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Syria and the will of God

Kevin Smith

In my lifetime, there has never been a greater force of evil than the terror rained down on Syria by foreign nations. Its cruelty and savagery have had no bounds. Nonetheless, Syria has defended itself against the economic might of 2/3 of the world’s great powers and has beaten them all. As a career military officer and student of military affairs, I cannot explain how Syria could accomplish this if it were not the will of God.”

These were words spoken by US Virginia state senator Richard Black during a recent visit to Syria. Here is a link to more of what he said.

For me, these words are the most profound and thought-provoking I’ve read about Syria. I read them every day. I’ve been observing and researching events in Syria and western government’s role in the chaos for some years now.

I have also been thinking about faith and wondering if a god plays a role in world events.

Evil versus Syria

I think all people, religious or not, who care about humanity will take strength from the resilience of the Syrian people in the face of overwhelming odds.

If you look back to the start of the conflict and subsequent years, Qatar and Saudi Arabia funded ISIS and Al Qaeda in Syria and many parts of the country were under terrorist control. At one point it looked as if they might succeed and possibly result in over 15 million Syrians fleeing the country.

The US, UK and France (who were also more covertly involved from the start) revealed their hand. These countries bombed Syria and set up illegal bases which provide ISIS and Al Qaeda a free pass to commit atrocities in the remaining areas they control. Turkey and Israel have also been active in the war, Israel almost on a daily basis bombing the Syrian army and arming the extremists.

Russia, Iran and Hezbollah helped turned back the tide but the bravery and unity of the diverse Syrian army and people is what’s determined the outcome of the conflict. Senator Black is right – in a military sense you can’t explain how Syria has prevailed over this combined evil using bombs and ethnic and religious intolerance as tools of regime change.

A faith from somewhere

In recent years I’ve sensed something has changed within me and I link this partly to events in Syria and the war crimes being committed by the West and support for terrorism masquerading as ‘humanitarian’ intervention. Rather than be consumed by outrage and burdened by the disturbing knowledge I now possess, I seem to have acquired some kind of ‘faith’. I’m not sure if this faith is spiritual or based on what I’ve observed over the years – or both.

This faith is centred on a belief that good eventually prevails over evil. Nowadays I go out of my way to help others who are vulnerable. I have a confidence in my abilities which was never there before. It’s hard to explain but I feel I’ve had a ‘helping hand’ to work through some personal mental health issues and put things into perspective.

I believe this renewed strength has come about much through observing the resilience of the Syrian people fighting heroically to protect the unity of the many ethnic groups and religious faiths living side by side. I feel privileged to use my knowledge and ideas to spread this inspiring message through my writing.

Religious learning

At the moment I’m also spending time learning about religion particularly in the context of what’s going on in the world. I guess in my younger years I would’ve described myself as agnostic but more tending towards atheism. But I hadn’t really studied religion and kept an open mind on the subject until I had more time to explore it and think.

Senator Black’s mention of god reminds me of a book I read recently. It is called The Divine Reality and is a good starting point for those who wish to understand the main arguments in favour of theism and atheism.

The book is more focused on Islam. For a book promoting theism, as a relative learner, I was surprised to find it had some very rational arguments, about the precision of the universe, and for example the position of the planets and sun seems too perfect to happen by chance.

The author of the book argued that science has not provided adequate explanations for our existence and in their absence theism has to be considered.

One of the common reasons for believing there can be no god is that otherwise suffering in the world would be prevented

The author confronts this common objection. He explains that god gives us the tools to be good people and do good things. Worshipping god is not just about praying but doing good deeds in our everyday life. In a way, life is like a test to see how we get on and use the tools. He states that people who pass the test will be rewarded in this or the next life but those who do bad consistently and don’t change will suffer. The author adds that those who suffer injustice or die at the hands of evil are also recognised.

So the view seems to be if there’s a god, intervention to prevent injustices on a day to day basis is not how it works and it’s largely up to us to live up to decent values. But looking at history you can see a pattern where wholesale injustice inflicted on many were finally corrected one way or another. For example the Nazis were allowed to destroy much of Europe but is there a god that decided in around 1942, that enough was enough and an intervention of a godly kind was the only way to defeat the tyranny?

The arguments in the book are well written and comprehensive and I tend towards the side of theism. But I’m still studying this with the combined mind-set of the rational arguments and the ‘faith’ I’ve acquired recently.

The future of our planet

Looking back at 50 years of destruction in Vietnam, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and countless other states, could it be that if there is a god, it’s been decided enough is enough and the red line is over Syria? The victors and victims on the right side of history during World War Two such as US, Britain, Israel and France, today have become so utterly depraved and corrupt that they resemble the forces of darkness that they were fighting in 1942.

Although Syria is recovering there is still a grave danger. This conflict is a proxy war being fought by the major world powers. Fault lines are opening up all over the Middle East between these powers. The trade war with China and aggressive rhetoric and disturbing anti-Russian narratives in the West is unprecedented. Any historian or geo-political expert studying these conflicts and recent events would be hard pressed to see how global conflict can be avoided. The signs are a major conflict could be soon.

So perhaps we should take heart from the miracle in Syria and hope that a kind of godly intervention played a part. If so, perhaps there is some hope for the wider world and we can avoid global conflict by removing the criminals and lunatics in our governments and media who keep pushing for more war.

Maybe we are at a crucial tipping point and there is a god providing us with the tools to remove the enemy from within – and we should use them. Perhaps god is testing us again, watching if we wake up and confront these issues or carry on as we are, remaining oblivious to the suffering our governments are causing in our name.

Will we be given further chances to change our ways? God or no god, somehow I doubt that. So maybe it is time for more of us to step up to show we are worthy of existence on this planet

And whether as individuals we are active in taking up the tools against the enemy within our elites, all citizens should consider re-setting our basic values and priorities towards an awareness and respect for humanity beyond our shores. Above all we should all show solidarity and respect to the true heroes of the day – the Syrian people.

A final thought

This is not lecture to the many wise readers. I’m sure everyone here are pillars of their own community.

