An Age of Genocide

We have entered an age of genocide and ethnic cleansing, as a persual of the news will make clear.  If you are on the Left, you are perhaps most concerned about Israel.  Juan Cole wonders if "Zionists" are talking about a "Final Solution" to the long problems with Palestine.  He links to an Israeli writer who seems to be wondering just when genocide is permitted as a defensive measure, a question the answer to which will be disappointing to the author.*

If you are on the Right, you are probably thinking about ISIS/ISIL, who are waging a genocidal campaign against both Christians and Yazidis.  This is being done according to the old forms:  systematically killing the men and male children, taking the women and girls as sexual slaves.  The Iliad was built around a war of this kind, as are some of the Old Testament books (especially the Book of Joshua).  The Beowulf ends assuming that this fate awaits the Geats with their mighty king dead and their warriors humiliated.  The Koran appears to advocate this in some of its verses as well.  This was the way things were, and now it is the way that they are again.

The question is therefore not why the age of genocide has returned, but why it ever stopped.  The answer is that there was a brief window of history in which Western Christian states were the chief world powers, and those states had developed a religious and philosophical tradition of restraining war's violence against noncombatants.  

They wrote the rules of this tradition into the laws that are supposed to govern violence in our world, and they did something to enforce them or live by them.  They failed at times -- especially the Germans did during the Nazi period, but there were other failures including our own treatment of certain American Indians -- but as a civilization they believed in these rules as if they were laws, and were willing to pay a cost to make them real.  They believed in it so much that they wrote their laws as if "civilization" itself was synonymous with this tradition's understanding, though no such tradition existed in much older civilizations elsewhere.  They used their power to compel, urge, bribe, or coerce the most of the world into signing documents attesting to these principles they called laws.  True belief in these principles, though, was not as widely shared as the signatures would suggest.

The reason that the age of genocide has returned is not that the West has ceased to believe, although much of it has, but that it has ceased to be strong, or willing to pay a cost.  For decades the last true force of the civilization belonged to America, with a few brave warriors from allied nations though those nations as a whole increasingly voted against strength.  When the American people chose the same path, the return of genocide was inevitable. 

Continue reading "An Age of Genocide" »

On "Law Enforcement Battalions"

As a practical fact, the United States Marine Corps has found itself assisting local law enforcment agencies in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.  They have been helping to train police and other security forces, and they have been actively engaged in policing actions -- everything from writing tickets for traffic violations, to investigating acts of terrorism for prosecution under Iraqi or Afghan law.

The Corps has decided to formalize this approach to some degree, and has now created some "Law Enforcement Battalions" consisting of military police and dogs.  

Their reasons for doing so are understandable to all of us, but there are some concerns that we ought to voice.  First of all, there is the political concern that these battalions not be employed to enforce the law at home.  Unlike the Army and Air Force, who are covered by the Posse Comitatus Act, the Navy and Marine Corps are restricted from being used as law enforcement only by DOD regulation.  Such a regulation is easily disposed-of by any sitting President.  

We ought to consider whether we want Marine battalions deployed to enforce the law in places like Chicago (which, as Jimbo pointed out recently, is more deadly than Afghanistan), or if we would prefer to cleanly separate military and police functions here in America.  Either way, we should ask candidates for Federal office where they stand, and tell them what we prefer.  

A second concern arises from the question of whether this kind of training puts Marines at risk.  

"This is a smart idea because the biggest single problem the Marines have in dealing with low-intensity types of threats is that they basically are trained to kill people," he said. "It's good for the Marines to have skills that allow them to contain threats without creating casualties."

The flip side of that is that Marine Corps training as structured offers a clear method for action.  In stress, we fall back on what we've been trained to do.  The Marine is trained to act.  Introducing this set of complications leaves them trained, instead, to pause and consider.  There is some danger that introducing complications into the training will reduce their combat effectiveness when killing is required.

A third concern arises from the question: Just what law are they going to enforce?

"Am I a Marine or a cop? Can I be both?" he said. "Cops apply human rights law and Marines apply the law of war. Now that it's blended, it makes it tougher for the young men and women who have to make the decision as to when deadly force is not appropriate."

