Monday, April 23, 2007

Tolerance and Unitarians

Now here is something new to me. There are two religions encompassing people known as Unitarians. See if you can guess which religions from these descriptions.

1. Along with the fundamental doctrine (the unity of God), certain characteristics have always marked those who profess unitarianism: a large degree of tolerance, a minimizing of essentials, a repugnance to formulated creed and an historical study of scripture.

2. An oath of absolute loyalty to a religious leader, to follow his every interpretation of scripture and to foreswear all other interpretations, to hate apostates, blasphemers and unbelievers, and to follow the leader in killing apostates, blasphemers and unbelievers, as may be required.

Not too hard now, was it?

The Islamic unitarianism is better known today as Wahhabism (after its 18th century founder, al-Wahhab). It is the official version of Islam taught in Saudi Arabia and in mosques and madrasses around the world supported by Saudi petro-dollars. It is the version espoused by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and endorsed by Osama bin Laden and his associates and acolytes. But originally, the theology was called ad Dawa lil Tawhid, which translates as The Call to Unity. Hence the name Unitarians.

I am indebted to the excellent book, GOD'S TERRORISTS, The Wahhabi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad, by the British historian, Charles Allen.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Money and elections

Every time I read about the candidates running for President for the Democrats and the Republicans, about the half the coverage talks about their money raising. Apparently, you can't get elected unless you have a big election war chest and you can't get the money unless you are perceived to be a frontrunner or close to a frontrunner. While money is also important in elections in Canada it simply does not have the same prominence it appears to have in the U.S. It seems to give an aura of truth to the proposition that the United States is the best country you can buy.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"Success" in Iraq

Since U.S. Senator John McCain, bidding once again for the U.S. presidency, has now decided to position himself as the “we must succeed in Iraq” candidate, it is worth reflecting on what success in war means.

In the old days, the really old days, warring parties considered victory to be the sign of success. And victory meant crushing your enemy to the point that it could not hope to continue the struggle and recognized such futility, or the enemy was overwhelmed and eliminated.

In classical times, the destruction of Troy by the Greeks and Carthage by the Romans would have been instances of the latter. Even the destruction of Germany in WWII, while not eliminating Germans themselves, could fit that category. In the 1950s, Britain crushed the communists in Malaya and the Mau-Mau terrorists in Kenya.

The American war of independence is an example of the former. Britain decisively lost to the Americans and understood that it probably could not succeed, even with fresh effort. The success of the Union forces over the Confederacy in the U.S. civil war would also fall into that camp. Likewise, the victory over Japan in WWII was a case where to go on was understood by the Japanese as being nationally suicidal.

Many wars are never really settled satisfactorily. Either the parties fight to a standstill and then just negotiate some uneasy non-belligerent arrangement, or one side simply gives up, sometimes even when it is still militarily strong in the field. The peace following the seven years war between Britain and France in the mid-18th century and the Korean war of the 1950s amounted to “status quo ante-bellum” arrangements. Likewise the peace between Egypt and Irael remains, but tenuously.

Germany simply gave up in 1918, although its army was still occupying France. The French gave up on Vietnam and Algeria after WWII. Twenty years after France left Indo-China, the United States gave up on Vietnam as well.

So what would success in Iraq look like? You can’t give up (that doesn’t have much of a successful ring to it), you can’t crush the Iraqis (you claim to be there to “liberate” them), and you can’t really negotiate anything with anybody that will guarantee peace (that has already been tried and has failed).

I wait to hear Mr. McCain’s explanation.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Some things I don't get

Reading through a couple of on-line Canadian newspapers this morning I came across three anti-war columns, and one that simply fails to recognize that this country is at war, not just in Afghanistan (which is where we are concentrating our limited military resources), but globally. I actually believe that a majority of Canadians do not understand that significant and single point, or they don't want to acknowledge it. I will deal with the latter one first.


