What’s Wrong with the World

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Will Jonah Come Again to Nineveh?

In case you haven’t read or heard the news, the city where Jonah preached God to the heathens and where Christ has been worshipped for centuries has seen the last of its Christians flee rather than take their chances with the evil forces of the jihad:

By 1 p.m. on Friday almost every Christian in Mosul had heard the Sunni militants’ message — they had until noon Saturday to leave the city…A YouTube video shows ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] taking sledgehammers to the tomb of Jonah, something that was also confirmed by Mr. Hikmat. The militants also removed the cross from St. Ephrem’s Cathedral, the seat of the Syriac Orthodox archdiocese in Mosul, and put up the black ISIS flag in its place. They also destroyed a statue of the Virgin Mary, according to Ghazwan Ilyas, the head of the Chaldean Culture Society in Mosul, who spoke by telephone on Thursday from Mosul but seemed to have left on Friday.

“They did not destroy the churches, but they killed us when they removed the cross, this is death for us,” he said.

Of course, the jihadis were “generous” enough to suggest that Christians could stay in Mosul (modern day Nineveh) as long as they “accept Islam” or “pay extra taxes to Islamic Sharia courts”. What if you are a Christian and you refuse to give in to such unjust demands? Well, ISIS has an answer ready for you: “death by the sword.”

What can be done to help our brothers and sisters in Christ swept up by the terrible forces of jihad in Iraq? I’m not sure if we can do anything at this point, except perhaps provide more support and encouragement to the Kurds – they seem to be the one group in Iraq building a stable and safe semi-independent state where Christians are mostly welcome and the West is generally appreciated.

I know there are plenty of folks on the traditional right who blame all the current troubles of Christians today on neo-cons and the original invasion of Iraq – as someone who supported the invasion and removal of Saddam Hussein from power I should note that there is more than a little truth to this complaint. Had we never invaded, while it is impossible to predict what would have happened over the past 10 plus years, I have no doubt that both Iraq and Syria’s Christians would be better off than they are today.

I’ll never forget talking to my family doctor, who is Assyrian (we have quite a few in the Chicago region), about Bashar Assad. At the time the Syrian rebellion was just starting and I innocently asked him if he was hopeful that Assad would be removed from power. “Hopeful”?! he asked me incredulously – “I think that as bad as Assad is, he is the only one who will protect my people from the jihadis” (I’m paraphrasing his quote, but you get the idea). I knew then that as much as I hate Iran and their proxies (Assad is in power now thanks to the support he receives from the mullahs, many of whom think the Alawites are heretics – go figure), I had to rethink my hawkish Middle-East instincts. However, one thing is still true -- l think it is foolish to throw around words like “Empire” to refer to our mission in Iraq and to claim that our leaders justified the Iraqi invasion via “untruths” (you mean you think the President and his national security team lied? Really?) I do think we should have been more concerned about Islamism and jihad back in 2003 and therefore should be willing to support dictators like Sisi in Egypt who will throw Muslim Brotherhood radicals in jail or execute them for their crimes. In other words, when it comes to foreign policy in the Middle East, we are back to dictatorships and double-standards.

Comments (10)

It is my understanding that the "tax" must be in gold. Apparently, this practice throughout Islam is a considerable contributor to the present value of this commodity.

I also wish to declare that American regrets at this point are of little use, except perhaps for the easing of consciences. Pope John Paul II should have been heeded before the First Gulf War, but of course he was no longer of use, once the Soviets were out of the way. But he understood what the triumphant enders of history, in their arrogance, couldn't; that sometimes, indeed quite often, a tyrant was the best one could hope for. I greatly regret having to say that the blundering, aborting, sodomising US of A is paramount in the advancing of the evils opposed by this excellent site.


I must say that I was hoping to shake things up a bit with this post and your first two comments (at least the one from 7:02 PM) didn't disappoint! Thanks for the praise of this website, but I'd have you remember that it was the "blundering, aborting, sodomising US of A" that was crucial in defeating the godless evil of the Soviet Union.

And while I do indeed agree with the late, great Pope John Paul II regarding tyrants, I think it is also worth pondering when and in what circumstances it might be worth confronting the jihad with force. For example, assuming you are from France, your fellow country-men seem to be doing yeoman's work in Timbuktu and Mali:


I suppose one could argue the French should just install a dictator and be done with Mali...but it seems like their more limited intervention is working...at least at the moment. It does raise some interesting questions about the use of force and how to confront the jihad.

It is also true that while what we are seeing is certainly a great evil, that alone neither tells us whether the evil we are seeing is worse than what we would have seen in the past 11 years without addressing the evil of Saddam, nor does it tell us what will be the outcome in the long run.

