SocioSphere Editorials

April 2002 - February 2009 Archive
Reflections on Religion, Current Events, and Other Subjects

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Friday,June 20,2003

Hi, folks, I thought that the following may be interesting to some. This may be my last posting until the second week of July. I am going on vacation and will not be updating my blog during that time.

Special Alert - Jihad and Terrorism Studies

June 20, 2003

No. 10

To view this Special Alert in HTML format, please visit:

Alleged Message from an Al-Qa'ida Chief on the Upcoming "Fatal Blow" Against the U.S.

The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Watan published a communiqué today allegedly authored by Al-Qa'ida's chief of training Abu Muhammad Al-Ablaj, which refers to an impending attack by the organization.

The communiqué stated that Al-Qa'ida's chief of training Abu Muhammad Al-Ablaj said Osama bin Laden is about to direct a "fatal blow" to the "head of the international media serpent that serves the American whims and interests." He added that the upcoming phases against the U.S. will "cut off the wings of the American eagle, slice its arteries, and finally butcher it the Islamic way."

Al-Ablaj also claimed that Al-Qa'ida has an independent brigade in Iraq.(1)

The preceding information also appeared earlier today on MEMRI's News Ticker. Visit MEMRI's News Ticker for the latest news from the Arab & Muslim world.


(1) Al-Watan (Kuwait), June 20, 2003. Al-Watan reported that the communiqué will also appear in the London-based Saudi weekly Al-Majalla.

posted at 09:59:39 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Sunday,June 15,2003

Another defeat for Bush and his lapdog, Blair:

Iraqi mobile labs nothing to do with germ warfare, report finds

Peter Beaumont, Antony Barnett and Gaby Hinsliff

Sunday June 15, 2003

The Observer

An official British investigation into two trailers found in northern Iraq has concluded they are not mobile germ warfare labs, as was claimed by Tony Blair and President George Bush, but were for the production of hydrogen to fill artillery balloons, as the Iraqis have continued to insist.

The conclusion by biological weapons experts working for the British Government is an embarrassment for the Prime Minister, who has claimed that the discovery of the labs proved that Iraq retained weapons of mass destruction and justified the case for going to war against Saddam Hussein.

Instead, a British scientist and biological weapons expert, who has examined the trailers in Iraq, told The Observer last week: 'They are not mobile germ warfare laboratories. You could not use them for making biological weapons. They do not even look like them. They are exactly what the Iraqis said they were - facilities for the production of hydrogen gas to fill balloons.'

The conclusion of the investigation ordered by the British Government - and revealed by The Observer last week - is hugely embarrassing for Blair, who had used the discovery of the alleged mobile labs as part of his efforts to silence criticism over the failure of Britain and the US to find any weapons of mass destruction since the invasion of Iraq.

The row is expected to be re-ignited this week with Robin Cook and Clare Short, the two Cabinet Ministers who resigned over the war, both due to give evidence to a House of Commons inquiry into whether intelligence was manipulated in the run-up to the war. It will be the first time that both have been grilled by their peers on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee over what the Cabinet was told in the run-up to the war.

MPs will be keen to explore Cook's explanation when he resigned that, while he believed Iraq did have some WMD capability, he did not believe it was weaponised.

The Prime Minister and his director of strategy and communications, Alastair Campbell, are expected to decline invitations to appear. While MPs could attempt to force them, this is now thought unlikely to happen.

The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, is expected to give evidence the week after.

The revelation that the mobile labs were to produce hydrogen for artillery balloons will also cause discomfort for the British authorities because the Iraqi army's original system was sold to it by the British company, Marconi Command & Control.

posted at 07:40:42 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Saturday,June 14,2003

Here I am in this country, the United States, where, just a few short years ago, many, maybe most, American conservatives were up in arms because a President had lied to Congress about his adulterous sexual relations. Although his behavior was obviously debased, it is, nonetheless, quite common to the American male species.

Now, here I am, again, in this country, the United States, where someone (perhaps many people) in the U.S. government might well have lied to the American public about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Subsequently, the United States went to war to overthrow a government and is now extending is capitalist claws to the cradle of civilization. The entire world is seemingly outraged, while most Americans, based on polls, apparently see little or no problem and continue to give Bush high ratings, and the president's party blocks an independent congressional investigation.

Of all countries, the United States has the highest percentage of those claiming to believe in God and in unscientific creationism. Huge numbers of its citizens identify with the Christian Right, a fusion of American-style fascism with neo-evangelical Christianity. What far-reaching additional punishments must befall this nation and shake it into sense?

posted at 06:54:55 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Friday,June 13,2003

Abortion on demand is false consciousness. It represents turning the the unborn into disposable capitalist commodities.

