Features

The Islamic State is destroying the greatest melting pot in history

From the dawn of civilisation, the Fertile Crescent has been a cradle to strange and fascinating sects. Not any more

23 August 2014

9:00 AM

23 August 2014

9:00 AM

As the fighters of the Islamic State drive from village to captured village in their looted humvees, they criss-cross what in ancient times was a veritable womb of gods. For millennia, the Fertile Crescent teemed with a bewildering variety of cults and religions. Back in the 3rd Christian century, a philosopher by the name of Bardaisan was so overwhelmed by the sheer array of beliefs to be found in Mesopotamia that he invoked it to disprove the doctrines of astrology. ‘It is not the stars that make people behave the way do but rather the diversity of their customs.’

Bardaisan himself was a one-man monument to Mesopotamian multiculturalism. A Jewish convert to Christianity, a Platonist fascinated by the wisdom of the Brahmins, an inhabitant of the border zone between the Roman East and the Iranian empire of the Parthians, he stood at the crossroads where antiquity’s most potent traditions met and intermingled. Just how far the process of blending rival faiths could be taken was best illustrated by a man born in Mesopotamia a few years before Bardaisan’s death: a soi-disant prophet called Mani. Brought up within a Christian sect that practised circumcision, held the Holy Spirit to be female, and prayed in the direction of Jerusalem, he fused elements of Christianity with Jewish and Zoroastrian teachings, while also claiming, just for good measure, to be the heir of the Buddha. Although Mani himself would end up executed by a Persian king, his followers were nothing daunted. Cells of Manichaeans were soon to be found from China to Carthage. Syncretic as their religion was, and global in its ambitions, Manichaeism was a classic Mesopotamian export of the age.

Nevertheless, home of the cutting edge though the Fertile Crescent was throughout the first millennium AD, it simultaneously nurtured traditions of a fabulous antiquity. Priests and astrologers had been active in Mesopotamia since the dawn of civilisation, and they still flourished even as the ziggurats which had once dominated ancient capitals such as Nineveh and Babylon crumbled away into dust. In Harran, a city lying on what is now the frontline between Turkey and the Islamic State, the ancient gods were worshipped well into the Christian era. Sin, the ‘Lord of the Moon’, continued to be paraded every year through the streets and then ferried back to his temple on a barge, while eerie figures framed by peacock feathers stood guard over desert lakes. In a Fertile Crescent increasingly dominated by monotheistic autocrats, first Christian and then Muslim, the Harranians clung stubbornly to their worship of the planets. ‘How empty and impoverished the earth would have been without paganism!’ So one devotee of Sin defiantly declared, even as he worked in the caliphal library in Baghdad. ‘Who was it that settled the world and founded cities, after all, if not the pagans?’

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Such bravado, though, in a world governed by the dictates of Islamic imperialism, was given increasingly short shrift. Islam, rather as Manichaeism had done, fused elements drawn from numerous traditions, and granted, in unacknowledged recognition of this, a high-handed tolerance to those religions to which it stood in particular debt. Jews, Christians and a mysterious people named the Sabaeans: all were ranked in the Qur’an as ‘Peoples of the Book’. Devotees of other gods, though, were regarded with a stern disapproval. In the year 830, so it is said, the Caliph al-Mamun visited Harran, and was appalled by what he found. The pagans were told to convert or face death. Most duly became Muslims; but a few, pulling a lawyer’s trick, declared themselves to be none other than the Sabaeans. Only in the 10th century was their final temple destroyed. By the 1120s, when the Spanish traveller ibn Jubayr visited Harran, he could find no trace of the Sabaeans.

To this day, though, across the Fertile Crescent, there remain communities which bear witness to the extraordinary antiquity of its religious traditions. There are the Mandaeans, who hold themselves, as Mani did, to be sparks of a cosmic light, and whose priests, like their Babylonian forebears, are obsessive astrologers. There are the Alawites, who revere Plato as a prophet, believe in reincarnation, and pray towards the sun. There are the Yezidis, whose home of Sinjar still preserves in its name an echo of the ancient Harranian moon god. Like the Harranians, they reverence the planets; and like the Harranians, they hold a special place in their hearts for the peacock. Melek Taus, the angel whom they believe to be God’s lieutenant here in the material world, wears the form of the bird; and back at the beginning of time, when the earth was nothing but pearl, he laid his feathers over it, and gave colour to its forests and mountains and seas.

Various strategies were adopted by these communities to survive the disapproval of their Muslim overlords. All of them kept the precise details of their faiths a secret; and all of them, when faced by bouts of persecution, would retreat to remote and inaccessible fastnesses, whether in marshes or on mountain tops. The Mandaeans, copy-ing the strategy of the Harranians, were able to market themselves as Sabaeans; the Alawites, some of whom believe Ali, Muhammad’s son-in-law, to have been the reincarnation of St Peter, took on a patina of Shi’ism. Even the Yazidis, who proudly keep a list of the 72 persecutions they have survived over the course of the centuries, were sometimes willing, when particularly hard-pressed, to accept a nominal baptism from an amenable bishop.

It is hard to believe, though, that they will survive the 73rd persecution. Their prospects, and those of all the religious minorities of the Fertile Crescent, look grim. Mandaeans, exposed to murder and forced conversions in the wake of Saddam’s overthrow, are now almost extinct in Iraq. The future of the Alawites is bound inseparably to that of their co-religionist, the blood-stained president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad. As for the Yezidis, targeted as they are for extermination by the slave-taking, atrocity-vaunting murderers of the Islamic State, how can they possibly survive in their ancient homeland? Meanwhile, with Iraqi and Syrian Jews now only to be found in Israel, and Christians emigrating from the region in increasing numbers, even the Peoples of the Book are vanishing from the Fertile Crescent.

The risk is that all traces of what once, back in antiquity, made the area the most remarkable melting pot in history will soon have been erased. In cultural terms, it is as though a rainforest is being levelled to provide for cattle-ranching. Not just a crime against humanity, it is a crime against civilisation.

Tom Holland is the author of a history of early Islam, In the Shadow of the Sword, and recently translated Herodotus’ Histories for Penguin.

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Show comments
  • Newcombe

    Devotees of other gods, though, were regarded with a stern disapproval.

    Actually mutiple genocides of devottes of other gods took place right across the world that Islam conquered. People of other gods are even now being wiped out from lands claimed by Islam in our living memory like Pakistan and Bangladesh.

    • Bonkim

      No different when the Jesuits declared war on non-Christians in the lands the Spanish, and Portuguese rampaged through.

      • girondas2

        “Whataboutery” doesn’t justify the behaviour of mohammedans in the 21st century.
        The urgent question is how best can the civilsed people of the world defend themselves against these barbarians.

        • Bonkim

          People behaviour – varies with space and time. Civilized is a relative term and very subjective. Also don’t blame Mohammedans as a religious population for the acts of a minority of bigots – You would not blame Christians for slavery or the two world wars or the Holocaust would you?

          Yes there is a need to find ways to eliminate the criminal ISIS and to prevent their criminal acts from affecting us. You need to think smart for that. The world has moved on and ISIS has sophisticated weapons and means of communication, more importantly an ideology however evil – people are driven to act by ideologies – more dangerous and effective than conventional weapons.