But this year, I’ve particularly noticed that many people are distracted and stressed by Christmas – and not in a good way. Going to work this week I’ve nearly been run over by impatient traffic and pushed back on to London tube trains (more than usual) when trying to get off.

One suggestion I would have for all is to consider my positive experience, take some time out to be more self-aware and tolerant towards all. Help someone – perhaps a vulnerable neighbour and make an effort for one act of kindness towards someone outside of your immediate family or circle.

Once you’ve done that, see if any negative energy triggered by the stresses of Christmas – or the burden knowing the true state of the world reduces.

It did for me and I’ve not looked back.


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Zain Ul Hassan
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Norman Pilon
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For those who may be serious about wanting to find out about the social, political, historical, and economic details of Syria, to actually acquaint themselves with some substantive research and maybe learn something about Sryria, Ramond Hinnebusch, who happens to be a prominent scholar on Syria, has put this ‘essential readings’ list or bibliography together: Essential Readings: The Syrian Uprising (by Raymond Hinnebusch) By : Raymond Hinnebusch and Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative (MESPI) Unfortunately, unless you’ve got money to spend or have access to a university library, you might not be able to access these references. Of course, I… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

Of course, what I mean’t to write was: “an image or depiction of which one cannot BUT become enamored if all that one reads are one sided paeans to the rule of the Assad dynasty.

Norman Pilon
Reader

Off-Guardian has made the claim that it does not hold to single perspective on Syria. But every article that it has ever published on the matter, so far as I know, has never called into question the line of argument that the so-called “civil war” in Syria has never been anything but a “war” perpetrated on Syria from without by Western powers and its Middle East regional allies. On the assumption that Off-Guardian is open to other substantive perspectives, for publication, because “facts” should indeed be sacred, I highly recommend this masterful essay by Syrian dissident Yassin al-Haj Saleh: How… Read more »

Makropulos
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Makropulos

Another view of Yassin al-Haj Saleh:

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/06/15/syri-j15.html

Jen
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Jen

Dear Makropoulos, I think you will like this view of Yassin al-Haj Saleh if you haven’t seen it already, as it is his own admission. Yassin al-Haj Saleh, “Living Under Assad’s Siege”, The New York Times, February 7, 2018 “… In October and November 2012, the rebels drove out regime forces from Eastern Ghouta. In the beginning of 2013, the regime, supported by Iran and Hezbollah, regained the military initiative and imposed the siege. I arrived in the Douma district in April 2013 and lived with a civil defense unit that came to be known as the White Helmets. Regime… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

Dear Jen, It’s late here in Ottawa. But I just caught a glimpse of your latest comment, or should I say, your latest effort at discrediting and defaming yet another man. Always the same rehash, eh: the target is made out to appear to be the friend of very bad people; ergo, he himself must be a bad person with evil intent. I don’t trust him. Should you? By the way, when are you going to answer my question, you know, the one about Saleh’s mysterious “actions” that so eloquently speak about his politics and values? And what did you… Read more »

Jen
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Jen

Dear Norman, If you speak of discredit and defamation, Yassin al-Haj Saleh does a good job of it to himself when he says he lived with the White Helmets, and his own actions when he moves to East Ghouta at a time when so-called “rebels” are in control (April 2013)l, moves to Raqqa in mid-summerwhen the FSA and its allies are in control there and later moves out when ISIS arrives there. I’m only quoting what he said in the New York Times article. You can read it for yourself if you haven’t done so already: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/07/opinion/syria-bombing-assad.html His actions and… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

Well, at least you’re consistent in your method of argumentation: never address the analysis or the arguments of someone who doesn’t see things as you do, but impugn the person’s character, even if it means stooping to the level of the most disgusting, heartless and baseless insinuations imaginable. But I’m sure you do what you do with a great deal of pride and never a twinge of remorse.. For the record, for those unfamiliar with Saleh’s background, “[Saleh] has a long history of activism in the country. Arrested by the Syrian regime in 1980 for the crime of political activism… Read more »

Jen
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Jen

I must say, Norman, you’ll have to do better than give away important information like Yassin al-Haj Saleh being a co-founder of Al Jumhuriya. I’ve found that Al Jumhuriya receives (or has received in the past) funding from the European Endowment for Democracy (EED). https://www.democracyendowment.eu/we-support/al-jumhuriya-collective/ The Board Chairman of the Governors of EED is Elmar Brok, a German politician from the centre-right political party Christian Democratic Union, of which Angela Merkel was formerly the head. Al Jumhuriya is also supported by the Asfari Foundation. https://www.asfarifoundation.org.uk/al-jumhuriya/ About one of Asfari Foundation’s trustees: “Ayman Asfari is Group Chief Executive of Petrofac Limited.… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

Here you go Jen, another person for you to defame, because we all know that there never was a popular uprising in Syria in 2011 and that those pursuing Doctorate level accreditation by focusing their efforts on Syria as such, are only doing so as part of a propaganda operation: Juliette D. Harkin. Do let us know what dirt you manage to unearth about this obvious shill for Western imperialism, but of course not that you need any encouragement from me to do so . . . For the rest of us: [PDF] Ideological Contest in Syria’s Revolutionary Moment: The… Read more »

summitflyer
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summitflyer

Norman for God’s sake ,give it up already.You are starting to sound like the resident troll already .It does not matter how many studies,sites ,enlightened comments ,etc. etc.one states . One can always find alternative information on anyone eles’s information to denigrate them .Leave it alone and move on. Needing to have the last word all the time on a conversation in and of itself is a sign of a certain level of insecurity .Chill out and give it a rest !
Cheers.

Norman Pilon
Reader

I was told that ‘evidence’ was the thing. ‘Evidence’ is what I’m providing, no? If you don’t like the ‘evidence’ that I’m providing, don’t read my comments and don’t attend to the ‘evidence.’ There are plenty of other comments to attend to.

Furthermore, this isn’t a game. People’s lives are being destroyed. And you ask me to ‘chill out and give it a rest?’ You’re kidding, right?

summitflyer
Reader
summitflyer

Some on the ground evidence regarding the start of the Syrian war in Dara’a .
https://popularresistance.org/the-decade-long-u-s-campaign-to-foment-syrias-revolution-and-unseat-assad/

Norman Pilon
Reader

correction: the sections from the executive summary that I highlight are between pp.100-110.

