Refugee Ethics

A reader and frequent commenter sent me an article by Richard D. Lamm that appeared in the Denver Post. The story is told of Martin of Tours finding a starving beggar during a 13th Century ride and dividing his cloak and dinner with the desperate man. The question is asked “What if instead of one cold and starving beggar, there are 100?” Considering the world situation, what if there are thousands or millions? There is another report that ISIS has slaughtered another several hundred people after taking a city in Iraq, and thousands or hundreds of thousands of people are being displaced. I have difficulty imagining there is anyone remaining in Syria other than the various fighting organizations or a place for an “ordinary citizen” to live. Thousands of people are taking the perilous trip across the Mediterranean to escape the anarchy and terror of Libya (and perhaps wishing Gaddafi could return). Lamm mentions increasing population “…and political unrest in most of the Middle East and Africa guarantee continued massive migration from that volatile area. Is Europe’s only ethical response to take them all in?”

Lamm mentions that “…the U.S. has its own substantial pressure from south of its boarder (sic).” He then poses the ethical dilemma. “A moral response to an individual or manageable group might not make sense if there are hundreds of thousands. Sheer numbers can totally change the ethical implications.” “The maximum generosity of the developed world cannot absorb the staggering numbers fleeing political chaos, war, violence, and lack of economic opportunity.” Later in the article he writes, “No nation can be expected to commit social and cultural suicide. No ethics can demand what the ecosystem or social fabric of a society cannot support.”

I have fretted since the first reports of ISIS slaughters in Iraq that we as a nation should feel ashamed. Regardless of your beliefs about the justification of the second Iraq War, we did overthrow Saddam Hussein and established a fledgling democracy. We then decided we were “war weary” and withdrew our soldiers. The situation that evolved was predictable. There was an opportunity, perhaps a slim opportunity, to assist in establishing a stable and perhaps even prosperous country where people wouldn’t be slaughtered because they practiced the wrong religion. We instead chose to fulfill a political promise. Is there anyone out there who continues to believe withdrawing was the right thing to do? We also helped “decapitate” the dictatorship in Libya and then sat behind our comfortable borders while terrorists took over.

Perhaps we should be asking whether we’ve learned anything. Are we going to repeat what we did to Iraq in Afghanistan?   I understand the Taliban developed a motto after the announcements that we were going to withdraw on a schedule. “You have the watch and we have the time.”

President Obama’s Use of ISIL Instead of ISIS

I’ve been baffled since the early days of the Obama administration’s about the focus semantics rather than policy. I think the first time I noticed was when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano began using the term “man-caused disaster” instead of “terrorist attack.” That was just the start. “War on Terror” became a forbidden phrase and was replaced by “Overseas Contingency,” which I still don’t understand. “Jihad” became a forbidden word and “violent extremism” replaced either “Islamists or Islamic terrorists.” I have come to believe that the original confusion about the attack on Benghazi was caused by Obama administration officials being convinced they weren’t allowed to use the term “terrorist attack.” Perhaps even they thought it would be silly to call it a “man-caused disaster” and instead referred to it as a “demonstration.”

The latest in the quest to use semantics is the conscious shift of the administration from the term ISIS (Islamic State in Syria) to ISIL (Islamic State In the Levant) to describe the terrorist organization creating carnage in Iraq. I had to look up “Levant” and learned it consists of the Eastern Mediterranean. Wiki describes that the Levant today “…consists of the island of Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria Palestine, and part of southern Turkey.” I was even more confused, because I hadn’t heard of any of the ISIS or ISIL attacks being in any of those countries other than Syria. I thought most of the attacks that had made the news occurred in Iraq, which isn’t mentioned. Continue reading

Iraq after American Troops

I’ve been reading about Iraq after American combat troops were withdrawn in December 2011, and it isn’t a pleasant story. Almost 1,000 people have been killed in September 2013 in Iraq “…as car bombs have become a near daily occurrence in a country seeing its worst surge of violence in five years.” Iraqi civilians have been “…caught in a resurgence of al-Qaeda terrorism that has been growing since the United States pulled out forces two years ago.” Continue reading

9/11 Anniversary

There are two terrorist attack anniversaries today, and the second is the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi where four Americans were killed one year ago. Several mysteries remain about that attack. One question I have had since I first heard of the attack is “Where are the pictures of the Situation Room while Consulate was being attacked by terrorists?” The picture of the Situation Room with President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with a room full of other officials was spread throughout the world the night bin Laden was killed. What would a photo of the room look like the night of the several-hour terrorist attack on the Consulate? Who would have been present to hear the intelligence information and make decisions about what military assets were available to help the people under attack? Was the Situation Room even activated? If not, where was the Commander-In-Chief and what actions did he take to help the people under attack? Did he take any actions? Why weren’t we better prepared for the possibility of an attack? Continue reading

Muslim Brotherhood Origins

I’ve been baffled trying to understand the basis of Islamic terrorism and what I have been hearing about the Muslim Brotherhood.  One example of my confusion was how the young men who flew airplanes into buildings on 9/11 after living in the U.S. in complete freedom and tolerance could have enough hate to do what they did. I recently read the book “The Closing of the Muslim Mind” by Robert R. Reilly (that is reviewed on this date) and it provides some answers. I remain conflicted that any God could want the murder of people innocent except that they haven’t read the book of the chosen God and lived their lives strictly by his teachings. However, Reilly’s book explains why there are Islamists who are not conflicted by that. Continue reading

The Closing of the Muslim Mind

muslim_mindThe subtitle of this book by Robert R. Reilly is “How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis,” and the author certainly documents the basis for that subtitle. I did not enjoy reading this book for several reasons. It provides the Islamic words to interpret various descriptions and meanings, and I found that quite distracting.(Page 43 has 14 examples, to include fard for duty and mubah for permitted.) I was also disappointed early when the author announced that he was going to focus strictly on Sunni beliefs and was not going to discuss the “Shi’ites…except tangentially…” I was disappointed there wouldn’t be any help for me understanding the differences between those two groups.

The best of book is Chapter 8, “The Sources of Islamism.” It answers many of my questions about the Muslim Brotherhood and its widespread influence. The origin of the Muslim Brotherhood is traced back to the shock among Islamists over the abolition of the caliphate by Kemal Ataturk in 1924. (I have done a commentary including discussion of that event that I intend to post with this review.) The Muslims decided this must have been caused by their lack of faith. The only solution was to restore “…Muslim faith to a pristine condition.” In late forties and early fifties Sayyid Qutb traveled from Egypt to college in Greely, Colorado. He was disgusted by what he saw as a materialist and degenerate culture. He traveled back to Egypt and became a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. He went to the gallows in 1966 smiling, and that image inspires his followers today. It is worth noting that there were periods in the development of the Muslim Brotherhood that they modeled themselves after the Nazi Brownshirts and later were part of the Communist party in Egypt. Continue reading