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Can 1.3 billion people be wrong ? May 20, 2007

Posted by dorigo in internet, news, personal, politics, religion.

I read today on Repubblica , one of the leading italian newspapers, that muslims have surpassed catholics. One in five human beings believes in Allah.

Interesting to know, the reaction of the Vatican is rather bitter. They say the data has to be verified, no more and no less than a politician losing his or her seat by a small margin. But the data is provided by the World Christian Database, a US institute specialized in religious statistics. According to their estimates, muslims beat catholics 1.322 to 1.115 billions.

And it is getting worse for the catholics. Muslims have more children, so there is little hope than a spurt of evangelization of another crusade or two will change matters in the near future. Too bad the Church has made it harder for non-fertile couples to resort to in vitro practices in Italy, by their political pressure and sneaky meddling… They would have gained a bit there. However, the catholic church won some 70 million followers with the 2000 Jubilee. Time for another one ?

It is funny to see how the Vatican disagrees and exhibits a good dose of dialectic contorsions. Felix Machado, acting as a spokesman, explains that “statistics is not always accurate” for muslims, while the data of catholics is unquestionable: “we have certain data, with no error margin: every parish, even the farthest, records its baptized. We have the name of every one of our followers.[…] How can one say who is a buddhist and who is not ? Who is a muslim and who is not ?

Well, dear Felix, I have news for you. I have been baptized, but as far as I am concerned you cannot count on me. I hereby claim to reject catholic religion, in case it was not clear. As for the other 1,114,999,999, they will have to be asked again if they feel catholic or not. Start soon, it might take a while.



1. Winslie Gomez - May 20, 2007

Yes, count me out too.
I have laughed a lot reading your article.

2. dorigo - May 20, 2007

Thank you Winslie, I appreciate your feedback.


3. Tripitaka - May 20, 2007

John Lennon’s dream of no countries and no religion always appealed to me, nothing to kill or die for … well it would be a start

4. riqie arneberg - May 20, 2007

I have often thought to ask to be wxcommunicated, but have not bothered. My reason was not for vatican accuracy but to avoid flying around playing a harp for eternity. I want to go to hell and play an accordian!

5. Charles Tye - May 20, 2007

You should have titled it “Can 2.4 billion people be wrong?” I think they have confused data with signal. I agree with you there must be a rather large background 😉

best regards,

6. marco - May 20, 2007

Tommaso, I understand that, there are plenty of reasons to be annoyed by the catholic church, in particular if one lives in Italy,
However, it looks that you’re so annoyed by the catholics that you would rather prefer a country with a strong muslim influence.
As we say in Italian, it would be ‘cadere dalla padella nella brace’.

7. Winslie Gomez - May 20, 2007

I flunked latin at school, could you please translate ‘cadere dalla padella nella brace’.

And never saw any mention of joining anybody else or living anywhere else.

8. Charles Tye - May 20, 2007

Winslie: “To fall out of the frying pan and into the fire”.
Marco: Fortunately, the Catholic/Muslim decision is still a false dilemma.

9. hronir - May 20, 2007

Sorry for being all (the following link and the ones therein) in italian language:

10. Timothy - May 20, 2007

A few points:

The 1.15 billion number appears to be that of just Catholics under the Bishop of Rome and excludes the other 22 Catholic Churches (Antioch, Alexandria, etc.).

Also, the Anglican Church and all the Orthodox Churches both consider themselves to be “Catholic”. Many Evangelicals, Pentacostals, and Baptists would agree. 1.5 billion is probably the better comnparison number as you are comparing the largest Catholic Church with all the sects (Sunni, Shia, etc.) of Islam. Not an apples to apples comparison.

Also, there is an ongoing phenomenom in Africa that has seen millions of coversions from Islam to Catholicism, enough to worry many Muslim imams. Seems Muslims are having visions of Jesus.


2 million ethnic Muslims adopted baptism in Russia

6 Million Muslims LEAVE Islam every year!

God bless…

11. carlbrannen - May 20, 2007

I’ve just opened up a fascinating biography, “Kepler’s Witches”, which goes into great detail about the religious wars at his time. He was a devout Lutheran, but he could see little bits of truth in other religions, well Christian religions anyway.