Norman Pilon
Reader

Some primary evidence gathered about one year prior to the ‘uprising’ by a Syrian presidential advisory committee corroborating that the Assad regime knew what was coming in terms of popular dissent; that is was anything but socialist in the reforms it was pursuing; and that it was, without doubt, repressive: Quote begins: “[…]the memorandum in the annex, prepared in 2010, had been commissioned by the Syrian president’s office but later been ignored by it. While the short-timed and ineffectual nature of advisory committees and their reports was rather common under Bashar al-Asad –their recommendations were regularly sought but seldom implemented–the… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

Merely as point of emphasis, to underscore Jen’s simple minded approach to any valid critique of the thesis that before Western progressives — a category from which Jen’s unprincipled mode of argumentation categorically excludes her — can make a rational choice about which “sides” — there are more than two — in the “conflicts” playing themselves out in Syria, they must at least have an elementary grasp of the actual cultural, social, economic and political imperatives dominating Syrian society, and to approach to such an elementary grasp, they need to engage with Syrian intellectuals who actually have a highly sophisticated… Read more »

Jen
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Jen

Dear Norman, I see you are unable to counter the information I have brought here at Off-Guardian about Yassin al-Haj Saleh’s activities and associations in Syria in 2013 and about the nature of the financial and other support that his blog Al Jumhuriya requires to survive. I see you have resorted to slander, denial, projection and repetition of previous comments of yours. In short, all you are able to do now is bully commenters such as myself, manipulate and twist other people’s comments to confuse them, and flood the comments forum with empty rubbish about Saleh and what he supposedly… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

While you exert yourself to sully the reputations of honorable people, Jen, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we can see in this thread of comments, as in so many others, just what it is that you are about, and rather conspicuously. But do keep up your efforts, because your guileless self-revelation is truly a sight to behold. Although it seems to me that there must now be very little left of you to reveal. But I’m more than willing to continue hanging around to see if perhaps there isn’t a little more to come. By the way: slander… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

Ssh. Listen! Do you hear that? What else could that be but a Western imperial hegemonic narrative: “the West increasingly appears as a Huntingtonian “civilisation,” not as an open horizon for a humanity that aspires towards “liberty, equality, fraternity” for all; meanwhile, religion is becoming more politicised, gradually forfeiting its role as faith and as social connecter; and the state is merely an apparatus for political elites, not a nation-state for the commons.” (Saleh, 2010, The Three Monsters and the Crisis of Arab Culture: a Non-Rationalist Article) How dare this man object to foreigners bombing his fellow countrymen without making… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

Well, that’s a revelation isn’t it. A radical intellectual from Syria, from some other trouble spot on the planet, is being touted by publishing houses and institutes nestled in the heart of empire. Who would’ve thought. But yes, do continue engaging with anything but the content of Saleh’s work, most of which was produced while he was in Syria, quite independently. Or do you deny that even people working for the CIA can thing for themselves and be partial to the truth as they see? What about William Blum, for instance. Or Ray McGovern. You see, Jen, the truth, just… Read more »

Jen
Reader
Jen

Oops, forgot to provide a link to the Battle of Raqqa (2013):
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Raqqa_(March_2013)

Norman Pilon
Reader

Oh, no! More discrediting associations between a man and Western imperial institutions! Please stay away from Saleh. Do not read him. He has been compromised and co-opted. Why, he makes a living as an intellectual in much the same way that any intellectual in the West does: by having made a niche for himself as a fellow in an institute. Whatever he may therefore have to say about the Syrian “revolution,” it’s all a Western imperial whitewash. But to speak to the crux of Kishore’s piece: it is another take on Yassin Al-Haj Saleh that mischaracterizes his analysis. Saleh’s perspective… Read more »

Makropulos
Reader
Makropulos

Your first paragraph is on the money. “Why, he makes a living as an intellectual in much the same way that any intellectual in the West does: by having made a niche for himself as a fellow in an institute.” Exactly. And that is precisely what you have to watch out for.

Norman Pilon
Reader

No, Makropulos. What you have to consider is the quality of the analysis together with the statements of fact. And the facts are established through a process of triangulation: you must read broadly from many different, independent, and even contending sources, but sources that have a proven track record of social and political scientific expertise focused on the part of the Middle East under consideration, people like Raymond Hinnebusch, Samir Amin, Thomas Pierret (with whose interventionist stance I disagree), Joseph Daher, or Firas Massouh — because if all of these social and political scientists together agree on an essential cluster… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

On the off chance that anyone might be interested, a link to Al-Jumhuriya, a website co-founded by Yassin al-Haj Saleh and where he apparently continues to contribute regularly:

Yassin al-Haj Saleh

Norman Pilon
Reader

And finally, for the time being, this: Quote begins: Saleh represents one of the major intellectual influences on Arabophone democracy thinkers and activists, and through them on contemporary Arab critical thought. He stands out as the Syrian “with a Leftist passion” (Al-Zoubi 2013: 31)who is most conspicuously involved in the cultural politics of the anti-Assad movement, both in terms of a developing preoccupation with resistance to the regime in his work and in his own personal political activism. He writes, “No Left, worthy of its name, will flourish unless it sides with the uprising and works on linking it to… Read more »

Jen
Reader
Jen

Hmm … Yassin al-Haj Saleh, writing an article “Living Under Assad’s Siege” for The New York Times, has this to say about the time he spent in Douma, in East Ghouta, in 2013 and the people he stayed with for some of that time: “… I arrived in the Douma district in April 2013 and lived with a civil defense unit that came to be known as the White Helmets. Regime planes bombed the region daily. I saw the bodies of the dead being brought to the civil defense unit every day for registration. One day there were nine bodies.… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

You do not prove anything about what Saleh has to reveal about the reality of Assadist rule in Syria. Your strategy is merely to condemn by association, rather than addressing the “content” of the man’s analyses and critiques of Syrian society. Here is a mere example of just how far (or not) you and Saleh are on Syria: Quote begins: Saleh’s intellectual project rests on the radicalisation of critique: a strategy for maintaining the struggle to keep open intellectual possibilities in danger of being irretrievably closed. He characterises Assadist authoritarianism, Islamist dogmatism, and Western imperialism as “three monsters” laying siege… Read more »

Jen
Reader
Jen

I think we should allow Yassin al-Haj Saleh to speak for his politics, for his values and for his life, living under siege from Assad’s authoritarianism, Islamism and Western imperialism.

