11th March 2003 revised 10 Nov. 2004


North Korea is running scared.  Because it continued to develop nuclear weapons in breach of an agreement, the US has cut off a tribute of food and fuel, and N Korea is starving.  N. Korea leader Kim Jing Il is now attempting to force the US to restore that tribute by

  1. attempting to pirate a US intelligence gathering plane in international waters,
  2. by firing off "test" missiles,
  3. by indicating that it has over one hundred nuclear weapons.
Kim probably fears that the US will turn it's attention towards N.Korea after it has subdued Iraq.   Based on his current behavior, I suspect that US action against North Korea following the Iraq adventure is becoming a distinct possibility.  If on the other hand Kim were to abandon his warlike plans, and was to purchase food instead of developing weapons, he might find a willing helper in (for instance) South Korea.  If he wanted to unify with S. Korea, I feel sure that a protocol for common elections could be devised.   That of course would not fit in with the "Dear Leader's" plan.  He does not envisage a "union" where he would have to seek approval for his dictatorship in the ballot box from the total Korean population.  Kim anticipates the creation of a South Korean vassal state, an economic powerhouse that will promote his ambition to be a world player.

The UN Security Council has not yet been presented with a second votable issue calling for the use of military force in Iraq.  The US believes that resolution 1441 gives it a mandate to use force, but seeks affirmation.  It appears that the US is gradually accumulating a majority of votes for an affirmation since discovering unmanned aircraft and rockets capable of delivering CBW WMD.   I suspect that the matter will not be brought before the security council unless affirmation can be anticipated.

UN President Kofi Annan has warned that the US will be in breach of the UN charter if it uses force.  Perhaps he is not a native English speaker.  "War" is one of several possible "serious consequences" of a faulty political assessment of a situation.  Bush does not need another resolution to act within the framework of the UN.  1441 is adequate.

Turkey has a dilemma.  On the one hand, it is worried that a Kurdish state might be formed in northern Iraq that would have major income from the northern oil fields to support it's efforts to stir up revolution among Turkey's 20 million Kurds.  On the other hand, it is politically "difficult" for Turkey to side with the "great Satan" against Muslim brothers in Iraq by permitting US soldiers to launch an attack from Turkish territory.   Turkey will probably cave in very quickly.  It stands to lose US$10 billion to make that political point, and also risks the possibility that the US might feel "humanitarian" concern for the Kurds in Iraq and permit the formation of a Kurdish people's republic.

Meanwhile the share markets of the world are in turmoil, and oil prices are on the rise.  There is of course no need for oil prices to rise.  Saudi Arabia and Kuwait could more than make up the whole loss from Iraq, (and probably Iran also) should Iraq's oil wells be sabotaged.  In fact sabotage would probably stimulate the US economy, as guess who is the largest supplier of oil drilling know-how?

 - ISLAM -

(this section reviewed 21st May 2003, August 2005)

  1. "Mohommed" by Maxime Rodinson.Tr. Anne Carter.1985 Ed.
  2. "The Koran" translated by N.L.Daweood.(1999)
  3. "Islam in the World" by Malise Ruthven.(1984)
  4. "Islam. Religion, History & Civilization" Seyyed Hossein Nasr.(2003)
  5. "ISLAM", Fazlur Rahman.(1979 ed)

Here are some facts about ISLAM.  Islam means "Surrender to God".  The sect (which is actually a branch of the Judeo Christian religion - Meccahn arabs claim a common ancestor - Abraham or Ibrahim - with Jewish arabs)  was founded by the prophet Mohammad in 622 AD which is year 0 of the Muslim calendar.  Mohammad was spoken to by the God of Abraham and recited God's words.  His recitations were written on (among other things) the shoulder blade bones of camels.  The word "Koran" means "Recitals".

