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Monday, 27 January 2014

Homs? Aleppo? Or where?

The siege ended with the slaughter of more than twenty thousand of the town's inhabitants; two-thirds of the population. For days after, the corpses were thrown in the river, rotting, terribly mutilated. No-one was spared on account of age or sex. An eye witness wrote:-
"Thus it came about that the city and all its inhabitants fell into the hands of the enemy, whose violence and cruelty were due in part to their common hatred of the adherents of the other faith, and in part to their being embittered by the shells which had been fired at them and by the derision and insults that the townspeople had heaped upon them from the ramparts.

Then was there naught but beating and burning, plundering, torture, rape and murder. Most especially was every enemy bent on securing much booty. When a marauding party entered a house, if its master had anything to give he might thereby purchase respite and protection for himself and his family till the next man, who also wanted something should come along. It was only when everything had been brought forth and there was nothing left to give that the real trouble commenced. Then, what with blows and threats of shooting, stabbing and hanging, the poor people were so terrified that if they had had anything left they would have brought it forth if it had been buried in the earth or hidden away.

In this frenzied rage, the great and splendid city that had stood like a fair princess in the land was now, in its hour of direst need and unutterable distress and woe, given over to flames, and thousands of innocent men, women and children, in the midst of a horrible din of heart-rending shrieks and cries, were tortured and put to death in so cruel and shameful a manner that no words would suffice to describe, not no tears to bewail it…

Thus in a single day this noble and famous city, the pride of the whole country, went up in fire and smoke; and the remnant of its citizens, with their wives and children, were taken prisoners and driven away by the enemy with a noise of weeping and wailing that could be heard from afar, while the cinders and ashes from the town were carried by the wind to nearby towns, and still more distant places…"
Actually it was Magdeburg, destroyed in the thirty-year conflict between Catholics and Protestants that engulfed Europe, just as the conflict between Shia and Sunni is engulfing Syria, Iraq and the Middle East. 

Those killed in the Thirty Years War are said to number some seven and a half million, from populations a fraction of their modern equivalents. Europe was a smoking ruin; starvation, disease, failed harvests, lawlessness. And the lesson is that no wars are more fratricidal, more zealously fought, than wars of religious sects; intervention is pointless, and peacemaking premature until the earth is soaked in blood and both sides are exhausted.

It's a lesson I hope dearly that David Cameron will learn, and not only Cameron. Mathew D'Ancona wrote a particularly stupid piece for the ES recently lecturing us all on our duty to intervene. For whom, Mathew? Do we prefer dead Shia or dead Sunni? Do we support the Syrian rebels until their own atrocities are uncovered and then switch sides? And what's the sense of supporting Shia here and Sunni there?

D'Ancona may learn in the fullness of time that all any assistance, arms and money to one side or the other will achieve is an acceleration of the cathartic bloodshed and the saturation of the soil with the lives of the protagonists more rapidly than otherwise. 


Oldrightie said...

Sadly religion is a label to disguise the evil that men do when mankind, in ignorance, fails to be civilised.

Anonymous said...

It is said that the only way to stop a religious war is to arm both sides to the teeth.
Then, after all the bloodshed, when there is only one man left standing, shoot him.

Ed P said...

Some appropriate songs:

"You don't count the dead, when god's on your side"

"When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn"

Anonymous said...

Here we go again
Secular,atheist searching the history books for "religuous wars"
Get real,if you want butchery on a massive scale check out the secular *,political,imperial wars
since TheEnlightment "delivered " us from "religion's tyranny
Syria ????
I have been in Homs,in Damascus,
in Palmyra,in Deraa,in Maloula,
I have known Shiite,Sunni,Kurd,
Maronite Christian,Druze Militia,Hamas and Hezbollah.
ALL the recent bloodshed can be blamed on just 2 addresses
The White House and 10 Downing Street
* Give the WW1 a glance before
agonising over the 30 years war of "ducal expansionism)


cuffleyburgers said...

@ Realist.

No you are wrong. A much shrewder analysis is provided in Niall Ferguson's "The War of the World" in which he describes how one of the principal features of the second world war was how minority populations in border or disputed areas were wiped out or deported. People who had lived side by side for hundreds of years suddenly bacme blood enemies and were slaughtered. The same phenomenon was seen in Milosevic's bloody wars at the death of Yugoslavia.

