Category Archives: terrorism

The Banality of Evil: Terrorism in Manchester


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Another day and another heinous terrorist attack on people attending a concern in Manchester, England. Over twenty were killed and many more wounded in the attack which also left the terrorist dead. Among the victims were young children, innocent by any standard.

Terrorists of all kinds share a common hatred for human beings who are not like them, people for whom they blame their condition on. It has been so since people discovered that terror, committed in the name of a religion or ideology either by state or non-state actors works. Monday’s attack by a twenty-two year old Salman Abedi who according to neighbors dressed “in traditional Islamic dress.” The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack but at present little is known about Abedi other that he was born and raised in Britain and might be of Lydian descent. His actual connections to ISIS are unknown. It appears that he deployed an Improvised Explosive Device that was loaded with explosives as well as nails, metal scraps, and screws which made it a perfect anti-personnel weapon which he set off at a time guaranteed to cause maximum casualties. His act, as are all terrorist attacks aimed at innocent non-combatants can only be described as evil. The fact that it appears to be done in the name of his Islamic God does make it any less so. It was an act of evil. But the problem is that his act will inspire other Islamists to conduct similar attacks and provide grist to those who want to blame all Muslims for the attack, provoking violence against innocent Muslims who detest and oppose the kind of attack made by Abedi. Th Islamic State claim of responsibility included the statement that the attack “was in revenge for Allah’s religion, in an endeavor to terrorize the [infidels], and in response to their transgressions against the lands of the Muslims.” In the United States fundamentalist Christian extremist Theodore Shoebat said “he feels no sympathy for these people. The people who died, the people who were injured… I really don’t care. The types of people who go to these concerts are the same people responsible for the degeneracy that you see in society…” In other words the murder of children is just as fine to self-proclaimed Christian Shoebat as it is to ISIS. Both would have fit in well with the Nazi troops who killed Jews by the millions and killed innocent children up close and personal. They are all evil and they all think that they are the righteous. 

However, it doesn’t have to be this way as historian Laurence Rees notes, we do not need to succumb to the bloodlust of revenge and retaliation. We can seek justice without victimizing other innocent people. We do not have to give in to what Hannah Arendt referred to as the banality of evil.” We have the choice as individuals as how to behave towards our fellow human beings. Rees noted: “…human behavior is fragile and unpredictable and often at the mercy of the situation. Every individual still, of course, has a choice as to how to behave, it’s just that for many people the situation is the key determinate in that choice.” The fact is that we cannot allow the situation to determine what is right and wrong in how we respond to terror and in doing so condemn the innocent along with the guilty. 

Anyone knows me knows that all terrorism is evil regardless of its motivation. Over the years I have spoken out against all types of terrorism and that I have no sympathy or desire no mercy be shown to those who commit or sponsor it, but at the same time I do not believe that we should allow fear and hatred to cause us to seek retribution or revenge upon innocent people simply because they share a common racial, religious, or national origin of the guilty. To do so makes us no different than those who kill children at a concert simply because they live in a country opposed to ISIS, or because they or their ancestors belong to a country, religion, or race that we despise or believe are less than human. 

When will we ever learn?

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under News and current events, Religion, terrorism

Traveling Amid Terror Threats

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

This is another one of my pre-posted articles for our Munich trip and I am offering a few thoughts on terrorism. With all of the recent attacks in Europe the authorities in Munich are taking the threat of terrorism very seriously and that is a good thing. There are a lot of extra police and security officers out and about and a fence has been placed around the fest grounds in order to keep people from sneaking in. I was asked before we left if I was thinking about terrorism or afraid. I answered that I think of it but I am not afraid I just stay alert and pay attention to my surroundings like I do anywhere. But as far as terrorism in Europe, it’s real, and there are dangerous elements who I am sure would love to create havoc at the Oktoberfest, but I am not afraid.

This is because Judy and I our old hands when it comes to living with terrorism. When we were stationed in Germany in the 1980s it was at the height of the second generation of the Baader-Meinhoff Gang/ Red Army Faction reign of terror. There were frequent bombings and murders committed by these East German supported terrorists throughout Germany, and we narrowly avoided being victims of two of them; one at the Frankfurt Airport, and one at the Frankfurt Military Exchange. Every day we had to look under our car for car bombs as that was a favorite method of killing. Likewise when we drove onto base, not only did we have multiple forms of identification verified, but our vehicles were checked for bombs underneath, as well as in the trunks and engine compartments, which had to be opened and inspected. Despite that on one occasion a bomb was found in the Mess Hall and defused, across town at another base a young enlisted man was kidnapped and murdered by a female terrorist posing as a date. When we were shopping one day at a German retail store we saw, and reported to the Polizei a group of people that we recognized too late from the wanted posters. We made our report and were interrogated for over two hours. I was actually glad for that, because what we said was taken seriously.

