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ISIS – why killing your soul is worse than killing your body

ISIS is destroying Palmyra. It’s systematically taking the ancient city to pieces, with no regard for history or tradition, and what it’s doing is vile, but yet there’s a line of thinking that seeks to shut down such thinking because after all, what’s an old temple when people are being murdered?

Go away.

You can kill me with a bullet. You can kill me with an axe. If I’ve created a special place for you in my heart, you can even kill me with a word, but that’s all right.  Who’ll be dead except me?

Who’ll be heartbroken?

My children.

My friends.

Who’ll celebrate? Perhaps one or two religious fanatics I’ve argued with, but that will be it. I’ll be gone and in time, my memory will fade. You could even argue, as some do, that there is no such thing as me or you. That when you lie down to sleep you might as well die, since you have no certainty when you wake up that you are the same person.

Whatever. The reality is that we’re all transient, we all spring up, live a little life and die, sometimes horribly, sometimes with regret and sometimes in a glorious high-speed fireball.

But of course, some of us die in the most miserable way possible, by losing our souls to ignorance, and we do it standing up. Some of us are nothing more than the walking dead, animated by hatred and stupidity, controlled by cynics and directed by witch-doctors.

That’s ISIS, an army of zombie apostates, thousands of young men rendered stupid by religious certainty and the goldfish attention span of a Facebook junkie.

Palmyra Baal Shamin

Make no mistake. ISIS could only have been possible in the 21st century, for it is only now that we have managed to separate our young people from all sense of tradition, and it is only now that we could have supplied them with the professional military control systems bequeathed to them by Paul Bremer’s insane decision to fire all the Iraqi high command.

The problem is that when apostate zombies like ISIS go on a murderous rampage, they choose to kill everything. They try to eradicate not only the people they hate, but also their memories. They try to kill the very soul of a people, its culture, its heritage and its memory.

It’s not new though.  The fine Christian Crusaders ran riot in Constantinople in 1204, destroying its magnificent library, as did the Serbs of Sarajevo eight centuries later when a professor of literature led the burning mob that sought to eradicate the memory of Bosnian Muslims.

Certain ignorant tribesmen destroyed the Hindu Bhamiyyan monuments in Afghanistan, as did the ignorant hicks who rode tanks though the mythological Garden of Eden during the second American invasion of Iraq, the military intrusion that soon gave rise to the ISIS bacillus now spreading across the planet like an antibiotic-resistant hospital infection.

It’s true that we should be horrified by the murder of innocent people, though sadly, it seems we’re not, to judge by the resistance we see in our country when anyone suggests helping the victims of this appalling disease that is ISIS.   Ironically, those who argue against compassion share a great deal in common with the warped message of the torturers, masquerading as Islam, and the killers driving the current wave of refugees out of Syria and Iraq.  People like our own home-grown Identity Ireland, while probably unaware of it, are just as ignorant and just as uninformed as the ISIS fools and therefore just as intolerant. Luckily, these people are still peripheral in our country but we have no guarantee they will always be so marginal and that’s why we must challenge their stupidity at every opportunity.

Germany has undertaken to accept 800,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq this year alone. Sweden has placed no limit on the numbers it will take in, but meanwhile, Christian Ireland continues to operate the vile Direct Provision system, while mobilising the weak against the weak.

This is a country where billions were somehow found to save the fortunes of bankers and investors.  This is a country in which the national debt was doubled in order to accommodate the needs of the wealthy, all paid for by taxpayers. And yet, perplexingly, a narrative was contrived in which one poor person impoverishes another. Somehow, poor refugees coming into our country are the ones depriving our own poor people, instead of the many billionaires we protected at the cost of our children, our futures and our self respect.

How was this achieved? Perhaps it’s not all that different from the ISIS destruction of Palmyra.

Perhaps those who  control the way we think have managed to disassociate us from the places and the traditions we inhabit.

It would be nice to think that all we need is a reawakening of our great Irish egalitarian tradition, but unfortunately, we Irish have no glorious history of defending the oppressed.

In the new great migration, for the first time we find ourselves forced to create a new vision of altruism, as the Swedes do and the Germans, but truthfully it’s hard to see us rising above our narrow, self-interested concerns.

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Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria. Who Benefits?

It’s very hard to assess the chemical attack on the Damascus district of Ghouta, but as always the best approach is to ask who benefits.