The structure of the cabal?

Meet 'The Family'

By Anthony Lappé, Guerrilla News Network

June 13, 2003

It sounded like a reality show on the PAX network: Six conservative politicians living in a DC townhouse owned by a fundamentalist Christian organization. What happens when you stop being polite and start finding Jesus?

In April, the AP broke the story that six U.S. congressmen were paying the bargain rate of $600 a month each to live together in a swanky DC townhouse owned by a secretive fundamentalist Christian group known as the Fellowship or the Foundation. Many, understandably, were curious. Who is this organization, and what is its agenda?

The group, the AP reported, is best known for holding the annual National Prayer Breakfast at the White House, which offers scores of national and international heavy hitters the opportunity to praise God in close proximity to the President. In the article, the congressmen boarding at the house denied owing any allegiance to the group, and several professed ignorance of even the most basic facts about the organization. Little else was reported about the group's history, motives or backers.

There is a reason for that. The Fellowship is one of the most secretive, and most powerful, religious organizations in the country. Its connections reach to the highest levels of the U.S. government and include ties to the CIA and numerous current and past dictators around the world.

Last month, Harper's magazine published a rather extraordinary article by Jeffrey Sharlet, editor of the irreverent web site and co-author of the upcoming "Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible" (Free Press). The piece chronicled Sharlet's three-week semi-undercover stay at Ivanwald, the Fellowship's mansion:

Ivanwald, which sits at the end of Twenty-fourth Street North in Arlington, Virginia, is known only to its residents and to the members and friends of the organization that sponsors it, a group of believers who refer to themselves as "the Family." The Family is, in its own words, an "invisible" association, though its membership has always consisted mostly of public men. Senators Don Nickles (R., Okla.), Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), Pete Domenici (R., N.Mex.), John Ensign (R., Nev.), James Inhofe (R., Okla.), Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), and Conrad Burns (R., Mont.) are referred to as "members," as are Representatives Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), Frank Wolf (R., Va.), Joseph Pitts (R., Pa.), Zach Wamp (R., Tenn.), and Bart Stupak (D., Mich.).

Regular prayer groups have met in the Pentagon and at the Department of Defense, and the Family has traditionally fostered strong ties with businessmen in the oil and aerospace industries. The Family maintains a closely guarded database of its associates, but it issues no cards and collects no official dues. Members are asked not to speak about the group or its activities. The organization has operated under many guises, some active, some defunct: National Committee for Christian Leadership, International Christian Leadership, the National Leadership Council, Fellowship House, the Fellowship Foundation, the National Fellowship Council, the International Foundation. These groups are intended to draw attention away from the Family, and to prevent it from becoming, in the words of one of the Family's leaders, "a target for misunderstanding."

The Family's only publicized gathering is the National Prayer Breakfast, which it established in 1953 and which, with congressional sponsorship, it continues to organize every February in Washington, D.C. Each year 3,000 dignitaries, representing scores of nations, pay $425 each to attend. Steadfastly ecumenical, too bland most years to merit much press, the breakfast is regarded by the Family as merely a tool in a larger purpose: to recruit the powerful attendees into smaller, more frequent prayer meetings, where they can "meet Jesus man to man."

If this all sounds like something out of a conspiracy theorist's wet dream (or paranoid nightmare), you're right. Sharlet's account of his three weeks of "man to man" interaction can only be described as disturbing and downright bizarre. In fact, it was so creepy many accused him of making the whole thing up.

So what did Sharlet find?

GNN: You went undercover into this house. Who were you posing as and what were you trying to find?

SHARLET: Actually, I was posing as myself. I write about religion. A friend said go check it out, it's an interesting place. I went not knowing the politics. Within a few days I began to see things were not at all what I expected. This was connected to a pretty vast political network. Still it was quite a pleasant place to live. These people had a different approach than I did, but I was interested in learning. As time went on I started hearing more and more disturbing talk.

That's when I started keeping my ears open. I didn't go in undercover, but I suppose I left undercover. But I told them who I was, I never told a lie.

GNN: Some people have called your story a hoax.

SHARLET: I've got lots of letters from people saying this has got to be a hoax, or please tell me it's a hoax or curiously from people who know a little too much to be saying the things they were saying.

GNN: What are some this group's core ideas and what level of secrecy is involved here?

SHARLET: The goal is an "invisible" world organization led by Christ – that's what they aspire to. They are very explicit about this if you look in their documents, and I spent a lot of time researching in their archives. Their goal is a worldwide invisible organization. That's their word, and that's important because it sounds so crazy.