RAF bombing

Baader-Meinhoff/ Red Brigade Bombing in Germany

But sadly that was just the beginning of my experience with terrorism, both international and domestic. Terrorists may have different causes and motivations, but the one thing they desire to do is to is to terrorize and kill, that their victims often have nothing to do with their grievances, real or imagined, and are innocent of any crime against them does not matter; nor does it seem to matter to their western apologists who excuse the terrorists by blaming the societies and governments of the victims instead of placing the blame on the hate filled ideology of the terrorist.

The sad thing is the ideology of DAESH has been around for a long time, but that it would not made much progress had not President Bush destroyed Iraq and given them a place to flourish. Fareed Zakaria hit the nail on the head when he noted: “I should have paid greater attention to my mentor in graduate school, Samuel Huntington, who once explained that Americans never recognize that, in the developing world, the key is not the kind of government — communist, capitalist, democratic, dictatorial — but the degree of government. That absence of government is what we are watching these days, from Libya to Iraq to Syria.” It is the absence of the restraining force of government that has allowed DAESH to thrive, and which will allow it to continue.

But that being said I am not going to let those sonsofbitches or any other terrorist sonsofbitches frighten me from living life or keeping me from traveling.

I have traveled all over the world and I have been to war. I have seen horrible things and even when I admit the many things that this country has done that are wrong, and even criminal, I cannot allow that to color my view that the terrorists; be they the Baader-Meinhoff gang and the Red Brigades, or today the hate filled religious terrorists of DAESH deserve the slightest bit of sympathy, and just because our government and other governments, as well as the media sometimes label people as terrorists who are not, does not mean that the actual terrorists, like the ones who attacked Brussels yesterday are not terrorists. They are terrorist and that word has a definitive meaning for them, there is no moral equivalence of sleight of hand here. They terrorize and kill innocents in the lands that they occupy, and are taking their fight all over the world.

So do I live with it? I decide to live in the  moment regardless of the threat. I refuse to be terrorized and I will speak out, even if I offend people. I think that Salman Rushdie, a man who has known the price of having a bounty on his head by religious fanatics for decades, said it right: “How to defeat terrorism? Don’t be terrorized. Don’t let fear rule your life. Even if you are scared.”

We are going through the airports and traveling on the subways, and going through train stations; and I will not be afraid.

Now if by some chance something does occur while we are over here I will let you know first hand, but even if terrorists strike I will refuse to be afraid.

Have a good day,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, terrorism, Travel

Everything Has Changed: The Aftermath of 9-11-2001 and Fifteen Years of War

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

I posted a reflection yesterday on some of my reflections on the 9-11-2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, today a continuation of those thoughts. Yesterday morning after chapel and taking care of things I needed to for the opening day of our new class at the Staff college this morning I went to breakfast with Judy. We talked about how it was hard to believe that it had been fifteen years since the attacks of 9-11-2001. Judy mentioned that everything had changed since then.

As I recalled yesterday I can still remember the day like it had just happened, the images are burned into my memory and will never go away. I was getting out of my office at Camp LeJeune after an early morning counseling case and some administrative duties I was getting ready to head to the French Creek gym. I was about to close out my browser when I saw a little note on the Yahoo.com homepage: “Airplane crashes into World Trade Center.” It was about 0900 that tragic morning. I thought to myself, “Some dumb ass just crashed his Cessna into the building.”

The day was clear and absolutely gorgeous, a slight north wind and low humidity, a well-deserved break from what had been a hot and humid summer. Not that I had seen much of the Carolina summer having returned from a deployment to Okinawa, Mainland Japan and Korea in late July. When I got to my car the local talk radio station was broadcasting a second or third tier national talk radio host and he was screaming “oh my God another plane just flew into the towers!”

I was stunned and I drove over to the gym where I joined a large crowd of Marines and Sailors transfixed as we watched the towers burn. I went back to my office showered and went over to my battalion headquarters and was there when the South Tower went down at 0959.

