Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The meaning of "soul" in the Bible

Jesus said: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8: 36).

How can you lose your soul? Is not your soul YOU? Is it not your immortal essence? Sadly, although the idea that we have an immortal soul in us is an old pagan one, it is not Biblical -- as the text shows.

The Bible in fact mentions nothing like an immortal soul. The word "soul" does appear in most translations of the Bible but it does not mean what Christians assume it to mean. In the original Greek of the New Testament, the word used in Mark 8: 36 and elsewhere is "psyche", the basic meaning of which (according to the authoritative Liddell & Scott Greek Lexicon) is "breath", or, metaphorically, "life".

So when you're dead, you're dead, brother -- as Ecclesiastes chapter 9 tells you so emphatically. Your only hope is to be resurrected at the coming of the Messiah.


There Is a Method to Obama's Libya Madness

On both sides of American politics, there is a great deal of disquiet about Obama's bombing of Gaddafi & Co. As a libertarian, however, I rejoice at seeing tyrants deposed. And Gaddafi is as ugly a tyrant as any. So if there is even a chance that deposing Gaddafi will bring less tyrannical government to Libya, I think it is worth a few bombs.

David Limbaugh below states the "No" case with a view to Obama's actual motivations and he may well be right. I think even Limbaugh lacks perspective though. Obama's actions are very similar to Bill Clinton's in Serbia and the interventions by Woodrow Wilson and FDR in World Wars I and II. Democrats just like bombing or shooting at villains. It makes them look good, and, in their childish way, that motivation trumps almost everything else -- JR

As I argued in my most recent column, this is just the foreign policy outworking of Obama's campaign to fundamentally transform America. Notice the common thread. He is using domestic policies to effectuate "economic justice" at home, trying to cut "wealthy" Americans down to size. Now he is using foreign policy to diminish America's role and stature in the international community to cut wealthy, imperialistic America down to size.

I don't want to get bogged down here in a discussion of whether his motive is thus to sabotage America. In my view, that's the effect of his policies, but I suppose that in his view, America will be a better nation if it uses government coercion to come closer to equalizing everyone's share of the pie -- even if it results in the pie's shrinking -- and if America operates less in its own self-interest in foreign affairs. It's a bizarre mindset and one that most Americans probably don't understand -- so bizarre that they don't believe it despite the proof in front of their faces.

Think about it. Obama's secretary of defense, Robert Gates, admitted on national television Sunday that Libya poses no actual or imminent threat to the United States and that it is not a vital national security interest. This was no gaffe. Surely, Obama's team is not so incompetent and undisciplined that it didn't anticipate this question and carefully prepare the answer.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton damaged the administration's credibility even more by opining that as long as international bodies approved of America's kinetic military action, the president didn't even need to pick up the phone to call Congress. Consider what that reveals concerning the administration's mindset about America's sovereignty and prerogatives.

In terms of philosophy, ideology and motivations, the administration's approach to foreign policy can further be understood by Obama's position from the outset. He has been adamant that America is seen as imperialistic by foreign nations, especially Arab and Muslim nations, and must radically reset its image to ingratiate itself to the world community. He believes terrorism is in large part fomented by the world's negative perception of the United States -- a perception he shares to some extent and one he is obsessed with changing.

That's why he went on his world apology tour, threatened (recklessly and unrealistically) to dismantle multiple components of Bush's anti-terror policies (later reneging) and promised to negotiate with dictators on even terms -- "engagement." If you doubt this, then explain Gates' assertions that America's chief interest in Libya is "the engagement of Arabs, the engagement of the Europeans" and, he threw in, "the general humanitarian question."

There's more. In trying to distinguish between the Libyan and Syrian situations, Clinton said the Syrian situation isn't as severe yet. Then she got to the crux of it: "But in Libya, when a leader says 'spare nothing, show no mercy' and calls out air force attacks on his own people, that crosses a line that people in the world had decided they could not tolerate."

As liberal writer William Saletan points out, "the key phrase isn't no mercy or air force. It's they could not tolerate. Not we, but they. We're outsourcing our standards for intervention." But Saletan noted it is "worse than outsourcing." Outsourcing is hiring someone to do your bidding, but in Libya, "we're hiring ourselves out to do what somebody abroad wants." Indeed, one might consider our military the new mercenaries for foreign governments.

