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Archive for the tag “Iraq”

Been through this movie before?

I’ve just “shared” three appeals for peace on Facebook — one from a Christian, one from a Muslim, one from a Jew.

People say that “religion” is responsible for most of the violent conflict in the world, so how come it is the secular politicians who are fanning the flames of conflict in the world, while is is the “religious” people who are calling for peace?

Remember what happened 100 years ago tomorrow?

19140804I’ve just been reading about it in this book, an hour by hour account of that day, with what led up to it, and the aftermath. Come tomorrow, when I’ve finished the book, I’ll review it (now finished, review here)  but what disturbs me is that nothing has changed. While the world media’s spotlight is on Gaza this week, they haven’t stopped killing people in Syria, Iraq and Ukraine. Three civil wars and a quasi civil war in Gaza.

But what are the world’s politicians doing about it? Are they trying to urge the warring parties to get together and try to find a peaceful solution? No, they are grandstanding and making threats against each other, just as they did a century ago. Back then it was called jingoism, and it’s much the same to day.

We don’t want to fight
But By Jingo! if we do
We’ve got the ships, we’ve got the guns
we’ve got the money too.

What can ordinary people do to promote peace when the politicians of the world’s most powerful nations are in the driving seat and driving in top gear to hell?

For what it’s worth, here are some of the appeals for peace:

But what is happening?

With Syria buried in the news, hopes fade for ending world’s bloodiest war | Al Jazeera America

What are other countries doing? Supplying arms to the combatants, that’s what.

Church leaders express concern about the sabre-rattling rhetoric: Statement by the diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church in Australia regarding the situation in Ukraine:

The Church is concerned that much of the rhetoric appearing in the media is biased and ill-informed; based upon the geo-political aspirations of certain stakeholders, which can only lead to further conflict and, God forbid, outright war.

And even some retired politicians recognise the danger — Ex-chancellor Schmidt slams EU over Ukraine – The Local:

Former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt said on Friday the Ukraine standoff recalls the lead-up to World War I and blamed the “megalomania” of EU bureaucrats for sparking the crisis.

For the moment, these are separate conflicts, but remember that the Second World War started when a lot of separate smaller conflicts coalesced into one big one — Italy versus Ethiopia, Japan versus China, Germany versus Poland. And suddenly it became a free-for-all.

Can we learn the lessons of history, before it’s too late?




Opinionated Vicar: Desperate news from Iraq

Iraq is now in its worst crisis since the 2003 war. ISIS the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Group, a group that does not even see Al Qaida as extreme enough, has moved into Mosul, which is Nineveh. It has totally taken control, destroyed all government departments. Allowed all prisoners out of the prisons. Killed countless numbers of people. There are bodies over the streets. The army and police have fled, so many of the military resources have been captured. Tankers, armed vehicles and even helicopters are now in the hands of ISIS.Mosul residents fleeing the ISIS takeover.

via Opinionated Vicar: Desperate news from Iraq.

Ieaq now aeems to be in a full-scale civil war, with Ukraine not far behind. And the big powers just seem to be fanning the flames with threats of more violence.

"We are not leaving"

I’ve blogged here and elsewhere about one of the most salient features of the Bush-Blair legacy being the hastening of the exodus of Christians from the Middle East, the region where Christianity began.

Now Notes from a Common-place Book: “We are not leaving” points to two significant articles on this topic by Robert Fisk, one of the Western journalists who probably knows most about the region:

Robert Fisk is a columnist and commentator for The Independent. He has been based in Beirut for many years, and his writing on the region is some of the most perceptive available to Western readers. I consider Fisk’s The Great War for Civilisation to be essential reading. Two of his recent columns address the worsening Christian position: Exodus: The Changing Map of the Middle East and Only Justice Can Bring Peace to this Benighted Region. A few excerpts, below:

“Across the Middle East, it is the same story of despairing – sometimes frightened – Christian minorities, and of an exodus that reaches almost Biblical proportions. Almost half of Iraq’s Christians have fled their country since the first Gulf War in 1991, most of them after the 2004 invasion – a weird tribute to the self-proclaimed Christian faith of the two Bush presidents who went to war with Iraq – and stand now at 550,000, scarcely 3 per cent of the population. More than half of Lebanon’s Christians now live outside their country. Once a majority, the nation’s one and a half million Christians, most of them Maronite Catholics, comprise perhaps 35 per cent of the Lebanese. Egypt’s Coptic Christians – there are at most around eight million – now represent less than 10 per cent of the population.”

The Bush-Blair legacy

“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” So wrote Shakespeare in Julius Caesar, and so it has proved with the evil unleashed by George Bush and Tony Blair, which continues long after they have left office.

