Saturday, May 30, 2015

Catching Up on Names, Namesakes

by Bill Doughty
New Jersey, John Finn, Midway and Craig Symonds, Mary Roach, Jimmy Carter and John S. McCain – all in the news recently and each with featured spots in Navy Reads. Make the connections...

A state of the Navy is New Jersey. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced this week that the newest Virginia-class attack submarine to be named after the Garden State would be SSN 796, USS New Jersey. A DOD story this week reminds us that the Navy’s first submarine, USS Holland, was designed and built in New Jersey in 1900.

Medal of Honor recipient John Finn, Dec. 7, 2006.
In Mabus's home state of Mississippi, at the beginning of this month, USS John Finn was christened at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagaoula. According to an informative post about John Finn on Navy Live Blog, "The future USS John Finn is the 63rd Arleigh Burke class destroyer, and the first of the DDG 51 Flight IIA restart ships."

John Finn passed away five years ago this week, May 27, 2010. We interviewed him for Navy Reads in late 2009, when he told us his favorite author prior to World War II was Ernest Thompson Seton – author, artist and naturalist. “I always loved books about wildlife,” he said. 

Finn was a hero who fought back against Imperial Japanese Navy planes attacking Oahu, Hawaii on December 7, 1941.

Craig Symonds
On Oahu next week Craig L. Symonds will be featured speaker at the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island, Pearl Harbor to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the Battle of Midway, which became the namesake for a great aircraft carrier, USS Midway (CV 41), now a museum in San Diego. The battle is considered the turning point of the war in the Pacific, just six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor and Oahu.
Dr. Symonds, a scholar of naval history and the Civil War, will conduct several book-signing events and interviews during the week leading up to the event at PAM, Saturday, June 6, 2015.

Mary Roach
Meanwhile, another gifted author who has contributed to Navy Reads, Mary Roach, is up in Skagway, Alaska this week as keynote speaker for "Exploring the Frontiers of Language / Let Skagway Inspire You," sponsored by North Word Writers Symposium. Roach – a champion of science, humor and critical thinking – is author of the New York Times bestsellers "Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal," "Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void," "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers," "Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex," and "Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife." 

Yesterday, 90-year-old Navy veteran and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter – author of numerous books on human rights, history, international relations and peace – attended a change of command ceremony for his namesake submarine, Seawolf-class attack submarine USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23) during a ceremony at Naval Base Kitsap, Bangor, Wash.

Cmdr. Melvin Smith (right) assumes command of USS Jimmy Carter.
Cmdr. Melvin Smith relieved Cmdr. Brian Elkowitz as commanding officer.

A story noted that "the 39th president and 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner is the only U.S. president to graduate from the Naval Academy and the only one to qualify on submarines."

Carter, who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1946 and served in the Navy until 1953, said: "Of all the honors I have ever received, I've never had anything of greater honor than the chance to be the namesake of USS Jimmy Carter."

Vice Adm. John S. McCain Sr. and Cmdr. John S. McCain Jr. in 1945.
In a ceremony May 28 in Yokosuka Japan, the forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class USS John S. McCain conducted a change of command ceremony. Cmdr. Chad Graham relieved Cmdr. Chase Sergeant as CO. McCain is named for Admirals John S. McCain Sr. and John S. McCain Jr., both WWII veterans and leaders, grandfather and father to Senator John McCain, Vietnam veteran, Navy pilot and former POW.

Sen. McCain's book "Character is Destiny" was featured on Navy Reads last year. The book, written with Mark Salter, is filled with short biographies and inspirational stories about core values, leadership, and the importance of good character.

Monday, May 25, 2015


Review by Bill Doughty

USNS General C. H. Muir
The Navy ship USNS General C. H. Muir (AP-142), launched by Kaiser Co. in 1944, was among American transport vessels that brought immigrants across the Atlantic from Europe after American and Russian troop liberated World War II concentration camps in Germany.

Allies liberate Dachau.
Referred to by the Nazis as KL (from the German Konzentrationslager), the camps "embodied the spirt of Nazism like no other institution in the Third Reich," author Nikolaus Wachsmann writes in "KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps" (2015; Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

Using primary sources, including recently accessible SS and German police reports, Wachsmann describes the horror and terror in the camps, where both guards and prisoners were dehumanized.

