States would become a one party state. James Monroe was happy with that result. The founding fathers had not approved of political parties believing them to be divisive and troublesome. Most political observers looked forward to a future of calm elections with no partisan rivalry. Just four years later they would find out how wrong they were.
Samuel Johnson once famously said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. It is not known in what the precise context was in which Johnson made this statement. He was not disparaging patriotism in general, since he considered himself to be a patriotic Englishman. It is most likely that he said in the the course of a discussion on politics. Perhaps he was referring to a politician who he believed was not really a patriot, but who found it convenient to pose as one. Whatever the context, it is true that scoundrels of all sorts have tried to conceal their motives and actions under a cloak of patriotism.
Speaking of patriotism and scoundrels, here is an e-mail I received from Organizing for Action the other day.
What Walgreens did last week was a big deal.
The pharmacy giant publicly decided to do the right thing by refusing to exploit a tax loophole.
The loophole — called a tax inversion — is when a company in the United States purchases a foreign company, and then claims residency in that country for tax purposes. It’s something that could cost our country $20 billion over the next 10 years.
Right now, dozens of American businesses across the country are weighing this decision.
This is an important time to take a stand — say you’ll fight for closing corporate tax loopholes and help make sure everybody pays their fair share and plays by the same rules.
To a lot of us, this issue is pretty clear cut: President Obama said it’s a question of “economic patriotism.”
The companies that take advantage of tax inversions don’t have to move their headquarters or CEO. They can continue to enjoy all the benefits of operating in our country while drastically cutting how much they contribute in taxes.
That means when they “leave,” you and I get stuck with paying an even bigger share of the bills for things our country needs, like funding for our roads and bridges.
That’s why it’s so heartening to see a company as big as Walgreens reject tax inversions.
The more Americans who stand up and make their voices heard, the more that other companies will choose to do the right thing.
Director of Special Projects
Organizing for Action
Patriotism, like justice, is a noun that does not usually require any modifier. If someone modifies the word justice with adjectives to make phases like social justice, climate justice, or food justice, justice is not really what they have in mind. Likewise, adding an adjective to patriotism to make something like economic patriotism might indicate that the speaker is not really interested in patriotism, as it is generally understood. They wish to use patriotism as a way to shame or coerce people to work against their own interests or to respond to bad policies. In this case, the people behind Organizing for Action, the Obama administration, have done their best to make the United States a hostile place for businesses and then are surprised when businesses decide to relocate to places with a better business climate or take advantage of every loophole to lower their tax bill.
One obvious way to encourage businesses to stay in the United States might be to lower the corporate tax rate. Right now, at 39.1 % the US has the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. I know that most businesses don’t actually pay that rate, but surely finding ways to reduce their tax bills must be expensive and burdensome. If we were to lower that tax rate to something they would pay while decreasing the number of loopholes, everyone might benefit. It is better to tax people, and corporations, at a lower rate they will pay than a higher rate they will only seek to evade. But, it is easier to appeal to economic patriotism than to change bad policies, especially if you happen to be a scoundrel.
But today, for perhaps the first time, the libertarian movement appears to have genuine political momentum on its side. An estimated 54 percent of Americans now favor extending marriage rights to gay couples. Decriminalizing marijuana has become a mainstream position, while the drive to reduce sentences for minor drug offenders has led to the wondrous spectacle of Rick Perry — the governor of Texas, where more inmates are executed than in any other state — telling a Washington audience: “You want to talk about real conservative governance? Shut prisons down. Save that money.” The appetite for foreign intervention is at low ebb, with calls by Republicans to rein in federal profligacy now increasingly extending to the once-sacrosanct military budget.
Without getting into policy specifics, there are a few problems with this narrative.
A libertarian – according to the dictionary, at least – is a person who “upholds the principles of individual liberty especially of thought and action.” And there is simply no evidence that Americans are any more inclined to support policy that furthers individual freedom or shrinks government.
Take two of the most frequently cited issues that herald the libertarian renaissance: legalized pot and gay marriage. Both of them, I would argue, are only inadvertently aligned with libertarian values. These are victories in a culture war. Both issues have rapidly gained acceptance in the United States, but support for them does not equate to any newfound longing to “uphold the principles of individual liberty.”
