Category Archives: War

THE MIDDLE EAST WAR IN FRANCE

BLOG 279 November 16, 2015

The horrendous carnage in Paris this past weekend has shocked the world. With hundreds injured or killed, France is now faced with an act of war that has claimed innocent lives. ISIS immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks and proclaimed these civilian attacks were only the “first of the storm” that will follow. Statements came in Arabic, English, and French saying: “Let France and those who walk in its path know that they will remain on the top of the list of targets of the Islamic State.”

Reverberations continue to rumble around the world. During the Saturday meeting in Vienna of the top diplomats from more than a dozen countries, American Secretary of State John Kerry said the attacks were “the most vile, horrendous, outrageous, unacceptable acts on the planet.” The French foreign minister added, “It is more necessary than ever in the current circumstance to coordinate the international fight against terrorism.” Many will conclude that only an end to the civil war in Syria can halt such an outbreak.

Before the terrorist attacks exploded in Paris, eastern European nations were already balking at accepting the unprecedented migration flowing out of Syria and the war torn countries with multitudes knocking on the doors of Hungry, Austria, Germany, and beyond. America may do the same. Rumors were already circulating that concealed terrorist were traveling with the hordes crossing the Aegean Sea. The Parisian attack now appears to confirm this suspicion.

The situation in Paris is not new. For more than a year, France has fought in its own intifada. Regular flare-ups in many of the Arab-inhabited suburbs of the major French cities is continuing story. A running guerrilla type of warfare has existed with Muslim Arabs for some time. As a result of French colonialism in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia conflict has followed for two-centuries. What happened his past weekend is another but worse expression of this old struggle.

In 2005. one of these outbreaks lasted for three weeks when two youths running from the police were electrocuted and killed while hiding in an installation with an electric transformer in the Paris suburb of Clicy-sous-Bois. Riots erupted in a number of immigrant-dominated neighborhoods of more than 100 French cities.

Five to six million people of Muslim origin live in France, composing 10 percent of the total population. Confrontation has already occurred when schools resisted girls and young women wearing Muslim head scarves at school. Muslim religious customs have created other similar tensions.

Tensions remain high because Arabs tend to find only factory-type employment with high numbers of youths unable to find any jobs. Such suburban ethnic communities make for fertile ground for recruiting young people who can be radicalized.

There’s no end in sight to the Middle-Eastern conflict that that has now spilled over in Europe. The French and Parisian ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity are definitely being challenged. More conflicts and problems will follow.

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HOLOCAUST REMEMBERANCE

BLOG 237 January 27, 2015

Across the world, Jews and Gentiles paused on Tuesday to observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 70th year date of the liberation of Auschwitz. I have been to both Dachau Concentration Camp and Auschwitz. I know well what these death camps were like.

My visit to Auschwitz came in January. When I stood out on the assembly ground in the freezing weather, I wondered how anyone could have survived these conditions. The Jews who stood there for hours and went to the gas chambers had committed no crime. They had done nothing wrong – they were just Jews.

My books The Pastors Barracks and the Bitter Road to Dachau chronicles the story of Christian Reiger, a Reformed Christian German Pastor, who was sentenced to Dachau for nothing more than speaking out against The Third Reich and the Nazis. From my time spent listening to Christian, I leaned a first hand story of his five year struggle to survive. More than one third of all Polish Roman Catholic priests died in Dachau. By the time he was released, Christian had lost 100 pounds.

Another story comes from Israel. Marta Wise was a 10-year-old Slovakian Jew in Auschwitz when she heard the sound of soldiers marching toward the death camp. Marta assumed they were Germans, but soon saw the red stars on their uniforms that said they were Russians. Only by their intervention was she saved. Marta has a black and white photo taken by the Russians showing her standing with a group of children in their rags behind a barbed wire fence. By the time the picture was taken Marta weighted only 37 pounds.

Marta and her sister Eva survived but they still cannot understand how they did so. Today at age 80, she lives in Jerusalem. The number A-2702 remains tattooed on her arm.