1. Gee, we're not really at war


The Toronto Star published a story about the single survivor of the Easter Sunday bomb blast that took out an armoured vehicle in Kandahar and snuffed out the lives of 6 Canadian soldiers. It was a nice human interest story until I got to the part where they reported on the soldier's mother talking to him by telephone. The mother's name and city of residency appeared in the story. Where she lives is not a big community, and I suspect it would not be difficult to trace the lady to her home.

Why would this matter?

Her son is fighting Muslims in a Muslim state.

The latest estimates of the number of Muslims in Canada, as of 2006, is 783,700. This by the way, is a growth of 35% in the five years since the 2001 census. An Environics Research Group public opinion poll, taken and published in February of this year, on Muslim satisfaction with Canadian residency, indicated that about 14% of our Muslim population identifies with the aims and goals of Islamic extremists -- you know -- the guys we are fighting in Afghanistan.

Fourteen percent of 783,700 means that over 100,000 of our Muslim residence probably seriously object to our army being in Afghanistan. Since we don't police the Muslim leaders in the mosques (religious freedom) we don't know what "inspirational" messages some easily-influenced young Muslims may be receiving.

A word to the 'should be' wise: Don't publish personal information about the families of soldiers serving overseas who are still active in the war zone.

2. Hey, there's a big remembrance ceremony at Vimy Ridge; time to crank up the "all war is evil" rhetoric and rain on the parade; we wouldn't be fulfilling our Canadian duty or living up to our heritage unless we diminish a proud or a poignant moment in our history.

Can we ever have enough people in this country like Michael D. Wallace, a professor of political science at the University of British Columbia, who wrote in the Toronto Star the following:

The Harper government and its amen chorus in the media seem intent on perpetuating the mythology of the Battle of Vimy Ridge (more properly, the battle for Arras) as the "birth of the Canadian nation."
The presence of the Queen and the last-minute concession allowing opposition members to attend the ceremonies may remove the partisan sting, but rest assured Prime Minister Stephen Harper will use the occasion to resurrect the myth that our country was born on the points of Canadian bayonets at Vimy.
And, sure as God made little green apples, there will be a segue somewhere in the speech linking Vimy to the "heroism" of our forces in Afghanistan, implying that opposition to "the mission" somehow betrays the patriotism of our national creation myth.


In fact, Prime Minister Harper did not link Vimy Ridge to Afghanistan. That honour fell to the Queen. There is nothing sinister, inappropriate or wrong with pointing out that the present generation of Canadian soldiers has been called upon to support our allies in fighting in foreign lands.

Wallace is simply an anti-war ranter -- go to this link and read the rest of it to see what I mean. There is nothing wrong with an anti-war viewpoint as long as you understand that your viewpoint will always be safe and protected because others are prepared to take the risk and make the sacrifice to preserve your right to voice your opinions. You ought not to be so churlish and piss on their special day.

One final word. Historians can always go back and desconstruct a war with the benefit of hindsight. And while it is true that WW1 was not a conflict in which Canadian freedom was directly threatened, it was a war in which we felt morally obligated to support our allies. Sometimes that is the only and sufficient reason you go to war.

If you want to see what a difference a war can make to the image of a country, follow this link and read Ezra Levant's column.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Ice age ending


I love this cartoon. Thanks to www.iceagenow.com.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Vimy Ridge and Canada at war

Tomorrow, April the 9th, is a significant day. First, it's my birthday.

But not foremost in importance.

This April 9 is also the 90th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge. This battle has been credited by historians as being the turning point in Canada shedding its colonial forelock tugging to Britain and coalescing as an independent nation.

Tomorrow, at Vimy, there will be a ceremony attended by tens of thousands, including 5,000 high school students from across Canada, marking the anniversary and the restoration of the monument. The Queen and the Prime Minister will attend. What is generally not known is that the land around the monument was deeded by the government of France to Canada as a gift from the French people of gratitude for Canada's sacrifices in the war for the liberation of France.

