Oh snap! US arms ISIS Terrorists Again

US arms ISIS terrorists and we’re supposed to believe it’s a mistake

Under the category of “not again,” ISIS terrorists have gotten their grubby little hands on another stash of heavy weapons, this time courtesy of supposedly “moderate” militants (as if there is such a thing) in Syria.

The Syrian Liberation Front, confronted by real bullets and bombs, decided that rather than fight as they were trained and funded to do, they would rather just give their US-supplied heavy weapons to ISIS terrorists.

The weapons include rockets and anti-tank missiles.

This habit of supposed allies accepting bunches of US-supplied weapons then handing them over to so-called terrorists is all-too common in the region.

US arms ISIS
ISIS would like to thank the American people for the lovely weapons

In late October, an airdrop of supplies to Western-backed troops in Kobani, Iraq went off course and ended up in the hands of ISIS militants who were desperately in need of being rearmed. The Pentagon blamed the wind. The Iraqi government blamed inexperienced air crews.

I blame the people who want ISIS to have the weapons to overthrow the Syrian government and destabilize the region.

Don’t worry though, supposedly the air drops were destroyed. Riiiiight.

Here is a quote from the article linked above:

A steady stream of US-supplied weapons are being lost to Isis forces, mainly from the dysfunctional Iraqi army. Isis is reported to have stolen seven American M1 Abrams tanks from three Iraqi army bases in Anbar province last week.

Tanks. ISIS militants stole tanks. But wait, they have fighter jets, too.

Are we supposed to believe these “mistakes” are because of the fog of war? That ISIS militants aren’t being deliberately aided by a hidden hand that wants them to succeed?

Are you seeing a pattern here?

US forces decimated the Iraqi army in three weeks back in 2003. In three months in 2014 a rag-tag militant force a fraction of the size of the former Iraqi military has only gotten stronger and more dangerous. Bombs are dropped, missiles are fired, bullets are shot, but all that seems to result is Syria’s infrastructure is destroyed.

In June of 2014 ISIS reportedly stole around 500 billion Iraqi dinars, the equivalent of more than $400 million dollars, from an Iraqi central bank. Tell me where any bank in the world other than Iraq (outside of highly secure cities) keeps that much cash on hand. A bunch of gold bullion was stolen too.

Maybe Germany should be looking in Iraq for its gold, because it ain’t in New York where it’s supposed to be. (After the Germans demanded back their gold stored in NYC and London and were rebuffed, suddenly it reappeared…after Ukraine was taken over in a US-backed coup and all of its sovereign gold was flown out of the country in the middle of the night. Hmmm…).

Has anyone asked what will happen in Syria if Assad’s regime is defeated? That is the stated aim of arming the “moderate” militants who in turn are arming the ISIS terrorists. Assad’s regime falls and the next most powerful group in Syria is … ISIS.

For some reason I’m starting to think that’s the real goal.

Obama's Iraq: Obama's War of Choice in Syria

Obama’s War of Choice in Syria

This occasion calls for a certain phrase as Mr. Obama pushes for war with Syria: What the fuck are you thinking?

The difference between Obama and his predecessor, Cheney/Bush, was supposed to be that Obama finished wars, not started them. He could be hawkish, but not mean. Now he is just plain mean and I don’t know what to think about him anymore.

I thought I could I trust him.

I voted for Mr. Obama, twice, because I thought he knew killing people for no good reason is wrong. I thought he wouldn’t fall for cooked-up intelligence used as flimsy justification for war. I thought wrong.

So now me a few hundred million other people who depended on him to finish wars, not start them, are wondering what the fuck he is thinking? Even if Assad used chemical weapons against his population, it’s no red-line. Killing is killing no matter how it is done. Obama had to know that as soon as he said that the use of those weapons was justification for war, they were going to be used by the side that wants America involved in Syria: the Syrian opposition and governments backing them, like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel.

And it appears that it there is a good possibility that it was rebel groups, not Assad’s military, which used those chemical. As Russia and other countries have pointedly pointed out, why would Assad cross that line when he is essentially winning the war? He doesn’t need to use chemical weapons; his military far outguns the rebels. Using chemical weapons would only cause him trouble, and no leader thinking clearly would do that.

Of course, we are told to just trust the same intelligence apparatus that gave us Iraq. They don’t even try to cook up an airtight story anymore. They just feed as bull shit and expect us to say “yum.”

Mr. Obama, we hardly knew ya. You are only proving the right-wing crazies correct when they said that you were a plant, a Manchurian candidate who presents himself one way but is secretly someone completely different. I didn’t believe them, but now I’m not so sure.