12. Andrea Giammanco - May 21, 2007

Marco, you are too intelligent not to see that it is not the specific religion the problem, but what is around it.
Imagine to swap christianity and islam: for a moment, imagine that in the last centuries Europe and Americas have evolved with islamism, and Middle East and Northern Africa have evolved with christianism. Do you expect that now, in the XXIth century, many things would be different?
I would expect, instead, that Europe and USA would be populated by a majority of very moderate muslims (instead of a majority of very moderate christians), a barking minority of extremist muslims (instead of a barking minority of extremist christians), a silent minority of atheists. And Middle East would be populated by an illiterate majority of very-very-very extremist christians (instead of an illiterate majority of very-very-very extremist muslims), a silent minority of moderate christians (instead of etc.), and virtually no atheists.
Religion drives society much less than societies adapt religions.
Give a beautiful religion to a poor country and you usually end up with inegualities, male domination over women, cruel laws, all justified with religion.
Give an illogic and ugly religion to a modern society, and most people will choose the best features and discard all the rest, in a natural and spontaneous way.
(How many christians do you know that actually abstain from sex before marriage? I guess very few, even between those who go regularly to church, although this should be a very basic precept – it’s one of the ten commandments!)

13. Shazbot - May 21, 2007

1.3 billion people can indeed be wrong. So can 2.6 billion people.
‘Body count’ doesn’t determine which religion is ‘correct’, only who is doing the better job at brainwashing the undecided and ensnaring new-born.

I would love for someone to to prove they really do have a soul, to prove that there really is a god. I’m afraid that all religion is nothing more than a feeble attempt to avoid facing the fact that we are simply mortal, and a way to soothe the cruelties of the world by saying ‘it will be better later’.

I really hope I’m wrong.

14. dorigo - May 21, 2007

Hi everybody… Let me see if I can answer some comments here.

–> Tripitaka: I think humans would have still many reasons to kill each other even with no god or countries. We are beasts.

–> Riqie: I agree, the accordion is a much more interesting instrument. My personal reason to go to hell is that I would be in much more interesting company. As Billy Joel says, “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints”.

–> Charles: it’s true – and besides, it’s even more than 2.6 billions, unfortunately. I think atheists are a strict minority in our crazy world.

–> Marco: I am in no way preferring muslims over christians. If I lived in a muslim country I would be…. Well, I… I… I just can’t imagine spring without miniskirts. Darn. I just love the pope, ok ?

–> Winslie, that is right. And then, if I had to leave Italy, why on earth would I have to go to a muslim country ? My first choice would be Hawaii or the caribbean.

–> Hronir: THANKS! I think I am joining the UAAR pretty soon. And I will indeed proceed with the formal act as soon as I go back to Italy.

–> Timothy: indeed, it’s not only Felix Machado who thinks it is a game of Risiko!. You seem to miss the point of my post…

–> Carl, sure, every religion contains not bits, but large chunks of truth in their sacred books. The problem is the way those chunks are digested, and the use one does of what comes out.

–> Andrea, tsk tsk… Casting the cross on those poor souls who cannot restrain themselves… Besides, the church gains more potential followers (the new babies) by not enforcing their prohibition of fornication before marriage: they are quite lax with that, while they fight with all their might against contraceptives and abortion.

–> Shazbot, I agree. And you know what ? Worse comes to worst, I actually hope we are right 🙂 It would really bother me if a god really existed and, by acting as sheep and not using their brains, religious people ended up in paradise while we ended up in hell.

Cheers to all,

15. Winslie Gomez - May 21, 2007

Hi T,
Thanks for that response and agree with you and
Shazbot I am in the same shit.

Without trying to self publicize I wrote an article in FAITH PIMP

Please donte take it too seriously

16. Andrea Giammanco - May 21, 2007

I just realized that my previous comment sounds like I’m saying the islam is a beautiful religion and christianism an ugly and illogic one.
To be precise, I think that both have beautiful and ugly features, according to modern (and western…) standards, and both are supremely illogical.
My point is just that all societies picks up the features that are more suitable to them.
The catholicism of an urban western-european society, for example, is almost a completely different religion from the sinchretic catholicism of certain areas of Brasil or Mexico. Although the Gospels are read by all of them, and the Pope is speaking to all of them with the same words.

17. Winslie Gomez - May 21, 2007

Sorry folks, typo error, should read “don’t”

18. Winslie Gomez - May 21, 2007

Hi Andrea,
Thanks for the clarification.

Religion is a source of power to subjugate and control.
Is that not the pirmary motive?

Or am I completely deluded?

19. jeff - May 21, 2007

Hi Winslie
I agree but also I don’t. It is true religion is a source of power to subjugate and control. But so are secular ideologies. And this century has shown how efficient and terrible they can be, hasn’t it? Comunism in particular was atheist and yet is did/does just fine in subjugating and controlling. So to point out that the primary motive of religion is to subjugate and control sounds kind of superficial and trivial to me.

