Killing for Christ

Personally, my main concerns over starting wars are the financial and social costs and the subsequent consequences from a desire for revenge.  Lately, I have been spending more time with people who object from a conscientious objective, sometimes from a religious viewpoint.  I have also been exposed to a forum where I regularly hear “people with no religion have no moral compass“.

I do not see there is necessarily a link between a care for humanity and adherence to a religion.  I shall explain.

When gathering evidence that argues against capital punishment, I was surprised at how many American Christian Baptist groups demand the death penalty because “it is God’s will according to the Bible“.  Funny that, because I thought the 6th commandment to not kill, and the subsequent teachings of Jesus in the Gospels to turn the other cheek and forgive, were supposed to take precedence over the Old Testament’s millennia-old verbal story traditions of nomadic desert tribes-people.

That made me contemplate the “you need religion to have morals” claim since some Christians are saying killing people is good, right and proper because it is what God wants.  But other Christians are saying they think the teachings say it is always wrong (which was my interpretation from reading them, too).

But I think learning about a variety of religions and their pros and cons is helpful and informative.  It tells you about the ground they have covered and what to think about.  It also protects one from the more predatory organisations.

If I were writing about political systems and claimed “absolute power corrupts absolutely“, few would disagree and most would sagely nod their heads and agree it has been proven time and time again through history.

But when you have any form of organised religion that says “Do exactly what we say” and “Think what we tell you to think” combined with “It is a sin to read the scriptures of others” and “Only we tell the truth“, it will always go wrong.  Organised religions are run by people and absolute power corrupts absolutely – we know that from history.  Giving them absolute power over your behaviour is naïve or foolish.

This is why I worry about people who operate in such organisations and demand people follow them blindly.  What kind of person wants that kind of power over others, and why do they want it?  Why are they attracted to that role, or create it for themselves, and why enforce it so thoroughly?  Scary people!

Then I worry about those who specifically promote such religions to vulnerable people: the homeless, refugees and students who are living away from home for the first time and who may be spiritually lost, home-sick or lonely.  Why are people who want absolute power over others so keen to target people who are already in turmoil?  Sounds like abusers looking for easy victims to me.

That is why I get so cross with people advertising or promoting the Mormons, the 7th Day Adventists, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and now the Revival Fellowship too.  Relatively new organisations who demand total blind adherence to their teachings and rejection of all other beliefs such that their members are forbidden to even find out about them.  They all typically have ‘scriptures’ that have been amended many, many times, they have false end-of-the-world predictions and a history of turmoil in their leadership as different power nuts fight for control over their followers.  Organisations defending young earth creationism, faith healing, evidence of aliens or that Jesus went to America.

It is also why I would always advocate to someone feeling a need for spiritual guidance to always shop around.  You wouldn’t buy a house or a car without looking at a few first, so why commit your immortal soul (if such a thing exists) to the first Honest John dealer (“Honest John, Honest John, the others are a con!“) who approaches you?  And remember, if they are reaching out to you, it is because you have something they want, not because they have something to give away.  If you are being approached in the street or online to “open your mind” and accept their teachings blindly and reject things that most of the rest of the world believe, then you can be sure you are being conned – all cold callers and spammers are just trying to get something from you and that includes those promoting too-good-to-be-true “religions” too.

Find out about a variety of big religions and faith systems – both with and without gods – what they stand for, their history, what is involved, what the criticisms are.  Get a feel for what is right, honest, decent and true.  Become wise enough to spot the outdated, the inappropriate and, sadly, the liars hiding amongst them.

I did that and came out the other side as a confirmed atheist.  You may come to a different conclusion.  But either way, you’ll have worked out for yourself a pretty good idea of what you think is right or wrong.

More Killing for Christ: bombers, Catholic revenge on Protestants, black-policeman-killing survivalists, their own membership, lynchings, migrants, death penalty and anti-peace!   And sometimes, a religion can be very wrong indeed.

There is no pax Americana

Bringing down stable governments of countries and failing to put something in its place is the principal cause of the terrorism and conflict going on in the world at the moment.

When the Romans invaded, they took control, dictating foreign policy, providing defence in exchange for a promise to not rebel and pay tribune.  In so doing peace reigned over the Roman Empire at the cost of freedoms at a national level. This was the pax Romana.

The Islamic Golden Age, inspired by the philosophy that “the ink of a scholar is more holy than the blood of a martyr“, in which huge advances were made in medicine, mathematics, culture and science, was also a period of peace, sometimes called the pax Islamica.

A thousand years later the Mongols conquered much of Asia and held it to produce the Pax Mongolica.

