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These are the days of Elijah

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- a Youtube video of Marines singing a praise song goes viral, some love it, some hate it, what is it? ]
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Here’s a Christian “praise song”, These are the days of Elijah, sung by Donnie McClurkin:

I love me some good, rousing gospel music.

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Here are the lyrics:

These are the days of Elijah
Declaring the Word of the Lord
And these are the days of Your servant, Moses
Righteousness being restored
And though these are days of great trial
Of famine and darkness and sword
Still we are the voice in the desert crying
Prepare ye the way of the Lord

CHORUS:
Behold he comes
Riding on a cloud
Shining like the sun
At the trumpet’s call
Lift your voice
It’s the year of jubilee
Out of Zion’s hill salvation comes

And these are the days of Ezekiel
The dry bones becoming as flesh
And these are the days of Your servant, David
Rebuilding the temple of praise
And these are the days of the harvest
The fields are as white in your world
And we are the laborers in your vineyard
declaring the word of the Lord

CHORUS 2X
Behold he comes
Riding on the clouds
Shining like the sun
At the trumpet call
Lift your voice
It’s the year of jubilee
Out of Zion’s hill salvation comes

There’s no God like Jehovah (x8–modulate)
There’s no God like Jehovah (x8–modulate)
There’s no God like Jehovah (x7)

CHORUS X2

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Please note the end times references here, particularly in the chorus:

Behold he comes
Riding on a cloud
Shining like the sun
At the trumpet’s call

These four short lines manage to plait together:

  • Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him (Revelation 1.7),
  • and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength (Revelation 1.16), and
  • for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible (I Corinthians 15.52)

The writer of the song, Robin Mark, writes:

The chorus is the ultimate declaration of hope – Christ’s return. It is paraphrased from the books of Revelation and Daniel and the vision that was seen of the coming King and refers to the return of Christ and the year of Jubilee. Theologians and Bible commentators believe that Israel never properly celebrated this particular 50th year jubilee, and that it will only be properly celebrated when Christ returns. That might be true but I reckon that a Jubilee is an apt description of what happens when Christ comes into anyone’s life at any time; debts are cancelled and a captive is set free.

Similarly, Similarly, these lines:

And these are the days of the harvest
The fields are as white in your world
And we are the laborers in your vineyard

braid together:

  • Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest (John 4.35),
  • The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest (Luke 10.2), and
  • the parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard (Matt 20.1-16)

Robin Mark’s comment here is:

Finally the “days of the Harvest” point towards what is the purpose of the Christian to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. By the way “The fields are as white in the world” is from the old King James version and means, their ripe for harvest.

Those lines at least overtly reference the end times — but Mark does not see the entire song in that way. In fact he suggests the phrase:

“Days of great trial, of famine, darkness and sword” is a reflection of the apparent times in which we live when still thousands of people die every day from starvation, malnutrition and war.

— not necessarily describing the “great tribulation” — and indeed, further specifies:

Firstly the song came from watching a television “Review of the Year” at the end of 1994. This was the year of the Rwandan civil war tragedy which claimed 1 million people’s lives, and also when the first ceasefires in N.I. were declared.

So it’s the song of a soul distressed at all the destruction, not at all a militant cry. And he goes on to note that his own interpretation may not be the final (authorial) one:

There is a post script to this story for those who (by letters to me!) believe the song means something entirely different. A few years ago I was privileged to be in Israel at Yom Kippur for a celebration with hundreds of Messianic Jews. A very kind, gentle and humorous messianic brother had a bit of fun arguing with me that I, as an Irish Christian, could never have written a song which explores some of the themes that many (non-replacement theology here!) Jewish believers believe are the themes and indications of Christ’s return. The Spirit and Power of Elijah in the Church, The restoration of Israel to righteousness in Christ (David’s fallen tent), The restoration of praise and worship (David’s tent also!) and the unity of the body particularly with a renewed and redeemed Israel under Christ.

For me, I only know what I wrote. I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it was His desire to say something more than I personally intended and to do more with this song than I first considered.

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So that’s the song, and there’s quite a bit of nuance to it, and to its interpretation.

Here is the same praise song, sung by a congregation of US Marines from Camp Pendleton at a “Faith Warrior service”:

This version of the song has recently gone viral, and is giving great delight to those who view it as “this bunch of Marines unabashedly praising the true living God” and “Holy Spirit takes over, Oorah-style!” — and considerable to concern to those who see in it more “crusade” than “praise”.