It is often the case, and is a constant argument that evil men use, that we should "leave things alone" lest we provide opportunity for a greater evil. But SOMETIMES we must confront evil, face it down and say no. Sometimes, indeed, it is a moral imperative to do so. Even in those cases, there is no guarantee that doing so, putting up a fight against evil and saying no, will not present the opportunity for a still greater evil that we must suffer. God does not give to man perfect foresight on these things and sometimes all of our choices are going to lead to great suffering. It is no proof that we should not have confronted the evil anyway.

I will also point out that John Paul strenuously urged our intervention in Serbia / Kosovo, even though there was at least as much likelihood for that intervention ending up with the same kind of evils we are seeing in Iraq. (And, credibly, he SHOULD HAVE urged our intervention in the Croatia war earlier. Certainly the case can be made that we should have intervened in the Rwanda genocide, and generally admitted worldwide failure to act in that event led to a more forceful hand in Kosovo.) It's not like he had some crystal ball that told him with any sort of certainty which of the two was definitively the right one to get into. One of the major reasons the Soviet empire crashed to the ground (and we still haven't seen the "final" outcome of that event, either) was the real, credible threat of force that America presented, and a threat of force against evil empires cannot have that effect if it is NEVER used against evil for fear of what might happen that you cannot foresee.

I grieve for our fellow Christians who have been put to such an evil test.

Please forgive my intemperate second post. I was angry, frustrated and exasperated over the fate of our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East, and lashed out at your country, the one I have always had the highest hopes of in terms of policing the world and which has lately so disappointed me. Of course, the US represents the best of things and some of the worst of them. Let us think of these Christian refugees in our prayers as they struggle through the Iraqi summer heat with perhaps nothing more than the shirts on their backs.

P.S.: Actually, I'm Irish, but have a fondness for that old Frenchman. Certainly it is impossible to know how to prudently deal with so much evil in the world, but the current dictator in Egypt seems relatively successful.

Thanks for this post, Jeff. Having opposed the second Iraq war, I struggle with not saying, "I told you so" now to all who supported it. And the thing is that I didn't oppose it out of any general squeamishness about war, much less outright pacifism, but out of questions about unintended consequences and nation-building. The world of foreign policy is and always has been a mess, but as you imply here, the mess won't be made any less messy if we put on rosy glasses about the Muslim Middle East's desire and capacity for self-rule under constitutional republican forms of government. At this point, there simply is no good answer.

DeGaulle, your expression of contrition is truly manful.

It's funny about the nation building. I am going to play a little bit of devil's advocate here. There are plenty of people, who were against the war, who are OK with tolerating despots and leaving them in place because we expect fewer evils to come from them than the probable alternatives. And, indeed, this is part of the justification for our putting in place Marcos, or supporting Mubarak's regime in Egypt. Seems to me that if we are OK tolerating a dictator, and working with him for, say, "regional stability," what's the problem with knocking out a dictator we can't tolerate (or don't think ought to be tolerated) and putting in a new dictator we can work with? I suppose that installing a favorable dictator is not to be considered "nation building." Is the problem that we shouldn't be engaged in "nation building" at all?

We certainly engaged in a certain degree of nation building and democracy in Japan after WWII. Also in Germany. Especially in Germany, we basically eradicated the entirety of the national government, so if we ever DID want to be able to walk away with peace in our wake, we needed to erect something that had the possibility of running peacefully.

So, my question comes to a point: what makes one case of nation building OK and one case not OK? Is it principally a matter of whether you have a justifiable expectation of actually succeeding? If so, then it comes to a matter of whether your expectations are sound "enough", not whether they are actually provable (because of course we can never prove such things). Would the picture for the pre-war Iraq situation (and prudence of the war) change dramatically if we had instead said "we're going to knock out Hussein and put in a dictator who will be much better for national stability and regional peace" (and support with force) to make his regime stick? It is, admittedly, a strange picture. I am trying to understand whether the objection is in our being involved in establishing a new regime, or our being embroiled in a completely new system, or the likelihood of our being successful? Or what?

Tony, I would say it is questionably just for us to be involved in actively establishing a real bad guy in power. There's a big difference between tolerating and actively establishing as far as one's own responsibility for what follows. We can see this in a sort of mini-situation. Imagine that you could wave a magic wand and put a man in power over a small village. He would have the despotic ability to, say, torture and kill any woman in the place to satisfy himself (if that's the kind of thing he's into), and unfortunately, he's that kind of person. *Whatever* your reasons for actively supporting this heinously wicked person, there is a real question about whether you have the blood of the virgins of the village on your hands when you actively delivered them into his hands and signed off on the bottom line, when you _chose_ him to govern the village. Contrast that with a situation in which such an evil man is already in power and you conclude that you cannot meet just war criteria for throwing him out of power and trying to "rescue" the villagers from him.

Beyond that, a huge, huge problem with nation-building in the Middle East is that it just doesn't work, and that's flat. We've seen that again and again. And the same in Afghanistan (which I suppose doesn't really count as the Middle East). So, there, a failure of just war criteria--for example, an absence of clear, good military objectives which we have a high probability of reaching.

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