Tag Archives: daesh

The Scourge of Dehumanization


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

One of the things that I fear today is the open resurgence of race hatred being preached by the nicely dressed “intellectual” Nazis of the self-named Alt-Right.

Now that Donald Trump has been elected President, and baring a miracle in the Electoral College, I expect the openly racist, anti-Semetic, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and anti-LGBT rhetoric to skyrocket. I also expect that attack on minorities will continue to increase.

But what I fear more than anything, that should there be a major terrorist attack, or a real or imagined  national security crisis, is that xenophobic leaders, instill fear and terror about people who are different from the majority. It is shockingly easy to do, and is part and parcel of every human culture. In doing so they use language which enables people, often very good people, to view others as less than human, a process known as dehumanization. Right now we see the results of this. On one hand there are the fanatics of DAESH and other Muslims extremist groups that use propaganda to dehumanize anyone that does not adhere to their beliefs. On the other hand there is the response of some American and European politicians, preachers, pundits and media organizations which in responding to the extremists, dehumanize all Muslims and suggest the most severe measures to deal with what they call the problem of Islam.

David Livingstone Smith wrote, “Dehumanization isn’t a way of talking. It’s a way of thinking—a way of thinking that, sadly, comes all too easily to us. Dehumanization is a scourge, and has been so for millennia. It acts as a psychological lubricant, dissolving our inhibitions and inflaming our destructive passions. As such, it empowers us to perform acts that would, under other circumstances, be unthinkable.”

Once someone has succumbed to the idea that certain others are no longer fully human, or less than human the unthinkable becomes not only possible, but probable. Of course this process takes time, and usually comes from years of exposure to propaganda that first demonizes, and then dehumanizes those that the propagandists despise. At Nuremberg, Julius Streicher, the publisher of the Nazi tabloid Der Sturmer was asked by a prosecutor, “And do you think to call them “blood-suckers,” “a nation of blood-suckers and extortioners– do you think that’s preaching hatred?” Streicher replied, “No, it is not preaching hatred; it is just a statement of facts.”

In Hitler’s Third Reich it was the Jews and others who were viewed as sub-human. When one reads the testimony of the major war criminals at Nuremberg, every single defendant admitted to the role that decades of anti-Semitic propaganda had in shaping their worldview.

The sad truth is that Hitler is not alone. Such beliefs and actions are all too common. In 1830s to the 1850s in the United States it was Irish and German Catholics; in the ante-bellum and the Jim Crow South it was African Americans who were said to be an inferior race; in the 1860s to the early 1900s on the west coast it was the Chinese. After Pearl Harbor, the Japanese who we put in internment camps. Let us not forget the protracted campaign to exterminate the Native Americans, something that Rush Limbaugh mocked in 2009 saying, “Holocaust? Ninety million Indians? Only four million left? They all have casinos — what’s to complain about?” Those are just European and American examples. One can see the same language and action in Rwanda, the Sudan, the Middle East, the Japanese campaign in China, the Soviet starvation and massacres of Poles and Ukrainians during the 1930s; and the list can go on and on.

One of the ways that they make it easy for their followers to approve of draconian measures is to dehumanize their victims and euphemistically refer to the situation as a question, a question that must have an answer or a solution. In the Third Reich it was the Jewish question, and the answer became the apocalyptic Final Solution.

The Nazis referred to the Jews as sub-human, a bacilli, or cancer. Today leading politicians in the United States and Europe are referring the Syria refugees, as well as other Moslems in a similar manner. Some of the worst offenders are men who beat on their chest and claim to be Christians. Mike Huckabee referred to the Syria refugees as “spoiled milk,” Ben Carson called them “rabid dogs.” The mainstream British columnist, Katie Hopkins called them “rats and cockroaches.” Plenty of other less prominent politicians, pundits and preachers have voiced similar opinions, and you cannot visit Facebook without seeing scores of memes and comments echoing those thoughts, and Carson has been nominated to be the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Michael Flynn, the soon to be National Security Adviser to the President called Islam a “cancer” and a “political ideology” that “definitely hides behind being a religion.” Others in or close to the Trump transition team openly refer to Jews in a desultory manner and like the Nazis of old talk of a Jewish, Freemason conspiracy to rule the world. 

But others, particularly the media and already elected officials use other language to dehumanize people. The language of natural disasters, or war is common. Politicians, preachers and the media couple refugees and migrants with words such as influx, occupation, invasion, flood or flow. All of these terms are used to stoke fear in the minds of their listeners or followers. Floods must be controlled, invasions, defeated, occupations, ended. Eventually people just take it for granted that such threats must be dealt with, such questions, answered.

