St Anthony once said, “A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, “You are mad, you are not like us”
Even the most casual and intermittent perusal of the daily papers is enough to establish the basic truth of the above quote from St. Anthony of Egypt.
Very infrequent though my exposure to the newspapers is, even when I do end up looking at one there is usually something in it which manages to convey the preposterousness of the contemporary Western World. On the 26th October I came across the story of a female soldier killed by the “friendly fire” of her British Army colleagues. Leaving aside the marvellous nonsense of bullets and guns ever being “friendly”, I was staggered by the sheer farcicality of her death. Apparently her unit came across an off-duty Afghan policeman who was washing his hands in preparation for prayer, as is the Muslim custom. Being a police officer he of course still had his gun on him. Said British Army unit, thinking he was an “insurgent”, even though he was obviously, openly and casually, on his way to prayers, opened fire on him. Then, another British Army unit, thinking they were coming under fire, opened fire themselves on the afore mentioned British Army unit, killing Corporal Channing Day, and a male soldier, Corporal David O’Connor. And what a perfect demonstration of the complete fiasco and defiant stupidity the whole Afghan adventure is!
Corporal Day’s sister added her own pitiful touch to this tragic affair when she delivered the conventional statement that she was proud of her sister, before declaring that “her legacy will live on”. What legacy is this? The legacy of a young woman, spell-bound by schoolgirl delusions of an “Army career”, having, her short life suddenly cut off in a barren, hostile, foreign land thousands of miles from home; shot down dead by members of the same British Army she longed all those years to join, as a result of a “misunderstanding”, and which same Army will two years hence be withdrawing from the country to which they have brought death and destruction, having killed lots of people, including a not inconsiderable number of civilians, only for the said country to revert back to pretty much the same situation it was in previous to the 13 year occupation by Anglo-American forces. If this is not an example of utter pointlessness and criminal irresponsibility I know not what is. The tragic fact is this: that Corporal Day’s death has served no purpose whatever, apart from the wicked designs of politicians and International financiers. Hers was a uselessly wasted life, as were all those other lives, military and civilian, which have served only as sacrificial victims to the deadly game of power politics and “global strategy”.
Coupled with the above article was a piece about the two other female British soldiers who have been killed in Afghanistan. Sgt. Sarah Bryant was another schoolgirl who dreamt of being a soldier, just as schoolgirls have a tendency to do (!). Her father is reported to have said “I can’t believe she will not come home.” Has the poor man lost all sense of reality here? If someone is foolhardy enough to join the Army, particularly at a time when “active service” is up and running, in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, then there surely is every possibility that some soldier boys and soldier girls won’t be coming home. At the end of the day, what is an Army except killing and being killed? Anyway Sgt. Bryant’s husband was a little more realistic when he said, “My wife knew the risks, she was there because she wanted to be, and she wouldn’t have had it any other way”. He then went on to describe her as “an awesome soldier; “ thereby placing her firmly in the ranks of other “awesome” soldiers like Napoleon, Oliver Cromwell, Julius Caesar and Robert E. Lee, to whom the word could reasonably be applied, despite the fact that it was once used only of God and supernatural occurrences. But we live in an age where words are becoming increasingly meaningless and make believe has taken the place of reality.
The death of Captain Lisa Head, a bomb disposal person, prompted her family to say “Lisa always said that she had the best job in the world and she loved every second of it. Lisa had a fantastic life and lived it to the full.” The best job in the world? Forgive me for sounding cynical or mean, but this is pure rubbish, and the poor woman must have taken leave of her senses. Is this really having a fantastic life and living it to the full? De-detonating bombs in some far away land as part of an invasion force sent to supposedly deal with a group of “insurgents” who were originally set up, trained, and armed by the Intelligence forces and Special forces of one’s own country along with those of the United States. No, my dear, this is not living life to the full. This is nothing other than a waste of time, a waste of money, and above all a waste of life. And all for what? So that a pernicious consortium of gangsters, in the White House, the Pentagon, the C.I.A. and their Multi-national bedfellows can get their hands on the oil and gas reserves of the Central Asian region.
