If Your God Is Better Than Their God, Is Peace Even Possible?

sunni v shiaI’d say at least 99.9% of the people I encounter daily have absolutely zero concept of the difference between Sunnis and Shi’ites; and that’s being generous. Iraq once was a nation that was fairly secular and not terribly fundamentalist in any way. The United States brilliantly marches in carrying freedom fries and liberty bells and voilà! The two warring sects of Islam are now at each other’s throats. When fundamentalists feel their religion is being mocked or modified in any way, like the Benghazi mastermind admitted after recently being captured by US Special Ops, they react with extreme fervor. Let’s go back to 2003 when 2008 GOP Presidential Candidate Senator John McCain offered this brilliant prediction of future  sectarian violence in Iraq:

“There is not a history of clashes that are violent between Sunnis and Shi’as so I think they can probably get along”.

Never have a group of people gotten things so wrong on EVERY issue and yet their opinion is sought for “news” programs.  It’s astonishing.  They invaded a country with no consideration for consequences, cost, loss of human life or a basic understanding of the complex history of the region.  Let me try to elucidate the difference between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims.

The Sunni branch believes that the first four caliphs–Mohammed’s successors–rightfully took his place as the leaders of Muslims. They recognize the heirs of the four caliphs as legitimate religious leaders. These heirs ruled continuously in the Arab world until the break-up of the Ottoman Empire following the end of the First World War.

…Shiites, in contrast, believe that only the heirs of the fourth caliph, Ali, are the legitimate successors of Mohammed. In 931 the Twelfth Imam disappeared. This was a seminal event in the history of Shiite Muslims. …Shiite Muslims, who are concentrated in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon, [believe they] had suffered the loss of divinely guided political leadership” at the time of the Imam’s disappearance. Not “until the ascendancy of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1978” did they believe that they had once again begun to live under the authority of a legitimate religious figure. Another difference between Sunnis and Shiites has to do with the Mahdi, “the rightly-guided one” whose role is to bring a just global caliphate into being.  The major difference is that for Shi`is he has already been here, and will return from hiding; for Sunnis he has yet to emerge into history: a comeback v. a coming out, if you will.”

Shia-Sunni-map-percentages

They simply disagree with each other like the  Scientologists disagree with Jehovah’s Witnesses, like Mormons disagree with Catholics etc. etc. etc. The difference is the American presence in the region made the two sects more extreme in their fundamentalist differences and created the violence that plagues the region.   Religions, none proven by science, are beliefs.   As the great Christopher Hitchens asserted:

We keep on being told that religion, whatever its imperfections, at least instills morality. On every side, there is conclusive evidence that the contrary is the case and that faith causes people to be more mean, more selfish, and perhaps above all, more stupid.

Perhaps, some day man will understand much of the world’s injustices, abuses and atrocities are carried out because one group believes their god is better than the other group’s deity.  Most importantly, one must understand religious differences do exist and potential volatility is inevitable if these differences are not understood.

Arbitrary Borders And Climate Change Created The ISIS Crisis in Iraq

The latest crisis in Iraq is, surprisingly, not just the result of the failure of the Bush Administration’s Shock and Awe campaign followed by the bloody occupation from 2003-2011.  After we literally decimated a nation that was once perilously, but somewhat effectively maintained by a brutal dictator named Saddam Hussein, we tried to keep the arbitrary borders drawn by the Sykes Picot Agreement in 1916.   In 2006, then Senator Joseph Biden (D-De) suggested a model based on the three state solution of Kurds, Arab Shi’ites and Arab Sunnis with a central command in Baghdad. In retrospect, this may have alleviated the current crisis where the new terrorists on the scene, ISIS, (the Salafist–Jihadist Al Qaeda terrorist army, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham [aka Syria]) is creating chaos and mass slaughter in the name of Sunni Fundamentalism.  Exploitation of the region’s oil originally brought us to this area which the West (France and the U.K. mainly) created the awful conundrum of drawing arbitrary borders that failed to address the geographical rifts  in the sects of Islam. 

