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Persepolis, for instance?

Monday, January 6th, 2020

[ by Charles Cameron — which cultural heritage sites did you have in mind, Mr Trump? ]
.

Persepolis, for instance?

**

So?

The Golestan Palace, in the heart of Tehran? The Masjed-e Shah in Isfahan? The Hyrcanian Forests, or Lut Desert? I suppose Trump could bomb the Lut Desert without harming civilians, and wind would soon bring the dunes back into their miraculous order..

Iran has 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites all told.

Let’s just say that it took ISIS to destroy the Temple of Bel in Palmyra, and the Taliban to demolish the Bamiyan Buddha..

**

Of possible legal relevance:

After an al-Qaeda affiliated group destroyed ancient religious monuments in Timbuktu, Mali, in 2012, the International Criminal Court took on a unique criminal case: prosecuting cultural destruction.

Though it generally focuses on human rights violations, the ICC charged the leader of the jihadist group, Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, with a war crime for destroying cultural artifacts in Timbuktu.

The case was the first criminal charge of its kind. It “breaks new ground for the protection of humanity’s shared cultural heritage and values,” UNESCO Secretary-General Irina Bokova said at the time. Al-Mahdi eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Okay, a precedent of sorts has been set.

**

BTW, Mike Knights suggests the “best way to make sure Trump does do something you oppose – say bomb cultural sites – is to engage him in a twitter war about it. The way insiders get him to forget about a course of action is to stop mentioning it.”

He did his PhD on “target selection and vetting,” and tells us:

It’s a very laborious, mechanical process for fixed sites, & there is a huge constantly-refined no-strike list. Judge Advocate Generals are involved in all target lists.

Sometimes POTUS crosses red lines and erases norms, sometimes not.

Baghdadi is dead, readings..

Monday, October 28th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — some quick recommendations, under pressure of time ]
.

Baghdadi is dead, and as the dust settles we can re commend some readings.

**

Our friend Tim Furnish has provided his WikiStrat entry, moving from the news otself (1) via apocalyptic fervor (2) to the eschatological implicationos of ISIS’ future (3), the latter reading:

ISIS remains, however, an eschatological movement dedicated to preparing the way for the coming of the (Sunni) Mahdi. It’s thus enamored with “hotwiring the apocalypse,” and this fervent belief will not end with the death of the Caliph.

Hotwiring the apocalypse is a concept the late Israeli analyst Reuven Paz offered up in a 2006 piece titled Hotwiring the Apocalypse: Jihadi Salafi Attitude towards Hizballah and Iran. A dozen years have passed since Paz wrote his piece, and the journey from “Hazbollah and Iran” to ISIS in the wake of its Caliph’s death is a long and winding one, but Dr Paz’ phrase continues to cover the possibility that an end-times oriented jihadism may seek to bring about the final sequence of events by threatening, inciting or unleashing sufficiently impressive violence. As Dr Furnish has pointed out with respect to Iranian (Shi’ite) eschatology, the great disadvantage of unleashing violence of sufficient potency is that it would leave the earth, or at least its holiest lands, devastated just as the Mahdi arrives to begin his rule over it.

  • Wikistrat, After Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: a special report
  • **

    Graeme Wood is one of the most perceptive writers on ISIS and its religious impetus, author of What ISIS Really Wants, the article which first revealed ISIS’ apocalyptic driver to a wide audience. His Atlantic piece yesterday, Baghdadi’s Final Humiliation. Most striking of Wood‘s insights as I read him:

    For Baghdadi to seek refuge among people who want to kill him probably means that the places where he had more support, such as within his home country of Iraq or near its border with Syria, could no longer provide him with any measure of safety. Finding him in HTS territory is like finding Derek Jeter hiding out in South Boston, or Martin Bormann living quietly by a synagogue on the Upper East Side.

    Graeme Wood is a gifted writer, working here in a field of rubble and human destruction, and it is always a pleasure to read him.

