“Human beings may use different religions to speak to God, as they use different languages to speak to one another. God understands them all.”
Bernard Lewis

That’s from the essay. “I’m Right, You’re Wrong, Go To Hell” Religions and the Meeting of Civilizations By; Bernard Lewis

A couple of days ago I used the phrase “Looking to our separate Gods to answer our deepest fears will keep us from finding a way where all people can live and grow together.” In his essay in the Atlantic Monthly he lays out how much the three great religions have in common and how we have grown apart. Bernard Lewis has great insights into the region and specializes in the relationship between the east and the west from time of the Ottoman empire till now. The essay is a bit long but worth the time.
The Muslims have good cause to suspect that we (the west) do not have good intentions in coming to Iraq or to any other Muslim country. We do not have a history of doing good deeds when we show up. And now we have come as an armed invader. Whether we had good cause or not the people of Iraq will continue to look at our presence with suspicion at least and dread at worst. That’s why we are hearing “Down with Saddam, Down with USA”. We have to remember the adults in Iraq remember quite well that Regan and Papa Bush supported and armed Saddam giving him the strength to fight Iran and suppress the people of Iraq. Also they remember too well being urged to rise up against Saddam by Papa Bush only to be led to slaughter.
In an article in Egypt Today, "The Sum of All Fears" which is a fairly amusing article about one families way of coping with the rising prices in Egypt this phrase is tossed off as an aside. “A brutal occupation of an Arab neighbor is on its way, and we have no say. Freedom and justice are under fire, and no one can stop it. Is there any hope for tomorrow?" The middle class of Egypt take it for granted the Iraq is now under a “brutal” occupation. How are we to reconcile this? I can see only one way. Make the peace work and get the peace in Isael going now even if that means a “regime change” for both the Palestinians and Israel. Neither Arafat or Sharon are prepared to move towards peace.


“They didn’t change with time.”

While reading an article in Tuesday’s Science Times Lost No More: An Etruscan Rebirth (registration required) I came across this passage.
“For all the Etruscans' arts and agriculture, their fine metalworking and commerce, Etruscan power and grip on the Italian peninsula began to decline in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. I am absolutely convinced one of the main reasons they weren't successful in the long run was that their society was static, didn't change with time,"

The Etruscan era lasted from about 700BC (CE) to about 100BC (CE), 600 hundred years, with the height of their civilization being about 550BC (CE). If their weakness was clinging on to their past there is a lesson for all of us to learn. As the rise of fundamentalist groups in all of the three great religions tries to drag us back into the past we should look to civilizations that faded from memory. In Iraq the Shia are trying to grab power that has been denied them by the Baath Party while the Reverend Billy Graham is intent on getting to devastated Iraq with a message of Jesus in one hand while holding food and medicine in the other. The Israelis in the meantime insist that “God” gave them the land justifying the settlements in the west bank.

How can we move ahead when we cling to our Gods of the past? How can we live in a “global” village and still claim our Gods are better than your Gods? The situation in Iraq will bring this flaw into sharp focus. The US has invoked the name of the western God in its right to bring down a government. The Shia of southern Iraq will insist on a government ruled by the laws of sharia and Israel sits in the middle of all this with government dominated by an increasingly fundamentalist and militant bent.
The Republican party of the US has been co-opted by the Christian Right and this is the government that wants to bring Iraq into the “light” of democracy.

From the Times article.
The philosopher Seneca, in the first century A.D., may have had an explanation for the Etruscans' inability to take charge of themselves and change.
“This is the difference between us Romans and the Etruscans," Seneca wrote. "We believe that lightning is caused by clouds colliding, whereas they believe that clouds collide in order to create lightning. Since they attribute everything to gods, they are led to believe not that events have a meaning because they have happened, but that they happen in order to express a meaning.”

Looking to our separate Gods to answer our deepest fears will keep us from finding a way where all people can live and grow together. The Etruscans reached their height 200 years after they first emerged on the scene. America was founded a mere 200 years ago.

In the reading list to the left you will find Karen Armstrong’s ”The Battle for God” in it she chronicles the rise of fundamentalism in all three of the mono-theistic religions. Each religion has its fundamentalists, the Muslims are not unique in this. Each religion is trying to cling to the past where life was easy to define by attributing everything to the Gods.


What we don’t know WILL hurt us.

U.S. Seen on Brink of Iraq's Religious “Snakepit” A headline that ignores the “hearts and minds” of the Iraqi people. If you search the web you will find story after story on the death of Abdul Majid al-Khoei who was brought to the holy city of Najaf by U.S. Special Forces. You will find variation after variation with little agreement on who killed him and why. His exile in the U.S. did not help him and may have been the reason for his death. And then there is the siege of Grand Ayatollah Sistani who was surrounded and told he had 48 hours to leave Iraq. Leading Shi'a circles have blamed a hitherto little known group, the Jama'at as-Sadr as-Thani for the murder and the armed threat against the ayatollahs. WHO?? This group is led by Muqtada as-Sadr, the 22 year-old-son of another revered ayatollah, the late Mohammad Sadiq as-Sadr, who was killed by Saddam's regime in 1999. Aren’t the Shii glad we ousted Saddam? If so, why are they now killing each other and killing a man who hid in the U.S. Siege of Shiite Clerics Over That siege seems to have ended peacefully and we haven’t a clue as to why it ended. It does seem like the siege started with the rumor that Grand Ayatollah Sistani issued a Fatwa urging the country's Shia community not to hinder the U.S. and British invading armies. Apparently backing the U.S./British invasion is a death sentence. All of this points up just how hard the next phase of Iraq’s future will be.
Papa Bush urged the Shii to rise up against Saddam in 1991 then left hundreds of thousands to die when he left them helpless. He backed away because he saw the quagmire of trying sort out the various factions looming ahead. Now that the Shrub (Papa “Bush”, the son is the “Shrub”! Please tell me you’ve already heard that.) anyway, now that the Shrub has attacked and removed the government of a sovereign nation he must try to restore order and help the people put a new government in place. Bringing Abdul Majid al-Khoei to Najef from the U.S. was a feeble and disastrous first step.

If you are new to this blog you might read from the bottom up as that's how the posts are listed.


When I saw the headline Iraq National Museum Treasures Plundered I wasn’t surprised but was dismayed just the same. The museum's most famous holding may have been tablets with Hammurabi's Code, one of mankind's earliest codes of law along with “The Ram in the Thicket” from Ur, a statue representing a deity from 2600 BC. It seems the army did park a couple of tanks at the entrance to the museum but they were needed elsewhere and then the looting started and lasted two days. What objects couldn’t be carried out were smashed. Looters also plundered Mosul University's library, with its rare ancient manuscripts. The library was ransacked despite appeals broadcast from the minarets of the city's mosque to halt the destruction. This is war is not a triumph it is destructive and the effects will be long lasting. I don’t condone the selling of antiquities that belong to nations but in this case I suggest anyone who is offered something that they buy it if they can. At least it be taken care of and may find its way back to a museum when the estate is sold. Otherwise if the looters can’t sell the objects they will get rid of them mostly by destroying them. Unfortunately most of the artifacts will be melted down if they are gold or gotten rid of because the looters won’t be able to find buyers. Some will sit in the closets and selves of the looters for years to come. It will be a bit of irony if some of the pottery goes back into use in the kitchens of the Iraqi’s serving up the evening meal.