Posts Tagged “iraq”

Cuneiform tablet BM62788Until now the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores was known mainly for two things: A Supreme Court decision that says corporations have religious beliefs, and for never being open on Sundays, because God, or something. But now, they’re known for something else: Having operated an antiquities-smuggling ring.

Yes, that’s right. You see, Hobby Lobby — being a devout Christian corporation — wanted to prove the Bible is God’s literal truth, and show that, in the form of a colossal “Museum of the Bible” in Washington, DC (Archive.Is cached article).

In an effort to stock this massive edifice with material, Hobby Lobby has been vacuuming up every Middle Eastern artifact — especially cuneiform tablets — it can find. The trouble is, a lot of this vacuuming wasn’t done legally, because artifacts like that aren’t legally available to private buyers. As CNN reports, this devout Christian corporation has admitted its criminality, all done in Jesus’ name, of course (cached):

It wasn’t Hobby Lobby’s scrapbook supplies, their seasonal decorations or their generous selection of fabrics that got the attention of the Department of Justice. It was the ancient clay artifacts from modern-day Iraq.

The DOJ said the company smuggled the artifacts into the United States, and the arts and crafts chain on Wednesday agreed to a settlement with the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

According to court documents, Hobby Lobby agreed to forfeit thousands of Iraqi artifacts and pay a $3 million fine to resolve the civil action the Justice Department brought against the company.

This devout Christian corporation, of course, sugar-coated what it had done:

“We should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled,” Hobby Lobby President Steve Green said in [a] statement. “Hobby Lobby has cooperated with the government throughout its investigation, and with the announcement of today’s settlement agreement, is pleased the matter has been resolved.”

A consultant had warned Hobby Lobby away from one particular deal to acquire a large stash of artifacts back in 2010, but they ignored that advice and went ahead with it. For Jesus, of course.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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'Brave Sir Robin / Nearly fought the fierce dragon of Agnor, almost stood up to the vicious Chicken of Bristol, wet himself at the Battle for Badon Hill' from Monty Python & the Holy Grail / Lewis Pitt, via PinterestOne of the realities behind the folks who run terrorist outfits is that, despite their bluster and braggadocio, they’re almost always sniveling cowards. That’s why terrorism — i.e. going after innocents and the defenseless — is their modus operandi. They only attack when they know they’ll win and when there won’t be much of a fight. This is as true of ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-savage-brood as it is of any other.

Oh sure, they’re proud to announce they’re doing al-Lah’s will, and they’re holy warriors waging a sacred jihad and all of that self-righteous crap … but really, they’re all cowards. They chose to strike in a time and place that they knew would be easy, and never ventured into places like Turkey or Iran who’d be sure to fight back … and fight back hard. They enslaved and raped Yazidi women, for example — as though that campaign could have imperiled them.

Well, now that the Iraqi military decided to grow a pair and take them on, ISIS has been hemmed in, and losing key territory. And as Reuters reports, it’s reached the point where their leader has flown the coop (Google cached article):

U.S. and Iraqi officials believe the leader of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has left operational commanders behind with diehard followers to fight the battle of Mosul, and is now hiding out in the desert, focusing mainly on his own survival.

It is impossible to confirm the whereabouts of the Islamic State “caliph”, who declared himself the ruler of all Muslims from Mosul’s Great Mosque after his forces swept through northern Iraq in 2014.

But U.S. and Iraqi intelligence sources say an absence of official communication from the group’s leadership and the loss of territory in Mosul suggest he has abandoned the city, by far the largest population center his group has ever held.

It turns out that cowardly tactics has been the way al-Baghdadi has lived for a while:

From their efforts to track him, they believe he hides mostly among sympathetic civilians in familiar desert villages, rather than with fighters in their barracks in urban areas where combat has been under way, the sources say.

Even if al-Baghdadi’s so-called “state” is completely destroyed, that’s not to say he and his outfit won’t continue to be dangerous:

Although the loss of Mosul would effectively end Islamic State’s territorial rule in Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi officials are preparing for the group to go underground and fight an insurgency like the one that followed the U.S.-led invasion.

Still, it’s nice to see this monster finally show the world his true colors … which is ISIS black, but with a nice, wide yellow stripe down the back.Bye-bye, little Abu Bakr. Bye-bye!

