Current Events

Dutch Government Collapses Over Afghanistan

The collapse of the Dutch government will have wide-reaching consequences, not just for The Netherlands, but also for Europe and the future of the Afghan War. Sentiments against America’s insistence to continue the war will increase in Europe and force European governments to either follow public demands to withdraw their troops, or risk their political survival.

The EUObserver wrote on February 22:

“Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende said on Sunday… that his country’s troops are likely to be pulled out of Afghanistan by the end of this year, a move he said may prompt other wavering states – including EU members – to think about doing the same… The centre-right leader was speaking a day after his government collapsed over the issue. The Labour Party quit the coalition on Saturday, saying it could not agree to a Nato request to extend the Dutch mission beyond 2010…

“There is also tension between contributing countries. Germany, which has the third biggest contingent behind the US and the UK, has its troops mainly stationed in the less risky northern part of the country. Fighting is heaviest in the south. France, which has just over 3000 troops in Afghanistan last month said it will not be sending any more, while London is feeling the political toll of the high number [of] British soldiers who have died in Afghanistan – over 100 last year…

“The move is a set-back for US President Barack Obama, who has been arm-twisting EU nations to do more in Afghanistan since making it a key plank of his foreign policy…

“The collapse of the government could result in a swing to the right in the 16-million strong country, which has been suffering from tensions over how to treat its Muslim and wider immigrant communities… Polls show that the anti-immigration Freedom Party, which was second only to Mr Balkenende’s Christian Democrats in last June’s European elections, may gain the most from the coalition’s dissolution.”

German Reactions to the Dutch Debacle

On February 22, Der Spiegel Online reported on the reaction of the German press to the collapse of the Dutch government, and the Afghanistan mission in general:

“The Dutch government is the first to collapse in a dispute over NATO’s involvement in Afghanistan. German media commentators say other NATO member states could share the same fate if they continue to ignore growing public opposition to the mission. The home front, it seems, is starting to crumble… The Afghan mission is unpopular across Europe and other governments will get into trouble too if they keep on ignoring public concern, say editorial writers at leading German commentators.

“The Dutch withdrawal is expected to fuel public debate in Germany, which has over 4,000 troops in Afghanistan. The mission has become even more controversial since an air strike ordered by a German commander on two hijacked fuel trucks in the northern region of Kunduz killed several civilians, possibly dozens, in September 2009…

“Center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“‘The alliance no longer seems able to muster and preserve the unity without which the war will scarcely be winnable. The political home front is crumbling at a time when the alliance is making a tremendous military and political effort to turn the situation in Afghanistan in its favor. This shows that the public and politicians are losing patience with the Afghanistan mission. The political class is now, for the first time, prepared to take the consequences. The Dutch government is the first to have stumbled and collapsed over the war…

“‘It is only a matter of time before the pressure in other capital cities becomes so great that politicians will be forced to choose between staying loyal to the alliance and their own political survival… The writing is on the wall. If NATO doesn’t soon outline a clear plan for its withdrawal, more and more national governments will organize their own pullout in response to public pressure. Even at the cost of doing lasting damage to the alliance.”

“Conservative Die Welt writes:

“‘The collapse of the government in The Hague could open the European floodgates. Madrid, just like Berlin, can no longer sell the Afghanistan operation as a peace mission. In Britain too, public support for the mission is increasingly brittle…’

“Left-wing Berliner Zeitung writes:

“‘The Netherlands was always regarded as a reliable partner in NATO and the EU. They were rewarded for their loyalty with top jobs in international organisations. The collapse of the coalition marks a break with that foreign policy tradition. Dutch policy has undergone a reversal and shows how domestic political calculations will in future dominate foreign policy…'”

It is perhaps interesting to speculate whether The Netherlands, as the prophetic Zebulon–a modern descendant of one of the tribes of the ancient House of Israel–will be or won’t be a part of the final ten nations or groups of nations, which are prophesied to rise in Europe just prior to Christ’s return. For the identity of modern nations in biblical prophecy, please read our Q&A on the matter.