The City and the World: The continuing tragedy of Iraq’s Christians.:

Another survivor of yesterday’s siege told the BBC that ‘I do not think I and other Christians can stay in Iraq any longer,’ while a young Christian from Northern Iraq (which is ostensibly much safer than Baghdad) told the New York Times, ‘There is no future for us here.’ Accounts like the one given above make for difficult reading, but they remain only a small part of the larger tragedy of Iraq’s ancient Christian churches, which have suffered from continual violence, persecution, and dispersion since the fall of Saddam Hussein. My greatest fear at the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 was that Bush administration war policy would play a direct role in destroying one of the oldest Christian communities in the world; over the past seven years, it has become increasingly clear that those fears are being realized.

Hat-tip to Kyrie eleison | A vow of conversation.

Mission accomplished

A lot of people mocked George Bush when he proclaimed “mission accomplished” after the US invasion of Iraq.

Well, perhaps it was a bit premature, but time is proving him right, as these reports show.

Robert Fisk: Exodus. The changing map of the Middle East:

Across the Middle East, it is the same story of despairing – sometimes frightened – Christian minorities, and of an exodus that reaches almost Biblical proportions. Almost half of Iraq’s Christians have fled their country since the first Gulf War in 1991, most of them after the 2004 invasion – a weird tribute to the self-proclaimed Christian faith of the two Bush presidents who went to war with Iraq – and stand now at 550,000, scarcely 3 per cent of the population. More than half of Lebanon’s Christians now live outside their country. Once a majority, the nation’s one and a half million Christians, most of them Maronite Catholics, comprise perhaps 35 per cent of the Lebanese. Egypt’s Coptic Christians – there are at most around eight million – now represent less than 10 per cent of the population.

The invasion was calculated to destroy Christian communities and to make sure that radical Islamists had more say in the running of the country, and that is being achieved.

Tariq Aziz: villain or victim? – Opinion – Al Jazeera English:

So what really lies behind the decision by Iraq’s high tribunal to pass a death sentence on Tariq Aziz, long serving Iraqi foreign minister and number two to Saddam Hussein? The decision has caused shock waves around the World, largely because the sentence has the feel of vengeance to it. The Iraqi High Tribunal took what must be a highly unusual step in effectively rescinding the earlier judgments against him. For Tariq Aziz’s twenty seven year sentence has effectively been reduced to a matter of months by his death sentence. Aziz has now been found guilty of “the persecution of Islamic parties”, whose leaders were assassinated, imprisoned or forced into exile.

Now I don’t think harrassing leaders of Islamic parties (or anyone else) is a good policy, but nor do I think that the assassination, imprisonment or sending into exile of Christians is a good thing either, and that is one of the chief “accomplishments” of George Bush’s mission. Replacing one evil regime with another is really not a useful exercise.

Tariq Aziz: villain or victim?:

Tariq Aziz is of course a Chaldean Christian, who along with the Assyrian Christians, have suffered terribly since the War, with more than half of their number now living in exile. Being the only Christian in a secular Ba’athist dictatorship was a factor apparently exploited by Saddam, with veiled threats being made periodically to Aziz’s family. I remember being in Iraq and hearing that Aziz feared Saddam, and that he was only too aware of the fragility of his family’s safety. Which is not to excuse Aziz for “following orders”, but it may go some way to explain why Aziz stayed in Baghdad even when it was obvious to him, if not Saddam, that America and Britain were deadly serious about invading.

The destruction of Christian communities in the Middle East surely cannot be described as an unintended consequence of the invasion. It was both forseeable and foreseen, and therefore must have been intended. It is an integral part of the Bush-Blair legacy. It is said that one should not ascribe to malice what can be explained by ignorance and stupidity, but the leaders of the most powerful nation on earth cannot have been that stupid…. can they?

New Statesman – Blair must be arrested

New Statesman – Blair must be arrested:

Now consider the Proceeds of Crime Act. Blair conspired in and executed an unprovoked war of aggression against a defenceless country, of a kind the Nuremberg judges in 1946 described as the ‘paramount war crime’. This has caused, according to scholarly studies, the deaths of more than a million people, a figure that exceeds the Fordham University estimate of deaths in the Rwandan genocide.

In addition, four million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes and a majority of children have descended into malnutrition and trauma. Cancer rates near the cities of Fallujah, Najaf and Basra (the latter ‘liberated’ by the British) are now higher than those at Hiroshima. ‘UK forces used about 1.9 metric tonnes of depleted uranium ammunition in the Iraq war in 2003,’ the Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, told parliament on 22 July. A range of toxic ‘anti-personnel’ weapons, such as cluster bombs, was employed by British and US forces.

