Tag Archives: Ottoman Empire

IMMINENT MISSILE ATTACK ON SYRIA

“Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, And it will be a ruinous heap. (Isaiah 17:1) 

By an amazing coincidence, I have been reading a book on “Munich” while the current crisis in Syria has been building up.

At Munich in 1938, Hitler and Chamberlain met to discuss Hitler’s claims on German Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.   Chamberlain famously gave in to his demands. The former British PM described Nazi Germany’s annexation of the area of German-speaking Czechoslovakia in 1938 as “a quarrel in a faraway country between people of which we know nothing.”

Similar words could be spoken today about Syria.

At the time of writing this article, President Trump is deciding on how to react to Syria’s use of chemical weapons on its own people. If the US does nothing, nobody else will.   In 1938 Neville Chamberlain, as British Prime Minister, was the leader of the western world; today it’s President Trump.   Less than a year after Chamberlain’s famous appeasement toward Hitler, Britain and Germany were at war.   It had become all too clear, even to Chamberlain, that Hitler was intent on global conquest.

There’s been plenty of evidence that Russia has similar territorial designs.   The Russians took control of part of Georgia a few years ago; this was followed by the conquest of Crimea and of eastern Ukraine.   Domination of Syria makes them the most powerful voice in the Middle East.  This role is growing – last month, Putin met with the leaders of Iran and Turkey in Ankara.  These three are now in a de facto alliance while Turkey remains officially in NATO.

Geoffrey Wawro, a professor at the University of North Texas, wrote a book called “Quicksand” (2010), on “America’s pursuit of power in the Middle East.”   Reviewer Rick Atkinson sums the book up well, writing that Wawro reveals “how an extraordinary tale of idealism, politics, force and miscalculation began and unfolded over the last century.”

The more the US got involved, the more the US was sucked in; hence the title “Quicksand.”   Why should we expect any other outcome following action in Syria?   Could US intervention lead to war with Russia?

“There was no reason for war in 1914, beyond the murder of an archduke in Bosnia.   As AJP Taylor said of 1914:   “Nowhere was there a conscious determination to provoke a war.   Statesmen miscalculated [and] became prisoners of their own weapons.   The great armies, accumulated to provide security and preserve the peace, carried the nations to war by their own weight.”   I wonder what Taylor would have said of Trump’s “Get ready, Russia” tweet.” (“Look at Syria and you can see all the elements that have led to world wars,” Simon Jenkins, The Guardian, April 12th.)

A miscalculation now could be fatal for the US, Russia and Syria.

SYRIAN COMPLEXITIES

Syria is a perfect illustration of the complexity of modern warfare and the geopolitics that complicate everything.

Syria was established after World War One and the fall of the Ottoman Empire.   After “the war to end all wars,” the Treaty of Paris carved out a number of new countries from the ruins of the Turkish ruled empire.   The treaty was aptly described as “the peace to end all peace” by a British general who saw a future of never-ending conflict in the region.   A century later nothing has improved.

Before World War One, Mesopotamia was a sleepy backwater of no interest to anyone.   The same could be said of Syria.   Bible students know that this had to change to fulfill apocalyptic prophecies about Israel (the Jews) and its neighbors.   The prophesied Jewish national homeland was established exactly seventy years ago, in May 1948.

Syria was a Mandated territory of the League of Nations.   France was given the mandate; Britain was given Iraq and Jordan to administer, again under a Mandate from the League.   Palestine was also a League of Nations mandated territory, given to the British.

After World War Two, the French left Syria.   It soon fell under the Soviet sphere of influence.   From 1970 Syria has been the home of a Russian naval base, the only one Russia has on the Mediterranean. The Russians are not going to give it up.   And they will support President Assad as long as it is in their interest to do so.

The US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 helped Russia to gain further influence in the region.   By removing Saddam Hussein from power and arranging an election in Iraq, the majority Shi’ites came to power, altering the balance of religious and political power in the Middle East.   Iran is the leading nation of Shia Islam.   An arc of Shia Islam now exists, from Iran through Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, roughly the same territory of the ancient biblical King of the North. Russia is heavily involved with the Iranians and Syria.   Turkey is now also with them, wanting to stop its Kurdish minority from breaking away.   The Turks are not Arabs, so this does not present a conflict for them.

