By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them
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Following is an excerpt from Chapter 6, The Clear and Present Danger, from Mark Crispin Miller's book, " Cruel and Unusual: Bush and Cheney's New World Order."
The radical collapse of all distinction between church and state and the promotion of an angry "Christianity" as the USA's official state religion have grown increasingly apparent as the Bush regime has turned more grandiose and reckless after 9/11. That revolutionary program has gradually come into view despite the press's failure to expose it, and despite the random efforts of the White House to conceal it ("Well, I – first of all, I would never justify – I would never use God to promote policy decisions," Bush said, without conviction, to Brit Hume in an interview on September 22, 2003). A cursory survey of Bush/Cheney's foreign and domestic innovations will make clear that from the start, this regime has been hard at work transforming the United States into a theocratic system, and, globally, at the gradual creation of a nominally Christian New World Order.
Although the president made quite a show of mounting no rhetorical attack on Islam or on Muslims in the dark days after 9/11, as if to reassure the world that the United States was not intent on waging a religious war, that tolerant pose was shortly overwhelmed, those words of peace obliterated, by much graphic counter-evidence. The United States was obviously mounting a "crusade" – as Bush himself so tactlessly announced on September 16, 2001. All he meant was "a broad cause," Ari Fleischer reassured reporters two days later, and yet Muslim residents of the United States (and of Afghanistan) could not be blamed for thinking otherwise. At once John Ashcroft's troops began to sweep illegally through Muslim neighborhoods, hauling off "suspected terrorists" by the hundreds and treating them as enemy aliens, and there was like harassment by police departments all across the country.
Soon, moreover, some of Bush's best-known co-religionists and sometime spiritual advisers started venting anti-Muslim propaganda. Franklin Graham called Islam "a very evil and very wicked religion," and Pat Robertson, who compared the Koran to "Mein Kampf," declared, projectively, about the Muslims: "They want to coexist until they can control, dominate and then, if need be, destroy." Said Jerry Falwell: "I think Muhammad was a terrorist." The White House offered no rebuke.
Bush himself has carefully avoided venting such anti-Islamic sentiments in public. He has also tried not to repeat the word "crusade," or otherwise betray the war-like zeal that motivates his strain of Christianity. At this he has been less successful, unable, as he is, to mask his true intentions and desires. Five months after urging his "crusade" on 9/16, he did it once again in speaking to our troops in Anchorage. (The Canadians, he said, "stand with us in this incredibly important crusade to defend freedom, this campaign to do what is right for our children and our grandchildren.") I am not a fanatic, Bush sometimes tries to say – and then, as ever, contradicts his wan pretense at moderation and humility with some insanely grandiose remark. "I'm surely not going to justify war based upon God," he awkwardly assured Bob Woodward. However, Woodward also reports the president's explanation for his refusal to consult his dad for guidance: "You know, he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength. There is a higher father that I appeal to."
God told him to run for president, Bush says, and God told him to strike al Qaeda, and God told him to occupy Iraq. "I haven't suffered doubt," Bush said to Woodward (adding, without irony, "I hope I'm able to convey that in a humble way"). For all his weak demurrals, Bush does in fact perceive the "war on terrorism" as a new crusade, as a member of his family makes explicit:
George sees this as a religious war. He doesn't have a p.c. view of the war. His view of this is that they are trying to kill the Christians. And we the Christians will strike back with more force and more ferocity than they will ever know.
Of course, it would be comforting to see this only as a case of individual mania, which reasonable people – Christian and non-Christian – might shrug off. And yet this is no laughing matter, as Bush is not alone in his apocalyptic frame of mind, but aided and abetted very powerfully. Having variously seized our nation's government, the GOP also pursues "religious war."
In a fund-raising letter mailed on March 3, 2004, Marc Racicot, director of the Bush/Cheney's "re-election" drive, again deployed the c-word, Muslim perceptions notwithstanding: "From leading a global crusade against terrorism to signing into law two of the largest tax cuts in history," the letter reads, "[Bush] has provided strong, steady leadership during difficult times." Questioned by reporters, Racicot was unapologetic, claiming that the word need not denote a holy war. However, he then sounded something like a holy warrior himself, in offering the ecstatic statement that the letter's focus, and therefore Bush's goal, is "to protect the cause of freedom – not just for a moment, not for a day, not for ten years, but for a hundred years." Although he stopped short of "a thousand years," that millenarian utterance would have come as no surprise.
Apparently the U.S. military also is on board for Bush & Co.'s grand new drive against the Saracens. The spirit of crusade shines forth from the hearty countenance of Army Lieutenant General William G. "Jerry" Boykin, deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, who caused a momentary stir by giving talks, sometimes in his military uniform, at fundamentalist churches, where he would call America "a Christian nation," assert that Bush had been "appointed by God," and tell the rapt believers that our enemy in the "war on terrorism" is "a guy named Satan." Christians believe in "a real god," whereas the god of Islam is "an idol." He would also show the audience a photograph that he had taken in Somalia, clearly demonstrating "a demonic spirit over the city of Mogadishu." That Bush & Co. did not replace or even reprimand the general (who did not apologize, insisting, quite sincerely, that he was "not a zealot") stood out as mere further evidence of just how militant the regime's Christian doctrine really is.