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Two comments on YouTube illustrate the way in which this overtly apocalyptic battle song can be interpreted as supporting the notion that the war agsinst jihadist terrorism is a spiritual clash between the Christian and Muslim Gods — something the jihadists are at pains to convince their followers of.

It’s wonderful to see our troops worshiping the one, true God with such fervor. Despite the fight for political correctness and the squelching of faith under the current leadership, nothing can hold back the praise of Yahweh. This is the only thing that will strengthen the military and give them power in the fight against ISIS and the other evils that threaten us.

and:

The Game is now over for the Taliban, Isis and all the rest who want to challenge our God! These boys and girls just invited Jehovah to the fight! This battle is not ours, but the Lords! If 1 can put 1000 to flight and 2 can put 10,000 to flight what about a whole company of Marines! So lift your voice (hoorah) this is the year of jubilee out Zion’s hill salvation comes!

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You might say I have me some mixed feelings about that video.

From my own perspective, viewing the fight against IS / Daesh as a war between apocalyptic Islam and apocalyptic Christianity is:

  • a permissible religious position for a US citizen to hold
  • a dangerous position to the extent that it influences US foreign policy

And I’m sure those Marines at Camp Pendleton, who had presumably signed up for that particular worship service, thoroughly enoyed themselves — and felt uplifted and bonded by their praise song.

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Then again, I wonder if those who dislike it, fearing the impact of a hard Christian dominionist right American military, would have similar qualms about a Catholic Mass celebrated at Pendleton — or the one depicted here, in which Fr Charles Suver SJ celebrates the Catholic Mass Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, at about the same time the famous flag was raised…

Chaplains WWII Mass on Mt Suribachi
Source: http://www.mcu.usmc.mil/historydivision/Chaplains/Chaplains-WWII-110605.jpg

uti accepta habeas et benedicas haec + dona, haec munera, haec sancta sacrificia illibata

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Ebola: the Islamic State / Daesh — and before them, Aum Shinrikyo

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- once again, the message is "keep calm and carry on" ]
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The-Ebola-virus

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First off, a tweet I made this morning, quoting a stunning fact from Scientific American‘s piece today, Where Does Ebola Hide?

I would like to honor the memory, compassion and courage of those who died, and the compassion and courage of those who worked beside them.

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That said ..

In a post titled What Would It Take to Bring Ebola Into the U.S. and the NATO Crusaders’ (see image below), a poster on what we’re told is an official IS forum suggested three approaches:

  • infect ISIS fighters in Africa send them to the US to spread the disease
  • bring a bottle of Pepsi filled with the virus from Africa to the US and pour it into the water supply
  • send the virus “in the mail like anthrax”.

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IS Ebola Threat
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There thus appear to be be two major ways in which the “terrorists might use Ebola against us” idea can be presented: the first involves getting one or more live IS suicide volunteers into the United States before their symptoms make them easily identifiable; the other involves using a “weaponized” form of the virus in some form of bomb, as in the “Pepsi” and “mail” sugestions above.

Let’s take a look at each of the two in turn. While we’re at it, we may want to consider the backgrounds of the authorities quoted.

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Amanda Teckman, author of the paper “The Bioterrorist Threat of Ebola in East Africa and Implications for Global Health and Securityconcludes that “the threat of an Ebola bioterrorist attack in East Africa is a global health and security concern, and should not be ignored.” The Washington Post has quoted Teckman, whose master’s degree is in diplomacy and international relations — so she must surely know, eh?

Professor Anthony Glees agrees that the strategy might be considered. He says, “In some ways it’s a plausible theory – IS fighters believe in suicide and this is a potential job for a suicide mission. They are sufficiently murderous and well-informed to consider it, and they know that we’ve been remiss in the UK.” Prof. Glees appears to be an expert on the Stasi and intelligence, and is Director at Buckingham University’s Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies

They would know, too, right? They’re national security experts, they have what I might characterize as “adjacent authority”.

And Capt. Al Shimkus (Ret) says the strategy is entirely plausible. He told Forbes, “The individual exposed to the Ebola Virus would be the carrier. In the context of terrorist activity, it doesn’t take much sophistication to go to that next step to use a human being as a carrier.” Capt. Shimkus is a Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, where he teaches a course in chemical and biological warfare. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Bachelor of Science in Nurse Anesthesia.

