Ben Carson thinks that the Jews might not have experienced the holocaust if they had been armed.
Newt Gingrich thinks that if there had been a dozen or so armed people with concealed carry permits in the Bataclan concert hall, so much bloodshed could have been avoided.
Guns, they tell us, are the answer.
Strength, American might, planes, ships, tanks, concealed weapons; we will prevail! Glory and God are on our side. Kill the bastards now before they have a chance to kill us in our sleep.
But history doesn’t bear that out. No matter how well-armed, no matter how mighty, civilizations fall when their time comes.
History teaches us that our civilization will fall as well.
If history offends you, I’m guessing it is not the fault of history.
If you bury the history that offends you, that’s all on you.
America is built on a great many tragedies, but the one we have buried the deepest is that we systematically committed one of the largest genocides in human history. We used to celebrate it. We had “wild-west” shows. We had “westerns” in the theaters and on TV. We played “cowboys and Indians” in our schoolyards. If you got picked to be an Indian, you were expected to fall down dead at some point. By the end of the 50s that was no longer politically correct. Now we don’t mention it. We have buried it. It’s still there; anyone can discover that history with even just a little effort, but we’ve tossed a few shovelfuls of sand over it so we don’t have to look at it.
Westerns weren’t just about killing Indians. In westerns the good guys wore white hats and also killed cattle rustlers and bank robbers, the bad guys who wore black hats. We replaced the westerns with “police procedurals.” Instead of glorifying cowboys, we glorified cops. It was cowboys and Indians as cops and robbers. It was still good guys vs bad guys, though. White hats vs black hats.
History isn’t static. History is a view of the past that can be corroborated by agreed upon facts. Facts are sometimes hard to find. Agreement is often harder. New facts sometimes arise after further research. Old ones turn out to be the result of prejudiced testimony, incomplete investigation, or outright lies and should be discarded. It is often said that history is written by the winners. While often true, time has a way of eroding false history and showing bits and pieces of the truth.
There were people who have always contended that the George W. Bush administration knew that an attack on US soil was imminent and did nothing. The Bush administration denied that of course. What else would they do? Now there is more information on the months before 9/11 and that information seems to show that the Bush administration lied. They did have information regarding attacks on American soil and they chose not to act on it. Not only that, but they took action to hide the paper trail which showed that they had such information. 
If this information offends your sense of what history should show, you’ll be inclined to bury it. At the least you’ll call those who made public these revelations liars and reject their version of the truth for your own. You’ll reject the account of those who were there for some other version of history more comfortable to you. Toss a shovelful of sand in the general direction of that grave.
We armed and trained the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan so they could fight a proxy war for us against the Russians, and when the Russians realized they could not win and withdrew, the Mujahedeen morphed into the Al Qaeda and used our weapons and training against us, not because they hated Christians but because they saw that the West, particularly America was determined to insert itself into the life of their countries. It was our presence there in the first place that engendered such hatred among the Islamic right.
The Bush administration used the outrage caused by the terrorist attack on 9/11 which he did nothing to prevent to bolster support for his decision to invade Iraq. Shock and Awe! God and Glory! Destroy the Evil Empire! Kill the bastards before they come for us again.
And we did. We killed them. We killed hundreds of thousands of them. We destroyed their infrastructure. We made life more difficult for millions. We interfered with their cultural and religious practices. We created chaos.
We battled Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and hunted for Bin Laden. We had boots on the ground and dropped bombs from the air.
But we didn’t look at history.
History tells us that chaos breeds despair. History tells us that chaos takes all hope from the people. Hopelessness breeds terror. When you have nothing left to lose, life is cheap, even your own.
We did little to rebuild Iraq. We left it much worse than we found it. Instead we allowed our private industry to exploit further. Had we given something back, had we tried to help the people, perhaps we might have had a chance to avoid the consequences. But we didn’t bother.
So all that shock and awe and death and destruction spawned a new wave of terrorists. The generals from the Iraqi army we disbanded and others disillusioned with their new-found freedom where they had less of everything joined with others who had nothing to lose and went forth to take back their countries, this time under the flag of ISIS. This time was different, though. This time it was not just to eliminate western influence and eradicate western presence. This time the leaders wanted to establish a new Islamic Caliphate as well. And that’s something most westerners know little about.
There are few things that unify all of the terrorist groups in the Middle East. They hate each other. They disagree on even fundamental religious concepts. But they hate the west even more for coming into their countries and for the destruction the west brought to them. And they hate the United States most of all. They hate us for Iraq. They hate us for Guantanamo. Many, including Al Qaeda and ISIS hate us for our influence in Saudi Arabia, and that’s something you hear almost nothing about in the west.
The enemy of your enemy is your friend.
And for our part we have launched a campaign at home to hate them back. The conservative think tanks have been pouring money into anti-Islam literature and videos for years now, as if Islam was the real issue here. But it has worked as planned and the anti-Islam sentiment is reaching critical mass.
At the same time we continue to interfere in their countries. American supported rebels trying to overthrow Assad in Syria sometimes joined ISIS fighters, taking their American weapons with them. Others fought against ISIS when it served their purposes.
Other western countries became involved, bombing ISIS or the rebels or whoever else got in the way. And now Russia has joined the fray. We’ve come full circle. Russia is back fighting the descendants of the Mujahedeen.