Geographically the Arabian peninsular is mostly desert (like most of Australia) with oases spotted throughout (except in the "empty quarter").   The southern tip around Yemen is rich agricultural land, and in the Sixth Century AD was a civilization in decline.   However it carried on trading (mostly spices & slaves) with the two superpowers of the era which were the Byzantine empire (centered at Constantinople) and the Sassanid (Persian) empire.   Bedouin (which translates as "desert nomad") culture was political anarchy.  Order was kept by a code of honor that ensured that retribution would be exacted by relatives for any murder done.  Bedouin herded camels and other livestock in the areas between oases.   The oases were centers of wealth and culture, and the different tribes had each their own stockade at the oasis.   Oasis tribes engaged in farming, commerce and the trades.  Most of the wealth of arabia was concentrated at the oases, but the military power was the Bedouin in the desert.

Circa 550 AD Mecca was a leading trading center in Arabia for the transshipment of goods (mostly slaves) between Yemen and the two superpowers.   Mecca before Islam was governed by an oligarchy of trading families.  Mohammad was from one of these governing families (his grandfather dug out the Zamzam well at Mecca).   Mohammad was orphaned at about age 6, and raised by an uncle.  He married an older widow when he was about age 25 & fathered several children.  Only daughters of Mohammad survived infancy.  At about age 40 God began speaking to him, mostly while he was on contemplation hikes in the desert around Mecca.  His wife and immediate family became converted, also many of the "lower classes" of Meccan society.  The other trading families were distressed by Mohammed's claim to be a prophet and attempted to have his teaching suppressed.  Mohammed's family protected him for a while.   In 622 AD at about age 50 Mohammad and his followers surreptitiously moved to Medina, an oasis about 200 hundred Kilometers to the North.

Medina in 622 AD was uneasily governed by disputing tribes.  Mohammad was welcomed as an arbitrator.  By his judgments he reduced strife in Medina.  For instance, he ruled that in taking vengeance for a murder, only a single life (or an agreed amount of cash = "blood money") could be exacted for each murder.  When this price was paid, there should be no further retribution.

In contrasting the Christian and Muslim religions, the following point should be noted.

The teaching of Jesus Christ was oral, and after his death his disciples wrote down details of his life, including the parables he used in his teaching.  (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John).  On the other hand, the teaching of Mohommed was the Koran (recitals) wherein he wrote the words of god.  Like Jesus's disciples, Mahommed's disciples also wrote down his actions, however this work is less well known in the West.  It is called the "Sunnah".

The life of Mohammad as revealed in the Sunnah was not what we would now think of as morally impeccable, although Muslim clerics go to extreme lengths to establish that these bahaviours were, in fact, directly in God's path.  Mohommad was God's prophet, and to suggest that anything he did wrong would be blasphemy.

From my reading of the sources named above I have discovered that:

It is said in the Sunna that when Mohommed was short of money, he would send the faithful out from Medina to raid Meccan caravans, and accept a "tax" on their booty.

It is said in the Sunna that when tribal leaders or poets in Medina challenged his authority, his followers went to assassinate them.

It is said in the Sunna that on occasion the traders at Mecca decided to punish Mohommed for raiding their caravans, so they put together a military expedition.  The tribes at Medina (which included one Jewish tribe) united and successfully resisted the invasion.  When the Meccans had gone, Mohommed persuaded his non Jewish allies to commit genocide by attacking the Jewish compound and slaughtered all the men and enslaving all the females of his former jewish allies.

Mohammad had many wives.  Muslim clerics commonly say that (since Mohommed was over 50 when he took those multiple wives) those marriages were "political", and not motivated by love or passion.   In the Koran, God prescribed that there should be a strict sequence of cohabitation with multiple wives, and Mahommed's later wives did produce offspring so apparently Mohommed still performed his conjugal duties.   Mohommed also had female slaves & concubines which he apparently utilized.

People who accept Mahommed's words and actions at face value, and reject the more pacific interpretations of modern Muslim clerics are called "fundamentalists".

I have a Christian upbringing.  A relevant teaching that comes to mind is from from Matthew 7.15 through to 20.   "15. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves."   It continues until verse 20 where Jesus explains how to distinguish false prophets:  "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."  which I took to mean, look at the outcomes.

Mohommed lived a somewhat different life to that stipulated by God.

He was like a parent who says
"do what I say, not what I do".

Islam was a warrior-conquest religion.

Assassination, Slavery and Genocide were all condoned by Mohommed.

