Over and over and over….

Looking back over my blogs…

21 Sep 2001 Pray for

…the peace of the world

We’re in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them. No one should be singled out for unfair treatment or unkind words because of their ethnic background or religious beliefs.
–George W Bush: to Congress 20 September 2001

That I definitely agree with. Nor for a moment would I not want to see the perpetrators of last week’s terror attacks in the United States brought to account.

But there are a number of worrying things about Bush’s speech. Take one:

Americans are asking "Why do they hate us?"

They hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.

They want to overthrow existing governments in many Muslim countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. They want to drive Israel out of the Middle East. They want to drive Christians and Jews out of vast regions of Asia and Africa.

These terrorists kill not merely to end lives, but to disrupt and end a way of life….

Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.

OK, I agree–up to a point. But there are uncomfortable questions one must ask:

1. Are Christian extreme fundamentalists any more in favour of pluralism (one of the values Bush says we are defending) than their counterparts in other religions? (Admittedly most American fundamentalists are not and are not likely to be terrorists in any crude sense, but what about the likes of those who have said the bombings are God’s judgement on unrighteousness, specifically on tolerating homosexuals? What about those who enforce the teaching of "Creation Science"?)

2. How democratic and free is Saudi Arabia?

3. Why were the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon specifically targeted? Is there a clue there to the origin of the hatred? Is it the American political system that is so hated, or something else?

4. If you know the answer to 3, will terrorism (a crime against humanity) ever lose its attractiveness to some while what those targets represent to many in the Third World remains unreformed?

I only wish all nations in the world, including the United States, took things like the International Declaration on Human Rights very seriously. But they probably won’t. Not if it interferes with business.

It is a sorry world.

Sunday thoughts 18 Sep 2005



He prayed — it wasn’t my religion.
He ate — it wasn’t what I ate.
He spoke — it wasn’t my language.
He dressed — it wasn’t what I wore.
He took my hand — it wasn’t the color of mine.
But when he laughed — it was how I laughed,
and when he cried — it was how I cried.

– written by 16-year-old Amy Maddox of Bargersville, Indiana.

“Just as you have the instinctive natural desire to be happy and overcome suffering, so do all sentient beings; just as you have the right to fulfill this innate aspiration, so do all sentient beings. so on what grounds do you discriminate?”

– His Holiness the Dalai Lama

“The only good that can come out of these nail bombs is that they spur all of us, whatever race, age, creed or sexuality, to work harder to build the one-nation Britain that the decent majority want, and to bring our community closer together.”

– British Prime Minister Tony Blair, after the capture of the person who set off several bombs in the Soho area of London.

Good Muslim story 23 September 2006

Given all the heat generated on all sides lately, it is nice to read a good story on The Kashmiri Nomad, himself at times a hard-hitting defender of his faith. Entitled “The Criminal Offence Of ‘Traveling While Being Muslim’”, the entry recounts the Nomad’s recent plane travels, with a nice anecdote about a little old lady’s concern about a fellow-passenger wearing a burqa. The Nomad concludes:

Before I went on this trip I did not know how I would be treated as a Muslim trying to board a plane. I did not know how the people in the airport would react to me. Would there be any special type of procedure that I as a Muslim would have to go through? Would I be singled out for special treatment / consideration? Questions such as these were running through my mind before the car journey to the airport.

The security was tighter at the airport than at any other time that I can remember. Even having said that the staff and personal all treated me with the most respect and attentiveness.

Many say that there is a new criminal offence of “traveling while being a Muslim” having just recently come back from a trip abroad I can say that I in no way felt that. I am sure that there are some who feel that I should not have so easily been allowed to board a plane.

Glad to read of the proper treatment the Nomad encountered. Not everyone, it seems, has descended into total paranoia.

This leads me to a subversive thought. I am sure you have all read (or heard of) this:

…But the expert wanting to make himself look good asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered with a story: A man was going down the mountain road from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by a gang of robbers who stripped him of everything, beat him up, and ran off, leaving him half-dead. By chance a priest was going down that road. But when he saw the man, he went by on the other side. In the same way a temple official came along. When he saw the man , he also went by on the other side. Then a foreigner from Samaria traveling along that road happened upon the man, and when he saw him, he was filled with compassion and went to help. He treated his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. He put him on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.

That translation glosses “Samaritan” as “foreigner from Samaria”, and that does bring out one aspect of the story — an outsider showed more true charity than the patriot, or the representative of orthodoxy. But who were/are (they still exist) the Samaritans?