Survivors Max and Rose Schindler, 85-years-old, took an hour and a half bus trip from Krakow to Auschwitz. They said Kaddish and prayed for their murdered loved one who died in the camp. While praying, some survivor cried out, “I don’t want to come here anymore!”

Rose had come for one final visit to remember her parents and four siblings who died there. She remembered that among those who died were gypsies, homosexuals, and others who were caught under the heel of the Nazi boot. Rose reflected that the only ones who could tell the entire story of Auschwitz were silenced by the crematoria. So, she must do her best to relate the story that only a survivor can.

I will never forget walking through the grass in a field behind the crematorium. I looked down and thought the ground seemed strange. When I kicked the grass aside, I realized I was standing on white ash.

Let us remember so that the world will never forget that it may never happen again.

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Filed under History, Israel, Judism, middle east, War

QUO VADIS?

BLOG 231 December 22, 2014

“Where goest thou?” The famous quote from the first century inquired about the Apostle Peter’s awareness of his destiny. The Christmas season raises the question again. An attempt to grasp the where future is going is important –for nations, politicians, and ourselves. Where are we headed?

The ISIS terrorists have no good answer. The bravado of last summer has turned into silence. This past week the Kurds opened a major corridor without any help from the Iraq government. Since the USA entered the conflict, the Islamic militants have lost leaders, troops, and momentum. The wars is not over, but ISIS must realize it’s all going south.

And now to Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must also ponder the question of where the nation is headed politically. Political rivals like Gideon Sa’ar, Yair Lapid, Isaac Herzog, Avigor Liberman, and Tzipi Livni are all breathing down his neck and ready to take his position. National elections in Israel will be held in March and the race is on.

The problem is that many believe Netanyahu is married to the status quo and will do nothing to resolve the Palestinian problem. Bibi seems to believe time is on their side and appears to have dug in his heels. The personal charge against him will be that he resolves nothing and time is not on Israel’s side. The European nations are gradually inching closer to support for recognition of a Palestinian state. The last Gaza War brought blood shed and terrorism back into Jerusalem streets. Israeli citizens worry that they are only living from one crisis to another. Doing nothing resolves none of these pressing issues.

Many analysts within Israel worry that the coming election may be a real Quo Vadis? experience for the entire nation. Israel is standing on the threshold of  making decisions that could affect the entire future of the country. Citizens are weary of constant terrorism and warfare. On the other side, Arabs aren’t making any gestures toward peace. In these blogs I have argued many times that the Palestinian world’s only interest is the entire destruction of Israel. Palestinian Authority President Abbas does not want a resolution to the conflict.

The unexpected direction this quagmire has taken is pushing Israel toward a ghetto status. Such narrowness is the exact opposite of what the country’s founders intended. Citizens must recognize their dilemma.

Israel could be facing the evolution of a religiously guided dictatorship with an oppressive nature that quashes both the Palestinians and internal Jewish opposition. Hard to say, but a Post-Netanyahu era is a genuine possibility in March. In other words, the coming election could turn into a battle for the soul of Israel.

Tolerance is being forced to the limit and in such a climate the forces of change become unpredictable. In such moments, the haunting question becomes Quo vadis.

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TOO MUCH TALK; NOT ENOUGH ACTION

BLOG 230 December 16, 2014

The hot debate in the USA at this moment is over allegations that the CIA tortured prisoners and lied to Congress and the President. The Democrats have released a report that the Republicans are protesting. All of which sounds a tad political. The CIA says that protecting citizens is worth the pain; The Senate Committee responds that torturing prisoners is not who we are. The battle will probably rage on into the new year.

One thing you can count on. ISIA, Al-Qaida, the Taliban, and Muslim terrorists find this laughable. Terrorists, who cut off people’s head with a butcher knife, view the uproar  going on in Washington as laughable. They think the USA is hypocritical and confused.

Their war goes on.

Case in point: The West’s negotiations with Iran. This week Secretary of State John Kerry said progress may come faster than expected. We’ll see.