Syria is not majority Shia.   Assad’s support comes mostly from his Alawite clan, a branch of Shia Islam, which amounts to only 11% of the population.   The Sunnis do not want to be ruled by Assad. Neither do the Sunnis in Iraq want a Shia government over them.  This is why ISIS formed, to “protect” Sunnis from Shi’ites.

It’s all very complicated.

No wonder the president is taking his time.

If he does nothing, he will be seen as weak against Syria and the Russians.  If he does something, innocent lives will be lost, but Assad will remain in power and Russia will continue as its benefactor.

A further complication came today when the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced that Moscow has “evidence” the video of the gas attack was performed by actors.   How does the West prove the film was real?

It seems like a no-win situation for the United States.

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European Immigration:   Nuns Out, Terrorists In                                                          by Douglas Murray, April 13, 2018 (Gatestone Institute)

  • When the same Home Office that forbade Sister Ban even to enter the country discovered that the young male Iraqi was in Britain, he explained clearly that he had been trained by ISIS.  He told the Home Office officials that the group had trained him to kill.   The Home Office promptly found him a place to live and study, and treated him as the minor he said he was but most likely was not.   He subsequently told a teacher that he had “a duty to hate Britain.”
  • Last year the Institute of St. Anselm (a Catholic training institute for priests and nuns, based in Kent) closed its doors because of problems it had getting the Home Office to grant visa applications for foreign students.   One nun last year was apparently denied entry to the UK because she did not have a personal bank account.
  • So, those who flee ISIS are turned away, while those who are trained by ISIS are welcome.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

TRUMP AND MAY’S BIGGEST MISTAKE

President Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May have just made their biggest mistake.

The American president received Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House last week.   At a press conference, he clearly made the German chancellor uncomfortable when he publicly called for Germany to bring its military budget up to the full 2% of GNP agreed on by NATO.   This would raise military spending from 37 billion euros a year to 60 billion.   It would also restore German military might.

Across the ocean, Mrs. May is seeking closer military ties to Germany at the same time as pursuing Brexit.   The idea is to keep Germany close.   It would also contribute to restoring German military might.

British war time leader Sir Winston Churchill promised at the end of World War II that Germany would never rise again; 45 years later British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher opposed German reunification following the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Attitudes change.   It’s now over seventy years since the fall of the Third Reich.   Today’s leaders see Germany as a model democracy and think it will always be that way.

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LONDON TERROR

Mrs. May has other things on her mind right now.   A terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge on Wednesday afternoon left 5 dead, including the terrorist and an unarmed policeman; also 29 hospitalised, seven of them critically.   The terrorist was known to the police as a “radical Islamist.”   No surprise, there.

As the terrorist was “British born,” the implication is that somehow it’s Britain’s fault and that more can be done (costing more, of course) to avoid such incidents in the future.

What will not be considered is this – Islam means “submit;” it’s the exact opposite of “freedom” which is what Britain is all about.   Muslim children raised in Britain will inevitably struggle with internal conflict, unable to reconcile the two opposing ideals.

A few weeks ago the BBC interviewed Somalis on the streets of Minneapolis, asking them how they felt about life in America and related issues.   Clearly better off than they were in Somalia, nevertheless every single one of them said they would rather live in a Muslim country and that America would be a better country if it embraced sharia law!

I first heard the news of the terror attack when I was having lunch with a friend.   A man sitting alone at the next table was checking his mail on his phone and suddenly exclaimed “there’s been a terrorist attack in London.”   He had no idea I was from the UK.   When I told him, his first question was “why don’t they arm the police?   How can a policeman defend himself when attacked like this?”

I explained that one third of all the police are now armed and you see a lot of them in London, protecting the main tourist sights.   But Wednesday’s murder shows that every policeman needs to be able to defend himself, even if it’s only with a stun gun.

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BREXIT MOVING AHEAD

Mrs. May has also announced that she will invoke Article 50 of the Treaty of Rome on March 29th.   This will formally begin Britain’s exit from the European Union.   Failure to reach agreement on terms within a two-year period will automatically mean a “hard Brexit,” with Britain simply leaving the EU and signing trade deals around the world with other countries.   There would be no trade deal with the 27 remaining EU countries.

Such a failure would likely impact any military agreement between Germany and the UK.   It would be hard for the two countries to maintain a good friendship when they cannot even reach an agreement on future trade.