Borders Drawn By Sykes Picot in 1916 Were Far From Perfect
Borders Drawn By Sykes Picot in 1916 Were Far From Perfect

 

Thomas FriedmanNew York Times Columnist, has extensively researched the 2006-2010 drought exacerbated by global warming which has ripened the region of Syria and Iraq for brutal war. Mass migration from bone-dry areas combined with sectarian conflicts only worsen the centuries-old rift between the two sects of Islam.  With the help of powerful neighbors like Iran and Saudi Arabia, this has become an epic sectarian war with no quick and easy solution.

Prior to our arrival, Al Qaeda was not really an issue in Iraq.  Our occupation did invite the group’s presence as they escalated the violence against our troops.  For the most part, we were able to defeat Al Qaeda in that nation, but upon our departure in 2011 (signed by President Bush in the Status of Forces agreement in 2008), Iraq fell back into the same sectarian violence Saddam Hussein managed to curtail in a cruel but effective way.  With poor leadership, the ISIS Group which includes war-torn Syria, has managed to operate with a brutality far worse than Al Qaeda.

The Brutal ISIS Group
The Brutal ISIS Group

This entire catastrophe may have been averted if:
1. We didn’t kowtow to the profit-seeking defense contractor industry
2. We understood the cultural and religious differences of the region
3. America acted appropriately based on evidence that was not falsified to involve us in this interminable crisis.  

President Obama is in a no-win situation in this volatile region.  We must never forget what put us there in the first place and vow, as a country, to keep irresponsible liars out of the White House. We can’t accomplish this if Americans don’t get out the vote en masse in the November 2014 midterms.

Cantor’s Stunning Defeat Highlights Wacky Shift Of The Right Wing GOP

When a Seven Term Republican who votes against President Obama 95% of the time loses to an unknown candidate he outspends 26-1, it raises more than a few eyebrows. Dave Brat, the first opponent to unseat a House Majority Leader since 1899, is a textbook Libertarian. Not figuratively, literally, he’s a professor of economics at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia. His magnum opus is a thesis entitled: “An Analysis of the Moral Foundations in Ayn Rand.” Capitalizing on Cantor’s low likability factor and inaccessibility while appealing to the über right-wing fundamentalist values of Virginia’s 7th District, Dave Brat upset an overconfident Eric Cantor.

Dave Brat (left) Stuns Eric Cantor
Dave Brat (left) Stuns Eric Cantor

Little is known about the new GOP candidate for the House, but some of the fringe elements of his platform have already surfaced.  Brat is a far-right, anti-immigration reform, free-market, religious zealot who somehow made Cantor seem too liberal. Majority leader Cantor was the champion of the greedy. He was unapproachable. He was arrogant.

Supported by Tea Party and grass-roots activists, at campaign stops and in interviews Brat would tick through the elements of what he stands for, what he calls the Republican “creed — free markets, equal protection under the law, fiscal responsibility, constitutional restraint, strong military and belief in God.”…..
“There’s only one problem with the Republican creed, and that is no Republican follows it.”

Eric Cantor was too lenient on immigration. The district has voted Republican overwhelmingly; no Democrat has won this seat since 1971. Dave Brat, religious theologian and TeaParty darling, has terrific odds of defeating his obscure Democratic opponent Jack Trammell.  Calling this victory, a miracle from God  he has obviously begun pandering to the evangelical community.  By winning this battle on his utter contempt for immigration reform and amnesty, this victory shows the GOP has not adhered to the findings of the autopsy of the party and shows little concern for winning any future national elections.

SCOTUS Is Fighting To Make America A Christian Theocracy

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Hard to tell the difference between Christian Fundamentalism and Radical Islam.

Thomas Jefferson said, Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. In 1983, (Marsh v Chambers) the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the practice of beginning a legislative session with a prayer delivered by a publicly funded chaplain. This set an unfortunate precedent for the current SCOTUS deemed most conservative in years and they ruled, once again, in favor of sectarian prayer (in a government setting) in this week’s Town of Greece v Galloway decision. When an Alabama judge recently asserted the First Amendment only applies to Christianity, the metamorphosis of our government from a non-secular democracy into a theocracy is now a reality.