Sadly, there will be no Canadian veterans of WW1 present, as there have been at past ceremonies. There are only two still alive, one is 105 and the other is 106, and their health will not permit the travel.

I have copied the entry on this subject from Wikipedia, along with a good photo of the monument and another interesting historical one showing Adolph Hitler visiting it after the fall of France in the second world war. Hitler appreciated the monument because it was not triumphalist in its tone, but spoke of somber grief. If you have read anything about Hitler you will know that he was very moved by architecture. He apparently ordered the feared Waffen SS to guard the monument against vandalism.



Hitler visits his favourite enemy war memorial.



Canadian National Vimy Memorial

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Canadian National Vimy Memorial is one of Canada's most important overseas war memorials to those Canadians who gave their lives in the First World War. It was constructed as the national memorial for Canada's 60,000 war dead and is located in France, on the site of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The memorial stands atop Hill 145, near the towns of Vimy and Givenchy-en-Gohelle, in the Pas-de-Calais d├ępartement of northern France. France deemed the area surrounding the monument, about 1 km², to be Canadian territory in 1922, as an expression of gratitude to the Canadian people for their sacrifice during the war and for capturing Vimy Ridge in April 1917. The entrance to the park bears the sign "the free gift in perpetuity of the French nation to the people of Canada."

History

The memorial was designed by Canadian sculptor the late Walter Seymour Allward, his proposal being selected from 160 submissions by Canadians who participated in a competition held in the early 1920s. Construction of the memorial commenced in 1925 and took 11 years; the official unveiling was on July 26, 1936, by King Edward VIII, as one of his few official duties during his short reign as King of Canada, in the presence of French President Albert Lebrun and over 50,000 Canadian and French veterans and their families.[1]

The two main pylons of the memorial, representing Canada and France, rise 30 metres above the sprawling stone platform.[2] Various stone sculptures exhibit a wealth of symbolism and assist visitors in contemplating the memorial as a whole. Due to the height of Vimy Ridge, the topmost stone sculpture — representing peace — is approximately 110 metres above the Lens Plain to the east. The sculptures were created by Canadian artists, and record and illuminate the sacrifice of all who served during the war and, in particular, to the more than 66,000 men who lost their lives. The names of the 11,285 Canadian soldiers who died in France but who have no known grave are carved on the memorial (the names of those who died in Flanders are on the Menin Gate). Visitors approaching the front of the monument will see one of its central figures: a woman, hooded and cloaked, facing eastward toward the new day. Her eyes are downcast and her chin rests on her hand. Below her is a tomb, draped in laurel branches and bearing a helmet. This grieving figure represents Canada — a young nation mourning her fallen sons. Jacqueline Hucker, an Ottawa art historian from Ottawa who served on the conservation team that recently restored the Vimy monument, declares that "It was like no other war memorial that had gone before" because Vimy was not a war memorial which was devoted to triumph or the glory of a great military leader, but rather to a profound sense of duty towards the legions of men who filled the ranks of the dead.[3] Hucker adds
"There are no signs of victory there at all...It expresses our obligation to the dead, and the grief of the living--sentiments of sacrifice that you do not see in war memorials until this time."[4]

The 20 statues present on the Vimy Memorial site were originally sculpted by Allward in roughly life-size out of unfired clay. These were then replicated in more durable plaster, and the plaster copies were sent to France, where French stonecarvers replicated them again in stone, while doubling their size. The plaster working copies, nearly destroyed in the 1960s, are now on display in Canada, with the Canadian War Museum showing 17 and the Military Communications and Electronics Museum attached to Canadian Forces Base Kingston showing the remaining 3.[5]
Today the site is designated by the Canadian government as a National Historic Site. In addition to the monument itself the memorial includes a small museum, an area of preserved trenches and tunnels, and nearby cemeteries of those killed in the battle.