Hi Andrea. I feel you are underestimating the power of religion or any secular ideology. It is true there are many forces that shape how we think and hence how we act. So to think that a religion (or an ideology) is the only one is certainly wrong. And to think that religion is dominant is probably wrong, but I feel it is also wrong to think it is not important. Your imaginary scenarios, having swapped islam and christianity, are, in my opinion, not likely. I don’t think you can or should subtract out (de-convolve) the impact of religion on the historical developments that took place (or did NOT take place) in the Near East and in the West. I suggest instead you try subtracting out any marxist contaminations of your ideas of history and glance again. Naive materialism is certainly useless (wrong!).I deas are not superstructures that are of no real consequence. We, in the West, historically contextualize Chrstianity, and almost everything. Even Science. Maybe someone should use contextualize marxistism. Contextualize and be contextualized! To paraphrase the new testament “He that kills by contextualizations will die by it”. Actually I think the real problem of Islam is that no practicing islamic dares contextualize it. Practicing christians have, do, and hopefully we continue to contextualize their own religion. This freedom to think correlates with a freedom to act.

20. Andrea Giammanco - May 21, 2007

Of course I was over-simplistic in my example.
And I agree with you on many things that you said.
There is, indeed, one major difference between catholicism and islam, which is probably not so related to the influence of society (since it is the same difference between catholicism and protestantisms, which are often shared by the same culture, as in the saxon and anglo-saxon worlds): the presence of a single central figure as the Pope.
It’s difficult to say what would be the world if all the muslims were following a single spiritual leader: an extremist leader would be the worst possible catastrophe for all the world (most of all for the 1.3 milliard muslims, then for all the others), while a moderate and modern leader would certainly have benefic effects: he would condamn and isolate Al Qaeda, help negotiate during the worst “civilization clash” instances, and so on.
This hypothetic scenario would be mostly irrelevant, instead, if the main islamic countries were as secularized as the main western countries are.
Somebody (with a long experience of life in Near East) told me that most islamic countries were smoothly progressing towards secularism, confirming the usual correlation between socio-economical progress and loss of grip of the religion on society, but the trend has had an invertion recently.
There can be several causes to this (secularization had been too fast? Western interventism has been felt as excessive and menacing? The rise of economically-motivated xenophobia in Western Europe has caused a bitter reaction from the countries of origin of the immigrants?), but certainly the outcome is very sad.

21. dorigo - May 21, 2007

Andrea, you raise some good points there. I can only add that to me there indeed appear to be two different faces of islamism: the fundamentalist and the more secolarized. And unless the west changes attitude, we know which one is going to win… It might already be too late.

It is funny if you think about it: the Bush administration has done such a horrible blunder with the war in Iraq, creating the perfect humus for fundamentalism, that one can’t help wondering if there was a grander design behind it. Can it really be only about oil and private interests ? Or is there something even dirtier underneath ? Who is going to benefit from a conflict of civilizations ? I dare not ask.


22. Manu - May 21, 2007

«Well, dear Felix, I have news for you. I have been baptized, but as far as I am concerned you cannot count on me.»

I’m actually considering making this formal. Do you know the route which I should take?

I was baptized at my request when I was 8 years old (big mistake in retrospective), but not in Italy (I guess this should be close to irrelevant).

And to answer your question, yes 1.3 “thousand million people” can be wrong regardless of being Muslim, Christian or whatever.


23. jeff - May 21, 2007

The West should change attitude “or else”?! The perfect humus for fundamentalism created by Bush’s blunders?! Oil?! Private interests?! Conflict of civilizations?! Who is going to profit?! Dirtier?! Dare ask?!
Tommmmmasooo. Come now

24. Mr F. Abu Masharei - May 21, 2007


In the name of ALLAH

yes, they are not wrong at all…!!!

I advice you to find out why they are not wrong, or otherwise, are muslems in right way ….?

any way I call to become a muslem.
becouse Islam is the right way to belive in AllAH

25. dorigo - May 22, 2007

Hi Manu,

see the link posted above by hronir. It is in Italian, but maybe it contains information that you might find useful anyway.

In any case the procedure appears to be: write a letter to the parish where you were baptized (and those where you were christened in case you were), where you say you abandon the christian religion. Details at the link.

Good luck

26. dorigo - May 22, 2007


I knew you would disagree with my last comment, well… Reasonable people can disagree, so imagine what WE can do 🙂
I will have a more thorough answer later, now I have to run for the start of my owl shift.


27. dorigo - May 22, 2007

Dear Abu,

you are welcome to do what you want with your neurons… Go ahead.


28. Tripitaka - May 22, 2007

While I do believe that the world would be a kinder place if people focussed on pleasure rather than ideology, I can also agree with Andrea that there are beautiful aspects in every faith… I even sense some loss for all the countless religions that have died out (like dead languages or extinct animals, I mourn them on some level). I also find it fascinating to learn about how, over the millenia, different faiths have altered each another (the mingling of zoroasterism and judaism and the effect on what would later become chrsitianity, that sort of thing). The question of why religions wax and wane is fascinating too… why did hinduism supplant buddhism in the country of buddha?
I generally enjoy hearing faiths expressed in a genuine way, as systems for providing meaning in the lives of those who embrace them. What I dislike most is hearing religion when it is presented in the language of science (and christianity is surely the worst culprit in this regard) – it has the effect of making the presenter look like a fuck wit while being personally offensive to my own belief system.