Now we are seeing the same phenomenon in the middle East.

Sunnis and Shias will fight each other to a standstill and in the mean while all the delicate patchwork of variegated civilizations will be destroyed, it is a terrible terrible shame but I also think it is inevitable and intervention by the West can only make things worse.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

You had me there, Radders; I assumed it was Constantinople.

Anonymous said...

The English were professional and well practiced at killing each other and even exported gore and civil war to the formative United States.

Once they get going, internecine blood feuds will take some stopping and wreak bloody murder.

The Gulf states, export terror and they are the banes of western civilization, they spread the filth of Wahabbist doctrine in Europe and beyond.

Certainly what is needed particularly in the Kingdom, is for them to look a bit closer to home and concentrate not on proselytizing, propagandizing young Pakistanis, Algerians and Turks in Jihad but to focus more clearly on an enemy which lies just across the sea in Persia.

Here, the west can help to seed a contretemps that, would suit the west quite nicely.

Anonymous said...

I read this piece and read it again. The Magdeburg centre piece haunted me somehow and reminded me of Wilbur Smith. R, have you ever read "The Sunbird"? You probably have as you are obviously well read. Wilbur Smith's knowledge of Africa is unparalleled and it weaves it's way throughout his novels. The fall of an entire once-great city and civilisation as written in The Sunbird shows in stark relief how these wars play out and what drives them to their own destruction.

Coney Island

G. Tingey said...

Anonymous (the first one)
You are terminally stupid.

If you want peace, start with educating people into atheism.

{ Usual disclaimer - communism is a religion, remember! ]

Anonymous said...

" If you want peace,start with educating into atheism" ?????

Should,nt be to difficult,
teaching the masses to believe in nothing,that only SELF is the supreme being,only SELF matters
an attitude that pre-dates even the most primitive of our ancestors....
Check out a list of well known self acclaimed "atheists"...No thanks!

Yours Faithfully
Terminally stupid

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise said...

OK - I've been around the ME for over 30+ years and

The idea that UK-Merkan conniving has caused this is risible. The explosive fumes of insane zealotry have simply been waiting for spark - on both sides. The collective madness that is Mahdism has repeatedly punctuated the story of Islam and for many in both camps the only end game is eradication of "them".

An informed piece in the Spectator.

And - for a true story that would curl Wilbur Smith's hair look no further than The Siege of Mecca highly reccomended reading if you want to be informed on the subject... I was in Saudi in '80 and they were still blaming "The Iranians"

Raedwald said...

Gordon -
Excellent link, thanks - I'd missed that piece.

"There are those who think that the region as a whole may be starting to go through something similar to what Europe went through in the early 17th century during the Thirty Years’ War, when Protestant and Catholic states battled it out."

Yes - see the maps I posted last year

G. Tingey said...

Anon @ 2014/01/28: 20.57
You are not only stupid, you are uneducated.
Where did you get the supposed & totally false idea that atheists believe in nothing, or only believe in self?
Got that collection of lies from some RC priest, did we?
None of it true, as I can personally testify.

Now, excuse me, but fuck right off, until you've had an education - start with Socrates, as usual, in philosophy, ignore ALL religious blackmail & learn at least a little physics.
WHEN you have done that, you just might be fit to re-join the discussion.

[P.S. DO NOT mention "Theology" - a subject which has had no new ideas or conclusions for at least 200 years. ]

PPS Readwald
Yes, although the Sunni/Shia split goes back a very long way & a lot of blood has already been spilt over the years.
The martyrdom (there is no other word for it, actually) of Husayn ibn Ali as far back as 680 CE started it all.

Budgie said...

As is usual G Tingey, when you are bereft of argument you substitute expletives and abuse. If you deny a god or gods, all you have left is Self, as Anon 20:57 said. You cannot derive a universal morality starting only from Self; you cannot even know rightness or wrongness.

It is indeed ironic that your righteous vehemence is based on a ground that you deny.

G. Tingey said...

You really should know better than that by now, shouldn't you?

If you deny a god or gods, all you have left is Self,
What about all the OTHER PEOPLE?
Or hadn't you noticed that?
Or that there are such things a societies, plural, please note - consisting of large numbers of people, living together, by usually mutually-acepted rules?

