Syrian Rebel forces training
Are American taxpayers funding the persecution of Christians and murder of civilians in war-torn nations?
(Posted by Bryana Johnson on August 25th, 2013)
Russian President Vladimir Putin made headlines earlier this month when he called on world leaders to unite in fighting anti-Christian persecution. Putin has made significant efforts in recent days to underscore the importance of Christian virtues to the Russian people, and his latest statement condemned the violence that has been perpetrated against Christian people in the Middle East and in North Africa.
President Obama didn’t respond in agreement. Indeed, shortly afterwards, he cancelled a scheduled summit with the Russian President. However, Putin’s statement resonated deeply with many Americans who have been working to call attention to the plight of Christian minorities worldwide.
The trouble is that, far from doing our part to end these atrocities, extant American foreign policy seems calculated to exacerbate them. Rather than making an end of the bloodshed, our influence has been making things worse.
Last week, Syrian rebels opened fire on a Christian village during the celebration of a feast day and killed 9 Christian villagers and 2 others. Women and children were among the dead.
Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Syria’s population, know this is no isolated incident. Since the beginning of the conflict between Sunni Muslim rebel forces and Syrian President Bashar Assad, thousands of Christians have been forced from their homes or brutally murdered. Several Catholic priests and clerics have been beheaded or gunned down in their churches.
Radical Muslim groups, who back the rebel Free Syria Army, see Christians as supporters of Assad’s regime and enemies of their religious belief system, even though many Christians who have been targeted took no active part in supporting Assad.
Open Doors spokesman Jerry Dykstra warned in July that young, Christian women are bearing the brunt of the civil war, with widespread reports of rape in Christian communities. Of the war’s 100,000 casualties since 2011, as estimated 5,000 have been children under 16. A disproportionate number have been Christian women and girls.
Earlier this week, a disturbing video surfaced, purporting to show the execution of two young boys by Syrian rebel forces. The boys, who were accused of supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad, are shown blindfolded on their knees beside each other as a masked man hastily reads off what sounds like a list of charges behind them. The video then continues to roll as the boys are riddled with bullets and left lying prostrate and immobile on the ground. Viewer discretion is advised.
In another incident in June, a 14-year old boy in the Northern Syrian city of Aleppo, who was accused of blaspheming the Muslim prophet Muhammad, was flogged and executed by rebel forces. Reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claim the boy was first taken by the rebel gunmen to an unknown location where he was beaten and tortured. He was returned with his body slashed with the marks of a whip and a shirt tied around his head. He was then shot repeatedly in front of a crowd. Grisly photos were released of his bloodied body, a gaping hole all that remains of his nose and mouth.
The Islamists claim that the shockingly violent acts which have been committed by their army are nothing compared with the “genocide,” that has been conducted by Assad’s regime, but it seems the gap is narrowing, as the rebels continue to stack up more and more incidents against themselves. And, obviously, these are only the incidents that have been reported to western news outlets. Who can know what is really going on in the dark recesses of the war-torn nation?
Of course, the last thing anyone would expect is that a civil, respectable, tolerant, and progressive society would be willing to fund such a malicious, vengeful war, or take any part in providing assistance to either side of such a vicious conflict. You wouldn’t expect America, a nation already trillions of dollars in debt, to be giving $250 million in defensive combat supplies to Islamist rebels who violate Christian girls and torture young boys and shoot them up in front of their parents.
But you would be wrong.
Catholic Franciscan Friar Pierbattista Pizzaballa warned Vatican Radio in June,
“Unfortunately Syria has now become a battleground not only between Syrian forces, but also between Arab countries and the international community. And those paying the price are the poor, the young and the Christians. The international community must put a stop to all this. The world must know that the support of gunmen by the west is helping extremists in killing Syrians.”
Syria isn’t the only place where “Arab Spring” violence has resulted in increased persecution of Christians. Following widespread violence in Egypt this week, CNN reported over 52 churches have been torched and looted by Islamists since Wednesday, along with uncounted Christian homes and businesses.