29. dorigo - May 22, 2007

Yes Tripitaka, the arrogance of christianity has always gotten on my nerves. But I do see it as a common trait in most religions…
As for religion providing meaning to the life of simple minds, I agree, it is a “economic” and straightforward answer to the uselessness of our existence. But it has caused so much harm in the history of man, that I tend to dislike it no less than I dislike tobacco. Cigarettes and cigars have done a lot to make life of billions of people more pleasurable… But they do kill.


30. dorigo - May 22, 2007

Jeff, I will now try to elaborate a little.

I understand your line of thinking. I know many americans and a few elsewhere think that the Bush administration has taken the right decision in ordering the use of force to try and restore democracy in Iraq, a decision triggered by the suffering of millions under Saddam Hussein and by the sincere belief that the tyrant was developing tools to destroy Israel and wage a nuclear war to the west. Hussein had to be stopped before he got ready to be a real pain in the butt: he was a cancer to be surgically removed.

Well, I understand you and many others sincerely believe that this was how it went. And I do not argue: everybody has his own taste in different conspiracy theories and everybody likes to think one side is all good and the other is all evil. I doubt you think the engine of the war in Iraq was “all good”, but you certainly like to think along the lines I drew above – or at least, that is the impression you gave me.

On the other side, I think you do understand what are the motives behind the fact that many in the West, and quite a few even in the US, think that the war was not really against WMDs (which as we had all suspected did not exist), that Hussein had been in power for decades without the US bothering to move a finger against his atrocities, that oil pricing was of paramount importance in deciding to go to war against Iraq, and that the connections of the Bush family with the Carlisle group and Arabs are too strong to mean nothing.

But let us leave these issues on the motives of the Iraq war on a side, since it is not by arguing endlessly that we can hope to gain some insight and understand whether we can agree on some basics. Instead, I would like to know whether you do believe that pissing off a billion muslims is the right way to think at a peaceful world order in the third millennium. I don’t believe you want to deny the evidence of a growing anti-american, and in general anti-western feeling in islamic countries. And I think you agree also that the continued occupant status of US troops in Iraq is causing enormous suffering to the population there (let us not discuss whether it is because Al-Qaeda wants it or because it is a direct effect of the US occupation: it is the natural outcome, either way). Literally hundreds of innocent civilians have been dying every day in the last four years in Iraq: little short of a catastrophe, of which the future population of Iraq will carry the scars for decades to come.

So what is really the meaning of our arguing on the Iraq war ? Whether Bush was right or not ? I do not care about Bush, the poor idiot. I care about stopping and reverting a tendency that is driving a divide between western and islamic countries. Actually, it is even worse than that: it is a growing divide between westerners and muslims around the world. I wish you could deny that and bring contradicting evidence, because I would salute my being wrong with a relief. But I think you do know it is happening, and I think it will be quite hard to turn that tendency backwards.

One way to do it would be if the US retreated from Iraq as soon as possible, and devolved a sum equal to 20% of the amount of expense of their Defense budget of the last four years in a reconstruction of the country and in a global fund for refugees worldwide. 20% of the money they spent in the Iraq war is such a unbelievable amount of money that it would go a much longer way dismembering Al-Qaeda and fundamentalism than anything else could possibly do, including bunker buster bombs or whatever else.

This is my two pence…

31. island - May 22, 2007

They have a saying in Iran:

Let’s have lunch in Baghdad

I used to work for an extremely rich Iranian who was forced flee Iran when the Shaw was deposed. I am convinced that he brought about half of Iran with him to the U.S. when he left, and I got to know many of the Shaw’s former high ranking military personnel quite well. Every one of them, military or otherwise, held such a deep-rooted hatred for the Iraqis and Arabs that it wasn’t even funny. They would describe for me the ruthless manner in which they would torture and kill any Iraqi or Arab that they could get their hands on, and I was continually shocked at the cruelty in their words. The are the “original Arians” after all.

Unless of course they had the opportunity to get their hands on a Jew, that is, because then it was a whole nother ball game, and they often expressed to me that they would gladly join forces with the Iraqis or any other less hated enemy in order to overthrow Israel, because it’s even more satisfying to kill Jews.

Show me one Iraqi civilian that shed a single tear for any Jews who died when Saddam pounded them with SCUDs the first time that we hit Iraq, and I’ll show you an “innocent civilian”. Alas… there are none, and the west will remain a target for as long as we stand between Israel and “them”, so don’t kid yourselves into believing that they weren’t intending to kill us for this prior to any Bushes ever becoming president.