The Ottoman Empire in turn provided peace to its citizens in the pax Ottomana.

A similar arrangement to the Roman Empire was achieved by the British Empire to produce the pax Britanicca.

Chinese empires have come and gone and provided their own periods of internal peace, as have many other cultures.

The concept of “empire” has come to be seen as purely a bad thing since the mid 20th century as countries gained their independence, partly through economic consequences of the World War 2, partly through improved communication and education and partly through the disruptive influences of the Cold War.  In place of an imposed external governing body, freedom for those of a territory has been granted, often with disastrous consequences.  The lesson that could and should have been learned from those experiences are that independence should be done slowly, replacing institutions and structures with new ones, a part at a time.  It is frustrating, but far more stable. [Note to self: specific examples needed.]  A clean break leaves a county with no stable government and civil war and decades of turmoil is the usual result.

But the desire to ignore the beneficial benefits of a benign empire has resulted in much chaos, death, suffering and desire for revenge of late years.  The removal of stable governments from countries like Iraq and Libya without replacing it with something else that works has been far worse than what most empires have done in the past.

It would have been cheaper and less destructive (but probably no more productive in the long term) to simply assassinate those leaders that were considered undesirable.  At least there would not be hundreds of thousands of dead and maimed civilians and a world-wide problem with revenge terrorism.

The idea the USA has been the global policeman producing a pax Americana is a fallacy.  They are not spreading peace: just fear and hate, chaos and disorder.

Instead of toppling a regime, take it over and change it from within, fools.  Learn from thousands of years of history.

Tiresome security vulnerabilities and wannabe l33t h4ckerz

The 11112018 organisation web site got hacked last week.  Some child replaced the site with a pro-Islamic page that boasted of their l33t h4ck1ng skillz and claiming to be an Afghanistani member of a hacker team:

Screenshot of the hacked 11112018 web site

Hacked 11112018 web site

Meh.  The page was the sort of thing one saw on bulletin boards back in the early 1990s with a link to an (uncredited) image of a Moslem knight.

It is a shame that in doing so, they trashed the 11112018 anti-war web site. How to make friends and influence people, not.

They managed to do so because I had not applied an update to the Drupal web content management software I was using; the version had a security vulnerability this person took advantage of.  A quick Google search shows they have uploaded identical content to over 700 web sites.

What amazes me is the poor quality of their work.  The HTML is full of stupid errors that shows the child responsible did a simple cut ‘n’ paste of downloaded code into existing HTML without knowing what they were doing.  It also includes embedded JavaScript, some of which does not execute at all because it is incorrectly implemented.  The layout of the HTML also demonstrates a total lack of understanding of what they were doing.

This is the technology equivalent of putting sugar in someone’s petrol tank or letting their tyres down.

(But they were unwise to leave log file traces, names, IP addresses, traceable script and a trail of identical destruction to other web sites online.)

My To Do List for June included replacing Drupal with something else and putting up a load of content onto the 11112018 organisation site.  Well, now it seems I’ll be replacing the site completely.  Time that would have been spent working on peace studies and pro-peace activity.  But now with slightly less motivation than I had before.

Although I could claim “Hey, I’ve arrived!  A pro-Islamist activist group have targeted my peace web site for taking down and replaced it with their messages of hate!”  But the reality is they have an automated script that just trawls the domain lists for sites due for renewal and searches for this specific vulnerability, then automatically applies their—rather awful—content.

They have just as mindlessly replaced a web site for childcare and a children’s skateboard park web site.

It’s just the same childish, mindless vandalism as spraying swastikas on bus shelters.

I am so disappointed.

Not taking sides can be the side that really matters

Nick Taylor, CEO for Warrington’s Foundation for Peace, recently posted an article on LinkedIn saying they don’t take sides and that’s how they work. He asks:

Violent conflict is increasing, the first time since the second world war, and yet many of us are immune to the news feeds and the horrors that are taking place in front of our eyes. So what can you do to help? What do you think of our position? Do you think the side of ‘peace’ we take is right and will make a real and lasting difference? Join in the debate and let me know your thoughts.

These are my thoughts.

I’m already a convert to that way of thinking. Revenge creates more revenge. “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”. If things don’t change, they’ll stay the same.

Mind you, not taking sides and tackling the violence with peaceful means is slow, it is hard work, it is a long slog, it is not glamorous, it does not win votes and does not result in valuable non-executive directorships in weapons manufacturers. It also reduces widows, orphans and embittered young men but also reduces opportunities for global corporations to implement ‘economic developments’ for the benefit of their shareholders. Before we know where we are we’ll be talking about open communication, understanding, cautious respect, individual empowerment and sustainable local economies.

So, can’t we just send in some more airstrikes? (I don’t mind who just so long as it is someone else.) They make better TV news than peace talks. I know they’ll mean another generation or two of easily-recruited martyrs, but I’m sure yet more airstrikes can deal with them. If we bomb them enough (whoever ‘them’ might be next week), they’ll thank us eventually.

Forgive the above sarcasm, but current and recent foreign policies of “bomb / drone / airstrike / missile them into submission to gain peace” is blatantly insane, ignorant and short-sighted.

War ends when the remaining survivors prefer peace. The sooner we get there, the better. But adding more guns and explosives to the conflict surely cannot be the way to get to that point, can it?

For humanity’s sake all this killing needs to slow down, calm down, and pause long enough for some listening to happen. Or genocide. It’s one or the other.

Go on retreat

Lard’s World Peace Tip for 25th June 2014 is “Go on retreat”. I felt the need to comment:

I saw this strip this morning and wanted to say something about those young men advancing to Iraq with a desire to be freedom fighters or mercenaries. It felt so negative and unhopeful that I didn’t post it. But my melancholia won’t go away.

It reminds me of the pain and anguish generated by the Spanish Civil War. To all those young men aspiring to go to Iraq to be heroes, I wish I could make them read George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia before they go. It describes how the volunteers in a civil war are just grist to the mill, cannon fodder, pawns to the writhing mist-like politics of power struggles between factions run by self-serving, inhumane, sociopaths that called themselves ‘leaders’. Leaders that lead from behind, sending brave, hopeful, naïve young men to happily receive hot lead in their belies, limbs and faces.

Spain fought a civil war (fully utilising volunteers from abroad) and now has a monarchy again. It served only to let Hitler prove his Blitzkrieg philosophy worked and his air force improve their dive-bombing techniques

England fought a civil war, the most bloody war in its history, and it has been erased from the statue books and the monarchy put back on the throne. It seems Ireland will never forgive nor forget the consequences.

The USA had a civil war and afterwards was still the United States. What was the point of that?

Iraq will emerge from this civil war angry, embittered, poorer. And the young men heading off there from places like the UK thinking they are off for a happy time in the sun, those who survive will either be dead, physically damaged beyond repair, mercenaries or mentally scarred for life.

In a civil war, a war in one’s own homeland, fought by volunteers from overseas and fuelled by foreign governments, there is nowhere to retreat to. The Iraqis have no home, nowhere where you can close the door, turn off the lights and feel safe.

After all these thousands of years of conflict, can there never be peace for Mesopotamia?

The major casualties of war are civilians

“Armies are now so protected and their weapons so effective that the major casualties of war are civilians.”

Dave Turner, Open University tutor and course leader of criminology at the University of Gloucestershire.

By all means continue to fret for “our boys out there” and the body bags they come home in.

But spare some time to fret for yourself and the civilians our brave boys are killing and maiming and orphaning and widowing in our name.

Depending on whose figures you use, the 2nd Gulf War resulted in between 15 and 30 civilian deaths for each US soldier killed.

“Because of new body armour and advances in military medicine, for example, the ratio of combat-zone deaths to those wounded has dropped from 24 percent in Vietnam to 13 percent in Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, the numbers of those killed as a percentage of overall casualties is lower.”

Christian Science Monitor, 29/8/2006

That’s good news, it really is.  But civilians don’t get any body armour.  And when they are being targeted by drones where the operator is in another continent, they won’t be getting any first aid from their attackers, never mind military medicine.

Not starting the 2nd Gulf War would not have just saved nearly 5,000 US troops, it would have prevented hundreds of thousands of orphans too.

Coalition & allied forces killed: 25,286
Coalition & allied forces wounded: > 117,961
Iraqi combatants and insurgents killed: 34,144 – 37,344

Still, Saddam got strung up, so it was all worth it in the end, wasn’t it?

So that really was the best way to topple his regime, wasn’t it?

And in case you’re not bothered about the human cost, here’s what Wikipedia has about the financial cost:

In March 2013, the total cost of the Iraq War was estimated to have been $1.7 trillion by the Watson Institute of International Studies at Brown University.[361] Critics have argued that the total cost of the war to the US economy is estimated to be from $3 trillion[362] to $6 trillion,[363] including interest rates, by 2053.