This language encourages their followers to approve of draconian measures is to dehumanize their victims. Somewhat euphemistically they refer to the situation as a question, a question that must have an answer or a solution. In the Third Reich it was the Jewish question, and the answer became the apocalyptic Final Solution. The Nazis preached that there would have to be a showdown between their pure “Aryan” race, and the Jews. Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz noted the Himmler stressed “that if Germany was to survive then World Jewry must be exterminated and we all accepted it as truth.”

Höss told American Army psychologist Gustave Gilbert about how he accepted the orders f0or the Final Solution based on his beliefs:

“That was the picture I had in my head, so when Himmler called me to him, I just accepted it as the realization of something that I already accepted – not only I, but everybody. I took it for granted that even though this order, which would move the strongest and coldest nature – and at that moment this crass order to exterminate thousands of people (I did not know how many) – even though it did frighten me momentarily – it fitted in with all that had been preached to me for years. The only problem itself, the extermination of Jewry, was not new – but only that I was the one to carry it out, frightened me at first. But after getting the clear direct order and even an explanation with it – there was nothing left to do but carry it out.”

Gilbert asked Höss, “So, that was the background for accepting a mass murder order?” Höss  replied, “Yes, when I think of it all, it is hard to figure out – but at the time I didn’t think of it as propaganda, but as something one just had to believe.”

But that is what millions of people are being asked to believe today in terms of all Muslims. It is not the fact that some Muslims are fanatical killers bent on war, and that we are at war with them; but that Islam itself, and thereby all Muslims are the enemy, and must be destroyed. The continual preaching of this will lead to, persecution, mass murder, and maybe even genocide, and it will be done by people like Höss, who are convinced that they are doing the right thing.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Traveling Amid Terror Threats

fest-tent-2015

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

Living with Terrorism

This photo provided by Georgian Public Broadcaster and photographed by Ketevan Kardava, shows the scene in Brussels Airport in Brussels, Belgium, after explosions were heard Tuesday, March 22, 2016. A developing situation left a number dead in explosions that ripped through the departure hall at Brussels airport Tuesday, police said. All flights were canceled, arriving planes were being diverted and Belgium's terror alert level was raised to maximum, officials said. (Ketevan Kardava/ Georgian Public Broadcaster via AP)

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am an old hand 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.

I have travelled 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 regardless of the threat, and refused 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.”

I will travel to Germany again this year. I will go to the airport, I will travel on the subways, and go through train stations; and I will not be afraid. Likewise, despite the fact that I know such attacks are bound to happen here, maybe even at the base I am stationed, I will not be afraid.

Have a good day,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, national security, News and current events, Religion, terrorism

Acts of War: Terror in Brussels

belgium attack

Victims

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Yesterday another act of terrorism and war was conducted by the self-described Islamic State. Islamic State suicide bomber terrorists set off three bombs in the Belgium. They attacked the international airport in Brussels as well as the Maalbeek metro station. It is still early and casualty figures are still going up, but at least 34 people have been killed and over 200 wounded. Frech President Hollande called it an “act of war.” He is absolutely correct. As I looked at the images of this latest attack, especially the victims, I was moved to tears, and I know that it will happen again and again 

  The Belgian Flag at Half-Mast at NATO in Norfolk Virginia



The Islamic State has issued a statement claiming responsibility in which they claim the attack was in response to Belgium “participating in the international collation against the Islamic State.” My friends if you haven’t been following the activities of the terrorist thugs of ISIL, or the name that they really hate, DAESH, in the Middle East. Africa, and Europe you need to. They are also operating here in the United States but so far have not succeeded in launching any significant terror operations on American soil, and there are reasons for this. The biggest reason is that the vast majority of American Muslims are relatively well integrated into this country, most see themselves as Americans. Admittedly there are some that do not and they are the most at risk to fall for the hatred promoted by DAESH. In Europe it is different, large numbers of Muslims, crowded into ethnic-religious enclaves are not integrated into society. They are outsiders, and are a breeding ground for terrorism. This has not been helped by the Syrian refugee crisis that DAESH has helped make worse, in which God knows how many DAESH operatives crossed into Europe among their victims, legitimate refugees. Sadly, the real refugees never get a break, whether they are victims of DARSH, Bashir Assad, or Al Qaeda’s Nursa Front in Syria. 

Having lived with terrorism as a daily part of my life in Europe in the 1980s when the Red Army Faction was bombing and killing in Germany, I am all too aware of what will come next. There will be more attacks in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and they will happen in the United States. The remorseless savages, and I do say savages, for these people who burn captives alive in cages, who behead hostages on video, who kidnap, rape and brutalize women, who commit acts of mass murder of innocent civilians in airports, train stations, cafes, schools, theaters, and shopping centers are savages, they are men and women who have given up any semblance of humanity, and they must be stopped. This is war, and this war will last generations.