Those of Islam who follow the example of Mohammad (fundamentalist) would not want to live under democratic regimes.  Mohammad created a theocratic state. He collected taxes to his own personal estate, and then disbursed a proportion of those taxes to his followers.  To Christians the separation of church and state ("rend unto caesar that which is Caesar's, rend unto god that which is god's") is axiomatic.  Hence to a Christian an Islamic state would look mostly like a particularly nasty dictatorship.  That is why Christians note that there is no democratic Arab state, and why Arafat's personal fortune is estimated as $500 million dollars.  Even though Iran has democratic elections, ultimately it is the theocratic Mullahs who rule.  In Islam the ruler is the state, & the ruler is expected to spend collected money in the service of the people.

A fundamentalist Islamic state will not have peace with it's non-Muslim neighbors unless they are too powerful to conquer.  Islam is expansionist.   Mohammad set the example by raiding his neighbor's caravans, but he forbade his followers to attack the people of Islamic states.  When non Islamic states are conquered, Islam collects a "peace" tax (i.e. for letting the infidels live under the umbrella of a Muslim peace).  Muslims do not pay the peace tax.  There have been Muslim overlords who prevented vassals from converting to Islam. (it is suspected that the reason was that conversion would have reduced the tax income).

If neighboring states are militarily more powerful than the Muslim state, then Islam spreads by proselytization, migration & fecundity. (e.g. Kosovo)

The strengths of Fundamentalist Islam are:

  1. Islam gains it's power because it is an attractive religion to the less favored members of a society, promising as it does the possibility of advantage through appropriation & militarism.
  2. Islam provides a mostly sensible set of laws which is fixed and was provided by God.  Islam provides certainty.
  3. Islam's message is seemingly aligned with what is basic in human nature.  Examples are the Islamic attitude towards women, & the daily surrender to God which enhances the strong tribal element.
The weaknesses of Fundamentalist Islam are:
  1. Muslim government tends to be dictatorial or theocratic, preferably both, which means (a) If a bad leader is in place, he is hard to remove, and (b) That a strategy that continually removes leaders will weaken political cohesion and cause succession disputes (specially among Sunnis).
  2. Some of the laws of Islam are not favorable to the prosperity of a modern civilization, but cannot be readily changed. (e.g. bank interest, inflexible laws)
  3. Existing Islamic societies tend not to generate wealth.  They tend to obtain wealth through conquest & tribute or by the sale of natural resources.  Individual commercial/industrial enterprise is inhibited within most existing Islamic states because the leaders & bureaucracy tend to appropriate wealth (baksheesh) before it can be allocated to productive purposes.

Like most religions, Islam has changed with time.  The descendants of Mohommed are considered by the Shi'ite sect to have the right to govern (Dictate).  The Sunni sect is more democratic, and believes that any person of ability should Dictate.   The Turkmen have given their ruler (government) supreme political & religious power, while in Arabia the Saudi royal family has control of the military & police, but does not have authority in religious and Sharia (legal) matters.

These matters are confusing to those of us who were brought up in a liberal democracy.   Fundamentalist Islam is anti-democratic.  In Islam it is thought that if a ruler rules wisely, then the people prosper, and the ruler's position would be secure.  If the ruler is unwise, then God will not bless his rule.


Applying the Islamic insight to Palestine,

  1. Moses was a refugee.
  2. Judaism is a religion of refugees.
  3. There were Jewish refugees in Medina CE 622 AD.
  4. The Jews have been dealing with Islam (& v.v.) since Islam's formation.

In Palestine, the Israelis have developed a Hydra strategy (i.e. the assassination of any heads (leaders) who instigate terror).   Like the Lernean Hydra of Hercules, new heads will grow.  The efficacy of this method can be measured in the fury of the mobs provoked.  Mobs need a leader, new leaders are hard to obtain and any new leaders disappear fast.  A new leader of Islam needs either religious sponsorship or personal charisma to establish authority.  Hercules stopped new heads from growing by cauterizing the wounds after each decapitation.  It might be advisable to give thought as to how to provide cauterization (reinforcement) to those who reject and abandon the way of the sword.

When Islam does not grow it will wither.  By starving Islam of victories, it will atrophy.  That is what happened after Poitiers in 732.  It is human nature.