A CNN report noted that the United States-led interim government, the Coalition Provisional Authority lasting until 2004 in Iraq had lost $8.8 billion in the Development Fund for Iraq. In June 2011, it was reported by CBS News that six billion in neatly packaged blocks of $100 bills was air-lifted into Iraq by the George W. Bush administration, which flew it into Baghdad aboard C‑130 military cargo planes. In total, the Times says $12 billion in cash was flown into Iraq in 21 separate flights by May 2004, all of which has disappeared. An inspector general’s report mentioned that “‘Severe inefficiencies and poor management’ by the Coalition Provisional Authority would leave no guarantee that the money was properly used”, said Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., director of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. “The CPA did not establish or implement sufficient managerial, financial and contractual controls to ensure that funds were used in a transparent manner.”[364] Bowen told the Times the missing money may represent “the largest theft of funds in national history.”[365]

Wouldn’t it have been better to ring up Saddam Hussein and say “Here’s $1,000,000,000 up front and $100,000,000 per year for life on the condition you clear off and don’t come back” ?

According to the UK National Audit Office, the UK spent £850 billion on the bank crises in 2009 alone.

The long term effect of airstrikes

When the airstrikes begin, such as they did at the start of the second Gulf War, and as is desired by US, UK and French leaders against Syria, large numbers of government buildings are attacked, resulting in the deaths of large number of civil servants in the country being attacked.

(The legality of targeting civilians is another question worth considering another day: link1, link2, link3, link4, link5, link6.)

The elimination of these civil servants has the desired effect of damaging the military organisation of the target country: supplies are not ordered, shipments are not arranged, payroll does not happen, communication is disrupted: information does not get escalated and orders do not get distributed, intelligence is not analysed.  In this way the machine of war is halted despite the troops and armour being intact because the troops have no food or bullets, the guns have no shells, the tanks have no fuel, the aircraft have no targets.  It is a seemingly ‘humane’ way of disabling an opponent or one party in a civil conflict.

The reality is, the combatants are left intact while the civilians are killed, maimed or forced to flee, adding them to the numbers of refugees.  Amongst those refugees will be the pacifists, the civil rights specialists, the conscientious objectors and the fearful who left the country during the crisis.

How very ironic is it that those who speak for our armed forces say killing civilians instead of soldiers is more humane?  That makes it quite clear where their allegiances lie.

If the external influence is effective, and the targeted government falls, then who will form the civil service of the new administration?  Certainly not the corpses and the cripples and the refugees of the deposed government.

It will be recruited mostly from the victorious liberating army, that group of ‘rebels’, ‘terrorists’, ‘insurgents’ and ‘insurrectionists’ that became redefined as ‘freedom fighters’ because their winning suited our political convenience.  An army including reactionaries, the vengeful, hot-blooded young anarchists, psychos, criminals, malcontents, sufferers of post-war stress syndrome and anyone who decided to pick up a gun and kill their police officers, armed forces members and government officials despite them being fellow citizens.  It is from these ranks the new government’s officials will be constructed.  Those who can answer the questions:

What did you do in the war, Daddy?

and

How many did you kill?

Experienced administrators from the previous government, those who left because of their conscience, the displaced – these people are least likely to get their old jobs back.

So is it any wonder that when we interfere with another country by applying airstrikes that the incoming government is itself full of turmoil with police recruits shooting their colleagues, suicide bombers, corruption, instability, ongoing car bombs and ultimately another revolution?

Perhaps if we stopped killing their filing clerks, accountants, data analysts, IT staff, secretaries, junior supervisors, PAs, human resources officers, trainers, typists, middle managers, and office cleaners then maybe their future governments might be competent, organised, capable and stable.

The outcome of using airstrikes are:

  • the deaths or injury of many fit, intelligent, taxpaying, civilians;
  • the armed forces and their matériel are left intact;
  • ongoing national incompetence for many years;
  • the need for greater external influence in maintaining stability;
  • those who may have a bias towards peace and reconciliation become personae non gratae;
  • a continuation of civil disorder and violence;
  • the likelihood of major armed conflict in the future.

So what are the real agenda when airstrikes are used?  Anyone would think it was advantageous foreign policy, commercial interests and the maintenance of the arms industry.  It certainly is not humanitarian reasons.

Airstrikes: the victims are civilians

Airstrikes are a tempting solution for large Western government to use against lesser states as a means of reprisal, punishment or warning. What are the targets and who gets killed?

Targets of planned airstrikes include military command headquarters, military intelligence buildings and sources of power such as power stations and oil refineries.  Blowing up these buildings is done as a warning or to reprimand the leaders of foreign countries, but the leaders do not reside in them.  In the former they are typically occupied by civil servants (civilians) with a number of seconded military personnel (so non-combatants at the time) and the latter are occupied by civilians.

