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Militaria Gallery
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Author Topic: Faith versus cynicism in war  (Read 286 times)
Description: Many peoples and armies have believed that their god is on their side
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« on: July 08, 2007, 06:39:28 PM »

An ancient Roman coin. The inscription reads IVDAEA CAPTA

What happens when gods are pitted against overwhelming weapons of war?

History tells us that faith is usually not enough to win in battle. Further, that faced with ruthless and maybe cynical, violent opposition, faith is actually a handicap.

The most catastrophic, overwhelming and vicious end to a faith-based society that I know of is that of the First and Second Jewish Revolts, against Rome.
The treasures of Jerusalem (detail from the Arch of Titus)

First Jewish-Roman War:

The first Jewish-Roman War (years 66�73 CE), sometimes called The Great Revolt (Hebrew: המרד הגדול, ha-Mered Ha-Gadol), was the first of three major rebellions by the Jews of Judaea Province against the Roman Empire (the second was the Kitos War in 115�117 AD, the third was Bar Kokhba's revolt, 132�135 CE). It began in the year 66, stemming from Greek and Jewish religious tension.[1] It ended when legions under Titus besieged and destroyed Jerusalem, looted and burned Herod's Temple (in the year 70) and Jewish strongholds (notably Gamla in 67 and Masada in 73), and enslaved or massacred a large part of the Jewish population.

The defeat of the Jewish revolts by the Roman Empire contributed substantially to the numbers and geography of the Jewish diaspora, as many Jews were scattered or sold into slavery after losing their state.

By the summer of 70, the Romans had breached the walls of Jerusalem, ransacking and burning nearly the entire city.

The Second Temple was destroyed on Tisha B'Av (29 August or 30 August), 70. Tacitus, a historian of the time notes that those who were besieged in Jerusalem amounted to no fewer than six hundred thousand, that men and women alike and every age engaged in armed resistance, everyone who could pick up a weapon did, both sexes showed equal determination, preferring death to a life that involved expulsion from their country. All three walls were destroyed and in turn so was the Temple. According to the �rule of war� in antiquity, temples were not to be molested, but this temple had become a fortress and therefore was a fair military target. John of Giscala surrendered at Agrippa II's fortress of Jotaphta and was sentenced to life imprisonment. The famous Arch of Titus still stands in Rome: it depicts Roman legionaries carrying off the Temple of Jerusalem's treasuries, including the menorah.

Josephus claims that 1,100,000 people were killed during the siege, of which a majority were Jewish.[5] 97,000 were captured and enslaved.

The Romans hunted down and slaughtered entire clans, such as descendants of the House of David. On one occasion, Titus condemned 2,500 Jews to fight with wild beasts in the amphitheatre of Caesarea in celebration of his brother Domitian's birthday.

Titus reportedly refused to accept a wreath of victory, as there is "no merit in vanquishing people forsaken by their own God". (Philostratus, Vita Apollonii).

Before Vespasian's departure, the Pharisaic sage and Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai attained his permission to establish a Judaic school at Yavne. Zakkai was smuggled away from Jerusalem in a coffin by his students. Later this school has become a major center of Talmudic study.

The above bald facts do not tell the half of it. It was far, far worse.

Men, women and children were taken to public arenas and tortured horrifically to death. They proclaimed their faith throughout.

Families sold into slavery were, of course, separated. All were open to any sexual and other physical abuse their masters desired.

What happened to their faith?

Though I realise that my view on this is not going to be popular, my understanding is that the religion of the Jews also died, at least in the form it had been known and practised at the time.

There had been only one temple - that of Solomon, in Jerusalem. Today, you may notice, there is no temple, but many synagogues. And what happened to the Pharisees and Sadducees? Today there are rabbis.

I see the Judaic school at Yavne as a re-education centre, similar to those used by the communists to modify the beliefs and behaviour of 'recidivists'.

The Herodians moved to Rome and it was there that Christianity and its New Testament appeared.