  • Graeme Wood, Baghdadi’s Final Humiliation
  • **

    The great Rukmini Callimachi spent, she says, months working on the obituary of Baghdadi. Other writers find themselves confronted with a newly urgent topic to cover with Baghdadi‘s death. Callimachi, who also discovered and reported with AP an amazing cache of Al Qaida documents in 2013 Timbuktu — a cache which included “corporate workshop schedules, salary spreadsheets, philanthropy budgets, job applications, public relations advice and letters from the equivalent of a human resources division” — has somehow found time along with her grueling travel and reporting schedule, to prepare an extensive obit for Baghdadi — ready for publication now that news of his death can be dropped in:

  • NYT, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIS Leader Known for His Brutality, Is Dead at 48
  • The son of a pious Sunni family from the Iraqi district of Samarra, al-Baghdadi parlayed religious fervor, hatred of nonbelievers and the power of the internet into the path that catapulted him onto the global stage. He commanded an organization that, at its peak, controlled a territory the size of Britain from which it directed and inspired acts of terror in more than three dozen countries.

    Al-Baghdadi was the world’s most-wanted terrorist chieftain, the target of a $25 million bounty from the American government. His death followed a yearslong, international manhunt that consumed the intelligence services of multiple countries and spanned two American presidential administrations.

    Callumachi and and Falih Hassan cover a lot of ground in few words. Here, for instance, is the brief overview of Baghdadi‘s attempt at a caliphate:

    Although Osama bin Laden, the Qaeda leader, had dreamed of restoring the caliphate, he was reluctant to declare one, perhaps fearing the overwhelming military response that eventually cost al-Baghdadi his territory.

    Yet it took five years before troops seized in March the last acre of land under al-Baghdadi’s rule. And in the interim, the promise of a physical caliphate electrified tens of thousands of followers who flocked to Syria to serve his imagined state.

    Part of the caliphate’s excitement, attraction and repulsion came form its sheer brutality — some of it scripturally sanctioned, some definitely and indeed defiantly not:

    Women accused of adultery were stoned to death, thieves had their hands hacked off, and men who had defied the militants were beheaded.

    While some of those medieval punishments are also meted out in places like Saudi Arabia, the Islamic State shocked people around the world by televising its executions. It also offended Muslims by inventing horrific punishments that are not mentioned in Islamic scripture.

    A Jordanian pilot was burned alive in a scene filmed by overhead drones. Men accused of being spies were drowned in cages, as underwater cameras captured their last tortured gasp. Others were crushed under the treads of a T-55 tank, or strung up by their feet inside a slaughterhouse and butchered like animals.

    With the destruction of the geographical caliphate, the internet’s role becomes increasingly significant:

    The militants harnessed the internet to connect with thousands of followers around the globe, making them feel as if they were virtual citizens of the caliphate.

    The message of these new jihadists was clear, and many of those on whose ears it fell found it emboldening: Anyone, anywhere, could act in the group’s name. That allowed ISIS to multiply its lethality by remotely inspiring attacks, carried out by men who never set foot in a training camp.

    In this fashion, ISIS was responsible for the deaths of thousands of people around the world. A shooting at an office party in San Bernardino, Calif. An attack on a Christmas market in Germany. A truck attack in Nice, France, on Bastille Day. Suicide bombings at churches on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka.

    Baghdadi‘s death will do little more than cause a pause in this virtual empire of jihad-enthusiasts — the story goes on..

    For a whole other strand of Rukmini‘s commentary, see her unrolled Twitter-thread from today’s feed:

  • Threadreader, Two sources have confirmed..
  • **

    Richard Engel for MSNBC is another journalist with in-field expertise, and his story of the informant who assisted US troops in the eventual raid on Baghdadi‘s compound is stunning —

    General Mazloum Abdi of the Syrian Democratic Forces said his intelligence service had a source deep in Baghdadi’s inner circle who described a room-by-room layout of the terrorist’s compound on the Turkish border, including the number of guards, floor plan and tunnels.

    Kurdish intelligence operatives who managed the source passed that information to American forces, giving U.S. Special Ops a better understanding of Baghdadi’s safe house before striking it, according to Abdi.

    Abdi, who is also known as Mazlum Kobane, said the unidentified source was on location during the raid and left with the attacking U.S. forces.