The EU in Afghanistan

The EUobserver wrote on February 24:

“The EU’s new envoy to Afghanistan, Lithuanian diplomat Vygaudas Usackas, has said he aims to demonstrate that new member states are up to handling the bloc’s top overseas postings… Mr Usackas… will in April leave behind his family to go to Kabul, where he will take charge of around 80 staff as the EU Special Representative to Afghanistan and the head of the EU delegation in the Afghan capital.

“The move will see him become the second ever person from a new EU member state to lead one of the EU’s 136 foreign missions, six years after the 2004 round of enlargement. The first was by a Hungarian diplomat in Norway. But the Afghanistan job is of a different magnitude.

“Afghanistan is a theatre of war for over 110,000 foreign troops including armed forces from 25 EU states… But unlike in Lithuania, where public opinion supports the war, other EU countries are starting to pull out. It is also a huge recipient of EU aid, with around €8 billion pumped in by the European Commission and member states over the past eight years, and hosts one of the union’s fastest-growing police missions.

“Mr Usackas’ job will be to advise President Hamid Karzai on the conduct of parliamentary elections in autumn, to help build Afghan government structures in pacified territories, oversee the influx of aid and speak on behalf of the EU… The new EU envoy warned that Nato-caused civilian deaths, such as the incident in Uruzgan last Sunday which saw 27 casualties, are generating opposition to the international presence both inside Afghanistan and in Europe.”

Europe is getting more and more involved politically and militarily–including and especially in areas outside Europe.

Afghan War Unwinnable

BBC reported on February 23:

“Sixty-four per cent of British people think the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable, a BBC poll suggests… Only 27% agree that the government has given sufficient support to UK forces… The data was collected between 19-21 February 2010, while more than 1,000 British troops were taking part in Operation Moshtarak as part of a 15,000-strong Nato and Afghan offensive against the Taliban in Afghanistan’s Helmand province…

“63% of respondents to the Newsnight poll agreed when asked if they thought that whoever formed the next government after this year’s general election should commit to removing Britain’s armed forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2010. It is widely expected that a general election will take place in early May.

“When asked whether the war in Afghanistan was unwinnable, older people were gloomier than the young about the prospects of success. Seventy per cent of people aged 55 and over agreed that the war was unwinnable, compared with 58% of those aged 18-24. Otherwise, the response to this question was virtually unchanged since polling last November, suggesting that Operation Moshtarak might not have made an impact on the public.”

France’s Warship Sales to Russia “Very Risky”

The EUObserver wrote on February 19:

“Georgia on Thursday (19 February) warned Europe against a proposed French sale of warships to Russia, as it would allow Moscow to invade any former Soviet republic ‘within hours,’ echoing concerns raised by Baltic leaders that the deal is in breach of an EU code on arms trade. During a visit to London, President Mikheil Saakashvili said that the warship sale was ‘very risky’ and would ‘reward’ Russia’s continued military presence in Georgia’s breakaway provinces, in violation of a French-brokered ceasefire agreement after a brief war in 2008.

“Russia is negotiating a €500 million deal to buy at least one Mistral, an assault ship capable of carrying up to 16 helicopters and a 750-strong landing force. It has also expressed interest in three others.
“Mr Sarkozy has defended the sale, saying ‘one cannot expect Russia to behave as a partner if we don’t treat it as one.’ The deal would be a considerable boost for France’s Saint-Nazaire shipyard, which builds Mistrals…

“The Georgian leader also referred to remarks made last year by admiral Vladimir Vysotsky, the commander of Russia’s navy, who said that if his country had such a ship in 2008, it could have won the war against Georgia ‘in 40 minutes instead of 26 hours’… Vladimir Putin was now searching for a new conflict to underpin his bid to recapture the Russian presidency in 2012, Mr Saakashvili claimed.