Time's Up: Israel's Wiggle Room Just Ran Out. Showdown Ahead.

There is no diplomatic solution, no grand agreement, no way for Israel to coexist peacefully with its neighbors while occupying Palestinian territory and deliberately subjecting them to sub-third world existence. Turkey and the Palestinians have strong arguments supporting their recent actions, and whether right or wrong, they will be heard: the present situation has gone on long enough. It has to change.

Anyone interested in Middle East politics should be aware of two, no, make that three … four very big recent developments involving Israel:

    1. Turkey, Israel’s strongest ally in the region, is now openly hostile to the Jewish state, kicking out its diplomatic staff, withdrawing its own, and promising military protection to any vessel carrying supplies to Gaza in defiance of Israel’s naval blockade. In other words, Turkey just said fuck you, bring it on.

    2. The Palestinians are seeking an elevation of status in the U.N. to full statehood, allowing them access to resources reserved for nation-states. In other words, Israel’s occupation is about to be challenged in the international arena when the U.N. meets for annual general assembly later this month.

    3. The U.N. Secretary General, in response to pressure to stop the Palestinians from moving forward with plans they announced months ago, said, basically, that 20 years of talks have gotten nowhere and the Palestinians therefore have a right to seek statehood.

    4. Clashes along the Israel-Egypt border ever since the fall of Mubarek are straining relations to the point that Egyptian protestors are calling for the cancellation of their peace treaty with Israel. Israel can no longer assume that its southern border is safe, a cornerstone of Middle East peace for the past 30+ years.

There is no diplomatic solution, no grand agreement, no way for Israel to coexist peacefully with its neighbors while occupying Palestinian territory and deliberately subjecting them to sub-third world existence. Turkey and the Palestinians have strong arguments supporting their recent actions, and whether right or wrong, they will be heard: the present situation has gone on long enough. It has to change.

To the casual American observer these actions appear hostile toward Israel, but, since the current situation can no longer stand, it’s the next logical step. The current Israeli government headed by Prime Minister Binny Netanyahu has been stalling peace talks while moving forward with colonizing Palestinian territory, bragging to his supporters that he has America wrapped around his finger and can do whatever he damn well wants. The casual observer would not know this, but the Palestinians do, and so do all those world leaders meeting at the U.N. — there’s video on Youtube from Binny’s own mouth.

The reversal of relations with Turkey is the bigger blow for Israel. Turkey, with its economy booming, had close military and diplomatic ties with Israel, and was the one Muslim nation that played the game the way Israel prefers. Black Sea resorts in Turkey are favored by vacationing Israelis. The countries’ military forces conducted war games together and traded technology. Not anymore.

Israel’s refusal to apologize for killing nine Turkish nationals last year inflamed Turkish anger and led to the meltdown in relations. Prime Minister Erdogan in Turkey has purged the military and taken thorough control of the country under a moderate Islamist government, so he has latitude and he’s using it. Like many Muslim leaders, he’s sick of the way the Palestinians are being treated by their Israeli occupiers. For Westerners, imagine a Christian nation taken over by Muslim invaders and occupied for 60 years, subjected to constant warfare, sea and land routes blockaded, people living desperately in a society on the brink of collapse, basic utilities like power and sewage controlled by the occupiers. And when they rise up against these conditions, the occupiers use brutal, overwhelming firepower and thuggish security tactics. That’s modern day Israel in the eyes of the Muslim world.

So, you see, time’s up. A major showdown is brewing that will reshape Middle East politics.

Mass Murder in Tucson Strikes Close to Home

Everyone with public influence knows to be extra careful with what they say and how they say it. They know to be mindful that some members of the public are armed and crazy or are suggestible, even delusional, and could react to statements like Palin’s by carrying out her wishes — whether spoken or suggested.

You can imagine my surprise when checking the news Saturday and seeing that mass murder had been committed in front of a place where I get my hair cut. Next to the Safeway at Ina and Oracle in Tucson is a Great Clips — been there three times, last time about a year ago. I can describe the interior of the Safeway from memory.

It’s now a graveyard.

A friend’s mother drove past that Safeway just before the shooting. She was going to drop in to buy something, but decided at the last moment to go home instead. She’s curious about politics, and might have been among the crowd when the shooting started.

To come so close to tragedy is a disconcerting feeling.