          • girondas2

            ” minority of bigots”

            Minority?
            When I look round at the muslim world Bonkim I see nothing but ignorance, bigotry, dishonesty, tyranny and savagery.

            “Civilized is a relative term and very subjective”
            Really?. Perhap you would care to provide an example of a civilsed islamic state- you can be as subjective as you wish.

          • Bonkim

            I see a lot og ignorance in the Catholic world as well – but all Catholics are not backward – collectively many follow a middle-ages backward philosophy and turn into bigots, even violent radicals that are prepared to kill others.

            Don’t tar all with the same brush. It is not my job to check on followers of any religious faith – only looking at the idiocy of lumping together all because of prejudice and ignorance.

          • girondas2

            I am still waiting for an example of a civilised Islamic state.
            You can’t provide one can you?

          • Bonkim

            You will be waiting for a long time – why don’t you put your comments on the article instead of asking idiotic questions on others’ comments.

          • girondas2

            “You will be waiting for a long time”
            True enough.
            And if you don’t like me responding to your posts Bonkim, well then don’t post ’em.

          • Warwick

            It is a simple and obvious question, but how revealing it is when you attempt to answer it?

          • Gary Tongue

            RSVP!!!!!!!

          • Agha Memnun

            “two world wars”

            The Ottomans were at least partly culpable for WWI, and participated in it with brutality.

            Also, some of the worst atrocities of WWII were committed by Japan, hardly a Western power.

            “You would not blame Christians for slavery”

            LOL.

          • Bonkim

            worst and most widespread atrocities of WWII – Germany not Japan – Japanese may have been cruel individually and against other races given their own class structure and layered society. All Asian and African societies were brutal – not just during war because of their many layered class and ethnic/sectarian structures. However the most evil deed on civilians was Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US. There was no need for such mass killing as Japanese forces were already broken and many soldiers and their families committing suicide in the Pacific islands in anticipation of defeat and capture – a worse humiliation than death. Yes their treatment of POWs and use of slave labour, comfort women, etc, pretty evil – but wholesale reprisals, mass killings and medical experiments on prisoners, minorities, and the disabled by Germany and nuking civilians by the US – must take the cake.

          • Albro

            The U.S Chiefs of Staff calculated that the loss of life to American Forces involved in the invasion of the home islands would be so great that they had no choice but to use the ‘bomb’. Right or wrong, who knows. But they had been fighting the Japanese for four years so knew more about it than i ever will. A calculated brutal act of war, yes. Evil, no.

          • Bonkim

            They just built it – Manhattan project – and rearing to test if it was any good. So two test shots in a risk-free zone..

          • Weaver

            They tested it first at TRINITY, you know. They already knew it worked.

          • Bonkim

            The debate continues whether it was necessary – or simply because it was there and can be used against the Yellow peril with impunity.

          • Gary Tongue

            Yellow peril?

          • Weaver

            Yeah. Weird, right? China wasn’t communist until ’49. Maybe Bonkim is confused, as normal.

          • Gary Tongue

            Yeah, and he’s taking to ME like I’m thick.

          • Chris Morriss

            They already knew the ONE of the two bomb designs worked. The other one was previously untested.

          • Weaver

            Yes, they tested the uncertain design at TRINITY.

          • Weaver

            Yes, the Bombs were cheaper in both US, and Japanese life. The peaceniks have a hard time getting their heads around that.

            ~150,000 died by fire or otherwise at H & N, but that’s nothing compared to Japanese deaths if the war had continued through winter ’45, with more conventional bombing and starvation in the home islands and OLYMPUS in spring.

          • The Masked Marvel

            The second bomb was dropped because Japanese leadership were determined to keep going despite the first. How many Japanese citizens do you think would have been killed during a conventional assault, probably lasting weeks if not months? Far more than were killed by the two bombs, you can be sure.

            If, that is, loss of civilian life actually is the most important thing to you.

          • Bonkim

            Suggest that to the Israelis for a quick fix of the Gaza question. Better to go in a puff than lingering deaths over decades.

          • The Masked Marvel

            Are you a BBC journalist? They’re the ones convinced the vaporisation of all Palestinians is Israel’s ultimate goal. Sane, non-Judeophobic people understand that the elimination of Hamas is the only road to peace and the safety of Palestinian women and children, but that won’t be accomplished by a simple bombing campaign. After all, Hamas leadership are the ones benefiting from both the BBC-sanctioned tunnels and war crimes laws which designated hospitals and schools as safety zones.

          • Bonkim

            Can’t comment on the BBC which and its high class reporting. But logically the Palestinians are refugees created by a foreign occupation of their historic lands. they are Muslims – a dark-ages bigoted religion unlikely to deviate from their chosen path, determined and bent on destroying Israel however silly it may look with their puny rockets, and Hams is an idea and ideas fester on and grow regardless of how many leaders are killed off by Israel.

            Looking at the situation dispassionately only way for peace for one side to eliminate the other completely. The Israelis are too strong to give up or beated in the immediate future particularly with overseas support and aid.

            Hence the point about nuking Hamas and all others in Palestine as the only way forward. The others in the region appear to put up with the show – that has run for decades and powerless to intervene.

            With ISIS on the rise Israel needs to think hard – as ideas don’t die until the last believer goes. The Jews should know that better than all others – they have been at the receiving end for two Millennia.

          • The Masked Marvel

            The second bomb was dropped because Japanese leadership were determined to keep going despite the first. How many Japanese citizens do you think would have been killed during a conventional assault, probably lasting weeks if not months? Far more than were killed by the two bombs, you can be sure.

            If, that is, loss of civilian life actually is the most important thing to you.

          • fred lapides

            I dislike the atom ending to ww2 but in fact the people of japan were pledged to die in fighting off the “invader,” so better them than our troops.

          • Weaver

            Japanese forces had certainly not broken (or they wouldn’t be fighting to the death, would they?). There was no serious discussion in cabinet of surrender prior to Hiroshima (they put out some weak feelers via USSR, but that’s about it), and even after both bombs the militarist faction attempted a limited coup which was only subverted by Hirohito’s intervention.

            I’ve never, ever, met a serious military historian who went with the “japanese were about to surrender anyway” argument. It’s just competely without any foundation. I challenge you to produce anything documentation that supports such a claim.

          • Bonkim

            You have to understand the militaristic mind of the Japanese war-lords – their motto was not to give up. Japanese troops and civilians – men, women and children would commit suicide by jumping off cliffs in Taiwan and other Pacific islands than surrender. Losing face was worse than death. Kami Kaze, Hara Kiri – all part of the game.

            In military terms agree standards prevailing at the time not just in Japan but also in the US (the Negroes were regularly lynched, the US Army was segregated with blacks given the dirty work, etc, – treated as sub-humans – no different from the German view of super-race or the Japanese view of all others as inferior and particular treatment of Europeans, etc). People were treated badly in all societies across the globe by the majority and most took that as natural order. In that context US nuking Japan was not considered inhuman – the Japs were considered subhuman and that was retaliation for Pearl Harbour.

            Regards Chinese and racism – look around the region all are extremely racist in their view of other people – Europeans were seen as white devils – and treated the Chinese (the term Coolie was the applied term for Chinese) no different from the Japanese occupying forces of their comfort-women.

            No angels there.

          • Weaver

            So…now the Japanese were NOT about to surrender? We’re actually agreed?

