That’s Really Funny Chuck

The US Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, is apparently fed up with his current job and is looking to set himself up as a funnyman. Chuck Hagel is a good name for a comedian. In a particularly belligerent speech this Wednesday, Mr Hagel followed in the footsteps of his boss, Mr O’Bomber, who recently went to the UN to tell the world that the three biggest threats to the world are:

1) Ebola
2) Russia
3) ISIS

Mr Hagel also made it clear that Russian “aggression” is a threat to us all. At one point he appears to have played it for laughs, making the following extraordinary claim:

“The demands on the US Army will grow more diverse and complicated. Threats from terrorists and insurgents will remain with us for a long time, but we must also deal with a revisionist Russia – with its modern and capable army – on NATO’s doorstep.”

On NATO’s doorstep? Russia is on NATO’s doorstep? What a punchline. Was it followed by howls of laughter as his audience realised Mr Hagel had just attempted an extremely funny joke? Or were they, like the Western media, completely oblivious to the Orwellian reality inversion going on here?

For the claim that Russia is on the doorstep of NATO is so palpably the exact reverse of the facts, that it was either intended to get a laugh, or, if he meant it to be taken seriously, had obviously been manufactured somewhere deep within the bowels of the “Ministry of Truth.”

From Mr Hagel’s comment, one would think that Russia had, for the past few years, been slowly but inexorably expanding westwards, and that this obvious aggression had now become seen as an intolerable threat to all those nice, enlightened NATO countries to its west.

Well he was almost on to something (or perhaps just on something). It is true that something very similar to what Mr Hagel described did indeed take place, except for the inconvenient fact — at least as far as Mr Hagel is concerned — that it actually happened precisely the other way around. At the end of the Cold War, the US government gave assurances to the then Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, that it would not move NATO an inch further to the East. At that point NATO, having done the job for which it was originally set up, really ought to have been disbanded and attempts made to work with Russia as a partner. But what actually happened?

Well besides Western companies effectively pillaging the country and making a few Russians extremely rich in the debauched Yeltsin years, NATO began to creep ever eastwards. Technically, it didn’t move “an inch further to the East”. The problem, though, is that it instead moved several hundred miles further to the East, swallowing up various former Warsaw Pact countries with the clear and unmistakable aim of moving right up to Russia’s doorstep.

The following map shows the expansion of NATO throughout its history, and of particular concern here is the green — representing what happened from 1990 onwards:

800px-NATO_expansion
And this really is the key to understanding what has happened in Ukraine over the past year. Should Russia feel threatened by NATO moving up to its doorstep? Did it have the right to feel that NATO was a hostile aggressor when, back in 2008, NATO announced plans to bring both Georgia and Ukraine — two countries right on the doorstep of Russia — into NATO?

Well in the same way that America would have every right to feel threatened if Moscow started opening military bases in Argentina, and then over the next decade or so, despite assurances that they would “not move one inch further North,” started creeping further and further up the South American continent installing bases and weapons as they went, and proposing a missile shield. I’d say Washington might justifiably term this “aggression” and that by the time Moscow got around to engineering a violent coup d’état in Mexico City, pumping billions of dollars into regime change, and sending politicians to encourage the overthrow of the democratically elected government, Washington might just feel that enough is enough and begin to respond.

Quite right, but in such a scenario if the then Russian Defense Secretary came out and claimed that Russia needed to “deal with a revisionist America — with its modern and capable army — on our doorstep,” you might think that he was either high on drugs, having a laugh or being, shall we say, “economical with the actualité.” Yet this is precisely what the likes of President O’Bomber and Chuck Hagel are saying with reference to events in Ukraine and Russia’s response.

Serious scholars, along with the Russian Government, have warned for years against further NATO expansion eastwards. For a detailed look at this, I recommend this interview with Professor Stephen Cohen of Princeton University.

The current situation in the South East of Ukraine, where huge numbers of people have been the subject to what amounts to a deliberate attempt at ethnic cleansing, killing many and making over 1,000,000 refugees, will be seen by historians in the future as entirely the responsibility of the past three US administrations. They reneged in the promise not to expand NATO eastward, they ignored the warnings given to them not to expand NATO towards Russia’s borders, and in the case of the current administration, they deliberately engineered the coup d’état of the democratically elected government of Ukraine which led to the ensuing civil war. They have the blood and plight of multitudes of people on their hands.

Sometimes though, a picture can say in an instant what a thousand words just cannot seem to do. So I leave you with this:

Russia Wants War

 

What Happens When We Worship?

The strength of an army is seen not so much when things are going well, but rather when things are going badly. It is one thing for a battalion to look good when the numbers are in their favour and things are going well; quite another things to see how they cope with being pressed back.

The same kind of principle can be applied to the Church. At times, the Church has been in the ascendancy and things have looked pretty healthy. Needless to say we – at least Christians in North America and Europe – do not live in such times, but are very much being driven onto the back foot in a number of areas. The question is, how are we faring?

The answer appears to be, “not very well”. By and large, wherever you look in the West, the Church is in retreat, shrinking in numbers, and on the receiving end of an increasingly aggressive and confident secularism. On top of that, many of those who are rejecting secularism are turning not to the Church, but to Islam.

Why is this happening? Well, there are a host of reasons, but if you want to know the central reason for what is happening to the Church, then you need to look firstly at the thing that is central to all that the Church does. And that thing is worship. Let’s be honest here: how much do we think our corporate worship on the Lord’s Day is likely to shake the gates of Hell? How likely is it that our worship is going to be tearing down strongholds anytime soon (2 Corinthians 10:4)? Or to put it another way, if a rampant secularist were to come into our worship, would they be more likely to go away awed by the militancy and strength of what they have seen and heard, or to go away sniggering at the sheer feebleness and frivolity of it all?

