Tag Archives: Mark Twain

GUAM IN THE HEADLIGHTS

Guam isn’t in the news very often.   But right now it is.   The reason? North Korea has threatened to “nuke” it first.   It seems to have the technology to do it. But will it?   That is the question.

A North Korean attack on the US Pacific island would likely kill most of the 160,000 Americans who live there; but, within minutes, most of North Korea’s population would also be dead in a US retaliatory strike.  That figure would include North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un. Even if he has a bunker to retire to through the attack, he would no longer have a kingdom to rule over.   Kim would lose everything in minutes.   The three-generation Kim dynasty would be history!

Logic and common sense say he won’t do it.   But logic and common sense are sadly lacking in North Korea.

The world awaits developments and hopes for a good outcome.

Back to Guam.

The world was much simpler when the US took possession of the island in 1898.   It was one of four territories acquired by the United States as a result of the Spanish-American War.   The others were Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Guam had been a Spanish territory for 230 years, since 1668.

When the USS Charleston arrived in Guam to capture the territory, the ship fired its cannons in the direction of the Spanish fort on the island.   The Spanish garrison took some time to respond.   Eventually, they sent a delegation to apologize to the Americans. They had thought the cannons were a salute and they had no means of reciprocating – they hadn’t realized this was an invasion.   It had been a while since they had received any communication from Spain.

So Guam fell into American hands.

Not without some opposition – at home.   The United States was terribly divided on the issue of foreign adventures.   Pro-interventionists included President McKinley, the future Vice President Theodore Roosevelt and newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst, a man of great influence at the time.   All three felt that America needed overseas possessions, like European nations. Against the acquisition of colonies were Mark Twain, Dale Carnegie and William Jennings Bryan.   These two were often referred to as the “pro-imperialists” and the “anti-imperialists.”   Imperialism was very much in vogue at the end of the nineteenth century.

The great debate around the birth of the American Empire is the subject of a new history book, entitled “The True Flag” by Stephen Kinzer, a foreign correspondent who now writes for the Boston Globe.   The Spanish-American War was a major turning point in American history and, indeed, in world history. It launched the US as a global power.

“Various forces united to push McKinley toward his decision to seize the Philippines.   Navy commanders recognized Manila Bay as a magnificent platform from which to project American strategic power into East Asia.   Business leaders saw millions of new customers for American goods, the prospect of rich resources, and a springboard to the potentially immense China market.   Missionaries and religious groups swooned at the prospect of saving millions of lost souls for Christ.   McKinley himself recognized above all the political value of annexation – and the furor he feared would engulf him if he turned away from empire at this crucial moment.” (“The True Flag,” page 87.)

Later, McKinley, a deeply religious man, recounted a vision he had at this time.

“When McKinley emerged from his trance, he found himself believing that the United States could not grant independence to the Philippines because its people were ‘unfit for self-government,’ and that ‘there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them and by God’s grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow men for whom Christ also died.” (ibid.)

The following paragraph adds:  “McKinley was deeply religious, and his account of this vision was no doubt sincere.  Nevertheless he must have recognized the happy coincidence: what God wanted him to do would also be popular with voters.  This time, God sounded remarkably like Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge.”

These paragraphs show just how much American thinking has changed in the last century.   America’s track record in international affairs has been mixed, at best.   The Spanish-American War was won by the US.   World Wars One and Two, were also won, with allies, but there were many problems after the fighting was over.   Wars since World War Two have largely not been won and the country is now caught up in never ending conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan.   The resultant turmoil has created an unprecedented refugee problem and untold suffering.

Americans are often woefully ignorant of these wars and the mess that is left behind.   President McKinley did not know where the Philippines and Guam were when he ordered US forces to take both.   Somebody once said that “wars are nature’s way of teaching Americans geography” — there is a great deal of truth to that.

History, too.   A review of a new book on President James Buchanan, who was in office immediately before Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, described him as one of the worst ever leaders of the free world.   This remark fails to appreciate that Americans presidents did not lead the Free World until after World War Two.

“The first time the phrase ‘Leader of the free world’ appeared in The New York Times was in a November 1948 essay by the British economist Barbara Ward, which urged Western unity against the communist threat. With its unchallenged economic might, the United States was ‘potentially the political leader of the free world.’“ (‘What does it mean that Trump is “Leader of the Free World,” by Dominic Tierney, The Atlantic, January 2017.)

