Monthly Archives: August 2014

Terrorism as Theater

By Robert D. Kaplan

The beheading of American journalist James Foley by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq was much more than an altogether gruesome and tragic affair: rather, it was a very sophisticated and professional film production deliberately punctuated with powerful symbols. Foley was dressed in an orange jumpsuit reminiscent of the Muslim prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay. He made his confession forcefully, as if well rehearsed. His executioner, masked and clad in black, made an equally long statement in a calm, British accent, again, as if rehearsed. It was as if the killing was secondary to the message being sent.

The killing, in other words, became merely the requirement to send the message. As experts have told me, there are more painful ways to dispatch someone if you really hate the victim and want him to suffer. You can burn him alive. You can torture him. But beheading, on the other hand, causes the victim to lose consciousness within seconds once a major artery is cut in the neck, experts say. Beheading, though, is the best method for the sake of a visually dramatic video, because you can show the severed head atop the chest at the conclusion. Using a short knife, as in this case, rather than a sword, also makes the event both more chilling and intimate. Truly, I do not mean to be cruel, indifferent, or vulgar. I am only saying that without the possibility of videotaping the event, there would be no motive in the first place to execute someone in such a manner.

What Was Accomplished by the Still-unfinished Gaza War

Below is a new essay by Paul: What Was Accomplished by the Still-unfinished Gaza War.  We present this essay reprinted by permission of Paul and from The Bayview Review. See the links at the end for direct access to the rest of Paul’s work.

Has Israel Gained on the Public Relations Front?

Most commentators seem to accept that, for all the suffering that Israel has had to endure on the surreal battlefield that is Gaza; for all the massive demonstrations against her around the world; for all the pain that she has had to endure on hearing echoes of the kristallnacht of over seventy years ago coming from parts of Europe regarded until recently as safe again for Jews – nevertheless, Israel has probably come out of the bloody Gaza adventure with more friends, high and low, and fewer dedicated enemies than she had before the war began a month ago.

Iraq and Syria Follow Lebanon’s Precedent

By George Friedman

Lebanon was created out of the Sykes-Picot Agreement. This agreement between Britain and France reshaped the collapsed Ottoman Empire south of Turkey into the states we know today — Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, and to some extent the Arabian Peninsula as well. For nearly 100 years, Sykes-Picot defined the region. A strong case can be made that the nation-states Sykes-Picot created are now defunct, and that what is occurring in Syria and Iraq represents the emergence of those post-British/French maps that the United States has been trying to maintain since the collapse of Franco-British power.

The Canary in the Coal Mine Just Went Silent; You Don’t Suppose It Means Anything, Do You?

Below is a new essay by Paul: The Canary in the Coal Mine Just Went Silent; You Don’t Suppose It Means Anything, Do You?  We present this essay reprinted by permission of Paul and from The Bayview Review. See the links at the end for direct access to the rest of Paul’s work.

We are re-living the Weimer Republic and 1933 is looming on the horizon.  Europe’s vacation from history is over and the besetting sin of Europe, Jew hatred, is raising its ugly head once again.  Last time was nearly fatal; is Europe really going to go through this all over again?

Thoughts on Cults

From time to time we give some thoughts to cults. Undoubtedly there is am extensive literature on the subject which we won’t expend the resources to explore. Instead we collect a few thoughts and observations if only to consolidate our thinking. It is a longtime thought of ours that human beings are believing animals. That belief is a foundational characteristic of our psyche.

Here’s a question for you dear reader. Given a choice between two options:

  1. When you die, that’s it. There is nothing more.
  2. When you die, you will go to an elevated state or place where there is no pain or suffering but where you live on forever in peace and joy.

Which option would you choose? Most persons on this planet are presented with this choice. This is the domain of organizations called religion and cult. Salvation is the process of joining the organization and following its tenets to attain the promise of choice two above. This is a very powerful attractor and the more disadvantaged you are the stronger the attraction. It is the domain of belief. The power of the organization then is the control over your salvation. Common characteristics of these organizations are:

  1. A doctrine that incorporates an attractive life-after-death state and possibly a counter state of eternal misery and torment (heaven and hell);
  2. the doctrine is the only true doctrine and all else is false;
  3. if you leave the organization you will never attain salvation – the threat of spiritual violence – and you become an enemy of the organization;
  4. the threat of physical violence for apostasy;
  5. wrote teaching of the doctrine and unquestioning obedience;
  6. physical and/or psychological punishment for disobedience;
  7. a supreme leader or head whose words are considered to be divinely inspired and who may not be questioned;
  8. physical separation from everyday life in segregated communities.

The first step of entrapment by these organizations is to create the belief of the new member. The eight points above are intended to establish and maintain control over the new member through their belief. We think that all religions and cults may be defined by this set of principals or some subset thereof. Many organizations are definitely of malevolent intent while others are quite benign.

The Death Knell Sounds for the Christians of Iraq

We consider this essay by Paul a very important one: The Death Knell Sounds for the Christians of Iraq. It portends our future, particularly because of our cultural denial of the threat. We present this essay reprinted by permission of Paul and from The Bayview Review. See the links at the end for direct access to the rest of Paul’s work.


In Mosul …. Iraq’s oldest and second-largest city, Christians fled their homes after the IS [Islamic State] gave them three days to leave the caliphate’s territory. According to the IS, it issued this order after the heads of the Christian community in the city refused a summons to discuss their status and respond to the organization’s demand that they either convert to Islam, pay the jizya (poll tax), or “face the sword.” The Christians’ exodus from the city, which has 13 churches and monasteries, is said to be the first case in Iraq’s history where an entire Christian community has fled en masse. Reports also claim that the IS has burned down an ancient church in Mosul, and that its men have seized Christians’ property, sometimes with the cooperation of their Muslim neighbors. Other sources report that churches in the city have been converted to mosques. (“The Islamic State’s Treatment of Christians,”“ MEMRI (membri@memri.or, August 15, 2014.

Share Europe’s Malaise: The New Normal?

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By George Friedman

Russia and Ukraine continue to confront each other along their border. Iraq has splintered, leading to unabated internal warfare. And the situation in Gaza remains dire. These events should be enough to constitute the sum total of our global crises, but they’re not. On top of everything, the German economy contracted by 0.2 percent last quarter. Though many will dismiss this contraction outright, the fact that the world’s fourth-largest economy (and Europe’s largest) has shrunk, even by this small amount, is a matter of global significance.

Europe has been mired in an economic crisis for half a decade now. Germany is the economic engine of Europe, and it is expected that it will at some point pull Europe out of its crisis. There have been constant predictions that Europe may finally be turning an economic corner, but if Germany’s economy is contracting (Berlin claims it will rebound this year), it is difficult to believe that any corner is being turned. It is becoming increasingly reasonable to believe that rather than an interlude in European prosperity, what we now see is actually the new normal. The key point is not that Germany’s economy has contracted by a trivial amount. The point is that it has come time to raise the possibility that it could be a very long time before Europe returns to its pre-2008 prosperity and to consider what this means.

The Ghost Convoy


At 2:28 PM Aug. 14 according to the time-stamp on the embedded tweet in the Guardian article cited below, Shaun Walker tweeted:

So and I just saw a column of APCs and vehicles with official Russian military plates cross border into Ukraine.

Walker and Roland Oliphant of the Telegraph are credited with first reporting an incursion of Russian military vehicles into the Ukraine. The Guardian then reported on Aug. 15, Aid convoy stops short of border as Russian military vehicles enter Ukraine:

The Guardian saw a column of 23 armoured personnel carriers, supported by fuel trucks and other logistics vehicles with official Russian military plates, travelling towards the border near the Russian town of Donetsk – about 200km away from Donetsk, Ukraine.

After pausing by the side of the road until nightfall, the convoy crossed into Ukrainian territory, using a rough dirt track and clearly crossing through a gap in a barbed wire fence that demarcates the border.

2 + 2 = … Anyone’s Guess

See if you can add this up:

  1. The US which has transformed its police forces into paramilitary units (read: Congressman Hank Johnson Will Introduce Bill To Stop The Militarization Of Police; also Police Militarization In Ferguson, Missouri) still can’t figure out how to control mass protest and violence (read: One Shot, In Critical Condition, 7 Arrested After Protesters Break Ferguson Curfew). Shooting them doesn’t seem to be working.
  2. WHO is still reporting only 12 cases of Ebola in Nigeria out of a total of 2,127 cases (WHO: 15 August 2014). This is down from 13 on Aug. 8 but up from 9 on Aug. 5.
  3. Spain and India are now reporting five suspected cases of Ebola, all in patients who recently returned from Nigeria (read: India, Spain Testing Suspected Ebola Patients; Liberian Quarantine Center Raided).

Connecting the Dots

Working in reverse from point 3: recall that in the Caveat section we added at the end of Are We Ready for Ebola? we suggested under-reporting of cases was a risk. Note that the five cases in Spain and India being assessed are all from Nigeria.

Then in point 2, note the small number of cases reported by Nigeria, a number which has actually decreased from Aug. 8. How is it that so many suspected cases are coming out of Nigeria whose reporting suggests the disease is contained and of insignificant impact.  Surely given what we know about Nigerian authorities in many other matters there is no reason to suspect they are under-reporting or incompetent.

Finally, when the country in the world with the most resources at its disposal can’t contain civil unrest in this day and age, have we anything to worry about in terms of a country specific Ebola epidemic morphing into a global pandemic?


Two days after we wrote this we read that 2 cases of suspected Ebola have surfaced in Austria. And the patients are recently from … drum roll … that country that doesn’t have an Ebola problem: Nigeria. From Zero Hedge: Cameroon Blocks All Nigeria Borders As Ebola Cases Rise, 17 Liberian Escapees Recovered. As of Sept. 4 however WHO reports 3685 cases with 1841 deaths. The disease has not reached the critical mass necessary to move to a global pandemic. It may be contained eventually and the 20,o00 number Who put out as a cap may be an upper bound.

Ruminations of a Raptor

It’s 4:19 am and the mind is on a steady simmer. Warning: this is a ramble whose threads of coherence may be difficult to discern. It’s not dark yet But it’s gettin’ there.

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