The game of religious politics is played by the ultra-rich kings and dictators who manipulate these masses against each other via their religous and ideological rightousness, in order to advance their own power base and wealth.

They do the same thing in the U.S. albeit less violent, it is still the same game of power and greed of few trying to runaway with itself. The left and the right are so vehemently at each other’s throats in this country that they have no idea that they are merely pawns in the game of kings. Nothing prevents the people from seeing the real problem better than convincing them that the problem is somewhere else.

You can consider yourself a lost cause as soon as you KNOW which side is right, because this means that at least half of what you think is pure crap.

32. dorigo - May 22, 2007

Hi Island,

I am sorry, but what you say about the people not being innocent fights deadly with what you admit later, i.e. that “religious politics is played by the ultra-rich kings and dictators who manipulate these masses against each other via their religous and ideological righteousness”.

So are the masses just innocent people who get manipulated (by Bush in the US, or by the other extra-rich fanatics in the Arab countries), or blood-thirsty killers who only wish they can put their hands on a jew or whatever else ? Or, being them all irreversibly brainwashed, there is no hope to rescue them to sanity so that napalm is a better option ?

I think you are thoughtfully ignoring the fact that those who get the worst of it are the civilians. People, that is, like you and me. I doubt you would torture for a week long Osama Bin Laden if you put your hands on him. That is because you have an education, which prevents you from using unnecessary violence – gratuitous violence is as idiotic, unnatural, and useless as a vector Higgs boson.

Unfortunately, not everybody has your level of education in Iraq. And you know why that is so ? Because of oppression, because of the manipulation you were mentioning, because of the lack of a chance to understand better. A chance that was denied by them by a uncompromising west, among other things. But you do have that chance, and I think you are way more guilty of believing all of them to be assassins than some of them are in believing the westerners are Satan followers.

As for Iran, you will be surprised to know that all the people I know who come from Iran and live in Italy are cultured, peaceful intellectuals, pacifists, people who desperately love their country and their compatriots, but who have fled the country when the Shah took power. Some are married to jew women – one of them who did exactly that is an old friend of my family, and he is in no way a white fly.

Now am I a biased sample ? Yes, in a sense. I live in Venice. I got to know richer iranians, who were able to flee their country when things turned the wrong way – people who were lucky enough to get an education and do a better use of it than many in the US who think every iranian would be glad to torture a jew. I do not agree for a minute that most of those who are left in Iran or Iraq are blood-thirsty assassins. You got a quite biased sample with the deranged Iranians you met in my opinion, much more than I did.

Remember what Bertrand Russell said: peoples are not bad. Individuals can be bad. It was true of nazi germany, and it is true of today’s Talibans or Iraq or Iran or whatever.


33. Winslie Gomez - May 22, 2007

Hi Island.

It is about sets and sub sets. Pity you were interacting in the subset of power hate and unmitigated violence.

As Dorigo says there are other normal Iranians too who are not tarnished by divisive ideaology.


34. Winslie Gomez - May 22, 2007

Hi Dorigo
Thanks for Bertrand Russell, I quoted him too in one of mine.

I am pleasantly surprised by the calm manner in which you are tackling difficult issues.

Good for you

35. Fred - May 23, 2007

Nothing like religion to motivate the insane. 4 things:
I always thought it was unholy strange for people to kiss the pope’s hand. The frequently-used term, “God willing”, after an always-professed bold statement is an insult to anyone’s intelligence. The first instinctual act a good sailor adhere’s to when caught in a violent storm at sea: dial direct. My family, having lived for a time in Tehran until the Shah’s demise would have my father, as he was then a defense contractor, vouching for island’s statements about the military personnel, and my mother would testify to your experiences with the Iranian people concerning their great compassion, intelligence and civility because she mainly dealt with the domestic issues and thus was able to interact with the general populace as they really lived each day. Iran is an extremely complexed society with many factions like much of the middle east and the current administration in this country obviously has failed to officially acknowledge and to appropriately respond to this. The irony is that the Imams running Iran could have kept their constituants under simmer for another 10 years, still have pulled off their revolution in the 90’s and would now have had nuclear independence not to mention the wealth of intellectual talent that fled the country in the 80’s.

36. jeff - May 23, 2007

Tommaso. Regards anti-americanism, in europe in particular, I warmly suggest you read “Uncouth Nation: why europe dislikes america” by Andrei Markovits.
The book is just out in italian “La nazione piu’ odiata: l’antiamericanismo degli europei”. I am willing to lend it to you, as soon as I get it back from lending it to another intelligent friend.

Regards anti-americanism of the islamic world I fear I disagree there too. Anti-americanism is deeply rooted in the annoying fact that the US backs up Israel! Period! Anti-americanism was virluent and in place way before 9/11 and the first gulf war. Iraq worsened islamic anti-americanism, yes, but it didn’t change its essence.

