Apocalypse Watch


Do bodies count or do we just count bodies? The tally of victims over the past week continues at a fierce pace. The dead in Yemen are not even being counted as many corpses now are rotting where they fall. UNICEF says only 74 Yemeni children have been killed since the bombing by the Saudi Coalition began, but that is surely an understatement. Hundreds of civilians have died and numerous soldiers and militia on both sides. A few days ago Somali Shabab ruthlessly murdered almost 150 students at Garissa University in Kenya, separating the Christians out from the Muslims. Add this to the killing by Boko Haram in Nigeria. Now in Tikrit mass graves are being found that tell the story of 1700 Iraqi soldiers executed. And ISIS has now taken over most of the Yarmouk Palestinian Camp in Damascus with more dead bodies and many more to come.

We are witnessing a killing frenzy, but the daily reports might as well be a Hollywood film or a shoot-em-up video game. How many bodies must there be before the killing stops? Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen is turning out not to be decisive but divisive, creating chaos in Saudi Arabia’s poor neighbor to the south. The shock-and-awe strategy is no doubt appealing to the arms dealers worldwide; their champagne glasses must be tinkling with every bomb that is dropped. The massive arsenal raining down destruction on Yemen can easily be replaced, but not the bodies of the victims. The killing continues on the ground as well in Yemen, a political nightmare engineered by former President Ali Abdullah Salih to regain power. But what would he regain power over? A country devastated beyond the current economic collapse, a land where his unchecked gluttony left Yemen the poorest country in the region, a people pitted against each other with the encouragement of foreign powers? A pile of corpses as high as a mountain, a mountain of utter despair? (more…)

There is an excellent analysis of ISIS as a cult recently posted on War on the Rocks.

Here is the start, but click here for the full article…

Why Cults Work: The Power Games of the Islamic State and the Lord’s Resistance Army
by Eleanor Beevor

Graeme Wood’s article “What does ISIS really want?” has become the most discussed foreign policy article of the year. Yet the piece’s power lies not in the title question, but in Wood’s blunt assessment of a paradox that leaves Western leaders flummoxed: How does one explain the traction of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), while also denying its religious legitimacy, in order to combat anti-Muslim bigotry? Wood didn’t mince words in refuting this hesitancy:

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic… the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

What follows is a fascinating piece of research, and a frustrating read. Despite addressing all the right aspects of ISIL’s ideological content to understand its power, Wood’s argument is guided by the wrong question: “How Islamic is ISIL?” For him, denial of ISIL’s Islamic nature is why we fail to understand it. The analytical pitfalls of quantifying “Islamic-ness” should be self-explanatory. Are some of Islam’s 1.6 billion practitioners less Muslim than others if they are less violent? How do we explain the religious devotion of politically “quietest” Salafism, compared to the British ISIL fighters who purchased Islam for Dummies pre-departure? This is not to say that religion is irrelevant in the analysis of ISIL. ISIL uses Islam as an existential anchor, so its actions have to be influenced by it in order to work. It also freely capitalizes on global Islamist sentiment. But to say the whole structure is uniquely, potently Islamic is not just a logical fallacy, but part of the very illusion that sustains loyalty to it. Actually, the features that Wood claims represent ISIL’s Islamic orthodoxy – its obsession with “purity” and the apocalyptic prophecy it stakes its claim on – have “been done,” and not just by Islamists. This is revealed by comparing ISIL with another notoriously violent army, led by another self-styled holy man.

ISIL and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) represent grabs for power, but power of a cosmic kind, beyond what human society can grant them. In examining both, I suggest a word substitution. The ways in which ISIL works, to extraordinary success, are not uniquely Islamic. They are uniquely “cultic.” And to examine ISIL as a cult is to see chinks in its armor. ISIL’s territory may be shrinking, but that alone won’t kill the loyalties of its cadres, nor slow the spread of its bloody sectarian ideology. In ISIL, as in the LRA, knowledge is power. If we can challenge the leaders’ tight hold on that power, ISIL’s ideological grip on its fighters might just begin to crumble…


Let’s hope that in another decade we will be back to this ISIS (Isis depicted with outstretched wings (wall painting, c. 1360 BCE) and be thankful the carnage of the current ISIS is past

In the media, cyberspace, Facebook, Twitter and just about everywhere punditry is pandered to we are hearing experts expound on what ISIS really is and really wants. One of the latest broadsides is an article in the Atlantic by the journalist Graeme Wood, who pieces together quotes from scholars with comments of a couple of ISIS supporters he talked with in London and Melbourne. Here is how the Atlantic keyworded the article:

The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.

And if one reads further on, the following claim is made:

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Let’s start with the obvious. If you really want to know what makes ISIS tick, avoid anything a journalist who seems to know little or nothing of the history of Islam says, even if he goes to the experts. Also, what somebody willing to talk to the journalist and not smash in his head with a rock (a point raised in the article as part of ISIS strategy in Western countries) says ISIS is or wants is probably not going to help you understand what the people who claim to be ISIS are actually doing, nor the variety of their views.