Having watched this story with particular interest, I have something to say about the debate that’s ensued regarding poisonous political rhetoric. Various pundits are trying to poo-poo this tragedy and deny that it’s connected to calls for actions against politicians like Gabby Giffords. Technically, they might be right: The shooter was obviously a disturbed young man who might have never seen Sarah Palin’s Hit List, and hey, crosshairs are a common symbol, sometimes used in politics. Did Palin actually say she wanted someone to go kill Gabby and five other people?

She didn’t have to.

Palin left those crosshairs on her Facebook page until the moment people started dying. That tells us everything we need to know about her intent. Her “condolences” to the families of the people killed and injured sounded to me like a Twitter message. To Sarah, collateral damage is just another bump in the road to the White House.

(Can we now officially rule her out as a viable presidential candidate? Good leaders don’t make irresponsible statements then try to hide from them. With Alaska’s former half-term governor, the buck stops somewhere far away.)

Palin’s Hit List was irresponsible, to say the least. But it’s disingenuous to ask for a direct cause and effect between violent rhetoric like hers and violent actions that ensue. Responsible leaders with public influence know to be extra careful with what they say and how they say it. They know to be mindful that some members of the public are armed and crazy, or are suggestible, even delusional, and could react to statements like Palin’s by carrying out her wishes — whether spoken or suggested. All it takes is a young man with an Oedipal fixation on her for a tragedy to happen like the Safeway shootings in Tucson.

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Pretending otherwise is just pure ignorance to human nature, and a poor excuse after the fact. To the many bloggers and pundits decrying the usage of this opportunity to talk about the connection between violent language and violent actions, I say grow the fuck up. Six people are dead, including a judge and a schoolgirl born on 9-11-2001, and some people have the nerve to complain when fingers start pointing? When the public demands answers and the easiest to find are on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page and tea party Republican websites?

When an anti-abortion fanatic killed Dr. George Tiller in a church, right-wing pundits played the same game of covering over the fact that Tiller had been on Bill O’Reilly’s Hit List, mentioned on 29 episodes, often as “Tiller the Baby Killer.”

It’s not enough for an O’Reilly or a Palin to explain after the fact that they didn’t actually want someone killed. The coy game of inciting the public then dodging the consequences ends with mass murder. No more excuses.

George the Destroyer

I knew America was in for a wild ride the day after the 2000 election.

Cameras inundating Crawford, George Bush strode forth like a rodeo cowboy – arms flared, chest puffing – and declared himself President. The cockiness to me seemed unbecoming of a man portraying himself as follower of Jesus, but I knew what destructive potential lurked, saw through the good ol’ boy facade to the man we really elected.

The way he slipped into office, pulling out every dirty trick to win, was an omen, tearing the Supreme Court in half like the veil in the Jerusalem Temple. Destroyed forever the impartiality of that judicial body, which contorted itself into a noose to legally justify selecting a President. Destroyed the integrity of the election process, mistrusted by the public.

To think that the man shafted in 2000 won the Nobel Peace Prize isn’t the overreaching bragger as portrayed. Turns out he’s positively brilliant – knows a heckuva lot about the most pressing problem of our times than boy George. Anyone who discounts to politics Al Gore receiving the world’s biggest prize is a fool. We have a hit bottom with our addiction to fossil fuels; we reform or face potential catastrophe, and look who’s leading us down the path of destruction.

Hell, even Bush admits America’s oil addiction.

Look whose first broken campaign promise was backing out of the Kyoto Treaty regulating carbon emissions. Who promptly the day he took office rescinded important environmental regulations, destroying years of careful compromises largely agreed to by the industries regulated. It’s like when Warren Buffett says neither he nor his rich friends need a tax break because they already pay less percent of their income to taxes than their secretaries.

What’s George’s point then?

Destruction.

In the case of the budget-busting tax cuts of 2001, the government’s finances took the hit because boy George slept through economics. His contempt for government and mind prone to sloganeering (he was a male cheerleader in high school and a party hack after college) made him the perfect patsy for neo-conning into believing tax breaks were the best way to spend his Clinton inheritance. He never cared enough to learn better.

Similar to how he starts wars but refuses to fight in them. He vetoes child care for marginally poor children but never worried about who’s paying his doctors’ bills.

Is George the Destroyer a fitting nickname? George loves handing out nicknames, often with a dash of sarcasm, so he should be able to take it, too. Destroyer fits in so many ways.

He earned it by destroying Iraq, blithely replacing a paper tiger with chaos.

And by destroying the basis of the justice process, habeas corpus, which used to ensure that every dog has its day before a judge and be convicted in open court before punishment is carried out. George slept through Constitutional Law, too.

