Friday, December 07, 2007

Mitt Romney Sells His Soul For A Shot At The Presidency


Mitt Romney has sold his soul to become president. Its all in the record, on tape, in black and white- preserved forever in the ether, in cyberspace and in the hearts and minds of the spiritually discerning. I will demonstrate this reality in his own words. Here they are from his recent speech where he sought to allay concerns over his Mormonism... let's parse it together shall we?:

Romney:

"A person should not be elected because of his faith, nor should he be rejected because of his faith. Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin. As governor, I tried to do the right, as best I knew it, serving the law and answering to the Constitution. I did not confuse the particular teachings of my church with the obligations of the office and of the Constitution. And, of course, I would not do so as president. I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law."

SS says:

So, its pretty clear from this statement alone that Romney's allegiance is to the nation first and God second. That's what is called idolatry in biblical terms. This pretty much proves the thesis in much of this blog and in my personal communications that the idea of a "Christian nation" is an oxymoron and pretty much of an impossibility. Greg Boyd, preacher and author of "Myth of a Christian Nation", was cited in the CNN special "God's Warriors" as saying, "you can no more have a Christian nation than you can have a Christian Bicycle". Mitt Romney is confirming that thesis with great clarity in his statements. The Bush II administration and others before it insinuated with their campaigning for office that the possibility of a Christian nation is an attainable goal- that it is a reachable ideal. The idea of this is of course extremely appealing to those who count themselves among the Christian faithful. In the simplest of terms "One cannot serve two masters". The religious folks are equally prone to not comprehending this maxim which is from the very words of Christ. I just heard a radio sermon today on my daily commute where a well known preacher, Richard Land, was reasoning that since Jesus referred to his followers as the salt of the earth and it is impossible for salt to season something unless it comes into contact with it
that it stands to reason that it is in fact a Christian duty to get involved in politics. It is amazing to me however, that this sort of reasoning does not seem to comprehend that the best way for the church to influence the world is to BE the Church, affecting culture from the roots up by living out the ideals of the Church by example and so affecting culture in this way. That's a full time job. That does not mean that Christians should not be unaware of politics and their implications or let themselves be heard especially in the voting booth. What it does mean is that Christians trying to serve two masters must always make compromises that detract from their faith and so participating in worldly, political power games should be done with great caution if at all. Romney shows exactly why is his speech.

The faithful of course expected G.W. Bush to do the opposite of what Romney is assuring everyone he won't do.... that being let his faith or religion exert influence on presidential decisions. Of course it is impossible to imagine someones whose religious beliefs, no matter how paper thin or shallow, would not surface at least as moral attitudes or core values in decision making processes. To suggest that they wouldn't is not only bad psychology but... well amoral and/or immoral to boot. I listened to several radio commentators remarks on Romney's speech today. Most of them being so-called conservatives were busy rationalizing Romney's remarks and failed to even bring up the points I raise here. This pretty much confirms for me once and for all that these guys armed with microphones and radio towers are for the most part either not very smart, morally illiterate and/or bankrupt, completely sold out or all of the above.
I digress.

More Romney:

"Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history. These are not bases for criticism, but rather a test of our tolerance. Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle, indeed, if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree."

"There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution."

SS says
:

Well, a week or two back I heard some remarks Romney made along these lines after John McCain, an opponent for the presidency, took a shot at Romney's Mormon roots. Romney basically said that to criticize someone about their religion was un-American. All the talking heads on TV that night seemed to agree that this turn of events would work in Romney's favor.
Now, they postulated, every time someone asks about Romney's religion or begins to critically analyze the doctrines of his religion and their possible influence on him and his decisions he can now play the "un-American" card. The problem with this sort of thinking is that its ridiculous to assume that if Romney were, say a Satanist, Voodoo priest, u.f.o. Cult member, Muslim, Qabbalist, Scientologist or one of those snake handling, charismatic Christians that it would be inappropriate to ask him about it or ponder the implications it might have for the presidency. Such a concept is, of course, ridiculous. The fact is that Mormonism is not a mainstream belief system either. I will address that more in a paragraph or two.


More Romney:

"When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God. If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A president must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States."

SS says:

I question why he would bother putting his hand on the Bible, make an oath or promise anything to God at all. Of what value would it be since he has already stated that his nationalism comes before his religion, his faith and thus before God and that, "A president must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States?"

Believe me I understand the principles and advantages of separating the Church and State. I don't need a civics lesson. However, I think its safe to say that a real disciple of Christ is not very well suited to the compromises of governing anything larger than a small community, clan, tribe or village. Its unthinkable in this day and age of mega cultures and megalomania that a meek, humble, non materialistic, non violent, lover of neighbor as self, lover of enemies and deeply committed spiritual person could attain let alone hold the office of president of the USA without selling out his spiritual values to some degree.... like Romney just did. This selling out is also manifested for Romney in the positions he has articulated where he condones pre emptive warfare (which is what the attack on Pearl Harbor was), torture, secret prisons and the contravention of the rule of law not to mention the scriptural mandate to love your enemies and treat everyone as you would be treated with regards to 'enemy combatants" (who are essentially whoever the president decides they are nowadays). He also has resolutely refused to negotiate with enemies whatsoever which is neither wise nor biblical.

Separating church and state then, is not only a protection of the value system of the state (AKA in biblical terms "the world") but also a concept that protects the virtue of the Church.

I also understand that a person's theology definitely matters, especially when they hold the most powerful office in the world. Theology matters. look at the conflicts in Israel, Palestine, the entire Mideast. All the different groups believe it is they that have the rights to certain blocs of land... it is they that hold the truth... it is they that will survive and triumph with God on their side. On that score Romney's Mormonism frightens me as well. There are doctrines in the Mormon faith which should make everyone somewhat uncomfortable. Mormons believe that the Bible is valid, but that the Book of Mormon is the completion and perfection of the Bible. As a traditional, mainstream Christian I have no problem saying that I have a problem with that. If you look at the skirmishes between the Arab world and the Christian West its safe to say that the beliefs of both sides concerning, eschatology, the end of days, prophecies about the end of the world all play into the geopolitical dynamics of things. This realization is where I got the concept for the title of this blog, Geotheology.

The end times doctrine, or eschatology of many Mormons holds the belief that in the "last days" (which a lot of people anxiously ASSUME we are in) a Mormon world leader from the USA will arise and save the nation from complete destruction and set the world to rights. Then Jesus will come back and set up the millennial reign of His Kingdom somewhere in Missouri. I don't know about you, but at this stage of things I am really not comfortable with someone with a hero complex and delusions of glory and pretensions about saving the world though warfare for Jesus, as if Jesus needed help, at the helm of the world's only superpower and with his itchy trigger finger on the button of its nuclear arsenal.
The last Bit from Romney:

"We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America — the religion of secularism. They are wrong."

SS says:

This last set of statements is just a lot of hot air designed to somehow qualify his statements and appeal to those among us who are worried that God is losing and the secular world is winning. I would encourage such people to re-read their religious texts and see who always wins in the end. Its funny that Romney wants to keep the ten commandments hanging on the walls in public places but has already in his previous statements broken the first three commandments ;

Exodus 2:3-7

3 Do not have any other gods before Me.

4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,

6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.


Romney has already shown in his own words who his god is, the USA, his idol. He has also in this statement taken the name of the Lord in vain, essentially swearing to God to put the USA over Him:

"When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God. If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A president must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States."


I won't even go into the other commandments that he will undoubtedly break if his ideas on policy, warfare and the treatment of prisoners go into effect with him as president.