Many supporters of pot legalization are, for example, probably just as sympathetic to nanny-state prohibitions on products they find insalubrious or environmentally unfriendly. More seriously, many of the most passionate proponents of same-sex marriage are also the most passionate proponents of the government forcing Christian bakers and florists to participate in gay marriages and impelling religious business owners to subsidize contraception for their employees.
Beating back people who stand in the way of gay marriage to make room for people who stand in the way of religious freedom and free association doesn’t exactly feel like a victory on the liberty front.
I can save Mr. Harsanyi and many others some trouble. The libertarian moment will never arrive. That is not to say that some policies championed by libertarians may not become part of the political mainstream. Some undoubtedly will. It may also be that an overstretched federal government will have to be trimmed down in the near future. The era of really big government began in the industrial age and it may be that in our post industrial, information age society, smaller. leaner government will become the norm. Whatever happens, the Libertarian Party will never receive more than 5% of the vote and politicians who are consistently and dogmatically libertarian will never get very far.
The real problem with libertarianism is that no one really wants it. Many people say they do but they really don’t. As Mr. Harsanyi points out.
Now, with all that said, most Americans want nothing to do with libertarian economic policy. As Kevin Williamson pointed out not long ago in Politco, the love Americans show for their expensive and inefficient programs makes a libertarian moment in the near future unlikely. No matter how often voters tell pollsters they crave more choice, limited governments and free market solutions, elections tell us that they’re lying.
It would, perhaps, be more accurate to say that many people want libertarianism for themselves, but not for others. Libertarianism for me but not for thee. The government program that helps someone else is wasteful and extravagant. The government program that helps me is necessary for the economy. The laws and regulations that keep me from wanting to do what I want to do are burdensome and even tyrannical. The laws and regulations that keep someone else from doing what they want to do are necessary for the public good.
Libertarianism is usually considered a right-wing movement and there is a strong strain of libertarianism in contemporary conservatism, but in one important way, libertarians are closer to the left. Like many leftists, libertarians tend to ignore human nature, or believe that human nature can be changed if only the right policies are put into effect or if only the right sort of people are elected. They don’t seem to fully appreciate that there are reasons that governments tend to grow larger with time and the sphere of liberty tends to decrease.
George W. Bush once expressed his view that the desire for freedom is universal by saying,
No people on earth yearn to be oppressed or aspire to servitude or eagerly await the midnight knock of the secret police.
He was right in saying that no one wants to be a slave. Unfortunately, as we have learned in places like Iraq, that is not enough. No one wants to be a slave, but too many of us don’t mind making slaves of others. Liberty does not flourish because people yearn to be free. It only flourishes when people manage to restrain their desire to control others, which is not easy. The truth is that every single one of us has a little Hitler or Stalin inside of us who wants very badly to tell everybody around us what to do. It is because of this very human impulse that libertarianism has such trouble gaining a wider appeal. Telling people to ignore their inner busybody and not take advantage of government largess is a very hard sell indeed.
The problem is not that the Democrats or Republicans are growing the government. The problem is that anyone who finds himself in public office has strong incentives to grow the government, and this would be true even if a member of the Libertarian Party were in Congress or were president. Ultimately this is not really a political problem but a human nature problem and that makes it very hard to find a solution.
The Yazidis of Iraq have been much in the news lately and not in a good way. The Islamic terrorists who have been gaining power in Iraq in the wake of the US withdrawal have taken to murdering and oppressing every non Muslim in the territories they control, but they seem to have a particular hatred for the Yazidis. Currently, some 40,000 of these people are trapped on a mountain without food or water with the choice of dying for their faith or converting to Islam. Who are the Yazidis and why do the Islamic fanatics hate them?
The Yazidis are a people that live in the Kurdish regions of Iraq, Turkey and Syria as well as Armenia and Georgia. There is also a small population of Yazidis in Europe who have fled the persecution in their native lands. They speak Kurdish as their native language and many speak Arabic, but they are neither Arabs or Kurds. While their culture is very similar to Kurdish culture they have a distinctive religion of their own. The precise population of the Yazidis is not know but it is estimated that there are around 700,000 of them. Their numbers are declining due to persecution.