To say that a lot of what goes on in a lot of Christian worship today is weak would be an understatement. For many Christians, going to church is intrinsically connected with personal feelings or perhaps about being entertained. Then of course there is the reaction to that sort of thing, where worship resembles being in a morgue and any kind of outward display of joy is frowned upon.

Worship is central to the life and health of the Church, and so it is essential that we take seriously what it actually is and what happens when we do it. Much of the weakness of the Church at the moment stems from weakness at the very centre of what we do, and so with that in mind here are seven brief points about worship, its purpose and its importance:

Worship primarily flows from God to us, not the other way around

This might seem utterly counter-intuitive. Surely when we go to church we are paying our dues and giving back to God? Yes we are, but there is something else going on behind that. Primarily, worship is about God doing something for us, not about us doing something for him. Just as salvation is initiated by God and not us, so the primary flow in worship is from God to man rather from man to God. It is God who calls on men to worship him, it he who initiates it, it is he who gives us faith to do it. We respond to all this, but we should remember that in the first instance, our worship services are God’s service to us, not our service to him.

The purpose of worship is for God to renew us

But if worship is primarily something God does for us, what exactly is it that he is doing? The answer to that is that he is renewing us. When we approach him as a congregation, we are, in a sense, corporately unclean. Don’t misunderstand me, all true believers are justified by faith alone and we can come into the presence of God assured that he sees us as righteous because of Jesus’ sacrifice. But just as we still confess our sins individually before God on a daily basis, even though we are ultimately justified in his sight, when we come together as a congregation we still need to corporately confess that we are unclean. What then follows, is that God pardons us, accepts us into his presence to hear his Word, bids us to feast with him at his table, and then sends us out into the world to live for his glory and to be “more than conquerors”. Through this process, of being accepted, of hearing, of feasting, and of praising and petitioning him, God is not just receiving our praise, but is renewing us individually and corporately week by week.

When we worship God, we are spiritually in the throne room of God

Amongst the many hard-to-be-understood themes of the book of Revelation, one of them is that the people of God on Earth worship together with the people of God in Heaven. This comes out in several places, for example, in chapter 5, verses 11-14. The same theme is brought out in the book of Ephesians, where Paul tells us that we are seated in the “Heavenly places” (Ephesians 2:6), and in Hebrews, where we are told that we have “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering (Hebrews 12:22).  In other words, when you go to church, you are not just setting foot in a building, or meeting with other believers. You are not even just “worshipping God from afar”. Spiritually, through Jesus – you enter into the Holy of Holies.

This being the case what ought our worship to look like? 

If we are spiritually in the presence of God, and Christ is spiritually in our midst (Hebrews 2:12), how should our worship look? The two things we should be aiming for above all else is reverence and joy. However, being fallible creatures and prone to fall into ditches, we often tend to major on the one to the exclusion of the other. So we go all out for the reverence, omit the joy and end up with something that looks more like a dry parched land than streams of living waters. Or we go all out for the joy, omit the reverence and end up with something that looks floppy and frivolous. It is hard to aim for joyful reverence, but if we are in the presence of a God who is Holy and who calls on us to “rejoice always,” this is what we should be aiming for.

Worship ought to be robust and in some way reflect the great battle against evil

There are many ways this could be addressed, but one obvious example is the praises we sing. I am by no means an advocate of exclusive psalmody, but the Scriptures do at the very least instruct us that at least part of our corporate worship ought to consist of Psalms (see Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; plus the numerous exhortations in the Book of Psalms to sing them). There are a couple of good reasons for this. Firstly, the Psalms are the Word of God and so singing them will inevitably shape us, according to God’s Word. Secondly, they contain sentiments which far more accurately reflect the world and the battle against evil than do many hymns. The book is filled with enemies, and David calling on God to come and deal with those enemies. Our world is full of enemies. So what is the first thing we should think about when we see ISIS doing unspeakable things in the Middle East? Dropping bombs? No, if our worship is shaped by the Psalms, our primary response will be to corporately cry out to God to judge these foes who are creating havoc for so many. Maybe this seems like a tame response to some, but whenever the Israelites stopped trying to fight battles themselves, and instead corporately cried out to God for deliverance from vicious enemies, that is when he delivered them. What might happen if churches throughout the world united against some of the greatest evil in the world by employing the kinds of strong petitions seen in some of the Psalms?

Worship is our primary weapon

The Apostle Paul tells us that “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:4). Chief amongst these weapons is our corporate worship. Sure, our individual faith can achieve much, but the Church is at its strongest when its corporate worship is robust and powerful – when it effectively hammers on the throne room of God demanding that he come and judge a situation: “They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” Worship is a weapon, and we should use it.

So what happens when we worship?

If all this is true, what happens when we worship? Well if we miss its centrality and importance, and if our worship is filled with gimmicks, or frivolity, or joyless insipidness, the answer is “not much”. We can go to church, be entertained, feel sentimental, or even morose, and leave an hour or so much the same as when we went in. But if we grasp what is really going on in worship, and we use it as an opportunity to be renewed, to worship God at his footstall with robust, joyful reverence, seeing worship as our primary weapon, what then? Why God might just hear us and turn around the fortunes of the Church, just as he once promised to his people in Solomon’s day:

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever” (2 Chronicles 7:14-16).

The Joe Biden Show: Truth, Deception and “Truthful Deception”

Did someone slip something funny into Joe Biden’s coffee before his speech at Harvard University yesterday? Whilst defending US Foreign Policy, the Vice President came out with a mixture of astonishing claims; a moment of truth, a moment of outright deception, and what I think can only be described as a moment of “truthful deception.”

First the moment of truth. In a rare moment of candour, Mr Biden let slip who had been behind the decision of the European Union to put round after round of sanctions on Russia. According to Mr Biden, US President Barack O’Bomber personally forced the EU to introduce sanctions:

“It is true – they did not want to do that but again it was America’s leadership and the President of the United States insisting, oftentimes almost having to embarrass Europe to stand up and take economic hits to impose cost.”