The unrest began when supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi launched a protest against the military-imposed state of emergency. The protest, which is backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, culminated in a “Friday of Rage” yesterday, which left over 600 people dead and over 4,000 injured.
“What we’re seeing right now in Egypt is literally a pogrom,” said Middle East expert Eric Stakelbeck, “where Christians are systematically being targeted. Right now there is a bulls-eye on the back of every Christian living in Egypt.”
One lawmaker in DC has come to the conclusion that what is occurring is unacceptable. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a longtime critic of US foreign policy and foreign aid spending, introduced a bill at the end of July to redirect approximately $1.5 billion in foreign aid from Egypt and use it to rebuild US infrastructure. “In our hour of need in our country, why are you sending money to people that hate us?” Paul asked.
His remarks are reminiscent of another speech he made in June, when he called for an end of foreign aid to countries that persecute Christian people.
"It angers me to see my tax dollars supporting regimes that put Christians to death for blasphemy against Islam, countries that put to death Muslims who convert to Christianity, and countries who imprison anyone who marries outside their religion," Paul said in June, at a conference in DC. "There is a war on Christianity, not just from liberal elites here at home, but worldwide. And your government, or more correctly you, the taxpayer, are funding it."
The bill failed to pass, with only 13 Senators voting in favor of it. Senator John McCain argued that cutting the foreign aid to Egypt would harm Israel, and that other nations would quickly step in to fill the “vacuum” left by the cuts. The ponderous list of things Sen. McCain doesn’t understand just got a lot longer. Added to it is the fact that choosing to support a murderous society for the reason that someone else will be sure to step in and do it if you don’t, is no reason at all. The web of the world is a great, impenetrable mass of humanity, ideology, corruption, violence and faith. To attempt to summarize in a few short paragraphs the state of the planet is more than a trifle arrogant. Who of us, out of our limited understanding, can say who is responsible for all of the deaths and the decapitations of the past few months in nations seething with sectarian differences, and violent values systems? Who can tell which side is more evil in a conflict where unspeakable atrocities are being perpetrated by both sides?
Thankfully, it is not the place of the American people or elected officials to make these judgments, or to choose which murderous regime to depose, which to support, and which to instate. When our government does step in to make these kinds of calls, one outcome is guaranteed: the American taxpayer comes out of it with blood on his hands. The blood, perhaps, of young children, of uninvolved bystanders, of peaceful Christian families. The American taxpayer doesn’t want that.
When Americans all across the country found themselves in eager agreement with Putin’s call for an end to the persecution of Christian people, did they realize one of the first steps towards achieving that end might be cutting the funding that we give to the persecutors?
It’s time to realize it.
As a closing note, for those that remain unconvinced of the evils of indiscriminate US foreign aid to troubled war zones and terrorist organizations, one final piece of evidence is shrieking loudly, demanding to be heard.
America doesn’t have any money.
KY Senator Rand Paul
Senator Rand Paul's lonely foreign aid filibuster shows Senate Republicans' true colors
(Posted by Bryana Johnson on September 26th, 2012)
Dr. Shakil Afridi, the CIA informant sentenced to 33 years in prison for his role in hunting down Osama Bin Laden, spoke to Fox News in an exclusive interview earlier this month, describing the brutal torture and interrogation he has undergone at the hands of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Dr. Afridi stated that he was burned with cigarettes and subjected to electric shocks while in the custody of the ISI. He was also blindfolded for eight months and handcuffed with his hands behind his back for 12 months.
In addition to providing these disturbing details, Dr. Afridi made some sobering claims regarding the ISI’s attitude about America. “They said ‘ The Americans are our worst enemies, worse than the Indians,’ he told Fox News. “I tried to argue that America was Pakistan’s biggest supporter – billions and billions of dollars in aid, social and military assistance -- but all they said was, ‘These are our worst enemies. You helped our enemies.’ It is…indisputable that militancy in Pakistan is supported by the ISI. Pakistan’s fight against militancy is bogus. It’s just to extract money from America,” Afridi said. Pakistan has received over $20 billion from the US since the 9/11 attacks.