“Baltic ministers last week also warned against the deal with Russia, which would be the first time a Nato country sells advanced military technology to the former Cold War enemy. There is no EU law governing arms sales by member states. But in 2008 the bloc adopted a political commitment not to sell weapons or components to countries which violate human rights, pose a risk to regional stability or hurt the security interests of EU allies. The code was signed into life by the French EU presidency four months after the Georgia war…

“Earlier this month, a Pentagon spokesman said the US’s ‘friends and allies’ in Eastern Europe had ‘good reason’ to be nervous about the deal. On Wednesday, Moscow signed a military treaty with the Georgian breakaway province of Abkhazia, which has access to the Black Sea. The deal includes setting up a Russian military base for at least 45 years. Moscow has currently about 1,700 troops in the self-declared independent province, despite the ceasefire agreement stipulating a scale-back in its military presence.”

Europe has had its history of signing pacts and making deals with Russia, only to break them later. There can be no doubt that Russia is on an aggressive course against nations which once belonged to the Soviet Empire. The Bible predicts that the relationship between the prophesied ten European nations or groups of nations and a power bloc under Russian and Chinese leadership will deteriorate and end in an out-right war.

“USA and Britain Are Next…”

A-7 News reported on February 24:

“Meeting with foreign ambassadors in the Knesset on Tuesday, Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin (Likud) said, ‘If the trend doesn’t change, the U.S. and Britain will be next in line’ to pay the price for the world’s double standards, and for their willingness to fight, in the war against terrorism.

“‘According to the standards laid down by the Goldstone investigation,’ Rivlin said, ‘Winston Churchill should have been charged with war crimes, as should the American and British armies in Iraq. In the meanwhile, though, only Israel is paying the price of the double standard that does not differentiate between attacker and victim, or between terrorism and self-defense.’

“The Goldstone Commission, charged by the United Nations with investigating Israel’s counter-terrorist Cast Lead offensive against Hamas-run Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009, accused Israel of war crimes, attacks upon civilians, and the like. ‘If the trend doesn’t change,’ Rivlin continued, ‘the next in line to be accused will be the members of the militaries of Great Britain, the U.S., and the other countries of the free world.’

“Some 70 ambassadors and foreign representatives took part in the Knesset event, which dealt with the fight of the democratic countries against terrorism… Rivlin warned of another terrific loss of life such as occurred in World War II… ‘Terrorism is trying to paralyze and silence democracies fighting against it,’ the veteran Jerusalemite Knesset Member said… Rivlin called on the nations of the world to stand by Israel in its fight against terrorism – a struggle that he said is ‘beginning to take on dimensions of World War III.'”

“PIIGS to the Slaughter”

Der Spiegel Online wrote on February 22:

“As speculators attack the euro, Europe is facing a growing threat of national bankruptcies. The consequences would be dramatic for the whole of the continent, especially German banks, which are highly exposed to risky debt. EU politicians are willing to pay almost any price to help the beleaguered countries…

“Europe is indeed currently the hottest topic on the global financial markets. The value of the battered euro has been falling since the Greek government confessed to the actual scope of its debt — and since it became clear that things are not looking significantly better in the other PIIGS countries (the acronym refers to Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain).

“There has never been this much uncertainty. No one knows whether the Greeks will manage to solve their problems, whether and how other countries will come to their aid, whether the crisis can be confined to Greece or whether it will spread like wildfire among the PIIGS — and end up tearing apart the European currency union…

“The financial industry is back to its old tricks, playing with the greatest possible amount of risk. In the past, it speculated with the debts of American homeowners and, as a result, triggered the biggest crisis in the world economy since the Great Depression of the 1920s. Now it is gambling with the debts of entire countries…

“It is no coincidence, however, that the speculators have not zeroed in on the dollar, the British pound or the yen. Although the United States, Britain and Japan are also groaning under the burden of their debt, the euro is much more vulnerable, for both historic and political reasons. The weak southern countries, members of the so-called Club Med, have always been seen as problem cases. They have lived beyond their means and neglected the need to be competitive, they have built up — partly in full view, partly cleverly hidden — enormous mountains of debt, and they have avoided hard-hitting reforms. These conditions existed before they became members of the euro zone, and they did not improve afterwards.