Capt. Shimkus would appear to be better credentialled to discuss the matter than Prof. Glees or Ms. Teckman — but he’s no research scientist working in the field of biological agents.

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William Schaffner, on the other hand, is an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt. He spoke with Vocativ, who reported:

Schaffner .. believes it’s doubtful that an ISIS soldier could start an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. The most likely way to spread Ebola would be for an infected fighter to head to an emergency room without telling anyone he’s carrying the disease. That could potentially spread the virus to health care workers, Schaffner says, but even that scenario is far-fetched. Ebola symptoms can surface after just a couple days. By the time a would-be martyr reached the U.S., he’d probably be too ill to make it past customs. “Once the serious symptoms begin, the patient typically becomes too incapacitated and cannot go further,” Chow points out.

Jack Chow is Distinguished Service Professor of Global Health at Carnegie Mellon.

Dr Schaffner’s medical credentials, largely oriented to epoidemiology, are available on the Vanderbilt site.

Dr Chow’s bio is on the Carnegie Mellon site, and includes an MD from UCSF and an MPA in International Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Further:

Dr. Chow held the rank of ambassador as the Special Representative on Global HIV/AIDS for Secretary of State Colin Powell and as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Health and Science, the first U.S. diplomat of ambassador rank appointed to a public health mission. He led American diplomatic efforts in the establishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and in countering global infectious diseases and bioterrorism threats.

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So much for the human delivery system. The weaponized virus method is even less plausible:

Here in a nutshell is the conclusion drawn in an article titled Ebola Bomb: Possible, But Not So Easy to Make, published in Live Science:

If some worst-case scenarios are to be believed, then terrorist groups could use the recent outbreak of Ebola in Africa to their advantage. By using the Ebola virus as a biological weapon, the story goes, these groups could wreak havoc around the globe.

But the idea that Ebola could be used as a biological weapon should be viewed with heavy skepticism, according to bioterrorism experts. Although deadly, Ebola is notoriously unstable when removed from a human or animal host, making weaponization of the virus unlikely, two experts told Live Science.

The article goes on to quote Dr. Peter Walsh of Cambridge, who believes “A bigger and more serious risk is that a group manages to harness the virus as a powder, then explodes it in a bomb in a highly populated area .. It could cause a large number of horrific deaths”. Dr. Walsh is a biological anthropologist, and thus far the best-credentialled of those arguing or the possibility of an Ebola attack on American or European soil, but the Live Science piece then follows up with some comments from (in my view, in my view) even more persuasive authorities:

[T]he idea of Ebola being harvested for use in a “dirty bomb” sounds more like science fiction than a real possibility to bioterrorism experts.

Dr. Robert Leggiadro, a physician in New York with a background in infectious disease and bioterrorism, told Live Science that although Ebola is listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a possible bioterrorism agent, that doesn’t necessarily mean the virus could be used in a bomb.

“The thing about Ebola is that it’s not easy to work with,” Leggiadro said. “It would be difficult to weaponize.”

And Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, COO of SecureBio, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear security firm in the United Kingdom, said that claims like Walsh’s are an example of fear-mongering.

“The chance of the Zaire strai of Ebola being made into a biological weapon is less than nil,” de Bretton-Gordon said, referring to the strain of Ebola that is causing the current outbreak in West Africa. “It’s just not going to happen.”

And to quote from the Vocativ piece, Here’s one terror threat you can ignore, again, since it’s actually the only article I’ve seen that directly addresses the suggestions made by the IS poster:

A virus like Ebola survives only through bodily fluids passed on from one person to another. “You can’t just take the virus and pour it in a reservoir, and expect everybody in the city to get sick,” says William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University

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One other point to consider — and this is where my interest in new religious movements once again proves its revelance to present day situations.

Aum Shinrikyo.

Aum’s interest in Ebola virus as a potential weapon was sincere enough that its leader, Shoko Asahara, had gone to Zaire with 40 of his followers in an attempt to obtain samples of the pathogen. Scientific American, in an article last month titled Weaponized Ebola: Is It Really a Bioterror Threat? wrote:

The Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo — infamous for setting off sarin gas in a Tokyo subway in 1995 — also looked into Ebola as a potential biological weapon. In 1992, they sent a medical group of 40 people ostensibly to help provide aid during an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their real purpose, however, was to collect some Ebola virus, as Amy Smithson, a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, noted in her 2000 report Ataxia. The effort was a “flagrant failure,” she says. “They did not get their hands on a culture.”

