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posts by Enkidu Commoner | joined 15 Jun 2007 | 4

A little History posted 21 Jun 2007, 13:06 in Philosophy DiscussionChe Guevara by Enkidu, Commoner

Very interesting discussion. What we're hitting on here, ironically enough are issues that Bakker hits upon a little in his books, vis-a-vis the nature of Truth. We'll leave that alone though, and get to this subject on its own merits. I am a freelance journalist, and have spent quite a lot of time in South America, particularly in Colombia, which has been one of the most violent countries in the world, although right now it's a little better. Ernesto "Che" Guevara was definitely an idealist. One of his first jobs away from his home in Argentina, after recieving a medical degree, was working with diseased people in Guatemala, including lepers. While in Argentina in the early 1950's, he witnessed the coup de' tat there, which installed a brutal dictatorship, and was backed and financed by the CIA and the auspices of the United Fruit Company, which was owned by the Dulles family, that is the family of John Foster Dulles, who was U.S. Secretary of Defense at that time and beyond, and who is the person that the airport of the same name in Washington, D.C. is honoring. Che had famously toured South America on a motorcycle when he was younger, which first brought him into real contact with the breadth of poverty, warfare and suffering in Latin countries. From my own experience, they are conditions that you are not qualified to talk about unless you have stayed there living among them for an extended time. In many ways, it is hell. There are a lot of good aspects to Latin countries as well, but the bad shit going on, to be blunt, is horrible, and pretty eye-opening, especially the plight of the desplazados, simple country people who are forced out of their homes in rural areas by either rampant and vast attempts at industrialization, warfare among governmental and paramilitary groups(the paramilitary including the "death-squads" existant in many countires, who incidentally were trained in the past in their methods of torture and mass murder at the "School of the Americas" in Virginia, which now operates under another name, as they were ostensibly "caught" for these activities in the 1980's), and in the modern days, guerillas. To give an example of how this still goes on, just about a month ago, Chiquita Bananas and their parent corporations got caught sneaking a load of arms into Colombia in a fruit shipment. They were only fined $250,000 by one of those wonderful international policing organizations, and the story did not make many waves in the U.S., which only increases feelings of injustice and helplessness in Latin countries, where of course one has to live with the realities of the U.S. government and large corporations purposely destabilizing one's economy and society with war, death and poverty. This is a truncated version, I encourage folks to get the info themselves...Back to Che. So after seeing these sort of things, he eventually hooked up with a group of Cuban exiles led by a young Fidel Castro in Mexico, where they were training to invade their home country of Cuba, and to attempt to oust the current dictator, Batista, who, interestingly enough, also was funded in a large part by the United Fruit Company. Che signed on as a doctor. The infamous trip of the boat "Granma", however, which was carrying the invasion force, changed this. After a terrible sea voyage, the Granma was ambushed by Batista troops when it landed. Most were killed, and only a handful remained. One of these handfuls escaped the landing site with Che, who was faced with the choice to continue being a medic, or to pull the disorganized survivors together and lead them. The rest is history. As for that history...I make no claims of Right or Wrong. I do however understand Che's violent techniques towards a greater goal. Did they work in the long-run? No, because today we have guerilla groups all over Latin America who have become corrupted through their use of violence, and are now more interested in gaining control of the resources that they plan to wrest away from the governments and corporations for themselves than they are with freedom. Which is ironically enough the reason that many of them, unknown to their common soldiers are actually funded and controlled by our old friends the CIA. It makes some good economic and political sense to pay the guerillas, paramilitary groups and the Latin governments themselves to fight one another. Everyone's buying weapons, and the instability means that for instance Colombia will never get control of their large oil reserves, their supply of emeralds(the largest in the world), or their vast agricultural resources, and be able to compete with the hegemnonic power of the U.S. at all. The other question is, does that failure make Che a monster? No, I don't think so. As I said, if you've ever experienced the conditions of Latin America at the hands of the West(from the Conquistadores on), then you might understand the desperation, anger and hatred which would lead a man like Che to use the methods he used. He formed a philosophy, and tested it in the real world, which is why Jean Paul Sartre once called him the "most complete man of the 20th century". Much will continue to be said about Ernesto Guevara, some will twist facts to call him a murderering scumbag, some will twist the same facts to say that he was a saint. As usual in life, the answer probably does not lie in either of these extremes. The answer is not only with the man, but with the world he lived in, in the actions of others, and in a way, what "came before" him, rather than what has "come after". If a million people decide to eat on chairs instead of tables, then a chair isn't a chair anymore...Yeah, that's kind of non-sequiter, I suppose. Sorry this is a bit long, but that's the nuts and bolts of it anyway...Everyone take care... view post