Second Jewish Revolt (A.D. 132-135) Bar Kokhba

Bar Kokhba revolt (132�135) (Hebrew: מרד בר כוכבא) against the Roman Empire, also known as The Second Jewish-Roman War or The Second Jewish Revolt, was a second major rebellion by the Jews of Iudaea and the last of the Jewish-Roman Wars. Alternatively, some sources call it The Third Revolt, counting also the riots of 115�117, the Kitos War, suppressed by the general Lusius Quietus who governed the province at the time.

According to Cassius Dio, 580,000 Jews were killed, 50 fortified towns and 985 villages razed. The Romans suffered great losses as well.

Hadrian attempted to root out Judaism, which he saw as the cause of continuous rebellions. He prohibited the Torah law, the Jewish calendar and executed Judaic scholars. The sacred scroll was ceremoniously burned on the Temple Mount. At the former Temple sanctuary, he installed two statues, one of Jupiter, another of himself. In an attempt to erase any memory of Judea, he wiped the name off the map and replaced it with Syria Palaestina, after the Philistines, the ancient enemies of the Jews; previously similar terms had been used to describe only the (smaller) former Philistine homeland to the west of Judaea. Since then, the land has been referred to as "Palestine," which supplanted earlier terms such as "Iudaea" (Judaea) and the antiquated "Canaan." Similarly, he reestablished Jerusalem as the Roman pagan polis of Aelia Capitolina, and Jews were forbidden from entering it.

Modern historians have come to view the Bar-Kokhba Revolt as being of decisive historic importance. The massive destruction and loss of life occasioned by the revolt has led some scholars to date the beginning of the Jewish diaspora from this date. They note that, unlike the aftermath of the First Jewish-Roman War chronicled by Josephus, the majority of the Jewish population of Judea was either killed, exiled, or sold into slavery after the Bar-Kokhba Revolt, and Jewish religious and political authority was suppressed far more brutally.

The disastrous end of the revolt also occasioned major changes in Jewish religious thought. Messianism was abstracted and spiritualized, and rabbinical political thought became deeply cautious and conservative. The Talmud, for instance, refers to Bar-Kokhba as "Ben-Kusiba", a derogatory term used to indicate that he was a false Messiah.

Without these revolts, there woujld have been no New Testament and no Christianity.

« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2007, 06:47:04 PM »

This is the news today.

Pakistani commandos blow walls in mosque standoff

Pakistani commandos blasted holes in the walls of a mosque compound on Sunday with the aim of helping hundreds of women and children escape from the site where Islamist gunmen are in a standoff with security forces.

Troops have surrounded the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, in Islamabad since Tuesday, when clashes between armed student radicals and government forces erupted after months of tension.

At least 21 people are known to have been killed.

Government and military officials say revolutionary cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi has between 50-60 hard core militants -- some from al Qaeda-linked Pakistani groups -- leading the fighting.

President Pervez Musharraf on Saturday gave the militants a 'surrender-or-die' ultimatum.

Ghazi retorted by saying he preferred "martyrdom". In a statement, carried by Sunday newspapers, the cleric said he and his followers hoped their deaths would spark an Islamic revolution in Pakistan.

"We have firm belief in God that our blood will lead to a revolution," wrote Ghazi.

His Taliban-style movement is symptomatic of the militancy and extremism seeping into Pakistani cities from tribal areas near the Afghan border.

As intermittent gunfire continued to echo around the compound, Religious Affairs Minister Mohammad Ejaz-ul-Haq, speaking at a news conference, said the Islamist fighters were "terrorists, militants, who are wanted within, and outside, the country."

He put their numbers at 200-250, though Ghazi has said he has close to 2,000 followers with him.

The Lal Masjid has been a hotbed of militancy for years, known for its support for Afghanistan's Taliban and opposition to Musharraf's backing for the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism.

The death toll from the conflict rose to at least 21 after a lieutenant-colonel died when commandos came under fire from the compound that also houses a girls' madrasa (Islamic religious school) as well as the mosque.


Security forces have refrained from mounting a full-scale assault because of fears for the hundreds of women and children who the government says are being held inside as human shields.