As reported earlier, the November 24 extension gave both sides time to go home and consult on a possible agreement. As a carrot on a stick, the West agreed to release $700 million from frozen Iranian bank accounts. Iran desperately needs to get out of the penalty box. The drastic drop in oil prices tightened the noose on the Iranian economy that has been steadily deteriorating and in the last few months took a nose dive. Their national budget has been based on the price of $140 a barrel for oil. Currently, the per barrel price has dropped to $80 a barrel. There’s the squeeze! Covering such a loss means austerity reflected incutting subsidies for food and housing. After years of struggle, the Supreme Leader has to fear a backlash that could produce an uprising. They want out of jail.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani blamed Saudi Arabia for the sharp fall in oil prices, calling the drop a politically motivated conspiracy against their interests. Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran are pitted against each other in the civil war in Syria. Iran is really feeling the pinch at home.

On the other hand, the West knows Iran desperately wants a nuclear bomb and they are close to building one. The issue staring the West in the face is how long can they keep Iran from assembling a weapon. Iran is now close enough that they stand on the threshold. The West must make sure they don’t cross the line.

Countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia have the most to fear. However, Iran is also working hard to develop missile capacity that could reach far beyond the Middle East. If they are not stopped or their political ideals do not change, the world is facing another frightening specter with the West looking down the Iranian gun barrel.

No matter what the rhetoric is from either side, big differences remain. However, time is running out for the West as Iran continues to enrich uranium and work on The Bomb.

Let’s hope Secretary John Kerry is right. It’s a much bigger deal than the CIA lying.

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Filed under America, Iran, middle east, Muslims, War

SOME GOOD NEWS IN THE WAR ON TERRORISM

BLOG 226 November 17, 2014

Since the emergence of ISIS (now called the Islamic State), there has not been much good news coming out of the war in Syria that has spilled over into Iraq when the sudden appearance of this coalition of extremists burst out of the civil war in Syria, Iraq appeared about to be swallowed as the army dropped their arms and fled. With the entry of American and allied air strikes, the situation has begun to change.

This past week Iraqi armed forces pushed the militants out of a strategic oil refinery near the town of Beiji, north of Baghdad. This particular refinery is the largest in Iraq and will now require repair to function again. This accomplishment is the most significant advance that the Iraqis have made since the terrorist captured much of northern and western Iraq and is the latest setback for the Islamic State. Beji will now become a base for attacks to take back Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein.

This past week the Associated Press released a statement indicating the Islamic State had lost hundreds of fighters because of the air strikes by the United States and its allies. Kurdish fighters have also made significant progress in fighting ISIS. Kurdish fighters made advances in the important town of Kobani in Syria. Since the entry of American airpower, ISIS has had few successes. At the same time, the Iraqi army has also  had a low number of advances. The war remains intense.

This weekend the chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey made a surprise unannounced visit to Iraq and met with General Babkir Zebari as well as other military officials. Dempsey indicated that more American troops may yet be needed to create stability.

In the midst of these positive developments, ISIS terrorists have committed another atrocity filmed for television release. Aid worker Peter Kassig came to Syria to help the needy and wounded when he was kidnapped by ISIS. While his parents were reluctant to make public responses because they knew this was what ISIS intended in their propaganda campaign. As a last resort, they made a plea for their son’s life. Tragically, the ISIS leaders remained barbaric and Peter Kassig was beheaded and a video was sent across the world.

The civilized world finds it difficult to understand how a beheading could be a recruitment tactic. The depraved know different. Psychopathic personalities are often drawn to the macabre and diabolical. Sadly, Peter Kassig was used to satisfy the appetite of the demonic.

While ISIS may think they are frightening the West, they have galvanized a military response. The current advances in Iraq are not large, but they signal that ISIS will be stopped. Beheading helpless prisoners will be met by bombings and renewed Iraqi troops that will exact their own price. ISIS has failed to learn that he “who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.”

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THE PAIN OF RELIGIOUS WAR

BLOG 223 October 27, 2014

Westerners have a hard time accepting fighting and killing for religious reasons. The concept is completely foreign to our way of life. You can think that the Jehovah Witnesses are a cult and the Book of Mormon a bizarre fabrication, but you wouldn’t go around shooting their adherents. Pluralism means you live and let live without any group being shown social preference.