In discussions in Israel about the Samaritans, one question that often arises is whether they constitute an ethnic community within Judaism or a separate religion. The Samaritans are one of the most ancient and authentic ethnic groups that exist in Israel in our days. Today their number is 650. The community is small and is struggling to survive as a homogenous ethnic group. Although living under the same sovereignty, the Samaritans live in two separate communities, one in the city of Holon and the other in Kiryat Luza, a village in mount Gerizim by Nablus…

So this little group predates modern Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the state of Israel. Now what if Jesus were in the Galilee of today and told the story thus:

…”And who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered with a story: A man was going down the mountain road from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by a gang of robbers who stripped him of everything, beat him up, and ran off, leaving him half-dead. By chance a Catholic priest was going down that road. But when he saw the man, he went by on the other side. In the same way a Rabbi came along. When he saw the man , he also went by on the other side. Then a Muslim traveling along that road happened upon the man…

Just a thought…

The march of folly and the guns of war 20 September 2007

NOTE 18 September 2012: the many links in this post may or may not still work, and they do not open in new windows.

Yes, I have appropriated and adapted two of Barbara Tuchman’s famous 20th century histories to create that title, because they are so sadly apt in the current world climate. First, let me get a disclaimer (or several) out of the way: I am opposed to suicide bombing especially when it targets innocent people going about their everyday lives — I call that murder, and a particularly vile kind of murder at that. Second, I do not for one moment believe that there is a war against Islam. That is a paranoid religious interpretation put with often unhelpful consequences on conflicts and tensions that arise for much more mundane reasons. Angry Muslims should have a bit more faith in God’s ability to look after himself. No-one is in the slightest bit interested in Muslim countries or Muslim minorities in other countries unless they happen to be sitting on or near a very large oil reserve. I will come back to that in a moment. Third, the state of Israel is the most destabilising factor in the Middle East, and I say that as, in general, a supporter of Israel. But it should never have been allowed to settle Gaza and the West Bank. Fourth, much of the talk of democracy in the Middle East is open to criticism on the grounds of hypocrisy, as democratic choices that go the “wrong” way are vigorously rejected: Gaza (in vile dehumanising Newspeak — resist this worst abuse of human language with every fibre of your being — now an“enemy entity” like a microbe or a cancer cell or It Came From Outer Space) and Iran are two cases in point. Finally, I am not a great admirer of the current Iranian regime.

I find myself more and more convinced that Blood and Oil by Michael Klare (Hamish Hamilton 2004) is really on the money.

Politically and morally, the price will be just as steep. To retain our access to oil and to secure permission to deploy our troops where we deem them necessary, in such oil-rich states as Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, we will have to crawl into bed with some of the world’s most corrupt and despotic leaders — plying them with ever more arms, military training, technical assistance, diplomatic support, and White House access while ignoring their contempt for democracy and their egregious human rights violations. And the numerous victims of these regimes will come to view America not as a standard-bearer of democracy but as a greedy prop of dictatorship.

These are the circumstances that breed terrorism. While anger at American support for Israel is a central source of Arab and Muslim rage, it is, as Kenneth Pollack has explained, our backing of corrupt and authoritarian governments that supplies the major impetus to rebellion. “Terrorism and internal instability in the Persian Gulf are ultimately fueled by the political, economic, and social stagnation of the local Arab states,” he wrote in 2003. “Too many [ordinary people] feel powerless and humiliated by despotic governments that do less and less for them while preventing them from having any say in their own governance.” Militants direct their anger first at the regime in power, but, because they regard the United States — not unreasonably — as a major factor in the regime’s survival, they extend their fury, and their vengeance, to American forces.

Ultimately, the cost of oil will be measured in blood: the blood of American soldiers who die in combat, and the blood of the many other casualties of oil-related violence, including the victims of terrorism… (p. 183)

Witness the drumbeats to which folly marches:

TONY JONES: Alexander Downer, let me just quickly go to your own portfolio area where otherwise we would have started. Last night John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the UN, told us it would be absolutely right for the United States to attack Iranian nuclear facilities with limited air strikes to stop Iran getting a nuclear weapon. Do you agree with him?
ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, I wouldn’t put it that way. No, I think what the situation is, is this – that the United States will never rule in or rule out the use of force. They simply don’t do that and I think that’s entirely understandable. And I think the Iranians need to understand, and the French foreign minister made a very fiery statement about this just the other day, the Iranians need to understand that the international community is truly looking and feels very strongly about this, is truly looking to them to fulfil all of their obligations under United Nations Security Council resolutions. I noticed the French foreign minister, by the way, saying that he and the Germans were of the view that further sanctions would be needed if Iran didn’t adhere to current security council resolutions, which could be sanctions over and above the sanctions that the United Nations itself has put in place. So, the Iranians in any case need to understand they are under a lot of pressure from the international community.
TONY JONES: A final quick question, because what also came out of that interview was his strong belief, John Bolton’s strong belief, that the Israelis had struck at a significant target inside Syria, very likely a nuclear facility, and he suggested it was also extremely likely that the North Koreans had been assisting the Syrians to build or to do something related to nuclear weapons.
ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, first of all, I haven’t got any confirmation of any of that and I simply have to admit that I don’t know. But what I do know is that there have been quite a number of reports to that effect. And if that is true, and remember, a lot of people have been reporting this, if that is true, then that constitutes a very, very serious threat to Israel and a revelation of proliferation from North Korea that we haven’t previously been aware of, and that in itself is an extremely serious matter. But by the way, I can’t give you any confirmation of that, it is just, there have been a number of reports about it to that effect, but not yet confirmed.