Well who’d have thought it! The master called and the lapdog obeyed. No surprise to anyone who has been seriously following the crisis, but still it’s nice to have it confirmed from the horse’s mouth.

Perhaps if something stronger had been slipped into Mr Biden’s coffee, he might even have gotten around to telling his audience the whole truth about the Ukraine crisis, which is that it was planned by the US Government as a means to bring NATO up to the Russia’s borders — something the Russians warned as far back as 2007 would be unpalatable to them (in the same way that Russia putting military bases in Mexico or Cuba might just alarm Washington). He might even have explained why his son, Hunter, happened to become a director of the Ukrainian oil and gas company, Burisma, in May this year.

But unfortunately, Mr Biden never got around to explaining the origins of the Ukraine crisis to his audience, much less why his government supports a regime which has deliberately and indiscriminately targeted innocent civilians in the East of the country, and which employs neo-Nazi battalions to do its dirty work. No, if his moment of candour was due to the effects of something funny in his coffee, the effects soon wore off and in an apparently bad reaction to too much truth, he resorted to some outright whoppers:

“When Putin sent troops to Ukraine, Biden said, ‘We rallied the world to check his ambitions.’ Biden said the U.S. does not want Russia to collapse, but Putin’s advances on Ukraine “cannot be tolerated.”

Firstly, Putin never sent troops to Ukraine. Sure, the Russians provided covert help to those in the South East, which is understandable given the fact that the people of this area are mostly ethnically, linguistically and culturally Russian and they were effectively being targeted for ethnic cleansing by the Kiev junta. Would the UK stand by and let Argentina take the Falklands? But an invasion? Please! If he had wanted to invade, he would have done so and Kiev would now be controlled by Moscow. The fact that it isn’t shows that he is not interested.

And even more to the point, on September 17th, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Andrei Purgin, stated that despite their efforts to get President Putin to accept the territory as part of Russia, he has firmly rejected this idea, causing Mr Purgin to respond by saying, “We will build our own country”.

This one fact shows the utter fabrication of Mr Biden’s narrative, and the Western narrative in general. Vladimir Putin has no desire to swallow up Ukraine, not even a part of it. His whole policy has been, and still is, that he doesn’t want NATO — which is clearly hostile to Russia — on its border. Swallowing up Ukraine, in part or in whole, would be a pretty stupid way of going about this objective, since it would bring Russia right up to NATO’s borders. Still, Mr Biden and co must continue to spin that narrative, else people in the West might just catch on to the point that they have been lied to on a monumental scale and it is the US and EU — not Russia — that have been the cause and the aggressors in this whole sorry tale.

Having told the truth, and having followed it up with deception, Mr Biden decided to finish off by mixing things up a little. Let’s call it “Truthful Deception”:

“Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria,” he said, explaining that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were “so determined to take down Assad,” that in a sense they started a “proxy Sunni-Shia war” by pouring “hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons” towards anyone who would fight against Assad. “And we could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them.” “The outcome of such a policy now is more visible,” he said, as it turned out they supplied extremists from Al-Nusra Front and Al-Qaeda.

I must confessed I nearly choked when I read this. Is it an outright lie? Not at all. Some of it is absolutely true. The countries he mentioned have indeed been funding and supporting the Syrian rebels, many of whom are now part of ISIS. And yes they have an obsession with deposing Assad. All perfectly true.

The problem is, I know another government that has done that as well. Just in case you’re not sure who it is I’m talking about, I’ll give you a couple of clues. It’s not in the Middle East, and it’s not Russia. Still not sure? Well, it just so happens to be the country that Mr Biden has apparently been Vice President of for the past 6 years. The recent successful attempt by the O’Bomber administration to get Congress to agree on a $500million package to arm the “moderate” Syrian rebels is nothing but a smokescreen. For the same administration has, as I wrote about here, been covertly funding and arming those “moderate” rebels since at least 2012, some of whom now appear to have renounced their “moderation” and joined with the “fanatical” ISIS party. And that same administration has also had somewhat of a Bash Bashar obsession, which is why they jumped to the erroneous conclusion last August that the Assad government was responsible for a chemical weapons attack, and would probably have attacked then had they been able to get away with it.

What Mr Biden is attempting to do is what is called “passing the buck.” He and his colleagues are directly responsible for the creation of ISIS, because they have funded and supported the Syrian rebels when they should have kept their noses out of it and looked after their own affairs. Biden’s comments are a risible attempt to shift blame, and pass the US government off as the ones who are coming in to clean up other people’s mess. After such a transparent attempt at responsibility-avoidance, I sit with baited breath awaiting news of a press conference being held by the Devil to announce how he is going to come along and clean up the mess that people have made of the world!

So there you have it. The Joe Biden Show. Not a hint of recognition that he and the administration he works for has unleashed hell on earth in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Ukraine. Not a hint of contrition. Not a hint of taking responsibility. Instead, just more attempts to shift blame, and more attempts to paint themselves as the knights in shining armour riding to the rescue with their drones and their missiles. Truth, Deception and Truthful Deception.

My Enemy’s Enemy is my Friend’s Enemy’s Enemy’s Friend — or US Foreign Policy in a Nutshell

Anyone trying to make sense of what is going on in the Middle East at the moment is going to have their work cut out. Trying to decipher the meaning of it is a bit like peeling an onion — in order to find out the central issues, you are going to have to keep on peeling away past the outside layers until you get to the heart of the matter.

On the surface of it all, it appears to be quite straightforward. A group of Islamic jihadists calling themselves ISIS or ISIL or IS (Islamic State) have arisen in Iraq and Syria and they pose a threat to “our way of life”. We know they pose a threat because they openly behead people, film themselves doing so (although the authenticity of some of these films is open to question) and post it on YouTube. The Western world, which hasn’t had a war for a long time — well since Libya anyway — reacts with horror and demands action.

