As we know all too well from history, the adoption of faith to fuel a lifestyle can bring about unforgiving furies in its wake. The fanaticism born of being right and reducing others to the great wrong of disbelief and mistaken belief, of the kind that only an evil can breed, leads believers inexorably to the brand of evil they so fervently desire to eliminate. They fight fire with fire when the waters of understanding and compromise would douse the scorching fears with an ease unforeseen by the wild eruptions of fanaticism.
That the modern world, only partially shorn of extremist faiths by the dominance of rationalism and scientism yet suffers from the extremes of faith based fanaticism, is no surprise to any informed citizen. As I have said, ‘we watch it horror’ as it continues to unfold day by desperate day.
What can we do but love the oppressor and oppressed with equal but distant devotion, knowing that Spirit, with its legions of angels, prophets, teachers and guides, will eventually direct those erring souls on a more blessed path towards the enlightenment they seek on those misty and meandering paths across the valleys of the shadow of death with their floods and fires and plagues, as they have guided us through our paranoid and pugnacious adolescence?
We can act as saviours, as do the navy personnel in the Mediterranean with the desperate refugees; we can act as policemen, as do the armies and special forces reigning in civil wars in the Middle East and Africa. We can act as social workers, as do the various aid groups risking their lives in the war zones, feeding and bandaging as the bombs fall; we can bring together the various sides in diplomatic meetings, sharing whatever wisdom we can drum up for the occasion; we can donate to worthy causes, hoping that their profiles are much more than PR campaigns; we can sift through the mountain of media reports and learn to shake free some truth from the self-serving propagandists trying to shape the narrative to their agenda.
Some of that sifting has come to my door of late, and I would like to end by sharing it. Not in the hopes of ameliorating any particular lack but in merely witnessing the manifestations of dark desire snaking their way around the planet, resisting the light of love and understanding being poured from a variety of spiritual sources, including I suspect, galactic central, impatient with our tardiness in getting with the program.
On the personal level, a memoir (Eric Fair: Consequence) of an interrogator from the Iraq conflagration, having indulged himself at Abu Graib and Fallujah in those grim days of government sanctioned torture-for-intelligence, bares his divinity school chastened chest:
“At the end of the day, we return to the office and file the completed screening reports. Tyner and Dent are in the office. Dent ordered Tyner to interrogate Raad Hussein after I determined he was of no further intelligence value. Tyner says “Did you hear about your friend Raad?” Raad Hussein confessed to conspiring with the group responsible for killing the twenty-three police officers in Fallujah. It was likely a power play designed to win the approval of former Baath party elements looking to regain control of the province. Raad found himself in a difficult position. He wanted to secure his job, so he helped murder twenty-three police officers. Tyner cross-referenced Raad’s confession with other sources. It’s confirmed. Raad is guilty of facilitating the deaths of twenty-three Iraqi police officers.
“We pass by the interrogation where Tyner has been working on Raad Hussein. We haven’t heard Tyner scream or throw anything today. The door to the room, a flimsy sheet of plywood, has blown open in the hot desert wind. Inside, Raad Hussein is bound to the Palestinain chair. His hands are tied to his ankles. The chair forces him to lean forward in a crouch, forcing all of his weight onto his thighs. It’ as if he has been trapped in the act of kneeling down to pray, his knees frozen just above the floor, his arms pinned below his legs. He is blindfolded. His head has collapsed into his chest. He wheezes and gasps for air. There is a pool of urine by his feet. he moans: too tired to cry, but in too much pain to remain silent.
“Henson comes out into the hallway and walks past the room. He covers the side of his face as he walks by and says, “I don’t even want to know.” I am silent. This is a sin. I know it as soon as I see it. There will be no atonement for it. In the coming years, I won’t have the audacity to seek it. Witnessing a man being tortured in the Palestinian chair requires the witness to either seek justice or cover his face. Like Henson in Fallujah, I’ll spend the rest of my life covering my face.
“Tyner says he’s leaving Raad in the chair for a while, just to see if there’s anything else he hasn’t shared. I think of the dead police officers in Fallujah. I want to avenge these men, so I tell myself I have an obligation to use aggressive techniques against the people like Raad Hussein. I tell myself that Raad is evil and it is necessary to lie to him, necessary to torture him. In a test of my own convictions I say “He deserves it”.
Perhaps the above is merely a modern iteration of the ancient ‘crime and punishment’ formulation, doubtlessly employed by every society known or unknown to history. Yet we all know there are more enlightened methods for dealing with dissent and disagreement, regardless of dogmatic imperatives. To our recent astonishment we have discovered the Norwegians are bending over backwards to accommodate Andres Brevik’s complaint of inhumane treatment at his comfortable rural retreat as he contemplates his ruthless dismissal of ninety-odd adolescents from his increasingly multicultural Scandinavian society.
On the societal level, a recent report from the New Yorker (by Ben Taub) has definitively revealed the Assad government’s determined planning to imprison, torture and disappear it’s many Syrian political opponents. As you will see, many caches of irrefutably signed documents have been secreted by those willing to risk their lives and still exist in a variety of guises, including the backs of gardens, signalling many years of work for the International Criminal Court ahead, once the hostilities have been brought to a close.
