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Kalashnikov’s Remorse

The creator of the AK-47 assault rifle seeks mercy; regrets its use

66 years later, the Avtomat Kalashikova remains the world’s most ubiquitously used weapon, estimated in contributing – even in relatively “quiet” years – to the deaths of a quarter of a million of the world’s population per annum. Developed in the Soviet Union in 1947, used by its forces in 1949, the AK-47 assault rifle will undoubtedly endure for many decades more – a solemn fact that certainly contributed to its creator seeking mercy and forgiveness for his contribution to its existence. Mikhail Kalashnikov died late last month, two days before Christmas, at the age of 94. He lived to see and feel and weigh the horrors his invention was used to inflict; he lived with the astonishing fact that Kalashnikovs make up more than one in ten of all firearms, and are the weapon of choice for armies made up of drugged, deluded and manipulated child soldiers. In 2010, the then 91 year old Kalashnikov wrote the Russia Orthodox Church to ask a question I think he regrettably knew the answer to: was the blood shed by the weapon over the more than half a century since he created it, on his hands? “My spiritual pain is unbearable,” he wrote. “I keep having the same unsolved question: if my rifle claimed people’s lives, then can it be that I… a Christian and an Orthodox believer, was to blame for their deaths?”

The church told him not to dwell on the matter too heavily in his twilight years. Its press secretary, Cyril Alexander Volkov, wrote in a reply to Kalashnikov that, “The Church has a very definite position: when weapons serve to protect the Fatherland, the Church supports both its creators and the soldiers who use it.” The press secretary was later quoted as saying, “He designed this rifle to defend his country, not so terrorists could use it in Saudi Arabia.”

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The church’s position is, I think, correct. It’s difficult to impart much guilt on Kalashnikov for his creation, meant for the safeguarding of his country against the better-equipped Nazi invaders, especially since he could not have foreseen the abominable future misuse of it, and feels obvious regret and remorse for that misuse. It’s noteworthy to remind ourselves that Kalashnikov is not the first – nor will he be the last – weapon inventor who has expressed regret and remorse for their contributions. The namesake of the Nobel Peace Prize, Alfred Nobel, expressed similar remorse when his creation of dynamite – meant to be used as an instrument of peace – was used to wreak untold havoc throughout the breadth of the First World War. The nuclear scientists that developed the nuclear bomb(s) dropped on Japan during the Second World War pleaded with President Truman to not use the weapon to such effect. Even Albert Einstein, who famously consulted with President Roosevelt to urge his continued research on developing the bomb, expressed remorse: “Had I known that the Germans would not succeed in producing an atomic bomb, I would have never lifted a finger.”

Still, as RT.com notes, “AK-47s have caused more deaths than artillery fire, airstrikes and rocket attacks combined.” It’s easy then to understand why the man responsible for that creation feels such pangs about the millions who have lost their lives because of something he invented. In 2007, Kalashnikov was posed a question of the state of his conscience, and confidently replied, “I sleep well. It’s the politicians, who are to blame for failing to come to an agreement and resorting to violence.” It seems obvious that Kalashnikov is in some ways morally responsible for the weapon he created, but it’s perhaps unfair of us to depart on him much blame for the horrors perpetuated by the Avtomat Kalashikova. It was a weapon created for the defence of a people; it was meant for bringing about the end of a terrible war against a terrible foe. But wars were waged long before 1947, and will be waged for the entirety of our species’ time on this planet. We are all culpable for the millions who have given way to our frightful waging of war, not just Mikhail Kalashnikov.

Photo Credit: (Above) AK-47 assault rifle courtesy of Flickr user Brian nairB; (Below) Ethiopian National Defense Force 1st Lieutenant Ayella Gissa takes aim with an AK-47 assault rifle on a simulated enemy during a practical exercise as part of Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa’s train the trainer course in Hurso, Ethiopia, December 27, 2006, courtesy of wikicommons.

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Your Terrifying Quote For The Day

Tea Party tax day protest 2010

“President Obama waived a ban on arming terrorists in order to allow weapons to go to the Syrian opposition. Your listeners, US taxpayers, are now paying to give arms to terrorists including Al Qaeda. … This happened and as of today the United States is willingly, knowingly, intentionally sending arms to terrorists, now what this says to me, I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, as I look at the End Times scripture, this says to me that the leaf is on the fig tree and we are to understand the signs of the times, which is your ministry, we are to understand where we are in God’s end times history. … Rather than seeing this as a negative, we need to rejoice, Maranatha Come Lord Jesus, His day is at hand.”