Dozens of nations have been truly and deeply thankful for the American umbrella, especially the nuclear umbrella, which protected them from communism during the Cold War.   However, the Cold War ended over a quarter of a century ago.   Now, there are other threats and the US is not doing so well.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell speech in 1961 warned:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.  The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

A powerful military-industrial complex will constantly be pushing the country toward war to justify its existence and its cost to the tax-payer.   Each of these wars divides the country as assuredly as the first overseas military adventures in 1898.   The wars in the Islamic world have cost the US billions, in addition to thousands of lives.   The result has been described by historian Geoffrey Wawro (University of North Texas) as “Quicksand,” the title of his 2010 book – the more we struggle to get out, the more we get sucked in!

WILL AMERICAN HEGEMONY BE A CONSTANT?

President Trump has vowed to maintain American hegemony, while at the same time promising to put “America First.”   Ultimately, these two are opposites.   America already suffers from a bad case of “imperial over-reach,” with too many commitments around the globe.  Can the US handle a major conflict on the Korean peninsula, together with unfinished wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan? Can the US afford another major conflict, with a $20 trillion overdraft?   Will American voters support more wars?   President Trump has added another possible military intervention, saying that the US may have to intervene militarily in Venezuela.

History shows that every great power eventually burns out.  Before the US, the British Empire was the world’s number one superpower. After World War Two, the British had to deal with three major international problems all at the same time – in India, Palestine and Greece.   Imperial over-reach led to a withdrawal from Greece and the US was well on the way to replacing the United Kingdom as the world’s policeman.   Americans should not fall into the trap of thinking the same cannot happen to them.   The country has a bad case of imperial hubris, just as Britain did before the US.

History shows the inevitability of America’s demise.

So does the Bible.

Bible scholars have long known that the US plays no role in the final prophesied events, which center on Europe and the Middle East.

This implies that something big is going to happen to America, which returns the country to its pre-1898 status, isolated from the rest of the world.   However, it won’t be the same as pre-1898 – then, the US was secure in its isolation; now, there’s too much bitterness and resentment around the world toward the United States.   Additionally, the United States is more divided now than it was then.

Daniel 2:21 reminds us that God is behind the rise and fall of nations.

“And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.”

In the sixth century BC, while living in the Babylonian Empire, Daniel had a vision that revealed to him that Babylon would soon fall and be replaced by Persia; in turn, Persia would give way to Greece and Greece to Rome.   This is exactly what happened over the next few centuries.   Each of those superpowers, in turn, thought it was invincible; yet, each one fell.   Both history and the Bible show the inevitability of this continuing.

Already, there are voices declaring the 21st century China’s century, just as the twentieth was America’s and the nineteenth Great Britain’s. Certainly,   China is a rising power.   It’s the main reason North Korea can threaten the US at this time and seemingly get away with it.

But the Bible shows that the final superpower is a power that has not yet formed; that ten nations will come together and threaten the peace and security of the world.

Revelation 17:12-13 says the following:

“The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.   These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.”

The term “for one hour” means that this superpower will not last very long.   America’s supremacy has lasted 70 years, Britain’s was much longer; the next one will be a lot shorter.

Which brings us back to Guam.

When the USS Charleston took possession of Guam en route to the Philippines, America became a major power in Asia.   A successful attack on Guam from North Korea would signal the end of the American Empire.   It happened once before in 1942 when the Japanese took the island, but the US returned after defeating Japan.     A nuclear attack on the island would mean there’s nothing to return to.

It’s likely that something will be worked out and we will return to peace – this time.   But at some point American hegemony will end and it could end on an island thousands of miles away or somewhere closer to home.   It’s worth remembering that the British Empire suffered two major defeats, in Singapore (1942) and Suez (1956).

Stephen Kinzer, who wrote “The True Flag,” has an accompanying article in the latest issue of American History magazine.   He ends with an observation by Mark Twain, who opposed America’s international expansion.

