Tribal Relations, ISIS, and your BS Militia
By Lana Duffy
The lyricist Jimmy Kennedy once said,
“Istanbul was Constantinople.
Now it’s Istanbul not Constantinople.
Been a long time gone, Constantinople…
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That’s nobody’s business but the Turks.”
To what is this in reference? Ah, yes, to religious wars and subsequent city renaming. Byzantium begat Constantinople begat Istanbul with a few inflections here and there based on dominant languages.
Indeed, the world has a history of crusades, inquisitions, and intifada in a seemingly inescapable pattern. And lately there is a disturbing resurgence as a result of the religious militia of ISIS – other religious militias taking up arms to fight them.
Let me begin by saying that I’m not a fan of militias in most cases, but I have a particular distaste for those fighting without a cause imminent to the overall survival of humanity. When we fight, we should be fighting for something greater to the whole, not just for our individual tribes that we form based on similar beliefs. Know what that cuts out? Religion, race, country… all of these cultural traits upon which we base our social interactions but not our survival. Tribal wars are based on some faulty wiring left over from when our ancestors didn’t go to kindergarten to learn sharing, so we grouped ourselves socially and then fought other groups to get food, water, and shelter instead of working together. Back then, it had purpose: in order for our offspring and humanity to perpetuate, we killed other humans. But when we evolved to stop killing for food, we continued with the tribes. Now, without a purpose of perpetual existence behind the killing and yet still with the pack mentality, our tribes can quickly become gangs and that’s when we have a problem.
And one of the biggest culprits of this leftover dog-eat-dog philosophy is religion. Know what has nothing to do with perpetuation? Your man in the sky philosophy. Religion is just an offshoot of tribal beliefs that separate us from each other. My eternal soul being my problem and my problem having nothing to do with whether or not your children have food, religion is not a justified reason to kill. This seems to be said a lot and practiced little, as it has been throughout history. As much as religion forms a social tribe, it also has a propensity to turn those tribes into gangs, or in the current case into militias.
Even more disturbing are the substantial number of my fellow American veterans who seem to support this militia concept, talking of supporting or joining them to the tune of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” or even a more simplistic view of “Git those fuckers by any means necessary!” Now it’s retribution AND religion: an even deadlier (and dumber) combination of “eye for an eye” and someone’s Man in the Sky philosophy. Friends, in droves, are posting to social media that they’d drop everything and join a Christian militia to go get some payback.
…Christian militia. Hold on, says I. That’s how Byzantium became Constantinople.
This isn’t just The Christian Post talking, nor is it only to protect the Assyrian Christian populations still in refuge from the days of Saddam. This is friends and veterans encouraging a poorly planned Crusade. This is about Christians from other countries raising armies to fight the “scourge of Islam”, and my fellow veterans caught up in the fervor.
Not just other countries. The U.S. Specifically, Maryland. More specifically, Baltimore. Home. Us.
Allow the veteran chest-beating to begin.
I get it. We all want to help. Many of us in this generation of soldiers went to The Great Dirt Farm and returned only to have that strange itch to deploy again, and now a horrible religious group is giving us reason to say going back is justified.
In fact, ISIS is the same group I collected critical intelligence against back in 2005 when they were still AQ in Iraq, kidnapping and beheading their own Islamic rivals in the streets of Baghdad. AQ banished them to Syria for sectarian violence, but they returned under this new banner as the very same people who targeted our convoys, killed my friends, and left me with a Purple Heart and a lot of rage.
So why am I not taking up the rallying cry of my fellows for retribution?
The quote in this Reuters article explains why. An Iraq veteran-turned-Christian-militia-member: “It’s very different. Here I’m fighting for a people and for a faith.” This militia fights alongside the Peshmerga, who are fighting alongside the Iraqi Army, who are defending ALL their citizens from ISIS as the group attempts to exterminate anyone who doesn’t follow their exact philosophy. But this guy? This guy is fighting for his tribe: the Christian faith.