He destroyed the trust and good name of a nation basking in the world’s affection as defender of the West from Fascism and Communism, espouser of high ideals, human rights and democracy. Now, for every torture chamber, election fiasco or unjust war America could criticize, she has one or more of her own.

Long before boy George took the White House, he made a living of destruction. Namely, he took relish in destroying the reputations and lives of political opponents of his family. Back in his drinking days, he destroyed a few good occasions by waylaying unsuspecting journalists and dropping F-bombs in the company of children. Unlike other reformed alcoholics, he never took the step of admitting and amending his wrongs. You mean perfect George apologize? He who can do no wrong, never looks back and comforts himself at night with the thought that history’s judgment on his presidency will wait until after he’s departed the planet?

Let me go on record: I paid close attention during history class and think it’s safe to say George Jr. will rank far below the bar set by his father, somewhere between disaster and miserable failure. If more people had paid attention to our Accidental President before he seized the White House, the 2000 election wouldn’t have been close.

The signs of impending destruction were evident – the smug grin, bouts of vulgarity, cocky attitude. That’s just what the cameras picked up. Listen to prince George talk for five minutes and you wonder how the man doesn’t fall over from embarrassment at his horrendous grammar and syntax. If we stretch the point out we could say that W. also destroyed the expectation that our leaders will be good – or at least, functional – public speakers.

Most telling about George’s destructive nature is found in the difference in his talk depending upon the subject. Discuss health care policy or global warming and his eyes glaze over. He mangles his words looking like Alfred E. Neuman of Mad Magazine, saying something like we should all recycle, or America is addicted to oil. But get him going about hunting terrorists or firing up the execution chamber and he’s clear, concise, forceful. Very convincing, actually. He really means it when he promises to dish out the hurt on the bad guys. Nothing gets Jr.’s juices going more than a few satellite guided missiles dropped in the dead of night from a Stealth bomber.

Like I keep saying, call George Bush whatever you want, I call him George the Destroyer.

Ironically, the Book of Revelation in the Bible, chapter 9, verse 11 reads: “They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon.”

Guess what Abaddon and Apollyon mean?

Destroyer.

Clueless George Brings Terror Home

Bush has done it again. He promised that fighting ôover thereö would prevent terror ôover here,ö but terror is already on American soil, right in the heart of the heartland, exported from Iraq to our sunny shores courtesy of clueless George.

IÆm talking about the thousands of soldiers coming home freaked out from a year or more of hell fighting an enemy that canÆt be distinguished from the population. Two GIs were in the news recently for hometown shootings, and scores more have cited combat fatigue as the reason they snapped. TheyÆre coming back terrorized and passing it on to their families, neighbors, co-workers — or random people who just donÆt look right.

There are a lot of unintended consequences to GeorgeÆs actions.

What was sold as a six-month breeze in the desert has become a two-years-and-counting slog that is taking a huge toll in lives lost, dollars cost, families disrupted and a White House corrupted. If WMD had been found, or Osama found hiding in Baghdad, or if Bush hadnÆt twisted 9/11 into his own personal crusade and tied it to Iraq, I wouldnÆt lay the blame on him for the unintended costs of the war. But after reading about young soldiers coming home terrorized, possibly looking at another tour of duty coming up, and thinking about all the costs and all the deceptions large and small — yeah, clueless George deserves the blame.

He let Rumsfeld run amock in the early days and field an army too small to finish the job. He rushed to war on a political time line, invading before all resources were in place and all options exhausted so as not to get in the way of his 2004 reelection. At every turn he has bamboozled and floundered as commander-in-chief, repeating the old stay-the-course mantra reminiscent of LBJ and æNam. And he has no clue how to get us out.

And still to come, real live terrorists spread around the world after learning the tricks of the trade in the best simulation possible: an insurgent war on their turf. Brilliant move. We don’t have enough trouble at home so George stirs it up elsewhere.

Why this president is still approved of by 42 percent of Americans is beyond me. Maybe itÆs how he and his brother stood up for Terri Schiavo.

Bloody Counter-Strike blamed for offline violence

The game stands out among others for realistic violence among many violent and realistic games. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world play online every day in head-to-head competition. A few weeks ago in California, nearly a hundred people gathered for a game tournament that ended in a physical brawl, with chairs flying and shots fired.

Most of the action though occurs during the game, where differences are settled old-school: with a bullet to the head or a knife to the belly. However, the question has been asked and will continue to be debated: does simulated violence in games like Counter-Strike inspire real violence?

Counter-Strike is a first-person shooter (FPS), a 3-D, 360-degree world of paramilitary team-play using a variety of weapons like rifles, machine guns and grenades. One team called the “terrorists” attempts to complete an objective such as bombing a site with explosives, preventing the rescue of hostages, or assassination. The “counter-terrorists” try to stop them, usually with a hail of bullets. Killing off the other team is just as good as completing the objective. Blood flies everywhere.

What makes Counter-Strike so immensely popular and unique is the realism: real weapons, real tactics, real movements, real bullets…. Not real, but the experience of game play can be so life-like and consuming, the difference is hard to tell. Some players take Counter-Strike very seriously, obsessive and highly competitive, and apparently, sometimes violent in real life.

The fights reported in California cybercafes over Counter-Strike are a result of turf wars between Asian gangs, not vengeful players out to settle a score in real life. However, news reports about violence involving video games frequently mention Counter-Strike, and inevitably an association is made.

Counter-Strike players sometimes argue heatedly through headsets connected by the Internet, or by in-game chat message. Threats are routinely made, easily brushed off because the Internet is anonymous — or so players believe. Counter-Strike is being singled out to make the argument that the chicken comes before the egg, that violent games cause real-life violence. Question is, where is the line between harmless fun and harmful compulsion? And should the game get the blame when players are involved in real-life violence?

I have personally seen Counter-Strike bring out aggression and heard exchanges between players that would make an NBA ref blush. The arguing and threats are almost always juvenile huffing and puffing, but occasionally a real jackass with a dirty mouth will make threats — and mean it. When someone promises to hunt down another player in real life, the player can either make an invitation or laugh it off.

But in cybercafes the players are seated in the same room. I worked at a cybercafe where Counter-Strike was the favorite game and saw first-hand how players get on each other for bad play, with comments like, “Hey idiot, you just grenaded me!” or, “Get the hell out of my way, moron!” I never saw or heard of anyone getting violent (except of course, in the game). Once in a while threats were made. A bad move can bring down the wrath of other players, especially from the gung-ho types who take the game (too) seriously. It happens.

Player Logo
This is my current Counter-Strike player logo. Click to see my stats.

I tasted that wrath the very first time I played. In 1999, Counter-Strike was still an offshoot of Half-Life, an immensely popular game for home computer. Back then, players had to know everything down to what ammo to buy for each weapon, and the attention to detail attracted enthusiasts tired of blowing away computer-controlled fantasy creatures and longing for head-to-head, online competition. Counter-Strike quickly developed a cult-like online following. For months I watched customers play, but had not jumped in because of the feeling I’d like the game too much.

Then one night, I jumped in.

After closing the cybercafe, I sat down at a computer terminal in the dark, the only light coming from the fluorescent glow of the computer monitor. After setting the game controls and finding a server, I joined a game of Counter-Strike beta 1.3 in progress.

When my character popped into the cyber combat zone I was alone, though gunshots echoed in the distance. I ran around without a clue what to do, and came upon an empty house. Inside I found two guys in white lab coats standing in a corner minding their own business. and thought, great, targets, so I blasted them, then found two more and blasted them too.

Immediately, the scrolling chat at the bottom of the screen lit up with name calling and invective. Nasty stuff. I was supposed to rescue the guys in white coats, not cap them, and my team paid the price for my ignorance. They lost game money that is used to pay for armor and weapons at the beginning of each round.

They were very, very angry at me.

But no one threatened to hunt me down personally — although such threats have been directed my way more times than I can count. I’m willing to bleed pixels. The smack talk is part of the game, like the messy head shots that spray blood everywhere. Cussing. Promises of revenge. And like I said at the start, there are better ways to settle an argument. Let’s meet on the field of battle and see who has skillz.

There are many players who have been fragged by Rocky Whore (my old Counter-Strike screen name) but I do not expect any of them to come looking for me as I sit at a PC at PingTime on State Street in Madison, WI and blast away. In fact, I would be quite surprised if anyone took the game that far. But you never know. The servers that run the game through the Internet track IP addresses and game ID’s (update: now player profiles can include real name and contact info). If an angry player making threats also has access to the server I am playing on, there are ways that he (or she) can conceivably figure out who and where I am. An IP address alone is like a zip code indicating a general location, and CD keys can conceivably be tracked back to the point of sale. Though I do not know for sure if that could be done.

But there are other ways to track players: servers keep logs including in-game chat, and simple software can search for all instances of player names. Those names can be tracked from server to server too. If a player reveals personal information like a full name, school, work site or even home address, that information can be found and compiled. A clever psychopath bent on revenge has more ways than one to break the veil of anonymity.