Photo credit: Top, from Monty Python & the Holy Grail / Lewis Pitt, via Pinterest; middle, from Elf, via Giphy.

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A woman, who said she was raped by Islamic State militants, in a refugee camp in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. Mauricio Lima for the New York Times.Most readers, by now, will have heard about a horrifying New York Times story. It seems the leadership of ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-barbaric-brood has devised an explicitly religious rationale for systematic sexual slavery and rape — almost exclusively of Yazidi girls (WebCite cached article):

In the moments before he raped the 12-year-old girl, the Islamic State fighter took the time to explain that what he was about to do was not a sin. Because the preteen girl practiced a religion other than Islam, the Quran not only gave him the right to rape her — it condoned and encouraged it, he insisted.

He bound her hands and gagged her. Then he knelt beside the bed and prostrated himself in prayer before getting on top of her.

When it was over, he knelt to pray again, bookending the rape with acts of religious devotion.

“I kept telling him it hurts — please stop,” said the girl, whose body is so small an adult could circle her waist with two hands. “He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever. He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God,” she said in an interview alongside her family in a refugee camp here, to which she escaped after 11 months of captivity.

Thus opens a blood-curdling story of what has rapidly become an institution within this savage outfit:

The trade in Yazidi women and girls has created a persistent infrastructure, with a network of warehouses where the victims are held, viewing rooms where they are inspected and marketed, and a dedicated fleet of buses used to transport them.

A total of 5,270 Yazidis were abducted last year, and at least 3,144 are still being held, according to community leaders. To handle them, the Islamic State has developed a detailed bureaucracy of sex slavery, including sales contracts notarized by the ISIS-run Islamic courts. And the practice has become an established recruiting tool to lure men from deeply conservative Muslim societies, where casual sex is taboo and dating is forbidden.

A growing body of internal policy memos and theological discussions has established guidelines for slavery, including a lengthy how-to manual issued by the Islamic State Research and Fatwa Department just last month. Repeatedly, the ISIS leadership has emphasized a narrow and selective reading of the Quran and other religious rulings to not only justify violence, but also to elevate and celebrate each sexual assault as spiritually beneficial, even virtuous.

In an ancillary story — this one offered by ABC News — it turns out that American hostage Kayla Mueller had been the property of, and repeatedly raped by, none other than the savages’ leader (cached):

Before her death earlier this year, American hostage Kayla Mueller was repeatedly raped by the top leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to counter-terrorism officials.

Mueller’s family confirmed to ABC News that government officials have told them that their daughter, who would have turned 27 today, was the victim of repeated sexual assaults by al-Baghdadi.

“We were told Kayla was tortured, that she was the property of al-Baghdadi. We were told that in June by the government,” Kayla’s parents, Carl and Marsha Mueller, told ABC News today.…

The new revelations about Mueller’s long ordeal — which involved torture since the beginning of her one-and-a-half years of captivity, her family has been told by the FBI — shatter rumors spread by some officials that she had cooperated or was a willing spouse, which has deeply upset her family and many inside her case.

Yes, folks … this means Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who leads the world’s largest and most powerful terrorist organization and who’d like Muslims to embrace him as their new caliph, is nothing more than a rapist, pervert, and sexual deviant. In other words, he’s even more of a fucking bastard pig than we already thought.

The Times story explains that having forcible sex with kafirah (“infidels”) is — perversely — a form of worship, according to these savages. Now, the story also explains there’s a more mundane, even mercenary reason for this policy, which is as a recruiting tool to attract men who live in a society which is otherwise puritanical and sexually repressive. It gives them an outlet for sexuality that they couldn’t otherwise avail themselves of. Thus, a lot of kneejerk defenders of Islam will say, “You see? It’s not really a ‘religious’ thing. They’re just trying to attract guys who like the idea of being able to freely rape women.” That misses the entire point. First of all, if this had been an entirely-non-religious policy, it would not have been couched in religious language at all. Second, the fact that this systematic sexual slavery is limited almost exclusively to Yazidis — who according to Islam don’t follow a “religion of the book” and therefore are afforded no protections whatsoever — definitely points to a clear religious impulse behind it.

Most importantly, though, this defense misses the truly salient lesson here, which is that it’s possible to use the sacred texts and teachings of nearly any religion to craft policies which are convenient and utilitarian — not to mention self-indulgent. In other words, it’s possible to use and even abuse a religion in order to get whatever it is one wants! This tends to undermine the credibility of the religion in question, since if it were truly of divine origin, one would think it couldn’t be abused in such a way.