In 2004, the memorial was closed for restoration work, including general cleaning and the recarving of names, with the statues moved off-site, cleaned and restored. The restored memorial will be inaugurated on April 9, 2007, the 90th anniversary of the battle. It is scheduled to be rededicated by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, along with Queen Elizabeth II, as Queen of Canada. The rehabilitation plan for Vimy Memorial is part of the Canadian Battlefield Memorials Restoration Project, directed by Canada's Department of Veterans Affairs in cooperation with other Canadian departments, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, consultants and specialists in military history.

• The magazine After the Battle published a photographic history of the site following the repatriation of Canada's Unknown Soldier, which included a ceremony at the Vimy Memorial. One of these photographs depicted the memorial's most notorious visitor: Adolf Hitler. In 1940, after his armies conquered France, Hitler toured the Vimy Memorial and its preserved trenches. Hitler had been decorated twice for bravery as an infantryman during the Great War and saw combat in the general vicinity of Vimy, often against Commonwealth soldiers in similar trenches. While Hitler had no qualms about destroying culturally significant locations in France including many French war monuments which were torn down by the Nazis, the Vimy memorial carried no messages of Allied triumph over Germany and thus was protected. University of Ottawa historian Serge Durflinger[1] notes that "Hitler admires it immensely, he says so at the time. As a result, the Germans respect[ed] the memorial all through the war."[6]

• The novel The Stone Carvers, by Jane Urquhart, is set amongst the creation of the memorial.

• Pte. Herbert Peterson of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment was killed during a raid on German trenches on the night of June 8-9, 1917, near Vimy Ridge. Peterson’s remains were not discovered until 2003. He was identified in February 2007 through a DNA match with a relative. [7] There was an Interment Ceremony for Private Peterson on Saturday, April 7, 2007 [8]

A nod to Easter


Today is Easter Sunday and it seems only fitting that I should mark the occasion. This is the most important day in the Christian faith of which there are still more adherents than Muslims (but the Jesus folk better start getting busy in the bedroom if they want to keep the lead position). This is the day Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ who is reported to have walked from his tomb, following his execution, and risen to heaven to be with his father, God. This is the visual image of the path Christians are to follow to gain everlasting life in the "next world."

Much is made of Christmas, the made-up birthday of Jesus, especially in the recent repeated seasonal wars with the PC army and the Multicults. But, the fact remains, that without Easter, there might not even be a Christian religion today.

I personally don't buy into any of this stuff, although I think it makes for great stories. I love Christian traditions like Christmas and Easter simply because they are part and parcel of my Western heritage. I would not throw them away simply because I have become a Humanist in my head and my heart. Christmas in particular has universal appeal beyond its Christian roots if only because of the simple refrain one hears at that time of year, "peace on Earth and goodwill towards mankind." What else should one wish for no matter what faith or belief?

Oddly enough, I grew up in a Christian (Protestant) family. My father regularly attended church and I also dutifully attended Sunday school until my early teens. I learned all the Bible stories. Then I chose the non-religious life. My current wife was very religious to a point much later in life, and, even though church attendance is not something she bothers with today, she still maintains her belief in God, angels, the Bible stories, etc.

At Easter, they often recycle good old biblical epics on the television movie channels, with Charleton Heston leading the Israelites out of Egypt, or winning a chariot race. I often wonder when he appears before Ramses why he doesn't shake his staff in the Pharaoh's face and shout, "From my cold dead hands." Maybe that scene got left on the editing room floor.

My wife and I like to sit down with a bowl of popcorn and watch these dramas. She is always amazed, knowing my irreligious attitudes, how I can quote the scripture before the character mouths it on the screen. I tell her that I did not waste my time at Sunday school, even if I have chosen to go in a different direction.

Cartoon, courtesy http//doctorbulldog.wordpress.com/

Saturday, April 7, 2007

The Paradox

Now here is a statement that puzzles me. In my January post regarding Israel and other Muslims states, I received a comment from Tossing Pebbles in the Stream to the effect that Israel should be held to a higher moral standard because it purports to be a secular, liberal democracy. I have heard this kind of utterance before, but what is interesting to me is that the blogger in this instance is an ordained minister in the Christian faith.