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There is the line that can not be crossed. Until it is, Counter-Strike and other bloody online games can dodge the accusatory bullets, because no causal connection can be made. There are other games like Grand Theft Auto, Quake and Doom that have been accused of inspiring violence. But they cannot and should not be blamed for their realism.

Until someone crosses the line.

If you are a concerned parent reading this article, don’t worry. Unless junior is a little prick who talks mad smack and flaunts his identity online, no one is coming to burn down your home. But follow the age guidelines and be very careful of allowing impressionable children into such a brutal environment. Children under age six are not able to differentiate between reality and virtual reality, and they experience games is if actually happening. So a five-year old experiencing their head being scattered by a shotgun is not something that should be bouncing around in a little head.

On that note, when I worked at the cybercafe, the people who owned the place would leave their kids for hours in front of the “computer babysitter.” One night the youngest son, 5 years old, played CS with a brutal bunch of players and the shotgun scenario happened. I could tell how much it disturbed the kid — he got up from the computer and walked over to the player who blew his brains all over the screen, tugged at his sleeve and said:

“Please don’t kill me again.”

Dancing with nukes: driving N. Korea and Iran into the arms of the Bomb

We wonder why North Korea would restart their nuclear weapons program and risk American wrath in the age of terrorism. Simple: theyádon’t haveámuch choice.After being diplomatically rebuffed by the Bush Administration and labeled with Iraq as an axis of Evil, what choice do the Koreans have? They have the right to defend themselves, and they will with nukes if they have to. Any leader, any country, any culture at any time would make the same decision when threatened, except those that want to be conquered. And the Bush Administration has pushed Korea into this corner, like Goliath saying, ‘Come on, David, I dare ya.’

You know the old story about a cornered animal.

I feel for them, the destitute and subjected cousins of prosperous and democratic South Korea. A terrible drought and famine has inflicted seven plagues on them. The country is desperate and being turned away by the West. Not very compassionate.

The Bush Administration takes a different view: our way or the highway. First, North Korea, you are evil. Now you are easily defeated if that what it takes. If you won’t wait until the American military first takes care of Iraq, we can defeat both of you evil countries at the same time. That’s what secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld said just before Christmas in a news conference. He was really feeling the spirit of the season.

North Korea responded by hurrying up their efforts to make more nukes. For those of you still catching up, North Korea has the stuff and ability to go big, and is rumored to already have a few nuclear devices. They are getting ready, because they think they’re next after Iraq. Bush might poo poo about war, but he did the same shrug of the shoulder with Iraq while getting ready to invade. By the next election Santa Bush will be looking for a new target, and the North Koreans know who’s on the list. They have been very naughty.

Iran has gotten the message too, and is doing everything it can to defend itself. It’s no coincidence that they’re also trying hard to go nuclear; they’re on the list of those to get whacked. No one thinks Iran has nukes yet, but hey, they are evil. They must want the Bomb and they must want to use it against America. The U.S. military spends more money every year than the ten next biggest militaries combined, and any country looking to take on this Goliath will need more than a sling.

It’s no wonder North Korea and Iran want nukes. They have no other choice.

Oh brother don’t hate me: Christianity vs Islam: a family feud

Published 2001 December (After 9-11 began to digest)

Stories of twins are ancient, harking back to the Hebrew tales of Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, and the countless other myths that all cultures tell in one form or another about twins. Some tales end well, like Castor and Pollux being granted immortality together by Zeus in the night sky as the sign of Gemini. Some end badly: the murder of Abel by Cain. Following the 9-11 terrorist attacks the twins are emerging again as a theme of the age, a story that underpins events of the day and illustrates the dilemma that confronts civilization. The twins in NYC were targeted by people who oppose what they represent(ed): American and Western dominance.

Most stories of twins have faded into obscurity, leaving us collectively without the guidance of the ages, the wisdom passed down from past generations about how they dealt with similar challenges of their day. Without this valuable knowledge we are ill-equipped as East confronts West and the twins once again wrestle, this time under the specter of mutual annihilation. However, the knowledge passed down through mythological tales of twins is written deep in our minds; with Cliff’s Notes, we in this time of need and trouble will hopefully get the message.