Sorry. In the Middle East, they kill each other.

In Iraq, IS (or the Islamic State earlier called ISIS) announced in every mosque that Christians must convert to Islam or pay an exorbitant fine. Failure to do either leaves them “nothing but the sword.” Towns like Mosul and the surrounding Plain have been the Christian heartland for 2,000 years. Today, these Christians are running for their lives.  In Baghdad, Monsignor Pios Cacha predicted that Christians would be facing the same eradication that the Jewish community experienced half a century earlier. Once a city with a Jewish population of  150,000, only 10 Jews remain in Iraq today.

The establishment of the Christian community preceded the birth of Muhammad by 600 years. In the first century, the preaching of Saints Thomas and Thaddeus established a church that flourished in Assyria. Today, the massacres by IS are wiping out this heritage.

The religious group called the Yazidis experienced the same threat.  The Yazidis fled to the barren Sinjar mountains to escape IS.  As Is closed in on them,  their plight with no food and water was one of the reasons that finally pushed Obama into approving airstrikes.

The rationale for this killing spree had been postulated to be revenge because they consider Christians and Yazidis to be apostates who will not join the caliphate the IS is pushing. Fear has sent 2 millenniums of inhabitants running for their lives.

The Sunday, October 26, edition of the New York Times ran a front page story on the horrors facing the IS hostages that were recently beheaded. Following interrogations, beatings, and isolation in Syria, the hostages were starved and pushed to the psychological limits of sanity. When the final executions came, the world watched in horror as throats were slashed and men beheaded.

In the year of our Lord two thousand and fourteen, how can we accept these totally unacceptable acts? We cannot.

We are now in a phase where the United States has finally responded (after a far too long delay) to these murderers. American and Allied airplanes are taking a toll on the IS troops and pushing back. The world appears to be waking up to the fact that religious wars produce the worst and most barbaric assaults in history.

Civilization itself remains on trial.

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Reminiscing on Labor Day

BLOG 216 September 1, 2014

September’s here and you get this day off to have time to sit back and reflect on the summer and the Fall ahead. Sip a nice cool glass of ice tea, put your feet up, and reflect on where we are on this day in 2014.

Do you realize that 100 years ago and four thousand miles away we entered the Great War in France? World War I took 40 million lives with 116,000 Americans dying in only 19 months. While the British attempted to minimize the American role, the USA contributed mightily to the successful outcome of the Allies. My question? After 100 years, has military conflict improved?

Last February, I was in Israel and visited the Dead Sea Scrolls monument that remembers the ancient Jews that lived by the Dead Sea and wrote of the conflict between the Sons of Darkness and the Sons of Light. They had an important insight into conflict because the war with the Sons of Darkness has never stopped. Two thousand years later, we are still fighting the creatures of the night. World War I is both a long time ago and yesterday morning.

A week ago, an Israeli missile flattened a 11-story apartment building where Hamas military leaders lived. The sudden strike followed more rocket attacks aimed at Israel and signaled that Israel would not hesitate to make more audacious military forays into Gaza. As I predicted in a recent blog, Hamas held a victory rally after they accepted a cease fire proposal they had earlier rejected. What they were celebrating remains a mystery as they have been flattened like the 11-story apartment building.

That war probably goes on.

Twenty-one Egyptian soldiers were killed near the isolated Farafara oasis in western Egypt not far from the Libyan border. An attacking gunmen fired a rocket-propelled grenade into an ammunition cache that killed the soldiers and left four other wounded. Jihadist groups from Libyan continue to run wild. The struggle continues in Egypt.

We could wander off and ponder the lying Prime Minister of Russia who is currently attacking and fomenting strife in the Ukraine. But Putin is too far from the Middle East to ponder in this biog  –though the most ridiculous political statement of the last two centuries was George Bush’s asserted he looked into Putin’s soul and saw brotherhood. If he had really seen into Putin’s soul, Bush would have run for the door.