What they mean when they say "a world organization led by Christ" is that literally you just sit there and let Christ tell you what to do. More often than not that leads them to a sort of paternalistic benign fascism. There are a lot of places that they've done good things, and that's important to acknowledge. But that also means they might be involved with General Suharto in Indonesia and if that means that God leads him to kill half a million of his own citizens then, well, it would prideful to question God leading them.

GNN: Who are these guys, and how many are there?

SHARLET: The only estimate was made by Charles Colson, Nixon's chief dirty tricks guy who went on to become the head of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Right before he went to prison the founder [of the Fellowship] Doug Coe turned him on to Christ. Colson said there are about 20,000 people involved in the U.S. But you aren't really supposed to talk about it.

I always say to interviewers, "This is not a conspiracy." There's no secret badge or anything. It's much looser. This is how the vast right-wing conspiracy works, by being associates, friends.

GNN: But they speak of themselves as operating in terrorist-like cells.

SHARLET: Yes, they do. Inside your cell, you might know six or eight guys.

Let me give you a real quick history. In 1935, Abraham Vereide starts it. By the 1940s he has about a third of Congress attending a weekly prayer meeting. In the mid-50s, he gets Eisenhower's support.

[According to a 2002 Los Angeles Times article, during the 1950's Vereide played a major role in the U.S. government's anti-communist activities: "Pentagon officials secretly met at the group's Washington Fellowship House in 1955 to plan a worldwide anti-communism propaganda campaign endorsed by the CIA, documents from the Fellowship archives and the Eisenhower Presidential Library show. Then known as International Christian Leadership, the group financed a film called 'Militant Liberty' that was used by the Pentagon abroad." Showing Faith in Discretion, Lisa Getter, The Los Angeles Times, Sep 27, 2002]

It's sort of stabilized now. By the mid-60's, they sort of realized they didn't want too many people. Too many people dilute the organization.

One scene I saw was Congressman Todd Tiahrt, Republican from Kansas, who seemed as if he was interviewing to be in the organization. He was very nervous. The leader of the organization was asking him questions, sort of leaning back and testing him. I think he wanted into this network, and he would fumble a little by talking about abortion. They don't really care about abortion. They are against it but they aren't really concerned about it.

GNN: What are their core issues then?

SHARLET: The core issue is capitalism and power. The core issue they would say, is love. There are a lot of different things love means. They will always work with both sides of the issue. I saw some correspondence with Chinese officials before Deng Xiao Ping was in power. They had some very clandestine associations with senior Chinese officials, and were told Deng was a guy they could do business with. So that was fine with them.

GNN: When you say 'do business,' was it all about actual business deals?

SHARLET: I wouldn't say it was all about business deals. But if you happened to be praying with someone and you were done praying and said, "Hey, I have some F-16s to sell..." They would deny there is any connection.

They are pretty careful about those kinds of things. They will never say, "We are out here to help set you up in business." They will always help out their friends. "Let me introduce you to someone. The Prime Minister of Malaysia is coming."

GNN: It sounds to me like some sort of extended Skull and Bones, an Old Boys Network crafted onto a religious context.

SHARLET: The religious context is real. The Old Boys Network is about business. This is about more than business. This is about maintaining a certain kind of power, a certain view of how power should be distributed. The Episcopalian Old Boys Network was a lot more easygoing than this. This is a lot more militaristic. Really at its fundamental core, almost monarchist. We would be told time and time again, "Christ's kingdom is not a democracy" This is their model for leadership. They would often say, "Everything you need to know about government is right there in the cross - it's vertical not horizontal."

GNN: In that vein, reading your article I got the impression they are praising guys like Adolph Hitler and Ghengis Khan – a lot. Is that a fair assessment of your intention?

SHARLET: In fact, Harpers made me cut back on that stuff. [They said] 'We know it's true, but this is already so much to absorb.' That's why I included that line at the end of the story. The leader of the group is having dinner with the younger members of that group and is talking about the bond, the covenant. And he says, "Can anyone think of someone who had a covenant?" And the answer, of course, and everyone knows it, is "Hitler."

This goes back to the 1960's, Vereide was instructing young men by having them read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – "Look at what those guys did." But they will say, "We are not trying to kill Jews." What we are talking about is imagine if you took the "Hitler Concept," and they'll use that phrase, the Hitler Concept, to work for Christ, or the Mao Concept. We're not right wingers, they'll say. You can use the Mao Concept.

GNN: Define what they mean by Hitler Concept.