Michele Bachmann

…an active member of Congress.

Hallelujah.

Photo: Fibonacci Blue

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What The Rest Of The World Thinks Of US

U.S Military Forces in Bosnia - Operation Joint Endeavor

Paul Waldman provides timely perspective on how the rest of the world feels about U.S. military action since 1963:

Some of these operations worked out very well, others didn’t. And just to be clear, this history doesn’t tell us whether bombing Syria is a good idea or a bad idea. But if you’re wondering why people all over the world view the United States as an arrogant bully, reserving for itself the right to rain down death from above on anyone it pleases whenever it pleases, well there you go. It doesn’t matter whether you think some or even all of those actions were completely justified and morally defensible. From here, we tend to look at each of these engagements in isolation, asking whether there are good reasons to go in and whether we can accomplish important goals for ourselves and others. But when when a new American military campaign begins, people in the rest of the world see it in this broader historical context.

If you take a longer look at the list he provides (and do some basic math), you’ll find that the United States has launched one significant overseas assault every three years since 1963 — or every 40 months. Kevin Drum laments how little of this resonates with the American people:

Too many Americans have a seriously blinkered view of our interventions overseas, viewing them as one-offs to be evaluated on their individual merits. But when these things happen once every three years, against a backdrop of almost continuous smaller-scale military action (drone attacks, the odd cruise missile here and there, sending “advisors” over to help an ally, etc.), the rest of the world just doesn’t see it that way. They don’t see a peaceful country that struggles mightily with its conscience and only occasionally makes a decision to drop a bunch of bombs. They see a country that views dropping bombs as its primary means of dealing with any country weaker than we are.

Considering the rate at which we’ve launched bombs against foreign states the past 50 years, we’re actually ahead of schedule for the next round. It’s only been two years since Libya.

(Photo: U.S. military forces in Bosnia — operation Joint Endeavor, by Expert Infantry)

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Violence Erupts In Egypt – Reactions & Analysis (Warning: Graphic Photos, Video)

Reuters has the number of dead at 95, AP at 149. The Muslim Brotherhood claims that more than 2,000 have been killed. It hardly matters, at this point, who’s right. We’ll get the accurate figures soon enough. What does matter is that Egypt has descended into horrific violence — between government security forces and islamist protestors demanding the reinstatement of deposed Mohammad Mursi.

The military-backed interim “government” has declared a monthlong state of emergency (it’ll be longer than a month, I assure you), ordering the armed forces to support the security forces in restoring law and order and protecting state facilities. A curfew has also been put into effect.

Shiraz Maher sees this at the possible tipping point for the Muslim Brotherhood, who will very likely turn to violence and terror to ensure their existence:

Following the Baathist takeover of Syria in 1963, existing tensions within the Muslim Brotherhood caused the group to schism between, broadly speaking, its Damascene intellectuals who favoured engaging with the regime and its more radical rural members led by conservative leaders in Aleppo. By the mid-1970s the intellectuals had fled (mostly to Europe) while the radical faction was effectively at war with Hafez al-Assad before being crushed several years later in Hama.

The Egyptian Brotherhood could fracture along similar lines. While the official language of their leadership continues to counsel against violent opposition, they are finding it increasingly difficult to exert complete control over the movement. ‘We will burn everything,’ a Brotherhood supporter told CNN this morning. ‘We will turn into bombers.’

The grisly scenes of murder and cruelty are almost too graphic to bear, but we like to bring you what’s really happening here on Left and Center, so with that in mind, here are some tweets/photos from the ground:

https://twitter.com/cmbaraka/statuses/367662461739999233

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Prison Break: Abu Ghraib Style

Joint salute

One thing should be very, very clear, “the [Iraqi] government [has] lost any semblance of control over security”:

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, formed earlier this year through a merger of al Qaeda’s affiliates in Syria and Iraq, said it had stormed Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib jail and another, some 20 km (12 miles) north of capital, after months of preparation.

Monday’s attacks came exactly a year after the leader of al Qaeda’s Iraqi branch, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, launched a “Breaking the Walls” campaign that made freeing its imprisoned members a top priority, the group said in a statement.

Sunni Islamist militants have in recent months been regaining momentum in their insurgency against Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government, which came to power after the U.S. invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.

The group said it had deployed suicide attackers, rockets, and 12 car bombs, killing 120 Iraqi guards and SWAT forces in the attacks in Taji, north of Baghdad, and Abu Ghraib, the prison made notorious a decade ago by photographs showing abuse of prisoners by U.S. soldiers.

