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I am continually asked if I am anti-American, pro-or-anti Israel, pro-or-anti Muslim, homophobic or pro-gay, pro-life or pro-choice, pro this or anti that. It becomes annoying to find that people need you to subscribe utterly to one cause and all of its beliefs, idiocies, nooks and, often, dark crannies. They become annoyed if you cannot be easily categorized. I have been called, through my writing, everything from a bleeding-heart liberal to a fascist (for suggesting people ought to answer a simple multi-choice questionnaire before they are allowed to vote, just to establish that they know the candidates and the issues upon which they are voting). These labels essentially enable people who prefer not to think to accept or dismiss a writer – or anyone else – without having to fret over troublesome arguments that may not support their own opinions – and I stress ‘opinions’ because, increasingly, people who imagine they have an interest in current affairs merely have opinions on issues which they often cannot defend, except by such gobbledegook as, “I don’t care what you say; that’s what I believe.” The term ‘belief’ is interesting in this context, because, like ‘faith’, it is really saying, “That’s what I want to be true.” There used to be discussions and debates, in public, or on the media. Now there seem to be little more than opinions stated as facts, angry monologues or harangues by TV or radio ‘hosts’ who have forgotten that a host treats his or her ‘guest’ with courtesy – such is the traditional relationship, rather than bully and victim – or merely the brief and dreary interview with a politician skilled in the art of staying ‘on-message’ no matter what the question may be. Debate is where someone states an argument, and someone else opposes it. The person whose case cannot withstand the arguments opposing it loses the debate and, ideally, their point of view along with it. This would seem to be straightforward. Yet where did these discussions and debates go? Where are the public forums? In answer to the pro-anti questions, I have no knee-jerk views on any subject at all. If it interests me, I study everything I can find on a topic, from as many points of view as possible, and then make up my own mind about what strikes me as the truth regarding that issue. I am happy to debate with anyone about anything I feel capable of contributing some rational thought towards; and am equally willing to admit I am wrong when proved so. I do not, of course, mean discussions about such follies as so-called Creationism, where the argument against dinosaur bones and fossils consists of, “Satan placed them there to lead us astray.” An argument must be provable – such as the earth revolves around the sun. Instead of discussions, now we have TV documentaries which all too often present a tautological case for some mysterious phenomenon, setting out to ‘seek’ the evidence for what the producers already ‘know’ to be true. A good example is Egyptology, which, when it failed to refute Dr. Robert Schoch’s argument for a far, far earlier date for the origins of Ancient Egyptian civilization at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference, in my view lost its entire science, along with the spurious chronology upon which it is largely based. To adequately counter the Schoch thesis, Egyptologists would have to dig down to far deeper levels, where the evidence of this far earlier civilization – and we are talking 7000 to possibly 30,000 BCE – would be found. In countless irritating Discovery Channel docs, we find the self-styled ‘experts’ rejecting the notion of much deeper digs because they know there is nothing there to be found. This is not science; it is tautological pseudo-science (see my book River in the Desert for a fuller account of this academic travesty). These docs do not even scratch the tautological iceberg’s tip when it comes to such risible irrelevancies as Noah’s Ark: Found! Being blind, I’m no great TV watcher; but I can still hear the torrent of nonsense, and am possibly more attuned to the verbal balderdash usually hidden behind flash-cuts and mosaic images designed to keep the short attention span on life support. It is such irresponsible programming that has afflicted the contemporary mind with a widespread inability to think for itself. For every newspaper headline or media lead-story there are at least 100 books which could be regarded as essential reading to provide a context for the 700 word story. Some of these may alter that story entirely; some may explain why an event, tragic or otherwise, actually occurred; others may explain a history of multitudinous causes leading up to what appears to be an isolated event. Admittedly, some newspapers and journals – never the most widely-read ones, it would appear – do still take pains to provide in-depth context; but you cannot read it in a minute, and no politician would dream of plumbing such depths, even if he or she were aware of them. I have discussed Iraq here too often, but only because I have written two books on the subject and become infuriated by politicians who still appear to view public ignorance of the issues involved as mandatory – or else share that ignorance. Listening to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s lies and evasions on the question of Canadian involvement in a war today – and no doubt we shall hear the same from Obama tomorrow – is simply maddening, As I speculated here a few days ago, our ‘advisers’ will in fact be Special Forces troops, and they will be armed, boots on the ground, after all. Let us call ISIS, ISOS, and IS, SS instead – for ‘Sunni State (and for a certain historical resonance), since ‘Islamist State’ misleads people into imagining the enterprise involves Shia, Sufi, or any other branch of Islam. Ruled for decades by the nominally Sunni tyranny of Saddam Hussein, Iraq was suddenly turned by the US invasion into an allegedly democratic Shia state – under the misguided impression that the long-oppressed Shia majority would be undyingly grateful to their saviour, not to mention obey Washington’s dictates whenever required to. Let’s be honest: the US was solely interested in controlling the vast wealth of high-grade oil. It certainly was not thinking of how the dispossessed Sunnis would feel about their new situation under a government dominated by Shia. Since the Sunni used to wield all the power, controlled the army, and had most of the money, besides being better educated, it must surely have occurred to someone in a so-called Think Tank that, if the Sunni were unhappy with their lot they would be far more able to organize and start a civil war. This is in fact that civil war, aided by more radical factions funded, as I have tirelessly stated, by the fabulously rich Saudi Arabian Wahhabite theocrats, who have no wish to find a Iranian-Iraqi Shia block on their doorstep. They also view the Shia as heretical infidels. These grievances go back two hundred years, and involve many complexities as well as unresolved territorial disputes (remember, it was mainly the British who created nations in Arabia, which is why the boundaries are all straight lines, and still ignored by the nomadic Bedu tribes). Thus, many boots, and even shoes, will be on the ground for a very long time, unless someone makes a deal with the SS moderates to turn over the more barbaric radical elements – few of them probably Iraqis anyway – in exchange for a government in which they have proportional representation. This fantasy government is unlikely given the deep-rooted Shia-Sunni hatred. Alternatives? None really, since creating an autonomous Sunni State would place it where it currently is, in the north, where the oil is not. The Kurds have their own area, to the north-west, but they also have oil there. Would the Shia divide equally the oil cash? On paper perhaps, but not in reality. This leaves the US share of Iraq oil – exact figures unknowable, because private companies are involved. Is it possible that the US would oblige those companies to compensate the SS for a peaceful resolution to what could otherwise escalate into a pan-Arabian war? Hardly likely, since these companies essentially own America, started the war, and have fingers in every American pie – especially Military-Industrial Pie. There may be big money in keeping this chaos running, as long as it can be contained. Special Forces from three countries specialising in such forces could, with a few hundred men, and some fancy weaponry and air cover, contain such a situation indefinitely, while generating enough global fright to jack up the price of oil very nicely. Is this the plan? If so, no wonder we, the people, aren’t allowed to know about it. Mr. Harper spouted the usual national security crap – the all-purpose excuse for every abomination – but can he seriously believe that violent meddling in Muslim Arab disputes will help make Canada safer? The consequences faced by other meddlers – notably the one to our south and its English crony – would seem to refute that theory. A maple leaf lapel button used to guarantee safe passage through the hell-holes of this world; now it does not. This looming fiasco in Iraq is going to make Canadians less safe everywhere, Mr. Harper. Do you want that as your legacy, or will the lucrative sinecures on oil company boards be more than satisfying enough?   With love, as always, Paul William Roberts.