Austere?

No. I couldn’t believe it either, but there it was in big, bold lettering. The terrorist and infamous leader of ISIS had been tracked down by US forces and he blew himself up. Afterward, The Washington Post ran a slightly understated headline.

The line read as follows: “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Austere Religious Scholar at Helm of Islamic State, Dies at 48.” When I heard this, I thought it was a joke. It was the kind of headline normally used by The Babylon Bee (my favorite satirical magazine). But the Post beat them to it. I assumed they were turning to political satire as well.

A Quick Retraction

The Washpo (as it is affectionately called) quickly retracted and changed its headline in the wake of a deluge of blowback from just about everyone. Apparently, it is reconsidering its new format as a satirical paper (much to my chagrin). I may have considered a subscription had they maintained their comedic course.

The headline originally seemed so tongue-in-cheek that it sounded as if they were seeking a few coffeehouse chuckles. Unfortunately, it appears as though they were actually in earnest (which causes me to doubt that they should be considered a serious newspaper). 

Al-Baghdadi, reportedly, not only took his own life but that of three of his young children. There’s nothing quite like dying for the sins of your father. The American troops tried to take him alive, but they understood, going in, that the prospects of that occurring were highly improbable.

While The Post celebrated al-Baghdadi’s austerity, everyone else seemed to be celebrating his death. I’ve seen enough death firsthand to have developed an aversion to anyone’s mortal demise. But calling someone who sought the death of millions of others, austere, is a tad beyond the pale in my book.

Academic Accomplishments

Austerity (while it has a variety of definitions) means “giving little or no scope for pleasure.” Yeah… I guess you’re austere if you want everyone else to die and avoid any future happiness. C’mon Washpo! You can do better than that.

While other outlets were labeling him “a serial rapist and murderer,” one of our most prestigious newspapers was attempting to emphasize his academic accomplishments. I like to “accentuate the positive,” as the old song goes; but I’m pretty sure the evil, in this case, outweighs the good—even in the headlines of an American newspaper.

Among al-Baghdadi’s atrocities were things like genocide, sex slavery, mass crucifixions, decapitations, stonings, and organized rape. Since he did all this in the name of religion, it becomes especially repulsive. Portraying anyone’s rape as a good thing is incomprehensible to most people. This guy was a monster in anyone’s book.

All life is precious, but ridding the world of a character such as al-Baghdadi is not going to elicit many tears—particularly from people of the Western Culture. I’m pretty sure most folks from the Middle East won’t be in very much anguish either. It’s not for me to say, but I’m guessing Revelation 21:8 might apply here.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

Separating the Kurds from the Way

President Trump recently announced that he was pulling about fifty of our military troops out of Syria. Normally, bringing our men and women home from the field is a matter of great celebration. Not so this time. 

Like most things in the Middle East, it’s far too complicated to explain in a five-hundred-word blog. Allow me to give it a brief try, however. Maybe if I attempt to clarify it for you, it will help me to understand things as well.

Strangers in a Strange Land

There’s a mountainous region where the countries of Iran, Turkey, Iraq, and Syria meet. This area has been occupied for centuries by a group of people known as the Kurds. The western world once promised to give the Kurds their own country but later reneged on that deal. This virtually left the Kurds to fend for themselves as strangers in a strange land (so to speak). In short, no one seems to want them. In fact, many of the surrounding people would like to see them become extinct. 

This, in part, helps us to understand why Saddam Hussein tried to gas them out of existence a couple of decades ago. If you were around then, you may remember the gruesome pictures of the dead children and adults found after the gassing. Now, the Turks are after them.

By pulling the troops out of that part of Syria, many claim that the President is deserting our Kurdish allies. The President has responded by saying it’s time to let the Kurds fight their own battles—and besides, he says, we have trained them and supplied them with military equipment.

Leave it to the Experts

Some people, including me, wonder to themselves how fifty soldiers are going to make that much of a difference. I can only guess. My area of expertise is a long way from military matters and the Middle East. I guess I’ll have to leave that to the experts, as they say.

Another thing that piques my curiosity are some of the detractors to our Commander-in-Chief’s pullout. We have the normal suspects, of course. The people who always get labeled as “hawks” are in opposition to the move. Yet, interestingly enough, some of the most outspoken folks are the ones who often branded as “peaceniks.” These are the citizens who are usually marching to “get us out of war.” Go figure. I guess it depends upon who’s making the call.

All that aside, my inquisitive nature led me to research the Kurdish origins. As it turns out, they are descendants of the people known in Scripture as the Medes. You may remember them from history as a part of the Medo-Persian Empire. Cyrus the Great (one of their rulers) is mentioned in the Old Testament as the king who freed the Jews and sent them back home (2 Chronicles 36:23).

From what I can glean, history has not treated the Kurds all that well. A conglomeration of tribes never seems to fare well against the armies of nations. And so it goes.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]