How to completely ruin the United States, among other things: have a war against Iran. Foreign Policy: Think Again: Iran is a post in my Archive from 2005. It is still true. The source is the US magazine Foreign Policy.

This one is available if you sign up for free registration. I urge you to do so. In summary, the article argues these points:

1. “If Iran Gets a Nuclear Bomb, Iran Will Use It” — Very unlikely.
2. “Iran Has No Use for Nuclear Power” — False.
3. “The Iranian People Support Their Leaders’ Nuclear Program” — Not really.
4. “Only the Threat of Force Can Dissuade Iran from Advancing with Its Nuclear Plans” — Doubtful.
5. “U.S. Military Action Would Embolden Dissidents to Topple the Islamic Republic” — Wrong.
6. “Criticizing the Islamic Republic Helps Dissidents Inside Iran” — No.
7. “If Iraq Becomes a Democracy, so Will Iran” — Wishful thinking.
8. “Iran Cannot Be Reformed from Within” — Wrong again.

Such a shame the regime in America ignores the best opinions from its own people, isn’t it?

Still true, as is Don’t Blitz Iran — Brian Cloughley (April 18, 2006). But they won’t take any notice of me, will they?

See also: Inside Iran (August 27, 2007); Iran, Hilaly, The Heathlander, and trying to keep some perspective… (April 10, 2007); Visiting Israeli fascist’s advice spurned? (February 17, 2007); Dissenting Jews on Israel (February 6, 2007); They would have to be mad of course… (February 3, 2007); Eteraz on Iran (December 16, 2006); Building peace on a foundation of lies? (December 14, 2006); Robert Scheer tells it like it is… (August 3, 2006); From The Poet: How We Miss Yitzhak Rabin (July 31, 2006); Three from Truthout (July 26, 2006); The new war in the Middle East — Sojourners (July 22, 2006); Strong stuff from the grumpy old man from Burgundy (June 3, 2006); CounterPunch: always provocative, sometimes enlightening (May 15, 2006); Raed Jarrar is hard to rebut on Iran (May 13, 2006); The Backlash Against Democracy Promotion (April 28, 2006); Zbigniew Brzezinski: Been there, done that (April 24, 2006); Yet more from The Poet (April 13, 2006). So I really have had a bit to say, or I have added thoughts to this“commonplace book” of my blog, on quite a few occasions. I just don’t see much point to banging on about it every day.

But let me reprise that last one from April last year:

Too many to record them all from the last couple of days, but here are three:

1) Newspeak and the Corruption of Politics by Ernest Partridge. The descent of the term “liberal” into a term of abuse, especially but not only in US Right circles, is one of the more regrettable phenomena of recent years. Only those who have lost their hold on the history of ideas and of democracy could go along with it. “Liberalism – the program and the ideology – is distinctly and inalienably American. It is in our founding documents. It is validated by our history of emancipation, of scientific and technological advancement, of the improvement of the workplace, of the emergence of the middle class, of the advancement of civil rights, and of the emergence of the environmental movement.”

2) Robert Scheer: Now Powell Tells Us . “On Monday, former Secretary of State Colin Powell told me that he and his department’s top experts never believed that Iraq posed an imminent nuclear threat, but that the president followed the misleading advice of Vice President Dick Cheney and the CIA in making the claim. Now he tells us.”

3) William Rivers Pitt on Iran. “Things have come to a pretty pass in the United States of America when the first question you have to ask yourself on matters of war and death is, “Just how crazy are these people?” Every cogent estimate sees Iran’s nuclear capabilities not becoming any kind of reality for another ten years, leaving open a dozen diplomatic and economic options for dealing with the situation. There is no good reason for attacking that country, but there are a few bad reasons to be found.”

Mind you, former weapons inspector and rather unsuccessful Tasmanian Governor Richard Butler did make a good point on SBS News last night: the real issue is that NO-ONE should have nuclear weapons, starting with the USA itself.

Crazy world, but I wouldn’t give up on “human nature”. Humanity manifests compassion and co-operativeness just as much as it reveals the Beast of Lord of the Flies. One could argue, and people have so argued, that the ability to empathise and co-operate just as much “explains” human evolution as those characteristics some pessimists choose to highlight.


One thought on “Over and over and over….

  1. Neil I doff my topi to you for this profound exposition. I live in a country where more than 15% of the population is Muslim and in urban India, substantially more and there are areas where Muslims are the majority. You can not simply ignore their presence in a country predominantly Hindu but with a history of welcoming all religions and coexisting with all of them quite well for centuries. (Do please study the table showing the major religions in this analysis – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_India)

    There is however a problem that has been identified by Indian Muslim intelligentsia and that is the increasing influence of the Wahaabi/Salafi influence which preaches hatred towards all non Muslims every Friday after the noon prayers. The non Muslims include all non Sunni Muslims too.

    Why should this happen in a country that has allowed peaceful co-existence of all religions within?

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