I Will Do No Harm

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Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yesterday as I watched the death toll rise to over 4,400 from the 7.8 earthquake that rocked Nepal, Tibet, Bangladesh and India, my heart was so heavy. Over a million people are desperate for food and shelter in the aftermath. I thought about the Nepalese Gurkha guards that protected us at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Their gentle, sweet smiles welcomed me every day as I passed through security points. I also saw them when we were under threat and they instantly went into the warrior mode they are famous for. Willing to lay down their lives to protect us, they made me feel as safe as I could be in the war-torn country of Afghanistan.

Then images of looting and physical violence in Baltimore raised my anxiety level. To someone with PTSD, these scenes bring on flashbacks, increase the startle reflex and entice nightmares to creep into fitful sleep. Every time I heard a loud noise I would jump. Even my allergies got worse and I had to use my inhaler several times.

Stories of political misconduct and conflicts around the world also filled the news. Around the globe, I saw atrocities, persecution of Christians, poverty and disease. I watched as hundreds of refugees fleeing the spread of terrorist groups in Africa drowned when their overloaded boats capsized.

I was so overwhelmed with all this devastation and violence that I just wanted to go to my camp and retreat from the world—forever. I can so understand the desire of disenfranchised people to go live in the woods in a little shack, far away from the world and the people who live in it. I was there.

Then an amazing thing happened. On Fox news a feature on peaceful protesters walking down the street singing “I will do no harm to anyone until the day I die.” I was riveted as I watched the dignity and calmness of these people as they walked down the street. Over 10,000 people participated in nonviolent protests. I watched over 100 religious leaders walk arm in arm – Catholics, Protestants, Muslim and Jewish—all united to face the violence with prayer. Tears welled in my eyes as I watched them kneel in the street to pray as one. As they continued to march their numbers swelled as others joined them, even some of the looters stopping to walk with them. I saw reports of members of the community boarding up business and trying to protect what was left from the rioters. I saw an elderly Vietnam veteran who stood up to rioters and backed them down.

This is the news I needed to see. This is the goodness and the best of people that reminds me that courage and faith will always prevail in the fight against evil. This is the hope of humanity. It balances the violence and devastation that the media likes to highlight. I have to believe that heroes will always stand up and face down evil. Everyday people that became extraordinary in the face of adversity. I realized I cannot go hide in the woods and isolate myself from the world. I can’t save the world but I can try to make my little corner of the world better. That is all I can do and maybe, that is enough.

Evil Lies in Wait

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Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward, and freedom will be defended. – George W. Bush, 9/11/2001.

James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that 2014 was the most lethal year for global terrorism in the 45 years such data has been compiled. The statistics he presented are grim. Since 2013 about 11,500 worldwide attacks killed over 22,000 people, but in the first nine months alone of 2014 nearly 13,000 attacks have killed 31,000 people. Half of those attacks and deaths were in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He also stated that the Islamic State conducted more attacks than any other terror group in that nine month period.

Compare Clapper’s testimony with Sec. of State John Kerry’s appraisal of terror threats just a day earlier. Kerry stated, “Despite ISIL, despite the visible killings that you see and how horrific they are, we are actually living in a period of less daily threat to Americans and to people in the world than normally; less deaths, less violent deaths today, than through the last century.” Clearly there is a disconnect between the most senior intelligence official in the nation and the White House.

Clapper also stated that about 180 Americans have been involved in various stages of traveling or trying to travel to join up with ISIS. More than 3400 total western fighters have gone to Syria and Iraq hoping to link up with one of the most brutal terror groups we’ve seen in modern times. FBI Director James Comey has said his bureau is investigating possible ISIS supporters in all 50 states.

This information doesn’t make me feel any safer. I expect the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing don’t feel safer. I wager that the family and friends of Colleen Hufford, the grandmother beheaded by a ISIS sympathizer in Oklahoma don’t feel safer. And I can also bet police officers everywhere who are being targeted just because of their profession don’t feel safe either.

I have seen brutality and the aftermath of terrorism but for a long time most Americans have largely operated under the delusion that “these things don’t happen where I live”. The national pain and shock that followed the 9/11 attacks has lost its edge. Time has softened the horror we all felt. Sleeper cells and lone terrorists are clever and they are expert at blending in as they plan their heinous acts. The pilots who hijacked planes on 9/11 that killed 3000 innocent people were considered good neighbors by people that lived near them in Florida and California. Jihad John, the butcher who beheaded our journalists is described by his friends in Britain as a gentle, kind hearted person who would do anything to help you. Folks, terrorists are here and we need to be vigilant.

What we do not need to do is to suspect every Muslim in America of being a terrorist. That is counterproductive and not what America is about. But we do need to have what we called in Afghanistan “situational awareness”. This is particularly important when we are in places where large groups of people gather such as malls, sporting events, etc. Of course we are reluctant to give up our ideal view of America where we can travel anywhere, do anything we like and have the life of freedom our military men and women have fought and died for. But the threat of Islamist extremism is real and it is relevant, even if our President cannot name it.