The last two paragraphs make for sobering reading:  “Despondent, Twain wrote a bitter lament. His observations, trenchant then, sound eerily appropriate today.  (italics mine)

“It was impossible to save the Great Republic,”  Twain wrote.  “She was rotten to the heart.   Lust of conquest had long ago done it’s work.   Trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home; multitudes who had applauded the crushing of other people’s liberties, lived to suffer for their mistake in their own persons.   The government was irrevocably in the hands of the prodigiously rich and their hangers-on, the suffrage was become a mere machine, which they used as they chose.   There was no principle but commercialism, no patriotism but of the pocket.”

(This blog is a fully independent blog that has no connection to any church or secular organization. It was started to keep people informed on international affairs in light of the scriptures.   Financial support comes from myself and readers who generously donate to help cover costs.)

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SPRING BREAK

Last week was Spring Break.   We had all nine grandchildren in the house for almost a week.   Sickness struck halfway through and two of them came down with the flu.   So did Grandma.

On the last day, Sunday, our eldest daughter took her four children home to Indianapolis, to be ready for school Monday morning.   For the remainder of the day I was the only functioning adult in the house, with a sick wife (Grandma) and three young children, one of whom is only ten months old.

It was quite a day!

I’m thankful to say that the two oldest boys, 5 and 4, were perfectly well behaved and the baby was no trouble at all.

On the Friday I was able to take my wife to Urgent Care, where they confirmed a diagnosis of influenza.   Hers was a particularly bad strain.   The doctor tactlessly added that it could be very serious “at her age.”   She also added that she would be contagious for five days and should remain in bed.   Just as well – she did not have the strength to move.

Each day of Spring Break, I made it a point to take our four granddaughters out for some fun.   The girls are all 10-12 and are generally happy doing things together.   The first day the local library had a free session called “Game On” where children of their age could come together and play electronic games.

On the Wednesday morning, another library offered a free magic show which was, apparently, very good.   I was there, but I made the mistake of taking one of the 4-year-old boys with me – and he had difficulty sitting still, which meant that I could not sit still, either.   From there, we had to rush back to go to another library for their Spring Carnival, games for children of all ages.

Thursday, the same library offered a Lego afternoon.   I used to play Lego with our children 30+ years ago, but now I find it extremely challenging as all the Lego pieces seem to get under my feet and cause me grievous bodily harm.   So our two daughters took the boys, while I took the girls bowling, followed by milkshakes at Steak and Shake (half price shakes from 2-5).   We had a lot of fun.

On the Friday, our son took all four girls to a bouncy place, while I took Grandma to Urgent Care.   (This was due to the flu, not the grandchildren!)

Why do I mention all this?

Because almost everything was free the entire week.   When you check out the library, there are so many “events” on over Spring Break, none of which cost anything.   Before leaving “Game On” on the Tuesday, I asked two of the girls to check out the DVDs and see what we could take home to watch.   They chose all four “Home Alone” movies.   You didn’t know there were four?   Neither did I, but I spent each evening watching them with the girls and quite enjoyed them. 8-year-old Kevin reminded me of 4-year-old Leeson – Leeson would definitely give any intruders a hard time!   All five boys together are a more effective deterrent than the most vicious Rottweiler.     Again, as with the activities, the movies were free.

So if you are a grandmother about to host nine grandchildren for a week, remember the library.   Even if it’s a place of refuge while you leave the grandkids at home with Grandpa.

I love these weeks when we are all together.   They don’t happen very often.   Which is just as well – with all the “kids” here, I did not find time to write my blog, or even to keep up on the news.   One thing I’ve learned, though, as a grandparent, is to give the grandchildren 100% of my time when they are with us.   Nothing is more important than building good relationships within the family.

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BABY FIRST

Our ten-month-old grandson Hayden is not up to joining in any of the activities his older siblings and cousins are into, but he has taken a decided liking to the “Baby First” channel while he bounces up and down in his bouncer.   The channel is produced with babies in mind – and their parents, who are ready to spend lots of money on that first baby!   They have lots of singing of familiar nursery rhymes, cute little lambs running around on a farm in Wales and endless reruns of “Harry, the Bunny.”   The channel will certainly entertain your baby, but how many grandparents have been driven nuts watching it is what I want to know???

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WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS   (Matthew 24:6)

A more serious matter is the never-ending wars we see each night on television.

Syria and Iraq continue to dominate the news.   It’s difficult to understand the full complexity of the fighting that goes on and on, year after year, in both countries.