  • MSNBC, Kurdish informant provided key intel in operation that killed ISIS leader
  • — more detail is no doubt still to come..

    **

    Well, that’s about all I van manage today. I think you’ll find a mine or two of valuable information here, if you read deep in.

    I’ve a medical appointment after lunch which will wipe me out for the day, and hope to pick up with a piece on the issue of Baghdadi‘s possible successor(s), the Mahdi and the Day of Judgment tomorrow.

    Until then!

    Potent possible parallelisms?

    Friday, September 13th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — you know I’m fascinated by parallelisms and analogies — here are some I’ve noticed recently — enough for three fine posts, and you get three in one ! ]
    .

    Parallelisms of interest that have surfaced in my reading recently include:

  • between Trump speeches and the Crusius El Paso manifesto
  • between Trump’s and Hitler’s uses of language
  • between AQ’s Sami al-Uraydi and French revolutionary Saint-Just
  • between ISIS strategy and use of social media and western Neo-Nazi terrorism
  • between Christchurch and El Paso
  • between the Gildead of Margaret Atwood and the Family of Jeff Sharlet
  • between the Family of Jeff Sharlet and the Muslim Brotherhood
  • between 11 Sept 2001, NYT, and 11 Sept 1683, Vienna
  • oh, and on a different note altogether, there’s:

  • between the arts of architecture and cartooning
  • **

    El Paso Shooting Suspect’s Manifesto Echoes Trump’s Language:

    At campaign rallies before last year’s midterm elections, President Trump repeatedly warned that America was under attack by immigrants heading for the border. “You look at what is marching up, that is an invasion!” he declared at one rally. “That is an invasion!”

    Nine months later, a 21-year-old white man is accused of opening fire in a Walmart in El Paso, killing 20 people and injuring dozens more after writing a manifesto railing against immigration and announcing that “this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

    Sources:

  • NY Times, El Paso Shooting Suspect’s Manifesto Echoes Trump’s Language<
  • Intercept, After El Paso, We Can No Longer Ignore Trump’s Role
  • **

    A professor of German history explains the true horror of Trump’s response to Charlottesville

    We haven’t had a Reichstag blaze, nor a Kristallnachtnot even close!!! — still, if we consider rhetoric alone, there’s food for thought:

    “You look at what is marching up, that is an invasion!” he declared at one rally. “That is an invasion!”

    Nine months later, a 21-year-old white man is accused of opening fire in a Walmart in El Paso, killing 20 people and injuring dozens more after writing a manifesto railing against immigration and announcing that “this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

    Source:

  • RawStory, A professor .. explains the true horror of Trump’s response to Charlottesville
  • **

    Here’s a nice one observed by jihad-scholar Cole Bunzel:

    Looks good, though one wonders whether the parallelism comes from the translator’s memory-store rather than al-Uraydi‘s?

    Wikipedia quotes St-Just thus:

    Those who make revolutions by halves do nothing but dig their own tombs.

    and gives the date as January 1793 and the source as Oeuvres Complètes de Saint-Just, vol. 1 (2 vols., Paris, 1908), p. 414.

    **

    Here’s the Stratfor analysis:

  • Stratfor, What White Supremacism and Jihadism Have in Common
    .
    Like jihadism, the various ideologies driving white supremacism are not going away any time soon, and comparing the two can provide valuable lessons for understanding the ongoing threat. [ more.. ]

  • I’ll have a separate post on whether white supremacists as well as jihadists should be classified as terrorists — a matter on which opinions are divided..

    The other piece referenced in the DoubleQuote above:

  • Rantt, White Supremacist Terrorists Operate Like ISIS, Trump Shrugs
  • And here’s an impressive, alternative contrast by Tim Furnish:

  • Stream, White Terrorists vs. the Sultans of Slaughter
  • **

    There’s something akin to a waterfall of manifestos on the supremacist, arguably starting with Breivik, and thence to Christchurch and El Paso:

  • WaPo, Christchurch endures as extremist touchstone
    .
    In the days after a gunman killed 51 people in March at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, analysts warned the attack could become a rallying point for extremists.