According to DW Brackett‘s Holy Terror: Armageddon in Tokyo however, Aum Shinrikyo “Minister of Health and Welfare“, biologist Seiichi Endo, nevertheless delivered a speech in Moscow two years later “in which he discussed the use of Ebola as a potential biological warfare weapon”.

The Scientific American piece concludes:

Even if Aum Shinrikyo had managed to gather samples of the Ebola virus, it would have been extremely difficult to kill large numbers of people in countries with a strong health infrastructure such as Japan. Once the virus had been identified and patients isolated, the pathogen would have been unlikely to spread widely. Still, any terrorist attempting to stoke fears rather than accrue a high body count could have some modicum of success with Ebola. “When talking about bioterror, it’s more about the terror than it is the bio,” Fauci says.

So there you have it.

See also:

As far as I can tell from the Index, Dr Ian Reader‘s book, Religious Violence in Contemporary Japan: The Case of Aum Shinrikyo, does not mention Ebola. It is, however, the definitive study of this religious movement with a penchant for biochemical weaponry.

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A weed if named a rose might smell less sweet

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- diplo cover-stories east and west, & a very funny movie ]
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I wanted to recommend the Bertrand Tavernier film Quai d’Orsay, available at Netflix under the name The French Minister, in any case — but couldn’t resist this DoubleQuote betweet news and cinematic art:

The film is a quintessentially French diplo equivalent of the political bureaucracy and chicanery found in the UK and US versions of House of Cards, with the formidably unpredictable, Heraclitus-quoting Minister of the English language title apparently based on Dominique de Villepin.

My news source is The Australian, Japan may pursue whaling in north Pacific despite Antarctic unlawful ruling, although there has been plentiful coverage of the situation.

No particular conclusion about a pattern of fishy political denialism — just some amusement about art imitating life.

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A Low Visibility Force Multiplier – a recommendation

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

[by J. Scott Shipman]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Low Visibility Force Multiplier, Assessing China’s Cruise Missile Ambitions, Dennis M. Gormley, Andrew S. Erickson, Jingdong Yuan

Through an interesting turn of events I was able to attend an event at the Center for a New American Security today where Dennis Gormley and Andrew Erickson discussed their new book, A Low Visibility Force Multiplier. A colleague with CIMSEC posted a link to a Wendell Minnick story in Defense News which led to the National Defense University pdf. I managed to read a large chunk last night/this morning—for a document that was written using open sources, the authors make a pretty compelling case that China’s Anti-ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM), the so-called “carrier killer” isn’t the only missile in the PLAN arsenal U.S. Navy planners need to factor in.

From the Executive Summary:

Assessment

China has invested considerable resources both in acquiring foreign cruise missiles and technology and in developing its own indigenous cruise missile capabilities. These efforts are bearing fruit in the form of relatively advanced ASCMs and LACMs deployed on a wide range of older and modern air, ground, surface-ship, and sub-surface platforms.(9) To realize the full benefits, China will need additional investments in all the relevant enabling technologies and systems required to optimize cruise missile performance.(10) Shortcomings remain in intelligence support, command and control, platform stealth and survivability, and postattack damage assessment, all of which are critical to mission effectiveness.

ASCMs and LACMs have significantly improved PLA combat capabilities and are key components in Chinese efforts to develop A2/AD capabilities that increase the costs and risks for U.S. forces operating near China, including in a Taiwan contingency. China plans to employ cruise missiles in ways that exploit synergies with other strike systems, including using cruise missiles to degrade air defenses and command and control facilities to enable follow-on air strikes. Defenses and other responses to PRC cruise missile capabilities exist, but will require greater attention and a focused effort to develop technical countermeasures and effective operational responses.