And if you guessed that the released prisoners just punched a one-way ticket to the war in Syria, you’d be right:

Sectarian tensions across the region have been inflamed by the civil war in Syria, which has drawn in Shi’ite and Sunni fighters from Iraq and beyond to fight against each other.

A senior Iraqi security official said security forces were on high alert and had received information that some of the most high-profile al Qaeda operatives who managed to escape were now on their way to Syria.

And the beat goes on.

(photo by The U.S. Army)

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Buckle Up America, We’re About To Enter Another War

SYRIA-REBELS/RESORT

I’ve been fairly vocal about my opposition to any U.S. intervention in Syria, but ever since Obama first capitulated to the war hawks like McCain (who never met a war he didn’t like), it’s seemed like the talk of arming the rebels gave way to good sense and careful calculation. In other words, while Obama may have agreed to arm Syrian rebels at one point, further consideration told him that the idea was as stupid as it was dangerous. So, I had reason to be hopeful. That’s over now:

(Reuters) – President Barack Obama will move forward with a plan for the United States to arm the struggling Syrian rebels after some congressional concerns were eased, officials said on Monday.

“We believe we are in a position that the administration can move forward,” House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers told Reuters.

The White House announced in June that it would offer military aid to vetted groups of Syrian rebels after two years of balking at directly sending arms to the opposition.

“We have been working with Congress to overcome some of the concerns that they initially had, and we believe that those concerns have been addressed and that we will now be able to proceed,” a source familiar with the administration’s thinking told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Basically, Obama’s administration has been trying to convince Congress that any weapons sent to rebels wouldn’t fall into the wrong hands, like they did less than two years ago when weapons meant for Libyan insurgents were hijacked and used to facilitate an Islamist war in Mali. But that was two years ago — it’s a different Middle East now!

The administration promises that this time around, things will be different. They’ll give weapons to the right rebels. Except, it’s nearly impossible to discern the right rebels from the wrong rebels at this point:

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A while ago, I posted this piece about the degeneration of the rebel groups in Syria, who may have initially sprung up in response to dictatorial rule, but have now more or less embraced the same kind of barbarism and viciousness of Assad’s regime. The point of that piece was perfectly encapsulated by this Nietzsche quote, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

I understand the moral obligations at play here. There’s a dictatorial force that has carried out atrocious attacks on its own people, and thus should be removed from authority. I understand the desire for some Americans to relieve ailing Syrians of the hell they currently enjoy. But I also understand what happens when a western government intervenes in a long, bloody, sectarian civil war, in a region that has been embroiled in conflict and confusion for centuries. A war that has been brewing since the Iraq debacle severed the region’s fragile stability — further severed by the barrage of change and infighting unleashed by the Arab Spring. Syria is Iraq on crack. Beneath the Israel-Iran standoff — which threatens a global war itself — we have a Shia-Sunni struggle that will likely never be resolved, in which Assad and Khameini and Hezbollah and Maliki are fighting Sunni Jihadists trying to depose the Syrian president and restore the Levant to the caliphate.

There have never been any good options available to us in regards to Syria. Conflicts like this are not so easily codified; yet when that point gets lost in the humdrum of moral responsibility and war mongering, we end up with a decade — or more — long conflict where little is solved, many die, trillions are spent, regions are fractured, alliances torn, confidences shattered, and tensions heightened.

That’s where we’re headed with this plan, initiated by a president who once promised us rationalism and temperance.

(photo by Freedom House)

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Fox News Pundit Calls For A Ban On U.S. Mosques Until All Muslims Are Cleared Of Terrorism

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Fox News commentator and supposed “liberal” Bob Beckel said during the daytime program “The Five” that there should be a moratorium on mosques built in the United States until the government can clear every single Muslim in the country of terror activity.

His comments were provoked by a heavy conversation of the murder of dozens of children and their teacher in north eastern Nigeria by the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram:

BECKEL: They are a bunch of thugs, murderers and they go after the Christian schools, they have done this, they burn them down. We don’t do that here, if we burned your mosque here, you would really be upset.

The fact of the matter is, these guys are murderers, they’re terrorists and if this is what the prophet told you to do, then the prophet was wrong. Now, I’ve already gotten enough mail from you all, you don’t like what I say about not letting your students come here.

If it were up to me, I would not have another mosque built in this country until we got it worked out who was not a terrorist.

There’s a fine line between an Islamophobic rant, and a rant against islamist extremism, and Beckel crossed it. To compare American muslims to one of the most vile terror organizations in the world today is like juxtaposing RIRA militants with every-day American catholics. The shoe doesn’t fit just because both groups believe in the same Prophet.