            (Incidentally, a lot of the deaths on Iwo Jima etc seem to have been murder rather than suicide, as enthusiastic Japansese troops “saved” their compatriots from the “dishonour” of capture. Please bear in mind we can all read wikipedia!)

            In fairness, it may amuse you to know, when discussing the poisonous fruit of Bushido, the level to which the Japanese home population actually supported the war was notably weakening by 1945. The war cabinet had a lot of secret research commissioned which makes fascinating reading! The general mood might be summarised as “we are trapped in a burning building but must be fatalistic about it”.

            The point is Japan was not on the verge of surrender. There is no documentary evidence to support such an assertion, and no serious military historan believes it.

          • Bonkim

            People read history and travelled years before there was Wikipedia. You don’t nuke civilians just because they were not surrendering – in military history you use a weapon because you have it and others don’t – the same with the Gattling gun. Once others have it you become more cautious – the theory of Nuclear defence became – deterrent – not actually using it for mutual annihilation. Don’t try to draw parallels with the US mindset of the 1940s with today’s views of morality and justice – the debate on the use of nuclear at hiroshima and Nagasaki – yes Shock and Awe – undecided.

          • Weaver

            Do you have any documentary evidence for your central claim that Japan was about to surrender anyway?

            Anything at all? (Of course you don’t; there isn’t any.)

            Post your evidence or keep your silence. And stop dissimilating when you’re called on something. Its an unpleasant habit.

          • Bonkim

            I don’t but look up Boston Globe August 7 2011 for another view looking at the circumstances.

            http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2011/08/07/why_did_japan_surrender/

          • Weaver

            Your theory of military history is absolutely fascinating. In the way a car crash is fascinating.

            Freedman himself taught me nuclear strategy, so I don’t think I need a primer from yourself .

          • John Unsworth

            Well said…Racism on every level….just another clear example of fallen nature….

          • Gary Tongue

            How could a colonialist society (Japan), justify a hatred for European colonialsts?
            So are you saying: Asians good/Europeans bad?

          • Bonkim

            Comment on the report – not half-witted comments on other comments.

          • Terry Field

            I thought Japan was in the East. Funny, that.

          • rightrightright

            The Ottomans slaughtered an estimated 1.25 million Armenian Christians 100 years ago. There appears to be no commemoration of this genocide being planned.

          • Gary Tongue

            What’s more, the nazis were pagan, not Christian.

          • Weaver

            Well, I regard Christianity as an incidental factor in WWII/Slavery/Holocaust perpetrators (clue – these people were certainly NOT all Christian), whilst I regard Islam as a necessary factor in ISIS (clue – these people ARE all muslims).

            Given the incidence of Islamic-inspired violence about the world, and the relative absence of Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, and Taoist-inspired violence, I think it is entirely reasonable to suspect a problem with Islam.

          • Bonkim

            Not accidental factor – but culmination of two Millennia of Christian persecution of Jews (particularly by the Roman Church). Jews were historically used as cash cows by the state and ruling classes and conveniently disposed off when they could pay their debts.

            The Germans by and large were Christians, Hitler had his pact with the Vatican and Nazi flags flew from Church spires across Germany. German state subsidises Churches. You have to have right social condition and ethical mindset to allow the state to carry on killing those generally considered sub-human – not just Jews but also Roman Gypsies, and the disabled, carry out medical experimentation, etc. Jews, Poles, and other Slavs were considered subhuman and inducted in slave labour, etc, too – it all flourished within a largely Christian Germany – so don’t make excuses for that – same as slavery, genocide of the American Indians, and other forms of discrimination and exploitation took place in North America within a largely Christian society.

          • Damaris Tighe

            But those who fought N*zi Germany were also Christians.

          • Bonkim

            Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and people with no religion in large numbers all fought Germany and Japan in WW2.

          • Weaver

            Nearly all religions and none fought on all sides. There’s simply no correlation in WWII.

          • Weaver

            Bonkim,

            This is just untrue in the first premise. Hitler and Co were, at best, only nominally christian. Certainly Christianity was not a major part of the lives of their lives or ideology. They were as a group considerably less religious than the background german population, using the usual metrics of church attendance etc. Hitler’s own metaphysics seem to have been some kind of weird natavist deism.

            Catholic areas were substantially less likely to vote nazi than the average German, even after controlling for wealth effects. The church struck a deal, but never liked Hitler. Tensions continued through the war. (Now I happen to think that the Vatican’s attitude was craven, but it travesties the data to imply they supported Hitler). C’mon, you did this in A-level, right?

            The debate about the roots of German anti-semitism deserves a longer post, but this will have to do for now.

          • Bonkim

            It would be impossible to analyse the mindsets of Germans during the first half of the 20th century and also that of Christian Europe through the centuries before that on today’s views on morality and justice. Suffice it to say racial, sectarian and cultural differences and prejudices against people outside the closed groups were the norm rather than the exception across the Globe. Regards the Catholic Church and people that followed Rome deep-seated prejudice against the Jews was historic often incorporated in their prayers – many others in the predominantly Catholic countries that Germany invaded – Poland, Ukraine, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, the Baltic States, etc, actively supported Germany and also took up employment in the extermination camps. Pope Pius asked the US Army not to post Black GIs in the Vatican, etc. As in the US during segregation, it was easy to be anti-Negro or anti-Jew simply because the prevailing ethos saw these people as subhuman and OK to detest/pity them for their state in society. Same in many parts of Africa, Mid-East, and Asia today where certain groups are seen as slave nations and not deserving the usual respect afforded to those that are seen as part of the society.

            Regards A level history – I have been following world history for all my life and have great regard for Germany and the achievements of Germany in many fields of science, engineering, and social organisation despite the death camps and other features of Germany’s dark past.

            The German state supports organised religion (Christianity) even now and collects religious tax from all residents unless you formally opt out. There was a recent case of a German being barred from a national Rifle shooting title because he was a Muslim. Religious affiliation need not equate to belief in God – religion has been and is a mark of ones society regardless of people understanding the theology or belief in the trimmings of their religious badge.

          • Weaver

            You dissimilate when called out on facts. Rather than contest the claim (“Nazis were not christian”), you wander off into a wholly unrelated point. (“Catholic church was anti-semitic/racist”).

            Perhaps you don’t actually realise you’re doing it. But its a really unpleasant habit in argument. Useful as a mere rhetorical device, of course, but a fatal flaw in an analyst and totally useless against a trained opponent.

            I have to fail people at interview for that sort of behaviour.

          • Bonkim

            Logical analysis involves huge numbers of factors and we are wasting our time dissecting the rationale of decisions made by people long gone at a time when values and motives quite different from what we assume to be the norm today with our limited knowledge. Historians interpret events based on their biases. I am open minded – don’t reject any though from others including yours – and asking for documentary proof is silly.

          • http://peacebyjesus.witnesstoday.org/ Peace By JESUS

            You are using a definition of “Christian” that is far removed from where the term originated. (Acts 11:26)

            Christ was Jewish and primarily sought their salvation first, though dying for all, Paul was Jewish and willing to go to Hell if it meant the salvation of the Jews. But it was the latter who persecuted the Christians, while i suspect they were not exactly endearing themselves to the rest of Germany by their attitude and actions, though i could be wrong.

            But in any case there is no excuse for their persecution and the holocaust, and the strongest supporters of Israel today are evangelicals.