Think eternally. Act spiritually. Pray Hard.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Chomsky on the Convenient Myths of Modern Industrial Society



Noam Chomsky comments in the classic movie Manufacturing consent where he vivisects the corporate media propaganda model. Chomsky is one of the thinkers and writers that helped me wake up from the nightmare of the reality constructed by so called conservative politics and the religious right and get my life back on the spiritual track. Chomsky is not a Christian, but his views helped me rediscover the true mission of the Church and to save my mind from perdition.

The Power of Myth- Joseph Campbell- The Meaning of Myth #1

video

The Message of the Myth: Campbell compares creation stories (Genesis, other religions). This is part #1 of a series.

The quest for meaning in life is one that all races of all times have undertaken. It is something that God, the super intelligence that brought the universe into existence, order and harmony, evidently programmed right into the essence of our being. Christians believe that the meaning of life and all existence is revealed in the bible and manifested in Christ alone. However, not all men of all times have been exposed to the Gospel or shall we say the right combination of sound Christian teaching and proper, defensible, truly Christian, moral behaviour.

Paul quoted non-Christian poetry when he preached in Athens. "As also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring. Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising."(Acts 17:28-29).

In 1 Corinthians 9:22 Paul wrote,

"I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some."

In Athens people were lovers of poetry, art, culture, history and what you would call today "New Age" concepts. When Paul went there to preach he embraced their culture of new age idea's and poetry, and used it to glorify and direct people to Christ. Instead of condemning people's cultures we as Christians today should also be interfacing with different expressions of human culture, and revealing Jesus Christ to those cultures to edify them instead of just judging and condemning them. We as Christians need to become all things to all men, so we can win them to Christ . We are authorized to do this so long as we remain true to the Biblical message in doing so. My friend DSM is already using this concept in the review of the Sun Tzu material here on this blog.

One thing I wish to show by reviewing these clips is to show that many of the rifts and disconnects between modern Christian culture and other expressions of philosophy and human quest for meaning are not necessary. Many of these rifts actually come from the misinterpretation of Biblical theology and scriptural interpretation through the lens of socio-political ideology rather than what the Bible actually says or means. I have desired to do this, and have in many ways since the founding of this blog.

I have wanted to work through the Joseph Campbell material in the light of Christian theology for years. so here we are...

What sayeth thee?

Sympathy for the Devil

video

As DSM pointed out to me in the long lost days of yore, this song really nails it from the perspective of Satan. I love the video remix here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cosmology/Cosmogony

Who created God?

Who created God? Where did He come from? This is a question that was introduced two posts back in;

A question to atheists: Could the universe just pop into being?


The question was:

"I have seen the question posed on this series of clips on Youtube,

"Ok Then, When did God come into existence? Did he just "pop" into the universe as well, Or just has he, "just always been"? Theists have the same flaw, just one step back. I personally think that there is no God but at this time, humans cannot possibly perceive this depth of thought, we are not yet advanced enough to understand it."

* I capitalized God in this quote where the author did not.

What sayeth thee? how do you handle this question as a believer or non- believer?"

On the Existence of God- William Lane Craig



If you can look at the complexity, beauty, harmony, purpose, intelligence and morality in the universe- as well as that anything whatsoever exists- and eliminate the possibility of God- then you really have to come up with something unbelievable.

Monday, November 19, 2007

My Grandmother and the "Storage Barn"


My mother and I went up to Claremore, Okla. to see my Cherokee Grandmother after my sister Kara ran in a marathon in Tulsa yesterday. Grandmother was recently diagnosed with alzheimer's and has been in a nursing home for about two months. She has spent a short time in the hospital because she got medications all mixed up and took too much aspirin which ate up the lining in her stomach almost bleeding her out.

Grandmother looks good for 90 years old and was in good spirits. She was pleasant and polite and conversational... on the surface. There isn't much depth left. She doesn't have much short term memory left at all. She kind of lives in the moment with no real understanding of where she is and why. She pretty much thinks she's there as a volunteer worker for all the other poor souls filed away there to die. She does not see herself as a patient. She says she feels great. She walks the halls praying for all the other residents like she did for years at the Veterans Hospital. Everyday she gets up out of bed, bathes, gets dressed, eats breakfast and then gathers her things waiting for someone to come and get her and take her home. To pass the time she walks about watching the birds and the plants outside the windows and praying over the other residents that are upset and hurting. She says she's been busy and met a lot of nice people but she's ready to go home now...

"we can go right now if you want... I'm packed and ready," she says.

She talked about wanting to go home and get her porch painted a different color and do some yard work, raking leaves and cleaning out the gutters. Its gut wrenching to deal with. Every time there is a pause in conversation she slips in how anxious she is to get home.

She also speculates about living elsewhere and offers, "If there's anything I can do to be of service I'll do it. The busier I am the happier I am and the better I feel. I can pay for the gas to drive me home or out to see my brother Ralph or my son. I'll bet I can do some work there. There's lots of Indian people and other handicapped I can minister to." The thought that she will be living in the nursing home or "storage barn" as she ironically calls it, seems out of the question to her.

The saddest part is that she definately is not going to get better or last very long where she is. She gets little or no exercise or mental stimulation or any kind of therapy that might help her mentally. Its unbelievable to me that it is so expensive to basically put someone in storage in a nursing home til they die and there is such little return. Rooms at the Motel 6 are roomier and better furnished. Nursing homes are filled because the families of the residents are pretty much all wage slaves and have to work and are thus unable to be caretakers.

I am strongly considering leaving my employment and moving up there to be her companion and caretaker. All I would need is basic expense money which I can guarantee you is a lot less that what is being paid to that "storage barn". Still this would be a major commitment. Yet, if I can work it out I will do that and do some writing and perhaps even finish my degree while up there as well.

Prayers for us are greatly appreciated. I could also use some advice on things that can at least slow her mind from deterioration and/or entropy.

I found some clips about being there for alzheimer's patients recently. They have really hit home with me now. Take a look at this:



Also, there are several more powerful and moving clips about alzheimer's patients and their humanity and dignity and how to be present for them here:

http://www.memorybridge.org/videos.php

Friday, November 16, 2007

She Cries Your Name- Beth Orton

video

Since I posted this I went and visited my 90 year old Grandmother up in the northeast part of the state. She has been diagnosed with alzheimers disease and has been in a nursing home now for about two months. I finally got up there to see her for the first time since this happened. I will soon be writing much more about our culture, alzheimers and looking after people afflicted with it. Meanwhile, I suddenly realized this song fits my Grandmother and her situation to a tee.

When I got there to see her yesterday, unannounced, she was all packed up and ready to go home. I soon learned that every day she gets up, bathes, gets dressed, eats breakfast and then gathers her things expecting someone to come and pick her up and take her home. The nurses kindly hang her clothes back in the closet every afternoon or evening. Meanwhile, Grandmother walks the halls praying for other people... she's convinced she is there as a volunteer worker and not a resident. She told us how she's been busy helping and ministering to others and met a lot of nice people but now she's ready to go home. She's simply vexed that no one will take her to her house that happens to be about 6 blocks away. Her short term memory is about gone so she doesn't really remember her visitors... and thus wonders why people don't come to see her.
Man, the lyrics to this song REALLY hit me hard now.

BETH ORTON
She Cries Your Name

Falling from the western slopes to find yourselves alone again,
Wondering where you have been, Your lonely voice calls
across the starlit coast, Reaching out to be seen.

She cries your name,
three times again,
She cries your name,
How long can this love remain?

Cut beneath the surface screen of what we say and what we
seem, Is a trick to be seen, She keeps crying out your name,
But her scream sounds the same, How fickle fate can be.

She cries your name,
Three times again,
She cries your name,
How long can this love remain?