How does the al-Assad regime gain from the universal condemnation of the atrocity?  On the face of it, there’s no benefit.  Already, France is rattling the sabres, demanding military intervention, but even that might be nothing more than a sour reminder of the Iraq fiasco.  The United States vilified the French when they refused to support the ludicrous pretext that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and declined to join the even-more ludicrous coalition of the willing.

syria chemical attack

Perhaps the latest statement by French foreign minister Laurent Fabius is simply a goad to the United States: If it is proven, France’s position is that there must be a reaction, a reaction that could take the form of a reaction with force.  Or it might be a nostalgic reassertion of France’s former imperialistic role in the Levant.

Interestingly, the reaction from the US has been considerably more muted, but the irony of the French position won’t be lost on the State Department.   Those Freedom Fries will be repeating for another few years.

On the other hand, perhaps Bashar has calculated that the game is worth the candle and that he cannot tolerate rebel occupation of a Damascus district commanding vital supply lines.  Who knows?  He might have decided to gas the whole lot of them, which would be no surprise, given the lack of scruples his family has shown over the years when it comes to mass murder, but it would be stupid, and Bashar al-Assad is not famous for his stupidity.

Who else benefits?  Perhaps it’s the rebels, but then you have to define precisely who they are.

Are we talking about the nebulous Free Syrian Army or are we talking about al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda backed by the Saudis?  If the Assad regime falls, these are the people who will take control of Syria and turn it into a rigid Islamic theocracy.  The Free Syrian Army will be dispersed to the winds.

The web is complicated.  Al-Nusra has been responsible for murdering Kurds in the northern regions of Syria, and is reported to have links with Turkish intelligence and with the Iraqi Islamic groups fostered by the ill-advised American invasion of that country.

Does the Free Syrian Army benefit from the gassing of the people in Ghouta?  Perhaps, but it’s unlikely to have been behind it.  The fanatics of al-Nusra, on the other hand,  can’t be said to have any more scruples than Bashar al-Assad when it comes to mass murder.  If this gains them a political advantage, they’ll be happy enough to take it.

Does it benefit Hezbollah, the dominant military force in Lebanon?  Certainly not.  As a Shia group, their sympathies lie with al-Assad, who is an Alawite.  In all likelihood, their intelligence services are already aware of who was behind the attack, and if it turns out to be Bashar, Hezbollah will be hopping mad.  They want him in power and the last thing they need is an international move to depose him.  This puts them in the same camp as the Syrian Christians, Kurds and Druze, all of whom recognise pragmatically that it’s better to live under a non-religious despot than an Islamic extremist.  Like his father before him, and like Saddam, Bashar has no interest in a person’s religious affiliation.

Do the Israelis benefit?  Possibly.  It might be in their interest to have a Sunni government in Syria, constantly at odds with a powerful Shia militia in Lebanon, weakening each other and keeping pressure off Israel.

So cui bono?

In the long term, not Bashar al-Assad, though he might have resorted to it for short-term tactical reasons.

The Free Syrian Army?  No.

Al-Nusra?  Yes.  Certainly.

Hezbollah?  Absolutely not.

Israel?  In the medium term, yes, if it helps to establish an extremist Sunni government in Syria.

There you go.  I have no more information on this than you do.  We still have no hard facts, but it will be at the far end of absurd if these gas attacks provoke a Western intervention that results in the installation of yet another extremist religious government in the Middle East.

Bashar al-Assad is a nasty piece of work.  He’s a despot, just like his father and just like Saddam Hussein but since when has it been the business of the so-called West to depose despots?  They never did it with Stalin or with Mao.  They don’t attempt it now in North Korea.  They didn’t do it with  Pol Pot — that role fell to the Vietnamese.  They don’t do it with the vile Saudi royal family and they didn’t do it with Gadaffi.  They didn’t intervene when the genocide was taking place in Rwanda, and they placed an arms embargo on the Bosnians despite Mladic’s ethnic cleansing.

They wouldn’t have done it with Saddam Hussein either if he didn’t happen to have the oil that Dick Cheney’s Halliburton wanted to get their hands on.   As the hysterically funny right-wing American commentator, PJ O’Rourke, remarked in Holidays in Hell, what’s the Kuwaiti national anthem?  Onward Christian Soldiers.

Here’s a horrible question.  Is there an obligation on the world to unseat tyrants?

I don’t think so, unless we’re prepared to govern the territory ourselves, which we will never do.

No matter how vile the despot, all an intervention achieves is to open the doors to worse tyrants.

I don’t like it.  You don’t like it, but that’s how it is.  Feel free to suggest a better way.

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Previously on Bock the Robber

The Most Bloodiest Man