His actions during part of 2013, when he went to live in East Ghouta, speak quite eloquently of his politics and his values.

Norman Pilon
Reader

What about Norman Finkelstein, what did he think in 2011?

https://youtu.be/2D7wcuHLH58?t=479

Jen
Reader
Jen

I see Syrian Non-Violence Movement’s former President (2012 – 2016) was Ibrahim al-Assil who is a fellow of the Middle East Institute (of which the current Board Chairman is Richard A Clarke who worked for Presidents George H W Bush and Bill Clinton) and is also a non-fellow of the Orient Research Centre in Dubai.

Ibrahim al-Assil’s Facebook page
https://www.facebook.com/ibrahim.assil

Middle East Institute’s website
https://www.mei.edu/about

Curious that this organisation and its former head seem quite close to the US government.

Norman Pilon
Reader

And pertaining to the video, since you appear to be commenting on it, does it mischaracterize what Norman Finkelstein’s position on Syria clearly was in 2011 and in fact continues to be?

Norman Pilon
Reader

Reminder: you wrote, “His actions during part of 2013, when he went to live in East Ghouta, speak quite eloquently of his politics and his values.”

Again: What were these vaguely intimated “actions” that so eloquently speak of his politics and his values?

Norman Pilon
Reader

You want to start viewing @ the 8 minute mark in that video . . .

Norman Pilon
Reader

BTW, while I wait for your next reply, permit me this confession: I’d really like to agree with the tenor of your emoting over Syria. Unfortunately, what inhibits me is that I very much doubt that you or anyone else can point me to any vetted, competent, and verifiable academic research on the Middle East, and in particular on Syria, that flat out contradicts this brief if harsh summation about the actual nature of Assadist rule, that is to say, that there is nothing “ . . . popular, liberatory, nationalist, or third-worldly in the Syrian regime . . .… Read more »

BigB
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BigB

Norm Doctoral level and above research? Professors Hayward, McKeigue, and Robinson have formed the ‘Working group on Syria’ to collate exactly the sort of research you require. However, this takes time, and technically the Syrian War is not yet over. Interim commentary is available on Tim Hayward and Piers Robinson’s blogs. Also, both have given presentations to such events as the ‘Media in Action’ which can be viewed online via 21 Wire and UK Column websites. Professor Tim Anderson has covered the war from the start. He can be found via Global Research, which will link to his book on… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

@ BigB, BTW: the penny began to drop in earnest for me, so to speak, HERE, upon reading that post in which Prof. Hayward quotes Ray Hinnebusch. See the discussion BTL. And in hindsight, a more appropriate response to Hayward on the purported legitimacy of the Assad regime in light of the “election” results in 2014 — on behalf of the commenter ‘Tettodoro’ — could have run along the lines of a critique Karadjis makes of Anderson: Quote begins: Anderson also claimed that Assad had been “elected” at an “election” held in 2014, and from memory one of the questioners… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

I’m acquainted with the issue in Khan Sheikhoun. You can find all of that information on my blog and more. Who done it? Who knows. Anyone who claims to know in the absence of an appropriate forensic investigation is claiming to know more than is known. What does any of this have to do with the point that I’m driving at?

BigB
Reader
BigB

Norm As always, we are on the same page. I was only going on the text’s you linked to: and Karadjis definitely veers from objectivity in the text I was commenting on (from which I pulled the quote “fascistic idol”: or alternatively “favourite oligarchic tyrant” – which definitely exposes his real contempt for those who support Assad – the “Assadists”). He suffers from his own rhetoric: I consider myself not an Assadist, but a humanist. Which is a more subtle and nuanced belief than Karadjis can cater for. BTW: you give Karadjis too much credit. You say that I got… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

I have reread the last section of Karadjis’s piece, as you asked me to, in light of the points you make. I’m not sure what the problem is, but you again seem to miss the essential points that Karadjis makes. Certainly, there is nothing in what he writes that can be construed as evidence that he is ideologically misaligned with NATO. Otherwise, he’d be calling for the US to intervene on behalf of the opposition, which he most emphatically does not. Really, I think you are projecting your own ideological phantoms into your reading of Karadjis. What is certain is… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

Well, I won’t defend what is admittedly Karadjis’ shrill and off-putting style of argumentation. Entirely agree: he certainly does suffer from his own rhetoric.

Okay, I’ll have a second look at the “final question of the evening.”

Makropulos
Reader
Makropulos

I get the impression that I’m probably on BigB’s side here but if you’re going to start talking about “the socius of ‘dichotomic dyadics’” then I’ll just leave you to it. Let me know who wins.

Makropulos
Reader
Makropulos

Nah Norman. Total gobbledegook there. I just get ever so slightly suspicious about any alleged popular uprising that just so happens to coincide with Western imperial interests.

BigB
Reader
BigB

Norm I don’t really agree with Makropulos: but we are entering into the realm of semanticism – ALL hierarchical statist rule is illegitimate. I would go further: so long as humanity is under the epoche of dominance and subjugation – there can be no humanity. I’d take that right down to the pseudo-individual psycho-cognitive level. As long as we have societies of individuation – of self and Other – there can be no humanity. It inheres that such a humanity is built on inhumanity: its humanism is predicated on dehumanism of the Other. Our very mind (where mind is the… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

We are on the same page, I think, and if not, certainly in the same book. But there is one item of disagreement at hand that I’d like to underscore: You accuse Karadjis of smearing Anderson, but the fact is that Karadjis doesn’t actually misconstrue or mischaracterize any of Anderson’s arguments. What he does, however, is to wear his disdain for Anderson’s mode of argumentation on his sleeve, but he has understood Anderson and does not misstate the man’s purports. Furthermore, Karadjis actually avows a deep and abiding respect for Anderson as a person. See a post on his blog… Read more »

Makropulos
Reader
Makropulos

But conversely here’s another way of seeing it: how better to sell Western imperialist ventures to those with “leftist” leanings than to phrase these ventures in a lot of Marxist sounding jargon about the masses uprising?