Since then a lot has changed. I have made two deployments and traveled to the Middle East many more times. I came back from my deployment to Iraq with a serious case of PTSD and a health distrust of the right wing media, politicians, preachers, and especially the talk radio hosts that I used to listen to as often as I could. I remember being in Iraq in between missions to the far reaches of Al Anbar Province and watching the news on the televisions at the dining facility and wondering just what war that they were covering.

Before Iraq I could be considered a pretty solid “conservative” but eight years after going to war I am decidedly liberal. However, despite many allegedly conservative talk pundits, politicians and right wing preachers say just because a person is “liberal” does not mean that they are unpatriotic or do not care about our country or freedom. After serving in Iraq and seeing how certain people have equated patriotism with adherence to their political agenda I wholeheartedly believe that a person’s patriotism has nothing to do with their politics or their religious beliefs.

Before Iraq I was jaded by what happened to my dad’s generation after Vietnam when liberals called returning Veterans “baby killers” or “Nazis.” In fact I had a Sunday school teacher tell me that my dad was a “baby killer” in 1972 and in 1981 had some ass at UCLA call me a “ROTC Nazi.” As a result I had little love for the Left. After September 11th I followed the “conservative” talk radio crowd and Fox News more than I had ever before. The emotions that they stirred up were primal. But experience and reflection caused me to get beyond the pain of my past and the emotion of the present. Just as I detest those that characterized my dad’s service or my service as being criminal I also detest those that say one cannot be critical of those that advocate for war regardless of the human and economic cost or actual strategic benefit.

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A man (C) identified in the subtitiles as Al Karar the Iraqi gestures as he speaks at an undisclosed location in this image taken from undated video footage released by Islamic State. Islamic State warned in the new video on November 16, 2015 that countries taking part in air strikes against Syria would suffer the same fate as France, and threatened to attack in Washington. The video, which appeared on a site used by Islamic State to post its messages, begins with news footage of the aftermath of Friday's Paris shootings in which at least 129 people were killed. REUTERS/Social Media Website via Reuters TVATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE.      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

I rejoiced when our SEALs killed Osama Bin Laden and every Al Qaeda leader that we have ushered into the arms of Allah. They have caused unmitigated suffering around the world, not just to us but to their own Islamic neighbors and deserve no pity and since they refuse to give quarter should be shown none. I feel the same way about ISIS and ISIL who are killing the Iraqis that I served alongside and their families, and if that sounds harsh I can’t help it. The attacks of 9-11 and the wars that have followed are all too personal and as far as the extremists of ISIl, Al Qaeda, and their affiliates around the world I am unapologetic, we should annihilate them. I would apply the words of the hero of the Battle of Little Round Top at Gettysburg, Colonel Strong Vincent concerning the Confederates to the supporters of Al Qaeda and ISIL wherever the are:

“We must fight them more vindictively, or we shall be foiled at every step. We must desolate the country as we pass through it, and not leave a trace of a doubtful friend or foe behind us; make them believe that we are in earnest, terribly in earnest; that to break this band in twain is monstrous and impossible; that the life of every man, yea, of every weak woman or child in the entire South, is of no value whatever compared with the integrity of the Union.”

This will sound hard, but the life of every supporter of ISIL or Al Qaeda is of no value whatsoever to freedom and democracy.  I would apply that standard to any supporter of authoritarian dictatorship in any guise, not just militant Islamists, lest there be any doubt.

At the same time I question the strategic purpose and value of the campaign in we conducted in Iraq which seems to me has opened the gates of hell. I still think that the words that T.E. Lawrence wrote in 1920 about the British in Iraq are as applicable today as when he penned them; only the empires are different:

“The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Bagdad communiqués are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are to-day not far from a disaster.”

The British who Lawrence wrote about, gave their people reasons for going into Mesopotamia which were similar to those of the Bush administration over 80 years later. They cloaked their intentions in the words of liberation and protection, the British from the Turks, and the Americans from Saddam. Lawrence noted in words that are hauntingly familiar to those that paid attention to the American war in Iraq:

“Yet our published policy has not changed, and does not need changing. It is that there has been a deplorable contrast between our profession and our practice. We said we went to Mesopotamia to defeat Turkey. We said we stayed to deliver the Arabs from the oppression of the Turkish Government, and to make available for the world its resources of corn and oil. We spent nearly a million men and nearly a thousand million of money to these ends. This year we are spending ninety-two thousand men and fifty millions of money on the same objects.”