Birds that scream for territory can learn to sing
euphorically, Give him time an' he's real, And there's a
wasteland in your soul the burned out trees will leave you
cold, Living out an ideal.

She cries your name,
three times again,
She cries your name,
How long can this love remain?

She cries your name,
Twelve times again,
She cries your name,
How long can this love remain?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

William Orbit - Gringatcho Demento

Love On A Real Train (by Tangerine Dream)

Just sit back and enjoy the beauty of God's work.
Peace.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Terrorist In The Mirror- by NOAM CHOMSKY- repost

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Terrorist In The Mirror- by NOAM CHOMSKY



"Judging by reports and commentary, it would be impolite to mention any of these facts, let alone to suggest that some others might be standing alongside Saddam before the bar of justice."

By NOAM CHOMSKY- source

"Terror" is a term that rightly arouses strong emotions and deep concerns. The primary concern should, naturally, be to take measures to alleviate the threat, which has been severe in the past, and will be even more so in the future. To proceed in a serious way, we have to establish some guidelines. Here are a few simple ones:

(1) Facts matter, even if we do not like them.

(2) Elementary moral principles matter, even if they have consequences that we would prefer not to face.

(3) Relative clarity matters. It is pointless to seek a truly precise definition of "terror," or of any other concept outside of the hard sciences and mathematics, often even there. But we should seek enough clarity at least to distinguish terror from two notions that lie uneasily at its borders: aggression and legitimate resistance.

If we accept these guidelines, there are quite constructive ways to deal with the problems of terrorism, which are quite severe. It's commonly claimed that critics of ongoing policies do not present solutions. Check the record, and I think you will find that there is an accurate translation for that charge: "They present solutions, but I don't like them."

Suppose, then, that we accept these simple guidelines. Let's turn to the "War on Terror." Since facts matter, it matters that the War was not declared by George W. Bush on 9/11, but by the Reagan administration 20 years earlier.

They came into office declaring that their foreign policy would confront what the President called "the evil scourge of terrorism," a plague spread by "depraved opponents of civilization itself" in "a return to barbarism in the modern age" (Secretary of State George Shultz). The campaign was directed to a particularly virulent form of the plague: state-directed international terrorism. The main focus was Central America and the Middle East, but it reached to southern Africa and Southeast Asia and beyond.

A second fact is that the war was declared and implemented by pretty much the same people who are conducting the re-declared war on terrorism. The civilian component of the re-declared War on Terror is led by John Negroponte, appointed last year to supervise all counterterror operations. As Ambassador in Honduras, he was the hands-on director of the major operation of the first War on Terror, the contra war against Nicaragua launched mainly from US bases in Honduras. I'll return to some of his tasks. The military component of the re-declared War led by Donald Rumsfeld. During the first phase of the War on Terror, Rumsfeld was Reagan's special representative to the Middle East. There, his main task was to establish close relations with Saddam Hussein so that the US could provide him with large-scale aid, including means to develop WMD, continuing long after the huge atrocities against the Kurds and the end of the war with Iran. The official purpose, not concealed, was Washington's responsibility to aid American exporters and "the strikingly unanimous view" of Washington and its allies Britain and Saudi Arabia that "whatever the sins of the Iraqi leader, he offered the West and the region a better hope for his country's stability than did those who have suffered his repression" -- New York Times Middle East correspondent Alan Cowell, describing Washington's judgment as George Bush I authorized Saddam to crush the Shi'ite rebellion in 1991, which probably would have overthrown the tyrant.

Saddam is at last on trial for his crimes. The first trial, now underway, is for crimes he committed in 1982. 1982 happens to be an important year in US-Iraq relations. It was in 1982 that Reagan removed Iraq from the list of states supporting terror so that aid could flow to his friend in Baghdad. Rumsfeld then visited Baghdad to confirm the arrangements. Judging by reports and commentary, it would be impolite to mention any of these facts, let alone to suggest that some others might be standing alongside Saddam before the bar of justice. Removing Saddam from the list of states supporting terrorism left a gap. It was at once filled by Cuba, perhaps in recognition of the fact that the US terrorist wars against Cuba from 1961 had just peaked, including events that would be on the front pages right now in societies that valued their freedom, to which I'll briefly return. Again, that tells us something about the real elite attitudes towards the plague of the modern age.

Since the first War on Terror was waged by those now carrying out the redeclared war, or their immediate mentors, it follows that anyone seriously interested in the re-declared War on Terror should ask at once how it was carried out in the 1980s. The topic, however, is under a virtual ban. That becomes understandable as soon as we investigate the facts: the first War on Terror quickly became a murderous and brutal terrorist war, in every corner of the world where it reached, leaving traumatized societies that may never recover. What happened is hardly obscure, but doctrinally unacceptable, therefore protected from inspection. Unearthing the record is an enlightening exercise, with enormous implications for the future.

These are a few of the relevant facts, and they definitely do matter. Let's turn to the second of the guidelines: elementary moral principles. The most elementary is a virtual truism: decent people apply to themselves the same standards that they apply to others, if not more stringent ones. Adherence to this principle of universality would have many useful consequences. For one thing, it would save a lot of trees. The principle would radically reduce published reporting and commentary on social and political affairs. It would virtually eliminate the newly fashionable discipline of Just War theory. And it would wipe the slate almost clean with regard to the War on Terror. The reason is the same in all cases: the principle of universality is rejected, for the most part tacitly, though sometimes explicitly. Those are very sweeping statements. I purposely put them in a stark form to invite you to challenge them, and I hope you do. You will find, I think, that although the statements are somewhat overdrawn--purposely -- they nevertheless are uncomfortably close to accurate, and in fact very fully documented. But try for yourselves and see.

This most elementary of moral truisms is sometimes upheld at least in words. One example, of critical importance today, is the Nuremberg Tribunal. In sentencing Nazi war criminals to death, Justice Robert Jackson, Chief of Counsel for the United States, spoke eloquently, and memorably, on the principle of universality. "If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes," he said, "they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us....We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well."

That is a clear and honorable statement of the principle of universality. But the judgment at Nuremberg itself crucially violated this principle. The Tribunal had to define "war crime" and "crimes against humanity." It crafted these definition very carefully so that crimes are criminal only if they were not committed by the allies. Urban bombing of civilian concentrations was excluded, because the allies carried it out more barbarically than the Nazis. And Nazi war criminals, like Admiral Doenitz, were able to plead successfully that their British and US counterparts had carried out the same practices. The reasoning was outlined by Telford Taylor, a distinguished international lawyer who was Jackson's Chief Counsel for War Crimes. He explained that "to punish the foe--especially the vanquished foe--for conduct in which the enforcing nation has engaged, would be so grossly inequitable as to discredit the laws themselves." That is correct, but the operative definition of "crime" also discredits the laws themselves. Subsequent Tribunals are discredited by the same moral flaw, but the self-exemption of the powerful from international law and elementary moral principle goes far beyond this illustration, and reaches to just about every aspect of the two phases of the War on Terror.

Let's turn to the third background issue: defining "terror" and distinguishing it from aggression and legitimate resistance. I have been writing about terror for 25 years, ever since the Reagan administration declared its War on Terror. I've been using definitions that seem to be doubly appropriate: first, they make sense; and second, they are the official definitions of those waging the war. To take one of these official definitions, terrorism is "the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious, or ideological in nature...through intimidation, coercion, or instilling fear," typically targeting civilians. The British government's definition is about the same: "Terrorism is the use, or threat, of action which is violent, damaging or disrupting, and is intended to influence the government or intimidate the public and is for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, or ideological cause." These definitions seem fairly clear and close to ordinary usage. There also seems to be general agreement that they are appropriate when discussing the terrorism of enemies.