Makropulos
Reader
Makropulos

Well Norman it’s certainly true that if Assad’s rule is illegitimate then it’s illegitimate and if it’s legitimate then it’s legitimate.

Norman Pilon
Reader

Okay, Mr. Mkropulos. Lets walk thourgh this one more time, but in BigB’s own words: He writes: “Any legitimacy versus illegitimacy of the opposition to Assad became moot after that point.” In other words: if the popular explosion initially had any legitimacy, the implication is that Assad’s rule was not at the rebellion’s inception legitimate, eh. But by the time it became obvious that it would be drowned in blood by both Assad and the Jihadis and the Russians and the Iranian proxies, the legitimate rebellion became retroactively illegitimate, while Assad was somehow thereby legitimized. I don’t know, but to… Read more »

BigB
Reader
BigB

Broadly agreed; apart from the proviso that any legitimate popular uprising was hijacked from the start. Any legitimacy versus illegitimacy of the opposition to Assad became moot after that point. A positive outcome for any legitimate opposition was never an option. There is and was no black and white narrative; only shades of grey. There was plenty of side swapping from the beginning. For the greater part: the myth of a ‘moderate opposition’ was only ever a myth. The FSA are Jihadis: despite what Karadjis maintains. Of the choice of Assad or Jihad: there is only one rational choice. Assad… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

Whether Assad ever gassed or did not gas anyone is not the factor on which his legitimacy depends. Nor is it whether he represents a lesser evil as compared to another competing and even more reactionary species of rule. If the popular uprising had any legitimacy at its outset, by that very fact Assad himself did not then have any legitimacy, and in that respect, he effectively remains illegitimate. It is true, however, that stability does count for something: it is to be preferred to the atrocities of war. But there is a limit set to the value of such… Read more »

BigB
Reader
BigB

Norm What is the point you are driving at: in plain language? Because two of the sources you are leveraging to make that point – Karadjis and Saleh – both cite Khan Sheikhoun and Ghouta 2013 as CW attacks – murdering predominantly children – by the Assadist regime. There was no sarin attack at Khan Sheikhoun. There was a CW attack at Ghouta – one of the victims even murdered himself. Multiple people were also murdered in a quarry, by or for the White Helmets: outside KS – for purely propagandic purposes. The narrative that Gassad did it is all… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

“What is the point you are driving at: in plain language?”

A) The ‘war’ in Syria isn’t only a Western imperialist operation being conducted against the Assad government.

B) The Assad government is a dynastic autocracy and has always been brutally repressive.

C) In 2011, there was a broad based popular democratic uprising. Initially, it manifested as protests. Subsequently, the shooting started. The Syrian establishment is not an innocent party to this conflict.

D) Syria is not anti-imperialist and demonstrably so.

E) Saleh’s output is an important primary source of information and analysis.

Norman Pilon
Reader

Big B, You mention Professor Hayward and company. Professor Hayward is NOT a Middle East specialist. In fact, he himself ‘QUOTES’ the work of Raymond Hinnebusch, who IS a Middle East scholar, not to critique Hinnesbusch, not on the basis of any disagreement, but in support of the conclusion that perhaps the so-called revolution in Syria came too early. The piece that Hayward quotes is Syria: from ‘authoritarian upgrading’ to revolution? — Raymond Hinnebusch (11/01/2012) | International Affairs And in fact, the manner in which Hayward tries to leverage Hinnesbusch in favor of his argument is actually questionable, in being… Read more »

BigB
Reader
BigB

BTW Norm Perhaps Mr Saleh should consult Professor McKeigue and Postol’s account of Ghouta 2013: which he refers to as breaking Obama’s red line and a “chemical massacre”. I am confidant in my own assessment that the ‘Assadist junta’ did no such thing: which begs the question “Which NATO proxies did”? Why did that victim slit his own throat – to cross Obama’s red line? Saleh’s analysis seems modish, outdated, and poorly informed (the ‘Caesar photos’ have been widely debunked too – the link is dead, but I presume that is what he refers to as “Assad’s Killing Machine”). It… Read more »

BigB
Reader
BigB

I get what Saleh was saying: only I find it an abstruse, semanticised point of view that caused him to distort reality in the telling. That is my point. How do we convey a nuanced view without transferring atrocities from one side to the other? That is where Saleh and Karadjis are epic fails. Not in the point you keep making – I get it: only to lose it again in the distortion of atrocities to the benefit of NATO. If he could make his subtle point AND attribute the chemical massacres to NATO’s Jihadists – fine. But he can’t.… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

You write: “If Saleh or Karadij had their way: a NATO imposter would be sitting in Damascus.” No. This is a complete misreading of Saleh’s and Karadjis’s stance. Their aim and their hope is no more than to assess the reality of Syria for what it actually was and is, in the hope of raising the level of culture and awareness among progressives everywhere. They have and had no illusions about the likely outcome of the popular upsurge in Syria. They understood that in the current historical conjunctures, this upsurge might only and most probably would lead to tragic results… Read more »

BigB
Reader
BigB

Ok, Norm I do not ‘know’ who did it. But if you want to make that epistemological point: none of us know anything. We sit in our self-contained sensory reality while the bad guys rule the world. None of these crimes will ever be investigated. I do not know that 9/11 was an inside job; this conversation is null and void; and this site should shut down …we all know nothing. I do know who did not do it, even if it is by reason and inference. Which makes them worse than the ‘Assadist regime’. Yes, the wider target was… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

You write: “Perhaps Mr Saleh should consult Professor McKeigue and Postol’s account of Ghouta 2013: which he refers to as breaking Obama’s red line and a “chemical massacre”. I am confidant in my own assessment that the ‘Assadist junta’ did no such thing: which begs the question “Which NATO proxies did”? Why did that victim slit his own throat – to cross Obama’s red line?” You are confident in your assessment. But no adequate investigation of the “crime” was ever conducted or concluded. So much for anyone, then, other than those who committed the atrocity, ‘knowing’ the identity of those… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

“His actions during part of 2013, when he went to live in East Ghouta, speak quite eloquently of his politics and his values.”