I agree with Island on many points. The islamic world is far from homogenous (thank god or else one could be legitmizied generalizing) and there are very high levels of what we, politically correct, would call “prejuidice” and down right “racism”, between islamics of different countries and faith.

I think the real reason the US went in is that they hoped to control the inevitable change of regime. What do you think would have happend had Saddam died a natural death or had he been killed in a coup? Iraq would have exploded far more violently. The real tragedy is that father Bush didn’t topple Saddam in the first war. Why did the US stop short? Because they feared they couldn’t handle the situation, with Iran just waiting to step into place. Now the new administration figured they could handle the situation, cashing in on the fact the nation was polarized after 9/11 and the initial successes in afaganistan (international backing). The exportation of democracy was even in my eyes a bad excuse. It didn’t convince me as it didn’t convince many other americans. That is convince europeans? Well, americans just don’t care about what euproeans think. What do eupropean think anyway? For some intersting observations read Markovits.

Regards the WMD, I feel they were plausible, as Saddam was constantly bluffing, but I agree the US should not have based the reasons to go on WMD. The evidence was too flimsy. I always felt that had the whole WMD been just a lie then US would have staged a find, just one, something…..

37. dorigo - May 23, 2007

Hi Winslie,

well, one learns to argue quietly after observing that arguing aggressively leads to bad feelings and carries home no prize. I am growing old and wise, but I was young and impulsive myself once…

Island is a friend, and I have no interest in attacking him. I want to let people know what I think of the issue, so I try to be clear, but there is no need to do personal attacks – and I think I even went too far above, maybe Island’s post deserved more thought and fewer arguments.

The whole point of writing clearly what I think is, I believe, to allow others to contribute in changing my mind.


38. dorigo - May 23, 2007

Hi Jeff,

I think you stated it well: the US went to war to Iraq to control the change of regime. In that sense, they were totally honest: they said it straight away. But please go one step further: ask yourself the real reason why they wanted to control the outcome. You won’t be able to find others but economical and geopolitical interests: oil, and power. Of course, as it has always been. USSR invaded Afghanistan because of strategical considerations, the US tried to invade Cuba for the same reasons. Iraq is a sensitive region close to Israel, ant there is also the issue of who ends up controlling the huge amounts of oil it produces.

There is a subtlety there: “they wanted to control the change of regime”, but they also wanted to initiate it. Do not let that escape you.

I will be glad to read the book you mention, but I already have a pretty good idea of why many dislike americans in Europe (but many love americans also): the arrogance of power. When France disobeyed americans and objected to the invasion of Iraq, were they doing so because of hatred for the USA ? Come on. They were doing their own interests, as in the Suez war or in other instances in the past. And the response of the US was to start calling “freedom fries” the chips.

There was no proof of the presence of WMD in Iraq, and the US did not need any, as is plain to see. In fact, they tried (I remember Colin Powell showing a trailer around: was that showing fake evidence or what ?), but with little emphasis, because they did not need a formal approval – they had already gotten a NYET from France.

Anyway, we are missing the point here. The point I was trying to make at the beginning was that the politics of imposing the american will to islamic countries is felt as a double insult, because not only the occupation forces are always hard to digest, but in the case of westerners occupying islamic countries there is a clash of cultures embittering the souls. Add to this the fact that terrorists are using the US presence in Iraq to fuel hatred by creating a generalized feeling of terror and by organizing guerrilla against the US, and I am bewildered you do not admit it would be much, much better if the troops left the country tomorrow, and invested the money saved from the Defense budget in the country’s reconstruction.


39. dorigo - May 23, 2007

Hi Fred,

thanks for your comment – I think it is important to stress that Iran is indeed a very complex country, whose citizens for sure cannot be described monochromatically as blood-thirsty jew haters.

The country’s leader is a cause of concern, of course… It is quite sad to know that the turns for the worse of the leadership in islamic countries is driven by the lack of diplomacy with which the US has been acting recently.


40. island - May 23, 2007

Don’t worry, because Israel will, without doubt, take care of Iran’s nuclear threat at the first sign that they are capable of producing nuclear weapons.

Anybody want to bet?

And the guy that I worked for was educated at Oxford, had a beautiful wife from the Asia, and was highly cultured… until you started talking about arabs or jews, that is, even the ones that he “tolerated” while they worked for him.

I know many Iranians whom I befriended and whom have become “westernized”, but they’re still pretty warped.

cannot be described monochromatically

I hope not, but I’ve seen them in the streets, and I’ve seen what they’ve done every time that they’ve had a revolution, so “generally speaking”… I don’t think that I can agree.

People are ideologically warped and they don’t change, has been my personal experience, and this extends right through the highest levels of science, (of all places!), so no, unfortunately there is no hope that I can see.