The formal triggering of Article 50 will put a dampener on celebrations in Rome, for the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome.   All 27 leaders of the EU will be there – Mrs. May will not be attending.   Interestingly, all 27 leaders will also be meeting with the pope.

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SCOTTISH REFERENDUM #2

The Scottish leader, Nicola Sturgeon, continues to mimic a “Rottweiler.”   With her teeth firmly latched onto Mrs. May’s pants, she will not let go of her demand for a second referendum on Scotland’s independence.   (If the vote goes against her, she will ask for a third and a fourth, until she gets what she wants!)

Scotland depends heavily on subsidies from England.   Ms. Sturgeon should concentrate first on improving the nation’s finances, showing that Scotland can go it alone.   Then she could go back to the Scottish electorate and claim an independent Scotland would do better on its own.

But that’s not what’s happening.   Rather, Scotland is hoping Germany will come to its rescue.   Edinburgh has even opened a trade mission in Berlin (whisky for cars?).

Don’t get me wrong.   I’m not trying to make light of a serious situation.   The United Kingdom is better with Scotland.   It would be a real shame if England’s northern neighbor pulled out after more than 300 years of unity within one nation.

It would also present a potentially serous security issue if Germany replaced England as Scotland’s benefactor.   Scotland’s independence would be compromised — the Irish parliament already finds it cannot agree on a budget without Berlin’s agreement.

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1400 YEARS OF SECTARIAN CONFLICT

There’s a big battle going on in Mosul between ISIS and government forces.   Optimism has been expressed on the imminent defeat of the terror organization.

Overlooked is the fact that Shia militias are operating in Iraq, without restraint.   The government is majority Shia.   Many Sunnis identify with ISIS.   If the terrorists are defeated, another organization (perhaps worse than ISIS) will arise to protect the Sunnis from the Shia.

Western countries, led by the US, have been sucked into the ancient Sunni-Shia conflict in the Middle East.   Whereas the West sees things ideologically, Middle Easterners see the situation from a sectarian viewpoint.   To us, ISIS is bad because it’s a violent terrorist organization; to Sunni Muslims living in a majority Shia country, ISIS is their protector.   To the Sunnis, this is also America’s fault – until the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the country was dominated by Sunnis. They lost out when America came in!

There’s two lessons here for the West – 1) Get out of the Middle East and stay out!   2) Stop importing the region’s sectarian conflicts through immigration policies that do not take into account national security.

In other words, let’s get back to the pre-1914 Middle East, before the war that brought down the Ottoman Empire and led to the fragmentation we now see in the region.   The war led to increased British dominance of the region, and now American domination.   It’s a mess.   It’s time to get out.

On another note – why is the US getting involved in Yemen, another territory witnessing increased fighting between Sunni and Shia?  A US Navy Seal was killed there last month in a raid by American forces.

The Sunni-Shia conflict has gone on since the 7th century, almost seven times as long as the United States has existed as a nation.   Do we really think that our involvement is going to end the conflict between the two major branches of Islam?   Do we really think that moving Shia and Sunni from the Middle East to the US (and Europe) will suddenly make them love each other?   After the London attack on Wednesday, one security expert interviewed mentioned that the UK knows of 850 British passport holders, fighting with ISIS in Iraq and Syria. If they are British raised, why are they still identifying with Sunni Islam and anxious to fight Shia Muslims?   It’s a question that needs to be addressed.

It’s just been announced that the perpetrator of the London attack was Kent-born and raised Khalid Masood, aged 52.   He was the son of immigrants and  a convert to Islam.

It should also be noted that the perpetrator was unusually old for a terrorist.

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If you can find it on pbs.org, this week’s Frontline examined the rise of the Shia militias in Iraq and the (Shia) government’s failure to address the problem.

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ANOTHER BLESSING OF BRITISH RULE

“Among some contemporary Israelis the British Mandate has come to be viewed nostalgically.  Although Palestine did not have the elephants, maharajahs and tigers of the Indian Raj, the same culture of Highland reels, polo and pink gins in the King David Hotel flourished.  So did an incorruptible civil service, possibly a novelty in the region.”  (‘Blood and Rage”, by Michael Burleigh, 2009, page 89)

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THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS

A few days ago a friend gave me a copy of the Seventh Day Adventist magazine, “Amazing Facts.”   The cover story was titled:  “The Power of Forgiveness.”   Forgiveness is sadly lacking, even amongst Christians.   Church organizations often find it hard to forgive, so how can they teach their members to forgive others?