Reza Aslan, the noted Islamic scholar understands the type of individuals fighting for DAESH batter than most people. His words are on target, and the attacks in Paris and Beirut, and the bombing of an airliner in the Sinai last year, not to mention the hundreds of lesser publicized attacks on innocents in Africa, Asia and the Middle East last year, and Brussels today, his words need to be heard. He told CNN last year, “Number one, you do have to respond militarily to ISIS soldiers and fighters. These guys are fighting a war of the imagination, a war that they think is happening between the forces of good and evil. There is no negotiation. There’s no diplomacy. There’s nothing to talk about with these guys. They have to be destroyed.”

Yes, we must do all in our power to spare innocent people suffering, yes we must also do our level best to ensure civil liberties in our own countries, we cannot label ever person of Arabic origin, or Muslims of any ethnic origin as the enemy. That plays into the hands of DAESH, they want that. But, that being said, Reza Aslan is absolutely correct, the fighters and terrorists of DAESH must be hunted down and destroyed and international law and conventions which were written long before anything like DAESH was imagined, must be revised. The DAESH terrorists are not your father’s “freedom fighters” nor are they patriotic insurgents trying to free their country from foreign occupiers, they come straight from Hell, and they need to be sent back. Don’t forget what Osama Bin Laden said in his 1998 Fatwah against the enemies of his version of Islam, “The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies — civilians and military — is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it…” DAESH is now motivating their people to kill with much more impunity than Bin Laden ever did.

This is war, and as William Tecumseh Sherman said, “War is Hell.”

That being said there is a warning that we must heed. With the war against DAESH now entering an even more troubling and dangerous phase we should remind ourselves of the words of Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events…. Always remember, however sure you are that you could easily win, that there would not be a war if the other man did not think he also had a chance.”

Ironically, after all I have said and witnessed I end today’s post in my usual manner, because honestly, I only want people to be able to live in peace.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under crime, News and current events, Political Commentary, terrorism

I am Brussels 

   
 Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today in yet another brazen and brutal attack, the Islamic State again showed its true nature. I have a post about the details of the attack that will be up in the morning, but for now I can only say that I stand with the victims of today’s attacks. For me the way to stand with them is not just to protest, but to relentlessly pursue and destroy the leaders of DAESH and their foot soldiers until not a one is left to continue what they have been doing in the lands that they control, and the places that they and their allies kill innocents on a daily basis. 

  
Paris, Beirut, Paris (yes I said Paris twice), an Airliner in the Sinai, Mali, Istanbul, Anarka, Bahgdad, Mosul, Ramadi, and hundreds of other locations that most people do not know about or for that matter care about. 

  
The fact of the matter is that unless they are stopped, they will continue to do these things, and eventually they will kill hundreds of Americans to add to the thousands of others that they have brutally subjugated and killed in so many other places. 

  
Please to not give me the moral equivalent argument and how these attacks are the fault of everyone, especially Americans and Europeans, except the criminal thugs who commit them. Tell that to their victims in countries like Mali, Nigeria, and other places who have nothing to do with the United States or Europe. 

This my friends is war, and it will last for a very long time. Our children and grandchildren will be fighting it long after most of us are long gone. 

As for me, for whatever time I have left on this earth I will oppose DAESH and its ideas until I die, and they can go to hell. 

  
I am Brussels, I am Paris, I am Beruit, I am Ramadi. I am every place and people that the terrorist thugs of the Islamic State kill innocents. 

Peace

Padre Steve+ 

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Filed under middle east, News and current events, Political Commentary, terrorism

Iraq Revisited: An Unexpected Phone Call

Dundas and Fallah

With my Friend Falah in late January 2008

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I often write about my time in Iraq, but today just a short thought, a good news story.

Since I left Iraq in 2008 I always prayed that those Iraqis that I knew and worked with, for them, their families, and their country. There is something that comes from having actually gotten to know these men and women and having served alongside them that those who have never done cannot understand or fathom. It is a connection that enables one to see clearly when others minds are clouded by ideology, and information about Iraq and its people, that they really do not understand, because frankly they have never really gotten to know and care for actual Iraqis.

I guess that is one of the things that was so devastating from me personally when I came home from Iraq, I actually cared for the Iraqis. Those that I knew and worked with were amazing hosts, and would do anything for you. Those who fought alongside of the United States, even after how we destroyed their country in the name of liberating it from Saddam, while unleashing a witches cauldron of violence which is spreading around the world, risked their lives then, and those still alive risk their lives today.