Five of the nine Supreme Court Justices were appointed by Reagan or one of the Bushes, and there is definitely a major shift to the right on most of their decisions. Scalia and Alito are essentially evangelical Catholics. Kennedy, Thomas and Roberts are not as vocal about their belief in the supernatural but are still very sympathetic to the whims of the religious right. It’s frightening to think the Republican Party is SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT certain of their belief in “the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.” It’s chilling that a group of people so committed to faith over science also wield such enormous power.

When the Supreme Court essentially appointed George W. Bush, it installed the first true Seven Mountains Dominionist in the White House. In 2003, while trying to form a “Coalition of the Willing” (to help shoulder the burden of Iraqi occupation), Bush told then French Premier Jacques Chirac,

Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East…. The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled…. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.”

Chirac, blown away by the mind-numbingly superficial and fantastical beliefs of the U.S. President, wanted no part of a Biblical war.

The Corporatist Supreme Court
The Corporatist Supreme Court

When the five conservative justices ruled in favor of unlimited anonymous donations (Citizens United and McCutcheon), the activist agenda of these corporatist justices erased any question of whom these men truly serve: The Koch Brothers and their Heritage Foundation underlings. Heritage asserts the Christian faith is under attack, and they’ve furtively ensconced their religion into local governments, Red State by Red State.

In her dissent of the recent Town of Greece v Galloway, Justice Elana Kagan said, “…No one can fairly read the prayers from Greece’s Town meetings as anything other than explicitly Chris­tian—constantly and exclusively so. From the time Greece established its prayer practice in 1999 until litigation loomed nine years later, all of its monthly chaplains were Christian clergy.”  If private citizens of a town are not Christian, they have no choice but to participate in prayers or face undue scrutiny from their fellow citizens.

It is clear, Christian fundamentalists will fight longer and harder, with better organization and fervor than any other group.  With limitless money, they are going after legal abortion, access to contraceptives and gay marriage.  They insist upon the teaching of Creationism as science, and think it should get equal footing in our children’s schools. They are fighting on all fronts to make America resemble the “Great Satan,” Iran.  Only difference, this theocracy may soon be ruled by the Draconian Old Testament.

The Bundy Militia Is A Result Of The Mormon Mentality

Mormons are hardly discernable from the white supremacist crowd.
Mormons are hardly discernible from the white supremacist crowd.

On a typical weekday afternoon in Mesquite, Nevada, a young girl and her grandma are sitting in a local Subway sandwich shop. In walks two men with rifles slung over their shoulders and a firearm on either side. Neither has bathed in several days. The young girl says, ‘grandma look at their guns!’ One of the disheveled men says, ‘we are fighting for liberty and freedom!’ So the young girl, clearly frightened says, ‘I think I should call the police,’ so she picks up her cell phone and dials 911 and the two men scurry away like cockroaches in a newly-lit kitchen. Perhaps these self-appointed soldiers have rap sheets that are as long as their automatic weapons? Citizens of the Virgin Valley are tired of the fifty or so self-appointed militia-folk who have descended upon their quiet Southern Nevada community on behalf of a law-breaking, tax-evading cattle rancher. These Bunkerville militia members are not exactly good for tourism, the primary draw to the Gold Butte National Conservation Area. If you look a little more closely at the Mesquite, St George, Colorado City tri-state area (NV, UT, AZ) you’d notice something a little different about the folks frequenting the shops in the area: a disproportionate number of very young women all holding babies, dressed in modest pattern dresses. You guessed it, you’ve stumbled upon one of the communities populated by the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS).  These are the original “settlers” of the area and because he is related, Bundy claims he owes no federal fees.

Senator Dean Heller, yes, that’s right, Senator Heller (R-NV)a United States Senator, has essentially condoned this lawless, criminal behavior not only by Cliven Bundy,  but by all the unhinged militia members whom he calls “patriots.”  These folks, who are in desperate need of a shower, are simply waiting for the government to say “boo” and they’ll react by placing their womenfolk at the front lines to take the first hits.  But seriously, how important are women in a Mormon community like Bunkerville?   You must understand the LDS faith: women are not worthy of holding the priesthood according to scripture and their only function is to multiply, much like Cliven’s freeloading herd of cattle.