Yet the military are hardly innocent pawns in the great game of power politics. They are more than willing participants. “Just doing our job”, as they’re always saying. And apparently it’s good fun. Take a look at this quote from an R.A.F. pilot in Afghanistan, called ‘Oz’:
"Flying a fighter was more fun. It was big, it was pointy, it went bloody fast and it carried bombs. It was sexy. Who wouldn’t want to do that? A Hellfire missile does have a significant effect on the human body. If you can’t accept it, you’re in the wrong job.”
Oz has since moved over to the drone programme (called Reapers by the British). These pilot-less aircraft drop bombs which literally vacuum the air out of human lungs. Probably not as sexy as fighters but still fun for pilots past their prime. Though a note of ambivalence, perhaps even a stirring of conscience, appears as Oz goes on to say:
"But the weirdest thing for me is the concept of getting up in the morning, driving my kids to school, and killing people. That does take a bit of getting used to. For the young guys or the newer guys, that can be an eye-opener.” (From the Telegraph Magazine 2012).
These quotes could be dismissed as simply the drivellings of a moron if it wasn’t for the fact that they reveal, in the most fatuous way, the fearful business-like quality of evil that has become “just another job”; a kind of workaday homicide, with lunch-breaks, tea-breaks, laughs, jokes, and general chit-chat. And these are the kind of people the Media and the government would have us revere as “heroes”. “Woe to those who call evil good.....who put darkness for light”, says the prophet of the Lord’s Advent (Isaiah 5:20).
Coming across another snippet of news I discovered that the playboy Royale, Harry Windsor, alias “Captain Wales”, spends his free time in Afghanistan, writing to Pippa Middleton, his elderbrother’s sister-in-law, on how to throw a good party. Of course, with his recent romp in Las Vegas he’ll no doubt have developed his ideas on the subject; though I shouldn’t think that Miss Middleton is quite ready for Harry’s take on naturist partying.
Of course, when “Captain Wales” isn’t partying and offering advice on it, he flies, and is the gunner, of Black Hawk helicopters, those deadly kind of aircraft that have wrought such a handsome quota of death and destruction in places like Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Bosnia, and now Afghanistan. But then again, young Hal’s grandmother is Commander-in-Chief of his fellow soldier boys and soldier girls, RAF’s and WAF’s, in whose name they act; and she’s O.K. with it all, so why should he have any doubts? Tally ho chaps and chapettes!
You won’t get the truth of what’s going on in Afghanistan from the British media, which has, across the board, descended into a tabloid-like mode, content only with the narrowly national, the inconsequential, and the trivial; returning repeatedly to its pet obsessions of the economy, corporate scandal, and homosexualism. The only news from the Afghan war zone is about “our boys”, and even then more often than not, merely to report on the latest death in action. The deaths of Afghan civilians, and these have been many, rarely get a look in. One has to scan the Internet news to get a better picture of the horror this poorest of poor countries is undergoing from the people who brought us the invasion of Iraq, the Anglo-American forces, those global bandits who have made carnage and slaughter their speciality, and who are presently scheming their way to an invasion of Iran, via Syria.
As you put on your red poppies this year let me give you a glimpse of the Afghanistan the Anglo-American heroes have made such a work of “liberating”. The stories are extracts from John Pilger’s book “Freedom next time” ( John Pilger, Freedom next time, Black Swan, 2007)
The dust blew in gusts as I drove into the village of Bibi Mahru. Under the Taliban, it was possible to travel outside the cities in relative safety. Now, the countryside is a dangerous maze of checkpoints and banditry. As our convoy of two vehicles arrived, villagers stood framed in the shadows of their mud doorways; they looked away and several hurried inside. They are the poorest of the poor. Their graves are marked only by pieces of shale, and ragged green flags. Here knelt Orifa at the graves of her husband, Gul Ahmed, a carpet weaver, seven other members of her family, including six children, and two children who were killed next door.
It was midday on October 7, 2001 when an American F-16 aircraft came out of a clear blue sky and dropped a ‘precision’ Mk82 500-pound bomb on the small mud, stone and straw house. The crater that replaced it is 50 feet wide. Orifa was away visiting relatives; when she returned, she was told to go to the mosque and collect the pieces of their bodies.
