The semester at Liberty University was barely over when I decided to fly half way around the world to see for myself what was happening among the world's most war torn people -- the Syrians.
As Liberty University's Vice President responsible for our Center for Global Engagement, it's part of my job to further our mission to inspire and empower our students to make this world a better place. This year our students have provided medical care for impoverished people in Africa, taught English to young leaders in Asia, and have produced a thousand smiles on the faces of a thousand children around the world. From Rwanda to Bosnia, and in dozens of nations in between, our students they have helped people, and the students have been beating down my door for more than a year asking what more we can do for Syria.
So, I decided to find out for myself. more >>
Last August, President Obama declared that the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons was a "red line." About four months later, Aljazeera released unconfirmed reports that a gas attack killed seven civilians in a rebel-held neighborhood of Homs. Last April, the UK, France, and Israel each claimed that there was evidence that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons in Aleppo, Homs, and/or Damascus. By April 25th, the U.S intelligence assessment was that the Assad regime had likely used sarin gas, but President Obama dodged his red line by announcing that a thorough investigation was still needed (as if the Syrian government would ever allow one). Meanwhile, reports from foreign intelligence agencies and journalists continued to corroborate the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. So why did Obama's requirement of a thorough investigation to confirm the crossing of his red line suddenly vanish last Friday?
Viewed through the lens of domestic politics, Obama's Syria epiphany looks conveniently timed to deflect attention from an ever-swelling wave of scandals: Benghazi-gate, IRS-gate, AP/Fox-gate, and now NSA-gate and State Department prostitution-gate. As the film "Wag The Dog" highlights, international crises are great at diverting attention from domestic scandals.
But from the perspective of the Syrian rebels, the timing and nature of U.S. military assistance may be viewed as either too little, too late, or a cynical attempt to ensure a perpetual stalemate. After all, the outgunned rebels have needed lethal weapons from the U.S. for over two years. Chemical weapons use by the Assad regime is old news. So what has changed? The Syrian regime recently defeated rebel forces at the crucial battle in Qusayr, a town providing a strategic supply conduit for rebel forces in Homs. After the military gains enabled by the robust battlefield support of Iran-backed Hezbollah, the Syrian regime is now preparing for a major offensive to retake Aleppo. With another crushing blow to a key rebel stronghold, the regime could ultimately prevail in the conflict, unless the U.S. provides just enough rebel support to restore the pre-Qusayr stalemate. more >>
Political Islam is the major force shaping the Middle East region today, and a dangerous one at that. The real question is if it can be tamed, and, more pointedly, what the West can do to bring about positive change during this pivotal time in history.But first, we have to understand what we're dealing with.
Political Islam, or "Islamism" as it's called in the West, is an armed political ideology similar to Bolshevism and Maoism. It's essentially religiosity cloaked as a movement that operates as a virulent ideology of warfare (jihad). It demands radical reorientation of Muslim societies to comply with Sharia Law that repudiates modernity in all its forms, bringing death and devastation both in and outside of the Muslim world.
In some ways, Islamism is more dangerous than outright terrorism, as terrorism can be identified by violence, while Islamism is a war of ideas. more >>
Twenty-five years ago, President Ronald Reagan vigorously championed U.S. ratification of the international Convention Against Torture, which he signed on April 18, 1988. Reagan acclaimed it as having marked a significant step in the development of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment.
"Ratification of the Convention by the United States," Reagan wrote, "will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately prevalent in the world today." Little could he have known that the United States would itself soon engage in this "abhorrent practice."
That our government authorized and permitted the torture of a number of suspected terrorists and other detainees in its custody is one of the key conclusions reached in a comprehensive report released earlier this month by The Constitution Project's Task Force on Detainee Treatment, an independent bipartisan group charged with examining the treatment of people captured in response to the global terrorist threat during the last three administrations. more >>
A top Vatican official has released a "shocking" report to the U.N. estimating that over 100,000 Christians are killed every year for reasons relating to their faith.
"Credible research has reached the shocking conclusion that an estimate of more than 100,000 Christians are violently killed because of some relation to their faith every year. Other Christians and other believers are subjected to forced displacement, to the destruction of their places of worship, to rape and to the abduction of their leaders – as it recently happened in the case of Bishops Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, in Aleppo," Monsignor Silvano Maria Tomasi said in his U.N. report, according to Vatican Radio.
The archbishop was referring to the kidnappings of Archbishop of Aleppo, Mar Gregorios Ibrahim, and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Metropolitan Paul Yazigi, two prominent Christian leaders in Syria who are still missing a month after they were taken. more >>
A major U.S. drone strike in Pakistan on Wednesday killed seven people, including a man believed to be Taliban deputy commander Wali-ur-Rehman, who had been poised to succeed the leader of the terrorist militant group.
"This is a huge blow to militants and a win in the fight against insurgents," one security official shared with Reuters about the death of Wali-ur-Rehman.
Rehman was wanted by the U.S. government primarily for his involvement in an attack on a U.S. base in Khost, Afghanistan, in 2009 that killed seven Americans. He is also believed to have participated in cross-border attacks against U.S. and NATO personnel, and in 2010 the government offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. more >>