| Manning, Snowden + the gods of war: Don’t believe the hype!

The gods of war: don’t believe the hype ~ Neil Harrison, COUNTERFIRE.

The US empire’s illusion of benign omnipotence has been broken by the heroic acts of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden writes Neil Harrison.

 

In god we trust

 

The grotesque climax to the manifest destiny dream. Invisible in the sky, malevolent and capricious, an Old Testament-style god rains arbitrary, brutal fate upon unsuspecting civilians.

On that Baghdad street, on that day, god existed. The Reuters journalist and his driver, gunned down for carrying an extended camera lens; the father killed taking his children to school; his children – injured and forced to witness their father’s abject death. For all of these people and more, god existed that day and his name was America.

 

Bradley ManningBradley Manning

Of course, this was the footage which finally convinced the troubled Private Bradley Manning to begin a campaign of, in his own words, “shattering the fantasy.” Thanks to Manning, no serious observer of this video, or of USA foreign policy in general, could now continue to indulge in the fantasy of America as the world’s friendly policeman, not without excercising some serious double-think. Especially not while listening to the Apache helicopter‘s crew gloat and laugh as they kill and maim innocents (it somehow gets worse the more you see it).

 

Arguably, the video was the most important thing that Bradley Manning leaked before his arrest and incarceration. Footage of other Apache helicopter attacks in Iraq were already available on Youtube, transcripts from the attack had already been printed elsewhere in a book and the world already knew that the Reuters journalists had been killed by American forces, but images and sounds have a visceral impact which mere words often lack. A worldwide, large-scale audience was, for this particular video, guaranteed by the involvement of Wikileaks – Julian Assange‘s flair for understated drama publicly piled up embarassment for the US military. Headline status meant that millions could now no longer continue with the ‘fantasy’ anymore than they could ‘unsee’ the footage. Therefore, by the time Manning’s subsequent leaks (including the war logs and the notorious diplomatic cables) came to light, they were being registered by a global public already primed with enlightened eyes and a deep sense of scepticism.

The convergence of a multitude of factors provided Manning with motive and opportunity to inflict one of the biggest clusterfucks in the American god-machine’s history of propaganda war- US government paranoia post 9/11 meant that, due to their insistence on inter-department ‘sharing,’ anyone with clearance could access virtually all government information. Manning’s genius with computers allowed him to trawl for his quarry with ease. Moreover, he felt desperately isolated. In the Mesopotamian desert, thousands of miles from home, among unsympathetic colleagues – it was far from the perfect situation for a very young man suffering deep personal turmoil. Most importantly of all, however, and the thing we should remember above all else, is that Private Bradley Manning cared.

He cared that he may have been complicit in a regime which employed (or contracted out) torture, “I was actively involved in something that I was completely against…” He cared that his fellow Americans were deliberately being kept ignorant of the true nature of their government’s foreign policy, I want people to see the truth…without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public. Manning cared enough to risk pissing off a god.

 

Edward SnowdenEdward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower. Photograph: Guardian

As this week’s verdict of guilty on twenty counts (though, symbolically, not ‘aiding the enemy,’ which begs the question – if no ‘enemy’ was ‘aided’ where the hell is the crime?) could potentially result in over 130 years jail time for him, and bearing in mind the dreadful incarceration he has already endured, this god is at pains to ensure few follow suit.

 

The American god-machine sent its son to the Middle-east. Once there, he made a stand for truth and human compassion. For his sacrifice he is now being symbolically martyred. Does this sound familiar? You would be forgiven for finding these comparisons somewhat contrived (put it down to artistic licence). However, before dismissing the notion entirely, consider a couple of further examples.

Firstly, thanks to the actions of another brave whistleblower, Edward Snowden, we now know something of American pretensions to omnipotence. America’s National Security Agency, it is becoming ever more apparent, are now able to read private emails and listen in on telephone conversations not only in the US. but across the globe. For reasons of security, in order to protect you, the NSA needs to be able to hear your weekly takeaway order. America-god knows your favourite pizza toppings. Feel safer?