“The other euro countries looked the other way. Initially, before the establishment of monetary union, they looked away because they didn’t want to jeopardize their political goal of a European common currency. Later, it was because they themselves were benefiting from the euro. The German export economy, in particular, was able to expand continuously…

“The euro has been a success story until now. During the recent financial crisis, the common currency proved to be a blessing at first, particularly for the smaller countries. But as debt levels increased, the problems, previously suppressed, became more and more evident…

“US investment bank Goldman Sachs, in particular, has its finger in several pies at once: as an adviser to the beleaguered governments — and on the side of the hedge funds that are speculating against the Greeks. Goldman Sachs was also involved when the Greeks tried to hide their debts from Brussels. In 2002, the US bank helped them exchange a portion of their dollar and yen debts, worth $10 billion, into euro debts. Goldman even granted Greece a loan of €1 billion, which was never reported as such to Brussels, and collected €200 million for its efforts… even the new Greek government… cannot manage without the US investment bank…

“The situation would spin completely out of control if, in addition to Greece, countries like Portugal, Italy, Ireland and Spain got into difficulties… German banks are apparently the ‘principal creditors in Spain and Ireland, and the second-most important creditor in Italy’… Early last week, the German-French duo brought the remaining finance ministers in the euro group on board. Officially, all are still cloaked in silence and behaving as if bailouts will not be necessary. Nevertheless, the package of measures is beginning to take shape. The German Finance Ministry expects support for Greece to amount to between €20 billion and €25 billion. All the members of the euro group are expected to participate, including those, like Spain and Portugal, who also might find themselves needing help soon… The assistance is to consist partly of loans and partly of loan guarantees… the official version is that the participating countries will not assume any of Greece’s debt, which would be forbidden under the treaty. Instead, they will add new debt to the existing debt, something that the rules do not prohibit…

“The Finance Ministry officials are also thinking about creating a new institution… to handle future bailout efforts. This European fund would provide financing to countries in difficulty. It is still unclear how the new rescue fund will be financed. There are two conceivable options: Each member state’s contribution could be based on either its share of ECB capital or the level of its deficit. The second solution would be fairer: the worse a country’s financial policy, the higher its contribution. In other words, the biggest sinners would be required to pay the highest indulgence.

“Such an institution doesn’t exist yet, which means that European politicians will have to make do with what they have. The financial strength of the donor countries could soon be depleted. This could force ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet to buy up the debt of the countries facing bankruptcy — which is tantamount to printing money. Although this is prohibited under the Maastricht statutes, the EU finance ministers already demonstrated that the treaty could be amended if necessary when, in 2005, they stealthily relaxed the 3 percent criterion for government debt. Such a bailout would come at a high price: It would turn the European monetary union into an inflation union.”

The present European crisis, caused by Greece and blamed on U.S. banks, might be another stepping stone to the unification of ten leading and powerful European nations or groups of nations within larger Europe, as prophesied in Scripture. For more information, please read our free booklet, “Europe in Prophecy.”

Germany Urges Catholic Church to Come Clean on Child Abuse

Deutsche Welle reported on February 21:

“German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger leveled criticism at the Bishop of Augsburg, Walter Mixa, who she said was ‘hiding behind polemic excuses instead of contributing to clearing up’ the matter. The controversial bishop had previously told a local newspaper that the media and the ‘so-called sexual revolution’ were partly to blame for the problem of child abuse in society…

“The minister’s comments come to a backdrop of a widening scandal involving allegations of sexual molestation at Catholic schools throughout Germany dating back to the 1960s…

“Hamburg Archbishop Werner Thissen said the scandal was the result of ‘structural problems’ in the church… An association of Catholic lay people… has also called on bishops to come clean, and admit that cases that have come to light are not isolated.”

Der Spiegel Online added on February 24:

“The Catholic Church in Germany is under pressure as more and more cases of sexual abuse come to light. Now the government is demanding that the Church take rigorous action to investigate the incidents… But Benedict XVI remained silent…

“New allegations of abuse by members of the Catholic Church are emerging every day… Despite the apparent urgency of the situation, Germany’s highest-ranking Catholic… had been unavailable for comment for weeks during the scandal…

“In reacting to what is probably the biggest scandal within their ranks in decades, German bishops have seemed helpless and dazed, sometimes concerned about the victims, but often stubborn, out of touch with reality or ignorant — and generally confused…

“Even the German government is unequivocally calling upon Church leaders to take action — an extremely unusual approach in the context of the relationship between Church and state… The prevalent view within the clergy, however, is still that sexual assaults are isolated cases, the regrettable transgressions of brothers gone astray… At the same time, the many new suspected cases indicate that abuse of children and adolescents was apparently widespread throughout the Catholic world…

“Given their experiences, however, many victims have little confidence in an investigation conducted by precisely the institution that concealed the abuse, sometimes for years or even decades.”