To understand how twins stories underly history – and current events – the relationship of Christianity and Islam has to be understood as that of rival brothers taught by the same parents, who grew up with far different interpretations of what they learned. Islam and Christianity are offspring of Abraham. Said to be the father of many nations, Abraham made the first covenant with God, and is claimed by both brothers as the rightful heir. Throw in Christianity’s connection through Jesus and the result is thousands of years of conflict that will continue until one side or the other steps back, puts aside its ego and refuses to keep reenacting the same script. The three religions are so tight they share every prophet commonly except two: Jews and Muslims reject Jesus as the Son of God, Jews having disavowed him to crucifixion and Muslims claiming him as a prophet leading up to the last and highest prophet, Muhammed. “The Prophet,” as the once upright merchant of Mecca was known before being visited by an angel, is rejected by Jews and Christians for their reasons. No wonder Islam and Christianity are at odds like never before – religiously, culturally, and militarily. With the parent culture, the Jews, aligned with the Christians against Muslims, we have the making of a royal family feud. We seek the wisdom of the ancients encoded in stories in order to find a way of avoiding the final confrontation and fulfillment of the darkest possibilities.

In the story of the prodigal son, one sibling leaves home with a fat inheritance only to return penniless after many years of raucous living. The brother who stayed behind and tended the family business resented that his sibling would have the nerve to show his face again – and even worse, the last thing he expected was his wayward brother welcomed back with a feast and an equal place in the family! Is the little snot to be rewarded for being a screw-off and blowing his fortune? This attitude in turn angered the father, who tells the resentful brother that if he can’t welcome back his wayward sibling and be happy for the family, he might as well leave. These days a kid can pack bags and go crash with a friend; back then you slept with the wolves, so the threat carried with it a virtual death sentence.

Islam finds itself nowadays in the place of the brother who stayed home but isn’t getting the rewards deemed due for years of faithful service. Islam collectively gives much more importance to prayer and organized religion in daily life, yet lags far behind the West in technology and prestige. The West has grown so predominant that it threatens to engulf Islam and force it to conform to western ways, effectively taking away its identity. Add in the fact that Israel – the parent – is aligned with one sibling against the other, and you get the idea of how the Islamic world feels right now. Fear of annihilation or decent into irrelevance is common in old stories of twins; Islam stares the possibility in the face. That’s why Middle East peace negotiations continue to go nowhere. Why Osama bin Laden’s call to arms resonates throughout the Islamic world, and why the days we live in have great potential for extreme peril.

Despite the enmity, the twins can’t live each other because they provide balance. East and West are incomplete without the other. In a New York Times article published Nov. 24, 2001, a twin described the loss of his brother in the World Trade Center and how there’s no way to express what it means to lose someone he considered his other half. As much as we hear ‘down with the West’ in parts of the Mid East, they’d miss their antagonist sibling. All sides don’t have to particularly like each other or agree on a way of life, but they have to at least respect each others’ uniqueness and rightful place in the world. Otherwise, as happens in myth, they perish together. We all have a stake in how the story of this age plays out, and the more we see the mythological underpinnings, the better we see the nature of the conflict at hand. As Helen M. Luke posited in an essay titled “Jacob and Esau”:

“In Judeo-Christian tradition, the theme of the two brothers at enmity begins after the Fall with Cain and Abel, continues with Isaac and Ishmael, and culminates in the much more complicated story of Jacob and Esau the first twins. It is because of the image of twinship that their story, particularly its ending, is of such profound relevance in this our century, when the separation of twins has become the most terrible danger, threatening the survival of all life on this planet.”

Luke’s words from the Summer 1994 edition of Parabola magazine couldn’t be more relevant today. The clash of opposites between Christianity and Islam is a mythological tale that could end like a Greek tragedy, where seemingly irreconcilable differences lead both parties down a path of mutual destruction. Or the story of this age could end like Jacob and Esau, who came to terms but never truly reunited as brothers.

Jacob was the born just behind Esau but from the beginning challenging his brother’s place by grabbing hold of Esau’s heel on the way out. They were no mirror images from each other – they were twins with nothing in common. Jacob took to the indoors, a mamma’s boy with light skin and short hair, perhaps a bit of a dandy, delicate and well-spoken. Esau came out red and hairy and loved the outdoors, the favorite of his father. Christianity is like Jacob: light, clean-shaved, worldly. Islam is like Esau: hairy, fiery, closer to the earth. One of the tents and one of the fields, so the story describes them. One who boldly explores strange new worlds pushing all limits, the other who stays closer to home pumping a living from the ground.

Christianity and the West in general have to understand their role as a modern Jacob to make a solution possible. Looking back into our story, Jacob went astray when he stole Esau’s birth right as eldest son. Esau had come to Jacob’s door faint from thirst and hunger. Jacob agreed to share some food and drink if Esau would relinquish his rights as first-born son. Esau said he would die on the spot if he didn’t get some nourishment – what good would be his birth rights if he were dead? – so he gave it up, perhaps figuring that his brother wouldn’t hold him to such a dubious agreement. Then Jacob fooled his father into believing he was Esau to receive his father’s blessing as heir.