But a problem at once arises. These definitions yield an entirely unacceptable consequence: it follows that the US is a leading terrorist state, dramatically so during the Reaganite war on terror. Merely to take the most uncontroversial case, Reagan's state-directed terrorist war against Nicaragua was condemned by the World Court, backed by two Security Council resolutions (vetoed by the US, with Britain politely abstaining). Another completely clear case is Cuba, where the record by now is voluminous, and not controversial. And there is a long list beyond them.

We may ask, however, whether such crimes as the state-directed attack against Nicaragua are really terrorism, or whether they rise to the level of the much higher crime of aggression. The concept of aggression was defined clearly enough by Justice Jackson at Nuremberg in terms that were basically reiterated in an authoritative General Assembly resolution. An "aggressor," Jackson proposed to the Tribunal, is a state that is the first to commit such actions as "Invasion of its armed forces, with or without a declaration of war, of the territory of another State," or "Provision of support to armed bands formed in the territory of another State, or refusal, notwithstanding the request of the invaded State, to take in its own territory, all the measures in its power to deprive those bands of all assistance or protection." The first provision unambiguously applies to the US-UK invasion of Iraq. The second, just as clearly, applies to the US war against Nicaragua. However, we might give the current incumbents in Washington and their mentors the benefit of the doubt, considering them guilty only of the lesser crime of international terrorism, on a huge and unprecedented scale.

It may also be recalled the aggression was defined at Nuremberg as "the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole"--all the evil in the tortured land of Iraq that flowed from the US-UK invasion, for example, and in Nicaragua too, if the charge is not reduced to international terrorism. And in Lebanon, and all too many other victims who are easily dismissed on grounds of wrong agency--right to the present. A week ago (January 13), a CIA predator drone attacked a village in Pakistan, murdering dozens of civilians, entire families, who just happened to live in a suspected al-Qaeda hideout. Such routine actions elicit little notice, a legacy of the poisoning of the moral culture by centuries of imperial thuggery.

The World Court did not take up the charge of aggression in the Nicaragua case. The reasons are instructive, and of quite considerable contemporary relevance. Nicaragua's case was presented by the distinguished Harvard University law professor Abram Chayes, former legal adviser to the State Department. The Court rejected a large part of his case on the grounds that in accepting World Court jurisdiction in 1946, the US had entered a reservation excluding itself from prosecution under multilateral treaties, including the UN Charter. The Court therefore restricted its deliberations to customary international law and a bilateral US-Nicaragua treaty, so that the more serious charges were excluded. Even on these very narrow grounds, the Court charged Washington with "unlawful use of force"--in lay language, international terrorism--and ordered it to terminate the crimes and pay substantial reparations. The Reaganites reacted by escalating the war, also officially endorsing attacks by their terrorist forces against "soft targets," undefended civilian targets. The terrorist war left the country in ruins, with a death toll equivalent to 2.25 million in US per capita terms, more than the total of all wartime casualties in US history combined. After the shattered country fell back under US control, it declined to further misery. It is now the second poorest country in Latin America after Haiti--and by accident, also second after Haiti in intensity of US intervention in the past century. The standard way to lament these tragedies is to say that Haiti and Nicaragua are "battered by storms of their own making," to quote the Boston Globe, at the liberal extreme of American journalism. Guatemala ranks third both in misery and intervention, more storms of their own making.

In the Western canon, none of this exists. All is excluded not only from general history and commentary, but also quite tellingly from the huge literature on the War on Terror re-declared in 2001, though its relevance can hardly be in doubt.

These considerations have to do with the boundary between terror and aggression. What about the boundary between terror and resistance? One question that arises is the legitimacy of actions to realize "the right to self-determination, freedom, and independence, as derived from the Charter of the United Nations, of people forcibly deprived of that right..., particularly peoples under colonial and racist regimes and foreign occupation..." Do such actions fall under terror or resistance? The quoted word are from the most forceful denunciation of the crime of terrorism by the UN General Assembly; in December 1987, taken up under Reaganite pressure. Hence it is obviously an important resolution, even more so because of the near-unanimity of support for it. The resolution passed 153-2 (Honduras alone abstaining). It stated that "nothing in the present resolution could in any way prejudice the right to self-determination, freedom, and independence," as characterized in the quoted words.
The two countries that voted against the resolution explained their reasons at the UN session. They were based on the paragraph just quoted. The phrase "colonial and racist regimes" was understood to refer to their ally apartheid South Africa, then consummating its massacres in the neighboring countries and continuing its brutal repression within. Evidently, the US and Israel could not condone resistance to the apartheid regime, particularly when it was led by Nelson Mandela's ANC, one of the world's "more notorious terrorist groups," as Washington determined at the same time. Granting legitimacy to resistance against "foreign occupation" was also unacceptable. The phrase was understood to refer to Israel's US-backed military occupation, then in its 20 th year. Evidently, resistance to that occupation could not be condoned either, even though at the time of the resolution it scarcely existed: despite extensive torture, degradation, brutality, robbery of land and resources, and other familiar concomitants of military occupation, Palestinians under occupation still remained "Samidin," those who quietly endured.

Technically, there are no vetoes at the General Assembly. In the real world, a negative US vote is a veto, in fact a double veto: the resolution is not implemented, and is vetoed from reporting and history. It should be added that the voting pattern is quite common at the General Assembly, and also at the Security Council, on a wide range of issues. Ever since the mid-1960s, when the world fell pretty much out of control, the US is far in the lead in Security Council vetoes, Britain second, with no one else even close. It is also of some interest to note that a majority of the American public favors abandonment of the veto, and following the will of the majority even if Washington disapproves, facts virtually unknown in the US, or I suppose elsewhere. That suggests another conservative way to deal with some of the problems of the world: pay attention to public opinion.

Terrorism directed or supported by the most powerful states continues to the present, often in shocking ways. These facts offer one useful suggestion as to how to mitigate the plague spread by "depraved opponents of civilization itself" in "a return to barbarism in the modern age": Stop participating in terror and supporting it. That would certainly contribute to the proclaimed objections. But that suggestion too is off the agenda, for the usual reasons. When it is occasionally voiced, the reaction is reflexive: a tantrum about how those who make this rather conservative proposal are blaming everything on the US.

Even with careful sanitization of discussion, dilemmas constantly arise. One just arose very recently, when Luis Posada Carriles entered the US illegally. Even by the narrow operative definition of "terror," he is clearly one of the most notorious international terrorists, from the 1960s to the present. Venezuela requested that he be extradited to face charges for the bombing of a Cubana airliner in Venezuela, killing 73 people. The charges are admittedly credible, but there is a real difficulty. After Posada miraculously escaped from a Venezuelan prison, the liberal Boston Globe reports, he "was hired by US covert operatives to direct the resupply operation for the Nicaraguan contras from El Salvador"--that is, to play a prominent role in terrorist atrocities that are incomparably worse than blowing up the Cubana airliner. Hence the dilemma. To quote the press: "Extraditing him for trial could send a worrisome signal to covert foreign agents that they cannot count on unconditional protection from the US government, and it could expose the CIA to embarrassing public disclosures from a former operative." Evidently, a difficult problem.