You can make all of the excuses in the world for people, but when they choose willful ignorance rather than to modify their position when they are enlighted with factual information that should have this effect, then there is no hope.

A good example of people being enlightened with facts that have no effect:

There is a whole boat-full of evidence in the state of Florida, that says that terrorists had and used weapons of mass destruction in Florida. There is also evidence in Florida that they were planning to use crop dusters to infect thousands with anthrax, but this wasn’t practical, so they used the mail system, instead.

When does anybode EVER talk about this?

These facts should raise a lot of questions, but the implication that this carries for how these terrorists got their hands on them isn’t something that either side of the WMD debate wants to face, so EVERYBODY… (yes, that’s a generalization), buys into some lame hype about a disgruntled scientist… WHO WILL NEVER BE TRIED FOR THIS ALLEGED CRIME.

Anybody want to bet?

Quote of the day:
is as idiotic, unnatural, and useless as a vector Higgs boson.


41. Winslie Gomez - May 23, 2007


The interest in Afghanistan is it’s startegic location both for Russia and US led coalition.

It is not just about oil, but the control of the supply of oil. Because that fixes the price in supply and demand.

Another nation growing rapidly and consuming vast resources is China. I believe the US fears that as a greater threat than OBL.

Recommend The Coming China Wars: Where They Will Be Fought and How They Can Be Won
by Peter Navarro (Author)

Look at what Russia did recently to it’s neighbours. Turned off the supply.

Just my musings and like you, slowing down with age.

42. Winslie Gomez - May 23, 2007

“People are ideologically warped and they don’t change, …..so no, unfortunately there is no hope that I can see”

I can wholeheartedly agree with the fast part but I stupidly want to hold on to hope.
That is the reason I am siting here typing this out one finger at a time.

The more we idcuss the reason HOPE -fully we will find the soultion.

43. jeff - May 23, 2007

Lack of diplomacy? We should all take lessons from european diplomacy. D’Alema? WOW. A real master.

You are not making headway in changing my ideas, and I know you will not change yours.

Oil? Hmm,… maybe you are RIGHT. We are all concerned about Iraq, but evidently not for the loss of human lives. OIL! Else we would all be concerned about what happens in the Dafur or happend in Cecenia. Right? Dafur has nothing to offer us. Cecenia is Russia’s back yard. No OIL interests hence no interest! Loss of human life? Who cares. OIL! Thats it.

But wait! Maybe the picture is still incomplete.
There are those that have a political agendas have nothing to do with human lives (else they would voice themselves for Dafur and would have done so for Cecenia). Then are those that just don’t want to be annoyed and fear the status quo will change and that terrorism might hit europe again (italians?). Iraq is a place to stablize and for reasons that is obvious to everyone, although for different reasons.

I am not justifiying armed intervention, but trying to think in ways that make sense. Blaming OIL interest is not even wrong (to paraphrase Pauli). That simplistic explanation raises more questions than what it claims to answer. With it you can try to explain US intervention now, but cann’t explain the stop in the first gulf war. It doesn’t explain why the US entered because it was obvious that the US cannot stay there forever. They will have to back out and must leave the country in a stable situation. If I were a cynical bastard interested in Iraqi oil I would have left Saddam in place and appeased him in all possible ways and ensure continuity for his natural replacment. I certainly would not have went in with a big stick and broke a thing that could have been milked more using more refined DIPLOMATIC ways (the new european approach after two World Wars and colonial skrewups). A cynical bastard would never break a thing that works but sit in the side lines and suck away. Then why does the US back Israel? Its a lost cause, certainly not a cause that any reasonble cynical OIL-sucker would spend time, money and lives to protect. Appease the arabs. Sell out Israel and then take their bloodly OIL.

Armed interventions are terrible things that real countries do for complex reasons and to invoke OIL is just stupid. Oil is certainly a catalyst, an indirect cause. No oil, low probability of anyone ginving a hoot! Oil makes that the near east area important for many people (not only the US, but Europe too) and consequently cultural, political, geo-political connections, links, interactions grow to huge proportions and one cannot find the prime motive anymore. Unless you are a simplton.

The american appeased Saddam when IRAN was the major threat in the area, just as the americans appeased Stalin when Hitler was the real threat, just as Stalin appeased Hitler when he believed it profitable, etc etc. People appease, States appease, because they have, or percieve to have, limited resourecs. Then situations change and convenient allies become urgent enemies. Armed intervention is a tragic option that the GW administration thought, erronously, would work. It didn’t work, in my mind, not because they overthru Saddam, but because they did not have a realiztic plan for what was to take place after.


p.s. The French do not hate americans, detest maybe, but not hate. It is a remarkabe fact that the french had great interests in oil under Saddam and maybe one could suspect that their opposition to overthrowing Saddam was based on their oil interests (see appeasment of Saddam, mentioned above). Also the French have an obvious agenda which is to lead anti-american policies, and they rode the wave well. In this case I do not mean HATRED. Others have hatred. I simply mean anti!