So successful airstrikes kill receptionists, cleaners, clerks, administrators, IT staff, accountants, canteen workers, overnight security guards, office visitors, facilities management staff, technicians as well as the operational staff on site.

How does that provide justice for anyone?  Especially when disrupting ‘the command, control and communications network‘ actually means blowing up a TV station, killing 16 people and injuring 16 more.

The good news is that we are better now at targeted bombing than we were back in the WWII days of carpet bombing.  For example, during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, there were only 90 or so incidents in which civilians being killed, with an average of only about 5 or 6 civilian deaths per incident.

Statistically speaking, civilian casualties were lighter than any other conflict involving modern mass air power.

Bombing refugees once or twice, is considered bad form – good job Yugoslavia wasn’t in the UN at the time.

Unsuccessful airstrikes – those where we thought we knew who we were killing from thousands of miles away – are even less pleasant.

The 1993 revenge attack on Iraq for trying to blow up George Bush Senior involved firing 23 cruise missiles – costing between US$13m and US$33m – at the Iraqi Intelligence Service HQ.  It destroyed three houses and killed eight civilians.  Not a very effective use of taxpayers’ money; the Israelis can achieve the same thing with bulldozers.

7th May 1999.  NATO bombs supposedly aimed at the Yugoslav Federal Directorate for Supply and Procurement were actually hit the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, killing three people and injuring 20 more.

As for drone killings, well, do your own search to see how effective they are at killing civilians.

The targets are not evil tyrants, tanks, artillery, missiles, or armed soldiers.  They are buildings containing mostly civilians.

Even if the airstrikes hit the intended targets, it is civilians that get killed.  Are you OK with that?

Death? Airstrike! Now! Avenge the innocent! Kill someone! (and ask questions later)

So we have heard of the possibility there may have been a chemical weapons attack against Syrian civilians possibly by the Syrian government.  And the immediate reaction from our government leaders is that military airstrikes should be carried out against the Syrian government straight away.

What happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty’?

And why is an airstrike our leaders’ first reaction?  Why are they so keen to cause death and destruction at the first possible opportunity?  Why are they so unimaginative as to resort to killing people as way to deal with this issue?

The typical poor politician reaction to any given problem is:

Something must be done.  This is something.  It must be done.

But why a military airstrike?  Why not an alternative?

  • Why not negotiate?
  • Why not blockade of ports and airports of everything except food and medical supplies?
  • Why not assassinate the unwanted leader?
  • Why not seize the overseas personal assets of the leadership and their families?
  • Why not nationalise or seize the overseas businesses and subsidiaries of the country in question?
  • Why not destroy their economy (e.g. print their currency in huge quantities)?
  • Why not check the facts before sending in the bombers and cruise missiles?

No, it’s always bombs, isn’t it?

Pathetic.  Unimaginative.  Cruel.  Vicious.  Nasty.

A knee-jerk reaction to cause death in response to hearsay is psychotic behaviour.  Especially when it is claimed that the best way to respond to a government killing its own citizens is: for our government to kill more of their citizens.  That’s ridiculous madness.

If what the Syrian government did is evil, then what my government is proposing is no less evil.

No-fly zones cause greater suffering

The purposes of air support are reconnaissance, tactical strikes and to support ground troops.

Denying reconnaissance results in (a) that side committing larger forces to pitched battles making destruction of the opponent more likely and (b) not committing enough of the right forces to pitched battles resulting in greater losses (one intention of the no fly zone).  It also increases the likelihood of successful assaults on those denied aircract.

Tactical strikes allow the destruction of tanks, opponent HQs and leaders, supply dumps and key infrastructure.  These actions lead to a shortening of the conflict.  Preventing these actions increases theneed for land-based assault using tanks, machine-guns and infantry against one another.  Destruction is more wide-spread, more troops are needed to be killed.  More homes, hospitals, schools, offices and business are destroyed as towns need to be flattened.

Without air support, warfare is more akin to the kind of close combat massacres that occurred up to the Great War.

When the great powers impose a No Fly Zone “for humanitarian reasons” it results in a longer war, greater destruction of infrastructure, more deaths, more civilian deaths, more trauma, more widows and orphans, more refugees, more cost to aid agencies, more influx of external combatants, more civilians becoming armed and involved.

The imposition of a No Fly Zone is not ‘humanitarian’; it is a cruel and cowardly way of manipulating the outcome of an internal conflict for poitical ends with wanton disregard for the suffering caused.