SHARLET: A loyal leadership cadre, which is interesting because guys like Hitler and Stalin were famous for purging, but they seem to focus on a couple of guys. "If two or three agree" is a phrase they use a lot. If you can get together and focus you can accomplish anything. You don't need to sway the electorate. You don't need to convert everyone to Christ. Everyone doesn't have to believe in Christ, and that's where they differ from other fundamentalists. Some fundamentalists really distrust them for that. [They say] "We need to convert everyone, the high and the low." The Family says, "No we don't need the high." All these guys Hitler, Lenin, Pol Pot and Osama bin Laden is another guy they cite a lot, are guys who understood the power of a political avant garde. That's what they mean by the Hitler Concept. Also keeping your message simple, and repeating it again and again because there is only one message and it is "Jesus Loves." You can express lots of different things with that term.

I always try to play the devil's advocate. They are not the traditional right wing bad guys. They have been able to do what they do for so long because no one has been looking for this kind of thing.

A lot of this is already in the culture, take [the book] "Ghengis Khan Business Secrets," for instance, the admiration authoritarian leaders.

GNN: Here's where I'm confused. To me they sound like Nietzsche. They don't sound like Jesus Christ. They sound like they are creating the Nietzschean superman above the moral universe the rest of us slaves live in.

SHARLET: I don't think I mention Nietzsche in the article, do I?

GNN: I don't think so.

SHARLET: That's really perceptive of you. Many of them love Nietzsche. They think he's fascinating.

GNN: But he hated Christianity. He was the ultimate amoralist.

SHARLET: I know it's weird. There is one really wacky fundamentalist group that thinks Doug Coe could be the Anti-Christ. They're not sure yet, they might need to shave his head and see if he has the mark of the beast.

They have gotten into trouble with a lot of evangelical groups. They invited Yasser Arafat to the National Prayer Breakfast.

They've boasted, and I don't know if it's true, that they had special permission from the State Department to bring anyone they wanted to the Cedars, that they'd brought some Sudanese on the terrorist list to their mansion headquarters and they'd love to get Osama bin Laden down there.

GNN: But where does Christ fit into all of this? This seems like a lot of Old Testament stuff, not the new [Testament], meek-shall-inherit-the-earth Jesus part.

SHARLET: That's an interesting point. For them, Jesus is just a regular guy, a buddy, a guide, the standard evangelical stuff, no sex. It's sort of a weird hipster puritanical view. If you met them you wouldn't think they were uptight.

GNN: Actually, they sound like complete homophobes to me.

SHARLET: They definitely think homosexuality is a sin.

GNN: But they seem like they can't stand women.

SHARLET: They're just not that interested. It's a very gendered point of view. Jesus is everywhere. Jesus is right there with you on the basketball court.

But at the upper levels there is this weird emphasis on the Old Testament. It's in the story, they talk about King David, who in some ways was a really bad guy. They are really interested in the biblical concept that whether you are good or bad it doesn't matter, what matters is whether you are chosen. That's part of the Hitler Concept. It doesn't matter whether Hitler was good or bad, Hitler was chosen for leadership. That was part of God's plan. Nothing happens that isn't part of God's plan.

GNN: Let's cut to this house where these six congressmen are living on C Street in DC. What is the connection, if any, to the Bush Administration? The White House seems to have its own relationship to religion and people who are influencing them on religious issues. Is there a relationship here?

SHARLET: Yes, though I will say it is not exclusively Democrat or Republican. They say there are six guys at the C Street house, there were eight when I was there. They say there is one for members of Parliament in England, and I think there are similar ones in other capitals. The house is constantly rotating. Steve Largent used to live there. John Elias Baldacci, a conservative Democrat who is now the governor of Maine. As for the Bush connection, there is Ashcroft. I discovered in their archives a correspondence between Ashcroft and Coe that began in 1981. Al Gore at one time referred to Doug Coe as his personal hero, which is easy to believe. Doug Coe is an incredibly charming man.

The Bushes have visited the Cedars many times, but all presidents have. Bush Sr. when he was Vice President was hosting dinners for Middle Eastern ambassadors there. There are going to be people at all levels.

GNN: When you say someone "is a part of it" what does that mean? Are you in or out, or is it a loose thing?

SHARLET: It's a loose thing. But there are levels of participation.

GNN: Are they codified like the Masons or something?

SHARLET: There is an inner core group that is codified in their documents, called the Core. I don't know who is in it other than Doug Coe. The documents I saw only went up to the late 80's with senators, congressmen, and a lot of military men. Before he died, Senator Harold Huges was Core. Former Senator Mark Hatfield used to be Core, and may still be. In the AP article, there is an Air Force officer who I hadn't known about. Then there are associates, usually about 150 associates and they are the key individuals in their areas, and then there are the people who are in a cell with an associate and they are very close. And then there are close friends. Senator James Inhofe, Republican from Oklahoma, is frequently, for instance, referred to as a close friend. President Museveni of Uganda is a close friend. There is no membership card. In all of their letters there is a paragraph that says this is a private, confidential relationship and we don't talk about it when they are recruiting a new person into the group.