The so-called "golden rule" derives from before (IIRC) any monotheistic religion & is a very good basis for starting a morality & moral compass.

If you are sufficiently religiously brainwashed not to recognise the truth & facts behind that statement, then it is the worse for you, not for me.

Budgie said...

Indeed G Tingey what about other people? You are not "other people" to yourself, so can have nothing to say about other people, other than by supposition. All you can possibly know is yourself. Without a gifted universal truth and morality you have no basis for even a valid conversation with anyone else.

Granted you may be able to find two people with exactly the same views, even a 100, but that 100 may all be scoundrels for all you know, because you have thrown away the grounds for judgement, by definition.

"Societies" are just the same problem writ large. As I have told you before, if you can derive a universal morality starting from yourself (remember: no gods or higher powers, no external right and wrong, no knowledge that these concepts even exist) then you will be the only philosopher to do so.

Anonymous said...

Radders, you fooled me at first I thought you were referencing the little known killing of around 10000 people in the Syrian city of Homs, by the present president's father also called Assad, in I think about 1982.
John McManius

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise said...

Radders - I cannot recommend the Mecca siege book highly enough - one of the most gripping narratives I've ever read - the epitome of unputdownable and very thoroughly researched.

G. Tingey said...

Socrates managed.
Your proposition, of course is nonsesne, you are imagining that I am isolate & have no communications with others, as implied in your ramblings.
Besides, IF you want to invoke a "higher power" ...
Where are you going to find it, & how do you know that it is the correct one?
Arianism? RC chritianity? Sunni islam? Shia islam? Bhuddism,?
Remember that a maximum of one of them can be correct ......
And probably won't be., as demonstrable by experiment & observation.
That's right, I'm one of those nasty reductionist scientists (or I used to be) - whose works cover the planet with evidence, as opposed to mythical undetectable ( & therefore, for practical purposes non-existent) "higher powers" - usually referred to as BigSkyFairy, or BSF for short.

Put up or shut up: demonstrate existence of a higher power - since that is your claim (I think

Very good! Liked it.
However, Radders was referring to a RELIGIOUS war - as a classic example of how wonderful (not) religion is. And people wonder why I'm an atheist.

Budgie said...

No, G Tingey, you cannot even prove that Socrates existed, still less that he would have supported your notion that absolutes like truth and justice can be derived from yourself alone. Remember you have excluded an external source by hypothesis. And you are no different to any other "self", which is why the same problem applies to societies and nations.

As C S Lewis said: "From propositions about fact alone no practical conclusion can ever be drawn". Except by the mediation of a duty. In other words "this is" cannot lead to "do this" unless you introduce an external absolute value - an "ought".

Unfortunately for you your very vehemence about what is "right" demonstrates your unwitting reliance upon external absolute values all the time. You are a walking example of that which you deny.

G. Tingey said...

You are - apparently - claiming that a single person, acting alone,with no influences from other people can then produce something useful - philosophically speaking?
If so, that's tosh - circular & ouzlem-bird tosh as well.
I strongly suspect we have a badly crossed wire here.
As well as a disagreement about the non-existence of any BigSkyFairy, that is, of course.

Oh & C S Lewis was totally wrong -as he ought to have known (assuming, of course that there really ever was a person called C S Lewis, to take up your supposed argument, ahem).

The whole of science, every last bit of it, is built on propositions of facts, alone.
Those propositions of facts have then been turned into other practical outputs & outcomes, one of which I'm using right now, and so are you, to reply to me.
The stored-programme digital computers we are using, connected to the vast interconnectedness of the electronic WWW in fact.

Are you saying that there are no external absolute values, then?
So that the following are NOT true?
F = G*(m1*m2/d^2)
At = Ao*e^(-lt)
etc .....
The first is the equation for gravitational attraction & the second the standard "activity" radioactive-decay equation)
And all the other rules that Physics & the entire universe obeys, all the time, every time ....

Cuffleyburgers said...

@G Tingey - those equations look awfully classiclal to me, so yes I would stock my neck out and say they are, not necessarily wrong, but superceded.

Not because I believe in Budgies BSF, but I find you personally rather annoying.