Yet our eternal life depends on it.

When the Apostle Peter asked Jesus Christ how often should he forgive his brother, Peter suggested that seven times would be enough; the Messiah’s response was “seventy times seven”, meaning an unlimited number of times (Matthew 18:21-22).

Jesus expounded on one of the points in His model prayer, adding:

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”   (Matthew 6:14-15)

If Christians always practiced forgiveness, we would no doubt have more Christians.

Perhaps, given time, even the Muslims would follow and learn to forgive a 1400-year-old schism.

 

 

 

 

 

BRITISH EMPIRE WAS A BLESSING

It has been suggested that citizens of the sixteen Commonwealth Realms be given their own “fast lane” at UK Points of Entry.   This will be good news for citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the smaller realms.   If the idea is approved, it will be a first step toward restoring closer Commonwealth ties that ended when Britain joined the EU.

While Britain has been a member of the European Union, EU citizens were able to go through the fast lane, while the rest of us waited for up to two hours, slowly inching forward in the “Aliens” line.

Post-Brexit, it will certainly be in Britain’s best interests to enter into closer trade and defense ties with the countries that share Britain’s parliamentary system and all have the same Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II.   Other Commonwealth countries have opted for a republican form of government, recognizing the Queen as Head of the Commonwealth but not retaining her services as their own sovereign.

It will also mean that, for the first time, the United Kingdom is reversing five decades of history and turning its attention again to its former Empire.

The word “Empire” has been a pejorative for two generations.   Before World War One, there was a great deal of enthusiasm for the British Empire around the world in territories that constituted the “empire upon which the sun never set.”   Over a quarter of the world’s people lived under the British flag.   Imperialism was in vogue and inspired millions of people to help develop other nations.

Today, people forget what a blessing the Empire was.  Let’s take a look at a few of those blessings.

1.  The Bible and religious freedom.

The fourteenth century philosopher and theologian, John Wycliffe, was the first man to translate all the scriptures into English.   His favorite verse was Philippians 2:12: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”   He struck the first blow for religious freedom and democracy by encouraging people to study for themselves and make up their own minds.

Two centuries later, the English Queen Elizabeth I, secured the Protestant Reformation by bravely sending her smaller fleet against the Spanish Armada.   England defeated the Spaniards, thereby thwarting an attempt by the pope to force the country back into the Catholic Church.

In the nineteenth century, the British and Foreign Bible Society, took the Bible into dozens of different countries.   The Wycliffe Bible Translation Society still exists, sending volunteers into poor and backward countries to develop a written language and then translate the Bible so that all may read it.

The most famous British missionary, David Livingstone, took the Bible with him into central Africa, to “bring light into darkness.”  He was also motivated by a desire to see the end of slavery, perpetrated by Arab slave traders, who were seizing black Africans as slaves.

2.  Britain was the first major country to abolish slavery.

Slavery was universal and had not been questioned until the eighteenth century.   It wasn’t just Africans who were taken as slaves.   One million white people were being held by Muslim slave traders at this time.   (“White Gold”, Giles Milton, 2004.)

In 1772, the Somerset decision by an English court, ruled that British people could not hold slaves, that all people in Britain were free. It took another 35 years before the slave trade was abolished and a further 27 years before slavery itself was ended throughout the British Empire.  (Denmark banned the slave trade in its territories a few years before Britain.)

One year after the abolition of the slave trade, the British government authorized the Royal Navy to stop ships on the high seas and free all the slaves.   Wikipedia has this to say about the West Africa Squadron:

“The Royal Navy established the West Africa Squadron (or Preventative Squadron) at substantial expense in 1808 after Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act of 1807.   The squadron’s task was to suppress the Atlantic slave trade by patrolling the coast of West Africa.   With a home base at Portsmouth, it began with two small ships, the 32-gun fifth-rate frigate HMS Solebay and the Cruizer-class brig-sloop HMS Derwent. At the height of its operations, the squadron employed a sixth of the Royal Navy fleet and marines.