GNN: Are there formal events and meetings, other than this national prayer breakfast?

SHARLET: There are literally thousands of governors', mayors', prayer breakfasts around the country. Some of those probably launched forty, fifty years ago and have long since lost their connection to the mothership, as it were. But that's the idea. They're part of the movement. The system is in place, that we should turn to God to make all our decisions. Up until the 1970's, they had Core meetings around the world, but that's as far as I saw in the documents.

GNN: So how scared are you of this group? Are they a force for fascism or some sort of cult-like group with big connections that comes and goes?

SHARLET: I think they are definitely a force for fascism. I think a lot of the way the world looks is a result of their work. They were instrumental in getting U.S. government support for General Suharto, for the generals' juntas in Brazil. Just take those two countries alone, they are two of the biggest countries on Earth. Those countries might have been progressive democracies a long time ago had it not been for U.S. support for those regimes ...

GNN: But don't you think the CIA and the U.S. government's own agenda had a lot to do with those decisions?

SHARLET: Yeah, but they made those connections.

GNN: What are the connections between the CIA and the Fellowship?

SHARLET: A lot of their key men in a country would be the intelligence officers in the American embassy. Throughout their correspondence, that's the kind of guy they would like to have involved. They always had a lot of Army intelligence guys involved, Pentagon guys.

Doug Coe in the early 70's was touring the frontlines in Vietnam with intelligence officers and South Vietnamese generals. That's the level of connections they are talking about, like the Salvadoran general Carlos Eugenios Vides Casanova [convicted by a Florida jury for the torture of thousands] and Honduran general Gustavo Alvarez Martinez [a minister also linked to the CIA and death squads]. They are the people who brought those people in. They said you need to meet this person. That's how it works.

Their diplomacy can affect some good things, like the truce in Rwanda. They had a lot of connections with the South African [apartheid] regime, where they were generally a moderate, even a progressive force. But it's kinda hard to name a nasty regime around the world that doesn't have really well-documented connections to them. Franco was a hold-out. So they started winning over a bunch of ministers in the Franco regime and then they went to Franco and said this is a good group, we can do business with them.

GNN: Why hasn't there been more mainstream press on this?

SHARLET: Lisa Getter of The Los Angeles Times, a Pulitzer prize winning investigative reporter, did a piece on it, but there was no follow-up. I got a little press out of it when my article came out. There is a big reason there hasn't been a lot of press about it and that's the war. On the other hand, and this isn't a conspiracy theory, if they can't see it then it's not there. I mean if you read that your local congressman is sitting there saying Hitler is a leadership model, the local paper should at the very least call up and say, "Congressman Tiahrt do you believe Hitler is a good leadership model?" If he had said, "Noam Chomsky is a great philosopher" then there'd be an investigation in a minute.

Why they are not following up on it? I don't know. Partly because it's so crazy, and partly because there is this idea that religion and politics are separate and religion is a personal thing. The media has always been pretty dumb when it comes to religion. In the New Yorker profile of John Ashcroft they talk about his weekly prayer breakfast, Steve Largent, [former congressman from Washington] in The New York Times, same deal. I think they interviewed him while he was living at the house. The reporter never asked, "Hey, how did you get involved in this? Is this something that existed before you?" The reporter sort of implied it was Largent's idea for the weekly prayer breakfasts.

It hasn't been that secret. The New Republic did an exposé in the late 60's, early 70's, and no one really followed up. Robert Scheer did a piece on it in Playboy in the 1970's.

GNN: Any fallout from the members?

SHARLET: I've talked to several who swear we are still friends.

One guy did say, I'm paraphrasing, 'You're a traitor and you'll be dealt with as a traitor.'

Anthony Lappé is Excutive Editor of He has written for The New York Times, New York, Details, and Salon, among many others.

The ultimate war criminal state wants exemption.

June 13, 2003

The Guardian (UK)

U.S. Threatens to Boycott Belgium Over War Crimes Law

by Ian Black and Ewen MacAskill

The bitter dispute between the US and Europe over Iraq burst into the open again yesterday when the US threatened Belgium with a boycott and Germany and France registered protests at the UN about Washington's continued opposition to the international criminal court.

The US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, warned Belgium at a Nato meeting to drop its controversial war crimes law or face a boycott of Nato's Brussels HQ.

