Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Amman, Jordan, on May 8 at the beginning of an eight-day Holy Land pilgrimage. Besides Jordan, the pope’s tour will include visits to Israel and the Palestinian territories. The spiritual leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics had barely set foot in predominantly Muslim Jordan, however, when it became apparent that the reaction to his visit among followers of Islam would vary widely.
If our military is any indication, it just may be true that there are no atheists in a foxhole. The armed forces have long seemed to be an arena wherein faith runs strong, and while this is laudable, it also creates problems with today’s secular civilian authorities and top brass. One example of this disconnect has just played out, with a recent story about how American soldiers in Afghanistan were skirting military rules by engaging in shadow proselytization. Military.com reports:
Pakistani fighter jets and helicopters struck Taliban positions in the country's Swat Valley on May 7 as the military continued its offensive against Taliban militants. A peace accord announced on February 16 — according to which Pakistan’s government agreed to a system of strict Islamic law, or sharia, in Swat in return for the Taliban’s promise to end insurgent violence and disarm — collapsed last month. Taliban gunmen, instead of laying down their arms as agreed, advanced to within 60 miles of the capital, Islamabad. U.S. officials, concerned that the Taliban were using Northwest Pakistan as a staging area against U.S. operations in neighboring Afghanista denounced the accord, saying the government was appeasing the militants.
Back in February, Gen. David McKiernan, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, predicted that the additional 17,000 U.S. troops scheduled to be sent to Afghanistan would remain there for three to five years. The additional 17,000 troops would bring total U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan up to around 55,000, and an AP article in the Army Times for February 19 reported that still another 10,000 U.S. soldiers could be sent to Afghanistan in the future.
In the midst of an economic crisis and worries over a global epidemic, North Korea’s creaky totalitarian state continues to occupy headline news. North Korea, arguably the last Stalinist regime on Earth, has, over the past decade, conducted three long-range missile tests — none of which has come remotely close to demonstrating an ability to reach even western Alaska, much less deliver a payload to the continental United States — and carried out a single, low-yield nuclear test that apparently was only partly successful. Now the North Koreans are threatening more missile and nuclear tests unless the UN Security Council apologizes for tightening sanctions over the latest missile launch.
The long-running war in Sri Lanka, the impoverished Indian Ocean nation suspended like a tropical teardrop below India’s southern tip, appears to be near an end. The secessionist war between the Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE) and the majority Sinhalese government has attracted sporadic international attention over the years, but never the sort of sustained intervention that has taken place in the Balkans or in the Middle East.
A pre-dawn U.S. military raid on April 26 that had targeted Iranian-backed Shi'ite militiamen but resulted in the deaths of two Iraqi citizens has generated a storm of outrage in Kut, a city in southern Iraq. It also prompted an official statement accusing the United States of violating the security pact between the two nations.
As expected, North Korea launched its Taepodong-2 long-range rocket on April 5, a move President Obama called "provocative" and "clear violation" of a United Nations Security Council resolution. While the ostensible purpose of the launch, according to official North Korean statements, was to launch a communications satellite, officials from South Korea, Japan, and the United States have all said that the launch was — in actuality — a test of the missile, itself. The three nations stated in advance of the launch that they wanted to level sanctions against North Korea if it proceeded. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on March 31: "Their missile launch violates UN Security Council Resolution 1718 and there will be consequences, certainly (at) the UN Security Council if they proceed with the launch."
Leaders of the 22-member Arab League and 12 South American countries met last week and agreed to an 11-point declaration on everything from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to economic cooperation. The one-day Second Summit of Arab-South American Countries took place in Doha, Qatar, following the Arab League conference. Among the countries attending the summit were some of the world’s largest oil exporting nations, including Venezuela.
Laura Ling and Euna Lee, the two U.S. journalists detained by North Korea on March 17, will be tried for "illegal entry and hostile acts," the communist nation's state-run KCNA news agency announced on March 31. The news organ said, "The illegal entry of U.S. reporters into the DPRK and their suspected hostile acts have been confirmed by evidence and their statements." KCNA added that authorities were "making a preparation for indicting them at a trial on the basis of the already confirmed suspicions."