If you understand Obama's thinking, it all makes sense. He obviously believes it is in our interests to act in ways that don't fit the conventional definition of national self-interest. In his worldview, our conventional self-interest is selfish and imperialistic. For too long, America has looked out for its own interests and has exploited the world, its people and its resources. With these unrelenting overtures denying our self-interest, Obama hopes to show the world that the new America -- Obama's America -- is different and moral.

In the meantime, we may very well be propping up coalitions of jihadists in both Egypt and Libya and who knows where else, but that's OK because Obama and his fellow liberals have "good intentions."



The Syrian Spring

Caroline Glick

The anti-regime protests in Syria are a welcome departure from the grim choices posed by Egypt and Libya because supporting the protesters in Syria is actually a good idea.

Assad is an unadulterated rogue. He is an illicit nuclear proliferator. Israel’s reported bombing of Assad’s North Korean-built, Iranian-financed nuclear reactor at Deir al-Zour in September 2007 did not end Assad’s nuclear adventures. Not only has he refused repeated requests from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect the site, commercial satellite imagery has exposed four other illicit nuclear sites in the country. The latest one, reportedly for the production of uranium yellowcake tetroflouride at Marj as Sultan near Damascus, was exposed last month by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security.

Assad has a large stockpile of chemical weapons including Sarin gas and blister agents. In February 2009 Jane’s Intelligence Review reported that the Syrians were working intensively to expand their chemical arsenal. Based on commercial satellite imagery, Jane’s’ analysts concluded that Syria was expending significant efforts to update its chemical weapons facilities. Analysts claimed that Syria began its work upgrading its chemical weapons program in 2005 largely as a result of Saddam Hussein’s reported transfer of his chemical weapons arsenal to Syria ahead of the US-led invasion in 2003.

The Jane’s report also claimed that Assad’s men had built new missile bays for specially adapted Scud missiles equipped to hold chemical warheads at the updated chemical weapons sites.

As for missiles, with North Korean, Iranian, Russian, Chinese and other third-party assistance, Syria has developed a massive arsenal of ballistic missile and advanced artillery capable of hitting every spot in Israel and wreaking havoc on IDF troop formations and bases.

Beyond its burgeoning unconventional arsenals, Assad is a major sponsor of terrorism. He has allowed Syria to be used as a transit point for al-Qaida terrorists en route to Iraq. Assad’s Syria is second only to Iran’s ayatollahs in its sponsorship of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Palestinian Authority.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders live in Damascus. As Hezbollah terror commander Imad Mughniyeh’s assassination in Damascus in February 2008 exposed, the Syrian capital serves as Hezbollah’s operational hub. The group’s logistical bases are located in Syria.

If the Assad regime is overthrown, it will constitute a major blow to both the Iranian regime and Hezbollah. In turn, Lebanon’s March 14 democracy movement and the Iranian Green Movement will be empowered by the defeat.

Obviously aware of the dangers, Iranian Revolutionary Guards forces and Hezbollah operatives have reportedly been deeply involved in the violent repression of protesters in Syria. Their involvement is apparently so widespread that among the various chants adopted by the protesters is a call for the eradication of Hezbollah.

Mention of Lebanon’s March 14 movement and Iran’s Green Movement serves as a reminder that the political upheavals ensnaring the Arab world did not begin in December when Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia. Arguably, the fire was lit in April 2003 when jubilant Iraqis brought down a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad.

The first place the fire spread from there was Syria. Inspired by the establishment of autonomous Kurdistan in Iraq, in May 2004 Syria’s harshly repressed Kurdish minority staged mass protests that quickly spread throughout the country from the Kurdish enclaves in northern Syria. Assad was quick to violently quell the protests.

Like Gaddafi today, seven years ago Assad deployed his air force against the Kurds.

Scores were killed and thousands were arrested. Many of those arrested were tortured by Assad’s forces.

The discrimination that Kurds have faced under Assad and his father is appalling. Since the 1970s, more than 300,000 Kurds have been stripped of their Syrian citizenship. They have been forcibly ejected from their homes and villages in the north and resettled in squalid refugee camps in the south. The expressed purpose of these racist policies has been to prevent territorial contiguity between Syrian, Iraqi and Turkish Kurds and to “Arabize” Syrian Kurdistan where most of Syria’s oil deposits are located.