Belgium, a founder member of Nato, has a law giving it jurisdiction to try war crimes, genocide and other crimes against humanity wherever they are committed. . . .



[The US will today threaten to undermine the entire system of international treaties when it withdraws from plans for a court that will act as the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal.

To back out of the plans, the administration will assert it is no longer bound by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, a 1969 pact detailing the obligations of nations to obey other international treaties.

Under the convention, a country that has signed a treaty cannot act to defeat the purpose of that treaty, even if does not intend to ratify it.-- David Teather, "US threat to wreck treaty system," Guardian, May 6, 2002]

[From Feb. 3 to 7, governments will be choosing the first panel of 18 justices for the International Criminal Court, the first permanent tribunal in history established to try individuals accused of the most horrible of offenses: war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. . . . The Bush administration has rejected the new court because Washington has not been able to get a blanket exception from prosecution for Americans. . . . In 2000, the outgoing Clinton administration, . . . signed the treaty creating the International Criminal Court--Barbara Crossette, "U.S. Out Of Race For First ICC Judges," UN Wire, January 22, 2003]

Richard Overy, "Coalition in the dock: There is a strong war crimes case against US and British leaders, but big powers have immunity," Guardian, April 15, 2003

Dr. Daniel Amit, "'Some of Us Have Lived Through 1939'," May 4, 2003

[General Tommy Franks is threatened with a Belgian war crimes trial . . . --Jonathan Duffy, "US troops 'encouraged' Iraqi looters," BBC News Online, May 6, 2003

[The US has bitterly attacked European leaders for trying to stop the UN security council voting tomorrow to renew America's exemption from prosecution by the new war crimes tribunal.--Gary Younge and Ian Black in Brussels, "War crime vote fuels US anger at Europe," Guardian, June 11, 2003]

posted at 03:26:29 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Monday,June 09,2003

Dfferent Arabic words are translated "prayer."

"Regular" prayers, in Arabic, are du`a or munajat. Obligatory prayers are salat. The prohibition of congregational prayer (salat al-jumu`ah), except for the Prayer for the Dead, refers to salat.

Baha'u'llah was abrogating the style of Islamic salat (obligatory prayer), which was congregational, and, with the exception of the Prayer for the Dead, replacing it with individual salat.

posted at 11:24:39 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Saturday,June 07,2003

Isn't all this talk about impeaching Dubya delicious?

FindLaw's Legal Commentary

by John Dean

[Before becoming Counsel to the President of the United States in July 1970

at age 31, John Dean was Chief Minority Counsel to the Judiciary Committee

of the United States House of Representatives, the associate director of a

law reform commission, and an Associate Deputy Attorney General of the

United States. He served as Richard Nixon¹s White House lawyer for a

thousand days, and was charged with obstruction of justice and spent four

months in prison for his role in the Watergate cover-up. Widely viewed as a

compassionate figure in the Watergate drama, Dean was the first to testify

about the existence of the White House taping system which eventually led

to President Nixon's demise.]

. . . Bush's statements, in chronological order, were:

"Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for

the production of biological weapons."

--United Nations Address, September 12, 2002

"Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and is rebuilding the

facilities used to make more of those weapons."

"We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi

field commanders to use chemical weapons -- the very weapons the dictator

tells us he does not have."

-- Radio Address, October 5, 2002

"The Iraqi regime . . . possesses and produces chemical and biological

weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons."

"We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents,

including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas."

"We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet

of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse

chemical or biological weapons across broad areas. We're concerned that

Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVS for missions targeting the

United States."

"The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons

program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear

scientists, a group he calls his "nuclear mujahideen" - his nuclear holy

warriors. Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities

at sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past. Iraq has

attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment

needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear


--Cincinnati, Ohio Speech, October 7, 2002

"Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials

to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent."

--State of the Union Address, January 28, 2003

"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that

the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal

weapons ever devised."

--Address to the Nation, March 17, 2003

. . . In the three decades since Watergate, this is the first potential

scandal I have seen that could make Watergate pale by comparison. . . .

To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based

on bogus information, he is cooked. Manipulation or deliberate misuse of

national security intelligence data, if proven, could be "a high crime"

under the Constitution's impeachment clause. It would also be a violation

of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy

statute , which renders it a felony "to defraud the United States, or any

agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose."

posted at 05:00:20 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Friday,June 06,2003

As I see it, Baha'u'llah's apparent condoning of polygyny, followed by `Abdu'l-Baha's interpretation as monogamy, can be seen in the context of the Qur'an. Muhammad at first appears to permit polygyny (conditioned upon justice to all one's wives). Then, in the same surih, He insists that justice is impossible. Likewise, Baha'u'llah seems, in the Aqdas, to condone polygyny. Then, `Abdu'l-Baha disallows it on the grounds that justice toward two wives would be impossible.