The Posada dilemma was, thankfully, resolved by the courts, which rejected Venezuela's appeal for his extradition, in violation of the US-Venezuela extradition treaty. A day later, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, urged Europe to speed US demands for extradition: "We are always looking to see how we can make the extradition process go faster," he said. "We think we owe it to the victims of terrorism to see to it that justice is done efficiently and effectively." At the Ibero-American Summit shortly after, the leaders of Spain and the Latin American countries "backed Venezuela's efforts to have [Posada] extradited from the United States to face trial" for the Cubana airliner bombing, and again condemned the "blockade" of Cuba by the US, endorsing regular near-unanimous UN resolutions, the most recent with a vote of 179-4 (US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau). After strong protests from the US Embassy, the Summit withdrew the call for extradition, but refused to yield on the demand for an end to the economic warfare. Posada is therefore free to join his colleague Orlando Bosch in Miami. Bosch is implicated in dozens of terrorist crimes, including the Cubana airliner bombing, many on US soil. The FBI and Justice Department wanted him deported as a threat to national security, but Bush I took care of that by granting him a presidential pardon.

There are other such examples. We might want to bear them in mind when we read Bush II's impassioned pronouncement that "the United States makes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support them, because they're equally as guilty of murder," and "the civilized world must hold those regimes to account." This was proclaimed to great applause at the National Endowment for Democracy, a few days after Venezuela's extradition request had been refused. Bush's remarks pose another dilemma. Either the US is part of the civilized world, and must send the US air force to bomb Washington; or it declares itself to be outside the civilized world. The logic is impeccable, but fortunately, logic has been dispatched as deep into the memory hole as moral truisms.

The Bush doctrine that "those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves" was promulgated when the Taliban asked for evidence before handing over people the US suspected of terrorism--without credible evidence, as the FBI conceded many months later. The doctrine is taken very seriously. Harvard international relations specialist Graham Allison writes that it has "already become a de facto rule of international relations," revoking "the sovereignty of states that provide sanctuary to terrorists." Some states, that is, thanks to the rejection of the principle of universality.

One might also have thought that a dilemma would have arisen when John Negroponte was appointed to the position of head of counter-terrorism. As Ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s, he was running the world's largest CIA station, not because of the grand role of Honduras in world affairs, but because Honduras was the primary US base for the international terrorist war for which Washington was condemned by the ICJ and Security Council (absent the veto). Known in Honduras as "the Proconsul," Negroponte had the task of ensuring that the international terrorist operations, which reached remarkable levels of savagery, would proceed efficiently. His responsibilities in managing the war on the scene took a new turn after official funding was barred in 1983, and he had to implement White House orders to bribe and pressure senior Honduran Generals to step up their support for the terrorist war using funds from other sources, later funds illegally transferred from US arms sales to Iran. The most vicious of the Honduran killers and torturers was General Alvarez Martínez, the chief of the Honduran armed forces at the time, who had informed the US that "he intended to use the Argentine method of eliminating suspected subversives." Negroponte regularly denied gruesome state crimes in Honduras to ensure that military aid would continue to flow for international terrorism. Knowing all about Alvarez, the Reagan administration awarded him the Legion of Merit medal for "encouraging the success of democratic processes in Honduras." The elite unit responsible for the worst crimes in Honduras was Battalion 3-16, organized and trained by Washington and its Argentine neo-Nazi associates. Honduran military officers in charge of the Battalion were on the CIA payroll. When the government of Honduras finally tried to deal with these crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice, the Reagan-Bush administration refused to allow Negroponte to testify, as the courts requested.

There was virtually no reaction to the appointment of a leading international terrorist to the top counter-terrorism position in the world. Nor to the fact that at the very same time, the heroine of the popular struggle that overthrew the vicious Somoza regime in Nicaragua, Dora María Téllez, was denied a visa to teach at the Harvard Divinity School, as a terrorist. Her crime was to have helped overthrow a US-backed tyrant and mass murderer. Orwell would not have known whether to laugh or weep. So far I have been keeping to the kinds of topics that would be addressed in a discussion of the War on Terror that is not deformed to accord with the iron laws of doctrine. And this barely scratches the surface. But let us now adopt prevailing Western hypocrisy and cynicism, and keep to the operative definition of "terror." It is the same as the official definitions, but with the Nuremberg exception: admissible terror is your terror; ours is exempt..
Even with this constraint, terror is a major problem, undoubtedly. And to mitigate or terminate the threat should be a high priority. Regrettably, it is not. That is all too easy to demonstrate, and the consequences are likely to be severe.

The invasion of Iraq is perhaps the most glaring example of the low priority assigned by US-UK leaders to the threat of terror. Washington planners had been advised, even by their own intelligence agencies, that the invasion was likely to increase the risk of terror. And it did, as their own intelligence agencies confirm. The National Intelligence Council reported a year ago that "Iraq and other possible conflicts in the future could provide recruitment, training grounds, technical skills and language proficiency for a new class of terrorists who are `professionalized' and for whom political violence becomes an end in itself," spreading elsewhere to defend Muslim lands from attack by "infidel invaders" in a globalized network of "diffuse Islamic extremist groups," with Iraq now replacing the Afghan training grounds for this more extensive network, as a result of the invasion. A high-level government review of the "war on terror" two years after the invasion `focused on how to deal with the rise of a new generation of terrorists, schooled in Iraq over the past couple years. Top government officials are increasingly turning their attention to anticipate what one called "the bleed out" of hundreds or thousands of Iraq-trained jihadists back to their home countries throughout the Middle East and Western Europe. "It's a new piece of a new equation," a former senior Bush administration official said. "If you don't know who they are in Iraq, how are you going to locate them in Istanbul or London?"' ( Washington Post).

Last May the CIA reported that "Iraq has become a magnet for Islamic militants similar to Soviet-occupied Afghanistan two decades ago and Bosnia in the 1990s," according to US officials quoted in the New York Times. The CIA concluded that "Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in Al Qaeda's early days, because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for urban combat." Shortly after the London bombing last July, Chatham House released a study concluding that "there is `no doubt' that the invasion of Iraq has `given a boost to the al-Qaida network' in propaganda, recruitment and fundraising,` while providing an ideal training area for terrorists"; and that "the UK is at particular risk because it is the closest ally of the United States" and is "a pillion passenger" of American policy" in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is extensive supporting evidence to show that -- as anticipated -- the invasion increased the risk of terror and nuclear proliferation. None of this shows that planners prefer these consequences, of course. Rather, they are not of much concern in comparison with much higher priorities that are obscure only to those who prefer what human rights researchers sometimes call "intentional ignorance."

Once again we find, very easily, a way to reduce the threat of terror: stop acting in ways that--predictably--enhance the threat. Though enhancement of the threat of terror and proliferation was anticipated, the invasion did so even in unanticipated ways. It is common to say that no WMD were found in Iraq after exhaustive search. That is not quite accurate, however. There were stores of WMD in Iraq: namely, those produced in the 1980s, thanks to aid provided by the US and Britain, along with others. These sites had been secured by UN inspectors, who were dismantling the weapons. But the inspectors were dismissed by the invaders and the sites were left unguarded. The inspectors nevertheless continued to carry out their work with satellite imagery. They discovered sophisticated massive looting of these installations in over 100 sites, including equipment for producing solid and liquid propellant missiles, biotoxins and other materials usable for chemical and biological weapons, and high-precision equipment capable of making parts for nuclear and chemical weapons and missiles. A Jordanian journalist was informed by officials in charge of the Jordanian-Iraqi border that after US-UK forces took over, radioactive materials were detected in one of every eight trucks crossing to Jordan, destination unknown.

The ironies are almost inexpressible. The official justification for the US-UK invasion was to prevent the use of WMD that did not exist. The invasion provided the terrorists who had been mobilized by the US and its allies with the means to develop WMD -- namely, equipment they had provided to Saddam, caring nothing about the terrible crimes they later invoked to whip up support for the invasion. It is as if Iran were now making nuclear weapons using fissionable materials provided by the US to Iran under the Shah -- which may indeed be happening. Programs to recover and secure such materials were having considerable success in the '90s, but like the war on terror, these programs fell victim to Bush administration priorities as they dedicated their energy and resources to invading Iraq.