You’d think a crowd as obsessed as the Republicans are with the marriage is between one man and one woman concept would be as vehemently opposed to polygamy as they are to same-sex marriage.   Strangely enough, the area’s  FLDS-dominated communities, are seldom harassed by the dreaded government who has the audacity to demand taxes from Cliven.   The area is truly an oddity, very isolated and will most likely remain so while Mormonism dominates.  If you go to any number of these rural towns, expect to be followed by a pick up truck or two.  They don’t take kindly to strangers.  The area is so laden with polygamous families, one of the neighboring towns has a median age of 12.7 years!  There would be far too many orphans created if these communities were raided, so they are left to the misogyny and abuse of the FLDS.

Mormons stick together, apparently that includes the fringe element of the cult.  Whether it is rural polygamous families or prominent Mormons like Senator Heller, the cult rules over the laws of the land.  Even though Cliven and his gang are violating Federal law, his actions will be defended by people who believe in a “higher power” than the government whose flag they seem to love to fly.   We sure dodged a bullet when we rejected Willard Romney, as he would have ruled the United States based on Joseph Smith’s fables and not the Constitution these patriots all claim to love.

The Goal of Teaparty Insurrection Is Religious Armageddon

Recently, events have occurred which would indicate a perfect storm, which would help create the right wing fantasy of the Rapture.  Conditions for this “final judgement”  are ripe when you mix heavily armed anti-government insurrectionists, white supremacists with shotguns and Mormons who do not believe in the laws of the United States but believe Joseph Smith looked into a hat with a peep stone to translate scriptures from gold plates.  Culminating with the Blood Moon of Monday night’s lunar eclipse, fundamentalists believe we have achieved the perfect conditions for the Apocalypse. That’s the ultimate goal of the folks who have made life in America unlivable with the deplorable legislation they’ve enacted; they seek to destroy the environment, contaminate drinking water, eliminate the middle-class altogether and create a theocratic vision for America that would make Jefferson weep. This is the right-wing fringe element hard at work, making America just a little less civilized and a lot more crazy, where the paradise of the after-life is all we should desire because we’ve really screwed this life up royally.

TeaPartiers Form Their Own Militia

The now infamous rancher from Bunkerville, Cliven Bundy, says he does not believe in the U.S. Government. The situation outside his ranch has escalated to a point where the armed TeaPartiers have made federal agents nervous about potential casualties, which would certainly immortalize these lunatics and spark more domestic terrorism. Turning anti-government ranchers who advocate waging war on the federal government into heroes simply emboldens domestic terrorists to feel justified in murdering federal officials with self-righteous zeal.  Cliven identifies himself with ancestor Dudley Leavitt, who played a pivotal role in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.  Cliven is related to one of the original LDS combatants involved in that horrific event the Mormon church would love to forget.

Ironically, Cliven is in violation of one of the thirteen Articles of Faith.   The twelfth states:  We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law. I suppose Cliven must have missed Sunday School the day they went over Joseph Smith’s articles.  Bundy himself said he didn’t believe in the U.S. government’s law, yet clearly the religion he follows demands he abide by the laws of the land.  Over a century and a half before, Bundy’s Mormon ancestors, under the command of Brigham Young, carried out a massacre because the Federal Government attempted to enforce the laws of the United States.  Blaming the “Indians,” they brutally murdered 120 innocent settlers to make their point.  Cliven Bundy seemed to be following in their footsteps, and the U.S. government wanted no part of that.  Naturally, we aren’t getting the full story from mainstream media outlets.  Thankfully, the internet helps us connect with people from all points of view.

The local blog Let’s Talk Nevada  provides a much different, more organic perspective than we’ve seen from the Conservative media, who has literally made a hero out of this law-breaking, tax-evading rancher.  The author admonishes Federal Agents who have, for now, tacitly surrendered to this insurrection:

The Tea Party has eliminated the rule of law, militarized the Gold Butte region with armed civilian militias, saved those poor starving cows to wander the desert for inadequate food and water, enhanced our business climate with threats of violence, put us on the map of every nut with a gun who is itching to fight for “liberty and justice” AND established Cliven Bundy as the face of the Virgin Valley.  All in one week.