Troops began blasting holes in the walls in the early hours on Sunday to provide an escape route for those inside.

About 1,200 students left the mosque after the clashes began but only about 20 have come out since Friday. Two slipped through the breaches made by the blasts on Sunday to hand themselves in.

While some women and children may been coerced into staying, there are women who have been among the most fervent supporters of Ghazi and his elder brother Abdul Aziz, who was caught on Wednesday trying to escape.

Ghazi denied children were being used as human shields.

He told Pakistani television channels that more than 300 followers, mostly female students, were killed in overnight gunbattles. Information Minister Mohammad Ali Durrani said Ghazi was lying.

Water, gas and power to the mosque were cut and food was said to be running short. Security forces have occupied another city madrasa linked to the Lal Masjid.

Many Pakistanis support the action against the hardliners whose behaviour, including a vigilante campaign against perceived vice, raised concern about the spread of militant Islam.

Islamist politicians have called for an end to the siege and for Ghazi to release the women and children.

(Additional reporting by Kamran Haider, Zeeshan Haider, Augustine Anthony and Robert Birsel)

Many of the women and children do not want to escape. Here is a large group of faithful, awaiting their matyrdom.

Does anyone doubt that the faithful are losing this battle?

« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2007, 07:04:29 PM »

The charge of the 21st Lancers

In the 19th century, Pax Britannica strode the world.

In Islamic eschatology the Mahdi (مهدي transliteration: Mahdī, also Mehdi; "Guided One") is the prophesied redeemer of Islam.

The exact nature of the Mahdi differs according to Sunni and Shi'a Muslims. The name Mahdi is not mentioned in the Qu'ran. However, the Qur'an does confirm the story of Mahdi and the drastic change he will bring.

Battle of Omdurman

Battle of Omdurman

At the Battle of Omdurman (2 September 1898) an army commanded by the British General Sir Horatio Kitchener defeated the army of the successor to the self-proclaimed Mahdi Muhammad Ahmad, Abdullah al-Taashi. It was a bloody demonstration of the superiority of machine guns and artillery over older weapons and marked the success of British efforts to re-conquer the Sudan. However, it was not until the Battle of Umm Diwaykarat a year later that the final Mahdist forces were defeated.

The village of Omdurman was chosen in 1884 as the base of operations by the Mahdi, Muhammad Ahmad. After his death in 1885 following the successful siege of Khartoum, his successor (Khalifa) Abdullah retained it as his capital.

There have since been other Mahdi pretenders and none have enjoyed success.

« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2007, 07:24:45 PM »

Cathars being expelled from Carcassonne in 1209

Catharism was a name given to a religious sect with gnostic elements that appeared in the Languedoc region of France in the 11th Century and flourished in the 12th and 13th Centuries.

Albigensian Crusade:

The Albigensian Crusade or Cathar Crusade (1209 - 1229) was a 20-year military campaign initiated by the Roman Catholic Church to eliminate the heresy of the Cathars of Languedoc.

When Innocent III's diplomatic attempts to roll back Catharism met with little success, he declared a crusade against Languedoc, offering the lands of the schismatics to any French nobleman willing to take up arms. The violence, extreme even by medieval standards, led to France's acquiring of lands with closer cultural and linguistic ties to Catalonia.

The Albigensian Crusade also had a role in the creation and institutionalization of both the Dominican Order and the Medieval Inquisition.

Military campaigns

The military campaigns of the Crusade can be divided into a number of periods: the first from 1209 to 1215 was a series of great success for the crusaders in Languedoc. The captured lands, however, were largely lost between 1215 and 1225 in a series of revolts and military reverses. The situation turned again following the intervention of the French king, Louis VIII in 1226. Although he died in November of that year, the struggle continued under King Louis IX. The area was reconquered by 1229, and the leading nobles made peace. After 1233 the Inquisition was central to crushing what remained of Catharism. Resistance and occasional revolts continued, but Catharism's days were numbered. Military action ceased in 1255.