Finally, there exists the reality of ritual appeasement. In Slavoj Zizek‘s The Year of Dreaming Dangerouslyhe describes how the US must:

‘…suck up a daily influx of one billion dollars from other nations to pay for its consumption and is, as such, the universal Keynesian consumer that keeps the world economy running. (So much for the anti-Keynesian economic ideology that seems to predominate today!) This influx, which is effectively like the tithe paid to Rome in antiquity (or the gifts sacrificed to the Minotaur by the Ancient Greeks), relies on a complex economic mechanism: the US is “trusted” as the safe and stable center, so that all the others, from the oil-producing Arab countries to Western Europe and Japan, and now even the Chinese, invest their surplus profits in the US. Since this trust is primarily ideological and military, not economic, the problem for the US is how to justify its imperial role – it needs a permanent state of war, thus the “war on terror,” offering itself as the universal protector of all other “normal” (not “rogue”) states.'[1]

Herein lies the truth of the matter. America is not a god, it simply wears this diguise of ‘justification,’ therefore maintaining the inflated faux-capacity, to attempt to behave like one. In truth, the US is becoming increasingly desperate to appease and control its own economic god.

But who benefits from this global arrangement? The American people? Maybe we should ask the citizens of Detroit that one?

If we in the ‘liberal’ West really are benefitting from this international tithe-paying/war-making economic regime, then at least now, thanks to Manning and Snowden, we can appreciate the true cost it incurs. Perhaps we may yet glimpse our own future therein, because the only people who have ever genuinely benefitted, who will ever benefit, from the system Zizek describes, are in a tiny and exclusive minority. In the words of Allen Ginsberg, they are:

The Secret,

The Drunk,

The Brutal,

The Dirty Rich.

Describing the way in which “emancipatory politics,” such as socialism or feminism, work “by reaching for a future,” Terry Eagleton invokes [2] a useful image:

“[They insert] the thin end of the wedge of the future into the heart of the present. They represent a bridge between present and future , a point where the two intersect.”

This is exactly what Manning and Snowden have achieved. They have given us a brief view of a future in which no state can be unaccountable for its actions, however clandestine, however obscure its motives – not even the most powerful on Earth.

Our immediate task for the future is to continue forcing the ‘wedge,’ to ensure that the illusion continues to be shattered. Let no motive of those who would make war go uninterogated. Let no action of those who hoard wealth at the expense of the pain, suffering and even the lives of others go unchallenged. This is how best to honour the bravery and sacrifices of Manning, Snowden and others like them. This is how we will display our solidarity with them as they face uncertain futures. This is how we will consign the gods to history.

Notes

[1] Slavoj Zizek, The Year of Dreaming Dangerously, p. 10

[2] Terry Eagleton, Why Marx Was Right p. 69

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BradM1

| Truthfulness and ever decreasing circles – Hajj in the Bible!

 

Hajj in the Bible ~ IslamiCity.

 

A cursory analysis into the word “Hajj” as found in the Old Testament.

 

 

 

 

 

When many Jews and Christians view Islam from the outside, they find parallels to their own faiths that usually inspire a great deal of curiosity. These parallels are often doctrinal, sometimes regarding the biographies of Prophets shared between the three Abrahamic faiths like Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them). Yet, sometimes striking parallels are found by the more discerning eye. Deep inquests often reveal textual and lexical similarities that are difficult-if not impossible-to explain by mere theories of one tradition borrowing from another.

As millions upon millions of Muslim devotees engage in the rites of the Hajj pilgrimage, one of the 5 pillars of Islam, we can peer into the terms used in this age-old practice that lead us to a time long before the Prophet Muhammad  was even born. Let us look at the word al-Hajj itself:

الحجّ (al-Hajj)

Typically, the entire Arabic vocabulary, like its sisters in the Semitic linguistic group, consists of words structured from trilateral triconsonantal roots. In this case the root is Hajaj (حجج). According to the classical Arabic lexicon Lisān al-`Arab it is defined:

القصد. حج إلينا فلان أي قدم
“Purpose. As in, ‘So-and-so did Hajj unto us,’ which means he presented himself before us.”1

So the general lexical meaning of the word is “intended purpose”. In the context of the Hajj, the Ka`bah within the Meccan Sanctuary is the intended destination and purpose. To list usages of this word in an Islamic context would be, for most Muslims, an appeal to the very obvious as stories of its wonder and splendor that have been related to them since childhood. However, if we peer beyond the context of Islamic rites and deep into the past, do we find this word used in the previous traditions of the Old Testament?