The West is appalled that President Assad has dropped chemical weapons on “his own people.”   I should mention that he denies doing anything of the kind and has even asked “where are the dead?” when TV viewers everywhere have witnessed dozens of children convulsing, struggling to breathe and even dying on camera.   Secondly, westerners need to learn that, to Assad, these are not his own people.   His own people are Alawites, who number 11% of Syria’s population.   The chemical weapon attack was on a village in Idlib province, which is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim, with a significant percentage of Christians.

Assad’s wife is from a Sunni background, but she seems to be in denial of everything that’s going on.

We should remember, too, that what’s going on is the direct result of our meddling in the Middle East.   We don’t need Mideast oil any more and Israel can take care of itself.   Why are we there?

The origins of the disaster that is the current Middle East go back a century to the Great War, otherwise known as World War One.  The war led to the collapse of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire, the last Caliphate.   It gave independence, freedom (supposedly) to new nations like Syria and Iraq.   Artificially created and not fully taking into account sectarian boundaries, the result has been a disaster.

Interestingly, a hundred years after the fall of the Ottomans, the present Turkish president seems to want to restore the old empire and is projecting Turkish power into neighboring countries.   He is also seeking more power for himself with a referendum on Sunday.

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VIMY RIDGE

A few days ago, on April 8th, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in France for the centenary commemoration of the battle that was Canada’s coming of age, the Battle of Vimy Ridge, in which thousands of Canadians died and many more suffered serious injury. The PM had this to say:

“One hundred years ago, on a gentle slope in France, the four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought for the first time as one. They were ordinary – yet extraordinary – men, from all corners of the country: Francophone, Anglophone, new Canadians, Indigenous Peoples.

“On Easter Monday, April 1917, battling through snow, sleet, and constant machine gun fire, they broke through an impregnable fortress and achieved a historic victory.   They succeeded where other armies had failed – but at a great cost.   Nearly 3,600 Canadians lost their lives.   Over 7,000 more were wounded. The Battle of Vimy Ridge remains one of the bloodiest battles in Canada’s history.

“Despite these losses, Canadian bravery and ingenuity won the day and led to one of the most decisive victories in the First World War. The innovative fighting techniques used so effectively by our soldiers at Vimy Ridge would contribute to the final Allied victory a year and a half later.”

Mr. Trudeau continued:   “Many of the soldiers wearing the Canadian uniform that day were immigrants to this country.   People of many languages and backgrounds, representing every region in Canada, fought for the values we hold so dear:   freedom, democracy, and peace.   In the words of one veteran:   ‘We went up Vimy Ridge as Albertans and Nova Scotians.   We came down as Canadians.’

“Today, as we gather to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, we remember the thousands of Canadians who gave their lives far from Canada’s shores.   We pay tribute to the 100th anniversary of a pivotal battle that has left an indelible mark on our history.   And we thank every Canadian who has answered the call to serve for their selflessness and sacrifice.”

On the surface, these two paragraphs seem well motivated, but they overlook a simple fact.   Amidst all the talk of people from many languages and backgrounds fighting for Canada is the simple fact that Canada has radically changed.   A century ago Canada was very much a Dominion of the British Empire, sharing the ideals of Great Britain and its other dominions, Australia, New Zealand and, at the time, South Africa.   These nations were committed to freedom and all fought together from Day One of what, at the time, was the greatest war in history.

The nations were bound by a common loyalty to the Crown. Indeed, Prince Charles, the future King of Canada, was present at the same ceremony.   So were both of his sons, who have served in the British military.

What has changed is this:   Canada is now much more multicultural. The very word originated in Canada, coined by a royal commission back in 1971.   Today, immigrants are more likely to come from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, than from Europe.

In the event of another conflict like World War One (or Two), would all these people be so willing to die for the values Canada has traditionally held?

The prime minister’s speech ended with the traditional words used at events commemorating wars:   “Lest we forget.”   Sadly, the contribution made by Britain and the British dominions has been forgotten.

This is also the centenary of America’s entry into world affairs.   The country declared war on Germany on April 6th, 1917.   After the war the US withdrew from further international involvement until 1941.