Another sign of the times was this weeks about-face by Syrian President Hassan Rouhani. Reversing himself, Rouhani stated the USA can never be trusted. He acknowledged Iran’s attempts to by-pass sanctions that they consider crimes against humanity. It is not clear exactly what Rouhani is expressing. Because the Obama administration has just imposed new sanctions intended to affect Iran’s nuclear arms program, Rouhani may be reacting in order to improve their position at forth-coming negotiations with the West. On the other hand, the hard-liners pelted him with eggs for talking with Obama and negotiating with the West. Rouhani may be trying to protect his backsides from violence against himself in Iran. Hard to say.

And I haven’t even mention ISIS in Iraq –

Well, on this Labor Day you might want to think about these conflicts. The Sons of Darkness still seem to be at it. Perhaps more than rest, we ought to pray.

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Filed under Egypt, Iraq, middle east, Russia, War

THE NEW STATUS QUO IN ISRAEL AND GAZA

Everyone is sickened by the death of women and children in Gaza’s death toll of over 1,830 Palestinians in the military skirmish. The 64 Israeli casualties were all soldiers. Hamas fired 3,200 rockets at Israel during the battle and the rockets were destroyed or hit virtually nothing. The Iron Dome defense held. Gaza had no such defense.

Because Hamas used civilians as human shields, blame will be placed on Israel by those who already are negative. In America, 53% of citizens 65 or older blame Hamas. On the other hand, only 29% of citizens aged 18 to 29 support Israel. Growing numbers of Europeans believe that not to be angry at Israel is tantamount to not having a conscience. Of course, part of the growth of European anti-Semitism is in the expanding large Muslim communities.

So, where are we today? Probably the depressing reality is that the Gaza conflict is heading toward a familiar conclusion. People get killed; nothing changes. Some groups will probably attempt to create a U.N. condemnation of alleged war crimes committed by Israel. The Palestinian Authority (PA) may make another attempt to gain recognition as a state. Probably neither of those approaches will produce any significant result. Mahmoud Abbas will go hobbling along affecting little, but making extreme accusations. Benjamin Netanyahu will continue building settlements to put the squeeze on the PA. A weak PA and a defeated Hamas will create a void that well may attempt to be filled by jihadists like ISIS or al-Qaida. The struggle continues.

A new shift may follow as Israel demands not only recognition of their right to exist, but may demand a long-term military presence in the West Bank. Increasing numbers of Israelis already question whether a two-state solution is possible. Many Arabs have already become Israeli citizens because they believe this is the only possible alternative for a productive life. Unless some significant action is taken, Hamas will again be trying to smuggle weapons into Gaza while manufacturing there own rockets in people’s homes. Israel wants to see the international community halt arms shipments from Iran and Sudan. But will they?

Many Arabs are already opposed to Hamas. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates view Hamas as frightening extremists that pose a threat to peace and tranquility in the entire region. By its own actions, Hamas has isolated itself. Now is the time for Israel to stop their warring capacities if Isrealis are to be secure.

Thoughtful citizens in Gaza must recognize that Hamas has only made their lives worse. Will they? At the least, they won’t say so out loud, but they will be thinking. The Hamas strategy of using humans as shields with schools, hospitals, mosques as rocket launching sites has cost the average citizen dearly. At the same time, the hatred of Israel only deepens. The problem is that with over 1,800 deaths, a new generation of young people will rise up bent on revenge even at the cost of their own lives. And the war starts over again.

Sorry. That’s all I can see.

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WILL HAMAS STOP FIGHTING?

The current warfare with Israel began because Hamas kept firing rockets into Israel and dug tunnels under the border to infiltrate Israel with night attacks. In response, Israel has flattened Gaza City that is controlled by Hamas. To date, the Palestinian death toll has topped 1,030 with only 45 Israeli soldiers killed in battle. Gaza City now looks like a junk pile. Over this past weekend, CBS journalist Charlie Rose ask Khaled Meshal, the leader of Hamas, if he would ever accept the existence of the state of Israel. His answer?  No.

Before the current altercation began, matters were not good for Hamas. The suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt ended their hopes of ties with that country. Funds were lost and the borders closed. Residents of Gaza were bottled up. One would conclude a cease-fire would be a no brainer. Sorry. That’s not how Hamas thinks.