44. jeff - May 23, 2007

On the light side.
I saw a beautiful seminar of Weinberg today in Padova.
At the end I went up to him and shook his hand asking his secret, how he managed to keep brilliant and creative. He answered
“I don’t go to church and I don’t ski!”

45. dorigo - May 23, 2007

Hi Winslie,

I know that Afghanistan is strategic for the oil pipes, not just as a outpost. But I think it was the latter issue which triggered the USSR into action 30 years ago. That, plus an outlet to the indian sea.


46. Winslie Gomez - May 23, 2007

Ubviously entitled to your opinion and I don’t want to go down the ridiculing a persons view, route, because that is just petty.

In 1971 when I worked in oil tankers there was talk of buiding a pipeline from the then soviet Azerbaijan to Karachi. Interestingly it was Dick Cheney’s company that was going to buid it under contract.

Shell Uk had a contract with Iran Oil where it would cost more for Iran to get the oil out. So Shell was getting paid twice over on the pretext of creating oil related employment. This was all under the beloved Shah of Iran, then Shell contract was rescinded.

Why do you think the Shat al Arab water is so strategic for UK sailors to get captured and they diidn’t make a lot of noise did they?

There was also a black market in oil because we used to fill our fire barrier tanks fore and aft with oil, paid for in cash to the guy who controlled the valve, obviously a chain of corruption went higher up.

Please look back at any resource in history and you will see conflict for control of that resource, whether it be spices, tea, gold, minerals fish oil or any other product that developing countries need. They always went and took it under some other programme.

The Middle East is divided territory, do you really believe that all these little factions love each other under Ummah (arabic for brotherhood)?

47. island - May 23, 2007

I stupidly want to hold on to hope.

I was going to leave this conversation alone and get back to what I should be doing, but I just have to say that I guess that I hold onto this hope, as well, but that comes from my complete amazement that it is continually proven to me personally, to be so not true.

If there is one universal truth that requires the sacrificial compromise of ideological rightousness in order to be recognized, then this truth might as well not exist at all.

48. Hatim Hegab - May 24, 2007

I could not read all the comments derigo, I apologize for that and I promise to do.
Well, the mere talking about religions is itself a proof that we all are looking for the truth- I hope I am not wrong! – which I find encouraging.
As a Muslim, we are encouraged to have dialogues with others and listen to others and above all not to hate anyone based on any base if he does not hate us, and even if he does, we are asked not to respond with hate.
For this I hope you will accept my love and I hope I am welcome in this nice place.

Derigo, I will be at Fermilab on the first of July, I hope I can meet you there! But I’ll work for D0!

49. dorigo - May 24, 2007


Saddam wouldn’t be milked, he was a threat to the stability of the region and the interests of the arab friends of Bush senior. Saddam was impossible to deal with, and the US were not making progress in utilizing the resources there. When I refer to lack of diplomacy, I mean to say war…

I know about Weinberg’s seminar, it sucks I was not there. The Saturn occultation and then this… Bad timing for my mission in the US, but I could not change the schedule of the CDF shifts.


50. dorigo - May 24, 2007

Hi Hatim,

well, I am looking for the human truth, not the religious one… But I am also a particle physicist, so in a sense I am looking for a superhuman truth too.

Feel free to ignore most of this column of comments… It does not break new ground after all, although there may be a couple of interesting leads if you are interested in foreign politics.

I will not be at Fermilab for a while now, I think it is easier to meet at CERN if you ever travel there.


51. Hatim Hegab - May 24, 2007

Hi Dorigo,

Well, Human minds have always had difficulties understanding things around him, don’t you think we need a push?

I don’t think I will be able to go to CERN in the next couple of years! I am still doing my PhD @ D0 !!! -Yeah, I am a graduate student! 🙂

52. Andrea Giammanco - May 25, 2007

By the way, I just realized that Islam is BY FAR superior to Christianity.
In fact, I doubt that any christian priest would ever propose such a smart and elegant solution to one of the many conflicts between tradition and modern life:

Unfortunately other religious authorities disagree. But I hope that this idea can be exported to the West;)

53. dorigo - May 25, 2007

Ouch Andrea, that is so politically incorrect … I think islamism is facing quite some challenges these days.


54. Winslie Gomez - May 25, 2007

Great link for a Fri afternoon getting ready for bank holiday w/e.
Have to agree with Dorigo about non-PC.
The human mind, so good at finding solutions.
Surprised that an academic only had one source for his paper.

55. Hatim Hegab - May 26, 2007

Dorigo, I agree that we are all looking for the truth and nothing but the truth, but human mind has always proved to be not very efficient to understand some phenomenon, so don’t you think we need a push!?

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