    It was a high-casualty attack, intended to be imitated by others, live-streamed on social media, accompanied by the release of a white supremacist manifesto decrying immigration and immigrants.

    On Saturday, a similar manifesto appeared online, with similar grievances. The author opened by expressing “support” for “the Christchurch shooter.” Within minutes, a gunman opened fire at a shopping center in El Paso, killing 20..

  • The second quote in this above DoubleQuote says what it needs to say in the subtitle: “the more oxygen these manifestos get…”.

    Onwards. Here’s a rather more disturbing aspect of the El Paso > Christchurch parallelism:

  • WaPo. Two mass killings a world apart share a common theme: ‘ecofascism’
    .
    Before the slaughter of dozens of people in Christchurch, New Zealand, and El Paso this year, the accused gunmen took pains to explain their fury, including their hatred of immigrants. The statements that authorities think the men posted online share another obsession: overpopulation and environmental degradation.

    The alleged Christchurch shooter, who is charged with targeting Muslims and killing 51 people in March, declared himself an “eco-fascist” and railed about immigrants’ birthrates. The statement linked to the El Paso shooter, who is charged with killing 22 people in a shopping area this month, bemoans water pollution, plastic waste and an American consumer culture that is “creating a massive burden for future generations.”

    The two mass shootings appear to be extreme examples of ecofascism — what Hampshire College professor emerita Betsy Hartmann calls “the greening of hate.”

  • **

    On the existence of “so much similarities between the family and Muslim Brotherhood: praying groups“<:

    OK dear friend I have done a full thread to that in Arabic. I’ll try to make it in English:

    First major similarity is the refusal to be organised with official presence. The founder and up tell now calling it “Al-gama’a”… And they call each other “Brother”..

    [ thread ]

    **

    The Family: More Gilead than Godly:

    In both Gilead and Virginia, men in inner circles have been anointed by God to lead. Conversely, those women chosen to be of service remain in the background where they respond to these godly guys’ commands with a heavenly “blessed be.”

    **

    A stunner:

    Here’s from the London Review of Books review of Lawrence Wright‘s The Looming Tower:

    Wright offers the sense among the jihadis that America was the centre of Christianity, and that the Christian world had been winning the battle of faiths since the Islamic host began to be beaten back from the gates of Vienna on 11 September 1683.

    I’d be interested if anyone has evidence connecting 2001 to 1683 in the mind of UBL

    Timothy McVeigh, after all, timed the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City to coincide with the date set for the execution of Richard Snell, who had earlier plotted to blow up the same building, also the date of the final holocaust of the Branch Davidians in Waco two years earlier, the 220th anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord — the “shot heard ’round the world” –and the start of the FBI’s siege of the Covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord compound in 1985. Quite an impressive concatenation of anniversaries!

    Anniversary dating, indeed, is not solely a white nationalist phenomenon. According to Hussain S. Zaidi‘s Black Friday: The True Story of the Bombay Bomb Blasts, the principal suspect in the 1993 bombings, Tiger Memon says:

    Friday, 12 March, is the seventeenth day of Ramazan. It will be the day when the Holy Prophet fought the first battle of Junge-Badr against the heathens of Mecca and forced them to retreat. The auspicious date will help us achieve success.

    Or as Anuraga Kashyap‘s film Black Friday has it:

    Tiger‘s memory reaches back to 624 CE.

    **

    And for a sunnier thought..

    Here’s a parallelism between architecture and cartooning, courtesy of Bill Benzon:

    Mind-stuff.. and a thought-experiment

    Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — I’m no longer captivated by chyrons, it seems — and for the next week weeks, it’ll be glass bead games at BrownPundits and my extended examination of advertising as magic here ]
    .

    Mind-stuff.. mind-stuff that grabs my attention is what I’ll deliver here

    **

    Baghdadi — not meditating — contemplating, perhaps — more mayhem?

    **

    Another pattern to follow:

    It was unclear whether the increase was the result of a shift of Taliban tactics, or just the greatly increased tempo of the war this year, as both sides pushed to improve their positions at the negotiating table.