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Massacre In Cairo: One Step Closer To Civil War

We don’t know the whole truth yet, but it hardly makes a difference in the grand scheme of things. 51 Egyptians are dead; shot to death by the same military force that ousted Mohammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood from power a few days ago. Islamist protestors claim that the military opened fire on them, unprovoked, while they were engaged in a mass prayer outside the Cairo barracks where Morsi is believed to be held. Meanwhile, the military says that a “terrorist group” tried to storm the Republican Guard compound, killing one officer and wounding dozens, and only then did armed forces open fire on them. The end consequence is that the Islamist supporters of Morsi and the MB are calling for an all-out civil war, and the military forces can do nothing to stop it from happening.

The Guardian has a good summary of the events:

The Egyptian military says gunmen from an “armed terrorist group” and linked to the Muslim Brotherhood – the Islamist organisation with which Morsi is affiliated – tried to storm the building shortly after dawn, firing live ammunition and throwing firebombs, killing one police officer. But the Muslim Brotherhood said troops opened fire at protesters, including women and children, none of whom had attacked the troops. The Guardian’s Patrick Kingsley spoke to a number of witnesses who gave differing accounts of what happened. Accounts from five of the wounded backed the Brotherhood’s version of events.

Both sides of what happened are too problematic to be taken as truth at this point. There doesn’t seem to be any valid reason why the armed forces — knowing the country is on the brink of mass violence — would indiscriminately open fire into a group of praying islamists. At the same time, the military’s claim that a “terrorist attack” needed to be quelled reeks of propagandism.

But an army spokesperson details the events to an extent worth considering:

The scene spiralled out of peacefulness at about 4am, he says. An armed group attacked the perimeters around the Republican Guard HQ, and the personnel responsible for securing the premises – from the army and police – were attacked by live ammunition, Ali says.

At the same time other groups started to climb up the buildings nearby and throw stones, molotov cocktails, bombs and heavy objects, Ali says, resulting in the death of one army officer and the injury of 42. Many of them are in a very critical condition, he says.

It was always expected that supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood were going to be indignant that their government had been overthrown, and therefore some violence was always likely. What’s shocking and disturbing is that the interim government — who as much as we’d like to believe otherwise, needs islamist support in order to remain legitimate — would invite a civil war to brew by violently engaging the protestors. Egypt’s top Muslim cleric has already condemned the events and thinks that a civil war is on the horizon, the Salafist Nour party has withdrawn from government negotiations and have called for an investigation into the massacre, and on every street corner in Cairo, passionate and anger fueled Islamist radicals are preparing messages of uprising, violence and salvation for their supporters.

So how about that bloodless coup?

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Finding A Place For The Muslim Brotherhood

Anti Morsi Protest in Down Town Cairo

Daniel Levy warns of the consequences that will follow if Egypt does not give room to the Islamist voice of the Muslim Brotherhood within Egyptian democracy:

But perhaps the greatest set back this coup has delivered is to the democratic Islamist project itself, without which, stable, open, inclusive and rule based governance is unlikely to take root. A democracy for everyone except Islamists will be handicapped and ultimately fail in a country like Egypt with a large community of religious believers and in which the Brotherhood is a popular and socially-embedded movement. President Morsi and large segments of the Brotherhood, after long periods of harsh persecution and after difficult internal debates, ultimately endorsed the democratic electoral process. That decision just had sand kicked in its face, and by the bucketful, undermining the movement’s more democratic wing and empowering its more radical wing.

I’ve always felt like this was a no-win scenario for Egypt since Islamic fanatics loath the very idea of a democracy to begin with, and are beset with finding ways to subvert and coerce it. But Levy raises an important point: the Muslim Brotherhood still enjoys a heck of a lot of support in Egypt, and will not simply go away because they’ve been uprooted from the leadership.

Larison echoes Levy:

The coup will give many Islamists in other countries a clear lesson that they may as well not participate in any political process. Even if Egyptian Islamists don’t resort to violence in opposition to the coup and the next government, potentially creating yet another cause for jihadist recruitment, some Islamists in other countries may conclude that taking up arms is the only way left available to them.

Yes but would Egyptian Islamists ever acquiesce to a secular constitution that stressed tolerance, open-mindedness, and pluralism? I don’t see it. The first thing Morsi and the MB did when they came into power was to imbed Salafist sentiment in their soon-to-be revoked constitution.