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the Catholic Church will do to get itself out of this mess. Please watch our new StandingWatch program on this important issue, titled, “Why Catholic Sex Abuse?”

Head of German Lutheran Church Resigns Over Drunk Driving

Deutsche Welle reported on February 24:

“The head of the Lutheran Church in Germany, Margot Kaessmann, announced her resignation at a press conference on Wednesday after being pulled over for drunk driving days before… Her resignation as head of Germany’s Protestants and Hanover’s bishop is effective immediately, but she will remain a pastor in the local Hanover church…

“Police had stopped the 51-year-old, who was driving a car provided by the Church, for running a red light in Hanover on Saturday night. A test showed her blood alcohol level to be 0.154 percent, three times the legal limit for driving in Germany, prosecutors said.

“‘I am shocked at myself for committing such a grievous error,’ Kaessmann had told Bild newspaper. ‘I am aware how dangerous and irresponsible it is to drink and drive. I will accept the legal consequences’…

“Kaessmann was elected in October 2009 to be the first woman to head the Protestant Church in Germany, an umbrella organization that unites Germany’s 25 million Protestant Christians. She was a controversial choice, because she was divorced. Kaessmann was viewed as a modernizer and a supporter of improving ties with Catholics. She gained attention recently by calling for a pullout of German troops from Afghanistan, saying there was no such thing as a just war.”

The Habsburg Legacy

The Habsburg Empire was for many years a predominant force in continental Europe and constituted the seventh resurrection of the ancient Roman Empire and the fourth resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire. Even though it is very unlikely, based on the facts set forth below, that the Habsburgs will ever come to political power again in Europe, stranger things have happened in history.

Der Spiegel Online wrote on February 19:

“Many tourists take an underground detour to the Imperial Crypt, an internationally famed heritage site beneath the city of Vienna… When night falls, loneliness sweeps in around Leopold I. The deceased emperor lies inside his coffin… The man who lies buried beneath this dusty splendor was once the continent’s most powerful monarch. Leopold I reigned over the Holy Roman Empire for nearly half a century, beginning in 1658. He drove Turkish forces back from Vienna, defied King Louis XIV of France, and paved the way for an empire that stretched as far as the Netherlands, the Carpathian Mountains, Silesia, and Sardinia. Of the 146 Habsburg relatives to Leopold I who are interred in that part of the crypt open to the public, only Emperor Franz Joseph I reigned longer. But resting in his robust copper coffin since 1916, Franz Joseph I hasn’t yet needed to visit the workshop…

“The crypt provides one of the prime attractions within Vienna’s historic city center… Nearly 400 years’ worth of coffins and heart urns are collected here. Reform-inclined emperors lie alongside crowned warmongers, murder victims like Empress Elisabeth — better known by her nickname ‘Sisi’ — lie alongside suicides like her son Rudolf, who was the heir apparent. The remains of blue-blooded relatives from the houses of Bourbon, Parma, Burgundy and Aragon also rest here. The Habsburgs became a major power through their strategy of nonviolent annexation through marriage.

“Today, though, aside from the monks and the city of Vienna, only a ‘Society for the Preservation of the Imperial Crypt,’ with around a thousand members, sees to it that the deposed Habsburgs’ Valhalla, at least, still reflects the family’s former splendor. ‘We were dispossessed, so we didn’t even have funds available for restoration,’ complains Karl Habsburg, loyal grandson of the last emperor and now himself head of the House of Habsburg…

“Even 90 years after it enacted the Habsburg Law, the Republic of Austria still greets requests from the former dynasty with ‘limited enthusiasm’… The decision from April 3, 1919, still holds. The Habsburgs were dispossessed of private property held in family funds, denied the right to run for election, and forbidden to remain in Austria, unless they renounced in writing their claims to the throne and their affiliation with the deposed dynasty.