A Brief History of the Current War... posted 23 Jun 2007, 18:06 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat is going on in Iraq? by Enkidu, Commoner

There are a lot of reasons for this war. Sticking to the historical basis for it however, and going back to the original posters questions of the Sunnis and Shiites, I'll give you a brief overview that I hope does some justice to the various sources, old and modern, that I have accumulated in my brain over the years... For the Sunnis and Shiites specifically...After the death of Mohammed, the founder of Islam(actually, the guy who grafted an amalgated Judeo-Christian belief system onto Middle Eastern area tradtions dating back to hundreds of years B.C.), at about 900 A.D., there was a question of succession. The people that would become the Sunnis accepted his legitimate son. The Shiites went with another, not so legitimate son, named Ali. As with many other religions, a conflict for the hearts of Believers, which we can translate as temporal and political power, began. The Sunnis were always far more numerous, and most of the Caliphates thereafter, mostly based in Baghdad, were Sunni, including the famous Abbusids, that Saladin was a member of. The Shiites were less numerous, but had welded themselves into several older esoteric systems of the region, resulting in some very ritualistic, hard-core followers. Foremost among these were the Ismaili, a very fundamentalist and "mystic" sect. Probably the best example of the dedication and fervor of the Shiites and Ismaili is the birth of the Assassins, an Ismaili off shoot. The Sunni Caliphates ruled pretty much all of the important areas of the Middle East. The Shiiites then had to resort to guerilla warfare. The Assassins would insinuate themsleves into a Sunni city, or the entourage of an important Sunni figure, lie in wait, sometimes for months, and then strike, usually assassinating the target with a dagger, and at the expense of their own life. They were proto-suicide bombers. The effect of course was to give the illusion of a far larger and more shadowy organization than they actually were. The word "Assassin" that we use today actually derives from this group, and the legend they created about them. There are a lot of outlandish stories about them, and their original founder, Hassan-i-Sabbah, but this is only testament to the effectiveness of their mountain-based(mountains have always been a good place to hide) terror campaigns. As the initial power of the Shiites was waning, in came a new factor. Crusades of European Christians that decided that they were going to take back the Holy Land(Ironically, as white Europeans only inherited the Middle Eastern Christianity through the hegemony of Rome, the majority of Europe was not really taking anything back, but stealing in reality what they had already stolen in metaphor and belief). Thus we get the Crusades, a centuries long struggle too complex to get fully into, that involved European powers, Sunni powers, and the small, but still there Shiites playing both sides in an effort to claim, what else, resources(although the religious fervor should not be discounted either. Since I'm running a bit long, it turned out that it wasn't such an easy go for the Europeans, especially when Western Roman Catholics began also crusading against Eastern Byzantine Christians. Eventually, Europe lost interest, and failed to get the Holy Land "back", although they did succeed in taking practically all of Spain from the far more advanced and civilized Muslim Moors, who ruled in relative peace for a long time beforehand. Fast forward to the time of Imperialism, and we find that every attempt by European powers to get into the Middle East, either for resource or religious purposes were not exactly sterling victories. Usually, they were either disasters or temporary holding postures(For a fun read sometime, check out the story of the first Marines in America, and what Thomas Jefferson sent them to do..."the shores of Tripoli"...even though that's technically Africa). Here we are now, and the major change of the last couple of centuries is not only the emergence of America as the dominant "European" power(sorry for those folks that have a problem with that assertion-we can talk about it more at another time-or you can go visit a Native American reservation), but also the discovery of the wonderful usages of the resource of oil, obviously existing in great quantity in the Middle East. Our friends the Sunnis are still there. Our friends the Shiites are still kicking. Our friends the Europeans still want to take it all "back". There are a gaggle of other factors that go into this war, and the current socio-political-economic struggles in the region, but surprisingly, if anyone wants to read some on the period of the Crusades, you're going to get a boatload of very pointed parallels and questions to which the current war is the answer. The Middle East used to be far advanced compared to the brutal Europeans. After a couple of centuries of warfare fought on their home-turf, however, they fell behind, while their advances brought back to Europe, especially in technology, medical science and astronomy, fueled by banks full of looted money, put Europe ahead.(The Knights Templar were probably not mystic code-breakers, but they were the progenitors of branch banking---Which is why at the end of the war, Philip the Fair of France leveled the charges against them that stick in myth and people's minds even today, all because he was a little short on cash, and the Templars were relatively loaded.) Okay, I've gotten off on some tangents, but here's the point. Bush and company represent big business. They want oil, and power, and by all accounts, don't really like that wierd Muslim religion. A lot of folks nowadays also don't proclaim to be Christians, but goddamned if they don't idealogically think and act like one. Iraq is a country full of people whose home just got invaded, and who have experienced their families and friends killed, and their way of life not only shattered, but worse told that that's because it wasn't up to someone else's standards. They find the Christian mind-set alittle weird. Add to that the fact that Iraq is one of the most ancient seats of civilization, and also experienced the brunt of the last time the "West" came knocking at the door. Add to that the fact that the Sunnis and Shiites have been fighting now for over a thousand years, and just as it did in the Crusades, when the West throws an instability into the mix born of warfare, both sides see a chance to get dominion over the other and then make more conflict. This is real simplified for space, but I hope it comes through that in addition to some of the other matters related by other posters, you also have all of this going on. Basically, this is a mess that is a hell of a lot older than just the events since 2001, which is its own can of worms, although you're going to find some of the same worms in both cans. We, as Americans have forgotten or just plain ignored too much history, both what others have done and endured, and what we have done and endured, and as a result, we keep fighting the same conflicts for slightly different, and very temporal reasons. The Big Reasons, I would argue, haven't changed much. Okay, I have this urge to keep going, because I feel like I haven't really explained myself or gotten fully into this, but I have a feeling, with an inexperience to forum posts, that I've run on too long. Okay, y'all take care of each other. view post