‘I couldn’t remember what happened next,’ she said. ‘I became unconscious with shock. When my eyes opened, I was at the mosque, where I had been taken by taxi. My husband lay on a charpaie [a special bed for carrying corpses]. There was no space there for washing the bodies, and my sons and daughter were in a terrible state. One was burnt all over and the other was so crushed I didn’t recognise her. One of the other girls was almost headless. On another, all the back flesh had gone. I found myself collecting pieces of flesh, and bagging and naming it for burial. I worked until midnight when at last we buried them. Only then I realised I was homeless; I had nothing, just the hand of my surviving son, and God.’
The son who lived, whose name is Jawad, was fourteen at the time. Pieces of shrapnel had to be hand-picked from his face, which is now permanently pocked. He is silent , sitting with his chin on his hand behind Orifa as she works at her ancient sewing machine in their hut behind the crater. She rents the sewing machine, which gives her an income of less than a dollar a day. Her only possessions, she said, were the photographs of her dead husband and children arranged on a window ledge around an almost-empty bottle of blue-coloured hair shampoo.
‘Did you get any compensation?’ I asked.
‘I got [about $400] which has all gone on medical care for Jawad.’
‘The Americans gave you that?’ I asked.
‘No, the Taliban. They came and offered prayers and gave me the money in a cloth bag....Later, eleven Americans came and surveyed the crater where my home had stood. They wrote down the numbers on pieces of shrapnel and each one spoke to me and took notes. As they were leaving, their translator gave me an envelope with 15 notes: fifteen dollars. That’s less than two dollars for each of my family killed.’
‘Had you heard what happened in America on September 11, 2001?’
‘Yes. I don’t know all the details because I am an illiterate person.
I heard many were killed: children included. But why should my family die, too? What is this freedom the Americans say they have brought us? Please explain this to me.’
At 7.45 a.m. on October 21, 2001, Gulam Rasul, the headmaster of New Project School in the town of Khair Khana, had just finished eating breakfast with his family. He walked outside to chat to a neighbour. Inside were his wife, Shiekria, aged thrity-five, his four sons aged three to ten, his brother and his wife, his sister and her husband. There was an explosion and the headmaster turned to see rising smoke 100 metres away, and an aircraft weaving in the sky, coming towards him. The house exploded in a fireball behind him. Nine people, including a boy killed nearby, died in this attack by an F-16 dropping another ‘precision’ 500-pound bomb. The only survivor was Gulam’s nine-year-old son, Ahmad Bilal.
I sat with the headmaster and his son on the balcony of a house nearby. He spoke quickly, fluently, looking directly at me as he called out the names and ages of his dead sons...’Ahmad Khalid, aged ten, Ahmad Haris, aged six, Ahmad Tamir, aged five, Ahmad Sahil, aged three...
‘Most of the people killed in this war they call a liberation were not Taliban; they were innocents. If we think deeply about the revolution of the Taliban we realise it was America who developed and nurtured them; and it was America that destroyed their authority, which was a terrorist act, because it is us, the people, who pay the price. Was the killing of my family a mistake? No, it was not. They fly their planes and look down on us, the mere Afghan people, who have no planes, and they bomb us for our birthright, with all contempt.’
‘What compensation did you receive?’
‘Nothing. No-one came. No-one sent anything. My friend, the police chief, even went to the American Embassy. They didn’t understand him, and shut the door.’
On December 29, 2001, the village of Niazi Qala was holding a wedding party for the son of a respected farmer, Bahram Jan. Members of the bride’s family had travelled across the great arid south-eastern plain. By all accounts, it was a boisterous affair, with music and singing and old rifles being discharged at the night sky. In the morning, there was devastation: on a fence, torn clothing and pieces of human flesh flapped in the wind; houses were demolished with, amid the bricks, more flesh and tufts of children’s hair.