Hat-tip to Neil Clark: who notes

Let’s just hope that when Blair is finally in the dock, he doesn’t come up against a judge like Judge Griffith-Jones.’Started an illegal war which led to the deaths of 1m people’? ‘Took part in the illegal bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as well?’
Well, you have a rather respectable background and you’re not a lower-class yobbo so I’ll only give you three months in jail.’

In May 1999 someone set off nail bombs in various places in London, and Tony Blair went on record as denouncing this as “barbaric”. And at the same time there were news reports that Father Milivoje Ciric, who left a special service in his church to help victims of a Nato bombing, has been decapitated by a follow-up blast. This is a typical terrorist tactic — set off a bomb, and when a crowd gathers to help the injured, kill even more people with a second blast. You can read about the incident here, and see pictures here.

The nail bombs, of course, were barbaric. They were designed to cause the maximum injuries. But Natos cluster bombs were designed to do exactly the same thing, only far more efficiently. Look at the pictures, and see Tony Blair’s handiwork. Yes, it is truly barbaric.

As the playwright Harold Pinter noted on his web site, quoting the Socialist Review, – Serbia and Kosovo:

When the bomb went off in Old Compton Street, Mr Blair described it as a barbaric act. When cluster bombs go off in Serbian marketplaces, cutting children into pieces, we are told that such an act is being taken on behalf of ‘civilisation against barbarism’. Mr Blair is clearly having a wonderful time. But if Britain remains America’s poodle, she is now a vicious and demented poodle. The Nato action is in breach of its own charter and outside all recognised parameters of international law. Nato is destroying the infrastructure of a sovereign state, murdering hundreds of civilians, creating widespread misery and desolation, and doing immeasurable damage to the environment.

Barbaric? Yes. But as the prophet Nathan said to King David, “Thou art the man.” (I Sam 12).

But there is one crucial difference, for it is recorded that King David repented, but Tony Blair has not.

Evangelism, or cultural imperialism

Since the US invasion of Iraq, Western-style Protestant evangelical Christianity has begun to appear in that country. It is not, however, converting Muslims to the Christian faith, but proselytising among other Christians.

Evangelicals Building a Base in Iraq –

The U.S.-led toppling of Saddam Hussein, who limited the establishment of new denominations, has altered the religious landscape of predominantly Muslim Iraq. A newly energized Christian evangelical activism here, supported by Western and other foreign evangelicals, is now challenging the dominance of Iraq’s long-established Christian denominations and drawing complaints from Muslim and Christian religious leaders about a threat to the status quo.

The evangelicals’ numbers are not large — perhaps a few thousand — in the context of Iraq’s estimated 800,000 Christians. But they are emerging at a time when the country’s traditional churches have lost their privileged Hussein-era status and have experienced massive depletions of their flocks because of decades-long emigration. Now, traditional church leaders see the new evangelical churches filling up, not so much with Muslim converts but with Christians like Tawfik seeking a new kind of worship experience.

There is much talk in Western Christian missiological circles about inculturation and contextualisation, and the need for Christianity, when it enters a society of a different culture, to become part of that culture.

But this seems, on the face of it, to be the opposite: taking already indigenous Christians, and converting them to an exotic culture.

On the other hand, globalisation is such that exotic cultures often seem attracive. Some traditional Christians in countries like Iraq achieve their desire to identify with exotic cultures by emigrating. Others, perhaps those who can’t afford to emigrate, do so by joining exotic churches, like Western Baptists, and enjoy the foreign cultural ambiance.

So is it evangelisation, proselytisation, or disinculturation (or could one say “exculturation”? Is that a word?)

Why Clinton Lost and why Obama won

The media have been going to town on Barack Obama’s clinching of the US Democratic Party’s nomination as presidential candidate.

The South African media, in their usual racist fashion, have concentrated on the superficialities — the colour of Obama’s skin. That says more about South African society than it does about the US presidential election — it shows that nearly 15 years after the end of apartheid, we are still obsessed with race, to the exclusion of other considerations.

Very few have have mentioned what could be Obama’s downfall — his attitude satirised in the song:

The working class can kiss my arse
I’ve got the foreman’s job at last

in his sudden back-tracking on peace by announcing that he wouldn’t talk to Hamas, showing that the “change you can believe in” hype was just that – hype, and that underneath, once he had secured the nomination, he was reverting to the same old image of the warmongering USA, bully boy of the world.

But these pieces give a different view, which the mainstram media seem to have missed:

ZNet – Why Clinton Lost:

Yesterday, brought another effort: Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter offers ‘Five Reasons Obama Won. Five Reasons Clinton Lost.’ Those latter five, which in places echo the Journal, boil down to ‘No Respect for the Voters,’ ‘Poor Strategy,’ ‘Weak Management,’ ‘Arrogance,’ and ‘Entitlement.’