Shortly after the invasion, U.S. troops stationed in Iraq received a booklet called "A Christian's Duty," adjuring them to pray for Bush and even mail the president a special tear-out form assuring him that, while dodging potshots and firing on civilians, they were praying for him. Meanwhile, the ravaged theater of the occupation has been overrun by Southern Baptist missionaries seeking to exploit Iraqi misery for Jesus' sake. Laden with clean blankets, bottled water, bread, and bandages – and countless Bibles – the Christian soldiers of the International Mission Board (IMB) use such material inducements to convert as many Muslims as they can, waging what their Web site calls a "war for souls":
Southern Baptists must understand that there is a war for souls under way in Iraq... Even as Islamic leaders try to tighten their grip on the country and its people, cult groups like the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses are sending hundreds of their missionaries into Iraq to spread their pseudo-Christianity.
Muslims have been horrified by such spiritual carpetbagging. "The Iraqi people are in a state of siege – they lack, food, water, everything – and to come to exploit it and to give it in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord is unacceptable," Ali Abu Zarkuk of the American Muslim Council told the BBC in April of 2003. "You will be perceived as either dying by the bullet or dying by the Bible through Muslim eyes." Eight months later, Islamic terrorists in Yemen bombed the Jibla Baptist Hospital, killing all three mission workers, and thereby inflicting "the worst tragedy in the 156-year history of the IMB," reported APB News in December 2003. The U.S. Christian presence has amounted to a dangerous provocation in Iraq, although our press has rarely mentioned it.
Bloody are the consequences also of the U.S. government's impossibly hard line on Israel – a partiality dictated less by well-connected Zionists inside the Pentagon than by the president's millennial co-religionists, who call the shots in this administration. On July 14, 2003, Condoleezza Rice met secretly with 40 "Christian Zionists," including Jerry Falwell, Gary Bauer, and Tom DeLay, to hear their views about a future Palestinian state. (They opposed it.) Such confabs are routine. In May 2004, a stray e-mail revealed that Elliott Abrams, the National Security Council's major expert on the Middle East, regularly holds long meetings with the Apostolic Congress, "the Christian Voice in the Nation's Capital." Asked why the Congress deems itself "the Christian Voice," rather than a Christian voice, Pentecostal minister Robert G. Upton answered, "There has been a real lack of leadership in having someone emerge as a Christian voice, someone who doesn't speak for the right, someone who doesn't speak for the left, but someone who speaks for the people, and someone who speaks from a theocratical perspective."
Thus prompted, Bush has given up all possibility of honest mediation, in favor of the Manichaean paradigm that dominates his consciousness and theirs: Israeli violence is good, and Palestinian violence is evil. This apolitical and antidiplomatic view is based entirely on the dictates of apocalyptic Christian eschatology: The Jews must stay in Israel so that a number of them (i.e., 144,000) can turn into Christians prior to Jesus' return. On the basis of Romans 9-11, Reconstructionist Greg Bahnsen prophecies the magical effect of Jewish mass conversion:
When the world sees "all Israel" become saved (through Jewish longing for the saving blessing experienced by the Gentiles), there will be yet further and greater blessings from God upon the whole population of the world because Christ will then be internationally recognized and exalted among men.
On July 30, 2003, Bush & Co. proclaimed the apocalyptic basis of its Israel policy by having Tom DeLay heat up the Knesset with a faith-based message of eternal nonconciliation:
The war on terror is not a misunderstanding. It is not an opportunity for negotiation or dialogue. It's a battle between good and evil, between the Truth of liberty and the Lie of terror.
Freedom and terrorism will struggle – good and evil – until the battle is resolved. These are the terms Providence has put before the United States, Israel, and the rest of the civilized world. They are stark, and they are final.
That the White House would permit a congressman and Christian Reconstructionist – and, at foreign policy, a frothing amateur – to make so visible and partisan a public statement on and in the Middle East suggests that faith, not reason (and not Colin Powell), drives Bush/Cheney's foreign policy. And the result has been predictably disastrous: Israeli/Palestinian relations at their worst, the death toll at unprecedented levels, extremists on both sides resolved and popular among their own, and mounting worldwide hatred for the Jews.
Stateside, meanwhile, the theocrats continue to exert their wonder-working powers, as they have been doing ever since the president's first public act, which was to make John Ashcroft his attorney general. That step alone should have made clear to all that Bush was no "uniter" but averse to "reaching out," and, indeed, uninterested in solving any worldly problems, dedicated as he is to stealthily theocratizing this republic.
Thus the White House has an "Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives," while each of the Departments of Labor, Commerce, Health and Human Services, et al., boasts a departmental "Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives" – a grand administrative stroke that blurs the crucial line dividing church and state. This move has served both to legitimize the political activism of pro-Bush churches and denominations and to further propagate the view that social services should be performed not by the government but by religious groups, whose charity should take the place of federal programs. Although advertised as purely altruistic, and as an equal boon to the communities served by churches, synagogues, and mosques alike, this innovation is primarily intended to abet the proselytizing efforts of the Christian right, whose "armies of compassion" can now save souls under the auspices of Uncle Sam.
Mark Crispin Miller is a professor of media studies at New York University and the author of The Bush Dyslexicon. He lives in New York City.