Our brave leaders are on hand to oblige. In the UK Parliament last week, speaker after speaker arose to demand that something must be done, and our courageous Prime Minister, who loves to look tough when he’s calling for bombs to be dropped from very great heights, declared that ISIS has declared war on us. Meanwhile, that other wannabe “Churchill”, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott went further by declaring that ISIS has not merely declared war on “us”, but on the world itself. Wow!

So the UK Parliament voted by a staggering margin to drop bombs inside Iraq, because this will apparently help matters. In fact, only 43 MPs, who clearly must be closet ISIS supporters, voted against blowing things up. Over the other side of the Atlantic, President O’Bomber declared that he would bomb his 7th sovereign country in 6 years (well he didn’t put it quite like that) and he jolly well didn’t need to get Congressional approval to do so.

So on the first layer, everything is pretty straightforward. ISIS are the new Hitlers. O’Bomber, Cameron, Abbott and co are cast in the role of Churchill, and everyone with huge reservations and big questions surrounding the whole issue is cast in the role of that evergreen icon of appeasement, Neville Chamberlain. So far so simple.

Ah, but then we peel back a layer and we begin to find that things are not quite that simple. One might get the impression from the aforementioned narrative that ISIS are a deadly enemy that sprang from nowhere, caught us by surprise, and that we must blast them to death before they take over the world. Not so. Who are ISIS? The uncomfortable fact is that they are essentially the product of US foreign policy.

A few days ago, O’Bomber went to Congress to seek approval for $500million to fund what he calls “moderate” Syrian rebels. What is odd about this, is that to the uninitiated eye, it would appear that the US has, until now, not been funding “moderate” Syrian rebels at all. But this is not so. The New York Times – hardly the most strident critics of US foreign policy – admits that despite official policy to the contrary, the US has been covertly supporting Syrian rebels with “lethal aid” since 2012 at least.

Now of course the US have been at pains to say that they only support “moderate” rebels. But this begs the questions: How do they know who is and who isn’t moderate, and how could they stop the arms falling into the hands of the “non-moderates”? The answer is that they couldn’t know who is “moderate” and who is “fanatical”, much less stop the arms falling from the hands of the “moderates” into the hands of the “fanatics”. In fact, it is fairly clear that these weapons have, directly or indirectly, found their way into the hands of the far from moderate Jabhat al-Nusra, who have been by far the most successful of the rebel groups — if success is measured by their ability to do really bad stuff in Syria, that is. This piece and this piece make the connection between the US weapons finding their way into the hands of al-Nusra and indeed ISIS fairly explicit.

So whereas the first layer of all this looked like a simple case of the good guys in the West versus the bad guys in the Middle East, with the remedy being a good dose of shock and awe, looking at the layer underneath reveals that there is more to this than meets the eye, and in fact it is as a direct result of the US supporting and funding so-called “moderate” rebels in Syria which has essentially led to the creation and astonishing success of ISIS.

Let’s peel back another layer. Back in August last year, the clammer for war in Syria was great in Washington following a chemical attack just outside Damascus. Secretary of State, John Kerry, made a speech in which he repeatedly claimed that “we know” that the Syrian government was responsible. However, first the British Parliament refused to support David Cameron in his bid to get support for an attack on Syria, then a few days later, President O’Bomber, instead of just going ahead and bombing Syria, decided to ask Congress for approval. This was really odd, considering that he had bombed without Congressional approval before. So why did he do this?

The reason for it was that just as John Kerry was blazing a trail at his warmongering best, evidence began to emerge which suggested that the Sarin attack was not carried out by Assad, but by the rebels — possibly even some of those really nice “moderate” ones which the US was covertly supporting. And to add a little spice into the rice, the man who talked O’Bomber out of bombing Syria was none other than this year’s candidate for Hitler of the year, Vladimir Putin. But we’ll come back to him in another layer in a moment.

So America pulled back at the last moment from bombing Syria just over a year ago. This did not go down very well with certain neo-cons in Washington, and they have been looking for an opportunity to get things back on track — i.e. regime change in Syria — ever since. Now with the ISIS threat, they have their chance to go for it and I don’t think they intend to miss this time.

So according to Bloomberg News, the U.S. dropped “almost as many bombs and missiles on Islamic State positions in Syria in its first night of airstrikes there as it did in the first month of attacks on the extremist group in Iraq.” And they did so without — at least officially — approval from the Assad government. Why is this important? Because essentially the real purpose in attacking ISIS — which remember is partly made up of those very same Syrian rebels who have been covertly supported by the US — is to lay the ground for the real campaign, which is to oust Bashar Assad, who is another candidate for Hitler of the Year.

At this point in our layers, the whole thing looks like a gigantic mess. The US and its allies are essentially bombing a group which they helped to create when they funded “moderate” rebels to destroy the government of Syria. But far from ISIS being the target — if that were the case, we would be supporting the Syrian government in their fight against ISIS and other jihadist groups — the real target is regime change in Syria.

So we come to another layer. Why is the US so keen on regime change in Syria? One explanation is that Syria is hostile to Israel. Possibly, but then I’m not entirely sure that Israel has ever been especially troubled by the Assad government. I think that the real reason has more to do with the US’s other allies in the region. And boy they are a motley crew.

When O’Bomber first announced that he had authorised airstrikes, he spoke proudly about the coalition of countries he had assembled to support the US. At that time, the likes of the UK hadn’t committed, so who did he have in his lineup? None other than Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. You know, all the nice countries. So this group of enlightened, free and tolerant countries lined up to take on the evil of ISIS, and so all well and good? Not exactly! The problem being that it is not exactly a well kept secret that at least some of these countries appear to have been funding ISIS all along.