The Yazidis are distinguished most by their ancient religion. They are quite secretive about their beliefs and little is known. Their religion seems to be something of an offshoot of Zoroastrianism, but there are many other influences including the religions of ancient Mesopotamia, Mithraism, and some mystic elements of Christianity and Islam. The Yazidis are monotheists, believing in one God who created the universe. After the creation, God entrusted the rule of the universe to seven angels who were His emanations. The chief of these angels is named Malik Taus or the Peacock Angel. Malek Taus was either cast out of Heaven or left voluntarily in a manner strikingly similar to legends of the fall of Lucifer, especially as found in the Koran. Like Satan or Iblis, refused to bow to Adam. While Allah in the Koran expelled Iblis from Heaven for his pride and he became Satan, the Yazidi account has the Creator praising Malik Taus for his steadfast refusal to worship anyone besides God and places him in charge of the Universe. Malik Taus extinguished the fires with his tears and was reconciled with God.
These beliefs along with an alternate name for Malik Taus, Shaytan, have led many believers of the other monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, to suspect that the Yazidsis are devil worshipers. This the Yazidis steadfastly deny. They do not believe that Malik Taus is an evil being. Indeed, they do not believe in a devil at all, holding that evil comes from human actions. Nevertheless, the coming of the religion of peace and tolerance to Mesopotamia in the seventh century has resulted in centuries of often savage persecution.
In practice, the Yazidi religion is much concerned with ritual purity, much like Zoroastrianism. They do not like to mix the elements; earth, air, fire, and water and have a complicated system of taboos. They believe that they are a people apart, descended not from Adam and Eve like the rest of the human race, but they are descended from Adam alone. They do not marry outside their community and they do not accept converts. In addition, they believe that too much contact with outsiders is polluting and limit such contacts. This, doubtless, does not endear them to their neighbors.
The Yazidi pray five times a day, facing the sun and make pilgrimages to the tomb of Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir, a Sufi mystic whom they believe to be an avatar of Malik Taus. This tomb is in the city of Lalish, Iraq, where there are many Yazidi shrines. They are supposed to have two holy books, the Kitêba Cilweor Book of Revelations and the Mishefa Reşor the Black Book. These books seem to be forgeries, however, written by Westerners around 1912 to take advantage of travellers’ interest in the Yazidis. The material in the books seems to incorporate the actual oral traditions of the Yazidis and may be accurate accounts of their beliefs. Westerners have been fascinated by the Yazidis’ obscure and secretive religion and they have often been depicted as on order of devil worshipers by writers such as H. P Lovecraft.
Now there is a distinct possibility that this ancient community will be exterminated. It seems to me that the real devil worshipers in Iraq, and elsewhere, are the ones whose god commands them:
And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.
But perhaps the ISIS simply doesn’t understand their own religion.
James Earl (Jimmy) Carter was without question the most inept president of my lifetime, at least until the present occupant of the White House was elected. One might think that after a four year tenure of abject failure both in domestic and foreign policy, such a man would slink away back to Georgia and never make any public statements about subjects he obviously knows very little about. We are not that lucky. Ever since the American people decided to pass on another four years of having this grinning idiot in the White House, Jimmy Carter has insisted on butting in and speaking his piece where he is not wanted and not needed. Just now he has taken it upon himself to present his resolution to the crisis in Gaza with a column in Foreign Policy which he co-wrote with Ireland’s former president and current left-wing whack job, Mary Robinson.
A quick summary of this column would read, it is all Israel’s fault. Israel has committed war crimes by not allowing Hamas to continue to attack its citizens and should withdraw, end the blockade on Gaza and allow Hamas to continue to try to kill the Israelis. Then we will have peace in the region. Here is the column. You decide if my summary is fair.
Israelis and Palestinians are still burying their loved ones as Gaza’s third war in six years continues. Since July 8, when this war began, more than 1,600 Palestinian and 65 Israeli lives have been sacrificed. Many in the world are heartbroken in the powerless certainty that more will die, that more are being killed every hour.
Who has started these wars? If Hamas would stop trying to kill the Israelis, the fighting would stop. Israel is not dedicated to the destruction of the Palestinians either on the West Bank or Gaza. Hamas is openly dedicated to the destruction of the Jews. Fatah is just as dedicated to the destruction of Israel but they have the good sense not to say so, at least not in English. What they say in Arabic may be quite different.
This tragedy results from the deliberate obstruction of a promising move toward peace in the region, when a reconciliation agreement among the Palestinian factions was announced in April. This was a major concession by Hamas, in opening Gaza to joint control under a technocratic government that did not include any Hamas members. The new government also pledged to adopt the three basic principles demanded by the Middle East Quartet comprised of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia: nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and adherence to past agreements. Tragically, Israel rejected this opportunity for peace and has succeeded in preventing the new government’s deployment in Gaza.
It is all Israel’s fault for somehow not trusting the good intentions and good faith of the people who have sworn to destroy them. Has Hamas recognized Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state? Has Hamas adhered to past agreements? When Israel withdrew from Gaza and handed over control to the Palestinians, they promptly elected Hamas as their leaders and began to attack Israel.
Two factors are necessary to make Palestinian unity possible. First, there must be at least a partial lifting of the 7-year-old sanctions and blockade that isolate the 1.8 million people in Gaza. There must also be an opportunity for the teachers, police, and welfare and health workers on the Hamas payroll to be paid. These necessary requirements for a human standard of living continue to be denied. Instead, Israel blocked Qatar’s offer to provide funds to pay civil servants’ salaries, and access to and from Gaza has been further tightened by Egypt and Israel.
Israel must end the blockade so that Hamas will have a chance to import more rockets to attack Israel. Why does Carter think Israel imposed the blockade? Does he really think the Israelis want to starve the Palestinians? They do allow humanitarian aid into Gaza. They do not allow any weapons or any item that could be made into a weapon. They do not allow construction materials since those materials are used to build tunnels for evading the blockade.Israel imposed this blockade after Hamas began to fire rockets into Israel. Israel would probably lift the blockade if Hamas stopped trying to kill Israelis.
This next section is the best (worst) part of the column.
There is no humane or legal justification for the way the Israeli Defense Forces are conducting this war. Israeli bombs, missiles, and artillery have pulverized large parts of Gaza, including thousands of homes, schools, and hospitals. More than 250,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Gaza. HundredsofPalestinian noncombatants have been killed. Much of Gaza has lost access to water and electricity completely. This is a humanitarian catastrophe.
There is never an excuse for deliberate attacks on civilians in conflict. These are war crimes. This is true for both sides. Hamas’s indiscriminate targeting of Israeli civilians is equally unacceptable. However, three Israeli civilians have been killed by Palestinian rockets, while an overwhelming majority of the 1,600 Palestinians killed have been civilians, including more than 330 children. The need for international judicial proceedings to investigate and end these violations of international law should be taken very seriously.
The reason so many Palestinian civilians have been killed is because Hamas wants them to be killed. Israel protects its civilians. Hamas uses its civilians as human shields.
There is a larger issue here and I am afraid that what I am about to say will seem to be very ugly. Well, war is ugly. For a person who has lived through World War II and served in the United States Navy, Jimmy Carter is astonishingly obtuse about the nature of war. If we had fought the Second World War as he expects Israel to fight, we would have responded to the attack on Pearl Harbor by bombing one Japanese base. Anything more would have been disproportionate. We would not have bombed the Japanese home islands or sunk Japanese cargo ships. That would have been an unacceptable attack on civilians. We certainly would not have dropped incendiary bombs on the residential quarters of Tokyo, knowing that their wooden houses would burn readily nor would we have dropped the atomic bombs. The war might have been conducted more humanely as a result. We would probably still be fighting the Japanese.
The way to end a war and bring about peace is the utterly destroy the enemy’s will and capacity to fight. This might mean bombing the factories that produce the weapons the soldiers use. This might mean killing civilians to break the enemy’s will to fight. War is hell. General William T. Sherman said this out of personal experience. During the Civil War, his soldiers burned down plantations and destroyed railways in order to destroy the Confederates’ ability to wage war. Jimmy Carter might have considered these actions to be war crimes, but they ensured that the South would not rise again. It is a cruel irony that the most likely chance for peace in the Middle East would be if Israel really were the villain people like Jimmy Carter think it is. Because Israel is a decent nation, the fighting will go on.