“Between 1808 and 1860 the West Africa Squadron captured 1,600 slave ships and freed 150,000 Africans.[“1]

Because of its role in fighting slavery, Britain was seen as a Liberator around the world.  Many tribes in Africa asked to be annexed into the British Empire, seeking protection from slave traders.  At one point, so many African tribes were asking to join the Empire that the British were overwhelmed. “The Dualla chiefs of the Cameroon repeatedly asked to be annexed, but the British either declined or took no notice at all.”  (Pax Britannica, James Morris, 1968, page 43)

In the last three decades of the nineteenth century, Victorians were caught up in an enthusiastic desire to see slavery ended in Africa, and the Bible, Protestant Christianity, democracy and the rule of law introduced (“Africa and the Victorians,” Robinson and Gallagher, 1961)

Sadly, in the sixty years since the end of the British Empire, slavery is back in every single African country, according to UNESCO.   The former Ghanaian President, John Kufour, condemned slavery in Ghana a few years ago on the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade throughout the British Empire; he also apologized for the role Ghana’s own chiefs had played in promoting slavery by selling their own people and members of other tribes.

3.  British capital developed many nations.

The definitive books on British investment around the world are the two volume “British Imperialism” by Cain and Hopkins.  The books highlight “London’s role as the chief provider of economic services during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries” (back cover, volume one).   London remains the world’s number one financial center (New York has the world’s biggest stock exchange).   Not only did British capital develop every country in the Empire, it was also responsible for developing the United States, Argentina, Brazil,Chile, the Ottoman Empire and China.

Interestingly, one reason that members of the European Union are upset over Brexit, is that Britain has been a net contributor to the EU, helping to finance development in other member nations.  When the UK leaves, where is the money going to come from?

4.   Another blessing of British rule was its governmental system and the administration of its various colonies.

Britain’s democratic parliamentary system and its constitutional monarchy is the most stable political system in the world.   It was successfully exported to all its colonies and dominions.  Sixteen of those countries have retained the same system since independence, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and a number of majority black countries in the Caribbean.  Queen Elizabeth remains as Head of State in all of these countries.

38 other countries, former colonies of Great Britain, did not retain the Queen as Head of State but still look to her as the Head of the Commonwealth.  Many of these nations have suffered through coups and counter-coups and periods of military rule.  In many, corruption is rife and the people are worse off than they were when colonies.

Interestingly, it was recently suggested that the United States join the Commonwealth, as an Associate member.  The Royal Commonwealth Society is opening a branch in New York City.

5.   The free world’s first line of defense.

For two centuries Great Britain was the “policeman of the world.”  The country brought down Napoleon, after which she was the undisputed leader of the world.  A century later, with her dominions and colonies, she brought down the Kaiser.  In World War Two, the British Empire was the only power that was in the war from beginning to end.   With later help from the Soviet Union and the United States, the Empire defeated Hitler and his monstrous Third Reich that was the most racist regime in modern history.  The Empire’s forces also kept the peace on the North-West frontier of India, in what are now Pakistan and Afghanistan and in other trouble spots around the world.

America’s pre-eminent historian, James Truslow Adams, wrote his history of “The British Empire 1784-1939” in the year that World War Two started, 1939.   This is the final paragraph in his book:   “In this world crisis, we in America have a great stake.  We know that stability is impossible without respect for law and order, for the honesty of the written and spoken word.  Without liberty of thought, speech and press, progress is impossible.  What these things mean to the world of today and tomorrow has been amply demonstrated by the negation of them in certain great nations during the past few years.   Different peoples may have different ideals of government but for those who have been accustomed to freedom of person and of spirit, the possible overthrow of the British Empire would be a catastrophe scarcely thinkable.  Not only would it leave a vacuum over a quarter of the globe into which all the wild winds of anarchy, despotism and spiritual oppression could rush, but the strongest bulwark outside ourselves for our own safety and freedom would have been destroyed.”  (page 358)

The Empire has indeed been replaced by “the wild winds of anarchy, despotism and spiritual oppression.”

It’s no wonder that, at the height of the Empire, during Queen Victoria’s reign and the first few years of the twentieth century, many people in Britain and its overseas territories, believed the Empire was a fulfillment of biblical promises made to Joseph, one of the twelve sons of Israel.  In Genesis, chapter 48, we read of howJoseph’s descendants were to become a great “multitude of nations” and a “great (single) nation,” the British Empire and Commonwealth and the United States.  They were to be a physical blessing to the world (Genesis 12:3).  In the late Victorian period, believers published a weekly newspaper called “The Banner of Israel”  — they enthusiastically tracked the daily growth of the British Empire and the United States at the time.