Elsewhere in the Mideast too terror is regarded as secondary to ensuring that the region is under control. Another illustration is Bush's imposition of new sanctions on Syria in May 2004, implementing the Syria Accountability Act passed by Congress a few months earlier. Syria is on the official list of states sponsoring terrorism, despite Washington's acknowledgment that Syria has not been implicated in terrorist acts for many years and has been highly cooperative in providing important intelligence to Washington on al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups. The gravity of Washington's concern over Syria's links to terror was revealed by President Clinton when he offered to remove Syria from the list of states sponsoring terror if it agreed to US-Israeli peace terms. When Syria insisted on recovering its conquered territory, it remained on the list. Implementation of the Syria Accountability Act deprived the US of an important source of information about radical Islamist terrorism in order to achieve the higher goal of establishing in Syria a regime that will accept US-Israeli demands.

Turning to another domain, the Treasury Department has a bureau (OFAC, Office of Foreign Assets Control) that is assigned the task of investigating suspicious financial transfers, a central component of the "war on terror." In April 2004, OFAC informed Congress that of its 120 employees, four were assigned to tracking the finances of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, while almost two dozen were occupied with enforcing the embargo against Cuba. From 1990 to 2003 there were 93 terrorism-related investigations with $9000 in fines; and 11,000 Cuba-related investigations with $8 million in fines. The revelations received the silent treatment in the US media, elsewhere as well to my knowledge.

Why should the Treasury Department devote vastly more energy to strangling Cuba than to the "war on terror"? The basic reasons were explained in internal documents of the Kennedy-Johnson years. State Department planners warned that the "very existence" of the Castro regime is "successful defiance" of US policies going back 150 years, to the Monroe Doctrine; not Russians, but intolerable defiance of the master of the hemisphere, much like Iran's crime of successful defiance in 1979, or Syria's rejection of Clinton's demands. Punishment of the population was regarded as fully legitimate, we learn from internal documents. "The Cuban people [are] responsible for the regime," the Eisenhower State Department decided, so that the US has the right to cause them to suffer by economic strangulation, later escalated to direct terror by Kennedy. Eisenhower and Kennedy agreed that the embargo would hasten Fidel Castro's departure as a result of the "rising discomfort among hungry Cubans." The basic thinking was summarized by State Department official Lester Mallory: Castro would be removed "through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship so every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba in order to bring about hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the government." When Cuba was in dire straits after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Washington intensified the punishment of the people of Cuba, at the initiative of liberal Democrats. The author of the 1992 measures to tighten the blockade proclaimed that "my objective is to wreak havoc in Cuba" (Representative Robert Torricelli). All of this continues until the present moment.

The Kennedy administration was also deeply concerned about the threat of Cuban successful development, which might be a model for others. But even apart from these standard concerns, successful defiance in itself is intolerable, ranked far higher as a priority than combating terror. These are just further illustrations of principles that are well-established, internally rational, clear enough to the victims, but scarcely perceptible in the intellectual world of the agents.

If reducing the threat of terror were a high priority for Washington or London, as it certainly should be, there would be ways to proceed--even apart from the unmentionable idea of withdrawing participation. The first step, plainly, is to try to understand its roots. With regard to Islamic terror, there is a broad consensus among intelligence agencies and researchers. They identify two categories: the jihadis, who regard themselves as a vanguard, and their audience, which may reject terror but nevertheless regard their cause as just. A serious counter-terror campaign would therefore begin by considering the grievances , and where appropriate, addressing them, as should be done with or without the threat of terror. There is broad agreement among specialists that al-Qaeda-style terror "is today less a product of Islamic fundamentalism than of a simple strategic goal: to compel the United States and its Western allies to withdraw combat forces from the Arabian Peninsula and other Muslim countries" (Robert Pape, who has done the major research on suicide bombers). Serious analysts have pointed out that bin Laden's words and deeds correlate closely. The jihadis organized by the Reagan administration and its allies ended their Afghan-based terrorism inside Russia after the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan, though they continued it from occupied Muslim Chechnya, the scene of horrifying Russian crimes back to the 19 th century. Osama turned against the US in 1991 because he took it to be occupying the holiest Arab land; that was later acknowledged by the Pentagon as a reason for shifting US bases from Saudi Arabia to Iraq. Additionally, he was angered by the rejection of his effort to join the attack against Saddam.

In the most extensive scholarly inquiry into the jihadi phenomenon, Fawaz Gerges concludes that after 9/11, "the dominant response to Al Qaeda in the Muslim world was very hostile," specifically among the jihadis, who regarded it as a dangerous extremist fringe. Instead of recognizing that opposition to Al Qaeda offered Washington "the most effective way to drive a nail into its coffin" by finding "intelligent means to nourish and support the internal forces that were opposed to militant ideologies like the bin Laden network," he writes, the Bush administration did exactly what bin Laden hoped it would do: resort to violence, particularly in the invasion of Iraq. Al-Azhar in Egypt, the oldest institution of religious higher learning in the Islamic world, issued a fatwa, which gained strong support, advising "all Muslims in the world to make jihad against invading American forces" in a war that Bush had declared against Islam. A leading religious figure at al-Azhar, who had been "one of the first Muslim scholars to condemn Al Qaeda [and was] often criticized by ultraconservative clerics as a pro-Western reformer, ruled that efforts to stop the American invasion [of Iraq] are a `binding Islamic duty'." Investigations by Israeli and Saudi intelligence, supported by US strategic studies institutes, conclude that foreign fighters in Iraq, some 5-10% of the insurgents, were mobilized by the invasion, and had no previous record of association with terrorist groups. The achievements of Bush administration planners in inspiring Islamic radicalism and terror, and joining Osama in creating a "clash of civilizations," are quite impressive.

The senior CIA analyst responsible for tracking Osama bin Laden from 1996, Michael Scheuer, writes that "bin Laden has been precise in telling America the reasons he is waging war on us. None of the reasons have anything to do with our freedom, liberty, and democracy, but have everything to do with U.S. policies and actions in the Muslim world." Osama's concern "is out to drastically alter U.S. and Western policies toward the Islamic world," Scheuer writes: "He is a practical warrior, not an apocalyptic terrorist in search of Armageddon." As Osama constantly repeats, "Al Qaeda supports no Islamic insurgency that seeks to conquer new lands." Preferring comforting illusions, Washington ignores "the ideological power, lethality, and growth potential of the threat personified by Osama bin Laden, as well as the impetus that threat has been given by the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Muslim Iraq, [which is] icing on the cake for al Qaeda." "U.S. forces and policies are completing the radicalization of the Islamic world, something Osama bin Laden has been trying to do with substantial but incomplete success since the early 1990s. As a result, [Scheuer adds,] it is fair to conclude that the United States of America remains bin Laden's only indispensable ally."

The grievances are very real. A Pentagon advisory Panel concluded a year ago that "Muslims do not `hate our freedom,' but rather they hate our policies," adding that "when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy." The conclusions go back many years. In 1958, President Eisenhower puzzled about "the campaign of hatred against us" in the Arab world, "not by the governments but by the people," who are "on Nasser's side," supporting independent secular nationalism. The reasons for the "campaign of hatred" were outlined by the National Security Council: "In the eyes of the majority of Arabs the United States appears to be opposed to the realization of the goals of Arab nationalism. They believe that the United States is seeking to protect its interest in Near East oil by supporting the status quo and opposing political or economic progress." Furthermore, the perception is understandable: "our economic and cultural interests in the area have led not unnaturally to close U.S. relations with elements in the Arab world whose primary interest lies in the maintenance of relations with the West and the status quo in their countries," blocking democracy and development.