“Carl Ludwig, son of the last Habsburg emperor, was interred in the family crypt in January 2008. He refused his entire life to meet the full demands of the Habsburg Law, and paid for it with more than half a century of being denied entry to the country. Carl Ludwig was the younger brother of the heir to the throne, Otto von Habsburg, and took part in the Allied landing at Normandy in 1944 in an American uniform. He felt he had sufficiently proved his republican sentiments.

“Using the relics of the fallen dynasty as a tourist attraction but ostracizing the family’s heirs is typically Austrian, living descendents of the family argue. Michael Salvator Habsburg, a great-grandson of Emperor Franz Joseph I from the Tuscany line, has the same complaint. His ancestors, the historian says, relinquished their claim to the throne and remained in the country, yet still have not been rehabilitated…

“To this day, Vienna continues to supplement individual EU laws at the national level with conditions concerning the Habsburgs, as if a return to the throne remained a constant threat. Any remaining concerns that the republic is in danger of collapse, though, should be dispelled by the appearance of the elderly gentlemen who make up the Teutonic Master Guard Corps. They come every year on November 20, the anniversary of Franz Joseph’s death, to sing ‘God Save the Emperor’ in the Capuchin Church above the vault and then gather to pray in the crypt chapel below, within view of the vault’s last three empty marble plinths.

“It ‘doesn’t take much of a stretch of imagination’ to guess who is meant to take these last places of honor, Karl Habsburg commented shortly before his mother’s death two weeks ago. Karl’s father Otto, 97, has joked that the Capuchin monks seem to eye him with particular attentiveness during his visits to the crypt — ‘to take measurements for later’…

“What should be done, for example, with the monstrous copper coffin standing around uselessly at Vienna’s Central Cemetery? It was originally meant for Emperor Charles I, but he was buried in Madeira, where he was forced into exile. Since his beatification in 2004, the emperor’s resting place on the island has drawn more tourists than ever before. The autonomous Portuguese archipelago declines to transfer the tomb to the Imperial Crypt in Vienna…

“One gets a clearer sense of the ephemeral nature of things down here, adds Michael Salvator Habsburg. ‘The Christian Western world speaks out of the depths of the crypt,’ he says. ‘You can sense continuity and legitimation here.’ But things are different above ground, amid the daily life of the republic, Habsburg comments: ‘A government thinks first and foremost about its pension rights.'”

Scientists Retract Global Warming Study

The most important aspect in the following article is the fact that scientists openly admit that they make mistakes of such a magnitude that they can have wide-ranging consequences. It is high time that our “modern” and “sophisticated” civilization begins to place its trust and belief in God–rather than in erring scientists–and that it rejects scientific “knowledge” when it is in clear contradiction to the revealed Word of God–the Holy Bible.

The Guardian wrote on February 22:

“Scientists have been forced to withdraw a study on projected sea level rise due to global warming after finding mistakes that undermined the findings.

“The study, published in 2009… confirmed the conclusions of the 2007 report… It used data over the last 22,000 years to predict that sea level would rise by between 7cm and 82cm by the end of the century.

“At the time, Mark Siddall, from the Earth Sciences Department at the University of Bristol, said the study ‘strengthens the confidence with which one may interpret the IPCC results.’ The IPCC said that sea level would probably rise by 18cm-59cm by 2100, though stressed this was based on incomplete information about ice sheet melting and that the true rise could be higher.

“Many scientists criticised the IPCC approach as too conservative, and several papers since have suggested that sea level could rise more…

“Announcing the formal retraction of the paper from the journal, Siddall said: ‘It’s one of those things that happens. People make mistakes and mistakes happen in science.’ He said there were two separate technical mistakes in the paper, which were pointed out by other scientists after it was published. A formal retraction was required, rather than a correction, because the errors undermined the study’s conclusion.”

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