This belief was widely held in the trenches of World War One.  It’s ironic that those same trenches shattered the religious convictions of many, who witnessed the carnage first-hand.

No empire was perfect.  Britain made mistakes.  Often listed by anti-imperialists is the Amritsar massacre of 1919.  This was not deliberate government policy, but rather the misjudgment of the commanding officer.  The 1943 Bengal famine is also often mentioned; overlooked is the fact that this was in the middle of World War II when other nations also experienced famine. Historical mistakes were made in Ireland, which caused problems to this day.

Imperialism had been in vogue before 1914; after two world wars, there was great disillusionment.   Additionally, the colonial powers had serious financial problems.  Decolonization followed.  It was the end of the European empires.

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RUSSIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST

putin

While US media has been focussed on alleged Russian hacking of the US electoral process, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has strengthened its role in the Middle East.

The morning that America suffered a major setback in the Middle East, American news networks led on two deaths – those of actresses Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds.   Tragic though these deaths were, developments in the Middle East put America where Great Britain was exactly six decades ago.

Before World War Two, the British Empire was the dominant power in the region.   Britain withdrew from Israel in May of 1948. Immediately, the Jewish nation was invaded by five neighboring Arab nations.   Miraculously, Israel survived. In those early days, it was not helped by the United States.

In 1952, as a direct consequence of defeat against Israel, Egypt’s King Farouk was overthrown by the military.   The new leaders soon seized the Anglo-French Suez Canal.   Together with Israel, these countries invaded Egypt but were soon stopped by US President Eisenhower.   This single event led directly to the dismantling of the British Empire.   In 1958 the pro-British King of Iraq was overthrown.   Britain was losing its remaining influence in the area. The country fought a war against rebels in Aden, withdrawing from the protectorate in 1967.

It was a gradual decline, with one setback after another.   Now, the UK does not play any major role in the Middle East.

Since Britain, America has been the dominant power in the region. During the time of the Soviet Union, the US and the USSR were rivals in the area, with Moscow backing Egypt and Syria.   Later, Egypt switched sides and allied itself with the United States, but Moscow retained its influence in Syria.   Iran was in the US sphere of influence until the Shah was overthrown in 1979.

The region has seen never-ending turmoil since the fall of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire after World War One.   That turmoil shows no sign of ending.

The recent war in Iraq has left a big mess in the region.   At its root is the almost 1,400 year sectarian conflict between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam. Until the US invasion of Iraq, the country was dominated by Sunni Muslims, even though the majority of people were Shia Muslims (the reverse is the case in Syria).   Following the US backed election in Iraq, the majority Shia now rule the country. This development has altered the religious balance in the region and is causing repercussions everywhere.   ISIS was formed to protect Sunni Muslims from the now dominant Shia.

In Syria, Sunnis have been trying to overthrow the Alawite (Shia) minority regime of President Assad for five years.   Enter Moscow. Russia’s backing of the Syrian president has enabled Assad to win. The US showed a great deal of weakness, refusing to get involved even when the Syrian government crossed the line and used chemical weapons on its own citizens.   Now, after months of fighting in Aleppo, the biggest city of the country, Assad is firmly in power and Russia is sponsoring “peace talks” with the rebel factions in the country.   The US is not invited to the peace talks. Russia now controls Syria.   To accomplish this, the country needs Turkey’s help. The two are pushing for peace in the country. Turkey, the second most powerful military power in NATO, is now working with the Russians to bring peace to the Middle East.

That’s two set-backs for Washington in just a few days.

A third set-back is in Israel.   The outgoing administration in Washington did not veto the latest UN vote against Israel, condemning the country for building new settlements for Jewish settlers in the West Bank.   Friction between the US and the only western style democracy in the region is unsettling, to say the least. This set-back may only be temporary as a new President takes over in the US in just three weeks, but that gives a few days for further negative developments.   Even the British have criticized America’s condemnation of Israel.   The State Department seems set on causing rifts with US allies in the final days of the current Administration.

Keep in mind, too, that Syria borders Israel on the Golan Heights.   What happens in Syria may affect Israel.   Perhaps that’s why Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to Moscow in June, the fourth time in a year that he sat down with President Putin to discuss the situation in the Middle East.

