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Realpolitik as if angels were real

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — I mean, are they or aren’t they? — really? — what do you believe? ]
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St Michael, of the archangelic rank or choir

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It’s just a thought I entertain from time to time. Because if they are, if angels are real — as bookloads by the dozens, popularly read, attest — why then they may know something, and they may surely accomplish something.

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Thomas Aquinas asks and answers the Question, Whether an angel is altogether incorporeal?. Along the way, he quotes St John Damascene:

an angel is an ever movable intellectual substance.

Angels are forms of intelligence — is the Intelligence Community listening?

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When the boy’s eyes were opened, as per the prayer of Elisha (2 Kings 6:17), he saw:

and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha

and the Lord speaking to Muhammad (Qur’an 8:9):

I shall reinforce you with a thousand angels riding behind you.

Angels are perhaps force-multipliers. Is DOD interested?

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Angels may be beings of music and dance — gandharvas, apsarases — is theirs a language our intelligence recognizes?

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But I digress. Intelligence has a long history with the invisibles. Abbot Trithemius may be called first among cryptologists. Elizabeth I’s John Dee would have been at home to Bletchley Park (though Walsingham might have tossed out his amanuensis, Edward Kelley). Talmudic scholrs would do well to teach at Quantico, Jesuits at Fort Meade. Their remit, from Ephesians 6.12:

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

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An aside: in his Himalayan attempt to fathom angels, Aquinas makes an instructive statement:

Now the medium compared to one extreme appears to be the other extreme, as what is tepid compared to heat seems to be cold

Left and right, how often do we get caught in that trap in these divisive times?

Ouroboroi noted in passing

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — the poor FBI gets tangled, as does President Trump with his drug of choice ]
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As if in answer to the question “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” — itself a succinct ouroboros:

The FBI closely monitors online communities that discuss ISIS, at times running so many undercover accounts that agents end up investigating one another: An FBI policy guide, obtained and published by The Intercept, notes that online investigations have “previously resulted in resources being wasted by investigating or collecting on FBI online identities,” or employees working undercover.

That’s from a fascinating long read in The Atlantic: How Two Mississippi College Students Fell in Love and Decided to Join a Terrorist Group. There’s a soo a quote in there, not terribly striking or controversial on its own, but useful to me as an indicator of one general context in which the Talmudic saying used to justify preemptivew strikes can be sued — a saying I’ll be exploring in a future LapidoMedia post — Get up early to kill him first (Ha-Ba le-Horgekha Hashkem le-Horgo, Sanhedrin 72.):

American1s expect their government to prevent violence before it happens: Their shared national nightmare is the plot that goes undiscovered before an attack or the known sympathizer who gets away. Faced with such high stakes and uncertainty, the FBI is left to teeter between catching people before they act and walking along with them until they violate the law.

Of minor note also, here’s FBI Director Comey echoing Martin Dempsey on the apocalyptuc nature of ISIS:

ISIS, said Comey, is “putting out a siren song through their slick propaganda, through social media, that goes like this: ‘Troubled soul, come to the caliphate. You will live a life of glory; these are the apocalyptic end times. You will find a life of meaning here, fighting for our so-called caliphate. And if you can’t come, kill somebody where you are.’”

Again, nothing particularly new, let alone actionable, here — just another possible footnote for some future writing that I wanted to capture in passing.

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The FBI’s version of a-Ba le-Horgekha: Rise up early to arrest him first — indeed, there’s an eerie echo of “rise up early” in the Atlantic report’s “but the FBI arrested the pair at the airport early in the morning.”

This is preeemptive arrest rather than preemptive killing — and again, the concept itself deserves scruitiny: how often does this preemptive approach involve entrapment, with Federal agents leading potential recruits farther down the path of radicalization than they would have traveled without Federal support ad encouragement? A fairly random sample:

What happened next in Booker’s case illustrates what many experts say is a major shortcoming in how the US government is responding to the threat of Islamic extremism.

Rather than viewing Booker’s alarming statements as a cry for help from a young man with recognized mental health issues, federal agents sought to build a criminal case against him.

They introduced an undercover operative who told Booker he’d help him join the Islamic State group, but that Booker would first have to prove his devotion to the cause, according to federal documents.

A second undercover operative was introduced, this one posing as a religious leader seeking to conduct terror attacks in the US. After months of discussions, Booker volunteered to carry out a suicide truck bomb attack at a Kansas military base. Federal agents helped him produce his own martyrdom video.

Returning to the Atlantic piece, there’s another option:

There may have been another path for Jaelyn and Moe. When the government or its partners identify ISIS sympathizers online, especially people without criminal backgrounds like these two, they could intervene and deter crimes from committed. This is the approach that “has risen to the top of the heap of counterterrorism issues domestically right now,” Greenberg said: what’s known in the counterterrorism world as “off-ramps.”

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Oh, and there’s the human reality that a terrorism case may be a terrorism case, but the world continues to flow all around it:

The spring after Moe was arrested, his mother, Lisa, died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Then, last December, another member of the Dakhlalla family died: Taqwa, the 2-year-old daughter of Moe’s older brother Abdullah, suffocated in her sleep when a heater malfunctioned in her bedroom. She was just old enough to have met her young uncle before he was arrested.

