"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

No Longer Slaves: Emmanuel Enid's Refuge Band

Last Sunday morning our Refuge Worship team sang a song entitled No Longer Slaves. During the second verse of that song the words are: "From my mother's womb You have chosen me. Love has called my name." Standing across the aisle from me was a young man whose first memories in life are being in an orphan's home run by Catholic nuns. He knows nothing of his earthly father; he knows nothing of his lineage or heritage before his mother's womb. I reached across and put my arm around him and said, "This song's about you." I could see in his eyes the encouragement No Longer Slaves gave to him. I hope it will you too. Here's a recording of that moment.

Yemen and American Ignorance of the Middle East

The other night I was listening to a national news broadcast when a reporter made a mistake in her reporting on  Yemen. She mentioned Iranian ships had been sent to the Persian Gulf and a possible confrontation with American ships was developing. "Iran," said the reporter, "sent the ships to support the rebels in Yemen, a hot-bed for Al-Qaida terrorism."

It was obvious the reporter believed Iran sent ships and troops to support al-Qaida in Yemen. Little did she know that Iran is about the only country in the Middle East, other than Syria, who is fighting al-Qaida. Al-Qaida is Sunni Muslim. Iran is Shia Muslim. Read previous my previous post for background in the differences between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

No terrorist group has killed more Americans than Sunni al-Qaida. They brought down the Twin Towers in New York. They've kidnapped, maimed, and killed more Americans around the world than any other terrorist group. Yet--now get this--some Sunni terrorists believe al-Qaida is too soft toward America. Americans know these harder-line Sunni terrorists as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria); or IS (Islamic State); or--as President Obama prefers to call them--ISIL.

Now here is the important question Americans should be asking: Which country is most fiercely fighting America's enemies known as al-Qaida and ISIS in the Middle East?

Is it Saudi Arabia? The Gulf Arab states (Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, etc...)? Does our NATO ally Turkey lead out in the fight against ISIS? No. Not even close. In fact, all these  Sunni countries have aided ISIS in its attempt to pull down Assad's Shia government in Syria. Sunni-led Muslim countries in the Middle East have been dragging their feet in helping America fight al-Qaida and ISIS for years.

Yet there are some people (and countries) in the Middle East who are fighting ISIS toe-to-toe.

The rebels in Yemen are an example. They are the Shias and the press calls them Houthis. These rebels in Yemen successfully pulled down the Sunni government of Yemen on January 22, 2015 - just three months ago. The Shias of Yemen are sick and tired of ISIS brutality. ISIS blew up two of the most revered Shia mosques in Yemen, killing 135 Shia Muslims and wounding nearly 400 others. The Houthis are fighting ISIS. Iran was moving its ships to the Persian Gulf to support the Houthis in this fight. So, contrary to what the reporter was saying on national television, the Iranians were in the Persian Gulf to fight ISIS, not to support ISIS.

There are at least five other groups of people or countries fighting ISIS toe-to-toe as well - the Kurds of northern Iraq (who may soon become an independent country), Baghdad's Shia-led government, Iran, Syria, and Russia. But right now, the rebels in Yemen are in the middle of the biggest fight with ISIS.
What is happening in the country of Yemen illustrates American confusion and ignorance of the Middle East. In an outstanding article today by Pat Buchanan, he asks the question Why Is Yemen Our War? Buchannan points out that since the fall of Yemen to Houthi rebels on January 22, 2015, Saudi Arabia--with the aid of America--has attacked Yemen with 1,000 bombing missions. Read Buchannan's penetrating questions:
"What did the Houthis ever do to us? The Houthis' main enemy, AQAP (Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula), is America's worst enemy. Why are we then making ourselves de facto allies of al-Qaida?
Excellent questions, Pat.

For a moment, jump forward several weeks or months in your imagination and think what it might be like in the Middle East if the Saudis defeat the Shia rebels in Yemen. What's next? According to reports from Saudi Arabia, the Saudis are ecstatic with the victories of the Saudi Air Force in Yemen. The Saudis may wish to help the ISIS rebels in Syria as well.