This is a state of affairs that Kentucky Senator Rand Paul wants to remedy. On the day that Afridi’s interview with Fox News was released, Sen. Paul issued a statement declaring that he meant business.
"I will continue to work tirelessly to keep this issue front and center. America should not give foreign aid to a country whose government is torturing the man who helped us kill Osama bin Laden. We should not be giving foreign aid to any country that is not clearly our ally. This must end, and this week I will renew my push for a vote on this issue, including holding up Senate business to accomplish this goal.”
Sen. Paul also sent a letter to Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, asking Reid to work with him on scheduling a vote for his bill S.3576, which would have placed restrictions on foreign aid and effectively cut aid to Libya, Egypt and Pakistan in the event that those countries do not agree to abide by terms set forth in the bill. The terms for Pakistan included the release of Dr. Afridi.
Sen. Paul, however, was not able to get what he wanted without a filibuster. The result was twofold. A skewed schedule for the Senate, which ended up holding a midnight vote in the dark hours of Saturday morning. And an epic, hour-long speech on the Senate floor for Sen. Paul, who delivered a compelling and resounding address exploring the disastrous failures of unconditional foreign aid, and tugging at the hearts and minds of Americans who stayed up late to watch the performance on c-span.
This fascinating and eloquent speech began with the tragic story of Zairian dictator Mobuto who embezzled billions of dollars from his own government throughout the course of his 32-year reign and yet was funded by U.S. taxpayers. Mobuto subjected many of his personal enemies to horrific tortures and took elaborate shopping trips to Europe while his own nation was without basic energy provisions.
Paul then went on to cite similar examples of dictators who were supported by the US in their oppression of their own people, including that of Saddam Hussein.
“It’s sad to contemplate what despots and dictators have done and are doing to their people,” said Sen. Paul. “It’s sadder still to realize that they’re being subsidized in this behavior with your money. Those who say, ‘Oh, I just simply want to help people. I want to help poor people around the world by sending them money,’ – it is stolen by their leaders. It doesn’t get to the poor people. And besides, you may have heard, we’re a trillion dollars short in our own budget here. How are we sending money overseas?”
Paul said that while supporters of foreign aid assert the aid is necessary to ensure good behavior on the part of foreign powers, he doesn’t see that unconditional aid is bringing about those results or can even be reasonably expected to. Instead, he suggested that aid, when it is provided at all, should be a reward for loyal allies of the US.
In further remarks that seemed calculated to appeal to the patriotism of fellow conservatives, he stated,
“I think the real question and the image that you have to have in your mind is, when you see ten thousand people outside the embassy in Pakistan, burning the US flag, can you imagine that we would send them more money? Can you imagine that we would not place restrictions on this money?”
Despite the magnificence of this impassioned speech, Paul didn’t seem to be harboring any illusions as to how his bill would be received by his colleagues in the Senate.
“Foreign aid is a bipartisan project,” he said near the beginning of his talk. “If I get this vote, you watch, the vast majority of the Senate is going to vote for unlimited, unrestricted foreign aid. I will probably lose this vote. But if you go home and ask your friends, ‘should we be sending money to countries that disrespect us? To countries that burn our flag?’ I think you’ll find that eighty to ninety percent of the American people wouldn’t send another penny. But that may also be why congress has about a ten percent approval rating…in fact, many people who claim to be conservatives are for foreign aid.”
When it came time to hold the vote, Senators John Kerry and John McCain stood to oppose Paul’s bill, while South Carolina Senator and Tea Party leader Jim Demint rose to speak on behalf of S.3576. Demint was particularly incensed at what he considered shockingly unfair treatment of Sen. Paul by Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Demint explained that earlier in the day he had met with Paul to discuss some of his misgivings about the wording of the bill. Demint shared that Paul had been very willing to accommodate him and had spent some hours re-writing the bill to make it even narrower in scope. However, when the two had come up with an amended bill that they were both pleased with, Reid refused to allow Paul to amend the bill. Demint said that Senators had always been allowed to amend their own bills and that the practice was common in the Senate. He said that although he didn’t think the bill without the amendments was perfect, he would still be voting for it and encouraged his colleagues to join him.