Imagine if this did escalate into a Ruby Ridge or Waco?  These folks would be considered martyrs for the cause of manufactured TeaParty rage.  The hate-groups,  angered by a “lawless” (a.k.a. black) president have been emboldened to act with  displays of  force, while the government can do little against this insane group of heavily-armed, outraged hypocrites.  In fact, since the 9/11 attacks,  the U.S. has had more deaths attributed to right-wing violence than Jihad.

Supporters of Bundy’s crimes offered to use their wives as human shields provoking federal agents.  These armed-TeaPartiers always seem to be a homogeneous group of white conservatives.  Like many fundamentalist Christians,  the LDS “faith”  believe(d) blacks were cursed until President Carter threatened to revoke their tax-exempt status in 1978. But in a strange turn of events, Glenn Beck is now urging protesters’ violent threats to cease and desist, (as perhaps he’s no longer comfortable backing a man of the polygamous FLDS sect of Mormonism)? It’s not as if Mormons positively ally themselves with the FLDS, who dominate the area around Mesquite, Nevada.  What’s more bizarre, Beck often compares his worldview with that of Martin Luther King Jr., because MLK would support a gun-crazed group of insurrectionists without question.

As this chaotic scene unfolded, three  innocent people in Kansas were gunned down as a result of hate from an extremist, white-supremacist.   Frazier Glenn Miller, the 73-year-old suspect in Sunday’s fatal shooting outside a Jewish Community Center near Kansas City, Mo., has a decades long record of virulent white supremacism and anti-Semitism.   The shooting is another example of the influence of the pro-Second Amendment crowd over those who harbor hate.  In turn, these loons are then emboldened to act as it is extremely easy to acquire weapons and ammo in this country.  It seems the more into “God” and religion a group is, the more they are into the procurement of violence through firearms.  I have a feeling this will not change until the people of the United States realize religion holds our society in a very medieval state of ignorance, superstitious fear and paranoia.

GOP Star Cathy McMorris Rodgers To Rebut The State Of The Union

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Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) will give the rebuttal to President Obama’s fifth State of the Union (SOTU) Address immediately following the Constitutionally mandated speech. The representative from Eastern Washington, after a mere eight years in Congress, is the fourth-ranking Republican in the House. We all know for certain, this response has already been written, without knowledge or concern for the actual content of the SOTU. More than likely, she will regurgitate Roger Ailes’ talking points which emanated from his cold, dark heart, not from actual facts.

She received her undergraduate degree from then unaccredited Pensacola Christian College, which certainly helped form her pro-Republican, women-should-know-their-place persona. In Congress, she has been a bastion of ultra-conservative values. Frighteningly enough, she is on the United States House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, The Subcommittee on Energy and Power and the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy Subcommittee on Health. As the Republicans have ALWAYS shown, they care little for the health and environment of the USA and have no interest in protecting future generations who have to live on this planet they’ve literally trashed.

One of only eight women to serve while giving birth (two times), thus fulfilling her duties of procreating, and has exploited this in her pro-life voting record (pro-life equals pro-fetus, not pro-humanity). She cares little for poor, single mothers as shown by her support of the Farm Bill on July 11, 2013. The bill passed in a 216-208 vote, which included farm policy and subsidies for the big farming industry but of course, did not include food stamps. McMorris Rodgers is personally involved in driving the Republican agenda in Congress, including VETOING The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and voting along with anti-American Teaparty lunatics by voting to shut down the government while blaming, who else, but President Obama.

Often compared to her friend Sarah Palin, McMorris Rodgers is also afflicted with Palin-like word-salad delivery. Any “rebuttal” will be less captivating than the SOTU, with its impressive audience set in the House chamber. The giant room is filled with the members of Congress, SCOTUS and countless dignitaries. It’s already hard to compete with the setting and a great orator like President Obama. But the GOP has a curious knack for finding the most uninspiring, least dynamic people to rebut the annual address, and this year proves no different. If the fate of her predecessors Rubio, Jindal and Daniels are any indication, her rebuttal will be her political kiss of death.