Lastly … by posting this, I am not saying all Muslims everywhere support this savage outfit’s policy, or consider it consistent with Islam as they practice it. By no means! As I said, all I’m doing is pointing out the harsh, unpleasant reality that a religion — indeed, almost any kind of metaphysics at all — can readily be twisted to suit one’s purposes. This is no less true of Islam than it is of Christianity or Judaism or Hinduism or Buddhism or Shinto or anything else. The solution is not to get offended at this observation, or whine and bellyache that one’s religion has been “attacked” by pointing this out. Rather, the solution is to work to ensure this kind of abuse of a religion is not tolerated, and is stamped out as soon as possible. In the case of ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-barbaric-brood, there’s been a little “stamping,” but they continue attracting adherents — both in their own theater of action and elsewhere — which tells me there has to be a whole fucking helluva a lot more stamping.

Photo credit: Mauricio Lima / New York Times.

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Rand Paul speakingAmerican Christians’ martyr complex is wearying. They continually and repeatedly whine and complain that their religion is on the verge of being stamped out … even when it’s not. I understand why this is; a desire to be persecuted for Jesus is embedded deep within their religion’s psychopathology, and they really can’t help themselves. Still, it’s one thing to believe one is being persecuted, but quite another to fabricate forms of persecution that don’t exist, or to make claims about Christian persecution that aren’t true.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, as the Washington Post reports, is the most recent figure to be guilty of these kinds of lies (WebCite cached article):

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Thursday continued his outreach to Christian conservatives, telling a gathering of them that the United States is effectively funding wars on Christianity by sending money to nations like Egypt and Syria.

“It’s clear that American taxpayer dollars are being used in a war against Christianity,” Paul said at a luncheon hosted by the Faith and Freedom Coalition to kick off the three-day Faith and Freedom Conference.

Paul said the U.S. war in Iraq led Christians to flee a secular country that had otherwise been “a relatively safe place for Christians,” and that Christians are now being hunted in nearby nations.

First, let me say it’s absolutely true that Christians have been, and are, persecuted in a lot of places in the world. I don’t dispute that at all. I also don’t dispute that it’s wrong for anyone to be persecuted for it. What I dispute is Paul’s claim that the U.S. government is consciously and methodically financing a global campaign to wipe Christianity out.

Let’s be honest: The societies of countries like Iraq and Egypt certainly harbor animosity toward Christians; I’ve blogged about a long tradition of religious strife in Egypt, for instance. There’s nothing new about this. That doesn’t make it right … it just means it’s not new at all.

So what does American financial aid have to do with it? Nothing. Christians there would be harassed, with or without American assistance. Christians in those places were harassed, before they got any U.S. assistance, and they likely would continue to be harassed if we stopped supplying it. In fact, it might be argued that our assistance gives us a degree of input into those countries’ affairs that we wouldn’t have otherwise, meaning it’s a potential way for us to limit the harassment. The dance of diplomacy and international relations is a complex one, that cannot be boiled down to “sound bites” as Paul likes to do.

Paul also brings up a point which is a particularly sore one for the Religious Right in the US:

“Should we be sending F-16s and tanks to Egypt when (President Mohammed) Morsi says Jews are descendants of apes and pigs?”

Granted, Morsi is an anti-Semite, as are many of the leaders of countries in and around the Middle East. But what can we do? Make our assistance conditional on whether or not those countries have anti-Semitic rulers? Is it even possible for us to have that much influence over them? What makes Paul think we do?

Something Paul doesn’t admit, is that this has been going on for as long as America has been sending out foreign aid. That aid frequently ends up in the hands of repugnant dictators, is spent in countries where the U.S. is vehemently hated, and helps societies that propagate any number of injustices, sometimes against their own people. Unfortunately there’s not much we can do about that, other than stop the aid, which would have stiff ramifications … such as the loss of diplomatic relations. Again, the game of diplomacy isn’t as clear-cut or simple as the Senator says it is.

Paul also makes a comment which is factually incorrect:

“We’re borrowing money from China to send it to Pakistan.”