One of those men, my friend General Falah, called me yesterday. It was a pleasant surprise, as he is a friend. He was the first Iraqi that I met when I served with the Iraq Assistance Group, and the last that I saw as I left country. At that point he was working for the U.S. supporting the advisory forces, and staff. I wish that I could tell you more about him, his amazing story, and his family, but I cannot say too much about him because I do not want to endanger them. However, as a senior leader in the Iraqi Air Force he is actively engaged in fighting DAESH, and sadly, most Americans do not give him, or the other Iraqi troops now engaged in fighting DAESH enough credit. They are risking their lives in an attempt to defeat DAESH and reunify their country, while American politicians and pundits criticize them for having to do what they need to do to defend their country.

I pray that my friend Falah and his men will be successful, because it matters not just to Iraqis, but to us. Likewise, I pray that one day, I can go back to Iraq. But then I don’t expect most people to understand. Inshallah. (إن شاء الله)

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Ramadi: Liberation and Destruction

iraqi-security-forces-celebrate-victory-over-isis-in-ramadi-Reuters-640x480

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

A few days ago the Iraqi military recaptured the city of Ramadi from the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or DAESH. When DAESH captured Ramadi last May it struck me very hard, I cried for the people of Ramadi as I knew that they were going to suffer terribly both from DAESH as well as in the campaign of the Iraqi military to retake the city.

Some Americans, even other military members do not understand this, but for me Ramadi is more than an Iraqi city, but a place that I have a great deal of feeling. I spent a significant amount of time in and around Ramadi, as well as the distant reaches of Al Anbar Province. I care deeply about the people of Iraq, and I grieve because the horror that they are now experiencing is mostly due to the actions of the Bush administration; first for launching a war that met no standard of the being a just war, a war that was condemned as unjust by Pope John Paul II, and a war that many of our closest allies refused to support. Then there was the totally bungled occupation policy which destroyed the country and brought about a massive insurgency and civil war. The results of that war have been devastating, for Iraq, Syria, the Middle East, and yes even for the United States.

ramadi

In fact the aftermath of that 2003 invasion opened a Pandora’s Box of chaos, and opened the door to what T.E. Lawrence warned about in 1919: “A Wahhabi-like Moslem edition of Bolshevism is possible, and would harm us almost as much in Mesopotamia as in Persia…” DAESH is exactly that, a fulfillment of Lawrence’s warning.

Whenever I read about Iraq I am reminded of how much of my life has been intertwined with that country and people. As I have said on more than one occasion I left my heart in Al Anbar. Back in 2007 and 2008 things were different there. Sunni’s and Shia were at least in the Iraqi military working with Sunni tribesman cooperated with American forces to destroy or drive out the forces of Al Qaida Iraq. I was meeting regularly with Iraqis who are some of the most hospitable people you would ever want to know. I remember meeting with the women who were going to become the first female Iraqi police officers in Ramadi.

Of all those people I wonder how many are still alive, how many have been driven out of their homes, lands, or have suffered the loss of family, friends, and their livelihoods. I grieve for what is happening to them and their once proud country. The towns, cities and bases that I served at have almost all been taken over by DAESH, or have been scenes of terrible fighting. Fallujah, Ta’quadum, Habbinyah, Ramadi, Hit, Haditha, Al Rutba, Rawah, Al Qaim, Al Waleed, Al Turbial, Baghdadi, and so many others devastated by invasion, insurgency, civil war, and the battle against DAESH.

When I left Iraq in 2008 I had hopes that the country might survive, as did many of the Iraqis that I met. I hoped one day to go back and travel to the places that I served, and maybe had the opportunity to see the gracious people that I love again. Maybe in 15 or 20 years there might, God willing be an opportunity. I hope and pray that those I know who were so good to me are safe. Until then I can only pray and hope that for them things will one day be better.

When I think of the Iraq war and its costs I am reminded of the words of Major General Smedley Butler in his book War is a Racket: “What is the cost of war?…this bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all of its attendant miseries. Back -breaking taxation for generations and generations. For a great many years as a soldier I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not only until I retired to civilian life did I fully realize it….”

For the Iraqis, the Syrians, Americans, and so many others, the cost will be with us for at least a generation. But I do always hope and pray that things will be better.

Inshallah (إن شاء الله)

Padre

Padre Steve+

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Filed under iraq, middle east, Tour in Iraq

The Rearview Mirror of 2015: Religion, Politics, and Terrorism

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Charles Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” and depending who you are or where you live it could have been one, the other or both. For me it has been one of those, not that there is anything wrong with that, and truthfully as rough as it has been at times, I cannot discount the importance of these events in my life. Back in October I wrote an article that kind of sums up how important each of these threads is in my life, Tapestry: The Importance of Just One Thread.