Only nine of his colleagues joined him in the vote to support the bill, one of these being Sen. Paul himself. Only nine votes for the American taxpayer, for fiscal conservatism, for sanity in foreign affairs. Only nine votes for ending aid to the sworn enemies of the American people. Only nine votes for cutting payments to oppressive rulers in third-world countries, for removing the burden of foreign dictators’ debts off of the backs of American children. Only nine votes for justice, for political prisoners suffering in confinement, for friends of freedom serving jail-time in their homelands. Only nine votes for Dr. Shakil Afridi.
It sounds to me like there 90 seats in the US Senate that are in need of new owners. (First posted at the Washington Times Communities.)
Why the GOP must do a fast about-face or face disaster in November...
(Posted by Bryana Johnson on July 31, 2012)
Despite their spirited outward demeanor and cheerful speculation, is the Grand Old Party beginning to realize that they made a mistake in anointing Mitt Romney to lead the assault on socialism and Barack Obama? For their sake, let’s hope so. Because the only way for the Republicans to avoid the trap they’ve set for themselves is to understand the magnitude of their error and start back-pedaling as fast as they can.
The case against the GOP’s selection of Romney to carry the banner of conservatism on to the White House is easy to make. Our first premise is obviously that Romney is not a conservative. He is, in fact, a self-proclaimed “moderate” who “holds progressive views.” Needless to say, this makes his suitability for the afore-mentioned position rather dubious from the get-go.
Those few folks who are willing to look ridiculous by asserting that Romney is no longer left-leaning and that his opportunely-timed conversion to limited government and family values is genuine will be quickly hushed by a little research. Take, for example, these excerpts from an open letter signed by notable conservative leaders such as the Homeschool Legal Defense Association’s Michael Farris and Kelly Shackelford of the Liberty Institute.
“Romney changed his position on over thirty key issues as he prepared to run for President four years ago. We all expect a politician to change their mind on one or two issues over the course of their career, but when someone changes their mind on EVERY foundational issue of importance to conservatives, we must be skeptical. Indeed, it is hard to accept Romney’s conversion on so many issues as authentic….
…As Governor, Romney implemented an Executive Order that created a vast ‘diversity’ agency to make sure those of all races and ‘sexual orientations’ be hired throughout state government. Romney [also] issued a state proclamation honoring ‘Gay/Straight Youth Pride March’…
…Romney’s administration gave funds to Planned Parenthood. In November 2006, Romney’s economic development agency approved a $5 billion tax-exempt bond to be used by Planned Parenthood to build an abortion clinic in Worchester…
…For thirty years Mitt Romney was a strong advocate of abortion. His wife, Ann, contributed money to Planned Parenthood in 1994 at a PP event both her and her husband attended, but she was filmed during the 2008 campaign claiming, ‘I’ve always been pro-life…’ ”
Another video shows Ann Romney insisting that pro-abortion women have no need to worry about her husband due to his commitment to the abortion issue. (Once you’ve watched the 22-second clip, ask yourself if this is the voice of a pro-life woman!) To make matters worse for Romney’s record, even in the wake of his pro-life “conversion” experience in 2004, he continued to fund embryonic stem cell research and was recorded in 2005 stating “I am absolutely committed to my promise to maintaining the status quo with regards to laws relating to abortion and choice and so far I’ve been able to successfully do that.” In 2006, Romney introduced RomneyCare, which covers abortion and makes it easy for people to obtain a state-funded abortion for as low as $50.
The Cato Institute reported that in his first year as Governor, Romney “proposed $140 [million] in business tax hikes through the closing of ‘loopholes’ in the tax code,” and according to job creation experts Andrew Sum and Joseph McLaughlin of Northeastern University, manufacturing employment during the Romney years “declined by 14%, the third worse record in the country. Sum and McLaughlin also wrote that ‘from 2001 to 2006, Massachusetts ranked 49th in the nation in job creation…’
Having put to rest the myth that Romney is or ever has been “severely conservative,” as he now claims to be, it’s time to take a look at what that means for the GOP. The short answer is trouble.
Last December, former senator Bob Dole endorsed Mitt Romney. Let’s run that tape:
“The time has now come for us to decide who among [the Republican candidates] can defeat Barack Obama in 2012. I’ve made my decision, and I believe our best hope lies in Governor Mitt Romney. I’ve run for president myself and –”
Alright, stop. Stop it right there.
Let’s see what we remember about Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign. One thing really stands out in my mind. He lost, and he lost big.
It was a rough year for Republicans. They were trying to take down President Bill Clinton, who was running for re-election, and they thought they had a clear lead over him. In 1994, a poll asked Americans to choose between Bill Clinton and " the Republican Party's candidate for President." Result? Clinton got 43% of the vote. The ghost Republican beat him with 50%. “Anyone can beat Clinton,” was the popular refrain, which has become so infamous today.
The Republicans nominated Bob Dole, an uninspiring moderate who did nothing to fan the flames of conviction. Dole didn’t understand that a huge portion of the Republican base was staunchly conservative and willing to take a stand for it at the polling place – even if it was going to hurt them. He failed to excite his base, and a third party candidate, Ross Perot, came in and snagged all of the votes his moderate stances didn’t bring in. Dole was a massive failure, and he gave us four more years of Clinton. His endorsement of Romney is anything but reassuring.
Fast-forward to 2008: the Republican Party’s next big loss. Faced with the alarming prospect of Obama as POTUS, the Republicans nominated another moderate, John McCain. McCain, just like Dole before him, did not succeed in capturing the enthusiasm of his base. Indeed, many Republicans were disgusted with him, and it wasn’t until his selection of conservative Sarah Palin for his running mate that his poll numbers began to climb. Palin ensured that the race would at least be competitive. McCain still lost.
This myth that moderates have the best chance to beat popular Democrats is just that: a myth. History clearly shows that Republicans do poorly when they nominate candidates who don’t pull in impassioned voters. Voters with strong opinions who care about real issues and will fight for them. Moderate voters by their very nature are a bad group to rely on in an election. Because their stances are less radical, they are less likely to be a virulent crowd and less likely to give sacrificially or inspire enthusiasm. While conservatives and liberals are people who feel strongly about ideas, moderates are people who delight in the muddy waters of the “middle ground”, and who, in large part, make decisions pragmatically rather than relying on principles.
The Republican Party ignores at their peril the fact that their candidate is a poor one. Their best hope for a comeback in November is to breathe life into their party by welcoming a staunch conservative darling into their ranks in the position of Vice President. If they fail to do this, I doubt if even Obama’s own alarming radicalism will keep him out of the White House for another four years. The question is, does the GOP want to hoist the banner of conservatism (and win) or slide back into moderate positions (and lose)?
Debunking the myth about selfish conservatism and raising questions about the effectiveness of government humanitarian aid
(Posted by Bryana Joy on December 15th, 2011)
(Cross-posted at The College Conservative
)In practically every lengthy abortion debate thread online, some naïve pro-abortion commenter is bound to ask a pro-lifer, “Well, are YOU willing to adopt all of the unwanted children?” This particular jab is one of just a few insults that seriously offends me, and I am likely to get a little irritated whenever I find it necessary to respond to a contentious person who flings this canned remark around in a discussion. Aside from the fact that the “question” has no bearing whatsoever on the debate about the ethics of abortion, I find it personally offensive because I am personally passionate about adoption. In a similar way, and for the very reason that I care about people so enthusiastically, it annoys me to listen to proponents of the worn and ridiculous myth that conservatives tend to be selfish and don’t care about people. You’ve heard it all before: conservatives are war-mongers, greedy and tightfisted, guilty of the blood of oppressed peoples all over the world. Back in October, Leslie Marshall wrote a scathing article about “Christian Hypocrisy on the Religious Right,” saying,Those on the religious right want to defund programs such as Social Security, Medicare, welfare, food stamps, healthcare, etc. What I want to know is: why aren't these so called people of God offering their homes to the homeless, food to the hungry, a coat to someone who is poor and cold?
Contrary to what we keep hearing from our friends on the left, conservatives do care about people, and we act on our concern with hefty donations of financial aid to the needy and destitute. In fact, according to a study done by Syracuse University professor Arthur C. Brooks, those who identify themselves as ideologically conservative give 30% more to charitable institutions than those who identify themselves as ideologically liberal. Religious Americans also give four times more money to charity yearly than secular citizens, and are 23 times more likely to volunteer to help people than those who never attend church. But the key word here is volunteer. We want to give our own money in our own way, and we object to being forced to fund the organizations and programs the government considers the most beneficial.
Why do we object? It’s not because we don’t want to make a few sacrifices and share the love with the less fortunate. Rather, we don’t feel that these government programs really help the less fortunate, and we think we can do better by the under-privileged, the at-risk and the poverty-stricken if we give our money to private charities that work more efficiently and produce better results.
As an example, take the so-called “welfare” system. Over the past year, my opposition to government welfare programs has increased dramatically. However, it has not increased because I am frustrated by the injustice that is being done to me when I am required to fork over a substantial percentage of my income to a government which I feel is wasteful and encroaches on my liberties. Actually, my opposition has become more earnest due to the fact that I have become acquainted with so many people who have profited temporarily from the welfare system but who have become losers in the long run, because a government handout robbed them of their initiative and their ambitions. I have experienced firsthand how government aid programs destroy society by artificially preventing the natural consequences of bad investments, injudicious spending, and idleness. People who are protected from their own mistakes must be expected to make the same mistakes over and over again. This is why we have generational cases of single-motherhood, poverty and educational failure. An aid program that only provides money and cannot personally know its beneficiaries, cannot truly provide long-term solutions to social problems. It is only a band-aid, pitifully taped onto a gaping wound. It can never become more than that.
Let’s take a look at another, much more inflammatory situation. I learned last week that the Obama administration has established a $3 million “Global Equality Fund” to promote homosexuality and pay for homosexual political advocacy worldwide at taxpayer expense. Life Site News explains that State Department guidelines suggest this could include everything from funding foreign political activists to campaigning against legislation that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, to hosting gay pride parades and concerts by Lady Gaga in far-flung countries. In other words, if you’re a U.S. taxpayer, you might be paying to campaign against traditional marriage amendments all over the world! Is that the type of “humanitarian cause” you want to give to?
Would you not rather donate to causes that seek to end human trafficking and child sex slavery, or to provide education for children in poverty or to help raise funds for potential adoptive parents? Whatever it is that you’re passionate about, would you not rather give to that cause yourself? Would you not rather present your money and your time to a group or a foundation that you trust and admire?
Government has no money that it has not taken from you. Therefore, government cannot buy anything, for everything that government buys is in fact purchased by you. You are providing the funds. Government is only deciding how they should be spent. Sadly, when government takes your money away to give it to causes you oppose, they are also limiting your capacity to fund the causes you do support. Are you happy with the way that government is spending your money? Contact the State Department here to complain about your tax dollars going to promote homosexuality through the “Global Equality Fund.”
Oh, and on the subject of bleeding hearts, here's a bit of trivia to share with your liberal relatives during the upcoming holiday week – if liberals donated blood at the rate conservatives do, the nation’s blood supply would rise 45%!
81-year-old columnist and economist Thomas Sowell offers some wise comments on the entitlement mentality of the occupy crowd and the fallacy of long-term government "help"
(Posted by Bryana Joy on October 17, 2011)
This is a man whom I greatly respect and admire. I've enjoyed reading his books and you'll find some of them listed on our booklist. He brings sanity and consistent ideology to the chaotic fields of economics and sociology. If you're interested in my stance on the Occupy Movement, check out yesterday's post.