Both of these pieces offer smart insights about why Clinton lost, and it’s hard to dispute the salience of any of these factors. But neither the Journal nor Alter give significant consideration to an additional factor that may have been more important than any other: Clinton’s vote to go to war in Iraq.

Even before this latest batch of stories, the media’s efforts to explain Clinton’s struggles have consistently downplayed Iraq, as bloggers like The Atlantic’s Matthew Yglesias and Atrios have pointed out.

It’s hard to remember now, but last year, when he was a dark-horse challenger, Obama’s consistent opposition to the war, along with Clinton’s vote for it, provided much of the rationale for his long-shot candidacy. Without that black-and-white contrast, it’s doubtful whether his insurgent campaign could have gotten off the ground.

And Stephen Zunes, professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco says ZNet – Why Obama Won:

Barack Obama has won the race for the Democratic nomination for president against Hillary Clinton on the issues. Sort of.

This is not what the pundits will tell you, who would rather focus upon the most superficial and trivial aspects of the two final candidates’ style, personality, associates, personal history, and campaign organization and strategy, not to mention race and gender.

This is not what many on the left will say either, in recognition of how little differences there were between the two candidates’ stated positions on most policies.

Another difference between the two, which has nothing to do with sex or skin, is that Barack seems to be populist, while Hillary seems to be elitist. This point has been noted by several bloggers, like Tauratinzwe in Observations from the Sidelines: Yes, WE Can!:

The essential difference between Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton is found in their use of the first person pronoun.

Listen to Hillary and you hear the first person singular used over and over. ‘I will . . . ‘ ‘I have . . . ‘ I – I – I.

Listen to Obama and you hear the first person plural pronoun. ‘We can . . . ‘ ‘We are able . . . ‘ ‘Yes we can!’ ‘Si, se puede!’

The second person plural pronoun is also used differently. Clinton says she will do things for you. Obama says he will enable you to do things.

Now I’m not a fundi on US politics, and as I’ve noted in my blogs, I sometimes find it difficult to understand American culture, but until Obama capitulated to the Israel lobby last week, I thought he might be the better of the two. I do have a stake in American politics — after all, as a result of George Bush’s warmongering and other policies we are paying a lot more for fuel and food. So it would be nice to be able to believe in change, and that makes Obama’s backpedalling even more disappointing.

Lessons from the Iraqi-American War

It seems that no lessons have been learned from the Iraqi-American War, which has dragged on for five years now.

It is said that Hermann Goering complained to the Nuremburg tribunal that they were on trial because they lost the war. And the answer was that they were not on trial because they lost the war, but because they started it.

after five years of war, it seems that no real lesson has been learned. Indeed, there’s a refusal to even acknowledge why it was wrong to invade Iraq.

Sure, there’s lots of criticism of the Bush administration for poor war planning, and for squandering US lives and “treasure”.

All this is true, but it skirts a more fundamental problem — one that was barely mentioned in all the fifth-year anniversary commentaries last week — that the invasion was a war of aggression carried out in defiance of international law.

This is not a mere technicality. According to the Nuremberg Tribunal, set up by the Allies after World War II: “War is essentially an evil thing… To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime.”

None of this seems to concern Senator Hillary Clinton, who stands a good chance of being the “anti-war” candidate in the US presidential election.

Of course, Clinton voted in 2002 to authorize an invasion of Iraq.

blog it

And Goering’s is the lesson that many US supporters of the Iraqi-American War have failed to learn. They like to talk about “appeasement”, but forget that in the 1930s the ones who were being appeased were the aggressors. In the case of the Iraqi-American War the appeasers were people like Tony Blair, who appeased George Bush, and did not stand up to his plans for aggression.

And Hillary Clinton apparently went along with her husband’s bombing of Yugoslavia.

The martyrdom of the Iraqi Church

Let this be a kind of postscript to the Blogswarm post of the 5th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraqi-American War, to which there is no end in sight.

Did the neocons think about this when they unleashed the dogs of war in Iraq? Do they care?

One ancient Christian Church will have no difficulty identifying with the Passion of Jesus during Holy Week: Iraqi Christians, who – thanks to Muslim persecution and Western indifference – may be forced underground, as they were in the days of the Roman Empire.

Iraqi Christian woman
An Iraqi Christian outside the Syrian Catholic church in Baghdad

Thousands of Iraqis attended the funeral of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, whose remains were discovered two weeks after his kidnap. A few years ago, the crowds would have been bigger. That is because half of all Iraq’s prewar population of 1.2 million Christians have left the country since the invasion of the country. Did that possibility ever occur to the American neocons? Do they even care?

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Hat-tip to the Western Confucian.

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