As I see it, the point of both these reversals was to teach a lesson. Muhammad, Baha'u'llah, and `Abdu'l-Baha were establishing the importance of justice toward women in societies where polygyny was sometimes practiced and where women were rarely treated equitably and justly. Since, during the Islamic Dispensations, the lesson was not well understood or appreciated, and polygyny had not been abolished, it was repeated by Baha'u'llah and interpreted by `Abdu'l-Baha.

"If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one... "

- Qur'an 4:3

"You will not be able to deal justly between your wives however much you wish to do so."

Qur'an 4:129

And Baha'u'llah and `Abdu'l-Baha:

"God hath prescribed matrimony unto you. Beware that ye take not unto yourselves more wives than two. Who contenteth himself with a single partner from among the maidservants of God, both he and she shall live in tranquillity."

-- Baha'u'llah, Kitab-i-Aqdas, p.63

"Know thou that polygamy is not permitted under the law of God, for contentment with one wife hath been clearly stipulated. Taking a second wife is made dependent upon equity and justice being upheld between the two wives, under all conditions. However, observance of justice and equity towards two wives is utterly impossible. The fact that bigamy has been made dependent upon an impossible condition is clear proof of its absolute prohibition. Therefore it is not permissible for a man to have more than one wife."

-- `Abdu'l-Baha, from the notes to the Kitab-i-Aqdas, note #89

posted at 03:01:29 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Thursday,June 05,2003
Johan Asscrack
der Führer General Johan Asscrack
der Führer called today for an enlargement of the American police state. The continued transformation of the American republic into a fascist empire is being advanced under the guise of increasing the powers which Asscrack can exercise through the so called Patriot Act and its soon-to-be successor. As predicted here, the official proposal of a Patriot Act II was imminent as the U.S. continued in its efforts to defend itself against the global revolution being waged against its government, its citizens, its transnational corporatocracy, and its allies, i.e., the war on terrorism.
Can we find someone like this? "The president must be a man who does not insistently seek the presidency. He should be a person free from all thoughts of name and rank; rather, he should say, 'I am unworthy and incapable of this position and cannot bear this great burden.' Such persons deserve the presidency. If the object is to promote the public good, then the president must be a well-wisher of all and not a self-seeking person. If the object, however, is to promote personal interests, then such a position will be injurious to humanity and not beneficial to the public." -- 'Abdu'l-Bahá quoted by Mahmúd Zarqaní October 14, 1912, Pleasanton, California, Mahmud's Diary, volume I
Who is this person called Jaizuz? He is apparently a mythical character described in a book called the Bobble. Strange, never heard of either one. Although ... I am familiar with Jesus and the Bible. Hmmm. The names sound similar, but the descriptions of Jaizuz and the Bobble are so different from Jesus and the Bible that they cannot possibly be the same.

posted at 12:57:48 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Wednesday,June 04,2003
Just a Dog and a Fire Hydrant
The Proletarian Revolution