Oh, do enlighten us. What were these vaguely intimated “actions” of which you speak?

Jim Scott
Reader
Jim Scott

Norman in the West there is no lack of Anti Syrian claims as we have been buried under massive amounts of anti Assad “Regime” propaganda that is demonstrably false given that Operation Timber Sycamore is a documented proof that the West had no interest in helping the Syrian people whom they claimed were being murdered by their leader. The operation was all to do with NATO controlling the region and its oil reserves. It also aimed to isolate Iran and shut the Russian navy off from their base in Syria and the Mediterranean. The US Special Forces Unconventional Warfare Manual… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

P.S. Jim, I’m not expert on climate, Jim. But unless you yourself are an expert, if at your urging I should abandon my position for leaning on the demonstrated expertise of others, shouldn’t you do the same? After all, if one is to be consistent in one’s thinking . . . As for peer review, you are simply mistaken in your assertion that the likes of Shaviv, Svensmark,Curry, Lindsen and many others have not been scrutinized by their peers. On the other hand, peer review may not be the be all and end all that you quiet imagine that it… Read more »

Jen
Reader
Jen

@ Jim: you see, our friend prefers to stay in the dark.

Norman Pilon
Reader

@ Jen: you see, you never have anything with which to counter arguments except adolescent contempt. Wake me up when you actually have something of substance to say.

Norman Pilon
Reader

Clearly you took the time to read Saleh’s piece, and immediately understood that Saleh has been brainwashed and captured by Western propaganda. Why it’s almost as if you make his case for him.

As for global warming — yawn. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to go back to sleep.

kevin morris
Reader
kevin morris

I remember a short account of life on a Pennine hill farm, written by the mother of one of my workmates. She wrote,
‘They say God helps those who help themselves, but I believe that God helps those who help each other’.

vexarb
Reader

That’s Kropotkin in a nutshell. The great Russian evolutionary biologist got his ideas by watching how reindeer survive the Siberian winter. He concluded that in a hostile environment Cooperation is the best survival strategy. The Selfish Gene couldn’t exist without cooperation from the other genes. (By the way, which gene is the Selfish one — has it been mapped?).

kevin morris
Reader
kevin morris

As I remember it, Vexarb, the Selfish Gene was simply a justification for what Milton Friedman and the Chicago School put an economic gloss on back in the seventies and eighties. They unpicked the tapestry and it’s going to be a hell of a job reweaving it but we’re really going to have to relearn all those skills that we so wantonly squandered between 1979 and the current day.

vexarb
Reader

[God works through Good people, whether they believe in God or not. Here are tributes to a good English Lady who married an English trained Syrian eye surgeon and has stood by his side during the Syrian war. She is a Lady and he is a gentleman; they held together and they kept their country together. Smiling the same radiant smile while under chemotherapy for breast cancer as she smiled at the children in her cancer ward, and on her rounds of good works. England used to have Ladies and Gentlemen in power. Now Syria has Asme and Bashar Assad,… Read more »

vexarb
Reader

Quneitra, Syria – Christmas mass was held and a Christmas tree was lit up in the Greek Orthodox Church of _St. George_ in Quneitra city. Greek Orthodox Bishop of Damascus said the mass is being held for the first time in 44 years at _St. George Church_, the first such mass since 1974 following the liberation of Quneitra, which was destroyed by the Israeli occupation. MP Janseit Qazan affirmed that the Syrians’ determination, particularly citizens of Quneitra, to bring life back to the city through holding religious and political activities affirms their keenness to liberate the Israeli occupied Syrian Golan… Read more »

Antonym
Reader
Antonym

Bad influences are also part of “God”; the just need to be reformed. Denying this diminishes your “God”.
Luckily a lot of Syrians – secular and believers – had sufficient will power to defend their home turf from ultra negative forces.
They want a better life now, not “after” (after = without guarantees!!! – which dummies and sociopaths joining ISIS, El Qaida, etc. never understood)

Narrative
Reader
Narrative

We do get sunlight and rain –life sustaining energies– from the sky. Good thoughts from above! But every now and then, we get other things as well. Things you wouldn’t call life essentials, i.e.: – hail as big as a tennis ball – depleted uranium explosives and agent orange – the mother of all bombs – beautiful Tomahawks – and drones … the future looks like every person will have a dedicated drone hovering above their shoulders; making sure everyone is doing ‘the right thing’ And then, there are people who thank God for being kind enough not to send… Read more »

wardropper
Reader
wardropper

For what it’s worth, I consider myself to be a man of faith, but intervening directly in the affairs of corrupt governments worldwide doesn’t strike me as something that any traditional god could be bothered with today, much as I like the idea. What I like is not the major issue at stake here, however, and perhaps that’s ultimately just as well. My faith has certainly not prevented me from viewing all politics with a generous helping of suspicion and cynicism, and I still find myself constantly asking who will benefit the most from this, or that, scenario. Washington is… Read more »

vexarb
Reader

@War Dropper: “What would convince me of some sort of divine intervention would be the cessation of warmongering politics altogether, and that still seems to be a very remote possibility indeed.” That’s my understanding of Divine Intervention. God spares nobody in this world, not even his only begotten Son when He walked our Earth as a human being. All that is left to us, the record of a Life spent in Charity, Compassion, Healing both physical and spiritual, Gaiety, Wit, Steadfastness, Gentleness, and proclamation of The Good News, “to do in this world as it is done in Heaven”. Which,… Read more »

summitflyer
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summitflyer

If you are reading the responses in the comment section Kevin , know that many have traveled the same footsteps. Different roads to be sure but the same steps . I also researched many religious affiliations , cults and mainstream religions initiated by Prophets and Christed ones . We are indeed being led by a benevolent entity/enteties .Some call him/her God , others Allah , and by different names as unknowable . As for myself , I have always felt an attachment ,empathy if you will , for the oppressed of this world .Wherever there is oppression , I will… Read more »

Humberto Mafra
Reader
Humberto Mafra

Beautiful, pertinent and very relevant article by Kevin Smith. Very glad to see it here.

