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THEISTWATCH FOR AUGUST 23, 1995 Contents: Europe--BOSNIAN WAR A STUDY IN ETHNIC-RELIGIOUS CONFLICT United States--PAT ROBERTSON LINKED TO SUPERMARKET TABLOID? (Humor) Cyberspace--Reader Feedback ____________________ ____________________ BOSNIAN WAR A STUDY IN ETHNIC-RELIGIOUS CONFLICT by Conrad Goeringer The recent conquest of the Krajina region of former Yugoslavia by 60,000 Croatian troops is only the latest in a pattern of conflict and bloodshed dating from 1991. In that year, four of the six republics within Yugoslavia sought their independence, despite fierce objection from Orthodox Serbs who had held much of the power in that formerly communist State. Now, only the republics of Serbia and Montenegro continue allegiance to the government in Belgrade headed by former Communist Party chieftain Slobodan Milosevic. He is using nationalism and Christian orthodoxy as a means of whipping up hostility against other factions, including those identified as "Muslim." Presently, there are five major groups with shifting allegiances. CROATIA, with nearly 5 million people, is mostly Roman Catholic and headed by ethnic nationalist Franjo Tudjman. When Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia in 1991, Serbs quickly grabbed about one-third of the country with the help of the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army. By the beginning of 1992, the fighting had subsided and U.N. peacekeeping troops were sent in to monitor implementation of an agreement to unify the country. The Serbs, however, never kept their part of the bargain. As a result, the capital of Zagreb was cut off from the Adriatic coast; the occupying Serbs called their new territory Krajina. For the past three years, Croatia has spent huge sums of money in the international arms market, purchasing tanks, guns, personnel carriers and ammunition. The Croats have found willing sellers in the Eastern bloc, including Russia and the Ukraine. These efforts paid off two weeks ago when some 60,000 Croatians poured into the Krajina, quickly driving out the Serbs living there. For their part, the CROATIAN SERBS feared an independent Croatia and rebelled in 1991, establishing a capital in the mountain town of Knin. It happens to be on a major route connecting Zagreb with the coastal region, and it was an early target of Croat military commanders. The Croat Serb leader, Milan Martic, has been indicted by an international tribunal in the Hague for terrorist acts, including bombings earlier this year in Zagreb. Although the Serbs of the Krajina are considered less militant than their Bosnian Serb counterparts, they may be useful in future efforts to reconquer the region. BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA declared its independence from Belgrade in 1992. Although it is dominated by people described as "Muslim," it most reflects the former ethnic diversity of the area, being 44 percent Muslim, 32 percent Serb, and 17 percent Croat. Its capitol in Sarajevo is under constant military attack by militant Orthodox Serbs. Many of the "Muslims" in this region are, in fact, cultural secularists. The same may be said of many Serbs and Croats who happen to live there as well. Before the breakup in 1991, ethnic background and religion had minimal significance, and these various "factions" lived alongside one another in peace. Now, even individual families are fragmenting into adversarial units. Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina are receiving some aid from Islamic countries. Iran has made a concerted effort to radicalize the Bosnian Muslims along the lines of "Party of God" and other ethnic/religious parties. It is the BOSNIAN SERBS, however, who are being blamed for the bulk of the wartime atrocities in the region, especially the Serbian leader Radovan Karadzic. After U.N. airstrikes hit the Bosnian ammunition dumps at Pale, Karadzic ordered his commanders into action, and the Serbs overran the so-called "safe areas" of Srebrenica and Zepa. It is believed that thousands of "Muslim" males were marched into remote areas, executed, and buried in mass graves. While Serbia was carrying out its plan of so-called "ethnic cleansing," however, the Croats seized the opportunity to move into the Krajina. Engaged militarily a full 150 miles from the Croatian border, the Bosnian Serbs could only watch as the Croats quickly established their new territorial claims. The Bosnian Serbs are probably the best armed faction in the conflict, having obtained the bulk of weaponry of the former Yugoslav army. Karadzic and his former top general, Ratko Mladic, are both under indictment for war crimes. There is the possibility of a split, however, between the two since Mladic enjoys the loyalty