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DEFINITION OF INSANITY

Stefan Lofven is the Prime Minister of Sweden, the country that witnessed its worst-ever terrorist attack a few days ago when a migrant from Uzbekistan in central Asia drove a truck into a big department store.   Sweden has had the most generous open-door policy in Europe during the migrant crisis.   The prime minister has now said that will change.

But nothing has changed, either in Sweden or anywhere else.   It seems that western politicians are incapable of changing immigration policies.

According to the late Albert Einstein (died 1955), this means that our politicians are mostly mad.   Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Western nations endure one terrorist attack after another, yet they continue to allow Muslim immigration!

It’s the same on the American side of the Atlantic.   Mark Twain once said:   “Suppose you are an idiot and suppose you are a Member of Congress; but I repeat myself.”

Neither of these two men was addressing Islamic immigration, but what they said is certainly applicable.

So, what should a Christian do?

I Peter 2:17 instructed Christians to “honor the king.”   Today, most countries have presidents, not kings, but the principle still applies.   The Apostle Peter wrote while under the yoke of Rome, an empire that produced the occasional emperor of unsound mind.   In 64 AD, following the Great Fire, which he himself started, an intense persecution of Christians was started by Nero, who blamed the new sect for the destruction of 70% of the imperial city.   Yet Christians were still told to “honor the king.”

Western leaders are certainly guilty of upholding erroneous ideas.   They can even be said to be of unsound mind.   It’s doubtful either Einstein or Twain would alter their famous statements.

In theory they should be voted out of office.   But even when that happens (as with Brexit and Trump), it’s clear that very little is likely to change.

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MORE WARS AND RUMORS OF WAR

>It’s 50 years since the Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors, a war which ended in a decisive Israeli victory and the fall of Jerusalem to the Israelis.   Russia has now recognized West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, at the same time recognizing East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent Palestine.    Will the US follow?

>>AFGHANISTAN continues in the news, as the US has dropped its most powerful non-nuclear bomb on an area of the country with a very active ISIS presence.   Three dozen were killed.   Will ISIS be defeated with this more aggressive approach?   If they are, will that be the end of Islamic fundamentalism?   Doubtful.

>>Another war may be brewing in the Far East, as North Korea pursues its nuclear program and threatens the South, Japan and the United States.   Some voices in the US want war with the North.   It should be remembered that, after three years of war from 1950-53, North Korea was not defeated and the US was forced into a stalemate.

>>Libya continues to be engaged in a civil war, which has had a major impact on its economy.   Reports this week are of African migrants being sold in the market-place as slaves, one way for locals to make money.   In an appalling twist, those being sold are giving slave traders their cell phones so that captives can call home to ask for money.   Relatives must listen while their sons and daughters are being tortured.

>>Torture is the best way to describe a recent incident in Detroit, which will undoubtedly become more common with the numbers of Muslims increasing.   A female Muslim Detroit doctor has been charged with performing GFM (Genital Female Mutilation) on two 7-year-old girls, a custom common in some Islamic nations.   No feminists have yet raised their voice to condemn the incident in Detroit.

One person who had this surgery performed on her when she was a child was Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somalian who now lives in the Washington DC area and is constantly warning of the dangers from Islam.   Her latest book is “The Challenge of Diwa.”   Note the following extracted from her book by Giulio Meotti, published by the Gatestone Institute, 4/10:   “According to one estimate, 10−15 percent of the world’s Muslims are Islamists.   Out of well over 1.6 billion, or 23 percent of the globe’s population, that implies more than 160 million individuals.”

>> Headline in today’s MEMRI:   “Women Arrested In Iran For Dressing As Men In Order To Attend Soccer Game; Khamenei Issues Fatwa Against Women Riding Bicycles In Public.”

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GOOD FRIDAY

Today is Good Friday, the day most Christians believe is the day on which Jesus Christ was crucified.   When I was growing up, nothing was open on this day.   We certainly had no school and I remember a discussion with one of my teachers a day or two before in which I asked why  it’s called “Good” Friday.   It was certainly a somber day and we all knew it.

I’ve just returned from the bank and a store.   Both were crowded.

Times have certainly changed.  The only god worshipped in today’s western world is the god of materialism.  Nothing else seems to matter any more.

We would do well to remember Acts 4:12:  “. . . there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”   Having forgotten this, the western world fails to see clearly the threat from Islam, thinking that all religions are equally valid or equally ridiculous, depending on your point of view.