At the fifteen year mark I grieve for those that have lost their lives as well as loved ones in the attacks or in the wars that have followed. On September 11th 2001 2977 people were killed at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon or on United Flight 93 which went down in Pennsylvania. One of those killed at the Pentagon was Lieutenant Colonel Karen Wagner who I had served with at the Academy of Health Sciences Brigade in 1987-1988.

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Since then about 4500 American military personnel have given their lives in Iraq and another 2400 in Afghanistan. NATO or coalition allies, excluding the Iraqi and Afghani military or police forces have lost about another 1300 military personnel and that does not count the soldiers of Iraq and Afghanistan who fought at our side. More than 45,000 American servicemen an women have been wounded in this fight. I know a decent number of those wounded and some of those that have died. The losses are intensely personal and to think that we have lost well over twice the number killed on September 11th 2001 in two wars; many of whom were children aged 8-12 years old on that tragic September day. Of course the numbers do not count those that died by their own hand after they returned from the war, a number that grows daily. I have known too many of them as well, heroes who could not make the adjustment coming home. Likewise I cannot forget the devastation that I saw in Iraq, the deaths of so many, some estimates of over a million civilian casualties, not county what has happening during the current ISIS/ISIL era.

That is why I am in favor of a hard war against these people. Some would say that a hard war would endanger civilians, and yes I agree with that. But then what is the alternative? To leave those same people under a regime that crushes them, enslaves them, takes their children and schools them to be child soldiers and Islamic Kamikazes? William Tecumseh Sherman told the mayor of Atlanta after ordering the civilian population expelled that “we are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people, and must make the old and young, the rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war.”

That may seem hard, but I have been changed by that tragic event and the wars that have followed. I still shudder when I see the video of United Air Lines Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower or see the videos of the towers crashing down on that September day fifteen years ago.

The events of that tragic day changed me, and changed countless numbers of other Americans as well as others around the world. While we yearn to return to the day’s before 9-11-2001 that is impossible, there is too much water and too much blood that has passed under the bridge to go back, and those who advocate the same ideology as the attackers of 9-11 will not go back either.

As for me, I know that I can’t go back. But as much as I wish that I could I will have to live with reality, as I have for the last fifteen years, and I will continue to learn to live with it.  To live with the reality that this war will not end anytime soon and that far too many more people will die before this war ends. For those that find my opinions about this war repulsive or less than informed, I would actually hope and pray that you are right. But as my Iraqi friends say,

“Inshallah (إن شاء الله)”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under afghanistan, Foreign Policy, History, iraq,afghanistan, middle east, Military, national security, News and current events, terrorism, War on Terrorism

There Lies a Gulf Between that Time and Today: Remembering 9-11-2001

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

September 11th is a day that always makes me more introspective. It brings back so many memories, some that I wish I could forget; but I cannot get the images of that day out of my mind. The burning towers, the people jumping to their deaths to escape the flames, and the scenes of devastation. I knew one of the victims in the attack on the Pentagon, an Army Lieutenant Colonel, Karen Wagner who commanded a Medical training company at Fort Sam Houston where I was serving as the Brigade Adjutant in 1987 and 1988. She was a very nice person, very gracious and decent, admired by everyone who knew her; I was shocked to see her name on the casualty list after the attack.

The emotions that I feel on the anniversary of these terrorist attacks which claimed the lives of so many innocent people, and which devastated so many families, still haunts me, and my subsequent service, especially in Iraq has changed me. Years after he returned from his time in the Middle East, T.E. Lawrence; the immortal Lawrence of Arabia wrote to a friend, “You wonder what I am doing? Well, so do I, in truth. Days seem to dawn, suns to shine, evenings to follow, and then I sleep. What I have done, what I am doing, what I am going to do, puzzle and bewilder me. Have you ever been a leaf and fallen from your tree in autumn and been really puzzled about it? That’s the feeling.” I often feel that way.

Fifteen years ago I was getting ready to go to the French Creek Gym at Camp Le Jeune North Carolina where I was serving as the Chaplain of Headquarters Battalion 2nd Marine Division. I had returned from a deployment to Okinawa, Mainland Japan and Korea just two months before and was preparing to transfer to the USS Hue City, a guided missile cruiser stationed in Mayport, Florida.