The authors speculate that China has done the calculus and determined they can’t match us (or perhaps have no desire) in platforms, but rather are choosing a lower cost alternative: omassive missile barrages—so massive ship defense systems are overwhelmed. Numbers matter; as the great WayneP. Hughes, Jr. (CAPT, USN, Ret) points out in his seminal Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat, naval warfare is attrition warfare. With that in mind, this paragraph illustrates the gravity (emphasis added):

Cruise Missile Ratios

DOD transformation assumes that by shaping the nature of military competition in U.S. favor, or “overmatch,” rivals will continually lag in a demanding security environment. What if this is a false assumption? In other words, China may be choosing to com- pete in a traditional or conventional maritime environment in which transformed U.S. forces are structured and equipped in a significantly different way. As analyst Mark Stokes has reported, some Chinese believe that, due to the low cost of developing, deploying, and maintaining LACMs, cruise missiles possess a 9:1 cost advantage over the expense of defending against them. (103) The far more important—and difficult to estimate—ratio is that of PLA ASCMs to U.S. Navy defense systems. Numbers alone will not determine effectiveness; concept of operations and ability to employ cruise missiles effectively in actual operational conditions will be the true determinants of capability. Even without precise calculations, however, it appears that China’s increasing ASCM inventory has in- creasing potential to saturate U.S. Navy defenses. This is clearly the goal of China’s much heavier emphasis on cruise missiles, and it appears to be informed by an assumption that quantity can defeat quality. Saturation is an obvious tactic for China to use based on its capabilities and emphasis on defensive systems. PLAN ASCM weapon training, production, and delivery platform modernization continues to progress rapidly. Scenarios involving hostile engagement between PLAN and U.S. CSG forces could be quite costly to the latter due to the sheer volume of potential ASCM saturation attacks.

Dr. Erickson pointed out in today’s meeting that the Mark Stokes estimate may be an overstatement, but certainly illustrative of economics involved.

This is an important contribution and the challenges facing our Navy and Allies in the South China Sea/East China Sea lead me to conclude with hope that policy makers read and heed.

Strongest recommendation.

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Today’s DoubleQuotes 1: in the wild

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- fascinated to see the uses others make of the juxtapositions I call "DoubleQuotes" ]
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This first one was suggested to me by Scott Shipman as a “match” for my DQ about Von Karman’s mathematics of flow in liquids and Van Gogh’s night sky — and indeed, the two of them make a fine double DoubleQuote.

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The second comes from the “HSM Press Office” twitter feed, the exact nature of which is unknown, but which calls itself the “High Spirit Mission Press” and sports a jihadist “black banner” as its avatar:

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And the third?

M’friend Bryan Alexander suggested what he called “a Piketty doublequote” in a note to me this morning:

It may be excessive to accuse senior executives of having their “hands in the till”, but the metaphor is probably more apt than Adam Smith’s metaphor of the market’s “invisible hand”

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Let’s take the two visual “DoubleQuotes in the wild” above, and look at my own equivalents:

I have to say that I find the respective beauties of the von Karman vortext street diagram (upper panel) and the Van Gogh night sky painting (lower panel) seem perfectly balanced to me, while the fractal generator still has a ways to go before it arrives at the brilliance of Hokusai.

The fractal-wave comparison, btw, is one that has obviously occurred to more than one person — here’s another version:

It’s also interesting to me that in both cases — that of Hokusai and that of Van Gogh — the arts appear to have been “ahead of” the sciences.

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As to the second “wild” DQ –

I’ve used TinEye and Google image-search engines, and haven’t found any other uses of the double image HSM Press Office posted, showing an Imam praying for a deceased US soldier and US aoldiers urinating on the bodies of deal Taliban — so I imagine the pairing of the two images may be KSM Press Office’s own. And it’s funny, because I think the intention is to suggest “we” (ie jihadists) treat “you” (ie US military dead) with appropriate respect, while you show no such respect for deal Taliban.

The thing is, here’s a caption for the photo of the Imam praying:

Imam Hashim Raza leads mourners in prayer during a funeral for Mohsin Naqvi at al-Fatima Islamic Center in Colonie, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 22, 2008. Naqvi was a Muslim, a native of Pakistan (he emigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was 8 years old and became a citizen at 16) and a U.S. Army officer. He was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

So what we’re seeing is an American imam at the funeral of a fellow Muslim — in this case a fellow Muslim who was also American soldier. And BTW those American soldiers urinating on Taliban corpses? They’re not representative of the American military as a whole.

Knowing this, I’ve made my own DoubleQuote in response to the one above.

In the upper panel, it shows the New York imam at the funeral of Lt. Mohsin A. Naqvi, whose flag-draped coffin was carried to the service by an Army honor guard from Fort Drum’s 10th Mountain Division.

In the lower panel, we see US medics — marines, I think [ Army, see correction below] — treating wounded Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

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