The roar of the planes had started at three in the morning, long after everybody had retired for the night. Then the bombs began to fall – 500-pounders leading the way, scooping out the earth and felling a row of houses. According to neighbours watching from a distance, the planes flew three sorties over the village and a helicopter hovered close to the ground, firing flares, then rockets. Women and children were seen running from the houses towards a dried pond, perhaps in search of protection from the gunfire, but were shot as they ran.
The American commander at Bagram military base, near Kabul, said that two Taliban leaders were among the wedding guests and were a ‘legitimate military target’. An investigation by the United Nations found no evidence of this, and concluded that the allegation that planes had pursued women and children was ‘well-founded’. During two hours of attack, said the UN report, fifty-two people were killed: seventeen men, ten women and twenty-five children. An elderly man, Sher Khan, who lost seven relatives, told the investigators that forty-eight people were still missing. ( Freedom Next Time, pp. 377-80)
Thanks be to God for John Pilger and all true journalists who haven’t prostituted their consciences and their profession to the image cultivators in governments, the military, and the media...
Shall I tell you what soldiers and pilots should say to themselves? “If I were to think constantly of God becoming man in a poor stable, in a poor village, of a poor Mother, in order to bring ‘peace and good will’ to mankind, and dying on a Cross to that end, I could never again go to war, or be prepared to kill someone.” Or alternatively, “If I were to think of Hell, I could never again go to war, or be prepared to kill someone.”
But I venture to say, most members of the Armed Forces probably belong to the devil anyway. In fact many are so full of the devil that they know no better way of being amusing and showing bravado than speaking contemptuously about God and Christ, about civilians, and about the poor folk of the countries they have invaded, and upon which they wreak so much death, destruction, and misery. And I am emboldened to say this by my reading of the history of various wars, my reading of current affairs books and articles, and by my own personal experience of soldiers (T.A., soldier friends in youth, and recent encounters).
The Christian churches have been far too obliging towards the Armed Forces and their activities, to the point now of utter complacency; supporting what cannot be supported, blessing what cannot be blessed, and smugly deluding themselves that modern warfare and its truly diabolical technology can have any compatibility with the practice of the Christian faith, if ever the “profession of arms” did anyway.
Churches like the Anglicans, the Lutherans, and the Presbyterians have almost specialized in collaborating with the Military; shamelessly decorating their churches with regimental flags, plaques, and memorials, instead of covering the walls with depictions of Christ, the Virgin, and the saints. A state religion like Anglicanism, set up solely as an instrument of social control, is irredeemably addicted to the Military ethos, even at this present moment designing and planning new war memorials for the interiors of their churches. They can’t seem to help themselves.
The Lutherans have traditionally been the same. In fact, someone once said that Lutheranism was the ideal religion for soldiers (and farmers). This undoubtedly comes from old Luther himself, who idolized the State as God’s great instrument (not the Church, I might add). Even if a man were a devout Christian in his private sphere, he must, in the public sphere, put aside things like compassion, meekness, lowliness, and forgiveness, and instead act with ruthlessness and remorselessness, becoming an exacting judge and executioner if reasons of state so demand. Soldiers shouldn’t trouble themselves that what they do seems to contradict Christ’s call to the love one’s enemies. On the contrary, when they kill and smite, and even rob, it is God who acts through them, because they are acting on the orders of the State, which represents God.
"For the hand that wields the sword and kills is not man’s hand, but God’s; and it is not man, but God, who hangs, tortures, beheads, fights, robs, and kills. All these are God’s works and judgements. In truth, they are works of love.” (Martin Luther, Whether soldiers, too, can be saved.”)
Such rubbish hardly needs comment. Anyone acquainted with the New Testament, with the life and teachings of the poor Man Jesus of Nazareth, the Word made flesh, and who has understood the Sermon on the Mount and the Passion and Cross of Christ, won’t at all be deceived by Luther’s confusing of what St. Paul says about magistrates’ “bearing the sword” (Romans 13:4) i.e. upholding the law of the land, with the waging of war against other peoples and the “collateral damage” (civilian casualties) this inevitably involves. But try telling the State-toadying members of the Protestant Establishment this; and they will treat you like a madman, even though the early Church was against Christians being in the army: “I am a soldier of Christ, I am not allowed to fight” said St. Martin as he bade farewell to arms, in order to devote his life to the practice of the Christian religion. Many were the sermons in the early Church warning Christians against joining the military, because the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” was taken seriously. “Overcome evil with good, and do not be conformed to this world” says the blessed Apostle (Romans 12: 2, 21). And be sure of this, that the Military is a lost crowd, a bunch of chaff, with little wheat (As in other areas of life).