The answer is in the affirmative. The book of Exodus contains the following verse in reference to a Hajj in the time of Moses:

והיה היום הזה לכם לזכרון וחגתם אתו חג ליהוה לדרתיכם חקת עולם תחגהו
wa-haya ha-yōm haza lakhem li-zikrōn wa-khagōtem otō khag li-Yehōwa li-dorotaychem khuqat `olam takhaguhū
“And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.” [Exodus 12:14]

In this verse the King James translators rendered the uninflected noun Khag (חג) as “feast”. This word Khag is wholly cognate to the Arabic Hajj (حج). Elsewhere in the verse the word Khag is inflected as khagotem and takhaguhū. One must pay attention to the fact that the Hebrew phonetic “kh” (ח) is the pharyngeal fricative “h” (ح) in Arabic. Also, one must note that the phonetic “g” (ג) is cognate to the Arabic “j” (ج). So for analytical purposes in this context the verse would be rendered:

“And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a Hajj to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a Hajj by an ordinance forever.”

Another verse using this root is the following:

ואחר באו משה ואהרן ויאמרו אל-פרעה כה-אמר יהוה אלהי ישראל שלח את-עמי ויחגו לי במדבר
wa-ākhar bā’u Mōshe wa-Aharōn wa-yomru el-Par`o koh-amar Yahweh Elohay Yishrael shalach et-`ami wa-yakhugū li ba-midbār
“And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go , that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.” [Exodus 5:1]

The inflected word that the King James translators rendered “feast” is yakhuggū (יחגו) which is cognate to the Arabic “yuhajjū” (يُحَجّوا) so for analytical purposes the verse would be rendered in this context as:

“And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a Hajj unto me in the wilderness.”

This is not to suggest that Moses and Aaron went to Mecca and performed Hajj as Muslims know it today. It is merely to exemplify that a consecrated journey and pilgrimage unto God at His Temple did, indeed, precede the rise of Islam in the 7th Century CE.

An additional and astonishing dimension to this that makes the concept of lexical borrowing between the Old Testament and the Qur’an improbable, if not outright impossible, is found in an alternate form of the root in Hebrew, Khug (חוג). Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius (1846) defines this word:

“חוג To describe a circle, to draw a circle, as with compasses. Job 26:10…m. a circle, sphere, used of the arch or vault of the sky, Pro. 8:27; Job 22:14; of the world, Isa. 40:22.”2

Let us look at the verses he has cited above:

“When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass (חוג) upon the face of the depth.” [Proverbs 8:27]
“Thick clouds are a covering to him, that he seeth not; and he walketh in the circuit of heaven (וחוג שמים).” [Job 22:14]
“It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth (חוג הארץ), and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.” [Isaiah 40:22]

Thus, this word not only means sacred pilgrimage and feast unto God in the Bible, it also means to encircle. To any Muslim this will be a striking discovery.

Semitic languages have been, since time immemorial, broad and deep systems of expression where one word’s many variant, but supplementary, meanings all coalesce to a greater understanding of that lexeme. So in this case we have a root which has a form meaning a feast, also meaning a pilgrimage, and in one form meaning to encircle! The Hajj pilgrimage, which is at its core an encircling of the Ka`bah called Tawāf, is concluded with none other than the Feast of the Sacrifice, Eid al-Adha, to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son at God’s command. Borrowing all these meanings buried in lexica that did not even exist until hundreds of years after the life of the Prophet Muhammad  would require no short of a Semitic linguist and Biblical scholar. It should be noted that the Bible itself would not be available until 200-300 years after the passing of the Prophet Muhammad ((The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 4, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, p. 982)) . Such lexical depth and lucidity is consistently found throughout the Qur’an as God has stated therein:

“This Qur’an could not have been authored by any other than God, as it rectifies what came before it and elucidates what was in the previous scriptures. Let there be no doubt that this is, indeed, from the Lord of all Worlds.” (Qur’an, 10:37)

Source: SuhaibWebb – Shibli Zaman


  1. Lisan al-`Arab, Ibn al-Mandhur
  2. The Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius, p. 263

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islam

islam (Photo credit: romeroleo)