Thursday, August 14, 2014

Helicopter Rescue from Mount Sinjar

This footage from CNN gives one a sense of the desperation on Mount Sinjar, as a helicopter of the Iraqi Air Force (from the interior it's likely an Mi-17) swoops in to pick up some twenty or so Yazidis before lifting off again quickly, an old man pushed aside as it lifts.  (Two days ago, another Iraqi helo crashed with all aboard killed, apparently overloaded with refugees.  I'm sure that the IqAF is clinically dispassionate about who it takes aboard and leaves behind for what is hoped to be a next flight.)

This interview with Mark Phillips shows at least some sense of cobbled order.  You can see the crew jettisoning supplies on final approach - I'm not sure of the efficacy of launching cases of plastic bottles of water from that height onto the rocks below, and for the uninitiated, the crescent symbol on the boxes has nothing to do with Islam, but is instead the international symbol for rations hailing from the days of Napoleon (apparently signifying croissants). 

The line of civilians that runs up to the helicopter is led by a young man who doesn't seem to board, lending the idea that there is some sense of control on the ground in order to prevent the tragic crash of a few days ago.  That isn't completely effective as there are at least two others left behind, likely attributed to the fear of the situation in a land that has no concept of queues.

I'm not particularly enamored of the vast body of war correspondents, but kudos to Mark Phillips (and the always unsung cameraman) for having the nerve to film this footage.  

Milton Speaks to the Current Tragedy

The Waldensians were a very early (12th century) attempt at religious reform of the firmly established Roman Catholic theocracy, a movement begun by Peter Valdes, otherwise known as Waldo, a rich merchant of Lyon suddenly converted to the cause of living life in accordance with the precepts of the early church as discerned by his reading of the New Testament. Preceding Jan Hus and John Wycliffe by centuries, his reforms anticipated the Protestant Reformation that finally took hold under Martin Luther some 400 years hence.

Initially widespread, sharp persecution soon confined the members to a secret movement concentrated in the Alps in the border region of France/Italy/Switzerland.

The movement continued to survive and persisted despite frequent persecutions and attacks, eventually allying itself to the early Calvinists of Geneva in the 16th century. That did not save it from the one of the greatest tragedies to befall it, the massacre of the Piedmont Easter of 1655 as commemorated by John Milton's poem that condemns the forces of the tripled-crowned Pope whose historic church corruption was frequently compared to Babylon.

Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones
  Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold,
  Even them who kept thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worshiped stocks and stones;
Forget not: in thy book record their groans
  Who were thy sheep and in their ancient fold
  Slain by the bloody Piedmontese that rolled
Mother with infant down the rocks.  Their moans
The vales redoubled to the hills, and they
  To Heaven.  Their martyred blood and ashes sow
O'er all th' Italian fields where still doth sway
  The triple tyrant; that from these may grow
  A hundredfold, who having learnt thy way
  Early may fly the Babylonian woe.

So, what knowledge has Milton imparted for us?  What parallels, what rhymes as Twain would say, do we derive?  The religious divide of the two camps for this massacre, Catholic and Protestant (and later, perhaps even worse, Protestant against Protestant), at that point over 150 years into the Reformation, were even still a lethal driving force considering that what was at stake was nothing less than the salvation or damnation of one's soul unto eternity, the idea that God Himself would turn His countenance upon us or turn forever away.

"Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints..."

Yet while paramount to some, there were many then as now to whom that rationale is only a thin veneer for more base, mercenary considerations.  (What?  Do you believe that the simmering struggle between the two factions on the island of Ireland is strictly a religious battle between Catholics and Protestants?)

The current cliché is that we find ourselves in a modern Clash of Civilizations, but primarily the attack of radical Islamic Supremacists upon the West, or more accurately against anyone, even their own co-religionists, who do not adhere to their ascetic, draconian, metastasized creed, praying to their particular Allah that is neither merciful, compassionate nor gracious.

The pop Commentariat can decry the cultural domination of the West, but one rarely hears of the enormous persecution of Christianity, in lands that saw the very beginnings of the church.  From Algeria and Nigeria through to Iran and beyond, untold thousands of survivors flee who can, or suffer at the very least the tax that allows them to live in hopefully hidden security, or worst to see themselves and their families kidnapped, raped or killed.  Who avenges or even seeks to protect these saints?   Obama vacations after his spokesman extolls how his policies have made the world more tranquil, but Defense Secretary Hagel tells a collection of Marines of how the world is exploding.

Move along.  We're not likely to see an answer from this quarter.