The tables have been turned once again in the region.   Over sixty years ago, the UK was the dominant power in the region; since then, it’s been the US.   But now Russia is arguably the dominant power in the area.   The Russians are in alliance with the Shi-ite Muslims in Iran and Syria; they are also working with Sunni Turkey, which ruled the whole area prior to 1919.   At the same time, it seems that Israel’s prime minister is more comfortable with Putin than with Obama, with whom he’s had a serious exchange of heated words in recent days.

There’s even a fourth development that puts Russia ahead. Following the hacking scandal, President Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the US; President Putin made it clear that he will not expel any Americans. This is a triumph for Putin in the propaganda war with America.

What lies ahead?   Remember that the Middle East is the primary focus of Bible prophecy with Jerusalem at the epicenter.

In the nineteenth century, there was no indication that the Jews were about to become an independent nation again.  Their period of self-rule ended with the Romans before the time of Christ.  Their rebellion against the Romans in the first century AD led to the Diaspora, a dispersion that scattered the Jewish people throughout the Roman Empire and left them scattered until fairly recently.   Bible prophecy showed that the Jewish nation would be restored and that happened in 1948.

Exactly a century ago, British and Australian forces entered Jerusalem in the continuing war with the Ottoman Turks.   At this point in time, a Jewish nation became possible.   The British were given a mandate to administer Palestine by the League of Nations.   This was an impossible task as Palestinians and Jews clashed repeatedly.   Eventually, the League’s successor, the United Nations, divided the territory up between Jews and Palestinians, the latter never accepting their loss of land.

 

 

IRAQ WAR INQUIRY

iran-map-region

Further evidence that our leaders are out of touch with reality is not needed.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday that the world is a better place because of the Iraq War.

Perhaps he has stopped watching the news.  That would be understandable, considering that the ripple effect of the US-British invasion of Iraq in 2003 continues to this day.   On Sunday, 281 people were killed in a bomb blast at a shopping mall in Baghdad, the capital.

When I heard the news I thought of the period between the two world wars, after the Treaty of Paris created Iraq and Syria out of the rubble of the Ottoman Empire.   I remember reading a couple of novels by Agatha Christie titled “Murder in Mesopotamia” and “They came to Baghdad.”   The novels were set in Iraq, which Dame Agatha knew well – she had lived there for a few years with her husband, Max Mallowan, the famed archaeologist.  They first met in the ancient city of Ur in 1928 and lived in Mosul on and off when they were married.   Their association with the country continued until 1963.   They discovered many artifacts from ancient Nimrud, most of which were looted by the Assyrians when they invaded Lebanon and Syria. Agatha Christie used her face cream to clean these treasures. During this period of time, Iraq was at peace and the people lived under a fairly liberal constitutional monarchy.   It all changed after a revolution in 1958.   58 years later, it continues to get worse. Thankfully, Dame Agatha died in 1976, three years before Saddam came to power.   She did not live to see the disaster the country has become.

Mr. Blair’s press conference followed the publication of the Iraq War Inquiry, a six-year project chaired by Sir John Chilcot.   The Chilcot Report was scathing in its criticism of Mr. Blair and his role in the war.   Amongst other things, he was criticized for so readily going to war alongside the Americans, when peaceful options had not been exhausted.   In a memo to President Bush, Mr. Blair wrote he was with him “whatever.”   179 British men and women were killed and hundreds injured.   The invasion, which began in March, 2003, brought to the surface the 1,400 year struggle between Sunnis and Shi’ites – a conflict seemingly without end.

Sir John Chilcot finally published the report of the Iraq War Inquiry on Wednesday.   I’m surprised it got so little attention in the US as there are implications for former President George W. Bush.   There are calls in the United Kingdom, following the publication of the report, for former Prime Minister Tony Blair to be prosecuted as a war criminal.   Demonstrators yesterday carried signs with Blair’s name spelt “Bliar!”

To be fair, both Bush and Blair were presented with faulty intelligence that showed Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction.”  This turned out not to be the case.   Mr. Blair said yesterday that if he was presented with the same evidence today, he would make the same decision.

What is utterly amazing is Mr. Blair’s claim that the world is a better place following the removal of Saddam.

One Iraqi in Baghdad, asked to comment on BBC World News following the report, said that if he had the opportunity he would tell Mr. Blair, to his face, that “he is a criminal – and I would spit in his face!”  No doubt, feelings about George W. Bush are the same.   The invasion of Iraq will negatively affect relations with the West for decades to come.   It has already led directly to the creation of ISIS and the growth of Al-Qaeda (which did not exist in Iraq prior to the war).   These two terrorist movements seriously imperil the West.