Aside from illustrating what a jerk Jacob was, this part of the story tells how Islam gave up its place as the world’s predominant religion and culture to the West. Islam had exclusive rights to the title of ‘most cultured and sophisticated’ until Christianity reemerged about 800 years ago, and held the top spot until the 20th century when the West officially passed them. Islam, after all, preserved the ancient writings and knowledge of the Greeks while Christianity went through fits of barbarism and superstition during the Middle Ages. Islam combined western ways together with the teachings of Muhammad and created one of the grandest civilizations ever. But where are they now? Bitterly divided, relegated to the “Second World,” dependent on (grandpa’s trust fund) oil for their means. Thirsty and hungry from the labor. Ready to reclaim their birth right, or at least have it out with their usurping sibling. What does the West – Jacob – do? The rumble is brewing and the younger one can either flex the big muscles and fight to the end, or adopt higher wisdom and avoid the fight altogether.

After Jacob stole Esau’s birthright, they went their separate ways. Each built families and established themselves separately as individuals and adults with many descendants, workers and flocks. Years later, Esau sent advance word to Jacob of his presence in the area with 400 men. Jacob thought his brother had finally come to avenge the treachery of stealing his birthright. Terrified, he sent gifts in hope of mollifying old grudges. The night before their meeting, Jacob went through a dark night of the soul, a serious coming-to-terms with himself and his past. He wrestled with a divine force through the night and at dawn, having gained the upper hand, asked his adversary to name itself. Bless me before I release you, demanded Jacob. A new man emerged. The next day he met lost brother Esau, prepared to pay the consequences. Instead of his head on a platter, it turned out Esau sought reconciliation. Jacob greeted his brother warmly, but afterwards went his own way, rather than reestablishing old family bonds. Perhaps as an adult he didn’t want to revisit the house of his parents and once again deal with issues of his youth.

Either way, the story of Jacob and Esau still has a relatively happy ending. They didn’t kill each other. However, Jacob’s transformation prevented fratricide, and in the story of this age, the West is still ignorant of itself. Western Christian culture needs to wrestle with its shadow like Jacob and realize where its hubris has led to nemesis – namely, in exploiting technology and resources, and pushing the rest of the world to try to keep up, playing winner-take-all in the game it knows best. Its knowledge and power has gotten ahead of its ability to wisely use it. For all its high ideals of democracy, human rights, and liberty, the West – especially the U.S. – has a vast blind spot to its own shortcomings. And its urbane, hyper-competitive culture – born of “the tents” and raised on its self-importance – tramples over everything that gets in the way.

Islam has much to teach Christianity about respect. When Islam predominated it promoted tolerance, inquiry, and prudence, virtues incomplete in western culture. Granted, these virtues are incomplete in Islamic culture, too. But seen by its brother Islam, Christianity would seem to be high on its power, too secure in its climate-controlled offices wielding power in the name of profit, not prophet. In the name of money and not mankind. In pursuit of short-term gain for the few over long-term prosperity for all. The World Trade Center symbolized this dark side. A more widespread feeling in the Islamic world – beyond Osama and the fanatics – is that someone has to oppose the western juggernaut in the name of Muhammad and Islam. The call to Jihad – defending the faith – must be heeded. Even some of the most moderate Islamic adherents see threat in the West. Without Jacob’s transformation, the story could have ended tragically, and so could this one we’re living right now.

What is to be learned from old stories of two brothers who fight for the same birthright, learn from the same parents, and grow up as opposites locked in dualistic struggle? The story of Jacob and Esau and other twins points towards a duel relationship in constant conflict but ultimately seeking harmony, it gets a little messy among family sometimes is all – a good analogy for the universe in general. This dynamic tension is always present, creating balance. Good and Evil, Light and Dark, Islam and Christianity. Twins. Siblings at odds. We can learn from their relationship the nature of the conflict the world faces today, and how to solve that conflict. Helen Luke at the end of her essay about Jacob and Esau suggests a way:

“Collectively, we have lost the wonder of stone and soil, of animals and birds, and we have lost the spontaneous voice of dreams and visions, without which the people perish. But there are individuals who recognize the natural “red one” within and without, feeling the same fire that the hubris of intellect had turned into greed for power. There is a new wish to return to the gifts of our mother the earth. We may, as C.G. Jung said, come to a global, cosmic rebirth in this darkest time, if enough people will wrestle with the unknown God and ask his name – and see in our rejected twin the face of God.”