Hey! You know who else fights for a faith? ISIS. Well… shit.
See, once we label militias with a religion it becomes a Man in the Sky vs. Man in the Sky war: protecting/defending theology, and turning a fragment of a social tribe into a violent gang. The chest beating is not because ISIS is inhumanely taking lives and committing atrocities against man, but against fellow Christians. Those who largely stayed silent when it was Iraqi vs Iraqi or trouble in Syria are now suddenly rising up to wave the flag. What prompted this action was not humankind’s potential destruction but the insult of “them” going after “us” – people who share the same man in the sky. The same people who say they care about right and wrong, but whose actions show the real motivation is tribal.
“We” just became “them”.
They wanted a religion vs. religion war. They want a full on, knock-down drag-out between east and west, Allah vs. Jesus.
And by engaging with these gangs in the name of a religion, we are giving it to them. We are letting them drag us back into their seventh century mentality of religion makes right and retribution is the law of the land.
We are letting phrases like “Good guy Jihadi execution video” exist. What exactly makes our gang better than ISIS now?
Personally, I’m not a part of Constantine’s army or Richard the Lionheart’s. Yes, crimes are being committed against religions and many of the victims are the Christians who remained after most other religions fled the area. It is terrible, but it’s not that I’m not Christian that I don’t have any urge to join the fray: it’s that those joining these gangs aren’t going to advise the Iraqis or help the Peshmerga directly. They are joining a religious militia. Not a state, not a backed group. A. Religious. Militia.
Know where else that happened recently? Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood, the parent organization to AQ, were a supported and financed religious militia who allied with the west to oust the government and then used that popularity to gain elected control of one of our strongest allies in the Middle East. They were okay (?) when they fought against an oppressive regime… then they turned the crazy back on. And now veterans are saying that if they can’t join the Peshmerga directly they are going to just go with a religious fanatic from Baltimore? What about when they turn the crazy back on?
It’s a slippery slope of potential crazy indeed when tribes are involved. For example, the less educated brains of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, who believe all Muslims are the enemy. Thanks to them and their ilk, mosques quietly burn around the globe (Do you remember the rash of Swedish mosque burnings this year? No? Surprise…). Muslims are beaten and murdered. Whenever caught, the culprits would plead that it was deserved, that it was for the survival of Christianity or preservation of their country or for deserved retribution because these hoodlums still subscribe to an eye for an eye, a tribe for a tribe, a religious war for a religious war. Now these people have a religious militia to join in which they can maintain their tribal connection.
And veterans are supporting them because some of us haven’t learned, either. Religion has been known to spark fires that are not easily quelled. Those of us who spent time in the Middle East should be able to particularly attest that these religious wars, hell any tribal wars or gang battles, are stupid.
History repeats, my friends, and if we aren’t careful we can become a part of it as we support the ideas of the groups that fight in the name of worshiping the same man in the sky, regardless of the ISIS scourge against which they battle. The enemy of my enemy is not my friend, he is still my enemy. I can’t help but shudder as I observe supportive comments of Christian militias, mass executions, and the idea that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to pray if Tim Tebow isn’t allowed to pray. I’m pretty sure the world’s officially gone mad.
Stop. Be the bigger man/woman. Stop with the militia bullshit and start encouraging that religion, any religion, stays out of the fray. Stop the repeat of history in its tracks. Get back above the level of ISIS. Don’t turn your tribe into a gang.
Instead, start looking at us as the tribe of humanity before we all kill each other off in our efforts to convince each other that our Sky Man is the right one, our skin color deserves more wealth, or our place of birth is somehow relevant to our ability to contribute to fighting off the inevitable alien (or robot, or alien robot) hordes. Because all of that is bullshit and we need to evolve beyond bullshit.
In the meantime, if you’ve got a date in Constantinople just know that she’ll be waiting in Istanbul.