Crusades vs. Mongols posted 25 Jun 2007, 16:06 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat is going on in Iraq? by Enkidu, Commoner

Actually, yes, you're right, the Mongolshad a great deal to do with the decline of the Muslim civilization during the tim period as well. The Crusades though I tried to illustrate as one of the reasons that we now have a war in Iraq, and why itis playing out the way that it is. Sorry if it wasn;t that clear. The Crusaders indeed only controlled a handful of cities at the height of their holdings, but unfortunately, territory controlled is not always the measure of damage, both socially and politically, caused. In keeping with the original context, that is the case with the current conflict. As I stated, there are many reasons why we have ended up where we are now, I only focused on one, as the original post included a question about the Shiites and Sunnis, which I also tried to deal with as briefly as I could to reduce space. The Crusades did have a big effect though. Not only to societies and cultures in the region of the Middle East, and the way in which some religions became doomed in many ways to continue dealing with each other. The other egion I mentioned where it was perhaps most felt was in modern day Spain, where the Muslim Moors were driven out by Crusading armies. The Crusades in the Middle East were pretty much broken early on, afterthe Battle of Hattin in 1187, but as I said, the damage kept growing. Again just briefly, (if anyone is interested in doing their own reading, there is a great book out now on the period called God's War), just one example of the complex web of circumstances involved is that under the Muslims previous to the Crusades, Jews were in fact largely tolerated in Islamic Jerusalem. Not so while it was later held by the Christians. It is complex, but eventually you will find that even the modern enmity between Judeaism and Islam had some of its many branching roots in the Crusade period. Also don't forget the learning and knowledge that was brought back to Europe and flourished because of a relative lack of conflict(notice I said "relative", while in the place it came from, not only were concerns more military in the Middle East for a couple of hundred years of Crusading, retarding perhaps a lot of advancement in other realms besides military concerns, but then following this conflict, along came the Mongols into an already militarily, politically and socially weakened area. view post