I'm not familiar with this thing called "human rights law."  I know about the law of war, and I know about civil law.  The civil law in Afghanistan is rooted in one of the six branches of sharia.  Where does that leave our Marines if they are called upon to 'enforce the law' in a case where we find the law objectionable?  Say they are asked to help apprehend an apostate:  what should they do?  Are they law enforcement officers, or are they representatives of the United States of America, with all its core of values?

Ultimately, I must say that I find this approach ill-advised even though I completely understand the reasons that suggest it.  Others may feel differently, but surely we can agree that these concerns deserve to be addressed.

Someone You Should Know: US Army Chaplain Father Emil Kapaun

It is not every day that a man is considered for both the Congressional Medal of Honor and sainthood.

When American officers ordered the able-bodied to retreat, Father Kapaun, a 35-year-old captain, refused to leave the wounded.... His capture and forced march northward with hundreds of other American prisoners was merely the beginning of Father Kapaun's trial, an ordeal that ended in his death from starvation, cold and lack of basic medical care at a prison camp in North Korea six months later.  For his heroism, a group of Kansas politicians are pushing to have him awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, America's highest military decoration.

Reports of Kapaun's selfless bravery have got him short-listed for another rare high honour: the Catholic church has named Kapaun Servant of God, the first step toward sainthood, and the Vatican has opened a formal inquiry into whether he merits canonisation.

Army Chaplain Finds Unique Flock

I thought this was a nice story about a US Army Chaplain and some Pakistani Christians on Bagram:

Chaplain facilitates worship for unique group at Bagram Air Field
Combined Joint Task Force 1 - Afghanistan
Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Todd Pouliot

Chaplain facilitates worship for unique group at Bagram Airfield Photo by Staff Sgt. Todd Pouliot

U.S. Army Capt. John Hoos, a chaplain with Task Force ODIN, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, Task Force Falcon, 10th Mountain Division, discusses the verses of a selected opening hymn with Joseph Story, a safety officer, and other Pakistani Christians at the Camp Warrior Chapel, Bagram Air Field, July 22. Hoos, a native of Loveland, Colo., said he appreciates the opportunity to lead this unique group.

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - When U.S. Army Capt. John Hoos, chaplain, arrived at Bagram Air Field to begin his deployment with Task Force ODIN, he soon learned of an opportunity to facilitate weekly worship for a unique religious group.

“When I arrived, I was told that this opportunity existed, and I immediately volunteered for this tasking,” the chaplain who is attached to 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, Task Force Falcon, 10th Mountain Division, said.

According to Joseph Story, a Pakistani Christian who works as a safety officer on Bagram Air Field, there are about 50-60 Pakistani Christians on the base. The group was unable to conduct their worship services in a military chapel due to a military regulation that requires all religious groups to have a distinctive faith group leader.

“Chaplain Hoos’ volunteering to lead a group which represents a minority in Pakistan, enables their growth in their faith,” said U.S. Army Maj. William Scritchfield, the Task Force Falcon chaplain and a native of Waynesburg, Pa. “He’s a perfect fit. His denomination is similar to theirs and he has a gift for learning languages. He’s quickly picked up their language and is able to more readily facilitate their bible study.”

At a recent weekly worship gathering, eleven worshippers gathered around Story, who had the only song book in Punjabi; a dialect of Pakistan’s official language - Urdu. And though not everyone could see the book, all knew the words and quickly picked up the Punjab-influenced tune.

With Najam Aslam, a general supervisor on Bagram, translating between Hoos and those who were not fluent in English, Hoos led a bible study with a focus on the importance of keeping God’s laws and how these laws keep followers on the best path to lead a righteous life.

More songs were sung, communion was celebrated, and after a closing prayer, members wished each other peace, departed the chapel and mingled outside.

Despite being in war-torn Afghanistan, the quality of life for these Christians is much better than their homeland, said Aslam.

“It is very difficult for Christians to get good jobs in Punjab because we are a minority,” he said. Despite being well-educated, many are limited to working as general laborers. The most lucrative jobs – those in government – are out of reach for most Christians. Punjab is the most populous region of Pakistan and lies along the border of India and Kashmir.

Story is a teacher by trade. But in Pakistan, he makes the equivalent of about $45 a month. Meanwhile, working for a sub-contractor on Bagram Air Field, he is making more than $1,000 a month.

Because Pakistan suffered from recent earthquakes and floods, many Pakistanis have left the country to find better wages.