As I have reported in earlier blogs, the radical jihadist element views themselves in a holy war with Israel and the West. Religious wars are the most deadly of conflicts because the combatants believe God is on their side and they become blind to reason. In this case, hatred for the existence of Israel only fuels the fire. Khaled Meshal’s rejection of the state of Israel is a “to-the-death” response. Yasser Arafat had an agreement in sight, including receiving East Jerusalem as their capital and walked out because his only acceptable political solution was the annihilation of Israel. Political solutions are impossible in a climate of such hate.

This weekend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu charged Hamas with “double war crimes.” The first issues is firing rockets indiscriminately at Israel and the second is using and sacrificing Palestinians as human shields by placing rockets in schools, mosques, and residential neighborhoods.

To make matters worse, virtually all communication between Jews and Palestinians has ceased with mutual disdain and distrust existing on both sides. In past decades, normal communication existed, but today each side despises the other. And of course, Israel will not negotiate with a terrorist organization.

With the lopsided death toll, the pressure on Israel to cease fighting is increasing. Support from abroad is decreasing, but ironically, Netanyahu’s support within Israel has greatly risen. At recent poll showed more that 80% of Israelis applaud his efforts. A unified consensus in his cabinet supports  cleaning out the Hamas military operation before they stop fighting. Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts have largely been rebuffed, again discrediting Kerry.

Israel will not disappear. It is a flourishing state with significant income from high tech developments, tourism, and agricultural. On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority depends on outside financing to stay afloat. Virtually no economic developments within the West Bank are making a difference in their situation.

Obviously, a political settlement is needed. Israel must stop building new settlements in territory claimed by the West Bank Palestinians.  Attention must be giving to the economic plight of the citizens of Gaza who suffer greatly because of the blockade of their ports and exit routes.  Hamas must accept the state of Israel as legitimate and stop initiating attacks. Israel has a right to demand attacks stop. Will they?

No.

The war goes on and the future is grim for the inhabitants of Gaza.

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HAS ANYTHING CHANGED IN SYRIA? NO!

            The civil war trudges on.  With possible multi-national negotiations in the wings, President Bashar Assad has been pressing for an image of success in the on-going civil war. The entrance of Hezbollah gave the sagging regime a new lease on life. Rather than being pushed out the back door, the Assad establishment reversed their losses and appeared to be back on top. However, the picture is not as secure as they would like to represent.

The situation remains a “give-and-take” struggle.

Government forces recently pushed rebels back from a number of suburbs just outside Damascus. Around the key northern city, Aleppo’s rebels are now on the defensive. Because the United States backed away from  its proposed missile attacks, Assad has avoided the serious upheaval that could have tossed him to the back of the bus. He is certainly in a better position from where government troops were a year and a half ago.

Before anyone runs up a victory flag, a second look reveals anything but a winning solution in sight. In Tadamon on the southern edge of Damascus, the government found that it took them weeks to push invading rebels back just a few hundred yards. The government army remains stretched thin.

One of the government’s problems has been their failure to make progress on the gains they have already made. Significant divisions within the Assad government have weakened their ability to respond. Some officials seek to moderate the fighting in hopes of obtaining local cease-fires. Part of their strategy is to present the government as seeking peace should they sit down at a negotiating table. Another portion of the government team wants the opposite and presses for more aggressive action. While these two sides disagree, the crisis in the country only deepens.

The influx of Hezbollah fighters has now bottomed out and other radical jihadists elements continue to cross the borders to fight against Assad. The rumor is that these foreign fighters from across the Muslim world can be bought for $3,000 a head. While the war continues, the number of Syrian refugees also continues to increase. This past week more victims fled Syria and poured into the Bekaa Valley over the border in Lebanon.

The bottom line? Nothing is going nowhere.

The rebels insist no talks are possible until Assad leaves. Assad says he will run for president next year. The world’s nations only jawbone and do nothing. People keep on being killed.

Sorry. Just another day of ongoing chaos.

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