“The investigator in Syria had made the drive perhaps a hundred times, always in the same battered truck, never with any cargo. It was forty miles to the border, through eleven rebel checkpoints, where the soldiers had come to think of him as a local, a lawyer whose wartime misfortunes included a commute on their section of the road. Sometimes he brought them snacks or water, and he made sure to thank them for protecting civilians like himself. Now, on a summer afternoon, he loaded the truck with more than a hundred thousand captured Syrian government documents, which had been buried in pits and hidden in caves and abandoned homes.
“He set out at sunset. To the fighters manning the checkpoints, it was as if he were invisible. …He drove until he reached a Western embassy, where he dropped off the cargo for secure transfer to Chris Engels, an American lawyer. Engels expected the papers to include evidence linking high-level Syrian officials to mass atrocities. After a decade spent training international criminal-justice practitioners in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Cambodia, Engels now leads the regime-crimes unit of the Commission for International Justice and Accountability, an independent investigative body founded in 2012, in response to the Syrian war.
“In the past four years, people working for the organization have smuggled more than six hundred thousand government documents out of Syria, many of them from top-secret intelligence facilities. The documents are brought to the group’s headquarters, in a nondescript office building in Western Europe, sometimes under diplomatic cover. There, each page is scanned, assigned a bar code and a number, and stored underground. A dehumidifier hums inside the evidence room; just outside, a small box dispenses rat poison.
“Upstairs, in a room secured by a metal door, detailed maps of Syrian villages cover the walls, and the roles of various suspects in the Syrian government are listed on a whiteboard. Witness statements and translated documents fill dozens of binders, which are locked in a fireproof safe at night. Engels, who is forty-one, bald and athletic, with a precise, discreet manner, oversees the operation; analysts and translators report directly to him.
“The commission’s work recently culminated in a four-hundred-page legal brief that links the systematic torture and murder of tens of thousands of Syrians to a written policy approved by President Bashar al-Assad, coördinated among his security-intelligence agencies, and implemented by regime operatives, who reported the successes of their campaign to their superiors in Damascus. The brief narrates daily events in Syria through the eyes of Assad and his associates and their victims, and offers a record of state-sponsored torture that is almost unimaginable in its scope and its cruelty. Such acts had been reported by survivors in Syria before, but they had never been traced back to signed orders. Stephen Rapp, who led prosecution teams at the international criminal tribunals in Rwanda and Sierra Leone before serving for six years as the United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, told me that the CIJA’s documentation “is much richer than anything I’ve seen, and anything I’ve prosecuted in this area.”
“The case is the first international war-crimes investigation completed by an independent agency like the CIJA, funded by governments but without a court mandate. The organization’s founder, Bill Wiley, a Canadian war-crimes investigator who has worked on several high-profile international tribunals, had grown frustrated with the geopolitical red tape that often shapes the pursuit of justice. Because the process of collecting evidence and organizing it into cases is purely operational, he reasoned that it could be done before the political will exists to prosecute the case.”
I have quoted at length to emphasize the damning and irrefutable accumulation of evidence of the determined pursuit of vicious cruelty by a righteous authoritarian government who must have felt at some point that post-conflict deal making could save their skins. Such detailed ruthlessness forcefully reminds one of Hitler’s henchmen, Stalin’s circle and Pol Pot’s cheerleaders, to mention but the three top teams of infamy.
And what, I hear you asking, might be the way forward from such damning dark clouds? Well, be it synchronistically arising in today’s moment, or the merely fortuitous circumstance, an article from the Washington Post (by William Booth & Ruth Eglash) seems to say it all:
“Natan Meir sat on the couch, his teenage daughter curled beside him, wrapped in a blanket, though the day was warm. He said the nights were the most difficult. He and his six children, each with their memories. They cannot sleep.
Meir pointed toward the kitchen, a few steps away. This is where his wife, Dafna, died on the floor. She fought hard, he explained. She was a tiny woman. She was stabbed to death in January by a 15-year-old Palestinian who sneaked into the Jewish settlement from a village a mile away. Alongside the Israeli ambassador, Meir went to the United Nations in April to tell his story. He delivered a letter to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calling for “endless patience and endless love.” He said peace with the Palestinians could take “hundreds of years.” He said no one at the Security Council would look him in the eye.
“Politics is bullshit ,” Meir said.
Meir is a Jewish settler living deep in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on land the Palestinians want for a state. He knows the international community does not like where he lives. He said he took solace from the fact that he is friends with some Arab neighbours. He said one came and offered to kill his wife’s assailant. One came and just wept. “We will have peace when we have it in our hearts,” Meir said. He wore a loaded pistol on his right hip as he said this.”
Recognizing the decades that might pass before peace is achieved but seeing that peace in our hearts is the key, well doesn’t that just about sum it up? Life goes on, shit happens and love is the power that fuels the entire circus show. That’s life after life by the way, the many pouring into the One.