Jimmy Carter probably thinks he is on the side of peace. He is not. By his statements, he is giving hope to Hamas that they need only hold out until Israel is pressured to withdraw without finishing the job of destroying Hamas’s ability to fight. He is not promoting peace in the region. He is paving the way for continual war.
Carter goes on.
The U.N. Security Council should focus on what can be done to limit the potential use of force by both sides. It should vote for a resolution recognizing the inhumane conditions in Gaza and mandate an end to the siege. That resolution could also acknowledge the need for international monitors who can report on movements into and out of Gaza as well as cease-fire violations. It should then enshrine strict measures to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza. Early discussions have already taken place. The Elders, an international group of elder statesmen of which we are a part, hope these discussions will continue and reach fruition.
At the Palestinians’ request, the Swiss government is considering convening an international conference of the signatory states of the Geneva Conventions, which enshrine the humanitarian laws of warfare. This could pressure Israel and Hamas into observing their duties under international law to protect civilian populations. We sincerely hope all states — especially those in the West, with the greatest power — attend and live up to their obligations to uphold the Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs the treatment of populations in occupied territory.
I am sure that any action by the UN will be completely impartial and will only serve the interests of peace. That was sarcasm.
Unity between Fatah and Hamas is currently stronger than it has been for many years. As Elders, we believe this is one of the most encouraging developments in recent years and welcome it warmly. This presents an opportunity for the Palestinian Authority to reassume control over Gaza — an essential first step towards Israel and Egypt lifting the blockade.
Why is unity between these two factions desirable? What has been drawing them closer? Has Hamas given up its goal of destroying the Jews?
The Palestinian Authority cannot manage the task of administering Gaza on its own. It will need the prompt return of the EU Border Assistance Mission, an international effort to help monitor border crossings that was launched in 2005 and suspended in 2007. EU High Representative Catherine Ashton has already offered to reinstate the program, covering not only Rafah but all of Gaza’s crossings. Egypt and Israel would, in turn, cooperate with international monitors to be deployed in Gaza and along its borders, backed by a U.N. Security Council mandate to protect civilian populations. A valuable precedent for trust-building between Egypt and Israel is the international peacekeeping force operating in the Sinai, mandated by the peace treaty signed by the two countries in 1979.
The international community’s initial goal should be the full restoration of the free movement of people and goods to and from Gaza through Israel, Egypt, and the sea. Concurrently, the United States and EU should recognize that Hamas is not just a military but also a political force. Hamas cannot be wished away, nor will it cooperate in its own demise. Only by recognizing its legitimacy as a political actor — one that represents a substantial portion of the Palestinian people — can the West begin to provide the right incentives for Hamas to lay down its weapons. Ever since the internationally monitored 2006 elections that brought Hamas to power in Palestine, the West’s approach has manifestly contributed to the opposite result.
We could have said something similar about the Nazis and the Japanese military government. Both the Nazis and the militarists represented a substantial portion of their respective countries. Ultimately we brought about their demise. Why don’t we give Israel the chance to bring about the demise of Hamas. We ought not to recognize the legitimacy of a political actor as movement that has genocide as its goal.
Ultimately, however, lasting peace depends on the creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel.
Leaders in Israel, Palestine, and the world’s major powers should believe that policy changes are within reach that would move Israelis and Palestinians closer to a day when the skies over the Holy Land can forever fall silent.
A lasting peace will only occur when the Palestinians realize that they cannot defeat or destroy Israel and that Israel is here to stay. They must come to understand that they have more to gain by making peace than waging war. This is why Egypt made peace with Israel. Anwar Sadat realized that Egypt could not defeat Israel and that the continuing hostility with Israel was wrecking his country. Unfortunately the antics of people like Carter make this realization, and peace, unlikely. Jimmy Carter should stick to what he knows, building houses for Habitat for Humanity.