    Taliban Train Sights on Aid Groups, an Ominous Turn in Afghanistan

    One thinks — I tend to think — of negotiations as leaning away from warfare and violence and towards peace and reconciliation. My pattern language now needs to encompass negotiations as warfare and violence inducing as well as peace and reconciliation leaning.

    For an analytic mind, boggling; for on the ground negotiators, something to bear in mind

    **

    It’s like our scattered space debris, mind-stuff.

    As Patanjali says: Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodha — Great Silence quiets the mind-stuff..

    Ah, well..

    I’ll do a post on religions that offer analytic methods shortly..

    **

    And on that topic —

    I have always wondered — I haven’t been here always, but wot the hell, Archie, as Mehitabel would say — always wondered about the parallelism between koans, ie case law precedents in Chan and Zen Buddhist tradition, and case law precedents in Western jurisprudence>

    Now my wish gets new life, as I read Jason Giannetti, Koan and Case Law:

    The Zen koan comes from the Chinese kung-an, meaning a “public case,” as in a legal matter brought before a judge. There are numerous ways in which these koan could be related to law cases. Very straightforwardly, these are public records, the recorded sayings of the early Chan masters that have been passed down and commented upon, just as there may be public legal cases that have authority as precedent and have been commented upon. The koan encounter could be understood as a judgement by a master upon a student based upon the student’s understanding of the “case.” A third way in which the connection could be understood is that the koan tests the student’s understanding of the Dharma. Dharma has many meanings in Buddhism, but one of those meanings is “law.”

    Wheee thanks, Jason!

    **

    Nancy Pelosi’s “self-impeachable” is both a wonderful ouroboros and nonsense — a contradiction in terms. Trump’s “investigating the investigators” is far more (semantically) interesting. It’s a bit like that card game where you call out “War” or “Snap when you see both cards are the same..

    **

    I’m keeping an eye out for security implications of climate chamnge, also “climate migrants” which may well become quite a phenomenon:

  • DoD, FY 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap
  • DoD, National Security Implications of Climate-related Risks and a Changing Climate
  • World Bank, Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration
  • Climate & Security, Activities of Agencies to Address Potential Impact on Global Migration
  • DoD, Report on Effects of a Changing Climate to the Department of Defense
  • Climate & Security, U.S. GAO Issues 2 Reports in 2 Months Covering Climate and Security
  • **

    To wrap up:

    I was looking for an ilklustration to go with my weaponized thoughts post, To weaponize metaphors.. thoughts as clothes, clothes as thoughts, and I finally — too late — came across this:

    I certainly think that pic could be interpreted as illustrating the assembling and disassembling of thoughts (2nd Amendment, Don’t Tread on Me, Safety First etc) as a function of weaponizing them.

    It comes from an (is it?) anti-gun (as if one can be pro- or anti- gun rather than pro- or anti- certain kinds of access) piece titled Thought Experiment: What might the world be like if there were no guns?.

    But a thought experiment? That’s a refreshing change from arguments pro- or con!

    Christian, Piano-playing, ISIS-sympathizing terror

    Friday, May 3rd, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — it’s a good and bad speckled universe ]
    .

    Christian terrorist?

    Both words, Christian and terrorist, need examining, but they’re not the wrong words, nor the right ones. Also, note (in big print) that this is the view from a Progressive, Secular, Humanist perspective — those three words are also worth pondering.

    Context, context, context, as the realtors would say if they were selling attention-space..

    **

    To give you some context, then, let’s consider these terrorist killings with religious targets:

  • The Gurdwara (Sikh temple), Oak Creek, WI, 2012
  • Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, NC, 2015
  • The Tree of Life and New Light synagogues in Pittsburgh, PA, 2018
  • The Al Noor and Linwood Mosques in Christchurch, NZ, 2019
  • and these religions with affiliated terrorists:

  • Jewish religious terrorism
  • Christian terrorism
  • Islamic terrorism<
  • Saffron terror
  • Morals:

  • You can be hated on account of your religion
  • You can hate on account of your religion
  • Your co-religionists may have reason to feel you are outsiders
  • The proportions of violent to other believers varies between times, religions
  • Religions & groups may differ on where injustice requires redress
  • Listening, which involves humility, is a necessary feature of compassion.
  • There’s plenty of room for nuance here — as fractal theorists would say, the world is self-similar at different scales — or at the poet GM Hopkins puts it, “dappled”.