of Serb field units and is refusing to step down as military commander. Finally, there is a small group of BOSNIAN CROATS in the southwest region of Bosnia. Although they are allied with the Bosnian government, they still have close ties with the Croatian state as well. Both the Bosnian Serbs and Croatians are dedicated to "ethnic" cleansing and religious nationalism in their own select territories. In addition, there seem few options for any kind of brokered international settlement. Any U.N. invasion, especially one involving American air support or possibly ground units, would first have to decide where and against whom to attack. The success of the Croats in building a surprisingly powerful military force in three short years testifies to the considerable strategic problems any peacekeeping units would face. One Pentagon estimate last year said that as many as 600,000 U.S. troops, supported by full air power, would be necessary to fully occupy the region and begin disarming the belligerents. Many observers are struck at the rapidity with which religious and ethnic nationalism quickly balkanized the former Yugoslavia. They point to other regions such as Russia where secessionist movements usually along racial or religion lines are thriving. In the former Soviet Union, the fastest growing ethnic body is Muslim, and it was around 1990 when "White Russians" no longer constituted a majority of the population in the former USSR. A Modest Conspiracy Theory . . . PAT ROBERTSON LINKED TO SUPERMARKET TABLOID? by Conrad Goeringer I have to begin this THEISTWATCH expose with a confession, one which comes only after considerable doubt, agony, and to use a convenient term, "soul searching." I must take the First Step outlined in any recovery program and admit to myself and to you my problem. I read the Weekly World News. That's right. Only occasionally, perhaps, but I still will put down the coverprice of 99 cents (why not an even dollar, eh?) and slink out of the local supermarket clutching its ink- ridden pages in my sweaty hands. I often worry about what the grocery clerk or other people standing in line at the check out counter may think of me. But this angst cannot overcome my insatiable curiosity about the contents of this bizarre periodical. You know the paper. Of course you do. You and millions of other people have seen the Weekly World News leering out at customers next to the copies of Redbook or TV Guide, or the more "respectable" tabloids like the National Enquirer or the Sun. But Weekly World News beats 'em all. Last year, the News made headlines in the respectable press when it declared "12 U.S. Senators Are Space Aliens!" Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton have even been shown in chummy meetings with the E.T.s, the best exemplar of altered photography I've seen since Trotsky was airbrushed out of those photos with Lenin. And what about "Farmer Shoots 23-Lb. Grasshopper!"? Or "Bat Child Found in Cave!" Then there's "Woman Killed By Fur Coat!" How about: "Who dreams up this stuff, anyway?" My favorite used to be "Satan's Skull Found in Desert!" Sure enough, right there on the cover was a picture of a skull with horns and a noticeable pointed chin. It just had to be the devil! And last week I plunked down another 99 cents, plus tax, for the Weekly World News. The headline there on page one just grabbed me, like an ectoplasmic hand covered with superglue. "Amazing photo sent to FBI in Washington! Satan's Face In U.S. Heat Wave!" The News told the public that this "evil image appears over Chicago as temperatures hit 120 degrees." Sure enough, right there in a photo of the Chicago skyline was a picture of SOMETHING, a face snarling and growling with fangs, decaying teeth, and at least four protruding horns. I thought I'd seen that same face on an earlier WWN cover, maybe an issue about "Satan Seen in Volcano!" or some other equally intriguing revelation. But there he was, in the flesh so-to-speak, doing his evil thing in the Windy City. Even the Daley machine was no threat to this guy! I hurried home, stowed my groceries, and hurried upstairs to my office where I had recently installed a new air conditioner. Like millions of other Weekly World News readers, I too had endured the searing blasts of the "Summer of '95 Heat Wave." Maybe with some imagination and a few more degrees on the thermometer, I could envision the devil chuckling down on us all in the afternoon sun. Quickly opening my copy, I rushed past such informative articles as "Hot Pants Are Back!" and "Natives of Remote Pacific Island Scamper Around On Three Legs!", ignoring the ads for angel T-shirts and blank college diplomas. I hit paydirt on pages 8 and 9, an even larger photo of the devil ("Amazing photo sent to FBI in Washington!") and a story by Rex Wolfe. Rex reported that the "evil face of Satan" appeared over Chi-town in a heat wave that killed hundreds of people, and that this had led "scholars and clergymen to suggest a deadly series of End Times plagues that were predicted in the Bible have finally begun." The News reported that President Clinton had taken a "keen personal interest" in Satan's Chicago debut "and is said to have consulted the Rev. Billy Graham" about the matter. A photograph of "Rev. Bill Piltner" had the caption "says we must pray to save Chicago." Truly, this is junk food for the mind. A "McDonald's"-style break from a steady intellectual diet of Harper's, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Reuters, Foreign Affairs, and other laborious mental challenges. With my keen analytical sense, my perspicacious skepticism, my years of reflective scholarship, I just KNEW that the photo of "Rev. Bill Piltner" probably belonged to "Rex Wolfe" and that the "face of Satan" was a cheap Halloween mask gone to seed. Putting down my copy of the Weekly World News, I pondered a question which had stalked me for years: does anyone REALLY believe this stuff? Perhaps they do. Or they believe claims that are equally preposterous, claims that stretch the facility of human credulity which challenge our "sense of disbelief." Based upon this, I therefore propose somewhat modestly that there exists a possible connection between the Rev. Pat Robertson, television evangelist extraordinaire, presidential candidate, Maker-and-Breaker of Solons and Other Government Officials, and the Weekly World News. For no sooner had Satan's heat wave dissipated than yet another calamity struck the United States in the form of Hurricane Felix. Felix roared up to the Carolinas, building up 90 mile per hour winds and leading to evacuation all along the barrier islands of that portion of the East Coast. A scientist told network news organizations that this was the early start of an unusually rough hurricane season; ocean currents as far away as the South Pacific were building a complex pattern of meteorological forces. Batten down the hatches! Grab that plywood sheeting and cover those windows! Hurricane Felix had more energy than I-don't-know-how-many-atomic-bombs. One good electrical discharge from Felix had more energy than O.J.'s defense team. And here he comes! Felix turned out to be a bit of a flop though, and in one of those "chaos scenarios" where the least significant "initializing condition" affects a grand scale of events, the hurricane, as of my writing these words, luxuriates about 400 miles out in the Atlantic. Strange indeed. It was headed this way. What happened? Meteorologists can only theorize, of course, with their stable of supercomputers, weather satellites, exhaustive records, and state-of-the-art physics. But Pat Robertson thinks that HE stopped Felix. Really. Seriously. And that isn't on the cover of the Weekly World News, at least yet. As you know, THEISTWATCH eagerly passes on to its readers the alerts and research of the group known as "," which keeps an eye on the activities of the Christian Coalition. Its release of August 19 asks if the Christian Broadcasting Network saved the East Coast of the U.S. from Hurricane Felix. It seems that Pat Robertson, like the editors of the Weekly World News, found cosmic significance in the wandering vectors of Hurricane Felix. Had Felix slammed into resort towns killing people and destroying hundreds of millions of dollars worth of property, it would surely have been a "sign of the times," a kind of sick cartoon presentation before the Main Attraction, or Apocalypse, debuts. Felix would have been Jehovah's way of "kickin' butt" on a sin-ridden, un-churched, pornography- infested, godless America. Time to wake up and do something about homosexuals, feminists, transgressors, liberals and the rest of the vermin! But maybe Felix turned out to be a tragedy averted, a Titanic that did not sink thanks to the fervent praying at the Christian Broadcasting Network. "C.c. watch" tells us that the supplications to Jehovah went on all week, even on the Internet! By Wednesday, a missionary who had just returned from Zaire (home to Pat Robertson's diamond mining firm) by the name of Reinhart Bonkke was whipping up the faithful. That night Pat declared it was now-or-never. Pray hard or face the consequences! By Thursday, Felix had started its path out into the Atlantic, a "300-mile-wide-monster" that Robertson now called a "cat purring off the NC-VA coast." Pat claimed that he's been praying since the early 1960s to fend off killer storms and said that prayer had once even built a "wall of protection" around the Tidewater region. Is this what the universe is all about? Pat Robertson and his TV/Internet "partners" frantically praying to some god in hopes of averting a hurricane? While Satan laughs at the suffering denizens of Chicago? What to believe? I can thinkb only that Pat with his outlandish and audacious claims of being able to turn away mighty Hurricane Felix and other natural calamities MUST be in league with the Weekly World News. Where else could he possibly get so outrageous an idea? Pat usually does have a kind of sneaky you-know-what-eating grin on his face much of the time, doesn't he? Ever notice? I remember a grin just like that on the face of the WNN editor when he was being interviewed by "60-Minutes." "You don't really believe this stuff, do you?" asked Mike Wallace. "Well, we can't prove this stuff", said the editor (I think they were discussing the "Bat Boy Found In Cave!" edition), "but we can't prove that it's NOT true, either!" If prayer can turn away hurricanes, then surely Beelzebub, Prince of Darkness and Scourge of Sinful Cities like Chicago can choose to appear in the face of a heat wave. Or maybe, like me, Pat Robertson reads the Weekly World News to get ideas for his program. Maybe, he thinks, if people believe this stuff ("Picking Your Nose Can Kill You!"), they'll believe that prayer can change the weather. Maybe they'll even send money for the privilege of believing it, too! So there is my modest conspiracy theory. Like the articles in the Weekly World News, you can't DISPROVE it, anymore than you can try to disprove Pat Robertson's meteorological power. But perhaps linking Pat Robertson to the Weekly World News is a bit of a disservice and affront to the latter. After all, most of the News readers, or at least this one, don't take the articles seriously. Maybe the nation's premier political huckster-evangelist isn't part of a WWN conspiracy. Say it isn't so, Pat. Say it isn't so. (Thanks to the folks at "" for their efforts on keeping an eye on Hurricane Pat , the Christian Coalition, and the rest of the right-wing religious front! While I don't believe that Satan appeared over Chicago, the "" report on Mr. Robertson's prayer efforts against Hurricane Felix may be taken as fact. Support the work of ""; contact them at 305-751-5001. Tell 'em THEISTWATCH sent you!) READER FEEDBACK From: Earle Jones Date: Tue, 22 Aug 1995 22:51:04 -0700 Subject: Re: TW: August 22, 1995 On Wed, Aug 23, 1995 12:50:54 AM at Theistwatch-l wrote: >If you want to learn more about both sides in this >case, pick up Scientology's best-seller "Dianetics". Then >investigate the newsgroup alt. religion.scientology, or >surf over the EFF site on the web at In my most humble, atheistic opinion, this is bad advice. Don't "...pick up Scientology's best-seller "Dianetics" ". The book was written in 1950 and is a totally disorganized description of the *engrams* in your mind--those nasty little things that got there when you were unconscious in the delivery room and the Doctor said, "What a shitty little kid!" Your reactive mind heard and recorded this, although your other, whatever, mind was unconscious and was thinking, "screw this!" And so you weren't potty trained until you were 14, right? Save your $10. Tune in alt.religion.scientology but don't, for God's sake, buy that stupid book. regards, earle Moderator's response: Sometimes it is best to examine what "the enemy" is actually saying rather than only reading of it. This is why, for example, we would encourage Atheists to read the texts of the pronouncements of John Paul II. Often the true depth of the looniness of a religion is glossed over by its spokespersons or by the media. TheistWatch does reproduce comments received from readers in this section. For ongoing exchanges concerning these topics, I would recommend its sister discussion list, aachat-l. Aachat is a general discussion list for Atheists. To subscribe to it, email with the subject "subscribe". For further information on it and other lists available from American Atheists Online, email with the subject "help". --Robin Murray-O'Hair, Moderator, TheistWatch *********************************************************************** * * * American Atheists website: * * PO Box 140195 FTP: * * Austin, TX 78714-0195 * * Voice: (512) 458-1244 Dial-THE-ATHEIST: * * FAX: (512) 467-9525 (512) 458-5731 * * * * Atheist Viewpoint TV: * * Info on American Atheists:, * * & American Atheist Press include your name and mailing address * * AANEWS -Free subscription: * * and put "info aanews" in message body * * * * This text may be freely downloaded, reprinted, and/other * * otherwise redistributed, provided appropriate point of * * origin credit is given to American Atheists. * * * ***********************************************************************


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