Liberated prisoners. (photo courtesy Truman Library)
"Terror stood at the center of the Third Reich, and no other institution embodied Nazi terror more fully than the KL," he writes, noting anti-semitism was at the core of the "racial war" carried out by Hitler, Himmler and their followers.

The Nazis used an Orwellian term, "protective custody," to describe their reason for establishing the KL. Eventually targeting Jews and other groups, the initial target was political enemies of the State, especially Communists, according to Wachsmann.

Wachsmann's chronology begins in 1933, the year Adolf Hitler rekindled a fascist dictatorship the ashes of Germany's failed early democracy. The Nazis practiced "radical repression of all internal enemies." The chronology examines the complicated nature of the different kinds of camps, describes how they were run, and shows how they were liberated.

Along with terror, at the heart of the reason for the camps was fear and hate. Even after liberation, Wachsmann describes the fear some German soldiers and citizens had of the men, women and children who were imprisoned. "Fear sometimes turned into paranoia and panic, with apocalyptic visions of escaped prisoners."

Wachsmann writes about memorials at Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, Mauthausen and Berlin. Nearly 200 pages of this 865-page book are devoted to notes and sources.

This book is a new authoritative standard on the history of concentration camps in Nazi Germany, showing different facets from the point of view of captors and captives, alike.

Gen. Charles H. Muir
As for USNS General C. H. Muir, the ship not only served to bring troops and survivors back from Europe in 1945 but then also brought troops to Pearl Harbor, Eniwetok, Ulithi, and Leyte and in the following decade served in the Korean War. General C. H. Muir received two battle stars for Korean War service, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.

The ship's namesake was born in 1860, the year before the Civil War began.  According to NHHC:
"Following duty at various posts in the United States, including service in the Indian Wars, [General Muir] took part in the capture of Santiago during the Spanish-American War and fought in the Philippines – during the insurrection which followed. Muir was also a member of the China Relief Expedition of 1901. Staff duty and service in the Philippines followed; and, with America's entrance into World War I, he was given command of the 28th Division. Muir was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his service during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive."
Muir died December 8, 1933, the same year Hitler came to power in Germany.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Jefferson, Monty Python, UCMJ and Magna Carta at 800

by Bill Doughty

Terry Jones of Monty Python narrates a really cool video synthesizing the history of Magna Carta on the occasion of its 800 year birthday this weekend and recognizing it as one of the cornerstones of democracy and human rights.

The animated video is part of a project sponsored by the British Library:

"Why was Magna Carta agreed at Runnymede in 1215? What did the document say, and how was it interpreted over the next 800 years? Why is it still important today, and how does it affect our culture, laws and rights?"

The ideas captured in the document crossed the Atlantic with colonists and immigrants searching for liberty and an escape from gross inequality.

Penn reprinted Magna Carta in 1687.
Magna Carta influenced growth of freedom in Philadelphia under William Penn in the century before the American Revolution. Penn, founder of Philadelphia ("City of Brotherly Love") was persecuted, even jailed, for freely expressing his religious beliefs as a Quaker. He stood for the belief, expressed in Magna Carta that the innate rights of people should not be infringed upon by the Church or State. Penn had the full text of Magna Carta reprinted in Philadelphia in 1687.

The U.S. National Archives offers an exhibit and series of programs this summer commemorating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.

From the Archives website: "During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights."

Interestingly, Thomas Paine in his "Rights of Man" denounced Magna Carta for not going far enough, in that it was merely a bargain with the barons and other nobles and did not represent the interest of all people. Perhaps Paine's argument was influenced by his strong ties to France.

Nevertheless, Thomas Jefferson saw Magna Carta as a turning point in the history of human rights.

Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, who as president was commander in chief during the Navy's victory in the the Barbary Wars, wrote a letter in 1814 referencing Magna Carta. It was the same year British troops burned the Library of Congress in the War of 1812 (Jefferson would donate 6,000 books from his personal library in response).
In Jefferson's letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, dated Feb. 10, 1814, the statesman reminisces about "a time of life when I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they had, and bearding every authority which stood in the way."

He reasons that Magna Carta, also spelled "Magna Charta," was significant in that it marked a turning point in history from common law to statute law.
"For we know that the common law is that system of law which was introduced by the Saxons on their settlement in England, and altered from time to time by proper legislative authority from that time to the date of Magna Charta, which terminates the period of the common law, or lex non scripta, and commences that of the statute law, or Lex Scripta. This settlement took place about the middle of the fifth century."
Jefferson's letter makes the case that American law and justice evolved from legislative authority based on fundamentals of human reasoning, rights and freedom.