          • Gary Tongue

            Hitler was a pagan.

          • Bonkim

            Good for him.

        • Gary Tongue

          Very incisive G2. We need to stop the genetic feeling of Western guilt and act decisively.

      • zanzamander

        I agree and in this and many other respects, Christianity and Islam are same: two horses pulling the same cart. Proselytisation is their game.

        Pope Francis is in Korea. I ask what business has Christianity in Korea – a country with many traditional, indigenous and tolerant faiths that has nothing in common with a faith like Christianity which was founded thousands of miles away in the desserts of Middle East and sprang from the conflict within another monotheist faith?

      • Agha Memnun

        Could more than 700 years of Islamic rule and militarism, the sacking of churches and monasteries, the enslavement of Christians as chattel and concubines, the raiding of defenseless unfortified agrarian settlements, the investment and taking of fortifications subsequently looted and occupied or razed to the ground, could any of that had any influence on Spanish Catholicism?

        • Bonkim

          I suppose yes but the Maghrebi Muslim Empire in Iberia was benevolent and human, given to promoting art and culture – they did not eliminate Christianity in Iberia but cooperated in many ways. But love and war – spare no force, take no prisoners – that is the basics. Islamic conquests were usually followed by plunder and pillage, taking slaves, etc, etc – not a lot different from the other religions that engaged in wars in the dark and middle ages. That was the norm.

          Regards Christianity – the commandment is to turn the other cheek and accept martyrdom if it comes to that. Of course the Church of Rome is a commercial and political organisation and Christ’s teaching have no value there. Muslims destroyed Churches and Christian edifices simply because they were idolatrous and the Roman Church most idolatrous and pagan of all the Christian denominations. Many Christians believing in the Bible think so too – not just Muslims.

          • Gary Tongue

            Ok for Muslims to destroy Christian churches SIMPLY because they thought they were idolatrous? Who made you sheriff?
            Your arrogance is obscene and gives your bigotry away. Eat slugs.

          • Bonkim

            very arrogant and obscene. Keep away.

          • Gary Tongue

            Keep away? What DO you mean? I’m not the only one to notice that you seem too expect to be allowed to spout your nonsense with impunity. Don’t come on a forum if you don’t want to be challenged.

          • Bonkim

            I shall comment what I feel is appropriate. You can bray as much as you like – your comments lack intellectual merit – you are a troll without brains – who wants your comments? But you had your say – that is what freedom of speech is all about – even donkeys have their say. Not expecting your comments but you are free to bray. You don’t make rules on this site.

          • Gary Tongue

            The large amount of words you use does not necessarily equate to an intellectual output. I am not a troll and “eat slugs” was mild rebuke for your ignorant comments about Catholics. If they wish to be idolatrous, it’s non of your business. They are not, however and it’s here that you display your lack of knowledge. I was unaware I was making the rules for the site, just pointing out what you should expect on a forum. Calling someone stupid when they disagree with you is the last resort of an ignorant, arrogant fool.

          • Bonkim

            Good luck. Agree Catholics have their right for idolatry and pagan rituals and festivals. The only problem is they call themselves Christian – Look up the Bible and what it says about idolatry and following pagan cultural practices.

            Not all who shout Lord Lord will inherit the kingdom of God.

          • Gary Tongue

            What’s that book again? Never heard of it.

          • Bonkim

            You must be a Muslim!

          • Gary Tongue

            Sarcasm is not your strength, is it?

          • Bonkim

            Definitely a Muslim.

          • Gary Tongue

            CBA now.

          • Gary Tongue

            Keep away? What DO you mean? I’m not the only one to notice that you seem too expect to be allowed to spout your nonsense with impunity. Don’t come on a forum if you don’t want to be challenged.

  • MissDemeanor

    actually ISIS is acting exactly like islam is supposed to.

    I am shocked more at everybody’s surprise. Have they not seen the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Hiztub Tahrir, Boko Haram, and the other 150+ islamist terrorist organisations around the world?

    THAT’S how Islam started, that’s exactly how Islam ‘conquered’ the world.

    ISIS is behaving exactly like Mohamed behaved when spreading Islam.

    • Advocatus_Diaboli_69

      Exactly, but people are still searching for answers and end up blaming western colonialism (while being blind the Moorish invasions) or Israel. It’s ridiculous, but slowly the message is getting through.

      • http://www.drivebyplanet.com/ j_600

        Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the historical record understands that western colonialism created the conditions that help to motivate and drive these movements. You can’t go around the world carving out artificial countries, arbitrary borders and importing your laws, religion, army and rip-off bandits aka merchants and shipping without reaping a whirlwind. The fact that you aren’t prepared to acknowledge this reality is beside the point – it is what is going down.

        With respect to Israel – likewise another colonial-settler state that stole the land from the indigenous Palestinians and now commits atrocity after atrocity imagining that it has no debt to pay or consequence to face. It is living on borrowed time. Israel is digging its own grave with its murderous operations in Gaza – a contest that despite the Palestinian death toll – Israel is losing.

        • Advocatus_Diaboli_69

          You seem to have a very one-sided knowledge of historical records and a very inaccurate one at that. Read a book, not a blog.

        • Terry Field

          You are an idiot and understand nothing.

          • N Choozy

            Least he/she puts forward a coherent argument rather than childish insults.

        • fred lapides

          dear guest: jump in the red sea and drown.

        • Weaver

          Why is Islamic terrorism is a problem over the whole world and not just the middle east?

          Why don’t other religions/countries, equally subject to colonialism, create the same problems?

          Why didn’t Turkish colonialism and similar behaviour elicit the same reaction?

          Why the strange 50-year lag before cause and effect?

          Your explantory variable does NOT explain your dependent variable efficiently. You have to look at all the data and not just “tell a story”; any idiot can do that.

          (Also, many of your statements are un-testable or false, but I though I’d point out your argument was unsound before getting to the invalid bit.)

          • N Choozy

            Um… the reference in the guest post to colonialism as forming “the background” to many present day conflicts is obviously true. Speaking of idiots you’d have to be a very big one indeed to pretend that isn’t the case. British colonial rule in NIgeria as an example set up the conditions that Boko Haram is reacting against. The Christianized peoples in the south of the country… Ibos and others… only became so by dint of proselytization by Mary Slessor types who wanted to save the heathen etc. Even the very name Boko Haram is a reaction to western education and as they see it, indoctrination.

          • Weaver

            I fear it is not “obviously” true to me.

            I see you are a fan of the single sample inductive method of argument. “In country X, Y did Z, and then A happened. ” Hence Z causes A!”

            Unfortunately, this is neither nor logic nor analysis. Specifically, your Nigeria points are both hasty induction and post hoc fallacies.

            Firstly, you need to define colonialism in a way that it is meaningful and measurable. Saying a conflict is caused by “colonialism” is a bit like saying it is caused by people wearing the wrong sort of clothes. The term is too vague for argument; you can stick the label anywhere you want and ignore the inconvenient cases.

            Second you need to list conflicts. All of them; not just the ones that happen in “convenient” places for your argument. You have to look at the cases that don’t fit too; the peaceful ex-colonies and turbulent non-colonies.

            Thirdly, with all of that, you need the background rate of “colonialism”, and conflict incidence, and address potential lag effects between them. Is there any correlation?