Much the same was found by the Wall Street Journal when it surveyed the opinions of "moneyed Muslims" immediately after 9/11: bankers, professionals, businessmen, committed to official "Western values" and embedded in the neoliberal globalization project. They too were dismayed by Washington's support for harsh authoritarian states and the barriers it erects against development and democracy by "propping up oppressive regimes." They had new grievances, however, beyond those reported by the NSC in 1958: Washington's sanctions regime in Iraq and support for Israel's military occupation and takeover of the territories. There was no survey of the great mass of poor and suffering people, but it is likely that their sentiments are more intense, coupled with bitter resentment of the Western-oriented elites and corrupt and brutal rulers backed by Western power who ensure that the enormous wealth of the region flows to the West, apart from enriching themselves. The Iraq invasion only intensified these feelings further, much as anticipated.

There are ways to deal constructively with the threat of terror, though not those preferred by "bin Laden's indispensable ally," or those who try to avoid the real world by striking heroic poses about Islamo-fascism, or who simply claim that no proposals are made when there are quite straightforward proposals that they do not like. The constructive ways have to begin with an honest look in the mirror, never an easy task, always a necessary one.

This was the Amnesty International Annual Lecture hosted by TCD, delivered by Noam Chomsky at Shelbourne Hall, the Royal Dublin Society, January 18, 2006.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Psalm 62 Song of Trust in God Alone

Psalm 62
Song of Trust in God Alone

To the leader: according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall never be shaken.

How long will you assail a person,
will you batter your victim, all of you,
as you would a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
Their only plan is to bring down a person of prominence.
They take pleasure in falsehood;
they bless with their mouths,
but inwardly they curse. Selah

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah

Those of low estate are but a breath,
those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
they are together lighter than a breath.
Put no confidence in extortion,
and set no vain hopes on robbery;
if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.

Once God has spoken;
twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord.
For you repay to all
according to their work.

Book: Thomas Merton: Peace in the Post-Christian Era


Author: Thomas Merton
Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, pp.165

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

“In this long-withheld manuscript, Thomas Merton identifies the readiness of many nations – led by our own – to prepare for and threaten mass murder as the most urgent moral crisis of our time. Ringing across four decades, his profound warning is more timely than tomorrow’s headlines.” Daniel Ellsberg

An Excerpt from the Book:

(Click here to read the Forward to the book)

This then in conclusion: the Christian is bound to work for peace by working against global dissolution and anarchy. Due to nationalist and revolutionary ideologies (for Communism is in fact exploiting the intense nationalism of backward peoples), a worldwide spirit of confusion and disorder is breaking up the unity and the order of civilized society.

It is true that we live in an epoch of revolution, and that the break-up and re-formation of society is inevitable. But the Christian must see that his mission is not to contribute to the blind destructive forces of annihilation which tend to destroy civilization and mankind together. He must seek to build rather than to destroy. He most orient his efforts towards world unity and not towards world division. Anyone who promotes policies of hatred and of war is working for the division and destruction of civilized mankind.

We have to be convinced that there are certain violences which the moral law absolutely forbids to all men, such as the use of torture, the killing of hostages, genocide (or the mass extermination of racial, national or other groups for no reason than that they belong to an “undesirable” category). The destruction of civilian centers by nuclear annihilation is genocide.

We have to become aware of the poisonous effect of the mass media that keep violence, cruelty and sadism constantly present to the minds of unformed and irresponsible people. We have to recognize the danger to the whole world in the fact that today the economic life of the more highly developed nations is in large part centered on the production of weapons, missiles and other engines of destruction.

We have to consider that hate propaganda, and the consistent heckling of one government by another, has always inevitably led to violent conflect. We have to recognize the implications of voting for extremist politicians who promote policies of hate. We must consider the dire effect of fanaticism and witch-hunting within our own nation. We must never forget that our most ordinary decisions may have terrible consequences.

It is no longer reasonable or right to leave all decisions to a largely anonymous power elite that is driving us all, in our passivity, towards ruin. We have to make ourselves heard.

Every individual Christian has a grave responsibility to protest clearly and forcibly against trends that lead inevitably to crimes which the Church deplores and condemns. Ambiguity, hesitation and compromise are no longer permissible. We must find some new and constructive way of settling international disputes.

It is clearly the mind of the Church that every possible effort must be made for the abolition of war, even though the theory of the “just war” and the right of legitimate self-defense remain intact. But appeal to this right must not blind us to the much higher and more urgent duty of working with all our power for peace.

This may be extraordinarily difficult. Obviously war cannot be abolished by mere wishing.

We have still time to do something about it, but the time is rapidly running out.

Table of Contents:

1. Preamble: Peace – A religious responsibility

2. Can we choose peace?

3. The dance of death

4. The Christian as peacemaker

5. War in Origen and St. Augustine

6. The legacy of Machiavelli

7. Justice in modern war

8. Religious problems of the cold war

9. Theologians an defense

10. Working for peace

11. Beyond east and west

12. Moral passivity and demonic activism

13. The scientists and nuclear war

14. Red or dead? The anatomy of a cliche

15. Christian perspectives in world crisis

16. Christian conscience and national defense

17. The Christian choice

This book has my highest reccomendations. It has helped seal my understanding of the issue of the Christian perspective on warfare once and for all.

Concerning the term "post -Christian" Merton writes this:

"Whether we like to admit it or not, we are living in a post- Christian world, that is to say a world in which Christian ideals and attitudes are relegated more and more to the minority. It is frightening to realize that the facade of Christianity which still generally survives has perhaps little or nothing behind it, and what was once called "Christian society" is more purely and simply a materialistic neopaganism with a Christian veneer... Not only non-Christians but even Christians themselves tend to dismiss the Gospel ethic on nonviolence and love as "sentimental". "


Merton's book was written in 1961 at the onset of the "Cold War" and the Vietnam conflict. Not only was it very prophetic for that time as well as this, but it recognizes the rise of the hardline neopagan pseudo- Christianity that holds sway in today's toxic political discourse. If one were to substitute the word "terrorist" each time Merton wrote the word "Communist" he would be speaking directly to us today about the "War on Terror".

For instance:

"At one extreme we have the "hard" and "realistic" view. It excludes all other considerations and concentrates on one inescapable fact: the "terrorist" threat to western society. It considers that negotiation with "terrorism" is for all practical purposes futile. It is thoroughly convinced that only the strongest pressure will be of any use in stopping "terrorism" and the victory over "terrorism" by any available means takes precedence over everything else. Hence this "hard" position is in fact favorable to nuclear war and makes no distinction between preemption and retaliation, except perhaps to favor preeemption as more likely to succeed...
...they tend to regard anyone who strongly favors peace and disarmament as a "terrorist" dupe or fellow traveller, simply because of the worldwide propaganda given to the "terrorist strategy for peace".

The simplicity and ruthlessness of this view makes an immediate appeal to a very large proportion of the American middle class. It is simple. It is clear. It promises results. It has the advantage above all of permitting disturbed and frustrated people to discharge their anxieties upon a hated enemy and thereby achieve a sense of meaning and satifaction in their own lives. But unfortunately this kind of satisfaction leads to moral blindness and to the stultification of conscience. The fact that this "solution" at the same time favors nuclear war, and considers it fully morally justified by its "good cause" and also appeals to certain types of Christians, shows that it is a SERIOUS danger. To be succinct, it produces a state of invincible moral ignorance. It consecrates policies that have very dubius justice, blurring the ethical clarity of Christian thought, making base emotions and hatreds with the specious appearance of christian zeal."

This book is the most refined, comprehensive and persuasive tesament on this subject i have ever read.