Pedro Berruguete. Saint Dominic presiding over an Auto-da-fe against Albigensians (1475)

In 1147, Pope Eugene III sent a legate to the affected district in order to arrest the progress of the Cathars. The few isolated successes of Bernard of Clairvaux could not obscure the poor results of this mission, which clearly showed the power of the sect in the Languedoc at that period. The missions of Cardinal Peter of St. Chrysogonus to Toulouse and the Toulousain in 1178, and of Henry, cardinal-bishop of Albano, in 1180�1181, obtained merely momentary successes. Henry of Albano's armed expedition, which took the stronghold at Lavaur, did not extinguish the movement.

Decisions of Catholic Church councils against the Cathars at this period � in particular, those of the Council of Tours (1163) and of the Third Council of the Lateran (1179) � had scarcely more effect. When Pope Innocent III came to power in 1198, he was resolved to deal with the Cathars.

At first Innocent tried pacific conversion, and sent a number of legates into the affected regions. They had to contend not only with the Cathars, the nobles who protected them, and the people who venerated them, but also with many of the bishops of the region, who resented the considerable authority which the Pope had conferred upon the legates. In 1204, Innocent III suspended the authority of a number of bishops in the south of France; in 1205 he appointed a new and vigorous bishop of Toulouse, the former troubadour Foulques. In 1206 Diego of Osma and his canon, the future Saint Dominic, began a programme of conversion in Languedoc; as part of this, Catholic-Cathar public debates were held at Verfeil, Servian, Pamiers, Montr�al and elsewhere.

Saint Dominic met and debated the Cathars in 1203 during his mission to the Languedoc. He concluded that only preachers who displayed real sanctity, humility and asceticism could win over convinced Cathar believers. His conviction led eventually to the establishment of the Dominican Order in 1216. The order was to live up to the terms of his famous rebuke, "Zeal must be met by zeal, humility by humility, false sanctity by real sanctity, preaching falsehood by preaching truth." St. Dominic managed only few converts.

In January 1208 the papal legate, Pierre de Castelnau was sent to meet the ruler of the area, Count Raymond VI of Toulouse. Known for excommunicating noblemen who protected the Cathars, Pierre de Castelnau excommunicated Raymond as an abettor of heresy. Castelnau was immediately murdered near Saint Gilles Abbey on his way back to Rome, by a knight in the service of Count Raymond. As soon as he heard of the murder, the Pope ordered the legates to preach a Crusade against the Cathars. Having failed in his effort to peacefully demonstrate the errors of Catharism, the Pope then called a formal crusade, appointing a series of leaders to head the assault. There followed twenty years of war against the Cathars and their allies in the Languedoc: the Albigensian Crusade.

This war threw the whole of the nobility of the north of France against that of the south. Possibly inspired by a papal decree stating that all land owned by the Cathars and their defenders could be confiscated. As the Languedoc was teeming with Cathars and their sympathisers, this made the territory a target for French nobles looking to gain new lands. The barons of the north headed south to do battle.

The crusader army came under the command, both spiritual and military, of the papal legate Arnaud-Amaury, Abbot of C�teaux. In the first significant engagement of the war, the town of B�ziers was taken on 22 July 1209. Arnaud, the Cistercian abbot-commander is supposed to have been asked how to tell Cathar from Roman Catholic. His famous reply, recalled by a fellow Cistercian, was "Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius." � �Kill them all, the Lord will recognise His own�. After a failed attack, the knights pursued the retreating Cathars back through the open gates of the city. The doors of the church of St Mary Magdalene were broken down and the refugees dragged out and slaughtered. Reportedly, 7,000 people died there including many women and children. Elsewhere in the town many more thousands were mutilated and killed. Prisoners were blinded, dragged behind horses, and used for target practice. What remained of the city was razed by fire. Arnaud, the abbot-commander, wrote to Pope Innocent III: "Today your Holiness, twenty thousand heretics were put to the sword, regardless of rank, age, or sex". The population of B�ziers was then probably no more than 15,000 but with local refugees seeking shelter within the city walls, the number claimed, 20,000, is possible.