            Well, there’s actually a field called conflict studies which actually looks at this sort of proposition in a testable way. It may surprise you to know there’s hardly any link between colonialism and conflict a short while after decolonialisation. In the meantime, could we shelve the insults?

          • Gary Tongue

            N Choozy
            These “Indoctrinated” people can still walk away or change their minds. “Convert or die.” is a less manageable option.
            Just because ideas accompanied colonialism, it doesn’t give license to combat these ideas with what can only be described as obscenity.
            Although Christianity has had a bloody past, it IS a religion of peace now. Many elements of Islam are unreconstructed and do not belong in the 21st century.
            Reference to colonialism does not constitute an excuse for barbarity, especially as Islam is just as historically guilty.

        • Gwangi

          Actually, Muslims stole ALL their lands from the non-Muslims who lived there in peace – all over the Middle East and north Africa and central Asia. I believe the bloodthirsty Muslims gave the locals a choice: convert and be our slaves, or get beheaded. Plus ca change…
          And I see you are not blaming the empires ruled by people ‘of colour’, only those nasty white European ones, even though the British empire gave far more than it took and was the most benevolent in history. COMPARE please to the vile African empires (the Zulu king Chaka killed 1.5 million people), the numerous barbarian African and Asian empires of old, from the Muslim Moghuls, to Ghengis Khan, to the Japanese 20th century empire…
          To blame the British and ole empires for individuals NOW choosing to behave like barbarians slaughtering and butchering innocent men, women and children would be like a Brit blaming the Romans for his becoming a serial killer and raypist. It is, frankly, a red herring and sick disgusting excuse made by useful idiots – the same ignorant white ‘liberals’ who pander to anyone with a dark skin and a religion, even if they are fascist monsters.

          • N Choozy

            You should start a comic book.

          • Gwangi

            Oh but if I did all these vibrant and diverse and always peaceful and enriching Islamomuppets would want to behead me, sonny…
            No doubt then you would defend them and say I deserved it because I had drawn a cartoon and because white Europeans once had empires (though no-one ever mentions the brutal and vile Islamic empires like that of Mohammed itself which traded and rayped women and children for a millennium before white Europeans ever traded slaves with Africans!)

          • global city

            This is justified in the jihadist’s mind by the understanding that all land on earth belongs to Allah and they are simply reclaiming it…..nice, circular, closed. All of this stuff is in the Koran and it’s associated documents.

            Also, in answer to ‘guest’, your idiocy neglects the basi point that the jihadist cause is global. You are their enemy as much as anyone else. arse-licking and strangulating rationale will not save you.

          • http://peacebyjesus.witnesstoday.org/ Peace By JESUS

            Wow!

            Israel lost its land to conquerors, and in turn was given part of the land back by a succeeding conqueror. Israel losts its home to the Assyrians and the Babylonians respectively, and which was followed by
            Persian rule and then the Seleucid Kingdom, followed by the Romans,
            then Byzantine, Islamic, Crusader rule. And finally, the UK took control from the Ottomans, and which conqueror in turn gave Israel a homeland.

            And which offered approx. half the land and statehood to the Palestinians, who effectively had moved in as squatters, not even as a governed state, but they refused it, as they wanted it All.

            And thus they immediately sought to liquidate Israel. And lost, resulting in a
            series of wars initiated by Muslim nations still trying to nuke Israel,
            which is only blamed by the Left for defending itself.

        • itbeso

          “You can’t go around the world carving out artificial countries, arbitrary borders and importing your laws, religion, army and rip-off bandits aka merchants and shipping without reaping a whirlwind. ”
          As that, in a nutshell, is the history of man since the birth of civilisation then appparently you can and we have! Doesn’t mean the artifial formation of Israel wasn’t another hugely stupid idea but it’s here and we need to urgently to deal with it and find a solution. No I have no idea what we do it’s a complete and utter mess like the rest of the ME. Hamas however have no excuse for their actions whether or not Israel should or should not have been set up

        • robert110369

          the palestinians took the land of israel from the jews. that land was promised to the jewish people by God, of abraham, isaac and jacob.God has given the land back to jews, as most dont deserve it but it is God’s plan nonetheless. any other belief is false and untrustworthy

    • http://www.theaugeanstables.com rlandes

      and yet, in the mid aughts, when the damage was being done, specialists would tell us that salafis were not necessarily jihadis, and many were moderates. the surprise comes from the unwillingness of so many in the west to think independently and so many “information professionals” to fullyu misinform.

    • Shazza

      Spot on.

      When they have finished their conquest of the Fertile Crescent, they will turn their attention to Europe.

      They will use the same MO and they will win.

      Who will stop them?

    • Terry Field

      They comply with the Koran’s Third Stage of Jihad. They will win.
      The West will disappear. Theresa May’s powers are like fighting a raging inferno with a water-pistol.

  • zanzamander

    Monotheism is essentially an intolerant ideology. It says to all devotees of other gods that they will go to hell, consider their religious duty to convert others, insults them and their gods and when all else fails, kills them.

    Look around the world, even go back to the melting pot of the “Fertile Crescent” and you’ll see that it was Polytheists who lived happily with others until the army of monotheists paid them a visit.

    • Damaris Tighe

      Polytheists may have not forcibly converted members of other faiths, but they still conquered, pillaged & massacred their way around Mesopotamia. Have you forgotten the Babylonians & Assyrians to name but two notorious armies of conquerers?

    • http://www.theaugeanstables.com rlandes

      monotheism is not the problem. imperialist monotheism, based on the principle that only “We” go to heaven, and “we” are doing the world a favor by converting “them” to “us”, is the problem. that’s christians (up until recently) and muslims (still and worse). don’t do collateral damage with crude analyses.

    • edlancey

      “Polytheists who lived happily with others”

      That sort of wishful thinking is the hallmark of the halfwit.

    • Agha Memnun

      “Holy war in the ancient [polytheist/henotheist] Near East was holy in the sense of its being enjoined by the gods and fought for the extension of their land (identical with that of their servants).” God’s Rule: Government and Islam, Patricia Crone, page 365

  • excel

    “The future of the Alawites is bound inseparably to that of their co-religionist, the blood-stained president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad. As for the Yezidis, targeted as they are for extermination by the slave-taking, atrocity-vaunting murderers of the Islamic State, how can they possibly survive in their ancient homeland?”

    You have answered your own question there!

  • Aldabaran

    Er, yes. But the ISIS people are hardly the first to smash up the past in the Arabian peninsula (ignoring the activities of the Buddha-smashing Talibans in Afghanistan.) Saudi Arabia smashes down old houses from the 19th century and earlier. It does not even allow veneration of the Prophet’s tomb. And the US and its 2003 invasion of Iraq have a lot to answer for. Has anyone ever been called to account for the fact that its officers plonked their main military base slap on top of the unexcavated site of Ctesiphon, the Sassanid Persian capital? No apologies for that — or for permitting the looting of Baghdad Archaeological Museum.

    • http://www.theaugeanstables.com rlandes

      sense of perspective is not really your specialty is it?

    • montague_stjohn

      The site is near Al-Mada’in; there is no US base on top of it.

    • Weaver

      You mean, the place the early Muslims burned down?