Which gives the lie to this being all about the evil jihadists in the Middle East who need to be stopped by the good guys in the West. If that really were the case, we would hardly be building a coalition of countries who are

a) not especially dissimilar to the character of ISIS and
b) appear to have been funding the people who we are fighting

Which is where I get the title of this piece from: It is no longer just “My Enemy’s Enemy is my Friend”, but more like “My Enemy’s Enemy is my Friend’s Enemy’s Enemy’s Friend.” Something like that — it’s difficult to tell with Western foreign policy these days!

Before I come on to the final layer, there is one more that needs to be considered. US foreign policy over the last decade or so seems very much to be based on the idea that any government which is deemed hostile to the US, or which won’t play along with the US government’s game, must be overthrown. Thus we saw how Saddam was toppled on dodgy pretexts, followed by Mubarak, Gadaffi and Yanukovych. The idea is to protect US hegemony and create what Donald Rumsfeld called “Full Spectrum Dominance.”

Now this can be done in various ways. The current favoured way is regime change, brought about by funding and supporting opposition groups and working in the country to destabilise the government. The benefit of this is that when the protests come, it looks in the eyes of the masses in the West as though the peoples of a nation have spontaneously arisen to shake off the yoke of a tyrannical government. Democracy in action. Except in many cases — such as Yanukovych in Ukraine and Morsi in Egypt — it isn’t democracy but anti democracy which occurs, since it is the democratically elected governments which are ousted.

If a leader cannot be toppled in an outpouring of “people power”, then there is always war — outright in the case of Saddam and bombing in the case of Gaddafi. If this fails, then the aim appears to be destabilisation.

It seems to be that the US tried to topple Assad using all three tactics. Firstly, there was an attempt to force him out through “people power”. When this failed, they armed rebels (only moderate ones of course) to attempt an overthrow by force. Ideally, I’m sure they would have gone for a war, but the US public was scarcely ready for that so soon after Afghanistan and Iraq. So having failed to oust him through Plan A or Plan B, they are attempting to do the job through Plan C — destabilisation of the region — which has now been so successful that they can go back to plan B, and bomb the living daylights out of Syria until Assad suffers the same fate as Saddam and Gaddafi.

Just as an aside, I hold no affection for Assad whatsoever, anymore than I did for Saddam and Gaddafi. These are evil men who love power and rule with an iron fist. Having said that, as a Christian, I would far rather have lived in these countries under the rule of these men before the US decided to apparently bring democracy to them.

And so we come to the final layer. I admit I am shooting in the dark here a little, since the whole situation appears to be utterly chaotic and without meaning, and I have to try to find some meaning in it all. I think that beyond simple regime change and destabilisation of Syria and Iraq, there may be an even greater purpose lurking at the very heart of all this. It is all tied up with Russia.

At the moment, Russia supplies most of Europe’s gas, and is also the second biggest oil producer in the world. This  situation is intolerable to the neocons in Washington who view the two biggest threats to “Full Spectrum Dominance” as being Russia and China. They clearly have their sights set on regime change in Russia, as evidenced by this piece written last year by one of their number, National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman. He claimed — and mark it well if you think that the crisis in Ukraine is down to Russian aggression — that Ukraine represented “the biggest prize” and that it represented an opportunity to put Putin “on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

What has this to do with ISIS? Nothing as such, but it does have a lot to do with Syria. Do away with the Syrian regime, install a US-friendly government in Damascus, and what do you have? Assuming you also have US-friendly governments in Iraq and Turkey, essentially you would have free access to build oil and gas pipelines all the way from Qatar and Saudi to Europe. Why? To take away the need for Europe to use Russian gas and oil and therefore to effectively destroy the Russian economy. Such a situation would effectively prevent Russia from being a major world player, and so establish US hegemony for years to come. Just as the arch neocon, Zbiegniew Brzezinski has been planning for years.

Then again, maybe I’m reading too much into it and perhaps US and UK foreign policy is exactly what it appears to be on the surface: utterly clueless.

As Far as East is From West

Because some people believe much of what they read in the mainstream media, and because the mainstream media portray Vladimir Putin as a crazy insane madman who wants to revive the Soviet Union, build Gulags and probably destroy the world, there are many people out there who think Vladimir Putin is a crazy insane madman who wants to revive the Soviet Union, build Gulags and probably destroy the world.

Meanwhile in the West, our leaders are portrayed as calm and rational people who are trying to take the right action against the crazy insane madman who wants to revive the Soviet Union, build Gulags and probably destroy the world.

If you happen to go along with this I would point you in the direction of a couple of articles that appeared today where the contrast is shown in all its stark reality. Except the problem is that the crazy insane madmen appear to be in the European Parliament (not saying they want to build gulags or revive the Soviet Union, by the way), whereas the calm and rational response appears to be coming from the apparently crazy insane madman of the Kremlin.

So a week or so ago, Putin brokered a ceasefire in the Ukrainian civil war — a war which was initially caused by the EU and US support for a violent coup d’etat in Kiev in February. The EU response was what? To whack sanctions on Russia. So much for peace then, Brussels.

Since then we’ve been awaiting the Kremlin’s response. We’re all expecting something big — and maybe it will be big — but far from desiring to punish those who have sanctioned Russia, Mr Putin has today made it clear that that is not his aim at all. His only aim is to protect his country. Anyway, here is what he said, and readers can judge for themselves whether he comes across as a crazy insane madman who wants to revive the Soviet Union, build Gulags and probably destroy the world, or whether he appears to be somewhat more calm and rational than all that:

http://en.itar-tass.com/russia/750120

And when you have done with that, you can read about how despite the ceasefire brokered by Putin, which is still holding, and despite the fact that Russia hasn’t even come out with their response to the last round of sanctions, the EU is at it again, plotting their latest strike in their futile economic war which will result in devastation for EU economies:

http://en.itar-tass.com/world/750166

Judge for yourselves: Do they strike you as calm and rational? I’d say the difference is as vast as East is to West.

The Last Day of Being British?