David Eire
Reader
David Eire

I am not an atheist nor a religionist. There is no will of god involved in the Syrian war. The war is being won by the will and actions of the Syrian people with the help of the Russians and other. Hitler was defeated by the Russians and the Western Allies not by the will of god. God is not directly involved in the good or evil acts of human beings.

harry stotle
Reader
harry stotle

This is not the first time god has been put on trial.

flaxgirl
Reader

Elie Wiesel confirms that Jewish prisoners really did put God on trial. He himself wrote a play, The Trial of God, but set it in 1649 during Purim.
https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/wiesel-yes-we-really-did-put-god-on-trial-1.5056

wardropper
Reader
wardropper

I hadn’t seen this. An interesting topic. My own view is that putting man’s arguments into God’s mind is not logically justifiable, with the greatest respect and sympathy for all who have lost everything in man-made catastrophes of all kinds. We are all free not to believe in God, but if we do believe, then we must also accept that it is not reasonable to expect Him to think as we do. We are earthbound, and He is not. Criticizing Him for not thinking in the same way that we do makes as much sense as criticizing a tree for… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

Because I know that the people who come to Off-Guardian for news and analysis are open minded, that they always only accept a given perspective tentatively, even and especially when it happens to be their own, because they know that they may be wrong about what they most fervently believe and hope to be true, and are thus able to dispassionately assess arguments on the basis of purported information that may challenge their presuppositions and opinions, a link for you: Thomas Pierret on the Syrian Revolution As for God, if there is a God, if He has perhaps finally decided… Read more »

Humberto Mafra
Reader
Humberto Mafra

Additionally, before I embraced God in my life, after years of Marxism, I strongly believed, as you do, that a Loving and Just God would never create suffering on the scale we see on this planet. That was until I engaged with and understood the oriental twin concepts of Karma and reincarnation, and evolution of the Soul, or Spirit, through different life times in which justice and personal responsibility are addressed at the individual level. Without karma accounting for the kosmic Justice System, it’s hard to see God a just and loving, i agree with you on that.

BigB
Reader
BigB

Humberto Mafra You come across as very respectful, with a beautiful tolerance, which is rare. So it is with great respect that I say that the version of karma you have come across seems to be the Westernised internet meme version. To be fair, the ‘retribution and cyclical expiatory rebirth’ version is becoming ubiquitous – East and West. However, it has nothing to do with karma in the Budhhist (Abhidharmic; Yogacaran; Madhyamakan; Mahayanan) sense. It amounts to a quasi-Christianised cultural appropriation and misrepresentation as a Law of ‘kosmic justice’: one which I for one would like to see rectified. First… Read more »

vexarb
Reader

Humberto, even mathematical physicists seem to have discovered a sort of Cosmic Justice in our apparently random world. Buddhists believe that Samsara (our chaotic, apparently unjust world) and Nirvana (the Peace that passeth understanding) are One. And physicists are discovering that the apparently random order of electron shells in Matter is related to the most perfect construction of Mind — the Prime Numbers. A rational order seems to lurk behind apparently irrational distribution.

Humberto Mafra
Reader
Humberto Mafra

Have you ever heard that God created the humans and gave them something called Free Will ? And guided by this free will, humans have gone about living their lives, making decisions/choices and, of course, having to live with the consequences of their actions at the individual level as level as well as at the collective one. If you don’t believe in that you don’t believe in some measure of human freedom, and consequent reponsibilities, that spiritual people do, and also most agnostics or atheists. God doesn’t do deterministic, mechanical micromanagement of the world he/she/it created. That’d be unworthy of… Read more »

Norman Pilon
Reader

Certainly there are good theological arguments to be made for the world being the way that it is and at the same time having been created by a Deity enamored of the ‘good.’ For unless man is free to choose between evil and good, his choice in favor of the latter can not be ‘genuinely’ ethical. That’s an idea I can subscribe to: that I can ‘choose’ a moral course of action over an immoral one, and that my choice in such a context, unmotivated save for wanting to do good for the sake only of doing good, is in… Read more »

Humberto Mafra
Reader
Humberto Mafra

I’m familiar with your arguments and have great respect for the place of reflexion in which you find yourself. People can be atheistic, or agnostic, and, yet, be very generous, very other-regarding in the most positive way, and very loving and caring with our “neighbour”; I have many friends like that, with a wonderful open heart. The left is full of people like that, and they are the Salt of the Earth, too. And this is the essence of spirituality and alignment with God, regardless of what your rational mind may be telling you.

vexarb
Reader

@Humberto Mafra: “I have many friends like that, with a wonderful open heart. The left is full of people like that, and they are the Salt of the Earth, too. ”

Yes, I know some Christians and Muslims who are every bit as caring and honest as my Atheist Communist friends.

Kathy
Reader
Kathy

I hope and prey a tipping point has come. People awakening from the spell that has enabled the wicked to inflict so much pain and suffering on to the world. This track came into my head as I was reading the piece above.

Kathy
Reader
Kathy

I am not really sure what happened there.
This was not the track I had meant to post. There is I think some merit. Though not what I had intended. The track intended was ;puscifer,s Humbling river;. It for me sums up the unity of spirit and heart that helps us all across the river to freedom. I am posting below and hope that this time it works. Apologies if I mess up again.

rtj1211
Reader
rtj1211

Religion is a construct using a fear of consequences after death which can be neither proven nor discounted. Doing good deeds does not actually require religion, it requires either an experience handed down by others, namely decency for the sake of decency, or experiences requiring a choice between an eye for an eye or human forgiveness. Children are expert at detecting the difference between true decency and posturing. They may not conceptualise this but their behavioural responses always tell the truth…. Each human can decide on what basis they impart decency. It can be fear of some unknown deity or… Read more »

Jerry Alatalo
Reader

rtj1211,

“…a fear of consequences after death which can be neither proven nor discounted.”