I am not interested in rehearsing the subjective misreadings of the article, which others have already done. But there comes a point when the bombast propagated in the media frenzy to cover this made-in-Hollywood real-life action thriller is enough already. So here are four points I want to make about the way in which the story of ISIS is being framed by many outlets in the media and why we need to move on. (more…)

Is it hard to image what President Obama has not been called. The tea party partisans say he is not an American; many Republicans think he is a Muslim (or Arab as though there is any difference). And he has let Muslim Brothers take over the government. He is obviously a socialist, if not a communist. And then there is what the Bible has to say about this American president (not to mention several others before him and quite a few defunct world leaders). So some prophecy sites on Youtube say he is the Beast of Revelation. After all, the secret service calls his presidential limousine “the beast.” Or the Antichrist. If he had a sex change operation, he would no doubt be a candidate for the “Whore of Babylon.” But then where would that leave Hilary Clinton? And now that we know that Michelle Obama is a man, it is really hard to find a revelation role for her or him.

(more…)

Apocalypse has gone digital in a big way. A Google search will open up more prophetic doomsayers than you can shake a Schofield Bible at. One of my favorites (perhaps not the right term for what I actually think about such sites) is the slick Youtube “Armageddon News.” The voice is that of the standard digital female used in a host of amateur cartoon videos. There is no obvious reference to who puts the site out, so my first reaction was that it could be satire. But in this case the real thing is probably more satirical than any satire could be. The Youtube channel presents 23 videos. One of the more bizarre videos links the “mark of the Beast” and the number 666 in the biblical book of Revelation to Islam in a rather ingenious way. Of all the conspiracy theories out there about Bible prophecy and Islam, this one takes the proverbial cake. Do check it out on Youtube.

So here is the gematric plot, as devised by Satan, of course. In the Greek of the book of Revelation the number 666 is spelled out in Greek letters. Guess what? If you do a little angle (not angel) shifting you will have the bismillah alongside the cross swords. John left a clue some two millennia ago for anyone with a vivid imagination. But there is more. If you look at the ornamental marks on Allahu Akbar, they are all 6s. How more specific can you get? (more…)

What do a new film about the biblical Noah, who built the ark, and the Muslim Brotherhood have in common? Both have been banned in Egypt. Muhammad Morsi, the stealth brother who was elected president of Egypt, was removed from office last July (one day before we in America celebrated our revolution). On December 25 (the consummate day for thinking about peace one earth), Egypt declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. Now along comes Noah, at least the latest Hollywood version, with Russell Crowe donning the mantle (at least the biblical robe variety) of Charlton Heston and providing a robust challenge to John Huston’s whimsical Noah in The Bible. The major Egyptian Islamic institution, al-Azhar, has issued a fatwa condemning the film for depicting the Prophet Noah (who has an entire chapter devoted to him in the Quran). Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have already officially banned the film and Egypt is likely to follow suit, given the fatwa. (more…)


Today is December 21, 2012. For most of us it is just another day. But for some it is the end of the world. The most infamous prediction for today is a claim about the Mayan calendar and the nebulous plant Nibiru. I am not sure what time of the day the end is supposed to happen, but I am taking the precaution of posting my commentary the night before. Of course, since NASA has seen fit to deem this prediction a hoax (imagine that) with a Youtube video, I am perhaps being overly cautious. I suppose NASA took action because there is a Youtube channel out there on the Mayan date and we all know how many people accept anything they see on Youtube as true. Fingers have been pointed at the filmmakers of 2012, said on the official film website to be the “number one movie in the world.” But who knows why Hollywood bothered to make the film at all if the producers won’t be around to cash in on sales. Well, they did make it a couple of years ago and have no doubt been partying right up until December 21.

But just in case Muslims are wondering about this 2012 doomsday scenario, it is comforting to note that Ahlul Bayt News Agency has issued a statement that Muslim scholars have condemned the threat as a hoax. (more…)


A Palestinian man walks on his property overlooking the Israeli settlement Har Homa in the Israeli-occupied West Bank; photograph from the Christian Science Monitor

Lob missiles in the direction of Tel Aviv, drop a bomb on a Hamas official, strap on a vest and blow up an Israeli bus, tear down Palestinian houses and build a wall, teach your children to hate the oppressor and get a symbolic upgrade in the UN: how can this seemingly intractable dilemma of “World of Warcraft: Land of Abraham” Israel vs. Palestine scenario ever get settled. One unilateral way is to settle it with yet more settlements. As The New York Times notes in today’s edition, the current Israeli government has their own kind of settlement in mind:

A day after the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to upgrade the status of the Palestinians, a senior Israeli official said the government would pursue “preliminary zoning and planning preparations” for a development that would separate the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem from Jerusalem. If such a project were to go beyond blueprints, it could prevent the creation of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state.

The development, in an open, mostly empty area known as E1, would connect the large settlement town of Maale Adumim to Jerusalem. Israeli officials also authorized construction of 3,000 housing units in parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The Obama administration, which backs virtually everything Israel does, is barking about how this is unhelpful, stopping short of the political bite that could be called condemnation. But some American diplomats see the danger in this mood: “This is not just another few houses in Jerusalem or another hilltop in the West Bank,” said Daniel C. Kurtzer, a former American ambassador to Israel and Egypt. “This is one of the most sensitive areas of territory, and I would hope the United States will lay down the law.”


That law has about as much chance of being laid down in the current political climate as the law west of Pecos in America’s own landgrab days. (more…)

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