On the way to the hospital these last few weeks, I kept getting a glimpse of mysterious chalk cliffs hiding away among some trees, set well back from the road.
After noticing them that first time, every day afterwards only increased my desire to get closer and explore.
So one sunny morning on our way back from the hospital, we spotted somewhere to park the car and jumped at the chance.
Once out of the car, we discovered a caravan park hiding behind the trees, completely hidden from the road. As we walked towards the cliff face, it was like being in another world. Strangely silent and peaceful, apart from some noisy crows arguing among themselves, high up in the tall trees.
The other worldliness increased as we walked slowly along the bottom of the chalk cliffs. They had been there all this time, soaring above us so high, brilliantly…
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Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), together with ten members of the House of Representatives, have submitted letter to Secretary of State Kerry demanding that the State Department investigate claims that Israel has committed “gross violations of human rights,” and depending on the results to cut military aid to the Jewish state. Politico released to the public this letter demanding State Department action on Tuesday night after the news site received it from “an organization that provided input for it,” claiming it was submitted on February 17, of this year. The letter also called out Egypt for the same inspections and similar charges of committing “extrajudicial killings,” “forced disappearances,” and concludes claiming, “According to information we have received, the manner in which US military assistance has been provided to Israel and Egypt, since the Camp David Accords, including the delivery of assistance at the military service level, has created a unique situation…
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Turkey has been sliding into an ugly Islamist despotism. Yet its relations with the European Union (EU) which it aspires to join has rarely been better. Some call it a mutually “transactional” improvement: “pragmatism.” Others, in less diplomatic language, call it Turkish blackmailing on the back of the refugee crisis. Even Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutogu admitted that his latest round of negotiations with Europe’s leaders was a fine bargaining “a la Kayseri,” a Turkish city famous for its tough-bargaining merchants.
In reality, modern Turkey has never been this galactically distant from the core values enshrined by the European civilization and its institutions, including even the EU.
When Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled that the detention for 92 days of two journalists, Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, constituted a breach of their basic rights, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not hide his anger. He said he would not respect or obey the Supreme Court’s ruling.
The journalists had been charged with espionage and terrorism after their secular newspaper, Cumhuriyet, ran photos and a story about Turkish intelligence sending trucks full of arms to jihadists fighting in Syria. Prosecutors demand life sentences for the prominent journalists.
Erdogan does not mind playing the supreme leader beyond the check on power of law. In a March 11 speech, Erdogan said:
“The Constitutional Court has to be one of the institutions that should be the most sensitive about the interests and rights of the state and the people. But this institution and its president have not hesitated to rule against the country and its people on one of the most concrete examples of a massive attack towards Turkey in recent times.”
Paul Berman’s recent essay in Tablet magazine “Why Is the Islamist Death Cult So Appealing?” is a wonderful piece on the history of Islamist ideas, but Berman does not really answer the question that he poses in his first line: “Why do people who are not clinically crazy throw themselves into campaigns of murder and suicide?” Berman’s conclusion is that “apocalyptic dreams, the cult of hatred and murder and yearning for death” born of unhappiness is what motivates Islamist terrorists, and further that “eschatological rebellion against everyday morality satisfies them.” But is that why they do it? Is that what motivates men in hoods to publicly decapitate an individual with a knife, or pose smiling with the severed head of a woman, or put bullets into the heads of hundreds of captives and toss them into the river, or most recently throw a prisoner into a cage and light him on fire? Berman addresses the ideological part of the problem, but buried deeper is the psychological pull of sadomasochism—the thrill of violence, power, and control that comes from inflicting pain on others. This is the unspoken driver of the appeal of the Islamic State and similar groups.
Although we cannot know what goes on inside anyone’s head, the tools of psychoanalysis offer some tantalizing, and I believe promising, angles of interpretation. To be fair, military strategists, national security specialists, criminal-justice professionals and journalists are not trained to observe these men as if they were patients. They may have read the works of Islamists like Sayyid Qutb and Hassan al Banna, but they lack the diagnostic skills needed to access the deeper unconscious levels of psychology that are necessary for understanding the attraction of sadomasochism.
Indeed the denial of sadism by the specialists who usually comment on terrorism has ironically played into the hands of jihadis by permitting an identification with the aggressor. There are many people out there who, alas, like to watch torture videos of immolations and beheadings. We are even more reluctant to acknowledge that broad portions of the world’s population are drawn into this sadism because they cannot recognize their own impulses.