One contributory factor to the war was the naivety of the two western leaders, believing that the overthrow of Saddam and the “introduction” of democracy, would bring regional stability as democracy would spread and, as we all know, democracies do not go to war, a fallacy in itself!

Perhaps all this had to happen.   The Middle East is the epicenter of the final apocalyptic events found in both the Christian Bible and in Islam. Thanks to the invasion of Iraq, we now have a Shia arc that embraces Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.  Over 2,300 years ago, following the death of Alexander the Great, this was the territory of his general Seleucus, the “King of the North” we read about in Daniel 11.   Some of the area was taken over by Rome in the first century BC.

A revived King of the North plays a major role in end-time events.

The decision to invade Iraq triggered off so many inter-factional conflicts, it’s impossible for western leaders to begin to comprehend it all.   That alone is a very good reason why we should never have got involved in the first place.

Unfortunately, the damage has been done and we will all have to live with the consequences.

A YEAR OF CHANGES

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has repeatedly warned the European Union to stick by a promise of visa free travel for Turks © AFP/File Adem Altan
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has repeatedly warned the European Union to stick by a promise of visa free travel for Turks.     © AFP/File Adem Altan

For centuries the Ottoman Empire posed a serious threat to Europe.   The powerful caliphate ruled from Istanbul was only halted at the gates of Vienna by Catholic forces that did not want to be conquered by Islam.

In the nineteenth century, the Europeans were able to push the Ottomans back, freeing countries in south-east Europe that had been ruled for centuries by the Ottoman Sultan. At the end of World War I, the Ottoman Empire, after more than six centuries, collapsed and was replaced by the Turkish Republic.

Now Europe is granting visa-free travel to the 80 million citizens of Turkey, meaning that the descendants of the Ottoman conquerors will be allowed into Europe whenever and wherever they want.

Another interesting development at the other end of Europe is the election of the first Muslim mayor of a major European capital.   In London, Sadiq Khan, the son of Pakistani immigrants, is taking over from conservative Boris Johnson, presiding over one of the world’s greatest financial centers.

By the looks of things, Europe is not going to put up a fight against the latest Muslim invasion.

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At the same time, the London Stock Exchange is coming under German control.   Even if the UK votes to leave the EU, that won’t change – the country will still lose a great deal of its independence.

David Cameron, the British prime minister, in calling for Britain to remain in the EU, expressed the opinion today that whenever Britain withdraws from Europe, it leads to war.   This is a perverse interpretation of British history.   As one commentator put it on the BBC World Service this morning, “He’s got it the wrong way round.”

Britain maintained its distance from Europe after the country broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in the sixteenth century.   The country chose the open sea over the neighboring continental land-mass and only got involved in European affairs when a dictator arose trying to conquer the continent.  Wars were fought against Louis XIV, Napoleon, the Kaiser and Hitler.

It wasn’t until 1973 that this policy changed, when the country entered what became the EU and turned its back on the Commonwealth it had built up over centuries.

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Meanwhile, on the mainland, changes are taking place.

The Austrian Chancellor (prime minister) resigned today, as he no longer enjoyed the support of his party, the Social Democrats.

His resignation follows on the partial victory of the right-wing Freedom Party’s candidate for the role of president, largely a ceremonial role.   There is to be a second round of voting which is expected to assure his assuming office.

Austria, like a number of European countries, is in a state of turmoil following the arrival of well over a million “refugees” from Syria and other countries.   There is a growing fear of Islamization.   Extremist parties are gaining momentum, promising to do something to stop the invasion and to ensure the preservation of their national way of life.

It’s definitely a year of change for Europe.

A Brexit (British exit from the EU) could trigger off changes across the continent.  The EU itself may fall apart;  the unity of the United Kingdom could be threatened; David Cameron would likely have to resign; other countries might want to vote on withdrawing from the European Union.

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A final amusing note comes from Australia. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has asked the Governor-General (Queen Elizabeth’s representative in the country) to disband parliament before an election in two months.   Two months of campaigning will be a record for Australia – and people are complaining.

They should take note that their American allies have been going through an election for almost a year now and still have six months to go.

Australia anybody?