At the time of the attack I had already been in the military for over 20 years and I had actually taken a reduction in rank to transfer from the Army, where I was a Major in the reserves, to the Navy to serve on active duty. In those previous 20 years I had served overseas during the Cold War along the Fulda Gap. I had been mobilized to support the Bosnia mission in 1996, and I had just missed being mobilized for Operation Desert Storm as my unit was awaiting its mobilization orders when the war ended. I had done other missions as well as the deployment to the Far East that returned from in July 2001; but nothing prepared me for that day. Like other career military officers I expected that we would be at war again and thought it might be back in the Middle East, and probably a result of some fool’s miscalculations; but like the American officers who were serving at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, I never expected what happened that morning.

Tuesday, September 11th 2001 had started like so many days in my career. Routine office work, a couple of counseling cases and what I thought would be a good PT session. I was about to close out my computer browser when I saw a little headline on Yahoo News that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I paid little attention and figured that a private plane, something like a Cessna piloted by an incompetent had inadvertently flown into the building.

9-11 jumpers

That delusion lasted about two minutes. I got in my car and the radio, tuned to an AM talk station had a host calling the play by play. He started screaming “oh my God another airliner flew into the other tower.” Seeking to see what was happening I went to the gym where there were many televisions. I got there and saw the towers burning, with stunned Marines and Sailors watching silently, some in tears. I went back out, drove to my office and got into uniform. After checking in with my colonel a made a quick trip to my house for my sea bags and some extra underwear, and personal hygiene items. When I got back the headquarters we went into a meeting, and the base went on lock down mode. The gates were closed and additional checkpoints, and roadblocks established on base. Marines in full battle-rattle patrolled the perimeter and along the waterfront. I did not leave the base until the night of the 15th when things began to settle down and we all went into contingency planning mode for any military response to the attacks.

My wife, who as waiting for a doctor’s appointment with a friend saw the attacks on live television and knew when the first plane struck she told her friend that it was terrorism. Her friend responded “that damned Saddam Hussein.” Like so many of us who initially thought this, my wife’s friend was wrong.

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Those were tumultuous days, so much fear; so much paranoia; and so much bad information as to who committed the attacks and what was going to happen next.

hue city boarding party

 

A few months later I deployed aboard Hue City to the Middle East where we supported the air operations in Afghanistan, anti-terrorist operations off the Horn of Africa and in Operation Southern Watch and the U.N. Oil Embargo against Iraq. I then did three years with Marine Security Forces, traveling around the world to support Marine Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team companies. For three years I was on the road one to three weeks a month traveling to the Middle East, Europe, the Pacific and many parts of the United States. Then I was promoted and transferred to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group Two, from which I was deployed with my assistant to Iraq, where we served as members of the Iraq Assistance Group in all Al Anbar Province supporting small teams of Marine Corps, Army and Joint Force adviser teams to the Iraqi Army, Border troops, Port of Entry police, police and highway patrol.

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When I returned from Iraq I was a changed man and while I am proud of my service I am haunted by my experiences. One cannot go to war, see its devastation, see the wounded and dead, as well as the innocents traumatized by it. One cannot get shot at, or be in enclosed rooms, meeting with people that might be friends, or might be enemies, and while everyone else is armed, you are not.

War changed me, and my homecoming was more difficult than I could have imagined. I never felt so cut off from my country, my society, my church, or even other chaplains. My experience is not uncommon among those who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, or for that matter those who have served in almost any modern war. Erich Maria Remarque in his classic All Quite on the Western Front wrote:

“I imagined leave would be different from this. Indeed, it was different a year ago. It is I of course that have changed in the interval. There lies a gulf between that time and today. At that time I still knew nothing about the war, we had been only in quiet sectors. But now I see that I have been crushed without knowing it. I find I do not belong here any more, it is a foreign world.”

That being said I would not trade my experience for anything. The experience of PTSD and other war related afflictions has been a blessing as well as a curse. They have changed my world view and made me much more emphatic to the suffering and afflictions of others, as well when they are abused, mistreated, terrorized and discriminated against. These experiences along with my training as a historian, theologian, and hospital chaplain clinician before and after my tour have given me a lot bigger perspective than I had before.

But I have to live with all of the memories. Guy Sajer wrote in his book The Forgotten Soldier, “Only happy people have nightmares, from overeating. For those who live a nightmare reality, sleep is a black hole, lost in time, like death.” General Gouverneur Warren, a hero of many Civil War battles including Gettysburg wrote to his wife after the war “I wish I did not dream so much. They make me sometimes to dread to go to sleep. Scenes from the war, are so constantly recalled, with bitter feelings I wish never to experience again. Lies, vanity, treachery, and carnage.”