In "Thomas Jefferson: A Life" author Willard Sterne Randall reveals that "whether he knew it or not (Jefferson) was descended, on his mother's side ... from one of the barons who signed the Magna Carta in 1215."

Magna Carta also influenced the thinking and philosophy of Mohandas Gandhi and therefore Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

King John is compelled to sign Magna Carta May 15, 1215.
2nd Lt. Allen Ernst, of 71st FTW Legal Office of Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, offers this perspective as to why the 800-year-old document is relevant to members of the armed forces as a keystone for Uniformed Code of Military Justice:

"The UCMJ governs all US military personnel around the world, from the chief of staff to the newest airman basic, and protects the rights of service members by laying out strict guidelines for the due process of military law," he writes. "For example, Article 7(e) prohibits confinement of individuals without probable cause, and Article 55 specifically prohibits cruel and unusual punishment."
According to Ernst, "The Magna Carta was a response to a problem. King John of England was abusing his supreme power, supposedly by divine right, acting selfishly at best and destructively at worst."

Navy JAGs visit Library of Congress Magna Carta exhibit Jan. 14, 2015. (Photo by Lt.j.g. Hood)
Lt.j.g. Colin Hood of the Region Legal Service Office Naval District Washington wrote in a post in March on DOD Navy Live U.S. Navy JAG Corps blog:

"Although the original charter was nullified by Pope Innocent III a few weeks after its distribution, language from the document would be recycled in subsequent royal charters and decrees. The interpretation and implementation of ideas expressed in the Magna Carta would eventually lead to the beginnings of several legal theories (the right to due process, the jury system, etc.) we depend on today."

Eventually, in 20th century, Magna Carta would even influence the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In addition to the funny and informative Monty Pythonesque video, the British Library's comprehensive site offers a series of essays about Magna Carta, including more about how early American history was influenced by the landmark document.

(Special thanks to friend and colleague Brandon Bosworth for his suggestion to do a Navy Reads post on this topic. Check out Brandon's A Gent In Training blog. Mind-expanding reads.)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Remembering B.B. King of the Blues

by Bill Doughty

Reading books on weekends (or while working on the Navy Reads blog) can be enhanced with some music on. This weekend it will be the blues.

Riley B. King died May 14 in Las Vegas. The King of the Blues was 89.

I heard my first B.B. King album at 17 in 1971, "Live at Cook County Jail."

When I discovered the music of B.B. King and his guitar Lucille I was already into the electric blues of Johnny Winter, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Cream, and of course Led Zeppelin. B.B. was the pure heart of stage-band blues who captured hearts with "The Thrill is Gone."

But it was his Live at Cook County version of "How Blue Can You Get," written by Leonard and Jane Feather, that gives me chills every time I hear it. Funny, audacious, powerful: 

   "I gave you a brand new Ford, but you said 'I want a Cadillac.' 
   I bought you a ten dollar dinner, and you said 'thanks for the snack.' 
   I let you live in my penthouse; you said it was just a shack.
   I gave you seven children, and now you want to give 'em back."

   I've been downhearted baby, ever since the day we met. 
   You know our love is nothing but the blues. 
   Tell me how blue can you get"

You have to hear his Cook County performance as he belts out these lines backed by his tight band.

B.B. King was renowned for his generous spirit and positive perspective. He was said by one biographer to "worship education and lament his lack of schooling," having survived the Depression and life as a sharecropper, picking cotton as a child and young man. His influences were the Count Basie Band, Lonnie Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Django Reinhardt and especially T. Bone Walker.

As an artist he communicated universal messages of love and pain through his music.

B.B. King performs at Harvard's Lippmann's House in 1980.
In 1980 the King of the Blues visited Harvard University's Lippmann House at the invitation of Bulgarian journalist and Nieman Foundation for Journalism Fellow Bistra Lankova and biographer Charles Sawyer, author of "The Arrival of B.B. King."

King performed "for love," according to Sawyer.
"What followed was a unique and purely magical performance. He played five songs, singing without a microphone while his audience listened, in complete thrall to the greatest blues singer and guitarist of all time, who was sitting across the room from them, giving them a private concert. The power of B.B.’s voice was enhanced, not diminished, by the absence of a sound system because of the intimacy he achieved in the confines of a small, acoustically dampened space."
You can read about B.B. King's unique example of King's commitment to the blues, and listen to his performance – in a library, captured on a small recorder. The acoustic dampening comes from the books, no doubt. Among the songs King does in the nearly-unplugged venue are "I Like to Live the Love (that I Sing About)," "How Blue Can You Get" and "The Thrill is Gone."