A terrorism case in the family offers no especial sanctuary from other forms of suffering.

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Let’s close with another ouroboros caught in passing, this one from the New Yorker, How Trump Could Get Fired:

Rarely venturing beyond the White House and Mar-a-Lago, he measures his fortunes through reports from friends, staff, and a feast of television coverage of himself. Media is Trump’s “drug of choice,” Sam Nunberg, an adviser on his campaign, told me recently. “He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t do drugs. His drug is himself.”

Ouroboroi — serpents biting their own tails — are inherently noteworthy, as I never tire of saying. To have oneself as one’s drug is a fne example of the genre.

Talmud meets the Gridiron

Friday, April 21st, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — they meet in the American war movie exploring the use of drones, Good Kill ]
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A quick example of Talmud-to-movie translation:

Lest we forget:

Ha-Ba le-Horgekha Hashkem le-Horgo is a teaching of increasing popularity among Israelis. Taken from the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 72:1, its most precise translation is: ‘If someone comes to kill you, get up early to kill him first.’ It seems that every online newspaper Comment section will include this sentence when discussing Israeli aggression: the Gaza offensive? ‘Kill him first’. The Second Lebanon War? ‘Kill him fi rst’ again. A Google search for the expression ‘kill him first’ and ‘flotilla’ yields more than 4,200 Hebrew results, confi rming the centrality of this narrative. This convenient license to kill extends beyond the online community to Israeli decision makers and politicians. Following the Second Lebanon War, Ehud Yatom, a Likud MK, explained the asymmetrical death toll of 44 Israeli civilians and 1,191 Lebanese civilians with the same trump card:

‘and if someone comes to kill you, get up early to kill him fi rst.’ It has been used by Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon when addressing university students about their military reserve service and by Minister of Public Security Avi Dichter when lecturing about IDF strategy. It was also the explanation provided by Minister of Minorities Avishai Braverman for the assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai. Even Ayoub Kara, a Druze MK from Likud, has used it. When asked about the Iranian nuclear plan Kara showed little originality: ‘I think an attack on Iran will be justifi ed’, he said, ‘since if someone comes to kill you, get up early to kill him first.’

Jewish Quarterly, Kill Him First

Similarly:

Several days before the horror of September 11, 2001, Israel’s Foreign Minister Shimon Peres spoke to Conservative rabbis in an international conference call. Responding to a concern expressed about Israel’s policy of preemptive targeted killings of suspected terrorist leaders and the inevitable collateral damage, Mr. Peres defended the practice, citing an oft-quoted rabbinic legal dictum, “Im ba l’hargekha, hashkem l’hargo,” “If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him (first).”

American Jewish Committee, If Someone Comes to Kill You, Rise Up and Kill Him First

And further:

Our policy is guided by two main principles: the first is “if someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first,” and the second is “if anyone harms us, his blood is on his own hands.”

PM Netanyahu, Opening of Knesset winter session, 2011

And by way of contrast with New Testament teaching:

There is nothing righteous in turning the other cheek. We are not supposed to passively accept death, but rather to fight and survive.

Times of Israel, Torah for Today: What does the Torah say about… self-defence

From Brooklyn to Birmingham, a contemplative stroll

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — unity in the face of difference, radiance in the face of rage ]
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This little pilgrimage began when I saw this tweet, reteeted by The Bridge initiative:

A Taoist, and from Brooklyn — okay!

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I went off to track down Jackie Summers from Brooklyn, and behold, checking his FB feed I run across this, from a few days back:

which sends me to this deliciously quiet and unassuming TV news report from, yes, New Zealand if I’m not mistaken:

[ would that all the world’s newscasters showed such restraint ]

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That newscast in turn let me to this tweet from a British MP:

And this even more glorious photo of Saffyah Khan‘s face, taken from the Guardian’s report, Protest photos: the power of one woman against the world:

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From that Guardian article:

Shows of strength and defiance aren’t in short supply at your average protest – demonstrating, by its nature, requires a level of commitment that weeds out the bystanders, the unimpressively apathetic. But what is it that makes the money shot? The protest photo that goes viral? Well, for one, women. Or, more accurately, one woman. Often a striking, beautiful-looking woman. But mostly, a woman who looks like a badass without seeming to do anything much that is dramatic at all.

For anyone trying to work out the Venn diagram of iconic protest imagery, three tropes will immediately jump to the fore: the quiet dignity of said woman; the battle-hungry paraphernalia of male authority (your shields and batons and chunky uniforms); and the dramatic flip of power that clash presents.

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Pretty much all of the above — the Taoist, the Hassidim, the Muslim lady with child, the radiant protester Saffiyah Khan, Jess Phillips MP — have gone viral, in a world that thirsts for such things.

Deep bows to them all!

Jerusalem — the joy, the limitation, the fire

Monday, April 17th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — winding up with the Easter fire at Holy Sepulchre ]
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I don’t know which order to post these first two tweets in, but if there’s truth to Dr Cole‘s tweet, it does set a limit to the good news in Avi Mayer‘s. I’ll just spin them a few times like a coin, then move on to the heart of the matter.

The world, as Gerard Manley Hopkins suggests, is intrinsically dappled. And:


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