Personal accounts of people who’ve come back with their amazing descriptions after having near death experiences (NDE) seem very convincing proof. The Near Death Experience Research Foundation’s website (the largest NDE-focused platform on the internet) features 1,000s of awe-inspiring accounts from men, women and children the world over.

https://www.nderf.org

Peace.

DunGroanin
Reader
DunGroanin

Kevin – I applaud the rediscovered sense of spiritualty, it is to do with evolved ‘natural instinct’ and problem solving skills, selected through evolutionary sucess, just like opposable thumbs! It is what I consider to be the god-shaped hole that every human is born with. There are a multiplicity of beliefs that have filled that hole – a monotheistic God, amongst them. However, I think you need to consider further on some of the issues you raise, for example: “The victors and victims on the right side of history during World War Two such as US, Britain, Israel and France,… Read more »

Jen
Reader
Jen

I agree with DunGroanin, that the US, Britain and France, for reasons specific to these nations, can’t be said to have been on the “right” side of history during WWII. France itself was a willing collaborator with Nazi Germany for part of the war. The British and Americans carried out indiscriminate aerial bombing raids over Germany that targeted civilians as well as military targets – but curiously did not and would not target the concentration camp complex in Auschwitz even when they knew of its existence and location. Moreover, those nations’ treatment of Germany between World Wars I and II,… Read more »

vexarb
Reader

@Dungronin “Pathocracy”. Cometh the moment, cometh a new Greek word. To supplement Democracy, Aristocracy, Plutocracy, Kleptocracy, Oligarchy and Tyranny. Created under pressure of events because the Western regimes confederate in NATZO, which have committed most of the mass atrocities of the past 30 years — against Serbia, against Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen — are a composite political monster that can be described by none of those old Greek words, though sharing the characteristics of all of them; except Aristocracy. The “Aristocrats” (the Best people) have been replaced in modern Western Politics by the “Elite”… Read more »

DunGroanin
Reader
DunGroanin

Vexarb – i did not invent the concept and can’t take credit for it. Political Ponerology: A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes by Andrew M. Lobaczewski ‘The original manuscript of this book went into the furnace minutes before a secret police raid in Communist Poland. The second copy, painfully reassembled by scientists working under impossible conditions of violence and repression, was sent via courier to the Vatican. Its receipt was never acknowledged – the manuscript and all valuable data lost. In 1984, the third and final copy was written from memory by the last survivor… Read more »

vexarb
Reader

Damascus, SANA – Patriarch of Antioch said that the return of peace and security to Syria thanks to the sacrifices of the Syrian Arab Amy have granted the opportunity for people this year to express happiness and joy on Christmas and the New Year. The Patriarch’s remarks came while presiding over mass at _St. Georges_ Patriarchal Cathedral, Damascus. His holiness added that celebrating the Christmas and the New Year come in coincidence with celebrating the 2nd anniversary of liberating Aleppo from terrorism. He affirmed that the Syrian people who have remained steadfast in the face of terrorist organizations will soon… Read more »

Paul Carline
Reader
Paul Carline

I would not be too confident in claiming that in either of the world wars the Allies were “on the right side of history”. The “sole guilt of Germany” is no longer credible in the light of what we now know about the machinations of especially the British and American leaders and hidden so-called ‘elites’. But on the question of ‘good and evil’ and the necessary existence of supernatural beings, forces and events in the universe I’m definitely with the writer. If there’s nothing but matter and energy and space there can be no morality and thus no ‘evil’ –… Read more »

summitflyer
Reader
summitflyer

I could not have found the words to say what you have presented so succinctly .
May the forces of light visit upon all of us so we finally become truly human .

Humberto Mafra
Reader
Humberto Mafra

Beautiful comment, I couldn’t agree more. Glad to see it, and others, here on Off-Guardian. This is a very relevant conversation for the left, going through a deep crisis at the moment, need to have, if the job of “mending, healing the world” is to continue to be carried out.

Makropulos
Reader
Makropulos

There always seems to be this prejudice that human evil can be referred back to animals. But animals – even carnivores – are not evil. Animals maim and murder to feed or to defend themselves. And as for rape – can it be said to exist in the animal realm? They follow mating patters which are obviously not comparable to human behaviour. Only humans carry out activities that involve murder, maiming etc. in the knowledge that they do so. Why? Either because they have a sadistic delight in the misery caused or because the misery caused is of no concern… Read more »

wardropper
Reader
wardropper

Indeed animals are not evil. They are, at worst, a reminder of what we can become if we do not use our gifts – especially that of self-consciousness – wisely. How can a lioness, or a wolf, be expected to act like us, even if it could perceive anything in us which might inspire it to act differently? A wolf MUST be a wolf, and do wolfish things. It cannot do otherwise. The choices are not there. A wolf which tries to be kind to its prey is an ineffective wolf. A bad wolf. A sub-wolf, in fact. Just as… Read more »

Makropulos
Reader
Makropulos

I think it was the “gift” of self-consciousness that created the potential for evil. This may be the great truth behind the story of the Garden of Eden. Indeed – this story even hints at the theory of evolution. Adam and Eve are naked and unashamed i.e. unaware of themselves. They are like animals. But then comes the Fall and they develope a sense of shame which necessarily comes from self-awareness. Thus human consciousness dawns. And it is to humans that the words good and evil apply.

Makropulos
Reader
Makropulos

The more I think about the story of the Garden of Eden, the more curious it seems. It’s fascinating that the dawn of human consciousness is seen as a “Fall” and that it is initiated by the serpent who is indicative of a force or entity that seems to be working against God or, at least, against God’s stated word. Human consciousness thus appears as something highly ambivalent. It’s a blessing and a curse at the same time.

Francis Lee
Reader
Francis Lee

I don’t want to start a big theological disputation, I did all that when I was at University and never came to any firm conclusions. All those seminars involving the views of Bertrand Russell, David Hume on one side and St.Thomas Aquinas and St.Augustine on the other. Does God exist? Being agnostic I haven’t the remotest idea. When I have managed to learn, however, is that man has the capacity to do good or evil. And good and evil are, and probably always will be, a fact of life. Let’s just give a cheer when evil is occasionally vanquished. Bravo… Read more »