According to David Ritz, another writer who collaborated with King on his autobiography "Blues All Around Me," King's move to Memphis in 1946 at the age of 21 "changed his life – and the course of American music."

Ritz wrote this in 1998 about B.B. King in liner notes to the great bluesman's Greatest Hits:
"His devotion to the urban blues he loves so deeply has insured the genre a distinct place of acceptance and honor. King is a man of honor, an artist whose lifework bears the stamp of integrity, passion and honesty. He has blessed our culture with a blues, born in despair and nourished in faith, of singular and stirring beauty."
The thrill is not gone.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

McRaven & Russell on Fear, Hope and Beginning of Wisdom

by Bill Doughty

Retired Adm. William McRaven, former commander of the United States Special Forces Command, published a list of recommended books in 2013, the year before he retired. The list included some familiar Navy Reads favorites: "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell, "The World is Flat 3.0" by Thomas Friedman, "Made to Stick" by Chip and Dan Heath, and "Eleven Rings" by NBA Coach Phil Jackson.

McRaven's book and author recommendations were presented to special operations warriors as a way to "understand contemporary issues, develop a strong appreciation of our history and heritage, and stimulate creative thinking to confront complex challenges." The complete list was published on "War on the Rocks."

When he promulgated his list McRaven said he valued critical thinking and analysis, and he expected his SEALS and other warfighters to confront challenges head-on. He suggested the same approach to new college graduates.

McRaven was a guest on this past Sunday's This Week show on ABC TV where he discussed his civilian job or "new mission" as Chancellor of the University of Texas system. Guest anchor Martha Raddatz played clips from his viral world-famous commencement address from last year at the UT with advice about what to do if you want to change the world. McRaven explained what he'd learned from SEAL training, starting with "make your bed."

McRaven challenged graduates, just as he challenged his warrior readers, to face their fears and embrace hope.

"If I have learned anything in my time traveling the world, it is the power of hope. The power of one person — Washington, Lincoln, King, Mandela and even a young girl from Pakistan, Malala — one person can change the world by giving people hope," he said to University of Texas graduates.

Nearly 100 years ago, in 1917, the year the United States entered World War I, philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote this about the subjects of fear and hope in an essay, "Education":
"No institution inspired by fear can further life. Hope, not fear, is the creative principle in human affairs. All that has made man great has sprung from the attempt to secure what is good, not from the struggle to avert what was thought evil. It is because modern education is so seldom inspired by a great hope that it so seldom achieves a great result. The wish to preserve the past rather than the hope of creating the future dominates the minds of those who control the teaching of the young. Education should not aim at a passive awareness of dead facts, but at an activity directed towards the world that our efforts are to create. It should be inspired, not by a regretful hankering after the extinct beauties of Greece and the Renaissance, but by a shining vision of the society that is to be, of the triumphs that thought will achieve in the time to come, and of the ever-widening horizon of man's survey over the universe. Those who are taught in this spirit will be filled with life and hope and joy, able to bear their part in bringing to mankind a future less somber than the past, with faith in the glory that human effort can create."
Russell, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950 and author of "A History of Western Philosophy," is sometimes quoted in commencement ceremonies, too.

The excerpt above from "Education" was published in an anthology of nonfiction, fiction and poetry titled "The World's Best," edited by Whit Burnett (The Dial Press, New York, 1950).

Russell himself introduced the piece, "because reverence for human individuality and mental initiative are, in my opinion, of the utmost importance, and are increasingly threatened ..."

Russell was a pacifist who believed that a strategy of reason and cooperation was better than tactics of killing and conflict in dealing with complex challenges. An opponent to the First World War, he later came to support Britain in war against Germany in World War II when he saw there was no reasoning with Adolf Hitler.

Among Russell's famous quotes are: "War does not determine who is right – only who is left" and "To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom..."

Thursday, May 7, 2015

'Dead Wake' and Stink of U-Boats

Review by Bill Doughty

Captain William Thomas Turner
Premonition, dread, drama, romance and revelation await readers of "Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania" by Erik Larson (Crown Publishers, Penguin Random House, 2015).