Lots of folks, including many on the Right and particularly libertarians like Rand Paul and his father Ron, love to assert that America’s debt is entirely held by China, therefore any borrowing we do comes directly from Beijing. But that’s not true. As FactCheck explained a couple years ago, China finances only about 7.9% of new debt

The bottom line is that Rand Paul was clearly trying to convince his audience that the Obama administration is financing a global jihad against Christianity. That isn’t the case; but if it were, then because Obama is continuing a long-standing policy of foreign aid, then G.W. Bush, Clinton, G.H.W. Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, etc. had also financed a global jihad against Christianity. Does he seriously think it’s been going on for decades? If so, why hasn’t Christianity already been wiped out in those places?

As I said, what Rand Paul is doing is appealing to the Religious Right’s martyr complex. It’s insidious, and it needs to stop … but we all know it never will. Because it works too well. The R.R. continually gives into it … happily, with smiles on their faces, and with open checkbooks, ready to finance anyone who campaigns against that foreign-born “secret Muslim” in the Oval Office.

At any rate, Rand Paul’s lie about a U.S.-financed global war on Christianity, places him into my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Iraqi Christians bury victims Tuesday of a church attack on October 31, for which the Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility.… and the sky is blue. The banality and inanity of the mass media is sometimes staggering. One would think that people intelligent enough to have gotten through journalism school, would realize that stories such as this one — dutifully reported by the astoundingly brilliant minds at CNN — are not really news (WebCite cached article):

All Christians ‘targets,’ Iraqi militant group says

All Christians in the Middle East are now “legitimate targets,” al Qaeda in Iraq announced Wednesday, as the group’s deadline for Egypt’s Coptic church to release alleged Muslim female prisoners expired.

Wow. Whodathunkit!? I’d never have guessed in a million years that Christians living in the Middle East might possibly have ever become “targets” for al-Qaeda in Iraq. Would you, Dear Reader, have ever figured that out?

Why, of course Christians in the Middle East are al-Qaeda’s targets! They have been, ever since al-Qaeda came into existence! Who in the occidental world could possibly not already be aware of this? Al-Qaeda’s other targets — that everyone also knows about by now — are Shi’ite Muslims, and Jews, and pretty much any other kind of person of any religion who chooses not to hew the fanatical, insane hyperreligionist line of the murderous Islamofascist thugs known as al-Qaeda.

Allow me to assist the mass media in breaking still more major stories: A fight broke out at a hockey game, some college students got drunk this weekend, and it’s cold in the Arctic.

Photo credit: CNN.

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It’s frequently said that Islam is “the religion of peace.” President Bush even said so on numerous occasions (e.g. in a speech at the Islamic Center in Washington when he said, “Islam is peace”).

Even so, it’s amazing how much violence seems to emerge from this “religion of peace.” I’ve blogged on prior examples, and they continue to stream in. The latest example is this one, reported by CNN:

Six gay men were shot dead by members of their tribe in two separate incidents in the past 10 days, an official with Iraq’s Interior ministry said. …

Witnesses told CNN that a Sadr City cafe, which was a popular gathering spot for gays, was also set on fire.

So we not only have people being executed by “the religion of peace,” we have arsons, too. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how events like this are expressions of “the religion of peace.” Anyone have any ideas on that?

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Speaking of lawsuits, an atheist soldier is suing the military over its promotion of religion in the ranks and among civilians it encounters:

An atheist soldier suing over prayers at military formations claims a larger pattern of religious discrimination exists in the military, citing attempts to convert Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan and an evangelical bias in a suicide prevention manual. …

The revised lawsuit criticizes the Army’s 2008 manual on suicide prevention, quoting it as promoting “religiosity” as a necessary part of prevention and describing “connectivity to the divine” as “fundamental.”

The lawsuit cites comments from a chaplain and a second soldier in Christian missionary publications about attempts to convert Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the two soldiers’ desire to distribute Bibles.

Way to go, Pentagon. Tell a soldier who’s suicidal that s/he just needs to “get religion.” That’s so helpful. Oh, and while you’re in a country where a lot of people don’t like you or the US, by all means, proselytize them! That does wonders.

Not!

Proselytizing in the military even reached a point of absurdity, according to the suit:

The lawsuit also notes that in 2007, the Air Force sponsored “Team Faith,” which performs motocross stunt shows to “lead extreme sports athletes to Christ.”

I’m not clear as to exactly how motocross stunts have anything to do with Jesus … but I guess that’s not something the Pentagon is concerned about.

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