If I understand people who believe in the existence of a sky-god, they also believe that this god made mankind and that this god's laws are superior to any laws made by mere mortal man. It would stand to reason that a state that governed itself in accordance with god's laws should be held to higher moral standard than a mere liberal democracy. However, if you examine the human rights record of some states that govern themselves in accordance with god's laws (e.g. Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia) you would be forced to conclude that a liberal democracy is far superior.

Humankind's pivotal role in the Universe

This is an excellent site putting some perspective on the all important impact of human beings on the universe. When you download it, make sure you scroll down to the end. And pause for a moment at the page that shows the relative size of our solar system's planets compared to our sun. Ask yourself, does it really make any sense the climate on earth is governed by the number of SUVs on the highways when you compare them to that enormous furnace in the sky?

Pelosi and the Maple Leaf


Even the Congressional Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, wears the Maple Leaf when she travels to countries not normally friendly to the United States.

Cartoon, courtesy of http//doctorbulldog.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The United Nations won't defend its agents

This an editorial from today's Toronto Star with which I am in complete agreement. There are so many wishy-washy, western civilization-loathing Canadians who cannot see the importance of taking strong stands on issues like these and who forget which team they should rooting for. It's nice to see a newspaper that I believe normally caters to these useful idiots (thank you, Vladimir Lenin, for the phrase) taking such a stance. I wonder if the head editorial writer was on vacation when this found its way into print.

Regardless of how the Persian Gulf standoff between Iran and Britain plays out, the United Nations has emerged looking bad. Simply put, the Security Council failed to forcefully stand up for British troops serving the UN, when they were treated outrageously by a scofflaw regime.

Like Canada's military in Afghanistan, the 15 British sailors and marines from HMS Cornwall who were seized by Iran's Revolutionary Guards on March 23 were on lawful UN-sanctioned duty. They were assisting Iraq's elected government by monitoring merchant shipping along the Iraq-Iran maritime frontier to thwart smuggling and security threats. They should never have been arrested, much less held this long.

Recognizing that, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government last Wednesday demanded Iran "immediately release" the captives, noting they were engaged in "legitimate and routine boarding operations." In Washington this weekend, U.S. President George Bush went further, calling the sailors "hostages" and slamming Iran's "inexcusable behaviour."

The European Union has also voiced "unconditional support" for the British side, chided the Iranians for "a clear breach of international law," and demanded the troops' "immediate and unconditional release."

Given this barrage of international condemnation, the UN Security Council should have been emboldened to forcefully condemn Iran's outrageous action and to threaten stiff sanctions, if only to deter future attacks of this sort on forces deployed on its behalf.

But the council managed to issue only a feeble statement last Thursday voicing "grave concern" and urging an "early resolution of this problem."

It was a pitiful show of weakness that hurt the UN's credibility and betrayed British troops serving the organization. Far from undercutting Iranian hard-liners such as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it will boost their stature and sap UN efforts to get Tehran to renounce nuclear weaponry. It also won't help the United Nations the next time it appeals for countries to provide troops for some peacekeeping mission.

By yesterday, as pressure continued to build on Tehran, senior Iranians announced they want to resolve the crisis through talks with Britain on how to avert future disputes. At the same time, both sides continued to dispute whether the British sailors were operating a kilometre or so on one side of the unclear Iraq-Iran border or on the other.

But even if the British craft did stray into Iranian waters, something Prime Minister Tony Blair denies, Iran's better-armed Revolutionary Guard vessels could easily have warned them off and escorted them back into Iraqi waters. A technical violation of Iran's sovereignty by a UN-approved force would pose no great threat to Iranian security.

Even so, Iran's forces arrested the sailors at gunpoint and took them to Iran. They refused British diplomats access, threatened to put the captives on trial and paraded them shamelessly for propaganda, mouthing statements praising their captors and "confessing" they had trespassed.

It was a shameful, lawless spectacle.

The Security Council should have said as much.