The author describes the times and the people who inhabit this true story, including Master of the Lusitania, Captain William Thomas Turner, an imposing and self-assured man "with the physique of a bank safe."

"Dead Wake" builds like a thriller as it interweaves side stories with strong characters and historical references from a century ago and shows how the United States was dragged into World War I despite President Wilson's drive to remain neutral. Entreaties by Great Britain were ignored, as was German savagery against civilians and disrespect for "sacred freedom of the seas" – even for nearly two years after the sinking of the Lusitania. But eventually strategy on one side and miscalculation on Germany's side led the United States to join the Allies.

Attacks on civilian shipping – including against commercial ocean liners, causing to the deaths of innocent children, women and men – were perpetrated by German submarines, known as U-boats.

For Navy readers, the description of life in early 20th century submarines provides pungent details and insights.
"The boats were cramped, especially when first setting out on patrol, with food stored in every possible location, including the latrine. Vegetables and meats were kept in the coolest places, among the boat's munitions. Water was rationed. If you wanted to shave, you did so using the remains of the morning's tea. No one bathed. Fresh food quickly spoiled."
German submarines were known to scavenge – from other vessels, from a dispatched hunting party on land, and from the sea after explosions killed schools of fish.
"These fish and their residual odors, however could only have worsened the single most aspect of U-boat life: the air within the boat. First there was the basal reek of three dozen men who never bathed, wore leather clothes that did not breathe, and shared one small lavatory. The toilet from time to time imparted to the boat the scent of a cholera hospital and could be flushed only when the U-boat was on the surface or at shallow depths, lest the undersea pressure blow material back into the vessel. This tended to happen to novice officers and crew, and was called a 'U-boat baptism.' The odor of diesel fuel infiltrated all corners of the boat, ensuring that every cup of cocoa and piece of bread tasted of oil. Then came the fragrances that emanated from the kitchen long after meals were cooked, most notably that close cousin to male body odor, day-old fried onions."
U-boats in harbor. U-20 is second from left in front.
U-boats became the scourge of the seas, especially after Unterseeboot-20, under Kptlt. Walther Schwieger, sank the civilian ocean liner Lusitania, May 7, 1915. British artist Norman Wilkinson immortalized the scene.

But, according to Larson, "U-boats despite their fearsome reputations, were fragile vessels, complex and primitive at the same time."
"The boats were prone to accident. They were packed with complicated mechanical systems for steering, diving, ascending, and regulating pressure. Amid all this were wedged torpedoes, grenades and artillery shells. Along the bottom of the hull lay the boat's array of batteries, filled with sulfuric acid, which upon contact with seawater produced deadly chlorine gas. In this environment, simple errors could, and did, lead to catastrophe."
Larson gives examples in snippets of stories, and he quotes directly from letters, papers, once-secret dispatches, archived reports and logs, journals, telegrams, memoirs, and newspaper accounts.

Several times while reading personal stories or correspondence never meant to be public, especially those from the Wilson Papers, readers may feel they're invading someone's privacy.

British artist Norman Wilkinson immortalized the sinking of the Lusitania.
Yet, the author's accuracy in describing the science of undersea warfare, the architecture of ocean liners, or the terror of abandoning a sinking ship makes for powerful magnetic reading. You'll see the presidency, periscopes and vulture-like seagulls in a different light after reading "Dead Wake." And you'll practically smell the inside of a U-boat in 1915.

The conclusion of this book touches on some fascinating discussion in the aftermath of the sinking of the Lusitania – in the wake of the "dead wake."

Was there a conspiracy by the British Admiralty and a secret desire for the ship to be attacked in order to get the United States into the war? What was behind the German plot to get Mexico to side with Germany "in return for Texas, New Mexico and Arizona"? Why was Captain Turner, by all accounts a good and honorable man, blamed by Winston Churchill and the Admiralty?

U.S. Navy destroyers join the fight in Gribble's painting, "The Return of the Mayflower."
When U.S. destroyers joined the British in patrols against German U-boats on May 8, 1917, people in Great Britain rejoiced the "descendants of the colonials returning now at Britain's time of need." The moment was captured, Larson notes, in "The Return of the Mayflower," a painting by Bernard Gribble.

Larson ties up story lines nicely and unflinchingly – showing us the grisly reality of life and death in time of war. A recommended read that helps put the First World War and submarine warfare in context.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

ISIS and The Why

Review by Bill Doughty

A new book about the self-proclaimed Islamic State explains who and what is behind the violent jihadists – when, where and how they came to power and, perhaps most importantly, why they exist.