  • https://sites.google.com/site/deanjackson60/home Dean Jackson

    “From the dawn of civilisation, the Fertile Crescent has been a cradle to strange and fascinating sects. Not any more”

    Of course not, since the Moscow & Allies’ American-tasked Islamic State is in Iraq, whose masked members are Ukrainian troops, which is how Kiev lost control of the Ukraine late last December, resulting in the toppling of hundreds of hated statues to Lenin, statues that were supposed to have been toppled back in early 1992 if the collapse of the USSR had been real and not the obvious strategic ruse it was.

    Now you know why Russia had to intervene in the Ukraine last February, to assist Ukrainian Communists in re-establishing “order”.

    • AJH1968

      What on earth are you taking for your condition?

  • edlancey

    IS-lam – the destroyer of worlds.

    It seems clear that Islam spread exactly like this – kill the men and rape the women.

    • Bonkim

      Yes and subsequently copied by the Conquistadores.

      • https://sites.google.com/site/deanjackson60/home Dean Jackson

        And perfected by the Marxists.

      • girondas2

        So muslims taught the world to rape and murder.
        That’s some claim to fame

        • Agha Memnun

          Rape and murder are timeless and universal, and embedded in countless ideologies. So, I wouldn’t go that far.

          • fred lapides

            all this back and forth. here then is a simple explanation:
            the Catholics and the newly formed protestants fought for some 100 plus years till such time as national states arrived in Europe..then religion receded to the background of the State. With the Enlightenment, came science, technology and progress in all areas of life.
            This did not happen in the Arab/Muslim world,and religion controlled education and all state issues…and this, still at work, is why so many supporters of Arabs and Muslims refer not the the present but to the once glorious achievements of the Islamic past. But there is no Islamic present to boast aboutk, except for money and oil and despotic rule, and jihad, and non-rights for citizens and policing of the public for infractions of shaia law

      • Agha Memnun

        Indeed–the same tactics of slaughter and rapine used by Almanzor and his ghazis in late 10th century Leon and Catalonia were later put to good use by the conquistadors in Peru and Mexico. The particularly virulent strain of Spanish Catholicism that reached the New World was forged by the influence of Islamic militarism in the Iberian peninsula.

      • Agha Memnun

        Indeed–the same tactics of slaughter and rapine used by Almanzor and his ghazis in late 10th century Leon and Catalonia were later put to good use by the conquistadors in Peru and Mexico. The particularly virulent strain of Spanish Catholicism that reached the New World was forged by the influence of Islamic militarism in the Iberian peninsula.

        • Bonkim

          We all learn from each other – that is progress.

          • Lidlscanner

            Progress is progressive liberalism’s most deadly delusion spread with liberal abandon causing untold misery and mayhem.

          • Bonkim

            progress simply means going ahead – no value judgement there and progress can also be regressive – value is what the user allocates – and could vary. Progress to ISIS is how many more heads they can chop next week.

  • Dr. Heath

    ‘The Shadow of the Sword’ is well worth reading, as is ‘From the Holy Mountain’, by William Dalrymple. Holland’s book provides an accessible history of the spread of Islam eastwards and contains much that is relevant to the religion’s totalitarian [it is as intolerant and totalitarian as both the Byzantine and Roman Christianities of its day] essence. Dalrymple’s book, a work which I read before the descent into genocide precipitated by Assad’s deranged assault on the very fragile civil society of Syria, is a heart-rending depiction of a world of culture and tolerance on the verge of annihilation by Dark Ages barbarism.

    • Roger Hudson

      Assad was reacting to those who were upsetting the ethnic stasis that was cemented by the Ba’ath system and enforced by the muhabarat .
      Why we supported a few iPad wielding liberals, when we should have known that terrible dark forces would exploit them, i don’t know.

    • excel

      ‘Ravished Armenia’ was a first hand written account (there was a film too) by Aurora Mardiganian of the genocide inflicted on Christians in that region – the descriptions of what was done to men, women and children mirror exactly what we are seeing today. What is happening now transcends anything that Assad may have initiated, these are hatreds that run back through the centuries. The book can be downloaded for free on the internet.

  • Picquet

    A centuries-long parade of deep stupidity, then. One wonders why they bothered eating or breathing if they all thought they were to live for ever after being buried.

  • Cymrugel

    I agree wholeheartedly with every word.

    That said what is to be done?

    Islam as currently practised is a barbaric blight upon the earth. It’s not just ISIS or Al Qaeda. The rot is extensive – if it ever really was a force for civilisation.

    Either it must be forcibly changed to an extent where it will simply not resemble currently Islam or it must be eradicated as Nazism was after ww2.

    Failing that this cancer of an ideology will reduce the world to a new dark age.

    We need to get ready for an existential battle of civilisations.

    We have spent far too much time sitting on our complacent backsides assuming that muslims think as we do.

    They don’t.

    They want to replace our culture and civilisation with their own.

    They are enemies and this needs to be recognised.

    • Icebow

      And we need to deal with the facilitator. Along with any counter-Mohammedan legislation, we need a Cultural Marxism (Eradication) Act, which would have consequences for personnel departments; ‘political correctness’ is cultural treason.

      • vieuxceps2

        Quite agree. Islam (not Islamism which is a PC construct ) and Political Correctness itself are highly toxic to rational people.We must all strive to root them both out of acceptable thought.They each deny the freedom of speech but more importantly of thought which is the basis of civlisation.

    • Chris Morriss

      Back in the European medieval period, Islam certainly was a force for progress and intellectual development. It went badly downhill during the Ottoman hegemony, but the final nail in the coffin was the rise to power of the House of Saud.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Two problems facing civilization today: Over-population and Islam. Two birds, one stone …

    • Bonkim

      Overpopulation and resource depletion will kill off Islam as they will the rest of the human populations on earth – may be one or two centuries if not decades.

    • rightrightright

      Across the ME today there is a youth bulge of 100 million Moslem young for whom there is little chance of employment and a reliance on imported food.

  • Innit Bruv

    The US and Britain have done quite a bit of smashing up in Iraq too ….

    • Agha Memnun

      Historically, not as much as Islamic iconoclasts. Sorry.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Those with more than a passing interest in this field, would do worse than to examine the books by Peter Hopkirk, specifically “Foreign Devils on the Silk Road: The Search for the Lost Cities and Treasures of Chinese Central Asia”. History that was never mentioned in school.

    • Chris Morriss

      Or even William Dalrymple’s book, “From the Holy Mountain”. Although Dalrymple annoys me as being more narcissist than even Patrick Leigh Fermor, he is erudite and a good writer. This book is worth reading to get a feel for the terrible persecutions that the near and middle east Christian and heterodox communities have suffered.

  • The Masked Marvel

    Perhaps it is destroying what’s left of the melting pot of Mesopotamia, but we ought not do anything about it because it’s the fault of Bush and Blair.

    • Terry Field

      Indeed it is.

    • wjr123

      The root fault of all of this is Churchill and the division of the Middle East after World War I. Nearly every bleeding sore that Europe and the West in general suffers is due to the amazing stupidity of early 20th Century European politicians. B&B were simply bit players in a subsequent act in this tragedy.

      Read T. E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom to review this folly.

      Only one of two things will come out of this in the long run. Either Islam will look away from the 7th Century to the future or Islam will eventually be destroyed.