It is the morning of 18th September 2014. My nationality is officially British. Although my passport somehow mentions an entity calling itself the European Union, which I am apparently connected with somehow. I was born British, have lived British and am still British. Yet this time tomorrow morning, I may well no longer be British. I will simply be English. But then again, I was that all along as well. And I guess that pesky organisation calling itself the European Union will still be attempting to command my allegiance as well. It’s all very complicated!

If you had asked me a few years ago whether I hoped the Scots would achieve independence, I would probably have said something stupid like, “Yes let them go. See if they can manage without our money”. Thankfully the passage of time hasn’t just started to put a few grey hairs on my head, but has also made me think a little more about these things.

So if you had asked me that same question a few months ago, I probably would have said, “No. The Union between England, Wales and Scotland has been one of the most successful and largely happy unions the world has ever seen, and it would be a travesty to wave goodbye to that.”

But life is complex and here I am, on the day of the vote, sitting here in England and really not knowing what to hope for, and not knowing how I would vote were I a Scot with a vote.

For me, one of the oddest things is the question itself: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”. I have always wondered how Alex Salmond — canny Scot that he is — managed to get away with such a blatantly misleading question. It automatically puts the answer “No” on the back foot and paints a “Yes” vote in a positive light. But more than this, the fact is the Scots aren’t voting to become an independent country. An independent country is a country that has full and sovereign control over its laws, its economy, its currency, its foreign policy, its ability to trade and every other area of decision making.

The Scots will not get this whatever they vote for. A Yes vote will not make Scotland an independent country. Sure, they will be independent of Westminster, but it is clear that they will remain — although this might take some renegotiating — a vassal state of the EU. The relationship will simply remove London from the equation, but the real power behind Scotland will not be found in Edinburgh, but rather in Brussels, or more accurately Berlin — which is where the real power lies behind the EU.

To ask people to vote to become an independent country, but to offer them no choice to actually be an independent country appears to me to be something of an insult.

Having said that, there is a rebellious streak in me which really doesn’t take very kindly to people cajoling me into something for their own ends. Which is why — despite believing the Union to have been a generally very good thing — if anything, I feel inclined to hope for a Yes vote. Not because I want to see the Union broken. Not because I bear any grudge against Scotland. Not because I think England will necessarily prosper after this decision.

No, it is because the last two or three weeks of campaigning have exposed the levels of duplicity and mendacity to which the London elite are prepared to go to scare people into maintaining the status quo. About a month ago, they appeared to think this would be a cakewalk and their campaigning was clearly half-hearted. But then as we have crept nearer the date of the vote, they have become increasingly alarmed to see the gap between Yes and No closing, and it seemed to dawn on them a couple of weeks ago that they might actually lose.

They panicked and ever since they have been desperately throwing everything at the campaign to make sure the Union is not broken. David Cameron has been faced with a conundrum which he didn’t expect. On the one hand, I feel sure he would not be particularly sorry to see Scotland go, since a Scotland-less country is the only possible way his decrepit party could possibly win another election. But on the other hand, the dangers of losing Scotland are perhaps even greater to him. Having already gone down in history as the man who broke the definition of marriage, it now looks as if he might go down in history as the man who broke the Union. No doubt he is proud of the first, and may well be proud of the second, but whether his own MPs will be quite so proud and willing to let him carry on as their leader is another matter.

Political ghosts from all sorts of countries — including the ageing lothario himself, Bill Clinton — have been coming out of their graves to urge the Scots not to secede. The three main party leaders have been throwing the book at the Scots with a plethora of sticks — “Scotland can’t go it alone”, “The economy would collapse”, “You couldn’t defend yourselves”, “You couldn’t remain in the EU”, “What would you use as currency?” — as well as carrots — “Please stay and we’ll offer you a load more powers, which we did sort of hint at a year ago, but thought we’d bring up two days before the vote. Promise.”

And then there is the BBC coverage, which has been appalling and has meant that there are a lot of people in Scotland that now despise that organisation for its obvious bias. Why is the Beeb, which has never before struck me as being anything other than anti-British, suddenly become so pro-Union? My best guess is that it doesn’t fancy suddenly having to rebrand as the EBC or EWBC and perhaps senses that its days as a monolithic, tax-payer funded propaganda machine are numbered. Oh and there’s the loss of revenue that would entail.

Which is what this is all about really. The real reason that the UK government and mainstream media have suddenly got very alarmed at the prospect of secession, and have embarked on a frankly disgusting propaganda campaign aimed at scaring Scots into thinking they are staring into the abyss, is all to do with the loss of oil revenues. There is a decent little summary of this here, the most salient point being this:

1. The UK can now borrow cheaply using the giant Scottish oil reserves as collateral
2. If Scotland leaves, the collateral (oil reserves) is no longer available
3. So the cost of borrowing money for Britain skyrockets

I am sad to see that it comes down to this. But such is the way of the world — The love of money and all that. And I am sorry that this campaign couldn’t have been conducted in a decent manner, with both sides being allowed to spend the same amount of money to get proper arguments across to the public, as opposed to scaremongering. I dread to think what the ratio of money spent on the respective campaigns is, although I suspect the No vote has massively outweighed the Yes vote. Anyone who thinks a referendum on EU membership — should we ever be offered one — would be free, fair and civilised should take note. It will not.

A couple of final thoughts. I think there is a very real danger of trouble if this vote is close, especially if the No vote wins by a sliver. The way the aforementioned London elite have poisoned the wells of honest debate has, I think, irked a lot of people in the Yes camp, which means that a narrow victory may well come with accusations of vote rigging and dishonesty. I fear for such a result, which is why my one hope in this is not that one side or the other will win, but that the vote will be decisive enough to put to silence any accusations and animosity.

Having said that, the genie has been let out of the bottle, and regardless of the result, expect to see more movements for independence coming out of the European woodwork — movements that you probably never even heard of before. Again, I can only hope and pray that such movements will be carried out in a civilised way, and met with a civilised response. After Scotland, all eyes on Catalonia and the response of the Spanish government. That will be most interesting!