The Why is one of the most intriguing insights in "ISIS: The State of Terror" by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger (2015, HarperCollins).

As with some other ultra-fundamentalist groups, the terrorists of ISIS/ISIL, like al Qaeda and the Taliban, have a persecution complex and see the world in polarized good-and-evil, black and white terms.  They believe in the need to purify the world before armageddon and the apocalypse – "the final hour" or "end times."
"ISIS has begun to evoke the apocalyptic tradition much more explicitly, through actions as well as words ... While Muslim apocalyptic thought is diverse and complex, most narratives contain some elements that would be easily recognized by Christians and Jews: at an undetermined time in the future the world will end, a messianic figure will return to the earth, and God will pass judgment on all people, justly relegating some to heaven and some to hell."
Jessica Stern
In Chapter 10, "The Coming Final Battle?," the authors explain the concept of belief in the Mahdi (The Guided One), expected to appear before the Day of Judgment, according to some believers (83 percent of people in Afghanistan; 72 percent in Iraq, as reported by the Pew Research Center).

Stern and Berger write, "For both Sunnis and Shi'ites, the Mahdi's role is, in part, to end the disunity of the Muslim community and to prepare for the second coming of Jesus Christ, who is understood to be a prophet in Islam." In a fascinating cover profile of ISIS in the March 2015 issue of The Atlantic, Graeme Wood discusses the Prophetic narration that claims Jesus as "the second-most-revered prophet in Islam," who will return to "lead the Muslims to victory."

Why the extreme and gory violence, including crucifixion and beheadings?

The answer may be in what author Mark Juergensmeyer calls "ancient religious rites of sacrifice" and martyrdom. In his pre-9/11 book, "Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Terrorism" (University of California Press, 2000), Juergensmeyer mirrors arguments made by the authors of "ISIS" fifteen years later: Persecution complex, belief in moral superiority, and a call for sacrifice resulting in a form of martyrdom.
"There is some evidence that ancient religious rites of sacrifice, like the destruction involved in modern-day terrorism, were performances involving the murder of living beings. The later domestication of sacrifice in evolved forms of religious practice, such as the Christian ritual of the Eucharist, masked the fact that in most early forms of sacrifice a real animal – in some cases a human – offered its life on a sacred chopping block, an altar. In the Hebrew Bible, which is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, the book of Leviticus gives a detailed guide for preparing animals for sacrificial slaughter. The very architecture of ancient Israeli temples reflected the centrality of the sacrificial event. The Vedic Agnicayana ritual, some three thousand years old and probably the most ancient ritual still performed today, involves the construction of an elaborate altar for sacrificial ritual, which some claim was originally a human sacrifice. This was certainly so at the other side of the world at the time of the ancient Aztec empire, when conquered soldiers were treated royally in preparation for their role in the sacrificial rite. Then they were set upon with knives ..."
Juergensmeyer shows the similarity of beliefs in Osama bin Laden's interpretation of Islam, Timothy McVeigh's association with Christian Identity White Supremacy, and Shoko Asahara's Aum Shinrikyo cult's armageddon terrorism. There are uncanny links to persecution complex, blind belief and various forms of millenarism through homegrown and international terrorist groups. Our former enemies in World War II also held messianic beliefs and feelings of persecution which may have fueled atrocities in that war.

While evidence shows that most Muslims around the world reject ISIS, there is a danger, according to the authors, in ignoring the strong beliefs held by "true believer" jihadist extremists, who think behavior such as beheadings, slavery, and sexual assaults and other cruelty toward women is ordained, based on their faith and interpretation of a written word or "law."

If that helps explain The Why, what about The How in dealing with the people rallying behind the black and white flags? How should we combat the threat of ISIS/ISIL? 

Graeme Wood takes a pessimistic view:

"Ideological tools may convince some potential converts that the group's message is false, and military tools can limit its horrors. But for an organization as impervious to persuasion as the Islamic State, few measures short of these will matter, and the war may be a long one, even it fit doesn't last until the end of time," he concludes.

Stern and Berger provide suggestions including ostracism and an outright siege to let them rot, countering through social media, not taking the bait when provoked, and insisting on a nuanced educated conviction in our approach – not interpreting things in black-and-white. 

"Empathy is the antidote to human cruelty," they advise.

So is education, science, reading and critical thinking.