    **

    Let’s peer a little closer:

    Half the equation? Presumably terrorist would be the other half?

    Uh-oh: piano-playing and nursing…

    That’s not at all what I was expecting..

    Sources:

  • Prog Sec Hum, Christian Terrorist John Earnest Issued Manifesto
  • GetReligion, Yes, John Earnest put ‘Christian’ label into play
  • Daily Beast, Synagogue Shooting Suspect, a Piano-Playing Nursing Student
  • **

    To repeat the point that it’s not just one religion that’s involved either in violence or as a target, let’s switch religions — these things are simultaneous rather than separate:

    Islamic Terrorist?

    Source:

  • Metro, US Army vet Mark Domingo ‘plotted Isis bomb attack
  • A US army vet turned ISIS-supporter attacking neo-Nazis? That’s just one more curious instance of how these hard-to-imagine cookies crumble..

    **

    To return to our Christian:

    Before he allegedly walked into a synagogue in Poway, Calif., and opened fire, John Earnest appears to have written a seven-page letter spelling out his core beliefs: that Jewish people, guilty in his view of faults ranging from killing Jesus to controlling the media, deserved to die. That his intention to kill Jews would glorify God.

    Days later, the Rev. Mika Edmondson read those words and was stunned. “It certainly calls for a good amount of soul-searching,” said Edmondson, a pastor in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, a small evangelical denomination founded to counter liberalism in mainline Presbyterianism. Earnest, 19, was a member of an OPC congregation. His father was an elder. He attended regularly. And in the manifesto, the writer spewed not only invective against Jews and racial minorities but also cogent Christian theology he heard in the pews.

    That’s WaPo‘s opinion, and we don’t know how strong WaPo‘s theological understanding is.

    This pastor, however seems to me to get it right:

    “When there’s an act of ‘radical Islamic terror’ — somebody claiming they’re motivated by their Islamic faith — if we’re going to call upon moderates in Muslim communities to condemn those things, we should do the same. I wholeheartedly, full stop, condemn white nationalism,” said Chad Woolf, an evangelical pastor in Fort Myers, Fla., who was one of the first to join in heated debate online about how the attack reflects on evangelicalism. “We should recognize that somebody could grow up in an evangelical church, whose father was a leader, and could somehow conflate the teachings of Christianity and white nationalism. We should be very concerned about that.”

    Okay, I have now read the complete manifesto, and if WaPo‘s headline writers think it contains theology, WaPo is paying less than ideal attention. The manifesto quotes scriptures — Matthew 27:24-25, John 8:37-45, 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, Revelation 2:9, Revelation 3:9 and one other verse of which he says “I forget where in the Bible this verse comes from, but it’s definitely in there” — but quoting (cherry-picking) scripture isn’t theology, it’s quoting scripture. And there’s one paragraph that might serve as an intro paragraph in some moderately bright student paper on Protestantism:

    To my brothers in Christ of all races. Be strong. Although the Jew who is inspired by demons and Satan will attempt to corrupt your soul with the sin and perversion he spews—remember that you are secure in Christ. Turn away from your sin. Not because it is required for your salvation—for nobody save Christ can merit heaven based on his own works—but rather out of gratitude for the gift of salvation that your God has given you. Always remember that it is God that is keeping you alive and in faith. All sin stems from the arrogant belief that one does not need God. Satan was so prideful that he actually truly believed (that he, a created being) could overthrow the Ancient of Days—the Creator of all in existence. Satan inspired this rebellion among humanity. Christ alone is the only source of life. Know that you are saved in Christ and nothing—not death, nor torture, nor sin—can steal your soul away from God.

    All else is ugliness, and I won’t quote.

    What’s more lovely? By all accounts, the shooter’s father ..

    Sources:

  • WaPo, The alleged synagogue shooter was a churchgoer who talked Christian theology
  • Reddit, I knew John T. Earnest, the shooter of the Chabad synagogue

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