The Kurds make up around 10 percent of Syria’s population. They oppose not only the Baathist regime, but also the Muslim Brotherhood. Represented in exile by the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria, since 2004 they have sought the overthrow of the Assad regime and its replacement by democratic, decentralized federal government. Decentralizing authority, they believe, is the best way to check tyranny of both the Baathist and the Muslim Brotherhood variety. The Kurdish demand for a federal government has been endorsed by the Sunni-led exile Syrian Reform Party.

This week the KNA released a statement to the world community. Speaking for Syria’s Kurds and for their Arab, Druse, Alevi and Christian allies in Syria, it asked for the “US, France, UK and international organizations to seek [a] UN resolution condemning [the] Syrian regime for using violence against [the Syrian] people.”

The KNA’s statement requested that the US and its allies “ask for UN-sponsored committees to investigate the recent violence in Syria, including the violence used against the Kurds in 2004.”

The KNA warns, “If the US and its allies fail to support democratic opposition [groups] such as the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria and others, [they] will be making a grave mistake,” because they will enable “radical groups to rise and undermine any democratic movements,” and empower the likes of Hezbollah and Iran.

Led by Chairman Sherkoh Abbas, the KNA has asked the US Congress to hold hearings on Syria and allow representatives of the opposition to state their case for regime change.

Opponents of regime change in Syria argue that if Assad is overthrown, the Muslim Brotherhood will take over. This may be true, although the presence of a well-organized Kurdish opposition means it may be more difficult for the Brotherhood to take charge than it has been in Egypt.

Aside from that, whereas the Brotherhood is clearly a worse alternative in Egypt than Mubarak was, it is far from clear that it would be worse for Syria to be led by the Brotherhood than by Assad. What would a Muslim Brotherhood regime do that Assad isn’t already doing? At a minimum, a successor regime will be weaker than the current one. Consequently, even if Syria is taken over by jihadists, they will pose less of an immediate threat to the region than Assad. They will be much more vulnerable to domestic opposition and subversion.

Even if Assad is not overthrown, and is merely forced to contain the opposition over the long haul, this too would be an improvement over what we have experienced to date. In the absence of domestic unrest, Assad has been free to engineer and support Hezbollah’s coup d'etat in Lebanon, develop nuclear weapons and generally act as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s sub-contractor.

But now, in a bid to quell the anti-regime protests, Assad has been forced to deploy his military to his own towns and villages. Compelled to devote his energies to staying in power, Assad has little time to stir up fires elsewhere.

The first beneficiary of his weakness will be Jordan’s King Abdullah who now needs to worry less about Assad enabling a Hamas-Muslim Brotherhood-instigated civil war in Jordan.

Depressingly, under the Obama administration the US will not lift a finger to support Syrian regime opponents. In media interviews Sunday, not only did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rule out the use of force to overthrow Assad, as his troops were killing anti-regime protesters, Clinton went so far as to praise Assad as “a reformer.”

The US retreat from strategic rationality is tragic. But just because President Barack Obama limits American intervention in the Middle East to the places it can do the most harm such as Egypt, Libya and the Palestinian conflict with Israel, there is no reason for Israel not to act independently to help Assad’s domestic opponents.

Israel should arm the Kurds. Israeli leaders and spokesmen should speak out on behalf of Syria’s Kurds from every bully pulpit that comes their way. Our leaders should also speak out against Assad and his proliferation of missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should ask the UN to speed up the release of the indictments in the investigation of the late Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman should call on the UN to behave honestly and indict Assad for ordering Hariri’s murder.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak should release information about Syria’s transfer of weapons to Hamas and Hezbollah. The government should release information about Syria’s use of terror against the Druse. Netanyahu must also state publicly that in light of the turbulence of the Arab world generally, and Assad’s murderous aggression against his own people and his neighbors specifically, Israel is committed to maintaining perpetual sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

We are living through dangerous times. But even now there is much we can do to emerge stronger from the political storm raging around us. Syria’s revolt is a rare opportunity. We’d better not squander it.


My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


No comments: