THEISTWATCH FOR AUGUST 23, 1995 Contents: Europe - BOSNIAN WAR A STUDY IN ETHNIC-RELIGIOUS
THEISTWATCH FOR AUGUST 23, 1995
Europe--BOSNIAN WAR A STUDY IN ETHNIC-RELIGIOUS CONFLICT
United States--PAT ROBERTSON LINKED TO SUPERMARKET TABLOID? (Humor)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
"c.c.watch," 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,
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
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
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 "c.c.watch" 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 "c.c.watch"
report on Mr. Robertson's prayer efforts against Hurricane
Felix may be taken as fact. Support the work of "c.c.watch";
contact them at 305-751-5001. Tell 'em THEISTWATCH sent
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 http://www.eff.org.
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
Your reactive mind heard and recorded this, although your
other, whatever, mind was unconscious and was thinking,
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
with the subject "subscribe". For further information on
it and other lists available from American Atheists
Online, email email@example.com with the subject
--Robin Murray-O'Hair, Moderator, TheistWatch
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