he that soweth discord

I declare, it’s like Comrade Donald Trump is a complete stranger to himself. He can say (or tweet) stuff that’s so absolutely contradictory to who he is that you’d wonder if he was being ironic — if you didn’t already know he was incapable of deliberate irony. Yesterday he tweeted this gem:

Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!

Great! Here’s a little Bible literacy lesson for the preznet. (I’ma use the King James Version of the Bible on account of I like the way the language rumbles; it’s so much more rich than the anemic New International Version.) From Proverbs 6:16-19:

These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

In Trump’s favor, I don’t think his feet runneth all that swift, even toward mischief. But those other things? The proud look, the lying tongue, all that discord sowing? Comrade Trump is solid there. And that heart that deviseth wicked imaginations? Dude, just wrap your head around his ‘bound and gagged women in the backs of vans’ fantasy.

I believe this is where liars and sinners are supposed to end up.

While we’re doing this Biblical bit, let’s take a look at that deadliest of chapters, Leviticus. Leviticus doesn’t mess around; it flat out tells a person what to do and what NOT to do. Some of which Comrade Trump has totally done. Leviticus 19:13, ya’ll:

Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.

I’m not suggesting Trump defrauded his neighbors. I’m not sure he even has neighbors in his Trump Tower penthouse. But Lord knows (see what I did there?) he certainly defrauded lots of folks with a free hand. What I’m just focusing on, though, is that bit about wages. I think we can safely say ‘the wages of him that is hired’ abided with Trump for 35 nights and mornings during the government shutdown.

But here’s the kicker: Trump went all wage-abiding in pursuit of another violation of Leviticus. I’m talking Leviticus 19:33-34 here:

And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.
But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

Comrade Trump was seriously vexing the holy shit out of strangers attempting to sojourn into the US with his wall. And all those strangers that dwelleth in the US under DACA? They are surely not as one born among Trump. He wants to toss their brown asses out, and he was willing to abide all night with federal employee wages to get that done.

I should note, if it wasn’t already apparent, that I’m not a Christian. Neither is Comrade Trump, for that matter. But only one of us is pretending.


endop, you guys!

You guys! Did you know today, May 3rd, is the National Day of Prayer? Me neither! I’d no idea the U.S. even had an official National Day of Prayer, let alone that it was today. But it is.

We’ve apparently had an official National Day of Prayer since 1952. According to the National Day of Prayer Task Force (you guys! we have a National Day of Prayer Task Force!), the National Day of Prayer created “by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.” That’s good old ‘Give ’em Hell, Harry’ Truman, you guys. He knew the value of prayer. He even had a favorite prayer:

Help me to be, to think, to act what is right, because it is right; make me truthful, honest and honorable in all things; make me intellectually honest for the sake of right and honor and without thought of reward to me. Give me the ability to be charitable, forgiving and patient with my fellowmen – help me to understand their motives and their shortcomings — even as Thou understandest mine!

Intellectually honest! Truthful, patient, charitable, forgiving! Now, that’s a prayer, right there.

Yes, of course, I’ll pray for your recovery…but intellectual honesty requires me to acknowledge that prayer won’t do much to heal your broken bones. Would you like a pinch of snuff?

If you’re anything like me (and, okay, you’re probably not, but IF you are) then you’re probably asking yourself why we have an official National Day of Prayer (okay, I’m just going to call it NDoP because it takes too long to write ‘National Day of Prayer’ over and over, and besides if you pronounce NDoP as ‘endop’ it’s more fun). The NDoPTF (TF for Task Force, obv.) says the NDoP is  all about 

[I]nviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation.

Okay. Thanks, NDoP, for the invitation! We appreciate it. And, if it’s not too much to ask, what’s the purpose of the NDoPTF?

NDoPTF “exists to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, to create appropriate materials, and to mobilize the Christian community to intercede for America’s leaders and its families. The Task Force represents a Judeo-Christian expression of the national observance, based on our understanding that this country was birthed in prayer and in reverence for the God of the Bible.”

Okay, then. But what about folks who aren’t, you know, Christian? Wait, what am I saying? This is probably just an oversight, right? Maybe sloppy copy editing. I mean, the ‘en’ of ‘endop’ is for ‘national’, right?

And yay, the NDoPTF comes through with an explanation! You guys, NDoPTF assures us that the NDoP “belongs to all Americans. It is a day that transcends differences, bringing together citizens from all backgrounds.” ALL Americans, you guys! And guess what the theme for the 2018 NDoP is! It’s UNITY!

In 2018, our theme will be Pray for America – UNITY, based upon Ephesians 4:3 which challenges us to mobilize unified public prayer for America.

Unity, you guys! Unity based upon a Bible verse to mobilize prayer for…wait, what?  A Bible verse? That mentions America? Uh, NDoPTF, are you sure you’re doing this right? I mean, I’m no historian, but I’m fairly confident that Paul, who was locked in a Roman jail writing to a Greek city in what’s now Turkey, didn’t know dick about America. Maybe if I looked a the actual verse in Ephesians?

With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

Uh, NDoPTF, I’m beginning to see a problem here. I mean, I’m totally down with the ‘forbearing one another in love’ business, but I feel the need to point out that there are a lot of us here in These United States that don’t fall into that ‘one lord, one faith, one baptism” bit.

But c’mon, you guys! Let’s not nitpick, right! Probably the actual official 2018 National Prayer (we have an actual official national prayer for 2018!) written by the President (no, not that president, c’mon) of the NDoPTF will be more inclusive, right? Probably? I mean, the NDoPTF itself said the NDoP was about inviting ‘all faiths’ to pray, right?

So lets just take a quick look at the actual P of the NDoP and see if it will be more…well, gosh darn it.

Our Dear Heavenly Father, while we come to You in complete humility, we also come to You with boldness in the authoritative name of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. In Jesus’ name, fill us now with Your Holy Spirit and lead us as we pray in Jesus’ name for America.

I dunno. Seems like there’s an awful lot of Jeebus in the first of the ten paragraphs of the NDoP’s P. But hey, you guys, there’s still this: the White House has announced that President Comrade Trump is going to introduce the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative this afternoon. It’s “intended to signal to religious groups that they have a voice in the government.”

Religious groups, you guys! It just says ‘groups’! So probably this afternoon groups of Wiccans and Buddhists and Jews and Hindus and Druids and Muslims will be included. Probably. Right?

Please, Jeebus, bless my lawyer so that he may be smarter than her lawyer.

Also today? President Comrade Trump said, okay, maybe he did sorta kinda know that his lawyer paid US$130 thou “to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by” an adult entertainment actor that she got horizontal with Trump while his third wife (with whom he’d cheated on his second wife, with whom he’d cheated on his first wife) was sitting home in their luxury apartment with a new-born baby — BUT “money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll in this transaction.” No roll. Praise Jeebus and pass the spell-checker.

Also too, this: you can get your NDoP merch here.

i got your parable right here

A number of folks, after the recent mass murder at a Baptist church in Texas (which took place during the service), questioned the efficacy of thoughts and prayers as a defense against multiple rounds of .223 caliber bullets. This, naturally, upset some Christian conservatives.

[S]ome prominent left-wing voices have taken the opportunity to politicize the incident. Some on the left have used the shooting to mock the concept of prayer and Christianity.

In an effort to be transparent, I should probably repeat the fact that I’m not a Christian and I don’t believe in a supreme being. I don’t object to the notion of prayer, and I’d never mock folks who resort to it. But I have to say I don’t think it’s a good substitute for action. I do, however, enjoy a good parable.

Here’s one you’ve almost certainly heard before. Devout Christian hears a weather forecast warning of heavy rains and flooding. He stays in his house by the river. The river rises, the man’s house begins to flood, he prays. Sheriff comes by, suggests he evacuate the area. Guy says God will protect him. Flooding continues, the guy climbs on his roof. Rescuer in a boat comes by, offers to take him to safety. Guy says God will protect him. Waters rise, guy is stranded. Helicopter arrives, offers to airlift the guy to safety. Guy says God will protect him. Guy drowns. Shows up at the gate to heaven, asks God why he didn’t answer his prayers. God says he did — sent a warning, sent a messenger, sent a boat, sent a helo — but the guy just didn’t listen.

What? Naw, this is fine.

The parable stops at that point, and most folks seems content with that. Me, I find myself wondering what else God told the guy. I mean, does God say “Dude, you are too stupid and stubborn to enter heaven”? Or “Dude, you ignored every sign I sent you, but hey I’m feeling generous, come on in anyway”? Or what?

Still, as parables go, that one is pretty sweet. Maybe religious folk should take it to heart. If there’s a God, maybe he/she/it is saying “Dude, seriously? I let them shoot up a McDonalds. I let them shoot up a college campus. I even let them shoot up a bunch of six-year-old kids. Then I let them shoot up a church. Why aren’t you paying attention?”

Maybe? Possibly? What do I know? I don’t understand this ‘moves in a mysterious way’ business. But IF there’s some supernatural agent at work here leaving a coded message to his followers, the code really doesn’t seem that difficult to break.

NOTE: That ‘mysterious way’ business? It ain’t from the Bible. It’s from a hymn written by William Cowper in the late 18th century. Not long after he wrote that hymn, Cowper attempted suicide. By drowning. Just saying.

jacking the rainbow

You guys! Have you been wondering just what Barack Obama and the homosexualists that control the executive branch of our federal government have been doing lately to piss off Jeebus? No? Me neither!

But guess what, you guys. Pastor Scott (of the sad but desperately wanting to be famous Scott Lively Ministries) has been paying close attention to what Barack Obama and the homosexualists that control the executive branch of our federal government have been up to. And guess what again. Pastor Scott says Barack O and the H that control the EB of our FG have been totally using the Orlando massacre to escalate their push to install the LGBT agenda globally! Globally, you guys!


Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking What the hell is a homosexualist? Right? Me too! And guess what. It’s a practitioner or supporter of the distinctive and formal set of ideas, principles or beliefs of homosexualism. You guys, I didn’t even know gay folks HAD a distinctive and formal set of ideas, principles or beliefs. I thought gay folks were just people. But I guess they do have a distinctive and formal set of ideas, principles or beliefs on account of would Pastor Scott just make shit up? Would he, you guys?

So now you’re wondering HOW are Barack Obama and the homosexualists that control the executive branch of our federal government escalating their push to install the LGBT agenda globally, right? Me too!

It’s the flag, you guys. You know, that rainbow flag? Pastor Scott says gay folks have totally jacked the rainbow.

[W]hen it comes to LGBT arrogance, nothing tops the spiritual crime of blaspheming God by hijacking His rainbow.

Hijacking god’s rainbow, you guys! It turns out — and okay, maybe you guys didn’t know this — it turns out god totally owns rainbows. Pastor Scott says rainbows are “intimately associated with the divine presence and authority” of god on account of the what god did after he destroyed the entire world and just about everything in it (except for Noah and his fam, and most of the animals) by soaking it repeatedly.

Noah and the First BBQ

Noah and the First BBQ

But then after the Flood Noah took some of the animals he’d saved and he killed them and burned them in order to…no, seriously, I’m not making this up. Noah burnt some animals and then god said “Dude, sorry about killing everybody and making you do this whole ark business. I won’t do that again, honest. Look, here’s a rainbow. Oh, and by the way, you can eat meat now. You know, if you want. Okay? Are we cool? We’re cool, right?”

And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

See? Like that. It’s not entirely clear to me why god tossed in that eating meat business, but he did. Apparently folks were vegetarians before the Flood. Noah basically invented the barbecue. Oh, and getting drunk…that was Noah too. Getting drunk, getting naked, and getting embarrassed by the whole thing. Noah was a bro.

And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:

And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.

And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.

And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.

I mean, sure, I get it. Nobody wants to even imagine their parent naked, let along drunk and naked in a tent. And yay for Shem and Japeth for tossing a blanket over the old guy. But backing into the tent so you don’t have to see his wizened unit? I don’t know…seems like over-compensation to me.

But back to the rainbow business. Since god owns rainbows and since Jeebus was the firstborn male child of god, he is/was heir to…well, I guess to everything? Maybe? I don’t know, I’m not an estate lawyer. But it seems pretty well established to Pastor Scott that Jeebus has property rights over the reflection, refraction and dispersion of light through airborne water droplets. So rainbows totally belong to Jeebus. Got it?

Okay, so B Obama and the homosexualists that C the EB of our FG are installing the gay agenda globally by letting (or forcing? it’s not clear, is it) several U.S. embassies around the globe (see, this is what makes it global, you guys, the earth is round) to fly the rainbow flag above the embassy during Pride month. And that has Pastor Scott and a whole lot of conservative Christians are so mad they could spit.

It is the responsibility of Christians (and Torah-believing Jews) everywhere to speak out against this defilement of God’s rainbow, and to demand that the LGBT movement cease and desist cloaking itself in His flag.

They’re flag-cloaking, you guys! The gays done jacked the flag and are cloaking with it. Like those Star Wars Trek guys. Not the Klingons, but the other ones. The ones that look like Vulcans with hemorrhoids. Romanians? That doesn’t sound right. But you guys, there is definitely cloaking taking place. Globally. And it’s Obama’s fault.

And he's doing this globally.

And he’s doing this globally.

And Pastor Scott wants that to cease and desist. Not just cease, you guys, and not just desist. Cease AND desist. If you send him money, Pastor Scott will probably help Jeebus find a good tort lawyer and sue the pants off the gays. So to speak.

all the best conspiracies involve goatskin thongs

It’s almost corny, really. A Justice of the Supreme Court apparently dies in his sleep while visiting an exclusive and remote private hunting reserve situated in the Chinati Mountains of the Chihuahuan Desert in west Texas. He’s declared dead over the telephone by a judge improbably named Cinderela Guevara. Judge Guevara, who was shopping at the time she received the phone call reporting Justice Scalia’s death, starts to drive to the ranch but she turns back after another phone call from a U.S. Marshal saying her presence isn’t needed. And then there’s no autopsy.

It sounds like the half-baked plot of a cheap-ass thriller movie. So of course there are conspiracy theories. Most of them are stupid and predictable. Like Obama had him murdered so he could add another ‘liberal’ to the Supreme Court. That’s a lazy conspiracy theory. A child could concoct that conspiracy theory.

A slightly better one is that the Bush family had Justice Scalia murdered. Why? Because he was about to reveal the role played by the Bushes in the 9/11 attacks. It’s not clear to me why the Bush family engineered the attacks, or how Scalia of all people learned about their involvement, or why Scalia would dawdle in reporting it — but hey, the man died in Texas, and George W. pretends to be from Texas, so there’s that. But as conspiracy theories go, it’s not a particularly sexy one.

The best of all the current conspiracy theories is this one: President Obama had Justice Scalia killed as a human sacrifice to mark the beginning of the pagan holiday of Lupercalia. You have to admit, this is a creative conspiracy theory. The evidence? Pagan Romans celebrated Lupercalia from February 13th to the 15th, and Scalia’s body was found on the 13th! You think that was a coincidence? You need more proof? The 13th was the 44th day of the year — and you guys, Barack Obama is the 44th President of These United States! Boom, there it is. What more do you need?

Exercising their religious freedom.

Roman pagans exercising their religious freedom during Lupercalia.

Aside from sacrificing a Supreme Court Justice, though, it was apparently a rather subdued Lupercalia. None of the usual stuff with men running through the streets, naked except for a goatskin loincloth and maybe a wolf’s mask (in honor of Lupa, the she-wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus and, well, it’s a long story — you had to be there). None of the customary whipping of women with goatskin thongs in order to insure their future fertility (which, let’s face it, sounds like a Republican health care plan). And the anointing of participants with a bloody bit of wool dipped in milk? Totally absent.

Just goes to show you, Obama has no respect for tradition. Or maybe that’s just how they do Lupercalia in west Texas. When in Rome, and all that.

let’s not be stupid

It’s a pretty good visual. Marco Rubio sitting in leather chair, speaking calmly and using simple declarative sentences, explaining the reasons behind the attacks in Paris. If you don’t take the time to think about what he actually says, you might find  him persuasive.

But let’s not be stupid. Because if you do take a moment to consider his comments, it becomes pretty clear he doesn’t have a fucking clue.

“This is not a geopolitical issue where they want to conquer territory, and it’s two countries fighting against each other.”

Yeah, it kinda is about conquering territory. ISIL devotes the vast majority of its time and money — not to mention its personnel — on conquering and holding territory in Syria and Iraq. Rubio is sorta kinda right that it’s not two countries fighting against each other; it’s a whole bunch of countries. He’s apparently ignorant of the fact that ISIL is attempting to carve out its own state — and is fighting a ground war against Iraq and Syria and free Kurdistan (as much as one exists). They’re also engaged in combat against Russian and Western forces in the region. There’s a reason they call themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.  Let’s not be stupid, okay?

“They literally want to overthrow our society and replace it with their radical Sunni Islamic view of the future.”

Literally. C’mon. Does ISIL have an air force? No, they do not. Do they have a navy? Again, no. And despite their military success in Iraq and Syria, they don’t really have much of an army. What they have is a moderately disorganized horde of highly enthusiastic but mostly amateur troops. They may want to overthrow the U.S. and the rest of the world (they’ve said as much), but let me just say this: they literally can’t. Hell, there are armed groups in Texas and Wyoming and Montana that have a better shot at taking down the U.S. government — and they have no shot at all. Let’s not be so stupid.

“This is not a grievance-based conflict. This is a clash of civilizations.”

Yes, it IS grievance-based. And no, it’s not a clash of civilizations. The folks who control ISIL are Salafists, and their grievance is that the world — and  especially ‘heretic’ Muslims in the Middle East — haven’t submitted to the will of Allah (as they interpret it). Sure, at least 99% of the world (including Muslims) doesn’t acknowledge the legitimacy of their grievance, but it’s a grievance all the same. You don’t try to form an entirely new State unless you have a pretty significant grievance.

You can't get from the Iraq-Syrian border to the U.S. in a Toyota pickup.

You can’t get from the Iraq-Syrian border to the U.S. in a Toyota pickup.

Also? ISIL isn’t a civilization. It’s not even a stable State. It’s a constantly shifting, armed collective committing mass murder under the direction of religious extremists. Civilizations take time to become established; they require a civil society, contributions to science, a contemporaneously advanced industry (advanced in comparison to other cultures in that time period), and stable form of government.

None of those things apply to ISIL. Seriously, let’s not be completely fucking stupid.

“They do not hate us because we have military assets in the Middle East — they hate us because of our values. They hate us because young girls here go to school. They hate us because women drive. They hate us because we have freedom of speech, because we have diversity in our religious beliefs. They hate us because we’re a tolerant society.”

Lawdy, where to start? Okay, yeah, ISIL isn’t tolerant. And yeah, they don’t want girls to go to school or women to drive. And yeah, they’re not interested in free speech. They probably DO hate those things, and maybe they hate any literal civilization that promotes those ideas. But dude c’mon, they didn’t send suicide bombers to Paris because French girls go to school; they didn’t bring down a Russian passenger jet because Vladimir Putin is committed to free speech. They attacked French and Russian citizens because both France and Russia recently increased military actions against ISIL-controlled territory, and because it’s effective recruitment advertising.

Which means yeah, they really do hate us (and France and Russia) because we have military assets in the Middle East. Let’s not be that stupid.

“And either they win, or we win.”

Seriously? Okay, go ahead; be that stupid. Go ahead and try to make this into High Noon at the ISIL Corral. Be that determinedly stupid.

But here’s a true thing: ISIL can’t win. Not in any traditional sense. They can’t win militarily, they can’t win culturally, they can’t win politically, and they can’t even win religiously. The very best ISIL can hope for is to maintain control over a chunk of territory along the Syria-Iraq border for a while. Maybe a long while.

Stop selling ISIL Toyotas, and you stop ISIL.

Stop selling ISIL Toyotas, and you stop ISIL.

But this is the 21st century. Governments can no longer exist in isolation. ISIL doesn’t have a time machine; they can’t go back to the glory of the 9th century. Even if they could, they’d almost certainly murder Harun al-Rashid — in the same way modern Republicans would kick Ronald Reagan’s bony ass out of the GOP. The most isolationist government on Earth is North Korea, and North Korea would collapse as a nation if not for its trade agreements with China and a handful of other nations. On top of that, there’s the InterTubes — and anywhere people have internet access there’ll be people hungering for information. And porn. Both of which are inherently subversive.

ISIL can’t succeed in the modern world — not for long. They’re dangerous, no mistake. They’ve proven themselves to be brutes and sadists, and they’ll continue to pull crazy shit like the Paris attacks. If Western nations allow themselves to get drawn into the ground war in Iraq and Syria, ISIL will thrive for a while. But in the long run, the reason for its existence will also be the reason for its extinction. Hatred and intolerance are only effective in the short term.

One thing has me curious, though. Where are they getting all those Toyota pickups? Oh, and Marco Rubio? He’s stupid.

been thinking all day

People tell me I think too much, and they’re probably right. But that’s my tool. Thinking about stuff doesn’t allow me to impose any order on the world (not that I’d want to), but it makes the disorder tolerable and often amusing. Thinking is what I do to keep from becoming discouraged, or depressed, or angry. And what happened in Paris is enough to discourage anybody, to make anybody depressed, to make anybody completely fucking furious.

Consider the astonishing cruelty of this attack. Targeting regular folks out having fun for an evening, and doing it deliberately and without pity — that’s the very definition of cruelty. The thing is, I don’t believe these terrorists were lacking in compassion and humanity; I believe they purposely rejected compassion and humanity. Which is infinitely worse.

It’s damned hard not to give in to rage, because at times like this rage is so very attractive and seductive. There is, in most of us I suspect, at least a small kernel of burning cold fury. There’s the desire to make somebody suffer. It would cathartic to be able to lash out, to make some sumbitch somewhere pay.

paris attack 1

The best way for me, personally, to get around all that is to think. To try to comprehend why this happened. It’s not easy. Hell, it’s damned hard to care enough about the motivations of the terrorists to ask why it happened. The massacre of so many innocent people feels like it must exist outside of any possible why. I mean, is there any answer to why that could possibly make sense to anybody?

And yet, if we ever want to stop this sort of shit from happening (or at least reduce it), then why is a question that has to be asked and desperately needs to be answered.

We won’t find the answers in ISIL’s claim of responsibility. It didn’t happen because Paris is “the capital of prostitution and obscenity, the carrier of the banner of the Cross in Europe.” It wasn’t because of “hundreds of apostates…gathered in a profligate prostitution party.” You could, I suppose, debate whether or not it had anything to do with “the cause of Allah, in support of His religion and His Prophet.” The vast majority of Muslims would disagree with that view of Islam, of course — but it can’t be denied that a twisted version of Islam is at the center of ISIL’s worldview.

But there’s something about ISIL that almost everybody seems to overlook. We’re used to seeing Islamic terrorism through the lens of al Qaeda. But here’s a true thing: al Qaeda was all about religious ideology. Sure, they talked about some day creating a new Caliphate, but mostly they were (and mostly still are) interested in changing the way Muslims think and see the world around them. Al Qaeda was stateless, a shadowy extremist presence that existed largely outside of borders.

ISIL, on the other hand, is about seizing territory to establish an actual geographic Caliphate — an Islamic state with cities and towns and fields and a population. Where al Qaeda had widespread terrorist cells, ISIL has a fucking army. Al Qaeda’s war was a terrorist propaganda war. ISIL is primarily focused on fighting a ground war.

For the most part, ISIL has fought a conventional Middle East guerrilla war. Not much different, really, from the one fought by Lawrence of Arabia against the Ottoman Turks. Highly mobile forces that require the enemy to stretch out its defenses. Surprise attacks using classic swarming tactics that overwhelm towns and villages. Aside from the shift from camels to Toyotas, the biggest difference in ISIL’s approach and Lawrence’s is the now common use of suicide tactics. Suicide bombers create confusion and chaos, and in turn that makes it easier for more conventional military tactics to succeed.

Suicide tactics may be effective in this sort of limited ground war, but they use up people. Even in a highly motivated religious army like ISIL, there are a limited number of folks willing to blow themselves up. Because of that, ISIL has to continuously recruit potential ‘martyrs’. How do you do that?

Advertising. High publicity events. Theatrical events.

paris attack 3

In Syria or Iraq you can send eight suicide bombers to create enough chaos to allow your forces to assault a small village or town and seize control. But as a result, your army is now somewhat depleted in numbers AND you possess a small village that somebody has to defend. That small military success doesn’t do much to help you gain new recruits. And if your goal is to control territory, you must have an influx of new fighters.

However, if you send those same eight suicide bombers to Paris, you get the entire world’s attention. More importantly, you get the attention of young, disaffected Muslims in France, and Germany, and England, and Spain, and the United States, and Russia. Young disaffected Muslims who see a small band of dedicated Islamic warriors taking on the great nations of the world — attacking their cities, bringing down their planes (let’s not forget ISIL is also almost certainly responsible for the recent bombing of the Russian airliner). These are young, disaffected Muslims who’ve been living in Western media-driven cultures, where they’ve seen who knows how many movies celebrating the heroic adventures of fighters facing overwhelming odds — and either winning or dying gloriously.

That’s seductive for young folks. How many young men (and yeah, it’s mostly young men) have joined the U.S. military because they’ve been seduced by movie versions of war and combat? It’s no different for young Muslim men.

There are other reasons for the attacks in Paris, of course, but they all come down to recruitment. There’s the intent to spark a harsh response against Muslims by the people and/or the government of France, which would radicalize the Muslim population, which would lead to — that’s right — more recruits. There’s the ‘we can strike you anywhere’ braggadocio, which is classic Evil James Bond Empire stuff — which also draws recruits.

But we have to remember that attacking Paris and bringing down passenger planes is secondary (or even tertiary) to ISIL’s goal of establishing a physical, geographical Caliphate in the Middle East. The only way to defeat a ground army is on the ground. And if Western nations send their armies to fight a Muslim army in the Middle East, that will create still more recruits for ISIL.

Which means the Western world is largely fucked until some sort of Arab coalition steps up and takes on ISIL. Which isn’t impossible, but not very likely in the foreseeable future. And that brings me right back to being discouraged, or depressed, or angry.

Yeah, maybe people are right. Maybe I do think too much.

But I also think this. Most people are decent. Most people are fundamentally good. And no matter how many ISILs and White Supremacists and hateful fanatics there are in the world, they’ll always be vastly outnumbered by decent people. That’s another thing that keeps me from being discouraged, or depressed, or angry.