Not so Colourful Revolutions

One of the reasons a lot of people in the West seem to keep falling for the various “colour revolutions” and “springs” that have taken place over the past decade or so, is that they often look — to those whose knowledge of the country in question is limited — to be a straightforward cases of democracy in action: a poor, disenfranchised people, fed up with the actions of the evil oppressor, rising up and toppling them in an act of spontaneous democracy in action. “Hurrah,” we in the West say as we cheer the downfall of a man we know little about, by an opposition that we know even less about, in a country that we are completely ignorant of.

Occasionally, the idea of a downtrodden people rising up to topple the dictator in an outpouring of pent up frustration is just about right. Think Ceausescu in Romania. However, many of the revolutions over the past decade have not been like this at all. In the majority of cases, these revolutions have been deliberately conceived and orchestrated by the US government, and have been designed to look like democracy has just taken place, when in fact the opposite of democracy has occurred.

For a really good and thorough look at this phenomenon and how it works, I recommend this article by Ted Snider. If you had always before assumed that these various revolutions were democracy in action, this article should give you pause for thought.

Richard Dawkins, Down Syndrome & the Sum of Human Happiness

So what to make of Richard Dawkins Twitter comment a few weeks back, where he responded to a lady who claimed that she would be faced with a “real ethical dilemma” if she found out she was pregnant with a Down Syndrome baby in the following way: “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.” Whatever else you might think about Dawkins, he certainly doesn’t go in for subtlety, does he?

He then made an “apology” on his website (well sort of an apology), before making a statement apparently clarifying his position in more characters than Twitter would allow him. You can read this here.

I plan to write about this more fully in my October article for Samaritan Ministries International, but in the meantime, here are some thoughts that arise from his clarification statement, as well as his original tweet:

  1. In both the original tweet and the clarification, the themes of morality and immorality are very prevalent. Yet this is the same man who once wrote: “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference” (See River Out of Eden, New York: Harper Collins, 1995, page 133). For sure his remarks on Down Syndrome babies is remarkably consistent with his view of blind pitiless indifference, but where does he get all this talk of morality and immorality from? I am aware that he tries to wriggle out of this inconsistency by saying that morality has evolved, but really such sleight of hand ought not to get past a 3-year-old. A universe which has, at bottom, no good and no evil, and where everything is eventually annihilated, has as much chance of having morality in it as a universe that has no leprechauns in it has of having leprechauns in it. Trying to inject morality and immorality into a universe you have explicitly stated doesn’t possess these traits is a bit like stating categorically that you’ve got nothing in your bank account, before going on to talk about what you’ve got in your bank account.
  2. Having somehow magicked morality out of his own hat of amorality, he then tells us what this consists of: “a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering…” There are some frankly huge assumptions in this statement. The biggest of these is that a child born with Down Syndrome cannot increase the sum of happiness. This in itself assumes either that people with Down Syndrome are bound to be unhappy, or that their parents are bound to be unhappy, or possibly both. But is this really the case? No, it is total nonsense. According to a study published in 2011 by the American Journal of Medical Genetics, 79 percent of parents with a Down Syndrome child report that their outlook on life was more positive because of their child; 94 percent of siblings report feelings of pride about their sibling with Down syndrome; and 99 percent of people with Down syndrome feel happy with their lives. So all in all, it sounds as if the sum of human happiness actually increases, not decreases, in families with a Down Syndrome child.The other major assumption he makes, is that parents who abort their Down Syndrome child are going to increase their happiness. Again, this comes loaded with its own set of highly questionable assumptions, such as the idea that there will be no psychological repercussions, and the implicit idea that a Down Syndrome child will ruin your happiness by restricting your ability to do whatever you want. Needless to say, these are remarkably materialist assumptions which do not appear to accord very much with the human condition.
  3. His argument of morality based on a desire to increase the sum of human happiness and reduce suffering sounds very sweet, but in reality it is utilitarian to the core and has many times led to dreadful atrocities being carried out in the name of humanitarianism. From euthanasia of old people, to dropping bombs on nations in order to bring them “liberty”, the desire to replace the 10 Commandments with a morality which consists purely of increasing the sum of happiness and reducing suffering often leads to tragic consequences. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as they say.
  4. Dawkins then comes out with this jaw dropper: “The decision to deliberately give birth to a Down baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare”. Well since we can’t ask the aborted children what they think, I suppose we should go and ask the 99% of Down Syndrome people who said they are happy with their lives whether they consider their mothers to be immoral for “deliberately” giving birth to them. My guess is that even the 1% who don’t feel happy would baulk at accusing their mothers of immorality for not killing them.
  5. Finally, there is this: “… you would probably be condemning yourself as a mother (or yourselves as a couple) to a lifetime of caring for an adult with the needs of a child.” This is just sad. It is Nietzsche all over again. Is there any higher and nobler calling than for a parent with a disabled child sacrificing themselves to care for them? Is there anything more beautiful than seeing someone devote themselves to the care of one who cannot care for themselves? In the materialist construct that Dawkins espouses, it is the height of folly – even immoral. But thankfully, this is not the universe in which we live. Rather we live in a universe where the sacrifice of one for another is the highest value of all.

A Couple of Helpful Articles on the Defining Crisis of the 21st Century

I seem to be writing about Ukraine all the time. I promise I will write about some other issues shortly. However, my reason for doing so is that I believe this crisis to be the defining crisis of the 21st Century so far. It is something that has been brewing at least as far back as 1991, and in many ways all the way back to Otto von Bismarck in the 19th Century. It is also something that may well define the shape of the planet for the rest of the century — whether we are left with a unipolar world with the US exerting the “full spectrum dominance” of a Roman Empire, or whether we see a new multipolar world emerging in which sovereign nation states are allowed to shape their own policy. It is in a very real sense the key battle between globalisation and national sovereignty.