The qur'anic view that the Trinity refers to three gods can be looked at in at least a couple of ways: First, there was a Christian sect in Arabia at the time of Muhammad, called the Mariamites, whose members believed that the Father, Son, and (the Virgin) Mary were individual deities. Muhammad might have been referring to them. Second, perhaps Muhammad was expressing His view that the Trinity, in distinguishing three persons within the Godhead, is tantamount to a worship of three Gods. In other words, if God is indivisible, the Trinitarian doctrine is "shirk," i.e., it assigns partners with God. Islam, like Judaism, is passionately monotheistic, and many Jewish and Islamic scholars have argued, convincingly in my view, that mainline Christianity is not truly monotheistic. People can redefine words as much as they like, but one God (monotheism), in my view, means an undivided God, whereas Trinitarianism presents a God divided within Himself.
Billy Graham was one of the fathers of the neo-evangelical movement, now often called conservative evangelicalism. The neo-evangelicals broke away from the fundamentalists over the issue of separatism. The former believed that Christians should work with non-"Christians" (read: non-evangelicals), so as to be a witness for Christ in the world. Fundamentalists regarded, and continue to regard, this approach as appeasement. The fundamentalists started Bible colleges, so that "Christians" would not be exposed to the evils of secularism. Evangelicals went to those very secular universities, joined organizations such as Campus Crusade for Christ, and attempted to witness to others. A true fundamentalist would find attendance at a secular university or college nearly intolerable. Additionally, some fundamentalists have argued the necessity of avoiding most modern musical genres which, they say, are the works of the devil. Neo-evangelicalism, on the other hand, developed contemporary Christian music (Amy Grant, etc.), which utilizes the very styles condemned by many of the fundamentalists. The pejorative, "fundie," was actually coined in Christianity Today, a neo-evangelical (not fundamentalist) magazine. In recent years, beginning in the late 1970s, many of the younger neo-evangelicals became politicized, which would have been almost unimaginable back when Billy Graham was nurturing the nascent neo-evangelical movement. The new "Christian right," which first flexed its muscles during the Reagan-Carter campaign season, has accepted a variety of politically, economically, and ethically right-wing positions and formed alliances with the neoconservative movement. Among of the principal characteristics of the Christian right, in the United States, are an allegiance to American civil religion, a belief that America was intended to be a "Christian" country, and a conviction that she has lost track of her roots. In solidifying their perspective, the Christian right adopted many of the views of the postmillennialists, repackaged as "dominion theology," contending that "Christians" need to take back America for Christ. The Christian right has flourished due partly to its adversarial us-versus-them posture. Originally, it chief international enemy was the Soviet Union. Now, with the end of the Cold War, the enemy has become the so-called Islamic world. Some have couched it is terms such as "militant Islam," designed, I believe, to sound less religiocentric, or more unbiased, than they actually are. In any event, Franklin Graham, unlike his father, is a part of this Christian right and is, therefore, willing to take on controversial political issues. Most hostile writers on the subject of Islam make their points by taking qur'anic verses out of context. Few know the original Arabic or the historical context of seventh-century Arabia. In addition, nearly the identical criticisms usually made of the Qur'an, including by Franklin Graham, can be made of the Tanakh. The social and geographical contexts of the ancient Hebrews and the Arabs were similar. Both were tribal, desert societies. And both the Tanakh and the Qur'an contain vivid discussions of violence. The people who write these anti-Islamic works are principally Christian apologists, not Islamists or Arabists. Those who do know Arabic are usually converts to Christianity, and, therefore, are hardly neutral. (Of course, there are Christians who have converted to Islam, too. I would not necessarily want to rely exclusively on their writings as a source of objective information about one or more of the Christianities.) IMO, it is best to stay away from apologetic authors and speakers and stick to the works of reputable historians. Once one hears a misstatement, especially one which is subjectively satisfying and self-confirming, it can be nearly impossible to get it out of one's mind, and all that one reads in the future will be colored by one's bias. Only one or two people, both members of al-Qa'ida, have argued for the forceful, and hence un-Islamic, conversion of Americans to Islam. The major objective of al-Qa'ida, which does not even represent all of radical Islamism, is the liberation of Saudi Arabia from its monarchy and its transformation into an Islamic state. The U.S. is regarded by some of them as an obstacle to the achievement of that objective. The position of al-Qa'ida is very similar to the one held by many adherents of the Christianity identity movement, once again in the news with Eric Rudolph's capture. The Christian Identity movement might be regarded as a radical branch of anglo-Israelism, which started in Britain in the late nineteenth century and subsequently imported to the United States. Both anglo-Israelites and proponents of Christian Identify regard the Europeans as the true Israelites. However, most anglo-Israelites, the Armstrongite movement for instance, eschew violence. Islamism is defined as set of types of Islam desiring to establish an Islamic state, but al-Qa'ida is a radical branch of Islamism. On the other hand, the Turkish government is now Islamist, but, like most anglo-Israelites, is nonviolent. The violent, or radical, Islamists, members of al-Qa'ida, like much of Christian Identity, frequently advocate violence. Therefore, much of what the enemies of Islam hate about that religion can also be found in American Protestantism.

posted at 01:08:26 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Sunday,June 01,2003

Honesty on Fox News Channel? Chicken Little where are you? As I write this message, Geraldo is interviewing a Washington Post reporter who just said that the U.N. is not too popular with many U.S. government officials. Geraldo responded, "Especially not with a lot of the folks here at Fox News." Oops! Geraldo let it slip. Fox is not fair and balanced after all. Who would have thunk it. ;-) Geraldo's map drawing in Iraq didn't get him fired, but will he be canned now? He committed the unforgivable sin. He told the truth about the hidden agenda of Fox News Channel.

Another example of the arrogance of some American conservatives (as redundant as the term "American conservatives" may seem at times) and a contradiction of conservatism with what I would regard as spirituality: America first! Should not the truly humble nation (or person) only desire to be last, in order to serve other nations (or people)? So long as there is so much global inequality, no truly spiritual country has any right to wish to be first.

I can hear the voices raised against me: What kind of an Amurekin are you?!

posted at 09:51:56 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Copyright © 2002- Mark A. Foster, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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