      It need not be the West that pulls the trigger, however, as China is quite pragmatic and sanguinary when needed. And China is much less likely to put up with the nonsense and fantasy that is the zeitgeist of the Middle East today.

      • Weaver

        Ah, Seven Pillars of Wisdom!

        “Tuesday; Faisal’s camel caught a cold. Lying in his tent as he cursed the men out of Jeddah, I had a vision of a giant wave of snot smiting our enemies from Aqaba to the Dasmascus railroad. How simple it would be, I mused to create such a thing from all the useless men we had stuck in Alexandria! I sent a telegram via a sweet running boy I had befrieded. His frantic wrigglings reminded me of the Turk so near at hand, with his swarthy, despotic ways. How terrible it would be if they were possess this boy, with his fierce, innocent savagery! I felt I understood Arabia a little more, or myself a little less.

        I woke from my uneasy dream and found I needed to eat. A gunboat had come from Djibouti with despatches, but no news from my literary agent. The arabs fell to arguing and we slept unsated.”

        • wjr123

          Now try Churchill’s Folly by Christophee Carherwood. ISBN: 0-7867-1557-X.

          • wjr123

            Christopher. Fingers.

          • Weaver

            It overstates the case. The post-WWI settlement in Arabia was the work of many UK-French hands and previous commitments.

          • wjr123

            Of course — a good title sells books. None-the-less the “great minds” who brought us the incredible recurring disaster of WWI and the redux that was WWII stirred the pot in the Middle East for imperial gain. Now, yet again, we need to clean up their mess.

            Think of the treasure, the deaths and the social disasters that this bunch created. They destroyed Europe twice, effectively removed Britain from the world stage as a key player and gave us the ongoing disaster of aggressive Marxist states and all of the misery associated therein. Now we get a bunch of religious idiots playing 7th Century Caliphate dream games. And, I suspect, the end of their disastrous ripples has not yet been seen.

            To quote the great philosopher Bugs Bunny; “What a bunch of maroons!”

          • Weaver

            It’s hard to condemn without considering the counterfactual; what would have worked better and been practical to implement?

            I’m not sure the post war ME settlement including the mandate was unusually bad. The mean lifespan of British-sponsored states in the region compares favourably with other post-colonial cases; arguably not bad in a region with weak instituions and state tradition.

      • The Masked Marvel

        True enough. I have read the history. I was sarcastically quoting the conventional reason given for staying out of it.

        As for China, the only triggers they’re pulling for now are when they shoot Uighers. We shall see how that plays out. Funny how the likes of Anjem Choudray aren’t sending Bradford lads off to fight the Chinese, eh?

        • wjr123

          Choudray! Makes you yearn for the old days when tarred heads were impaled at the Tower.

  • Terry Field

    ISIS is a bit like McDonalds. Bland, Bland, Universlly Bland. Fries be upon them.

    • Bonkim

      Not funny!

      • Terry Field

        You surprise me. I consider bitter humour the only thing left in a world where the British government and its corrupted Servants lie about everything of consequence, to an extent not seen since the Soviet Union at its most rabid.

        • Bonkim

          Bitter sweet. Don’t blame the civil servants or the politicians they are doing their best.

          • Gary Tongue

            Again, you can’t answer… but expect to be taken seriously.

          • Bonkim

            Keep guessing – if your mind can go that far.

      • Gary Tongue

        Why is it not funny? You seem quite intelligent. Have you no humour?

      • Gary Tongue

        Why is it not funny? You seem quite intelligent. Have you no humour?

  • Pepe Turcon

    A few nuclear devices fro Tripoli to Teheran is the only solution there otherwise it will be from London to Honkong, take your pick.

  • Bonkim

    Cradle of civilization being obliterated by ignorant bigots.

  • SmilingAtheist

    Thank you George W. ithout a brain BU-shit!

    • Damaris Tighe

      Eh? You’re American aren’t you.

    • wjr123

      No, idiots like you have screwed civilization up over and over again. Grow up.

  • Innit Bruv

    17th Jan 1991-end of Feb 1991.
    !00 000 sorties, 85 000 tons of bombs dropped on Iraq.
    Civilians targets damaged or destroyed (prohibited under international law):
    Power stations, ports,oil refineries,railroads bridges,dams,sewage treatment plants…
    You don’t know your facts!

    • wjr123

      The fact is that we used half measures. We need may more tons of bombs for a much longer cleaning out of the region. What we did was similar to not cutting out the entire cancer. Any surgeon will tell you that you need to get it all.

      • Innit Bruv

        How was bombing Saddam Hussein’s secular Iraq cutting out the islamist cancer?
        Once again you haven’t really read the comment properly,
        OR you don’t know the difference between the one and the other.
        In which case, why waste time taking part in these discussions?
        Has the Spectator become a dumping ground for former News of the World readers?

        • wjr123

          Innit, I read well enough. Secular culture. Ummmm. You mean the one that, in a secular way, of course, fed people to wood chopping machines. Or the one that murderd for fun and profit. Mostly profit unless his kids were involved.

          This was just another symptom of the sick Islamic society that needs to be ended. The entire Arab “culture” needs an enema.

          • Innit Bruv

            I know, I know… Pol Pot, Mussolini,Franco,Hitler.Stalin all of them Arabs. The Rwandan genocide, the massacre of Bosnians it’s dem Ayrabs again.
            PS: re the massacre of 7000 Bosnian Muslims,funny how the religion of the Serbs is ever brought into the discussion.

        • wjr123

          Oh, and BTW, the Moguls were originally Usbeki. Infected with the virus of Mecca, of course. I would tell you to look at Wiki on this but it is a total propaganda whitewash from dhmini leftists.

          • Innit Bruv

            “The Moguls were originally-propaganda from dhimmi leftists etc etc….
            Your’e obsessed, haven’t you anything better to do with your time?

          • Bonkim

            Uzbeks are of Central Asian/ Mongol stock – as are the Turks. The Mughals are considered Turko-Afghans – from the present day Tashkent and North Afghanistan. You appear to be more virulently anti-Muslim than looking at the situation dispassionately. Many Mughal Emperors were luke warm to Islam and not bigoted except Auranghazeb. They promoted Sufi Islam and incorporated many aspects of pacifism that prevailed on the subcontinent – you cannot build an Empire by killing all in it – but by building bridges and encouraging all to participate. Theirs was political Islam – pity today’s Muslims have been taken over by a bigoted and ignorant strant of their ancient belief.

    • Weaver

      Overwhelemingly battlefield targets by tonnage.

      http://www.afhso.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-100927-065.pdf

      You don’t know anything about the Law of Armed Conflict either, do you? Co-targetting is perfectly legal.

      • Innit Bruv

        Speak for yourself…Geneva convention Protocol 1,Article 52.
        Sewage treatment plants hardly qualify as legitimate military targets!!!

        • Weaver

          Speak for yourself,

          That site definately wasn’t on the ATO and wasn’t bombed. Here is a reference suitable for you.

          http://es.rice.edu/projects/Poli378/Gulf/gwtxt_ch6.html

          It failed afterwards, (partly) through sanctions, (partly) through loss of electrical power from power stations which were bombed, and (mostly) through poor maintenance/corruption.

          Get your facts straight, if you can. I’ve noticed the more people foam about LOAC the less they actually know about it and military operations generally. Its almost an inverse relationship of opinion to knowledge.