It was after the success of the siege of Carcassonne which followed the massacre at Beziers, that Simon de Montfort was appointed to lead the Crusader army. Prominent opponents of the Crusaders were Raymond-Roger de Trencavel, viscount of Carcassonne, and his feudal overlord Peter II, the king of Aragon, who owned fiefdoms and had other vassals in the area. Peter died fighting against the crusade on 12 September 1213 at the Battle of Muret.

The war ended in the Treaty of Paris (1229), by which the king of France dispossessed the house of Toulouse of the greater part of its fiefs, and that of the Trencavels (Viscounts of B�ziers and Carcassonne) of the whole of their fiefs. The independence of the princes of the Languedoc was at an end. But in spite of the wholesale massacre of Cathars during the war, Catharism was not yet extinguished.

In 1215, the bishops of the Catholic Church met at the Fourth Council of the Lateran under Pope Innocent. One of the key goals of the council was to combat the heresy of the Cathars without explaining exactly what that heresy originated with: the Cathar's interpretation of the Doctrine of the 'resurrection' as meaning "reincarnation".

This portrays the story of a disputation between St. Dominic and the Cathars (Albigensians), in which the books of both were thrown on a fire and St. Dominic's books were miraculously preserved from the flames. Painting by Pedro Berruguete

The Inquisition was established in 1229 to uproot the remaining Cathars. Operating in the south at Toulouse, Albi, Carcassonne and other towns during the whole of the 13th century, and a great part of the 14th, it finally succeeded in extirpating the movement. Cathars who refused to recant were sent to the galleys, hanged, or burned at the stake.

From May 1243 to March 1244, the Cathar fortress of Monts�gur was besieged by the troops of the seneschal of Carcassonne and the archbishop of Narbonne. On March 16, 1244 a large and symbolically important massacre took place, where over 200 Cathar perfects were burned in an enormous fire at the prat des cramats near the foot of the castle. Moreover, the Church decreed chastisements against laymen suspected of sympathy with Cathars (Council of Narbonne, 1235; see the Bulla of Innocent IV Ad exstirpanda, 1252).

Hunted by the Inquisition and deserted by the nobles of their districts, the Cathars became more and more scattered: meeting surreptitiously in forests and mountain wilds. Later insurrections broke out under the leadership of Bernard of Foix, Aimery of Narbonne and Bernard D�licieux (a one-time Franciscan friar) at the beginning of the 14th century. But by this time the Inquisition had grown very powerful. Consequently, many were summoned to appear before it. Precise indications of this are found in the registers of the Inquisitors, Bernard of Caux, Jean de St Pierre, Geoffroy d'Ablis, and others. The parfaits only rarely recanted, and hundreds were burned. Repentant lay believers were punished, but their lives were spared as long as they did not relapse. Having recanted, they were obliged to sew yellow crosses onto their outdoor clothing.

After decades of not only severe persecution; but, perhaps, even more importantly, the complete destruction of their writings, the sect was exhausted and could find no more adepts. After 1330 the records of the Inquisition contain very few proceedings against Cathars. The last known Cathar perfect in the Languedoc, Guillaume B�libaste, was executed in 1321.
« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2007, 07:36:39 PM »

I mention the above examples not only as a general lesson in the uselessness of faith in war, or even that it is a danger, but because of the jihad being conducted today. History tells us that not only will these fundamentalist forces lose, but that they will lose badly and for the very reason that they are fanatic.

The way to win is to avoid being led by people who are as blinded by faith as our opponents and instead, chose leaders who are ruthlessly efficient in war. What is needed is soldiers, not priests.

« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2007, 07:48:16 PM »

Fanatical Naziism was defeated by a nation that believed in warm beer, fish and chips wrapped in old newspaper, ocassional baths, Morris dancing, bagpipes and kilts, teatime with cucumber sandwiches and scones, burning Guy Fawkes every November, bowler hats and umbrellas, and amateurism. The only real religion was being decent.

A village green

Maybe Wellington didn't say this, but he could have: 'the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton'. Fanaticism is not, well, cricket.

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