posted 07 Aug 2007, 15:08 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat is going on in Iraq? by Enkidu, Commoner

Sorry to pick up on something that seems to have ended on July 3, but there were some good questions in the last July 3rd post. I've been working on a local political assignment so haven't been here in awhile, and please excuse the huge amount of typos in my last post, it was written in a five minute rush before a plane ride...As for the questions on Crusade era trade...Constantinople was not a major trade route for the Roman Catholic countries, because the Byzantines and Romans were enemies, to put it briefly, and the later Crusades were actually not launched against the Holy Land, but against Constantinople. The "Reconquista" is of course the verbiage of a people who won what they felt was their land back from Muslims which had been there for a few hundred years. It is in fact, in academic historical circles, part of the Crusades, as was the war between Roman and Byzantine Christians...Back to trade routes, there was a tremendous amount of trading, and indeed Antioch was a major city in this trade, as was Acre, the port somewhat north of Jerusalem. There was also a tension with the Muslims during the early part of the conflicts because European governors in power in parts of the Holy Land were taxing Saracen caravans and shipments. The reason Jerusalem makes no sense in this context is because I feel that many viewpoints here, however valid, are looking for one reason for the Crusades' socio/political/economic structure, when in fact there are aspects of all of them present. Religous reasons, trade and economic reasons, and political reasons. Kings from England would indeed travel all of the way South, because sometimes it meant higher placement within a social structure dominated by the Holy Roman Church, sometimes it was religious belief itself, sometimes it was for reasons of being less well placed in the social structure, and being pretty much at the whim of the Pope's religious and economic sanctions. At the time, if the Church power structure made you an outcast, for whatever reason, you were pretty much screwed. Another good example of the patchworked whole cloth is the Knights Templars. Holy Men, the world's first branch bankers(you could say, deposit gold in a Temple in England, then they would give you a note...then you could travel wihout fear of theft or robbery to Italy, go to another Temple, and turn the note in for the same amount of money from that Temple), power-mongers in Outremer(as the Holy Land was called), who could influence who might be granted nobility there, and so on. Nobility is another example. A low-born person who would have no chance at power or money in Europe could go to the Holy Land, and if he played his cards right, could end up with a title and prestige he never could have achieved otherwise. A direct example of this is Guy de Lusignan, a French nobody noble, who through various alliances in Outremer, and a tryst ending in marriage to the sister of a former King of Jerusalem, took the title of King for himself. Without getting too far into it, and bringing it back to a common ground, the reasons for the Crusades, religious, economic and otherwise have a good fictional parallel in the books that these forums are about. In the history of the Crusades, you have figures like Proyas, Holy Men, you have figures like Xerius and Conphas, using the situation to their own benefit, you have figures like Maithanet in real personages such as the various Popes, etc., and you have the common people, the soldiers, the monks, various factions like the Scarlet Spires, the Knights Shrial, etc., all with their own parallel or completely different agendas. As in any world event like this, it is the best proof of how tangled and important this period of time was, and to get back to the original question, in many important ways, (not in ALL ways, let me make that clear), this is what's going on today with the War in Iraq. History is never dead in some ways, and it will always be how we got where we are now, whether it's recent, or what we sometimes mistakenly call ancient. Okay, so sorry for the late reply, but there it is. Take Care, everyone, this posting stuff is certainly a lot of fun, and there are some sharp people here. view post


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