But that’s where the no-win scenario becomes a serious dilemma: if the Muslim Brotherhood are involved in the democratic process, they may very well try to hijack it again, and if they are excluded, it will almost certainly lead to a civil war where tens of thousands will die, and where Egypt will be destabilized for years. And if the bloody last couple of days are any indication of things to come, it’s going to be a tumultuous year for Egyptians.

(photo by Gigi Ibrahim)

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Tweet Of The Day

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The Best Of The Week On Left And Center

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The most popular posts from the week were Sibling Aggression Linked To Mental Health Distress In Children, A Wake Up Call For The American Left, A Dissent To Edward Snowden’s Q & A, 35 Percent Of All Women Are Victims Of Sexual Violence, and Another Iraq? Experts Question Whether Assad Actually Used Chemical Weapons

Other noteworthy posts include the heartwarming story of a Deaf Three Year Old Hears His Father’s Voice For The First Time, The Underrepresentation Of Women In Philosophy, Here’s What Brazilians Are Actually Protesting, the U.S. Has Been Secretly Training Syrian Rebels All Along, and last but not least, Meet The 46 Guantanamo Detainees Never To Be Tried Or Released.

Thanks for reading!

Publius

(Photo by flickr user Frederic.jacobs)

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Chart Of The Day: Americans Say No To Syrian Intervention

A YouGov poll captures the rational, pragmatic, common sense feelings of the vast majority of Americans.

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Jeffrey Goldberg sees Bill Clinton as one of the instigators behind the president’s decision to arm Syrian rebels:

From the president’s perspective, in fact, it would be best not to get involved at all. But the pressure on him this week became too much to bear. Former President Bill Clinton essentially called Obama a dithering coward because of his unwillingness to enter the Syrian conflict, and the intelligence community found evidence that Assad’s regime has definitively crossed the chemical weapons “red line” the president had spoken of — surely to his everlasting regret — last year.

Proving once and for all that an ex-president with a penchant for horrific foreign policy decision making can actually coerce an acting president to live up to that same standard. Thanks Bubba.

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Your Daily Quote

Moral Enlightenment

“Whenever I criticize Islam, I am attacked for my purported failure to empathize with Muslims throughout the world—both the peaceful billion, who are blameless, and the radicals, whose legitimate political grievances and social ties cause them to act out in regrettable ways. Consider this standard calumny from Glenn Greenwald:

How anyone can read any of these passages and object to claims that Harris’ worldview is grounded in deep anti-Muslim animus is staggering. He is at least as tribal, jingoistic, and provincial as those he condemns for those human failings, as he constantly hails the nobility of his side while demeaning those Others.

The irony is that it is the secular liberals like Greenwald who are lacking in empathy. As I have pointed out many times before, they fail to empathize with the primary victims of Islam—the millions of Muslim women, freethinkers, homosexuals, and apostates who suffer most under the taboos and delusions of this faith. But secular liberals also fail to understand and empathize with the devout.”
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Edward Snowden: Neither Hero Nor Whistle-Blower

By now, anyone with even a remote interest in current affairs is well aware of the story of Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old Booz Allen Hamilton employee and ex-CIA analyst behind Glenn Greenwald’s series of leaks about NSA surveillance programs, both foreign and domestic. Some laud him as a hero, others as the greatest whistle-blower of the age.

Jeffrey Toobin echoes my own feelings when he calls Snowden nothing more than a grandiose narcissist, and proceeds to put his actions into context:
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War Criminal Rumsfeld Unsure if Obama has Switched Sides in the War on Terror

Rumsfeld at The Heritage Foundation

So, you know how President Obama has kind of made it a thing to surreptitiously drone the bejesus out of anyone that looks like an islamic radical? Well, it turns out that Grand Moff Tarkin — err…I mean Donald Rumsfeld — isn’t sure whether or not the President has indeed joined the other side in the “War on Terror”. When asked at a conservative circle derp held at the David Horowtiz Freedom Center if he thought President Obama has “switched sides” (because those are the kinds of questions you’re expected to answer at these stupid things), Rummy wittily replied with a wicked grin that he “can’t tell”.

Here’s the exchange:

“As you go around the country, do you have any sense or the same sort of sinking feeling that the rest of us have that [Obama has] actually switched sides in the War on Terror?” the man asked, drawing a smattering of applause from the audience.

“You know, I just don’t feel competent to answer,” Rumsfeld said. “I can’t tell.”

Rumsfeld added, “It bothers me greatly that he’s unwilling to identify the enemy. I don’t see how you win if you don’t.”

(Photo by flickr user Medill DC)

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