Thursday, April 28, 2011

In the same theme......

as the previous two books (Islam, the Middle East), I took out "Fifteen Days" by Canadian journalist Christie Blatchford. She spent several visits with the Canadian troops in Afghanistan in 2006 and writes their stories and the stories of their families.  The book gives a vivid picture of life in war torn Afghanistan.  The troops are always in danger from IED's, RPG's and suicide bombers and work in temperatures of 50 degrees and over, in isolation and with minimum or no creature comforts.  They work long hours and days over periods of several weeks, but they are loyal to each other do their job well.  She writes of the soldiers killed and injured and their families so that they become people and not just names on the evening news.  Most of the book is about the Princess Patricia's Light Infantry 1st Battalion from Manitoba, soldiers that all Canadians can be proud of.  Hopefully their work there will leave the Afghan people better off in the end.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Two more books....

.......on the middle East.  First "The Lost History of Christianity" by Philip Jenkins.  He talks about the Church that has been mostly forgotten.  A Church that was larger than the Church of Europe in the early Iraq, Syria, even Yemen and Bahrain, to Persia, India across Asia to China.  These Christians were mainly Nestorians and to a lesser extent Monophysites.  Declared heretics by one of the early Church councils.  But for centuries they survived in the East until..... they were largely conquered by Islam.  He quotes one of the early Saints, St John Damascene, who considered that early Islam was a Christian heresy.  Something that I read Hilaire Belloc as saying.  The Mosque as we know it today is a copy of the early Syriac Churches.  Even the minaret is a copy of their square Church towers.  (He who controls the landscape controls the culture).  He quotes one scholar who, writing under a pseudonym, claims that the Koran is a copy of one of the early Syriac Christian liturgical books.  The name that they used for their liturgical books is similar to the word Koran.  Perhaps that is only in the realm of speculation and we may never know, but he also states that alternative copies of the Koran were burned by one of the early Caliphs, and some have resurfaced today that are being studied in secret by scholars.  In secret because such work is dangerous for obvious reasons.  The Muslims believe that the Koran is co eternal with God and that there is a Koran in Heaven, that it was not created but has always existed.  It's a very interesting book, "The Lost History.." that is, I haven't read the Koran.
The second book was "A woman among the Warlords" by Malalai Joya.  She was born in Afghanistan in the late 1970's and spent 16 years in refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran.  Her family left the refugee camp in Iran and went to one in Pakistan where she could go to school.  At age 20 she taught young children in the camp and later went back to Afghanistan to teach there.  She was elected to Parliament but because of her criticism of the Government, many of whom were Warlords guilty of crimes against the Afghan people,  she was thrown out.  One of the first acts passed by the Parliament, formed with the help of the U.S. Government after the Taliban were forced out after 9/11, was to grant themselves amnesty from prosecution!  Many countries are involved in Afghanistan,  Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Nato and the Americans, but security, human rights and women's rights do not exist, in many parts of the country.  She has no good words for NGO's either, whose aid comes with strings attached.  One gets the feeling and she says quite plainly that the Afghanis would be better if all foreigners left and allowed the Afghanis to  sort the country out for themselves; as it is foreign countries are propping up the warlords, and making them more rich and powerful and above the law.  A sobering book.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Just finished.....

....reading "Sumer and the Sumerians"  by Harriet Crawford, a professor at Camebridge University.  It was rather a dull recitation of archaelogical digs in Iraq, where the findings seem to have been sparse because of conditions there.  Sumeria was the ancient civilization that grew up in southern Iraq, one of the earliest known civilizations.  I found that Mosul in the north is the ancient city of Ninevah.  She describes the geography of the region, what is known of craftsmen and trade, language and writing.  Early tokens were used to record business transactions, and as they became more frequent, tokens were drawn on pots and tablets, other designs were drawn which came to signify sounds, and more abstract ideas were then expressed in writing.  The final chapter ties everything together, and she comments how digs became impossible after sanctions were imposed on Iraq and then the two wars.  Archeologists from around the world gave support to Iraqi archaelogists since their ability to connect with outside research was stopped.  Many artifacts were stolen from museums during the wars and though some have been returned many thousands are still missing.