My Muslim friends are not offended by me saying this. They know I don’t believe for a minute that these savages represent the majority of Muslims. Let’s face it; they don’t represent any group other than madmen and mass murderers. They need to be exterminated and our country needs to act swiftly to uncover the sleeper cells and sympathizers being homegrown in America. The young girls who are being recruited are in for a rude awaking if they manage to get to Syria. When they are repeatedly raped, brutalized and subjugated into a life no better than slavery, they will long to escape. But escape attempts or objecting to the life they live will result in beatings, disfigurement or death. I have seen a face that has been melted by acid because a 15 year old wife dared to try to escape her husband. Pictures of women who have had acid attacks or with their noses and ears sliced off should be publicized in America to counteract the “glamour” that ISIS is using to recruit these young girls. Sadly, there will be plenty of pictures to choose from.

We can no longer hide our heads in the sand. Terrorism is and has been a part of our lives ever since 9/11. Talk to your elected officials and talk to them often. If you have the opportunity to meet with them in person, do so and tell them your concerns.

America is still the greatest country in the world and because of that evil people everywhere want to destroy our way of life. Individually we may be limited in stopping terrorism, but collectively I am convinced we can force our country’s leaders to provide more protection than they have been. Personally, I don’t want to hear that 2015 was the worst year for terrorism on the books.

And A Little Child Shall Lead Them

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The suicide bomber’s imagination leads him to believe in a brilliant act of heroism, when in fact he is simply blowing himself up pointlessly and taking other people’s lives. – Salman Rushdie

ISIS has released a propaganda video claiming to show a terror training camp for children called “Cubs for the Caliphate” with rows of boys as young as five shouting Allah Akbar. This is shocking and offends even the most jaded of us. It brings to the mind the shining cherubic faces of the Hitler Youth, their stiff arms raised in a salute as they shouted Sieg Heil. Childhood should be a time of joy and discovery of the good things in life. No child should be forced to learn how to kill in the name of a twisted ideology. These children will be trained to associate valor with torture, degradation and death. Unless they are rescued from this training soon it will be too late. They will never be able to function in normal society. The proof of this is in the hideous videos that have been released over the last several months of beheadings and burnings. These heartless savages are the result of being raised as these children are being raised, away from love and anything that is honorable by most of the world’s standards. When you look at the sweet, innocent faces of these children you are looking at the butchers of tomorrow who will need to be shot like rabid dogs in the street.

While I was in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai pardoned two dozen boys who had been arrested for planning or attempting to carry out suicide attacks –the youngest only eight years old. One 11-year old said his instructions were “just to get close to a group of foreign soldiers and touch these two wires together.” His Taliban trainers told him he would be able to detonate his vest and kill the foreign occupiers without dying himself. Many of the children were drugged before sending them on their missions.

The Taliban brainwashes these young children and they are very effective at convincing them that their religion sanctions what they are doing and they will be rewarded in heaven. After such intense brainwashing it is near impossible to deprogram them. One 15-year old said, “I am a Muslim, and there are still infidels in this land. With God’s help, I will continue to fight against them.”

The release of these children angered my dear Afghan friend and colleague, Javed. I remember saying, “But they are just children.” He said,” Kathy, these are not children like you know them. They have been taken out of their homes by the Taliban at very young ages with the promise of getting an education and a better life. They are taken to religions madrassas (schools) in Pakistan where they are drilled with hate and raised with no love. These children should be locked up for years and studied by psychiatrists and deprogrammed. And even then, they might not be safe to release.” He continued, “It is the parents who release their children to these maniacs who should be punished.” I have never forgotten that conversation and it was brought to the front of my thoughts with the release of the ISIS video.

While in Kabul I got the opportunity to visit the Kabul Zoo. Much to my surprise it was a beautiful and clean facility and as I strolled through the beautifully paved paths I reflected on how peaceful it seemed in a city littered by the skeletons of bombed out buildings. Then I remembered that only a few weeks prior to my visit the Taliban handed a package to an 8-year old girl and told her to carry it into a police station that was only a few blocks away from the zoo. The package contained explosives and was remotely detonated, killing only the innocent little girl.

ISIS using children to carry out heinous acts of terror unwittingly and training them to do them willing is nothing new. The terror group Boco Haram used a girl suicide bomber no more than ten years old to blow herself up at a busy market in Nigeria killing four others and seriously wounding 46 people. This is what the Western world must realize. Islamist terrorists respect no one—not women, children and not themselves. And nothing will ever convince me they love other Muslims and the Islam faith. These heartless savages are dedicated and prepared to have an endless supply of recruits to take their place. Like the Hydra, when one head is cut off, two more will grow back. This is why we must be vigilant. While many of the children’s psyches in these “Cubs of the Caliphate” camps are already too twisted to save, maybe, just maybe, we might be able to save a few and show them that the true rewards in this life come from living a peaceful, loving life. As each new Hydra’s head is cut off the stump must be cauterized so another cannot grow back. ISIS, Boca Haram, Al Shabab, Al Qaeda, Taliban, etc. must be destroyed and we must be vigilant to ensure no new heads can grow. That is the only way the world can be assured that children can hear the sounds of laughter instead of gunfire and explosions.