The year was difficult, but we have made it through, and all of the threads of this year are now part of the tapestry of our lives. I am still dealing with PTSD, chronic insomnia and trimmings, but on the whole doing better than I was a year ago. We lost our wonderful dog Molly, a dog who more than once save my life in the years after Iraq, but that being said, the ghost of Molly is still around and doing some of the same things that she did when I was at my lowest, if you want you can read about that here, Ghost Dog Central. Though we lost Molly we still have Minnie Scule who was joined by Izzy Bella, our now one year old Papillion. They are both great dogs, totally different in personality, and Izzy is a lot like Molly in temperament and personality.

mollgrin

The same day we lost Molly, my wife Judy found out that she had an abnormal pap-smear and was diagnosed with Endometrial Cancer. She went through surgery and a long post-surgical recovery, but her doctor says she is now cancer free, though she gets regular checkups to make sure that it does not come back.

12031409_10153690871557059_3967058216725290785_o

On a lighter side we also made our second trip to the real Oktoberfest in Munich, and a side trip to Salzburg, Austria where we discovered that the hills really might be alive, but I digress… I was also able to see some groups as musical artists from my bucket list. I saw a combined Chicago and Earth Wind and Fire concert as well as the legendary Boz Skaggs.

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But 2015 was eventful, in a very dark way….

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Terrorism of a number of varieties seemed to dominate much of the year. In January there were the Charlie Hebdo attacks made by radical Islamists in Paris, Je Suis Charlie: An Attack on Freedom, Do Not Give in to Fear: #Je Suis Charlie. If that attack had been all it would have been enough, but terrorism, mostly committed in the name of God, or racist ideology seemed to be everywhere. Of course there were the continued attacks of Islamist militants in sub-Saharan Africa, in places like Nigeria, Kenya, and Mali. The Horn of Africa, including Somalia and the Sudan; and North Africa, in Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, and Egypt. Those attacks, and incidents are too numerous to be listed, but sadly in the west, or the industrialized areas of Asia, no one seems to take note of them. Truthfully, the only thing the west and countries like China care about in Africa are the natural resources, dead Africans don’t seem matter as long as we get our resources.

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But there were terrorist attacks in the United States as well. There was a murder of three young Muslim UNC students in Chapel Hill North Carolina A Time to Stand Against Hate; a clash between incendiary Muslim and anti-Muslim groups in Garland Texas, Hate vs. Hate: A Clash in Garland. 

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The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is the oldest AME church in the South. Nine people died in a hate crime shooting on June 17, 2015.

 

Of course the massacre of the pastor and other members of the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston South Carolina, by a young White Supremacist named Dylann Storm Roof Call it Terrorism: Massacre at Emmanuel AME, When Ideology Kills Kindness: Dylann Roof at Emmanuel AME.

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Then terror returned, in the space of two weeks a Russian airliner was downed by a bomb most likely planted by sympathizers of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or DAESH Can You Live with It? War, ISIL & a Downed Airliner; an attack by DAESH in Beirut Lebanon which killed 43 people, and then a massacre that stunned the world in Paris, Terror in Paris, The Lamps are Going Out: Paris & the End of the Illusion of Peace. The latter seems to have spurred the west into doing more to fight DAESH and it appears that the war that DAESH has desired with the west is now an accomplished fact.

An SUV with its windows shot out that police suspect was the getaway vehicle from at the scene of a shooting in San Bernardino, California is shown in this aerial photo December 2, 2015. Gunmen opened fire on a holiday party on Wednesday at a social services agency in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people and wounding 17 others, then fled the scene, triggering an intense manhunt and a shootoutout with police, authorities said. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX1WX2P

But this terror came to the United States not long after when a DAESH inspired couple massacred people gathered for a holiday party in San Bernardino and the chilling thing was that they were the co-workers of the man, True Believers & Terrorism. I ended up reflecting on all of these attacks in a number of articles, including Power Hungry Religionists Will Inherit the Wind, Faith & Terror, and Accessories to Murder: The Propagandists who Inspire Terror.

These attacks caused me to write a number of articles about racism, propaganda, ideology, politics, mass movements and genocide. I think this article Dehumanization & Genocide helps to bring a certain historical perspective to these subjects, as does this one, Civilization Is Tissue Thin: Holocaust & Genocide as Warning. I also decided to frame some of the current fear of terrorism and the hateful invective being hurled at many American Muslims through the lens of Star Trek in these articles, Your Fear Will Destroy You and The Belief in a Devil. Another article which brought chills to me as I wrote is was just how easy it seems for some people to rationalize genocide, Just Following Orders: The Rationalization of Genocide and for ordinary people to take part in them Vast and Heinous Crimes: Ordinary Men & War Crimes.

Religion did not only inspire terror in 2015, but it was more closely than ever a part of American politics, and not necessarily for the good. As such I spent a lot of time on the intersection of church and state issues. This was especially true when the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in the Obegfell v. Hodges decision and much of the Christian Right including prominent Republican presidential candidates went haywire. There were times that their reaction reminded me of the great film Inherit the Wind.

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Supporters of same-sex marriages gather outside the US Supreme Court waiting for its decision on April 28, 2014 in Washington, DC. The US Supreme Court is hearing arguments on whether gay couples have a constitutional right to wed -- a potentially historic decision that could see same-sex marriage recognized nationwide. AFP PHOTO / MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Since I firmly believe in religious liberty, and the separation of Church and State I wrote a number of articles dealing with that subject, including these, Religious Liberty or Tyranny?, this, Religion & State: The Less Mixed the Better and one about one of my heroes, the Virginia Baptist, John Leland, Exploding the Myth of Christian America. That crossed into some political commentary in this article Strike Down the Sinners: The Politics of the Christian Right.

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Since much of the focus on religious liberty in 2015 revolved around the recalcitrant county clerk of Rowan County Kentucky, Kim Davis, and her political allies to deny legal rights to gay couples to marry I ended up writing a good number of articles during that political circus. If you want to read those just put her name in the search box. But as the dust cleared I wrote an article about a man who though he was a Christian, did not allow religious propaganda and hate to trump his sworn duty. The article about the late Dr. C. Everett Koop should be required reading for those who take an oath to uphold the Constitution, even when it conflicts with their religious beliefs, Separate Ideology & Religion from Sworn Duty: The Legacy of Dr. C. Everett Koop.

Political commentary based on historical analysis has become more important to me, and I try to shy away from the more bombastic and partisan that I see and instead focus on rational comparisons that can help us understand events, and hopefully do better than our ancestors. One of these articles compares the political implosion of the Democratic and Whig Parties in the 1850s and what is currently transpiring in the Republican Party, a party that I belonged to for 36 years before leaving it in 2008. When Political Parties Implode: The Battle over the Lecompton Constitution and its Relevance Today. Unlike some on both sides of the political chasm, I do not see what is happening as good, and I wrote this article to emphasize the importance of reason in political debate, Reason, the Salvation of Freedom. Interestingly enough, well before Donald Trump became the frontrunner in the GOP presidential campaign I wrote this little article, with a great cultural reference to a Bloom County comic strip published over 20 years ago, There Comes a Time… A Bloom County Reality Check.

Finally, a lot of what I wrote on the site was intensely personal and dealt with my battle with PTSD, my struggles with faith and belief, as well as my continued religious, social, and political transformation. These included My Faith: A Journey and Mission, but I think that one of the better articles I did about this process is It Fitted In: A Personal Reflection on Propaganda. I also wrote a number of articles for Memorial Day and Veterans Day which reflected my thoughts regarding my own military service and some social and political commentary related to who we as a nation deal with veterans and go to war, one of those was done just before Veterans Day, They Thanked Us Kindly: Reflections on Veteran’s Day 2015. My journey also brought new insights as I studied iconic Civil War heroes from the battle of Gettysburg, some of those articles included Tragic Heroes of Little Round Top,

I wrote a number of articles dealing with depression, suicide, PTSD and other issues that veterans and others struggle, I think this article sums up how I think we should treat those who struggle, Try to Understand: The Kindest, Noblest, & Best Thing You Will Ever Do. I also tried to bring attention to the continued crisis of veteran suicides in The Uncounted Cost of War: Veteran Suicides. I wrote about PTSD and the things that never seem to go away after war in this article, There Will be Nightmares: PTSD & Memories of War.

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Of course there was more, police shootings, the Syrian refugee crisis, and too much more to cover today. But be assured I will continue to write and do my best to present all of these events the best I can in the light of history. I may end up sounding like Spencer Tracy’s characters in Inherit the Wind and Judgement at Nuremberg, but what I can I say?

I am continuing to learn through all of the evil being perpetrated by so many, is that  the perpetrators have no ability to empathize with people. It is the one defining characteristic that they all share. Captain Gustave Gilbert, In my work with the defendants (at the Nuremberg Trails 1945-1949) I was searching for the nature of evil and I now think I have come close to defining it. A lack of empathy. It’s the one characteristic that connects all the defendants, a genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow men. Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.” I find that more true every day.

Well, just one more day until we usher in 2016, and I do hope it will be better for everyone. By the way, a friend was able to get me a site over that the Daily Kos where I do some writing, and also post modified versions of what I write here as the mood hits me. The link to my blog there is, http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Padresteve

Have a great day and hopefully a Happy New Year.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Dehumanization & Genocide

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

One of the most terrible things about a national security crisis, real or imagined, is that xenophobic leaders, instill fear and terror about people who are different from the majority. It is shockingly easy to do, and is part and parcel of every human culture. In doing so they use language which enables people, often very good people, to view others as less than human, a process known as dehumanization. Right now we see the results of this. On one hand there are the fanatics of DAESH and other Moslems extremist groups that use propaganda to dehumanize anyone that does not adhere to their beliefs. On the other hand there is the response of some American and European politicians, preachers, pundits and media organizations which in responding to the extremists, dehumanize all Moslems and suggest the most severe measures to deal with what they call the problem of Islam.

David Livingstone Smith wrote, “Dehumanization isn’t a way of talking. It’s a way of thinking—a way of thinking that, sadly, comes all too easily to us. Dehumanization is a scourge, and has been so for millennia. It acts as a psychological lubricant, dissolving our inhibitions and inflaming our destructive passions. As such, it empowers us to perform acts that would, under other circumstances, be unthinkable.”

Once someone has succumbed to the idea that certain others are no longer fully human, or less than human the unthinkable becomes not only possible, but probable. Of course this process takes time, and usually comes from years of exposure to propaganda that first demonizes, and then dehumanizes those that the propagandists despise. At Nuremberg, Julius Streicher, the publisher of the Nazi tabloid Der Sturmer was asked by a prosecutor, “And do you think to call them “blood-suckers,” “a nation of blood-suckers and extortioners– do you think that’s preaching hatred?” Streicher replied, “No, it is not preaching hatred; it is just a statement of facts.”

In Hitler’s Third Reich it was the Jews and others who were viewed as sub-human. When one reads the testimony of the major war criminals at Nuremberg, every single defendant admitted to the role that decades of anti-Semitic propaganda had in shaping their worldview.

The sad truth is that Hitler is not alone. Such beliefs and actions are all too common. In 1830s to the 1850s in the United States it was Irish and German Catholics; in the ante-bellum and the Jim Crow South it was African Americans who were said to be an inferior race; in the 1860s to the early 1900s on the west coast it was the Chinese. After Pearl Harbor, the Japanese who we put in internment camps. Let us not forget the protracted campaign to exterminate the Native Americans, something that Rush Limbaugh mocked in 2009 saying, “Holocaust? Ninety million Indians? Only four million left? They all have casinos — what’s to complain about?” Those are just European and American examples. One can see the same language and action in Rwanda, the Sudan, the Middle East, the Japanese campaign in China, the Soviet starvation and massacres of Poles and Ukrainians during the 1930s; and the list can go on and on.

One of the ways that they make it easy for their followers to approve of draconian measures is to dehumanize their victims and euphemistically refer to the situation as a question, a question that must have an answer or a solution. In the Third Reich it was the Jewish question, and the answer became the apocalyptic Final Solution.

The Nazis referred to the Jews as sub-human, a bacilli, or cancer. Today leading politicians in the United States and Europe are referring the Syria refugees, as well as other Moslems in a similar manner. Some of the worst offenders are men who beat on their chest and claim to be Christians. Mike Huckabee referred to the Syria refugees as “spoiled milk,” Ben Carson called them “rabid dogs.” The mainstream British columnist, Katie Hopkins called them “rats and cockroaches.” Plenty of other less prominent politicians, pundits and preachers have voiced similar opinions, and you cannot visit Facebook without seeing scores of memes and comments echoing those thoughts.

But others, particularly the media and already elected officials use other language to dehumanize people. The language of natural disasters, or war is common. Politicians, preachers and the media couple refugees and migrants with words such as influx, occupation, invasion, flood or flow. All of these terms are used to stoke fear in the minds of their listeners or followers. Floods must be controlled, invasions, defeated, occupations, ended. Eventually people just take it for granted that such threats must be dealt with, such questions, answered.

This language encourages their followers to approve of draconian measures is to dehumanize their victims. Somewhat euphemistically they refer to the situation as a question, a question that must have an answer or a solution. In the Third Reich it was the Jewish question, and the answer became the apocalyptic Final Solution. The Nazis preached that there would have to be a showdown between their pure “Aryan” race, and the Jews. Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz noted the Himmler stressed “that if Germany was to survive then World Jewry must be exterminated and we all accepted it as truth.”