Semper Fi Vs. Fidelity to the Words of Christ


I recently discovered this set of comments on the Sojourners blog where I entered the fray by asking someone what defines someone as a "leftist christian". Below these comments by someone calling themself "Semper Fi", I make a few coments myself:

Semper Fi said:

"We need a president with the testicular fortitude to wage a serious war to end all wars. It's time re-awaken the "Sleeping Giant". Time to start kicking booty like we mean business. The only way we will win this war on terror is to strike first, strike extraordinarily hard, and create a massive wake of devastation large enough that no nation would dare cross the line in the sand for fear of being next to incur our wrath. We have the technology and resources to do this. What are we waiting for.

That won't happen with a Hillary in office. It probably won't happen with a Rudy in office. But, I'm putting my vote on the candidate that's not willing to put up with any more crap from the Islamic sector. If they want a holy war, let's give them one that puts Hiroshima and Nakasake to shame, and restore the balance of power to the only nation with the ability to hold that power and maintain justice on this spinning chunk of rock.

Jesus was not a wuss. He was obedient to his Father. Had he not been, he would not have died on the cross. He had the power to do something different, but was obedient. All this silly "Christian" talk about playing footsies with our enemies is hogwash. God is not a wuss. He instructed Israel to utterly destroy every that lived and breathed when they went to war. They did not listen, and here we are today, post 9/11, with a bunch of retarded Muslim infidels causing problems for the whole pamn dlantet.

Time to wake up, America. This is not a fire drill. This is for real. Let's fight to win. I'm not a fan of Pat's, but what in the world is wrong with some of his ideas, like hiring a hit man to take out Chavez, or even Castro. What ever happened to real Americans, like Truman and Eisenhower, and real soldiers, like Patton and Churchill? That's not anti-Christian. It's anti-stupid!

I'm not an extremist. I'm a realist. What have we done lately that has worked? Nothing meaningful since Reagan left office. Nothing. We took giant steps backward under the "leadership" (ha ha) of Slick Willy. Why in the world would we elect his goofy witch of a wife for President? It amazes me that it's even an option for some people. And this Barak Osama clown? Tell me I'm dreaming! Anything on the Republican ticket is a better option than any of our Democratic options.

The right choices are simple:
(1) Stop murdering our unborn children;
(2) Stop putting up with crap off of nations that house radical Islamists;
(3) Stop putting up with people that want to force us into embracing their choice to live a sinful and sexually perverted lifestyle;
(4) Stop supporting government that takes our hard earned wages and handing out gifts to those that have not done as well;
(5) Start teaching our children there ARE moral absolutes;
(6) Start electing officials that govern of, by and for the people.
(7) Start using our own oil and let Venezuela and watch all the Arab nations economically implode when we stop purchasing anything from them, and stop selling anything to them, including food. Let's see how tasty they find them steel barrels.

9/11 - WE WILL NEVER FORGET! Shame on those who think we should. How dare you call yourself a Christian, or an American?

"Friends don't let friends vote Democrat."

Semper Fi!"

Scott says:

This is the epitome of secular humanist, miltary- humanitarian, antithetical to the gospel, self idolatrous, nationalist propaganda .... and yet somehow it is considered "conservative" theologically? Rather this type of position is immoral, irresponsible and irrational and in fact helps to perpetuate and create factors that make terrorism, mass violence, hatred and the self perpetuating cycle of violence and revenge more likely rather than less.

I have just read a book entitled "Peace in the Post-Christian Era" by Thomas Merton the famous Christian author. Concerning the term "post -Christian" Merton writes this: Whether we like to admit it or not, we are living in a post- Christian world, that is to say a world in which Christian ideals and attitudes are relegated more and more to the minority. It is frightening to realize that the facade of Christianity which still generally survives has perhaps little or nothing behind it, and what was once called "Christian society" is more purely and simply a materialistic neopaganism with a Christian veneer... Not only non-Christians but even Christians themselves tend to dismiss the Gospel ethic on nonviolence and love as "sentimental". "

Merton's book was written in 1961 at the onset of the "Cold War" and the Vietnam conflict. Not only was it very prophetic for that time as well as this, but it recognizes the rise of the hardline neopagan pseudo- Christianity from which Mr. Semper Fi speaks. If one were to substitute the word "terrorist" each time Merton wrote the word "Communist" he would be speaking directly to us and those like Mr. Semper Fi. Let me demonstrate:

"At one extreme we have the "hard" and "realistic" view. It excludes all other considerations and concentrates on one inescapable fact: the "terrorist" threat to western society. It considers that negotiation with "terrorism" is for all practical purposes futile. It is thoroughly convinced that only the strongest pressure will be of any use in stopping "terrorism" and the victory over "terrorism" by any available means takes precedence over everything else. Hence this "hard" position is in fact favorable to nuclear war and makes no distinction between preemption and retaliation, except perhaps to favor preeemption as more likely to succeed...
...they tend to regard anyone who strongly favors peace and disarmament as a "terrorist" dupe or fellow traveller, simply because of the worldwide propaganda given to the Communist "peace line".
The simplicity and ruthlessness of this view makes an immediate appeal to a very large proportion of the American middle class. It is simple. It is clear. It promises results. It has the advantage above all of permitting disturbed and frustrated people to discharge their anxieties upon a hated enemy and thereby achieve a sense of meaning and satifaction in their own lives. But unfortunately this kind of satisfaction leads to moral blindness and to the stultification of conscience. The fact that this "solution" at the same time favors nuclear war, and considers it fully morally justified by its "good cause" and also appeals to certain types of Christians, shows that it is a SERIOUS danger. To be succinct, it produces a state of invincible moral ignorance. It consecrates policies that have very dubius justice, blurring the ethical clarity of Christian thought, making base emotions and hatreds with the specious appearance of christian zeal."

Taking into consideration Luke Chapter 6 which contains these quotes straight from the mouth of Jesus

"Love for Enemies
27"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Judging Others
37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

39 He also told them this parable: "Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.

41 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
A Tree and Its Fruit
43 "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
The Wise and Foolish Builders
46 "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? 47I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete."

...there is simply no way Mr. Semper Fi can justify the quote I cited above from him. In fact, on point with the discussion of "conservatism" and "liberalism" his views are not biblically conservative at all... but in fact they are rather an extremely "liberal", authoritarian self serving, humanist, idolatrous perspective. Before someone turns around the scripture about not judging and condemning others on my statements here... I am not judging or condemning anyone... The Word does that. However, I do love Mr. Semper Fi as my countryman and fellow sinner and only offer a rebuke because I care enough to confront and offer a rebuke so that he and anyone else reading this will reconsider their position in the light of scripture. I have much more to say on these topics... but as for now this will do.

For the curious... I am niether republican nor democrat nor do I care much for either party, so this assertion;
"Whose ever side your politics are on , that is what defines your Faith."
...is groundless and basless and another skewing of biblical perspective.

For more thoughts along these lines Google the Geotheology blog and look for the post "Loving America By The Book" from October. You can also use the search bar at the top of the Blog to locate it.

God Bless.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

All My Tears- Selah



Lyrics:

When I die don't cry for me
In my fathers arms I'll be
The wounds this world left on my soul
Will all be healed and I'll be whole

Sun and moon will be replaced
With the light of Jesus' face
And I will not be ashamed
For my savior knows my name

It don't matter where you bury me
I'll be home and I'll be free
It don't matter where I lay
All my tears be washed away

Gold and silver blind the eye
Temporary riches lie
Come and eat from heaven's store
Come and drink and thirst no more

So weep not for me my friend
When my time below does end
For my life belongs to him
Who will raise the dead again