          • Innit Bruv

            Oh please!!!!
            Anyone with half a brain will know just how conveniently flexible and open to interpretation the LOAC is.
            That would help explain why a “civilized” nation like the US can get away with dumping millions of gallons of Agent Orange on “uncivilized” South-East Asia.
            As for Iraq, I would rather go by what some Iraqis I know have to say about the 1991 bombing campaign instead of a report to Congress. (The Americans .we now know, actually helped in the gassing of Iranian troops by sharing intelligence with the Iraqis knowing with full knowledge of what use it would be put to.Bet there wasn’t a report to Congress about that.)

          • Weaver

            Innit,

            Respectfully, you must know we must treat the “evidence” of your unknown Iraqi associates as hearsay; why do you even bother to raise it in argument? Let us behave like grown-ups here, shall we? You must document your claims. Photographs, reliable testimony, records; ; surely you must have learned this in college?

            You’re clearly driven by some kind of anger at the US and it’s really not productive to having a useful conversation.

            I’d suggest a wider reading on conflict in the 20th and 21st centruy to get a better sense of just how appalling most combatents are to each other and civilians, and to set US failings in context alongside those of others. The cross sectional data (Singer and Small) clearly shows the US is more scrupolous than most in its practise of warfare.

          • Innit Bruv

            Don’t HAVE to document anything since anything I may have learned from my “unknown Iraqi associates” was in a private context and not intended for public consumption.
            No anger at the US having lived there for a number of years and had a great time–you will have to do better than the simplistic and the cliched.
            Don’t have to read up on conflict in the 20th or 21st Century,humans have been appalling to one another in war since the beginning of time. The problem is that there have also always been apologists like yourself to justify all manner of barbarity.
            As for the Iranian example, it’s a no brainer: if some Third World country had supplied this type of evidence knowing what use it was going to be put to,said Third World country would have ended up,quite rightly, in the dock at the World Court. It also smacks of hypocrisy of the highest order that the use of WMDs was used as a pretext for the invasion of Iraq by the very country that helped Saddam Hussain use them in the first place. But then, you are probably too obtuse to see that….
            I would point that the original article was written on August 23 and that I doubt than anyone will be reading these exchanges which I personally find a waste of time since you don’t have anything to say that I haven’t heard umpteen times before. Feel free to not answer…….

          • Weaver

            Indeed. But the technical term for your Iraqi associate’s “evidence” is “hearsay”. It doesn’t get you anywhere in court, or with a trained opponent. How do I know it is not made from whole cloth? That is why we have rules for evidence in debate and law. Even if I grant you good faith, you could be mistaken, or your associate could be mistaken, or lying.

            (Incidentally, if we stoop to such things, I’ve been in presentations by the engineers who had to fix this stuff post 2003, not to mention the air force planners, so I know my way around Iraqi infrastructure and the target list pretty well….probably a LOT better than the average Iraqi!)

            “As for the Iranian example, it’s a no brainer: if some Third World country had supplied this type of evidence knowing what use it was going to be put to,said Third World country would have ended up,quite rightly, in the dock at the World Court.”

            No, they wouldn’t. Nations get away with far, far, worse things, and I suspect you are mature enough to know it when not angry.

            And…. the “world court” doesn’t actually deal with war crimes. You probably meant the ICC. (You see, I actually do understand International Law, so its a bit galling to be called an apologist by someone without any techncial qualifications in the field. Can we try to be more courteous?)

            I’m really not denying the US has done some very naughty things over the years. But the actual data says they are not as bad as most combatents, given their size and power (and there are reams of conflict studies statistics on this – you won’t find a serious military historian who thinks otherwise). You seem to apply a demand for moral perfection to the US that you don’t apply to other nations. It is this inconsistency that raises eyebrows. Hence my suggestion that its worth putting US wrongdoing in the context of other’s wrongdoing before reaching a judgement on black/white/shade of grey.

            I’m always interested in replies, if they are civil, of course.

          • Innit Bruv

            On the whole, I place morality way above”International” Law.
            Your professed expertise,therefore,cuts very little ice.
            These exchanges are pointless.

  • Innit Bruv

    PS: the Arab world can’t hold a candle to Europe when it comes to persecuting minorities (Holocaust,Russian pogroms,Inquisition) or producing dictators (Franco,Mussolini,Hitler,Stalin).

    • wjr123

      You need to read some history, Innit. The greatest slaughter ever to occur was what the Islamist Mogul’s did in India. Something on the order of 100 million.

      And, just to top it off, there is no form of government as bad as the dictatorship of the god struck. You need look no further than the first wave of assault upon the world by Islam. Convert, die or be a slave was the phrase of the time and now. Death before slavery and never to conversion.

      • Innit Bruv

        You need to pay closer attention to readers’ comments wjr123
        I was comparing recent ARAB and European history
        The centuries-old Muslim invasion of India was carried by Turks and Persians and couldn’t have been a great deal worse than the Spanish conquest of South America. How far back do you need to go?
        To the Romans maybe?

      • Bonkim

        Where did you learn that – yes killing those that opposed the invasion and enslaving women and children was the norm and not just by Muslims. The greatest numbers were from the invasions of Nadir Shah and the sacking of Mughal Delhi/North India.- the Islamic invasions and warfare was mainly constrained in North and North West India and these invasions frittered away as they went to central and South India – there was no india at the time in any case but a hotch potch of states and principalities many battling with each other with the Mughal Empire the dominant power.

        The population of the subcontinent which covered present day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and even Burma and Afghanistan was below 200 million – as such your 100 millions slaughtered is way out of context.

        The Mughals brought organisation and law and order to the subcontinent and encouraged arts and crafts, land tenure, improved infrastructure and communications, many aspects later expanded and improved by the British. No Empire can survive long or expand by mass killings or plunder – these are transient features such as the invasions of Nadir Shah in North India or Chengis Khan in Central Asia. the Mughals were an offshoot of the Central Asian Khanates that settled down in India and brought three centuries of order – left their mark on today’s India in many ways.
        .

  • tomgreaves

    There are few examples of archetypal tales of the hero playing out with quite so much drama as that being conjured by IS. They attract the heroic mentality that conflates religious zeal with sex, heaven and eternal life. The west must begin to understand how powerful these archetypal processes are, and how they seduce anyone seeking glory. IS is going nowhere. In fact, it will consolidate regardless of what armies are railed against it. Disempowered Muslims around the world will gravitate towards a homeland which promises freedom from western infidels. The big problems will arise, of course, when the radicals resident in the west are prevented from going out to join their comrades and so will fight on western soil. We are all in for a long period of internecine conflict, and without any form of irony, the echoes of Enoch Powell will amplify. His warning was ignored, but its predictability value won’t be.

    • wjr123

      Consolidate, please! A target rich environment is exactly what we need.

  • William

    Religion is a fool’s pursuit. It only causes more problems.

    • Bonkim

      But people want to believe in superstition that gives security in an uncertain world – also strength in numbers.

  • Mikaeel

    @Tom Holland:

    “There are the Alawites, who revere Plato as a prophet, believe in reincarnation, and pray towards the sun.”

    Sir, I think you are referring to the Zoroastrians. The Alawites were an offshoot of Shi’ah Islam and did not worship the Sun, nor consider Plato as a Prophet. Forgive me for correcting you, I am no one. Thanks :)

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