I am personally very much on the national sovereignty side of things, and I long for the day when my own country, which likes to retain its pretensions to grandeur, shakes off its role as slave to the New German Empire (aka the EU), and the US, performing the role of foolish yapper dog to the latter.

Anyway, for anyone who wants to get more of an understanding on what this conflict is all about, and how it has been conceived and implemented not by Moscow, but by Brussels and more importantly Washington, I urge you to read this article and this article.

Key quote for me in the first piece is this:

“While the United States may have started out dedicated to the ideals of a renewed civilization cherishing the rights and freedoms of man and disavowing a policy which condoned engaging in “foreign entanglements”, its political culture would over a period of time evolve to encompass foreign policy dictums which espoused the idea of regional supremacy. This was the idea behind the Monroe Doctrine which was formulated in the early part of the nineteenth century.”

And in the second piece:

“The Eurasian-wide plan of strategic destabilization and state fracturing owes its genesis to Zbigniew Brzezinski and his Eurasian Balkans concept. The US is flexible in practicing this concept, and it does not meet a dead end if the destabilization encounters an obstacle and cannot be advanced. Should this occur, as it has in Ukraine, Syria and Iraq, and possibly soon in the South China Sea, the stratagem evolves into maximizing the chaos within the launch pad states that are positioned on the doorsteps of the Eurasian Powers. The idea is to create ‘black holes’ of absolute disorder in which Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran are “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” intervene.”

Invasion, Incursion or Invention?

The Western-backed Kiev government found themselves facing a big problem last week. After weeks of telling the Western mainstream media that they were winning their so-called “war on terror”, it became obvious last week that actually they were losing, and losing rather badly.

Until a couple of weeks ago, the Eastern militia were fighting what was essentially a defensive war against the Kiev regime, who have been raining down heavy artillery on civilian areas of the East, in what looks suspiciously like an attempt at ethnic cleansing the East of all those who identify closely with Russia — tactics, by the way, which have clearly been given the full support of the EU and US.

But in the last week or so, the rebels against the junta have formed themselves into a far more cohesive attack force, and have been going on the offensive. Their tactics have been hugely successful militarily, and they have managed in a short space of time to reach the town of Novoazovsk, close to the Russian border, and miles away from Donetsk, where the fiercest fighting has taken place.

This wasn’t supposed to have happened. We in the West were being told only a fortnight ago that the rebels were being defeated and their surrender seemed to be only a matter of time. But no amount of propaganda and wishful thinking from Kiev could hide the fact that this wasn’t actually happening. So when the rebel victories became so clear and unmistakable that even the Kiev propaganda machine could hide it no longer, it became necessary to invent a new narrative to account for the apparently sudden turn of the tide.

And so last Thursday the world was told, courtesy of Kiev and some rather grainy and unconvincing NATO pictures, that the Russians had come. Actually, from what I can gather, the Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, originally claimed that there had been a Russian incursion, but somehow this was mistranslated as an invasion. Although the word invasion was changed to incursion in some news reports, it didn’t matter. Just like the “truth” of MH17 — which you may have noticed the West has gone remarkably silent on since accusing Russia of being behind it hours after it happened — the damage had been done, the “truth” was out and Russia had apparently invaded Ukraine.

Except of course they hadn’t. Don’t get me wrong, there are indeed Russians fighting in Ukraine at the moment. According to the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Donetsk National Republic, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, there are something like 3-4,000 Russians fighting for the rebel side. This is obvious, since many Russian soldiers and ex-soldiers see people they identify as brothers involved in a fight against people who want to wipe them off the face of the earth and have come to help them. But is this the same thing as a Russian invasion?

The idea is really quite laughable, for two reasons. Firstly, look at the countries that are throwing their hands up in horror at the idea. The US? The UK? France? These countries have never invaded anywhere, right? They have never violated the sovereignty of another nation, right? Actually they’ve been doing it within the past year in countries thousands of miles away and which posed no threat (at least they posed no threat until they were invaded). And the leaders of these countries suddenly expect us to take their moral finger jabbing seriously as they howl at the Russian menace for their alleged invasion of Ukraine. I suggest we respond by blowing raspberries at these vainglorious fools and hypocrites.

The other reason it is so comical is that this simply isn’t what a Russian invasion looks like. If you are old enough, you may recall that when the Russians (Soviets) invade it tends to looks like this. Or perhaps like this. And if you’re not old enough to remember those episodes, maybe you recall this, when the Russians responded to the folly of the then Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili, who decided to invade the South Ossetian city of Tskhinvali.

The point is, Russian invasions do not look like a few hundred soldiers operating clandestinely to take towns like Novoazovsk. If there really had been a Russian invasion last Thursday, we wouldn’t need to take the word of the serial liars in the Ukrainian junta as truth, or rely on a few poor quality and entirely unconvincing satellite images from NATO. If it had happened, the Russians would have been in Kiev by the weekend, and Poroshenko, Yats and their neo-Nazi colleagues would all be back in Moscow facing charges of war crimes. If you want to know what a Russian invasion would have looked like, this piece gives you a fairly good idea.

And if you want to know how the rebels have managed to gain the upper hand and are largely crushing the Ukrainian army, I would suggest watching this press conference given by Aleksandr Zakharchenko of the Donetsk National Republic. He is clear that his army is largely made up of ordinary working men who have literally downed their tools to fight the ultra-nationalist menace that Kiev has unleashed on them. And he is equally clear that these men will fight to the death to protect their families, their homes and their land. By contrast, many of the Kiev forces don’t even know why on earth they are fighting. I have to say, I am with them on this, and I only hope that they will act on it: refusing the order to fight, leaving the East in peace, and going back to their families and homes to leave the filthy aspirations of those who have unleashed this Hell — the leaders of the US, the EU and Kiev — in tatters.