Hoos, from Loveland, Colo., said he is fortunate to have this opportunity to assist this unique group. One might think a chaplain’s main duty is directing others how to worship; but sometimes chaplains must assist groups in worshiping according to its traditions. Hoos said this is one of those instances.

“As a chaplain working in a combat zone, I believe it is my responsibility to help soldiers and civilians who are living and working far from home to have the opportunity to worship God according to their customs and traditions,” said Hoos before stepping out to mingle with his new group. “This is a very unique aspect of being a chaplain.”

Defending the Weak

The attack on a youth camp in Norway -- the youngest killed, according to the reports this morning, was sixteen -- is shocking to me.  I am not shocked because of the violence, as surely we have seen enough violence from our fellow man lately to know that it is to be expected.   I am not shocked that the killer targeted the young, as that also has become usual among the wicked.  I am also not shocked to discover that the killer may have been a Christian rather than a Muslim; for there are good men and bad ones among all faiths.

What I find shocking, as a professional, is the number of people killed by what was apparently a single actor with a single handgun.  (Reports that there may have been more than one shooter are so far without confirmation; but even the outer limit of those reports suggests a very small number of shooters at most.)  Brian Fishman of the New America Foundation argues that firearms are becoming more deadly than explosives:

Perhaps the starkest lesson from the Norway attack is that, based on early reports, more people seem to have been killed by firearms than by explosives. In this way, the Norway attack reflects a larger trend in terrorism, exemplified most terribly by the November 26, 2008, terrorist attack in Mumbai, in which 10 gunmen collaborated to kill more than 160 people.

Respectfully, that's simply not right.  In fact, the reason that the United States' mass killings normally have been less traumatic than Iraq's or Pakistan's is that the killers usually use firearms rather than explosives.  Explosives routinely kill 30+ people in Iraq; almost no mass shootings approach that level.  

The lesson of Mumbai is that a team of men is far more dangerous than a man alone.  Even so, the Mumbai killers slew approximately 16 people each; here is what appears to be one man, at most two, who killed nearly a hundred.  Even Chairman Mao's killers, who numbered in the millions, did not do so much:  the outer range for people killed by the regime is still well under a hundred million.

How did this happen?  The reports suggest four factors, which I will list in increasing order of importance:

1)  The police did not arrive for two hours, giving him ample time to murder.

2)  Many threw themselves into the water in panic, and I suspect we will discover that panic or drowning killed a large number.

3)  He arrived dressed as a policeman, called everyone into a tight group around him, and only then began to shoot.  

4)  When he began shooting, everyone ran.

That last factor alone is responsible for almost all of the dead.  A tight group of young men taught to run at danger instead of away from it could have overpowered him almost at once.  

As that did not happen, he had a clear field of fire and a target rich environment.  As that started a panic, probably some were trampled and others drowned.  The police did not arrive for a long time, giving him time to finish what he had begun -- but the police will never be around when one of these mass killings happens, unless it is targeted at them specifically.  It is always easy to find a soft target if you want one, even in a police state.

The key lesson to mass shootings is that the whole of our societies must remember their duty to fight for the common peace and lawful order.  We must all do it.  We must train for it, and we must equip ourselves as well as the law and our natural abilities permit.  This is the duty of a citizen.  It is a duty that cannot be delegated to the police or to the military.  It must be borne by all of us.  We must train our sons for this duty also.  In a dangerous world, this alone is what makes civilization possible.

Easter Uprisings


Our friend Carl Prine has a good piece up today, comparing St. Paul to Gerald Templer of the Malay counterinsurgency.  (Hat tip:  Small Wars Journal.)  My compliments, but I wonder if he has thought through the question with which he ends.

On this Easter Sunday, hundreds of thousands of Americans in uniform stand on the parapets of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, nations once ruled by Templer’s Britain.

We fire missiles from the skies onto Libya, a prized possession of ancient Rome.

Our boats of war lurk upon or under the seas, our robot drones wheeling like doves above.  Our mighty navies and armies traverse unimpeded the gateways of all invaders of all continents.

We carve the heavenly face of God with the orbits of our satellites, the angels that record the murmurs of hearts and the whisperings of minds in all the cities of all the countries in the world.

So many hearts cry out to us.  So many minds think of us.

