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So, How's World War 3 Going For You?

"Destroy IS - God does not exist - All people are equal"
It will be interesting to see what future historians make of us and these days. When will they set as the start date for this great conflict that is slowly eating the world and our hopes for the future? Will it be September 24, 2014, when President Obama told the UN that the war against IS/ISIS/ISIL was just the beginning of a wider struggle against fundamentalist Islamic ideology? Will it be June 29, 2014, when the new caliphate was declared (caliph means successor, the first caliphate declared in the Arabian peninsula back in 632, after the death of the Prophet Muhammad).

Will the start of WW3 be dated at September 11, 2001, when the al-Qaeda attacks on the US punched the liberal western world in the gut, almost causing the collapse of society, but leading directly to the financial crisis that has made the 99% so tired, miserable and hopeless? Or will it be back in August 1996, when Osama bin Laden issued his Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places (US troops were deployed to Saudi Arabia by President George HW Bush in 1990, enraging Muslims. Most were withdrawn in 2003.) Is it only a declared war when the superpower decides to name it so? Or did it really get serious with al-Qaeda's second declaration of war, fatwa, on February 23, 1998?

The second fatwa states that three facts that are known to everyone compel war against the United States. First, the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places. Second, the crusader-Zionist alliance has inflicted great devastation upon the Iraqi people. Third, the United States' goal is to serve the Jews' petty state and divert attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there. It concludes with instructions to all Muslims everywhere:

The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies -- civilians and military -- is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it. Every Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded should comply with God's order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it.

Or should we go back a little further? Perhaps to 1095, when Pope Urban II proclaimed the First Crusade with the stated goal of restoring Christian access to holy places in and near Jerusalem. Two centuries of war ensued. Two centuries. Or should we go back to 636, when Muslims forces defeated the Byzantines at the battle of Yarmouk (in Syria) to take control of the famed Levant? Or back again, to 610, when Muhammad first started receiving revelations from the archangel Gabriel? (Of course, these early options for dating WW3 precede World Wars 1 and 2, creating a paradoxical conundrum for another day.)

Let's just go with the reality that we are where we are. So, what's it all about? I have three possible answers:

1. This is just the latest chapter in the clash of cultures between Islam and Judaism/Christianity (remember Yarmouk*?).
This is credible, but strange, because all three religions are monotheistic (believing in a single god, as opposed to, say, Hinduism, which believes in many gods) and all their god stories derive from Abraham, an ancient figure from Canaan who was 'ordered by god' to kill his son and was about to do so until 'told by god' to kill a goat instead. Really. So it's all a big, stupid, endless game: Which of these related religions is the most mental? As an atheist I am both horrified and confused by how religious fervour on both sides seems to underline the entire conflict.

*The Battle of Yarmouk happened in Syria in 636, when the first Muslim Caliphate destroyed the army of the declining Byzantine Empire, effectively forcing the West from the Levant until the Crusades. The parallels with the current sutuation are uncanny and IS is really pushing the historical precedent of Yarmouk. Find out more at

2. This is all about the American Empire in decline and IS wanting to fill the vacuum.
WikiLeaks, the diplomatic cables, Edward Snowden, the NSA. Our understanding of American strength has changed in recent years. Duplicity, conspiracy and hypocrisy led to the Arab Spring and the downfall of US puppet dictators across the Middle East. Some of them, anyway. The most powerful US-allied dictators, the Saud dynasty in Saudi Arabia, still reign supreme, still control the flow of oil, upon which the US economy and the US war machine depend. The Saudi brand of Sunni Islam, Wahhabism, birthed al-Qaeda and Saudis piloted the 9/11 jets. Many assume that the Saudis also created IS, as a counter to Iranian (Shia) influence in Iraq. Maybe they saw their American proxy army having its political limitations so they decided to create their own?

3. This is really a war between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam and the west is being used as a pawn in a bigger struggle.
Saudi Arabia leading the majority Sunni Islamic sect against Iran leading the minority Shia Islamic sect. The Sunnis and Shias have been at each others' throats virtually since the dawn of Islam. Consider the Catholic V Protestant Christian wars that have consumed Europe for centuries, most recently in Northern Ireland, and you get the flavour of what hatred pathetically minor religious differences can generate. Some say that the disastrous Iraq War which began in 2003 was caused by Iranian agents leading the US into an unwinnable conflict so as to remove Iran's greatest regional and religious enemy, Saddam Hussein. The very first caliph (Sunni), who ruled after Muhammad from 632-634, was named Aby Bakr. The leader of the Islamic State caliphate is named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

In my opinion, the real answer is a bastard mix of all three scenarios and the only way to effectively deal with IS and this never-ending conflict is to address the three main issues from bin Laden's 1998 declaration of war: Get all US troops out of Saudi Arabia, while replacing the horrific Saud monarchy with a secular democracy. Place the religious sites of Mecca and Medina apart from Saudi Arabia, controlled by a coalition representing all Muslims everywhere. Then fix Iraq. A secular, participative democracy must be created. Throw as much money at this problem as was thrown at the war that destroyed the place (about $6 TRILLION, including future veterans' benefits). Fix Palestine, a two-state solution, ideally without Netanyahu, recognising that Orthodox Judaism is as much part of the problem as Fundamentalist Islam.

It is my dream that atheism and secularism can replace the religions that have poisoned the Middle East and spread like a virus into the world. Without religion, can you genuinely see this mutating conflict, from Iraq and Syria to Gaza and Afghanistan, sustaining itself?

In 2014, in 13 countries, all members of the United Nations, and all Muslim nations, being an atheist is punishable by death, typically by beheading - so shocking when carried out by IS. These nations are: Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Is this a clash of civilisations? I think so.

Connect with Gary J Byrnes at


Scotland Decides

The decline and fall of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland began in 1919, with a guerrilla campaign, devised by Irish terrorist Michael Collins. Collins and his teams murdered British agents in cold blood on the streets of Dublin, organised ambushes of British military columns and dealt with informants ruthlessly. Britain responded with massacres of civilians, the torching of cities and the mobilisation of death squads, the infamous Black and Tans. But Collins' asymmetric warfare campaign could not be countered with the standard British scorched earth tactics that had worked so well in Ireland for centuries. So a peace settlement was reached in 1921.

When the Irish Free State was created, Northern Ireland remained with the Union. Settled by mainly Scottish Protestants during the Plantations of the 16th and 17th centuries, Ulster would keep her Scottish links, treat Catholic/Nationalist residents as officially second class citizens and continue to say "Never!" So the island of Ireland remains a broken place, divided by anger, hatred and the Union.

Scotland today has an opportunity to break with the Union, to break with the idea of a 'united kingdom' dominated by an unelected monarchy, controlled by an elitist, English Establishment and ruled by a ruthless, market-obsessed Tory Government. Importantly, Scotland can break free using a referendum, without a single shot being fired. And, if she does choose independence, the Unionists of Northern Ireland will sleep uneasily as the last vestiges of legitimacy for their union are stripped away, exposing the moral vacuum at the heart of the failure that will be the Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Come on, Scotland!

On Finishing A Novel - Advertisement for Myself

Working cover design for the new novel from Gary J Byrnes

Four years. That's how long it took to finish my latest novel. Looking back at the events of the summer of 2010 - on Wikipedia, you can look at world events for every day in the recent past, every day! - I was struck by how little has changed. Iran, Gaza, recession, this was the 2010 news. If anything, things have gotten worse. Syria. IS. Ukraine. But I have my novel and maybe that can help to make things a little better for some, if only by providing my readers with a distraction, an entertainment, a different perspective.

That's the magic of stories. Stories are what give us the best of humanity. They are educators. They share ideas, spark revolutions - yes, a tweet is a story - and can provide a history and a future all at once. The Internet is a story, a glorious, connected, infinite dazzle of chapters and books and autobiographies. "Here I am! Look at me! Please." And the Internet has changed book publishing over those four years. The terrible beauty of self-published ebooks, with virtually instant distribution to an entire planet, countless trees saved, swathes of middlemen and their margins bypassed, analytics that don't lie and, best of all, readers in the driving seat.

"Read this sad and desperate ghost-written autobiography of a perfectly boring sports person!" shouts the ad on the side of the bus. "Let's talk about the shit book written by the actor who works for the film company that's also owned by the megalomaniac who owns this TV channel and is also the publisher of said shit book," says the talking head on the living room flatscreen. "Christmas is coming, so let's talk to a tedious chef about why you must buy yet another fucking cookbook," says the dying magazine which has been paid peanuts to peddle crap. These are the breathless last gasps of a dead business model.

I will be happy, delighted even, to publish To Eat the World myself. My story is about food and art and Nazi bankers who want to control the world economy but who will also detonate a nuclear bomb under Wall Street, because fiddling with the economy is just so fucking boring and people have had just about enough of that shit reality. So you can smell the food, you can visualise the great art as you glimpse a greater understanding of why we cook and why we make pictures and why the two go together. Why Nazis? Because they have influenced the modern art world more than any other organisation. Perhaps they've had more of an influence on today's world than we would like to acknowledge.

And the understanding that you will reach as you read my story will come from you. I don't join all the dots. I give you the dots to join as you will.

So, yes, I will be happy - delighted even - to publish To Eat the World myself. It can be in the iTunes stores and on Barnes and Noble's virtual shelves in a day. It can be in every Google Play app store and every Amazon marketplace that same day. And it will be very good value and it will sell as my body of self-published work proves. But would I like to work with an agent or publisher who can put it on bus sides and TV and magazines so that it can reach a wider audience? Absolutely. Because I know that my story is worth it.

If you're an agent or publisher and would like to find out more, email Gary at or call +353-87-249 3051.

Find Gary's books, including bestselling 9/11 Trilogy, on iTunes.