Ask the question how Iran, Iraq, and Russia might respond to a Saudi-led war to overthrow their long-time ally in Syria? Ask yourself what happens in Syria if Bashar Assad and his Shia government falls? Who comes to power?


The Middle East is messed up.

Patriots' Day, April 19, and the Need for Caution

The difference between treason and patriotism is only a matter of dates.
Alexander Dumas, The Count of Monte Christo.
This Sunday, April 19, 2015, is the 20th anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. At 9:03 am that morning, a two-ton fertilizer bomb loaded in the back of a Ryder truck parked in front of the Murrah building exploded, killing 168 people and injuring nearly 700 others.  The blast destroyed or damaged 324 buildings within a 16-block radius, destroyed or burned 86 cars, and shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings, causing three-quarters of a billion dollars in damage. The Murrah bombing was the deadliest and most costly terrorism act in the history of the United States, only surpassed by the 9/11 New York World Trade Center bombing.
Timothy McVeigh (April 23, 1968 – June 11, 2001) was charged and convicted with the bombing. The United States federal government executed McVeigh for his crime. In the book American Terrorist, the only biography of his life that McVeigh authorized, authors Lew Michel and Dan Herbeck spent 75 hours interview McVeigh in prison. The portrait they paint of the 26-year-old who bombed the Murrah building--according to Salon Magazine--might fit any number of right-wing radicals today.
"He hates and fears the federal government, worships guns, fetishizes "liberty" (defined in almost purely negative terms, as freedom from external interference of any kind), embraces survivalism and sees himself as having acted in a proud American tradition of resistance to tyranny that goes back to the Founders. Throw in belief in the gold standard, certainty that a U.N.-run "New World Order" is poised to take over the world, racial resentment and an obsessive fixation on Ruby Ridge and Waco as proof that federal agents are jackbooted thugs waiting to make their final move, and the ... portrait is complete" Gary Kimaya, Salon
April 19 is Patriots' Day.

McVeigh's choice of that day to bomb the federal building is no accident. Patriots' Day
commemorates the date of the 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord which featured "the shot heard round the world" and the beginning of the American Revolution. Patriots' Day is also the date in which first bloodshed of the American Civil War occurred, in the Baltimore riot of 1861, When Patriots' Day was established in 1894, Massachusetts Governor Frederic Greenhalge proclaimed it as "the anniversary of the birth of liberty and union."  The original date of April 19 for Patriots' Day was eventually switched to 'the third Monday of April" to prevent celebrating the holiday on different days of the year. The Boston Marathon has been run on Patriots' Day ever since April 19, 1897, but moved to Marathon Monday when celebrating Patriots' Day was moved to the third Monday of April. Of course, Marathon is the infamous name of the battle in 490 BC when the Greeks defeated Persia and marked the beginning of western civilization and its emphasis on individual liberty and political democracy.

It seems the date April 19 is rapidly becoming the date of choice to attack the United States government, more so than even September 11. Anyone with hostility toward the US government-- including right-wing terrorist groups, IS terror cells, and others who would desire to see the United States government collapse, will choose April 19 or Patriots' Day as their preferential date to attack.

McVeigh chose the federal building in OKC in retaliation for the federal law enforcements' attack and destruction of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas on April 19, 1993. The Murrah Building housed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), three of the agencies that attacked the Davidian Compound in Waco on April 19, 1993. McVeigh regarded the presence of additional law-enforcement agencies at the Murrah Building, such as the Secret Service or the U.S. Marshals Service, as a bonus.

I worked the morgue after the Murrah Bombing and became one of the liaisons between family members gathering at a Christian church north of the bombing, waiting for word about their family members. I will never forget the devastating impact of April 19, 1995 on Oklahoma City and the state of Oklahoma.As we reflect on the 20th anniversary of the bombing, it's a good time for all of us who love the United States to recognize those who hate our country/government care little for the collateral damage they cause through their attacks. This week and next week are both a time for all Americans to be familiar with their surroundings, just as we are on September 11 every year.