Do we speak back to them the words of Paul?

Or Templer?

Happy Easter.

What would it mean to speak back to them in the words of Paul?  Should we call them to his kind of war?  Paul's power in speaking to both heart and mind lay in that he spoke in both tongues:  for the mind is the seat of the intellect, but the heart is the seat of the spirit.  

Our nation does not speak in the spiritual tongue:  the Founders cut it out.  Yet 'if your eye offends ye'; and such tongues in the heads of nations had offended much during the wars of the Reformation.  There is great peril in the spiritual tongue:  "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit."

If we find ourselves on Templer's path, we might honestly say that it is the more peaceful path.  

It may not therefore be the right path:  I have heard it said that Paul's master came not to send peace, but a sword.  Yet even that is not clear.  This same man also refused to let St. Peter defend him with a sword, though he had insisted on the importance of his followers having swords with which to defend themselves.  

The question Mr. Prine raises deserves an answer, but it may be a hard answer. 

As the man said, happy Easter.

Memento Mori

Iraq's Christians, few enough, have come forth in numbers to gather for ceremonies in spite of the blood that fell there at the end of October.  That is the spirit of martyrs, and a glorious act of courage.

In the Philippines, a bomb set against a Catholic church.  

Death waits for us all.  These are not alone in daring it; and we are not privileged in facing it.  May all be welcome that God sends.  That is only to say "Merry Christmas" in other words:  in defiance of tyranny, in love of life, and in fearlessness of death.  Many wear that charm more boldly than we.  God keep them.

Merry Christmas.

Information Operations: Cartoon Edition


That is the most brutal and effective political cartoon I've seen in a very long time.  Now, the question for those of you who are interested in studying information operations, PSYOP (or MISO) is... why?  (PSYOP and IO may not be aimed at American populations by the military; but what I'm interested in here is more an explanation in general of what makes an attack of this type effective.)  

It's not a trick question, but the answer is worth pondering all the same.  We'll discuss in the comments.

Via Dad29.

Muslim leader: 'Islam is not a religion of peace'

UPDATE: Fixed video link below

But don't listen to me, listen to what Muslims themselves say.

“You can’t say that Islam is a religion of peace. Islam does not mean peace, Islam means submission. So a Muslim is the one who submits. You know, there is a place for violence in Islam. There is a place for jihad in Islam.”

“The Qur’an is full of – you know – jihad is the most talked about duty in the Qur’an after tawhid (belief). Nothing else is mentioned more than fighting.”

On the July 2005 terrorist attacks in London that killed 52 and wounded hundreds:

“For the people who carried it out, it was legitimate. If you look at the will of Mohammed Siddique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, they would be justified. And there are many verses of the Qur’an and many statements to say that’s the Islamic argument. And that is a difficult Islamic argument to refute. And there are many scholars who support that argument as well.”

- Anjem Choudary
Leader of Islam4UK

Video here

A look at the Constitutions of Iraq and Afghanistan

While we are fighting al Qaeda and their associated groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, it would behoove us to analyze what we are leaving behind in our wake.

The constitutions of the two countries in no way represent the liberty and justice for all that our founding documents codify. D.L. Adams writes at Family Security Matters:

Article One of the constitution of Afghanistan states that "Afghanistan is an Islamic Republic, independent, unitary and indivisible state." Article 2 of the constitution of Iraq states that "Islam is the official religion of the State and it is a fundamental source of legislation." Both states identify Islam as the bedrock of the state and also the law of the land.

Our troops sacrifice for our liberty and security, but apparently they are also sacrificing for the establishment of an Islamic supremacist government. Islamic states have Islamic - or Shariah - law. That's the law where Muslims are not subject to punishment for killing non-Muslims, but Muslims are given the death penalty for leaving Islam. Criticizing Islam is also worthy of the death penalty. Rape victims are stoned while the rapists go free. Except for their reproductive qualities, women are less valuable than goats. Little girls can be taken as wives (the prophet Muhammad married Aisha at six).

Would we be spending trillions of dollars and thousands of lives if we were propping up Christian regimes that had a similar legal system? I can only imagine the outcry from the progressives. So why do we do it for Islamic governments?

The bottom line is that our enemies must be defeated. But in doing so, we might reconsider how we interact with the countries that emerge from the wake of the Ba'athists in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan.