The troubles in the Middle East seem to be having an exponential multiplication. This is not a new development, since this birthplace of nations and empires built upon the ruins of empires has caused itself troubles for millennia. A review of the the history of the Middle East is to study a stream of empires…Akkadian, Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Phoenician, Greek, Roman, and Ottoman. There is an enmity that exists between Christendom and Islam that is as old as Islam. Other enmities existed before, particularly among the Semites, those sons of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael.
The Pope declared a call to arms to protect the lives and property of Christians to be necessity, and to prevent Islamic expansion. The Central Bishop of the Eastern Orthodox church called for the same thing. The protection of Christian holy places, which had been defiled and destroyed, was as much a factor in the call to arms as the protection of lives. The salvation of the people was required, and armed intervention seemed the only way to achieve it.
Stories of unspeakable horror, mass murder, torture, and crucifixion of Christians circulated around world capitals and incited a call to enter the Middle East to remove the Islamic oppressors of Christians by force. All nations capable of participating in an armed coalition were called on to send troops, arms, equipment, and supplies. Those nations not capable of lending physical support were called on to lend fiscal support. The call for holy war, first initiated by Muslims, was copied and multiplied by Christians in defense of their own people and holy places.
The Pope? Urban II
The year? 1095 AD
The world coalition? England, France, Spain, Germany, and other European nations…that period’s equivalent to modern-day NATO.
King Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” He was a wise man, the scriptures tell us.
We know from history that if a despotic government is removed and replaced with a vacuum, a more despotic government will likely take its place. With Rome out of the picture, the empire-oppressed Holy Land was just waiting for its next oppressor, who would prove just as bad, if not worse. The Holy Land had endured severe abuse from Rome, particularly in the 70AD Roman razing of Jerusalem which completely destroyed Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem, scattering Jews and Christians to the four winds. The remaining foundation of Herod’s Temple is known today as The Western Wall and is the place most holy to Jews, their only physical connection with their Holy Temple, which, by force of scripture, cannot be located any where else in the world, only in that one holy place established by God’s decree. Atop that foundation sits The Dome of the Rock, the third holiest place in all of Islam. Beyond question, that is a holy place, one literally established and sanctified by blood from the very time of its earliest holiness. What may have transpired there in the undated past can only be surmised, but I suspect the ancient King and High Priest of Salem, Melchizedek, as recorded in the book of Genesis, had his temple there, too. What makes that place holy is known only to God. Men, though, have known of its holiness for ages without knowing the actual reason for it.
Today there are eerily similar calls for a just and holy war in the Middle East. If so, one religion will be pitted against another, or three religions against each other, or a holy/unholy alliance, depending on one’s point of view. The political posturing of the religious who would promote such things will use their religion as their call to arms. The secular world will choose humanitarian reasons as justification. In either case, the cause of the just war will be appealed to by opposing sides, and the calls for the just war are emerging afresh in this generation.
There are just causes for wars, are there not? If so, then please state them; if not, then please state them just the same. Likely, all of the justifications for or against will have at least some validity to reasonable people unless one is stating that the spread of their personal religion at the point of a sword is just.
If I had sane answers to the problems in the Middle East, I would state them and be their champion, which would make me a liberator to some and an oppressor to others. But I have none. No one else seems to have an answer either. The nature of men to destroy each other and justify their actions in the process of doing so is as old as mankind. Even now, we see every righteous, humane, and practical justification for armed intervention; so do those whose actions we view with enmity.
“The world is going to hell in that hand-basket,” said Adam at some great time in the past as he willingly took the apple Eve handed him from it, the original hand-basket.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” again said Adam, the date uncertain, when he heard that his son Cain had killed his younger brother, Abel, in a heat of passion in the first religious dispute ending in human bloodshed.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said Noah to sons Ham, Shem, and Japeth, the date undetermined.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II around thirty-five hundred years ago as a series of plagues descended on his land, resulting in his release of the Hebrews from captivity.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” the Prophets Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah mentioned to their scribes as they wrote of Holy Land troubles caused by Persian Emperor Darius the Great around 500 BC.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” Athenian philosopher Demosthenes said to his old Spartan friend, Lysander, around 431 BC during the Peloponnesian War that pitted the two Greek city-states against each other.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said Mark Antony to Cleopatra right after their defeat by then Roman general Octavian in the battle of Actium in 31 BC.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” declared the Roman Senators among themselves, reflecting on the demise of their beloved Republic upon their somewhat coerced granting of the title of Caesar Augustus to Roman dictator Octavian, the adopted son of the first Roman dictator, Julius Caesar in 27 BC.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” wrote Roman Palestine’s Provincial Governor Pilate to Emperor Tiberius’ adjutant in 33 AD.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said the Jewish Chief Priest in Jerusalem to himself as he watched his holy temple being disassembled stone by stone under the direction of Roman Emperor Vespasian in 70 AD.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” declared Roman Emperor Hadrian in 122 AD, mourning the Roman inability to contain the barbaric Celts and Picts in Northern Britain, and ordering a great wall be built to isolate them from civilized society.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said Italian Romans when emperor Constantine declared Byzantium, newly renamed Constantinople, to be the capital of Rome around 325 AD.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said Western Roman Emperor Flavius Honorius as early as 408 AD as the Visigoth King Alaric began his march down Italy towards the sacking of Rome in 410 AD.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said Frankish King Charles (The Hammer) Martel sometime before the battle of Tours in 732 AD in modern day France.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said Umayyad Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik immediately upon receiving the news that the expansion of his Caliphate into Western Europe had been abruptly halted by Charles Martel.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said the reigning English monarch Edward the Confessor in 1066 AD as he received news of the invasion by the Norman William, as he was known before the title “the Conqueror” was added to his name after the Battle of Hastings.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said British Puritan general Oliver Cromwell in 1642 at the start of the British Civil War.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said Britain’s King Charles I at the same time. He would later furnish a slight modification to the saying in 1649 and declare, “The world has gone to hell in a hand-basket,” as he mounted the gallows for his beheading at the direction of the aforementioned Oliver Cromwell.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said Britain’s King George III upon receiving the news that the American colonies had declared their independence in 1776.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said the last Bourbon King, Louis XVI, no doubt in French to his German-speaking wife, Marie, first in 1789 with the storming of the Bastille, then again in 1793, shortly before his beheading, which was facilitated by French Republican-Libertarian and Committee for Public Safety Chairman, Robespierre. Louis’ naive and newly widowed Marie would soon afterward restate this in her native German.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” Robespierre later said of the chaos he was caught up in as, in the approaching distance, he caught the first glimpse of the guillotine that would claim his own head in 1794.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said US President Abraham Lincoln in 1861, upon receiving the news that secessionist state South Carolina had fired on Fort Sumter.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said Americans everywhere upon the unexplainable, mysterious explosion of the USS Maine in Havana harbor in 1898.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said US President Woodrow Wilson in a telegram to British King George V upon hearing of the assassination of Austrian monarch Franz Ferdinand in 1914.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said US President Herbert Hoover as the world economy collapsed into depression in 1929.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said US President Franklin D. Roosevelt to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in 1938, 1939, and 1940, and to Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill in 1940, 1941, 1942, and 1943.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said USN Admiral Chester W. Nimitz in a private dispatch to USN Admiral Bull Halsey in December of 1941.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said Japanese admiral Yamamoto in a dispatch to Emperor Hirohito after the battle of Midway just six months later.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said the Desert Fox, German Field Marshall Irwin Rommel in 1943 as he was being driven out of North Africa. He later restated this with a tense shift in 1944 when he was forced to commit suicide for his complicity in an attempt to assassinate the Fuhrer.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said German Chancellor Adolph Hitler in 1944 to his aides when the British, with allied help, successfully invaded Normandy in somewhat of a turnabout of the events of 1066.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki said to each other upon hearing the news of the first fire-bombings of Tokyo by B-29 Superfortresses in 1944. They likely said this in a quiet thankfulness that they did not live in Tokyo. In August of 1945, the survivors of those cities would reiterate this, employing the same shift in tense used in the previous paragraph.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said President Harry S. Truman, emerging from one war only to find himself engaged in a Korean “Police Action” that looked an awful lot like a war to him.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said US President John F. Kennedy as ships loaded with Soviet nuclear missiles were about to be intercepted en-route to Cuba.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” said Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush41, Clinton, and Bush43, for a variety of reasons.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” US President Barack H. Obama may have said to his senior advisers, perhaps as recently as this morning, as he faces a restoration of the Umayyad Caliphate, the resurrection of the Ottoman empire, the cries for holy wars against holy wars that are causing the death of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East, the calls for just wars to end religious persecutions there, and the bewildering reality of his lack of immunity from the perils of Presidential second terms: a jaded political base, motivated opposition, a hostile press, and a world increasingly disinclined to cooperate with his foreign policy or even to co-exist.
“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” may think Pope Francis to himself, with his thousand-year-ago predecessor Pope Urban II in mind, as he calls for consideration of the coming necessity of a just war to end Christian and religious minority persecution in the Middle East at the hands of the holy warriors of Islam.
Now, it seems that that troublesome hand-basket might contain just enough of the virus EHV to possibly end wars as we know them, and after much travail, usher in a period of world peace and quiet.
I laid aside the tablet I use to read the news on the internet, today’s equivalent of the newspapers and TV network news that are themselves being rapidly overwhelmed in the internet hand-basket, and note to Debbie, “The world is going to hell in a hand-basket.”
The most durable item the world has ever known is the hand-basket it is going to hell in.
©2014 Mississippi Chris Sharp