As hard as this has been these are good things, and as I go on I wonder what will happen next. I do not think that the wars and conflicts which have followed in the wake of the 9-11 attacks will be over for years, maybe even decades. I pray for peace, but too many people, some even in this country seem to live for the bloodlust of war. One can only hope and as my Iraqi friends say, Inshallah, (إن شاء الله) God willing…

I wonder too, if the words of T.E. Lawrence reflecting on his service in the Arab Revolt are not as applicable to me and others who came back from Iraq, “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.” I have lost too many friends in these wars, including men who could not readjust to home, many like me. I have seen the men and women, broken in body, mind and spirit and I wonder if any of it was worth it, and if in some of our response, especially the invasion of Iraq has not made a bad situation even worse, and turned the war into a generational conflict.

As for me, I am now an old guy by military standards. I recently celebrated 35 years of service. Sadly, I know all too well that those who I have worked with, and those who are yet to enlist will be continuing to fight a war which seems to be without end long after I retire in about four years.

Yesterday and today there were and will be many ceremonies and services to remember the victims of the attacks. I think that is fitting. President Obama has declared this a of prayer and remembrance which is also good. I will not attend the ceremonies because I still get too emotional, but I will be there in spirit, even though much of me is still in Iraq.

I will quietly reflect as I conduct my chapel services today, and as I get ready for our incoming class at the Staff College. I will also try to get a good run in and then spend some time with Judy, and then have a few beers with some friends at Gordon Biersch.

So please, have a good day and whatever you do do not forget those whose lives were forever changed by those dastardly attacks and all that has transpired in the years since. I do hope that things will get better and that some semblance of peace will return to the world.

Inshallah, (إن شاء الله) God willing…

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, iraq,afghanistan, middle east, Military, PTSD, remembering friends, terrorism, War on Terrorism

Je Suis Francais 


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

One again the oldest ally and friend of the United States has been attacked by terrorists. While the details about the attacker are still scarce, this much is know; an attacker drove a tractor trailer rig loaded with grenades,mweapons and othe ammunition through a crowd that was celebrating Bastille Day in the port city of Nice on the French Riviera. At least 80 people were killed and another hundred or more wounded in the attack. It was the third major terrorist attack in the past year and a half on our French allies and friends, and more than 200 French citizens have been killed and hundreds more wounded in these brutal attacks committed by people allied with DAESH, the so called Islamic State. While it is yet undetermined who committed this barbaric act, it shows all the characteristics of DAESH. 

These attacks, along with others in Belgium and other countries in the past two years are a change in strategy for DEASH. They are losing in Iraq and Syria, their dreams of a Caliphate are dying. So now they have returned to the time honored methods of other terrorist groups, striking soft targets outside the battle area, killing innocents simply to show that they are still powerful. 

But the are not. In a war of ideas they come up short, they want a iron fisted theocracy with no freedom, no dissent, no Liberty. They stand against the proposition in the preamble of the Declaration of Independence which says “we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.”  They stand in opposition to the national motto of France, Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, and no matter how many people they kill they cannot win, because their ideology is based on the proposition that they, and they alone represent God, and no one has any rights but them. History shows that their medieval and barbaric ideology is doomed to failure so long as people who believe in Liberty, equality, and fraternity do not give in to their terror. The same is true of any theocratic ideology of any religion. 

Unlike a lot of Americnas, I have always admired the French. They, like us are certainly not perfect, but they hold to same the ideals that we do. No king or queen, no state religion, but Liberty, equality, and fraternity. In 1958 when the people of France implemented their last Constitution, they adopted verbatim, Abraham Lincoln’s words from the Gettysburg Address as a “principle” into their own sacred instrument, which recites in Article II that the French Republic will be a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The French are the only other country in the world to put those words into their constitution. When I was watching the games of the Euro Cup, I was inspired to see members of the French National team, including men, people of color, whose families came from former French colonies in Africa signing Le Marseillaise at the top of their voices, proud to be Frenchmen. 


It is time to support our friends in France. It is time to stand against all forms of religious terror, and all who presume that their religion, no matter which one it is, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, or whatever,  entitles them to to rule over others in the name of their God. 

I stand with France today. Je Suis Francais, today, I am French. 

Peace,

Padre Steve+ 

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Filed under Foreign Policy, News and current events, Political Commentary, terrorism

A Pause to Think


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Just a few words this morning. The past day or two have been emotionally draining, mostly due to the negativity and attacks of some friends on social media due to my strong condemnation of the massacre in Orlando and the silence of so many Christians and conservatives about it. The lack of empathy for the victims was astounding as a number of people jumped the shark so to speak and went all out not just to disagree with me, but to condemn me. 

I handled them all well. I refused to degrade myself by sinking to their level and refused to let their venom ruin my day. It was just sad to see otherwise good people be so deluded by their hatred of Gays, Liberals, and Muslims that they couldn’t understand what I was saying. This included conservatives and liberals alike. I am just amazed at the lack of empathy or critical thinking that is the norm in the United States, and while I would like to say that it is just on one side, it spans the spectrum. 

I am a very pragmatic and realistic Liberal. As I said last week there are times that I feel like B.H. Liddell-Hart’s description of Willam Tecumseh Sherman in 1861, “a realist in wonderland.”  

Tomorrow I will be posting what some of my liberal and progressive friends will consider to be a very politically incorrect article about how to fight the Islamic State. In fact it will be similar to what I have written about that subject over the past few years. That being said it will certainly piss off some allegedly conservative people who think that a bomb a day keeps the terrorist away. 

I have grown a rather thick skin over the past few years. I can nuance this, and I can let the personal attacks runoff my back, but I will not stop speaking up for realism, nor will I condemn whole races and religions for the acts of a few. In fact I am so tired of the idiocy of those that condemn all Muslims for the actions of some that I want to throw up. The same is true for those that simply say to “bomb them into the stone ages” or “carpet bomb” them; such people know nothing of war, nor the mindset of those that we fight. 

Likewise, I am equally disgusted by supposed Liberals and progressives who make excuses for cold blooded terrorists and instead blame the United States and Western Europe for things that are often the making and toxic concoctions of well off fundamentalist Muslims who control incredibly oil rich nations, or nations which have nuclear weapons. 

That being said, I will not let those few, or those that support or condone their actions off the hook. The current wars, which came about after the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 have been going on for almost 15 years. Since I anticipate that they will still be going on when I retire from the military in 2020 that means that many of the young men and women entering the military when I retire would not have been born when those attacks happened. For me that is unacceptable. Maybe I have become more like William Tecumseh Sherman than I thought that I ever would. He wisely said, that “War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.”  And then this, “War is the remedy that our enemies have chosen. I say let us given them all they want.” My God, how many more young people will have to continue a war that began before they were born if we do not commit ourselves to winning it now? 

This war has to be fought and those committed to terrorism destroyed root and branch. Their families and supporters will have to feel the terror that their terrorist husbands, fathers, and sons have brought upon this world.  Yes, as Sherman said, war is cruelty, but the time for half measures is at an end, otherwise it will be war without end and I can imagine nothing worse for the world than that;  especially for the people, (mostly Muslims) that are already suffering under the yoke of the Islamic State or other Muslim radical and terrorist groups or nations. 

Call me what you want. I can handle it. I am not a warmonger as anyone who knows me or who has read my writings knows. I hate it as only one who has seen it first hand as well as who has studied it can. As Colonel Strong Vincent, who died leading his brigade at the age of 26 on the slopes of Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg said, “We must fight them more vindictively, or we shall be foiled at every step. We must desolate the country as we pass through it, and not leave a trace of doubtful friend or foe behind us; make them believe that we are in earnest, terribly in earnest…” 

Simply bombing people or calling in drones, and relying on less than one percent of the population to fight our wars for us will never convince those who celebrate the killing of innocents like what happened in Orlando last week that we are in earnest. This has to be a fight that every American that no matter what his or her race, religion, political association or ideology may be needs to have a hand in the fight. We all need to have skin in the game. Those who have killed so many innocents in Orlando, San Bernardino, New York and Washington, Paris and Brussels, London and Madrid, and so many other places need to feel the hard and cruel hand of war, or well will never see the end of it. 

That may not sound pleasant, but it is reality, and I dare ask anyone that disagrees with me to show me from history that I am not correct in saying this. 

Like I said, I will write more about these things tomorrow, and maybe Thursday as well. But until then, have a great day. 

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, middle east, Military, News and current events, terrorism

What too Many in Their Hearts Desire: A Massacre and Those Who Will Not Condemn it


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

When I got up yesterday morning to head over to my chapel at the staff college, despite the fact that with classes out of session that I would have no-one to worship with, I saw the news of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. I was stunned, and of course I prayed for the victims. As the morning continued I read with horror the dramatic increase in the number of people killed and wounded. I have Gay friends in Orlando and thankfully they had checked in safe on Facebook, which relieved some of my concern, but not my shock and anger over what had happened. 

Then came news of the murderer. His name, Omar Mateen. He was a Muslim, born in the United States to Afghan parents. As the day went on we learned more about him. He had been on the FBI radar for comments sympathetic to terrorists, including the Boston Marathon bombers. He was employed by one of the largest private security firms in the world. He had recently completed an associate of arts in Criminal Justice and a college in Florida. His first wife said that he was unstable and frequently beat her. His father claimed that he was enraged when he saw two men kissing in public a few weeks ago. In the past two weeks, despite having been on the Federal radar, he was able to legally purchase an assault rifle and a Glock semi-automatic pistol in Florida. During the massacre he called 911 and swore his allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State, or ISIL. He rented a car and travelled 120 miles from his home to attack this specific target. 

Was he a terrorist? Yes. Was he motivated by a deep hatred of homosexuals? Yes. Did he have religious reasons to do this? Also yes, fundamentalist Islam has no problem with killing homosexuals, and the more militant types seem to take a perverse pleasure in killing homosexuals, especially Gay men. This happens all the time, and not just in areas controlled by the Islamic State or the Taliban. Was Mateen an actual member of the Islamic State? It depends on what your definition of membership is, as the FBI sorts through his cyber trail we will find out more about his connections with militant Islam. Evidently his father is a supporter of the Taliban and has spoken on American Afgani television programs about that support, though he may be delusional as well, since he has also claimed to be the President of Afganistan. 

Sadly, the fact that is was a hate crime committed against LGBTQ people in Orlando will be obscured by the Islamic connection. Donald Trump has been doing this all day, for him the victims don’t matter, all that matters is his campaign and his determination to make all Muslims pay for the actions of some. Expect to see more of this, especially from the supposedly “Christian” political leaders, pundits, and preachers who make their living demonizing the LGBTQ community in the United States; who ramrod legislation to deny Gays to same rights enjoyed by others across this nation; and who promote “kill the gays” laws in other countries, especially in Equatorial Africa, where numerous American evangelists have gone to help try to pass such laws. Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick tweeted this shortly after the shooting:


Frankly, at least from my point of view it seems that there is little difference between anti-gay preachers and bigots of any religion who cry for the death, punishment, and persecution of Gays. All find some reason in their scriptures to justify their hatred and violent attitudes, not just towards Gays, but toward anyone that disagrees with them. All in my view are culpable of the murder of these men and women. In the classic film Judgement at Nuremberg, Spencer Tracy’s character, Judge Dan Haywood said these all too pertinent words:

“The principal of criminal law in every civilized society has this in common. Any person who sways another to commit murder, any person who furnishes the lethal weapon for the purpose of the crime, any person who is an accessory to the crime, is guilty.” 

One cannot expect to have a society where Gay people are demonized and discriminated against, where anti-gay vitriol runs rampant, especially in religious circles, and then to pretend that ties shooting is an isolated incident committed by an Islamic terrorist who was motivated by terrorism versus hating the people he killed because they were Gay. That is a convenient excuse. When I mentioned this on Facebook yesterday morning I waited to see reactions of friends. Interestingly enough of all the people that commented, or expressed any feelings of toward the victims, none were conservative Christians. None. When I mentioned this later a few came on line to agree how terrible this was. I looked at other friends timelines, and thankfully there were some who condemned what happened, but overall, very few said anything either to condemn the attack or to offer any sympathy or support to the victims. One of my friends, another Navy Chaplain immediately commented on that and said, “The gunman did what too many in their hearts desire, unfortunately. They are silent because they know that truth…” 

Sadly, he is all too correct. Whatever happened to the words of Jesus who said to love our neighbors as we do ourselves? Whatever happened to the words of Jesus about the Good Samaritan, the man who was despised by the religious elite who alone had mercy on a man who had been attacked and badly injured who religious leaders passed by on the road. (See Luke 10:25-37) 

With that in mind have a good day. 

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under crime, LGBT issues, national security, News and current events, terrorism