Höss told American Army psychologist Gustave Gilbert about how he accepted the orders f0or the Final Solution based on his beliefs:

“That was the picture I had in my head, so when Himmler called me to him, I just accepted it as the realization of something that I already accepted – not only I, but everybody. I took it for granted that even though this order, which would move the strongest and coldest nature – and at that moment this crass order to exterminate thousands of people (I did not know how many) – even though it did frighten me momentarily – it fitted in with all that had been preached to me for years. The only problem itself, the extermination of Jewry, was not new – but only that I was the one to carry it out, frightened me at first. But after getting the clear direct order and even an explanation with it – there was nothing left to do but carry it out.”

Gilbert asked Höss, “So, that was the background for accepting a mass murder order?” Höss  replied, “Yes, when I think of it all, it is hard to figure out – but at the time I didn’t think of it as propaganda, but as something one just had to believe.”

But that is what millions of people are being asked to believe today in terms of all Moslems. It is not the fact that some Moslems are fanatical killers bent on war, and that we are at war with them; but that Islam itself, and thereby all Moslems are the enemy, and must be destroyed. The continual preaching of this will lead to, persecution, mass murder, and maybe even genocide, and it will be done by people like Höss, who are convinced that they are doing the right thing.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Unfolding of Miscalculations: Syria 2015

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The tensions fuel by the incredibly complex and dangerous war in Syria just when up, as I like to say the “pucker factor” is very high, in fact it is getting close to stage ten. Barbara Tuchman wrote, “War is the unfolding of miscalculations” and it seems that right now there are whole a lot of miscalculations going on.

Yesterday a Russian Su-24 fighter plane was blasted out of the sky by a Turkish F-16. Reports conflict, Turkey say that the Russian aircraft had violated its airspace multiple times and had been given multiple warnings before the shoot down. The Russians claim that the aircraft was on the Syrian side of the border and that the attack was an unprovoked violation, and Russian President Putin called it a “stab in the back.” Russia is accusing Turkey of backing DAESH, while Russia’s forces, which are supposedly there to fight DAESH are spending more time attacking Syrian President Assad’s non-DAESH Syrian opposition, including Turkoman Syrians fighting the Assad regime in the area where the jet was shot down. Some think that it might be payback for the Russians bombing the faction supported by the Turks.

Admittedly, Turkey has a right to self-defense and the Russians are operating in Syria without any kind of international mandate. That being said, the Russians are there at the behest of the Assad government, which even if we don’t like it is still the legal government of Syria, a long term ally and client of Russia, going back to the old Soviet days.

However, the feud between Russia and Turkey goes back hundreds of years. They hate each other, and this hatred goes back to the days of the Tsars and the Ottomans. The hatred is generations old, and is cultural, religious and political. Maybe that is why we in the west do not understand it, but I digress… 

The fact is that the actions of both nations, as well as most other nations in the West including the United States have helped to stoke the fire of the Syrian war, which is threatening to escalate into a regional conflict. I am not going to go into all the details of what has brought us to this point, because they are too many to cover. Some of course are saying that it could lead to a World War, but I do think that cooler heads will prevail. Of course I could be wrong, as Tuchman wrote, “To admit error and cut losses is rare among individuals, unknown among states.”

It is now time for President Obama to step up to the plate, and not rattle sabers, but to help pull everyone back from the brink. He needs to work with Russia’s President Putin to deescalate the crisis. Since everyone involved has a stake in what happens it Syria it cannot be ignored. The nations involved need to sit down and come up with a way to defeat DAESH and bring peace to Syria and Iraq. Of course this is easier said than done, especially since bullets are flying, blood is flowing, and tensions rising. The fallibility of human beings has been demonstrated time and time again in this war, and as Tuchman wrote in The Guns of August, “Human beings, like plans, prove fallible in the presence of those ingredients that are missing in maneuvers – danger, death, and live ammunition.”

In 1962 President Kennedy faced the real possibility of nuclear war with the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy had just read Tuchman’s The Guns of August which had just been published. He was shocked by the words of German Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg who when asked how World War One started replied “Ah, if only one knew.” Kennedy asked General Curtis LeMay what would happen if the Soviets did not back down, and the officer replied that he would order a nuclear strike. Kennedy could not go down that road, he referred to the book when he remarked, “If this planet is ever ravaged by nuclear war—if the survivors of that devastation can then endure the fire, poison, chaos and catastrophe—I do not want one of these survivors to ask another, “How did it all happen?” and to receive the incredible reply: “Ah, if only one knew.”

The downing of this Russian jet shows just how easily things can spin out of control. It is time for calmer heads to prevail and walk this back before things get really out of hand.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, middle east, Military, national security, News and current events