Refugees began pouring out of the war torn areas by the thousands, creating immigrant crises in Europe that is like nothing seen since the Second World War. And here at home the fear of Muslims has many terrified that we will open our doors to them as well. Republican presidential candidates want our borders closed.
Now there is Paris. Over a hundred are dead. Hundreds injured. ISIS claims responsibility.
History isn’t static. We will know more in twenty years. But if you follow the facts as we know them now, we are as responsible for Paris as the Bush administration was for 9/11. Not for anything we did, but, like the Bush administration, for what we did not do. We laid waste to an entire region, disrupted its culture, dismantled its social structure, ignored its religious beliefs, and then we left it. We left an incubator for terrorists behind and tried to walk away.
All the while our citizens have been learning to hate and fear the people we abandoned.
Hate all of them, without discrimination; without knowing anything about their differences. Without knowing anything about their beliefs other than what we read in internet memes. Let’s hate because, well, that’s the Christian thing to do. You know, Jesus taught hate, right. Like Kevin Swanson’s Christian call to kill gays. He’s a Christian, right? So all Christians must want gays dead, right? They’re all the same. Kill the … oh, wait, sorry.
On the other side of the coin there are people on the left who don’t even want to refer to the terrorists as part of Islam because it might offend other Muslims. There are other Muslims who are as horrified as we are by these terrorist acts and they insist the terrorists are not representative of their religion; that these terrorists are not Muslims, they are terrorists. And these other Muslims outnumber the terrorists by vast numbers.
The truth is that Islam is an enormously large religion with many sects and factions. ISIS is a particular group which is a radical off-shoot of Wahhabism. They derive their bloody ideology not so much from the Quran as from the writings of Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab who taught that Shiite Muslims or any Muslims who did not follow his teachings were as much fair game as Christians for the chopping block. Did you see that little piece of information in the last anti-Islam Facebook meme?
Now there is Paris. France has called it an act of war. France is our ally. If France is at war, we are at war.
It is war. But not the way most might think. ISIS doesn’t want to wage war on France. It has no interest in France. It doesn’t want French territory. It doesn’t want French goods. It really could care less about France unless Frenchmen are fighting in ISIS territory. What ISIS wants is a new Caliphate. It wants “one leader, one authority, one mosque,” submit or be killed.  It doesn’t want the west. It wants to re-establish a theocracy that hasn’t existed for centuries. It wants land; it wants converts; it wants power.
No, this is a different sort of war. This is a gang war.
ISIS is one of several terrorist organizations that are now competing for money and recruits. These are desperate men trying to find something to make their lives worth living. In the squalor and the dust and the destruction that constitutes their world, they have found hope in a cause. To become a martyr for that cause is to have your name revered for years to come. It allows some pride for your family. It isn’t just about religion. It is about the human condition. It is also about the condition that this country helped to create for them.
Seven men died and took hundreds with them not because Allah commanded anything, but because it showed how strong they were. It showed how committed they were. It showed how sophisticated they were, how organized. It was advertising!
Look at us! Join us! Support us! Give us money. Give us arms. Fear us! We are strong enough to do this!
The individuals who blew themselves up in this atrocity may have been motivated in part by religious zeal, but the men who organized it all and who recruited and gained the loyalty of the perpetrators did it to spread fear among those who might stand in the way of their goals and to prove both to other terrorist groups and to the world that they are a force to be reckoned with.
And the American people watched in horror, remembering that time in 2001 and doing what they have been taught to do in the last 14 years: hate all Muslims because seven men pulled off a spectacular publicity stunt. That’s what it was.
There is the possibility that ISIS brought down a Russian airliner. That was not given much credence by the military and the press because no one thought ISIS was that sophisticated.
Now there is Paris.
And there has been an immediate shift in the way ISIS is talked about.
It was a publicity stunt. It worked. Online, disaffected young people with nothing much to live for are already looking for information on how to join up and find a purpose in life.
But many Americans have reacted just like they have been trained to. Read the Tweets. Read your Facebook page. “This is a declaration of war.” “Kill all the bastards.” “Nuke them out of existence!” “They are all the same.” “They can’t be trusted.” “Keep them out of America.”
All of them! The only good Indian Muslim is a dead Muslim.
Yessiree Bob! It’s time for Shock and Awe once again. Shock and Awe and close the borders NOW.
Ask yourself this: who benefited the last time we went in, guns blazing, all God and glory and they’ll welcome us like heroes?
Halliburton and a few dozen other corporations did. Did you?
Is your life better for that? Do you really believe you are safer today than you were before we invaded Iraq?
History isn’t static, but there are some things we can say from the history of the last fifteen years. There is a segment of our country that feeds on war. Some beat the drums of war because war is good for business. Some beat the drums because it makes them feel important. But if you go to war in today’s world, you had better have a plan for what comes after.
Who will take the refugees that are created when we carpet bomb ISIS in Iraq and Syria? We won’t if those who have been taught to hate all Muslims have their way.
What sort of terrorist crawls out from under a radioactive rock in the desert? Is it a kinder, gentler terrorist?
Perhaps if the sabre-rattlers get their way we will be able to set a new record. Maybe we can surpass the genocide we perpetrated on our own soil. Our kids can play Christians and Muslims in the schoolyard until that too becomes politically incorrect.
Will you feel safer then?
Your Humble Servant,
Roger A. Shipley, The Willowbrook Curmudgeon