Mark Twain and the Sins of Our Race

War Foretold

When I resorted to Mark Twain’s writings I attempted to escape, at least temporarily from my often distressing readings on war, politics and terror. But his “The Mysterious Stranger”, although published 1916, still left me with an eerie feel. The imaginative story calls into question beliefs that we hold as a “matter of course” – a favorite phrase of his. It summons the awful tendencies of “our race”: our irrational drive for violence, be it burning ‘witches’ at the stake or engaging in wars that only serve the “little monarchs and the nobilities.” 

As the Iraq war rages on, Twain’s words ring truer by the day. “The loud little handful will shout for war…Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will out shout them and presently the anti-war audiences will thin and lose popularity. Before long you will see the most curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men. And now the whole nation will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open.

“Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after the process of grotesque self-deception.” 

Twain, whose genius undoubtedly surpasses time and space, wrote the above passages nine decades before the world’s leading statesmen, President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair forged their case for war, based on falsities and refused to examine any refutations; they rallied millions, investing on their ignorance and blind patriotism to carry out a war whose outcome is akin to genocide. Continue reading “Mark Twain and the Sins of Our Race”

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Galloway’s last punch at Blair

Sense & Insensibility
Galloway’s last punch at Blair
Shahnoor Wahid

If you are wondering who has most gall among the present lot of British MPs then you will invariably end up with the name George Galloway, the Labour MP, for a number of reasons. This gregarious and wickedly witty MP with a runaway tongue is known for his anti-Bush and Blair utterings, which, at times, even his staunch supporters find difficult to digest.Galloway has an everlasting reservoir of invectives, all tailor-made, to launch his attacks on his two prized political enemies. He has been the most vocal critique of the Iraq policies of Britain and the USA, and he never tried to hide his feelings in private or in public.

But many across the world found his way with words not quite palatable, which, more often than not, touched upon the profane, to say the least. But, no doubt, this burly politician is pure entertainment to the non-political and non-partisan audience. Continue reading “Galloway’s last punch at Blair”

Civilian Claims on U.S. Suggest the Toll of War

Joao Silva for The New York Times

On March 11, 2004, Miad Matar got $2,000 from Sgt. Guadalupe Sorola after her husband was killed by American forces at a checkpoint in Iraq.

By PAUL von ZIELBAUER

Published: April 12, 2007

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Multimedia

A Sampling of Civilian ClaimsGraphic

A Sampling of Civilian Claims Continue reading “Civilian Claims on U.S. Suggest the Toll of War”

Britain Now Says Captives Can’t Sell Their Stories

April 10, 2007

Britain Now Says Captives Can’t Sell Their Stories

LONDON, April 9 — After howls of protest from former military commanders, opposition politicians and relatives of service members who had been killed, Britain’s defense secretary, Des Browne, on Monday abruptly reversed a decision to allow some of the sailors and marines captured by Iran to sell their stories to the media.

The ban came too late to prevent 2 of the 15 captives, released last week after 14 days, from recounting their experiences in return for payment. Continue reading “Britain Now Says Captives Can’t Sell Their Stories”

Ahead of Iraq Deployment, 37 Korean Troops Convert to Islam

Ahead of Iraq Deployment, 37 Korean Troops Convert to Islam
“I became a Muslim because I felt Islam was more humanistic and peaceful than other religions. And if you can religiously connect with the locals, I think it could be a big help in carrying out our peace reconstruction mission.” So said on Friday those Korean soldiers who converted to Islam ahead of their late July deployment to the Kurdish city of Irbil in northern Iraq. At noon Friday, 37 members of the Iraq-bound “Zaitun Unit,” including Lieutenant Son Hyeon-ju of the Special Forces 11th Brigade, made their way to a mosque in Hannam-dong, Seoul and held a conversion ceremony.

Captain Son Jin-gu from Zaitoon Unit recites an oath at ceremony to mark his conversion to Islam at a mosque in Hannam-dong, Seoul on Friday. /Yonhap


The soldiers, who cleansed their entire bodies in accordance with Islamic tradition, made their conversion during the Friday group prayers at the mosque, with the assistance of the “imam,” or prayer leader.

With the exception of the imam, all the Muslims and the Korean soldiers stood in a straight line to symbolize how all are equal before God and took a profession on faith.

They had memorized the Arabic confession, ” Ashadu an La ilaha il Allah, Muhammad-ur-Rasool-Allah,” which means, “I testify that there is no god but God (Arabic: Allah), and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.”

Soldiers from Zaitoon Unit pray after conversion ceremony at a mosque in Hannam-dong, Seoul on Friday./Yonhap


Moreover, as the faithful face the “Kaaba,” the Islamic holy place in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, all Muslims confirm that they are brothers.

For those Korean soldiers who entered the Islamic faith, recent chances provided by the Zaitun Unit to come into contact with Islam proved decisive.

Taking into consideration the fact that most of the inhabitants of Irbil are Muslims, the unit sent its unreligious members to the Hannam-dong mosque so that they could come to understand Islam. Some of those who participated in the program were entranced by Islam and decided to convert.

A unit official said the soldiers were inspired by how important religious homogeneity was considered in the Muslim World; if you share religion, you are treated not as a foreigner, but as a local, and Muslims do not attack Muslim women even in war.

Zaitun Unit Corporal Paek Seong-uk (22) of the Army’s 11th Division said, “I majored in Arabic in college and upon coming across the Quran, I had much interest in Islam, and I made up my mind to become a Muslim during this religious experience period [provided by the Zaitun Unit].”

He expressed his aspirations. “If we are sent to Iraq, I want to participate in religious ceremonies with the locals so that they can feel brotherly love and convince them that the Korean troops are not an army of occupation but a force deployed to provide humanitarian support.”

(englishnews@chosun.com )