Anyone who lives in Christ, and Him Crucified, becomes separated, even alienated, from the surrounding society and its obsessions and fetishes, its ‘wisdom’, its religion, and its power politics. He becomes a fool (1Corinthians 3: 18-20), to whom the ways of a fallen world, which despises the Cross, are alien and immoral. Jurgen Moltmann says this:
"The Christian faith, which once conquered the world must also conquer its own forms when they have become worldly. It can only do so when it breaks down the idols of the so-called Christian West, and in a revolutionary way, remembers the Crucified God. For how can the Christian pilgrimage in hoc saeculo ever become homeless in a land where it has never been at home? A radical return to the origin of the Christian faith in sight of the Cross makes this faith homeless in an alien religious world, but also in the syncretistic world of present-day bourgeois Christianity.” ( Jurgen Moltman,The Crucified God; 1984)
From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence from your lusts, that war in your members” says St. James (James 4:1). Wars, armies, invasions, power-mongering, economic lusts, and rivalries, all belong to the “course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience, among whom we also had our conversation in times past, in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath as they are. But God in his mercy, has saved us from these sins, through Christ.” (Ephesians 2: 2-5)
Even if one were to go along with the ostensible reason for armies, and invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and interventions in Libya and Syria, which are supposedly to share the benefits of “Western Civilization” with those parts of the world not fully acquainted with them, then the question remains. What are these western benefits that the poorer countries ought to be so grateful to receive? Consumerism, militarism, secularism, contraception, abortion, sexual promiscuity and pornography, homosexual ‘marriage’, test-tube babies, cloning, euthanasia, and “non-binary/gender queer people”: in all the culture of death.
Yes, as mad as the last of the above list may seem, I came across it in one of the papers in the context of an article relating how Brighton council are considering plans to scrap the titles of Mr. And Mrs. Because these labels confuse and discriminate against “non-binary/transgender people. Apparently, said the Council leader, “Trans people aren’t necessarily male of female and they don’t want to be defined by gender.” A Lesbian, Gay, and Transgender activist supplemented this incredible nonsense by saying that “Being called Mr. or Mrs. forces me to choose between genders. It’s assuming that people live in binary world where you’re either one thing or another and it pigeonholes people.......gender isn’t just about male or female.” Can anyone still doubt that what is termed “Western Civilization” has become a gigantic lunatic asylum when one comes across stuff like this? And this “Brave New World” is what is being forced on the Iraqis and Afghans, and soon, no doubt, the Iranians, by NATO pirates determined to destabilize, plunder, and reduce to vassalage the countries of the so-called “Third World”. God save us from “the madness of the peoples” (psalm 65:7), for the time of which St. Anthony prophesied has come: men have gone mad, and it would be good to remember the wisdom of the Ancient Greeks who said “Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first send mad”.
More Afghan civilians killed (a group of women and children lasted to bits by NATO bombs as they picked fruit), more soldier boys and soldier girls killed, more names on more war memorials, to be “remembered” on more poppy days..........
Unto us a child is born.....Mighty God and Prince of Peace.....He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people. They shall beat their swords into ploughshares. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation. Neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come let us walk in the Light of the Lord. (Isaiah 2: 4-5; 9:6)
It’s time to chuck away your red poppies and put on white ones.
I detest your solemn assemblies”, says the Lord “I desire mercy not sacrifice “says the Lord, “Cease to do evil, and learn to do good, “says the Lord, and “Woe to those who call evil good and make darkness for light” says the Lord.
Say “No!” to red poppies and the culture of death. Say “Yes” to the culture of life. Become white poppy people. Jesus loves white poppies.
Them that are meek shall He guide in judgement: and such as are gentle, them shall He learn his way. (Psalm 25:8)